2016 has been a disaster

This is the current joke running through the Internet right now- that 2016 has been a disaster. Thank God this year is over, let’s hope 2017 is better. People of the world have seemingly automatically agreed that this entire calendar year has just been catastrophic for the general human population. I realize that this year has held challenges- political decisions, the media, court rulings, riots, police shootings, terrorism, several well-loved celebrities passing away, and not to mention the presidential election that nearly tore our country apart.

Yet despite all this, I cannot latch on to the claim that “2016 has been a disaster for me”. I have laughed, I have loved, I have hugged, held, and been shown miraculous grace to have even lived another 365 days. That’s far from disaster.

We’ve absolutely had major issues this year, not only in our country but across the world. People are angry, and bitter and self-centered. Politicians are dishonest. Foreign terrors are real. Our country is incredibly divided in every way. From my point of view, the values of our society are quickly spiraling downward.

However, my life in 2016- or any other year for that matter- is far from disaster. I have a family that loves me. I have a roof over my head. I’ve formed new relationships and sustained old ones.

I’ve spent another 365 days with God watching over me and Jesus by my side.

I’ve lived through 365 opportunities to praise God for His love and mercy.

365 opportunities to spread love.

365 opportunities to live in joy.

I didn’t succeed everyday- there were several days I wasn’t praising God and I wasn’t living in joy.

But I still had the opportunity. That alone is enough to be thankful for. That alone is worthy of praise. The fact that I was even given another year to live is more than what I deserve.

The problems in the world will not define the happiness of my life.

The government officials elected, the court rulings, the opinions of the media and whatever else do not determine whether or not I am I living a happy, successful life.

Your happy, successful life is determined by what you do with what God has given you- whether it seems like a little or a lot. It’s defined by what you do with the people he placed in your life, the opportunities, the challenges, and even material blessings. The success of your life cannot be determined by things you cannot control. Whether or not 2016 was a success cannot be determined by what the world was doing around you, instead it should be defined by what God was doing within you. Do not throw away an entire year because things happen that are outside your control. This life we live on Earth has so many challenges, but because we live under God’s grace and love, it also has so many gifts.

With that being said, enter 2017 with the same outlook. You are about to embark on a 365 day journey filled with opportunities and people that can be part of God’s plan for you. You are about to be given another year to praise God and to live under his miraculous mercy and grace. You are about to receive more chances to grow into the child of God that you were designed to be. There will be struggles, and things will happen that you wish you could change, but don’t be surprised when you face heartache and disappointment. That’s to be expected, because we live in a broken world. But don’t discredit the blessings you receive because you’re too focused on the brokenness that you can’t control. Contentment in your life doesn’t come from outside circumstances, it comes from the peace and joy God has placed in your heart.

You have no idea what blessings and opportunities will unfold in 2017. And no matter what trials and struggles you find in this year, God can carry you farther.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

The workings of God within your heart are infinitely more important than the workings of heartache in the world.

 

let Earth receive her King

The way Jesus came to earth is important- He came in the most humble way possible. A baby. In a horse’s stable. To a virgin mother.

The One that was going to be the Savior of the whole world, the One that prophets had been speaking about for hundreds of years, the One that our whole faith and gospel is built around, had finally arrived. I can imagine all of Earth silently rejoicing, as she welcomed the Savior of the world. I can imagine the angels singing, because Jesus had finally arrived to proclaim to God’s creation the majesty and wonder of the One who created it.

He didn’t come with thunder and lightning, he didn’t split the sky and descend down on his wings, he didn’t burst through the clouds with fire. He was born to a scared, young mother next to the horses in a manger, because nobody would give them a place to stay. He was rejected from the moment He got here until the moment He left. That’s important. In this story, that foreshadows the type of life that He will live- a life of humility, a life of a servant.

Let us embody this humility. Let us embrace this demonstration of love for humankind.

He was rejected, but he did not neglect the needs of others.

He was humiliated, but he remained humble.

He was treated like a criminal, even though he committed no crime.

The One that the Earth rejoiced to receive, left the Earth in the most painful and hateful manner. And he did that for you. He did that for me. Where is our compassion like that? Where is our humility and understanding when we’ve been wronged? Where is our love that gives way to that kind of sacrifice?

How arrogant it is that we seem to believe that we deserve more than what Jesus had. He came into this world with nothing- no Earthly home, no resting place. He was hated, beaten, laughed at, and charged with crimes he did not commit. And despite all this, He was the most loving, kind, humble, and selfless being that ever walked the Earth. Yet we are so hateful when it comes to those unlike us- we neglect those who have less than us, we reject relationships with “sinners”, and we shun people who don’t embrace our faith.

Christmas celebrates the birth of a Savior who was loving, forgiving, understanding, and humble. We, as Christians, claim to celebrate the birth of Someone who was self-sacrificing, a healer, a helper, and a friend to sinners.

So many Christians today are so unkind to others who don’t embrace our beliefs, and that’s completely the opposite of what our faith was founded on. As it comes closer to Christmas, this becomes even more evident. Christians cannot justifiably run through the streets shouting the “reason for the season” and forcing other people to embrace that, if they, themselves don’t strive to be like the One they are celebrating.  So many rant and rave about “taking Christ out of Christmas”, when for the majority of the year prior, it appeared as though they had taken Christ out of their life. You cannot try to persuade others to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, if you do not live out the true meaning of Christmas yourself for the rest of the year.

Our goal should be to embody His love and grace. Striving to be like Jesus is a form of worship.

It is recognition that He is good and holy and worthy to be praised. It’s a form of respect to who He is. Christians cannot claim to celebrate His birth if they do not respect who He is- if they do not strive to be more like Him. Christmas becomes entangled with wish lists and wrapping paper, stress, gifts to give and parties to attend. You worry about decorating, about going to see family and friends, maybe possibly planning long road trips to go see them. We stress about what to get people and whether we’re getting them enough or not…

Let’s not forget that we are celebrating the birth of a King, who the Earth rejoiced to receive- and our goal while we remain on this Earth is to become more and more like Him. I enjoy everything about Christmas- the lights, the decorating, parties, seeing friends and family, giving and receiving gifts. There is absolutely nothing wrong with all of those things. Let’s just remember that this season that we’re in celebrates the birth of a man who lived His life being merciful, forgiving, comforting, selfless, and loving. And let’s also remember to live our lives in the same way.

I Haven’t “Made It”

“I feel sorry for you, because you don’t know how to act”

“Maybe that’s why you’re such a good liar”

Those are the words that spilled from my little 5th grade mouth one day. I remember after saying those things, world seemed to pause for about .10 seconds. Where did that come from? I remember thinking. At the time, I was proud of myself for coming up with such a witty comeback during this ultra-dramatic, elementary school girl fight in the middle of the lunch room chaos. I somehow managed to break through my shy personality for the first time, and I felt like I was finally standing up for myself. Even though I was somewhat impressed with my moment of boldness, I couldn’t help but also feel a little guilty. I didn’t know that such strong and harsh language could come out of me like that.

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Now 10 years later, I still have those moments. And they come much more frequently.

A lot of the time, I like to think that I’m doing pretty well. You know, I try to treat others nicely. I do selfless things for others every once in a while. I’ve been reading more “Christian living” books. I go to church on Sundays and bible study on Wednesday nights. I listen to worship music just as much as, if not more than, secular music. I even made a prayer journal.

I’m doing pretty good, right?

Maybe I’ve “made it”.

But every now then (maybe, actually more than that), words will tumble from my mouth like bombs, butchering relationships and cutting people down. Thoughts run through my mind like a runaway train that eventually wreck my soul and shatter my joy and compassion for others. Hateful words bubble up out of a deep place inside me that I forgot existed. My mouth says things or my mind thinks things that my heart was too slow to filter out.

And I’m literally amazed that there is still a place inside me where those thoughts and attitudes reside. I surprise myself by the hateful thoughts I still have inside me and the hurtful words I still allow to fall out of my mouth.

I can’t possibly believe those things, right? How can something so sinful and damaging still be inside me? I thought I was doing pretty well. I was doing all the “right” things, so how can my heart still be such a wreck?

Those hurtful words and sinful thoughts- surely I don’t truly think that way deep down?

But I do.

Those thoughts and attitudes wouldn’t ever come to surface if they were not rooted somewhere deep inside me. And those thoughts and attitudes are rooted deep somewhere inside you, too. You may be better at controlling them than I am, but they’re there. They are rooted in all of us. This is a common struggle with all of humanity throughout all the ages of time, and Paul describes it this way:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:15-20 NIV)

You see, you and I are not alone in this battle.

One of the most challenging things about this is that you’re aware of it. You tell yourself you’ll do better. So when you do slip up, make that mistake, have a nasty attitude, or utter those hateful words, you think: Oh gosh, that was bad. I need to do something about that. I’ll do better next time.

And yet it happens over and over and over again.

Whether it’s manifested in your thoughts, words, or actions:

Pride overtakes your compassion.

Jealously drowns out your humility.

Insecurity steals your honesty.

And greed overtakes your integrity.

I often ask myself how it’s possible that such hate and malice can spring from the same mouth that also speaks joy and love.

“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” (James 3:10 KJV)

I used to have this idea that at some point in time, I’ll “make it”. I used to imagine that I’ll reach this point when I won’t really have to struggle with sin the way I do now. And yet, that cannot be farther than the truth. We’ll never reach a point in life where we’ve “made it”.

This battle with sin seems like a never ending struggle.

But it is not an eternal struggle.

If you ever think that you’ve “made it”, that you’re doing alright, and that you don’t really struggle with sin too badly anymore- that’s perfect evidence that you haven’t “made it” at all. That’s evidence that you need God’s grace and forgiveness just as much as you always have.

You cannot overcome sin on your own. You’ll never reach a point when you no longer have to fight against the sinful nature in your heart. It’ll always be there. However, Paul tells us that where sin abounds, grace much more abounds (Romans 5:20). Thankfully, we’re given insurmountable amounts of grace while we live here on Earth. God is overflowing with enough mercy and forgiveness to carry us farther than the days of our life.

A life struggling with sin requires lots of humility. It requires the ability to accept the fact that you will never “make it”. You must be willing to ask for forgiveness. A lot. Not only from God, but from those around you as well. You must be humble enough to recognize your need for God. You must be willing to ask God for strength to do the right thing, wisdom to know what His will is, and forgiveness when you fail. Thankfully, God has an endless supply of all of these things readily available to you when you need them.

The God that has prepared an eternal home for you, who knows you more intimately than anyone else, and who gave His only Son as a sacrifice for you is the God that reigns in your heart. And the God that reigns in your heart is infinitely more powerful than the sin that dwells within you. Remember, you are not a slave to sin. We are all going to have to struggle with sin for as long as we live in this world, but sin will never be so powerful as to enslave us. You’ve been redeemed– you have a Savior that gave his life so that you don’t have to be imprisoned by this sinful nature. You may get tangled in sin, but you’ll never be ensnared by it. It will never have the power to defeat the grace and love that God has woven deeply into your heart.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 NIV)

Despite the depths of our sin, and no matter how many times we fail, God has enough grace and compassion to carry us into eternity.

This battle with sin seems like a never ending struggle.

But it is not an eternal struggle.

 

how do we “get to” God?

Let me begin this post by saying, whether this is the first time you’ve been here or you are a regular visitor, I value your time. I deeply appreciate every pair of eyes that read across my words, because these words come straight from my heart, and the thought that anyone would take time to read them brings tears to my eyes. I pray that I would only share thoughts that are uplifting and encouraging to you, because I can imagine that is exactly what you are searching for.

So with that, here’s my thoughts today….

The topic of this post is somewhat fragile ground for me to tread on: How do we as humans “get to” God?

In other words, what do we have to do to reach Heaven?

This is somewhat scary for me to write about because Christians are so divided on the topic of salvation. It causes lots of tension and animosity between different groups and denominations, because salvation is the end goal of our faith and life. Deciding what to believe about salvation is more than a life or death situation, it’s an eternal life or death situation. Which is why I’m somewhat compelled to share the truth that I believe to have.

Please understand that I’m writing this with complete sincerity and humility. If you have any questions or even arguments, please leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail. I would love to chat 🙂

How do we get to God?

Is there a way for humans to actively move towards God?

Yes, actually.

John 6:44 says “no man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him”

how-do-we-get-to-god

This verse tells me that a man can come to Jesus, but only if God draws him first. God must pull a person towards Him, because a person cannot come to him of his own will. A human being in their natural state – a sinner- has nothing within them that wants to draw near to God. How do I know that?

Because Romans 3:10-12 says “there is none righteous, no not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”

Also, Ephesians 2:1 tells me that I am dead in sin. To be dead in sin means that you have no desire nor ability to desire spiritual things. All you have inside you is your sinful nature. Each human’s natural state of living is “dead in sin” until God intervenes. This sinful nature is referred to as the “natural man” in this verse:

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

This verse states that we as natural worldly humans have nothing inside us that desires to seek God. We only begin to seek God and have faith until God takes action. Do you know what dead people can do? Nothing. Dead people cannot make themselves come alive, only Jesus can bring the dead to life. So if I’m naturally dead in sin, and if there is nothing within me that desires to seek God, nor has the ability to seek God, how did I end up where I am today: seeking and following after Christ?

I didn’t do it.

I had nothing to do with the transformation that took me from dead in sin to alive in Christ.

If you keep reading chapter 2, you find in verse 8 that you are “saved by grace through faith” and not faith that you created yourself, faith that was given to you by God. Keep reading on into verse 9 and you find that no part of this salvation “process” had anything to do with your actions.

Nothing you said, no good deed you did, no action, and no profession of belief has any part in securing your home in Heaven.

Your place in Heaven was secured by the fact that God chose to love you. God chose to reach down and pull you out of eternal wrath.

Ephesians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love…”

God decided long before you were born, and long before the world was created, to love you and to give you a home in Heaven. He didn’t do it because of anything you did, or anything He knew that you were going to do, but simply because that is the true definition of love. True love is making sacrifices for those who can do nothing for you. That is the perfect picture of love, and Christ illustrated that for us on the cross.

Think about this: why would God leave it up to our actions to confirm our salvation? How could He give us sinful, clueless, creatures the power to choose between Heaven or Hell? I cannot let myself believe that God sent His son to die for our sins, to pay the price for our salvation, and then somehow still put another requirement on us to officially become “saved”. That just does not make sense in my head.

You know the Fruits of the Spirit? Love, joy peace, patience, goodness, etc… (Gal. 5:22) They are called “Fruits of the Spirit” because you only have those traits inside you if the Holy Spirit dwells inside you. And I don’t think it’s Biblical to say that God would allow someone to go to hell even though they have the Holy Spirit inside them. So these Fruits of the Spirit must be evidence that you have Jesus and the love of God in your heart, and God would not, could not send someone He loves to hell.

Let’s work out that thought a little deeper: God would not send someone He loves to hell.

We know that God’s love is everlasting, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

“The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

So if God loves everyone, and some people still end up in hell, then either God loves them in Hell (which is not Biblical because Hell is eternal separation from God) or that God’s love actually isn’t everlasting. Since I know that neither of those options are found in the Bible, I have to believe that if a person is in Hell, God never loved them to begin with.

Following that train of logic, I have to believe that all the people that God loves are without a doubt going to have a secure place in Heaven. And God doesn’t choose who He loves based on actions or words. He chooses who He loves according to His own good pleasure and will. However, that absolutely doesn’t mean that God loves a very select few people. You can see in Revelation 7:9 that Heaven holds “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues”.

This collection of somewhat scattered thoughts is not complete in itself. My intention is not to convince anyone that the way they may believe is wrong, or that the way I believe is right. My only intention is to propose some ideas that hopefully convince you to dig a little deeper into God’s word and decide for yourself what to believe. Salvation is such a tricky subject, and I think it’s important to remember that no matter what beliefs you hold or what church you go to, we all have the same goal: to seek truth and to serve God as best we can. So instead of judging and looking down on each other, let’s build up and encourage one another. I am so completely open to comments, questions, and arguments (as long as you’re nice about it :-)), so feel free to leave a comment or even email me if you want to talk deeper.

 

 

the view from above

I have spent the last week exploring the South West of America. We saw a lot of dirt and not a lot of trees, beautiful mountains larger than life, a small band of 13 faithful Christians holding their church service in a conference room of the YMCA, a glitzy city called Vegas packed to the brim with LOTS of people, a stretch of 106 miles in Utah with no towns, rest stops, or even gas stations, and one of God’s many miraculous wonders called the Grand Canyon.

It was the farthest away I’ve ever been from my small Alabama town and probably one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced.

the-view-from-above

From the top of the Gateway Arch, you can see the order of everything. You can see the way the roads connect and overlap one another and the thought that was put into planning each pathway. You can see the layout of St. Louis and the planning that went into its organization. You can see the paths that tiny looking people are walking and what their destinations will be.

From the top of the Las Vegas High Roller, you can see the city lights go on for miles and miles until they finally fade out into the surrounding desert. You can determine the beginning and end of the city.

From the top of the Grand Canyon, you can see the dips and ridges and valleys. You can see the pattern of the rocks and the layers upon layers of sediment that it took to create the height of the gorge. You can see the years and years it took to carve the canyon into what it is today.

Here on the ground, life can get spinny. You know?

There are people everywhere walking around you with all different opinions, backgrounds, culture, family systems, and beliefs and values. They argue and complain and condescend and discourage. There are deadlines and meetings and events and parties and people to please and standards to meet. There are decisions to make and success to create and a reputation to uphold and friends and family to care for.

And everything just sorta twirls around you all the time and you don’t ever think you’ll get a break because life is so demanding and just moves way too fast…

But from up above, it’s different.

It’s calm. Peaceful.

You can’t hear the noise below. You can’t hear the complaints and demands of people or the cars whizzing by or the booming parties drawing you in or the buzz of the due dates and events drowning your planner. You can’t hear the clock ticking the time away or the pressures and demands of life crying your name.

Everything has order and purpose.

We just can’t see that from the ground.

Which is why I’m glad that Someone is up above, without the noise and confusion, who can see the order and purpose in my life.

In fact- not only sees it- but arranges it.

While I’m down here running around clueless trying to go, go, go and do, do, do- He’s up there planning the beginning and ending of my story, and taking care of me all the steps of the way through.

This is why I can give my complete trust fully over to Him, because He does have a purpose and a plan. It’s a beautiful and immensely comforting thought to me that God watches over my life the same way as I looked over the streets of St. Louis- seeing the order and the plan.

The city is doing some major construction around the park surrounding the Arch. It took us a long time to figure out where we were going and how to make our way through all the construction zone mess. It didn’t look like it was going to be anything spectacular- there was fencing up everywhere and piles of dirt and bricks and machinery. There were sections of pathways that lead to nowhere and pipes sticking out of the ground. It just looked like a big mess and I thought how are they ever going to finish this, much less make it look appealing?

Once we got inside and traveled to the top of the Arch, I could see it. I could see how the pathways would eventually all connect and what each section of the park was going to hold- where different ponds, structures, flower beds and trees were going to be placed. Walking through it on the ground, none of it made sense- but looking down from the sky, I could see the layout of this grand design.

Which is exactly how God sees your life- orderly, planned out, and purposeful.

I don’t know what your life looks like right now- whether it’s messy and confusing, or maybe you’re looking down several different pathways and don’t know which to choose. Maybe you feel like you’re at a crossroads, maybe a big change is coming or maybe you feel as if your life is on hold. Maybe you’re looking at your current situation and you have no earthly idea how it could possibly work out.

Whatever the case may be, rest in the fact that your loving, all knowing, Father is looking down at your life at this very moment, and He can see the purpose, plan, and most importantly, the beauty in everything. Trust in His unwavering providence and grace in your life. Trust that He will guide you through the mess- so that you will eventually see the purpose and beauty and also the honor and glory of God through it all.

 

you don’t have to be pretty like her

I have a story.

On one particular Wednesday morning, I was running late for class. Having an hour long commute to school, and an 8 AM class preceded by a 5:45 AM alarm, this not an uncommon occurrence for me.

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This morning, like many other mornings, my eyes were doing this really cool and unique thing where one is slightly more open than the other. I can wash my face, I can stretch my eyebrows, I can apply lotion, but nothing solves this problem. It’s great.

So, I have two options: put on a full face of make-up to the point where the smaller eye looks like it’s caved in (not a good option) or wear no make-up at all (a worse option).  On this particularly rushed occasion, I chose the latter.

So I run down the stairs after throwing on an outfit that I’m highly dissatisfied with because it makes me look like a safari tour guide and I begin to make my cup of coffee. My cup brews, so I pull out the milk and pour some in. And then I smell something.

And I look down at the expiration date and realize that I just poured spoiled milk in my coffee.

So no coffee today.

So here I am, no make-up, one eye half closed, unhappy with my outfit, and no coffee. And away to school I go.

In my first class that day, I meet a girl. She’s tall, literally the size of a toothpick, with a beautiful face, hair piled into a cute messy bun, and perfectly polished fingernails. She’s wearing athletic clothing, so she obviously must be in perfect shape, and her blonde straight hair definitely beats out my frizzy, air dried, semi-waves in any kind of imaginary beauty competition.

And I put her image up against my own in my mind. And nearly every ounce of self-esteem I had inside me drains out.

Lies spill into my heart telling me that I am not as pretty as I should be. I don’t try hard enough to look presentable for class. Why do I ever skip the make-up? I know I don’t look good without make-up. I am not who I should be. This girl must have her life completely together, I mean just look at her. She’s probably less clumsy than me, more feminine, more organized. She’s probably happier. Probably never misses an assignment. Probably has a clean room. Probably has a nicer car. The list goes on and on and on…

Unfortunately, this type of situation is not a rare one in my life. And I have a feeling it’s not rare in yours either.

What I’ve been trying to convince myself since that day, and the thought I hope you can sink into your heart is this: You are, by no means, under the obligation to strive to reach someone else’s standards of “perfection”. Because you are not placed on Earth to be someone else. You are not placed on Earth to please anyone else.

Someone else’s beauty does not take away from your own beauty.

Someone else’s skills and abilities do not take away from your own talents.

Someone else’s cute outfit does not take away from your own unique sense of style.

You don’t have to look, talk, dress, or act like that girl. You can look, dress, talk, and act like you.

You don’t have to be pretty like her. You can be pretty like you.

I have another story. It’s about a girl named Leah. Leah was a young woman who always seemed to come in second place to someone else.  The Bible tells us that Leah was pleasant, but her sister Rachel was beautiful (Gen 29:17). When a man named Jacob asked their father, Laban, for a wife, he was promised Rachel, but received Leah instead. When Jacob realized this he said, “What is this thou hast done unto me? Did not I serve with thee for Rachel? Wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?” Not only was Leah not as beautiful as her sister, but she also became a newlywed who was rejected by her own husband.

Don’t you have days that you feel a lot like Leah? Don’t have days when you feel as if you’re always second place to someone else, like you’re supposed to be so much more than you really are?

I have those days too.

God eventually blessed Leah to give Jacob a child. Despite the fact that this man has rejected her, Leah praised and thanked God for blessing her with a child to give Jacob (vs 35). Leah understood something that is should be such a precious reminder for all of us.

Leah understood that she was not placed there to serve people. She was not there to serve Jacob, to please her Father, or to try to live up to her sister’s standards. God placed Leah on Earth to serve and praise Him. And that’s exactly what she did. Leah was not beautiful like Rachel, but she was beautiful because she was a young woman who remained faithful to God and served and praised Him.

When you allow yourself to believe that you are not as good/pretty/skinny as other girls, you begin trying to please people more than you are trying to please God. You are admitting that others’ approval is more valuable to you than God’s approval.

Dear friend, you do not exist to please people around you.

You do not exist to win beauty contests, to win over all the boys, or to win anyone’s approval.

You exist to serve God.

You are not beautiful because of the color of your eyes, the color of your skin, the style of your hair, or the shape of your body. You are beautiful because God created you for Himself. You are beautiful because God is pleased by your praise and faithfulness. You will become so much more content with who you are when you have a firm grasp on what your purpose is- to serve God, to spread love, to honor and worship the One who made you beautifully and perfectly.

writing your own version of success

I have found lately that one of the most common things that people my age worry about is their success. Between conversations with many friends and family members, it seems like everyone spends all their time and energy on “making the mark”. They have to reach the goal. They have to make the grade. They’re worried about graduating on time or what they’ll do after they graduate. And if something doesn’t work out the way they’ve planned it, that automatically means they have failed.

success

The world defines success as: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose; the attainment of popularity or profit; a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.

That definition of success sits heavily inside me. The thought of my life being measured by whether or not I attain popularity or prosperity places a heavy burden on my heart. If you at the same stage as me in life, there’s a lot of pressure to begin figuring out what your life is going to look like and to start paving your “road to success”. You’ve got your five year plans, and benchmarks, and long term goals.

There’s a weight on a lot of us to make the grade, get the diploma, marry the rich guy, or get the 4.0 GPA. And your joy can easily be consumed by the wave of other people’s success. Other people’s success forces you to try to reach their standard. It causes you to push yourself farther and farther down a path that is eventually going to be damaging to your well-being.

We so often try to reach the mark that other people set for success. We try to measure up to their definition of success, the world’s definition, and not our own.

Well I’m writing my own definition of success. Because I don’t believe that my life is measured in bank accounts or report cards. I believe my life is measured in something less tangible, something that is more easily seen than felt.

I believe my life is measured in love.

My definition of a successful life includes building lasting relationships, learning all I can about life and love and people. It includes soaking in all the life-changing experiences that I can, and learning more about myself and what kind of person I want to be. I want my success to be defined by the moment that I can wholeheartedly announce, “God has been faithful and loving this far, and I trust that He will continue to be for the rest of my days”. I’m deciding that even if I don’t make the grade, have a 4.0 GPA, or get the dream job once I graduate, I will still lay claim to success as I have defined it.

Your definition of success isn’t going to look like everyone else’s. Your success doesn’t have to be measured in dollar amounts, diplomas received, job interviews scored, or trophies placed on your shelf. The success of your life can be measured in people, in the depth of your relationships, in the number of laughing fits that brought you to tears, and in the warmth of good conversations with your people.

I find that the Bible does not place a lot of importance on worldly success.

Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness”

I cannot find anywhere in the Bible that says “go make lots of money and find a standard 9-5 office job with a three figure salary and only then will you be happy”.

In fact, Luke 12:15 tells me that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth”. Your life is not solely made up of the abundance of your riches. Your identity and your worth as a human being can never be placed on the amount of Earthly possessions you have.

That takes the pressure off. That statement alone relieves you of the burden to be successful. The weight of attaining the world’s definition of success can be crushing. It causes you to feel like a failure when you only barely missed the mark. The world’s definition of success will tell you that you’ll always have something or someone to measure up to, and since you fell short this time, that means you’ll always be a failure.

Your life is not measured in possessions.

Your worth is not measured by the success that the world has to offer.

It’s found in love. It’s found in the things penned down in Colossians: kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and patience. That verse in Colossians places importance on who you are, not what you have. Success as the world defines it will drain the life out of you. I wholeheartedly believe that rewriting your definition of success will cultivate more joy in your life that anything else ever could. Because this new definition of success brings you closer to God.

You know when I feel closest to God? When I’m pouring out love, forgiveness, and patience. When I’m kind and when I reach out to those in need. I don’t feel close to God when I’m studying or checking my grades or when my paycheck rolls in. I believe that our success as a person largely has to do with how much of God’s love we can fill ourselves up with, and then how much we can pour out.

At the end of my life I don’t care about being able to say that I made lots of money or had lots of diplomas or medals. I want to be able to say that I touched lives, that I gave love to people who maybe had never received it before, that I helped those in need, and that I poured out God’s love to everyone around me.

Find purpose and meaning in the definition of success that you find in God’s word, and let it sink into your heart. Relieve yourself of the pressure to “measure up” to those around you, and rewrite your own version of success. Remember that your worth is not found in tangible things like a bunch of “important” pieces of paper. Your worth is measured in something that’s a little harder to see, but much easier to feel, and much, much more valuable to God: love.