on Christ the solid rock I stand

The wise man builds his house upon the rock, and the winds and flood came, and the house did not fall.

The foolish man builds his house upon the sand, and the winds and flood came, and the house fell.

“and great was the fall of it”

-Matthew 6:24-27

on christ the solid rock

My house/hope is currently built on sand. When rain comes and winds blow, my house set on its shaky foundation becomes unstable and crumbles. And when my foundation is shaky: my faith wavers, my joy is consumed, I give in to the pressures of the world around me, and I embrace Satan’s lies instead of God’s T R U T H.

Lies. That’s the biggest one for me. I give into the lies that say that this situation over here will never get better, or this particular insecurity over here is all people think about me. I let in the lies that say that I’m not good enough to be usable, that broken hearts cannot be repaired, and no more forgiveness is available; I start believing that she’s too far gone, he’s never going to get better, God doesn’t answer prayers anymore, or at least He no longer hears mine.

When my house is built on sinking sand instead of solid rock, I let in the lie that God is not God and His truth is not true.

In these verses, Jesus tells us that those who hear His truth but does not embrace it is like the man (woman) who builds his house on the sand.

The man will listen to his friends and he’ll start believing he has to be or act a certain way to be accepted by others.

The woman will watch TV or scroll through Instagram and believe she has to look a certain way to be loved.

The man will listen to the teachings of society and begin to believe that his life is all about him- his wants, his happiness, his success- and he’ll destroy his relationships.

The woman will go to college and be told that her religion is a fantasy, and that her God is not alive, and she’ll begin to question her faith.

When your house/hope is built on shaky sands and not solid rock, everyday occurrences can push you farther and farther away from God and your relationship with Him.

Holding onto the truths presented to us in the Bible is hard, y’all. It goes against everything that our culture is constantly shouting at us. It gets so confusing listening to the world. The things that it tries to convince you of are totally contradicting.

I’ve been really struggling with this. You’re not supposed to offend anyone, you’re not supposed to judge anyone, let people do what they want without any consequences. You don’t call someone the wrong gender, you never tell them the way they live their life is wrong, don’t ever mention religion or even anything close to a true moral code. Let me just tell y’all, combining these ideas with the truths in God’s word is impossible. I’ve been trying to do this. I’ve been trying to filter God’s word through what the world is telling me to believe.

And then the thought just kind of came to me: Why am I doing this? Why I am trying to supplement God’s word with other teachings that I know are not the truth? Why am I letting in all these other lies, too?

Why do I let myself believe that I have to look a certain way to be lovable or useful in God’s kingdom, that I need others’ approval in order to be worthy, that I can do or say whatever I want and not receive the consequences?

On the other hand, why do I let myself believe that there’s not enough grace for me? Why do I let the lie into my heart that there is no more forgiveness available?

There are two different directions (probably more) that you can fall to if you are not completely grounded in God’s word. You can either give into the teachings of the world, saying that anything and everything is okay, or you can give into the enemy’s lies that you’re too far gone, unreachable, unworthy, and unlovable. Sometimes (like me) you might fall in both directions.

But for those who build their house on solid ground, Jesus says they are the ones who listen to His words, and hold on to them. They have a firm grasp on what God’s truth is, and they are so firmly grounded in His word that there is no room for the enemy’s lies to wiggle into their heart.

I felt a huge burden fall from my shoulders when I finally realized: there’s no reason for me to do this. I don’t have to try to fit in all these lies with what God’s word is saying. This might seem like a weird place to be at, but this is where you end up if you are not firmly grounded in what you know is true. If you don’t let God’s word sink deep into every aspect of your life and your heart, the world will get in. It’ll turn into a struggle between what your culture is teaching you and what God’s word is teaching you.

When you build your house on solid rock, you don’t talk like the world, look like the world, and you are not swayed by the “philosophies” of the culture around you.

You don’t have to look anywhere else for acceptance and love, because God’s immeasurable and unconditional love is enough for you. You don’t have to look anywhere else for guidance or teaching, because the truth you find in God’s word is totally and completely sufficient for everything you could ever need.

The rain will descend, the floods will come, and the winds will beat on your house, but standing on a firm foundation it will not fall, it will not crumble.

Because your hope is built on nothing less than the blood of Christ and His righteousness.

“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand”

 

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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.

never-ending-struggle-with-sin

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.

 

do you struggle with a smug soul?

Titus 3:2-4 says, “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared

do you struggle with smug soul

Isn’t smug a fun word? Smug.

It’s fun to say but absolutely not fun to feel.

No matter what your personality is, where you are in life, or how much you have in life, we all have little smug feelings in us sometimes.

When we tip the waiter lower than we know we should. When we don’t thank someone for holding the door open. When we don’t return a stranger’s smile or wave across the street. When we worry more about our reputation than spreading the Gospel.

I’ve been struggling with several seemingly separate heart issues lately- I’ve been judgmental, ungrateful, pessimistic, apathetic, etc… I’ve found that they are all actually connected in one problem -and it’s found in the cute little word, smug. How can such an adorable word have such damaging effects?

For those of you who don’t know, smug (adj.): contentedly confident of one’s ability, superiority, or correctness

The verses in Titus above call us to not spread unkind gossip, to live peaceably, and to show gentleness and kindness to everyone we meet. These things are fairly standard commandments sprinkled abundantly throughout the whole Bible. There are so many more verses that command us to do the same things.

The reason that this particular passage stood out to me is the why. Why should I show kindness to them? Why should I refrain from spreading gossip? Why should I tip the waiter a fair amount? Why should I return a stranger’s smile?

Because verse 3 tells me that I, myself was (and still am) disobedient, living in envy, hateful, and serving my own selfish desires. This tells me that I am in no position to withhold love or kindness from anyone, because honestly, I am not always worthy of love. Never, actually. I’ve never been worthy of love.

But God loves me anyways.

He doesn’t love me because of anything I’ve done (if you keep reading you see that in verse 5), or anything I am, but because of who He is and what He’s done.

God saw how lowly and full of failures I am and decided to keep loving me anyways.

He sees all the weakness in you too, friend. And he continues to love you anyways.

Show kindness to them, no matter what they’ve done, because God shows kindness to you through his grace and mercy. Don’t spread hateful gossip about anyone, because any shortcoming you see in them, you also have a little of in you too. Your money is not too good to be given as a tip to the waiter. You are not so above anyone as to not return their friendly smile.

Here’s a hard truth to embrace in every-day life: You are not above God’s commandments. You are no better than any other soul on Earth, and it is not up to you to decide how to treat others.

That sounds very harsh, but it’s the honest truth. When we don’t follow through with what God has commanded us to do, we are implying that we are above His commands.

There it is again- our smug little soul.

Do y’all notice the sequence of events? We ourselves were foolish and disobedient, and after that the kindness and love of God appeared toward man.

After you lived in malice.

After you were hateful.

God showed his love towards me after he saw how lost I was.

Humans have an unreasonably low tolerance level with each other. Most of the time, the minute I see an imperfection in someone, I write them off. I immediately judge their character by the one failure I see in them, without remembering that I have the same failure in some degree within me too.

Who am I to decide that others are not worth my love and kindness?

Despite the fact that God saw the worst in us and still decided to love us, we still sometimes think that we have the power to withhold love from someone that we have deemed “unworthy”. If you keep reading on into verse 5, it says “not by works of righteousness which we have done”. We did nothing to earn God’s love, so how we do have the right to make others work for ours?

God’s love, grace and kindness toward us is unmerited, unconditional, and undeserved. Yet we are so stingy with our own love and kindness. If God forgives the worst in you, and still chooses to love you, you are not only compelled, but called to do the same for others. Please don’t let the smug side of your soul prevent you from showing love towards everyone, no matter who they are or what they’ve done.

 

 

2 easy ways to spread joy

Hello friends 🙂

Current self-care goal: spread joy

If you’re trudging through life with negativity, selfish attitudes, or irritability, this post is for you!

When you struggle with things I listed above, you can’t live a joyful, fulfilling life and you certainly cannot serve God to your best ability.

spread joy

I struggle with joy a lot. Which is kind of why I made the transition to Filled with Greater Joy (a story you can read about here). Life is hard and people are mean and the world is sad and sometimes life is just…not good. You know? Sometimes it’s hard to find the silver lining. Sometimes the world crumbles around you and you’re left with a ton of missing pieces and only band aids to fix things. And sometimes, the world is not actually crumbling, it just looks like it is. Sometimes we get relaxed in our comfortable lives and one small bump in the road completely crashes our ride. Sometimes we simply forget to be grateful. Sometimes life seems hard because we’ve forgotten how much we’ve been blessed with.

And part of my struggle with joy is having a negative attitude.

I like to complain.

Don’t you?

Especially when everyone else around me is complaining. I love to join in on pity parties and agree that “it seriously is way too hot today” and “we definitely should get paid more for this”. It makes me feel like I’ve contributed something meaningful to the conversation. We love to feel included, don’t we? And misery loves company.

Complaining contributes to this attitude of negativity that is rampant, y’all. RAMPANT. We can all agree that the world is already full of negativity, right? So let’s spread a little optimism. Let’s spread a little joy. Yeah?

I believe that spreading joy comes down to two things:

  1. Focus on adding life to others with your words and actions.

Well that sounds great and flowery, Bets. But what does that mean?

It means that before you act or speak, you consider whether or not that action or word is going to add value to someone else’s life. Maybe complaining about your job to your neighbor isn’t the best way to add joy to their day. Maybe spreading gossip about that girl you hate doesn’t leave a positive impact on those who hear you.

Spreading joy begins with turning the focus on others instead of yourself. You know, start with little things like opening doors for others and giving compliments. (Side note, GIRLS: give. each. other. compliments!!!!! life is not a competition)

What adds life? Words of affirmation. Encouragement. A listening ear to someone’s struggles. Gratitude instead of complaints. (check out choose love // choose people) 🙂

  1. Focus on serving God with your words and actions.

This one is more self- explanatory. Serve God instead of yourself. Choose actions that bring glory to Him instead of yourself, and speak encouragement and love that draws attention to Christ. If we always act with ourselves in mind, it becomes extremely difficult to spread joy. No one likes to be around someone who’s only concerned about themselves, you know? Self-centered people are not pleasant people to be around.

If you turn the focus of your actions towards Christ, joy and encouragement will automatically follow.

Ok, but what does that really look like in real life?

In your daily interactions at school, work, or wherever, demonstrate qualities of Christ. Forgiveness. Patience. Love. Grace. Understanding. Stop spreading gossip, stop holding grudges, stop being so quick to judge others.

My little sister had speak life written on her rearview mirror for the longest time. Shout-out to you, RG.

I think that’s an incredibly simple reminder for how to live while spreading joy: speak life.

Don’t act or speak in a way that takes away value from someone’s life.

Speak life. And serve God.

 

I can’t fix the emptiness inside

Sunday morning I was feeling really good about myself. My hair looked good, I was wearing make-up for the first time in a long time, and I had a new dress that I knew I looked good in.

Once I was fully fixed, with every hair in place and all my jewelry on, I was giving myself the final once-over in my sister’s full length mirror. You know, girls- the concluding check before deciding that you’re ready to face the world.

A rush of confidence surged through me for a solid 10 seconds, and then I was shocked at what followed: emptiness.

The thought ran through my mind, “ok, I look really good. I know I do…but, now what?”

I had been feeling pretty insecure all week, my face had been breaking out, and I was having one of those “fat weeks” (you know when you just eat everything all the time and end up feeling like a whale). After only working and doing summer-y things that require no make-up and only a semi-clean t-shirt, I was finally going out, dressed up, and looking good.

And I felt empty.

1

Do y’all see where I’m going with this? I am not the cure for my own insecurity. My happiness and contentment cannot stand on my appearance, clothes, or anything else about me. No matter how much I dress up, or how much make-up I put on, it will never be enough. I’ll continually be searching for the next thing- a new haircut or a new outfit, etc…

The spaces in my heart will not be filled by a shopping excursion, a makeover, or trip to the gym.

My contentment with myself will remain shaky and unstable as long as I depend on my looks to bring me security.

I have been desperately trying to engrave this concept into my soul: contentment comes from God.

I can get as skinny as I want, buy as many new outfits as I want, and become a make-up expert…but I will never be satisfied. I will never be satisfied until I embrace the fact that contentment with my life and security in who I am comes from God and Him alone.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body…” – 1 Corinthians 6:19

Our bodies are a living temple for God. Inside you, within your heart, is where Jesus resides. Who are we to be dissatisfied with the body that God gave us? Who are we to use something that God created for His glory, for our own ego boost? While you were created beautifully and for a purpose, you are not your own.

How selfish of me to seize what was meant for God’s glory, for my own glory.

My satisfaction and contentment with who I am comes not from how glamorous or attractive I can make myself look, but from how I look through God’s eyes.

Unblemished. Spotless. That’s how I appear to God. That’s where my security stands. Anything I put my self-worth in besides Christ is a weak foundation to stand on. Who you are is defined by what Christ did for you on the cross, and any other place you put your confidence will surely crumble. Rely only the lasting foundation that Christ provides for your joy.

I believe everyone on this planet is searching for fulfillment. Every living soul is seeking something to pour themselves into, something to make their bad days good and heal their heartaches, something that they can look forward to every morning that they open their eyes, and something that makes them feel like their life has a purpose. On this particular day, I was relying on my appearance for my satisfaction.

Some girls turn to their looks, some turn to boyfriends. You can seek fulfillment in your grades, athletic ability, friendships, success, money, whatever… and all of it will leave you feeling empty.

Nothing in myself is enough to fulfill my contentment. There is nothing about me that is worth praise. I cannot fix myself enough in order to find joy solely from who I am. There will always be something else I need to fix, something about me that is still not good enough.

This relates back to my journey to joy: If every morning I wake up anticipating only my appearance, money, success, talents, or anything else to get me through the day, I’ll be an unhappy girl a lot of days. Nothing can bring you greater joy than this: the fact that you are made blameless through Jesus Christ, and that you belong to God and Him alone. Nothing you do on this Earth can fix the emptiness inside you. The only consistent fulfillment you can find anywhere comes from Christ.

Filled with Greater Joy

Hopefully, most everyone has noticed by now that Tender, Kind & Refined has been moved to Filled with Greater Joy. I’ve been thinking about changing the name for a while, but I couldn’t come up with a title that I was satisfied with until now. I’ve been meaning to write an explanation behind this change earlier, but I’ve been super busy (and a bit lazy) so here it finally is!

joy

Joy is such an important concept to me, and it’s also something I’ve always really struggled with. I’ve always admired people who can go through every day with a smile of their face, while their heart is actually shattered on the inside. I can imagine that takes an incredible amount of strength, and also an incredibly strong foundation in their faith, and it’s something that I’ve never succeeded in doing.

Without going into a ton of detail, I become overwhelmed extremely easy. All the sadness and heartache in the world really lies heavy in my heart, and sometimes I let it engulf me.

It seems like someone is always getting hurt, someone is always going through tragedy, people die, people are starving, people hurt each other, and it seems like it never ends. These are the streams of thought that almost constantly go run through my mind. And because of this, joy seems far from my soul at times.

But that’s just this world- and this world is not my home.

And I know that God can overcome anything and everything.

I recently ran across this verse:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” – Habakkuk 3:17-18

This is it, y’all this is the verse! Can you believe that I’ve gone all this time trying to embrace this concept, but had never come across this verse??

Yeah. Me neither.

And it seems like now that I’ve discovered it, I keep seeing it pop up everywhere. Funny how things happen like that, you know?

Though everything in my life that could possibly go wrong may be going wrong, I will still rejoice in my savior.

THIS HAS BEEN ON MY HEART FOR SO LONG, Y’ALL.

Because it’s important. And also, because it’s difficult.

We are creatures of habit. We are creatures of routine. We are creatures that desire everything to go according to our way, our wants, and our time frame. We want perfection, and we want it quickly and effortlessly. So when we don’t get our way, when we don’t get perfection, when things are hard to do and they take a long time or maybe they seem impossible, we crumble.

Maybe the fig tree that won’t bud is actually you feeling as if your talents and abilities are going to waste.

Maybe your lack of sheep in the pen and cattle in the field is actually a lack of digits in your bank account or the scarcity of food that you can put on the table.

Maybe the fields that produce no food are actually the hours of time you put into something you care about, and you never see the fruits of your labor.

Maybe the lack of grapes on the vine is lack of sustained friendships or family relationships.

But you can still rejoice in your Savior- you can still be joyful in the Lord.

Because the very fact that you have air in your lungs and a beating heart is enough to rejoice. The fact that you wake up every morning with Jesus by your side is more than enough to be grateful for. Whatever you have in life, whether it is a lot or a little by the world’s standards, it is still more than you deserve and it is still a tremendous blessing.

We deserve nothing, so the fact that we have anything at all should be motive enough to celebrate our life in Christ every single day.

On my journey here to being filled with greater joy, I’ve learned that when I slip into a funk or start throwing myself a little pity party, counting my blessings always helps. Literally. I begin a mental list of things that I am thankful for. Sometimes, it’s even more helpful to actually write it down, because I have a visual representation of how much I am blessed with.

I recognize now that despite what whirlwind of devastation is going on around me, my joy and contentment come from God, not outside circumstances. I recognize that comparing my life to anyone else’s shatters my joy. I’m learning that joy is beautiful and contagious and extremely important for someone following after Jesus. My goal is have true lasting joy throughout my life, no matter what surroundings or struggles come my way.

My goal is to live my life filled with greater joy.