Doing as Jesus Did

After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet in the Upper Room, He told them “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again… that where I am, there ye may be also.” Thomas heard these words and asked Jesus how they would know where to find Him if they didn’t know the way, to which Jesus responded, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Poor Thomas. He wanted instructions. Thomas wanted directions, a list, a plan.

Thomas sounds a lot like me. I need black and white. I need an instruction manual and detailed to-do lists. If Jesus tells me to do something, I want a step by step process of exactly how I need to do it. Because I know my flesh is strong, and without clear instructions, I know I can’t do it. My heart wants Jesus to sit down next to it and say, “Betsy, when this situation occurs, make sure you follow plan #189, and here’s the script of exactly what to say when someone treats you unfairly. Don’t forget to study the map directions to a happy and successful life. Oh, and here’s your checklist of good deeds for this week.” But despite mine and Thomas’s pleas, Jesus doesn’t say any of these things. He simply says, “I am the way.”

Instead of sitting down next to me and giving me rules, Jesus comes and dwells within me and gives me love. He tells me not to follow a law or a set of guidelines, but instead to do as He did, love like He loved, serve as He served, pray like He prayed and treat people like He treated people. Jesus doesn’t command me to act out this specific lifestyle over here or there, and do this many acts of service a day.

He simply calls me to do as He did.

And you may be screaming internally: How am I supposed to always act like Jesus in every situation? How do I know what to do and say, how to respond to hatred, how to serve others, and how to love people the way they need? And not only do I not always know what to do, but I’m not always strong enough to actually do it. People are mean and life is hard and my sinful nature seems like it’s raging at times, so how do I do it? How. How. How.

And my heart screams back to yours: I feel you.

I feel weak and inadequate and unprepared to do this life the way God calls me to. I feel like I’m failing and lost and running around in circles trying to be that “good Christian” that others and God expect me to be. I want to follow Jesus with my whole heart, touch lives, be a light, and serve God. But how can I, when I feel totally inadequate and incapable?

Because we are lost and unprepared, we want our checklist and our instruction manuals. We don’t want to try to do it on our own, because we know we can’t. It would just be so much easier to have a rule book to go by.

But here’s the thing: you and I are not actually doing this alone.

Instead of sitting down next to you and giving you

This is why your relationship with God is so vital. He doesn’t just throw you out there into the world and tell you to go copy Jesus. No, he dwells within you and moves you to love, serve, pray, act, and believe. You are not moved to act by being given rules and restrictions. You are moved to act by Love Himself. This movement inside of you compels you to act out of God’s love and not because of a rule book. You move others to into joy and love and life because God has put those things in you Himself.

Jesus puts this movement within you- a purpose to create life and love and relationships; a purpose to uplift, comfort, and rejoice; a movement to move others to be moved by Christ as well. The way you live – the things you say, the way you treat others, the thoughts you think and the way you love – is not because of a rule book or a set of laws. This movement is not dictated by rules, checklists, or detailed directions. This movement is a relationship with Christ compelling you to follow in His footsteps.  The way you live comes from Love Himself making a home in your soul and moving you to do as He did.

So now the question is: How do I keep my relationship strong enough? And first, remember this– in your weakness, God is strong. He never leaves you no matter how far you fall away. And second- you are who you spend time with. If you want to look like Jesus, you need to spend time with Him.

The Christian life is not a set of laws. Once Jesus came to Earth, lived and died, and tore the veil between God and men, He made a relationship with Him accessible. God doesn’t call us to act out of obligation, He calls us to act out of love. Truly living like Christ and doing as He did means living out of genuine love, not out of laws and instructions. When you spend time with Jesus, you will strengthen your relationship with Him. When you strengthen your relationship with Him, you will feel Christ’s love move within you. When Jesus moves within you, you will move others towards Him.

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Dear Girls who feel “Less Than”

Soooo today was bad. Mainly because I’m an emotionally driven person and too many little things turn into a big thing and also because I’m in desperate need of some sunny days and vitamin D to get my serotonin kicking again (lol seasonal affective disorder).

Another reason is that my mind is hardcore falling for the comparison game. It just seems like everyone around me is thriving, having a big fun time being successful, getting married and already pursuing their careers, and I’m just kinda…here. Eating “paninis” that I make with our 20 year old waffle maker and watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. As I look around at everyone around me (which is code for: stalk people on Facebook and Instagram) I get more and more and more dissatisfied with things about my life.

less than

“I should go to gym more like she does” (I try SO HARD Y’ALL but ya girl loves to sleep)

“She takes a selfie with no make-up and looks great, maybe I should stop wearing make-up” (this happened a couple weeks ago and I’m still confused with myself)

“They already moved out and live on their own- I still live upstairs in my parent’s house, so I need to find a way to move out”

Just as an additional example: there’s no way I can verify this, but I’m POSITIVE all y’all are making straight A’s with your 4.0’s- and I just made a 65 on a midterm.

So, basically I compare literally everything about myself with literally everything about someone else. And it damages my heart. It makes me feel totally unworthy, incapable, and just less than.

And if I had to guess, some of you reading this feel the exact same way. You look at the lives of those around you, and you cannot believe the ways that God is using them and there’s no way you can believe that God can use you too. You see the ways that others are thriving, and it’s impossible to imagine that you can thrive like that too.

Sweet girl, let me just tell you, those are lies funneled into your heart by the enemy. He plants them there, waiting for you to crumble, so He can pull you away from the truths that you believe in: the truths that tell you that God created you for a purpose. You know deep in your soul that God can use you, but when you feel less than, it is so hard to hold on that truth.

Well there’s a man named Gideon that we read about in the Old Testament and he felt the same way. Gideon was an Israelite that we find in the book of Judges. The Israelites rebelled against God (again), and God allowed a group of people called the Midianites to overtake and oppress them.

An angel soon appeared to Gideon calling him a “mighty man of valour” (Judges 6:12), and tells him that Gideon will be the one to deliver the Israelites out of the hand of the Midianites. Gideon responds by saying that his family is poor, and he is the least of his father’s household. How could he believe that the Lord would use him in such mighty ways? God assures Gideon that He is with him, and Gideon will definitely, for sure defeat the Midianites.

And you know what God did? Exactly what he promised. He gave Gideon the power to defeat the army of the Midianites, whose number was as great as the number of grasshoppers in the field, and delivered the Israelites from their oppression.

God used Gideon in mighty and powerful ways, despite the circumstances that Gideon was in. Gideon thought he was poor, unusable, and unworthy. Yet God rose him up with an army a fraction of the size of the Midianites, and he saved his people.

Don’t ever think that your current circumstances are too far gone for God to reach you. Don’t allow yourself to be so wrapped up in your current situation that you are blinded from the presence of the Lord in your life. God works in ways that the world does not expect. Just because you’re “not measuring up” in the sight of the world, doesn’t mean that God looks at you that way too. God doesn’t look for someone in a healthy financial situation, with a high social status, stellar reputation, or a wealth of material things. God looks for a willing heart.

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” – 1 Corinthians 1:27-31

We don’t have to be strong enough, good enough, wealthy enough, successful enough, or smart enough. Our lives don’t have to look like the life of that girl down the street or the girl in our Monday class. God can (and will) use you and me right where we are, in our own circumstances, and within our own time frame.

Live each day in the joy of expectation. Instead of grumbling about your life, walk through each day expecting God to use you. Because He can, and He will. He’s just looking for a willing heart.

So next time I come to class, and that girl talks about her plans after graduation and the group of people behind me is talking about the A’s they made on our quizzes, I will not allow the little comparison lies to creep into my heart (and you shouldn’t either). I will remind myself that my life does not have to look like theirs, and God will work through my life in any way He sees fit, despite my circumstances. And I will find joy in that (and you should too).

 

 

when you don’t feel accepted

When I was in high school, I lived nearly every day in terror over wondering what the people around me thought about me. Y’all, I mean it was severe. I let the imaginary opinions of others dictate literally everything about me- what I wore, what I said (or didn’t say), who I talked to (or didn’t talk to), things I did, activities I was involved in, etc.… I was in constant fear over saying the wrong thing, making a stupid mistake, being awkward, or appearing to be a certain way and looking back at those days now, I feel TOTALLY ridiculous. Who I am today is not anything close to who I was in high school, and I feel like the main reason for that is because I was too afraid to be who I really was and do and say the things I wanted to. My need for acceptance totally dictated my identity.

when-you-dont-feel-accepted

I watch the people around me (and strangers via the internet) hate, judge, ridicule, and reject each other and it seems like all of those actions are a result of our need for acceptance. We need attention. We need to feel accepted. We need to feel like someone out there notices us and sees what we’re doing and cares about it. If someone is getting more attention, others get jealous. If someone is different from everyone else, they are rejected. If someone has a different view or belief than us, we feel threatened and get angry. Our own need to be accepted causes us to do the exact same things to others that we fear they’ll do to us.

For some, this desire leads them to doing things they shouldn’t be doing with people they shouldn’t be with.

For some, this desire creates a selfish and jealous heart.

For some, this desire is quenched with the use of social media.

In my own case, this desire gave me a heavy heart. Seeking acceptance from the people around me only led me to feeling even less accepted.

Whatever the case is, the need to be accepted, cared for, and just simply noticed leads to a heart-breaking life.

Chasing attention from the world will never leave you satisfied. There will always be someone to live up to, someone better than you, receiving more attention than you, or just doing life better than you are. You’ll always need to do more, say more, or be more to get the attention and acceptance that you want.

Hey y’all, you will never ever be accepted by the world. Why should you want to be? Why should you want to be accepted by the same people who reject the One who lives and reigns in your hearts?

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” John 15:18

Jesus himself has chosen you specifically out of the world, to stand apart, to be light and salt and love and joy- not to look like the world. Jesus didn’t set you apart so you could look and act like the very same people who hate him. No, friends- He chose you to stand above, and to stand out.

This fact alone- that He set you apart- is real proof that you will never be accepted by the world.

It’s even further proof that you will never NEED to be accepted by the world.

You are already noticed. You are already accepted. The world may make you feel rejected, but you ARE known and loved and cared for. You were chosen by God himself “to be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).

This world is not your permanent home. Acceptance and attention from the people here will give you a temporary ego boost, but it will never create lasting joy. If you want lasting joy, cling to the worth and identity you already have in Christ- not in your strengths, not in your material things, not in your athletic ability, not in your talent, artistic ability, number on the scale, grades, popularity, or whatever. You can very easily find acceptance from the world with stuff like that- but when you seek acceptance through temporary, worldly things, it will not last. You will always need more.

Acceptance in Christ is satisfying. It is real and lasting. It won’t ever break your heart.

You know why?

Because it’s not based on you. It’s not founded in anything you’ve done, will do, or ever could do. Your worth is found in Christ alone. And He never changes, you can for sure count on that. Your identity found in Him will never, ever change, because He will never, ever change.

You don’t need acceptance from the world, you need acceptance from God. And you already had that- long before you were even born. That acceptance was established that day on the cross, and in that you have hope- knowing that you are always noticed, always loved, and always cared for.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

the art of Getting Along with Others

I have Romans 12:9-21 sectioned off in my Bible and labeled as “how to get along with others”.

People (including me) seem to have such difficulty with this. Getting along with others is something that adults and guardians drive into our brains as soon as we become functioning, social beings. Share your toys. Say “please” and “thank- you”. Wait your turn. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Somewhere between preschool and adulthood it seems like this art of “getting along with others” is either somewhat forgotten, or completely lost altogether. Why does it become harder to get along? Why does it get harder to treat others politely, and with kindness?

Maybe it’s because we grow up and realize that not everyone is as good as we thought. Maybe it’s because everyone begins to develop more diverse personalities, which makes it easier to clash with one another. Maybe as we age, the world seems to get colder and people seem to get harsher. We realize that not everyone can be a winner, and since we all want to be a winner, we do everything we can to beat down the competition.

Whatever the reason, it’s a shame (to put it in my dad’s words) that the simple art of “getting along” is such a hard concept for most of us to grasp.

So, for the world’s convenience, and built around scripture found in Romans 12:9-21, I have put together the Comprehensive, All-in-One, Complete Lesson and Guide to Getting Along with Others 🙂 if everyone would read this, the world’s problems would be solved right?

Right.

Lol.

getting along with others

Starting in verse 9,Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (10) Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Seems fairly simple, right? You know, in the King James Version (my fave version, btw) love is replaced with charity. Charity is any action that may require sacrifice of yourself for the benefit of others.

Charity is goodwill towards others without worrying about what kind of sacrifice you have to make for yourself. So love others with sincerity. Place the happiness of others before the happiness of yourself, hate what is evil, and cling to what is good.

Don’t fall into the pressures of sin. If people around you are engaging in a particular sin, leave them, but continue to love them from a distance. Cling to the goodness. Cling to the good you see in others. Cling to the love, joy and peace of God, and then throw it around like sprinkles on everyone else’s ice cream.

Verses 11-13 are centered around your relationship with God. Which makes sense, because your relationship with God is the foundation for all other 3elationships. “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” I’ve noticed that my attitude towards others changes when I’m in a low period in my relationship with God. I’m more impatient, less forgiving, and less cheerful when I’m not focused on God. Human beings, despite how frustrating they can be at times, become much more lovable when you look at them through God’s love.

Verses 14-20 are pretty self-explanatory, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’”

Bless those who persecute you. I have this mindset that when others ridicule you or speak badly of your good deeds, it’s either because they see something in you that they are jealous of, or they something in themselves that they hate. This mindset gives should give you all the more reason to love on them. Whatever ugly things they have to say about you only show their true colors, and also just proves how much more love they really need.

Mourn with those who mourn– this one is easy. Rejoice with those who rejoice– this one is not. Don’t ask me why. I guess it’s just our human nature to automatically be jealous when good things happen to other people. The solution to this is to look at everyone around remembering that they are children of God, and precious in His sight. If they are precious to God, they should be precious to you. If their life is important to God, it should be important to you, and rejoicing with one another’s victories is the sweetest proof of love.

Do not take revenge when someone hurts you, instead, give help to them when they need it: “if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Or in other words, kill them with kindness. The focus of this point is, repaying good for evil is an awesome testimony of God’s love. It paints the perfect picture of mercy and forgiveness. Instead of hurting those who hurt you, be an example of a life lived in a better way. Give them a reason to wonder what you have that fills you with such grace.

There you have it! Betsy’s Comprehensive, All-in-One, Complete Lesson and Guide to Getting Along with Others. Seems pretty simple. Yeah? I just solved all the world’s problems, right?

I love, love, love these passages of scripture, and the lessons taught here can be found in so many other places in the Bible, specifically in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7.

I am a huge believer that your day-to-day living is the greatest testimony you have. The way you live your daily life is proof of where your focus is and where your heart dwells. You can choose to show others that your heart dwells in the world, or that it dwells in Jesus.

 

 

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.

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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.

 

the truth behind the instagram

For anyone who keeps up with my blog regularly, you pretty well know that I have a serious bone to pick with social media, namely, Instagram- (you can read about it here, here, and here). I love it because I love seeing what other people are doing. It genuinely fills me with joy to see people spending time with their family, and friends, reaching milestones in life, accomplishing goals and dreams. I love rejoicing with others’ lives. But with all of that comes the inevitable need to compare all of their lives to my own. I enjoy seeing people I care about and their happiness, but it seems like I can’t keep myself from wondering how my happiness sizes up with theirs. Do I do as adventurous things as them? Do I spend as much time with my friends and family as her? Is my relationship as “godly” as theirs?

I pray that y’all will spare your judgment of me throughout this post and recognize that we all do this. This obsession with portraying our picture-perfect lives while hiding the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes stuff runs through each and every one of us. What if instead of cute captions, we posted the reality behind each of our posts? How differently would others see our lives? We are terrified of everyone else knowing the real stuff.

In an effort to provide a real-life example, here is the reality behind several of my Instagram posts (again, spare your judgment please)…

Reality: in general, the way I portray our relationship is all lovey and smiley all the time- but that is absolutely not the reality. There have been struggles and heartaches and almost an end to the relationship. I urge y’all to please, please, please never feel jealous of anyone else’s relationship that you see on social media. We honestly never see the whole picture.

Reality: this picture was not *as* spontaneous as it seemed to be. I took around 5 billion pics before settling on this one and almost wrecked just as many times trying to take it (not recommended- don’t use your phone while driving, kids)

Reality: this looks like just a cute date night for a couple in love, but this night was about repairing damaged hearts and mending injured trust

Reality: I literally kept my finished starbucks drink for hours after I was done, solely for the purpose of taking this picture. Also, I had finished this book for a while, and had no other reason to post about it besides the fact that I just felt the need to post something.

Can I just say that the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes stuff is my real life? Looking awkward and smiling weird in pictures is my real life. Being a homebody who is sometimes afraid of adventure is my real life. School, work, and not a whole lot of play is my real life. And cute couple pics? Or people you think are “relationship goals”? Don’t even get me started- that’s another post for another time (coming soon!).

It’s amazing how we (me!!) can so easily become more preoccupied with publishing our lives in a certain way instead of actually living our lives in a certain way.

Spend time connecting with your friends and family instead of wasting time trying to get the perfect “postable” pic.

Spend time in the Word and building your relationship with Christ instead of adding scripture to every selfie you post.

Pray for a godly husband and for God to transform you into a godly wife instead of gawking over “relationship goals”.

Work on your own life, relationships, goals and heart instead of comparing them to someone else’s.

This is not a call to give up social media or to stop striving for cute pictures with your friends. This is not a hate post against the Internet and the modern age we live in. It’s simply a suggestion to maybe not take it all so seriously. Just keep in mind as your scrolling that the illustrations of people’s lives online is absolutely no accurate depiction of what their life is actually like. You can’t allow yourself to get jealous over someone’s “online image” when it most likely isn’t their reality.

You have three options:

Sit there, watch other people’s lives, and pine over them.

Live a fake portrayal of your life through Facebook or Instagram.

Simply live your life.

Living your life seems like the best option to me. God has given you insurmountable blessings. The life you have and the people you are surrounded by are nothing short of gifts straight from Heaven. Don’t take them for granted while trying to live up to someone else’s standards.

Also, remember that your actions and opinions and the way you live your life is solely between you and God. The way that He sees you is far more important than the way you wish others to see you. Living up to God’s expectations should be your goal, not the world’s.