to the girl who feels lost, and like God is silent

Dear girl who feels lost,

First of all, I know. I know the feeling. Maybe you’re a junior/senior in high school and you are being bombarded with questions of where you’re going to college, what you’re going to major in, whether or not you’ll continue to play sports, dance, cheer, join a sorority, or whatever other questions they like to throw at you (because don’t you know, at 18 years of age, you’re supposed to already have all this figured out??). Maybe you’re a freshman/sophomore in college (or junior/senior) and you still haven’t declared a major or found anything that really sounds appealing to pursue for the rest of your life.

Maybe you’re the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” and all your friends are married or about to be, and you don’t even have a boyfriend. You may be at a crossroads about to make some major decision, or you didn’t get into the program that you needed to, so now you have to completely rearrange your plan. Maybe the man you were supposed to marry didn’t come through for you, and now your life seems to be at a stand-still.

And you’re sitting there, crying at God, pleading for Him to give you some divine revelation about what the heck you are supposed to be doing with your life, and: silence.

Why isn’t He talking? Everyone else has gotten “their plan” from Him, why hasn’t He given you yours yet?

I have read many, many blog posts and devotions about determining God’s will. I have wrestled with this concept and I have sat there in the same spot as you and asked why, why, why? Why isn’t God telling me anything? But it seems like the more and more you try to figure out how to figure it out, the more and more lost you feel. Does God have a specific person in mind for you? Does He have a chosen career path for you? How do you know? How does God communicate His purpose for our lives to us?

Dear friend, let me tell you something that may seem discouraging at first glance: God may or may not come to you and tell you specifically and explicitly exactly what He wants you to do, what career to pursue, who to marry, where to take a job, where to join a church, how many kids to have or whatever else you could possibly be worrying about.

God’s set of instructions to us are found in a book called…

wait for it…

The Holy Bible.

*applause and cheers*

It is completely within God’s power, and at times within His pleasure, to come to us individually and give us more specific instructions. For example, if you are called to be a pastor, or missionary, or some other form of ministry. Those kinds of things are specific duties for specific people called by God. But, for the most the part, I believe that we should not expect God to do that. God can absolutely do it, and He does sometimes. But in addition to that possibility, we already have unquestionably all the guidance and instruction we need per the Holy Bible.

Hint: that’s why God gave the Bible to His children in the first place.

The Bible is given by inspiration of God, and is a good and perfect reference for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and instructing. And by all those things we receive through the Bible, we can make better decisions about our life, and we will be better equipped to be servants of the Lord. (Find this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

I was told one time to not think of God’s will as a singular pathway that I am restricted to. I should view God’s will as a large passageway with many various pathways inside of it. They all lead to different lives, but at the same time, they all work within God’s will.

The Bible does NOT tell me: Betsy, you need to marry John Smith.

The Bible tells me: Betsy, marry someone who is a man of God; someone that is faithful and loving, patient, humble, and gentle. Someone that will be a leader and provider to your family and someone who seeks after God.

The Bible does NOT tell me: Betsy, you need to be an English teacher.

The Bible does tell me: Betsy, use the skills and abilities God has given you to bring honor and glory to His name.

If whatever you choose to do in life can be used to demonstrate God’s grace and glory through the skills and talents He’s given you, I sincerely believe that thing can totally be within God’s will for your life.

I suggest reading from the beginning of chapter 1, but Ephesians 1:11-12 says, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

When God made us His children, the purpose He established in us was to live “to the praise of His glory”. Our main goal while we live here on Earth is to praise God through any and everything we do. God’s ultimate will for your life is to praise Him. So, I have to believe that anything you do that can be used to praise Him, is acceptable in His will.

That thought is soooooo comforting, isn’t it? You are not bound to one specific person, career, etc… If you were, what would the consequences be if you chose wrong? How scary would it be to live like that?

That’s how a lot of us live. We try so hard to complicate God’s will. We want some divine revelation from God Himself. And honestly, dear friends, that is somewhat of an arrogant wish- that we should expect God to give us a “better” explanation than the thoroughly perfect instruction guide already provided for us.

It’s kinda like God’s thinking: ok, I’ve already given you this detailed instruction guide filled to the brim with perfectly applicable wisdom and knowledge, what more do you need??

How to Make Sure a Decision is Within God’s Will:

1. It is cohesive with teachings found in the Bible.

The End

If you feel led to something or someone, and a part of that something or someone is at odds with things you find in God’s Word, you can be 100% sure that this something or someone is not in God’s will for you. Sin will never be a part of God’s purpose for your life.

So to you who feel lost, determining God’s will for your life should not be an anxiety-inducing thought. There was a time in my life where I would sit for days and wrestle with figuring out what God is calling me to do. And each time the wrestling began, it was like, alright here we go again, bring on the stress and exhaustion. Did I think to look to the Bible? No. But I don’t believe it should be that way. Seeking God’s will should be comforting and encouraging. Mainly, because His will for you is perfect and good, and living according to our complete instruction manual makes for a godly and joyful life.

God allows you freedom to make decisions. And the most comforting thing about it is, those decisions are automatically going to be within God’s purpose for your life as long as they let you live “to the praise of His glory”.

I am in no way limiting God. He can open doors for you, He can provide opportunities, He can bring people in and out of your life, and He can place a desire on your heart, guide the course of your days, or send you a divine revelation however and whenever He chooses. But in general, if you find yourself at a point where you are afraid of making the wrong decision, or afraid to go in a direction that is outside God’s will, refer back to our good and perfect instruction guide. Everything you need to know about what decisions to make and how to live are already provided to you. It’s not as complicated as you think. You have the freedom to choose. (read: you have the freedom to choose!!)

Love,

someone who knows exactly how you feel

 

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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.

 

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.

 

how to respond when your dreams crumble

I experienced a break up this year.

In March actually. For a little over 12 hours.

break up

As I’ve mentioned in many relationship posts, I’ve learned this year that choosing another imperfect human being to experience life with is not a task for the faint of heart.

It takes more patience, understanding, and forgiveness than I could’ve ever imagined…and we’re only two years in and not even married. So without elaborating on details: conflicting schedules, minimal communication, and semi-long distance caused me to believe that our relationship was falling apart. I trust now that the real reason is that God needed to teach me something.

I know I don’t have to describe this feeling to you. The devastation that swallows your heart when you can feel something failing, whether it’s a relationship, friendship, job prospects, your dream school, scholarship opportunities, basketball try-outs, nursing school admission… whatever you want to fill in the blank with. Feeling lost. Feeling like a disappointment. Wondering what in the world am I even supposed to be doing?

It’s crushing. It’s heartbreaking.

Because you know that you were born to be a nurse…

Because this was your chance to prove your talent…

Because you’ve always dreamed of getting a scholarship to that dream school…

Because you really did love him…

So now what?

Because you felt like this was really God’s plan for you, and everything just fell perfectly into place up until now, and it just felt right, and you were doing so good, and everyone was cheering you on and expecting you to succeed, marry them, get the job, make the team, get into the school or program… Maybe you’ve been dreaming about this your whole life, or maybe it’s something that your parents have always wanted for you, and everyone has these expectations of you to succeed, and now it’s all crumbling.

And now what are you supposed to tell everyone? You’ll have to explain to everyone what happened and what you did wrong. You’ll have to let everyone down. They’ll be disappointed. They’ll say, “well, it was never going to work out anyways”. Everyone will wonder, just like you are, how something that seemed so perfect just fell apart. You’ll have to explain to everyone just exactly how you failed.

But here’s the new hope that you need to let sink your heart: sometimes God lets things fall apart, so He can put them back together.

I think failure shifts our focus. It makes us ask:

What went wrong?

Was it something I could’ve done better?

What can I learn from this?

How could God be preparing me for something?

What other plans could God have for my life?

That dream school may put you in a place that distracts you from God. Those countless rejection letters are only proof that God is saving you for something better. That friendship crumbled because they were no longer building you up, maybe they were pulling you down. Maybe God was giving you room for new friendships. Maybe God needs your focus somewhere more important than that sports team that you “weren’t good enough” for.

When my dreams crumbled, a new, greater hope was eventually placed in my heart: giving your hopes and dreams over to God is the absolute best way to guarantee a joyful, meaningful life.

God called me to let go of something that I had made my idol, something that I had wrapped my entire life around. He ended something that had become my only source of fulfillment. When I put my hopes and dreams in His hands, and I did what He was calling me to do, He built our relationship back up in a much more beautiful and Godly way.

I’m not saying that God is always going to give you back what you lost. In my specific situation, He did. But that isn’t necessarily true for all cases. He may build your plans back on a completely and totally different pathway than you started out with, or He may put you back on the same path with a lesson learned. You have to trust that He has your best interest in mind. Because He does. And when your plans crumble, that doesn’t always mean you failed. It just might mean that God needs to redirect your path.

In these months that have followed our break up, we have grown in our faith and beliefs as well as our love for each other. We’ve learned to love each other in a more Godly way, we’ve learned more about each other’s needs, and much more about our Savior and the place He holds in our relationship. I’ve learned that a relationship with another person, no matter who it is, can never be my only source of fulfillment. I’ve learned that when my relationship becomes an idol in my heart, it actually does more harm than good for both people involved.

Allowing something that you’ve invested months, years, or maybe even a lifetime into to crumble may be one of the most difficult and earth-shattering things you’ll ever have to do. But coming through to the other side of the heartache, where God’s plan is waiting for you, provides an immeasurable amount of joy and peace.

When you face the heartache knowing that God may be using it to build you something greater, it becomes something strangely beautiful. And I cannot begin to explain what it feels like to experience the blessings that God gives once you decide to follow where He leads. You cannot imagine the joy, peace, and contentment that I feel knowing that putting my trust in God created something beautiful.

Each and every one of us will experience failures throughout our whole life. I hesitate to make the claim that everything happens for a reason, but I am convinced that absolutely everything about your life is subject to God’s control. The heartaches and crushed plans don’t seem so devastating when you can put total hope and confidence in God’s providence in your life.

And trusting in God’s providence gives you this new hope: maybe things only fall apart so God can put them back together His way.

 

 

if you wish you were a spoon, but you’re only a plate

Dear girl, you have been formed for a purpose. You have been molded and crafted by the Ultimate Creator to fulfill a purpose that only you can.

if you wish you were a spoon

In Romans 9, we see a picture painted of the Potter and the clay.

*Now this verse is taken slightly out of context, but I believe the principle is still true 🙂

The potter has complete control of the clay. The potter can take any particular lump of clay and turn it into anything he sees fit, to serve any particular purpose that he sees fit.

He can turn it into a bowl, a pitcher, a mug, or spoon- all created for different purposes.

And the formed clay is not going to be effective as anything other than what the Potter intended it to be.

A pitcher wouldn’t make a very useful spoon.

A plate wouldn’t be a very efficient pitcher.

A mug would make a terrible spoon.

There’s no use in the spoon wishing it was a plate, or the pitcher wishing it could become a mug. Because the spoon, plate, pitcher, and mug were all created the way they are for a specific purpose designed by the Potter.

People benefit from the spoon being a spoon, they do not benefit from the spoon trying to be a plate. In fact, a burden is placed on them when their spoon is acting like a plate.

To be a bit more realistic, here’s an example:

I am a cheerer, a calm, observe-from-the-sidelines kind of girl. I’d rather support and cheer on others than ever, ever, ever setting foot on a court or a field.

And I promise you, everyone else would rather me sit on the sidelines too.

Others would not benefit from me trying to be something I’m not: an athlete. I’d probably get people hurt, we would lose every game, etc… you get the idea 🙂

Others do benefit from me acting as what I am: a supporter, encourager, lover, and cheerer.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10

You will find the most joy, peace, and contentment in yourself and your life when you are acting as who you were created to be. God receives the most praise when you live your life striving to fulfill the purpose He’s placed within you. You can do the most good for others, you can form the best relationships, and you can have the most contentment in your life as long as you are living as what God created you as.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul tells us about all the different gifts given to the members of the church. In verses 4-6 he writes, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (NIV)

Everyone is given different ways to serve the Lord. He says some are given wisdom, some knowledge, others faith, and some gifts of healing, etc… You can have the gift of easily spreading joy, showing compassion, giving advice, maybe you’re a peacemaker, you can settle arguments easily, whatever your gift may be- others need you to be who you are and use that gift.

Maybe you’re a good writer, speaker, singer, dancer, runner, or athlete. Whatever gifts and talents God has given you, use to them to serve others and ultimately to serve Him.

I firmly believe that God has placed you exactly where He needs you to be in His Grand Design. I firmly believe that He calls you to follow Him wherever He takes you, whether it’s moving across a stage or court, moving music notes in songs of praise, or moving across the country or even the world to serve others. He has a purpose for you, and He has created you exactly the way He needs you to be to fulfill that purpose.

Don’t look at your friend the Spoon and wish you were her. Don’t look at your sister, brother, acquaintance, or classmate – the plate, mug, or pitcher and think that your life would be easier if you were them. Don’t think that you could do more if you were different or that others would like you better if you weren’t you.

You are specifically designed. Every part of your heart and mind was carefully crafted by the Almighty Potter.

You are you because God wanted you to be you. And that’s a marvelous reason to love who you are.

p.s.- the most important thing that the Potter made you into is a child of God, and that’s also a marvelous reason to rejoice 🙂

This post not enough? Part 2 is coming soon on your purpose and role in your relationships with others!

 

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.

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.

filling yourself with Jesus

I like to fill my heart with different things. We all like to set up little comfy homes in our hearts for the things that we think are going to make us happy. We want these things, events, or people to live comfortably inside us and bring us contentment, security, comfort, etc… for the rest of our days.

I like to think that once this thing happens, I’ll be happy. Once I get “x” amount of money, I’ll be happy. If I could just have more material things, I’ll be happy. And then “this thing” happens, and I’m left with a couple moments, weeks, maybe even a few months of happiness, and then I’m left feeling empty again. I like to rest my contentment, security, and comfort on an object, or event or person. And then when that one thing inevitably lets me down, my whole world comes crashing down. Because my whole world revolved around that one thing.

And it’s the same with anything- you can wait to get a boyfriend, to graduate high school, college, for the weekend, for summer- whatever it may be.

filling yourself

I think part of the reason we like to pour all of ourselves into earthly things, events, or people is because they are more concrete. They seem more real to us. I am easily satisfied when I visually see my paycheck deposit. I’m usually really content with myself when I come home from a successful shopping day and review everything I bought. Comfort is easy to seek from hugs or affection from friends and family. Those things are physical. We can certainly see them, feel them, or reap the physical benefits from them.

Our relationship with God is not always as tangible. We can’t see Him, we can’t always see what He’s doing or what He’s telling us to do. He isn’t a physical presence in our lives.

But the reality is, there is nothing more real, or more secure or lasting than our life we have in Christ. It’s important to understand that although earthly things are more concrete than your perception of God seems, your relationship with God is far more permanent. Anything we fill ourselves with other than Jesus is eventually going to let us down. Anything other than Jesus will leave us feeling empty.

There’s this song by Bethel Music called You Are My One Thing and it’s a really beautiful and meaningful song.

Just to be close to you

Just to walk next to you

This is my one thing

You are my one thing

Just to be in the presence of Jesus, just to know that He is in our lives should be enough. To wake up every day realizing that Jesus walks through life with us is enough for us to hold on to. Jesus is more than enough to fill ourselves with.The fact that you even have breath in your lungs and have the privilege to exist in a universe where you have Jesus Christ as your Hope and Savior is far beyond more than enough to hold onto.

He’s the only thing that will last through changing days, or years. He’s able to comfort and protect you better than anything or anyone. He can bring you more peace, joy, or security than any physical thing or any person. And it’s enduring. Your relationship with Jesus is more permanent and secure than your relationship with anyone else, and definitely with any other material thing.

He’ll last beyond your graduation date, beyond the day you finally get a boyfriend, beyond the weekend and summer. He never ends, and He certainly never lets us down.

If we live our lives constantly waiting for the next thing to fill ourselves with, we’ll be perpetually searching for contentment. The space in our lives is only shaped for Jesus. Only Jesus is enough to fill up the expanse of the hole in our heart. Anything you latch onto other than Him will always leave you looking for more.

So that boyfriend isn’t going to bring you joy. Graduating high school or college won’t bring you joy. Neither is the weekend or the summer or the next paycheck. Those things will make you happy for a period of time. Eventually the newness wears off or the thing lets you down, or it altogether ends. Jesus is lasting. Filling yourself up with him will never bring you disappointment.