I’m sitting at my kitchen table. It’s covered with chalkboard paint and little doodles from my roommate and I. Flowers and a cute ceramic owl to one side of me and a steaming mug of frothy coffee to the other. I love my mug, it’s big and red and has a ‘K’ on it…Winners. That store is awesome. The window is open slightly, the wind blowing the curtain and my fluffy dog is begging to be pet at my feet.

I have a cute life. It’s adorable! Quiet, peaceful, busy when it needs to be. Family, friends, a good job. I’m so blessed!

I realized as I sat here yesterday, having my daily reading time, that I’ve been through a valley lately. In the last few months I’ve been fighting what I knew was a huge lie, that I was undeserving to be in God’s presence. I would sit down (or maybe not even sit down, but just think about) and try to have quality time with God and this overpowering feeling of guilt, displeasure…I’m not sure how to describe it…would overcome me and I couldn’t present myself to Him. I didn’t feel adequate to pray or to read the bible. A voice, a lie, was whispered into my ear that He wasn’t hearing me, that I was faking my relationship with Him. And, as I had my morning coffee yesterday, I realized that I hadn’t felt that, or heard those lies, one single bit in the last week. I don’t know what changed, but those thoughts, Satan’s lies, just disappeared. I had unknowingly climbed from the dark, dry valley and reached the summit. Thank God!

Isn’t interesting that sometimes you fight a spiritual battle knowingly – you pray, you cry, you claim verses over the situation – and sometimes, all you have the energy or brain-space for is a simple prayer and suddenly you realize its over.

I love the feeling of when the cloud lifts. You’ve been feeling a burden for a while, you can’t seem to shake it, but then one day you wake up feeling awake. Feeling like you can breathe. Feeling like a battle has been won. It’s so amazing knowing that God and His warriors are fighting for us when we aren’t even aware. I believe that we still need to be sensitive to what He is asking us to do, how He is asking us to take part in the battle, but there are times when all we can do is say His name and trust that He is taking care of the rest.

As I’m learning lately, there are wins and there are losses, but they’re all used in God’s plan for your life. To form you into the person He needs you to be.

I’ve failed, I’ve fallen, I’ve turned my back purposely. And even if those choices aren’t what God would want for me ideally, they’re still parts of my story He saw coming and will use for His Glory. There is a reason for everything and as long as we remind ourselves in the desert and valley, that He should be our focus and our destination, we will come out the other side with more experiences to help us, or even others, through the next stage that He has planned.

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Slow It Down

I’ve been learning a lot in the past couple years about how to slow. down. God has brought me to a place and pace where I am fully dependent upon him.

I used to be a Charger. I would get an idea in my head and just do it. If I had to wait for something I was instantly frustrated and anxious. I was like this with buying things, with life plans and goals, with jobs and with my social life. I rushed forward in everything. Taking the time to consider if it was the best idea would nearly kill me. If I couldn’t do something immediately there was a knot in my stomach and my mind was constantly reminding me that I was missing out.

While I was running away from my marriage and from God, my life was rush rush rush.The schedule went a bit like this:

  • 6:00am Workout
  • 8:00am – 4:30pm First Job
  • 5:00pm – 10:00pm (or 11pm, 12am…1am…) Second Job
  • Social Life whenever I could squeeze it in
  • Boyfriend somewhere in there
  • Family on some Sundays

 This schedule was five days a week, if not six, and when I wasn’t working I was trying to maintain a social life, family life with my sister, brother in law and niece, and somehow fit a relationship in there. Mornings I wasn’t working I would still aim to go for a run or to the gym or to yoga…I couldn’t relax enough to even sleep in.

I rushed around, I conquered, I accomplished.

And still, I was restless. There was something that just wasn’t connecting the dots. Something was missing. It was frustrating! I was doing all I could do! I was doing everything I wanted to do!

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

If you are unable to be still, there is something wrong. I realize there is the scheduling and the attention that families need and just can’t be avoided, but if your schedule is to busy to fit in time with God, you are filling your schedule to full. If, when you do make time for God, your spirit is restless and anxious, you are to busy.

God gave me everything I thought I wanted. I traveled, I had a man that fit my criteria, I had a social life that was fun and constant, I had a cute little condo and jobs that I had only dreamt of before. But still…I wasn’t able to be still. I wasn’t satisfied, my insides were churning, I wasn’t content

And then God came and stole my heart. I turned to him and gave up everything I thought I wanted and it was exactly what I needed.

Now, life isn’t an anxious striving towards happiness. It’s a peaceful and constant surrendering towards a relationship with God. It’s simple, but not always easy. It’s reminding myself that even though the world pounds you on the head with messages of accomplishment, education, financial success, fitness and fashion and popularity…That simple is better. Resting and being peaceful with God is exactly what our spirits need.

God doesn’t want us to be busy, he doesn’t want us to be anxious. He wants us to be peaceful and restful in his presence. To develop a relationship with him. To spend time with him. It was only when I started to do this that the deepest part of my soul became still. That’s the only way I can describe it. The very root of me, my soul, was at home when I was in community with God. When I cut out all the unnecessary rush, I felt like I was where I was supposed to be.

If God speaks in a gentle whisper, how are we supposed to hear him when our lives are busy and full of noise?

Action Plan:

  • Start Small. When can you set aside five minutes to spend with God? Write it on your calendar, put a reminder in your phone. Take specific, intentional, time with God. Create a plan to make this time consistent.
  • What is one thing you can cut out of your schedule in order to slow your pace of life down?

 The world tells us that in order to be successful and feel whole, we need to stretch ourselves thin. But what our souls are aching for is a place where we can sit and give up our worries and be still.

 

Pace of Life

The pace of life. Do you allow life to take you at it’s own pace, or do you determine the pace in which your life moves forward?

Normally, we tend to think that busier is better. Maybe not rushed, even though some people like this pace, but active. When we sit still, it’s either because we’ve been forced to (tell that to my injured knee!) or because it’s a rare break in the steady stream of visits, errands, lists and demands.

Have you ever paused to ask yourself what pace God wants you to move at?

Every. single. time. my schedule gets to full, God reminds me to slow down. I begin to think that, yes, maybe this time, God wants me to stay busy in order to send money here or witness there. It all sounds good! My intentions are, for the most part, to bring God glory in this busyness. But just when I’m settling into my new, busy schedule, God pulls the rug from under my feet and shows me that he wants me to slow it down. He reminds me that even though it might make sense to earn a lot of money, that’s not his plan for me right now. Another gentle reminder that I need to lean on him more heavily because that is what he’s there for. Another reminder that he doesn’t intend for me to be too busy to minister in the fields he’s put on my heart.

When I look for verses about the pace of life, I find ones like:

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” Pslam 23:2

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” Isaiah 30:15

Jesus even tells Martha that she should be more like Mary and just sit and enjoy his presence.

When you read stories of Jesus’ life on earth, I don’t believe you will ever see a hectic schedule, a plate with to many responsibilities, or a rushed pace. The point of Jesus’ life was to build relationships. He didn’t rush, he asked people to stop what they were doing and follow him. He told them that he would provide the water and bread of life they needed. He took time in the early mornings to talk to his Father.

The point of our lives, the very thing that will satisfy the depths of our soul, is to pursue a relationship with God. Having a busy pace to our lives usually means that our priorities are out of balance. It usually means that quiet time with God is either overlooked or, if we have made time for him, it’s quickly forgotten once our busy day gets started.

The last thing we need is to forget what God has spoken to us or even the feeling of his presence. He is what will help us through the day! He gives us the strength in tough situations, he shows us what to say when a friend needs the right words, he helps us to be patient, he reminds us that he is in control, he takes worry and anxiousness away…If we miss out on getting to know him and spending time with him each day because our schedule is to full, we will see our day quickly going downhill. Simply, we can’t afford to put God on the back-burner and busyness makes this happen more often than not!

Action Plan:

  • Ask God if there are things, commitments, habits, thought-processes, in your life that you need to pause, if not remove completely, in order to slow down.
  • Think about your relationship with God. Are you making it top priority each day? If not, where can you make space for a few minutes with him? If you are already, how can you limit distraction during this time?

 

The world makes us think that giving God time instead of achieving and conquering and accomplishing whatever it is that our human nature wants will not be as fulfilling. Even when we have tasted a bit of Godly fulfillment, it’s easy to be convinced of this. Let’s be honest about what this truly is: This is satan lying to us about God in order to drag us away from the potential God created us with.

Let’s make it a goal to slow our lives down and to allow God to show us what he thinks is important and erase what the world tells us is important.

Aside

Diving back into Exodus again this morning. I just love how God whispers into my heart as I read and allows things to jump out at me.

I’m in Chapter 6 and I’m reading the genealogy of Moses and Aaron. And, honestly, I’m about to skip over this part. Boring. Who reads genealogies anyways? A bunch of people, another bunch of people, someone lived for a certain amount of years…someone had this kid or that…ok ok, skipping this part and moving on into the ‘meaningful verses’. But this time, instead of skipping the genealogy, I Googled it. “Significance of genealogy of Moses and Aaron”. A Jewish write-up came up and I skimmed through it. I am, after all, a student of God, I might as well educate myself further in these things.

The author points out that in Exodus 6:12 Moses is talking to God and put some blame on to the Israelites for not listening to the message God gave him. But then, in verse 30, the bible seems to repeat itself by saying basically the same thing. The difference is, in verse 30, Moses leaves out the part of the blame against the Israelites. Interesting.

After the genealogy, Moses leaves out blaming the Israelites.

After Moses is reminded who he is and where he came from, Moses stops blaming his people.

This is cool. Moses is reminded that he has a responsibility to these people, he is one of them. I’m thinking it would have been hard for him, growing up in an Egyptian palace, raised by a princess and having that life engrained in him. It was normal for him to think that he was Egyptian. Egypt was home for him, Israel wasn’t. Their traditions weren’t his, their God was new to him, their slavery wasn’t a part of his direct history…he was born an Israelite but it had never been an actual part of his life. Actually, I’m thinking it was probably something he had tried to hide.

But suddenly, when God became real to him, Moses needed to confront the fact that he belonged to these enslaved people and they belonged to him. He was a part of them. They were his family.

And so I finished my reading and started praying. And suddenly God started talking.

The troubled people around me are my people. I might have been rescued out of the muddy river by a God that is full of grace, I might have been delivered into a better life like Moses was, but I was once a troubled person too. Not too long ago, I struggled with their struggles. I understand them, my heart grieves for them, I can feel where they are. I am a part of them and they are a part of me and I have a responsibility to them, to lead them out of their slavery and to show them the life that God has promised them.

I love it when God speaks to me, when I know that the Holy Spirit has just opened my eyes to a message he wants me to see.

“Since I speak with faltering lips…”

Exodus 6:30

I don’t always have the right words or the confidence to say them, but it doesn’t matter. I have a responsibility to my people and I have instruction from God and all I asked to do is be obedient. When I am meant to speak, he will give me the words. All he needs is a vessel to work with. Obedience and a willingness to listen.

 

A friend bought me the book 66 Love Letters for my birthday. It’s an amazing book with letters from God about each book of the bible. If you have a chance to even just read the prologue of this book, it’s worth it. So powerful.

The first Love Letter in the book is about Genesis and I thought it would be interesting to read through it before I moved on in the book. I don’t think that I’ve ever read through Genesis from beginning to end. As I was reading yesterday I came to the end of Chapter 4 where it lists Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel…all these guys and how many years they had lived. At the end of each descriptive paragraph of these men it says “Altogether, ___ lived ___ years, and then he died”. There’s eight men that it says this exact same thing with. “Altogether, Seth lived for 912 years, and then he died”.

Each paragraph is the exact same information, the mans name, how many years he lived before he had a certain son, how many years he lived after he had that son, the amount of years he lived all together and then that he died.

Until it gets to Enoch.

Enoch lived 65 years before he had his son Methuselah (Gen. 4:21). And after he had Methuselah, Enoch walked with God for 300 years. Enoch walked with God and then he was no more, because God took him away (Gen. 4:24).

All these other men had lives and wives and children and lived for hundreds of years and then they died. But Enoch had a life and wife and children and he walked with God for hundreds of years, and then he was quietly taken up to heaven.

As I read this I thought “That’s who I want to be”. I want to be the person that when people look at me, they know that I am set apart from the world around me. That I am walking with God. I want to be that name on the list of my heritage that when people look at it, they know I was different, that I walked with God and then after I had walked my life with God, I went to be with God.

And then I thought “Well how do you do that?” Walking with God, just like walking in general, is an intentional habit and effort. It’s putting one foot in front of the other, it’s making the effort to get out of the door, it’s getting up early and getting the dogs leash and putting on a winter coat to walk outside whether you feel like it or not. It’s knowing that the walk with make you feel good, that when you come back, you’ll be refreshed and you’ll be so glad you did it. Walking is making a decision to be healthy. To enjoy God’s creation. To get fresh air. And all of this applies to walking in our Christian faith too.

We can’t just read this verse and think “Yeah, I want to be like that, God make me like that, make me like Enoch” and expect to sit back and it will just happen. We need to read it and know that Enoch made intentional steps each day to walk with God and when he made those steps he was actually walking with God! God met Enoch and walked beside him for 365 years.

Enoch was just a regular man in a list of other regular men. He had the same human issues as all of us do. He had hard days, fights with his spouse, children to raise, money to earn…but he walked with God and God walked with him. The fact that there were men listed before and after him and it doesn’t say these men walked with God shows that Enoch made an extra effort, it was choice he made to walk with God, it wasn’t something that just happened. Every other man lived their lives and did what every other man did, had children, lived a lot of years and died, but Enoch chose and made the effort to walk with God his entire life.

Every single day, are you choosing to walk with God?

Are you making that effort to take one step after the other each day?

What are you doing to set yourself apart from the lists of people around you and walk with God?

Take it one step further: What is in your life that is taking away from your time with God and what are you going to do about it?

If you want to walk with God, it’s going to take some effort. You might have to change your schedule, you might have to wake up earlier, you might have to start listening to different music, you might have to start hanging out with different friends…but if you want to walk with God and be known in your family history as someone who walked with him, making these changes will be rewarding. Drawing closer to him will make you feel more whole and you will feel more alive than ever. Not only that, but as you draw closer to God and make an effort to walk with him, he will draw close to you and walk beside you.

God’s still writing a book. Genesis might have been the beginning of the Bible and Revelation the end of it, but there’s still a book in God’s hands that he is writing in. And when you’re able to read your history in that book, will you be happy with the story that is laid out, or will you cringe at the legacy you left behind?

Staying In Love. It’s the title of a book I just noticed on a website and it got my wheels turning. I’m sure this is a great book, this isn’t about the book, it’s about where the title made my thoughts go.

Because of my situation, I grates on me when people make comments like “well, sometimes the love just goes away”, or “sometimes a couple just falls out of love” or even “some people are just not meant to be together”. From personal experience I can tell you that “falling out of love” isn’t something that just happens in a marriage. It’s a slow, intentional process where satan lies to the individual continually and they begin to accept the lies. It’s a falling IN love. In love with themselves. Their pleasure, their happiness, their comfort. It’s a loss of sight on God and his plan and instructions and obedience to him. It’s selfish ambition. No one ever really falls out of love with their spouse, they hit a period where the lies overtake the promises and commands of God and the only way they see fit to deal with it is to leave the relationship.

God is love. He is the true definition of love and his character is exactly that, perfect love. God is patient, God is kind, God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud, God is not rude, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

So if God is love, then when we fall out of love we are falling out of God. When love fades, we’ve allowed God to fade. When love goes away, we’ve allowed ourselves to go away from God.

God needs to be the center, the complete focus, of our marriage. Every step needs to be with the intention to worship and glorify God. When we have a decision to make, we need to turn to God for answers and direction. When we do something for our spouse, we need to realize that we are doing it for God as well. When we choose NOT to do something for our spouse, we need to realize that we are choosing NOT to do something for God.

What if we replaced the word “Love” with “God” whenever we thought about our spouse? I wonder if that would change our view a bit.

“I’m in God with my husband.” Ok so it’s not perfect English, but you know what I’m getting at. Are you in God, in the bible, in worship to our God, with your husband?

“I love my husband” equals “God loves my husband”.

How would our view change if we automatically thought of the word “Love” being another word for “God”?

In order for love not to fade in our marriage, we can’t allow our relationship with God to fade. In order to not fall out of love with our spouse, we can’t allow ourselves to fall out of love with God. God is the be-all-end-all. If he is not the focus and point of your marriage, it will not flourish. If God is not the center of your life, it will be directionless.

If your marriage is strained, if your husband is distant, if your attention is wandering, adjust your focus to God. Look to him for everything; strength, love, fulfillment, attention. When you do this, I guarantee your marriage will start to look different. When you change your focus in life from being “What can I get out of life” to “What can I do for God with my life”, your purpose will start to be accomplished and you will go about everything differently. God will start to work in your life and you will start to feel more at peace with yourself.

God is love. Staying in love isn’t about staying in love, it’s about staying in God. Trust me, if your married life is suffering, it’s because your relationship with God is suffering.

Being a Christian means that we are followers of Christ. Which means that he is leading us. When you look back on your Christian life, would you say you have allowed God to lead you?

I know that I haven’t. I accepted Jesus into my life when I was five. I’ve been raised in a Christian home with parents who read the bible to us daily and brought us to church weekly. I’ve attended Christian high schools and a Christian university. I married a Christian man and even when I was running away from my marriage, I called myself a Christian. But I have never once allowed God to lead my life. I’m not even sure I knew how to do this before, and I’m definitely not a pro at it now.

How do we allow God to lead us? First, we need to know who it is that we are following. We need to study his character, study his text book, and really dedicate ourselves to his teachings like any other student. We need to realize that we are just that, students of God. We don’t have to pay anything for this training, it’s all right at our fingertips and even better than that…it’s what we were created to strive after! It is more fulfilling than any post secondary education…by a long shot!

I know that changing my view of my relationship with God to one of a student has made all the difference. I need to study him. And when I do, my heart feels full. It takes dedication and application. It takes time daily and discussion with other ‘students’. It takes communication with the Teacher.

We also need to realize that by following God, we will be different. There’s a piece of us that will fight this. A piece that reminds us that we won’t fit in, that it’s “un-cool” and that piece, the piece that satan loves to whisper in, will also tells us that we don’t have time.

We will be different and that is totally ok. When we keep our eyes focused on our God, the God that will judge us in the end, the God that has given everything for us to be his children, other opinions don’t matter. They’re just a tiny blip on the radar. God, however, feeds our soul and makes us feel complete. His opinion matters and our heart can feel it. Our heart aches for his voice, his presence and his teaching. His voice is the only one we should be listening to.

Being different isn’t a bad thing. It’s our boring society that has told us that it’s bad. For some reason society has told us that we need to be like all the others, we need to fit in, we can’t draw too much attention. But being a child of God will make us noticed. Even when we don’t say anything at all, pursuing our relationship with God will light a fire inside of us that others notice.

Once when I worked as a grocery teller, a girl came through my till. I knew the instant I saw her that she was a Christian and this was before she had even said anything to me. Later that week I attended a College and Career event from a church I was starting to attend and she was there. People can sense God in you without you saying anything at all. Why? Because their spirit is craving what you have. They know deep down that what you have with God is what they want. They know that what you have with God will make them feel like they’re finally home.

If your relationship with God isn’t making a change in you, if it isn’t making you different than your secular friends, there is something wrong.

We are meant to be like Jesus. Jesus wasn’t liked, he was threatened, he was challenged, he was despised. Even some of his followers denied knowing him and outright betrayed him. There will be and should be some of this in your life. We shouldn’t be creating drama in our lives, but we should be aware that if it happens, even if our hearts are in the right place and we are treating those around us with love (as per the definition in 1 Corinthians 13) there will be people that don’t like us just because of the faith we are living in.

If we are living as Jesus lived and we are allowing God to lead us in everything, we should be seeing drastic changes in ourselves and our lives. This isn’t going to please people around us and it will cause discussion…if not betrayal. Some friends might walk away from you, some might talk behind your back, some might respect you more and some might lean into God more because of the change they see in you.

What would you rather: A mediocre life without bumps, always wondering what the point of it is and wondering if there is something more? Or a life with some bumps, knowing that the creator of the universe has it all in his hands and knowing you’ve never felt more alive?

All you have to do is surrender to him, allow him to lead, and remind yourself often that he sees the entire picture of your life and knows exactly what he is doing.