Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review- Passion and Purity



I am not good at finishing books quickly, but I'm glad that I kept coming back to this one. I started it last year and would read a couple of chapters at a time before it would it sit next to my bed and be forgotten about for some time. Then I would get lonely or confused and pick it back up again, and it would always have the perfect words for what I needed to be reminded of right then. Whether you are a guy or a girl, single or married there is something to be learned in this book. As a single girl this book met me right where I was, encouraged patience, putting God first and others second in how I approach relationships and made me reexamine what purity is at its core and what actions I want to take to keep my mind, body and soul pure for whatever God has in store for me. It was convicting and encouraging, and I highly recommend it. Elisabeth Elliot tells the story of how she and her husband, Jim, waited an agonizing amount of time before they could have each other. They both had to bend their wills and desires to the Lord and find satisfaction in Him before He allowed them to be together.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Good Listening, the Key to Communication

It is estimated that 80% of our communication is through nonverbal cues and body language. In a world where text messages dominate conversation, we are loosing real conversation. For a communications class I'm taking I had to read an article on what being a good listener really means. It turns out nodding, eye-contact and the occasional "mmhmm" aren't all there is to listening. Asking leading questions while someone is talking not only improves your understanding of the conversation, but makes the other person feel validated- like you are truly interested in what they are saying. Then give feedback. Now, you may be asking yourself why on earth I'm posting about this. I believe it has a practical connection to the Christian life. First, in the body of Christ, right relationships are vital. We build others up, and ultimately the kingdom of God up, when we know how to communicate with our brothers and sisters. Secondly, the habit of good listening helps with conversations with people who do not believe in salvation through Jesus. Instead of starting a conversation by ramrodding your beliefs down someone's throat, it is better to listen and hear not only their perspective but also their story. When they know you truly care about their story, they'll be more likely to want to hear yours. Hope you are having a good day; now go have some face-to-face conversations. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Tips on Living to the Fullest with Depression

Depression is ugly, it's exhausting, but it doesn't last forever. I have mild depression, most of the time as a result of life events but sometimes for no apparent reason at all. If it is something you struggle with I want you to know several truths before I say anything else. First of all, it is not who you are. It is just how you feel. Secondly, you are not alone no matter how isolated you feel. There are millions of people who either have experienced or currently are experiencing the very same thing. More importantly, if you are a child of God you have the knowledge that He is in the midst of every moment with you not merely watching from far away but holding your hand. Lastly, emotions are temporary. In time, with help and lots of perseverance it can get better.

Now that we've got that out in the open, here are some tips on how to bring some sunshine into the darker days.

1. Move.
Get out of bed, stand up from the floor, climb out of your cave and exercise. Now, before you tune our let me give the disclaimer that I am the least athletic person in my whole family. My mom used to be a killer track runner, my dad to this day beats guys half his age in bike races every week and my sister is a fit ballerina. I haven't played a single sport since middle school, and even then I was terrible. I'm not saying you need to run a marathon, get a six pack or even run a mile. Just move, get your heart rate up, get your muscles a little sore and see the sunshine. For me it works to do 30 sit ups, some squats, maybe go for a short jog/walk. If you find you enjoy it, find a workout routine that works for you. If it isn't your thing, just try doing something small each day. Exercise of any form is scientifically proven to raise the endorphins (happy chemicals) in your brain. After working out, even if it is a small one, I feel energized and motivated. I would, however, caution you not to get your heart rate up right before bed. As I said, it energizes you and that can make it hard to fall asleep.

2. Get sunshine.
Not only does sunshine help with Vitamin D, it raises levels of serotonin. What is serotonin? According to Medical News Today, it is a neurotransmitter that is attributed to regulating your mood and promoting happy emotions that are found in the brain and produced in the gut. When a person has low serotonin it can cause depression. There are multiple ways to raise your serotonin, but this is one of the most practical and beneficial ways I have found to boost my serotonin.

3. Don't try to suppress it.
There have been a lot of days I've gone into public or been around friends and put on a front to hide my depression. I finally learned this year that it is okay to not always be the extravert I used to be. I can sit quietly in a group of friends, or strangers, and not work to put on a smile and carry the conversation. As long as you are still being polite and kind to those around you, don't wear yourself out trying to seem upbeat.

4. Talk about it.
I spent over a year hiding my mental illness from almost everyone I knew, and it is miserable. I found that there are a lot of people out there who relate, and even if they don't, there are a lot of people who care. If you don't have someone you can trust to talk about how you feel and what you are going through, journal it. Lastly, there is absolutely no shame in going to a doctor. Back when I started feeling different and did't know why I talked to my regular doctor and she helped me brainstorm on ways to start healing.

One more thing before I go, healing doesn't happen over night but there is most definitely hope. There is a reason to keep on moving forward, even when you don't feel like moving. I say there is hope because there is a God, the one true God, who walks beside us and brings good out of every situation for those who have committed their lives to Him and trust Him. Through depression I have learned that there truly is no friend like Jesus and am continually amazed that the Creator of the Universe cares about how we feel. Be encouraged friend, you aren't alone in this fight.

Here is a song that has been a great encouragement to me in this battle, which I hope uplifts you as well.






Sunday, August 14, 2016

Be Still

Tonight there are a million things in my mind. Thoughts about people, thoughts about life and death, thoughts about who I am, questions about purpose, and the knowledge that there is no possible way for my human brain to understand it all are circling around. I put in my headphones and the lyrics from music about who Jesus is and our reliance on Him started replacing the ricocheting thoughts. I realized that while I have physically sat still this week many times, I have not truly been still. What does it mean to "be still"? For many Psalm 46:10 has become such a familiar verse that it has lost some of the poignancy to us. "Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

About a month ago I read the entire chapter of Psalm 46 for one of the first times. Almost every single verse declares either who God is, or what He can overcome.

1God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

To me the two verses before the well-known verse 10 sum up what it means to "be still and know that I am God." It starts out saying, "Come, behold the works of the Lord." Look, see all the good He has done in your own life, in the world around you, the earth itself, history. If you can't see what He has done, have no fear, the next verse lists a few of the many many things. "He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariot with fire." In other words, He brings peace. So we have established that part of the act of "being still and knowing" is dwelling on what He has done.

The following verse reminds us while we are resting in the knowledge of what He has done, just who He is- "The Lord of hosts is with us;" Let's stop there, He is the Lord of hosts. He commands all the angels, and ultimately He will defeat the 1/3 of the angels that turned away with Satan. The verse goes on to say, "the God of Jacob is our fortress." The meaning behind that statement is very significant. Jacob was the father of 12 sons, who were the patriarchs, or fathers, of the 12 tribes of Israel. Through Jacob's line came Judah, who's blood line went on to father Salmon, the father of Boaz. Boaz fathered Obed, who fathered Jesse, who fathered David. King David was the writer of Psalms. Though those may just sound like a bunch of names, the way God turned the bad in each of their lives to good for His ultimate plan is incredible. So while saying, "The God of Jacob," may not seem like a big deal it most certainly is. The significance does not stop there though, from David's line came Mary the mother of Jesus. Jesus was a piece of God, who humbled Himself so much that He came to earth in the form of a human through the womb a virgin. Jesus took on the flesh He gave His creations in order to bridge the gap between God and man. Through Jesus every single person is offered salvation, hope for life and eternity to come. When we think about all of those little details, and study further into the stories of the men that came before Him in the line of Judah, not to mention the women like Tamar, Rahab and Ruth in the same family line, we see that though the world is sinful and far from perfect God is powerful enough to turn ANY circumstances to good when we submit to Him. THAT is who God is.

When His face feels far away and you are so busy that you forget just how powerful God is, take time to dwell on who He is. Be still. Take a deep breath and remember. Remember that though the earth gives way and even if the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea He is still our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Thank you, Jesus.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Wait

The word "wait" seems to describe the season of life I'm in. Sometimes I doubt if I will ever move past this stage, but I have to constantly remember that there is a purpose for me and somehow there is even a purpose for waiting.

What do we do when we have been praying and longing for something for years and when we think it is time for them to become really the answer is a simple but clear, "Not now." Our reaction, good or bad, shows just how much we, as children in the kingdom of God, trust our Father. I want to be honest with you, my reaction is not always the one I wish it was. For years I thought that at this exact moment in my life I would be packing to go to the one college I have dreamed about for years. Because of internal health challenges I have faced as well as big life events, that isn't possible for me this year. Today I talked to two young women a few years older than me whose lives reminded me of the dreams I have, dreams that I often wonder if will ever happen. One girl was a graphic designer who designs materials for missionaries to raise funds for their work. The other has a degree in education and is leaving in a few days for her second year as a teacher in China. Part of me was thrilled to meet two people near my age who share common goals and interests, the other part of me was filled with a longing ache because I don't know when or if I will get to live out my passions as those two are. Even in that moment I had a clear choice before me to be either dissatisfied and discouraged, or in contrast be encouraged by the fact that their stories showed me that the spark inside of me to do things like that was not gone. God has put certain desires in me not for me to spend my life wishing I could fulfill them, but so that in waiting for them my passion would grow stronger.

Thinking about the concept of waiting reminds me of one time when I was around eight-years-old and saw a puppet that looked almost exactly like my cat at home. I tapped my mom on the arm and asked for it without much tact or strategy involved. I really wanted that little fuzzy black-and-white cat. When my mom told me no I was crushed. As she finished her errands in the store I thought only about that cat. I pleaded for it once more before we left the store, she thought for a moment and said that I would have to wait until I could save up the money for it by doing chores around the house. She very well could have spent the ten dollars without any bother, but she wanted me to work for it. She wanted me to wait so that when I finally had that puppet in my hand I would see its value as more than just ten dollars, but also for the work I had done in order to get the toy. At the time, I was annoyed. Now looking back I am glad she made me wait, because it taught me what it was like to work patiently for something. When we went back to the store some time later and I spread out the fist-full of change on the counter and the lady handed me the puppet. Pride filled my chest. Looking back I can see that the puppet meant so much more to me than it would have if I had gotten the instant gratification I desired.

My favorite Elisabeth Elliot quote comes from the book Passion and Purity, which says, "..I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us having our way in the end but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done."

This quote packed some punch for me both the first time I read it online and the second time I read it in the book itself. Elisabeth wrote this in the context of a period when she and her future husband had expressed their love for each other to one another, but both felt that it was not the right time to get married or even to date. They ended up in different states with very limited contact, but it did not diminish their feelings. It did however grow her and prepare her for the mission field God had planned for her. As someone waiting on what feels like every aspect of my life, her position resonated with me. Her words showed me that a benefit in waiting is that it gives us the opportunity to trust God in ways we might not otherwise have the chance to.

Whatever you are waiting on it your life, whether that is love, healing, a job position, school, friendships, restoration in a relationship, circumstances to change or whatever it may be, God has not forgotten you. His answer to your longings, to your prayers, may be "no," or they may be a simple "wait." Either way, this is a huge opportunity for you. An opportunity to become bitter or to trust the One who gently guides us. If this subject is close to your heart right now here is a simple but monumental truth to cling to- God's timing is not our timing, but it is always better. Don't ramrod a solution on your own, but follow God's leading.



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Emotions

Emotions. Feelings.

While I have learned that emotions are not the key elements in making decisions, nor are they reliable, they do have some importance.

Recently I have been doing a lot of learning about the mind and the ways it works with the body to tell us things. The journey I have been on trying to figure out how my subconscious works with my body has been insane. That is a story for another post though, one that I would like to share someday.
Right now I want to focus on the importance of recognizing and acknowledging your feelings. A few weeks ago I was busy with lots of social functions with my family every day, plus helping out at my church and working at another church. In doing things like that, I was focused on keeping it all together and maintaining a smile, all the while shoving the gnawing tired/wrung-out/somewhat depressed feelings back. Then in the car on the way home from one function to change clothes before going to a dinner at someone's house in record speed, I finally had to allow myself to acknowledge how I was feeling and let out a few tears. I quickly apologized to my mom, but she gently reminded me that it was okay to not feel honkey dory (peppy, happy) all the time. Emotions are just emotions, and they are fleeting. Yet, they can sometimes tell us when we need a little extra care. It's okay to have a small meltdown, as long as we don't set up camp and live there.

So, what is the point of all this? There are certainly times when we need to suck it up and put on a brave face, but it is okay to be human. It is okay to have a good cry, or sleep in and do nothing one day. We need to keep our emotions in check, but that doesn't mean pushing them so deep inside that we go numb until one day we explode. There is a healthy balance, which may be different for you than it is for me. For me, that means having at least one or two people I can be honest with and call them to say, "Hey, I'm having a rough day.. Can we talk?" Or someone I can say, "I know this is ridiculous, but I'm afraid that..." For me, that also means journaling. If you flip through my journal you will see a lot of emotions, though I have found I am not even completely honest about how I feel there some times on the off chance that someone will read it someday. That doesn't help though. It is healthy for us to look back and see just how wacky our feelings from a day were, so we can see how far we've come. Today I took some time to journal, via computer so as to write faster, and wrote every thought that came to mind. When I finished, I felt refreshed. It was like taking the thoughts that were weighing on my chest and setting them down. The single greatest place to take all my emotions, feelings and thoughts is to my Creator. Because of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I have direct access to talk to Him and the Father, and what a father He is. I can share things with my dad, and he is usually pretty understanding, but only God, my Heavenly Father, knows every thought I have. Only God has been with me in every dark moment, when no one else knows how I feel. Only He can lift my burdens. Not only can I process and let go of feelings in prayer, but I can read His words to me- the Bible. The past couple of months I have been reading through Psalms, which through God's leading was written by one of the kings of Israel. His name was David, and he truly sought after God. Yet, he did some pretty horrible things and forgot that God's plans were better than his own. In the book of Psalms, we find songs he wrote for the nation's people to praise God, he wrote songs for them to ask God for mercy and he wrote very personal songs where he asked why his soul was so downcast. It is full of emotion, but it is also full of God's promises to His people. One of my favorite chapters from that book right now is Psalm 46. Here is a link to it- Bible Gateway

What ever emotions you are dealing with, whatever trauma you have been through, whatever is weighing on you, the only true solution to any of our problems is Jesus.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Picture Perfect


I see the #liveauthentic hashtag going around Instagram, and have noticed it always seems to follow a perfectly posed picture. They usually are pictures of picturesque places where people have gone on adventures too that make a perfect Instagram post, or other times it is a picture of a well positioned coffee cup on a wooden table, etc. It made me think about real authenticity. I realized that while there is nothing wrong with taking nice photos and filling your Instagram or Twitter with only the best content, truly living authentic is something entirely different. It isn't a certain type of social media post, it is sharing our burdens; it is being honest about who we are and not making ourselves look a certain way on social media and a different way in real life. It is integrity, meaning that how you present yourself is who you really are. Living authentic is talking with one another, and being honest about how crazy things are but how much greater our God is. It is being who God created you to be. Truly living authentic is messy, but there is a certain level of freedom in it. Live authentically, as you love authentically with the love of Christ.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Encouragement- He is Unchanging

He is peace. He is strength. He is personal. He is almighty. He is sovereign. He is is loving. He is just. He is truth. He is grace. The list of all Jesus is goes on and on.

“Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever," (Hebrews 13:8).

We live in a world of uncertainty, a world where economies fall to pieces and entire nations break into war in the blink of an eye. On a more personal level, people die, people lose their jobs, relationships change. When things are calm, we often feel we can handle this life on our own, but it only takes one difficult circumstance to make us feel as if we have been rung out like an old dish rag and set aside to be forgotten. That is not the case. Christ has not forgotten us; He is unchanging. We can know with certainty the same God who sustained us yesterday will sustain us tomorrow and all the days that follow. I have found when my life seems to be falling apart, it becomes most evident Jesus is the only certainty to cling to. When the storms of life are swelling around us, pushing us around, pulling us under, He is the only thing that will remain steady. He is an anchor to those who choose to hold on. Jesus is seen clearly in the storm. This spiritual truth was shown in literal storms in multiple places in the Bible; one example is found in Mark 4.

Mark 4:35-41
Jesus Stills the Sea
"On that day, when evening came, He said to them, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Hush, be still.’ And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They became very much afraid and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?'"

In this passage, the disciples were worried the Lord had forgotten them because there was a storm raging. He had not forgotten them; He simply let the storm come so He could show them His power, faithful love and protection.

Jesus is the same God today as He was 2,000 years ago when He told the wind and the sea to obey Him. He is waiting for you to realize the God who commands the sea is in the storm with you, sitting in the boat, quietly reassuring you and asking you to have faith He is stronger than the storm.

Fix your eyes on Him. No matter what uncertainties you are facing, all of who He is will always be all you truly need. He is all we can depend on in such a world of trouble. We are given a choice between living a life of chaos and uncertainty or clinging to the hope of Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.