What Comes Next – Faith

One more week. One more week until my older son is back at his college and my younger son starts classes at his college in our community. We’ve been enjoying the last days of summer, but I’ve also been setting up a schedule of sorts. There are things I want to accomplish in this next stage of life, but if I don’t know when I’m going to do them, they will have a tendency not to get done. One of those things is the way I practice my faith.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have been practicing my faith. I pray. I talk to God during the day. I read my Bible. I go to church and participate in the life of my faith community. But, there are things I can do differently with my faith now that I will have more time during the day. I’m actually looking forward to making some changes. I can’t see anything wrong with more time with God. Can you?

One of the things I’m planning to do is be more consistent with a focused prayer time where I’m sitting still with my Lord and Savior. I’m good at praying on the run. I’m consistent with praying at meal-time. I’ve even tried praying with someone in the moment when they ask for prayer. But, my focused prayer time has been hit or miss. Why, I ask myself? This is where it’s time for confession. Laziness, busyness, letting a task dominate the relationship, fatigue, and just plain sin. All of them interfere with staying focused on God and the things He wants to tell me. I want to be better with that going forward so I’m going to plan for it. Plan for my focused prayer times with God as I begin my days, I’m looking forward to hearing what He wants to tell me and growing in my faith in this next phase.

Another thing I’m looking forward to is having more time to serve others. I’m not talking about just at church either though having flexibility there will be nice. No, I’m talking about getting the chance to know my neighbors and showing them the love of Jesus. I’m talking about going out into my community and doing things outside of my comfort zone. I’m talking about demonstrating what it says in John 15:12-13. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Or how about in I Peter 4:8? “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” And, finally, from I John 4:7. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” It’s all about love, isn’t it, as we serve, and that is why I’m looking forward to the chance to widen my circle.

Finally, I’m excited about the chance to learn more about my faith through the reading and studying I plan to do. I want to have different topics to write about for this blog and to share what I learn. This next season will be different for all the parts of my life including my faith, and I want to reflect that in what I say and do.

Praying for us all to have the chance to be still before our Lord and Savior today and to know His best for us! God bless you!

What Comes Next–Flexibility and Discipline

This summer I’ve been trying to develop some sense of a schedule I can take into the fall with me so the transition won’t be so abrupt on the first day I’m no longer homeschooling (two weeks from today). I haven’t been as successful at it as I thought I would be so I thought I would talk about how flexibility and discipline are going to be a big part of the next phase of my life.

First, flexibility. Dictionary.com defines it as “susceptible of modification or adaptation; adaptable.” Once my sons both start college classes, my schedule will be flexible, and I will have the ability to accomplish more during the day. In other words, I’ll be able to write. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity and to not be locked into a schedule that’s not my own.

But, at the same time, there’s a price that comes with flexibility, and I need to make sure I’m not paying too much as I try to accomplish the goals I want to accomplish. What’s the price? A flexible schedule can be used to accomplish other things. Household tasks, exercise, time with friends, time with family, church activities, helping someone out, being the hands and feet of Jesus–all the things that make up my life. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad all these things are in my life, and I’m glad my schedule will be more flexible.

It will just be necessary to bring another element in and use one of my spiritual gifts as I start the next phase of my life. The element is discipline, and the gift I’ll be using is administration. A funny story happened recently with that particular gift. I’ve been told many times that I have the ability to remember little details and put them into a bigger whole. I’ve never thought a lot about it. It’s just the way my brain works. Anyway, last week, I was sitting on the back row at my church crocheting while my son was working. There were a few other people working too, and one of them had to take a phone call. I was listening with one ear while crocheting because I get writing material when I observe and listen. I heard him repeat a phone number and finish the phone call. In the next instant, I heard him say he had lost it. I repeated it automatically, and he stared at me. I think they had forgotten I was back there. He asked me to repeat it again, and I did. Remembering small details like the number has always been something I could do. Not a big deal. Just a part of who I am. He thanked me, and they proceeded to finish their work.

Funny story aside though, discipline will also be important as I start the next phase of my life. Merriam-Webster.com has this as the definition I want to use. Discipline is an “orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.” I need to plan my writing times. I need to plan my reading times so I get better with my writing. I need to be disciplined within my flexibility so I can accomplish what God wants me to do. I think this is the hardest kind of discipline because it is not imposed by someone else. I’m not going to a job that requires a certain amount of tasks and a certain period of time. No, I’m accomplishing my “job” for God by writing down my words and sharing them with y’all while sitting at my writing desk. A big job and a big responsibility while using the gift of creativity God gave me.

So, that’s where I am with flexibility and discipline. Stay tuned for the next episode of What Comes Next!

May God bless you all today!

Transparency

This word has different definitions and different contexts in which it can be used. There is a TV show I like to watch where the main character has traveled from the future. I always get a kick out of watching the episode where she thinks the future technology of transparency has already been developed, but the other character is using the word in the context of honest business practices. It shows the need for us to be careful in our word usage and to make sure the other person knows what we mean when we’re speaking.

With that being said, I want to define the word before I go any further. The first definition is the more scientific of the two. From Merriam-Webster.com, transparency means “having the property of transmitting light without appreciable scattering so that bodies lying beyond are seen clearly or sheer enough to be seen through.” It doesn’t really apply to my topic, but I wanted you to know the difference. Here is the second definition from the same website. Transparent means to be “free from pretense or deceit; easily detected or seen through; readily understood or characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices.”

The second definition is the one I want to discuss today. To be “free from pretense or deceit.” I’m pretty sure that’s how God wants us to act in our churches. If I didn’t know for sure,  I would refer to Leviticus 19:11. “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” I would also refer to Colossians 3:9-10. “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

These verses seal the deal for me. We should be honest with our Christian brothers and sisters. We should be free of pretense. But, we’re not. For two reasons. One, we’re all sinners, and two, we’re uncomfortable with the hard emotions. It’s fine and dandy when someone is happy and joyful, but when someone is sad or angry, we try to avoid the emotion as much as possible even though those emotions are just as valid as the first two are. We are uncomfortable around hard emotions and don’t want to deal with them. Yes, there are some people who are compassionate, but I think the same philosophy applies. We aren’t sure how to sit with people in the hard emotions and hold them up like I think God commands us to.

So, what that means is, people who experience hard emotions aren’t willing to be vulnerable around others because they know people are uncomfortable with their sadness. It’s why people put up shields at church and pretend that everything is ok when it’s not. We don’t know how to handle sadness, conflict, or anger. I saw a wonderful quote by Brennan Manning (Thank you, Encounter Ministries for posting it.) which talks about this. “There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.”

I don’t do that naturally though because I know it makes people feel awkward. It’s more like I’m driven to it through things which are happening in my life, and even then, I don’t know how to reply to the person who comes to me in my tears. The Christian books I read don’t help either. For the most part, they say we are to be strong in the Lord and to show His joy. While I don’t disagree with this, what happens when there are tears or hard emotions? When or how are we supposed to show them?

I think the answers lie in the words I quoted earlier and in several places in Scripture. I won’t quote them all because there are way too many, but, in summary, God wants us to be transparent before Him. That makes tears just as appropriate as joy. In fact, if we didn’t cry, there would be no tears to wipe away as it says in Isaiah 25:8. “he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.” It’s one of the things I’m looking forward to when I get to heaven — to know for sure that my sorrows were just as valid to Jesus as my joys were.

I want to be transparent before my Lord and Savior now though. I want to be the person who doesn’t wear a false face and who doesn’t pretend. I believe that’s what God has called us to–all of us, and I want to reflect that in my walk with Him.  Praying we can all be transparent with our Lord and Savior!

May God bless you all today!

What Comes Next – Friendship

The summer is rapidly passing, and soon, I will be directly facing the next phase of my life. In less than a month, my older son will be back at college starting his senior year while my younger son will be starting his first year of college. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this topic as shown by my blog posts of the last few months. Today, I thought I’d start talking about different parts of my life, and the choices I’ve made as I’ve stood at the crossroads.

First up, friendship. A few weeks ago I spoke of how I felt inadequate in my friendships because I depended on seeing people in a certain place. I also talked about how I felt some friendships fragmented after too long of not seeing each other. Yes, some friendships can pick up right where they left off after a long period of not seeing each other, but what has happened to truly putting effort into a friendship? Are we, as a society, that selfish? Are we too overcome by inertia? Are we too busy looking at our phones or working for the almighty dollar? I thought of this while standing at the crossroads, and I was ashamed because I’m just as guilty as anyone else. I also thought my lack of putting effort into my friendships might have something to do with my loneliness as I feel I’ve not fit in anywhere for a while.

So, I decided to do something about it. I contacted a friend who gets me, who gets me in a way not a lot of people do. I see her more during the summer as she teaches during the year. We talked and laughed. Had a great time as usual. I told her about my idea, and she was all for it. We committed to getting together once a month during the school year. We decided to add another friend too. It did my spirit good to know we were all committed to our friendship, and the burden in my heart eased. I don’t have to depend on seeing them in a certain place to maintain the friendship.

As I thought about how God had worked, I realized two other people have shown me the way with this over the past few weeks. Last week, or the week before, a friend invited me to a Pampered Chef party she was hosting for a friend. I hesitated about going because our finances have been tight this summer. I didn’t want to be the only person who didn’t buy something. But, the text said I didn’t have to buy anything, and I decided to trust it.  I had so much fun! The food was good, and the conversations were even better. No one knew who was ordering and who wasn’t, and I didn’t feel awkward at all. At the end, she told me she had hosted the party to help the other lady out and for the fellowship. I was so grateful because it eased the loneliness in my heart a little more.

Finally, another friend noticed I was having difficulty last weekend. The uncertainty of what’s next and the broken trust issues I’ve been having just hit me. I didn’t want to go into details, and she was fine with that–just gave me acceptance and love. We decided to send each other messages of encouragement during the week, and it has meant so much. The words I needed came at just the right time. It was a God thing.

The encouragement of these friends helped me know I haven’t done as bad a job with friendship as I thought I had done. They made me feel like this quote from L.R. Knost might possibly be coming true for me.

“Tell your story.
Shout it. Write it.
Whisper it if you have to.
But tell it.
Some won’t understand it.
Some will outright reject it.
But many will
thank you for it.
And then the most
magical thing will happen.
One by one, voices will start
whispering, ‘Me, too.’
And your tribe will gather.
And you will never
feel alone again.”

May God bless you all today!

Ordinary People

I knew I said I was only going to post once a week in this blog, but I have learned that when God gives me words, I need to write them down. Words have always helped me sort out this life of mine, and I don’t expect today’s topic to be any different.

Before I get into the topic, I feel like I need to issue a huge disclaimer. What I’m going to write about today is a composite of the experiences I’ve had over a lifetime and of the experiences friends have had in the church. It is not aimed at any one particular person, place, or thing. I’m writing it down so I can hopefully learn to do a better job of being a church member who lives in community with other believers and so church leaders might be able to get a better picture of those who are members of their churches.

So, what’s with the title? What do I mean when I say ordinary people? In relation to churches, this is what I’m thinking. Ordinary people are the people who teach a Sunday school class or sing in the choir. They might help in the nursery or fix the coffee. They might help with the youth group or pass the offering plate. Or they might be between titles, but faithfully show up every time there’s a meeting at church. Ordinary people are people who are the backbone of our churches, I would think.

I wanted to describe what I was thinking so you would understand the difference when I made my next statement. Ordinary people generally don’t have any decision-making power in the structure of churches or in big decisions that need to be made. Those decisions are generally left to church leadership which, for the purposes of this post, I would define as church staff, deacons, elders, shepherds, and leaders in men’s, women’s, youth, or children’s ministry. Some of these are more important than others in the decision-making process, but I think I’ve made the line definitive enough. There are ordinary people in churches, and there is church leadership.

Now, before I say anything else, let me say that I’ve done my best to pray for and support church leadership in each of the churches I’ve been a part of during my lifetime. It has the tendency to be a thankless job where not much appreciation is expressed. People tend to want to express criticism more than they do positive affirmation, and I know it has to be frustrating at times.

With that being said though, I think there are times church leadership doesn’t think that ordinary people care about their churches or are interested in growing in their faith. I can understand this. Some of us who are ordinary people reinforce that impression. They only come to Sunday morning worship and nothing else. They are not involved at all, and people don’t know who they are. They leave before the worship service is over. You get the idea. Some people just aren’t interested in investing in their church communities.

When church leaders see that attitude, it can give some of them the idea they can do whatever they want in their roles as church leaders. There have been many stories in recent years of a criminal nature where church leaders took advantage of their congregations. There are also churches where church leaders have hammered a decision through even though many people in their church were opposed to it. It wasn’t criminally minded, but it was a decision that divided the church. I’m sure some of these stories are familiar. Hearing them always breaks my heart because, not only has a group of Christians been taken advantage of, our witness to a hurting world has also been damaged.

It is not just those church leaders who might not ever have had Christ in their hearts to begin with who have had difficulties in leading. It is also those who rely on God for counsel and lead their churches through servant leadership. There can still be a divide between those who are leading as God has called them to and ordinary people. In the leaders’ eyes, there are always people who don’t give enough, serve enough, or do enough of whatever, me included. On the other side, there are ordinary people who don’t understand what church leadership wants to do and are too intimidated to ask questions or who are on their very last nerve for volunteering and don’t wish to volunteer for anything else. I believe there is a dance between the two groups with the relationship being good at times and at other times being not so good.

So, as an ordinary person in my church, there are some things I would like to remind church leadership of today. There are ordinary people who care about their churches and who pray for their churches. There are ordinary people who want to be involved in their churches, just not overloaded. And there are ordinary people who are just as sincere at seeking after Jesus as church leaders are. We all have our own stories as ordinary people who don’t need to boiled down to statistics. Praying we all do our part to make this relationship a good one!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Broken Trust

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this summer as I’ve worked on what the next steps of my life are going to be. I’ve learned about being brave and all the facets that involves. I’ve also learned about how we are all inadequate if we don’t have Jesus in our lives. Today, I want to talk about trust and how easily it can be broken.

The first thing I did was a Scripture search on trust. There are many Scriptures that talk about trusting God. One of my favorites is Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Here is another one from Jeremiah 17:7. “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” I also like this one from Hebrews 11:1 because even though the word trust is not mentioned, it is implied strongly. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

When I did this search, I also wanted to see if there were Scriptures saying we needed to trust each other. I didn’t find any of those, but I did find some who said we should trust God over other people. “From Psalm 118:8-9, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” Psalm 56:11 also resonated with me. “in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” Finally, from Micah 7:5, “Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with the woman who lies in your embrace guard the words of your lips.”

So, what do we see when we read all these Bible verses? God wants us to look to Him first, wants us to trust Him first with everything in our lives. I agree with this wholeheartedly. In fact, there are two verses from Psalms that are among my favorites. Psalm 18:2 says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” I also like Psalm 19:14 which is a verse I try to live by though I fail at it often. “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Now that we’ve established we’re supposed to trust God first and foremost, how do we deal with broken trust, and does it affect how we live in community in our churches? The answer to the second question is easy. Of course, broken trust affects how we live in community. I’m dealing with broken trust issues right now. In fact, I have very few people I completely trust. It’s much easier now to give the pat answer that everything is just fine at church than to try to be honest and wait for the other shoe and judgment to fall upon me. Ever been there? I’m there now, and I don’t feel like I have anyone I can share it with. I know it’s wrong. The love of Christ should be able to overcome the reluctance to trust other people and the pressure to pretend, but right now, it’s not. I even prayed to God to take the pretending part away yesterday, but I still couldn’t talk. When a trust bond has been broken, it’s very hard to get back.

With all of that, how do we answer the first part of my question which is how do we deal with broken trust? Some people choose not to deal with it all. They only go to large group situations where it is easier to pretend and avoid small group situations or people who have betrayed their trust like the plague. That’s where I am right now. Other people leave churches where people have betrayed their trust. My husband and I have done that, more than once. The situation became untenable, and it was something that had to be done. I don’t think my family will do that this time though as I am the one who has the issue of feeling like she has to pretend. And, of course, the final thing you can do is actually talk about the broken trust bonds and see what can be done to solve the issue, if anything at all. If I’m being honest, that’s the other place where I’m stuck, and I think it happens to a lot of us. People don’t know how to handle conflict, expression of emotion, or mental health issues, all of which I’m facing or have faced in the past. Handling physical health issues is easier. In fact, every time my husband has had a physical health issue over the last few years, we have been surrounded in prayer. I wonder why we seem to get that part easier than the rest of it. Is it because there are things you can “do” when someone has a physical health issue? Maybe.

God is working on my heart though, and it’s what I want to end this with. He knows I have a hard time trusting people, and He’s sent Jesus to chase after me. How do I know this? A girlfriend posted a meme about Jesus leaving the 99 to find the 1. We all know that story regarding sheep, but it comforts me today to know that Jesus is chasing after me and wants to bring me back into the fold where I can learn how to trust people with His strength and not my own. Even if they betray my trust again. Why? Because even if we believers live in community imperfectly, God will never leave us or forsake us, and we can always trust Him. Praying we can all do a better job of living in community and trusting each other today!

Inadequacy

After a week away from this blog, I feel ready to start writing again. I have a new story I want to start to write, and I need to start doing research for the book I want to write. As far as this blog and my other blog go, I think I want to use my writing to get me started each day. So, my plan is to do at least one post each week for each blog. I think that’s realistic. I keep producing content each week, and I can process my thoughts about faith and life. I think this all will be a win-win as I keep my goals in mind.

So, the question I want to answer today is this one. Have you ever felt inadequate? That would be a big whopping yes for me. I feel inadequate as a daughter of God. I feel inadequate as a wife and mother. I feel inadequate as a friend. I feel inadequate as part of the family of God. Sometimes, I feel inadequate about it all. I thought this would be a good topic to share today to see if I could gain some clarity.

I’m not going to share anything too specific though. People get upset when you do that so I thought I would share specifics about the way I feel. First, I want to talk about how I feel inadequate as a daughter of God. There are two ways. One, I feel inadequate as a woman–about how I was made by God. It almost feels like I shouldn’t voice this especially in today’s climate, but I know my God can take it so here goes. I feel inadequate as a woman. I don’t feel like I have anything to contribute to groups of women so when I hear about or am invited to an event with a group of women, I have to think and pray about it a lot before I go. Do I have anything to contribute to the conversation? Will I lose patience with what’s going on? Will I be able to keep from being suffocated at said event? I don’t have a lot of interest in trying new recipes or hearing about the latest cleaning techniques. I don’t want to talk about clothes or shoes, and I definitely don’t think my place is in the kitchen. I want to talk about deep topics that matter which makes me feel guilty because I don’t think I’m reflecting how God made me.

The second way I feel inadequate as a daughter of God is by my inability to say and do the things God wants me to do. For those keeping track, my talk last Wednesday went well. I had many compliments afterwards, but out of the two conversations I needed to have, I only had one. That one went well, but I really need to have the other–to ask for forgiveness. And it can’t be done by writing either which is complicating things. (Yes, I know that is somewhat of an excuse, but trust me, there have been times when a conversation just hasn’t been appropriate.) I’ve waited so long to do it I believe I’ve permanently damaged the relationship. I hope not, but it is what it is.

Now, onto feeling inadequate as a wife and mother. I often wonder if my husband resents that I’m not the best cook in the world or that I don’t keep the cleanest home. I wonder if he doesn’t like cooking on the weekends though he does so cheerfully almost every weekend. He has said he would rather I’d have poured myself into our kids when I was homeschooling them, and he wants me to chase my dreams now, but still, I wonder. I wonder if he would have preferred a wife that was more culturally correct–secular and Christian culture.

Then, there’s me as a mother. Boy, I could tell you a hundred ways I feel inadequate as a mother, but there’s not enough room in this space so I will just state a few. I feel badly about what we haven’t been able to give to our kids. Because we chose to homeschool, there haven’t been as many monetary resources as there could have been. I also feel guilty about the times we have had to move. I think about how much they would have benefited  from living in just one place during their childhoods. And finally, I feel badly about the time we spent in the wilderness while they were growing up. Our relationship with God during their middle childhood was not what it could or should have been.

I also have ways I feel inadequate as a friend. Some of this could probably be blamed on our culture and on how friendships exist in this Internet age, but I don’t want to use this as a cop-out. When we make friends in a particular place, we depend on seeing them in that particular place to maintain the friendship. When we don’t see them anymore for whatever reason, the friendship has a tendency to fragment. That has been my experience anyway. We, I, should do more to keep in touch, but I don’t because they’re not in my regular orbit anymore. I feel guilty about this because I think I should do better. I think God would want me to do better.

Finally, and I think this is the biggest thing for me, I feel inadequate as part of the family of God especially in what I contribute. I’m not only talking about money although that is a part. I also feel inadequate in what I do and in my presence in the body of Christ. I don’t feel like I have the deep friendships I crave from my Christian friends. In fact, I was doing some private writing the other day and wondered if I should be looking in other directions for my deep friendships. It was something I was wondering about, and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I didn’t feel like I had encouraged anyone recently and was wondering what my point and purpose was in the body of Christ.

Now, you’re probably wondering where the encouragement is in all of this. I have described in detail all the ways I feel inadequate and how overwhelming it is. I know there are some of you who would say these are thoughts of Satan, and I should just get over them. I’m not saying that Satan doesn’t try to feed us thoughts to interfere with the work we are trying to do for Christ, but I think there is something else at work here we need to realize. We are inadequate–with everything if we try to do it without Christ.

I Peter 4:11 says, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

I Corinthians 15:57 says this, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And finally, Colossians 3:16 says this, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

There are many more Scriptures where these come from. God wants us to depend on Him for everything, and I think that’s something we need to remember especially when we feel inadequate. It’s taken me a long time to travel this circle back to the beginning of my faith, and in some ways, I think I will travel it until the day I die. Taking this journey in conjunction with my bravery journey though has helped me experience Christ’s presence in a new way in my life. I can do nothing without His strength as it says in Philippians 4:13. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” I pray we all can remember this, me included, as we work in His Kingdom.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Different

This is it! Today is the very last day I will be blogging through the devotional 100 Days to Brave. I’m on the 100th devotion. It’s also my 24th wedding anniversary. Two amazing things, to be sure. I’m in a different place now than I was at the beginning of February, and I think going through these words and Scripture verses about bravery has changed my heart. No, I’m not perfect. Far from it. But, I am different.

I can believe what today’s Scripture verse says about me whereas I know I wouldn’t have believed it in February. From Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke, but will rejoice over you with singing.” He takes “great delight” in me, the person that I am, not the Christian mold I’ve been trying to fit in to. The person who doesn’t have as much money as the rest of her church family. The person who feels deeply. The person who is a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. The person who is not noticed. The person who is nerdy and techy. The person who is different from the norm, even the Christian norm. The person who fails more than she succeeds, but the person who loves Jesus with all her heart and wants to have opportunities to serve Him.

God takes delight in that person, me. It’s the real reason I started to blog through this devotional. I wanted to learn to be brave with my faith, brave with my writing, and brave with my life, and I think I have. I liked what the author had to say because I think it reflects what has happened to me. “Making brave choices in your life is going to change the world. At the least, it will change your world.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) Doing what I’ve done has proven to me that I can write every day and that I can express the words God wants me to say.

There is one other thing I want to point out with today’s post, and it has to do with the title. I’ve already said I think God has changed me during this time of blogging. He wants all of us to be different though when we accept Jesus as Savior. But, I think some of us think differences shouldn’t matter when we share a common faith. Yes, we all believe the same, but we are still different people, and we have different gifts to bring to the table. God wants us to accept each other and embrace our differences. That’s a hard thing, I know. And we don’t do a good job of reflecting that in this fallen world. This is why I so appreciated the words of the song I want to share with you, and this is how I want to complete the next steps of my bravery journey.

“Different” by Micah Tyler

I don’t wanna hear anymore, teach me to listen
I don’t wanna see anymore, give me a vision
That you could move this heart, to be set apart
I don’t need to recognize, the man in the mirror
And I don’t wanna trade Your plan, for something familiar
I can’t waste a day, I can’t stay the same

I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different
In me

And I don’t wanna spend my life, stuck in a pattern
And I don’t wanna gain this world but lose what matters
And so I’m giving up, everything because

I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different; oh-oh

I know, that I am far, from perfect
But through You, the cross still says, I’m worth it
So take this beating in my heart and
Come and finish what You started
When they see me, let them see You
‘Cause I just wanna be different, ye-ey

I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Oh is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different
I just wanna be different
So could You be different
In me

source: https://www.lyricsondemand.com/m/micahtylerlyrics/differentlyrics.html

 

Thanks to all who’ve read at least one of these posts. I would like your prayers as I speak at my church this Wednesday night and talk about some of my bravery journey. I plan to take a break from this blog for a few days as I decide what my next steps will be.

God bless you all!

Braver than I Know

It’s interesting, no, awe-inspiring, the way God leads us to something He wants us to see. When I read today’s devotion, I was led back to a comment someone had made on one of my blog posts back in April. Then I was led to the blog post itself and realized that between then and now, I have come full circle. I have been braver than I knew all along.

So, today, I thought I would talk about what I found and how I could read the words now without cringing and truly believe them. First, the comment. My good friend Janet said this back in April. “You might not feel brave on the inside, but you are one of the bravest, most open, genuine, and real people I know.” I did read it back then, but I could barely read it if that makes sense. I was cringing at the words and not really believing them because I was going through such a dark time. I don’t know what made me save the comment. Maybe I thought I would be able to read it one day without cringing, or maybe I just forgot it was there, but I believe it was God-ordained. He knew I would read it again on July 6, 2018 and realize what He already knew about my character–that He had made me a particular way for a particular purpose and that I didn’t need to copy anyone else as I sought to glorify Him. I thought that was a brave realization to have.

Then, I went to the blog post itself. The title of it is “Saying Yes,” and while I’m not going to repeat all of it, I read it and realized I’ve already done what I talked about in the post. I’ve done it! I entered my story in the writing contest.  I didn’t win anything, but my story was posted on their site for several weeks, and more people got to read my writing. That’s a win in my book! It’s given me encouragement to try again.

I have also gone to Honduras with a missions team from my church and come back. When I first said yes to God’s prompting, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I wasn’t sure how the trip would turn out. But, I did it! God changed me and made me a stronger person because of it. He used it to help me come out of the wilderness.

There was one thing in this post though that I haven’t been able to do, and I would like to ask for your prayers as I attempt to do it in the next few days. Pray for me to have the courage to confront, the courage to be honest, and the courage to receive honesty. Managing conflict has never been a strong suit of mine. I have a tendency to bury it. But, it needs to be unburied. Please pray I will have the courage to do so and also pray that if the people involved don’t want me around after the words have been said, I will have the courage to walk away. Thank you for your prayers! May we all have courage as we seek to have a heart like His!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Biggest Change in My Life

This was the question asked at the end of today’s devotion. It made sense for the question to be asked since there were only two more devotions after this one. Luckily, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into how my life has changed since I began writing this series of blog posts in February.

I’ve become braver like the devotional says, and I’ve gained more courage. I’ve learned I don’t have to bury who I am much as I might feel some people want me to. God made me the way I am, and if people don’t like it, too bad for them. 🙂 The only person whose approval I want is the approval of my Lord and Savior. And if it comes down to it, I don’t need to be approved of by my fellow believers either. That’s not what God made me for. He made me to bring Him glory and not anyone else.

I also learned God is in control of everything. Yes, I already knew that in my head, but my heart caught up when I was in Honduras last week. I didn’t have control over anything. Not when we worked, not when we ate, not even when we traveled somewhere or when we were waiting to get rescued from the side of the road. God was in control of it all. He gave me the strength to endure at the roadside and the energy to work and play with the kids at VBS. He was present in my trip just like He said He would be.

Trusting the process was my second lesson. I didn’t need to have anything specific to tell people like I thought. The author had some poignant words about courage that I thought applied well to my own life.  “It’s (courage) for your relationship with God. It’s for your dreams and your calling and your work.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) (parentheses and addition mine) She also had this to say about bravery. “You can be brave during all the changes of life. You can be brave in the face of pain. You can be brave with your health. Brave with your money. Brave wherever you are!” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) (emphasis mine) And because I’m brave, I can trust the process as I consider what comes next.

I’m grateful God will be with me through all of this change like it says in Scripture. I Chronicles 28:20 says, “David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.'” God will be with me and with all of us until our work is finished. May we truly believe that promise today!

God’s blessings on you all today!