On Fear

I’ve read this one article a few times, and seen it shared on various platforms as well in the past few months. The first time I read it I skimmed it and thought parts of it were ok and parts were meh. Then I read it again later and saw some things that maybe I should be taking to heart. I’m all about practically applying head knowledge, so I decided to try out the first challenge — eliminating fear, scared, and terrified from my vocabulary. Well, I tried…

When I started trying to get rid of those words, two things started to happen.

  1. I started being more aware of when I used those words. And felt those feelings. And how often I had them. And it sucked.
  2. I started thinking more about why I was afraid. Picking apart my fears. And it both sucked and was awesome.

So it sucked because I felt a little bit like my fears were dumb. I mean, real talks. I’m afraid of driving. Not like the childhood “I’m afraid of snakes and spiders” feeling (this is still relevant – I don’t like these animals thx). I’ve felt fear in a crippling, heart wrenching, sometimes-I-can’t-even-think fear. Sometimes it would keep me awake at night. Or, debatably worse, it would hit me while I was driving. (I have other common fears too, but this is the most predominant in my life right now).

It was awesome because I started wondering why I was afraid. And seeking ways to not be afraid. I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I was still going to FEEL these feelings. I can’t stop feeling them, just like how when something you find funny happens you can’t not be amused. You found it funny, therefore, you are amused. It is how I deal with the feeling that matters.

When you’re amused you can smile, laugh, type “lolololololol” into your phone etc. You can even whip out the smirking emoji. When I am afraid, I can dwell on my fear and let it overwhelm me, or I can harness it, and turn it around into prayer and praise to God.

Last weekend I was in a foodcourt at the mall with a bunch of other people and a little girl. While we were there, the fire alarm went off. No one was worried, and the staff made announcements over the PA system that there was nothing to worry about currently. The little girl, however, didn’t understand or trust the announcements and was scared. It took a lot of assurances from her mother for her to calm down and eat her lunch without worrying about how we were all going to get caught in a fire. (Also the fire alarm stopped…)

When I am afraid, I am turned inward to myself. When I am not afraid, I can turn outwards to others. When I am scared I am only thinking about the here and now. When I am not scared, I can remember there is a larger story I’m a part of that I can’t see. When I am terrified, I can’t see what is going on around me. When I’m not terrified, I can see other people and things that God is calling me to pour into and serve.

It isn’t easy. I’ve been dealing with this particular fear for a long time and I don’t think I would have been very good at this “let it go” stuff at the beginning. But working through it and starting to approach it with this mindset has helped me. It’s also crossed over into other fears I have — being single forever, not making enough money to support myself, those darn snakes that are everywhere and nowhere..

If I believe God is in control of my life and knows what he’s doing (if I believe he is who he says he is — and if he wasn’t why would I put my faith in him?????), then I do not need to be afraid. I may still have the feelings of panic and fear, but I don’t need to let them dictate my life and make my decisions for me. I need to put them aside and let God dictate those decisions instead. And I hope that one day, in the face of fear, I will not be afraid.

 

Pour into These

When I was younger I thought that by the time I reached this age I would be living an  adventure. I thought I would wake up every day filled with joy and passion for living, and that I would feel like everything I was doing was meaningful, impactful, and fulfilling. (Clearly this is a fantasy because emotions.)

In the age of the internet and social media I’ve ready quite a few articles on how young people should live their lives. They tell me to quit my job and just travel for a year (um but how do you pay for it?), or to invest in my career (how do you even know what you want?), or to live alone for a while (again, is no one worried about money anymore?). But, while these all sound super tantalizing and nice, I know that they don’t actually satisfy they way they sound like they do.

The articles that touch me deeply are the ones that talk about how young singles should be living their lives for God. How we should be investing in our churches and our ability to say yes to things that come up. Mentor this person? yes! Support this person in ministry? yes! Volunteer for this event? yes!

What they don’t talk about is the mental challenges you face to do that. Apathy lurks around every corner when I start thinking about the lost. Doubt trickles into my mind whenever I think about taking a step towards mentoring. And let’s not even get started on how hard it is to go to a church and say “Hi. One of my spiritual gifts is administration. Let me run stuff for you.” (Besides the fact they usually already have someone, you kind of need a little more rapport than that.)

And so I find myself in an awkward place. I’m trying to live, but feel hindered by the regular facts of life. I thought I would be working in full time ministry, and instead I’m working elsewhere (and I do love my job, but it isn’t the same). But most of all I wonder if what I’m doing has impact. Or if it has worth. Is what I’m doing with my life meaningful? Expectations of what I should do seem to come from everywhere (but they’re probably all just in my head), and then I feel lost.

So I, like any good 20 something who doesn’t know what is going on with this adulating thing, I half-seriously asked my mom what I should do with my life.

You have a job. You have a church. You have a family. You have friends. Pour into those.

Pouring out is not a quick one time deal. Pouring is flowing from yourself into others. And I think this sums up what all those articles are saying. (Or what they’re trying to say.) Your life isn’t more impactful or more meaningful if you’re a foreign missionary. You have circles of influence and within those you have the ability to invest in their lives. You have the ability to show people the love of Christ. And hanging out and spending time with people is NOT a waste.

Over and over again in the Bible we are reminded of how we are to care for the lost and the broken. The least of these. In Galatians 2 they have a huge hullabaloo meeting about how to live as  Christian and if circumcision is really necessary, and what do they decide? The only thing they leave Paul with is to remember the poor (Gal 2:10). There’s the woman at the well Jesus decides to invest in (John 4). Healing the sick and afflicted (the Bible…). Elijah provides food and healing for the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17). etc.

Then there’s Jesus and Peter:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

John 21:15-17

So you know the people you see every day? The ones that you talk to or hang out with and see often. Or maybe the one you see once a week and chat with. Maybe the one who is growing and looking for guidance. The one who is hurting. The one who is right there.

Pour into these.

Live Redeemed

I haven’t blogged in over a year, which is fitting as I usually blog when I’m inspired to do so, and this was an uninspiring  year + a few months with some of the hardest, crippling moments of my life. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though because I had some pretty sweet moments too – like graduating! *insert London Tipton clap* Yay me!

Highs and lows aside, it was a year where I tried very hard to achieve some goals (and failed), and went through a massive transition which I’m only now getting used to (note: graduation & life after). It is also a year where I let a lot of not the best habits (exercise? what is exercise?) slip into my life with the excuse “I’ll fix/do that after I graduate” (spoiler: they have not been eradicated yet).

And so I found myself mid-December, doing one of my favourite things to do at Christmas time, reading Christmas letters from all of my parents’ friends. I mostly do this because I know who their kids are, but I also like hearing about what God has done in the lives of people I don’t know. This year my mom was telling me about who wrote one of the letters I was reading. She described her as someone who believed that we were all redeemed children of God, and that even in the midst of sins and difficult times we should live like we are redeemed.

Boom. New Year’s Resolution.

Ok, it took a little more thought and a few weeks before I reached that point. Let me break it down:

Live

The dictionary definitions I looked up for this basically said it meant you weren’t dead. Which is true. But I’m taking it a step further to point out that living requires one to live; which means you have to get up and do things instead of giving into the temptation that is Netflix, or whatever vice you have that occupies your time. (Not that we don’t need breaks, I full endorse sabbaths and breaks, and believe we were created to need them (see Leviticus 23:3 & Leviticus 25), though it may look different today than it did then).

Redeemed

When I think of redeemed, I think of three things: Jesus, Ruth, and Hosea (Francine Rivers may or may not have had an influence on the latter). Hosea with Gomer, and Ruth with Boaz, display for us in a very physical and tangible way, what Jesus does for us, which is a more conceptual thing (though his physical death was as tangible as it gets). “Redeemed” is defined:

1. to gain or regain possession of something in exchange for something else
2. literally translates from latin to “buy back”

Hosea bought Gomer out of prostitution into a different life (see Hosea), Boaz raised Ruth up from being an outcast to a member of society with worth (see Ruth), and Jesus paid for our salvation with his life, death, and resurrection (see the Gospels/the Bible). We were bought out of our sin, and brought into the light (Colossians 1:13).

Living Redeemed

I like how John says it (Chapter 10):

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Jesus came that we could live our lives abundantly. To have more than we need in it. So that covers LIVING, and I think to do it redeemed is to give the life we are living back to the one who gave it to us. This crosses into the familiar territory of allowing God to redeem and restore (the entirety of) our lives. AKA the sanctification process. There are a lot of parts of my life that I haven’t allowed to be redeemed. But if I am redeemed, then all of me is redeemed and the life I live should reflect that.

Living Redeemed isn’t something I expect to start and succeed at right away. In fact, I don’t fully understand what it will look like. What I do know (and have been reminded of many times already) is that I cannot do this redeemed thing without God. It requires me to admit and accept that I am a sinner. I did not redeem myself, and I cannot redeem any part of my life either. However, in him I am redeemed and by him I can live abundantly.

This resolution isn’t about doing a 180 and suddenly being perfect. It’s about facing what I’ve been running from, falling in the dirt, and getting back up again. It’s a resolution I’m going to fail at, but that I, by grace, get to keep trying at, knowing that one day I will be fully restored to live with my redeemer forever.

 

Called Me Higher

Recently I was talking with one of my friends and they challenged me on the way I had acted earlier. It devastated me because I hadn’t thought there was anything wrong.

I’ve thought it fairly common to think there are things wrong with you. In particular, for me, I noted that I was extremely different from a lot of people I hung out with. There are so many talks that I would hear online or in youth group or in school about self confidence that you almost felt like you needed to feel bad so you could overcome it later. Long story short (and skipping over about 20.5 years of my life…) I had a few things (read: a lot of things) that I did not like about who I was. I sort of forgot the whole “made in God’s image part” and instead felt as though the parts of my personality I had were wrong, and that I would never be able to change them.

It was around this time that I went away to camp for the last summer as a counsellor and found healing from those things I never thought I would. I wasn’t expecting it, but for the first time in a long time I felt loved and accepted for who I was and not for who I was not.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
Psalm 139:14

I was reminded that God had made me – and so that I must be good. It sounds like it was a magical time and I was perfect after that – but it wasn’t. It took over a year from that point to really accept different parts of me and be ok with them. To think that maybe, just maybe, I was good the way I was made. Everything was just fine!

Nope.

Everything came crashing down. My friend challenged me on an action I had done, but that action related to a huge part of how I had identified myself, and something that I had always thought was good. Could it be wrong? Could it really be that I wasn’t good? It took me a while to process, but then I remembered:

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:15-16 (cf. Leviticus 11:44-45)

I am called to be more than who I am. Yes, who I am is good, but I am also called to continue to grow and become more of who he wants me to be. And that very well may be changing how I react to things so that others are less likely to be hurt. It very well may be changing and paying more attention to what I say and not just passing it off as “who I am”.

Part of what made this revelation easier to swallow and process was that it was made in the context of someone seeing me as God sees me. God sees me as a beautiful daughter through Christ, and he does want me to grow and learn. I like to think of the times my parents have corrected me – they love me for who I am, but they saw things I could improve on and chose to acknowledge them and push me to work on them. So taking in the things that I need to improve is through the lens of growing – not that I am any less worthy or loved.

I am not called to be stagnant in my development or my faith. I am called deeper. I should examine my life and my actions and continue to hand them over to be consecrated and used for His will. I am called higher.

Centre-Filled Life

Do you know those songs you sing in church about Jesus being the centre of your life/it all/be the centre/all that other stuff about having everything in your life revolve around him? They usually have a some really pretty melody that you feel like you butcher when you try and sing it because you aren’t anything like Darlene Zschech (or maybe that’s just every song…). And they also usually are accompanied by words like “surrender” and “all of me” and other big abstract concepts like that.

What I’ve been considering lately, especially as I go into this last year of school (the number of times I’ve said “7 months” in the last week is beyond ridiculous), is what it really actually LOOKS like to do that. Especially at a time where I have a last-chance to develop habits and routines that will (hopefully) follow me into that scary world of being a “real adult”. What does it mean if I choose to live out Jesus being the centre of everything – the centre of my life. Surrendering everything I have to him, and trusting that He’s got it all planned out and he’ll never leave my side? What does that really truly look like?

I don’t know

 

Yep. I don’t. I’m still learning – so far from perfect (SO FAR). But I have learned a few things…and one of the mind-blowingly simple things I’ve been reminded of is that to have your life revolving around Christ at the centre, you need to have him in the centre, and the only way to do THAT is to choose to focus on him and let him fill you (you know – that other cliche saying we have about filling up on Christ so you can pour out to others!). The first step to having Jesus be the centre of my life, is by allowing him to be the centre of my 8:00-8:30 morning break time. It isn’t my life, but starting to cut out time allows him to fill up a little part of me. And the more that I allow myself to fill up on Christ, the more the little bits start to overflow into the rest of my life. It’s choosing him over whatever I’m doing – throwing my phone across the room when doing devos so there are no distractions, stopping mid-thought process and turning back to praise.

BRINGING IT FULL CIRCLE…that hypothetical chair we’ve got at the centre of our lives – do we let Jesus fill it? Actually let him sit on the chair without trying to push hi off or sit on the corner. And then do we let him being there permeate the rest of our life or put up some walls around the chair to protect other parts?

So…I think that living a “Jesus-centred life” and being “filled with Jesus” go hand in hand. And when we let him fill the centre spot we have in our life, and start trying to align each individual decision, each thought every day, towards what he wants. Asking for a renewed heart daily (I know for one, my heart needs renewing multiple times a day). It is then that Jesus fills the centre of our life, and we have a centre-filled life.

By all means, I am NOT perfect. I still like to centre my life around myself or section off parts of my life that I don’t want God to touch. But I’m learning. Learning to let go. Learning to be filled. Learning to let him be the centre. Learning to be centre-filled and not centre-empty.

So many illustrations overlapping – hope that all made sense. Thank you for reading my thoughts~

When Being Washed by the Water Hurts

Even when the rain falls
Even when the flood starts rising
Even when the storm comes
I am washed by the water
– Needtobreathe

Sometimes I don’t want to read my Bible.

Sometimes I don’t want to pray.

Sometimes I don’t even want to leave the house on Sunday and go to church.

Sound familiar?

One of these is blatantly obvious to everyone else when we do it, so most of us just suck it up and do it to save face (at least I do). The other two are hidden, and if we skip them, no one is the wiser. Sometimes we can even skip them for weeks and months on end without anyone figuring it out.

However, the longer we spend away, the harder it is to come back. The longer it’s been since I picked up my devos the more I look at them and go “Well, one more day won’t set me back too much” until it becomes “I’m too far behind to even bother now…” The whole time we inherently know that we need to read it again. We understand the importance of sitting down and praying. But we also know that it’s going to hurt to start again.

In Ted Dekker’s series “The Circle Trilogy” (except it’s 4 books???) he has a beautiful analogy for this my friend reminded me of yesterday. When the world has “fallen”, they have to wash themselves in a lake daily to remain human. If they don’t, they begin to dry out and become gross and flakey. One can go a few days without washing, but the more you go without, the less you want to wash because the water is going to sting. A lot. In fact, if I remember correctly, it almost burns when you go in after a long period of being away.

It’s like that for us too: the first few plunges back into the water after avoiding it is like getting a child to wash on bath day. We don’t want to be clean, in fact, we’ve started to not notice the dirt we’ve been wallowing in. And the dirt isn’t too bad, or so we think. The end result is great, but there is pain to get there – we have to get wet (and soap. And potentially a lot of scrubbing).

It’s true that we’re washed by the water, and that no matter what comes our way Jesus is with us, but are you really walking with him? Or are you just waltzing around pretending to be washing yourself daily, but hiding behind a pretty outer appearance? It’s all too easy to hide the dirty, dried out inside (I know I do it too).

It’s hard to start again. Especially when we don’t have any desire to start again. We know it will hurt, it will sting, it will burn.  But like an obedient child on bath day, we have to start. We know we need to wash, so we need to pour the water, get in the tub, and wash.

I don’t know why I love you

Most times you can go online and read someone rant about how movies and music and Hollywood and Disney completely skew the portrayal of what love is supposed to be. We think we’ll find our “true love”, and  in a few days we’ll know they’re “the one” (worked for Romeo and Juliette…). We’ll know because they’ll put up with our crap and check off everything on our “I want list” and make us feel great. If we have awkward silences with them sometimes, they must not be the one (also if you weren’t masquerading around in a dress and talking to cartoon animals, you aren’t a princess). This magical person will fall from the sky and into our lives and then life will be great.

I read an article about how there is no “the one” a few years ago, and that we are surrounded by people who a relationship may work with. Since then I’ve read numerous articles and blog posts about how people didn’t marry the one, their soulmate, their other half … all driving the same point home – this mystical “the one” is complete bogus. It’s completely changed how I look at the friends I have, and makes me pretty cautious about friend zoning anyone. What I find most interesting is that I can look at a few people and think about how our relationship would be like. With some it would be non-stop laughter and hilarity, while with others it would be a calm, steady ship in a wind storm. Every relationship is different and any of them could work. They could. It doesn’t mean they will. There are other variables at play like, you know, feelings. And I would also like to mention that NONE of these people check off every box that I have on my “perfect guy list”, because that guy doesn’t exist. And if he did, I probably wouldn’t like him.

Moving onto the reason I titled this the way I did, I think that some of the Hollywood movies that have come out actually are fair descriptors of what kind of love we should be looking for. Maybe even some Disney ones. My favourite line in a movie is when someone asks their lover (or whatever you want to call them) “Why do you love me?” and the answer comes along the lines of “I don’t know,”or “You make me angry, ticked off, and upset – but I can’t stand being without you” or, if you like 27 Dresses

“I’ve been waiting my whole life for the right guy to come along and then you showed up. And you are nothing like the man I imagined. You’re cynical and cranky and impossible. But the truth is, fighting with you is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And I think there’s a very good chance that I’m falling in love with you.”

I don’t think that we should be looking for someone who checks off everything we’ve ever wanted. I think we should be looking for someone who challenges us, and is a real person. One of my friends just got engaged and when she was talking to me about him, she talked about how he brought out sides of her that she never knew she had. Together, they complimented each other and their strengths and weaknesses worked together. You wouldn’t have put them together out of the blue, but when you see them together you can’t help but believe that love exists.

There are going to be things that we absolutely hate about the person we end up with, along with things that we knew we wanted and will always love. And there will be things that we find in this person that we never thought we would want, but come to love more than anything we thought we would.

Why I hate “Comments” Sections

I really like blogging (hard to believe given the gap between this and the last time I posted … I should fix that). And I love how the internet these days has been giving people the ability and confidence to express their opinions on things. I can read an article about how awesome Pascal from Tangled is, or I can read someone’s opinion on being a vegan for a few days. My favourite part is when I can share an article with someone I know and have a discussion about it and how it may be relating to our lives.

So I finish reading an article and I’m starting to critically think about what I read and form my opinions on agreement or disagreeing, and then I think “Hey I wonder what other people thought!” Lo and behold, ye section of comments is here to save the day with an argument about people who agree or not. Thank you for having an online argument with people you’ve never met before! It’s so exciting to verbally bash each other without proper expression of emotions while hiding behind our screens. It takes so much courage to post on there how utterly wrong they are in a way that can come of lovingly or hatefully depending on the mood of the person who reads it. And I’m sure that person you just tried to blow out of the water appreciates it. They totally saw the error in their ways.

And now I’m left leaving the article completely confused about what I just read, it’s validity, and what I actually think about it. Who needs a university degree anyway? I now know some half-formulated arguments from random people, so obviously I don’t need to bother learning how to think critically. Why learn to think for myself when I can just let other people hash it out for me? I’ll just wait for the official statement to come out on which subjective opinion based side was right, and go from there.

Honestly. We’re going to disagree about things. Part of the internet’s beauty is that I CAN write about Olaf the snowman, my love for radiant orchid, and how much I really want sweet potato fries right now. It’s called expressing myself. Either we let people do that, or we don’t. It doesn’t make sense to me to go and rebuke someone online that you can’t see and have a conversation with. Online conversations I have with people I KNOW often end up in disputes and upset friends, so how is having one with a stranger going to be any different?

I’m not saying that comments sections are all bad. There can be some great conversations that happen, and adding points to things, expressing how you enjoyed something … but if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Or at least discuss it to someone’s face so you can work it out.

Facades & Nail Polish

I did my nails in a French manicure the other day for an industry event. Now it’s half falling off but I keep forgetting to grab the nail polish remover. However ugly I think it might look to see the pretty (and fake) nails juxtaposed to the original (and slightly dirty – how do people keep their nails clean? I just don’t get it) got me thinking though.

French Manicure

I painted an picture of what I wish my hands looked like overtop of what they actually are. This is similar to the image I try to paint around myself sometimes (who am I kidding, a lot of the time) when I’m talking to someone or getting to know people. “You don’t like country? K me neither……”

But is that really ok? Do I want people to know me, or a fake version of me?

I’m not saying we should be hanging out dirty laundry out for everyone to see it (please don’t), but I do think that we can be avoiding the joy of having someone know who we really are and still liking us. We forget that we can be pretty awesome people just by ourselves. I dared myself this fall to not text one of my friends unless what I was saying was legitimately what I would have said in real life if I wasn’t afraid of being judged for what I really thought. It’s really hard. But they’re still my friend (I think?) and it encourages me to continue to have the same vulnerability and honesty with other people in my life.

But I think this needs to be taken a step farther.

As hard as I try, I know I still slip up and cover up parts of me I’m ashamed of or think would be best left unseen (bear in mind there are still some things you probably shouldn’t share with everyone). But I know still that there is one who does see behind my facades, Every. Single. Time. The fact that God can see everything about me and still chooses to love me is just astounding sometimes.

I read Lamentations this morning, and I was reflecting on the acknowledgement of our sins. We can put up walls and masks that other people never see through, but God can still see through them. He can still see the ugliness inside, and he loves anyway. He sent his son to earth to die for me. He came to die for the sinner, not the righteous (Mark 2:17).

If having a person know things about me encourages being me, then knowing that God loves me even still is more so.There is such freedom in knowing that you are loved for who you really are. It goes beyond loving yourself and moves to the desire to be better and strive for godliness. We are loved when we succeed, and loved when we fail. And we can rest in knowing this as we try to do what we are called to do.

I hope that this realization empowers you to be you today; and to be a better you, relying on his strength, tomorrow.

Faith and Works (James 1-2)

What a coincidence. I actually wanted to do a study on James myself…it’s actually SO good. So many things to write about…

James raises interesting points in regards to faith without works being dead. While we know that our salvation comes by grace alone, we cannot earn it ourselves, we are still called into action with our faith. If you think about it, it is sort of the difference between believing in something and trusting in something. When we believe in something, we say it exists, but that is the extent of our “faith” if you will. Example: I believe that this chair exists, it is right there. However, trusting in something requires the next stage – we actually put that belief or faith into action. Example: I believe this chair exists, and it will hold me up. Now I will sit in this chair.

By pairing actions, or works, with our faith, we are moving past simply saying it is true into actively showing that it is true (note, works without faith would also be dead in this scenario). Therefore, we can take the things James talks about in chapter one and actually put them into practice, knowing that as we continue to put our faith into action we continue in the process of continual growth in Christ Jesus.