Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Journey: After Falling In The Muck

It is funny how God finally lets you in on His plan for your life. For me, He waits till I am knee deep in commitment and have gotten a scrape or two along the way. I think that if He were to tell me before everything got rolling, what He had in mind, I would most certainly scoff and say "NOPE." For now He is letting me get a peek at His blue prints and I am kind of excited. The journey to be able to even have a glimpse, has been a struggle and a climb, so don't get all jealous on me. Yours is developing as well, trust me.

I was wanting to get out of the muck after falling flat on my face. I wanted to see the potential that life had to offer. I wanted to find out who this Jesus was that I had heard about all my life. In order to see Him more clearly, I had to get rid of the junk in my life. I would ask Him for help and He would painfully yank the fears, worries, and pride that I had been holding onto. But, now amidst the stripping and pulling and poking God is showing me that I can achieve great things for His kingdom. If I just remain close by His side and try to emulate His walk and His talk, I will know what to do.

 This sounds all fluffy and nice, but let me TELL you. The devil will wisp by your ear and whisper words of accusation and negativity till it seeps in and catches you off guard. He will do what it takes to convince you that the life you are trying to lead is imaginary. He will try and convince you that the strengths you possess are NOT going to work. He will make you cry in the wee hours of night. Then leave you to fend for yourself in the dark with your own sinful, human habits. This happens in our state, but the hope? The drive to keep going toward what is more powerful and MORE true? Every single time that I find myself getting caught up in the half truths of life, God is there again pulling me out of the muck. He is there giving me even stronger evidence than before, that His plan for me is determined and destined to happen. He won't let me go. He won't leave me without the tools to keep the darkness away. Each time I am approached by the devil, the easier it gets to tell him to LEAVE. The less I am down and the faster I get up, is how it all has been developing.

So what are the plans that God has for me? It is my little secret for the time being. But what I want to leave with you is that the journey that I am on is one of discipleship. I aim to learn everything I can about this Jesus. I am determined to speak like Him, connect like Him, lead like Him, comfort like Him, share like Him, and LOOK exactly like Him. Why? I want others to see Him. I want others to see how strongly He can turn a falling apart life into a vibrant and purposeful adventure.

This morning I was out walking, thinking about this whole idea, when I got goosebumps. It might have been the David Crowder on Pandora that ignited the bodily response, but I was nonetheless driven. I sometimes fear that that drive will dissipate or be crushed, but like I said earlier, God makes a come back with a stronger force. I feel it more in my bones. I am just excited about this journey and wanted to share it with you. I hope that you, as well, find a journey you were meant to walk.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

That Time God Stretched My Heart

Oddly enough, I came up with a title for this post before I even had anything typed up. I was looking at these photos that I took this past weekend while roaming the streets of Philadelphia, when something occurred to me.

I am an introvert by nature. It is quite easy for me to get caught up in my own thoughts instead of letting the external senses take me to other places outside of myself. In some ways this is beneficial when I want to write out a thought that is hard to explain. But it leaves room for improvement in having empathy. I am an idealist and I find it complicated to really understand why others do things differently than me. It comes across as biased, judgmental, and ignorant. 

If I were to explain all the reasons why God moved Chris and I to this area, I think everyone would fall asleep from the eternal list. What has really gotten to my heart, though, is how much God has taken me from only having the courage to step into someone else's life through an autobiography from B&N, to real time. 

How has He done this? Let me explain. 

If I haven't said it already, living in the city has not been one of my goals in life. I grew up thinking that the ultimate destination was THE COUNTRY. Or the woods. Nature at its finest. Being closer to God through taking hikes, sitting on the mountain tops, and walking through the meadows was where my mind always traveled. I never thought that being closer to God would mean stepping outside of myself and into the chaos of the city.

As I look through these pictures, I sense a new feeling inside. I used to live an hour from the city and would take photos of Boston like a visitor. I did not connect with what I saw and mostly saw grime and depression. I did not understand why anyone would want to live in the city. It all seemed chaotic and lacking simplicity. I snubbed my nose at it without realizing. Now I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia where I am submerged in the culture of real city life. I work in the city where once I was afraid to walk alone and now take the mail to the dropbox. I walk center city, taking pictures, without feeling apprehension. As I look at each picture, it is not as a spectator but as a participant. It is not just a picture of a building with a tree, it is me looking up at the building with a budding tree. Does this make sense? I am a part of this city now.

Do not get me wrong, I still find it hard to live without nature at my finger tips. When I feel complete silence at 2 a.m. I soak it in like I am finally quenched. I am still a country girl at heart, but God plopped me down in the middle of the City of Brotherly Love to teach me something. He wanted me to understand that the hearts that live here are no different than mine. They too crave love, acceptance, friendship, and beauty. My home is not just in the country, it is this groaning Earth. Everyone on it is struggling, surviving, making it, fending for themselves, wishing and hoping, and ultimately craving the silence of a satisfied and complete heart. 

What I possess as a Christian is not just for country folk, it is for all humanity. The grace that I have been given is not just for me to understand. Living in the country does not make it any easier to understand God's power or compassion. It does not make it any easier to be closer to God. When we allow God to move us, change us, and ultimately strip us to the bare bone... He reveals the honesty that others have been wanting to see. It reveals the love we have been given and how it is accessible to the human race.

When we are completely vulnerable, in the arms of Christ, others see what we were made for. They see a spark of Heaven and wish for more. When they too find Christ, Heaven will reach within their hearts as well. Heaven will strip them to the bone and expose eternity. This is how God stretches the heart. This is how He stretched mine.

Remember: The Kingdom of God is at hand.

Monday, April 13, 2015

When My Life Is The Testimony

During the week we struggle to stay afloat sometimes. It is during the weekend of spiritual and physical rejuvenation, that I discover tools to get through the next week. I was in conversation with a friend and colleague of mine about our relationships with Christ. I ended up spilling my guts and explaining to her that my struggle is real. Despite wanting to be the best Christian that I can be and attempting to have an amazing relationship with Jesus, I sometimes just do not get it. I flounder in having the desire to talk with Him. Yet I still know that all I need is Him. All I have to do is say, "Help!", and He is there working with the character I am constructing. 

When I shared my feelings about this situation, I felt a sudden rush of vulnerability. I thought, "great I just exposed parts of me I didn't really want to. What will happen next?" I had to counter those thoughts with the realization that I had just helped out my friend. Thankfully she was so kind as to say I was helpful, but what about those times you share your horrors with those who do not seem to be listening?

Our lives are living testimonies of what God is capable of doing. Becoming more like Christ is not just for our benefit. It is not about succeeding and becoming more RIGHT. It is not about being acceptable in someone else's eyes. It is what Christ called the gospel. Our lives, once connected with Jesus, will portray His presence to the world that has no idea. When our lives tell others that we have been changed and that we resemble Him, they will want more.

It is encouraging to talk with one another and explain that we struggle as well. We are not alone. When I bare my soul and the darkness that exists without Christ, I won't feel cocky and proud when someone says to me, "thank you for the encouragement!" or "you have no idea how much you have helped me." All I can really feel is relief and appreciation for what I have been given. We can all make it, I promise. God is just around the corner waiting for you to be used for His purposes. He is just around the bend waiting to move your heart and change you. I know, because He changed me.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Breaking From The Earth: What I Think About Work

The whole idea of work has been really influencing my thinking lately. While I was home for a few months, I discovered that to really live I need to take life by the reigns and structure it myself. With no one else's help. That does not mean that others cannot help along the way with ideas, getting things done, and encouraging us. What it means is that we have to be the ones to push through to the goal on our own. Not until we start pushing, will we really understand what it feels like to own our lives. Keeping in mind that in the end God is the complete owner, of course.

As a women, it is my duty to develop a life completely dedicated to God's purposes. Every waking moment should be spent learning, pushing, fighting, treading, and plowing through the difficulties that we face. There are times I just want to sit and veg out. You know those moments when you just want to turn your brain off after a long cluttered day? Ya, I get that way as well. What I am learning though is that those times should be spent focusing my mind on what I cannot do through out the day.

Some areas that I am learning to pay attention to include:

- noticing when my pulse elevates when I think about something stressful and bringing it down by breathing deep
- concentrating on my time spent talking with God asking for His presence to push me forward
- making it an effort to get up and make the bed when I honestly don't have to
- hydrating my body when I wake so that my body can fully function throughout the day
- eliminating thoughts of "I can't" with "I will"

 Don't get me wrong, there are times I spend two hours watching a  movie instead of practicing mindfulness or reflecting with God. There are days when I just want to lay in bed a little bit longer. I believe it takes small steps to conquer big lifestyle changes, so don't feel that I have taken on something intangible. I only want to bring into focus this need that I have been discovering. It has honestly made me appreciate life at the end of the day when I am purposeful. It has also kept me from getting in an evil funk. That moody position that just can't seem to let go. You know what I mean right?

Living a life that is full is where I want to go and I am finding out that God created me to work. It does not matter if it is in a structured company or in my own home. I was designed to take the plunge into what I feel is the unknown and make something beautiful happen. You see how the plants grow in the spring. Looking at the ground in the winter, you would never imagine that something living would break through the earth. But what happens is breath taking. We see how the dull winter turns into green life and thank God for the strength of a leaf, a tree, or even a simple wild flower. We are blessed by the shade in summer, the rustling of the leaves on a windy day, or the perfume bursting from a lilac. 

Let us not forget that our lives should be like this. God created us to grow. What are you waiting for?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Not The Decorator, Just A Thinker

I had been toying with the idea of finally getting myself to decorate at least ONE room. "Why not?" I asked myself. I come from a family of many women who are steeped in creative endeavors. I grew up with a mother who went through a phase where everything was checker board or sponged. I lived with pins still left in my dresses because my mom just got done making the dress and missed a few. I watched her make everything. I also surrounded myself with extended family who's houses were filled with much time and energy making it a home. I admired my grandmother's picture arrangements as a kid and remember staring at how perfectly placed each frame was. I have cousins who are successful business women in the arts. 

I thought maybe I would be someone like that. A decorator or maybe an awesome wall collage designer. Nope. I am sure that I can do all of these things, but I know that I do not enjoy it the way that they do. It will be the last thing I do in my home, when I know it was their first. I clean more than dream of ribbons and lampshades. It used to make me question my creativity, the fact that I found it draining to think of DIY. Now I am realizing that my life is meant for something else.

Trying to fit expectations that I, only, have created really gets in the way. The other day I realized that I don't need to perfectly decorate a room. I can just leave it bare if I want to. I honestly like just having furniture and a rug in a room. I get overwhelmed by items sitting on the dresser. I am more satisfied by NOTHING being there. A lamp is enough. A few books on a shelf is enough. I like a minimal lifestyle or at least the idea of it.  So how does this fit with the creativity of my life?

My mind is continually working through stuff. I am constantly taking in information that is around me. When I want to relax, I want to see less. I sometimes wish I could just sit in a white walled room and unfold my thoughts. It would be like taking my words that have developed in my heart and painting the room with what I have found, what I have discovered. I don't need the environment to tell me that what exists is beautiful. What I perceive in simplicity ignites power and focus.

In the end the only thing that really is beautiful, is what is within us. It is not the things we have or the things that we make, it is the drive behind those actions that makes life beautiful and satisfying. I am slowly beginning to love that I have a simple home. Taking the time to enjoy the parts of ourselves that sets us apart or might not be expected, is what makes this life creative and ever changing.  What is it that drives you? What is it that makes YOUR house a home?