Monday, April 4, 2016

Worth It

In about 6 weeks, my husband and I will have made it to the 2 year marker of our wedding Anniversary. It's hard to believe that 2 years has already gone by but at the same time I can't believe it's only been 2 years!

To sum up the first year of marriage, I'd confidently say "it was hard."

Year #1 was tough. 

Along side a bunch of family events and crazy unforeseen life circumstances, there was A LOT of learning. Trial and error, mostly. Justin, my husband, and I learned a lot through our mistakes, which just made things harder.

To name a few: we both learned that our love languages are complete opposite from each other, meaning that my top love language was on the bottom of Justin's love language list (and vice versa).

We ( I ) learned that silence is typically not a negative thing during conversations, but a normal aspect of listening and processing information.

We both learned that I'm NOT a morning person and never will be and that Justin is NOT a night person and never will be. Therefore, deep, deep, deep emotional conversations need to take place between the hours of noon and 7pm.

On top of all of that, I personally felt that we had the pressure of social media on our backs to portray a wonderful, picture perfect image of what the honeymoon phase of marriage should look like. To me, I felt that because we weren't traveling, buying a house, going on crazy adventures or having a baby, that we were doing something wrong.

The truth was, learning to love each other on the deep, deep level that marriage requires of us, the deep, deep level in which God loves us, is a really hard thing to understand and learn. There were so many days where both Justin and I admitted that if we didn't have God, loving the other person would be almost impossible. We sometimes questioned what in the world we were doing and probably even asked if we had done the right thing. Yup, the first year was hard.


Year #2 was worth it. 

Now, I sit here, a whole year wiser (hah not really), and finally understand that yes, year one was tough BUT it was also worth it. I'm not sure when we crossed over the line but, I believe we are starting to see just how truly incredible marriage is. God created this institution so that we may show the world an image of what His love for us looks like. I think too often we forget that such a painful and gruesome sacrifice was made FIRST in order for us to truly see and feel what it is like to be loved by our heavenly father. Jesus suffered and suffered greatly before he finally died on the cross and rose from the grave. His resurrection gave us our salvation! Without his sacrifice, how would we truly understand the magnitude in which God loves us and longs to be with us?

With that being said, the same concept can be applied here. Without the toughness of the first year,  Justin and I would not have had the intimate and vulnerable conversations we were forced to have, allowing us to build a strong foundation of trust, honesty, and security. Without the toughness of the first year, We would not have been exposed to the moments in which our masks were completely ripped off and we saw each other for the sinful beings we really are. Without the toughness of the first year, we would not have learned how to argue (deal with conflict) and more importantly, how to forgive. 

With each struggle, the Lord was building our armor stronger together. Justin and I are no longer independent beings, but ONE unified entity. We fight in this battle against the evil one together, as one unit. The Lord knows, He is our trainer and sustainer. When Justin and I said our vows to each other, we were not only vowing to love each other through sickness and in health, we were vowing to take up our cross together, no matter the cost. I believe the first year of marriage was tough for us because the Lord had a lot of teaching to do. Justin and I are very independent and strong people. In order for us to come together to be even stronger, the Lord had to break down our personal walls so that we could start this journey at the same place. 

During the hard moments of the first year, I would read through the journals I kept during the dating season. I remember feeling as if my heart were going to explode from the overflow with love I felt for this boy! I knew I had to do something, so I wrote all my feelings down. Last year, I found myself getting so discouraged because I no longer felt like that anymore. I love Justin, of course, but I missed being so above cloud 9 all the time. I thought there was something wrong with me and essentially blamed myself for the change. I wished I could go back in time and tell myself what I feel now. Because now, I am starting to see the fruits of the pain from last year. I am starting to understand that me feeling that way wasn't my fault, but a season of refinement for what God had lying ahead, Agape love. 

In Greek, the word Agape means love at it's ultimate. It is unlike the love we feel for one another and is typically not used to describe the love between individuals. Agape love is used to describe the love between God and his people, a pure and self-sacrificing love. For example, agape is used in John 3:16 "For God so loved (agapao) the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." In dying on the cross for our sins, Christ displayed the self-sacrificing agape love. As stated above, this love isn't typical for relationships. However, I believe that as the purpose of marriage is to show the world God's agape love for his people, through marriage we are bestowed a glimpse of what this love truly means. 

I look at my husband and I don't really get the butterflies like I used too. Instead, I am overwhelmed. I have yet to find a word that accurately describes this feeling better than a mature and divine experience. I feel a love that is continuously being refined and strengthened. I feel protected, secure, loved, cared for, comforted, trusted, encouraged, light-hearted, to name a few off the top of my head. I understand more and more the significant and importance of the covenant made on our wedding day and the value of the promise made to each other in our vows. I have no fear and know that without hesitation, I would do anything for this man and know that he would do anything for me. He is my best friend, who I can laugh and have fun with, and also my rock, who I can lean on when I get weak and tired. He listens to my crazy emotional rants and always ALWAYS leads me back to the cross (no matter how willing I may or may not be to listen).

The first year was tough but the second year was worth it. I am beginning to really understand what it means to be apart of an institution created and purposed by God. By opening our heart to Him and His will, He has worked as the architect and designer for our marriage. During the first year, there was a lot of demo and reconstruction that needed to be done first in order to lay a solid foundation. Now, it is starting to feel as if the beginnings of this foundation have been placed and set. 

I know we have a long road ahead with many more bumps and hurdles to go through. But, I also know that it is all with purpose and that I am not alone through any of it.

"In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." -Romans 8:37

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

No more fear!

I'm not sure when it happened, but over the course of the year and half that I've been married I've became very fearful. The smallest of things send a whole wave of anxiety and fear through me that takes a whole army of reassurance from my mom and husband to calm me down.

I was never like this growing up. If something happened, I was the person who would usually just shrug it off.

Now, my mind now is like an irrational medical encyclopedia or news station. I get a paper-cut and somehow convince myself that I am going to suffer from some rare undiscovered incurable disease. It's completely ridiculous and y'all, i'm so tired of it! The world is a scary place but there is no reason to fear like this!

Okay, so I do realize that I am legitimately on my own for the first time so there is a bit of uncertainty that naturally comes along with the independence. However, sometimes this fear becomes almost debilitating, I can only believe that majority of this is the work of evil one through my vulnerability.

John 10:10 says "The thief comes to STEAL, KILL and DESTROY" (NIV)

This fear that I get is not of God.

2 Timothy 1:7 says "for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control" (ESV)

I saw the movie War Room, when it came out, and have been so inspired to begin praying warfare prayers and what a great place to start. (If you haven't seen the movie GO SEE IT!!!!)

I have always been told that it takes 30 days to make a habit. So I am going to take the last part of month of November until Christmas to fight these lies and make a habit of proclaiming HIS truth into my life. I no longer want to be fearful and worrisome, but strong and courageous!

Acts 1:8 states, when we accept Jesus into our hearts, we possess His power through His Holy Spirit. It is through this power that we are able to move mountains (Matthew 7:20, Ephesians 3:20). 

James 4:7 says "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you!"

Just by proclaiming the name of Jesus, the evil one flees! That is how powerful He is! His name alone makes the demons shutter (James 2:19). And guess what?! With the Holy Spirit in us, we have that power!  

So my goal is to proclaim, in the name of Jesus, and pray one of these verses daily. To not only make it a habit but a firm belief in the freeing truth of the Lord. I believe that in doing this we are putting on our protective armor (Ephesians 6:10-18) to fight the lies of the evil one that we may allow ourselves to listen too. I believe that when we proclaim scripture in our hearts we are strengthening our spiritual sword to fight with! The more truth we have instilled on our hearts, the mightier our armor will be in battle!

So if you are perhaps in a similar boat that I am in, I challenge you to do this with me! For 30 days, pray over, write down and keep with you one of these verses. When we start to feel those pangs of fear, doubt, worry or anxiety we will have our weapon and comfort of His mighty truth and love with us. We will be strong to not let the lies of the evil one seep in exacerbating our thoughts in whatever situation.

Below are the 30 verses:
(I highlighted in bold all the phrases that mentioned a version of fear. I italicized phrases that reaffirmed God's presence in our lives. I underlined the encouraging actions of what God will do on our behalf.) 

1. "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today." - Exodus 14:13

2. "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you" - Deuteronomy 31:6

3. "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will  never leave nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." - Deuteronomy 31:8

4. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." -Joshua 1:9

5. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." -Psalm 23:4

6. "The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?" - Psalm 27:1

7. "I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears." -Psalm 34:4

8. "When I am afraid, I will trust you." -Psalm 56:3

9. "In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?" - Psalm 56:4

10. "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence (disease) that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday." -Psalm 91:4-6

11. "He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord." -Psalm 112:7

12." Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you." -Isaiah 35:4

13. "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." - Isaiah 41:10

14. "For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." -Isaiah 41:13

15." Do not tremble, do not be afraid.  Did I not proclaim this and foretell is long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one," - Isaiah 44:8

16. "I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass." -Isaiah 51:12

17. " Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you." -Jeremiah 1:8

18. "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a burden and reproach to you. At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes." -Zephaniah 3:17-20

19. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble its own." -Matthew 6:34

20. "So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." - Matthew 10:31

21. "Do not be afraid; just believe." -Mark 5:36

22. "To rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days." - Luke 1:74-75

23. "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." -Luke 12:32

24. "When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid.""
- John 6:19-20

25. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world give. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." - John14:27

26. "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." - Acts 18:9

27. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38

28. "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."- 2 Timothy 1:7

29. "So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" - Hebrews 13:6

30. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." - 1 John 4:18

God Bless, 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Through it all

Good morning beautiful friends :)

I'm sorry it's been such a long time since I posted last. 

Can I be honest with y'all? These past few months have been really tough. There have been good days and bad ones but all in all its just been tough.

Stick with me for a few sentences here. Trust me I have a point. Have you ever been walking through your house and then all of a sudden you stub your toe on the corner of the table, couch leg or chair? Darn those furniture pieces that just, out of nowhere, jump in front of you! Have you ever had those days where you do it multiple times? Ah! Makes me cringe just thinking about it! You know, those days where you just can't seem to catch a break and the last thing you need is one more push, tug or bump to trip over.

For those of you who can relate to this or for those of you who may be in a similar boat as me, I want to share a sweet blessing with you today. 

A few weeks ago, after i'd metaphorically stubbed my toe a few times that day, I felt I had hit a very low point. I felt very defeated and just exhausted. I felt like I could not catch a break. Not really knowing what else to do, I sat down, turned on my Spotify playlist and hit shuffle. This song came on. I had never heard it before this moment and was immediately captivated. 

As I listened to the lyrics, I began feeling the literal heaviness of my day. I physically could not hold it any longer and fell to my knees from the weight. Then, the most incredible thing happened. I felt the nudge of our loving Heavenly Father to just let go and release it all to Him. I was hesitant at first but eventually just surrendered, opening my arms up to Him. Guess what!? He took it from me! He took the weight, the pain, the hurts, the exhaustion. 

The song was just about 3 minutes in when, with the emptiness of the load, I felt the surge of The Holy Spirit. Y'all, the Lord heard my heart's cry and came to me where I was. He met me in my pain and hurt and not only took it all away, but replaced it with his incredible magnificent healing loving holy righteous Spirit. He provided the strength I needed. Tears streamed from my eyes, as I could do the only thing that comes naturally, worship our Creator. 

I pray, with my whole heart, that this song is the saving grace you need. I pray that the Lord meets you where you are, takes away your hurts and loves on you like the child of the King you are! I pray that for the duration of this song, you find the rest your soul needs, wrapped in His arms. I pray that you feel empathy from your greatest love as you are not alone and are cared for and loved beyond what you could ever fathom. Most of all, I pray that, in the few minutes of this song, you are intensely reminded of your value and worth in the Kingdom of God. 

"Be still and know that I am God"
-Psalm 46:10

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Year one: "Count it all Joy..."

 I can hardly believe a whole year has already passed! It seems like just yesterday I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that I was soon becoming a wife! What a year it has been.

When thinking back over these past 365 days, a lot of emotions swarm my thoughts; happiness, sadness, tiredness, excitement and weariness. The first year was tough y’all. I’ll be honest; there have been many moments where I questioned if this was normal or if something was truly wrong. Isn’t the first year supposed to be full of so much happiness?

Kid you not, the moment I had this thought, the Lord spoke. My mind immediately went to the verse, James 1:2-3 “Count it all Joy…” It was as if the light bulb went off in my head, joy, not happiness.

This got me thinking. I have heard many sermons discerning the difference between the word happiness and joy from a biblical point of view, but what exactly is it? The two words appear to be very similar in the English language.

Let’s see, first off, Joy is something that is attained through the Holy Spirit:

May the God of Hope fill you with all Joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with Hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13

“The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is not law.” – Galatians 5:22-23

But even still, these verses seem to align the word joy as being synonymous to being happy. Yet, notice that happiness is something that we are not promised from God.

I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

So that brings me back to my original question, what does Joy entail here?

According to Vines Expository dictionary of the New Testament[1], the word Joy used in the above passages is derived from the Greek word Chara (Khiro). This dictionary defines the meaning as “rejoicing, being glad.” In comparison to the English dictionary both joy and gladness contain a sense of happiness (Joy: A feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Glad: being pleased, grateful) but also a sense of appreciation. A great passage to reference for this translation is Matthew 5:11-12

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in Heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

To be joyful is to be thankful, to look forward to what God has done, is doing and will do for us in His name. Happiness is not a completely inaccurate translation, as I believe Joy is a spiritual happiness, instead of a worldly happiness. Happiness of the world seems to fluctuate with the ebb and flow of life’s circumstances. Yet, joy seems to be able to withstand these changes.

The first year of marriage is such a roller coaster. One second you are independent and caring for you and yourself only, then in a matter of a few promises, your life transitions from a “me” to a “we”. It’s not an easy feat combining two very established lives and lifestyles. That is a great thing about having a marriage rooted in the strong foundation of the Lord. As the marriage grows, as we learn and embrace the inevitability of change, there is a constant supply of the Holy Spirit running through all facets.

I think a lot of the challenges that came with the first year of marriage were exacerbated because of a false expectation of happiness I was trying to apply. There were many times I knew happiness was the last thing I was feeling and I genuinely thought something was wrong with me (stupid Satan and his lies). 

There are always going to be bumps in the road. Learning to die to ourselves daily is a lot easier said than done, especially in a fallen world. Trying to be happy through those tough times is almost impossible because it takes conscious, human effort. As Paul says in Galatians, Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit. When the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts, this attribute does as well. We are able to remain joyful, despite circumstances, because this feature is compelled by divine power. The Lord is glorified in the midst of our trials and struggles through our faith to be Joyful; appreciation and thankfulness of his saving grace!

As we turn the page to the next chapter, the next year, of this adventure that is marriage, it is looked upon through a different lens. Just in the simple deciphering of the word Joy and Happiness, I feel a weight lifted off of my shoulders. I am confident in knowing that it is okay to struggle, to have rough days, weeks, or months. We can’t maintain happiness through our own strength because we grow weary. However, through the everlasting and never ending power of the Holy Spirit, we can maintain joy, always. We hope, trust and rejoice in the fact that no matter what, God is greater than all. 

[1] "Greek Lexicon :: G5479 (KJV)." Blue Letter Bible. Sowing Circle. Web. 21 Jul, 2015. <>.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

When God Doesn't Remove the Thorn

Have you ever had those Sundays where God really hits home with the message given? You may be struggling with something or praying over a situation and the message is exactly what you needed in that moment. Yeah. That was this previous Sunday for me!

This past year has been hard. I can make a laundry list of daily struggles and weights. I’m sure every one of us can do that. Getting married, moving away from family, new bills, new jobs, new friends, all adjustments to a new chapter in life. Transitions are tough y’all! But when I say hard, I don’t mean in that respect (although those things are difficult). 

For almost a whole year I have felt the pang of a thorn in my side of a particular situation. I have prayed constantly for it to be taken away, I have confessed, sought advice and counsel from those I look up too and respect, I have practically rocket launched it to the lord in an attempt to rid it from me completely. Yet…. It is still there. 

It got to the point that dealing with this pang became cyclical. I would get really mad at the situation, confess and give it to the lord, forget about it (or try to suppress it) all the while letting the situation fester and build until I would just explode again (repeat cycle). 

As I started noticing this cycle my hope of overcoming this trial started to diminish. Talk about a foothold for Satan to inject his lies! I started then beating myself up, convinced that I was being punished because I was doing something wrong. Thoughts such as: “I’m not a good enough Christian”.” God isn’t hearing my confessions because they aren’t genuine enough”. “I can’t love people well.” Sounds like the evil one to me… but yet I still believed them.  

Walking into Church, I was in a very low state. I was emotionally beat up by the lies I had believed and spiritually dry from not feeling the touch of the Holy Spirit in what seemed like such a long time. Praise God for hearing the cries of our hearts when we are too weak to even cry out!

When God Doesn’t Remove the Thornwas the title of the sermon. Hah, talk about hitting the nail right on the head! I absolutely loved everything that Dr. Carter spoke on, I wanted to share. 

The sermon was built on the passage from 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 and Paul’s thorn. 

“ I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.  
And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 
and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 
 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

As Christ followers, we learn that in life we face many ups (mountain tops) and downs (valleys). Paul references these above with himself as he “…was caught up to paradise”(12:4) a mountaintop and “was given a thorn in my flesh” (12:7) a valley. 

I. Principle
a.     Moments of great TRIUMPH (12:4) are often followed by moments of great TESTING (12:7)

Take a few big moments in biblical history for example:
1.     Creation: God created the Heavens and Earth in Genesis 1, and it was “Good” (Gen 1:9) yet it was followed by the entrance of Satan, Sin and the fall of man (Gen 3).
2.     Jesus: Baptized by John (Matt 3: 13-17) a moment of glory! Followed by a time of temptation from Satan in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11)

I bet we can all reflect back on our lives and come up with countless examples of when we were on the mountaintop but brought back to the valley.  Mountaintops are wonderful! Whenever something amazing happens I definitely rejoice but I also find myself not leaning on the Lord so much, I tend to take the reigns. I believe that our time in the Valleys are God’s way of keeping us grounded on the path he has laid out for us, not letting our self centered natures get to our heads. We are definitely selfish beings, God knows this, He created us! It’s a balance. 

II. The Problem 
a.     A thorn in my flesh” (12:7)

As Paul is talking, he mentions being given a thorn in his flesh. Unfortunately we are not told what the thorn is specifically. I believe rightfully so. As we look towards God’s word to give us insight we need to remember that God’s relationship is different with everyone. Every person struggles with different things. The point isn’t what he is struggling with but the struggle in itself. 

I love the next part. You have to do a little digging and reading between the lines but despite not knowing what the thorn is particularly, we do know that it wasn’t due to moral or spiritual failure. God is victorious and will ALWAYS deliver us from those (Romans 8).

III. The Prayer
a.     Three times I pleaded with the Lord” (12:8)

So this is where I think the Lord really wanted me to Listen. Paul pleaded for the Lord to take away this “thorn” 3 times. He cried out to God yet the thorn was not taken away. Just because the thorn wasn't removed doesn't mean God was ignoring Paul and that means he isn't ignoring us!  I think my first thought was a negative one. God isn’t removing the thorn because I did something wrong, this is a punishment. That’s not how God works. God never gives us more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13) but when he does allow us to go through struggles, he always provides provisions.
From understanding Paul and looking at this verse we can take away 3 very important truths about these so-called thorns.

1.     You can be full of the Holy Spirit and still have a thorn.
a.     This is simply understood by the fact that when we accept Christ as our Savior we are filled with the Holy Spirit, you can’t lose that! (Ephesians 1:13, 2 Corinthians 1:22)
2.     There is no truth in the belief that by confessing a set amount of times or having enough faith the thorn will go away
a.     Paul is the prime example of this! Just by reading Paul’s letters you can see how they just ooze with his love and faith in the Lord. Yet… Paul still had this thorn in his side.
3.     When people give “advice” don’t take it to heart.
a.     I liked this a lot. I think as communal people, we are drawn to others to seek advice and help. I love that God made us that way! We are to not walk alone, yet there is value in remembering that God is an intentional God. As he created us to build relationships with others, he desires that much more with us! God desires us to seek him first, to be still and wait (Psalm 37:7). Look at the Old Testament book Job. Job’s friends come to comfort him in his pain. Very graciously, the friends give opinion of the source of Job’s pain (punishment for his own sin, wickedness and lack of faith). However, with foresight of intention, we know that God wasn’t punishing Job, but using the trial for a greater purpose. I don’t mean to say this to discredit any advice given by community, but to understand a difference of taking their words to heart vs. God’s. 

IV. The Purpose
a.     To keep from becoming conceited” (12:7)

Personally Paul had a good understanding of the inevitable nature of man, namely himself, to be prideful. Before the spiritual transformation Paul (Saul) prided himself as being a Pharisee of the highest sect. He was the best of the best in what he did. Paul could have very easily recognized his own weakness with pride and knew that even after his transformation, it would always be an issue. He saw this thorn as a reminder to keep that pride and self-righteousness grounded. Although Paul knew the purpose of his thorn, we may or may not be so lucky. Which leads to the last point:

V. The Provision
a.     My grace is sufficient enough for you!” (12:9-10)

After Paul cries out to the Lord he is given this response “My grace is sufficient enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” God didn’t give Paul an answer but gave him reassurance of his presence! Our weaknesses are a stage where God can fully demonstrate his love and mighty power! God understands what we are going through. He wont always gives us insight or an answer but he will ALWAYS sustain us and see us through it. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” Psalm 23:4 

 Although I am still walking with this particular thorn in my side I was so encouraged by these words given from Dr. Carter this particular Sunday. When God doesn't remove the thorn we can find hope in knowing that he always provides His grace to sustain us. We shouldn't need God to heal us or take away the thorn for us to know God loves us. I still have my moments with this thorn and pray that for whatever the purpose is, it is sharpening and refining me to be the all that God has planned.

No matter what, He has overcome this world and all the trials, frustrations, dry spells and troubles that come along with it. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17) Although sometimes these things seem to last forever, compared to eternity in Heaven, it's only a blink of an eye!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble (NIV), Tribulation (ESV), Trials, distress, Frustration (AMP).
But take heart! I have overcome the world!”
John 16:33 

-God Bless

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Beyond the Temptations of Grey

50 Shades of Grey.  

Throughout these past weeks I have heard many girls whisper about the temptations of curiosity of what to see this movie. Oh how my heart weighs so heavy that a movie like this is coming out! 
 As I have seen many cries out to married women on this subject, my heart turns to those in the pre- process of that journey, those who are engaged or will one day hope to be engaged.

Dear sweet sister, 

I am so sorry that we are fighting this battle today. I am so sorry that we live in a society that not only condones sex but promotes it constantly. We live in a time where we are forced to actively push against the flow of the majority in order to stand firm in our beliefs, that tend to be the minority. We are bombarded constantly from every side, "Sex is no big deal"or " Sex is terrible, taboo." I can see where confusion is bound to come in! I just wanted to encourage you when temptation and confusion pulls strong at your precious heart. Understand that sex is beautiful as it is a gift given from our Almighty creator (Genesis 2:24). However, know that the enemy has interjected his poison into this world, birthing the idea of the nonchalant sex we see on our day to day. 

Sister in Christ, please, I beg of you, do not go see this movie! Do not let your "curiosity" get the best of you, to follow the bandwagon and see what the hype is all about. Don't let the enemy's voice seep in and sugarcoat a lie that you know is a lie. Don't put yourself in a vulnerable position and pollute your mind with false expectations. From a woman who has been married for almost a year please listen when I say sex is worth the wait! Sex is physical, yes, but it is also mental, if not more so! I remember the strength of the temptation when I was engaged. I remember how strongly Satan pulled on my heart to "bend the rules." But know, God created the institution of marriage as well as the act of physicality between a husband and a wife. It is a wonderful gift in establishing a covenant. Understand that this movie is as far away from that gift as you can get! Sex isn't glamorous, it doesn't feel "wonderful" at first, it takes a lot of patience, practice and learning. But that is why it is so wonderful. It is a bond that is experienced, established and maintained between a man and his wife, only! It is indescribable.

Stand strong and know how absolutely precious you are! You are a daughter of the King, you deserve only the best of jewels. God created you to be treated like royalty, not to be taken advantage of physically, mentally or emotionally. Sex is an act, equalizing two as one, not one over the other. Guard your heart and your mind from the ideas in this movie and save the experience for you and your future husband. Sex different for everyone but perfect in its place. Seeing this movie is wrong. It is sinful. Even though God is forgiving and merciful, we still deal with consequences of our actions. Give the gift of the purity of your heart to your husband on your wedding night. No matter where you have been or what you have done, the blood of our savior is more than enough to make you as pure as gold! So please believe me as I say again, sex is beyond worth the wait. God is sovereign, He will bless your faithfulness, always! 

So, take pride in your lineage as a daughter of the King and stand firm against the majority with this movie! Be different and proclaim the incredible name of our Jesus! We are living in a dark world. Let Christ be the light in you that illuminates the way to bring others home. Let us love, not condemn and make a bold stand in his Holy name! 

A fellow sister in Christ.

I am linking a wonderful blog I have seen floating around Facebook that I thought was a wonderful jolt of hard truth believers need to read! please check it out!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hashtag Blessed.

 21 days of fasting a prayer. My husbands parents attend a very very sweet church. I enjoy visiting when we are with them because of the great worship music and encouraging messages. Once the new year begins, this church is doing a 21 day long series of fasting and prayer. Taking time to pray seriously for a prolonged period of time is a wonderful way to start a new year!

Tonight, I was thinking to myself and the idea of this series randomly popped into my head. 3 weeks of fasting. It took me about a half a millisecond to realize what I should probably fast from... social media. It took me about a 30 minute long shower to realize why.

I read a statistic that stated, on average, we look at our phones (social media) roughly around 150 times a day... 150 times! That's insane! There is so much proof regarding how much time we waste looking on our personal websites it's almost pointless to try and make an argument. I think most people know this and just choose to accept it. Social media is an important part of life these days.

Despite this, however, my "why" dives so much deeper.

I don't really do facebook much (except when i'm incredibly bored), twitter is fun when I have ridiculous pointless thoughts I HAVE to post. Instagram is where my issue rests. Don't get me wrong, I love instagram! It is the first app I open when I look at my phone. I love looking at and seeing what people are doing on the daily! I even enjoy the occasional post myself... although honestly i've never been one for selfies. As I find enjoyment with this app, I also find myself in an endless battle spiritually.

I'm going to be completely honest here. Most of the posts I see regarding people I follow have a very common foundational theme... they are all spiritually based. The typical post that falls under this category is usually of a cup of coffee and a journal/ bible or a landscape scene of some sort, followed by a bible verse and a quick caption explaining the reason for the ever so popular #blessed at the book end. The "typical Christian girl" post as people would say. Now I don't want to bash anyone or say that I don't enjoy that exact post. I love coffee while doing my quiet time. I see the Lords beauty in creation. I think #blessed should be overused because we are so blessed by our creator. I am not writing this to discourage these posts but to explain how they can have a very negative effect, at least in my case.

For the longest time I have found myself falling into the ever so common self esteem killer that social media tends to be. I judged my life based on the picture perfect lives of my friends. Fine. I can deal with that. It was when I started judging my spiritual life based on the picture perfect ones that were being posted the problem started. It seemed harmless at first. I would check in here or there, double tap this picture or that to give my two cents of approval. Soon, however, checking in here or there became more and more frequent. The more I checked in, the greater I found myself fighting against the lies of the evil one regarding insecurities, insecurities regarding the strength of my personal walk with the Lord.

I think it is wonderful when I see my sweet friends posting pictures of how the Lord is speaking to them, how He is blessing their lives or working in them! This may be my selfishness or just believing the lies of the evil one, but I also find these posts very discouraging. Why don't I feel so overwhelmed with his presence constantly? Why can't I love people around me as well as that person? Why can't I hear the Lord speak his truth through this very picturesque moment? Why can't God talk to me when I can gather up things around me to show to the world through this little app?!

Running through my laundry list of whiny "whys?" I got an answer. Oh God. Why do you even put up with my whiny thoughts, to love me enough to actually give me an answer?

The answer God gave me wasn't a word exactly but a thought. Basically, he reminded me of the moments when he had been closest to me. Moments of complete vulnerability, when I was the most dirty, shameful, sinful, hurt, weary, broken... when I was the farthest from being picture perfect. Let that sink in for a second. He is closest to us when we are the farthest from being picture perfect! The moments when I am too exhausted to shower, put make up on or even do my hair. The moments when my eyes are swollen from the flood gate of tears that have burst open under such a heavy weight and have been spilling out. The moments when I am hiding in the shadows from the exposure of my selfish sinful nature and am too ashamed to face our almighty creator. Those aren't moments I want anywhere near any social media site! Yes, The Lord works through our circumstances for his Glory but we need to understand and realize that these circumstances are usually far away from being pretty. I mean... when I am in my quiet time crying out to the Lord to speak to me and he gives me a verse, the first thing I do is lose it completely (and call my mom), not post it on instagram in a neat little picture. It's usually the farthest from neat!

I am not here to judge how the Lord reveals himself to each person or how each person reveals how the Lord speaks to them. He created us all individually and uniquely. He speaks to us equally as individually and uniquely. I do know that it requires an incredible amount of vulnerability to be moved by the Holy Spirit. It takes even more of this vulnerability to share it with others in His name, for His glory. I don't know, social media just doesn't seem like the ideal place for this. A place so infamous for being a picture perfect front is not really ideal for sharing the dark vulnerable moments where as Christ moved.

All in all, I was just so overwhelmed with freedom from this realization, I had to share. My spiritual walk, my relationship with Christ, my level of Christianity (whatever that may mean... I think I just made it up) is not confined to or ranked by the perfect moments we have. Ah! How I will be reminding myself of this one for a while! 

As beautiful as those picture perfect moments truly are, it's the light that shines through the darkness that is really captivating. How blown away are we by a clear star filled sky?! Small bits of light amongst a blanket of darkness. That is Christ. He is our beautiful bits of light in the darkness.

I realize that I have allowed the evil one a foothold to grasp onto with this insecurity and am taking it captive by surrendering it to the one who is greater. I love seeing what everyone is doing but not to the expense of letting in doubt regarding where I am spiritually.

I may not be alone in this or I may be. Regardless, don't get discouraged by comparisons. The Lord is so much bigger, so much greater than we can fathom. He draws closest to us and fills us completely when we are empty and open. He is our only judge and the only one we should look too for approval.

Praise him for the picture perfect moments he provides and praise him even more for the messy ones he cleans up for us.