Thursday, January 1, 2015

Lucky #15

**Warning: Cliche/cheesy/deep New Years post alert**

So blogging, writing, sharing my feelings, sharing my heart, etc...all those things were lost for me in 2014. Honestly, 2014 was a tough year for me. The past 2 years in particular have been the hardest of my life probably. I thought 2013 was a doozy, but it was just a preview of what 2014 had in store for me.

Ya think you know who you are...and then WHOOSH...God throws a big ole' tidal wave of growth, maturity and truth over you. Fun times.

My 20s have been the most growing, stretching, and hardest years of my life. I’m 29 now, so this is my last year in the 20s. I know lot of people dread turning 30, but not me. Despite what that means to the child in me, the adult in me is leaping for joy! Because I KNOW what God has brought me out of. I know who He says I am. Who He is. I know the dreams He’s put in my heart, and honestly, it can only get better from here. I know there’s gonna be rough waters ahead. It’s life: that’s basically a given. But this year, in October of 2015, I will fully and whole-heartedly embrace my 30th birthday. Claiming it now: The 30s are gonna be the BEST years of my life!

But the 20s aren’t over, and I’m not trying to blaze outta them just yet. I have a lot yet left to do this last year of my 20s. I am determined to leave it with a bang, and really have some awesome memories and accomplishments to take from it.

Despite my reference to the hardships I’ve faced the past 2-10 years (haha), God has really shown me this last year, over and over, the incredible amount of blessings I have to be thankful for. For the first time in my life, I think I understand contentment. Not complacency: contentment. Big difference.

Where I was a year ago today, where I was a year before that, and who I am today? Wow. Totally different people. I still have a lot of the "old Keri” in me, but I’ve also had to let go of some big parts of what made me “that” Keri. Some people still don't understand that, and, some may never get the chance to understand it. Heck, I don't even always understand it. 

But that’s one of the key things to my life that I have found peace with finally: I am HUMAN. I don't always understand. I make mistakes. I don't get it all right the first time, or the second, and sometimes it takes me over 20 times to get something right! Haha. Not always. But sometimes. :)

But God really, really, REALLY doesn't expect perfection from me. Or expect me to win, succeed, understand, or GET it all the first try. He knew when He made me I was gonna mess up a LOT. And He was prepared for that. [I guess that’s why He wrote Romans 8:28, huh?] All He’s ever asked for from His children is that we TRY. And have FAITH. And when I fail? Get back up again and try again! Whoops, I messed up again?! GET BACK UP and try again! I screwed it up AGAIN?!! You get it. :) Keep. Getting. Back. Up. So simple. But our thick heads make it so complicated sometimes. 
[now go replace "me" or "I" with "you" and re-read] :)

We let fear entangle us. Paralyze us. We’re so scared of failing or making a mistake, that we end up missing out on some of the best experiences and sometimes best FAILURES of our lives. Can you even have an amazing failure?! Oh yeah. But that’s for another post. :)

The point is: You cant stop living and going after your dreams and purpose because of failures or set backs. You learn, you grow, you move on. It's definitely not as easy as I just wrote it... most of the time: not easy at ALL. But if you can get past your failures: you will be GREATLY rewarded. And blessed. I’m a living testimony of that.

So here’s to the failures and the successes in store for 2015! I’m pretty positive I’m gonna learn from both, and be a better person because of them.

And here’s to me blogging more frequently again. I have lot to say. And I think I’m ready to start sharing again. :)

*Side note: 15th blog ever written...and it’s 2015 now...coincidence? You decide. ;) Also, trying out a new title..."life in the grey"...that's what we're all working through, right? It's usually not black, or white. It's all the grey in between we gotta figure out. :)

Song of the day: Johnnyswim: Heart Beats

Friday, November 15, 2013

It's A Hard Knock Life...So Grab a Helmet ;)

I've kind of had writers block for a few weeks.

I was telling a friend the other day that when I was going through a period of all this stress and drama and I seemed to have a lot more "inspiration" for my blog...he said something on the lines of "Oh, so there's no more drama and everything's going good all the time now?" And I laughed and said something like "Better than it least, different kinds of obstacles now."

[obstacles- get it?! ;)]

But I've realized something lately, and that is the state of mind I've taken on.

I've had a lot of "people" hurts the past year, and I let a lot of those hurts change me and change the way I loved, pursued and even talked to people. I had to learn a lot of personal boundaries this year, and in figuring out what this looks like, I feel like I've kind of gone the extreme opposite route.

I have let people in my life that, in hindsight, really haven't treated me that well. As a person. As a friend. As a woman. You name it. No one is perfect, and we all have our faults, but I've allowed myself to be a doormat in a lot of friendships. I wanted to "love them" through things, but in allowing certain behaviors and repeated actions, and by not having a lot of self-worth, I set myself up for a handful of unhealthy relationships.

But praise God, He has freed me from a lot of that worthlessness, and unhealthy relationships.

That's a whole other blog in itself. That being said, I let these "hard lessons" change me...and make me hard. I haven't lost my old self completely, but I sure have lost a lot of her. I don't know if people on the outside would be able to tell. Unless you were one of my close friends, and actually knew about my "heart", you probably couldn't tell. On the surface, I continued to love, pursue and connect with people. But it was more shallow, and on the inside everything had changed.

This personal-heart-funk I've been going through this year has run it's course though. At least that's what I've decided. It's still extremely hard to trust people, and I'm still figuring out what boundaries are necessary and what ones aren't—but that's OK.

Trusting, loving, learning- it's all a process. Life is one big, crazy process, and the older I've gotten, the less hard I am on myself. You cant be—or you wont survive—at least with much joy.

Grace has been one of the biggest themes of my life of 2013. Grace for others, big time; but also, a lot of grace for myself.

God's not mad at me for not having it all figured out, for not getting it right every time, for messing up. And He's not mad at you either. He's proud of us for every right decision we make, for every right thought we have, and proud of us for just trying—He doesn't expect perfection. Otherwise, what was the point of Jesus' life? We cant save ourselves. We cant figure it all out. He's our Redemption.

I was reading a blog by Ally Vesterfelt today actually, and it's like she was "reading my mail", haha. It's called Why I Would Rather Be Crazy Than Boring. Read it all, but here's a key excerpt:
"I’d rather be this girl, the girl who is committed to forgive, and love, and move, and act, and let go, push forward and believe even when it doesn't make sense to believe; even if it means being disappointed, even if it means being hurt, again and again.
I’d rather set audacious goals, than to set mediocre ones I know I can meet, or not set goals at all, to maintain my fragile ego. I know that girl too well, and I don’t want to be her anymore.
I’d rather swing for the fences.
I’d rather be crazy.
I’d rather risk my whole life for something that matters than to get to the end and realized I played it safe so I could drive a nice car and own a leather couch. I’d rather hold to things loosely, feeling grateful for gifts as they come, and giving them away as they are needed by others.
I’d rather give to much than too little."
So this is my goal: To not be scared of rejection, pain, hurt, failure. To learn how to love again with my whole heart. To let God continue to put back together the pieces of my heart that have been damaged. He's faithful to complete what He started, and I know He's already started this.

I got angry this week when I thought about some Christians I know who are really hard to be around. Those kind of people who you either love 'em or hate 'em. You're either on their good side or their bad side. You either can talk freely or you feel like you have to walk on eggshells.

Lord, may I not be the kind of person who people are uneasy or weary about being around. We all have our flaws, but to not know—on a daily basis—if you're going to get a hateful word, a mean joke, a nasty glare, or an ignoring attitude from someone—kinda unacceptable if you ask me. And definitely not Christ-like. There's grace for them too, but there's also responsibility for our actions.

I've been really impacted by this revelation of love, and the power of our words over the past few months.
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits." -Prov.18:21
Our words really do have power—use them for good—to encourage, honor, uplift, respect, & love.  Your words, jokes, texts, Facebook posts, all of it—they have the power to either encourage and honor someone, or discourage and dishonor them. We don't take enough responsibility sometimes for our words & actions.

Yeah, it really can be a "hard knock life", but you cant let the hardness of life turn your heart hard.

I don't know about you, but I just think life is way too short to be stingy and self-centered. It's a much more fulfilling life when you can freely love and give to others. Try it, if you're not already—it'll change your life. :)

Song of the Day:
"Hard Knock Life" from Annie, of course ;)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Was That Bells I Heard? Cause I Just Got Schooled!

I was thinking today how I got SCHOOLED. Big time. 

By who? Who else...The Man!

God has been schooling me a lot lately.

I loved learning growing up. I loved knowledge, friends, school activities. I loved all the social and informational aspects of school...but I cant say I really loved school itself.

Growing up, especially in high school, my school days were showered with tons of absences, or tardees, haha. I hated waking up. So, I didn't normally, unless my mom made me. Haha.

Also in high school, I would make "cheat sheets" just to make sure I passed tests... I wanted to do other things besides studying [you know, get on AOL instant messenger and chat with my friends who I saw all day at school...or watch Boy Meets World or TRL...important stuff ;)] Even if I knew the material, I thought: "Better safe than sorry!"... FYI kids, I was .10 of a point away from being an honor grad, actually having my GPA count and getting Bright Futures... see where cheating gets you? In debt. For college. Because you didn't study and get scholarships. Haha.

But God sometimes does a different kind of "schooling"... His isn't always in your face.

I have found time and time again it's learned by hit and miss. Trial and error. Learning as you go. He doesn't force learning on you, it just happens.

The biggest thing I've been "schooled" in lately is not only how His love looks like for me, but how His love looks like for others.

To love like Jesus. I don't think most of us can truly wrap our head around what that really looks like, lived out.

We try our best. Usually. At least until it becomes inconvenient...or someone annoys us too much... or hurts us too bad...or screws us over too much... then, Deuces! They're out.

My friend Sam knows I've been having a hard time liking some people lately, so she sent me an excerpt from this book she's reading. It said:
"You might think, "I'll forgive the person who hurt me, but he doesn't deserve my friendship, so that's where I draw the line." Or you might force the words. "I forgive you" out of your mouth but resist actually granting them from the heart. But "to forgive is to give people more than their due"; it is a gift from the heart. (Matt.18:35)
I've written about forgiveness before. Not only is forgiveness a process, but it's something that takes actual effort. It takes actual sacrifice. It takes work. It takes love.

I was reading an email from Donald Miller, and in it he said:
"I don’t have the responsibility to change any of the adults around me. They have control over their lives and I have control over mine. That's ordained by God and any other dynamic quickly becomes toxic. I can inspire people or encourage them or even rebuke them but it’s not my responsibility to change them. What if, instead, people have been given to us by God for ours and their enjoyment. There are, of course, unsafe people, but I’m talking about those people we trust, friends and trusted family members. I want to start replacing my “fix” response with an “enjoy” response and just let people be themselves."
This theme has really been meaningful in my life lately.

One of my favorite authors, Danny Silk, said it like this:
"Building a connection is all about your approach to the other person, it is not about you creating change in the other person."
It's not our job to change someone. That's God's job. Christians get this wrong way too often.

There's people chanting in the streets, on the corner, with signs, banners, words... and most the time, it's not out of love... it's out of judgement...or out of a desire to change people, and make them "think like you"...

Since when do people who don't call themselves Christians actually think like Christians? Isn't it the Holy Spirit's job to do the convicting? The changing? Our job is to love like Jesus. Period

Like Donald pointed out, yes, we can "inspire people or encourage them or even rebuke them" [in love] —not change. There's a difference.

I was reading a blog written by Sarah Thebarge, titled "Why Drive-By Charity is Ruining Your View of God", in it she said:
"Loving the world this way isn't cheap — it comes at a high personal cost — but it’s simple...It just requires us to be present where we are.
If each of us took the time to know and unconditionally love the people living next door to us…
If we didn't run away from the brokenness but lived in it…
If we didn't try to protect ourselves from the messiness but embraced it…
And if everyone we came in contact with did the same…
…well, that kind of thing could change the world."
I was really challenged reading that. Now living it: that's the real challenge

I get worn out with love often. It seems more times than not, it isn't always reciprocated—at least in the way I expect or think it should be.

But loving people, the way Jesus does, "it comes at a high personal cost"—Yes. The cost being: Your pride. Your self-righteousness. Your time.

I've been guilty plenty of times thinking and saying "Uhh, I'm not Jesus, I just cant do it that way, or that perfect..." Yes, we will never be perfect...but if we truly practiced loving people this way...the way He does...then "practice" would definitely help to "make perfect."

As Heidi Baker always says about people: "Love Them to Life."

Think about it. I sure have been.

Was that bells I heard? 'Cause, now, you just got schooled! ;)


Song of the Day:
Sidewalk Prophets- "Live Like That"

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cake Boss: "Becoming Love" edition

If you read my blogs often, you've seen a theme: Heartache. Testing. Refining.

I've been going through a lot the past few months.

But good news: this blog is a praise report, not a "trial report". Haha.

In my devotion today, it was referencing 2 Corinthians 11:30:
"If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness."
Ray Stedman said this about that verse:
"He boasts about the things that show his weakness. That is what we ought to be boasting about, the times when we did not look good, the times when we fell on our faces and failed. Paul says that is what he boasts about. He says, As I look back on my life, one incident comes to mind. It was a time when I was a complete failure at what I was trying to do. That is what I boast in, because that is when I began to learn the most important lesson of my life."
And I thought, "Yeah, that's kind of what I've been doing all these months." 

Not because I'm super spiritual, or super humble, or super awesome. But because it's all I had.

It sucks to learn things the hard way, but sometimes that's what it takes to actually get it.

I've been going through a few relational trials, lessons and heartaches the past few months, and one of them finally came to some much-needed-and-prayed-about reconciliation a few days ago.

I had been praying for months that God would just intervene...change this other person's heart. I prayed a long time for restoration and reconciliation. Then, I came to the place where I realized I had to "let go". And anyone that knows me well, knows that is almost impossible for me to do. 

I care about relationships, friendships, people. I'm not a fair-weather, wishy-washy, short-term kind of friend. I consider myself very loyal, faithful, caring and giving in my friendships. Luckily, I think most of my friends would agree with me on that.

So it sucks big time when crap happens and friends push you out of their life, and nothing you say, do, pray, etc, seems to change their heart.

So, even though I hate those corny, Christian sayings [haha] I literally had to "Let go, and let God."

I felt like God told me to let go of this friendship, along with a couple others that have been hurtful, unhealthy and un-reciprocating.

So, I stopped trying, pursuing, and I started to change my prayers. My prayers became more for this person as an individual, and less of God "fixing" my problem with them. I also had to start praying for myself more, and focusing on myself more. 

Because in the end, we literally have no control over someone else's actions, thoughts, words, etc. We only have control over our own.

I had to pray for God just to overflow my spirit with forgiveness, grace and love for this person, along with the others I've mentioned. All I can say is it's been one of the most draining, trying, stretching seasons of my life. 

To forgive someone who hasn't apologized to you. To love someone who has hurt you. To give grace to someone who seems to get it all the time, for the same stuff...THAT'S HARD.

But God gave it to me, and when I stopped focusing on "fixing" my problems, and just "letting God" do what He does, it His timing. I knew all God wanted me to do was love this person and walk in grace toward them, and when I did one small gesture doing so, the door opened for communication with them. And in the end, there was the peace and reconciliation my heart so desired.

I didn't have to have this reconciliation. But I really wanted it. And God knew that. He wires us the way we are for a reason, and I am wired for closure and communication

There was a lot of crap, and it's not like that relationship will ever be perfect. And I still have some other friendships that may not be reconciled, though this one was. But what I came to realize throughout all of this is that: 

It's OK.

God is SO much bigger than my problems, my hurts, my insecurities, my downfalls. He is a Healer, a Restorer, a Giver, and a Friend. And He was all those things to me, and MORE, throughout all this crap I've gone through. And He'll continue to be there for all the crap that I know is around the corner. Because, that's life. There's struggles. There's hurts. But He's there. And He is extremely good.

One negative thing I let this lost friendship do to me was consume me. I can have an obsessive personality, and I am very sensitive. I'm not going to apologize for either, because I know I had to go through this the way I did to understand myself, and God, as much as I do now. And I also know God made me the way I am for a reason. 

I care about people. I care about relationships. I care about feelings. I care about communication. I 

I guess that's why Daddy always called me "Care Bear"...haha, not just because it's a common nickname for Keri...but also, since a young age, I was super sensitive to other people and for other's just who I is! ;)

Love-a-lot Bear ;)

I once read that for relationships that are important to us, we have to "risk vulnerability to the point of possible rejection"...that has been the story of my life. I put myself out there for people. I know they're worth it, and I know that even if they reject me, it was worth it to show them they were worth it.

All this relational drama really made me feel a lot of failure and a lot of worthlessness. I blamed myself for a lot. "I should have done this, shouldn't have done that," etc, etc... And, FYI, that kind of talking to yourself will get you nowhere. 

I saw this quote the other day, and it really resonated with me. 
"I don't call it failure. I call it learning. See, I want to learn about me. And then I celebrate progress, not perfection." -Steve Blacklund
I'll leave you with this video of a powerful message I heard. It really was the icing on this big/hard/ugly/crazy/beautiful LOVE cake God had been baking for me...haha. I was thinking He's kinda like the Cake Boss...He whips up crazy wonders we could never have imagined up ourselves :)

[if God made me a cake, it would look like this...but bigger] ;)

Find the time to watch this video. If not today, another day. It challenged my whole way of thinking and loving people, and although I knew a lot of it already, I didn't really grasp it. Until now :)

Video of the Day:
Dan Mohler- Becoming Love

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mother Truckin' Transparency

When I woke up this morning I still hadn't decided what to write about, but then, after reading an email devotional from my boy Donald Miller, I was inspired.

The title was "Great Parents Seem To Do This Well". In it Donald says:
"Kids with parents who are open and honest about their own shortcomings are better adjusted, and parents who want to be seen as perfect have kids that often aren't."
He goes on to talk about how kids who grow up in homes where the parents are so focused on setting an example or coming across perfect "don’t feel permission to be human or flawed and don’t trust God has forgiven them."

This made me reflect on my interaction with a lot of Christians over the past few years, and made me reflect on myself. Because I got a news flash for all reading: I'm not perfect.

*GASP* Yep, I'm reaaaally sorry to burst your bubble, but it just isn't so... I'm not now, nor will I ever be.

Also, if you thought because I'm a Christian, I'm supposed to be perfect for that sole reason alone- then you must have never read the Bible... Haha, because it's showered with imperfect mess after hot mess...lots of flawed people that somehow, by the grace of God, He decided to use and love.

It literally wasn't until the past couple of years that I started to realize the importance of not trying to look like I have it all together, and just being more honest and transparent in my words and actions. Lately, I've been a little more extreme in this, but I don't think I need to apologize for it.

Example: Lately, I will from time-to-time drop a couple s-bombs [haha, like f-bombs, but you know, not that word]. Are you confused? Ok, let me just type the dreaded, "bad" word: shit. The past few months, "shit" has probably come out of my mouth more times that it ever has in my 27 years on this earth. Haha.

Am I an advocate for cussing? No. Am I an advocate for being real and transparent though? Yes.

Sometimes, in the heat of certain pains or circumstances, me saying the word "crap" does not suffice for what I'm really feeling and going through. If I'm talking to a close friend, crying my eyes out because of some pain I'm going through, and I say "There's just so much shit going on, I cant even function right"...should that Christian friend reprimand me and say "Keri! Don't say that!"? No. Not helpful, annoying, and they're definitely missing the point.

Do we need to be careful of our audience (i.e. young, impressionable children, etc) Yes, of course! Does it make me a "bad Christian" if I say shit sometimes? No, not at all. Because do you know what I've come to realize? Jesus doesn't give a shit if I say shit. [I almost titled the blog that, haha].

I'm smiling to myself as I write that, because I can just see the bugged-eyed, religious looks come across people's faces as they read that. Christians seem to care more about when other Christians cuss more than they seem to care if a fellow Christian is treating others badly, and dishonoring and disrespecting them in other ways. This just shouldn't be. Where are our priorities?

God cares about the heart of a person, the intent. I heard it put this way before: It's the context, not the content.

And yes, I'm familiar with all the Bible verses people recite to condemn people who cuss. They're all listed out here if you'd like to read them.

Make note, this is not a blog telling you if you're a Christian you should cuss freely and openly like everyone whenever, however, all the time. There's definitely much less offensive, more intelligent words to use in regular-day life... but FYI, using all those "Christianese cuss-words" doesn't make you any better than the person who actually says the real word.

Examples: Mother-trucker. Eff. Frick. Friggin. Flippin. Crap. Shiz. Shoot. Dang. Darn. Heck- to name a few. And I definitely use those too.

The point of my cussing rant?

People aren't perfect & we need to stop acting like we are. It's not helping anyone, especially those non-Christians we hope to influence or inspire with our lives.

Going back to what Donald, and I, are trying to relay: Transparency and not putting on a fake-I-got-it-all-together-face is what children and young adults need growing up from their parents and mentors. And my belief is it's what Christians need from each other too.

Donald finished by saying:
"If we want families that are less ordinary and more healthy, lets teach our kids, by example, that it’s okay to be human. When they’re old enough, lets begin to confess our sins to our children, even letting them know how sorry we are that our humanity has hurt them in some way. Kids who have parents who confess their sins grow up believing in grace, in honesty, in transparency and are much more likely to connect deeply with others rather than hide."
So, I urge all my Christian brothers and sisters:
A) Let's put down the fake walls of perfection- because you're really not fooling anyone- no one has it all together.
B) Let's watch our judgments toward one another. Let's not focus on religious thought-patterns than usually end up only tearing down a brother or sister in Christ [or your possible children] and not building them up when they're already in a vulnerable spot.
C) Let's extend grace and understanding to those who don't always think, act or talk like us. God made us all different, and we're all in different "growing" seasons. Don't shove your convictions on others. Because then it's not a conviction, it's a judgment—and aint nobody got time for that! ;)

My "Song of the Day" seemed fitting. If you don't extend some transparency and grace to your kids/friends/etc, they might end up writing a song like this for you... Just sayin.

Song of the Day:
Simple Plan- Perfect

Thursday, September 5, 2013

One Thing God Stinks At: Hide n Seek

So, I've been trying to figure out what to write about this week. 

A lot going on in my head, my heart, my life. It’s been a "meh" kind of week. 

I had to face some things in the beginning of the week that I had been avoiding, and it really wore me down. I’m on this journey of overcoming some deep hurts in my heart, and this week I have definitely been tried. 

That being said, I was really encouraged last night by my beautiful, wise friend Georgia. She shared with me a vision God gave her a few years ago that meant a lot to her, and she told it to me to encourage me. I asked her if I could share it.

Her vision was of her and Jesus. They are walking and talking in a garden, hand in hand. They take a walk down this path in the garden. Talking and enjoying each other. Then, a big storm comes out of no where. There’s a lot of wind and rain- she cant hear His voice anymore. But she can still feel His hand- so she's ok. Then, it starts to get really cold- she cant feel her hand in His anymore. But she can still see Him- so she’s ok. Then, it gets really dark. She cant even see Him now. She cant hear Him, she cant feel Him, and now she cant even see Him. Then her vision came to an end.

She asked God what this meant. And He told her [paraphrased by me]: “Remember this vision, you will need to remember it. Remember the beginning of it. Because hard times are coming. They’re going to come. But I told you I would never let go, no matter which way you went. I’ll always be walking beside you...I will always be here. Even when you cant “hear” me. Even when you cant “feel” me. Even when you cant “see” me. I’m here. Always.”

What a powerful vision. Especially for what I’m going through right now. 

I've asked myself a lot lately “Where are you, God? I know You’re here. But I cant hear You...I cant feel You...And I definitely cant see You—in my prayers, in your people, anywhere.” 

I’m going through some painful, unresolved situations with a few people I was very close to. And all of them are believers. I have begun to build up walls of hurt, shame, mistrust, and bitterness towards others because of that. I don't like this new person who keeps trying to appear, posing as “Keri”’s not me. I don't want to be that girl.

It’s funny how when people screw you over, we somehow turn our anger, mistrust and hurt on God. Like He’s the one that made them do and say hurtful things to you. He didn't though. And we have a choice to let these things define us, or drive us to be better, stronger people. 

I so easily forget...but I was again reminded in a devotional I was reading yesterday:

“Life as a Christ follower will always be a learning process of depending less on our own strength and more on God’s power.” James 1:2-4 says:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
We assume that everything is great for those who have what we lack. Even though someone may not be struggling with what you’re struggling with, they sure do have other struggles that they have to depend on God for too. No one is immune from pain and suffering. We all go through it.

God is showing me a lot about not comparing, and a lot about being content. He’s teaching me even more about this “depending less on me and more on Him” thing.

Even when I cant “hear, feel or see” Him, I know He’s thereHe was before, so He will be again. [He never left, that’s just how it feels]

The miracles, the prayers answered, the blessings—I’ve experienced them—and there will be more. Because He’s a good Father, and He has good things in store for me—and you!

I just want to encourage anyone reading this who ever feels forgotten, abandoned, rejected, replaced, disposable, used, etc—you’re not. People may make you feel that way, but God never will do those things to you. Zephaniah 3:17 says:
“The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
You are loved—by a great and Mighty God. Even when you cant “feel” Him... He’s there in your "midst". Going through that trial with you. Going through that pain with you. He’s there- understanding, sympathizing, caring, comforting. If you persevere—holding on to faith, hope and love—you will see Him. 

He’s the worst at hide and seek. He wants to be found and seen :)

New song from Bethel. 
Perfect Song of the Day:
"I Can Feel You"

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Going Raw: More Than a 30-day Challenge

Today is the first day of a 30-day Raw Challenge I'm doing with two of my friends. Just had lunch: so far so good, haha. For those of you who don't know what that entails me eating, here's a lovely food pyramid of the only stuff I'm allowed to eat:

I know it will be a challenge, but considering how disciplined I've been in my diet the past 3-4 months [having already lost 50 lbs] I'm only cutting out a few more things now to go "raw"... I'm ready for the challenge, so I'm all in!

As I was thinking about "going raw" for 30 days I started thinking about how I've been "going raw" spiritually the past few months toobut it definitely wasn't my ideaand it's been going on way longer than 30 days.

I have been in this grueling, painful, "raw" process all summer. God has been revealing a lot of stuff to me for months, but I wasn't fully grasping or listening. I was weak. I didn't know how to value myself, or honor what God has created me for.

It took some very painful experiences to actually get to a place of being "raw" with Jesus, and letting Him do what He really wants to do in my heart and life.

What do I mean by "raw"? Well let's start with some definitions:

raw  [raw]  
1.uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot. 
2.not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture: raw cotton. 
3.unnaturally or painfully exposed, as flesh, by removal of the skin or natural integument. 
4.painfully open, as a sore or wound. 
5.ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit. 
6.brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

There were a lot more definitions. But I really relate to words like "unnaturally or painfully exposed",  "painfully open", and "ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained"... The stuff I've had to go through personally is excruciating and hard. I feel like I've lost parts of myself, and of my heart, and I have to pray daily that God will completely restore it. Being somewhat "ignorant, inexperienced, and untrained" is also what led me to a lot of this "rawness" I've been experiencing.

But I believe that what Paul talks about happening to himself in 2 Corinthians 12 is what a lot of us will walk through, have walked through, or are currently walking through in some shape or form:
"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. 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."

I'm not sure exactly what this "thorn" was [or "handicap" as other translations refer to it] but it's a reminder of how God will allow things, circumstances, trials, etc, to come into our lifeso that when these storms of life come against us, we can lean on Jesusbecause He is strong. His grace is enough.

Too often we lean not on Him, but on OURSELVES and OTHERS to get through pain and hardships. And that's not how it works.

God has had to strip me down to the raw, nitty-gritty. I'm nowhere near the same person I was a year ago, or even 6 months ago, and I don't ever want to go back. My life, my mentality, my concernsthey might have been much more "safe" and carefree back then...but it was getting me nowhere and I was being deceivednot only by people, but by myself.

Ignorance may be bliss, but I know that the lessons I am learning and the things I am walking through are all a part of a greater purposea greater story. And God is the BEST Author and Storyteller.

This story may have a WHOLE lotta conflict and pain in it, but I know the climax and resolution are gonna be amazingand worth the trials and pain.

I'm still feeling "raw". I'm still learning, struggling, hurting. I forget that He is enough. That He says I am worthy. That there is more. That He is good. I forget sometimes. But then I press in.
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." -Philippians 3:12-14
I was reading a devotional by Christina Caine and I really loved the correlation she made between physical and spiritual health. Here's an excerpt:
"I believe that as Christians we all possess a sincere desire to love God with all our hearts, yet we often unknowingly allow little things to build up inside of us. Slowly, these small subtle obstructions form very large blockages, which over a period of time clog our spiritual arteries and harden our hearts by depriving them of access to their life source. We must do whatever it takes to ensure that these have no place in our lives as followers of Jesus."
My advice: live a RAW life.

[not the WWE kind- I just like the pic] ;)

Let God strip away all the lies, all the dirt, all the grimeeven if it's "painfully open" or "painfully exposed"it'll be worth it in the end. Because raw is realand why be anything but that?

Song of the Day:
Katy Perry- Roar
[my anthem of the moment] :)