My beautiful gift

Today is our 6 month wedding anniversary and so I figured this was a great opportunity to share about this amazing blessing in my life.

About two years ago I was introduced to Austin, my now husband. We started out long distance and learned how to appreciate time together through that. We met through a mutual friend, chatted on facebook for about a month, then I visited him, and honestly we both knew as soon as we met we would always be together. My soul felt peace. Something I had not felt in a while.

While we’ve only been married for 6 months, God has already taught us so much. We’ve had ups and we’ve had downs. We have always, since the beginning, been the kind of couple to get through the gritty right away. To talk things through even if it’s hard and vulnerable. We’ve been the kind of couple that has decided it is better, in the long run, to communicate everything as opposed to stuffing the things that might not be the most enjoyable to talk about.

I’m a master at stuffing things down neatly, in a package all safe and hidden from those around me. But this usually only leads to more conflict and frustration. So I’m learning to avoid stuffing, instead of avoiding conflict.

We both work in the social work field. He’s a child advocate and I’m at the Children’s Shelter. I honestly don’t know how I’d do it without him. It’s hard to find someone who has the same goal in life as you and same passions. This has been such a beautiful gift for me.

I once heard someone describe marriage as a beautiful gift from the Lord that you are constantly and forever unwrapping and discovering.

Marriage isn’t quite what I expected. I grew up like most little girls hoping for her prince charming and the one. But it isn’t about that. It isn’t about finding that one person who will make you fall in love every single day and give you goose bumps every waking moment. It isn’t about the big moments and the overwhelming feelings. Don’t get me wrong, those things happen, for sure. But not every single day, and ya know what? That’s ok! I believe it’s about the small things. It’s about everyday life and sharing that with another. It’s about being there even when it’s hard. It’s knowing that you have a gift to cherish from the Lord and treating it as such. It’s finding the beauty in the simplicity and the growth in the everyday.

We have a long ways to go and many things to learn, about each other and life. But I believe we are on the right track. We are being guided and pushed by the Lord everyday and learning how to keep our marriage focused on Him. Because that is the ultimate purpose of marriage. It is being a testimony and bringing glory to His name. It is praying that through our actions and who we are as a couple, others will see Christ and know His presence. That is what marriage is all about, and that is what we are striving for. ❤

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Talking or walking?

I did a post a while back about homeless people. I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately and how Christians interact with them. You walk up to a homeless person to share the gospel, and more likely than not, they’ll say they know who He is and that they believe just to get the food or money you’re offering them. Can’t say I blame them. If I heard the message as much as they do, I’d probably respond the same way.

This is a problem though. Lots of Christians can talk the talk. They can preach it until they’re blue in the face. But can they walk the walk? It makes me incredibly sad to see what sort of reputation Christianity gets. Most outsiders looking in see hypocrites. They see people who know all the answers (or pretend to) and who freely judge and criticize others who aren’t like them, but when push comes to shove, those same Christians aren’t truly living the life Christ has for us. They aren’t pouring out His love. Just talking about it.

Many people I’ve talked to believe that you should never give a homeless person money in case they use it for drugs or alcohol. So instead, they give them food. They have good intentions, but the root isn’t quite so innocent. The bottom line is, it’s a form of control. What that person does with the money you give them is their decision. All we can do is obey when the Lord calls us to do something. If a person uses that money for what most would consider wasteful, that’s their choice.

Our goal should not be to control the life of another. Our goal should be to share the love of Christ to any and all who come our way. Be that giving them food, money, or even just simply caring enough to talk and listen to their life.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a time for preaching and talking. But, sometimes sharing His love doesn’t involve us talking or preaching. Just listening. And giving. Sometimes, that can speak so much louder than any words we could ever use.

Loss

kids-in-church

I was sitting in church trying to keep my mind focused during the sermon. It has this awful habit of running in every direction at the absolute worst of times. For about a month now it’s been keeping me up into all hours of the night. I sometimes feel like my will and determination are a mom and like my thoughts are her many children. She tries and tries to keep them all in one place, but few things seem to accomplish that desire. Yelling doesn’t work, looks of disappointment are a lost cause, force usually just ends in rebellion. But there she stands, always trying. Maybe one of these days I’ll figure it out ;P

Anywho, I was sitting in church and the subject of ‘loss’ kept coming to mind. So I went ahead and wrote about it.

Loss is something we all experience. It can be through many ways. The death of a loved one, the loss of a lover, the abandonment of a friend, a pet running away, losing ones favorite toy as a child, etc. It’s all loss. Loss tends to come to the same conclusion. Emptiness.

People fill that emptiness in many ways. Retail therapy, drinking, eating, not eating, changing their look, new friends, etc. Just something to fill that dark hole. Anything.

Does it ever really completely fill that hole though? Does one ever truly feel totally satisfied? Maybe. For a time. It might provide a moment of happiness, a small time of blocking it out of your mind. But that’s all it is. A band-aid.

Loss is a lifelong occurrence. Every moment I think ‘Ok. I’m alright. I’m good now.’ something else hits. Another reality  rock comes my way. But each of those stones remind me—–I can’t do this on my own. I need a shoulder to cry on, a hand to steady me when I can’t walk.

But that shoulder and that hand is already out there. God’s got this.He’s always ready and always listening.

The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus Controversy

I kept seeing status updates about this video. At first, I paid no attention and skipped it. You hear the saying “It’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship” until you no longer listen. I agree with the saying, I just feel it’s overused. So, when I saw this video continually being posted, I shrugged and kept going……that is until I started seeing status posts of people who disagree with it. It peaked my curiosity.

What’s my personal opinion? Well, here goes:

I believe that a lot of Christians have a very rule-based view of Christianity. When I think of ‘religion’, I think of legalism.

Being a Christian isn’t about keeping a list of do’s and dont’s. It’s about being filled to the brim with His love and His spirit. It’s about sharing that love with everyone around you.

Now, I do believe that the Lord does ask us to do certain things. But, notice His greatest command:

And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’

-Matthew 22:37-39

Love. That is the greatest commandment, and the second greatest. Must be pretty important if He felt the need to make it the top two. When a person is filled with that love and embraced in His grace, they can’t help but do the things He asks us to do. Those things flow from that love for Him. The only way to have that love for Him is to experience His love for you.

There are two different versions of ‘religion’. There’s the version that Christ talked about. The love-based religion. And then there’s today’s version. What Christians have made it into. And what the guy in the video is talking about, I believe.

I think it starts to bleed into ‘religion’ and ‘legalism’ when someone does the things as a list of to-do’s. A chore list. Not because they truly, and whole-heartedly want to be used in every way for their Lord. ‘Religion’ isn’t about Christ. ‘Religion’ is focused on outward works and appearance. Christ is focused on inward works and inward appearance.

To me, religion is an excuse to put God in that box of rules. He’s this way and that way and handles a situation like this and that, etc. In reality, not one of us can ever fully understand Him, and He can’t be put in a box of our expectations.

I personally love this video and fully support it. I think this guy says a lot of things a lot of Christians need to hear. Does it ruffle some feathers? Make some uncomfortable? Challenge their beliefs? For sure. But is that honestly a bad thing? What’s so wrong about being uncomfortable and being forced to research what exactly you believe and why you believe what you believe?

I feel that too many Christians focus on being comfortable. So I encourage everyone to research. To not be scared of discomfort. To be ok with their beliefs being challenged and asking questions. How else are you going to grow?

Can I be close to you?

moon

Tonight, I took myself out on a date. Because I’m a cheapo, I always sneak my own snacks into a theater. They’re just waaaay too pricey!! So I went and bought my ticket for New Years Eve, (every girl needs a cheesy chick flick here and there) a good hour before it started (I’m always paranoid about movies selling out). Then headed to the closest store that sells snacks and got myself some goodies.

I’ve never been to a movie by myself. To my surprise, I rather enjoyed it.

I originally went to the movies to escape for a bit. Escape from my thoughts and whatnot. But, the movie didn’t provide much relief. In fact, it got me thinking about said whatnot more. 😛

After the movie, I briskly got myself to my car and inside, since tonight is chilly. I stuck my key in the ignition and headed back home. As I was driving home, I was praying. Sometimes I listen to certain songs and they become my prayers. Tonight, it was Bloom by The Paper Kites:

So there I sat, trying to concentrate on the road while crying out my prayer.

I’m still always amazed when the Lord answers. Not even so much in that He answers, but how He answers. He answers in the most beautiful way. Tonight, He once again overwhelmed me.

As I was coming close to my street, I noticed the moon. It’s incredibly large tonight. That’s really an understatement. It’s huge, and a lovely pale yellow. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it look quite like that.

So, there it was, perched comfortably among the stars, looking down at me. Right at that moment, I was singing along with the song ‘can I be close to you?’, and right at that moment, I sat in amazement as I realized the Lord was showing me, through the moon, that He’s right here. Close, and watching out for me.

I felt like a big-eyed girl that is curiously but cautiously staring into the eyes of her lover, as he’s wooing her. As he’s gently drawing her close and whispering beautiful things into her ear. Reminding her that she’s safe in his arms. That he will fight for her no matter what. And that, come what may, he will never, ever, leave her.

So tonight, remember, He’s wooing you. He’s drawing you deeper and deeper into the perfect safety of His arms. No matter what. No matter how crazy you may act, harsh words you may use, annoying things you might do, broken you might be, He will never, ever, leave you.

God’s cry

lonelinessThere’s not really much I can say to add to this. It’s so true. I get so caught up in life and worries and the craziness, that I forget. I forget to just sit and rest in Him. To just enjoy His company and develop a deeper relationship with Him.

Loneliness is something I struggle with a lot. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. Loneliness is an opportunity. Through it, the Lord never fails to show me His undying faithfulness and overwhelming love. I may choose to not receive that love, and so miss out on a beautiful moment, but He has yet to give up on me.

New Year! New you!

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2012 Folks. Crazy, right? I went to a dear friend’s house last night to watch movies and play video games…..or more like watch video games being played. I attempted…..and failed….epically. I’m used to old games, not these newer ones! I sat on the couch yelling at the screen and controller because both refused to do what I wanted ;P ! Silly, stupid little things.

I noticed all the new year resolutions posted all over facebook and twitter. So many resolutions are to change a person completely. Less of this, more of that, lose this, lose that, ect. But, let’s just be honest for a second. Does anyone really ever keep their resolutions? January first parks itself in our path and we’re ready. We go at our goals full force. Nothing can stop us. All we need is a cape to make the image complete. But then, those days turn into weeks and those weeks into months. Life hits and challenges arise. Old habits find themselves back in the equation.

I can’t help but think, what’s the mentality behind the resolutions? Or, deeper still, what’s the mentality behind the things we’re trying to change? Getting to the root of the problem is the only way to solve the problem. There’s a reason we are the way we are. There’s a reason a person never exercises, never loses that extra weight, drinks all the time, rarely goes to church, etc. A person can stop for a time. They can gather every ounce of determination they have, but it will only go so far. It can’t last forever. It’s just a band-aid.

I’m not sure a person can really completely get over an addiction or problem unless they figure out exactly what it is that started it. Once the root is found, one must allow the Lord to heal and mend it. It’s a painful process. Digging out those old, dusty boxes you’ve stored away in your heart and going through them is never easy. But, it’s a process of such tender and overwhelming love from the hand of God. It’s such a beautiful mess of healing and growing.

This year, I don’t have a resolution. Just an anticipation. 2011 was nothing like what I imagined, and I doubt 2012 will be either. I watched the Lord work in so many different ways last year. I grew in so many different areas and experienced Him on a completely new level. Who knows what 2012 will bring! All I know is, God’s got this. I’ll probably learn much more, and hopefully grow more. We’ll see 🙂

Happy 2012!

Legalistic Bondage

Alrighty people, here’s the biggie I’ve been working on! Enjoy 🙂

I wasn’t raised in a very legalistic home, but I knew many who were. I found that, (opposite to what the parents were expecting and hoping), through their control and rules, the children usually ended up going in the complete opposite direction of what was originally taught to them. Interesting….

I’m going to focus on just a few areas of legalism. It’s a ginormous subject that would require more than just one blog post to cover, but it’s a subject that weighs very heavily on my heart. I’m going to cover these specific questions according to my personal experience and observation:

  • What exactly is legalism?
  • What is the point of legalism?
  • Why do so many Christians feel the need to enforce it?

Legalism, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is a “strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code”. Ok. Great. So basically….rules. What exactly is the point of rules? Again, to go to a professional resource, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary says “a prescribed guide for conduct or action”. The second definition for Rules is “the laws or regulations prescribed by the founder of a religious order for observance by its members”. Hmmm…I find it really interesting that a religious definition is the second definition. Maybe that’s because most people view being ‘religious’ as a list of “do’s” and “dont’s”. So, in a nutshell, legalism is a set of rules placed by religious people to keep themselves more comfortable, less swayed towards temptation (or so they hope), and basically a way to control themselves and others.

Legalism, as stiff-necked as it sounds, provides a lot of comfort. It helps a person know exactly what he/she can and cannot do. It can be a security blanket. It puts things in black and white with no gray areas. But life is full of gray. Some things are black and white, for sure, but some aren’t so easy. I think legalism can also be protection. Some parents ground their household in it to protect their family. So, out of love and care. But that also isn’t right. It’s not allowing the children to grow up learning how to make decisions on their own. I can justify rules when children are small, but there comes a time when you have to let go and trust that you have done your best. I know that I’m not a parent yet, so I’m sure when I become one my view might change…..but…..I don’t know. Maybe it won’t. ANYWHO! There I go, off on a rabbit trail ;p……

When you talk to a non-believer about Christianity, most of the time, their fear is how much they’re going to ‘have to’ give up. Ditch the alcohol, swearing, clubbing, etc. Why is that one of their first responses? The example many Christians give is that when you accept the Lord as your Savior, you have to give up everything of this world and all your desires, to follow Him. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. I agree. We, as believers, die to ourselves daily. But, the issue is in the root and follow-through of this belief. When you set yourself a rule, such as, ‘because I am a Christian, I will no longer drink alcohol’ you become a slave to that rule, which is really being a slave to yourself and your flesh, because you are the one who set that rule. Many Christians set rules such as this because it is comfortable, not because it is biblical. They place themselves in bondage to legalism. I’m not saying to throw the towel in and go get drunk. Hear me out. Making rules for ourselves will only lead to bondage and misery and it will end in failure. It is self-focused, not Christ-focused.

Many believer’s even focus on laws of the old covenant. But Romans 7 is filled with reasons why those rules, now that Christ has fulfilled the law, are putting us in bondage. Paul, in Romans 7:4-6 clearly states this by saying:

“Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of theSpirit and not in oldness of the letter.”

So, because of the death and resurrection of Christ, we are dead to the Law. In fact, it even says sinful passion were aroused by the Law! Telling someone “no” automatically makes them says “YES!”.

Ok now, let’s back up a bit. What was the point of the Law? To show us our inability and inadequacy without Christ. In Romans 10:4, Paul says:

“For Christ is the end of the Law [the limit at which it ceases to be, for the Law leads up to Him Who is the fulfillment of its types, and in Him the purpose which it was designed to accomplish is fulfilled. That is, the purpose of the Law is fulfilled in Him] as the means of righteousness (right relationship to God) for everyone who trusts in and adheres to and relies on Him.”

(This is out of the Amplified Bible. It gives a bit more detailed of an explanation, which I appreciate).

So there, Paul clearly explains that the Law was there to lead up to Christ. To lead up to the glory and miracle of His death and resurrection. I think so many people focus on the miracle of the resurrection, but forget that more went on there than just Him coming back from the dead. I’m not suggesting that it isn’t a miraculous happening. It is. Without a doubt. But we can’t ignore what also happened. It fulfilled the Law, which means, we are no longer slaves to the law. We entered into a completely new covenant. A covenant of freedom.

So, now back to legalism. When we place legalism on ourselves, we are placing ourselves back under the law. That same law that Christ died to free us from. No, we may not make for ourselves the same rules that He did, but it’s still for the same reason. To work harder towards righteousness, to please Him more, to become more like Christ, etc. But again, that’s the old covenant. He dwells inside of us. It’s not so much about being like Him as it is allowing Him to live through you.

When a person is placed under so much bondage, they grow weary and can’t help but break free! We long for freedom. Why put ourselves under such tiring bondage when we can be free? Christ came so that we might have freedom.

If you want to be respected

What’s a girl got to do to get respect in this world? This is a question I ask myself occasionally. In a world where few people respect each other and where most things have become socially acceptable, that can seem near to impossible.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (author of Crime and Punishment) expressed:

“If you want to be respected by others the great thing is to respect yourself.  Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.”

Which is exactly what I have found to be true. But honestly, how many people respect themselves? Very few, from what I have seen. It’s sad to watch people allow themselves to be treated with disrespect. To hear that they honestly believe they’re not worth much and so, they’ll take whatever treatment they get, so long as they feel accepted and loved.  emma

I’ve never been a huge Harry Potter fan, but I respect this girl. Why? Because she demands respect. She doesn’t follow the social norm of dressing like a slut and acting like a brat. She takes a stand on respecting herself, therefore making others respect her.

I lacked greatly in self-respect until about 5 months ago. I’m sure I still lack somewhat, but, honestly, realizing who you are in Christ is the key. I found that in Him I am worth it. I’m not someone who should be walked all over, used, and treated with no respect. I’m a child of the Most High, the beloved of Christ. I used to care so much about what everyone thought of me, but I can never please everyone, I need only focus on pleasing my Lord. Once that went through my system and hit my heart, things changed drastically.

Who cares if self-respect isn’t “in style”, it’s a timeless beauty that everyone should possess.

“If the Lord fails me at this time, it will be the first time.”

~George Muller

stree

This is a late night post….which isn’t typical for me, especially since I usually post while nannying or in the morning. But here I am. Sitting up in bed, trying to calm my mind by listening to Balmorhea. Since I’m studying natural health and my family are strong believers in natural health, I already took a natural, calming herbal remedy. But…still…here I am. Still exhausted, but very much awake. This has been a typical night for me for the past week. I lay in bed, eyes closed, for at least 2 hours….thinking. Always thinking. It’s like, no matter what I do, my mind goes back to the same things, same fears, same anxieties.

As I’ve been laying here, I realized, I’m just stressing over basically nothing. Well, nothing in the span of eternity. It’s something for me lol.

There’s a pretty strong possibility that I’ve found a place to move to (I still live with my parents). That’s a huge step to me. A step forward towards greater independence and growing up. It’s exciting! But so beyond stressful.

I lay in bed, tossing and turning, while ideas and thoughts and concerns wage war in my mind. Who knew there was so much to consider and think about when one moves out! ;P  If only I had a ‘mental activity’ off switch!

Why do we stress so much? I see people everywhere who stress and panic over….well…..dumb reasons. Stress is a lack of trust. It’s a lack of trusting that your worries and fears are important to the Lord, and that He can handle them much better than anyone. Even yourself. At least this is the reason for me.

I will admit, I can be a bit controlling at times (something the Lord has been breaking me of haha). I know what I want most of the time and how I want it done. So to give what I want over to someone else, even when that someone is God, feels like death sometimes. My hands are tightly clenched over the ‘treasure’ and my fingers have to be pryed open…..one by one…..until my jewel is exposed.

Tonight, the Lord has been holding me close. There are times, when I can just feel it. Not in the way a person holds another person, but in the way it feels to be emotionally held. Emotionally protected and loved. As I lay here trying to make my mind shut up, He gently whispers “Beloved, I’ve got this. I brought you this far. I’m not just going to drop you now. I love you completely and want the absolute best for you. Let Me take care of you. Let Me hold you and show you just how much I love you and show you My glory”. Then He brought to mind Matthew 6:25-32.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”

I think learning to let go and trust is probably a life-long lesson. George Muller has been a constant inspiration in my life ever since I was young. His consistent example of trust has been so encouraging.

“The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”

~George Muller

This post has ended up being much longer than anticipated! So, I’m going to end it now and try to get some sleep. I’ll leave you with this last quote by George Muller:

“If we desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and therefore, through trial, be strengthened.”