Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I’m gonna be real honest right now. I’m struggling. I don’t even really know what I plan to write… I just need to. Writing is how I work through things. It’s how I think best. I have a journal, and a prayer journal, but I felt the need to write here instead. 

I feel like a big storm cloud that is brewing but it’s not the right time to let it all loose yet. This season of life has me confused, and I don’t like to feel confused. I like to have a plan, at least a simple one. It doesn’t have to be detailed by any means… It just has to help to get me to the end goal. However, right now, I don’t even know what the end goal is. The whole semester of school, I was doing really good. I definitely had some things to work through, but I was extremely motivated and eager to grow. Things changed about two weeks before the semester ended and it felt like everything went downhill from there. It’s an exaggeration, but I felt like the world was crumbling around me and I was just reaching out to grab on to something, but only getting air. I feel like I am drowning. I know that God will bring me through, and I know that He has a plan, but it’s been a rough few weeks. 

Over the semester, I had three of my closest friends lose very close family members. This is the most experience I’ve ever had with death before and I don’t handle death well. Not only that, but I don’t know how to deal with grieving people either. I’ve never dealt with a close death before, so I can’t relate to them, which I fear makes me come across as careless. I’m not, I care more than they probably know, I just don’t know how to respond. I also have learned that people grieve differently, so they need different things at different times, and what may have been comforting to one person is offensive to another. I also have this problem, where I feel like I need to fix things, but you can’t fix death, and honestly, you can’t even fix a person who is mourning. It’s so hard for me to step back and realize that all I can really do is be there to listen and to pray.

I’ve had to deal with people moving away, and with relationships changing; two things I don’t handle well at all. My brother is getting married, so we’re adding a new sister into the family. This is a good thing, and I fully support them, but our family dynamics are changing, so that’s another thing to get used to and learn. There’s just a lot of change going on at once.

One of the biggest things that I’ve been dealing with is the realization that things aren’t always the way they seem. I had a conversation a few months ago with my best friend about how sometimes you think that someone sees you one way, but they actually see you a totally different way. I recently dealt with this in a bigger way than I would’ve wanted. It was really hard, but it also slapped me in the face and kicked my butt into gear to change some things. Some things were said that really hurt me, and caused a lot of doubt in my mind about who I am. Satan took hold and used it to make me feel condemned and unloved. It put strain on a relationship because I felt lied to. A relationship that I thought was good, turned out to have some underlying issues that were not being addressed. It made me realize just how important communication is. It also reminded me that I may think that I’m doing alright in a relationship, but they may not see that the same way. Things cannot begin to change if they go unnoticed. I had some issues to address in myself and the way I handled things within the relationship and had caused more hurt than I had even realized. My intention is not to make the other person look bad, but to point out that I let words cause wounds and I let those wounds fester because I was bitter. It’s much easier to get an infection in an open wound than one that has been flushed out and had time to heal. Because I left the wound open, Satan infected it and healing is taking longer than it should have if I had dealt with it properly.

I feel like I am going through this all because there are some things I need to deal with and lessons I need to learn. I feel stuck, but not in the typical way. I just feel restless because I know that something big is going to happen soon, but I have to get through this hard stuff first. I’m between a rock and a hard place, but I’m also between the Rock and a hard place. One of my roommates for the summer, Tauri, has a saying, “It’s when you hit rock bottom that you realize that Jesus IS the Rock at the bottom.”  Sometimes I feel like I’m going backwards, but another friend made a good point when I said that to her once. She said, “The good thing about going backwards is you know you have somewhere to go forward.”

This post is a bit different from my others. It’s less of an encouraging post and more like a journal entry. I don’t know why I felt like I needed to write here, but maybe somebody will get something out of my ramblings. God’s not finished yet. 

Alabaster


I know it’s been a while. I’ve been really busy with school and life and tons of spiritual growth over the past three months. I have started posts a few times but then get sidetracked and don’t finish them, ultimately deciding not to share them. However, I’ve been learning a lesson lately and decided to share it, because I feel like I’m probably not the only one who needs to hear it. 

Have you ever been in a service in which the pastor points out that if something is repeated in Scripture that means it is important and something we should pay attention to, especially if it is repeated three times. Well, that seems to be how God has been speaking to me lately. Apparently I don’t listen well the first time or something… In this specific instance, it took three times before I finally got the picture and broke down, and then a fourth time as a little reminder afterward. 

Do you know the story of Mary and Martha? Specifically, Mary. Well, in Luke 10:38-42, it talks about how Jesus went to the home of the sisters Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. Martha was a woman with a servant’s heart and wanted to make sure everything was prepared and well taken care of before she sat down to listen to Jesus, but Mary realized that it was more of a priority to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him. They only had so much time with Him. One sister chose to spend her time doing work and the other chose to spend every minute she got with Him. There is another story that highlights Mary’s character again. Mark 14:2-9 tells about how the disciples, Jesus and a few others were dining together and Mary came and once again, knelt at Jesus’ feet. She had an alabaster flask of very costly perfume and proceeded to break the jar and pour out all she had on Jesus’ head. This would have been a huge waste, especially regarding how expensive it was. But Mary didn’t care. All she wanted to do was worship Jesus, so she gave it all.

Our pastor preached a message on this passage and reminded us that this is how our worship should be. God used this at first to speak to me about how I was worshiping, because that’s what I needed to see first. But the more important lesson here was when He started to show me how I was serving other people. 

I have described myself several times as the most selfish self-sacrificing person I know, but I didn’t really bother to try to fix it. I figured that as long as I was serving other people, with a happy heart, I was cool. 

Yeah.. Not cool.  

So, through a few sermons, God moments and a conflict with my roommate, I managed to begin to see the error of my ways. One of the best ways to describe myself is a people pleaser. If you are familiar with Gary Smalley’s animal personalities, I am a Golden Retriever/Beaver. I want nothing more than for people to be happy, but I’m also a hard worker and will do what it takes to get the job done. I am also HIGHLY empathetic. These all can work very well together. I am very good at sensing people’s needs and knowing what needs to be done, and then taking action. But, here lies my problem… I do this all selfishly. See, it makes me FEEL good to take care of people’s needs. What God showed me was that I was serving others because it felt good. I was giving to them because of what I needed. In the instance of my roommate, I had given all that I had and I was exhausted and began to desire some form of payment back. I hadn’t truly given freely. I thought I had, but deep down, there was more that I needed. She was in a place where she honestly couldn’t give back, so I was forced to give without selfish motives, except they were still there… After this was brought to my attention I realized how selfish I had been and the verse came to mind in Philippians 2:3-4 where it says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” At that point I had realized what I had done. I was giving, and giving with a happy heart and good intentions for the other person, but I was giving because it made ME feel good. So, I have begun to evaluate how I serve, and trying to serve for the sake of others rather than for myself. The crazy thing is that He reminded me what it’s like to do it the right way the other day and how much better I feel when I give to them rather than to me. It’s so closely related but not the same. I took a friend out for coffee, because she was having a bad day and I knew she needed to escape.  But my mindset wasn’t, “If I make her happy, then I’ll be happy.” It was, “I want to serve her and help her have a better day.” Now, I still got the same result, which was happiness for both of us, but I was only seeking her’s. Mine was just a bonus.

I’m not saying I’m there yet, but you can’t fix an issue if you don’t realize it’s even there. I just want to learn to be more like Mary, in both my worship and in my self-sacrifice.

Walls


I’m laying in bed this morning, unable to continue sleeping, even though I should be taking advantage of the chance to sleep in today. I can’t stop thinking about what God is doing right now, not only in my life, but in the lives of my fellow students. This semester has already been amazing, and we’re only one week in. This is more than a school. So much more than I even thought. I’ve been around the church for 14 years of my life, and I’ve been around JRLC since its beginning, and even before that when it was Master’s Commission. So I have seen the changes in people as they go through this program, but I never expected this for me. I wanted to share my testimony and go over some of this things I’m learning right now. I’m gonna be real, but maybe it will be an encouragement to someone. 

I was born in Arizona in July of 1995. I am the first born of 5, one brother and three sisters. My dad came from a conservative Christian family, he went to church every week and he can’t remember ever not being a Christian. My mom came from a white collar, slightly more liberal family. Her dad was a lawyer and her mom was a teacher. They went to church, but they weren’t believers. My parents met in high school and fell in love. They got married, and neither of their parents approved of the marriage. My mom was saved the day I was born and now is one of the strongest believers I know. So, I was raised in church and in a Christian home. I believe there were both positives and negatives to this. The positives were that I knew the Bible, I knew truth. I was in church every week. My parents love me and they love each other. But, the negative of this is that it was all I had ever known. I could tell you every Bible story, I could tell you the Gospel, I knew all the right answers. As far as I knew, I was a Christian and had been since I was born. I thought that since I believed everything I heard and readily accepted the Bible as absolute truth that I was saved. 

We moved to Missouri when I was 8. The first church we ever went to was James River Church (James River Assembly at the time.) We all fell in love with the church. We came from a very spiritually dead church in Arizona, so to attend an alive and spirit filled Pentecostal church was a new experience for us. I become involved in Missionettes in my elementary years. If you aren’t familiar with the AG church at all, Missionettes and Royal Rangers is basically like a Christian version of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. In junior high, two different things had a huge affect on who I am. I wasn’t allowed to go to the youth program, and frankly, I had no interest in going anyway. I hated the drama that came from people my age. So, instead, we found this class for kids my age that met in the main building. The class was called Metamorphosis (try getting a bunch of junior high kids to learn how to say metamorphosis…) The lady that lead it, her name is Jodi. She is one of the most crazy, but godly women I know, and her heart for serving God is just incredible. I don’t remember anything she taught on, but she poured into my life big time. She invested in me in a way no one else had ever done. I was extremely introverted, and often got looked over because I never spoke up, but Jodi took the time to notice me. She is a huge part of the reason I am where I am today.

The other thing that had such a big affect on me was the church’s junior high choir. I can’t sing well at all, but I loved choir. It was my favorite thing in the world. Every year the choir took a trip out of state to preform at inner city churches. The first year I went, I was 11 and we went to Oklahoma City. I was scared to go. I hated being away from home at all, and never went to any church camps because of that, but this felt different to me. As scared as I was, I wanted to go. It was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had. Of course, I know I was only 11, and I know there’s emotional highs that come into play with any sort of event like that, but still, God moved. The last church we sang at was the youth pastor’s home church. We attended a youth service before we sang in the main service. In the youth service, during worship, they sang this song that proclaimed the Gospel in a way I hadn’t heard it before. And suddenly it all made sense to me. I finally understood the significance of what Jesus did for me, and I realized that there’s more to Christianity than just knowing the facts, there’s a relationship. And I didn’t have that yet. I started crying and praying. When I came home that weekend I was the happiest person alive. Mom could instantly tell that I had changed. I was on top of the world. And to this day I don’t remember a time when I was happier than I was then.

Of course, that doesn’t stick around, because we’re human. I struggled for a few years after that, but I was continually seeking after Christ. The age of 15 was the worst for me. I thought I was great, I thought I was happy. But, looking back, I was completely blind to reality. I became friends with a woman who was 5 years older than me. But I took advantage of her friendship and began to rely on her more than God. I idolized her. One day she told me that we couldn’t be friends anymore. I was hurt extremely bad. One of my biggest fears in life is people leaving me. And because of this, because of my fear, I get too close to people in a desperate attempt to hold onto them. But, doing this is the very thing that pushes people away. I struggled with being angry and heartbroken over the relationship I lost for way too long. At first, I didn’t understand what I had done wrong. So I was just angry with her. A few years down the road, I realized what I had done and was no longer angry at her, but at myself. I apologized to her for how angry I had been and I forgave her for what she had done to me. I thought it was over. But I tore myself up over how bad I screwed up. I didn’t offer myself any grace at all. I didn’t even let myself have any friends because I was so afraid of messing up again. Only recently have I forgiven myself. But I still have that fear of pushing people away and being the world’s worst friend. But God is teaching me that He is the only one I can truly count on to never leave. He is the only one who will satisfy whatever desire I keep seeking in relationships.

God called me to JRLC in May of 2016. If you want to know how that came about, there is an earlier blog post about it. But basically, I homeschooled all the way through high school. I had always felt dumb when it came to school. I was horrible at math, and I often found myself comparing myself  to my brother, who is 18 months younger than me. The only thing I ever felt good at was writing. I love to write. Clearly^. I graduated a year early because I hated school and wanted to be done, so I got two years done in one year. Then I worked for four years. God called me here. I applied, took the SAT very last minute, got a good enough score, and got accepted. My plan was to come in the fall semester, but things didn’t work out. Which turned out for the better anyway. It gave me time to save up and get prepared. And little did I know that God had a lot He wanted to do in me through conversations with a close friend during the month of Decmeber. Walls that needed to be broken down that I didn’t even know that I had built. 

I had been praying for revival in my heart for a few years. I have felt very stagnant for a while. It had been so long since I had been so overwhelmed by the presence of God that I cried and I craved to experience that again. I didn’t realize that in order to move past the point I was at, that I needed to have those walls broken down. It hurts. Boy, does it hurt. And I have cried so much since the start of school. I have cried more this week than I have cried in probably 3 years. I’m an extremely emotional person, but I don’t like people to see me cry and I’m afraid to cry. But the more you bottle it in, the harder it is to let it out. And that release is good. I’ve needed that release for so long. I’m emotionally exhausted. I’m worn out. But God isn’t finished with me yet. It hurts right now, but it’s a good hurt. A healing hurt. I compared it to working out yesterday. When you finish working out, your muscles hurt. They hurt because you’ve torn them. You put little rips in them. But what happens with those tears? They get rebuilt. And when they are rebuilt, they are stronger than they were before. 

We took the CliftonStrengths test at the start of school. My highest strength was empathy, which means I can feel people’s emotions and take them on as my own. It’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I know when people are hurting and I can take on that hurt in order to understand them, share their burden and sympathize with them. It’s a curse because I can feel more than one person’s emotions at one time and feel the need to bear everyone’s burdens. It gets very overwhelming at times. But I have a feeling God is going to use this gift this semester. I know that God has called me here. He has made that clear to me this week. I’m excited to see how I grow. I’m really excited for two of my classes, Psychology of Healthy Relationships and Spiritual Formation and Discipline. God’s gonna move this semester. It’s a season of growth and change.

And a Happy New Year


Everyone is complaining about how awful 2016 was. It bothers me that they aren’t taking the time to see the good little things that happened. So, I thought I would take the time to go through my journal entries and remember the little things that happened that made this year worth living for me. 

January:

  • Started working out.
  • On January 24th I wrote, “I have big hopes for 2016. And in my gut I feel like God’s really going to grow me, but it’s going to force me out of my comfort zone. I think He’s also going to use me in other girl’s lives.”
  • Mom and I got our passports.
  • I followed God’s prompting and invited Victoria to Lifegroup.

February:

  • Met my best friend.
  • Spoke in front of the whole church on a Wednesday night.

March:

  • Went to Arkansas with Hannah (first road trip with a friend!)
  • Went to Nashville.
  • Started CrossFit.

April:

  • Went to the circus.
  • Became best friends with Ashton.
  • Took a road trip to St. Louis with Ashton. Went to the zoo and Castlewood.
  • Almost started dating someone. Even though it didn’t work out, I still learned from it and don’t regret it. 
  • Applied to JRLC.
  • Did my first Color Run with Jessi.

May:

  • Watched some friends graduate from JRLC.
  • Got my first bouquet of flowers (as a goodbye gift, not romantically)
  • Found my Highschool transcript (it may not seem like a big deal, but it was)
  • Was a stagehand for Guys and Dolls.
  • Saw an amazing display of fireflies that I’m pretty sure God put on just for me.

June:

  • Rivver turned 3. (How???)
  • Took my SAT test.
  • Got second place at the Doctor Who Trivia Night.

July: 

  • Got a raise at work.
  • Turned 21.
  • The court ruled in our favor on our property.
  • Went to St. Louis to see Ashton and for my birthday. Went to the City Museum and had a blast.
  • Got my SAT scores back.
  • Officially accepted into JRLC.

August:

  • Got my first tattoo.
  • Had lunch with one of my childhood mentors, Jodi.

September: 

  • Took AJ’s senior pictures.
  • Went on a staff retreat with my team from work. Made good friends with Emily.
  • Took a trip to the U.K. 🙂 Made LOTS of memories and saw lots of beautiful sights.

October:

  • Worked two back to back DFL conferences and survived.
  • Got pulled over for the first time and got my first speeding ticket.
  • Prayed for the sick for the first time (and wasn’t scared)

November:

  • Got my class schedule.
  • Voted in my first President Election.
  • Went to the Rend Collective concert with Ashton (which was AMAZING)

December:

  • Went to my first murder mystery dinner as Ima Surva. 
  • Found out my roommates. Kendall, Kaitland and Sierra. #thegirlsin208
  • Lost 20+ lbs in a year. 
  • My best friend came to see me for Christmas. 
  • God revealed a lot of stuff to me and helped me to work through some past issues and things I had been holding on to. 
  • Was filled with the Holy Spirit for the first time. 

2017:

I am have been praying for wisdom and discernment as I enter the new year. Last year I prayed for faith and it was increased drastically and I don’t regret it one bit. I worked hard to get where I am today. I have changed a lot from January 1st 2016 to December 31st 2016. I’m not the same person. 

This year I will be stepping out in faith and starting school at JRLC. It’s a scary, huge step for me, but one that I believe that God has called me to. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid. But God’s got this. 

God has taught me SO MUCH during just the month of December. Like, I’m pretty sure He crammed a year’s worth of lessons into this one month. It’s been kind of scary. But the change has been good. I just know that He’s got huge plans for me in the coming season. And they’re gonna be much bigger than I ever expected. I look forward to growing deeper with Him. It’s gonna be a great year. 






 

The Giver of Great Gifts


I am a gift-giver by nature. I LOVE to give gifts. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I’m pretty sure I even annoy my friends with how often I give them gifts. It’s how I show love most comfortably. I know that material things don’t matter, but I put so much thought into each gift I give. It’s something that’s important to me. It just comes naturally to me. I remember little facts about people; silly things like what type of chocolate they like (or the fact that they don’t like chocolate at all) or that they love fuzzy socks (or that they despise them with all that’s within them). 

Strangely enough, God has been using this love of giving gifts to teach me some things about receiving gifts. 

You see, receiving is often much harder for me. Something I really struggle with is when someone offers to buy me food. I don’t know why that’s so hard, but it. is. so. hard. It makes me feel like crying any time anyone offers to buy my food. I’m often blown away by the fact the fact that they care enough about me to feed me. I honestly don’t understand why it’s so hard for me to accept it though. Like, it doesn’t make sense to me at all. It’s just food. My body needs food. Sooo…. why? I dunno, but it’s a thing. And God keeps making people buy me food, forcing me to accept it… 

This Christmas, I bought gifts for some of my friends, and most of them weren’t expecting them. I got so tired of hearing, “You didn’t have to get me anything. I don’t know what to get you now.” I didn’t understand why they couldn’t just accept my gift and realize that I just wanted to give them a gift, not that I wanted or expected anything in return. It bothered me that they felt like they had to “repay” my gift with another gift. Then one day, a friend that I hadn’t planned on getting anything for, gave me a gift. It wasn’t a Christmas gift. It was just because. And I immediately felt bad because I hadn’t planned on getting her anything. I felt like I had to “repay” her gift. I realized what I did there though, and forced myself to just accept the gift that was given to me with a grateful heart. 

I have the hardest time, when someone gives me a gift, understanding why they care enough about me to go out of their way to give or make me something. I don’t deserve anything. I don’t feel like I’m a good friend. But I have to realize that sometimes people just love you. They love you and are willing to see past your faults. And sometimes, they give you gifts to show that love, like I do for them. 

God revealed something new to me tonight through a friend. She brought up the Scripture Matthew 7:9-11 which says, “What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” God gives us good gifts. But what I didn’t realize until tonight was that I have the same problem with accepting gifts from God that I do from people. Trusting God through pain and trials is easy for me. I don’t know why, it’s just something I don’t have a problem doing. I’ve seen Him bring me through tough times and I’ve seen Him bring others through tough times. I trust Him in the darkness so easily. Yeah, there’s times when I am afraid, but you can be afraid and still trust God. I can be holding His hand all the way, but my heart will still be pounding out of my chest. But I’m His daughter. I know He won’t let me go. So then, why do I have such a hard time receiving the blessings He has for me and wants to give me simply because He loves me? I am not worthy of this. Why does He give me gifts when I’m not worthy? Why do I feel like I have to “repay” His gifts? To quote my friend, “To not receive His gifts is to not fully receive Him.” Um. Ouch. 

I love when God reveals new things to me. Sometimes it’s painful, but it’s always good. He loves me. He is willing to see past my faults. He cares deeply about me. And He is the Giver of Great Gifts. 

Down in the Valley


I started this blog with the intention of sharing the things I was learning or struggling with. But I kinda hit a very stagnant period shortly after I began it. I got swept away in the busyness of life. I’m preparing for school, which starts in less than a month. I’ve been working what feels like non-stop with events nearly every week since Designed For Life which was in October. The times I have been home, I’ve spent sleeping. Even if I intend to do something, I end up falling asleep on the couch. I know it’s only going to get harder once I start school. In the midst of all this busyness, I’ve lost sight of what is most important. God. 

I thought that working in a church would make me grow closer to God, and in some ways that has been true, but I find myself having to work harder to make sure I spend time with Him. I know, it doesn’t exactly add up. But when you practically live at the church, it becomes normal. Worship becomes normal, sermons become normal… It becomes a bit mundane. Which is saying a lot because my church is NOT mundane. In fact, a phrase said often is, “The only constant here is change.” And that is very true. Yet somehow, it happens. Even change becomes normal and you start just chugging along blindly. Which is what I’ve come to.

I sit in church and start to fall asleep… I sing worship with a numb spirit… I forget to have personal reflection and prayer time when I get home… I find myself saying, “I just don’t have time.” or, “I’m too tired.” But there should be no excuses. God should be number one. Period. And the “I don’t have time.” part is a lie. I do have time, because I have time to spend hours mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. I could even forgo a nap if I really needed to. But I’m too lazy. Too lazy to make time for God. What? Wait. There’s a problem there. God made time for me. He created me. He took the time to find me the perfect parents and siblings and friends. He took the time to grow me and nurture me. He cared enough about me to send His Son to take my place on the cross. And I can’t give Him a few minutes of my day? How incredibly selfish of me.

I started to realize this problem last week. Some issues were brought up by a friend that caused me to question the status of my heart. I realized that I forgot about God. I was too focused on the things around me and sleep. (I love sleep! Sleep is my favorite!) The first concious effort I made to change this was to put my phone in my purse during church, instead of leaving it on my lap. I use it for my Bible, but honestly, it’s a distraction. And they put the verses on the screen anyway, so I was fine. It forced me to pay attention. And then, on Saturday, another issue was brought up. This one was harder for me. A lot harder. My best friend told me that she didn’t need me. I was extremely hurt and offended. But she told me to listen to what she had to say. So I did, as angry tears strolled down my face. She reminded me that the only thing she NEEDS is Jesus. Everything else is simply a want. She wants me in her life but she does not NEED me. I am not essential to her existence. I was upset for a while, but as the day went on, reality began to set in. I realized the truth of what she said and conviction set in. My flesh hated what she said, but that’s not how it should be. Jesus is the only thing we should need. The only thing we should rely on. I began to question my priorities. Do I really believe that Jesus is the only thing I need? Am I confusing my wants and needs? 

Today’s sermon was simply further confirmation that I need to be reconsidering my priorities. Pastor John preached on Mark 12:18-27 when the scribe asked Jesus what the most important commandment was. Jesus says there are two. The second one is to love your neighbor as yourself, but it was the first one that hit home. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

He went into depth, explaining what each of these meant:

  • Love the Lord with all your heart: the core of your being and the place of your affection. 
  • Love the Lord with all your soul: your inner being, your desires and emotions.
  • Love the Lord with all your mind: your intellect, your thoughts and your will.
  • Love the Lord with all your strength: your physical body, physical capacity and physical energy.

I realized that I simply wasn’t there. It’s not that I’ve stopped believing in Him. In fact, my faith in Him is better than ever before. But I had to be honest with myself and realize the hard truth; He wasn’t my first priority. And that needs to change.

It won’t change overnight. It’s a constant work in progress, but He’s been waiting for me to come back to Him. And I am ready.

Alright, so that’s what I’m struggling with. Now, on to what I’m learning… (I considered making a second post, but it all ties together, so hang with me.)

As I was driving home from church, I was talking on the phone to a close friend, and we were discussing what we got out of the sermon. I told her that I needed to make God my first priority again and her advice was to start today. I heeded that advice because I knew she was right. The first thing I did when I got home was pull out my Bible. I wrote down the notes I took from the sermon and then remembered something I wanted to study from a previous sermon. I flipped to Romans 7 and 8. I recently learned that Romans 7 and 8 are supposed to be read together, rather than on their own. I know, it’s mind-blowing. But for me, it actually was. I have Judah Smith to thank for this revelation. Anyway, Romans 7 is this part where Paul says something and all Christians simply go, “Same.” And it’s this, “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.”‭‭(Romans‬ ‭7:14-18‬ ‭NASB‬)

Okay, we’re all familiar with this, right? We convince ourselves that we are going to change, or do something right for once. But what happens almost immediately after? We do the very thing we swore we wouldn’t do. And then we feel like a bigger loser than we did in the first place because we truly didn’t want to do it. At least, that’s how it goes for me. And unless I miss my guess, it goes that way for you too. Why? Because we are sinners of the flesh, just like Paul said we are. But what I saw this time was this, “If I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” In other words, if we are in Christ, our spirit is not sinning, but our flesh. 

Chapter 7:14-25 can be kind of depressing, albeit true, if just left to itself. The best part comes in chapter 8. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law [the Mosaic Law] could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:1-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

So, there is freedom in Christ, because even though our sinful flesh is dead and impossible to serve God with, our spirit is alive. Yes, we will continue to sin, because we are stuck in our flesh-prisons, but our spirits seek righteousness. And that’s what counts.

Faith and New Journeys

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” a question asked to every child at some point in their lives. That was a question I never had an answer to. All of my friends had dreams and aspirations: firefighters, ballerinas, construction workers… I had nothing to offer. I hadn’t found my calling yet. My hobbies were horses and writing, but I didn’t want to be a writer and I didn’t want to be a vet. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, besides be a wife and mother.

I was homeschooled all way through high school. I loved being homeschooled, but I didn’t really like school, especially math and science. When I was 15 (a sophomore) I asked Mom what I needed to get done to be able to graduate. She gave me a list of work to get done to be able to graduate in two years. I got it done in one year, because I just wanted to be done, so I worked overtime on homework, including many late night study sessions with my nemesis, math. I graduated in April of 2012, just 3 months shy of turning 17. I had no plans to go to college. I briefly considered going to College of the Ozarks to study agriculture, but I was just so done with with school that I quickly lost interest. I saw no point in going thousands of dollars into debt to get a degree I would never use. So, I just worked for a few years, finding a passion in being a barista. (My life goal is to make people happy, and you know what makes people really happy? Coffee.)

In November of 2014, I started volunteering for the Live Production team at James River Church. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t think it would be “my thing,” but I decided to give it a shot, because I needed to be involved somewhere. I shadowed the lyrics operator for two weeks and they threw me on lyrics the third week, because I had learned so fast. I quickly fell in love with production. I have been a lyrics operator since then, and I love it, however, I would love to learn all other aspects of live production, especially producing.  

I wanted a job producing. It didn’t even have to be producing yet, I just wanted a job on the production team. I applied for a job, but I didn’t get it due to my lack of experience and the fact that it was also highly recommended to have an Associates degree. 

Last year I had been starting to toy with the idea of attending the same college as my younger brother, James River Leadership College. It’s a part of Evangel University that is done inside of our church. It’s fully accredited and offers a two year Associates degree in Leadership and tons of hands-on experience. But the idea of going back to school terrified me, and I let that fear rule over me and stopped thinking about it. 

This year I made some really good friends that were attending JRLC and I started to hang out with them often, one of them being my best friend, Ashton. One day, in late April, we were hanging out with our friend John, who was also a student at JRLC. They started to quiz me about my goals for the future. I told them I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and that all the doors seemed to be closing on the things I did want. They asked if I’d ever thought about attending JRLC. I flat out said no. But, the moment I said it, my stomach flipped and my heart began to race. I paused and said that I would pray about it. 

So. I began to pray about it, feeling scared and nervous every time. People frequently asked me if I was going to go, even though I had told no one that I was even considering it. I asked my Mom one day, “What are your thoughts on me maybe going to JRLC?” She said, “That’s actually something I’ve recently been thinking about.” That was just further confirmation, but I still wasn’t ready to apply. 

Then, one Sunday during service, I had been praying about it that morning and during the message, Pastor said something that hit my heart. He said, “Sometimes, God takes you down paths that you never expected to take.” I’m a planner and attending JRLC was never in my plans, but from that moment on, my mind was made up. I text Ashton and said I had made a decision. I was going.

I applied almost immediately after that. It hasn’t come without a few struggles, but God has gone before me. Doors are still being opened. Since I was homeschooled, we had made my transcript ourselves. It had somehow gotten lost, which makes sense, with 4 years of no plans to attend college. We looked everywhere for either a hard copy or a digital one, but it could not be found. We were going to have to make a new one. That meant my mom and I trying to go back in time 4 years to try to remember 4 more years worth of school. The day we started to work on it Mom goes, “Let me check one more time.” She literally opened up her computer and searched one thing and there it was. There was lots of rejoicing. I ran my transcript up to the church and finished my application. 

The next problem came a few days later when I realized they needed SAT or ACT scores. I had never taken either test. I quickly Googled where and when to take the SAT. (Keep in mind this was in May and I wanted to start school in August) The next test was June 4th and the deadline to sign up to take that one was literally the next day. The next available test date wasn’t until October. So, suddenly scared out of my mind, I quickly signed up to take the June test and paid the fee. I had no idea what I had just gotten myself into. I was terrified. It had been 4 years since I had done any school and I was really awful at math. (It was really bad, you guys) So, I studied hard for a month, and prayed harder. (I highly recommend Khan Academy to anyone who is trying to study for it) 

June 4th came. (I had to be at the test center at 7:30AM on a Saturday… Whose brain even functions at that time?) I grabbed my number 2 pencils and a coffee and drove up there. And, amazingly enough, I was not nervous. God is great, guys, God is great. I calmly took the test, (a little less calmly in the math section) and left feeling generally peaceful. I could stop worrying about it. Now I just had to wait for my test scores to get to the school. 

They didn’t arrive until July 21st. But, my score was a passing score and average! Reminder: I hadn’t done any school for 4 years and only had a month to study. A few days later, I got my acceptance letter. I did it!

I was all ready to start school and I was finally excited. But then I got my award letter. I didn’t qualify for the pell grant, and the loans didn’t cover enough. I was really discouraged. There was no way I could go, but I still felt like God was calling me to go. And, my biggest step of faith in this journey has been trusting that if He wants me there, He will provide the money. So, I made the decision to wait to start until January. He will be faithful and He is sovereign. 

I want to do this. Would you join me in praying for everything to work out? It has already been an amazing journey and I expect to see great things come out of this.