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12.05.2017

Grieving through the Holidays


You know it's that time of year again when Christmas rolls around and you're bringing out the decorations and turning your home into a festive wonderland. You find yourself listening to the cheerful peppy tunes on the radio, but somewhere deep inside your heart is aching. You may be able to fake that "merry and bright" attitude, but within you feel a heavy weight tugging your heart down.

Although it's been over 18 years since my dad went home to be with the Lord on that dark November night, every year I still feel a heavy weight nagging at my heart and competing with the joys of the season. When family gets together I somehow always leave feeling like I'm missing that one important piece of me that seems like it will never be fully replaced. Something I see others blessed with, and often take advantage of, and I'm left with an empty heart longing for it to be filled with that same happiness.

People often think that time heals all wounds, but in my experience it definitely doesn't. Within time we can heal, but like with all wounds they are sensitive and can easily be reopened. The tiniest memory can open up that deep dark wound we thought mended years ago. Any loss of a close loved one causes heartache to follow, not just immediately after, but depending on our love for them, it could last a lifetime. Even down the road when we experience another similar loss, all those same memories come flooding back in allowing us to pull up those recollections from the past. Even the happiest of memories can cause the deepest pain because we are quickly reminded that we can never enjoy those cherished moments with them again. They are gone, and it hurts to recall the good times knowing they aren't here to reminisce.

Others often think the pain of losing a loved one is best to be left unspoken. They try to avoid any remembrance of the pain it might cause. They don't know what to say. They don't want to feel awkward. They don't want you to become emotional or upset. Although by ignoring your loss, it sometimes deepens the pain. You feel alone and the one you love has been forgotten as well. That part of you that was so deeply touched by your loved one has been silenced. Since they are no longer here, it feels like their memories have been nullified as well. The deep pain your heart feels weighted down with is left unseen and unheard. If only they knew that you've been craving for someone to ask about them. Your heart has been holding onto the pain and everyone else has so easily moved on.

I have heard that how much you grieve displays how much you love. The deepest of wounds on our heart often are caused by those we love the most. Over the years it often has seemed like those whom I grew close to were either taken away or God took them home to be with Him. It was difficult knowing God knew what was best when all I wanted was someone who would remain by my side without doubts arising whether they would be sticking around for long.

I can honestly say that even amidst the grieving, many funerals and pain, I have come to realize that even though God blesses us with friends and family, we shouldn't be come too dependent on them for our satisfaction. I remember many seasons of my life feeling like God had stripped everything from my life and I felt so alone. I questioned what God was doing. I didn't understand how it could be His will to leave me so empty handed and heart-broken. Looking back I can see how God was using those darkest of moments to strengthen my relationship with Him. Because I didn't have those relationships with others I went to Him with my worries, problems and tears. Unlike everyone else whom I questioned their commitment and acceptance, I was able to fully open my heart up to God and rest assured He would never leave or reject me. Even through the darkest of nights and the endless questions of my past, God has provided me with hope of an eternal home where I will spend eternity with Him and also see all those who have gone before me where we will live pain-free and not be limited in our time with one another.

Even amidst the pain and heartbreaks you have faced, you can rest in the promise that God works all things together for good. He's got an amazing plan for your life and every step is perfectly planned out. Nothing is being overlooked or misguided. There's purpose to those darkest of valleys God has led you through, and He's been by your side all the way. God could be using those deepest wounds to influence and prepare you to provide comfort to others who are enduring similar struggles. Let God use your broken heart, shattered life and find joy knowing He is strengthening and using you to display His power and glory!

11.25.2017

What Now?



Have you ever taken a few moments to look back over your life? Recalling circumstances you've gone through. Hardships you've encountered. Times when you couldn't contain your happiness? Dark days you never thought you'd pull through?

When I look back over all God has brought me through I often find it bittersweet. Moments that I cherish the memories, while others pull up deep wounds of hurt and pain. Even through the bittersweet memories of my past, I can find joy in knowing God was working through it all. Trials that left me with endless questions, I can now look back and see how God was working. As I find my way back to my current circumstances I sometimes grow weary as I look towards the future. I question whether God will continue to direct and provide for my needs. I question what He desires me to do now.

Recently I have found myself in a season of "what now?" Looking at my life I sometimes find myself wondering what my purpose is right now. I want to live for more than the daily mundane routine of working, eating and sleeping. I want more to my life than the earthly satisfactions that I try to fill the void of emptiness within me. I want a long-lasting purpose that will far exceed this life here. I want to do what God has called me to do, even if it is the hard thing and it requires me to step out of my comfort zone.

Sometimes I get anxious when I'm in a stage of waiting. I want to see God working. I want to have certainty regarding what my purpose is. I want to feel used by God. I want to know what I should be doing now. I want to make sure that I'm doing everything that God has called me to do. I get worried that I'm not fulfilling God's purpose for my life. I get discouraged when I feel like I go through a day and I didn't accomplish or fulfill something for my eternal home.

Maybe you are in a current stage of your life and wondering "what now?" Maybe you've just ended a season of your life and you're wondering God's reasoning for ending it and what He is desiring you to do with the next season of your life. It's easy to grow anxious in God's will for our lives, but I believe that as long as we are seeking and praying for God to direct us, we are well on our way to fulfill God's purpose for us. Sometimes when we feel like our life is stagnant and we don't hear or see God working it feels like we aren't fulfilling His will. I believe when we are humbly asking and praying for God's direction we are fulfilling God's will for our life.

Sometimes I begin to doubt that I'm fulfilling God's will for my life when it seems like my life has no impact. I feel like I go through each day trying my best to live for God and show His love to others but I never seem to see Him working and doing amazing things like I do with other's lives. I grow weary and question whether I truly am in God's will if I don't see Him working or using me.

I have to continually remind myself that even though it may seem like this life God has given me often seems invisible and incapable, He is using me in ways I don't often see. If you are willing and seeking to be used by God, He too is using you in amazing ways that you may not even realize. People will see a difference in you even though they may not admit or mention it. We only can see one side of our circumstances, when God is orchestrating every event in our life for something amazing. One day we'll see that there was an intricate and detailed plan all being woven together to create a beautiful creation that God used through our lives. We may not see it yet, but our current circumstances have a deeper value than we often anticipate.

If you're questioning your purpose in your current circumstance and whether or not you are fulfilling God's will, just ask Him to guide you. Seek after Him and pray that He will lead you where He wants you. Pray that He will use you and provide opportunities for you to be a light for Him. God doesn't expect us to lead a world-changing life that impacts millions. That would be amazing, but we all have a unique purpose God has entrusted us with. God created us specifically to touch the people only we could influence. God doesn't expect perfection or a massive revival, He just wants your willingness and a humble heart willing to be used by Him. Give Him your daily circumstances and He will work in the most mundane tasks to strengthen your character and acquire eternal treasure.

11.15.2017

Reaping in Due Season

Have you ever felt yourself growing weary in your current circumstances and wondered when the time will come when you will reap the fruit of your labor? When the hard times come it's easy to grow discouraged and lose strength to press on when it seems there is no end in sight. Often times it feels like we've planted our "crop" and we've been waiting, what seems like forever, to see some sign of growth. Maybe storms have come and impacted your "crop" and you've had to continually start over. Sometimes life's trials knock us down and it's difficult to rise up once again after feeling so weak, but the strength of our "roots" will lead to a successful crop that can stand against life's storms.  Even through the worst of circumstances that we encounter we can rely on God as our source. He is our stronghold in times of despair, and when the storm has passed we will see He was growing us all along. 

Sometimes we overlook God's blessing of harvest in our lives because we are looking in the wrong places. I have found when God helps me overcome a trial I find it easy to praise and thank Him, but as time goes on I quickly forget all He has done. I focus more on my present circumstances and question where He is now, instead of remembering all the ways He has worked in the past. I fail to remember that He was always working for my best and I easily get discouraged that this time maybe He's not looking out for me and has forgotten me.

God never forgets us. We're never put on hold or rejected by Him, and what we've done for Him will certainly never go unnoticed. Sometimes the deep wounds on our hearts seem like they are only ours to bear, but God never said we were in it alone. It is often doing the right thing that leads us down the hardest roads full of pain and suffering. It is during these times that we grow weary in following after God and struggle to trust Him when the world so easily entraps us with temptations of worry, doubt and things we think will satisfy the longing on our hearts (Galatians 6:9).

I love how Psalm 1:1-3 states that those who delight in God will be blessed and will yield fruit in due season. God's perfect timing doesn't always make sense to us, but He's always working in our lives. We all have unique seasons of our life to grow in. Some may feel like seasons of waiting, discouragement, silence and frustration, but through each season we can learn something. Nothing we go through is wasted time. Just as God has times to strengthen and grow us, He too will bless us and provide us with blessings of harvest.

I have found that following after God brings so much more long-lasting satisfaction than living for myself. Looking back over the past 24 years of my life I can see that there were things I desired, but God had different plans. Although it led to a harder and more painful life, I can see that He had purpose for each circumstance I went through. Our suffering, hard work and determination may feel like it's being overlooked, but God sees every heartbreak and tear we cry. He has been by our side through it all and everything we do for Him is worth it. The very things that felt like they were breaking our heart are the things God is using to strengthen us into amazing instruments for Him. We may not reap our harvest of obedience down here on earth, but we will be recognized for our commitment to Him. Our pain and suffering we are facing never goes unnoticed. God sees it all. He's got you right in His hand and when you are following after Him you are right where you need to be.

11.05.2017

A Change of Season

Have you ever looked back over a season in your life and you thought God was leading you down a path and it quickly changed for the worse? Have you ever felt like God was finally answering your diligent prayers and was blessing you with the desires of your heart, only to leave you with empty hands and a broken heart?

I was experiencing a season in my life that I thought God was supplying the desires of my heart that I had been seeking Him with for quite some time. I finally felt like God was directing me and I could see glimpses of Him providing for my needs. I felt like my life was about to head in the direction I had always hoped, only to quickly find my circumstances drastically changing and the things I had placed my contentment in were suddenly taken away. It really hit me hard. I felt so alone and didn't know how to pick up the broken pieces to move on. My trust had been shattered and it felt like I would never fully mend from the deep scars I was left with.

Leading up to that point, I was in a desperate place seeking God for direction. I prayed with a pleading heart for clarity and an evident sign. I was at the end of my rope and I begged God to step in, I couldn't handle the uncertainty anymore. I came to God with a desperate heart, and within a few days God had given me a clear answer to my prayer. Although I was praying for direction, I was devastated by the unexpected clarity I had received. It broke my heart, and for a while I lost my perspective. I lost my hope and questioned the meaning of my life.

Maybe you're going through a similar situation. Maybe you don't understand God's purpose for the current season God has you in. Maybe you don't understand the reasoning of the season God has chosen to end. Maybe you question the purpose of God's direction, seeming to always lead into a dead end. Let me tell you that even though your life may feel like it's at a dead end, it's only just the beginning. Things have to end so something else can occur. God doesn't make mistakes. Nothing occurs in our life without it going through His hands first. I had to remind myself of these truths in those dark moments of doubt and questioning God's purpose. I had to get an eternal perspective. This may feel like the end, but we are placed on this earth for something far beyond the pain we endure here. How we react and what we choose to do during the darkest of nights strengthens our character and trust in God.

I have found that through this life things come into our lives that will steal our joy. It's not because we earn them or lose them, but because we allow those things to become more prominent than God. We think that once we find happiness in those things we will be able to serve God more effectively. Unfortunately I have found it doesn't work that way. I must first find contentment and satisfaction solely in God and then I can find joy in those blessings He so freely offers. Society constantly throws false ideas and assumptions at us daily, leaving us thinking we need a status or possessions to complete us or fulfill our needs. Satan is behind these evil thoughts and I can't count the times that I have fallen for his deceptive schemes. How often I have found that my circumstances don't need to change, but my perspective.



Take a step back and look at your situation. Satan is using the very things you desire the most to pull you away from God. He's using the rejections from your past to haunt you. He's using the negative words of criticism to pull you away from your full potential. Satan's trying to deceive you into thinking that God doesn't have a plan for you. He sees your faith in God and is targeting you because he doesn't want you to continue to grow deeper. He wants you to doubt that God is working. He wants you to question God's presence. He wants you to grow weary in doing good. Take a look at your situations from a new perspective. It's not the people or circumstances that are destroying you, it's Satan and his targeted treachery that is leading you down a path to discouragement and doubt in God. Don't let him win. Don't let the darkness overtake you.

Just like in baseball, those closest to reaching "home" are the ones often targeted, while the rest of the players aren't as much of a threat. This is the same with how Satan works. He targets those who are strengthening their faith in Christ. He doesn't want them making a "home run" and growing in their relationship with God. He targets the strong because the weak aren't seeking after God and chasing the temporary pleasures of the world.

If you're in a current season in your life that you feel is unfair or prolonged, don't lose hope. Seek God to help you through and ask Him to give you a clear perspective in your current circumstances. Don't forget that the desires and pleasures this world has to offer will one day burn away. Choose to focus your life and purpose around something that will be refined through the fire. Use those deepest scars on your heart to be opportunities for your faith in God to be strengthened. Desiring our circumstances to change is not the primary goal, it's seeking to fulfill God's plan, trusting that He doesn't make mistakes and allowing our perspective to be focused on our eternal home. Choose to be so focused on God, and what will last for eternity, that you can become delightfully surprised when He blesses you with the desires you have surrendered and so generously offered over to Him.


For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. // 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

10.03.2017

Focus [Enough Study]

DEFINITION:


"
the center of interest or activity"


For the final topic of this study I decided "focus" was an important item in finding God as enough in our lives. When we aren't focused we tend to get distracted and don't become as efficient at the task at hand. As a graphic designer for a small agency, a lot of projects come in that often need to be tackled within a time-crunch. Being the only designer on the team leaves no time for any slacking or distractions. Design, like many things, requires time and focus. When too many notifications or emails keep flying in it tends to make me stressed and unproductive. It distracts me from my design "mode" and makes my head spin with the constant interruptions drawing me away from the project at hand. Sometimes I need to close out my email and everything bogging me down and just get into a focus mode.



Often times we need to do this spiritually as well. It's healthy to have time to focus on God and spend time with Him without the world's constant degrading interferences. This world can so easily entrap us into it's ways of thinking and we can find ourselves quickly falling into doubt, discouragement and longing after temporary desires that will leave us craving for more. Sometimes it's a constant battle to remain focused and steadfast in our perspective. This world constantly infiltrates into our lives day-in and day-out and it's difficult to remain fixated on God.

How many times I have caught myself going down an all too familiar road where my desires lead me astray and I wonder why I feel so discouraged and unsatisfied. Things that I thought would satisfy me left me feeling rejected, alone and forsaken. Things that I thought would bring me happiness quickly dissipated, leaving me with a broken heart. Things that I thought would fill the emptiness just don't seem to fill the void that I thought they once would.

When our focus is misaligned, our way of life is impacted. If we are constantly focused on what we don't have or what's not going right with our life we will be wallowing in discouragement and disappointment. We will always be searching for more, but never feel truly satisfied even if we attain what we've been seeking after. If our focus is solely seeking after earthly desires we will be investing our time into things that are temporal. We will be brought down by things that only bring glimpses of happiness, not long-lasting contentment.

Over the past few months I've been struggling with finding satisfaction in my circumstances. It's been a constant battle that I felt like I could never achieve. I felt as if I was in a rut and I would never overcome the lessons God was trying to teach me to find satisfaction solely in Him. I honestly am still struggling, and continually learning to grow, but I've learned that focus plays a big part in finding satisfaction in God. If we let our focus "control switch" get set to "me" instead of "God" we will be headed down a road toward destruction. Believe me, focusing on God sometimes seems much more challenging rather than trying to solve our issues on our own, but it will bring long-lasting reward in the end. It's so easy to get caught up in the now, but if we choose to do the hard thing and trust God with our deepest desires and struggles we will be rewarded. It's tempting to desire to have a happy and easy life, but without our struggles we wouldn't have opportunities to grow closer to God on a more intimate level. We wouldn't have the privilege to use our temporary lives here to store up treasure in heaven.


Romans 8:18


I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.


Spiritual focus involves a mindset concentrated on God. I have found that through prayer and spending time alone with God, without distractions, can lead to a more successful focus in my life. Setting time aside before I go to bed allows me to spend intimate time with God where there are no distractions and the rest of the world is asleep. It is a time where I can open up with God and pour my heart out to Him with the worries and stresses of the day and offer up thanks to Him for all He has done, although I'm sure I don't always thank Him enough. Focus involves spending time, not only in prayer, but also in the Bible. The Bible is God's words written just for us. He wrote them to help us in this life and allow us to gain a better understanding of His character. When we get to know God's character better, we can trust in Him more knowing He truly is working for our best and wouldn't allow any circumstances in our life to hurt or harm us. He is with us through it all and we're never meant to carry the weight of our burdens alone. He's right there with us working through it. 

While spending time in prayer and reading God's Word is essential to getting focused spiritually, it also involves a mindset that seeks to find an eternal perspective in our everyday circumstances. Satan is skilled at tempting us in this area. He knows the very areas we struggle in and uses them to tear us down. Recently I was basing my mood on what wasn't occurring in my life and dwelling in what God was holding back from me, instead of finding a different perspective to my circumstances. I was allowing Satan to infiltrate my mind with doubt instead of soaking up God's truth. I don't want Satan to win the battle of making me fall for his deceptions. I don't want to be pulled into his negativity and get so caught up in all that seems wrong with my life that I can't live out my life to the fullest extent that God has planned for me. I don't want to miss opportunities that God drops into my daily life by being so distracted and feeling discouraged with things I wish were different. Satan likes to place disturbances in our way to keep us from following after God and getting us caught up in the wrong mindset. He's great at that. It's a constant battle to control our thoughts and not become entrapped into negative thinking, but when we feel like we are getting pulled into Satan's deceptions we can pray and ask God to help us get a clear eternal perspective.

I'm sure we all have things that we wish were different with our lives. Things we wished we could change. Plans we desired would be fulfilled. Dreams we wished would come true. No life is perfect. Nobody's life goes exactly how they planned. I know at least mine hasn't. At times it is discouraging feeling like my life feels messed up while everyone else's life appears to be pretty and perfect. I feel like I'm always stuck in the same rut day after day. I feel like my life will never amount to anything worthwhile. I long for hope. I long for a joy that remains and doesn't quickly lead to an all-too familiar disappointment. I long to hold onto something that never changes. I long to find purpose for this small life of mine; and I believe it all starts with focus.

It begins with a focus of why we're here. What our purpose is. This is not our home. We're here temporarily and our struggles, trials and pain that we're enduring is temporary as well. It's how we react and how our faith is strengthened through those hard times that will determine our reward. Taking a step back and realizing the pain will one day cease, but what we've done for God, how we reacted during the darkest of days and our obedience to God will remain forever. We have an eternal hope that will never be diminished. We have a love that only God offers us, and it will never grow cold or dwindle over time. His love remains steadfast and remains even when we can't find the love to accept ourselves. He chose us before time began. He loves us despite our sin and shortcomings. If the God of the universe loves us that much and accepts us, we shouldn't be craving for scraps of love from others. We can find our satisfaction in Him knowing that He loves us, accepts us, created us exactly how we were meant to be and will always remain by our side. When we can find our satisfaction in Him and let the desires we cling onto so deeply be released into His control we will find a peace in knowing He's taking care of it. He's carrying the weight, not because He demands to be in control, but because He doesn't want us to hurt ourselves with the burdens we bear when we carry them on our own.

Focus is one of the most difficult things to conquer in a world that so easily entraps us into doubtful thinking. This world discourages any sign of hope. People here let us down. Things fail us and break. As Christians we have something that this world doesn't. We have a life outside of this world, and with that blessing, we have hope. Not a hope that can die, but live on forever in a perfect timeless home. We can have hope knowing that the deepest of heartaches will all be mended and rewarded on that glorious day. The time is coming and it awaits us. Nothing here can ever withhold God's immense love for us. No struggle is too great that He's not in control of. He sees it all and nothing we go through doesn't pass through His hands first.

The life we lead can sometimes seem quite small, but when we take a step back and look at the bigger picture we can remind ourselves that our great and all-powerful God is working through our lives. He has a plan that far exceeds our greatest desires. He has an extraordinary purpose for our lives that was intricately thought out, with detailed intentions and He will fulfill it when we are willing to place our trust to follow Him even when it doesn't make sense. I truly believe an eternal focus is where we can tap into finding that God truly is enough and we can let go of the binding shackles of worry, stress and discouragement that so easily entangle us. He's provided us with all we need, and if we have accepted Him as our Savior, He's promised us a future of hope and reward. Even if we don't experience it here on this earth, we will see it was all worth it in eternity one day!


I Peter 1: 6-7


In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

9.11.2017

Unavailable

Have you ever felt alone? Not just lonesome, but you were physically and emotionally alone. Empty. Forsaken and forgotten? There was nobody who was there for you. You felt like there was no one who could help solve the issues on your heart.

Have you ever felt this way with God? Like he was unavailable. Like you were getting that automated voicemail where your calls felt like they were being left and placed in an overflowing surplus of messages, either waiting to be opened or left to be deleted. Sometimes it feels like God is so far away and we missed the "Sorry we're closed" announcement.

Sometimes the moments of silence and waiting can feel like they drag on endlessly and we wonder "How long?" It feels like we can't take another moment of silence and we question God's purpose for the circumstances we are enduring.

Although at times I truly do question what God's up to and if He's really there, I have this promise that He always hears us. Sometimes the greatest faith is believing that God is working amidst the piercing silence that overtakes His quiet whisper that He has indeed never left us. I have grown to find that even when the silence lingers longer than ever, that there will be and end. I have hope that God is using this time of resounding quietness to draw me closer to Him. When others are unavailable it leads me to one Someone that I know I can always run to. Someone who always welcomes and accepts me. Someone who I can reveal myself with and not feel ashamed or misunderstood. God is always available. He's never "Gone for the weekend" or giving us the cold shoulder. He's always wanting our best and He's always attentive to our pleas for help. He's always working through our circumstances, no matter how big or small.

Others will let us down. They won't always be there for us. It's a fact of life, but God will never leave our side and He will pull us through in due time. It may not be easy. It might feel like the silence and the waiting is tearing us apart, but it's strengthening us when we look to God for help. We may not be able to do it on our own, but with God's continual help and perseverance we know we can get through it together.