January 16, 2016

Traffic Trials of Various Kinds

A few days ago, I started off on a journey, thinking that I would be home just in time for dinner. But when I pulled into the driveway, 3 and a half hours later than expected, I found myself strangely thankful for what the journey taught me about life and the nature of unexpected trials. Here's the story and what I learned along the way. 

I began my trip on a lovely winter day. The sun was gloriously shining, and as I traveled on, the sky began to glow with a beautiful rosy-orange color. I couldn't have picked a better time to travel. Or so I thought. 

As darkness fell, a sudden snow squall started to assault my car until I couldn't see anything except for a wall of white. I worked to get closer to the car in front of me - my lighthouse to guide me through the storm. And I began to pray for help and protection in the midst of this unexpected blizzard.

Once I made it out of the snow, I thought I was in the clear. Little did I know what the rest of the journey held in store… The snow had come so suddenly and the temperature dropped so drastically that the roads had turned to ice. It was literally an accident waiting to happen. So when traffic slowed to a standstill, I realized that must have indeed been the case. I hoped for the best, but as time ticked slowly away, I began to wonder if I would ever get home. 

With trucks blocking me in on every side, I couldn't see anything that was happening, so there was really no way for me to know when we would start moving again. For all I knew, I could be waiting there for hours upon hours. All I had was this nebulous idea that I would get home eventually. But because I didn't actually know when that would be, I couldn't truly anticipate the end of this unexpected hardship.

As minutes turned to hours, I began to berate myself for leaving when I did. "Why didn't I leave in the morning?" I thought, feeling as though I had made a terrible mistake.  I couldn't help but wonder, "Why had I made such a poor choice?" But as I continued to ponder, I realized how many elements to the story were totally outside of my control. I had no idea that there would be a sudden snow squall. I had checked the weather, but it didn't indicate blizzard-like conditions. And there was no way I could have known that there would be an accident or that I would get stopped for hours, while waiting for the aftermath to clear. 

In fact, there was no way to know what would have happened if I had left even a few minutes earlier. Perhaps it could've been me in that accident. Instead, because I left when I did, I was able to sit in my warm car, rather than dealing with broken bones, damaged vehicles, tow trucks, or worse. 

As it continued to look as though I might be there for quite some time, I decided to read through the book of James in preparation for my meeting the next day. That had been the whole reason I wanted to get home. 

Here's what James had to say: 
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).

As I reflected on the passage, I realized that this snowstorm and traffic jam were trials of various kinds. And somehow there could be joy in the midst of them. So when I considered the various factors of my current situation, I began to think that maybe this journey was intended for so much more than just getting me home in time for dinner. It was teaching me profound truths about the nature of going through hardships - the very thing I was studying. 

Here are the things I learned:
  1. You often can't predict the beginning or the end of a trial. Instead, they surprise you and make you feel like they will last forever.
  2. You typically aren't aware of the suffering you've been spared by going through the trial that you did, instead of another.
  3. At the beginning of a trial, you have no way to predict the amazing things that you will learn in the midst of it. You only see them in hindsight. 
  4. In reality, you don't need to know or predict any of the various aspects of your trials, because there is a God who is sovereign over all. He is weaving the details of your story together in a way that is so magnificently perfect that you wouldn't believe it if told. He is the source of joy, even when you can't yet see the beauty He is in the midst of creating. 
I wish I could tell you that I learned these things perfectly after those quiets moments of reflection in my car. But the truth is, after I finally got rolling again, I ended up getting stopped a second time, after only about 10 minutes of driving, while the tow truck came to clear another accident. I once again immediately began to wonder if I would ever make it home, and this time I even started to worry about the possibility of running out of gas. 

But as I reassured myself that there would indeed be an end to this trial, I reflected on the fact that for those who are in Christ, these trials, no matter the size, are only momentary (2 Cor 4:17). One day, all suffering will end (Rev 21:1-4). Christ has taken on the suffering our sins deserve, and we have a guarantee that we will not face any of the trials of this life in heaven (1 Peter 2:24). That is surely something to look forward to. That is surely a reason to hope. And because we're still living, and He's not done with us yet, we can rest assured that any trials we face in this life are part of His plan to make us like Him - steadfast, perfect, complete, lacking in nothing.

Loving Him is Red!

What's the hardest part of facing trials in your life?
How has the Lord helped you find joy in the midst of them?

November 19, 2015

I Idolized Marriage and Neglected Missions

I didn't mean to do it. I didn't even know I was doing it. But I allowed my marriage idol to slowly kill me - to distract me from the life that God was calling me to.

As I shared in Burn My Bridges Down, I hit a breaking point about 2 years ago. I didn't want to live that way anymore. So I made a decision to repent. And to keep repenting every day. At first it didn't seem like it was working. But months later, I looked back and realized I was somewhere else entirely. I was at the end of the tunnel.

That's what drove me to go on a missions trip. I decided to stop reserving my summers for getting married and decided to start making actual plans. It had been years since I had gone on a foreign missions trip, and so I wanted to get outside my American bubble and see what was happening in the rest of the world. Little did I know what I was getting myself into

To prepare for the trip, our leader asked us to listen to several sermons, one of which was called Doing Missions When Dying is Gain. I wish you could listen to it. Please do. But the part that really resonated with me was when he was explaining Colossians 1:24. Here's what he said about it: 

Paul’s self understanding of his mission is that there is one thing lacking in the sufferings of Jesus. The love offering of Christ is to be presented in person through missionaries to the peoples for whom he died. And Paul says, “I do this in my sufferings. In my sufferings I  complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” Which means that Christ intends for the Great Commission to be a presentation to the nations of the sufferings of his cross through the sufferings of his people. That’s the way it will be finished. If you sign up for the Great Commission, that’s what you sign up for.

In other words, when Christians suffer for the sake of - or even at the hand of - those who don't yet know Him, that is part of how those people can actually see and begin to comprehend what Christ did for them. What a beautiful thing! Through their suffering  even unto death, Christians are actually given the privilege of displaying a picture of who Jesus is to people who have never heard of Him!

As I began to realize these magnificent truths, I was simultaneously moved by the beauty of sacrificial love and by the sadness of my failure to live up to such a glorious calling. I had signed up for the Great Commission, but I had not yet truly signed up to die for those for whom Christ died. Getting married and doing ministry in America was my idea of the Great Commission. It wasn't wrong to desire those things, but I had never even considered going into a dangerous place to bring the gospel to those who had never heard. I rarely even thought about the fact that anyone was taking the gospel into truly hostile territory. 

Though it wasn't intentional, through my idolatry of marriage and the Christian version of the American dream, I had been ignoring billions of people who still had no access to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ - people who were living and dying, never even knowing that God sent His Son to die so that they could be adopted into His family.

And if Christ had died for me, so that I could have a new life in Him, then I couldn't continue to ignore these people. I needed to at least consider how the Lord might be calling me to follow Him into His death - death to myself and the American dream, or even physically - so that these people might see a picture of how much God has displayed His love for them through Christ, through me. 

I needed to continue to repent. And my repentance called for action.

At first I wasn't sure what to do. But I knew I needed to do something and began to wonder if my response might involve music. I started by writing a song that I hoped would help draw attention to those I had so easily ignored - the unreached. And I wanted to show real faces to go with the startling statistics of the billions of people who still have no way to hear about Christ. So during the missions trip, we took footage of the people and places our team visited during our time in Colombia. And with a lot of help from friends to record the song and edit the footage, we finally have our finished product!

My hope is to have the opportunity to share the video with as many people as possible that it might propel others to take action to reach the unreached. The song is also available on Noisetrade for a free download. I also want to provide the opportunity to respond immediately through giving toward reaching these unreached people, and that's why I've committed to give all the money that is donated through my Noisetrade page toward reaching the unreached. 

My goal is to get 2016 views of the video and raise $2016 towards reaching the unreached by the time we ring in 2016 - that those who dwell in darkness might see the great light of Christ. 

Will you help me meet this goal? You can start by sharing this video on social media and by donating through my Noisetrade page.

The need is so big, and individually we're so small, but together, we're the body of Christ, and that means we can accomplish so much more for the sake of His Kingdom than we ever could apart!

Jesus is the one who died for us and for people of every tribe, tongue, and nation. 

That's why Loving Him is Red -

and so much more than any earthly marriage.

Are there ways that you're tempted to abandon the call to reach the world for the sake of pursuing the perfect wedding and marriage?

What can you do right now to help reach the nations for Christ?

In addition to John Piper, I seriously benefited from:

David Platt - God's Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death Defying MissionsUndaunted by Resistance: Sustaining Missionary Zeal for the Sake of the NationsRadical   
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Paul Miller - A Praying Life Seminar
Matt Perman - What's Best Next
Bob Kauflin - The Gathering Conference
Scott Belsky - Making Ideas Happen

July 28, 2015

My Fight Song

When I first heard Fight Song, by Rachel Platten, I couldn't help but like it. This girl's battle anthem felt like my own. Her "take back my life song" seemed to fit me perfectly, because I felt like I had just started really living again. I had come out of the tunnel I had been in for so long. I was finally free. 

And yet, as I listened to the words, I realized that it wasn't just a song that fit me. It was challenging me. Pushing me. 

Because my "take back my life song" isn't complete. There's still more taking back to do… And it starts with some brutal honesty. But first, let me give some background.

Many of you know that I majored in music in college, because I planned to pursue a singing career. And many of you also know that I gave up that career path after being deeply impacted by the gospel of Jesus Christ during my time in college. I had come to the realization that I loved music more than I loved God. But the most beautiful part of it was that God still loved me. He still wanted me back. He still sent Jesus to die in my place. And that kind of love can't help but change you. It's the kind of love that reorients your life. 

And that's what happened to me. After experiencing the grace-filled love of a forgiving Savior, I wanted to put Him first in my life. I didn't want music to compete for the top spot in my heart. And I didn't want to live a life that was all about myself anymore. I wanted to love others as Jesus had loved me so that they could know Him too. And I wanted to do something with my life that would serve an eternal purpose. So I gave up the music dream and went into full-time ministry. 

And it has been an absolutely amazing journey! I'm still so thankful that I get to have the best job in the world!

So far, I haven't told you anything new. 

But what many of you don't know - and what I didn't even know until recently - is that I also backed down on the music dream because I was afraid.

And I'm still afraid.

But the difference between then and now is that I realized I can actually admit it. I'm done pretending. Because even when you have to confess things about yourself that you don't like, there's something strangely freeing about honesty. There's no more wasted energy on putting up a facade. You can just live (1 John 1:5-10).  

 So this is me being honest, giving up the facade, and taking back my life: 

Fear tells me that I'm not good enough. Not talented enough. My singing is weak. My lyrics are lame. My melodies aren't original. My instrumentation is poorly done. My piano skills are not what they should be. And no one really wants to hear my songs. And I listen. I agree. 

But then I remember that I don't need to be good enough. I just need to be who God has created me to be and do what He has called me to do.

The truth is, I'm really not something great on my own. If all the resources I have are simply myself, that is certainly reason to panic, because of the obvious fact that I am limited. But God is not. He has all the resources that there are, and He is pleased to share them with me. 

And He directed His power towards me to accomplish His good purposes in my life and in the lives of those around me (Ephesians 1:15-23). He has prepared good works for me to walk in them (Ephesians 2:1-10). And by definition, good works mean work. That means effort. And that means that there will be times when I am going to want to quit, because it simply feels too hard. But anything worth doing is bound be difficult at times. That doesn't mean give up. That means keep going.

So it's not about me and my talent. It's about the bigness of my God and the fact that He can take my feeble efforts and make them bigger than I ever dreamed. He can take my one match and start an explosion. 

And that's what I want. That's what I long for. That's what I dream of. I want my life to mean something. To make a difference. To have an impact. To change the world. And I don't really know how that's going to happen or what it will look like. But I don't want to give up trying. 

Because I don't think much of my loaves and fish, but Jesus can take them and feed a whole crowd (John 6:1-15). That's what I'm banking on.

So I can take risks. I can fail. And none of it will change the fact that I am declared perfectly righteous in His sight - spotless and without blemish. 

And that's why I have to make music. That's why I can't quit. Though I may not have very much talent in my own eyes, I believe that God can take what He's given me and multiply it for the good of His Kingdom. 

I have wasted too many years living in fear. And now it's time to overcome. It's time to live like more than a conqueror (Romans 8:31-39)

That's my fight song. And you can expect one in musical form coming soon :)

Loving Him is Red!

What fears are holding you back from really living life?

What would it look like to live as more than a conqueror? 

February 26, 2015

Breaking the Bonds of Disordered Eating

No one wakes up thinking, "Today I want to become enslaved…"

It doesn't happen that way. It's more gradual. Little by little. Choice by choice. Thought by thought. Until you're completely trapped by the cycle that you're stuck in. Utterly obsessed with an impossible goal. A goal that promises so much…

But the promise is a lie. The thinner you get, the more dissatisfied you feel. The more flaws you notice. The more you plunge into despair that you could never make your body look the way you hoped. So your body becomes nothing more than a slave to your thoughts - a slave to the lies you believe. 

And you would give anything to get out of it. But you don't know how. You want to be free, but you can't even imagine what that would even feel like or how you could get there. So you sink into hopelessness, feeling like there's no way out. And you certainly can't tell anyone about it, because you're sure that no soul alive could possibly understand the turmoil you're in. 

But by the sheer fact that you're reading this, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who's felt this way…

Over the years, my struggle has manifested itself in different ways. And I could write all about it. It would probably be therapeutic for me. But I'm not sure that this blog post is the best context for that. So I'll just share what the struggle looks like for me these days…

You see, I have these conflicting desires. They're at war. They fight for control of my life. And they're things that I desire more than I love God. (James 4:1-10). On the one hand, I think food is really great. I like it. I like the way it tastes. I like that it quells my hunger. I like the experience of trying different things at different places. I like the freedom I have to enjoy it. But on the other hand, I like to be thin. I like to see how small I look in the mirror. I like the way my clothes fit. And the lower the number on the tag of my jeans, the more confident I feel. And that's not even mentioning all the positive feedback I receive from the people around me.  

Most of my life has been a pendulum swing between the two extremes of these desires. And most of the time, I don't really think about how to be healthy or honor God with my body. Sometimes I believe that the only true way to be happy and beautiful and loved and successful is to be thin. And so I obsess about what I eat. I think ahead about every meal and snack - what's allowed and what's not. I obsess about exercising, sometimes multiple times a day. I obsess over the progress I'm making by weighing myself frequently, looking in the mirror, and trying on smaller sized clothes just to see if they fit. 

But then I begin to hate that life. I don't want to deal with the never ending list of restrictions and rules. They feel like slavery to me. And I just can't take it anymore. Plus the results aren't even good enough. I still don't look perfect. So I give up. And I start to believe that if I lift all of the restrictions that seemed so oppressive, then I will be able to find true freedom. So I just eat what I want, when I want. But strangely enough, that doesn't seem to leave me feeling happy or satisfied either. And then I'm just sad, uncomfortable, and ashamed for the weight that I've gained - for the weight that must make me repulsive to all who see me, including myself. So I plunge even further into despair. And this "freedom" feels like slavery too. 

At the point of feeling utterly hopeless, out of control, and too ashamed to talk to anyone about it, that's when I know I need to let someone else in on how bad things really are…on how much I'm really struggling… (1 John 1:5-10)

Because otherwise, these lies that seem so true to me in the moment, will continue to grow in my mind. They will tell me I'm alone, that there's no hope, that I should give up. But when I honestly share my struggles with someone else, they can help expose these thoughts for what they truly are - lies. And that's where the shining light of hope can break through the darkness I've been living in.

So my battle is not really with food. My battle is not really with the mirror. My battle is against the lies I so easily believe about the way to find true fulfillment, love, and happiness apart from God. My battle is against the idols I've chosen to worship - food or my body. So my body is not really my enemy. But I do have a true enemy who loves to feed those lies, who loves to spur on my idolatry, who loves to keep me in the dark. 

Friends, I would be remiss if I didn't mention something that I often forget: Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). He loves eating disorders. He loves death and destruction. He loves keeping people enslaved. In our fight for freedom, we don't just battle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:11-12). Our battle is against the very powers of Hell. 

And what Satan would love more than anything is for me and you to get so fixated on worshipping this present physical life (i.e. what we eat or how we look) that we miss the very fact that there's anything happening in the spiritual realm. When we get obsessed with this physical life, we miss the greater, deeper, eternal things that are far more significant and far more satisfying. We get so busy dwelling on things that are only temporary that we miss life itself - we miss truly knowing Jesus. 

Here's how Jesus addressed a group of people who were more fixated on the physical bread He gave them than on finding Him - true bread - true life:

"Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:27, 33, 35, 47-51).

Jesus is the bread of life. And He died that we might have life through Him. There is food that perishes and food that endures. And giving myself unabashedly to pursuing my ideal of perfection in my physical body is food that perishes. It may satisfy temporarily, but never ultimately.  And physical food can only sustain for a while. But allowing myself to eat without restrictions will never fill the hunger my soul has for something more substantial. Jesus is the food for my soul. Knowing Him and believing in His life, death, and resurrection can energize, fuel, sustain and satisfy eternally - and on the deepest level. Knowing Jesus is real life now and forever. 

And when I know Him, He gives me His Spirit to live inside of me - the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11) - the same Spirit that triumphed over Satan as Jesus broke the bonds of sin and death through the power of His resurrection! So if Jesus already defeated Satan, and I have that power living inside of me, then Satan's lies need not have any power over me. He that is in me is greater than he who is in the world, and He can free me from this slavery (1 John 4:4).

Friends, eating disorders kill - not just physically, but they kill our spirits. Satan came to kill, steal, and destroy. But Jesus came to bring life to the full (John 10:10). Let's fight for life! Let's fight for freedom! And no matter how hard, or how hopeless it may seem, let's never give up! 

Who's with me?

Loving Him is Red!

If you or someone you know can relate with the things I shared here, please please please talk to someone about it! Talk to me, talk to a trusted friend, call a hotline, just talk to someone! The only way to truly loose this battle is to give up...and it's harder to lose all hope, when you have friends to help you fight the lies! You don't have to struggle alone! There is hope!

February 22-28 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. For more info check out: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

February 12, 2015

The Valentine's Verdict

Throughout my time in high school, I looked forward to Valentine's Day for one reason, and one reason only: the flowers. 

But it's taken me til now to understand the reason why...

You see, my school managed the obscene amount of Valentine's deliveries by turning our lobby into a botanical wonderland - a repository for the endless number of bouquets that were sent to the school throughout the day. All in all, the protocol was pretty straightforward: If you happened to be dating someone when Valentine's day rolled around, you could be sure to receive a note in class telling you that you could pick up your flowers at the end of the day. But if you couldn't wait til then, you could at least try to catch a glimpse of your flowers on your way to lunch.  

I had been through the process enough times to know the drill, by the time I reached my senior year. And since I had been dating a guy for a few months, I was fairly certain that there would be flowers waiting for me in the lobby that day.

My lunch was scheduled for the earliest time slot, so I wasn't too worried after perusing the flower area to no avail. 
But as the hours ticked by, I became more and more unsettled. Class after class and still no trace of my flower note! Panic mode began to set in. It was unfathomable to me to think that my boyfriend didn't know to send me flowers…this was Valentine's Day after all… And then a horrifying thought crossed my mind: "Maybe he sent them to my house…"

The idea was almost too absurd to really even consider. "He wouldn't have had them delivered to my house!" I thought. "He went to this school for four years. He knows how the system works. He has to know that my flowers should be delivered to me at school..."

Yet as the final bell rang, I left my last class empty handed… And then I began to fume. 
Though I felt slightly relieved after coming home to a vase of lovely red roses, my anger was still not abated. Clearly, there was much more wrapped up in these flowers than I ever realized…

It wasn't just that I wanted flowers. I got them. And it wasn't even that I wanted a specific type of flower from a boy on Valentine's Day. I got that too. What I really wanted was for him to send me flowers in a way that everyone would see. Somehow, these flowers were supposed to publicly declare to the world that I was unquestionably and undeniably loved.   

Unfortunately, I didn't have the insight to recognize the great significance I was placing on these flowers. So things only grew worse in college...

My college was small enough to deal with Valentine's deliveries in almost the exact same way as my high school - except the note went to your mailbox. So all the flowers went to the info desk in the lobby of the student union. Botanical wonderland 2.0. But early in my college career, I made the decision that my days as a serial dater needed to come to an end. And you'll never guess what was one of the hardest things about it for me: the fact that there would be no flowers waiting for me in the lobby on Valentine's Day…

Sometimes I even preferred to avoid the lobby altogether. What used to be a stroll through a botanical wonderland became a walk of shame. Those flowers taunted me with every step. Each bouquet seemed to call out - "I'm not for you! I'm for girls with boyfriends - girls who are loved. How foolish you are to not to have a boyfriend on Valentine's Day. Don't you know that means no one loves you?! Everyone knows that!" Their screams felt so loud that they were almost more than I could bear.

Yet even if I had been able to avoid the taunts of those Valentine's flowers, I wouldn't have ever been able to evade the plethora of other things that continued to call out to me on a daily basis… Engagement rings. Relationship statuses. Wedding photos. You name it. Those things have all told me that they are the undeniable evidence that I am unloved. And I believed them. 
But I don't want to listen to them anymore. 

I am learning to listen to the blood of Jesus. His blood speaks better, louder, and more accurately than anything else in this world (Hebrews 12:24). It never taunts or mocks me. It does the exact opposite. It tells me it has cleansed me from all my shame and unrighteousness and that there is no condemnation left for me (1 John 1:5-10, Romans 8:1). It tells me I am fully loved, fully accepted. Always and forever.

So my real problem never had anything to do with flowers, Valentine's Day, boyfriends, or even what the rest of the world was thinking about me. My real problem was that I didn't really and truly believe that I was unquestionably and undeniably loved. So my life was a search for proof. 

But this past year, I began to believe, not just with my head, but in my heart, that my search was over. I began to believe that Jesus is the only proof I need to know I'm truly loved, and it has made me view Valentine's Day - and every other day - in a whole new way. 

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that I can't look to Valentine's Day to give me a verdict of whether I'm loved or not. The real verdict is already in. Jesus died in my place. And then He came back to life. His sacrifice worked. And His blood speaks of what He's done. That's the proof. I am unquestionably, undeniably, irrevocably loved. No other evidence is needed. Case closed. End of story.

And here's the freeing part - when you truly believe that you are undeniably, unquestionably, irrevocably loved, you won't be thinking about what everyone else thinks of you. You won't need the world to know that you're loved. You won't be thinking about yourself at all. You'll just be. You'll just enjoy the better-than-life love of your Savior (Psalm 63:3)You'll bask in it. You'll taste and see it's goodness (Psalm 34:8). You'll savor it. And as you do, the love of Jesus will overflow onto everyone else in your life (John 4). Isn't that the love you want? The kind of love you want to share with the world? 

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us" (1 John 4:7-12).

So friends, let's not look to Valentine's Day to tell us who we are. Let's let the love of Jesus define us in every way, regardless of our circumstances, regardless of the day.

Because on Valentine's Day and every day - Loving Him is Red!

* Tim Keller's sermon, Blessed Self-Forgetfulness, has been instrumental in helping me come to these conclusions. I never realized that I could be free from the turmoil that I used to think was just a normal part of my life until mediating on the truths he shares from 1 Corinthians 3, 4, and 13. If you want to learn more about how to stop looking to other things to give you the verdict of whether or not you are loved, I would highly recommend listening to it! And listening to it multiple times!

* Want to believe what God says about you, but feel like you're living in silence? Check out last year's Valentine's Day post - Say Something, I'm Giving Up on Valentine's Day

January 29, 2015

28 Life Lessons Worth Learning

This past Monday, I turned 28. Hard to believe, I know… 

But the truth is, God has taught me some pretty big things in those 28 years. In fact, I'd say that these lessons have been so integral to learning how to do life that I want to make sure to never forget them. So I figured, why not jot some of them down as a reminder? As per usual, I thought I might as well share them with you all as well. Here goes:

1. Life's an adventure. It's full of twists and turns, ups and downs, mountains and valleys. It's not always easy, but it's exciting to discover what comes next, especially because you'll be with the one who knows you best and loves you most. (Genesis 12:1)

2. You don't need to predict the future. You're not a fortune teller, and neither is God. I know you think that it will make you feel better if you only knew what was going to happen, but there are things that God has not yet intended to reveal to you. So embrace the adventure, and walk by faith. (Hebrews 11) 

3. Life decisions aren't as earth shattering as you might be tempted to believe. Do you really think that you're so powerful that you could mess up your life in a way that God can't redeem? Look at all the beauty God has been able to bring from the mess so far. 
(Romans 8:28)

4. Second guessing your decisions will never help you move forward. It just makes sense. Looking back slows you down. Keep taking steps of faith, instead. You will make mistakes, but you can learn from them, and move on. (Luke 9:62). 

5. You're not a victim. You don't have control over everything that happens, but you do have choices to make. Make them. You don't have to feel stuck. If you don't like the direction your life is going, figure out what steps you can take, and trust God with the outcome. (Proverbs 16:1)

6. If your main goal in life is to get married, you have forgotten how to dream. I'm not saying that it's bad to desire marriage or to desire to lead a godly and quiet life, but is that honestly all you want your life to be about?  Don't you want your life to be about something more? (1 Corinthians 7:32-35, 2 Corinthians 5:11-21)

7. It's not romantic to center your life around loving anyone besides Jesus. It's idolatry, and it will make your life miserable. Do you really want to go back to the slavery of letting your life revolve around the need for someone to love you? You're already loved.
(Romans 1:18-25; 8:38-39)

8. If you need people to love you, you can't actually love them. Instead, you will base your worth on whether you feel loved by them at the current moment or not. And how can you possibly think about what's best for another person when you're so busy thinking about yourself and what you need? (John 15:13)

9. Your worth is defined by the price that Jesus paid for you. And He paid it all. To Him, you were worth His very life. And that means you are loved. Always. Despite all other circumstances. Despite how you feel. That's the truth. (John 3:16, Galatians 1:3-5)

10. The fight to end your love affair with the mirror is a battle worth fighting. The mirror doesn't love you. It will let you down. And do you really want your worth to be defined by your ever fluctuating evaluation of how you look on any given day? It's slavery. Fight to be free. (Romans 6)

11. Cultivating internal beauty is infinitely more important than external. Do you know how much God cares about your heart? Don't you want to cultivate beauty that lasts instead of only focusing on beauty that will fade away? (Proverbs 31:30, Isaiah 40:8)

12. But it is still important to honor God with your body. Don't buy the lie that if God cares about the heart, He must not care about the outside. Don't you know that whatever's on the inside overflows to the outside? Your life can proclaim that only Jesus satisfies by eating and exercising in a way that reflects God's good boundaries on your life. (Psalm 34:8, Psalm 16:5-6)

13. Bringing struggles into the open is better than hiding. You don't have to hide. Bring your struggles into the light. When you do, you can fight the lies that Satan has been using to keep you in chains. Don't you want to be free? (1 John 1) 

14. When a friend points out your sin, don't second guess their love for you. A good friend would not bring these things up unless they cared about you. They can see the things you're blind to. And they want to help you. So listen. (Proverbs 27:6)

15. Comparing yourself to others makes you more insecure, not less. Do you really think you'll ever come out on top in every category? Comparing is a futile and prideful way to try to build your own kingdom. Plus, how in the world are you ever going to love any of the people in your life if you are so busy trying to decide how they measure up to you or how you measure up to them? You will be crushed if you think they're better than you, and you will be prideful and self righteous if you think you're the best. Really. Just stop. (Proverbs 16:5; 29:25)

16. You can learn from others by appreciating their strengths. If you don't have to compare, then it's actually ok for others to be good at things you're not. Encourage them to keep using their gifts for the Lord, and ask them to help you in your weaknesses. (Ephesians 4:1-16)

17. You can help others in their weaknesses instead of getting annoyed. If you don't have to compare, then it's actually ok to be good at things when others are not. And instead of looking down on them, you can offer your gifts as a way to build up the body. (1 Corinthians 12)

18. If you aren't cultivating your talents and using them for God's glory, you are wasting them. Don't waste them. And don't be so afraid that you will just use them for your own glory that you avoid the internal fight to use them for Him and to build others up. Give God a good return on His investment in you. (Matthew 25:14-30)

19. Real joy is found in laying aside your selfishness to serve others. Have you honestly ever been happy when you've been obsessed with trying to feel loved by others? Don't you come alive when you try to think of ways to care for them, instead? (John 13:1-20)

20. The pursuit of humility is a worthwhile endeavor. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Do you really want God to deliberately oppose you? Plus, you're really not that impressive. And anything great about you is from the Lord anyway. Jesus was impressive enough on your behalf. Rest in that. Then you can apologize and seek unity more than you seek to be right. You won't need to defend yourself. Jesus can do that. (James 4:6)

21. Asking questions doesn't make you stupid; it helps you become wise. So be curious. Don't pretend to know everything. You don't. You know it. And so does everyone else. So stop acting like you're fooling anyone into thinking otherwise, and start learning. (Proverbs 1:1-7)

22. The person you become through suffering is a person worth being. Beautiful things happen to you when you seek to trust God in the midst of sadness and pain. You become more like Jesus. And that's the whole reason you exist. (1 Peter 1, James 1)

23. You can fight bitterness with thankfulness. Don't allow hurt feelings to turn into bitterness and anger towards the person who seemed to cause the hurt. You cared about this person for a reason. Remember those things and thank God for them. (Eph 4:17-32, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

24. The hard work of forgiveness is worth the cost you pay. It's a high cost, but Jesus paid a much higher cost to forgive you. He can give you the strength to forgive others.  (Matthew 18:21-35). 

25. It really is true that you find your life when you lose it. So stop trying to desperately hold onto the things you want in this life. You'll find freedom when you let them go. And then you can enjoy life for what it is. (Matthew 10:39)

26. You see God's provision more acutely when you're uncomfortably generous. I know it's scary. But He will take care of you. When you use your resources for Him and His kingdom, He will always supply all you need. And honestly, he gives you abundantly more than that. He is a lavish God. (2 Corinthians 8:1-15)

27. It's good to think about the rest of the world. Don't get so comfortable in your life that you don't think about God's heart for the world and how He might use you to reach it. (Matthew 28:19)

28. You don't have to wait for the "right moment" to preach the gospel. The moment you're waiting for might not come. And then you'll be sad that you didn't love that person enough to share the best news in the world with them. So find a way to talk about Jesus, and trust God with the results. It doesn't have to be weird. Just share your heart. 
(1 Peter 3:15)

So there's my list so far! It's honestly helped me to live in so much more joy and freedom than I ever have before! And I hope it encourages you as well :)

Loving Him is Red! 

Do you have a list of life lessons? What has God been teaching you?

January 1, 2015

The Year I Started Living

Sometimes when you're in the middle of something, you can't see what's happening very clearly. It's only after you come out the other side of the tunnel that you even know what hit you.

During 2014, I reached the end of a tunnel. And when I did, I realized that something miraculous had taken place:

I started living.

I'm not really sure what I was doing before that or even how I got to that place, but the best way I know how to summarize the change that happened in the past year is by saying: 

I stopped letting my relationship status define my life. And it's felt like the difference between slavery and freedom. 

The weird thing is, I didn't even realize how many fears I had or how enslaved I was to them until I started experiencing what a deeper sense of freedom could feel like. 

Thankfully, the truth can set us free! 

Choosing to believe God's Word has made all the difference in helping me break out of my self-imposed prison.  

So now when I start to feel weighed down, burdened, and saddened by whatever circumstances seem to be the source of my distress, I've been quicker to realize that I'm probably believing some lie about my identity, about the Lord, or both, and I need to talk to Him about it. Actually, I need to let Him talk to me.  
Here's one such conversation from about a year ago that I wrote down in the midst of a major moment of struggle.

This is not who you are Sarah. You are not defined by your relationship status. You are not less of a person because you're not married or because you're not in a relationship, or because there are no men who are madly in love with you. I love you, and I'm the one who matters. Don't believe these lies. They will kill your soul, slowly from the inside, until you are desperately sad - totally stripped of the beautiful joy I intend for you to possess. I never meant for you to put your hope in earthly things. There is no cut off age for marriage - no age at which you are given the official title of total loser and rejected outcast, though I know sometimes you feel that way. Let me tell you something. I came once for people like you, and I am coming again. I will not forget you or overlook this current suffering. Though, I promise, one day it will be even less than a memory. Keep waiting. You are not rejected. You are not forgotten. Can a nursing mother forget her baby? Never! So I can never ever forget you! (Isa 49:14-16) It's time for you to be freed from this lie. I release you. Go and be healed (Mark 5:25-34).

Now, in the moment, this conversation didn't seem like a major turning point. I had honestly forgotten about it until I was rifling through some old documents. But reading over it again reminded me that the continual process of confronting the ugly lies that I had allowed to define me for so long was really what helped propel me toward freedom.  

Singleness is not a disease that needs to be healed. Real healing comes when we stop believing the lies that keep us in chains. And waiting for a godly spouse isn't a bad thing. But waiting expectantly for Jesus to come back is much more important. He is everything. And waiting for Him doesn't just look like sitting around til He gets here. He calls us to live for Him. And because of the Spirit that He's given us, we actually can!

Why then should we listen to our feelings when they tell us that our relationship status, or anything other than Jesus' perfect life, death, and resurrection defines us, when it will only leave us trapped, paralyzed by fear, and completely unable to move forward?

I don't need to be a slave to fear. Shame does not define me. Jesus does. He says I'm loved. He says I'm adopted into His family. He says I'm free.

Here are some concrete examples of what the change from slavery to freedom has looked like in my life:

Slavery - I used to think that I needed to wait to move away from State College until I got married. I felt paralyzed to even imagine where I could go next in the future. I didn't even want to think about it, because the idea of making that decision all by myself was so terrifying.
Freedom - A year ago, I decided I was going to move to Lewisburg, because that's where I felt like The Lord was calling me to go. And I didn't want my fears to prevent me from following Him or being used by Him.

Slavery - I used to think that I needed to wait to get bedroom furniture that I actually liked until after I got married.
Freedom - This summer, I found great bedroom furniture on Craigslist that I absolutely loved. I bought it without hesitating.

Slavery - I used to set deadlines for the latest date I could possibly get married based on my age and how long I thought I could wait without literally dying. I felt like I couldn't even commit to summer plans, because then it felt like it ruled out the possibility of getting married during that time.
Freedom - I decided to go on a mission trip to Colombia this summer without even thinking about the idea that the summer is when I should be getting married.

Slavery - I used to think that I needed to marry a guy who could take care of money and budgeting, because it was too scary for me to think about investing. And I definitely needed to wait to invest in buying a house. I felt like getting a house as a single woman would be equivalent to giving up.
Freedom - Now, I've started talking with a financial planner to help me figure out how to best invest my money to help me save for a house, because I would be excited for the opportunity to have another way to bless and minister to others.

These are just a few examples of the steps The Lord has helped me take into freedom. And I  can't wait to see what else He has in store for 2015!

There is no reason to live in slavery when Christ has set us free. He offers us freedom, and we are free to live in it right now! 

At the start of a new year, Loving Him is Red !

What lies have you been believing that keep you enslaved to fear? 

What would it look like to start living in freedom today?