5.16.2017

Grace Defines Me

Today, I was thinking about my worth and how I view it, what I base my value on.  Do I define myself through the eyes of others, myself or God's?

I try to be as honest as possible, with everyone I know and through everything I do and say.  I want the way I live to be a reflection of who I am, a representation of my heart and soul.  Isn't that how it should be?  But so often, I find myself basing my actions on how I want others to see me - and it's not always honest.  For example, when I want someone to find me fun to be around, I have tried to do "cool stuff" that would make them think I'm trendy and hip.  It's stupid how shallow my immoral self can stoop for the approval of others.

And the world encourages this by saying we need to find value in what others think of us.  Or by the decisions we make.  "What you do defines who you are."  But by putting my view of what I think I am over who God says I am is simply wrong.  Why?  Because when I do that, I am basically telling God that what I say is more important that what He says.

And this is what He says:

God says to find my worth in how He sees me.
He reminds me that He loved me while I was unfaithful.
And He continues to love me through the many times I fall short of His glory.

Trusting in this truth defines me.  My mistakes don't define me.  Grace does.

Do you think that maybe God gets sad when He sees how we view ourselves and wonders, "What do you mean you don't love who you are?  I worked so hard on you and to Me, you're spotless and beautiful."

Don't let the shame of your mistakes cause you to walk away from God because you think you're somehow unacceptable, not good enough, or damaged beyond repair.  Look past your shortcomings and see the beauty of His love through His sacrifice on the cross.  Nothing you do will ever be too big, too great for the cross to cover.  He forgives you no matter what.  No matter when.

Grace defines me.  

And with confidence, I can say "It is well with my soul for I am deeply loved by the One who made it."


P.S.  Trust me.  I wrote this more for myself than for you.  My blog posts are pretty much just my thoughts that I choose to share because I feel that someone else out there can use the encouragement and reminders that I so often need myself.  You are not alone.  <3

5.11.2017

Chosen & Forgiven

We sometimes tend to focus more on our mistakes and regrets than on our victories.  But when we put things into perspective and realize that there is something bigger than our flaws, we can move forward with hope, knowing that Jesus is greater, Jesus is victorious and Jesus is on our side.

When God chooses you as His own, He did so already knowing every little detail about you.  Think about how He created you, yet He still purchased you - with the blood of His own Son.  He put Jesus on the cross for you, all the while seeing your sins and knowing your future ones.  He knew you would fall short of His glory, yet He did nothing less than to make a way of redemption and to bring you closer to Himself.  He knew, yet He still chose.

That's grace.
That's forgiveness.
That is love.

The Gospel of grace teaches that Jesus came in bodily form to this earth to take the penalty for our sins, to acquit the guilt, to be judged in our place.  The just accusations against us were more than we could ever try to defend and be freed from.  But He came to relieve us of it.  He came because our efforts would amount to nothing.  They would be in vain.  How can a mortal, sinful creature make itself right again the eyes of a holy God?

But grace declares that our guilt has been atoned by for the only One who is perfect and blameless.

We don't need to live under the burden of trying to gain back a right view in God's eyes.  "The ultimate demand has been met, the deepest judgement has been satisfied."

The good thing we can look back and learn from our mistakes because the LORD specializes in redemption.  He redeems us from our mess ups and allows us to warn others of how not to live.  What you do with the lesson you learn is up to you.  From this point forward, you can either live as confirmation of that redemption (a victory!) or your failure to learn from it and continue on in a lifestyle what will only continue to hurt you.

And no, you may not always "feel" forgiven, but the reality of it is, you probably never will.  Because grace is something so hard to grasp...  How can we receive such a free gift of something we do not deserve?

Simply because He chooses to forgive us.

Come what may, I can rest in the truth that I was hand-designed by the Creator, chosen to be His, bought with a price, and fully forgiven.  There is nothing greater than to know I belong to the only One who loves me and calls me His.

5.02.2017

"I am just a person but thank the Lord that I serve a God who's perfect"

Everyone talks about hitting rock bottom, but what they don’t specify is how differently it will happen to each of us
See, for me, it was hurting the person who I love most in this world and knowing that the pain I felt wasn’t just my own; it was theirs too.
Coming to such a point in life made me realize some big changes needed to happen.  It took hitting rock bottom to sort of wake me up, as it were.  I knew my life needed a new direction, but I guess I had just been too scared to admit it.
I had tried before.  I had tried to make things different.
To be different.
To start over.
To be a new person.
But I felt like the dragon Eustace who shed skin after skin only to realize that no matter how many times he did it himself, it wouldn’t come off completely
The sin, the dirt, the life he had been living could only be changed and could only be removed by the deep, cutting claws of the untamed Aslan
This is what I learned in my own life.
Hitting rock bottom for me involved seeing how much one little mistake, one little decision, could affect not only myself, but others.
It could hurt not only myself, but the one I love the most.
I was humbled beyond any point I have ever been.
I was disgusted with myself and who I had become.
I was disappointed that I had chosen such a path and had been pretending like everything was okay.
Or thinking it was going to be, anyway.
The only thing one can do when they reach that point is to make a decision -
And there’s really only one.
I could choose to change.
I'm the only person who can resolve to do so.
I'm in charge of my life and what I do, and how I live it.
And no, I'm not perfect.
I'm going to screw up.
Everybody does.
But choosing to learn from those mistakes and deciding to apply the lesson to my tomorrow is what makes me a stronger individual.
It hurts…
Hitting rock bottom.
I didn't realize how much until it happened to me.
I cried for a whole day afterwards, wondering how in the world I was going to pick up all the pieces and try to continue living life.
But what I didn’t realize is that I’m not the one in charge of making my life beautiful.
I’m not writing my story.
Yes, I have free will.
And yes, I can decide which path to take in life.
But regardless of that, He’s already been there - 
And sometimes, He needs to chip away at all the nastiness that has built up until nothing is left but crumbled pieces of myself.
Something I have seen and testified with my own eyes is that He specializes in making beauty from ashes.
Oh it’s one of His favorite things to do!
And isn’t it just like Him to go above and beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine?
Cuz that’s just what He does.
So in the momentary pain of reaping the consequences from a simple little stupid choice, I can still move forward, I can still live another day, knowing with absolute certainty that if I set my mind to becoming a different person, I won’t be fighting alone.  
He’s on my side.  He’s still got me.  
And He just loves me.  

It’s as overwhelming, yet uncomplicated as that.

4.03.2017

21 Things I Have Learned In 21 Years


I've learned that...
no matter what happens, life goes on and tomorrow is a new day.

I've learned that...
making a "living" is not the same as making a "life".

I've learned that...
I do get second chances.  From God, from others.  And for that, I am extremely blessed.

I've learned that...
even when I've had pains, I don't have to be one.

I've learned that...
people won't always appreciate, respect, care for or trust me, but that shouldn't change the way I treat them because if it does, then I'm stooping to their level.

I've learned that...
the best company I can keep is just me and God.

I've learned that...
letting go of someone who has constantly manipulated my heart and caused me hurt and grief, is one of the most freeing things I could ever do.

I've learned that...
every day is an opportunity to give to others what you have received, and to love on them.  A hug, a cup of coffee, a smile, a compliment.  It doesn't have to be anything extravagant.  After all, it's the little things in life that matter the most.

I've learned that...
people will forget what I said and what I did, but they will never forget how I made them feel.

I've learned that...
sleep really is necessary and if I'm not getting the rest my body needs, my brain will start working in weird ways and stuff will get messy.

I've learned that...
goals are essential, dreams are a must, and striving forward towards them is all about discipline and determination.

I've learned that...
it doesn't matter when I reach a goal, but that I did it to the best of my ability and with the best intentions.

I've learned that...
money isn't everything.  I need it to survive, but I don't need it to live.

I've learned that...
I'd rather be broke and tired with a night full of memories, than rich and well-rested yet lonely.

I've learned that...
memories are made without even realizing they're being made.  So live life well, minute by minute, cuz I never know what I'll remember or not.

I've learned that...
just because I love someone with everything I have in me doesn't mean they will return that love.  But this doesn't mean that I should be afraid of ever loving again.

I've learned that...
people don't have control over the way I react or how I allow them to affect me.  If there's tension or drama, stay clear of it.  If I'm in the middle of it, don't let it get to me.  Rise above it.  Be mature.  Stay calm.

I've learned that...
regardless of the relationship I have with my parents, I will always miss being away from them and they will always be there for me when I need them.  More importantly too, they will always love me.

I've learned that...
God and family really are everything.  Other people may come and go but these two are forever, so I need to invest in those relationships because whenever I hit rock bottom, they will be all I have.

I've learned that...
nothing will ruin my life more than thinking I should have my life together already.

I've learned that...
I still have a lot to learn.

---

P.S. I meant to post this on my birthday, which was Saturday, April 1, but I was partying all weekend so heyyyy.

3.25.2017

When I Don't Have It Altogether


I'm just trying to figure stuff out, you know?  But I don't know how to.  And it frustrates me because I'm the type of person who likes to have goals, likes to have a plan, likes to have a step-by-step process outlined for accomplishing things in life.  I don't have an ounce of patience, which is definitely something I need to work on.  And maybe that's what God is teaching me right now because wow, is it hard...

Have you ever felt like you're just trying to catch up?  You're trying to get the bills paid, you're trying to make ends meet, you're trying to make the right decisions, you're trying not to fall flat on your face.  This is what my life has consisted of lately.  But I never feel like I fulfill my goals.  I feel like I'm falling short of it.  Like I'm standing on my tippy-toes, stretching as far as I possibly can, but it's just out of reach.  And I don't know what "it" is exactly.  Maybe it's just getting to a level of feeling like my feet are under me and I actually have control of my life for once.  Yeah, I think that's it.
But I never get there.  And it frustrates me to no end.  I feel unhappy.  I feel unfulfilled.  And I've heard a lot of people say that "There's a void in your life that only God can fill", but I know this isn't that void.  Because my relationship with my Jesus is healthy, it's strong, we're in constant communion.  I talk to Him all day, every day.  I spend hours of time in His Word.  I eagerly look forward to Sunday mornings to be able to go to church.  I'm not saying all these because it "makes me a good Christian".  I'm stating facts about my spiritual life to show that no, I'm not lacking in that.  So what is this empty feeling I have?  Why do I have it?  What does it mean?

Well, to be honest, I don't know.

And that makes me even more frustrated.

I was telling a friend about this.  Well, more like blubbering it because I was so emotionally distraught and just plain worn out that I was crying while talking.  He reminded me that God has a plan for all of this.  And I was like "Yeah, well it's hard and it hurts and I don't like it.  I'll never understand why and how something beautiful can come from something so painful.  But I guess that's what makes Him such a Miracle Worker."

He's up to something.  And I'm gonna have to wait and see the reason behind all of this waiting and learning and listening and crying.

In the end, I know it'll be worth it.  I have to just keep reminding myself of that.

Maybe you're going through something similar.  Maybe God is testing you, like He's testing me, and having us work out our faith through patience and trust.  It's hard.  I know exactly what you're feeling.  Trust me.  And in my experience, it's always encouraging to know that I'm not the only one feeling this way, so I pray it's the same for you.

You aren't alone.

God is good.

Stay the course.

3.20.2017

I Don't Know What To Title This


Have you ever had a passion, a hobby, something you loved doing so much, and one day you couldn't anymore?  For some reason, your brain just wasn't letting you, your hands weren't cooperating, your attention span was zilch, and nothing creative came to mind?

That's what it's been like with me and writing lately.

I'm a writer.  Writing is part of who I am.  It's in my blood.  It's an outlet.  It's a passion.  But lately, I've felt like I just couldn't.  I don't know why.  Why would I not be able to do something I love?  I've felt burnt out and not creative whatsoever.  I feel like nothing new has come to mind to write about.  Every time I've sat down to attempt at compiling sentences, nothing came to mind, my fingers didn't move, my brain was just one big blank.  Why can't I do one of the things I love the most?

It scares me.

I was telling all of this to a fellow writer friend of mine and he answered,
"Writing will always come and go throughout life.  Love is hard.  In every way."

I liked how he used "writing" and "love" as synonyms.  They do go hand in hand, so I guess it makes sense.  At least from my viewpoint.
I love to write.  And I write because I love it.  But they are both exasperating - these two.  They can both be so difficult sometimes.  And in those moments, you don't feel like doing either, but you know you should because...well, because it's part of who you are, I guess.

Being scared of something doesn't mean you shouldn't try though.  If it's something you want, if it's something you're passionate about, if it's something you love, then what is stopping you from at least taking a step forward in that direction?  If it doesn't work out, if nothing comes of it, at least you know you tried.

It's better than doing nothing and just wishing things would happen, right?

I guess I'm writing this all to myself.  I got done ranting to my friend and was so frustrated with myself for whining that I knew I needed to write to myself to get a move on and take a dose of my own medicine.

But I hope some part of this helps you.  Maybe you're going through the same thing.  Maybe you're experiencing the same difficulties.  But gosh, I hope you just try...

3.10.2017

Come To Him Broken


So often, I think we feel unworthy to come to God with our problems.  We think He's too busy for us, to hear about our petty needs, to forgive us over and over again.  We have this mentality that we need to look pretty, have our lives together, seek Him in a peaceful state of mind, in a room with candles and on our knees in prayer.

But I don't think that's accurate.

I think that life is messy.  And we're messy.  And we're broken.  And sometimes, all we can come to Him as is lost, hurting, confused, and guilty individuals.  Sometimes we don't know how to pray, but we know how to scream and cry and yell and beat our fists into the air.  We know what "to be hurt" means.  And when words fail us, and frivolous prayers escape our thoughts, we can only come before Him tired and dirty and broken.

I think we have a hard time accepting the fact that we can come to Him like that because we know how awesome and holy He is and it scares us to even consider coming to Him in such a state of chaos.  But if we understand His holiness and sovereignty, then why can't we understand His grace and love too?  If He loved us so much that before we even knew Him, He sent His Son to die in our place, then how much more does He love us now and want us to draw near His throne of grace?

Come to Him broken.

He knows life is difficult.  He knows life is pain.  He understands, He can relate, He is all seeing.  And if the Creator of the universe can understand that, then He can understand our confusion and passion and anger and the cries of our hearts.

Don't hold back.  Don't stay away.  Come to Him as you are.  And if that means in a shattered state, holding your heart in your hands, then so be it.  Don't let fear and guilt and worry about being and looking presentable keep you away from His loving and open arms.

Come to Him broken.

And what a joy and thrill it is to know that He is all-accepting?  That He is all-forgiving?  And nothing you can do will make Him love you less.  He is full of grace and forgiveness.  He has compassion on our weaknesses.  And in the midst of life's cruel tsunamis of suffering and agony, He remains the steadfast lighthouse of constant guidance and love.

Come to Him broken.

He specializes in putting back together pieces and making something even more beautiful than before.

3.05.2017

The Righteous In This City


"Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it?...Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five?...Suppose forty are found there?...Suppose thirty?...Suppose twenty?...Oh may the LORD not be angry, and I shall speak only this once: suppose ten are found there?  

And He said, 'I will not destroy it on account of the ten.'"

Throughout a passage of 9 verses in Genesis chapter 18, this exchange takes place between the LORD and Abraham.  I always found it fascinating that, in a city of an estimated half a million, God said He would not destroy it for the sake of but ten righteous.

In a crash course on my church's foundational beliefs, the teacher spoke of community and the need to be "like redwoods, and not like tumbleweed".  Why?  Because Redwoods' roots grow deep into the ground and intertwine with each other causing such strong stability that they are able to grow up to 350+ feet tall.  Tumbleweed, on the other hand, have no roots; they blow to and fro by any amount of breeze, and look ugly and dead.  Having community and fellowship causes strong bonds through which the unity can be spread through the culture and in whatever place believers are planted in.

A thought struck me when I heard this.  It was the passage from Genesis that I quoted above, but also this -
How different would we live if we thought to ourselves: "Am I the righteous one in this city, in this neighborhood, on this street?  Am I the one God planted here to reach out to others?"

Are we the reasons He is showing mercy to this country?  To this world?  

God doesn't have to let us wake up every morning.  He doesn't have to let our lungs breathe for us.  He doesn't have to let us live.  Yet He does.  Why?  Because He has a plan and purpose for each of us, in whatever state of life we're in, wherever we are living.

Our Father will always have a remnant.  He loves His children and wants to bless us here on earth, until He calls us home.  But while we're here, how are we showing our true colors?  How are we showing others that we are His?  How are we practicing our righteousness?

If God chose to destroy certain cities today, like He did Sodom and Gomorrah, would yours be left standing?