Embrace Small Deaths

Embrace Small Deaths

Death is not normally a topic that is commonplace in our society today.  It is something everyone reaches eventually, but the majority of people try to avoid as long as possible, whether in their own life, or even in conversation. Today I’m not writing about death in the traditional sense, but more about the many small deaths we experience of ourselves, our ideas about the future, and expectations of other people.

Wee may die a series of small deaths each day or see these deaths happen over a longer period of time. Either way, we encounter death more often than we think, and for some, it is not welcome. Sometimes, not embracing small deaths can mean that we are holding ourselves back from something better.

I shared earlier in a post that the process of grief is not solely for the death of a person in our lives, but it can be for the end  of experiences, friendships, and seasons. Similarly, dying to ourselves can take on that death-like process, which may be painful and cause grief but can produce beautiful results.

What exactly is ‘dying to yourself’?

When we die to ourselves, we are saying to God, “I surrender, you are in control. You will provide. You will make all things new. Because of you, I no longer have to live in bondage or chains.” Scripture uses baptism as a tangible picture of this death and new life. When we go into the water, it is a physical representation of dying and coming up reborn into a new life – a life proclaiming Christ. Dying to ourselves is both a one time decision (initially) and an ongoing learning process called sanctification.

God’s kingdom is not like this world. In the eyes of the world, his kingdom is upside down. We start to see that the way we get to some of his greatest plans for our life come through some of the most unconventional ways. For example, we see in scripture that when we lose our life (ie. death) for Christ, we find it (Matthew 10:39). The Bible is full of these kind of references where we lose or give up our life in exchange for something better and eternal. We die not only to ourselves (the flesh), but we die to sin, to an old way of life, and to our idea of control for our life.

When we choose to give up our ideas for our life and give it over to God, we slowly start to look different. We may gain a different vocabulary, a new life motto, and a new perspective. This process takes time and might not be the most comfortable.

Death is essential for growth.

Lately, I have had to die to my ideas of perfection and how it can somehow be achieved this side of heaven. The desire, I believe, was placed in my soul by Christ, but it can only be fulfilled through him, and only in its entirety once we get to heaven. This has looked different for me, as my eyes are opened to my own sinfulness, selfishness, and brokenness. I make mistakes, disappoint people, and God is still sovereign.

This small death of my idea of perfection is one of thousands. Some things I have learned the easy way through the experiences and wisdom of other people, and some I have learned the hard way through my own failure or inability. Each time, I am reminded that my dependence on myself is dying, and my dependence on God is growing.

Just as branches from a fruit tree are pruned off and die, the whole purpose is so the rest of the tree can bear fruit that is much more flavorful and delicious!

 

What small death is God calling you to die today?

Is it your ideas for your future? Your timeline for your future? Your expectations for your loved ones? Your desire for fame and wealth?

What are you going to die to today in order to find new life and grow?

 

John 12:24 ESV

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Romans 6:1-23 ESV

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Romans 12:1 ESV

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Ephesians 4:20-24 ESV

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

John 15:1-27 ESV

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. …

 

Embrace Grieving

Embrace Grieving

As you may have heard from my last post, I recently graduated! It is an exciting transition for me with much anticipation towards what is in store for this next season of life. However, what many of us forget as we all make great transitions in life, is that we still experience endings. In order to begin, often something else must end.

These endings can mean we experience some sort of loss and can bring unexpected grief and emotions for which we may not be prepared. Towards the end of my last semester, I started to experience just that. Had I not experienced it before, and had a wise counselor (yes, counselors go to counseling too) speak into my life about grief, I may not have been prepared for the conflicted emotions and thoughts that emerged.

Someone does not have to die for us to experience losses in our life. Loss also does not always mean something negative happened.

Just as we all lose our baby teeth, losses in life allow for new opportunities and growth.

Over the past weeks and months, I have been in a sort of grieving process of this season of life coming to an end. It was a long and cumbersome season where I worked long days and studied and went to school in the evenings. I had a big breakup during this season and also fell in love and got married in this season. God was so faithful throughout the process, even though it was not always enjoyable. Somehow, even though I looked forward to and longed for this day to come, there is a part of me that grieved. I made friends during this season, and I also did not spend as much time with friends as I would have liked.

Grief can be a motivator. When we grieve, we recognize our feelings and the good and the bad, but we don’t have to stay there.

There comes a point in time where we have to recognize and accept that things have changed, or are changing.

“We add to our suffering when life changes and we behave as if it hasn’t.” Mark Nepo

We can do something in the future, as a result of what grief has taught or is teaching us. My grieving has shown me that my word for the year – EMBRACE- was the perfect word. I will always be in some kind of season working towards some kind of goal. That does not need to stop me from embracing moments with the people I love and creating memories. I can pay attention- LISTEN- to what is happening around me and in me, and move forward in peace.

 

Are you in a transition season of life?

 

Is there something that you have not yet grieved?

 

Is there something changing in your life that you’re trying to act like it is not happening?

Embrace Calling

Embrace Calling

Since I was a teenager, probably around 7th grade, I have wanted to be a counselor. It switched a couple times over the years, but I always came back. Now, 12 years later at age 25, that dream, that calling that I felt on my life WAY BACK then, is becoming a reality. On May 5th, I graduated from Grace University with my Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I remember in high school, a visitor at church spoke the prophetic word of counselor over me, and I cherished that moment, thinking how could he know- it must be God.  

At a staff meeting a little while ago, two people got a similar word and said that it was a word for more than just one person.

They said that the things you have been persevering for, will finally come to fruition.

At first, I didn’t think it really applied to me, until I got that little nudge that said, “that’s YOU.” It is me. This long awaited goal, 12 years in the making, is about to be realized.

Now that I think about it, I have no idea what I would do now, if I set a 12 year goal. Somehow, because I took it in small chunks, it seemed like a breeze. Plus, life happens while we are setting and achieving goals.

Life happens in the midst of realizing our dreams.

God gave me this dream. In some ways I had absolutely no idea how much work or how long it would take to get to this point. It definitely did NOT look the way I had envisioned it looking. I didn’t know I would stay in Omaha this long, or even find a church family and job to help me through grad school. I had no idea that I would get married towards the end (I thought it would be way sooner… and then thought maybe way later).

Nonetheless, I persisted, and God carried me through. Through heartache, numerous jobs, friends, living arrangements, and travels. Through doubt, wanting to have some kind of quick fix, or to stop accumulating school bills. I’m naturally an achiever, but this was a long term achievement, one that will even now extends long past graduation. I wanted to achieve things NOW– in the workplace or finances or family – yet everyone else around me had already begun living their focus. Mine was still a little farther off.

I’ve heard it said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” (Theadore Roosevelt), and at times, I let those comparisons steal my joy. When I was up late doing homework, seeing other friends or acquaintances going out. I was working hard and paying school bills on top of regular life expenses, when others were working towards buying houses or new cars.

Your season may not be the same as another’s, and your calling is absolutely unique to you and who God has created you to be.

Do you have a long term dream or goal?

Has something been placed within you long ago that is slowly coming to fruition?

What are the baby steps you need to take to get there? How can you EMBRACE CALLING in your life today?

Embrace “Otro Oportunidad”

Embrace “Otro Oportunidad”

“Otro opotunidad! Otro oportunidad! Otro oportunidad!” the children chanted as their classmates got one more chance at the game they were playing. I had never heard the phrase chanted, though I knew what it meant. Another opportunity, one more chance, one more try. As I chanted it for the next round of children to try again, I couldn’t help but think how that is often the chant of my heart. Give me another opportunity, one more chance, let me try again.

I recently returned from a missions trip to Mexico. It was not the typical go to a different country and build something kind of missions trip. It was more relational in a way that I completely loved and embraced. We got the opportunity to learn from, meet, and encourage the believers in Mexico. We also had the chance to share some of what we are learning and doing back in the US. It was all around Better Together and I LOVED it.

It pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, test out my Spanish skills, try new things, and live differently than I had before.

As our leader for the trip would always say, “Not better, but DIFFERENT.”

His goal for years has been to help the church get out of their seats and into the streets. To live out what it means to tangibly love your neighbor in real life. This normally means getting out of your comfort zone.

It’s something I’ve been learning my entire life, and now, as a lighthouse leader, it is something I pray often. Give me another chance, God. Let me be a light this time.

So many times I have missed the opportunity only to pray for another, or offer an encouraging word. One more time. One more opportunity.

In the counseling office, I’ve started to learn not to hold back. Working with transient populations can do that to you. With you one week and gone the next. Some sessions end up being their last, and I miss an opportunity to encourage or speak life into their situation. I’ve learned to build them up throughout the process, not just when I see progress. I don’t know if I will see them next week, so I share the words today.

My mother raised us to live each day as your last and to never miss an opportunity to say I love you, always trying to end on a positive note. My sister and I joke that we do it almost obsessively sometimes.

If only I lived that way with everyone that I encountered, instead of just my loved ones. To speak that word that God lays on your heart. Give the hug, share the smile.

What can you do today? What does someone need from you?

God is giving you another opportunity each time you wake, each time you step out of that door, or go to the store.

1 Peter 3:15 NLT

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.

The beautiful thing about God is that you cannot mess up his plan. When you fail, he gives you another opportunity. Your mistakes or missed opportunities are NOT bigger than God. BUT he is inviting you to be a part of his work.

Longings Fulfilled

Longings Fulfilled

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

It’s amazing to me how true this verse is. I feel like lately, God has been fulfilling several of my longings (or maybe I’ve just been more aware).  I longed to have a husband who loved and cared for me radically, and have enjoyed being married to God’s gift of a husband to me for the past 9 months. Not all of the longings are as big as marriage though. I longed to do yoga in a Christian environment, and just recently got to experience the beautiful fulfillment, that keeps going! Also, I longed to provide a space for women to be: be themselves, write truth, experience peace, and so much more. This past Saturday was a small start at doing just that, in light of a larger longing that God has placed within me.

As I was filled with joy and life at each of these fulfilled longings, I realized something more. Not only did God fulfill these hopes, these longings of mine, but he was also the one who GAVE me the longings in the first place.

It is said that God will give you the desires of your heart when you delight in him (Psalm 37:4), but he is also the one who places many of those desires in there to begin with!

It’s like God gives us double gifts when he gifts us with deep desires or soul longings, and then he gifts us again when he satisfies and fulfills those longings.

It gives me hope for my longings yet to be fulfilled. The ones that have been deferred for a while, but my heart has not grown sick, because I’ve experienced so much life from other longings fulfilled.

What are some longings that you have? In what ways has God fulfilled some of your longings already? Have you delighted in God, and has he given you desires that have yet to be fulfilled?

Pray with me:

Father, thank you for being the giver of good gifts. Thank you for the many longings you have fulfilled in my life. Thank you for the desires, the dreams, and callings you have placed within me. I pray I can rejoice at these gifts, and steward them well. I pray I can be patient with the process you have me in to reach the fulfillment. May you get all the glory as you fulfill the deepest longings of our soul.

Amen.

Irreplaceable People, Unexpected Love

Irreplaceable People, Unexpected Love

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Things are replaceable, people are not. -Tow Truck Driver

So thankful that my person and I are alive and well -a miracle and blessing from our father. And that replaceable thing we drive around in, well God took care of that too.

This weekend didn’t turn out how we expected or desired with a whole tire coming off the car twice- once on an expressway. Somehow -both times- we managed to get to safety without impacting anyone or anything else. God gifted us with people- irreplaceable people- who were willing to help strangers in our time of need. He sent those to check on us and offer rides or help and more to temporarily put the tire back on the car.  It was a miracle how it all unfolded–we are still marveling at it!

At first I cried because I was so scared. Then I cried because so many cared!

With it being the weekend before Valentines, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate love than by experiencing God showing us his love in so many [unexpected] ways. We missed a marriage conference and fellowship with some friends, but we gained a greater understanding of what it means to rely on God, submit to him, and appreciate the things that have eternal value.

I feel our marriage has deepened in a way that only God could have allowed and our faith in him strengthened. He is good and he looks out for his children.

Praying you feel His extravagant and sometimes unexpected love this season.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.’” John 10:10-11

Trust Without Borders

Trust Without Borders

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Last year, around this time, I was in my last semester of undergrad and thus still had to attend weekly chapels. I remember going to a worship chapel where we sang the song Oceans. As one of the top Christian songs in the past few years, this song was a favorite in chapel, on the radio and on everyone’s playlists. After a while though, the words lost their meaning. On that particular day, however, I realized afresh what the words meant.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior”

I knew what I was singing, but thought for a second at the weight of my words. Did I really just sing that I wanted God to take me to deeper waters? What would that look like? And was that even something I really wanted to be asking God?

This past year, God has brought me to and through some of those deeper waters. My 22nd year has been one of the hardest yet. The trials of a broken relationship and a wounded friendship took me deeper than my feet could ever wander. At times I didn’t know if I could emotionally, spiritually, and mentally survive. However, because I ran to His presence, the deeper communion I have experienced with God and this sense of unity with His Spirit makes it more than worth it. Through it all, the joy that I have is unexplainable. Even though I may still sometimes hurt, that hurt reminds me of how deep God has taken me. How he has allowed me to walk on the water, making me stronger, and let me experience the fullness of his presence.

While my heart may have been unsure when I uttered the prayer of that song, God heard the words of my lips and knew what it would take to make my faith stronger.

This summer, when I thought I had experienced the deepest of the depths, I had no idea that more was in store. While I am writing this now, I don’t know if I have seen the last of the depths. In fact, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that there are still deeper waters ahead.

In John 16:33, Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble…”

I can be confident that there are deeper waters to come. BUT Jesus is not finished when he says that. He ends the statement with:

“…But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Our faith can be made stronger in those deeper waters. We know that we can endure because we already know Jesus has overcome!

The trust and experience of deepened faith developed through trials is both painful and beautiful.

May we continue to be led by the Spirit, and our faith be made stronger.