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 Space

Embrace Space

For most of my life, I have tried to fill every single space with something. Whether that be work, friends, service, or homework- I had a full schedule and full life- and I LIKED it. Actually, I would say I have THRIVED in it.

I’ve told a few people that I work best with a fuller schedule- as in- I need to be going nonstop to operate at a higher level. When I have too much space or free time, I feel that I start to get lazy. I don’t get as much done and feel less accomplished. Maybe I’m addicted to busy, maybe I’m a high achiever, probably a little of both.

I’ve been trying to fill my time with reading, catching up with old friends, yoga, gardening, painting, walking, and the list can go on. I think sometimes without lots to do, I feel that my life lacks meaning.

However, while I feel that my life lacks a “bigger” or “busier” meaning, I find myself discovering more meaning in the mundane everyday things of life. I am more sensitive to small miracles and kind words. I am more intentional about how I interact with others. I say YES to more things. I serve people better and more wholeheartedly. I pray more. I listen more.

You may have heard about the minimalist movement where people are not only decluttering, but intentionally living with less. They rid themselves of physical possessions that merely take up space in order to have a more peaceful, less stressful and more meaningful life.

Just like a home, our minds and lives sometimes need that extra space. We leave some walls blank, while others are beautifully filled with pictures and artwork. The thing is, not every single inch is filled with something. There is blank space that helps to emphasize what else is on the walls, or the other furniture in the room. Could it be that our lives need some blank space in order to emphasize what else we have happening? Would we grow a greater appreciation for our lives and the people in them if we had some space to think about them?

This may only be a season of space for me right now, but I am choosing to enjoy and embrace it. If or when things fill back up, I will keep that thought in the back of my mind to create some blank space every now and then to reflect, remember, and listen. I might just see the greater meaning I was looking for but forgot. Or have that encouraging conversation that I couldn’t seem to make time for before.

When do you feel at your best?

When was the last time you took some time to breathe and do nothing?

Do you need to create some space in your life, even if only for a time?

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.

Factory of Truth

Factory of Truth

I heard the buzzer sound, signifying the start of another work day. The whir of the machines and the lights flickering to illuminate the warehouse full of information. Some was stored in shelves reaching all the way to the ceiling. Other information was spilled out as if it had popped off the shelf unexpectedly. Then it started rolling towards me. My job was to decide whether or not it was useful, true, a lie, or if it was completely irrelevant and needed to be destroyed altogether. Loads and loads of information came my way and not too long into the day, I realized I was starting to run behind. It’s not that my hands and mind weren’t fast enough to keep up, but some of the information was so deceptively sneaky that I had a hard time deciphering if it was actually truth or a lie. Some things had a little truth in them, but there would be something that just didn’t seem right about it. The more I tossed, the more I saw just how much junk was accumulating.

Every once in awhile, I would think back to something I had tossed earlier in the day, dig through the discarded items until I found it, and re-examine it. Why was this so hard? I had the rest of my life to work at this factory and I can’t even get the job done for a couple hours without backtracking, rethinking, and reevaluating.

Soon, I started to feel overwhelmed with the noise of the machines and the constant load of information that came my way for me to decipher through and sort.

I found if I turned off the tv for most of the day, there seemed to be a lighter stream of info. This made the job a little more bearable, but also a little more real since I didn’t have funny stories or intriguing dramas to keep me occupied.

As the days and weeks wore on, I noticed that when I intentionally started my morning with information that I knew was the truth, I found it easier to recognize more truth throughout the day, and stay focused.

Eventually, I realized I had a helper standing next to me the whole time who was willing to help if I only asked. As I turned to gaze upon the face of this glorious helper, I saw wisdom, love, and compassion. Here was the answer to my prayers, the one that would help me discern the truth, keep the truth and discard the lies.

We have hoards of information coming our way every single day. It is up to us to decide what is truth and what is not. Sometimes we are spot on, and other times we let lies creep in thinking they are truth. What we often forget is that it is not our job alone. We have the Holy Spirit as our helper who intimately knows us and expansively knows the truth. We can rely on him to help us sort the lies from the truth. Sometimes we need to remove the distractions, remove the outpouring of lies from the start and give ourselves a little space to breath, to discern, and to listen to the Holy Spirit.

Praying truth into your day today, and all the discernment to find it.

 

Our Morning Without Water

Our Morning Without Water

Water is a necessity we all use daily, to drink, to shower, to cook and clean. When it’s taken away, we wonder how we will live or get ready for work, or wash those dishes in the sink. Yesterday our water was missing from our lives for just a few short hours.

They had been working on the pipe up the street since three in the morning, yet must have ran into some complications because it was not finished when they (or we) would have liked. My husband found out when he went to wash his hands and there was nothing there. A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door with one of the workers explaining what happened and that they hoped to have the water flowing by 1pm.

I found out by my husband coming up the stairs, asking how he was supposed to get ready with no water. He had been expecting to take a shower, brush his teeth and potentially do some of those dishes, among other things. As we discussed how we were to manage with no water for a bit, I was surprisingly unflinching.

I had a little water in my cup from the night before and gave it to him to brush his teeth. I had a full water bottle that I keep for class that he was able to use to “wash” his body.

I had face wipes I use for traveling that we could use to wash our faces.

I had dry shampoo to keep my hair fresh.

Just the day before I received a free one liter water from Influenster that would satisfy my needs for the morning.

There was an almost untouched cup of tea that I simply reheated in the microwave.

ALL OF THESE THINGS we had on hand, when just minutes before we wondered what we would do to prepare for the day of work. God knew- and it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

HOWEVER, (and this is where it gets a little more real) there are so many who do not have water daily, whether it is not clean, or they live in a place that the water is so far away that a day’s journey can only happen every so often. There are people who get water and other utilities shut off because they are unable to pay. Some say they made bad decisions and that’s why they are unable to pay for water. What about you? Should you get punished for every bad decision you make with something as extreme as a daily need of water?

Our water actually was turned back on by 10am and it was nothing more than an odd couple of hours where we had to come up with creative solutions. BUT some people don’t have that luxury. Some don’t have the water leftover from the day before because there was none the day before.

I’m not writing this post because I think YOU need to change your mindset or open your eyes to the realities that many in our world face. I AM writing this post to let you know how my perspectives and ideas about the world and how it works are shifting. I believe it is a good shift, and I am thankful for the shift, even when it is uncomfortable-like not having water.

I AM writing this post to let you know how my perspectives and ideas about the world and how it works are shifting. I believe it is a good shift, and I am thankful for the shift, even when it is uncomfortable-like not having water.

It only happens when I get uncomfortable, when life is interrupted and I’m not able to do what I normally do, but instead am forced to be still, think and pray and ponder on things that go beyond myself. Things out of my control.

I AM praying that you will allow yourself the opportunity to get uncomfortable, to allow yourself to comprehend another’s reality, and to sit and ponder and pray about what that means for you in your own context.

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

Puzzling over Puzzles

Blue-Puzzle-Piece-Free-HD

Sometimes, life is like a puzzle. This analogy may not make sense if you are not familiar with doing the big 500 or 1000 piece puzzles, but my grandma, mom and many other family members love big puzzles. We have our systems down and share the box to see the big picture, celebrating with each other when we find the right fit.

Most of the time, we start on the boarder, this is the easiest part because all of the edges are straight, there is not much of a need to even look at the box, because the process is in place and we know the routine. It is the rest of the puzzle where the guide of the bigger picture is a necessity.

Similarly, early on in life, you just live it, without many decisions to make because the steps are all laid out for you. You eat, cry, learn to crawl, then walk, potty train, and feed yourself. As we get older, there are more decisions to make and often we can start to think about the bigger picture of our lives.

Recently, I feel that God has shown me the box, the big picture. However, I only get a glimpse before I’m right back at it, looking at this little puzzle piece, trying to figure out where it fits. Once I get that piece, I can move on to the next. Sometimes, I will examine a piece for a time and put it down, because it is in a section of the puzzle not even started yet.

I am thankful that God shows me a glimpse of the big picture sometimes because it gives me a hope for my future and direction for where the next piece of the puzzle goes. Puzzles, like life, take patience. Sometimes we are surprised with how easy a piece fits or we know exactly where it goes. Other times, we search and search and try all of the different options, only to give up and try again another time.

I am also thankful for a God who is patient with me. He knows the whole picture with each and every minute detail that I have yet to discover. He celebrates with me when that piece that I have struggled with over and over finally goes into the right spot!

Life is a process and God is a patient God. In the meantime, we are called to “Pray continually, rejoice always, and give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thes. 5:18-19) This is one of my favorite verses because it is such a great reminder of what I can always do even if I am not sure what else to do.

Slowly, piece by piece, the bigger picture is coming together. I keep pressing on because I know my Puzzle maker, and he lovingly created me for a purpose, and the result will be a beautiful picture of a life complete. It is in the struggle where we begin to become complete and mature (James 1). What is your piece of the puzzle that you are examining currently?