Testimony Tuesday: A New Lens

Needless to say, I’ve been a little quiet on the faith front lately. This isn’t intentional, or really significant of anything other than being just plain busy.

Just. Plain. Busy.

Or at least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself. That’s how I’ve been justifying it.

But that’s not really it, is it? Busyness is an excuse. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. And more than that, it’s a vice. An idol. It’s one of my worst ones, actually. I can prioritize anything over my relationship with the Lord if I try hard enough — we all can.

I mean, take this very blog post for instance! It’s my first Testimony Tuesday in over a month, and in the last one, I was talking about how I’ve been struggling with juggling life, church, and everything else. And yet, nothing changed.

Okay, I won’t say nothing. I’m going to give myself a sliver of credit and note that I caught myself slacking on the faith front, and that should count for something, shouldn’t it?

But again, I’m justifying. beyond that, I might even be rambling, so for that, poor dear readers, I apologize.

The point of this post was not to ramble about my own lack of prioritizing. The point was, quite simply, to share an excerpt of a devotional I read recently, one which touched me, and called me to open my eyes to how I’m viewing the world. Am I viewing it through rose-colored glasses, or God’s prescription? And when my vision is blurred, am I even aware of it?

With a new lens prescription, it can take time for your eyes to adjust. A change in spiritual vision can take time, too, and you might find yourself slipping back to old ways of acting, or thinking. When that happens, remind yourself that God has given you a new way to see the world, and He has enabled you to recognize His presence and His love in your life. What a beautiful difference! – from “He Restores My Soul, 365 Daily Devotional”

These words were so, incredibly comforting to me. I read them on a day I was being particularly hard on myself for letting life get in the way of God’s love for me, and of learning to see that love evermore clearly. But the truth is, what the devotional says is right: it takes time to adjust. It takes time to open your heart in the first place, so opening the rest of yourself to God’s love can be just as slow going too. We are not called to be perfect, after all. We are called to love.

And how lucky are we that He loves us, even in moments where we cannot see so well!

For now we see in a mirror dimly,

but then face to face.

Now I know in part;

then I shall know fully,

even as I have been fully known.

– 1 Corinthians 13:12

We only know in part now, and that is okay. We are called to continue learning, continue growing, and continue loving.

For now, my focus is on exactly that: refocusing. I’m working to spend time each morning, reading my devotional and connecting with God, instead of rushing straight into the business of this earthly world. I’m allowing myself to recenter, without reprimanding myself for doing so, because how is that as forgiving as our Lord is?

Short answer: it’s not.

My hope for you is that if you’re in a place like me, where balance isn’t necessarily within reach, you’re allowing yourself to take a time out and do what you need to do to once again even the scales. I pray you allow yourself time to refocus. More often than not, that’s all we need to, once again, see clearly.

4 Goals for 24

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The older I get, the more I frown upon the idea of resolutions. I think there’s a lot of unnecessary pressure that stems from the concept of a resolution, this gigantic thing that you have to do in a set time period. Don’t get me wrong: I respect the concept, and I know that for some people, it works really well.

It’s just not my thing.

I am, however, a big fan of goal setting. Now, I realize that some may argue that this is essentially the same thing as a resolution, and to that, I beg to differ, and I offer this counterargument: resolutions are measured by whether or not they are accomplished, whereas goals are measured by how much you have accomplished towards it. Say you set a goal to save 500 dollars, and you only save 430… you’ve still saved 430 dollars, and that’s still a pretty darn good accomplishment.

I’ll admit that perhaps it’s just a matter of perspective, but that’s how I like to look at it.

Perhaps the other reason I am not so much a fan of resolutions is because I’m not a big fan of New Years. Beyond its overhyped expectations, I guess I also never really saw January 1 as the start of a personal new year. I’ve always considered my birthday more of a time for reflection and goal setting, as opposed to the arbitrary day that the calendar changes.

So, that said, it’s time to set some goals because, in case you missed it, my birthday just passed (and if you somehow did miss that, you must be new… and in that case, welcome!)

Once upon a time, I set goals based on how I old I turned, but the older I get, the more ridiculous that sounds. I doubt I’ll want to set 98 goals when that time comes.

So, this year, I’m instating a new system, a set of goals based on four key areas in life:

Professional. Projects. Personal. Physical.

And, yes, before you ask, I did intentionally start them all with the letter P. I’m a big fan of alliteration, okay?

Professionally, I want to continue on the same track that I like to think I have been heading. Admittedly, this is the goal I am probably least public about, at least over here on the blogosphere, because those worlds are somewhat and intentionally separate. So for now, I’ll go ahead and leave it at that.

As far as projects are concerned, I want to grow this blog of mine. I’d like to put the effort in and reach one thousand Instagram followers and continue to share a message of balance between faith & life for anyone who’s interested.

Personally, I want to work on my relationship with the Lord. I’ll admit that I have fallen into a pattern of leaning on Him when things get tough, and pulling away when all is going well. That’s an unfair give and take, and that’s not how He wants us to be with Him. He wants all of us, all the time, and I recognize that – it’s just so easy to unintentionally credit your idols when life is going well. So I’m setting a goal to be more proactive and intentional about my time with the Lord in order to further strengthen that foundation.

And when it comes to physical goals, I’m a bit of a broken record. I still haven’t run my first race, and it’s still a bucket-list item. I know I physically can run a 5K – I do it regularly on a treadmill. For whatever reason, though, I’ve always held back when it comes to actually putting on a number. This year, that changes.

Four goals. Four main buckets, if you will, where there’s room for improvement.

Then again, there’s always room for improvement, isn’t there? We can always work on being better versions of ourselves, and whether it’s a birthday or a new year, or you’re one of those lucky people who is motivated to evaluate their goals and progress without a calendar reminder, it’s important to set a course for what’s to come.

Testimony Tuesday: Through the Eyes of a Child

One of my favorite things to do on Sunday mornings is to spend it with the kiddos. About twice a month, I get to volunteer as a leader of my church’s children’s ministry, and it is, honestly, one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

Truth be told, I signed up because I just love kids. They’re so fun to hang out with, so vibrant, so full of energy and life — and, truth be told part 2, I really enjoy being able to hang out with them for a short period of time before giving them back to their parents.

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a teacher. Somewhere along the line, I fell in love with writing and public relations and my life took an entirely different path. However, I’ve never really given up on the idea of having my own classroom. Maybe it’s something that’s in the cards way down the line, when I have a family of my own and want summers off to spend with them… or maybe, I’ve found my calling right here, within the walls of my church. I used to joke that I started teaching Sunday school as a way to hold on to my dream of teaching without the actual commitment.

I’ve discovered, though, that (as usual) God had a whole other set of plans for what teaching children’s ministry on Sundays would bring me.

The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

– Matthew 19:14

Have you ever watched a child believe? Have you ever listened to their uninhibited, unquestioning knowledge of the Gospel? Have you ever talked to them about their faith in Jesus Christ and His redemption?

Let me tell you – I have, and it is one of the most wondrous things out there.

So, let’s be honest with ourselves. Even those of us (and I’m raising my hand here, too) who grew up believers, raised as good Christian children in good Christian families, have struggled with doubt as we grew older. It’s inevitable. Eventually, you learn that such doubts and such struggles are ultimately a part of our greater relationship with Christ. We know that part of what strengthens that relationship is questioning it and choosing to believe anyway. It’s seeing the impact of our saddened, sinful world and choosing to look to the Lord to offer faith and redemption and peace in it.

But do you remember what it was like when you were oblivious to the sinful ways of the world around us? When you knew of evil but didn’t quite comprehend it?

I do. And I’m reminded of that blissful, unfailing faith in God every time I hang out with those kids.

I remember sitting in my church in Texas, all those years ago. I loved that church because it was beautiful, and because they did rotations during Sunday school, and one of those rotations was to a movie theatre, and there was real buttered popcorn in that movie theatre. I remember the perks of that church more than anything, as I guess seven-year-olds are probably prone to do.

But I also remember believing it because I didn’t know that you could question it.

And sure, I’ve since grown up and recognized that questioning my faith and subsequently understanding it on a deeper level is one of the benefits of more time spent on this planet. But it can also be terrifying, to wonder about something you once almost took for granted.

I’m not saying these kids don’t know what they believe in. In fact, I believe that the children I spend Sundays with believe in God so fiercely and so innocently that they are to be looked up to (even if, technically, that requires looking down).

Our faith is not meant to be questioned; it is meant to be accepted, and leaned on, and almost taken for granted.

He is a graceful, loving Lord, and He wants us to look at Him with the eyes of a child. He wants us to obey His commands and not question His reasons. He wants us to love Him the way that He loves us.

And yes, He recognizes that the older we get, the more reasons there are to doubt the strength of that love and that relationship.

But, so often, there’s also so many more reasons to relish in it.

Sometimes, it just takes watching a child praying, or listening to the words of the Gospel, to remember that. Sometimes, it just takes a moment or two in the eyes of a child’s faith to find the very core of our own.

Testimony Tuesday: God Will Provide

It always strikes me as so odd how sometimes it just clicks. By that I mean, those “cliche” (for lack of a better word) sayings that float around the church community. Things like, “God will provide.” It’s repeated over and over and over again and inherently, you believe it. You know that’s what the scripture says, you know that’s the promise He has given His people. You know God will provide… but when does that click?

For me, it was last weekend.

I know, I know. That probably seems late but I think that part of this faith journey I’m on is really, completely getting what I’ve believed my whole life. After all, I think there is a different between believing it, and getting it. It doesn’t mean you’re doubting it up until that point. It just means that there’s a moment where you’re like — oh, okay. Yup, God. You’re right.

You will provide. 

What led me to this particular moment of clarity was car troubles. Cosmetic ones, technically, but air conditioning isn’t necessarily optional in the 115-degree Phoenix heat. And, let me tell you, air compressors don’t come cheap.

However, as I left the dealership knowing how much of a hit my savings were about to take, I felt oddly at peace. Sure, it’s a lot of money and yes, that still sucks, but it’s not as much as it could have been, and, I have it. It’s there. Was I planning to spend it on this? Of course not. But that’s what savings are for.

A year ago, I would have absolutely panicked, very much so in the how-in-the-world-am-I-going-to-comfortably-pay-for-this kind of way. But now? I will get the bill paid and set up a plan to rebuild the (relatively minor, in the grand scheme of things) hole it’s digging into my savings account.

It will be okay. I’m not worried. God will provide the means, even if it entails skipping a couple of happy hours for the next month or so.

And, really, I know the nonbelievers might just look at this as a result of growing up, and building a savings, and being more financially responsible. All of those things are true, and I get it.

But the Lord also provided something else for me this weekend, something more unexpected and decidedly less monetary.

Time. 

You see, I was supposed to go up to the cabin this weekend. My AC went out as I was running errands to prepare for the drive up north — getting my air pressure checked, getting gas, the usual. I could have gone up with no AC, probably, but I didn’t want to chance it just in case it was something bigger or more hazardous. So I resigned myself to staying in the Valley (and its heat) this weekend. I was upset about it at first, but as the weekend progressed, I realized that God was really handing me this set of circumstances as away to say, Whoa. Slow down. Reflect. Pause. 

I’ve been a little bit all over the place lately, due to stress and the heat of the summer and just a weird feeling of not accomplishing the things I want to do. But now I was handed this built in downtime, time where I really had no choice but to fill the hours at the dealership by doing something productive. (Granted, yes, I did watch a few episodes of Netflix, too, but that’s not the point.)

God provided time this weekend. Time for me to lay out some blog posts, which helped me get over the feeling like I wasn’t doing what I should be for this platform. Time to rest, which was surprisingly much needed after a weekend of travel and a stressful week of not sleeping well. Time to talk out some things that needed to be talked out, which provided a reality check for myself and just some good communication otherwise. Time to unwind, to wash the sheets, to organize my dresser. Time to check things off the to-do list, which turned out to provide more peace of mind than a weekend in the woods (though I do miss the smell of the pines).

His provisions aren’t always physical — they’re not necessarily food or money or housing, though they often are those things. He provides what He knows we need. We just have to trust Him about that.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
– Matthew 6:33

Testimony Tuesday: Without Ceasing

background-blur-close-up-998592Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
– Romans 12:12

Well, that command is pretty straightforward, isn’t it?

That one verse can really be broken down into what are, if you ask me, the basic principles of steadfast faith:

be hopeful, be patient, be constant.

And yet, that last one is so easy to overlook. At least, it is for me.

Maybe it’s because I am admittedly still unsteady when it comes to my practices. Maybe it’s just a general unsteadiness in life. Maybe it’s the inherent unsteadiness of human nature. Whatever it is, being constant is one of my biggest trials, and what I have to work towards the most when it comes to maintaining and flourishing my relationship with God.

It’s just so easy to only rely on the Lord when it’s convenient, or when I can glorify His blessings. It’s so much easier to be able to say, “Yeah, the Lord is so great because he’s provided so well with this, and that, and this.” Of course I want the relationship to remain happy and carefree and easy – that’s not even unique to my relationship with God, that’s just how I’d like every relationship to be. I don’t think I’m entirely alone in that wish. Right?

Right.

Hopefully.

(See, I’m easily hopeful.)

Jokes aside, consistency is something that I am working on and, perhaps a tad ironically, something I pray about often. I pray that I can do just that – pray – with unwavering dedication and faith. I pray that I come to not only ask for things I want or need or think I deserve, but that I ask for the simplicity of knowing the Lord’s presence. I pray that I can find the courage to pray even in the darkest times, when I feel the most alone, not just in the happy times where I can feel God’s presence so strongly.

A relationship with the Lord is hardly one of convenience. It’s one that takes work and effort, just like any other relationship we come across on earth. Where would I be if I wasn’t constant with my friends, or my family? (Actually, don’t answer that. Life has gotten a little too real lately and I’ve seen exactly what happens when that’s the case.)

Beyond just being something that we should be doing for the sake of strengthening our relationship with God, being consistent is something we are quite literally commanded to do.

Pray without ceasing,
– 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
– Jeremiah 33:3

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
– Colossians 4:2

So today, I pray that we can all be consistent and steadfast and open. I pray for my own consistency. I pray that any relationship with the Lord that might be wavering finds that faith and constant steadfastness again.

I pray that we can all be, exist, love, and know without ceasing.

Happy Tuesday.

Blogging with Purpose

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To be honest, I almost didn’t post today. I almost broke my fairly regular cadence of Tuesday/Thursday blog posts out of mere busyness and lack of true inspiration. This week has just gotten the better of me — social commitments have had me slacking on my workouts, work has me exhausted (in the good way! but still…), and I didn’t plan well for blog content. I didn’t want to post just for the sake of posting, so I wasn’t going to do it at all.

And then it struck me: there’s my post.

Diving into the blogger world, I’ve realized that it can be so easy to be insincere, not genuine. With all of the sponsored posts that keep blogs going, a battle for visibility within the algorithms, and so much more, it can be tempting to post just to post. I’ll admit — I’ve done it, and I’m fooling myself if I think I won’t do it again.

But I try, so hard, to avoid it. Why? Because that’s not at all what I started on this blogging journey for.

The other day, someone asked me a question.

“What is your blog about?”

I had to pause, for a moment, before offering a rambling response of: “It’s a lifestyle blog. Well, a faith-based lifestyle blog. Well, no. Kind of a faith-mixed-with-lifestyle blog. I’m still trying to figure it out.”

And while that’s true, it still got me thinking. What is this blog about?

I always said that I didn’t ever want to blog just to blog. I wanted to write things that have meaning to me – whether that meaning stems from pure interest or curiosity, or whether it’s something a bit deeper like faith. I never wanted to write just to spew some words out there. I live by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s motto:

You don’t write because you want to say something,
you write because you have something to say.

So as I pondered the question, I started perusing my own feeds. I started looking for the people and bloggers whose content I admire the most, who I look up to and admire in this crazy, saturated blogging sphere.

I noticed that my favorites were the ones with stories to tell. Not only stories, but their own truths. I am the biggest fan of real-life rawness, and I am so in awe of people who are vulnerable enough to share those moments with the world.

So that, I’ve decided, is what I want to tell people my blog is about:

Real life.

That’s not to say I won’t work with sponsors or affiliates. That’s not to say that I won’t occasionally post just to post — but I’m going to try to avoid it.

This is my pledge to you, my readers, that I will continue to blog with the utmost purpose. I will not hide details for the sake of making my life look more “shiny.” I will not shy away from the tough stuff. I urge you, whether you’re a blogger or a reader or just a random passerby, to live your life with that same mantra.

Can we do that, together? Can we promise to be real, and purposeful, and intentional?

I pray that we can. I pray that I can. And I pray that you continue to offer me the grace of your listening ears (or… I guess… your reading eyes?)

Testimony Tuesday: Intention

Living with intention. It seems like such a simple concept, one that we all should want to adhere to so naturally. Of course, we want to be intentional — about our lives, our love, our faith, our families. Without intention, what’s the point, really?

And yet, it feels like, so often, intention can slip through the seams, for whatever reason. Life becomes more routine, more automatic… and, in turn, inherently less intentional.

I’ve been trying to be better at this but I’ll admit that even on my best days, there are moments where I feel as if I’m on autopilot. It’s little things: driving to work each morning, plowing through some everyday tasks, putting those miles in on the treadmill. I feel myself slipping away into the obligation of life, as opposed to relishing in its glory.

Now, let me preface all of this with the notion that this is by no means a bad thing. I think we can slip in and out of intention purely out of happiness, and if I’m honest, I can attribute the sweet happiness that I’ve been filled with lately to my zoned out episodes. Life is so good – there’s not much to worry about… which, sometimes, leads to not having a whole lot to think about. That said, there’s a difference, I feel like, between zoning out and becoming a robot, and I feel as if all too often, we tread that line so carefully that it blurs.

And yet, we shouldn’t. We should look at each moment that is gifted to us as something to use, something to create with, something to glorify. It’s not complicated; in fact, it’s really quite simple. It’s our own complication that I feel leads us to that “zoning out,” that autopilot, that unintentional mode.

God calls us to intention so obviously and so simply, and yet, at least for me, it often feels like the easiest thing to overlook.

So, whether you eat or drink,
or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God.
– 1 Corinthians 10:31

It’s that simple.

Lately, I’ve tried to find little ways to live more intentionally, to be more present. I’m trying to pull myself out of my own head, my own routine, and focus on what’s given to me, what’s put right in front of me, what life should be about.

Whether it’s putting the phone down, or making the most of my morning commute… whether it’s finding a few extra moments to speak with the Lord or an extra second spent listening to someone I love – and I mean really listening. I find the more I focus, the more I feel, and the more I appreciate.. It’s funny, really, because I feel like God’s calling to me in the simplest of ways, and yet I’m sitting here complicating everything. All He’s been asking me, I realized, is this:

Pay attention, intentionally.

Pay attention to what He provides, and how. Pay attention to His little messages and His larger signs. Pay attention to the beautiful people that He put on this earth to love and support and care for and enjoy. Pay attention to the mountains He made, the wind he whistles, the Earth He created. Take your mind out of the distractions of everyday life – focus more wholly, more intently, more intentionally on the ethereal one.

Little by little, I’ve felt myself adhere more to this simple calling He has given me. I’ve tried to be intentionally intentional, and in that intent, I’ve found so much simple happiness, simple glory.

Happiness – in life, in the Lord, in love – does not need to be a series of complications or distractions or achievements. It merely needs to be intentional.