Testimony Tuesday: Keeping Still

The Lord will fight for you,
and you have only to keep still.

– Exodus 14:14

Keeping still.

It’s never been my strongest attribute.

I fidget, constantly. I play with my hair, gnaw at my nails, tap my foot. I do almost anything to keep from keeping still, actually.

And yet, in the grander scheme of things, it has so seemed like that’s exactly what the Lord is asking me to do right now. Keep still, He whispers to me. I feel called to keep still in life, in location, in all of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see this as a bad thing. In fact, I’m fairly certain that this is the most still I’ve felt in ages… perhaps my entire life, though I only have twenty-three years to base that judgement off of.

I feel like your twenties are such an uncertain, ever changing age. Perhaps we don’t all face the hostilities of Moses and his people as they fled from Egypt, but we can all learn from it. I feel like there’s some sort of metaphor there…

As if, in our twenties, we are inclined, even tempted, to flee from our childhoods, and whatever we may associate with it. For some, that’s a town, or a mindset, or a relationship. But the Lord, ever so gently, so wisely, is urging us to keep still. Don’t be rash. Pray. Trust.

He will continue to fight for us, for the life He knows we ought to live.

I know the conflicted feeling so well – the feeling of wanting to go one way, but feeling as if you should go another. It’s in that conflict that I hear the Lord. He is the one on my heart telling me what I should do, and right now, I’m in a season on stillness. And even though I might have friends galavanting across foreign countries, or whisking away into the wilderness, or jumping head-first into some other terrifying, thrilling thing… the Lord is calling me to keep still.

To stay put.

To listen.

To trust.

And you know what?

That is perfectly okay. 

I resign myself to it, to His will, to listening, and to obeying. I resign myself to keeping still.

For all I know, stillness may end up being the best gift He’s ever given me.

Testimony Tuesday: Getting It

I remember the moment I understood it so clearly. The it I refer to is, of course, the entire point of our beliefs. The moment I understood the glory, the mercy, and the grace of the sacrifice, resurrection and ascension are so deeply ingrained in me, because it was literally a life-altering moment.

People use the phrase “come to Jesus moment” lightly – but in truth, when you finally understand it, that’s exactly what it is.

Perhaps this is on my mind because this past weekend was, of course, Easter. During the service, my pastor spoke about pre-Resurrection Paul and post-Resurrection Paul, and how there is a pre- and post-Resurrection person in all of us.

And he’s right.

But it’s more than just having a moment of understanding. I’ve believed in, loved, and followed the Lord for most of my life. I was raised in the church. I understood what I was being taught in Sunday school, and it all made sense to me. I got it, in a historical and factual sense.

Yet it wasn’t until that particular moment when I actually believed. I felt the Lord reach out and touch my heart and say to me: “This is what it’s all about. This is why I sent my Son, this is what his death and rising mean, and this is what awaits you, too.”

I can’t tell you how to find meaning in the Lord… you just have to be open to it. If there’s anything I’ve learned when looking back at my own pre- and post-Resurrection self, it’s that only one thing changed to give me that moment: my mind. I stopped looking at my faith like something textbook, because it’s not. The Lord’s love for us is reckless and uninhibited, and our trust in him… our openness to him… should be the exact same way.

Taking Sides

This weekend, I was the living stereotype of an overscheduled twenty-something, always showing up five minutes late with Starbucks. Between a birthday party, bridal shower, barbecue, going away party (that I unfortunately didn’t make it to), Sunday school, church and date night, I think I’m more exhausted after this weekend than I was after all my weekends of travel this summer.

But my weekend was nothing to complain about in comparison to some.

It was impossible to turn on the news, scroll through Twitter, or even just exist as a person with any sort of awareness of current events without being hit hard by the events in Charlottesville this weekend.

It amazes me that even now, in 2017, such horrific, heartbreaking, evil acts still plague us. It breaks my heart, and all I can do is hit my knees and pray for our broken, broken world.

But praying is not enough.

My pastor reminded us all of this on Sunday. I’m incredibly grateful that I planned out time for church despite the hectic schedule I stuck myself with. It would have been all to easy to check out after my kids ministry shift and go back home to cuddle up and watch the Harry Potter marathon all day.

But I didn’t, and it was one of those obvious moments of God’s hand in my life, as my pastor became a true shepherd and spoke words that not only I, but so many of us, needed to hear.

A lot of us oftentimes avoid confrontation on such a level as this. We try to gloss over the brokenness of our world with a blanket statement or prayer, and we remind ourselves that we are all loved, even those marching in blatant displays of racism and hate.

And while that is true – God loves all of His people – there is another unavoidable truth that this weekend brought up:

Sin is sin.

Racism is sin.

And we are compelled to stand up in the face of sin, to confront it, and to proclaim what is right.

I admit that I am guilty of that same blanket prayer that I mentioned just moments ago. I don’t like to get political on social media; I look at it much like a glorified dinner table, and I was taught long ago that politics has no place in dinner table conversation. In fact, I don’t really like to get political ever. I vote, in both local and national elections, but I try to avoid feeding into the divisiveness of our world socially, especially lately.

But what happened this past weekend was beyond politics.

And it needs to be called out.

I did a lot of thinking after church this weekend about what can be done to help heal our world, and it was shown to me that the best solution is to start literally within our own worlds. Love and kindness are two of the greatest powers on our earth, and by showing as much of it as we can to our loved ones, our neighbors, and even those we aren’t too fond of, we can propel forward an overall attitude of hope.

I know that it’s oftentimes hard to stand up for what we think is right in this world. I get it. I admit that I find it incredibly difficult to rock the boat in my own personal circle by proclaiming politics or ideologies that I know some of the people I love most might not agree with.

But what is right is not always easy. That much has always been made obvious.

Luckily, God has made it so easy for us to love one another. He has given us hearts that can be so full and mouths that can speak so kindly. He has given us the power of forgiveness, so that we can let go of negativity in our lives and push forward. He has offered us forgiveness in return, so that we no longer need to harbor resentment for our own mistakes. He has shown us a clear path to healing our own little universes, which may be exactly the key to healing the world at large.

So while I cannot heal the hurt that this past weekend caused the country, I can heal the hurt that I have caused. I can smile at a stranger I may have otherwise ignored or shied away from for whatever unfortunate reason. I can confront bad rhetoric or jokes that go a step too far within my own circle. I can pray for peace, both within my inner circle and for our nation, and our world. I can accept those that may differ from me, and I can show the glory of acceptance to those I know whose minds might still be closed.

There is only one side to kindness, acceptance, and love. That’s the only side we, as humans, should stand beside. That is the only side that will promote progress, and work to heal our world. That is the only side I will stand on, and I invite you to stand alongside me.

Because our world is so broken, and we are the soldiers that have been sent to do good work and to do what we can to fix it.

Risen

I started to write this post on Good Friday. That day was filled with wonderful little blessings: I got early release from work; my team was recognized for our work on a recent campaign with kudos and a prezzie from the boss; we found someone we really like for an internship position; the boy didn’t have to work outrageous hours and didn’t have to work this weekend; I got the official okay for a visit to Sacramento to see my grandparents; I got to have a Diet Coke. It really took the concept of “good” Friday to heart. My heart was so full and I was going to go on and implore everyone to use this past weekend to see the glory in the little things.

And, granted, I still hope everyone did that.

But I never got the chance to publish the post. I got a phone call right as I was about to hit “publish”, and then my day went all sorts of weird. It was one of those moments where God just needed me to realize that, yes, everything in my immediate life has been absolutely wonderful lately, but there are still some Big Picture things that I need to give some energy too.

It was a good reminder.

You see, I have been focusing more on the little things, and I’ve found myself noticeably more grateful and my heart infinitely more full. Whether it’s a kiss on the forehead in an unexpected moment or the brightness of a blooming flower outside my apartment window, these little things have kept the beauty in every single God-given day.

But that doesn’t mean that the bigger, harsher realities aren’t there. It doesn’t mean that the greater trials are no longer present. It doesn’t mean that, just because my eyes have been opened to these smaller blessings, there is not a journey I need to conquer.

It just means that I should take the faith I have in those little blessings and put it towards those bigger bumps in the road.

I spent a lot of Easter weekend rejoicing. Together, my boyfriend and I attended not one, but two church services, both which spread the very Easter-y message of the freedom and power that come from the resurrected Jesus. We spent a lot of time with family, and, perhaps most importantly as we come fresh out of the tax season that has been taxing on his energy and free time, we got to spend a lot of time with each other. (Yes, I was trying to be punny.)

So, on Monday morning, I am happy to bask in the happiness that was this weekend. Needless to say, I am so thankful for someone who kept me smiling even though these Big Picture problems were still lingering in the back of my mind.

But now it’s time to focus on what that faith I have in the small things can do for me in the long run. It’s time to buckle down and focus on some things head on… while still appreciating the blooming flowers and little happy surprises that are planted along the way.

Life isn’t meant to be sunshine and daisies; the hardships are there for us to appreciate the happiness. But we can still find that happiness in every day, and as I look forward to this season of Dealing With Stuff, I can’t wait to see what little blessings each day will bring.

Happy (belated) Easter, everyone.

He is Risen. He is Risen, indeed.

Contentment

I’ve been thinking a lot about contentment lately. I suppose it’s a normal thing for me to be thinking, considering how generally content I have been with my life these past few months.

But, because life is funny that way, my overwhelming contentment has also led me to question it a little bit.

Full disclaimer: by questioning it, I don’t want anyone to think I’m overthinking this. I have a bad habit of overthinking everything… until lately. And I think my lack of overthought and my general peace with life are going hand in hand.

Instead, my questioning comes more from a place of wondering what has allowed me to feel this general happiness and peace now, why I couldn’t always find that at previous times in my life, and how I can work to ensure this attitude sticks around.

And the answer?

Trust.

Matthew 6:25 says “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” 

I’ve thought about this a lot lately.

One of my struggles with faith has always been trusting in God’s plan. I’ve talked about this before – I always want to know what He’s up to, and I want to know if I agree with it. But as I’ve worked to let go of that need to control my life, a life that He is really meant to plan, I’ve found so much peace in what is put on my path.

I think an obvious part of why I am so prone to overthinking every detail of every situation is because I like to be in control. But trying to be in control and trusting the Lord aren’t compatible activities. In fact, the only thing I should be trying to control is my trust in God’s plan, and that is what I’ve been working towards every day.

And guess what?

It’s working.

Instead of focusing on the “Big Picture” and trying to plan “What Comes Next,” I’ve been focusing on finding contentment in the little things. I relish in the feeling of my cat purring on my chest, or the smell of coffee roasting. I close my eyes and listen to the pitter-patter of the rain when it’s just barely sprinkling, and peek out at the sun that’s still shining through the clouds.

I’ve tried to purge the negative and unnecessary from my life. Even if it means never knowing what that person I no longer talk to is up to on Instagram, it frees up space in my day and my heart to focus on the positive. I’ve worked towards forgiving people, and myself, for little things that really don’t matter in the long run… and even for some bigger things that I’ve been continuously holding on to. What happened in the past, has happened. Even the mistakes I’ve made have led me to this place and this moment. And as for the mistakes I’m bound to make in the future? Well, those will all be a part of the journey, too.

I’ve put my effort into being present, into being here and now, instead of focusing too much on there and then.

Contentment is more than having everything you’ve ever wanted; in fact, I don’t think it would be there even if that was the case. Contentment, to me, is about trusting that everything you need will be provided… somehow, someway. He’s got His plan, and He loves us. Trust that. Trust Him. Find peace.

It’s working for me, at least.