Testimony Tuesday: Practice Makes Perfect

I have a confession to make:

I’m writing this on Monday night. I mean, it will post on Tuesday, if only for the sake of alliteration, but still. Technically, this is a Testimony Monday. That just doesn’t sound as good.

I have another confession to make:

I’ve been pretty bad about going to church lately.

Oddly enough — or, perhaps, not oddly at all — that second confession is a little bit harder for me to make. Because, of course, that’s not how it’s supposed to be. That’s not part of the image I’m trying to create for myself, but I’ve realized that upholding that “perfect, churchgoing” image can be just as dangerous as anything we idolize. In fact, it can probably be more so, because I’m idolizing that perception of myself. I’m idolizing a falsehood that I’m portraying. I’m idolizing someone that, quite frankly, I’m just not.

So, it’s time to put an end to that. It’s time to ‘fess up.

I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m far from it. I don’t go to church every Sunday; in fact, more often than not, I’ll go to teach my favorite kiddos, and then head home, because those energetic 5-year-olds just completely wipe me out. I stopped going to small group, partly because I moved further away and partly because it started to feel like more of a social obligation than a spiritual one, and something about that caused some anxiety. I’m really good at going through guided Bible studies for a couple of weeks, but then I usually let it fall to the wayside. I’m notorious for letting life get in the way of my relationship with the Lord, all in the name of “experiencing His blessings.” And while I do firmly believe there is some truth to that, I also recognize that one of His greatest blessings is our relationship with Him, and it’s probably time that I start to prioritize that, as well.

However, I was reading a devotional this morning (another thing I will probably be really great about doing for a couple of weeks or so, and then I’ll choose to sleep in an extra five minutes… however, I really love this devotional book that the boy’s mom gave me for my birthday, so I’m determined to make it a habit). That devotional was titled so simply, and yet it struck me so deeply:

Keep on practicing. 

And it went on to say, basically, that our relationship with God isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being consistent. It’s about continuously practicing, continuously slipping up, and continuously humbling ourselves to start over again. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s the point.

My favorite line was this:

“Remember, practice comes before perfect — and perfect will come when you’re standing with Him in heaven.” 

Oh, how encouraging that was to read! Oh, how much I desperately needed those words! Oh, how incredibly thankful I am that they came at this time!

I always look at birthdays as a time to refresh, reflect, and realign my goals (but more on that later…) and while I already knew that one of my goals for the year would be to work more at my relationship with God, reading a confirmation that He is ready and willing and waiting for that was so heartwarming. It was one of those things that, yeah, I knew, but I didn’t know. I unknowingly needed that confirmation, and the Lord provided it to me, right as I needed it most.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

So, this testimony is less of a testimony and more of me taking the time to step out and encourage you, too. If you’re faltering or questioning or just feeling a little stuck, keep practicing. Even if it’s not a faith-based situation, but especially if it is, keep practicing. Sometimes, when we’re in too deep, that’s really all we can do.

Remember:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap,

if we do not give up.

– Galatians 6:9

In other words: practice makes perfect (someday… in the kingdom of heaven.)

ps: in case you’re curious, the devotional I’m reading is “he restores my soul.”

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.

Testimony Tuesday: Thank You

Maybe, just maybe, calling today’s post a true “testimony” is a little bit of a stretch. Perhaps I should call it more of a rambling… a stream of consciousness, if you will. Although, even that isn’t a proper term. Because what this really is, what I was truly called to write today, is a thank you letter.

Yes, you read that right. Today’s testimony is, rather simply, a thank you letter.

I’ve felt so called lately to listen. And by lately, I really mean for the past several years. As I’ve been aching to move on, move forward, everything has told me – or, in some cases, forced me to – slow down, be still, and open my ears and heart to what the Lord was trying to tell me. Sometimes, particularly at the beginning, it was listening to Him tell me what He wanted me to do. Other times, more recently, it’s been Him trying to show me why.

I’m humbled, embarrassed, and elated to say that finally, finally, I did just that. I listened. Maybe it was because I’ve hit the two-year mark since jumping into full-time adult life (aka, graduating) and that’s hit me in ways I could never imagine, or maybe it’s something I can’t even fathom, or maybe it’s literally just me listening to Your beckoning and obeying. Whatever it is, I finally listened.

And all that I can think to say in response, Lord, is “thank you.”

Thank you, Lord.

Thank you for calling me to dwell in the desert a little longer, even though I had the opportunity and a nagging desire to go elsewhere. Thank you for putting me in the internship that became my full-time position and for showing me that this was not just something I did for a desire to be comfortable and secure. You brought it to me as something that was exciting, a goal to work towards, a job I love. That, I’ve realized, was You offering me an opportunity for growth, for learning, and for forging relationships that I otherwise would have missed out on.

Thank you for keeping me close to my family, immediate and extended. It was so, so needed these past two years, in both the best ways and the worst.

Thank you for pulling me further into the church, further into a relationship with You. I admit that I falter here sometimes. I prioritize earthly duties and desires over the spiritual obligation of attendance, but I know that You are beside me even in those times. I know that now because of the way You brought me back. I know that straying for a week, a month, a year, does not mean I’m lost. You love us all, You love me always.

I’ve said this one a million and ten times, but thank you for the boy and for every wonderful, glorious thing that has happened because of him. Thank you for giving me an everyday example of the person I long to be, through the person I most wish to be that for.

Thank you for giving me a newfound appreciation for the city I call home. I fallen in love the way the mountains look when painted against your purple night sky. I have learned to appreciate the smell of the creosote after a rainstorm even more than I did when we first moved here, all those years ago. I have grown to appreciate the grid of the wide streets and avenues, an the eccentricities of them, like how the east valley stops numbering and Grand Avenue cuts up the squares with its diagonal direction.

Thank you for the courage to start this blog and an outlet to proclaim my love for You and my lessons along the way. Thank you for helping me grasp at what is still a murky balance of finding myself and finding my faith, and for reminding me again that mistakes are always okay. Just learn from them.

Lord, I’ve learned so much in the past two years and I don’t think I would have had I hopped on a plane to Boston right away. I’m so thankful for the opportunity you gave me to stay here, even if I questioned that.

So, okay. Maybe this wasn’t a true testimony… but then again, maybe it really was. Because Your hand is so clear to me now, Your presence throughout all of this.

I am so humbled, and so grateful.

Thank you.

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.

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.

National Day of Prayer

When I think of the National Day of Prayer, I think of a large group of my fellow high school students gathering around the flag pole the protruded from the gravel in front of our school, hands held, heads bowed, voices off. It was always a brief moment, but a profound one. I knew I could go to it each year. I won’t say that I participated, but as a teenaged girl who grew up in a Christian household, I loved knowing that I could go there.

Granted, I didn’t find the Lord again until college. Not that I didn’t always believe, but my true spiritual journey moved beyond the adolescent “yes, I believe in Jesus because that’s how I was raised” towards “yes, I believe in Jesus, plain and simple” during my later years of college.

However, in a slightly ironic turn of events, since coming back to the church, I’ve actually paid less attention to National Day of Prayer.

Until this year.

It came onto my Twitter feed, actually, because of Chris Tomlin. And I decided to do some research. See, I guess I never really registered what this day was about. So I Googled it, as any curious millennial is prone to do, and came across the National Day of Prayer website, with an article about 4 prayer priorities for America this year.

The 4 priorities are simple, but I thought it might make more sense if I created my own original prayer for each priority as opposed to reciting what is written (I’ve never felt overly connected to that). This year’s National Day of Prayer might not be, for me, about meeting around a flagpole, but I can certainly get on board with joining our nation in a moment of humbleness and prayer, focusing on these 4 things:

  1. Ask God to bless the United States of America.
    Lord, I pray that You continue to press this country so abundantly. So fiercely. I pray that You continue to offer us a vast land with so many resources, and that You bless us with people who understand the best, most ethical, most sustainable way to use those resources so that we may continue to use and glorify Your creation for years to come. May we find a way to set aside differences, even momentarily, in order to seek a better future for us all.
  2. Pray for unity in America.
    Lord, this one is so close to my heart these days. I pray that Your constant presence helps lead us all, those who believe and those who are still seeking, towards unity, peace, and forward movement. May You give every single one of us an open heart and mind, and the desire to unite and move forward to better Your nation. May You continue to come to each of us as You intend to, as You know we will best receive Your love, grace, mercy, and wisdom.
  3. Pray for the centers of influence in America.
    Lord, may we know our idols, recognize them, and set them aside in pursuit of You and only You. May we have education that is centered around knowing You and Your world even better, and may You shine Your light on all of those educators, especially in such a trying time for them. May we all strive to be truth bearers, whether we are known or quiet, whether we have media influence or not. And as we look to ingest our own information, may we look for those sources who already do have influence who guide us closer and closer to You.
  4. Ask God for the National Day of Prayer to be a catalytic spiritual movement across America.
    Lord, I pray that You help us know You. I pray that You come through each and every one of us, in some way, in the way that You deem most worthy and relevant and power. Lord, I pray that You move us all in that moment, on that day, so every one of us – whether we already know You or are continuing to seek You – finds a calling toward You.

I pray for these things so deeply, every day, and especially tomorrow on the National Day of Prayer, May 3.

I’d love to pray for you, readers, as well… today, tomorrow, and every day. How can I pray for you?