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.

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.

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.

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?

Testimony Tuesday: Making Time

Time.

In some ways, I’m great at managing it. I am a scheduler, a planner, an always-show-up-10-minutes-early-er.

In other ways, I know I fail. I am not so great at prioritizing, and I have a terrible tendency to double-book myself, because I’m not so great at saying “no.”

In the hecticness, I’ve realized that there are thing I need to make time for. I need to make time for exercise, I need to make time for my relationship, I need to make time for friendships.

I need to make time for God.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders,
making the best use of the time.
– Colossians 4:5

I’ve struggled with this lately, but as is usually the case, when I find myself struggling, I also find myself actively correcting. And so, that is what I have done lately. Or at the very least, what I have tried to do.

When I can’t make it to small group (which has been discouragingly often) I set aside some time to sit and be in the Word. Surprisingly (or, probably not so much so, as we know there is a plan for it all), each time I do this, I feel more connected with the Lord than I may have had I gone to group, which tends to feel much more like a social obligation than a spiritual one.

I’ve been working through a weekly Lent study, which has had me committed to about an hour with my Bible and my journal, whenever I can fit it in.

And that’s the catch, I think I’m realizing. Whenever I can fit it in. I schedule out my workouts according to what the rest of my week looks like. I schedule my dates, my happy hours, my family dinners. Why shouldn’t I schedule my time with God?

Maybe someday it will come much more second nature — and I pray that it does. But for now, I must make time for God intentionally, just as I would make time for any other relationship in life.

I’m still learning how to be a better Christian, and I’m still growing in my relationship with the Lord, and I am coming to accept that I have my faults, and that even more so, that is perfectly okay.

Happy Tuesday.