I don't bake.
Now there is a reason for that and the reason is simply--I'm bad at it. Like really, really bad at it.
I knew this when I decided that it would be a fantastic idea to try making a homemade pecan pie. After all, what could go wrong?
I mean, the recipe I found didn't look that hard. All I really had to do was follow the directions. So that's exactly what I set out to do.
I mixed my filling together excitedly and slowly stirred in all the pecans. Everything was going great so far. Then I reached for the frozen pie crust and noticed that it was sitting in a tin foil pan, and I wasn't sure what to do with that. Assuming it probably didn't matter either way, I opted to take the pie crust out of the foil pan and just place it on a baking sheet after I poured the filling in. I figured if anything spilled over, at least the baking sheet would be there to catch it. (I am aware that this was not my smartest moment ever.)
But I was doing so great at following the directions, surely nothing would go wrong and nothing would spill over.
Let me assure you--there is a purpose for that foil pan the pie crust comes in. And you should always, always leave the crust in the pan.
My perfect pecan pie had probably only been baking about five minutes when I turned on the oven light to reveal disaster. Cue my panicked gasp and rush to pull the pie out of the oven.
The crust appeared to have melted and completely flattened, allowing all of the filling to spill out. Without the foil pan holding the crust in place, it wasn't going to be able to stand firm in the heat of the oven while it cooked.
Unfortunately that is the end of my sad pecan pie story, as I have decided that next time I will simply go to the grocery store and pick one up. However, as I stared at the gooey mess of filling and melted crust, I also realized that I could learn something from this pecan pie. You know, something besides the lesson that I shouldn't be left to bake alone.
I learned that sometimes in life I can place my focus in the wrong places.
And when I place my focus in the wrong places, I can lose sight of what matters most.
You see, I became so focused on my pie filling and making the perfect pecan pie, that I actually failed to focus on my crust, which was the most important part. Without the crust being taken care of properly, everything else inside was going to fall apart.
Sometimes I do that with God. And I'm not the only one.
The story of Mary and Martha is a popular one and I have read it over and over again. We can find it tucked between the text of Luke 10:38-42. If you're not familiar with the story, allow me to recap it for you.
Jesus was coming over to Mary and Martha's house. Now if Jesus was coming over to my house, I probably would've gone into the same mode of serving that Martha defaulted to. She quickly set to work making sure everything was in place for Jesus and she set her focus completely on just serving Him.
Meanwhile, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and chose to just be with Him. She knew she could serve Him later, but for now her focus needed to be in the right place--simply being with Him.
This irritated Martha because she was already worried and stressed out. Because when our focus is in the wrong place at the wrong time, worry and stress can abound.
What did Jesus tell her? He gently reminded her that she had her focus in the wrong place and that indeed the only thing she needed to focus on at that moment was exactly what Mary was doing. Serving Him is important, but she had it mixed up in the wrong place, because she allowed her work to come before her Savior.
I mix it all up too. I mix up my priorities and I mix up my focus. Just like I did with my pecan pie.
I can constantly focus on serving Jesus and doing for Him, but then I take my focus off the most important aspect of serving Him--my relationship with Him. They go hand in hand. Your relationship with Him and your service for Him.
Next time I become more focused on other things and lose sight of what matters most, I'm going to remember what I learned from failing at my pecan pie.
And I'm going to remember that if my focus is on my relationship with Jesus, He is going to hold everything else in place. I hope you can remember that too.
We've been playing the waiting game for what feels like forever.
Waiting for next week or next year. Waiting for a new job or a new house. For a relationship or someone to love you. For a time when you're older or things aren't so busy. For summer or for winter. For an event you're excited about or for a dream to finally come true. Constantly waiting.
And the sad thing is, the majority of us waste our lives waiting for that adventure to come along or that dream to happen. We waste our lives thinking "someday" I will do this or "someday" I will do that. And then we spend our days trapped in "what if's," looking back on the days that went by and wishing for them back. It is like a game of either looking ahead or looking behind.
We rarely stop to look around.
But you see, the secret that most people don't realize is that....today is an adventure too.
Waiting for the day when things slow down or when you finally grow up, is wasting the adventure you are right in the middle of at this moment.
For 2019 my word of the year has been "breathe." And because of that I have been taking purposeful time to just step back and look around--embracing where I'm at during this moment.
And that's when I realize what an adventure I'm living right now.
I was a little girl with a wild imagination (yeah, I was crazy), and I yearned for adventure. I longed for the opportunity to do something great. To solve a mystery, to experience something amazing, to publish a book, to speak on a stage in front of hundreds, to go somewhere new. But I always thought "someday" I will get to do those things, but not today-- today couldn't possibly be an adventure in the middle of so much ordinary.
But let me look into your eyes and motion for you to come closer as I whisper this truth to you:
Someday isn't guaranteed. Tomorrow is not promised.
What if today is the only adventure you have left?
The thing is, I look at today now and I realize what a beautiful adventure it really is. What an adventure it is to look at each moment as the moment that God could use you to change someone's world or to impact someone's day. I was 16 and 17 when I wrote my first published book, and it was because I finally chose to take today and realize God wanted to use me right then, not "someday." According to the world, I should've waited until I was older and had better experience. But guess what? The world really doesn't know much at all. According to God, my adventure was waiting for me already.
What adventure could you be missing out on today by looking back on yesterday or wishing for "someday"? What book could you have written? What story could you have told? What drawing could you have painted? What song could you have sung? What trip could you have taken? What moment could you have stepped into? What friend could you have inspired?
Oh, and, dear heart, don't miss out on the priceless, little adventures of every day life either. For they truly are an adventure beyond what you can imagine...
Watching the sunset with someone you love. Taking a walk with your siblings and laughing at who can make the funniest face. Going out for donuts at almost midnight (admittedly one of the best adventures ever). Singing music as loud as you can into your microphone (which is technically a hairbrush, but it still counts. Admit it, you've done this at least once in your life). Sharing words of encouragement that could inspire someone else towards greatness. Being a friend to someone and changing their life.
These little adventures are what make up our lives. They are the adventures God gives us every day to whisper "I love you," to us. Don't you see? God is so crazy about us, that He gives us these amazing little adventures that are right in front of us every day. We just have to search for them instead of searching for "someday." We have to take the time to stop, look up from our phones or our busy schedules and breathe in this moment.
Every time we stop to embrace the adventure God places in our present moment, we can whisper back to Him, "Thank You, I love You too."
Today truly is your adventure of a lifetime.
And now I'm going on an adventure (donuts might be involved)....who's with me?
I recently saw someone I know and they were trying to figure out which twin I was. (Yes, I have a twin, and yes, we look alike.)
While they're trying to figure it out, I'm talking constantly like I always do. Finally they said, "You're Bella, because you're talking so much."
I laughed, but they weren't wrong. I do talk a lot. And because I talk a lot, I always have someone that I'm going to for advice or to rant or to talk through a decision. Outside of my family, these people are probably my circle of closest friends. I go to these people for wisdom, advice, and encouragement.
But sometimes I can go to them in the wrong order.
Because you see, sometimes I can rush to the people I think can help me when in reality, I'm neglecting the One who holds all the answers.
Recently I did an object lesson with teenagers about prayer. The object lesson went something like this:
I handed two of them a piece of paper with scissors. I then showed them my paper which had been cut in a specific way to look like an "s" almost. (No, I'm not that smart, I learned how to do it on YouTube).
I told them that they had to duplicate what I had done without the instructions. However, they could ask anyone in the classroom for advice on how to do it.
They first tried to get it on their own, but when they quickly realized that they couldn't figure it out, they began to ask each other for help. Well, none of the other students knew how to do it either.
Finally, at the point where they were ready to give up, I asked them, "Who do you think you should've asked for help?"
Suddenly they all got it. They should've asked me.
I knew how to do it. I knew where they needed to make the cuts in the paper in order to do it right.
But they were so busy trying to figure it out that they forgot I had the answer.
Oh, how easily I do that with God.
So easily I can become so caught up in trying to do better and get all the answers on my own that when I need help I first run to everyone else but God. I go to others to ask advice instead of first seeking my answers in His Word. I talk and talk to people instead of meeting Him on my knees.
I forget the One who has the answers because I become distracted by my own ways of thinking that I know what to do or how to find the answers.
And I can miss so much when I do that.
So my question for you is simply: Where do you rush to when you need help or encouragement or advice or strength? Where do you go?
Do you go to God for everything before you go to anything else?
Of course He often speaks to us through others and the people He places in our lives can give us lots of good advice, encouragement, and help. But if I put them before Him, I'm missing the point.
I want to rush to God first because I know that He holds all the answers. I know that He is One I can trust above all.
Let's make Him our first priority before anything else.
Have you ever stood in front of the ocean, shielding your eyes, squinting, to see how far it goes?
But you never find the ending, do you?
The ocean is one of my favorite places in the world. Hearing the thunder of waves crashing into the sand that squishes between your toes and feeling the cold water hit your ankles. These are things I love.
And so many times I've stood in front of the ocean and looked out, trying to see as far as I could. But I've never found the end of the water. It seems to go on forever.
And you know the love of Jesus?
It's like that.
His love is strong and beautiful. His love goes as far as what you can see and even beyond that. His love really does go on forever. There is no beginning and no end. He has always and will always love you forever.
And maybe that's why I love the ocean so much. Because it reminds me of His great, unending love. It reminds me that the One who created something as beautiful and powerful as the ocean, loved me enough to make one of me too.
But you know what?
Sometimes we forget His love.
Because the world is so distracting, isn't it? Sometimes it distracts us so much that we turn away from the greatest romance of our lives because the world has caught our focus instead with glitter that'll fade.
We get caught up in the love of this world. The temporal, fading love this world offers us that will never last. The love we see in Hollywood and the love we see in the media. We reach for it in every way we can, thinking it'll make us complete. By dressing to impress, flirting to get attention, and going from one relationship to the next, searching. Searching for that endless love.
We get caught up in the dreams of this world. The cheap, plastic dreams that promise if you get a good education, a good job with benefits, and climb the corporate ladder, then maybe you'll make your mark on the world. We reach for it by constantly wearing ourselves out working so hard to make that next sale, make more money, get that big job. Searching for something to satisfy.
We get caught up in all of it. All of these things that we think will satisfy us. All of these things that we think will fulfill us. We get caught up in it because somewhere along the way, we got distracted from the Lover of our soul that whispers His love to us in everything.
That rainbow after the storm? It's His promise to you. That hot summer day where the sun kisses your cheeks and makes you feel free? It's His whisper of joy found in Him. That ocean stretching farther than you could ever see? It's His promise of unending love.
So here's my question for you, dear heart:
You know the truth. You know His love. You know how much you mean to Him. You know that He is the true Lover of your soul. You know that He is crazy about you. You know that nothing you ever do will ever make Him walk away. You know that you make Him smile. You know that His love is everything you will ever need.
So is He everything that you want?
Are you willing to make Him all that your heart desires, whatever that means?
Maybe it means letting go of your earthly ideas of love to grasp a hold of this crazy, radical love He is offering to you. Maybe it means walking away from a dream of this world to take a hold of His great and holy dreams for your life. Maybe it means losing things close to you to stand with Him. Maybe it means being rejected by the world so that you can find your acceptance and identity in Him.
Here's what I promise you.
He is all you will ever need. He is everything.
Run back to Him, dear one. Whatever has distracted you or taken you away from Him, run back to His arms. Remember that He is your true Lover.
Let Him be all that your heart ever wants.
And next time you stand at the ocean? Let those crashing waves remind you that His love never ends.
His love is everything.
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Growing up, I used to dread Father's Day.
It was the one day out of the year that I never wanted to come. It was hard and if I was honest? It hurt. Sometimes more than I wanted to admit.
I knew that God was my Father, but did that cause me to always jump up and down for a day celebrating earthly fathers and declare my joy?
I still had wounds deep in my heart from an earthly father and facing a day celebrating great earthly dads was just plain hard.
Maybe you feel that too. Maybe, you too, have tried to hide your pain behind a smile as you just hope the day passes more quickly. Maybe you've been wounded by an absent father, by an abusive father, by a selfish father. Maybe your father was nowhere near what you had hoped and the person who was supposed to help you learn about love actually hurt you before anyone else could.
Or maybe the pain of Father's Day in your heart really wasn't your father's fault at all. Maybe you lost your dad at an early age and you barely remember him, or maybe the loss of his life is more recent and stings more than you thought it would.
Whatever your situation, I understand the pain that Father's Day can sometimes cause. And so if you're fighting back tears today, here are 3 truths I want you to cling to:
1. It's okay to cry.
Often I would bury my pain. I would hide it and smile and pretend that it didn't actually hurt and I wasn't actually broken over it.
It's like putting a band aid over a deep wound. It'll cover it up, but it won't heal it and in the end it'll only provide an atmosphere to cause deeper pain, an infection.
Cry if you need to. Let it out. Weep.
It is one hundred percent okay to cry. Even Jesus wept. (John 11:35).
It's okay to cry and admit what you're feeling and I promise you...you'll never cry alone. Jesus is right there, embracing you and giving you the strength to dry your eyes. Because while you might not feel okay right now, He's mending your heart every day.
2. This part of your story is not for nothing.
I used to ask God, "Why did I have to go through what I went through with my earthly dad? Why did I have to be the one with this painful story?"
And the truth is that I sometimes still ask that. But what I've learned?
God doesn't allow anything in my life to go to waste. Not even the messy, broken, painful parts. And a beautiful thing that He has shown me? Because I have walked through this painful dad journey, I can help someone else walk through their own painful dad journey too.
I know how it feels. I know what it's like. And because of that I can meet someone in their brokenness in a way I might not have been able to if I hadn't walked through it myself. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
God can turn your greatest pain into your greatest story of His goodness. Trust me on that one.
3. He's making you stronger, day by day.
While I may not always feel stronger, I know that He is making me stronger in the pain. He is giving me His strength, His strength is filling my weakness, and He is giving me the ability to do all things through Him.
He's doing the same for you too.
You may feel weak here and tired. You might not have the energy to face another Father's Day of pain.
But trust me on this one too--He's not leaving you there. He's filling you with strength. You can do this in Him. Because in Him, you are capable of more than you could possibly ever imagine.
Keep your chin up today, friend.
I know today might be hard. I know many days might be hard when you don't always understand why you've had to walk this journey.
And while the pain might stay, you still must know--your Heavenly Father is the greatest Father you will ever have. It might sound cliché and a little hard to grasp and that's okay. But it's true.
He is the Father that is never leaving, never walking out, never letting you go, never quitting on you. He loves you. Beyond your wildest imaginations and beyond what you could possibly grasp.
Rest in that today.
Keep being brave.
So maybe today held some things you weren't expecting?
Or maybe everything changed so suddenly you were left wondering how 24 hours could change so much. And maybe you feel so exhausted you don't know what to do next.
Yeah, bravery takes a lot of strength.
It's hard. Being brave, being full of courage, is just downright hard. And some days?
Well, some days we just don't have the strength to face it all.
Because sometimes the scariest thought of all is stepping into what's unknown.
Embracing the unknown moments of tomorrow seems scary enough, but embracing the unknown moments of next month or next year? Nope, no thank you. That takes too much brave.
Sweet soul reading these words right now, I didn't break into your day to tell you a list of ways to step up and do the right thing even when you're scared. I didn't write this post to show you all the ways you could be brave but aren't.
I wrote this as a reminder.
A reminder that brave is your middle name.
Because no matter what you may feel about who you are, it can never change or take away the truth about Whose you are. And the One to whom you belong? Well, I can promise you that He's big enough for any scary moment that tomorrow or your next moment holds.
So yeah that scary step you're not sure you should take? That courage you're not sure you can muster up to step into the unknown?
Take a deep breath and this, this is what I want you to always remember:
You are brave because He is brave in you. And with your God you can scale any wall of fear in your path (Psalm 18:29), and with your God you can defeat any Goliath standing in your way (1 Samuel 17:45-46).
You are brave. You are strong. He has given you just enough courage for this moment in front of you.
You got this.
But you can't give up, okay?
Don't quit and don't give up. Keep going--keep on being brave--even when it's hard.
It'll all be worth it in the end.
Let Him be the brave inside of you today, dear brave you.
For the last four years of my life I have lived more days sick than I have well.
And I'm not going to lie to you. It's hurt. It's shaken me. It's been hard. I've cried many tears.
But I've also learned more than I ever thought I would. Through the last few years of my life, God has really specifically been pressing this truth into my heart that He has beautiful things to show me and you in the hard and broken places where we sometimes think He doesn't even go. But He does. And the beauty He has is more beautiful than anything we could dream up on our own.
Not easy, that's for sure. Nothing about living with chronic pain and sickness has been easy. But maybe the beauty I'm looking for? Maybe just some of that can be found in what God has taught me over the last few years, specifically from my chronic sickness.
Maybe it'll bring some light to your story too, whether you live with chronic pain or not.
1. God uses my weakness for His glory.
For so long, I used to think that I had to have it all together for God to use me. I thought I had to know what I was doing and I especially thought that I had to achieve some unrealistic idea of intelligence before He was going to use my life.
There is nothing Biblical about that.
Because here's the thing: I'm never going to be perfect. I'm never going to measure up all the time. You're never going to do any of those things either.
But praise God we don't have to.
So many days when I have been sick, I have been unable to do some things to the "perfect" level I wish they could be. So many times the pain has caused brain fog that prevents me from speaking as clearly as I'd like and I wonder if anything I share or write has any real impact or meaning, or even if it makes sense. And in those moments, I have felt as if God couldn't use me.
But honestly that's exactly where He wants to use me.
Because it's in my greatest weakness that He wants to show His great strength. He's using my weakness for His glory. And He's doing that for you too.
"And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
2. There is joy to be found even here.
Honestly, it's not always easy to find joy when you're living in physical pain. If you live with chronic pain and sickness you know this to be true.
It can be easy to get grumpy or irritated. It can be easy to just let the sickness take over.
But something God has been showing me over these last few years is that it's okay to have "meltdown" days where you cry out to Him and ask why. But it's not okay to unpack and live there.
He has more for you in store than staying stuck in that place. It's not going to be easy. But He does have a joy for you that you can grab hold of and embrace, even when it's hard and painful. Joy isn't meant to be easy. But it's worth it.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4)
3. God can use my story to help someone else.
When I first started fighting chronic pain and sickness, I didn't really talk about it, let alone write about it. That felt too...vulnerable. To talk and write openly about something that was so hard and made me feel so weak. I honestly didn't want to talk about it. I mostly just wanted to ignore it.
But through the years I've learned that when we walk through some dark valley, God can use that story to impact and help someone else through their valley.
No man is an island. We aren't meant to do life alone. We aren't meant to hide our weakness and suffering from each other, because sometimes sharing our own pain can be the very thing to help someone else through theirs.
God can use your story in a way you might not even realize. He can use your story to help someone else through theirs. So share it...share your story, reach out to others, be a friend to someone in need.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
If you live with chronic pain or sickness, my prayer is that God would give you the strength to endure this season and still bring glory to Him. Keep being brave. <3
I have always loved working with and spending time with kids.
There's something so special about a child's innocence and perspective on life and faith. If you spend enough time with kids, it's going to change you.
So today I wanted to modify a speech I gave a few weeks ago and share with you here three things that kids have taught me. And maybe you too, will be encouraged by what kids can teach us about life.
First, kids taught me: Jesus is more important than my to-do list.
Now this was something I knew and believed, but I didn’t always live like I believed it. And sometimes it just takes a child to put things back into perspective for you.
So quick back story, when I was a teenager I participated in a competition called the National Bible Bee. And if you've been following my blog or writing for any length of time, you've heard this a time or two.
I did the Bible Bee for five years, but then when I was too old to compete anymore, I decided to become a host for the local division of the competition. This placed me in charge of mentoring, encouraging, and guiding all the young people signed up under me to participate. I was a host for three years and we always had a predominantly younger group of kids--usually in that 7-10 age category.
One of my favorite things to do was talk to these young kids at meetings we would have and go over their memory verses with them. During my second year of hosting, I remember that one of the younger kids really stood out to me because she was so young but she knew her memory verses really well. Her mom told me that she had decided to give up some other things like play time or games that she wanted to do, because she wanted to study her verses instead, since she knew that Jesus was more important.
Hearing that about a little girl was just so convicting to me because there are so many times as an adult that I get caught up in my schedule and my things and what I want to do and I can forget...
I forget that Jesus is so much more important than anything else happening in my life or anything on my to-do list each day.
Let's live more like that little girl, shall we? Letting go of anything that keeps us from wholehearted devotion to God and running after Him with everything we've got--no matter what sacrifice it takes.
Secondly, kids taught me: Sing loud.
When I was a teenager I helped out a lot with the music portion of the Vacation Bible Schools our church had each summer. That meant I would get up on stage, teach the songs to the kids, and just in general act crazy to make kids laugh.
I always loved watching the kids from up on the stage though because they would get so excited for each song, and even if they were doing the motions completely wrong, they would give it everything they had. And oh, did it get loud in that room as all of the kids sang as loud as they possibly could.
Now there were some years that I wasn’t up on stage helping. Those years I would sit in the back with the other teenagers and I was a lot more hesitant to do those silly motions and sing crazy loud. After all, what would people think of me?
The kids were just excited to be singing songs about Jesus, they didn’t care what people thought of them.
But me? Sometimes I can care too much what people think. And sometimes instead of doing what I know God wants me to do, I can tend to hide from it in fear of what people are going to think.
This idea that I learned from kids of “singing loud” doesn’t necessarily mean to literally sing loud. Trust me, I'm not going to literally sing loud in front of you. But it does mean to consider what God wants me to do and do it enthusiastically, without fear of what people might think.
And now finally, kids taught me: Sometimes it’s a good idea to dance in the mud.
If you watch kids long enough, you’re bound to see that kids like messy things.
That's just all there is to it. Slime? Kids could play with it for hours. Mud? Kids love to jump in those puddles.
It's definitely not my thing at all. I prefer to stay nice and clean without getting in all that muddy mess, thank you very much.
But kids love it. They get on those rain boots and they go stomping in the mud puddles and they love it. And they’ve got this joy--this exuberant joy--over even the messy, little parts of life.
And that’s a challenge to me.
Because there are a lot of muddy, messy pieces of life that I don’t handle with joy. Like when I have a disappointment, or an interruption that makes everything suddenly feel really messy. Or those times when life feels like there’s a lot of rain pouring down emotionally and I feel stuck in the icky places.
And it’s in those moments that I would rather complain and sulk in my problems instead of going out and dancing in the metaphorical mud puddles that could get me a little messy. But in that mess? There is joy to be found even there in God’s strength, and sometimes we don’t always see it until we start dancing in the mess and jumping in the puddles.
So friend, become more like a child today. And go dance in the rain.
About a year and a half ago, I wrote an article with my "ABC's of Advice." I thought it would be interesting to recreate the article with my thoughts now (without first looking back on my old post). Sound good?
A: Always put God first above all else. Nothing compares to Him.
B: Be kind, even when you don't feel like it.
C: Carry your burdens to the cross.
D: Don't forget who you are in Christ--loved, chosen, forgiven, HIS.
E: Even when I don't understand, God has a perfect plan.
F: Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the prison of bitterness. So forgive freely.
G: Grace is enough.
H: Hope always, even when it seems dark.
I: Inspire others with your faith.
J: Joy is a choice. Choose it every day.
K: Kids are a gift. Give them your attention.
L: Love others without condition.
M: Maybe your biggest interruption could really be your biggest God-appointment.
N: Never give up. Sometimes you have to miss the mark a thousand times before hitting the target.
O: Overthinking isn't going to help. Trust me.
P: Pray about everything. God is the best Friend you'll ever have.
Q: Questions are good. Don't be afraid to ask them.
R: Remember to look for the stars, the little blessings God sends into your darkness. Because sometimes there are beautiful things you can only see in the dark.
S: Serve more than you expect to be served.
T: Thank God every day. For everything.
U: Understanding things from someone else's perspective will often help your own perspective.
V: Victory is already yours through Christ.
W: Worry will wreck you. Put it in His hands and let it go.
X: eXamine your heart and figure out why you do what you do.
Y: Your youth will not last forever. Use it to glorify God.
Z: (be) Zealous for God above anything else in your life.
If you want to check out the first edition of this post that I wrote in 2017, read it here:
This week I turn 22.
It's crazy to me how fast time goes, especially as the years go by.
As I've been reflecting on what God has taught me and how He has worked in my life over the last year, I contemplated things that He has been teaching me over the 22 years of my life.
Today I wanted to share those things with you...
1. Nothing else comes close to Jesus. If I don't have Him, I have nothing. All the accomplishments, relationships, money, dreams that this world has to offer will never come close to the surpassing worth and greatness of knowing Him as my Savior.
2. Life doesn't always turn out how I think it will, and that's okay. Different doesn't mean any less beautiful. But when God takes a hold of the different, He just makes it a different kind of beautiful.
3. Life doesn't slow down, so stop waiting. It's easy to think that "when life slows down" or "when I stop being so busy" then I'll finally make time for all the things I want to do and all the people I want to love. Life doesn't slow down. Stop waiting.
4. Donuts are always a good idea. Do I need to further this point?
5. Find joy in the mundane. Not every day is a roller coaster adventure. But every day has something amazing in it.
6. It's okay to not always be okay. Life hurts and the wounds don't always heal overnight. It's okay to not be okay right now, but don't stay there forever.
7. Your heart will heal someday. Especially when we're young it can be easy to wonder if the pain we face in this crazy, sin destroyed world will ever go away. I have learned that you can't heal on your own, but there is a great Healer who will heal your hurts and make you whole. Nothing heals wounds like God does.
8. You're never too old to dance. And if you dance in the produce aisle at the grocery store singing the VeggieTales theme song, you are my hero.
9. Everything in life is an opportunity to glorify Him. When you walk down the hallway at school, you can glorify Him in your interactions with your friends. When you write that book because He's gifted you with the talent of writing, you can glorify Him through the words. Life is meant to be lived for Him and His glory--every part of it.
10. Organize your room. You'll feel better afterwards.
11. Anxiety is big, but your God is bigger. Any battle you face--anxiety, depression, grief--all of those hard things that life throws at you feels like giants in your path. But your God specializes in knocking down giants.
12. It really doesn't matter what people think of you. And if we're honest, they were probably more worried about what they said than what you said.
13. Smile at strangers. Everyone deserves to see God's love. Start with a smile.
14. A relationship will not make me complete. Only God can complete me. A boyfriend could never do that. And it really is okay if I don't have a boyfriend right now. Life is not all about romance.
15. Gratitude will effect your attitude. Not every situation in life is going to make me feel grateful. And certainly not everything in life will bring a smile to my face. But if I can count my blessings even through the tears, I have grown.
16. Be present more. Yeah, Snapchat streaks are fun. And yep, Instagram has a bunch of new stories to watch. But there are people right in front of you at this moment. There is a sunset waiting to be watched. There are people needing to be loved. Step out of your screen and be present.
17. Read your Bible every day. Relationships take work and time. The only way to develop a relationship with God and know Him is to spend time with Him. And it's greater than any other relationship on your agenda right now.
18. Following God's will for you will most likely terrify you. Follow Him anyway. He's not wrong.
19. It's okay to feel weak sometimes. God's not finished with you yet. And in your weakness, He is strong. He wants to use you as you are now, but I promise you He's not leaving you that way.
20. Don't take good health for granted. There will come days where you won't always have the energy and health you have now. Cherish the good days.
21. Never stop learning. You can always grow and learn. Pay attention to the people God places around you--kids, peers, older adults, everyone.
22. Jesus is worth it all. That sums it all up.
Here's to walking closer to Jesus in my 22nd year. <3
Last year I wrote an article titled "21 Things I've Learned in 21 Years."
I had fun comparing them after I wrote this year's article. If you want to have a look too, go here:
If you are a follower of Jesus, there is a high chance that at some point you have believed a lie about what following Jesus actually looks like.
I have debated for hours on how to open this post and I finally decided that would be a good place to start.
You see, there's quite a few myths going around about what following Jesus looks like, and they're all just that--myths. You hear them in schools, in friendly conversations, in families, and...even in church.
As Christians we can sometimes swing from one myth to the next or land somewhere in between, while still believing the lie they've planted in our hearts. Don't believe me?
Well, that's why I wrote this article. To show you four common myths that Christians believe about following Jesus and why they aren't true.
Myth #1: Following Jesus means a happy life free of pain or suffering.
This is more commonly thought of as the prosperity gospel. And oh, is it ever wrong.
Jesus never promised a life with no pain or suffering. In fact, all He promised was that if we followed Him we surely would face suffering and even persecution for Him.
Yes, God is a good Father who loves to give good gifts to His children, and I certainly have received countless blessings from Him. But that doesn't mean I never suffer or I'm free of pain.
But when I follow Jesus, I know and believe that I have a faithful Friend to walk through the pain and suffering with me. He doesn't promise no pain. But He does promise I'm never alone.
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you." (Isaiah 43:2)
Myth #2: Following Jesus isn't really a sacrifice.
The first myth can often lead into this one. And this one can get pretty tricky very quickly.
Here's the truth: If you are following Jesus wholeheartedly, it is going to cost you something.
It's not enough to say we follow Jesus and then live our lives however we feel like living them, without sacrificing anything for Him.
He gave up everything for us. Why can't we give up everything for Him?
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25)
Myth #3: Following Jesus is done only on Sundays.
Jesus didn't just die for your sins part-time. So don't live for Him part-time.
Following Jesus is not like a job where you "clock in" at church every Sunday and Wednesday and then when you leave you're done following Him for the week. Nope, not how that works.
Following Jesus is hard and messy sometimes and it's definitely a 24/7 deal. If we are to develop a relationship with Jesus and know Him, it can't just be for a couple hours a week. Relationships take work and time.
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." (John 10:27)
Myth #4: Following Jesus is about a list of rules that I have to follow perfectly.
Oh, did I believe this one for a while. And sometimes it's the easiest one to start believing.
This lie can convince us that we have to do more and be more and try harder to earn God's love. It can deceive us into believing that if we do not follow all of the rules we think we should, then we have failed at following Jesus.
Here's the truth: I sin every day. Every day I mess up and I fall and I get messy. And every day in His mercy, God picks me back up, dusts me off, and reminds me to keep following Him.
God cares more about you than He does your performance. Following Jesus is more about a relationship than it is a list of perfect rules to follow.
"For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart--these, O God, You will not despise." (Psalm 51:16-17)
Following Jesus isn't easy or pain-free, it takes a lot of sacrifice, it's 24/7 commitment, and it's more about a relationship with a perfect God than following rules to be the perfect Christian. Following Jesus will always look differently than we first think, but one thing I do know: It's the greatest adventure of life.
If I could go back in time, there are plenty of things I would want my teenage-self to know.
But if I could, I’d especially want to go back in time and shine some truth into a few of the lies that I believed as a young person.
Maybe you’re struggling with some of these lies too. If so, this is my invitation to you to experience some truth.
Lie 1: I’m too young to do big things.
The world we live in likes to convince teenagers of a lot of thing–and one of those things is the lie that they’re “too young.” For awhile, I convinced myself that I was too young to serve God in all the ways I wanted to. But I was so wrong.
You are never too young—or even too old—to do big things for the glory of God.
“Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.’ But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am only a youth”; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 1:6-8)
Lie 2: My current circumstances will never change.
When I was a teenager I often believed that whatever current circumstance I found myself in were always how things were going to be. It was easy to feel like things weren’t going to change, especially when you’re stuck in the sometimes mundane pieces of life.
But things do change, and they change faster than you could imagine. Keep waiting for Him to come through.
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)
Lie 3: I’m too different from everyone else, so I’ll never fit in.
Different is one-hundred-percent awesome. You were created uniquely. There is no one else on earth exactly like you, and that is a good thing.
You don’t always need to “fit in” to be loved. You are loved completely just as you are.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14)
Lie 4: I’m not good enough.
Christ takes all of your weaknesses and shortcomings and he makes them enough. You don’t have to do it on your own. Your weaknesses in the hands of God are the most beautiful thing you may ever see. Trust me on this one.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Lie 5: Everyone is thinking badly of me.
If we’re honest, that mistake you made when you tripped in lunch and dropped your food all over the floor? No one is going to remember it in an hour, let alone fifteen minutes.
And if we’re even more honest? It doesn’t matter at all what they think anyway. All that matters in the end is what God thinks.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
Now it's time for our first place winning story, "No Fear in Love."
I think you're going to love it...
It was the 4th of May, and the sun glistened on the newly sprouted leaves once again. The flowers were blooming, and the butterflies were hesitantly proclaiming the goodness of their Creator with each flutter of their wing. Water brooks trickled, the breeze softly whispered. Chipmunks scurried. It seemed like the perfect day for singing, dancing, and just being joyful. The animals didn’t need to be taught. The birds just sang their love songs, and the bees buzzed their harmonies. Praise freely resounded from every creature big and small. Joy filled the hearts of what was understood to be everyone on the earth. Everyone, except for Julia’s.
“Well, what have you got to say for yourself? You never talk, do you?” Her father’s voice raged within the walls of what Julia was sure to be most horrible home on earth.
“I try to make you happy. But, why do I try anymore, if it’s just impossible? I can’t be here anymore.” Julia cried in a louder voice than usual, pain resonating through her heart.
“You just don’t get it, do you? If you did, you would know you’ll never be good enough. Don’t expect to succeed in this life! It’s impossible for you. I’m tired of you throwing me Bible verses all of the time and expecting me to be someone I'm not!” he raged.
Julia’s tears fell like rivers. “I am done. I have tried loving you but I am…” she hesitated. “I am leaving.” she cried, subtly putting her hand in her tattered shorts’ pocket, grabbing a small piece of paper that held a phone number and address to freedom.
“You’re not leaving. I forbid you to leave!” He yelled louder.
“I am twenty-one!” she protested. “God said to me…”
“Stop saying God speaks to you! That Bible you read is just a bunch of old tales.”
“He does speak to me, and His words are the same then, and forevermore. I just need Jesus and He will take care of the rest. I am done being a stepping stone for hatred! I must do what’s right for me, and what God tells me to do.” she said assertively, tying the laces of her neon red converse. Her long brown hair stuck to her cheeks from the many tears that left their stains there.
“If you walk out of this door, I’m done with you!” His brows furrowed and his hands raised.
“That’s your choice. I’ll be praying for you. Goodbye.” Julia replied, slamming the door and ignoring the lump in her throat that arose when she looked into his eyes. Each time she did, she was instantly reminded of those painful times in her past. She had not known her angry father to be any different, so she just bottled up her longing. Her longing to be loved without fear.
Julia felt the warm sun on her face. It felt so relieving to be out of the house. She pulled out the small piece of paper in her pocket again and dialed the phone number written on it.
“Hi mom, it’s Julia. I want to come home. I should have listened to you. You were right about him. I need to be where I can be loved. I need to be...free.”
The next morning Julia turned over in her bed at her mom’s place and glanced at the clock. It read 9:59 A.M.
“I…slept…in?” Julia sat up with a start and stared out the window. It had been forever since she slept in that late. Rolling over she grabbed her tattered Bible and lay awake reading its treasured words. She opened up to 1 John 4 which read,
“Love is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”
She stopped there when her stomach interrupted her with its selfish grumblings. She sometimes felt as her stomach did, in pain and in starvation because she was lacking what she needed. She sometimes felt like grumbling and complaining, too.
But she remembered that Christ died for her. Who could love her more than that? Did He know how imperfect she was, and how many times she fell? Did He see her infirmities and know her sins? If He did, He would truly see there was no reason to love such a weak and lonely girl as she.
But He did, and He loved her just the same. Her heart skipped a beat for the first time as she tried to comprehend this great and gracious love given to her, freely. Her tears could not be held back. This kind of love removed fear, and banished all memories from the past. If only man understood this love and stood up and honored God’s children because they feared Him! If only they loved. Not a fake love, or an artificial love that remains until you are too far deep to escape. But a true love. One without lust, sin, strife, anger, selfishness, pride, and impatience.
“Lord, I know I’ve messed up so much in my life just as everyone else, and I don’t consider myself any better than them. Please remove my painful memories. I need to move on. I can’t possibly do that looking back all of the time. You alone have shown me what true love is, and for that I’m forever thankful. Help young men and women to obey your call to love. Not fake love, but your kind of love. The love of man shatters, and the praise of another will not last, so that is not what I seek. Make it possible for me to love again, and to accept love in return. Even though I'm hurting, you’re my Healer. Please remove my pain of the past, and make me Yours, and free at last. Amen.” Julia opened her eyes from praying the words that poured out from her aching heart. A deep sigh escaped from her lungs as she got ready for her day. Her first day of being free.
The sun was still shining, and the birds were singing their songs. Children ran races around the lush green grass that blanketed the earth. Julia stood by the window clenching her warm mug of tea in her fragile hands. Her head leant against the kitchen glass window lined with white lace curtains. The sun in her face and the smell of her spice tea brought an innocent smile upon her face. She longed to be like the children. So innocent and pure. Never worrying about a thing.
Just then the kitchen phone rang. Julia’s mom was nowhere around, so she answered it.
“Julia? This is your father. You need to come back home.” The sound of her father’s crackly dull voice brought all that fear back. Her voice shook, her hands trembled, and her anger arose. How could he say such a thing after what he did to her?
Just then God spoke to her heart.
“Forgive, but do not give in.”
“I…I…” she stuttered.
“Please.” he begged.
“NO.” Julia slammed the phone down, tears streaming down her eyes. Now she was mad at God and her father. How could He tell her to forgive? How dare He command her to love someone who never loved her, or her mother? This could not be the voice of God.
“Julia. Did I not forgive you at your worst?” This had to be Him, but she denied it. Sitting down at the table, she sobbed.
Forgive. That word rang in her ears, making her heart heavier with each beat. God was not telling her to take part in this abusive relationship and to give in, and go back to her old life. He was only telling her to forgive.
“But it’s so much harder than that!” she protested. The phone rang again. She stayed seated. An hour passed, and her mother left for work. The phone rang again. Julia still sat.
The fourth time, the phone rang, and Julia had enough.
“Hello?” she snapped over the phone.
“This is Mercy Hospital. Your father had a stroke.”
Vision, blurred. Heart, pounding. Fear, conquering. Love, fighting.
“Lord, help me.” she cried.
Racing to her room, Julia grabbed her Bible. The life-changing words managed to be seen through her blurred vision.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” This was her last confirmation. Forgiveness was her way to freedom.
Julia jumped into her car and called her mom. There was no way that she was going to let her father go without telling him that she forgave him. She prayed for nothing but God's strength and love on the way. After all, she had none left. If anything happened in that hospital room, it had to be God. If she forgave, it was all because her Savior forgave her, and could also forgive this imperfect man.
Arriving at the hospital she wiped away her tears and clenched onto her tattered Bible. The peace of God overwhelmed her. The doctor said he was alive, but not for very long. She was his last chance of hope.
“Father, I know we have not gotten along, and I know this is hard for the both of us.” she clenched his trembling hand. “But God forgives. He forgave me and I forgive you, too. If you can hear me, I want you to pray with me to ask God to forgive us both.” Hours passed and Julia sat next to her father’s deathbed and quietly prayed, love filling her heart for the first time. Love was not from man, but from God. For the first time she realized that love is not only for the perfect, but for the broken. Forgiveness was given by a perfect God to a depraved generation. He loves unconditionally, that we may also love unconditionally.
At her father’s last breath, he spoke one sentence that would change her life forever.
“My God, forgive me. I believe in you. Show your mercy and love to me. Save me.”
Tears filled Julia’s eyes. God’s love forgave and saved him. Her heart was aching and rejoicing all at once. Just then her mom walked into the room and embraced her. Julia could finally feel again. She could finally feel love.
Many years had passed, and it was Spring again. The sun glistened on the newly sprouted leaves. The flowers were blooming, and the butterflies were hesitantly proclaiming the goodness of their Creator. The breeze was stirring along with the people who were anxiously watching from their seats. Julia glanced from the silver ring that was being placed on her finger up to the man who loved her more than she loved herself. Patient. Kind. Without strife, and without lust. Today seemed like the perfect day to be one with the man that God had given her.
The Lord whispered to her heart, “Perfect love casteth out fear.”
“And Lord, You are my perfect love,” she whispered under her breath.
One thing Julia knew for sure, was that no one, no matter how humble or proud, had a reason to love, but that Christ had first loved. True love is fearless, and it forgives. That day joy and love filled the hearts of what was understood to be everyone on the earth. Everyone, including Julia’s.
1 John 4:18-19
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us.”
About the author:
Hello, I’m Hannah! I’m a 16 year old homeschooler and a follower of Jesus Christ. The Lord is the most important thing in my life, and He’s given me a heart to reach this next generation for His glory. Writing is one of the ways I accomplish that! I have known the Lord my whole life, but it was not until I was in my early teens that I truly started living for Jesus, even the hard things. I am a happy writer who enjoys the outdoors, worship music, Bible journaling, sign language, and dancing. Jesus and I have a strong and personal relationship, and I believe that it’s important for every person, young and old, to have the same connection with Him! You can visit my blog at: https://generationlights.weebly.com/hannahs-pages
Last month I had the excitement of announcing our first place winner and second place winner of my 3rd annual Worth it All Blog Story Contest!
Both winners won their story being featured here on the blog for you to see. Disclaimer: I, as the author of this blog, do not necessarily claim to agree with the opinions stated in these works.
The first story I'm posting is our runner-up, "Ever Heard of Love, Luke?"
Let's get going...
When I phoned Peter and asked if I could come over, he agreed immediately. We made a date for that afternoon. I met him in their clean kitchen; he made us each an espresso and then we sat at the table.
Peter fastened his grey-green eyes on me and nodded. “Talk.”
I closed my eyes, wondering where to begin. I thought of the things that came to haunt me in the quiet of night. They weighed heaviest on my heart, so I started there.
The boredom of war ate at me. We just . . . we’d vegetate, you know, until we were called to action. Most of the guys sat around, swearing and smoking and talking junk. Others would do things like playing cards. Grant and Matthew and I read. We read until we had our books memorized; then we started on each other’s books. Because of the censors and checkpoints and taxes, I couldn’t write to Mom and ask for more.
It was soul-destroying. Humanity was not made for that.
And then we fought. Then it was guns and blood and yelling and shots and wounds and death. And only afterwards, when you stood with your hands clamped painfully around your gun, heart pounding in your head, sweat pouring down your face, knees shaking . . . only then did you realize how scared you’d been. How you’d been terrified enough to wet your pants.
Humanity was not made for this either.
The contrast just killed me. It was no way to live.
I realized how white my knuckles were, became aware that I was clenching my mug like I’d done my gun. I looked up at Peter.
“It was wrong,” I whispered brokenly. “It was no way to live.”
He nodded. “Go on.”
I stared at my hands, trying to find words for the masses of stuff piled inside me.
The swearing rubbed off on me. Funny how I’ve come to regret such a fairly small thing and still kick myself for using the language I did. But what could you do? Everyone did it; it was really hard not to get a dirty mouth.
Maybe I should’ve tried harder. I don’t know. I’ve always gone against the grain, always hated to conform, always stood out . . . yet there I gave in. Softie.
Smoking, swearing, drinking . . . I know it’s stupid and unambitious. But what else do you do? If you’re stuck there, how else do you cope?
Those guys needed to somehow deal with our living nightmare. Somehow they needed distraction from the wretchedness which was constantly in our faces.
Not that any of it ever worked. Smoking stinks; it’s so stupid to mess up your lungs and does it ever do anything for you? And alcohol turned you insane. You did things that you still beat yourself up over years later.
I don’t know why we did it, and I still wish I hadn’t. I wish I’d been stronger and hadn’t conformed. I wish I’d done better at following God, done better at living.
I had my head on my arms on the table. Sobbing. My words made no sense, not even to me. Peter’s hand was on my shoulder.
I looked at him. “If you knew . . . if you knew all the things I’d done, I bet you wouldn’t care for me as you do.”
“Luke.” His voice managed to be soft and hard as nails. “We love you for who you are, not for what you’ve done.”
I clenched my jaw. I didn’t want to tell Peter, didn’t want the love in those grey-green eyes to vanish – but confession was pushing up inside me.
I got tattooed,” I burst out.
Only once did I get drunk during those four years – and I mean drunk, now, not tipsy. (That happened about twice, I think.) I was nineteen. We were awaiting marching orders, and we were beyond fed up. I was so emotionally low I let a crowd with whom I never mixed drag me along on their drinking spree.
I got drunk. I got hard heavy roaring drunk.
I could still walk, but I’d taken leave of my mental senses. They said something about “tattoo parlor”, and I let them haul me there.
They asked me what I wanted, and I remember saying, “A cross.” Heaven knows why. I remember thinking, It’s permanent. Just like this war is going to be.
They asked where I wanted it, and I unhesitatingly folded my hand over my heart.
Man, it hurt. The alcohol may have dulled a lot of the pain, but it was still a killer.
I cried my eyes out when I was sober. Countless times I felt like clawing that thing off my chest with my bare hands.
I felt as though God had left me.
I scooted my chair back, oblivious to the tears running down my cheeks. I got up and pulled my shirt over my head. “There, see? Now I’m ruined. Scarred on the inside, tattooed on the outside.”
Peter got to his feet and came to stand beside me. I wrung my shirt in my hands and continued talking. “And then God took Matthew. Two years later. Four months before the peace treaty. Peter, I felt like I was in a desert. There was nothing and no one and God had left me. I wanted to die.”
He said nothing; just enveloped me in a bear hug. I had my hands over my face, shaking as I cried.
“Luke. God loves you.”
That week was Holy Week, and it rained all of Good Friday and Saturday. But Easter Sunday was the most stunning morning I had ever seen. The sky was so incredibly clean, a blue so pure and intense it almost hurt your eyes, almost made you feel it was going to melt away. It was so beautiful it bordered on unreal.
I had only ever known one person with eyes that color. Matthew.
They had a cross set up in church. Next to the pulpit it loomed: rugged, plain, real. It claimed my attention and held it for the whole service.
Afterwards, as everyone was going for tea, I went to the minister and asked, “Can I . . . can I kneel at the cross for a while? Please? I promise I won’t be long.”
She smiled. “Of course.”
Slowly I walked into the deserted church building. I caught my breath. Sunlight poured in through the windows and illuminated the cross. Dust danced in the gold light, glinting like tiny diamonds.
Jesus . . .
I knelt at the foot of the cross. I bent over, forehead to the ground, arms spread before me, palms up. I felt the coolness of the silver cross round my neck as it swung forward and tickled my chin. Tears pricked my eyes.
Jesus. Why did You die for me? Why did You subject Yourself to that pain? Why did You do it if You knew of all the despicable things I would do?
Silence descended. I kept my eyes squashed shut. Images appeared behind my closed lids.
A Man walked – stumbled – fell – up a hill. He bore a heavy wooden cross on His back, but His true burden was heavier: the sin of the world.
A woman stood at the foot of the cross, helpless with grief as she gazed at her Son. He dangled there like a common criminal – He, the perfect Man, the perfect sacrifice. He, the Son of God.
A man stood beside the woman, took her in his arms like he would his mother. His best Friend – that Man of love who hung dying before them – had asked him to take care of His mommy.
I heard weeping. I heard groans.
Pain hung in the air. Blood tainted the wind.
And loneliness invaded.
The Man on the cross felt His Father turn away from Him. He felt His God turn His back.
He felt Himself left alone.
And He was not silent.
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”
My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?
My God? Why? Why? Why did You forsake Me? My God, why?
The images faded. Silence descended once more.
Ever heard of love, Luke?
I knew that Voice. No other spoke with total gentleness while penetrating every chamber of my heart. Only the Holy Spirit.
Ever heard of love, Luke? Ever heard of feeling so strongly for someone that you throw caution and commonsense to the wind? Ever heard of such a desire for the best for someone that you will give your everything so that they may gain?
Ever heard of love, Luke? Love that fights and never gives up? Love that transcends and overpowers? Love that covers all the scars and stains? Love that forgives? Love that cleanses and heals? Love that encompasses all?
Ever heard of love, Luke?
I hung on that cross because of love. For the love of you.
And nothing you’ve seen or thought or said or done can change that love. The blood on your hands can’t. The swear words on your tongue can’t. The images in your mind can’t. The scars on your heart can’t. The deeds in your past can’t.
Luke, I love you.
About the author:
I’m Jeanette, and I’m His :) I’m a nutty South African bookworm, writer, music and drama queen. I love Middle-earth, Narnia, Discworld . . . oh, and all things Celtic! I blog at Only by Grace (https://onlybygrace325852412.wordpress.com) and would love to have you come visit.
I have seen an epidemic sweeping across our nation.
It may not cause fevers, but it causes depression. It may not cause headaches, but it causes division. It may not cause sore throats, but it causes fake smiles. It may not call for a doctor visit, but it does call for revival.
This is the epidemic of perfectionism.
Ever since I was a child, I have been an overachiever. A perfectionist.
I feared failing, so I would constantly strive to do more and be more to prevent being seen as a failure. I would cover up my imperfections and shortcomings with a smile or a hearty handshake on Sunday mornings so no one knew that I didn’t measure up to all that I was supposed to be.
After all, that’s what I saw everyone else doing, wasn’t it?
My Christian friends in church or youth group always kept the superficial smiles on their faces while talking about all the happy things. No one ever talked about the hard, imperfect things.
Instead of feeling like a safe haven to be real about my imperfections, on Sunday mornings I felt the need to measure up to this invisible standard of perfectionism that everyone else was portraying around me. It made me feel depressed and divided from everyone else.
And then there was social media.
Scrolling through my news feed and seeing the posts with smiling faces or grand accomplishments, I would feel more alone in my imperfection than I wanted to admit.
Everyone always seemed to have it all together and acted like the perfect Christian. But what about me? I surely didn’t have it all together, even if it was hard to admit. Sometimes I didn’t even want to worship or praise God in the hard stuff. And sometimes I held onto my own silent sins tighter than I really wanted to.
Was I the only one? Looking around at the smiling faces on Sunday morning or the happy messages on Instagram, I felt forced to wear my own façade too. The façade of perfectionism in a world that is so imperfectly broken.
You see, in a world so desperate for something real, the only way to be honest is to let others see our imperfections.
The truth is that none of us have it all together. The truth is that all of us have our “moments.” The truth is that we all suffer from the disease of sin. Romans 3:10 says: “As it is written: None is righteous, no, not one.” (ESV)
Since no one is perfect, why do we try so hard to act like we are?
Being real and vulnerable about our shortcomings and imperfections is hard, I know. But what could happen if we fought against the epidemic of perfectionism with the medicine of being real? What could happen if we joined together as a community on Sunday morning to say, “You know, I’m not perfect, but let’s strive to be more like Jesus together”? What could happen if we started caring less about the perfect smiles and started caring more about being there for each other in the tears and struggles too?
“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27 ESV)
God doesn’t want you to put on that smile and pretend you’ve got it all together before He uses you. He wants to use your weaknesses and your imperfections. He wants to use you as you are, even though He doesn’t want to leave you there.
So where are the imperfect Christians who are willing to stand up and declare that they aren’t perfect, but God isn’t finished with them yet?
Drop the façade and walk away from the epidemic. Join the ranks of the imperfect. See what God is ready to do with you in that place.
Can all the imperfect Christians please stand up?