What I Learned in a Year

May 2 is a significant day in my life. This year it marks two years since I graduated from California Baptist University, and it marks one year since I began working at Turning Point. Both of these events are so intertwined, and thinking about God’s providence in both events brings tears to my eyes. Why did God choose to look on me with favor? Why did He give me the gift of spending two years at CBU, where I would meet people and learn lessons, and even learn about myself and who God really is? Why did He give me the job I have? What makes me so special?

I think the basic, simple answer is nothing. Nothing makes me worthy to be so blessed. If anything, I deserve absolutely nothing from God. But rather than dwell on all the ways I am unworthy, I am going to cherish these blessings and learn as much as I can from both the happy times and the hard times.

Let me take this time to direct you to a simple question I have been asking myself over the last week: What can a person truly learn in just one year?

Here are a few things I have learned in the last 372 days (since it is May 8 as I write this).

1. Life, especially as an adult, is filled with decisions. There comes a point in every person’s life when they realize they must take responsibility for themselves and no longer rely on their parents or any other authority figure except God alone. Mine came just over a month ago.

I took a careful evaluation of my life—my time and how I spend it, what I do with my money, how I conduct myself in relationships, where I stand on ethical and moral issues, what my guide and my compass should be, and what my standards are for myself. After I evaluated, I have to admit I was more than a little disappointed in myself and also convicted for how I had been living. I felt weak. I felt ashamed. So I did the only thing I could: I confessed my lack of intentional living and asked God to redeem me. How could I turn from my bad habits of not caring about my time, not caring about my health, not caring about my money, not caring about my heart, in favor of forming better habits?

I ended up taking a couple of hours to write out what my standards and rules should be for myself. What I should do with my money, what efforts I should make to maintain a smart budget. What I should dedicate my time to. What I should maintain strong commitments to (example: I will not commit to something unless I am 100 percent sure about it). What decision I should make in these particular situations and what situations I need to steer completely clear of. What I should do about the apparent laziness in so many areas and choose to be more active. What I should do to be more proactive. I set a goal to become a woman of my word, a woman people can rely on, a woman people can respect and enjoy being around. A woman who loves those around her completely and unconditionally.

More than anything, I wanted to be able to look at my life years from now—five, 10, 20 years—and say that I did things God’s way, even if it took me a long time to figure out what God’s way really was.

2. Decisions can be difficult and can cause pain. But pain, just like everything else outside of eternity, is temporary. And God will meet me in those decisions and in that pain, and He will give grace, and grace more abundantly.

3. Jesus came so that I might have an abundant life. But the abundant life God desires for me is not going to come on its own. It will not be dropped in my lap, it will not be easy to attain, it will not be easy to maintain, it will not be easy to make the right decisions. But the end result—to be able to hear God tell me “Well done” when I come into His kingdom; to be able to say on my deathbed that I lived a life wholly devoted to my Savior and the furtherance of His Gospel; for my loved ones to be able to say that I lived in a way that brought people in and made them feel loved and showed them that God desires their hearts—is worth far more than the decision to lead a life less than.

Settling for less is never something God desires for me. He does not desire that choice for anyone. Because settling for less—a job I do not enjoy, an unhealthy relationship, a nonchalant attitude, a dream always relegated to the back of my mind never to be achieved—will not please God and will certainly not satisfy the desire He has for me to live abundantly.

4. A certain amount of being a responsible adult and a strong Christian relies heavily on how close I cling to my Savior, and how well I know His voice. Can I say that I know His voice? Can I say that I listen to Him? Can I say that I have good discernment when I cannot distinctly hear His voice? Is my faith growing strong? Living a responsible life is just as much of a decision as it is living a Spirit-filled life.

5. The Christian faith, the Christian life, is a constant balancing act. There is no lesson I can learn 100 percent and then never have to go back and take a refresher. When I learn to love someone, I have to keep learning; it is not a one-time lesson. When I learn to be the best copy editor I can be, I have to be willing to keep learning and keep growing. When I learn how to trust Christ with an area of my life and I surrender it to Him, I have to make sure I keep laying it down.

6. It is absolutely okay to be vulnerable. So often people run from being vulnerable because it is uncomfortable. They are exposed. Sometimes it can feel like they have set themselves on a small circular platform while people surround them on all sides sneering at them as they bear their hearts. It is scary to be vulnerable, but it is freeing. When vulnerability can be accomplished in any type of relationship, any type of setting, connections with people grow so much deeper.

And vulnerability does something else: it leads to love. Love is the one thing everyone in this world is viciously after. It is only four letters, yet it encompasses something so powerful that it is the very reason Jesus Christ went to the cross to die for the sins of the world. He gave His life not expecting anything in return, it was unconditional. And we as His followers, His children, are commanded to love as He has loved.

When it comes to love and vulnerability, I like to think of a quote from C. S. Lewis:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

On the surface this life is simple to live. It is only when I put my human hands in the mix that it begins to become grayer, more complicated, more difficult to understand. As much as I would love to say that the last year, even two years, has been super easy, I cannot say that. I can say I have learned quite a few valuable lessons, but I cannot say I am the same person I was a year ago. In many ways, I feel I went from being a child to being a woman. In the last year, I took more steps than I thought I ever would. I am working hard every single day to make sure I am pursuing the abundant life God has for me. Often I fail, yet God still loves me and picks me up, lovingly tells me to keep going. And I am trusting that I know His voice.

Regardless of how simultaneously difficult and joyful the last year has been, I can say with certainty that God was in control the entire time, and He remains in control. I never have a reason to doubt it. I never have a reason to doubt Him. So I will walk faithfully into the next year, and trust that He will forever remain in control of my life and my heart.

 

A Personal Miracle

Quick note about the picture: This was taken at my favorite beach in SD, Mission Beach. It was a beautiful sunset and sometimes I wish I could go back to that day. But there is a connection because last Good Friday, I was at the beach, and I wish I could have gone this year. But a gift is I can go and enjoy it no matter when.

Let’s get to it.

This week is passion week. Today is Good Friday. Sunday is Easter, resurrection Sunday. It is a time filled with miracles, not only the miracle of Jesus rising from the dead and all of the other numerous miracles He performed, but also the miracles that happen in present day.

Some of you may be wondering, “What miracles are you seeing that I am not? We still have disease, we still have abortion, we still have evil everywhere we look, we still have war, we still have chaos. What miracles are you talking about?”

There are personal miracles you can spot in your life if you look for them. In this post I am going to give you two examples of miracles in my own life and my hope is that on this day, Good Friday, you will pause for a few moments to reflect on the miracles you have in your life due simply to the biggest and most powerful display and act of love ever: Jesus dying on the cross for your sins.

Example No. 1:

The other day I woke up before my alarm went off. It rarely happens this way. I am unabashedly one of those people who has multiple alarms go off in the morning and I snooze every single one of them until I am good and ready to face the day.

The sun had still not come up completely, but there was just enough light outside my window to give me an idea of what time it was. My eyes were not open all the way, my eyelids felt like they weighed about 5 lbs. each. There was the smallest amount of light coming through my blinds. It was silent. The only sound I could faintly hear apart from my own breathing was my dog’s breathing.

God spoke to me. A Scripture came to my mind, flashing to the front of my thoughts, but instead of being like a flash of lightening (quick) it took its time and lingered for a little while. The verse was one I actually do not spend too much time thinking about, but nonetheless it is a verse I committed to memory years ago. It had a special place on my bedroom door during my teens. I would look at it every day. The verse:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

—Proverbs 3:5-6

Next, the emphasized words, “Trust in the Lord,” came out of the darkness. It almost felt as if the words were being spoken in a whisper right next to my ear. Peace rushed through me. Gratitude flooded my heart.

I have breath in my lungs, I have a roof over my head, I have food, I have a great job, I have a puppy, I have loving relationships, I have hope. None of these things would be present in my life—I would not be present in this life or in that moment a couple of days ago—if Jesus had not come and died on the cross for my sins.

That is a miracle.

Miracle No. 2:

If there is one verse I have been dwelling on for a few weeks now, and even more so during passion week, is John 10:10:

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (bold added)

On top of this verse, this morning I read Romans 6-8. Chapter 8 is mostly known for being the chapter that contain the verses about being conquerors and how God causes everything to work together for our good and how His love is greater than anything we can encounter in this life. I had never, until this morning, read chapters 6 and 7 right before reading 8. But I am glad I did.

Paul goes to great lengths to explain to the Gentiles and to the Jews that sin is the problem they are facing and the Law put in place in the Old Testament simply was not the ultimate answer. In fact, he says at one point that the Law is an impossible standard to live up to and it essentially defeats him. But chapter 8 brings everything into perspective when Paul goes into explaining how we are not in bondage to sin any longer because the one-time sacrifice of Jesus was more than enough to allow us to live in freedom. God’s love gave us freedom.

That sacrifice is the reason we are observing Good Friday today. More than 2,000 years ago Jesus hung on a rugged wooden cross that dug into His precious skin, He had nails driven through His hands and feet, His head was crowned in the harshest thorns they could find, His legs were broken and His heart was pierced. And His heart was broken when He witnessed His Father turn His back from the sin He was shrouded in. And He endured all of that so we would not have to.

He sacrificed Himself, and God the Father gave us His only true begotten Son—Himself in the flesh—out of the purest form of love so we could have abundant life.

That is a miracle.

So…what are you doing with the abundant life Jesus came to give to you? What dreams, what aspirations, what prayers, what calling did God place in your heart as a way to glorify Him? as a way to live an abundant life?

Today, my abundant life consists of reflecting on the miracles that are present in my life. I am going to be thankful and in awe of the gift of life God has bestowed upon me. I am going to pray boldly for someone special to me. I am going to love fearlessly and fiercely. I am going pursue my Savior every single moment of my life. I am going to bring glory to His name.

His sacrifice was meant for so much good. And I will spend my abundant life remembering that every single day, praying I never take it for granted, striving to live a spirit-filled life so as to give a testimony to all He is.

What can you do today to take advantage and truly appreciate the personal miracle Jesus gave to you on this day over 2,000 years ago? What is going to bring Him the most glory? What is going to make another feel loved and appreciated? Whatever it is, be fearless.

Why I Believe

I know why I believe in Jesus Christ. I know why I put my faith in Him.

In all my years and travels, I recently acquired a valuable piece of wisdom. Wisdom that is constantly growing and always putting my life and purpose in perspective. Are you ready for this wisdom? Here it comes…

Continue reading “Why I Believe”