Should Christians have negative emotions?

It was drizzling as I walked to my car in the Target parking lot. It was the kind of drizzle that soaks you through if it has enough time. My cart was full of boxes containing unassembled furniture. With this purchase I had nothing left to do for the day except assembly which would not take long. Filled with the need to run, flee, I loaded my car with my bags and boxes and got on the freeway without a destination in mind.

As I drove, the destination came to my mind. I had always wanted to know what the beach looked like while it was raining. Mission Beach it would be.

The strip of concrete in Mission Beach—Ocean Front Walk it is called—is where I found myself after driving in silence for 25 minutes. There was no time of prayer, there was no music. It felt like life had stopped as the beach walkway waited for me. The deserted parking lot told me no one else had the desire to know what the sand and beach looked like while it was raining.

Wearing my New Balance flip flops and a hoodie, earbuds in my ears to ward off any conversation heard by the runners and joggers going by, I walked to the retaining wall, staring at the whitecapped waves being tossed before they hit shore. The clouds became grayer as my eyes tracked them from directly above to as far out as I could see. I felt like that color, as if I looked slightly harmless overhead but the farther out the more volatile my emotions would become. And I was out there alone.

How could I possibly explain these roiling emotions to someone when they felt unexplainable? It felt like there was no beginning and no known ending to the internal turmoil. Was there even a way for me to understand it?

It felt like there was no beginning and no known ending to the internal turmoil. Was there even a way for me to understand it?

I felt like those waves, being tossed, waiting for a pause in the tempest. Waiting for relief. I needed people to help me through this, but too often I heard other Christians, mature Christians, cautioning against emotion of any kind. How could I confide emotions if I cannot explain them, if they end up making me feel separate?

I stared at the waves long enough to be drenched by the rain. I got back in my car without a single clue as to how I could learn to articulate my emotions.

That day was nearly two years ago. I like to think I have learned a bit about emotions since then. Even more, I have learned that I myself am an emotional being. That is how God chose to create me. Looking back on the confusion and hopelessness and restlessness I have felt now leads me down a path of encouragement.

God taught me through a long season that emotions are not bad and they can be brought from the abstract side of life to the concrete side. And I can do this through words.

Last week as I opened my fridge on my lunch break, I thought about emotions, how at times they are the hardest things to explain, particularly the negative or difficult kind. There’s such a contrast here. It is difficult to explain what hopelessness feels like because it’s on the negative side of emotions. But can we explain what joy feels like? Anytime, any place. This sparked a desire in me to find a way through personal stories and experiences to relate what certain abstract emotions feel like. Maybe you are encountering these emotions right now and need a friend, maybe you need to know that emotions are not all bad, maybe you need the assurance that God will bring you through.

That is the purpose of this post and the following posts this month. I want you to understand that emotions can be felt and can be concrete rather than abstract. Then in the final post, I will conclude this series with a story of how I gained the confidence to articulate my emotions and gained knowledge of who God created me to be in spite of my emotional makeup being in turmoil at times.

Earlier this week I read a devo and a quote jumped out at me, making me believe even more in this mission. The devo is written as a personal letter in first person from God to one of His children (you):

“Pay attention to what I am doing in your heart—with your emotions, your thoughts. Ask me to help you decipher them. Ask me to show you why you feel the way you feel. But these emotions? Feel them. And show them to me. The open-hearted surrender of your emotions to me will help you see me in the storm, in the madness you feel when emotion is all you know and nothing else makes sense.”

Emotions are difficult, just as standing on the concrete walkway in Mission Beach was difficult. I left that moment believing answers would never come, believing I would be trapped by myself, in myself, forever. But just as the next day dawned with no rain (a change), soon my situation changed. And yours will too. In the meantime, my prayer is that you will be encouraged through these posts. You are not alone in your emotions.

What do you see? What do you notice?

Truth be told, when I outlined this post about a month ago I had a slightly different lead in mind. I was going to talk about how we all want deeper connections, we all want what’s important to us to matter to everyone else. But I reject the idea that everyone can be categorized this way. Not everyone wants the same things out of their relationships.

I want to be understood by my people. I do not necessarily need them to agree; just make an effort to understand why something is important to me. This is my priority yet I understand others are different. Example: My mom is cut from a different cloth than me; we have different personalities; we have different desires. Where I want to be noticed and understood to foster community, she is happy to be in the background as a lone wolf.

I addressed my last post to people who are like me, who want their people to encourage and support them and simply try to understand something foreign to them. Likewise, this post is for you. We are not the same as everyone else, and what we want is not going to be the same as everyone else.

We want to be noticed. Not the surface stuff. With us, everything goes past the skin. It is more important our people notice a mark on our hearts rather than a new pimple on our foreheads. We want not only our jobs, hobbies, opinions, beliefs to be noticed; we want the reasons why behind those jobs, hobbies, opinions, beliefs to be noticed.

We want to be noticed. Not the surface stuff. With us, everything goes past the skin.

I have stated before that often the only thing my thoughts revolve around are relationships. Whether what I am working on at any point in time is focused on relationships or not, something I am seeing or hearing or noticing is relating back to relationships. I will admit not all of my relationships have been successful. I have had heartbreaks, I have had seasons of frustration and losing desire to put forth effort. But both the successes and the failures have taught me lessons I would not have otherwise learned.

Those lessons I will now state—

  • I have learned that you must first notice things about yourself if you want someone else to notice them. What special things about yourself do you enjoy, do you appreciate, do you value? For example: If you are a kind person, people should be able to see that in the way you treat others. And if you value that trait, then others should be able to value it as well.

While I want my whole personality and all my traits to be noticed by people who matter—for the sake of giving a full picture of myself—there are some I want noticed more than others.

Above all, I want my sincerity, kindness, determination, adaptability and love to be noticed. If I am being honest I also want my humor to show as well. In order to make these things noticeable to other people, I have to be willing to put them on display without allowing fear a foothold. But how can I do it in a way that feels natural, not forced, not awkward? Because trust me when I say I have my awkward moments, and I cringe for weeks afterward.

I have found an answer for myself. It makes the difference in showcasing who I am. I have to work hard at it every day. Somedays are much easier than others. Other days I go to sleep feeling defeated. But I keep pushing.

  • Here is my answer: I have to maintain the truth in my own head and heart that tells me, in this moment, I am exactly who God created me to be. When my confidence is founded on my identity being in Christ, I can actually feel my sincerity making a difference, my joy and humor being appreciated, because it’s making a personal connection with me. It matters to me. I appreciate those things.

Sometimes all I feel is frustration with myself, thinking I am an inconvenience of some kind to another. This does nothing but hold me back. I do not want to be held back; I want to move forward, always. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am loving and kind and considerate, and for the first time in my life I am secure because I know that is who God made me to be—everyone else’s feelings on the matter are inconsequential.

Now that I notice these lessons and learned these things about myself, and you hopefully have begun to notice your own special things, how can we become more proficient in observing special things in another?

Most people want what they give to be reciprocated. If you notice things about yourself that you want others to notice, there is a vice versa paradigm occurring.

What can we notice about others that will reveal their God-given gifts? What noticeable peculiarities can lead to deeper relationships? I work on my relationships using the following four points:

  1. Look and be willing to patiently dig to find their characteristics. Not everyone is generous right off the bat. It takes time to show that. Be patient.
  2. Seek and try to find complementary interests and experiences with another person. If you enjoy discussing culture, find people who also enjoy it.
  3. Ask questions about and observe someone else’s needs. It will reveal much more about their needs than you initially think.
  4. Last, observe their existing relationships. You learn a great amount about people by noticing who they maintain and pursue relationships with.

Without a doubt, we want to be noticed, but we also want to notice others. And the best way to do this is by knowing who we are in Christ. As you bookend your day with your relationships, you must know who you are and who God created you to be. When you work every single day to build your confidence and your knowledge on who He is and all He does, it makes everything else in your life—especially your relationships—align with His love and His purpose and His will.

Pursue Him, and in pursuing Him, don’t forget to pursue others. You were created to be in relationships, so cultivate them fearlessly.

Where’s Your Armor?

Let’s talk about the enemy, particularly why he seems to be so interested in God’s kids.

At the very end of 2017, I was on a plane coming home from Texas. I had spent Christmas with my family and I was making my journey back with my fur child, Lottie. It was a long day (I’m not exaggerating at all. If you were one of the few who I talked to that day, you know how stressful it was). But when you’re on a plane there’s little to do. The ground and all its stress-causing problems are thousands of feet beneath you, which means your mind can wander to different things.

I took this opportunity to write in my journal. And instead of writing a normal journal entry that would likely turn into a long prayer/conversation with Jesus, I wrote out some things I was thankful for in 2017. Then I turned my attention to what I wanted to accomplish in 2018.

Any time I look back on a year of my life, I like being able to say that I’ve learned a big lesson, gone to a few new places, experienced deeper relationships and grown in my faith. And even though 2017 was difficult in many ways, I accomplished something in each of these categories. Looking forward, I decided that 2018 would be the year I become a conqueror, and this would mesh together every single category from above.

I spent a good portion of 2017 in fear, and as I sat in my slightly uncomfortable aisle seat on a long flight back to San Diego, I told God that I didn’t want to be afraid of anything anymore—including grabbing ahold of the great things He wants to give me. I will conquer fear in 2018.

After about an hour of writing, I closed my journal. I had written down an entire page of goals for the coming year, and I was excited to see how God would stretch me.

Well here’s the not so funny thing about fear: it’s a tool in the enemy’s belt. If you’re like me, then you’ve struggled with fear, that sinister whispering voice in your ear telling you that you need to give up, you’re not worth anything to anyone and you’re better off simply bowing out of the fight. Imagine the chaos you’re causing for the enemy when you decide that you’re going to take away one of his best weapons.

Within about a week after I set my main goal of conquering fear, I was sitting down on my couch early in the morning, drinking a cup of coffee, when I felt it. A stirring started in my chest, and I could sense the Holy Spirit was trying to tell me that it was going to be a difficult year. But like a fool I didn’t take the moment to pray for strength. I simply acknowledged what God said and moved on with my morning routine. And I didn’t think about that moment again until a couple of weeks ago.

Around the time this feeling came and went, I began a study called “The Armor of God.” It’s a workbook that goes through the book of Ephesians, specifically examining chapter 6. The writer of the workbook, Priscilla Shirer, does a good job of giving her readers a reality check. I can practically hear her sass as she tries to snap her fingers in front of my face to get my attention, as if she is saying, “Uh, hello! Girl, wake up! The enemy is out there, he’s real, and your armor is nowhere to be found!”

The first week, it was a good reality check to have. But things didn’t click until the second week. This foreboding in my chest that I felt, and this reality check to remember the enemy is real, is why I felt God telling me this year would be difficult! What else could I expect when I declared that fear would never be an issue anymore? Of course the enemy is going to scramble for new tactics to get me back under his control!

Here’s what I’ve learned in the last couple of weeks (more accurately, here’s what I’ve relearned in the last couple of weeks).

  1. A Christian with his or her armor on is a force to be reckoned with. The seven individual pieces are powerful tools, but when they are all combined they form the spiritual, biblical defense needed to live in this world—and live in a way that brings people into the fold of God’s family.
  2. The enemy knows us. For as long as we’ve all been breathing he has gathered intel on all of us, learning what our weaknesses are, sharpening his tools and striking at the first opportunity he gets—and he keeps striking. But he’s a liar, he’s deceptive. He wants us to believe that the abundant lives God wants us to have—the kind of lives Jesus came and died to give us—isn’t attainable.
  3. When we understand our own weaknesses and strengths, we begin to understand that we have the armor right there, ready to be used. For me, I realized one of my weaknesses—therefore one of the enemy’s greatest tools to use against me—is fear. I decided to fight. And immediately, the attacks began. At every turn since setting my goal and declaring to God that I would follow Him with fearlessness, the enemy has lobbied every attack he can think of. It’s been a fight every day, but I refuse to give up.
  4. I can give up, I can run scared, but it wouldn’t do any good. Not physically, emotionally, mentally and certainly not spiritually. Why? Because my armor doesn’t protect my backside. Retreats are not covered. I continue to fight. And God has already promised in His Word that the enemy has been defeated. I just need to follow Christ every single day, choosing to strengthen my faith and dependence on Christ.

It’s not easy to be a target, but understand this. It’s even more difficult to know that God has amazing plans for all of us, but we’re almost always too afraid to grab them. And if you desire to grab them—if you desire to further God’s kingdom, grow in your faith, love people better, change your ways, open your heart, have a better attitude, conquer fears—then rest assured knowing the enemy is going to work overtime to get you to give up and run away.

But also rest assured that your armor is already prepared for you. Just put it on, and fight. Don’t run. Don’t be afraid. It isn’t easy, it isn’t simple, but it’s WORTH IT because to God YOU’RE WORTH IT.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”

Longing for Security

I like to think I am not shy. I like to think that I know how to open up to people as long as I believe I can trust them. I like to think most everyone can be trusted with something of myself. I like to think I am not crazy for wanting to give people a chance (and in most cases, chance upon chance upon chance) and see the best in them even when they disappoint me.

But all of this requires one thing in order to flourish: security.

Now, security is something I have thought about on a near-constant basis over the last year. It is a need of mine to have security in my life—security in Christ, security in my salvation, security in my heart, security in my relationships. I have put every effort into providing security for those I love.

Security is an interesting need because until the last year I never knew it was valuable to me. But once I realized its worth it became one of my lone pursuits in all my relationships. Some relationships already had security built in, but others needed work. As I gave every ounce of energy and strength I had to foster security and stability, I began to analyze and question exactly what that means to me and exactly why I need it.

At the age of 23 (almost 24) I would say I know myself well. I know my strengths and weaknesses, and I know when I am being honest with myself and when I am not. If someone were to put me in a hypothetical situation, I know my first answer or first solution to the problem would be one exhibits strength and resolution, but I also know if the hypothetical situation were to happen my response would likely be something different.

Example: If someone were to say, “Grace, what would you do if an earthquake hit right now?” My initial answer would be, “I would run for the closest door because I want to be outside, and if anyone is in my way I’ll run them over.” But in reality, if an earthquake were to hit, my reaction would be different. If it happened, my response would be to make sure everyone else is okay and stay with them even if it meant putting my own life in danger (that is the fighter and protector in me).

As if I have not led you down a rabbit hole with that whole anecdote, I will now continue with my original point. Back to what I was saying…ah, yes.

I believe security might mean something different for different people, but I know my own definition means that someone looks at me, takes in all my quirks and intricacies, all my soft and sensitive traits and all of my more rough and tough traits, and chooses to not necessarily accept me, but to give me a safe place where I can simply and unapologetically be me.

What does it mean to be yourself in the presence of others, you may ask. Let me try to explain it from experience.

There is a small pool of people I am completely comfortable around—when I do something weird, they never make me feel less than; when I ask my weird questions that pop into my head (I cannot even count the amount of weird questions I have asked in my life), they laugh about it without shunning me; when I need a moment to simply feel all of the crazy emotions in my heart and cry, they offer empathy and encouragement and, many times, silence without any judgment; and many more things. But it all fosters this desire to be comfortable with them because when I am comfortable with them, I trust them. And when I trust them, I listen to them, I go to great lengths to take care of them, I make sure I meet all their needs I am able to meet.

In the midst of a year filled with more pain and change than I felt I could handle, and in the midst of recovering, I have been examining why I need so much security. Is it because I am more of a softy and I need people to understand and appreciate that without taking advantage of it? Is it because I like to give others security so it makes sense to want it for myself? Or is it something deeper, something innate God has placed in my heart and soul?

I think the first two possibilities simply stem from the last one mentioned. God made me (and all His children) in a very special and unique fashion. While we are all the same in that we are human—we have bones and ligaments, organs and skin—we have different character qualities that make up who we truly are. God has graciously supplied me with security in His heart, and gifted me with redeemable love that is always readily offered even in the moments when I turn my nose up at it and walk away. He accepts me fully and as He has grown and matured me through the years. He has ushered in a unique relationship with Him where I can be completely honest with Him because I know His love is never based on anything I do or say. And because I have this amazing gift bestowed on me from His very heart, I know it is something that He desires me to have in other relationships. If security was not meant to be had in all my relationships, then He would not have led Paul to write 1 Corinthians 13.

Love is powerful, and with it we can either supply the ones we love with security, or we can unknowingly hurt them by refusing them security.

Choose wisely. Never be afraid to demand your need for security be met, and protect yourself when it is not. And when it comes time, do not let fear hold you back from being the child who runs full speed ahead to an unknown. God is watching you, securing you.

Two Months Too Long

When you have a passion for something, you want to do it as often as you can. It can make you feel safe and secure, it can make you feel like what you are going through matters, it can make you feel like someone, anyone, is listening to your words and bearing your burdens with you. And in the midst of difficult seasons, comfort brought by spending time doing something you love can be paramount.

My something? Writing.

By no means am I a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist or a New York Times bestselling author, but I know God gave me a way with written words. Throughout the past five years, writing has been such an intricate part of my identity and going without it for long periods of time—as I have done recently—feels like not being able to walk for weeks at a time. So here is a new post for you. I am committing to writing more often since I have missed out on much.

Thinking about what I wanted to write for this update has had me thinking off and on for the past week. I have pondered deep thoughts and shallow topics, and I always came away with the desire to simply be honest. So here goes: I am struggling.

No one can get to young adulthood without realizing that in life there are peaks and valleys, high mountaintops and low desert floors. And here is something I have learned about peaks and valleys in general: they look different for everyone. My struggles, what I am fighting through right now, may not be on anyone else’s list of valleys they have experienced. Nonetheless, here I am. And their mountaintops may not ever be mine. Nonetheless, they are standing high. But down at the core is the truth that everyone, no matter who they are, will experience highs and lows.

While I was on vacation in Gulf Shores in September, there was much going on not only in the United States but all around the world. Hurricane Harvey had just left a huge disaster scene in Houston and the surrounding areas, and Hurricane Irma was on its way to Florida after devastating parts of the Caribbean. There was a small chance my family and I would be in Irma’s path, but by the grace of God it did not turn west. Earthquakes devastated parts of Mexico and London was being attacked and nuclear war with North Korea loomed ever larger (and still does). Yet for one brief moment in time, my family and I were safe, unaffected.

Usually when my entire family is together I struggle to find quiet time to read or write in my journal or spend time in prayer, but I think on this trip God knew I needed some alone time with Him. Every day I woke up at the exact same time—7 a.m., 5 a.m. in California—and I would quietly walk downstairs, make my coffee and sit out on the deck. It was the perfect spot for me. The wind gently blew, the sun was still rising, the view of the street below and the ocean across the street. It was peaceful. In those moments I would reflect on everything in my heart, giving everything I could to Jesus and not holding anything back. One morning I woke up feeling discouraged, like the enemy had literally hung a dark cloud over me while I slept and I woke up feeling frustrated and angry, and even though I did not want to, I opened my Bible app. The verse of the day happened to be from Isaiah 40. Just following my thoughts, I opened the entire chapter and began to read. What a surprise that the title of the chapter in NKJV is “God’s People Are Comforted.”

In my life seasons I have learned so many things about myself, and every single season—whether it be characterized by mountaintops or valley floors—reveals more and more. The season of life I am in right now has taught me that I value honesty more than almost anything else, and I desperately need the comfort of security. I did not realize how much I desired these things until suddenly they were more rare than abundant in my life.

As I read the 40th chapter, I was truly comforted. (Just an honest moment about having a relationship with Jesus. It is not always easy like the pages out of a Christian fiction book. Living a faithful life has thrown me so many curve balls, and every time I find myself on the floor I have to remind myself that it is OKAY to be there for a little bit. God sees me, He hears me. And more important than anything He is comforting me, lovingly catching every tear that falls, and holding me as I endure pain and heartache. He never leaves me. And in my moments of torture, all I want is peace. I want to sing worship music in the hope that it will lighten my heart. I want to read my Bible because maybe it will distract me. I want to pray because then I have someone to talk to. But I would be lying if I said doing all of those things ALWAYS make me feel better. It does not. But on this day, though I had to fight my way through, I was comforted.)

The first five verses of this chapter talk about how Jerusalem is comforted by her warfare ending because Jesus will come. And Jerusalem will eventually be saved along with anyone else who desires to be. That is comfort in the truth of who God is! He is my Savior, my friend, my Father. He is the one who never leaves me, and always comforts me when I feel impossible to be comforted!

The last five verses speak of how great His understanding is. He KNOWS everything about me, and somehow He still loves me. I was on His mind when He went to the Cross and breathed His last while He endured immeasurable pain. He is everlasting, His love is everlasting. There is not one single thing I can do to outrun Him. There is not one single fault or chink in my armor He sees that would cause His love to falter.

Always in my quest to have peace, to heal, to grow, to learn, I come back to this truth: Jesus is my everything. He is everything I desire, everything I need, everything I could ever want. He loves me so unconditionally, and all of the things I desire to receive from other people (unconditional love, security, compassion, honesty) are already offered by Him.

Jesus loves me. I do not need to concern myself with anything else. It is hard to not be bothered, it is hard to outrun heartache and pain, it is hard to surrender to the emotion of the moment when I know there is a hurdle I have to jump over. But there is freedom on the other side of that hurdle, and the opportunity to rest before I get to the next one. Because guess what? God is going to be faithful for the next hurdle, too. It is not going to be painless, ever. But He understands. And He offers all His love and comfort.

Take it.

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”