Category Archives: Faith

Loneliness.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about loneliness. What causes it? Who suffers from it? During the Christmas season I think about people who have lost loved ones, who don’t have family who supports them, and I especially think about orphans and foster children who just have no idea what their future holds. Not to mention emotional and spiritual loneliness. I can admit, I deal with it at times. I bet we all do, to a certain extent. We all battle thoughts of feeling unwanted, unloved, and even unnoticed.

But during this time of year, when so many people surround each other and love on each other, who are you leaving out? Who aren’t you supporting because you’re “comfortable?” During this season, I bet that lack of attention feels more like a dagger than a mere irritation. When we exclude others who need light in their lives, the world becomes exponentially darker.

I found a great (because it gets to the point quickly) article, called “God’s Answer to Loneliness.” I was interested in how the author pinpointed the causes:

Causes of Loneliness

Past Rejections — You may have been rejected in the past, and you’re afraid to try again.
Insecurity —  In your mind, you may not feel worthy to be accepted, so you don’t reach out for other people.
Grief — If you’ve experienced grief, you may feel like nobody understands how badly you hurt. You close up, drop out, hunker down, and live a lonely life of isolation because you think nobody understands.
Self-centeredness — You may be all wrapped up inside of yourself. You live in a bubble of pride and self-centeredness.
Sinful Lifestyle — Sin builds walls. Cain murdered his brother Abel and was driven away from the presence of God, from home, and from loved ones. (Genesis 6:13).
The Depersonalization of Society — When you buy something in a store, you may never even make eye contact. You may live in a house and not even know your neighbors.

Yikes… I bet we can all see areas of this list we can relate with. But I believe during this season, we can battle our own loneliness by walking alongside someone else as they battle their own.

So instead of liking my Facebook post or sharing this article, I want to encourage readers to take charge and act on that feeling deep inside you telling you to step outside of your comfort zone and walk with a friend, relative, or even stranger. Sure, the short-term outcome is unknown and possibly messy, but the long-term rewards and bonds are so, so worth it.

And stop feeling like you’re not qualified! You are, because you care!

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Plans.

As I typed out the title to this post, my mind went immediately to a verse that is, for me, a very pivotal verse in my journey as a person (well, as opposed to a giraffe I guess). As I looked it up to be sure I had the wording correct, I realized it was the verse of the day on the website I usually use. Coincidence? The rest of the world might think so.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future..” Jeremiah 29:11

I’m one of those faithful ones. I pray when people get hurt, or are dying or sick. I pray fervently when people struggle with infertility or marital instability. I believe firmly that God DOES have the power to miraculously heal, audibly speak, and inexplicably transform us when we least expect it. I desire for people to know just how powerful God really is, and I know the only way people fully understand this is when they have experienced or witnessed His indescribable phenomenons.

I also desire for people to know that our perceived “dead ends” aren’t truly what they seem. The way I see it, is that when I’ve reached the end of the path and all I see is an open sky and a hundred foot cliff beneath my feet, I know there’s a reason.

It has been an interesting year. One of change, improved perspectives, massive life changes, and character growth I didn’t expect to experience. I’ve watched people I care about go through some trials, victories, miracles, some redemptive life circumstances… and its just so interesting to see this ebb and flow of all of us doing our best to make sense of it.

The best part though, is that we don’t have to make sense of it. We don’t have to figure things out. I wonder what would happen if we waited patiently for God to give us direction, rather than making assumptions and taking off down an unknown path that may possibly lead to destruction.

I love the next few verses in this passage: “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”

He is a God who listens, a God who cares, a God who wants us to find Him. I believe that in being patient and believing in His unfaltering plan, He will move in our lives and transform life as we know it. But this doesn’t always mean we will experience good! We have to trust that as we seek Him and follow that path, the hope and future He promises is just around the corner.

As I set one foot in front of the other, I would like to think instead of looking ahead and trusting in my own faulty judgment, I am looking upward and seeking to walk by faith.

Dressing for Success

My husband and I were discussing the concept of “dressing for success” the other day. We recently sold our cafe of 6.5 years, and he is now working a steady job at a local food warehouse where upward progress is a possibility. He decided he would start looking as presentable as he could for work (keep a clean shave and haircut, dress well on his way to work despite it being a night shift AND having a uniform, etc). This will hopefully assist in the progress he makes, although his work ethic and understanding of the company will be the primary reason he moves up.

This lit a new idea in my mind I couldn’t resist writing down…. People dress for success in a physical way, but God wants us to dress for success in a Spiritual way.

What this does NOT mean:

– Following religious traditions (even going to church every Sunday)

– Wearing pretty clothes to church

– Always doing and saying the right thing

– Maintaining a rigid prayer and Bible schedule

What this DOES mean:

– Seeking Christ with every breath (resulting in kindness, goodness, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, self-control, faithfulness…)

– Developing a serving heart that HURTS for the broken, discouraged, and poor people around us. We are ALL more capable than we think.

– Seeing ourselves as imperfect. God uses humble, broken people for the best of things.

– Admitting our fallibility

– Seeking HIS will, and not our own.

You see, God doesn’t see us as successful if we are successful in the ways of this world. And even if you strip away our rituals and traditions, He looks at our heart, and how we use His name.

He wants us to dress our hearts to be successful in His way. To love unconditionally. To serve wholeheartedly. To give without hesitation. To hear His voice and follow. To continue when we are discouraged and broken. To see God’s goodness and light when everything in life feels SO DARK.

I guess you can take that as a challenge. 😉

Voices.

I listen to many voices. My kids, husband, parents, siblings, friends, past teachers, past coaches, books, websites… the list could go on. Some of those don’t seem like voices, but they are when you experience something in the present day, and that little comment comes flooding back from 10 years ago. I’m sure we all wish sometimes that the voices of the past wouldn’t return in the way they do… but I guess that’s how life works.

I distinctly remember coaches comments to me. Mostly positive, but there’s the occasional memory of comments that I wish I could erase from my memory. Then there are the boyfriends of the past, the friends who took another direction, and memories with family members. If you asked me, I’d be able to tell you a specific conversation we had, where we were, and how I felt. God bless my long-term memory… sometimes.

The present day voices affect me more than those ghosts of the past. I have terribly sensitive ears, and I definitely don’t have the greatest selective hearing in the world. In a room full of people, I often end up listening to the person farthest away, and completely lose track of the conversation with the person right in front of me. If this means I’m going to go deaf someday, well, at least I took two years of sign language.

Aside from my hearing, voices from people in my life have the ability to encourage me, discourage me, sway my opinions, give me perspective, hurt me, shock me. People don’t realize how much they can affect others with their words. It would help the world if more people would choose to use this skill in a positive way.

So. This past year, I have learned how to make all these voices SILENT. Or even obsolete if necessary.

In September of 2010, I accepted the children’s ministry director job at my church. I admit, I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew I liked kids, and I knew certain life circumstances had prepared me for the role. I knew I loved God, and wanted kids to know His love, but had no idea how to implement that perspective into a solid, organized, consistent Sunday School program. So, I prayed. Then I jumped in head first.

I asked God to give me the clarity of mind to know whether I should continue or not. (I’ve done this in the past, with soccer, with friendships, with jobs…). I heard what I thought was nothing. Sure, I heard people encouraging me I was doing alright, and got affirmation from the church staff. That was good enough to continue in the job, but after a few months I started to feel discouraged. I felt entirely inadequate, lost, and even when I prayed I felt God was leaving me to fend for myself (but not LEAVING me).

In reality, I kind of think I was right. And up until a few months ago, I thought that was a bad thing. Turns out it was good. (I’ve been taught since birth that silence from God isn’t necessarily a bad thing… I just hadn’t figured out yet how that applied to MY life).

God was allowing me to learn to shut out the discouraging, negative, selfish, exhausted voices telling me this wasn’t right for me. He was allowing me to train and learn within His reach, so I could be stronger and rise above the issues of the physical world.

I started to find myself in situations where I’d be alone in a room, ready to scream and punch through a wall. Then this feeling would come over me, I’d look up to the sky, and simply say “Oh fine, I get it.” And it would be okay. I didn’t have to say a bunch of shalt’s and thou’s to communicate with God. I simply had to acknowledge Him, stop and let Him know I was listening, and follow.

I learned that the absence of direction only comes from our physical world on this earth. When you look around you into the darkness, you see more darkness. All you have to do is look up.

So, in situations like this church role I feel so unworthy to fill, I have found if I am looking and listening in the right direction and I hear NOTHING… it means I’m exactly where I should be. I’m not sure if I tied that all together perfectly, but… it is what it is.

Also, I’d much prefer to go blind than to go deaf. 🙂

 

 

Wondrous Love

Last Spring, a friend and I led worship for my church’s women’s retreat. One of my favorite hymns, “What Wondrous Love” was part of the set list for the weekend. for those of you who don’t know this beautiful song (or any hymn for that matter), its a simple declaration of the love God has for us.

This evening, my husband and I drove our kids around town looking at Christmas lights. Our five year old son Ian was completely into it. His reaction by the end of the night: “I like a lot of lights.” On the other end of the spectrum, our three year old daughter Ana had apparently grown tired of the car and the fantastic experience, and called out to us “I want to go home, and look at NO lights.” I turned to my husband and asked him how Scrooge had appeared in the back seat of our van.

I have a lot of moments like this. I expect my kids to react a certain way to life experiences, or things I provide for them, and its pretty disappointing when their reaction doesn’t meet my expectations. Like when I set a plate of food in front of them, and they immediately retort “I don’t like it!” There are also those times my kids are misbehaving so badly, I want to kick through a wall. I kicked my dresser once, and the mark is still there.

But regardless of these moments of frustration, sadness, and agitation, I simply have to look at my child to remember why I’m here. When I hear my children’s voices, my heart flutters. When they say profound things or make me crack up, my heart melts. They can’t do anything to make me not love them or to not care for them. Sometimes I am oblivious to the world as I stare at Ana. She is precious, intelligent, and full of surprises. My son Ian confuses me immensely. He is so loving and sensitive, yet so physically passionate and aggressive. He can’t fully speak clearly, but he is brilliant. Underneath the  mask introversion, he is the wittiest five year old I have ever met. I pay attention to every little detail of their lives, although sometimes it may look like I’m too busy or preoccupied with my church job to notice.

So, how does God see me? Well, to be honest, I am flawed. Sometimes my words are ugly. Sometimes my reactions aren’t in line with the way I know I should act. Sometimes, I’m just tired, and don’t know what to do with myself. Sometimes, I am stuck in a problem I’ve created, and I wonder why God doesn’t just pull me out of my mess.

How does God see me? Well, I’m His child, and so are you. He loves and cares for us in a way we can’t fathom. He gazes at us in awe of the beauty of His creation. He loves the qualities that make each of us unique. The greatness of His wondrous love is beyond anything we can understand.

We think we know love; but we know nothing until we experience His wondrous love.

Something to think about this Christmas season.