A Single Purpose

It hasn’t always been easy being single.  Even in learning to rely on Jesus, and truly seeing Him as my beloved, there are some times of loneliness that still come up.  I am at the point in my life where I can really resonate with what Katie Davis Majors wrote about singleness, and just really being happy (maybe a bit stubbornly so) with the thought of life being just me and Jesus, together forever.

But what is a single person supposed to do?  Each of us has an individual calling from the Lord, but it can seem like married couples have a clearer map to follow than single people.  There is so much to learn about caring for and considering another person even before children come along, and then life is a whirlwind of keeping them fed, loved, and in one piece through terrible twos and teens years, and then teaching them to be adults and parents for themselves.

That’s certainly an oversimplification of the process, but to a single person, it can be hard to figure out where to focus your energy if not on finding a way to get married and start a family.

Culture tells us that this is this is the season for self-love and self-discovery, but, as Tai and Anna have written before, that way of thinking never gets us very far. We can do all “twenty things to do while you’re in your twenties” and still come out more confused than before we started.  What is easy to overlook is that all of culture leans this way.  A focus on “me time” is more noticeable in the lives of singles because they seem to have less of an obligation to take care of others.  God’s people were not meant to live this way.

In Matthew chapter twelve, Jesus said that “whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (verse fifty)  And in the book of Acts, “not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” (Acts 4:32) 

God’s people were made to be a family: a family that extends beyond our blood relatives.  As Tai wrote, that does not mean that we have to be stay-at-home daughters until are married.  But it also doesn’t mean that our lives must be mainly focused on our own interests or on our work lives.

One profound way I have been learning to be a part of God’s family is by using the time I have to support my brothers and sisters who do have greater family commitments.  I am still at a stage of life where there are not many variables that would make it hard to change up my schedule if I need to do something.  I cannot imagine how great a responsibility it is to support a family at work, go home and make sure they are fed, loved, and doing well in school, maybe staying up with them at night when they are sick, then getting them up for school in the morning and doing it all over again.  Some of my colleagues do this sort of thing every day, and it is a huge blessing to me to know that I can help them in it by picking up odd tasks (turns our I love doing certain kinds of paperwork), or filling in if a sick family member needs care that day.  An added bonus is that I have also been learning many things that will be a huge benefit when I have a family of my own.  And that is just my own experience.  There are so many people who could use a little more family support.  The elderly might need a chat or a hand with the heavy lifting.  Maybe a single mom could use a friend stopping by for some girl time, a grocery shopping buddy, or a babysitter for the evening so she can wear jewelry again.  A dear pastor or leader might appreciate the lawn mowed so he can spend time with his family or take care of some of God’s other family members.

As a single person, I also have fewer complications if the Lord calls me to the mission field.  It might not be your call, but it is a reason to be in prayer.

If you’re not yet called to sell everything and move into the jungle, think about how you do use your resources.  If you have a good job and a family support network, you might have the opportunity to splurge on hobbies and hanging out with friends more often than others people who are supporting families. In what ways could you be supporting God’s family?  What are some of the dreams, needs, or wishes among your friends, church family, or community?  Is there a woman at church who could use some flowers today?  Is there a younger person who might need a big sister to take them for ice cream?  Has an emergency come up for a friend, making it harder to make ends meet?  Would it really make a friend’s day if someone caught the check at lunch?  This can be a tricky subject, since some people find it embarrassing when when another person meets their financial needs.  There are also cases where giving money might encourage a harmful lifestyle.  Always been in prayer about how the Lord can best use what you have, but don’t be afraid to overcome your inhibitions when He shows you how to bless His family.

Be especially generous with your prayers.  Just knowing that someone else is willing to take a few minutes out of their day to intercede for them really touches so many people’s hearts.  So many of these things can be great random acts of kindness, but take it a step forward and get to know and love the hearts of your family in Christ.   Don’t be afraid to adopt someone!  Take the love Jesus has given you and show His family how He cares for them.  He’ll use His family to take care of you too.

by Stephanie H.

Martha, Martha

I had a conversation with a friend a while back about spending time with Jesus, and one of the things she said got me to thinking.

“You’re more of a Mary, and I’m a Martha.”

We very much like to categorize ourselves in this day and age.  From ISFP, extrovert, type A, phlegmatic, wall flower, all of the way to “What ice cream are you?” or “Which Bible character are you?” we are encouraged to establish a solid identity, our own little niche of belonging in a chaotic world.  Those boxes often make us second guess any actions or decisions that would take us outside of our own identities.  When it comes to our relationships with the Lord, that cookie cutter identity can be crippling.

When my friend told me that I was a Mary, I had to laugh on the inside.  She is very outspoken, while I could sit for an hour looking at a piece of grass.  She manages to juggle a dozen different tasks at the same time as nurturing half a dozen different people through their fears, joys, and anxieties, all within the span of ten minutes.  I work best with one thing at a time, and can get so focused that I will sometimes not even hear what people are saying around me until my job is done.  From the outside, that might seem like the perfect recipe for sitting at Jesus feet, but being still and listening are not things that come naturally to me.

My mind runs a mile a minute, so it isn’t uncommon for my prayers to become chatter sessions, telling the Lord everything I have planned, and when I think things are taking too long to happen.  I have to laugh at myself when He reminds me to listen, and instead I go down a list and ask Him about all of the things I think He might have to say.  In short, I am very much a Martha.

Realistically, we all face the same struggle Martha did.  When Luke begins this story (Luke 10:38), he says that Martha was the one who welcomed Jesus and His disciples into her home.  Martha had a brother named Lazarus as well as her sister Mary, but it seems that she was the one who took the initiative to invite Jesus into their home.  That is is where we all know to start, and it is certainly nothing to sneeze at!  Martha knew that there would be nothing more important in her life than having Jesus come into her house.  Hospitality was (and still is) vitally important in their culture, and she was ready to give all of the resources, strength, and time she had to make sure that the Teacher and His friends would remember the welcome she had given them.

Now, Martha was no Pharisee or Sadducee.  Her focus wasn’t on whether or not she would look impressive enough.  Her focus was on hospitality and doing good for others.  Along with Jesus and the twelve primary disciples, who knows how much of a crowd was following Jesus that day?  She wasn’t about to let any of them go hungry.  So where did she get distracted?

The story of Mary and Martha takes place in Luke chapter ten.  If we go back just one chapter, Luke nine gives us the account of Jesus feeding five thousand men, in addition to women and children.  Now He is back in Bethany, and here is Martha, stretching herself thin trying to feed one household when the Bread of Life is there sitting in the next room.

Martha does seem like a go-getter in this passage, but fears apply to all of us at one point or another.  She feels the pressure of wanting to do her job well.  She wants to bring comfort and rest to the lives of others.  She hates to think of anyone slipping through the cracks on her watch.  She gets so lonely in all of her cares and responsibilities, that she gets upset with the Lord for not easing her burden by having her sister help.

It’s not that Mary was more into feeling and Martha was more into doing.  All of Martha’s worries are addressed at the feet of Jesus.  It can be so easy for us to imagine that He has overlooked us with His help, and to say “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?”  Not one person was overlooked when Jesus fed the people in the wilderness, even though the disciples had no money to feed them.  When we place the burden of success on our own shoulders, that is when our stress levels skyrocket, and things start falling apart, whether we’re juggling caring for a family and coordinating a dinner, or just trying to get through our paperwork.  Meanwhile, Jesus is patiently waiting, calling each of us by name.  It is hard to give up control to the Lord, “but only one thing is necessary.”  And when we seek first that one thing, all of our needs will be met, and we will find that Jesus provides more fruitfulness to His ministries than we could ever hope to do on our own.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
~1 Peter 5:6,7

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
~Matthew 11:28-30

 

Martha, Martha.  Won’t you taste and see that He is good?

by Stephanie H.

How Much Do You Love Me?

I was praying in the morning a few weeks ago when the Lord interrupted me to tell me something.

“I love you.”

What shocked me was that my first thought in reply was “You do?”

I know that Jesus loves me.  Not just because I have heard it, but because I have experienced it to be true over and over and over again.  And yet, after a hard and anxious week, here I was hearing it and feeling it as a broken girl again, almost as though it were the first time I had heard it from anyone.

It can be the easiest thing in the world for me to make my faith and my service to God a job.  It is still a job I love, but I can throw myself so hard into the work that I forget that Jesus wants to spend that time with me more than anything.  I get to thinking that He’ll be closer to me if I’m working for Him, and the more I get lost in the work, the more I get to thinking that God is just doing His job too.

“Of course You love me.  You’re God; it’s your job.”
And yet partly believing that He wouldn’t want to love me if He didn’t have to do it.

It is such a relief to know that our relationship is on His terms and not mine.  During the same week, I was reading through the book of John, and went through Jesus’ wonderful prayer in chapter seventeen.  It is such a beautiful look into the depth of the heart of God.  In this read through, verse twenty-four stood out to me in particular.

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
~John 17:24

The Father loved the Son from the foundation of the world.  This was not just the idea of love.  It wasn’t even in the way that He loved us from the foundation of the world, because none of us were born then.  This was love between the Father and the Son that they both experienced actively from before the world was even created.  God was not forced to start loving us when we were finally created.  He is Love, and He has been loving since before time began.  What Jesus is asking in this passage is that we would be with Him so that we would be able to see how glorious it is to be loved by our Father.

We were created because God overflows with love.  He created us just so He could love even more.  My sin makes it so easy for me to believe the lie that God would leave me if He had the option.  That could not be further from the truth.  His love is never satisfied to be small.  It is infinite.

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.
~2 Chronicles 16:9

He is on the active lookout for another child to hold, to cherish, and to call His own.  All we have to do is receive it.  All we have to do is spend time with Jesus and give Him our hearts so that we can see what it is to be loved by the Father.  Broken hearts heal in layers.  There are times when I seem to be learning the same basic lesson that I did from the beginning, but God is patient, and His mercy is new every morning.  Every time I receive this lesson, it sinks a little deeper into my heart and heals another corner I didn’t know was broken.  No matter how deep He goes, He will never been scared away by a broken heart.

He just loves to love.

by Stephanie H.

Living in the VICTORY of the Holy Spirit!

 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 ESV)

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately praying for the Lord to fill me with the strength and tools I need to be able to do His work and not lose heart. And not only to do His work…but to do it *well*. In particular, I have spent a lot of time praying for Him to fill me with JOY in all the varied situations we find ourselves in, and His LOVE for the people we meet — a love that would compel me to reach out to them, and not be content to just let them pass by on their courses to hell.

But then, one day, I stopped in the midst of my prayers. I suddenly realized that each of these things I was pleading for — joy, love, peace, faithfulness, etc. — they are all fruits of the Holy Spirit, as Galatians 5:22-25 says:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

“Okay…” you might think, “I know those verses. I’ve sung the fruit of the Spirit song since I was three. I know all that already. What is so groundbreaking about that?”

Well, I sang that song all my life too. But here, just take a look at some more verses with me real quick…and then I’ll explain it:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13 ESV)

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 ESV)

“….and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5 ESV)

 

The Holy Spirit IS the power that we need to live victorious Christian lives, full of vibrancy and light! HE is the source of all JOY, all LOVE — all that we need for serving the Lord! Without the Holy Spirit, we do a pretty poor job trying to live righteously and godly in our own strength. We don’t need to try to manufacture these things in our own hearts — we can’t ever muster up enough faithfulness or love to live as God’s hands and feet in this world. We don’t need to spend hours and hours pleading with God to make us more loving, kind, or joyful! In fact…we need to get past our self-focused prayer times, and start using our prayer times to storm the devil’s fortresses, and set the captives free! We weren’t saved to feel good about ourselves. We were saved to serve our King…and to rescue others! And the fruits of the Spirit aren’t so people can think about how wonderful we are – they are to cause us to be better, bolder, more selfless soldiers who don’t back down from advancing the Kingdom of God! The Holy Spirit comes in to win victories for the Lord!

So…how do you get the power of the Holy Spirit then…if I just said that we need to stop our self-focused pleading every day for help to stop doing the things we know we shouldn’t, and start doing the things that we should…???

 

LET THE HOLY SPIRIT TAKE CONTROL.

Yep. That simple. Each of us has a “driver’s seat” of our lives. There is one of three chauffeurs. It’s either going to be yourself, the devil, or the Holy Spirit. Now, the devil is no gentleman. He just barges in whenever he can find a crack to squeeze through. But the Holy Spirit IS a gentleman. And He will never force His way in. He will always wait to be asked. Kinda’ vexing. 😉

So for starters, we must ask the Holy Spirit to actually not only fill us, but to take control of our lives, that we might actually BE the hands and feet of Jesus, doing HIS will, and not our own on this earth.

However, for the Holy Spirit to actually be ABLE to take control, we must be willing to surrender anything that is contrary to God’s Spirit within us; anything that would hold us back from being completely surrendered to His will and heart. In fact…any time we feel like we are lacking the power we need to serve the Lord more effectively, or when we are lacking the vibrancy and joy that we know belonged to those who have gone before us as they served — people such as Mary Slessor, Gladys Aylward, Jackie Pullinger, Jonathan Goforth, D.L. Moody, Reese Howells, etc. — it is likely that there is something we are holding onto. Something that we have not been willing to let bow before the Lord.

And this is why I was so excited to begin thinking this way. Instead of pleading with God to give me more joy in my life, I can take hold of the Holy Spirit’s power in my life in a deeper way…and it comes from surrendering my heart and life more fully to His service!

How do you receive the Holy Spirit? Well, there is much division over things of this nature. Some believe there is no more Holy Spirit (I have already seen this disproved enough in my life that I don’t even consider it a valid argument any more), some believe that you automatically receive the Holy Spirit when you become a Christian, others believe it is a separate experience. Whatever the case, if you are already a Christian, it cannot hurt to just humble yourself before the Lord and be honest with Him. Just say something like, “Holy Spirit, I desperately need you in my life. I need you to live through me, to give me victory over my flesh, and to cause me to be fruitful in the Lord’s service. I invite you to take control of my life…and I want you to live through me, to do the things that the Father needs done on this earth. I also understand that it will mean surrendering my own desires and the things in my life that are displeasing to you…and I don’t know where to start…but I want to be willing. Please come in. Please make me willing…and please show me the things that are in my life that are hindering me from serving you with total abandon, and then, root those things out so that there’s not one particle of them remaining, but only YOU.”

And that is where I, too, am at today. Eagerly expecting the Holy Spirit to begin to work through me in a deeper, more effective way; making me more one with the desires of God’s heart. I want to be His hands and feet. Do you?

 

Lord, Will I Be Remembered?

 

I’m off like a shot again as soon as I get the inkling that there is something more I can do for the Lord.  Whenever I get antsy, I want to do all of the things that have brought me close to Him before.  I hate to waste a moment, so let me read one of the thickest books in the Bible all in one sitting, or let me fast for a day or two, or pray for someone for a few hours so that they can know the peace and joy of the Lord.  And that does not even cover active ministry.  Let me give everything I have to offer to care for others.  Let me spend all of my free time sharing with everyone the truth of the gospel.

And I get to the end, and I fall apart.

There are so many people around me that need Jesus.  There are so many which He has entrusted to me.  My heart has ached to see how much suffering there is in my small corner of the world.  And yet I can see no fruit…  I have done what I know the Lord has asked of me.  What have I missed?  I know that I get more busy than I should when the Lord would have me be still; He has to remind me so often to be patient and to wait on Him.  He also has my failures and shortcomings with which to work.  I know that I have so much to learn, and that He is used to working through the most broken of people.  It hurts to accept that I have failed, but I know that my God is bigger than that.

I know that I am young.  I do have so much to learn.  The Lord will grow me into the roles and ministries He has prepared for me, and open them to me when His time comes, but for now, I have none of it figured out.  I don’t regret anything I’ve given to the Lord, but I know that He fed over five thousand with a boy’s five loaves and two fish.  Sometimes I wonder if what I have given Him has even fed five.

Retrospect can make it so difficult to relate to the stories in the Bible.  I can quickly read through to see how they end if I do not know already.  The outcome of my own actions lacks that handy feature, so it is easy to forget or simply not understand what it was for patriarchs and disciples to have faith in the moment, because from my side of history, they are all great historic figures and heroes already.  I can hope to be remembered the same way, but how can I know how to live so that I will be when so much that I do seems to come to nothing?

“Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done shall also be spoken of in memory of her.”
~Matthew 26:13

Can you imagine how this woman must have felt, to hear Jesus say this of her?  My heart yearns to know that what I do for the Lord can have that lasting impact.  So how did this woman do to gain this priceless recognition from the Son of God?

If we start back at verse seven, we read the story of a woman who comes to Jesus and anoints Him with perfume.  The book of Mark adds that this perfume could easily have been sold for three hundred day’s wages.  This perfume, worth almost a year’s labor, was her life savings.

It makes me ashamed to admit that when I give as generously to the Lord as she did, and do not see the results I expect, a large part of me comes to Jesus with His other indignant disciples and wants to demand “Why this waste?”  Nearly a year’s labor, and no one is fed, no one is clothed, and no one seems to love You any more than the day I started!  I don’t mean to blame Jesus for what I perceive as failures, but that is what I often end up doing.

How we measure success is everything.  This woman’s main goal was to show Jesus how much she loved Him.  Is it any surprise that John chapter twelve identifies her as Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha?  I still have so much to learn from her example.  When all is said and done, I want to know that I did what I did to show Jesus how much I love Him.  It is a struggle, but I want to give to Him unreservedly, regardless of what I or the world see because of it.  He sees, and He understands that same struggle.  When there were five thousand people following Him, He fed them with abundance.  They followed Him after that so that they could see more miracles and eat more food.  Instead, He began to feed them with the truth of salvation, and many of them left because it would cost them too much.

That success I have desired is not as valuable or long term as I would have thought.  The Lord has promised that His people will be fruitful, but I’m not always sure what that fruit is.  When I think I know, I often end up chasing the results rather than my Jesus.  I still have much to learn, but I want to spend my time sitting at His feet, giving Him all that I have, and seeking no more than seeing the love in His eyes, whatever may come.

by Stephanie H.

Is Giving Better than Receiving?

 

by Stephanie H.

 

Is giving better than receiving?

 

The obvious answer is, yes, of course it is.  And that is very true.  Focusing on what we have and what we get immediately puts a wall between us and God.  The last of the Ten Commandments tells us that coveting what belongs to others, wishing we could have it as good as we think everyone else has it, turns our eyes away from Jesus, and leads to a whole host of other sins.

 

So it does seem like a silly question.

Let me continue.

 

I grew up wanting to be very independent, and learned to be very good at it.  My grandparents were raised to be hard workers who took care of themselves, and considered it a matter of honor not to “take charity”.  You do what it takes to provide for your family, and for your neighbors in need, but there are always others who will need the help more than you do.  They never wanted to be a burden to anyone else by not being useful, or being unprepared for whatever life had to throw at them.  That work ethic trickled down into me as well.

 

Determination not to be idle, and to do one’s part are very valuable traits to have, but they can also be used to focus us on ourselves and to distract us from Jesus’ work in and through us.  For years, my determination to be independent and to be useful to others led me to bottling up every problem I had so that I would never have to be a burden to anyone.  Even now, being blessed to bring my every fear and concern to my Savior, it is easy for me to use that as an excuse never to rely on others for prayer, especially when I am stressed or feeling inadequate.

 

Jesus knows me so well though.  There are times that He draws me away from others so that I can spend time alone in the quiet with Him.  Then there are times when I can hardly pray a word or read a verse without Him pressing me to seek others out, share my weaknesses, and pray with them.  When I obey those promptings, it is such a blessing.  There are so many intricate ways He has to urge me to overcome my proud independence.

 

I had to confront all of this rather recently at work.  The Lord has blessed me with coworkers who truly love Him, and they have been a wonderful blessing to me.  The path on which Jesus is leading me had me living on very little, and they provided help for me in that time.  It made my independence squirm.  I hadn’t realized I had so much pride left!  At first I wanted a reason not to accept their gift, then I wanted to find someone who needed that help more than I did, and give it away as soon as possible so that I could go back to having only a little again!  Do you ever feel that it is easier to accept reluctant help than it is to accept help eagerly given out of love, without even having to ask for it?

 

Receiving sincere gifts, with no obligations and no flattery attached, really forces us to be vulnerable.  It forces us to admit a need.  How often do we want to do that?  In those times, it can be so easy to hide behind Jesus as an excuse for not needing help from His people.  Sometimes He does have us accept less from others than they are willing to provide.  Think of Paul, working as a tent-maker so that the churches he was helping would not have to pay for his needs.  Other times, we stubbornly choose to live in the wilderness out of habit, rather than allowing Him to show us the joy and glory of relying on our brothers and sisters, even as He has them rely on us.  That relationship, and the vulnerability that comes with it, strengthens us together as the body of Christ, and teaches us so much about Him that we never could have known on our own while resisting the call to depend on each other.

 

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. ~James 1:17

 

When the Lord calls us to give of ourselves, He is allowing us to be involved with Him in what He loves most.  Yet He shows us something so magnificent when we sit and watch with Him as others have the opportunity to experience that same joy of giving.  It is also a strong and comforting reminder that we are not the ones who cause good things to happen.  He loves to have us involved, but it is such a humble blessing to be taught to close our eyes and hold out our hands for the blessings He has prepared through others.  Be willing to receive, and see what love He will shower upon you.

Contentment in Serving God…His Way.

 

 

servinggodblog

 

I struggle with lots of things. Shocking, I know. 😛

But one of my biggest ongoing struggles has been wanting to be more fruitful than I am…and, in spite of being on tour half of the year specifically to go around sharing the gospel with people all over North America, with my family, I often feel so useless….and have a list of TONS of things that *I* want to do for the Lord that would be *way* more fruitful than what I’m doing….at least, in my mind, that’s the way it seems.

But, the other day, a thought suddenly came to me…that  my struggles are just like this scenario:

What if my husband came and asked me to go out to dinner with him…and I responded with, “Well…that’s nice, BUT…I already have a list of things that I’m going to do for you that will make you REALLY happy. I’m going to clean the house, vacuum, scrub the floor, and mow the lawn – because I know all that will make you really happy!”

But…what my husband actually wanted was just for me to go to dinner with him. And, while all of those other things might actually *be* a blessing to him at a different time, at that moment, if I was refusing to go out with him so that I could do all those other things instead, OR if I went out, but I was continually talking about how I should actually be doing all of those other things instead because they would have been more useful or more of a blessing to him…..that would NOT be actually blessing his heart. AND it would probably both take away from the sweetness of the time that could have been had, and also it would ruin his plans for blessing me and just having a sweet night.

Well, it’s the same with God. There have been times that I know He has asked me to do some “projects” (like my magazine, books, etc.), and when He has asked it of me, He has made it to be in the perfect timing and has blessed it, and caused it to be completed, making my small windows of time to be very efficient.

BUT…if I am continually wishing I could do all these “fruitful” things that I feel would bless Him *more* than what He has set before me right now (like being on tour, being a mommy to two kiddos, etc.), that is really not a blessing to His heart, and in fact, it takes away from the sweetness of being with Him and being faithful in what He has set before me, and fills my heart with discontentment and endless struggles.

I’m praying that God shows me how to be JOYFULLY content in His will, as well as fruitful in being faithful with what He has set before me.

What about you?

 

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An Unlikely Opportunity for Discipleship

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By Anna Faith

 

“Lord, please send me someone. Someone that I can pour into. Someone I can develop a friendship with–someone I share YOU with.”

This is my continual prayer to the Lord. The Holy Spirit has so impressed upon my heart the special place that teens have in HIS heart. I may be a twenty-something, but I remember clearly what I felt at 15…and 16…and 17…and 18…and so on. I remember as if it was a moment ago. I know the unspoken pressure girls feel. I know how vicious other girls can be–even Christian girls (yes..sadly, they too can often be vicious). I know how it feels to want to be admired, and wondering when you started wanting to be admired. I know what it feels like to have your crush like your best friend. I know what it’s like to stare out the window and intentionally listen to dramatic music so it feels like a music video. I even know what it’s like to feel really ugly and want to hide under layers of sweatshirts. I’ve watched my own friends battle with self-image, “friendships” with guys (meaning they actually like those guys), and even hearing the bitterness they felt towards their parents for (wise) rules set in place.

The teen years are one of the hardest things I’ve ever walked through.

Yet, in the midst of all my emotions flailing as awkwardly as my clumsy limbs, I remember one girl named Danielle (as I shall call her). Danielle was about 5 years older than I was, already giving her the perk of being one of the older “cool kids”. We had a low-key friendship, meaning we didn’t know each other very well. But, in the middle of my awkwardness and really struggling to press after the Lord, she has left one of the largest impressions upon my heart. I remember the time she let us sharpie her hair, just because we asked. I remember the time she drove me to the funeral of a friend’s mom. She gently hugged me as I cried. She would drive me to meet my mom, and wasn’t even upset when the plans changed and we had to drive alllll the way back to our original destination. She always had a smile and quirky sense of humor. Danielle had her own problems, but she was the “cool” one who always made me feel like her close friend. Danielle was awesome.

As the years passed, I asked the Lord to make me a “Danielle” to someone else. I wanted to show younger girls how beautiful they REALLY are. How there is so much more to life than living for the opinions of others. Someone to encourage, to hug, and to love as a Sister-in-Christ. Someone to serve them…and to teach them how to serve others.

“Lord, where can I help?”

We all have our “circles”. We have our family, our school friends, our Bible Study ladies, our Co-op buddies, our online friends, our play-date group, our soccer team friends, our Church friends. We have our groups. We brush shoulders with people all the time–home-schooled or not. As I waded through my own circles through the years, I have crossed paths with several girls that I love dearly. BUT, I really was not able to connect with anyone that I “clicked” with. But then one day–about 3 years ago–I turned around…

…and I saw my little sister.

Seven years my junior, she is currently in the hardest stage of life. The teen years. *cue dramatic theme music*

OBVIOUSLY, because we are family, there is a certain showing of love that is expected within the sibling ranks. I am close with all three of my sisters. But, there’s something different about my baby sister. She is the goofiest, silliest, sweetest, quickest-witted, storytelling-est, sassy pants you will ever meet. She has the tenderest, most sensitive heart of anyone I have ever met. She’s my Spudnut (my nickname for her).

And the Lord told me to love her. Really love her. To invest in her. Spend time with her. Purposefully. Encourage her. To listen and to speak. To not just be her sister–but to be her friend.

In return, I was given one of the sweetest gifts. I was given a best friend. My little “Spudnut”. We share a room (which can be rough if you’re an introvert), but we have learned to really make it work. We stay up late talking. She asks me guy questions, I hear the rustle of pages late at night as she reads her Bible. If she needs to talk, she’ll sit quietly on the floor beside me until I give her my full attention. She asks me how my day was, even if I spent it at home. She makes me special things. She loves upbeat music, and jokingly rolls her eyes when I make her listen to classical to “stimulate her brain”. I tackle her when she’s grumpy (literally), erupting in hysterical laughter and flailing arms. I’ve had some of my deepest talks, and my most heart searching moments with my “Baby” sister.

It has been one of the sweetest gifts God has ever given me. But it is hard. Somedays I DON’T want to talk. I DON’T feel like listening. I just want to brush by her and let her “go play for a while”. But then the Holy Spirit will quietly whisper “Be careful, Anna. She is an answer to prayer.”

As my sister is growing into a young woman, I have begun to pray again that the Lord would open up more doors of “discipleship”, but also friendship with other girls. There are SO many teen girls who are walking around in a cloud of depression, self-hatred, and starving for LOVE. I would even encourage YOU, dear friend, as you go about your daily life–in your various circles–to seek the Lord in this area. Ask the Lord if there is anyone whom YOU might be a “Danielle” to. Are there any girls at school or Co-op who could use an encouraging word? Even if you do not think you are ” qualified”, you don’t need a degree to be a friend! 🙂

We would love to hear from you! Have you ever had a discipleship relationship or had someone reach out to you in a way that really affected you? Or have you ever had an opportunity to reach out to someone? Do you have sisters, or friends who are like sisters to you that you can minister to, and pray for?

Are You a Competitor or a Co-Laborer?

annablogFULLpic

By: Anna Faith, an Unshakable Girl Staff Writer

 

I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest. Nowhere else can you inspire your culinary skills, realize what goes into sewing a dress, discover what the color “sea foam” really looks like on a wall, and realize how little you exercise. All at the same time. You can go from “I want to do that!” to completely overwhelmed by your inadequacy in .37 seconds. [Side note: Check out the Unshakable Girl Pinterest page, for inspiration and encouragement.]

 
Sound familiar?
 
In a world swarmed with a suffocating amount of pressure to perform–to succeed–to do well in all things, sometimes it feels like a hopeless case just being a girl! As I scroll through my media sites yesterday, I felt completely done. Who am I compared to these Diploma holding, fit, super stylish women? They’re hip enough to be trendy, yet personable enough to be relate-able. But it is not simply a comparison of lifestyle to which we fall victim. Even amongst other Christians (!), we play the comparison game. We compare even our relationships with God based off of what we perceive in other’s lives. The glossy, edited versions of their lives that we see flood our screens. The “put together” smiles they seem to show when we pass them at Church. How many scriptures do they post on Social Media? How unique are those verses (bonus points if they’re an Old Testament verse!) ? How many people do they mentor? How many girls are in their Bible Studies? What kind of reviews do they get on their blog? How many places do they volunteer at?
 
We measure ourselves by our perception of others. We test the worthiness of our lives by a “Pass or Fail” label. Little do we realize, in “testing” ourselves, we are also quietly opening deadly doors within our hearts. If we grade ourselves as “Pass”, we are saying (even in our hearts) that we have become better than another person. We are more fit, Spiritual, a better friend, more fashionable, funnier and quietly pat ourselves on the back. Woosh! The door swings open as the suave figure of Pride saunters into our heart. In just a few seconds, we have held ourselves in esteem over another person. On the flip side, when we find ourselves lacking, we stamp a “Fail” onto our outlook.  We aren’t as beautiful, fit, healthy, Spiritual, talented, happy homemaker as they are–and we feel DONE. We crawl into a dark hole of depression and self-pity. 
Creeeeeeaaaaak. The dark, woeful silhouette of Despair crosses the threshold of our hearts. 
 
As uncomfortable as it is to admit it, I am guilty of this exact thing. I have frequently found myself measuring my own life in a “Pass or Fail” standard that I have set. More often than not, I find myself wrestling with Despair as the label “Failure” is sealed on my mind.

 

Sisters in Christ, do you see how painful a cycle we set for ourselves? And how typical of the Deceiver to creep in and turn us into rivals? For we are not rivals, but instead instead co-laborers! YOU are my co-worker, in Christ. For those who are seeking earnestly to expand the Kingdom of Heaven, we are working in the same line of work! We are planting seeds, cultivating, and (by God’s grace) watching the Holy Spirit grow eternal fruit! What an incredible blessing to realize! We are  not working against one another–but WITH one another!
 
So what do we do with all of these thoughts bombarding our minds and infiltrating our hearts? What do we do when we fall into depression?
dawn-nature-sunset-woman
 
1) Repentance. No matter how “good” we may seem to others, we have to get our hearts right with God. Hearts that are full of sin and deceitfulness (Jeremiah 17:9). Simply by looking at others, we puff ourselves up with pride OR we begin to doubt God and His character (through despair, which is the “absence of Hope”). We must realize that our attitudes–our secret striving to be better–is not streaming from a godly heart. We must ask the Lord to forgive us–to fill us with the sweet humility AND Joy which is found in His own dear character! 
 
2) Take Every Thought Captive “to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  Now, I’ve never really heard of someone “accidentally” binding up a prisoner, nor have I heard of a situation where a man was simply walking through the woods and happened upon the VERY person he was hoping to capture. This being the case, we actually have to be looking for those sneaky little thoughts. Carefully on the watch. Although avoiding people forever may seem appealing at times, we technically can’t live in a cave. We have to learn how to bind up those prideful or despairing thoughts–and refuse to let them stay in our minds. When you’re faced with a thought of “wow, I’m so glad I love the Lord more than they seem to” OR “wow, I’ll never be as beautiful or Spiritual as they are”, take that thought and force it out of your mind. Say “NO, I refuse to indulge the devil in his schemes! I belong to Christ and I refuse to dwell on these things!”
 
3) Put On A Garment of Praise. One way the Enemy gets us distracted from our mission of pursuing CHRIST and seeking to bring people TO Christ is getting our focus OFF Jesus. He gets us wound up in our problems. Our feelings. Instead of listening to these emotions knock on the door of your mind, what if we filled our hearts with songs of Worship? What if we poured out actual thanksgiving to a God who cannot lie–a God of Truth, Mercy, Justice and Purity in Heart? Pop in a worship Cd–one that focuses on CHRIST and not on how YOU feel–and let the adoration of Christ fill your room! 
 
4) Practice Honoring and Encouraging. We, as humans, tend to look at numbers. In the Body of Christ, one of the Church’s biggest stumbling block is often “attendance”. How many numbers they can get (and maintain) in their buildings. When we stumble across other blogs or sites, we often look at how many “followers” they have. What if–instead of scanning to see what they have–we viewed it as their “field”?  Those girls that they are surrounded by–what if we view them as the “seeds they are nurturing”?  PRAY for those women you see which hold a high degree of influence. Pray hard for them. Whether they realize it or not, they hold a position of authority within their sphere of influence. Pray that the Love of Christ would be their true desire. Pray for humility. Take time to encourage them with a kind word (or comment on their website)! 
 
It can also be so very easy to look at someone who the Lord is blessing in certain areas and, instead of rejoicing with them and being glad for God’s blessing on their lives/ministry/etc., we are jealous, grumbling, criticizing — perhaps without even realizing it — because, deep inside, we want what they have. We think, “I’m serving God just as much as they are…so why did God bless THEM in that way, and not ME?” “I have been working longer and harder than they have…but I haven’t seen nearly as much fruit as they have in just a few short weeks/months/years.” “We both love the Lord, but why did God bless HER with an uber-godly husband, and leave me still laboring on my own? She shouldn’t have more blessing than I have!”
 
Again…this self-righteousness and pride can so easily slip in – especially when you begin serving the Lord, and find out what a long road of self-denial and labor pains it really is…and how firmly you must hold fast to the Lord’s promises in faith, when everything around you looks bleak and difficulties arise and surround you.
 
But we MUST fight against these attitudes, because we are not trying to promote ourselves! We are called to simply be faithful in whatever God has called us to, proclaim the Gospel, and leave the rest up to Him. Fruitfulness is not the ultimate test of our calling and purpose. The ultimate test is our FAITHFULNESS. And the only way we can truly remain faithful is to fix our gaze on Jesus, and rest in His good character, and hold firmly onto His promises, which will never fail us. We cannot measure our success, or the greatness of God’s love based on outward signs of fruit and favor and everything always going perfectly for us (or the lack thereof)! But we look to His promises, which are unchanging, and trust in His love, which does not fade. And remember, that we are all working together, in the unique ways that He has called each of us…and we are called to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”. Not gazing at ourselves and our own struggles continually, but forcing ourselves to look outward — into Heaven, and into the needs and blessings of others…and loving them with HIS love.
 
Above all, pursue Christ. Truly pursue Him. Not just in a “I’ll get around to having a close relationship with Him one day. I’m just too busy right now”. No. TODAY is that day! Sisters, if we are to be Salt and Light in a world that is (very quickly) perishing before our eyes, we must set our priorities straight. We must thwart the schemes of the Devil by building one another up in a true sacrificial Love. A love where we think LESS about ourselves–our feelings–and more on serving others with JOY. The world is to know us as Christians by our love for each other (John 13:35). Let us seek to Love Christ with all our hearts, souls and mind–and to truly love our neighbor (or Sister in Christ) as ourselves.
 
Side note:
I do want to mention the fact that if you are struggling with a particular issue, PLEASE email us. We are here to pray, encourage and love on YOU. Yes, YOU. We want to be a friend, true sisters, and a blessing to you. If you are going through a difficult season of life, if you are struggling with self-hate or depression–please contact us. We would love to connect with you and pray for you personally. 
Also, please share this post, so that we can spread the truth and encouragement of God’s Word far and wide! There are “Share” buttons below to make it quick and easy to share this post with your circles of friends.

Faithfulness

Baby girl in blue dress and hat staying at beach alone and looking into sunset

 

We are always looking for something big and important to do. Something that will change the world. Or at least something that will show people that what we are doing is important; something that shouts, “Take note!” So many young people go to Bible school and learn new things about the Lord, and in their zeal, and the emotions of exciting new discoveries and victories in their walk with the Lord which they’ve never had before, are full of big new ideas of how they can get out and “serve the Lord for real”. Often including dashing off to a foreign country, starting their own ministry which they intend to use to reach hundreds of people – or even thousands, or at the very least, intending to have hundreds of people lining up at their doors asking how they can be saved. Now, these are all very noble desires. But there’s one thing that makes us squirm — and it’s the one thing that matters MORE than doing something “big” for God. It’s faithfulness. 2 weeks of Bible school or of successfully making time for God in your daily schedule isn’t enough. 2 months of growing closer to the Lord isn’t enough. 2 years of being faithful to pray every day and read the Bible…aren’t enough. Indeed, in my own heart, I frequently see the tendency to want to congratulate myself when I have had great prayer times for a week straight, and have been learning amazing things from God’s Word. When this happens, I will suddenly feel the urge to just “relax” a little after such a successful week, because obviously I’m at a good place in my relationship with God. Or…am I?

In a Christian’s life, there is neither a place of “having made it” spiritually, or a day you can finally relax your efforts just a little. The moment you relax your efforts, you will start going backwards. There is no “carry-over” time in your walk with the Lord. Each day His mercies are new…but so your pursuit of Him must also be. He will not hold over your head your failures, but He does make it clear that when we know the right thing to do, and don’t do it…it is sin (James 4:17). God desires that we would earnestly seek Him, day by day. It takes real discipline, because it goes against all of the distractions that seem SO important, and it goes against the antsy nature we seem to all have — that urge that we’ve GOT to be doing something else – anything else! We pray a minute or two, and then, we feel like we should check our Facebook, or plan our day, or text a friend. But the faithfulness we need is not a dry, rushed, 2 minutes of prayer every day, but a hunger and thirst for more of God, every hour – every second that we can possibly use for drawing closer to Him.

We must realize that our earnest pursuit of God is never “safe”. We all have the potential within us to turn our backs on God at any moment…or to let sin or carelessness slip in. We must always be on guard, and “keep alert, with all perseverance” (Eph.6:18)…because as soon as we let our guard down, the devil will try whatever He can to sneak into our thoughts and lives again, and to lead us astray. The devil knows that life is a battle, and he takes his job of sidetracking and destroying lives seriously. It’s not a game. It’s life-or-death…but the devil is right beside us – maybe even right beside you right now – to tell us, “Oh, it’s not really that serious.” and to “kindly” help us to push aside all thoughts of conviction or desires to change…and to re-direct our attention to other more “pressing” things — such as the latest episode of our favorite TV show, or the ever present need to feed the dog, or check our email. But we must not listen to his fluff, and his schemes to distract us, and all of the things he tells us to make it seem like we don’t really have to be so careful or alert. No! We must take the battle as seriously as he does! We must daily arm ourselves with the weapons that can only be obtained by earnest prayer and real time spent in the presence of the Lord. As Peter admonishes us in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

As Matthew 24:12-13 says, “….because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

The understanding of this concept is one that both sobers us and helps to keep us humble, pressing on toward the Lord with all of our hearts, knowing that each day is a new battle, and facing it with our faces upturned to the “Sun of Righteousness”. For we know that lawlessness has indeed increased – everywhere we look, sin is sought after, praised, and encouraged. Sin and distractions grab at us from every shop window, every webpage, every street, every advertisement and TV show. Everything works to crowd our minds and thoughts and make us hesitant, at best, to spend a lot of time with the Lord each day. Everything else is telling us that there are more “important” or “fun” things to do…and you can practically FEEL your love for the Lord (and others!) growing cold. You can see the hardness of heart starting to creep in — the feelings of annoyance at the idea of praying, the urge to rush through it all and do ANYTHING else besides sit there and spend time with the Lord. How heart-warming do you think that is to God? He is just longing to hold us, and to lavish His love upon us, like any good parent longs to do for their children…but we are squirmy, fussy, and selfish! So often we care nothing about blessing the heart of God…we just want to do the things that look fun and exciting! We care nothing about the reality that we literally have NO strength to do anything without God…we just want to rush off and DO something – we don’t care if we waste our time and fall flat on our face.

But this is not what God wants for us. Faithfulness. Faithfulness springs forth from a real, true love for the Lord. A longing just to be near Him – to hear His heart, and to walk in His ways…and to never let go – not even for one second.

Faithfulness can’t save us – it’s only the grace and power of the gospel that can save us, and transform our broken hearts into hearts that CAN love Christ. But it is faithfulness that gives us the daily strength we need to stay close to God. Because, no matter which way you look at it, this world IS full of sin, and if we aren’t staying close to God, we WILL be swept away by the deceitfulness of sin, and striving to live in our own strength. God IS stronger than the devil, but the devil is stronger than we are without God working and living through us…and that is why we need to faithfully seek the Lord day by day. Faithfulness is the ultimate surrender. It is the daily recognition of our utter inability to live rightly, and the understanding that we WILL go astray without following closely after our Shepherd…and it is the crying out to the Source of Life, Christ Jesus, and asking Him to live through us…because us trying to live in our own strength and knowledge is the ultimate foolishness. It is only the power of our precious Lord’s blood, and triumphant resurrection that can overcome the wiles of the deceiver of souls – the devil. And THAT power, is greater than all. And can be found in the sanctuary of God. May our hearts long for that time in the presence of the Lord as David speaks of in Psalm 63:1-8:

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,

and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

when I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

for you have been my help,

and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

My soul clings to you;

your right hand upholds me.”