Tag Archives: Jesus

NEW! Affirmation Cards: Encouragement for the Heart

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Hey everyone!

I’m so excited about this. My mom is a fantastic artist over at Sparrow’s Journey by Heather Santos (first link is her blog, second link is her Facebook). She’s a self-taught artist, which is even cooler. She uses her art as an outlet for her thoughts and emotions…and it shows through powerfully in each piece she does.

She recently (January) made Truth Cards for the Brave Girls Club, which were sent to the Philippines as little notes of encouragement to women who were rebuilding their lives after being trapped by poverty (or force) into human trafficking. (They teamed up with Full Circle Exchange to help these women get into lifestyles and careers that would support their families and take them out of the sex trafficking industry for good.)

But as more and more of her customers in the U.S. started asking for these cards, she realized something…

Women and men EVERYWHERE need words of encouragement, just like these.

And that’s where I come in to the story…

She asked me to create some encouraging words to put on cards that she would paint the backgrounds for.

So I wrote down things that I need to hear, things that I’ve been told in the past, things that I tell myself every day to keep me going, whispers from my Creator that comfort me…and this is the product.

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There are several more designs (and sayings) available in her etsy shop (including some more suited for men). They are only $5.50 (free shipping!) and they make a great gift. My mom and her coworkers even handed these out to girls on campus on Valentine’s Day. She said they seemed happy and touched–and I’m convinced that they are keeping these cards close by, for reference. 😉

So if you know anyone who needs encouragement, or if you know that you need one of these around to encourage you (like I do), then consider stopping by.

Because everyone deserves to know that they are loved. That’s what we humans were made for, anyways!

 

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God and Depression: What Does the Journey Really Look Like?

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Recently, I’ve been going through something I’ve been graciously calling a “funk”. You know, it can’t possibly be depression; I have no reason to be depressed because life is going pretty well; it hasn’t gone on for long enough to really be considered depression; it is not as bad as other people’s so I don’t really have the right to call it depression. Maybe these were little lies to get me by. But now, I’m ready to look at it for what it really is.

I stopped writing. I stopped prioritizing my spending and my daily tasks, stopped thinking of my to-do lists. I stopped wanting to hang out with my friends, but they wouldn’t know; I was happy to see them all the same. I stopped enjoying my practice times, and didn’t really get much done. The house is a mess, the dishes are dirty. The bathroom needs cleaned and the laundry needs put away. I haven’t done my Stats homework in over two weeks.

There is no motivation. It’s not that I’m motivated to not do things, like those times when I push myself way too hard and I desperately need a break–when I’m burning out. There is simply…nothing.

I’m having a tough time explaining myself well, so here is an excerpt from a journal-like post I started to write the other day…(dont’ speed read over this. You’ll miss it.) Read the rest of this entry

Au Contraire, Rose

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Against whom, Rose,
Have you assumed these thorns?
Is it your too fragile joy
That caused you to become
This armed thing?

But from whom does it protect you,
This exaggerated defense?
How many enemies have I
Lifted from you that did not fear it at all?
On the contrary, from summer to autumn
You wound the affection that is given you.

Against whom, Rose,
Have you assumed these thorns?

I’m supposed to be writing a paper about this piece. Instead, I’m writing this.

If tears didn’t accompany you to the end of this piece, go back and listen again. And this time, let yourself feel.

 

Au contraire!

 

You see, I cannot write at this moment, because I cannot stop listening. Cannot stop feeling.

Not just because the music is beautiful. No, if it were just that, I wouldn’t have been so terrified to play it back in November. (My stage fright only comes when I don’t have adequate emotions to express.)

No, not that–but because I have finally understood what it means.

 

Au contraire!

 

Of all the moments in my life, these are perhaps the most beautiful.

 

Au contraire, Rose! No longer must you hold up your thorns to the outside world! I hold you now. Your thorns do nothing but hurt me…and hurt yourself.

No, my own defenses never protect me from that which I defend myself.

They only defend me from that which can protect me the most.

 

Au contraire! You are so wrong, my dear Rose…you are worth everything to me, please wound me no longer!

I am yours. And you are mine.

I am yours, and you are Mine.

 

What a Saviour I have, indeed–One who makes everything beautiful when I am so wrong.

And what a husband I have, indeed–one who reminds me of my beauty as I heal.

My Love Story, Part 6: The Engagement

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Part 1: The Hang-Ups

Part 2: Falling in Love with a Savior

Part 3: Love at Second Sight

Part 4: A Spiritual Leader

Part 5: Long Distance

 

I’ve been putting off writing this particular post because I felt that I “wasn’t far enough along in the engagement” to adequately describe it, to sum it up.

And, well, plans changed, and all of a sudden, my engagement is nearly over. But certainly not over in a bad way.

I wish I could live in that moment, where he got up from the other side of the table and came over to my seat to get down on one knee. It was thrilling. Not even the knowledge of its coming when he picked me up in a new dress shirt and sport coat brought that moment down.

People always ask me: “Why are you getting married? How do you know that he’s ‘the one’?”

Married people always tell you, “When you know, you know.” I always thought they were kinda crazy…especially when I thought I knew with the last guy I had. But when that phrase “I want to marry you” is followed by its proof–a period of drastic growth in both individuals and in the relationship–that’s when you really know. And I could sit around for years telling you what I now know to be important before choosing a husband, but I’ll save that for another time.

It was around the six month mark that it actually came out of our mouths. Now, that was about a year ago. And of course, looking at that point in our relationship from the perspective I have now, it’s crazy to think that I could have believed that I was ready to be married. But that’s a good thing. If I could say that we were the same people as we were a year ago, and that we had the same relationship, there would be a problem.

The most honorable thing I can say about our engagement is this: it has been a period of more growth than I could have imagined was possible in such a short amount of time.

It’s awesome to watch Matt step into the “husband” shoes…to take responsibility for me in a healthy way and to learn to love me in the way God desires for us. And likewise, I am slowly learning to respect him and his decisions, and to not try to take control of everything, the way I always do.

But still, one of the greatest things I have battled throughout our engagement is fear.

Not fear of him or myself. Not fear of our failure or fear that it won’t work out or fear that I am marrying the wrong person or at the wrong time. Fear of what others might think of me.

It often seems to me that a canyon lies between what I expect others to think of me, and what others do indeed think of me. But other times, the two are identical. The bad thing is, I always expect the worse: people will lose faith in me, they will think me foolish, they will misunderstand, they will be angry, they will look down upon me,…

It’s such a shame that marriage at a young age is so looked down upon. One author on Boundless said this:

Some people should marry when young; others should marry when older; still others, who have the gift of celibacy, should not marry at all. What I criticized was the trend toward later and later marriages. The problem isn’t that people are marrying late — the problem is that too many people are marrying later than they should. Those who should marry when young are marrying when old, and those who should marry when old are marrying older still. Some who should marry never do at all.

Of course, it comforted me that someone backed me up on my opinion. But what I really needed was for someone to put words to what exactly I was experiencing. And to know that I’m okay.

Another thing my mom told me, before we got engaged, was this: “College doesn’t have to have a white picket fence around it.”

That image of the “strong, independent woman” that gets a degree, establishes a career, and then starts considering marriage–which my dad had painted in my head–was not to be mine. In fact, that sounded pretty boring to me.

In the end…God’s plans are bigger and more exciting than a four year curriculum. And He doesn’t expect me or want me to neglect all other parts of my life while I’m in the land of Academia. I’m so grateful for that. Who knows! He might even whisk us away to some new adventure that totally exceeds our expectations for the future. Knowing Him, that’s probably what He’ll do.

And now…we have come to the end of the Love Story series. I’m kind of sad to see it go, since it has been the biggest part of my blog for the few months of its existence. From here on out, my blog will probably be peppered with various lessons God teaches me through our marriage. For Matthew will no longer be just a person in my life…but my own flesh:

And Jesus answered and said to them, “[…] From the beginning of creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Mark 10:5-8, NKJV)

August 10th, here we come!

Nehemiah Bible Study: Kick-Off

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Hey there!

I’m doing an online Bible study through Eisy Morgan, a blog that I found through my mom. She and I are meeting over Skype to discuss as we go. More info on the study here. For now, I’m going to get started answering this week’s questions for small group discussion!

If you’re not doing the Bible study, don’t be scared off! With each of these questions, I’m sharing some stories and thoughts that transcend the study itself.

This first set of questions is based upon Psalm 119:129-135 (NKJV). Read it in The Message translation here.

1.  List every term the psalmist uses for God’s communication/revelation to man. (Example: V.129 ESV – “testimonies”)


Entrance of God’s words. Commandments. Custom. His word. Precepts. Statutes.

I won’t exhaust you with dictionary definitions; rather, I’d like to highlight one of them. I find it interesting that “look upon me and be merciful to me” is described as a custom. The psalmist recognizes that God is always looking upon him and showing him mercy…yet he asks for it anyways. To acknowledge his desire. His need. It’s quite comforting to just admit to yourself that God regularly looks upon us and shows us mercy–and nothing will keep Him from doing that. And of course…we all have to admit, sometime or another, that we really need His mercy. Constantly.

2.  Psalm 119:129 says, “Your testimonies are wonderful: therefore my soul keeps them.” Each of you (as time allows) share a specific way that you’ve come to know personally that God’s testimonies are “wonderful.” If you don’t have a newcomer to the Bible in your group, imagine that you do. Let your answer help explain to her why YOUR soul desires to keep God’s testimonies and why she should even consider it.

I’ve always told people, especially those atheists who come to me with guns blazing, that a relationship with God is an experience. One that you choose to have. After all, winning an argument never won anyone over for Christ. And so, I’m going to share a short story of a cool God moment I had a couple of years ago.

I’ve always loved the rain; sometimes I would go out and just spin in circles, and skip, and run, and then sit down and let it fall on me when I’m all tired. Childlike? Perhaps. But I think that’s the best way to enjoy God’s creation.

One day, it was raining, and so I went outside. But this time, instead of running around and splashing in puddles, I simply sat, and I started singing. You Won’t Relent by Jesus Culture. The rain swelled and slowed with my volume and energy. And I stopped. The rain stopped. I held my breath…

And then belted it all over again. The rain poured back down. And from that moment forward, the rain served as a reminder that God’s with me. He’s here, and He loves my praise. I’m important enough to stop and start the world for. What. I’m just one tiny person in a whole world of seven billion…but touching my heart uniquely is that important to Him. I mean, I knew I was important enough to die for, but this added a whole new dynamic.

And I have full faith that He feels that way toward every person on earth. You.

And the most exciting part is, we have a whole lifetime to discover His endless love for us.

3.  Psalm 119:132 says “Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is Your way with those who love Your name.” If you have placed your faith in God through Jesus Christ, you have demonstrated one titanic way of “loving His name.” Discuss the importance of trusting that God’s “way” is to deal with His children graciously. Talk about whether you tend to expect God to be gracious to you or indifferent or harsh and condemning. If you tend toward the latter, would you be willing this summer to seek God with the grateful expectation of His graciousness toward you.

As much as I talk about God’s love and mercy and forgiveness…I must admit to you that I mainly talk about them to remind myself of those things. Most of the time, I tend to think that God is sitting up there, watching my every move, waiting to chastise me when I do something wrong. I tend to think that He’s angry and upset with me when I do something wrong, and that I should keep away from Him for an amount of time (almost as if I’m waiting on him to “cool off”) before I’m worthy of going back to Him.

But God says I am worthy. Worthy of His love. Always. Why else would He give up His life to be with us?

4.  Psalm 119:133a says, “Keep steady my steps according to Your promise.” What specific challenges are before you this summer that could cause you to really need God to “steady your steps”?

I’m working as a summer camp counselor at a local church this summer. These kids are the ones who come to the summer camp for 10 hours a day, and many come from broken homes that have no choice but to send their kids to a camp while they work to provide for their family. Some of them don’t come from Christian homes, and I (along with the other counselors and the camp itself) might be the only taste of Jesus they might have. Needless to say, I feel a great load of responsibility for keeping my eyes on Jesus. He’s already given me a love for them that in turn causes me to pursue Him more so that I may lead them better. And I’ve seen Him work in me and in many of the kids there already. But I really need Him in that area–I need steady steps so that I can teach those kids how to walk.

5.  Psalm 119:133b says, “Let no iniquity get dominion over me.” THAT, Beloved, is a prayer that could have huge impact in our lives. If you are willing, share a particular tendency of your flesh that you’re really praying will not get the best of you this summer. (By all means, get personal as the Spirit leads but stop short of really graphic specifics. Give people the idea without the mental images.)

A tendency of my flesh is to let people walk all over me. Take advantage of me. Manipulate me. At first, it didn’t really seem to me that it was really “wrong” to let that happen–after all, my motives were based in “loving and serving others with self-sacrifice”–but there is an unhealthy degree to it. I’m constantly praying for healing and guidance through this particular issue, and I have a feeling that many a blog post will spur from it.

6.  Psalm 119:134 says, “Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep Your precepts.” Look up several definitions of “oppression” and discuss the vital differences between oppression and authority. How can they be confused? Once we know for certain we’re not just resisting authority but we are genuinely experiencing oppression, realize that God’s will is to REDEEM us from it. Pray fervently for Him to do so. He is perfectly capable of redeeming us from oppression while redeeming the relationship.

I know that God has placed certain people in authority over me–they have the right to make decisions and ask me to do certain things. However, the main difference that I found between authority and oppression is that authority is used to make a decision so that any issue or dispute may be settled. On the other hand, oppression creates issues and disputes. It harms and is not of good will.

Anyone can oppress us…friends, parents, significant others…not just people placed in authority over us. That’s a tricky thing I’m learning about through my answer in number 6.

7.  According to Psalm 119:135, conclude by asking God with a full heart of faith to make His face shine upon you, His servant, this summer and to TEACH you vividly through the Book of Nehemiah.

You know, my pastor at Calvary Chapel Tallahassee, at the end of each service, says, “May His face shine upon you.” What a beautiful thing that is.

And so finally, we are finished! I’m excited to discuss with my small group!

My Love Story, Part 5: Long Distance

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Part 1: The Hang-Ups

Part 2: Falling in Love with a Savior

Part 3: Love at Second Sight

Part 4: A Spiritual Leader

We spent the summer together, all day, every day. It was wonderful, and we became accustomed to one another. It was nearly impossible to let go, that night before I left for college. To be completely honest, I’ve repressed the memory (unintentionally) and it no longer exists.

There is a lot of bitterness stored up in this part of my life…and a lot of strong–hardly harnessed, truly–emotions that had no outlet then. This is essentially their first outlet. It’s something I didn’t share then, and I wouldn’t have thought to share now (until this series came along). The following information is an incohesive cloud of emotions that overlap and work together to create a toxic mess.

Read the rest of this entry

A Sunny Bike Ride

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So, I’ve been riding my bike EVERYWHERE recently. Work. Walmart. Starbucks. Matt’s apartment. Soon, FSU. Anything is possible with the city bus system and a bike.

When I go to the two “main” places–work, and the bus stop at Walmart–it is mostly uphill. Then, when I come home, it’s a breeze because it’s downhill the whole way. I guess my house is in a weird valley where EVERYTHING else is uphill from me.

So one day last week, I was just…wiped out. My allergies kinda cut my feet out from under me. But I still had an errand to run before I hung out with a friend, so I did.

On my way home, I was really relieved to just coast downhill the whole way, as usual. But whenever I turn onto my street, that very last leg of the trip, it’s a long uphill slope. Like, unbearable. Like, what-the-crap-why-does-my-life-suck misery.

But I knew what was at the end of it. Home. Peace and quiet and air conditioning. And I couldn’t get off and walk my bike now! I was almost there!

It’s the worst thing ever…every time I do it. But God whispered a little something to me as I was pedaling, oh so diligently…

Even when you’re coasting downhill easily the whole way, you’ll still have to push at the very end to get Home.

I’m not sure what He meant. But here is my current commentary.

It’s easy to get lazy when everything’s going great for you. It’s easy to get discouraged when only one obstacle stands in your way. I’ve always worked best when I have a billion different things going on that have to get done. But when my schedule is open and free, and I only have to do one thing…well, it gets procrastinated a little more than it deserves. And when everything is easy but one thing stands in my way, I get way more upset about it than if I had many more things to deal with.

Maybe this is what He meant. But even if He didn’t, I’m both excited and scared to see what He means.

That’s the thing with such a grand and mysterious and loving God: you never quite know what to expect.