it’s time to celebrate

This time last year, I imagine I was probably sitting in a classroom in my athletic shorts and sweatshirt (that business school was cold in the mornings). I was also probably counting down the minutes until class would be over, so I’d be able to go grab food with a friend or head back to my room for my weekly Harry Potter marathon.

It was a hard season, truth be told. There were unexpected doctor visits with unexpected diagnoses, anxieties and thoughts like a black cloud in my mind, and the pressures of expectations for my adult life crashing in like all-consuming waves.

I clung to Jesus like I never had before, and depended on him for every morsel of strength. I wept almost daily as I fought spiritual warfare that I never expected to be so familiar with. I lost fellowship with people and yearned for someone – anyone – to understand me. I felt isolated, defeated, fearful, and robbed of joy.

I lost sight of my purpose, deemed myself unredeemable, and begged Him to take it all away.

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Now that the black cloud is gone and He has healed me, I am in a new season. Not just mentally and emotionally, but the world around me looks a lot different.

In May, I got engaged to the love of my life. We were married in July, and it was the happiest of days. He is my God-sent light in the dark.

Also in May, I graduated from the school I called home, and started my first big-girl job at the beginning of June.

Today, instead of the comfort of athletic shorts and a sweatshirt, I wear a dress and makeup. I sit at a desk that looks a lot different, in an office that’s cozy surrounded by a hallway of people I love, but who are different than my former classmates.

It’s all very different, and I’m really just trying to figure out how to go from being a t-shirt-wearing, coffee shop-habitant of a college student to an adulting Mrs. And I’ve decided that’s it’s okay to admit that it’s a beautifully hard thing.

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In this new, adult, married life, I am someone new. I have a new name, a new life, a new season in which I can be used by God in places I couldn’t before.

I’m in the process of learning the balance between mourning a season that has been lost, with all the built-in, relatable community and the free time, and rejoicing in this beautiful new season I’ve been given, that sometimes makes me do a double-take and ask God, “how in the world do I deserve such a blessing as this?”

Maybe you feel that way too? I don’t know where you are in life, or what season you’re in. Maybe you’re in a hard season, or are coming out of one like I am.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from where I just came from, it’s that there is always a new season around the corner, always redemption for the seemingly unredeemable, always a new song that you can learn to sing. And when Jesus seems the farthest from you, He is the closest, working everything out in your life for His purpose and your good.

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When I came across the words of Sara Gilmore, I realized something: I need to celebrate more, and I need to intentionally point out the things that are worth celebrating. I believe when we choose to celebrate, we invite God into our lives in a special way, and I believe we can breathe easier as we take every opportunity to thank Him for what He’s given us, instead of spending almost every moment asking Him to take the hard things away.

Like her, I feel prepped for redemption, for a season of celebration.

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So, I’ve dedicated my November to celebrating my new season. Every day leading up to Thanksgiving, I’ll be posting about something (or someone) I’m celebrating.

Will you join me in celebrating yours? Feel free to join me with this hashtag (#choosecelebration) on any social media. I’d love to see what you’re thankful for each day!

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. – Psalm 100:4

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

 

My Dating Relationship :: What I’ve Learned

We have a unique story, one of redemption and growth and healing. Maybe one day I can write more about our story, but for now God’s asked me to extend to you the things I’ve learned.

*Disclaimer: I’m no expert, and I don’t think anyone really is, but I do believe He’s taught me a lot and that He’s called me to share.

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What spiritual leadership really is.

Before entering into this relationship, I had a huge expectation built up for what a spiritual leader looked like. He would be a teacher and talk about what God was doing in his heart all the time. He would do Bible studies with me daily and pray over me all the time. His ministry would be in the church and he would spend a lot of time there.

For some of you with guys that are called to that place of ministry and have the spiritual gifts of teaching and evangelism and have an extroverted personality, that expectation is probably similar to what his spiritual leadership over you looks like. {I won’t say that praying together often and reading Scripture together aren’t important, because they are, but I will say that those things come so much more naturally to those with different gifts, just as being sure in trusting God comes more naturally to those with the spiritual gift of faith.}

I recently sat down with a friend that’s now engaged, and she agreed that she had the same expectations. It’s funny how we turn even the good desires into harmful cookie-cutter stencils for what God has for us. She reminded me that comparison is the thief of joy, and helped me to see that I was comparing him to someone in my head that wasn’t even real, and comparing him to other guys that God built differently for different purposes.

My guy’s spiritual gifts are generosity and faith and, once I realized the ways he leads me by using those, my expectations began to be labeled as expectations, not criteria. The ministry God’s called him to looks like a power plant. That’s his mission field. So does it all look like what I pictured in my head? No, but it’s better…because it’s what God has made him to do- who He’s made him to be.

I’ve gotten to replace those expectations with ways I see him lead me that I never considered to be important, but that God knew I needed. My guy always points me back to Jesus, especially when I show doubt in His plan for me. His spiritual gift of faith steps in and speaks truth to my worried heart often. He sets boundaries to keep our relationship pure. He pursues our relationship in prayer. He encourages me to use and better my gifts and validates my value in them when I begin to feel insecure and discount myself. He’s not naturally fantastic with putting his feelings into words, but the work of God in his heart is displayed in his actions. He challenges me with the way he gives his time and his money to bless other people constantly with his heart of generosity, as well as giving back to God what’s already His.

He lives his life loving God and I get to watch and do it with him. He sets an example for me, and that’s the way he spiritually leads me.

How to extend grace and what it feels like to receive it.

Let me just be real with you here and tell you that in a relationship of two imperfect people, it’s easy to get frustrated. Some days I’m in a bad mood or I’m a little bit whiney, and some days he’s pretty grouchy too. And that’s just life. But it’s important to always choose to show grace by remembering how often Christ extends it to us.

To be humbled in realizing my own sins and shortcomings.

When you’re with another person for a while, it’s very easy to point out their shortcomings. You may have experienced this with your significant other, or maybe even your siblings, best friend, or parents. And most of the time it’s so easy to point these things out because they’re different shortcomings than our own, but it is so important to be reminded of Christ’s love and forgiveness for us.

To realize that my sins are equal to his no matter how different they look to me takes some serious humbling of myself. I think this is because when I focus on his shortcomings, it takes the spotlight off my own.

To appreciate growth and the period of waiting.

In my season of singleness, I wasn’t so constant in being thankful to be where I was. I complained, questioned, and pitied myself. I was often jealous of my friends with boyfriends and envied their joy. It wasn’t until the latter part of that time that I refocused my heart from desiring a relationship with a man to desiring a relationship with God alone. I chose this almost daily because I realized how detrimental I was being to my relationship with Him and to my spiritual growth by having the wrong focus. I began to wait on the Lord more, not just for answers but for strength, patience, His desires for me, and truth when I kept hearing all the lies in my head about why I was single.

During that time of singleness and waiting on the Lord, He grew me in faith more than I ever thought possible. He healed my heart, knocked down my misconstrued view of love, and showed me what real Love looks like in action and word.

Because of that time that God allowed me to grow and wait on Him, my relationship with God and with my guy are better. I am not the same person, and I see now that if He would have given me a relationship any time before He did, it wouldn’t have been good for me or the guy. I needed to see my value in God first before I was brought together with any man. I needed to be shown what real Love looks like before I trusted anyone else with my heart.

How to be intentional with words from a distance.

With the two of us in separate cities, we don’t get to have dinner together whenever we want and other normal things, so the majority of our conversations happen over the phone. If you don’t know this already, it is a lot harder to show someone you care about them with a text message rather than being with them in person.

Something I’ve loved doing to combat this struggle is to do my best to serve him with my words of encouragement, as well as to be intentional about saying things God has wired him to need to hear.

Over the years and recently, I’ve learned some things about the differences in the ways men and women need affirmation. As a woman, I want to be comforted and feel taken care of. A man, on the other hand, wants to know that we as women appreciate the way they take care of us, to know we feel safe with them, and to hear that we value their leadership. This sounds silly even to me as I type it, but because I have different needs than him, I wouldn’t naturally know to say things he needs to hear otherwise.

How to show I care without saying the Three Words Most Misused.

‘I love you’ is a phrase that is thrown around so carelessly, especially with young people. I know because I did the same thing in previous relationships and, by doing so, became a person who had the wrong view of love.

Love is a choice, not a feeling. When you say, ‘I love you,’ you’re saying ‘I choose to love you even when I don’t feel like it, even when it’s not easy, even when you drive me absolutely insane.’ It’s so important that, when you decide to say this to someone, you know what you’re promising them.

I’m really appreciating this time of not saying those words, but seeing him show me how much he cares and getting to show him how much I do. Because of my story and the way I’m wired, actions speak so much louder than words, so seeing him do things for me, take care of me, point me to Jesus, and do other things to show me he cares has been so sweet and meaningful (I mean I don’t think I’ll ever get used to him buying me coffee). In addition, my respect is higher of him for not saying it before he believes we’re ready, because that’s a form of guarding our relationship and guarding my heart.

How to indulge in differences.

My guy and I are very different, but in some ways the same. We both have chill personalities and are introverts, and we both enjoy peace and quiet and drinking coffee.

At the same time, he loves to go to haunted houses for fun (which…I just can’t), and I love going to my sorority’s dances and dressing up really nice (which isn’t exactly his favorite thing). But we’re willing to do those things for each other for the sake of each other.

How to receive this gift from God.

Especially in the beginning of this relationship, I had a hard time believing that this relationship was real life. By that, I mean I was feeling the weight so heavy of being undeserving and, as a result, doubted the idea that God would choose to bless me in this way. What’s so cool about this is that I am undeserving. As a result of my sin, I don’t deserve any of the blessings God gives me. But He chooses to bless me and give me good things anyway.

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These are just a few things that I’ve learned on this wonderful journey so far. I’ve been transparent and (almost nervously) honest and vulnerable. I hope what I’ve shared with you sheds light on something you need to hear today.

Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below!

a letter to the worn believer

Dear Child of God,

It seems you’re on the verge of wearing thin. You’ve prayed and prayed for your miracle and nothing seems to be changing. You’ve hoped and you’ve wept and you’ve held on to the promises of God, but your miracle hasn’t come. You’re discouraged and the doubt is seeping in, slowly but surely, so that soon you may just want to give up.

I found myself there yesterday. I sat on my couch thinking of just how many miracles I’m hoping for right now- salvations, physical healing, relational healing- and how none of them look promising. I didn’t want to give up because God isn’t capable; I wanted to give up because I was tired of waiting and hoping for one miracle in particular and doubting that it would ever be time.

Because God is God and He knows what I need before I even need it, I found myself watching a message this morning on having a faith that honors God. I was crying by the end of it because man, what a word. I needed to hear truth and if you’re in the same spot, you do too.

Let me share some of it with you?

First of all, God isn’t depriving you of something.
For me, it’s really easy to believe the opposite of this statement. With my friend’s salvation in particular, I look at the situation and ask God why in the world He isn’t doing anything when I want exactly what He wants and have prayed and prayed for it. The issue with this is I forget that I’m human and don’t understand God’s timing at all. From past experience, I realize that His timing is so much better, but in the moment it’s hard to believe that when now seems so much more appropriate. To have a faith that honors God, we must submit to His timing and keep hoping. He’s faithful to those that love Him. Just because He’s not doing what we want Him to do on our time table, does that give us the right to not believe He’ll answer our prayers?

Second, choose again and again to believe– because God is working even if you cannot see it.
Sometimes- a lot of the time- God will do things that we don’t understand and that we don’t see at first. We get to the other side of a battle and we see that He was working the situation out all the time. When this has happened to me in the past, a lot of the reason I missed seeing His hand in something was because I was too busy looking for the big ending result that I wanted. And because God is so much cooler than I am and just does things to wow us because He can. And I love that.
Choose to believe that He’s working in your situation- whatever it may be. You may be surprised by how it turns out and find that He will give you way better than you asked for.

Lastly, don’t put expectations on God for how He should work.
Putting a particular solution or path to a solution for God to perform is a scary place to go for the sake of our emotions, our hopes, and just our faith in Him. Don’t put Him in a box. Because even if He doesn’t answer our prayers in the way we want Him to or when we want Him to, He is still good.
I think it’s really cool to think about the ‘heroes’ in the Bible right here. Noah, for instance. It’s important to remember that in those stories of great miracles and of great answered prayers and crazy awesome things, those people didn’t know the ending result. Noah didn’t know when he spent years building that ark and being laughed at and scorned for doing so that God was going to save them and save his life in the way that He did. Noah didn’t know that at the end of the storm would be more than he hoped- life, dry land, and a rainbow. We read it that way because we know the result, but it takes remembering that Noah didn’t to realize his great faith. That being said, God knows the ins and outs of our situations like we know Noah’s, but more so. God sees the entire picture, we see the pieces. May we not challenge God to answer our prayers in the way we want them to be answered, but may we be looking for Him to work in even the little things.

Sweet daughter of the King, He knows your heart. He sees your hands clasped and the tears fall, and He wants you to hope in Him. He’s got the whole world in His hands, remember? He’s got you. He’s got me. And He’s got a whole bunch of goodness ready to be poured out in His timing, so be patient. Because He’s worth the wait.

I’ll be coming back here to read this letter to myself because I’m nowhere near the place of fully practicing this all the time, so we’re in this together. Let’s choose to believe in His miracles and in His timing to do them.

With love,
a fellow worn believer