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Family, Forgiveness, God, Redemption, Relationships

God is forgiving

April 20, 2016
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Have you ever known that you were loved by someone, but seemed to have a hard time feeling that love?
 
That may sound confusing but it was definitely the head-to-heart struggle that I had when it came to my relationship with my dad growing up. I always knew he loved me, but I couldn’t help but feel the distance between us. He was a respected businessman and had to travel for work all of the time. He was gone aaaalot. Sometimes 7 months out of a year. Although he was doing it to provide for our family, it slowly started to put him into one specific role – “the provider” – instead of any kind of emotional or relational father that we needed. Everyone saw it happening, and felt it happening, but to me as a little girl I really had no solution to the matter. I couldn’t ask him to leave his job and he was in the position where he had to travel, so…we just accepted it.
 
That was the secret to making it okay. Just accepting it, and not acting like you care, right? I didn’t need his help or guidance anyway, right? I have two amazing older brothers – they will be my father figures and that’s normal, right?
These were the thoughts that unintentionally started building up bitterness and resentment in my heart towards my dad. Sometimes it would come out as anger, or deep hurt, or complete lack of talking, or even total disobedience. I didn’t have a close personal relationship with him, so why take seriously all that he says and tells me to do?
 
I realized I didn’t trust him…
I didn’t know how much he hurt me and how I was sinning because of it.
I didn’t know how to forgive him for all the years lost between us.
 
Two years ago was when I married the love of my life. There’s really nothing like marriage that can bring out all of this kind of baggage over a dinner conversation:) My pain from not having a close relationship with my dad was clear and every so often it would be brought up if Hank disappointed me even in a little way. Hank is an artist and naturally has to travel for his music, but I really had never expected it to freak me out like it did in our first couple months of marriage. I automatically thought, “Traveling away from family for any reason = Bad”…but this was all just rooted in the fact that I had yet to forgive my father.
 
I could make so many excuses to convince you that this anger and resentment was justified to feel towards him, but when I looked to Christ and what he had done for me on the cross, I was deeply convicted. He died for me, offering forgiveness for all of MY sin. My sin that isn’t deserving of forgiveness at all.
 
Who was I to hold such a grudge? Who was I to let this bitterness build and build without even talking to my dad about it? Who was I to tell God that someone was unforgiveable?
 
Well, the conversation happened. And I wasn’t alone in how I felt. Girls, the guilt that my dad had been living with for years and years was heartbreaking to hear about. He knew what happened. He knew how his travel affected our family. He knew how it distanced him from his only daughter. He knew. He very sadly knew and regretted it.
 
The beauty of the gospel is that Christ’s kindness and immense love for us literally brings us to repentance: A repentance that both my dad and I needed to voice. And a repentance that CAN be forgiven.
 
Trust me, this doesn’t mean that everything is just perfect now with my dad and I. We still have a long way to go. But in the last two years God has truly brought us closer like we’ve never been before. Why? Because of one beautiful word. Forgiveness.
 
For the girl who has a great relationship with her Dad, but maybe it’s a sibling or friend that has really wronged you, I encourage you to dwell on this characteristic of God and ask Him to give you the same heart.
 
God is the God of forgiveness. 
 
I want to encourage you that forgiveness WILL set you free from the weight that you are feeling overwhelmingly burdened by. And when you can’t even imagine doing so, like I did for so many years, look to Jesus. He will give you the strength. Even if it’s an everyday decision to forgive over and over, God calls us to be like Himself in this way.
 
He is a forgiving God – therefore we shall be a forgiving people.
Faith, God, Relationships, Spiritual Life

God is Ironic

April 13, 2016

head vs heartIf I ever doubted before that God hears me, I certainly don’t now.

Remember when I wrote about how deeply I desire companionship and long to be in love, and how much I’ve prayed for that? Well…God heard me. And He answered. But not quite the way I expected.

A couple months ago, a guy I dated in the past (but haven’t talked to in two years) waltzed back into my life. I thought we were just two old friends catching up. Recently, however, it became clear that he was pursuing me. And I didn’t know it. I thought we were just talking. He thought we were “talking.” (It’s hard to believe those two things could be so easily confused…*face-palm*)

This guy was a great friend. I have a lot of respect for him, and at one point I really thought I could see myself with him. But when it came down to it, I knew he wasn’t the right guy. So I had to put an end to the relationship that had been developing right under my completely oblivious nose…and walk away.

I felt like I had just gone through a break up, in a weird sort of way. It wasn’t fun. And it kind of felt like some cruel joke…I mean, come on, the only guy to show interest in me in two years was a guy I’m no longer interested in. Thanks, God…

But, though I ultimately didn’t feel this guy was right for me, he was close. And for the first time in a while it seemed Prince Charming might not be too far off. So I prayed boldly, and I literally told God to “bring it on.”

The very next day, a guy I met at work asked me out.

Yep. I can’t make this stuff up.

I spent a couple weeks getting to know him, and I found him to be exactly what I always thought I wanted. I’m not sure I’ve ever really known what my “type” was, but I think it was him.

So God gave me what I asked for. The guy I told Him was right for me.

But even more than that, He gave me the pursuit that I wanted. I wanted a guy to see me across the room and say, “I have to have her.” I wanted the “good morning, beautiful” texts and the lift-me-off-the-ground goodbye hugs. I wanted someone to hold my hand, plan fun dates, and to catch them staring when they thought I wasn’t looking. And I got all of those things.

But he wasn’t pointing me to Jesus. I could tell we were at much different places in our faith. I felt like he was such a great guy who I enjoyed being with and getting to know, but without that crucial spiritual component, I knew I couldn’t keep seeing him.

Everything in me was screaming, “No! This feels good! This is what you want, right? Stay here in the romance, where you feel wanted and special.”

And yet, somewhere deep in my heart I knew a flirty romance, butterflies and strong chemistry wouldn’t be enough. I knew I needed someone who would lead, encourage and challenge me in my faith, and I couldn’t see that in him.

So I had to fight the strength of physical attraction for the sake of spiritual connection and have a really hard conversation with him, ending things before either of us got more invested. Unfortunately, what could have been a peaceful decision to do what’s best for both of us actually became a painful show of his true colors, leaving me to walk away hurt, confused and angry.

So let’s recap: In the course of a week, I “broke up” with one guy who I didn’t know was pursuing me, went on a few dates with another guy, broke things off with him, and experienced my first real heartbreak.

I’ve felt all the feels I think I could possibly feel over the past few weeks. A month ago I was mad at God for not giving me what I wanted. Now I’m mad at God for giving me exactly what I asked for and allowing me to be burned by it. It seems a little ridiculous.

Through it all, though, He’s shown me that many of the things I want in a guy aren’t wrong. But I can’t be romanced by romance alone. There’s something to be said for a man who loves Jesus, who prays for the woman he will one day marry, and who leaves every other woman he encounters along the way in better condition than what he found her in. That’s the kind of man I need, and that’s the kind of man who’s worth waiting for.

Ya know, after all of this, I have to laugh. God, in His irony, answered my prayers just to show me that I have no idea what I’m actually praying for. He gave me exactly what I wanted to show me it isn’t what I need.

Oh, and in the midst of all of this? Heather and Nina have been basically campaigning for another guy who they believe could be my perfect match. I’m just hoping cupid’s aim has gotten a little better this time. 😉

It’s funny…we always want to make God out to be so serious and “all-business.” But I bet He laughed when Christ was on earth and one of the disciples farted. I bet Jesus tripped over a rock in his path a time or two and God got a good chuckle out of it. And I bet He’s up there laughing at me now trying to navigate the love life I didn’t know I had. So I guess I can laugh at this romantic comedy I’ve found myself in, too.

Faith, God, Spiritual Life

God is the visionary

April 6, 2016

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You know when you plan something in your life to go a certain way, but then God takes it and says, “Nope, I’m taking you somewhere different”…

That’s happened to me many times. And it’s happening to me now.

I know that God is for me. Even if life doesn’t seem good at the moment, He is using it for my good.

I know that God has a very specific and amazing plan for my life.

And I know that His plans are always better than my plans.

I have had so many times in my life that I’ve learned these things about God, like:

  • In high school I wanted and planned to go to a magnet school so badly that my best friends were going to, but I didn’t get in.
  • I tried out for the volleyball team in high school (I had already been playing volleyball at my previous school), but didn’t make the team.
  • I enrolled at my dream school in NYC the end of my senior year of high school but ended up not receiving the scholarship money I thought I would receive, so I had to go to a university in my home town.
  • One summer in college, I planned to go on a mission trip to Venezuela, but ended up breaking my leg so I couldn’t go.
  • In college I had at least 5 break-ups, and I obviously didn’t begin those relationships planning to break-up.
  • After I graduated from college, I applied to a job that I was 90% sure I was going to be offered, but they decided to hire someone else.
  • I wanted to move out of my home town and tried to find a way, but it was always clear that God wanted me to stay here.
  • I broke up with a guy right after college because I knew it wasn’t who God had for me after we both talked about getting engaged.

Those are just some of the major times I have learned that I may try to plan what’s best for my life, but ultimately, God is in control, and knows the best plan for my life.

He is the greatest visionary.

His plans for you are greater than yours could ever be, no matter how hard or how long you plan.

And out of all  8 of those major plans I had for my life, I don’t wish any of those to have gone the way I had originally planned. I am so glad I let go (or was forced to let go) and allowed God to establish my steps for me.

Since I graduated from seminary in December, I have been on a journey of figuring out what’s next for me. I am planning my steps, but again, God is the visionary for my life. He establishes my ways.

I’m learning to go after what I’m excited about doing and trying not to overthink it. If God wants me to continue in whatever that is, He will make a way. And if He doesn’t, He will make that obvious too. God doesn’t reveal His plan for you in the sky or spell it out for you in your cereal. It’s not always direct at first. That’s why He calls us to live by faith, not by sight.

Sometimes when God reveals his vision for us, it means letting go of something you love. Following God’s plan is an act of sacrifice and walking by faith is usually not easy.

The more that we trust Him and just step out and DO what’s in front of us, following desires and the steps He gives us, the more evident His plans become. Sometimes it’s hard to explain. And sometimes others won’t understand what you’re doing, but I promise that following God is worth it. Trusting and surrendering to God’s plan for you is the most fulfilling way to live. And even if you don’t understand  what He’s doing, that is the beauty of TRUSTING Him and not your own plans. You’ll look back on your life and see the beauty that God was weaving together for you all along.

Faith, God, Spiritual Life

God is a Farmer

March 30, 2016

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Corndogs and French fries. I was the skinny kid who refused to eat vegetables. I should probably be dead due to the number of frozen hot dogs I’ve consumed. I was so picky about fresh foods that I remember spilling my orange juice on myself one morning in elementary school so I wouldn’t have to drink it. Stubborn? Yes. Extreme? Absolutely.

My mom usually keeps books once she reads them and there are about a dozen parenting books in her closet on different methods to get a kid to EAT SOMETHING. Yeah, it was bad. Yeah, I still apologize to her for her having to wonder if her firstborn was going to contract scurvy. Yeah, that’s the disease pirates get after months without fresh fruits and veggies in their diet.

Watermelon was her only hope. At a pool party in fifth grade, one of the moms brought out a tray with half a watermelon cut up into slices. I ate the whole thing by myself while the other kids were swimming. Call me a sneaky fox! Something about that bright and juicy fruit had me mesmerized. Then she convinced me that carrots were good for my eyesight so I’d come home from school every day for years and eat ONE carrot. Pathetic.

All the while, our small elementary school had a tradition to uphold. Every Friday, the fifth graders would help in the butterfly garden with Mrs. Bucky, a half-blind, hunched-over old-lady gardener. We would plant new plants, weed around the pathways, and learn the names of all the butterflies. I stuck to her side like glue and thought she was a flowery botanical genius. This was my Gardening 101 and it has stuck with me for years.

Our family would also head out west every summer and we usually ended up in Rocky Mountain National Park. Horseback riding became my favorite way to spend time and the mountains taught me how small I was. Fresh air got in my soul. These summers created my need for time outdoors and I studied environmental science from there on out.

So after years of trying one new food at a time and letting my stubborn walls against new vegetables down, I went to college. Somehow, the local food movement in Nashville was intriguing and the salad bar became my best friend. Organic agriculture turned out to be the way I could help the earth, help people, and study science to put it all together. I lived on a farm in Indiana two years ago, interned on a non-profit farm for my senior year of college, and worked on an organic farm last year.

Now, I see God in my garden. I know Him on a farm. We all tune in to the heartbeat of God in a different way and it shapes us one moment at a time. I know that God is a farmer.

I see the face of a sunflower follow the sun across the sky throughout the day. We were meant to fix our eyes on heaven.
I see honeybees travel from flower to flower in the spring- the pollen feeds the bees and the bees help the flowers become fruit. We need each other.
I see my ten foot tall cherry tomato plant produce more fruit than I can eat on my own. The harvest is best when it’s shared.
I see the dead leaves on the ground in the fall becoming the nutrients that the garden needs in the spring. Redemption wins when death becomes life.
I see huge carrot come out of the dirt when I pull on the green tops. Growth is happening even when I can’t see it.
I see myself sitting in the row between the peppers and the beans on a summer evening after an emotionally exhausting day and how God whispers in the breeze to breathe it all in. We need a place of solitude for God to tell us it’s going to be okay.

He is the grower of seeds. He is the provider of rain. He gives the birds their song and the bees their wings. He is the ultimate farmer. In Genesis, creation happened in a garden. Earth is God’s farm and we are all His farmhands.

Plant a seed and see what happens!

Community, Faith, God, Relationships

God is All-Satisfying

March 23, 2016
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“I have found a desire within myself that no experience in this world can satisfy; the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” C.S. Lewis
 
One thing that I consistently struggle with is unmet expectations.
 
I have always considered myself to be flexible and adaptable, and although that may be true as far as overseas missions go, I have found myself falling into the trap of unmet expectations for the last couple of years. It is never fun to admit to and one of those “ugly” habits that I wish I didn’t struggle with.
 
Our expectations are never truly realized until they aren’t met. When things go our way we usually just respond with excitement and joy instead of saying “Oh my goodness! All my unspoken expectations were just met!” Our expectations seem to be realized when our plans don’t go right and when either people or experiences disappoint us. Then we will be quick to realize those specific things we didn’t even know we wanted.
 
I struggle with not being where I thought I’d be at this stage in my life. I think we can all attest to that in some way.
I struggle with not having a job that is involved with what I’m most passionate about.
I wonder if I will ever live overseas like I have always dreamed of.
I fear what my “normal” will be like with a husband traveling out of town so much.
No church will ever be perfect, but I have had to face unmet expectations with the church that we go to.
I struggle with feeling like I’m not meeting other’s expectations.
I could drown myself in worrying about what others want or need or desire from me on a daily basis.
 
The list can go on and on and on…. SO. MANY. EXPECTATIONS.
 
Is anyone else just tired of them? When do they end? Do they ever end? What is the solution to stop being so disappointed or stop being the one to disappoint?
 
The only thing I know to do is fix my eyes on Christ. It’s not just the church-y answer. It can be confusing, frustrating, messy and imperfect…but it’s the ONLY way to free myself from expectations.
 
When I look to Christ, I see that He is truly all-satisfying. I can try so hard to make all of my dreams come true, and I can try every day to make things go the way I planned…but even if that were to happen, I still wouldn’t be fully satisfied.
THAT is the lie of unmet expectations: That if somehow we get everything we want, we will be happy. Christ teaches differently. He tells us that HE is the only one who can fully satisfy our soul’s longings, and until we are face to face with Him, we will always have that sense of unmet dreams, unmet plans, and unmet desires. It’s God’s way of reminding us that we were made to be fully satisfied in Him, and not in this world.
 
This is a real tension and struggle for us believers. God is teaching me that it’s how I respond to all my unmet expectations that counts. I need to constantly remind myself that this life is temporary, and that getting everything my heart desires isn’t the most important thing. When I think about it hard enough, I truly don’t want my life to be all about me. I want it to be for something greater than what my earthly desires create in my mind. I need to release control and TRUST in my Father who loves me so dearly. Loving God and loving others, in the midst of whatever unfulfilled circumstance we’re in is what God calls us to do. I want to have my eyes so fixed on Christ that everything in this life will fall in comparison to the satisfaction I have in my Father.
 
I’m trying to free myself from the burden of unmet expectations by laying my life, my plans, my dreams at the foot of the cross. I’m not the one in control and I want to be okay with that. God doesn’t promise to give us what we want, but He does promise that we can find all of the fulfillment and acceptance and satisfaction we need, in Him alone. And one day, when we are with Him for eternity, we will NEVER feel disappointment again.
Can I get an amen for that?! The struggle is real, ladies. Thank you Jesus for that promise because He knows we all need that today.
Faith, Fear, God, Relationships, Spiritual Life

God Is Understanding

March 16, 2016

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If you were to ask me what is the one thing that I desire most in life, I would probably tell you about my dream job that would allow me to travel all over the world, drink tea and lattes all day long, and have deep conversations with people…and get paid for it.

Or I’d share with you the vacation I have planned to take my family on if one day I find that tree people say money grows on.

Or I would rattle off all of the things that make up the perfect life I’ve imagined on Pinterest.

And while each of those things certainly rank high on my list (however unlikely they may be 😉 ), there is still one desire that trumps them all…one I tend to keep hidden so deep in my heart because somehow I think if I tell anyone what I wish for, it won’t come true.

But really, if I’m completely honest, what my heart longs for more than anything is companionship.

Gosh, I just want to be married. I’m almost 23, I’m young and “I have my whole life ahead of me.” But when it seems like everyone around me is falling in love and getting married, it feels like this constant reminder that I’m alone.

Some days it’s like, if I see one more relationship status update on Facebook…
…if I hear one more sappy date story…
…if I see one more engagement ring on my Instagram feed…
…if I get one more “you plus one” wedding invitation (and if THAT one isn’t a double whammy…”not only am I getting married and you’re not, I’m inviting you to bring a date that you don’t have.”)…
Lord, help me…it might just drive me to Christian Mingle. I mean, obviously nothing else is working…

Friends, can I be candid? Sometimes singleness just sucks. I know there is so much good that comes out of this time, so much freedom in being able to focus on me, go anywhere, do anything. This season should be embraced. But that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes (most times) I just want someone to do life with. I want my own fairytale. I want to be in love.

I have prayed soooo much about this. Seriously, if you could see my journals…

But every week, Friday and Saturday night roll around and the closest I come to a hot date is lounging in my sweatpants with Heather, catching up on the Bachelor (sorry Heather, but sometimes I want to spend my weekends with someone a little more “tall, dark and handsome.” 😉 )

For one more week my prayers go unanswered. And you know what?

I’m mad at God.

There. I said it. I’m mad at Him because I feel like He’s holding out on me. I’m annoyed because He knows what I want, what I have been hoping and dreaming for, and He’s fully capable of giving it to me! But for some reason He’s holding back. I feel like He’s not listening. I feel like I’m being punished. All of which I know isn’t true, but it doesn’t make me feel any less lonely, like I’m missing out and He doesn’t care.

But He does. That’s just it. He understands what I’m feeling because He’s the one who gave me that desire to be married and walk through life in partnership with someone else. He knit this longing for love into my being when He made me.

He gets it. He understands my anger and my frustration. He understands my confusion and my impatience. And because He understands, He gives me so much grace for when I don’t understand Him.

So to you, single girl…don’t feel guilty if you can’t find joy in this season, if you’re tired, if you’re jealous…I get it. I’m right there with you, and I understand. But more importantly, so does He.

Family, God

God is rich

March 9, 2016

 
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I grew up in an out-of-the-ordinary home. My parents are missionaries. We didn’t live overseas, but they have been on mission full-time mainly in Raleigh, NC with a ministry called Cru. Obviously my parents weren’t in it for the money, nor did we ever have an excess amount to spend where we wanted.

When I was little, I didn’t understand totally how this all worked.  I didn’t understand why we had to order water every time or split meals, why our house was smaller than most of my friends, and why we were always in money-saving mode. I was never stressed about my needs being met, but I didn’t understand how much my parents were living by faith to what God had called them to do.

I didn’t understand that everything we have is the total provision from God till I got older and had to pay for things myself. God not only met our needs because my parents trusted Him, but He also blessed us more than we could have ever imagined. He blessed us Christmas presents and vacations, but he also blessed us with an amazing childhood and community through Cru that I would NEVER trade for any amount of money. It has shaped me and made me who I am today, and I am so thankful for that.

My parents taught me one of the greatest truths about God which so many people are blind too because of our materialistic culture, and that is God is the provider. Everything we have is from God and ultimately belongs to God, not us. You will never know Him as provider without looking to Him only for your provision.

It is so freeing to realize that everything we have, money, friends, a home, food, gifts, education, etc., is from God and there’s nothing we could do to deserve it. And the more thankful you are for God’s provision, the more joyful and generous you will be. It helps you break free from comparison, worry, jealousy, and discontentment because you realize it doesn’t belong to you anyways.

When I was living on my own in college and graduate school, I could only work part-time to pay for rent, food, bills, gas, etc.  There were times that I would panic wondering how would I save and pay for rent the following months. And honestly, sometimes I was really really ticked. I wanted to buy my own car so I didn’t have to use my family’s. I wanted to go out to dinner with friends without having to choose the cheapest thing on the menu. I wanted to go to that concert that everyone else was going to but knew it wasn’t wise to spend money on it at the time.

But I would then always remind myself of two things, God has always provided for me, and everything I have is from Him. And that would always lead my heart to thankfulness instead of bitterness.

His word is true and still brings tears to my eyes when I read Matthew 6:25-33 because I can remember God telling me over and over to look how He constantly provides for the birds and the flower, so how much more will he provide for me, his daughter made in the image of God worth so much more than all the birds and the flowers!?

Girls, you are God’s precious creation, his daughter with whom he wants a deep relationship with… how much more do you think God will provide for you if he provides already for the birds and grass?!

And you know what’s crazy? The more you realize how much you have been given, the more you will want to give to others… even if you don’t have excess money, you still want to give anyways. That’s the result of God working in you. And no amount of money can buy the joy that He gives.

I want to encourage all of you today who may be worrying or anxious about money or finances… look to Him! He promises to provide for you. Aren’t you worth more than the lilies and birds of the fields? Yes, you are.

God

God Is

March 2, 2016

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Now that we have all shared some of the major stories in our lives, we hope that you feel more connected to us and a part of our community here at A Girl Like Me. We are also so thankful  for the girls that sent their stories in for us to share on the blog. We read every story even if it wasn’t posted, and we are so grateful that you took the time to share that with us! Nina, Chelsea, Ashton and I did NOT have an easy time writing out our story and posting on the blog, so we totally understand how hard it is to share! We are glad to let you in our lives more and also ready to move on as I am sure you are too! :)

This leads me to announcing our next series with you… GOD IS.

We just spent two months sharing our stories and talking about us… It gets draining!! The purpose of sharing about us is so you get to know us more and trust us more. Even though those were stories about us, God is the one who writes our stories. He is reason we even have a story and can share our story. So, we want to help you all know God more and trust Him more.

Each week, we will share with you a specific characteristic of God and how we have specifically seen this part of God in our lives. Our hope is that you will be encouraged and excited to know God more, but also that we will help you learn to see specific parts of who God is in your own life.

Sometimes I go through seasons of life that I can’t feel God and it’s really hard to hear from Him and read His word. I just don’t have a desire to, and that is normal and totally okay!!!! But then I hear someone share how God is working in their life and it reminds me that God IS real. He IS active and working at all times. Sometimes He just shows me that in others’ lives instead of my own at the time.

This is our hope and prayer for you girls as we enter this next series. We know that some of you are doubting that God is good or even real. We have been there too, and we are excited to start this journey together. And as always, we are always here for YOU! Reach out to us on the posts, Facebook or Instagram, or email! We would love to hear from you.

Let us know, What words would you use to describe God?

 

For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?

It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.

 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.

-2 Samuel 22:32-34

 

 

 

Faith, Family, God, Identity, Relationships, Spiritual Life, Suffering, Your Story

Made in California

February 3, 2016

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Ashton’s Story:

I am from California, born and raise, and have been living in Raleigh NC for two years with my hilarious, handsome, and loving husband Hank. I have a mom and dad and two older brothers who I adore with all my heart. Growing up in California has its incredible blessings but also its very difficult cultural standards. It’s so different from North Carolina I find myself almost laughing because I never thought I would experience such a culture shock in my own country, let alone be married to a sweet Georgia gentleman! This isn’t a bad thing at all but definitely makes me see that where I came from has shaped me into the type of Christian and woman I am today. It’s always good to remember where you came from right?

When I was in the 1st grade my family started this tradition of traveling to a different country every summer. This greatly impacted my life at such a young age because it forced me to see with my own eyes how other cultures lived. I saw beautiful things but also poverty in many different forms. Every trip I realized more and more that most of the world lives differently than we do in the states. This sparked a HUGE love for different cultures and almost an addiction to travel and adventure…Which is a crucial part of why I think I have always wanted to become a missionary, and why I have made some crazy decisions in my life that others would think to be risky or unwise…you’ll see :).

As a little girl, I remember feeling morally different from my friends – or simply just wanting different things in life. Being surrounded by such a liberal culture formed my worldview as a believer and forced me to be comfortable with being different. I understood that my beliefs were not popular. It wasn’t normal or cool to believe in God. In fact, it was looked down upon and seen as “ignorant” or “narrow-minded”. I had far more non-Christian friends than I did friends at church. It was never a normal sight to see people reading their Bibles in coffee shops, and out of my public high school class of 600+ students, I could count on one hand how many true Christians I knew. So when conversations were brought up about what we wanted to be when we grew up, instead of saying “a doctor” or something of that sort, I would say “a missionary” or something crazy like live in a hut somewhere with a tribe (which I still honestly would LOVE to do lol)…but nothing prized by this world or relatable to my friends.

The success-seeking, “do it this way” culture I was growing up in wasn’t attractive to me, and little did I know this being different mentality would play over into so many areas of my life. Almost as if I just enjoyed swimming against the current of cultural norms. I see now that I was developing a rebellious, free spirit. All that being said, it’s a complete anomaly that I am saved. Seriously. Truly. Wholly. By God’s grace alone. Growing up in a world that is addicted to wealth and success, to physical appearance and the type of degree you have, and is SO good at storing up those achievements even at the expense of their souls…Yes…it is truly by God’s grace that my heart turned towards Him.

This grace that God gave me to understand His love didn’t come easy, though. It was a tough battle, and a trial that brought me to seek the gospels in a way I never had before. In the eighth grade, I felt that I was a Christian: I attended church with my family on Sundays and read the Bible maybe as often as any 13 year old, but my faith had never been deeply tested and I didn’t have a true intimate relationship with Christ. This changed, though, on the day that my dad told my brothers and I that my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. My mom was my most treasured possession on this earth. She was everything to me. She had to fight through chemotherapy for a year, get a full mastectomy (completely removing both breasts), and had a couple more years of surgeries to follow. Watching her go through these battles was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

I was angry and deeply afraid. But God used it to draw me to Himself. I went for a walk on a dirt path in the mountains near our house, and prayed and wept before my Father. In my expression of furious anger towards him, crying out of desperation and fear, God showed me that He was simply there. He was clearly asking me, “Am I still worthy to follow if I take your mom away?” He was asking if I trusted Him and truly believed He was a Good Father. Did I believe He loved my mom more than I did? Was I ready to lay my life down for Him because He laid His life down for me? Would I do so, even if He took my mom away? …And through the tears, I said “yes”.

I’m so thankful to tell you that my mom survived, and even defeated kidney cancer just three years ago. Seeing her be so strong and never lose hope has truly changed me. Her battle with cancer has drawn me close to Christ in ways that I can’t even describe. Because of this personal commitment, I was baptized on my first missions trip in the Baltic Sea in Latvia when I was 15.

I lived and worked in an orphanage in India for two summers in high school and this deep love for travel continued to be affirmed. All the while I was on a year round volleyball team that traveled nationally. It was a lot of work but I loved every second of it. I started receiving many scholarship offers and because it was the next level to achieve in my volleyball career, I committed to the University of San Diego at the beginning of my junior year.

When I think back to how quickly and freely I made that decision, I loved how fearless I was but also wish I could have had deeper discussions about my future and where my heart was really at. I had this unending passion to do missions overseas and couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather do…and then I also had this incredible opportunity to play D1 volleyball and get my education paid for…why wouldn’t I take that?? I would really only be going there for volleyball…but that’s ok right?? This decision started to seem like something everyone else wanted and desired for me, and although I loved playing and went through with it, I deep down knew it wasn’t what I wanted and that it wouldn’t satisfy my longings for very long. This was my first big life decision that I was questioning: “Is this what God wants me to do, or what my coaches and parents and friends think is right?”

Over and over I saw people obtain it all by the worlds standards, but truly they just.felt.empty. Many people I knew had no self worth even though they had all of these things; they had no joy even though they were told money would buy them happiness; they thought they didn’t need God because their academic achievements told them they could do it all themselves.

These were the things I grew up being afraid of. I desperately wanted to avoid believing those lies. And THAT is what fed my rebellious spirit against the “cultural norms”. I had inadvertently faced death with my mom and it kind of made me internally say “YOLO” even though that didn’t even exist then. God doesn’t say, “Get perfect grades, go to college, get married, find the right job…and THEN follow me.” No. THAT is what I wanted to be careful of and as a teenager tried to navigate the best I knew how. This has always been an internal battle of mine. Maybe some of you totally get what I’m talking about, and maybe some of you are for the first time asking if you have just been doing what everyone else is because it’s easy, but I encourage you to just go to God and ask Him. Ask the hard questions. We can do that together :).

Community, Faith, Forgiveness, God, Identity, Your Story

Not Okay.

January 29, 2016

it's okay 2-2

Written by one of our readers:

It was a typical Sunday morning as I walked into the doors of the church I have attended since elementary school. I smiled at the familiar face of a dear friend greeting me at the door and remembered all of the happy pictures on Facebook she shared. “Good morning,” I said cheerily, “How are you?”

“I’m good…” she responded hesitantly with a smile that would appear natural to anyone who didn’t know her. Her eyes appeared to be filled with a burden so heavy, she felt she couldn’t tell anyone… Not even someone she could trust.

I think this is a common story for us ladies in the brave new world of a social media saturated society. Everywhere we turn, there are highly filtered “picture perfect” moments captured and posted on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag “no filter” or “blessed.” At the beginning of this social media frenzy, photos were not at all filtered, were less than picture perfect, and certainly didn’t have hashtags attached. As time has passed, we’ve become unawaringly numb to the staged images that fill our brains on a daily basis. Now, we’ve started applying that filter to our everyday lives.

We apply a “happy” filter when we’re with good friends and telling them about our lives. We force our eyes to crinkle in a seemingly genuine smile and fill our sentences with words like “amazing,” “awesome,” or “fabulous” while on the inside we’re struggling with where we are at and questioning if what we’re doing is what God has really set aside for us. And our friends are none the wiser because they have their filter on too. We apply our “spiritual” filter at church to show everyone that we’re happy and we’re growing in our walks with Christ when really, we’re struggling with our season of singleness and wondering if this is really God’s best for us. We apply our “content” and “satisfied” filter with our spouse or our family members to show them that we are happy with where we are in life but inside, we’re questioning if there is something more for us in our career, our relationships, our household, and every other area of our lives.

We live in a world that tells us that it is not okay to be anything but okay or good or awesome. We live in a world of staged moments captured on social media and staged responses to basic questions like, “How are you?” We live in a world that tells us to always hustle and strive for perfection but at what cost? Our mental health? Our relationships? Contrary to popular belief, it is not healthy to hold all of those feelings of hurt, confusion, sadness, anger, or whatever other emotion is coursing through your precious veins. I can also tell you that you can’t build a solid foundation for a solid relationship (friendship or otherwise), based of off cookie-cutter responses to cookie-cutter questions. Can I also tell you something else very important? It is absolutely okay that right now, you’re not at all okay.

One of the things I heard in church a lot when I was growing up was, “It’s a sin to question God,” or, “You should never get angry at God because, well, He’s God.” You probably have heard some variation of those overtly religious statements. As I have grown (physically and spiritually) I have learned two really important things:

  1. Religion teaches us rules, while Jesus teaches us relationship.
  2. Part of having a relationship with Jesus means being completely honest about how we feel with Him. He already knows, so why not tell Him?

In my life, I strive to have relationship with Jesus Christ and not rules set up by religion interfering with my Christian walk. Let’s be honest, religion has a lot of rules. Base your life and walk with Christ off of Scripture and Christ Himself, and you’re doing just fine. Notice I said walk with Christ and not walk to Christ. That’s the best thing about the Gospel: we do not have to work to receive God’s gift of His Son. His Son came down to us to be with us as we journey to heaven to be with God for all of eternity. On that journey, there are going to be places where you are angry at God. Those are the places where your relationship with Him will grow and strengthen. Religion tells us to evaluate our lives and see what we’re doing wrong but Jesus tells us to come to Him, walk with Him, learn from Him, and in Him we’ll find rest, healing, and redemption (not in anything we could ever do or say). Religion tells us to grin and bear it. Jesus tells us to fall at His feet and be vulnerable before Him.

If you don’t believe me, read through the Psalms. There are so so many Psalms that David wrote where he is pouring his heart out God, getting mad at God, questioning God, and praising God for His presence and redemption. And what do people call David? A man after God’s own heart.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be scared. God isn’t expecting perfection. He’s expecting honesty and trust. Take your filters off before the God-Man that gave up His life to know you. Take off your filters before the people that love you and desire relationship with you. Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but a sign of trust and that’s all God wants from us: our explicit trust because if He has that, He has the rest of us. And can I tell you a secret? He will never let you down, never leave you, never hurt you, and never take advantage of you. He loves you more than life itself, dear one.

Processed with VSCO with b5 presetAllison Mozingo is 21 years old. She’s from Clayton, NC. She’s a junior at Campbell University and studying Elementary and Middle Grades English.