Categories
Encouragement

It’s Time to Rest

I love my job. Working from home, writing thousands of words a day, learning a treasure trove of information, and being part of an uplifting team. At this job, I truly feel like I’m doing what God created me to do for this season. After each shift, I’m so excited and grateful that I have the opportunity to work in my dream career.

Except, why am I so tired?

I Experienced Burnout, Even in My Dream Job

Truthfully, my first month on the job was fun, but it was also information overload. As a result, I was tired. I could even say a felt a low grade of depression. For a couple of weeks I wondered, if this is my dream job and I’m depressed, did I follow the wrong dream?

Over time, I learned that I wasn’t in the wrong career. I was just burned out. Even though my job is exactly what I want to be doing, it was too much. I needed to make time to rest, especially since I hadn’t worked full-time in more than two years before this job.

We all need rest, even from good things. Just ask Elijah.

Elijah Was Burnt Out, Even in His Dream Job

Elijah was a powerhouse prayer warrior prophet for God. Everywhere he went, miracles followed. One of the most prominent miracles of God that he experienced was up against the prophets of Baal, a false god. You can read about it in 1 Kings 18. God shows up in a supernatural way, putting the doubt of all people to death. Oh, and He also brought rain down on the land after a long drought.

But shortly after all these miracles happened, Elijah wished he was dead. Wait, what? No, seriously. In 1 Kings 19:4, Elijah says what we’ve all said at one time or another: “I’ve had enough, Lord.” He asks God to take his life. You could say that it’s the one prayer God didn’t answer, but actually, He does.

Elijah Needed a Nap and a Snack

Right after this declaration, Elijah falls asleep. Sometimes, we just need a nap! But then when his nap is finished, an angel wakes him up and tells him to eat.

A literal angel made Elijah literal food. All of a sudden, there was bread and water in front of him. So, he did the wise thing. He ate. The food so strengthened Elijah that he traveled forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God.

During this dark time, Elijah learned the value of rest. He learned that, even when good things happen, these good things can’t sustain him. He’s human. Like all of us, he needed to rest after the emotional roller coaster he endured, even in the midst of the miracle.

The Importance of the Rest in Our Lives

Rest is so important to God that even He rested on the seventh day. He set an example that we all need to follow. The Sabbath reminds us that we’re human, that we can’t give our 110% all the time. We need to intentionally step back from our ministries, our jobs, our daily lives for just a moment to unwind and reflect.

Oh, and of course, to take a nap!

Most of my close friends know that I can’t stay out past ten o’clock at night. It’s a boundary I’ve set for myself, because I know that I can’t be (ahem) very Christlike past that hour. The truth is, I wake up early in the morning, so I’m tired by the end of the day. I’m human. I’ve recognized the importance of sleep for my sanity.

Key Takeaway

While most of us in the world are in isolation due to a virus that’s still not fully known to us. As a result, we have a ton of time on our hands. Of course, life goes on. We still have to work. But maybe, in our free time, we can make some time for rest.

Even though it seems like nothing is going on (you’re stuck in your house!), you’re going through a lot of mental and emotional stress right now. Recognize your need for rest, and make time to unwind.

This week, I challenge you to literally schedule time to rest. Here are some questions to get you thinking about how to rest properly:

  • What basic necessities (sleep, eating healthy food, working out, spending time with family, etc.) do I need right now? How can I fulfill what I need?
  • Think of your life as an empty cup. What activities and people fill the cup of your life?
  • What would spending a Sabbath with the Lord look like for you? What activities would you give up? What activities would you take part in?

 

Categories
anxiety

When God’s Yes Is Just as Confusing as His No

In 2015, three days after we had gotten engaged, I wrote this post on my personal Facebook page:

“God is so good  We’re so blessed. We may not understand what He is doing all the time (even in the good times!) But that’s why we trust Him and praise Him.”

Waiting on God is hard. This post is about when God answers our prayers, but we don’t feel ready to receive them.

Please tell me you can relate!

God’s timing is perfect, but what do you do when your husband comes into your life when you least expect it? What do you do when you find a house before you think you’re ready? What about when your pregnancy test is positive and you don’t know the first thing about raising a child?

We trust that God’s timing is perfect.

In our social media world, we tend to celebrate everything. We post on Facebook and/or Instagram when we start a relationship, get engaged, get married, get a house, find out you’re pregnant, find out the baby’s gender, give birth, and so on. While we should celebrate everything, if we’re honest, sometimes even the good times just don’t feel right.

Confessions of a Perfectionist

To escape reality, I imagine the ideal situation and daydream of a day when I get to experience that situation. For example, in this season, my husband and I are looking at houses. I imagine us living in a beautiful, flawless home in the best school district and an easy commute for my husband.

One day, God is going to answer our prayer for a home of our own. One day, we’re going to sign a contract and receive the keys to our new home. That home may or may not be everything I want it to be.

The house will be everything God wants it to be.

For a perfectionist like me, being totally content when God says yes is difficult because it means I have to surrender my ideal situation. I have to surrender my fantasy life, knowing that I will never have the perfect husband, the perfect family, the perfect house, the perfect job, the perfect anything, on this side of Heaven. Only God is perfect, and He knows exactly what we need in every situation.

What Keeps Us From Accepting God’s Yes?

Besides being a perfectionist, there are other factors that have also affected my ability to receive God’s blessings.

  • Guilt. Sometimes, I feel unworthy of receiving God’s goodness. Other times, I know the struggle that others are facing right now. I feel unworthy when I receive an answer to prayer in a couple of weeks, and my friends who have been struggling for years are still waiting for an answer. It’s hard for me to accept God’s yes when it doesn’t seem fair for me to have it right now.
  • Fear. We all have fear of failure, and sometimes, we even have fear of success. What if God gives me what I’ve always wanted, and I mess it up? Or worse, what if God gives me what I’ve always wanted, and it’s not good enough?
  • Doubt. We spend a lot of time asking about how to discern the will of God. Often, we get so caught up in discerning God’s will that we miss His ultimate will for us: to enjoy life and worship Him with all we do. When God says yes, we wonder if it’s God’s will or if it’s just a trap.

What Do You Do When You’re Not Ready for God’s Yes?

So, how do you know when to wait and when God has answered your prayer? I’ve actually written a blog post about how to know when you’ve finished waiting. For now, I want to prepare you for when God answers that prayer you’ve been praying for days, weeks, months or years.

Start With Praise

Whatever you’ve been praying for, if God has said yes, that means He’s given you what you wanted. Even if you don’t feel ready for it, thank God for the opportunity to see His goodness. If you have doubt that it’s God’s will for you to have this good thing, cling to Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (emphasis mine).

Pray With a Plan

I like to process things as they happen, so when something big happens in my life, I’ll usually talk out loud in the car or journal. I use these opportunities to pray for this new season and ask for God’s wisdom to guide me through it.

When you are faced with an answer to prayer, think about your next steps. How will you respond to this news? What do you have to do to get ready for this blessing?

Proclaim God’s Goodness

I’ll admit, you might feel like a jerk going up to your friend who is praying for kids and announcing you’re pregnant. You might feel totally awkward telling your group of single friends that you’re engaged. Just because God has answered your prayer does not mean the universe is suddenly in your favor. You will face opposition, even when everything is coming up roses in your heart.

When you face opposition, remember that God has answered your prayer. God has looked on you with favor. As you proclaim what God has done in your life, you will inspire others who are waiting for God to do a miracle in their lives.

Because you have waited and trusted in God to answer the cry of your heart, those in waiting will know that God is faithful to answer prayer. If God could move in your life, God could move in others’ lives also.

God Is Doing Great Things

God is so faithful to answer every one of our prayers. We’ve heard His no and His not yet, but we’ve also been blessed to receive His yes. God is faithful and good, and His timing is completely and totally perfect.

We can trust His yes.


Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash

Categories
anxiety

Be Thankful and Have Peace

When I first became a Christian, I struggled with anxiety. I memorized verses about anxiety, such as Philippians 4:6-7. After wrestling with this passage for about a decade, I know that this verse literally has the key to curing anxiety.

Here is the verse, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (NLT).

Don’t Worry About Anything

As we tend to read this verse, the first four words stick out at us. Don’t worry about anything. Wow, Paul, that’s MUCH easier said than done.

I think that’s why I’ve seen this verse more as a band-aid than as a Word from the Lord for me. When I worry, I feel like I’m sinning against God. I feel like I should be able to just shut off my thoughts and “get over it.”

If you keep reading, you’ll see what the verse actually means. You’ll understand that God wants to do more in our lives than take away our worry.

Pray About Everything

In another part of Scripture, the same writer of this passage writes that we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We pray in the good times and the bad, but we especially need to remember to pray when we are anxious.

Part of my anxiety is obsessive thoughts (not to be confused with OCD, which includes compulsive behavior). If I have to wait to hear back from someone or something for any length of time, my mind will start to wander. I’ll worry myself into a hole and I won’t resurface until the waiting period is over.

When I pray, I make the choice to focus my thoughts on God. As I fill my mind with prayers to God, taking the attention off of myself and my circumstances, I notice the faithfulness and love of God. God’s love, peace, and faithfulness are all much stronger than my fears.

Be Thankful

For those of us in the United States, Thanksgiving is a time for us to pause and show our gratitude for what we have. As I ask every year, who are we thankful to?

Sure, you could be thankful to your parents for raising you, and to your family for supporting you through everything. You could even be thankful to coaches or teachers that have given you wisdom and have encouraged you to follow your dreams. If you really thought about it, where does all that goodness come from?

Thanksgiving reminds me that what I need comes from outside of me. God is the one who supplies my every need. When I thank Him, I take time to recognize that every good thing I have comes from Him.

Experience God’s Peace

Is it that simple? Can I really have God’s peace after praying a simple prayer and saying thanks to God?

Yes.

I wish I could say that anxiety disappears after you become a Christian. But I’ve learned that God has been faithful to me in the midst of my anxiety. I have experienced God’s peace in the midst of the most difficult circumstances.

God’s peace has equipped me to face hardships and struggles, knowing that He is on my side and fighting for me. With God as my defender, I have learned to experience God’s peace in all circumstances.

The Rest of the Story

In Philippians 4, Paul continues to write about his ability to find contentment in all circumstances. He has learned that he can do all things through Christ (v. 13). And so can we.

Further down, he writes that he believes in God’s provision. God will provide for all of our needs (v. 19). My needs, and your needs.

Do your needs worry you?

The Rest of Our Story

Our story can continue without anxiety ruling over us. In Christ, we have the power to experience God’s peace, to be content in all circumstances, and to trust God for His provision. In the waiting, we have a way to escape the mind trap of OCD.

Don’t worry. Pray. Be thankful. Have peace.

Which of these is the hardest for you to do? Where do you need to trust God the most in this season?

Categories
Book Update

The Wait is Over!

Thanks so much to my faithful followers who have continued to read and share this blog! I created this blog to be a joy for me and for my audience, but it was becoming a burden. Between my novel writing, my part-time job at a publishing company, and chores (yay for adulting!), my blog couldn’t really get the attention that it deserved.

While on my hiatus, I’ve learned to make time for God, to “go deep,” and to invite God into my plans. A couple of weeks ago, we had an awesome prayer night at our young adult ministry. It was dedicated to making time for God. As a creative, I spent most of the night playing with clay, drawing pictures, and writing psalms. I had a blast! However, it reminded me that God is in control, and that even rest is necessary for me to be successful. I’m an achiever, and I have my to-do list, but maybe I need to add “rest” and “going for a walk” and “coloring” to my daily tasks!

I’ve also been listening to a great podcast called Write from the Deep, by Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young. They are both novelists who have helped me find the core message of what God wants to write through me. In a nutshell, my message is: God is faithful even when all has failed me. That is my testimony, and that is what I hope to convey in my writing of YA dystopian, which involves creating societies where chaos is the only thing that’s constant. Even in a dystopia (the opposite of a utopia), God is in control.

During this time, I also finished my novel, joined a critique group, and have been waiting to see next steps for publication. My friends gave me wonderful feedback, and my writer friend recommended that I join a critique group to meet other writers in my genre. So far, I’ve met a couple of people who write my genre, and I’m looking forward to connecting with them and seeing their work!

Along with that, I’m going to start building up my newsletter! I honestly didn’t know what to do as a novelist, but I’m going to start writing short stories. I may also advertise novels in my genre that I enjoy, depending on what I find. To get book updates and all things fiction, click here to join my newsletter!

Finally, I’ve considered publishing a non-fiction book, since I already seem to know how to talk about topics such as marriage and anxiety. However, I have to do research, not just for the book, but about how that affects me as a novelist. I’m more about showing my readers how to have healthy marriages or how to overcome anxiety, than I am about telling my readers what to do. Maybe after writing a topic on my blog, I can write a short story about it. Sound good?

Thanks again to all of my faithful followers who have checked up on me the last couple of weeks. Since I’m able to schedule posts in advance (thank you, WordPress!), I’ve gotten a running start, and have published a month’s worth of posts in advance. You’ll be seeing new content about marriage, anxiety, and what God is teaching me.

Comment below if you have any exciting updates to share!

Categories
Books

Beyond Blessed: Give Your Budget a Heart Check

This post was #sponsoredbyfaithwords. I was not required to give a positive review, so my review is my honest take on the book Beyond Blessed: God’s Perfect Plan for No Financial Stress by Robert Morris.

I’m so thankful for the opportunity from Faithwords to read this book for free! I’ve enjoyed the other books that they’ve recommended to me as well, such as Pull it Off by Julianna Zobrist, Get Weird by CJ Casciotta, and You Are Enough by Mandy Hale.

Out of all the books I could have picked to review, I picked this one because it included a foreword from Dave Ramsey. My husband and I have followed Dave Ramsey’s financial advice since about a month before we got married. Because of his teaching, we’re debt free, and we’re making excellent progress saving for a down payment for our future house. Any book recommended by Dave Ramsey is a book for me!

Since I got the book before it was released, Dave Ramsey’s foreword wasn’t in it. However, I did enjoy reading the introduction from Robert Morris, founding senior pastor of Gateway Church in Dallas-Forth Worth. Beyond Blessed is a follow-up to Pastor Morris’ book The Blessed Life. Honestly, it was so refreshing to read a book from a megachurch pastor who didn’t preach the prosperity gospel. I’ve seen so many pastors pray over their wallets and ask for a donation to make their big church even bigger. Instead, Pastor Morris writes about his journey from humble beginnings to a church of over 39,000 active members.

God certainly has blessed Pastor Morris with an ability to teach us about our finances while also reminding us of our identity in Christ. He starts each chapter off with a word-picture, a parable, to introduce the topic. In each chapter, he debunks the myths of what the world says and what we’ve even been taught in church about money. While we all strive to be rich, he writes, “The rich are more likely to be on antidepressants or antianxiety medications than average working-class folks. Millionaires and billionaires commit suicide with shocking regularity” (15).

Pastor Morris spends the beginning of the book laying down the foundation of what it means to steward God’s money well. God owns everything, but He has entrusted His people with resources to be a part of His Kingdom. “Your little enterprise is an important part of a much larger conglomerate” (79). God has given us all responsibility over the resources, people, time, and energy with which He has blessed us. With this mindset, there is no comparison and no ownership.

While Dave Ramsey talks more about the financial aspect of money than the spiritual (although his teaching is biblical), Pastor Morris’ book truly digs deep into what the Bible says about how we should take care of our money. Using charismatic language that I personally agree with, he even discusses the demonic spirits that try to entice us to worship money rather than God. His teaching opened my eyes to what the Scriptures say about money, and how my perspective on money needs to change.

My favorite quote of the book, and a good summary of the book, is how Pastor Morris explains the gospel: “You see, contrary to what many would have us believe, the gospel is not a poverty gospel. Nor is it, as some preachers and teachers would have us think, a prosperity gospel. No, the good news of life in Jesus Christ is a provision gospel” (63). Praise God that He gives us enough. We don’t have to be rich or poor; we just have to have enough.

I recommend this book to anyone who has even a dollar to his/her name. Although I’ve written notes in it, I’m giving it to my husband so that we can talk about it and do a heart check about our finances. Beyond Blessed will be available on January 8, 2019. You can pre-order the book and also be entered to win a free copy here.

Categories
anxiety

What IS the True Meaning of Christmas?

At the beginning of this year, a lot of my Christian writer friends were posting about their word for the year. While I had never done it before, I decided to pray about what my word would be. My word for 2018 is “declutter,” based on Hebrews 12:2.

For most of the year, I decluttered my living space, my work space, my schedule, my relationships, and my heart. My goal was to get rid of all the junk in my life so I had more room for God. Now, at the end of this year, God is asking me to do the converse: make room for God so that there’s no room for the junk.

If I’m honest, I’ll admit that there was a lot of junk this year, not only in my personal life, but in the world around me. Social media has practically become a garbage dump where people are venting about random stuff that no one cares about, and then other people are tearing them apart for it. I’ve spent a huge chunk of this year (you know, eleven months), trying to find the redemptive qualities of the toxic environments, when God has been calling me to run away! Now, I’m not saying all social media is bad, but in this season, it is not the best for my soul. No more looking for the nutrition facts of bio-hazardous material!

All the while, Christmas sort of just showed up, and now we’re plagued with the same question that we are every year: What is the true meaning of Christmas?

Well, what is it? Why do you get together with your family every year? Why do you do all your shopping? Why did you buy that ugly Christmas sweater for the party you’re attending next week?

I believe in the midst of all the junk in our lives, we run the risk of missing the point. Sure, family, friends, giving gifts, belief in miracles, and even politics are all important, but they’re not the point. When we realize what the point is, that’s when all the other stuff in our life makes sense.

Christmas (in particular, the Advent season) is about God coming to Earth in the form of a baby, Jesus. The prophets spoke of this child for centuries before He was even born. I was just reading in my devotional today that Jesus fulfilled 108 prophecies spoken about Him during His life on Earth. When Christ was born, God did something huge, something that had never been done before, something that we are still talking about millennia later! I think it’s time we pay attention to the message God is saying to us (and has been saying to us for thousands of years) through this miracle.

Jesus coming to Earth speaks to people’s heart in different ways, especially since He came for multiple reasons. He came to set us free from our sin. He came to give us an example of righteousness. He came to put the law to death. He came to show what it means to be humble. He came because He loves us.

Sure, the thrill of opening presents on Christmas morning is euphoric. Seeing my family is such a joy. Listening to Christmas music and decorating the tree and wearing silly ugly Christmas sweaters is essential to get through the holiday blues. But nothing gives me more lasting joy, more perfect peace, more everlasting love, than knowing that the God who created the Heavens and the Earth came to this broken, desperate, hopeless world to show us how to live and to demonstrate His love for us.

Remembering the true meaning of Christmas makes all the junk disappear.


Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash

Categories
Marriage

The Beauty of Letting Go

Why do we have so many fights with our spouses? Why do we keep having the same arguments over and over again?

Because we don’t want to let it go.

I could stop right there. But I don’t want to let it go. I want to hold on to my anger, my hurt, my rightness. My husband can’t get away with saying something like that to me! After all the times I have been so nice to him, how could he speak that way to me?

Oh, right…I haven’t been very nice to him.

I thank God that He lets my sins go. As far as the east is from the west does he remove our sins from us (Psalm 103:12). Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross gave us grace, which means that God does not hold our sins against us anymore. Praise be to God!

Since God forgave me, why is it so difficult to forgive my husband?

We all have excuses about why we say the things we do. We don’t mean to hurt our loved ones, and yet the wrong words come out all the time. From a women’s perspective, I admit that I use more excuses than my husband because I tend to have more times of the month that I’m irritable. But finally, after nearly two years of marriage, I’ve learned to shut my mouth long enough to listen to my husband. He’ll tell me he had a long day of work, and then he’ll say something totally rude to me about an hour later. He’ll tell me that he didn’t get enough sleep last night, and then a few minutes later he’ll give me an attitude. No, he doesn’t usually come out and say, “Sorry, honey, I just had a long day at work and I’m having a hard time controlling my tongue” (because who actually says that when they’re so tired they can’t even make sense of reality?). But I’ve learned that his insults are out of character for him, so I can make an assumption that he’s probably just having an off day.

Although he doesn’t have the same excuses as me about why he’s irritable, he has every right to be tired, hungry, or upset. I can’t expect my husband to be happy all the time, even though he’s happy most of the time. When he’s not at his best, my response is to let it go.

Through devotionals and YouTube videos we’ve been watching online, we’ve learned the importance of letting go. When we hold on to grudges, they can actually put up a wall between us. We may have decided we will never separate, but even if we are together on paper, we can be separate emotionally. On a daily basis, we strive to remove any obstacle from between us so that we can thrive in our marriage and maintain our closeness.

It’s important to let it go. I want to be right, but I would rather be united with my husband, physically and emotionally, than right. Obviously, if the negative comments and insults become continuous, we would have to have a conversation about it. However, if I know he’s having a bad day and he hurts me, I can let it go.

I make it sound so easy. It’s only not easy because we have complicated it. We live in an age of entitlement, when everybody has a right to be right. We all want to be rewarded for our actions and opinions. I have a hard time letting to when I want to prove my husband wrong, but most of all, when I want to protect myself.

If you find yourself in this place, remember that the Lord is our defender. God is our strength and shield. You don’t need to prove yourself in order to be protected. When Jesus was about to be crucified, he had multiple opportunities to prove himself. He even said that he could call a legion of angels to save him (Matthew 26:53). However, he chose to trust in God. No matter what you face, big or small, it is not as big as what Jesus endured for us. We have nothing to prove; we can show love to those around us without having to protect ourselves.


Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash

Categories
anxiety

The Blessing of Difficult People

On this past Marriage Monday, I discussed the first step in dealing with difficult people, and that is to develop sympathy toward them, because they are human. Since then, I’ve thought about how my life would be different if I didn’t have difficult people in my life. When I read my journal from a couple of years ago, I remembered meeting a handful of people that rubbed me the wrong way and attacked my character. Looking back, I realized how they actually helped me more than hurt me.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Think about that visual! Although the people who love us help us to mature, those who are different from us allow us to grow as well. Those people who “rub us the wrong way” are inadvertently rubbing off our mess and making us more like Jesus.

They help you gain a new perspective, which makes you question everything. I specifically had one person who I had kept at arm’s length. When I read my journal a few days ago, the memories flooded back to me about my experiences with her. One thing that she consistently did, unknowingly I’m sure, was give false testimony about me. Those who know me know that I am joyful and childlike (not childish), and I always prefer to look at the positive side. One day, I wrote in my journal that she had told me I complained too much, which is not true. She also told me one day that my joy made her depressed because she could never have what I have, which is also not true. However, although she attacked the very core of my being, instead of crumbling, I examined my heart to reflect on what I was portraying to others. Sure, I thought I was joyful, but maybe to her I complained. Maybe I desired to be childlike, but I was more rigid than I thought. Was my joy annoying? Her attacks made my reflect on my actions and attitude, which is a Biblical practice that God wants us to do on a regular basis.

They keep you humble. Difficult people remind you that you are not perfect. None of us are perfect. You want to be around the people that sing your praises all day, but trust me when I say that you also want to be around those who think you have plenty of room for improvement. At one point, this person called me out on my pride. I had a lot of pride, and I honestly still do. She helped me to see what I needed to change about my life. She also consistently reminded me how much I need Jesus, as her threats and accusations constantly kept me on my knees in prayer.

They help you to show Christ’s love. Jesus commands us to love our enemies. It is easy to love those who love us back, but what about those who don’t? (see Matthew 5:43-48). When I’m around difficult people, I close myself off and don’t want to show love to them. However, that’s not the way God calls me to live. Instead, I need to be honest with God and accept His help. God knows our hearts; He knows when we don’t love those around us. When we’re honest with Him, He equips us to love them through His everlasting, unfailing love. His love puts my love to shame.

Without those difficult people in my life, I would have never grown, at least in the ways that I have. I’ve had people criticize my writing, attack my joy, and call me out for my pride. I can’t believe that years later, I’m still thinking of the people that have hurt me, and the ways they have blessed my life. My experience with difficult people from my past also help me with the people I have in my life now. These people that I’ve lost contact with did their worst to me, and yet I’m still here and I’m still thriving. If I was able to learn to love those difficult people in my life, if I was able to “survive” every attack they threw at me, I am able to love and endure the people who surround me now. No matter how condescending, negative, and criticizing some people are in my life now, I can be confident that God is my defender and that He will grow me even through these difficult people.

If you have difficult people in your life, pray about how God can use them to grow you. Now, please understand that difficult is not abusive. If someone is being abusive to you, run. Do not endure his/her toxicity. However, difficult people are more annoying than hurtful. Allow God to reveal His love through you as you deal with these people that get under your skin.


Photo by Victor Benard on Unsplash

Categories
Books

All the Feels of “Redeeming Love”

*WARNING: If you have PTSD due to sexual abuse, this post may be difficult for you to read. Proceed with caution.

If, for some reason, your emotions have been on the fritz, try reading Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It’s not like I have any trouble tapping into my emotions, but after reading this book, I’m pretty sure I’ve managed to feel every single emotion that the human heart could fathom.

Although this book was published in 1997, several people recommended this book to me because they know I’m writing Christian fiction. Each one of them told me it was a “good” book. Good? You all tricked me! It was exceptionally wonderful and altogether awful wrapped in five-hundred pages of an emotional roller coaster. But yeah, I guess you can describe that as “good.”

Some people did warn me that it was heavy, and I thank you for that. I just about lost my cookies on page 185.

Redeeming Love tells the story of Sarah, who was later named Angel when she was sold into prostitution at the age of eight. She finds herself in California during the California Gold Rush about ten years later, as the highest-prized prostitute in the Pair-a-Dice brothel. Through her experience dealing with customers and horrible bosses, she learns that she has no worth except what she could give to men, and that men want nothing from her except for her body. All that would change when Michael Hosea walks into her life and makes her his wife.

Without spoiling too much, the book is an example of the book of Hosea from the Bible. In that story, Hosea marries a prostitute as a means to show the people of Israel God’s love for them. When I look at Redeeming Love in that light, my heart breaks. It forces me to examine my own sin and pride, and remember how many times I have run from God and how many times I probably will still run from Him. I couldn’t help but think while reading this book that my heart is not any softer than Angel’s is.

The key in this book is the relentless love of Michael, who seeks in every moment to demonstrate God’s love to his wife. Even when she runs away, even when she commits the worst sins against him and exposes her past sins to him, he does not give up. When it is difficult for him, he turns to God and begs Him for help. His example of redeeming love helps to heal her soul. It is also obvious that God’s love is compelling him to love her, so that Angel could see the love of God and put her faith in Him.

Whenever I read a book, I like to think of my overall takeaway. So far, in the last month, two books from decades ago have made their way into my lap. Why am I reading A Handmaid’s Tale when it was written in the ’80s? Why am I reading Redeeming Love when it was written in the late ’90s? Well, I truly believe that God is challenging me to look at how much we have (or haven’t) progressed. In the ’80s, some people believed that they were one step away from a dystopia. Do we still feel that way, and if so, what can we do to change that?

Redeeming Love reminds me not to give up on those I love, even when they push me away, even when they do everything imaginable to make me angry. It also reminds me to continue to support and pray for ministries that are rescuing men, women, and children from prostitution around the world. I believe we have come a long way to show women their true worth, but I also believe that we have a long way to go. May God reveal His redeeming love to us, and help us to share that love with those around us. Amen.

Categories
Marriage

Love Always Endures

Today, I tried out the cycle class at the gym with my mom. The gym we go to offers the cycle class at least once every two hours, so I figured it was important enough to give it a try. It seemed like I was the only newbie, as everyone knew how to work the bike (read: get on the bike) besides me!

Once the music started and they turned the lights off, we started to pedal. The bikes lit up different colors based on how fast we were going and how much resistance we were using. Throughout the class, the instructor helped us to build endurance. It wasn’t necessarily about pedaling the fastest or using more resistance. Rather, it was about doing our best, keeping our eyes focused on our own progress, and pushing through to the end. Endurance in cycle class means not getting off the bike.

It was difficult not to accept defeat and go sit in a freezer somewhere. I knew it would be a 45-minute class, so my stomach churned each time I looked at the clock at only saw two minutes pass. With each panting breath, with each wave of nausea, with each bead of sweat protruding out of my pores, I wanted to stop. However, I knew it was my first time, so discomfort would be part of the process. Instead of killing it in the red zone like my neighbors, I coasted comfortably in the yellow zone, knowing one day I could make it to the red if I don’t give up.

The Greek word for endures is similar to this concept in 1 Corinthians 13:7. It means to remain under the load, to bear up. The Biblical definition of endurance is fighting through the pain until it’s finished. For those of us that work out, we know that fighting through the pain only makes us stronger.

The endurance I maintained on the stationary bike today was a reminder of the personal endurance I’m trying to maintain on a daily basis. I’m trying to eat healthier and grow my muscles. I’ve made a practice of writing down what I eat and what exercises I do each day to track my progress. But the endurance doesn’t come when it’s easy; no, endurance comes when the cravings kick in, when I don’t feel like going to the gym, when I’m too tired, when I’m out with my friends and they all want to get ice cream. With pain comes endurance. Endurance is built in the hard times.

My husband and I both have personal goals. In addition to getting into shape, I am working on my novel and starting up a writing and editing career. My husband has been working extra hours and driving an hour and a half commute each morning! Life is not a walk in the park right now; it’s work! But we trust that these personal struggles are making us stronger.

We also have goals as a married couple. We’re saving money for a house, working on our communication, and growing closer as a couple. It’s a strain to hold off on things we want because we want to stick to our budget. It’s not easy to go against our habits that we formed as singles to make our marriage work. However, the pain that we endure from these experiences only make us stronger.

In the Bible, we are called to bear one another’s burdens. Life is hard, but it is easier together. Work together with your spouse to help you accomplish your goals. Ultimately, God is the one who will give you strength to endure all of the hardships that we will face in this life.


Photo by Andhika Soreng on Unsplash