Categories
Encouragement

5 Habits to Keep After COVID-19

It’s been three weeks of social distancing and self-containment, and truthfully, I’m growing restless. But as I think of the world slowly transitioning back to reality in the coming weeks(or months?), I want to take advantage of the lessons I’ve learned in the midst of COVID-19.

As I’ve been praying about where God is in all of this, I’ve gotten the vision of a seed. Just as a seed is planted in the darkness, hidden yet nourished by the dirt, at the proper time, the seed grows into a strong oak tree that cannot be shaken. Seeds are being planted in this season, and in due time, we will reap a harvest (Galatians 6:9). Here are some seeds I pray will take root in the world, even when life goes “back to normal.”

1. We Keep Washing Our Hands

This is an obvious point, but I’m not just talking about physically. This virus has taught us to be more aware of how our actions, attitudes, and illnesses affect those around us. “If one member suffers, we all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that we remember to practice purity in our words and our actions. That we can remember the power of life and death that rests in the tongue, and that we would choose our words carefully. Though we shouldn’t distance or isolate ourselves, we should be wise in what we share with others.

2. We Stay Home When We’re Sick

During the beginning stages of the quarantine, we received an e-mail from a local business about their protocol to handle the virus, “Employees who don’t feel well will be required to stay home.” My inward response to that was, Shouldn’t that always be the case?

I confess that I’m guilty of going to work even when I struggle to get out of bed. I’m guilty of being scared to call my boss and tell them I’m too sick to come into work. When I do take a day off, I try to justify why it was the right thing to do instead of embracing rest. But this virus has taught me that going to work sick doesn’t help anyone. Especially not me.

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that we would see that our lives are more important than our salaries. That we would have the courage to admit when we genuinely shouldn’t go to work or participate in that event. Though we shouldn’t cheat the system, we should use the PTO time (or even the non-PTO time) given to us by our employers to refresh and restore ourselves, so we can return from our breaks as healthy, hardworking members of the company.

3. We Make Time to Rest and Grieve

During this quarantine, we’ve lost a lot. Seniors in high school and college have missed a chance to participate in graduation activities. Sports events have been cancelled. Some people have important events, like birthdays, weddings, baby and bridal showers, and welcoming new family members into the world.

Loss happens in this world, but when “life goes on,” the pain and grief we feel often gets pushed to the side. We have to put on a happy face and keep going. It doesn’t give glory to God to power through our pain. We need to be authentic.

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that when we’re going through seasons of difficulty in the future, the world would be forgiving and let us reflect on what we’ve lost. But even when it’s not, that we would be bold in our tears and pain, knowing that our Lord holds our tears in a jar and is with us in the pain.

4. We Keep Up the Relationships We’ve Cultivated (Including With Ourselves)

In this season of quarantine, we’re getting the opportunity to see our loved ones up close and personal. I’m personally thankful for the chance to spend more time with my husband, who has been working from home instead of driving an hour each day into work. I’ve genuinely enjoyed the video chats I’ve been a part of and the chance to get to know my friends “face-to-face.” I’ve also found a new love for myself, discovering gifts and passions that had yet to be awakened because of lack of time.

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that we will become so saturated in love for our friends and family that meeting with them would never be a burden. May we be free from obligations and instead invest in where we want to be. Though we should still go to work and participate in the world, we should intentionally carve out time to sit with our friends outside and laugh at the memories created during the quarantine. And that we can recognize that self care is just as important as pouring into the lives of others.

5. We Wait on the Lord

The whole world is in waiting right now, begging for this virus to stop wreaking havoc on our land. While the day we see a break will be glorious, it will not signal the end of all waiting. There will be many seasons where we’ll be crying out to God just as loudly as we all now, our voices straining in desperation to be set free from this wait.

We were in that season of waiting for a house for a long time. After weeks, months, and years of prayers, saving, and sacrifice, we are driving to the bank to close on our first home. As we live in our new house, our new house, we will never forget the prayers we’ve whispered in desperation to God, the promises that He can do the impossible, and the faithfulness that carried us to see the fulfillment of those promises.

The same God who met us in our need is the same God who is with us now. And He’s the same God who will be with us the next time we’re in a season of waiting.

As a result of COVID-19, I pray that we never waste the wait. I pray that we lean into God and bring the deepest cries of our hearts to Him. Even though it hurts, I fully believe that God hears our prayers and He draws near to us as we draw near to Him. May we never take His presence for granted, even when we get everything back that we lost in this season of waiting.

Amen.


If you are interested in fiction stories, check out the short story I wrote this week about how I believe God is working during our global quarantine period. You can subscribe to my e-mail list to have an encouraging short story sent to you every Monday morning.

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
Marriage

Where is Hope Found?

In modern English, hope has become an empty word. For example, when one says, “I hope everything works out,” there is no substance behind those words. The hope is not based on facts, circumstances, or even prayers! Therefore, when Paul says Love always hopes, what does he mean?

I love learning other languages, so I’m thankful for the resources out there that can make Greek and Hebrew (the languages the Bible was originally written in) easy to understand! In Greek, the word hope is elpizó, which means “actively waiting for God’s fulfillment about the faith He has inbirted through the power of His love.” In this meaning, the hope has substance. Love always active waits for God to fulfill his promises.

We live in a culture that is generally negative. People always have a reason to complain, and they take every chance they can to voice their critical opinions to us. Hope is a rare commodity.

However, Biblical hope has even more substance than the positivity that we crave in our world. In Romans 8, Paul talks about Biblical hope. The same word elpizó is used in this text to describe our expectation of God fulfilling His promise to redeem the world:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:22-24).

This entire chapter of Scripture has been viewed as a champion chapter for believers. We know through Romans 8 that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (v. 1). We know that God has adopted us as His children, removing our fear of man (v. 15). We know that God’s Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God (v. 16). We know that we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us (v. 37). We know that nothing can separate us from God’s love (v. 38-39).

If this doesn’t instill hope in believers, I don’t know what does!

Although this was a fun Bible lesson, this post is on marriage. How can we hope in marriage? In my opinion, when we have a heavenly perspective, nothing else matters. When we know that we already have the best future waiting for us in the next life, when we know that we can live fulfilled lives by walking with God’s Spirit and obeying His Word, when we know that we will all be united as one body at the resurrection, suddenly my problems don’t seem so big anymore. Suddenly, I don’t care about how much money  we have in the bank or in our retirement. Suddenly, I don’t care that my husband leaves his dirty dishes in the sink. Suddenly, I don’t care that I’ve been having trouble losing weight. Because in the end, everything will work out, in the most beautiful and glorious way that any of us could ever hope.

I know a few of my readers have experiences way worse than the ones I’ve mentioned, like trying to conceive or facing bankruptcy or dealing with affairs. I don’t want you to think that I’m downplaying your trials. However, I do believe more than anything else that God is bigger than any trial you may be facing. At the end of the day, when you place your life in His tender loving care, He will see you through your storm. Right now, I know, the pain is unbearable and the storms make everything so unclear. Yet, when you look back on your life, those difficult trials that you face together (Paul describes them as momentary afflictions in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18) will be like a bad hair day.

The hope that Christ offers us is an anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:19). Anchor your marriage in the hope of Jesus Christ, and He will see you through every storm.


Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Categories
Book Update

Book Update: My Journey at reNEW

Nine thousand, one hundred, and seventeen.

That’s how many pages I had written toward my third rewrite of my book.  By hand.  All my book needed was time, character development, and a meaty storyline.  I’m pretty sure God gave me all of that when I went on this retreat a few weeks ago.

I’d signed up for reNEW (retreat for New England Writing) over the summer.  One of my friends from church invited me after she saw that I wanted to pursue a career as a writer.  The three of us from church who traveled together on Columbus Day Weekend did not know what to expect.

I’d already told you about what I learned spiritually and emotionally.  You’ll be amazed to know what I learned vocationally.

The retreat took place at Holy Family Retreat Center in West Hartford, Connecticut.  Having been built in the early 1950s, this retreat center has served as a source of hope, recovery, and a renewed love for Jesus Christ.

Believe it or not, this is what my book was missing!

As you know, my book is about a young woman who struggles with anxiety and learns to deal with the wounds from her past.  My book started as a testimony of how God healed me of anxiety.  Because I wanted to minister to a non-Christian audience (so that they can also find freedom from anxiety), I made God a symbolic, ambiguous character in the story.  When people read the story (even Christians!), they had no idea that the King was supposed to serve as the God character.

Before going on this retreat, I had been wrestling with how much of God I should put in my book.  On this retreat, I learned that God should be where he always was in my life, my marriage, and my writing: right at the center.  After walking through the Stations of the Cross, I could imagine my character walking along the trail, seeing her anxiety through the eyes of her Savior who literally moved Heaven and Earth to save her.  That experience brought healing not only to my soul, but to the soul of my main character, Tori.

If you never read anything from me again, may this message stick with you: Jesus Christ died for all of our sins, defeating death and all that it entails, and rose again three days later, carrying with him the hope of eternal life.  We think that eternal life begins when we die.  Well, we die when we surrender our lives to Christ, and He gives us new life right now.  And that’s how I was finally able to understand how to overcome anxiety, when I realized how dead I was before Jesus came and breathed new life into me.  Now my anxiety has no power over me.  And that’s the message behind my book Kingdom of Truth (title pending).

I’m thankful for the people who made reNEW possible.  I’m so blessed to have met some wonderful ladies who are now encouraging me in my writing and are giving me some interesting material to read as well!  I felt like I was a spark plug in need of an outlet, and this retreat truly helped me get connected and revived.

Now that I’m back to “the real world,” please pray that I would take the time to really invest in this book.  I have very little free time in my schedule, and when I actually have time, I’m tired and just want to curl into a ball and drink some tea.  But the desire to write has been burning within, even more now that I’ve attended this retreat.  My goal is to finish the book by the end of this year.  I’m celebrating each time I write even a hundred words (a paragraph) a day.

Thank you all for your support and prayers!


Photo courtesy of Green Chameleon on Unsplash.

 

Categories
Marriage

Marrying into the Family

Growing up, I was always proud to say that I am one of seven children.  Now, I can proudly say that I have one husband, one sister-in-law, three brothers-in-law, two significant others of siblings that are like family to me, three brothers, three sisters, two grandmas, three moms, three dads, nine aunts, six uncles, twenty-two first cousins (that includes one that will be joining the family soon!), at least four second cousins, three nephews, and two nieces.

We have marriage to thank for that.

They say that when you get married, you don’t marry one person; you marry the whole family!  I had never anticipated having in-laws.  To be honest, I thought that either my husband was going to simply get absorbed into my family, or we were going to live in our own bubble in a different state or country.  Little did I know that I wouldn’t only be inheriting another set of parents, but a boat load of family members!

Remember when I told you that I’m one of seven?  Well, my mother-in-law is also one of seven.  So, mathematically speaking, my family doubled the minute my husband and I exchanged vows.  My siblings also married, so I have in-laws within my own “blood” family as well.  It is such a blessing that I consider all of my family members family, despite the fact that we’re not all blood related.

This family dynamic might sound like a sit-com to you, but it actually is a miracle. God used our family to show my husband and I that we were meant for each other.  When I first told my mom that “I met someone,” she instantly burst into tears.  “I have been praying for your husband for years,” she sobbed, “and now he is finally here!”  At the time, it seemed a little dramatic, but her acceptance of my then-boyfriend made it easier for me to date him.  In addition to that, I met my mother-in-law before I even met my husband!  She tells me to this day that the moment she met me, she knew there was something special about me.  My dad met my husband before I did too!  He helps usher at church, and he remembers walking my husband and his family to their seats.  The fact that our parents accepted us individually, positively affected our relationship.

Our extended family also eased the atmosphere.  We may do things totally differently, but when we’re together, it’s like we’re, well, family.  I first met my husband’s extended family on his twenty-first birthday, before it was even announced that he was interested in me (or maybe everyone knew besides me, I don’t know), his family was already showing me love and acceptance.  My husband also passed the test of my side of the family.  My siblings liked him right away, and my nieces and nephews joked around with himm which is their way of saying, he’s on the team!  My husband and I are thankful that, although we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything with our family members, they are all close to us.

When there are moments we don’t get along, however, my husband and I do what we can to maintain our unity.  While family can be a bridge that helps you grow closer to your spouse, some family members can also try to disturb your relationship with your husband.  As Romans 12 says, do whatever you can to live at peace with everyone; however, make sure that your marriage is united.  You might have to set some boundaries to preserve your marriage, but do whatever you do in love.

Families don’t come in neat packages.  They come in all different shapes and sizes, with a plethora of personalities that cannot be contained.  Some family members might offend you, while some might become some of your best friends.  No matter what your relationship is like with your in-laws, my prayer is that you would see that in-laws are just more people with whom you have the opportunity to give love and receive love.


Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash

Categories
Marriage

5 Gifts You Can Give the Newlyweds You Love

Marriage is two people with two different pasts, likes, dislikes, hurts, family traditions, work habits, personality types, cravings, and desires, trying to live together in harmony.  I don’t even have harmony with myself sometimes; how can I have harmony with another person who isn’t even like me?  Glory to God, for only He can take a cube block and a rectangle block and make them both fit inside a cylinder block.

Having gone to several weddings over the years, and having seen many a couple get engaged and get married, I realize how much a marriage is affected by the environment in which it grows.  Friends and family can literally make or break a marriage, especially if the husband and wife do not adopt a team mentality.  I’ve seen friends bet on how long the couple would last together, during the pair’s first dance!  I’ve heard family members tell wives that their husbands are dirty lowlifes who do not deserve to be married to them, and those wives have gone on to divorce their husbands.  Do you want to help your newlywed friends/family have a miraculously successful marriage, or do you want to watch them crumble and fall right before your eyes?

If you want to be the one to encourage a godly relationship instead of try to tear it apart, here are the best gifts that you can give newlyweds during their first few years of marriage:

  • Prayer: Even though I’ve only been married for a little less than eight months, I already know that the hand of God is on my relationship with my husband.  God has literally stopped us from fighting just after we prayed.  True wisdom comes from knowing and obeying God.  To help us out, send us an encouraging Bible verse, and pray for us.  I’m sure that we can speak for a lot of couples when we say that we have prayer requests!  If you want to help us out, close your eyes and bow your head in prayer to God.  And be around to watch what God does because of your prayers!
  • Support: Divorce and separation seem to be the norm these days.  Although we can’t fix every marriage, I know for certain that trashing a marriage with our words definitely does not help it last!  Talk nicely about the newlyweds you know.  They’re trying to figure it out, and the last thing they need is for you to tell them that they are doing it all wrong.  What they need instead is for you to tell them that life is a process, and that eventually, they will figure it out (and while they figure it out, go back to point #1 and pray for them!).  And if either of them–which could be your son/daughter, sibling, or best friend–come to you to tell you something bad the other one did, do not take it personally!  Although you want to protect your loved one, you need to protect the commitment that he/she made to the love of his/her life.  Support for the marriage can be the best gift you can give the ones you love.
  • Patience: The most difficult part of marriage for us has been keeping up with all of our families.  We both have big families, and all of our family members are scattered across the tri-state area and beyond.  Every holiday, the question stands: Where are we going?  Of course, all of our family members want to see us, but it is literally impossible to have all of our family members together under one roof…and I don’t want to spend every holiday running around so that everyone else is happy while I’m a tired nervous wreck.  One of these days, I even want to spend a holiday with just the two of us!  So we have to compromise, and that usually means telling one side of the family that we can’t see them.  And we hate that, so so much. We are trying to make time for everyone, but there are only so many hours in the day.  Have patience with us.  We will reach out to you when we can.
  • Example: I am a firm believer in practicing what you preach.  Do not try to give me marriage advice without showing me how that works in your marriage.  But on a more positive note, if your marriage is working out, tell me why it’s working out. In a society that promotes divorce and separation, we want to see proof that marriage can end in a happily ever after.
  • Space: When newlyweds are in that honeymoon stage, all they want to do is spend time with each other.   This is not only important physically, but also emotionally.  When I’m at work, I sit at my desk and think about how I can’t wait to go home and talk to my husband about my day.  We usually play a game or watch a TV show or eat dinner together after a stressful day at work.  Although it’s hard to be “replaced” by your son/daughter/best friend/sibling/cousin’s spouse, this phase (I’ve heard) does not last forever.  It’s not that we don’t care about you; it’s that we need time for our relationship to grow.  So please, encourage us to spend time together, and watch our love flourish.  We will come to you (I say that from my own experience; on this point, I cannot speak for all couples).

Thank you for taking the first step in supporting the newlyweds that you love! Newlyweds, let us know if there are any other gifts you would like to add to this list.

Categories
anxiety

The Thrill of True Hope in a Holy Night

“You better watch out, you better not cry. You better not pout; I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town.”

On Christmas Eve, my sister and I would run up the steps and bang on the front door to Grandma’s house. Grandma would open the door to her warm, carefully-decorated house, and as we thawed from the wintry cold she would click her tongue and regretfully inform us that, just like every year, we had just missed Santa Claus.

We little girls knew that even if we missed him, he had brought us presents. After dinner, we would rip open our presents and enjoy the thrill and anticipation of each new box. My hope was in knowing that there were still plenty of boxes to unwrap.

All around me, cameras would flash and conversation would erupt over the latest news and the funniest jokes of the season. My family members would coo over the gifts I received.

Finally, my hands would grab the final gift under the tree. I would slowly rip off the paper, savoring the last bit of excitement of the evening. I would open the box, and the fun would be over.

With the last present opened, the party would cease. Family members would rub their eyes and call it a night. We would all hug each other, pack up our cars with new stuff, and go home.

Each year, I would go home feeling empty. Did we really wait all year just to go over Grandma’s house, open a few presents, and that’s it? After all that anticipation, I didn’t even get to meet Santa Claus.

“He’s making a list. He’s checking it twice. He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. Santa Claus is coming to town.”

I did the best I could to be a good child. If I really thought about it, I didn’t know what was good or bad, and I didn’t know what Santa Claus really thought of me. I just did whatever my parents told me.

The fact that I received presents every year confirmed that I was doing something right. Still, I didn’t think a few nice presents were worth following a bunch of boring rules.

What I really wanted was some love and attention. I wanted to be noticed not just for what I did, but for who I was. I wanted a reward that satisfied me. Santa Claus could only offer me toys that made me happy for a few days.

“He sees you when you’re sleeping; he knows when you’re awake.  He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!” 

Someone, somewhere, was watching me. I had a perfect image to uphold. If I made a mistake, that would be the end. And that someone watching me would remember my mistake forever.

Around Christmastime, kids care if Santa Claus is watching. But ONLY during Christmastime do they care. I have never gone to the beach on a hot July day and heard a parent threaten her kids with the notion that they may not get Christmas presents.

All year round, kids need constant attention and tender loving care. They don’t need a list of rules to follow; they need a loving protector who will watch them and guide them.

At the age of twelve, I met the One who I needed. For my whole life, I had thought that this someone was like Santa Claus, waiting for me to mess up so he could stop giving me presents. I thought He was distant and that He hated me. I thought He could never love such a stupid worthless failure like me.

But I was wrong.

“O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.”

As a child, I knew that story of Jesus coming to Earth. That was all it was to me, a story. As I learned the Christmas story in church, I didn’t know that one day this story would change my life.

As I entered into my tween years, I tried to control my life. In the end, I developed an anxiety disorder and lost complete control of my body and the world around me. Looking back, everything was chaotic.

I tried to make sense of it all.  I tried to express how I felt. I was surrounded by people, but I was all alone.

I desperately needed help. I would sob alone in my room, looking up at the stars brightly shining in the sky, begging someone to hear my prayers.

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘til he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.”

When I was twelve, my dad dragged me to church to attend youth group with people my age. On that night, I heard the Christmas story in a way that I had never heard it before, in a way that completely transformed my life.

The story went like this: God humbly left His heavenly throne to become a small baby that would grow up and learn about human struggles. He would heal people and share about how much God loved them. He would die a death that He did not deserve so that we could have access to God again. He would rise from the dead to prove that He is stronger than death.

Jesus came to Earth to show how much He loved us, not to show how high and unattainable He was. On that night, I accepted Jesus as my Savior. My pastor taught us a prayer, and I believe God heard it.

God showed me who He really was. He cared about me and looked out for my well-being all year round. He forgave my sins, and even though I still make mistakes, he reminds me every day that He loves me too much to hold my sins against me.

After choosing to follow Him, I’ve learned that I am valuable. Since He appeared, my soul has felt its worth.

“A thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

Since I made the decision to follow Jesus, each Christmas means something to me.  We exchange gifts, and I remember the most special gift I have ever received.

Instead of feeling empty, I feel complete. Instead of feeling alone, I know the ever-present God is with me. Instead of longing for more, I remember that God is everything I need.

The past broke me and made me forget my worth, but today is a new day, a new and glorious morning.

“Fall on your knees, and hear the angel voices: O night divine, O night when Christ was born.”

What if Christmas meant more than opening gifts and waiting for Santa Claus to show us whether we have been good or bad? What if God really did come to Earth? How would your life be different if you truly believed that Jesus came to this Earth to give you hope, to fill you completely and to show you your true worth?

God came to your world to show you how much He loves you. He is offering you a free gift that will satisfy your soul. You have a choice: will you accept it, or will you be content with that small thrill of anticipation year after year?


Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

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Conclusion: Choose Joy

I said all the prayers they asked me to pray. I went to counseling sessions, and my counselor told me that I had a very good understanding of myself (basically telling me that I didn’t need a counselor).  I took anti-anxiety medication, ate healthy food, and exercised daily.  But at the end of the day, I was still anxious.  I thought that I had failed God, since everyone told me that anxiety was a sin.  I thought that God had failed me, since everyone told me that God is a healer and does not let his children suffer.  After a whole journey of faith, after having God strip me of everything that I once held dear so that I could cling to him, I still woke up in a panic.  Didn’t God want to heal me?  Didn’t he see how much I was in pain?

The night before I went on a retreat, I did not get any sleep. Irrational thoughts, that I knew were irrational, raced through my head.  What if the retreat center is on a mountain and I can’t breathe because of the thinness of the air?  What if I get food poisoning?  What if someone drops me off and then forgets to pick me up?  What if the other women in my room do not like me?  What if I end up having to share living space with a difficult person?  On and on, the ridiculous thoughts came.

I gave up on my attempt to sleep.  I sat up in my bed. “God, I don’t get it.  I’m doing everything right. I know these thoughts are wrong.  I have trusted in you, I have prayed, and I have given you everything. What are YOU doing?  Why are you making me suffer like this?”  I felt like God was asking me, “Do you trust me?”  I had to think about it.  God had been faithful throughout my entire life.  Why would he be unfaithful now, when I needed him the most?  Maybe he had a greater plan than what I had planned.

The next day, a group of us left for the retreat center.  The ride was pleasant, as the people in my car were optimistic.  We appreciated every aspect of the ride there, even when we got lost.  When we arrived, our friends were there to greet us and encourage us.

At the end of the retreat, I was not healed of anxiety.  Instead, God blessed me with joy.  I was so excited to have joy that I forgot about being anxious.  I realized that anxiety was a choice.  Although it feels overwhelming, we can choose not to let anxiety win.  I was waiting for anxiety to just stop; I was waiting for God to heal me.  Instead, God wanted me to fight against anxiety.  Those irrational thoughts did not come to me for the first time that night.  I had established a thought pattern that resulted in anxiety when I was a child.  It took me to my breaking point to fight against those thoughts I believed.

I learned that when I feel overwhelmed, I can choose joy.  At a very appropriate time in my life, my friend’s mom gave me a book that reminded her of me.  It was a devotional by Tommy Newberry, called 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life.  This book has helped me put the rubber to the road and fight anxiety with joy.  Just like anxiety is a choice, joy is a choice.  Newberry writes: “The word emotion is 86% motion.”  Emotions are caused by choosing to think a certain way.  The choice is ours: do we choose to focus on thoughts that give us anxiety, or do we choose to be free in joy?

Sometimes, when I feel a panic attack coming along, I just put on an encouraging song and I start dancing.  By the end of the song, my anxiety looks so insignificant.  When I’m not in a position to dance, I will color, write, or spend time with friends.  Since I recognize that I have a choice over my emotions, I no longer allow myself to think irrational thoughts.

Emotions don’t have to just happen; you can be proactive in your thinking and in your feeling.  Choose to believe what God says about you.  Choose to believe the truth.  Choose joy, and you will overcome anxiety.

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Trying on New Clothes: You Can’t Go Around It

Transitions are those moments in life that are in between two seasons.  In a lifetime, one has many seasons.  In college, these seasons are packaged tightly into neat packages called semesters.  After college (for me), seasons are more disorganized, and transitions are more drastic.

Transitioning from a college student to a…well, a non-college student…has been difficult.  It seems like I had let go of so many great opportunities after I had walked across that stage.  At the same time, I now have access to even greater opportunities that lie ahead of my path.  I said goodbye to some wonderful friends, only to say hello to new co-workers and deeper relationships with people I knew before college.  It has felt like trying on new clothes.  The clothes feel clean and refreshing, but there was nothing wrong with my old comfortable clothes.  At this point in my life, I am trying to discover what to wear, what to throw out, and what to save for later.  As I grow, the clothes that were once comfortable may become itchy, worn out, or tight.

Transitions between seasons are difficult, but they are worth it.  They can come in numerous forms, from graduation to getting a job promotion to losing a loved one.  The temptation is to try to avoid transitions.  It is possible to go from one season to another without taking the time to grieve what was lost, process what was gained, and make a plan for the future.  However, inevitably, you will hit a bump in the road and will have to go back to deal with what you did not process before.

Journey with me as I process through my transitioning from a college student to whatever else God has for me.  This time in my life is different, because I have never done it before, but I believe that there is hope at the end of this.  Life is a process that takes time to unfold, and we need to take the time to understand what we are facing.  I am thankful for those who have taught me the importance of reflection, grieving, and hope.  I hope that this blog series will not only help me verbalize my feelings, but will also encourage anyone else who is moving from one stage of life to another.