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
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
Marriage

what about me?

Over the summer, we’ve seen so many of our friends and family go through various life events, including buying houses and having children. We are genuinely happy for them. We know some of their stories, and the hard work and grace it took to get to where they are today, and we are so proud of them and so thankful to God for His faithfulness. But, although I still don’t want these things yet, as strong as my contentment is, the temptation is still there to want what everyone else has.

What about me?

If you feel overlooked because of your waiting period, here are some ways that I’ve learned to find contentment in this season:

  • Think about what you have. Last week, I struggled with contentment, and with the belief that I’m not enough. I realized how many people have what I want, and how I just can’t seem to get there. When I prayed, God asked me to focus on what I have instead of what I don’t. Later, in the car, Lauren Daigle’s “You Say” came on the radio. The first line of the song? “I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough.” In that moment, God showed me that He sees me and He knows me. He asked me to focus on what I have, and what I have, no matter what season I am in, is His Presence. He is always with me, no matter what I have, no matter how I feel. Do you have the assurance of God’s continual presence? If you struggle with contentment, take some time to think about how God has been faithful to you.
  • Celebrate those around you who have what you want. You may feel like you’re not enough or you don’t have enough, but you have everything you need. Often, we need to step outside of ourselves and give ourselves a little pep talk. David did this all the time in the Psalms, when he would command his soul to bless the Lord (see, for example, Psalm 103). His soul didn’t feel like blessing the Lord all the time, but he knew it was the right thing to do. Sometimes, we have to fight to do the right thing. It is right to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. When your friend tells you good news about what is happening in her life, be happy for her, even if it is exactly what you wanted.
  • Talk about it and pray with a friend. Contentment truly is a fight in this progressive, ever-changing world. But we don’t have to fight alone. My husband has been my number-one partner in fighting against contentment. I often add my own fears to the situation, but my husband, the voice of reason, helps me see what is real and what is simply based on what’s inside my own head. Thankfully, I also have friends who understand me, who can also get inside my own head and my heart and feel what I am feeling. Those friends have prayed for me and have helped me love where I am in this season.

The final point is to remember your prayers. I had asked God for a chill year this year.  (Please, no major life events in 2019!). Witnessing how good and faithful He has been these last couple of years, I know He could give me a brand new house, an army of kids, and a super-successful business in the snap of His finger, but He was faithful to answer the deepest prayer of my heart: rest. Help me find meaningful rest. These last couple of years have been like a whirlwind, and I’ve barely had time to process it all. I realize that this season is so essential for me, because, when I do have all those other things, I will need to know how to find meaningful rest.

What have you been asking God for lately? What is truly the deepest desire of your heart? Remember what you prayed for, and believe that God is working on it!


Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash

 

 

 

Categories
anxiety

The Teacher is Here and is Looking for You

Waiting does not come easy for me.  Thoughts rush to my head about what could happen rather than what is currently happening at the moment. I think about all the different scenarios and try to get a plan based on where I think things are going.

Waiting prolongs the process. Waiting interrupts my rhythm. Waiting is not fun.

Jesus had a different perspective on waiting. The story of Lazarus (John 11) serves as a great reminder when I am suffering with anxiety caused by waiting for my plans to produce fruit. In the waiting process, God is growing my faith and redeeming the brokenness of my heart.

Jesus grew the faith of Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus had died.  He waited four days after Lazarus had died to come visit them. I’ve heard the reason for this is that the Jews believed a soul hovered over the body for three days before going to Sheol. So at this point, Mary and Martha believed that their brother was gone.

When Jesus casually strolls up to see Martha, her response is blunt and honest: “If you were here, my brother would not have died.” Although it looks like she’s reprimanding Jesus for not being at her side when her brother was sick, she is actually exercising great faith in that she knew He could have healed her brother. She also was honest with how she felt. She wasted no time with pleasantries as she expressed her sadness and anger at Jesus’ obvious delay in helping her brother. Jesus has a conversation with her that grows her faith, and as you’ll see later in the story, He ends up fulfilling the desires of her heart.

But lately, God taught me something special about this story, the beautiful news that is for me and for you. Martha went to find her sister. I noticed that Mary, the one who had sat at Jesus’ feet, the one who had chose “what was better,” did not meet Jesus when He came to visit. She was at home. Does that mean she had chores to do, that since Jesus had disappointed her that she wasn’t eager to sit at His feet? Does that mean that she was speaking to those who had come to give their condolences? We’re not completely sure, and I may be reading a lot into it, but she demonstrates a different attitude from how we had seen her earlier in the gospel of John, sitting at His feet and soaking up His words.

Mary is about to hear the news that could melt her heart of stone.

When Martha looked for her, she said: “The Teacher is here and is looking for you.” Jesus, the one who had taught Mary how to trust in God, was looking for her. He wanted her to sit at His feet again. Only this time, He would be teaching her through example.

Even when we are obedient to God, diligent to sit at His feet and learn from Him, He still may have a waiting period in His plan for us. In the midst of our waiting, God is right there with us. The one who teaches us is waiting for us to trust Him. The one who loves us is looking for us as we wander around, waiting for our next step. He is waiting for us to sit at His feet again. He is waiting to grow our faith. He is waiting to do the impossible in our lives.

As we all know, Jesus does the impossible for Martha and Mary. He brings back Lazarus from the dead. Despite their lack of faith, and despite the fact that Lazarus had been dead for several days, Jesus is able to perform this wonderful miracle.

What are you waiting for? Let me encourage you that nothing is out of God’s ability. Jesus, the teacher, the one who wants you to grow from this experience, is here, and he is looking for you. Put yourself in a position where He can find you. Sit at his feet, and listen to his teaching. It is only a matter of time before He will do the impossible in your life.


Photo by Stephen Blenman on Unsplash

Categories
anxiety

When to Go and When to Stay

As a young person (under the age of 30), a huge source of anxiety has come from when to take the next step.  When do I get married?  When do I move?  When do I take that job?  When do I have children?  The instant gratification world that we live in answers all these questions with right now.  Do what makes you happy right now, no matter what it costs.

However, when we follow God, we have to ask ourselves, and God, the question: What does God want for my life?

Our default answer with God is to wait.  Most of the time, in the Bible, God asks His people to wait.  Joseph had to wait 40 years before his childhood dream of ruling would come to fruition.  The Israelites had to wait 400-plus years to be set free from their slavery in Egypt.  Paul the apostle had to learn and grow for several years before he began his missionary journey, and he had to wait several years in jail for God to be glorified in his situation.

Despite these valuable stories, I believe that some people use “the call to wait” as an excuse not to have the faith and the courage to move forward.  We think that just because we are comfortable that we are in God’s plan for our lives.  But behind closed doors, we worry that God will call us out of our comfortable lives and allow us to experience inconvenience.

There is a time and a season for everything. We are called to enjoy each season but to trust God with every season. We cannot wait and say that we are currently enjoying this season and do not want to move on to the next one. We cannot tell God that it is inconvenient to move right now. God gives us peace, and when we don’t feel His peace, we know it’s time to change something.

And once we change according to his will, he gives us peace, and that peace is beautiful.

Through much of this blog, I have gone through several transitions in jobs, living situations, and relationship status.  Leaving what I can tolerate for something that can fulfill me is so difficult, but it has always been worth it.  I do not regret agreeing to my husband’s marriage proposal six months after knowing him.  I do not regret taking a job offer from my church the day I was sitting in my kitchen eating cereal, thinking I was going to be teaching English overseas in the near future.  I do not regret every opportunity God has pushed me to make a decision quickly, because when God leads me, I feel His peace.  When He pushes me and I don’t move, I feel a burden in my soul that cannot be quenched.

The Bible also includes times when God pushes His people to move.  God told Abraham, without warning, to leave his family behind and start a new legacy on Earth.  God spoke to Gideon to take an Israelite army against the Midianites, as Gideon was hiding from the enemy in a cave.  God told Cornelius to talk to Peter so that he could receive the gospel and find healing.  If any of those people had waited, God wouldn’t have been glorified in those situations in the way that He intended.

How do you know when it’s time to go and it’s time to stay? Well, I could give you practical tips. I could tell you step-by-step ways to know. But God doesn’t work like that. Sometimes his plan doesn’t make sense.  Seek God’s peace through reading His word and sharing your feelings with other people.  When you know it is time to move, you will know.  When it is not time to move, you will know that as well.  Whether God calls you to stay or to go, trust Him in the process.


Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

Categories
Book Update

(Quick) Book Update: While I’m Waiting

Thank you for all the support I’ve received from my friends on social media, at work, and in my Bible study.  Although I’m the one who wrote the book, my book would not go anywhere if it wasn’t for your encouragement and guidance. Ultimately, to God be the glory!

To update my followers on my blog, I just submitted my book to a literary agent.  This is the first step on having my novel published.  I should be hearing back from them within eight weeks.  Until then…I’m going to make the best of my time.

What are your thoughts on these activities that I can do in eight weeks?

  • Couch to 5K: I’ve heard about this app from a few people, but my friend just told me today that I can train my body to run a 5K in just eight weeks.  Challenge accepted?
  • Read: I read for entertainment, but I’d like to develop the art of writing book reviews.  What books do you recommend?
  • Blog: This is a definite.  I’m going to continue Marriage Monday, Wisdom Wednesday, and Throwback Thursday.  What other topics would you like me to discuss?
  • Go outside: I’m inside eight hours a day, five days a week.  I need to spend more time outside.  My husband and I just bought a pass for the beach that works on state parks as well.  Do you have any favorite outdoor activities?

Above all, I’m going to pray and entrust my time to God.  No matter what I do, my goal is to give Him glory for using my dream of writing a book as part of His plan for the world.  I look forward to how He will grow and shape this book, as well as my passion for writing, into a piece of art that will further His kingdom.

I’ll be writing several updates about my book as well, such as questions I’ve heard regarding it, my motivation for writing it, and the journey of my story.  If you have any questions, advice, or comments about my journey, feel free to comment below or message me on any of my social media sites.  (As you can see, I’d really like to be blogging more, so if there’s anything you’d like me to write about, let me know!).

Thank you again for all of your support and prayers!  Stay tuned for Marriage Monday’s post on why those you love hurt you the most.

 

Categories
Wisdom Wednesday

Stop Light

The following blog post is 99% metaphorical.

As I left the school today, I groaned at the time. 3:40.  By the time I hit the road, it would be rush hour, and there would be no chance of me getting home before 5.  The commute to the school is never that bad.  Sure, sometimes there will be an accident or construction on the road, but usually I make it to the school in less than an hour.  But for some reason, no matter what time I leave the school (especially during rush hour), I do not make it home at a decent hour.

I turned up the radio and drove to the main road.  I managed to get to the highway entrance without hitting any lights.  As I raced my car down the highway, I thought I actually had hope in getting home early.  Then, all of a sudden, there is a sea of red lights in my path.  Every car was completely stopped.  My car jolted as I slammed on the brakes, barely missing an accident with the car in front of me.  Well, there goes my opportunity for fun.  Did I mention I was thirsty, in desperate need of some watermelon?

If there was any chance of movement in the next lane, I would quickly change lanes to get at least a foot farther than where I was before.  I kept moving, I kept going, not being satisfied where I was.  But no matter where I moved, there was traffic in my way.  I couldn’t go far.  I had to simply stay put and wait for the traffic to end.

I rolled my eyes as each exit sign slowly passed by my view.  One exit closer, ten minutes later.  My mind replayed all of the people who have complained to me about rush hour in the past.  Honestly, it wasn’t as bad as some people have made it out to seem, but it still wasn’t a pleasant experience.  Thirsty, hungry, and tired, I could not even sing along to the music on the radio.

As I listened to the radio, the song “One Thing Remains” came on.  I decided to sing it out loud, because it talks about dealing with trials.  I sang each word, enunciating each consonant.  The traffic didn’t go away, but suddenly, I began to laugh at my predicament.  Here I am, sitting in a car, after having a great class with my students, having had the opportunity to practice what I have learned in my TEFL certification class, and I am complaining!  How long would I really be in the car, two hours at most?  Why would I let two hours ruin my whole day?

To cope with the rest of the ride, I did a few things to lighten the situation.  First of all, I continued playing music from a CD.  I used my steering wheel as a drum.  I found harmonies to the songs on the radio.  In the end, although I was by myself, I laughed at the ludicrousness of the whole situation.  I didn’t care if other people were watching me dance. As a matter of fact, I was hoping that my laughter and joy would catch on so that they had no reason to complain.

Secondly, I looked to the other side, to the people who were going in the other direction.  They really were at a dead stop, while we were at least crawling.  I know it’s bad to laugh at the misfortune of others, but I at least had to enjoy the fact that I wasn’t as unfortunate as the drivers on the other side of the road.

Finally, I thanked God when the road actually began to clear.  It would have been easy for me to say, “Well, it’s about time!”  However, I knew that, at that time in the day, the roads should have been jammed until my exit.  After all of my complaining and expecting, I made it home in a little over an hour.  I was home before 5.  God showed me mercy on this hot, thirst-inducing day.  All I could do was thank him that my experience wasn’t much worse.

Before I finally got home, there was a stop light that almost brought me over the edge.  There were at least ten cars waiting for the stop light.  Seriously?  I had one more little obstacle blocking me from making it back to my house.  Just as I was about to find a detour, I stopped myself.  I made it this far; why wouldn’t I stick it out until the end?  I waited a few seconds for the light to turn green.  I shifted into the turning lane and made it safely back to my house.

If you are dealing with a frustrating situation, how are you going to respond?  Are you going to complain and try to avoid it, or are you going to make the most out of it?  Wait it out, and see what you can learn from it.  Sometimes, we can’t avoid the traffic in our lives, but we can still dance in the midst of it and appreciate what we have.