12.27.2015

Set My Heart On Fire



 Start a fire in my soul
Fan the flame and make it grow
So there’s no doubt or denying
Let it burn so brightly
That everyone around can see
That it’s You, that it’s You that we need
Start a fire in me
Start a Fire// Unspoken
 
My soul yearns for a life of something more. It craves a fire, a flame so large and so impacting that it burns for all to see. Lord, let your love shine through me. Let my heart fill with compassion for the things You are drawn to compassion for. Make my heartbeat Your own. Breathe your breath of life and of love into my lungs, and let every breath that comes out of my mouth speak Your praise and glory. Use every word to lead people to You. Help me to forgive those who are hard to forgive, to love those who are hard to love, and to reach out to those who are hard to reach.

Lord, start a fire in me.

The words of Unspoken's song bring me to the feet of Jesus, reminding me of the purpose that I wish for my life to be rooted in. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are the light in a world of darkness. Sin abounds, sadness is unending, and grief is nothing less than apparent on this dark earth. But it is in the dark that people are drawn to the light, and it is through His people that the Lord places His light in their hearts. It is my prayer that my life is lived on fire for Him. It is my wish for Him to start a fire in my soul, fanning a flame that only grows larger and larger as every day passes by.

I constantly fail. Sin is inevitable. Falling away from the Lord's wants and wishes is likely to happen in our life, as we live in a battle between flesh and spirit. But His fire in our souls will never cease, if we cling onto Him daily. Let our passion for Jesus, the fire that He stirs in our souls, grow so large that everyone will notice when we walk in a room. Let the flame in our hearts be so evident that we begin to look like Him. To walk like Him, to talk like Him, to live like Him...will stir a sense of wonder in this world. A light shining in the darkness will attract, and before long, the light will grow.

Lord, let the flame in my heart grow so large that everyone will see that it is You that we need. Start a fire in me.

And use the fire in me to spark a flame in this world.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

12.25.2015

God With Us

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us."  Matthew 1:23

No doubt have the past few weeks been filled with the smells, sights, and sounds of Christmas. The scent of fresh cookies in the oven penetrate the homes of many. Presents pile up underneath the tree. The sound of joyful carols fill the air. People are a little kinder, a little more generous, a little more caring. Heaven meets earth for such a short season of the year. 

It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Yet God has been revealing to me more than ever before this Christmas season that this holiday holds a little more meaning than the presents and food, the music and happiness, the family and friends. It even goes deeper than just the pure celebration of His Son's birth. Yes, this holiday is truly about the birth of our King. However, I've been reminded again and again this year that Christmas is not only about His birth, but about the promise He fulfilled, and the promise that He still fulfills today:



God is with us.

Jesus, our Immanuel, our "God with us", walked this earth to be with US. He left His heavenly position as King of this world to step into this broken, sin-filled earth because He loves us. He came and humbled Himself to the most lowly position because He loves us. He was born in a manger. He was homeless. He was ridiculed and mocked. He died the most horrible death, yet He went to the cross so that sin would no longer be between us and our holy King. He came so that we could be with God. 

He walked this earth. He was with us. 

Today, His promise of the Holy Spirit has never left. He is still with us.

What a comfort it is to know that our King, the One who is higher than all kings and rulers of this earth, not only desires to be with us, but is with us! 

As we face the hurt and pain of this broken world, we can be assured that God is with us. Jesus dressed in flesh and bone so that we could be free. He came because His love for us is deeper than the comfort of Heaven and the shackles of sin and death. 

Today, He wants you to know that He is with you. That's what Christmas is really all about!

"...And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20

12.20.2015

Single & Not Ready To Mingle

Recently I wrote a post about guarding your heart from the impurities of the world, and keeping our hearts solely in the hands of the Lord.

I believe that our hearts have a major role in romantic relationships with others and that God has called each of us to protect and guard our hearts all throughout our lives. When our hearts are only in  His hands, we can trust that He will bring along the right spouse at the right time. Rather than searching ourselves and giving a piece of our hearts away to every guy or girl that comes along, it is so much better to let the Lord be the only Keeper of our hearts and to let Him work out the plans for our lives. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't necessarily "date" and only marry the first person we meet. Yes, maybe the first person we meet is the one that God has planned for us to marry, but there is also a good chance that the first person we meet is not the one for us. Rather, wouldn't it be better if we didn't spend all of our time as singles diving in and out of relationships, but using our time to serve and glorify Jesus Christ?

And if God brings along a person in the midst of a life devoted to Him, something beautiful will happen.

I know with certainty that the words that I'm writing will be considered foreign and strange to many of those who read this. I know that the majority of the world won't agree or follow the ways that I am writing about and that most may never see anything wrong with the modern ways of dating today. I am not writing to condemn you, to place any kind of guilt on your heart, or to necessarily say that dating is wrong. I am writing to share some ideas that the Lord has shared with me over the past few years. He began revealing many of these ideas several years ago and then confirmed and furthered along these ideas with a book by Joshua Harris, titled "I Kissed Dating Goodbye". Call me strange, but I am so, so glad that I have decided to not pursue dating during the teenage years and to wait on the one that God has for me in His right timing.

I am writing this post to share some of the ideas that God has given me, in the hopes of encouraging and inspiring others whom He has spoken to as well.

With that being said, I am single and not ready to mingle. Here's why:

 1. Above all else, GUARD YOUR HEART, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

Jesus has my heart. My heart is His, my life is His, and I have given the key to my heart, the wellspring of life, over to Him. Therefore, I have decided that my heart will beat for Jesus and that I won't let it beat for anyone or anything else. When impurities come and knock on the door of my heart, I must learn to stand firm in His love and keep the doors locked. When I guard my heart at all times, I am protecting all of my life, for every little thing I do stems from the condition of my heart. In order to truly love the Lord God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, I must protect my heart from all of the ways of the world, from any and every impurity that could creep in and clutter my heart. This may mean waiting to have a relationship in order to keep Jesus first. This may mean waiting on the one whom God has entrusted to help me protect my heart, a man who is willing to put Jesus first above everything. When my heart is guarded, I am protected from the impurities that are no doubt a part of many of today's relationships--lust, compromise, selfishness, sexual immorality, the heartbreak of a hard breakup--and I can live life freely for Christ alone. So run after Him. Seek Him only. Ladies, if God provides a man while living in step with Him, and he is willing to only pursue Jesus in order to pursue you, what a joy that would be!


2. TRUST IN THE LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Trusting in the Lord's timing may be difficult, but it's all so worth it. As I mentioned above, sometimes waiting for the right one at the right time is necessary in order to completely guard my heart and learn to keep Jesus first in everything. But in order to wait, I must trust that the Lord is working for good and that His timing is best. His ways won't always make sense. His will and ways surpass all understanding. But what I love about the character and ways of God is that they are rooted in His deep, never-ending love. So when He closes a door, He does it because He loves us. When He opens a door, He does it because He loves us. He can open doors that no man can shut and close doors that no man can open. He is good. So let's trust in His timing. Let's submit to Him completely. And by doing so, in the exact right time, when we are ready, we will know when we're prepared for a relationship. We will know when God has brought the right one along. It will be the best time.


3. There is a time for everything, and A SEASON FOR EVERY ACTIVITY under the heavens... Ecclesiastes 3:1

I believe that singleness is a season of life that God desires for me, and every one of us, to embrace. To be single is a wonderful gift that is so often looked down upon in today's society. Sadly, singleness is commonly viewed as a burden, rather than a gift. But for the majority who will marry, singleness will not last forever. It is a season that should not be taken lightly. It is the only time during our lives that we do not have to worry about the problems and stresses that come with marriage. We can use the time to fully focus on Jesus and grow closer to Him. It is a time to serve, to grow and mature, and to prepare to be a godly spouse. Why waste time off and on in relationships during the teenage years when I can be focusing on growing closer to Jesus? Why date for the fun of it when I can be using my time more wisely as I focus on my studies in school, or work, or anything else that God has brought into my life so far? Why not use this time wisely and prepare for the future? I need to learn how to cook a meal. I need to learn how to clean a house, how to drive a car, how to talk to people, and how to prepare to live life as I would in the future. There is no better time to attain these skills, to prepare for the future, and to focus and serve Jesus in the waiting years than now. Singleness is a gift.


4.  FLEE THE EVIL DESIRES OF YOUTH and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

So as I prepare to be a godly wife and focus on the season that God has me in right now, I want to set aside all the sinful desires of youth. I want to set aside the idea of dating for fun and I want to prepare myself for the day, if it's His Will, for me to walk into a relationship with intention: the intention to marry. Again, that doesn't mean that the first guy I meet will necessarily be the one I marry. Marriage is a lifetime commitment that should not be taken lightly. But rather, I should prepare to go into a relationship with someone who I could see myself marrying. I should have the intention of marrying if God so allows it in the process of the relationship. Once you enter into a relationship, I don't want to be the one to state exactly what you should or should not do, but I believe that it varies from couple to couple. So keep your standards high. Focus on friendships. Don't step outside of the boundaries created. Save intimacy for the God-designed institution of marriage. Learn to mature in your relationship with Christ and love and serve others. Serve with the one God brings to your life. See how they are in their best and in their worst. But seek Jesus first, and as you both continuously focus on Him, everything will fall into place.

I am single and not ready to mingle. As I focus on Jesus and guard my heart from the deadly effects of sin, as I trust in the Lord's timing and prepare in the season of life I'm in now to be the godly woman God has designed for me to be, as I live out relationships for the purpose of commitment rather than intimacy, one day God will reveal the right person under the right time and circumstance. There's no need to take matters into my own hands when His plans contain something so much bigger and so much more lovely than the ideas of romance movie scriptwriters.

Just trust Him. 

He is planning something beautiful.

12.16.2015

Wellspring of Life

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

Our hearts are a keepsake, reserved and special. It is the beat to our step, the life in our bones. It is at the center of all of life. When living in sin, our hearts become dirty and cluttered. The dirt of a heart cluttered with impurities prevents us from the very life we are called to live. 

But when Jesus comes along...something beautiful happens. The beauty of a special meeting with Jesus is that He takes all of our sins, all of the clutter, impurities, and dirt covering our hearts, and He cleanses it. His blood washes it new. His righteousness covers our own unrighteous-filled heart. He took the blame for our sins so that we could have a relationship with a holy God. Our hearts would always be dirty, if a Savior didn't come along and cleanse with blood. His sacrifice makes us new.

Image via Pinterest

That doesn't mean that we no longer sin. It just means that we no longer have to suffer the consequences of our sins, because He suffered the consequence for us on the cross. Yet we no longer live in consistent sin, for the purpose of our sinful tendencies and selfish ambitions. Once we give our lives to Him, He now has the source of life: our hearts. Our hearts are no longer our own. He has our hearts. He has our lives. When our hearts become His, we begin living for a higher purpose, and that calling is to bring glory and honor to Jesus in all of our lives. Our hearts become dead to sin, and alive in Him.


The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

The world says "follow your heart". Yet our very own hearts can be deceiving, as we battle between our sinful desires and the will of our Lord. Place your heart in the hands of the One who knows you better than you know yourself. Trust in the will and ways of Him, for He will not deceive. His plans for us are good. His ways are rooted in love. 

There are no safer hands for the Keeper of our hearts than the One who created it in the first place. He knows every hair on our heads, every word ever spoken, and every desire and dream. He truly cares. 

There is no one or nothing else worth living for. He is the Only One worth living for.

So guard your heart! Lock its doors, and give the key to God and God alone. When distractions, sin, or any impurity come creeping into our lives and advance upon the doors of our hearts, don't hand the keys over! Keep the keys in the safe hands of our Creator. He is the only One who knows our future, who knows our hearts. He is the Only One whom we can trust. He wants what is best for us. 

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23

When sin knocks on the door of your heart, keep it shut! Deceit may come. Fear may fill us. Pride may try to knock down our hearts' doors. Even distractions from a heart fully focused on God, such as giving our hearts to a guy or girl at the wrong time, may come. Don't open the doors. Don't take away the key from God. Focus on Him fully. Allow God to search your heart. Let Him test daily for impurities, and let His grace wash over your sin-filled heart on an everyday basis.

Our hearts are the wellspring of life. Our actions, our words, our thoughts, everything we do comes from the condition of our heart. Jesus wants our hearts. He wants our lives. When you put your heart in the hands of our loving Lord, we can live in the grace and love that He willingly gives to us daily. We will begin to resemble Him.

And to look like Jesus is a beautiful thing. 

12.13.2015

His Plan During The Tough Weeks

I just survived the toughest week of this semester.

Monday consisted of my first college final of the week along with a quiz in a separate college class. Lengthy homework assignments popped up, consuming my nights along with studying for finals. A final on Wednesday, another final on Thursday, a test on Friday. I was up until 2 am on a daily basis. In the midst of all of this, I endured some not-so-fun pain on Monday, hours before I would take my first final. Then, I faced the ACT Saturday morning.

Enough venting though! God is faithful. This week might have been long and oh-so-very stressful, but the Lord's love shined in all the dark places. God gave me a strength and a peace that is like no other. Finals came back with 100%s. Pain (from Monday's health issues) died down during the final and completely left by that night.  Everything was accomplished on time and with success.

I can say without any doubt in my mind that none of these victories would have occurred if it weren't for the Lord's hand in my life. He is good. And He never stops revealing His goodness to me. Never.

Yet this week wasn't entirely covered with victories. As I faced the ACT this morning, I was exhausted. I gave it my all though. I've studied when I could over the past few weeks. I tried hard to focus and accomplish a lot. But while I don't struggle as much with the questions, I struggle so much with timing. If you know anything about these college entrance exams, you know how much time they give you compared to the number of questions provided. I am not a good test taker when it comes to time. While I put most of my studying efforts on the two tests that I struggle the most with timing, I came back to the exact same problem this morning and still did not achieve much more than half of that subject's test.

However, I put the ACT in the Lord's hands. Maybe, just maybe, He'll need it for His plan. And if that's the case, I know with all certainty that He will provide a miracle, despite that I don't see a way. There is no limit to what He can do. But I know that He has good plans for me and that this test will not affect the doors He will open. If He needs it, He will provide. If He doesn't, the doors will still open.

I want to encourage every high school and college student that every test, whether it's the ACT/SAT or your college or high school finals, does not define who you are. Your score does not lower your intelligence or have any say in how bright you are. It does not determine the rest of your future, despite what anyone says. Most of all, it does not affect who you are: a child of God, a son or daughter of the One True King!

So prepare hard. Do your best. But give it over to the Lord. He will use your preparation and your skills to do great things. I've learned throughout this entire semester that when you give everything over to Him, He really does move. The good grades will come. I know that I could not have received all of these 100%s without His help. But even when the good grades don't come, He is still good. As for me, if He needs an extremely high ACT score to open a particular door, or particularly provide a certain scholarship, He will perform a miracle. But if not, the doors will still open. If I just follow His will and plan, that ACT score will not matter. It does not define who I am. It does not determine where I am going.

The same goes for you.



11.30.2015

Casting Out Fear

Image via Pinterest
Fear is crippling. It ruins and destroys, thwarting the peace and happiness of life. It consumes our thoughts and covers our hearts with a feeling that is sickening and so very unwanted.

Fear is awful.

In fact, fear is a tactic used by the enemy. It is used to pull us away from God and to doubt His presence and love. It is used to remind us of things we'd rather not think of. It is used to destroy the joy in our lives.

The devil may use fear to scare you, to cripple you, to hold you down...

But there is no such thing as a life with both faith and fear. The two cannot coexist. And by standing firm in faith, consistently pursuing the Word (where God says about 365 times "Do not fear!"), and by continuously trusting in the love of the Lord, we can stand protected by the enemy's tactics.

If you are living with any kind of fear tonight, stop and take a deep breath. Cry out to Him. Trust in the perfect love of the Lord.

His perfect love casts out fear.

And let me tell you, if you're wrapped in the arms of a perfect-loving God like that, you will be reminded that there is no reason to fear.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

11.25.2015

It Is Finished


Whatever battles you're facing, whether it's addictions, sicknesses, or fear, let me be the one to tell you tonight that you're not alone. 

You know that feeling like you've been somewhere before? That moment when the right words come along at the right time? The instant you meet someone and you know that it must be more than a coincidence? These all point to the movement of an Almighty God.

Because God is moving in your life. Not for just an hour, or a day, or even a few weeks. When you come to know Christ, He moves for a lifetime. When He does a work in your life, the LORD will finish what He has started. 

...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6

We all face multiple battles in our lives. We are all human. Humanity is flawed because of sin. There is no escaping it. We are all imperfect humans in need of grace, and that is why God's love is so beautiful. His loving hand reaches out to us, despite our imperfections. His arms are wide open, even when the battles we face are caused from our sinful nature. He makes something beautiful when we hand our own addictions and struggles over to Him.

And when we give it over to Him, He will finish what He begins. He will NOT stop working until it is done. It might take months, years, or even a whole lifetime. But God will finish what He has begun. In fact, Jesus left His home in Heaven in order for us to have eternal life through His sacrifice on the cross. He came to earth to die the most horrible death imaginable, in order that our sins could be forgiven. Despite the longing to escape this death, Jesus still went to the cross. As He took His last breath, He cried out, "It is finished!"

God finished the work that He began.

And the same God that finished His work through the cross over 2,000 years ago still finishes what He begins today.

Just a small battle I've always faced is shyness. I've always been shy since I was young, and while there's not anything necessarily wrong with that, it can become a problem when I begin to appear unfriendly or not wanting to make an effort with others. When you (unintentionally, of course) turn your head the other direction, avoid smiling, or never take the time to talk to others, you not only appear rude, but God's love is not shared.

I realized that this was becoming a problem about two years ago, and I gave my shyness over to God. I asked Him to help me overcome it, and for His love to shine through me.

It's been amazing to see what He has done. While I'm still shy, I definitely believe that I have become so much more outgoing compared to how I once was. While I once was too nervous to say hello, or start a conversation, or even add to a conversation, today I am able to do these things and more. And I know that it is a work that God is doing in my life, and a work that He still is not finished with yet. Through different encounters, He has helped me to gain more experience in talking with others. Most importantly, He has equipped me with His power to overcome this problem.

And whatever you are going through, God equips you with His power, with EVERYTHING you need, to overcome.

The same power that rose Jesus from the grave, the same power that determined victory, a finished work...
is the same power that is working in you. Give your addictions, your anxiety, your problems, over to Him. He will equip you and enable you to overcome. He will finish what He has begun.

He will make you new.
Image via Pinterest

On that day, when all the believers gather in Heaven and worship our King for the rest of eternity, every work that God has begun will be done. You and I will both be able to say the same words that Jesus said as He breathed His last breath:

"It is finished."
 

11.22.2015

Cast Your Cares

I cast my cares on the Lord. He is the One who calms my soul, who stirs peace and comfort in my heart. He listens with open ears to every word spoken. He delights in hearing from His children, and in revealing the oh-so-deep love that He has for us in our lives.

This week has been rough. With huge assignments and quick deadlines in my college classes, that was enough to stress me out. In the midst of all of this, college plans remain, minor health issues appear off and on, and my Dad is in a car accident (and praise be to God, because although his car was hit pretty hard, the Lord covered my Dad with angels!).


At the beginning of the week, I gave it all to God. And I can say with all honesty that He took care of me and filled me with strength and peace throughout the week. Although I was up until anywhere from 1-3:30 am every night, the Lord kept my eyes open and my strength rising, and I not only accomplished everything on time, but He brought success.

And when the unexpected hard times came, He still provided. He still covered my family and I with His angels and His great love.

While this week was rough, it was not a bad week. I had a supernatural peace in my soul, a comfort that could only come from the love of a God like the One I serve. He held my hand and walked me through everything. Each day, He reminded me to take one day at a time. And each day, He gave me strength to accomplish and to face every obstacle that came my way.

Cast your cares on the Lord, because He is the only One who can take your troubles and transform them into something beautiful. He makes beauty out of dust. He sees potential when you see stressful times ahead. He can, and will, help you with whatever you are facing.

Whatever you are going through, He is longing to hear from you. His ears are open and ready. Cast your troubles and cares onto Him. He loves you. He cares about you. And there is no one that can comfort and strengthen you in your trials the way that the Lord does.

Be still, and give it all to Him. He cares.


Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22

11.14.2015

Shhh...It's A Surprise!


From surprise parties to surprise visits to just the surprise of what's in the boxes under the Christmas tree, surprises bring a lot of excitement to an oftentimes already happy occasion. While surprises can be thrilling, they sometimes require a lot of patience during the waiting process, a trait that so many of us do not enjoy working on. What little kid wants to wait to open that huge Christmas gift under the tree, when we can open it now? We all know the feeling (especially, if you're anything like me as a child, you might've found a way to sneak a peek at some of your gifts early!), but we especially know the blessing a surprise gift can bring to our lives when we have the patience to wait for it, or even better, when we truly didn't know it was coming!

Surprises are good. Yet oftentimes in our relationship with God, we forget that.

We seek God. Sometimes the answer comes quickly. But more often than not, the answer doesn't come right away. We seek, we ask, but the door doesn't open. Frustration creeps into our hearts and we lose faith.

Does this sound familiar?

If this is you, don't give up. One of the things God has been reminding me again and again is that He LOVES surprises. He loves answering prayers in bigger and better ways than I ever expected. He enjoys giving good gifts to His children, especially gifts that He knows we'll love and cherish. In fact, Jesus told His disciples:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:7-11

Jesus said that when we ask, we receive. When we seek the Lord, we WILL receive. But Jesus never said that we will receive exactly what we want when we want it. God is too good of a Father to give us the thing we want when He has something better in store. 

Surprises never come at the expected time. God surprises us with exactly what we need when we need it, and it's usually not when expected. His timing and His loving gift will always be best for our lives. Yet too many times, we forget that. Too many times, we doubt His love, we lose faith, and we wonder whether God really loves us or whether He even exists.

But know this: When you keep seeking Him, He WILL provide. It may not be when you want it, but He works for the good of those who love Him, and it will come at just the right time. His timing is so much better than our own. And it is during this process that He strengthens our faith and our dependence on Him. We learn the fullness of the word "trust". We learn what it really means to seek, trust, and rely on the foundation of God and His love.

Image via Pinterest
As a senior in high school and a sophomore in college (through dual enrollment), the time is drawing near for me to decide what to major in and what college to go to after high school graduation. Sadly, I'm unsure. My main two considerations are going into Veterinary Science or Journalism (complete opposites, for sure!), but I'm open to other ideas as well. I have no idea what to do, and time is running short. But I've been seeking the Lord, and I'm learning to trust more in Him. No, I still don't know what to do, but He has been telling me recently to pray and wait. Just pray and wait, Alyssa. Pray and wait. I know that in His right timing, I will know. There's no need to worry when a good God is working on my side.




Don't stop seeking the Lord. He will provide. It may not be the door you're expecting, but the door will open.

Because I know from experience, our God is a good Father...and He loves surprises!


11.06.2015

Through My Eyes

Gandorf at Clay County Animal Control
I'm alone. Surrounded by the thunderous noise of the other residents, barking fills the room. I spend my nights alone, with no human to snuggle with, no human to feed me and love me. I live in this temporary place called the shelter, and it is my dream that I will be leaving here soon. I'm ready for a family. I'm ready to be loved. The shelter treats me nicely and I know I'm in good hands, but I am afraid. This place is scary. There are so many other animals, so many strange people going in and out, roommates fighting off and on. I just want someone to let me out. I crave freedom. I just want to be loved.


In the middle of all of this, these humans come in. I look out the bars of my kennel with sad eyes, hoping for a chance, for some love. Soon enough, I'm taken out! These humans, called volunteers, spend some time with me. After spending hours upon hours, and often days upon days, alone in this kennel, I'm finally given a chance to run freely, to play, and to be loved.

My past has been rough. In all the years of my life, I don't often experience love the way these volunteers have been providing to me. I rest my head against her hand. My mouth curves into a smile. My eyes couldn't stay open as the girl rubs my back and head. Heaven is brought to earth. There are no words to describe what I am feeling.




I've been dreaming of a forever family, someone who will give me the love that I so freely will give to them. I have been through a lot, but I will look forward. Many humans don't act with love and kindness. They throw us out of trucks and leave us to die. Others have been given up by their owner, just because they are no longer wanted. We come in injured or with a broken heart.

Touch is beautiful. Just the petting of a dog can bring so much hope. Just dedicating some time out of a heart of compassion can change lives. Just being present can transform situations. Sometimes, when one is alone, just a simple touch in the midst of loneliness can brighten a day. Touch is a God-given gift, and the result of pure compassion is transforming.

I know, because of the love that the group of volunteers has shown me. Love is a beautiful, transforming thing. And I know that my day is coming, a day where I will be asleep in a comfy bed, in a house surrounded by other humans who will wrap me up in the arms of love.

That day is coming soon. I just know it.

Sincerely, Gandorf & his friends at Clay County Animal Control

11.02.2015

Who Are You?

Who are you?

   All throughout our lives, especially during the teenage years, we seek to find out "who we truly are". We look to the things of this world, our circumstances, and what we believe our mind and soul to look like and we find a label and place it upon ourselves. We find what we believe defines us. The problem with that is that if the label is good, those things will fade. This world is dying day by day. Satisfaction because of the things on this earth is only temporal. If the label is negative, we depress our soul and live out a lie. We live bound to a certain sin because we believe the sin defines us, when it really doesn't.

   Once we meet Christ, our identity does not, and should not, rest in the things of this world anymore. We are no longer a slave to our sins. We are no longer defined by our success, our riches, our fame, our popularity, our outgoing nature or athletic ability, even our intelligence--but we are defined as a child of the One True King. We are defined as a son or daughter adopted into God's family and one who is greatly and forever loved and cherished by the God of the universe. Every other identity will fade away, but being labeled as a child of the King is eternal. Our God is eternal, so by resting in His Name alone, our identity will never falter. He will never leave us. He will never change His mind and take away His gift of salvation. The gift of Christ on the cross is done. There is no going back. Christ's blood spilled out for us, and we are no longer bound to our sins any longer. His grace covers us, and an identity of a heart covered by His righteousness will never leave. His death is enough.


2 Cor. 5:17. Image via Pinterest



So if you're struggling in school, you're not a 'failure'. You are NOT defined by the grades you make or the intelligence you possess.

You are NOT defined by the clothes you wear, the amount of makeup you use, or the brand of shoes you buy.

You are NOT defined by the amount of money you make, the amount of expensive items you own, or whether you have the latest Iphone.

You are NOT defined by your past or the sins you carry or once carried.

No, you are defined as a loved and cared-for child of God!

  If you're stuck in a certain sin and feel like God could never forgive you or love you, remember that Christ's death is enough. His grace is sufficient for all of our sins. You are not defined by your past any longer. Give it to the Lord and let it go. In Christ, we are a new creation, saved by grace. We no longer live like our old selves, but as our new selves, dressed in the righteousness and love of Christ.

  In fact, when Jesus met with those burdened by the weight of their sins, they never once left Him the same as they were. They walked away with a new identity, a new life ahead. When a woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus by the teachers of the law and Pharisees, Jesus didn't condemn. Rather, He put it upon the hypocritical, "self righteous" Pharisees to decide whether she should be stoned---with the question of whether they were without sin or not.



Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said.


“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11

The adulterous woman left Jesus with a new identity. She left leaving her life of sin. Her life was changed by the presence of Christ, and the same can apply today.

Whatever label has been placed on you, throw it away. The enemy seeks to destroy with the lies and labels of the world. 

In Christ, you are redeemed. You are deeply loved. 

You are a child of God. And that will never change!
 

10.21.2015

Desires & the Beauty of His Will

Image via Pinterest
  The beauty of God's will is that it does not rest upon the desires of our own heart, but it carries out the best for the good of those who love Him, all while delighting in the thoughts and cries of a heartfelt prayer of desire. Our God delights in hearing from His children. Yes, how loving and good our God is that He would take so much pleasure in hearing the requests of His people! Yet I'm learning of the greatness of His love, a love that is wrapped around the will of God. Because as much as we may want that certain wish to come true, whether it be the grade, the bonus, the relationship, whatever we have been wishing and praying more than anything else, it is so much more essential to trust in the will and the ways of God. Sometimes the wishes of our hearts are only just a fading desire. It's a desire that exists in our life for a temporary time, but as life goes on, so do our wants and wishes. It's a difficult process, but the will of God and the plan He has for us is so much better, so much more worth it, than the dream we've been dwelling on. The God who knows our entire future, who carries every page of the book of our lives in His hands, is willing to carry out the best for His children. So why trust in our own desires, when our hearts can be deceiving? Why ask God for what we think is best, when He's the One who knows every detail of our lives, every second of our future, and who knows us from the inside out? His Will contains a future that is so much greater than we could ever imagine. Yes, His ways may contain some of our desires and dreams (as I said before, He delights in hearing from His children and in answering the prayers of those who seek Him), but oftentimes, He loves us too much to let us have our own way. He loves us too much to give us the desire that we think we really want, a wish that will just end in destruction in the long run. His ways, His best for our lives, will never lead to destruction. Yes, the tough times will still come, but His ways will yield a fruitful character, a heart trusting more and more in Him daily, and especially a life of blessing and good gifts.

  After all, Jesus was in deep sorrow at the thought of going to the cross, yet He still went to His Father and asked for His will to be done. He knew that as tough as His life was sure to become, He came to earth to save His people from their sins. Deciding to trust in the sorrow of His heart and the desires of His soul would ultimately defeat the purpose of coming to earth. God's ways were carried out, and His sacrifice led to the salvation of the world.

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. Luke 22:42

  So that wish, that desire consuming our hearts and minds every second of every day, should no longer be our true desire if it's not God's best for our lives. As much as we want to believe that it is best, God's ways are so much better in the long run. I've been through it, and I'm experiencing this now. But as I look back on answered prayers, I see that my prayers were not always answered the way that I thought they would be. I've seen that my desires are nothing compared to the desires that God has for my life. And I'm so grateful that He carried out His ways for me, because I would never be able to experience much of what is a large part of my life today, if it weren't for a God so loving that He carries out His will for my life.

That thing you've been wishing for? Give it to God. He might just give you what you want. But maybe, just maybe, He'll give you what you've really been wishing for all along.

10.10.2015

First My Mother, Forever My Friend




To the one who has cared for me since the day I was born,

who has been my role model throughout the years,

who supports me and is there for me no matter what comes my way,

who raised me with love and goodness,

who sacrifices everything for her children,

who works hard in everything she does,

who runs to a hundred places in a day to bring the best for her family,

who is so much more than a mother to me, but who is also a good

friend,

Thank you.

Mom, with each birthday passing by, I see how blessed I am to have a mother as caring, hard working, and loving as you are. Not many mothers would do the things that you do. Not many mothers care the way that you care. Not many mothers love the way that you love.

I am so glad God gave me the mother that He did!

Happy Birthday, Mom.



10.09.2015

Evidence

Image via Pinterest

There is evidence of God everywhere.

  The skies are a depiction of His glory, beautifully painted by the Great Artist. The trees grow an abundance of juicy fruit, freshly and perfectly made for us to eat. The waves of the beach go up and down, sparkling in the sunshine. The list is endless. Nature is evidence of a Creator that goes above and beyond the things of this world. Perfection, complete order, cannot be attained without a grand Designer, a person bringing order. In a room with chairs thrown all over, the room will not automatically be cleaned, with rows of chairs and spotless floors, by the following morning unless someone comes in and does so. Same for this world. Chaos cannot bring order; there must be a Creator to do so.

  But even more so than the evidence of the world around us is the movement that God brings in the lives of people. Lives are changed every day. People are made new. It is miraculous to watch lives once partnered with sin and see them be transformed into followers of Christ. There is nothing like witnessing the transformation. This transformation has meaning behind it, and it is evidence of the character and movement of God.

  In summary of what artist TobyMac proclaimed on the radio earlier today, we cannot see the wind...but we know it's there. We can't see the wind, but we know without any doubts in our minds that it is there because we can feel and see its movement. We see change. Things move, and we can feel the touch of wind on our skin. Likewise, we cannot physically see God, but we can experience His movement. We witness change, we experience change, and we can feel His presence. The evidence of life change, and the relationship we establish with Him, is a beautiful process. It's evidence of a God who is beautiful, and so loving, because He desires a relationship with His people despite all that we have done.

  It breaks my heart to hear so many people say that they don't believe in God or don't want God's help in their life. There's this idea that God is an evil tyrant in the sky who seeks to punish those who do wrong and rule over our lives.

Don't believe it, friends.

  God is a fair and just God, but He knows that we are bound to sin and make mistakes. That's why He sent His Son, Jesus. Jesus didn't have to die on that cross...He had all the power to take Himself off the cross, yet He endured all suffering for US.

Our God is not about punishment...He is about LOVE!

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. John 3:16-17

  Jesus came to this earth and died on the cross. Even historians who don't believe in God believe that. History tells us that this man came to earth, healed many people, and died on a cross, and there are reports of many, many witnesses proclaiming that He rose again. He declared He was the Son of God, the chosen Messiah, the One the Jewish people had been waiting for. It's up to us to decide whether or not to believe that He is who He says He is. 

It's up to us to believe.

And if you don't, I'm not writing this in the hopes of forcing anything upon anyone. 
I have been changed by the love and grace of God, and when I say change, I mean life change.

Faith is a decision left up to each and every one of us. This is the evidence I see, and I choose to believe it. Do you?

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20

10.02.2015

No More Condemnation

Via Pinterest

In a world filled with negativity, condemnation, and guilt, one word still remains: grace.

I've been learning so much recently about the modern church and how the world's view of the body of Christ is so much different than it should be. In a world filled with condemnation, the church is seemingly putting in the most effort.

The problem is, a Christ follower isn't perfect and nor is anyone else in this world.

Yet we tend to forget that.

All too often we forget that the God we follow isn't the one we're living like.
 For if every follower of Christ truly lived like Him, they would see that Jesus never came to condemn, but to love and to save the lost. He didn't come to tell others they are doing wrong, even though He had every right to do so as the holy Son of God. Yet the people who committed the "worst" of sins, according to the people of that time, were drawn to Him. They wanted to be near Him. They desired a relationship with Him.

If we are following Christ, shouldn't we be like Him? Yet the church has a dramatically different reputation than Jesus ever had. We have become known as this group of judgmental, hateful, and condemning Jesus followers who really don't follow the example of Christ like we state. We are viewed as hypocritical. We have become more known for condemnation than what Jesus said His disciples would be known for: love.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35

Church, I think it's time we start loving one other rather than bringing others down. Condemnation doesn't accomplish anything but lead others even farther away than they already are. I think it's time that we really, truly, start living like the One who we claim to follow and exemplify grace, rather than hate, in all that we do.

Because we are all sinful. We all deserve punishment.

But Jesus paid the price. His grace covers us. And no matter what others say or do, His grace covers their sins too.

In a world of condemnation, grace still remains, wrapped up in the loving hands of a Savior who gave His life on a cross, whose blood was poured out for us. 

Grace is beautiful. It's time to live it.

9.24.2015

He Gets Me Through


I'm tired, worn, filled with stress. So much studying to do, college classes to attend, and work to get done...in such a short amount of time.

It's the strength of the Lord that gets me through this.
His power working in me.
His unfailing love.

I am surrounded by His grace, His mercy, His passionate love for me.

It's His faithfulness that has allowed me to get through all of this, and succeed. All things are done through my precious Savior.

It's His firm grip on my life, His hand holding mine, that I walk through this life in victory. His love showers me daily, His grace pouring over my sins.


My heart is filled with awe daily at the God whom I serve.

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to Your Word. Psalm 119:28


9.04.2015

Goodbye Worry


No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Romans 8:37




Goodbye Worry,

You're no longer welcome here.

You've had a hold on my spirit and a key to a part of my heart for too long.

You've tried and tried to knock me down, to break me to pieces, to burden me with your weight. Too many times you have been close to succeeding, but never have you won the victory. There have been more times that you have completely failed, because Christ lives inside of me. Too many times I have not let you stop me from the future ahead of me, and that's because I have the One who is greater than you on my side. With the man who overcame the grave interceding for me, I have no doubt that you are on the path to defeat.

I'm not going to waste my time any longer with you constantly in my thoughts. I want to do life BIG. I want to experience the good things ahead of me and the blessings God has waiting for me, and that means there is no place for you in my thoughts.

You are a waste of time. You don't add a single hour to my life (Matt. 6:27). You are run by your master, the enemy, and I want no part of his evil ways and deceiving lies. I know the truth, and the truth has set me free. God cares for the birds, and therefore He will care for me! (Matt. 6:26).

I gave God the key to my heart five years ago, and now I've wholly surrendered you over to my Father. We're done. I'm officially asking your departure.

You don't belong in the heart of this child of the King!

Sincerely,
A Worrier who is MORE than a Conqueror through Him who loves us!



8.23.2015

In A Society Where Life Has Lost Value

In a world with so much disaster, so much heartache,

A world where compassion is running out and love is scarce,

there is hope.

  It's hard to constantly witness the state of humanity on an everyday basis.  Not only is it plastered all over the news, but as a volunteer at the animal shelter, such experiences happen daily. People give up their dogs or cats for often any and every reason they can find. I've witnessed old dogs, dogs who have known their owners all their lives, come in. I've seen pets turned in because they're moving, or had kids, and any and every reason, and while some situations are not the owner's fault, it's not so much the case the majority of the time. It's heartbreaking to see. It's heartbreaking to see the lack of love and compassion that people have for life.

  It's like life no longer has value in our society. Pets are turned into a kill shelter, even though they're told the shelter might euthanize if need be. And not just that, human life has been devalued as well. Abortion, the termination of a baby's life during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy, has become controversial throughout the country. Murder has existed since the days of Cain and Abel, but nonetheless, crime has just increased more and more. Greed has run rampant in professions, such as many in the medical field, and life has lost so much value to many.

  But even though this world lacks goodness and compassion, there is hope. There are still good people in this world. There are still those who are willing to be a voice for those who cannot speak. There are still those who value human life and would sacrifice their own lives for the benefit of another.

  There are still people fighting for freedom for our country. There are still many people dedicated to the cause of healthier and happier lives. There are still people who treasure their pets and find joy in the beauty of creation.

  Most of all, there is a God, a God of grace and love and compassion, who is reigning on the throne. And even though this world is in utter chaos, our God is still ruling. And one day, all things will be made new.

8.18.2015

If Only Life Had a Pause Button

If only life had a pause button...

Only then could we truly soak in every moment.

In a world of hurry and rush and constant moving and getting things done at the fastest possible, minutes of precious time, of a life that is only temporal, are so often rushed past. Minutes turn into hours, hours turn into days, days turn into months, and months turn into years, and before we know it, life has changed. We are older, life is different, and there is no going back to the moments of yesterday. What is done is done.

Yet we live life always in a constant hurry, always on the go. We go through the McDonalds drive thru and get impatient when we have to wait more than a minute for our food. We don't like standing in line at a store or for a big event longer than what is expected to wait. We are always rushing.

What if we decided to slow down and truly live life, thoroughly taking the time with the people around us and enjoying every second?

Life is temporary.

If life had a pause button, maybe we would truly see the beauty of what is around us. Maybe we would finally discover that life isn't so bad after all. We would find that the people around us, whether we enjoy their presence or not, are in this life for a reason. God doesn't make mistakes. We would find that when we stop rushing, and going through the motions, we will see the wonderful moments, future bits of memories, that only a God as good as the God we serve could bless our lives with.

We may finally see that we truly are blessed. We are covered by His love. We have been called to live life to the fullest, because that is the kind of life that we are called to in Christ.

The enemy sucks away life, but in Christ, we can live life abundantly.


Maybe if we could pause the moments of today, we would finally see it. 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

8.14.2015

Dear Incoming Freshmen


Dear Incoming Freshmen:

   So you're excited. Your first year of high school is about to begin. Feelings of excitement as well as anxiety are overcoming your thoughts. A new stage of life is on its way, a period of new opportunities, friends, classmates, and memories that will be remembered for a lifetime. This is a time of renewal, of identity; the days of your 'high school self' will begin shortly.

As I approach my last year of high school, I've learned a lot over the past several years:

1. Your identity is not defined by what others think or say. Regardless of what people think, you are YOU. You are created by the hands of an Almighty God. Don't let the words of others or the labels that others place on you define who you are or what you can do. There is no one like you, so embrace yourself. Smile at the little things that would normally lower your self esteem and remind yourself that you have been created by a God who is holier than holy (no one can raise the bar of perfection above Him!). He knows what He is doing and that certainly didn't change when He created you.

2. From the first day of high school to the last day of senior year, work hard and make wise choices. This is a mistake that many students make and one that I have been blessed enough to learn from the start. Study hard and don't give up. There will be lots of assignments and exams in your future, but high school is about education more than anything else. Do what you have been called to do in high school, and work at it with all of your being. Set your goals high, and I have no doubt that you'll reach the stars. If you wish, do as many college classes as you can while they are free and easily accessible. Dual Enrollment is my top recommendation and it will save you a ton of money and time by doing so. Reach the finish line at the end of senior year, assured that you gave it your all and that you said no to any decision that could ruin your future.

3. Get involved and pursue your passions. Whatever makes your heart skip a beat, give it to God and then chase it. God has placed the passions on your heart and He does not do anything without a purpose. If you like music, join band or chorus. If you love sports, join a sports team. If you aspire to be a future nurse, join HOSA or any of the other various clubs your school has to offer. No matter what you enjoy, pursue your God-given passions and get involved. I began volunteering at the animal shelter my sophomore year and have enjoyed it wholeheartedly since. Do what you love; God will move throughout the years and you'll be able to look back on memories of fun times and amazing opportunities.

4. Be the change. Be the friend to the ones without a friend; be the one who smiles to the ignored or helpless. Your ego, your popularity, and your clothes and fashion will all fade away. But kindness goes a long way. Love others, and that is what will make the biggest difference.

4. Most of all, remember that God is with you in every step you take this year. If you follow Him, and allow Him to take the lead in everything you do, true success will come. Believe me. My faith and trust in Him has grown and I have learned the power of prayer and His faithfulness in every situation. I would never have gotten the grades nor help in the difficult times if it weren't for the Lord's faithfulness in every situation. Just trust Him.

Freshmen, things are about to change. Don't fill yourself with anxious thoughts. Big plans are underway; your high school years are about to be great!

8.11.2015

Starts With The Heart


Five and three fourths of a day later, I am back!

   After a relaxing but difficult five day social media fast, I grew so much in my relationship with the Lord. He gave me the strength to work on overcoming the social media and technology addictions in my life, reprioritizing and placing my overindulgence of my time on Facebook down the list of my top priorities.

   This isn't the first time I've done such a fast, but it's been a while, and oh, how much it was needed! My Quiet Time in God's Word had been getting put off until the last minute, I wasn't getting anything accomplished, and my eyes were constantly glued to the screen of a cell phone and/or laptop when they could be fixed on the people God has placed around me.

   I have been reading in "True Woman 201: Interior Design" by Mary A. Kassian and Nancy Leigh Demoss throughout this summer, and after spending a week on the trait of self discipline and how to cultivate this quality in my life, I was convicted. I knew I had been spending an excessive amount of time on social media and that it was time to reprioritize, so I decided to take a fast from it all.

   And how glad I am that I followed the Lord's instruction! The fast refreshed my soul and helped me learn how to spend my time wisely. I was able to spend more time in the Word of God, help around the house, clean, and even spend more quality time with the people around me. It was such an amazing experience. In fact, after two days of the fast, I decided to completely get rid of my laptop for the rest of the five days, as well as my cell phone for the last day or two. It was definitely a struggle, but it was such a refreshing and motivating period without the pressure of constantly attending to technology and social media.

Most of all, God spoke to me again and again throughout the fast. In a period of 24 hours, He spoke to me THREE times in three different sources with the same passage of Scripture:

 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Matthew 23:25-28

   Throughout the five days, I was able to complete the next 5 day section of True Woman 201 in the full five days, which was a first time experience! This section was on Virtue and Purity. Jesus' words to the teachers of the law and Pharisees spoke to my heart and convicted my soul. It reminded me that, even though I may do things that appear godly, does my heart reflect that I really am? While my Facebook posts or behavior in front of others might point to my faith, is it really starting at the heart? Because once my heart is purified, and is truly fixed on faith in Jesus Christ, outside behavior will follow. How awful it would be to have a heart like a whitewashed tomb!

   That night, this concept was engraved into my thoughts. And to my surprise, the following morning, the SAME passage of Scripture was brought up at church! Not only that, I was reading "Jesus > Religion" by Jefferson Bethke that afternoon, and yet again, the same concept was discussed.

    By the end of the fast, I decided that I wanted every act, every movement, every word I say, to be a reflection of my heart. If my heart is not in the right place, even if the behavior is essentially "good", then my intentions will be in the wrong. We can live this life for Christ, or we can live this life for ourselves. Is your heart set on the ways of Christ, or is it rooted up in selfish ambition? Even good behavior can be done for the purpose of bringing glory to self.

Lord, purify my heart so that every move I make points to You. Let my heart resemble Yours, not like a whitewashed tomb or a dirty cup. Let my outside behavior result from the inner: a beautiful heart.

I encourage every single person to fast from an addiction or idol in your life. Let God speak with grace and conviction about your weaknesses, and you will grow in love, faith, and inner beauty!