In the Midst of Trouble

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   I've been growing in my faith so much recently, as some struggles have allowed my heart to be full of thanksgiving to God for the wonders of His love and the help and protection He has been providing in every situation. Oh, I am so grateful for His constant presence! 

   A few days ago, He pointed out Psalm 9:9-10 in His Word, and those verses have been sticking with me since stumbling upon it. He has used those words to strengthen me, and my meditation on those verses have reminded me of His promises:

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know Your Name trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You. Psalm 9:9-10

    Thanks to God that He is my refuge, that when I am in the midst of trouble, He is my stronghold, my constant, my strength! I can trust that He is good and that He will never forsake me. 

   On Thursday, I studied hard for my permit test. I should have taken it awhile back, but never got around to preparing for the test. Since I'm graduating next year and will need to know how to drive to get to college, I knew I was running out of time. So I started studying on Wednesday and did a full study day on Thursday, minus some errands in the afternoon! By about midnight, I felt prepared and ready to take the permit test. Call me crazy for taking a permit test at 12:15 am, but after studying so hard up until that point and being the night owl that I am, I figured it would be best to take it then, while the content was fresh in my mind and while I was fully awake. So I did.

    The test was harder than I thought it would be. By about halfway through the test, I was starting to feel more and more confident that I didn't pass. But somehow, through prayer and the faithfulness and strength of our powerful God, I did so much better than I expected. Not only did I pass the permit test on the first try, but on question 43, it stopped me because I had already reached the passing point! Somehow I only missed 3 or 4 questions on the whole test, but I'm not saying this in pride or boastfulness. I'm saying this to prove the goodness of God, to prove that He really is moving, and that I could not have done that on my own. 

    I kept focusing on verses 9-10 of Psalm 9 during that test. I kept placing my trust in God, assuring myself that He will not forsake me and that He will lead me to victory, despite how things were going. Sure enough, He brought results. 

    On Friday morning, I received my permit, and after doing so, my mom, little sister, and I were on our way to the mall when we were unexpectedly involved in a car accident. A car was moving over into our lane, didn't see us, and hit our car from the side, but because my mom saw him, she moved out of the way as much as she could. So while there was a little bit of damage, it wasn't nearly as bad as it could've been. Not only that, but our airbags never went off, and we are all in great shape, without any injuries or problems! I'm so thanking God for His protection and help. I know that He meant it when He said that He will not forsake me when I seek Him, and I know that, because of His promise, we were protected yesterday by His presence and army of angels. 

    He is our stronghold in times of trouble. He will not forsake us when we seek Him and trust in Him! His goodness will never fail. In the middle of a test, He was there. In the midst of a car accident, He was there. Whatever situation you are in, He is with you too!


In His Love I Stand (A Future of Uncertainty)

My future is burning bright with the goodness of God. His love will light the way. His grace will never change. His presence will always remain. His power will stay the same. The name of Jesus is all I need.

But oftentimes, I get so caught up in my worries that I forget that my life really isn't about my life.

I forget that I'm not here to live my life. I'm here to allow God to accomplish His will and purpose through me.

Recently, I've been in a state of confusion and worry about my future. I've been stuck in wonder. I've been caught in a net of "Where should I go?", "What should I do?", and "What do I need?" The doors of my junior year are slowly closing, and a new door will be quickly opening as I approach my senior year this coming August.

The problem is, I don't know what career I want to pursue. I don't even know what field or major I want to go into. Therefore, I don't know what college I should attend and thus what colleges to apply for.

So I'm stuck in uncertainty. I'm stuck asking myself, "What can I see myself doing for the rest of my life?". Mostly, I've been asking what God wants me to do.

I long to be a stay-at-home mom once I get married and have kids. But as much as I would like to get married and have kids, is that what God wants? And should I depend on that when pursuing a career when I'm not even sure what God has in store for my future?

All of these questions have been consuming my mind and stealing the joy of the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 from my heart.
''For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

It's time to stop fixing my mind on the questions of my future and start fixing my eyes on the One who holds my future. He has my heart, He understands my passions, and He knows what my future holds. He has plans, plans that will prosper. My future is bright, because He will never change, He will never leave, and my life will always be guided by His love and grace if I continue to let Him do so. 

I've been reading a book that a sweet friend gave me, "Experiencing God: Student Edition", by Blackaby and King. I'm still at the beginning, but I can already tell that I didn't receive this book by chance. I've been learning so much about the will of God and I'm still in the first chapter. And it's through this book that God has revealed to me this simple statement about His will for my life:

Just follow Him, and I will find myself in the center of His will.

So I don't know what my future holds. I don't know what career or field to pursue. I don't know what college to attend. And yes, I have less than 8 months to figure everything out. But I know the God who created water, the vegetables on our plates, and the oxygen in the air, the God who came to earth as a human and died on the cross for MY sins, will reveal in His timing what He wants me to do. I just have to do my part and continue to follow Him, rather than try to figure everything out on my own. I know that He will complete the work He has started in my life. I know that He will open doors that no one can shut. I know that while things don't make sense right now, everything will come together as I continue on. 

I'm learning to trust. God's got this. In His love, I stand.

With that being said, I can see a light at the end of a dark tunnel, a future that is lit by a growing flame. I can't wait to see what God has in store!


The Pleasures and Problems of Living with Shyness

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   For most of those who know me, you probably see me as extremely quiet or if you know me really well, a crazy girl who was once quiet. For those of you who met me in my "outgoing self", you probably don't believe that I really am shy, and I thank God for those moments of an amazing first impression! However, in reality, shyness is an issue that I deal with daily.

But is shyness a problem? 

  As a whole, shyness is not a sin. In fact, in God's Word, the beauty of having a quiet, gentle spirit is emphasized.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4

   Not only does God see huge worth when we choose to live with quietness & gentleness, but He desires for our lives to be lived with a heart focused on true beauty, a beauty not found in clothes, trends, and physical characteristics, but a life lived for Jesus and thus an inner self that is truly beautiful.

    You may be asking, "So just because I'm a naturally outgoing person, does that mean I'm not considered beautiful in God's sight?" The answer to that is NO, NO, NO! I'm definitely not trying to say that shyness is inner beauty, but true beauty is living for Jesus, a heart slowly transformed day by day into one like His own heart. Therefore, inner beauty is often making the choice to be quiet in the most difficult of situations. 

 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. James 3:5-10

    Yikes! From these verses, we can see the huge strength and deadly power of the tongue. We read that it can be used for good, from praising God to encouraging others to speaking up in bullying situations. However, the deadly effects of using the tongue in the wrong situations is highlighted. Every day, we experience the negativity of words. We understand the brokenness and the hurt that words can bring to relationships. Gossip can place labels on people, negativity can lead to depression, and calling names in the midst of anger can lead to broken friendships, hurt dating relationships, and the end of marriages. 

That's why God sees so much beauty in remaining quiet in the situations where words can form out of anger and envy, words that can lead to brokenness and discouragement. 

    So, again, shyness is not a sin if we are using it to our advantage in the moments where we should remain quiet and avoid harsh words. However, when we use our shyness as an excuse not to encourage and share God's love, when shyness is rooted up in fear and insecurity, shyness in and of itself isn't a sin, but it can often lead to sin.

   God made each and every one of us differently. He made each of us with a plan in mind and He created each of us to do amazing things with the personality He has gifted us with. Some people are naturally outgoing and loud. Others are quieter and struggle to start a conversation. Either way, it doesn't matter. We are unique, we are gifted, and we are beautiful in the eyes of our Creator. Nothing is a surprise to God, and having a particular personality is not a sin.

    Again, though, using our personality as an excuse of why we can't get out of our comfort zones, or as an excuse of why we hurt someone, can end up in a resulting sin. If I could choose, I would love to be outgoing. During so many moments of my life, I wasted multiple opportunities to make new friends, speak up for those who are hurting, and just make a difference, because I sat in my comfort zone and was too afraid to speak. My shyness has led to rudeness towards others, not because I'm trying to be rude, but because I've missed opportunities to speak with kindness and love when people have made an effort to converse. It hurts me. But I find peace in knowing that God is love, that He understands my struggles because He knows me and the personality He gave me even more than I know myself, and that He forgives even when I don't move when He asks me to. 

    If you are naturally shy like me, I want to encourage you today. This is a reminder not to beat yourself up for every missed opportunity, but to remember that God created you with beauty no matter what you do, that you are loved, and that God's grace and mercy will abundantly flow into your life, as long as you give it up to Him. This is a reminder that if shyness is leading into struggles and issues, as I have so often experienced, to not give up. Don't let shyness lead into fear of sharing the love of God. Make a difference. Practice creating conversations at home that you can use later on with strangers. Don't let the enemy defeat you, but through God's strength, work on overcoming the battles that can result from being shy. 

   While I am still shy, this past school year, my junior year of high school, has been a year of victory for me in regards to my shyness. I have made huge gains through the power of prayer and the strength of God. I have prayed, experienced a day of being extremely outgoing compared to the usual me, wondered why, and then remembered my prayer and the love of our God. Different experiences this year, such as volunteering at the animal shelter, particularly helping adopters at the offsite, and being forced to converse one-on-one with students, as editor of the yearbook staff, has been some of several opportunities that have allowed me to, day by day, slowly work on becoming a girl who is secure in who she is,  as well as converse with confidence, while still maintaining a quiet and gentle spirit that is filled with God's love and a slowly-transforming inner beauty that He so desires to see in every one of us.

    No matter what, we were all made to thrive with the personalities and traits God gave us. But when shyness is used as an excuse for sitting in our comfort zones, and shyness leads to little interaction with people, we are missing out on the gift of God: the people He has placed with purpose into our lives. Day by day, by His strength, I am working on sharing His love and overcoming the trials of shyness. For those of you who are shy, let this be an encouragement for you to do the same!