Being Vulnerable

I am a judgmental person. There, I said it. I am also an incredibly selfish person, and I am not saying these things about myself just to get sympathy. In fact, the last thing I want is your sympathy. Sometimes the first step in overcoming a sin that has been festering inside of you for awhile is to just say it out loud (or type it) so that it’s out and you have no choice but to face it.

You see, I have found that it is so easy to just hide your sin and try to cover it up with good deeds. Kind of like how you cover up a really big zit. You can put as much makeup over it as you want, but at the end of the day it’s still going to be there. The makeup can even make it worse and clog up the pore even more; making the zit bigger and redder. Sorry for the gross analogy, but the same is true for sin; and sin certainly isn’t pretty.

I went through a lot of spiritual growth and change this summer (if you read my past posts you can learn more about that in more detail). While a lot of that growth was wonderful and full of joy, there were also some things I was faced with that hurt. I came face to face with the reality that while I was doing good works and reflecting a Godly life, I was doing it for myself; not the glory of God.

To be honest, I had no idea I was even doing this at all until I had the opportunity to teach at my youth group in August. I had planned games, music, and a lesson. I was incredibly nervous because I am not a great public speaker. But my public speaking wasn’t the issue this time. It was how often I used myself as a good example through the lesson instead of Jesus. My youth pastor brought this to my attention in the sweetest and gentlest way possible and I am so glad that he did. But I was ashamed. I still am so ashamed. And I still struggle with this each day.

One of the first things you learn in Sunday school or at church camp is that Jesus comes first, then others, and THEN yourself. It’s such a simple concept, but it’s one of the hardest for me to remember. You see, I had so many people around me building me up that it began to go to my head. I am incredibly grateful for those people who support and encourage me, but it was about time that I heard some criticism.

Jesus tells us in Luke chapter 6, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (v. 39). Wow is this ever true. As a student pursuing ministry, how can I possibly lead another person to the glory of God if I am blind to it in my own life? This will only lead both people to corruption.

I’m going to be honest with you, this post was so hard for me write. Being vulnerable isn’t always easy, but I know for me that it was necessary. It is ok to be broken and to not be perfect. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there. Sometimes vulnerability is the very best healing.

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Love you, friends. May the glory of God fill your hearts.

Let Go and Let God

I am a type A personality. Don’t get me wrong, I like to have fun and be a little spontaneous sometimes, but my genes are detail oriented and having a plan is a must. This quality of mine has always seemed to be my strong point (looks great on a resume, am I right?) as well as my weak point. You see, I have a very difficult time with change. I’ll admit, it has gotten much better over the years; especially since my best friend passed away suddenly in a car accident my senior year of high school, but that does not mean that I do not still struggle with it.

My natural knack to plan things has very often tried to take over my spiritual life. Instead of letting God take control of my life, I try to control my life. I have an idea in my head of exactly how things should go and exactly how my future should be planned out. Silly me, thinks that I know best. But God has a sense of humor, and he really likes to flip my “perfect” plans upside down or better yet, have a whole new purpose for something that I’ve already “figured out.”

In my last post, I discussed possibly pursuing ministry as a career. Since then, I have decided to change my major from music to ministry with a youth ministry concentration and then minor in music. This was a HUGE decision for me to make and I really wasn’t sure if I was making the right one. My entire life has been focused on music. What will it be like to shift that?

I decided to meet up with my youth pastor about it (who better to talk to about youth ministry?). Something that really struck me is when he said, “Lauren, I knew you were being called into ministry the day we had the celebration dinner for our Poland mission trip and you talked about your experience. I was just waiting to see how long it would take to be revealed to you.” My initial reaction was, WHAT?! But then I slowly began to realize something.

During my mission trip to Poland, I got to lead the worship music with another friend. Throughout that week, I felt God pulling at my heart. All this time I thought God had been calling me to pursue music, but it turns out He was actually calling me into ministry. Of course music will always be a part of my life. It’s who I am and will follow me no matter where I go. But there I was again, trying to fit God into my life plans, when I should really be letting God decide my life plans.

I was drawn to Luke chapter 1 while writing this, where it discusses the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary and telling her that she will be the mother of Jesus. I can’t even imagine what a shock this would be. There Mary was, just living her life with a bright future ahead of her, and all of a sudden her life was flipped upside down. Being pregnant and unmarried back in Mary’s time pretty much meant the end of your life. But instead of freaking out and getting angry, Mary replied by saying, ” I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as You have said” (verse 38). How incredible is that! Mary’s first reaction was to give God complete control over the situation. Do we have a lot to learn from Mary, or what?

I can’t imagine how much easier life would be if we would just give God complete control and stop trying to do everything on our own. My prayer today is that we all will learn to just let go and let God. “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke chapter 1, verse 37).

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What’s Next?

I’m just going to be honest with you, I’ve been in a rut spiritually. You know that high you get after going to a retreat or a music summit or even after seeing a great inspirational movie? That feeling when you can feel God’s presence so evidently in your life that it’s overwhelming. That truly is the most incredible feeling. But the disappointing part is, it always seems to end. The high wears off and while you were on fire for God for a few days, weeks, or maybe even months, it is gone and you begin to feel alone.

This is exactly how I’ve been feeling for a little while now. Though my faith is still strong and I know God is there, I’ve just found myself wondering where He is and asking the age old question, what’s next?

It’s funny, because especially in today’s society, we seem to ask ourselves that question quite a bit. What’s next? We find ourselves overwhelmed by tasks and wishing so desperately that they will end and we will find time to relax, but as soon as we complete the task, we are searching for the next thing. I was doing the exact same thing to God. Little did I know that He had something big in store for me, if I would only be patient.

I’ve been very seriously considering going into youth ministry. This has been on my heart for awhile now, so back in the spring, I asked if I could volunteer with my church’s vacation Bible school. What a better way to dive into youth ministry than spending a week with pre-k through fifth graders? My offer to help was accepted of course, and two weeks ago I finally realized what God had in store for me.

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I grew up attending VBS and never really thought anything of it. But helping and truly being able to dive into these kids by leading them in song and Bible skits made me realize just how important something as simple as a week of VBS could be to some kids. But most importantly, it made me realize how important it is for us as Christians to be disciples for Christ.

These kids asked some incredible questions towards the end of the week; questions that made me question if these kids were actually 11 years old and under. Each innocent ear listened so intently and showed such an interest in learning more about the Lord. My heart grew every single night as I received hugs from children I had just met.

What good is it to know Christ and to know what He did for us if you never share it? How can you tell people that you love God if you aren’t enthusiastic enough to praise Him in everyday conversation? Let me tell you, after my week of VBS, I wanted to shout God’s name!

Matthew chapter 28 tells us to, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 

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So the next time you wonder where God is in Your life, be patient. Even when Jesus commanded the disciples to spread the good news, He promised to be with them. We are never alone. Keep your mind and your heart open. Your next move may be just around the corner.

PS: Congrats if you made it to the end of this! This was a doozy and kinda all over the place so I appreciate you! 

 

Anorexia: It’s Not Just For Your Body

Anorexia and other eating disorders are and have been a serious issue in our world. Although I haven’t struggled with this myself, I’ve had friends who have. Watching these people that I love so much hurt their bodies was absolute torture for me, but this has gotten me thinking about spiritual bodies. Mental health and the physical body are very clearly affected by anorexia, but your spiritual body can suffer from anorexia as well.

Imagine trying to survive on one meal per week. It wouldn’t go very well, or very long. The funny thing is, so many of us are only getting one spiritual meal per week, maybe even less. Just like we can’t survive on one physical meal per week, we also can’t survive on one spiritual meal per week. God requires so much more of our time than that. He longs for us to seek Him each and every day. Now I don’t know about you, but I get extremely hangry when I haven’t eaten in awhile. Anyone who knows me knows that it is not pretty. Our spirits hunger and thirst for the word of God. We begin to see our lives and our spirits fall the longer they go without the spiritual food they need.

If we are starving ourselves of Christ, how are we suppose to attract others to Him? Many believers are guilty of this, including me. There are too many excuses to count for not spending time with God. We were put on this earth to be disciples and share the love of God with others. If we are starving ourselves, we will never have the spiritual energy to complete this mission. When we feed ourselves spiritually, we will look joyful and full of life.

I challenge you to start your day with God each morning. Keep track of how your life changes and you will be amazed! We must make time to spend with God. Just as my friends’ eating disorders hurt me, it hurts God to see his children starve themselves of the bread of life.

Our Time Isn’t Really Ours

It seems as though life is a constant struggle against time. There isn’t enough time in the day, things aren’t going to schedule, or maybe you thought you would have your life figured out by now. We all feel this way, trust me! It’s incredibly frustrating and tiring to have to constantly worry about time. We think that we should be able to control everything, but the truth is, we will never be able to do that and we will never be satisfied in trying to do that.

I have been struggling recently with figuring out what I’m going to do after college. Yes, I know, I am only a freshman, but this is a serious concern for me. I truly don’t have a plan and many things have changed in my heart since coming to college. I realized that all this time I have been trying to control this part of my life when I have absolutely no idea what may lie ahead.

A verse that has really helped me through this is Ecclesiastes 3:11, “yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” It is super common for people, especially at my age, to worry about their lives and what will come of them. What we don’t realize is that God sees the whole picture. We can only see little pieces, but God has already put everything together. He knows each and every part of Your life and has His sovereign hand in everything to guide You. If we follow Christ, we will be able to lead the life God has intended for us. That life is perfect in His will. That’s right, perfect.

As ordinary people, we try to make things happen exactly when we want them and then freak out when that doesn’t happen. We don’t know how to not get our way. But as Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” This means even sadness, heartbreak, and mourning. Times may get difficult, but everything is made beautiful in God’s time.

We want everything to be instantaneous, but the journey to achieving our goals is what leads us to discover and seek God. My prayer for you all this week is that God gives you the patience and understanding to trust His plan for you life. Everything will happen in His time. So just relax and enjoy the ride.

Wake Up Call

Last semester, I woke up late. My new 6 week chapel series was starting that day and most of my friends had decided to go on Thursday mornings at 9:45. I heard my roommate leave for her 8 a.m. and told myself that I had a half hour left to sleep. I woke back up awhile later and realized my alarm still hadn’t gone off. Curious, I sat up and looked at my phone. My phone must have turned off during the night and was stuck on the opening screen. “Sprint” flashed across my phone screen, but I couldn’t get it to do anything else. Let’s just say, I was not very happy about this. “I just got this phone over Thanksgiving break!” I thought to myself. I hurried up and got ready and miraculously made it to chapel on time.

When I got to chapel, we found out that the topic we would be focusing on for the next 6 weeks was seeking God. Our chapel leader told us a story about how she used to wake up in the morning and read her paper filled with bad news and drink coffee before getting ready for the day. She would push off spending time with God and tell herself, “I just don’t have time.” She later discovered that seeking God was the most important thing in life and if she had time to read the paper every morning, she certainly had time to spend with God.

I was in shock. I thought about how every morning I spent about a half hour on my phone before I got out of bed and often pushed God off for days when “I had more time.” I then thought about my phone and how it had stopped working. God was certainly trying to get my attention! Instead of spending all that time on my phone every morning, I could be spending time deep in His word and starting my day off with some spiritual breakfast.

There are exactly 41 verses in the entire Bible that talk about seeking God. Each and every verse holds promises for those that seek Him. And let me tell you, these are some promises that you don’t want to miss out on! Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” A reoccurring theme that I found throughout these verses was the fact that if we seek God, we will find Him. It never once says that someone went searching for God and couldn’t find Him. God is waiting patiently for us to reach out to Him, and if we do, He will 100% guaranteed be found! 

I know what you’re thinking, “Lauren, this post is super long.” I know, I know. If you are reading this still, I hope that you will take a look at these verses and read about God’s promises for you. Don’t save God for later. Pick up your Bible right now and start reading! If you don’t, God might just shut your phone off! (In case anyone was wondering, my phone worked fine the very next day).


Verses:

Deuteronomy 4:29; 1 Chronicles 16:10-11, 22:19, 28:9; II Chronicles 7:14, 12:14, 14:4, 15:2-3, 15:12-13, 15:15, 19:3, 26:5, 30:18-19; Psalm 9:10, 10:4, 14:2, 22:26, 24:5-6, 27:4, 27:8, 34:10, 40:16, 63:1, 70:4, 105:3-4, 119:2, 119:10, 119:58; Proverbs 8:17; Isaiah 45:19, 55:6; Jeremiah 29:11-13; Hosea 5:15, 10:12; Amos 5:4-6; Zephaniah 2:3, Zechariah 8:12; Matthew 6:33, 7:7; Acts 17:27; Hebrews 11:6

Finding Peace in A Split Society

It’s pretty much impossible not to notice the tension, hatred, and downright turmoil that is happening not only in our world, but specifically in the United States (and if you haven’t noticed, you’ve been staying off of social media for the past few months, and for that I applaud you!). Now I know I’ve only been alive for 18 years, but I have never witnessed this much opposition amongst our nation. It truly saddens me when I think about it. During my devotions this morning, I read about peace. This got me wondering about what God thinks of all of this separation amongst his people.

Psalm 133 is a very short chapter, but the message is very clear: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” As believers, we are called to live out our lives in peace. Now, this is much easier said than done. As you have probably seen on various Facebook fights and Twitter rants, passions are deep with these certain issues and everyone seems to think they are right. There is truly no openness to opinions that aren’t our own and no willingness to listen to the opposing side. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to this. It is just so challenging to bite your tongue when you believe so strongly in something!

Unfortunately, many people look at the church and expect perfection. They think to themselves, “aren’t Christians suppose to have all the answers?” or “if they were true Christians, they would/wouldn’t be doing ___.” I’m sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but the church never has, and never will be perfection. The church is flawed because it is run by man, and we all know that man is flawed. Sin has existed ever since Adam and Eve. So using the excuse “I am a Christian so I know more than you” is not at all a valid excuse to engage in a political fight with anyone. Not even your most beloved pastor, rabbi, priest, etc. is a perfect human! 

Instead of seeing perfection, the world should see the reflection of Christ’s love when it looks at the church. Joy should be found within the walls and peace should be felt from within the people and their relationship with God. If there is fighting amongst God’s people, then how are we suppose to find unity within our country? The world is full of chaos, but Christians were made to be set apart.

To be at peace, we must find humility within ourselves and let go of our pride. Surrender your will to the Father and turn away from your selfish desires. When you find yourself wanting to make a nasty comment (even if your intent is to inform that person), or refusing to talk to one of your life long friends or family members based on a different view, take a moment to pray and ask God for guidance. We have been so busy trying to defend what we think is right, when all along God just wants his people to live in peace.

Peace must start in your heart and mind. Peace must be daily sought out through Christ. Without finding peace in Christ, we will never find peace with each other. 

The Gift of A Father

I would like to dedicate this post to my dad for his birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad! I love you so much and am so thankful for everything you do for me.

There are so many people out there who do not have good relationships with their fathers for various reasons. I feel so lucky and blessed to have such an incredible father in my life. I truly don’t know or understand why some people have great relationships with their fathers and some people don’t. I don’t know what I did to deserve this, but I know I am grateful. Having a wonderful father is truly a gift in more ways than one.

1. He Truly Wants to Spend Time With Us

My dad will do anything to spend time with each of his four children. He has coached at least one sports team for each of us, is always willing to talk with us about anything, but my favorite thing he does is take us each out on dates. Dad usually takes us to a really fancy restaurant and lets us order whatever we want. We get to sit there and talk one on one with him and it really means so much. He truly values spending time together with his family above all other responsibilities.

2. He Never Stops

My dad has never been, and never will be, one to just sit around and relax. He likes to constantly be active. Even on his day’s off, he is working hard to do something around the house for our family, helping out another family member or neighbor, or taking my brother hunting or fishing with him. My dad works incredibly hard for our family and wants us all to have the best lives possible.

3. Sharing Interests

Although my dad and I don’t really share the same interests, he always makes an effort to try to learn more about what I’m currently involved in. He is open to learning about whatever I’m interested in and likes to teach my siblings and me about fishing, hunting, and the outdoors (although I don’t always share the same open-minded attitude).

4. Perfect Model of What to Expect From a Husband

When Valentine’s Day comes around, my dad makes sure to make it special for not only his wife but also his children (especially his three daughters). He does sweet gestures for my mom all the time and writes us heartfelt notes at unexpected times. My dad would do anything for each of us and is constantly reminding us of how much he loves us. He sets the bar high but is the perfect example of a great husband.

5. He Taught Me The Importance of Faith

The biggest thing I will ever take from my father is the importance of faith. My dad takes his faith very seriously and he is a wonderful example of a Christian father. He encourages me to pray and have an intimate relationship with God. This has been such a big influence on my life and I am so grateful that he has taught me about God’s plan and sacrifice.

Being Content In Your Own Life

Let’s just get everything out in the open to start: being content with your own life all the time is hard.There is always someone out there who seems to have it all together, is prettier than you, healthier than you, more organized than you, and the list goes on. Getting jealous of others and what they have accomplished is easy to do. We are constantly comparing ourselves, our jobs, and even our own families to other people’s, especially these days in the age of social media.

I’m as guilty as anyone. Recently, I have been really struggling with this as I begin my second semester of college. I look around at all of my classmates from high school and my friends from college and see these great and wonderful things they are getting involved in, or their 4.0 GPA’s from first semester, or this incredible opportunity or job they have been given. I have began to compare myself to them and put myself down. I have taken a look at my own life and am unsatisfied. I have blamed myself for not being “on track.” I have worried about my life and my future day after day.

Clearly, this is a huge problem. First of all, by comparing my life to everyone around me, I am overlooking all of the countless blessings God has put into my life and most likely have even missed some of His incredible works that were right in front of my face. I’m so caught up in other people’s lives, that I forget how incredible my own is. Second of all, what even defines one’s life as being “on track.” God places obstacles, revelations, joys, and hardships in our lives all in His perfect timing. Just because you aren’t exactly where your best friend is in life, doesn’t mean you are off schedule! We can’t plan our own lives. That sentence is so important, I’m going to say it again. We can’t plan our own lives. That’s a hard fact to digest, trust me. We can tell ourselves we want to be married by 25, but God’s plans can totally override our own plans for our future. But the best news is, His plan is so much better. 

Each and every one of us are doing great and wonderful things. They are all on totally separate scales and they will all happen at totally different times, but we all have the ability to accomplish something great. Focusing on the Lord will bring peace and satisfaction back into your life. So here’s to us, my friends. May God allow our eyes to be opened to the wonderful opportunities surrounding us in life. Cheers!

The 5 Love Languages

I took a class over the month of January at Messiah called The Foundations of Marriage and Family. Now when I tell people the title of my class, I get one of two responses.

A: the person looks intrigued and say something to the extent of, “That sounds interesting!” or B: they look at me strangely and ask if I’m preparing to get married and start a family. I’ve always been incredibly interested in different aspects of marriage and family life and how to improve my relationships and communication skills with others.

My class started talking about Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages. I discovered the 5 Love Languages website this summer when one of my friends suggested that we all take the test and find out what our love language was. The way this works is, you take a questionnaire and at the end, it ranks the 5 Love Languages (words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch) into the order in which you receive and give the best and most often.

Not only is this a fun activity to do with your friends or with your partner, but it is also super important when it comes to understanding any sort of relationship. People give and receive love so differently and sometimes we can make the mistake of thinking that someone is upset with us or doesn’t love us as much as we love them. Most of the time this isn’t the case, it is just the fact that the other person gives and receives love differently than you do.

1. Words of Affirmation

The first love language is words of affirmation. People with this love language need to be verbally encouraged. Compliments mean the world to these types of people. This person is empathetic and tries to see the world from their partner’s perspective. Verbal acts of forgiveness are important to these people as well. How often do you tell those you love in your life how much you appreciate them? How about verbally apologizing and trying to make things right? Being an encouraging friend or partner is so important in a relationship and provides a sense of trust to all involved.

2. Quality Time

People who have this love language value meaningful time with the people they care most about. Making sure the time is focused and there are little to no distractions is key. It doesn’t necessarily have to be doing an activity together. People with this love language are also a huge fan of quality conversation. Finding an activity that both you and your loved one can enjoy together is not only tons of fun, but healthy for a relationship.


3. Receiving Gifts

This love language puts a huge value on giving tokens of love. It is usually not the monetary value of a gift, but the sentimental value that is the most important to this type of person. Giving the gift of yourself and your time is another way to show love in the most effective way to this love language. Everyone loves to be appreciated and gifts are always nice. It is truly the little things that matter most.

4. Acts of Service

This one is actually my personal love language and I believe it is the most misunderstood. In many cases, people don’t think of doing something such as doing the dishes one night or picking up something at the grocery store an important demonstration of love. But for the busy mom, dad, or college student, checking anything off of our to-do list would be hugely appreciated (and may even bring us to tears). Thinking of things you can do to make someone’s day a little brighter is never a bad idea.

5. Physical Touch

Touch is a super powerful thing. It can be a great way of communicating feelings as well as love for each other. Touch shows faithfulness and commitment towards one another. When this person has a bad day, something as simple as a warm embrace can be a game changer.

http://www.5lovelanguages.com/