God the Protector

I’ve never been able to see God so clearly in this role as I have this past year.

It’s been a year of mistakes, a whole lot of Grace, and repeated forgiveness. But through it there has also been a lot of growth and good change. I’m not who I was this time last year and that is because through the rough waters of this past year God has protected me.

Psalm 34:19

“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;”

Psalm 46:1

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Deuteronomy 20:4

“For the LORD, your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.”

Psalm 50:15

“And call upon me in your day of trouble I will deliver you and you will honor me.”

I look at these verses and see Gods constant promises to protect me but certain times in life or even this year I see times that Gods protection looked like the exact opposite. There were certain instances in my life more often than I’d like to admit, where the things I wanted so bad were things that God was trying to protect me from. For that reason I felt as though God stopped protecting me; though it was the very opposite. Fairly recently I looked back at one of those incidents that I continued to have confusion over whether God was truly protecting me and I decided to ask him. I asked God in those times that I felt most unprotected, where was He? And He showed me that He never left my side and that some of the things that happened that hurt me the most were truly the very things He used to protect me.

Here is some of what I wrote down in the time that God was teaching me about His Protection…

I’m learning not to regret my life,

Not to wish away the hard days I’ve walked.

Suddenly my gaze has shifted,

to look back and see your place.

For days and nights I cried out to you in despair.

God why did you leave me to walk those days alone?

But no longer will I raise those cries,

For now I see you in those moments you never left my side.

You were my hedge of protection,

Pushing out the distractions I longed for.

Long before, I thought it was cruel,

Little did I know that it was you.

Those days of feeling stripped from what I thought I knew.

Feeling so broken I entered the unknown.

God you knew.

All along you were leading me.

When I look back to those most broken moments,

I see you piecing me back together.

I see you’re arms wrapped tight around me healing me with your grace.

You have been the one who loved me all along.

I’ve run to all these doors beggging for that love,

I’ve weeped and weeped because the doors always ended shut.

But you were always there freely offering your overflowing love,

So I will not regret those closed doors.

Because without those moments I wouldn’t have found the tears that cleared my vision.

And if those doors were opened I wouldn’t have kept walking,

For as I walked I looked back and saw your place.

Every moment you had been protecting me.

How should God being our protector change the way we live?

For me as I’ve been learning this about God it has given me the freedom to live for God in uncomfortable unsafe ways. Obedience doesn’t always look easy or always attainable BUT with His promise of protection I have freedom to walk that obedience out.

It has also helped me realize in those times where it feels like things are being stripped away from me that often it’s for my protection. I KNOW God is looking out for me, I KNOW His way is better than mine, so when He asks me to live a life without a clenched fist but palms wide open… I can only do that because God promises to protect me.

How do we remind ourselves that He’s our protector?

God has given us His word for a reason. If we’re memorizing verses of those promises then we are preparing ourselves with weapons to fight against the enemy. So, when the devil tries to convince you that the Lord has forgotten you or left you, you can fight back with truth.

Another way, continually be looking back in your life and asking God to show you His ways of protection in your life. Thank Him for that, and share that with others because they need to be reminded too.

Rest in the peace that comes with knowing your God fights for you, He will protect you!

God the Creator

Characteristics of God Part 1

I feel as though this is a topic not discussed as much as it should. We often in the Christian community talk about how we are called to be imitators of Christ ( Ephesians 5:1-2) but before we can do that we must first know who God is. There are many facets to who He is and I’ve personally come to know different parts of his character at different times of my life.

-when I felt lost and hopeless He showed himself to me as my savior

– when I was ashamed and felt unworthy because of things I had done He came to me as my redeemer

– When I put all my hope in boys who broke my heart He taught me He is my healer and my first love

In the next few blogs I’m going to be talking about a few of these different characteristics that God has taught me or is still teaching me about himself, and how those affect us, who we’re meant to be and who we are.

My first topics is about God as creator (Genesis 1:1) He is the OG creator. In the beginning… God created. If this is the first thing God did why do we so often glance over it? We write off creating maybe thinking oh, I’m not artistic or creative, but with narrow minds we miss the point. There is such a wide territory of creating and what you probably don’t realize is that you are doing it everyday! Some are creating masterpieces of art, others are writing and creating stories, and yet there are others who creating messes, or pain. The definition of create, is to cause something to come into being. Let me tell you why this is important, since creating is in our DNA I’m realizing we are always creating and if we aren’t creating something good then we’re creating something bad. You see just as Christ creates things of light and life, the devil is a con with his imitations, he creates things of darkness and destruction. I believe this, because we have this built into us the urge to invent, design, formulate things all around us We have a calling to pay attention to our need to create and find healthy ways to express it.

In my own life this has been a fairly fresh topic, even though it’s something that has always been inside of me. I heard this quote not long ago “Where I create there I am true” and it struck me. After going through a season of life where I felt numb partially because of my circumstances, my eyes began to open to the idea of creating for once outside of the art context that I had always seen it in. I started to see that it is a part of living. Even everyday things like cooking is a form of creating, which helped me realize the negative aspect too. As you can see I normally write. It is my biggest and most frequent form of creating, specifically in the realm of poems. During this season though, my writing inspiration had dried up. So without conscious thought I began to create other things in it’s place, specially bad things because of this hard season. Have you ever done this, brought stress upon yourself when it’s not from an outside source? That was me I generated stress, I established poor relationships, produced pain in other’s lives, I also built a wall of numbness where I could shut everyone and everything out. That way I didn’t have to think about the pain I felt. Because I created those things I was truly there, and I stayed there.

Then the Lord began to show me other ways to create, but do you know why creating helped me ? Because when we are making things with our own hands, our own minds, we see Christ through it. I for years hated attempting art because I felt I was awful at it, but guess what in that time where I couldn’t write God instructed me to paint. I wish I could say it’s one of those stories where I started and it actually turned out amazing and everyone loved it and now I’m a famous painter… it didn’t. In fact I messed up A LOT and very quickly, but instead of my normal discouragement I loved it. For once I saw how it was a picture of how God makes these perfect masterpieces. But I’m not perfect and my art reflects that. Just like God wants His art to reflect Him I had created something that reflected me. My messiness and love of color, all of it reflects me. Can you see how that gives life ? How creating helps me see who I am when I forget because it shows me who He is. Now that’s only one example but I know there are millions of things God is teaching people about themselves and Himself through creating, from film making to gardening, building to sewing. I don’t know the many ways you create, but whatever they are (and I know you have lots) take some time and see how God is trying to teach you through them. Also take some time and asses “what am I creating?” Are they things of light and life, or are they things of darkness and destruction?

God created you to create. You’re not perfect so your creations won’t be either, but choose to find comfort in that, not frustration. Please don’t miss your calling to create, don’t miss your calling to truly BE in that place. Creating matters, because it has the power to hold up a mirror and show us who we are, who we want to be, and who we are meant to be.

Pressing in to Press on

Hard times come and hit us all. Things can be great one second and the next you don’t know where you got off track. Mark this one down as a lesson I’ve learned. Whether it be,

• Heartbreak

• Family hurts

• Insecurity

• Injured pride

• ETC. (You name it)

But when that happens what do you do? When you’ve gotten off track spiritually or emotionally how do you refocus back to a safe place, what even is a safe place?

All these questions flood my mind and it often makes me want to hit the breaks and not even think about it and just try and avoid the whole thing. But instead of staying in that comfortable place I’m going to tackle some of these questions head on in this blog and in my life.

For starters, the backbone and focus that God has taught me for this topic is, when we press in to Christ in the midst of pain and confusion it paves the way for us to press on.

When hard times come what is your reaction, what do you do? I often lose my focus, I’ll be doing so well for so long keeping my eyes on the prize and one of those things on that list hit me and all the sudden I’m focused intently on all the wrong things. Wrong things being peoples opinion of me, Lies that fill my head and distract me from Gods promises, and Oh, the big one, my focus becomes consumed by my FEELINGS.

Honestly, I feel like feelings get a bad rep… the people walking around saying that, “feelings are the DEVIL”, I have to let you in on a little secret though…. They’re not. I know if you’ve grown up in a Christian background like me, you probably at one point had it drilled into that feelings = BAD.

So, here’s the thing, the devil loves to distort your view of things and cause you to live out of that false view. Feelings often mislead you, they’re fickle, you can’t rely on them, ALL FACTS. But none of that makes feelings in and of themselves bad. God created them! An example would be the feeling in our hand that warns us if were touching something too hot, in the same way our emotional feelings help tell us what is going on inside. If we rely on our feelings alone we may live in a false unsatisfied reality but if we ignore them completely other problems arise. I see so many people today living by that motto that feelings are bad and completely shutting off their feelings, not only does that cause a state of numbness and cuts you off from those around you, but it can also caused you to miss out big time on some issues from within. God gives us feelings for a reason and sometimes we miss interpret them. But here is what I truly believe we need to do with our feelings especially in these hard times. Take the feelings you have, go to God and spend time asking Him about it, like why you’re feeling this way, and what He wants you to take from it. Then let it go (easier said than done). God is the creator of our feelings, so stop trying to figure it out yourself. Not only will you understand much more, but you will also grow more in your relationship with your creator.

There are plenty of times in my life where I didn’t follow that guidance, times where I didn’t press in to God during those hard times. In those moments I turned to plenty of other things, places, and people. And I truly just ended up more confused about my situation. Not only that but I carried around my hurt and allow it to way me down until I’d bring it to Jesus. There were plenty of times I’d mask it as something else or I’d make up excuses for why I have every right to carry around my hurt and the bitterness that comes with it. Regardless it weighed me down and kept me captive in a cycle of brokenness that I didn’t even know I could be free from. When I brought my feelings, issues, hurts to Him, He would change my perspective. How many times do we see this in the Bible? Take the Psalms for example, when David cries out on how oppressed he is and pleads with God to destroy his enemies, but then all the sudden something changes and he starts praising God. His situation didn’t change but when we PRESS IN TO HIM our focus changes from our eyes on the problem to our eyes on a Savior.

Then we got my friends over here, the worry queens! I’m actually kind of a pro at worrying, I can get all up in my head and let worries chew at my mind all day, stealing sweet moments in my life right away from me. I don’t think it’d be an exaggeration to say I missed out on almost half of my life because I was too busy worrying to live it. This an area I’ve improved much but definitely have yet to master, and I know many can relate to this constant worry, because honestly there will ALWAYS be something to worry about if you’re looking for it. Where does worrying stem from? I’ll answer this one for you, it’s just a different term for fear, also another way of say God I don’t trust that you’re really taking care of this situation. So what do I often do with that fear? Well of course like any “normal” person I try to take control, fear makes me believe an area in my life is out of control, therefore I want to grab that control as tightly as humanly possible. That most always leads me to a very stupid place. What does God say about fear… well He says one thing about fear throughout the Bible that is most repeated statement. Do not fear. Maybe that means it’s important. He says it in a number of situations, plenty of times when men of the Bible are faced with great trials. Because God knows that humanly our first response in the face of hard times is to fear. God meets us in that fear and doesn’t condemn us for fearing but calls us out saying “Do not fear, for I AM WITH YOU” He asks us not to press into fear but into Him.

The Bottom Line is that, In the midst of our trials it is easiest to stay put in a state of defeat, but God is calling us, to press on. Pressing on isn’t something you just do. There are millions of ways we can muster up to try and MOVE, but for us to press on through the trial the way God is calling us, has very little to do with moving through the challenge and everything to do with pressing IN to God IN the face of trials. He loves us and wants us to come to him with our brokenness and pain but also in our times of happiness and praise to rely and press into Him and his word every day.

The Struggle Bus

There are a lot of factors in life right now trying to get me down, trying to get me on the struggle bus.

A few of the struggles are:

• – I have a lot of friends right now preparing to go away for the summer and then leaving back to college at the end of the summer. Also, the friends around me are all in relationships. I love it and am happy for them but, it does make singleness (which I normally enjoy) a little lonelier.

• -Being in this limbo phase of work and school. Thinking about going back to school or not is difficult. Especially when everyone gives their opinion on the situation. I appreciate wisdom and direction for my future but at this point I’ve heard ALL the reasons why college is essential for anything in life, and all the reasons why it would be a waste of my time and money, so hearing multiple people telling me I’m wrong or that I need to hurry, is just stressful and disheartening, even though they mean well.

• -Also, its super hard living long distance from your best friend! We are on our third year being long distance friends and we get by great compared to most long-distance friendships. And in all honesty, it’s all her, she’s a fabulous friend and loves me so well and finds ways to speak life to me even though she’s not around me! BUT NONETHELESS I’ve had a hard time especially these past two years and its extremely hard not having her here with me. Even harder this past year/ months have not been the easiest for her as well. More than anything I long to be there with her laying hands praying over her and not just praying over the phone. I’d love to support her with my presence, sit there in the silence with her, and if and when she needs it let her cry on my shoulder in the hardest moments of life. I struggle not being able to support my friends in a tangible way.

You see, I’m trying real hard not to hop on that struggle bus regardless of If I must walk instead. Yep the easiest way to get through this would be to just hop on the bus. Walking is definitely more difficult, refusing to complain and accept that “life sucks” mentality is hard, WAY hard! But this way is more beneficial to my growth.

I was talking about this struggle bus situation on my Instagram story, and from that, a small voice came through my DM’s from my cousin Hailey. She said, “I can give you a ride if you want” (I’ll come back to this).

Taking the struggle bus (taking on that attitude of life sucks) is easy, comfortable and completely normal. I also like to think of it like coffee. Coffee is comfortable, it’s what I know. Coffee is a completely normal LIFESTYLE look around you, the coffee shop scene is growing! And for me coffee is most often the ‘easy’ way out. I’m a busy person, I like that, I hold tightly to the mentality that “I can sleep when I’m dead.” So, there are many times where coffee steps in and replaces some sleep because that’s just easier for me instead of managing my time more wisely (just being completely honest). But have you ever heard that coffee stunts your growth? I was told that a lot as a kid since I had already become an addict by age 12. Don’t blame my parents for not raising my right or something because this was all my fault, they hate coffee. My mom drank it once in college and decided it was nasty and never tried it again and my dad… who knows. Anyway, about coffee stunting your growth maybe that’s why I’m so short, or maybe not. I actually have no clue as to whether or not that statement is true, I’m not a scientist and science was the only class I failed, but what I do know is hopping on the struggle bus DOES stunt your growth. Now obviously I’m not talking about physical growth, I’m referring to spiritual growth. From that state of believing the negative, of believing that your life does suck and allowing these struggles to consume you, you will not grow. And in our walk with God if we aren’t growing, if we aren’t moving forward we are going backwards. We sit on top of our problems staring right at them and missing everything God has placed around us. Personally, I’m done missing out on the life that’s around me, just because I’m not wanting to let go of the death of a dream or future plan I had for myself, Jesus himself showed us how death can actually be a beautiful thing. How sad would it be if we were too focused on the death of Jesus that we missed the entire picture? What if we missed that his death represents the death of our old self and our sin, or we missed the next thing he was doing, we missed the entire resurrection. That is what enemy wants us to do in our struggle, he wants to distract us so much that we not only miss out on all the beauty that comes with death but also the next thing that God is trying to do in your life. I don’t know about you but I’m done missing out.

In these times when we choose to walk, sometimes alone God blesses that. Often that blessing comes just like that small voice saying, ” Hey I can give you a ride, my car might not be that nice and my A/C doesn’t always work, And I don’t have a radio so we’re going to have to talk or just sit in the silence but I can help you get where you’re going.” Together even if that community is small, or that person doesn’t know what to say but they help you get through that struggle, sometimes just by being willing to sit there with you in the silence. Realizing that life isn’t always pretty and sometimes we need to walk through or just sit with them.

We often overlook just how important community around us is, no matter how small it is, it impacts us spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. I’m not just talking about when we’re tempted to hop on the struggle bus. We need to start by building this community when we are living on the party bus, or walking in the spring air. Not as we’re standing there in the cold winter watching all of these struggle buses approach us. “Left to our own devices, we sometimes choose the most locked up, dark versions of the story, but what good friends do is turn on the lights, open the window, and remind us that there are a whole lot of ways to tell the same story.” (Bittersweet) We can’t just wait until the lights go out to find our community, because we’ll never find them wandering around in the dark. Once we have that community and are engaged in it what happens when the lights go out, or the struggle buses start showing up? I am so prone to in my wandering, in my struggle, in my grief, be blind to my community and choose isolation. In those scary yet tender moments are when I need most to humble whatever is left of my pride. Open my eyes and take one big look around, listening for that small voice offering me a much-needed ride, and the hardest part for me is to EXCEPT the invitation! Community is there to love you, support you, and not judge you as you walk through this but too often we assume it’s a burden to except that invitation, we think “oh they don’t mean it they were just being polite.” Some people are polite, community ISNT! My community will kick me in the shins when I need it, I’ve come to learn they aren’t just being polite they truly want to walk WITH me through this struggle and the next, as do I with them.

So, don’t hop on the struggle bus because it seems faster or easier, but walk with God allowing Him to take the wheel in your life (Just like Carrie Underwood). Let him help and comfort you and those times of struggle and lead you to those who he’s placed around you to give you a ride when your feet can’t walk no more.

Running to a House without a Home

Have you ever been headed somewhere and put a lot of effort and energy into going there only to realize in the middle of your journey (if not at the end), where you’re headed isn’t even where you wanted to go?

I can think of plenty of times. Sometimes it’s because I’ve veered off the course somewhere and headed towards a new destination without noticing. Other times it’s because I had the wrong destination in mind the ENTIRE time. Investing so much time and energy into a place where you weren’t supposed to be in. Then, later on having to re-adjust, re-calculate, refocus, and re-energize before heading where you should be going.

In my life, I can thoroughly relate in many ways shapes and forms to that picture. One of them is a fairly fresh example. You see I always seem to get a tad ambitious about my future and God has taught me a huge lesson on giving that to him and letting him lead me each step of the way. With that, when God reveals a little snippet of his plan with me, I RUN WITH IT. When I run with these plans I get ahead of myself, WAY AHEAD. The Lord knows me oh so well and that’s why He only gives me one step at a time. Anyway, back to my example. This past semester I was at Nova studying hospitality management, long story short they dropped my major MID SEMESTER. I had my next four years planned out, now it was all in pieces. I was frustrated, I cried for a bit, talked to my parents, and then gave it up. I said, “Okay God I know you led me here and I know you’ll lead me again, so while you keep whispering wait I’ll enjoy where you have me now.” Funny thing is whenever I get to that point of surrendering my plans, that’s often when God shows me the next step, it’s like He’s saying, “I was waiting for that, now are you ready to see the next step.” Shortly after that I started interning with these amazing women who are teaching me things that I could never learn in a classroom, which is how to minister to people in the event coordinating environment. With that in my life I started running again. I know, I know, you think I’d learn. Honestly, I got caught up with the rhythm that mostly everybody in Northern Virginia runs to. We’re all so career focused and success minded, and we run towards it. I’m talking about endurance running, it’s a marathon. We’re all competing for the best time, to look the best while were doing it, to go farther than anyone thought you could go. Except this is where I think we miss the picture, this is where we often miss the goal. Don’t misunderstand me, these are good things I’m well aware, but at the same time this was never the race we were meant to put our ALL into. We can start with something so close to our target, but being just a smidge off in your aim will lead you to a very different trajectory.

I believe it’s a lot like the story of Haggai. You see, the nation of Israel began working on building homes for themselves. Homes are a necessity; how could this be a problem? Does God not want us to have a roof over our heads? Of course not! That’s actually the point I’m trying to make. We can start with good intentions but be missing It completely. In the NLT version of the Bible it says that they’re living in luxurious houses while His house (the Lords house) sits in ruin. Not only were they forgetting & putting off the work on the temple, but they were putting in all of their energy into making their homes luxurious. Leaving no effort, no time, no supplies, to put into the Lords house. It makes me ask the question, how often am I putting all my time, effort, energy, resources, gifts, and talents into NECESSARY things but not leaving an appropriate amount or any, for God and what He has in store for me?

So, what does God say about this?

He tells the people of Israel TWICE to give careful thoughts to their ways. He says in Vs. 6,
“You have planted much but have harvested little. You eat but never have enough. You drink but never have your fill. You put on clothes but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
And later on, again in Vs. 9,
“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home
I blew it away. Why? Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you
Is busy with his own house.”

Part 1:
God is telling us to assess what we are doing. Where is our heart focused, what are our priorities, is the majority of your time & energy geared towards seeking God, or pursuing other necessary things? My red flag is when I find myself running out of time for hearing Gods word in my day, or week, and definitely a big red flag if I can’t find time with him in a couple weeks. Its normally a slow transition, like I said in the beginning, we aim somewhere so close to the direction we want to be but even just a little off can leave us far away from target, like when my day switches focus from asking God what he wants for my day, to just trying to squeeze Him in to my day.

God goes on to talk about how they have put in lots of work but are going to harvest little, how they’re going to have clothes and food and drink, but it won’t be enough, they won’t be satisfied. The Lord has withheld from them, because his house remains in ruin. Then the Lord instructs them to go and rebuild the temple. Then comes my favorite part! The people respond to what the Lord is saying through Haggai and this is their response: “The governor, high priest, and the whole remnant of the people OBEYED the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.”

Part 2:
Tells me two things about their posture towards God that is important for us:

1. They’re humble, they did not let pride get in the way. They chose not to be overly consumed with what they had been putting all their effort into when corrected, and humbled themselves to obey even at the cost of all their work. Am I humbling myself enough that when corrected by God I’m willing to potentially lose all my work, to ensure I’m going the direction God is calling me?

2. They feared the Lord. They had a deep understanding of Who God is and how big He is. They knew that the last place they wanted to be was out of His will. Is that my perspective? Am I fearing the Lord or the world?

When we get to Chapter 2 we find that they have already started to build the new temple and the Lord speaks through Haggai once again.
“Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you nothing?

Honestly that’d be a tad discouraging to me, some of these people have been around a long time and had seen the beauty of the temple that Solomon had built, one of the wealthiest men! Now they’re looking at this temple and its nothing compared to that. Sometimes when I get back on track when I finally realign to Gods will, I have so little energy left in me, sometimes I have to take some extra steps to make up for my wrong direction, which cause my efforts to almost look pitiful. I often get frustrated at this re-navigation that it’s just really not what my walk use to look like & it’s not good enough. Here is the thing God didn’t just leave them after pointing that out but continues to go and encourage them.

“BUT NOW BE STRONG. Be strong all you people of the land; and work for I am with you. That is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my spirit remains among you. DO NOT FEAR.” Guys, God wants to work along side us, encourage us, instruct us. He has power in his words to revive our weary souls, but are you allowing yourself to listen to that voice to receive correction and encouragement.

There is so much more to unpack in these 2 chapters so I’d encourage you to go read them INTENTLY because I know I’ll lose you if I continued to go on and on. But also, God can often speak so much clearer through his word than my fickle words. But Overall Remember when you focus your eyes on Jesus, and use your time, energy, talents, resources, etc. You will see Gods glory and He will bless you! When He corrects you, listen and obey his voice and run towards him and He will encourage you! He loves us with an all-consuming love & wants to guide us in our race of life, until we reach the finish line (aka, Heaven).