Valentine’s Day, Yay!

It’s almost Valentine’s Day! A day where our significant others buy flowers, chocolate, teddy bears, take us out to nice dinners and express their love to us. A holiday where couples are overjoyed and singles are usually longing for someone to share their special day with.

I have never had much luck with Valentine’s Day. I’ve gone from being single, to breaking up on Valentine’s but have also had to work with no Valentine’s dinner date available. A year ago, on Valentine’s, I almost lost my Valentine. Through a stream of hard times and challenges in life, my husband became depressed. He was so depressed that I almost lost him that night to suicide. Trust me, it was one of the worst Valentine’s Days I’ve ever had.

If there was one thing I learned from that time, a year ago, it is how valuable our loved ones are to us. Don’t ever take them for granted and don’t just make Valentine’s a routine every year. I want to encourage each and every one of you to put your heart into this Valentine’s Day. Whether you are the one who normally receives the gifts or you are the one giving the gifts. Truly spend some time showing the one you love just how much they mean to you.

Do something different and special this year. Instead of the usual flowers and candy, do a scavenger hunt during the day that leads to a fun dinner or leave special notes around your home, car and (if you are able) your spouse’s workplace telling them the many reasons why you love them. If you are both busy on Valentine’s, plan a special weekend dinner or stay up late to watch a movie together.

Don’t let another Valentine’s go by as being just another mundane Valentine’s. Let your special someone know just how special they are to you. I know, it sounds really cheesy to say that but I have learned just how easily a Valentine’s Day, that is supposed to be a happy loving day, can turn into one of the darkest days of your life. I was blessed that day to still have my husband by my side at the end of the day. He may have been broken but he is still alive.

If you are reading this and you are dealing with depression or suicide and don’t know how to get through the holiday, please, find someone to talk to. Maybe it is a friend, a pastor, or a family member. Or, if it is to the point that you are suicidal, call someone. There is a suicide hotline that you can call. The number is, 1-800-273-8255. Don’t be afraid to talk. Sometimes it takes talking to someone to get you through that day.

Remember to show the ones you love just how much you love them this Valentine’s Day!

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Lessons From the World

Growing up in a Christian family, I was always taught that we should look for healing in the church and not the world. When we are hurting, we turn to the church or to a Brother or Sister in Christ. The idea of turning towards the world when hurting was talked about as a negative idea.

When I reached a point in my life where I was fighting depression and suicide, I knew I had to make a change. I switched colleges and moved four hours away to a little mountain town to continue my degree and try to get some healing. I attended three of the churches down there, talked regularly with a Sister in Christ and even chatted with professors who shared the same beliefs as I did. I received a little bit of healing but not enough to completely help me.

While all this was going on, I met three friends (who I will leave unnamed) who were not believers; or if they were, they never talked about their beliefs. These friends were there to listen, to talk and to help me through my pain. They showed me what it meant to live through pain. One friend had dealt with suicide himself, another had dealt with the divorce of her parents, and the third had lost his mother to cancer and his sister was murdered; they all had lost so much but could still live life to the fullest.

Every day I spent time with them, I learned from them. I learned how to leave my pain behind, I learned how to shut out the hurtful words of others and I learned how to keep living. I am forever grateful to those friends. They taught me more than anyone else had.

Over the past year, I have been angry with God. I’ve been angry about how He has let bad things happen to me and I felt like He was so far away in my pain. I didn’t understand why He could let all these bad things happen to me and not step in to intervene.

On my lunch breaks and after work when the dishes were done, the laundry was folded and my little girl was finally in bed, I would sit down to watch Greys Anatomy. Yes, it is a show that has a lot of things I don’t agree with but there is a character in that show who shares the same name as me and shares similar beliefs. In one of the seasons she struggles with the same feelings as I did a little bit ago. She was angry with God, didn’t understand why He didn’t step in and take control of all the bad in her life and in the world.

Throughout about three or four episodes, she struggles with hating God. The last episode I watched, she met a rabbi who was dying. She poured her heart out to him and explained everything she was struggling with and all the anger she had. The dying rabbi told her that God didn’t leave her side; that He was right there the whole time. He also talked about how without pain and trials in the world, there would be no faith. He said if the world was perfect, there would be no reason to have faith in our lives. At that moment, everything the rabbi was saying hit home for me and broke me down. I needed to hear his words (or the words of the writer) in order to move forward from my anger and my pain.

I say these two stories to show you that healing can be given by God through the most unlikely places. Obviously, take caution. There are things that you should never turn to in order to find healing. Sex before marriage, alcoholism, drugs, etc. All the things that God says to never do, don’t turn to them for relief from your pain. However, don’t think that you can’t learn from the world either. Healing doesn’t just come from the church or from our brothers and sisters in Christ (although those are perfect places to turn). God can allow healing through some amazing people who are non-believers or words written by others that can be heard in a TV show or in a book.

Staying Motivated in Tough Times

Being motivated in the middle of a trial can be difficult. Most of the time, when I am in a time of trials, all I want to do is lay in bed and mope around. It is hard to pick ourselves up, keep going, and find the motivation to move forward every day.

As you go through this dark time of your life, shoot to remember five ideas.

  1. Start your morning off right. Instead of getting up and looking at how many troubles you have and slipping into that depressed state, turn your view towards God. Psalms 5:3 states, “In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly”. We should be greeting the day by looking to the Lord and asking Him to guide our steps. There is nothing wrong with asking Him for something your heart desires. At the moment, my desire in my time of darkness is to have a home of our own.

 

It is easy for me to wake up, look at my current situation and fall back into a depressed state about what I don’t have. Instead, I will wake up and talk to God. Setting my desires and hopes at His feet. Once I do that, I leave it with God. Let Him take care of your future. Don’t let your future sit on your shoulders.

 

  1. Deal with sufferings by looking at God’s glory. Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” God is amazing. If we look at what He has already done for us instead of what He hasn’t reveled to us, we will start the day off wrong. I look back at what God has brought me out of this far and I am amazed. I often forget to see all the glory He has done and look at what is in front of me.

 

  1. Press on during the times of suffering. Keep going every day. Wake up and make it for the next hour. When that hour is done, make it for another hour. Keep going. I promise things get better. Philippians 3:13-14 says “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Focus your goal on living for Christ. Do everything for Him and His glory. Go serve others in this time of waiting. The more you do to distract yourself, the faster time will fly by.

 

  1. Let God set your steps. “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24. When we let God work in us He sets our steps. God won’t let us fall in life. Think about it. Throughout this time of suffering, has there been one moment when you have completely crashed and everything is gone? You still have air in your lungs, your heart still beats and that is all because of God. Look at what He has done so far. If He has done that, then He will lead your steps and set a future for you. Have faith in the Lord.

 

  1. God’s grace is sufficient. At the end of the day God has done a great deal in our lives. He has blessed us beyond compare and in that, we need to remember that God’s grace is sufficient. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10. If God’s power is made perfect in weakness, then His glory is being done. What he means by this is that people can see God’s glory in the weakest parts of our lives. If everything was peachy keen and perfect, we wouldn’t need God. Life isn’t perfect and it will never be perfect. However, in our times of trouble, we should strive to let God’s glory be the main thing that sticks out of our trials. Let God get the glory in everything.

I won’t sit here and tell you that the future will be easy. I know from personal experience that it will never be perfect or easy.  I have had times of darkness and times of happiness. Throughout all of my trials, I have struggled and failed to see the positive in my life. I have come to a place of depression and a loss of hope; but in all of my dark trials, God has not left me. He was there through the first trial and He is there for me now. Please hold onto hope and focus on God during your trial.

If anyone ever needs someone to talk to, you are more than welcome to email me or find someone in your church to talk to. Just know you are not alone.

Creating a Daily Spiritual Practice

Tools to Help You Grow Closer to God

Daily spiritual practices are important to our spiritual life. Think about it. If we want to create new habits, we usually set a time every day to do them. It takes 23 continuous days to create a habit. If spending time with God, reading His word, praying and worship are not an essential part of our current lives, then we need to make it a habit.

It is easy to come home at the end of the day and turn on the TV instead of immersing ourselves in God’s word. By the time you hit the pillow (if you are like me), you forget about reading God’s word. Life is crazy busy and being busy can often times lead us away from spending time with God. It is easy to get stuck in the routine of our busy lives and not set aside some time for God. That is why it is important to create a daily spiritual practice.

A daily spiritual practice is important not only for reading God’s word but for worshiping God daily and spending time with the Lord. There are many ways to do that. When you hear the words “daily spiritual practices”, what do you think of? When I think of a daily spiritual practice, it contains the following.

  1. Reading God’s word
  2. Praying earnestly every moment I get throughout the day
  3. Worshiping God

Your list can look different or it can look exactly the same. Find out what daily spiritual practices you want to imbed in your life and write them down. Don’t make them too specific just yet. Daily spiritual practices shouldn’t be too specific because we want to be able to mold them to our daily lives. Not every day we live looks exactly the same. I don’t work seven days a week or go to Church or bible study every day. For that reason, make your daily spiritual practices general to start out with.

Next, take your list and see how you can include them in your every-day routine. Be more specific in this section. Here is what mine looks like.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Morning Prayer

 

Sing worship songs on the way to work

 

Individual Devotional on Lunch

 

Evening Prayer

Morning Prayer

 

Sing worship songs on the way to work

 

Individual Devotional on Lunch

 

Evening Prayer

Morning Prayer

 

Sing worship songs on the way to work

 

Individual Devotional on Lunch

 

Evening Prayer

Morning Prayer

 

Sing worship songs on the way to work

 

Individual Devotional on Lunch

 

Evening Prayer

Morning Prayer

 

Sing worship songs on the way to work

 

Individual Devotional on Lunch

 

Bible Study (Live Group, Community Group, Life Group)

 

Evening Prayer

Morning Prayer

 

Devotional with my family

 

Evening Prayer

Morning Prayer

 

Church

 

Evening Prayer

 

Take your daily spiritual practice ideas and make them into a schedule like above. You don’t have to set specific times if you don’t want. If think it would help you stay on track better, then include those specific times. Don’t get upset if you mess up. Trust me, I am not perfect and I don’t always follow this schedule. Life happens but the important thing to try is spending time with God and making it a part of your routine.

Obedience to God

When you grew up, did you have certain rules you had to follow that were set by your parents? Rules that your parents expected you to obey? Growing up, my parents had rules for our home. There was no cussing, you had to be kind to your siblings, you needed to contribute to the chores around the house, do your homework on time, etc. It was expected that we followed those rules or there would be consequences.

In a way, it is the same with God. God has rules that He wants us to follow. Look at the ten commandments for example. These are rules that God has set that we must obey. But why is obedience so important? Growing up in a Christian home, I saw the world and the way that they lived and, at times, I didn’t understand why being a Christian had to be so serious all the time. I wondered why God set some of the rules that He did. For example, why does he say no sex before marriage? Or why is it bad to be drunk? After all, the world was doing it and they seemed to be just fine.

The more I grew in my faith, and as I continued in life, I realized just why it was so important to follow God’s rules and obey Him. God has a plan for our lives. That plan, is greater than any plan we could ever make. He sets those rules because not following the rules can ruin His plan for us.

Think of it this way, when you were a kid, your parents probably told you not to touch fire or play with fire. Why? Because if you played with fire too much, it can burn you or worse, set you on fire. Your parents want you to grow up unscarred and without pain. If they never told you to watch out for fire, you might be in a lot of pain and your life could be different today. You could be walking around as a burn victim with scars all over your body, but because your parents love you, they set a rule to not play with fire.

It is just like that. God sets rules for us to follow because He knows that playing around with breaking rules can hurt us. He loves us and wants us to follow His rules. I don’t know about you, but I would rather live a life that God has created for me than a life full of pain because of my own actions.

Obedience can seem unfair and may not make sense at times, but if we obey God, He will reward us with a beautiful future and a happy life.

 

“Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you possess.” Deuteronomy 5:33 NIV

Why New Year’s Resolutions Are Important

Every year we make new year’s resolutions. Some of us are successful in completing our new year’s resolutions while some of us are not. There have been years that my new year’s resolutions have fallen through the cracks and others where I have accomplished much, but why are new year’s resolutions important?

I’ve heard the argument that we shouldn’t make new year’s resolutions because we end up failing and, ultimately, become disappointed in ourselves. Some people say we are setting ourselves up for failure because we want to accomplish too much. I believe that new year’s resolutions are important to making us better people.

Making new year’s resolutions pushes us to work towards a better “me” and, even if we don’t accomplish those resolutions, we are still working towards a better future for ourselves. New year’s resolutions also allow us to take a look at our lives to see what needs to change. In taking a look at our lives, we see the negative that affects our lives and we strive for that better part of ourselves. As the new year comes along and you begin to view your lives to set those new year’s resolutions, think about a few goals to set.

First, make on big goal. Make this goal the main goal that you want to reach. In setting this goal, try to think of the following things. Is your goal:

  • Specific: What exactly do you want to accomplish?
  • Measurable: How will you know when you’ve reached this goal? What will you be able to do?
  • Action: What will you need to do in order to reach your goal?
  • Realistic: Is this goal reasonable? How do you know?
  • Timely: When will you reach this goal? What is your deadline?

After you have come up with your main goal, think about some smaller goals to set. Make goals for your family, your financials, home, work, health and (most importantly) your spiritual goals.

If the idea of goals scares you, think about it a different way.

  • What habit would you like to make?
  • What habit would you like to break?
  • What skill do you want to master?
  • What books do you want to read?
  • What new place would you like to explore.

Don’t let the idea of new year’s resolutions scare you. There is a lot of good that can come from a new year’s resolution. And if you fail, it is okay. Continue your resolution into 2020. If you think your main goal will take more than one year but there are steps you can take to break down that goal during this coming year, accomplish those steps. Use the new year to build a better “you”. See it as a fresh start.

And to everyone reading, have a blessed 2019!

Living Out Your Values

When it comes to being a Christian, there is nothing more important than living out your values. Values, defined by the dictionary are, “a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgement of what is important in life”. Values are the core of who we are. They are what makes us.

It is one thing to say we believe in God and follow the Lord, but if our actions do not reflect our values, the world can see our beliefs as fake or hypocritical. As Christians, it is our job to live like Christ and in doing so, we need to have set values to accomplish that goal. We don’t have to be perfect but we need to try.

Here are some challenges to living out your values.

  • Live out your values even when others do not live the same way. It is easy to fall into the temptations of the world. When others are not living the same way you are and the activities they partake in may look inviting, stay strong. Stick to your values and don’t break away.
  • If the temptations of the world become too hard to resist, turn to God. Ask Him to give you strength. Read your bible or pray during a time of temptation. Turning to God will be the best choice you make.
  • Set those values and base them off God’s word. If you do not already know your values, write them down. If you don’t know where to start, turn to God’s word. Base your values off of what He says and stick with the values. Your values should never change. They should be the core of who you are. Once you have those values in mind, write them down. You can look back at your values you wrote down to remind you of who you want to be and how to live like Christ.
  • Get an accountability partner. An accountability partner should be someone who you share the same values with and someone of the same sex. Find someone at your church to become that accountability partner. Together, keep each other accountable for living out your values. If you are struggling with something and need some extra encouragement, call your accountability partner. Work together to keep your values strong.

Don’t forget, we all mess up but it is never too late to continue to strive towards living out your values and living like Christ.