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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.

Lessons from The Greatest Showman

I love movies. It is a way to escape from life for a little while, a way to be imaginative in someone else’s eyes, and a great past time. However, it isn’t often that a movie hits home so much that I listen to the soundtrack every single day to encourage myself. I have my favorites of course. Like Fried Green Tomatoes and Road to Perdition. Movies that have touched my heart and movies that I feel like I can relate to on some level. The Greatest Showman is one of those movies.

In the Greatest Showman there are many wonderfully written songs. Songs that encourage the viewers and stand as an anthem for many people. But there is one song that makes me cry every time I hear it. Yes, I am a sap. I cry during movies, cry during songs and cry watching the news almost every day so for those who know me, this is probably no big shocker. However, it is the nature of this song that brings me to tears and how it relates to my life right now.

The song is called “A Million Dreams”. The backdrop starts with a little girl and a little boy who like each other but come from two different worlds. She is part of the high-class society while he is poor. The little girl, Charity, sneaks out of her home to see the boy. As they sit by the beach, she talks about how she doesn’t know what her future will hold for her. Like Charity, I am in a point in my life that I don’t know what life holds for me anymore. I don’t know what God’s plan is and I struggle daily to see how we can have a happy future.

Some of the lyrics read:

“Every night I lie in bed
the brightest colors fill my head
a million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
a vision of the one I see
a million dreams is all it’s gonna take
a million dreams for the world we’re gonna make”

The young boy sings about how he sees a future for himself and for Charity and that future is together. Throughout everything that my husband and I have been through the past year, it has been hard to see a future for us. What I mean by that is, it is hard for me to be able to see that we can own a home someday or live in our own home instead of living with family. I have struggled with seeing this future for almost a year. I get discouraged and frustrated because it is not what I want to provide for my family. However, the one person who has kept our dreams alive is my husband.

He has been the one to keep reminding me that we will move someday and have our own home again. He is the one who can see that future even when I cannot. I have been so focused on what I don’t have that I lose sight of my dreams. It is good to dream and good to hope. That is something that you should never give up on.

Trust me, in the dark and hard times, it feels almost impossible to hold on to your dreams. When you have lost everything and can’t see your dreams anymore, let someone else carry those dreams and remind you when you need it. But know this, God made us with dreams and hopes for our future. That is what makes us human. If it was wrong to dream and hope, it would say so in the Bible and guess what, it doesn’t!

Dream until your dreams come true. Ask God for those dreams and aspirations. Let Him write your book but tell Him what you’d like. It doesn’t mean that every dream will come true and your dreams might change but having dreams are important and a gift from God. Cultivate those dreams.

Thanksgiving: Is It a Hard Time of Year?

The holidays are here! Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas lights, Christmas music, snow, paid time off, and family time. I love the holidays. If it could be like this every year, I would be pretty happy. But, I will let you in on a little secret, there was a time where the holidays were not the happiest time of year for me.

After my parents split up, I hated the idea of spending the holidays with two different families. My anger towards some family members (anger stemmed from the divorce) seemed to rear its ugly head. I didn’t want to see them, didn’t want to talk with them and didn’t want to spend my most favorite time of year with people who hurt me. As time grew closer and closer to Thanksgiving, the once happy holiday became a time of anger.

I bet there are those of you out there who are reading this and you feel like this is you. Your relationship with someone (whether it is a family member or a friend) is rocky and the holidays are not the time you want to see them. You want to keep the happy holidays happy and not bring in the hurt into the mix.

I want to challenge you to set aside your hurt feelings this year. Try making that effort for the holidays. I know you are probably sitting there thinking, “I make an effort every year and it always ends up being the same horrible holiday”. Guess what, I said the same thing, but we are wrong when we think that way and I will tell you why. If we look deep in our hearts when we make that remark are we truly making an effort? When we make an effort to be kind to someone even when they have wronged us, there shouldn’t be a feeling of resentment or anger at the end of the day. When we make the effort, and I mean TRULY make an effort to be kind, to talk with that individual or group of people, we feel better at the end of the day. Things might not be fixed but when we make an effort, the day (and holiday) feel like it was truly a good and happy holiday.

The first year I tried to “make an effort” with a sour heart, I left feeling like my Thanksgiving was wasted and ruined. I complained to my friends and family that I should have never tried to make an effort and should have never gone in the first place. The second year I tried to “make an effort” I decided to be fake. I put on that fake smile, talked with everyone and left, still feeling like the holiday was a waste of time. The third year, before I even went over to my family’s, I asked God how to make the holiday a happy time of year. I was tired of leaving feeling empty and angry. Do you know what He did. He changed my heart.

It wasn’t the fact that my family had chosen to be rude or ignored me during the holiday. In fact, they tried to make an effort just like I had. My heart was the issue. The bitterness in my heart, towards those who had hurt me, ruined my holidays. That year, I left feeling whole again and happy. Sure, the hurt feelings are still there. Yes, they hurt me deeply. However, when we decide to make a heart change for the holidays, suddenly, the holidays end up being “not so bad”.

As you continue to work towards a better future for yourself and your family through healing, each year will get easier. It will take time and it might take some difficult conversations to move on, but when we make the conscious decision to change our hearts towards those who hurt us, one of the most difficult times of year suddenly becomes one of the easiest times of the year.

So as you go to your Thanksgiving dinners this week, let me challenge all of us (including me) to make that change of heart so that we can make an effort and enjoy the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

The Church as a Hindrance

The church is a good place for us to grow and worship together; but can the church be a hindrance to our spiritual lives? Yes, but let me first explain. The church has been a huge part of my life since I was born. I grew up in the church and have volunteered in the church for many years. My church family has been a part of my life through some very difficult times. They have been there to pray for me, support my family, and encourage us.

However, living a life full of trials and tribulations has shown me that the church can be a hindrance in one specific way. Those who are going through a difficult time rely solely on the church and not on God. What do I mean by this? When I was in high school, I went through my parent’s divorce. It was a nasty and hard divorce that left me and my family broken and bruised. I turned to the church first instead of turning to God.

See, when we go through a difficult time, God wants us to rely on Him and to turn to Him before anything else or anyone else. Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” NIV It is not that a church or the people in the church are bad or can’t help you but the church is not greater than God. No one is greater than God. So why, when we are in a tough situation, do we immediately call upon the church instead of God?

I think, often times, we turn to the church first before asking God for help due to of a couple of reasons. One, we can talk to someone face-to-face and hear their answer immediately. Sometimes God takes His time because there is another lesson He wants us to learn. It isn’t that He doesn’t want to answer or cannot answer us directly. If God decided to speak to me right here and right now about the troubles I’ve faced, He would do it. He did it with Moses in the burning bush and He can do it with all of us. The reason He doesn’t do that is because it would defeat the purpose of spending time with Him and would take away from the growth of our relationship with Him. In times of pain and sorrow or times of difficulty we should turn to God’s word and turn to prayer. God wants to hear from us just as much as we want to hear from Him.

Second, sometimes we can hide the bad stuff about ourselves and our situation to get a response that we want rather than the response God will give us. Have you ever heard the term, “it takes two to tango”? Well often times in a difficult situation, there are two sides to a story. Take my parent’s divorce for example. There were things said and done on both parts that ruined their marriage. It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t due to one simple mistake or one word said. If I were one of my parents going through the divorce I wouldn’t want the people in the church to know all of the bad things I’ve done. I would want to tell them everything that my spouse has done to me in order to get the response and sympathy I am looking for. With God, we cannot hide the things we have done. He knows every flaw and every imperfection.

Third, we turn to the church first instead of God because we want something from the church and we want it immediately. If we are struggling financially or we need something physical that maybe the church can provide we ask them before we ask God. On this one, I am not saying that taking help from the church is a bad thing. The church has helped many people through some tough times. However, it is where our hearts lie on this one that truly matters. God is the one who provides all things for us and when we ask Him He will provide. If you are tight on money and don’t know how you will be able to provide food for your family, ask God to help you and then go to your church. They may have a food bank you can get food from. When you don’t have a job and you’ve been searching for months but haven’t had any offers, ask God and then see if there is someone in the church who knows of a job available that would fit. My point is, when you need something in your life (physical need or not) turn to God and ask Him what to do. Rely on God before you rely on the church. Relying on God to provide those physical needs is another way to build your relationship with Him. Psalm 91:2 says, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” NIV

Like I’ve said many times now, it is not a bad thing to be a part of a church or ask a church for help but when we turn to the church before we turn to God, we are being hindered in our spiritual life. Remember that “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

 

 

Isaiah 40:31 “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” NIV

Our Words as a Parent

I haven’t been a parent for very long. In fact, my daughter will be two in November; so I still consider myself a new parent. During my time with my daughter, I have learned a lot about what it means to be a parent. Being a parent has more responsibilities that others don’t normally think of. Sure, there are the normal parent responsibilites of feeding your child, making sure they don’t get hurt, getting them to bed on time, etc. But the hidden responsibilities are often times the hardest ones.

The responsibilities I am talking about are raising your child to be respectful, gentle but strong, and using kind words. Often times these seem like they are daunting tasks and during my two years with my daughter, I have learned a huge lesson and that lesson has to do with my words.

Every parent will tell you to be careful with what words you say in front of your child but it is more than just cussing or using inappropriate language. It is the tone you use and the way we speak to our children in times of discipline. It even comes down to the conversations and tone when speaking with your spouse. These tones are things our children notice.

I’ve noticed, lately, that my daughter is not only copying the words I say but the tone in my voice and the attitude I have. Her attitude towards my husband and me has become a mirror of how I act towards her and my husband.

During moments of discipline, my tone towards my daughter is important. Often times, my tone slips from being a firm but gentle discipline to a harsh raised tone that often teeters towards yelling. So what are good tones to take with our children?

I am no expert. However, these are the tips I have learned with my daughter:

  1. Keep a gentle but firm tone- No parent wants their child to learn that it is okay to walk all over their parents so it is crucial to be firm in our direction. I don’t like disciplining my daughter (who does right?), but often times I struggle with being too firm or being too soft. Being too soft does not tell your child that what they are doing is wrong. They often believe they can get away with what they are doing because their parent (or guardian) is not serious in the command that has been given. So make sure to be that gentle but firm disciplinary.
  2. Yelling is a mistake- Yelling at a child and not staying calm can lead into a fearful child and/ or teach your child bad habits when it comes to communicating with others. I am not perfect and have definitely messed up in this area. I have lost my cool in stressful situations and instead of staying calm, I’ve yelled at my daughter. In return, I’ve noticed a tone in my daughter’s voice when she does not agree with me. When I tell her no or to put something away, her voice raises and there have been moments where she has tried to yell at me. Obviously the words are incoherent for a two year old who is still learning, but the tone she has learned is a dangerous one. It is instilling anger within my child instead of discipline. In those moments of frustration, stress and anxiety, we need to take a deep breath and calm myself before disciplining my child.

I want to raise a young woman who is strong but gentle. A young woman whose words are mighty like a rock but don’t tear others down. Part of being that young woman is using your words and your tone in a firm but gentle manner. It is better to instill those skills when our children are younger than to fight for them when our children are older. This is true for both young women and young men. We want to raise our sons to treat others with respect (men and women) and part of showing respect is being gentle with their words and their tone.

Ephesians 6:4 says, “do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” NIV This verse talks about how we shouldn’t exasperate our children but what does exasperate mean? The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines exasperate as three things.

a. to cause irritation or annoyance
b. to excite the anger of
c. roughened with irregular prickles

The definition that catches my attention the most is the “roughened with irregular prickles”. When we exasperate our children with anger or irritate them, we are causing them to become rough in an irregular way. There is a difference between being strong and being rough in our heart. I think of making my daughter “rough” and that is not what I desire for my little girl. In order to avoid her growing a rough and hardened heart, I need to show her how to be firm and gentle with my words and tone.

I want to encourage all the parents out there who are reading this. Strive, in those moments of discipline, to be firm but gentle with your words. Instill in your child discipline but do it so that they remain gentle and not rough in their hearts. When you mess up (because we all do), talk with your child. Whether they are old enough to understand or not, talk with them about how you lost your cool and that wasn’t the right thing to do. Tell them that your tone and anger is never acceptable and that we all mess up but the important thing to do is try to be gentle again. Showing them that we all mess up is, yet, another way to teach our children important values.

 

 

More verses to keep in mind:

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

My Testimony

I think it is about time I told my testimony. For those who are unaware of what a testimony is, it is the story of how I came to know Christ as my Lord and Savoir and my spiritual walk since then. It is how God has worked in my life and the journey I have walked on.

I grew up in a Christian household. My parents took us to church every Sunday, we attended church events and I went to Sunday school. When I was six years old, I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior but my spiritual life did not stop there.

Life seemed to be perfect for me. My parent’s loved each other, we all followed God like we were supposed to, we read our Bibles every night, prayed before meals; but that all changed when I was thirteen.

When I was thirteen, my family and I were living in a small town in Texas. I woke up one night to my parents fighting. It wasn’t a surprise. I mean, everyone’s parents fight. But that night, it was different. After going out to see what was going on, my father told me that my mom had an affair and was pregnant with his child. My father, wasn’t perfect either. I found out he was struggling with pornography. My perfect world had now started to crumble down.

After months of what felt like pure darkness, my parents decided to stay together. The man my mom had an affair with, decided he didn’t like that and threatened to kill us. In an effort to keep us safe, my parents packed up everything we owned in a week and moved us back to Colorado. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone where we were going; not even my closest friends.

In Colorado, we tried to pick up the pieces of our lives. My mom had a miscarriage and my parents were living in separate homes. Eventually, they moved back in together but six years later, their divorce became final.

Throughout the years, my life has been like Job’s. Job, is a man in the Bible who the enemy was able to take everything from, except his life, and he still stayed faithful to the Lord. He lost his family, his home and his health but still loved God. I’ve ran for my life, dealt with verbal and sexual abuse, climbed out of a pit of depression, lost my home, have  grown up in a broken family that probably will never heal, have been to the point where I financially have nothing and have had moments where I didn’t understand how any good could come into my life.

The one true and strong stone in my life was God. He was there through the threats, the abuse, and the depression. He held me up when I felt like I couldn’t walk anymore. He was the one who gave me the strength to move on. And even through the darkest times, He has blessed me with the little blessings. He gave me a husband who respects and loves me for who I am, a beautiful daughter who I couldn’t imagine life without, a roof over my head, air in my lungs, and friends who were there to encourage me.

God is the one factor, throughout everything, that is good. There has been so much bad in my life but He is truly good.

I won’t sit here and tell you that my journey is all peaches and cream. I have my days where I don’t know how life can get better. I have my days where I don’t know what God is doing or what will happen next but that is part of being a Christian. God doesn’t tell us that life will be easy. In James 1:2-4 Jesus says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you my be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.

God has worked and is working in my life. He didn’t leave me alone when my family and I were running for our life, He didn’t leave me when all I wanted to do was take my own life, and He won’t leave me in whatever trials are ahead. I will always persevere and lean on the Lord. That will never change.

Comparison is the Killer of Joy

Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram; all of the social media sites out there can be dangerous devices. I can personally say that, once a day, I go on Facebook and Pinterest to see what other people are doing. It is a great way to stay in touch with friends or family who live far away but it is an easy way to fall into the comparison game.

Normally, we all post the good things about ourselves. We put up pictures of the trips we have taken, the new car we bought or the new “toy” we got. How many times have you gone on to Facebook and wished you were able to do the things that others do or have the things that others have? I am guilty of this.

I see the homes people live in or the party they throw in their new home and I get jealous. Right now, my husband, my daughter and I are living in my grandparents basement. I am completely blessed to have a roof over our heads but desperately wish I had a home of my own. I dream, daily, of the future home I might have and when I see others posting a picture of their newly remodeled kitchen or newly bought home, I get jealous, and sometimes, a little bit depressed.

Deep inside, I know God has a plan for our lives and that a home may be a few years down the road but that is hard for me. This weekend, our pastor talked about how comparison can be a big part of depression and can often times steal our joy. For me, I do get depressed when I think about my situation. Living in my grandparent’s basement is not where I want to be but I often times forget about God’s plan.

Another comparison, I have failed deeply at, is the comparison of looks. On Snapchat, there are filters that make your eyelashes longer and your eyes sparkle. The filter also wipes your face clean and takes away any imperfections you may have. I have often times taken a photo on Snapchat and said, “Why can’t I look more like this? Why can’t my eyelashes be longer or my face look that smooth?” and once again, comparison has stolen my joy.

My husband tells me everyday how beautiful I am but then I think back to the filters on Snapchat and how I looked when I used those and I become depressed and self conscious. I tell him that I don’t feel beautiful and that there are so many things wrong with the way I look.

As I write this out, yeah it sounds stupid. God created me to be beautifully and uniquely different than anyone else. He made me and loves me just the way I am. God also gave me a husband who thinks I am the most beautiful person in the whole world. So how do we change from comparing ourselves to others to being content with what we have and being joyously thankful?

I want to challenge you all to do some things that I learned from my pastor.

  1. If you are dealing with depression due to comparison or comparison is consuming your every thought, get rid of social media for a while. See if it changes your view on life.
  2. If you are comparing the way you look by adding filters to your pictures, focus on only taking pictures without filters. Post the real you and see the beautiful comments that others say. Along with this, say three good things about yourself every day. Make it related to the outer and the inner beauty.
  3. If comparison is a comparison to the lives of others, wake up and say ten things you are thankful for; everyday. When you wake up the next day, come up with ten more. Continue to do this and make it a habit.

Comparison is not an easy thing to quit. It will be a hard and long road but the sooner you quit comparing yourself to others or to the “fake” version of you, the sooner your life will become brighter and more positive.

Trust me, I am struggling with these things too. And, especially in a time when my future seems bleak and uncertain, those are the times it will be most difficult to keep your focus and not compare your life. During this challenge, you will have good days and you will have bad days. There will be days you fail at being thankful and fall back into that comparison game; it is part of being human. However, when you do mess up, get back into the game of being thankful and joyful. God has blessed us with an amazing life. Let’s be grateful for the gifts He has given us and the blessing He has in store for our lives.