Whose fault is it anyway?

This summer, as I very adamantly refused to sign up for summer school, I have had a bit more time on my hands than normal. I am not one of those people who has a difficulty relaxing and doing nothing at times, so this has not really been a problem for me. In fact, I’ve quite enjoyed the break, and am actually almost feeling recovered enough from the insanity that is grad school that I am (almost) looking forward to school starting back up again. (Hardly short of a miracle, really) At the same time, I’ve tried not to completely waste my free time, so along with a few other various activities (including, but not limited to, tanning and eating sno cones) I’ve picked up a couple books over the past few weeks. And what do you know, both just so happen to be on the topic of relationships! (But then really, what did you expect? I’m a girl, thus I am relationally driven. I’m single, so naturally the topic comes up every now and then. And also, I kind of like watching stupid tv shows like The Bachelorette, and yelling at poor Ashley, telling her exactly what she’s doing wrong, according to my book.)

Between the books and different life events that have happened in the past few months and years, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about relationships lately. But today in particular, something hit me especially hard- one of those “aha!” moments that seems to come out of the blue. And here’s what struck me: I really believe that fairly often,

the devil is not my problem. I am the problem.

And here’s what I mean by that. Sometimes as Christians, we go through difficulties and assume that the spiritual thing to do is to try to figure out whether this difficulty is the devil attacking us, or God allowing something in order to make us grow. Sometimes, it’s one or the other, or a combination of both, but sometimes, and probably more often than I’d like to admit, the problem is ME! I have done this to myself! Very often, it is my own destructive behaviors that caused this relationship to crash and burn. My own lack of self-control is the reason that I am experiencing this heartache. My own choice to defy wisdom and common sense is the reason I am going through this difficult experience (and perhaps forcing a few other people to go through it as well!)

Of course, I am not denying the fact that a person’s past often shapes their current mindset and behaviors. Of course, the devil will use anything possible as a foothold, and perhaps manipulate circumstances and feelings in such a way that they cause more pain, or create an opportunity for poor behavior. Nonetheless, quite often, I am still the problem! My lack of maturity, or lack of understanding of scriptural principles, or my lack of discipline to do what I know is right is the problem.

But you know what truth struck me equally as hard today? I truly, truly believe that all of this self-inflicted pain absolutely grieves God. Not in a “get it together you idiot, you’re making me look bad”, kind of way. Grieved in the way that any good father would be, while watching his beloved child go through pain. Certainly, He does not put us through pain for some sort of sick enjoyment on His part. Conversely, He does allow pain in our lives for a number of different reasons. But through it all, I believe He is grieved when He watches us put ourselves (and others) through unnecessary pain. Why? Because He loves us, and there is a better way.

We all make mistakes. Most of us make the same dumb mistake more than once, before we really learn from it. And God’s grace, love and healing are there the first, second, third, 10,000th time we make that mistake. But my suggestion is simply this: perhaps we could spare ourselves from another broken heart or damaged relationship (be it a friendship, parent-child, boss-employee, or romantic relationship) by simply taking responsibility for our own actions. As simple as it is, I believe there is tremendous growth that can take place when we truly take a step back and say, “How much of this mess is my own doing, and how can I keep from doing it again?” Perhaps one reason that God allows us to continue in these destructive behaviors is because eventually, (hopefully) we learn. We stop!

Friends, there is a better way. Search the scriptures and find out what it is. Find a good book to help you. (I can recommend one or two haha) Build a relationship with someone older and wiser. Pray. But don’t stay where you are, because in this case, the grass really is greener on the other side.

 

And now that you’ve waded through this somewhat heavy blog, please enjoy this video.

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I can be a bit clumsy…

Last Thursday, I was rushing to get ready for work, and as usual, afraid I would be late. Clothes were flying through the air, my straightener was in one hand, mascara in the other. For whatever reason, I chose to wear a dress that still had to be ironed, so I pulled out the ironing gear, did the fastest ironing job possible, stood up to run out the door and BAM! I hit my head SO HARD on my slanted ceiling that I thought I was gonna fall over. I crumbled on my bed for a few seconds, waiting for my brain to stop rattling around inside my skull. Then I was off to work.

On the drive to work, my head pounding, I started thinking, “What if I have a concussion? What if I start throwing up at work and have to go the hospital? What if I pass out?!” (clearly a little dramatic, but my head HURT) After conferring with my co-workers and friends, and eventually making a call to Dr. Dad, it was confirmed that I did not have a concussion. What I did have was a lovely lump on my head that still hurt. The next day, in a rush once again, I was trying to do my hair quickly, and ran over that nice little lump with my hairbrush. I winced, and vowed to be more careful next time. Over the next few days, I tried my best to baby my poor little wounded head, and avoid contact with the hairbrush to that particular spot.

Hopefully you are not as clumsy as I am, but in my experience, we all have some sort of “bump on our head”- you know, that sore spot that’s mostly covered up, that you can mostly forget about, until it is accidentally bumped, and then BAM! It hurts like heck. You know, that thing you’d rather not talk about? That thing, that whenever you can sense the conversation is approaching the “danger zone”, you quickly steer it elsewhere? Maybe it’s something you did, maybe it’s something that was done to you. Maybe it’s someone who hurt you, or someone you know you hurt. (Did your pulse just speed up a bit? Yep, that thing)

I was a pretty sensitive kid. It didn’t take much for me to feel really guilty about the things I had done wrong. In fact, when I was a teenager, I don’t think I was ever grounded, even once. That was partly because whenever I did something wrong, my parents would talk to me about it, and I would feel so horrible about it, no other punishment was needed. Sometimes I still feel this way when I screw up. So when I got a text from my best friend and accountability partner, Alisha, last week saying, “I have a serious question for you, and I need an honest answer,” not gonna lie, my heart started beating a little faster. (When Alisha goes into “mom mode” like that, usually I’m in trouble haha) But this time, I started racking my brain for what she could possibly be talking about, something dumb I had done, etc, and I really couldn’t come up with anything. Turns out, she had sent me that text, knowing I would freak out, just as a joke (jerk), and her “serious” question was about gummy bears.

Even though I didn’t really have anything to hide this time, I know there are still issues in my heart that God wants to deal with- certain attitudes, actions, or hurts that I haven’t quite surrendered or dealt with yet. I imagine you can relate. And whatever your thing is, my encouragement to you today is simple: deal with it. Many of you who read this are in college, or just beginning to get your footing in your career or ministry. What better time to deal with the things from your past, than now? I read a book recently with this great quote: “Most of us are willing to change, not when we see the light, but when we feel the heat.” So if you’re “feeling the heat” on a certain area of your life, or maybe just now, God is shining His light on something you need to address, deal with it. And deal with it now. Because it’s not gonna go away, just because you ignore it.

I don’t know what “dealing with it” looks like for you. Maybe you simply need to forgive someone. Maybe you need to ask God to heal your heart. Maybe you need to apologize or confess to someone, or maybe you need to get some counseling. Whatever the case may be, I encourage you, don’t put it off. Don’t let your past hold you back any more. God’s got something much better for you, but maybe you’re not ready for it, until you let go of what’s behind. Just like David, let’s make this our prayer:

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalm 139:23-24

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That’s what GPS is for…

I’m a big picture person. I don’t do well with details. They are burdensome and boring for me. Years (and years) of schooling have taught me to handle detail oriented tests, but I will never be the person who analyzes every word of a test question and can argue (and win) a dispute with a professor based on one word. Sometimes I wear my socks inside out, solely because I don’t notice or care that they are inside out. I’m having a hard time thinking of another example of my dislike for detail because those things really just don’t enter my consciousness. (that, and it’s really late lol)  But big picture- now we’re talking! Give me the overall game plan, tell me where we’re going, and I don’t really care how we get there. That’s what GPS is for.

Lately, I’ve come to realize a problem with this type of thinking, and here’s why. I tend to think of myself as a person who follows God and is submitted to Christ. For the most part, I have made good life choices, and I am where God has called me to be at this point in my life. Big picture, I follow God.

But when we start talking details…. Sigh! I’m afraid that’s a different story sometimes. My unsaved boss doesn’t really care if I heard from God and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to pursue my call to ministry. She does notice how I talk about unpleasant customers when they leave, and the attitude that I bring with me to work every day. The older gentleman trying to find his exit (and driving painfully slow!) has no idea that I know what I want to do with my life. He does know my impatience.

Today, this thought hit me hard: worship is not saying, “Praise the Lord!” every time I encounter a frustrating situation. Worship is holding my tongue and acting Christ-like whenever I encounter a frustrating situation. I get tired of the “Well praise the Lord, sister!” people. I can only imagine how a non-Christian feels about that. I do not get tired of being around people who react with love, not frustration, with patience and peace, not grumbling and complaining. The people who have mastered their responses push me to be a better person far more than the people who walk around declaring, “I’m blessed!” all day long.

And so, friends, my prayer for the rest of my busy, potentially frustrating, week is that I learn to follow God and respond with grace… even in the little things. Won’t you join me?

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For my girls!

Since moving to Tulsa, I’ve started working at a clothing store called White House Black Market in one of the nicest areas of town. I’ve gotta say, it’s pretty fun playing dress up all day, and the women who come in to the store love it just as much as I do! (which is great for someone who works off of commission!) In the store, we host “feel beautiful” campaigns all the time (aka, get people in the store campaigns). Recently, we even gave away t-shirts that said “feel beautiful” on them (with a qualifying purchase, of course!) The thing is, it may be a sales gimmick, but it works. Why? Because women want to feel beautiful!

It’s amazing to me the stories that women will share with you, while you help them find the perfect dress. There’s the 30ish woman who came in with her little boy, having just broken up with her boyfriend, needing a little “retail therapy”. There’s the tall, gorgeous, blonde, going through a divorce, needing a dress for a party where she could fake a few smiles with her friends.  There’s the woman who came in with her oxygen machine to make a return; since buying new clothes, she’d gotten really ill, and no longer had a need for the pretty dress. Her hopelessness was written all over her face.

These are the women who come in because they want to “feel beautiful.” And while the clothes may do the trick for a few minutes, what they’re really searching for is something that lasts. I know, because I have the same desire to feel beautiful, desired, and loved. Sometimes that desire manifests itself in a shopping spree, in a longing for a new relationship, or a chick flick marathon. The irony of it all is that there is nothing more beautiful than a woman who knows she is truly loved, adored, cherished, desired, and delighted in. Just look at a little girl who knows she has the eye of her daddy, or a bride on her wedding day. Beautiful.

Here’s the thing girls- you are delighted in. You are loved. And what no amount of new clothes can do for you, the perfect, unending love of your Father can. His is a love that heals, forgives, cherishes, and delights in you. Even in the moments when you don’t feel it, His love is there, surrounding your heart. So let this be a little pre-Valentine’s Day reminder to open up your heart, and know that you’re beautiful… and loved!

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Snow day(s)!

If you follow either the news, or Twitter, you know there’s been quite a bit of snowfall in the past few weeks here in Oklahoma, up through Chicago, and beyond. Students of all ages rejoice as school was cancelled for the first day… the second day… the third day… and now the fourth is pending. (fingers crossed!) A friend of mine has dubbed it “snowpocalypse.” My church has been on the news for their hilarious facebook group:  Foundations Church Snow Angel Challenge . With school cancelled, and nowhere to go, I think the entire city (with the exception of my church) has been sitting on the couch, watching movies and eating. (I know I have!)

The first snow of the winter happened a few weeks ago, and school was also shut down then, also. I’ve seen snow before, but I’ve never lived anywhere that gets more than an inch or two at a time. (with the exception of the Dallas “snowpocalypse” of 2010) So when that first snow hit, the words of a hymn came to my mind:

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.

I’ve sung it a million times, and sure, I’ve pictured snow while singing it. But at that first snow, I finally understood what it meant. The night before, everything was dirty, dead, and bare from the winter cold. In the morning, everything was glistening, blindingly white. Yesterday I ventured outside for a few hours to help clear off our driveway, and the white covering the neighborhood was excruciatingly white. (probably should have worn sunglasses- my eyes hurt the rest of the day!)

And that, my friends, is the kind of forgiveness of sins that Jesus offers. He’ll make you blindingly, excruciatingly white, free from sin. If you’ve surrendered your life to Him, He’s already done it. No longer are we called sinners, but forgiven. No longer are we stained from the blood on our hands, but we are made white as snow (and that’s really white, I’ve discovered!). So take a minute of your snow day (or sunny day, if you’re in SoCal or Florida!) and thank Jesus for His grace that draws us to recognize the beauty of forgiveness.

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Lessons from Mom

Wash your darks on cold. Always use moisturizer with spf. Add a little bit of cooking wine to your spaghetti sauce to make it really good. Buy quality clothes on sale. Eat your protein.

These are just a few of the things my fantastic mother has taught me over the years. It’s definitely true that I’ve been more ready to listen to some of her lessons than others. (note the ridiculous bangs I insisted on wearing in elementary school) However, some lessons have definitely stuck.

Years ago, my mom told me something I’ve never forgotten: the fastest way out of depression is to do something for someone else. Not to say that I’ve been depressed, but when you spend a lot of time alone, it’s easy to become self-focused, and that can be depressing. And the easiest fix for that kind of self-focused, self-induced, somewhat blue feeling? Change your focus. Do something for someone else. Pray for someone else for a change. Spend a little money (or time) on someone else. Self-reflection is certainly necessary and beneficial, and so is taking care of yourself. However, obsessive self-focus produces a result just as excruciating as feedback from a microphone. So let’s take a lesson from Mom, and follow the example of Jesus, and reach out to someone else today.

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Wait for it….

I have been in church my whole life, but there are some Christian phrases I try to avoid because I don’t really understand them. Like “Lord, please bless this food to our bodies.” What? Or, as Tim Hawkins points out, “hedge of protection”. Are we praying for bushes? Really? I’d also have to put “waiting on the Lord” in this category for myself. We sing it, we tell other people to do it, but when it comes right down to it, it’s something I don’t particularly enjoy practicing. Perhaps that is because we (or I) have a mistaken concept of what waiting on the Lord really means. It is not playing the quiet game with God. It does not mean sitting Indian-style on your couch for 5 minutes with the tv muted, trying to be spiritual enough to get God to produce the results you want. Waiting on God is far more difficult, but also far more effective, than that.

The way I see it, waiting on God has two components: trust and timing. If God has made a promise, He will keep it. Waiting on God is trusting that His word is true, and He will come through. It’s also trusting in His timing. There are times when waiting on God’s promise only last 5 minutes, but more often than not, it’s more like days, weeks, months, even years! (try “waiting” Indian-style for a few years haha)

Lately, my pastor has been talking about expectations. Around Christmas, he shared a really great message about Mary, the mother of Jesus. This woman gave birth to the Son of God in a barn, and yet she was content. She was “happy, even in the hay,”
as I believe my pastor put it. I’ve thought about that a lot, because I know if the angel Gabriel had told me I was going to give birth to the Son of God, my expectations would have been a little different. I would be thinking, “This is great! I’m in charge of God’s Son, so naturally everything is going to be just splendid. Surely God would want His Son to have top of the line care, housing, clothing, and transportation! Joseph, let’s go buy a Lexus, cuz God’s gonna need one to take care of this baby!”

But God’s ways are far far different from mine. His methods are different, His schedule is certainly different, and His thoughts are different. Lately I’ve been struggling a bit to be content where I am, because it’s not really what I want to be doing. I’d rather be in full-time ministry than full-time school and part-time retail. But I’m learning to trust His timing. I’m learning to wait on Him. And while it’s not likely that this period of waiting is going to be over within the next 5 minutes, I’m learning to be ok with that.

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