Being a teen girl living in today’s world is just not the same thing as it was even a decade ago. They face new challenges, new experiences. They face things that most adults could never even dream of.
Years ago, I read Mirror Mirror… Am I Beautiful? by Shelley Hitz and immediately thought that it was the book I wished I would have had when I was a teen. It was like the perfect handbook for Christian girls living in the real world. It didn’t just cover the pretty Christian topics, but the real-life, nitty-gritty issues that you are faced with in high school: Insecurities. Guys. Fashion. Evolution. Faith. Sex. It was all there.
And it was about a decade too late for me.
As my own daughters approach their teen years, I didn’t want it to be too late for them. So, I partnered with Shelley to update and expand the book so it is relevant for today’s teens. I so strongly believe in the message this book holds that I am willing to literally give it away.
But I know sometimes the best books are books that you can hold in your hand.
When you buy our book, either the paperback or Kindle edition, now through Saturday, you’ll get a free coloring book and have a chance to enter to win five more true beauty books.
It’s been a busy start to 2016. Despite my best efforts not to get in over my head or make commitments that will stress me out, I’ve done it anyway. Life has a tendency to run out of control. Thus, I have been learning a lot about surrendering to God and following His lead. I probably have a billion blog worthy topics stored up, but today, I have to tell you about something that is very prevalent in my life. In fact, it has the potential to be life changing, and regardless of whether or not it alters my life physically, the fear is wreaking havoc on my spiritual life.
My husband is having neck surgery in just over a week.
That might not sound major to you. It is a fairly common surgery. The doctor told him they do about 5 of these surgeries every week. But it’s pretty major to me.
I have to help my husband write a will. That’s major.
Let me back up for you for a moment.
Without giving you a crazy long medical background, my husbands shoulder has been hurting since last spring. Just before Thanksgiving, we found out that it is being caused by a bulging disc in his neck. After seeing a new doctor last week, we were told what my husband had already accepted: he needs surgery. There is absolutely no tissue around his spine.
I’m going to get candid with you for a moment here: This scares the living daylights out of me.
I know I have nothing to fear. I know God is in control. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that no matter what happens, God’s got this. His timing is perfect, His ways are best, and He loves me.
But I am still struggling with this irrational fear.
And it is irrational to me, because I know better. Yet it’s there.
Yesterday at church I cried my eyes out as we sang Never Once, because it’s exactly what I needed. I know God is faithful, and even though I am scared, I know I am not alone. I can’t yet say that I have peace about this, but I walked out of the church feeling a whole lot lighter than when I walked in.
Then, when I called my mom to tell her what was going on, she volunteered to come stay with my kids while my husband was in the hospital. That was such a huge burden lifted off of me as I was still trying to sort out those details. It was just a reminder that I am not alone. I knew we could count on my mother-in-law and our church family, but there’s just something about having my mom here that makes it all easier for me, you know?
God is so good.
While I am still struggling, God is winning the battle in my heart. I feel it swinging His way, and I know I will be okay.
Have you ever struggled with fear as a Christian? I’d love to hear about your testimony in the comments!
In 2015 my theme for the year was “Called by Christ” – I spent the year reflecting on what God has called me to do, and it changed my life. The more I dug in, the more I realized I wasn’t leading the life He has called me to live.
One of the first things I did was resign from my position at TrainingAuthors.com. It cut me to the core but it opened me up to discover more about who God has called me to be and it allowed me the time to listen as God spoke to my heart. I won’t say that I always obeyed what I was hearing. Changing your entire life is hard. But I had to learn to let go.
That was my call for 2015, to let go. To wait. To get my feet on solid ground, before I took a leap of faith.
Moving into 2016, my theme for the year is twofold. I want to own the reality of my life. Really build a strong foundation of who I am in Christ, who He created me to be, where He has placed me, and what He has called me to do. And then I want to embrace it. I want to take who God made me and use every ounce of me to bring Him glory.
I want to live with a firm foundation that springs me into action.
At the end of 2014 I was burned out and confused. I didn’t know what I wanted or really even who I was apart from my work. While I had surpassed all of my goals, my family was suffering. I needed change. I am so happy now as we approach the end of 2015 that I know my calling. I know who I am, but I want to know more. I have a hunger to develop my relationship with Jesus like never before.
I have learned a ton during the year, and I want to take it deeper. I want it to move from head knowledge to really owning and embracing the life God has in store for me.
I am still crazy passionate about helping others, which is why I will be blogging regularly throughout the year and sharing what God is teaching me. Eventually, I hope to publish a book on this topic, but I really need to walk through it first and totally immerse myself in it.
I would love to hear what you are focusing on in the coming year. Do you have a theme, or a word for the year? A scripture? Do you make resolutions? Share your answers in the comments below!
I will add that in 2015, my theme verse for the year was 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.” (It went really well with my theme, “Called by Christ”.) For 2016, I am going with Psalm 118:17 which has already implanted itself in my heart, “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”
So Christmas Eve is like, tomorrow. I’m still not really ready for it to be Thanksgiving yet…
Yes. The decorations are up. The presents are wrapped. I have all the fixings for our holiday snacks.
We have been Christmas caroling and to the parade. We have read Luke 2 and ate candy canes. And yet…
My heart isn’t in it.
I’ve read the Advent devotions and pondered the greatest gift. I’ve been to church and soaked it all in… But I’m still not in it. Not really.
Maybe I am just getting older. Maybe it’s just me. But maybe, just maybe, I need to repent. My Christ-centered Christmas is still based on the flesh.
Based on doing and getting and giving and going.
Maybe, just maybe, it should be about praying and praising and really just knowing.
Knowing that Jesus came into the busy. Knowing that first Christmas didn’t feel that special either. Not at first. It was frantic and stressful and really not great.
They traveled and toiled and then in a moment, everything stopped. Baby Jesus was here. They weren’t ready either. They weren’t prepared. But He came nonetheless. He came into the mess. The mess of the stable. The mess of the culture. The mess of that first Christmas has nothing on me.
But for a moment that first Christmas everything stopped. Baby Jesus was here. Shepherds came to worship. Angels sang their praises. Wise men came to see Him. And then the moment was done.
The mess closed back in and our Savior was on the run.
So even if I am not ready for Christmas right now. That’s okay. Even if Christmas grips my heart for just snatches of time, that’s enough.
Christmas isn’t about being ready. It’s about what God did for us when we weren’t ready. It isn’t found in a season, but in moments. Moments when you know. You know God is with you in the midst of your mess.
I have found many Christmas moments this year. Today when my daughter showed me the Christmas stocking she made at school last week. It featured baby Jesus in the manger, with a bright shining star beaming down on Him. To one side was a Christmas tree, to the other side was the cross, and the empty tomb, “because He’s in heaven now” in her words.
Life is made up of moments. Some are short, some are long. Some are lived among the mess of life. The moment I shared was smashed between me finishing up a work project that is over due and trying to get the house clean enough for Christmas company. But just for a moment, I stopped to rejoice. To hug my baby girl and thank God that she gets it, even when I sometimes don’t. But of course, she doesn’t always get it either. There are still presents that vie for her attention. Just like cleaning and doing and going and giving vie for mine. But there are moments.
Moments when Christ is so clearly the center. When He is clearly on His throne. And even in the moments that we don’t stop to adore Him, He is still there. Still King. Still loving us.
Our lives have hit a change in season. For the past several years, I have worked as an author coach with Shelley Hitz at TrainingAuthors.com. In fact, I helped her build it from the ground up. Earlier this year, however, I decided to step down.
It wasn’t an easy decision, and I have spilled many tears over the past several months as I have grieved the loss of this part of my life. I have wrestled with this decision over and over again, but it was the right decision.
Our kids are growing fast, and I need to spend more time with them.
I am still wrestling with what that looks like. Just how far I am stepping back from my online work. Should I rebuild slowly on my own? Should I step back all together? Should I just keep plugging away until I figure it all out?
What it comes down to is that I really don’t have the answers yet. I have gone back and forth multiple times, and all I know is that it was the right decision. I may not know where I am or what’s ahead of me, but God does. And I can trust that His plan is perfect.
My theme for 2015 is “Called by Christ” – I don’t know what He is calling me to, but I totally trust Him. And as strange as it may sound, even though I don’t know where all of this is going, I know deep inside that I am going in the right direction.
Anyway, we are retiring all of the products from the TrainingAuthors.com store this week, and everything is 75% off with the coupon code “CLOSEOUT”. So if you are an author, I highly recommend checking out our resources before they are gone here: http://www.paulandheatherhart.com/authors
My week got off to a pretty bad start. It seemed like life was just closing in and I was stressed out and overwhelmed. What’s worse, I knew it was all self-inflicted. My priorities were messed up and I was only hurting myself.
Early in the week, I came up with the following statement that really helped me.
Slow down. Breath deep. Repeat after me:
God’s got this.
His timing is perfect, His ways are best, and He. Loves. Me.
My number one priority is to know and love God, because He first loved me.
It didn’t actually solve a problem, it just helped me to calm down.
It was the reminder I needed. It’s probably the reminder I need each and every day. But it was just a start. It helped me refocus, but I was so emotionally raw that I just sat on that. I couldn’t move on or move forward. In fact, this blog post has sat on my computer partly written for three days because that was a far as I could get. It calmed my soul, but I was missing the strength to move forward.
The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength
Nehemiah 8:10 says, “…do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
That’s what I was missing.
Have you ever been there?
I wasn’t looking to the joy of the Lord for strength, I was looking to the situations and circumstances that surrounded me. I was an emotional wreck, because my joy wasn’t dependent on God, but on man. And it wreaked havoc on me like you would not believe. The condemnation I was heaping on myself was insane. At one point I had even convinced myself that I had no place as a Christian blogger because I was such a mess.
And then God reminded me of something He showed me just a week ago in Matthew 14:22-23.
We are never out of God’s reach. It doesn’t matter what time it is, where we are, or what we are going through, God can reach us. Just like Jesus made it to the disciples at 4am (ish), walking on the water to the middle of the lake in the middle of a storm.
If He can do that, He can get to us in the middle of our mess.
We just have to focus on Him, instead of the storm swirling all around us. We have to rejoice that He is with us, and trust Him to get us through it.
Faith, hope, and love.
We have to have faith that He is with us. Hope in His strength, sovereignty, and salvation. And focus on the love He has for us.
When we get our priorities and our focus realigned, God can fill us to overflowing with His joy. And even if our situations and circumstances haven’t changed, we can rejoice with Him.
Our Bible study yesterday was over Samson, and Beth Moore really brought it a live in a way I had never seen it before. But what I really got out of it, was a lesson on how slowly your passion for God can fade.
Samson’s Slow Fade
Samson was born into a Nazarite vow. He was set apart for God, and God’s Spirit stirred Him. Yet he slowly faded away from his vow. It started when he wanted his own way (Judges 14:3), then he broke part of his vow (14:6) and kept it a secret. And then he shared his sin with his parents without letting them know (14:9). It just began a slow fade as he broke one part of his vow after another, becoming prideful and full of conceit, until finally, he didn’t even notice when the spirit of God left him (16:20). Yet in the end, when Samson called out to God, God came back to him (16:28). And that is a powerful message.
(You can read Samson’s story in Judges 13-16.)
Samson in Us
As I was learning about Samson, I couldn’t help but think, “Not me. I would NEVER do that, say that, etc.” But even if we aren’t so blatant about our sinfulness and pride as Samson was, I do think we are just like him at the heart of it. At least I am.
I might never mock God by making a riddle out of my sin, but I do still sin.
I haven’t taken the Nazarite vow, but there are still things that I know are good for my relationship with God that I take for granted, and you probably do, too. What starts out as innocent can turn into a slow fade of our passion for Christ.
Maybe one day we wake up late and make the decision to skip our quiet time. We make it through the day okay, and get back into our routine the next day, but then it starts happening more and more often, until we look back and say, “I use to read my Bible…”
And it’s not just Bible reading. It could be with prayer, or anything really. Maybe you make a conscious decision to do something that you know God wouldn’t approve of, but you are just so mad, or excited, or whatever, that you really don’t care in the moment. The next time, it’s that much easier to do the same thing, and slowly we slip away from our great God.
One day we look back and say, “I use to be on fire for God… what happened?”
It’s a slow fade and it can happen to any of us.
My favorite part of Samson’s story is the ending. Not the death, or his need for revenge, but the fact that when he called out to God, God heard him.
As long as we have breath, it’s not too late to call out to God.
“Draw me close to You, LORD! Fill me with Your love!”
It’s a slow fade when we lose our passion for God, but He can ignite the fire again in an instant, and we can stoke it to burn continually.
You may or may not have heard of Beth Moore’s Siesta Scripture Memory Team, but I’m taking part in it this year and loving it. The basis behind it is that you memorize two verses a month (on the first and fifteenth). Psalm 118:17 is my second verse for this month, and while I know I’ve read the entire Bible, I don’t remember really seeing this verse before yesterday, but it has hit me hard.
“I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”
~ Psalm 118:17
(ESV – emphasis mine)
This verse stirs me in a way I can barely express through words. Before Jesus, we were dead in our transgressions, separated from God, but because of Him, we shall live. He has given us a new life (Romans 6:4), and the old has passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Because of Christ, we can live not only in eternity, but we can live a full life here on earth bringing glory to our Savior. We can share about His mighty works. And not only that, but He can live through us and in us through the person of the Holy Spirit.
John 10:10 says, “A thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I (Jesus) came to give you life–life that is full and good.”
Jesus came to give us life. Not just air to breathe, but one where we actively live a life according to what He has called us to. Colossians 3:1 says, “You were raised from death with Christ. So live for what is in heaven, where Christ is sitting at the righthand of God.”
Jesus didn’t just give us life, He gave us something to live for.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
Have you ever had a day where you are just frustrated with people?
I have. It actually happens more often than I would prefer to admit. I get frustrated. I get frustrated with the online world pretending to be perfect, yet really being prideful, rude, superficial. I get frustrated with people in authority who think rules don’t apply to them. I get frustrated when someones selfishness hurts those I love. But what it really comes down to is that people aren’t my problem.
My frustration is really caused by my own lack of love for others.
That’s my issue.
It isn’t people.
It isn’t the situation.
It is me and my sinfulness.
I’ve found that people probably aren’t going to change.
I’m going to run into people on Facebook that answer a sincere question with a response that says “just Google it” or ask a question just to lash out at others who disagree with them.
I’m going to have to face people in my life that have different priorities for my children than I do.
I’m going to experience changes brought on by others.
But what I’ve found is that while other people aren’t going to change the way they operate, I can. Instead of looking at others in frustration, I can cry out to God for more of Him:
“Lord, give me more of you!”
That should be my battle cry.
Not, “Lord, fix them!!!” but “Lord, fix me!”
I need help to love others and walk in love no matter how many people hurt my feelings or came across as harsh. I need help to love others no matter what. Help to be a light that shined His love to the world.
My guess is that I’m not alone in this. You may not be as selfishly frustrated as me, but I think we can all stand a little more Jesus in us.
1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love is patient and kind. That it always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. That it doesn’t envy, boast, dishonor others, become easily angered, or self-seeking. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, but rejoices in the truth.
When we become frustrated with the people around us, it’s our own lack of love that shines through.
We lose our patience. We get easily angered. We stop protecting, trusting, and hoping, and end up dishonoring others. We make that record of wrongs and ultimately become self-seeking.
Focusing on the bad doesn’t change it, it just makes our day worse.
And we don’t need that.
Likewise, loving more doesn’t make the hurtful and hateful things disappear, it just helps us to look at them differently.
Getting frustrated with others, focusing on the bad, is one of those areas that I thrive in. I let others bring me down. I shift my focus from God to man and it’s a life-long struggle for me.
Instead of leaning on God, I get wrapped up in the world and then it knocks me down. But God helps me get up again.
That reminds me of a song I use to listen to years ago:
“I get knocked down, but I get up again..” – the difference is that now I know thatit’s only through God’s help that I can stand. And you can too.
So today, I want to encourage you, when you start to get frustrated by people, ask God to help you love them more.
“…it is by faith you stand firm.”
~ 2 Corinthians 2:9