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.”
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.
I’ve been working hard behind the scenes for months on my new ministry for Christian women, CandidlyChristian.com. My goal was to create a safe place where women could be honest about their faith, failures, and forgiveness. Let’s face it, life isn’t always neat and tidy, being a Christian doesn’t change that.
Those of you who know my testimony, know that God has used the honesty of other Christian women to grow my faith more than anything else. Knowing that other Christian women don’t have it all together is a huge blessing. Knowing it’s okay to be less than perfect, what a relief!
I will never forget the first time a Christian woman admitted to me that she didn’t have it all together. She wasn’t just any Christian woman, she was our pastor’s daughter-in-law, super fit, a stay-at-home, super mom who was part of the worship team and an international missionary. I’m telling you, she was everything a good Christian should be, and she knew her Bible inside and out.
And then she confessed that she struggled with depression. That she questioned her faith because of an overwhelming feeling of worthlessness. This was super woman, and she struggled with some of the same things I did.
Another time the woman who hosted our Bible study confessed that her house wasn’t always as clean as we saw it each week. In fact, she said if we showed up unannounced at any other time during the week, that it would be a wreck.
Again, a huge burden was lifted. Not because I rejoiced in their struggles, but because it made me realize that struggling was okay.
Who knew it was okay to be less than perfect?
Her candid confession was a balm to my soul.
Many other candid confessions have followed. Some of them speak to me, others make me hurt for the women who are going through them all alone.
When I’ve shared my own candid confessions with other christian women, I usually get one of two responses.
Encouraging Support or Utter Condemnation
Sometimes well-meaning christian women come across the wrong way. Most of them don’t mean to, but it happens from time to time. And it happens often enough to make us scared to be honest.
If you are a Christian woman, I would love to have you join me at CandidlyChristian.com: A safe place to be open and honest about faith, failure, and forgiveness.
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
I was reading through Philemon the other day and was astounded at Paul’s confidence that Philemon would honor his wishes. I kept thinking, if I were Philemon, would I be quick to forgive the runaway slave, or would I punish him more because he got one of my friends involved? (Not that I believe in slavery, but if I were wronged and the person who wronged me went to a friend, would I be quick to forgive?)
As I re-read the passage, I stopped at the verses where Paul thanks God for Philemon. He had reason to have confidence in Philemon, because he had heard about his love for God and all the saints. Those who love are quick to forgive. They hold no record of wrongs (1 Cor. 13:5).
But not all of us are like that.
Not all of us are quick to forgive, and often we do hold a record of wrongs.
Even with Paul’s confidence in Philemon, and the testimony of his love, I still find myself wondering how that story ended. How did Philemon receive Onesimus? Did he welcome him as a beloved brother in Christ? Did he send him back to Paul? Did he punish him for running away? We don’t know how the story ends, but it still speaks to my heart.
The overpowering question is, does it matter?
Does it matter how the story ends?
If Paul did the right thing, does it matter if Philemon was obedient. Obviously it would have mattered to Onesimus, but what if it wasn’t a person involved? Does the trustworthiness of someone else matter when it comes to doing the right thing?
Should we let our lack of trust in others keep us from offering help where we can?
Often times we justify not aiding others, because we don’t have faith in them as people. We doubt their sincerity or motives. Yet I’m convicted that the right thing is still the right thing, even if we don’t share the confidence Paul had in Philemon. Who knows, maybe our ability to love others could lead them to Christ.
And maybe, just maybe, Paul’s confidence wasn’t in Philemon at all, but in our great God.
Maybe it’s not about whether we trust people or not, but whether we believe God can use all things for His glory.
Will I still be tempted to doubt people? Probably. But it’s whether we allow that doubt to control our actions that matters.
Years ago, I came across a unique set of “Emergency Numbers.” Instead of listing the police and fire station, they referenced Scriptures. I loved it so much, I wrote them all in the front of one of my Bibles.
Why am I telling you this?
We wrapped up our study through Hebrews 11 last week, it was a little early, but it was complete. So for this week, I put together some “Emergency Procedures” to look at.
I think it’s important to turn to God when we face problems of all different shapes and sizes. After all, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) and “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
God doesn’t promise us a perfect life as Christians. We will still face heart ache, pain, sickness, and life on earth, but we can do it with Him by our side, with His help, and He can make it bearable.
In case of emergency contact God.
Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year Including weekends and holidays
In case of worry, find: Psalm 56:3 or Psalm 23:4
In case of stress, dial: Galatians 1:10 and Psalm 62:1-2
In case of pain, look up: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Psalm 69:29, and/or 2 Corinthians 4:16
If you are lost, call on: Psalm 46:10, Matthew 7:7-8, and Proverbs 3:5-6
When you are insecure, contact: Hebrews 10:35-36, 1 Corinthians 15:10, Proverbs 3:26, and 1 Thessalonians 5:24
What other emergency references would you add to this list?
For week seven of our study through Hebrews 11, we are looking at prophets and martyrs. While there were several Old Testament examples listed in verse 32, we don’t have to look back at all to see people being martyred for their faith. There is a mass martyrdom going on in Syria, and countless others that don’t always make the news. But being persecuted for your faith doesn’t always mean you are killed.
Here in the US, Christian businesses are being persecuted for not supplying birth control to their employees and refusing to cater to homosexual weddings. But honestly, we often don’t even need to look outside of our own lives to see persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” So if you are not seeing persecution in your life, you might want to look at why not. Below, I have listed some of the ways normal Christians (whatever that means) can see persecution in their lives.
3 Ways Christians Can Be Persecuted in Everyday Life
This is the most common way Christians are persecuted in everyday life in the United States. We are rejected by our families, shunned by our friends, and often excluded by people that could be wonderful friends if they gave us a chance.
Christians are often misunderstood. There are blanket statements that are applied to everyone who calls themselves a Christian, that aren’t necessarily true. Some people assume that because we are Christians, that we are intolerant, self-righteous, and hateful. And many times people aren’t afraid to say these things about us, even if they don’t know us.
3. Bullying and Peer Pressure
Sometimes we feel rejected because we aren’t invited to a party or event we wouldn’t have wanted to go to anyway, but often times, that is better than the alternative. Christians often face bullying and peer pressure. It can seem like the world wants to test our faith and convictions.