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.
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
This week in Hebrews, we are look at the life of Moses. Specifically, we’ll be looking at the faith of Jochebed, Moses, and the Israelites during the Passover.
As I read about the faith involved in the lives of these people, several different things stood out to me.
4 Lessons for the Faithful
#1. God doesn’t always make life easy for those who have faith in Him.
Jochebed could have cursed God for allowing the Egyptians to kill all of the Israelite babies, but she didn’t. She had faith in Him to protect her son. She placed her hope in Him, even when the world said that was foolish.
#2. There is a right way and a wrong way to stand up for what we believe in.
I firmly believe that Moses had the best intentions when he killed the Egyptian, but that probably wasn’t the best way to handle the situation. Granted, this was before the 10 commandments were given, so I guess we can’t hold it against him.
#3. Faith doesn’t have to be blind.
Yes, Moses took God at His Word, but he also asked a lot of questions. He didn’t just say yes right off the bat, he took the time to understand his mission and his role. I wonder if we don’t get frustrated so often with our callings… okay, if I don’t get frustrated so often with what I know God is calling me to do, because I don’t stick around to get the details. I just get the first sentence and run with it.
#4. Faith doesn’t mean fearless, and it’s certainly not something you can do half-way.
When I think of the first passover, while they were sitting there in their homes with their children, I would have been terrified. I would have double and triple checked that we had followed all of God’s commandments regarding the preparation of the passover to protect my oldest son at all costs. And having the angel of death come past my door, I probably would have fainted. It would have been terrifying.
Can you imagine if one of the Israelites would have said, “Oh, God’s a good guy, surely He’ll protect us even if we don’t have our sandals on and our belts tucked in. I mean, really, who eats while they are holding their staff?!”
No. They wouldn’t have done that. Not at the risk of their children. Yet so often today, we essentially say the same thing. We say, “Oh, God’s a good guy, surely He’ll let us into heaven, even if we don’t love our neighbors as our selves. I mean, really, who prays for those who mistreat them?!”…Just something to think about.
I want to leave you with my current SSMT memory verse:
“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
This week in Hebrews, we are look at the faith of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
All four of these men believed in the same thing.
They all had faith in the same promise.
God promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations through his son, Isaac.
Abraham had to believe that promise when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac.
He had faith that God was God and would keep His promises, even when it didn’t make sense.
Isaac blessed his children out of faith that God would keep the promise He made to Abraham and make his children prosper.
Jacob blessed Joseph’s children out of that promise, too. Looking back, He saw all that God had done in his life, and had faith that He would work in their lives, too.
And Joseph looked forward and trusted that God would fulfill His promise to Abraham to settle his children in the promised land, even as they made their home in Egypt. He had so much faith that he gave them instructions on what to do when that day finally came.
They believed in a multi-generational promise.
God seems to like those.
In Jeremiah 29:11, God said, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfareand not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (ESV).
My pastor calls that a coffee cup verse.
We put it up everywhere and love to cling to that promise.
But that was a multi-generational promise, too.
In verse 10, God said, “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.”
God would prosper them in seventy years!
Are you that patient?
Many of the people who were going into exile, wouldn’t live to see the return to the promised land.
Here’s a multi-generational promise that God made to us:
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”
For the time is near.
Jesus is coming back.
He is coming to claim His people and rescue us from this life.
And He is coming soon.
That soon could be tomorrow, or it could be in another 1,000 years, but He is coming.
And we know that God keeps His promises.
Our duty is to trust He will fulfill His promises, and pass those promises on to our children, instilling multi-generational faith.
There are some times in life when you step beyond the everyday hustle and bustle into the great unknown.
While it can be exciting, it’s usually laced with a trace of fear.
And it’s often a one-time thing. We either step out into the great unknown and then either go back to the way things were, or wait for that to become the new normal. We don’t generally upset our world on a regular basis. We don’t like putting ourselves out there… at least I don’t.
Yet, sometimes, stepping out just once is enough.
In Hebrews 11, out of the first three people commended for their faith, two of them just took one step. Abel took a small step. He simply did what he knew was right. Out of faith, he brought God the best of what he had as an offering.
It sounds simple, but it’s much easier for us to be like Cain and just bring God some. To acknowledge Him by keeping the best for ourselves. Or giving to Him out of the excess.
Noah, on the other hand, took a leap. Because of his faith, he became the laughing stock of society to honor God. He built a boat, a monstrous arc, just because God told him to and he had faith that God would do what He said He would do.
Both of these men displayed faith in God. They both honored Him with their faith. But the third one is the one that resonates deep in my soul.
Enoch believed that God existed and earnestly sought Him, and God was pleased.
It doesn’t say that Enoch never messed up. The Bible doesn’t say that he never sinned (Romans 3:23), it just says that he believed in God and sought Him. And that his reward was to never experience death.
And that’s a reward we can share because of Christ.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”