Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent: Anticipating His Arrival


So what is "Advent" and why is it important?

advent noun
1.
a coming into place, view, or being; arrival: the advent of the holiday season.
2.
(usually initial capital letterthe coming of Christ into the world.
3.
(initial capital letterthe period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ into the world.
As you can see from the dictionary definition, Advent is an anticipation of the arrival of Christ--His coming to the world to be our Savior. This time of reflection, often 4 weeks long, is a believer's conscious effort to focus on Christ, his coming, and the miraculous way that affects our hearts and lives, leading up to the actual celebration of His birth. Growing up, I thought Advent was solely a Catholic tradition. I now understand the point. It's not about tradition at all! Rather, it's about taking time in this busy season to focus on the real REASON FOR THE SEASON!

Life around the holidays is so busy, so why is Advent important? Can't we just focus on family and preparation and all the things that make us feel warm and fuzzy during the holidays? After all, we do read Luke 2 on Christmas day before tearing open our gifts!?

Every year I think "certainly the world can't ignore the true meaning of Christmas any more than this year..." and then the next year comes. I'm only 26, but it seems like the world is progressively and rapidly moving away from why we celebrate this season. It's become all about "stuff" and getting...Christmas morning, Facebook is going to be FILLED with "look what I got...isn't my parent/husband/friend the greatest!" We've allowed media and retailers to blind us with their fancy store displays, removal of nativity scenes in public places, and shiny lights that have been up since Halloween. 

In a world that is trying to forget Christ and His life-changing birth, it isn't surprising that the world basically skipped over Thanksgiving. Black Friday deals started WEEKS early. As consumers, we barely had time to sit and scarf down some turkey before returning to the stores and internet to make sure we "didn't miss a deal." I know that there are some excellent deals out there this time of year, and I am a deal-lover let me tell ya, but this year I made a conscious effort to say, "no" and focus on what I have. Sure I want to go buy Christmas decorations, new sweaters, boots (the boot deals were killing me this year!), but this year I said, "no." I didn't spend a penny, and tried to focus on thanking God for the beautiful decorations I have, the closet full of clothes I have, and the wonderful times spent with family. I don't say this to boast, but I'm saying, choosing to focus on Christ during this Christmas time of the year, can actually be very difficult if we aren't intentional and focused.

It's sooooo easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, which is why we must make a conscious effort to remember why we celebrate Christmas. Don't get me wrong, the family time, memories, gift giving is all wonderful and fun, but we get way too caught up in these things being Christmas to us.

There are many Advent studies out there. Check out one of the options below, or do your own. Take time each day over the next few weeks to just dwell on Christ and what Christmas means to you. If Christmas didn't happen (not December 25, but the birth of Christ!), our lives would be devastatingly different. We would be desolate, lost, and without hope. Because of Christ, EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT! 

Consider participating in one of the following studies this year:




If you have another study you love, I'd love to hear about it! Wishing you a wonderful Christmas season full of thoughtfulness, hope, joy, worship, and love, remembering that Christ came to this earth for you and for me. He is our eternal Hope!

Wishing you a life-changing Advent as you focus on Him and all He means to you,






Saturday, October 31, 2015

I "Graduated" Therapy This Week...


I "graduated" therapy this week. That's hard to say. It's hard to admit that I need help. But I want to tell you what God has done in my life in the past year. I want you to know that choosing to go to therapy was one of the best decisions of my life. I want to publicly praise God for His faithfulness in my life.

I grew up thinking that only weak Christians needed therapy, that if someone would just have more Jesus in their life, if they would just pray more, they would be fine. I believed that depression was not a real thing. Mental or emotional issues were a sole result of a lack of faith and were a clear indication of one's shallow relationships with God.

Then my "perfect" little life hit a trial. A trial that lasted for over a year. And I couldn't handle it alone. Tim and I couldn't handle it. I was put in what was diagnosed as a toxic work environment. An environment that left me doubting my worth as a person. An environment that consistently tried to undermine God's word and the core of what I believe about God, marriage, and people. 

Here I was, newly married, madly in love with my hubby, and struggling more internally than I had ever imagined. During this trial we bought a beautiful home, found an incredible church home, made amazing Godly friends, adopted our furever Buddy, bought a cute little SUV...on the outside, life continued to appear perfect for us.

But what those outside of our family couldn't see was the nights that I would come home and barely make it to the couch in the piano  room and sob for hours, unable to move. Or the days I'd cry on the way to work because I was so emotionally exhausted from the day prior. Or the nights I couldn't make dinner because I was in bed depressed beyond words that I was a failure at every single role in my life. The times I closed my office door and sobbed, begging God to get me out of the situation. The lunchtimes that I went home to cry and pray.

When you wake up and wish you were sick throwing up rather than walking into a certain situation, I submit that you should consider getting some help! It's a miserable place to be. I did not realize until weeks into therapy that I had allowed my toxic work environment, and the lies being spoken into my life in that environment, to affect many other areas of my life. I began to believe, completely unaware of what was happening, that if what the work situation was saying was truth than I must be a horrible wife, friend, and Christian. This was where the pain was deepest. A job isn't forever, a coworker, a boss, they will eventually be gone, but if I'm a bad wife, friend, and Christian, those are forever. I am truly hopeless.

For months, Tim and I struggled through this. I had lows that I can't explain in words. Finally, Timmy said, "We cannot keep doing this. We have to get help." He had heard at both our last church and our current church about a counseling/therapy center that was centered on God's word. I remember making the call to schedule an appointment, crying through the call because I just knew I was having to ask for help because I wasn't the believer I was supposed to be. I was a failure once again. 

But God is faithful. Into my life stepped HELP*, my therapist, my gift from God. (*Don't want to publicly post her name.)

For a little over a year I have met with HELP faithfully, almost weekly. God has used her to change my life. He did not remove the situation right away. In fact, Tim and I and our friends prayed diligently for over a year before God changed my circumstances. I don't say this just because it's over, but I truly am so thankful for that time. Those painful, dark times taught me so much about my God. He has pulled me deeper and deeper, and I'm so thankful. As I told HELP a few weeks ago, God knew I needed her before I knew I needed her. God knew that she was going to be a huge impact in my life and my walk with God. 

HELP taught me to distinguish what was a lie from Satan and what was truth from God's word. It's amazing how easily deceived we are. That was a hard lesson to learn to, because I have always felt that I was a thinker and that I was able to easily distinguish truth and lies, and I learned through therapy that I'm quite good at it in other people's lives. I can easily see how lies are affecting others, and I am compassionate and intense about encouraging them to over come lies, but in my own life, it was exactly the opposite. I was drowning in lies about myself. I couldn't see the truth of who God has created me to be.

In the future, I hope to take some time to share some of the specific lessons God has taught me in the last year, but for now, the point of this post, is to tell you that:

1. Sometimes we need help. Sometimes we just can't do it on our own. And that is ok. God doesn't expect us to do life alone. He gives us community and friends and family. I know that personally I love to come alongside a friend and pray for her about a need or struggle. Don't believe the lie that there's noone to help you.

2. You are not the only person struggling in this area. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Since going through this journey I have met so many women who are going to therapy, there are 3 specific women in my life who I found out were also in therapy. Godly women that others would probably be shocked to know they are struggling through depression. That encouraged me. And that's why I write this post. It's hard because pridefully I don't want you to know I've been going through this. Only my close friends and family know. But God moved in my life in a powerful way this past year, and I believe it is my duty to give him the glory and praise for what He has done in my life.

3. The need for therapy or counseling IS NOT because of a lack of spirituality in your life. Don't fall for that lie of Satan. And if your church is teaching that you just need to suck it up and pray more if you are struggling through depression or emotional or mental issues, you need to run FAST. I'm not saying find the closest psychiatrist and jump on buckets of anti-depressants, but He graciously provides us resources and opportunities to grow and learn. Please don't let your pride get in the way of getting help. 

I refuse to let this past year be a waste in my walk with God or in my relationships with others. I believe that honest, authentic lives are how we walk alongside others. I could sit quietly on my last year, bask in the presence of God, privately glorifying Him for all He has done, but I believe He has called me to be real and use this personal example to help others. God has given me an incredible new job situation. Yesterday I had the opportunity to pray with my boss for his daughter who is sick. God has completely transformed this area of my life, and I am grateful, but I don't want to forget what He taught me either.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, mental issues, emotional issues, etc., I encourage you to get help. Pray about where you might find that help (sometimes churches have a counseling ministry but don't be afraid to go outside your church building). If you are in the Pittsburgh area, I HIGHLY recommend Grace Wellness Center. They are licensed counselors and they accept insurance. This is the real deal, not a hokey, strange religious group that tells you how you just need to pray more. They truly know how to help you. We ended every session in prayer and often when I would be sharing a 'lie" that I was failing at, HELP would say, "Well, Jesus had a similar situation like that, how did He respond?"

Tim and I have been married for 2.5 years. I spent almost all of that in a very dark place. I'm thankful that God is healing my heart, and moving me past this trial. I'm thankful for the incredible, Godly man God has given me who has patiently loved me through many ugly cries. He has surrounded me with unconditional love even when he couldn't understand what I was going through. I'm thankful that the past month, Tim and I have seen a wonderful change already. The other night he said to me, "I really like your new job." That was code for "I like how things are different in our home now that you are out of that toxic environment." We have definitely noticed a change, but I believe had I gone through the trial without therapy, things would have ended very differently. I believe I would still be struggling inside, I would not be where I am in my walk with God, and our marriage would have suffered. Please don't let pride get in your way of getting help if you need it!

If I can help you in any way, even just to pray with you about your struggles, please email or message me. I have seen firsthand that God can do big things in our life when we lay aside our pride and fear and just trust Him. I also know that in my future there might be times again where I will need help, but next time I won't wait until I'm in such darkness before I seek help. God wants me to live a full life that brings glory to Him and draws others to Him. If that means that I occasionally might have to spend some weeks in therapy so that I can grow deeper in my walk with Him, sign me up.

From one broken Jesus lover to another,




Tuesday, October 27, 2015


by Tiffany Nussbaum

The aroma of apple spice and pumpkin flavored candles through the house, a pumpkin spice latte in your hand, getting out the scarves and boots, making memories around bonfires, or the beautiful colors of the leaves as the trees change, make fall one of the best seasons ever! Fall is a form of perfection in many ways and is a relaxing season! Just take all of it in because before you know it, winter will soon be appearing! While fall zooms by really quickly, let’s just stop and think of some valuable things that this wonderful season can teach us! A lot of the time we are focused on so many things that we don’t realize the learning moments that can strengthen us spiritually!

First of all, let’s look at bonfires—there is no better way to spend a chilly night than being wrapped up in a blanket with hot chocolate cradled in your hand listening to classical music in the background! These nights are the best nights of fall! Maybe sitting in a circle of friends, making up ghost stories, singing hymns, or even having Bible studies around the low glow of the fire encouraging each other! Bonfires remind me that the atmosphere around us is pitch dark when we light the match for the fire; the world is a pitch dark place in need of a spark of light of Christ to lead them to that greater Light. We are commanded to be that light, to go out into the darkness like that bonfire! Matthew 5:14 “Ye are the light of the world..” Yes, we may dim at times, but when that happens we add more wood (in our case more spiritual guidance or encouragement in the form of friends, family, pastors, teachers, the Bible), and we start lighting up for God again. This world gets darker, but with God’s help, guidance, and strength we will be able to get brighter and be used for His glory!  We have to be willing though! Take that first leap of faith…even if you are unsure of the first couple steps Have faith.  Seek Him. If you fall, God is right there to catch you and help you try again. The world will run after you to try to get you down and extinguish your light, but isn’t it nice to know that we can run to God where He will greet us with outstretched arms and help us shine brightly for Him?!

Now think about the changing trees—don’t you love walking through winding paths in woods and getting lost by the colors of those leaves and thinking how marvelous God is for creating them! Just like trees change, people change too! Sometimes that change is for the better and it creates a beautiful outcome like the colors of the leaves. People may get discouraged thinking that fall is a season of things dying, and they don’t see any beauty in it! Don’t think of it dying, but think of it changing. It will come back in the spring with new leaves and a new beginning! Maybe we need to do some changing in our lives by getting rid of things that keep us from changing and growing in Christ. You may think that you are just dying, but the outcome will be a beautiful one as you walk closer to God. Just let go of your fear, and you will see a difference! Letting go can be so difficult, but embrace the change, knowing He is with you! Or maybe you feel dead physically or spiritually like the tree that has lost all of its leaves. Dive into the Word, and let God guide your footsteps and your life! You will start feeling a change when you allow Him to work in your life! That beautiful change will be coming soon… be patient. A new season is around the next corner!

Pumpkins are another sign of fall…whether pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin carvings, or decorations. Fall wouldn’t be the same without pumpkins! We also wouldn’t be the same without God carving and molding us like we do the pumpkins! Some people may get bitter at God for allowing certain circumstances in their life, but what they need to realize is this…God is “carving” them in that area for a specific reason! God doesn’t carve our live just for fun, but because we need to learn something valuable. When He is done we will behold his masterpiece! Don’t doubt Him; have faith! Trust God and know that He has a reason. How true is this following little quote that I came across?

“How is being a Christian like a pumpkin? God picks you from the patch, brings you in, and washes all the dirt off of you. Cuts off the top and scoops out all the yucky stiff. He removes the seeds of doubt, greed, etc. and then he carves you a new smiling face and puts a light inside of you to shine for all the world to see.”


So let’s be aware that we can learn valuable lessons from even the smallest things in life. Allow God to carve and change us to be a bright light for Him to the world around us! And let’s not forget to enjoy the beautiful fall season He has given us!

~Tiffany

Tiffany Nussbaum is from Indiana (the state). Her dad and Vickibeth's dad have been best friends for over 30 years! The two families are more like family than friends and have enjoyed years of fellowship and fun. Tiffany graduated in 2015 and plans to attend Pensacola Christian College in the future. When she's not working or spending time with her sister, she's helping her mom wrangle in her two younger brothers. Tiffany has a heart for Jesus and desires to serve Him with her life.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

How Willing Are We?



If you were to ask me if I am willing to give up things for Jesus, I'd say, "yes, of course." (See my recent post Confronting my god, HGTV) We give money every month to our church; we support two Compassion kids; we try to use our financial blessings to help others. Going into this past Sunday, I was feeling pretty confident in my "giving attitude." 

I was sitting in Sunday school and the teacher rather briefly brushed over the story of Mary anointing Christ with the expensive oil. Listen folks, I grew up in church. I probably heard this story before I was old enough to talk. Very basic story. Woman loves Jesus. Pours expensive oil on his head and feet. She wipes his feet with her hair. The disciples complain about the money wasted. Jesus rebukes them. THE END. But this time I saw the story in an entirely new light. I can't get these thoughts out of my mind.

Now, humor me for just a few moments? I know that the story I gave above is basically what the Bible states, but what if we stop and try to put ourselves in Mary's shoes--um--sandals. Would you do me a favor and just read the story one more time? It’s only a few verses, but they pack a big punch…

While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”

First of all, scholars equate 300 pence or denarii to be about a year's salary (one would be roughly equivalent to a day's wage). Did that just make you wince a bit? I did. A YEAR'S SALARY. That's a whole lot of moolah!  Now we don't know whether she worked 3 jobs to save up for this expensive gift for her Lord or if she was gifted with the costly perfume, but no matter how she acquired the vial of expensive oil or perfume, the point is it was really expensive. The average yearly salary in the US is a little over $46K. Are you gaining some perspective yet? To put this practically, let's say you have been saving up to buy your dream vehicle, and on the way to the dealership, you suddenly feel led to drive to your church and hand them a check for $46K. People would think you were insane and that you totally wasted the money. And that's exactly how the disciples responded in Mark 14. But Jesus rebuked them.

Here we are, 21st century Christians thinking we are oh-so-spiritual because we give 10% to Jesus. If we stick with our average American example, that's $4,600 a year. Now, the issue I'm trying to present, is not that $4,600 is not enough and it needs to be $46K and you should live in a shack to make that happen, but what I am trying to express, and the truth that has overwhelmed me for the last week, is how incredible Mary's gift truly was. To me, a “bottle of expensive perfume” was a nice gift, but not a sacrificial gift when I read the story. The most expensive perfume you can purchase at Macy’s is $300. We blow that on silly things. But this wasn’t a day’s salary, or even a week’s…it was costly. But there’s nothing in the Biblical account that makes us think she hesitated for a second to bestow her beloved and costly treasure on her Savior, her greatest treasure.  

Now if I was the one in the situation, I would probably have dripped several drops on Jesus, after all He is deserving of all reverence and honor, and I would have felt quite pleased with my gift, but that’s not what Mary did. The Bible says she broke it open and poured it all out for Christ. She had no intentions of saving some for herself. I have no idea if this concept convicts another person in the world, but o my soul, am I convicted. I’m having a hard time even putting this into words because I’m so overwhelmed at my lack of willingness to give all to Christ. I want to be willing, but last Sunday when I had to ask myself, “Vickibeth, would you give up your entire year’s salary if Jesus asked you to?” I am afraid my answer was a silent, shameful, looking at my feet response.

So I challenge you to examine your heart. Ask yourself the difficult question, “If given the opportunity that Mary had, what would I have given Him?” The truth is, we have opportunities to give to Jesus all the time with our finances, our time, our talents, our hearts. The question is, what will you do with these things? Will you bestow them with abandon on your glorious Savior? Or will you continue to live the American dream, and drop small tokens of your time, finances, and heart on Jesus expecting Him to be satisfied with your token when He gave you His all?










Monday, September 28, 2015

Confronting my god, HGTV...



For several weeks, Tim and I have been strongly convicted about our priorities, both together and individually. Mostly, the struggle we have is time, wasted time that is used to seek things other than Christ. For many months I have been in a very stressful job situation and I often came home, mentally and emotionally exhausted. I wanted to spend time with God, but I wanted to veg out and think about nothing, more. So there were many days that I rushed through a brief quiet time, or skipped it entirely because I kept telling myself “in a little bit I’ll do that once I’ve had a chance to relax,” and the next thing I knew it was 10:30pm and I was ready to shower and go to bed. What was I doing instead of seeking Him? I’m ashamed of the answer. I was watching HGTV. I’d justify it by saying, “I’m not watching something bad, Joanna and Chip (Fixer Upper) are believers!” Yet I felt so guilty as night after night I allowed my laziness to allow things other than Christ to be a priority for me.

The conviction grew and then we started talking about getting rid of cable. We talked about it for a couple of weeks. Seriously, folks, several weeks. That's how strong my grip on this sin had become. Finally, we made the plunge. IT WAS HORRIBLE. I went through major withdrawal, and to be honest, I think I’m still missing it badly. How horrible is that? How did I let something so worthless become so important to me? I had to beg God for forgiveness and for allowing other things to take His place in my life.

So for the last few weeks I’ve been really meditating and praying and asking God to help me put him first. But there is something I have to realize as I try to purpose in my heart that I want my priorities to be different-- I have to realize that seeking God first, and having no other gods before Him, is impossible on my own because of sin. Thankfully, the Godly apostle Paul can relate. In Romans 7:19 he says, "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." Can you relate as much as I can? But God. He has exchanged my sinfulness for His righteousness on the cross. I am a new creation only by His grace. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Therefore, my only hope to successfully put God first is to trust fully in His promise to cover my sinfulness with His righteousness1 John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. The cross is our motivation to put our sacrificed Savior as our #1 priority. 

The world tells us that we need to seek basically anything but God—money, title, things, status, etc. But we are commanded instead to seek God and the things He declares valuable—bringing glory to His Kingdom (Psalms 29:1-2 Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.), witnessing to the lost (Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.), loving Him with our all and loving our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.).

Some of the questions I have been wrestling through these last few weeks are:

Am I seeking God or do I expect Him to “seek me” by forcing his way into a few seconds of my day? While we’d never admit to thinking this, our actions might show the contrary. At the end of the day, I have been guilty of whining to God that I “just didn’t have time today for You” yet somehow I checked into Facebook and watched even a few minutes of TV. My actions would indicate that I expected Him to force His way into my day, and then when He doesn’t, I blame it on Him? That doesn’t seem right now does it?

How would my life change if I was seeking Christ first? What does it mean to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5)? If we are to actually follow this command, what would our lives look like? Do you ever wonder what it would be like to actually walk with God the way we read about in the Bible? It seems like a daunting task, but one that would be truly rewarding if we would actually make the endeavor.

God, Family, Job—we say this, but do we mean it—do our actions show this truth or is it all empty words? Again, this is the opposite of most of the world around us, but we are called to be peculiar and have a different heart and life focus than unbelievers. I Peter 2: 9 says, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:”

What does "seeking God first" even mean? To me, it means “living every moment of every day, consumed with the presence of God, running with reckless abandon towards Him.”

Is my life characterized by continual moments of selfless service to God that flow from love for Him? Is my every action and decision through the lens of His will and Word? Again, what do my actions say? These aren't trick questions. Do I love God first isn't a question that I am unaware of the answer. I either have Him first or not first. There's no "moving pieces" to muddy the waters of the question.

What does it mean to put God first practically? For us, it meant getting rid of cable. And this is only a small step. Another way for me personally is to not pick up another book until I have read my Bible, even if it is a “character” book. I love to read, but my Bible needs to be the first book I read, not second if I have time. Additionally, I try to have music playing all day long that draws my mind and heart to the things of God, whether that’s Pandora, Klove, CDs, YouTube or something else, having His truths poured into my mind all day long has truly been an effective and encouraging way for me to seek Christ throughout the day.


What are some practical ways you have (or need to) implemented changes in your life as you desire to put Christ as your King and #1 priority? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Maybe your idea will inspire others on changes they can make to seek Christ more deliberately.



Striving to seek Him first,





Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Trust


Have you ever had a word just repeat itself to you in every situation every single day for weeks at a time? I'm currently living that with the word trust. My personal study has led me to Psalms 16:1 which says, "...for in thee do I put my trust." It doesn't say "in Thee (G0d) and myself..." I sinfully would like it that way a lot more. Our women's Bible study at church just went through 2 weeks of the topic "trusting God." It seems that every song that pops in my head has something to do with trusting Jesus. I have yet to figure out why He keeps bringing this word to my heart, but I have been meditating on it for the last few weeks. I can't get it out of my head.

Sometimes trusting someone is scary. What if they disappoint us? What if they don't do things the best way (aka our way)? What if they don't know our weaknesses and push us into failure? While I know these fears are ridiculous when my life is in the hands of my Heavenly Father, can I be honest and say that I still have a hard time trusting Him? I'm the first born; I'm a go-getter; I like to be in control; but God asks me to forsake all of that and just follow him with reckless abandon. I don't know about you, but I am not attracted to anything with the word reckless! I'm a let's-think-about-this-and-make-a-safe-and-secure-decision-before-progressing kinda girl. But I want to be reckless, out of control, in love with Jesus. I have to fight my instincts and fear and learn to trust Him. How foolish to think I am smarter than the Creator of the world! But don't we all do this all the time? Ugh! Why!?!?!  How can we be so thick!

In addition to fearing what might happen if I trust God to lead, I also fear the journey getting there. I don't want struggle; I don't want pain; but I do want Jesus. I love to read, and I can't tell you how many wonderful testimonies of God's faithfulness I have read from Godly women who went through deep struggles--marriage issues, loss of a loved one, infertility, serious illness--yet they came out on the other side, inexplicably closer to their Saviour. So I'm scared to trust God. I'm scared that trusting Him and throwing myself into His leading will be a bumpy ride that might have some dark dark moments; but I'm learning and believing that He will provide what I need often before I even know I have the need. I don't want to live life scared in the corner, missing out on God's plans for me; I want to hand my life and heart to him and trust that He truly knows what's best. 

I don't have all the answers. I'm writing this to 1. verbalize my own fear for accountability and 2. to hopefully encourage you if you struggle with trusting God too. I'm always uplifted when a sister in Christ comes alongside me and admits that she too is struggling, or did struggle, with my current battle. Authenticity and honesty is what makes up community among believers.

I'm learning that trusting God isn't a one-time decision or action. It's a daily dying to self and allowing Him to take the driver's seat. It's realizing at noon that you've been driving all morning, and you need to scoot your booty over to the passenger seat and let Him drive the rest of the day. We aren't perfect, won't be until we get to Heaven, so let's not get discouraged when we grab back control. Don't give up! Just calmly--or not so calmly haha!--hand Him back the reigns and buckle up for a wild adventure!



Thursday, July 9, 2015

Doing More & an Intro to Noonday

You may have noticed this new button on the right side of the blog. This little button has been causing big waves in my life for the last few weeks! I'm excited to share with you my purpose and burden for joining Noonday Collection

Do you ever feel burdened? Like I'm talking, bogged down, overwhelmed, trouble sleeping, burdened? That's how I have felt lately. I feel God telling me I need to "do more" but I've not had good direction on what that means. This has led to many frustrating prayer times. I have some different opportunities currently presented, and some addition ways I'd like to serve Him, but how to manage all the needs and wants within my current life has been difficult and confusing.

I'm certainly not at a conclusion yet, but I got one step closer with Noonday. I had been praying that God would give me a way to step out of my cozy, comfort zoned, corner of the world and minister His love, but I wasn't sure what that would look like. Then He plopped Noonday into my lap. It seemed to come out of nowhere, and I know it was Him!

Noonday is a company that values human life and enhancing the life of women on the other side of the world who don't have the over-the-top physical blessings that we have here in America. Noonday helps artisans in several foreign countries develop businesses. They then buy those beautiful, handmade items and sell them here in the US. They are building flourishing, sustaining businesses for these women allowing them to help support their families. We cannot imagine, here in the US, what it would be like to give up our child for adoption simply because we can't feed the child due to a lack of finances and food. That blows my mind. Noonday allows these families to stay together and provides the money the family needs for food, schooling, and basic needs that we take for granted every day. Noonday is also part of the Fair Trade Federation. 

Are you excited yet?

I can't talk about Noonday without getting so excited inside! God has given me the opportunity to help these women on the other side of the world, and I'm so psyched! I am joining Noonday as an ambassador. I will be sharing these beautiful accessories with everyone I know! Not only do you get to support a great mission, you get gorgeous jewelry to remember those dear women around the world! 

There are two additional reasons why I chose Noonday. 1. They love and support adoption. I have so many friends that have adopted or are currently pursuing adoption, and I love that Noonday wants to help them! When an adoption fundraiser is hosted, Noonday gives (in addition to part of the regular hostess rewards) a percentage (depending on the promotion and size of the party it can range from 10-20%) to the adopting family. How cool is that!? 2. This is a business for me. Meaning, I can earn a [smallish] income through Noonday. This is going to be huge for me someday when we have a family and I want to stay home with our kids. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to drive toward that dream.

Noonday is just a win, win, win for everyone involved!!!! 

So I ask you to check out the website, and if you live near me (Pittsburgh, PA), I hope you will join me at one of my trunk shows so you can view firsthand the beautiful accessories and hear the incredible stories of the artisans. Follow my Facebook Page for updates on promotions, giveaways, and trunk shows. This isn't just another jewelry party; it's a way to impact your world for good and love and care for women around the world while taking home a beautiful artistic accessory.

What a wonderful opportunity to fulfill this verse:

"If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." Isaiah 58:10

Let's shine the Light! I hope you'll consider joining me on this journey to "do more" for others around the world. I'm excited that God is slowly illuminating my steps one at a time as I seek to serve Him. It's gonna be exciting! 


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Growing in Grace and Our Walk With Him


Featured Guest: Michelle King

Unfortunately, choosing what toothpaste to buy is one of the easier decisions of life. :) As women we face decisions constantly each day and it seems that each decision has a dozen options: what tasks to complete today, what dinner to prepare for the family, when to go grocery shopping, what upcoming events are on the calendar and how to prep for them, what doctor appointments need made, and the list goes on and on...and this is just the physical side of life. What about the spiritual? When can I spend time with Jesus, how should I study His Word, when, where, how much?! It can be overwhelming to know what to do. So many options...which is best for me and my walk with God?

I have a wonderful friend named Michelle who is a constant encouragement to me. She truly views God as her close friend and her love for Him is contagious. I am always challenged spiritually when I spend time with her. She talks about God as her friend, and she spends a large portion of her time with Him, reading, praying, and journaling. I was so interested in how she had grown her relationship with Christ specifically through the avenue of journaling, so recently when I was spending some time with her, I asked her about some of the ways she practically practices her walk with God. I understand that each person's life looks very different because we all choose different options, but I wanted to know what worked for her because what I was attempting to do was not necessarily working for me.  Here is some insight she gave me:

I know you journal during your time with God, but how exactly do you do that? Are there rules or guidelines to follow? How do you know what to write?

Journaling – No one is checking my journal to see if I wrote in it each day. God knows if I did not follow my “routine”, and He knows why…if I read Scripture without writing in my journal, if I listened to Ephesians while walking to work, if I read a short devotional, if I listened to a sermon…or even if I did not spend time in His Word or wrote in my journal but only on the surface. He alone knows, even better than me.

Michelle is real. She doesn't pretend to be something she is not. I love her honest answer that reminds me that no one else needs to know or cares to know what I write, and my journal isn't graded by anyone! If you want to use fun pens, draw pictures as you go, write out your prayers, bullet point what you learned...it doesn't matter! :) Just find what works for you to communicate with Him.

How do you study God's Word?

Reading Scripture – I read the Bible for myself and journal what comes…seeking to be real and honest with my own thoughts, questions, and emotions. I try to give myself time to ponder and process. Then, I often read commentaries/study notes to get the teaching and perspectives of others. In a favorite Francis Chan talk he says that all he does is read this book (the Bible) for himself and tries to do what it says. I do not want to only have my perspective, but I do want God to speak to me through His Word and not just the interpretation of His Word by others. Jesus prays in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” This sanctification that comes through the Word is a process. I need to do life with God and allow Him to transform me through His Word.

While her focus is definitely on Scripture, Michelle does use additional resources to aid her study of the Word. It is so easy to find these additional resources online due to technology!

How do you determine when, where, and how long you spend time with God? Is that important?

Routines – I try not to get so focused on a routine with God (time of day, location, amount of time available, or other elements). As a friend who has been learning this lesson as well asked herself, “Am I not going to spend time with God because I don’t have conditions exactly the same as at other times?” As in other relationships, certain times are going to “feel” more ideal than others.

Many people, good people, insist that you start your day with dedicated study and prayer, and they even give great verses to support that. They wake up at 4am to study God's Word before their day starts. But, practically, that doesn't work for everyone. I have often been guilty in the past of thinking, "Well, I didn't get out of bed early to spend time with God so I missed today. I'll try again tomorrow." How dumb is that!? Michelle has encouraged me that consistency in contributing to the relationship is more important that a specific time, place, or length of study.

I feel bad asking my friends to pray with me about a situation because I know they are so busy and they probably have "bigger" issues that need prayer than I do because I have a pretty easy life. And often I feel like I don't invest in the friendship enough to warrant my prayer request, as if I haven't earned the right to ask them to pray with me. What do you think about how I feel when I need prayer but hesitate to ask friends due to my own guilt?

Friends – Would I think a friend, who I hadn’t seen in a while, was selfish for asking for prayer? If not, why do I not give myself the same grace, realizing that sometimes God wants me to ask for prayer from a specific person at a specific time? We are our own worst critics, giving grace to others but not to ourselves. If I do not allow myself to live in grace, I miss out on the depth of relationship that God desires to have with me. As Chasing God by Angie Smith discusses, I will remain too busy “chasing God” to follow Him and live the life He’s given me.

I hope you've learned something today. For several weeks now I've been intentional in finding ways to make time with Jesus a priority and not something I do just to "cross it off my list." I'm working on journaling, my way, and I'm really enjoying it! It helps me stop and think about what I read and how it applies to my life. I'm also trying hard not to focus on expectations..."I have to read an entire chapter" "I have to pray for at least ____ minutes" "I have to study for at least an hour today" These expectations and the guilt that follows when they are not met is purely self-condemnation. I'm learning that two verses that cause me to stop, mediate, and learn are more important than rushing through an entire chapter so that I feel good. God cares about quality, not necessarily quantity or specific boxes checked off. He wants a heart that desires to know Him more, and whatever that looks like for you is all He is asking of you. Be encouraged that our relationships with God won't all work out in the same practical, physical ways, but they should all be growing and deepening as we seek Him daily.

Do you have any tips on spending time with God? 

What practical steps have you taken to make sure your quiet time is an important part of your life? 

How have you put aside your personal expectations of quantity for His request for quality?








Michelle King lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has a heart for people, and she exhibits her love for all at her job at Small Seeds Development where her organization strives to help families that need a little extra love and direction. She also has a heart for missions and has traveled around the world to share God's love as well as worked with Campus Ministries on US college campuses. Michelle has a passion for God and it's rare to have conversation s with her that do not progress into spiritual topics. Michelle desires to serve God and show His glory in everything she does.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Remember


I've been doing a lot of thinking this weekend about Memorial Day. Those thoughts expanded into "memorials" in general, so I looked up the word in the dictionary:

Memorial
noun
1.
something designed to preserve the memory of a person, event, etc., as a monument or a holiday.
2.
a written statement of facts presented to a sovereign, a legislative body, etc., as the ground of, or expressed in the form of, a petition or remonstrance.


My thoughts traveled back to the Sunday School story about the Israelites placing the twelve stones in Joshua 4:


Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man: And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of Jordan, and take you up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever. And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the Lord spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.

The Lord told Joshua to have the children of Israel prepare a memorial. This memorial was "designed to preserve the memory." I think it is important that we as believers set up memorials in our lives that remind us of spiritual victories and lessons of our lives. It's important that we, like the Israelites, remember the faithfulness of our God. There are a few truths I notice in this passage regarding this memorial that I think can instruct us on constructing memorials in our own lives.

1. It was purposeful. Memorials don't just "appear." They are created by the person who participated in the event or the person who knew the person being memorialized. The many memorials in Washington DC didn't just pop up. They were built with the sole purpose of reminding future generations of the great victories and hard work of our forefathers. Memorials in our spiritual walk are the same way, we must create them with the purpose of remembering all that God did in that specific situation.

2. It was public. Joshua, per God's command, had the men place their stones in a place that could be seen by all. This wasn't a hidden memorial. It was viewable by both the Israelites as well as the heathen enemies of Israel. This memorial spoke to God's faithfulness and deliverance of the people, and His promise was never something the Israelites hid. I'm not saying we need to create massive memorials to God in our front yard :), but what I am saying is that I believe we shouldn't worry about hiding away the things that God has done for us.

3. It was prominent. I don't think the men of Israel were picking up pebbles! I picture a decent size pile of rocks. The memorial was prominent. It was something that God indicated would be seen by generations to come. It would be a talking point for all those that passed by in the future. Again, thinking about Washington DC memorials, they are huge! They are noticeable, and they are conversation starters. Our spiritual memorials need to be prominent in our lives so that they cannot be easily forgotten or removed. Place the reminder in a place that you see often so that you can effortlessly be reminded of God's faithfulness and goodness.

4. It was permanent. Joshua indicates that this would be a permanent structure because the Bible says in verse 9, "and they (the stones) are there unto this day. God's faithfulness will never end, so let's create memorials that will remind us for years to come of how God moved in our life.

I want to do a better job at creating memorials of all that God has done in my life, don't you? What practical ways can we do this? I would love to hear your ideas!