Love Covers Every Offense

Today I was bored and had the brilliant idea to search YouTube for tips on “How to pick up women”. I was curious about how guys think and the advice that they are listening to about how to talk to women or get us to be interested in them. Usually when a guy approaches me while I am out, I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is just being friendly or maybe interested in getting to know me. I was shocked to hear the advice that I found for guys on YouTube was mainly aimed at trying to get women to sleep with them. 

I know I shouldn’t be shocked by these findings. I have certainly had my fair share of men going to great lengths to “get to know me” and then revealing their true motives with time. I was still extremely disappointed to think that men would listen to advice that basically presents women as objects and then teaches men how to make women feel comfortable so that they will let their guards down. It makes me sick to think that someone would manufacture a connection with me for the sole purpose of getting me in to bed. It’s disturbing.

After listening to these YouTube videos I couldn’t help but be reminded of the month I spent in Thailand working with victims of the commercial sex-trade. My team and I were not allowed to go out to the bars to spend time with the girls until we were able to cultivate love in our hearts for the men who were purchasing them as well. As much as it broke our hearts to see these men paying to use these women’s bodies, we HAD to choose to see them through the eyes of Christ or our work there would be ineffective. Hate can not heal. Hate can not bring light. Hate gets us no where but farther in to the dark. 

As women, we have to be wise, smart, secure, and protected when it comes to men who view us as objects. As a woman with an unapologetically soft and sensitive heart, it hurts me to think of the girls who get tricked and fooled by manipulative pick-up artists. It hurts me to think about girls who think that they have made a genuine connection only to never be called again after one night. 

At the same time, we have to maintain eyes of Christ for these men. We have to realize that they themselves have an inner brokenness that they may not even be able to identify. Are we able to pray for our offenders? I think this may be a big step towards healing for both sides.

I am not going to let the knowledge that many men are out there viewing women as objects and using manipulative tactics for sex to taint my heart. 

I refuse to stop assuming the best in every person that I meet.

However, this is yet another reminder of our need for Jesus in EVERY decision.

He alone will alert us with a lack of peace when the wrong guy approaches. He alone will protect our hearts from insincere suitors. He alone will remind us of just how valuable and treasured we truly are and that our beauty and worth is so much more than physical. 

Only Jesus can give us the strength to love our offenders and to keep on being brave, strong, loving women no matter what the circumstances.  

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People Skills?

Ever since returning from my mission trip I am noticing people’s judgments more than ever before. I have had multiple people that I work with in the military making comments about how I live with my parents now at the age of 26 (as if I was supposed to go 11 months without a pay check and jump straight back in to my old lifestyle). I have also noticed that as I am in the process of researching my steps, whether that is through a school program or entering back in the work force, I am met with condescending tones of voice when I ask questions. In various situations I have been told very coldly that “all” the information is on the website. In all of these cases, I have of course reviewed all information on the website in question and happen to have some additional follow up questions concerning my unique case (most people are not Army/missionary/women). 

A few years ago these instances would have probably torn a little at my self-esteem and caused me to question my intelligence and my competence. Actually, to be honest, I did experience significant self-doubt with the reactions of these various people who treated me as though they questioned my intelligence and competence. 

But then I took a step back and asked myself a question…

“Have I ever intentionally caused someone to feel incompetent or bad about their position in life?”

Absolutely NOT. I would never judge someone in that way. I don’t know other people’s paths, their learning style, the obstacles they have had to overcome to get to where they are.

Hmm. So…No matter where someone is at in their life, their age, where they live, their job, the thing that confuses them or the obstacle that may seem simple to me…I would NEVER intentionally make someone feel bad about them self in any way. 

Don’t I deserve the same respect and benefit of the doubt?

Yes. Yes, we all do. 

And this is when it all clicked for me.

If someone makes a judgmental/condescending remark, that is their problem and their lack of people skills. 

I may not know exactly where I am going at this exact moment in time, but I do know that I am where I am supposed to be. And it’s not a traditional path. It’s not the “norm”. And because of my slight questioning of my self, I allowed others to speak in to these slightly insecure parts of my life.

It’s so funny how insecure attracts insecure. Just like the saying “health attracts health”. Emotionally healthy people attract other emotionally healthy people, because they can easily pick out the ones who aren’t (clue: they are draining and/or leave you questioning your worth). On the same note, the areas in life where we are insecure or uncertain become breeding grounds for insecure/judgmental people’s comments to stick.

I’m so glad I came to this realization and reaffirmed my choices and my path. When we are secure and in control with where we are and where we are going, those comments won’t even make an impact.

So the next time you find yourself in the aftermath of a nasty little comment about your personal life decisions, just remember that the ONLY conclusion you can draw from that comment is that the person making it lacks people skills.  

The Beauty In Your Season

What is your favorite season?

I think I would have to say that my favorite season is summer.

The beautiful weather, longer days, country concerts, and cookouts. I absolutely love being outside, adventuring, and enjoying the warm weather. 

But what if just because I love summer and it is my favorite season, I refused to enjoy the other seasons?

I would miss out on the beautiful color changing leaves in fall, drinking warm hot chocolate in the winter, and the newness of spring.

There are so many beautiful and wonderful things to enjoy about the other seasons if I choose to see them. 

This is true about life seasons too.

Just last week I went to visit an old friend that I hadn’t seen in almost 2 years. Walking in to her house brought back a flood of wonderful memories. Sitting on her back porch the first night I met her as we talked about our future trip to Africa. The many Saturday morning bible studies at her kitchen table, sharing my heart with some of my favorite people who have since moved away.

I couldn’t believe the little lump in my throat I felt as I thought back on these precious moments. I remember those days so well. I was dreaming about the future. I was working towards leaving and moving and growing. DId I know at the time that there was so much right there in those moments?

This same thing happened to me again last week when I went to share about my year long mission trip at the church that helped support me all along the way. Walking in to the building where I had spent so much time and seeing so many new faces and how much things were kind of the same but not “mine” anymore. I realized how special that time in my life had been even though at the time I had viewed it as a transition or a “stepping stone”.

I think most people have a “season” of life that they glorify above the others. It could be marriage, parenthood, or promotion, but we have a tendency to always look to that next thing. 

I am realizing that each season has its challenges and its blessings. Even when I finally made it to my mission trip and had the very thing I had worked so hard for, there were still unique struggles and challenges. In each new season, God gives us exactly what we need to become more like Him. He gives us Himself in ways that comfort us, grow us, and encourage us but we can only get the most from life when we choose to look for and be greatful for what is right in front of us.

I challenge you to ask yourself what is the season of life you glorify the most? Why?

What do you have right now that you can treasure and value more?

How is God most present with you now, in this season?

The Dream in Your Heart

What is the dream that lives in your heart?

What is that one thing you have always wanted but haven’t found the time or the courage to do it?

I have always taken it to heart when people have told me to dream big dreams and to follow the quiet voice of the Lord guiding me. I have said “yes” to things that were so scary and so difficult, and I have never been let down. But recently, I have noticed this other voice inside of me, this nagging, anxious voice inside of me saying things like, “You better follow your dreams or you’re going to have regrets” or “You better strive harder and dream bigger or you won’t be successful”.

Wow. The voice of the enemy. I can only recognize it when I slow down long enough to listen. I take the time to question myself about the patterns of behavior that are outside of my character. I ask myself, “Why did you have that extra glass of wine?” Or “Why did you skip cleaning and allow your living space to become chaotic?”

It is only when I pay attention to the thoughts and actions that are not from the best version of myself that I can really get to the root of some unproductive thinking. This isn’t about perfection or judgment, it is more about seeking an inward and outward lifestyle of peace and harmony. When my heart, body, and soul are all in agreement I can live and love fully in the moment. 

The best version of myself is brave enough to say yes to God’s call. She is willing to be challenged to dream bigger dreams because she knows she is safe in God’s love and He has an abundant life planned for her. The enemy quickly exploits this quality of a willing heart and spirit and makes it about fear. 

Instead of choosing to rest secure in God’s love and provision, I find myself scared of not having enough and not being enough.

It seems that pure intentions and motives can be so quickly twisted and counterfeited by the enemy. We have to stand guard of the state of our hearts.

So, again I ask, “What is the dream that lives in your heart?”

Take that precious, beautiful, pure dream and put it in God’s hands. Don’t ever let that dream become more important to you than God. Don’t let the enemy have his way of twisting your dream in to a nightmare.

God has placed our dreams and desires in our hearts so that He can fulfill them and in doing so create more beauty and abundance in the world. Do you trust His timing? Do you trust His provision? Do you trust Him enough to wait on His timing even if it seems all hope is lost?

Today I am challenged to let go, surrender, and release. I will not let the enemy use my God given dreams and desires to manipulate me and cause me to strive, stress, or fear.

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Your life is a gift. You have something unique to offer this world that only you can give and it is in your heart as a dream. Trust the divine gift-giver, the good and perfect gift-giver. Fear has no place in your story. 

Are You Buying Your Own Life?

I have spent the past 7 months traveling the world with a group of 50 people. Imagine going to a different country every single month. Imagine trying to get settled in to a new daily routine every month. Imagine the time changes, the different languages, the different people, and different cultural norms. Every month, everything changes. Wouldn’t you think that of all the times in life, this would be a time of complete focus on the moment? Wouldn’t you think that with all these changes, there wouldn’t be any time for boredom or that old familiar feeling of discontentment with gnawing thoughts that you need to know your next step in life?

But all of these thoughts and feelings are still here. We may have bungee jumped off Victoria Falls on a Saturday and watched Zebras grazing while sipping a cold drink that night. We may have spent the week teaching English in a small African village followed by preaching to the church congregation on Sunday. And still, there is this common thread of conversation that followed me here and seems to be on everyone else’s mind as well:

“WHAT’S NEXT?”

What’s next?! Why the heck are we talking about what’s next? Why have I spent my entire life asking this question? This is my dream. I am living my dream, and I am spending major chunks of time talking about what is next. Am I wasting this precious “now” by thinking and talking about something that I wouldn’t be able to stop even if I try? What’s next will always come, whether we analyze it or not. Is it time to stop living in a perpetual state of uncertainty and anxiety about the future?

I have realized that I CAN choose to live in the moment, but I can only do this by investing myself. I can only do this by “buying in” to my own life. It is the difference between being an observer or choosing to be actively involved in what is going on around you. It is the difference between showing up at an assigned time for ministry and leaving the second you are “off duty” and choosing to step out of the box and see how you can invest in ways that others may not be seeing.

When I started to realize that my thoughts, opinions, and gifts are unique and valuable, I relaized I need to be HERE. The same for you,no matter where “here” is for you. You are still the only one who has what you have to offer. If you don’t show up all the way, and “buy in”, the world misses out…and you miss out.

So, how do you choose to buy in to your own life?

1. Be intentional and curious about relationships: Who can you connect with? How are they feeling? Where did they come from? What are their goals, hopes, and dreams? The questions are endless. Building relationships right where you are is one way to stay present and invest in the moment.

2. Look for ways to invest: Is there someone who needs help with something? A lonly person who could use a friend? Is there a way that your specific gifts can add to this moment? The answer is always yes, that is why God put you in this moment. Sometimes it is as simple as being there to support another person’s goal or idea, but choosing to be active and attentive makes all the difference.

I have found that when I look around at what is here, now, I don’t have time to ask, “what’s next?” There is always more than enough right now, if you give now a chance. It starts with giving the gift of yourself, and choosing to buy your own life instead of waiting for some idealized future. The truth is, as I have found this past 7 months, it doesn’t matter so much what your circumstances are, you have a choice to live your life with all that you have in any given moment. If you can do that now, you can be confident that when the “what’s next” gets here, you will be able to appreciate and enjoy it as well.

Do You Need A Different Kind of Diet for 2016?

It’s another new year, 2016, time for New Year’s resolutions! One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is the promise to go on a diet. I hear it year after year from friends and family. Some people try to limit their portion sizes, others will try smoothies, pills, or meal repleacements. Of course it is important and necessary to be concerned with our health, but maybe this year its time to focus on a different kind of diet. Maybe this year we need to take this concept of “dieting” and apply it to a new area in our lives.

What do you think is the main reason why people are so obsessed with getting their weight under control? I have a hard time believing that it is for health because if that was the case, there wouldn’t be such questionable methods for achieving a smaller waist line. If your main concern is your health, you don’t use chemicals, pills, or extreme calorie restriction.

If the goal of losing weight doesn’t have to do with health, than what is it? It is because people have a longing to feel accepted, admired, and valued. Sometimes in our culture we can make the mistake of confusing a few things…like equating skinny with beauty and beauty with worth.

Our worth should not be dependent upon our outward appearance, but unfortunately is all to easy to make this connection, especially if you are surrounded by shallow and self-centered people.

This is why I believe it is time for a new diet! It is time for a social diet. A social diet is when you “trim the fat” from your social life and reevaluate whose ideas, values, and attitudes you are ingesting.

We spend so much time concerned about the outward appearance of our bodies, but appearance begins on the inside. You can hardly have a hope of getting your body to look consistently healthy on the outside if you do not have a healthy mind and soul. This begins by being intentional about who you allow in your life, and especially who in your life has the power of influence over you.

This year, I am not going to make any promises about going to the gym more and trying to eat smaller portion sizes. I know full well what I need to do to have a healthy body and so do you. A New Year’s resolution may motivate me for a month, but it is not a long term, sustainable change. It is a better use of my time to focus on inner change this New Year’s. The desire to take care of my body needs to come from a place of gratitude and empowerment…not from a place of dissatisfaction and powerlessness.

This year, I am choosing to take smaller portion sizes of negativity, gossip, comparison, competition, striving, stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction. With this choice comes the choice of being more careful about who I am spending my time around. Even if there are people we HAVE to be around (like co-workers), we can still kindly block the unfruitful things they say or do and refuse to dwell on them.

Join me in 2016 for this different kind of diet.

Pay close attention to how you feel when you around people. If you leave feeling bad about yourself, it may be time for a smaller portion.

Let’s never forget that you will always get what you settle for. If you can’t look in the mirror and see the gift of life that God has given you, it is time for a diet…cut out those negative voices and start filling up on something new and satisfying.

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How The World Will Know Us: Christians Please Read

Raise your hand if you have ever felt personally judged by a Christian?

My guess would be that your hand is raised.

Why is it that Christians have a reputation for being judgmental and for forcing their agenda on people? Even from one denomination to another, I can’t tell you how many harsh comments I have heard about how the “others” do things.

Christians! Listen to what Jesus said:

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35

We really could do a better job at this, don’t you think? It is so easy to love your best friend or the people who admire you and build you up, but this is not where we are shown to be different!

People will see Jesus in us when we are able to love the other denominations and not say harsh and critical comments about them. People will see Jesus when we are able to forgive. People will see Jesus in us when we stop gossipping. People will see Jesus in us when we are patient with the members in our congregation who are still growing and in need of grace. People will see Jesus in us when we lift each other and link arms in unity.

So many people know what Christians are against…when will we start showing them what we are FOR.

We are for love. We are for peace. We are for joy. We are for generosity. We are for unity. We are for kindness. We are for patience. We are for grace.

When will we stop looking for and expecting perfection in the people around us, and even ourselves?

When will we stop making it our ultimate goal to be “right”?

No one will ever “get it all right”. This is life. We are human. There is no “getting it right”.

There is only one day at a time, finding God’s grace in each moment, letting Him show you where you can be the one to shine a little of His light in a dark place and letting His love empower you to just love the next person He puts in front of you.

I challenge us as Christians, to link arms. Let the world see us by our love for each other. Let the world see us for what we are for instead of what we are against.

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