Is it Wrong to Want These Things?

“You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.” –Psalm 139:3-4.

This is by far the hardest post I have ever contemplated to write. A few months ago, the idea began to stir up in my mind and heart, but over the past few months I have experienced great difficulty in finding the “right words”. You see, it was late one night as I was driving home from watching a film with my friends. I was contemplating the storyline; the film was about following your dreams and risking everything to pursue them. It was a very inspiring musical, you may have heard of it, LALA Land, and I just could not drive home right away, so I drove around the city limits lost in a sea of thoughts. Something was clearly bothering me, so I did the only thing I knew to do when restlessness stirs in my heart…I started to talk to God. I don’t know if it was a prayer or just carrying conversation with Him, but the answer I got was everything I have been searching for the past three years.

In the fall of 2012, after returning from a summer in Colorado serving as a church plant intern, I thought I had discovered my “life purpose” , and so I pursued it. Two weeks before leaving my hometown and relocating to a new state, I realized I had what other’s call “jumped the gun”. Though it was painful, I had to let that desire burn with the fire that I felt had destroyed my reputation and character as a “woman of God”. It hurt, but I knew I had made the right decision. Over the next two years, I overcame the sorrow and made the brave decision to put the dream of church planting in Colorado to rest. During that time of healing, I sought answers to so many questions. “Why would I feel such a close attachment to the people and culture, if I wasn’t meant to go? Why did you (God) let me get that far in the journey, if I was meant to stay? How come it’s so easy for my friends to relocate and serve in ministry? Did I just not have all my ‘ducks in a row’?”.  Slowly those questions turned into rationalizations, “Perhaps, I am supposed to get our of debt first like my friend so and so and her husband did before they moved..,Maybe its still church planting just not Colorado. I should go to graduate school first. Financial stability comes first. My family needs me to stay close because this and this was going to happen and God knew that.  Ohh, I know! I am supposed to be married first before I go off on my own into ministry”. This had lasted for years, just going back and forth yet still feeling like I was not fulfilling my life’s calling. Of course family and friends supported me and also offered their perspectives and opinions. Many advised me to stabilize a career first, and I tried but it was like just as I started to climb the mountain boulders would come tumbling down. –Big life’s boulders.  So then I attempted to become more financially stable and really pay attention to my expenses and save, and well… student loans and medical bills just seemed to keep drowning me one after another.

These were the memories, I continued to discuss with God on my drive that night, just seeking the answer that would put to rest all of my anxieties, doubts, and fears. At one point I said, “Lord, I just don’t understand. Why does it look so easy for my friends, why does it look so easy on Hollywood? Am I just crippled by fear? Am I not persevering enough? Do I need more endurance? And what about my other dreams like having a family and a home?”.  And in that moment it came to me like a whisper, “I made you, you”, and in that instant it was like all the weights, all the chains, everything that had been weighing me down was gone. I felt free.

In the film there is this “deciding” moment for one of the main characters and she has to decide if her dream is worth pursuing?, and I felt like this was my moment and I too had to decide. Except I had already made my choice many years ago,  the day I said “yes” to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You see what I learned that night was that each one of us is genuinely and intricately made. We each have our own personalities, talents, likes, dislikes, dreams, passions, professional paths, families, etc. There is not one single one of us who is made the same, not even twins. We are unique and especially divinely designed for a purpose. Just like our personalities, there is a variety of life’s purpose and each one of us discovers it in this beautiful journey we call life. I have sought many ideas and opportunities that I convinced myself were the right ones for me, and I was mistaken but that is not to say that they would be mistakes for another. Money , education, significant other, children, a career, just are not the things that my heart, mind, and spirit truly seek. I cannot explain it but there is one passion, one dream, one desire, that outweighs the rest of them. Like in the Book of Solomon,  I view money, education, career path, etc  as a “chasing after the wind”. I do not find fulfillment, or joy in any one of them.  My desire to see other’s have a new life in Christ, to see the wonderful transformations saying “yes” to God can do for people is the great treasure I am after. I have tried with great intent to look and seek other things, but I come out empty every time.  I believe that faith is what helps us overcome the storms in life. Faith is what aids us in breaking down the boulders piece by piece until they are just small pebbles in our life. I believe that a relationship in Christ with God can be everything we could ever need and hope for in our life, and I believe this is worth pursuing though it may cost me everything I have.

This is the effect, LALA Land, had in my heart that night. Somehow this film started up a flame in me and every day my prayer is that it will continue to grow and remain. So if you are wondering is it wrong to want these things, fame, money, financial stability, love, career, marriage, children, ministry? My answer to you is absolutely not, God designed you to be you. We each feel pulled to different things, be wise not to let it consume you, but explore the place these general concepts may have in your life. I believe that as you unfearfully explore these ideas and bring them to God every day, He will reveal to you the goodness in each one of them without it overwhelming you and destroying you. He will build them, He will guide you in discerning which are worth pursuing and which to put to rest. For me, I know that a life in Christ, and being a witness to others, and share the gospel is what will always triumph over the rest, so as long as I am pursuing that on a daily basis the rest will come as it may. Whether I am teaching at a university or serving in an orphanage in a foreign country I will do it with a Colossians 3:17 mindset. So take courage my dear reader, and explore all that God has for you. Walk in wisdom, seek discernment, seek Godly counsel, remember to pray and pursue your dreams.

As always, I appreciate you for visiting, remember God loves you.

Blessings!

-S

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him”. –Colossians 3:17

Stop. Just Stahppppp…

“A soothing tongue [speaking words that build up and encourage] is a tree of life, But a perverse tongue [speaking words that overwhelm and depress] crushes the spirit” -Proverbs 15:4 (AMP).

Truth: I am a hope-full romantic. I don’t admit this to anyone so the fact I am confessing this publicly indicates “I mean business”. So it would be of no surprise why every time I see a healthy prosperous marriage, I compliment the wife about how encouraging it is to see a marriage centered in Christ. And you know the response I always get, “Thank you. It’s hard work.” Other times, people respond with, “Thank you, it’s not easy it takes effort.” I get it, I do. Or at least I think I do..from a single lady perspective, you don’t want others to get a misconception of “marriage”. I understand you want to make it known that “marriage” is a lifetime commitment, a vow between a man and wife before God. It’s a serious matter, not something to jump into or take lightly, but people stop calling it “hard work”.

Please.

There is approximately 171,478 words currently in use in the dictionary, surely there is a word more suitable to still express the seriousness of marriage without labeling it as “hard work”. Now before all my married friends, start deleting me, hear me out. Let me explain why I get so discouraged and at times passionately upset about hearing “hard work” as a means to describe marriage.

First, I am single. I am not just single but a lady who is a hope-full romantic and dreams of her wedding day. Dreams of the day I will just know that it is “him” who’m I have been patiently waiting for. So yes, this may be interpreted as an askew viewpoint, but again hear me out. Second, I believe in the power that, words hold the great power of bringing life or death. For this reason I chose the epithet above, but more on that later. Third, Scripture states in Ephesians 5: 25-27:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish”. 

The chapter, continues to describe marriage and the functioning role of a husband and wife, but my point is this: where did Scripture label marriage as “hard work”? It didn’t. The verses speak about love and care, and alludes to sacrifice (sure ‘Hard work” can be read between the lines) but do we call our relationship with Christ as hard work? When someone says, “I admire your faith. Or your faith is strong”. Do we respond with, “thank you it’s hard work.”?

-No

We don’t hear our pastors speaking those words over living a Christian day to day life. And as a Christian I can attest that it not always easy to “turn the other cheek”, to not speak before it’s time, etc, yet I don’t call my relationship with Christ as “hard work”. Why do you think that is?

I think the answer lies within the epithet above: Proverbs 15:4. We understand the power of the tongue, and know that speaking “hard work” over our Christian life has the power to discourage, overwhelm, and depress our walk of faith. So, if we deter from speaking that over our faith, why speak it over something as pure and powerful as marriage? If marriage is not about happiness, but about holiness. If marriage is about having a lifetime equal partner to fulfill God’s mission on this earth (Gen 2 & 3; Matt 28:16-20) then why speak “hard work” over one’s marriage? I believe that by speaking that phrase one is setting themselves up for difficulty and disagreements. I refuse to believe in the “seven year itch” and all of those myths about marriage. Even if they are true and one day I  walk through them, I will not accept it. My God is bigger than statistics. He is bigger than past experiences, and I am believing against those things and believing that my husband will share those views with me. The belief that our words are powerful, and the tongue holds the power of bringing life or death, strength or weakness, belief or doubt, peace or unrest, love or strongly dislikes.

These are my views, and for some time have been wanting to write this but was always afraid of the outcome. I feared social media and the possible negative responses this post would bring. I feared what will others think of me? What if they don’t like me anymore? But after many months of going “back and forth” on this post, I decided no, I need to say something. It really does upset me beyond discouragement when I hear that phrase. It shouldn’t but it does. I mean when you look at it from another point, “hard work” does hold the connotation of pride, reward, fulfillment, accomplishment, effort, perseverance, endurance, and commitment. But from a millennial perspective,  “hard work” is not something that pop culture embraces and inspires goal setting, instead it’s discouraging at least to the masses.

So perhaps we can come up with a better term, one that still encompasses seriousness, commitment, passion, perseverance, reward,  accomplishment, and life?

I propose, “adventure”. You know you are in it for the long run, but surprises await you just around the corner. There is uncertainty but a mutual goal is what keeps you going. You prepare for the most part, and are willing to sort out the unknowns together. At least that’s my definition.

Thank you for visiting, reading, and being patient with this hope-full romantic. I truly appreciate you for taking the time with this post. I hope you come back, and that you are not too upset with me for my boldness this time. I like to think of this post as a freshly brewed dark roast cup of coffee. It’s bitter tasting but the strength is definitely evident in the taste, yet dark black coffee isn’t for everyone.

I pray blessings over your week,

S

How My Run Went from 9min 45secs to a 9min 25secs Pace. 

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” -Colossians 3:2

So the other day I went for a run. I put on my “Nothing But Asphalt” playlist and I was off! I was nearing the first tenth of a mile when the words, “set your mind on things above and not on earthly things” came to me almost like a gentle whisper. So I did what any runner would do, I looked up. 

There above and before me were branches, many many branches just hanging over my head. It was beautiful! 

I kept running. 

My gaze remained steady on the top of the trees and I kept running. Before I knew it my Nike-App chimed and notifying me I had finished my first mile. Pumped about my accomplishment I turned around and headed back to the park. I had only gone 1/2 a mile in when I noticed a change to my gait (a drastic one). My strides were a lot longer and much faster! This was odd, I tended to keep a shorter stride and slower pace. I shrugged it off. I thought perhaps since I haven’t been running in a while maybe that was it. 

It wasn’t…

That little “mental stop” distracted my focus. I was now staring at the pavement. My head was down, my shoulders were down, and my eyes stared at the ground. My Nike-App chimed one more time indicating I had now been running for two miles. Elated by my performance, I stopped to see what my time was (Now by this time I am used to seeing a negative-split pace. This means my second mile was finished at a faster pace than my first. This is actually a good indicator for runners, but this was not the case). My time showed that I had clocked a 9 min 25 sec on my first mile (this is my fastest pace to date!) and a 10 min 10 sec pace on my second mile. 

That was odd…

According to the tracker I was running a 9 min, 15 second pace at the beginning of mile two, so what happened? Did I run into a snake? A pedestrian? Did I get a phone call? Did my music stop? What caused such a change? Again I shrugged it off and started up mile three. (And yes in case you were wondering this inner monologue happened in just seconds after I stopped at mile two). So I resumed my run, head up, shoulders up, chest upright, eyes up. It did not take long for me to notice how easy, light, and fast this third mile was turning out to be for me. 

–And that’s when it hit me.

The change of pace was attributed to my focus. The 1st part of my run my eyes were looking up at the trees and sky. The 2nd part my eyes were looking at the ground. Somehow that lead to a slower heavier pace. And this is mile four (Colossians 3:2 echoing with every stride)…

What a metaphor for life! For faith!! I got distracted. When my mind was on thing above (in this case trees) I was focused on what was ahead of me. My gaze forward. It did not matter what else was going around me. My focus was on the sky and trees, and I trusted that my next stride would land in front of me solidly on the ground. My gait was lighter because as soon as one foot landed, the next was already on it’s next move. I didn’t have time to second guess myself, or think about taking the next stride. I kept my focus and kept going. 

My eyes and mind were set above and not on earthly things. 

When I decided to check my time, my focus changed direction. I now had my eyes on the ground. Distacted. I felt like I wasn’t advancing because my scenery was one constant slab of pavement. It looked the same. It was ordinary. 

Bleak.

Grey. 

Solid cement. 

God is the metaphor for looking upward, setting my mind on things above. The actual run is a metaphor for living. The ground is a metaphor for the distractions in life. Keeping a mental and physical focus upward, postures your body more upright, allowing for a more enjoyable run. Keeping our focus upward on God, allows us to see situations more positively and postures our hearts to receive or release rather than to hold in. When we are focused on God, the troubles, stresses, and unknowns fade away. We are looking ahead. Distractions are taking place but we keep our eyes forward. Trusting in the One who holds us. Trusting in the One who loves us and knows us since before the earth was formed (i.e. Ephesians 1:4). The distractions do not weigh us down because we are too focused on Him, His word of truth, and His promises. 

But when our gaze is down, we are not best equipped to make it very far. It’s a bigger struggle. Running wise, our bodies are not upright. Our shoulders grow tired because we are slouching. Droopy shoulders lead to poor posture, which leads to am aching back. Our eyes fixated on the ground lead to a bent body, decreasing the amount of oxygen our lungs take in, and our heart receives. We can still run, but it’s more exhausting. 

Similarly, when our focus is on life’s distractions we wound up more anxious, troubled, and exhausted than when we started. Why? Because we are distracted and therefore spending all of our time and energy on that distraction. Rather than seeing our situation differently, we only see it one way. The more we continue to stare at it, the more it grows. We start to perceive it as a bleak heavy boulder obstructing our path. It’s too big for us to move. But if we change from a downward to an upward focus, then we will see the tools God has given us to remove the problem/boulder from our life. 

If I just stare at the ground, my mind is fixated on one thing–the pavement. My mind grows tired of the ordinary, of the routine, of the mundane. But if I choose to look upward my view is more dynamic! I have multiple views. I can gaze at the trees, the clouds, the birds, the sun. The scenery changes constantly. Now this is a more enjoyable run! 

(And that was mile four).

So whatever it is that you are dealing with in your life, I challenge you dear friend to look upward. Look to God. Look to the Scriptures. Let Him surprise you with the new outlook He will give you. 

Always a pleasure to write to you. I hope you found what you are seeking.

In His love 

S