Embracing Little By Little

I finished reading Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life by Lara Casey about a month ago. Here’s a snippet from the back of the book: “Welcome to the journey of getting messy in the rich soil of possibility — embracing imperfect, grace-filled progress to grow a life of joy. . . Find the joy and the freedom that comes in cultivating what matters, little by little, with God’s transforming grace” (emphasis by me). The book is filled with Lara’s own anecdotes, action steps toward cultivation, and prompts and thought questions for her readers. The biggest theme in this book is the concept of growing a garden. But what strikes me the most is the emphasis on small steps causing big change, progress over perfection.

The Discontent Cycle

Our society as a whole is completely engrossed with the idea of getting what we want and getting what we want now — which isn’t a new concept. With this, we’re each searching for a purpose. Unfortunately, it’s easy to look for quick fixes to our problems and try to cover up scratches with Band-Aids that we think will get us by instead of looking for the root of healing. The scary thing about this is that the more immediate gratification we look for, the further we are from purpose.

It comes from a place of impatience and discontent.

In the 8-10 year-old Bible class I’ve been teaching at church, we’ve talked about the Israelites in the context of what God is good at. Right now that’s life and bread. The Book of Exodus tells us that God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and guided to Canaan (the land promised to Abraham for his descendants). The Israelites picked up the habit of complaining about pretty much everything, especially food and water. It was a vicious cycle, but even though these people complained, God still provided. Each time God provided, they were happy for while, and then discontent set in.

God’s plan was to take care of them, but they were looking for instant gratification and overlooking their Provider.

There were consequences to their sinfulness, but God still offered a way to deep joy and contentment if they chose to accept it: Himself.

On the other hand, Hannah, who was infertile and yearning for a child of her own, also knew the Provider. Instead of complaining and becoming bitter, she chose to pray and trust God, and vowed to dedicate her child to the Lord if He blessed her with one. As with the Israelites, God provided and blessed Hannah, but unlike the Israelites, she praised God, kept her promise, and dedicated Samuel to God’s service in the temple. Hannah let each part of her situation grow her faith instead of becoming selfishly complacent. She remained faithful and God was continually with her (1 Samuel).

What the Israelites demonstrated is no different from those Band-Aids. We move through life discontented until we see that God has provided us a good thing. So, we take that good thing, thank God briefly, and keep going in the same direction, bandaging instead of going to the Provider. It’s a process of constant taking and never giving, never living in thankfulness.

The Israelites lived on surface-level faith, while Hannah dwelled in deep faith that was so obviously her root. The difference was fully embracing God and His plan.

God has provided the same way to joy and contentment for us as He did them so long ago (something Hannah recognized): again, it’s Him. To cultivate this within ourselves, we have to learn to go deeper into our hearts to figure out what needs to be tended to and trust God to guide us through the process.

Progress + Little-By-Little

Once we’ve started digging deeper, trying to find the root to cultivate, it’s easy to get caught up in the cycle again. We’re eager, we hit the ground running, pray our way through it, think we find the fix, and forget God. Inevitably, more challenges arise; at this point we have two choices:

give up completely or give it completely to God.

 

Acorns are pretty common around my house. We trample them underfoot, dismissing them as squirrel food. But an acorn cultivated can become something mighty. In John’s Island, South Carolina, stands the massive Angel Oak tree that is more than five hundred years old, sixty-six feet tall, and twenty-eight feet in circumference. It produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet. And it started with a common acorn.

There is power in a single seed.

A kind word spoken.

A leap of faith taken.

A goal cultivated.

And in the simple yet profound act of taking one step forward.”

(p. 75, Cultivate, emphasis by me)

It takes one step, and then another, and then another. . . until we reach the end goal — in this case contentment, embracing God’s plan.

little by little.

When you read the Bible as a whole, you understand that all sixty-six books point to Jesus Christ. God created the world with a purpose for mankind, and He began Jesus’ lineage with the seed of one man: Abraham. Besides Abraham, there are several men and women — some of whom aren’t even named — who took one step forward in faith, but left profound legacies. Many of them didn’t know that their little-by-little was going to be recorded as a faith-builder for the rest of time, but because of their little-by-little, we can rest assured that God will carry us through.

progress.

As the Bible story unfolds, we see that not every action leading to the eventual death and resurrection of Christ is elaborate, and many story-changing people weren’t well-known by the people of their time. The Bible is an unfolding plan of progress with the most beautiful outcome. While the people in God’s story weren’t perfect, His plan is. This perfect plan we read about them is the same plan made for us — our purpose. So, we, imperfect people, have to embrace the little-by-little as progress toward our purpose, no matter what that little-by-little is and no matter what it might bring.

purpose.

And this is where we give it to Him.

God’s perfection.


Copy of Embracing Little-By-Little

Shine Your Light

We’re just past the Christmas season, the time of year when people start being kinder, more generous, more thoughtful and more loving, and reaching for the new year. More people give out of the goodness of their hearts, with the intention of receiving nothing back, shining their light (God’s light) in darkness, and forgetting about the cares of the world for even just one second because that’s what God’s light does for a person. And for many people, including myself, the start of a new calendar year (although nothing about the physical change of a calendar makes a change of heart) signifies a fresh start and grows a resolve to do better and be better in the next 12 months. These two ideas are closely tied together.

I have to admit that the idea to write this post came from wearing the message “Shine Your Light” on a t-shirt made by Blair from Blair Blogs (it’s amazing what wearing Truth will do for your attitude, by the way). Though I always try to be a light to the world, heading in to the new year, I’ve been meditating on and actively pursuing being a light-shiner (aside from chasing joy) even more. All of us have the potential for kindness and love to shine from our hearts and positively impact people along our paths. God made us with the incredible potential to pursue light and be light, to shine His glory in every circumstance, and He gave His Son so that we would have the opportunity to reach that potential!

Every good and perfect gift comes from the God who has no darkness in Him at all (James 1:17 & 1 John 1:5), and the choice to shine His light shows that His people are real and are longing to reflect Christ and be like Christ. If the very God we worship has no darkness in Him at all, how could we ever choose to hide that? If we are truly His people, how could we ever choose to spread our earthly darkness, whatever that may be, instead of radiating His life-giving light? Christians have the responsibility to shine Christ, the ultimate Light, on the ultimate darkness that’s increasingly growing in the world. We have the responsibility to speak only what builds up, to spread joy, to share truth, to be good stewards of all He’s given us, to be responsible with His word. Nothing about being on this earth is about us — it’s all about giving the glory to God and bringing the lost to Christ, and that’s why our Christian lights are so very important. If we’re not shining His light, what are we communicating and are we glorifying God? Without shining His light, we’re only magnifying ourselves instead of our Creator, and we’re essentially saying that God doesn’t truly matter to us, which is exactly what the enemy hopes for.

Although the kind and cozy holiday season is ending, we should still work to be kind, generous, thoughtful, loving, and Christ-like people all 365 days. The holiday season shouldn’t be the only time we choose to reach out to others and shine our lights with whatever talents we have.

“One of the greatest blessings we have is hardship.” – Paul Hutcheson

I recognize that shining your light isn’t going to be easy 100% of the time. But, I also recognize that it’s worth it 100% of the time. Shining your light is hard, holy work that brings about beautiful results. It’s a responsibility that God has the expectation for us to uphold in any season of life, with any blessings or challenges — as a matter of fact, sometimes our lights shine the brightest in our darkest hours. Jesus’ light (who is the Light) shone incredibly bright throughout His life on earth, but that light’s climax was when He sacrificed Himself on the cross, His darkest, most tragic moment, for you and you and you and me. Sometimes, when we want to give up more than anything, when we want to throw it all out of the window, get rid of any hope we had to continue in the light, but we choose to press on through difficulty…that is when others truly see Christ, and see that He, not circumstances, is the Lord of our lives.

So, next time you want to give it all up or you’re afraid to keep going through the hardest season of your life, remember the souls you could impact for Christ — that even their souls are worth your pain. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, what you’re going through, what you think can’t do, you have a light worth shining. Remember that trusting Him is better than trusting yourself or the world or your possessions. And remember that being with God is worth more than earthly comfort.

“When I’m zoomed in on my fear, I can’t see the faithfulness of God and the steadfastness of His covenant.” – Amanda Bible Williams, She Reads Truth

Choose to be a life-giving soul instead of one that drains. Choose to put away fear and comfort and show Christ through you. Choose what’s good and right and holy. Choose joy and choose light.

Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Philippians 3:14

“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”


why-you-should-shine-your-light-pinterest

Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.  Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms; I only ask that you link it back to this site. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

Journey to Joy: A Resolution

Psalm 16:11

“You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Joy has a few defintions, all of which are correct in some way, but only one is real. Sometimes we think happiness and joy are the same thing. However, I’ve come to understand that joy — true joy — is more than being happy. Sure, it’s also an emotion resulting from good fortune, but God’s joy is more than a feeling. It’s a content satisfaction in the Lord that we can have no matter our situation. Theopedia calls it “an orientation of the heart” and “a settled state of contentment, confidence, and hope.” It’s an attitude we have the power and the choice to set in our hearts and minds.

The Beginning

True joy starts with an open heart for God and the decision to become a Christian and a child of God, because without being one of His children, we won’t experience His joy. It comes from total surrender to Him, knowing that we won’t have every answer when we want it, every schedule go as planned, or every person as our friend. Joy is planted in our hearts the moment we realize that God has us, and that we don’t have to excessively worry about earthly things — as a matter of fact, God tells us not to. We find joy when we read our Bibles and come to an understanding of His word through prayer and meditation. It comes to fruition when we put realization into action, taking advantage of every tool God gives us for communication with Him and weekly, even daily, fellowship with brothers and sisters. It becomes real when we take ourselves out of the frame and place God there instead.

The Result

Joy results in contentment, whether or not we’re comfortable in every situation. It results in an obedient attitude; whining, complaining, and bitterness are taken away and replaced with confidence in Christ and ourselves, and hope in our salvation instead of in the faltering ambitions of the world. We’ll have a changed countenance and an understanding that we can get through each day because we’re in the family of God! Joy results in a mindset of praise, not just a mark in the calendar and a check off the list. When we have joy, we have love and peace that pass understanding, and we are thankful (thankfulness and joy walk hand in hand!). It results in a hunger and thirst for God’s word and for the righteousness He tells us about. It’s manifested in the lives of every Christian who completely trusts in God, no matter their circumstances, and it’s passed on through our words and actions and how we treat others. True joy results in a Christian who is passionate about her walk with God and consumed with zeal on the path to heaven with a heart that’s at peace, knowing that “it is well with my soul.”

// A large part of being a Christian is a journey that takes effort and intentional growth, especially when we’re choosing joy. Christians should be the most joyful people on earth because we have hope! Nothing about it is easy, so that’s why I want to make a conscious effort to be a joyful Christian.

I’ve had this overwhelming joy before, and I want to keep it. So, I’m making an ongoing resolution (new year or not) to find it all the time, in the big things and the small things, the good and the bad, the day-to-day and the incredible. And I want you to join me! I’d like to make my blog a place for encouraging, active communication. I want to interact with you; so, if you decide to make this resolution with me, I would absolutely love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments below, or send me an email, and we can connect through our common love for Christ.


journey-to-joy-pinterestThank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram  and Pinterest.  Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms, so the gospel reaches even further. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

To the Work

This was originally posted on February 8, 2014 and has been slightly updated.


Ability + Opportunity = Responsibility

Over the past couple of years I’ve heard this phrase used several times in reference to teaching others about the gospel of Christ. While it seems simple, the message it sends is one that comes directly from God’s word. If we have an ability to help further the gospel and the opportunity to share it, we have the responsibility to do whatever we can with it to bring others to Christ.First, we need to figure out what abilities we have and use them in a way that will benefit the Kingdom. Matthew 25:14-30 contains the Parable of the Talents. In this parable, Jesus tells us about a man who entrusts his servants with talents. He gives one servant five talents, another two, and to the third he gives one talent “each according to his ability” (15). As we read on we see what each of these servants did with his talents. The servant with five talents traded to receive five more, the servant with two talents traded for two talents more, and the servant with one talent went and hid his in the ground. When their master came to them, the first two servants told him how they had traded and make more talents. To both of these servants, the master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (23-24). But when the last servant with only one talent came forward here is what happened in verses 24-30:

“Master I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours. But his master answered to him, “You wicked and slothful servant! You know that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Each servant had talents based on their abilities — what they were able to do with their talents. But what they do with their gifts is the important part. The first two servants recognized their abilities, and were willing and happy to trade and grow in their talents, but the last servant selfishly hid for himself the one talent he had. He was in no way ready to take his opportunity, so he was not allowed to go with his master.

In the same way, if Christians see an opportunity to use what talents we have been given –even if it’s just one small thing that we can use to help — we need to take that opportunity to lead other souls to Christ! If we’re not willing to share this gift that we have so graciously been given, then how can we expect to inherit the Kingdom? We cannot be selfish.

This leads me to the last part of the phrase — responsibility.

Jesus talks in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:13-16 about the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” We have the responsibility to spread the gospel to all people. In verse 13, Jesus says,

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

Salt is used for seasoning food and for keeping foods fresh. Without salt, many things are useless. Here, Christians are compared to salt; we are to season the blandness of this world with the salt of gospel, but we can’t stop there. We have to keep spreading the gospel and encouraging others because without us, the salt, the Kingdom probably won’t grow. In order to do this, we have to make sure that we remain genuinely zealous for the Lord.

Next, in this discussion, Jesus uses a visual of the light of the world. He says,

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house” (14-15). 

So, now we are both salt and light. We refresh and give light to the world with the gospel. If we have light, why would we hide it? Light is used so that we can see and open our eyes to what’s around us. It’s not meant to be “put under a basket” — what’s the point of hiding what we’ve been given? We are to give light to all in the house. Not one, not a few, not the people we feel like giving it to. We give the light to all.

So, while we are in our earthly home, we have the responsibility to shine our light to all people — whoever we have the opportunity to share our abilities with.

Jesus concludes the discussion about salt and light with “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (16). While we’re letting our lights shine, we have to remember we’re living our lives to glorify God (related post here). God will use our talents and our good works to further His purpose. We need to let others see the Christians we are, and tell them who God is and about the plan He has had for us since the beginning.

That being said, of course we don’t all have the same abilities, but God has given each of us something we can use for His glory. There’s no room for excuses to not spread the truth to the world — especially when that’s the very reason we’re here.

We have the ability and an abundance of opportunities, leading to a responsibility to work in God’s Kingdom. Everyone needs to hear the gospel, and withholding that from them is selfish. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it, because while we do our part, God will do His. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (3:6). If we have the faith in God that we should have, we will be willing to work in whatever ways we can spread the truth. Let’s work diligently so that we, and others, can receive and eternal home with our Father.

Philippians 2:14-16

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 


to-the-work-pinterest-1 Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

How To Be Productive If You Stay At Home

Being a stay-at-home or work-at-home wife isn’t about Netflix binging or nap taking. A big challenge for stay/work-at-home wives or really anyone who does the majority of work inside her own home is how to stay productive. It can be easy to spend the majority of your time on the couch, watching TV or doing whatever it is that interests you more than actually working. People often ask me if I’m finding things to do or if I’m keeping myself busy or sometimes if I get bored. Usually, I answer yes, yes, and no. But, I don’t aim to have a schedule that’s filled every minute of every day; I don’t view that as a healthy, productive schedule.

It’s easier than you think to find thing to do within the home, and in my case, I prefer and enjoy being at home over a conventional job. I’ve written a post in the past about why I’m a stay-at-home wife (post here), how I got my dream job (here) and today I want to share how I follow through.

This is my motivation for staying productive:

Proverbs 31:27

She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.

(And all of Proverbs 31.)

Colossians 3:23

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

1 // Pray

You can never pray too much. We know from the Proverbs and various New Testament verses that God isn’t pleased by laziness and idleness; we are supposed to work and completely fulfill our God-given roles in order to live and prosper. He always wants to help you if you ask according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). Pray for God to help you stay motivated, productive, and that you’ll know what you need to do throughout the day. Pray that you’ll find plenty to do and have patience to deal with the unexpected as you work through your day.

2 // Establish a Schedule

Working at home is going to require a more strict schedule because of the environment you’re in. Because you’re surrounded by couches and fluffy chairs and pillows and beds, it can be so easy to just turn on the TV and get comfortable! So I use my Simplified Planner (post on how I do that here) and I establish myself a constant daily schedule. Depending on the size of your house, these things could take a substantial amount of time: Monday-Saturday I do one big cleaning task, plus at least one load of laundry (adapted from cleanmama.net), and I’m working on establishing a blogging schedule. Sunday is reserved for worship, relaxing with my husband, and preparing myself for the next week.  A couple days a week, there’s an extra task, like grocery shopping and a ladies’ morning Bible study, and I study my Bible alone one or two times a day.

Aside from my big tasks, there’s always something I can find to do; I can take my dog for a walk, prep for tonight or tomorrow’s dinner, something can always be organized or cleaned and put back in its place.

3 // Get Some Exercise

I take a few short walks throughout the day because I have a dog, and I like to do around twenty minutes of yoga when I can. An option for someone who doesn’t walk a dog would be to start with or pause your day to do some kind of physical activity. If you feel yourself getting sleepy, wanting to quit and sit down, you could take a walk or a jog, do some stretches, or even head to the gym for a set amount of time, then get back to your task. (It’s also energizing just to get up, get a drink of water, and walk around your house for a few minutes!) Now, I do take breaks, but when I find myself slipping into quitting mode, it’s always helpful to get back up and move around. Getting exercise regularly will help you stay energized and increase fatigue, as well as keep you healthy throughout your life (source). Taking care of yourself will pay off in every other aspect of your life.

4 // Eliminate Distractions

Trying to do more than one thing at once is not only unproductive, it’s bad for your mental/brain health (source). If there’s something that’s been standing in the way of your ability to get things done, eliminate it. For me that can be the TV or the apps on my phone. I often keep the TV on during the day for noise, and I usually have my phone close by. So if I see that one of these things is getting in the way, I’ll either turn off the TV completely or change it to a Pandora station or podcast, and I’ll put my phone in another room so that I’m not tempted to sit down and scroll. Figure out what it is that distracts you and make the necessary changes so that they no longer get in the way.

5 // Keep a Clean House

This is a little bit circular, BUT, if you keep a clean (or at least clutter-free) house you’ll likely be more motivated to stay busy around the house. One study showed that people who live with more clutter are susceptible to more stress, anxiety, depression, and joylessness. Another study showed that people who keep their homes clean experience a boost in their mental health as well as some physical health benefits (source). So, even though cleaning is probably one of the things you’re trying to stay motivated to do, just think about all of the benefits you and your house will have once it’s clean and stays clean (related blog post here from another blogger).

6 // Make a Reasonable To-Do List

“We are too busy (or lazy or intimidated) to prioritize, so we may never be getting anything important done. We are too busy to be effective.”

-Corey Kohn (source)

Aim for productive, not busy. Nothing makes me want to ignore a to-do list more than when it’s packed completely full — I just get overwhelmed. Try to remember that you only have 24 hours in a day and make a reasonable to-do list — God gave us plenty of hours in the day, we just have to choose how to use them effectively. Pick the most important things to get done that day and prioritize down from there (read The Difference Between Being Busy and Getting Things Done). My to-do list usually consists of Bible study, walk Widget, my big cleaning task for the day, laundry, and make dinner. When other things come up, they’re prioritized from there by importance and time. I never pack my day so full that I can’t sit down for a minute. Depending on your lifestyle, your list might look different, but I highly suggest taking a minute to evaluate what’s important to accomplish during any given day and stop glorifying busyness (related post here).


Related: Why I’m a Stay-at-Home Wife / Because I Need Routine / Full, But Not Busy on BlairBlogs.com / Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Career, New Studies Suggest on Forbes.com

how-to-be-productive-pinterest

Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. Have a blessed day.🙂

It’s Not About Us

Being a Christian is a wonderful privilege — we get to worship our Creator in spirit and in truth, and we get to pray to Him about anything and everything. We worship a God who keeps His promises and is faithful to us as we’re faithful to Him.

But, being a Christian also comes with the huge responsibility of spreading the good news further and acting in a way that not only would be approved by Jesus, but in a way that Jesus would have acted. It comes with making constant changes in our lives as we see errors. Christians have the responsibility of adhering to the unwavering standard that’s been set before us so that we will be in heaven with God and His Son in the end.

Because of this responsibility, there’s one big thing that we all need to remember on a regular basis:

Nothing is about us.

Every Christian or person thinking of becoming a Christian should always be conscious of this fact. From the beginning, it’s never been about us. There’s a thread throughout the Bible, beginning to end, that all people are to magnify God and glorify Him in all things. Old Testament worshipers were completely consumed by sacrifice after sacrifice for the one true God (see the book of Leviticus). Although the Old Law has been replaced with a perfect, Jesus-focused, New Law — one that only required the sacrifice of Jesus to cover all of our sins, modern worshipers (Christians) still need to be consumed with serving God. This starts with recognizing that nothing is about us. 

God has had a plan since the beginning of the world, and that plan was never really about us. In short: He created the world, established the Old Law as a shadow of things to come, brought prophets forward to pave the way for Jesus, brought Jesus into the world, sent Him to teach the gospel and perform amazing miracles as well as sending disciples into all the nations, allowed His Son to be crucified for our sins, and made sure the church was established. He also made sure the Word was preserved for Christians until the end of time. He established this plan, and as we read through the Bible we can clearly see that it’s not about us.

Of course, God wants His people to be with Him — but that’s exactly the point — we were made to be with Him, not the other way around.

Humans all were made in His image (Genesis 1:27) because we are supposed to glorify Him. Even the non-human creations point back to God. If you look around, you’ll see God’s majesty clearly in the clouds and the trees and the oceans and the grass and in every tiny, microscopic being. All things glorify God and through Christ all things were made.

Psalm 19:1-4

The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.

 

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word [referring to Jesus here], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The life of a Christian should be no different. All humans have an innate need to worship; whether we know it or not, we need something to worship. Sometimes the things we obsess over are the things we’re choosing to worship consciously or subconsciously; that could be a person, hobby, thing, place, job, whatever it is we put first in our lives. But, what we were created to worship was the Creator Himself. Christians need to remember to put God first and put worshiping God first because that’s what we were created to do.

I want this to be abundantly clear: Being a Christian isn’t a tagline; it’s not something to use to our advantage because we like to think we’re good people or because we want to seem like good people if we’re not. And it’s certainly not just something to put in our social media profiles to make us look good or fit in with any particular group of people. Our ability to be Christians is a gift that was only obtained through the world’s most meaningful sacrifice: Jesus on the cross. Holding the title “Christian” is an honor and should be taken seriously so that we don’t drag Christ’s name through the mud.

Because it’s still not about us.

So what is it really about?

It’s about lost souls. It’s about sharing the gospel with people who need it. It’s about taking time to serve others because that’s what Jesus did. It’s about giving our best even when we feel our worst. It’s about getting up and trying again when we fail. It’s about giving, not receiving. It’s about serving a glorious, giving, patient, and just God who gave His Son’s life when He was falsely accused so that we could be in heaven with them both. It’s about giving the glory to God through the Jesus who saves.

1 Corinthians 10:31

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

 

Colossians 3:23-24

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.


its-not-about-us-2

Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. Have a blessed day. 🙂

Reading Your Bible For Profit

The Bible is a guide for your soul, so it’s meant to be studied, not skimmed. How you read your Bible is as important as actually reading the Bible. In order to gain more knowledge and understanding of God’s word, you have to read it and understand it, right? That’s how learning works with any topic. You go to school to learn, but in order to learn you have to put in the effort on your own time and study the presented material. It is possible to sit down and read your Bible — just your Bible — and gain that precious knowledge that only comes from God. But it takes effort, and it takes time.

Two key words here: effort and time

Psalm 119:103

“How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

Effort

The effort you put into reading your Bible directly correlates with what you gain from your study. There are no boring subjects, only boring teachers. This is something my husband and I hear regularly where we attend worship services. The Bible isn’t boring, and it is relevant — you just have to read with intention and read for profit (something else we hear regularly, by the way). Effort also requires focus on what you’re reading, Who inspired it, and how you can use it to better your walk with Christ. Go into your reading time with an attitude of positivity and perseverance, determining to learn from what you read and apply it to your life. If you don’t understand something you’re reading, stop and take the time to read it again and ask someone else who might understand.

Time

Because of the effort required to study the Bible, you’ll need to allot time for it. Notice I said “allot time,” meaning to give or distribute time to, as opposed to doing it if you have time. For most of my life, I’ve been told to plan my life around God, not God around my life, and this is something I take seriously. God deserves the best of our time, not the leftovers. Depending on your reading style, you might read five chapters during your time slot or you might only read one; what’s important is that you’re reading to understand. The amount of time you put into your Bible study is important for your soul and it’s important to God, so always make sure to spend time in the Word.

2 Timothy 2:15

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

When you realize how much you’re gaining and how much you can learn about God by reading for profit, you’ll want to read more!

But, keep in mind that reading the Bible isn’t something to be added to a list just so you can check it off at the end of the day. You’re supposed to love and crave this spiritual food. It’s the nourishment your soul needs every day, every hour, and every second to fight in this world. God has provided us with everything we need to know in order to be faithful Christians.

Profit: advantage, benefit (not monetary gain)

This profit you’re gaining isn’t just more knowledge; it’s biblical knowledge that will sustain you as you apply it to your everyday life. We all need to read for the benefit of our own souls and the souls around us. The benefit we’ll be gaining is a closer relationship with God, our brothers and sisters, and eventually a place in heaven with God and our Savior.

2 Timothy 3:16

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…”

2 Peter 1:3

“…as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue…”


Related: I recently watched a video from Project Virtue with 6 helpful and straightforward tips for studying your Bible. Go check that out here if you’re interested in enhancing your Bible study or if you just don’t know where to start!

Reading your Bible for Profit.png

***Thanks for reading! If you’re interested, follow me on Instagram, and Pinterest for more like this.***

How I Use My Simplified Planner

I’ve been using my Simplified Planner for almost a year now, and I LOVE it. It’s helped me sort out my thoughts and plans and lists and generally just kept me more sane than I was before I had it. (By the way, her 2017 planners just debuted, so check them out!) I’ve thought about writing this post several times, and now that I really do have a set way that I use the planner, I decided now is a good time — especially if there’s anyone reading who’s considering purchasing one for 2017 or even for the academic year!

My Planner

I have the Daily version in Happy Stripe. The Daily Simplified Planner has a full calendar spread on the first two pages of each month, and two days per opening throughout the month. There are time slots from 6am to 9pm down the left of each day page, an empty to-do list to the right, dinner for the night on the bottom left and a section for extra notes on the bottom right. Every planner has monthly tabs on the sides of the pages and a sturdy pocket in the front that I use for lists, receipts, coupons, etc. — you’ll see them poking out of the top of my planner throughout the post.

2016-09-15_162854000_20ee4_ios
The beauty when I got it last December

2016-09-15_160107498_b97fb_ios-2016-09-15t16_12_11-340
I’ve smudged the gold foil over time 😦

How I Used It

How I use my planner isn’t complicated or drawn-out; I don’t even use stickers because they seem to defeat the purpose of simplicity and take up too much time to use for my liking.

There are two ways I’ve used my planner that have been successful throughout the year. When I first got my planner, I tried using a pencil (just in case I messed up), and then I was just getting eraser smudges all over it, and I don’t keep many pencils on hand. And let’s be real, I just don’t like pencils. So that just didn’t work well for me.

Second, I tried color coding with these amazing pens. I mainly used light blue, lavender, pink, fuchsia, orange, and occasionally red — all depending on the tasks I had to do that day. I loved this because I could easily separate the tasks from each other and visually prioritize them if they weren’t written in order of priority already. It worked well for me until I started losing pens or leaving them in my car so that I couldn’t get to the color I needed when I needed it, and like the stickers, it took up a little too much time — it looked pretty, though!

When I was using these pens, I was thoroughly planning my day by time (as in, if I needed to clean the bathroom, it was in the time slot at 11am or whenever I decided I needed to do it the next day). I was completely filling the planner pages, and that quickly became overwhelming. This may work for people who can stick to a timed schedule like that, but sometimes I prefer to change up when I do a task, so it didn’t quite cut it for me.

2016-09-15_155618592_efaed_ios

How I Use it Now

I really use my planner interactively; I use everything that’s printed in the planner to my advantage — which I’ve done since I first got the planner. For example, there are quotes at the top right of each page, and if I see that those quotes are going to be an encouragement or even a good mantra, I’ll bubble it or put a star next to it or highlight it (anything to draw attention to it). I also use the checklists next to “Sunday,” and the slot that says, “write a happy memory from this week.” They help me to live each week intentionally.

2016-09-15_160010022_85805_ios

2016-09-15_165104908_DC8A1_iOS   (2016-09-15T16_53_44.945).jpg
I don’t know, I was just really excited about the taco salad that week. And I don’t think I stuck to those meals.

I’ve switched to using whatever black pen I deemed as my favorite at any point in time. 😉 Right now it’s a ballpoint click pen with a clip and a blue, white, and purple paisley pattern on it. I no longer color code, and I only write what’s necessary or what I think is important to make sure I remember throughout the day — sometimes I even write tasks that aren’t my favorite, but they feel more concrete in my planner (so that way I have to them, right?!) Although I don’t use stickers, I do occasionally put a sticky note wherever I need extra room to write, but don’t want to take up space in my planner in case something changes.

Usually on Saturdays or Sundays, I go through and write out tasks and meetings for the week, plus I meal plan in the dinner slot. I try to keep the time slots fairly open in case something comes up that I absolutely have to attend. There are usually one or two tasks in the morning, one around noon, and depending on the day, one or two in the evening. Then, I’ll fill in my to-do list section with whatever else I need to get done but don’t necessarily have a time constraint as long as they’re done that day.

2016-09-15_155840269_b9140_ios

My notes section is mainly used for birthdays, important dates, or something I don’t want to forget but isn’t a task. I’ve used it for phone numbers if I need to call someone that day or even something I don’t want to forget at the grocery store (which can also go in the dinner slot).

And that full-spread calendar at the front? I use it, too. I put birthdays, holidays, my husband’s off-work days, football games if it’s football season, and vacations there all where I can see it over the span of a month. I don’t use it as much as the daily pages, but when I need to visualize how much time I have left in the month or until a particular day, the calendar is so, so helpful.

2016-09-15_155735924_96118_ios

I have fun with my planner! I used to get completely bent out of shape if I had to mark something out or rewrite it on the next page or misspelled something in the planner until I realized that that’s just life. I’ll have to scratch things out and make changes, and Emily Ley says it perfectly when she gives herself and anyone using the Simplified Planner “a standard of grace, not perfection.”

2016-09-15_170008508_58CD0_iOS   (2016-09-15T17_08_38.918).jpg
This is inside the back cover.

Because not every page of our lives are going to be picture-perfect, neither are our planners. 🙂

 

Love Never Fails

I think we need to understand some things about love. About real, true love. It can be beautiful and exciting — it’s pure, it’s healing, and it’s holy, and we need to make sure we understand it.

Love, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “a strong or constant affection for a person.” I agree with this definition, but there’s more to be said; there’s more to be done. Love, in the Bible, is put to action:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Love, as defined by society, is only the feeling — the warm feeling of only doing what your heart desires and what wouldn’t emotionally hurt the other person. It’s based on passing emotions, something no one should have to work at. It’s the butterflies-in-your-stomach, jittery, swooning feeling you get when you look at a person you care about. You can’t control it, you don’t want to control it, and it’s the best emotion in the world. Within the right context, these are all very good things! There’s nothing wrong with getting these types of love-feelings.

But real, Biblical love is something more solid, withstanding, and even more beautiful than this. I don’t think I would even classify it as an emotion because it doesn’t depend on feelings to exist. Real love is an action.

It’s accompanied by patience, kindness, humility, selflessness, morality, truth-telling, and it’s strong.

Merriam-Webster’s definition says “constant affection.” Almost anything we do that’s constant requires effort and work. I think this word “constant” aligns perfectly with God’s definition, because love doesn’t give up. Those who truly love are patient and kind, and they don’t give up on a person.

They don’t leave their brothers and sisters in the dirt when they’re struggling because they don’t want to deal with it. They don’t give up on someone who’s isn’t quite grasping the truth; they keep trying to teach because God doesn’t give up on them. They don’t forsake their spouses just because one or both parties have changed since the wedding day.

Real love works. Real love gives. Real love won’t bend to the world’s influence.

Real love isn’t easy — we have to work everyday to be loving, to understand how to love. We have to put the amount of effort specific to the love we’re giving. When we love someone, no matter who it is, we’ll work to show them that. We’ll work within ourselves to really love them, and not just act like it. Giving up isn’t an option — love endures all things; love never fails.

But it doesn’t mean we let sin abound. This means that if we truly love, we will be patient, but disciplinary. We won’t let our brothers and sisters continue in sin because we know what that could mean for their souls and for ours. If we really love, we’ll teach the world about the light and truth of God’s word, and we’ll show them Christ through ourselves. We won’t let God be blasphemed and His word twisted by untruths.

There’s another facet to love: correction.

1 John 4:8

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God is love. God is the embodiment of love; He possesses each and every trait listed above. How can we compare God to a passing, fleeting feeling? How can we compare our great and holy Creator, the very one who sustains us and is patient with us each and every time we forsake Him before giving Him our all, to an emotion? We can’t set Him on the same plane as something the world portrays to us as wavering, unsteady, and circumstantial. And if we can’t put Him there, then we can’t put love there, for God is love. 

Our parents correct us because they love us. Hopefully our friends correct us because they love us. Because if we were never to receive correction, how would we ever be able to progress?

Correction in the Bible

In each of his letters, Paul begins with a greeting. They usually include a note of thanksgiving for his brethren, emphasis on the good that church is doing, and then he goes on to offer ways in which they can improve to please God. At the end of each letter, after his correction, he bids them farewell, and wishes the grace and love of Christ and God be with them.

We’re given all these letters of firm correction, but we wouldn’t dare say Paul didn’t love his brothers and sisters. Because it’s clear that he did! He even suffered violence and imprisonment trying to teach them what was right.

Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18) took Apollos, who was actually speaking boldly of the way he understood the Scriptures, aside to explain the word of God to him more accurately; he obliged because he loved God. Philip (Acts 8) stopped to explain the book of Isaiah to the Ethiopian eunuch not because he was prideful or a know-it-all, but because he wanted this man to be part of the Kingdom. All of the apostles and other disciples went from city to city proclaiming God’s word because they loved the people and wanted them to be saved.

Love is going to act upon what is right — on solid, firm truth, not just feelings of affection. Because feelings of affection can lead us down paths that we never dreamed of. We can have these loving feelings toward sin, toward things or people that we aren’t meant to emotionally love, that are opposite of what God has commanded we love. They can drive us into darkness instead of into God’s light because they’re not always the same as the logical truth.

2 John 6

And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

Because God loves us, He gave us His word — He gave us this New Covenant to live by. He knows what’s best for our souls, and because He wants us to have a hope of being with Him in eternity, He disciplines us through His word. Everything God does for us, including discipline, is because He loves us. It’s because He wants us to be with Him.

Everything Jesus taught and everything He did while He was on earth was because He loves us. If we want to shine Christ’s light, we should love the way They love, with both God’s mercy and justice in mind.

If we truly love God, we’ll do His will, and we’ll pay attention to all of the truths found in the Bible, not just the ones we like. We won’t base our decisions and our loyalties on feelings. If we truly love people, we’ll treat them the way 1 Corinthians 13 describes real love — with patience, humility, kindness, hope, while bearing their burdens. We’ll walk in truth, show them truth, and proclaim to them truth because these are things that will lead them toward heaven.

 

// How do you show love to others? What are some ways to do this? Or verses about love you want to share? I’d love input in the comments section. 🙂

Feel free to follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest! You’ll find all the things I like to do, and more Bible-based truth.

Love Never Fails Pinterest graphic

 

 

 

 

How Exercise Can Be a Spiritual Discipline

For me, exercise has been encouraging in more ways than one. I’m always going to be encouraged to push myself further in my exercise routine and in my everyday routine when I exercise. It’s a natural energizer because it’s working to keep my body healthy. But I’ve also found that it can help me spiritually.

Although I’ve never worked out in the traditional sense of the term, I’ve done some running and I’ve practiced yoga for around three years. Both of these routines were big steps for me because:

1) I didn’t care about intentional exercise for a long time.

2) I’d never done either of them before (outside of that mile run in middle school that I mostly walked).

It didn’t quite hit me until just this week that not only are there Bible correlations with running, but any type of exercise can be or lead to spiritual discipline. A lot of yoga classes I’ve attended incorporate setting an intention at the beginning of the practice; this could be anything from a physical component you need to focus on or mindset you’d like to achieve. At the end of my practice on Monday, my instructor (online – I’ve been using FitStar Yoga) said, “Now go back to that intention you set at the beginning.” I don’t usually set one just because I’m focusing on the poses, not any one aspect of the practice. (I realize this could sound fluffy and a little bit out there, so stick with me.)

But as soon as she said that I realized how I could be using my time during my yoga practice to focus my mind on things above (Colossians 3:2). Instead of setting an earthly intention like a better stretch or getting a tough pose or grace when you fall out of a pose, I decided the next time to set my mind on a Biblical virtue. So, during my next practice, I set my mind on patience. I chose to be patient with myself and with the practice, and to be fully there while I was exercising my body. Then I thought about patience with others, and as I was holding poses thought of situations in which I would need to practice patience. Not only did this help get me through the yoga practice, but I also felt that I’d grown.

The same is true with running. While you’re giving yourself grace and pushing yourself to just run through that pain, you’re also training your mind. Because in a lot of ways these types of exercises are teaching you tools you also need to fight as a Christian.

Through exercising, we can learn patience and grace and perseverance and strength and so many other things. The writer of Hebrews says, “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” in chapter 12, verse 1. And in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, the same type of analogy is given as a lesson about discipline and perseverance toward the “imperishable crown”:

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

I realize that Paul is talking here about spiritual discipline, and he isn’t even saying that we all need to spiritually discipline ourselves while we’re exercising, but in the Bible, both parables and analogies are given that will increase understanding because people can relate to the topic – or are at least familiar with it.He’s talking about fully disciplining our spiritual bodies to strive toward an eternal home with God. If learning some type of discipline during exercise weren’t relevant, this wouldn’t have been written.

It takes self-control, perseverance, and confidence to get through a tough exercise. And it takes self-control, perseverance, and confidence to get through this tough life.

That’s why the time we spend exercising, which is usually a big chunk of time, can also be a spiritual discipline, even if we aren’t specifically “setting an intention” during that yoga practice or those two miles or during every weight-lift. It can teach us lessons about our minds and bodies that will help us learn physical and spiritual discipline. We can apply the same mindset to our spiritual walk through this life because that perseverance is the same perseverance that will help us reach a heavenly goal.

 

// Follow me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram!

How Exercise Can Be a Spiritual Discipline