In Christ Alone

This is a repost from July 11, 2013. I’m working on a requested post/series of posts right now, so in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this short post! 

In Christ alone my hope is found.

He is my light, my strength, my song.
This Cornerstone, this Solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love! What depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All;
Here in the love of Christ I stand. 

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save!

‘Til on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied!
For every sin on Him was laid 
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay.
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!

And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me!
For I am His, and He is mine.
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life – no fear in death!
This is the power of Christ in me. 
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand.
‘Til He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I stand.

This song has been on my mind so much lately. It’s such a powerful song that says just how much Christ loves us. He went willingly to the cross to be crucified for sins that He never committed. (2 Corinthians 5:21). This Man, Who was beaten, scorned, made fun of, and betrayed by His own friends, eventually died in place of everyone’s sins so that we may have the hope of living eternally with Him. (Matthew 26-28, Mark 15-16, Luke 22-24).   This is a gift that we did nothing to deserve and we can never repay.

1 Peter 3:18

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm. (HCSB)

Because of this gift, we can repent of our past sins, confess Him as God’s Son, be baptized into Christ’s body, and be forgiven of our sins. We need to put away our past sins and “walk in newness of life” to live a life fully devoted to obeying God’s Word. 

Romans 6:1-4

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (NKJV)

Ephesians 4:17-22

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (NKJV)

Christ’s sacrifice gives us this freedom from sin; we are no longer “alienated from God”! We have the choice to put on Christ, take up our cross, and follow Him (Luke 9:23). We don’t have to be blinded and held down by all the cares and restraints of the world, but we can be free with the truth of God’s Word, through Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.

John 8:31-32

31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (NKJV)

Why would we ever consider delaying in doing only and all of what God has asked of us? Did He delay in sending His Son to the cross? Did Christ delay in giving His life for our sins? We should have the same willingness to whole-heartedly give back to God just as He so willingly gave to us.

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (NKJV)

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Bloom (v): to change, grow, or develop fully (Webster’s dictionary)

Think about a garden.

Think about how many flowers and plants are constantly uprooted and replanted, then uprooted and replanted again.

Yet most of the time, if they’re taken care of properly, they still grow up with fresh leaves and beautiful new blooms, some of which weren’t visible before. It’s a lovely thought, really, that God created these living things to be able to grow strong and weather storms and resist all kinds of diseases. They can’t run away or quit, and they don’t have complex immune systems. All they can do is bloom. Right where they’ve been planted. All they can do is continue growing as if they had never been replanted.

They’re taken care of as God sees fit for them to be taken care of, yet He cares more for us, His human creation. His human creation that he has given brains and immune systems and emotions and the ability to have self-control and the simple ability to bloom.

Just like those plants, if not more so, we have the ability to bloom where we’re planted. And we can grow taller and more beautiful than they can because God will help us if we trust Him. It doesn’t matter if you’re living at home, in high school, in college, recently married, moving away or about to do any of these things – we are all in different seasons of life than we were before this moment, and we have to learn to bloom right there. Because you can’t change your situation but you can change yourself.

[What I’m like] I have a very large comfort zone – socializing exhausts me easily, and I’m OK with that. It just means I have to take time to recuperate again. I’m not one for change, and often I’m afraid of the unexpected and the unknown. But I’ve also moved away from my comfort zone a few times in my life, literally and figuratively. I’ve been as far out of my comfort zone as I’ve been able to get so far, and I know that it’s easy keep your mind tethered to your comfort people or your comfort place just in case you have that split-second opportunity to reel yourself back in when everything is just too much.

[What I’ve learned] But the one problem with this is that you can’t move forward if you’re constantly looking back. It’s perfectly fine to be sentimental, to love whatever or whoever is behind you, but when it becomes inhibitive and you’re pulling that tethered line so tight that you can’t go any further – that’s when the just-too-much needs to become the comfortable. It’s a sign that you’re stunting your own growth. Don’t cut off your people or things or places. In fact, keep the line, but let it stretch (see Matthew 6:25-34).

The secret to blooming is a life with God.

Blooming where you’re planted is more than just making new friends, learning a new town, or adapting to change. And although it is all of that combined, it really starts with a heart examination and sometimes a major perspective change.

This is where we can’t always do it alone – and it’s OK to admit that, too. But we can do it with God. In fact, we have to trust God if we want to truly be at peace with where we are. God will be there when we feel confused and lonely and uncomfortable, but He’s also there when we’re excited and hopeful and content – if we put our trust in Him. The best kind of blooming and growing is the kind that’s done with God on your side and Christ in your heart.

And eventually, the hard things will feel like the easy ones, so we can grow even taller with every step.

Life should be a journey to a destination. Not a wandering, aimless journey, but a journey that has a real, solid end goal. For me, that’s heaven (I hope it is or will be for everyone).

Because of this, growing is completely and utterly necessary. I don’t just mean growing into comfort with my personality and my skin and my situation, I mean growing spiritually and emotionally.

Spiritual growth is the most important type of growth. I can only do that if I push myself to grow out of my comfort zone no matter what season of life or city I’m in. If I constantly push myself spiritually, none of those physical things will matter. All things will be counted loss for Christ (Philippians 3:8). I can be at peace with all things and content with all things, confident that I have God on my side because I’ve been crucified with Christ. I have learned in whatever state I am to be content (see Philippians 4). Growing up into full bloom will mean that I’m constantly working for God every second of every day, with every thought that comes into my mind, every word that comes out of my mouth, and everything that I do.

Emotional growth closely follows spiritual growth (especially if you’re like me and you really do have so. many. feelings). Emotions can play a big part in how distracted from God I let myself get. I have to be sure I’m constantly aware of my emotions because I have to know how to control them. I have to know how to react and when to react so that I’m not letting my emotions drag me back down into spiritual immaturity.

Spiritual and emotional maturity will lead you to growth in “the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), and you’re that much closer to full bloom. And just think – you’ll be even more beautiful to God than that full-grown blossom outside because you’re His creation doing His will so you can be with Him.

//

As long as you’re taking care of yourself the way God would have you to (in His will), leaning on Him, and you keep on growing, you’ll find a way to bloom no matter where you’re planted. So if this is something you struggle with, as so many people do, I highly encourage you to pick up your Bible. Read about Ruth and Esther, read about Jesus, read about Paul, read about each and every person who knew what God’s will was and fully committed. Then learn God’s character, commit to Him, and let yourself grow.

Philippians 4:8-13

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. 

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 

 

 

 

 

Bake With Me: Grain, Dairy, & Sugar Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve got a friend coming over tonight to watch a movie, and I wanted to make sure I have something to offer her to snack on while she’s here. But, the thing about this is that she’s allergic to certain foods, while I’m sensitive to some. I figured paleo (grain, dairy, and white sugar free) cookies were the best way to go! Luckily, I’ve found a couple of good chocolate chip cookie recipes – I wrote about one here – that are quick, easy, and the ingredients are easily accessible for me.

Today I went with a new one I’ve been making since January from Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain, which you can buy here. (This post is by no means sponsored or promoted; I just enjoy this recipe and took the opportunity to share it.) Against All Grain is written in a way that I understand exactly what ingredients she calls for and am able to purchase them easily either at my local grocery store or online.

So, without further ado, here’s my process (original process found in Against All Grain recipe book or online here.):

IMG_4540

 

Grain, Dairy, and White Sugar Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup palm shortening, ghee, or grass-fed butter (I use Nutiva palm shortening)
  • ¼ cup coconut palm sugar (I use Coconut Secret cocounut crystals)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1½ cups blanched almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour (also Bob’s Red Mill)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate pieces
  • ¼ cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips (I just double the chips instead of using pieces and chips)

Process

First, I preheated my oven to 350.

Then, I measured out all of my dry ingredients into separate bowls just to make the beginning of the process easier.

Then, Danielle says, “Place the shortening and egg in a food processor and process for 15 seconds.” This is where you might think you’re stuck. I did at first because I don’t have a food processor. Instead I decided to use my trusty hand mixer or KitchenAid each time (today I used the stand-up KitchenAid).  The processor will make the texture more true to her recipe, so I would use that if you have it.

So I combined my Nutiva palm shortening (much like Crisco in the paleo world) and room temperature egg in my KitchenAid and mixed well.

The next thing she says is, “Add the coconut crystals, honey, and vanilla extract. Process again until combined.” I did this next, using Coconut Secret Coconut Crystals, Simply Organic Honey, and McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract.

After this, the recipe says to “add the flours, baking soda, and salt and process for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and pulse again if necessary to fully incorporate the dry ingredients.”

Again, since I don’t have the processor, I just mixed them as well as possible in my mixer. This is when I switched mixer attachments to the big whisk attachment – I felt like it would mix the ingredients more thoroughly – and it did! Then I scraped down the sides and mixed again. Usually I prefer to use sea salt, as she calls for, but my iodized salt was measuring out better, so I didn’t risk too much or too little salt this time.

Next she says to stir in the chocolate by hand. I stirred in my Enjoy Life chocolate chips. I never buy the chunks, so I doubled the chocolate chip measurement instead. I folded the dough in on itself with a spatula to make sure the chips were as evenly distributed as possible.

IMG_4550
The dough should look something like this after you’re done.

To make the dough-balls, she says, “Use a large tablespoon to scoop balls of the dough, placing them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly press them down to flatten, making disks about 1/2-inch thick.”

I have a trusty ice cream scoop with a button that pushes out the dough – I always use it for this step and make the dough round and flat with my hands.

I skipped the parchment paper lining because I already have a non-stick cookie sheet.

Next I just baked them for 10 minutes in the oven until they were brown. My oven runs very hot, so I probably should have bumped the time down a little since they turned slightly more brown.

And there you have it! Delicious and healthy chocolate chip cookies that you won’t feel bad about after eating. 😉

I will say that not all of my ingredients listed here are considered paleo-friendly, so if you’re looking to have completely clean ingredients, look into using sea salt or pink Himalayan salt instead of iodized and organic vanilla extract.

To me, these are best served warm with milk or almond milk. 🙂 Enjoy!

 

April Roundup: Blogs

One of the most helpful things to do when it comes to having my own blog is keeping up with other blogs that I’m interested in and/or have similar content that keeps me inspired to write (or keep me inspired in general). It’s amazing to have such easy access to so many people and their ideas. I don’t have an extensive list, but I do have some that I want to share. This post isn’t sponsored, nor does it contain affiliate links.

1 | Blair Blogs

Blair Blogs is written by a girl named Blair Lamb, and it’s my #1 favorite blog to follow. I’ve been reading her posts for a few years now, and I can honestly say that she almost always writes about a topic I need the most.

Blair writes about anything from lifestyle to organization to spiritual encouragement. We most likely don’t agree on everything spiritually, but she honestly shares her life’s story, and that’s what I appreciate the most. She has good ideas and strives to encourage women in their everyday walks of life. I mentioned her podcast (Simplify Everything) in a recent post – you can read it here. Not only does she write and have a podcast, but she has recently launched a self-designed t-shirt line where she sells on Etsy.

I also follow Blair on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and Bloglovin’.

2 | Radically Christian

This blog is one I’ve seen shared on my Facebook timeline over and over by friends and fellow-church-members. Wes McAdams discusses serious issues that all professed-Christians need to take into consideration.

Our beliefs are much more similar than the blogs I’ve already mentioned, and I believe Wes attends and preaches for a church of Christ. Radically Christian is a full website with FAQ, sermons, and videos.

His posts are more along the lines of what God has commanded, not commanded, and how a Christian should be walking in his or her everyday life. I’ve seen everything from posts about instrumental music in worship to dating. It’s both challenging and encouraging, and I’m thankful that Wes has the courage and dedication to share these thoughts with the world.

I recently found out that Wes also has a podcast called CrossTalk. It deals with the same types of issues, sometimes with guest hosts.

I follow Radically Christian on Facebook and Bloglovin’.

3 | Phylicia Delta

I was recently introduced to this blog by a new friend, and I’m glad I was. Phylicia Masonheimer is a wife and a mom who, like Blair, strives to encourage women to put their faith in God. Although I haven’t gotten to read all of her posts yet, I appreciate how seriously she approaches the Bible and how seriously she studies to produce these posts. I’ve read posts about modesty (she wrote a viral post about yoga pants), struggling with sin, marriage, and her everyday life; each of them are very well thought-out and well written. (I do feel the need to say again that I don’t agree with everything she outlines specifically, but it can be a huge encouragement in a world that is mostly driven by sin.)

Along with her blog Phylicia  hosts a podcast with another spiritual blogger. It deals with the same issues, but the two women discuss them together in a casual setting in an effort to encourage. Think: coffee with a friend while discussing your thoughts and struggles.

I also follow Phylicia on Instagram and Bloglovin’.

4 | He’s Still Workin’ On Me

I’m still fairly new to this one as well, but Courtney shares recipes, essential oils recipes, crafts, and being a wife/mom (link here). She does all of this in a way that glorifies God. Her “About” section says, “Workin’ on making a little difference in the world while God makes a huge difference in me.” We have the same belief system (and I think we even grew up near each other!), so I know that I will agree with most, if not all, of the spiritual things she posts.

I appreciate Courtney’s positivity and the light she shines for Christ the most. I’ve never seen a post that goes against what God would have her say or do or one that doesn’t glorify Him.

I follow He’s Still Workin’ On Me on Facebook – she shares Bible verses fairly regularly here, as well. I also follow her on Bloglovin’.

 

// Do you have any blogs you like to follow regularly? What are they? I would love to know if you do! You can comment below with thoughts about mine and suggestions for later. If you want to know more about what I believe, shoot me an email at eahblog15@gmail.com. 🙂

*UPDATE: I now use Feedly to follow blogs instead of Bloglovin’.*

 

To My Friendship Circle

When you grow up with such a large, tight-knit group of friends, it can be easy to forget that they’ve been there for you – some since birth, some since elementary school, and it just keeps going from there. It can be hard to thank each of them for just how much they taught you, gave you, and helped you. You forget to thank them for what really matters.

So, to my Friendship Circle,

Past and present – you know who you are. I thank God upon every remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3).

I wish I could bring you all here together, take you out for coffee, and tell each of you how much you’ve meant to me over the course of my 23 years. But since I can’t, this will have to suffice.

Thank you for deciding to be my friends when we were little and bright-eyed (and some of you when we were going through that horrible awkward phase – you know the one). I still remember how some of us became friends, but the majority of you just seem like you’ve been there the whole time. There’s not always a definite beginning because, especially when we were young, it didn’t matter who it was or how it happened – we just made friends and we always loved each other.

Thank you to the ones who’ve drifted away. You were there to help me grow as a child and a weirdo middle schooler, and some into high school. We may not always be close, but I cherish the memories we made and the times we had because I’m certain that you were in that season of my life for a reason. We all change, but what your friendships meant to me never will.

Thank you for crying with me through the bad times, laughing through the good times, and celebrating through the best times. We’re all so different, but we love with the same big heart, and for that I’m grateful.

Our GIF texting conversations and hideous Snapchat faces will never fail to amuse me no matter how much I forget to reply – just remember, I really am reading them. 😉 And really, one more Netflix marathon couldn’t hurt.

We’ve all had our fights and differences and little rants, but I’m glad most of you have stuck with me. We didn’t all hang out at the same time, but we all had different fun, and I’ve loved each of you equally. From aspiring fourth-grade rock band members to hosting fake TV shows to singing together in recitals to those horribly-executed study parties, we’ve pretty much done it all. And I wouldn’t take any of it back for a second.

I’m thankful to have friends from all walks of life, and all kinds of places. Some of you I became friends with later in life, and we’ve made up for lost time with heart-to-hearts about our fears, hopes, regrets, dreams – anything and everything. You might not all know each other, but to me you’re part of that never-ending circle of friends (“the circle is round, it has no end, that’s how long I want to be your friend,” TBT to Brownies) who I love and care about just as much as the others.

We all have our weaknesses, and because they’re all different, we complement and push each other along. You let me totally obsess over all things Christmas and every puppy I see. Some of you brought me ice cream when I was sick and drove me around when I didn’t have a car or was just too afraid I would get lost. You listened to me go on and on about everything that seemed the end of the world to me and didn’t ask me to stop. So thank you for understanding me when I’m completely out of my mind and loving me when I’m the least lovable. For showing me compassion and empathy and grace and kindness even when I don’t deserve it.

I know you support me in my dreams even though you don’t always tell me out loud; I appreciate each of you for that.

Thank you for all the times we’ve sat in our cars and talked for hours, “Random Thursdays” spent in Wal-Mart, and late-night Taco Bell or coffee runs when we were supposed to be taking care of real-life responsibilities. It was needed for our hearts and our souls and our friendships. Thank you for correcting me when I needed it and encouraging me every day. You’ve all been your own kind of light.

I imagine it’s the same for most friend groups, but this one is special – because this one is mine. I’ll cherish your friendships for the rest of my life, no matter what happens.

Thank you, friends, for being you. I couldn’t do life without you by my side. There will always be room in my heart and a spot on my couch for you. 🙂

A Letter to My Future Self

Dear Future Me,

Whether you read this a day from now or two years from now, I have a few things I want to say.

Don’t forget that what you’ve done, every step you’ve taken through life has been preparing you for more and greater things. Every step has taught you and prepared you and helped you to grow. The things that hurt and the things that healed – they’ve all prepared you for new experiences and prepared you for your walk to eternity. Every step you’ve taken was a direct derivative of your thinking and your heart and your attitude.

You’ve failed a lot but you’ve accomplished a lot more. You’ve grown up, graduated from high school and college, started a (fairly successful) blog, got married, and you moved to a new state all within 23 years. But don’t forget that it wasn’t simply you who got yourself to where you are now – God was on your side. Through the good, the bad, and the worse, God was there because you gave your heart to Him. His Word was there to remind you that He was there and that you needed Him.

Don’t forget that you’re more than you think – that you’re capable of more than you think. Never give yourself the short end of the straw because you can do whatever you set your mind to as long as you trust in God for help.

Remember to love and respect your husband no matter what. Don’t forget about your first date, the day you got engaged, or your wedding, and especially don’t forget the tiny love-defining moments in between. When you have kids, teach them about God and prepare them for the lives they’ll have ahead of them. Remember when you were their age and give them the knowledge they need to move forward with faith – and don’t forget to learn from them, too.

Forget about the past because where you go from here is all that matters now. Re-read your last letter; remember where you were then and be more. What’s happened has happened, whether big or small, and you can make something different of yourself no matter what. If you’ve stumbled, then pick yourself up, say a prayer, and start again. Forget about the things you blamed for your problems, the things that got in your way, and the things that stressed you out. Because you can move forward with grace. You’ve done it before, and you can do it again.

You are more than your mistakes, and you are more than your successes. You are child of God – you’ve had beautiful reminders of that in every season of life.

You probably don’t have a real bucket list; try something new anyway. Put yourself out there. Be what you know deep down that you can be. Go somewhere new, try new foods, experience a new life-joy, pick your instruments back up, write about more. Make new friends, but always keep up with the old ones because they’ve all been there for you. Take advantage of every opportunity God opens for you. Keep searching, keep encouraging, and keep loving.

Walk with faith, walk without fear, and never forget to pray.

All my love,

Elizabeth Anne

 

This World Is Not My Home

We sang this hymn Sunday morning with the church where my husband and I have been attending since we moved to Arkansas. It was even mentioned in the sermon that morning as a bullet-point about Christians’ true citizenship. It’s one of my favorite songs because of the picture it paints in my mind of reaching the true end goal. Here are the lyrics below if you haven’t heard it before (by Albert Brumley):

This world is not my home I’m just passing through
my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

They’re all expecting me and that’s one thing I know
my Savior pardoned me and now I onward go
I know He’ll take me through though I am weak and poor
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Just up in Glory Land we’ll live eternally
the Saints on every hand are shouting victory
their song of sweetest praise drifts back from Heaven’s shore
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

[Chorus] O Lord you know I have no friend like you
if Heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do?
the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

 


I’ll admit that most times this song comes to mind it’s when I’ve heard about a tragedy or injustice or just when I feel sad. But during that sermon Sunday morning, the preacher talked in terms of staying unattached from the world, not loving or preferring the world over God. Somehow this hadn’t crossed my mind as strongly as it did then – but it’s so true!

Because this world is not my home, I should be working harder every day to reach the home where I belong. Paul said in Philippians 3:20-21, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” If I recognize that the world I’m living in right now is not my true home, it’s going to do at least two things:

1 | Keep me focused on spiritual rather than worldly things

Recognizing that this world is not my true home, and having a full understanding that I don’t belong here is going to begin focusing my mind on being with God instead of the troubles or even excitements of this world. Of course all good and perfect things are gifts from God (James 1:17), blessings that He has given us so that we can be slightly more comfortable here, but He tells us that we shouldn’t be completely comfortable with that. What He has in store for us is much better, much more exciting – things we can’t even imagine. He gives us relative comforts, but only relative to what He has been preparing for us since creation. “But as it is written:’Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man, The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Jesus says in John 14:1-4,

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

These few verses heighten my perspective and give me the right focus, helping me really hone in on what God wants of me. The unknown and unthinkable can be scary, but when I remember that this unknown is in my loving, merciful, awesome Creator’s hands, fear dissipates – because this is a beautiful forever-future to have. I think that this focus is one gateway to zealously following God.

2 | Boost my zeal in working for God

Having zeal for God -or as some people say “being on fire for God” – is extremely important when it comes to being a focused and dedicated follower of Christ. I don’t mean the overbearing zeal that will make a person do anything simply because he or she is excited or emotional. I’m talking about a balanced zeal that is “according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2). This type of zeal is going to motivate, encourage, and energize, all while staying withing the bounds of God’s law and keeping your mind going the right direction; it’s a focused enthusiasm. In Revelation 3:16, Jesus Christ says, “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.” What an image of hatred Jesus gives for being only halfway there – both ways! Being completely unmotivated is terrible, but God also hates mediocrity and lukewarmness. This being so, zeal is needed all the more. We don’t get a break; being Christians is our full-time job until we finally get to rest at the end. Our first priority. And working hard with zeal is what’s actually going to get us to that place of rest and forever praising of God because we will be focused on doing what He wants and only what He wants.

Think about Paul. Paul had an overwhelming amount of zeal. He sought to preach the gospel to all men after having formerly terribly persecuted Christians – and being forgiven of that (1 Timothy 1:12-17). He didn’t stop at anything to selflessly communicate the good news to whomever he could. Prison didn’t even stop him. He was level-headed and focused, and because of this he had the right zeal for God. We should want to be like Jesus, and we should want to be like Paul, and having a healthy view of heaven versus the world is a solid step in that direction.


Being attached to this world is only going to pull us farther away from God. There are far too many distractions to be able to make it if we love the world. C.S. Lewis said “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” It is a beautifully and wonderfully created world because our God created it and all that’s in it, but there is sin and there are distractions because of Adam and Eve in the beginning (Genesis 1-3). God loves us and wants us to be with Him, but we can only do that if we choose to do what’s right in His eyes. Distractions won’t ever bring us the true joy that walking with God can. Loving the world will ultimately only bring us sorrow – so focus on the joys of being God’s child! Focus on heaven. Focus on the goal.

Philippians 3:12-16

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

The Biggest Lessons I’ve Learned From Blogging

Blogging, and writing in general, has taught me many things. I’ve loved writing for several years, and have been writing since I was small – never for personal gain or benefit, only for fun. As I’ve mentioned before, I majored in professional writing in college, and English was my favorite subject throughout middle and high school. Often in the professional world, writing gets a bad rap. It’s portrayed as something that’s not helpful or useful or even worth majoring in simply because it’s part of the liberal arts, and it can’t always bring in large amounts of money (depending on the writer’s focus and dedication). So, I’ve always been a little shy about explaining what my major was and what I like to do with my training – this is where blogging comes in.

I blog for fun. I blog to encourage. I blog to inspire (I wrote a post about that here).Writing is authoritative, helpful, and information-shaping.

“Good writing gives you and your ideas visibility and authority.”

John Lannon

Like Lannon said, your ideas gain visibility and authority through writing, but I think that can be introspective, as well, because you allow yourself visibility and a certain amount of authority. This is why I also blog for myself – because of what it teaches me and how it helps me grow.

I’ve learned the importance of writing what I think and believe.

This is the main reason I started the blog in 2013. I wanted to encourage others while encouraging myself – mainly spiritually. I started out blogging once a week, either about something I read in my personal Bible study or at a more public sermon or devotional. At first I wasn’t sure if I was reaching anyone, or if I even would, but then I started receiving comments. I had a handful of email followers and one who would occasionally give me an encouraging comment or thank me for writing about the subject (through Google+). I say this not to brag on myself, but to tell you that my writing mattered. It mattered to a handful of people when I first started out, and since I’ve moved to WordPress, I’ve gained even more followers (some I know, most I don’t). I can see where in the world my followers are reading from, and that’s important. It’s important because I’m putting my convictions out there for everyone to see – I could be encouraging someone in a positive way or helping someone through major life event or challenge. Even though I don’t know everyone who reads my blog and I don’t know how they feel when they read my posts, I do know that it’s worth it to try.

I’ve gained confidence in my ideas and abilities.

Writing out your thoughts has been shown to be helpful for many reasons, and for me this is one of them. Sure, I get some positive feedback, mostly from friends and family, and the occasional Facebook friend, but that’s not the only reason for this. I’ve always loved to write what I think and take notes during sermons and classes and seminars. There’s something therapeutic about writing, and it has led me to greater confidence in my ideas and my abilities. Because writing (especially blogging) has a weak reputation in a lot of places, it hasn’t been easy to publicize my blog and put myself out there. When I first began my blog, I wanted to share the posts on Facebook – but I would only share the ones I thought people would really find worth it to click on. Not everyone looks down on writing, but because I know there are some who do, I struggled with this for a while. It’s easier knowing I have this “shield” being behind a screen, but I recognize that there are real-life people reading – I’m not writing to thin air. It takes courage to write (I applaud those who have been doing this longer and are more outgoing than I am). So, by keeping up my blog, I’m learning how to confidently express myself and have faith in what I do both on and off the page.


“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible!”

– Audrey Hepburn

If someone wants to write – blog or otherwise- I encourage you to do it! You might learn a new talent. You might even learn something about yourself or gain a new part of yourself that you didn’t know could be there. There’s nothing lesser or inferior about writing; it’s just as important as any other profession, only for different reasons. It’s always worth it to try.

 

*see another short blog I wrote during college for more of my supported ideas about writing here*

Becoming a Podcast Listener (+ my favorite podcasts)

Let’s be real – I didn’t know what a podcast was until probably…last year. But I’ve found out that they’re really fun! I only have two favorite podcasts right now (because I really only listen to two podcasts right now), but I think they’re worth sharing. I mentioned in another post, that I had been listening to a podcast called Lore by Aaron Mahnke, who is also an author of supernatural thrillers. (Something about me – I love supernatural and crime TV shows, books, podcasts, everything, which is an uncharacteristic part of my personality, but I roll with it. They just make you think.) Well, my other favorite podcast is more along the lines of the interests I’ve actually posted about here and fit more around the theme of my blog.

When I was younger, I never really liked books-on-tape or recordings where there wasn’t also a visual I could look at or watch while I was hearing the story. I was easily distracted, and found myself rewinding the tape every so often because I didn’t have a clue what just happened in the plot. So I simply read books and watched movies and avoided all books-on-tape. This is the same concept I had of podcasts – I just didn’t go near them because I thought I would just be jumping into stories or recordings that I would never finish and probably not enjoy because I would be rewinding all the time. So I don’t claim to be a podcast fanatic or expert – just a listener of a couple podcasts that are enjoyable and helpful.

Because I was so used to watching TV shows, that’s what I’ve always done while I clean or cook or organize – anything. But I found myself still getting distracted because I have to look at the screen while the people are talking or still won’t know what’s going on! I just won’t. And I have to know what’s going on or I’ll be rewinding once again.But in this way, it’s a worse distraction, because I find it harder to actually get things done. One day I decided to find the podcast app on my phone (that was hard, since I didn’t know what it looked like) and find something I might like. Knowing my interest in supernatural and crime drama, I quickly looked for something under that genre, and something under the spiritual/inspiration genre. The first few that I found were crime podcasts, but they complete downers, totally depressing, and way too much to handle, so I kept looking. That’s when I found my first favorite podcast.

I’m excited about these because they’re real-life stories and information I can actually use in my life – that makes them easy to listen to.

#1 Lore

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Lore (website here) consists of several different “true life scary stories.”

This comes directly from the “about” section on the website:

Lore is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed podcast about true life scary stories. Each episode examines a new dark tale from history, and presents it in a style that’s been compared to a campfire experience. And with over 2,700 5-star reviews and 1.6 million monthly listens, that’s clearly a good thing.

Our fears have roots. Lore exposes the darker side of history, exploring the creatures, people, and places of our wildest nightmares.

Because sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction.

A dear friend that I grew up with (hi, Tara) brought me into the world of scary stories. We loved watching scary movies, telling scary stories, basically anything thrilling and mysterious. So this was right up my alley. Right now there are 31 episodes, all of which Aaron Mahnke has recorded. Each story is based on a real event (usually something chilling, so if this scares you, don’t press play) and the theories that surround why it happened and who or what is thought to have done it. All of the stories have been passed down from generation to generation, the true definition of lore – and some of them are more recent than others. Most of them are similar to mysteries, but they aren’t always solved. It’s just something creepy and interesting to listen to if you like hearing lore.

#2 Simplify Everything

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This is a more recent find. The quote below comes directly from the blog/website.

I am passionate about simplifying life. So, I started a podcast about it. Each week on Simplify Everything, I share easy-to-implement strategies and ideas for people who want to simplify their lives. (For more about how this podcast got started, check out this post!)

Simplify Everything is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Lore. This podcast was recently launched by a blogger I’ve been following for several years, and it’s all about simplifying your life, which I’m very much into these days. Blair, the author of this podcast, posts and new episode every Friday. Today I listened to last Friday’s episode: “How to Simplify the Process of Decorating Your Home.” Each episode has either a step-by-step process of how to simplify a particular thing in your life or a group of ideas that could be helpful. So far she’s hit on several things I’ve needed ideas for, so I plan on keeping myself up-to-date each week. (Blair also posts on her blog every week day with similarly-themed posts, talking about anything from organizing to encouragement in your personal and spiritual life. We’re in similar seasons of life, so this has been extremely helpful and interesting to read the past few years) Check it out!

// Eventually, I’ll find more podcasts to listen to, but right now two is enough for me – keeping it simple. It’s just enough to keep my mind busy while I do laundry or clean or whatever else I do when I shouldn’t be watching TV at the same time. What about you? Do you have any podcast suggestions? I would love to see them in the comments below!

Please use this image for pinning, etc.:

Becoming a Podcast Listener

All cover photos were made by podcast owners or designers and were not made by me. 

I Am a Person of Action

If you know me, you know that the title of this post doesn’t always describe me. I don’t like decisions, I have a hard time with change, and I would rather stay passive than stir things up most of the time.

But lately, I’ve been reading a book called The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews. A friend of mine gave it to me before I moved and told me that it helped her through each of her moves – and I can see why. Each chapter has a different decision, or lesson, at the end that the main character is supposed to learn to help make his life better.

Just last night I had a hard time getting through a particular chapter because I thought I couldn’t relate to it; I thought it wasn’t making sense – similar to the character in the book. By the end of the chapter, when I reached the “decision,” I quickly realized how wrong I was.

Beginning today, I will create a new future by creating a new me. No longer will I dwell in a pit of despair, moaning over squandered time and lost opportunity. I can do nothing about the past. My future is immediate. I will grasp it in both hands and carry it with running feet. When I am faced with the choice of doing nothing or doing something, I will always choose to act! I seize this moment. I choose now.

I am a person of action. I am energetic. I move quickly.

Knowing that laziness is a sin, I will create a habit of lively behavior. I will walk with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. The lifeblood rushing through my veins is urging me upward and forward into activity and accomplishment. Wealth and prosperity hide from the sluggard, but rich rewards come to the person who moves quickly.

I am a person of action. I inspire others with my activity. I am a leader.

Leading is doing. To lead, I must move forward. Many people move out of the way for a person on the run; others are caught up in his wake. My activity will create a wave of success for the people who follow. My activity will be consistent. This will instill confidence in my leadership. As a leader, I have the ability to encourage and inspire others to greatness. It is true: an army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep!

I am a person of action. I can make a decision. I can make it now.

A person who moves neither left nor right is destined for mediocrity. When faced with a decision, many people say they are waiting for God. But I understand, in most cases, God is waiting for me! He has given me a healthy mind to gather and sort information and the courage to come to a conclusion. I am not a quivering dog, indecisive and fearful. My constitution is strong and my pathway clear. Successful people make their decisions quickly and change their minds slowly. Failures make their decisions slowly and change their minds quickly. My decisions come quickly, and they lead to victory.

I am a person of action. I am daring. I am courageous.

Fear no longer has a place in my life. For too long, fear has outweighed my desire to make things better for my family. Never again! I have exposed fear as a vapor, an impostor that never had any power over me in the first place! I do not fear opinion, gossip, or the idle chatter of monkeys, for all are the same to me. I do not fear failure, for in my life, failure is a myth. Failure exists only for the person who quits. I do not quit.

I am courageous. I am a leader. I seize this moment. I choose now.

I am a person of action.

This lengthy portion of the book stepped on my toes in so many ways. It also opened my eyes to something I’ve known for a long time, but never quite realized the importance! Underneath the heading, my friend wrote “Colossians 3:23-24,” which says, “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.” Being energetic, courageous, active, moving quickly, being a leader – all of these directly apply to working heartily at whatever you do. They each directly apply to being a Christian or even just a successful leader.

I won’t comment on everything he said, because he said it better than I can, but I will say this: Action here means making decisions; it means being OK with change and doing it joyfully. No one can both mope and act. No one can be lazy and and lively. No one can be (unhealthily) fearful and courageous. But in order to work at anything heartily, successfully, in a way the would please God, it only makes sense to be the latter. And to do that we have make a decision to move forward and think about now.

Andrews touches on so many aspects of life that I struggle with and I know others do, too. I can no longer excuse fear or worry or even despair about any given thing as “just how I am” or “my personality.” Because when I was baptized into Christ, I came back up as a new person. Someone who no longer succumbs to fear or mediocrity. Someone who is going to act for the gospel’s sake. Someone who is going to have zeal and energy for Christ. Someone who understands what it means to be a leader by example and teaching – no matter where I am, what season of life I’m in, or who I’m with. And I’m to do all of this humbly (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34). The world needs zealous teachers, examples, and doers, not people who are fearful, lazy, and indecisive. This is how we set examples and become encouragers. It’s how we focus on the goal. Just like we can choose to be happy and joyful (posts here and here), we can choose to be people of action.

No matter my circumstances, I am to choose to act when given the choice (and I always have a choice), because it starts with a renewed mindset. I can choose to act through prayer and grace,  with God’s help. My “decisions come quickly, and they lead to victory.”

I am a person of courage, of energy, of decision, of confidence, of consistency, and of leadership.

I am a person of action.