The Journey Through Change

Change isn’t always easy. Yes some people thrive off change, the new excitements, the new memories, and the chance to restart wherever you go. Others hate change, it causes anxiety, stress, and the thought of having to restart somewhere new seems like the end of the world. For me, I’m somewhere in the middle. I love to meet new people, make new friends, and have a clean slate to start from, but the thought of leaving the people I’ve met and come to love in the places I’ve lived cause extreme heartbreak.

This past year and a half I’ve lived in Richmond, VA — I’m not gonna lie, it’s been an extremely challenging year and a half. I’ve had two failed relationships, left an internship for a job that was different than I originally thought, went through a cycle of friendships before I was able to settle in, and even transitioned churches because I just didn’t feel at home. But among all those challenges I’ve met some of the most incredible people, friends who poured into me, challenged me, and helped me grow through the process. I’ve gotten to know a group of volleyball girls who I’ve grown to love spending time with and investing in, making this move more difficult than I originally thought.

As I get ready to move I think through the past moves I’ve made in my life and what’s helped me transition well. Through every up and down, every place I’ve lived, I realize it’s always about the people. The people is what makes moving hard but it’s also what makes moving exciting. A year and a half ago, I didn’t know any of the people I’ve grown to love here in RVA even existed. A year and a half ago, Richmond was just a place on the map we learned about in history class. Now it’s a place that will always have a piece of my heart, not because the city was so amazing, but because of the people who took time to invest in a midwestern girl who was starting off on her own.

USPAV 2017 Girls

God calls us to love people — yes the city is important, the structures are cool, and the sports are fun, but the people are what makes a place purposeful. Everything we are called to do in a city revolves around loving the people of that city. As I’ve learned that, I’ve started to understand that if God calls me to move, I need not be upset or frustrated. He’s calling me to love the city/country/state he’s put me in until he calls me to move and love someplace else. This home is temporary, our real home is in Heaven and when the earth becomes a mere place to make relationships geared towards Christ and not a possession to hold onto, it can completely shift our perspective on change from one of fear and uncertainty to one of joy and excitement.

Whenever I start to get really upset about the changes happening around me, or am chillin in my room crying because of the people I’m leaving, I’m reminded of the journey and life of Paul. Paul lived his life on the road. We get to experience and learn so much through his letters, but do you ever sit and think about the fact that the reason he had to write letters was because he wasn’t with the people in person? Paul constantly reminds the churches of his love for them, read any of his letters (the 13 Epistles) and you’ll see his unique investment to each group of people making up the church in that city. Paul missed the friends he made along the way, but it never stopped him from pursuing the life God had called him too. He didn’t resist change or resent God for making him leave again, but instead he used each and every opportunity to make an impact on the place he was in. He kept in touch with the people he left and invested in the people he was with. It allowed him to make an impact that God has continued to use through today. If Paul had told God “No, I’m not moving again, I like these friends here too much” then we might never have had the “Roman Road” or the book of Ephesians (one of my personal favorites). Instead, Paul wrote in Philippians 2:17, “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice of service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” Through physical suffering and emotional pain, through shipwrecks, sickness, loss of friends, and years of traveling, Paul found unrelenting strength through his faith.

As I move and am heartbroken to leave the people of RVA, I’m challenged and excited to invest in the people of Ada, MI. I will have the opportunity to be back with my immediate and extended family and given the time to invest in those relationships. I have college friends I’ll get to reconnect with, and high school friends I’ll be closer too. There’s a church I’ve been following from afar who I’m excited to finally call home. Yes I’m leaving a wonderful group of people, friends who’ve become family, and volleyball girls that will forever be like my little sisters, but God’s shown me both through life and through scripture that He is with us wherever we go. At times it might not be clear as to why our path is leading where it is, as I’m sure Paul was a little confused at times while sitting in jail or experiencing another shipwreck, but God never fails. He will come through no matter what the change is we’re facing.

So as I leave this place I rejoice in the memories, learn from the pain, and thank God for the opportunity to meet the people I have. And for as long as I live I will stand by the words of Isaiah 6:8:

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Advertisements

Freedom isn’t Free

Freedom isn’t free — a common known phrase often used around Memorial, Veterans and Independence Day. Why? Because we never want to downplay the sacrifice our soldiers and their families gave in order for us to obtain the freedom we have today.

This past Memorial Day I was preparing the devotional for the volleyball team I help coach and stumbled upon that phrase. We so often think of freedom only being in a political sense. Our Bill of Rights gives us the freedom to do a lot of things — speak, petition, vote, etc. We’re the “Land of the Free,” a place so many run to to find refuge from their oppression. But how true is that phrase when looking at our spiritual freedom?



As a Christian, our spiritual freedom allows us to talk with our Creator, to be free from our past and the mistakes we’ve made. It allows us to be washed in an ocean of grace so we have the full assurance of our salvation. This freedom guides our future, allowing the best path to open for us if we fully follow what the Word says.

Freedom isn’t free. The freedom we’ve obtained through Christ came at a cost.  For America, men go off to war all the time, hoping to come home to their families again, but know there is a cost to keep our country free. For Christ followers, God sent His one and only Son, knowing full well Christ would be ridiculed, tortured, and crucified, so that we could obtain this freedom (John 3:16). He wanted us to live a life free from our sin stained flesh, much like our government wants us to live a life free from the restrictions of the lands they left.

20130704_freedom

If you’re new to the Christian faith or haven’t really explored it much you may think I’m crazy in saying Christians have “freedom” — since let’s be honest, many people feel Christianity can be restricting. Honestly, yes it can, but when you realize the restrictions are for your own good they soon become less restrictions and more guardrails, keeping you from going where you could hurt yourself.

Think of it this way — if our government didn’t have the laws in place and we just let anyone and everyone do what they wanted to do, our nation would be a disaster. People would be stealing when they saw fit, no taxes would ever be paid so our roads would be worse, we would start to live in a world of fear — is this freedom? No not really. Our freedom lies inside the guidelines our government gives. Through these guidelines we are able to achieve great things. Our homes are safe. Our highways are paved. Our lives are lived without real fear.



Christ’s sacrifice gives us THE SAME sort of freedom. Let’s look at a hot topic: abstaining from sex until marriage (Eph. 5:5; Heb. 13:4). God puts this as a rule to protect us — nothing good ever comes from extramarital sex. Think about it, you’re connecting yourself with someone in the most intimate way possible — no one can know you more physically than someone who has sex with you (Gen. 2:24) — yet there is no promise they will stay with you, no matter what they say there is no guarantee of forever (because the Bible also says a marriage covenant is forever — but that’s a whole other topic). Has anyone really woken up from a one night stand and not had any guilt about it? Or gone through a breakup and regretted giving their all to the person? Is that freedom? Or are you becoming a slave to your sexual desires — only fulfilling the need because it’s there and it feels good, not because it really benefits your life? Maybe that’s just my mindset but I’ve seen too many friends deal with this to really think you can shake it all off as easily as people try to play if off like they can. Let me clear something up — I have nothing against sex at all, our God-given desire is to be known fully by another — but that doesn’t mean we need to be fully known by the entire high school baseball team. Understand? Look at this on the flip side — talk to any couple who waited until marriage to have sex and you’ll notice there is absolutely no regret in waiting. Their sex life means something because it’s just between them and doesn’t have their past in the bed with them causing them to compare. In both scenarios we have the freedom to choose. One choice leads to freedom from guilt and shame the other choice leads to momentary fulfillment but weight on our conscience.

I know it’s just one example and y’all might not agree, but when looking at freedom you will always have discrepancies as to what being “free” really looks like. A free spirit is usually someone who just goes with the flow, does whatever they feel, and doesn’t have a care in the world. Their perception of freedom might look way different than someone who needs a lot of structure in their life to feel fully themselves. God’s freedom allows us to be completely who we were made to be. Hebrews 12:1 says, “let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us.” Being set free in Christ is releasing the weight of life from your shoulders. He’s got everything under control. You’re free from worry. Free from guilt. Free from shame. You’re given grace and forgiveness. Your life is a whole new blank slate every day — nothing — and I mean nothing — can separate you from His freedom once you’ve fully accepted it.

A part of the freedom Christ gave us was the freedom to choose. You may not believe in the whole Jesus thing — you might think you’re better on your own and making your own decisions — and that’s your choice. God isn’t forcing you to choose Him, He’s giving you the option, but when you fully understand the freedom you have in Christ, the gift of Heaven, the salvation from Hell, and the love you will receive, the choice becomes a whole lot easier.



As I wrap this up, let me be clear on one thing — God’s freedom does not include freedom from hardship or suffering on earth. Our freedom to choose comes with consequences and unfortunately we don’t get to choose those consequences. Sometimes we have hardships that have nothing to do with our specific actions but rather are tied to the fact that evil is in the world. God doesn’t enjoy suffering, so please don’t ever think that God is wishing suffering upon you. Yes, Hell is a place full of suffering people are condemned to, but if you choose to reject God and all that He has offered to you there’s consequences for your choice, just like if you choose to commit a crime, there are consequences for your actions. I don’t wish that upon anyone — if it were up to me, everyone would come to love the Lord and experience the freedom I have found in Him. But unfortunately that isn’t everyone’s choice.

Freedom isn’t free but a life in Christ is, and it provides you a freedom you won’t ever regret. A freedom you never knew you wanted and a freedom you’ll want everyone to have.

Choosing Joy. Everyday.

I’ve had a hard time recently thinking of what my next blog post should be about. My last two were so open and vulnerable, so to follow I felt I had to have something drastic to say. I’ve come to the realization though, that everyday lessons are just as important as those drastic AH-HA type moments.

Each day we are faced with millions of choices.

Can I hit the snooze one more time?

What outfit should I wear? 

Starbucks for the flavor, or WaWa for the price….

These choices may seem simple or mundane; choices we make without giving more than a couple seconds thought to it. But what about our attitude choice, do we consciously choose our attitude day by day, moment by moment? It may sound weird to think about, but humor me. When was the last time you consciously chose to be happy, even if the situation didn’t necessarily warrant it? If it’s been a while, then today’s post might be just for you.

One of my favorite new found quotes is by Henri J.M. Nouwen,

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.

 

Choosing Joy

 

Joy is a choice we make EVERY DAY. There is ALWAYS something to be joyful about.

If you’re a real debby downer or are going through a difficult time in life you may disagree with me, but bear with me for a couple more minutes and I’ll prove to you why I think this is true.

John 15:9-14 states “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.”

Christ has filled us with His joy if we follow his command to love one another. Our choice is to love others and as we go about our day loving others, Christ’s joy will be full in us. It’s why at Christmas we sing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come” Because Jesus is our joy.

Now let me make a quick disclaimer, joy and happiness are NOT the same thing. Happiness is a feeling, joy is a state of being. Happiness is dictated by what happens to you. Joy is dictated by how you view yourself.

If you view yourself as a beautiful creation, made in the image of God, loved by God, saved by God, and given the ability to spend eternity with God, you will no doubt have the joy of the Lord in you. When you come to a full understanding of how precious God views you and how valuable you are in His sight, then there is reason for joy day after day. The Creator of the universe loves you unconditionally, despite our failure, despite our attitudes, despite anything and everything we do, God love us. That in and of itself is reason to have joy. Every. Single. Day.

Now let me be clear, this doesn’t mean we won’t have troubles or that days are going to be easy. It just means that in the midst of hardship, confusion, or desperation, we have a joy to cling to. When everything seems to be going wrong, we have the joy of the Lord to remind us in the end, everything will be right. And when everything is going right and life seems to be all rainbows and butterflies, we don’t have to worry about the rollercoaster of potential happenings, we can be secure in God’s joy, knowing whatever may happen our joy is complete in Him.

Joy quote.jpg

So how do we go about achieving this joy — by making a conscious choice EVERYDAY. By reading the Word of God and meditating on it, by filling our minds with the truth God has promised us. By loving others. When we’re selflessly loving and generously giving a joyful heart becomes natural. Seriously, have you ever seen a truly generous person with a bitter heart? Or witnessed someone who continually loved others have an ungrateful mentality? I sure haven’t. Because when you continually love and continually are authentically generous, you start to see yourself in a different light and start to see the materials you own and the time you have as mere tools instead of possessions you can’t let go.

If you’re failing to find joy everyday, try for one week to consciously change your mindset. If it’s a rainy day, thank God for the invention of umbrellas or the rain for the crops. If you don’t like the meal your mom made, find joy in the fact you have food on your table and a mom who prepared it for you. If you hate your job, be joyful you have one, find joy in the education you’ve earned to be able to apply for one, or consider it joy that we live in a country where you have the freedom to change jobs. Whatever it is you let steal your joy, try counteracting it. Try opening your mind to find the joy every day. And if all else fails, use this as a motivation to start memorizing God’s word, because I promise you, that will not disappoint.

Joy is a choice. So make it yours today.