Do you really deserve it?

Have you ever given a gift to someone and instead of them saying “thank you” or showing appreciation for the gift, they take it as if it was something they always deserved and you were just finally getting around to giving it to them? If you have, you understand how frustrating this is, if you haven’t, I assure you, live long enough and you will.

Blame participation trophies, government handouts, or whatever you wish, but our culture and generation has started to believe everything is entitled to them. They don’t need to work or earn anything. It’s the “I got a degree, so now I deserve a bosses paycheck” mentality and it’s ripping apart the work ethic and the gratitude of our society.

Unfortunately, the issue of entitlement and lack of gratitude isn’t a new issue. It may have been classified as something different back in Biblical times, but in Luke 17:11-19, Jesus faces the same issue:

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

In this story, Jesus saw the men with leprosy and had pity on them — they weren’t entitled to healing, they didn’t work for healing, they simply were blessed with Jesus’ pity and love. Yet, only one of the ten returned to say thank you for the gift of healing he had been given. Jesus saved these ten men from being outcasts in their society, they were able to rejoin their families and friends. They could be a part of the working class again and no longer have to beg for a livelihood. Not only did Jesus give them healing, he restored their status and their families, yet they still did not say thank you.

What I find interesting is the one that did come back and say thank you was a foreigner. Back in the times of Jesus, the Samaritans were despised by the Jews, so as Jesus healed the men, I wonder how many were Jews and how many were Samaritans. Did this man come back and say thank you because he knew Jesus was a Jew and therefore it was even more of a statement and miracle that Jesus chose to have grace on him? No one would have questioned Jesus’ choice to heal the Jews, but a Samaritan was a whole other story. Maybe the others felt they were entitled to Jesus’ healing powers, after all, if they’re of same cultural backgrounds they were supposed to have an upper hand in society. But does that make it right to ignore the gift given and go on without gratitude?

Do we as American’s tend to feel entitled to all that is given to us? As Christians do we just figure since we prayed the prayer once we are entitled to the grace given and forget to say thank you to Christ for his sacrifice and his daily grace? Or do we truly appreciate every gift that is given to us? Do we have an attitude of gratitude, never letting an act of service or a gift be given without a thank you?

Honestly, it’s easy to get into a rhythm of entitlement. Our society surrounds us with images and messages that we deserve everything and it’s our right to have what we want. But God’s society teaches us to live life knowing we deserve nothing, yet are given everything because of God’s grace, mercy, and love for us.

Jonah 4 is another perfect example of our entitled mindset. In this chapter of the book, Jonah is sitting in the hot desert sun, God provides a source of shade for him to sit under, but then some bugs come along and eat the leaves causing the plant to no longer provide shade. Jonah becomes furious with God because he no longer has shade and once again is out in the blistering sun. Yet what did Jonah do to deserve the shade? Instead of seeing the shade as a gift from God that was graciously given and can be taken away at any time, Jonah felt he was entitled to the shade and it was God’s duty to provide it to him.

If you don’t believe you’re living an entitled life, think through these few examples:

Your janitor takes out your trash every day, they miss a day because they were busy doing something else…do you help them out and take out your own trash or do you get frustrated because they didn’t find the time to take it out? When was the last time you thanked the janitor for keeping the office clean?

You’re on a team and your team goes out for dinner or for an activity, do you gratefully appreciate wherever they chose to go, or do you complain because it’s not the exact place you wanted to go? Do you complain about the driving of the coaches or do you appreciate the money spent on getting a car so the team gets to go out on fun adventures and isn’t stuck in the hotel all weekend?

When you continue to pray a prayer, but God choses to respond in a different way than you asked, are you appreciative for the response and thankful for a God who cares enough to listen, or do you get upset and abandon your faith because you felt entitled to the result you didn’t get?

Whatever it is you feel you are entitled to, realize everything in this life is a gift. We aren’t entitled to God’s grace, His grace is a gift given to us. If He choses to extend judgement instead of grace, we shouldn’t be upset because we don’t deserve anything but judgement.

So please stop living an entitled life. Live a life full of gratitude. If someone does something for you, say thank you. Say thank you a hundred times a day, to the cashier, the waitress, the janitor, to whomever it is you tend to take for granted. Don’t be like Jonah or the nine ungrateful lepers. Be thankful for the shade and the healing God has given you, and if it’s taken away, say thank you for the time it was given. Be grateful and see everything as a gift. I promise you, your life will become a million times brighter when you do.

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!”

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.

A WingWoman’s Guide to Singleness

Every girl needs a good wing-woman, someone who can get along with the guys and introduce you to them. Someone who makes you look good and builds you up in a way no one else can. Over the years that’s been me. The girl who’s best buds with all the guys. The girl who never seemed to be able to get a guy, but got plenty of numbers to “give to my best friends.” And honestly it got quite annoying.

Unfortunately, it didn’t change in college or after college. My friends are all off getting married and I’m still as single as they come — surrounded by the guys interested in dating my friends and not me. The difference now, I’m actually ok with it.

You see, in high school and the beginning of college I constantly wanted to be the girl that people liked but didn’t know how. I kept trying to be who everyone said girls should be. I’d try to do makeup and fail — and I mean bright purple eyeshadow kinda fail. I’d try to dress up at school and got asked if I was a sub for the day because apparently I only knew how to dress professional and not cute. I felt out of place and didn’t know how to “fit in.”

Looking back now, I wonder why I tried so hard to fit in. I’m a “unique blend of everything” kinda girl. I love baseball probably a little too much. I wear heels one day and sweatpants the next. I’m the life of the party when I wanna be, but can curl up in the corner of the room with a book and be just fine. I’m more interested in building muscle than being a size 0. I love to sing and dance but get nervous to do so in front of people. I’m caring and compassionate yet firey when I’m upset. Really fancy dates freak me out and I normally don’t enjoy them at all. I can’t curl my own hair or do winged eyeliner to save my life, but that’s ok.

Know your worth

I’m everything listed and so much more, and over the years I’ve grown to be comfortable with it. To be real with you all, this past weekend I got sunburnt beyond belief, I literally was walking through the airport waddling like a duck. Then yesterday, two really cute guys came into my work and here I am chillin at my desk in a cute dress but my face is peeling like a snake — so attractive. But you know what, that’s who I am and that’s ok. I can laugh at myself and the misfortunate time to be sunburnt. I can own the awkward situations and use this time to build into myself.

Being single isn’t the end of the world. At times it feels like it, trust me I know. I make jokes to my friends all the time of how I’m destined to be the crazy cat lady all their kids call aunt Bri. But at the end of the day I’m thankful for this time and here’s why.

In the last year and a half as a mostly single girl I’ve been able to move to Richmond on my own, knowing no one, but making an amazing life here. I’ve been able to travel all over the U.S. with a national travel volleyball team. I’ve been able to learn more about myself through a rollercoaster relationship and the peace I find being out of it. I’ve been able to redefine what my dreams and aspirations are and make new goals on how to get there. I can go grab a drink with my guy friends, or go to a hockey game, or explore D.C., not worrying about what others may assume.

Paul single quote

You might think since I mentioned I had been in a relationship in the last year my notes on singleness no longer mean anything, and to be honest I can’t blame you, because I used to think that same way. But the relationship I was in was so not normal or healthy in any way that I actually prefer to be single than to be back in the mess of that relationship.

Being single isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing in and of itself. When else are you going to be able to make sporadic decisions knowing you can actually follow through on all of them? Or spend so much time building into yourself so that you are fully comfortable being yourself with yourself, not needing anyone else’s opinions to be ok? Or better yet, spend so much time pouring into other people because you aren’t funneling all your God-given love to one person?

So stop throwing yourself a pity-party because your Prince Charming hasn’t arrived yet. God has it all under control and for now, He’s asked you to be single or to be in whatever stage of life he’s asked you to be in. Just do yourself a favor, don’t settle. Know what you’re worth, know who you are, and find someone who treasures you for all of that and so much more. You are worth someone’s time so don’t tell yourself you’re not. If someone’s broken your heart or killed your confidence, don’t let them ruin you anymore. Pick yourself back up and realize you’re better off without them because at the end of the day you are.

Go be uniquely you. Be the girl with the loud laugh or the baking obsession. Own the quirky little traits that make you everything you are. Because some day someone is going to fall in love with the girl in a baseball cap who wasn’t afraid to love herself.

 

 

Social Media & Me

These days it seems like there are millions of articles about the effects of social media on today’s society. I’m no expert on the matter, in fact I really have no psychology background besides my freshman college gen ed requirement. BUT I can tell you, social media has had a profound effect on my life, and today I’m going to share it with you.

The picture on the left is of me at a fundraiser banquet. I took the picture and was hesitant to post it, because honestly I hate posting selfies, never been a fan and probably never will be. The picture on the right is of a favorite quote and reminder. I had absolutely no hesitation in posting the quote because it’s something I care about and is something I feel is great to spread. When I posted these two photos, my selfie got close to 175 likes on two social media platforms (which for me is A TON), my quote got a mere 25… so what does this show me? Who I am on the outside matters more to people than who I am on the inside. Now would we say that out loud? OF COURSE NOT! But inwardly we are professing it every time we value someones outward appearance over their inward ambition and beliefs.

Now you might think I’m crazy, and if so, congrats you’re one step closer to realizing we’re all a little crazy. But let me ask you something, how many of you have posted something on social media just for the likes or just to make it seem like your having the time of your life? When in reality you’re not happy, you’re tired or worn out. To be honest, I think we all have. I think we post so many selfies because we want to be seen as beautiful, we want to keep up with what society is telling us. But for what purpose. You got 150 likes on your selfie, so what? You got 15 likes on your post, what does it matter? At the end of the day you are you. And to quote Dr. Seuss:

Dr Seuss

If we are who we are — why do we worry so much about what others think. Why do we count the likes on the pictures. Why do we have to make it seem like we’re having a great time, when in reality we’re chillin’ at home watching baseball? Why do we make it seem like our relationships are going extremely well, when they’re falling apart at the seems? Don’t you get it — we all have struggles, we all have bad hair days, we all have doubts, but we’re all valuable, we all matter EXACTLY THE SAME to Christ. He isn’t going to welcome us into eternity based on the number of likes we have on a picture, based on the number of retweets we got, or based on the number of followers we have. He’s going to welcome us in based on our faith in Him and our belief in His sacrifice and saving grace.

Be yourself quote

So next time you get on social media, rejoice in your friends relationships instead of feeling left out that you don’t have one (and trust me I’m speaking as much to myself on this point as I am to anyone). Encourage your friends to post ABOUT themselves not OF themselves. Don’t feel like you need to post selfies constantly, let’s be real, your face hasn’t changed that much from last week or last month…. Use your social media to express who you are because only you are you! To be completely real, when I open someones social media and see a ton of selfies my first thought is not “oh gosh she’s beautiful or he’s hot” my first thought is usually “woah they’re kinda self centered.” Is that the mindset of everyone, no probably not, and I personally need to be better at not judging others. But let’s be real, when we post selfies are we thinking of other people or are we usually thinking of ourselves?

Challenge yourself to post about other people, books you like, quotes you live by, movies you saw, whatever it is that makes you unique and wholly you…. THEN, turn off the notifications. Seriously do it. I started this last week, turned off all notifications on all of my social media networks and let me tell you, it is the MOST REFRESHING thing I have done in a long long time. I don’t feel the need to get on it all the time. I don’t feel like I have to come up with these amazing posts that are going to make everyone love me. I just post, knowing that what I post is true to who I am. I’m more productive at work, more relaxed when hanging out with friends, and more confident in being truly myself.

Stop caring

Yes I still compare myself to others, and I think to an extent I always will, but it’s been so much better since I’ve found peace in just being myself. Every once in a while post a selfie, but use it to show us who you are — post it with a fun hat you found, with your new favorite workout shirt, or with the mountain you just climbed. Stop just posting to post, to try and prove to yourself that you’re beautiful because the truth is YOU ARE, but it’s not your face or your body that makes you that way. You might think you’re trying to prove to everyone else and not yourself, but a million selfies isn’t changing someone’s mind. It’s how you act and treat others that prove to others how beautiful you really are. This week I found the song Pretty by Lauren Alaina and it has become one of my favorite songs simply because IT’S SO TRUE! It proves the exact point I am trying to make and the point I hope you all take home with you today.

I’ll be honest, this isn’t an easy task. We’ve grown up in a society that glorifies social media but in the midst of it, we’ve stopped living. Go out and have fun with your friends and put the phone down. Enjoy the moment, make memories, have real conversations, be vulnerable, be yourself, and win your life back. Stop worrying about how everyone is going to perceive your adventures or your nights you’re staying inside. If you love to sit and read then sit and read, don’t make it seem like you’re out having a great time or feel bad that you aren’t. Be true to who you are, because the people who know you already love you for it. Please stop hurting yourself by letting everyone else be the judge of your self worth. You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are You — so let us see the real you, the true you, the baseball loving sweet tea drinking late night reading you, not the you you feel you have to be for society’s sake.

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.

True Vulnerability

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms.”

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about finding our identity in Christ. Yesterday I came to the full realization that although I wholeheartedly believe it’s true, I haven’t wholeheartedly accepted it.

As I write this weeks blog I realize sometimes you have to be completely vulnerable with yourself and others in order to bring about the change that is desperately needed. So please know as I write every word, I’m not asking for sympathy or pity likes, but rather hope that my complete vulnerability will not only start a change for me, but allow others to start the change they need as well.

For those of you that know me well, you might know where this all began. About 10 months ago I got into a relationship with a guy that I thought in so many ways was the perfect guy for me. I was excited about the relationship and felt I finally fit in with all my coupled friends. As the time went on, I started to ignore the red flags, making excuses on his behalf, why? because I was so excited to finally “fit in”, to finally have someone to talk about when all my girl friends were talking about their dates or weekend plans. When he and I were having a good day, I was on cloud nine, but when things weren’t going so well, I felt extremely low. To give him the grace and respect everyone deserves, I’ll spare the details, but after an extreme rollercoaster ride of emotions, things came to a complete abrupt halt in February. He had moved on and was happy with someone else, so why in April was I still struggling with the fact that things had ended? Why was I so desperately vying for the attention I knew he wasn’t going to give? And that’s when I realized where my identity fell.

So often I find myself striving to fit in or be accepted by others. Yes, I’m always myself and I truly believe I am, but where I seem to find my value has not been in what our Creator thinks of me, but rather what the created think. I busy my schedule to the point of exhaustion because I never want anyone to think I’m not willing to help them out. I cling to an unhealthy relationship because I find confidence in the skewed acceptance I felt. I build my identity on the things I can see and the perception I feel everyone expects me to be. But that’s so wrong.

The scriptures call us to surround ourselves with godly people and as I talked with my best friend last night, I was reminded just how important that is. As she dug down deep into my confidence issues, from when I got kicked out of my friend group in middle school because I wasn’t “cool” enough, to when a close friend replaced me with a new girl in town, to my weight struggles and acne flares, I realized my confidence issues stem from something so much greater than being rejected by a guy.

I so often find myself striving and striving to be accepted by others that I forget I’m already accepted by God. My senior year in college I worked 4 jobs, took 18 credit hours, was the President of an organization, and constantly created events for my friend group so we could have some great memories before we parted ways. I was EXHAUSTED to say the least, but in my eyes I was accepted. I was loved for all I did and I found confidence in knowing I could handle everything that was thrown on my plate, even if it came at expense to my well-being. How ironic that in my senior year at a Christian college I so easily walked straight into the trap and temptation of mistaken confidence.

Unfortunately, this carried over into my internship, relationships, career, and everything afterwards. I was confident in who I was until something went wrong. I was unable to see it as a circumstance that changed or a healthy failure I could learn from; instead I saw it as something wrong with me, something I was unable to be successful at, something that I strived to own and completely failed. I would look around at all my friends and their successful careers and relationships and soon I would be piling more stuff on my plate so I could “measure up” or have a valid excuse for why some things I so desperately wanted weren’t working out.

As I walked through the streets of Richmond, crying and noticing just how far off track I’d let myself get, I came face-to-face with the full acceptance of God’s grace. Our Creator does not make mistakes, He knew our struggles before we had them. He’s been working on this issue in my life for years and sometimes the things that tear us apart and completely break us (like a failed relationship) are our saving grace. They allow us to hit the bottom of OUR confidence and OUR efforts so we can recognize how desperately we NEED CHRIST.

Grace

This weekend is Easter weekend, and what better time to be reminded of how great our God is. To Him I am perfectly accepted just the way I am. No extra activities or boyfriend could make me more valuable to Him. No work accomplishments or smaller pant size could make me a better asset to His kingdom. In His eyes, I am everything I need to be because He created me with everything I needed. There is nothing I can do or say to change that. To Him I am worth sending His Son to die for me so that I may live eternally with Him.

So how do I wholeheartedly accept that fact? It’s easy for me to believe but hard for me to accept. I can read in the Bible everything God has called me and made me, but it’s so challenging to remember that when the world is telling you something completely different. But that’s just it. Why do I need to worry about what the world says? Why do I need to carry the weight of their approval? I don’t.

So starting today I’m taking back my life. I’m putting the word “no” back in my vocabulary and understanding that taking time for myself is extremely important. I’m cutting out the things and the people that cause anxiety and make me feel I’m not worth the value God has already given me. It’s a process and will take time, but as I grow in an understanding of God’s grace and acceptance, the confidence I need to get through the day will soon come from Him alone. God has equipped me with everything I need to accomplish the purpose He has set out for me. I am enough because God says I am and that’s the reality I chose to live in.

Becoming Selfless

Each month I try and pick a phrase, quote, or verse in which I want to make my focus for the month. Some examples of these quotes are:

“Every day may not be good, but there is something good in everyday.” – Alice Morse Earle

“But to those who are listening I say, ‘Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.'” Luke 6: 27-28

This months quote has been one I’ve thrown around a lot but have decided to focus on because it can truly make an impact not only on the lives of others but on my life as well.

“BE SOMEBODY WHO MAKES EVERYBODY FEEL LIKE A SOMEBODY” – unknown

The core of this phrase can be backed up by so many biblical verses —

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves, looking not only to your own interest but also to the interest of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve others and give himself as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:28

“The king will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40 (emphasis mine).

And so many more.

When I think about this months quote and how it can influence others I realize the core of myself and everyone is to be selfish. We are born with selfish ambitions, how many toddlers do we hear scream “MINE!” or get upset when they have to share?

But what if we changed that? What if we went about our day everyday striving to make the people around us feel as if they mattered and they were important, putting others first, no matter their social status, the benefits they can or cannot give us, but simply seeing them as a person created and loved by God, worthy of our attention. Would it make a difference in our lives? It should.

“But to mean it when I say that I want my life to count for His glory is to drive a stake through the heart of self – a painful and determined dying to me that must be a part of every day I live.”
Louie Giglio

If we are truly striving every day to make our lives count for the Kingdom of God, then why do we pick and choose who we are selfless too? Why do we create social statuses in our mind of who we can and cannot associate with? Why do we lose our temper with certain people instead of being patient and realizing they are made in the image of God?

Being selfless isn’t easy, it can be tiring and draining, but if everyone is being selfless, then in turn everyone is also encouraging and pouring into people. I pour into you, you pour into her, she pours into me, and in the end we’ve all given, but we’ve also all received. Christ did not give us our gifts and our blessings so that we could become proud and disregard other people. He gave us our gifts, talents, financial blessings, etc. so that we could pour into the people around us and in turn serve His Kingdom more fully.

So this week I challenge you to “be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody.” That man on the corner, the cashier at the store, the server at the restaurant, whoever it is, be the light of Christ to them. Show them God’s love and remind them they are important and they do have value, thank them for serving you and in turn go do the same for someone else. Nobody should ever feel they are disregarded, so be a voice of love, a smile as you pass by, or a listening ear when it’s needed. Because our greatest purpose is to serve Christ and how do we do that? By loving His people.

“He must become greater and I must become less.” John 3:30

Epaphras Ministry

Hello and welcome to my new blog Epaphras Ministry. You may be wondering why Epaphras, well I’m glad you asked.

I was listening to a sermon the other day in which my uncle spoke on Colossians 4:12-13, highlighting a man named Epaphras. He’s a bible character many of us have overlooked and know absolutely nothing about. But as I heard the sermon and learned more about Epaphras I realized he was just the kind of servant I hoped to one day be. Listen to the words spoken about him:

“12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.” Colossians 4:12-13

First off Epaphras is known as a servant of Christ Jesus. Paul doesn’t talk about his other occupations, or identities, but rather focuses on the most important and valuable part of who he is. He is a SERVANT of Christ.

Secondly, Epaphras sends greetings. This may sound a little strange to think of as a great feature, but it’s the encouragement behind the greeting that is important. How many times have we sent a random greeting to a friend only to find out they were having a rough day and needed a greeting at just that time? Maybe it hasn’t happened to you, but it’s happened to me quite a few times. It takes little effort to shoot a text or send a letter, but the impact it can have is infinite at times.

Next, Paul points out Epaphras’ heart for the Church. He is ALWAYS wrestling in prayer. I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes get lazy in my prayer life, having my meal prayers and my bedtime prayers and that’s about it. How awesome would it be if we were ALWAYS in a state of prayer, wrestling for those who need it most? Praying for the strength we all need to “stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” We could honestly change the world. One thing to note is, Epaphras prayed for the PERSON not the SITUATION. We can’t always control the situation around us but we can always control how we act in, and respond to, a certain situation.

Finally, Epaphras has Paul vouching for his work ethic. Paul, a huge biblical figure, is vouching for him, making us realize how hard of a worker he really is. That right there should make us want to know more about his work and the impact he is making for the Kingdom. But what I also think is important to note, Epaphras is listed in a group of people Paul is recognizing. The Christian community is a team and one of the best teams we will ever be a part of. But it’s just that, a team. No one man is greater than another in the Christian community, we are all loved by God, we are all servants of Christ, Paul just had the platform to recognize Epaphras for his work and he took the opportunity to do so.

At this point you might be thinking, this is a cool name, but what’s the point. The point is this, we all have the ability to be an Epaphras. We can all pray, we can all encourage, we can all serve Christ where he’s put us, we can all work hard, we just have to CHOOSE to do so. Epaphras chose each and every day he was going to serve Christ. It wasn’t always easy and it may not have always made sense, but he still chose everyday and in the end we see he made an impact for the Kingdom. He didn’t get the grand recognition Paul or Peter or some of the other biblical characters did, but that never stopped him from knowing who he was in Christ and serving God each and every day. Our reward is in Heaven (Matthew 5:12) so the recognition we do or don’t get in this life shouldn’t matter. Each of us have been placed in a unique position to do the work of God right where we’re at. Some of you may be called to go out, others may be called to stay in the same small town forever, both are perfectly fine, as long as you use whatever platform and position you have to share God’s love with the community you’re in.

Right now, my unique place is in Richmond, Virginia with a non-profit and a travel volleyball team. I have the opportunity every couple weeks to lead a devotional with the volleyball team and share the love of Christ with them. This blog will be filled with the lessons we learn this season as well as the personal lessons God shows me throughout the year. I will try and be as consistent as possible in posting a weekly blog, but no promises.

I’ve learned over the years encouragement can come in many different forms, so as I write each and every post I would love to hear feedback. Let me know your thoughts, other topics you feel are relevant, encouragement, or even disagreements. I want what is posted on this blog to be an encouragement to you and the community you serve. For now this is a blog and just a blog, but I hope to one day branch this out to be a mobile ministry to encourage the Christian community in whatever way God chooses to use it.

So with all that being said, I’ll leave you with one last quote from the sermon mentioned above, “Through SERVING and IMPACT we can outlive time and leave a legacy.” Go, leave your legacy, be an Epaphras.

 

**Bob King, “Making Your Mark: Week 6 Serving” (video of sermon, Ada Bible Church, Ada, Michigan, February 12, 2017), accessed March 9, 2017, https://www.adabible.org/watch/making-your-mark/week-6-serving/.