My Last Pill

My Last Pill

Today may just seem like an ordinary Monday. But not to me. Today is the day I take my last anti-anxiety pill. MY LAST PILL. 

Last July, I sat in the doctor’s office as she explained the side effects of escitalopram.  I remember sitting there desperate. My panic attacks had become more frequent and I would wake up every morning with the overwhelming feeling that my world was going to end. I had been struggling with intense anxiety since Summer 2012 and was at my wit’s end.

It will come to no surprise to those of you who know me (have read a few blog posts of mine) that I struggle with trusting Christ with my life. And over the past 2 years, God has been teaching me a lot about trust by allowing me to succumb to my over-controlling mind. On my worst days, I would be on my knees in tears, crying out to God to still my anxious heart and take away my desire to control things. On my best days, I would be questioning every detail of my life, trying desperately to see God’s hand in it. I felt very distant from God. I was distracted in church, my quiet times were difficult to do with my racing mind, and my prayer life was suffering. I would question myself… “Is this is all my fault?”, “If I just trusted more would I be suffering from anxiety?”, “Is God punishing me for something?”.  Scripture tells us not to worry but my body wouldn’t let me stop. For someone who lives to control, losing control of my own mind and emotions was terrifying. I would pray for relief. I would cry out for help. But God was silent. Or so I thought.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

Though God didn’t take away my anxiety in those moments, I learned to find rest in the midst of them. I learned how to be anxious while trusting God with those thoughts and feelings. One of my favorite movie quotes is from Evan Almighty where God (played by Morgan Freeman) explains how prayer works:

“Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”

God didn’t give me what I wanted. He didn’t zap away from anxiety forever. Instead, He gave me opportunities to learn to trust Him. Slowly I began to trust Him, turning to Him on a daily (some days hourly) basis and now, two years later, I am taking my last anxiety pill. Is my anxiety gone? Not completely. Do I still worry? All the time. But now I know how to handle those fears and anxieties. I know how to trust God in the midst of them. One of my favorite Christian artists, Rend Collective, puts it this way in their song “My Lighthouse”:

In my wrestling and in my doubts
In my failures You won’t walk out
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea

In the silence, You won’t let go
In my questions, Your truth will hold
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea

So though my sea will see waves, it will see winds, and it will see storms, I’ve found my Lighthouse. He is faithful and today, I celebrate His faithfulness.

Letting Things Go

Letting Things Go

No, I’m not writing about Frozen. In fact, when I first decided to write a post, I went on a tangent about politics. It’s sitting in my draft file. But after thinking about it, I realized that I am becoming quite the cynic. I am a very passionate person and get very heated when talking about things I feel strongly about. However, as most of us know, very rarely has the Internet ever changed someone’s mind, or heart, or world view. And so I paused. In recent months, I have been getting myself worked up about a variety of different topics: the fight for religious freedom, feminism, teenage girls who don’t know how to dress properly… the list goes on and on. I had started getting visibly angry when reading blogs on these subjects. My heart would start racing and my brain would be going a hundred miles per hour trying to logically reason through all the arguments, positions, and words being said around the world. And I think I have had enough for now.

Sometimes, you just need to let things go. *cue music* Will I stop supporting things I care about? No. Am I going to sit by and watch terrible things happen? No. I just need to realize that fixing the world (and people) is not my responsibility. It’s not my job. The world is going to end regardless of what I do. But God has got this. All I need to do is be faithful where He has me.  And that is liberating. I physically felt relief when I was reminded of this simple, yet radical fact. I am not in control. And that is perfectly ok.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand”. -Proverbs 19:21

Whether war or peace, famine or abundance, poverty or wealth, freedom or slavery, the Lord’s purpose will stand. We may not understand it but we can rest in knowing that He knows what he is doing.

A Poem for My Sisters in Christ

A Poem for My Sisters in Christ

Oh sister, dear sister,
Do not believe their lies.
You don’t need that perfect body
or that gap between your thighs.

The very world we live in
Will taunt you for your flaws.keep-calm-and-remember-psalm-139
You’ll become victim to the mirror,
conforming to our culture’s laws.

You’ll curse the curves you’re born with.
You’ll curse your lovely face.
You’ll curse the things that make you different
As the they put you in your place.

Soon you won’t see your beauty
Hidden behind the veil of all their lies.
You’ll forget what makes you special
As they trap you with their guise.

But sister, dear sister
Your beauty was isn’t naught.
There is no need to search for it
Because your beauty can’t be bought.

It’s in the way your face forms your smile,
the way you love the Lord.
The way you serve the poor and needy,
How you go crazy when you’re bored.

The way your laugh brings out your dimples
and how it turns your face bright red.
Or the fact you’re a horrible dancer,
and you never make your bed.

For the Lord formed your inward parts,
He knit you in your mother’s womb.
He loves you as His daughter
And for you He left His tomb.

Your form was intricately woven,
and for your sins, our Christ did pay.
For our King makes no mistakes, my sister
You are fearfully, remarkably made.

 

I’ve never kissed my boyfriend.

I’ve never kissed my boyfriend.

“How will you know if you’re compatible if you guys have never kissed?”

258325_10102726882657174_305337452_oThis question is the very reason why my boyfriend and I haven’t made a big deal about the fact that we haven’t kissed yet. We haven’t lied about it or hidden it and, if you asked us, we’d tell you without shame. But there is definitely a stigma around choosing to save your first kiss until marriage.

I grew up in a Christian home and always knew I wanted to save myself for my wedding night. But when my boyfriend asked that we not kiss until the wedding, I admit I was a little upset. No kissing? I remember the first thought that popped into my mind was, “He doesn’t want to kiss me. That is why he is putting this boundary in place.” I felt insecure. Something must be wrong, right? My twisted mind was putting all of this importance on the physical and not on the most important aspect of a relationship: companionship. He wasn’t setting the boundary because he didn’t want to kiss me, he was setting it because he knew that sexuality, no matter how innocent, can cause relationships to get sidetracked, and in some cases, it can confuse what is actually there. He liked me so much that he wanted to put steps in place that would insure that our relationship wouldn’t be focused on the physical, but on Christ.

Like no other before us, our generation has placed a significant emphasis on sexuality and it’s role in dating. Sex is no longer reserved for marriage. Heck, it’s not even reserved for someone you know. It has been cheapened to a recreational activity between strangers. No commitment and no longer special, it has become the entire focus of most relationships. This “try before you buy” mentality is corrupting the beauty of real relationships.

“If the sex isn’t good, the relationship isn’t good.”

“You need to make sure he is a good kisser.”

“How do you know if you want to marry him/her if you haven’t lived together/slept together/kissed?”

With the divorce rate increasing every year and millennials waiting until much later in life to marry, we need to start re-evaluating what we look for in a spouse and what we believe about love.  Despite what culture and the media will tell you, love is not a feeling. Sure, feelings can be a side effect of love but it should never be what your relationship is based on. Feelings come and go and, as hard as you try, you can’t control them. So why would you want to base your relationship on something that is ultimately fleeting? Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”.  Our hearts are fickle things that tend to change their minds based on uncontrollable factors. I know if I trusted my feelings, I would be the most flighty, anxious, over-dramatic female out there. True love is a choice and sometimes, focusing so much on the physical aspect of your relationship can create feelings that aren’t based on constants, but based on how you feel in the moment.

Now hear me when I say that sex and romance play a vital role in marriage and God is for it! He created it! It binds two people together in the most intimate way possible. But it is not the only important component in a marriage and it should never be your deciding factor when looking for a spouse. 

Now you’re probably thinking, yeah yeah, I agree with the sex part, but don’t you think not kissing each other is taking it a little too far? Maybe for some people. It is definitely a personal choice and by no means do we condemn people for kissing their significant

photo 1eg

others. Heck, I know we both want to. After dating for almost a year and a half, it’s really hard! And in our defense, we do allow kisses on the cheek. But we both realized that, in our pasts, we put more importance on the physical aspects of relationships, which shifted our focus off the important things. Though it was Joe who led us in creating that boundary, I came to the realization that not kissing would give me the opportunity to evaluate whether or not I wanted to marry him without being distracted. It hasn’t been easy but it has taught us both a ton, like self-control for starters. And instead of spending our time together having make-out sessions (we are both super jealous of you who do), we talk about life, cook together, take silly Instagram photos, and just enjoy our friendship.

As I mentioned, our physical boundaries are a personal choice that Joe and I made together and will look different in every relationship.  If you are or were in a relationship where you’ve pushed the physical boundaries, there is no shame. God is a god of mercy, love, and grace. We are not defined by our pasts and have been fully redeemed in the eyes of God. Though God calls us to live lives of purity, we will always fall short,  which is what makes Christ’s gift so amazing!

So has not kissing Joe harmed our relationship? Has it prevented us from discovering if we are truly ‘compatible’? Not one bit. In fact, it has made me respect him more than anyone else I know. And when we finally do have our first kiss, I have no doubt in my mind that it will be well worth the wait.

The Danger of Being Happy

The Danger of Being Happy

I have come to realize that our culture is obsessed with the idea of happiness. We want to be happy at all cost. We base major life decisions on this desire for happiness: what friends to make, what college to go to, where to work, who to marry. Heck, it’s even in our Constitution. We pursue happiness in every aspect of our lives. This innocent desire is not wrong. To want what makes us happy is a natural part of being human. However, when it becomes our main priority, things can become skewed.

The desire for happiness can lead us astray and apart from God’s will for us. Instead of a means of joy and love, it is used as a means of escape. We escape marriage through divorce because it’s difficult and feelings fade. We escape troubled times through drugs and alcohol so we can forget our pain. We escape our loneliness by filling our beds with strangers, hoping to one day fill that hole in our hearts. All these things may produce happiness, but are they the best decision?

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
― C.S. Lewis 

Without pain, we don’t see growth. Without mistakes, we don’t gain wisdom. Without hard work, we don’t see reward. The best things in life are the things we bleed for, the things we sweat for, and the things we cry for. To quote St. Augustine, “Everywhere a greater joy is preceded by a greater suffering”. A mother goes through horrific pain to bring a child into the world and immediately experiences the greatest joy of her life. If we try to eliminate all other emotion from our lives, we ultimately lose out on the gloriously, complex world we live in.

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, he shows our world in a future where pain, death, and sorrow no longer exist. Humans live in a constant high from drugs and the government has eliminated all strong emotions, desires, and relationships from society. People are kept in a constant state of youth and monogamy doesn’t exist. When a ‘savage’ is brought to civilization he is appalled, and says some of the most haunting and truthful words in the book:

The Savage nodded, frowning. “You got rid of them. Yes, that’s just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether ’tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows or outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them…But you don’t do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It’s too easy.”

…”What you need,” the Savage went on, “is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here.

…..

“… I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”
“Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat, the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.”
There was a long silence.
“I claim them all,” said the Savage at last.

We have chosen happiness over actually living. We’ve forgotten sacrifice. We’ve forgotten the importance of responsibility and self-control. We’ve forgotten what is means to stand up for what we believe in and be persecuted for it. We’ve confused tolerance for acceptance. Lust for love. Convenience for commitment. ‘Religion’ for faith. We’ve become lovers of self and have forgotten what truly matters. We’ve forgotten who we live for.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will belovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. – 2 Timothy 3:4-8

Sometimes the right thing to do will make you unhappy. Life is hard and filled with difficult decisions. It may not be in your best interest to act in your best interest. We live in a selfish culture where our main concern is always ourselves. Jesus teaches us differently. He teaches us to be a servant, putting others, even our enemies, ahead of ourselves. He teaches us to love and care for the poor and powerless and and to give ‘our’ hard-earned money to help others. He teaches us to stand for Truth even when the world is turned against you. He shows us the ultimate sacrifice and calls it the greatest act of love. Jesus never questioned what would make him happy. He did what was holy.

When we stop thinking about ourselves and our happiness, our entire perspective changes. And when we start living for others, you know what happens? Happiness is often not far behind: the happiness one can only gain from knowing the one, true God.

Embrace the struggle, allow sorrow, and accept the possibility of loss. Demand more than the empty ‘happiness’ this life offers. Keep your eyes on Christ and take heart, true happiness awaits.

A Day in Ezra: Chapter 2

A Day in Ezra: Chapter 2

EZRA CHAPTER 2

Key Verses:

1 Now these were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town. 2 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah,Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.

Central Truth:

God works in and and through us to do His will.

In Chapter 1, we saw King Cyrus’s spirit being stirred by the Lord and in Chapter 2, we see action based on his faithfulness. He reacted to the stirring of the Lord within him and allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem. And as we see in the first few verses in Chapter 2, among the people who returned were Nehemiah and Mordecai, whom God uses to do great things. God worked in and through King Cyrus and brought about the rebuilding of Jersualem (through Nehemiah) and saved the Jews from annihilation by Haman (through Mordecai and Queen Esther).  What a great reminder that we are part of God’s GREAT plan, whether we realize it or not.

Many of us struggle with knowing God’s purpose for us. We want to know that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Chapter 2 shows us that we ARE. We are God’s tool of bringing love, grace, and mercy to others. All we need to do is be faithful and obedient and God will take care of the rest.

Today’s Prayer:

Lord, you are mighty and merciful. You’re loving hand holds all. Please help me to slow down and be quiet so that I am able to hear you stirring within me. Lead me where you want me to go. Amen.

Trials: God’s Teaching Tool

Trials: God’s Teaching Tool

We’ve all been through trials, though they look different to everyone. A trial could be a bad day at work, parent’s divorce, battling depression, or a a midlife crisis. One person’s trial is no different than another’s and all can be pretty tough to deal with. I’ve had a pretty rough time these past few months and through the pain, confusion, and despair, God has amazingly shown me the benefits of going through tough times:

  1. Compassion for Others
    I have always considered myself an empathetic person, but no matter how empathetic you are, it is still hard to relate to something someone is going through if you’ve never been there. For example, I have never lost someone super close to me so the grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one is foreign to me. Suffering through a trial creates relatable experiences and opens our minds and hearts to others’ loss.
    “…That there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:25-26“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15
  2. The Realization that we need Christ
    Even if your trials are not brought about by a sin you committed or something you have personal done, they have a way of humbling us. I have never felt so unredeemingly broken as I do when going through a trial. I have felt lost, confused, a sinner, not enough and too much all at the same time. And Jesus lovingly reminds me that it’s ok. He doesn’t need me to be anything else than what I am. I don’t need to do anything. Just wait on Him as He moves.
    “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39
  3. Patience is a virtue
    I always think I am the most patient person ever until I have to wait on a trial or ‘season’ in my life to pass. WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG?  I always wants to be ‘fixed’ now. Learn whatever God is teaching me NOW. But alas, God has his own timing. And me being impatient often makes the trials even more agonizing. I’m still learning to trust God and his way of doing things. Because if I’ve learned one thing in my life, its that I have the worse timing.“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! “- Psalm 27:14

    “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”Habakkuk 2:3

    “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

     

  4. The Need for Others
    Growing up I always kept things to myself. I kept all my emotions, worries, and fears locked inside a tiny box deep inside and wouldn’t share them. I have come to find that my reasons for that were two things: The fear of being “too-much” for people and the desire to be completely self-sufficient. And unfortunately, I didn’t have the community I have now back when I was little (or at least I didn’t reach out to one). Over the past year, God has shown me the power that comes from biblical community. There is love, compassion, accountability  and strength in that power. And we need that. God did not create man to be alone. And through community I have learned that I am never “too much” and that God gave me community to share my burdens with me. And most importantly, I can’t depend on myself. I will undoubtedly lead myself down the wrong path if unchecked by loving and faithful community. I need to depend on Christ and on the people he put in my life.“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”Hebrews 10:24-25

    “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2

  5. Hope
    Hope. It sounds easy but it’s actually quite hard. It requires faith. And though Faith is my middle name (true story.) , in the midst of a trial its pretty shaky. It’s hard to believe in something good when everything around you is anything but. But God promises good to us. To those who know and love him. And though we may not feel hopeful or cheery and the idea of considering the trial “as pure joy” is infuriating, it doesn’t matter. God’s truth remains true. Everything will work out for our best.“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”Romans 8:28

    “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

    Hebrews 12

So my ‘trial’ isn’t over and some days I feel like giving up, curling into the fetal position, and crying. But I am confident that God’s goodness will prevail over my circumstances. And that gives me the strength and stubbornness to reject Satan’s lies. And though James 2:3-4 can make me so mad sometimes, I am starting to see how you can truly consider your trials as pure joy. And I am excited to see the end result.

Call Me Eustace

Call Me Eustace

“The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. but the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don’t know if he said any words out loud or not.

I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and , instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I was smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been in Re:Generation, Watermark’s recovery ministry, since September. Re:Gen is a ministry for anyone with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. When I introduce myself at group, I say the following: “Hi, my name is Ali and I have a new life in Christ and I am recovering from control which manifests as stress, anxiety, and people pleasing”.  I never really realized how bad my anxiety was until I started the inventory process, where we basically make an excel spreadsheet of our lives, things that have left scars, poor choices, and sinful patterns and behaviors. And ironically, my inventory has sent me into a massive anxiety attack. The worse I have ever known. It is scary to see your patterns of destruction. Through this attack (that I’m currently still in), I have realized (1) I have a serious issue trusting God with my life and (2) I try to fix myself, taking the safe, easy, and familiar road that has always led to pain and suffering (I have an excel spreadsheet to prove it!).  This realization has truly been a breakthrough. I now know that I cannot trust my sinful self and, as we say in Re:Gen, my life has become unmanageable. I need to let go and depend solely on Christ. I’ve admitted I’m powerless over my compulsive behaviors. (“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” – Romans 7:18 ). I have chosen to allow God to move in my life and to trust him, taking the path I’ve never traveled. And I had no idea how truly exhausting and scary that would be. Today, I feel like Eustace. God is cleansing me of my sinful behaviors and patterns and it hurts more than I could have imagined. It’s painful! He is tearing off my dragon scales and I feel so vulnerable and hopeless. BUT God is faithful. I find myself reminded daily by the tiniest moments of peace and smallest reminders of hope to trust in Him.

Hebrews 12:3-17

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor be weary when reproved by him.

6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no“root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

So today, I feel horrible. Tapes keep playing in my head that I’m not strong enough, I’m broken beyond repair, and redemption is impossible. And the temptation to quit and go back to my old ways are tempting. But these are lies. God never said that change would be easy or fun, but he did promise that we WILL be redeemed. Christ died in spite of ourselves and nothing I do in the past, present, or future can separate me from the love of Christ. I just have to let him cleanse me.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Twinning

Twinning

Twins
Haley (right) and me (left)

And after almost a year living apart from my twin sister, I’ve learned a lot about myself and about her. It’s been a really interesting year with a lot of changes. The last couple days have been hard because we’ve been fighting (yes, we can still fight with 5 hours between us) and it’s really made me reflect on our relationship. For most twins, and especially us, you’re always seen as a pair. A team. A package of twinkies, always coming with two. This can be intimidating for some. Growing up, people would always tell us that we had an unhealthy relationship and were too dependent upon eachother. Looking back I can see how we could have been perceived that way, but now that I’ve lived on the other side of things, I can say with certainty that that wasn’t the case. We’re like an old married couple. God gave us to eachother and we adapted our ‘individual’ lives to account for what we see as a blessing. And despite the overwhelming personality differences, we love eachother. Every day is a choice to accept eachother’s flaws and love eachother for who God made us. And that has bonded us together. I can honestly say that I have never known a person as deeply as my sister. We’ve shared everything from a womb, a cell phone, a car, a dorm, friends, childhood memories, and a birthday. We both dealt with the same divorce and have been eachother’s shoulders to cry on. I know her habits and sinful nature. And she knows mine. But I still don’t know her completely. And that is what I’ve learned by being apart: That we are more different than I could have possibly imagined and I love her more because of it (even though we can drive each other crazy and hurt eachother deep). I’m learning something new about her every day. As I was thinking about this, I realized that’s how Jesus sees us. He was there with us since the beginning of time. He placed us in out mother’s womb, held us as we took our first steps, and embraced us when we were at our worst. He knows us so intimately we can’t even fathom it. And just as my sister feels hurt when I don’t make time for her, God is yearning for his children to come to Him.

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Just because he created us, doesn’t mean a personal relationship exists. It takes work and commitment to feel God’s presence. He’s always  there, we just need to meet Him.

So Haley and I still have some stuff to work through, like all of us do. But one thing I know to be true it that she loves me and I love her and God loves us both. And loving her as Christ loves me is my goal.

God Doesn’t Give Ratings

God Doesn’t Give Ratings

A group of wonderful Watermark attenders and fellow co-workers decided to start a weekly e-mail blast of devotionals to our fellow co-workers and invited me along the journey. Here is this week’s post:
Good morning!
This week marks the 8th week of my first busy season ever! I graduated from SMU in May 2012 and started at EY in November 2012. So I’m still trying to figure out all these EY abbreviations, gT&E, and making sure I get iced tea from floor 17 before it runs out. Starting out fresh in the consulting industry has taken a bit of getting used to. We work in an industry that is all performance based. Every day we are evaluated by the quality of our work and are held to a higher standard. Our reward and recognition is entirely based on the rating we receive at our review. I had some trouble with work a couple weeks ago and was brought into the boss’ office to discuss possible ways to improve. I was reminded, yet again, of the proverbial “5”. Since my introduction to this goal, I’ve been pushing myself behind all reason to reach it and make up for my previous mistakes. I became very burdened, stressed, and exhausted trying to prove myself to my peers and my superiors. After working myself to the bone, I took a step back to reset my priorities and refocus my thoughts. After some time in the Word,  I was overcome with thankfulness. I realized how blessed we are to belong to a God who doesn’t give ratings. Our eternal reward isn’t based on how well we do in this life or how perfect we lived it. He doesn’t require anything from us. He simply wants us to come to Him.
“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” Romans 11:6
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:8
 When we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, our worldly selves were cast away and we became new creations. The old is gone the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)! All of of our sins are wiped clean and nothing we do will separate us from God’s grace and love.
 So as you start off your Monday morning (probably with a checklist a mile long, an inbox about to explode, and a deadline coming up soon) take a deep breath and let God’s peace wash over you. He died for all that you are: all your successes and all your failures. All of it.
“Men may flee from the sunlight to dark and musty caves of the earth, but they cannot put out the sun. So men may in any dispensation despise the grace of God, but they cannot extinguish it.” -A. W. Tozer
 Ali Gatewood-Transaction Real Estate (TRE) Staff I; Daughter of Christ