NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

A Great Day

Yesterday is one of those days I don’t want to forget, so I thought I’d share about it on my blog. I know I’m not writing as much now, but I’d still like to occasionally share what’s going on in my life. So on to yesterday.

It all started with this really cool dream. Most of my dreams I don’t remember and I don’t remember all of this one either, but I do remember the feeling it gave me of being excited about sharing God’s truth with people and being used by Him even when I didn’t feel adequate. I think it had something to do with giving a sermon (something I’ve never done) and the topic boiled down to sharing our faith. And what kept going through my head, is sharing your faith isn’t something you should be guilted into doing, it’s something that comes naturally when you love God. You can’t share what you don’t have yourself, and if you really do have a faith in God and love for Him, it will spill into your other relationships.

Anyway, it was a cool way to wake up and it reminded me that God is at work and being a part of His plans are exciting. And I think having that dream prepared me for more of what God was going to do that day.

I went to church, and our pastor shared a heartfelt message of honesty and when we were singing I felt like I was joining in praising God with every believer around the world and every generation that had gone before me and followed Him. It was awesome. And in the middle of the service, I got a text from an old friend I hadn’t talked to in months. But more about that later…

As church was letting out, my phone buzzed with the noon text message. (Every day at noon our church sends a text to all our members to pray for someone). I didn’t look at the text but as I was leaving, someone told me, “Lydia we’re praying for you today.” And it was nice to know God was with me and was covering me in prayer for all that was happening to me that day.

I came home and got to meet with several freshman girls for our weekly discipleship group. We read in James together and prayed for each other and my fellow leader stayed late to just talk and share about her life and how God has changed her from who she was to who she is.

The afternoon turned into a nice family time of talking and laughing at a funny movie and just being together. But then I texted my friend who had originally texted during church. We decided that since we were both free for the evening, we would get together to eat dinner and talk. And as we talked I got to invite her to my church and try to encourage her in her faith. It was just so cool to me that we got to actually meet and talk on a day when I’d already been thinking about sharing my faith and being used by God.

I ended up dropping her off in a neighborhood right where my brother and sister-in-law live, with her mother. So I thought I’d stop by and say hello. My brother and his wife weren’t there, but the mother-in-law was and she was going to have surgery the next day. So I got to end my day visiting with her and praying for her about her upcoming surgery.

It was like God had all these things lined up for me to do that day and He had everything prepared in advance for me to do it. And it was just so fun to be a part of. So I don’t know what God has planned for me today, but I’m excited to see how He’ll continue to work in my life and my friend’s lives.

I hope you have a blessed day and I hope this post encouraged you to share your faith and be available to be used by God where you live.

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The Secret of Contentment

I was reading one of my favorite books in the Bible this week and had a few conversations with friends about life and work and well I just kept thinking about contentment.

Paul says in Philippians 4:12 “I have learned the secret of being content in every circumstance.” Isn’t that amazing! Just think about it. Any circumstance, whether you’re stuck in a job you hate, have had inadequate sleep, are dealing with emotional traumas, or are depressed or anxious, or bored, or whatever else you can think of. No matter what situation you find yourself in, Paul says there is a secret to being content in it.

Paul goes on to write, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” The secret isn’t spa treatment, or taking deep breaths, or being able to control what happens, it’s Jesus. He can give you His strength in whatever situation you are facing, and as you rely on Him, you find contentment.

I’ve seen this happen over and over in my life. And it’s something I have to be reminded of again and again. When I give my worries, fears, frustrations, concerns, hopes and dreams to Jesus, I find contentment and peace.

Even when the situation doesn’t end, or the problem doesn’t go away, it’s easier to face it with Jesus by my side. And that’s why it’s so important to spend time with Jesus every day. Without His help, my life quickly becomes all about me and what I want. And then I get frustrated and discontent when things don’t go my way.

But when I spend time with Jesus, I get to let go of all those things and trust Him with the circumstances I’m facing. Suddenly it doesn’t matter where I work. or how tired I am, or what I’m dealing with, because I know He is bigger than all those things and able to work in them.

But it’s hard to remember that if I don’t purposefully stop and spend time with Jesus. One of the students I work with shared recently about how he could see such a difference when he spent time with Jesus. It really does change your attitude and perspective.

Another man I spoke with who has been mentoring men in prison told me he tells all the guys he mentors if you have a quiet time (time alone with Jesus to read and pray and be with Him) I guarantee you will never go to prison again. I think what he meant is all the frustrations and temptations and problems lose their power when Jesus is around. They might be too strong for us to handle, but they aren’t too strong for Jesus and He gives us His strength.

So anyway, all that to say, I’ve been reminded this week of how important it is to be with Jesus and rest in His strength and find my contentment in Him. Circumstances may change, but He never will.

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The Value of Relationships

This past Friday my Grandmother passed away. She was my Dad’s mom, and like many grandparents in America, she lived in Florida. I hadn’t seen her in awhile, but I have gotten to talk with her on the phone a few times and send her pictures of things I’ve been doing.

She was a very kind, Christ-honoring woman, who loved her family well and served Jesus throughout her life. One of the stories I heard about her in the memorial service was that she and my grandpa decided to go to their church’s new modern service with all of the young 20 and 30 year-olds and pass out the bulletins every Sunday. That just struck me as such a remarkable thing. They weren’t holding onto what was comfortable or what they grew up with. Both of them were so ready to follow Jesus in whatever He asked them to do. I remember after my grandpa died, my grandma still found ways to serve Jesus. She was really excited about a ministry that shipped Christian books to people overseas, and she would spend time collecting books from friends and people around her so she could send several big boxes every year.

One of my favorite things my grandma did was send me a series of Christian books that had impacted her. As I read them and got to see another glimpse of how amazing God is, I could see how valuable my grandmother’s faith was to her, and how she wanted all of her family to know Jesus the way she did.

I’ve been so blessed to grow up in a Christian family and that’s thanks to my parents and grandparents and the legacy and foundation they laid through their actions and decisions.

I no longer have any living grandparents on earth. I had already lost my previous grandparents, one as recently as this past May. But because of their faith that has continued into the next generations, my family is able to say things like, “She’s happy where she is now,” or “Let’s celebrate her life.”

Life and death take on a whole different meaning when they are viewed with eternity in mind. I can still be sad that she isn’t with me on earth anymore. I’ll miss hearing her voice and getting her sweet cards and phone calls. But I know this isn’t the end of our relationship. I will get to see her again and all of my grandparents again and that’s exciting.

All this thinking about eternity is reminding me of how important relationships are compared to everything else. Money, food, entertainment, all the little tasks and projects that seem to fill my time, won’t matter much in eternity, and most of them won’t last to eternity. But relationships do. People are eternal, and our relationships with them can continue past this life.

So while I’m living here on earth God has reminded me to see people the way He sees them. They are eternal beings that have deep value and are much more important than what I want to do or get done.

So anyway I hope you have a blessed day and remember to value the people in your life and remember to thank God for them.

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Approval

As I was spending some time with Jesus this morning, I realized that I have an idol in my heart. And it’s easy to think it’s not a bad idol, everyone needs it. But that’s the thing about idols. Often times they are good things, but we take them too far, we put them up on a pedestal, and think if I only had that, then everything would be great. Or if it gets taken away, we are crushed. I actually read a great book about this years ago, called “Counterfeit Gods” by Timothy Keller. It’s a great way to help recognize the idols in your own life.

Anyway, back to this morning. I was thinking about a time recently when my feelings had gotten hurt. And I was trying to figure out why it hurt so much. I felt like usually things don’t bother me and I wanted to know why this did. The more I thought about it, I realized what I really crave is other’s approval. Whether it was in school and I tried to do everything right to do well in a class, or at work trying to finish all my assignments well, or even with friends trying to be available and ready to meet their needs. In all of these situations I wanted to be liked, to be approved of. I love getting sweet notes of encouragement or thank yous. Though I don’t want it to be in front of a lot of people. I’d rather it be personal than put on display for others.

But at the end of the day, what I really want is people to like me, to approve of me. And this, like many idols, is a good thing. I think wanting other’s approval is pretty normal for most humans. And in some ways it helps us think about others not just ourselves and be aware of how we treat others. But it can be taken too far. You can do too much, just trying to get people to like you, and you can be crushed when someone just doesn’t like you.

So after some prayer with Jesus, I think I have an idol in this area that He needs to help me overcome. Because ultimately, I should not be seeking other’s approval. I should not be ruled by ‘what will they think of me.’ Instead I should seek to live God’s way, and please Him, even if other people don’t approve. I should find that need for approval filled by Jesus, who loved me and gave Himself for me and doesn’t expect me to earn His favor.

So anyway, that’s what I’ve been learning today and thought I’d share.

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A Cure for Fear and Ability to Forgive

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So there was a bombing in my neighborhood last night. I didn’t even know it had happened till friends started texting me. Then I saw the news. It was weird. I’ve heard plenty of stories about bombings or attacks around the world, my country, state, and even my city. But this one hit close to home. I told my friends I was safe, but part of me didn’t feel safe anymore. I went to bed with helicopters circling overhead and the knowledge that I wasn’t allowed to leave my home until daylight while the police and FBI investigated.

It’s hard to feel like your sense of comfort and security is taken away. But as I thought and prayed about the situation, I was reminded again and again of God’s presence. He promises to never leave or forsake His children. His love drives out fear. His security never fails and even in the midst of these bombings, He is in control. I can’t see all that He sees and I don’t know exactly what He’s doing. But I know I’m not alone and that I belong to Him and I’m safe with Him. He doesn’t promise I won’t face hardship, pain, grief or suffering. But He promises to be with me through it all. And that knowledge gives me hope and peace.

And so my fear has subsided, and my trust and faith in God has been built up. And even though whoever is doing this should be caught and stopped, I also know that whoever it is needs Jesus too. We all need His peace, comfort, love and forgiveness. Just as Jesus forgives and redeems, I want to forgive whoever did this. So, yeah, I’m still processing what’s happened but I thought I’d share my feelings. Maybe someone else out there needed to hear this today.

So if you’re scared, spend some time with Jesus. If you’re worried, rest on His promises. And if you’re facing an enemy, choose to forgive, just as Christ forgave.

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Climbing Mountains and Looking Back

The past few weeks have been very busy for me, so inevitably, some things got pushed aside, like writing my weekly blog post. But I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile. I’ve gotten the chance to climb, or see, several great views from a mountain top in the past month. And it reminded me of something that happens throughout our lives.

When you start climbing a mountain, it’s hard to know how far it is to the top. You don’t know how long it will take, how steep it will get, or how many breaks you will need along the way. But as you get closer, you don’t want to turn back. You think of all the miles you’ve come so far, all the pristine views you’ve already seen, and you just want to see what it’s actually like on the top. And it helps when someone coming the other direction tells you it’s worth it, and encourages you to keep going.

Well I think life can be like that sometimes. We all go through seasons in life when everything is just hard, and sometimes you just feel like giving up. It may be illnesses, job loss, uncertainly, changes, inconveniences, or a number of other things. But it’s hard, no matter what it is and it can seem like there’s not a point to it all. But when you choose to trust Jesus, that He is working in all of the circumstances and He is taking you to a better place, you keep going. You persevere.

It may take weeks, or months or years. But one day you’ll get to look back on all that’s happened and see that God was doing something amazing. And even though it was hard and you felt like giving up, you can see that it was worth it. It’s like how it feels when you finally get to the top of a mountain. You can see some of the challenges you faced on the way up but you also get this amazing view that you couldn’t get from the bottom. And all those hours of climbing feel worth it.

The end of one year and the beginning of a new one is a good opportunity to stop and try to look back. You may not feel like everything’s great and you are on the mountaintop. But it’s good to stop and think about where you are, and where you were when the year started. What have you seen God do in the past year? What are you grateful for?

I got to do a lot of traveling this past year, which I’m grateful for. I got to see literal mountaintops and spend time with friends and family. But I also went through some hardships. Life isn’t easy, and there are days that just suck. But those hardships showed me how God will take care of me and how He’s placed people in my life to help and encourage me. I know God was using those hard times to grow me and He has a purpose for them and for me. And I’m looking forward to where He’ll take me in the new year.

So anyway, here are a few pictures from my mountaintops from the past year. I hope they remind you to persevere and keep going today, trusting that God is going to get you where He wants you, and it will be worth it. Happy New Year!

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Sutherland Springs Church Shooting

Yesterday and today I’ve been struggling through the latest shooting and it’s aftereffects. This one hits much closer to home than any one before. Some of my friends know people who were murdered. They’re sad, hurt, confused and I don’t know what to say. So I wrote this poem/prayer to God just now. I hope it brings comfort to someone out there.

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God there is so much pain,
Every time I turn around there’s another victim,
another reminder that this world is not alright.

Why? The question I hear again and again.
How could He let this happen?
Where is He? It hurts so much.

In the midst of all the pain and questions,
part of me knows it’s in Your hands.
You have a plan,
This too shall pass.

And as I search the past, Your Word, the lives of ones before,
I see the same questions and cries.
Why Lord Why? Why have you forsaken me?

Jesus cried it on the cross,
My friend cries it in a small Texas town,
My brothers and sisters in persecution cry it too.

And You say,
I have never forsaken or forgotten you.
I was there, I am here.
I will never leave, I will never let you go.
You are mine and you must trust Me.
For when you cannot see, cannot understand,
I can.

I hold the world in my hands,
Each breath, each story, each purpose is Mine to command.
I see the connections, the problems.
I’ve felt the pain, the sorrow, the anger.
And I have not left you alone.

I entered in.
I took the full weight that you could never carry.
So don’t try to carry it now. Don’t despair.
Give it to Me, give it all to Me.
Trust Me now in the darkness, in the pain, in the hurt.

And wait.
Just you wait.
I have better plans in store.
A hope that does not disappoint.
A future that is secure.
And one day you will see what I see now.

That I bring life from death, rejoicing from sorrow, and good from evil.
I am the God who saves and nothing can stop me.
No death, no evil, no disaster, no sorrow,
No depression, no sickness, no plan.

So trust me now.
Let me hold you now.
And watch and pray.
I am coming soon.
And you too shall be changed.

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Revival

It’s hard seeing disaster after disaster come up on my news-feed and being reminded again and again that this world isn’t perfect and that so many people are hurting. I’ve been reading in the major prophets section of the Bible: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. And it struck me how much devastation the nation of Israel had to endure. It reminded me of what has been going on in my world: natural disasters, killings, political unrest, fear and just a sadness that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

And inevitably people try to come up with solutions to these problems. Maybe we need more gun control, or a better education system, or we need to take care of our planet better. I don’t know what ideas will or won’t work. But I know the problem is really so much bigger than any of those things. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try them out, or attempt to make things better. But there’s only so much we as humans can do to change the world.

And this morning, I felt like what God was telling me was that what we really need is revival. We need to turn back to God. Over and over God told the Israelites that the reason He was letting them go through such hard circumstances was because they had stopped following Him and He was reminding them that He really is God. He is patient and loving but He wants us to turn to Him even if it will cause us some initial pain. Because living without Him is the worst possible thing. I’ve heard some people say that suffering is God’s megaphone. It’s His way to get our attention when nothing else will.

I feel like with all that’s going on in our world, that God is calling us back to Himself and a great revival will start. So that’s what I’m going to start fasting and praying for, because I know that what people really need is Jesus. He is the answer to all of these problems. He is our only hope. So if you follow Him as well, I hope you’ll join me in fasting and praying for revival. And if you don’t, I hope you take some time to think about life and where your hope comes from.

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My Story

My church has been encouraging our congregation to think about our story and answer three questions about our life. I thought it would help me if I wrote out my answers and since the whole point is to be able to share our stories with others and listen to theirs, I thought why not share it here? So here’s my answer to the three questions.

1. Why Do I Follow Jesus?
There’s a lot of ways I could answer this, and it might change some depending on the day or what I’ve been reading in His Word or learning at the moment. But one of the biggest overarching reasons that I follow Jesus is because He has promised never to leave me or forsake me. When I was a kid, I was terrified of being alone. I didn’t want to be forgotten or left out. I clung to my family like a lifeline and never wanted to be left somewhere. I had terrible separation anxiety. In fact many times my parents would let me go with them to the adult church services because it was just easier for all of us. But when I learned about Jesus, that He would never forget me or let me down, that I would never be alone if He was with me, it calmed a fear in my heart that nothing else ever has. Because deep down I knew that even though my parents loved me, they wouldn’t always be there for me. One time they forgot me at school, and I know one day they will leave this world and me. But Jesus promises over and over again in His Word that He will never leave us or forsake us. No matter what I’m going through, no matter how I feel, or what I’ve done, He is there. And when I remember that I can have peace.

2. How did you get started following Jesus?
Well my older brother was telling me about Jesus and how if I believed in Him I could go to heaven. And when I found out all of my family believed in Jesus and was going to heaven, well I didn’t want to be left behind. So I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my heart. Even before that moment, my parents had always taken me to church, but this first step started me on the path of following Jesus for myself. And as I got older and began to understand more of who God is and who I am and what He’s done for me, my faith grew and strengthened and matured. I learned how to trust Him, believe his promises, and obey Him.

3. What has changed since you started following Jesus?
Gosh so many things have changed. I used to be terrified of speaking up, like talking to people I didn’t know or giving a speech in front of people. It’s still my preference to listen rather than talk, but I can talk to people now, especially when I feel God prompting me to do it. And I’ve learned to trust Him in my weaknesses and learn that even though I don’t like to speak in public, He can use if for His glory. And if I rely on Him in it, it’s not as hard. I’ve also grown in not worrying as much. I can still get stressed about things, but it’s easier for me to stop and remember that He is in control and has the best plan. I don’t have to do everything perfectly or know all the variables because everything is under His control. I’ve also learned to be more patient. I always thought I was pretty patient and easy-going, but God has stretched me and grown me in it, especially when it comes to helping people with anxiety. My sister went through and continues to deal with panic attacks, severe anxiety and sometimes depression. And in the course of learning how to encourage, comfort, pray for and come alongside her, I’ve learned how to help when other people in my life also get nervous or anxious. I guess I was the anxious one when I was a kid, but as I’ve grown, God’s shown me how I can trust Him in the midst of it and also help others to trust Him. It’s been really cool to see how I’ve changed but also how He’s grown the people I’ve helped and prepared them to be used by Him as well. I love getting to be a part of God’s family. He’s shown me that not only is He always with me, but I also have a family in Christ, even in other countries. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without Jesus. He is my everything and I couldn’t do it without Him.

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Response to Evil

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Our world constantly bombards us with sin and its effects. Shootings, riots, murders, natural disasters, hate, racism, prejudice, envy, cynicism, pride, selfishness and so much more. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. A lot of times I don’t know what to say, how to react, or what I should do in response to these things I know are wrong.

On the one hand, I want to speak up against the evil, say it’s wrong, and point people to do what’s right. I’ve seen a lot of this type of reaction on social media in the aftermath of Charlottesville. And I agree that staying silent is not the answer, trying to pretend these problems don’t exist is not a Christ-like response. Jesus entered into our pain and problems, into this sin-filled world and He chose to love.

The more I’ve been reading in God’s word, the more I see Jesus not only pointing out sin and it’s root: our hearts. But I also see Him choosing to love the people who are sinning. Along with standing up against evil and saying this is wrong, I think us Christians also need to speak in humility and love and pray for people. Without Christ, this is where we’re all headed; to selfishness, pride, sin, and hurting the people around us.

I could have been one of those people rioting except by the grace of God, I could be a murderer, except by the grace of God. I am no better than the racists, murderers, and judgmental hypocrites. My only hope is Christ, and this world’s only hope is Christ. We cannot make ourselves be good, we cannot make ourselves care for other people, we cannot make ourselves live the way we should. God has to change us at the root of the problem: our hearts.

We have to realize that we can’t beat sin on our own, not in our culture or politics or classrooms, or neighborhoods. We have to let Christ remove sin in our own hearts, and pray, asking Him to do the same in our friends, relatives, congressmen, neighbors, and even in the racists and hypocrites.

And we do not have to despair about what is happening in our country, because we know that this is not our home. Although we can try to make it the best it can be, this place will never be perfect. But one day Jesus will return and He will set up His perfect Kingdom where there will be no more slaves, no more marginalized, no more poor, no more racists, and no more selfish sinners. He has promised His followers this perfect future, and we must believe Him and put our hope in Him. And while we are living here, we must live for His eternal Kingdom and point our world to the only hope there is.

So anyway, that’s how I want to respond to this most recent violence. I’m stumbling and fumbling along to do it Jesus’s way, to love, forgive, pray and seek opportunities to speak truth in love. And even though I fail again and again, He has changed me and He is continuing to transform me. And one day I know He’ll take me home. So I hope this post encourages you today to not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21).

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