NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Maturity

I’ve been thinking recently about what it means to be mature. There are many different expectations that people have for a ‘mature’ person. In our American culture, there seems to be an unwritten expectation that to be mature, or considered a real adult, you must be able to afford your own place to live, and support yourself financially. For many people, this just isn’t the case, either from poor job availability, or the expenses of an apartment or house, sometimes you just can’t make it on your own.

Now maybe living by yourself isn’t the real test when it comes to maturity, maybe it’s being smart, knowing the answers to lots of problems, or being confident in yourself, but either way I think our culture has a real obsession with independence. When you can do what you want, when you want, that means you’re grown up. It means you can make your own decisions and take care of yourself. Isn’t that what being an adult is all about?

I don’t want to say all of this is wrong, I think working and contributing to society is important. But something my pastor said last week has been stuck in my head. “Maturity is measured in dependence on Christ, not independence.” As humans we want control, we want our way, we’re selfish and self-centered and obsessed with getting what we want. But when we are in Christ, we put to death this old way of thinking. Instead we recognize that it isn’t about us and we have never been in control and never will be. God is the One who holds it all together and His plan is the one that will come to pass. And the more mature we become in Christ, the more we are okay with that. We are happy to let God have control and to rely on His help and guidance in all things. The more we depend on Him and not ourselves, the more mature we become.

I’ve seen this at work in my own life. When I try to be independent, and make my own plan for the day happen, every little hindrance gets me so frustrated and short-tempered and I can end up acting like a little kid who didn’t get their way. But when I give up my desire for control to God, and trust Him with how the day will go, I find that all the little unexpected bumps don’t matter. He already knew that traffic jam would happen, or that mess I need to clean up would occur. And He has a purpose for me in it. Then I can sit patiently, knowing He will get me where He wants me, when He wants me to be there. And some of those interruptions, are actually opportunities to do His work, show His love, be kind and display His glory to those around me.

So anyway, I hope my ramblings have encouraged you today and reminded you that you don’t have to have everything together or always know what to do or take care of yourself. Let go, and let God be in control and trust that He will work things out in the best way.

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Jesus Changes Things

Now that summer is getting closer, I’ve been thinking about how it’s going to look different than past summers. For the past thirteen years (since 2003) I have taken part in our church’s summer outreach called Great Adventure. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you’ve seen some posts about it in the past. Looking back, it really has had a huge impact on me personally. The first year I attended a Backyard Bible Club as one of the oldest children. (I was going into 7th grade). It’s similar to a Vacation Bible School except that the high school and middle school students from our church would go into different neighborhoods to run a club for a little over an hour. Adults helped drive the students and host the clubs but the students did the teaching.

The next year when I was going into 8th grade I joined one of the student teams and helped teach grade school kids who came to the clubs. It was a huge growing experience for me. I learned how to talk in front of a crowd, connect with kids, share the gospel with different illustrations, and be a part of a team. The next year I was stretched even more. I was going into high school and old enough to be a captain or leader of one of the student teams. It was intimidating, but I felt like God really wanted me to say yes, so I did. I went to several training camps for the first time (I should have gone to one of them the year before, but was on a vacation during it). That summer I learned so much about relying on God, trusting Him, and stepping out in obedience. I got to see kids come to Christ and see my own growth in sharing the gospel and doing what was uncomfortable.

After that year, I was hooked. I wanted to do Great Adventure every year. It had changed me, made me more confident in what God could do if I trusted Him and obeyed. It was exciting to see Him answer prayers, give us energy and work in the lives of the children we were teaching.

Although I wanted to be a part of it, I didn’t exactly want to be a leader again. I thought I’d done my time and now that there were more high schoolers in our youth group, I could let someone else be the captain. But God had other ideas. I ended up being a captain every summer after that up until I graduated from high school and went to college.

You know how when something really works for you, you think it should work the same for others? Like you don’t want it to change? It’s easy to make a good thing into a tradition. I totally do the same thing with restaurants. I keep going back to the ones I’ve been to before and am more hesitant to try new places. But anyway, for the next four years I always returned home for the summer and helped however I could with Great Adventure. It usually meant going to the training camps, taking pictures at the clubs, organizing supplies, and just helping others with what I had learned.

I started seeing changes though. When I had done Bible Clubs, we had gone to two clubs in the morning and 2 in the evening. At one point we even had clubs Monday through Friday and then a huge carnival called Summerfest on Saturday or Sunday. It was a pretty huge commitment and it took a lot of hard work.

But as the years passed, things changed. We ended up switching to only evening clubs, stopping on Thursday, and instead of a huge party at the church, we had individual block parties at each club. We also started writing our own curriculum instead of using other church’s scripts. And we changed the name to Summer Bible Clubs instead of Backyard Bible Clubs. Some of the changes I liked, others were hard to accept. But each year it seemed like God wanted to do things a bit differently. Those “good old days” I’d had in my high school years weren’t the same. But somehow it was still good. I guess God has a better plan than me.

After college I was able to intern at the church and help write the curriculum for several years. I brought all of my experience from the past but tried to be open to doing things differently. We added new games, changed how we shared the gospel with personal testimonies, and just tried new things to make it more friendly to unchurched families.

So that brings us to today and now the latest change has come. Instead of doing Bible clubs for one week, we’re going to connect to neighbors at parks throughout a whole month, and have groups within our church plan their own outreach activities. And instead of teaching students how to run a club, we’re going to teach them how to share the gospel with their friends and to view their schools as their mission field.

It’s kind of hard for me to let go of Bible clubs. I learned so much from them and they were a huge part of my life for the past thirteen years. But as I’ve seen Jesus change our plans every summer and still be faithful to do even greater things, I will trust Him in this.¬†Because I do not worship a curriculum, a tradition, or my own preferences. I worship Jesus Christ. His ways are always best. He is always making things new and changing us from the inside, so I can’t expect Him to do things the same way forever. His purpose is unchanging. His goal is fixed. But His methods can be quite surprising and unconventional. So wherever He leads our church, I know it’s best, because He is always right.

Anyway, I hope you learned something from my ramblings about change and learn to trust Jesus in what He’s changing in your life too.

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What are you going to do with your life?

Man, Work, Think, Laptop, Professional, Young, Person

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Recently I’ve had several conversations with people about their futures and what they are going to do with their lives. There’s this pressure put on everyone to know who they are, what they’re supposed to do, and start taking steps to accomplish it.

In high school you’re supposed to know what college to go to, in college you have to know what major or field to study in, once you’re out of school you’re supposed to have a career path, a plan, your future all planned out. I’m just one of the many who’s struggled with what I’m supposed to do with my life. And honestly I don’t have a specific plan, or in Christian terms, a calling.

But as I talked about this with other friends who are struggling with the same thing, I started to wonder if I really need to know. Then I came across this quote from the Valley of Vision.

“As I pursue my heavenly journey by thy grace
let me be known as a man with no aim
but that of a burning desire for thee,
and the good and salvation
of my fellow men.”

What if my goal or “aim” isn’t a certain career, or a job I love, or getting married and having kids? What if my only goal is to desire God, to know Him better, and to do good to my fellow humans and point them to who can save them? That can be achieved in any circumstance, at any age, in any place, with anyone who’s around me.

I still may have a job I pursue, or one day have a family, but the thing that defines my life, my relationship with God, won’t change. And what I do for God, because I love Him, will have the most significance.

So if you’re struggling with what you’re supposed to do too, take a step back and spend some time with God. He has the best, most fulfilling and awesome plan for your life, and He’ll help you take the next step in that plan for His glory and your good. He may not tell you what exactly He has planned (I still don’t know what He has planned for me) but He will be with you every step of the way. And ultimately, that’s a lot more comforting than knowing what’s coming.

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Planned Quality Time

Clock, Time, Stopwatch, Wrist Watch, Time Indicating

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/clock-time-stopwatch-wrist-watch-95330/

What does it mean to have quality time with someone else? I don’t know if you’ve heard of the 5 Love Languages or not, but one of my Love Languages is Quality Time. That’s a big way of how I connect with people and show them I care about them. And I feel loved when someone spends uninterrupted time with me.

I just got to spend the last few days with family from out of town and it got me thinking about how I spend time with the people around me. When I plan a time to get together with someone, my brain switches to Quality Time mode. I am more purposeful, I try not to be late to the scheduled time together, and I strive to enjoy it all, because it is limited. Oftentimes I ignore texts or calls, because I’m spending quality time with this person. I’ve dedicated this time to being with this person, and not to answer messages on my phone.

But sometimes, my plan doesn’t work. We schedule time together, but the expectation and reality don’t mesh. Maybe something comes up, or we don’t do the thing we had planned on doing, or there was no plan at all, other than just meeting up, so at the end I’m not sure how to feel.

So after this past week of a lot of unplanned time with family, I’ve realized that it’s good to plan and schedule times to be with a person. It can help me personally to step away from distractions and enjoy time with someone I care about. But there’s another side to this. What if I don’t have anything planned? What if I’m just with someone to be with them? This is the norm in my family on a given day. We all have work, chores, commitments, things to do, and if we were trying to have uninterrupted quality time, those things wouldn’t get done. So sometimes we have to have our quality family time while doing other things. Like talking while doing dishes, or hearing about each other’s day while eating dinner, or pausing the movie so someone can answer a phone call. Sometimes life isn’t perfect and the quality time I long for, just doesn’t happen the way I planned. And that’s okay.

What I have to remember most, is not to make it about me. If I’m focused on how I feel, if I’m having fun with the person, if we’re getting to do everything I was planning to do, then I can miss out on the best part, just being with my friend. If I focus on them instead of myself and my plan, then I enjoy our time together so much more, no matter if it was interrupted, cut short, or we did the thing we had planned to do.

So in conclusion, plans are useful, but it’s not what quality time is about. Quality Time is best when it’s focused on the person you’re spending time with, and not on what you’re doing with them.

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Proposing and Predestination

 

So a couple of weeks ago, I had to try to explain predestination to some Jr. High kids at church. This is one of those subjects that can be hard to understand even for an adult. and oftentimes results in negative responses. I know I’ve had my issues with predestination in the past. So I started brainstorming about how to explain predestination. Then God revealed to me that “proposing” can be a great example or illustration of predestination. I know it’s not a perfect analogy, but it helped simplify the concept for the younger audience. So I thought I’d share it on this blog.

So basically when a guy is going to propose to his girlfriend, he usually puts a lot of forethought, planning, and effort into how he’s going to do it. It’s not usually a random thing. A guy can go to a lot of trouble trying to make everything perfect, and the plethora of videos on Youtube can attest to how extravagant a guy can get. But all these planned efforts have a purpose behind them; to show the girl that he loves her. In the end, however, when the ring comes out, the girl can still say “yes” or “no.”

Couple, Love, Sunset, Proposal Marriage, Water, Sun

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/couple-love-sunset-915991/

It’s kind of the same way with God. He has predestined, or planned out our lives, with events and circumstances in an effort to show us that He loves and cares for us. But we still get to choose between loving Him back or rejecting Him.

It doesn’t really make sense to say that God forces us to love Him, because He’s predestined it, anymore than a girl could say a guy is forcing her to marry him because of an awesome proposal. God wants our love to be real and genuine, not forced.

In addition, when a girl gets proposed to, most don’t respond with “Wow, I’m so awesome,” or start looking around at the people nearby and asking why the guy didn’t get flowers for everyone. Instead, what we hope to see is a grateful smile, an excited “Yes!” and a declaration of love from the girl.

I think that’s what God longs to hear from us. He doesn’t want us to start thinking all high and mighty of ourselves, becoming prideful, or start wondering if God isn’t fair because he doesn’t choose to save everyone. Instead He longs for our hearts to be filled with gratitude, love, and devotion to Him.

That’s how I try to respond to God’s choice to love me. Sometimes I do have questions, predestination is a hard concept to get, but ultimately I choose to trust that God knows what He’s doing even if I don’t understand it.

 

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