Chapter 2014

new year 2015 written in sand

First off, where did this year go?  I really can’t sum up 2014 in one word, so much has happened in the last 12 months.  In January I was lost, I spent most of 2013 facing some hurt from my past and picking up the pieces.  I arrived in 2014 with nothing but myself sown back together again and looking for a purpose.  After hearing a New Years sermon series at church I decided to give God 2014 and rededicate my life to my first love, Jesus.  Also after hearing my pastor say,”If you get involved in this church and everything there is to offer and you don’t experience change I’ll quit the church with you!”, I decided to get involved in my church. Because change was exactly what this girl needed!

My first task was to join a small group, so I chose a girl’s Proverbs 31 small group.  I remember that first meeting like it was yesterday, I sat on that couch looked around and thought “I am never coming back, this is awful!”  I laugh thinking about it now, but I stuck it out…it was hard, especially those next few weeks.  But I knew that it was something that I needed to do, so I did it.  I probably didn’t speak an entire paragraph that whole semester, but those girls touched my life in so many ways.  They were real, they struggled with the same things I did, they didn’t have it all figured out, and they cared about each other in a way that was so foreign to me.  They will probably never know how much God used them in my life.

The next change in my life was the revelation of Grace.  It was everywhere I kept hearing it in songs, sermons, blogs and there were books that came into my life about it.  If Grace were a human it would have been my creepy stalker.  There was no avoiding it.  And ultimately it has changed my life! I was looking back on my journal entries from this year and found this one dated March 28,2014:

“I’ve fallen in love with my Savior and it’s beautiful.  I feel changed, I want to spend so much time with Him.  I’m happy again, life is so much better.  All these years I’ve tried to have this and I’ve failed time and time again.  But for the first time I’ve discovered Grace, when you live in God’s grace sin isn’t a desire anymore.  His desires become your desires, I have a long way to go but praise God I’m not where I used to be.  I’m just so excited about Jesus!”

And this one from April 15, 2014:

“Everyday I’m learning more about God.  I’m trusting Him more and when I fail I simply crawl back to Him.  Understanding Grace has really changed my Christian walk.  I feel like I was deceived my whole life about how God really feels about me.  He loves me, He truly loves me! He doesn’t punish me, He teaches me.  He has good things for me, for so long I felt like every bad thing that happened in my life was because of something I had or hadn’t done.  But now I’m understanding God’s love for me.”

My next step of faith was the decision to go on a mission trip in June.  This was a huge step of faith for me.  I’d never been this far away from my family, I didn’t exactly have $2,200 sitting around, I didn’t know anyone that I was going on this trip with and I was going with these strangers to meet more strangers in a foreign country.  Thanks God, sounds like a great idea!  But God gave me peace about it and provided every dollar that I needed down to the very last deadline.  I was kinda bummed about how the trip went, I didn’t have some life-changing encounter like some of the people did.  And honestly I didn’t feel like I made a huge impact, and I got a little upset about that.  But I feel like God told me later on that He just wanted to see if I’d do it.  So I look back on this trip knowing that it was a test of faith, and that even though it didn’t go exactly how I had planned it went exactly how God planned.  Sometimes He just wants to see if you’ll say “yes”.

My most recent step of faith was joining that 2:52 Ministry Internship at my church.  I remember the night that they had the information meeting, I remember thinking about it the entire service and then walking out of the sanctuary, looking at the meeting room and turning to walk out the door.  No joke, I stopped myself, turned around, and went into that meeting.  Once again I had all these excuses in my head, but I signed the paperwork and turned it in anyway.  So here I was in September starting a new job and an internship, with no idea how either were going to work out.  But it turned out to be the best decision I’ve made in a long time.  It’s amazing how close strangers can become in such a short amount of time.  I’d never had friends that encouraged my walk with God or lifted me up when I was down.  What a difference it makes when you surround yourself with the right kind of people or better yet when God places those people in your life.  I’ve listened to their stories and I know that God placed each of us together in that semester for a reason.  I also discovered how much I loved getting to serve others, and I didn’t even know that until 2:52.  I love how God knows exactly what we need and exactly when we need it!

I look back at this year with nothing but gratitude. Because “He has given me a new song to sing….Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD. (Psalm 40:3)” .  He put a new song in my heart, I’ve begun to dream again.  I’m no longer lost or broken, I am a chosen child of God.  I look forward to going even further with my Savior in 2015.  I refuse to look back on 2014 and be sad because how much greater are the plans He has for me in the future. If He can accomplish this much in 1 year how much more can He do in the next 3, 5 or 10?  I don’t know where the next year is going to take me, but I keep hearing “Just trust me” over and over again.  Doubt rises, “Just trust me“.  I try to make my own plans, “Just trust me“.  He knows where I’m going I just have to trust Him. Our journey doesn’t end here…

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:13-14)”

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Leaps Of Faith

leap2014 has been a crazy year for me!  I’ve done a lot of things this year that I didn’t really want to do, but felt like I needed to do.  But I regret nothing because those decisions have increased my faith, decreased my comfort zone and brought me to a whole new outlook on life.  A few months ago I fell in love with this quote by Margaret Shepard, “Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.”  That pretty much sums up how I felt this year,  I could continue to live the lonely, me-obsessed, lifestyle I was living or I could take leaps of faith and let God move in my life.  I chose the latter, and God has continued to rock my world in even the smallest of ways.  Words cannot describe how grateful I am for this, and how eager I am to continue taking leaps of faith in the coming year!  So with that being said, I was reading the Christmas story tonight and came across someone else who made a leap of faith:

Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Mary had some serious faith!  I don’t know about you but I’m not sure how I would have taken this kind of news.  Mary was engaged to Joseph, I’m sure she was making wedding plans, and dreaming about a future with Joseph.  I don’t think the miraculous conception of the Savior of mankind was on any of Mary’s Pinterest boards.  But nevertheless God saw something in Mary that Mary didn’t see in herself.  We don’t know a whole lot about her life, but she was young girl.  She probably had insecurities, doubts, and frustrations like any girl that age.  She wasn’t a holy saint, she was human.  And of all the time periods, and all the girls that have come and gone, God chose her.  He must have thought she was pretty special!  So much so that she had “found favor with God“.  Man, if that’s not a life goal then I don’t know what is, I want to find favor with God!  Mary was given a supernatural duty, and like any human she had human questions.  Like how in the world is this going to happen?  It’s not scientifically possible, it’s not anatomically possible, how God?  The angel gives her a pretty vague answer in my opinion, but Mary simply responds with: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”  She trusted God so much that even though she had no idea how this was going to go, and no idea how her fiancé was going to take this kind of news she still said yes.  She put her own dreams aside and trusted that God had a plan for her.  She believed that He was going to take care of her.  She trusted God!  I want that kind of faith, I want God to tell me to do something and just be able to do it.  So what if it doesn’t make sense to me, how much greater are God’s thoughts than mine.

Jeremiah 29:11(NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

    God’s got good plans for us, all we have to do is trust Him.  It’s not always easy, I know for me, I like to have a plan.  But if God interrupts those plans, are we going to take that leap of faith?  Are we going to just say “yes” like Mary did?  Those leaps can be terrifying but there is no better place to land than in the loving arms of our Savior.

Grace: The Defining Point

Grace (grās)

1. The exercise of love, kindness, mercy, favor; disposition to benefit or serve another; favor bestowed or privilege conferred.

To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee.

2. (Theol.) The divine favor toward man; the mercy of God, as distinguished from His justice; also, any benefits His mercy imparts; divine love or pardon; a state of acceptance with God; enjoyment of the divine favor.

    I spent my whole life growing up in churches where no matter what I did I was barely hanging onto the Soul Train, destination: Heaven.  I was taught that I was a terrible person who had to earn my way into heaven and if by the mercy of God I reached the end maybe just maybe my donation to the building fund would get me a “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  But if not, I had the fiery chasms of hell to look forward to.  So for years my view of church became my view of Christ.  This became a problem, because if this was the case then God cared more about buildings than the people in them.  And my attendance to a church was more important than my relationship with God.  It was a social club, not a sanctuary.  As you can see this led to a lot of confusion about God and what it meant to actually know Him.  I never felt like I added up, because no matter what I failed every time.  My focus was on me, not HIM.
      But in January of 2014 I had an enlightenment of sorts, God had me in the right place at the right time I guess.  I don’t remember how or when but I do know that at some point, it just clicked.  Maybe the angels sang, maybe there were fireworks….I don’t know, but what I do know was that suddenly Christianity made sense.  And thus began my journey of Grace, the defining point of my faith.  I didn’t die on that cross, Jesus did, and at that moment His blood washed away everything I had done, and will ever do.  There was nothing to earn…it is finished!  Once you wrap your mind around the fact that it’s free, no strings attached that’s when you see that it’s never been about me, it has always been about Him.  And when I took my eyes off myself and gazed into the eyes of my Savior that’s when change began to happen in my heart.  No amount of good works, donations, or attendance can ever repay Him. Every human has 2 choices, 1.) We can pay for our own sins, where the cost is our soul (Romans 6:23)  or 2.) We can accept that Jesus’ already paid the price and the cost is our heart.   Woah! This still blows my mind, and honestly I hope that it always does.  I hope that I never take this precious gift for granted.  This was the defining point for me, Christianity is no longer a matter of “do this” and “don’t do that”, because the only thing that matters is Jesus.
     Wait, but what about Sin?  This seems to be that part that most people get confused.  Does Grace mean that we can do whatever we want?  Absolutely not!  We are called to be righteous, and the closer we get to Jesus the further we get from sin.  When I try in my own power not to sin, I take my eyes off of Jesus and by doing that I make myself vulnerable to attacks of the enemy.  Just like in human relationships, if you love someone with all your heart, are you going to cheat on them?  No, because you don’t want anyone else, you love them!  You will do whatever it takes to make that relationship work.  That’s the way our relationship needs to be with God.  The more in love we are with Him the more we invest in that relationship and the less we worry about the other things competing for our affection.  Does this kind of change happen over night?  No, but happy marriages don’t happen over night either, all good things take time.  So fall in love with God and He’ll meet you in that secret place and your life will be changed.
      I don’t know where you are on your journey, but I hope that maybe my defining point will help you on your journey.  It took me about 15 years to understand Grace and I’m still learning everyday.  Just know that you’re on this journey for a reason and God’s on that journey with you.  He has already paid your bill, all you have to do is accept it.  I doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, because there is nothing that He loves more than you.  So I pray that you take that first step, and I pray that you find your defining point.  You’ve got nothing to lose but everything to gain!

{God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. – Ephesians 2:8-9}