Jesus Always: Embracing Joy in His Presence by Sarah Young [Book Review]

_240_360_book-2036-coverJesus Always is another favorite devotional by Sarah Young. When I first opened it, there was already confirmation from a conversation I had with a friend the night before. I love Jesus Calling by her so I was excited for this and I haven’t been disappointed.

Like Jesus Calling, the devotionals are short and perfect for morning devotional and Bible reading time. I love Sarah’s writing style in that it feels like Jesus Himself is speaking directly to you and your heart. I know it’s helped me look at certain situations in my life from His perspective.

The only drawback about this devotional is it lists the Bible verses highlighted in the day’s reading but it doesn’t give you the scripture written out. Which is preferred for me. However, it’s good because it allows you to look up the verse yourself and study it on your own. This is a minimal drawback though.

Sarah uses different translations for verses (NIV, NLT, NASB, AMP, ESV, MSG, etc) throughout Jesus Always. Reading the verses this way really does help you apply and understand what is being said in the day’s reading. It helped me see verses and their meanings in a different way.

I highly recommend Jesus Always if you’re looking for a quick daily devotional. If you liked Jesus Calling, you will love Jesus Always.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Dating Tip #1: Head Over Heart

Honestly, I’ve been embarrassed to share my last attempt at a relationship because it failed. Though I knew in the beginning it would. Yet, like most people I stayed thinking it would get better and I would grow into my feelings with this person. Those feelings never happened and as I sit here almost two months later, I can say with confidence I will never allow my heart to lead this area of my life again.

For the first time in a long time, someone was interested. They noticed me, all of me. I saw them one day looking at me from across the room and it was like the whole world stopped. I noticed it but dismissed it at the time. This was about a year prior. I wasn’t paying attention to subtle hints someone noticed me. Stuff started happening though when I would go out. Men would give me attention and something inside me shifted. I felt confident. I felt wanted. This only fueled the desire in me to give dating and relationships a try. Though I told friends and Facebook I was content with my singleness, inside I was ready to put myself out there.  Of course, I prayed about it and rather than wait for God’s response, I rushed ahead.

This is where things got messy. I struggled with my relationship with this person and with God. I knew God was there. He reminded me every morning as I sat at His feet to return to Him. He was with me, but my heart was far from Him.

It’s a dangerous thing to move ahead of God in any area of our life and to ignore His warnings.  When I was reading the Word, I wasn’t allowing it to permeate. Instead I was glossing over the hard parts and remembering the good parts. Each time I found myself in situations where my beliefs and morals were compromised, I would hear God’s voice quoting scripture in my head. This was another subtle way He was trying to get my attention and draw me closer to Himself.

Scripture reminds us our hearts are deceitful above all else. I thought I loved this person but real love doesn’t fail. If I had used my head and not my heart, who knows what would have happened. I probably would’ve never dated and kept this person at a comfortable distance and only been their friend. I would have done a lot of things differently. But I can’t take it back and I’m not sure I would. It needed to happen.

Relationships are successful when God is at the center and are led by the Holy Spirit.  I’ve always known this but I allowed myself and heart to get distracted. Our hearts may have the right intentions, but our head and heart should remain kingdom focused.

It’s easy in hindsight to say all this but at the time things were different in my heart and in my spirit. I wanted what most people want; companionship. We were made for relationships but our relationships with other people should be an extension of our relationship with Jesus, not a replacement.

At the moment, I’m not seeking a relationship. I am, however, cultivating the existing relationships in my life with my friends, coworkers, and family. This is all an extension of me cultivating my relationship with God moment by moment.

My heart may have deceived me a lot in my life but I know when my heart is truly centered on the Lord, His character, His ways, and His wisdom, I’m not easily distracted by the desire for a relationship. Right now the only thing I want is more of Him.

It’s my prayer and hope we will all learn to seek and trust God in this area of our life above all else. That we will guard our hearts to the desires of this world moment by moment. Only God knows the true desires of our hearts. Allow Him to lead and guide you continually.

What I’m Learning About Dating

In early July, I tried dating. I dived head first into a relationship without asking God first. The “relationship” ended about two weeks ago and it’s taken time for me to get my thoughts together to write this. I’ve felt both guilt and freedom since I ended things between us. I don’t even know if we were ever really together but I know I took our situation to levels I swore I wouldn’t with someone I didn’t intend to marry.

It’s been easy sharing from my heart over the past three years how to navigate singleness and moving on from a broken heart. It’s difficult though when you’re the heart breaker. I’ve not only lost a relationship but a friend too.

That was hard to admit but I’m learning now more than ever to be honest about my shortcomings and not repeat the same mistakes in the future. In the next few posts, I’m going to share what I’m learning about dating and what I will do differently moving forward.

Without God directing my choices I would have stayed in a situation He clearly told me in the beginning to remove myself from. I didn’t listen and kept going down a path I knew would eventually lead to a dead end. I made that choice and I’ve taken responsibility for it both in asking God for forgiveness and repenting.

If you’re single like me, hopefully what I share here will encourage you to wait for God in this difficult area of life. I thought I was ready for a relationship after three years, but the truth is, I’m not and I’m finally okay with that.

Stay tuned.

Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst [Book Review]

_240_360_book-1988-coverAt some point in our life we have all been rejected. Rejection is something I’ve talked about frequently in this space. It’s not a feeling I ever wanted repeated in my life but it has been for some time now. Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst was written for me and every person who has ever felt the hurt from rejection.

Page by page I felt myself nod in agreement, felt convicted, and circumstances in my present were put in perspective. This book was written for me in this time of my life, no doubt in my mind.  Lysa’s biblical perspective throughout Uninvited confirmed so many things I’m going through as I write this. She took the words right out of my heart and mouth.

Recently, I’ve had a desire to run towards people and things to fill the void left from past rejection. It worked for a while and then it didn’t any more. This is why Uninvited is so timely. I realized the things I was running to were taking God’s place in my life. Instead of turning to Him, I chose to turn to things I knew in my spirit wouldn’t satisfy but chose them over Him anyway.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy realizing the damage past rejection has done to me. It’s pretty bad. I’m still coming to grips with it. I don’t want to make excuses for my words, actions, or behavior in the past few months, but I know it’s time to start making real changes in my life. It’s time for me to be honest with myself and let God take the wheel again.

There is nothing pretty about rejection. I can’t think of a single moment when rejection ever felt beautiful, but it’s all about perspective. I was able to relate to almost all of Lysa’s experiences with past relationships. I appreciate Uninvited so much because God was speaking to me directly through Lysa’s heart.

Rejection cannot define our future unless we allow it to.

I don’t know your experience with rejection but I highly recommend Uninvited. I hope it speaks to you as much as it did me.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

People of the Second Chance: A Guide to Bringing Life-Saving Love to the World [Book Review]

People of the9781601428547 Second Chance: A Guide to Bringing Life-Saving Love to the World by Mike Foster is my 8th read of the year and I couldn’t put it down. I’ve been following the POTSC movement for a few years now and this book was timely.

We are all flawed and broken and God uses them for good. 

This is the overall message of this book. It’s more than that though. It takes real strength to be vulnerable and transparent with our brokenness. Most of us hide behind ours too afraid to make them known. Mike’s transparency and heart in this book is palpable throughout. Mike invites us to live as God’s beloved instead of living a life of shame, guilt, and fear.

Some of this book repeated what I’ve already been told before but I believe when something is continuously repeated, it’s almost as if God Himself is trying to get my attention. We need to be told often we are loved, chosen, and accepted. I can’t think of a single moment while reading this where I didn’t begin to see things in a different way. It shed light on things I was doing to myself and to others close to me.

I highly recommend this book if you struggle with fear, guilt, or have some hang up you’re allowing to control you. It may be something from your past and even now in the present. It’s a very quick read.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

We Need People In Life Who Take Initiative

For the past few years, my relationships with other people have felt lackluster. Lately, there’s only really been one person who has really been there for me. They take initiative without having to ask. Which made me think how important it is for us to have people like this in our life.

Most of my life, I’ve always been the giver in my relationships. Until recently, I’ve been thinking more about why I’m this way. I didn’t have a rotten childhood, but I know when I needed attention or affection from people I wanted it, I was met with rejection. When I was given attention, it wasn’t the right kind. It was only given to make themselves feel better in fleeting moments. The more I’ve exposed myself to the idea of a relationship and what it means, I know I appreciate when other people take initiative with the right intention and motives.

When people take initiative, it shows they care. This one is really a no brainer. We invest our time in things we love and care about. When people put forth effort into a relationship, it shows they actually care about the relationship and you.

I know my motives with my past relationships haven’t always been right. I thought if I did all the right things, they would love me more. But, we don’t need to work to earn someone’s love. Real love is freely given. What people freely give shows what they really care about.

I’ve always told myself I would never settle for less than I deserve, no one should. But God has been telling me something different lately. If I want others to be more attentive, loving, and to invest in our relationship, I need to do the same. I can’t expect from others what I don’t do myself.

Honestly, I’ve gotten lazy. Most of my meaningful relationships in life have fallen apart because I gave up. I stopped wanting to put forth the effort because the relationship wasn’t going anywhere. So, I did what most people would do. The moment there were inconsistencies, I walked away. I don’t regret it, but I’ve had to take a very hard look at myself and character. The truth is, relationships take work and the more I think about the kind of work it takes, I just want to be carried for a change.

In relationships, small things matter. When people take initiative in small things, when big stuff happens, they don’t freak out or bolt. How we handle small things says a lot how we handle the big stuff. 

I’ll be honest and say I’ve failed more lately at this relationship stuff than I have for most of my life. Knowing what I need from other people doesn’t always mean I’ll get those things. Which yes, can be very frustrating. But we can’t demand things from people. They have to give those things on their own. In the mean time, we have to give others what we  need/want from them even when it’s not reciprocated. This is what Jesus told me today and as much as I want to shake my head in disagreement and in pride, it’s His way and it’s right.

We need people in life who take initiative, but it starts with you.

How will you take initiative this week with the people who matter to you?

#heartcheck

Why God Calls Us To Singleness

Earlier this week, an incident happened and made me take some steps back and see things differently. I’ve talked a lot about my past relationships. I didn’t know the impact these relationships would have on my present until I tried dating. Let me just say, I’m failing at dating pretty miserably.

I believe God calls us to singleness to navigate difficult parts of our lives we haven’t been able to confront so we don’t bring them into new relationships. I’m learning more about myself now than I did a year ago and it’s pretty eye opening.

Dating when we haven’t fully forgiven our past is difficult and should be confronted immediately. 

Being single is one part of my life most people don’t understand. If I’m not ready for a relationship, I must be hiding something. If I am with someone, people are invited into sacred places they don’t belong. God is the only one who needs full access and invitation to those places, period. But so many other variables get in the way.

We have to be able to navigate our singleness knowing God wants us whole persons before we expect others to do it for Him. Truth is, no other person is placed in our life to make us whole persons, but they are there for us to love and visa versa. Not the mushy kind, the eternal kind. The kind that lasts.

All of this is a work in progress. I’m learning to navigate the difficult areas in my heart and life that still need God’s healing touch. Importantly, I’m surrounding myself around the right people. People who don’t throw in the towel and quit every time there is disagreement. Real love doesn’t abandon, it drops the offense and moves forward in forgiveness.

I’ve used my time of singleness to be attentive and grow. There are still places in me that need growth. I’m learning, by God’s grace alone, to rely on His wisdom over my feelings. I’m learning to love again, the right way. To love Him first, others second, and to see myself the way He sees me. It’s not easy after rejection, but it’s getting better.

Someone told me I should consider counseling to deal with my issues. My response was I don’t need counseling, I need a friend and people in my life who genuinely care about me despite my dark moments. We all need people like this in our life. We need people who will step into our brokenness with us unafraid to get their hands dirty.

Singleness has taught me what it means to put others’ needs before my own. It’s taught me the power of selflessness over selfishness. Don’t mistake this for being someone’s doormat, I’ve been there and done that. But, it’s learning to choose my battles wisely and love people the way they deserve instead of push them away.

God called me to singleness to teach me how to love and forgive. Both are difficult, mostly the forgiveness part. But, in Christ there is freedom. 

What has singleness taught you?

Why We Need Godly Relationships

Every relationship in our life should be taken seriously. I’ve been slipping in areas where I shouldn’t and it’s due in part because I’m not surrounded by Godly influences. This is my fault and I take full responsibility for it.

Most of us don’t want to be challenged by others but our relationships should challenge every area of our life. While we don’t want or like other people telling us the honest truth about ourselves, we need people who will not only tell us but help us to become better spiritually.

Godly relationships will make us uncomfortable. They will force us to confront areas in our life we’re not ready to confront. 

You know that hidden sin in your life you’re not ready to deal with? Godly relationships will expose them. There have been times in my life when God told me to confront people in my life about their sinful habits. There have  been people who have confronted me about mine. It was extremely difficult at first to accept their truth, but looking back, it was truth spoken in love. We should have relationships who keep us accountable. No area in our life is hidden from God, the same should apply to our relationships with others. If the people in our life genuinely care about our life, they will ask us the hard stuff.

Godly relationships keep us accountable.

The relationships in our life should push us closer to God, not away from Him.  When our relationships are centered on Him alone, everything else in our life is better managed. We need people in our life who will read the Word with us, pray with and for us, and challenge us to be the person God created us to be.  We need people who will help, motivate, and challenge us to live out our calling.

Godly relationships follow the Lord with you.

I have a strong desire to connect with people, but for the past few months I’ve been really lax in my faith and relationships with others. The desire shifted from wanting to help others to instead focus on myself. While doing this, I’ve realized a lot of the things I need most in my life can’t happen with only me. I need other people.

 Godly relationships encourage us in our strengths and carry us through our weaknesses.

Relationships are extremely valuable but can also be very messy. This is something I’ve touched on a lot over the last few months because it’s still an area of deep struggle for me. I told someone the other night wanting a Godly relationship is truly my heart’s desire.

Hopefully, it’s yours too.

Do you have Godly relationships in your life? If you don’t, what are you doing to change it?

 

When You Don’t Think You Deserve Good Things

When insecurity rears its ugly head, everything good in my life is placed under a microscope. I look for flaws when there aren’t any and my immediate response is to look for the closest exit. Whether it’s relationships with other people or just life in general, my go to response is to push away the good things in my life. I’ve been this way for  most of my life. For a while it got better but lately, it’s decided to resurface.

I’ve been having issues lately with not believing I deserve good things. Confident people don’t have this issue, but I do and lately it’s been daily. 

The past two months have been a whirlwind. When one door closed, another opened. Though I did what was best for my life and heart, there are times when feel a sense of regret. Maybe if I was more patient, gave the benefit of a doubt more, loved better, or thought more with my head than heart, things would be different. But the truth is, confident people don’t live with regrets. They accept their decisions for what they are and move on with their life.

Good things in our life that are often shadowed by our fears, insecurities, and doubts.  I don’t know what yours are, but I know mine.  When I feel like I don’t deserve good things, I look at my life and see the people and things He has placed in my care. Suddenly, those fears, insecurities, and doubts are just noise.

Most of the time, the lies we choose to believe about ourselves ruins opportunities to give good things a chance to birth and grow. It amazes me the lies I’ve chosen to believe because of insecurity and fear. But the most important thing I can tell you is there are people who will support you in your weaknesses, if you let them. They will do their best to understand you before they resolve to abandon you.

These are the good things we miss when we’re too focused on our fears, insecurities, and doubts. God orchestrates everything in our life to help us see how good He really is. Even when we don’t feel good, He still is.  He will bring  people along in our life to help us see this. When He does, don’t take them for granted.

What good thing has God done for you lately? Have you had difficulty lately accepting it?

More Than Words

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. What it is, what it isn’t, and wondering if I’ve ever really been in love. There have been many times I thought I was in love, but recently, I’ve been asking myself if I really know how to love another person unconditionally.

What does this look like? It means laying our life down for another, willingly carrying another person’s burdens, and giving people the freedom to be themselves without trying to fix or change them. Unconditional love is rare. I’ve made several mistakes in this area with past relationships and I’m learning to give myself grace for all the times I’ve screwed up so I can move forward in peace.

I don’t say “I love you” unless I know I can intentionally and purposefully prove it.  As of now, I feel incapable of this kind of love. My past has made me pessimistic in this area. There are days when I feel I don’t deserve to be loved, that I’m too messed up for it, or that I expect too much and those expectations push other people away.

When I stand before God one day, I’m going to give an account of my life. I will be judged by how I lived my life and loved other people. Knowing this scares me.  I haven’t been the best person towards the people in my life both past and present. I’m not always kind with my words or thoughts. But at the end of the day, I know there is a God out there who loves me despite my pride and sins. There are people in my life who accept me, all of me, without fear or hesitation.  They show it in every way possible and everyday. 

Love is more than words.  It’s not only spoken but shown.

As I draw closer to 33, I’m opening myself to the idea of love again but in the right way and with God’s help. The hearts He has entrusted to us deserve to be loved with His guidance and leadership. No other love can compare to the one we leave solely in His hands.

Let His love lead yours. Your relationships will thrive and thank you for it.

If  the words, “I love you” were removed from your relationships, would they still know you do?

#heartcheck

 

When We’re Honest

When other people are honest about their struggles, I let out a sigh of relief because I’m reminded I’m not alone. Someone out there understands and the world feels right again. When people are honest, the weight of everything we’re carrying, lightens.

We’re not all as put together as we make it seem. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will make it appear so, but the truth is, our behind the scenes life matters more than what’s highlighted to our friends and followers.

I’m an honest person but I’m not as open as I used to be. It’s taken a lot of time for me to be able to trust again and allow myself to be vulnerable. When you put your feelings out there, you don’t know how the person or persons on the other end will react, so you remain silent. This sums up most of my life for the past year. Until recently, all I’ve done is communicate how I feel. I’ve been honest about everything and though it’s often draining, it’s also liberating.

Being honest sets us free.

Last night, I had another honest/hard conversation. I was waiting for the person to reject and push me away, but instead they said something I’ve been needing to hear, “Let’s work on that. As a team.” I’m a strong minded, willed, and guarded person. This often, almost always, gets in the way of what God tries to do in my relationships with other people. I recognize this and I’m trying to be better. When they said this, those walls I’ve been building started to come down brick by brick. This is what happens when honesty is met with understanding and compassion.

Being honest sometimes will cause conflict, but can also bring healing in areas we’re too afraid to confront. Honesty is the best policy, all the time, in every area of life.

Do you have problems with honesty? Start being honest about them.

Don’t End Up Friendless

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

The more God leads me to verses about friendship, I’m reminded how true friendship is rare.

I have several acquaintances, but I can only name 2-3 true friends in my own life. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t want any more acquaintances, I want true and lasting friendship. We should all want this and it’s our responsibility to take the issue of friendships, relationships, and community seriously.

No one wants to die alone but I believe some of us will because we don’t know how to cultivate and sustain healthy relationships. 

When the whole world decides to walk out, we should have at least one person who remains. This the person we know we can count on through anything. They’re the first person we think to call on in an emergency or crisis. But even if there is no emergency or crisis, they’re the first person we think of when we need someone.

Who is this person in your life?

Who has always been there for you when others weren’t?

Who in your life are you currently taking for granted? 

These are hard questions, but they need to be asked. It is better we have one or a few friends we can count on than many. We could be surrounded by plenty of people and still feel alone. I know I’ve gotten to this point a few times in my life but I’ve gotten better. I don’t talk about everything with anyone, but I’m getting better with opening up. Friendships take work and I’m more interested in the quality of my friendships than how many people I have around me.

Not everyone can be trusted and their actions will speak louder than their words ever do. But there are people out there who will be there for you, who will comfort you, protect you, correct you, and love you. Surround yourself with those kind of people.

Make acquaintances, but keep true friends close. Someone with a lot of “so-called” friends may end up friendless. Don’t let this be you. 

How many true friendships do you have in your life?