Entries by Julie

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero [Book Review]

I’ve always believed whatever is inside you will spill out. If we’re okay emotionally and spiritually, then we’re healthy Christians. I believe we can appear to be okay outwardly but inwardly tells a different story. That’s why I’m thankful for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Scazzero.

Majority of this book I agree with and it’s definitely a book I’ll revisit from time to time to do an internal check.

It’s impossible to be spiritually mature, while remaining emotionally immature.

Think about this statement for a minute. One can be spiritually mature (ie: Go to church weekly, read Scripture daily, pray often, etc) and still struggle inside. This is what Scazzero discusses in his book.

What defines someone who is emotionally healthy?

  • Naming, recognizing, and managing our own feelings
  • Identifying with and having active compassion for others
  • Initiating and maintaining close and meaningful relationships
  • Breaking free from self-destructive patterns
  • Being aware of how our past impacts our present
  • Developing the capacity to express our thoughts and feelings clearly
  • Respecting and loving others without having to change them
  • Asking for what we need, want, or prefer clearly, directly, and respectfully
  • Accurately self-assessing our strengths, limits, and weaknesses and freely sharing them with others
  • Learning the capacity to resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions that consider the perspectives of others
  • Integrating our spirituality with our sexuality in a healthy way
  • Grieving well

This year alone I’ve had to deal with all the above in different situations. Especially how easily our past can spill into areas it shouldn’t and how conflict when not dealt with quickly and maturely can be destructive spiritually. Other key points stood out to me including: practicing silence, solitude, unceasing prayer, learning to rest attentively in God’s presence, loving others out of a life of a love for God, and living in community that passionately loves Jesus above all else.

I had to think over these things carefully and do an assessment of how I’m doing in these areas. These areas are the missing ingredients in a life totally surrendered to the Holy Spirit. When a life is totally surrendered to the Spirit’s leading, every area of a person’s heart will be an honest reflection of who they are in Christ.  In other words, authentic.

Emotional health is important to our spiritual lives.

This book is highly recommended if you struggle in any of the above areas.

How are you doing emotionally?

Disclosure of Material Connection: 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.

Hello, it’s me.

Sometimes you need to take a break, dust yourself off and reset. Over half of 2017 is over and what a mess this year’s been. I’ve learned a lot, grown, and paid attention. Life sure has shown me a lot.

About six months ago, I wrote a few posts after another failed friendship with the same person who’s caused a lot of pain in my waking life. At the time it seemed appropriate to write about it but as time’s passed, I realize even though it was how I felt, my feelings didn’t need a platform, they needed a Savior. When we use our platforms to call out offenses or those who’ve offended us, no one wins. All I  did was reopen the wound, over and over again. This is what offense does. It reopens wounds trying to heal. God wasn’t being glorified by calling out the person. God’s never glorified when we call out folks who’ve hurt, offended, or betrayed us. Any hurt done is between us and God. Healing is His responsibility, not the offender’s. Justice is His, not ours. I’ve learned this lesson too late and I’m making peace with my decisions. I’m not going to delete what’s been said and written, but I will do better with my feelings moving forward. Platforms are good when used for right purposes. Whether your platform is a blog, social media, or something else, ask yourself, “Who’s being glorified?” If it really is God, He will be glorified, not our offenses and opinions. The most powerful weapon against fleeting feelings is prayer not a platform.

Something I learned earlier in the year is the deeper relationship, the greater the offense. In April, a friend and I had a falling out that lasted for almost a month. Eventually, we talked, we both apologized and things are fine now. When there’s a fall out, always seek reconciliation. How’s your attitude towards people who’ve hurt you? If your mind still repeats the offense, release the person to God moment by moment because forgiveness is a permanent attitude. Forgiveness is instant, trust is earned and reconciliation is possible when we’re willing to resolve our differences. Pride keeps relationships broken and at a distance. 

The thought of having real friendships seems rare but there are people in our life so important they surpass everything else.  They’re must haves, the ones you can’t live without. About two weeks ago, I had one of the worst days in a really long time and one of my friends asked, “Need me?” Those words changed the way I view every relationship in my life. When it seems the walls are caving in and things seem to be falling a part, a real friend comes in willing to rescue you from the storm. They don’t leave you out there to drown.  At least one person should come to mind.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I use it mostly to share and connect. However, over recent months I’ve seen it divide more than unite. I don’t believe people should necessarily fast from Facebook but I think it’s important to do a daily inventory of where we invest our time and attention. Last week Friday, I spent some time off the grid and it was nice. Life is an adventure meant to be lived.  It’s okay to take a break sometimes from routine and responsibilities.

As messy as my relationship with God is, I’m thankful He always makes Himself known. About a week ago, for the first time in a while I went on my daily walk alone. Something told me to walk a certain stretch of campus, even though I had the slight thought to go a different route. Instead I went the way His voice told me to. This is what faith looks like. Sometimes you’ll go a different way than the one God directs and it’s okay to wander a while, but eventually, you’ll need to turn around. Faith is following His voice even when the way doesn’t feel right. I’m glad I listened to His voice that day.

Over  the past few months I’ve learned it’s okay not to be liked or accepted. No matter what we do, there will always be critics. Yeah, I come off hard sometimes and can be a “ball buster” as a friend put it, but I’ll never apologize for doing the right thing. When we do the right thing, the Christ-like thing, we don’t need to explain ourselves. Never entertain people who are critical, walk away from them and their ignorance. 

All that aside and said, I’m very thankful for this space. I’m thankful for the ups and downs and for the people who have supported me during hard times because there have been more than enough over the past few months. 2017 has been a bad year. It’s all perspective though. It hasn’t been all bad, some things could be better but I’m learning to take life as it comes.

God’s plan for our life will never happen in a straight line. There will be many twists and turns.  Just because something works, doesn’t mean it’s right in His eyes. I walked my own path and did things earlier in the year even with confirmation, but eventually those things fell apart. Never let someone use you or manipulate you to do God’s will for their life, their way. Without God anything that seems to be working won’t last.  What we do His way builds a foundation of integrity and this is far more important than doing things because they seem or feel right. Honesty and integrity are key to a life lived without regret and they don’t need to prove themselves. This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year so far.

In closing, I’ve decided to write only when God leads it. Otherwise, there’s no point. It’s what we do when no one but Him sees us that truly reflects our heart and commitment to Him. Not our words, but by our actions are we truly His.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life by Joan Chittister [Book Review]

Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life by Joan Chittister is about humility and what it means to live a more humble and authentic life. The Benedictine spirituality is the foundation of this book. Some parts I had a difficult time relating to, but overall, the message was easy to understand, even convicting.

Humility is not our culture’s biggest asset or our most desired character quality.  A character of humility has to be cultivated in good soil and this allows other Christ-like characteristics to bear good fruit. We are known by our fruits after all.

Chittister explains the twelve steps of humility are an invitation to freedom. From these twelve steps we are finally authentic and fully free, totally authentic and driven by the Holy Spirit.

Recognize that God is God

Know that God’s will is best for you.

Seek direction from wisdom figures.

Endure the pains of development and do not give up.

Acknowledge faults and strip away the masks.

Be content with less than the best..

Let go of false sense of self.

Preserve tradition and learn from the community.

Listen

Never ridicule anyone or anything.

Speak kindly.

Be serene, stay calm.

Do these steps of humility define your life? The list feels exhausting, but this is the life we’re called to live.

Acknowledging faults and stripping away masks is the step that resonated with me most. Mostly because transparency and authenticity is very important to me, especially in my spiritual life. As a follower of Christ, everything is spiritual because He is everywhere!

I recommend Radical Spirit if you want to grow spiritually in the above areas.

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

The Way of Letting Go by Wilma Derksen [Book Review]

The Way of Letting Go by Wilma Derksen was a timely read. I feel like most of my life has been spent learning to let go. While I’ll never understand the pain of losing a family member to unspeakable tragedy, I understand what it means to lose someone I love.

Forgiveness is a way of life, and with this book, Wilma shows you how to start.

The time between letting go and learning to forgive is a never ending process. Forgiveness isn’t a one time thing and then you’re free; forgiveness is a lifetime of learning to love other people, love those who hurt you, and ultimately, yourself. 

This wasn’t my favorite book of the year so far, mainly because it was hard to connect with her tragedy and my heart break. It felt silly at times to compare the two. But regardless, I believe any one who struggles with forgiveness or is still in the process of learning to forgive can relate to this book.

Forgiveness is a moment by moment decision to set the offender free. 

If you’re in a season of life where forgiveness is difficult, this book will help.

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.”

 

 

Knocking down the old so the new can rebuild.

There is so much in my life and heart God is showing and reminding me of right now.The parts I haven’t liked or could do without are the ones I know where He loves me most.

When the old and familiar came knocking, it’s His gentle reminder to let the past go and rebuild.

Compared to how things were in December, I’m at peace now. I’m thankful for the different people in my life who make their love and presence known. They’ve had a tremendous impact on my life without words but with action.

Dragging my past into my present was a bad habit, but I knew going into 2017, God was going to do something new.  Though outwardly things haven’t changed, inside they have. We are new creations and God wants us to experience this truth daily. 

Rebuilding takes work and what sometimes feels like a lifetime. What I’m learning is having a strong support system is helpful. There are people in my life now with different personalities and gifts and I see how God is using them to help me rebuild my life.  I know I can’t change what happens but I can build new beginnings.

I won’t allow my faith to falter because of flaky people and fleeting feelings. 

My new beginning starts now.

 

 

 

 

Talk Yourself Happy Transform Your Heart by Speaking God’s Promises by Kristi Watts [Book Review]

Talk Yourself Happy Transform Your Heart by Speaking God’s Promises was a timely read.  I think one of our biggest misconceptions is if we think happy, we will be happy.  In my own life, this isn’t always the case. One thing I loved about Kristi’s perspective is speaking God’s promises and Word over our life and circumstances. This has the power to change our perspective significantly.

Our thoughts and words have power, especially the ones directed at ourselves. I’m getting better in this area with God’s help. We have a powerful weapon available to us daily and that is God’s Word. Kristi reminds us speaking God’s promises out loud breaks the enemy’s hold over us. Using the Word of God and speaking His promises allows for spiritual breakthrough.

Speaking God’s promises over our life is not just a pep talk, but a way of life. 

I’m learning this a lot lately. Every time I get into a funk, I repeat scripture back to myself. Thankfully, I have friends in my life who remind me daily of God’s truth.  We need to believe daily the power of the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and break through the lies of the enemy. This is the key to happiness. 

If you struggle in this area, Talk Yourself Happy is the book for you.

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.  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.

How’s Your Soul? Why Everything that Matters Starts with the Inside You by Judah Smith [Book Review]

How’s Your Soul? by Judah Smith was a good book to start 2017 with.  The inside us is more important than the outside us and Judah explores this idea throughout this book. There were a lot of things I nodded in agreement with and this will more than likely be a book I revisit again throughout the year. I can’t say though this is in my Top 5 favorites but it’s still early.

At the end of 2016 and even now I wrestle with the inside me more than the outside. I think it’s important sometimes to ask ourselves what’s going on inside us and rather than ask people, “How are you?” we should instead ask them and ourselves, “How’s your/my soul?” This question will definitely change the way we connect with God and other people.

The chapter that really resonated with most with me was “Is Love God or Is God Love?” This is the only chapter I had to read more than once.  Judah explores one of my favorite scripture verses on love.

Roofs Without Skylights

Love is a roof and a cover. Love protects, shields, and conceals the weaknesses of others. This doesn’t mean we ignore sin; it means we don’t use people’s faults and failures to expose or shame them. We publicly cover them and privately restore them with the goal of bringing about health in their lives. 

Some people are roofs, but they have a lot of skylights. Skylight Christians have good hearts, but they are exposers, not coverers. They build skylights into every conversation because somehow the fact that they have the scoop makes them feel better about themselves. We don’t have to do that though. We can be so secure in God’s love and our identity that we don’t have to give people glimpses into other people’s business. We can be a safe place for hurting people, a place where they can find unconditional love and support – both public and private – while they get back on their feet.

This was by far the best chapter of How’s Your Soul? It made me evaluate my life, my friends, and how I talk of hurtful people and situations. Let me just say this is an area I’m not perfect with. When I’m hurting, I pray, I write, I vent. But I’m learning how to navigate and process my hurt without being bitter or resentful … or both.

I recommend this book if the inside you needs some repairing.

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.”

 

 

 

 

Jesus Over Everything by Clayton Jennings [Book Review]

Jesus Over Everything by Clayton Jennings wasn’t my favorite read of 2016.  I first heard about Clayton Jennings earlier in the year so I was excited about his new book. I don’t follow Clayton on social media but some of my friends do. He’s very popular among the Christian community and he made that very obvious throughout his book. He talked about his many followers on social media quite often through each chapter which was my biggest annoyance with this read.

Apart from that, I had a very difficult time connecting with most of this book. There were a few parts I agreed with but most of it were hit and miss. I will say though, I admire and respect Clayton’s passion and heart for Jesus. To his credit, he’s young and attractive. Most of the attention throughout Jesus Over Everything was on Clayton, not Jesus.

Opinion aside, I think this book will resonate with the younger generation who are early in their walk with Christ. I read a lot of books this year and Jesus Over Everything didn’t have the depth I was looking for.

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

Dating Tip #3: Accept the Truth

My eyes have really been opened the past month. I’m realizing what I had four years ago was safe. We spent hours talking, letting God confirm daily what He wanted from us and we obeyed. We didn’t waver at all from God’s will miles apart from each other. Until we were actually within a few feet from each other that’s when everything changed. It wasn’t a sudden change but over time things changed. Things were no longer safe, we were thick in the reality of what God was doing and each other.

Our relationship was kept off social media entirely. This should have been hint #1. He tried to tell me repeatedly when couples make their relationship public, you’re only allowing outside influences into an area they don’t belong. I believed this and so I agreed with it for almost a year.  Over the past three years though, he’s been very public with his past and present relationships. Three years ago, I took this as flat out rejection. Now though, I realize it was never rejection, it was respect.

The situation didn’t feel right any more. It felt right four years ago when we met in this space. It felt right four years ago when  we built on a foundation we both swore was stable. It felt right when he moved here because God told him to “Go.” It felt right because our situation was unique … so sacred.  Until it was no longer sacred and I pushed it away. I didn’t want anything to do with it any more. He was doing with her what he did with me four years ago. Our connection was no longer between us and he never loved me. He loved the idea of me but not the real me.

This truth has set me free.

I won’t lie, this truth hurts. Earlier this week I fought back tears and I did again yesterday morning. My pride doesn’t like to admit it and I’m almost slightly ashamed to type it, but I don’t know any other way than to be authentic with how I feel. I wanted it this way because I was scared. I was losing this person I created a life with for over four years even if it wasn’t consistent, it was still familiar …. it was safe. And just like that, enter another woman and it was gone. My heart couldn’t take it, so I bailed.

Every thing God places in our hands requires work. I worked pretty hard to obey the Lord in everything. This last time though, it was no longer about obedience to the Lord, but about guarding my heart … for good. I’m protecting myself from further hurt. It’s counter productive, I know but for now, it’s what’s right.

Accepting truth, real truth, isn’t for the faint of heart. 

God’s Word has continually guided and directed my steps since 2012. The only time my steps weren’t directed was when I tried dating in July. I prayed but didn’t wait for clearance, I jumped in. God knows our desire to be close to someone, He understands our desire for companionship. We say we aren’t looking for it, but deep down we really are.  Until Jesus is everything to us, until the reality of His presence is deep in us, in those deep, hidden places, we won’t be ready for the real relationships He has specifically designed us for. 

This truth is what I’ve settled in my heart, let it settle in yours too.

Understand though, I’m not good with relationships. I love people and when that love is threatened I tend to either hold on to it tightly or I let it go without thinking twice. In my dating relationship, I let it go. I literally ran away from it. But with Jeremy, it was different.

Twice in the past week, when I’ve gotten in my car to leave our song came on. The first time, I changed stations immediately because I was pissed. The other day though, I listened to it all the way through. He dedicated it to us when he was back home. He didn’t remember it though after we broke up. I was reminded why I held on so long. Love doesn’t give up. It doesn’t quit. Love always protects, trusts, hopes, and always perseveres. It never fails.  It takes two people who both love each other to make a relationship work. I was the only one in our relationship and friendship who loved the other person. For the first time in four years, I quit because love was never reciprocated and I realized it.

Accepting this truth is disappointing but freeing. The truth really does set us free.

The truth I’m accepting right now is knowing the Holy Spirit can work between people anywhere. It worked between us consistently for four years. It’s worked in my life consistently since I closed this door.  The problem is I tied my experience with the power of the Holy Spirit to a person instead of a Person. The Holy Spirit will work between any one with an attentive heart. A heart that is truly seeking the Lord, one who walks in the Spirit daily, and lays their life down for others. God first, family (children, mother, father, brother, sister, etc) second, everyone else last.  In that order, no exception. 

This last truth is what I keep at the forefront of my mind.

A friend reminded me last week it’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to cry for what’s no longer but not to live there. Don’t live in the memories but to keep moving forward in the Lord because He’s going to do something new. In the stillness, I know that new thing is already here. I’ve known it for almost two months. All those pieces coming together perfectly behind the scenes. There’s peace knowing God is control but even without His blessings and what He will give me, I’m secure.

Let me encourage you to do a few things. Let God love you back to life again before making commitments. Open your hands wide for what He gives you, but don’t hold on to it too tight. More importantly, follow Jesus everywhere. I’m not talking about physically or spiritually but emotionally and mentally.  When we’re truly following Jesus, He will take us through valleys of offenses we’ve never fully dealt with. It will be hellish. Instead of running towards the next feel good high, run to Him wholeheartedly. Running the race for Christ wasn’t for quitters, but for people who aren’t afraid to run and fight. And yes, sometimes for a season you have to run this race with only Him and alone. If you’ve never been alone for longer than three months, then there’s something inside you broken and you’re looking for other people to make it or you whole.

Don’t argue with this truth, accept it, and change.

Don’t hold on to your plans too tightly either. Even with prayer and reading Scripture, God can throw a curve ball into our plans at any time. Our plans, visions, and preparation are many, but “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)

I don’t know what 2017 is going to look like but I’ve stopped looking ahead. I’ve spent more time with family and friends during my holiday break. This holidays has been a little hard and not as joyful, but my joy is no longer in people, but in a Person. The one who never gives up on me and loves me unconditionally.

This truth is the only one I will accept forever, I hope you will too.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

 

Dating Tip #2: It’s Okay To Walk Away

Over three years ago, I lost who I thought was the love of my life. Over three months ago, I attempted to date again and failed. It’s hard to put in words what’s happened in my life over the past few months. Hence, why I’ve been quiet.

It’s hard to separate faith over our feelings, isn’t it? This is probably why I’ve struggled in my dating life and struggled with a person from my past reentering my life after a few months of silence. I knew the door would reopen itself, I just didn’t know when.

For the first time in almost three years though, I’m the one who walked away and closed the door permanently. It wasn’t because I was hurt or bitter, it wasn’t out of resentment or jealousy. It was about respect and realizing I deserve better. I will never deny my feelings for Jeremy or the connection we had through the Holy Spirit. I thank God every day for the lessons I learned and continue to learn through it and will do so until the day I die. This was a man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. A man who I love unconditionally despite the fact he continued to walk in and out of my life when he wanted and abandoned our friendship for other women.  This last time though, something inside me shifted. The light finally cut on.

The light of Jesus always exposes darkness.

We can have all the faith in God we want, we can love Him with our whole heart, but when we repeatedly hurt those closest to us and conceal and compartmentalize parts of our life, it’s not okay. No matter the reason, there’s no excuse for deception, major or minor. This doesn’t only involve romantic relationships but friendship too.

The desires of our hearts will never be met without Jesus. He has to be in everything. We say with our mouths God is in the center of our life and relationships, but is He really? I can honestly say, every time He was in the center of mine, the relationship wasn’t comfortable or easy.

A Godly relationship will help us confront difficult places. We should date and marry someone who not only helps us confront it but comes along side of us and helps us to be better. If you’re someone who doesn’t like confrontation, check your pride.

Jesus washed the feet of all 12 of His disciples, even Judas, the one who would eventually betray Him. Jesus laid His life down for His friends. I want the kind of relationships where we’re unafraid to lay our lives down for each other and the only way to have this of kind of relationship is when our natural self surrenders itself and dies.

In September, I walked away from an unhealthy relationship, one where my morals were continuously compromised. Last week, I walked away from a relationship that ended long before I finally had the courage to. The answer was there the whole time, but love is blind. Thankfully though, God’s love illuminates everything. I trust God’s plan over my feelings and trust the truth of His Word over fickle relationships.

God doesn’t want us in dead end relationships. He brings people together for a reason but both have to be in agreement with each other and ultimately God (Amos 3:3).  If there’s no agreement, it’s okay to walk away.

Know this, no matter what others say or do to us, God is still God. He is still the One who knows what’s best for us. We don’t. We never will. His ways are always better than ours. So, my prayer for myself and for you, is that we will always test everything according to His Word and pray for discernment. Be a person of integrity in public and in private. Love people. Really love them and let His love lead your relationships.

This past week I’ve learned the value of friendship and how important it is to have people in our life who genuinely care about us and who put others first. They think of themselves very little and always puts others’ needs above their own. They walk in love daily without realizing it.

We can only be lead by the love of Jesus if our lives our truly being led by Him. It’s okay to walk away from people who claim to follow Jesus but don’t love others the way He does. 

I’m still learning how to do the last part and with the help of God I’ll get there. I know my future relationships will be better for it and so will yours.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

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.