Spiritual Growth

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.

 

 

 

 

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?

 

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?

Will You Lay Your Life Down For Your Friends?

I’ve been asking this question to myself a lot lately. With the recent changes in my life and relationships with others, I’m reminded daily how important being surrounded by the right people matters. Having the people I do in my life is important for my growth, not only spiritually, but personally. I take my relationships with others seriously, but I won’t lie and say I don’t fall short in some areas.

God reminded me this morning that in order for my relationships to thrive, I have to lay down my pride. 

I’m very vocal about my wants, needs, and desires. I make those things known and I make them clear. However, in doing this, my words have often wounded instead of lift up and encourage. The truth is, it’s not always about me and I need to be careful with the hearts God has entrusted me.   Though I’ve been hurt a lot in my past, the hurt spills into places it shouldn’t. The people in my life right now are answered prayers and it would be stupid to take them for granted.

Last night, I had a difficult conversation with someone and though those things needed to be said, it was mostly selfish on my part. There are things people in our life can’t give us. Not because they can’t, but because those things take time. Instead of being patient with the process, I want to rush ahead. I need to lay my needs, wants, and desires down and focus on the fact God has placed someone in my life who sees and knows everything about me and accepts me, all of me. They are patient with me and aren’t going to throw in the towel.

Our relationships can’t grow when we give up on each other.

I know I’ve given up on people. Most people in my life will tell me it was long over due and maybe it was. While most of it was selfish and a reaction out of feelings, it was time. I look at how people who have only known me for a month treat me compared to how someone who has known me longer than a year treated me. There were a lot of inconsistencies and it was time to walk. I don’t regret it and I want to do right in my future relationships.

God wants us to love and value others above ourselves. 

It will be uncomfortable at times and you’ll try to convince yourself why your actions are right. But, God wants us to lay our lives down for each other. It will mean patience and humility, and above all, love. In every area of our life, Jesus must be greater. Our friendships with others is no different.

Anything God asks of us should point back to love. Everything, all the time. It’s time we get out of our own way and let Jesus have HIS way in our lives and hearts.

Are you willing?

 

You Deserve To Be Treated Well

I came to a pretty sad reality about myself recently. I’m still adjusting to this reality, but it’s restructured my life in very specific ways. Mostly with how I see myself as a person, a woman, and importantly, how I’ve allowed myself to be treated for most of my adult life.

Imagine going your entire life thinking when other people hurt you, this behavior is normal. You tolerate it again and again with the hope this time will be different. You put up with actions and behaviors most confident and secure people wouldn’t. You ignore the warnings, red flags, and inconsistencies. We become naive to truth. You tell yourself it’s what any person who loves and follows Jesus would do because He loves the broken and we should too.  But just because someone is broken it doesn’t give them the right to repeatedly hurt you or any other person in their life.

The bottom line is this: You deserve to be treated well. Any person or persons who rejects you, any part of you, and what you have to offer, doesn’t deserve you and you don’t need them in your life.

I’ve said this before many times, but I’m experiencing them in a different way. I’m learning when people genuinely care about and love you, they won’t find excuses for why they continually hurt you. There is no excuse. Deep down I know all the times I’ve been hurt, the person on the other end didn’t mean to. I know when I hurt other people, I don’t mean to. But I don’t make excuses for it and don’t purposefully find reasons to ignore and avoid them in any manner. I confront the problem, I confront them, and leave the rest to God.

Any relationship/friendship lost when truth is spoken is not a real relationship/friendship.

In the past three weeks, I’ve met new people, made new experiences, and cultivated healthy relationships with them. I can tell them my convictions, areas where I refuse to compromise, allowed them in places of vulnerability without fear of judgement or misunderstanding. I’m able to tell them point blank I’m a woman of God, I take my relationship with Him seriously, and I will not compromise any area for any reason for any one. I’ve laid everything out and basically said, “Take it or leave it. Because this isn’t changing, for anyone.” Their response? Total acceptance, respect, and love.

We deserve this kind of acceptance. Anything less than this doesn’t deserve our time or attention.

I’m not saying this is easy or that I’m perfect. I’m not a perfect follower of Jesus. When I struggle, I recognize the root of my struggles and then I move forward in dealing with it. We need people who can look at our weaknesses and struggles, see past them and walk with us despite their own weaknesses and struggles because we all have them.

We deserve people in our life who we can be authentic with and vise versa. I don’t wear masks in life. What you see is what you get. Being fake has no business or place in a life meant to be lived by faith. Anything less than this doesn’t deserve our time and attention. 

I enjoy being around other people but I know often it can get messy. It’s time for us to stop allowing ourselves to be doormats for others, staying in one sided relationships out of love. Love is unconditional, it may not always be reciprocated, but it was never meant to be abused. Real love never fails, and when it does it’s not real love. We deserve to have people in our life who love us in the way of Jesus. It was His way that set the standard. We will always fall short of this standard but it’s our responsibility to do our very best to right our wrongs, repent of any wrongdoing, and ask for forgiveness.

None of this is easy. We all have baggage and pasts that are difficult to move on from. But when God places people in our life to help us in those areas, it’s our responsibility to nurture those relationships. They’re rare and few, and should never be taken for granted.

It is my hope and prayer for you and for myself, we will begin to see ourselves in the image of Christ. That we will love ourselves enough to walk away from any person or persons who doesn’t see our value or worth.

You deserve to be treated well.  Any one who doesn’t recognize this, doesn’t deserve your time or attention.

 

 

A Message For All Women

I don’t know where you are in life at the moment, but wherever it is, you are where you’re supposed to be. If you believe in the Lord like I do, trust He has your best interest in mind. No matter the circumstances, believe He is faithful.  I know this part is very difficult. Us women want to be loved, valued, cherished, and accepted for who we are. My message to you is continue being the woman God has created you to be.

Throughout your life, men will come and go.  Not every one who stays is the “One.” This part will be difficult to accept, but God knows us better than any one ever will and He has designed someone specifically for not only us, but our hearts.

We must guard our purity with our life. Not only sexual purity, but mental, emotional, and spiritual too. If any of these areas are compromised by our relationships or anything else in our life, they need to go. No person or thing is worth the risk of living an impure life. I know this sounds self-righteous, but from my own experience, this is the only way to live.

As we get older, our perspective changes. We see things from a different pair of lens. Lens of growth, wisdom, and above all, love. All those times you thought God was being too hard on you or worse, punishing you, you’ll see what He was doing all along … loving you. He is the only One who loves from a pure and genuine heart. When we walk in His love it changes how we see things.

We need more confident hearts. Confidence in ourselves and in the Lord. I know from experience, I’m not as confident as I want to be. I’m insecure and feel unattractive. I would love for a man to look me in the eyes and say, “Julie, you’re beautiful” and mean it. But I need to start seeing myself the way God sees me. Accepted, valued, and loved despite my stretch marks and flaws.

There is a man out there, a Godly man for you. One who seeks the Lord in everything. He knows how to treat a woman and doesn’t take advantage of her heart or emotions. He helps protect her purity and would never put her in a situation where she will need to question his motives or actions. He can be trusted. Many men will claim to be this man.  They’ll say with their lips “I believe in the Lord” but say differently with their actions.  Pay attention. Actions never lie.

God is the author of our lives. He has written every page and He knows the beginning to end.

This part may be difficult to accept because we like to be in control, but I beg you, surrender everything to God and Him alone and you won’t regret it. The best plan for our life is the one we couldn’t write ourselves.

You deserve nothing but God’s best for you and only He knows what this is. It may look one way one day and another the next but believe His fingerprints are in everything. 

Never let any person take the place of God in your life. Put God first in everything and move out of the way. When you put Him first, everything else will fall into place.

I’ve made a commitment to follow the Lord in everything. Admittedly, this isn’t easy. I haven’t made the best choices this year but I’m going to walk the next half of 2016 more confident and hopeful.

I hope you will too.

 

The Missing Link

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The more time I’ve spent in the Word and with the Lord over the past few weeks, I’m realizing the missing link to almost everything in our life.

The Holy Spirit.

It’s missing from our relationships, friendships, Churches, everything. I’ve had individual and collective experiences with the Spirit and I can’t and will not deny its power in my life. The experience is supernatural and powerful.

Most people talk of the Spirit and being filled with it, but to live by it, to obey it, and watch it work naturally in our life is nothing short of incredible. I get speechless and emotional thinking about it.

We talk about it,  but do we really understand how the Holy Spirit works?

I do.

Over the past month I’ve seen the Spirit’s work evident in my life. I don’t say this to brag, but to make y’all aware. The Holy Spirit is real and will work in our life when we’re open to its movement.

The Holy Spirit enables us to do the work God has called us to do and we cannot do anything in our life apart from it.

Almost everything I tried doing on my own last year fell apart. I won’t negate those few moments when I knew God was present, but those experiences never lasted and I realize looking back they weren’t meant to. I tried doing things in my own power and strength whether they were Godly or not, but apart from the Spirit, they weren’t fruitful.

When we act on our own wants and desires the Spirit won’t move. But with the Spirit’s leading and help, we can change the world. 

There have been many times lately the Spirit has told me things to do and I’ve been hesitant, but I know if I walk away from the Spirit’s direction, I will regret it. Many things will call for attention and they can be distracting. They will distract us from God’s best for us but with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we will do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

In order to do everything God wants from us, we have to make the Spirit known in everything.

Is the Spirit missing in your life? Ask God to help make it known. 

photo credit: Peace 2016 via photopin (license)

If It Doesn’t Grow You, Let It Go

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“So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.  Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word ” – Acts 6:2-4

All of us have different gifts. Whether it’s to serve, lead, preach, we have each been given special abilities by God.

Every gift God give us is important, but not everyone is gifted in areas other people are. 

This morning’s reading made me ask myself, “What in your life is currently distracting you from God’s gift to you?” Hmm, good question. I guess the real question is, do I even know my gift? Do you? I mean I think we each have an idea of what we’re good at, have a knack for, but do we really know?

The best way to know our gifts is by allowing ourselves to be used where we are.  Where we see a need, we fulfill it if it’s in God’s will. To grow and give God glory, He will purposefully place us in positions and equip us for His work. However, not everything will grow us and if it doesn’t grow us, it needs to go. 

 We shouldn’t neglect God’s assignment for temporal opportunities. Not every opportunity is from God, most are distractions. In the past year, I’ve limited things I say “yes” to. This is so I can stay focused. Staying focused is important to me because I know I’m easily distracted.

Don’t get distracted from the primary thing God wants from you. If necessary, release those things to people who are more gifted in those areas so you can focus on God’s specific task and purpose for you.

If it doesn’t grow you, let it go.

What in your life needs to go so you can grow?

The Enemy Within

 

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I hear her loudly in the quiet places in my mind. I haven’t heard her this loudly in a while. Everything is heightened when you’re already at a loss, hurt, and reeling. I can’t explain this hurt, it’s not one where tears are necessary, but it’s palpable.

I heard her last night when my mind was already spinning, but curious. I already knew but seeing it displayed so clearly wrecked me all over again. I heard her tell me, “You were never half the caliber she is.”  Lately, her lies have been my mantra.

She’s clever and cunning, I hear her and I come undone. I think how I could be so naive and desperate. She’s believable because I invite her into places that are meant to be sacred and holy. 

At heart, the enemy is a liar. It’s manipulative and ready to wreak havoc on our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. People tell us not to give it such a  foothold in our life, in our hearts, and more importantly, our minds. But the enemy isn’t someone we can see or feel, sometimes the enemy is ourselves.

I don’t have words of wisdom here but I can tell you what I’m learning. There have been a lot of times lately where I’ve wanted to give up. To keep going through the hurt and reliving it wasn’t worth another step.

God is often shadowed in this moments.

Though I struggle everyday with insecurity, rejection, heartbreak, temptation, shame, unforgiveness, and sin, I know God is more powerful than these. He’s more powerful than the enemy inside me. 

Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.

Amen.

 

Sorrow in 30

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to write this post only to let my words sit with me for over a year. It’s been quite a year. December 15, 2013 changed the direction of my life forever; everything familiar, gone. The past 12 months and five days have been a whirlwind.

You never think having a broken heart could cause so much hurt, isolation, and destruction in one’s life, but it did mine. I picked up old habits, fell into depression so heavy I stopped caring about my weight and my life. New Years Eve of 2013 I remember wanting to end it all. Typing this is hard but even through the midst of the hurt and wanting to give up, God was in the midst of it all. He was in the girl who sat with me that night in silence as we both struggled together in our hurt. He’s been through the tangible and the unseen, He’s been with me through everything; I see it clearly now.

Everything in my life over the past year had a domino effect. When one part of my life fell, the rest went with it. I lost “friends,” gained friends, and lost some more. In the end though, I gained community.  The gain in finding people who were and are willing to walk with me through life was worth all the losses I faced. I’m learning now people who are truly for you will never allow petty arguments, theology, or their own feelings ruin what God so clearly brings together to display His glory.

All I felt over the past year was an emptiness, I felt incomplete. The familiar of what I had known for most of the past two years was gone, people who I confided in, trusted, and carried were merely strangers. Even now when we walk past each other, there are no words, only the cold shoulder. I’ve had nasty things said to me in public and in private. People who swore would have my back were quick to stab me in it the moment there was disagreement. 

Everything felt like an assault on my character. When one thing kicked me down another was right there behind it ready for the next beating. Yes, I felt like a helpless victim. 

When I turned 31 in October something inside me changed. I owe a lot of this to the women in my life who have supported me, encouraged me, and have been willing to carry my burdens when I was too weak to stand. Most of my writing over the past four years has been out of hurt and rejection. Yes, most of it is me playing the victim. This was/is my place to bleed. I have no regrets for being transparent and vulnerable with my story. Whether in the private space between me and a friend or in a public space like this blog. There’s no shame in that and no one should shame us for sharing our story. More people should learn to keep it real, God eventually exposes it anyway.

I may not have everything I want at this point in my life. Honestly, I saw my life completely different than it is now, but I did find one thing; real love. Real, gut wrenching, in your face, love. Not from a man, not from porn, but from the hearts of women who openly share their struggles and walk with me through mine. I see Jesus in every single one of them.

There was a lot of sorrow in 30, I won’t lie. A lot of hurt that spilled into other areas of my life and reopened wounds, but I can close that chapter of my life now. Thankfully and without regret or remorse. There has been joy in being 31, a joy and peace I can’t explain in words.  I can walk into a new year knowing I have what God knows I need and leave what He knows I don’t behind.

No matter who has hurt you, wounded you, or left you, don’t carry it around any more. Release it to God and let Him have it. Don’t try to pick it up again to relive what God has clearly told you to put down. I’ve had to tell myself this repeatedly every time I’ve wanted to send that text, e-mail, or show up at their door.

When God closes a door, leave it shut. Your heart will be better for it and so will you.

How will you spend the rest of your year — with regret or freedom?

#heartcheck

photo credit: Der Wunderbare Mandarin cc