Spiritual Growth

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

If Our Faith Ceased to Exist

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I remember who I was before I turned my life over to Christ.

I remember what I was doing before I turned my life over to Christ.

I remember the pivotal moment in my life when everything changed.

I don’t know how to describe my life before Christ, I just know I spent a lot of it lost and depressed. Most of my depression came from situations with bad relationships and toxic friendships. I remember the night when I finally reached the point of no return and felt this pull inside to turn to the Lord. I can’t explain it but it was an inner knowing and from that moment forward, everything in my life changed.

The thing is, I didn’t change, not immediately anyway. Even now, almost three years later, there are still old parts of me I haven’t fully surrendered. And it has me wondering if I’ve ever really been saved; if I’ve truly been set free.  I know deep down if I didn’t have faith, if my faith ceased to exist, it would bring the darkest parts of my life back to surface. I remember those dark moments well. Sometimes in the chaotic corners of my mind, I feel them.

We’re more than followers of Christ, but we’re not absent from struggle. When I started following the Lord with my whole heart, it shook everything familiar and comfortable in my life. I stopped watching pornI learned how to handle rejection, I learned I had a fear of marriage, and I learned there’s power in humility and vulnerability.

But even with everything I’ve learned and am learning, I still struggle. I don’t struggle because my faith isn’t strong, I struggle because having faith doesn’t promise happy endings. Faith promises it will be tested, we will be tested. and it’s through these tests we learn what our faith is really made of. It’s through these tests, we learn what we’re really made of and who we’re really following and trusting.

If my faith ceased to exist, I’d still exist but there would be something missing. Apart from God, I’m nothing.

I know a number of people who have chosen to walk away from their faith for different reasons. Having authentic faith in a world that continuously tries to steer us away from truth, truth that’s supposed to bring love, peace, and hope, only breeds hate and a set of rules. I’ve vowed never to be this kind of person, but it’s easy to get lost in the mass of religion than having an authentic faith in Christ and allowing this faith shine through you in love.

I’ve lost friends and gained a few the moment I started taking my relationship with God seriously. I lost most of everything I thought was supposed to matter. But nothing changed or challenged me until the Holy Spirit entered my life and changed the course of my life forever. 

Jesus told His disciples He was going to send a helper who would guide them in truth. The Spirit was sent to help us persevere and give us courage when we face challenge, trial, and adversity in life. When the Holy Spirit enters your life, everything will change, including you. 

If our faith ceased to exist, we’d still have His promise and help.  We won’t be left to fend for ourselves. When faith exits, hope enters.

If your faith ceased to exist, would you?

#heartcheck

photo credit: Martin Gommel cc

The Truth About Change

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I used to hate change but it’s inevitable because God loves us too much to keep us the way we are. 

This sounds really cliche’ but it’s true. God must love me a whole hell of a lot because when I look back on my life 5 years ago, I can’t help but sit in awe of how much His love carried and rescued me. I was the person who would follow the crowd and cater to every sin imaginable. I drank. I smoked. I did a number of things I’m not proud of. I’m not the same person I was then but  now I feel more alone.

Being fully accepted in our new skin is hard because when we’re living our life completely committed to the Lord, people will find any reason to bail.  Friends who promised to be there through everything will leave because people reject what they don’t try to understand – you.

People don’t understand why I’m the way I am or why I think the way I do. Most common ground I found with others in my past were from my own experiences but they were experiences I’m not proud of.  I did things with people to win their love and approval and I desperately wanted to fit in. It was only in the darkest point in my life where God grabbed hold of me and pulled me from my destructive life style and friendships.

Change means we will have to give up our right to happiness.

In the light of real change, nothing in our life that was the source of our happiness will last. This is the hard truth about God’s change in our life and hearts.  Change sucks because in order to experience real and lasting change in our life, we need to surrender whatever in our life we think really make us happy. God has to be the center and source to everything that matters in our life because without Him everything we think matters is meaningless, it’s nothing.

A lot of us spend our life making excuses for the way we are. We recognize areas in our life and character that are flawed but are unwilling to take necessary steps to change them. Change is hard, but excuses are easy. When we recognize our desperate need for God, the desire to change will deepen. God will never let us continue down our destructive paths without pointing us back to His ways first and His way always points to love.

Nothing about change is easy but we have to stop making excuses and start making real and lasting change in our lives. It won’t happen over night and we will fail. I fail daily but I also recognize my need for God in every area of my life. Not in areas where I want to compartmentalize to avoid total surrender. No, every area in our life and hearts need to be wholly surrendered.

This is the truth about change.

Are you living it?

#heartcheck

photo credit: Nanagyeicc

The Sin of Success

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This week I had the privilege of writing over at Jeremy’s blog again. Jeremy has grown as a writer over the past year and very proud of his work. He has been a continuous support to me when I struggled with writing and has become a true blogger friend. You can read more about Jeremy and his life here  and follow him on Twitter here.

The beginning of 2014 marked a milestone in my life and career, I was promoted. A career was never a word in my vocabulary, I had no real plans for a career, only being led where God wanted me. I was conflicted with accepting my promotion. One part of me felt I didn’t deserve it another felt it was owed to me after everything I’ve been through in the past two years both personally and financially. I prayed continuously for a year and half straight for an opened door and opportunity professionally never knowing God was going to provide. Yet, I still felt conviction for accepting it and allowing the success go to my head.

Some blessings birth an attitude of entitlement. An attitude of entitlement leads to pride and pride is sinful.

I could feel the pride in my heart and it completely wrecked me. I needed to take a step back and realize being promoted was less about me and more of what God was purposely doing in my life to display His glory. God wants to see good things happen for His children but not until they’ve been through test and trial and  learn to be faithful with little.

It’s when God’s children learn to be faithful with little when stripped of everything they learn to rely on Him through everything.

Read the rest of this post here.

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