Life-Long Learning

In less than four months I will be graduating with my Bachelor’s degree!

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I am, however, going an extra year to get my teaching license. This is honestly pretty exciting because though I am ready to be done with school, I also really love learning.

Learning isn’t confined to a classroom, though. Nor is it confined to any one period of time in our lives. As we live our lives we are constantly changing and growing. Any and every point in our lives is a great time to learn.

I love to soak up information about the season of life I’m currently in as well as future seasons. I’m not a mom yet, but I hope to be some day. So I do spend time reading articles and books and listening to podcasts that have to do with pregnancy and parenting because someday they will be relevant. I’m not a teacher yet, but I try to learn as much as I can to help me with that season of life. I am also currently a wife and a follower of Jesus, two things that I’m not going to stop being; however, there is always room for growth and development and thus I strive to learn and grow constantly.

We are not done learning when we are finished with school; we aren’t done until we take our last breath. Read books, go to conferences, listen to podcasts, read blogs. Learn. Grow. Change.

With love,

B

Photo credit: unsplash-logoNick Hillier

Heart-Matter

When we invite Jesus to be the Lord of our lives we become free from not only the penalty of our sin but from the Law as well. Though the books of the Law are still important and give us wisdom, we are no longer bound to it. While of course there are things that are simple – I mean, we really shouldn’t be out thieving and murdering – our lives are no longer solely painted in black and white.

This being said, a lot of people don’t live this way. The message of the church often seems to be full of dos and don’ts, cans and cannots. We have freedom in Christ and God has given us free will, but not everything is beneficial to us (1 Corinthians 6:12). The Bible also instructs us to use our freedom wisely (Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 2:16). Freedom in Christ isn’t about legalism, it’s about motive, which took me awhile to understand (Phylicia Masonheimer is very helpful with this topic).

The Bible lays certain things out clearly for us, but other things are vague or not mentioned at all, and what it boils down to is our motive. Is what we’re doing beneficial to me? Is it hurting someone else? Is it hurting my witness to someone else? And perhaps most importantly, why am I doing it? For example, there’s a lot of controversy over whether or not Christians should drink alcohol. Firstly, the Bible does not prohibit drinking alcohol, it prohibits drunkeness. That leaves us each with a choice of whether or not we choose to drink. Are we prone to making irresponsible decisions? Are we drinking because it’s “cool”? Are we drinking as a coping mechanism? By drinking are we encouraging a friend’s alcoholism? What is our motivation?

We have great freedom, but with it comes great responsibility. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be caught up in legalism – in fact, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for that very reason!- but we should exercise our freedom wisely through prayer and self-examination.

With love,

B

Photo credit:unsplash-logoFlo Karr

Just Do It

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

-Chinese proverb

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How often do we find ourselves saying, “I want to do           ” or “Someday I’m going       to           “? If you’re anything like me, the answer is probably “much too often.” What I have realized lately is that if you want to do something, just do it.

You want to learn to paint? Buy supplies. You want to write? Put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). You want to exercise more? Find a gym.

We become obsessed with waiting for the right time to do things, but most of the time, there is no “right time.” Why start tomorrow when there is a perfectly good today? Take the first step, even if the first step is just researching what you want to do and figuring out what supplies or resources you need.

We also let the possibility of failure become a stumbling block to us. One of my professors once wisely said, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing wrong.” What he meant was that if something is really worth your time, it’s worth the knowledge you gain from your mistakes. Every mistake is an opportunity for growth. I dabble in crocheting, and a friend of mine wanted a hat for Christmas. I think I started over on the darn thing about seven times. I was doing something wrong, and it took patience and the willingness to try again to get it right. The finished product, though not perfect, looked a lot better than if I would have just given up and left it a half-done mess.

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If you are wanting to try something new, stop being your own worst enemy. Also, it’s okay to do something simply because you enjoy it and not because you’re going to show it to the world. Who cares if your paintings aren’t masterpieces? If you enjoy doing it, don’t stop! Don’t let the voices of the world or the voices in your head stop you. Just do it.

With love,

B

Photo credit:unsplash-logoChristopher Sardegna

Love Isn’t All Romance and Glass Slippers

I am a huge Disney fan. I love Disney movies, Disney World, Disney in general (my husband and I even have Mickey and Minnie Christmas stockings, and I’m totally wearing my Mickey pajamas while writing this post).

The downfall to Disney is that it distorts our view of love. Have you ever noticed that couples in Disney movies rarely have any conflict? In a lot of the movies you have one person from a high socioeconomic status and the other from a low socioeconomic status (for example, Prince Charming and Cinderella or Jasmine and Aladdin) yet they just seamlessly merge there lives together? Yeah, that is not realistic at all, and it’s not just Disney: the media in general portrays a false version of love. We expect constant passion and spontenaity, but love isn’t all romance and returning glass slippers, it’s a day-by-day, moment-by-moment choice. 

It is so easy for me to just do what I want to do and act how I want to act without taking my husband into consideration, but that’s not how marriage is supposed to work. We’re a team, a partnership, and since the moment I said “I do” my life no longer was about my needs. Love is serving. Love is selflessness. Love is not about you. It’s not always easy to act on, though, is it?

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In the past ten months of being married, I have learned a lot about what it means to love my husband, and I know that over the next several years I will learn so much more, but for now, here are some things I have learned.

Learn how to love your spouse. One of the most helpful pieces of advice we have gotten is to learn each other’s love languages. My number one love language is Acts of Service. The best way to my heart is for him to do something that helps me out and shows that he understands the effort I put into maintaining our home. If I do the same for him, however, it doesn’t have that big of an impact. Knowing how to love our spouses in the ways that they need to be loved is huge – as is periodically reevaluating your love languages because they do change with time and with seasons of life. In addition to this, simply paying attention to how your spouse reacts to certain things will give you a lot of insight into how you can love them better.

Communication really is key. One of the most frustrating things in marriage is the fact that my husband can’t read my mind. That would make everything so much easier, wouldn’t it? Since that is (unfortunately) not the case, we have to intentionally tell our spouses what we are thinking and what we are needing. Not only that, but it’s important to tell our spouses how much we love and appreciate them, because they need to hear that, too.

Never stop trying. There was a reason Never Stop by Safety Suit was the song we danced to at our wedding. Never stop pursuing your spouse. Never stop trying to learn about them and love them better.

What are some ways that you show love to your significant other? Shoot me an email or connect with me on the blog’s Facebook page!

With love,

B

Photo credit:unsplash-logoJorge Martínez

Free Will

From the time humans were created, God has given us free will. Every day we use our free will to make choices on what we do, what we say, how we act, and how we react. Each and every one of those choices have consequences, whether positive or negative. This is a basic concept that people often teach their children as they are growing and learning (For example, if you don’t eat dinner, you can’t have dessert), yet we as adults sometimes have trouble grasping this concept.

We can’t blame God for the consequences of our own actions. If a relationship ends because you do not treat your partner well, that is a result of your own choices. There are things that happen outside of our control, but that is a post for another time. If we are ever going to grow and mature, we have to be willing to accept responsibility for our actions. Not only that, but we have to remember that others are prone to sin, and we have to extend grace to them.

Thinking about it this way makes free will seem like a drag, huh? It’s not. Free will is beautiful: if we didn’t have free will, we would never be able to love genuinely or really live. Yes, there are consequences for choices we make, but not all of them are bad: I choose to pour into my marriage, and as a result it is flourishing. That’s a beautiful consequence!

Free will is a gift, and we should use it wisely because our actions and words have tremendous power.

With love,

B

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Photo credit: Ryan Clements

We Are Meant to be Different

In last week’s post, I talked about how we are to be Christ-like, not necessarily Christian-like. This being said, I think there is a common misconception from both believers and nonbelievers that to be a Christian is to be a carbon copy of every other Christian. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Ephesians 2:10 says: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago” (NLT, emphasis mine). Does every masterpiece look the same? Of course not. So why do we think that we should look exactly the same as our brothers and sisters in Christ? God has given us each different talents, gifts, and passions so of course the way we live out the attributes of Christ are going to come across differently. Some people have a passion for opening their homes and leading Bible studies while others have a passion for working with the homeless while yet others have a passion for traveling as missionaries. Are all of them glorifying God and being Christ-like? Yes.

Additionally, while our core values may be the same, other values we have and the way we express them may look different from other people’s. For example, some parents choose to allow their children to watch television while others do not. Is either of them right? If each is doing what they are convicted about and believe is best for their own family, then they are both right.

For years this was a very difficult concept for me to grasp, but as I’ve grown and matured, I’ve realized it’s okay to look different than those around me. In fact, that is how it should be. There have been times that I have done things simply because it worked for other people, because someone else was convicted about it, or because someone told me to do it. While seeking wisdom from others is certainly important, we need to check this wisdom against Scripture and against our own hearts and then ultimately make the decision for ourselves.

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I love seeing the diversity in believers around me: no one’s life or home looks exactly the same. It is beautiful to see how so many different people can glorify God in so many different ways.

You are not called to look like everyone else, you are simply called to live a life that glorifies God, whatever that looks like for you.

With love,

B

Photo credit: unsplash-logorawpixel.com

Christian-Like

“The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ yet doesn’t keep His commands, is a liar and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him: The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:4-6, HCSB, emphasis mine).

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When Jesus was on Earth, He was the living, breathing embodiment of God. Not only is that mind-blowing, but we are lucky enough to have records of His ministry easily accessible to us. As Christians we are called to model our lives after Christ. Often times, though, I find that we end up trying to model our lives after other Christians. This in and of itself is not a bad thing; Paul even tells those in the church of Corinth to imitate him because he is an imitator of Christ. The problem lies in the fact that other Christians are human and just as prone to sin as we are.

When we are modeling our lives after other people there are a few things we should take into account:

  • Is the behavior we are wanting to imitate consistent with Scripture? If we are looking to another person to try to be Christ-like, we need to make sure that they are behaving in a way that is truly reflective of Christ.
  • Are we idolizing them? If we become obsessed with trying to model our lives after a person or persons, we are essentially worshiping them, making them into an idol. If this is the case, our focus is misguided.
  • Are we looking into Scripture for ourselves? Are we actually studying the Word and trying to understand what it means to be Christ-like, or are we simply letting others do the work while we copy and paste?

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We are created in the image of God (Genesis 1). Within us is the capability and responsibility to reflect Him. Other people can aide us in living in a manner worthy of Christ, but they can not be our only source or our faith will crumble. This is why so many people get “burned” by the church: they think that the actions of other humans are always reflective of the actions of God, which is simply untrue. If our view of God is only through other people, we are going to have a misconception of who God is because humans are imperfect and are bound to mess up, unlike God.

As followers of Christ, we should be encouraging our brothers and sisters and be making disciples. We should also allow ourselves to be encouraged and be discipled. This, however, cannot replace seeking God ourselves; we need to go straight to the Source.

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“Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2 HCSB

Photo credit: unsplash-logoAlexandre Chambon

Satisfied in You

I mentioned last week about my struggles last year that resulted in me taking antidepressants. Though they improved my symptoms, I still struggled greatly for awhile. I would lie in bed at night plagued by negative thoughts. I felt angry and bitter and guilt and upset over feeling angry and bitter. It was a vicious cycle. One night sometime after I went to the doctor, I was lying in bed unable to sleep. I turned on Spotify and listened to the discover weekly playlist that had been compiled for me based on songs I had listened to. I was lying there not paying much attention to the music until one song came on.  Satisfied in You (Psalm 42) by The Sing Team struck me in ways I had never expected; I had never heard the song before. The lyrics shook me to the core:

I have lost my appetite
And a flood is welling up behind my eyes
So I eat the tears I cry
And if that were not enough
They know just the words to cut and tear and prod
When they ask me “Whereʼs your God?”

Why are you downcast, oh my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
I can remember when You showed Your face to me

As a deer pants for water, so my soul thirsts for You
And when I survey Your splendor, You so faithfully renew
Like a bed of rest for my fainting flesh

When Iʼm looking at the ground
Itʼs an inbred feedback loop that drags me down
So itʼs time to lift my brow
And remember better days
When I loved to worship You and learn Your ways
Singing sweetest songs of praise

Let my sighs give way to songs that sing about Your faithfulness
Let my pain reveal Your glory as my only real rest
Let my losses show me all I truly have is You

So when Iʼm drowning out at sea
And all Your breakers and Your waves crash down on me
Iʼll recall your safety scheme
Youʼre the one who made the waves
And Your Son went out to suffer in my place
And to show me that Iʼm safe

Why am I down?
Why so disturbed?
I am satisfied in You

From the first line, I was hooked. I listened to the cries of a broken soul. I listened to the hope that the broken soul found. I listened as I sighed and traded sorrow for peace.

•••

I still struggled. I still had bad nights. But I would listen to that song. I would read Psalm 42. It became my lifeline. I would ask myself the same question that psalmist did: “Why are you downcast, oh my soul?” God had been so faithful to me. These trials weren’t going to last forever. I stopped trying so hard. I stopped torturing myself with feelings of guilt. I simply gave in to the peace the Father was offering. I became satisfied in Him. Again and again.

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To this day that song makes me think about the first time I heard it, the night that it was a life raft for me. Ironically, with this post already being planned for this week, a few weeks ago our pastor spoke on Psalm 42. I again sat and reflected on God’s faithfulness. How I came out of that trial with more empathy and more hope than ever before.

When feelings from before try to creep their way back into my life, I remember the night that I said “no” to my downcast, disturbed soul, the night that I “lifted my brows and remembered better days,” the night that I allowed myself to become satisfied in Him and filled with His peace.

•••

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42:5

Photo Credit: Gary Bendig

Ten Seconds

I saw a post on Facebook a few days ago that said this:

Imagine this: If you had $86,400 in your account and someone stole $10 from you, would you be upset and throw all of the remaining $86,390 away in hopes of getting back at the person who took your $10? Or move on and live? Right, move on and live. See, we all have 86,400 seconds each day. Don’t let someone’s negative 10 seconds ruin the remaining 86,390. Don’t sweat the small stuff, life is bigger than that.

Ironically, I had been thinking about the same idea all week, but in a different way.

I can be quite critical of myself. If something embarrasses me or I think that I’ve done something wrong at work, for example, I have a tendency to hold onto the moment. Honestly, I am in no way effective in a situation if I’m strung up on something that happened ten minutes or four hours ago.

I do the same thing in social situations. I’m a sensitive person. I feel everything so deeply that when someone says something to me, I grab hold of it and take it as truth. I take things the wrong way or turn a small comment into a huge ordeal in my mind and then shut down. This makes social gatherings a source of anxiety for me a lot of the time. Sometimes I shut down before I get there in anticipation of something happening. And you know what? It’s not working for me anymore.

I have seriously got to learn to let things go. Like the post said, is ten seconds worth sacrificing the rest of my day? No, it’s really not. Whether it’s a mistake I make or a comment from someone else, it is not worth me shutting down. The truth is, they don’t shut me down, I shut myself down. I make a choice.

I’m ready to make a different choice.

The choice to let things go.

The choice to learn from mistakes and move on.

The choice to live in the moment.

Are you going to let ten seconds dictate the rest of your day?

More than a Physical Act: A Story of Grace

Luke Holter in his book Filthy Fisherman says, “Nearly every Christian I know has an amazing story of God’s grace and redemption. None of us are above His grace; we all badly need it. Once we have been redeemed, our job is to tell that story of redemption” (Emphasis added). And here, in the final post of the marriage series, I’m going to tell you some of my story.

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I often think of how my husband and I are going to approach the topic of sex with our children someday, because our story is a story of grace and healing. My relationship history includes manipulation and abuse (you can read more about that in Toxic) as well as me going along and making my own mistakes. Sex and it’s counterparts were just things on a “Don’t” list for me. I didn’t understand what the harm really was. I mean, I knew God created sex to be in the context of marriage, but I didn’t understand why.

Needless to say, I had trouble with staying away from things on that list. I didn’t understand the emotional bondage that came along with physical acts. Though I didn’t have sex until my wedding night, I had given a lot of myself away prior to meeting my husband, and the breakup that followed devastated me.

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My heart breaks when I see others go through things like this. It breaks my heart when people believe society’s lies that sex is casual. It breaks my heart when people weaponize sex. It breaks my heart to see the aftermath of breakups when too much was given. What breaks my heart more is when I see people looking down their noses, thinking that others are undeserving of grace – as if that’s our call to make. Christ came to redeem all of us, not just those whose sins we deem are worthy of being saved from. It reminds me of the story of the adulterous woman in John 8:

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn He appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus didn’t tell her that her actions were okay, but He didn’t condemn her either. This is the kind of scandalous love and grace we are called to give if we call ourselves followers of Christ. We are called to love people with the truth, but we are not called to condemn them. I can’t tell you how much it hurt when I heard people shaming those caught up in sexual sin while I sat there with my dirty little secret holding back tears and shame.

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When my husband and I have kids, I want to be honest with them – about the truth of what sex is and also about my mistakes. I want them to know that sexuality is not a bad thing. I want them to know that God designed marriage and He designed sex as a part of that. It is the ultimate display of intimacy and vulnerability – it is becoming “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). It is so much more than a physical act. 

I want our kids to grow up knowing that they can ask questions and that they can talk to us freely. I also want my kids to know that we love them unconditionally. I pray that our children will hold tight to the truth and that they will protect their hearts. I pray they will not go through the heartbreak that so many others and myself have gone through. But if my child comes home one day, crying because she made a mistake, you can bet I will be right there crying with her, not because her actions are excused, but because I have been there and because God didn’t turn me away. How could I look at her with shame and condemnation? How could I spit in the name of grace?

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While others looked at me with shame and condemnation, God looked at me with love and grace. I know that He grieved over my choices and He rejoiced when I repented. And I know that I am thankful for the grace that was lavished on me while I was undeserving. I know that while the decisions I may have made were not wise, I experienced God’s grace and love all the more, and I can’t help but extend it to others.

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To those of you misguided by society’s portrayal of what sex should be, it’s not true. It is so much more than the cheap version being sold.

To those of you who have a warped view of sex because of what others have done to you, this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. This isn’t all there is. There is hope and there is healing.

To those of you who are critical of those caught up in sexual sin, remember grace. Don’t let your hearts be hardened.

To those of you caught up in mistakes you have made, I’m crying with you. It’s not over. Grace is so much bigger than any mistake you will ever make.

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Photo Credit: Bekah Russom