Work With All Your Heart

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23

Since I started working when I was 16 I have always tried to keep this piece of Scripture close to my heart. In fact, before my husband and I even dated we often reminded each other of this verse when one of us was having a difficult time at work.
As I have gotten older, however, I’ve realized how truly powerful this piece of Scripture really is. The verse says that whatever we do, we are to do it with all of heart.
If we truly do the work that comes into our lives as if we are doing it for the Lord, or when we simply realize that what we are doing is a way of serving the Lord, it changes our perspective.
I hate doing laundry. With a passion. And vacuuming. And doing the dishes. Really, I hate most forms of housework. But when I stop and remember that doing these things better helps my family function better and better helps me be hospitable to guests in our home (we love to have people over), I do it with cheer (Note: I am not a house-cleaning guru. I would be a complete liar if I said that our apartment was not a total wreck during my first trimester of pregnancy. I would also be a complete liar if I said I held this attitude all the time).
The real difference comes when I’m not making it about me. Sure, it’s nice when our place looks nice – it makes me feel good – but it’s not nearly as motivating to me as knowing that I am serving my family, God, and others.
Whatever you do, whether it be raising your children, working in your job, cleaning your house, going to school, do it for the Lord. Your stocking job at the grocery store may not feel a job in which you serve the Lord, but the attitude you have speaks volumes. Everywhere is a mission field.
Go forth and do whatever you do with all your heart, and remember to give yourself grace because we are never going to have it all together all of the time.
With love,
B

Photo credit: unsplash-logoBen Kolde

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I Don’t Need to be Right

At this point my husband and I have been married for five months, and as of this week, we’ve been together for two years!

yay.humility.blog

Our relationship has had its ups and downs as all relationships do, and we’ve matured so much since the beginning of our relationship. Where we are now is so much more beautiful than I could have dreamed – getting here has been a lot harder than I thought it would have been, too. You always hear that marriage is harder than you think it will be, and I believe that that is absolutely true (I also believe it can be more wonderful than you ever thought, too). The hardest thing in our relationship for me – other than getting over fears resulting from past relationships (more about that in Toxic) – has been dealing with my pride.

Humility can be an issue in a relationship at any point, but you don’t realize how prideful you can really be until you share everything with someone: bank accounts, food, a bathroom. All of a sudden you realize how much you like things to be done your way and your way only. You realize how much you truly value your own opinion. You may also realize how dangerous this is to your marriage.

I think Francis Chan says it well in You and Me Forever:

“[Jesus’] humility is the key to a healthy marriage. If two people make it their goal to imitate the humility of Christ, everything else will take care of itself. It really is that simple. Arguments escalate when we want to be right more than we want to be Christ. […] You must determine your goal. What matters most: winning arguments or resembling Christ?” (Emphasis added).

It is easy to argue that you’re right and not so easy to stop and listen to someone else’s opinion. It is easy to to want things to be convenient and in our own best interest, but not so easy to take into consideration someone else’s thoughts and feelings. It is easy to be selfish, but not so easy to be selfless. But who said life was going to be easy?

It doesn’t help that we live in a world that preaches self-preservation, a message that is quite contradictory to the Gospel and the teachings about servant-hood that come from the Ultimate Servant. It can be so easy to slip into self-preservation mode, trying to protect my way of doing things or to slip into the “wife is always right” way of thinking and discount my husband’s opinion. But I don’t want to be that kind of person. I want to listen to my husband’s side of the story and see things through his eyes. I want to listen to his opinions, thoughts, dreams, and ideas even if they don’t mesh perfectly with mine. I want to put his needs before my own. I want to love him selflessly. I want him to see a mirror of our Savior’s love when he sees how I love him.  I don’t need to be right all the time.

And you know what? It’s hard, yet I have hope. I have hope because Scripture says we are not obligated to live according to the flesh (Romans 8:12). I am a new Creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). I now walk by the Spirit, and the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:6). The stronger my relationship with Christ becomes, the more I have the mindset of the Spirit and the more I look like Christ.

I deeply desire Christ-likeness in all aspects of my life, and I love seeing the fruit of my relationship with Him in my marriage. I want to shower my husband with the love of his Savior rather than telling him how little he matters to me when I act in prideful ways (because if we’re honest that is what pride does).

I am far from perfect – my husband sure knows that – but I desire to cultivate an environment of humility in my marriage. Every time I choose to listen instead of interrupt, every time I choose not to say hurtful things out of spite, every time I choose to build him up instead of myself, these are victories. They are strengthening my marriage. They are acts of love.

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Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13 4-7

Photo Credit:  Ben White

Battling Laziness

When my husband and I first got married, we had a pretty good routine going. We were eating healthy, meal planning, going to the gym, and we had a cleaning schedule for our apartment. A few months later, though, a series of unfortunate events happened that threw us off track and we never really recovered. What started out as actual reasons to neglect housework and whatnot, eventually just turned to laziness. After awhile, we decided something needed to change; this laziness wasn’t good for us in more than one way. Physically, we did not feel very well because we were not eating well and we were no longer exercising. Our apartment was also taking a toll as was our spiritual lives. I was no longer carving out time to spend with God, I was giving Him whatever time I had left over – if any.

Scripture is dense when it comes to the topic of laziness (seriously, if you don’t believe me, Google it); it’s even one of the 7 Deadly Sins! As I said, we decided that we needed to battle the laziness that was taking over our lives, and we decided to do it as a team. We knew that individually we didn’t stand a chance, but sometimes being a team is hard. It can be hard to encourage one another about something like this without it coming across as nagging. It’s hard to motivate someone else when you don’t want to motivate yourself to do the same thing.

Despite these things, we decided to give it a shot. Making lifestyle changes doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a process that requires steps – and you have to remember that even baby steps are steps. So that is what we started doing – and are still doing – implementing baby steps to get our lives back on track to where we’d like them to be. We’re trying to avoid eating out when we can and to start meal planning again. We’ve started tag-teaming the housework.

A huge part of combatting laziness is effective time management. I’ve started using the planning app Cozi (it is AMAZING, check it out!) again. I have also created a quiet time basket full of everything I could possibly need during quiet time (Bible, highliter, pens,  Bible commentary, journals, lotion in case my hand get dry, etc). We are trying to work on getting up earlier so we can eat a good breakfast and have quiet time, but this has been our most difficult obstacle so far. I also use my 45 minute commute to sometimes listen to podcasts (my current favorites are the Read Scripture Podcast Series by Francis Chan and the Uniquely Woman podcast) – I can make the choice to wake up late and not have time for things, but I can’t make the choice to not drive all the way to work. Other times I listen to worship music, and, of course, other times I just have jam sessions.

Our current goal is to start going to the gym again. As I said, life change is made through baby steps and each baby step, no matter how small, is a victory that should be celebrated. Whether it’s laziness or some other obstacle that you are pushing to overcome, just remember that each day is a new day and a new chance – heck, each hour is a new chance – and to celebrate the victories along the way.

1 Samuel 7

I sat down a few minutes ago to read my Bible and spend some time with God. I’m currently reading John and 1 Samuel, alternating days. Today was a 1 Samuel day and I sat down maybe not quite as excited as I should have been. Typically I find myself “getting more” from New Testament books, such as Ephesians or James. Recently, though, I’ve been praying that God reveal Himself to me throughout all of His Word. So I sat down, and by verse 3, God was pounding on my heart.

Samuel told them, If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, get rid of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths (a Canaanite goddess) that are among you, dedicate yourselves to the Lord, and worship only Him. Then He will rescue you from the hand of the Philistines.

Verse 2 says that the whole house of Israel began to seek the Lord, and Samuel’s response was that they had a few things to do!

They needed to:

  1. Get rid of the foreign gods
  2. Dedicate themselves to the Lord
  3. Worship the Lord only

Verse 4 says that they did just that.

A few verses down the Israelites find themselves under threat of the Philistines, so they cried out to Samuel to cry out to God on their behalf. He did, and the Lord answered. After the Philistines fled, Samuel set up a stone, naming it Ebenezer (Stone of Help).

After I finished reading and taking notes, I was rolling this passage around in my head. Samuel had basically told the Israelites to

  1. Remove the things from their lives that were coming between them and God
  2. Set themselves apart for God’s use
  3. Make the Lord their first priority

Then, when there were no things competing for the space between the Israelites and God, He answered Samuel’s prayer. I sat there thinking, “Man, this is good stuff! I need to blog about this!” I then sat at the computer and typed the first few words and thought, “Wait. What is between God and I right now? I can’t sit down and talk about how wonderful and applicable this piece of Scripture is whilst ignoring it in my own life.”

So I did some self-exploration and asked God what my “gods” were; what had I been putting before Him lately, because I knew that I was not where I needed to be. I got three phrases: sleep, laziness, and people-pleasing.

Sleep, I got. I often choose to sleep in, thus forcing something to be at the sidelines – and they tell me I’m not supposed to wear pajamas to school so spending time with God often gets neglected.

Laziness. I got that one too. I don’t know why it often seems like so much work to read my Bible or pray when scrolling through Facebook is all too easy.

People-pleasing. This one took me a minute. It’s not like I’m selling drugs to please people; however, I do tend to strive to make everyone happy all the time. I cannot stand when people are upset or mad at me – or if I even think they are. So I often find myself saying “yes” to things when I’m running myself ragged. I haven’t been resting in God at all recently if I’m to be honest. I people-please and then I stress myself out to the point of exhaustion and tears.

Now, the Israelites did what Samuel told them to do, but we know the Israelites have a track record for resorting back to their own ways. We are no different. I know that if I don’t continually work at my relationship with God, if I don’t continually take my gods off the shelf, I’ll be right back where I was. This blog post is essentially my Ebenezer, a stone of remembrance for taking my gods off the shelf today and to remember to keep them that way.

 

With Both Hands

I was lying in bed last night and got to thinking and praying, and I felt my heart breaking a little bit. The past few weeks I’ve made excuse after excuse as to why I’ve only had a few minutes to read Scripture or pray (but plenty of time to do everything else) and I’ve felt the distance between myself and God growing and growing. It’s as if I thought that because I had encountered God in a very intimate way a few weeks ago, that that would keep the intimacy between me and my Father. What I failed to realize is that by failing to spend intimate, quality time with Him, I was doing anything but keeping the intimacy. It was as if I knew that there was distance between God and myself, and I knew the solution, but I just didn’t do anything about it. I had the head knowledge that this isn’t how it works, but I didn’t let it affect me. And like I said, this realization broke my heart.

After a few minutes, however, my laments turned to praise because I knew that God was patiently waiting for me with open arms. Lamentations 3:23 says it best:

Great is His faithfulness;
    His mercies begin afresh each morning.

While I was faithless, He was faithful. And His mercy was waiting for me to grasp onto it. I am not going to feel guilty or shameful for the past few weeks, I am going to hold onto mercy with both hands. As soon as I admitted, to myself really, that I had been neglecting my relationship with God and expecting to get by just fine, it was as if the deepest part of my being just cried out to God. A cry of praise, of homecoming. I turned my head from the distractions of the world and looked at my Father once again.

This post is a bit of rambling, I know. But I had to share my encounter with God and His mercy, because it shook me to my core. He is so good, friends, so good.

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Photo Credit: Jeremy Yap

Your Journey

Our journeys as followers of Christ look similar – or should – in some ways. We should be living a life that shines the Light of Christ into the dark, our love for people should imitate the love that Christ has, and so on. But what God has revealed to me lately is that our specific journeys look quite different from one another – and that’s okay. One of the things that will never cease to amaze me about our God is how personal He is. He gives us different gifts so that as one Body of Christ we can function, every seperate piece different, but needed. The way we have quiet time with Him may look different. Our journeys with Christ are different because we are different. Christianity is not a cookie cutter faith. God has a plan, a mission, for each of us, and they aren’t all the same. Some are called to go overseas and spread the Gospel, some are called to spread the Gospel in their home town, at the job that they work. Some are called to lead a church, some are called to lead their family.

Aside from the bigger things, the small details of our journeys are different. What is wise for me may be unwise for you, and vice versa. The Spirit knows what I struggle with and warns me in certain situations and I become aware that it would be unwise for me to make a certain decision. While for you, on the other hand, it would be no problem.

Don’t expect your life as a follower of Christ to mirror the lives of other believers. There should definitely be some foundational similarities, but past that, they may be quite different. God speaks to each of us in a different way, He is a personal God. Stop looking for Him to reveal Himself to you the way He did to someone you know, open your heart and allow Him to speak to you in the way that you need Him to. Ask the Spirit to guide you in the decisions you make, His counsel is above all others’. Desire an intimate, personal relationship with God, and trust Him on the journey, your journey. 

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Photo Credit: Aneta Ivanova

Lessons from Camp (Week One)

I just spent five days and four nights with seven children between the ages of two and eight (and head back Monday for round two!) during our church’s high school camp (we watch the leaders’ children) and amidst the chaos, God showed me a lot.

1.) Quiet time is essential. Which can become quite difficult when there are seven children running around from seven a.m. until nine p.m.. By the time Genelle, Chloe, and I got the kids to bed, comprehending anything was practically impossible. We were giggly and confused and couldn’t get to bed fast enough. Anyway, the first three days I actually managed to have quiet time twice a day whereas the last two I was lucky to get in one session (the kids were getting quite tired and grumpy). Looking back, the difference I can see in myself on those days when I spent a lot of time with God and the days when I didn’t is pretty astounding. The first few days it seemed I had an abundance of patience, gentleness, kindness. As the week went on and I didn’t spend as much time with God, I became less patient, less gentle, and less kind. I had been telling the kids they needed to stop being so grumpy when I myself was just as grumpy. I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth.

2.) If you’re working with children, you have to look at thing’s from a child’s perspective. Children do not see things the way we do. We may not think that spilling a box of crayons is a big deal, but to a three year old, it can seem devastating.

3.) Encouraging and rewarding good behavior goes a long way. “Can you clean up your mess? You’re such a big boy! You did a great job, thank you so much for cleaning up!” goes a lot further than “Seriously? You need to clean that up right now!” Children are fragile and gentle and their self-esteem and self-worth are easily damaged, our words can impact them for the better or the worse.

I’m sure there are other things I wanted to say, but I’m exhausted and I have to go teach my fiance how to do laundry. Talk to you later people! And please be praying for us as we get to love on these wonderful children for another week, and for their parents as they love on the middle schoolers, and for the teens. God will do big things.

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Photo Credit: Jose Ibarra

Do Not Be Afraid

God has recently called me to something bigger than myself, something that scares me. I was writing in my journal last night right before bed and I wrote that I’m scared, but it’s okay because that fear is causing me to rely on God. First thing this morning I began the book of Jeremiah and I got to a passage that stopped me in my tracks.

“The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’

‘Alas, Sovereign Lord, ‘ I said, I do not know how to speak; I am too young.’

But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord. Then the Lord reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put My words in your mouth.'”

Jeremiah 1:4-9

God has not called me, or you for that matter, to be afraid. He has called us to have courage in what He calls us to do, holding fast to the knowledge that He is going before us and He will equip us.

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Photo Credit: Connor McSheffrey

One Year Of Words Sweeter Than Honey!

I can’t believe it’s my blog’s birthday (This is also my 50th post)! July 10, 2015 I finally decided to follow that little dream of mine of starting a blog. My blog may not be one that everyone has heard about, and that’s perfectly okay. As long as God has used it to touch at least one heart, to have someone open their heart to God a little more, to find Him amidst the darkness, to encourage someone, to brighten someone’s day, that’s what matters to me. Throughout this process of blogging, one verse of Scripture has been close to my heart. Zechariah 4:10 says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand[…]” Though the context is a bit different, the message is the same: a small beginning is still a beginning. In other words, you have to start somewhere. I don’t care if this little blog I started one year ago today never gets to be well known. As long as it’s helping and furthering the kingdom, I am satisfied, and I will write until God tells me otherwise. Thank you all of you lovely people who have been on this journey with me so far, encouraging me, loving me, reading the blog of a girl who had a dream. God bless.

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Photo Credit: Annie Spratt

Health{ier} Living

I turn twenty in 72 days (what?! how is that possible?!) Since I started college nearly two years ago (again, what?!), I’ve grown up quite a bit. I work, I pay bills, I’m planning my wedding (again, I strongly emphasize WHAT?!), I make my own choices. I’m an adult and I have to make my own choices now. I have to be responsible with my money, my time, my life.

Now, this post is not about how I’m aiming to become a size x or how I want to only eat x amount of calories a day. This post is about making choices and how I’ve decided to aim for a healthier lifestyle all around.

First off, I joined a gym. Me. Yeah, I’m surprised too. But I figured I’m more motivated to use something if it’s taking money out of my bank account every month. So I’ve started going to the gym. I hop on the elliptical and watch Netflix for 30-45 minutes. It’s not so bad. I’ve also started watching what I’m eating. Notice I didn’t say calorie counting or eliminating carbs or whatever. Those things are fine, I’ve just decided to be more conscious about what I eat, choosing almonds over chips, water over soda.

Aside from the changes in my physical lifestyle, I’ve changed other aspects of my life, too. I’ve started watching what thoughts I let enter my head. I have a problem with blaming myself for things that aren’t my fault, with anger, with depression. So, when I have thoughts that are critical or negative or hurtful towards myself or others I stop them in their tracks; I choose to think differently. It was a difficult thing to do at first, I mean, I thought, how do I stop myself from thinking? But it starts with paying attention to what you think about and when something raises a red flag, don’t entertain it. Put an end to it then and there.

Additionally, a change I’ve made is starting and ending my day well. I start with a healthy breakfast – if I wake up in time to make one (I’m still struggling with waking up on time… 🙂 ) and I read my Bible. I will sacrifice doing my hair and makeup as long as I have time to read my Bible; if I don’t start my day in Scripture, it shows. I listen to worship on the way to work and I’m always looking for new songs so that they aren’t just becoming routine, but I can genuinely worship. I end my day, even if I don’t get home until midnight, with reading my Bible. I also journal at night. There’s a pretty famous quote by Flannery O’Connor that says, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I have to say.” It is so true. If I’m dealing with a particularly stressful issue, I write about it, and I can vent and be honest and a lot of times that’s where God reveals something to me or just brings me comfort. Sometimes I just write about my day, even if it was just an ordinary day; it gives me time to reflect.

So I haven’t set outrageous goals. I just want to be a healthier me. God didn’t create us to live miserable lives that are weighed down by an unhealthy physical or mental state. When you’re healthy physically, you feel better. When you’re healthy mentally, you feel better. The two go hand-in-hand. Since I’m nearly twenty and am adulting, with the freedom to make my own decisions, I’m doing my best to live at least a little bit of a healthier lifestyle.

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Photo Credit: Autumn Goodman