Raise your hand if you love all things pumpkin spice! If you raised your hand then we are meant to be friends haha. I love the smell of fall and the transitioning to cute cardigans and cute booties. Fall is my favorite season hands down. There are also days where everything seems to be falling into place. It’s the days where it’s as if you know without a shadow of a doubt that God sees you because you can feel His favor. The kind of favor that feels like the toes in the sand pictures, the mountain top selfies or the dinner with all your best friends. I have begun to see that it’s in those seasons that a greater need begins to stir in us for God. Because the reality is that seasons of drought, doubt and frustration always find us. Good seasons aren’t always consistent and good days fade but friend God never stops being good no matter how we feel.
In our minds we build up expectations that consist of everything that we don’t have or everything that’s wrong with our current season. We begin to doubt God and then we begin to distance ourselves from the very thing He has called us to do. If the enemy can get you to doubt one thing he knows getting you to doubt two things will be a piece of cake. The truth about who we think we are dictates our every step and how we walk in the dreams we desire to come true. We talk about our passions, we think about them, we read about things related to them but never move beyond the thought.
In Acts, Paul is working (tent maker) and sharing the gospel. His drive to move the kingdom forward blows me away. As I came across this verse in chapter 18 it reminded me of two beautiful truths that I want to share with you.
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking do not be silent. For I am with you and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
It says “keep on speaking” this to me must have come at a time where Paul is working all week long tired and living in a house with a family that he didn’t know very well and yet on the weekends he gave it all he had trying to win people to Jesus. Was he discouraged? Maybe ready to give up? How many times have you been in this spot where you needed just a little extra nudge from God to keep going.
Secondly, it says He stayed for a year and a half longer teaching them the word of God. That’s a lot of days. I look at seasons where just two weeks into something I’m exhausted and ready to throw in the towel all in the name of Jesus. What I am realizing is that length of a season literally has nothing to do with my obedience but everything to do with my disobedience. When we serve God out of duty then any length will quickly turn to bitterness and frustration and in the end we can miss the presence of God. When we choose to serve out of our love for Him above all else peace and freedom flow, and we see Him clearly and are satisfied.
This season, I am in is one of the hardest I have ever had to endure. My insecurities are at an all time high; I am doubting my every move, and the things I am fervently praying for I see no movement. I feel like I have been on a constant roller coaster. I always laugh at kids when they want to ride a roller coaster and yet they cry through the entire ride and yet hours later they are ready to endure it again. I believe it’s because they know what to expect the second time around. There is so much truth in that. We have been called and chosen to share the gospel daily and yet we also know the enemy’s one job is to derail us over and over and over again. God’s word reminds us and yet I forget often. I woke up this past week and walked outside around my backyard never saying a word, while tears flowed down my face. I looked up and said “God I have nothing to say, can you just look at my heart and read my thoughts?”. The beautiful thing is that God knows my defeating thoughts and yet stays with me.
The emotional roller coaster days and the days where everything is “pumpkin spice” right I have to be able to praise Him no matter what.
I have to listen for His sweet voice to whisper on some days and on other days I can feel his army of angels shouting to keep going! Keep loving! Keep speaking! Keep trying! Keep praying! Keep honoring! Keep reaching!
Your season is not defining your future instead it is setting you up to lean in and lean on the only One who can carry you into the next season victoriously. What season is He calling you deeper into?
Lets respond with our arms high and our heart abandoned as we relinquish anything that has self as the center.
Isaiah 6:8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord saying; “whom shall I send and who will go for us? ” Then I said “HERE I AM SEND ME.”
Why I Bring My Girls to Waves Girls Conference...
I have been the youth pastor at Forest Park UMC, in Panama City, FL, for four years now. This has been my first full time position, and the first time I have been the director of a youth ministry. There is definitely a learning curve when you first start out; finding out how to best communicate with students and parents, how to navigate a new church leadership structure, what do you do during office hours, etc. I think I adapted to a lot of it fairly well, and pretty quickly.
Then, I ran into a question I had never given much thought to: How do I best minister to Middle and High School girls?
This wasn’t a big deal at first, but somewhere in my second year I looked around and realized, well over half of our crew were all Middle School girls! Suddenly it became even more important to find ways to connect with my girls.
Well, I learned early in my life, often the smartest thing to do is find out what others do, or have done, and borrow from them. A friend who also worked in youth ministry told me about the Waves Conference. I was intrigued, and had nothing to lose from simply trying it; so, I started advertising it to my group.
That first year, going to Waves almost didn’t happen though. I was only able to convince three girls that they should give it a try. I figured that if they enjoyed it, they would be able to help convince others to go in following years. The only problem was, I didn’t have a single female chaperone! I was asking everyone I could think of, just trying to get someone who was able to be there. I was able to get a college student to commit to come back for the weekend in order to help make sure our girls could go, but I still needed at least one other female adult to go too. Eventually, our women’s director gave me the number for someone who knew that we were at our “make it or break it” point for being able to go. I called her up and ask if she could simply make herself available to go with our girls so that they did not miss out on this opportunity. After much prayer and hesitation, she said yes.
Her and the girls had a great time, and enjoyed the experience enough that, about a month or so after the conference, the girls approached me about wanting to start a girl’s Bible study; and they knew exactly who they wanted to lead it!
In the following years, I have been able to not only recruit more girls to go, but new adult leaders too. Each year so far, I have had at least one chaperone who has never served in youth ministry before, but by the end of the weekend, end up falling in love with our girls, and wanting to do more with them.
Every year my girls are impressed with the teaching, and excited for worship. As a youth pastor, I could not hope for more from an event, they passionately participate in worship and eagerly soak up the teaching; but I have to say, the relationship building has been, by far, the most rewarding outcome from the conference. Whether it is my High Schoolers trying to reach out to the Middle Schoolers, or how they begin to include and reach out to new girls, or to the women who help chaperone.
I started out this article by bringing up a question that came up in my ministry: How do I best minister to Middle and High School girls?
I believe that the answer is the same for all those we minister to; it’s all about relationships. As a twenty-something male youth pastor, I will never fully understand my girls. What I can do is show them that I care by creating opportunities for them to be poured into them, for them to have fun, and build their friendships. I love being able to introduce my girls to Godly women from our church whom they do not often interact with naturally; and giving them an environment that helps them foster intergenerational friendships that lead to deeper connections. Hearing the women comment, too, on how much they enjoy the conference, and how they treasure getting to know some of our youth; Waves has quickly become one of the most impactful events that our church participates in each year.
To Influence = The power to change, encourage, or make a difference without force.
There are voices that are all around us everyday and everywhere. People’s voices, the enemy’s voice, God’s voice , but there is one voice that if we are not careful it will begin to trump all other voices in our lives. That voice is OUR OWN VOICE, and it can have a great deal of power and influence in our lives if we do not know how to steer it in the right direction.
In fact, you don’t have to wait for someone to walk up to you and tell you, that you have the power to influence others in the world in which you travel in every day. Or at least you shouldn’t have to have someone tell you. Truth be told, each of us carry something that is unique, and that is the power of our voices. We all have different ways we speak and communicate. Some of us talk high pitched, others of us with a deep voice, some are more direct when they speak, and some are shy and slower to speak. Nonetheless, we all have our OWN VOICE that God has given us.
Each of us have a voice that we carry wherever we go. Wherever we go we don’t go to those places alone. I mean most girls and women travel in packs, right? Like to the bathroom, if one goes, we all gotta go!
What I mean with that statement above, “wherever we go we don’t go to those places alone” is did you know that the voice of our mind goes with us everywhere?
Statistics on the internet say that the average person has more than sixty thousand thoughts per day, and over 80 percent of these thoughts are negative about themselves and situations we face. That is crazy when you think about it. Now we know that when it comes to us navigating decisions in our own lives no matter what age we are that we should want to make wise choices. But we don’t always do that, right?
The Bible (God’s word) reminds us that we have an enemy. That enemy is the evil one, the deceiver, the liar, the devil who has one mission in mind for our lives, and it is found in John 10:10 that he is a thief that comes to steal, to kill, and destroy us. In fact the word of God in John 8:44 goes on to say that the enemy is the father of lies, and when he speaks it is in a native tongue. The enemy gets into our minds and begins to voice loudly his opinions of us, which causes us to lean towards his direction and not God’s direction for our lives. It is easy for us to blame others, and even blame the devil when things don’t go our way in our lives or when we think wrongly. The real issue that needs to be confronted is the condition of our hearts and minds.
Here’s a quote, “When lies are not confronted, callings are not fulfilled.”
In Romans 7:23 the apostle Paul is expressing something that is at work within him, waging war against his mind (his own thoughts and voice) and making him a prisoner. In our lives we have to address the LIES that have us bound and begin to live and walk in the truth of who God has made us to be.
“You will know the Truth and it will set you free.” says John 8:32.
True freedom in our lives starts with God’s word filling our hearts which will carry over into our minds. But this is an ongoing DAILY process.That is why God’s word tells us to, “renew our minds with the Word of God.” in Romans 12:2.
I know I’m giving you a lot of scripture, but that is where freedom takes place in our minds and hearts!
So how do we do that? I am so glad you asked!
See I have found that TRUE FREEDOM in my mind requires ME TO DO TWO THINGS:
1. MAKE THE CHOICE
There is no question that God wants you and I to live a free life, but He respects our free will enough to allow us to choose that freedom for ourselves.
We shouldn’t answer a thought with another thought, but with our mouths using our voice!
2. MAKE THE CHANGE
QUOTE : “Making a change in one’s life is like having an INTERVENTION and that is when ACTION IS TAKEN TO IMPROVE A SITUATION.”
I love the quote by Steven Furtick : “The voice you believe will determine the future you experience.”
You got this!
Hi! I’m Hosanna Kummer, a senior in high school, and I live in the beautiful, sunny state of California. I love to dance, I hike often, and I thrive off of good, late-night conversations. And I can consume a lot of dark chocolate.
But if there’s one thing that has absolutely changed my life (yes, even more than chocolate!) and brought me closer to the Lord, it would be learning to live with a heart of gratitude. Gratitude & thankfulness are what I would call keys to living your fullest life & to your fullest potential. Good news, right?
But why is this so important?
Have you ever had that moment where you are almost overflowing with happiness or thankfulness? Perhaps you just got a promotion or a good grade on a test or had a good laugh. It feels like you’re going to burst (and not just because it’s Thanksgiving dinner and you should have worn leggings...)!
In Psalm 100:4, we are commanded to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.
Essentially, David (the psalmist) is encouraging us to approach the Lord with a heart brimming with gratitude, which then gives way to praise. It’s the same overflowing, hard-to-contain feeling. Even the next verse in Psalm 100 is that overflow of praise, “For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.”
I have found in my own life that the easiest way for me to worship the Lord is to start with thanking Him. I can’t HELP but want to praise because I’m so overwhelmed with what He’s done and what He has said! Whether it’s at church or in your bedroom, there’s always room for gratitude. There’s always room for standing in awe of our Father who radically loves us.
In addition to praising the Lord, being thankful eradicates hopelessness, destroys sadness, and disarms discouragement. The Bible talks a lot about the act of renewing your mind, and in Romans 12:2 Paul urges the church to be transformed by the renewal of their mind. That phrase can also be translated as being “inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think!” (The Passion Translation)
By shifting our focus from the world to Heaven’s perspective, we begin to see how He sees. And God is never worried — He’s never concerned about how things are going to work out. He’s not stressed about where you are right now, and He’s definitely not discouraged. Me being thankful gives me a chance to renew my mind and get a new perspective — and gives room for God’s hope, joy, and courage to rule over anything else. And when I thank God for who He is, I begin to see Him for who He is. What’s better than that?
Where do I start?
Start by thanking Him for the ground. No, seriously.
I have a friend, Josiah, who once was having a rough night. He went outside to calm down and to talk to the Lord because his friends inside were involved in a heated argument. He felt hopeless and angry — and he told the Lord so! — but he heard God say, “thank me.” Josiah muttered, “I don’t have anything to be thankful for.” God responded “start with the ground.” Josiah rolled his eyes and reluctantly said “God, I thank you for the ground.” Then it came like an avalanche: “God, I thank you for the grass, I thank you for the trees, I thank you for this house, I thank you for my friends, thank you that I live here...”
When telling this story, Josiah lights up & says he went from victim to victor in two seconds. The simple act of appreciating the gosh-darn concrete ground opened up Josiah’s heart and allowed him to see beyond his present circumstance, and to see how God sees.
Start with the ground. It may sound and feel dumb at first, but I promise that you will begin to feel a difference. As human beings, we were created to glorify God so the gratitude and praise that you unlock by a prayer as simple as “God, I thank you for...” will begin to bubble out of you.
High School and College are amazing years. They’re filled with amazing new friendships, fun experiences, laughing ‘til your stomach hurts, and late night runs to Taco Bell. But if we are honest, they can also be stressful years. I’m not referring to the dreaded freshman 15 (though that doesn’t help), I’m talking about “life questions.”
Before you know it, people start asking, “What are you doing with your life?” You’ll get asked this question along with, “What’s your major?” and “What are your plans after graduation?” at least a zillion times. Suddenly, the pressure is on. We feel like we have to know. To pick. To decide, right now. We feel the need to have it all figured out, and planned out. It should sound good and look even better.
The problem with this type of living is that this false sense of pressure boxes us in and puts the focus on ourselves, instead of on Jesus. It makes us think that our life isn’t good until we have it figured out, until it’s Instagram worthy, or until we reach some end goal.
But sweet friend, I’m here to tell you that this mindset isn’t from God. God doesn’t tell you to figure it all out right now and that you’ll only be valuable once you do. No, God calls you into freedom and gives your life purpose from the very second you’ve been washed in the blood of Jesus. God is much more interested in the details of your journey than He is in getting you to some final destination. He is more interested in what He can do with you today then at some hypothetical end-point.
“Why can’t God just show me what my destiny is now?” is a common question in this season of life.
We live in a world of rush and go and swipe and click and instant gratification. We know very little about slowing down and simply journeying with God. As Believers who live in a fallen world, we are often overcome by the same crazy need to zip to the finish line. We want God to act in our lives now, to make things look perfect and complete now, and we become anxious and weary if we don’t see the evidence we expect of Him moving.
But instead of restlessly trying to push ahead to the next thing or the self-proclaimed end goal, we need to pause and understand that God is moving in our lives now and view events in the context of our whole journey.
When we turn inwards and continuously focus on what wethink we’re supposed to be doing, how we measure up, and how wewant our life to look, we take our eyes off of the One who is the creator and sustainer of life itself and things will get murky.
The question that most of us want answered in this season of early adulthood is: “How do I know what my destiny is?”
But the answer to this is so much simpler than we try to make it. Scripture tells us that God is always preparing us for what He already prepared for us. So we can trust Him to bring about good things for our life and we can trust His destiny for us. Because He is faithful, even when we aren’t. (2 Timothy 2:13) He is faithful, even when we don’t see it. Scripture tells us that He created good works for us to do before we were even born. So no matter if you major in psychology or biology or you’re still waiting upon the Lord for your next step, God isn’t going to let you miss out on those good works he planned for you. He is faithful and will fulfill his plans concerning you. He will never forget you!
But how do I get there?
By journeying with him and surrendering. God cares about who you are far more than what you do. He isn’t all that interested in your job label, but in the state of your heart. He doesn’t need you on a platform, He wants you on your knees. His only call on you is to become more Christ-like and to go and make disciples. What our major, job title, income level, or relationship status is is all secondary to Him, because all those things will pass away.
One of the biggest revelations I ever experienced was when I realized that God is a God of journeying, not finish lines. He is a God of refinement and growth. He cares about the journey, the molding, and the process. He sees our past, our present, and the future all at once and knows that our story doesn’t start when we get “there,” but that it has counted all along.
If you were standing in front of me, I would listen to your unique struggle. I would nod and affirm and maybe even cry (or scream) with you in your frustration. But after you got it all out, I would tell you it’s time to shake off the anxiety and shift your eyes from inward to upward. Because where you look you will go. Then I’d share with you the keys that the Holy Spirit has given me to use when waiting upon the Lord.
4. Focus on what you can do now. Regardless of what piece of the puzzle you think you’re waiting on, today is valuable to God. So worship, pray, speak life over others, listen to the Holy Spirit, walk humbly, guard your heart, serve where God has you, because that’s what you are called to do… He will work the rest out.
Can we pray?
We are letting and giving you back control. Thank you for a fresh start with you today and for a life overflowing with purpose. We know you are good, we trust you with our future, and we love you.
I hope you are doing absolutely amazing today... And if not, I hope this note will give you a little encouragement to brighten your day. Do you know that God has you on His mind? He loves you so much and has something special in store for you, not just in the future, but right now. He wants to know you in a deeper way today than ever before. He also has a purpose for every season of life that you walk through. Every situation you encounter, God has something He wants to teach you and His desire is to draw you closer to Him.
There are many different seasons of life that we walk through. We have the little kid years, middle school, high school, college, singleness, dating, marriage, kids, etc. There are busy seasons in our lives and there are times of rest. There are times to work hard and there are times to play hard. The key is knowing what season you are in and embracing it. So many people miss out on what's right in front of them because they are wishing they were in the next season. "If only I were out of middle school, if only I could graduate, if only I were married... Had kids... If only..." You fill in the blank. God has something specific in mind for you to do or to learn in this season of your life. I've heard many married couples longing for children only to look back and realize they didn't enjoy the time they had together as a couple before they were busy with kids. For those of you in school, you may just be wishing to get out of school! Don’t take it for granted though. Many will look back and wish they had enjoyed their time more, studied harder, or just been a better friend. Don’t worry, adulthood will come before you know it and you will long for the day you didn’t have to work and pay the bills! Never despise the season you are in or waste it away wishing for the next. As you are seeking God, the next season will come in His timing.
For me personally, my biggest season of struggle has been singleness. I am now in my thirties (yikes lol!) and thought I would be married with a family years ago. However, my plans are not always God’s plans. His are way better though! I have learned that the single life is awesome! Well, it certainly can be. Being single, it comes with a lot less responsibility as well as more free time than if I had a family. I can devote more time to God in prayer and studying His Word. I can go places and do things as a single that would be a lot harder with a family in tow - and a lot more expensive. I was able to spend a year in Australia at Hillsong, I took a short missions trip to Rome, and I vacationed several weeks in Europe seeing London, Paris, Venice, and more! The point is to cherish the season you are in because it won’t last forever. I will be grateful when I’m married and have a family of my own, but my focus is what does God want from me today. I felt like He wanted me to write a book as a single and it is finally finished and on its way! He is also teaching me who I am in Him – God’s precious, beautiful, daughter who is called to live a life of love… and so are you.
God is preparing you today for who He has called you to be tomorrow. As one of my trainers said in Bible College, “Preparation time is never wasted time.” God can use every event that has happened in your life to make you a better person - to make you more like Him. I encourage you today to ask God what His purpose is for you in this season. Is there something He is trying to teach you? Is there someone He would like you to befriend and share His love with? Is He asking you to read the Bible and spend more time getting to know Him? God loves you so much and I pray you will enjoy this time of your life… make it “the time of your life!”
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Another Friday night turned into Saturday morning, and I was there to see every hour pass by in the wee hours of darkness. 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am, 5am; it was finally 6am. I got up, made some coffee, and opened my laptop to google the nearest walk in clinic. I had had enough. 6 weeks with out sleeping through the night. What is wrong with me? And no, they were not nights of worship bliss or words from the Lord coming in the night like Samuel. No, these were 6 weeks of nights in torment. Waking to wolf spiders on the bed from where my apartment in Alabama was poorly insulated and being at the edge of a mountain in the middle of July. Who could sleep after seeing that?
In addition, I was just plain old awake. Worrying, crying, and thinking every shadow was a spider. The days felt about the same as the nights. Worrying, crying, and watching shadows.
I was on edge, and my right eyelid had begun twitching regularly from the lack of sleep and stress. The ministry was growing, volunteers were showing up in troops, and I felt unheard and misunderstood by my direct reports. I had always been someone who would get teary eyed at a good commercial or song, but suddenly everything was causing me to cry. I had two meltdowns at work this week alone. It was embarrassing. I couldn’t control myself.
What in the world is wrong with me?
8am. At 8am I can go to the walk in clinic and get some sleep medicine. Maybe my eye will quit twitching if I get some sleep. Maybe I will quit crying all the time if I get some sleep. Shoot, I won’t even care if a spider is there if I have something that will knock me out.
8am turned into 9am because naturally there was a line at the clinic. I waited patiently in the stale white walled room for the Doctor. The Doctor came in and went through the normal questions about medications, age, and such and then he asked me the dreaded question that I didn’t have a real answer to, “How can I help you today?”
I paused, and then I said in a rather desperate and loud voice, “My work situation is terrible. I am doing way more than I should, and I am not being paid for it. Not only that, my supervisor is not listening to me, and balls keep getting dropped. The balls that keep getting dropped are not really balls but humans because I am in ministry.”
My voice broke.“Because of all this I am stressed, and I cry all the time.” Speaking dramatically louder and fully crying, “ALL. THE. TIME. I have a twitch in my right eye, and I can’t sleep.”
The ugly cry is coming at him now, “I haven’t slept in 6 weeks.” Wiping my snot, “I just need you to either give me some medicine for my eye twitching or my sleep or do they make something for both?” The sobbing is uncontrollable.
The Doctor handed me the Kleenex box, and sat down on his stool. He looked at me with a pitiful look, and said something I would have never expected. “I think you have situational depression.”
I don’t really know how long he paused, but it felt like an eternity. It was as if I was spiraling upside down a staircase. I suddenly felt out of control. All I could think is, “No, I will not be like my aunt. I can’t. I can’t.”
He then went on to explain that depression can set in when there is trauma. Trauma can come from anything. It is simply a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
I walked out of there with a prescription. By the end of the day, I was a glazed over happy person missing her exit to her home on the interstate because I was so “relaxed.”
There was a period of 2 years where I was off and on this medicine. Most of that time period feels like a daze. The second time I got on that medicine I was driven to the doctor because of constant stomach issues and nausea.
I felt ashamed. The one thing I had stood on stages, sat in small groups and preached was not working. I had always hung my hat on that God is a comforter, solution creator, healer, and our everything. I was ashamed that I was leaning on medicine instead of the Lord. However, I felt like the Lord wasn’t working on it, or at least not quick enough for me.
Yes, the medicine did it’s job and got me through my days at work. Yes, the medicine made my eye quit twitching. Yes, the medicine made my crying stop. In fact, I couldn’t really muster up crying at all. Yes, the medicine helped me sleep. Yes, my stomach calmed. The medicine was like icing covering up what was going on below the surface. It addressed the symptoms.
Only a few people knew this was going on- my parents and two close friends who lived out of town. They all reassured me it was ok to get help.
I was doing ministry. I had a smile. I looked happy. I seemed good. Right?
Feeling numb, I decided to ask the question of myself, “when is the last time you felt alive?” All I could think about was a Beth Moore study. The word has truly been an anchor for my soul. Deciding that I would taper off the meds and dig into the good old fashioned word, I decided WE- me and the Lord- were going to kick this thing. I decided to fast television, and only watch sermons.
Proverbs 4:20-22 says, “My daughter, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.”
The word has such wisdom in it, and it truly does give life to the whole body, including the mind and the emotions.
I started looking up every scripture I could think of on healing, our minds, and the strength of God. I would quote them over myself at night and pray them over myself. Here is an example of how I would of prayed out the scripture above:
“Lord, I am your child. I am paying attention to your word and what you say. I am listening carefully Lord. Speak to me. Help me not lose sight of your words. May your words go deep into my heart, mind and emotions and bring life and healing to my body.”
At night after work I felt like I had a second job. I would get into those scriptures, watch Beth Moore sermons, and turn on my little speaker and worship.
One night, I felt the depression break off of me. I laid on the floor on my face, crying out to the Lord, and I laid every worry at His feet.
After I got done, I sat up, began wiping my eyes and nose, and burst into laughter. I felt like the elephant on my shoulders was finally off! I got up and put on some happy worship music, and I started jumping around dancing in my apartment singing with all my might! It was as if the chains of depression were being shaken off just from the dancing.
I saw Isaiah 61:3 come to life for me:
“To all who mourn in Israel,
He will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for His own glory.”
Girls, how we fight our battles is with garments of praise. Put on praise. Spotify, Pandora, youtube all have free ways to listen to worship music. Get in the word. Listen to podcasts, youtube sermons, and you personally go get in the word. There are tons of resources, but there is nothing like the Bible. It is your weapon. He exchanges the heaviness for joy. Despair for praise. Weakness for strength. There is no amount of medicine that can bring that amount of healing.
Yep, I had a guy friend who was “just a friend” but so not just a friend. He knew about every test score, every daily struggle, my favorite ice cream flavor, my life plans for the next ten years, my favorite movie, and my math homework for the next day. He was so not just a friend.
But, in the midst of the everyday texts and the long conversations about our lives, I couldn’t see this. All I saw was my “best guy friend”. And, just like the frog in the boiling water, all of a sudden the heat turned up, and I was oblivious… until I got hurt, until I realized that the expectations I had placed on the relationship were not realistic for a “just a friend” kind of relationship.
Because, let’s be real. Even my friends who were girls didn’t know how many problems were in my math homework, or how many times I had watched Pride and Prejudice, or how I did on the reading quiz that morning. “Just a friend” didn’t even begin to describe the number of texts I sent that boy.
Each relationship is uniquely designed by God. Each relationship has a special purpose and beauty because we are all members of the body of Christ. Both dating relationships and godly friendships are integral to our Christian walk, but it is crucial that we see our relationships with godly young men the way that God sees them.
In the Amplified, Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens [and influences] another [through discussion].”
We influence our friends, and they influence us. It is inevitable. Just like others can sharpen us (or not), we also have that same capacity. We have a responsibility as influencers for the Kingdom to represent Christ in our relationships and to recognize when our sharpeners are getting a little bit dull. We can only sharpen something if we are as strong or stronger than it is.
So, back to my “just a friend” guy friend. Everything had seemed to be going so great, until it didn’t. The amount of time that we spent talking allowed me to form an emotional attachment that I realized was not healthy when he no longer wanted to put in that same amount of effort. And, I was so hurt by this. I had let him into so much of my life, and I experienced the rejection of what I perceived as him not valuing that vulnerability. But, really, that was on me. I had let myself go somewhere emotionally that had no substance in the context of a friend relationship.
When I hear the word “purity”, I usually think of its physical connotation. But, friends, the physical element of purity is only an outward manifestation of what should be going on in our hearts and minds.
Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Transformation happens in the mind. Battle happens in the mind. Emotions are interpreted in the mind. If the battlefield is in the mind, shouldn’t purity start in the mind? What is occupying your thoughts? I’m not just talking about the topic occupying your thoughts. I’m talking about the quantity of time you spend thinking about that topic. It’s not sin to cherish friendships. It’s sin to idolize them.
Philippians 4:8-9: “ Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. 9 The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life], and the God [who is the source] of peace and well-being will be with you.”
Our thoughts are inextricably linked to our peace. If you don’t feel at rest, take some time to examine what’s going on in your heart and mind.
Friends, I did some examination and realized that I made a crucial error in my “just a friend” friendship. When I got to college, I read a blog that talked about emotional boundaries, and I understood for the first time that I had crossed them. In other words, I had let myself think so often about him that I formed an emotional attachment that was unhealthy in the context of this relationship. Instead of focusing on the solid promises of the Word and God’s Love for me in Christ, I allowed myself to get a little sidetracked. I wasn’t fixing my eyes on my Savior (Hebrews 12:2). And then I wondered why I wasn’t at peace. But, on the floor of my dorm room, as I poured out my heart to the Lord, I found grace and peace and unimaginable hope in my surrender.
Although this was a painful experience, I can now look back on it with the perspective of God’s grace and see how He used it to draw me closer to Him. He taught me so much in this time. I learned a few really important things that I want to share with you. Really, they are all interconnected.
Proverbs 4:23: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (AMP)
Guard your heart. Don’t let just anyone in. And, don’t let anyone occupy the place that God alone owns: the throne of your heart.
2) “Begin with the end in mind.” This is one of my favorite things my mom ever taught me. She used to tell me and my brother that every seed has a harvest, so we have to be careful what we plant. And, friend, that’s what I’m going to encourage you to do with your godly friendships with guys. Evaluate how you feel about him, and keep evaluating it. Emotions change upon familiarity, so check up on yourself. Have friends who will keep you accountable. And, even our friends can sometimes not see the truth, so that’s why we have to keep going back to the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that it is alive and active. It will discern the thoughts and intents of our hearts. We just have to open it up.
One thing I’ve learned is that it generally is not wise for me to have guys as my “best” friends. I’ve been on both sides of the coin, either getting hurt or accidentally hurting someone else. Be clear about your intentions, and set limits.
In Psalm 16:6, David says, “The [boundary] lines [of the land] have fallen for me in pleasant places.” (AMP)
Boundaries are beautiful. They don’t keep you from getting out. They keep the wrong things from getting in. I think sometimes we tear down walls for people who shouldn’t even be let through the gates of our heart.
3) Each relationship God has placed in our lives can point us to Who He is. One of my life verses is Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us…”
So often I imagine the “abundantly more” as some distant and future place. But, friend, I have to remind myself the “abundantly more” is in the here and now. His power is working through His people every single day. It’s in our relationships. It’s in our conversations. It’s in our laughter. God says that He is “I AM”. He is in the present, so we should be too. Look for how He is moving in your relationships, and you will see how He knits everything together in such an incredible way.
Know that you can have fulfilling friendships with godly young men. It is a special thing to have these relationships because we each have unique perspectives that can build others up. If you don’t have these relationships right now, don’t worry. God is making everything beautiful in its time. As I’ve gotten older, this has become more natural. I wish that twenty-year-old me could go back and tell fourteen-year-old me that boys do grow up (and that I would eventually not tower over every single boy I knew). So, that’s why I’m telling you this. Relax, and watch the Lord work in the relationships you do have right now and pray for Him to develop friendships rooted in His Love. That’s what I prayed, and it changed my life. God did the “abundantly more” in my friendships with guys and girls.
Right now, I have several guy friends who seek the Lord and His service. They inspire me to do the same. Intentionality is the key to maintaining purity in all aspects of these relationships. As long as I set proper boundaries, none of these friendships are “just friends” friendships. They are vibrant and funny and anointed because God is never the God of “just” anything. He is the God of the “abundantly more than we could ask or imagine”.
For all my single people (including me) out there, I have one last thought: remember that God has pursued you and loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). We can never look to a man to do what Jesus has already done and be satisfied. Remember that His Love for us is fulfilling on its own. It doesn’t need a supplement. It doesn’t need to be completed in any earthly relationship. When Jesus said “It is finished”, He sealed forever the freedom that we find alone in Him.
Body image is one of the greatest struggles that we ladies face in this day and age. We’re constantly pumped with advertisements from social media, TV, magazines, and movies about beauty enhancements ranging from botox injections, to weight loss supplements, cellulite cream, lip plumping gloss, breast enhancements, teeth whiteners, liposuction, hair straightening products, you name it. To top it off, most, if not all of the celebrities and models that we see in said ads have been a) made over with the best makeup, hair and fashion team and b) photo shopped so that they have youthful skin, whiter teeth, a smaller waist and slightly larger breasts, without an ounce of cellulite in sight. Do you know what all of these things has in common? They aren’t REAL, yet we desire them and allow them to influence us as if they were! Underneath all of that makeup, perfect hairstyle, trendy clothes, and photo shopped images is a young woman just like you and me. The saddest part about all of these enhancements is that they are bandaids. In most cases, they are covering up – we are using them to cover up – symptoms that are a result of serious inner issues that so many of us don’t want to face. Most of us want to run far, far away from the things of our painful past like trauma, abuse, rejection, shame, unworthiness, insecurities, failures and fears. Some of us aren’t even at a place where we can openly admit our issues or that they might be driving us to do things or act a certain way. That’s ok! Jesus will always get to the heart of the matter. My story will prove it to you.
I’ve personally struggled with body image issues for most of my 37 years on earth. The Lord has graciously brought me through some incredible healing in the last 7 years, but to say I’m at 100% would be lying to you. I am still in process – “far from who I once was, but not yet who I’m going to be (anonymous).” My story started as a young girl. I don’t remember thinking or caring much about my body until I was 10 yrs old. I spent a lot of time with my Aunt who lived down the road from us. I vividly remember trying on my dance recital costumes for her one day, while she took pictures of me modeling them. She used a Polaroid camera, so we got to review the developed pictures quickly. For some strange reason, she decided to tell me that I looked fat in those pictures. She also told me for the first time ever that I was a fat baby. What do you say to that? “Ok?” “Get lost, lady!” “I’m out of here!” I remember feeling shocked, confused and slightly unloved. “Why are you telling me this? And why are you bringing up my being fat as a baby? Aren’t most babies fat?!” Needless to say, I was hurt. That hurt continued to grow, considering that I spent a significant time of my life with this aunt whom I loved dearly. She definitely added more joy to my life than pain, but she randomly brought up the fat subject every few months. It’s like I couldn’t break free of her reminders, nor did I ever speak up and try to.
As I grew older, I became passionate about all things fashion. I had several fashion magazine subscriptions, and what I didn’t have, my girlfriend’s did. I thoroughly enjoyed looking through them, cutting out pictures and making collages for my bedroom walls. Having access to numerous fashion magazines doesn’t sound like a big deal until you consider that I was constantly comparing myself to the tall, super skinny models inside. I was 6’0 tall at the time, and people constantly said, “You should be a model. You should really consider modeling. Have you ever thought about it?” In the back of my mind somewhere, I started taking notes from these frail, skinny images I was feeding myself. And then, I had the chance of a lifetime! A well known modeling agency came to a town near ours, and they were calling all women under a certain age and over a certain height to come in for an interview. “Score! That’s me! I could be a model! This could be my chance!” Little did I know that all of us ladies with modeling dreams would be herded like cattle and put on display for what seemed like a whole 5 seconds. There was no talking, no walking, no getting to know me, just standing there while professional people stared at and examined me and my body. The verdict? Denied! “Come back when you’ve lost 10 pounds.” “10 pounds! Where do I have an extra 10 pounds to lose? I will look sickly!”
There are so many more stories in my lifetime that are similar to these two. The enemy of our lives certainly set me up to hate my body on numerous occasions, and He was relentless. He came at me from every angle! He used people, situations and circumstances to tell me one more time that I was fat. I became obsessed with full length mirrors and would constantly stare myself down to make sure I didn’t look fat. If I did look fat, I would change clothes and start all over. While there, I would also pinpoint every ounce of cellulite and flaws and remind myself that I needed some serious work in that area. Somewhere in there, I decided that I had chubby cheeks. My sweet, innocent cheeks became a focal point of my self-hatred. I also remember drinking Slim Fast for a while as a teenager to lose weight. It wasn’t enough that I danced and played basketball and softball, with 2-3 hour practices most days of the year. It wasn’t enough that I was 6’0 and weighed 145 lbs. Nothing was enough, if I’m honest. I don’t think any amount of weight loss, cute clothes, makeup, slim cheeks, a modeling career, could ever convince me that I was beautiful. I learned to focus on all of the bad and ugly of my body to the point that I didn’t even believe people when they complimented me. I thought they had some issues of their own if they thought I was attractive. Heartbreaking!
I left my teenage years in south GA, and eventually graduated college with an Exercise Science degree. I became a personal trainer and landed some excellent jobs, but little did I know, the industry would be tough. I never thought about vanity and personal training going hand-in-hand, but vanity is rampant among the industry. I couldn’t escape it! I couldn’t ignore it! It was literally in my face 24/7. I was eating, breathing, sleeping, talking exercise and nutrition, how to have a six pack, how to get rid of fat, how to have perfect definition, how to have perfect everything (on the surface), all while being surrounded by floor length mirrors. The external pressure to look a certain way was brutal, ladies, absolutely brutal! I didn’t realize how damaging it was and how much it had encouraged and enabled my very broken body image until I met Jesus.
I was raised on The Word, and we attended church and Sunday School every single week. However, in all of that religious involvement, I never met Jesus face to face. I didn’t know what it meant or what it looked like to have a relationship with Him. Even though I couldn’t see Him there, and even though I didn’t know Him, He was in every moment of my life, pursuing me every step of the way. He was even more relentless than the Devil! (Jesus always wins! Yes!) I met Jesus for real, face to face, in 2010 and He started wooing me passionately. The more I got to know Him, the more He revealed who HE said I was, what HE thought of me, what HE had for me. His pursuit of me was/is unparalleled and unmatched. There’s nothing like it! Jesus removed the veil of lies from my eyes, and I started seeing things for what they were. I vividly remember some of my femaleclients talking one day after boot camp. They were pinching their thighs and telling me with such disgust how much they hated them – how fat and gross they were. It wrecked me! I remember wanting to weep and cry out to Jesus right there because those women were some of the most beautiful creatures I’d ever known, inside and out. I felt so overwhelmed and sad for them and for God. He made them and crafted them so beautifully, but in their brokenness they couldn’t see the truth. When I went home that day and got before the Lord, He told me that I treat myself the same way. I cried my eyes out! He got my attention in a whole new way.
Ever since I met Jesus and the other guy of my dreams, Courtney, I rarely get away with negative thoughts, comments or attitudes about my body. They hold me accountable and remind me of who I am and how I am seen by my Daddy God, my Lover, Jesus, and my Precious Friend, Holy Spirit. The Lord also taught me about and healed me from the deep rooted issue of unworthiness that the enemy kept using against me to keep me in that wretched, broken place of hating my body. Now I know that I’m worthy – NOT because of anything that I’ve ever done, but because of everything that Jesus did for me. He died for me! He gave up everything for me! He’s worthy and because I am in Him, and He is in me, I am worthy.
If any of my story resonates with you, I challenge you to get before the Lord and ask Him what is the root that is keeping you in a cycle of self-hatred/condemnation. If that feels scary, then grab some Godly leaders, and ask them for help. Pay attention to what you say in front of the mirror and what kind of beauty enhancements you’re reaching for and why. In the meantime, I want to tell you this, and I want you to receive it: God created your cheek bones in that place for a reason. He made you the height you are for a reason. He created your breasts and your thighs perfectly. Your hair texture and color is on point and those eyebrows are on fleek. (Wink!) Your eyes are beautiful, your nose is perfect, your lips are kissable and oh, that smile! Girl, you are GORGEOUS! You are STUNNING! You are worth DYING FOR! I know because you were created by The Creator of the Universe, and He certainly doesn’t make mistakes. You were made in the very image of God, and when He finished making you, He saw you and said it was very good (Gen 1:27, 31). You are fearfully and wonderfully made, beloved daughter of God. When you were made in secret, He skillfully chose your colors and wove you together (Ps 139:13-15). You are the work of His hand. As the Potter, He carefully and purposefully molded and shaped you, the clay (Is 64:8). God knows the very number of hairs on your head and you are extremely valuable to Him (Matt 10:29-31). So glorify God in your body because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you, whom you have from God. You were bought at a price and are not your own (1 Cor 6:19-20). Jesus died for your sins, including unworthiness and body image issues, once and for all. (1 Peter 3:18) He was wounded, crushed and chastised for you and by His stripes, you are healed (Is 53:5). Seek His face and let Him do a work in you, so you can walk in complete healing and freedom.