Tagged: joy

Eighteen Things No One Told Me About Being Engaged

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There were a lot of things people didn’t warn me about prior to getting engaged, such as how being engaged doesn’t look anything like it does on social media. I think it’s too easy to get caught up in this idea that the season of engagement is supposed to be purely blissful and filled with photos, presents, and romance. For the benefit of those who are currently engaged or going to someday be engaged, I’ve put together a list of things that I have learned over the past four months on what planning a wedding, preparing for a marriage, and being engaged is really like.

. . . . .

Eighteen Things No One Told Me About Being Engaged

1. You will feel somewhat guilty for every decision you make pertaining to your wedding when your parents’ money is involved.

Very few of us have the privilege of coming from a well-off family that has thirty grand to spend on their daughter’s special day. I am not one of those few. My mom gave me a budget and at first, her number sounded too high. As time is passing by, however, I’m realizing that it’s pretty difficult, if not nearly impossible, to have your dream wedding without costing your mom and dad a couple (and by couple, I mean TEN) of thousands of dollars.

2. You will wonder if your flaws and weaknesses will end up being the downfall of your marriage.

If you knew you had faults before, you will certainly realize the gravity of them when you get engaged. All of a sudden, you’ll realize that someone is COMMITTING THEIR LIFE TO YOUR CRAZY, MESSED-UP SELF. And you’ll wonder if you’ll be the one to ruin it all. As a result, you will go into self-improvement overdrive. When that doesn’t work, you’ll think that maybe you should just do them a favor and break the whole thing off.

3. You will wonder if YOUR PARTNER’S flaws and weaknesses will end up being the downfall of your marriage.

If you thought you were critical before, then you haven’t seen nothing yet. There’s something about the idea of “wow, I’m going to spend the rest of my life with this person” that sends you into obsessive, crazy mode. You will nitpick every single thing they do, and become familiar with the phrase, “you better not do that when we’re married.” When fixing your partner’s problems doesn’t work, you may even think that you should just do yourself a favor and break the whole thing off.

4. You will mentally size up anyone and everyone’s engagement/wedding rings.

No matter how breathtakingly beautiful your ring is, there will be someone whose diamond is brighter and whose band is more intricate. And even though you’ll claim that you don’t care about the size of your diamond and you think your ring is perfect, you will start to wonder if people are judging you based off of yours just like you’re judging them. But of course you won’t vocalize these thoughts because 1) you would break the heart of the man who spent all that money on it, and 2) who wants to be that woman who isn’t satisfied with the ring she is supposedly in love with? By the way, having these thoughts, I’ve realized, is not dissatisfaction. It’s insecurity. There is a difference.

5. You will feel like you’re already married, which only makes things more difficult.

I’m going to be frank with you: there’s nothing worse than having to say goodnight and retreat to separate beds when you know that in just a couple of months you’ll be in the same bed every night. When you get engaged, sleeping with the love of your life (and no, I do not just mean sexually) is no longer just a dream or fantasy to you; it’s soon-to-be reality. But just because it WILL be true doesn’t mean it is just yet. And waking up to that fact isn’t fun at all. You will not only hate climbing into bed alone, but you will even hate brushing your teeth, cooking breakfast, and going grocery shopping alone. You will be so fixated on the future in which you and your partner will finally be in the same home that you will begin to loathe your separate lives. AND NO ONE WARNED ME ABOUT THIS. Maybe people danced around it and said things to me like, “oh, you will want a short engagement.” BUT I THOUGHT THEY WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT SEX AND NOW I KNOW IT’S SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT AND IT SUCKS.

6. You will secretly (or vocally) loathe purchases that your partner makes with his money.

Because soon his money will become your money. And there’s no way you want to see all of your money going towards comic books, iTunes, and computer speakers. You want that money to go towards the nail salon instead. Did I mention that you’ll discover your fiancé’s abhorrence of credit cards is an actual PHOBIA that he will USE AGAINST YOU EVERY TIME HE SEES THOSE STUPID CARDS IN YOUR WALLET??? Just don’t get them if you think they might be an issue, folks. Dave Ramsay was right; money fights are real.

7. You will realize that you no longer like some of your ideas of being a thrifty bride.

Like when you look at wedding dresses in thrift stores and on Craigslist. Buying someone’s used wedding dress might be pragmatic, but it certainly is not all that romantic. The first time you try on a brand new wedding dress in an actual wedding dress store, you most likely won’t check another thrift store or Craigslist post again. You will also realize that just having a chili bar at your wedding, though cute for the Fall season, is not going to fill the stomachs of your family members and friends who drove eight hours or stood in line at an airport to see you get married.

8. People will make you feel like all you are is a bride.

Never-mind the fact that you have a ministry and personal goals and school and a blog. When people see you, the first thing they’ll talk to you about is the fact that you’re getting married… and then the conversation will end.

9. You will find the perfect wedding dress, purchase it, take it home, and then spend the rest of the time leading up to the wedding thinking about whether you should return it.

Is it really the most flattering one? Are you sure it doesn’t make my waist too large? But is it too fancy? Too big? Too plain? You will begin to doubt everything about that dress sitting in your closet, even though you felt like a beautiful princess when you first tried it on and all of your family members cried when they saw you in it. FOMO (or the Fear of Missing Out) will take over in ways you never realized it could.

10. You will realize who your real cheerleaders are.

You will find out whether or not your parents are really all that fond of your significant other. If they actually are (and thank God this is the case for me), they will shower you with more love than you ever anticipated. You’ll begin to freak out and think that maybe they just want to get rid of you. Why else would they be throwing so much money, advice, and free furniture at you? It might be shocking to see just how supportive your family is (and if they’re not, it could be equally as shocking to see just how indifferent or insensitive they are). You will also begin to realize which of your friends are cheering you on and which ones could care less as long as they get a seat on your big day.

11. You will accidentally turn into a Brideszilla in front of your fiancé.

Your fiancé will pretend to know what they’re talking about when it comes to wedding planning, and this will only piss you off. You will start to rant about how hard you’re working to make this day perfect while all he does is ask stupid questions and make dumb suggestions. “NO. JUST NO. STOP IT. I TOLD YOU LAST WEEK THE COLORS ARE CORAL AND NAVY. DON’T YOU LISTEN TO ANYTHING I SAY?!” will actually come out of your mouth in a very loud decibel. You won’t realize just how obsessive you are until it’s your wedding day on the line.

12. People will assume they are invited to the wedding when they actually aren’t.

I’ve never seen this happen in movies and I’ve never heard anyone tell me that this has occurred with them, but trust me — it happens. All of a sudden, the people you haven’t talked to since high school start commenting on your photos and asking questions about when they’re getting an invite to the wedding. This is highly uncomfortable, and besides just pretending I didn’t see these comments, I haven’t figured out a polite way to handle them so far.

13. You will fear coming across as narcissistic or self-centered when you talk about getting married on any form of social media.

You’re excited and kind of want to brag! Not in an “OOO, LOOK AT ME” kind of way, but in a “wow, can you believe that this guy picked me and we get to have a future together?” kind of way. Even though you will see many forms of “spotlight” statuses on Facebook (i.e. getting a new job or making the Dean’s List), you will become paranoid that everyone hates everything you post on social media relating to relationships, love, being engaged, or marriage. You know that saying, “you hate me cuz you ain’t me?” You will think this is actually relevant to you now. You will also think that you being engaged and posting about it is the only reason people are unfollowing you on Instagram.

14. You will consider running away and eloping just to spare yourself from any more wedding stress, not to mention the torture of the wait.

As time goes on, you get more and more fed up with all of these decisions you’re having to make and all of these months you’re having to wait. Who cares about guest lists and catering menus? You’re just ready to seal the deal and get on with it! Let’s elope and just start our lives together NOW! Grandma will forgive us, you frantically tell your fiancé as you grow more and more desperate to escape the engaged life.

15. You will ask Google wedding-related questions on a daily basis.

Such as “how to address Save the Dates”, “who pays for the honeymoon”, “how to tell someone to not bring a plus one” , “can my mother be my Matron of Honor” , “how to pick your bridesmaids” , “how to fake calligraphy” , and “do I wear my engagement ring on my wedding day.” Yes, I have had to Google every single one of these things. The Internet is an amazing place.

16. You will feel like you don’t fit into some of your social circles anymore.

Bible studies for singles or students just don’t seem to be tailored for you anymore, and even hanging out with single friends, even though you swore getting engaged wouldn’t change anything, doesn’t excite you as much as it used to. You will find that you relate to them less and less, and you will cling to the people around you who actually are in long-term relationships because you don’t feel like the odd one out around them. Yes, being engaged can actually be isolating, especially when you’re a twenty-something still in the throes of college.

17. You will be more self-conscious about how in shape you are for your wedding day than you are any other time of the year.

Even though you’re fine with your weight or your size for most of the year, the pressure to have the perfect body becomes way more real when you get engaged. You know that those wedding photos will be around FOREVER and you want to look hella good in them (or at least just have super toned arms since the whole strapless dress thing). As a result, you will fixate on exercising and eating right, which, FYI, DOESN’T MAKE YOU A GODDESS OVERNIGHT. In case you didn’t get the memo (because I sure didn’t), it’s going to take some time to break out of the sedentary lifestyle you’ve been in for the past four or five years. So good luck forcing yourself to run on the treadmill that faces the mirror and shows you just how awkward you look on that treadmill. Who do you think you are — a runner?? 

18. You will forget that God has always provided for you.

If you’re moving out of your parents’ home when you get married, you have both the excitement and fear of being out on your own. You’re imagining all of the things you and your spouse will do together while also worrying about how you’ll pay for those things. You’ll be creating budgets that you don’t know will actually work and you’ll be making financial plans that you don’t know will actually stick. And as you fixate on money and homes and material things, you will begin to see life more out of the lens of an anxious woman than a woman protected and taken care of by the Creator of the universe. You will forget that God has been there with you every time you’ve been alone and confused. You will forget that he has shown up in miraculous ways in your life, that he answers prayer. You will think that you have to do everything on your own. But you don’t.

. . . . .

My lovelies, being engaged can be an intense and anxious time. Besides the constant fantasizing of just how amazing your life will supposedly get when you’re finally married, there’s also the fear of the unplanned, unknown future. Both of these things can stifle your closeness with God if you’re not careful. This is something I’ve been experiencing firsthand and am hoping to encourage other women with if anyone is finding that they, too, are letting this chaotic wedding season take their eyes off the true Prize.

My last conclusion on this whole being engaged thing is that it isn’t as great as it looks in the movies or on Facebook, but that’s perfectly fine, especially when you think about how short of a period this is in the grand scheme.Years down the road, when Grant and I are wrinkly and grey, this season will be remembered as a blur. We will have graduated on to bigger things, like having children, buying a home, having a career, and seeing our family grow. So I’ve decided that while I’m in this “waiting period” called engagement, I’m going to try to relax and enjoy life as much as I can.

Whisper a prayer on my behalf when you think of me, please. I could use it.

And if you’ve learned any lessons from being engaged that you think other women could benefit from, please feel free to comment below! I know that I for one am desperate for more knowledge. I’m already building my long list of questions for our premarital counselor. Lord have mercy on him and on us. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but I’m ready.

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Expectation vs. Reality

How I Wish My Day Would Go:

Wake up without an alarm, feeling completely refreshed and ready to face the day.

Have a heavenly breakfast: sunny-side-up eggs and buttered toast.

Sit down to have my alone time with God–  a fresh cup of coffee in one hand and my journal in the other.

Blog about all the cool things God is teaching me.

Look up at the clock… time for lunch.

Eat leftover Chinese food in bed while watching Gilmore Girls.

Clean my room to a pristine condition.

Go to the mall to buy myself a new outfit to be worn later.

Talk to best friend on the phone for two hours.

Meet up with a friend at Starbucks– or better yet, one of those off-brand coffeehouses.

Have lively conversation about life, philosophy, and God.

Go home to get ready for a hot date. Get to take a bubble bath with plenty of time to shave.

Have my hot date (A.K.A. my boyfriend) pick me up and take me out for sushi.

Coldstone Creamery afterwards. Duh.

Beautiful walk around the neighborhood, holding hands.

Say goodnight and part ways.

I climb into my familiar bed with my dog snuggled beside me.

Fall fast asleep.

Rinse and repeat.

How My Day Really Goes:

Wake up by an alarm, feeling like I could sleep for another twelve hours.

Break my sunny-side-up eggs in the pan.

Sit down to have my alone time with God and realize that I actually only have fifteen minutes.

Get so stressed out by the time constraint that I can’t even focus on what He and I need to be talking about.

Have an awesome blog idea come to me that I forget about later.

Look up at the clock… class awaits me.

Leave class wondering what on earth I just sat through.

Have lunch in isolation. No Gilmore Girls.

Come home to dishes in the sink, laundry to be folded, and an unmade bed.

Try to schedule a phone call with my best friend, but it doesn’t work out.

Ask friends out for coffee. No one can go.

Realize I’m broke anyway.

Get ready to go out on a hot date. Hair not cooperating. Break out into a sweat just trying to pick out what to wear.

Have my hot date (A.K.A. my boyfriend) come to pick me up.

I’m inexplicably moody. Total buzz-kill.

Eat and feel bloated.

Date interrupted by reminders of having to wake up early for work and mother wondering when we’ll be home.

Say goodnight and part ways, not really wanting to leave.

I climb into my familiar bed, dog nowhere to be found.

Have trouble sleeping.

Regretfully rinse and repeat.

What I Gather From This Information:

Life does not go the way I want it. Eggs crack, schoolwork gets burdensome, and moods shift quicker than I have time to adjust to.

I don’t feel like I have enough time for myself or the people who matter to me. I certainly don’t feel like I have enough time for God.

Everything is rushed. Stressful. Unnecessarily difficult.

But every day is different. And that means there are new opportunities to find beauty and joy. New opportunities to make the most of hardships. New opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. New opportunities to seek God and His will.

It’s okay that life doesn’t go the way I want it. It’s normal, expected.

And every once in a blue moon, I do get that ideal day. It comes and it goes, but I enjoy it nonetheless.

I’m waiting for the next one, but trying not to ignore the good stuff in my other days, too. Which is easier said than done.

But hey, time goes by a lot faster than we realize. And the hard day today could become a beautiful one tomorrow. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

God’s showing me more and more of what it means to be content and fruitful even in what looks to be the crappiest of days.

So here’s to trying again in the morning.

 

I Want to Be Blessed

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Image by Tori Toguchi on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/b1eMDt)

I want to be blessed. I desire God’s favor upon my life. I don’t think that is a shameful desire in any way, and I believe God planted that desire in me.

But I have the hardest time figuring out how to get that blessing. A lot of the time I feel like I can earn it. Like maybe if I just do enough good things, God will grant me happiness and blessings. If I honor Him enough with my relationships, then maybe He’ll bless my relationships. If I do enough in my ministry, then maybe He’ll bless my ministry. If I seek him more and more, then maybe He’ll favor me.

Then there’s this passage in the book of Psalms that I can’t overlook.

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.  They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. Indeed our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel. (Psalm 89:15-18)

God, I want that to be me.

How do you learn to acclaim God? How do you walk in the light of His presence?

If this is what makes His children blessed, then I feel like these questions are worth finding an answer to.

I’ll just say here and now, though, that I don’t have the full answers.

What I know right now is this:

  • Acclaiming God means to praise God
  • Walking into the light implies walking out of darkness

Somehow we have to learn to praise God. Somehow we have to walk out of darkness and into His light.

Here’s what else I know:

  • I have learned to praise God most through my difficulties and pain. I have learned to praise God in joyous times, as well. But it’s the dark times in my life and the overcoming of that darkness that has taught me what truly worshiping God and surrendering to God means.
  • I have walked into the light most when I have finally bared my soul and let the darkness go. Not just to God, but to my brothers and sisters in Christ. I can walk in His light by releasing my innermost secrets and desires to God. But I have experienced many moments of shame-lifting, freeing intimacy with people, too. I have found light by first going through the darkest tunnels, whether hand-in-hand with a friend or alone with just the Spirit in my heart.

What I’m thinking is that perhaps blessings must come through difficulties and pain, through the hard stuff of life.

It takes trials to remind you of how powerful He is. It takes rock bottom to remind you that He is what you really need. Through our difficulties and pain we learn to acclaim and praise God.

It takes darkness to remind you that you need light. It takes painful soul-baring moments and conversations to assure you that you are not alone and living in light is a very real, freeing possibility. Through our difficulties and pain we learn to walk in His light.

First comes pain. Then comes gain.

Isn’t that a major concept of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount? The Beatitudes, anyone?

Amidst the hard stuff of life, we receive blessing.

And what is this blessing we receive?

Maybe it’s the next part of that passage. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. Indeed our shield belongs to the Lord…

The blessings are:

  • joy in His name
  • celebration for His righteousness
  • glory and strength of God
  • our horn (our power and strength)
  • our shield (our protection)

It all just sounds so wonderful. I can’t even comprehend what fully receiving those blessings would look like because here on earth everything just seems so pitiful compared to the beauty and glory in heaven.

The joy we feel now is not even close to the joy in heaven. The celebrations we have here are nothing like the celebrations in His kingdom. The glory and strength of God can only be glimpsed so much through our tiny human eyes and brains. And the horn and shield, Him being our power and protection, is a whole other concept I think we are far from fully comprehending.

These blessings of God are being unlocked here. I do know this to be true.

But there’s so much more we have yet to uncover. There’s still more praising and walking in light to be done.

And hard stuff must come.

So let’s get ready. Expect the suffering and the blessing because they’re both coming.

Bipolar Christianity

Image by Erin Nicole Photography on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/dNVy75)

Image by Erin Nicole Photography on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/dNVy75)

I am a victim and observer of what I have decided to call “bipolar Christianity.”

What on earth am I talking about, you may ask. Well, here’s my definition of bipolar Christianity:

Bi-pol-ar Chris-ti-an-it-y [bīˈpōlərˌkrisCHēˈanitē] = having two poles or extremities relating to one’s faith in Jesus Christ.

To break it down even further, bipolar Christianity is when you are a Christian who experiences periodic “highs” of praise and joy in Jesus and yet also experience all-consuming “lows”.

I’m talking about the people who go to church and are ecstatic and overwhelmed by the grace and love of Jesus and then go home only to sob for hours.

I’m talking about the people who are absolutely in love with Jesus and yet have an inexplicable sadness that creeps in uninvited.

I’m talking about the people who are on fire for God and have all these dreams and plans and motivation only to later be found curled up on the floor wondering why they’re even alive.

And these people don’t necessarily have clinical depression or bipolar disorder. And they aren’t experiencing some silly side-effects of PMS.

They just have this problem with keeping their emotions on one side of the spectrum. They love Jesus and they have great faith, but they experience intense ups and downs. That’s just their life.

If you’re reading this and you’re starting to feel like I may be referring to you because you can wholeheartedly relate, then I just want to say now that nowhere in this post will I offer a solution.

I don’t have a solution. Trust me.

I’m a bipolar Christian and I can rack my brains for as long as I’d like and still never come up with an answer to this dilemma.

When you’re a bipolar Christian, you just feel kind of… stuck.

This post isn’t intended to encourage you to do step A, B, and C to get a hold of your emotions and your life. I have no authority to tell you how to do so.

This post is intended to just say, “hey, you’re not alone.”

And I also want to remind you of some nuggets of truth that maybe you can hold on to for now. You might not remember these things when you find yourself in the low moments of your day, but when you’re composed again, I hope they are an encouragement.

Truth #1: Jesus loves you.

You know it, but do you feel it? Stop for a second and just meditate on the idea– the REALITY– of His love for YOU.

You know the way you feel sometimes when you’re worshiping? Like how full of joy you feel to be praising your glorious Father? And in that moment, you don’t feel like a failure or a disappointment. You just feel loved.

When you’re NOT worshiping, you are loved just the same. When you’re just going through the mundane routine of your life, you are loved just the same. When you are unable to speak, move, or pray, you are loved just the same.

He loves you today just the same as He ever has or ever will. He loves you infinitely more than you’ll ever understand or comprehend. And that love doesn’t change.

Truth #2: You are blameless.

I know you wish from the bottom of your heart that you could feel whole and just be fine and not have to deal with the things you do. I know sometimes you feel so guilty and ashamed of your inability to remain joyful in God. Everyone else seems to have it all together and you have no idea of what’s wrong with you. All you know is that it’s wrong.

But it’s not wrong.

Repeat this to yourself: It’s not wrong to feel the way I do. I’m not wrong for feeling.

You are a new creation in Christ and that means the kingdom of heaven is now yours. And if you’re having a hard time understanding what that means for your life, that’s okay. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to be filled with joy, that’s also okay.

Your Spirit knows. Your Spirit knows God’s joy and how to bring you there. Your Spirit knows your innermost longings and it cries out when you cry out, too.

Do you know what’s IN the kingdom of heaven? PERFECTION.

And even though you’re stuck here on this earth for now and you can’t fully enjoy that perfection awaiting you in the next life, you are already considered blameless and pure and whole in His eyes.

You might think that’s an audacious statement, but it’s only audacious to you if you don’t know Scripture.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be HOLY and BLAMELESS in his sight. (Ephesians 1:3-4; emphasis mine)

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of  your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you HOLY in his sight, WITHOUT BLEMISH and FREE from accusation. (Colossians 1:21-22; emphasis mine)

These aren’t traits that are to come. This is our reality here and now. Once we were saved by faith in Jesus Christ, we were ensured an inheritance and that inheritance, the kingdom of heaven, is sealed in us by the Holy Spirit.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Because of the Spirit living in you, you are regarded as WORTHY of receiving God’s promises and that worthiness translates to you as being holy and blameless. Only a holy and blameless person could receive these gifts of grace and salvation from God. And only Jesus could bring us to that state of holiness and blameless.

You, my friend, have been brought into that state.

You are holy and blameless, and no depression or anxiety or pain can destroy that.

Truth #3: You don’t have to be alone.

Do you know that there are bipolar Christians (and I’m sorry if you don’t like being called that) everywhere?

There are bipolar Christians around every corner and some of them could be your closest friends.

The reason why we don’t know where to find them is because they’re often in hiding.

We bipolar Christians are fond of hiding because we think it’s abnormal and wrong to feel the things we do and be the way we are.

We’re afraid that if people find out, we will be beat over the head with talk of spiritual welfare and demons. Our faith will be questioned and we’ll suddenly be the odd ones out.

And even though all of these things are a possibility (depending on who you surround yourself with), your true brothers and sisters in Christ would not want you to suffer alone. And God doesn’t want you to suffer alone. No one should have to suffer alone.

As scary as it is, admitting your bipolarity can be the most freeing thing. You suddenly feel like you have allies, people to pray on your behalf when you don’t have the strength or willpower to pray for yourself. You have friends, people who truly know you.

It’s okay to confide in trustworthy people about your feelings.

It’s also okay if you don’t. We aren’t designed to be isolated but if you feel as though you just can’t confide in anyone right now, know that Jesus is your ally. And I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

We serve a God who “is able to sympathize with our weaknesses” and whose “throne of grace” we may approach confidently (Heb. 4:15-16).

 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and FAMILIAR WITH PAIN.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and BORE OUR SUFFERING,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds WE ARE HEALED.

(Isaiah 53:3-5; emphasis mine)

Jesus understands. It’s perhaps unfathomable, but it’s true. He understands you better than you understand yourself, and he beckons you closer to Him because  you are never meant to be alone.

I know these things aren’t the answers you might have been looking for, but like I said, I have no solution to offer. I only have the truth.

And this truth I have to declare over myself all the time because I know how hard it is to hold on to it.

As I’m bombarded by attacks of satan and my flesh, it’s so difficult to remember to put on this armor of God that Paul speaks so fondly of. But there’s something powerful about the armor of God.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of TRUTH, and having put on the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish ALL the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the WORD OF GOD, praying at ALL times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:10-18; emphasis mine)

This whole armor of God thing might be kind of confusing, but it makes sense if you consider what it’s really saying. We must be equipped with truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer if we are to have any chance of withstanding attacks of the enemy.

And it may sound strenuous to try to equip ourselves with all the things, but just about all the work has been done by God already.

He’s given us truth through His Word and His Spirit, He’s already made us righteous, He’s given us the full story of the Gospel and how through that we have received salvation, and we are worthy to approach Him with our prayers and supplications.

The biggest part of the faith is sometimes just remembering we have these things. It’s especially hard to remember when darkness is so convincing.

But darkness doesn’t win in our lives. Not anymore. The “gospel of peace” that gives us “readiness” (v.15) is the story of Jesus’ victory on the cross and the subsequent victory in our lives. We are ready to fight when we accept that we are already victorious.

Regardless of how overwhelming things are for  you, the truth remains that Jesus loves you, you are blameless, and you don’t have to be alone.

How I wish we could all just dump our sadness once and for all! But that’s not the world we live in.

That beautiful, perfect, pain-free world is coming. And until then, I pray that we learn to fight.

We Have to Stop Counting

Image by Cuba Gallery on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/7NGFhJ)

Image by Cuba Gallery on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/7NGFhJ)

We live in a culture obsessed with numbers.

We put too much stock into numbers, quantity, measures and units.

I’m talking about the dollar amount in our bank accounts, the numbers on the scale, our GPA, the number of likes our Facebook profile pictures receive, how old we are when we marry, how many months and years we can maintain a relationship, the amount of events we have planned in a given week, the number of calories in our food and followers of our blogs and compliments on our outfits… I could go on.

I realized this yesterday when I came to the conclusion that I myself often base the quality of my day off of the quantity of good versus bad things that happen to me.

I got a great parking spot and ran into a friend who made me smile. Oh, but then I found out about a homework assignment that’s due and I realized my coffee doesn’t taste that good. To make up for it, I’ll go to 2nd and Charles and buy some new CDs and then take a nice, long nap. And if no one invites me to do anything tonight and I find myself sorrowful because of my lack of social life, I will go to Starbucks and buy an iced lemon cake for myself and watch three episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess on Netflix. That’s enough “good” stuff to balance out the “bad”, right?

This is the worst perception of life that I could possibly have, yet I found myself judging my day (and many days before that) with this screwed-up method.

I am guilty of frequent retail therapy sessions. I keep recording movies to keep in my DVR for those nights when my calendar is empty. I find solace in forty-minute afternoon naps. Going to sleep before 11:00pm is not an option. I change my hairstyle any time I undergo a major change in my life. I try to have as many adventures as possible (that’s the thing that college students my age do, right?).

For a time, this method seems to work for me. I make sure that no matter what happens in a given day, I at least have enough money for a Starbucks purchase and one random friend I can call up to make plans with when everything else falls through. As long as the good outweighs the bad, I’m doing alright. 

But here’s the problem: I am trying to fill my life with numbers and measures and I put more value into measurable things than I do the immeasurable. And the sad truth is that the immeasurable things, the stuff that never runs out, are the only things that can really fill me up.

These immeasurable things, the stuff that is outside limits and too great to be tagged with a number, are the things of the Kingdom of God. These things include joy, peace, protection, victory, healing, and so much more.

Now here is my cry of truth (or “rant”, if you must) for all of the people out there in the world who find themselves in the same boat as me:

Why, why, WHY are we counting and caring about numbers when God is offering us infinite joy, infinite peace, infinite grace, infinite love, infinite acceptance, infinite satisfaction?

Maybe the reason for this is because when he does hand us these amazing gifts of infinite quantity, we, out of habit and an unhealthy misperception of what meaningful life is, subconsciously put a cap on those things with our dumb numbers.

We subconsciously believe that joy comes from having more wonderful things happen to us than awful ones. So when he tries to offer us his joy, no matter what time of the day, we have to wait until those wonderful things happen to truly believe in it. Oh, I got an A on my test! I just got a Starbucks gift card right when I was running out of money! God is so good! No, God was always good and always wanted us to rejoice in that goodness, but it took us receiving a good grade or a kind word from a friend or finding $20 or hearing a Louie Giglio sermon to accept it. Sadly, it’s not even accepted in full. When we get home later that day and mom starts yelling or the laundry is piling up, we’re usually back to where we started- wondering why wonderful things never last, putting a number on things when those numbers don’t really mean anything. His joy is bountiful enough to cover ALL things, but we don’t let it.

We subconsciously believe that his forgiveness and grace is only applicable in our lives up until the moment we make a mistake again. If we make two or three mistakes, we maybe even wait a longer amount of time until running to him again. After all, there’s only so much forgiveness he wants to give us, right? We already made a mess of our day- better wait until morning to repent and start again. I honestly believe that this is one of the most crippling lies we could believe in, and I know it comes from satan himself. What better way to incapacitate a believer than make them believe for a time that the one thing that brings them salvation, Christ’s death on the cross that paid the penalty for ALL sins, is no longer true or valid?

We subconsciously believe that his promises for our life that pertain to marriage, careers, and ministry are more important than the promises he’s given us from the beginning- promises of his everlasting presence, his unfailing love, his protection and the victories he’s scored on our behalf. We know of these promises and we sometimes declare them in times of great difficulty after we’re hit over the head with them. But usually, we’re too busy looking for the other promises and insight into our lives to even remember those. God, what is your step-by-step plan for my life? Will I find the man of my dreams by the time I graduate college? How long will I be out in the mission field? When will I find my dream job?  These things would be great to know, but again we see the fixation on numbers, age, and time when things of immeasurable importance, like his never-ending love and all-mighty power, are placed on the side until we have nothing else to grasp onto. 

You see, we have a major problem on our hands. But numbers, my friends, are NOT, and never will be, valid solutions.

I will say it again, and shout it from the rooftops. Numbers will NEVER be solutions to the problems in our lives.

We care far too much about numbers when life, truly meaningful life that is found in Christ, has nothing to do with numbers at all. 

We have to stop counting.