"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you in with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt...and go out to dance with the joyful." - Jeremiah 31: 3-4

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Recently, I've been forced to face a deeply rooted issue. It's one of those things that you can ignore and still function normally but somewhere in your heart it's slowly eating away at your confidence and ability to look at life clearly. I'm not sure when this first developed in me. I could guess it was some time in middle school. Those few years were not easy for me, as they aren't for most kids. It's a time of insecurity and instability. Everything is changing. Mind, body and soul are going through a serious transformation. Those few delicate years can break someone easily and totally. Luckily, things were not that serious for me and I escaped with only minor scrapes and bruises but injuries none the less. If you'll allow me to be vulnerable for a moment, I can explain.

I had a close group of girlfriends during middle school. We did everything together, went to the high school football games, got ready for dances, went to the mall, had sleepovers, talked about boys... basically everything 13 year old girls do. We were best friends. But then suddenly, seemingly overnight, I was out. I was no longer "in the group." I had been replaced by someone else, simple as that. Perhaps the reason was that I did not have a boyfriend and all of them did. So not only did I have no friends but I had no boyfriend. For a 13 year old, that is the end of the world and it hurt me more than I would have ever admitted back then.

After middle school, things got a little easier. I had newfound confidence in high school and got through the first couple years without much incident. Junior year brought with it a little more struggle. First boyfriend meant first broken heart which of course brought out that insecurity again. Someone I believed would be there, if not forever then at least for more than a few months did not want me anymore. Blah blah blah, it all seems so silly now but I took it pretty hard at the time. I now can look back and see that it wasn't so much that particular person that hurt me, it was the idea of being unwanted that really crushed me. That idea haunted me throughout the next four years.

I was abandoned time and time again during those years and every time, it hit me harder and harder. Why didn't anyone stay with me? Friends, boyfriends, mentors... no one stuck around. I tried so hard to make myself feel wanted. I dated the same boys multiply times because they would fight for me. I wanted to be fought for, even if it was only a game to them. Nothing made me happier than being pursued, even if I knew deep down that a relationship could never really work. All that mattered was that they said they wanted me. Regardless of how many times they got me only to leave me again, I still always eventually took them back. I was desperate to believe that this time things would be different and they would stay. Obviously, they never did.

People will always disappoint. No one is perfect. Even someone who you thought did everything right will make a mistake eventually and upset you. I guess what I'm learning from all of this is that you can't expect to find yourself in others. That's what I did. I tried to find myself in my relationships and friendships and when the person failed to meet my expectations and needs, I would fall apart. I was looking to them to hold me together and if they couldn't do that then I didn't know what to do with myself. I didn't even know myself! I became a soccer fan, a baseball fan, a football fan, a skater girl, a hippie girl, a party girl, a drinker, a smoker, a lover, a lover of punk music, a lover of rap music, a lover of techno music, a classic novel reader, a poetry reader, a military book reader, considered transferring schools and even considered moving to a different state! Simply because of the relationship I was in at that moment! I wanted desperately to know who I was but I didn't even know where to start. I wasn't even sure what my favorite color was!

Flash forward to present time. I could write a book about all that happened to help me discover myself, but I don't really have that kind of time right now. So I'll just quickly tell you where I'm at now....

I'm Stephanie. I love sunsets, looking at the stars and sitting around a campfire. I read fantasy novels and classic literature. I like the beach but I'd rather be in a cabin surrounded by trees and mountains. I love to write and it's a small dream of mine to write a book someday. My favorite color is black because it's classic. I'll say I hate dressing up but really, I love it. I am a Christian. I love Jesus Christ and I live for Him every single day. He is the center and biggest part of my life. In Him, I find myself.

When others were not loyal to me, when they abandoned me and hurt me, Jesus never left my side even for a moment. Even when I was anything but loyal to Him, He was true to me. And that, my friends, is what this life is all about.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. - Colossians 2:6-7

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Being a Disciple of Jesus.

Discipleship has always been an interesting topic to me. What is a disciple? How do you disciple others? Who is fit to disciple? How can you be a good disciple? What is required for a discipleship to be beneficial? So I began studying discipleship in the Bible. I looked at what Jesus asks of His disciples and in turn what He promises them as His followers.

The first thing I noticed was that Jesus says the words "follow me" a lot. He doesn't just say "believe in me," although obviously believing is the first step... He says follow me. He tells everyone and anyone to believe in Him. John 5:24 "...whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me..." John 7:38 "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said..." Anyone can believe in God. He throws that out there for the world. If you believe, you will be given eternal life, a beautiful, wonderful, amazing, gracious gift from our Father in Heaven. But who does He tell to follow Him? His disciples.

"The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, He said to him, "Follow me." - John 1:43.
"And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of me." - Mark 1:17.
"And when He had spoken this, He said to him [Peter], "Follow Me!" John 21:19

I looked up what the word "follow" means in Greek. "To be in the same way with, to follow after, close upon, to follow intently after." Intently, I loved that. We are called to follow Him intently. With purpose. Intentionally seeking Him. So already with my Greek dictionary open, I looked up the word "disciple." I wasn't really sure why I hadn't done this already since it was the main point in my study, but better late than never. It listed the obvious ones, "a learner, follower of a teacher, pupil," but what I found interesting was the last sentence in the definition. "After Christ's death and resurrection, the term disciple takes the broader sense of follower, believer, i.e. Christian."

To call yourself a Christian is to call yourself a disciple of Jesus Christ. And to call yourself a disciple of Jesus Christ means promising to follow Him, obey Him, love Him, trust Him, serve Him, have faith in Him, not be ashamed of Him, do as He did, honor Him and share His love with others.

Is it easy to be a disciple? I don't think so. It's much "easier" to live as the world lives and disregard all existence of something higher, something more meaningful, something deeper. But is it better to be a disciple? Oh yeah, it's the best thing we can achieve while we're here on earth. The world is a temporary place. It will disappear and all will be destroyed. But the glory of God will live forever. We will live forever if we are believers and followers of Jesus Christ! Death is a terrible thing but Christians rejoice in the fact that we are not created to die, we are created to live and to live forever with the One who created us!

In my opinion, being a disciple of Jesus is not simply believing. Even though that is all you have to do to receive eternal life, that is not enough for me. I don't want to just believe, I want to follow! I want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, continually growing and learning in my relationship with Him.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Be still.

Exodus 14:14 ~ The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Psalm 37:7 ~ Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him...

Psalm 46:10 ~ Be still, and know that I am God...

Sometimes God just wants us to calm down and trust Him. He knows what He's doing.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Is it bad to question God? I know He is all powerful, all knowing and controls everything in my life and in this world but am I totally wrong for wondering why He puts me in certain situations? Or why He puts things on my heart only to say "wait" and confirms His plans only to reveal a whole new path? Sometimes I wish Jesus would just knock on my door, sit down at the kitchen table and over a cup of coffee tell me exactly what He wants me to be doing for the next couple of weeks. Then in a couple weeks, we could repeat the process and I could get another set of plans. I imagine that I'd really look forward to those days drinking coffee with Jesus. He'd take His with three sugars and a splash of hazelnut creamer.

But I guess that would take out our need to seek Him. If He just showed up for a planned meeting twice a month would we have to get down on our knees and ask Him what He wanted for us? No, because we would just check the calendar and see that our meeting was scheduled for the 12th of May at 10:00am and go about our daily routines making a mental list of things to go over with Him on May 12th.

He wants us to continually, constantly and consistently be in His presence, asking for His guidance. Desperately seeking His truth and knowledge every day of our lives. And even if we don't agree, even if we think we could do it better... we obey. Because in the end, I promise you that His ways are always better than ours.

So yes, I guess I do question God sometimes. I question His reasons for allowing me to meet people that I love with a piece of my heart that isn't often awakened, only to pull me away and place me on a separate continent. I question why He put my friends all the way across the country and I question why He isn't providing me with a steady job. But I've never questioned His ability to know more about my life than I could ever imagine. And no matter how much I question Him, I will always trust Him. With my future, my life, my money, my relationships and my heart - I will always trust Jesus above anyone and anything else.