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Category: In My Life

More and More and More about Me: (Apparently, I like Stripes)

Thanks to Karissa Smith for nominating me for the Liebster Award, were you get to learn more about me! Check out Karissa’s blog, Becoming Kiona, for inspiration in becoming all that God created you to be. It’s a journey she’s on herself, and invites us to join in on! Check out this post in particular, on  finding your God-given purpose: http://becomingkiona.com/struggling-to-discover-your-god-given-purpose-start-here/

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Today, here, you’ll read about a blog I follow and love, 10 random facts about me, and then Karissa’s questions to me and my answers. At the end are the rules (and my questions) for the Liebster award for the bloggers I nominated, and for anyone who’s just plain curious.

Robin Melvin, over at Robin’s Nest

Robin writes vulnerably, sharing from her experiences and faith. I’ve been subscribed to Robin’s blog for a while now, always anticipating her next posts. And the book she’s working on!

Her posts are honest, vibrant, and grounded. This is what Robin says about herself on her ‘About Me’ page:

“I’m on a lifelong journey to uncover my divine design and live life to the fullest. Won’t you join me?

I hope you are encouraged and empowered by my transparent life ~ its struggles and its victories. Grace and peace for your journey, my friend.”

It’s true: Robin writes through her struggles and victories, and her transparency is a breath of fresh air. Through her struggles I am reminded I am not alone, that perfection isn’t expected, and vulnerability draws us together. Through her victories I am reminded to enjoy, to celebrate with friends, and to acknowledge the things that go well.

http://www.robinmelvin.com/

10 Random Facts about Me

  1. Apparently, I’m a soprano. I’ll be singing with my church choir this Christmas, and my part is soprano. Who knew?!
  2. I stack my books sideways, so I can fit more on the shelves. Space on my bookshelves is a coveted commodity!
  3.  I have a rolling cart for all my tea things (cups, mugs, tea bags, honey-on-sticks, etc) because I have such a collection of them.
  4. I like Doctor Who. Tennant was my first, the Ponds are my favorite, I like how Martha’s story ends. [And, on the TV topic, Shark Tank is one of my least favorite shows. Sorry.]
  5. I didn’t think I wore much jewelry, but I told my students that and they laughed.
  6. I like to learn things. I’m a huge fan of learning new information, helpful facts, and interesting tidbits. But that makes it hard to make decisions sometimes, because I always feel like I need more information before I can make a proper decision.
  7. I’m usually in the middle of reading five books and in the middle of five writing projects. I’m only in the middle of reading three books right now, but there are 13 books on my bookshelf in my ‘read this next’ pile.  (And apparently, per the picture included, my resting reading face is quite serious). I have at least five writing projects going, though I’m only focusing on one at a time these days.
  8. Back in college, I spent a few days in England and loved it. The cathedrals were impressive and stoic. The narrow roads and oncoming traffic had me holding my breath. The countryside was comfortable and rolling. It rained frequently, as expected.
  9. When people talk about what instruments they play, I respond, “Oh! Well, all I can play is the radio.” But that’s not true. Now I can also play my iPod, Spotify, Pandora, etc. Though, a few years ago I did try to learn to play the guitalele. Maybe I’ll pick it up again in the future.
  10. Watercolors are my favorite to use. French painters in the mid/late 1800s are my favorite painters—like Monet, and Renoir, and Pissarro.

Karissa’s Questions for Me

What does your name mean?

My name means “victory of the people”, which I’ve always thought was a fun/odd combo with my middle name which means “bitter sea”.

What is your ideal climate?

Warm, but not humid.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Pretty certain I’m an introvert. But it depends on how many people there are, and how well I know them.

What’s your favorite thing about blogging?

I really like hearing thoughts about my weekly posts from my subscribers and from people on facebook.

What is your dream vacation?

My dream vacation is more about who I’m with than where I am. It includes some ‘laying around’ and some ‘doing’ like sightseeing and museum visiting; a happy medium.

If your friends and family could only use one word to describe you, what would it be?

(Over)Thinker.

What is your favorite topic to write about?

Ooo, trick question? Here on the blog I like to write about stories from the Bible, writing things I learned in my own study. But when my blog work is done, I take out the fantasy stories I’m writing.

What is one goal you have that you want to accomplish by the end of the year?

It’s related to the fantasy book I’m writing—to take it from rough draft to second draft by the end of the year. I need to get going to make it happen!

When and why did you start your blog?

It started something like two years ago, intending to make a place for Christians in chronic pain to find encouragement through the stories of other Christians who live with pain but have seen God use it for good. That is still a part of what I do, but I’ve broadened to helping Christians notice God and connect with him day to day.

What’s your favorite place to go out to eat?

Subway. ‘Nuf said.

 

Questions for My Nominees

What are three books you’ve recently read and loved?

What are three books you hope to read soon?

Tell us about a time you felt proud of yourself!

What was your goal when you started your blog?

What would you say if you were playing “Never Have I Ever”? (Something you’ve never done, but you think many other people have)

Describe yourself in one word. (You can have three words if you need them : ) )

What is something you’ve done that you think few people have done?

What is your favorite season and why?

List five things you can’t live without: five things keep you you.     

What are 3-5 things you think you’re good at?

 

Liebster Award 2017 Rules for Nominees

  • Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
  • Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post, or by having it as the feature image.
  • Write a 150-300 word post about your favorite blog that is not your own. Explain why you like the blog, provide links.
  • Provide 10 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the questions from your nominator.
  • Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have less than 200 followers.
  • Ask your nominees questions of your own.
  • List these rules in your post.
  • Once you have written and published it, you then have to:
    • inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award
    • provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

You can find the official rules Here .

 

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Study the Bible in 5 Steps, and Connect with God

Studying the Bible is important, and you probably already believe that. But sitting down to study the Bible is a whole different can of worms. Although we know it’s important, sometimes we get stuck on what that time should actually look like. There are many ways to study the Bible. Below are five steps you might want to try.

Why Study

I wrote a post about why we study the Bible. You can read the full article here or, read this summary/conclusion

  • We study the Bible because God talks to us every day. How do we listen to him? By reading the Bible.
  • We study the Bible so we can know God better. The Bible reveals to us everything we need to know about him.
  • We study the Bible because God says that’s how we allow him to change us to be more like Christ.

Study the Bible with These 5 Steps

Those are some good goals! But how do we get there? How do we actually study the Bible?

  1. First, we pray. We talk to God and ask him for his help as we read so that we can understand, and be more Christlike.
  2. Then, we read like we are on a treasure hunt. It is best to read slowly. The whole point is to understand, so we don’t want to speed through it. Instead, we want to go slow enough that we understand what we’re reading. Studying the Bible is an exciting thing that helps us grow closer to God. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss anything. So I read slowly, paying attention to what God might be trying to say.
  3.  To check if we know what’s going on in the story, we ask ‘who and what?’ after we read it. This helps us make sure we know what happened in the story, and if we’re not sure, we can always go back and read the story again.
  4. While reading, we pay attention to what Jesus says and does, since we are trying to learn about him. And we ask ourselves what we learned about God from that story.
  5. Finally, we think about how remembering that about God will help us today, or in our life in general. We prayerfully consider how to apply what we’ve just learned about God.

Studying the Bible for ourselves helps us learn more about Jesus. It’s not enough to just learn about God in school and chapel. To grow up as a Christian, we need to study God’s word for ourselves. That means we read it and we make sure we understand it. By doing this, we learn about Jesus, and we realize how knowing that about Jesus will help us that day, or in our life in general.

What about you? How do you study the Bible? What helped you create the habit?

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Dependence: How and Why to Cultivate it

Independence is an American ideal. We strive for it in everything, don’t we? Even in our team sports, we give individual awards. In the workforce, we ‘rise to the top’ because of personal skill, hard work, and go-getting gumption. But it spirals out of control. In contrast, the Bible teaches dependence, and it’s an attitude that seeps into everything. And it’s an attitude we can re-learn.

[Learn about how Sarah Cauley learned dependence in this Related Post: Encouragement Through Hard Times (Interview with Sarah Cauley)]

I say ‘re-learn’ because dependence is something we all once knew. We couldn’t always feed ourselves. We used to rely on others to pick out our clothes and tie our shoes. But as we got older, we shunned that helped. Part of that is growing up. But it goes too far when be start to shun help from God.

Attitude

It all comes down to attitude. When independent, we become haughty. It’s natural. We accomplish things, ignoring the help we actually did get from others, and begin to believe we’re ‘all that’. With independence comes pride.

On the other hand, when we are dependent we tend to have a spirit of humility. No matter how much we accomplish, we are struck by all the help and support we got along the way. And dependence on God is sometimes simply an awareness of that dependence. With dependence, there is often humility.

Humility is not something to fake. There’s no point. A person’s true attitude will eventually shine bright. Humility, though, is something to pray for. And it’s something God wants to teach (see Ephesians 4:2 and Micha 6:8). And as we humbly trust God, we will become aware of our reliance on him, and become fearless.

[Related Post: How to be Fearless]

Awareness of Dependence

Cultivating dependence begins with being aware of how deeply we depend on God day to day. In the thick of our prideful independence, we are actually dependence on God. We are simply oblivious to our dependence.

A short list of things for which we depend on God:

  • abilities
  • dreams
  • ideas
  • life
  • daily blessings
  • everyday things we take for granted
  • spiritual growth
  • salvation
  • victory over sin
  • unity
  • love
  • wholeness

Cultivating a Spirit of Dependence

Becoming aware of our dependence on God starts with prayer. Ask God, and he will answer.

Other ways for growing in awareness of our reliance on God is to journal. Make a small list each morning or evening, whichever works best for you, of things you actually depended on God for that day (or the day before). It will help you recognize those moments in the future, even to look for them, and to turn to God in times of need.

*What about you? What do you think would help Christians grow in dependence on God?

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God Sees Through the Fog You’re Living In

We’ve had some fog this month– it settled over the land through the night and it was still hoovering while I commute to work.

And as I drove, I marveled at how it felt like I was traveling on a fog-shrouded road in my spiritual life, too. Nix the road, actually. It’s like I’m off-roading through the fog in an unexplored part of the world. 

We all are, in a way.

We don’t only get to see our present, not our future. Sometimes that stresses me out. I wish I could see ahead, wish I could know what’s coming so I can prepare for it, wish I could know where each fork in the road ends up. I wish I wish I wish. But it doesn’t work like that.

Instead, I’m learning, ever so slowly, to trust God. He does know what’s coming ahead– he made those good plans long ago. And I can trust that God is preparing me for my future in the present.

[And sometimes, it’s hard to step back and trust God knows what he’s doing with other people, rather than just yourself. Related Post: Trusting God with Other People]

Trust through the Fog

God sees the other side of the fog, whatever is just distant enough you can’t see it, or can’t see it clearly, with perfect vision. God knows what’s coming and it doesn’t surprise him. 

What’s coming might be a blessing. Every good and perfect gift comes from above. 

It might be trouble. Jesus knew we’d have trouble, but encourages us by reminding us he’s already overcome the world. It’s got nothing on him.

No matter how big of a surprise it is to you, good or bad, it doesn’t surprise God. God is not shocked, startled, or stuttering in confusion about what to do. He is fully aware and fully powerful to offer help should he be asked for it.

[Related Post: Needs are an Opportunity to Ask and See God Provide]

Let’s Get Practical

When you’re staring ahead into the fog, you may be tempted, like me, to try figuring out what’s on the other side, or to panic, or to park your ‘car’ rather than continuing to drive. But remember, as you drive, the next little leg of the journey becomes visible. 

So, instead, pause. Take a moment to remember God’s character, to praise him for his help through that last stretch of the journey, and to ask for guidance as you continue on. God is faithful, and the journey is worth it. 

[Related Post: When All Seems Lost, Remember God’s Character]

In the comments, go ahead and let me know how God has helped you through a foggy time in your own life. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

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4 Ways to Fix Our Perceptions of God

Broken human relationships, misunderstandings of scripture, and misinterpretations of circumstances all lead us to faulty perceptions of God.

I remember when my cousin first introduced that thought to me when we prayed together. She prayed that Jesus would help us see him as he was, not as we imagined him to be. At that point, it had never occurred to me that Jesus was anything other than how I imagined him.

But thank goodness he is!

I had believed some pretty nasty lies about God as a result of misreading the Bible and misinterpreting my circumstances. I saw Jesus walking through the gospels having compassion on people and healing them left and right– but not healing me, no matter how I prayed for it.

This led me to put on some spiritual sunglasses and believe a lie about God.

I began to believe that Jesus didn’t love me. It would be years before community, honesty, Bible study, and prayer would slip those glasses off so I could see the truth. [Related Post: Would I Pick Pain?] [Related Post: The Day Pain Lost Its Power Over Me]

Spiritual Sunglasses

Our relationships, misunderstandings, and circumstances tint our view of God, making him appear other than he really is. This is dangerous, especially when we don’t realize we’re wearing these glasses.

When we wear sunglasses, we perceive the world other than it really is. There are rose-colored glasses, yellow-tinted glasses, super dark tinted glasses, and more. They each filter reality through their tint. They each taint our view of the scene.

In a similar way, our relationships, misunderstandings, and circumstances tint, or taint, our view of God. These false views keep us from experiencing rest, joy, peace, and fullness in our relationship with him.

It’s hard to have peace when you think he’s watching for you to mess up.

It’s hard to be joyful when you believe the lie that he doesn’t love you.

It’s hard to feel full in your relationship with him when you’re sure he’s distant.

It’s hard to rest in his presence when you think he’s smoldering in anger.

Fixing our Faulty Perceptions

You want out? You don’t want to be trapped in faulty perceptions anymore? There’s some really good news. Jesus doesn’t want us trapped in these false views either.

It is possible get rid of our faulty spiritual sunglasses and see God as he is. To do so, we live in community, study the Bible, pray, and hear truth. These will have the most impact when they overlap and intermingle with each other.

Community

Living in community can effectively take off our spiritual sunglasses if we have honest conversations about how we see Jesus. It is possible (though pointless) to hide our true selves from our community. When we are honest and vulnerable, that’s when the healing begins.

[Related Post: It Hurts to be Vulnerable, But I Will]

Bible Study

Bible study is twofold. First we must study the Bible on our own, just us and God. But then we need to have conversations about it. This lets us explore the ideas further and engage in conversation that may challenge our misreadings.

[Related Post: My Misunderstanding About Jesus’ Words]

Prayer

Through prayer we regularly talk and listen to God. It is an avenue to be honest to him about what we think of him. This invites God to challenge and remedy our misinterpretations, misreadings, and faulty perceptions.

[Related Post: What They Never Told Me About Prayer (and I had to learn on my own)]

Hear Truth

Listening to others teach truth is another way to learn what our faulty perceptions are and how to remedy them. To hear truth, listen to sermons, attend group Bible studies, or simply engage in conversation with other Christians.

[Related Post: Urgency and the Book of Revelation]

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Blessings of Flying First Class: Switching Places with Jesus

First class. How did I find myself with the blessings of flying first class?

I was flying to Minnesota, and I hadn’t anticipated a lesson on my identity in Christ. I had bought a normal airline ticket from Illinois to Minnesota, but when I walked down the center of the plane to my seat, someone was already there.

“I’m in 11D,” I said, apologetic but not really understanding how he could have sat in the wrong seat.

“Oh, you’re 11D!” He said. “Ok, so I’m supposed to be in first class, but I want to sit by my girlfriend. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind switching?”

Mind?? I didn’t even have to think about it. Who turns down an opportunity like that? “If you’re sure… yeah! I’ll switch.”

“Great. My seat is 3A.”

The aisle was full of people loading themselves and their carry-ons, so I kept walking toward the back of the plane. When the aisle was clear, I headed back up front. First class, really and truly.

A comfortable seat, plenty of leg room, a mini pillow and blanket set, my choice of snacks, the works. And I could have said no.

Alternative Story Endings (without the blessings)

I could have missed out on the whole first class experience.

The man could have preferred sitting in first class over sitting by his girlfriend, and never even offered the switch.

I could have told him that was very kind of him, but let’s each keep the seats we bought, and, hey, why don’t we be friends!

Also, I could have told the young man, “No, I paid for this seat and I intend to sit here, squished and uncomfortable. I did not buy a first class seat, so I will not sit in a first class seat.”

Or I could have accepted his offer but waited at the back of the plane and refused to take the seat I have been given.

Yes, I could have easily missed out on a lot.

And while I sat on the plane in my unearned seat, early in the morning, I realized just how much the whole situation reminded me of our relationship with Jesus.

Blessings in Jesus

Goodness, it was unexpected and comfortable to stretch out on the plane, to curl up in a small blanket and rest my head on a tiny, travel-sized pillow (which I did keep, by the way). But as I rested, I realized I was still hanging out in the back of the ‘spiritual plane’.  It’s like Jesus took my seat on the plane– my space on the cross– but I’ve been clinging to my sin, not willing to walk up to first class and accept what God has bought for me with his blood.

Jesus has given me his first class seat, and although I let him take my seat and agreed to take his, I hadn’t really gone up to sit in first class.

There are things Jesus has given me that I often forget about, blessings I refuse to take. Sometimes I do just forget. Sometimes I’m simply not aware. Other times, I know full well the blessings he has promised but for some strange reason I refuse to take them. Jesus didn’t just take my place in death, he opened to me a world of life.

Jesus:

 

That man gave me a far more comfortable seat than I deserved– and a spiritual epiphany.

There are far more blessings in Jesus than the 10 I listed here. In the comments, add your favorites to my list!

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The Day Pain Lost Its Power Over Me

In July 2016, I got a call from the doctor which should have scared me silly. I was on medication that required monthly blood work. The call should have crippled me, trapping me in its power.

“We got your blood work back,” the nurse said. “Stop your medication, call your primary doctor.” She told me it might be nothing, it might really and truly be nothing. It’s probably okay, just schedule an appointment with your doctor. Her words weren’t as encouraging as she’d intended them to be, but I wasn’t phased. “Your platelet count is down,” she told me, which wasn’t helpful since I didn’t know anything about platelets.

After a conversation like that, it would make sense for me to be scared. But I wasn’t.

Who has the power?

When the nurse called me, I had just finished slowly and thoughtfully reading 1st and 2nd Peter. For some reason, that summer day, I’d decided to sit down and read them both. And just as I finished, my phone rang. When the call was over, I was somehow still calm.

I was so satiated in God’s word the news didn’t bother me. I was too focused on who God is, and how powerful he is.

It’s like the wind and the waves of the world were after me, but I didn’t care because I was resting in God’s power.

Not his power to heal me– that’s not what I was counting on. I was calm believing that no matter what sickness came my way, God would never leave me.

It’s like the story of Peter walking on water.

 “And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” “

Peter was fine and even walking on the water, until he saw the wind. When he saw the wind, he was afraid, and he began to sink.

Then, I began to sink

Those first days after the phone call, I was fine. I had my eyes focused on God, and I was not afraid.

But as the days dragged on between the call and the appointment with my doctor, I began to ‘see the wind’. What are platelets, anyway? What does it mean that they’re low? How many ways is that going to change my life? Am I doing something that’s making it worse?

When I started focusing on the problem instead of on God, my faith wavered. 

Our thoughts are important. When I was thinking about God’s love, power, and faithfulness, I was calm. But when I thought about all the bad things that ‘low platelets’ could mean, I was afraid.

In between

A year later, and there are still a lot of questions. We don’t know what caused my platelets to drop. We don’t know how to make the numbers rise.

There are lots of things we don’t know. But there are many things we do know. At this point, it’s still not dangerous, and it doesn’t change my life at all.

Here between the diagnosis and the healing, God is the same. God is good. God is near me. No matter what problems and obstacles have come, God’s not going anywhere.

And I’ve already seen God use it for good, because I trust him a lot more. Things happen in life. Bad things happen, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason. But pain holds less power over me now because I’m trusting God like never before. Because God is powerful, and God is good, and God is near.

 

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