Picture of the Past

So tonight I can across a picture with my niece and me. I was watching her and then taking her to church the next day. However, behind the facade of my goofy face was a terribly hung over broken woman.

What my niece didn’t know is that the night before I went to celebrate my friends birthday. But I just kept drinking. I didn’t see a limit. I paid for it. I blacked out. People who “knew” me saw a side of me they hadn’t seen… but wait a few months prior they did. You see I did the same thing a few months earlier at a party. I was drinking and drinking and just not caring about me or anyone else. It was my escape from the darkness I was living in. It was my “high”.

The night with my niece hurt me. I could not offer the love, support, or even fun times. I couldn’t keep anything down. My insides and head were throbbing in pain. I was defeated.

The next day was church and my niece was so excited! I put on a happy face and we went. I never felt more like a lair or failure that day. Anytime someone would try to ask questions, I simply deflected them and just try to push through for my niece.

Later that night, after saying goodbye to my niece, I fell to my knees and I wept. I was still in pain, hungover, and broken. I remember screaming out to God in frustration because I was reliving my life before I got saved. I was moving backwards in faith of what felt like deliberately, because part of it was in my hands of control or at least I thought it was.

God changed my heart that night on those knees. He turned me around and covered me. He took those burdens, that shame from me and put it on himself. I surrendered that night to who I was and to be molded into who God designed me to be. That was three years ago today.

Alcohol was my drug of choice it was one of my secret sins that I didn’t want people to know about so it’s actually one of the hardest to talk about. Where I didn’t drink much, when I did it was ugly and nasty. I used to tell myself I drink because it makes me comfortable in my own skin or it allows me to be “me” because there is no filter. Let me tell you those are all lies the enemy tells you to convince you to have one more drink because the more we numb ourselves the more we focus on this world and our flesh. So I was never “me”, I was the ugly version of me because I was closer to the enemies mouth than my ear was to God’s voice.

Alcoholism is real. Drug addiction is real. Luckily there is help and hope. God states he will never abandon you nor forsake you. He has and will always love you. You are his Son or daughter. He cares for you. There is hope found in Jesus. He died so that you might live.

Sacrifice

The other night in growth group one of the ladies asked “How do you even begin to know what Jesus went through?”

I answered with something our Pastor said awhile ago.

“Love is rooted in sacrifice.” – Pastor Tally Wilgis

God sent his Son, Jesus to be the sacrificial lamb. He sent Jesus to die for us so we didn’t have to.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

He sent his Son because he loves us because he wants us to be with him for eternity. We get the free gift of eternal life, but Jesus lived in this world and then voluntarily hung on executioners cross and died for our sins just so all of us can have the gift of eternal life.

Think about that for a moment, Jesus died for you. He voluntarily got up on the cross. He is God in flesh, he could’ve stop it. But he didn’t. He didn’t want to die in Matthew 26:39 Jesus says “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” In another Gospel it says he was so anguished that he was sweating drops of blood. Can you now imagine what he was going through? I still couldn’t.

But I said to them for us to experience even a glimpse of what he went through. Try doing something for someone else when you don’t want to or don’t have the time to. It might be a silly sacrifice but when you had a hard day at work and all you can think about our pjs and your favorite shows and someone you know is hurting or is having a rough day, try switching your plans around to put them first above your own. You’ll get frustrated and you might even get mad because you don’t want to sacrifice the time or energy of your own time.

One of my big things I tell myself is when I don’t want to do something it probably means I should be doing it. Meaning that when I evaluate something by my mere flesh and worldly views my automatic response is I don’t want to. I don’t have time. I don’t have the energy. But when I evaluate through the lens of the spirit I immediately go through it differently. I ask is this purposeful? Does it impact a person? The Kingdom? Is it meaningful? So when I don’t want to do something a lot of times it’s my flesh fighting back because my flesh doesn’t want to put others above me.

One of my pet peeves is when people say they follow Jesus and “live it out” but there is no sacrificing for others and it’s always about them.

God is Love. Love is rooted in sacrifice. And in order for us to show the love of God we have sacrifice time, talent, treasure. We have to be willing to give something even when there is no return.

Receiving Help

I grew up believing receiving help was a sign of weakness and unintelligence. So I never asked for help. I dealt with my problems on my own and never turned to anyone for guidance, from asking for help on an assignment to asking for help in my personal problems or situations. I dealt with them all alone. So it took me down a dark spiral of depression. It was hard to get out of bed, it was hard to put one foot in front of the other, it was hard to even look at other people. It was hard to do life. I would put a mask on and tell everyone I was okay but on the inside I was so broken. I couldn’t tell anyone that I was struggling because that means I’m not perfect and if I’m not perfect then I’m dumb and if I’m dumb I am weak and I can’t be seen as weak because then no one will accept me or love me.
So I buried my feelings, the hurt, the broken pieces of me under a rug. I didn’t want anyone to see me less than perfect. But the more things got shoved inside the more of who I am began to diminish. I started defining myself by my failures and not my accomplishments. I started doubting everything. My personality was jaded by my inability to tell people what was really going on, so I began to just keep my mouth shut, so it wouldn’t slip out. 

Eventually it got to a point where I couldn’t handle it. I found coping mechanisms through alcohol. It was that temporary feeling of joy. I was so happy. I partied almost every weekend of college and by my senior year, it was every other day. It was bad but in the moment it felt good.

In 2012 though my life changed for forever. I had started my first full time job, I had my first real boyfriend, I had lost over 100lbs, life was so good. I couldn’t have been more happier. But the broken pieces of me was still inside me. I still cried myself to sleep some nights. But I remember distinctly on a July morning I had closed my tear filled eyes and said these words, “God, if you are real. I need your help. If you are real, why am I feeling this way? Why do I have everything I want but still feel alone.” It was my first prayer I had prayed for myself. It was the first time asking for genuine help. 

That September, God led me to my church home where I met Jesus. He became the One I gave my life to. My life changed the moment I open my mouth and asked for help; the moment I surrendered to the fact I can’t do it by myself. I found true joy. I found true love. And I keep working towards digging up the pieces I buried deep inside to become the woman God designed me to be. 

Asking for help is not weakness, it’s strength because it’s admitting you don’t have life figured out. It’s admitting that you have weaknesses and flaws that you cannot seem to figure out and that’s okay. God has provided not only the profession of counseling for us to go to but he gave us His Son to be our counselor. We all need help. We all need  Jesus because we all are imperfect and we are born into a sin filled world.  

Check out this clip on Jesus being the Wonderful Counselor from Pastor Tally Wilgis at Captivate Church: https://youtu.be/VoYjRfX34Wg

Redeemed Life

We are called to lived a redeemed life not a condemned life. 

Yet so many of us live inside ourselves and in our own little world. We start thinking God forgot about us, that God isn’t for us, that God doesn’t care about us. 

We begin to idolize this world and everything in it including ourselves. We put our needs and wants above others. We begin to think we are more important than everyone around us. We start knowingly sinning again and instead of immediately reprenting and turning away we begin to to tell ourselves “It’s okay, Jesus will forgive me.” It becomes a cycle.

When we do this, we will feel abandoned by God. We will feel like God isn’t for us. We begin to rely on ourselves and our “feelings” to define the relationship with God. We allow our earthly standards define the word “relationship”.

We can’t define it. It is way above our understanding. God has been our sideline since the beginning of time. He has been cheering us on since before our name was ever mentioned. God didn’t leave us. God didn’t abandon us. God is for us and will never be against us. Through every hill and every valley he is there. He is with us every step we take and every breathe breathed. 

So if we sit here and live as if we are of this world than we will live a condemned life. We will live like there is no hope, no light, no freedom. We will live as if Jesus never walked this earth and died for us. We will live for ourselves. 

But God calls us out of bondage, guilt, and shame. He calls us to follow him, so that we live our lives for him not for ourselves. We are to be the light, and tell people about the hope and love found in Jesus. We are to showcase Jesus and put him on display. We are to live a redeemed life because Jesus redeemed us. 

God will never abandon his children, even if you feel as though he has. God will forever love us even more than we can ever love him. Live as though Jesus is alive and active because he is, He lives in us. 

Meeting you at the point

In Genesis 22, Abraham was to sacrifice his son after God told him to do so. But the beauty is when they go to altar, God showed up. God had Abraham free his son and provided a ram to be sacrificed in his place. God met Abraham in the place after he placed a calling on him and Abraham was following through.

God will meet you where he called you, just not on your timing. I’ve been struggling with faith, I’ve been struggling on whether this life is what God has called me to do, I’ve been struggling with connection with God, I’ve been struggling with a relationship with God. It’s been rough. It’s been battles with the enemy, internal struggles and some very dark days. God promises me he will never leave me nor forsake me. He promises he will always love me and he is working all things for good for those who love him.
But I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to hear the goodness of God. It was as if I put myself in this box and the enemy decided to trap me in there and tried convinced me that God had forgotten me, and repeatedly told me if he truly called me then I wouldn’t be going through this pain. But all this time, God was out there telling me to hold on because I had to endure this moment to get to where God wanted me but I couldn’t hear him over the words of the enemy. I was right where the enemy wanted me, trapped in my own thoughts.

But I was set free. You see there was this moment I had to pull over and allow tears to just flow down my face and be broken before God. At this very point was the point at which God met me. I yelled. I screamed at God. But a peace had come over me. It was in that moment that I knew I was free and all I had to do was let go. 
God will meet you where he wants you. Today I walked into church with more happiness and joy than any Sunday over the last few months. I got to serve Jesus today and for that I am thankful. 

Design 

A year ago I had no idea what I was doing. I was thrown into an opportunity that I had no formal training in and not getting trained in something for me was hard. I like guidelines, I like bullet points to what I need to achieve to do well in a role or project. But there was no bullet points, no checkboxes. I literally just had to be me. But it was hard because I see so many flaws in myself that the idea of being me was scary. So last year I did my job and interacted when I had to or if they they needed help. It was very hard for me to be me in front of them so I put on a facade and I tried not to let them see the broken me inside because I was afraid they’d find out how I really felt, fake. 
But this year, God moved mountains in my life. I’ve learned to embrace my flaws as who God designed me as. I’m not perfect, I never will be. I have a tendency to tell myself, “If I only talked more maybe people would like more. If I wasn’t so awkward maybe people would invite more to things and I’d have more friends. If I wasn’t so big maybe then I’d win a guy over. If I lost weight maybe then I’ll love myself.” I could go on, the criteria I put on myself to be able to accept myself is not God ordained, it’s pure evil. I could never obtain it. I’m seeking perfection when God says ‘no, you weren’t designed to be perfect. You weren’t designed not to have flaws, you weren’t designed to get everything right the first time. You were designed to love and to care for others. You were designed to teach others about my Son. You were designed to lead the way for young believers. You were designed to be you. But do you trust me enough to let me use the person I designed you to be? Or do you want to try to constantly aim for something you never hit and live a life we’re all you see are failures because the criteria of perfection is too high to be obtained?’

Don’t live a life of failure. Live of life full of grace and love. One of the hardest things for me is allowing myself to have grace, I’m the hardest person on myself, but there’s freedom found in it. Be who God designed you to be and allow him to mold you to be exactly who he made you to be. Trust in him. 

Vulnerability: God Moments

So recently I’ve battled the question, “Where’s God?”. I didn’t feel him. I longed for a glimpse and connection but I didn’t have it. I read the Word of God but the words just felt like words in a book. Sermons were just someone talking. My bible study was just painful rectorial questions asked over and over again. Prayers just seemed empty.

So I pondered if God forsake me even though according to scripture I knew he wouldn’t. I pondered if I could hold on to the daily routine I had that felt worthless and useless. I pondered my faith, my devotion, my life to Christ. I pondered it all. God was so silent.

But the more I dug into what was wrong I realized it was me. I was the problem. I wasn’t vulnerable, I wasn’t letting people in anymore. I closed the doors on myself. I put my walls backup and I checked out mentally and spiritually. I didn’t let people see me struggle, depressed, anxious, or stressed. I showed up and got the job done and left.

The other day I sat down and I wrote out how I was feeling…and then I began a part of where I began to make excuses to just leave Baltimore and start my life over, at that very moment someone walked through the door. And then later as I continued to write, the youth program weighed on my heart.  

Over this past week, I got to witness this teen girl accept Christ into her heart and life. Then on youth night that same girl pull me aside and tell me her life story and her struggles. Where I  opened up abour my story. Then it was lunch with this girl and more in depth conversation about what’s she’s going through and talk about Jesus. 

All this time I see myself in this girl. I see my struggles I went through at her age. I see the struggles I still face today through this girl. 

Late tonight she reached out to me again. She asked if hiding her feelings was okay. I began to tell her the truths of what Jesus says and I told her my testimony in that area. God is present. God is listening. As I wrote out my response to her, God was reminding me of his truths, of His love, of His plans and purpose for my life. He was pouring this on to me so I could pour it out to her.

My purpose in my life is to be a vessel. To show people the love of Jesus, the love of God , to show them a redeemer, a savior. To show them that they are not alone in this life. 

God gave me a story to share. I didn’t go through my life for just my sake. I went through it for moments like I’ve had this past week and for future moments I have yet to see.

Communication at our Finger Tips

Lately,  I’ve been convicted on this self centered world. This social media filled world that is so focus on ourselves that we forget who God called us to.

We’re not perfect by an stretch of imagination, but I see more videos on food then I do any post about Jesus or what God is doing, praises, bible verses, or quotes from pastors. If social media is a inward look to who we are at the core since we don’t have to keep face, I’m scared. We see food, self indulgence, or something fluffy tends to occupy peoples mind more then Jesus. And this idea of Jesus occurs only on Sundays. 

Maybe you don’t want to be considered a Jesus freak. Or maybe you say your religion has no basis on Facebook. But this is where I’m going to tell you, you’re doing it all wrong.

We have this communication at our finger tips. People scroll and scroll to see what someone posted. What video is shared, what picture is shared or what someone is debating. If we as Christians allow people to see our lives on social media without one ounce of Jesus, are we really Christ followers? We are to be witnesses. We are to live a life that represents Jesus. Yet we fill it up with nonsense.

We fill it up to glorify ourselves. We fill it up to boast about ourselves. We fill it up with things that make us “happy” yet that happiness ends in a minute and a half. We fill it up with food we will never make. We fill it up with lies we want people to believe. We fill it up with self doubt so that we get that “encouragement” we long for. We use social media to glorify our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. We use social media to rant. We use social media to debate. I could keep going. But I will stop there.

But what if we use it to glorify God. What if use it for Jesus first. What if we before we post about ourselves, see if this showcases who Jesus called us to be. Let’s use the biggest form of communication to glorify God, not ourselves.

Alignment 

We’re all running our own race of life. We all put one foot in front of the other, what are you aiming towards? Is it the next promotion? Your next move? What does God say about it? 
We all can aspire to do great things, but how many of them are God divine, driven, and his will?

I’m not expert at this, trust me I’m still learning, but God puts a calling on every one of our lives. When I was in college I aspired to be a professor, I took over the chemistry group at college and started tutoring. Where there were people in the group; I was the one who decided I was going to help the freshmen get through this difficult  class called chemistry. I wanted to approach it and allow them to learn it from a different perspective and maybe teach them a few tricks I caught on to. Before every test I would have about 20-30 freshmen/sophomores in a classroom that I got to help. That’s 20-30 kids that got to see me stand confindently and be able to spill out my knowledge to them. It was awesome.  But quickly that fire I had in me went out. After that year I quit chemistry all together, so the aspiration quickly died with it.

Why is this revelant? It’s revelant because we all aspire to be something or  do something. Mine in that moment was to be a college professor, but after long hours to finish my degree I burnt out. It wasn’t a calling God placed on my life. The experience in the moment taught me a lot but the aspiration and purpose I thought I had was fickle because it was my own and not God’s. God didn’t have that path set out for me, where it hurt when I realized it, ultimately I wouldn’t change a thing. 

I’m still trying to figure out my purpose and calling. But everyday it gets a little more clearer, ever day God places opportunities in front of me for me to either follow him or follow my own flesh. The more I say yes to God, the more opportunities he places in front of me. The more my heart aligns with his the more confindently I walk with him. 

God has a purpose and a calling on your life. You just have to follow him. You have to lay down your life because he gave up his life for you. If we surrender our life to be authentic Christ followers imagine the difference our lives would be, image the difference our nation and world would be. But so many of us puts an I before God in everything .

God doesn’t call us to put ourselves first. God doesn’t call us to live in sin. God calls us out of sin and out of the darkness. God calls to walk boldly, and confindently with Him. He is our Father, our King, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end and without him we are nothing. I Am sent us to live out his name and glory and to be able to spread the goodnews of His son, who defeated death itself for us to be here today. Let’s not take for granted all the pain and suffering Jesus went through just so we can have a fun time in life. Let’s do His will and our purpose and calling will align with His and we all can accomplish great things, because we have an almighty God on our side.

Take off the Blinders

I don’t know if you are like me, but I grew up in a shell protected from the outside. Alcohol was not present in my home neither were cigarettes or any type of drugs other than what the doctor prescribed us.  Alcohol and cigarettes were only things part of my family partook in and I didn’t really know what actually drugs were till I was in my teens in health class. I was sheltered.

I was taught not to mind what others are doing and focus on where I was heading. Where this a great mindset when you are pressing towards a goal in the world, but not when you are living for Christ and being who God calls us all to be. You have to take the blinders off.

Let me explain, we can’t truly love our neighbors if we can’t see them. If we have the blinders on, we are only going to neighbors for our own benefit, sadly enough but it’s true. We can’t see where they are hurting, we can’t see how we can help them because we are focused on our next step and our next move. So many of us live this way in life and its scary.

They are focused on their next promotion, their next growth step or their next big move that they cannot see the people God placed before them. They cannot see the hurting people right outside their doorstep. Even if they take 10 mins away from their busy schedule to notice someone, they are inwardly thinking about themselves and how they have to go somewhere or have to accomplish something and are not focused on the conversation at hand. We are all guilty of this on some level but it doesn’t discount how unbiblical it actually is.  My pastor recently stated in a sermon, “love is rooted in sacrifice.”  I didn’t think much of it then but it’s so true. If we are not willing to sacrifice something as simple enough as time are we really truly loving our neighbor? our friends? our family? even God?

God doesn’t tell us we have give up our physical bodies to be sacrificed like Jesus, but he does tell us that we are to give up ourselves to live for him. He does tell us we have to put ourselves aside to live for Him and to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. Our flesh will always want it to be about us because naturally, we are selfish not self-less. So there will be times where we go apart from God and not see the people around us. Not see how the city, state, country we are in is so broken. We don’t see all the hurting people on the street, that just want their next hit because that just want a glimpse of that high they once had.

God put us all where are for a reason. Take the blinders off, look around you, sacrifice time for them and think of yourself less because we maybe the only flicker of light that those people might be able to see. So we have to be it.