Friday, September 27, 2013

7: Media

My friend Sammy and I are doing The 7 Experiment, a Bible study by Jen Hatmaker that we totally recommend!  Several people have joined these weekly fasts since the very first week, including my mom, Ali, and a few others!

This is the week I've honestly been dreading for the last month: media.  I have a feeling that this means this is the fast I will learn from the most!

Friends and me with our iPhones on 4th of July
I am a media kind of girl.  I'm majoring in Telecommunications and Media Studies in college, if you need proof.  I love blogging, Facebook, Twitter, instagram, iPhone apps of all sorts, and pretty much any other source of appropriate social media that one could find.  I enjoy it.  But these sources of media can be major distractions in my life.

This week, we will be fasting from seven sources of social media.  These are the seven I chose:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Posting from my blog and reading other blogs
  • Radio/iPod
  • TV/movies/Hulu/Netflix
  • Texting
  • iPhone apps
My exceptions to this fast are mostly within my phone apps.  I will be using the Maps app because I am severely directionally challenged and would otherwise never find my way to anywhere ever again.  I will be using the TAMU app for schoolwork.  I will use the alarm clock app for waking up for classes and church.  And I will use the camera app (but I won't post pictures anywhere until after the week is over).

The iPhone apps as a fast is focused on sacrificing from things like instagram, Candy Crush, Tumblr, easy access to Google, snapchat, and Vine.  Those are my iPhone favorites and will very much get a break this week.

An example of one way I use social media through snapchat all the time. Mmhmm.
I've informed my friends that if they need to talk to me this week, they can give me a call or find me in person, so I'm curious to see how many phone calls I will actually get from my contemporary friends (who like to text and tweet as much as I do).

When it comes to my blog, I will continue to write daily thoughts that I may post starting next Friday.  For me, writing is a form of worship and revelation, but I will refrain from posting anything, including comments, until one week from today.  I also won't be reading any other blogs for the next week.

I will be using email for schoolwork and work, which is why that is not included in my list of media sources (although I won't use my phone to check email).

I expect the biggest mistakes this week to come from habit.  When I turn on my laptop, my immediate reaction is to open Facebook and Twitter.  There may be accidental mistakes!  I'll log off these sites for the week to help me remember, as well as turn off the data on my phone, so hopefully this will minimize accidental errors.

It's a little stressful to think about giving up blogs, social media, and texting.  It's overwhelming to imagine spending my afternoons without giving into the allure of my iPhone and internet.  But this is exactly why it is good for me to fast from these things for a week and set my eyes fully on the Father and His unfailing love and mercy in my day-to-day life.

The promise verse I'm memorizing for this week is: "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh." -Ezekiel 11:19.

Another verse that I will repeat to myself when I am feeling weary or frustrated is Psalm 86:11, which says, "Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name."

I'm approaching this week with full awareness of my own weakness and total desire to stretch my arms out to Jesus and ask Him to fill every distracted piece of my heart. 

Talk to you in a week, friends.

Two years ago: Pregnant Mannequins and Hairless Dogs
Three years ago: Rainbow Eyes

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Lord Provides (Seven Fast)

My friend Sammy and I are currently participating in The 7 Experiment Bible study by Jen Hatmaker.  The first week, we only ate from seven foods.  The second week, we wore only seven articles of clothing.  For the third week, we are giving away possessions.

Day 4: Monday

Today I gave away a few more articles of clothing, but I mostly searched my bedroom for other possessions and decided to give up things like books (ouch), sunglasses, a hat, and longboard wheels.

The hardest part of the week is beginning.  It is becoming daily more difficult to sit down and judge which of my belongings are needless excess.  I want to approach each day with the mindset of embracing selflessness instead of only giving away random junk that clutters my bedroom.  I am ready for the Lord to carve out places in my life so that they can be filled completely with Him.

Yesterday I taped a sign to my living room wall that reminded my roommates or any visitors to my house to leave possessions to be given away to the needy.  Much to my delight, when I woke up this morning, there was a box and two grocery bags full of stuff sitting next to my hamper!  Each week, it's been a joy to watch the Lord change hearts and transform perspectives. 

Day 5: Tuesday

Giving up belongings aches in a completely refreshing and beneficial way.  When chains are broken, freedom rains down upon my day in joy and refreshment.

I dove into my shoe bucket today.  As much as I don't care about style and clothing, I do love my comfy shoes and I have my heart set on my favorite brands, like TOMS and Converse and Chacos.  Today I gave away some pairs of shoes that I like but don't need (and I don't need the fifteen or so pairs that I own), as well as some jeans.  Who needs seven pairs of jeans?  Not this girl.

Farewell, dress that I like but don't wear very often.  Farewell, t-shirt and sweatpants.  Farewell, pillow.  Farewell, farewell, farewell.  I tell myself I'll miss you now, but we all know I won't really.  In six months, I'll forget completely what all I gave away because I have been living with an over-abundance of possessions. 

In Luke 12, Jesus tells a man described as a 'rich fool': “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”  Examining my own lifestyle, I pray that Jesus wouldn't call me a rich fool, but I do have an abundance of possessions.  Keeping this in mind, I am working hard to be on my guard against all kinds of greed in my life, whether it's through reluctance to give away a pair of shoes I like to someone whose shoes are falling apart, or through trusting in the abundance of my possessions over the security and sufficiency of the Lord's work in my life.

I know I've said this several times, but this is test week and it has been extremely stressful for me.  I was studying with Sammy and a couple of other friends tonight at Denny's, and at one point, I said, "Sammy, have you learned anything from the Lord this week about our fast?"  I asked this not because I didn't think she had (of course God is teaching her marvelous things!), but because I was feeling frustrated with my own singular focus on studying and was ready to hear some revelation about this fast.

Sammy explained that so many things she has kept in her bedroom she doesn't truly need, but she likes to think she does.  She keeps them just in case she'll need them later.  This week, she is learning about how the Lord desires to be the One to provide for our needs, and when we store up riches for ourselves, we are putting trust in our own provision over God's!  Good wisdom.  I can relate and it was just what I needed to hear today. 

Day 6: Wednesday

God is sufficient.  God is sufficient.  This is what I mumbled to myself as I rummaged through my bookshelves (my library is the pride of my house), through my closet another time, and through the few drawers I have in my room.  My bedroom is now free of some movies, books, and jewelry.  I gave away some extra pillow cases.  At first, I wondered if this was cheating because the pillow cases don't hold much emotional value for me, but I am sure there are people in this town who could use the pillow cases that I keep sitting aimlessly on my closet shelf.  So in the hamper they go.

I started out the night studying and feeling overwhelmed, and the night ended up with a several-hour conversation solely about God's glory and heaven.  It was so sweet, so needed, and so worth the time taken away from my textbooks.  In the early morning hours, when I was getting ready for bed, I was thinking about how delighted I felt after that long conversation with two of my dearest friends about our Father, and it hit me: we were fulfilling our purpose.

We were created to glorify God and when we praise Him, we overflow with joy because we're doing exactly what we were made to do!  When I am focused singularly on schoolwork and social media and my belongings and my clothes, I am giving my worship to things and not to God.  And He is so marvelous and powerful.  He is worthy of every ounce of praise in my heart and more. 

God is good!

Day 7: Thursday

If you know me well in the "real world" outside of blogging, you know how much I love my TOMS.  They are some of my absolute favorite shoes.  Well, a pair of my TOMS went into the giveaway hamper today, as well as one of my two pairs of running shoes.  And a few other things.  God is sufficient.  Why do I need so much stuff anyways?

Today's giveaway took longer than the others did.  It also involved a hesitant Emily removing and replacing the same last few items in my hamper, over and over again.  "No, I'll keep this, just in case.  No, I don't need it; I'll give it away.  No, I'll keep it.  No, no, no, the point of this week is sacrifice."  But now that my choices are made, I'm feeling confident and overjoyed by the way the Lord is changing my selfish heart.

I don't need these things.  I have an over-abundance of material possessions and blessings.  I am glad for the opportunity to place idols in my life aside and turn instead to the Lord as the Provider of all of my needs.   

Looking at the wall that holds all of the bags and boxes of things that my roommates and I have chosen to give away makes me smile... and smile some more.  I can't wait to head out to give these possessions away with Sammy tomorrow.  God is moving in our town.  He is moving in our hearts.  And He loves greatly.

One year ago: Daddy
Two years ago: The Sanctuary
Three years ago: Bornali Deka

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Unveiled: Lauren

Today's guest blogger is my precious friend Lauren!  She is a young woman who carries so much confidence and wisdom from the Lord.  I was so encouraged and inspired by her answers to these questions.  Lauren has a passion for women's ministry and pursuing a life of purity.  She keeps a blog at My Soul Waits, so be sure to check in over there and say hello! 

My name is Lauren, and I am twenty years old.  I am an Allied Health major at Texas A&M University, and as of now, I want to pursue missional nursing, whether that's in the local hospital or overseas.  The Lord has been leading me to surrender all of my future plans to Him so that He can sanctify me and grow me towards obedience to follow His plans.

Furthermore, I did not grow up in the church, and particularly, dating in purity and intentionality was a foreign concept to me until I was a junior in high school when I gave my life to Christ.  I have dated before, but those relationships were far from glorifying the Lord.  I put my hope in "boys" before I put my hope in Christ.  The Lord has shown me that only in Him can I truly walk in satisfaction and joy.  This verse deeply resonates with my heart: "...for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10).  Singleness has been a truly sanctifying period of life for me, and the Lord has been shaping and molding me to be more like Him.

It has been a passion of mine to see women walk in freedom and joy in singleness or relationships.  Only when we put our identity in Jesus Christ can we truly understand and know that we are precious treasures that are not dependent on our relationship status.  He has set us free from those lies and temptations: "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1).

What is the most difficult part of finding satisfaction in the Lord in singleness?  How have you learned to find fullness of joy in Him? 

Before I came to know Christ, I put my hope, worth, and satisfaction in my relationship status.  I always had to be in a relationship or I would have an identity crisis.  However, these relationships were so broken and deeply rooted in emotional pain.  I was never satisfied and these boys were not following the Lord.  It is difficult to find satisfaction due to my past and the world's lie that your relationship status defines your worth.

The Lord gently drew me in and whispered His love and redemption to me because I am His.  "But now thus says the LORD, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.'" (Isaiah 43:1).

To find joy in Him, we have to set our eyes on Him alone and not idolize man because He is the redeemer and healer.  He is the only and true source of hope, and my prayer for us as men and women is that we would long for the Lord as the living water and bread of life (John 7:38; Matthew 4:4).

"There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ." -Oswald Chambers

How are you preparing now to be a wife in the future?

The Lord has been teaching me a lot about conflict and how to respond in gentleness and grace.  Satan is going to attack our marriages and our future relationships like crazy because they are a depiction of how Christ died for His Church and His Bride.  He loved us and pursued us when we were dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:1-10).  The Lord has been teaching me how to forgive and show grace in the midst of conflict because He did the same for us when we were dead in our transgressions.

Moreover, as we are searching for wisdom and discernment in how to respond to others in the midst of conflict, I turn to this verse: "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere." (James 3:17).

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? 

The best piece of advice I've ever received actually came when I was involved in leadership with a Christian organization.  I was leading a group of women and felt that I was not measuring up to the standards of a good leader.  I'm more relational than group-oriented and, therefore, giving groups wisdom completely made me anxious.  My co-leader told me that leadership is not about raising yourself above anyone.  When we spend eternity with our Heavenly Father, one will not be the leader of another but we will all be praising Jesus.  Leadership is about raising and encouraging men and women to lead in confidence.  It's completely a position of servanthood.  We are first and foremost servants of Jesus Christ, and He humbled Himself on our behalf by death on the Cross.

These verses changed my life when I was a leader of that group, and they forever changed my perspective on leadership, especially when I led in other organizations and in other ways:

"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:1-11)

What advice/encouragement would you give to girls who are pursuing holiness in singleness and relationships?

As a woman, there is a deep tendency in us to orient our thoughts and hearts around our relationships, whether they are with friendships or with intentional relationships.  The temptation is to think that if we do not have these things, then we are not treasured or loved or wanted.  These are lies that Satan likes to attack us with to sever our relationship with Christ.

We have to make it a commitment to orient our thoughts, our hearts, and our eyes on Jesus Christ every day.  Our true freedom and satisfaction will only come from our relationship with Him.  He is our Husband: "For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is His Name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth He is called." (Isaiah 54:5).

We settle often for relationships and friendships that we think will fill us instead of going to the abundant source of joy and hope.

My prayer for you is that you will thirst for God.

"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water." (Psalm 63:1)

Two years ago: My Confession.
Three years ago: Milk Toast Recipee

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

7: Possessions

My friend Sammy and I are currently participating in The 7 Experiment Bible study by Jen Hatmaker.  The first week, we only ate from seven foods.  The second week, we wore only seven articles of clothing.  For the third week, we are giving away possessions.

I'm trying my best to approach this week sacrificially and selflessly.  I don't want to give away my possessions with wrong intentions.  2 Corinthians 9:7 is heavy on my heart.  "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

This week, we're supposed to give away seven items a day.  I'm pushing for a minimum of ten items a day, just because I feel like it would be so very easy for me to give away something like 40 t-shirts and then find nine random items in my bedroom.  I don't want to skirt around this week just because I have a lot of stuff

The challenge verse I'm memorizing this week is Acts 4:32, which says, "All the believers were one in heart and mind.  No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had."  This passage is describing the early Christian church and the hearts of the first Christians.  I don't want to live my life pursuing the American Dream.  I desire to view everything I own as God's and not as something to bless only me.

Day 1: Friday

Sammy is two days behind on the clothing fast.  Today it poured rain from sunrise to sunset.  The entire town is flooded.  This morning, I got a text from Sammy that said, "I am SOAKED and walking to class."  I asked if I could bring her a jacket, but she reminded me that she has two days left of last week's fast and is unwilling to break it for the sake of being dry!  What a trooper. 

Another story from this experiment would be from Ali.  She normally wears three outfits every day: her nice work clothes, her casual/class clothes, and her exercise clothes.  So she's been wearing the exact same thing every day for a week now.  Perseverance!  This brings Romans 5:3-4 into my mind, which says, "We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."  Wearing the same thing every day for a week probably shouldn't be considered suffering, but I think it is certainly bringing Ali perseverance, character, and ultimately hope that God's grace is so much bigger than our desire for excess!  

Today was easy in the giveaway aspect.  Picking ten t-shirts from my over-stuffed closet wasn't difficult at all, but it was much-needed.  I'm putting everything in a hamper for now.  During our Bible study today, Sammy and I agreed that since this is a hectic test week for the both of us, we're going to collect our giveaway items and give them away together on Friday, one week from today.  

Day 2: Saturday

I feel like I don't have much to write, just because I have spent so much time studying and not a whole lot of time focusing on what I'm learning this week, to be entirely honest.  I've been studying almost non-stop for two communications classes, math (my forever foe), and English.  Four tests next week.  And I'm feeling that stress.

It's funny because I've been reading and re-reading Matthew 6 because of the subject matter of the last few weeks of fasting.  I need to apply this better to my focus on schoolwork and stress!

Matthew 6:25-33 says, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the flowers of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If this is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you - you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." 
That passage is so fitting for my pursuit of simplicity in regards to food, clothing, and possessions, but what about stress and anxiety in general?  Life isn't based on my grades and my exams.  I need to give all of these things up to the Lord and stop worrying about them.  I should seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and focus on His sufficiency and provision in all things.  

See, I suppose I am learning after all.  

Again, picking out ten items of clothing was not very difficult.  I know it will be more challenging for me towards the end of the week.  My hamper is still running low on items. 

Day 3: Sunday

Today was slightly more difficult, although not by much.  The ten t-shirts I picked out were perhaps a little more valuable to me, but the sting was not deep.  I am trying hard to be a cheerful and selfless giver.  The clothes I am giving away I have not worn in months, if not a year.  It absolutely should not bother me to give them up. 

One shirt I'm giving away this week has a rather fitting message, don't you think?  It says: "Life is greater than comfort."  So very true.

My friend Jack texted me a song today as a form of encouragement.  I don't even think he was aware of this possessions fast; the Lord spoke through him completely!  The song is called "Love Through Me" by Jenny & Tyler.  Listen to the lyrics.  God has perfect timing, as always. 

In terms of the clothing hamper, it's looking a little more full, which makes me happy. 


Today I had the idea to set out a sign in my living room that says:

Perhaps the Lord will convict the heart of anyone who enters our house to pursue simplicity and generosity this week as well! 

Two years ago: 2,002 Words
Three years ago: If every move you made was on camera

Monday, September 23, 2013

Letters for Lavin: August

Every month, I've written a letter to my sponsored daughter, Lavin, and shared it with you as well, to give you ideas of what to write to your sponsored child.  While I did write to Lavin last month, I entirely forgot to blog about it!  So I'll be having two "Letters for Lavin" blog posts this month.

I was absolutely obsessed with the front of this card!  It was so perfect to send to my daughter.  Even though we're half a world away from each other, I still miss her and cherish her so much.

The printed message on the inside of the card says, "and the way you brighten up my world."  Isn't that fantastic?  I stuck some African animal stickers on the inside and talked about a few things, like:
  • Spiritual encouragement and a reminder that I am praying for her.
  • A few more details about where I went when I was in Kenya other than her school.  If you ever go on a vacation, write about the places you go.  Children love to hear about the world.
  • I encouraged her in her schoolwork. 
  • I talked about my own life and how I was about to start university again. 
  • I talked about family birthdays going on in August (the kids at Ringroad Orphan's Day School definitely know what birthdays are).
 Finally, I slipped a few small gifts into the card.

I know my carpet makes it difficult to see, but I sent Lavin:
  • A small sheet of animal stickers
  • A strip of heart stickers
  • A blue headband for her to wear
After visiting Lavin for the second time, the letters that I send mean so much to me.  I cannot believe that the Lord has placed someone as precious in my life as this sweet little girl.  I have learned so much from Lavin's joy and excitement about life.  I pray that God will bring us together again soon!

Have you written your sponsored child this month?

Two years ago: Big Hair Ali and I'm slowly learning here.
Three years ago: Oh, Compassion and Nerds Day Thursday

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Clothing: The "Woman's" Issue?

A prevalent topic in sermons and books for girls is modesty.

"Ladies, don't wear shorts that are too short.  Don't wear shirts that come down too low or fit you too tightly.  Be very careful not to tempt boys.  We want to guard their hearts."  And these are usually very good things to teach young girls who are beginning to discover the beauty that God has placed in their physical bodies.  It's a good thing to remind women of all ages.  However, modesty is usually the extent of our Christian discussions about clothes.

Every week, my Christian high school held chapel.  Sometimes boys and girls would have separate sessions.  A vibrant speaker would stand and remind us ladies to cover ourselves up and remember that our bodies are temples of God, not meant to show off to just anyone.  A little less occasionally, we would hear a sermon about how fruitless it was to find identity in our outward appearances rather than in Christ.  Good sermons.  Sometimes they were exactly what I needed to hear.

But you know what I never recall being spoken from that stage?  Warnings about entitlement, excess, indulgence, abuse of the poor, tolerance of slavery.  About the injustice in the extent we high school students (boys and girls) spent on ourselves, where we spent our money, and the way we conveniently continued to forget about how many millions of people in the world went hungry that day while we perused the mall for cool new outfits.

This was never talked about.  The messages all consisted of: "We're girls.  Girls love shopping.  Remember to dress in a feminine way and don't tempt those boys.  Be sure to put your identity in the Lord and not in looking stylish.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made."  That was it. 

Modesty, femininity, and identity are all very important things to discuss with young ladies.  But they are not the only important things.

I'm tired of the clothing discussion in Christian circles being confined to shame-based lectures and sermons about modesty that are directed only at women while entirely skipping over men.

I'm tired of shallow discussions that make "being fearfully and wonderfully made" only about how we are beautiful, feminine, modest women and not about how we were made in the image of a Creator who is transforming us to look like Him on the inside and through our actions.

I'm so very tired of every single conference for high school girls being about modesty without even mentioning our bondage to excess and over-indulgence, the slaves who are being forced to make our clothes, and how many people in the world are going without.  And how when they do bring up the needy, it's to make us nod and say, "Oh, yes, we are blessed to live as prosperous Americans" and not to challenge us to make sacrifices from our excessive lifestyles.

What did Jesus even say about clothes?  He said not to worry, that God would provide.  He commanded us to clothe the naked.  He condemned showing favoritism to those who dressed nicely over those who had nothing.  Jesus didn't talk about fashion.  The New Testament only briefly mentions modesty, and when it does, it emphasizes godly actions over excess in attire.  In Christ's conversations, we see overwhelming themes of justice, mercy, compassion, contentment, and a confidence that the Lord will provide for our needs.

As a woman who loves women's ministry, I'm not saying that talks about purity, modesty, and femininity should stop.  But I am saying that when clothing is discussed, our conversations need to expand from confining and even demeaning sermons about outer appearances.  Instead, it would be nice to see messages about glorifying the Lord through the way we live, the way we dress, the way we spend our money, and the way we extend compassion to others.

Women were made in the image of God, not just to look outwardly beautiful, but to glorify Him through our lives.  Modesty and femininity are good qualities, but they are not our entire purpose.  We have been called to proclaim good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, and proclaim freedom for the captives.

Clothing is not only a women's issue.  Glorifying the Lord through what is worn and through what is bought is an issue that should be explored and discussed by men and women alike.

I want the way I dress to reflect modesty, femininity, and an identity found in Christ, but I also want to dress as one who seeks justice, loves mercy, and pursues simplicity over excess.

I pray that the godly men in my life are also seeking to glorify the Lord through the way they dress.  I pray that men who love the Lord desire to dress as ones who seek justice, love mercy, and pursue simplicity over excess.

I'm tired of clothing being only a women's issue.  Aren't you?

Two years ago: I have tall friends.
Three years ago: Twin's Day Wednesday

Saturday, September 21, 2013

202. (Seven Fast)

My friend Sammy and I are taking on The 7 Experiment by Jen Hatmaker.  Last week, we fasted from foods and only ate from 7 items of food.  This week, we have chosen to wear 7 articles of clothes.

Day 4: Monday

So far, this clothing fast has not really pushed me out of my comfort zone.  Other than having to do last minute laundry before I can go outside, I really have not felt that uncomfortable.  I decided to push myself a little further today, just so that I could work on my heart a little more.

Today I wore the same outfit that I did yesterday without washing it.  Okay, almost the same outfit; I wore denim shorts instead of long jeans because it was hot outside.  This isn't even that strange of a thing to do.  I barely went outside on Sunday and spent most of the day sitting and studying, so my clothes were fine.  The biggest challenge was that my church service was on Sunday and my church's Life Group was today, so I wore the same outfit in front of several of the people I saw yesterday.

Because I tend to coordinate who I see each day, it's really easy for me to think, "Okay, I'll be sure and wear my green shirt on Friday and then again on Monday because I won't see the same people on those days..." but that isn't the point of this fast at all.  I want to be less entitled and a lot more thankful of the blessings I have.  The Bible verse I'm repeating over and over this week speaks to that mindset so much.  1 Timothy 6:6-8 says, "But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that."  

I have daily food.  I have plenty of clothes.  I am content.

Day 5: Tuesday

Today I wore my green Impact shirt, black cargo shorts, and Converse shoes.  It's pretty much the typical daily outfit for me.  I knew this clothing fast would not be nearly as difficult as the food one, but the extent of how easy it has been is actually a little surprising.  I was even questioning myself a little bit today, wondering if the lack of femininity in the way I dress is a bad thing.

I was reading Jen Hatmaker's 7 book, not just the Bible study workbook, and I stumbled across this fantastic quote.  Jen went to speak at a conference while she was undergoing this fast, so she was concerned that she would be under-dressed in her jeans and t-shirt.  However, she was delighted to find that most of the women at the conference were also dressed casually.  Jen Hatmaker said in response to this, "There is something noble about an assembly of believers in simple clothes, where the lobby isn't filled with people saying, 'You look pretty' to one another.  Maybe looking pretty isn't the catalyst for the Spirit's movement.  Perhaps an obsessive occupation with dresses and hair and shoes detracts us from the point of the gathering: a fixation on Jesus.  When the jars of clay remember they are jars of clay, the treasure within gets all the glory, which is somehow more fitting."  Just what I needed to hear today.

Sammy and I met and caught up on our Bible study.  We usually meet on Fridays, but due to schoolwork, we had to boost it to Tuesday this week.  Sammy is like me and usually wears tanktops, t-shirts, and shorts.  She's chosen for her seven items: two shirts, two pairs of shorts/capris, a nice outfit for something she had to do for school, and shoes.

It's been cool to see how all sorts of people are responding to The 7 Experiment.  Several others have joined since we began and have shared with me their experiences and heart changes over the last two weeks.  The perspectives of my friends and family have touched my heart.  I love seeing how God has moved in these areas.

I received a necklace and bracelet in the mail from my friends in Kenya today.  I have to admit: I broke my no accessories rule to try them on.  They are beautiful.  I have such sweet friends.  

Day 6: Wednesday

I'm going to quote a little more of chapter 2 of 7 by Jen Hatmaker.  It has really left me stunned and thinking about a lot of things because it relates to me so much.  "On any given day I wear jeans and a t-shirt.  My style is utterly unsophisticated; I look like a college girl who rolled out of bed five minutes before class - but who has prematurely aged.  Anyhow, I'm a simple or possibly lazy dresser who doesn't spend much time thinking about my wardrobe.  Clothes are just not a huge deal to me.  So, why clothes then?  Why reduce radically in a neutral category I say I don't care about?  Because although that sounds true in my head, my closet tells me a different story.  ...Our closets represent an expenditure, of, well, a lot of money.  ...I counted, and I have 327 items from which to choose.  You read that right.  No other category even comes close to this one in quantity.  ...If I spent $20 on each item, that's $6,540 spent on just my clothes in about the last five years."

Wow.  Right?

I can certainly relate to that passage of her book.  While I am a very simple dresser, I have an extravagant wardrobe of t-shirts, shorts, and jeans.  Inspired, I went to my closet and counted all of the clothes inside.  I didn't count all of the old sweats and t-shirts I use as pajamas.  The only clothes I counted were the clothes hanging in my closet, the shorts folded in the bottom drawer of my cabinet, and shoes.  That's it.  And my results were: 202.

If I spent an average of $10 on each item, I've got $2,020 worth of clothes in my closet.

For someone who doesn't care much about clothes, I sure have an over-abundance of them.  It's embarrassing.  It's indulgent.  It's excess.  Wearing only 7 this week will be good for me, probably better than I even realize.

I could not be more eager for the "possessions" week of this fast.  I plan to reduce the number of clothes in my closet by a lot.

I'm so much more blessed than I realize.

Day 7: Thursday

Part of me feels refreshed after this fast.  What a nice feeling it is to be able to not stress about clothes!  I no longer feel self-conscious wearing the same thing.  I wore my jeans and white Gap t-shirt again today, for the third time this week.  I saw one of my friends today; he's seen me every single time I've worn this shirt!  And I could care less.

At the beginning of this week, I felt compelled to offer excuses.  Paranoid that people were wondering at my repetitive wardrobe choices, I'd say, "I'm doing this experiment called 7.  I'm fasting from excess and pursuing simplicity in my life.  Just for a week.  Etc, etc."  No more.  Why was I ever embarrassed?  I'm blessed to have three shirts in a week.  In seven short days, I've shed much of my hesitation about wearing the same clothes over and over again.  It's no big deal, y'all.

I'll give a final quote for the week from Jen Hatmaker.  "In my self-important mind, everyone would notice my repetitions and whisper about my wardrobe.  People would obsess about my attire.  You know what I discovered?  Others aren't thinking about me nearly as much as I thought they were.  Blending seamlessly into my environment, I brought up 'my clothing situation' 100 percent more often than it was observed by anyone."

On the other hand, I'm a little excited to have a bit more variety in clothes again.  I don't need nearly as much as I have and I'm ready to give much of it away, but I am happy to start wearing some other colors and put my beloved James Avery Africa necklace back on.

This has been a good week.  God is faithful.

What have you learned from the Lord this week?  

Three years ago: Cops and Robbers and A Little OCD

Friday, September 20, 2013

Should You Sponsor A Child?

It has been three months since I left for Kenya.  A little over two months since I've come home.  Time passes so quickly.  It feels like I was only there yesterday, hugging on kids and watching the Lord transform lives in every tribe, tongue, and nation.

So often, when I mention child sponsorship to friends and strangers, I get a lukewarm response.  "Yeah, I'm not so sure.  How can I know if the money actually goes to the child?  Is it possible for $35 a month to actually make a difference in someone's life?" 

I'm an intern for Christian Relief Fund, a non-profit relief organization with a focus on rescuing orphans and vulnerable children from poverty.  Looking behind the scenes, as well as visiting CRF programs, has opened my eyes to the huge impact that child sponsorship has on children living in poverty. 

If you have questions about whether or not child sponsorship is meaningful, let me add my two cents.

CRF works.  

A few months ago, Christian Relief Fund posted an article on its newsletter and blog called: Does CRF Work?  While I encourage you to read the entire thing, let me summarize for you a few points from the article.

Dr. Bruce Wydick, a professor of Economics, recently studied the impact of child sponsorship.  His results showed that:
  • Sponsored children stay in school longer than non-sponsored children.
  • Sponsored children are more likely to be leaders in their communities and churches.
  • Sponsored children score better than their peers on happiness and hopefulness. 
Christianity Today also recently did a study on the effects of child sponsorship and found that:
  • Sponsored children tend to marry and have children later in life.
  • Sponsored children are less likely to live in a home with a dirt floor.
  • Sponsored children are more likely to live in a home with electricity.
They also found that the most cost-effective strategy for helping the poor was getting clean water to rural villages, which is a major focus of CRF's ministry.  In fact, we have recently been celebrating the arrival of a new water well drilling rig in Turkana, Kenya!

The beneficiaries of Christian Relief Fund are children whose lives are being daily transformed.

CRF is a big believer in holistic growth for children.  Sponsored children receive:
  • Nutritious food
  • Basic medical care
  • Clothing
  • Schooling
  • Spiritual training
CRF partners with local churches and helps to plant churches when needed in order to equip disciples and leaders in communities.  We connect children with churches that they attend weekly.  Many go to Christian schools.  The children in the CRF programs I've met can quote Scripture well, know the Gospel, and often serve in their church.

Christian Relief Fund is transparent in its financial accountability.  90% of donated income goes directly to programs and reserves.

I've seen the impact of child sponsorship with my own eyes. 

I've visited CRF programs in Africa twice now.  Both times I was astonished by the sheer magnitude of transformation that sponsorship has on these kids.

When I was in Kenya in June of this year, I met many children who delighted in sharing their stories of sponsorship.  The kids in Bungoma were eager to make sure I knew how blessed they are.  Most of these kids were AIDS orphans or survivors of a harrowing tribal war.  They have each experienced indescribable violence and the desperation of hunger and abandonment.

Despite all of this, when I met them this year, I saw so much joy and hope.  "Please tell my sponsor that I'm not hungry anymore.  I eat three meals a day here!  Please take a photo of our delicious food.  Taste it for yourself!  Look at how nicely we are dressed.  See, we have beds now!  See, we have mosquito nets!  Look at how healthy we are; we aren't hungry!  We are very thankful."  I mentioned to one young lady that her name came from the Bible, and she quickly replied, "Yes, in Luke 9, verse 36!" and then proceeded to quote the verse without hesitation.

Sponsorship isn't just handing out charity; it's equipping children through education, nutrition, and discipleship so that they can turn around and transform their own communities. 

I am a child sponsor.

I have sponsored a girl named Lavin since she was nearly ten years old.  Now she is sixteen.  I have seen the transformation in her life, face-to-face when I visited her at her school and through letters and photographs over the years.  Lavin has grown tremendously in education and maturity.  Her letters reflect a love for Christ and a fierce desire to learn. 

My family sponsors two other children through CRF named Faith and David.  While we have recently begun sponsoring Faith, I've been able to see David grow from infancy.  His future looked bleak when he was a baby; his widowed mother had ten children that she could not afford to keep.  She was resorting to prostitution just to keep the family from starvation.  They had no crops, no way to afford school fees, no hope at all.  Four years later, David is healthy and growing.  He's eager to start school next year.  He's talented at drawing pictures and knows about Jesus.

I am a child sponsor.  After seeing the impact that sponsorship has made on my three Kenyan children, I never plan to stop.

$35 a month is manageable and it makes a huge difference.

I am a college student.  "I'm in college; I'm poor," is an excuse I've used to get around expenses at least a hundred times.  The other day, a friend of mine committed to sponsoring a CRF child.  She told me, "This month, I spent $35 on concert tickets.  If I have enough money to do that, I can provide for the basic needs of a child."
Have you spent $35 this month on coffee?  Movie tickets?  Soda?  Clothes you don't need?  If so, consider spending that much on transforming the life of a child.

It's Biblical.

The Lord is the biggest advocate for the fatherless.  His heart beats for orphans and widows.  Raising up children within their communities to be healthy and Gospel-focused is such a Biblical concept.  I'll leave you with a few verses.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  -James 1:27

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing.  -Psalm 68:5-6

Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.  -Isaiah 1:17

Sponsor a child today.

One year ago: Wonder
Two years ago: Here's the mail. It never fails. It makes me want to wag my tail.
Three years ago: Movie Monday and Garbonzo Beans

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Unveiled: Ali

Today Ali will be guest-blogging as part of The Unveiled Project.  She has so much wisdom to share.  Ali has a blog over at Big Hair Ali, although she does not post there often.  However, feel free to visit and say hi or share your response in the comments below!

Hi, I'm Ali.  I'm not even sure where to start!  I love the Lord and I love others.  I am a very relational person.  I love deep and real relationships.  If my whole life could be summed up in one conclusive truth or statement, it would be about the Lord's great faithfulness and mercy.  He has taken me, a broken and dirty vessel, and in His faithfulness has loved me through my crazy journey.  He has pulled the strings of my heart and has called me His own.  I constantly miss the mark, but in His perfect love He is patient and leads me.

I am a student at Dallas Baptist University.  I love my school.  I'm a psychology major with a criminal justice minor.  I really enjoy traveling and learning about other cultures.  I actually live with three international girls and one other American who is so passionate about people in other cultures that she might as well be international.  I like staying active and having fun.  I think a smile is one of the most attractive features someone can have.  Yellow is my favorite color.  For a while, I tried to change it because I thought, "I need to grow out of it," but I just can't!  There is something about yellow that just gets me.

On the opposite side, if I am not careful, I can become too action-oriented and too focused on a certain goal and lose sight of other things, allowing stress to drive my life.  When this happens, I can be too self-focused and not patient enough with others.  The Lord right now is teaching me more about the qualities of true love and patience.  This is all a little embarrassing to share, but I want to be honest about who I am and what I struggle with.

Life motto: Every day is a new day for new beginnings and to learn something new. 

What does the phrase "guard your heart" mean to you and how do you practice this?  How would you define this Biblically?

I think "guarding your heart" in Proverbs 4:23 isn't just about boys.  To me, it means guarding my heart against foolishness.  I think we often buy into things and beliefs instead of sitting down and praying and seeking the Lord in decisions we make and what we believe.  I would define "guarding your heart" as discernment.  The heart holds more than just emotions.  The heart holds wisdom too.  In 1 Kings 3, whenever Solomon asked for wisdom, the Lord didn't say, "I'm going to give your mind discernment," but He gave Solomon's heart discernment.

I guard my heart by seeking the Lord and believing His Word and meditating on it.  I guard my heart even against myself because sometimes my emotions will tell me something and I'll have to sit down and ask myself, "Okay, is this from the Lord?  Is it from me?"  I have to stop and ask the Lord to give me direction.

Sometimes, even though I'm emotional, I put up walls.  I have this image in my mind of me getting cement and putting it under a brick and quickly trying to build a wall before people get too close to me.  Sometimes I feel like that's guarding my heart, but that's actually my emotions and I need to guard my heart against that!

What is the most difficult part of finding satisfaction in the Lord through singleness? How have you learned to find fullness of joy in Him? 

I've always learned about singleness from Christian books like I Kissed Dating Goodbye.  Books like that always say things like, "Singleness is the best part of your time because you can really focus on the Lord and blah, blah, blah."  I heard it so much that it became cliche.  I felt obligated to be single.  But once I truly understood what these books were saying, it was really impacting.

The most difficult part of finding satisfaction in the Lord through singleness is that I am a very touchy and affectionate person.  Because that is what media most puts out there about relationships, I see physical contact everywhere.  That's so hard for me as a single person, because I long (I feel so girly saying this, but I'm just being genuine here!) to be held.  I even long for my hand to be caressed!  I long to be hugged.

Another thing would be keeping my emotions in check.  Sometimes I'm too careful about this though.  The other day I was talking to a girl and I said, "I tend to be a Dating Pharisee."  Later, I was thinking about what I said and I realized I didn't want to be any kind of a pharisee because Jesus called them white-washed tombs! 

What are some Bible verses that have encouraged you in your walk with the Lord? 

I'm doing a Bible study right now about Ruth.  I know so many people hold Ruth as their example of a good, single girl, but I think the book of Ruth is really encouraging me this semester through the redemption of Ruth being a Moabite.  The Lord still used her and put her in the lineage of Jesus.  There is so much redemption in that.

Hosea too.  I came into this last summer so broken.  My prayer at the beginning of the summer was that God would rebuild me.  The Lord used Hosea.  Redemption is the theme.  I had always focused on the first chapter when the Lord said to Hosea, "Go and show your wife this love because this is the love I show Israel."  Hosea loved his wife so much that he bought her back from prostitution.  When we are adulterers against the Lord, He brings us back to Him.  That's so special.  Hosea 2 talks about the Lord's emphasis of Gomer as a wife, not just as a prostitute.  The focus isn't on Hosea, who is the Lord's servant.  It's on God's love for His wife.

Hosea also talks about how the Lord exposes her lewdness and takes away her lovers and stops all her celebrations and then He allures her and speaks tenderly to her in the desert.  The Lord did that in my life this summer.  I feel like He took away my celebrations; part of it was because I wasn't focused on Him and part of it was His disciplining me.  God was merciful and led me to an actual desert and spoke very tenderly to me.  He just loved me.

I feel like so much of my life, in a respectful and loving way, I've called the Lord my master, but He's my husband.  Because I do long for a husband, knowing that right now the Lord is my only husband is so satisfying.  I've come to not just know that with my mind but also with my heart. 

How are you preparing now to be a wife in the future?

I like this question.  Even today I was thinking about this!  I used to think, "I'm prepared to be a wife," but I've examined my relationships and I can't help but think, "Oh my goodness!  I am not ready."  Even today I was so impatient with my roommate that it was almost comical.  We had three little issues in fifteen minutes.  We jumped from one issue to another to another, and I went to my room feeling kind of upset and thought, "Am I serious?  This is so ridiculous it's funny."  So I went back in and apologized.  I want to get to the point where I think before I say something and don't have to apologize so much.

I'm examining my relationships that aren't romantic or lovey-dovey.  My roommates and best friends are good examples because they live with me.  I can sit down and think about what I struggle with in these relationships and use them to help me.  All relationships are good tools to shape me for my future as a wife.  You don't have to be in a lovey-dovey relationship to prepare to be a godly wife.  You can learn through all your relationships.

I'm also trying to build good habits now.  I'm trying to build good cleaning habits!  This sounds like I live in the 50s, but I'm trying to learn how to cook!  I just want to build good habits, not only in cooking and cleaning, but in my relationships.

What advice/encouragement would you give to girls who are pursuing holiness in singleness and relationships?

I love the word holiness.  I think if you grow up in church, you hear that word so much that you forget what it means.  But if a girl is seeking holiness in her singleness, she is trying to seek the Lord.

Just be strong in the Lord and wait for Him.  Remember that the Lord has a purpose and plan.  A lot of times we can get caught up in what media throws out there and long for that, but it goes back to what we first talked about: guard your heart.  Seek the Lord in wisdom and ask for wisdom in all areas of your life, not just the single aspect, because they all connect.

After reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I felt like it just said, "Wait, wait, wait, wait, and sit here and wait."  Now I think that the right approach is actually, "Wait in an active waiting."  Wait while you pursue the Lord and other relationships.  I don't mean actively seek out a boyfriend!  I mean wait while actively pursuing the Lord and being open-minded to what He brings to your life.

One year ago: This is your purpose.
Two years ago: I love Carmex
Three years ago: A Tour of my Bedroom

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A New Kind of Simplicity (Seven Fast)

My friend Sammy and I are currently taking on The 7 Experiment by Jen Hatmaker.  It's a Bible study I 100% encourage you to try for yourself.  This week, we are wearing only seven articles of clothes.  Here is my progress so far.

Before I say anything, I'd like to share that today is my mom's birthday.  She reads my blog every day, so: I love you, Mom!  She is also participating in The 7 Experiment and texted me a picture of her three outfits for the week not too long ago.  Way to go!  So far, I've had several people announce that they are joining this period of fasting with me and Sammy, so if you would like to participate, grab a workbook from your local Lifeway Christian Book Store and join a little late!

Day 1: Friday

While I had thought out in advance what clothes I was going to wear this week, I didn't actually plan out the fact that I needed to do laundry.  Badly.  So I spent much of the morning and early afternoon in my pajamas, unable to leave the house, while I washed and dried and folded all of my clothes.  But voila, now I have all of my clothes for this week hung in a little corner of my closet. 

Today I wore a green Impact t-shirt, black cargo shorts, and my Chacos.  I forgot to take a picture, but it was essentially what you see to your right with black shorts.

I got to go to a worship service with my church in the evening.  I'm not exaggerating: it was exactly what I needed to begin this new week of fasting.  Being able to stand in the back and just worship my Savior freely while asking Him to focus my heart on all of the right intentions and to teach me all that I need to learn from this was so special.  God is good.

I went to Midnight Yell (the biggest in Texas A&M history) after the worship night.  By this point, I was pretty badly wishing I was wearing maroon, but I'm saving that t-shirt for tomorrow.  Game Day is my favorite day of the week!

Day 2: Saturday

Today was Game Day!  My school was playing against Alabama, the #1 team in the nation right now.  Last year, we beat them.  This year, we were close (49-42), but we didn't quite manage a win.  It was a fantastic game though.  So much energy and excitement going on all around.  I'm so glad I got an opportunity to be at this game.

While most girls dress up a little for Aggie games, my wardrobe was limited, so I chose to wear denim shorts and a maroon t-shirt.  Here is my only picture for today.  Enjoy the fantastic portrait of me, my friend Claire, and Johnny Football. 

We had fun, but it was so hot outside.  I drank at least two liters of water today and was quite sweaty (gross, I know, sorry).  By the time I got home, I was aching to change.  I ended up taking an early shower, getting into my pajamas, and heading pretty much straight to bed.

Today did seem to go by quickly, but one thing I pondered was how many of those who I met in Kenya this summer didn't own more than one or two outfits.  It's hot outside in East Africa; I can relate living in Texas.  When I got home from the football game today and from walking four miles with my friends, I couldn't wait to change out of my sweaty clothes and into something cool and comfortable and clean.  After today, I am so much more appreciative of what it means to have multiple outfits, simple or not.  In my life, I've never had to wear dirty or sweaty clothes for very long; I've always been able to change into something new.  I am more blessed than I can even comprehend.

Day 3: Sunday

I am learning with each new day what it means to have simplicity in the way I dress.  I don't usually wear a lot of accessories, but I am cutting down on jewelry this week.  I will continue to wear my purity ring.  I have two bracelets from Kenya and Nepal that don't come off and a CRF band that raises awareness for my favorite ministry, so I'll be leaving those on.  However, I will abstain from my usual James Avery necklace and any earrings this week.

Today I wore my white Gap t-shirt (with orange and green stripes towards the bottom), cropped jeans, and Chacos.  Going to church today, I was initially a little bothered to wear Chacos with my "nice" outfit, especially after a friend pointed this out!  However, it hit me this afternoon how nice these shoes truly are.  They are sturdy and comfortable and well-made.  I am extremely blessed with these shoes.  However style-backwards I might have looked in a church outfit and Chacos, I don't care.  I'm blessed with these shoes and I will wear them with total thankfulness.  And if I don't, may the Lord help me to repent! 

Also at church, my pastor spoke and completely filled my heart with joy!  At the beginning of his sermon, he talked about the importance of pursuing simplicity in our lifestyles.  He said, "Simplicity allows you to focus and draw deep in the Word instead of setting your gaze on a bunch of different things."  Exactly what I needed to hear this week.

It continues to amaze me how God is always faithful in providing me with exactly what I need to hear in order to learn a little more about His good and loving nature.

Two years ago: Happy Birthday, Mom! 
Three years ago: Cadillac Ranch

Monday, September 16, 2013

No Condemnation (Rachel's Story)

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from a girl named Rachel who reads my blog.  She was vulnerable in a way that completely touched my heart.  I can relate to what she was saying so well, and I think a lot of Christians can too.  With Rachel's permission, I'm going to be sharing parts of her original email and my response right here, as an encouragement for anyone who is struggling with fear and shame.

Hey Emily,

I am a 16 year old Junior.  I have gone to a public school my entire life.  I struggle in a few ways.  Last year was the worst.  I would constantly feel tons of guilt.  This is because I have built up some sort of wall between school and my Christian life.  I am terrified of sharing my faith at school, and I'm not sure why.  It's almost like I get paralyzed when I try to.  Even little things like praying over lunch.  Every day I would go home and feel horrible because of this.  I repented over and over, but I didn't really know what I was repenting for and I didn't know what I could change.  I felt defeated and almost a little bitter towards God because it was too hard and I saw no way out.  

Then I got sick.  It got to the point where I could barely eat because my stomach was so messed up.  After many months of tests and a surgery, they concluded that the acid in my stomach was eating away at it.  The cause?  Stress and anxiety.  This was kind of a turning point; I realized that the guilt couldn't be from God.  If I was literally making myself sick over this, then I was pretty sure this was some sort of attack from Satan.  Before, I believed the guilt, now I know it's not true, but I still feel it. 

I started school again today and I was pretty nervous.  I didn't want to live that way anymore, but I'm not sure how to change.  And I still feel terribly guilty that I can't share my faith.  It's not like I do anything sinful at school, it's more like what I don't do... or a selfish mindset I get into.  Today I realized I actually enjoyed school, but I found myself pushing God away throughout the day because whenever I thought of Him I felt guilty.  This isn't right either, I know.  I know I'm supposed to be a light and not be ashamed... and I also know that the guilt I feel isn't from God.  I can't find a balance!!
I know you used to struggle with anxiety and you go to a secular university, so I thought maybe you could help.  I want to please Jesus with my whole heart, but I feel like I can't.  I'm really discouraged and frustrated with myself.  I can't live in fear all year either; I just don't know.  


It brings me a lot of joy to see someone in high school who is so passionate about pleasing God and being a light for Him.  I also appreciate your honesty and vulnerability.  I think a lot of Christians can relate to what you're feeling.  It is scary and overwhelming to share your faith with people you see every day.  I've definitely struggled with anxiety and shyness, so I get what you're feeling. 

While sharing your faith and being a light for Christ is important, before we even go there, you are so right that the guilt you're experiencing is not from the Lord!  He will give you conviction, but He does NOT give you shame.  Let me share a few promises verses that will hopefully encourage you as much as they encourage me:
  • Romans 8:1 - Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  • Isaiah 61:7 - Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. 
  • Galatians 5:1 - It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
  • 2 Corinthians 3:17 - Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
  • Ephesians 3:12 - In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
  • Matthew 11:28 - Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

God has known the messiness of our hearts from the very beginning and loves us anyway.  When you make a mistake, remember that's why Jesus died for you.  He is offering you so much freedom from the chains in your life, not guilt and disappointment.  You've been forgiven.  Your repentance is a good thing because it shows that you have clear identity as a daughter of the Lord and that you are growing in Him every single day. 

When it comes to sharing your faith, you are so right that it's important.  It's encouraging to see the heart God has placed in you for the Gospel!  But I also realize it's pretty terrifying to be bold.  Ultimately, I encourage you to take the step to share your faith with someone at your school who God places on your heart, but for now, here are some ideas for you to consider: 
  • Be a light.  Daily let the Lord's heart of love shine through you.  When you are overflowing with love and compassion for people, they will see that, and they will wonder what makes you that way.  Love through the way you live your life!  It's a little less scary to share your faith when someone actually approaches you and says, "Hey, why are you so different?"
  • Ask the Lord to bring conversations to you.  I do this often, because approaching people intimidates me to this day.  I'll pray, "God, I'm weak on my own and I'm experiencing so much timidity today.  Please send someone to talk to me who does not know the Gospel."  God is faithful!  There have legitimately been times I've been sitting around on campus after praying that prayer and someone has come up to me and asked me straight up about Jesus. 
  • Ask God to give you the right words to say.  I really like Isaiah 59:21, which says, "My Spirit, who is in you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips."  Another great, great passage for encouragement is Jeremiah 1!  The prophet Jeremiah was young and afraid, but the Lord offered him so much hope and grace.  
  • Put yourself in situations where you can share your faith outside of school.  I really encourage you to volunteer through local ministries after school or during the weekends.  I did this when I was in high school and it really helped me with my confidence and boldness in the Lord.

I hope this advice encouraged you in some way.  I'm young and I don't have all the answers, but I do have encouragement, and that is: Your identity is that you are a daughter of Christ, greatly beloved and free from condemnation!  God adores you and rejoices over you.  He is not ashamed of you.

I'll be praying for you as you start your next semester of school!


To everyone reading this: How have you been able to overcome anxiety when it comes to sharing your faith?  Do you have a prayer request about your own struggle to find boldness?    

One year ago: 5 Things: So Much Joy
Two years ago: Six Year Old Animal Hoarder and Tackle Hugs
Three years ago: Heaven's Face