Life

Redirection (Not a Real Post)

I don’t have a *real* post for you this week. I’ve been sick and running all over the place between work and babysitting. I’m also preparing for the SAT this Saturday and getting a Bible study ready for Monday with the time I do have at home. Plus school starts in a few days. And for some reason, I feel the need to list for you every single reason (excuse…) that I have for this cop-out post, so there you have it. My week in a nutshell.

Through all of this, I’m tired and I do not want to keep going. I’ve felt this way before and I pray that it will pass soon, but for now it’s still here. I wanted to redirect you to an article that I just read a few minutes ago which I found both encouraging and convicting through my disenchantment with life. Please take a few minutes to read it and respond to the lovely writer who God used to say such true things.

Dear Tired Rebelutionary, Don’t Give Up

Kira

An Experiment in (not) Complaining

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Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a conversation which you absolutely hated, only to discover that it was due to the other party’s constant whining about their circumstances?

Have you ever been in a decent mood and dragged yourself downward by dwelling on all the things going wrong – or at least not going right?

Have you ever heard those dreaded words from the back of a car: “Are we there yet?”

Then you, my friend, have had experience with complaining.

I realized recently just how much I complain about my life and circumstances. I slip easily into a negative mindset and just as easily let those thoughts slip out of my mouth. It effects not only my mood and actions, but those of others as well, and, as a child of God, that is not something I should be allowing to happen.

This realization hit me about a month ago, and, as soon as it did, I began to notice every time I complained to myself or someone else. I often didn’t make it through an hour without some negative thought passing through my head or out of my lips. There were a few key times in which I especially noticed this unpleasant tendancy of mine, including when I got home from work, when I felt tired and unmotivated, and when other people’s actions interfered with what I wanted.

I decided that I would spend the next month doing my best not to complain and seeing how it effected me. This time included three weeks of counseling at camps, a few very long days (and one night) at work, and the gloriously high temperatures of late summer in Virginia. Here’s what I learned.

I can’t do it.

Right from the beginning, it became apparent that I was not able to keep myself from complaining by my own strength. Duh. But it was still something that I had to learn and remind myself of over and over again. Once I had that figured out, there was a lot more prayer involved in my quest to keep myself from the sin of complaining.

I really can change my own mood.

Remember when you were a kid and really angry about something and your mom would tell you to just decide to be happy and you could turn yourself around? Just me? Okay.

Anyway, the last month has shown me that my mother actually knew what she was talking about. Who would’ve guessed? There are still lovely things like hormones and bad circumstances to be dealt with, but choosing to keep a positive attitude about things really does make a difference. Sometimes, I would catch myself talking about how awful things were at work one day and realize it was putting me in a downright bad mood. When I changed my thoughts to what was good about the situation (I have a job, some of my coworkers are really great, etc.) or to something else entirely (what to blog about when I got home, how great this morning’s run was, etc.) my mood instantly began to rise. Even just the action of putting a smile on my face helped a lot.

The people I interact with impact my actions.

There’s a saying that goes something like this: Show me a man’s five closest friends and I’ll show you his future. And that is true. When I’m around people who complain themselves, I am much faster to complain. When I’m with cheerful people, I’m quicker to be positive. Choose your friends wisely, for you will become more like them, whether you want to be or not.

There are other things to talk about.

I never realized how many of my conversations consisted of 1) complaining or 2) gossip. Since I included gossip in the category of “negative thoughts”, that had to go as well. And as it turns out, there are other things to talk about.

The world is full of interesting and good things to talk and think about – we need not dwell on the things that upset us.

Complaining is a form of pride.

How often do you complain for someone else’s benefit? If you’re anything like me, it’s not very often. Complaining is all about me, myself, and I. It is all about what I can get out of life and what will make me happy – not what I can do to please God or serve others. It puts all of our focus on ourselves, which is not how God would have us live our lives as His children.

As C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity (giving the picture of a truly humble man): “Probably all you will think about him  is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him…He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”

I complain a lot. Still.

The past month has not cured me of my desire to complain (or my all-too-frequent fulfillment of that desire, as my family can tell you). I am still working on this discipline, and I probably will be for a while. Thankfully, when I get discouraged, I can return to the first point: I can’t do it on my own.

I’ve learned a lot from just the realization of how much I complain in a day, and I am grateful for the conviction, painful as it may be at times. I hope that my experiment in complaining will cause you to examine your own life and thoughts and will lead you to a more God-focused, self-forgetful way of being. Because that is what we are made to do.

Kira

What helps you keep yourself from complaining?
Are there any places/circumstances that trigger complaint?

My Testimony

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I was born into a Christian home. I grew up hearing all the Bible stories and, of course, believing them. My parents said they were true.

As a kid, I was selfish beyond belief. Everything had to be perfect and if something didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, I would get angry. I wasn’t very loving to my siblings because I didn’t think it was “cool” or “mature” to spend time with them. Absolutely every facet of my life had to do with making myself happy. And, believe it or not, that actually resulted in a lot of unhappiness.

I can’t point to the date on a calendar marking my salvation. It was more of a gradual thing (and I struggled with whether that meant I was saved for a long time). I had always heard the stories and I always believed them. But I didn’t own my faith until I joined a ministry that put a huge emphasis on discipleship, around the time I was ten or eleven years old.

All of a sudden, I was being encouraged to do something called “devotions” and to look at my life and try to become more Christ-like – to really commit myself to Him. I had more accountability than I wanted for a long time. It made me uncomfortable until I started purposefully investing in my relationship with God.

I thought I had pretty good faith, you know, as far as faith goes. I wasn’t an Abraham and I wasn’t Corrie ten Boom, but I was alright. The thing is, as soon as you start thinking like that, God tends to let you know exactly where you are faith-wise.

Our family does foster care and we got a tiny baby girl when I was eleven years old. We kept her for the first four months of her life and then had to give her up. She had become a sister to us and we all cried when she left.

I was also angry. I didn’t see how God could possibly think that it was okay to give her to another family. Our family was an amazing place for her to be and it would be good for her to grow up with us.

A few months later, we got a phone call from her grandparents, asking if we wanted to come see her. We went to their home and visited our sister. After a while, we got to see her again. Then we started babysitting her for a bit. Soon, she was living with us again.

It wasn’t until I looked back that I saw God’s providence in the whole situation. His plan was good, even when I was angry with Him for what He had done. I didn’t have faith in Him and His work. But He taught me that He knows what He’s doing, even when I don’t want to think so.

My faith is still growing. I catch myself doubting all the time, not wanting to step out of my comfort zone or be content that everything is worked out for good. Fortunately, God isn’t giving up on me. And I am grateful for that. I pray that He would be glorified in my life and that I would continue to become more like Him.

This isn’t my full testimony, but it’s a good part of it. One of my favorites, in fact. To get the rest of it, you need simply read past blog posts. They document what God is teaching me and how He is growing me throughout the weeks, months, and years.

Thank you, Lord, for my testimony!

Kira

All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
Daniel 4:35

Your Testimony Is Not Boring

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Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

How do you start your testimony?

Most of the ones that I’ve heard begin with the same sentence: “I was born into a Christian home.” It’s usually said dramatically or with an eye roll, trying to cover the embarrassment of having the same opening line as so many other testimonies. I’ve said it that way myself, several times.

So why do we consider that line to be such a bad thing? I think it comes down to the fact that we want our testimonies to be unique – different from everyone else’s. But have you ever heard two testimonies that were exactly the same? I haven’t. No matter how many times someone opens with “I was born into a Christian home,” they never go on to give a testimony identical to another believer’s.

God is doing something different and special in each one of our lives and it’s beautiful to see. He has an individual plan for all of us and that plan is good.

Maybe the awkward laugh after opening our testimonies has to do with something else. Maybe we think it’s not that special. We can’t claim to be former drug addicts or zealous Muslims or anything like that. We’ve been hearing the gospel since before we were born and we know the Bible stories by heart. After all, we were born into a Christian home.

I’ve struggled with the idea that my testimony is boring several times. It’s something that seems to keep coming back. But then God hits me upside the head with the fact that my testimony is what it is because He wants it that way. He put me in the Christian home and He saved me at a young age. He didn’t want me to suffer all the things that I seem to be jealous of (which, when I think about it, is kind of ridiculous).

Being born into a Christian home is a blessing. We needn’t be embarrassed by it – we should rejoice in it! We have the privilege of being surrounded by Scripture and the church from our first breath. Many believers would give so much to have had that, and yet we envy their “interesting” testimony.

Let’s give glory to God for our testimonies. He has done what is good in our lives. It’s our skewed perspective that leads us to believe otherwise. We don’t think our salvation story is all that amazing. But isn’t it amazing that we were saved at all?

On another note, your testimony doesn’t end at salvation. That’s really just the beginning. Your testimony is the story of your life as God’s child. Mine includes foster care stories, discipleship teams, and plain old emotional struggles. Some of those seem thrilling and some of them are average, day to day sanctification. But all of it is God’s work in my life. None of it is boring or accidental.

Your testimony is not dull. Your testimony is the work of our Creator and Lord in your individual life. Relish it – every detail.

Kira

What’s your testimony?

It’s Okay to Enjoy Life

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Photo by Eneida Nieves from Pexels

Did you know that God created this world for His children? If you believe in Him, it was all made specially for you.

I made this discovery whilst putting together a Bible study on the first few verses of 1 Timothy 4. Paul is telling Timothy about false teachers who require “abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:3b, ESV)

By those who believe and know the truth…

Isn’t it incredible to think that all the good things in this world were made especially for us? That God had us in mind when He formed trees and stars and whales?

But, awesome as that is, it’s not my main point for today.

It’s amazing to think that God made all of this for us – but it doesn’t matter if we don’t enjoy it. God created good things with the intention that we would look at them and experience them and think of Him. The next couple verses of 1 Timothy emphasize that.

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4-5)

Why would we even think of rejecting the good that God has given us? And yet, we do it without thinking all too often.

How many times are we too busy to take a walk? Or too concerned with fitness to enjoy our run? How often do we pull out our phones to take pictures rather than enjoying the beauty in the moment?

I choose the busyness and pressure of this world far too often. But every time I choose to stop and enjoy the good things God has given me, I am thankful and happy.

A lot of times, it feels like cheating to take a break. How could we waste time looking at the stars when that paper is due next week? And yes, we must do our work. God has given us that as well. But He didn’t intend for us to drown in it. There is no reason to feel guilty for enjoying what we have been given to enjoy. It is healthy and it is good.

God loves us and He has blessed us with so much. Let us receive it with thanksgiving.

Kira

What has God given you to enjoy? What are some things you like to do to enjoy them?

What Are You Going To Do With Your Summer?

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What are you doing with your summer?

Most of us are already a few weeks into the blissful time of the year known as “summer.” It is a magical time, a time of no school (sorry homeschoolers – I’m right there with you), a time of hot weather, a time of consuming far more watermelon than should be consumed by a single person in such a short space of time.

Summer is also usually a time that is seen as a chance to “relax.” We go go go all school year and then get two months off. Two months to do whatever we want and not think about work or stress or any of the other craziness that bogs us down the rest of the year.

The problem with that mentality is that it tends to turn us into lazy and selfish people during our vacation. Rest is good. Rest is healthy. But rarely do we need two full months of it. And often it can be accomplished by simply changing what we’re doing – not just laying in a hammock drinking iced coffees all day.

And a chance to do things that we enjoy is also excellent. Hobbies and passions are great and they turn us into well rounded and interesting human beings. It’s nice to go for a walk by yourself or read a good book or sing along to every single Disney song ever written in all of history. Ahem. Moving on.

But what can we do to serve other people this summer? What can we do to grow spiritually (or mentally) this summer? What goals could we reach over the next months with the extra time we have?

This summer, I want to tighten my relationship with one of my sisters and be friends with her.

This summer, I want to finish memorizing 1 Timothy.

This summer, I want to finish the third draft of my novel and revise it one time after that.

This summer, I want to train for and run a half marathon.

Those are some of my goals for the summer. Let’s not waste this summer. It is an amazing opportunity and it holds so much life. Let’s live it.

Kira

What are your goals/plans for the summer?

The Upside of Gutting it Out

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“You seem to be disenchanted with life this morning.”

My mother’s words before church on Sunday perfectly captured what I had been feeling for the past week or so (and am still feeling as I write). Disenchanted with life… I don’t want to get up in the morning because it’s just another day of school and work until falling into bed. I’m exhausted from the minute I wake up to the minute I fall asleep. Social interactions and books don’t hold my interest. There’s not much time or energy for writing. And don’t even mention working out – that hasn’t happened in weeks.

Living like this is frustrating. It feels like nothing’s working even though I’m trying so hard. I just don’t love life.

I don’t know what the cause of this is. Maybe it’s just a phase or season. Maybe I’m not getting enough vitamin C (though I know it’s not that – gotta ward off those germs). But I do know something that has helped me. Habits.

A couple years ago, I formed the solid habit of doing devotions (Bible reading, prayer, verse memorization) every day. I don’t often miss it. When I got a job and suddenly became busy, I formed the habit of praying constantly. Through years of siblings waking up bright and early, I formed the habit of getting out of bed by 7:30am at the latest (and considering that sleeping in).

I’m in the shower by 7:10 every morning. I work on school with most of my spare time. I get my chores done (mostly) in between various things. These things help me mechanically move through time, even when I’d rather not move at all. I can still get work done, I can still move forward, even though I feel terrible.

I don’t say any of this to brag. I say it rather to urge you to form solid habits. Decide when you need to get up in the morning and work on it until you wake up before the alarm rings. Pick a book of the Bible and read a chapter every day, at the same time every day, and pray afterward. When do you need to work out? Do it (and I say this one as much to myself as to anyone else).

We have so many feelings and they’re not always good. Bad moods, frustration, “disenchantment with life” will sometimes overstay their welcome. But life can’t stop for a week of disenchantment – or two or three.

Use the good times to form habits. They won’t fix the bad, but they’ll help.

Kira

What habits help you keep moving when life’s got you down?

Any new ones that you need to form?

God is Not an Afterthought

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I’m back! A month and a half later, and here I am, finally writing again. Nothing in particular has kept me from it, other than my busy schedule.

Life’s been crazy lately. I’ve never worked this much and there are an awful lot of projects soon to be due for different classes. Thanksgiving was, of course, wonderful, but also hectic. Random little things are in abundance: birthday celebrations, driving siblings to school, and getting the flu shot. It all adds up and, before you know it, you’re out of time.

We’re all given the same 24 hours in a day, the same seven days in a week. How we choose to spend it speaks volumes about who we are and what we value. The fact that I take books for school with me in case I have a few minutes shows that I value getting that done. Showing up for work on time and doing your best while you’re there shows a work ethic to be admired. There are a lot of good things to value, but there is only one best thing.

Often, God gets pushed to the backseat in the middle of busyness. Yes, I can make it to practice, but no, I don’t have time to read my Bible. This has become a problem for me. I was blessed enough to be able to pour a lot of time into my spiritual health and relationship with God over the summer, so that now I have that desire to spend time with Him. What I’m lacking at the moment is the time.

It is prideful and foolish to fill your life so much that there is no room for God every day. That is a sure way for things to fall apart. But I know what it feels like to be drowning in so much that it seems reading the Bible won’t fit anywhere and praying is a thing of the past. So here are some things I’ve taken to doing to make sure I’m still spending time with my Lord, Creator, and Father every day.

Create a habit for devotions.

This one’s tough, but it’s essential. Look at your average week and see what time of day is usually free. And give yourself some time. Make sure you’ve got at least half an hour to start, even if it won’t take you that long. Then do devotions every day that you can. Don’t beat yourself up over the days you can’t, but don’t let yourself skip the days you can, even if the time must be abbreviated.

It’s okay to be busy, but if you are unable to set aside time to spend in full devotion to God most days of the week, there’s a problem.

That being said, here’s what I do when devotions are not a possibility (and often when they are):

Pray EVERYWHERE.

Pray in the car on your way to work and class. Pray in bed before you fall asleep. Pray in the shower. Pray in class (maybe not all the time, but if you can pull it off…). Any time you find yourself with nothing in particular to think about, pray.

And vary your prayers. You can pray for your family at a traffic light. You can thank God for your blessings while you wash your hair. Just take a deep breath and talk to God.

Make meal times count.

I know that meals often get lost in the mayhem and tend to turn into “what can I grab from the fridge in two seconds flat so I won’t be late for fill-in-the-blank” sessions. But I would encourage you to take a minute to pray before meals. Yes, every time, and yes, in public.

You might only have thirty seconds or maybe you can take five minutes, but that’s time well spent. Besides, it’s good for you to stop to eat a proper meal every once in a while (or so the “experts” say).

Read your Bible whenever you get the chance.

Block out other thoughts while you read, even if it’s only for a few verses. Take notes and underline. Pray while you read. (I know – I won’t stop talking about prayer, but it is the one and only reason I have survived this past month and a half.)

Don’t confine yourself to the plan you’re doing if you only have five minutes and you want to read somewhere else. God’s Word sanctifies us (John 17:17) and gives us rest.

Go to church.

I don’t care how busy you are. If you are not dying of the plague, go to church. I understand that some people must work on Sundays, but do your best to avoid it. Church is specifically designed to be a place of fellowship with God’s people while we worship Him together. The Sabbath day is a day of rest. Church is an excellent way to rest. Don’t give up the opportunity to be spiritually fed and in turn praise the Lord because you’re too tired or don’t have time. Church is essential.

 

I hope some of these will be helpful to you in staying close to God through the chaos. Busyness isn’t a reason to push God aside; it’s a reason to draw even closer.

Have a blessed and fruitful day!

Kira

What do you do to stay “in-touch” with God? Are there any particularly weird places you like to pray?

Find What’s Best

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Let your weary spirit rest.

Lay down what’s good and find what’s best

And be. Just be.

“Breathe” by Jonny Diaz

This world is crazy. We don’t need to go over that again. We are all guilty of getting caught up in all of it, of placing mountains of importance on temporary things and forgetting the eternal for a while. That’s been especially true for me this week as I’m once again trying to balance school, work, social life, and all the rest, just like you are, I’m sure.

The song “Breathe” by Jonny Diaz is incredible. If you are so inclined, I highly encourage you to listen to the whole thing. The piece that has especially been on my mind lately is the chorus though. He says, “Lay down what’s good and find what’s best.”

That’s an easy concept, but a hard thing to do. I know that I (as a Type-A personality) want to do everything that is good. And there are a lot of good things in the world. So many of them are available and easy, but they add up. They fill up your time before you realize it. They become overwhelming and “what’s good” turns into “what’s draining.”

We must lay down the good in order to pursue what is best. So how do we discern what falls into these categories? How do we figure out what’s only good and what’s really best?

The answer is prayer. To give an example, I’ve been planning to do National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November all year. I’ve done it for the last two years and once a few years before. I love NaNoWriMo and everyone’s talking about it amongst the writerly communities.

I’m also in the middle of editing a manuscript which I sincerely hope to have published and maintaining and growing this blog. Not to mention the rest of life. NaNoWriMo looks so appealing and it is definitely a good thing. But I don’t think it’s the best for me right now.

I pray before I write every day and pray about my writing at other times too. As I prayed about NaNoWriMo, it became clear that, while it would be good, it would take away from school, relationships, and other projects (not to mention physical health during those midnight writing sessions). So I won’t do it this year.

Are you doing too much? Do you always feel hurried or exhausted or frazzled? Feelings are not generally reliable, but they can be helpful here, in figuring out if you’re trying to juggle too much. I feel busy most of the time, so I’m laying down the good of writing a novel in a month to pursue the best of being able to handle school, siblings, and editing.

Finding the right balance in life is not easy. It takes years of trial and error, prayer and evaluation. And it keeps changing, based on what stage of life you’re in. But it’s worth it for you and the people around you. Pray about everything. How you should do it, when you should do it, whether you should do it. That is always best.

So let your weary spirit rest. Lay down what’s good and find what’s best. And be. Just be.

Kira

Are you tring to do too much? What could you lay down in order to find what’s best?

From the Archives: The Little Things

So often, small happy things get lost in the whirlwind. It’s refreshing to come back to in the middle of everything right now.

Originally published: 6/2/17


Life is busy. Pretty much anyone who ever lived would agree. There’s work, school, family, sports, church events, and everything else that claims hours and days of our lives. Most of that stuff is really good. We were made to live full lives and glorify God with our work. But often, we let it overwhelm us and forget to enjoy it.

I’ve been noticing the little things lately. And by little things, I mean the stuff that I would usually ignore in favor of all the work (or made up work) that I have to do. Why would I watch my little blonde, blue eyed sister pick flowers on a hill when I have a book to read? Why would I listen to my brother whistle whatever song is stuck in his head when I have finals to study for? And why would I lay in the hammock with previously mentioned little sister when I could be writing a blog post?

Reading books, studying for finals, and writing blog posts are all excellent things to do. In fact, I partake of them quite regularly. But it’s also good to admire how your sister’s hair glows in the setting sun, to appreciate the cuteness of your brother’s off-key whistle, to let a four year old crawl all over you as you sway three feet off the ground.

A lot of times, I deny people my time and love, even in small increments, because I “have too much work to do.” It’s ultimately denying myself something good as well. There’s always more time to do that work, but my sister won’t be four forever. I won’t live with my siblings for much longer. Appreciating the little tiny things now is just as responsible a way to use time as is scribbling away at notes for a test.

Yes, sometimes we do have to ignore the little things in order to get our work done. But how often could we postpone the work for five minutes to trace a hand with a crayon, climb a tree, or walk down the street?

I’m not only talking about time with siblings – that’s just the biggest way little things are manifested in my life. Maybe a little thing for you would be reading a chapter of a book, actually tasting a few sips of morning coffee, or staring up at the clouds to think for a couple minutes.

The little things are good. They are refreshing. They stay in your memory and make you smile. People are often included in little things. A fifteen minute walk with my sister gives us time to talk. Sitting next to someone silently can be comfortable. The little things are what strengthen important relationships – the ones we don’t want to lose.

Little things are smelling the summer air, snuggling under a blanket at the end of the day, warming your hands by a bonfire in the middle of friends on a late July night.

What little things have crept into your life lately? Take a minute and enjoy them. You won’t regret it.

Kira

What are some of your favorite pockets of joy? Have you stopped for them lately?