Saturday, February 23, 2013

Genuine Faith

"So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have endured many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold- though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world" 
                                 -1 Peter 6-7

Everyone has a story.
Some people are more open with it that others.

The trials I've faced in this life are ones of loss, disappointment, fear, and identity. 
I truly felt that each trial I have faced, or am currently facing, is bringing me closer to Christ. 

Right from the beginning, God took a guy out of my life and I was able to focus completely and wholly on Him with no distraction. The trial came when I didn't want to let go, when I felt out of control and I panicked, making things worse. When I finally got it and let go, my life took off in a direction I never imagined.

Through that trial I was able to become more independent. I saw more clearly and have learned not to depend solely on man alone. That God will never be my disappointment and I can rely on Him when nothing else is stable.

Another trial I have faced all my life and am still fighting is that of addiction. I don't personally struggle with addiction but it runs strongly through my family and the consequences are too deep and too numerous to mention. This trial is that of conflict between anger and respect. When all you want to do is honour and respect someone, but then see the decisions they make, it's very conflicting and is still something I am working on. I know The bible calls us to love and honour and be patient and kind, but when you are at the point where you just want to give up on someone, THAT is where the trial comes in. You need to fight against those emotions and just for one more day LOVE those who need it the most. This will always be a part of my story but I am determined to not let it be something that decreases my joy or my path in life. I've made the decision to never touch alcohol again in my life (and I feel the need to mention this is through my own personal experience of what I've seen alcohol do to dear loved ones and not based on biblical principle although I can respect that viewpoint as well). 

I truly believe that God has shown me that he can use this trial, this weakness in my life for strength. I've been able to make the choice to run away from the temptation of drinking with no hesitation. His grace and mercy is provided in the times where I needed it the most, to get through those tough nights or times where you don't know what is going to happen. He continues to guide my steps and in know his protection has been on me and my family regardless.

I've gone through losing friends, feeling betrayed and rejected, feeling unloved, but to be honest when going through those trials, I always ended up back at the same thing. "I will never leave you nor forsake you". God. At the end of it all, his word stands firm and his promises unbroken. He is the one I can rely in and I can bring my fears and worries to his throne, offer it up in prayer and he will give me the tools to make it through, or the peace to be still and watch the storm pass. 

Trials do sincerely test your faith. And when were tested in school, it was to push us to make our skills better. We crunched and studied all night to memorize all the theories and correct answers. We made sure we had enough in our brains to pass and that included staying up all night before the test. At the end of that test, we knew exactly what the prof wanted us to know. We were stronger in our knowledge of the subject we studied. Far more equipped than we would have been before we studied for the test.... Trials in life are similar. The trial is the painful studying all night part, preparing for the proper answers. And then when we are tested in our faith, we need to make sure we stand strong on Gods word and what he says so we can ensure through the testing. 

And of course we had to wait to hear back about our marks but would have to wait weeks to get an answer! 

Sometimes the realization that we've made the proper choice 
or that a trial has made us stronger may not come until later... 

...Maybe not until our lives are complete and we are face to face with Jesus. As the verse says above, when our faith remains strong through these trials, it will bring much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus is revealed... This can only mean that our Father in heaven sees exactly the trials we face and how we handle them. That he is collecting our reward for us in heaven and that our efforts and perseverance have not gone unnoticed.

I can't promise it will eliminate trials or pain but standing in the word of God, just reading what he says, provides these tools to get through those storms life offers. You become stronger emotionally, his strength is made perfect in weakness.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Choices We Are Faced With, The Decisions We Make

Every day we are faced with decisions.

We always have a choice.
A choice to react to someone's negative comments.
A choice to give into the gossip and say exactly what's on your mind.
A choice to tell someone you love them.

The choices we make daily may just be of minimal importance to our minds at the time, but a simple choice can make an impact or even change your life.

But how do we know we are making the right choices when we are faced with certain decisions?

The one quality humans lack is perceiving the future. Even if we could see the future I am sure that I would not want the ending to be spoiled. That's the fun of life!

I am realizing that the only desire that I have to see the future is to ensure everything turns out okay.
There is a fear of failure or that I will make the wrong "decision" in my life.

There is an issue in this fear though because God specifically says "fear not" and to TRUST in God, that he will make your paths straight as long as you follow Him and love him WHOLEHEARTEDLY.

I guess my fear then isn't necessarily that I will screw up or make the wrong CHOICE..... I am realizing that I am more afraid that I will fall away, that I will stop trusting in God, or that He will stop short on his promises for his plan to prosper me, for that hope and future that Jeremiah 29:11 talks about.

"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, 
plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future" 
- Jeremiah 29:11

The key here isn't to take those risks and just assume that God will help us out - although He may - but the key here is to chase after God daily. The key is to understand His character and know what makes Him joyful and know what disgusts Him. That way, when we make these decisions in our every day life, whether it be big or small, we are likely to line up our decisions with God's character. 

If we know gossip displeases God, then the choice to engage in such conversation should be to simply walk away or change the subject. In fact, the bible states that you shouldn't even associate yourselves with people who gossip. Simple right?

 "Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; 
therefore do not associate with a simple babbler" 
- Proverbs 20:19

Remember in Disney's Beauty and the Beast where Belle's father Maurice takes Philip (the horse) and his invention through the forest and is faced with a fork in the road. We see one pathway with light, and is a clearly marked pathway and then we see the other pathway that is all smokey and dark, clearly a more dangerous path. The horse starts walking towards the bright pathway and Maurice pulls him towards the dark path. I'm sure that I was not the only one putting my palm on my forehead.

I feel like that's how God is seeing us make our decisions. We want to take short cuts or are more worried about fitting in, about being cool or not being left out so we may make these choices to engage in the gossip or the drinking or whatever. We forget that the bible says:

"The gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, 
and only a few ever find it." - Matthew 7:14

We are forgetting that the choices we make today are SUPPOSED to be different from others. If we are left out, rejected, standing out, being pointed out then to be honest, we may be doing something right! 

It's not promised that this life will be easy, but it is promised that the Lord's plans for our lives are to prosper us and not to harm - that's good enough for me. Our choices have the power to change our lives for the better, and even change other peoples lives. It's as simple as taking a risk, but ensuring that your actions, words and thoughts line up with the Word of God is the most important part of making decisions - especially big ones - in our lives.

Easier said than done, but something to ponder about.

xoxo S.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Purpose in Seasons

Winter: That beautiful season where there is snow everywhere, hot chocolate by the fire, Christmas and Valentines Day, the season of family and love. I love winter. I love when there is a snow storm and a possibility of having a day off to relax in my jammies. I love getting my coffee from Tim's and it warming me up by the time I get to work. I love the different colour scarfs I get to wear and of course, being able to wear crazy fuzzy socks under my cute black boots.

Not everyone likes winter though...

In fact, after the first snow fall, it's lost all of its wonder and people are ready for summer again. I understand the salt rusting our cars, the horrible task of waking up at 4 AM to shovel the driveway and then fearing for your life on the drive into work. I understand the dry skin, the static hair, and the freezing hands that on the days you forgot to wear mitts you try to barely touch the steering wheel. I understand wanting to just sit outside, soak up the sun or have BBQs and jump in a pool! I get it! But what if we are so quick to want the next season that we forget to appreciate the beauty of the one that we are in? 

I was driving home today I was looking around at all the dirty cars, the roads filled with cracks from the salted pavement, the slush and dead trees. It didn't look beautiful at all. But I quickly changed my perspective and started looking for the wonder of God in winter. How each snowflake is actually unique, just like each person He has created. How this beautiful white fluffy stuff looks so incredibly beautiful when it falls from the sky you just want to run outside and catch some on your tongue! (maybe that part is just me). And how a lot of my memories from my childhood consisted of digging a cave in the snow with my brother, tobogganing down a giant hill and throwing snowballs at each other (and our dog). I remember when we would get inside our snowpants and mitts would be so soaked! And mom would always be ready with hot chocolate and marshmellows by the fire for us. 

As with all seasons of our lives, winter has it's ups and downs. But what I am still learning is the importance of finding the blessings in each day. We sometimes forget that God is always there. Focusing on the wonder of a snowflake instead of the money we had to pay for snow tires will allow us to minimize the things of this life that are not important (such as material things) and maximize the awe factor of God. 

If we are unhappy with a few things happening in our lives, it may become natural to look to the next season of life for a breakthrough. As soon as I am out of university, or as soon as I move out of the house, or as soon as I have my career, as soon as I get married, as soon as I have babies..... THEN I'll be happy. We all get sucked in. Looking to the next step of our lives and focusing on it, driving towards it. I am not saying it is wrong to want those things. I am saying that if our focus is always on wanting the next thing, when will we ever learn to "Be Still". When will we ever take enough time to just see what God is doing right now. How will we be able to thank God for what he has done if we are so busy moving forward, we don't reflect on how far we've come.

God has a new season he is preparing for our lives, but he wants you to enjoy the one you are in now!
If you are putting on your swimsuit, grabbing your flip flops, and ready to head down to the beach now, it's not going to be fulfilling when its still snowing out and the lake is frozen.
There is a risk of jumping the gun or focusing on that "next season" because you wont be able to enjoy the one you are in now. We may be missing the point of the season we are in now.
God doesn't make mistakes.

There is a purpose and plan for everyone, and there is a purpose for this current season of life. The problem is not getting through this current season, the problem is trying to find what God is teaching you. That's what we should be concerned about. 

There is no problem with keeping the background of your desktop one of those pictures of a tropical island though.... again, it's always good to give ourselves a reminder of what we have to look forward to as well as long as we don't forget where we are.

xoxo S.