Sunday, December 28, 2014

77 Miles Later...

     Sometimes God teaches us a lesson. And then sometimes after we learn the lesson...He gives us a trial to make sure we really learned it.
      And that means really stretching us. Stretching us until we feel we cannot bear it anymore.
      And this is where I found myself this past week.
      Lately God has been teaching me about submitting. To His will for my life.
      It was hard to learn...and I was slow. But I hit an "AHA!" moment, where I was like, "I've finally got this."
       Note to self #4,907: We never 'got this'. Our faith is constantly being tested.
       Through a series of events, Saturday(yesterday...how come it feels so far away?) afternoon God gave me the biggest test on submitting that I have ever had.
       And let me tell you... I was upset. Hurt. Confused.
       Tears streaming down my face, I got in my car and just drove. I didn't have a destination in mind, just needed to be alone to think. Cry. And pray.
       The entire time I had one verse I couldn't shake from my mind, "*If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
       77 miles of driving and praying later it became all too clear that taking up the cross of Christ meant laying down everything and everyone in my life in order to do so.
       And to know that doing so might mean losing more than just my will and pride... but friends whom I hold dear.
       To give literally everything and submit to His will for me.
       Am I totally chill with the situation now and 'oh happy day my problems are solved because I've learned to submit'?
      Far from it. I'm not afraid to admit that I'm struggling, a lot, with this.
      Submitting to things I don't agree with... but know that right now God is calling me to submit to these things.
       God is always teaching us. If we don't have trials in life, how else would we grow? He gives us trials to prove our faith as gold. To grow us in Him. To strip us of everything that consumes us in the world and show us that following Him...and Him alone...is what we, as believers, are called to do.
      And that training, learning; it hurts. So much.
       But if we press on. Eyes on Christ. Joy in Him.
       It'll be so SO worth it in the end.

In order to take up our cross and follow Christ, we must leave behind all that we think we need.
We must deny ourselves. Our desires. Our wants.
To do anything less is to disobey the God of yesterday, today, and forever.



*Matthew 16:24-26, "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forgets his soul?'" 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Different This Year

     *note: though this story is completely fictional, the emotion behind it stems from actual experiences in my own life.

     I shifted my arms to keep an armful of packages from spilling all over the ground.  
     Another year. Another Christmas. 
     And a sufficiently smaller bank account to show for it. Also a New Years resolution to never again to wait until Christmas Eve to finish my shopping.
     The bus doors opened in front of me and I stepped inside, desperately searching for an empty spot to set my gifts down. 
     The only empty spot was next to a woman with matted hair and downcast eyes. Though it couldn't have been any warmer than 40 degrees outsides, she wore only jeans and a t-shirt. 
     My heart softened. I always tried to help the homeless when I could. Setting my packages down, I pulled off my own coat. I had a thick layer underneath, but still the stale, cold, air in the bus caused me to shiver. 
     "Excuse me, Ma'am?" I tapped her on the shoulder.
      She looked up, her eyes red and puffy. 
      I held the coat out. "You look like you need this more than me."
      No smile. No 'thank you'. Instead she looked at me blankly for a moment, then turned away. 
      Annoyed, I tried again. "It's really cold outside, please take it."
      She shook her head.
       Not the reaction had expected, I turned away and checked my phone. I need to get home and put the turkey in the oven. 
       A sniffle caused me to face the woman once again. Her shoulders were shaking slightly. 
       I picked my packages up and sat down next to her. "Are you alright?"
       She glanced at me briefly, fresh tears falling down her cheeks. Still, no words.
       "Do you have anywhere to go for Christmas?" 
       "Not anywhere I want to go." Her words were mumbled, barely audible.
        I pictured a homeless shelter, filled with filth. I wouldn't want to go their either. 
        "Anything I can do to help? I have extra food..."
        "Not unless you have a stairway to Heaven."
        I blinked. "I don't understand."
        Another sob. "I don't want to go home. Not when he's not there anymore."
        Reality began to sink in. She wasn't homeless. She was grieving. 
        I remained silent, hoping she would continue. 
        "Why didn't God take me instead? Why would someone so young be taken away?"
        "I'm so sorry." I didn't know what else to say.
        "He was my son. My son."
        "Can I ask...what happened?"
        She was silent for a moment and I thought she wasn't going to answer. But she took a deep breath and said, "stage four cancer. We only found out a week before he died."
         I swallowed. "I'm so sorry," I repeated.
         "How could we not know until a week before? How did I miss the signs? He's gone now. Just like that. One day I'm kissing my beautiful boy on the forehead and the next I'm planning his funeral. I can't go home. Everything there reminds me of him. His sweet laugh. His blue eyes."
          I felt tears well up in my own eyes. She kept going, spilling out her heart.
          "There's no way I can live with this pain. I just want to be with him. I want to be in Heaven. I want to hug him. I want to tell him I love him. I just-" she choked back more tears, trying to get her words out. "I just want him to be alive." 
          The bus stopped and the woman got up. 
          "I'm so so sorry for you loss." The tears in my own eyes flowed freely now. "I can't imagine the pain, but I will pray for you."
           She let her eyes lock with mine for a moment, a silent 'thank you', then stepped off the bus and melted into the Christmas Eve crowds. 
           Minutes later the bus stopped once again and I got off. It wasn't until I had walked the mile from the bus stop to my house that realized I had left my coat on the bus and cold rain was pelting down on my neck. But still I felt numb to the cold. 
          Seeing a pain so real and deep, tugged at my heart and kept my own tears falling. If just seeing her pain caused this own pain in my heart, how much more was she hurting?
          I stepped into the house and a blast of warmth hit my face. Warmth and thankfulness. 
          For this Christmas I had my family. Such a precious gift that so easily I took for granted. 
          Another year. Another Christmas.
          Another moment to be thankful for the ones I hold dear.



Praying for all those who are celebrating Christmas with an empty spot at the table this year. <3

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.
May the name of the Lord be praised. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

I don't wanna change(myself)

     I don't like change.
     Wait, let me re-word that. I don't like changing myself.
     I'm very stubborn in my 'me-isms'. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it's definitely not.
     I read an article the other day that really struck a chord. It was talking about how one huge thing that's really important as a wife, is to be an encouragement to your husband.
     Now, I'd really like to think of myself as someone who encourages people.
    And(I hope) I usually am. But not with everyone; not with my younger sisters.
     And it's simply because I grew up with them being 'my annoying little sibs'. And, as a little kid, that meant just sharing when I had to, being nice when I had to, etc...
     Things have definitely changed since then. I love them more than anything. And they know that. But I realized that I don't make much effort to be an encouragement to them. I'm so used to just...not...that it's like pulling out my own teeth to even try.
      And that's something I really need to change.  When/if I get married, I want to be a wife who doesn't get 'stuck' in the cycle of 'just being a good wife'. But who, on a daily basis, is there to encourage my husband in all he does(if it's honoring to Christ of course).
       But how can I expect to encourage someone I live with every day for the rest of my life(Lord willing) when I don't even encourage the family I have now?


     ....So I'm gonna try....no, let me re-phrase that. I'm gonna, by God's grace, change myself. Starting with (at least)one encouragement to my younger sisters each day. I don't just want to be a 'good' sister...I want to be an encouraging sister.

....Just my random thoughts for the day that's maybe a challenge to whoever may read this. :)

Friday, October 31, 2014

So I'm 21...

     I'm 21.
     I've never traveled farther than halfway across the US.
     I've never been out of the Country.
     I've never lived on my own.
     I've never kissed a guy.
     I've never really had a boyfriend.
     I've never gone into a post office by myself(shh, don't tell anyone that one).
     I've never gone sky-diving.
     I've never slept on a roof-top.
     I've never spent more than a week away from home.
     I've never stayed up through the entire night.

     These are all things I thought that I would have done by 21.
     These are all things I still wish to do.
   
     My life has been far from what I expected.
     Between the ages of 0 and 7 I lived in blissful ignorance.
     Between the ages of 8 and 13 lived in constant anger. Anger at the world. Anger at my family. Anger at myself.
     At age 13 God took ahold of my heart through a verse and brought me to Him.
     Between then and now more has elapsed in my life than what I could have ever imagined.
     Things that, in the moment, I wished wouldn't have.
     I've had my heart broken(mainly because of situations I placed myself in). Multiple times.
     I've felt 40 years older in regards to my health.
     I've lost a very close friend to accidental death.
     I've known someone who committed suicide.
     I've known someone who died from cancer.
     I've lost friends whom I thought I'd know forever.
     I've struggled with letting go.
     I've messed up. Over and over and over.


     These are the things that have happened instead of the things I planned.
     These are the things I am THANKFUL happened instead of the things I planned.
     And if I could go back in time...I wouldn't change a SINGLE thing.
     Those stupid mistakes I made, led me to not make them again.
     Those people I lost, helped me learn to place my dependance on Christ alone and not take for granted those who are currently in my life.
     Those times I got my heart broken, helped me learn to guard to safety for when the right guy does come along.
   
     My life isn't easy. And it never was. But my life is amazing. My life is a blessing. I have so SO SO much to be thankful for. And when I really sit back and think about it, I can't help but grin and praise the God who so graciously gifted me with this life.

     I'm 21. Where do I go from here? Try and make all my plans come about?
     What if instead I focused on following GOD'S will for my life?
     He's brought me this far and so often I've fought Him will.
     I have desires and wishes still. But I'm leaving the planning up to God. :)
     

Ecclesiastes 12:13, "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Echoes

They are all around me
In various shapes and forms
Faces. Bodies. Souls.
Each echoing a cry
Some echo a cry of laughter
Other a sorrow rooted too deep for words
Some echo their mother or father
Still others a brother or sister
Each face has its own unique echo
Some echoes reaching farther than others
Some echoes so strong they ring clear
Long after the face is gone
But what is my echo?
I slip and fail and echo defeat
I mess up and echo humanity
But these aren't MY echo
No. MY echo.
The echo of my life
My echo is Christ
And no matter the times
My fleshly echo tries to take over
The echo of my life
The echo that doesn't come from me
The echo of forgiveness
The echo of grace
The echo of love
Whether through silent prayer
Or a spoken word of encouragement
Let my life echo Christ

Friday, September 12, 2014

Why My Dad Isn't The Best

     My dad isn't the best dad in the world. And yes, this post is about why my dad isn't the best.
     My dad isn't perfect.
     He messes up. 
     He gets upset.
     He's a sinner.
     And there are certainly moments when I feel frustrated when we don't see eye-to-eye.
     And you know what? I bet there's a 'better' (earthly)dad out there.
     But that 'better' dad wouldn't be better for me.
     My Dad. My non-perfect dad is the dad God gave me.
     A dad who loves me.
     A dad who is selfless.
     A dad who can fix just about anything - and takes the time to show his kids to do the same.
     A dad who is striving to be the best dad he can be.
     God blessed me so much by allowing ME to be the daughter of a truly amazing dad.
     A dad who taught me how to hunt, fish, change a tire, wire an outlet, finish a job till it's done, choose the right friends, love others, and most importantly seek Christ in everything.
     God worked it out so perfectly that I'd be placed with a dad to fit my personal needs.
     
     No, my dad isn't the best dad ever and he's far from perfect.
     But the the best dad for me. And I truly couldn't ask for a more amazing dad in my life. 

     I love you, Dad. <3

     
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Upon my Knees

Yes, I know it's been forever and a half since I made a post....but I'm not dead, I promise. Just busy. But that doesn't mean I haven't been writing...it just hasn't made it from my notebook to my blog... :)



Upon my knees I find myself again
All my strength withered away
Bruised. Battered. Hopeless?
Here upon the ground I feel I shall decay

Emptiness inside
No answers in my head
No air in my lungs
Every tear inside me has been shed

My strength is all but dry
I cannot do this on m own
With one last breath I stretch my arms
"I am nothing. Fill me," I groan

Upon my knees I remain
Though now in broken humbleness
My lungs filled with the sweetest of air
For to Him I called in my distress

Now I clearly see that upon my own I could not carry on
He gave me more than I could bear
He came and did so I may live
And in His name I find victor on my knees in prayer

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Why I don't plan to choose joy.

     I'm not choosing joy. And prayerfully, I do not plan to.
     Yup, it's time for one of Clareesa's crazy ramblings in which she says something that sounds completely messed up. Kinda like my 'Why I don't want a boyfriend' post. ;)
     So, allow me to explain...
     I hear the term 'choosing joy' everywhere. Most often the context where I hear it is when someone is going through a rough time and they said, "but i'm trying to choose joy." Or when someone is encouraging someone else who's going through a rough time and they say, "you just need to choose joy."
     Can I be blunt for just a second? Typically, in that context, choosing joy is a one, big, fat, lie.
     It's important before we use that term to understand what, true, Biblical joy actually is. I made a post about joy a few years back and I didn't really put in a lot of verses and stuff I should have.
     First big thing to understand about joy: It's NOT that selfish need to feel 'happy'. It's not that, 'Yay, I love life because everything is fun and it's going great' feeling.
     Joy is NOT an emotion based on our circumstances.
     1 Thessalonians 5:16, "Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances..."
     Go read Philippians 4.
     Biblical joy is finding constant contentment in Christ no matter the circumstances. It's rejoicing, even in our sufferings.
     But that's just the beginning of it. Or rather, just a small part. If you want to know more about what joy is, go open your Bible. Seriously, it's crazy jam-packed full of what joy is and where it comes from and what it does.
      So back to my main point... why I'm not choosing joy.
     When we are born again and accept Christ into our lives as our Lord and Saviour, admitting we are sinners in need of his forgiveness, His Holy Spirit fills us.
     And suddenly, we have have the wonderful and amazing ability to complete joy - complete contentment in Christ.
     We are choosing CHRIST.
     I feel like so often when people talk about choosing joy, they are referring so much to that selfish, fleshly desire to be 'happy' and missing the whole point.
     It's not about us!! It's about Christ.
     We are called to be joyful. To be joyful IN CHRIST.
     We are called to choose Christ above all. But guess what??? When we choose Christ, we are filled with His joy!
     Joy in Christ. Joy in the Creator of the Universe. Joy in the God of yesterday, today, and forever!!!
      AH! MIND BLOWN. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?! (sorry, this seriously makes me excited)
     God is so incredibly gracious and merciful. We do not deserve such an amazing gift as finding joy in Him.
     And yet, He gives it so freely when we seek Him.

     So, it's not a simple, 'today I'm going to choose joy and be happy and smile.' NO NO NO. If that's your through process, you're way off track.
     It's an attitude of, 'today I will seek Christ. I will seek Him in my actions, thoughts and words, knowing that through Him, I have all I need. And IN HIM, I will find joy."
   
     I know this is something I need to be working on a lot more. Choosing Christ rather than seeking to just 'find joy' so I can be 'happy'.
      So that's what I'm not choosing joy. Prayerfully, and in need of much grace along the way, I desire that I will spend the rest of my life choosing Christ. And in doing so, knowing that IN that, I'm choosing joy as well.
     Every day. Every moment. Every breath.
     To God be the glory.

Romans 15:13, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."



*Disclaimer: I've read some really fantastic posts, status and heard some really cool things said about choosing joy and I in no way am trying to contradict those. I just am stressing what I have been convicted of, our focus in choosing joy is so often off.
Also, this doesn't mean, AT ALL, that we SHOULDN't be smiling or happy each day. It's just a matter of the heart. :)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What if a question could change your life?

     I know all too well that it is incredibly easy to live life selfishly. To live life seeking our own happiness.
     But the Bible makes it so clear that those who have been born again are to live a life seeking to glorify Christ in all we do.
     Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
     There are so many other verses that talk about living for Christ, shining His light, seeking Him, etc...(Rom 12:2, 2 Cor 5:17, Matt 6:24, Matt 6:33, Phil 4:8, 1 Pet 1:13, James 1:22-27, Heb 13:5, the list goes on!).

     It's so simple. So point-blank. EVERYTHING thing we do should be in the name of the Lord Jesus.
     But yet, it's so hard. Hard to ignore our fleshly desires.
     But what if we changed our entire mindset with one simple question?
   
      A question I should be asking myself far more than I do.
      And not just asking this question, but responding with a heart fully desiring to seek Christ.
   
      Ready? Here is it:

     "Is what I'm doing right now ultimately glorifying to Christ?"


     What if you asked that question before you began any task, any project, hung out with anyone, listened to a song, read a book, spent time on social media? anything. And what if after you asked that question, you answered it honestly?

     What would happen?
   
   
     We so often let ourselves live a life so full of complacency and a desire for self-fulfillment. We seek the things of earth, where moth and rust destroy, rather than the things of God. But how would our lives change if we continually lived life with a mindset to glorify and serve Him in absolutely everything? If we stopped, looked at every situation in our life and asked ourselves, 'Is what I'm doing right now ultimately glorifying to Christ?"

     Can you ask yourself this question throughout the day and honestly answer it, "yes."?
     I pray you can and I pray the same for myself.
     
      Don't give into your own fleshly desires. Seek Christ. In EVERYTHING. 



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Give It All

Give It All

Let this by my cry:

Oh, Lord, to You I give it all
To You solely do I reach for
At Your feet I fall
At Your feet I lay it all

My wants, my desires
My entire being
Let me hold nothing back
And what I do,
Take it from me

Oh, God, let me not cling to my desires
Fill me with Your will
I give it all, Lord
Every part of me

To do Your will
To follow Your leading
To enter into the unknown
With lifted hands
Relying only on You
And You alone

Here I am, Lord
I give it all

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why I Don't Want A Boyfriend

     Yes, I don't want a boyfriend.
     In fact, I don't want any sort of relationship.
     Anyone who knows me is probably laughing right about now and saying, "Uh, Clareesa, you're the last person who'd say that and mean it."
     But it's true. Let me me explain.
     
     I have observed many guys 'liking' girls. And those girls were usually very good looking & 'fun', but they are also loud, flirtatious and all around not godly women. And the fact that these are the type of girls guys are finding attractive, makes me respect those guys a little less. 
      I highly respect any guy who is attracted to a truly godly women. A women who doesn't have to act like a wild crazy girl to get attention. A women who doesn't have to have the perfect body. A women who when you look at her, you see Christ.
     Then I realized that I am not the type of women that I would want a godly man to be attracted to. 
      I have a ton of growing to do. 
  
     Relationships are serious to me. I don't intend to get into a relationship until there is a guy who is looking toward very intentionally pursuing me and ultimately looking towards marriage. 
      But I want that man to be godly, pure and most of all...attracted to the qualities a godly wife should have. 
      I'm not ready to be a wife yet. In fact, I won't be "ready" probably ever. It's a continual growing process. 

      So am I saying that I never want a boyfriend because I never feel like I'll be 'the godly women I would want a godly man to be attracted to'? Not in the least. 
      If it were God's will and a man chose to pursue a relationship with me right now, I'd be ecstatic. 

      BUT, it is not my job to just sit and wonder who that man is.
      It's not my job to want a boyfriend.

      It's my job to strive to be a godly women who is seeking Christ in everything.
      To guard my heart and if someday the Lord blesses me with a husband, to have the wonderful privilege of giving it to him.
      To serve as a single person wherever God calls me to serve.
      To shine the light of Christ wherever I go.
      To NOT sit around waiting. Not wishing. Not 'chasing boys'.      
     To be the type of women I would want a godly man to find attractive. 

      I don't want a boyfriend.
      I want to be that women who is so lost in Christ, that any man would have to first seek Christ in order to find me.