Thursday, January 30, 2014

Church, We Have an Emergency

Today, I read a post from We are that Family: One of the Best Things We Can Do for Our Kids in this Culture War. I shared her post to my Facebook page with a quote from the article:
“There’s all this crazy research on why so many kids are leaving the church once they can (every 6 in 10). Why? Some are leaving because it’s the first time they have the freedom to do so. But I think most leave because they don’t know Jesus. They have heard about him their whole lives. They have the t-shirt. But it’s not that personal. I don’t know if there’s a right way to go about it. But I do know it’s not about rules, it’s about relationship.” 
I don’t have kids yet, but this article really hit home for me. I grew up in a Christian family and have attended church since the day I was born. I went to a Christian school from the time I was three to the time I graduated high school. Attending a Christian school meant that we had to attend a Bible class every day of every school year, all of the curriculum was based on Christianity, we had a chapel service every Thursday morning, and we had a very strict code of conduct. You would expect to see lots of great Christian kids graduating from this institution, seeing as how we practically breathed God every day of our education, but the reality is quite different. Out of my graduated class of 33, I can probably count on one hand how many of us are actively pursuing Christ.
The problem is, most of the class would probably say that they still believed in God if you asked them, but if you look at their current life choices you would see something quite different.
One of my classmates is hooked on drugs. Many of them are hooked on alcohol. Some are living with their boyfriends/girlfriends. It’s like when my class entered the college scene they also entered a reality show called “Christian Kids Gone Wild” or something. And the same holds true for the classes that graduated before us and the classes that have graduated after us.
But why?
Yes, you might be able to contribute some of this to their home life. After all, the parents are the most influential in the lives of children. But still, when you are taught day in and day out about God, why are so many abandoning their faith as soon as they walk out of the door?
I think that last sentence answered the question…’s because we were taught about God, but not necessarily taught how to foster a relationship with God. There is a big difference between knowing about God’s existence and the historical aspects behind His Word, and the pursuit of His heart.
Now, please don’t think I’m blaming my high school for all of this, because the same statistics hold true for kids who enter college and leave their church youth group. We see the majority of these kids leaving the church entirely just as soon as they head off to college. We might see them again once they have kids of their own, but for the next few years they are “living large” and “partying it up” and “doing what they want to do because no one can tell them how to live their lives.”
This epidemic isn’t just within Christian schools, it’s a disease within the Church as a whole, and it needs to stop. The truth is, if this continues we are going to wind up missing an entire generation of young people. If our youth are graduating high school and leaving the church, never to be seen again, then what about when they have kids? I shudder to think of the answer.
So what’s the answer? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. This post is more of a “get you thinking” post rather than a “here is the problem and I have the answer” post. But I can tell you that as parents, we have got to start exemplifying a relationship with Christ. And as a Church, as have also got to start exemplifying a relationship with Christ.
We can’t just teach our young people about God, we have to show them God. We have to show them that we are faithful with our tithes. We need to demonstrate prayer time. They need to see us reading our Bibles. They need to see us trusting God when money is tight. They need to see us serving God in our church and in our communities. They need to see us truly worshipping Him, and not just during church services on Sunday morning.
Will this completely heal the disease? No, it won’t. Because at the end of the day our children have to make the choice to follow Christ, and we live in a culture that is extremely hostile towards our faith. But like I said earlier, parents are the most influential in the lives of their children. So if we genuinely pursue Christ and they see that, then we know we have done all that we can do to train them up in the ways of God. We are giving them every opportunity and every example of what Christianity should look like, rather than just giving them a list of do’s and don’ts and expecting them to follow that when they enter the (hostile) college community.
I don’t know what pursuing Christ will look like for your family. Frankly, it really doesn’t matter what I think it should look like. Every family will do things differently, and that’s fine. One family might start a daily devotional at the table after dinner. Another family might make it a point to pray with each of their children when they tuck them in at night. Another family might volunteer at a homeless shelter once a month. The point is not necessarily what you do; it’s just that you do something on a regular basis to demonstrate a relationship with Christ.
And for the record, it doesn’t matter how old your kids are. If they are still living under your roof, you can still make some changes. And even if your kids have already moved out and started college, you can always keep them in prayer and ask that God speak into their lives and that they would be sensitive to His calling.
Again, this post isn’t really a “here is the problem and I have the answer” post. Shoot, I don’t even have kids of my own yet, so you might be sitting there thinking “who does this girl think she is telling me how to raise my children???” This was not meant to be a post where I bash parents everywhere and try to heap shame and guilt on your heads.
But, we have a serious problem in the Church today. And recognizing that problem and thinking about how to correct it is the first step towards recovery.
“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  ~2 Chronicles 7:14

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What is my calling, after all?

A couple of years ago, I was really struggling. I was in the middle of college, and quickly realizing that accounting was NOT the major I should have gone to school for. I was barely passing the advanced accounting and tax courses, which was pretty odd for a 3.9 GPA high school graduate, and I hated every second of it. To make matters worse, I was only a few semesters away from that coveted four-year degree, so I had already made the decision to just dig my heels in and graduate with my current major. Changing my major would have tacked on another two years of classes, and I was ready. to. graduate.
My decision was causing me a lot of internal turmoil, though. Am I screwing up my future by getting a degree in something I won’t ever use? Am I just blind and not seeing that my purpose in life is to be an accountant? And if I am making the wrong choice, what should my new major be? Journalism? Spanish? Basket-weaving? Teaching? What IN THE WORLD does God want me to do? What is my purpose? What is my calling? Sure He has something “cooler” in store for me than just accounting, right???? Tack on the fact that I was working a job that I did not enjoy with any foreseeable way out, and you have a recipe for one very conflicted 21 year old woman.
Fast forward almost three years and you find me in a happier job, with that high & mighty four-year degree hidden somewhere in my office at home. But still, I am in an in-between phase. I kindof-sortof wish that I had changed my major (to journalism), even though it means I would’ve just been graduating from college this semester (gross). And although I am in a much happier place, my ultimate goal is still to be a stay-at-home mom and not sitting in the “cube farm” for nine hours every day. With our current infertility struggle added in, you now have a recipe for a pretty frustrated almost-24 year old woman.
But thankfully, I have learned my lesson on being content with where I am in life. It was a hard lesson to learn….especially when the infertility stuff got added into the mix, but it was learned. One thing that has helped me come to peace with everything are the wise words that I heard at a youth conference a year or two ago. They were spoken by the wife of our Georgia Assemblies of God District Youth Director, and although she was addressing a group of tween girls (I was there as a chaperone), they really meant a lot to me as well. Paraphrasing, she said that we don’t need to have our “purpose” or our “calling” figured out for the rest of our lives. As we go through the seasons of life, it can change. God calls us to do different things…..rarely does He ever say “this is the one thing I want you to do until the day you die”, and if He did He would surely make that plain to us. Instead, we should be examining where we are in our lives and ask the simple question “what do You want from me in this season?”  She then gave examples of how she went from being a young wife, to a working wife, to a stay-at-home mom to her children, to a youth pastor’s wife, back to a working wife (while still being a youth pastor’s wife), and now to being the wife of the District Youth Director and speaking at youth events all over the state. (I may or may not have screwed up the order in which she said all that, but you get my point.) She has moved throughout many different seasons and callings in her life, and she is certain that as she gets older she will move through more.
Those were such freeing words for me to hear! After quite some time of struggling to figure out what my “true calling” was in life, I finally heard from a trusted sister in Christ that I only needed to be concerned with where God had me right now. Allowing that to sink in and apply to my life has also allowed me to learn to be content with where I am right now. Right now, I am a wife, an employee, a worship leader, and a church secretary….but who knows what the future may hold? Next year I may be a wife, a stay-at-home mom to a baby, and an author of a new book. Or I could be a wife, and a zookeeper to a bunch of tigers (my DREAM job).
And for the record, I no longer believe I “screwed up my destiny” by getting a degree in something I have no intentions of using. Who knows? God may have a plan for that degree in my future after all, but even if He doesn’t, His plan for my life is not bound by a piece of paper given to me by a college that later gets stuffed in my office. He is the only One with the authority to open or close the doors in my life. Part of this thing we call “faith” is realizing that we don’t hold our own futures, God does. And we have to trust that He has a plan, that He sees the full picture, and that He is going to guide us where we need to go.
I see a lot of young people (particularly in the Church) getting pressured to pick a degree and a career and figure out what they want to do the whole rest of their lives. Shoot, I was one of those young people just six years ago. In the church, we are constantly asking our young folks to discern God’s purpose for their lives.
I think, perhaps, we need to change how we talk to our young people. Rather than asking them what they think God has planned as their life’s purpose, how about asking them where they feel God leading them next? Rather than asking them what career they want to pursue until they retire, how about asking them what jobs sound interesting to them right now? Rather than forcing our young adults into picking a college major, why not letting them go for a General Studies degree and then decide on a major after they get a feel for what they might enjoy? Sure, some young people know exactly what they should do because God tells them upfront, but the majority don’t. Because the majority of the time, God doesn’t reveal the whole picture at once. Instead, He gives us one door at a time as He leads us through the hallways of His plan.
I suppose I should wrap this up, since I’m way past 1,000 words now. I guess what I’m really trying to say is this:
-Young people, it’s okay to not know your whole life’s plan.  Just figure out which door God is leading you through right now. He’ll give you the next step when it’s time, just trust in Him.
-Not-so-young people, embrace where you are in this season of life. Know that God has placed you here for a reason, but also know that God may place another call on your heart at a later time. Work for His kingdom with everything you have, and seek to do His will. You can’t go wrong if you do that! Trust that He will place you where He needs you as you go through life.

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered Him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” ~Hebrews 11:8-16

Monday, January 6, 2014

Overcoming Guilt

I woke up Sunday morning, ready to start my day.

But within minutes, my mind was assaulted with shame and guilt.

I got in the shower and tried to hurry while the enemy dragged up sins from my past....things that I have done that I haven't thought about in years. He drove those failures deep into my soul and by the time I got out of the shower, I wanted to just skip church and crawl back into bed.

Through all of the noise in my head, I felt God calling me to meet with Him. I quickly grabbed my Bible and the devotional I'm currently working through (Whispers of Hope by Beth Moore) and headed to the kitchen table. 

“This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”  ~1 John 1:5-10
The passage of Scripture for yesterday's devotion was undeniably perfect and divinely appointed. Beth went on in the devotion to talk about how the enemy will try to drag us down, to make us feel so guilty and full of shame that he stops us from doing any work for the Kingdom of God. God opened my eyes to the mental and spiritual assault that was being launched, and I immediately claimed 1 John 1 over my life.

Maybe this morning you are going through the same thing. Maybe you woke up this morning and as soon as your feet hit the floor the enemy launched his attack. Maybe you don't feel like you are truly forgiven for that thing you did last month, or last year, or three years ago.

If so, I hope that you will take this passage of Scripture and declare it in your life because there is no sin too great that He cannot forgive! Don't let the enemy shove shame and guilt in your face for something that God has already cleansed from your heart! We are overcomers through the blood of the Lamb!

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope we all have a great week!  :)  :)

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." ~1 John 1:9

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014 Financial Update

The last time I posted about finances was in November (if you missed it, you can check it out here.) Since we are starting the New Year, I figured now would be a good time to share where we are. Also, we just met one of the goals today, and I’m really excited to tell you!!

Here are our current financial goals:

Goal #1: Pay off student loan by February of 2015.

Goal #2: Pay off credit card and car by June of 2014.

Goal #3: Pay off credit line by January of 2014.  MET!!!!  :)   :)   :)

Goal #4: Have $3,000 in savings by end of 2014.

Goal #5: Pay off couch loan by July of 2014.

Goal #6: Be 100% debt-free by February of 2015.

Let me tell you, it feels SO GOOD to finally have one debt item paid off!

So far we are tracking on all of the other goals, except Goal #4. We have a good bit to go if we are going to meet that one, but I’m hoping that we can play catch-up with our tax refund next month. I can’t wait to get everything in there and see what we’ll get back. (We always over-pay with our deduction percentage, so I know we will get a refund. Some people don’t like to do that, but for us, it’s really nice to get that big tax refund in the mail. It’s kind of like putting money in a savings account where we can’t touch it, because we’ll use that money for car repairs, savings, and vacations.)

I also added some things to our budget for 2014...

The first is a monthly date night. Roman and I are really bad about not budgeting for one, so then we only take one when someone gives us a gift card or when Roman makes extra commission for the month. Now we have an actual budget line for date nights in our budget, and my goal is, no matter what, for us to go out on a date. If you’re married, you definitely need to do this!!

The second thing I added is for Roman and me to get $20 a piece each month for whatever we want. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to break the budget so I could buy a new book or a new pair of shoes. Now, I won’t have to because I’ll have that little bit of money each month to spend on whatever catches my eye (without feeling guilty about it.) Now that we are finally making some progress, I feel like this is a good thing to do in order to keep us on track and to keep us from getting frustrated.

I also increased our grocery budget amount. One of the things that Dave Ramsey talks about is if you are consistently going over budget in a certain category, then you probably just need to raise the amount. You can only cut so much before you’ve cut too much and you’ve created a number that is just not realistic, and I think I’ve done that in our grocery budget. I’ve consistently gone over budget with our groceries almost every month, even though I’ve done meal planning and have tried to keep extra un-needed purchases out. So I finally did some re-working and increased that grocery amount for the month to give us some more wiggle room. Hopefully that will do the trick!

If all goes well, then by June of this year (only five more months away!) we will have both my car and the credit card paid off. And then the month after that, we’ll have the couch loan paid off, leaving us only with the student loan. A year from today we will only be one payment away from being 100% debt free. I’m getting pretty excited!!!

“Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have.” ~Hebrews 13:5

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!!

It’s that time of the year, where all the women vow to be skinnier by summer time and all the men vow to…..actually, I don’t know what men vow to do. Anyways. And so that means it is also the time of year for me to go through what my resolutions were last year, whether or not we were successful, and then list out my resolutions for 2014. So without further ado…

2013 Resolutions

Resolution #1: Lose the college fifteen

Success? HA! Try again. I gained a little more weight rather than losing any. I blame it on the infertility drugs my doctor had me on. Not. My. Fault.

Resolution #2: Be on time for stuff

Success? Yes, surprisingly. I have finally managed to get my sleepy behind out of bed on time and make it to work at 8 rather than *ahem* 8:20. Yay me!

Resolution #3: Read the entire Bible

Success? Sadly, no. I was doing really well for about four months, and then I fell off the wagon. And there’s nothing I can blame it on except myself.
2014 Resolutions
Resolution #1: Be healthier
I don’t just want to lose weight, I want to be good to myself. I want to get more sleep. I want to drink more water. I want to have a regular exercise routine. I want to get my hair trimmed more than twice a year (good Lord the split ends I have right now). I want to cook and eat good food. I want to build my immune system up so that maybe, just maybe, I can not have 8 sinus infections throughout the year. I want to start going back to the chiropractor because man, I feel so much better when I do.  
Perhaps this isn’t exactly a clear resolution, because there isn’t really an actual finish line that I can point to and say “this is where I want to be by December 31st”, but I think the overall concept of being healthier will really work better for me. You know I’ll keep you posted!  ;)
Resolution #2: Have a consistent devotional time
Now that I’ve managed to figure out the whole being-on-time-for-work thing, I really want to take it another step further and wake up early enough to have a morning devotional time. As a Christian and as a worship leader, it embarrasses me to no end to admit to you that I have no set time for Scripture reading and prayer. It is sorely lacking in my life, and I really feel like I should be starting my days off connecting with God rather than going through my to-do list for the day. I bought a ten-week devotional book, “Whispers of Hope” by Beth Moore and so far it is AMAZING. I can’t wait to see my relationship with God grow deeper in 2014.
Resolutions #3: Be content
Here’s another one of those not-really-clear ones….sorry about that.
If I were being honest, 2013 really wasn’t a great year for me. I spent a LOT of my time going to the fertility doctor, taking tests, counting days, and stressing over whether or not the pregnancy test would be positive. I spent much of 2013 on an emotional roller coaster because of all of the hormones I was taking and just the stress of it all.
I’m not doing 2014 like that.
Roman and I have made the decision that in 2014, I will not be taking any of the medicines or going to the doctor every other day. All of that stuff caused so much emotional damage and spiritual damage to us both (particularly me), and right now we’re taking the time to heal from it all.
So for 2014, my goal is just to live in the moment. Roman and I are in the prime of our youth, and will be celebrating our four-year anniversary this year. I want to fill the year with good memories, not bad ones. I want to enjoy the vacations we take. I want to go out and do something exciting. I want to just enjoy being married to him and living life together, not stressing over whether or not we’ll get pregnant this month.
Besides, God doesn’t need me to be on Clomid for me to get pregnant anyways. This year, I’m going to trust in His timing and in His plan for me, and I’m going to operate in His joy as I go through the year.

So there you have it folks! What about you? Any resolutions going on in your house? Feel free to share in the comments!  :)

“Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” ~Nehemiah 8:10