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Settling for a mediocre life.

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Last Sunday’s sermon at my church was focused on the word transformation and how we have lost the use of this word in the church and in our lives. The passage we looked at was from Isaiah 61 v 1-3, which talks about a coming saviour, a promise God had made which will transform our lives in many ways.

Transformation requires response

I have been thinking about the ways in which my life has transformed since I became a Christian. I believe that being a Christian is about actively responding to God and to Jesus dying on the cross. It is not enough to simply “accept” God and his word and not let it change the way we live our lives. If we do not allow him to change us, then what is the point? God is not content with us living a mediocre life. He does not call me to hear his word and do nothing, he calls me to be transformed. He calls me to actively respond to him. What good is it for me to go to church every Sunday, listen to a sermon and go home, only to forget everything I have heard and live my life without a care? For me, settling for a mediocre life means settling for a life other than the one God has promised to me, settling for a life where I choose to ignore him and choose to love worldly things rather than him.

So how am I responding to God? How am I living a transformed life?

I am certainly guilty of not letting God be at the centre of my daily, normal, run of the mill days. When I do not want to do something, like get up early for work (who actually enjoys 6 am alarms??) I tell myself to ‘suck it up’ and ‘get on it with’. I grumble and with a sour face, I get things done. But this is not what God calls me to do. God calls me to excel in whatever I do. He calls me to be joyful in every circumstance. To praise him in the highs and lows of life, not just in church or whenever I feel like it. God has given me a lot to be joyful for so instead of being negative and grumpy about things, I can choose to see the positives, choose to respond with joy. My life should be a reflection of God’s grace and love for me and the joy he gives.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

[1 Peter 1:8-9]

Joy should not, however, be mistaken for happiness because while happiness is circumstantial, joy is not. I like to think of happiness as an emotion and joy as a state of the heart. Of course being joyful is not always easy and I certainly have not perfected this state of mind or heart. However, the Holy Spirit gives me the ability to be joyful even in dire situations. Having joy means being able to praise God when life throws us hurdles. It is having an unexplainable peace that God gives even when we are in turmoil.

Joy is such a wonderful thing and a testament to God’s faithfulness and love for us. He does not leave us to our own devices but helps us to be Holy and to be more like Jesus. The joy God gives cannot be easily taken away, unlike happiness which ebbs and flows depending on our life circumstances. We should strive to find joy even when life feels mediocre. I have true joy when I serve and love God. I have true joy in pleasing him and knowing that I am his child.

There are lots of other ways God has transformed me throughout my journey with him but that is a topic for another day!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.Against such things, there is no law.”

[Galatians 5:22-23]

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Being Holy.

My post last week was about learning to trust God and put your hopes on him rather than on the plans we make. Lately, I have been thinking about what it means to live a fulfilling life that pleases God. What does this mean for how I approach my work? How does it affect my marriage and my relationship with others? A couple of verses that have inspired me in the last week are from Colossians:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 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.

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”

[Colossians 3:12-20]

I wanted to write about patience today because it is not a strength of mine (my husband can testify to that). However, I do know that with the help of the Holy Spirit I can have the strength to be patient in difficult circumstances just as God is graciously patient with me. I think patience with people requires the ability to be kind. It is easy to be kind when someone is kind to you or to be kind because you feel sorry for someone. However, what pleases God is being kind to people in an unconditional way even in the most frustrating of circumstances, even when you cannot stand that one person or when someone says something that rubs you the wrong way. I know patience and kindness are things i have to be working on, so I am giving myself that challenge to respond with patience and kindness this week. I won’t write about the rest of the verses for today but I am sure I will some other time so I will leave you with a question to mull over:

Are you living your life in a way that is pleasing to God? If not, what can you change?

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It Is Okay Not To Be Okay.

When I first got engaged almost two years ago (oh how time flies!), I remember feeling really excited and ready for the next stage in life. D and I had talked about marriage quite a bit and we both felt it was the natural next step. I was so excited to start wedding prep and planning our future. It was a very busy couple of months for us, with graduating, planning a wedding and moving to a new city. Frankly, it was a pretty stressful time though all very exciting.

I had a vision of how it was all going to turn out and it was going to be perfect. My Graduation was fun and rightly so, I felt a sense of accomplishment. The wedding was beautiful and I danced the night away just like I dreamed I would. We moved to a new city and made a new home for ourselves. It was a very exciting process and I was ready to begin my journey as a newlywed and fully-fledged adult. However, during this time, I forgot to stop and think about all the changes that were happening. In the midst of the busy-ness and madness, I forgot to take stock and see where I was at. I was not taking care of myself and all the emotions that came with these changes.

When the dust had settled and there was nothing but stillness, I found myself feeling… lost and really down. The life I had planned and imagined, I was now living but why did I feel so unhappy. The worst part is that I felt completely unjustified and guilty about my unhappiness. After all, there were a lot of great things happening in my life. I was newly married, I moved to a great city and found a good church. I should have felt happy, fulfilled and grateful that everything was ‘working out’ and my life was ‘coming together’.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

[Matthew 11: 28-29]

Sometimes we spend our lives making plans, writing to do lists and revelling in the busy-ness so much so that we forget to be still. All the supposedly perfect plans I had made did not match up to reality. Moving to a new city is hard, adjusting to newlywed life is hard. Sometimes things do not go to plan, sometimes they do but yet we still feel lost or incomplete. When we forget to rely on God, to be still with him and we try to rely on our own strength, we will surely fail and burn-out. I got caught up in the excitement of it all and I forgot to put God first. I put all my hopes in how perfect life would be and how settled I would feel. But the truth is, I felt far from settled and I struggled no matter how much effort I put in.  I spent a long time searching and seeking fulfilment in what I believed a perfect life meant but quickly found myself feeling unfulfilled.

So what do you do when you have a good life on paper yet are so unhappy? 

Honestly? I do not have the answer to that. But thankfully, Jesus does.

But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.

[Psalm 3:3]

I have been learning is that it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to be sad, it is okay to feel lost from time to time. It does not make me a failure, it does not make me ungrateful, it makes me human. It also highlights the importance of rest and stillness. God provides the most perfect place for that. He does not call me to be perfect, he does not call me to be happy and bubbly all the time or to have my life together. He simply calls me to come to him and be still with him.

We should not place our joy in our circumstances because circumstances change. Yet God remains the same, he loves me and desires me the same. I have to learn to rely on the strength God gives me, to trust in the plans he has made and is yet to reveal, even if it means not always being sure what I am doing. I have peace and I have certainty when I put my faith and trust in God. I have the most fulfilling and joyful life when I rest in him, seek him earnestly and cultivate the gifts he has given me.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”

[Psalm 62: 5-6]

God has been teaching me that he is in control. He has allowed me to struggle so that I can learn to depend on him. He tells me to focus on the beauty of Christ and to receive the peace only he can give. He is my rock and my fortress.

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My Husband is Not My Hero.

I am definitely guilty of expecting my husband (D) to be perfect and I am guilty of putting him on a pedestal so high that when he dares to be human or dares to make a mistake and that when it comes crashing down, I feel betrayed and react like a raging bull.

However, something I have learned this past year is that just like I am not perfect, neither is my husband. No matter how much I want him to be the one who knows me inside and out, who knows exactly what I am thinking and feeling and who knows exactly the right thing to say every time, he cannot be that person. The truth is, he is just as broken, sinful and imperfect as I am. He cannot and will never complete me.

Sometimes we get stuck, we misunderstand each other and we miss each other’s perspectives. Most of the time I am pretty stubborn and hard-headed. My pride can get in the way of communicating and of building intimacy with D. Thankfully for me, I have a husband who loves and cares for me. He also knows not to talk to me when I am hungry or running on less than eight hours of sleep. Now do not get me wrong, D is an amazing person who day by day shows me a love and kindness that only he can. He also understands me most of the time (though not when I am moody) but he cannot save me.

How can someone who is as flawed, sinful and imperfect as my husband save me? We would have no chance!

If there is anything I have learnt in our first year of marriage, it is that only through the love of God and love of Jesus can I love other people.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

[1 Corinthians 13: 4-8]

God’s love is pure and unconditional. It is also unwavering, unlike my love which picks and chooses when it manifests. It is only when I choose to love God and choose to let the Holy Spirit work on my selfishness and my pride, that I can truly love others, including my husband. The verses above paint a clear picture of God’s love for us. His love is an example for me to follow, not just when D does sweet things like taking the trash out or making me endless cups of tea but also when he makes mistakes or annoys me and needs to be shown grace.

It would also be a joke to think I can love using my own ability (D can certainly testify that I cannot). As much as I like to think of myself as a completely selfless woman, always right and never wrong, I am just not. And you know what? That is okay, well sometimes, because Jesus does not expect me to be all those things. He loved me and called me to him despite my failings to love unconditionally and he made me righteous. He restores me and changes me to become all the things that he is: patient, kind, humble and so on.

So, my husband is not my hero and I would not want him to be because I have Jesus who is my number 1, my hero, my saviour and the one I choose to love and trust and put all my hopes in first and foremost.

For Better Or Worse

Being married can be difficult. It requires a certain level of emotional vulnerability and openness that doesn’t always come easy. There is still the threat of heartache, hurt and pain even in a committed relationship. As humans, our bodies and mind are wired to respond to the threat of danger with fight or flight.

More often than not, when it comes to matters of the heart, we choose the flight response. It is the easiest and safest way to protect ourselves from deeper hurt. While this may seem like the best thing to do in the moment, it is a short-term solution which can lead to more hurt, as it leads us to close off, trust less and as a result, isolation can occur. Isolation in marriage is no fun. I know that from my experience of it. It is no secret to me or to my husband (thankfully) that i find it difficult to trust or let people in. It is not something that comes naturally to me and yet i yearn for a closeness and a friendship with people that requires trust and honesty.

Honesty- that is easy, well, as long as it doesn’t require emotional vulnerability. In that case, is it really honesty? Something i am sure of but still learning, is that in order to be vulnerable, i must let God in. I must be vulnerable with him first, sharing my thoughts and feelings instead of hiding from him or at least trying to hide! God is my strength and my shield, he knows me better than anyone ever will, he loves me more than anyone ever will. Though i know this, it is easy to forget especially when i do not take the time to speak to him or allow him to speak to me.

However, all i can do is trust in God, believe that he will change me and help me grow, that he will break down the walls built so high. His love overflows in my life and i only hope to show a glimmer of that love to those around me. His will is perfect and he will prevail, in spite of my attempts to hide from him. I trust him in my marriage and i trust him to build me up, into a better sister, daughter, friend and the wife my new darling husband deserves me to be.