Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Ugly Twins: Fear & Failure

Christmas is almost here and I am so excited. Gift giving/recieving is my numero uno love language. I love shopping and selecting gifts for those I love. You are not the exception! I have a Christmas gift for you too. Today's post was written by my lovely friend Stephanie for you. She's no stranger to Living As A Lily, here is the link to her Thanksgiving post from 2012 that'll give you a little history: click HERE. Go make yourself a cup of hot chocolate, with lots of marshmallows, and unwrap what Stephanie and Jesus have prepared for you!

The Ugly Twins: Fear & Failure, by Stephanie Landa

I am so honored Raquel invited me to write on her blog! When she first asked, I quickly responded, “YES!” Not having any idea what to write about, I took a leap of faith and trusted God would reveal exactly what He wanted me to share on this blog. After a couple of days, I knew exactly what to write about, and so here it goes…

“You can make many plans, but the LORD's purpose will prevail.” –Proverbs 19:21

Summer of 2013 was when I first found out I was going to start my career as a 1st grade teacher. I was filled with excitement but so much more with FEAR. Fear of the unknown! And so, I began my career where I almost immediately fell in love with those 1st graders. Not only were they amazing, but so was the administration and my coworkers. After a very short time (1 month and a half), I quit! Yup, I quit! (If you know me, you know I’m not a quitter)

I could only imagine what you are thinking. “This girl is crazy! What in the world happened?”

Well, within that short amount of time of teaching, I struggled so much with fear and anxiety. Endless nights of not sleeping because my mind would not shut up. I felt like I needed everything to be perfect and so rather than allowing myself to plan, do the best that I can, and “let it go” (yes, I totally quoted Frozen), I drove myself insane. (I seemed to have forecasted the rest of my life based off of one moment) I lost a great amount of weight, I disconnected myself from almost everyone, my faith in God was lost, etc. which led me all to a deep depression. My family, fiancĂ©, and friends were all extremely concerned about me.

I remember the day that I quit. I felt like a complete failure. I felt like I lost my identity. Even now as I write this, my eyes fill up with tears because the way I felt that day and even months after, was THE hardest time of my life. Now please don’t judge me. I understand God has blessed me with SO MUCH, but at that time, I did NOT have the right perspective and was completely lost. I felt like my identity was in my career (I now know my identity is found in Christ and Christ alone; He defines me) and once I lost that, I felt a great amount of anguish.

Almost my entire life, I thought I was created to be a teacher. I had all these plans set for my life. You would think that I had already learned my lesson about FULLY trusting God and letting Him do as He pleases (you can read more about thise HERE).

Almost 6 months later, I figured it all out. I had all these plans, but God had His ultimate plan and I could not be happier. His purpose did prevail (as it always does) and I found my niche in life and that is to be a Middle School teacher. (I know, I’m crazy, but there is something so special about the middle school students) I won’t bore you with the details as to how I got to this point in my life, but its crazy how all along God had been molding me.

God is able to do “exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond all that we could ask or think.” I believe this and because I do I will trust Him, take Him at His word, keep on moving forward. I will fight fear by declaring the promises found in God's word over my life. I have learned a lot and I've shared all of this to strengthen you. I encourage you to make plans in your heart, and get moving, but give God room to direct your steps. Make plans, but keep them fluid. Don’t make them concrete! Allow God to flexibility with those plans, to move them around if needed, to line up those desires to His Word and will. A lot of us sit around waiting for direction from God, but He is waiting for you to draw near to Him. Do step out in faith! Filled with the Holy Spirit you can take gutsy risks on the desires of your heart. Get those feet moving as He leads you.

God is the keeper of your heart and will protect it. He will inspire, encourage, nurture, and breathe new life when needed. Dream big! Make plans! Get moving! He's got you!

    * Stephanie has also contributed: Let's Talk About Sex, Baby!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

happy 5th birthday blogie

photo credit

I know I'm a little late in posting... actually, I've been lost lately.
Much (an not much) has happened in this past year. But I can sum it all with this one verse:
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Genesis 15:1
 God led me to do the unexpected. Out of my very mouth unimaginable words poured forth, "I'm stepping down." Say What?!?! Who... Me...  Yes! And there I sat, in tears, knowing that these very words were not spoken by my will but by God's very Spirit.

You see, I'm not an educated person like most of my peers. I didn't go to college. I have no degree, or even an AA. And though I had no title to define me, I was defined by service and ministries.

In a very inconspicuous way, these works were idols in my life. I was going to church to serve, and without notice my attendance for God alone was less and less. Don't get me wrong, I didn't drift from God. On the contrary, my service was for Him. But I was all works and neglectful of my own heart. The words of Jesus echo loudly to me concerning Mary, "But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:42.

The next day I sat in my car crying. I doubted that God had spoken through me. I was afraid that this decision was the wrong one. I feared that this decision would affect my youth girls and the various ministries I was involved in. Worst of all, was I trusting God or cowardly running? I wept bitterly. At that moment I knew I needed to hear from God. I read from Jack Hayford's YouVersion Plan, Praise In The Presence of God:
God Is Our Reward
God never demands a sacrifice for the divine pleasure of smelling its aroma or because He needs us to tickle His pride. The objective is our release—our growth.
God asked Abraham to offer Isaac. Not to exploit Abraham’s emotions or to destroy Isaac, but to take away forever Abraham’s fear that God might not have his best interest at heart. Only in worship do we draw close enough to discern God’s true nature and loving heart.
God gave Abraham no immediate monetary reward for worshiping Him, but the reward was immensely grander—God Himself! (Jack Hayford)
After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. Genesis 15:1
God was asking me that very moment to willingly offer my works. Not to exploit my emotions or to destroy these ministries but to take away forever my fear that God might not have His best interest at heart. It was in fact through this act of worship that I have been able to draw close enough to discern God's nature and loving heart. He has been my shield these past few months, my exceedingly great reward.

The sacrifice was more than just stepping down from serving at church. It meant seeking a place of refuge where He would restore, revive, and renew me. Even I can recognize that old habits don't die so easily. I prayed for God's guidance and He provided such a place. Remember, God's objective through our sacrifice is our growth. And I have been growing. That is something beautiful that can not be taken from me.

I can't put to words all that He has been revealing to me, or even what He is stirring in my heart. But I can tell you this, He is making me new. 

I have been lost with reason. I've been enjoying my reward, God himself.

Anywho, now that I have brought you up to date...CHEERS to the fifth year and the days to come! Expect Birthday Surprises throughout the remainder of November.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Lyrical Friday - You Revive Me

Happy Friday! 

One word to describe the season I find myself in: Revive
A few definitions that capture the meaning are: 
  • to bring or be brought back to life, vigor, consciousness, or strength; 
  • resuscitate or be resuscitated 
  • to give or assume new vitality 
  • to return a flourishing condition, flourish again 
  • to make or become operative or active again 
If Revive is my word, than You Revive Me by Christy Knockles is my theme. Outwardly I have always been vivacious and ready for anything, but in last two years or so no one saw what inwardly was happening to me: bouts of depression, apathy, stunted growth, and a lack of desire all upon me. I felt like a potted plant neglected by it's keeper. And yet God was so gracious and kind, and contrary to my lack there of,  He filled me with joy. Continually! And moments when that ugly cloud came over me, He'd bring to remembrance scriptures that comforted me. Not once did God leave me alone, or forsake me. The Holy Spirit kept His promise to be my helper. 

May of this year God spoke loudly and clear to me words that were precisely what I had been desiring to hear from Him: I will revive you. In the past few months I have sensed the hand of God doing just that. 

I've been reading A Path of Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot, and she references plants a lot. A growing plant cannot remain in a pot for various reasons: it will create a growth stunt,a complacency of some sort, it will cripple, it will wither, and it will die. A plant needs room for it's roots to spread and it needs pruning. He has taken me, a potted plant, and planted me in His field where I can return to a flourishing condition. 

New vitality. 
God is doing really exciting things in my life right now. And there is no where else I'd rather be. 

You Revive Me, Christy Knockles

If you find yourself in a loss of vitality, vigor, or strength these following verses will help recharge you. Or it could be that you can relate more to that of a stunted growth in your walk with God, these verses are a great prayer guide to get you flourishing again. And if you have that dreadful cloud of depression over you and feel inoperative, these verses will be a great source of encouragement, comfort, and of hope for you. What ever your season may be, God is with you and He will revive you! May your deserts be rivers of joy.

You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.Psalm 71:20 

Will you not revive us again, 
that your people may rejoice in you? 
Show us your steadfast love, O Lord
and grant us your salvation. 
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, 
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; 
but let them not turn back to folly. 
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, 
that glory may dwell in our land. Psalm 86:6-9

My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word. Psalm 119:25

Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way. Psalm 119:37

Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, so that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth. Psalm 119:88

I am afflicted very much; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.Psalm 119:107

Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles. Psalm 119:50 

I rise early, before the sun is up; 
I cry out for help and put my hope in your words. 
I stay awake through the night, 
thinking about your promise. 
In your faithful love, O Lord, hear my cry; 
let me be revived by following your regulations. Psalm 119:147-149

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

shadow of his wings

Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 63:7

As meditated this morning on one of my favorite Psalms, this one verse stopped me in my tracks. How beautiful is this imagery of singing in the shadow of God's wings? Not from a mountain top, a valley, or a waterfront, but in the shadow of His very wings. You can't be far and be in His shadow. It can only happen in His presence. You must be near to share this intimacy. I long for the closeness David experienced with God. 

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:10

What's more beautiful than David singing in the shadow of God's wings? You and I drawing closer to God and experiencing the same. Let's purpose this week to draw near to Him. And as we sing in this most glorious place, though in the wilderness for some, we will find fullness of joy. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Lyrical Friday - A Little Longer

My lover said to me,
“Rise up, my darling!
Come away with me, my fair one!
Song of Solomon 2:10

The day I gave my life to God, I read three books in the Bible: Ruth, Esther, and Song of Solomon. I ended the night with the captivating relationship between the Shulamite woman and her love. I have to admit that I am a hopeless hopeful romantic… being that I am a romantic, this love story is what I knew I wanted to have with my God. And so, this verse in chapter 2 always takes me back to that night, and reminds me that God also longs to have this set apart relationship with me. He proposes daily, “Rise up, my darling! Come away with me!”

This reality humbles me. The God, creator of the universe, calls me to Himself. Me! He calls this mess-making, troublemaker, bad tempered me. He calls me, a sinner.

He calls you too.

He covets your hearts.

He desires your thoughts to be fixed on Him.

He is jealous for your time.

He longs and yearns for all you.

What baffles me is how tiny our offering can be at times. As we worship, or as we spend time with Him, do we really offer our all? I know that as for me, most of the time I don’t give God my full attention. I don’t focus as I should. I am easily distracted. I get busy. I worry too much and for too long. And what I end up giving Him is a half-hearted sacrifice. I don’t intend on offering so little, but it's what I have given. Then guilt kicks in. Other times I give more than He requires to make up for my short coming.

A Little Longer by Bethel Music is a reminder that God doesn't want more, nor does He think less of my scraps. He simply wishes for one thing: Me. Broken, Broke, Tired, Sinner me. That’s it. Not words. Not gifts. Not even a sacrifice.

I pray that these lyrics would penetrate your heart. I pray that it would remove you from a place of business, distraction, anxiety, and failure, and take you to a place of stillness and wholeness with God.

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Genesis 15:1

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:6

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:2-3

What can I do for You

What can I bring to You
What kind of song would You like me to sing
'Cause I'll dance a dance for You
Pour out my love to You
What can I do for You, beautiful King

'Cause I can't thank You enough
'Cause I can't thank You enough

All of the words that I find
and I can't thank you enough
No matter how I try
and I can't thank you enough

I hear you saying to me
Listen you, don't have to do a thing 
Just simply be with me 
and let those things go
'Cause they can wait another minute
Wait, this moment is too sweet 
Please stay here here with me
And love on me a little longer

'Cause I'm in love with you
I'm in love with you

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ask what you desire

But if you abide in me and my words abide in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! John 15:7

[That verse is an uncanny declaration. 

Absolutely unbelievable. 
Except, Christ said it—“ask what you desire.” 

And after all, He didn’t sacrifice one iota of His own integrity by making that promise, because it is predicated on a significant premise: abiding in Him. That isn’t some mystical position or some hard-to-arrive-at pattern of conduct. It isn’t a religious accomplishment or a pious performance. It’s just honest-to-God saying, “I want Your will.” 

His answer: “Pray, and I’ll work it.”]
—Jack Hayford 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ruth Bell Graham Collected Poems, page 154

Manicured, styled,
expensively suited,
they stood
and they smiled
as if programmed, computed
by specialist fed;
yet I knew within each
beat a heart living-dead.
The smiles were a mask;
the lifestyles they led
at beast a brave showing,
pretending, not being,
while You Who created
are God, the Allknowing,
are God, the Allseeing.

Lord, we cannot see
as You see above,
behind and within.
We can only love.
—Ruth Bell Graham

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Incorruptible Beauty

Happy Wednesday Lovelies! 

I'm writing to you from my couch, with my cup of coffee of course! If you could see me, you might gasp. I have a homemade mask on... which my brother likes to call it caca-face, I call it chocolate. But that's not what today's post is about. The mask has a little to do; but not the chocolate, though now I have chocolate on the brain! 

I recently watched a news clip about the ever changing standard of beauty. It immediately caught my attention. As a Latin/Hispanic woman I cringed watching this clip. Take a look:

“I say that inner beauty does not exist. That’s something that unpretty women invented to justify themselves.” –Osmel Sosa

I think of all the young girls, who like myself at their age, believe the lie that our worth is found in a “standard” of beauty. To say that inner beauty does not exist, is to say that your personality, character, talents, and achievements are of no value. These are all God created and given, and God is beauty. 

If 14 year old Me would have pursued the standard of beauty that I longed for, I would most likely be dead because of the Anorexia. But most importantly, I would have missed out on discovering the many wonderful truths, lessons, and people that have added worth and value to my life:
Intimately knowing the love of God
Growing in knowledge of God’s purpose(s) for my life
Learning what my God given gifts and talents are
Developing those gifts and talents for the good of others
Using my not-so-standard-of-beauty body to serve others
Using my story to help girls and women
Traveling the world for pleasure and for missions
Loving and being loved by family and friends

My less than perfect life is also a complete life. And by complete I must include those moments of fear, loss, and trials. These have each taught me a lesson that add worth and value to my life.

I can’t help but think of Peter’s words:
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 1 Peter 3:3-4 NLT

The New King James Version uses the words: Incorruptible Beauty

In other words, this standard of beauty is unfading, incorruptible, honorable, admirable, worthy, good, praiseworthy, estimable, wonderful, and exemplary.

I would do you a disservice if I didn’t quote Allie MarieSmith  on the definition of a woman who possesses an incorruptible beauty:
“Such a woman is at peace with her God. She trusts him completely a her number one relationship in her life. She understands where true value and worth lies- that it’s not in the clothes she wears, the guy she dates, or her socioeconomic background. She’s fully aware of her identity as a beloved daughter of God. Her spirit is at rest- gentle and quiet because she knows that no matter what trouble comes her way; her future in Christ is secure. No amount of striving, accomplishments, or external beauty can maker her more valuable or loved in the eyes of her Lord. That, my girl is a beautiful woman.” -HEAL, page 113

So here I am, with a facial mask on in an attempt to rid my face of acne. I’m also contemplating what nail polish to wear and what lipstick to buy. I’ve learned that being girly is ok, as long as my heart is in check. And though I love all things fashion, makeup, and dressing up, I love The Lord more. His standard of beauty is the one I seek and long for. 

And so I leave you Lauren Scruggs. She has a story that completely shatters Osmel Sosa and our society’s twisted ideals.

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