Pressing On

Sometimes, the faith journey can feel like a sprint, while other times, it can feel like a marathon. Regardless of what it feels like, the necessity of pressing on stays the same.

The idea of pressing on has been somewhat of a theme in this season.

If I had given up on getting back to kinda who I was, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Pressing on has been challenging-oh so hard-at times, but all the tears and tantrums have been worth it to see how far I’ve come.

Don’t think that this is just me wanting recognition or a pat on the back, but the example is meant to show you the value of pressing on.

I’m not a runner but that’s another example that will resonate with people.

How does one run a marathon?

You have to persevere-keep going-when your muscles hurt. You can’t give up the moment things get tough.

The same is true with faith. It’s easy to trust God when things are going well. Life is all butterflies and roses. But what about when your plans get derailed. You get an unexpected call from the doctor, or you lose your job. Life seems to be more thorns and wilderness. God seems so far away but in reality, we’re the ones who have moved, not Him.

Will you keep trusting God even when it doesn’t look like anything is happening?

Paul is a great example of that. Life was good, and it was horrible-he was beaten and imprisoned. It ebbed and flowed between being good and bad, but throughout he remained close to God. He was honest about where he was, but he never truly blamed God for his suffering. He writes in Philippians 3: 12-15;

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”

That shocks me because he had every reason to be upset at God. True, God didn’t ever cause suffering, but the suffering was because of God. But he never blamed God. In fact, he counts it kinda an honor-he rejoiced in it.

“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

Colossians 1:24

Because I was curious about what the word perseverance and phase press on actually meant, I looked them up.

Perseverance (n.)

persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

Press on/ahead (phrasal verb with press)

to start or continue doing something in a determined way, often despite problems

Both words/phrases hint to continuing despite problems and hardships. It’s the idea that problems will happen, but we need to be determined in continuing despite.

So here’s a couple tips to help you press on when you feel like giving up on Jesus:

 

  • Recall past persevering accomplishments.

 

Remember the times when your perseverance paid off. Allow those memories to motivate you when times get tough.

 

  • Celebrate victories (even small ones).

 

When you are in the midst of troubles or hard times, it’s easy to get discouraged. Celebrate victories. Even small one’s matter. I remember when I walked down the stairs for the first time in a long time without holding onto a handrail. It was a small thing, but I threw my arms up in a victory stance. Luckily, I was in a stairwell with no one in it, or people would have given me weird looks. Celebrate the moments where you get into the Word or listen to godly podcasts. They might seem like a small thing, but sometimes you just need a win.

 

  • Take a step-just one.

 

Sometimes,  the big picture is so intimidating that you are frozen in place. In order to move, you need to just focus on taking on step at a time-on breathe at a time.

  • Just keep going (even if it’s only in your mind).

 

Sometimes, half the battle is in your hard. My brother always says “Those who say they can and those who say they can’t are both right”. Half of the battle is what you tell yourself. If you tell yourself you can’t do this or to give up, then you won’t get there. But if you tell yourself that you’ll eventually get there even though it’s hard, then you’ll get there eventually.

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You-Yes, You-Are Known, Seen and Loved.

You-yes, you-are known, seen and loved.

I was thinking about this simple fact this weekend.

Known.

Verb. Meaning “have developed a relationship with (someone) through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar or friendly with.

Seen.

Verb. Meaning “be or become aware of something from observation or from a written or other visual source.”

Loved.

Verb. Meaning “like or enjoy very much”.

You, regardless of what you have done or who you are, are known to the very depths of your soul and loved by the Creator of the Universe.

I think about the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. He didn’t listen to his father, squandered all his money, and severely grieved his father’s soul, but his father knew all that he’d done and STILL welcomed him back with open arms.

God does that with us. He pulls us into His arms and welcomes us home-even after we have tremendously grieved Him.

In the same way, God knows, sees, and loves us, we need to know, see, and love others. I listened to Angie Smith at IF gathering this weekend. She compared faith to solitaire. In Solitaire, you have to start with an ace. What’s the ace of our faith?

Love.

It has to be love. That’s the foundation. Everything else is based on that. If you throw down a five or seven, it won’t work and no one will listen. If you start with the ace though, everything else falls into place. It can be still be challenging at times, but you’ll keep building on the ace. It’s the same way with faith. Love comes first.

Can you honestly say you love everyone regardless of political views, sexual preferences, and religious views?

Love comes first.

You won’t argue anyone into heaven, but if you start with love, and see them, I mean really see them flaws and all, you give them a glimpse of how the Heavenly Father loves them unconditionally.

Throw the ace.

You won’t regret it.

Anchored to Hope

Anchor.

That’s my word for this year.

Anchor.

Recently, I was challenged that I’m exactly where God wants me and that He has put people in my life that are meant to be there. When I think of “anchor”, I think of a ship’s anchor. The thing about that is

the anchor locks the ship down temporarily. It stabilizes it for the time being so the sailors can do what

they need to. When it’s done in that part of the ocean, it pulls up anchor and sets sail again.

That’s a lot less scary than the idea of putting down roots and God asking me me to uproot in a couple

months or even years. As I’ve begun to think about the practicality of anchoring to hope, here are a few

things I’ve learned.

  • Be open to the unexpected

Sometimes, the sweetest things come in the most unexpected packages. Things that I never expected

could be exactly my what I need in the moment. I’m learning to keep the door open to possibilities-both the

unexpected and expected.

  • Self-care is not selfish, but it anchors you.

Slowing down could be the exact thing I might need to help you remain present. It’s hard to slow the mind

down but sometimes I just need to breathe in and out. Breathing in and out anchors the soul and reminds

me that I’m exactly where I need to be. I need to take care of myself in order to take care of others. I could

get frustrated because I seem to need more rest than the average 24 year old, or I could use this time to

grow mentally and spiritually.

  • Here is where I need to be right now.

Two years ago, I wanted to be anywhere but here. Honestly, I wanted to be halfway across the world, but

I settled for Akron. Through a series of events, God brought me back to Mansfield against my will. I fought

against it for awhile, but recently, I realized that this actually is when I’m meant to be. This place-the littles

at school, my bible study and my small group girls-have a piece of my heart.

So here we are – almost a month into 2019 – and I’m figuring out how to be present and anchored in my

corner of the world. Here’s to anchoring myself to God and hoping/believing that God is moving.

ABBA-Good Good Father

Father.

When people hear that word, they have different emotions. Some people smile a soft smile remembering,

long walks and being carried on shoulders at amusement parks. Others grimace remembering the fights

and the fear.

We sang “Good Good Father” at church the other day and I really listened to the words.

Regardless of your view of that word, God desires to blow the top off the box of who we think He is. I

mean, the lyrics say, “I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night”.

We hear stories of who God is, but we’ll have to find out who He is for ourselves.

His quiet voice in the dead of night.

His breeze when you are dying of heat.

These things seem like coincidences but they may be God kisses.

I knew God loved me before my accident. I knew He was a good father, but through different things that

have happened recently, I’ve understood it in a different way.

The moments when I’m at the end of my rope, something happens to give me a little extra energy to

finish whatever I started.

A gentle breeze.

A touching note.

A baby cuddle.

An encouraging text message.

A soft smile.

I could go on.

No matter the hard times or the good times, Jesus-ABBA- is waiting with arms wide open to welcome

us into His arms.

Let Him encircle you in His arms-you don’t have to face this world by yourself.

Anchor

Anchor: a reliable or principal support

: something that serves to hold an object firmly.

This is my primary word for 2019, but I couldn’t narrow it down to just one.

The other word that goes hand in hand with “anchor” is “content”. The two words

together fit what I desire for this next year. Recently, I was challenged that I’m exactly

where God wants me and that He has put people in my life that are meant to be there.

When I think of “anchor”, I think of a ship’s anchor. The thing about that is the anchor locks

the ship down temporarily. It stabilizes it for the time being so the sailors can do what they need to.

When it’s done in that part of the ocean, it pulls up anchor and sets sail again.

This is how I view this year. It’s not a coincidence that I’m back in Mansfield. I don’t know how long

I will be anchored here, but I’m (for the first time) excited to put down roots in the corner of th world

God has placed me in. It warms my soul that the barista at the local coffee shop knows my name.

That I can see the littles outside of school and they get excited that they saw me. Here’s a few practical

things to help me stay anchored and content in my corner of the world.

  • Be present-truly present-right where I am.

If I’m at school, I’ll be all at school-my mind won’t be focused on what’s next. This exact moment in

time will come around again, so I need to give my all to the littles and teachers. If I’m with my small

group, I need to be all with them. Wherever I am, I need to be all there so I can put down roots

effectively. Multi-tasking is nice, but sometimes people want/need your full attention. I never want

anybody to feel less of a priority because they don’t have my full attention.

  • Uncertainty is alright.

I want to have everything figured out now. I want to know everything that could possibly go wrong

and have a backup plan in case it does. I rarely take chances because I don’t know the ending. If I

desire to put down roots and anchor myself here for the time being, I have to embrace the

uncertainty-of a job, of dating, of figuring out this season. I have some control over those things, but

nothing will ever be without uncertainty. I need to stop living in fear of uncertainty, and learn to see the

possibilities laid out in front of me. Just learn to take it one day at a time.

  • Take opportunities as they come.

When I was viewing everything as temporary, I turned down a lot of opportunities because I didn’t

want to commit to something when I only planned on staying here temporarily. Now that I’m working

and looking to put down roots, the opportunities are not as scary. I’m figuring out more of my place

in the world.

  • Be intentional with the people God has placed in my circle of influence.

Part of being anchored and putting down roots is the people alongside you. God has called me to this

place and put people in my life. I desire as I learn to be content to be intentional with those walking to my

left or right. Even those walking the journey behind me have a story to tell, they just need someone to listen.

Honestly, I’m thinking of my small group girls. I saw one at church today. Her face brightened up with a huge

smile when she saw me. God placed me as a leader in her life. I’m not able to be a faithful leader in her life

and the lives of the other girls without the strength of God.

There’s Always Room for One More

There’s always room for one more.

This was a saying I heard all the time growing up. In Nigeria, there was always room for one more in the car and our lives.

In Haiti, I encountered this thought  process again as we fit as many people as we could into transportation to get from place to place. Personal space wasn’t really a thing, to be honest.

Now we kind of laugh at this because in our culture,  personal space is a big deal and time is a commodity that can be spent. But, in thinking about it, it really speaks to a deeper, beautiful thing.

There’s always room for one more.

No one is excluded. Everyone is welcome.

I think Jesus thought that way. No one was excluded from His friendship. No one unworthy of His time and energy.

This mentality is one I want to cultivate in my heart. There’s always room for one more-in my heart and life.

I think western society has cultivate this image of scarcity. It’s weird to say because we have so much excess, but we have cultivated-unconsciously-this idea that we don’t have time and space. This idea that we have to plan for exactly how many people are coming so we don’t run out. This idea that if someone is better at something or prettier, than we are less. The idea that there’s not enough of anything to go around.

I want to cultivate the mentality for more in myself.

Just because someone has something that I don’t doesn’t mean there is not enough of that thing to go around, or that God is withholding some blessing from my life, it just means it’s not my time to acquire that thing.

I want to embrace this idea that there is always room for people in our hearts. Some people camp out in your heart for a while, and some just stopped by on their way to somewhere else, but that doesn’t mean we should stopped making room for others.

There’s is always room for one more. There’s room around the table for you so pull up a chair and sit for awhile. Richness is found in relationship whether the people are in our life for awhile or just for a season.

There’s always room for one more.

Surrendering Graciously

Surrendering graciously.

That’s an oxymoron in my life. Often when God asks me to surrender things, I give it up kicking and screaming. I try to take it back

soon after I give it up.

In this season, I’ve had to surrender some things like my five year plan. I mean, it got thrown far out the window.

My word for this year was expectation. Within that word, I couldn’t really expect God to move while still holding on to my plans.

I tried though.

Oh I tried.

This year started out with me struggling to understand why certain things happened and what the purpose was of moving forward if

it wasn’t going get me to where I wanted to be. I held onto some dreams like a drowning person would clutch a lifeboat. It wasn’t

until I gave myself permission to ask the questions-Is God good? Does he have good plans in store for me?-that I really started to let

go of things. It was kinda a forced surrender because it needed to happen and life was picking up speed.

I let go of my ambitions to return to floor nursing.

I let go of my ambitions to live overseas long-term.

And many more ambitions.

I surrendered them knowing they might not happen. I’m learning it’s hard to let go of things graciously but that’s what I’m striving to do.

Albeit, it kind of helped that so many ambitions were ripped from my hands, so I had few options but to let go.

It’s taken 10 months, but I’m finally at the place where I’m not forcing things to happen.

I’m kind of just willing to listen, hands open, to what God has for me next.

A verse that has been ruminating in my mind the last couple of months is Ps. 25:1 which says, “In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.” This

verse just captures the sense of what David was going through. I’m sure he was tempted to fight against God multiple times, but

instead of being antagonist towards God, he says matter-of-factly “In you, I put my trust.”

I’m striving to do that.

I don’t know what your story is, or what is that thing that you can’t seem to quite let go.

Let go.

Simply unwrap your fingers from it.

I don’t know your story, but I know how sweetly God has redeemed and repurposed the dreams and ambitions I let go.

Just tonight one of my girls said, “if it wasn’t for your accident, you wouldn’t be here.”

I was taken aback by her wisdom. She was right. If my life had gone on with my terms-my 5 year plan-I wouldn’t be right here, right now.

I would be missing out on a lot.

I like this version of my life. I like this version of me. I’m going to keep striving to surrender my dreams and ambitions to God graciously.

He truly has a good plan in store for me. It may not look anything like the 5 year plan I had but I think it’s better.

So here I am, striving to surrender graciously in my corner of the world that God has placed me in.