When I am Weak, HE is Strong

Whoa, it’s been over a month since I last posted on my blog.

You must all be wondering what happened to me, ok maybe no one is wondering and you didn’t even notice that I was gone. Whatever the case may be, I thought I would take some time to catch you all up on the events that have been happening in my life over the past month. Really what I will be writing about is my fundraising experience for the mission trip I went on to Belize over Spring Break in March.

So, last year around November or December I saw an advertisement on my school campus for a mission trip and right away I knew I wanted to go. So I decided to sign up for the trip, not knowing where I would be able to get $1,500 from. Fast forward to January and I had an interview with one of the coordinators of the mission trip. There was a limited number of spots so I was not sure whether I was going to get in or not. After the interview I was informed that I had been chosen to be on the team and I was honestly overjoyed.

After that initial moment of excitement I realized that I had slightly less than 2 months to raise $1,500 for the trip. I decided that I would create a GoFundMe page and that I would write and send out fundraising letters. As time went on I got some donations but not enough to cover even half of the trip. As I was fundraising I was praying fervently because I knew that it would take a miracle to raise that kind of money, and I knew for sure my parents did not have that kind of money to give me.

Fast forward to March; the full amount was supposed to be paid by Friday, March 6 because the trip was happening from March 13-22. On Wednesday, March 4 I still did not have even half of the money that I needed and at that point I started to panic. I can honestly say that I have never doubted God as much as I did on that day and I even got angry with Him. I did not understand why He let me get my hopes up for the trip if He wasn’t going to help me raise all the funds.

So, in my discouraged state of mind I went to talk to one of the leaders of the trip and I told her my dilemma. At that point I thought she was going to say “sorry, you can’t go on the trip”. But she didn’t, instead she sat down with me and brainstormed some last minute ideas of how to raise the remaining money. On top of that she extended the payment deadline for me till the Tuesday of the next week.

That afternoon I tried one of the avenues she suggested and I got shut down cold. At that point I couldn’t take it anymore, up until that point I had tried to keep strong but after that rejection I broke down crying. I was literally sobbing. I felt like I had worked so hard for nothing and that all the effort I put into the trip was going to waste.

It was at that point that I called my mom and basically just sobbed into the phone while she was frantically asking me “what’s wrong?!” After pulling myself together a little bit I told my mom that I did not think I was going to go on the trip because I still had about $900 left to raise and that the money was due in 2 days. The words my mom said next were such an encouragement to me, she said “Do you believe God wants you to go on this trip? Because if you do then you need to stop doubting Him and have faith. Gods timing is not our timing. Who knows, you might get a $900 check in the next few days. If God has called you to go on this trip then He will provide.”

I would love to say that I believed every word she said but I was still doubtful. I mean, how could God send me a $900 check in 2 days? So I put that off to the back of my mind and decided to try another avenue that had been suggested to me. And I was able to get a few hundred dollars into my GoFundMe account, but it still wasn’t enough.

Friday morning rolled around and I went home to pick up the money that I had and at that point I needed $700 more dollars for the trip. Before I went home I called my mom and at the end of the conversation she said “don’t forget to check the table before you leave the house, an envelope came for you.” After hearing that I got a little flutter in my heart and I wondered if God had really come through for me with the remaining money.

I got home and checked the table, sure enough there was an envelope waiting there for me. Inside the envelope was a check for $900 from my parents. I almost started crying.

I called my mom and asked her how they could afford to give me such a large amount of money. She said “We love you and we did not want to see you miss out on an opportunity because of money. In life we learn to make sacrifices for those we love.” She went on to tell me that her and my dad have a special account for missions that they put money into from each of their paychecks. They started saving that money years ago because they wanted to be prepared to help anyone who needed sponsorship for church missions.

I didn’t end up needing all $900, but the fact that they were willing to give so much money to support me just blew my mind. And I thought to myself, if my earthly parents love me enough to make that kind of sacrifice, how much more does my Heavenly Father love me? Exceedingly and abundantly more than I can imagine.

Right then I knew for sure that God wanted me to go on this trip. In fact, long before I knew I would be going on this trip, God knew. He knew I would need the money so He impressed my parents to start a separate missions account.

God knew that I would go on the trip but He also saw how weak my faith was. He used that fundraising experience to build and strengthen my faith. He showed me His incredible faithfulness and mercy despite my doubt. When I look back at that experience, the words of Isaiah 55:8 ring in my head:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.

I only began to panic and doubt God because I thought I knew the right way to do everything. I still had not surrendered myself completely to Him. God knew what needed to be done and He knew how it needed to be done, but in my foolishness I thought I could direct Gods ways. At the end of it all I realized once again that God knows best, He always does.

If there is one thing I learned from this whole experience it’s this: I have no cause to doubt God because He has always been faithful in the past and I know He will continue to be faithful to me as long as I stay in His will.

Let’s Be Real: Worry

There was a song I used to sing when I was growing up and it said “Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself”. I would sing that song all the time, but I suppose I never truly understood what I was singing, because here I am at 20 years old and I still worry about every little thing in life.

I will admit it, I am a worrier. I worry about small and big issues. I worry about vitally important and trivial matters. I worry about past, present, and future issues. I worry about almost everything. In fact I presume I am worried about something almost every day whether I realize it or not.

As I’ve been doing some soul searching about my struggle with worry, I pinpointed the main reasons behind why I worry so much. I worry because I am trying to do everything on my own and because I don’t trust God enough.

I try to do everything on my own, which means I leave no room for God to work in my life. Because of that I have brought so much unnecessary stress and worry into my life. I like feeling in control of my life and I am a very independent person so I have a hard time asking for help. Even though I have seen how incapable I am without God’s help, I still try to take control of everything in my life and I am constantly overwhelmed with trying to keep everything in my life afloat. It’s so funny how the more I try to push God away and take control of my life, the more out of control my life gets.

I also mentioned that I worry because I don’t trust God enough; though it’s not easy to admit, it’s the truth. Whenever I have something that is worrying me, I brood over it or even talk it over with a friend, and prayer is usually my last resort. Instead of trusting God to take care of my needs and problems, I let the worry eat away at my life. And even when I do pray about it, I have a hard time letting it go, I have a hard time surrendering the problems over to Him. I don’t trust Him enough to come through for me, even though past experience shows me that He always comes through.

After realizing the causes behind my excessive worrying, I realized that, like my other struggles, this comes down to my relationship with God. I try to do everything on my own because I don’t trust God enough and I don’t trust God enough because I don’t have a deep connection with Him. So, like my other struggles, I’ve realized that in order to fix my worrying problem I must first fix my relationship with God.

See, being close friends with someone usually means you trust them. So, if I don’t trust God enough then that means I don’t consider Him a close friend. How can I say I love God yet in the same breath admit I don’t trust Him?

True love cannot exist without trust, therefore if I truly love God then that should mean that I trust Him. And saying that I trust Him means that I trust Him with ALL my worries. All the small and big issues. All the vitally important and trivial matters. All the past, present, and future issue.

I can’t say I’m completely worry-free yet, but I’m working on it. Right now I have to keep reminding myself to leave everything in the hands of God. Though sometimes it feels like He isn’t listening, I know that He hears every prayer and He cares. When I pray I have to be willing to let go and let God work.

And when I do start to worry all I have to do is think of Proverbs 3:5-6 and I know everything will be ok:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

So, I’m working on this relationship with God. And as I grow deeper in my relationship with Him I know I will fall deeper in love with Him and I will learn to trust Him completely.

Devotional Life

If anyone were to ask me to name what I value most in life, I guarantee one of my first answers would be “my relationship with God”. Yet, even though I say it’s important to me, I don’t act like it is. Truthfully, I struggle with consistency when it comes to doing my devotions.

Recently I’ve been feeling like I’m stuck in a rut, I feel like I’m not progressing with my life, and I feel like I’m not getting as much out of life as I should be. As I began to examine my life I realized that I’d never developed a consistent devotional life and because of that I’d never truly experienced God. But despite that realization I still didn’t know how to get out of the rut; I had become so complacent and comfortable with my mediocre life.

Then about two weeks ago I talked to a woman by the name of Heather Thompson Day, and she changed the way I thought of devotions and spending time with God. Here’s an idea of how our conversation went, of course this isn’t word-for-word:

Me: how do you keep a consistent devotional life?

Heather: I wake up at 5 am every morning and I spend at least 30 minutes doing my devotions.

Me: Why so early?

Heather: There are many places in the Bible where people speak of rising early to talk to God and even Jesus rose up early to spend time with God. God wants to be the very first one to spend time with us during the day because it’s so easy for us to get so busy during the day that we forget to spend time with Him. So, before the day begins it’s best use the first quiet moments of the day to commune with God.

Me: But why 5 am? That’s too early and extremely inconvenient.

Heather: That’s the problem these days, somehow these days people think spending time with God is all about what is convenient for them instead of what is convenient for God. We prioritize everything else in our day and then we schedule in time with God as if it is an afterthought. We try to make God fit our demands and our schedule instead of putting Him first and letting everything else fall into place around Him.

Me: So how do you even get up to 30 minutes of devotional time? I can barely do 5 minutes of devotions and even then I feel like I’ve done a lot.

Heather: I read 5 chapters of the Bible every morning. It’s so important that we read the Bible because much of what we believe in is found in the Bible, yet many of us have never read it. How then can we claim to be true Christians?

Me: How do you even know where to start when reading the Bible?

Heather: The Bible is one of the only books that people look at and wonder how to read it. When we pick up a novel we read it from beginning to end. The same goes for the Bible too, just pick it up and start reading from the beginning. There’s so much to learn from it, there are so many interesting stories in there, and when you read it from beginning to end you are able to see how certain stories fit together.

At the end of that conversation I walked away feeling empowered, I finally had the tools I needed to get myself out of the rut I was in. I decided that I would start waking up early like Heather and I would read 5 chapters of the Bible a day. There’s a powerful quote that says:

“If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.”

See, I’d never had a consistent devotional life and I’d never truly had a close relationship with God, so I was willing to endure the inconvenience of waking up at 5 am in order to cultivate my devotional life and my relationship with God.

And honestly, though not much time has passed since I started doing my devotions that way, I have started to feel a little different. I’ve started to notice a slight shift in my thoughts, in the way I act towards others, and even in my desires. I’ve realized that I think and speak about God more often than I did before. There’s been no big changes, but the small changes are just as important and will contribute to making a lasting change in the end.

This process is going to be different for everyone, it may not be 5 am for you, but you have to be willing to do something different to get out of the rut you’re in.

It’s The Little Things

Today is Thanksgiving and because of that everyone has been posting and sharing what they are thankful for. I too have spent most of the day thinking about what I’m thankful for; for sure I can come up with a long list of things I’m thankful for. So as I was thinking about what I’m thankful for I realized that for the most part I was searching really hard to come up with “deep” and “important” things to be thankful for. Somehow I felt like in order for me to be truly thankful I have to have something huge to be thankful for, something like God sparing my life from some tragic accident or something like that.

Then I stopped and thought about it, why did I feel like that? Why wasn’t it enough for me to be thankful for the “simple” things like life, health, and family?

When you think about it, most people don’t understand how amazing and miraculous it is to be alive right now.

We all know this kind of situation: someone stands up and asks for prayer requests and praises, and there’s that one person who says “Im thankful for life”, and everyone says “amen”, but in the back of our minds we kind of think “you couldn’t come up with something more original and moving than that?”

It’s like, duh, we have life, so what?

But have you ever REALLY stopped to think about it? If you are alive right now that means your heart has been beating NON-STOP since you were born. It never stopped to take a break cause it was tired; no, it just kept on beating day after day after day. Most muscles in the body get fatigued after extensive use, but your heart has NEVER.TAKEN.A.BREAK.

If that’s not a miracle and a blessing right there, I don’t know what is.

So, yes, it is always enough to be thankful for life, because life itself is a miracle.

And there are so many other “little things” we can be thankful for that we never think about because they just seem like the norm.

Most of us don’t have any major health problems right now and because of that we don’t understand how much of a blessing health is. Most of us will wait till we have a health problem before we get on our knees and petition God about our health. However, I believe what we should be doing is thanking God for our good health while we have it and praying for his continued protection on our lives. For those who were born healthy, be thankful. For those who have gone through health problems and have been healed, be thankful. For those who are still in the midst of health problems, keep hoping and trusting in the Lord and be thankful that somehow God will use this as your testimony.

We often don’t realize the importance of health until it’s gone.

So yes, I’m thankful for my health, because though it is less than perfect I know that the struggles I go through will become a part of the testimony I will use to draw others to Christ.

And yes, I’m thankful for my family. Some people think everyone has a family, but that is so far from the truth. And more than that I’m thankful for the family I got to choose–the people that I call friends.

So yes, I’m thankful for my sometimes crazy, sometimes annoying, but always loving family.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely thankful for the big, extravagant blessings God has given me.

But even more than that I am thankful for the “small” everyday blessings because those are what truly give life its meaning.

Undeserved Blessings

My God is awesome.

Let me tell you why my God is awesome; my God is awesome because he can take my meager offerings and turn them into abundant blessings.

A few weeks ago after being assigned the task of planning a vespers for my club, I thought I had everything under control. And I did have everything under control, or so I thought. Then at the beginning of this week I got this feeling, a feeling that something was not right. And it wasn’t. Because in all the time I spent putting together the perfect program, I failed to call upon the One that the vespers was about. So I stopped and I prayed and I knew, or at least I hoped, everything would be alright.

I would love to say that I stopped stressing after that. But I didn’t. In fact I continued to stress even though I knew God had everything under control.

Vespers time rolled around and, to put it simply, things were not working out. As everyone knows, technical difficulties seem to pick and choose when to manifest themselves and somehow it is always at the wrong time. So, we had technical difficulties.

But, when I tell you that prayer works, I mean PRAYER WORKS. Because I know with all my heart that things would not have worked out as well as they did, despite the technical problems, if it were not for God.

Vespers started and vespers finished. And by God’s grace I know someone in that room was blessed.

And God used that experience to tell me something: that I can do nothing without Him and that life would be filled with never-ending technical difficulties if it were not for his grace. Because his grace is sufficient, especially when I am deficient.

But, after all was said and done, I still felt something missing in my heart. Somehow I knew God was not finished with my blessing for the night. So, even though I was drained, I dragged myself to another worship service.

And I can honestly say that the worship I experienced at that vespers was unlike any worship I’ve ever experienced. Because the music not only brought me to tears, it brought me to the throne of God. And while I worshiped there at the throne of God, I realized something about myself. I realized that I’ve never let myself truly worship because I’ve always been afraid of what others will think. I realized that I’ve always toned down my praise because others may get uncomfortable. But, while there at the throne of God I realized that nothing and no one can stop me from praising my God, because HE IS AWESOME.

And as I worshiped I thought about the words of the two sermons I had heard that night, funny enough both were about identity; it’s as if God was purposely trying to get a message across to my heart. And that message is this: you are not defined by your successes or your failures, you are not defined by whether you planned a good vespers or not, you are not defined by the standards of beauty the world reflects on you, you are defined by ME. 

I think that once we realize that God is the only one who can define us, we will stop worrying about what others think of us. We will simply and joyfully give Him the praise He deserves.

So, at the beginning of this day, I did not have much to offer God except for a bunch of stress and nerves. I did not know what words to say, but God knew my heart. He knew I was trying my best to give Him my best, but I kept falling short. So you know what God did? He took me through a tough situation to show me that I am incapable of anything on my own and then He brought me to His throne to show me that despite my shortcomings He still calls me His child, He still calls me worthy, and He still calls me loved.

A Thought on Talents

From a young age many of us have been told that everyone has a talent. But as we grew up, it was hard to really believe that EVERYONE has a talent. On the outside we would nod and smile when someone said those words, but on the inside we would cringe because it seemed that God had skipped over us when allotting everyone their talents. So, some may think that there are just some people who unfortunately were not given any talents; life is unfair like that sometimes.

But is that really the case?

See, the reason we have such a hard time believing that everyone has a talent is because we often look superficially, when in fact some talents can only be seen when you get to know a persons character.

So what do I mean by superficial? I mean the talents that people are easily able to display for others to see, but are not an intrinsic part of his or her character. When we think of a talent we almost automatically think of that guy who plays piano so well, that guy who sings amazingly, or that girl who is amazing at the drums. Don’t get me wrong, those are all great talents and if you have any of those you should thank God for them.

But some people are not blessed with the kind of talents you normally see displayed in front of an audience. So what about those people?

I believe everyone has something to offer in this life, but it takes some deep soul searching to find out what your talent is.

There are so many other “hidden” talents such as: being a good listener, being able to make people feel comfortable in your presence, intelligence, kindness, compassion, having a joyful spirit and being able to bring joy to others, being able to help people in their time of need, and the list can go on. Talents like these are often overlooked because one cannot go on a stage and display their talent of being a good listener for a Talent Show. But these kinds of talents are just as important as any other kind of talent, and those who possess them should thank God for them.

I think that one of the main reasons we fail to recognize our own talents is because we are so busy envying other peoples talents. We want what they have and we fail to realize how amazing our talent is. It’s as if we are telling God that he messed up when he formed us in our mothers womb.

If we all spend so much time trying to be like each other, we will never fully realize the plan God has for our lives.

There is a reason why you have been blessed with the talent you posses, even though at times it may not feel like a blessing. We need to spend less time looking at others and spend more time looking at ourselves so we can discover and cultivate our own talents.

Who knows, you may miss the chance to bless someone with your talent while you’re too busy trying to become something that you’re not.

So, trust God when he says He knows the plans He has for you and watch how He will use your seemingly insignificant talent to bless others.