Monday, March 21, 2011

My "Kiss From God"

If you have read the book Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge, then you are probably already familiar with the concept of a "kiss from God". Though slightly cheesy-sounding, I loved the concept of receiving a display of a personal relationship with my Father. In the book, Stasi spoke of praying for a sign of His affection, and moments later she stumbled upon thousands of bright starfish while walking on the beach. She then grew to have a special fondness for starfish, and it became a symbol of God's unique love for her. I read this with hunger, wanting to have for myself a sort of physical, daily reminder that God loves me and knows me intimately. I began to pray that He would reveal to me a symbol of His love for me, and I felt assured that when the moment was right, He would.

Three summers ago, I was going for a walk outside of Loussac Library, around the fountains and through trees and patches of overgrown weeds. It was raining and the ground was absolutely covered with mud- and the weather matched my mood. I was struggling with my purity and utterly crying out that God would assure me that I was clean and forgiven and beautiful. I was praying for clean hands and a pure heart (yes, just like the worship song...) and desperately hoping that God would show me that I could have those very things. I also asked (well, begged) that at this time He would bestow on me His kiss, so that I could see and know and taste His salvation and love for me. As I trudged along through the muddy lawn, splashing in puddles of brown water and becoming as filthy outside as I was trying not to feel inside, I looked down and felt the Spirit of God tell me, "Look, my darling, here it is! Here is My proof to you that I love you! This is exactly what I see when I look at you!" There, growing out of the flooded and dirty ground, was a perfectly white and perfectly pure little daisy. There was my kiss from God- my very own symbol of how much He delights in me, and a reminder that Christ's blood washed me clean and I am now pure. Among the flooded and dirty world, I shine like a pure white flower, an image of my Divine Creator; and among all of my dirt and sin, my salvation triumphs and Christ shines through.

Needless to say, I became OBSESSED with daisies. Not even a week later, I bought a purity ring that is a circle of silver daisies around my finger. It is one of my most prized possessions, and even when I get married, I will continue to wear it on another finger, as a representation of my commitment to purity and to daily accepting God's grace. The flower itself is commonly known to represent purity, innocence, loyal love, beauty, patience and simplicity- all character traits that I value in my Lord and that I aim to reflect. Everything I own pretty much has daisies on it now, and I love it. How blessed I am to have a God who takes the time to delight in me and give me the desires of my heart- who whispers to me and calls to me and pursues and romances me! ^.^

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Enjoying Abundant Freedom

Growing up, I had such low self esteem. I really doubted my worth, because I was not of normal height, weight, appearance, demeanor, or anything else really. I was a tomboy because I didn't think I was pretty enough to be a girly-girl and feared dabbling with nail polish or glitter or typical girl's dress-up and makeup, because I knew other girls would judge me as unworthy of such things. Not that I say this to fish for compliments, because that is not my intention and I am not complaining- but I was quite sad at the time. Now it provides me something to look back on and serves as proof of how much I have changed. I had few friends, and the ones I did have weren't always true friends (more like bullies who would invite me places because their parents said they had to). Though I was carefree enough to be open about my interests at the time (mainly Pokémon...), I still hid inside the shell of a chubby girl with thick glasses, mangled hair, and crooked teeth. I wasn't shy- in fact I was quite loud- but I wasn't open. I wasn't free. I would come home from school and cry, knowing no one at school cared if I existed or not. It hurt, a lot. As I reached middle school, I was determined to fit in- so I changed myself to better fit the cool kids. I gave up the things that I really liked and adopted an entire new set of interests, though I still secretly held onto my affinity for Shirley Temple and PBS Kids. This facade continued all through Jr. & Sr. High school, though it never really worked- it never drew people in to get to know the real me. Few could really appreciate me, because I wasn't transparent. I was just a struggling girl who battled an eating disorder, an addiction to social networking (as people seemed to like me better over the internet), and a terrible habit of skipping school every other day. All through this time, I remained a Christian in the worldly sense, but sought no comfort in the arms of Christ. I was a captive to the opinions of my peers- a captive of the world.

It has been a long journey, but the most rewarding adventure I could have even imagined. In the past few years, as I have been entering adulthood, my Lord showed me His great love for me and His perfect intentions for who I was made to be. Though I still struggle from time to time about what I see in the mirror, I have never been so comfortable with myself, inside and out. God has freed me from the chains of self-defeat, and I can now boast of an abundant freedom that has come only from learning that by being myself I am glorifying God through the celebration of His creation. What an encouraging truth! I now consider myself valuable because I know my Father considers me His precious daughter who He desperately wants to show off. He loves who I am because He made me that way! And therefore, I love who I am!

"'I will be found by you,' declares the Lord, 'and will bring you back from captivity'" - Jeremiah 29:14

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well!" - Psalm 139:14

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Who I Was Made to Be

It has recently dawned on me the depth to which I am- we all are- filled with purpose. Being that I am a college student, I often swing back and forth about what I want to do with my life, and I'm sure I'll never fully know or decide. However, I am discovering that the Lord did not design me with the purpose of me to solely do- God designed me to BE. First and foremost, He wants me to shape my character into one that reflects Him and His beauty, kindness, unconditional love, patience, righteous anger, passion, and forgiveness. I was created to be someone who possesses these qualities, and only with a character that is a reflection of His, can I do any good to the world. I need to focus my energy into becoming WHO God wants me to be, not WHAT. That being said, I feel a great amount of intense emotion when I consider a life of service to my Lord. I often dreamt of a quiet life with a family, isolated but dedicated to the Lord's work- but now I feel that God has much more in store for me. I know with all my heart that my Father rejoices in giving me the desires of my heart, and I know that He will continue to bless me richly throughout my life. I trust that I will live a life with no regrets, because He has created me to do something great. It may not be remarkable in the eyes of the world- I may end up poor, sick, alone, unemployed, but I am guaranteed to be in a position to bless others and further the Kingdom. To our God, that is the greatest life's work!
Tonight at my college-age small group, we watched a video from the 2010 Passion Conference. Andy Stanley was the speaker, and his topic for the evening was prioritizing character over accomplishments in life. He said that our goals in life should reflect (as morbid as it may potentially sound) what we would want said of us at our funeral someday. This was so inspiring to me! I never considered how accurately it would match God's desires for our character. I would like to be described as loving, giving, honest, pure of heart, and as a great daughter, mother, wife, and most importantly, representative of Christ. He also spoke on how and why these traits are important: not simply because God has asked them of us, but also because they will pave the way for a better relationship with God, as well as with others. For instance, without honesty, we cannot have any sort of loving relationship or friendship. It would be virtually impossible. Equally so in regards to purity- without it, we could not have intimacy. As Andy spoke tonight, I realized what my true goals in life are: to become someone loving, giving, honest, pure, and a great daughter, mother, etc, etc. I may now receive the permission God has granted all of us to stop focusing on what happens to us and where we will be in our lives, and to instead turn our attentions toward having a heart like Jesus'. That's it! No other responsibilities! We are set free from everything else. I now understand that if I devote myself to having a good and godly character, I can fulfill my purpose in life and I will be lead to do great things only through my change in character. Thank you Jesus for this freedom! And thank you that you have opened up the possibility for us to be like You!

"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." - 2 Peter 1:3-8

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Okay to Invite God to Soccer Games

Last Wednesday in the Jr. High small group I help teach, we were discussing the importance of being yourself and standing firm in who you are in God's imagine and in His scheme. It occured to me that these girls really needed to know, deep within their hearts, that God LOVES who they are and LOVES what they love, because He made them. It is fairly easy to understand (though difficult to fully comprehend the significance) that God made each and every one of us, but it is much different to understand and accept that God made all of our quirks, and He designed us detail by detail! He loves these details about us and wants to be a part of them! He uses our talents and interests for His glory and we should never be ashamed to invite God into our everyday activities or to use them as opportunities for discipleship and witnessing. If you like soccer, invite Him into your practice! Doing something you love in the name of God creates true satisfaction and can enable a more deep connection with our Lord, while making us even more passionate about the things we enjoy and are good at. He knows I am a 19-year-old closet grandmother who would prefer to sew and hang out with her cat than most anything, and He also knows I love children and traveling and English culture and pink things and coffee and people and shopping and so many other things. And He can honestly use ALL of those, if I allow Him the opportunity to enter, to take over, instead of me reserving them all for myself or thinking that they are too mundane for Him to participate in. Praise the Lord that we can be of use to Him! This truth has been crashing around me and I have never been so comfortable with who I am. Knowing that not just my body, but also my heart and mind were designed by Him especially for me is such a wake-up call. God has never created something without purpose. God has put to use every grain of sand, so surely he can put all of me, sinful though I am, to use. By embracing my identity, I not only appreciate that I am free to be myself and love me for me, but I also appreciate all that I can do for our Father and how wonderful He is that I am allowed such joy and purpose! I love that He values all that I can offer Him, my mind, my heart, my abilities, my beauty, my brokenness, my purity, even my strange obsession with candles if He so chooses to use it.