Category Archives: A Year of Listening

A collection of almost a year of lessons, month by month. Written in 2012.

Pondering Treasures: What Jesus is Teaching Me NOW

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     After over a month of praying about it and trying to knock down my pride, I have decided to stop writing for Years of Listening.

     Do you remember various places in the Gospels where it says that Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart? Jesus keeps bringing that up to me in different ways. He told me that there are times for sharing, but there are also times for keeping things between us, working them out and treasuring them by ourselves. He let me know that awhile ago, but just recently have I understood what He meant and, honestly, cared enough to listen. I thought taking a month off and sharing old poetry would be fine, but I know what He wants me to do. Years of Listening (the writings, not the lifestyle) must end.

     Thank you for reading whatever pieces of my life and heart you’ve read. I look forward to getting back to the writing that stirred me to begin Forgiven and Loved in the first place: writing with Him as my Editor.

Being Me: What Jesus Taught Me in July

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Lesson 1: God has given me creativity to help me understand. On a day that I felt bizarre but didn’t know exactly what I was feeling or why, I impulsively grabbed a notebook, a pencil, and my pastels. No idea what I was going to do. Just started scribbling. This is what came out:Why did I end up making a bride watching the sunset? That was how I felt, but I didn’t realize it until I stepped back to look at my piece! Jesus used that. He knows my heart even when I don’t, and He took the time to show that to me by helping me draw. Feeling… feelings? Draw. Paint. Write. Make music. Do something creative, and God will show you what’s there.

Lesson 2: When God asks me to be somewhere, He’ll show up, too. I’ve mentioned quite a few times that God has called me to be at a certain place I don’t want to be. I show up, I do what I have to, and I leave; that’s almost always the extent of what happens. But one day, as I was doing my devotions before I left, what I read felt like it was about where I was going. It was almost like a prayer I frequently pray about that situation, so I read it with a prayerful heart. When I got there, I didn’t expect anything– but a little more than I usually expect. The entire time I was there, something different was in the air. Everyone was in better spirits than usual, the room was filled with God’s presence that whispered hope and love to all the lost people there! I was so grateful. Every time I get deeply discouraged, He shows Himself in a very obvious way, and how amazing is it that He goes with us in the places He asks us to be?!

Lesson 3: Standing by while my people are being attacked is NOT an option!  I know this lesson needs to be shared. I will let the song Jesus played in my head during this experience tell the story, because things might be dangerous for those involved if I did it myself.

Lesson 4: God is a heart-changer, because He knows exactly how to do it. My brother (also known as my best friend!) has been against going to church camp ever since he shared a cabin with some awful boys the year he was entering middle school. Those boys don’t attend our church anymore, and he’s now entering high school, but my brother still had no interest in camp or youth events, which worried me. I knew he was solid, but I just worried about him; I’m his big sister and I love him! A few days before our middle school group left for camp, we came home to a message on our answering machine explaining that someone had paid my brother’s way to camp if he wanted to go. He was torn but blown away. Money wasn’t the reason he didn’t want to go, but now that someone else had paid for him to go, he didn’t feel like he could say no! He went to camp, he had a blast, he grew! Is there someone you have a hope for, but it seems like they’ll never be moved? God knows how to move them! Pray for them, wait, and see. Nothing is impossible.

Lesson 5: Forgiveness doesn’t need apology. It just needs honesty. Remember when I talked about forgiveness and my struggle with it last month? The lesson has grown! Me and the person I’ve forgiven planned a day together, to hang out and talk. She knew I needed to talk to her, but not what it was about. When I arrived, I intended to tell her immediately, but somehow it just didn’t work that way. We spent hours together, laughing and doing crazy things, and only a few times did I remember what I needed to do. Night fell before Jesus presented the right time. I told her the truth. She had no idea she’d hurt me, didn’t even remember doing what she did, and asked me to forgive her. I already had. We hugged, and she began telling me all these things that went against the way she hurt me in the past. Our time together was a gift and something only Jesus could be behind! If you’re battling unforgiveness right now, I hope this story encourages you. I found forgiveness in my heart when I sincerely asked Jesus to heal me of my unforgiveness, and if you truly want to let this go, He will take it from you. Me and my friend now have a more open relationship, and you see how I called her “my friend”? Forgiveness is not about waiting for the other person to apologize; it’s about being lovingly honest and letting Jesus work in you, because you cannot do this on your own.

Lesson 6: God will always show me love, even if it’s in a different way than I want. I’ll let my journal entry of July 23 take over from here:

Today, Jesus saved my life. I’ve been in a dangerous place lately, a place of rebellion and demanding that He love me the way I think He should. I questioned everything. The enemy tried to steal my faith; this morning he ran away screaming, because Jesus told me, “Not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3-5.) Every word was what I needed. I want His passionate displays of love; right now, He wants to show me love differently, but that love has not changed. I don’t need to FEEL loved. I just need Him.

He has taught me even more about that since then. To hear more, look for my upcoming post about church camp this year!

Faith: What Jesus Taught Me in June

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Lesson 1: God just wants some willingness. Every three months, my karate school has a test/recital to show the parents what everyone has been learning as well as to present students with their new belts. The infamous black belt test, in which the hardworking brown belts see if they are ready to be black belts, is the most exciting part of the weekend, full of hugs and tears and… well, sweat. I go every time to grade as well as encourage when I can. This June, however, God asked me to do something totally different and out of my comfort zone: to pray with the students before they took their black belt test. I kept asking for confirmation, and He kept giving it to me! There was no way out; He really did want me to do this! The day of the test, I was so afraid, but I knew that this was what He wanted me to do, so I was ready to use whatever opportunity He gave me. What were the first words I heard when I entered the building? “Tessa! We’re gonna pray before the test, do you want to come?” BOOM! Mind blown! We prayed together about the test (and the boy who refused to pray with us), and the whole time I was just rejoicing. All God wanted was my willingness! I didn’t have to do anything but be open to the plans He had. He showed me that He is the one who makes everything happen; I am simply His little girl whom He lets help a little and who gets to be wide-eyed with the results.

Lesson 2: Big moments don’t always happen where God calls you; sometimes you just need to be there. There is a place God has asked me to be that I really don’t want to be. I’ve listened, I’ve stayed, I’m there faithfully, but sometimes I come close to tears when I’m there. Sometimes I just want to leave despite God’s clarity. I continue to ask Him when I can leave, and He continually says, “Not yet.” I can’t see anything that I’ve done by being there, but Jesus has brought to my attention that maybe that’s okay. Maybe my job is simply to be there, to be faithful in doing what He’s asked me to. In moments when I’m almost ready to leave no matter what, He calms me down and sends me encouragement. An example? One day I showed up to show up, ready to do my time and go home as fast as I could. However, before I left I saw a girl who looked like she’d been crying and was on the verge of crying again. She began talking to one of her friends, and for some reason my feet were as good as glued to the floor; I couldn’t leave this alone. I didn’t know what to do, so I just hugged her. She gasped and started laughing, that laugh many of us release when we’ve finished crying. I’d prayed the night before that He would show me something I could do there, and He did! Please take this as my encouragement to stay where God asks you to be, even if you hate it. He always has a good reason.

Lesson 3: Passion is wonderful, but sometimes it’s just not your job. This might be a little confusing to you, but I’ll try to explain it the best I can! Have you ever prayed so hard and so frequently for someone that God has given you a glimpse of His love for them? No matter what they do, you only see them with love? He has done that for me with three people so far, and it is a hard but incredible blessing– hard because these people give me reasons NOT to love them, incredible because I still do! One of these three people I have been confused about for years because he is a boy my age. I have a deep desire to see him grow closer to Jesus and become genuine instead of masked, and I’ve always wanted to have a hand in helping him get there, but God recently showed me a little glimpse of how He views this. He told me that it’s good of me to want to help him, but that it’s not the call He’s placed on me. I will not be the one. He loves that I want to help this boy, but it’s simply a job for someone else. He did the same thing to King David in 1 Kings 8: David had this passion to build a temple for the Lord, but God told him that it wasn’t his job. Instead King Solomon, David’s son, would be the one to build this temple. It wasn’t wrong for David to want this; it was a good thing to have a passion for, God told him You did well that it was in your heart! But Solomon was the one meant to do it, the one who could. David didn’t do anything wrong to get this as a result; His call was simply different.

Lesson 4: Love is not necessarily romantic. This piggybacks off of Lesson 3, about the boy I mentioned. Every time I see him, I feel fluttery, and I used to wonder if we would marry someday. This month Jesus showed me the truth through a conversation with a few friends: he is not the one I’ll marry. We are different spiritually, and if we married he wouldn’t be the leader of our family in that way. I refuse to let that be my future! No matter how well we know each other, no matter how he makes me feel, no matter how many times I dream about him at night, we will not be for each other. Like I said before, God has given me love for him and my job is to fearlessly love him, so I was kind of amazed how well these two realities go together: I will not marry him, and I love him. This works! I understand it now! As long as I realize that my feelings are simply feelings (he IS cute and sweet!) and pray for God’s eyes, I can look at this boy and see nothing but a friend and someone God is trying to reach. I can love him, and I don’t have to be in love with him to do so!

Lesson 5: Unforgiveness is like adding to a sack of rocks on my back with each memory. This lesson is not quite over yet, but I wanted to share what I know of it so far. Have you noticed that a lot of the new songs on Christian radio have been about forgiveness? Well, that’s God’s doing. He started poking me, revealing to me that I’ve been carrying a bitter grudge for a few years now. I’ve been stuck in anger and hurt, and the person who caused it doesn’t even know. When I brought it up as a prayer request at my beloved Bible study, our leader (we call her Grandma Edie) asked me, “Does she[the person who hurt me] love you?” I answered yes. She then said, “Maybe you should tell her, then. If she loves you, she will care about this.” I wondered if I should take her advice. A few days later, I asked a leader in my youth group for her thoughts, and she agreed that talking to my friend would help, even save our relationship. I still wasn’t sure, but when I impulsively read a devotional from “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers, it spoke as if it knew my situation! It gave me a Biblical view of this, and encouraged me: talk to this person NOW! God has healed me of my anger and feeling like a victim, and as soon as I get to see this person, I am talking to them– NOT to vent my rage and pain, but to ask for forgiveness for hanging onto this silently for so long, and to make our relationship honest again. So scared, but so excited, and most of all: relieved of the burden! Grandma Edie told me that my grudge was like adding to a heavy bag of rocks on my back every time I remembered what was done to me, and she couldn’t have described it better. Jesus took this burden from me, and showed me that if HE has forgiven this person, I have no right to hold a grudge!

Obedience: What Jesus Taught Me in May

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Lesson 1: Feelings can be redirected. This one is short and sweet. I had a dream about someone that made the entire day fluttery after I woke up. I didn’t want it to be because of that person, but the blissful feeling was one I didn’t want to lose. So, what did I do? I went to the Bible with my feelings. I used the feelings I had, but directed them to Jesus instead. I took advantage of them while they were there, and it made for a wonderful day about Him, not who I’d dreamed of that night. Dwelling too much on a fluttery feeling? Direct it to Jesus!

Lesson 2: Convictions need to be restated every day. This month, God showed me that I go to daydreams to lift up my spirit when I should be going to Him. He asked me to stop, because He wants to be the one I rely on. This wasn’t the first time: I’ve known for a while that He’s not too pleased when I go to my imagination for happiness, and many times I’ve resolved to end it, but it never lasts more than a few weeks, usually just a few days. However, this time He showed me that this is because I used my own standards to measure my success. Once I felt like I’d done well and exercised self-control, I was more lenient and trusted myself too much. I would tell myself, “I didn’t daydream almost at all yesterday, so I can allow this one little one to slip by.” Boom! Back to where I started in an instant. In order to accomplish something like this, I need to make the same resolution every day. I can’t think it’s over simply because I did pretty well yesterday! I need to live out this conviction like I just made it this morning, so I’ll make it every morning.

Lesson 3: Ask for confirmation, and God will give it to you. Have you ever heard or felt something and thought it was God speaking, but wanted to be sure? This has been happening to me a lot lately, and I was encouraged by my mom to ask God to confirm if it was Him or not. God doesn’t mind this at all; Gideon did it in the Bible, and God answered him (see Judges 6:36-40)! He answered me, too! He has done it in many ways: through something someone else said (they didn’t even know what I was praying about!), through what we talked about at youth group, through what He led me to in the Bible, and through themes that kept coming up everywhere, to name a few! He will answer if you ask!

Lesson 4: Ignorance is NOT bliss; it’s bitterness about whatever you’re trying to forget. Part two of the story begun in Lesson 2! What if you have the ability to keep your resolution, but just don’t want to? Ouch. Now you get to see my ugly side. I didn’t agree with God that what I was doing was wrong. I wanted to stop because He wanted me to and I love Him, but I didn’t have the earnest desire to myself, so I didn’t. I would apologize every night for my disobedience, but with no intention of changing. I claimed I wasn’t relying on my dreams. The pain of disobeying Him grew stronger every day. Ignoring my problem didn’t make it go away, but made it sting worse and made me more angry about it. He showed me through this that Lesson 5: When you get defensive about something, it’s a big deal to you. He showed me how crazy this was making me, and I finally apologized genuinely. Obedience is not about what makes sense to me; it’s about proving my love. The hurt of letting go is momentary, while the hurt of being defiant continues as long as you do. Disobedience hurts naturally! It’s not God’s condemnation, because He has none. It’s simply the result of what you’ve done. End the pain for yourself, and you will be amazed what God brings out of your obedience. The things you can’t see are BIG!

Lesson 6: God shows me love through my friendships. I don’t get to spend a lot of time with my friends because I’m homeschooled and our schedules don’t mesh, but when God does give me an opportunity to get together with someone, it is such a gift. Do you realize how great a gift your friendships are to you? I got to see my best friend for the first time in quite a while this month, and our time together was precious. We talked about both fun and deep things, and later got to go to Bible study together, where we joined more friends to laugh, talk, and pray. That same weekend, a bunch of us from my youth group met at our youth pastor’s house to play games. I hadn’t laughed so hard in a long time, it was so much fun! A good friend I hadn’t seen in over a year even came to visit my youth group! God always gives me some of my greatest joy bursts with my wonderful friends, and I think that’s because not only do I have their love, but His love shines through to me from the fact that I’m with them.

Lesson 7: Singlehood is a time made for absolute devotion to God, not searching. My journal entry from May 27th explains the conclusion of the story from Lessons 2, 4, and 5 perfectly:

God’s been sharing a lot about love and faith lately. I shouldn’t fantasize because 1) I won’t be surprised or I’ll be disappointed with the real thing, and 2) I have my whole adulthood to be married, but only a limited time to be single… If I fantasize and daydream and search, I’m throwing away this time. This time is HOLY!… I can’t search, because I won’t do a good job. Only God can see the right one. It’s like Samuel finding a king to replace Saul– he would have settled for the first guy, but God chose the very last who also turned out to be best! He was even handsome, ruddy, and had pretty eyes! God would even care to bless me with that! So… there’s me lately. Joyfully waiting.

Seeing: What Jesus Taught Me in April

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Lesson 1: You can’t see what’s going on deep in someone’s life when you’re only looking at the surface. One of my dear, dear friends approached me with tears in her eyes and asked me for a hug; this was the beginning of a time of release for both of us. I offered to listen if she needed to talk, and she took me up on it, filling the next ten minutes with her secrets and confessions that almost no one else knew and that I had never expected. I’ve known her for most of my life, but I didn’t know that things like these were happening in her life. It made me wonder where I’d been. I consider us good friends, so how did I not see this? What could I have done to help if I had been paying more attention? I know now that no matter how well I think I know someone, there will be something I can’t see. That doesn’t mean I should try to find everything out or that I can’t trust anybody; I think it just means that I need to pray for the people I encounter. The people we think are well put-together could be falling apart. In middle school, before I was very close to Jesus, my classmates called me Smiley because they thought I was happy all the time; little did they know the battle going on inside me at that time! Pray for everyone you know, because you never know what they are facing right now.

Lesson 2: Obedience is not about what makes sense; it’s about love. I read “Perelandra” by C.S. Lewis this month, a very cool book! I love that Mr. Lewis disguised his philosophy books as fantasy! A line from it really spoke to me and what was going on in my heart at that time, so I’ll let it tell the story:

“In all these other matters what you call obeying Him is but doing what seems good in your own eyes also. Is love content with that? You do them, indeed, because they are His will, but not only because they are His will. Where can you taste the joy of obeying unless He bids you do something for which His bidding is the only reason?”  -Dr. Ransom

Lesson 3: Giving in to temptation is so easy, but NOT worth it. I fell into an old sin that I thought was long gone, and it tore me apart inside. It’s the kind of sin that only hurts me and Jesus, but it hurt us greatly. I knew it would, but it was so easy! I wondered why, but I soon heard Jason Gray on the radio talking about his song “Remind Me Who I Am”; he said that in the times when he falls into sin, he realizes that he needs to be reminded who he is– remade, holy, God’s child. I saw that in myself. Feeling down on myself and not as passionate about loving God as I had been, it was easy for the enemy to get to me. But not anymore! I will attack him right back with my Bible and my faith in it!

Lesson 4: “He who is in me is greater than I will ever be, and I will rise.” I was having a stressful week, and one day in particular I let it all pile up inside so that I just had to cry. I didn’t know what to do. After I finished crying, I turned on the radio and sat down at the dining room table to study for a history quiz. I cried again, but this time, it was because I was being filled with joy. God played “Rise” by Shawn McDonald for me, right when I needed it to describe my feelings and give me hope! God knows what you’re going through. He sees you and understands, and is reaching out to you. Hold on to Him!

Lesson 5: When God calls you, it’s exciting, not scary, because HE is the one who makes it happen. I went to Acquire the Fire (a youth conference) with my beloved Bible study group! My favorite part was sharing it with them and seeing The Afters in concert. I’m not sure how to explain this lesson, but I’ll try! During worship I felt a BIG tug on my heart that told me, “You are meant to do this, too.” I knew that He meant performing music on stage, and that utterly terrified me! Don’t ask me how I understood all these things; I just did. I heard them in my spirit. Now, I absolutely love music! I’ve always known I was meant for it and it was meant for me, but I never considered actually performing it. At the most, I wanted to be a songwriter and recording artist, but I did NOT want to perform. That was the pipe dream I never thought would happen. I get so nervous to do anything in front of people, and singing is the biggie, because I don’t even know if I’m good! God had to work through all these doubts and assure me, “Tessa, I’m not going to ask you to do something too big for us to handle together.” He gives me the peace that, if He’s called me to do it, it will work! Now it’s not scary; it’s good news, because I know this dream can come true! It will be all Him, because I know I can’t do it myself. If you can accomplish your dream on your own, it’s too small. Dream BIG, because our God is big!

Lesson 6: God can’t fill what isn’t empty. I’ll admit: the above was the only thing I felt at Acquire the Fire. Everyone around me was so into it, and I tried to be, but I wasn’t. It just didn’t work that way. This is something I’ve struggled with before, and I always tried to figure out what I was doing wrong. Why didn’t I get filled like everyone else? It took the eyes of a youth leader to see the truth! A mom from my youth group named Judy, knowing I’d gone to Acquire the Fire, asked me how I liked it, and I had to reply honestly and say I was icy and didn’t feel anything (which I think is weird; I kept telling myself that, but as you just read, that wasn’t the case! Hm…). She said right away, “I don’t think you’re icy, you’re just good at getting fed on your own! You probably have your own conference in your bedroom everyday!” I had never thought of this! I’m just used to God’s presence and communicating with Him, so I don’t react the same? I think this calls for some action: if I’m full, then there are plenty of things in me that need to be taken out so there’s more room for Him! Thank you for the encouragement, Judy!

Who I Am: What Jesus Taught Me in March

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Lesson 1: “Don’t just do the right things; be the right person.” Do you forget who you are sometimes? That being God’s child is what defines you? That all His promises are for you? That’s where I was. Thankfully– He has rescued me from it! He took me from not being sure of who I was to being able to use the Bible as a mirror. One of the biggest things He showed me about myself is that I am very judgemental. I was amazed, because judgement calls are one of the things I hate most! It was crazy to find out that I myself am critical and harsh toward people, especially people I consider to be hypocrites or hateful. Imagine how terrible it was to find that I was what I hated! I noticed my harsh, spiteful thoughts were even beginning to leak out into my conversations! I was trying to act in love, but my heart and even a few words weren’t in it. The title I gave this lesson is something my friend Tony said when he spoke at my youth group that keeps echoing to me. His message and the one by my youth pastor AJ the next week were big wake up calls. After AJ’s message, he told us to get into small prayer groups, and the one I was in prayed for me about this. I’m still struggling, but I’m improving, and that is such a relief! If you want to know something about yourself, ask God! He knows you. He will reveal things to you and help you act on them! You will find things God taught me about myself throughout this post!

Lesson 2: You can’t always see the purpose when you hear the call. For the past hour I have been trying to word this story without stepping on toes or not making sense! As a substitute for the story, I’ll share the lyrics to a song I recently finished about it instead. Enjoy “Where I Am”:

I can’t move/ but that’s okay/ I can’t move because You’ve asked me to stay/ broken hearts/ broken wings/ I need You, or I can’t do anything/ nothing here/ just my pain/ but I trust You, You’re inside of this rain/ peeking out/ sheltered by You/ You’re my Father and You’re making me new again// I’ll follow You anywhere/ I’ve told you from the start/ I didn’t think You’d ask me to serve You where I am/ I didn’t understand but I’m beginning to/ You’re opening my eyes to see You/ I’m not held down by chains, I’m just where You want me/ and I’ll love You no matter where I am// You have me/ inside Your arms/ no matter where, I know You’re holding my heart/ sometimes I cry/ I can’t see/ but when I sing to You suddenly I’m free/ You change my heart/ You open me/ I know I’m with You, so I’m where I want to be/ I’m not stuck/ I’m just savoring/ this moment is ours and I’m not missing a thing this time// CHORUS// keep me safe/ I’ll be okay/ I’m with You/ I’ll gladly stay/ (x 2)//CHORUS//

Lesson 3: Acting on my beliefs isn’t just necessary; it’s fulfilling. My dear friend (and award-winning speaker!) Sierra invited me to a pro-life rally she was speaking at. We went solely to support her, but I came away from the experience changed. I had never been to a protest before, and at first it scared me! We were in front of a courthouse in the city, passing out signs and buttons on the street! I soon learned, though, that this was not something to fear. Everyone there was calm, simply speaking out against the HHS Mandate because it affects us and threatens us as Christians. I myself held a sign on the sidewalk, and the responses from the drivers were everything from unrepeatable yells to approving nods. I now wear the pin I received there on my purse, in hopes that people ask about it. Sierra’s speech was the final blow. She shared that the church has been turning a deaf ear to the treasured babies being killed, that we choose to forget about what she calls the American Holocaust. It is so true, no matter what we think. We need to act! When we hear about abortion, I think most of us will say how sad it is and truly believe that, and then forget. Sierra is not like that, and she inspires me to do something about these lives I care about instead of hoping things get better. I now pray for this issue, and all the others that stab at me.

Lesson 4: Joy comes from focusing on God and others instead of myself. I love this story. It is making me grin right now! So, how was your spring break? No, this is not an out-of-place question; it’s a lure to get you to ask me what I did over MY spring break. Why, thank you for asking, I’d be glad to tell you all about it! (I’m annoying MYSELF… haha!) My youth group, both middle and high school members, joined together to do something during our break. BUT, instead of doing things for ourselves, we woke up earlier than we normally do for school to work all day, 3 days of the 5 we had free, for people in our community. We helped anyone who asked with anything they needed: weeded for the elderly and the sick, helped organize the basement of a local Christian college, carried branches blown off during a storm to a pile for burning, split and hauled firewood, and a few boys (like my dear brother, whom I was so glad to do this with!) even ventured to a few housetops to clean the roofs! It was the most fun I’ve had in a very long time, and isn’t that crazy? Wouldn’t you think that the work would be drudgery and that we would have terrible attitudes because we were “wasting” our free time? No one was like that. No one complained, and that impressed many of the people we helped. I loved the people I was working with, and that many whistled and sang as we went, and how many times we got to laugh. This is where cheerfulness comes from– getting close to God and serving people in His name! This is a big confession for me that I am a little scared to share, but I think it adds to the testimony, so I will tell you: for the past 5 or 6 months, I have wondered if I have depression. The joy just felt sucked out of me, bad attitudes came so easily, and I didn’t feel much at all of anything. Our spring break project totally opened my eyes to the truth God has been trying to show me all this time, that joy does NOT come from me! I was counting on myself for joy, thinking that if I changed what I did or who I was I would find joy somewhere, but that was hopeless. My joy comes from closeness with Jesus, the one who gave me joy in the first place. I don’t have depression; I have self-absorption. It all makes sense! Worship was the only place I found joy during this time, and I see now that it’s because I focus on God and His goodness instead of myself when I worship Him. The minute I start thinking of someone else and how I can serve them, with God’s love as the motivation, I am happy. My face lights up, I sing louder, I laugh more, and I don’t want to stop! Another startling realization is that all this was an answer to prayer. What?! Yes! I asked God to get me to rely on Him and not my feelings. I asked Him in January of last year, and that was when I started feeling different, feeling less. Goosebumps! You might not feel them, I don’t know, but this is so awe-inspiring to me! This is what I asked for, and although I cried so much and it has been so hard on me that I called it “the war inside”, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Seek God with all your might, and you won’t care about the little things that threaten your happiness. You will have JOY, unspeakable JOY!

[Edit: I’m looking back on this three years later and chuckling, because I know I really was depressed and would be for another year. But this experience is still a huge part of my story, because it showed me that joy existed for me and that loving God and others is what carries me through the darkest of days. I was indeed depressed, not self-absorbed, but love has healing in it, and I always remember that day when I think about joy.]

Beautiful in Time: What Jesus Taught Me in February

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Lesson 1: God is brilliant with timing. My self-assigned theme for what I wanted to learn about most this month was “Being God’s Child”, because of my unexpected prayer that brought tears: “Teach me to call you Father.” It still gives me chills, by the way! However, I didn’t really get a life lesson on this subject this month, at least that I could perceive. That was a lesson itself, that God has perfect timing in the lessons He teaches. Maybe I’m not ready to learn about our Father-daughter relationship yet. Maybe He’s working on something else inside me right now. No matter what it is, I will be eager to learn! I did actually learn a lesson about His timing this month, too! It was a jaw-dropper! To hear it, hover over “Holding On” by Generation Unleashed on the sidebar. You might as well listen to the song while you’re at it! It is gorgeous and always gets the air thick with God’s presence.

Lesson 2: If home is where the heart is, then my home is where You are. I’m not exactly sure why, but this month I have connected to many songs that speak of home. Maybe it’s because sometimes nothing else cuts it. I think there are periods when I am just restless, when nothing matters to me as much as the fact that I feel SO ready to spend eternity with Jesus, and it makes it hard to feel at home here. Another reason may be that I stray but He still calls me home; that, to me, is one of the most important things He does for me, and I praise Him for it! These songs that He has sent me give a little peace in the waiting, a sign that He hears my heart and that what He hears matters to Him! The most influential of these songs to me were “This Is Home” and “Where I Belong” by Switchfoot, and “Long Way Home” by Steven Curtis Chapman.

Lesson 3: God knows me better than I do. I had the wonderful opportunity to dress up and have a tea party with my beloved Bible study group this Valentines Day! We took pictures, had delicious food, played music, belly laughed, shared hearts, and– what I’m talking about today– heard a devotional from my friend Savana’s mom, Brenda. I shared the main lesson I took away from her message in Beautiful in His Eyes, but I learned many more things, and one of the biggest is that I know myself as well as the Barbies I colored. Haha! Let me explain! Brenda gave each of us 3 copies of the same coloring sheet: a Barbie in a long dress. We labeled one as “body”, one as “soul”, and one as “spirit”, and were told to write things about those areas of ourselves on the sheets as we colored. Does my first statement make more sense now? I didn’t know what to write. I could write fun facts, but not really anything deep. The deepest thing was an observation by my friend Holly! It showed me that I don’t really know myself, and that gave me yet another reason to seek Jesus. If He lives inside my heart, He knows what’s in it! I need Him to tell me who I am, who He created me to be, and I think I’ll see a lot more once He does. I know one thing that I am: His.

Lesson 4: Bad attitudes do nothing and are often big liars. This month, I was constantly threatened with my biggest temptation: a bad attitude. The worst attitude I had in February was because I was asked to do something I hated and go outside my comfort zone. I couldn’t see that this was a wonderful opportunity, an honor. All I saw was hardship, because I looked at it through fear. When the time came to go through with what I had to do, I was ashamed. It was fun and not at all stressful! I worried and grumbled the whole month, lacing it with ugliness, for nothing! Do not do what I did! When you don’t like what you have to do, when you’re afraid and you want to look at the glass as half empty, stop and consider God’s wonders! If you look through His eyes, you see open doors and good things– the things that are truly there!

Lesson 5: God DOES speak, and sometimes through the most unexpected people. I was having an extremely hard time a few weeks ago. Lots of inside pressure, making me crumble on the outside. As I was talking to Jesus late into the night, I lamented to Him, “I can’t hear you, but I wish I could. Please speak. Let me hear you.” The next day or so, I burst into tears in class. I tried to hide it in my hands, but soon someone saw me. They ran to me, hugged me, and prayed for me. Now, this was mind-boggling, because I thought this person hated me! Yet ever since that day, they have been nothing but kind to me! That next Sunday, my church had a worship service. Still hurting inside, I sat alone in my pew, elbows on the pew in front of me, and sobbed into my arms as the music played. After a while, a girl whom I’d recently been getting to know found me and asked if she could pray for me. I said yes. She wrapped her arms around me, and as she prayed I started crying even harder. EVERY SINGLE THING SHE PRAYED WAS EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED! I told her so when she finished, and SHE began to cry! She said, “That’s so crazy! I don’t even know you that well yet! That was totally God, not me!” That same night, when I got home, my dad came into my room and asked me if I was okay. I started crying again and told him about my struggles. The next half hour, my dad, who has lost his footing in His walk with God, talked to me about faith! My dad was originally going to be a pastor, and I saw that gift in him more than ever that night! It gave me hope for both me and him, and I think he refreshed himself, too. God does indeed speak, and might just use people who hated you, people you hardly know, and people who doubt Him to do it!

Lesson 6: Beauty is everywhere, although I can’t always see. By now you can see that I was blind this month. I am gathering all these lessons after the fact, and that further proves this lesson! Even when I don’t see, there are things to see. Being blind doesn’t change the fact that things are there; it simply means that I can’t see them the way I am. It reminds me of the fantastic song “Lovely Traces” by Krystal Meyers: I lost my direction/ ’cause I couldn’t see/ what a beautiful picture/ You would complete/ in me/. God is helping me to open my eyes, and one day of this month in particular was a big step! I did well in school. I heard much from my Bible reading. It was the first gorgeous spring-like day of the year. I laughed a lot. I unexpectedly attended a concert at my youth group. Shipwreck Pedro and Josiah James, the acts of this concert, were down-to-earth and fun to listen to, and I was able to buy a cd. Everything about that day was right, and that was such a gift! I prayed the night before that He would renew my sense of wonder, and He is! To share a bit of the beauty I saw that day with you, I’ll give you a taste of the concert! The Shipwreck Pedro song is called “Ecclesia”, which is the only one YouTube has and, ironically, my favorite! As for the Josiah James song, I don’t remember if he played “Waiting for Forever” at my youth group, but it’s my favorite of his that I have heard so far! Super pretty! Click to listen: here for “Ecclesia” and here for “Waiting for Forever.” Back on subject, I try to find the beauty in every day now, even when it’s hidden. Like my favorite Building 429 song says, Nothing is hidden where you look. Because of that, I think March’s post will be much more positive! Sometimes you need to be blind to appreciate your sight, and that is now clearer than ever to me!