I’ve been finding it really hard to write recently. Well, more specifically, I’ve been having difficulty motivating myself to blog. I’ve been reading through the blogs I’ve posted over the last year and I find it hard to believe I wrote them. I’m still journaling in my quiet times and enjoying spending time with God. For once, my laziness doesn’t feel like something faith related though. Its intimidating reading some of my old stuff and thinking, “Wow, I was inspired. Why can’t I feel like that now?” But I am inspired! It’s the transition between feeling this inspiration, scribbling it down and then converting that into something bloggable (not a real word, but we’ll roll with it) that I struggle with.
I think I’m spreading myself way too thin. I have so many journals that I need to devote time too. I have my “rambling” journal which has been with me throughout the entire year of my renewed dedication to God. When it’s filled (and it’s nearly there), it will be nearly 400 days of my life recorded on paper. I’ve never hit that sort of landmark where writings concerned. It marks all the highs and lows off the past year, of which there have been many. It’s the journal I feel like I need to consult daily or I’ll miss out on valuable detail. On top of that, I have my “One thought” journal. I fill in a page each day on one specific thought. It can be something silly- like a fight I had with a friend. I focus on one thing that’s on my mind and write it down which has proved pretty therapeutic. But still, it’s one more journal to write in. I haven’t even mentioned my ingenious “Pathway to Purpose” idea. I bought a book in a Faith Mission months ago that helps Christians reflect on their past, present and future in ways that are healthy and stress relieving! Once I started writing in it, I wanted to make it a daily thing. Because I’m OCD like that and have way too many assignments set for myself! I love all my journals and the thoughts they seem to get out of me but I love blogging too. And it’s taken a backseat to all these things. So I guess now I’m making this post to get myself back into the game!
I’ve decided that writing in my journals is something I have to do in the moment! They get my initial reactions and capture the mood of the moment. Blogging is something that I want to use in the aftermath of such things. I’m going to use it as an opportunity to reflect on situations and try to provide an educated response on things I’m studying in my quiet times or just happen to have on my mind. It shouldn’t be a chore, and I write better when I’m not under pressure. At the end of the day, this blog could get deleted in a second and all my posts will be gone. My journals can be kept forever, providing I keep them safe.
All in all, blogging is important to me! Admittedly, I enjoy messing around with themes and fonts. I enjoy knowing that anyone in the world can see and respond to what I have to say, and having the opportunity to pass on a little encouragement here and there.
Some things can be taken from the confines of a notebook and worked into something that can inspire others – I just need to channel my energy into reflecting on things after I spend time noting them down.
Pray for Moldova.
A few months ago those words wouldn’t have meant much to me either. It’s a country whose name I vaguely recognised. A country that, up until January, I had no idea existed! Yet there’s a very real spiritual struggle underway in Moldova. A struggle perpetuated by a blatant disregard for the widespread poverty in one of the poorest countries in Europe. A country that should have some kind of support yet has been left to flounder and sink alone.
I set out with 11 other people to help ease the burden placed on two churches in two different locations to cater for the youth in their villages. It was explained that Pastors in the Orthodox churches felt discouraged by the lack of numbers and vision for young people in Moldova. Many young adults are forced to work abroad to support families, and so churches lack experience in youth ministry because well, there’s a lack of youth. For anyone who doesn’t know the difference between Orthodox and Unorthodox churches - Orthodox churches believe in a personal relationship with God, rather than the rules and regulations associated with strict religion. Orthodox churches love sharing the gospel with young people and encourage the expression of God’s love in a range of ways!
Our main task was to help with practical work throughout the communities and organise kids clubs every day. I think one of the most eye opening things about the trip was the Moldovans ability to live simply by faith, and not by sight. This is a hard mindset for people like me to adapt because we have so much stuff! There’s very little that we can hope for when we have everything we need. We’d cram into a bus each afternoon and literally have no idea where we were going and what we’d be expected to do. It wasn’t that we weren’t being told half the time – it was because the people bringing us to these places knew as little as we did at times.
I could write forever about the poverty we witnessed and the effect it had on us but honestly, it’s not even something I can put into words. It’s something that needs to be felt and seen with your own eyes. I struggle to forget a lot of the kids though.
Most notably, the burst of enthusiasm as soon a camera pointed in their direction. The smiley faces beaming back at us, thrilled to feel important. It’s something so basic that could spark such an excited reaction from these kids. As awesome as this was to see, it filled me with incredible sadness. I loved capturing memories of the kids and making them feel special. But I don’t know how to get these photos back to them. They’ll never have anything to show for it. They’re just happy to know that somewhere in the world; some northern Irish teen has a photo of them.
I compiled a load of the photos into one big journal and try to honour the kids with prayer. I know Gods watching over them. As hopeless as their circumstances may seem at times, they draw joy from anything and everything. If my generation back home could do this, we’d have so much more to offer this world. I think that’s the saddest thing of all. These kids have attitudes that could help this world to thrive and they’ll never know it.
It’s difficult to not feel angry, returning home to all this luxury while those kids remain in such awful conditions. But God didn’t send us to Moldova to come home feeling high and mighty. He sent us to come home feeling truly blessed and to love others in a way we couldn’t beforehand, as an expression of that. I see the problems in this world so much more clearly, and I have a desire to see them fixed. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to bring those kids a little happiness for two weeks. I pray that more teams head out to carry on such good work!
Now I’m home and I have to draw upon the experiences I had out there as much as I can. I have to persevere through the discouragement that comes from feeling like the little things are overlooked. I have to bite my tongue when I see people becoming ensnared by the useless things young people devote time too and I have to work on myself. I have to devote my life to God and allow him to work on me from within, shaping me to be the kind of woman who could revisit those kids someday and make a difference. Or maybe he plans for me to make a difference over here. Either way, it would be nice if a difference could be made, wouldn’t it?
So please, pray for Moldova. When we can’t fly somewhere, the best we can do as Christians is place the country in God’s hands. If he hears his people uniting in a true desire to see that country’s circumstances changed, I have no doubt he’ll do wonderful things.
I’ve always really struggled to share my testimoney because up until the last year, I didn’t really feel like my story was extraordinary or exciting enough to tell. I’ve been a Christian for so long that I can’t even pinpoint the exact age that I gave my life to God. All I know is that I was pretty young. Not just in age though. The state of my faith remained young well into my teenage years. I can only really describe my faith up until the age of 17 as a series of spiritual peaks that were continually blighted and outnumbered by abizmal spiritual lows.
My faith was incredibly bipolar. One minute, I’d be on fire for God, blazing a trail for all to follow. The next, I’d be in a spiritual slump, broken, riddled with self doubt and contemplating whether it was really worth all the stress. There was never any real cause. I just became so discouraged by the fear of failure I’d formed, that I wasn’t progressing and because I didn’t feel anything happening, I gave up. I tried not to think about it. Yet, God persisted with me. It’s funny how when you’d rather not be reminded off something, it starts turning up everywhere. In my dreams. My thoughts. In other friends. but I was just so tired!
I lied to all my christian friends and acted like my faith was growing. I was pretty convincing at this too! I could give my christian friends advice because I had all the words - just no motivation to put them into practise in my own life. Looking back, it fills me with sadness to know that I could talk with such passion and yet, feel so dead inside. God was still with me though. I knew this even at the time. He prevaded my conscience and crept into my dreams. I felt him urging me to give it one last push, but I was so ashamed that I couldn’t open up my bible or pray with real meaning anymore. The christians thriving around me were a daily reminder that I COULD have that. Nothing was really stopping me, except my inability to just let go! If only I’d just give myself to God and become limitless, instead of limiting myself purposely to soften the blow of yet more failure that seemed to follow me everywhere I went. It was the smallest thing at times. Talking about someone who didn’t deserve it. Acting in a way that didn’t reflect well on God around a non christian friend. Basic things that by not doing them, should set us apart from non christians.
Last august, around the time that I started this blog, I finally had my turning point. The moment of clarity that I’d heard about in so many other testimonies yet secretly mocked in my head because truthfully, I didn’t believe it existed. I had been telling a friend just how bad things had gotten, when it just hit me. Literally, like a light being switched on. I was blaming the very thing that Christ had freed me from for holding me back. How ironic, right? That I’d ask to be forgiven for my sins so that I could embark on an amazing journey with my Creator, in the full knowledge that I’d continue to sin, and use that very sin as my excuse for not trying? I didn’t understand the sinful nature that I’d been saved from.
The reality that God forgives constantly, completely and unconditionally never really sank in and so, the chains really hadn’t been lifted. Sure, my heart had been purified. But my mind was dirty and stained and damaged and ruled me. I placed the things that I thought only I could comprehend before my Saviour. Did I not think God loved me? Or that he understood how I felt? I didn’t know a God that I was so sure I loved. Just as some couples can be in a relationship and claim to love each other, yet not really KNOW each other which ultimately, leads to their demise. God wasn’t going to let that happen to us though. At the grand age of 17, having been a christian for 10 years or so, I finally accepted that I was accepted. That my mistakes would not hinder me from serving God and impacting this world. Since this revelation, I’ve been in a much better place spiritually. I make a real effort to grow in my faith and although I still get things wrong, I use it as my motivation. My friends often shared similar feelings with me back in the darker days of my faith but I wish someone had laid bare their spiritual struggles in a way that was hard hitting and entirely honest - a way that didn’t make me feel so alone in my struggles. I try to be that person for others now, using my mistakes as a tool to inspire someone else into taking action rather than submitting to the fear that consumed me. Now, I’d much rather fail knowing I’d tried because God sees the effort we make before the end result. He foresaw the stumble. He cushioned the blow. And he’s propelling us forward. What we percieve to be failure may just be a kink in our journey, designed to push us in a direction that God has planned.
A lyric from the new song by Josh Osho called “Giants” stands out to me as I type all this. It says, "We all want to be giants, but our heads are too heavy from the mess that we’re in." I wanted to be a spiritual giant, but had to learn that we can only achieve greatness when we trust God to do great things through us. I wanted to do the impossible without making the effort to make it possible. We’re not running this race alone and the things that we do get right are not our own achievements to claim. Everything that I’ve straightened out in my life is Gods doing because as this entire testimonies already established, when I live life without God in the equation, I tend to mess up. a lot.
One last word. You may not feel like your story has much to say but I can assure you that a simplistic, relateable story can speak just as loudly as any. I understand how having what feels like a tame and introverted story, can make someone feel like it really isn’t worth telling. I’d like to encourage you to tell it. To yourself in the mirror. On a piece of paper. To the friend who stuck with you while that story formed…
… and most importantly, to the God who ensured your story would continue.
Knowing that I’ve been placed on this earth for a purpose is what fulfils me in life. Living each day in the knowledge that an All powerful Saviour has marked out each step of my life with perfect precision allows me to feel content that whatever I’m facing, I’ll face upheld in God’s grace and strength, which to this very day, have never failed me.
I know that by grasping each day I’m bringing further into motion what’s already underway. I pay attention to the purpose Gods planned for me by consulting him as much as I can. I take risks that teach me to rely on God when I feel a sudden lack of control. Letting him take control is the absolute key. Even when I mess that up, I know I haven’t compromised that purpose in the slightest because God said it himself – he doesn’t start anything in anyone that he won’t bring through to completion.
My life, ultimately, rests in your hands Lord. So here I am. Do with me what you will.
Lord, I wonder how much of a true servant I am to you. Sometimes my words and actions seem so far from what you’ve taught me and I question my spiritual growth. I look at the many ways in which you’ve blessed me and I cannot possibly repay you. Growth is hard to measure. Sometimes, I’m on the very cusp of breaking through but never quite get there. Every day, I’m striving. I’ve gone from making an effort to pray to praying without much thought. Yet I’m experiencing the best prayer sessions in my walk with you. That’s growth.
I’ve gone from making an effort to include you more and more in my life to physically being unable to revise for exams until I’ve sat down and spent time with you. I act on those moments of impulse you give me, Lord, instead of telling myself I have more pressing things to do. That IS growth. Things remain in my life that frustrates me greatly when placed beside the things you’re already achieving in me. I find it difficult to hold my tongue and keep an opinion to myself. Half the time, I don’t even consider how hurtful that opinion can be, but I voice it anyway. In that moment, I feel so disappointed in myself that I forget all the things you’ve been helping me get right.
I am changing – in small yet very important ways. I’m changing things in my life that used to be crumbling around me. When I’m in your presence, nothing feels too overwhelming or hard to take. All I feel is peace. All I experience is love. And I’m no longer weak.
I have so much to work on in my life but for all my flaws, I’m willing to submit, Lord. All my cares, stresses and, anxieties - I’m willing to give them to you and leave my worries trailing behind me. This year is going to present many changes in its self, but you’ve given me a courageous spirit. I know I’m facing every mountain with you, Lord. Every hurtful word and spiteful comment will be dealt with in prayer. I’ll revel in every awkward conversation just because I’ve decided to share my faith with someone else. I’ll face pain with joy and acceptance (probably after I shout at you in prayer – when anger hits, you know my first instinct, Lord.) but I’ll always seek to understand why you do things. This year is the year of The Lord for me. The first year I’ve ever walked consistently with you. Getting it wrong, getting it right, not getting anything at all. And it will all be done with you.
So, I’m asking you to use me. To look past my past failures and struggles when most other humans can’t. Rid me of the assumption that because I spent so many years struggling in my faith, that others can’t see you in me anymore. Even in my weakest hours, I want to be used. Even if another girl see’s me stumbling and realises she’s no worse for stumbling at times too. I love you, Lord. I love the things I can feel happening and I’m ready to be used.
So, I’m ready when you are.
“It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honourable to seek one’s own honour…” - Proverbs Ch 25 v27
I think I’m going to be embarking on a huge journey this summer. It’s pretty early days but I attended a meeting about Mission Teams that go out to different countries every summer to help different communities with activities like church planting and building etc. I’ve talked myself out of doing this EVERY year but I wasn’t kidding when I said God changed my life and heart at the end of last summer – and now, it’s time to start sharing it. Everything’s moved so quickly – I decided to go to the meeting pretty last minute and my parents have been REALLY supportive. When I told my mum I was considering doing it, her face erupted into a huge grin and she said “Don’t worry about money Debs – I’m so glad you’re finally doing this!” – And so am I. For the first time, I feel capable. I feel strong and ready show God my willingness to learn and endeavour for him. The verse above is something I’ll be referring to a lot throughout this process that may or may not unravel. I have to realise the importance of doing these things for God’s honour – NOT to feel great about myself and my own efforts.
I have a few friends interested in going away too and a few of us feel drawn to the same place - Moldova. We’ve been praying a lot over the last few days and I still feel positive that this is the place Gods going to allow me to experience. There’s little factors that are making me sure of this. It’s not just the feeling I have about it but its how things have been working out. Firstly, I approached the team meeting with a few countries in my mind, certain that it would be a simple choice between the likes of Poland or Romania – pretty well known places. I know girls who have done mission trips to these countries and I suppose a sense of familiarity made me a little more enthused to consider them.
How I ended up feeling drawn to a country, whose name I could barely pronounce at first, is quite honestly beyond me! I know little of the country’s history and politics but it’s what we’ll be doing in these communities that inspire me. From what I’ve gathered so far, we’ll be involved in giving testimonies and helping church communities to be established. There’s some work with kids and teens involved too. But what really struck me was the way in which this mission helps Christians like me to grow. It encourages us to express ourselves in every way imaginable to overcome language barriers and cultural differences. We can’t rely on words alone. God’s love has to shine through our actions, our body language and our efforts to connect with everyone we meet – even if they can’t speak a single word of English. This appeals for way too many reasons to count!
The main one is that I know I have a voice that could potentially reach a lot of people. I’m not scared to talk with honesty and passion and to be blatantly upfront about my flaws. I’m hoping and praying that this mission team helps me to express this voice in a way that can be received and understood by Gods children because even back when I was immature in my faith, my ability to relate to others was the only thing I thought I had going for me. I’m lacking some confidence in this area because I’ve never taken the chance to develop it. What I am confident off, is that God has a long list of things to teach me and if I don’t take the plunge now, I’ll always hide away in my reluctance, scared to try new things and go out on the limb for God.
I’ve still to do a lot of research and officially apply but I feel called to express all that Gods done and been doing in me these last 6 months. All glory goes to him!
The other day, my devotional book dealt with the topic of Self Control. This is an issue I’ve swept under the carpet many times in the more immature days of my faith, mainly because I knew it would reveal a very erratic, uncontrolled Child of God. The irony is that I was UNDER the control of sin, hence why I didn’t have much control of myself at all. Perhaps now that I’m growing under Gods wings, it’s time to face parts of myself that have been thriving under a lack of control for quite some time.
There’s one issue that springs to mind as soon as I open myself up to this question – What areas of my life need a little self control to better my walk with God?
I’m ashamed to admit that I struggle with such a generic teenage girl habit. It’s something I don’t think a lot of people would guess about me because it’s only with certain friends that I’d allow this part of myself to REALLY come out in full force. But it’s very much there and present and wholly ungodly and it’s a part of myself that I really HATE. I find myself saying things all the time about others that are SO judgemental, yet I hate to be stereotyped myself. I do and say things that if I thought were said about me…. would hurt. A lot.
I forced myself to be completely honest about this with God because he sees my heart. He knows the guilt I feel in the aftermath of saying horrible things and my confusion. WHY do I let myself think the way I do? Even worse, WHY do I feel the need to laugh at others and make these thoughts vocal? HOW is that benefitting me or anyone around me? It’s an ugly truth that’s been hindering my walk with God. So, I had to think – what am I doing that’s making this such a hard habit to break?
Then it hit me. The music I listen too. Yes, I know that we’re all guilty of having a song or two that have questionable lyrics but I don’t just LISTEN to music. I use it as a proper escape. I have alter egos in my mind speaking the same words of the song, addressing people with ugly truths in my head that I could never say to their face in real life.
An example? Nicki Minaj. I frequently imagine myself singing her lyrics which are pretty bad, and in my head, I KNOW who I’m referring too. I suppose it’s a rebellious part of me, concocting some sort of character in my head that’s the complete opposite of who I am in real life. The scary thing is that I become more like that character in how I speak, the more I let myself enjoy it.
If I spend every morning on the school bus listening to rap music that’s both insulting and demeaning towards others and the world, how can I possibly be ready to uplift others with my OWN speech? I’ve always had this worry in the back of my mind. When I listen to certain songs, I can feel a shift in mindset. Some songs give me the wrong kind of adrenaline that seems to seep into my conversations. I become braver in my own opinion which is usually completely wrong and misplaced. It’s like I adapt the attitude of whoever’s singing the song and claim it as my own.
I took some time to delete every song from my iPod that I think contributes to this part of myself that doesn’t shine so bright for God. I’m supposed to be immersing myself in God as much as possible and this is just a small, practical step to allow myself to do so. There are many other things I need to be doing in order to take control of my tongue. God will help me work the rest out – this is just one thing he’s been gradually making me see for a while!