Rest & Tend to Your Garden

Image may contain: plant, tree, outdoor and nature

This photo was taken from one of my favorite trips to Oregon with my dear sister. Looking outside at the mounds of snow certainly makes me want to jump right back into where this photo was taken, but I’m also learning to appreciate the different kinds of beauty in each season… even snow! So I hope as you read this, you’re all curled up in a blanket, warm and enjoying the coziness and the white wonderland we have all around us right now (well, if you are in good old Alberta that is).

It’s been a bit of a funny week for me. It started on Sunday night while prepping my lunch for the following day. I was also rehearsing in my head everything I had to do that week, everyone I had to meet with, the things at work I needed to remember, the endless to-do list of wedding prep… Then suddenly it all changed due to a stomach virus or food poisoning (jury’s still out on that one) and my carefully thought-out schedule for the week went out the window.  I’m sure many of you can relate to a moment like that!

So I was forced to rest. I’ll probably be writing a lot about rest in the next while, as that seems to be what the Lord is trying to teach me these days. I’m still not perfect at it, but I’m learning. Learning how to be still. Learning how to walk at a steady pace instead of frantically running about to accomplish everything, help everyone and then burn out. I frankly have just gotten tired of a lifestyle that functions on high levels of caffeine, anxiety and adrenaline and as life gets progressively fuller those things seemed to just increase. I remember once praying for a greater capacity to do more as I was drinking my third cup of coffee for the day and felt the Lord question my prayer, when I examined my heart I realized I didn’t want greater capacity to do anything. What I truly wanted was a good sleep. I suppose I got my wish a few days later.

The minute I got sick,  I felt this weird sense of peace and relief. I was so happy to be home, happy to relinquish my plans for the day to be in bed. But as I laid there, I started to get scared. It’s like the Lord ripped off the layer that had formed over my heart with the busyness and suddenly, with no one around and nowhere to go I was suddenly forced to just see…. Me.

The Rachel who was just… lying there. Who wasn’t doing anything…

To be honest I felt kind of empty and disconnected. I felt alone, and for someone who is a true introvert and treasures her alone time I was surprised I was feeling that way.
Different questions started to flood my mind. Instead of figuring out my schedule like I had been twelve hours ago, I found my mind wandering to questions such as, “who am I again?”, “what sets me apart?”, “am I enough?”,  or “Why do I feel disconnected from God and people when I do nothing?” ….

Big questions. Questions I thought I had answers too, and to some I did. But I had ignored tending to the garden of my heart for so long that it is taking me some time to cut down the weeds that were choking out my understanding of the truth of who I was while I was looking the other way into what I needed to do or be.

It reminded me of this summer when I felt the Lord encourage me to plant a little garden (truthfully, pots with seeds in them-but hey it’s a beginning). Learning to care, and water and protect those little seeds as they were growing into beautiful plants was a sweet picture to me of how much something grows when it is cared for. Even when I couldn’t see the progress under the soil. I remember at the end of the summer I got busier, and didn’t take care for them with the same care I had at the beginning. And naturally most of them (except for Kale, that stuff is super hardy!) began to wilt and die.

“Tend to your garden…”,

The same words I heard last summer have been coming up again. With the fresh blanket of snow out there, I know that doesn’t mean an outdoor garden. It means the garden of my heart. Disregarding our hearts comes at a cost. Our hearts are actually really  important and we need to treat them as such. We are only as healthy as our hearts are. When we disregard our hearts we disconnect from ourselves, from those around us and from God. Our hearts were made to be one with His, and when we don’t care for them it affects our connection with Him. It affects our ability to receive from Him.

Jesus talks about this in Matthew 13:18…

Matthew 13:1-8, THE MSG

“At about that same time Jesus left the house and sat on the beach. In no time at all a crowd gathered along the shoreline, forcing him to get into a boat. Using the boat as a pulpit, he addressed his congregation, telling stories.
“What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams”

If those seeds are the truth of Jesus, I want my heart to be good soil for those seeds to fall on so that they produce a harvest beyond my wildest dreams. But I have a responsibility into cultivating that kind of soil in my heart so it can.
I know my life is not as busy as it could be, or most definitely will get. But in every season I’m not powerless in how I spend my time. Sometimes I feel like time controls me but the reality is I have a voice in how I chose to spend it.

So, going forward I want to learn how to tend to the garden of my heart better.

Beginning with the way I spend my time.

I want more time letting those seeds be watered instead of trying to water everyone and everything myself. I’m more effective and love people better when I’m doing it from a place of being full, instead of scraping at the bottom for something to give.

Less time distracting myself with social media and filling my schedule, and more time letting the kindness of Jesus lead me to pick out the weeds.

Less time figuring out how to please others, and more time getting to know others. Also more time getting to know myself.

Less time talking with others about how busy we are, and more time enjoying one another for who we are.

More time walking in the light of his grace and less time striving for perfection.

Less coffee and more sleep (well at least the more sleep part… kidding).

Just, less . So He can be more.

How do you tend to the garden of your heart? I’d love to hear about it!

You are dearly loved.

– Rachel Elizabeth

My cute little garden!

Dead Leaves, Broken Dreams & New Beginnings

 

dead-leave-feng-shui

Hey there!

It’s been a little while since I’ve written. Not for a lack of trying, but I have had some major writers block this last while. So much has happened since I last wrote (way too much to write here, but the most exciting news of all… I’m getting married!!!!).

As I was reflecting on the time since I wrote last, I was humbled to see just how far I’ve come. I realize I don’t often share parts of my story when I write, and I want to get better at that. I once heard a man say that our weakest moments hold the potential to lead someone else to their greatest victory, and that’s a reason enough to stay the course. The deep truths we learn about God and ourselves in the valleys has the potential to nourish the weary of heart as they walk through those very same places.

My hope in sharing with you a piece of how God met me in the valley, is that it would encourage you in whatever season you are in.

Over a year ago I was trying so hard to change the circumstances of my life. I felt stuck.  I was sick with worry for loved ones and ashamed about not being where I felt I should be in life. I wanted a vision to work towards, I wanted a plan that made sense and I wanted to be excited about my future again.

Three years prior I felt led to come back to Calgary after being away and going to school. It had been a hard three years, between nearly losing my brother, family illness, having no idea what to do next and financially not being able to take any steps forward. I had never felt so vision-less, so lonely, so hopeless or so….tired.

I always thought I would be a pastor of some sort. I had been working towards a degree in youth ministry and thought with all of my heart that is where I would be one day. When the Lord began to prompt me to move back to Calgary, I was confused, but I knew I needed to be obedient. So I came back to my birthplace, which was also the city I swore I’d never move back too (classic God-move).

It was hard moving back with no real plan. Yet I could see why I needed too, I came to realize so much of my identity had been rooted in becoming a ministry leader. I had forgotten I was first a dearly beloved daughter of God. Destiny is designed to be birthed out of identity, and I needed to learn about who I really was before I could even begin to think about what I had been set apart to do. Don’t get me wrong, God had been incredibly kind to me during that hard season. He blessed me with amazing friends (and now a finance!!!), a stable job and went out of his way to encourage me along the way. I learned more in those years about who God really is than I had learned in my short lifetime. Yet each day I was growing more and more desperate for a breakthrough.

I had a pretty discouraging meeting one day where I realized nothing was going to change outside of a God- ordained miracle. After the meeting was over I drove out to the mountains and cried the whole way there.

It was a cold and gray day (quite fitting if you ask me) and I was alone. I walked for awhile and sat by a stream and watched the water run by. I suddenly noticed there were dead leaves all over the ground. This little fire started burning inside of me and before I could really think my legs just started moving from under me. I went and picked up the leaves and threw them as hard as I could and out of my mouth came the words“God I’m done, I ask that you would take what is dead and bring it back to life”. I was suddenly flooded with peace as I watched those leaves fall.

Something changed in me that day. The heavy, shame-filled and exhausting burdens I had been carrying suddenly looked like those dead leaves. I had finally let those worries, those fears, the regret, the old dreams, my plans and my expectations just die. And I threw myself into the faithful hands of the Author of Life.

I realized that until they died there would be no room for life. I had to be brought to a place where I couldn’t make it happen on my own, so I could let him take over. I had a deeper understanding of what in the world Apostle Paul meant when he talked about the importance of dying to yourself, so Christ can live in us.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Galatians 2:20

It’s interesting how Paul laid out this verse, it can easily be broken down into three categories.

1. We die.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live…”
He first talks about being crucified with Christ- meaning that like how all of the sin, anxiety, pain, grief, shame and sickness died with Jesus. All of those things need to die in us too, and that can only happen through Jesus. They aren’t worth holding on to and we have don’t have the ability to save ourselves from their destruction.

2. Christ empowers us.
“…and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God…”
When we let go of us, the resurrection power of Christ takes over our lives. Christ in us empowers us to live in faith, because we know what is in us is greater than what is in the world. It’s greater than our circumstances and more powerful than our biggest foe.

3. Faith grows as our understanding of God’s love for us does.
Then he talks about the love of God who gave himself up for us- so that we could live.
I believe it’s here most of us get stuck. In order to let go, it means we actually have to trust the God we put our faith in. We have to believe that He is good. We have to believe that he cares. We have to believe he is able, and more importantly we have to believe he loves us enough that he is willing to help us regardless of how worthy we feel of it.

And I’m here to tell you He is willing. To the point he wants to live in us. If he’s in us, that means he does everything with us, he wants to know our thoughts, our dreams and desires. He wants to work through the good and the messy with us. That’s a pretty intimate connection. One that he chose.

There may be mourning in what we let die, but what we get is far greater than what we give up. I can say this with certainty. God has been completely changing my world, in ways bigger than I ever could have imagined. Although I still may not know how everything will work yet or where he will lead next, I’m so thankful I was brought to a place where I was humbled enough to receive His love, his grace and his life where I needed it most. Though it may not have looked like my way, his way has proven to be much greater and far more fruitful.

I’m so thankful I serve a God who takes my dead leaves, and births new life, new dreams and the fullness of his joy in me instead.

If you are feeling stuck, burdened, anxious or hopeless, I would encourage you, just like I  I had to learn, to let those things go. Maybe like me, you need a physical representation of letting things go and need to go outside and throw some leaves around! Do what you need to do, but remember our God is willing and longing to fill those places with his perfect and unfailing love, there is so no measure to what he has available for you. What you are making room for is far greater than what you are letting go of.

God is devoted to redeeming every aspect of your life, there is not one thing is unseen by Him. Simply because he cares for you that much.

“I (Jesus) am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” – John 15:1-2

Thanks for reading!
You are dearly loved.
-Rachel Elizabeth

Self-Condemnation

15152968_10157753413505142_914158633_o-1

This has been one of those weeks where I’ve felt incredibly human. Ever have those times where everything you’ve bottled up inside for weeks comes out in one ugly moment? I did, and lets just say it wasn’t my best day.

Whenever this happens, I usually beat myself up quite a bit. It honestly bugs me way more when I react poorly towards someone than when someone else hurts me. It eats me up inside and I find it harder to forgive myself than to forgive others. While being angry at myself may appear more noble in theory than the alternative, I’ve come to realize that this is actually a form of self-condemnation.

Condemnation is the act of unfavorable or adverse judgement and/or a statement or expression of very strong and definite criticism or disapproval.

In Scripture we see Paul wrote to the Roman Church that condemnation is no longer the reality for those who believe in Jesus.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”- Romans 8:1

However, I think many of us willingly self-condemn ourselves simply by the way we think of ourselves or respond to our imperfections. When I look back at the definition of condemnation, and I compare it with the way I see myself…I can see the connection. There are days I find it really hard to see myself as worth being proud of. I tend to see my flaws and failures before I can see what God sees and when I make mistakes those things are magnified even more.

Self-condemnation is an act of judgement that turns into a form of self-hatred. I think there is a lie that some of us believe that self-condemnation is a posture of humility; when really it’s just plain insecurity. It robs us from so much more than it gives us. It doesn’t build us up in anyway and it keeps us hiding in the shadows of shame where we can see the light of Jesus but we can’t experience the warmth, love and life-giving properties of it until we finally step into it.

A good friend of mine reminded me this week that repentance is where we “turn and return”, meaning we turn away from our sin and return to our Heavenly Father.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” – 2 Corinthians 7:10

Godly grief produces repentance. It’s not wrong to feel bad about something we did. That’s conviction. It’s how the Holy Spirit points out the things in our lives that aren’t in alignment with the kingdom of God. However, it’s always supposed to bring us to a place of repentance which is meant to draw us back into the arms of our Savior. It’s always a process of  relational reconciliation, not just a confession or act. In it we see the goodness of our Heavenly Father who accomplished what we in our humanness could not to do just so we could be so close to Him. But worldly grief, or self-condemnation produces death, because holding on to remorse and regret only creates distance between us and God who is life.
“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”- 1 John 2:28

Continued abidance in God helps us avoid falling into shame. While condemnation destroys intimacy. It creates distance, regardless of who it’s coming from. I once had a friend who did something that could have really hurt me, and even though I forgave them pretty quickly they had a hard time letting it go. They were so consumed with their wrongdoing it created distance between us because they felt unworthy of our friendship. They feared that I saw them differently and it was easier to turn away from me to ignore the shame they felt. It broke my heart to see them carry something that I had already forgotten about. That they couldn’t believe I didn’t see them for what they did to me but for who they were and I so badly wanted them to forget about it so we could just continue to enjoy one another’s company again. I missed our friendship and that mattered far more to me than anything they did.

God used this picture to remind me it’s the same with Him. When we ask for forgiveness, it’s done. It’s finished. He forgets about it. He doesn’t see it anymore. He’s not disappointed in us. He doesn’t disprove of us and He isn’t criticizing us for past actions.

It breaks His heart when we distance ourselves from the very love that is meant to restore us. His heart yearns so much for us that Jesus didn’t just defeat death for us so we could be sinless, but so we could be perfectly reconciled in an intimate relationship  with himself where we could experience the fullness of perfect love. If God, who is Holy and perfect in every way doesn’t condemn us, then who are we to condemn ourselves?

So, if you are like me and it’s really easy to fall into a pattern of self-condemnation. I just want to encourage you with the same truths I needed to hear this week.
There is no condemnation in God’s heart towards you. God is completely in love with you. His heart yearns for you every minute of every day. He’s not angry with you. He is so proud of you. You are blameless, beautiful, precious and holy in His sight. Just like He has forgiven your wrongs already, He wants you to forgive yourself. Lay down the disappointment, the anger and the frustration  you may have been holding towards yourself and simply enjoy His heart for you today. He alone determines who is worthy of His love, and He has already decided you are worthy of it. His arms are open wide, ready to embrace you, ready to speak over you the truth of who you are and ready to lift away the load of shame that is not your inheritance as a child of God.

You are His dearly beloved one.

–Rachel Elizabeth

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” – Ephesians 1:3-10

What if We’ve Failed?

14059990_10154450388734594_1235654888_o

In a world where success is everything, it’s hard to admit failure. I’m finding even in church cultures, where the focus is so much on going after your God-given destiny with excellence it’s hard to not to feel caught in shame where you’ve experienced defeat or made a mistake.

I have failed. Many times, at a multitude of things.

I have failed in school.
I have failed with people.
I have failed with choices.
I have failed my dreams.
I have failed myself.

So many times I’ve felt like my life is more a repercussion of my failures than it is a reflection of what I’ve succeeded at. I had no idea how deeply I believed this until I realized my dreams were becoming smaller and smaller and I was fully consumed by the piled up failures in front of me. I couldn’t see beyond them and I began to define myself by them. To be totally transparent, I still struggle to see past them sometimes.

However, I have come to realize that a life full of failures isn’t the end for me, and it’s not for you either.

So, what is failure exactly?

Failure is defined as a lack of success, or the omission of an expected or required action.

So in order to understand failure, we have to know what success is.

Success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

Simply put. Failure is when we don’t accomplish something we’ve aimed to achieve.

However, our failures are always “something” we’ve failed at. It in no way speaks about who we are.

There is the one thing we can never fail at, being a dearly beloved son or daughter of God. It’s simply not up to us to decide that. The only person who can deem whether their very own creation is a failure or a success is the Creator himself. When God created humanity, he declared right from the beginning that it was good. Before Adam, Eve or any human even had a chance to succeed at anything, God loved them and He loves you. From the very first failure, when Adam and Eve chose to sin, God had a plan in mind to redeem humanity. In the same way God has a plan to redeem me, and He has a plan to redeem you. His name is Jesus.

He wants us to experience his resurrection power in the areas of our lives that feel dead. That feel empty. That feel broken. That feel sick. That feel hopeless. That’s exactly what Jesus came to do. He looks at our failures and sees a chance to redeem, a chance to heal and a chance to love us. To make something beautiful that reflects the very likeness of himself. He doesn’t identify us with our failures, he identifies us as his own beloved children who were made to do amazing things.

A wise woman, once gave me a sweet little picture of what God does with our failures. She said that when a flower dies it will fall to the ground and the several seeds inside the flower are then deposited into the soil. Far more is birthed out of the dying of that flower than could have ever been possible in the lifetime of it. But it wasn’t until the death of that flower could those seeds have a chance to flourish and grow.

I think that really is similar to what God does with us. Sometimes we need to fail, we need our dreams to die, and we need our weaknesses to be exposed. Why? Because until they do they will be only our dreams, hopes and visions. They can only grow so far with our own human limitations. But when they die, and we surrender the seeds to God. He breathes on them, and does more with them than we could have ever done on our own. When we fail, and we lay down our failures at the feet of Jesus, it is no longer ours but His and it will bear so much more fruit than it ever could have had before. Even though we can fail, He can’t. So we are in good hands.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”- John 12:24

So,what if we’ve failed?

I’s not the end for us, it’s the beginning of something far greater than we could have ever hoped or imagined. It’s here we experience resurrection power if we are willing to lay our failures at His feet. It is here we get to experience grace that is more than sufficient in our weaknesses. Our failure is another space for him to come and touch our lives in His kindness and lead us in a far more excellent way.

It’s in the recognition of who we really are, that we begin to walk in the fullness of what He has for us. We need to understand our past failures, don’t make us a failure. Our walk with God isn’t about achieving what we feel is as a successful life, but rather as we walk in close fellowship with Him we naturally begin to grow into what we were always made to be. Suddenly our biggest mistakes become the biggest testimonies of the goodness and power of God working in us. Our greatest failures become the greatest stories of victory. We are not a sum-up of our past mistakes.Your life is not built on what you’ve done, but on what God has done for you. We are a new creation. Our failures are behind us. You can move onward in perfect love and know He is working all things out for your good. What a beautiful and exciting road ahead of you!

You are not a failure. You are beloved child of the Most High King.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Cor. 5:17

A Soft and Tender Heart

large

I so admire the innocence and softness of a child’s heart. When I was young my parents intentionally placed rules and guidelines in our lives to protect these qualities in us. They were so careful with what they let our little eyes see and what our ears heard. Whether that meant covering our eyes during a “scary” scene in a movie or guarding their words in the conversations they chose to have around us. They guarded our innocence and counted the tenderness of our hearts as precious.

As we grew older, the responsibility to guard our own hearts fell on our shoulders as we were exposed to a very broken and pain-filled world. We were faced with the decision of how our hearts would respond.

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”- Ezekiel 36:26

This verse comes out of a portion of Scripture, where the Lord is telling the prophet Ezekiel what to say to the nation of Israel. Israel had forgotten about the God who loved them and chose to worship other “gods” in the surrounding nations. The love, faithfulness and goodness of God who had freed their ancestors from slavery and gave them the very land they lived in was forgotten as their hearts became increasingly hardened towards Him.

Anytime I read about the Israelite’s choosing to turn away from the Lord, I’m usually a bit confused. How does a nation go from loving and serving the Lord reverently to turning away completely? How quickly can a soft heart become stubborn and hard? Yet I have come to realize in my own experience it can happen pretty quickly.

My own heart has always been fairly sensitive and tender, as I mentioned that was something my parent’s really sought to protect when I was young. However, as I grew older I found that a soft heart was actually very counter-cultural. I grew to resent the softness of it because I was tired of the constant pain and conviction I felt when I looked at what entertained and influenced my peers or when I saw something on the news that was upsetting. I also grew tired of hearing how “sensitive” I was so eventually I decided the best method to protect my heart was to just shut down what I was feeling inside. Unfortunately, the more I pushed away emotion, the harder my heart grew and I started to feel numb inside. I started to lose my passion for people and my ability to remain present in my relationships was gone so I began to isolate myself. What I thought was protecting my heart from pain ended up resulting in a minor depression.

Thankfully, God is so gracious and he drew me out of that hard place and began to gently restore to me a soft and tender heart. However, before he could do that I had to see the value of it. I learned in the same way my parents had cherished and protected our tender hearts as children, so God loves and cherishes a soft and tender heart in us. Our hearts were never meant to be hard. He deems our hearts as precious, worthy of loving and protecting and so should we!

While it is inevitable that we will have trouble in this world, that doesn’t mean our hearts have to become hardened as a result. I really believe the counterfeit of a strong heart is a hard heart. What I mean by this is often hardness of heart is mistaken as strength. Yet, it actually takes far more strength, endurance and patience to maintain a softness of heart. A soft heart is not a weak heart. A soft heart is developed through trust and vulnerability. I think everyone has either seen or experienced how love can turn a person’s heart into mush. It’s fun watching people fall in love for that reason. As hearts begin to trust they allow their true selves to come out, and a bond of strength is developed between the two parties as they are loved in the places they never thought they could be. It’s the same with us and God. When our hearts trust him, they soften and our true selves come out as we begin to treasure who God is and who He made us to be.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. – Psalm 51:16-17

A soft and tender heart comes from a place of intimacy with God. If our hearts are hard we can’t receive love. I’ve heard intimacy defined as “into-me-you-see”. It’s the act in which you take the time to truly see into the heart of another person and invite them to see into your own.God desires honesty about the condition of hearts far more than he wants our good works. Usually when our hearts are hard in an area, it’s because we are trying to hide or protect something out of fear. Yet wherever fear exists, the love of God has not truly been perfected in us. It’s in the willingness to be weak and broken before him, we discover his grace is more than sufficient in our weaknesses. It’s in this sweet and tender place with God that we learn to trust him with our hearts. We don’t have to fear or feel the need  to protect ourselves because we have experienced the strongest of loves that is the King of all kings. This love doesn’t bow to anything, it is our safe place and it desires more than anything else that you experience the full and abundant life you were created for.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” – Proverbs 4:23

Our lifestyle speaks volumes of how much we value our hearts. I’m slowly learning that if I compromise conviction, I’m also compromising the condition of my heart. I’m not saying that means perfectly following a set of rules, but it means living a life that is honoring to the God you love. Disobedience is the fastest route to a hard heart and it hinders your ability to remain intimate with God. Personally, when I choose something other than God’s best for me, I’ve noticed my heart becomes hard because of the feelings of guilt and shame that cause me to create distance with him. Even though his heart for me always remains unchanged. Yet, he is so gracious and when we come to him honestly, He is right there. So ready to receive us with open arms and love us in our imperfection and brokenness.

Your heart is designed to be tender and responsive, and the softer it is the more you will understand your true identity as a child of God.  Your heart is is worth loving. It’s worth protecting. It’s worth seeing. It’s so precious Jesus deemed it worth dying for.

You are ever so loved!

– Rachel Elizabeth

The Gift of Singlehood

 image

Single.

The word that has one definition but carries many different meanings depending on the experience of each person. Shame, happiness, relief, pride, pain…. No matter what your experience is, for those living it, it touches a deep place inside our hearts.

To be perfectly frank, when I started this blog this is the one topic I said I would never write about (God has a good sense of humor). I don’t know why I’ve always rejected the idea of writing about it. Perhaps because it means writing from the vulnerable position I’m currently in, or I’m just a little weary of all of the attention focused on “finding the one” or “dealing with singleness” rather than embracing this season of life as a gift from God, not a trial or an epidemic that needs to be cured.

Your season of singleness is a gracious gift from God, not a punishment.

The apostle Paul really believed in the value of singleness as we can see in his letter to the  Corinthian Church.

“I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 7:33-34

While Paul was encouraging singleness, the main message of this verse is devotion. Undivided devotion. In our singleness we are empowered with more time and less distraction to devote ourselves solely to the Lord, probably more than any other time of our life. It doesn’t mean when we do eventually marry that our devotion to the Lord stops, but we have an opportunity in our singleness to press in deep and develop a lifestyle of fellowship with God on a whole new level of intimacy. It’s like when you are with someone you are romantically interested in, all you want is to be alone with that person and get to know them better. It’s amazing how when all of your attention and affection is on one person; intimacy, trust and a feeling of closeness develops quickly. God desires that same intention and devotion from us.

I believe if we poured out the same effort in our relationship with the Lord as we do in a physical relationships, we would feel much more satisfied as a result because we are doing what we’re truly made to do.

This time of our lives is a beautiful and intimate gift, and should be treasured and held sacred in our hearts.

Single doesn’t mean empty or alone.

Elizabeth Elliot in her work The Paths of Loneliness wrote:

One of the surprises in store for most brides and grooms is that they are still lonely…. Marriage teaches us that even the most intimate human companionship cannot satisfy the deepest places of the heart. Our hearts are lonely till they rest in Him who made us for Himself.

Instead of focusing on what we feel we don’t have, we need to start setting our minds on what we do have in Christ. If we are truly in the market for love, we will find it in Him. The reality is a relationship will not fill the loneliness in our hearts, those places are far too large to be satisfied by anything the world could offer us. They were designed to be touched by Him and Him alone. You were made to be loved right here and right now. He alone can satisfy the longing of your dear heart.

There is no shame in being single.

I’ll be honest, I never have felt ashamed of my relationship status before the Lord. However before those around me, absolutely. Those comments of “I can’t believe you’re still single” or “maybe your just supposed to marry later” and any other attempts to console me used to really shake me up and question my confidence in the Lord. I went into those conversations feeling fine, but left feeling like something was wrong with me. I started to get really defensive about my singleness and wanted to prove I was indeed fine- just as I was. Though the intentions of those who spoke those words into me were pure, I allowed those conversations to plant seeds of insecurity and doubt. Then one day that all changed at a conference in Orange County, I was getting ready to defend myself after revealing to another married woman that I was indeed single. But her face immediately lit up and before I could say a word she said “Wow! What a remarkable and beautiful time in your life to freely pursue the calling God has entrusted to you.” That moment changed my perspective and helped me work through the shame that had been deposited through those lies. It was never an issue of me not being beautiful, talented or good enough, but everything to do with the purposes God had for my life in that moment- and it’s the very same for you.

If you’re single, I just want to encourage you with those same words…

What a remarkable and beautiful time in your life to freely pursue the unique and amazing calling God has entrusted to you alone! What a gift this season of singleness is that God has blessed you with to get to know His heart so well and become a beacon of light and love to those around you. What a privilege it is that you are empowered with this time to devote yourself solely to the Lord! You are loved and chosen by Him and were created for such a time as this. Enjoy this time, treasure it close in your heart. It won’t be forever, treat it as the gift that it is. God has good things in store for you because that’s just His nature.

You are ever so loved!

–Rachel Elizabeth

 

Running The Distance

young healthy lifestyle woman running at sunrise beach

When I was a child, running seemed so exhilarating. I would sprint up and down the block just for the sake of it. Even if I was out of breath, the fun of figuring out just how fast and how far I could go without stopping was far to enticing to give up. I looked forward to the day when my legs would be longer and I would be allowed to run farther (or simply be allowed to cross the street).

Lately, I’ve taken up running again. And I’ve notice my perspective has shifted since then. The challenge that once encouraged me to “train harder” so I could go farther, didn’t really hold the same weight. Even though my legs are longer and I’m now allowed to cross the street (thank goodness). I found myself settling. Settling for goals that made sense with what I felt I could accomplish.

One day as I was running in the park, about to hit my next “mark” where I would then stop and walk for awhile; I heard a still small voice say “why stop now when you’re capable of going so much farther”. So instead of stopping I kept running, and running and running. Lo and behold, I was able to run faster and further than I had ever attempted before. I was blown away at how strong and empowered my body was to run the distance. Even though it was hard, and I was pretty out of breath I realized in that moment that I had allowed a poor mindset of what I felt I  was capable of doing to determine the distance I went.

I believe this is a relevant parallel to many of our lives. I’m so guilty of setting “goals” that only challenge a portion of my potential. A portion of my God-given strengths and abilities. A portion of my faith. It’s not that portions are not a bad thing, Jesus talked about how small portions of faith can amount to great impact. However, it’s when that “portion” becomes a box that we live out of it becomes a problem.

Why would we settle for a portion when we’ve been promised the whole thing (John 10:10)? This happens when we make decisions based off of what we think we are capable of verses what God has actually said about us. We run the same path over and over again because it doesn’t push us out of the borders of insecurity we’ve allowed ourselves to become trapped in. The issue with staying within these borders is that eventually we stop developing endurance because we are no longer being challenged. Yet it’s in the endurance that we become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:4). The word “endurance” in this verse in James is translated from the Greek noun hypomonē. Which is defined as the characteristic of someone who will not be swerved from his or hers loyalty to the faith even under the greatest trails and sufferings. It’s when we refuse to allow insecurity and our circumstances to “swerve” us away from our understanding of God that enables us to go onward. It’s the core truths of who we really are in God’s eyes that encourage us to keep on running.

When we come into a relationship with Jesus, our identity is now a reflection of Him. If this is true, shouldn’t our dreams, goals and passions reflect Him as well?  In Him, we have a strength that goes beyond ourselves to run further and harder for the things of the kingdom than we realize.

I would encourage you to ask the Lord today:

Where has he empowered you to run in this season of your life?

What truth about who you are is He wanting to encourage you with to keep going?

Let him determine your distance based off of who he made you to be. Don’t sell yourself short of what you are actually capable of. For God loves you dearly and made you with a unique call and destiny that only you were made to complete. You are empowered by His presence in you to run and finish the race he has called you too! The best part- He is running the race alongside with you, cheering you on all the way!

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.”

Philippians 3:12-15 THE MSG