End of July Challenge: Making Space

freedom

I quit my job this summer.

It feels crazy to even write that sentence. For years, I felt consumed by my job. I was working in a very high-stress social services position. The sacrifices I made for my job were many: social, time, financial, and (unfortunately) even spiritual. Don’t get me wrong – it was a calling for a certain time. But then the Lord gave me the peace and the wisdom that it was time to let go and hand over the reins to someone else.

By letting go of one thing, I have opened myself to other opportunities.  I’m ready to make space for other aspects of myself that a high-stress, full-time job simply did not leave the time or energy for.

Space is scary. Space means emptiness. Yet that same scary emptiness is bringing me hope. That space can be filled up by my Savior. That space will give me the time to hear the still, small voice. The God I serve can show me new ways to serve with that space. Finally, I can even focus more on my writing! That space and the changes in my life could even allow a special relationship to blossom. Only God knows the great things that could happen, if we would only allow some space in our lives!

Creating space can be difficult. Most of us have a tendency to fill up our time. Like me, we can get so focused on one thing – even one that we see as a calling – that we forget to still give ourselves space to grow in multiple dimensions.

Empty space has a way of forcing us to face ourselves. Empty space brings unknowns. I believe that empty space is necessary as we move onto new steps in our lives and discern what God is asking of us. Space is necessary for growth.

I’m taking the risk and creating space in my life. Yes, it’s scary, but I’m also feeling freedom and new waves of hope in my life. I’m eager to see what God will show me as I create empty space in my life.

Are you ready to see what the Holy Spirit could do in your life, when you allow some empty space?

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio.  I am a Master’s student studying to become a counselor.  My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

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Finding Space…from Church

church

The social media without a doubt is a great platform to share, express, inform or even be inspired, but it also brings out an unspoken expectation on how we should be, should have or should achieve. It seems to preach its own agenda and has its devotees grappling in search for approval through the number of ‘likes’ and to a certain extent defining (or redefining) culture. The awesome places others visited, the picture perfect family/ couple, new homes, snippets of moments in conferences where he/ she is invited to speak or lead worship, and let’s not forget the unforgettable proposal story. There was a season I felt suffocated by the tsunami of news feed that I decided to take a one month break from Facebook. Guess what? I survived!

Church is no different.  As a Christian, what if I feel overwhelmed by church because I’m not ‘there’ yet?

Yes, you heard me right. About 2 years ago when I was still working in a law firm in my hometown (Kota Kinabalu, Sabah), church ministry (i.e. being actively involved in church activities) for me included worship leading, hosting weekly bible study group, being a council member and for a short term as the honorary secretary of the Anglican Diocese of Sabah – all these were in a span of 7 years prior to relocating to Kuala Lumpur. I was ready to relinquish all those in view of a new season in life and thought I would quickly regain my ministry in the new city and new church that I decided to attend. As you can guess, it did not happen as I expected.

Today, I am still figuring out how I will fit in, in this new church. Since moving, I struggled with the restlessness of not being involved in church ministry. I drowned in the sea of the congregation of people that I hardly know. I felt lost.

So, I decided to retreat and give space – to allow myself to accept the Timmie who does not lead any groups or hold any leadership position, and just be Timmie. Giving myself the space allowed room for reflection, clarity and growth.

I came to realize that the one person who doesn’t need space even though I need space from Him (or His Church) is our Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit. In my season now being free from church ministry I am able to internalise the fact that I am still worthy of God’s love, I am still approved by Him and His love for me has never changed.

I am reminded of the story of a fierce battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal and was in a run for his life from Jezebel (read 1 Kings 19 and 20). Elijah had to take a breather: he struggled with the purpose that God had for him and the reality of the persecution – he needed time off from the craziness of life. To a lesser extent, that’s how I feel about my season now.

But just as God refreshed Elijah, He constantly assures me through the scriptures and a few close friends that I am still loved and accepted for just being me. I realize that though I may need some time off from church ministry per se, I do not have to create that space between me and God.  God closes the space between Him and I with His loving assurance. I am reminded by what Christine Caine (international speaker and bestselling author) said – that our goal in life is not how much we can do for God but how much like HIM we have become. The same principle is applicable in our careers, personal lives and finances.

I pray that you’ll be assured of a loving God who cares for you no matter the season you are in.

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NKJV)

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

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timmie-liew Timmie

Hello, my name is Timmie and I’m from Malaysia. I am a lawyer by profession. I am a charismatic, passionate person and enjoy beautiful things in life such as travelling to different cities to appreciate the culture. I love fashion and appreciate ‘coffee time’ with people to talk about life and build meaningful relationships. I’m passionate about the things of God, the Church and authentic leadership. My deepest desire is to embrace all that God has called me to be and be a blessing to whoever that God has placed in my life past, present and future. Our God is a GREAT God, and the best is yet to come !🙂

Five Things We Should All Stop Doing (and I mean now)

heart book

Sigh.  I miss the good old days.  When we could leave our cell phones, our (un)social media, and our myriad of electronic devices at home without going into a total panic.  I mean, we could actually spend an entire day having conversations with actual people and needed to have pocket change if we wanted to engage in non-face-to-face interactions.

But no.  Not today.  Today we have the opinions of every idiot, smart person, and ‘expert’ being constantly downloaded into our spirit.  We pretend as if continuously being fed the opinions and images of others won’t hurt us, but that in itself is a dangerous assumption.

And no one has change.  Ever.

It’s no different when it comes to dating.  We listen to our hearts, our thoughts, our friends, our family, our Instagram feeds with their #relationshipgoals, Google, our *ahem* baby making organs, and possibly even these blog posts.

Allowing these things to influence my decisions in the past (and also the present) has only crowded out God’s best for me.  And possibly yours too.  So here’s a list of the top five things I’ve lended an ear to that I think it’s time we give the boot.  A “Don’t Do This” sort of list, if you will:

1) Don’t listen to your feelings.  Your feelings are about as truthful and trustworthy as a 2-star rated Uber driver with no seat belts.  Would you climb into that car?  Then don’t you dare ride your feelings into a relationship without the peace of the holy spirit.

2) Don’t listen your heart.  This may seem counterintuitive.  The world is constantly telling you to listen to your heart.  Follow your heart. But the word tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9).  Ouch.  And your Father made your heart, so he understands everything you do (Psalm 33:15).  When our hearts are full, we can sometimes act without thinking.  Rash things are bad and prickly on your body, and also on the heart.  Don’t scratch that itch.

3) Don’t listen to your thoughts.  Your thoughts tell you you’ll be single forever. Your thoughts tell you you’re lonely.  Your thoughts give you ideas about how to manipulate your way down the aisle.  Your thoughts open the heart to lies and the whispers from the enemy.  Let’s not live our life based on only what we think of ourselves, but what our Father thinks of us instead.  We are loved.  We are desired.  And we are constantly being pursued.

4) Don’t listen to your sex drive.  I feel like this one is pretty self explanatory.  But just in case it needs further clarification, pre-marital sex clouds your judgement.  It causes you to stay in relationships longer than you should.  It makes babies.  It causes you to start relationships that should’ve stayed in the mud because you have a “connection.”  Honey, that “connection” is a soul tie and it will drag you, chained and bound, all the way to a broken heart.  For further reflection on lusty things, reference #2.

5)  Don’t listen to everything you read on the interwebs.  You do realize that anybody can have a webpage, right?  And everything we read is filtered through someone else’s life experiences and biases and made to look perfect for their benefit.  Not for His glory.  I even expect you to scripture check and comment below if you feel like this post gets your spirit of discernment all in a tizzy.  Just make sure that discernment is still on guard when scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or following the links to the latest “how to keep your man” advice from Cosmo.

But what if we truly listened to the guidance of the holy spirit?  When Christ physically left this earth, he did not leave us to fend for ourselves.  But for some reason, most of us are flailing about our single life (and married life) as if the Advocate’s voice doesn’t exist.

We end our prayers acknowledging the trinity, but live and behave as if God is a duo.  Or worse yet, a solo act.  And those thoughts only succeed at making God small, shortening his reach to the clouds above, and limiting his kingdom to heaven.

From what I remember, we are called to bring his kingdom down to earth.  Through how we love, how we live our life as a single person, and how we display the agape love of Christ in our marriages.  And you can’t do that without making space for the holy spirit in every single second of your day.  Every single one.

So step into your purpose as a single as if your confidence, beauty, and marital status were in the hands of a loving Father.  Receive the grace and forgiveness for your past mistakes as if Jesus, the Son, actually died for them.  And continue to make room for the gentle whispers (and sometimes hard face punches) of the holy spirit as if he actually exists.

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you]…But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth].”

John 16:7, 13 (AMP….emphasis mine)

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roz Roz

Hey there!  My name is Roz.  I’m a full time working, single, homeschooling mother to the world’s funniest 5 year old on the planet.  I’m an introvert who is obsessed with bacon.  I like to play music extremely loudly in my car and will keep singing at full voice even when you turn to stare.  I also blog occasionally over at beautyfullyflawedblog.wordpress.com where I write words about Jesus, homeschooling, and the beauty of imperfections.  I look forward to sharing my imperfections with you, as well.

July Challenge: Finding Space

sunset

In the midst of searching for a life partner, the last thing that we think we want is space.  We want togetherness, a shared life, part of a pair.  Space, after all, is what we think we already have.

But space is not just physical, but psychological.  How are you finding space from the expectations of the world?  How are you giving yourself both space and grace to be yourself as an individual?  Are you currently trapped in daily fears that you will never find the right one?  Do you run from relationship to relationship, always defining yourself by whoever you are dating?

Once you are in a marriage, psychological space becomes no less important. How do you keep your independence, your identity?  Who are you, separate from the relationship?

In the midst of a highly stressful job myself, I have been seeking space in the form of reading about simplicity, mindfulness, and contemplation.  I want to carve out a space for myself where I can find peace and calm, not bouncing from one stressful situation to the next.  I cannot control external circumstances, but I hope I can create an inner oasis and recognize the external for what it is – fleeting.

As we will see from the verses this month, Jesus too needed space, and God calls us to set ourselves apart from the world.  Space is a spiritual practice in many ways that allows room for God to move in us.

This month, we challenge you to create space in your life, whether physical, psychological, or spiritual.  Intentionally create that space and ask the Holy Spirit to fill it.  By the end of this month, hopefully we will all be more centered in our own selves, more connected to God, and more free of the stress of the world.  Best wishes for July!

 

Take a Chance

Doing something new gives me a sense of adventure and zest for life. That said, my version of doing something new is coupled with a sense of purpose that brings about positive impact. Here is what I have learned about the adventure of trying new things!

You discover something new about yourself, or at least you owe it to yourself to take embark on that experience.

Raised in Malaysia and born to a Chinese family, nurturing creative skills are rarely a priority. In general, Chinese Malaysian families would spend a large part of their savings on their children’s education to become a doctor, engineer or lawyer. Parents hardly show interest in their child’s creative development.

Recently I had the appetite to explore my artistic side (or the lack thereof) by joining a community of art enthusiasts who meet a few times a month to join classes such as water color painting, classic and modern calligraphy, flower arranging and even acrylic painting.

Yours truly joined a class that taught me how to make leather travel notebook and a travel bracelet. It was an interesting activity and I surprised even myself with quite a satisfactory outcome (check out the picture below).

timmie art

Learning new things open doors to other opportunities.

If you have ever watched the chick flick comedy, ‘White Chicks,’ you will definitely know who Terry Crews is. A former American football player turned actor, he said the following statement during an interview which I thought to be motivational: “… as I kept trying new things, new doors kept opening.” After retiring from football, Crews did security for a while, went broke for a while and people thought he would fail. He then moved to Los Angeles and become an actor and has been doing that for 15 years. He has indeed made a name for himself as an actor in Hollywood.

Trying new things shows that you are open to growth.

More than coming out from the comfort zone, trying new things conveys the message that the individual is open to growth. Willingness to try new things (i.e. activities that bring about positive impact whether to the individual or people around) can be life-giving and refreshing.

If you ask me why should we be intentional about trying something new on a regular basis, it’s because life is too short for us to succumb to mundane, repetitive, boring lives. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to give us life and to have it to the full (John 10:10). What does living a life to the fullest mean to you?

If I may suggest, try doing something that is out of your ordinary routine this season. Perhaps learn a new skill set? (e.g. cooking class, painting, pottery) or maybe embark on a fitness journey? (Pilates, running, jungle tracking, strength training) or being intentional in showing kindness to people around you by bringing a family member out for coffee to catch up, paying for a meal for a homeless man, or sign up to be involved/ serve on a consistent basis in a charitable organization.

I pray that the Lord will guide you in your endeavor in trying something new that would change something within you and impact the people around you.

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timmie-liew Timmie

Hello, my name is Timmie and I’m from Malaysia. I am a lawyer by profession. I am a charismatic, passionate person and enjoy beautiful things in life such as travelling to different cities to appreciate the culture. I love fashion and appreciate ‘coffee time’ with people to talk about life and build meaningful relationships. I’m passionate about the things of God, the Church and authentic leadership. My deepest desire is to embrace all that God has called me to be and be a blessing to whoever that God has placed in my life past, present and future. Our God is a GREAT God, and the best is yet to come !🙂

Comfort Zone

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And Peter answered Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.”- Matthew 14:28-29 (ESV)

What does your comfort zone look like?

Some design their zones with a red carpet, blazing lime lights, and velvet ropes fastened on platinum pillars. Some construct theirs with brick walls, a steel roof, and a narrow doorway. Others complete their zones with a rose petal carpet, diaphanous curtains, and a smoky pink haze.

Mine is a sphere that’s coated in two-way mirrored glass. People can look in the sphere and see themselves but not what’s inside.  The interior of the sphere, however, is soft carpet where I sit on a huge grape colored cushion. And beside the cushion is a remote where I can decide if I want to weaken the reflective coating to reveal what’s inside.

We like familiarity. Things we know feel safe and cozy and comfortable.  But the Lord triggers our growth by moving us away from the known.

A few years ago, my sphere was divinely shattered when I received an e-mail. I reread it, blinked, and read it again.  I had just been invited to a company luncheon with a handful of other co-workers. It was a free meal with a group of friendly people.

And I was scared of going.

As the dictionary definition of an introvert, the idea of making small talk with colleagues, some of whom I see maybe once a month, made me queasy. What if I embarrass myself? What if I say the wrong thing? What if they don’t like me?

But since there were no loopholes I could escape through, I forced myself to accept the invitation. And it turned out to be a golden decision. While at the luncheon, I clicked with a co-worker, Jenole. In the days following, we had lively conversations that were encouraging and at times, very challenging. She’d periodically push me to try new things that garnered great surprising results, successes that wouldn’t have happened had I played it comfortable.

God used that simple luncheon to show me how my comfort zone, while feeling wonderful to me, was stifling my faith. How can we see how big our Father truly is if we only want Him to stay inside of our boundary lines?

Taking that first step outside of your life lane is scary. The ground quivers like jelly beneath you.  For me, it was conversation with new people. Maybe for you, it’s leaving your job to start a new career. Or accepting your friend’s offer to set you up on a blind date. Or pursuing your degree in a field you’ve always been interested in. But if you remember that God is ordering every one of your footsteps, including those that are directing you away from the familiar, the jelly will turn to solid rock.

Fear, Joy, and Change

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This year, 2017, has set me on a journey of newness. Ever since I was a senior in high school, the thought of becoming a counselor entered my mind on and off. I made the excuse that becoming a counselor wasn’t my calling. Yet in reality, it was my fear that kept me from pursuing my calling.

Last year, God confirmed to me in different ways that it was time to start the journey to becoming a counselor. I couldn’t shake that this was where He was leading me—my weaknesses and all. With excitement and a tinge of nervousness, I made the plunge into graduate school this January. I survived my first semester of school while also working full-time.

He’s put a renewed spirit within me, and I’ve found tremendous joy in this new journey and reflecting on where it will lead. I look at the number of credits needed to complete this program (60!), which includes an internship and practicum. The number of credits and the amount of time it will take is daunting, but I also see grace. I see the reward beyond the trial.

This new journey creates a path for me to lean on my Savior even more strongly, an adventure in which I will discover even more the person He created me to be.

The end of the journey will bring fulfillment into my own life. Eventually, I hope that it will also allow flexibility to have a career and take care of a family. This new career will allow me to journey with others on the road to healing, one of my heart’s greatest desires. The tremendous need for counselors is evident to me, especially counselors rooted in Christ. New options are opening up with this career path, new ways to serve others.

This “new thing” in my life is definitely out of my comfort zone. In every way, I am stretched to greater trust in God and even faith in my God-given gifts and capabilities. Trying a new thing or changing course in life can come with great fear. Some stay put where they are simply because the thought of venturing into the unknown is too uncomfortable. Change is not comfortable. I’m learning the true meaning of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The path is long and overwhelming when I don’t focus on Him who called me.

In this new adventure, I’m trusting in the Lord’s goodness and His grace. I can’t wait to continue on this new journey and to discover where it will lead.

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio. I am a case manager for refugee mothers. My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.