Seasons

autumn

The foliage of an oak tree is an ordinary sight in springtime. But a searing summer afternoon is what turn its shade into rare relief. In the winter months, cold air is shunned and cursed as people bundle up. But in the summer, that same arctic chill is hunted and chased by the same people who wished for its end.  Seasons are like that. They enable you to appreciate what was formerly overlooked and make you grateful for what you wouldn’t have otherwise.

I’m in what I would call a tetherball season.  Imagine a ball made of anxiety and doubt, with some teaspoons of fear thrown in for good measure.  Anxiety about our leaders and the world. Doubt about my professional life. Fear about the future. The ball is floating and bouncing on a rocky midnight blue sea. But the size of the ball is dwarfed by the magnitude of the chain attached to it. The thick metal links are fused to a pole in the center of the body of water. So, though the sea tosses and turns the ball over and over, it can never drift away from the anchor.

“God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

-Hebrews 6:18-20

I already knew that God is mighty and securely holds us in His hands. But lately, His daily assurance has been powering my days.  And the security of His word keeps my heart at peace. Only by being in this particular season can I say that I am truly grateful for His strength.

Maybe in a season of loneliness, you cherish His love. Or in a period of doubt, His faithfulness soothes you. Sometimes, going through something will allow you to completely treasure, enjoy, and be thankful for all of who God is.

In your season of life, what about God are you grateful for?

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Jennifer Jen

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 32 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-).

In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin.

I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well.

I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!

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Strength in Scripture

bible3

In the past 3 months, I have undergone too many life transitions to even list here. Certain situations in life felt hopeless.  I was unsure if they would ever change; there seemed to be no change to the patterns.

In the midst of my uncertainties and mind battles, the Lord is planting certain Scriptures on my heart. These Scriptures are giving me strength to press on. When I felt hopeless and as if those aspects of my life wouldn’t change, Psalm 118:17 sprang into my heart: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.”

I began to recite the verse to myself often, especially when the difficulties reared their head. No matter how difficult life seemed, I will live through it. Even greater, I will live to testify to God’s great works! Someday, I will be able to tell how God’s mighty hand turned my circumstances around.

This is just one example of God’s Word being strength to me. There are other verses that have been given to me during other difficult situations. God’s Word is “alive and active.” (Hebrews 4:12)  The Word is becoming nourishment for my mind and heart in each circumstance of my life.

I am coming to a greater appreciation of Scripture, especially for life’s difficult situations. If we are rooted in Scripture, we can dig deep and find power in God’s Word when trials come.  It is working for our good and can provide whatever we need. But like any superfood, it can’t take effect unless we have taken it into our body!

At all times, we need to make Scripture reading a priority. In the times when life is great and we believe we’re super successful…To God be the glory! Praise and thank Him, and make sure you’re reading His love letters to you. When difficulties inevitably come, you’ll be able to dig deep into those times of reading Scripture. By God’s grace, you will have a store of spiritual “vitamin C” to keep you strong. Your remembrance and continued reading of Scripture will sustain you.

It’s easy to put off reading the Bible, or to only listen to it at church once a week. But it is strength to our lives. It is a big aspect of what roots us in the Lord. We keep our focus on Christ when we are reading the Word, in both good and bad times. When troubles come, we will find great strength in being rooted. The Word teaches us God’s goodness and faithfulness to us. Make learning and loving Scripture a priority. You won’t regret it.

What passage or verse has helped you in a time of difficulty?

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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.

Cookie Cutter Faith

cookie cutter

As a child, I remember marveling at the explanation for the term, “one size fits all.” A sweatshirt that can fit anyone of any size? What sort of enchanted fabric is this and where can I get it?

Of course, when I matured, I realized that the term is terribly specious. It can indeed fit all but it may be very baggy on one person or too tight on another. 100% perfect fits are the aberration, not the norm.

I was reminded of this during a Bible study session recently. During one particular section, my pastor imparted that there is no unanimous method for spiritual growth. Author Gary Thomas says it this way: “[There are] four elements essential to worship: adoration, communication with God, Scripture reading and service….But here’s the key: How we pray, how we worship and how we study God’s Word will differ.”

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. God did not use cookie cutters to create us.  We were created using a medley of varying gifts, desires, personalities, and idiosyncrasies.  And we were all made to fulfill a different purpose for Him.  So if no one person is exactly the same, why would we relate to God and Him to us in the exact same way?

The diversity of worship and relationships with God is present throughout Scripture. David wrote psalm after psalm filled with praise and exaltation for the Lord. Martha provided care and served the Lord. Elijah routinely and vocally opposed all work against the Lord and His purpose.  And though He loved them both, in John 20, Jesus deals with Mary and Thomas’s contact with Him in different ways.  In verses 16-17, Mary’s motion toward Him was gently denied. According to commentaries, Mary’s joy would have caused her to cling too long. She needed to understand that Jesus was not ascending immediately.  In verses 24-27, Thomas was urged to touch the scars in His flesh. Thomas’s doubt needed to be irrevocably destroyed. He needed to see and feel proof that Jesus is alive. Different people with different relationships with the same God.

When you take time to pray and study the word of God​ ​this week, I encourage​ you​ to also take this spiritual temperament quiz.  Discover in what ways you relate to God and how it can help pave your path to spiritual maturity.

Which spiritual temperament are you? How do you see it influencing your relationship with God and how you worship Him?

Managing Conflict Through WhatsApp?

smartphone

Recently I had to visit the U.S. Embassy here in Kuala Lumpur and scheduled an early 7.30AM Wednesday morning interview as part of my U.S. Visa application. As such, I had to arrive very early at about 6.30AM to park my car at the office precinct where the office building is to catch an Uber to the Embassy.

Prior to all these practical arrangements i.e. a day before my interview, I texted someone from the workplace (let’s call her Jane) who has the parking attendant’s contact number in order that I may arrange to pass my car key to a trusted colleague to re-park my car into the office building as the entrance to the car park only opens at 7AM.

So the day came, I still have not received a reply. Fortunately, I met one of the many security guards of the building whom I am familiar with, and knew I could trust that he would pass my car keys to the intended person.

The whole day went by; I still have not received any response from Jane. While I know that Jane is of a senior citizen age, she was probably busy and maybe outstation, I decided to wait for a response. I still wanted the parking attendant’s contact in view of any necessary arrangements in future. Long story short, in the evening I saw that my text was read (thank you WhatsApp), but there was no response. I then politely replied by asking Jane if she was busy as I also saw that she posted some WhatsApp messages in another chat group.

Well, being the lawyer that I am – and a bit of a risk taker, I proceeded to let her know in a nice way that it was not encouraging (my precise word) to have read my text and not give a reply. Behold, Jane’s response was rather disappointing. She did say that it was not easy to have wifi access (fine) but (surprise, surprise!) managed to response with limited wifi access reprimanding me that I lacked respect, furthermore that I only respect people in ‘higher authority’. Whoa!

Taking a step back in this whole scenario, I reminded myself of a few things.

#1 To first address the ‘plank’ in my eyes: although I took the route of addressing the fact that Jane did not reply my text. I reminded myself to not do the same to others to give the benefit of doubt just in case the individual genuinely sought help or information. To have some self-reflection to avoid being bitter and judgmental. Instead prayerfully to allow God through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit or through scriptures to give insights on my own heart (basically to search my heart).

#2 To give grace and envision what kind of ‘older woman’ that I want to be: no matter how old or young we are, it is always an emotionally healthy practice to get rid to the superiority or entitlement attitude. Moreover if we are in the community of Christ – Jane is someone who attends our office Christian Fellowship, thus I thought I could rely on her to assist not only in providing information – if not, to have at least the courtesy to leave a short reply.

#3 To build and not tear down: instead of actually providing the parking attendant’s contact, Jane’s reply was an accusatory sweeping statement, not encouraging at all, which I vehemently reject. The focus was not to assist but to reprimand, which I thought was such a waste of time.

#4 People are weird (and yeah, you may think that I am too): but this does not justify for us to be discourteous, especially to people that we meet on a consistent basis (as a matter of fact to everyone).

Reflecting on this particular scenario got me thinking about how we are to carry ourselves.

  • Do we put others first in our thoughts, words and deeds?
  • Instead of waiving your index finger at others, why not take the approach of leading by example?
  • Instead of demanding respect, why not consider that others want to be respected too – that it goes both ways?

In conclusion, I hold these verses close to my heart. Philippians 2: 3-4 (NIV)Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

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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 !🙂

The Absurd Stages of Anger

barbie

So ladies. It’s time we had a talk. Just a little, tiny talk about our anger. Or maybe it’s just a talk about my anger. Who knows. Either way, follow along.

You know those times when you’re super mad at your man-friend? When you’re absolutely boiling hot over the way they’ve hurt you or done you wrong. Whether big or small. Life changing or petty. You will have some sort of reaction.

Well. I know myself. And my self reacts in what I’ll call The Absurd Stages of Anger.

First, comes The Calm. It is capitalized like a cheesy book title because it’s about as dramatic and silly as straight-to-DVD movie. I get all worked up on the inside about something (in)significant – a quiet despite the internal storm. You might even call it the silent treatment. It is the appearance of thinly veiled peace with a hint of sarcasm and shade.

It is Stupid. With a capital S. Because most men you’re getting to know through dating have no idea you’re even mad in the first place. Which serves to make us madder. And then leads to the next stage.

The Verbose Volcano. Basically this means that after I’ve stewed over the (in)significant event for a considerable time, I spew all the words and anger and feelings and thoughts that I’ve had about them dating back to 1989. A time before I even knew the man in question.

I tell them how I hated that one time they didn’t open the door for me on December 12, 2016. And of course the time they cut off all of Holiday Barbie’s hair when we were in the 2nd grade. That’s a collector’s item for goodness sake!

Wait. That wasn’t even him.

It doesn’t matter. In The Absurd Stages of Anger, he is still at fault for all bad things that come to mind.

And this, ladies, is where the stages culminate. In confusion. With no solution. You’re still mad. He still hasn’t figured out why. And he’s also possibly questioning your sanity.

You’ve all seen The Absurd Stages of Anger. You may have been victims of it. You’ve all done it. And if you claim you haven’t done it, you’re probably lying. Because we all know it’s easier to harbor conflict within ourselves than it is to deal with it head on, in the moment.

In-the-moment conflict management is hard work and effort that I just don’t want to put forth as an adult. I have enough things to manage in my daily life. I’d rather not add conflict to my list of things to manage at all if you know what I mean.

That would require doing things that most humans don’t like very much. You know. Really hard things like letting go of our pride, admitting our wrongs, walking in gentleness and meekness, and relying on the Holy Spirit to tame our tongues.

And this makes conflict management even harder because we’re so used to relying on ourselves, on how society tells us to manage conflict.

We’ve been told our egos are what have protected us, our faults are the equivalent of weakness, strength means death to meekness, and winning the argument is all that matters.

But doesn’t God tell us that He is our protector and our shield? That His strength is made perfect in our weakness? That the fruits of the spirit are gentleness and self control? That He is in literal, spiritual, and physical opposition to the proud? That He will fight our battles for us and we only need to be still?

And what a relief that is. What freedom there is in knowing that a terrible quarreler like me doesn’t have to quarrel at all. That if He’s on my side, I can face conflict head on or even choose to let insignificant things go in love.

Because some things just don’t matter as much when your ego has left the building. What’s left to bruise or offend? And the things that do matter can be handled with grace and vulnerability to show the other that even if they’re wrong for cutting off all of Holiday Barbie’s hair, you still care about them. And vengeance is the Lord’s.

Just kidding. Don’t actually say that.

Can you recall a time you gave someone you were dating the silent treatment? What was the result?

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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 beautyfullyflawed.com where I write words about Jesus, homeschooling, and the beauty of imperfections.  I look forward to sharing my imperfections with you, as well.

August Challenge: Taming the Tongue!

tongue

This isn’t my favorite, I’m not gonna lie.

All my life I have struggled with my tongue.  Saying the right thing.  Not saying the wrong thing.  Slipping up and saying the wrong thing anyway.  Half the time purposefully.

In my younger years, I was known for being sarcastic.  Didn’t really care if it was hurtful if I could get some laughs from others.  (Never mind if it was really because I felt insecure myself, putting others down to draw attention away from my own flaws.)

Then I became a Christian.  It was far from an overnight transition, but slowly my words became sweeter.  I would think about the impact on others before I spoke.  I realized that my sarcastic jokes actually hurt my friends and I stopped making them.

This change made a huge difference in my relationships.  In the past, thinking I was oh-so-hilarious, I would make the same sarcastic jokes with guys, and then wonder why they didn’t reciprocate my affections.  Wasn’t I hysterical?  Didn’t they get the joke?  Probably they did.  But they didn’t want to spend time around someone from whom every other word was harsh.

When I met my husband, I knew I needed a different strategy.  He is a sweet guy who, like anyone, appreciates kind words and encouragement, not jokes at his expense.  I try to be his biggest cheerleader and affirm him at every opportunity that I can (full disclosure: he still thinks I’m sarcastic, so I guess I have some ways to go).

Score one for relationships, but oh boy, work is a whole other matter.  I get angry and frustrated.  It rises up within me like a tidal wave and I find myself going from zero to sarcastic in less than 60 seconds.   I am right.  They are wrong.  How can they not see it?  Are they stupid?  Do they just want to make my life difficult?

See, taming the tongue is really an issue with its root in the sin of pride.  It is putting our feelings – our sense of justice or our desire to be seen as “funny,” our belief in our own rightness or our belief that our right to free speech matters more than someone else’s right to not be hurt – ahead of everything else.  We are so wrapped up in our emotions that we can’t see beyond them to someone else’s point of view.

To draw a contrast, Jesus did not get sarcastic.  He got angry, but in His anger, He did not let the sin of pride overwhelm Him.  He did not let emotions get the best of Him, or let his anger become a personal attack on others.  He was controlled and measured in His response, always remembering empathy and caring, even when He was persecuted.

I confess that I am not there.  But I want to be.

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.