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How God Blesses and Uses Our Imperfection 

How God Blesses and Uses Our Imperfection 

I’m backstage on the set of American Idol, and I am absolutely terrified. Tens of millions will be watching tonight’s live show, and my nerves are shot. Simply breathing is difficult. I’m sweating, and my legs are trembling. 

I softly sing a Rich Mullins classic—“Hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf.” 

In a few minutes I will be escorted to the Idol stage to perform. While I’m waiting I wonder, Why in the world have I gotten myself into this? All my dreams are right in front of me, but one misstep could cost me everything. 

The pressure has been building steadily, to the point where I’m having borderline panic attacks before each show. It’s been this way for a few weeks now, and it’s not getting any better. Finally, the most wonderful woman in the world decides she’s seen enough. My wife looks at me with all the love she can muster. The conversation goes something like this: 

“Phil, you need to know that this is pride,” Kendra says. “It’s eating away at you, and you need to get rid of it or it will destroy you.” 

I’m perplexed. “If this were pride,” I reply, “I’d have at least some measure of confidence. What you’re seeing right now is humility!” 

“No, Phil. This is you being worried about how you come across on television because you want everyone to think you’re good. But this isn’t about you. There were thousands of auditions this year, and most of them were good. But those other singers aren’t here. You are. And I imagine the only way that’s possible is because God has prepared a way for you to be here. “Seems to me that He has a purpose in all this. Seems to me that it’s in His hands.

And if you can fully trust Him, you’ll stop worrying about how good you look and just start enjoying the ride. If you get eliminated, God has opened doors for you. If you make it through, God has opened doors for you. Either way, God will give you the grace to do whatever’s necessary to accomplish His purpose.” 

Not only was Kendra right, her words immediately gave me a sense of peace. It wasn’t about me. I’d bought into the idea that I was born for this, that this was my big shot. But my life was not in the hands of the American Idol judges— Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul. My life was not in the hands of the millions of viewers—voters!—tuning in at home.

My life was in the hands of a loving heavenly Father who was fully capable of giving me supernatural singing abilities if He chose to do so. He was also capable of extending my run for no other reason than to use my Idol experience for His glory. 

I know that He did use me. I received countless messages from Idol fans telling me how one performance or another moved them in some way. But my favorite message had very little to do with me. The woman who wrote to me was a Navy wife. She and her husband were on the brink of divorce, and one of the few times the two of them were in the same room together, they were watching American Idol. Since I was also in the Navy at the time, she was rooting for me. Unfortunately, this particular episode was not one of my best moments. It was actually quite terrible. She recalled how Simon Cowell was dumbfounded by my whole performance. 

That’s when an Idol camera focused on a woman in the audience. Kendra has a beautiful smile, and apparently she was beaming as she made eye contact with me from the crowd. The image cut back to me, but I wasn’t looking at Simon while he delivered his critique. Instead, I was staring right at Kendra, which brought a smile to my face as well. 

The Navy wife described feeling an overwhelming presence of love. She began to cry. Later that night, having looked me up online, she discovered I was a part-time worship leader. Strangely, it was her husband who first commented on the connection they’d witnessed between Kendra and me that night. That special connection, she told her husband, was because we had put God first in our relationship.

After a conversation about how badly they both wanted their marriage to work, the couple made the decision to look for a Christian counselor and give their marriage one more try. She told me that they had both committed their lives to Christ and had started attending a church close to their home. 

She said their marriage was reborn as they actively pursued a love built not on selfishness but on a foundation of faith. At the time I was probably more concerned about my lackluster singing, but God had done something special with that couple.

God can create beauty from ashes, whether it’s a poor performance on American Idol or a rough few years in a dying marriage. He can work all things together for our good. 

Her message moved me immensely. Even when I’m at my worst, God is still able to use me! How liberating is that? It takes the pressure of a perfect performance off of my shoulders. 

My purpose isn’t to entertain people or somehow manipulate them through the power of my vocal prowess. It’s to bring glory to God. I’m not a singer. I’m a worshiper. When I place what little I have in God’s hands, He takes it, blesses it, and uses it far beyond my wildest expectations.  

Taken from Made to Worship by Phil Stacey. Copyright © 2022. Used by permission of Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.   

Courageously Expecting

Courageously Expecting

[vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” column_margin=”default” column_direction=”default” column_direction_tablet=”default” column_direction_phone=”default” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” row_border_radius=”none” row_border_radius_applies=”bg” overlay_strength=”0.3″ gradient_direction=”left_to_right” shape_divider_position=”bottom” bg_image_animation=”none”][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_tablet=”inherit” column_padding_phone=”inherit” column_padding_position=”all” column_element_spacing=”default” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” column_border_radius=”none” column_link_target=”_self” gradient_direction=”left_to_right” overlay_strength=”0.3″ width=”1/1″ tablet_width_inherit=”default” tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” bg_image_animation=”none” border_type=”simple” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]During my pregnancy, there was no shortage of concerns to try and make sense of through the use Google. There was my very first OB appointment in which we couldn’t hear the heartbeat. There was the cervix scare. There was bed rest. There was amniotic sludge. There was conflicting information from my providers. And later on, there was a concern over a possible heart defect (which was monitored until eventually resolving itself).   

I googled most of those things obsessively, searching for articles I had not yet uncovered, for answers I had not yet found. I was constantly seeking that one piece of information that would give me peace by way of certainty that my baby would be born healthy and alive. 

But that never happened.  

Instead of peace, I mostly felt panic as I clicked and typed and scrolled. Because it turns out, Google couldn’t give me the comfort I needed, no matter how much I searched. In fact, the only time I did feel peace, at least temporarily, was when I tuned out the whirling noise inside my head and turned off the noise of my internet browser. It was then that I could still my mind and pray, truly seeking God while remembering the goodness he had lavished on me, even when I couldn’t see or feel it. It was then that I was reminded of the hard places he’d already led me through and could at last focus on what I knew to be true: I was still carrying my baby and God was still carrying me.   

Now, the internet isn’t all bad when it comes to pregnancy after loss. Sometimes it’s a healthy source of information and can provide useful facts. And I haven’t forgotten the few select support groups and nonprofit organizations that were an ongoing source of hope and solidarity. There’s nothing like connecting with others who truly feel your pain and understand the depth of your concerns during pregnancy after loss in a community where the lingering grief and ongoing angst are validated. Where you are surrounded by other people who share similarly difficult circumstances. That’s all good and healthy.  

But obsessively searching for answers online to all of our what-ifs? Reading every heartbreaking story of loss or pregnancy after loss? It will never give us what we need. Because the answers to most, if not all, of our most pressing questions don’t exist this side of heaven. When googling only leaves you paralyzed with fear, it’s time to seek God instead.  

When we enter the presence of God, truth is revealed. And the truth is that our safety is found in God alone.

He will cover you with his feathers, 

and under his wings you will find refuge; 

his faithfulness will be your shield and 

rampart. (Psalm 91:4) 

Google is unreliable. God is not. Google tends to amplify all the hard things we already have too much of: fear, anxiety, hopelessness, unrest. God is a refuge from those things. Google is heavy on speculation and light on truth. God is truth.  

Look, I know you’re not going to promise to stop googling all the things about this much-anticipated but most uncertain pregnancy. I wouldn’t ask you to. But I want you to remember this: Google in moderation, God in excess. Before you get tangled up in the sticky World Wide Web, go to God. He’s listening. In fact, he invites us to come to him when burdens overwhelm us and our hearts are weary. No, he may not reveal to you all of the answers you seek, but he is the only one who actually knows those answers.  

No matter how many times you type “chances of baby surviving after loss” into your search bar, you’re not going to get a good answer because Google doesn’t know you (although the argument can be made that it just might if, like me, you’ve noticed that it seems to be uncomfortably familiar with your life). But you can be certain you are known and loved by a good God. Take your hurt to him. Hand your fear to him. He promises peace and rest. He’s got all the answers—and even if they aren’t the ones you’re hoping for, you can be sure that, in time, he will reveal all you could ever want to know. But until then, you can trust him to hold your weary heart, to speak only truth, and to provide rest. 

God, I am desperate for answers to all my whys and what-ifs. 

I’m desperate for certainty that my pregnancy will have the outcome 

I desire. I’m in such a hard place, and I’ve been seeking 

instant comfort through information available at my fingertips. 

Not surprisingly, it has failed to satisfy my unquenchable mind. 

Today, I don’t know how this chapter of my story will end. I 

don’t know the number of my baby’s days. But I do know I’m 

still carrying my baby and that my baby is deeply loved. In this 

moment, help me to find peace in the knowledge that you have 

the answers I so desperately seek. That you have a plan for my 

life and the life of my baby. Help me to find the comfort I seek 

in you rather than the internet. God, remind me that Google 

doesn’t fix the problems of this life—you do.

Taken from Courageously Expecting by Jenny Albers Copyright ©2022 by Jenny Albers. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. https://www.thomasnelson.com/p/courageously-expecting/ 

Jenny Albers is passionate about sharing her own experience with pregnancy loss and life after to encourage other women during their own difficult journey of loss and pregnancy after loss. She is a contributor for Pregnancy After Loss Support, where she writes about these topics. She also contributes to Her View from Home, a site focused on motherhood, marriage, faith, and grief. She calls South Dakota home, where she lives with her husband and two living children.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” column_margin=”default” column_direction=”default” column_direction_tablet=”default” column_direction_phone=”default” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” row_border_radius=”none” row_border_radius_applies=”bg” overlay_strength=”0.3″ gradient_direction=”left_to_right” shape_divider_position=”bottom” bg_image_animation=”none”][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_tablet=”inherit” column_padding_phone=”inherit” column_padding_position=”all” column_element_spacing=”default” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” column_border_radius=”none” column_link_target=”_self” gradient_direction=”left_to_right” overlay_strength=”0.3″ width=”1/1″ tablet_width_inherit=”default” tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” bg_image_animation=”none” border_type=”simple” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_raw_html]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[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Healthy Healing: Body Image

Healthy Healing: Body Image

It did not start out so severe. In high school I used to go weeks where I would set goals about what I would not eat. I was a competitive cheerleader and it always seemed to fall right before a competition where I would have to wear a cropped uniform. “These next two weeks I am not eating sugar at all.” Then I would last about a day or two then eat one thing with sugar in it and feel guilty and end up giving up my “goal.” This began my bad relationship with food.

I believed that if I wanted my body to look good in a uniform I needed to restrict myself. That restriction continued as I became a college cheerleader at Navarro. Not only did I practice everyday in a sports bra but now there were cameras on us at all times. I wanted to be skinny and no matter how much I weighed, I always desired to be skinnier. I began to think that I just needed to not eat any food to look good. I would restrict myself throughout the day, weighing myself frequently, and then when night came around I would be so hungry that I began to binge eat. I would eat so much, stuffing my face until I felt sick. I had no self control because I restricted myself so badly. After some time of this cycle I began to force myself to throw up the food. After dinner, the bathroom was always the next place I went.

The worst part was this was normal. The people that knew I threw up were either also struggling with an eating disorder or though it was normal. I remember one time telling a friend that I was struggling and wanted to stop the cycle and they said “everyone has an eating disorder.” So I began to believe that it was just a part of life. Let me get something clear before going on. Having an eating disorder is not normal. AT ALL. God did not create our bodies for us to despise them. And He definitely did not create our bodies for us to torture them.

Fast forward to a couple months later, I went with a teammate to pick up some dinner to take back to the dorms. I vividly remember ordering a kids corn dog meal. We were eating and I expressed that I wanted to be skinnier and was scared of what I was going to look like in a uniform. “Well maybe you should eat healthier then,” they said. A sucker punch to the gut. The toxic thoughts began, “well if my friend said that then I must be fat.” “I should not have even ordered anything.” Followed by tears and running to the bathroom. I remember crying the silent, gut wrenching, sob as I threw up my dinner. I sat there feeling completely worthless, crying out to God. I prayed that this would be the last time I made myself throw up. It was. The next day I woke up, stopped saying the lies of the devil and started calling them out for what they are. Lies.

Just because I have not forced myself to throw up after this does not mean I haven’t had bad days. In order to believe the truth of who God created me to be I knew I had to choose that every single day. I had to choose to pick up my Bible to fight off the lies. I had to choose to reach out to someone on hard days for prayer or encouragement. I had to choose to be vulnerable in order to heal.

When the thoughts in my head began about my weight or look I would proclaim truth over myself. God created me beautifully and wonderfully. I wrote Godly affirmations on my mirror every morning and repeated them to myself so I filled my mind with the truth.

There were 3 main aspects of my healing…

1. The Bible and Prayer

The Bible is a book that holds the truth of who you are. Reading the Bible fills you with truth that you can use to overcome the lies of the devil. For me reading the Bible every morning sets me up to overcome the lies each day. Consistently reading the Bible is key in every battle you are facing. Time in the Word of God is vital but so is time in prayer. Pray big prayers. When I felt tempted to go back to the eating disorder I simply ran to God. I had a conversation with Him expressing how I felt. This is so comforting knowing the Lord is always waiting with arms wide for you to run to Him.

2. The People and Environment

I walked away from being a college cheerleader and moved home to heal. That was one of the hardest decisions but I knew I needed to be with my family. I knew that in order to heal I needed to seek out a christian counselor who helped me work through it all. I sought out a mentor who I zoomed with every single week. I surrounded myself with friends who encouraged me and prayed for me. Your environment is made up of the people around you. If you are in a place where you constantly feel discouraged or beaten up, search for people who will build you up. A small group at your church is a great place to start.

3. My Beliefs about Food and Exercise

In 1 Corinthians 6:20 we are called to glorify God with our bodies. Our bodies are a gift, a true blessing. Our bodies carry us throughout our days. Instead of torturing my body and fighting against it I started nourishing it. It is time to take the labels off food. There is no good or bad food. Food was given to us to nourish our bodies. Obviously there are more nutrients in vegetables than ice cream or cookies but that does not mean ice cream is a bad food. I am a huge sweets person so instead of telling myself I can not have any sweets I just make sure I get a good balanced meal first. I do not go to bed one night without some type of dessert because I simply enjoy them. Restriction led me to guilt so I stopped restricting myself from certain foods. I used to exercise for hours on hours to simply lose weight. I changed my mindset. Working out is a way to honor God by moving the bodies He gave us. I am not a personal trainer where I encourage others to workout for the right reason. To honor Him. To move and take care of our bodies.

As you see through my testimony it started as one small toxic thought the devil put in my head and it went into a vicious, downward spiral. One lie of the devil can lead to a downward spiral if you let it. Choose to believe THE truth. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (psalm 139:14). You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are so dang loved.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please seek professional help. You are so worthy of being healed. Praying for your friend.

Kassidy a personal trainer and owns her own online training business called total transformation fitness where her fiancé and her encourage their clients both physically and spiritually. She gets married in may! She loves trying new food and moving her body is her favorite part of her day! 

Brown-Skinned Vessel

Brown-Skinned Vessel

Picture this:

You’re eight years old, and today is the first day at your new school. With a bright, third-grade future and a killer first-day-of-school outfit, you walk in the building with your head held high, your fancy new lunchbox in the firm grip of your left hand, and your mom’s and dad’s last words to you before dropping you off—“Just be yourself!”—still ringing in your ear. And, as you approach the last door of the hallway to your right—instructions you received from that morning’s janitor—you take your final last breaths and walk in ready to meet your new classmates with confidence, until after taking a quick scan of everyone in the class, you realize—

You’re the only Black student in the room.

Oh.

Uncomfortable, yes?

Perhaps even a little unsettling.

And, as an eight-year-old, you might not be jumping-off-the-walls excited that you immediately feel like the odd one out before the day could even get started.

Awkward.

But, alright. There is where I’ll insert my story here.

This little scenario I had you picture?

If you haven’t guessed, that eight-year-old student is me.

And, if you’re looking for an update on her, let’s just say that certainly was not the last time she’s been in that situation. There’s been plenty more moments during the thirteen years that followed where she’d walk into a room, look around, and—yep!—only Black person there.

Awesome.

Don’t worry. This isn’t me being insecure about my skin color.

Certainly not.

It’s Black History Month, after all! Today’s post will be a moment of celebration, if anything!

But, before I start throwing the confetti, I don’t think it’d be wise to move forward without giving you some of the details I faced during that third-grade year, without giving you an opportunity to walk a mile in my size-four shoes. After all, that was one of the first times I’ve walked into a room realizing just how brown I was once sandwiched in between so many other students who were White. (Now, granted, there were other Black students in my grade at this new school, and I remember breathing out a huge sigh of relief when I saw one of those students eventually walk into the classroom after me on that first day. But, the White to Black student ratio was excruciatingly far from equal, and I wasn’t quite sure how I should adjust.) In other words, the school I had attended prior to third grade was predominantly Black. Meaning, my friends were Black. Our families were Black. Our churches were Black. Our entertainment was Black. Our lingo was Black. And, most important of all, our hair was Black—Black, as in, greased, braided, beaded up, and twisted with barrettes. Not blonde, straightened, and flowing a river down our backs, which is what I saw on the first day of third grade. And, when one girl tried to untie the barrette I had hanging from one of my twists at recess, I was shocked that I had to explain to her that that was a non-negotiable, “No!” My friends back at my old school understood that our mothers put blood, sweat, and tears into combing out our kinky hair and putting it into a style every day before school, and we were not to let anyone touch it, including ourselves. But, the girls at this school just…put their hair up, took it down, and did whatever they wanted with it without needing what I would need just to get my hair into a low bun: two brushes, a wide-tooth comb and another one with a rattail to split the part, Olive Oil, edge control, several hair-ties, and barrettes.

On top of that, I come to find out at this new school, they didn’t listen to the kind of music I listened to with my other friends. They were singing along to Taylor Swift, but I got down to Destiny’s Child!

The girls at this new school had a crush on Jesse McCartney, but I had a little crush on Soulja Boy!

“You don’t know who Elvis Presley is?” one girl asked me in our music class, mouth agape. Girl, no! My dad blasted Stevie Wonder and James Brown in our house. Who is Elvis?!

Everything about me and the White students in my classroom was different.

We went home to different neighborhoods, were raised in different households. Our backgrounds were different. None of our interests were the same.

(One thing all Black and White students alike agreed on, though?

High School Musical.

But, that’s beside the point…)

It was a complete ‘Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz’ experience—still the same girl I was back at my old school, but certainly not in Kansas anymore, I’ll tell you that much!

And, because everything was so unfamiliar, because everything was so foreign, there were a couple of lies that I let seep into my mind undetected that began to take root before I knew to expose them.

Here was the truth:

My skin was darker.

My background was different.

I was not familiar with being one out of two Black students in a classroom.

That was true.

The lie?

My skin was ugly.

I didn’t belong.

And, something was horribly wrong with me.

And, it didn’t take long before the enemy took initiative and had those lies locked into my eight-year-old mind. Because this is exactly what he does, exactly what he wants for you and me both:

To hate the person God made us to be.

The enemy wants us to hate our skin color, our gender, our stories, and even our God-given personalities. Whatever he has to do to get us to hate God’s creation, even if that creation is ourselves, he’ll do it.

And, that’s what he did to me.

I was eight years old then, but all of the lies he planted began to spring up when I turned twelve years old, where I found myself praying—literally praying—that God would make me into a White girl.‘Cause if I was White, I could fit in.If I was White, I’d be beautiful.If I looked like a majority of my classroom, I might just find a really great group of friends.

Do you see how this has the enemy written all over it? That he would persuade such a young girl to hate herself in such a way that she would ask God to change her? And, don’t you see how he’s still doing this to our generation today? Making us hate our God-given selves—our bodies, personalities, characters, temperaments, and identities?

It’s devastating. It’s wicked.

And, too many of us believe him.

And, that is exactly why it is my honor to tell you what my eight-year-old self needed to hear on that first day of third grade. It is a privilege to fill you in on the truth that has been healing me from these childhood wounds.

You ready to receive this?

Here it goes:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the way God made you.

Just in case you are unsure about what the word ‘nothing’ means, I’ll tell it to you plain.

It means:

Nothing.

Yes! You read it right:

No thing.

Not a thing.

Nada.

Not one mole is out of place.

No complexion too light or dark.

That birthmark is not a defect.

Your nose is not a dimension too big or too small.

There is NOTHING wrong with the way God made you. In fact, according to Song of Songs 4:7, there is no flaw in you. And, in case you haven’t read how King David beautifully wrote it in Psalms 139:14, God fearfully and wonderfully made you.

You may not need to be reminded of this today, but maybe your kid-self does. Maybe you’re someone who is still believing a lie from your childhood that if you just learn to be someone you’re not, in a body that’s not yours, with a pigmentation you weren’t born with, you would be worthy of some sort of affection.

Can I tell you something, friend?

That’s nonsense. Straight nonsense from the pit of hell.

Are you understanding me?!

Those kinds of lies come from a professional liar—a liar who whispered the same kind of nonsense in Eve’s ear too. But, even more important than that, the liar you’ve been letting give you advice is actually a loser—a big one. I’m talking, the biggest L in the history of L’s, okay? This enemy has been defeated by the blood of Jesus Christ. And, no one in their right mind would take advice from a lying, defeated loser.

Am I right about it?

You don’t have to entertain that voice any longer.

So, rest assured. Whoever God made you to be is just right for the kind of mission He’s given you—

—which leads me to my next point, something else you oughta hear:

You’re exactly the kind of person He wants to use to make history.

You see—to me, Black History Month is more than a twenty-eight-day-long celebration. It is a reminder that God uses brown bodies like mine to bring about His kingdom on earth. The same brown bodies that have a history of gory persecutions, gut-wrenching pain brought about by slavery, unjust killings, unfair oppression, racism so evil it’ll make your stomach turn are the same brown bodies God wants to fill His treasure with so that His eternal kingdom is advanced in the midst of the world’s darkness. And, that is what I celebrate when I think about the ancestors who have gone before me—Black people who dared to take a stand, to say yes, to say no, to sacrifice, to change the narrative, to make history.

If God used Black bodies like mine in the past, He can use Black bodies like mine in the present.

This is what I like to throw in the enemy’s face. After I let him bully me for years, convincing me that my Black wasn’t beautiful, this is the kind of truth I like to remind him about.

And, you know what, my friend? You should know that you’ve got a reason to stomp on the enemy’s head, too.

What that reason is, you may be asking?

God wants to use you to make history, too.

You.

Yes, you!

Anyone with a heart that says:“Here I am, Lord! Send me.”

God wants to use us to make history.

And, Paul describes us as fragile clay jars in 2 Corinthians 4:7. In other words, human vessels that God can use to carry His treasure.

What treasure?

The light of His Presence:

Jesus Christ—the One who conquered death and changed history for us all.

No matter what you look like, no matter what color your vessel is painted, anyone can receive this treasure. As long as the vessel is available, He’ll use it.

And, He wants to! You’re exactly the kind of person He wants to use to make history. You don’t have to look like me, and I don’t have to look like you.

For what we’re individually called to do, the vessel He gave us is just right.

Let me say it again:There is nothing wrong with the way God made us!

If my vessel was supposed to be painted white to do my assignment, He would’ve made me white.

If my vessel was supposed to be six-foot tall, He would’ve taken my four-foot-eleven self and made me taller!

If my vessel was supposed to be blue-eyed, He would’ve given me blue eyes.

But, He didn’t!

You know what He made instead?

ME.

And, you know something else?

He made you…YOU.

He made you unique. He made you purposeful.

He made you original.

We were never made to look like each other. We were made to look like Him.

And, through your vessel—your unique, original, beautiful vessel—your Creator wants to place the universe’s greatest treasure inside of you—Himself. Your vessel and His treasure make a good team—the kind of team that makes history.

And, you know what?

There are still books that need to be written, movies that need to be directed, songs that need to be recorded, a gospel that needs to be preached, history that still needs to be made!

And, I don’t know about you, but this brown-skinned vessel is available. With His treasure in my heart, my heart in His hands, I’m ready to make some kingdom-building, life-changing, ever-lasting history. And, I believe the eyes of the Lord are searching the whole earth, looking to see if there are other vessels who want to make some history with me.

At twenty-one years old, Ayana is an author, a blogger, and the host of “To Be Heard” Podcast—available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. In 2018, she self-published her first novel, titled, How I Fell in Love with Myself, and is currently working on her second. She is a former English & Journalism major, currently taking online writing classes from a school based in New York. As she continues to pursue a career in writing, she aims to bring relevant messages of faith, redemption, hope & self esteem to you & others around the world.

Connect with Ayana through her website, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

Sin Girls Don’t Talk About

Sin Girls Don’t Talk About

I remember the first time I heard a girl confess she struggled with it. I was in college and had just joined a campus ministry. The girls on my team were gathering to share testimonies, our stories of life change (John 4:7-25, 39). 

And one of the girls? Incredibly courageous. 

I remember tears welling up in her eyes as she told us she was introduced to porn when she was super young – maybe 12? I can’t remember. But that unfortunate introduction led to years of captivity—she had been enslaved to porn and masturbation. 

 “I always thought it was a guy sin—that something must be wrong with me,” she told the group. But one day she sat in a circle much like ours, and heard another girl share her testimony. For the first time in her life, she realized she wasn’t alone (1 Corinthians 10:13).  

My new friend’s courage led to a really sweet night for our group. One that I’m personally glad I remembered years later. We heard story after story of God’s faithfulness to bring the dead to life. His faithfulness to restore the broken, and heal the wounded, abused, the hurting, and the hopeless. Because that’s what he does! Everyday. At all times. It doesn’t matter what the sin is. God delights to meet us in our brokenness. We don’t have to clean ourselves up to come Him. But with sins like hers—we don’t always believe this to be true.  

A lot of times, for us? Sexual sin is scary. 

But if your scary sin is secret sin, you’re probably a slave to it.  

Maybe you’ve tried to stop.  

“This’ll be the last time.” But it wasn’t. You’re tired. 

Or maybe you’re confused.  

If you’re like I was, maybe you’ve never heard girls talk about porn. I thought my new friend was brave, but I also thought, “that’ll never be me.” (So, if you’re reading this, and you don’t know what I’m talking about when I use those words—PLEASE, ask a trusted church leader or your parents. And if you’re anything like me, and curiosity is killing you, I want you to go read Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 4:14-15. And then call a trusted leader in your life and tell them you’re curious. Ask for help.)  

Maybe you’re offended.  

Sometimes blogs or articles like this can feel like somebody’s pointing their finger at you. While Paul does point out we can become slaves to sin, he also reminds us every day is a choice. You’re not too far gone, and I know the struggle is real; but remember you have a choice. Paul says, “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God which leads to righteous living” (Romans 6:16 NLT).  

Or maybe you don’t think it’s a sin. 

“The Bible just says don’t have premarital sex. I’m not doing that, so I‘m good, right? Besides, it’s not like I’m addicted to porn.” Or, “I don’t know if I’d even call this porn really—it’s not that bad …” Ever thought like that? I’ve been there. But you know what God’s word says? Sexual immorality (that’s all impurity or inappropriate sexual longing) must not even be named among believers. Why? Because it isn’t healthy or right for God’s people to be entertained by sin—and in this case, porn and masturbation are acts that cause us to be entertained by sex outside of marriage (Ephesians 5:3).  

Lastly, maybe you’re afraid. Or ashamed? 

Maybe you think this will be the sin you take to the grave, or the sin that goes away when you get married. But what if you didn’t have to be afraid or ashamed?  What if you could talk about it? … And what if it doesn’t go away when you get married? 

As your big sis, I’m here to tell you that there’s bad news and there’s good news.  

The Bad News: Sin Always Leads to Death 

Some of us know this far too well. What started off as curiosity and a lot of Gossip Girl or Nicholas Sparks turned into a full-blown addiction – maybe it’s porn and masturbation? Or maybe for you, it’s vaping? Either way, you know what it’s like for one moment of curiosity or excitement to trap you in a downward spiral.  

 Not sure if you’re trapped? Ask yourself these questions: 

  • How many times have you said, “This will be the last time?” 
  • Do you count the days between “times?” 
  • Justifying it with, “well it’s only once a month…or once a week?”  
  • Ever want or feel like you need “just a little bit more?” 

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’re probably living in the bad news: Sin leads to death.  

Anytime you feel an urge to sin—that is to think, say, or do anything that doesn’t honor God, you’re being tempted. “And remember, when you are being tempted, don’t say, ‘God is tempting me.’ God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (James 1:13-15). James is literally saying that just as a baby is conceived, born, and grows up, so too does our sin.  

It’s really helpful to think about James’ point: Sin that grows up guides you into the ground. It leads to death.  

But we have to be careful, because this can get really confusing really quickly. If you’re a believer in Christ, your eternity is secure not because of your performance; rather, your eternity is secure if you have faith in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9). James is not saying if you keep sinning you will go to hell. That’s not his point. He’s saying if you keep sinning, your life is not going to head in the direction you want it to go. 

If you’re a believer in Christ, James is pointing out that if you continue in sin your life will decay and decay and decay. Instead of experiencing the abundant and full life Jesus intends for his kids, you’ll experience the opposite: a life that declines (Proverbs 10:27, 11:19; John 10:10).  

For me it looked like this: I was never exposed to porn. But I had a relationship with a guy in high school that wasn’t great. When I got to college, and started to hear girls talk, I got curious—was I missing out on something great? At first, I just wanted to know about it, “this will never be my problem,” I thought, “so there’s no harm in learning about it.”  Then, one thing led to another, and years later I found myself struggling with masturbation and lustful thoughts—and no one knew.  

I had no community. 

I was lonely.  

I was the church girl. “I’m not supposed to struggle with this,” I thought, ashamed and embarrassed. 

I was afraid of what other people might think.  

But I needed help. And that’s where the good news comes into play.  

The Good News: Your Sin Doesn’t Have to be Your Story.

For me, I realized I wasn’t living authentically and needed to get to a place where I was surrounded by believers who regularly confessed their sin and helped hold each other accountable to flee temptation. Later in chapter 5, James goes on to say, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” To my surprise, when I got around a group of girls, who loved Jesus and wanted to help each other look more like Him, I was met with grace and compassion.  

They reminded me that there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). They cheered for me—and celebrated my confession. They didn’t celebrate my sin; rather, it was my courage to share that they celebrated. They reminded me of what was true: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly” (Proverbs 26:11). They didn’t want me to be like the dog (a gross illustration, I know), so they celebrated my courage and helped me think through ways to combat the temptation.  

Matthew 5:30 says, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” Now again, this could be confusing—If you have placed your faith in Jesus, your eternity is secure (1 John 5:11-13, John 5:24). In this verse, Jesus is speaking in hyperbole (extreme exaggeration to communicate a point.) I mean, if Jesus really wanted us to apply this verse literally, the human race would be incredibly crippled (and everyone would be left handed)!  

Jesus is saying we should be willing to take extreme measures to run from sin—missing out on something is better than letting our sin lead us to devastation and destruction.  

Missing out is a wonderful thing if it means we’re fighting sin. For you, that might mean deleting Instagram or TikTok, maybe you install CovenantEyes on your computer or sleep with your bedroom door open (1 Corinthians 10:13). It might be a sacrifice, but it’ll be worth it. 

Jesus doesn’t expect perfection, because we can’t be perfect. Paul understood this reality (Romans 7:21-25). But at the same time, grace doesn’t give us a free pass to sin (Romans 6:1-3).  

So, when we mess up, we run to the light. We confess and pray for one another that we might be healed, we remove from our lives whatever might be contributing to the temptation, and we remind ourselves of truth. We remember that God’s mercies are new every morning and his promises have no end (Lamentations 3:22-23). There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). God loves you. So much so that he sent his son to die on the cross for us, taking the punishment we deserve for sin. But the story didn’t stop there, because he rose from the grave, and by believing in him, we can find new life in him (Romans 10:9-10). He’s the ones who transforms us— on our own strength, we’re powerless. But thanks be to God, He gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord (1 Corinthians 15:57). I hope and pray you’ll find the victory and freedom I did. 

Love you guys. 

-Em 

Emma is on staff at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas and is leading a ministry called Join The Journey—a daily Bible reading plan aimed at helping all believers regularly get into God’s Word and understand what they’re reading through resources like journals, podcasts and more! Emma graduated from Texas A&M with her undergraduate degree in English and continued her education, studying the Bible, through the Watermark Institute. In her free time, Emma, passionate about her generation knowing the story of scripture and how to study it, creates equipping resources for her peers. You can find out more by visiting understandingmybible.com or by visiting her Instagram, @_emmadotter_

The Greatest Gift of All

The Greatest Gift of All

One Christmas, just a few years after my graduation from Wellesley College, I travelled home to Virginia to be with my family for the holidays. My brother, Tim, who had recently returned from studying at L’Abri, a Christian community in the Swiss Alps, was there too.

Tim had been struggling for years to find his way, having dropped out of three universities, even though his grades were excellent. The Tim I encountered that Christmas, however, was remarkably changed. I was amazed to find him to be warm, loving, and much to my surprise, very concerned about my spiritual well-being. He was, simply, a new person.

Tim had become a Christian.

I was not a Christian, and I had given up on my search for truth after majoring in philosophy in college—looking for answers but finding none. Tim gave me a copy of Francis Schaeffer’s Escape from Reason and asked me to read it. I found it so fascinating that I read through it in one sitting! In this small book, I was astonished to find answers to big questions that I’d long ago dismissed as unanswerable. As a result of Tim’s loving concern and Schaeffer’s brilliant book, I decided to reopen my quest for truth.

Eventually, I wrote to L’Abri, where Tim had become a Christian, and asked if I could become a student there. After sending the letter, I got back into my routine and forgot about the request. Then, much to my surprise, I received a letter from L’Abri notifying me that I had been accepted to study there for three months. I wasn’t so sure that this was a good idea. I had to decide if I really wanted to leave my job and my familiar lifestyle in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Instinctively, I knew that if I left, I would never return to my current way of life.

It was a struggle, but eventually I made the life-changing decision to go to L’Abri. I was hoping that my studies there would help me find a solid foundation to build my life on. The stakes were high: I was searching for absolute, unchanging truth!

When I arrived in Switzerland a few months later, Tim and his newlywed Swiss wife were living in Lausanne. I stayed with them for a few days while I recovered from jetlag. Then, on a gloriously snowy Sunday morning, they drove me to nearby Huemoz, a lovely Alpine village where the main branch of L’Abri is located. That night, while trying to sleep on a mattress in the middle of the floor of an overcrowded bedroom, I began to question my decision to leave everything behind. Thankfully, I was soon sent to French L’Abri in Thollon, a tiny village in the French Alps. There were only about fifteen students at this branch, and I was grateful to have my own bed—even though it was the creaky top bunk of an ancient metal bed.

I spent my mornings at a desk in the audiocassette library, listening to tapes of Schaeffer and other brilliant Christian teachers. Increasingly, I became convinced that Christianity was real and true. I was also helped by my conversations with a gifted Christian counselor. I remember my first meeting with her quite clearly. I went into the room where she was waiting, and she told me to close the door. Before I even had time to sit down, she asked me: “Are you a Christian?”

“I’m not sure,” I answered.

I told her I wanted to be a Christian and I was convinced Christianity was true, but I didn’t really understand why I needed Jesus. At the time, I thought that knowing God might be enough. Then, she asked me a question that cut through to the heart of the matter.

“What can you not forgive yourself for?”

Suddenly, I was brought face-to-face with my sinfulness; immediately I understood my need for Jesus—to save me from my many sins.

It was nighttime, and after I left this meeting, I went walking alone in the dark. I needed time to ponder what had happened and to absorb the life-saving truth of the gospel. For a few days, I went through a tumultuous time—engaged in a spiritual battle. Eventually, however, I broke free from the powers of darkness that were trying to keep me captive. I was able to ask Jesus to forgive all my sins; I trusted Him as my Savior.

One night, shortly after my conversion, I decided to go walking alone in the pristine snowy mountains. I went into a deeply wooded area, awed by the cold, moonlit beauty. The air was crisp and dry, piercing to inhale. After a while, I came into an open area, and stopped walking. Time seemed to stand still as I gazed around me in wonder. Suddenly I became aware of a loving Presence with me, and I found myself whispering, “Sweet Jesus.” This experience of Jesus’ Presence was far more personal than just finding answers to my intellectual search for truth.

The moment I trusted God as my Savior, He forgave all my sins – past, present, and future. This glorious gift of grace, however, not only ensured that my ultimate destination is heaven, it also enabled me to have a relationship with the Creator of the universe!

On that first Christmas, so long ago, God gave us the gift of Himself. The first people to hear the good news of God’s great gift were a group of lowly peasants, shepherds who were watching over their sheep. Suddenly, an angel appeared before them with a proclamation that would change the world forever.

“’Do not be afraid;’” the angel said, ‘for see- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger'” (Luke 2:10-12.)

As I ponder the angel’s wondrous proclamation to the shepherds, I rejoice in my beloved Savior.

Jesus was, and remains, the greatest gift of all.

Sarah Young’s devotional writings are personal reflections from her daily quiet time of Bible reading, praying, and writing in prayer journals. With sales of more than 35 million books worldwide, Jesus Calling has appeared on all major bestseller lists. Sarah’s writings include Jesus Calling®, Jesus Listens, Jesus Today®, Jesus Always, Jesus Lives™, Dear Jesus, Jesus Calling® for Little Ones, Jesus Calling® Bible Storybook, Jesus Calling®: 365 Devotions for Kids, and Peace in His Presence – each encouraging readers in their journey toward intimacy with Christ. Sarah and her husband were missionaries in Japan and Australia for many years. They currently live in the United States.

Sarah Young has penned a brand-new daily devotional, Jesus Listens: Daily Devotional Prayers of Peace, Joy, and Hope. This is Sarah’s first title in the Jesus Calling® family of books to feature prayers written from a reader’s perspective. With an emphasis on praying God’s Word, Jesus Listens offers a scripture-focused prayer for each day of the year.

GIVEAWAY! We are giving away 10 copies of Sarah’s new devotional inside LO sister, YAY! Head on over to the LO sister app for all the details on a chance to win a copy of Jesus Listens! Happy Thursday, friend 🙂

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