13 November, 2017

Why I Don't Answer to 'Single'




I was browsing a website some time ago, and there was an article about singleness. I skimmed it, like I skimmed the articles to marrieds. It wasn’t until I read the responses in the comments section I realized the post was written to me. I am the target audience – my age, my relationship status. But I didn’t answer to it. I didn’t see a post written for singles and think ‘Oh, that’s me!! I must read that!’ It feels strange to call myself ‘single.’

Why don’t I answer to single? I’m not in a relationship, I’ve never been in a relationship, I’m already out of my teens; I should be desperate by our society’s standards. But single is an adjective not a noun. I'm single but I'm so many others things first: loved, chosen by God, complete in Him, blessed, and Australian, female, older sister, writer, musician, nut. Single is a description, but it's not who I am.

We need to stop finding our identity in our singleness. We need to stop telling ourselves we’re single, single, single, like there’s something wrong with us, like we’re incomplete, like we’re lacking. Our identity is so much more. God calls us loved, chosen, worth dying for, of inestimable value, and complete in Him. (Colossians 2:10)

It saddens me to see people make their relationship status their identity. They feel they can’t be satisfied until they’re with their ‘other half.’ They feel there’s something wrong with them, because no one has noticed them. They change themselves to get someone’s attention. They fantasize, building up expectations which only lead to disappointment. You are so much more than what a guy thinks of you. A Man has already told you what He thinks of you, and demonstrated His love by giving the ultimate sacrifice. That’s who you are. That’s where your worth comes from. You can rest securely, because it doesn’t matter what your crush thinks of you – God says you’re beautiful and loved. 

Marriage and companionship is a beautiful thing. God ordained it, and I believe it’s God’s plan for some of us, maybe all. But it’s not who we are. The verse in Colossians I referenced earlier really spoke to me: ‘Ye are complete in Him.’ If we aren’t feeling complete, could it be we’re neglecting our relationship with God? He is the only one who can complete us; give us security and fulfilment. It’s normal and God-given to desire companionship – absolutely. But we can’t be looking for our worth and value and identity in it. We will be let down, because people are wonderful, but they’re not perfect.

I was thinking about God giving marriage in the beginning, and saying it wasn’t good for man to be alone. (Genesis 2:18) We use that verse, but God said this before sin and separation; humans were in perfect harmony with Him. A spouse for Adam was the only thing lacking, because his relationship with God was there. We might not have the companionship God gave Adam, but we’ve also lost the relationship with God, and that came first. That’s most important. 

I don’t have this down. I’m not writing because I’ve made it and you haven’t. I’ve daydreamed about guys and my future, had crushes, and tried to change who I am to be noticed. Temptations are real. But what I want to emphasise is: God can give us victory over those things. It’s hard, but it’s so, so worth it. Knowing who you are in God is the most freeing thing. And, if marriage is in God’s plan, the right partner is going to be attracted to you because of who you are, not who you’re trying to be, or who you want them to make you.

I saw a quote once that said, ‘If God could find Adam a wife when he’s the only human being in the world, He can get you somebody.’ Friends, this is not our battle. Our job is to give our lives over to God, and He will orchestrate marriage if that’s in our best interest. He has already given us everything we need for satisfaction and fulfilment in ‘singlehood.’ Let’s walk in that.

Whew! That was quite intense! I hope it’s clear I share not as one who has arrived, but because I care. I’m passionate because I see people struggling in their singleness when they could be walking in the freedom of who God says they are. What do you think on this topic? Is singleness something you've struggled with? And non-singles, it’d be great to hear your perspective too! Is there something I’ve missed? Most of all, friends, stay strong. You’re complete in Him. xx

09 November, 2017

Thankfulness Thursday - Spring Buds and God Working Despite Me




Grace Anne from Totally Graced is hosting Thankful Thursdays this month – it’s about taking extra time to remember and share what we’re thankful for. I realized the reason for thankfulness in November is probably due to thanksgiving, which we don’t celebrate in Australia, but it’s always a good time to be thankful, in my opinion. :)

I’m thankful for God working even in comfort zones. Last week, I was going out for the day – volunteering talking with homeless people and doing their washing, then some shopping and teaching. I was praying on the way, asking God for strength; strength to acknowledge Him even though I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t ask for opportunities to talk about Him and witness, because I didn’t want those opportunities. I didn’t feel like stepping outside my comfort zone. I was tired. It was a lame prayer, honestly.

After I did the volunteering shift, and I was sitting in a carpark eating lunch, I saw God answered my prayer without me even realizing. I got to share my faith with three people directly through the shift, and indirectly with the others who were listening. Two people asked what I was studying, and when I answered ‘Christian counselling,’ it led to more discussion. One man apologised for anti-religion stuff he’d said earlier, and I was able to share what he'd said didn’t offend me, because it’s more about my personal relationship with God rather than structured religion. They were natural conversations, not forced, or awkward.

The third opportunity came when I was talking with another guy, and he told me I was not like other twenty-year-olds he’d known. I didn’t seem like the type of girl who’d spend time in nightclubs, and do drugs and stuff. I was able to give God credit, and say it’s because of God and my Christian upbringing. 

As I was sitting in the car thinking about those situations, it made me laugh. Here I was scared, tired, praying safe prayers. And yet, God still gave me opportunities and used me, and I didn’t even see it coming! So this week, I’m thankful God works, even through my weakness and fear. 

And I want to encourage you: if you’re feeling low, like you have nothing to offer God, and you aren’t worthy of being His witness, be honest with God. He’s not limited – comfort zones and tired hearts don’t stop Him. He can still use you, and the best part is when He does, it ignites His enthusiasm in us, and we get the biggest blessing. Stay strong, friends, and let God use even the little bit you have – He’s a God of miracles. If He can work through my inadequacy, He can absolutely use you. xx

What are you thankful this week? How has God been surprising you recently?

06 November, 2017

How to Know God's Will


I first thought seriously about knowing God’s will when I was getting close to finishing school. Everyone asked what I was going to do next, and I didn’t have an answer. But in my mind, God would reveal what I was meant to do, and I’d be set. I would have direction for life, and the dilemma would be history. I would know God’s will once and for all. 

That’s not how it turned out, of course. God gave direction on what to study, and I believe it’s His will for me to be studying now. But there are more questions: what am I going to do when I finish studying? Where should I be working? How should I be spending my time? And knowing God’s will isn’t reserved for big things like what to study or where to live or who to marry; it comes into everyday decisions too. It’s wonderful to think God is so involved in our life. But how can we know God’s will? I haven’t found a magic formula (current decision + God’s will = ?), and I don’t believe there is one. But I learned some things recently which help me navigate this desire to live in God’s will, and I want to share because I know it can be hard and confusing.

KNOW HIS VOICE

To recognize God revealing His will to us, we have to be familiar with His voice. You know when you’re a crowd of new people, there's a steady hum of voices, and suddenly you hear someone you know? You pick their voice above everyone else’s, and you don’t feel alone anymore? That’s what it’s like with knowing God’s will. There’s lots of noise – people’s opinions, social pressures, media, and expectations. If we don’t know God’s voice it will blend in, and we’ll be confused and bombarded. 

We become familiar with God’s voice by spending time with Him – in prayer, in the Bible, in His creation – the same as we get to know someone else. If we’re in communication with God, we’ll recognize His voice. The Bible reveals what God is like, and what His heart for us is. It’s also important to know, because Satan can mask himself and present things which seem like God’s will. But if they don’t line up with the Bible, they can’t be from God because He doesn’t contradict Himself. So knowing the Bible helps discern who the suggestion comes from!

BE SURRENDERED AND OBEDIENT

When Christy, in Christy by Catherine Marshall, struggles with knowing God’s will, Miss Alice Henderson gives her this verse: ‘If any man will to do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.’ (John 7:17) My reaction was similar to Christy’s: how is that relevant? But as I thought about it, it became clearer: if anyone will to do God’s will, then they’ll know. We have to be surrendered and willing to obey whatever God tells us. Will God reveal His will if we’re only curious about it? If we’re interested in knowing, but not ready to lay down whatever He asks to do it?

Then, I was reading John 8:31-32: ‘If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed: and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ It’s after we continue in God’s word – obey and live out what we already know – He reveals more truth to us. So, another part of knowing God’s will is obeying what He’s already shown us.

USE INITIATIVE

The most fascinating thing I learned about God’s will was from a sermon by Ray Comfort. (I recommend watching it here, if you get a chance! Thanks, Paige, for recommending it to me! :) He points out that God expects us to use initiative. God has given plenty of knowledge in the Bible about His will. For example, Galatians 6:2 tells us to bear one another’s burdens, which fulfils the law of Christ. We don’t need to ask whether helping someone is God’s will. Ray illustrates by saying if we saw an elderly lady fall in the street, would we stop and ask ‘God what is your will for me here?’ No, we know His will is for us to help the lady. Maybe He stays silent sometimes when we ask to know His will, because he’s already revealed it. If it’s sharing salvation and the hope of Christ, if it’s helping others, if it’s anything He tells us to do in His word, we know it’s His will. Our job is to trust Him, and do it. The Bible often talks about knowing God’s will in past tense. So, the third point to knowing God’s will for our lives is taking initiative in areas where His will is already revealed to us (which comes back to knowing His voice through the Bible!).



Sometimes I’ve gotten frustrated with knowing God’s will, and questioned: why can’t God make it obvious what I’m meant to do? He could send a letter, or write it in the sky. But God isn’t a machine to give us answers. He’s our Father, and more than anything, He wants a relationship with us. If He gave us missives from heaven every time we wanted to know something, we would treat Him like google. Have a question? Just God it. But we can’t have a relationship with google. I think the struggle to know God’s will might be part of His plan to us draw closer to Him. Even when He doesn’t reveal the answers, we can rest, because we know Who He is – our Father who always, always wants what is best for us.

~

Have you ever struggled with knowing God’s will? What would you add to this list? Are there other ways we can learn to recognize God’s voice? Do you think God sometimes asks us to come closer to Him before He shows His will?

Also! The giveaway is still open - if you missed it, enter here! And, thanks to feedback from my survey, I’m going to begin posting on schedule! Expect a post every Monday (or maybe Sunday night if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere). They will be inspirational/spiritual/(what genre are my posts?), and if I share anything lighter or more life-y, it will be inbetween. Please pray I’ll grow in time management, and be able to keep my word!

01 November, 2017

31 Hugs Challenge Conclusion and Giveaway!

I was browsing in a shop today, and when I walked past the lady at the counter she said ‘I like your shirt.’ I said a quick ‘thanks,’ but the incident didn’t leave my mind. I was in the middle of a busy shopping centre in the city and a stranger took the time to compliment me. It made me smile, and feel a little lighter. And then I realized I’d just received a hug. :)

The 31 Hugs Challenge was a challenge for me, but it was a blessing. There were times of discouragement, but God’s used it to teach me a few things:

 - Busyness leads to self-centredness. I have been busy with commitments and time pressures –they’re good things, but it’s all what I need to do. Having to stop and think how I could invest in someone else showed me how much I haven’t been doing that. My thought space has been filled up with myself, not others or God. 

- In giving, we often receive. There’s satisfaction in giving to others with no hope of return, both when I saw a happy surprised reaction, and when I didn’t get to see their response. But I found numerous times, when I took the time to give to someone, they gave it back to me. One word or action can start a cycle, a chain reaction. All it takes it one person to begin.

- Investing in others takes effort, but it’s do-able. I may tell myself I don’t have time, but that’s proven to be an excuse. It takes extra focus, but I can fit more giving into my days. I want to continue with this attitude, not pressuring myself ‘one hug every day,’ but cultivating a mindset of looking out for others and how I can brighten their day. 

- Complimenting gets easier with practice. I’m not an outgoing person (although my family may disagree), and it takes courage for me to say to someone’s face: you’re amazing, you look nice, you have great organisational skills, you’re my role model, etc. I think those things, but I get nervous when I say them. But it’s courage that I can develop. It’s a habit I can cultivate, and it will get easier. 



To conclude the challenge and say a massive thank-you for the blessing and inspiration you are to me, I made five key tags to give away! I’ve dubbed them ‘truth tags’ because I want the messages to remind you of the truth that you’re are loved and valuable, thought of and cared for. I wish I could make you all one. 

The giveaway is open worldwide, and closes seven days from now. If the winners don’t respond one week after I contact them, I will choose another winner. I will be sending one tag to five different winners.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 Also, huge thanks to each of you who filled out my feedback form. It’s given me helpful insight and direction, and also amazing encouragement. :) Thank you. If you haven’t filled it in yet, you can do so here. Your thoughts matter to me!

I’m eager to hear your 31 Hugs experiences! How did you find the challenge? What did you learn from it? Did anything stand out to you? Thanks for joining in this month of sharing hope with the world! You kept me going. :) Stay awesome, stay strong, friends!

27 October, 2017

Current Inspirations (v.2) and a Small Favour

He said, 'One life on this earth is all that we get, whether it is enough or not enough, and the obvious conclusion would seem to be that at the very least we are fools if we do not live it as fully and bravely and beautifully as we can. - Frederick Buechner

You know when you find something new and wonderful you want to share it? Every time that happens to me I want to let you all know, but it often seems irrelevant to my blog. But recently these things have been encouraging to me, and I want to pass that on. :)  

- FarAwayDistance YouTube channel. Becca posts videos on many different topics, and when I found her channel I basically watched as many as our internet download allowed. :) They're spiritually encouraging and relevant, and I'm so encouraged by Becca's heart for others and enthusiasm for God's Word. My favourites are: Miracles, the Impossible & a Very Active God, Fill Up, Pour Out, and Conversations on Planes about Jesus.

https://www.youtube.com/user/FarAwayDistance/featured


- Jordan Lee Dooley, who is one of my blogging and life inspirations, also just started a YouTube channel, and I'm excited to see more of her videos. 

- Special Books by Special Kids YouTube channel and Instagram page. I don't remember how I found Chris and his interviews with people who have special needs, but it was a similar story: I couldn't watch enough. I haven't had a lot of opportunities to spend time with people who have special needs, and it's really good to get insight into their lives and stories. I also hope it will help me interact with people I meet in that situation in the future.


https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4E98HDsPXrf5kTKIgrSmtQ



When you meet someone for the first time instead of asking them what they do you should ask them what they've always wanted to do. This conversation will be much more interesting. - Dallas Clayton

- Little City website. Every one of their posts is packed with so much truth and wisdom. I normally want to reread each one several times, and write down quotes to remember from them.

http://littlecitymag.com/


- My Heaven Song by Phil Wickham. This has been my theme song for the last couple of weeks - ever since I discovered it.

I want to run on greener pastures
I want to dance on higher hills
I want to drink from sweeter waters
In the misty morning chill
And my soul is getting restless
For the place where I belong
I can’t wait to join the angels and sing my heaven song

- Christy by Catherine Marshall. Buying this book was a happy 'coincidence,' and it's the first book I've gotten into (or that's gotten into me) for months. Christy struggles with real questions I think we all have from time to time (i.e how could God be good and allow sin and suffering?), and there's this wonderful character Miss Alice Henderson who gives advice I'm still pondering. I think God knew I needed it.

 Sometimes I look at people who don't see their worth in Christ, and I just think about how God actually breathed life into dust, making something wonderful out of something worthless. All of creation, God has been bringing value to the valueless, hope to the hopeless, and life into the lifeless. Don't you dare look at yourself and deny what God sees you as, because to Him, you are the very air in His lungs giving Him life; He died and rose again, so that you may be with Him forever. Come now, sons and daughters, to the place that God has made for you; because He is not simply telling you not to sin, He is calling you home. - T.B LaBerge

~

I also have a favour to ask of you. I've always avoided surveying my readers because I didn't want this blog to become me finding worth in pleasing people; trying to earn other's approval. But I want to keep things relevant and encouraging, and I would like your feedback to know how I can best serve you. The answers are anonymous so please say whatever's on your heart. Your honesty would mean the most to me. It's not required to answer all the questions, so if you only have an answer for one or two, that's totally fine. Thank you so much for giving me a few minutes of your time and thought space!


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What's been making you excited lately? What's your current favourite song, or channel, or book? Have you heard of any of the inspirations I mentioned? Tell me what's been happening in your world!

P.s I have a happy surprise coming your way next week. :D I can't wait to share it and wrap up the 31 Hugs Challenge by hearing your experiences!

20 October, 2017

Living Your Purpose - Guest Post








Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park, WA

I've been blessed to have known Ashleigh for many years, and her heart to serve God is always an encouragement. She recently sent me this reflection, and I thought her message was fitting for this month of investing in others. I second her: your worth is infinite, and only you can fulfill your purpose. Take courage to live bravely, friends!

~


If there was one piece of advice, one word of wisdom, one thing you could share with a soul just stepping out into life’s great vast world, what would you say?

Well, you might be thinking, 'This girl has no idea what she’s talking about, because I'd need to give them a whole 10,000-word essay to warn of difficulties/failures, encourage to reach what is truly good and noble, and fly above this old world and its violence and hatred!' But I have faced this from a lot of perspectives.

If there was one thing I could say, what would it be? It’s a tough question but I would say, “Work as if everything depended on you and pray as if everything depended on God.

This profound sentence contains the message I would encourage everyone to live. Working as if the world depends on us doesn’t mean literally, but passionately working out of a good heart, not for ourselves, but for the good of all. Praying as if everything depends on God well hey, everything does depend on God, so what better thing could we do than ask and trust it all to Him?!

Let's be dedicated and passionate about life. We’ve only got one life, so let's make the most of it, and run like we’re on fire towards our wildest dreams. Misery, sadness, despondency, and failure are all tools – it’s not about what happens to us; its about how we react to it. Let's take the opportunities that come our way, and if they leave a mark on our page, cheer up! Sometimes failure must precede success, and it gives a true appreciation for what we’ve just done.

You are wonderful, amazing, beautiful, precious, needed, loved, and most importantly: you are irreplaceable. Nobody can ever fill your place – you are special.

If you ever begin to doubt this: pray, because let me assure you – no matter how bad you are, God is always there waiting for you to talk to Him. And share: be open, talk to those you love – it is hard, but they love you and want the best for you.

Remember this much, YOU are special, you are irreplaceable, and you are invaluable.

Fight on!
Ash

P.s Here’s a song, I personally really love:
 


~
 
Thanks so much for sharing your heart with us, Ash. May God bless you as you run for Him and inspire others along the way. :)

What would you add? If you could only say one thing to someone, what would it be? How has the 31 Hugs Challenge been going for you?

13 October, 2017

Behind Existence


I’d been thinking about this post: what to say and why, relevant verses and experiences, and what I wanted people to get from it. But when I came to actually write, nothing happened.

Some call it writer’s block, but it’s more than that. It’s how I’ve been existing, and I don’t like it. It’s living dry, inspirational-less, motivation-less, lacking energy, lacking joy. It’s a drag. I’m scratching the bottom, wondering why I’m doing what I’m doing. Things that should be spontaneous and life-giving have become forced.  Everything is on the to-do list, and it still doesn’t get done. I blame study or commitments, but that isn’t true because a few weeks ago it wasn’t like this, and all that’s changed is me. Guys, this isn’t life. 

I like to think of life, living, as overflowing: I blog because I have an abundance of thoughts and they have to spill over. I laugh and have crazy dance hugs with my sister because my zeal for living (and lack of sleep) knows no bounds. I study because my desire to be informed to help others needs a release. I share on Instagram because blogging can’t contain all the snippets of inspiration. I randomly create or connect because I’m bursting to bless someone. I pursue God because I can’t stop. It’s a natural result, not anything we can force. It’s living because of something else. Then, everything becomes a blessing, a gift, a special bonus – because this is the overflow. We don’t expect anything from it, therefore everything we gain adds to our delight. It’s blissful, it’s joyful; it’s living. That’s what I want my life to be like.

So, this is where I am: trying to get back to living overflowing. I’ve tried to generate that experience, and it doesn’t work. Lack of sleep, poor eating habits, stress, missed devotion time, extra time on social media – none of that helps, but there is something bigger behind all this which I regularly forget. We discredit it, and then wonder what’s happening to our lives. 

We’re living in a battle zone. There is an enemy. God is real, but He has an opponent who’s plotting our defeat as surely as God has won the victory. This is what I was trying to write four hundred words ago. 

I didn’t want to do the 31 Hugs Challenge this year. I said I didn’t have time, and it’s a lot of effort – every day comes around very frequently. But God knocked some sense into me: did I just say I didn’t have time to give to others? What is my life?! That’s meant to be my focus, my mission, the thing I would love to make more time for. It was a needed reminder to get back to what matters, so I took up the challenge to give every day of October, and it was exciting. 

Then last week – the first week of the challenge – was crazy, busy, tiring, and stressful, between being away, having late nights and early mornings, new units to read and watch for study, and four assignments to do in three days. I had study group meetings, and volunteering, and teaching. I missed an important appointment, and felt pushed and worn. And I was meant to be taking time each day to think of and invest extra in someone else?! I missed a few days – actually, I missed the first day of the challenge. I got discouraged, and started second guessing myself and the motivation behind 31 Hugs.

Then, bam. I had a realisation: this is the devil. He’s on my case muddying things up, getting me discouraged, keeping me busy and distracted, and having everything land on me when I’m trying to do a good thing. 

So this was going to be an amazing strategy-filled post based on Ephesians 6, discussing spiritual armour, and spilling all the things I’ve been thinking out (overflowing, see). But it’s not; it’s life. Sometimes it’s messy and hard, but here’s the truth: it isn’t about us. We’re in the middle of a war, and there is an enemy! He’s the one getting us down, and it’s him we're warring against, not ourselves. But it’s not a battle we have to fight, because it’s already been won. Our job is to claim that and walk in His victory. But it is a shooting ground, and we need armour, we need strength, we need to be in constant communication with the Captain, we need to be familiar with the Guidebook, and we need to prioritize these things, because this is life we’re talking about – eternal life, but also life here, today. 

Jesus came so we could have life, and we could have it more abundantly. He says whoever lets Him flow like water into them, will not only have life, but will have rivers of living water flowing out of them. Let’s go back to the source – the only One who can fill us, give us abundant overflowing life and victory in this struggle.


Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Ephesians 6:10 

 ~

How have you all been? I feel like it's ages since I've posted and we've chatted. What are your thoughts on living from the overflow or spiritual warfare? What do you think truly living constitutes of? Also, does anyone else have a hard time naming posts?! Stay strong, friends. xxx