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How To Fight The Enemy

MadisonZizmerJune21.jpg

The other morning I woke up in a rut, running late, and feeling like I couldn’t get anything right. 

Thoughts flooded my mind immediately as my feet hit the carpet. 

 

You are not a good enough friend. 

You are not a good enough daughter. 

You are not a good enough sister. 

 

How many of us allow the enemy to take the wheel over our thought life at some point during our days?

As I made my way downstairs I sat down for a quick breakfast and picked up New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp. I read the devotion for the day and the words pierced my heart in the most beautiful way, I was reminded that what I preach to myself does in fact effect how I live. 

 

The devotion stated: 

“We just never stop talking

to ourselves. 

We never stop preaching

Some kind of gospel

to ourselves

It’s a gospel of

aloneness. 

partiality, 

poverty,

inability—

of functional hopelessness— 

or

it’s the gospel of

Jesus Christ, 

a gospel of

hope, 

mercy,

forgiveness, 

rescue, 

love, 

transformation, 

of never being alone, 

of never being without help; 

of One is near, 

of One who cares; 

of a beautiful forever

awash in victory. 

We are always listening

to

what we are preaching.” 

 

We have the power to redirect our minds and preach thoughts that are lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy. 

I often become stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts and “private heresy”. I speak lies in my head over and over again and I forget that I have the power through grace and Christ to preach the gospel of truth over myself. 

 

Here are three main ways that I try to shift my thinking: 

1. Memorize Scripture

Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young person live a clean life? By carefully reading the map of your Word.” When we know the word of God we are able to align our thoughts with the truth andpoint our minds back to hope, transformation, and joy. 

2. Worship

Whether you are in your car or in your bathroom getting ready sing songs over yourself. Music changes our minds, but especially music that praises our Maker. 

3. Vulnerability

Share with the people closest to your heart the lies you are believing and have them do the same. Begin praying for those people and speaking truth into their lives. When we have a body speaking into our weaknesses we begin to slowly hear the true whisper of God.

 

                                        Madison // @mzizmer

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Why You Shouldn't Plan Everything

We plan what we’re going to eat for dinner tonight. We plan what we’re going to wear tomorrow. We plan on what we’re doing this summer. We plan on the job we’re supposed to land after college, just because we get a piece of paper saying we’re now eligible. 

What if we stopped planning? What if we just stopped altogether? What if God is telling us that planning is out of style? I was confused the first time I heard this. I thought to myself: okay well if I plan literally nothing, then I guess I’ll be stuck alone in my room until someone drags me out and makes a plan for me. However, that’s not what God is saying when He tells us not to plan. 

I’ve realized that yes, as human beings, we are supposed to plan. Our lives would be a jumbled mess if we didn’t plan. What we are supposed to do is listen. We’re supposed to listen to our plan, and we’re supposed to follow it.

I’ve struggled my whole life with trying to hear from God. It’s more than just praying to hear an audible voice, and it’s more than just waiting around to make a decision once we feel Him yelling at us. That voice you hear in the back of your head ever so often, not the one you can shut up, I’m talking the one that you can’t hear over. Most likely, that’s the Holy Spirit trying to communicate with you. 

My whole entire life, I’ve had a plan. They were never short-term plans, considering I could never decide what to wear to school until about 15 minutes before the bell rang. My plan was this: go to a school as far away as possible, get a job in New York City and live my twenties messing around until I was “thirty, flirty, and thriving” (you know exactly what movie I’m quoting). Hopefully, I’d find the guy of my dreams and spend thousands over what I should for my wedding. I would then have three kids and live by the beach, happily ever after.

But, what if? What if that’s not my plan? There’s this saying I’ve heard before, and I’m finally seeing its relevance- we plan, God laughs.

He doesn’t laugh at us, I mean obviously. I picture him up there looking down on me, just chuckling and thinking to himself, “Oh, Annie you’re funny. That’s not at all what I have in store for you.” And that thought alone, is truly comforting. 

Here’s the real story: I visited seven schools in California, and I knew that was where I wanted to go. Long story short, I ended up in Alabama. Never in my wildest imagination did I think that’s where the Lord was to place me. 

Most people know the verse Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Have you ever really cut that one open? Allow me…

God already knows the plans He has for us; He’s known them since before we were born. He plans on helping us prosper and grow. And the only way we’re able to prosper and grow is when this world harms us. So He then gives us hope for our future. He never says He’ll give us things to hope for in the world (even though He does provide worldly things for us), but I look at it as Him saying He gives us hope for our life after this one. 

The next time you think about planning too far ahead, take a step back. I mean, don’t get me wrong, definitely plan out your day, your weekend, your vacation, your hopes and dreams, just not your future. Because newsflash - that’s not your job. 

Your job is to wait. Your job is to listen. Your job is to grow. But most of all, your job is to not turn away. Believe it or not, that plan I made when I was twelve years old, may not actually be the one for me. It sure has ended up different so far. So in the mean time, I’ll wait, I’ll listen, and I won’t turn away. 

After all, what good are we doing for ourselves if we’re not doing what He has planned for us?

 

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." Proverbs 16:9

 

Annie // @anniemilbourn

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For The Girl Who Is Doubting Her Path

“What are your plans this summer?”

 

This question has been circulating around as the school year is coming to an end. Who knew that a simple question could cause feelings of stress, doubt, and lead me comparison.

Recently I have found myself comparing my summer plans to my friend’s summer plans. Many of them are studying abroad, have summer internships, and are even visiting other countries to teach children. I am excited for them but I can’t help and think if I should be doing similar things with my summer. My brain has been going into compare mode. I want to study abroad but everyone is going this summer, should I be studying abroad this summer too? Shouldn’t I have an internship too? Is what I’m doing this summer good enough?

The enemy’s tactic of comparison is sneaky and can cause us to ultimately lean on our own wisdom, and I found myself trying to take matters into my own hands. My weeks of stressing and comparison caused me to retreat from the Lord and his word. I instead was leaning on my own understanding of what my summer should be like, and the path I was supposed to be on. I was scrambling to make plans that would fit my own vision of the summer I was supposed to have.

Have you noticed that when you retreat from confiding in the Lord, and trusting in His will you don’t feel at peace, or filled with his spirit? This is how I was feeling. The comparison and anxiousness had such a tight grip on my thoughts (I’m sure the enemy loved this), that I was spending my time looking up internships, stressing about having a job this summer, and feeling inadequate instead of reading His word. I felt distant from God and that scared me. I allowed comparison and stress to consume my thoughts when all I had to do was turn to Him and lean on Him. All I had to do was read the truth to realize I had absolutely no reason to doubt my current path. Maybe you are facing similar feelings of doubt. Doubting if you are at the right job, or at the right place in your life in comparison to your friends. I urge you to take out your Bible and read the truth.

"You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalms 16:11

My mom constantly speaks this truth to me: everyone is on different journeys and paths, and you are right where you are supposed to be. He reveals our life path in His own timing! I constantly have to remind myself that I am exactly where God wants me to be. Whether that means being at home for the summer, or not having an internship, there is no reason for me to compare my current path to others, and frankly no need to worry. We need to have trust in the Lord and in His will for our lives. Leaning on my own understanding got me nowhere but a few mental freak-outs and frantic Google searches for internships. In the times of stress and worry we need to submit to His power and will for our lives through patience and faith.

"Trust in the lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5

The Lord has not forgotten about any of us and will fulfill His promises for our lives! It is all in His timing (that’s where patience comes in), and when we meditate on the fact that God has us right where we are supposed to be for a reason, we can find solace and thankfulness. Maybe God wants me to focus on other aspects in my life this summer besides an internship, or studying abroad. Maybe he simply wants me to reflect on how he has blessed me and grown me over the year.  Whatever the case may be, I pray that we can continue to place faith daily in God's will for our lives and resist the urge to compare. I pray that we can be filled with the Lord’s spirit, that we have unbreakable trust in the one that loves us and wants the best for us. Our journey and path is unique to us, we should be so blessed that we can continue to grow and do so with God right by our side. Take a deep breath; you are right where God wants you to be.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Maddie // @maddieowens23

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How Praying Scripture Shifts Your Perspective

There are many undesired situations that happen in this life: an unwanted doctor’s report comes, a family member (or friend) is far from the Lord, parents go through a divorce, a best friend leaves without an explanation, a no comes back from the dream job/internship, etc. You get the point. It’s sometimes hard to pray intentionally for situations that seem sad or even heart crushing, but I found a solution: pray Scripture. I know that sounds like the most basic answer but, 2 Timothy 3:16 says…

 

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

 

The reality is God inspired people to write His Word. This means He ultimately wrote the Bible. Isaiah 55:10-11 says…

 

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty. but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

 

His words demand an action. They are not spoken without something happening. God is saying what He has spoken will become a reality. Numbers 23:19 says…

 

“God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?”

 

The previous Scripture is so important to me. We serve a God who is not human and changing His mind every other hour. He speaks truth and cannot, and will not, lie. He always keeps His promises which are “yes and amen”.

We are able to pray from this reality. We can remind the Lord who He is and what He has said in His word. He has not forgotten His word. It is just nice to be able to confidently approach Him and tell him how He doesn’t lie and has to respond. I want to give you an example of how this looked in my life.

I was going through a season where I did not have the community I so desired. I did not have friends who loved the Lord and would encourage me in Him. I separated myself from friends and was suddenly spending my nights tucked away in my room. I remember praying Scriptures like Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Lord, I pray for a David and Jonathan friendship. Someone that is seeking you as I am and will be as iron sharpening to me as I can be to them.

You know what happened the next day? In my natural sight, nothing; however, you and I do not walk by sight; we walk by faith. I took the lens of faith and began to thank the Lord that His eyes are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry (Psalm 34:15). This prayer took maybe three years to become a reality. It was hard. There were tears. I felt lonely but I was reminded I was never alone. Hebrews 13:5b, “God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

As I prayed Scripture, I was confident that the Lord who heard my prayers had already inspired them. I was secure in knowing the God listening was also answering. He was re-arranging stories and intersecting lives to become close friends. He has given me a David and Jonathan friendship and a few more who have a firm love for Him.

I encourage you to find a few Scriptures you can consistently pray over the situations/people in your life. My perspective has never been the same and I believe yours will be abundantly different as well. 

 

Kristin // @kristinmwitcher

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When Being Vulnerable is Difficult

The story of how the Lord brought me to Himself is one that I have grown pretty comfortable telling. Over and over He has put the words in my mouth to speak through my sweaty palms and shaking hands, and so when that Holy Spirit feeling of you-need-to-tell-it starts washing over me I have learned to trust Him. My past that once seemed like the scariest thing in the world to talk about has become far less intimidating. It has become a connection point for me and other believers and even nonbelievers, a place where like minds and even unlike minds can come together to find some common ground in the reality of all of our shared humanity.

Telling that story, the one of how He brought me to Himself, is how I used to define vulnerability. I thought it meant simply telling the tales from our past lives, and emphasizing the victory that we found at the end of it all through Christ. Vulnerability to me had always been about the stories that had an ending, ones that were nice and wrapped up pretty with bows and gift tags signed with the words “it is finished.” Telling them never cost me anything, never left me feeling truly wide open and exposed because I already knew how the story ended. I was already standing on the other side of all the things that I had walked through. They don’t feel as defining once you know the Lord has conquered them. They don’t seem to have as much power once you are able to look back and see the Lord was making a way for you right though them the entire time. So whenever He put it on my heart to tell of His faithfulness, I knew those stories were not necessarily told for myself. Though it certainly grew me in courage and trust in Him, it always seemed like the hope was that the Lord would reach into the heart of another and begin the work of having a new story emerge and unfold to further reveal His glory.

However, when I inevitably found myself falling back into some sinful ways, bad habits, and wrong choices that took me wandering away from the narrow path, the idea of vulnerability seemed far, far different and tremendously more terrifying than I had originally perceived it to be. Suddenly the Lord was not asking me to speak the story of how He had brought me to Himself, the story that was comfortable and I knew by heart, but rather I felt as though He was asking me to tell those closest to me about the messy struggles that I was facing in the present day, the ones that were filled with fear and shame and doubt. The ones that seemed to be never-ending, unfinished, and surely unable to bring forth any kind of glory to His name.

I had originally thought that I was good at being vulnerable, but I was soon forced to realize that I had actually only ever scratched the surface of what that word meant. In the words of the brilliant Brene Brown, it turns out to be vulnerable means not just showing people a scar, but allowing people to see an actual open wound. This, I quickly found, I am absolutely terrible at. I would much rather tell you a story of victory, then let you see me through the mess leading up to it. I would rather praise the Lord with you in the joyful aftermath, then have you hold my hand and pray for me in the midst of all the questions and doubt and pain that usually comes before. I had never really learned how to let people in when things were actually happening, when the wound is open and wide and bleeding profusely. Turns out, I am someone who doesn’t want to be seen until I have things under control, until I’ve cleaned myself up and deem myself presentable again. Turns out, I build walls and moats and put up barbed wire fences against real vulnerability. I hate. It scares me. I avoided it at all cost, and tired to get by with only giving as little of it as possible, even though the Lord was calling me deeper into that word and the relationships around me.

I wore my “brave face” like a shield, and quickly learned the art of fake vulnerability. When people asked me how I was, I spun them stories of how, sure, not everything was going perfect, but I was doing just fine. It was always just enough to mimic the sound of vulnerability without actually giving anything away. When that Holy Spirit feeling of you-need-to-tell-it would come over me, I would push it down and tell God the same thing. Soon it was not just my friends I refused to be honest with, but God too. I stopped fully expressing my need in my prayers. I started trying to do all the work I thought would clean me up and make be better on my own. I started keeping both people and God at an arms length away. It was exhausting. It was empty. It wasn’t working. All the while my open wound was still bleeding.

One of my absolute favorite things about God is His love, persistence, and patience in teaching stubborn, easily-spooked hearts like mine. Before when He taught me how to tell the story of how He brought me to Himself, He was so obviously laying the groundwork for the lessons on what real vulnerability looks like. Over the past six months, I have been challenged by Him, and those who want to do life with me in full, to stop with the fake vulnerability, tear down the walls, moats, and barbed wire fences I am quick to put up when vulnerability calls, and extend my open wounds to be tended to with love, grace, and Godly council. It has been scary; I won’t lie to you about that. The Sleeping at Last lyric, “I can’t keep my head from spinning out of control, is this what being vulnerable feels like?” comes to mind often. They got it right. That is what vulnerability feels like.

Maybe you’re like me, trying to silently slide away from real vulnerability when the Lord calls us to instead move closer. Maybe the idea of being seen and known past your finished stories makes you want to run for the hills. Maybe you think what is happening now—the messy, present, seemingly far from victory stories—aren’t worth telling until they have had enough time to become nothing more than a scar. But can I tell you something, friends? Something I am learning now in my everyday, and I hope you come to learn more about this summer as well. Real vulnerability is worth it. Not skipping the tough parts is the way to growth and healing. Though you may think that they aren’t worth telling, that they don’t reveal the glory of God, they so, so do. Because no matter what part of a story you are in, in the murky middle or the clarity at the end, there is already victory in Christ. Finished or unfinished, scar or wound, He is there and the cross is ever present before you. All has already been conquered. Nothing has power in the presence of Him. You are defined only by who He is and what has been done for you in great love.

That’s the beauty of the gospel. There is no need to come before the cross all cleaned up and ready to go. We were messy when He found us, and will always be that as we learn to walk though this life with Him. He doesn’t want you to hide that from Him or those that He has placed in your life to love you well. He wants us wide open and exposed for the sake of growing in Him, growing with each other, and going out into the word to bring other equally messy people to Him through our stories.

My challenge for you this summer is to enter into that with me, for you to question how you have been defining vulnerability and seek the Lord on how to move into its deeper meanings. Ask Him to help you tell your honest stories. Allow Him the space to build up your relationship with Him and others through them. Telling our stories of how He brought us to Himself is only the beginning of a lifetime of vulnerability. Maybe that’s where you need to start, with the scar. Or maybe you know there are things you have kept hidden from Him and those around you for too long, an open wound in need of some tender, love, and care. Both matter. Both are worth being told. Both will grow you and teach you and even help heal you. Best of all, both will lead you into yet another word I feel a need to go deeper in—community.

 

Jacqueline // @jacquelinewinstead

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