Determination used to resemble stubbornness in my world.  Often I was ‘determined’ to do something just to prove a point.  Determination now resembles overcoming an obstacle.  I can think of so many things that I am ‘determined’ to do, however; lately, I am more ‘determined’ to eliminate certain ideas from my thought life and replace them with His ideas.  
I am determined to never doubt my worth as a child of God.
I am determined to be an authentic follower of Jesus and not a ‘plastic’ Christian.
I am determined to be obedient.
I am determined to learn how to follow Jesus with reckless abandonment.
I am determined to love others the way Jesus loves me and to use honor and value as verbs.
I am determined to surrender to Jesus on a daily basis and to ask Him to strip me of EVERYTHING that is not of Him.
I am determined to keep my thoughts focused on things that are pure, holy, honorable, lovely, commendable, and excellent. 
I am determined to surround myself with wise counsel who will build me up, encourage me, and lead me away from sin rather than towards it.
I am determined NOT to let my past define who I am today.
I am determined NOT to make pleasing man a priority and to focus my eyes above at all times. 
I am determined to NOT be of the world even though I am in it.
I am determined to tell others of His love, locally and globally, until all have heard. 
I am determined to repent and ask for forgiveness when I fail Him on a daily basis. 
Lastly, I am determined to trust Him to be my God…so I can just be me.  (Thank you Laura Story). 
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There. It. Was. A Not So Gentle Realization…

I started a bath for my daughter and she asked me if I would stay in the bathroom with her.  Often she likes her own “me” time to play and play in there until she resembles a prune.  This time, she wanted me close by so I stayed.  I grabbed my devotional for the day and asked her if she would like me to read it out loud to her.  She replied with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” so I proceeded to take my seat on the porcelain perch and began to read.  The passage for the day happened to be Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a ‘fragrant’ offering and sacrifice to God.”  We started to discuss what being an “imitator of God” may look like and then what came next shook me to my core.  In fact, it shook me way more than it should have as a follower of Christ who desires to have unwavering faith.  My precious daughter said, “Mommy, what if we decide not to follow Jesus?”  Clearing my throat…”What exactly do you mean, honey?”  She responds, “Well, what if someone (whew…thank goodness she didn’t say what if ‘I’) decided they didn’t believe in Jesus?”  Seriously ya’ll?  This is not something I even wanted to try to wrap my brain around, nor did I want to give this possibility too much attention.  Only, that is what it needed.  You see, I have believed in Jesus as far back as I can remember and was a pew warmer at church for years and years.  At age 32, however; I learned that I did not have the slightest clue what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus.  So yes, this question deserved my undivided attention.

What I should have done in this moment is prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill me with the words that my precious girl needed to hear about our Heavenly Father and about the consequences of a decision to not follow Him.  Instead, I simply said, “If you decide not to follow Jesus, you will not go to Heaven.”  She responded, “Oh no!  I want to go to Heaven to see Papa, Uncle Clyde, Grandma Tut, Tom-Tom, and Bingo (a neighborhood dog).”  Sigh.  Relief.  God used this conversation to teach me three things:

Firstly, often times, a huge explanation is not needed.  The truth can be shared in many ways and even if I do not have the answers, which is often the case, I can point others to His Word where the answers to all of life’s questions can be found.  People do not need me to be philosophical and speak “Christianese” to them.  They need me to be a light and to show them Christ through the way I live and the way I love.

Secondly, I am not in control of my daughter’s decisions as she grows up…but by golly, I will do the best that I can to be a godly example for her and to plant the seeds that God will grow as she seeks Him in her life.  And she will seek Him.  She already does in her own little way and she will continue to.  I have faith.  In the meantime, I will commit to covering her precious soul in prayer and ask that God give her the wisdom and discernment to make good choices as she is faced with tough decisions throughout her life.

Thirdly, I have a lot of work to do.  I will never achieve perfection here on Earth.  Thank God I was able to take that off of my “to do” list.  That being said, there are many times where I have not been an imitator of Christ.  Did I say many times?  I can probably think of many times today that this has been the case.  Yikes.  I certainly do not treat my body as a temple.  Growl.  There are many times I have not been humble.  Ouch.  As long as I am being real, there are many times that ‘this little light of mine’ has been hidden under that bushel and has been completely overshadowed by poor choices or a poor attitude.  Gross.  1 Corinthians 8:9 says, “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”  The last thing I want to do is be a “stumbling block” to anyone whether it be my child, my husband, my friend, or even someone I may not know.  Thank you God for using this child of Yours to teach me and bring me back to a place of humbleness in my journey.  Sometimes my lens just needs to be refocused.

A Raging Battle

The Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Study Blog Team defined a raging battle as something that “tempts to destroy our emotional, physical, or spiritual well-being.”  The topic challenged me to self-reflect and determine what it is that I crave more than God.  I hoped this would be difficult to identify and was stunned to realized how glaring my craving actually is.  Connection.  Yes, you heard that right.  I crave being connected.  This would be a beautiful thing if the craving was to be connected to God.  While I do cherish my morning quiet time with Jesus and adore the connection I feel to Him during this time, suddenly I am faced with the remainder of the 24 day and my connection craving turns to email, text, Facebook, Instagram, or phone calls.  I don’t know about you but it did not take me long to realize that Jesus doesn’t have any of those things.  While I have always said I would LOVE for God to write me a letter, I am pretty sure my expectations aren’t to check my phone and see His name pop up. 

Just since I sat down to type this blog, I have received a ‘ding’ from my email and ‘5 dings’ from Facebook notifications.  The worst part?  I am really great at justification!  I NEED to be by my phone in case the school calls about my daughter.  I NEED to check my email in case someone from OBS or something work-related needs my immediate attention.  I NEED to check that text right away in case it is important (I may miss an important lunch invitation).  I NEED to respond right away before I forget.  I AM EXHAUSTED by the dings and dongs and frankly, my eyes are tired.  I am not one of those people who is burdened by the negativity that sometimes crosses Facebook.  In fact, I am convinced that I have the most amazing 700+ friends in the world because I receive so much encouragement from the various posts I see throughout the day and many of them are from some awesome Jesus girls!  My email dings most of the time are from inspirational blogs and daily devotionals that I subscribe to.  Again, positive information!  I realize now though that even positive, godly information can distract me from Jesus.  This distraction also hinders my personal connection to people.  In fact, my 2014 phrase is to ‘be intentional.’  When I resist the urge to check my phone and respond immediately, I am able to sit down and respond with more sincerity in the evenings.  I am able to pray over my responses instead of reacting.  I am able to write out prayers to send to people or call them and pray with them instead of just saying “I will pray for you.” Side note-Do not stop texting, emailing, or Facebooking me…I love you all and LOVE to hear from you.  Hopefully it will just take me a little longer to reply…and if you need me quickly, well….I trust that God will stir my heart to get my attention for you.

Romans 12:2-“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Renewal of my mind…renewal of my mind.  As long as I am craving connection to the world, my mind cannot be renewed and I will drown out the voice of God.  Discernment will not be able to break through the clutter and I will struggle to hear his will. 

1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  We are commanded to not love the world, however; we are also commanded in John 15:12 to love one another as He has loved us.  I want to love each person that God has blessed me with in an intentional way.  I want to be the best wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend that I can possibly be and unless Jesus is my center at all times, this type of love cannot exist. 

The raging battle will only exist if we permit it to occupy our inner life.  Ephesians 6:11-“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”  Sisters, I can promise you that if we are craving anything more than we are craving God, Satan knows it and he will tempt us in our weaknesses in a mighty way.  Will you commit with me today to crave God above all else?  Lets pray together.  Lets be intentional about suiting up together.  Lets hold each other accountable. 

“We will never be happy until we make God the source of our fulfillment and the answer to our longings.  He is the only one who should have power over our souls.”-Stormie Omartian

Can I get an amen??

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