Christian

My Size 9’s Are Different Than Yours…

I once had a client tell me “My size 9’s are different than your size 9’s or any one else’s, size 9’s”.  She was talking about her path in life.  Although there are other people who have been through similar experiences, her experience is unique to her and will never be the same as any one else’s.  I don’t even wear a size nine, but that stuck with me.  I use her analogy a lot with clients and discuss their circumstances and their life path.  Their journey is different than anyone else.  They will have times when they are doing well and times when they struggle.  They will have times when they are growing and thriving and times, they feel lost and like they are starting over. But it is all part of their journey.

called wm

I think it is easy to look at that analogy and use it in the context of life as a whole.  However, I think in the Christian walk, there is an expectation that once you accept Christ, life may have its up’s and down’s but your Christian walk has expectations and milestones that need to be met to measure your level of belief or faith in God.

I really struggle when people start putting expectations on my faith. I don’t believe God has a check list or a chart that measures a person’s faith.  I don’t believe that getting baptized, paying tithing, volunteering at church, attending church, or even reading the Bible determines my love for God, where I am in my journey, or how much faith I have.  None of that can determine the level of my relationship with my Savior.  None of that can determine my salvation.

This summer I have been in a small group Bible study that has talked about becoming a disciple for Christ.  I have very much enjoyed the time with the ladies in my group and I have learned a lot.  For a long time, I had a belief that a disciple was a teacher, someone who taught people about Jesus.  But the definition of a disciple is any follower of Christ. Not someone who has done all the right things, not someone who is good enough, not someone who has checked all the Christian boxes on their journey.  I loved this realization.  I am a disciple of Christ.  I follow Him.

 

I think when people become followers of Christ, when they truly surrender their hearts and have a desire to follow Jesus, there is a desire to grow, to change, to become better in your life.  However, with anything, there are stages of growth and change. In the Bible study book, we have been using this summer the last chapter talked about how in Alaska due to the way the seasons are the amount of sunshine during the summer months there is a rapid growth during that time.  The author talked about the “hot house” effect stated how in awe he and his wife were of the flowers, pumpkins, and other vegetables they found in Alaska in early July.  The reason is because of the rapid growth that happens from May to through August.  It is a short season but the growth is fast an amazing, but then Alaska has a long season of cold and dark, where there is little to no sun, and nothing grows.

following wm

I think it is so easy for the religiosity of people to get caught up in the judgments and measuring people by the tangible things they see.  I have mentioned before my struggle with religion.  I think when people start creating expectations, rules, requirements for salvation or faith, that is the most detrimental thing a disciple you can do.  Jesus never had expectations except to follow Him. Your path, your size 9’s are part of your journey, part of your demonstration of your faith.  God will use you where you are at on His terms.

God has always used regular everyday people to spread his message. I recently heard a new song by one of my favorite Christian bands Casting Crowns.  The song is called Nobody and the chorus says:

Moses had stage fright
And David brought a rock to a sword fight
You picked twelve outsiders nobody would’ve chosen
And You changed the world
Well, the moral of the story is
Everybody’s got a purpose

So when I hear that devil start talking to me, saying
“Who do you think you are?” I say

I’m just a nobody trying to tell everybody
All about Somebody who saved my soul
Ever since You rescued me, You gave my heart a song to sing
I’m living for the world to see nobody but Jesus
I’m living for the world to see nobody but Jesus

know wm

I guess the whole point is we all have our own size 9’s and as long as those size 9’s are on a path to Jesus, God will use us as he sees fit.  My size 8’s are way different than your size 9’s and just because you don’t like someone else’s shoes or you don’t like how they are progressing in their walk doesn’t make you the expert in the journey.

I’m just a Small Town Girl…Living life with Jesus in my size 8’s.

Christian, exmormon, mormonism

Overwhelming, Never-ending…

“While others are congratulating themselves, I have to sit humbly at the foot of the cross and marvel that I’m saved at all.” ~CH Spurgeon

Growing up in my Mormon world I struggled with the idea that I had to be perfect.  I believed that I would never be good enough to go to Heaven.  As a Christian I know I will never be good enough to go to Heaven, I will never do enough to get to Heaven.  I take comfort in knowing that because of Christ I will go to Heaven.

do not fear

Every day I am so amazed by the love God has for me.  It blows my mind to think of His suffering and pain on the cross and although Christ knew of the anguish he would go through when He was put on the cross and yet He willingly went through it all for me.  I am so undeserving of His love and grace, and yet, He is so willing to give it to me.

Living everyday life is hard.  I try to be the person I want to be.  But that is also fueled by the expectations of those around me.  I fail every day.  The most amazing thing is when I fail God’s love and grace are still there for me.  Every day, I try to keep God at the center of my life, and every day I fail.  I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t think back to my life before Christ and I wonder where I would be if I hadn’t answered the phone, or if I hadn’t believed that God loves me. If I still lived in my Mormon world I don’t know how I would survive.

reckless love

There is a song called Reckless Love by Cory Asbury, the chorus states:

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

Think about that for a minute…God loves you so much, He would leave his flock to find you, to fight for you.  I fail every day.  I fall short every day.  I can’t earn God’s love or grace.  I will never be deserving of Gods love or grace.

I know I am a sinner, a failure, a hypocrite, a disappointment, and yet my God still loves me.  He’d leave the 99 to come find Me! In my hardest darkest days, that is what keeps me going.  Knowing that I can’t do anything to make God not love me. Knowing that no matter what, He has forgiven a horrible, hypocritical, sinner like me.

you are enough

Knowing all my failures and shortcomings, “I have to sit humbly at the foot of the cross and marvel that I’m saved at all.”

It feels amazing to know…

I’m Just a Small Town Girl…Living in the Reckless Love of God.

 

Christian, exmormon

Church is My Favorite…

It has been a crazy few weeks!  Between holidays, sickness, work, and family stressors, I am so glad to be getting life back on track. It’s been a while since I have typed a blog.  I have really struggled with my focus and with where God is taking me.  I have had a lot of change in my life over the past year and the last few weeks my life has felt overwhelming.

Last night as all the thoughts and events were going through my head and I was trying to stress myself out, God whispered to me, “It’s OK I’ve got this.”  It amazes me, how in the past, the events of my life that I am currently dealing with would have sent me into a tail spin and today, I can stop and know that God is in control and he has a lot bigger and better plans for my life than I do.

jer 29 11

I wasn’t overwhelmed about anything specific but just life in general.  The last few weeks there have just been a lot of things going on in my already crazy world and I have just been able to feel the weight of all of them.  I think the thing that stands out to me most right now is that as a Mormon life often felt overwhelming.  It often felt like I had a lot on my plate and not enough time to even think about it all.  My life as a Christian I think is more busy, just because of life circumstances, but most of the time it is not as overwhelming.

My last blog I wrote about religion and the frustrations and irritations I have with organized religion.  What’s funny about that is I have realized over the last few weeks how much I love church, or I guess my church and my church family.

Brian and I have the amazing opportunity to be a part of the tech team at our church.  Brian runs the sound and I take care of the slides and videos for the church. We are at church early on Sunday mornings, and I am usually finishing up the power point presentation when I get home from work on Saturday.  As much as I love what I do at church sometimes I really don’t want to get up on Sunday mornings.  But… it doesn’t matter how I feel on Sunday morning, it doesn’t matter, if I take the time to get up and fix my hair and do my makeup, or if I just wear a sweatshirt and throw my hair up into a ponytail, I am always grateful that I showed up at church.

church

I enjoy the people I interact with, they always ask about my adult kids and how they are doing in their lives.  And I very much enjoy Pastor Roger’s messages every week.  The worship does one of 2 things,  sometimes both at the same time.  It will bring me to tears or brighten my mood. In many ways church has become my happy place.  It is one of my favorite places to be.

I haven’t always loved church.  Growing up, I despised church, I hated going. What teenager wants to go spend 3 hours listening to how you need to be a good person, live morally, listen to the prophets, “look at all the hard choices your leaders were faced with and they still made good choices, you can do it too.”  For me they were shame and guilt filled messages that reminded me I would never be good enough.  I rarely came home from church feeling like I was loved and with my mood brightened.  I was inspired and encouraged by some of the stories, but most often, I was reminded of how big of a failure and disappointment I was to those “amazing examples of the gospel” around me.

I think there is a huge difference between church and religion.  When Brian and I first became Christians, we attended a church that had 3 services.  There were a lot of people from many different walks of life who chose to worship there.  We met some amazing people there are we are still friends with some of those people today.  God led us to our current church and from the minute I walked in I loved the atmosphere.  I loved the people. And I loved that I could be me.  I walked into our church and saw just that people in different phases of life, with different struggles, different perspectives, but all of them love God.  Even in the big church we attended people weren’t there out of obligation, to fulfill a calling, or to check mark the box on their weekly to do list.  It was about giving back to God by loving other people.

lighthouse

So, even with the struggles I have with religion, I think church is essential.  My last blog I asked 3 questions, Do you know God?  Do you have a relationship with Him?  And are you being accountable in that relationship?  I think church helps me answer these questions.  My relationship with God is personal and can only be between Him and me, but it is though worship and surrounding myself with others that know Him and live according to His word that help me to grow closer to Him.  I am held accountable by being around the people who know me and challenge me to grow in my relationship with Christ. So as much as I hate religion, church is my favorite!

I’m just a Small Town Girl…loving my church!

Christian, exmormon, mormonism

Rock or Sand?

I hate religion!  I absolutely hate it!  Religion is judgmental and hurtful.  Religion creates a set of rules you are required to follow to measure your righteousness in life and so you can measure your salvation.  Religion is about Christianese and culture, legalism and following the rules.  And I hate it.

 

Every day, I work with people from many different backgrounds and experiences.  A few weeks ago I had a very rough week, and one thing every difficult situation I experienced had in common was religion.  Religion is a place of rules, requirements, and unrealistic expectations.

I feel like religion is a breeding ground for perfectionism, and perfectionism leads to feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and shame.  I think religion takes the uncertainty out of our faith.  We no longer have to have a blind faith with religion.  We don’t have to believe in something that isn’t tangible.  Religion makes our faith tangible and measurable so we know what we need to do to win the race, to get the crown.  I think people cling to religion because we don’t like the uncertainty of faith.

perfectionism

I also think religion is a place where personal accountability to our faith is lost.  If I put on the face, go out and serve in my church, do and say the right things, then 2 thumbs up, I’m on the right track.  But where is God in what I’m doing?  Where is my accountability to God and my personal relationship? It’s lost…

It makes me think of the song “The Wise Man Built His House”

 The foolish man built his house upon the sand

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

And the rain came tumbling down

Oh, the rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

And the foolish man’s house went “splat!”

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

And the rain came tumbling down

 

Oh, the rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

And the wise man’s house stood firm.

I feel like those who blindly trust in religion are the foolish men and people who have a personal relationship with Christ are the wise men.

Growing up in Mormonism the focus was so often on being a Mormon and not on God or Jesus.  It’s funny because when you ask Mormon’s if they believe in Jesus or if they teach about Jesus the typical response is, “Of course we do, it’s in our name”.  The thing is, growing up the focus was rarely on Jesus or God, it was on the religion itself.  The focus was Joseph Smith and Mormonism.  But in all reality, it wasn’t very often there was a lesson about Christ or having a personal relationship with Him.

In my experience as a Mormon, the focus was all about the current prophet of the church and following the prophet.  And don’t forget “Praise to the Man” referring to Joseph Smith.  When I left Mormonism, there were so many things I found out about God, Christ, Christianity, and religion that I never knew before.  I don’t think I had even heard of grace or salvation before becoming a Christian.  They were definitely not terms we talked about in Mormonism.

personal relationship

As a Christian, I believe the most important thing is to have a personal relationship with Christ.  That means you talk to Him, and spend time reading His word, you spend time with people who are also in a relationship with Him.  I think it means the intention behind what you do is to please God.  When you have a relationship with God and that is the focus of your faith instead of religion being the focus of your faith, the shame, guilt, and self-doubt that comes with religion, don’t have room to grow, it’s easier to embrace the uncertainty.

There are many times I struggle with my relationship with Christ, when He is not first in my life.  I know when I’m struggling in life, I need to stop and refocus.  When I struggle the most it’s because I am focusing too much on what I can do and how I can control things on my own. In these moments I know my relationship with Christ is struggling.

I do think worship is important, and I think having a church and people you can connect and fellowship with is important.  When people ask my religion, I tell them Christian without hesitation.  So, maybe it isn’t really religion that I hate.  Maybe it’s the judgmental, hypocriticalness that comes from religion.  Maybe it’s the focus on rules and works versus faith and grace.

hypocrite

What I do know is, it doesn’t matter where you go to church, what you wear, the color of your hair, if you wear jewelry or not, the size of your house, bank account, or the type of car you drive, God wants you.  He wants your heart.  He wants to interact and have a relationship with you.  Religion doesn’t matter, what matters is do you know God?  Do you have a relationship with Christ?  And are you being accountable in that relationship?

I’m just a Small Town Girl…building my house upon the rock.

Christian

Heart Problems…

I’ve struggled with writing my blog lately.  Recently, I even thought maybe, I would just stop writing.  I feel God has made it very clear to me that isn’t an option.  So, as I was pondering the last few weeks, I thought about the world and all the turmoil going on right now.  I thought about a friend who is going through a really rough time, I thought about the church shooting that just happened and that mass shootings seem to be an almost regular event anymore.  I thought about my job and the hurt and pain that people struggle with on a daily basis to the point they want to take their own lives.  I remembered, my purpose in writing this blog is because people need Jesus!!

life hurts

There is so much hurt and heartache in the world today.  I sit and think about all of the yuck in this world and I remember when I was there.  Hurt, broken, feeling worthless and hopeless.  When I opened myself up to the love of Christ, when I heard that it didn’t matter to Him all of the horrible things I felt I had done, He still loved me, it changed my entire world.   In the past I would have told you I knew who Jesus was, and I believed in Him, and I tried to live a good life.  But having a relationship and opening yourself up to God’s love is different, it changes you, it changes your world.

I try not to be political in my blog.  I try to just focus on my religious experiences.  But as I think about the state of the world today, I can’t help but take more of a political stance.  I’ve seen a quote many times that says you don’t need religion to have morals, and while I don’t disagree with that, I feel as a society as we work to remove God from our culture, our morals are going by the way side.  I have worked in a school and worked in a prison and it blows my mind that we discourage kids from freely pursuing and practicing their faith in school.  We put many barriers in their way and yet if you are in prison, religion is encouraged.  I remember sitting in parole hearings and listening to inmates talk about going to church and Bible studies and how God was changing their lives.  One of my many hats at the prison was the religious coordinator, I oversaw all religious activities and made sure all religious volunteers were in compliance with facility policies.  Just imagine if we put that much energy into assisting the development of spirituality and religion for our children.  Maybe we wouldn’t have the struggles we have now.

universe

I’ll be honest, there were many different religions in prison, and several weren’t Christian based, and I could tell those who were genuine in their pursuit of a relationship with Christ and those who weren’t.  The difference was, their lives, even in prison, just seemed to go better.  They didn’t get in trouble with the jail staff, they followed the rules, and they didn’t argue.  They were accepting of their situation and if something didn’t go their way or if they felt they had been wronged, they had a conversation with the staff and tried to work it out.  They were different.  Their hearts were different.

There is truly something amazing that happens when you give your life over to God.  When you are willing to accept that He has a plan and a purpose for you it changes your perspective and changes your heart.  I know when I came to that realization, I wanted to know God more, I wanted to know everything I could, I read devotionals, Bible studies, I listened to sermons on the Radio. I began to develop a relationship with this God, who before seemed so scary and condemning, but as I learned more about Him, was loving and kind.  It blew my mind as I read the Bible and learned about the people he chose to spread his message.  The people he chose to be the ones that would represent Him.  They were not perfect people who always did right.  They were very much sinners.  But…They all had one thing in common.  They all loved God.  They had a relationship with God and they pursued Him.  They wanted to please their God.  And although they made mistakes and struggled with their sin, they still pursued Him. It wasn’t just because they believed in Him, it’s because they had a relationship with Him.

jesus heals broken hearts

In today’s world, God is a foreign concept.  Society teaches trusting in God is a weakness.  In today’s world, we want to be our own gods.  It’s heart breaking to me.  As I watch people struggle, I think, “You need Jesus!!”  And I struggle to say anything for fear that they will condemn me or make fun of me.  I can say, “You need Jesus!!” on my blog because it’s not face to face.  That’s easy.  And yet, I know that’s what I need to do.

The thing that needs to change most in this world is we need to get back to the basics.  The 10 Commandments, the Beatitudes, and having a relationship with the Creator of the Universe.  The problems in this world are not about race, religion, sexual orientation, politics, gun control, or any other social issue the media wants to glorify or criticize at the moment.  It’s about the heart.  It is what is important to us as a society and where our priorities lie.  Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.  In today’s world our hearts are anywhere but with Jesus.

giraffe

I’m just a Small Town Girl… living in a world in need of Jesus!

 

Christian, exmormon

Freedom to Sin…

I’ve had people ask me if Christians are allowed to sin and do whatever they want because they believe in salvation by grace alone.  That always makes me laugh.  Grace is not a get out of jail free card.  As a Christian I know that I sin every day.  And even when I sin, I am not free from the consequences of my sin even though I am forgiven.  I also know, I have already been forgiven of my sins.  So, I guess the question is, if I already know I am forgiven, then, why isn’t grace a get out of jail free card?

sin

The real problem is that sin is everywhere.  We as humans like to think that we are “good” people and that just living as a “good” person in the world is enough.  As a Christian, I know I am not really a good person.  I do things wrong every day.  I even have days when I know I am living life not pleasing to God.  But as I grow in my relationship with Christ, I become more accepting of myself and I focus more on Christ and try to be a better person.

beloved

As a Christian, I find the more I grow in my relationship with Christ the more I recognize when I am in sin.  I am often more convicted when I feel my behavior and things I am doing are not pleasing to my God.  The biggest difference from my life before Christ and my Christian life is that I know I am already forgiven.

Growing up I struggled so hard with feeling like I was enough.  I felt the impossibility of living a life free from sin which led me to feeling very hopeless.  I just wanted to be accepted and be enough.  I often felt it was pointless to even try if I was never going to be enough anyway.

Micah Tyler has a song out right now called Different.  The Chorus is

I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different
In me

I think this is exactly how I feel as a Christian.  I don’t feel that I am ever free to sin, but I sin every day.  I want to be different.  I want people to be able to see Christ in me!

 

I feel like when I became a Christian, and recognized I was saved by grace and it didn’t matter what I did, God would still love me.  I felt hope again.  Being saved by grace I have become a more willing participant in my life and the world around me (most days).  I make more of an effort to live a life pleasing to God.  I want to be different for Christ.  I want people to see what He has done in my life and I want His light to reflect out of me.  In most situations I try to do the right thing.  I focus on being positive and trying to be a positive light to those around me.  It took me a while to be able to say, “I am saved” and believe that I had truly accepted Christ into in my heart and would go to Heaven, but when I did I wanted to shout it from the roof tops and share the love and grace that I received from Christ with everyone.

contribute

As a human, I have a sin nature.  I sin on a pretty regular basis.  The nice thing about grace is, I know I am forgiven.  There is nothing I can do ensure my forgiveness other than accept Christ as my Savior.  But the best part of being a Christian saved by grace alone is at the end of the day I can say, “God, I tried today, I didn’t do too great.  But thank you for loving me any way.  I’ll try again tomorrow”.  That’s the great thing about being saved by grace.  So, as I Christian do I feel like I am free to sin?  Absolutely not!  But as a Christian am I grateful for the knowledge that no matter how bad I mess up in the day, and regardless of the consequences I face, I am forgiven?  Absolutely YES!

sin

I’m just a Small Town Girl…wanting to be different in a sinful world.

 

Christian

Is That All…

A couple of weeks ago, I was part of a conversation where the question was asked, “Why did God create us if we weren’t destined for something greater? We go to Heaven and that’s it? We’re done? What do we do for Eternity?”  I was surprised by the question and sad for the person who asked it.

“Heaven is the dwelling place of God and the saints who are ultimately saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone” (CARM.org).  In my mind, Heaven is the ultimate reward.  Heaven is where we will be with our Creator and be in continuous worship and fellowship with Him and other believers.  “We go to Heaven and that’s it?”  What more could there be? The stress and pain of this world is gone.  You’re filled with love and joy and in continuous worship.  I struggle to understand why that isn’t enough.

image

Last weekend I had the opportunity of spending the weekend at a ladies retreat for church.  We spent the weekend focused on Jesus, learning about discipleship, and in continuous worship.  It was a stress-free weekend.  Filled with fun, great food, and a focus on God and what He wants for our lives.  I don’t think we can ever understand or comprehend what Heaven will be like.  But if there is anything similar to what Heaven will be like here on Earth, I think it is things like the ladies retreat I attended.  I think spending time in community with others where the focus is on Christ.

We attend an amazing church in our little community.  Because we live in a rural area with several smaller towns, we have people from all over the valley who travel to our little church.  When Brian and I first heard about this church we were honestly, a little leery.  A church community.  People who spent their time together.  Not just on Sunday, but people who did life together.  We were concerned because we didn’t want to spend that much time doing “churchy stuff”.  It’s amazing how our perspective has changed over the years.

encouragement

Brain and I had attended a few different churches in our short Christian walk, but when we started attending our current church, everything changed.  As leery as we were to be so involved with all that “churchy stuff”, it was exactly what we were looking for.  For the first time in our lives we began to grow in God’s word.  We began to understand why we believed what we believed and we began to become who God created us to be.  That “churchy stuff” that we didn’t want was just living life with fellow believers.  It was fellowship, worship, honoring God in our daily lives and making Him the center.

People think that worship is bowing down or raising your hands in praise.  But in reality, worship is showing love, honor, respect, and praise, to what is important to you.  As a Christian one of the greatest ways to worship God is to be in fellowship with other believers.

breath

I really think that Heaven is going to be an awesome time of worship.  It will be better than anything I can fathom.  It is being in constant fellowship and worship with God without the distraction of life and the stressors we experience as human beings. “Why did God create us if we weren’t destined for something greater? We go to Heaven and that’s it? We’re done? What do we do for Eternity?” Why did God create us if we weren’t destined for something greater?”  I can’t imagine anything greater than being in eternal fellowship and worship with my Creator.  We go to Heaven and that’s it? We’re done?  We’re done with the challenges, we’re done with the stress.  We get to live in peace and contentment.  Isn’t that what people are searching for in this life.  Chasing the dream of contentment and happiness, only to be disappointed by the next stressor that life throws at you.  So, I guess yeah, in my view, that’s it… we’re done.  What do we do for eternity?  I think we live in worship and fellowship with our God and fellow believers for eternity. I can’t imagine a greater way to experience Heaven.

bored

I’m just a Small Town Girl…Living in a world of worship.