Regret and Renewal

There's not a day that goes by that I wish it didn't happen.
Sometimes, there's things in life on which we just wish we could push the "delete" button. Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way.
I think it's partly because I struggle with guilt. That, and regret. I've been trying to rest in the fact that God truly forgives all sin. All of it. HE pushes the "delete" button, in essence. He no longer remembers it. So why should I?
But something I've been learning about lately is the fact that God uses every circumstance in our lives, no matter how big, small, amazing, horrible, or shameful, to shape us into the people He wants us to be. His soldiers :). His sovereignty enables Him to do that. Along with that, His plans are so exceedingly big and bountiful and beyond comprehension that we could never foresee them. Every experience leads to the specific plan that He has for me. He has ordained it from the beginning of time. He is so much bigger and awesome than anything, wicked or "good" on human terms, that I could do or have done.
I've come to realize that regret is another form of Satan's tools that he conveniently whips out, pressing on the bruise that has the most affect on us. For me, at least. He likes to make me fixate on the past, wishful thinking, what I could have or should have done... instead of looking onward, looking to Christ.
I really like Relient K's song "Forget and Not Slow Down." It so perfectly words my jumbled mess of thoughts. You should look it up.
So I lay it all down, at Your feet, Jesus. Take it all, 'cause I can't take it any longer.
Before I close, I want to share an image that encourages me so incredibly much. It's come about through many things, but I'm rather a visual person. First, Satan comes along with His accusations. Some are twisted, some are pretty much true. I kind of compare it with a drowning, smothering type of experience. Then my Savior comes. He is walking up a hill, and He seems to feel the same things that I do. He is carrying a cross, and He slowly makes His way towards me. Before I realize what is going on, He is there, and He majestically places Himself between me and the accusations, the enemy. His power and love radiates, and he has fought through a burden that was not His to bear. *

This is not a usual post for me. The writing is nothing exceptional. The ideas are not original. It just is.

*References to: "our defense" - God is Our Refuge
the image of the Lifehouse Everything skit
plus a few


How July Isn't Normal.

So... I posted this on my facebook about 3 weeks ago, at the very beginning of July. For various reasons I'm just now putting it up here. Since apparently its possible to find my blog. Haha.

For the month of Jully, starting in...26 minutes, I will not be as easily accessible as most of you are accustomed to. More specifically:
1. I will not be on facebook.
2. I will (ideally) not be using my cell phone.
3. I wil not be spending money.
4. I will not be listening to secular music.
Well, really the first two are the only things that have to do with trying to contact me, but the last two are related as well.
You might be thinking, 'Isn't that a bit extreme?' or maybe you're asking 'why...?' Or, probably for the majority, 'WHAT THE FRUITCAKE IS WRONG WITH YOU?!'
Allow me to explain.
I'll make it short, I promise ;-).

I have been blessed to experience and witness the powerful influence that God has on people, and the great and awesome love He goes to such lengths to show to all of us. This is something that I've "always known," but since I'm human, it sometimes leaves my heart. I know with my head, but my heart grows cold. During the past few weeks, God has worked in my life in ways I didn't know were poeeible; He rescued me when I didn't know I was lost. I realized that the God I profess to be crazily in love with is still only a part of my life. In this world, and in this generation, there are so many distractions that take away from my time with my Best Friend. While sometimes, I desire to spend all day with Him, in His Word, talking with Him, the world soon catches up to me. I want to fully experience what it means to have my entire life centered around Christ. I long to draw near to Him! But how helpless I am to do so. He has made the way for connection and communion with Him; He's trying to speak to me and teach me things about Himself. But, in my life, other things compete for my attention. This month, I'm dedicating myself to listening better. To hearing and receiving what He has to teach me. And, I've decided (or been challenged, I guess you could say) to completely rid myself of the competition, of the distractions in my life, for one month. (Well, the ones that are possible. For example, I'm not going to stop showing up to work, or quit going to my summer classes, even though those things can prove to be distractions if not held in check. I believe in upholding previous committments as well.) I'm not going to get on facebook. I'm not going to text or use my phone, unless it's a family emergency. (Which means never, 'cause we're the Graves and we're awesome and we don't have problems ;). ) I'm not going to spend money. This mainly applies to while I'm at work, because I get lazy and instead of making myself a lunch I spend $15 a week on food. But that's a story of it's own. I'm not going to listen to secular music, because during that time, my heart is not on God and His mercy and goodness.

Yes, it's a bit extreme. Actually, it's really extreme. (Or maybe, to some of you, it's no big deal? I dont know!) I'm not sayng that I'm going to do it forever. But I might, who knows? ;) It's worth it. I get to know God better! That's awesome! And... is something wrong with me? Well, it depends on what you call "wrong." Me? I'm captivated by my Creator. :)

I'm not by any means saying that this is the only way to get close to God. I'm not trying to place guilt on anyone, or seem self-righteous... I hope that's not how I'm coming across. And I'm not trying to isolate myself, but just the opposite. I'm "freeing myself up" for the One who loves me the most.

So... it turned into a long story after all. But in a good way. Thank you for reading this.

The earth is the LORD's, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it.
For He has founded it upon the seas
And established it upon the rivers.
Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face.
-Psalm 24:1-6

I can't wait to share all that God's done in me, and the different things I've done with my time!


Titles Really Just Aren't My Thing.

So I had decided to get up at the obscene hour of 5:15 AM and drive accross the bridge to prayer group (on an empty tank, as it turns out, since gas stations aren't open at 6). I had to work at 11:15, and I was planning on being home by 8, since the group usually only goes an hour from what I heard. So as I was driving my old clunker, with its loose rear view mirror and missing side mirror, praying that I wouldn't run out of gas in the middle of Gandy, I was sort of anxious about my decision to go. I had been meaning to ask one of the ladies in our care group if she went or if she would go with me, just as a way to check it out for the first time. But since I hadn't exactly been planning on it, I hadn't done that, and so here I was, about to walk in to the church office by myself... I could just envision myself in a room full of nobody but the pastors and church leaders, all of them looking at my little teenage-girl self... I shook off the nervous thoughts as I drove accross the bridge and turned on some music. I got there at 6:30 on the nose, and kinda sat there for a few minutes, trying to collect my thoughts. I picked up my bible and walked into the office.

Pause: I realize that I'm telling this simple happening rather dramatically. Sorry. I always hated that when I would read like fictional short stories in Brio magazine or like other books from the Christian Bookstore. Whatevs. Y'all can deal with it.

So I walked in to the church offices, where I had been only once before during our church membership interviews, and was surprised to see a room full of people. There were faces I recognized, and some that I didn't. Some parents of friends, my youth pastor, people I work with in Children's Ministry... Needless to say, I was the youngest by close to 10 years, but it sort of didn't matter anymore. The fact that I interact with many of these people on a regular basis just made it easier, I guess. And the good-natured atmosphere was so welcoming and refreshing in and of itself. These people were all engaged in such genuine fellowship, despite the hour. I was glad I had come, but I had no idea what kind of healing, fulfillment, and encouragement God was going to bring during the next few hours.

We began the prayer meeting shortly thereafter, and it was just amazing. You could totally tell how open everyone was being, and how sincere their thanksgiving and requests were. I don't know what I had expected, but the prayer time was so genuine and honest, and open. We were all united in a common purpose: to seek our Lord and Savior in prayer and petition, each of us sacrificing sleep and time in order to do so. People prayed for so many things, I couldn't even begin to name them. During the next hour, I noticed something about myself. My heart, slowly and surely, was beginning to soften. I thought, 'Wait a second! It's not like I'm opposed to the gospel or anything! I'm living my life for Christ, right? That's why I'm here! Why is this feeling of surrender coming? Haven't I already done that?' But with each prayer, each reading of scripture, it was these walls I had built up without realizing it were being broken down, brick by brick. Someone read a Psalm about God's comfort. Another blow. "Yes, but are you finding your comfort in Me?" Someone else thanked God for His grace and love, and that even though our hearts become cold and familiar with the Gospel, He never gives up on us. "Are you too familiar with My story? Do you recognize what I do for you daily?" Somebody read from 1 Peter 2, about how our purpose is to proclaim God's name and His excellencies to the world. "Do you remember daily that this is your purpose? Do you strive for it? Do you want it above all else?"  After about an hour, we wrapped it up and people started to leave. I think I sat there for a few minutes, awestruck by the humbled state I had entered. It was all kind of a blur, and I can't explain it fully... but I remember thinking about how awesome it was that God had worked so much in such a small amount of time, when I didn't even realize I needed it. I chatted for a little bit, but I was kind of out of it... but somehow, I ended up staying with two of the younger adults from the group. We talked for at least two hours, about everything that was just going on in our lives, encouraging one another. I couldn't believe it. God still wasn't done, I guess :). I'm not going to recap everything we talked about, but one of the main things I walked away with was the fact that I really didn't have a choice not  to go tell the world about Jesus. But it wasn't like in times past, where I was sort of guilted into admitting that I was supposed to wittness. It was like "Okay, this is the most joyful thing in my life, the most important thing, and it's available to everyone. I want people to know!" When something makes you happy, you talk about it. It's human nature. So why is it different with Christ? It shouldn't be. It should be quite the opposite, actually.

God is still working on my heart. He's still revealing things about myself to me. He's breaking down walls that I never knew were there. But I guess that just goes to show that He knows me far better than I know myself. So why would I not trust Him? That's another way my life is looking different. When you trust someone, and they tell you to do something, you don't ask why. You just do it. When you TRULY trust the person, that is. So when God tells me to do something, I'm just doing it. I'm not asking why, I'm not saying, "well okay but..." I'm just going full force, no looking back, because I know that He wants the best for my life. And, more importantly, I live for Him, so it really doesn't matter what's best for me.

And so that's the really long version of what's been happening. And I feel like I rambled kind of a lot. But that tends to happen when I sit down to write, but don't know exactly what I'm going to talk about. But I hope it makes sense. And I hope that through it, you get a glimpse of how wonderful and marvelous my God is.


Carried Away

Song by Marc Scibilia, video directed by Julian Smith.
Most of Julian's stuff are comedy sketches, but this is captivating (hah). Also, it's not on youtube anymore, and the only other website I could find it on has ads and stuff, and I can't embed it. Sorry :P
Carried Away


I still hate titles...

Well, let me preface this with a story. 6 or so years ago, my dad made this "running tour" chart for me. A semi-devoted runner, he was trying to get me into running as well. I am, however, not the athletically inclined type at all. I have horrible reflexes and endurance... not a great match. Anyways, this chart has little squares that are each worth half of a mile that were like a path that lead from College Station, Texas (where we lived at the time) to various other cities in Texas, with the number of miles away they were. The idea was that each time I ran, I would fill in however many squares I had run, and see how many cities I could pass through. I never got very far during that year, but while searching through some old keepsakes I came accross, I found that chart, and somehow decided to add that to my growing to-do list for the summer. (I still have no idea why... for one, because the list is far too big already, and two, because, what, did I think my feelings about physically exerting activities would magically change? and three, because I know that once I set my mind to something, I have to finish it. Great. Now I'm stuck with running for the rest of the summer?) So, bright and early Tuesday morning, I woke up and ran two miles through the neighborhood. It started out okay, with my motivational music going, feeling the adrenaline... I ran the entire first mile, and only walked twice after that. But about half way through... it was agony. To say the least. I could not fathom how I ever convinced myself that this was a good idea! 3 days later, my legs still feel like jello and I'm staggering more than usual. (I fell over in church on Wednesday. I went to raise my hands, lost my balance... The people behind me were quite entertained.)

So anyways, this schedule I had made that included 6 am runs throughout the week ended up not being followed even remotely. After the pain started to wear off a little, I started thinking about when I was going to go again, since there is no doubt that this kind of endurance is actually good for you, no matter how much I hate it. (Plus, did I mention my stubborness?) But last night before I went to bed, I sat down (slowly, with a grunt) and said to myself, "Uhh yeah, there's no way running is in the picture tomorrow." But I started thinking about the benefits that running could potentially have on my character, in addition to the physical ones, and realized that things such as perserverence, fighting self, denying comfort, etc. are almost more beneficiary than the outward health side. So even though I won't be able to get up in the morning to physically run, why can't I practice another way of "running," as in spiritual running? More specifically, why don't I go to the Friday morning prayer group at my church? It so happens that this was also an item on my summer to-do list. So, at 5:30 this morning, I woke up to run with endurance the race set before me, fixing my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

And that leads me to what happened this morning. However, I have to be at work in 15 minutes, so that is going to have to wait... Sorry for the intense cliff-hanger! (Even though I have like zero followers). I promise to share about it later! But now it's off to Publix. I guess it's time to practice my perserverence in the work field! God is good! :-)


I hate titles.

After experiencing a "revelation" of sorts, I was just thinking about the events of the past few months that led me to the glorious peace I now feel. It has been one of those really busy times, where things were neglected - more specifically, my walk with God. Caught up in stress and decisions, I didn't seek my Father when I needed Him the most. But, in His ever-present faithfulness, He used people and circumstances, as well as His holy word to draw me back to Himself. But my thoughts on this Monday morning were not on God's faithfulness, though I am ever thankful for it. I was trying to determine why I had come back again, why I suddenly desired to praise Him always, to read and study His word. Why? Becasue I know it holds value, Because I've seen what happens when I don't? Because it feels good? Yes, we are to be radically and crazily obsessed with the One who conquored death, who loves us beyond description. But these things should be the things that I am transfixed upon: Who God is, what He has done, and continues to do daily in my life.

I think that, when experiencing a sort of spiritual high, it is important to reflect on why we strive to grow closer to Him. Though it is impossible to fathom at times, we need reminders of this. Of the fact that it is actually He who draws us closer, not us who achieve a feeling of peace and joy. Feelings are a result of a previous action -- in this case, God's action of calling. We need to remember that it is He who called us, and respond accordingly.

So, after realizing this (or, should I say, God showing it to me), I know that this is why I pray. This is why I seek Him. This is why I spend time with Him. I am making a feeble and weak attempt to express my overwhelming gratitude towards Him fo what He did 2000 years ago, and for what He did on Wednesday when He took hold of my heart and drew me back agian. Though my act of thankfulness could never amount to anything, He accepts it (and me) with open arms, every time, because of His abundant, consuming, and sovereign grace.