Wow, y’all. I can’t believe that the year is almost over.
This year, rather than setting really specific goals from the get-go, I decided to have a bigger picture outlook and chose a “one-word goal” for myself, and then work toward that word throughout the year. My word for 2019 was “pursue,” so my mind-set throughout the year has been to pursue God and what He’s called me to–no matter how crazy or impossible. Whenever an opportunity came up, I did my best to jump in and pursue it.
And, I have to say, I did quite a few things I could have only dreamed of before. Some were super small, like participating in a group activity at camp. Others were bigger and much more scary, like joining my youth group’s worship team.
But since I’ve already talked a lot about all my accomplishments this year (like in my mid-year review) I thought I would focus more on the lessons that I learned. God taught me so much…and continued to remind me of past lessons because I so quickly forget. I’ve written about many of them in previous posts, but they’re great lessons, so bear with me.
Let’s get started 🙂
- “I told you to ‘be still and know’; I never told you to ‘be still and feel.'”
A week or two before I went to church camp back in April, I was really excited for camp and all the hype that comes with it every year. I could not wait. But I found that what I was looking forward to the most was just that–the camp and the hype. I wanted to feel the presence of God and feel like I was living for Him. But when I was praying one night, He stopped me and spoke those words to my heart. He says in Psalm 46:10 to “be still and know that I am God.” He reminded me that I don’t need the live band in order to worship. I don’t need the group devotion times in order to grow in my faith. I don’t need the hype in order to be joyful. Sure, all those things are good and are certainly helpful in drawing me closer to God. But He reminded me that I could seek Him right then, right where I was. Even if I couldn’t feel that He was close or feel that I was loved, He wanted me to be able to know that those things are always true. Like I said in my last post, our joy as Christians shouldn’t have anything to do with our circumstances but everything to do with our Jesus! The hype of camp may end, but my Jesus is forever! The next lesson I learned is very similar:
- God is the same in the “suburbs” as He is in the “city.”
Staying with the camp theme, I learned I can be close to Him and grow in my faith no matter where I am, who I’m with, or what time of year it is. What I love most about the April camp is the worship, but the main thing we spend our time doing is going into the city and, depending on what we sign up for, either running VBS style programs for the city kids or doing home-improvement projects for homeowners who can’t do them themselves (I’ve only ever done the work camp aspect). But what I realized after going this year is that I don’t need to be in the city in order to serve others. I don’t have to be at church camp to be a Christian. In the past, I always looked forward to it because it drew me closer to God. And while that’s still true and I’m still excited to go in 2020, I know that I can be close to God right here in my own home. God doesn’t change just because I’m in the suburbs now. This lesson came up again when I went on vacation, because I absolutely loved going out on the balcony and praying late at night–the sound of the ocean in my ears, the wind blowing in my hair, and the moon overhead. It was great, and I agree 100% that nature reflects the glory and presence of God. But we shouldn’t need those things and be in those places in order to pray the same. The Spirit is the same no matter where we are–suburbs or city–balcony over the beach or bedroom in my house. And as I learned while going through the book of Jeremiah, you have to grow wherever you’re planted.
- We can make our plans, but in the end it’s God who tells us where to go.
If we’re really, truly living surrendered lives and following Jesus, then all we have to do is follow! This lesson is one that He taught me more recently while I was listening to an episode of Radical with David Platt. I was at my job feeding horses and pushing a wheelbarrow of hay, when I heard this one line through my earbuds that made me stop and go, “woah.” I made note of exactly what episode it was (“Threads, Part 1: Greater Works” uploaded on October 3, 2016) and at what point he said it (about 31 minutes and 42 seconds) so I could go back to it later. This is what he said: “But remember: Jesus initiated nothing. He joined in what the Father was already doing around Him. What if our task when it comes to sharing the gospel is not trying to manufacture something that’s not already there, but it’s actually joining in what the Father is already doing?” That absolutely blew my mind. Because, in all of my pursuing this year, I had started to get caught up in doing things in my own strength. I had started to worry about seeking out more opportunities by myself and making it about the works and accomplishments. But, when I heard that, I realized that I don’t have to look for God’s path because He will lead me to it. I don’t have to create opportunities; I have to pursue the ones that He has given me. All I have to do is join Him in the work that He’s already doing. Being a follower of Jesus means that we FOLLOW Him! As David Platt says, “We don’t call the shots. He calls the shots.” We just have to draw near to Him, seek His will through prayer, and then follow where He leads. “And whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.” ~Isaiah 30:21, HCSB. That’s one reason why being close to God is so important!
- God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.
I heard a version of this statement for the first time at a “leadership training” camp back in July (they said “equipped” rather than “qualified”). This statement has been immensely comforting to me and has dramatically changed my willingness to obey God. Back in March, I wrote a journal entry about wanting to play on the worship team. Did I actually think I would some day? Honestly, no. Not at all. It was more of a “what if?” question–a “wouldn’t it be nice?” idea. When I actually felt God calling me to join the worship team this fall, I was honestly terrified. I wasn’t nearly as good on the ukulele as I thought one should be before trying out (I’m still not). But God doesn’t always wait until we’re ready. I tend to think that God calls people because they’re qualified and ready to jump into service, but Mark Batterson says it’s more like “Go, Set, Ready” instead. God doesn’t call those who have it all together; He puts back together those who are called! And, Church, listen to this: we are ALL called! He wants to use all of us. He wants to use us in our brokenness and unworthiness. Because, truth be told, we would never be ready. We would never be worthy enough. God essentially says, “As long as you’re willing, I’m going to use you. Come as you are.” I find that to be an absolutely amazing truth. I don’t have to be perfect because I have a Savior and Shepherd Who is! He will give me the strength to do what He’s called me to. I’m qualified simply because He Who called me is faithful. Hallelujah, amen!!!
- God always answers our prayers–in His timing and in His way.
I’ve grown so much in my prayer life throughout 2019, and I have to say that I’ve seen more answers to prayer than I could have hoped for! I was greatly impacted by Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker, in which he says “God doesn’t answer 100% of the prayers we don’t pray!” That statement is so very true and realizing that has changed how I pray. God says in His Word that we have not because we ask not! He wants to answer our prayers. He wants to bless His children. He wants to blow our minds away and leave us falling to our knees in awe and wonder! Last November, I signed up for American Heritage Girls’ Pen Pal Program and throughout the remainder of 2018, I prayed that God would pair me up with the best girl for me. And He certainly did! On the first letter she sent to me, she wrote “God always answers prayers!” on the back of the envelope and I couldn’t agree more! We just have to actually pray, because, again, “God doesn’t answer 100% of the prayers we don’t pray!” I’ve used just about all of the pages in my journal (I’m trying to time it just right!) and throughout all of them I have written down my worries, hopes, and dreams for the future–both long term and short term. And throughout all those pages are many, many answers. Some of them were favorable, others were disappointing–but all of them were for my ultimate good. Romans 8:28 HCSB says: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” And, as I said earlier, we are all called! We have to remember that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God’s timing is always best, which leads to the next lesson:
- God’s timing is always best.
I really enjoyed this video from Sadie Robertson (now Sadie Robertson Huff!!!) and I would encourage you to watch it if you’re having a hard time trusting God’s ways (or even if you’re not). He is working for our good, even if we can’t see it, but we have to remember that He’s also working for the good of the whole world. The world does not revolve around us! His timing is ALWAYS best! My family had made plans to go to Washington D.C. for Memorial Day weekend and I was so excited (I’ve never been before). But, a month or two before we were supposed to go, our plans fell through and we had to cancel (we were going with our homeschool group, but several families dropped out and there weren’t enough people for us to get group rates anymore). I was so upset and disappointed! But, you know, it amazes me that, just a couple months later, I started reading books by Mark Batterson. And guess where he lives and pastors? None other than Washington D.C. If we had gone in May like we were planning, I never would have known about National Community Church or Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse. I would have missed the opportunity of possibly meeting Mark (a girl can dream, right?? lol). I absolutely love his books and now, whenever God allows me to go to D.C., I will be able to go to Ebenezer’s. I don’t have any clue why, but I feel that God has great things waiting for me in D.C. It’s just simply not his timing yet.
You’re closer than you think you are
Only moments from the break of dawn
All His promises are just up ahead
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
~Danny Gokey, “Haven’t Seen It Yet”
- It is more blessed to give than to receive. Since I started my first job this year, I’ve been thinking about money a LOT lately and what true treasure is. As I’ve repeatedly turned to God for wisdom and continuously set my eyes on things above this year, it’s amazing to see how He has transformed my attitude towards wealth. At the beginning of 2019, I was just like any other person and wanted this and that and that other thing too. I wanted more clothes, more shoes, more stuff. And honestly, I still do. That’s natural. But whereas at the beginning of the year I would’ve spent money on Vans shoes in a heartbeat, now I’m much more reluctant to part with my money for something so worthless in eternity. That’s partly because I’m actually working for my money now, but mostly because my heart is set on things above. I’ve always been a naturally generous person, but even more so in recent weeks. I’ve come to realize that wealth should not be the life goal of a Christian; rather, money should be viewed as a tool to bring glory to God. Our wealth is not our own–it’s ultimately God’s. And when we view it as such, it’s so much easier to give it back to Him and let Him do what He wants with it. God says in the book of Malachi that the people were robbing Him by not giving Him His rightful 10%–in other words, by not tithing! God has shown me that when I give to Him with a cheerful heart–because God loves a cheerful giver–He will bless me more abundantly! He blesses us by the measure we use. Again with Mark Batterson, his newest book Double Blessing is a great read on this topic and I would encourage you to get a copy for yourself. God will give you great joy when you give sacrificially because it really is more blessed to give than to receive! Church, let us not increase our standard of living, but our standard of giving!
- God will never cease to amaze you. This last lesson pretty much sums everything up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written “my God never ceases to amaze me!” in my journal. It’s probably been one of my most-quoted lines this year! God has shown up time and time again in ways I never could have imagined. He has repeatedly blown my mind and reminded me of His goodness and faithfulness. He has been so, so good to me and has blessed me in ways I could never deserve. My God is an awesome God; He reigns from Heaven above with wisdom, power, and love (“Awesome God” sung by Michael W. Smith). He will never cease to amaze you if you let Him have control of your life. If you surrender your all to Him, He will do great and mighty things through you. If you’ve surrendered your life to Him and are following Him wherever He leads, then I would suggest you prepare to be utterly blown away and overwhelmed by His great love! He’s got you, He loves you, and He won’t let you down. I promise He will never cease to amaze you.
That was a lot longer than I originally intended XD I started this post thinking I would just do the top 5 lessons, and I was even struggling to come up with a fifth one. But then I thought of lesson after lesson after lesson and all of God’s goodness came rushing back to me! I have many more that I could write about, but I’ll only expound on those 8 so I don’t bore you guys to death. Here’s very briefly some of the other things that I learned: 1) God’s Word truly is “living and active” 2) My identity should be found in Him 3) True surrender includes our worries and fears 4) Who the Son sets free is free indeed 5) Some of the most important things in life are meant to be done in solitude–just me and God 6) We have to be faithful in the little things before God trusts us with more
Overall, 2019 has been the absolute best year I’ve ever had (I mean, I’m only 15…but still XD). I’ve had my ups and my downs, my hills and my valleys. But God has been my God and carried me through all of it. I cannot wait to see what He has for me in 2020!! It’s gonna be lit.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you were encouraged, inspired, and maybe even convicted as you read this and that you have a new, rekindled faith and love for God because of it. All glory to the King! Until next time, Church. Be blessed and be a blessing ❤
P.S. check out this song from Colton Dixon!