Daily Archives: December 12, 2013

faith to believe

“People should not judge failed love affairs as failed experiences but as part of the growth process. Something does not have to end well for it to have been one of the most valuable experiences of a lifetime.” – Ethel Person

2013 has been a year full of ups and downs; a year filled with moments of happiness and moments of sadness and several moments where I floundered as I treaded unknown waters in my search for joy again.

…the pain of a butterfly earning its wings.

This last summer, I experienced one of the hardest things I’ve ever done: I said goodbye to a relationship that had meant a lot to me; a relationship I probably shouldn’t have pursued in the first place.

It was Independence Day weekend and even though I had made plans to watch the fireworks with that particular someone, one thing had led to another and I found myself standing in the doorway of those circumstances, looking in and wondering what had happened. Did I do something wrong? The other shoe was finally dropping, just as it always did (or so it always seems) and here I had thought, on some level at least, that this thing was a good thing.

Maybe it was at one point, in and of itself at least, but at that moment, it wasn’t.

I left, taking the back roads – a stretch of winding highway and beautiful scenery – back to the Twin Cities. I needed time to think and process; driving does that for me. That may be why I enjoy it so much.

I prayed and screamed at God, questioning Him and doubting His goodness in that moment. I called my mom and one of my best friends and although I knew the kind words and support they were offering were done out of love, I didn’t feel loved.

And when my vision started swimming due to the intensity of my tears and I couldn’t stand my thoughts any longer, I cranked the music streaming from my iPod and let the words of several songs – words penned by Christian artists – words given to them by God – wash over me.

Songs by The Afters  – Broken Hallelujah, Find Your Way, Believe, This Life;

Song by Sidewalk Prophets – It’s Good and Help Me Find It;

Songs by Hillsong – Glorious Ruins

Just to name a few…

But it was this song, Faith to Believe, by one of my favorite duos – probably more so due to their tight harmonies and the lyrics, o those lyrics, that really hit me.

Give me the faith to believe You
When I’m stuck here in my fear
Give me the strength to trust You
When my vision’s blurred by tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Cause today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the faith to believe

Even when I cannot see You
You’re still shining, You’re still shining
Even when I cannot hear You
You’re still calling out my name
Even when I cannot feel You
Your arms are open
Always holding on to me
Give me the faith to believe

You say You’ll never leave me
That Your love will conquer fear
You say Your day is coming
When You’ll wipe away my tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Cause today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the faith to believe

Won’t You give me the faith to see the invisible
Give me the faith to believe the impossible
Give me the faith to receive the incredible
O, give me the faith to believe it

To read about the story behind this song, click here.

In a moment where I was struggling, realizing I had been adrift for quite some time and trying to swim against the current to get back to where I was, I stopped.

I took a moment to breathe and prayed:

Give me the faith to believe You when I’m stuck here in my fear…
I was afraid in that moment, and in those that followed – afraid of the unknown, afraid that I had done something wrong, afraid that love would never find me (the romantic kind folks…if you’ve ever experienced a broken heart, you know what I’m talking about), afraid of what life would be like without what I had just lost, and more. How could I believe God in that moment? I was struggling to trust in His goodness; struggling to believe that He had my back when it seemed no one else did.

Give me the strength to trust You when my vision’s blurred by tears
My vision was definitely blurred by tears – both physically and figuratively. It was quite some time before I surfaced again, feeling restored and one step closer to my future, glorious self – who I was made to be.

Give me a hope for tomorrow cause today has gone so wrong
Those words couldn’t have rung any truer than they did that day…a day that had started out great but had taken an unexpected turn. It’s funny how it is when we plan things one way and God takes it another way, isn’t it? And while I don’t understand it all just yet, I know that He has something better, richer and far more amazing destined for me than I could ever plan for myself.

I’m on my knees give me the faith to believe…

He’s answered that prayer more than once since then.

You see, even though my circumstances had changed, my relationship with Him didn’t. I could trust and fall into His goodness. I could allow myself to feel His love and achingly, tender mercy wash over me.

Everything in life is a learning experience, mistakes and successes – all of it.

Mandy Hale, an advocate for us fabulous, single women, writes “Sometimes a ‘mistake’ can end up being the best decision you ever make.”

Am I sorry about my decision to give it a chance? No. I’m not. I don’t regret a single moment.

Sure, it sucked going through it, but that pales in comparison to what I’ve learned and am still learning. It may be one of those epic “mistakes” that may turn into one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It has played a part in helping me become the person I’m supposed to be.

For instance, before, I was the girl who lived life waiting for it to happen. I’ve tried taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, and tried doing things my way by posting online profiles on multiple dating sites and screaming BINGO! when something finally happened.

And although that one thing had been short-lived, I’ve learned that I don’t need to live life according to what the world says during this season of singleness; as if it were a prequel to an amazing life. My life is amazing as is.

“Happily Single” is recognizing that you don’t need or want to be rescued from your life by a handsome prince because your life is pretty awesome, as is. – Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love and a Dash of Sass

I’m learning to live life at its fullest now. I’m embracing the freedom I have to do what I want, when I want and how I want without having to apologize for any mistakes I make along the way (unless they directly affect another). I can choose to learn from them.

I’m learning to actually like myself (I am my own worst critic, after all). I actually like being able to spend money on myself without have to ask anyone’s permission (within reason, of course). I like being able to take myself out on a weekly date – whether that be out to Barnes & Noble, to the coffee shop down the street, out to some fancy restaurant or even to a movie and spend time in my own company. I like staying in my pajamas for an entire Saturday, watching an entire TV season on Netflix while eating an entire box of Oreos (or my current stash of holiday treats) and not feel guilty about it. I enjoy taking weekend trips on a whim, not having to shave my legs in the months that have an “R” in their name, and blasting music while singing into the end of my broom handle while I’m cleaning my apartment. I like the freedom that comes with belonging to me and only me, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others till death do us part (that last bit was borrowed from Mandy Hale. I couldn’t have said it any better).

Sure, I’d love to share my journey in this life with someone at some point, but I’m okay with not doing that today. I don’t have to spend my life “waiting” – staying in because I have no one to go out with or waiting to take that trip to Europe (or across the border to Canada) because I don’t have anyone to share it with. Just because I’m single doesn’t mean I have to be incomplete.

My Father makes me complete.

Jesus makes me complete.

And that, my friends, is enough reason for me to turn any frown upside down and celebrate my fabulous life for what it is: fabulous.

Society, family or that married friend may define me one way but I don’t have to live by their definition. That is not my identity.

Jesus is my identity; the only one I need. It doesn’t even matter what I personally think of myself and as long as I choose to stand on His foundation, I will not easily be shaken.

You may be asking why I’m sharing all of this with you.

Why?

Because I can…

It is a part of my story and perhaps God will use it to encourage you in your own walk with Christ.

…and because I care.

I care about every other heart that’s been broken and battered by this world.

I care about every other single woman who has faced, is facing and will face the same things I’ve endured.

I care about you.

And, like Mandy Hale, I want to be a voice that goes against the grain of the other voices in this world and take a stand for the beauty that being single is.

I’m choosing to celebrate it.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – Jesus, John 10.10

And while I do so, I’m choosing to let God write my story whether or not my earthly Prince RSVPs. I’m choosing to not settle for less than His best. He’s shown me through this what I deserve and what He wants to bring me. I’m simply not letting go of Him and releasing to Him that which holds me back. I’ll say my goodbyes and move on, by His grace alone.

I’m choosing to deal.

And through it all, I know I’ll have the faith to believe – in God’s goodness, in His perfect timing, in His ultimate plan for my life and how it falls perfectly in line with His – no matter what my current circumstance, as long as I continue to intentionally choose Jesus and in doing so, chose Life.

“Your circumstances cannot control you as long as you choose [to pursue joy] on the inside, regardless of what’s happening on the outside.” – Mandy Hale, The Single Woman

© Anita J. Brands. 2013. Website: https://authentictruthseeker.wordpress.com/

For more information on Mandy Hale and her ministry: click here and here.

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December 12: replacing the shadows

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. —Hebrews 8:1–2

The point of the book of Hebrews is that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has not just come to fit into the earthly system of priestly ministry as the best and final human priest, but he has come to fulfill and put an end to that system and to orient all our attention on himself ministering for us in heaven.

The Old Testament tabernacle and priests and sacrifices were shadows. Now the reality has come, and the shadows pass away.

Here’s an Advent illustration for kids (and for those of us who used to be kids and remember what it was like). Suppose you and your mom get separated in the grocery store, and you start to get scared and panic and don’t know which way to go, and you run to the end of an aisle, and just before you start to cry, you see a shadow on the floor at the end of the aisle that looks just like your mom. It makes you really happy and you feel hope. But which is better?

The happiness of seeing the shadow, or having your mom step around the corner and seeing that it’s really her?

That’s the way it is when Jesus comes to be our High Priest. That’s what Christmas is. Christmas is the replacement of shadows with the real thing.

© Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

traditions: goodie bags and the gingerbread gospel

2749c40ef0109887d41f0ee9930f7839Did you know that today is National Gingerbread House Day? It’s true. Look it up.

Decorated gingerbread houses started in Germany in the early 1800s. According to my research, the first gingerbread houses were the result of the well-known Grimm’s fairytale Hansel and Gretel, in which two children, abandoned in the forest, find an edible witch’s house made of bread and sugar decorations…you know how it goes. After the book was published in 1812, German bakers began creating these ornamental fairytale houses of “lebkuchen,” which is German for “gingerbread.”

Before long, these little houses became popular during the Christmas season and a new tradition had begun.

All things gingerbread sure haven’t changed much in the years since its deluctible beginnings in Germany. Immigrants brought the cookie delights to American when they came here and markets all around the world still sell decorated gingerbreads houses and villages.

Few have even taken it further:

  • In Bergen, Norway, people and children get to create a gingerbread city each year. The tradition began in 1991 and is today, the largest gingerbread city in the world…small scale, of course.

    gingerbread city

  • Just this year, a group in Bryan, TX broke the Guinness World Record for the largest gingerbread house by creating an edible – you read that right: edible! – 2,520-square-foot gingerbread house to aid a local hospital. Believe it or not, this record was previously owned by the Mall of America.
  • There are Gingerbread House Competitions held all over the world each year.
  • The list goes on.

In years past, my church group has held our own miniature version of a gingerbread house competition – see photos:

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Granted, we used graham crackers instead, but fun, right?

I personally am not a huge fan of gingerbread, but I do enjoy baking and creating treats each year. Over Thanksgiving weekend (Black Friday), I opt to kick-off my annual holiday bake-off, which I started three years ago. During that time, I make anywhere from 12-32 dozen cookies and 4-5 lbs. of fudge. All of them are made with butter and sugar substitutes, making them less in fat and lighter in sugar content (not to mention calories).

I rarely keep any of those treats for myself. I used to, three years ago, before I decided to start leading a healthier life. I may not eat as many sweets as used to, but I do allow myself the smaller-portioned amount at each holiday festivity I attend. Note small.

Instead, I share what I make with the people in my life – my friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family. In a way, sharing these treats connects to sharing the love of Christ with those around me. I don’t expect anything in return – I share and give because I want to. And with that, I’ll leave you with this fun read: The Gingerbread Gospel.

*I’ve tweaked it some as the original was written in a way that children could understand it. Please let your mindset be that of a child while reading through this.

Can you imagine what it would be like to live in a life-sized gingerbread house? What would your favorite candy house be made out of? What would you use for beds, chairs, pillows, toys? (Best shared with children…hear them out…or better yet, let your own imagination flow).

That would almost seem like the perfect place to live, wouldn’t it? Well, the Bible tells us about a real  live ‘perfect place to live.’ It’s called Heaven. Long ago, that’s where Jesus lived. But God decided to send Jesus from His perfect house in Heaven to Earth (John 6.39).

What was the first house Jesus liked in on Earth – a stable.

What is a stable? A barn.

What would it have looked liked? What would have been in that stable? What would it have smelled like? And Jesus’ first bed was a manger. What is a manger? (Luke 2.1-7)

Was it anything like the perfect place Jesus came from?

[I’m actually remembering the barn I grew up working in…back home….dairy air…or derriere, depending on how you look at it, and I can’t help but wonder, why there?]

Now, why do you think that God would send His own Son from a perfect house in heaven, to a dirty, smelly, cold place like a stable?

Because He loves us very much!

[God wants us] to know Him so He sent [Jesus] to tell you and show you all about God. Jesus did just that. He taught us about God, and the things that He taught are all written down for us in the Bible (John 3.16).

On day, when Jesus was still a young man, He left his home on Earth. He died for all [our sins]. And now He has a new home.

Do you know where that is?

[Within us.]

[He has forgiven us our sins and we’ve been made free! (John 14.15-17)]

Why?

He [has done so] that we can all live with Him forever in that perfect , wonderful place (heaven) (Luke 1.31-33; John 6.38-40; John 14.1-3).

Review the types of houses we’ve talked about: heaven, stable/earth, our hearts, heaven.

[Now, look to the gingerbread house] and remember how much Jesus loves you every time you look at it…remember that Jesus wants to be a part of your life and that He has invited you to live with Him in heaven one day.

© Kelly Hancock, http://faithfulprovisions.com/2009/12/07/the-gingerbread-gospel-2/

© Anita J. Brands. 2013. Website: https://authentictruthseeker.wordpress.com/