To live is Christ and to die is gain… {part two}

Welcome back to the blog readers! As promised, I am writing the second part in my three-part series To live is Christ and to die is  gain. I am so blessed by you! In the last two days Christen and I have had a few “likes” and a few followers! It sounds like something so simple, to have only a few, but please know it blew me away! To be honest, I am not used to complete strangers paying any attention to blog posts that I’ve written. Again, I thank you!
Now, let’s move forward in Proverbs chapter three…

Step Three: Trust

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. ~Proverbs 3:5-6

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
~Trust and Obey, John H. Sammis 1887

I just love the last few lines of this beautiful hymn by John H. Sammis, “Never fear, only trust and obey.” Sammis is relating the simple truth that trusting and obeying walk hand in hand and often are one in the same. It is so easy for us to take matters in our own hands and expect God to bend to our will and our way. How naive we are! Sometimes we are so quick to blame God for the trials we face, and similarly we are also quick to blame satan. The first chapter of James explains that we should “consider it pure joy” when we are going through trials, not that we should walk around saying how happy we are that we are experiencing hardship (which would be lying, because who is happy during those times?), but that we should know that it is through these times that we have the most opportunity to grow. Further in the passage James explains that it is not God who tempts us, leading us into a trial, but it is our own evil desires that tempt us, and in turn lead us into the various trials we face.

So what does all that have to do with trusting? Never fear, there is a method to my madness! Trials come. That is absolutely true. It doesn’t matter how hard we try to focus on positive things, or how much we pretend like our circumstances don’t affect us, they come. What we do when they come is the key to this third step of daily living (or should we say, DYING). We need to daily trust in God to give us understanding in life. Whether we are going through the most difficult trial of our life, or we are happily chugging along, we need to daily surrender our future and direction to God.

Last year I, and six other people, took a trip to Europe and visited Germany and the Czech Republic. Our college group worshiped, studied the Bible, and had a crazy good time with a college group from Czech. We made so many lifelong friends there and were so blessed to have had such an awesome opportunity! We stayed a total of two weeks, the first week we stayed all together in a great big house in Germany. Our small group and their larger one planned several activities for our stay in Germany.

On our last night in Germany our Czech friends had this wild and crazy activity planned for us. Sometime after 10pm we all gathered outside our great big house with supplies for blindfolds in tow. We each carried a flashlight with the understanding that we would rarely get to use it. We separated into two groups and lined up. We put our blindfolds on and marched into the night and forest for these crazy night games. The game we played once we got into the forest was frightening to say the least. We each, with our blindfolds still firmly in place, were led by one person (not blindfolded and equipped with a flashlight) into the dark forest littered with trees and natural obstacles and placed somewhere on a rope that had been strung among several different trees in order to make a maze of sorts. Once we were all placed at random points of the rope we were instructed to find each other, but the only noise we were allowed to make was “peep,” and the goal was to once again find our entire team.

Slack-lining in the forest in Germany! (in daytime) 
As you can see, the forest was lined with trees!

The game was frightening! I sat there wondering to myself, “what kind of scary animals do they have in the forests in Germany?!” To my relief though, there was one person standing at the top of the slope with a flashlight, watching the event take place. This person could see every player, every turn in the maze, and every team that formed.

As we are going through life and trials, sometimes it’s so dark that we feel uncertain with every step. Am I making the right choice? Am I choosing the right “rope” so to speak? But our God is like that person standing at the top of the slope. He can see everything from where He sits, every twist, turn, and bend in the rope, and every relationship we form, whether good or bad. The simplest reason for trusting in God is that He can see far more than we can, and is more capable and qualified to give us guidance and direction than we could ever dream of being ourselves. If we just acknowledge this fact, and ask God to lead and direct our every step, He absolutely will make our paths straight and lead us in the direction we should go.

Step Four: Selflessness

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. ~Proverbs 3:7-8

I can remember a very specific time in my life when I became very depressed. I felt completely abandoned by both my friends and God. This depression came shortly after a time in my life where I was being very self-absorbed. It wasn’t that I was all about how great I was, it was that I was so focused on how despicable I was. Being selfish isn’t limited to those times when we feel like we are the bees knees and the world revolves around us. Selfishness is also when we are so wrapped up in feeling sorry for ourselves or even when we are angry at ourselves. In both cases we can tend to be wise in our own eyes. We may say things like, “nobody could possibly understand me,” or ” who could like THIS,” or even “no one will ever be as great as I am.” I know that last one seems a little far-fetched, but honestly, I think we can all relate. Think of it this way, if we ever try to take matters into our own hands instead of trusting God like we were just talking about in the previous step, we might as well be saying that we are as great as it gets, or at least that our plan is.

Please don’t get me wrong here, I am in no way making light of depression. My heart sincerely goes out to all those who are suffering from depression. It is a very serious and scary thing to go through. It doesn’t only affect us emotionally, it has many physical affects as well. Depression has the capability to raise the risk of several diseases and disorders and has the power to destroy families and friendships alike. But know this, if we spend some time tearing down those habits of self-focus and start a healthy respect and adoration of our God, our mind and body will benefit from it. I would even be willing to go so far as to say that a person’s depression could be healed if that person were able to spend some time doing something in service to another.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and challenge anyone who reads this to find time this week to do something to serve another person. Maybe it sounds elementary, but how can it hurt? Volunteer somewhere, donate a certain amount of money to an organization in need! Here’s an unusual one, volunteer for one day to clean the bathrooms or something at your church or even a church in the area. We always feel our best when we are serving others, and the plus side is: we’re called to do it!

I hope you all have a truly blessed Sunday and that God reveals himself to you in a new way. As always, thanks for reading!

~Amelia ❤

To live is Christ and to die is gain… {part one}

I am once again struck by the reality that I am never, I repeat: NEVER, going to be 100% perfect. The last few weeks have only served to remind me of that truth. It seems like the more into God I get, and the more in love with His son I am, the more eager satan is to tear it all apart. Don’t get me wrong, the last couple weeks have been outstanding! I honestly haven’t been so happy (or shall I say content)! God has been revealing more and more of himself to me and through that He has been revealing more and more ugly things inside myself as well. A couple days ago I sat and wondered to myself, how do we REALLY live a full and Godly life? How do we feel so secure in our faith that the thought of walking away from God and His son would make us weep?!

Reader, I am embarking on a mission to reveal the vital steps we need to take DAILY in order to die to ourselves and live for Christ. This will be a three-part post, so check back for the latest post! Philippians 1:21 says, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” Dying to ourselves daily in Christ’s name is LIVING at it’s finest. We will find more fulfillment in living for Christ than attempting to live our life in any other way, and I can promise you that. I have found that Proverbs chapter three offers us good insight on six steps we can take daily as individuals who follow Christ.

Step One: Obedience

My son {daughter}, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. ~Proverbs 3:1-2

The first step we have to take is to be obedient to the teaching of God (the word of God). We can follow all the commandments, including the greatest commandment of all: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37), as well as the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:38), but if we are not doing it out of obedience to God, our heart isn’t in the right place. Let me also point out that if we follow the greatest commandment of all and truly love the Lord, we will automatically desire to be obedient to God. Therefore, the first step we must take daily, the first commitment we must make, is to be obedient to God. We have to decide in our hearts on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis to be obedient to God and accept all that that means for us. It may even mean we have to stop justifying our rebellious actions. If we are obedient to God and all His teachings we CAN NOT fail. We will be prosperous in our lives on a daily basis. God will honor our obedience with blessings! Does this mean life is going to be one hundred percent perfect all of the time and we will never face difficult circumstances? NO. Of course not! What it does mean is that our attitude towards those circumstances can be drastically changed and we can faithfully rest upon the truths of God’s word.

Step Two: Love

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. ~Proverbs 3:3-4

The second step for us to implement into our daily lives is to love. Our society and culture portrays love in many different lights, but we are called to practice the love of Christ. We are called to be set apart from the world and graciously love others as Christ has loved us. This is perhaps one of the hardest steps to be obedient in. Loving may call for unconditional forgiveness for another person (or several people). Loving may call for us to lay down our plans, hopes, and desires, for the good of another. Loving may call for us to guard our tongue and build one another up instead of tearing each other down with the words we speak. What are the benefits of keeping love at the forefront of our mind? We will not only have approval from God in being obedient to the second greatest commandment of all, but we will not fail in our relationships with people on the earth.

We are called to love because “{Christ} first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We as believers know that God showed His grace and mercy for us feeble humans by sending His son to take on the sins of humanity so that we may have life with him. Because of Christ our sins are completely forgiven! God is perfect, and the sins we commit keep us from being close to Him, but because of Christ all of our sins are completely forgiven, to be remembered no more. I am on the verge of tears just writing this to you. If you are a reader and have not surrendered your life to the greatness of Christ, I could not urge you enough to take this moment to do so, you will not regret it with any part of you! If this spoke to you in any way, PLEASE, I BEG YOU, send us a message. We would love to hear your story and get to know you better! You are loved dear one!

One of the best posts of all time…

Hello again!
In our “meet us” section of our blog (you can click on the link at the top of the page to get there), I mentioned how I am extremely girly and devoted to all things girl related. Well, I failed to mention that in addition to being a full-time nanny for two of the most adorable babies in the whole wide world, I also am a waitress at one of our local tea rooms. Folks, it doesn’t get much girlier than that!

The tea room is all decked out in flowers, and trinkets, and our tables are candlelit and decorated with the cutest teacups which hold sugar packets. It’s pretty darn cute you guys! We serve all of our meals (as long as you order a dessert) on a tier.

Let me tell ya! I LOVE LOVE LOVE working there! I wouldn’t rather spend my weekends doing anything else, honestly. It’s fun and mostly consists of being friendly to the customers, as well as a lot of mindless busy work (folding napkins, clearing tables, wiping said tables off, etc.). It really is one of the best jobs in the world! Second to nannying for seven month old twins! 😉

Well, as luck would have it, I worked today. My fellow waitresses and I knew at the start of the day that it was going to be a full day and boy was it ever! We served over 90 people! (In case you are wondering, that is a lot!) I absolutely love the staff that I work with and my boss is amazing… just sayin’.

In addition to the wonderful staff that I get the pleasure of working with I would have to say I generally look forward to my interactions with our customers. I just love to see the delighted faces when I bring out a tier to someone and it is everything they hoped it would be and then some! It truly makes my day! We typically have very sweet and caring customers (I mean, they’re dining at a tea room! Their spirits are going to be high anyway!)

Well, today was a day that seriously could take the cake for one of the worst days in the history of my working there. The customers were generally pretty rotten in comparison to our normal crowd, and boy was it wild!

Once in a while, as a waitress, I will get a really rotten group of people. There are a few different breeds of these rotten customers… First you have the ladies who come in and neglect to listen to the long laundry list of specials that we recite over and over until our brains hurt only for their benefit, and then after you have gotten through said long list they immediately state that you are “just going to have to repeat those all over again.” I’M SORRY. Were you incapable of listening the first time?? Should I come back at a more convenient time? Clearly, this can get rather frustrating. Even so, there is another breed of customers very similar to this that is HANDS DOWN the most obnoxious kind of customer… I like to refer to them as the KANYE WEST customers… the waitress sets out to do her job. In all likelihood she has recited the specials so many times that it is tattooed on the surface of her mind (and will most likely stay that way for daaayyysss). Then all of a sudden, halfway through her spiel, KANYE interrupts…

“Hey… uh… I’M REALLY HAPPY FOR YOU. IMA LET YOU FINISH… BUT WHEN I WAS HERE TWO WEEKS AGO I HAD ONE OF THE BEST SPECIALS OF ALL TIME!” Okay… SHOUTY. Guess what though? I wasn’t finished! You’re probably thinking, “I wouldn’t want HER to be my waitress!” I promise, I’m real sweet!

Okay, so after the Kanye customers… you get the ladies who feel that it is their job to make a point with the tip they give. For instance, one of our waitresses today got handed her tip directly… sweet thought right?? WRONG. This lady felt the need to draw attention to the fact that she was only tipping her A DOLLAR. I don’t think you understand… this tea room runs about $12-$15/plate AT LEAST. One dollar is NOT a good tip. Thanks for that lady. Along these same lines are the customers that buy nearly $100 worth of food and get pretty exceptional service only to be stingy and leave a 10% tip. I’m sorry people, don’t go out to eat and lavish yourself in some delicious and fancy meal only to be all “frugal” with your money later. Leave your waiter/waitress a 20% tip… and for crying out loud! Round UP!

Here are some examples of how grand and glorious my customers were today. There was the lady who felt it was necessary to remind me THREE TIMES that she needed a straw for her drink. Yeah, I got it lady… STRAW. I couldn’t forget even if I wanted to for all the times you’ve reminded me! (I hope she doesn’t read this some day) 😉 That same lady felt that it was the appropriate time to interrupt me while I’m in the middle of serving her fellow tea-room-goers and ask that I please refill her not-yet-completely-empty teacup ASAP. I just… I don’t even. Last but not least was the lady who, upon receiving her meal (dessert atop a tier and everything), decided upon reviewing the dessert contents of everyone else’s tiers that she no longer wanted the turtle cheesecake, she wanted coconut cream pie instead. No matter that we already made up and brought out your dessert! Let’s just completely waste this one! Well, as luck would have it, we were all out of coconut cream pies… so she asked for lemon layer meringue pie instead. I will have you know that when I cleared that table… over half of that pie was still on her plate. *facepalm*

Readers, it is at times like these that I think of Basil from Fawlty Towers and wonder at how amazing it is that I have not pulled this stunt at the tea room yet…

I hope you realize that I would never do something as dreadful as that… but I must say, that video gets me rolling with laughter no matter how many times I watch it!

At the end of the day, I am pleased to have such a wonderful (and often entertaining) job. The best part of my day is getting the opportunity to work with the wonderfully patient and amazing co-workers that I have the privilege of knowing. Today just served to remind me that it doesn’t matter how awful the customers may be, as long as we are all working together as a team, and that we did!

I hope this post brightened your day! Have a wonderful weekend!

~Amelia ❤

The meaning of it all…

Hello readers!

You’re probably wondering what the purpose of this blog is. I mean, here Christen and I have put forth the effort to make it look cute (you know, it’s so hard to click on a theme and all!), we have gotten all of the technicalities out of the way, now what on earth are we actually going to be writing? From the header you could easily make the assumption that this blog is going to be yet another “Christian” blog, complete with Bible verses, personal application, and fancy schmancy words to lift your spirit. Once in a while we’ll probably tell you what you’re doing wrong and make you feel uncomfortable. If we get really lucky we might even offend a few people! So what is the purpose of this then? Let me do some explaining…

My original intention when considering a blog that was not only written by myself but also by the lovely Christen (and in the future maybe some guest posts) was to help us stretch our minds and grow in our faith. Since I will not be returning to IWU this fall(read the “meet us” section) and will take a break from college at this point in time, I have been saddened that I have had almost no outlet in which to strengthen my mind and gain more knowledge. I toyed around with the idea of making myself read fancy articles and write lengthy papers about them, which I may choose to incorporate a few here and there, but at last I came to the conclusion that the most important kind of growth I could gain in my life would be the knowledge, insight, and wisdom gained from the word of God.

Before anyone jumps to conclusions, this blog is not a “holier than thou” blog where we stand only to correct others that don’t have it put together like we do. WRONG. Our goal is to be examples of God’s grace. We fail just like you. We are humans just like you. We do not have it put together by any stretch of the imagination! Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and we certainly do. My pastor’s wife is always saying that she knows she is called to give a lot of grace and mercy to others because she needs a lot of grace and mercy in her own life. That is what we hope to accomplish here. Simply put, we want to show grace and mercy, and not of our own, but the grace and mercy that God has given.

So where does the title “Gift by His Grace” come from? Well, moving forward one verse from Romans 3:23 we find ourselves in Romans 3:24.

“being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

What does that verse even mean? The translation used here is the NASB translation. Many other translations, however, don’t say “as a gift” but use the word “freely” instead. Yet another translation, the NLT, translates this verse like this: “God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.”

So really what we are saying here is, we are sinners. Yet somehow, by some crazy miracle, God deemed us not guilty of the punishment we so rightly deserve only out of his graciousness, and kindness, and loving character.

In other words, the purpose of this blog is an outlet for both Christen and I to grow and mature in our faith, all the while being living examples of God’s love for us in that He sent His holy and righteous son to die on the cross and save us with no expectation that we will or ever could pay back the debt. If in the end very few people were to ever have read this, I know that Christen and I will have experienced profound personal growth in each of our walks individually, and collectively. Colossians chapter 3 says that we are to “let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly as [we] teach and admonish one another with all wisdom,” and to “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Not all of our posts will be serious, and not all of our posts will be silly. We can’t even promise you that they will all make sense, but we can tell you that it is with full and excited hearts that we offer ourselves as servants to you and to give you a little food for thought from time to time. Thank you for reading our blog, and thanks for your support in this venture! If you visit our blog and read our posts, please, please, PLEASE leave us a comment and let us know you were here. Don’t just pass through unnoticed! We would love to know who our readers are. It would mean so much to us to hear your input whether good or bad. Thanks again!

 

In Christ,
Amelia