Refilled to the Brim

What is my wish for all this coming year 2016? It is that all of you would be filled!

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What do I mean by filled? You probably thought that I meant fulfilled. But, no, alas I just meant to say plain ol’ filled. Some of you may get weird images of jelly doughnuts, or cups or wishing that your gas tank was full. Sorry about that in advance, also sorry about any potentially odd anecdotes or metaphors used in this post. I usually cannot avoid those, as I have already given example to in this paragraph.

Anyways: filled. Not just slightly filled, but completely until there is not any space for anything else, and if this was a glass of water, it would be spilling over the edges. Those of you who grew up, or spent many years in church camps have frequently seen this image, apologies for redundancy. Don’t worry though, I am not planning on using that analogy anytime soon.

It may be plaguing many of your minds as to what the substance or essence this is doing the filling and into which cavern of the intricate human framework? In the recesses of my brain which has been away from school too long? In the hollow cavern of my heart in which heartbreak has made dry and desolate? In the hollow hole that is my stomach in which I can never seem to satisfy? Well, I guess I mean all of them, every bit, every dusty room, crevice and cavern that has seemed to form, or has always existed.

What is the substance or essence that could fill every part that desire has left barren? Simply put, its Jesus, in which Holy Spirit (the breath, the presence, the bringer of comfort from Father God) delivers the news of freedom and redemption that is meant to liberate and fill every limb and corner of our weary souls. The news that the Kingdom of God is now. I will not be all post-modern and try to pin it to anything else. But, it is simply that. Let me share with you some parts of my life in which I have felt the great deficit, and am continuing to realize the importance of being completely filled.

This past year, as only very few of you know, my body betrayed me and I was diagnosed with Crohns Disease at the end of January of 2015. For those who do not know what this is, it is an Irritable Bowel Disease and an Auto-immune Disorder, as well as a big pain in the ***. Your body mistakes food, and good bacteria entering the body as harmful, the immune system becomes hyperactive and begins attacking the body from the inside to rid the body of what it thought was “harmful”. Truth be told, I ignored symptoms and tried to tough it out for a year until it got so bad that I was malnourished, had frequent evidence of internal bleeding, was so exhausted that I could barely find energy to do anything but sit and walk to and fro from class, my teeth were yellowing, skin turning sallow, hair lackluster, losing all of my muscle, and dealing with severe pain I had never experienced that was embarrassing and debilitating. I would lie in my bed in my apartment in the night, in pain, and helpless and try to stifle my crying so as not to wake my roommate. It wasn’t until an intervention with my parents that I knew I had to return home to take time off of school. I am so grateful to my friends and family who loved be enough to force me to admit my need and true pain. It literally saved my health.

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Exhausted in Winter 2015, healthy in Winter 2016

So, there I was, rebuilding my body from scratch. It was when I was away from the hustle of full-time student life that I noticed all of the holes and crevices that had formed not only in my physical health, but also the areas left unattended for so long within my spiritual and emotional being. These holes seemed gaping, and I had already tried filling them with other things during that previous year of willful ignorance. I tried to fill it with my sheer willful pride to replace the hole that should have been completely given to God to fill with his boundless strength. This is just one example of many.

This last year 2015, I caught myself in the act of filling my mind with the words of others, the self-sought solutions, and the sinful actions that stemmed from those thoughts. It was as if I began to see myself committing these sinful acts in slow motion. After I acknowledged the need for God’s strength (to help me regain health), I noticed all the other holes one by one that I had filled with other things that were not from God. I noticed that instead of reaching out to the ever-present Holy Spirit of God for comfort in my physical weakness and emotional desperation, I looked for a quick fix, many of which I am still regretting. As more and more holes began to appear that were still bone dry after trying to fill them with quick fixes, or habitual actions, I began to get frustrated with myself. God spoke this through the prophet Jeremiah regarding this,

“My people [Israelites] have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV)

I am thankful that due to recognizing my need for God’s strength to bring me out of the physical and emotional turmoil that surrounded the worst, darkest cavern of my petrified health. I am ridiculously healthier than I used to be, after making  many lifestyles changes which included a strict personalized diet, exercise to regain my strength, physical therapy among other doctor visits. I was lucky compared to may people who deal with Crohn’s and are hospitalized for days and put on Steroids. Some even have to have parts of their colon removed due to the disease. I did take steps to better my health, but I wasn’t able to until I filled that deficit in my mind with God’s strength rather than my own. I also began filling it with the words of God, and listening to encouragement from loved ones. Believe it or not, there was a time where I was hostile against encouragement from close loved ones when it came to my physical and emotional health. They bounced off my shiny pride tower like ping pong balls. I avoided scripture because it reminded me of my need, and my weakness.

Some of those parts of me that I have not let God fill have been revealed, a few really vital ones recently. A desire and a promise was put on my heart for 2016. Those deceitful thoughts, selfish thoughts, sensual thoughts, whatever thoughts it may be, that drive me to fill my life with things not of God, and act out in certain ways, that those would be uprooted and refilled with the words of God. I will let those thoughts be thoughts and not pass through into meditative thoughts and then action. Refilled is the word.

We can be refilled. Even if we have filled our life with everything but God, he still invites us to believe in him and the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ, and be filled with his Holy Spirit. So, I pray that you just do that. It is just like the woman at the well, she tried to keep herself filled through her multiple relationships, she drank of the water given from the earth draw up by man, and not that given by the Son of Man, the Atoner. He speaks to her in John 4:13-14,

“Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

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A dry, empty well (image from writetojoncook.org)

There is a promise in store. As Jesus many times is referred to as a fountain, a living water, he makes this promise in John 7:38,

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

No human can guarantee us eternally flowing satisfaction, there comes a time when the emotions wear off associated with that thing that used to fill that need, but eventually we notice it always runs dry when rosy lens break. The fruits that come from the Holy Spirit  – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Self-control –  imparted to us who believe after Jesus was glorified (explained John 7:39), are always available and never run dry. It depends if we want to give up our stagnant solutions for his transforming solutions.

Believe, and be filled!

-Bethany

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2015 was filled with adventure, new friendship, healing, and growth!

 
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On Oceans to You

811463d45e9a52a6887beec655257026So, I did not think I would bring myself to post a blog about something relating to romance and relationship because of a few reasons:

  • I have the sorriest dating record you can imagine
  • My only experiences have been negative
  • I am under the age of 25
  • I am fiercely independent most of the time

However, I have been allowing myself to go there lately in my thoughts, doing what girls typically do (whether they would like to admit it or not) which is monitor the current line-up of eligible bachelors among acquaintances or friends. No matter how I try to direct myself away from this preoccupation, which seems like the past time of a fourteen-year-old, I always find myself in this rut. I call it a rut because many times it feels like quicksand. These are times when I become more self-conscious, and the fears of being a spinster are whirling through my brain at high velocities (remember when I said I was fiercely independent?). What usually pulls me out is a reality check, asking myself questions such as: How do I really feel about this person? Is it simply friendly admiration? Do I find them attractive in some way (looks, charisma, etc.)? Do they love Jesus as much or more than I do? I do this because I have compromised in the past way too many times on simple characteristics in a person that I deem are important. However, this is not a post about creating a list, no sir. I chucked my list in which painted the portrait of an ideal man imagined by a lonely teenager, and left only the things I knew of for sure that were essential to any relationship and allowing God to fill in the blanks for the rest as I go through life. Instead, I would like to talk about a simple idea I have learned that must be the main vein of any potential, or result from a blossoming relationship. The thought popped in my head when thinking of a loved one:

I would go to this person right now if they called, no questions. I would do anything for this person.

I finally understood why people uproot their own lives, plans, comforts to shack up with another person in holy matrimony. Not only the longing to be by their side doing stuff, but the utter joy that comes from doing stuff for them. This is loving this person by sacrificing personal time and energy to expel it graciously on to this single person. This is a lot coming from an introvert who cherishes solitude!

This seems simple and redundant but if you have been dating someone for awhile, or you are thinking of taking a dive into a relationship with a long-time friend, and you cannot answer this question of: Would I go to them now, anywhere if they called? or Would I do anything for this person? Then, I don’t see how that relationship and marriage would work. This is the crux of any successful and godly marriage.

By anything, I certainly don’t mean anything that is exploitative, demeaning or abusive. For many, it is easy to cross that line into unhealthy territory and codependency. This is a sacrificial love in which ones own desires and wants are secondary compared to your significant other. This does not mean giving up your self-respect for another’s ego or selfishness. Of course in a healthy relationship this giving love and time should go both ways.

This was just a short post that popped into my head as I was trying to go to sleep earlier than normal, now I am here an hour later. I hope that this thought could be of aid to any of your out there in a similar situation!

Now, here is some Josh Garrels to take us all to slumber land…

-Bethany Porter

The Draft, the Tower, and a Desire

I am not sure how the average person is when it comes to planning, but I am the type that always needs to have a long-term plan in place. I used to be so high strung in my teenage years. I could not enjoy any sort of spontaneous plan change without feeling uncomfortable, or even anxious, because things were now out of my control.

Not only must I have a long-term plan in place, I have to be able to visualize it, and name it so that I can have something to tell important people. God forbid if I didn’t know where I wanted to be in five years!This golden plan is mainly for the protecting of the tall tower of my pride that, in all honesty, probably gets more attentions in its preservation and renovations than it should.

I be protecting my pride like…

If you understand that reference from above picture, you are awesome and shall be automatically added to the “cool person” list.

Despite these rigid building plans I hold on to, life has thrust at me boulder after boulder and has broken some windows and crushed other sections of this pride tower of mine. These circumstances of illness, harmful relationships, family trauma and changing surroundings have in many ways completely erased the plans I had to build my ivory tower, my very american dream. I am she who spreads out her drafting paper, constructs the most daring elaborate designs I can muster and continually revisit the design when I am feeling discouraged. I do this when I paint something decent, or actually manage to squeeze out a song. Think of when you have this amazing project that you finished – whether it be an art piece, a ridiculously long yet rewarding research paper, or an event you organized –  and how you either put it on display or keep on rereading it, looking at it with pride thinking “Wow, I did this, I planned this, I thought of this on my own.”

I am a dreamer, I love to dwell in the possibilities, and this creates strong desires inside of me. Once I am able to visualize something, or am willing to work for something, I hold on to that plan with as much vigor as possible thinking, “I want to create, finish, achieve something I can take pride in and display inside of my ‘tower’.” It is okay to desire excellence. Determination and ambition are common within the zealous hearts of the young. However, excellence for the sake of achieving excellence will only result in emptiness. Unquenchable emptiness at that.

Even a plan with a good motive can leave a void or stagnate your life. Lately, I have been asking myself more than ever: Why do I have this certain desire? Why must I continue my education this way? What is my underlying motive? What was wrong with my previous plan? It didn’t seem like a bad or evil plan. So, why is God leading me in a different direction? Sometimes it is not that the plan or desire I had before was evil or bad, but it was something that was safe or even meant for someone else. God desires a bigger more complex plan for me. Uniquely crafted for the potential he planted in me at the beginning.

I had ironclad plans when college began. Now, God seems to be guiding me down a different more unique path, and is guiding me hands as I erase some of my tower draft sketches and even demolish part of my tower so my foundation can be rebuilt. Like I said before, it is not as though my plans were equivalent to Hitler, but, many times, these plans were what I put my hope in, what motivated me and kept me going. Yet, why would I put my trust in a flimsy draft when my God, the Author and Finisher of my faith, holds the whole of history and future history made in his hands?

I am beginning to understand more of what the Psalmist meant when he said, “Delight yourself in the LORD; and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4). The syntax of this verse is a bit misleading in this translation as it seems God will grant us our wish like that of a genie. Let’s be honest, our desires aren’t always selfless or wholesome

For years, I focused so much on the fact that I was receiving something I wanted from God where I could be like, “Oh, thanks, Papa God.” and walk off with this wishlist item while I go play with it. That is not the point of this verse. What needs to be focused on in this verse is not that our obedience leads to gifts, but that it is GOD who gives the desires, not grants them. He will reveal to you the desires he had in store for you, that had lain dormant until you sought to know God more and something finally illuminated within the deepest part of your heart.

Every time I come across Proverbs 16, I begin to cop a sarcastic attitude towards God as I ironically laugh at all of the convicting words in this passage. This passage is the Ent chucking boulders at my pristine tower, waging war against the pollutant – my iron clad plans built mostly from pride – of my heart and my relationship with God . Particularly Proverbs 16:1-9:

The plans of the heart belong to man,
    but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
    but the Lord weighs the spirit.
Commit your work to the Lord,
    and your plans will be established.
The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
    even the wicked for the day of trouble.
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
    be assured, he will not go unpunished.
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
    and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
When a man’s ways please the Lord,
    he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Better is a little with righteousness
    than great revenues with injustice.
The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.

Many times, as a Christian, I  am accused of being a puppet simply allowing myself to be tossed to and fro by the Great Puppet master. I am no Saruman. God gave us free will, we can choose the plans that cause us to rely on him more, or we can choose the easy, comprehensible roads that lead us in circles of for the rest of our lives.  I choose to trust that God has the best plan, the most rewarding, the one that will make a great name for JESUS CHRIST, not for BETHANY. Depending on Christ fully is not the same as being controlled, I must choose daily to live a life that represents Jesus Christ to those around me. That is the ultimate blueprint no matter what we plan in this life on Earth.

More on a personal level, God is leading me in a direction for my career that I could not even think of a few years ago when I started college. I still do not know what the end goal will be, what the final blueprint of my life’s work will look like. I need to be okay with that. Also, I need to be at peace and in a place of humility before others and be content with not being able to give a clear answer when asked, “What do you want to do with your life?” or “…after you graduate?”

I have plans, inclinations, but I have only lightly sketched them on the drafting paper, making sure they can be easily edited later. It is hard to put to death old plans sometimes. Despite this, the new desires that God is placing in my heart were not random and chaotic, they had actually been there in my heart, in the back of my mind since a kid, but to label them as a “passion” had been a dormant idea. I began to realize as God showed me a newer, revised direction Oh, that makes sense. Along with, I won’t be able to pull that amazing plan off without you giving me your strength, God.

But that is how life needs to be. God is way more creative than we could ever be and our putting limits on that creativity is a hindrance to our life’s masterpiece. I found this quote on Tolkien, and it seemed fitting:

“On Tolkien: “His fussiness threatened to overwhelm his creativity.”

Now, here is the inspiration to blame for my obnoxiously long “tower” metaphor and numerous analogical statements:

And, like I always do, a song that relates to the post. This one mentions towers, well castles, their destruction and rebuilding. Well, if we want to draw some parallels here, it talks about built of plans and ideals, those ideals not panning out, and having to rebuild things from scratch. Below:

“If its real, you can see it with your eyes, even in the dark. And that’s where I want to be.” Only God’s purpose prevails through dark times.

-Bethany

He Never Turns Away or Leaves Me

I wanted to write something for my blog before the month was gone. Yet, I did not feel pressed to write on anything in particular. I had an idea, relating to how God still loves us and delights in us, even when we are being stubborn and unyielding. Here goes…

I heard someone say recently that God turns away from us in our sin, and lowliness. The way that was put did not quite sit right with me. Of course, if I were turning my eyes away from God, I would be in no place to hear his words of grace.

Peace. From Japanese garden in San Diego

However, that is my fault. God is not the one turning away. Jesus brought that issue to clarity and completion. God’s son dealt with the consequences of sin so that those who call on him will be saved. Through Jesus, there is always an arm reaching out to saint & sinner alike, and calling out through signs, miracles, people or circumstances; or, calling out to accept (again) his free gift of salvation and redemption.

We turn ourselves away, God does not turn himself away because Jesus stands and the ambassador of God’s mercy and grace- his loving kindness.

There was a time in my life (last year particularly) where I was walking away from the good path God had desired to bless me with. I was laboring in a relationship that I should never have begun. I was being stubborn, selfish, unyielding, and lied to myself on multiple occasions. The posture of my heart was not looking towards God; instead, it was as if my eyes were closed to prevent myself from seeing my situation in the light and how disastrous was the place in which I blindly walked.

By God’s grace, there were times where I opened my eyes and ears to listen to the Holy Spirit’s warnings of the destructive nature of the path I was taking. There was one Sunday at my church where I was moved by the Holy Spirit and opened my heart, eyes and ears for a moment. I expected a “I told you so!” or “See what a mess you made?” I was astounded when I heard a whisper from heaven as gentle as a cool breeze over my aching heart that seemed to sooth every crack. It was contrary to my own shameful feelings. I heard, “I delight in you, my child.” Tears rushed to my eyes as I sat there in awe and wonder of the mysterious grace and mercy offered to me through love. I expected wrath, but instead I witnessed the unchanging love of God, which does not change with our own posture. He continually bids us come, come into my loving arms, let me heal you, let us figure this out together.

It was the gentle, loving kindness of God that led me to a place where my heart softened to the Holy Spirit and I could hear & understand that I needed to move on from that relationship. Sure discipline is essential for correction. However, God, through Jesus,  extends his mercy and grace to lead us to repentance rather than turning his face away, or using a big stick. This is the gospel, that the wrath we deserve for turning away from God has been extinguished by Christ Jesus’ sacrifice and instead we are offered mercy and grace when we accept Him. He never manipulates us with threatening to leave, or making us feel shame about ourselves. Even on those who have not yet accepted Christ as their Savior and Commander, he does not lead them to repentance with letting them know that he will turn his back to them until they come groveling to his feet. That is conversion out of fear which fear and shame do not exist in God’s character. Our inheritance as sons and daughters of Christ is eternal life at peace with God. It is that fact which brings about hope and inspires even the roughest of characters to accept Christ’s free offer of redemption for now and the afterlife.

His kindness leads us to repentance.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Titus 4:4-6

I found the following song in a Hymnal in the piano practice rooms at my University last semester titled, “Jesus, I am Resting.” I often would flip through the hymnal but this one I found and as I played through it and read along with the lyrics, I found my heart being soothed in such a unique way. I sensed God’s loving kindness bring a sense of peace and assurance, even though at the time I was so sick I was not doing much or felt very useful. God just wants us to rest in his goodness and loving kindness. I found this modernized version on Youtube and it keeps to the spirit of the song. Sit back, close your eyes, and listen to this heart-healing song.

-Bethany Porter

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Surefire Plans

My time here is short.

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This summer did not turn out the way that I had planned. More like, I was on my intended road heading westward towards the ocean. Then comes the rain, the lightning and the thunder. Trees fall all along the path I am going, blocking north, west and south. The only way to go is in the opposite direction. Still, all is well, I already had a plan B if east had to be the way to go. Next, I head east away from the ocean inland towards the valley. However, right as I reach the valley, I realize that the way I had gone has only led to a dead end. I take another route and I keep reaching dead end after dead end. By this time, I find myself back on the path westward towards the ocean, however the path is still altered.

I was bold enough near the end of this past semester to say to God in the face of a decision to “Make clear the way to go” even by completely closing one of the ways. Plan A was to stay in Washington, keep two jobs that were already lined up, get a taste of independence while paying my own rent and buying groceries and such, and hang out with my friends and church family. Suddenly, I found out that my Father was having cardiac bypass surgery. It was then that I was on my way in the opposite direction. To my comfort, I had prepared for the possibility of going back to California for the summer.

I would get a job, get involved in a music ministry, and be able to help around the house during my Dad’s recovery from surgery. This plan was shattered to bits when I tried many times over to get a job. Also, the churches that had proposed me to serve in the ministry never kept up contact with me, even though I had. I also had two other jobs that were believed to be secured but ended up falling through. I almost did not write this blog post awhile ago because I thought I was about to start a full-time job in a few days. Then that fell through unexpectedly.

Awhile ago, while a friend was praying for me, she perceptively prayed that I would take this time that I have with my family as preparation for the future. It was then that I realized fully that I may never have the opportunity to spend this much time with my parents again. My life was going forward, I was growing older, becoming more and more independent of my parents and of my life at home in the town I was born and raised. I was trying to rush to the future, to take extra measures to become independent even quicker. However, God was communicating to me that I did not need to live so much in the future. Instead, in this time, I needed my family and my family needed me. I needed to live in the moment and experience everything life threw my way. I also have learned that I did not lose anything from taking those opportunities to get jobs and serve for they only pointed me in the right direction despite their failures. I should take every opportunity as it comes and let failure be a lesson, success be an indication, and the Holy Spirit be my guide.

Instead, my summer has looked like a lot of time at home with my family. It has been space in my mind to be able to deal with personal issues that always seem to come up after a long hard semester where they are overlooked. It has been heart ache and it has been moments of pure joy. I am writing again, after I had been on  a bumpy hiatus for a couple of years. Even songs are finding their way into my notebook. Weaknesses are being realized as well as strengths. Old friends have been a soothing balm, and new friends an iron chisel. God has given me this summer as a gift, despite its difficulties.

I am not writing this post to complain. I actually am content in all of these plans foiling because it has been God very carefully directing my path just in the way that I had asked. It was not at all in the way that I had planned, for a lot of my plans were with the future in mind. I thought that my plans were good. However, God’s plans are always better. The path that God set out will always be the most challenging, yet the most peaceful. God’s plan will always shape your character the most, yet in that you will secure your identity. God’s plans may humble you the most, but God will be all the more glorified.

Laus Deo Semper,

-Bethany

Here is a song I thoroughly enjoy by a band that will always be a love of mine:

and this one from the same band:

Balance is Tough

As much as I would like to keep up on my blog posts, I find it very hard. I think it has to do with the fact that I am and always have been a sporadic writer. My diary entries are sometimes three months a part, sometimes a day a part. I think it might have to do with the fact that I feel as if everything that I write out needs to be a brilliant idea. This post right here, however, it completely random and pointless at the moment. Who knows, maybe it will work itself out to be something with a purpose. I realized as I logged on to my WordPress that I had not updated my blog in two years. It is not only in my blog where there has been lack of inspiration. I have also not written many decent songs, poems or short works in two years. I am so preoccupied with my academics, social life and my own issues that I see this blog mostly as effort in which I hadn’t any time to spare. At the same time, I miss it because it gave a sense of purpose to me being a writer because people were reading it! Even if it was only 5 people, the words I said and the inspiration that I had were reaching others instead of staying private in my numerous journals. Well, now numerous empty or half-filled journals.

I always struggle to keep balance in my own pursuits that don’t have a pressing deadline or a ready critic. This is probably why writing has been so hard for me. I thrive with that pressure from others or deadlines. For the Meyer’s Briggs personality test, I am a Judging type who needs that rules and structure. Not to say I am neat… I am an artist! At least that is what I would tell my mom every time she would pass my room and see piles of papers and clothes and cringe. She is a judging (likes order and hates clutter) type with a capital “J”. I struggle to keep consistent with my own pursuits when there is no ready reward, or response. This definitely will not work in the real world where personal dreams and pursuits are only begun on a blank piece of  paper in a dark room with a single desk lamp, and grow only with persistence and risk-taking. I think this slack is also due to the attitude that I have developed in years past that I really do not have anything good to say and that my unique ways of saying things are just too different.

I will not say that I am not self-motivated. I have been told that I am a hard-worker, and a determined person. However, I will be the first to admit that I am great at starting things but lack in the finishing. I am the kind of person that is overflowing with ideas and am a great initiator. If I do not see results or get distracted by another idea, many times I will leave behind that idea. Or, if I do not have instant feedback or even just someone looking over my shoulder, I may lose motivation. This is slowly changing as I am handed more responsibility without my hand being held.

I think that my main problem is living an overly complicated life. I should strive for more simplicity. I will never forget one late night in my dorm when I was avoiding studying, I came across an Einstein biographical documentary. What stuck with me is the fact that this genius lived a life of simplicity. He narrowed his life’s pursuits to three things: his research, sailing, and the violin. It was in that simplicity that he was content in persisting in these pursuits and pleasures.

In other words, I want to try more from now on to write on my blog when I want to write about anything. And not always making a sermon out of every post. I realized that some of my most popular posts were when they were about my own life and the small lessons that God taught me throughout. So, I hope to visit this space more often. I am heading back to the dark room with a single desk lamp to not only write this blog but to persist in my other pursuits.

-Bethany

Reach Out In Fullness!

This last month has been extremely trying and I have fallen ill twice just in that period of time. The reasons for this include that such as me getting a job, then realizing how poor my time management skills were, then leading to exhausting my body to major debilitation and as a result launching myself on a turbulent emotional downward spiral. Sounds rough doesn’t it? Well, yes, it was. However, I have learned so much in the last month not just about my poor time management skills but also my poor self-management skills. I know this idea is extremely vague but I will elaborate.

Oh, it is not emphasized how important “self” is, and how taking care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually is what first enables one to be able to pour out love selflessly into others. We are to be full, not empty when reaching out to others in our life. I received a wake-up call when one week I found myself piling on the responsibility and having two meltdowns that week that were not tipped off necessarily from the schedule itself but from social situations. I was feeling burned out and hoped that I would be completely satisfied by relying on friends to fill me up again. So after the last two crazy weeks, the Lord suddenly placed a sort of Proverb in my mind and I wrote it on my hand to remind myself. Here is what I wrote:

“Reach out in fullness, not out of emptiness.”

This little proverb has proved to challenge me in every area of my life, in all of my relationships, positions and obligations that I encounter or seek. This initially applied to a more intimate matter, and I will be vague but honest. I fancied someone and was seeking to have a friendship with this person… after much frustration and blowing things out of proportion I ended up becoming emotionally wounded. Not really because of the person, but because of how I approached the friendship. Even though on the outside I might have seemed casual and mild, in reality in my own heart (something not realized until I wrote that little proverb on my hand) I was acting ou of desperation, and out of emptiness as I fought for this person’s attention and affection. I expected some sort of fulfillment friendship, even if I was blind to the prospects of their returning any inkling of care or affection. That person’s indifference caused an emotional breakdown and many tears were shed. I had been reaching out to that person to fill a void I had in my own heart for perfect love, instead of our friendship and fellowship simply being an outpouring of Christ’s love that was already full inside of me. So, in the week seceding I said to myself constantly, “Reach out in fullness, not out of emptiness.”

The other aspect of my life that this principle became more revealed to was in my obligations and responsibilities. My crazy week from Hell (excuse the language) a few weeks ago put me over the edge and its insurmountable stress was not made sense of until a week later. I wanted to try all of these different things, and volunteer in multiple areas and I was running around all day not to get back to my dorm until nine or ten at night where I proceeded to study with half a brain until two or three in the morning for over a week straight. I was physically drained which led to my distorting many social situations and causing an influx of emotional turbulence. I was extremely sensitive, easily offended and hurt during this week. I reflected days later why I had gotten myself so involved and entangled in many social and serving obligations and even more why I felt like I had to be so involved. I realized, once again, that I was reaching out in emptiness. When I wanted to get involved in something I was reaching out hoping that being involved in this one thing would finally stabilize and deepen my spiritual life. Do not get me wrong, it is great to serve others… however I began to question my own motives. Was I serving others out of the fullness Christ’s love within me? Or was I serving others because I felt that this activity would bring me peace in my spirit?

As I realized this truth I began to receive wisdom through the things that I heard in the days following. First, what was uncovered was that there was a tug-of-war going on inside of me where I wanted to do the will of God but at the same time my own will was tugging at me. That old mindset that I had before I committed my heart to God – that lie – that human affection could somehow give my yearning heart peace was tugging me in the opposite direction and driving my to make decisions that would overall hurt me and make my focus on God foggy. As a response I listed out things that I desire, whether it be a healthy desire or simply a desire that burns within me and then put what it is I know God wants for me.

The other thing is that I was looking at ministry in the wrong way. I went about ministry (or serving others) as a method of filling myself. I went about it with an empty hearted attitude and expected to get filled. I should have been walking in the fullness of Christ and been pouring into others. That’s what ministry is about: pouring into others.

No matter how much we may deny it, we reach out to others -friends, family, boyfriends, girlfriends – with an expectation that they will completely fill the desire we have in our hearts for perfect love made complete and tangible. God definitely intended for us to have relationships and commune with one another; however, I believe that he created us to only be completely satisfied in Him and Him alone. The fact that we still sin, separates us from ever fully experiencing with every sense the love of Christ completely consuming us until we walk through those pearly gates and into God’s everlasting arms in eternity. This love that we feel and experience through Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit while in our earthly bodies is but a foretaste of how it will be in heaven. This is our hope, that we will be united in complete love with Christ.

…more to be added…

-Bethany