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Embracing Who You Are and Pursuing Your Dreams

By JoCelyn Medina

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve always dreamt of having a career and being a powerful businesswoman. Instead of playing with baby dolls, I would put my mom’s high heels on, take her keys, get in my little pink convertible, and say “Bye mommy! I’m going to work.”

For my 11th birthday, all I wanted was a fake cell phone and a day planner. I was ecstatic when I got my wish. I remember using my day planner all the time and pretending to be on important business calls. I thought that was completely normal and I truly believed in my 11 year old heart that every other girl dreamt the same way as me.

It wasn’t until I grew into a young woman that I realized that wasn’t really “normal.” I realized that I didn’t fit the “Christian woman mold.” I realized that I was different. I realized how outspoken and bold I am. I realized that I was chosen to be a leader. I realized that God gave me unique skills and abilities to use for his kingdom. I realized that the Lord implanted those dreams in my heart ever since I was a little girl. I realized that pursuing a career in business is my calling. I realized that Corporate America is such a dark place and so many people need Jesus there. I realized how much God-given influence I carry. I realized how many people can be impacted by a powerful and Godly leader. I realized that the more I have delighted myself in the Lord, the more he has sparked a fire in my heart for the pursuit of these dreams.

Sometimes I still struggle with “not fitting” and being different. I often wonder if a Godly man will ever want to marry an outspoken, bold woman who wants to pursue a career and will quite possibly make more money than him. I’m hard on myself when I don’t use my influence in the best way, or when my words are cutting, or when I can’t be as laid back as my friends. I sometimes wish I wasn’t the way I am, but then I remember that I’m fearfully and wonderfully made and God didn’t mess up when he created me. He’s reminded me over and over again that he made me the way I am for a purpose, and the people around me need me to be who he created me to be.

When people’s opinions, the world around me, or the enemy tries to shake my identity, I always come back to the truth of where my identity is rooted. Who I am doesn’t depend or change based on anyone’s opinion, or the changes in our world, or attacks from the enemy, or even church culture. Who I am depends solely on the GREAT I AM. I am who God says I am – He calls me his daughter and his beloved. He says I am fiercely loved, I am cherished, I am treasured, I am beautiful, I am strong, I am joyful, I am unique, I am wonderful, I am free, I am redeemed, I am healed, I am saved, and I am chosen – all because of Him!

Being rooted in the truth and knowing who I am is the only way I can confidently pursue my calling. I’m not afraid because I know the Lord is with me and I know that he will open the right doors in his perfect timing. I have so much peace about the dreams he’s placed in my heart. I’m so excited to see his plan unfold and continue this adventure with him. I’m so grateful that he’s given me so much clarity, peace, wisdom, and vision. He is so good and so faithful.

Sweet friend, if you are ever struggling with being shaken, go back to the truth of who God says you are. It’s okay to be different, it’s okay if you don’t fit, and it’s a beautiful thing to be free. We don’t have to live in a box or try to “fit in.” As long as our identity is rooted deep in Jesus and we are living in obedience, we can be who God created us to be and let the rest fall into place.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” Psalm 37:4

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you.” Matthew 6:33

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Opens Hands

By Suzanne Roxanne
September 12, 2017

Luke 9:23-24
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

For several months I had been feeling a heavy weight on my heart. I was burdened with something but I wasn’t really sure with what. I even had someone tell me my spirit seemed down. That was super upsetting to hear, so I tried to mask it the best I could.

I’m usually a really joyful person and I feel like people rely on me to be joyful. That’s a part of who I am that I’ve always liked. I feel like my joyfulness is something the Lord has given me to encourage the hearts of others. However, for several months my liveliness hadn’t been the same. I can’t say every day was like this, but some days I had to try so hard to carry on with normal life. It was exhausting.

Deep down, I knew something inside me was off. I knew my spirit was downcast. I figured it was because I was tired from life. Life can be tiring, right? Or maybe I was just stressed with certain tasks from work. But when those excuses didn’t make sense, I told myself it probably had to do with a difficult relationship I was dealing with at the time. Relational problems can really get you down.

While those things might have been weighing on me to a certain extent, I eventually realized the messiness going on inside me had very little to do with any of that.  I wasn’t weighed down by life’s normal stressors, I was weighed down by an obsession. An obsession that was interfering with my relationship with Jesus.

I wasn’t obsessed with growing in my relationship with the Lord, nope. I was obsessed with success. My heart was no longer in a good place and my relationship with Jesus was hurting. I could feel the ramifications. During this time, I was idolizing accomplishments and all I could think about every day was making progress in my career. If I did more, surely I’d be happy. Success meant I’d have something to show off and be proud of. I know that this trap is literally a tale as old as time, it’s a true cliché. However, I was not seeing how deep I was into this trap. It’s certainly easy to hear about this problem and acknowledge that it is a problem, but it’s another thing to realize that it is a very present issue in your own life. This was my situation.

I am great at seeing at other people’s problems, but I wasn’t spotting my own. And there certainly was a real problem. I was striving after MY goals every single day for nothing other than MY own gain. As Ecclesiastes says “I was chasing the wind.” I say I was chasing the wind because when I’m not working to honor God and prioritize Him above all else, I’m chasing the wind. When I’m not handing my ambitions with open hands over to Him, I am chasing after very fleeting goals. The wind disappears and so does our peace and happiness when we don’t get our hearts right. Living that way always leaves us empty because nothing will fulfill our hearts like Jesus.

Once I realized this was an issue and it was affecting my relationship with God, I asked Him to forgive me. I asked Him not to let me resist His voice anymore. And I asked that He would do whatever He wanted to do in my life. Of course, I still struggle with giving all parts of my life to Him, but I’m continually asking Him to just take all I have to offer and to use my life however He wants. Goals are great, but they have nothing to do with our significance.  

Getting our own way won’t change a thing because we are created to live life for Jesus, not our own gain. John 8:12 says “Whoever follows me will never live in darkness but will have life.” Jesus is literally life, so it’s insane to think anything else would satisfy our hearts. Like I said, goals are great, but they have very little to do with true fulfillment. Jesus has everything to do with true fulfillment. Our spiritual health will be at an all time low when our source of motivation and energy is merely success. I can’t think of anything more exhausting or more fleeting than chasing worldly success as a number one life goal.

Photo: Enjoying how freeing it is to find satisfaction in the Lord :)-

Beach

To Everyone Who’s Ever Been Through a Breakup

By JoCelyn Medina

Sweet friend, can I just tell you.. that whoever you are, I love you already and I truly hope and pray that you are deeply encouraged by the words you are about to read.

I recently went through a breakup, and really, I’m still walking through it right now, even four months later. Most of us have gone through a break up at some point in our lives. They are hard, they hurt, and they seem to last forever. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to feel the hurt, it’s okay to cry, and it’s okay that you’re taking longer than expected to get over him or her.

Broken hearts don’t heal over night – it’s a difficult and challenging process that makes us stronger, wiser, and brings us closer to the Father’s heart. We have to be patient with ourselves, and the people who truly love us will be patient with us also, stand by our side, and love us through it – especially when we are struggling. You’ll have days when you feel good, and you’ll have days when your heart just really hurts and all you want to do is cry.

I just want you to know that’s normal.

Like waves in an ocean, the hurt will come and go. Just when you think you’re completely over it, something reminds you of him or her, and all the feelings come rushing back like a wave. That doesn’t mean you’re taking ten steps backwards, that’s just part of the process, and it’s NORMAL.

I wish I could give you the overnight remedy to make everything better and I wish I could tell you why break ups are so hard, but I can’t. What I can do though, is encourage you by reminding you of the truth – you are not alone, you are loved, you are wanted, you are accepted, you are treasured, and the hard part will pass.

There are so many people in this world who have gone through tremendous hurt, and though there’s not a magic cure, I promise that by allowing yourself to completely go through the hard part, you are enabling yourself to completely enjoy the good part.

We have to go through the hard part in order to get to the good part.

That’s the thing about living in a broken world – there’s so much brokenness everywhere we look. But I always hold on to God’s promise that “He has made everything beautiful in its time” Ecclesiastes 3:11.

You see, though we may face difficult things now, God always makes beautiful things out of everything. When it seems hopeless, he never fails to make something beautiful, even out of our hardest, most challenging, and most difficult of circumstances. He takes our brokenness, our pain, and our hurt and he restores, redeems, and creates beauty from all of it. I’ve experienced him do that in my life and it’s hard to explain, but that’s because it’s his miraculous work that happens when we trust him and cling to him through hard times.

Whenever I’m going through something hard, I like to remember 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

God never wastes pain. He uses it to teach us, make us stronger, and help others. And he always brings good from it (Romans 8:28). When all you want to do is give up, just think about how all the pain you are facing today can help so many people in the future! I’ve seen how the Lord has used all that I’ve gone through the help, comfort, and encourage so many people. Even if it only helped one person, it was worth it. And I would go through it all again if I had to.

I know that reading this blog isn’t going to change your circumstances or take your pain away, but I hope it encouraged you and reminded you of the truth, because we have to keep fighting, especially when we are struggling. Sweet friend, I urge you to keep fighting, because with God on our side, no one can defeat us.

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” -C.S. Lewis

Why Healing Hurts

By JoCelyn Medina

The past few months have been crazy, challenging, hard, joyful, and fun all at the same time. A lot of life changes happened in a short amount of time, and the transition process has been more difficult than I thought it would be. Going through change is never easy, but there is always good and beauty on the other side if we trust the Lord through it.

In the past few months, I started a new job, closed on my first home, moved in with two of my best friends, broke up with my boyfriend, and watched my grandpa pass away.

Looking back, I can see how the Lord has been carrying me through each day, because everything that’s happened is way too much for me to handle on my own. Some days are harder than others – some days my heart feels heavier, but other days are much lighter and more fun.

We are constantly going through different seasons in our lives, and some are much harder than others. Sometimes we will just want to give up and do anything we can to avoid the pain, but friend, what good will come of that? There are so many things in this world that can offer us temporary relief, but I know from experience, that all of them will just leave us even more empty.

When we allow ourselves to feel pain and walk through difficult things, we are allowing ourselves to experience true healing because we are allowing the Father to speak into those hurt places in our hearts. There is no way to truly and completely heal from any type of wound without feeling pain first. Even though it’s harder, I promise it is so, so worth it!

If there is one thing I learned from allowing myself to walk through extremely difficult healing, it’s this:

The depth of pain that we allow ourselves to feel is directly connected to the depth of joy and freedom we experience. When we try to numb or avoid pain, we are depriving ourselves of the JOY and FREEDOM the Lord desires to give us.

The older I get, the more I realize how much the refining process hurts, but I also realize that God is refining me to be more beautiful than gold. I realize that sometimes the Lord calls us to do things we don’t want to do – and even though we can’t always understand why (and we may never fully understand) – all we can do is trust that it is ultimately for our good.

Romans 8:28 says: “And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose.”

Do you believe this? It’s easy to doubt this promise when things get hard, but how can we ever think that such a faithful and loving God would ever fail us? He never has and he never will. He is always faithful.

He is painting such a beautiful picture that we can’t fully see. We may see little glimpses here and there, but there is so much more to it than we realize. Our lives are such a small piece of the extravagant masterpiece that he is working together.

Sweet friend, if you are going through something difficult in your life, I hope you can keep this perspective, be encouraged by the truth, and trust the Lord through it! He’s got you!

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

To Every Girl Who’s Ever Been Hurt By A Man

Post by JoCelyn Medina

I’m a 25 year old single female. I’m energetic, outgoing, adventurous, and have high hopes for the future. I probably seem like a normal young adult at first glance to most people, but my life has been much different than most 25 year old women. I’ve gone through things and seen things that a lot of people haven’t. Ten years ago, I would’ve never imagined my life to turn out the way it did. Sometimes I wish it would’ve been different, but when I remember all the good, beauty, and redemption that has come from all the pain I’ve been through, then I remember that it was all worth it. I wouldn’t change any of it even if I could.

I want to share a part of my story with you. Particularly, the part about what the Lord has walked me through this past year of my life. But I need to give you some context first.

Five years ago, I was deeply hurt by a man that I loved very much, and who I thought loved me too. I know what its like to have my heart broken, and I’ve experienced deep pain. The kind of pain that hurts so bad it pierces into the depths of your heart and soul. The kind you can’t escape because it’s inside of you and nothing can remove it or make it go away. The kind that shouldn’t be numbed, ignored, or avoided because true healing only comes when you go through it. I was hurt, rejected, used, and abandoned by him, and I’ve been walking through the healing process for the past 5 years of my life.

It’s been a messy, hard, and beautiful journey. About a year ago, I realized that my heart had become hardened and bitter towards men. I developed a negative and degrading attitude towards them and wanted nothing to do with dating anyone ever again. My heart was hurt so bad that I thought I could never be with a man again.

And then I went on this thing called the World Race. An 11 month journey to 11 countries around the world with a bunch of other Jesus-loving young adults. We lived in community 24/7 throughout the trip and I was placed on a co-ed team for 6 months.

God works in funny ways sometimes.

As I lived in community with men, I observed them carefully and watched the way they treated others. It was during that time that God began to soften my heart towards them again. I began to see them as humans who struggle just like everyone else in this world, and I finally started having grace for them.

At the end of the day, we are all human. Whether you’re a man, woman, transgender, gay, straight, religious, or non-religious. It doesn’t matter because we are all human and we have all been deeply hurt at some point in our lives.

God helped me see that it’s not men who hurt women, it’s people who hurt people.

As I began to really get to know the men I lived in community with, I began to see how deeply they had been hurt also. I saw how genuine and caring they were. I saw their love for God and realized that there really are men out there who truly and wholeheartedly love the Lord.

Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle a lot. There are certain things that will trigger things from my past to come back and it’s really hard. It’s a constant battle for me to have grace. But it’s a daily choice for me to fight against lies with the truth of God’s word.

In this life, we will always go through hard and painful things, but that doesn’t mean we should ever stop fighting or give up, because it is so, so worth it when we get through it. When I look back at my life the past five years, I see God’s faithfulness, redemption, and goodness. He has healed my heart so deeply and intimately. He has strengthened me spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. He has been with me every step of the way and made me whole again.

The depth of pain we allow ourselves to walk through is directly connected to the depth of joy we experience. If we try to avoid going through pain, we are depriving ourselves of the depth of joy and freedom the Lord desires to give us. I have come out on the other side and I can tell you wholeheartedly that the deep joy and freedom I’ve experienced is so worth all the pain I went through.

So whether you’re a man, woman, transgender, gay, straight, religious, or nonreligious, remember that we are all people and we have all been hurt. Remember to have grace and fight for the truth. Don’t ever stop fighting, dear friend, and don’t be afraid to go through the hard part because that’s the only way to get to the beautiful part.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Quick Tips on Loving Others :)

Post by Suzanne Roxanne

In my first blog post I said I would provide a few practical insights about effectively standing out as followers of Christ. Below I have provided three short insights and prayers I believe will benefit all of us. These insights have allowed me to search my own heart and I hope they will do the same for you. I also hope that as you consider these insights you will be honest with yourself before the Lord. When we evaluate our own attitudes we can become insanely effective because Jesus does great things with a humble, honest heart!

Insight: People can feel when you truly have love in your heart for them. It’s almost like a sixth sense all humans have. Real, godly love is attractive and will often be deeply felt by the receiver. In contrast, people can usually sense fake kindness so we must pray for God’s love to consume our hearts for others.
Prayer: Dear Lord, please give me an outpouring of love that draws and attracts non-Christians to You. I pray my love is genuine so that I am not faking kindness. I believe You will provide this kind of love in my heart for other people!

Insight: People can sense critical attitudes. Whether it is a judgment about the way someone looks or their behavior, everyone can sense when someone is looking down on them. Isn’t it an awful feeling to be around this kind of person? Critical attitudes put a distance between two people very quickly. So put down any critical attitude if you want to be effective.  God doesn’t force anyone to change and neither should you. Instead, the Lord nudges us and shows us over time various things that need to change in our lives. When we are in relationships with non-believers we must also keep in mind that they have not submitted to God so they do not have the Holy Spirit teaching them like He teaches us. Therefore, we should be extra understanding and patient. Even if you do speak the truth to someone out of obedience to God it should always come from a place of love, not criticism.
Prayer: Lord give me wisdom when interacting with non-Christians. Help me respect them. Please give me wisdom if there is something you need me to tell them. Please check my heart for any critical attitude I might be harboring. I pray that first and foremost, You will guide me in telling people about You with kindness and love.
Insight: People can feel religious superiority. Even if you follow Jesus, you are still a human on the same playing field as anyone else. The only difference is that you have accepted the fact that you need Jesus. That doesn’t make you better than anyone, it just makes you saved by an awesome God. We are ineffective when our hearts are not right and when we talk to people with an attitude that we have it all figured out. In reality, all a Christian is doing in life is sharing the hope found in God in the midst of being broken. Look at it that way to avoid acting superior to anyone.
Prayer: Lord, please check my heart. Help me see if I am being prideful or disrespectful towards others. Please do not allow a prideful heart to make me ineffective. Break down walls between me and other people. Remind me I do not have it all together. Thank You, Jesus.

I wrote these quick insights and prayers because I know Jesus was the best person to hang around. He was gentle and I bet His presence was calming. Jesus definitely upset some people, but not because of how He spoke. It was what Jesus said that offended people. We might upset someone with the truth, but at least we can know that we spoke with the right attitude and behavior.

 

 
(All copyrights are owned by the author and infringers will be punished under applicable law)

 

Every Act and Every Smile, It All Matters

Proverbs 15:30 “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart.”

Post by Suzanne Roxanne Fortner

I will never forget the best compliment I ever received. The compliment came from a woman named Donna and she walked up to me one day and said, “You’re a Christian aren’t you? I was thinking about it and I realized that you had to be. It’s the way you act and treat people that gave it away.”

To this day Donna’s words still warm my heart and encourage me. Donna’s words remind me that everywhere I go I show people what a follower of Christ looks like whether I am doing a good job or not.

When Donna approached me I was in one of my last semesters in law school and I was exhausted. Most people in law school are tired unless they are super human. As usual and in keeping with my personality though, I was enthusiastic about school and my peers. A little exhaustion never faded my spirit. So there I was enjoying another semester except I was starting to wonder if my days had any purpose. I knew I had the end goal of graduating but I felt like every day was blending together. I was in need of either a break or inspiration. Law school was turning into a mundane task and that’s not how I prefer to live.

Early on in law school I realized how heavy of a burden law school was going to be, so I knew I would have to be aggressive about my walk with the Lord. I knew I needed to put Jesus first no matter how busy I got. And that was the best decision I made in those three years. Donna was proof of that.

You see, Donna’s words made me feel like every day in school had been worth it. I still had a long way to go but Donna reminded me why I was there in the first place. I was there to be a light for Jesus. Sure, one day I would be an attorney but that was never really the ultimate goal of my life. My goal will always be to shine for the Lord and bring Him glory exactly where I am. I was reminded of this valuable truth as I realized that no matter where we are, the people around us need to hear and see the light of the gospel in our lives. And Donna’s words reminded me to stay alert of this fact.

The truth is, the gospel is the best thing that has ever happened to this world. Jesus dying for us all is the reason anyone has hope. And that hope should be shared. If you really believe in Jesus and the message of the Bible, then wouldn’t you agree that our hope is something we should be sharing in whatever way we can? When I think about the reputation a lot of Christians have my heart breaks because sharing hope can only be done when our actions and words standout.

A lot of the time Christians are viewed as critical and negative when there is already enough hate, harshness and pain in the world. Why would we add to that when the very message of Jesus is kindness? What in the history of the world has ever been more kind than when Jesus laid His life down for a bunch of people that didn’t deserve it?

Sadly, Christians are often the first ones to speak about everything they don’t like. Obviously, when we speak the truth we won’t always be popular but even when we do speak the truth we should say it with wisdom. And we should conduct ourselves in such a way that people can say whatever they want about us but they can’t deny how kind and consistent we are.

When I ask myself why Donna said those words to me I realize her perception of me was based on my character. And thankfully my character had been refined by the Lord by the time I met Donna. A few years prior to law school, the Lord had walked me through a serious refining process. During that time He taught me that my words and actions speak to people’s souls. The Lord showed me that it is my behavior, both verbal and nonverbal, such as the look in my eyes or even the tone of my voice, that ultimately serves as the avenue through which the Lord touches people’s lives. People notice.

If you walk into work or school each day with a grumpy attitude or critical words, why would anyone think twice about where your hope comes from? You don’t look like you have any hope acting like that. So be kind, be bold, and be bright because the gospel deserves your best.

I’ve written another short post with practical insights and prayers about being more effective when it comes to showing others that we are different! I plan to post this tomorrow 🙂 I hope this helps all of us remember to shine with our brightest potential.

 
(All copyrights owned by the author. Infringers will be punished under applicable law.)