Discouragement

Sometimes I get crazy-discouraged.

Sometimes I get so frustrated at the world (or myself) that sit in my squalor and I let the negativity wash over me: “You aren’t good enough.  You’ll never have friends.  You will never find love.  You are such a loser.  No one likes spending time with you.”

And I attempt to shut it out, to evade reality and slip into the presence of the Lord.  It is there that I am unbridled by fear and sin and pride.  It is there that I am refreshed and renewed.

See, I wanted to write a post today about discouragement.  So here I am.  And it’s not sounding at all like I thought it would.  As a Christian, it is so incredibly easy to belittle the feeling of discouragement.  I mean, people around the world are sick and dying and being murdered. Here? “Well, I’m pretty safe and secure, but I do feel pretty bummed out.”  See how that sounds? It’s safe to say that a lot of us bottle up those feelings and give up on achieving godly confidence.

But I want to share something with you that the Lord showed me today: Having peace is not the same as giving up.  It’s radically different, and radically better! The Bible tells us to surrender to Christ, but never to the pressures of this world. That means drawing near to the Prince of Peace who is greater than any pressure or pain of the world around us.

It’s easier said than done, but you can begin to have peace over your situation with small steps. When you feel the sadness crashing over you, rebuke it in the name of God. Speak scripture to yourself. Remind yourself (out loud!) that you have peace in Christ, and because He is Lord over your life, you don’t need to worry about the outcome of your situation. He is for you!

The Creator and God of the universe deeply loves you.  And as wise old David said: He is our helper (Psalm 12:10) and our deliverer (Psalm 18:2). Let that knowledge drive you toward the cross and away from discouragement. 

In every area of my life, I’ve seen that the Lord is faithful. But that doesn’t mean I remember it all the time. Reading scripture; praying with other believers and singing songs of praise, are all great reminders. The Lord your God is for you, my friend. So do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged (Joshua 1:9). He brings joy and renewal to the weary, and He will lead you through whatever discouragement you may be going through right now.

Love,

Hannah

A Courageous 2017: Courage to Choose God when Life Gets Busy!

Hello lovely readers! Sorry I’ve abandoned you the past two months. I feel mildly bad about that, but then I remember that most of you have probably been just as busy as I’ve been. And that’s what I want to talk about today: Busyness, and it’s BFF, stress.

This summer has been a whirlwind so far, with two (three-ish) jobs that leave little time for my other endeavors such as sleep, food and occasional interaction with other human beings. To make matters worse, I’m incredibly indecisive. So when I get home, I vacillate between napping, reading and hanging with my family. I can’t decide what to do, and I feel guilt no matter what I choose, because I know I’m missing something!

I know, I know. Those of you 25+ are probably snickering right now. This, this stress and busyness and missing out on things, is adulthood.

But I, at the ripe old age of twenty-two, am very bad at handling this. For starters, I’ve been learning the important difference between self-care and lack of self control.

When I’m covered in kid snot and the sweat of a twelve hour day, the last thing I want to do, many nights, is read my Bible. This has been an honest struggle for me lately! And there’s a fine line between giving myself grace, and being lax in my time with the Lord.

But, after a month of experience, here’s what I can tell you:

  1. Choosing to dawdle on your phone instead of maximizing time, will bite you in the butt.

  2. You will feel & function better on the days you spend QUALITY time with God.

  3. Sometimes, you’ll need to sleep instead. And that’s okay. God loves to give us rest!

  4. The busier you are, the more appealing the world seems.

  5. You can spend time with God anywhere and everywhere you go- for real!

Prioritizing faith during stressful seasons of life, is difficult. In fact, I’ve done a pretty crappy job of it lately. But His Word says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So what do we do? We run our race with endurance. That means memorizing Bible verses while waiting for meetings, and turning off the TV fifteen minutes earlier. It means giving ourselves grace when we mess up, and receiving the Lord’s forgiveness that never fails.

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Guys, I’m far from an expert on this. But I want you to know that if you’re in a similar boat right now, take a deep breath! God is right there with you in the stress, and He seeks to teach you something in this season. Don’t miss out on it. Press in and keep that Bible opened. I promise you, His Kingdom has a lot more to offer than this world.

Love,
Hannah

Ps. I will be blogging more often now that I’ve gotten in a better routine. So hang tight for some encouraging posts, devotionals, running route reviews and more! 🙂

Lazarus’ Hope

It wasn’t even light out yet, but he gingerly grabbed his tunic and tiptoed from the house. Lazarus was eager to see Jesus, eager to experience the day. Besides, his sisters had all but hovered over him since the previous morning. He chuckled just thinking of it, their faces when he’d walked out of that grave. It was like some marvelous dream.

Lazarus walked among the tall trees, enjoying the breeze that whistled through the branches, through his hair. He was breathing in the beauty of it all when Aaron came sprinting up the hillside. “Lazarus!” He yelled in a panicky voice, striding to Lazarus’ side. Not stopping to catch his breathe, Aaron grasped his friend by the shoulders. “You must flee, my friend! I came as straight as I heard the rumors! They…they want to execute you!” Lazarus gave him a sharp look. “They?” “Yes,” Aaron gasped: “The chief priests! They’ve got their minds set on it. Oh Lazarus, you must escape!” Having delivered the news, Aaron stared into his neighbor’s eyes. How peculiar. Lazarus didn’t look upset. He didn’t look terrified. In fact, he looked pretty darn relaxed. “What’s the matter with you?! Didn’t you my news?” Aaron asked. And Lazarus began to laugh. Laugh of all things! “Aaron, didn’t you hear my news? I was dead. Rotting in the tomb for four days, and then Jesus came and raised me back to life. I can’t see how this is all that frightening.” He beckoned to Aaron with a smile, “Come along. I’m going to see Jesus.”


The men found the Savior at the water’s edge, watching the sunrise. Orchestrating it into being. “Rabbi,” Lazarus called. Jesus turned and embraced Lazarus. “My friend, how is the new day treating you?” The three men chatted as the world around them morphed into day. “Come with me,” Jesus then said. “Let us go into the city. I’m in need of a small donkey.”


“Oh how beautiful it was,” Mary related to her aunt over supper. “Wasn’t it, Lazarus?” Her brother nodded emphatically, wondering how many had come to worship Jesus on that morning. Right, well it was nearly a week past that day and the palm branches had long since been cleaned from the streets. But was Lazarus the only one who noticed the subtle change in the atmosphere? The lengthy meetings and closed doors. What were the chief priests up to? Interrupting his thoughts, Martha walked in with a jar of fresh water, setting it carefully by the door. “Jesus is gathering the twelve in a house near the garden tonight,” she said with haste. “I saw them on my way back from the well. Something is going on, something truly is going on. His face was stricken with such pain, I hardly recognized him.” The instant the word escaped her mouth, Aaron darted through the door, once again looking gravely concerned. Mary caught the glint of a tear in his eye. “They are going to crucify Him,” he declared, his voice breaking. “The crowds are already stirring, and I’ve heard whispers that they paid Judas off to do it!” His eyes search those of his friends, longing for some hope. Something. But the women all looked aghast, tears welling in their eyes. Lazarus had heard the Messiah speak of this moment, just like the others had. But now that it was staring him in the face, Lazarus didn’t know what to do. Yet, he knew he had to be there.


The fire created an eerie shadow on the courtyard walls, and Lazarus grimaced as he stood in the cold black night. It had taken him far too long to reach Jesus, and now he had to listen in agony as they jested and judged Him. On his walk, Lazarus had given a lot of thought to this turn of events, trying to reconcile the goodness of his Messiah and the hatred that was laid upon Him. How could they despise the Man who had given Lazarus a chance to truly live?

The question haunted him, lodging itself in his brain as the night when on and he followed Jesus from one trial to the next. Before he knew it, the sun was rising and the people were declaring “Give us Barabbas!” And their vile spit flew through the air, as Jesus looked out at the crowd. And Lazarus’ heart burst at the sight of his Savior, whose flesh was shredded and seeping with blood. Oh, but if Lazarus had known what was coming. If he would have known how bad it would get. The way they would beat Jesus beyond recognition, the way His eyes would radiate love even as they stripped Him bare as an animal for the world to see. And then, watching the Savior of the world stumble up the hill, Lazarus crumbled to the ground. The weight of sin crushed his very being as he saw the grace of the Lord. And Lazarus wept.


Somehow, Lazarus  kept breathing that day. It was as if his body was dying with Jesus. Dying with the One who had brought him back to life. But he pulled his weeping sisters from Golgotha and kept breathing. Once they were home, he tried to sleep. But it was fruitless. His mind continued to recollect the events of the past day. And he kept remembering how different life was just over a week ago. Or rather, how different non-life was.

That’s when Lazarus realize that in his grief, in his love for Jesus, he had forgotten who Jesus really was. Jesus was the Messiah! He was the One who walked into Lazarus’ dark grave and emerged with life. And as sleep gradually overtook him, Lazarus reached the end of his tears. His heart calmed and his mind went back to that day when his eyes fluttered open and saw the passion of Jesus, his healer. Yes, Jesus had done this before. He had walked into the dark grave and emerged with life. Surely, he could do it again.




 

Why end the story here? Why stop when the resurrection is the climax of the story? Well, I really wanted to focus on Lazarus, and how his life fit into Jesus’ crucifixion. As the book of John recounts, Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus, which acted as the catalyst for His crucification. The chief priests and Pharisees began to plot Jesus’ death, as well as Lazarus’. And this really caused me to wonder how Lazarus reacted and felt during Jesus’ trials and death. Many aspects of this account are fictionalized, but we do know that Lazarus was with Jesus in the week leading up to His death and that Lazarus was close friends with Jesus. Hopefully this gives you further insight into the love of Jesus and the faith of His followers. 

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A Courageous 2017: Can we stop planning for the next disaster?

Last week, I received news of a great opportunity! It was something I’d applied for, however I’d mostly forgotten about it because I thought my chances were slim. And I certainly didn’t want to get my hopes up for nothing. Anyway, I got the news and was instantly thrilled!

It wasn’t until that evening that the fear set it. “This is my second big break already this year,” I divulged to God. The lights were out, my alarm clock was set, and I was suddenly having trouble sleeping. “Oh man,” I moaned- no longer talking to God- “That means I’m about to hit a storm again soon….”

About to fall.

See, I’ve lived a privileged life, but it’s far from smooth. If you’ve read my blog at all, you know I’ve wrestled with a lot of stuff, stuff that God has graciously used to grow my faith. That being said: It hasn’t exactly been “enjoyable.” And after each difficult season, I’ve grown a little more accustomed to living in the storm. There’s a routine to it all: Grab the Bible, batten down the hatches and brace for impact.

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P.C- http://www.ledfordservices.com

However, the storm shelter is no place to live. As a competitive runner, I’ve learned that it’s easy to hide behind circumstance or injury, use them to avoid getting exposed in a race. But what good is the training, if your results are hindered by fear. And what good are the blessings of God, if our enjoyment is hindered by fear?

Knowing that (and still feeling terrified), I let myself sit with it. And I asked: “What if tomorrow comes, and I’m ordered into a battle again? What if I break my expensive computer or get another stress fracture or have a family member die? Part of me thinks I’d be more at ease of one of those random bad things happened. The storm shelter, though stifling, is a place I know well. And when things are going bad enough, there’s a sense of safety knowing it can’t get much worse.

But life isn’t meant to be lived in the storm shelter, and I have grown weary of fearful living. Weary enough to change? I don’t know, but I hope so. I’ve written about this topic before, and I’ve seen personal growth, but it’s still such a hard area for me! And as I sat pondering my fear, I realized that I’d just finished rereading the book of Job. Seriously: What a trooper! Albeit imperfectly, Job walked through gut-wrenching disaster and gave glory to God. But what about afterward? Do you think he was in fear that God would allow his earthly treasures to be stripped away again? I wonder if he was afraid of receiving the good things, just like me.

Life isn’t meant to be lived in the storm shelter

Whether or not he was, I can’t be sure. But I can see that his interaction with the Lord showed a great level of humility. After his great trial, Job knew that God was both powerful and good. Maybe, just maybe, that released him to peace.

And maybe, just maybe, that realization can liberate us as well. For, as Job learned: God can use every circumstance to draw us nearer to Him. To bring good. So whether success or heartache, life or death, come our way: It will be good and He will be with us. And what then, is there to fear?

Can we dare to breathe in the raw joy of success, relax in it a little and thank God by enjoying His blessings? Surely such an action takes practice, and time, but I encourage you to begin making headway. I encourage you to trust Him enough to let your guard down and stop planning for the next disaster. He will be with you then, just as He is now.

Job 19:25- I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth.

He wins in the end, guys. He wins and we conquer with Him. And knocks the wind right out of fear; fear of what will or will not happen, doesn’t really matter in light of His majesty. How crazy awesome is that?!

Love,

Hannah

Dear Younger Me,

Dear Younger Me,
You’re huddled in your closet, gripping your stuffed bunny rabbit, trying to tune out the world. You have no clue what is going on or what’s to come. And for the latter, I am glad.

Dear younger me, you want to be so strong. You detest the brokenness that’s seeping out from your little heart. But I want you to know it’s okay to be broken. And it’s okay to admit you’re scared and need a hug. A seven-year-old is never meant to carry the weight of perfection. No human on earth can bear that boulder.

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Dear younger me, middle school is a train wreck for a lot of people. You aren’t the only one trying to discern who you are, while simultaneously spending all your money on Hollister sweatshirts. But what’s branded across on your chest isn’t nearly as important as what’s branded on your heart. And you, child, have a beautiful heart, washed by the blood of the Lamb. So when those girls tell you, you can’t sit with them, it doesn’t mean a thing about who you are. And when families fracture to the third degree and you’re left scrambling to pick up the pieces, I want you to know: It’s not your job to fix it all.

Dear younger me, I want you to know that as scary as it is, letting the world see your imperfection is a stunning strength. Because Friday nights aren’t supposed to be spent doing crunches and crying alone. They’re meant to be lived, with friends, with Jesus, with transparency. You don’t have to spend years in the cage of anorexia and anxiety. And Hannah, you don’t want to. It’ll break your heart.

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Dear younger me, you’re huddled in your closet, gripping your chest and trying to stifle the agony that comes in waves. Because a smile only hides so much. Because you hate your body. You hate what you’ve done and you hate where you’re going. I know. I also know that someday, you won’t grimace at the thought of eating a bagel. Someday, you’ll remember the mean words that high school girls said about your body, and they will no longer make you bitter. There is a Light. You may have to go through hospitals and therapists and failure to get there, but the good Lord will carry you through.  Your heart rate will rise, and so will your weight. And you’ll start to breathe again.

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Oh younger me, I wish I could save you from the pain that’s coming your way. I wish with all my heart. And yet, I know that the pain and the heartache will stack, moment by moment, to form the foundation upon which you will stand. And with Christ as the Cornerstone, you will emerge and it will be the sweetest freedom you’ve ever tasted. You’ll run and eat and explore the world, and fear will have no dominion over you.  In fact, the most bizarre thing will happen. There will be frequent occasions in which you’ll be doing something monotonous- silly, even- and you’ll suddenly be overwhelmed by tears. You’ll excuse yourself from the church service or classroom or wherever you started making a scene, and you’ll find somewhere private. And there, you’ll let you heart burst within you. You’ll cry for the little girl who once thought she could carry it all, and you’ll cry in disbelief at the goodness of the Lord. You’ll cry because you didn’t deserve it, but somehow: Life has found you.

As my man Clive (C.S Lewis) once said, “there are far greater things ahead than any we leave behind.” So let the tears dry and the dust settle, and then: Fight on. Younger me, you and I are not those who shrink back into perdition, but those who persevere to saving of our soul (Hebrews 10:39). And as you persevere, you’re going to realize: It’s all been worth it.

Love,

(Older) Hannah

Getting saturated with Scripture

Last night, we were talking at Athletes in Action about how we can let the Word of God truly impact our lives today. Now, my little disclaimer is that I’m far from perfect.  Sometimes my time in the Bible isn’t the quality or quantity I’d like it to be. But we are all imperfectly striving for more of Jesus, and some of you can probably relate. I’m betting I’m not the only one who tends to value worldly junk over the Bible at times.

See, we humans are a lot like clay (Fun fact: Jesus was using that metaphor long before I thought of it. Just check out Isaiah 64:8). We conform to the environment we are in. So if we are living it up with vulgar movies, disrespectful friends and hateful co-workers, we will easily get pulled into likeminded behaviors. While we’re able to control some of those external factors, we can’t control them all. So we must counteract them! The best way to do so is to get the Word of God deeply rooted in us so that we conform to His will instead of the will of the world or ourselves. So ,without further ado, here are five quick ways to live a more Scripture-focused life:

1. Just read it!

This is the simplest way to become more like Christ, but it’s not always the easiest. The Bible is far more valuable than any Bible study or commentary, but it is easy to let it collect dust if we set our priorities on homework and friends and television, just name your vice. So try to establish a morning or bedtime routine that includes some time in the Word. And the more you read it, the more you will want to read it. That’s my money back guarantee!

2. Memorize scripture (Scripture Typer App)

imgres.jpgMemorizing scripture is so incredibly rewarding! It may seem daunting, but trust me: Your mind will soak it up once you get going. You can opt for the old-fashioned method of using notecards, or you can go hi-tech and use a phone app. I find both helpful, but have really benefitted form the FRE
Scripture Typer App, as of late. It’s free and fun, and allows you to practice scripture in those small breaks throughout the day.

3. Sing it

This might not appeal to everyone, but I believe we were created to worship, so it is beneficial for everyone. That’s why I’m willing to look like a fool cycling to class while singing every day. Whether it’s singing straight scripture- which I love- or singing Christian songs, singing is a proven way to absorb truths. And in case you didn’t know: The Psalms were written as songs. I like to sing the Psalms especially, trying to discern how David might have written them to sound. So, in a sense, I’m singing with David to the Lord. Pretty cool, right? Also, if you’re into Spotify: I’ve got a stellar playlist of hymns, so you should check that out HERE.

4. Make it the wallpaper on your phone

Here you go, this is a super quick way to bring the Bible to your attention throughout the day. Set a scripture as the background on your phone and/or computer. Once you’ve either memorized it or started to ignore it, change it to a new picture! I’ve also set my computer’s “idle” screen to a passage of scripture, which is really fun when I’m in the front of class and my computer goes to sleep. Everyone gets to read the verse! It’s a win win!

5. Use scripture as the password for online logins

My dad first gave me this idea when I started at Butler and the annoying security system began forcing me to change my password every six months. He suggested I start using scripture verses that I’m memorizing. It meets the weird character requirements (unless you choose a short-titled book like Acts) and is an awesome way to memorize a verse!

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There are just a few quick ideas that came to my head, but I want to know: What do you find effective in keeping the Word of God central in your life or memorizing it? Comment below so we can benefit from your wisdom! Together: Let’s be a people who pursue the Lord, unrelenting and steadfast. Let’s love the Word.

Love,

Hannah

(Scroll down for some neat scripture wallpapers)

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A Yearning for Jesus

The older I get, the more respect I gain for my parents.  I’ve seen how awful it is when people you love fight.  And I’m learning the art of navigating the minefield of work demands and adulthood.  That’s not to say I don’t occasionally call my dad, crying, though.  Because I did….last week  And when he asked what was wrong, all I could whimper was: “I-I… don’t waaaaaaant to be……poooor (This, coming from the same girl who proclaims: I’m going to have a career I love, and just be a poor nomad).

Ah life.

And so in the midst of my bi-weekly meltdown, I realized what I was really struggling with (again).  It was loneliness.  But the more I sat with that uncomfortable feeling, the more I realized that it’s not just loneliness.  It’s the feeling of abandonment.

I know I’m not alone when I say that I long for someone to come fight for me.  All around the world, people are aching for connection.  And behind every broken relationship; addiction; and act of isolation, is the fear that we are all alone.  Abandoned.

b8d8522a677a011aa30aba1e989f0345Now, this fear of abandonment is a direct result of the Fall, but the desire for a savior isn’t.  No, we were created with that yearning.  It is a yearning for the Savior.  The Rescuer.  We were created for Him.  If you’re anything like me though, you often shut out that yearning. I mean, school and work and family, they pull at us from every direction.  To be stressed is to be human, so it appears.  So we rush through, checking off bucket lists and grocery lists, to-do lists and to-watch lists.  And before we know it: We’re surrounded by a group of people, but we feel so alone.

That’s about how my week went.  And towards the end of it- but before my little cryfest- I realized that I was feeling alone and abandoned not because I didn’t have any friends around, but because I just needed Jesus.  I needed Jesus like when you need a big gulp of water on a hot day, like finding your car keys when you’re running late.  Only, multiply those by 1,000.

The temptation is to pacify the yearning with the things of this world with romance or friends or just about anything we can get our hands on. It’s a deep issue, far too deep for a simple blog post. My point then, is this: We must learn to acknowledge our yearning.  As Christians, we need to pay careful attention to why we’re doing (or not doing) things.  We need to gauge our lonely level.  Because the longer we go with untouched feelings of abandonment, the more likely they are to leak out like the Midas touch into every area of our lives.

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I found this stump while hiking in Colorado. It reminds me how God is always with me, no matter where I am.

So we take a break from the lists.  We sit and we listen to God.  Really listen.  We come to Him without an agenda, carrying only a broken heart that needs Daddy.  Sometimes, it doesn’t even seem like anything is wrong when we are overcome with this ache.  That’s normal, normal for a child of Christ living in a broken world.  But when we come to Him, He fills the yearning like nothing else can. And this is how loneliness is quenched, how abandonment is healed.  Bad days melt into peaceful nights and we feel a sense of belonging that this world lacks.  So my friend, if you are feeling that ache tonight, close your eyes and picture the Father’s arms wrapping around you.  Let your heart yearn for Him and let it be satisfied in Him alone.

 

Love,

Hannah