Been There, Girl

I have written this post a number of times and never posted it because it’s so personal, but God keeps wanting me to share this and I can’t run from it anymore. There is a girl out there somewhere that needs this, so here goes nothing.

I fell in love with a guy when I was 15. I really did even though some may argue that it wasn’t love but “infatuation.” I know the difference between the two, and I knew it then as well. He was my best friend for a long time, and I caught all the feelings after awhile. I truly got to know him first through our friendship. I remember praying to God to allow us to date and for him to like me.

He told me he liked me (finally) and we dated my entire high school career except my freshmen year when we were building a friendship. We were alike in so many ways, and I thought that we would get married one day like most couples who date for a long time in high school. I had plans with him.
But God is cool and way bigger than the plans I made for myself. When that guy broke up with me, I was so heartbroken. It was an all-time low in my life. I didn’t eat, sleep, and I basically just cried for a couple weeks wondering why and how could this happen? (Haha, don’t pity this experience because a lot of girls go through it! You may be one of them!) I mean, it was so stinkin’ hard y’all! It took me the longest time to get over the broken relationship. God is gracious though and amazing. Over time, I realized that we wouldn’t have worked out because of how much we changed.

Going through that experience made me aware that placing a person and my own plans above God is dangerous. It is allowing that person to have reign over your heart and emotions more than God which ends in destruction. Guarding your heart (Proverbs 4:23) prevents that destruction in the first place. Just because God places a person in your life, doesn’t mean they are always meant to stay there. Maybe the reasoning was to lead that person to Christ or to have an influence on their decisions in the future. I always wondered when I would start seeing “the reasons” unfold, and they eventually did!
Trust God because He knows what He’s doing even when you can’t see it!

The Flowers and Thorns

If you were to choose between a flower, a thorn, and a flower+thorn combo, what would you choose? Duh. The flower, right? 💐 It is an easy choice because flowers are so much prettier, make you happy when you look at them, smell good, and won’t hurt you. The thorns are the complete opposite…they have no smell, no attractiveness, dull color, and are painful when you pick them up. And why would you even consider a flower+thorn combo when you can just have the flower with no thorn? Hmmmm…

I am seeing too many Christians go through the Bible and follow the things that THEY want to get out of it while ignoring the rest. They are choosing the flowers and ignoring the thorns (aka: the convicting parts/the stuff we don’t want to give up/fleshly desires). If you are a saved Christian, the entire Bible needs to be applied to your life! You can’t read all Ten Commandments, for example, and choose one to follow. You’ll be convicted by the Holy Spirit for not following His Word and will have to deal with the consequences too. You don’t need to live a worldly life if YOU ARE NOT OF THIS WORLD. When you are saved, you are made new and a totally different person. We are fighting against our fleshly desires to live for Christ instead of the world.
Choose the flower+thorns combo (the feel good parts of the Bible and the convicting hard-to-swallow parts of the Bible) because if you are follower of Christ, choosing just the flowers will damage your witness, others, and ultimately, the body of Christ.

The Break-down of How I Study My Bible

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Studying your Bible can seem daunting at times. It could be a season we are walking through where we are completely unmotivated to pick up and read the Bible or it could be fear of not understanding it. But let’s be real here…I think we have all read a passage and asked ourselves, “What in the world did that just say?” Haha.

In this post, I am hoping to answer the questions that y’all have asked me and encourage y’all to study your Bible. I will go ahead and warn you that I write in my Bible and use an array of colors! I don’t do the artsy Bible journaling, but I focus more on note-taking and understanding a passage. As you read, keep in mind that you should do what works for you. Some people hate the thought of jotting notes in their Bible. If you don’t like the idea of writing in it, you can still study the Bible but write in a notebook instead. 😊

Tools I Use

-BIC highlighters-These don’t bleed through the thinner Bible pages like Sharpie highlighters and provide bright color. I tried Crayola Twistables before and found that they work well! If you enjoy lighter colors, these are a great choice.

-Black ball-point pen-I don’t use a gel pen because gel pens are more susceptible to smearing and bleeding through the pages; even though ball-point pens leave harder impressions on the pages, these types of pens are mostly worry-free!

-Post-it notes (and only the name brand)-I use these to write additional notes in case I run out of room or to bring more attention to a revelation during my quiet time. The post-it note brand is brighter and bolder with greater sticking power! Any off-brands either fall off after a little while or have lighter colors. I personally prefer the name brand.

-Journaling Bible-My Bible is a King James Version Journaling Bible from Barbour Publisher. I love the large, lined margins on each page. However, the print is very small, so if you need large print, I don’t recommend purchasing this Bible! Click here for link.

-Notebook-I always keep a cute notebook next to me in case any topics come to mind that I would like to research more or maybe, there isn’t enough room in my Bible.

How I Study My Bible

The first and most important step to studying my Bible is praying before I begin. I find that if I don’t pray before I start reading that I will go to what I want to read and what I feel is good for me at the time. When I pray before I start reading, I am allowing the Holy Spirit to guide me to where He wants me to read…not necessarily what I want to read or what I want to get out of a passage/verse. If I am going through a certain book of the Bible, I believe that praying prior to studying a chapter, verse, or passage is a necessity to understanding it and applying it to my life. One of my favorite things is when I can read the same passage and see a detail or truth that I missed the first couple of times reading it. The Holy Spirit tends to bring out certain parts of scripture that I can apply to my life during different seasons.

Secondly, I find a place with little distractions and where I can be comfortable. Lately, I have been sitting at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee and breakfast. I only do this on slower, Saturday mornings. During the week, I usually lay on my living room floor in a blanket. I’m not the type of person who can listen to music at the same time as reading my Bible because I can’t focus; my mind wanders to the notes playing and I try to figure out the music. If I could focus with music, I would play it non-stop! I also leave my phone on airplane mode, and I pick it up at the very end of my Bible study or reading that day to keep myself from getting distracted. The only time I use it during my study is to look up the meaning of words as soon as I’m done reading the passage. If I do use my phone as a resource, I set it aside immediately.

Now, that I’ve prepped to study the Bible, I begin reading where God has led me or continue reading a book I’ve chosen to study. I have noticed that when I read a smaller amount of text each time, I break it apart more and have a clearer understanding of what it means. Of course, some passages urge me to read the whole chapter or other verses beyond the passage I am focusing on to get a background story or to see what happens next. I read the passage at least two times.

The first time I read the passage, I try to comprehend the storyline or what is being said. I usually repeat the story to myself out loud if no one is around (including my husband, haha), and I’m telling y’all, hearing the story aloud is more powerful! I can’t explain why I have revelations when I summarize what I read aloud, but I do! It’s like the Holy Spirit reveals so much more to me.

Then, I go back to the passage specifically to find words that I don’t fully understand for God’s Word to really sink in! Words like “compassion,” “zeal,” and “humility” are examples of words I would look up. Even though I have a gist of the definition of these words, I like to write the exact definitions of them in my Bible because the passage truly comes alive when I can see what the words mean. I highlight the words that I looked up in different colors. Next, I draw an arrow from the word to my Bible margins to write the definition of the word in pen. I go back with the same color I highlighted the word in and highlight the corresponding arrow and definition.

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No highlighter color means anything in particular. I just grab whatever color I can find. I typically use green, pink, purple, blue, yellow, and orange.

Everything that happens after this is what God reveals to me as I read the passage a second time. If I want to take notes in the margins, I use a similar method to when I write a definition to one of the words I may not know. I highlight verses that are carrying a similar message in the same color. I use different colors for different verses if I want to write a totally separate note about them. When I write a note about the Bible verses, I use the same color highlighter as the note in the margin and drag an arrow across to the note. To me, this is a creative yet slightly chaotic way of organizing the notes. I love it because I can follow where everything goes, and I am a very visual person!

I enjoy using numbered and bulleted lists underneath a topic that becomes apparent to me as I read. It could be a list of qualities that I see in a Bible character or a practical list of how to be a good friend.

I like to look up other verses that may go along with the passage I’m studying as well. I will write the scripture reference next to the verse that it relates to, and highlight it in the same color of that verse if that verse is highlighted.

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Running out of room isn’t a bad thing, but it happens to me often. I take notes during sermons in my Bible sometimes. I may have already studied the passage in-depth, but if I have post-it notes, I can write down a special word from the preacher about the passage that I didn’t get and place them somewhere around it. An added bonus is that they add brightness to the pages, and it instantly pulls me in!

I have noticed that several people use the post-it flags or stick post-its on the outside of their Bibles. I used to do this, but I don’t anymore! I found them a hassle to deal with while flipping through my Bible and that they would pick up the dirt and oil from my fingers (ewwww). I’m not suggesting that you don’t do this…do what works for you! I stay away from the tabs!

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Another thing I do is circle, box off, and underline words with my pen that are either repeated to show significance in the passage or are just plain important. And if God reveals a clear, overall message to me from the passage, I write it BIG AND BOLD where I can see it easily for a quick reminder and for a bit of encouragement.

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There are many methods you can use to study your Bible. Once you find what works for you, go with it! Studying your Bible doesn’t have to be boring!

Love,

Emily

*Disclaimer: Nothing is sponsored in this post!

 

The Secret to “Self”-Reflection

We have all looked into the mirror one time or another and absolutely hated seeing the pimple, large pores, bags under our eyes, or dry skin. In the same way, when we choose to reflect on our inner selves, we (and the Holy Spirit) sometimes uncover pieces about us that we don’t necessarily like. Even when we don’t sit down and think about ways that we can be better husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, Christians, (enter job title here), mothers, and fathers, it seems that the character flaws about us jump out of the dark, take us by surprise, and corner us. It may take someone such as a good friend or our significant other putting us into our place when we’ve done wrong or letting us know that we need to listen more, tell them more, be more encouraging, yada-yada-yada. We want to cover up our flaws like girls cover up blemishes on their faces with makeup. It is downright uncomfortable to have to deal with the nasty stuff, so a lot of us choose to avoid it or run from it. If someone close to us reveals a character flaw to us that we may need to change, we might become defensive, block them out of our lives, or pretend that we are right. The sad part about this is that God could be using these special people in our lives to bring something to our attention so we can reflect Him more.

Choosing to reflect on certain areas in your life and how you can become better in your endeavors and titles that you hold is difficult. Satan doesn’t want you to have a stronger marriage/relationship. He doesn’t want you to be closer to your children. He doesn’t want you to be a positive influence in your work environment. Satan is out to destroy the goodness and wholesomeness in your life. He’s going to make all the sinful things look glamorous. If you’re not careful and don’t stay on guard, you will fall into his fictitious lies and more into your fleshly desires of being prideful and putting yourself as #1.

Self-reflection causes you to place your pride down for the Holy Spirit to look within. As weird as this may sound, self-reflection is not yourself looking into yourself; this is you allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of your life that you need to work on more whether that is being more gentle with your words, having patience with others, or handing over your worries and concerns to God to let Him take care of you. If you are not a saved Christian, the Holy Spirit can still convict you and work with you. He is not living in you if you are unsaved, but He is still working on your heart to become saved.

We all have flaws, but these can be corrected in time and with help from God!

First off, let’s look into why self-reflection is important and how it can help change your life. As we grow older and gain experience and wisdom, we change. Our faith in God may increase or decrease depending on our response to a situation. Our jobs or careers may not be what we expected in positive or negative ways. The people we dated or the friends we used to have may have completely changed our perspective about relationships and friendships. Additionally, we might add onto our roles and responsibilities or do just the opposite by eliminating responsibilities.

Self-reflection obviously needs to happen often as we seek to develop a godly character. It helps us to pinpoint what is bothering us, how we are feeling throughout specific seasons in our lives, and what needs to be done to make progress. When we set aside time to place our eyes on God, we can see how far we have come or rather, how much harder we need to try. What I’m trying to get at here is that ultimately, the more time we spend with God, the more that is revealed to us and what we need to change about ourselves. The Holy Spirit shows us what we need to do to be more like Christ because He is Who we are trying to reflect!

I have not come across Jesus straight forwardly saying “self-reflection” in the Bible, but there are several places in the Bible that are referring to it and instances where Jesus challenged others to think about their lives many times. One story, for example, is when Jesus went to Martha’s house. While Mary, her sister, was listening to Jesus’ words and sitting at His feet, Martha distracted herself by getting ready to serve a meal. Jesus told her, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42) Jesus was trying to bring it to Martha’s attention that she needed to place her priorities in order and spend time with Him instead of worrying about the food that was going to be served.

When Jesus preached sermons and parables, He intentionally used them to cause His disciples and those listening to think about how they were living their lives and giving them instructions and guidance on how they should be living out their faith in Him.

Now, let’s talk more about the Holy Spirit, Who is the key player in “self”-reflection.

Verse 1: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto thee.” -John 14:26

The Holy Spirit is the One Who helps us remember scriptures we have memorized and sermons we have listened to. He is also the One Who teaches us while we are reading Bible passages. I love how the Holy Spirit will lead me to an exact passage or Bible verse that stirs my heart and is exactly what I need. It happens very often even as I write this blog post. The Holy Spirit is referred to here as the Comforter as well meaning that He gives us peace when our world seems shaken which leads us to our next verse…

Verse 2: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” -Phil 4:7

Without the peace of God in our hearts, we would falter and waver in our faith. The peace that He gives us calms, comforts, and stabilizes us. It helps to keep us grounded in our faith.

Verse 3: “But God hath revealed them [the things which God hath prepared for them that love him] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” -1 Corinthians 2:10

Here, it is made crystal clear to us that the Holy Spirit searches all the deep things of God. So, as we spend time with the Lord, the Holy Spirit will reveal His character to us and convict us about ours!

We have seen why self-reflection is important, referenced scripture, and discussed the ways the Holy Spirit is a key player so far. Hopefully, you are starting to see that self-reflection goes beyond yourself.

We are going to camp out at this next verse for awhile to bring it all together!

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” -John 15:4

We are the branches, and Jesus is the vine. He is saying that if we don’t abide in Him, we cannot produce fruit which is good works. Let this sink in: we cannot produce any good works without Jesus. When we are not abiding in Jesus and trying to do things on our own, we are producing selfish works and doing nothing to build the kingdom of God. This directly relates to “self”-reflection, y’all. As Christians, our goal is to reflect Christ in everything that we do and bring glory to God. To become a better reflection of Christ instead of ourselves, we need to abide in Him and let the Holy Spirit guide, convict, and bring to light our more prevalent parts of our sinful human nature. He can lead us to the verses that we need to read and apply to our lives.

We shouldn’t aim to reflect a sinful human nature but God’s character. The Holy Spirit helps us reveal our character flaws and how they don’t line up with God’s character. Self-reflection really happens when we choose to read the Bible, go to church, pray, and so on. You know, the typical Sunday School type answers.

It’s not about us. It’s about God. And this is where true “self”-reflection begins.

Love,

Emily

Why Sunday Will Be Your New Fave Day

When was the last time you RELAXED? Like completely, totally RESTED? If you answered that question and said “I’m not sure the last time I rested” it’s time that you do just that!
When I first married Brad, it took me a long time to understand how to honor the Sabbath Day. I still slip up and do laundry sometimes, but I had to put resting on Sunday into action. He was taught not work on Sunday, and because of that, I chose to start enjoying Sundays with him too. I had to wean myself away from doing lesson plans, vacuuming, and cleaning the house on Sundays. After I started observing the Sabbath Day the right way, it has become my favorite day of the week. I look forward to doing most of my chores on Saturday and cleaning floors on Monday instead. I highly recommend that you begin resting and relaxing on Sundays as well. It has changed my life for the better by allowing me to fill up my cup spiritually, physically, and mentally. Just that one day during the week makes a lot of difference in my work week especially being a school teacher. If God rested during the Creation, shouldn’t we follow His example and rest? Most of us use the excuse of being too busy! It does take some time to shift into honoring the Sabbath Day by resting, but the sooner you start this habit, the more blessed you will be by it because God commands us to honor the Sabbath Day! Before tomorrow gets here, you should plan to spend it resting, going to church to fill up your spiritual cup, and reflecting!

Don’t Swallow

I used to hate Dr. Pepper. Either you just thought I was crazy for never liking it in the first place or you don’t know why I like it now. Over the course of these last 5 years, either I was forced to drink it because there was nothing else or I would try it randomly because one of my roommates absolutely loved it. Even though it wasn’t my favorite drink back in the day, it has slowly turned into my first grab because I was exposed to it & tried it for awhile! The reason I am bringing this up is because I’ve noticed a trend with people in my generation in particular…
Things that we shouldn’t agree with are being thrown at us at all different directions….things that we don’t want to swallow but feel forced to swallow. After so much exposure from being on social media, watching the news, and what have you, I have seen people throwing in the towel on fighting for what’s righteous and Godly. It is disheartening to me, so I wanted to offer a bit of encouragement to y’all who are standing for what’s right and what follows the Bible.
Y’all, we cannot give up on standing up for Jesus and His truth. He lives in us. We need to stop falling into the sinful junk and start making our first grab the Bible instead of our phone. There’s pressure to agree with all the things of this world, but you see, that’s the problem: THEY ARE THINGS OF THIS WORLD. We are supposed to be different from the world. We are supposed to shine Jesus’ light in the darkness and sinfulness of this world NOT FALL CAPTIVE INTO AGREEING WITH WHAT IT HAS TO SAY.
Ground yourself in the truth. Continue to love people. Be kind to others. Express joy. IT’S TIME TO SHINE. And don’t let people or the Devil try to dim it because that’s the goal. ‘nuff said.

A Teacher’s Lifeline

CONVICTED and I must share…
Hours and hours have gone into planning units for my classes, planning individual lessons, watching classroom management videos, pinning cool experiments and projects, getting a head start on my Interactive Notebooks that I will be using this year, and so forth. But y’all know what I haven’t done yet? I have yet to pray over my kids, over the school year, over my attitude, over the interactions that will take place in my classroom this year.
Why haven’t I made time to pray? My priorities haven’t been right. There, I said it. I want these kids to succeed and do well on their state tests, and I decided to immerse myself so far into planning lessons that I haven’t MADE THE TIME to pray for these kids, our school, administration, their families, etc.
Y’all, I’ve been believing that the more work I put into these lessons and the more prep I do, the better. That’s the total wrong formula for a successful school year…it should be: God + work = success.
When God is left out of the equation, I WILL FAIL. I will not make it if God is placed on the back burner of my life because sometimes, negative comments are made, mean words are said, or discouragement from not getting control of the class can tear and pull at me. I noticed that last year, I didn’t spend much time praying over my day or school year. I hardly prayed for my students at all. I need to change for this upcoming school year because if I don’t give God the glory in all I do or seek Him first in my life, if I don’t give Him my day EVERY DAY, I will allow myself to become swamped, drained, and overwhelmed.
Tonight, I’m praying for you if you are a teacher or student. Being in either role is tough in these dark days. I pray that you will be a light in the darkness and that you will shine Christ’s love to others. I pray that you will stand up for the Lord and that He will give you strength. ❤️ If you’re a teacher too and haven’t prayed about your school year or haven’t prayed for your students, stop what you’re doing, and PRAY NOW. Let’s start the school year off right, shall we? Prayers are MORE POWERFUL than lesson plans, friends.