Tough Stuff Series

It’s time for the tough stuff. The topics that I will be sharing have been laid on my heart over the past few weeks. These are topics that aren’t necessarily brought up in churches. Before commenting or messaging me if you find something offensive, please find the truth for yourself, and don’t run from conviction. When you are convicted, there aren’t fuzzy feelings, and it’s hard to face the truth. I am not here to offend but to be your friend in Christ! I actually pray that what I write really speaks to your heart. 💕 God disciplines us because He loves us. He is our Father. Keep this in mind.

Tough Stuff #1:

You can’t please everyone, and there will be people who dislike you. It could be because you are saved, they are jealous, they could be holding a grudge from the past, or you looked at them “weird” one time. You have to remember that you are called to lead people to Christ and help gather more disciples. You cannot worry what others think about you. Jesus told his disciples to “shake the dust off their feet” when a city wouldn’t accept Him meaning for them to move on to the next city because they did what they were called to do! (Matt. 10:14) You can’t wallow in negativity and let others’ thoughts weigh you down. When God gives us an assignment, the most we can do is complete it. God will do the rest & give you rest!
So, now…I have a question for ya: are you a people pleaser or a God pleaser? Are you doing what God wants or what people want?
Are you hiding truth from someone b/c you are scared of losing them as a friend? Are you going for the job only b/c someone encourages you but you know it isn’t what God wants for your life? Are you not starting that business or blog b/c “so and so” says you can’t make it work when God is telling you otherwise? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you are a people pleaser. Choosing a person over God is not okay. Christ is the only One Who can fill the empty places in your life and the One Who is directing you. Be a God pleaser! Those people don’t know what’s happening tomorrow, but God does!

Tough Stuff #2:

I’m sure you have said at one point in your life, “Where are you, Lord? Are you listening to me? I don’t feel you here with me.” You aren’t the only one who has felt this way….I’m right there with ya. As David was running from Saul, he experienced this same feeling and wrote it down in song form. We read his songs today in the Book of Psalms. We see him praising God and yet, in others, crying out to God wanting Him to listen or longing for His presence. Why is it that we “feel” closer to God or more distant from God? Faith & trust in Him, y’all.
I’m clicking the rewind button in my brain for a second to make a point. When I experienced the deaths of two important people in my life, I prayed more, read my Bible more, and trusted for God to get me through the rough patches. After healing, burdens and pains were relieved and I was comforted. A traumatic experience seems to push me closer to Christ, and I’ve seen this happen with many people. It is definitely not a bad thing! But then, the praying becomes less, reading the Bible turns to one verse in two minutes a day from a phone screen, and all is well in life because the deep hurt has scabbed over. We then wonder, “Why can’t I feel God like I did before?” I’ve also seen the opposite when people become angry at God for allowing a tragedy to happen, and they ask, “Where is God at a time such as this?” These are both examples of a wavering faith and not completely trusting God.
God doesn’t move away from you. You move away from Him. We are so sinful and being the imperfect humans we are, our fleshly nature keeps us swaying back and forth in our relationship with God. We choose the lies & the sin over the truth. Satan fuels the lie that the tragedy was “God’s fault” or on the opposite side of the spectrum, that “You’re good and don’t need God again until the next major life-changing event.” Be aware that Satan is going to strike you the hardest at your lowest. Consider your relationship with Jesus right now. Is there a difference b/w when you got saved and now? WHY is there a difference?
I bet you moved forward, stayed lukewarm, or fell backwards!

Tough Stuff #3:

The fire alarm went off at a hotel I was staying in at Indy this summer, and we had to evacuate the building. A mall was right next door, so I chose this time to meander to Sephora and “test” their dry shampoos in the store. (Tbh, I just didn’t want to buy a whole bottle of dry shampoo only to throw it away before a flight.😂) The very next day, a chemical spill occurred in the washroom by the lobby of the hotel, and we were evacuated yet again. I was with a group of young women who I quickly became acquainted to, and we decided to go to Starbucks and Old Navy together as fire trucks and police cars barricaded the entrance to the hotel. We decided to embrace the moment and use our time wisely (maybe not our money though, lol).
There are always going to be situations out of our control. We can, however, choose how we react to these situations. We can see it as an inconvenience or an opportunity for growth, change, and/or exploration. People are watching you, and sometimes, they wait for you to mess up. Have you ever noticed that?! Christians are ridiculed and persecuted for everything. People are curious at the joy in our lives, so they keep us on their radar. They want to see if what we have is authentic and something they can hold onto. No, don’t care about what others think of you because we do all make mistakes, but be mindful of the way you are displaying Christ’s love to them, your behavior, your actions, your reactions, and your decisions. Your life could be what leads someone to Christ. I could’ve sat on the curb of the entrance of the hotel, gotten impatient with the hotel management and been rude to them, or ran around to everyone staying in the hotel talking negatively about the experience. I saw it as an opportunity to make friends and use the time for developing relationships with people. Imagine looking at yourself through a lost person’s eyes. What needs to change? How could you have reacted differently and in a more Christ-like manner in some situations?

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!

 

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.

You Aren’t Just a Number

I will be that person who names every animal we own including the cattle. Rango is our new bull on the farm. Most farmers don’t see a point in naming their cattle because they will either put them up for sale, trade them out, or send them to be slaughtered for food. They usually identify them by their ear tag number and never give them a name. Understandably, it is confusing when a farmer has 300 head of cattle in all the same color and breed…that’s why the ear tag numbers are so important! If one of them becomes sick, they can identify the cow more easily to pull it out from the herd for treatment. But since we are just starting out with only a few cattle, I like names, not numbers.
By 2050, it is predicted that there will be 9 billion people on the earth. Right now, there about 7 billion. God forms us in the womb, fashions us before we are born, and knows all of our names….yours & mine. He doesn’t need ID tags/numbers to know who we are. Even though we are both on this earth with 7 billion other people, He doesn’t just kinda sorta know us…HE REALLY KNOWS US. He knows our every thought, our burdens, our mistakes. The Bible describes Jesus as the good shepherd & us as His sheep.
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” -John 10:11
He takes care of us and gives us life…eternal life if we accept Him as our Savior.
You are not defined by the number of mistakes you make or what kind of mistakes you make. Your mistakes can be cleansed and forgiven. Jesus may know what’s in your heart and the mistakes you’ve made but He also offers to forgive you for what you’ve done. He doesn’t just want to know you, but He wants to have a RELATIONSHIP with you. Sin stands in the way of your relationship with Jesus, but no sin is too big, dirty, ugly. No sin is unforgivable.
But, for real, aren’t you glad we don’t have to wear ear tags? 😅

The Snowballs

Brad snuck up behind me like a ninja and threw the world’s largest snowball into my back as soon as his mom took this picture. I grabbed handfuls of snow and started chunking them at him to defend myself. The war wasn’t over until our fingers were numb, and we were freezing to the bone. I am usually a well-prepared person in all aspects EXCEPT when something I don’t think about happening, well, happens. I didn’t bring gloves with me or bundle up because a snowball fight with my husband wasn’t marked on my to-do list. But I chose to embrace the moment, laugh with him, and make a memory. Regardless if you are a list and planner fanatic like me or if you are like Brad and “just wing it,” we all have moments when the unexpected happens and we are suddenly unprepared. These moments can turn out special, terrible, heart-wrenching, life changing, etc. What we have to remember when we are writing our lists and marking our calendars (or not, lol) is that God already has an agenda made for us. There will be snowballs thrown at us from time to time to prepare us for a future season of our lives, to strengthen us, to try our faith…we won’t and can’t possibly KNOW ALLLLL what is ahead. So, what do we do? We prepare ourselves spiritually for the unexpected-the hurtful snowballs and the soft snowflakes. Until AND when the snowballs come, we have to ground ourselves into the Word, build us a fort of memorized scripture to strengthen our hearts, and gather soldiers of believers to help us out! Andddd what about the snowflakes you ask? Prepare for the beautiful moments of life just like you would prepare for the snowballs because you will want to have your loved ones circling around you with happy, smiling faces and scriptures of thankfulness stirring in your heart. Similar to the way the snow melts, so do these moments…

We Can Be a Funnel Cake…

I usually go to fairs & festivals for their food more than anything else (can I get an “amen!”) and my favorite classic fair food is the funnel cake. The batter is literally dumped through a funnel into hot grease which is how it gets its name. As soon as it turns golden and flaky, it is placed on a plate and sprinkled with an endless amount of powered sugar. Much like funnel cake, we go through times of pressure and change our “form.” Our ideas, thoughts, decisions, lifestyle, and habits may change dramatically because of a situation that has caused tension and pressure on our lives. It could be a horrible grade at school, not making a team, a loved one passing away, a diagnosis of some sort, being fired from a job, a relationship ending…these are all examples of being dumped into hot grease for awhile to change us. Life interruptions tend to move us out of our typical, everyday lives to a big adjustment whether it is forever or temporary. We usually don’t understand them when they happen out of the blue, but in a few days, months, or even years, we begin to see why those times of pressure happened. Sometimes, God never reveals to us why some things happen. But, y’all, if you were to reflect on your life a few years ago, how have you changed? What situations made you change into who you are now? I bet they were those “hot grease” type of situations. Did you migrate towards God or did you run away? What did you learn? God never said He wouldn’t give us too much to handle on our own because He wants us to lean on Him during those times so He can handle them for us. The next time you feel like funnel cake batter, look ahead to what the end result will be…more beauty & wisdom sprinkled on your soul. 😉