Tag: Faith

The Key to Security

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on April 15, 2016. It’s one of my personal favorites to go back and read. 

We live in a culture that is screaming at us to change and be better. It’s a society of comparisons and messages of self-improvement. We spend so much time buying into the lies of the media; but how can we avoid them when they surround us? People – even those who truly care about us – can also make us feel inferior sometimes. It’s so sad, and it can feel like we’re never good enough. I know I have felt that way for years. Insecure and incomplete…

When we’re told on tv and media to “buy this!” and “eat this!” and when we’re seeing ads about dieting and exercise equipment, it’s hard not to feel like we’re missing something that could make us happier. Or when we simply view someone else’s life from afar, it can make us feel like less. Their body, their job, their apparent happiness, or their ideal relationship must be the key to happiness, right?

I finally discovered the solution to this battle with insecurity, and it’s not something we can buy or change. It’s something we have to believe and choose to live out. (It really only applies to followers of Jesus Christ; but if you don’t have a relationship with Him, I hope this makes you want what I have!) The solution is in Ephesians 2:8. It may not seem relevant to what I’m talking about, but I promise it is. Bear with me! It says:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”

Let me dissect this verse for you:

By grace: We can never meet God’s requirements for righteousness; and even though he knows that, he still sent his son to pay the price for our sins. Righteousness and salvation is not something we can earn. That’s why grace is so important here. (Keep reading please. It’s gonna get even better.)

We have been saved: What have we been saved from? We, as Christians, know that we’re saved from hell. Yes, that’s obvious. But he didn’t just send his son in order to keep us out of hell. No, there’s something deeper that I discovered here. The word “saved” comes from the Greek word “sozo,” Which literally means…(are you ready for this?) “To be made whole in our body, soul, and spirit.”

Jesus died to make us whole: Whole means complete!

And the last part of the verse, “through faith,” simply means to believe. So, putting the verse all together means: When you can truly believe that righteousness in Christ is a gift from God, you will be made whole in your body soul and spirit!

When I learned this, I felt like I had found the cure to an ongoing sickness that I’ve carried for years! Because the Holy Spirit fills my heart, I am made whole. And that dispels all reason for me to feel insecure.

Walking in this truth is slowly changing me into a more joyful, confident version of myself; and I’m finding my temptations have less of a hold on me, too.

So now I understand this truth. But it’s still impossible to feel that way every second of the day! I’ve had to make conscious decisions to combat all the negativity causing me to feel insecure. Here are a few of them that are helping me.

  1. The first thing I’ve done is write “I am made whole” in a spot in my room that I see every day. The statement helps me to remember my identity in Christ.
  2. I’ve also decided I will not spend time with people who repeatedly make me feel like less than I am. I’ve had to find a balance here. But to the people who make me feel insecure and leave me with a feeling of emptiness rather than joy – I just have to say no.
  3. I’ve decided to be done with Snapchat…This is a very personal decision, and I don’t condemn the app. But I do know that it was making me sad to see everyone else’s fun. And more importantly, I was getting a false sense of security by deceiving others into thinking my life is more exciting than it really is. I also know that I often put my “best face” in front of the camera in order to feel good about the image I was putting out there. All of this was causing me to rely on something other than God to feel good, so I got rid of it.
  4. I’ve decided to embrace the things I love, whether people will judge me or not. Deciding to be okay with who I am has given me so much freedom.
  5. I’ve decided that what’s “inside” me is more important than the external. I used to think that being skinny would make me good enough. People’s affirmation of my image was really important to me. But now that I know that I’m made whole in my body, I don’t need to believe that lie anymore. And boy is that freeing…I love it so much more when people encourage my character rather than my beauty! Hearing that I’m wise, kind, helpful, godly, or anything like that makes me feel 100 times more worthy!

I can’t really prevent myself from being surrounded by media, but all the other steps I’ve taken have been immensely helpful. I’m not relying on people, possessions, and image to fill the voids in my heart. It’s a constant struggle and effort every day, but I’m trying! I want to encourage you to evaluate yourself too, and ask yourself this: Do I truly believe I’ve been made whole? Where am I getting my security?

Everyday Struggles

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on March 15, 2016. 

Today I’ve been reflecting on what has happened in this month of March so far. We’re only two weeks into it, yet I have already struggled so much more than I expected to…

As of right now, everything is okay. I feel like I’m in the calm after a small storm. You see, nothing neccesarily “huge” has really happened to me at once; but so many moments of hardship have come my way. Moments of temptation, insecurity, grief, fear, and doubt.

This was not what I anticipated! On March 1st, I wrote in my journal, “Every month has been getting better and better! I can’t wait to see how March goes!” I was truly excited for this month because I expected it to be easier and to entail a lot more smoothness, positivity, and growth. The past three months in particular have strengthened, matured, and grown me immensly. But in reality, life is not easy. And sometimes we stumble and fall in the process of climbing upward.

I’ll be more specific about what I’ve been dealing with. In short, I feel that the enemy has played on every single one of my weaknesses and insecurities. He knows what they are, and he can devise plans to attempt to bring me down. Here are some of them:

One area I tend to get insecure in is in my relationships. And a few of my current friendships have been suffering lately. That causes me to stress out and feel a whole lot of negative emotions…I’ve been grieving and trying to walk through this with the Lord, but my insecurity has won over me at times.

Along with that, I have felt discontent with my body again and struggled with old temptations. I sometimes listen to the lies of, “you’re not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough…”

Last week my fear and anxiety came back in full effect: A very discouraging day brought me to crippling anxiety and the worst stomach ache I can remember.

I’ve even doubted my significance in the middle school youth group I serve at.

BUT, (yes there’s always a silver lining) here’s what I know:

Psalm 37:23-24 says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he will fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.”

I LOVE this. The psalmist is acknowledging the inevitability for God’s children to “fall” (or sin/face temptations). And despite our mess up’s, we are never too far gone. We don’t fall so far down that we have to “re-start” or be brought out of a pit. As a child of God, I’m in a good position to pick myself up and start climbing again.

So, this month has not gone the way I expected. But that’s okay because I’m learning to pick myself up. I’m trying to live the abundant life that God desires for me. These weeks have felt messy, but there’s still beauty in this life. There’s still joy to be found! There are still blessings sprinkled throughout my days; but maybe I just need to search a little harder to see them. God is still good. He still loves me. He will use these trials to teach me. And I don’t have to be owned by my sin or insecurity. (Neither do you.)

Passionfruit Doughnut

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on February 27, 2016. I had just decided that I actually wanted to go to college. After this post was originally published, I dreamed about Biola for 2 years while doing my time at community college. By the time you’re reading this, I’m either weeks away from getting there, or I’m finally there!

If you want to understand the obscure title I chose for this post, you’ll have to bear with me till the end!

SO. I’m going to give you something a little more lighthearted this time.

A few months ago my mom asked me if I’d be interested in going on a visit to Biola University, my brother’s school. I didn’t really care much for the idea at first because:

  1. I’ve never seen myself as someone to move out of state or even go to college. (Mostly because I haven’t had a clear vision of what I want to do in the future, career-wise.) And
  2.  The idea of considering colleges has been daunting and anxiety inducing in the past. So, I didn’t particularly want to go to Biola, but I thought, “Hey, I can hang out in the sunshine with my brother and go to Disneyland for a day.” So I let my mom sign me up.

Tiny back story: For a long time I have been resolved to the idea of going to community college and figuring the rest out somewhere along the way. It seems like the easiest plan. I wish I had a more passionate spirit like some people. My brother, for instance, is one of my biggest role models because of how passionate he is, how he works hard, and chases his dreams. But I haven’t felt very passionate about what I can accomplish in life.

So, as I prepared for Biola Bound, I was feeling unsettled about a lot. I prayed over the trip for weeks in advance. Specifically that I would not have panic attacks, that God would provide me with energy, that I would be joyful and confident in meeting new people, and that God would just reveal something to me while I was there.

The trip started off tricky because I had severe panic on the airplane. But I prayed myself through it. The rest of the night was a blast! The next day I met high school seniors and Biola students from all over the U.S. Though everyone’s cultural backgrounds were diverse, it seemed like the one thing everyone had in common was a love for God. (Biola is one of the biggest Bible Institutes in the country). I don’t even really know how to explain it, but I could FEEL the presence of the Holy Spirit over that campus. And the joy of the Lord was inside so many people I met. My joy increased quickly. I loved being immersed in that positive environment, and I felt comfortable. My normal insecurities seemed to vanish!

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As hours and days ticked away, I noticed all my prayers about panic and having energy and joy being answered. I was having such a good time (and Disneyland was only a sliver of the fun). My mind was clear, and my focus began to shift: I found my apathy towards college disappearing, and I realized I really loved everything about this school. – The weather, the campus, the people, the feeling of Christ-centered community, and mostly how God is elevated above everything that happens there. On day three I was feeling stronger about it.

I had a nice long hour to talk with a communications professor over lunch on Monday. During my chat with her was when It finally sunk in that it could actually be a possibility for me to attend the school some day. And that I now had a dream school. After going to a business class, Bible class, and a communications class; I was sold.

I could hardly contain myself when I ran across campus to John’s dorm that evening. I sat there with my hands on my head because I couldn’t even believe I was telling him, “I want to go here some day…” Could this be the answer to my last prayer? Was this what God was wanting to reveal to me?

I’m confident that If he wants me at Biola, I will get there. Regardless of what happens, I’m thankful for the experience and that he changed my heart toward college. I have honestly never felt so strongly about something in this way…I did not want to go home.

The experience as a whole reflects this AMAZING doughnut I sampled during my trip. When I bit into it, I didn’t know what flavor it was. It tasted like…lemon? But then I kept chewing, and my taste buds danced! There was a curd filling on the inside accompanied by something crunchy AND a whipped cream on top. It was perfect. John read a sign and said, “No, it’s not lemon. It’s passionfruit flavored!” For some reason this excited us both immensely. It wasn’t what we were expecting. That intricate doughnut was just like my trip: I went into it with narrow thinking. “This will be a typical doughnut. Whatever.” Or, “It’s a scary college. I don’t want to go to college.” But the more I experienced and learned about the different aspects, my eyes were opened, I got excited, and I left wanting more! And how appropriate that the flavor was PASSIONfruit, and I gained a new passion and vision for my future. 😉

Thanks for reading!

Happy Panic-Versary

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on February 12, 2016. This is one of my most popular posts. It discusses my experience with first panic attack.

I’ve had it on my heart to share about an experience I went through a year ago. Last February 13th a traumatic event happened to me. It stirs up a lot of sad emotions in me, but it’s also a reminder of a huge truth God revealed to me through it.

No, the trauma had nothing to do with romance or lack of romance on Valentine’s Day…It was a Friday afternoon, and I was going to the doctor’s clinic to get my blood drawn for some tests (when I was really sick and at my lowest weight). Normally my mom would go with me, but she wasn’t able to that day. When I sat down in the chair to have my blood drawn, I was unsettled because of some troubling news I had just heard from a family member.

A man prepared my arm and tried to distract me. One moment I was telling him about my day; and the next moment I felt dizzy and told him, “I feel weeeeirrrrd.” He looked at me with a concerned face that told me I was not okay. He pressed a button, and I immediately heard over an intercom something like, “medical emergency team to floor…”. He bandaged up my arm real quick, and medical staff was flooding around me just as quickly as a fuzziness clouded my whole perception. It was the strangest sensation as I nearly fainted. But I remember being leaned back, forced to drink water, and being talked to by a nurse who wanted me to stay awake. I was terrified. As confused as I was, I still had a lot of thoughts running through my mind. I think I was wondering, “Am I going to die?” All I wanted was some comfort. Someone familiar to hold my hand and tell me I was going to be okay.

They put me in a wheel chair and delivered me to a recovery room. I was there for two hours: Staring at the ceiling, feeling helpless and lonely. When I was stable enough to walk, they took my blood and sent me home. The shock of the whole event was still over me when I got home. A wave of terror and uneasiness came over me, and my parents held me as I fell apart, sobbing and hyperventilating. I thought I was having a heart attack. What I didn’t know then was that I was experiencing my first real panic attack. The surge of adrenaline and feeling of possible danger sent my body into the first of many of these “attacks”.

The first thing I think of when I remember that day is how lonely and frightened I felt. How I wanted someone to hold my hand and comfort me. But the cool thing is that not long after that day, I saw a verse that said, “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13). God is commanding us to recognize his comforting presence in our lives. And this verse impacted me so much because it literally says he is holding my hand. In fact, the Bible mentions the right hand of God 58 times in the Bible. Some of my other favorites are:

I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. -Psalm 16:8

My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. -Psalm 63:8

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.- Psalm 16:11

So even though that day kind of marks the start of a rough chapter in my life, it made me want to be more aware of God’s presence in the future. It has really helped me a lot.

Even a few days ago, I had a pretty severe moment of panic when I was in an airplane. I have never flown without my family before, and the instant the plane started moving I felt anxiety kick in. All the symptoms came. But I have learned by now that I’m never truly alone during the storms in my life. I chose to take deep breaths, take a gabba (a natural relaxing mind pill), and recite scriptural truths over and over. After about 20 minutes I was completely calm and I thanked the Lord for giving me the tools to get through my panic attack. Even though the seat to the right of me was empty, I liked to think that God was sitting there holding my hand.

God doesn’t come into our lives to take away our trials and sadness; but he holds our hand and gives us all that we need to get through the storms. My favorite scene to try and visualize now is when Moses was guiding the Israelites out of Egypt. There were mountains on both sides of them, dangerous waters rushing toward them, and an army behind them. I can only imagine how hopelessly terrified they must have felt. They cried out to God, but Moses said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Just be still and watch the Lord rescue you.” . . .Just be still. . . The Lord then literally parted the sea for them so that they could walk through it.

I want to challenge you to acknowledge God in whatever trial you’re going through right now. Stop trying to control and fix things on your own. Just be still, know who is fighting for you, and acknowledge his presence. Things can look terrifying when we’re fighting on our own; but God wants to hold our hands and walk us through our struggles.

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”-  Matthew 28:20

(The photo on the left shows how sad I was in the recovery room that day. The photo on the right captures the joy and freedom I’m able to feel now.)