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Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

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You know I love talking about the desires I believe God has laid on my heart. The Dreamer within me will have days when I am productive in nothing else except producing up twenty new ideas about how to minister to teenage girls.

It has been a very long year and a half. However, for the first time in a long time, I have begun to feel as though I have some direction again.

Just last month I completed my training to became a Certified Holy Yoga Instructor. This included 225 hours of  intense, online training for 9 weeks and a week of hardcore training in the mountains of Arizona.

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The gorgeous ladies in my cabin at our Holy Yoga retreat!!

If you would have asked me in high school where I thought I would be at twenty-two years old, a certified yoga instructor would not have even made it in the list of possibilities. God does have a sense of humor.

What to know something even more ridiculous?

I am about to begin six more months of online Holy Yoga training.

Some may not understand why I’m so surprised about where I am in life, but I am. And the only way to explain it, is by giving credit to the Holy Spirit, guiding me on this map-less journey, taking me the road less traveled (Robert Frost).

I am one of those people you could sit down with over coffee and I could clearly describe to you who I am. My interests, passions, quirks, fears, pet peeves, strengths, even list out all of my weaknesses. But, I cannot give you any logical explanation about why I became a Holy Yoga instructor other than the fact that I know this was a step of obedience into God’s grace.

If I had said no, it would have been out of fear. And in Christ’s love, there is no fear (1 John 4).

Henri Nouwen writes, “Over the years we have developed the idea that being present to people in all their needs is our greatest and primary vocation. The Bible does not seem to support this. Jesus’ primary concern was to be obedient to his Father, to live constantly in his presence. Only then did it become clear to him what his task was in his relationship with people.” 

For a few years now, I have consistently repeated to my Mom, “I do not care about a college degree. All I want to do is love God and love people.” In the midst of the darkness that filled my life last year, God answered the prayer I did not even know I had been praying.

Please let this be an encouragement to you. I have NO IDEA where I am going to be in years to come. But, I believe in the faithfulness of the Father who created you and me.

We serve a mighty God. He knows us deeply and intimately, and yearns for us to turn to Him with revered obedience.

In what area of your life is God asking for obedience? Where is He pursuing you?

God has created you specifically with purpose and beautiful intention.

What is it? Do you know? Why don’t you ask Him?

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Camel Pose!

This morning I sat in church tearing up out of awed gratitude.

Matt Chandler interviewed Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs about the testament of God’s faithfulness in their marriage and their story reminded me about how faithful God has been in my life over this past year.

Those of you who have experienced or have had a loved one experience the cloud of clinical depression, you know how dark and grueling the cloud is. The cloud enslaves your inner world and you are trapped inside a shadow of indescribable sadness, where hope seems unreachable. The person you once knew disappears and you wonder if you will ever be yourself again. Days and nights I cried wondering where “Naomi” went? Where did the joy go? Where is God in the darkness? I need saving, because I am confused, scared, angry, and sad.

I can now honestly say that for the past few weeks I have been feeling normal and the cloud of depression is not hovering anymore. My life has been on pause for about 11 months and I am thoroughly excited to have the stamina to begin committing to various activities again. Yes, I am still in counseling, taking two different anti-depressants, eating nutritiously, staying active, attempting to sleep at least 8 hours each night, and trying to keep in mind my social energy so I don’t spread myself too thin. I also do not know what the future holds, and I may have another breakdown in the years to come. However, for now, I feel fantastically Naomi. I feel like myself again. And I feel free. No, that does not mean I am chipper every single second or that all fears have passed away. But, the dark cloud which hovered for a number of months is no longer shading me from the sunny days and new blossoms.

This past Spring I participated in a Bible Study with the women in my home group and we studied the book of 1 Peter. The verses which stood out to me then also continues to stand out to me now as a reminder of God’s faithfulness over the past year.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10

As children of God, Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross for our sins and brought us into the Light of His Life. Similarly, God has used depression in my life as an illustration of the Gospel, bringing me out of the darkness and into His marvelous light.

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Working on my Mermaid pose!

Even though I am currently feeling fantastically Naomi, depression is tricky and every individual battles with this mental illness a little bit differently. Plus being a human being with lots of emotions can be confusing. Who knows, tomorrow something may occur and my depression is triggered. Yet, Matthew 6:34 reminds me not to let tomorrow be a worry. So, I will end it here sharing with you how free I am now feeling after being under the bondage of depression, something which I never expected to experience.

 God is faithful in the midst of the cloudy and the sunny.

How is God working in your life?

 

 

 

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There are random moments during my days of clinical depression when I suddenly feel  almost normal again. The dreamer inside of me comes back to life, and my imagination soars with possibility. During these moments of feeling almost normal, I am reminded of some of my deepest dreams. One of which is to share with women how deeply beautiful and unique they are.

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Women who have also experienced clinical depression will understand when I say my self esteem has reached levels below the zero on the number line. Confidence in the individual beauty that God gave me has been forgotten. Yes, the inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is eternal (2 Peter 3:3-4). However, God reflects His beauty in woman. He has given women the desire to feel and deeply know they are beautiful in their own skin.

“Given the way creation unfolds, how it builds to ever higher and higher works of art, can there be any doubt that Eve is the crown of creation? Not an afterthought. Not a nice addition like an ornament on a tree. She is God’s final touch…She fills a place in the world nothing and no one else can fill. Step to a window, ladies, if you can. Better still, find some place with a view. Look out across the earth and say to yourselves, ‘The whole, vast world is incomplete without me. Creation reached its zenith in me.'” (For more information, check out John and Stasi Eldredge’s eye opening book, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul)

No other woman has your exact eyebrows, eye shape, legs, arms, lips, ears, hair, nose, etc…In Psalm 139, David points to our individuality from God our Creator.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

(Insert your name here), do you believe that?

I am currently asking myself the same question. Do I believe that?

I, Naomi, am fearfully and wonderfully made. Really?

I was born with a heart defect, resulting in open heart surgery. Even with my scar, do I believe I am fearfully and wonderfully made? Do I believe I am beautiful? The days I wish my straight hair was curly and voluminous, do I believe I am beautiful? The days when my eyebrows are in desperate need of an eyebrow wax, do I believe I am beautiful? The days I feel my height is too tall, do I believe I am beautiful? The days when I trace my nose and cringe when I feel the bone that brings a slight curve to my nose shape, do I believe I am beautiful? The days when my legs do not look as toned as I noticed on the other woman while I was out shopping, do I believe I am beautiful?

God, our Creator, our Father, thinks the world of us.

He rejoices in us and He rejoices in His creation of woman.

You, (insert your name here), are made in the image of God.

You, (insert your name here), reflect the magnificent beauty of God.

You, (insert your name here), are BEAUTIFUL. 

Now quit reading this and go do something that brings a smile to your beautiful face!

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Late last night my cousin and I watched a chick-flick and we both agreed the characters deeply needed Jesus.

Late last night I also began having doubts.

Should I really be watching chick-flicks?

The girly dreamer inside of me begins wondering when “the one” will arrive in my life and propose in a field of wildflowers.

(I know, I know…I am cheesy. But for real…)

When I think about how many chick-flicks I have watched and heartily enjoyed I feel ashamed.

Honestly, I know they affect me.

I begin to idolize this idea of the perfect romantic man.

And as the years continue, the content in movies grow even more inappropriate.

If the genuine and heartfelt pursuit of Mr. Darcy stirs my emotions, add the 21st century to the mix and you know it isn’t good.

But the emotional porn does not stop at movies.

Music, books, social media,  and your surroundings scream this “perfect”  formula. Every girl should view romance this one way, and if they do, a man will come into their lives to fulfill them and their heart’s deepest longings.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes,

“What we call ‘being in love’ is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us. It helps to make us generous and courageous, it opens our eyes not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty, and it subordinates (especially at first) our merely animal sexuality; in that sense, love is the great conqueror of lust…But, as I said before, ‘the most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.’  Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing…You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling.

“Our experience is colored through and through by books and plays and the cinema, and it takes patience and skill to disentangle the things we have really learned from life for ourselves.

“In this department of life, as in every other, thrills come at the beginning and do not last…What is more (and I can hardly find words to tell you how important I think this), it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction.

This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying that a thing will not really live until it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go — let it die away — go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow — and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time.”

In her book Captivating, Stasi Eldredge writes,

“The deep longings in our hearts as women just won’t go away. And so we indulge…We move into a fantasy world to find some water for our thirsty hearts. Romance novels (a billion-dollar industry), soap operas, talk shows, gossip, the myriads of women’s magazines all feed an inner life of relational dreaming and voyeurism that substitutes— for a while — for the real thing. But none of these really satisfy, and so we find ourselves trying to fill the remaining emptiness with our little indulgences…They are what we give our hearts away to instead of giving them to the heart of God.

“Take a moment and consider yours. Where do you go instead of to God when the ache of your heat begins to make itself known? … When we camp our hearts in self-doubt, condemning thoughts, or even shame because those emotions have become familiar and comfortable, we are faithlessly indulging rather than allowing our deep ache to draw us to God.”

 

This morning one of my girlfriends texted me saying she has committed to six months of chick-flick free movie nights.

Another friend texted me saying she thinks she shouldn’t ever watch chick-flicks.

I am incredibly thankful for the godly women God has surrounded me with, who  encourage  and challenge me in my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Sure, I will always be a hopeless romantic. That is part of who I am, and I love the way God created me.

Yes, I think it is okay for little girls to watch Disney princess.

Yes,  Jane Austen is a pro when it comes to brilliantly written romance novels.

Whether single or married, chick-flicks (and other things of the sort) can be harmful to a woman’s heart and her expectations for men and how her life should play out. I will probably continue watching chick-flicks with my girlfriend’s. Nonetheless, I think it is good to know one’s personal limits.

Paul writes,  It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Romans 14:21-23

 I pray my hopeless romantic pursuit will continually be for the King of Kings, the only One who fully satisfies my yearning soul.

Also, my brother and his beautiful wife Erica were married this past weekend. What a glorious time of celebration, praising God who gives good gifts to His children.

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If you know me, then you must know how dearly I adore photos. Not merely simple iPhone selfies, but I’m talking the real deal.

Clear, sharp, beautiful photographs that tell a story.

The other day two friends of mine happily adventured with me on a photo shoot escapade.

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Afterwards we drove to our favorite Denton coffee shop, lounged on the couch, and laughed giggles while viewing our precedent photo shoot.

As we were scrolling through the photos comments were spoken out loud from all three of us…

“I look funny.”

“My hair needs a trim real bad.”

“Why does my face look like that?”

“My pants look funny from that angle.”

And so forth.

I began thinking in my head how silly we sound. Not only silly, but how human. (And girly, we sounded pretty girly…)

All three of us know that we are created in God’s glorious image. Yet, our comments sounded doubtful.

The world has this ideal beauty — male and female.

Males are suppose to look one way, females are suppose to look another way.

And if we somehow do not match up to this ideal, we tend to feel deficient. Our confidence levels seem to disappear, and we dream away our days wishing and hoping for an ideal that is not ourselves.

Magazines, celebrities, plastic surgeons, and photo shop all tell us one thing.
Thankfully, God tells us differently.

Psalm 139:13-14, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.”

Genesis 1:26-27, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

You are most likely familiar with those verses. We have been reminded of them over and over and over again.

But, have you ever let them sink in? Truly, genuinely, whole-heartedly let them sink into your heart, soul, and mind?

Pause, close your eyes, and think for a moment.

YOU. God created YOU in His image.

This is not only referring to physically. This refers to your compassion, humility, wisdom, love and other traits which He refines and reshapes while making us new.

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Now get this!

Psalm 96:4-6, “For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.”

Close your eyes a second time.

Imagine a grand throne room. The king and queen stand in front of their thrones smiling, looking out towards their kingdom. The king, mighty in strength, handsome, with long, plush majestic robes flowing about him. He holds an intricate, golden scepter in his hand. The queen smiles with her eyes, her beauty is the talk of the town. Her hair is delicately donned up with various braids and curls sweeping across the back of her head. The gown she wears is the envy of every maiden.

Think of how beautiful those two royals must be. Not only does their outward appearance reflect power, but it reflects character from deep within. Character their kingdom can trust and serve.

God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is unfathomably more beautiful than that.

If we are created in His image, why do we doubt the beauty of our individual uniqueness?

Recently Proverbs 31:30 has given me a fresh perspective.

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vainBut a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

You could use so many different words to define this decaying world we live in.
Outward appearance has always been a constant threat to our contentment.

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Yes, it is wonderful to shower and dress nicely (I love wearing make-up).

But when we, male and female both, begin to define ourselves by the way we look on the outside — we set ourselves up for something that does not exist.

In the end, it will destroy us. (Oscar Wilde writes this theme well in his novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”)

Philippians 3:18-21, “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”

Beauty at its finest, deepest level reflects a heart and soul of character thirsting for Christ. He has promised to make us new.

He has promised to transform our bodies into something glorious.

Quit striving for youthful, outward appearance to define who you are.

Begin thirsting for the One who will make you new.

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On July 12, 2013 my Great Aunt Gloria left this world of suffering to be in the eternal presence of God.

My family was in Angel Fire, New Mexico celebrating our bi-annual family reunion.

Everyone was groggy with bedhead lounging around eating breakfast. My Dad comes into the room and announces that my great aunt passed away the night before.

I pretty much collapsed as I slowly walked to my dad’s open arms.

People have told me that an individual will experience death’s grief over someone close to them. There isn’t a way around that in the tainted world we live in.

Aunt Gloria was the first time I’ve experienced something of the sort.

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Sometime before 2000
(I’m the one on the left with the dark blue dress.)

I guess I should explain that before the last two years, I hadn’t really known who Gloria Jean Hargrove was. Growing up, Aunt Gloria was simply an extended family member who always brought the tastiest deviled eggs to the family holidays. But, as I came to discover, she wasn’t just another extended relative. Aunt Gloria was a kind, wise, and loving woman of God. She lived life without fear, a confidence like none other I’ve known. She outlived her husband, and three children, and raised one of her grandsons as her own. Aunt Gloria loved and she invested her time loving on earth. Mumford and Sons writes in one of their songs, “And where you invest your love, you invest your life”. That is exactly what Gloria did.

Never let your age discourage you. Never think that because you are too young or too old you are unable to inspire someone. At 84 years old, God used Aunt Gloria to speak Truth into my life.

In the Fall of 2011 I began visiting Aunt Gloria in her nursing home. She’d inform me once again how bad the food was and how nothing was really happening at the nursing home. In return, she would listen to me go on and on about my daily life. I would share with her my ideas about school papers, dates to dances, discoveries about my personal relationship with God, etc.

Right before I turned 18, I was sharing with her that my parents were hosting an 18th Blessing at my house and I was to share my testimony. I told her that I didn’t really know what to say in my testimony, because most testimonies I hear at various places are filled with partying, pain and suffering. Then God comes along and brings hope…she stopped me in the middle of my ramble, looked at me and said, “Naomi, you don’t have to suffer to be grateful. And you have so much to be grateful for.”

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Christmas 2011

She taught me then and there that this life isn’t to be taken lightly. I should be more than grateful that I had the opportunity of growing up in a Christian home, surrounded by people that love the Lord with their life. I should be grateful that God protected me from involvement in things I shouldn’t be involved in.

Though her body was deteriorating, her mind was as sharp as ever.

And her faith in God even stronger.

“Being a Christian is but a dead thing unless we are filled with the Spirit of divine life.” Charles Spurgeon

Gloria was definitely filled with the Spirit.

Not only did Gloria’s relationship with God stand out in her life, but she lived a full life.

She approached life as an adventure, a journey, with a zeal to embrace life as God gives.

In his novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan writes,

“This hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend.
For I perceive the way to life lies here.
Come, pluck up, heart; let’s neither faint nor fear.
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.”

Gloria gave the nursing home workers chocolate as little “rewards”. Whenever I visited her, she’d offer me chocolate as well. One time in this past year I was hesitating about eating a second chocolate. A smile on her face, Aunt Gloria declared, “Eat another chocolate, live dangerously.”

Gloria Jean Hargrove was an intricately designed human being. Like all of us, she had a unique personality and a unique look to her. God used Gloria to teach me that everyone needs someone to view them in this light. Every individual is intricately created for God’s glory.

I cannot say it enough. Invest in people’s lives. And heed the wisdom given to you.

Smile. Be transparent. Make known of what God has done in your life.

Psalm 20:7 writes, “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.”

At times I look at my great aunt’s passing in a negative and selfish light. Thinking, “Now I can’t talk to her anymore. I didn’t see her enough. I this. I that…”

I am sad.

I wish I had invested in her life more.

But, you know what? This is not the end. I will see her again. She is no longer paralyzed.

We will walk the streets of gold together. We will worship God together on the New Heaven and the New Earth.

My best friend encouraged me with the following words when I told her of my great aunt’s passing:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

On the drive home from my family reunion in New Mexico I was listening to Needtobreathe. One of their songs, Streets of Gold, specifically caught my attention.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urGMGOvYyjA

Indeed, the day will come when Aunt Gloria and I will walk the streets of gold.

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George MacDonald.

Born 1824. Died 1905.

Author. Poet. Minister.

He was a mentor to  C. S. Lewis.

Friends of G. K. Chesterton, Henry Longfellow, and Walt Whitman.

He saw life unlike many do today. Read his writings. They are tremendous.

Where Is The Work? By George MacDonald 

I said, “I will walk in the fields.” God said,

“Nah, walk in the town.” 

I said, “There are no flowers there.” He said,

“No flowers, but a crown.”

I said, “But the fogs are thick and clouds 

Are veiling the sun.”

He answered: “But hearts are sick and souls 

In the dark undone.”

I said, “But the skies are black; there is

Nothing but noise and din.”

And He wept as He led me back. “There is more,”

He said; “there is sin.”

I said, “I shall miss the light and friends will

Miss me, they say.”

He answered: “Choose ye tonight is I must 

Miss you or they.”

I pleaded for time to be given. He said, 

“Is it hard to decide?

It will not seem hard in heaven to have 

Followed the steps of your  guide.”

Be inspired dear friend. Let us continue seeking Christ with hands held high.

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