Living a Christ Centered Life

I stood looking out over the Vltava River early on Day 2 of my trip in Prague admiring the view and thinking how blessed I am to be here. I’m such a long way from anywhere I’d imagined to find myself after everything I’ve been through. When I first started my walk with Christ, I often wondered “How do I encourage others to do the same when this is so painful and difficult? I know it’s going to be worth it but it’s so hard.” It’s been a few years, it’s been extremely hard at times, but as I stood there in awe, I realized I’m now in a place where I can start sharing how and why it’s totally worth it.

I took a picture (above) and posted it on Facebook with the following “Good morning from day 2 in Prague. Have a blessed day. Remember where you are is not where you are going to stay. Trust in the Lord, He will take you to amazing places. I totally vouch for Him.” (May 25, 2014).

What I couldn’t go on writing because FB wasn’t the right platform was how physically I found myself in this amazing place, but it didn’t compare to where I found myself emotionally, mentally and spiritually. What our eyes witness is enhanced or diminished by our state of well being and since living a Christ Centered Life; I’ve discovered my state of well being has been constantly improving even during trials and hardships. The greater my state of well being the more beautiful and perfect everything around me became.

As I obeyed God, I grew in appreciation of the Now (each moment) He has selected for me because I knew there were gifts from Him. The view wasn’t always as glorious or the moment as peaceful but none the less, each one was selected by my Lord and Savior specifically for me. It’s much easier to appreciate His Glory while surrounded by beauty, but I’ve also witnessed His awesomeness in the most mundane and difficult of moments as He showed me how He was working in my life.

It’s not popular in our society to say Jesus Christ is my Savior; I live a Christ Centered Life, I’m a believer, I’m committed to Christ above everything and everyone but I hope to change that through sharing what it’s like to live according to God’s plan. I started my walk about 3 years ago, past blogs tell some of the story, but as I continue to blog, I’m going to try my best to tie it together to the lessons I’ve learned, the changes God has made in me and the Scriptures that have been steering me.

Jesus Christ is the answer. Whatever questions, problems, issues, pain, and sins – Jesus is the answer.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

One of My Heart’s Desire – To Travel

Back in the day…when I tried my hand at online dating after coming back from Okinawa I had “Love to Travel” on my profile – identifying I was seeking a man who needed to have a love for venturing out on adventures and visiting distant lands. I’d spent the previous three years exploring South East Asia and couldn’t imagine not seeing more of the world.

Online dating turned out to be totally wrong for me, but what made me think of my online dating profile statement is the irony that I spent almost a full decade doing no traveling when it was definitely something I loved to do. Instead, I was on a roller coaster ride of starting and failing at businesses and relationships, losing everything and becoming undone – followed by finding, establishing, and growing the most important relationship in my life with Jesus Christ, becoming a new person and then achieving goals like stepping on stage to compete in Women’s Physique and graduating from college.

I often thought about how much I missed traveling; my world felt so small and restricted during those years. From the summer of 2005, when I returned from Iraq, to October 2013, when I finally boarded a plane to Stuttgart, Germany; I never took a real vacation/time off or went anywhere. Okay, yes, I did move to New Orleans in January 2009, but it was for work, and New Orleans became home not a travel destination.

Last week, when I was riding my bike around Lake Constance in complete bliss, I spent time reflecting on how good God is and how blessed I am to be traveling again. It was etched on my heart to travel once more and it turned out to be in alignment with God’s will for my life right now to do so. I’m truly grateful and focused on treasuring every opportunity I’m presented to travel my little heart out!

Stein am Rhein

His Love Eased The Blow

I boasted to a handful of people that I was feeling good about the job I’d applied for. God’s presence has been strong since Monday…so I assumed it was a positive sign things were looking good since the job closed on Monday.  The news that awaited me in my inbox this morning made me realize His presence was actually to ease the blow.  While I considered myself qualified for the job I really wanted…according to the computer that reviewed my resume – I’m not.

The rejection hurt. I reread the email a few times…hoping I’d misread the words or that perhaps the words would magically change.  Then time stood still as my thought selection filtered in, as if someone had pulled the lever on a slot machine and a series of thoughts were going round and round. Thoughts of past disappointment, rejection, pain and hurt that had long been buried wanted to rise from the dead and creep back in. The cascade of everything I have to feel sorry for myself wanted to flow freely with this latest rejection leading the wave.

The slot machine stopped and my thoughts settled on God, God, and God. There He was filling me with His love. Reminding me of the last two days and all of the hope, happiness and joy I felt. He quietly said “It wasn’t the prospect of the job that filled you with those feelings but knowing I am there and I love you. I’m still here and I love you.”

I didn’t need to dwell on how disappointed I felt or how it hurts. He knows. I didn’t have to remind Him of everything I’ve been through. He knows. But I did ask him to keep guiding me, to show me the way, to lead me to what He has planned for me.  He knows that too…but I don’t, not yet. I asked Him to keep revealing Himself to me, to keep teaching me His ways and to keep by my side.

When that was all said and done – the only thing left was a desire to write about it. God first. Writing second. What would I choose to do given the opportunity to do anything…not the job I applied for any other type of work. I would write. So the answer for now is: write.

Seeking God’s Will For My Next Job

From trip to Berlin February 2014
From trip to Berlin February 2014

While in Berlin back in February, I felt compelled to find a way to stay in Germany.  I realized there’s something about this place (I can’t quite put my finger on) that sparked a desire to stay. I prayed about it and proceeded to look for jobs.  The search was a little disheartening – according to my resume, I’m qualified for jobs I don’t necessarily want and lack the qualifications on paper for the jobs I would probably love.

I would love to write that I took this conundrum to the Lord to seek His will…but I didn’t.  Instead, I shelved the problem and how it made me feel to deal with it later.

I had some downtime about two weeks ago so I decided to peruse the job listings again on USA Jobs.  I have a little less than six months left on my orders so I need to find my next job.  I found a job I want…I mean REALLY want. I couldn’t believe what I consider to be an ideal job was listed and waiting for me to apply. I felt so excited!  I found myself saying “God, please let me have this job.”

I didn’t waste any time. I started doing my research on the Organization, got my cover letter started and looked into how I needed to tweak my resume to be more competitive and relevant for this particular job. But the more I wanted the job, the more I started feeling fear and anxiety. What if I don’t get it, then what?  I’ll be so disappointed. I found myself saying again but more desperately “God, please let me have this job.”

After a few days of feeling anxiety about the prospect of this job, a new thought entered my mind: “God, is this your will for me?  Is this the job you want me to have?” I had yet to pursue His input and guidance about this job.  I made the rookie mistake of trying to talk God into giving me what I want versus seeking what He wants and obeying Him.

They could very well be the same exact thing – but one way brings about stress, worry and fears, while the other way, brings peace and ensures the best outcome no matter what.

Feelings of anxiety and stress are a sure sign that I’m not focusing on the Lord. As I grow as a Christian, I’m getting better at applying Scriptures to my life and to the problems/situations that arise. I turned to the Lord, Scriptures and past lessons to find peace about this job.

Psalm 37: 4 states “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  I struggled plenty with this verse early on in my walk with Jesus. I thought I was delighting myself in the Lord but I wasn’t getting my way (desires of my heart) and I didn’t understand why.

Further study and development in my relationship with God made me realize the key to this verse was to lay all of my desires at His feet and focus on walking closely with the Lord and truly desiring His will for my life.  When living centered in His will, God will place His desires on my heart.  His desires will be my desires. I asked him “God, did you place the desire for this job on my heart?”  There’s been no answer yet.

Jeremiah 29:11 reads: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Admittedly, I’ve doubted in the past whether or not God had good plans for me because of my circumstances but that was a lack of understanding and a lack of faith on my part – not the Lord punishing me or keeping His promises from me.

I know He has an incredible plan for my life and this job seems to me (with my limited view and understanding of His plan) like a good step in the right direction. I asked Him “God, will this job prosper me?” There’s been no answer yet.

A few verses in Proverbs 16 (New Living Translation (NLT)) make it clear, whether or not I get this job – it’s in God’s hands.

1 We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer

3 Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.

33 We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.

I submitted my resume, job questionnaire and other required documents last Wednesday.  Funny thing about that day, it turned out to be a very bad day at work which allowed me to witness the work God has accomplished in me. A year ago, my former self would have submitted the resume begging God to take me away from the constant nightmare of my circumstances.  I would have been filled with fear, doubt and dread God wouldn’t answer my prayer. I would have been feeling hopeless and trapped.

Not so anymore. I submitted the resume expressing my desire to do His will and thanked Him for teaching me once more how to be an obedient servant.

I’ve thought about how badly I want this job every day since then…free of stress, anxiety and doubt.

An Instrument for the Hand of God

My circumstances have not changed for many years; it is their constant state that have taught me and shown me the Hand of God at work.  First, my circumstances made me realize a need to change – a need to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Next, my circumstances allowed me to change by allowing God to forge me into who He created me to be (this is ongoing). Then being in the same circumstances made realize how much I had changed. And now, my circumstances are showing me how God can use me to work in other people’s lives.

Many Christians turn to God to help them in their times of need and once He has – they go back to doing their own things; turning their backs on God who they claim to serve. Our sinful nature which wants to do its own thing keeps us from experiencing the real intimacy and rewards of serving our Father.

I wake in the morning and my first thoughts are to give thanks to the Lord for another day and to let him know this day belongs to Him. I’m ready to serve and obey Him. So when I go in to work every day in one of the most dysfunctional environment I’ve ever had the (dis)pleasure to work in; I know He wants me here.

The dysfunctional environment I’m currently in is a product of people not doing their jobs, personality clashes, unrealistic expectations and a lack of leadership. It’s a product of people serving their own purposes and not thinking pass themselves. At first I was aggravated and frustrated with the place, but now I find it (and the people creating it) sad and unfortunate. They all could use God in their lives. I have God in my life and I don’t belong to this environment; although I am in it – it is not in me or of me.

I don’t know what God wants me to do most days and I’m okay with that because when He does want me to do something – He tells me and I obey.

He gave me the opportunity this week to give someone a message that He was starting to work in her life but the decision to make the hard choices and the necessary sacrifices to embark on the journey with Him and be blessed by it was hers to make.

I had chills while I delivered the message when it hit me God was using me as a messenger! His Hand was all over the situation and I was an instrument to do His work. This was only the second time I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was directly using me…I can’t explain what an incredible blessing that is.

When God works a miracle in my life, I feel blessed by Him and closed to Him but when He uses me to work a miracle in someone else’s life; I feel his presence ten times more and a deep closeness because it lets me know He is trusting me. He lets me know I am living my life in a way that can be used to serve His Kingdom.

I used to want to help people on the large scale so badly through the Loop of Confidence, motivational speaking and all my other endeavors. I used to think God was calling me to do it; I used to try to control the outcome and force people to get it. I caused myself so much pain, heartaches and disappointment. I was totally clueless what it actually took to be used by God and what it would feel like.

When I was done delivering the message God had trusted me with…I knew I could do nothing else but provide her more guidance if she wanted it; the next step was fully in her hands and God already has the outcome all worked out. When serving God, the outcome, consequences and glory all belong to Him. The joy and honor of partnering up with Him though…that I can bask in, not in a prideful but jubilant manner.

When I laid my ambitious dreams of helping people according to my will at His feet, I felt lost and useless.  I felt like He was not using me to my potential and every so often I would go and pick my ambitions back up. When He kept putting me in the same circumstances it was hard not to think I was doing something wrong. It’s counter intuitive to think things getting worst was actually God making it better for me but that’s why faith is so important.  It’s why knowing Him is key. The harder it gets, the deeper into His Word I go…the more He teaches me, shows me and uses me. The closer I am to Him, the less everything else matters. I don’t go to His feet anymore to pick up my ambitions; I go to rest.

The Sting of Unanswered Prayers

The harshest part of my walk with Christ is without a doubt the painful sting of my unanswered prayers…especially when it all comes to head.

It’s been a really rough last few months…at work.  I don’t want to get into the details, but I’ve been hanging on by a thin thread and today I finally cracked. What hurts the most is how much I’ve been praying for strength to get through it, strength to be what Jesus expects me to be in this situation – to have the strength to grow and learn through it all.  Today was very hard – I prayed, I asked God to get me through it but it didn’t end well.

The first sting came from today’s unanswered prayer. I have felt His presence and strength in the pass but not today. Today was like quick sand, the more I prayed, and the more I tried to do what was right, the more I sunk into a black pit of frustration, aggravation and anger. I was being engulfed and God was nowhere to be found to pull me out.

Walking back to the hotel, alone, with no one to confide in, I felt the other stings that are of a much deeper kind; they’re rooted in unanswered prayers from years ago (years of praying) that keep hurting me…that quite frankly test my faith.

A Mentor

One of the first things I remember praying for was a mentor. When I first came in the Marine Corps,  I wanted to find someone I admired, trusted, and wanted to emulate. I knew having a mentor would help my growth and provide me the guidance, advice and leadership that would mold me into the best Marine I could be.  As an Enlisted Marine I never found that specific mentor – but I did receive what I was seeking here and there from a variety of people. Once I became an Officer, the need grew but the providence became a slow drip that left me fending for myself.

The praying intensified immensely once I left the Marine Corps and entered the realm of entrepreneurship. I spent many nights in tears – begging God to send me someone to help me, to guide me…to mentor me. I was way out of my depth most of the time and making costly mistakes. I also felt so alone.  I had people looking at me to lead them and who expected me to have the answers, when in truth, I was drowning and I had no one to pull me to shore. Not surprisingly I failed…over and over again.

I’m a very private person and while pretty open in my writing – I’m much more reserved in person. Can’t honestly say there’s someone in my life who actually truly knows who I am. Someone who knows the ins and outs of my life, my thoughts, feelings, hope and dreams.

A mentor or mentors along the way would have made such a difference.  They would’ve allowed me to have someone I trusted, respected and valued to open to.

A Significant Other/Husband

At some point, especially over the last few years (intently the last few months) I’ve prayed for a significant other (husband the last few years). Perhaps it was a bit of a compromise with God at first; He didn’t see it fit to send me a mentor, so I would be fulfilled to simply have the right man to share my life with.  Someone to know me, understand me, love me, be there for me…carry part of the load when it all becomes too much. But well…you all know that continues to go unanswered as well,

Fulfilling Work

The third thing I’ve prayed for feverishly for years – work I love in a wonderful environment where I can prosper. Not only does that elude me, I’m in the complete opposite of what I’ve been praying for.

Seek on Your Own

Anyone reading this who is not a Christian is probably thinking “Why don’t you go out and find these people on your own?” First, let me say – I have tried prior to being saved and made a mess of things…especially in the significant other’s department. Having the wrong people in your life can be a lot more damaging then not having anyone at all.

Second, when praying its critical to have faith and trust in the Lord.  If you pray, then go out and try and do it on your own – you can’t expect God to answer your prayers. He expects us to pray, obey Him and allow Him to work things out.  It’s His timing not our own…just sometimes His timing can leave us feeling forgotten.

God First and For All

Until today, those three standing unanswered prayers stung at times, but since committing my life to the Lord – I have known Him to be there and He has provided for me. I don’t know where He was today but I do know I have to keep trusting Him.

Listen to these lyrics to this song – and you’ll understand why.