The War

I wrote this poem a few weeks ago during a worship night with some incredible women. I didn’t realize then how often I would turn to these words and repeat them to myself. I hope they give even more strength and courage to whoever needs it. 

 

In the midst of the battle,
when I feel like I’ve lost,
I know You’re there.
When I crash to my knees,
and I’m too weak to fight,
I know You’re there.

You stand in my place.
You’re my shield and my sword.
And the war goes on.
I can hear Your battle cry.
I can rest in this moment.
I can cry out Your name,
And You’ll be there.

In the midst of the battle,
when I keep marching on,
I know You’re there.
When I face the new day,
and I’m not afraid,
It’s because You’re there.

You stand beside me.
You’re my courage and strength.
And the war goes on.
My cry echoes Yours.
We fight in this moment.
You spoke my name,
and You promised You’d always be there.

 

john 1_5.jpg

Advertisements

Love Languages and God

The other day my dad called my mom while he was on his way home and asked what the family wanted for dinner. We couldn’t decide on a place, as usual, so he made the decision to go to Chick-Fil-A. My mom and I shrugged and agreed and my brother nodded.  Then Dad asked what our orders were. Peter smirked and said “if you know me, you’ll know what I want,” and my first thought was oh, here comes a blog post! My dad was flabbergasted since Peter tends to change his order pretty regularly. I stepped in and said “Spicy chicken sandwich, no pickles,” and Peter smiled at me. “You know me.”

Later on, the family and I were sitting around the table with my dad passing out our orders from Chick-Fil-A. Dad started getting picked on since he didn’t get our orders 100% correct – not that we had exactly told him to get well-done fries, diet Dr. Pepper with no ice, or bar-b-que sauce. We just decided that he should know those were our extra requests. “I think I know why it bothers me so much that Dad didn’t know what I would have wanted to drink,” I said. Everyone looked at me with a puzzled expression.

This incident had me thinking about our love languages. My dad looked hurt at our comments, my mom was frustrated, and I was disappointed (Peter got exactly what he wanted because I ordered for him). “It’s because my love language is Gifts,” I said simply.

“What does that mean?” Peter asked. My dad also gave me the same puzzled look and I could tell my mom was trying to figure out where I was going with it.

“Well… there is this book I read called The Five Love Languages. It helps you learn how to make others feel loved. My language is Gifts. That means I like receiving something that makes me feel like you thought about me when you saw it. Or you knew I would appreciate it. So to me… when Dad didn’t get me something I would like, I felt like he didn’t know me enough.”

Peter nodded and looked over at our dad. “What’s his love language? And mine? And Mom’s?”

“Dad’s is Words of Affirmation. He loves being told he’s appreciated. So when we tell him how we’re not pleased with something he did for us, it hurts him more than it would hurt us. ” I went on to explain how different and similar we all are, according to the book, and how knowing each other’s language helps us all feel like we’re known and loved. Peter smiled after I explained and nodded. “You really do know me. You spend a lot of that quality time with me.”

 

Cross:Heart.png
After dinner I started thinking about God’s love language. Is it gifts too? People used to offer their harvests to Him, and now we tithe in His name. That counts as a gift. Or maybe His language is quality time. We are supposed to seek a space to be alone and dedicate time to him. Could it be acts of service? He has called us to work for His good, to spread the gospel, to be His light in the world. Surely it’s not physical touch…although He heals us with a touch and we can feel His presence.

I think I’ve settled on my answer. He is all of these languages. How could He not be? We are made in His image. We never have to say “if You knew me, You would….” to Him because He knows us intimately. He is pleased with us when we spend time with Him, praise Him, do good in His name, offer Him gifts, and seek the presence of His Spirit. Since we tend to give others love based on our own language, He accepts our love in each way. He also gives His love in each language. He offered His son for our sins. He spends time with us when we seek Him. He performs miracles. He gives us the warmth of His presence.  His Word guides us and tells us how much He loves us. And since He loves us all equally, no one language is worth more than another. Psalm23_64

What is your love language? If you don’t know, you can go here and take the quiz: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/.

Do you agree with my thoughts? Let me know!

To the ones who feel un-useable,

There is a phrase Christians throw around a lot that is meant to make everyone feel worthwhile. Perhaps you’ve heard it: “God can use you right where you are.”

Am I right? I’ve been struggling with that phrase lately. I feel like I’ve been called to do something, something that will make me vulnerable to a lot of people that I don’t know. It requires opening up about my past…but there are some skeletons in there that I’d rather keep hidden. I spent this morning talking to God about it in my journal. So I’ve decided to share that page of it with you, whoever is reading this. I pray that it helps you take your step forward in obedience, wherever that step may lead….

Lord,

It’s hard to feel like I’m completely useful as I am. I feel like I’ve made too many mistakes to be taken seriously. I feel like You’re leading me to write my story, but I feel like so many parts of it are embarrassing and shameful; I don’t want my family to know most of it. It’s like… it’s okay that You know. I just don’t want to come clean to anyone else. And the weight of that shame and fear is a heavy noose around my neck. 

But then I wonder about the girls out there like me — afraid that their past is going to haunt them for the rest of their life. I hate that I’m more afraid of what man will think of me than I am of not walking in the path You have laid out for me. I know I’m forgiven by You. I know You love me, no strings attached, and I don’t have to pretend to be anyone but me. 

But still…sometimes I wish I could just start over, not make all of those mistakes. I’m sure that people have already forgotten who I was. I’m just still afraid that if my name is out there, I’ll be discredited easily and I’ll be even more useless for Your kingdom. 

Yet, even as I write this, I feel You with me, telling me that I’m not useless. I’ll never be useless. That I was made for Your kingdom. That You knew all I would do, all I’ve done, and all I will do — and You’ve still chosen me to further Your kingdom and to find Your other lost children.

So I will. I will write my story and pray it ends up in the right hands…and I know it will because of who You are. 

Okay, so I edited my spelling errors and tweaked a sentence to make more sense as I typed it. You can’t blame me for that. But I still felt that pang of anxiety as I wrote it for you. I still feel anxious now, wondering what you will think and if it will help.

As for my next act of obedience… I’m writing down my story, starting with where I am now. We’ll see where it leads.

Lord,

I pray that You bless whoever comes across this page. I know Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light (Mt 11:30), and I know the plans you have for me are “plans for peace and not for evil, to give [me] a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). I know that You wrote my story, and every bump I felt was helping me help You. I trust that I can follow Your guidance and that my future will be filled with Your love. So, Lord, I accept Your yoke and Your burden and I place mine at Your feet. 

In Your precious name, I pray. Amen.

Small Moments, Big Memories

It was late at night when I was finally getting ready for bed last Saturday. I’d said goodnight to my parents and then headed to my brother’s room to collect my dog. (He likes to keep our pets until I go to bed. It’s our new ritual.) I had guilt on my heart – I had scared him by shutting off all the lights right after his shower as a joke, not knowing how scared he would actually be. He wouldn’t tell me why he was so afraid, so I teased him about it. I know we’re siblings and we tease each other all the time, but this round felt bad. I told myself that if he was still awake, I’d apologize.

I opened his door quietly and checked. He was asleep. I sighed, leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek, and jumped when I felt his hand hold onto my arm. “Do you really want to know?” he asked, his eyes opening and landing on my face. I nodded, pet our dogs lightly, and focused my full attention on him.

He explained his bad dream, how it had been pitch black and this thing was coming from the ground and reaching him. Actually, he didn’t say “thing.” He called it the devil, and he was afraid of it. I nodded and started asking him questions: “Did it touch you? Were you afraid in the dream? Did you wake up before it could touch you? Did you pray when you woke up?” He’d been nodding yes to my first questions, but shrugged and shook his head no at the last question. I was tired and it was late, but I knew this was important.

I explained to him how God pulled him out of that dream. The devil cannot touch him because he is a child of God. He is protected by the Father for as long as he keeps God in his heart. (At church, our pastor mentioned that we draw our protection from God as long as we continue to seek Him. The longer we go without keeping the Father in our lives, the further away from His protection we get.) We continued talking about his prayer life, about whether he has accepted Christ into his heart. Then we talked about what that meant – to accept Christ. It’s a lot for a twelve-year-old boy to understand…. it’s a lot for an almost twenty-six-year-old woman to understand. I told my brother that I pray the sinner’s pray almost every week – not because I’m unsure of my salvation, but because I want to continue to invite Christ into my life. I made the mistakes before of sealing off doors of my life to Him. I thought I knew better, that my way was the right way. I explained that to my brother, making sure that I didn’t give too many details that could distract him from the point of our talk.

We talked about fear, and how we shouldn’t let that control our hearts and minds. We talked about how the worst thing that could happen to us on this Earth would be dying. And then he said: “But when we die we go to heaven, so that’s a good thing in the end.” I couldn’t have said it better. Then he asked: “I just hope it won’t hurt too long or too bad.” I sighed and nodded and then replied: “Yeah, but it’s nothing Jesus didn’t go through, too. He was beaten and broken and hung up for us. There is nothing you can go through without Him having done it first. Of course, we all want to go to heaven in our sleep, but even if it doesn’t happen that way you are never alone in it.”

Then, I leaned over to kiss him goodnight again; I whispered a small reminder to say his bedtime prayers. He grasped my arm again and asked me to pray with him. In that small moment, it didn’t matter what time it was or how tired I was. I nodded, asked him if he wanted to go first (he didn’t), and then I began praying. I started with thanks: “Thank You, God, for our many blessings – those we have already received and those You have yet to give us. Thank You for our family, our friends, and our pets. Thank You for Your guidance and Your protection. As we get ready for bed, I ask that You shield our minds from unwanted dreams and thoughts. I ask that You continue to protect us all night, and help us slip into our dreams quickly.” Then I nudged him to continue. When we said amen I gave him another kiss, scooped up my dog, and closed the door behind me.

I know it’s easy to get swept up in our fears, our worries, and our concerns. I know it’s easy to forget that no problem is too big for God. I also know how easy it is to get overwhelmed when we’re struggling with bills, family, and trying to have a social life. The ease of keeping these problems makes it difficult to trust that someone else can take care of them. But that’s also the best part. We don’t have some random person that we can’t trust to take care of our worries and our strife. We have God. We have the awesome creator who can walk on water, who loves us more than we can imagine, who WANTS to take on our problems and show us how good life can be. We just have to let go and let Him.

Father,

Thank You for the small moments I get to share with my brother. I hope these lead to memories he can rely on when he needs them. Thank You for answering my prayers when I ask You to grant me the right words to tell him.  I know I’m not the best at letting go of the control I try to have, but I’m working on it and I’m pretty sure my brother sees that. Lord, thank You for always being by my side, especially during the times when I felt abandoned and lost. I know You held me in those days a little tighter. Thank You for protecting my family and I. I know the devil is always waiting for a moment to distract us from Your mercies and blessings, and I am so thankful that You provide us with blinders when it comes to that. I am thankful that even when we stray Your hand is always there to guide us back to the path You have created for us. Help us to always remember You are there and that we don’t have to carry the weight of our world on our shoulders.

In Your precious name, I pray. Amen.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Women are bombarded every day with different ideals of beauty. We are told that sexy is a thin girl in her (overpriced) underwear walking down a runway with fake angel wings. We are told that you must have a certain bra size, waist size, hip size, a thigh gap, ribs that can be noticed when you stretch, collar bones peeking through…you get it. We are told that if you don’t belong in the last two sentences, that you better have a pretty face. You should get your eyebrows done, have perfect skin, take at least 45 minutes to do all of your makeup, have long nails, long hair, long legs…you get it. You also have exude confidence, even on your worst days. Even when you’re told that you’re not sexy, you’ll never be sexy, so you should settle for cute but chubby.

Guys have it too. If a man doesn’t have a chiseled jaw line, broad shoulders, six-pack (or more) abs, thick muscles in his arms and legs, that “V” line on his  hips…. I swear I already see the girls nodding and picturing this hunk…you get it though. If a guy isn’t that, he isn’t lusted after either. Guys are told that they have to work out a lot to be attractive, even if they’ll never obtain the Hollywood body. He has to be funny, smart, not too nerdy and obsessed with video games. He also has to have a good job that pays well and makes you proud to be with him.

You might like a guy or a girl who isn’t those things. And if you do, great! You might be married to him or her. But you can’t help but carry the baggage of feeling like you don’t measure up to society’s standards. Or they carry the baggage and the weight of it in your relationship and it is really starting to do damage.

In high school I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I was so critical of every mark on my face, every ounce of fat, every hair out-of-place. Every girl I knew was the same way. And we sought attention, no, we sought confirmation of our value from guys. If a football player stared at us for a second we immediately tried to get more of his attention. If a “scene” kid was interested in us, we became “scene.” We wore tight clothes, revealing clothes, heavy makeup, whatever it took. We molded ourselves to whatever we thought others wanted us to be. We did whatever it took, or almost whatever it took. Some people died to achieve society’s standards. Some people felt so alone, so rejected because nothing they did to feel beautiful worked, so they ended their life or attempted to. Maybe that was someone you knew, maybe that was you.

I have carried this baggage, these heartbreaking issues, for a long time. My soul has felt so heavy, my whole body ached for relief. It wasn’t until I was worn out from trying to mold myself for someone else that I read this verse with the right mindset:

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

Psalm 139:13-14, NKJV

He formed me. He covered me. He placed every hair, every birthmark, every nail, every muscle, and more. He didn’t do those things on accident–He did this meticulous work on me because he wanted me this way. I don’t have to try to mold myself to be anyone or anything else. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we can’t color our hair (I do it all the time) or have piercings, or get tattoos. That’s up to you. I’m saying we need to take pride in ourselves, in who we are at this moment in time.

Do you feel overweight? Work out to take care of the body God gave you, not out of obligation to some superficial standard. Give me some workout ideas! I want to join you. Do you like putting make up on because it makes you feel beautiful or because you want to accentuate the beauty you already have? Go on and highlight those cheeks, line your lips, add some fierce wings. Tag me in your Instagram photo @anamercy . Getting a tattoo? Are you doing it to hide something or because you’re proud of something? Show me your favorite ink, tell me the story behind it. Putting crazy colors in your hair? Are you doing it because you want to cover up your mousey-brown hair or because you love purple and think it’s fun?  Send me pictures, tag me, I want inspiration.  Whatever you do to yourself, do it because you love yourself, not because you think it’s what society youareneededwould want.

Our beauty isn’t determined by what others think of us. Our beauty was predetermined by the one who looks at you with pride–the one who loved every inch of you while you were safe inside your mother’s womb. I look in the mirror now and smile at myself. When those thoughts of doubt, of low self-worth come creeping in, I stop them by remembering that God created me in His own image (Gen. 1:27), and that He loves me just the way I am. He loves you too.

Father,

Thank You for creating me. Thank You for my smile, my eyes, my ears, my nose. I thank You for the things I once wanted to change. You know how hard I’ve been on myself. You know the tears I’ve cried over wishing some part of me was what society said was beautiful. I know now that You find me exquisite. I know that You look at me with love and with adoration, the kind that Hollywood says I should search for in some guy. I know You place so much more value on me than I place on myself. I know You hurt when I don’t love how You made me. I strive to keep Your Word in my heart and on my mind. 

God, thank You for making me wonderful and marvelous. Amen!

Are Christian and Christianity Just Words?

 

The other day I was asked what the word Christian means. And it stopped me for a second before I was able to respond. A Christian is “simply” someone who believes  God sent His only begotten Son to earth, so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. A Christian believes  God’s Son’s name is Jesus. A Christian believes  Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. That Jesus then took the punishment we deserve because He loves us that much. That three days later, He was resurrected and told us that it was our turn to step up. That we should share what He did. And because of what He did, we have the ability to have an unbelievable relationship with God. That is Christianity.

I then heard “so everyone who says they’re a Christian believes that?”
And the answer was no. Some people say they are a Christian just get people off of their backs about religion. Some people say it because they want to have something in common with other people. Some people say it but don’t understand what it all means.
Then, there are some people who are afraid to say it. They are afraid of being lumped in with people who are bigots, sexist, racist, and more. They are afraid of this perceived notion of what Christianity is, of who Christians are. Or, they might not feel that they are a good enough person to call themselves a Christian. We have this notion that we need to clean up our act before God will consider liking us.

Being a Christian doesn’t automatically make you a good person. Actually, there is no true “good” person anymore. The one good person who lived and breathed on earth was Jesus. So stop putting people on pedestals because we will all eventually fall off, and you will be the one hurting more for believing in people instead of Christ. You could technically be a horrible person and God will still love you as much as He loves  Mother Teresa. You could technically believe in Christ and go to heaven but still be a mean, greedy, selfish person. There are no strings attached to salvation.

However, when you truly believe in the sacrifice Jesus made, it changes your heart. The love and hope that God provides settles into the cracks of your soul and heals it. It’s not a forced change. God doesn’t want to force you to do anything. But, when you are feeling that good, it’s hard to hide it from other people. It’s hard to want to keep it to yourself. When God is working in your heart, you will notice the hurting happening in the world. You will want to help. God will guide you to where people are if you are open to it. He won’t force you to though.

That sting in your heart, the ache in your belly when you see something horrible happening, that is God. That fire inside of you, wanting people to unify and act out against horrible occurrences, that is God. God loves you as much as He loves the people who hurt you. God loves the victim as much as He loves the culprit. When you do something wrong, that small twinge of guilt in your head or your heart is His heart breaking for you and the person you wronged. I believe it’s the hardest part about Christianity, about being a Christian. You don’t get loved more than anyone…but you also don’t get loved any less.

 I still can’t listen to how Jesus was crucified without crying. Without feeling the weight of my sins being nailed into Him. Without feeling the breathtaking release of knowing that I’m forgiven because of it. I still struggle with feeling worthy of such amazing love. Christ loves us fiercely. He is waiting with open arms for us to turn to Him and accept His love. His heart breaks for every extra second it takes. And the most amazing thing is that He doesn’t want anything from us. He doesn’t want us to clean up our act before we ask for help. He doesn’t want us to hide anything. After you come to Him your slate is wiped clean. Your purity is restored. Your addictions are broken. Your healed.

That is what being a Christian is. It’s knowing you’re a mess but trusting Christ to clean it up for you and guide you to your next step. It’s beautiful. And telling other people about being a Christian is Christianity. It’s letting them know that they don’t have to feel alone, be afraid, or stay on the pedestal.

Lord,

If anyone is curious about You, I ask that they open their hearts and thoughts to You. I pray that they accept the love, peace, and understanding that only You can give. Lord, I ask for your healing on everyone who is hurting. I ask that You continue to place them in my life, that I can continue to spread Your love to everyone I can. I know that I’m just one person, and that I constantly ask You for things. I know that I sin every day and to people watching I am not the best Christian. I thank You for Your mercy, for Your sacrifice. I am so grateful that You love me more than I could ever imagine. And I’m so thankful that You love us all the same.