“Holding Your Tongue” Isn’t Enough

Gossip: I hate it. I also really struggle with it. (Maybe you do too, I don’t know). What I do know is that for me, personally, it’s something I’ve participated in way too many times and it is a specific area of my life that God has been showing me really needs to change. For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard gossiping being excused away as something that “all girls just do.” I’ve commonly witnessed (and even been guilty of) someone being negatively talked about in a conversation and tacked onto the end of all the negativity is, “All that to say, just pray for ______, they’re really struggling.” That’s terrible, I know. It doesn’t reflect our Savior and it doesn’t bring any glory to God. It seems like every time I’m faced with the fact that my gossiping needs to stop, a new opportunity for me to gossip or talk negatively about someone rears its ugly head and I’m right back where I found myself too many times before. I want to bring glory to God and gossiping is definitely not a way to do that. I also want to be a good, Godly example to my daughter and I do not want her to hear her mommy speaking negatively about other people, who are made in God’s perfect image. It’s discouraging and disappointing when I fail at my attempts to stop talking negatively about someone. But that’s just it – they are MY attempts….my imperfect, human attempts.
Recently, I did a devotional that completely changed my perspective on this subject. I have been going through the She Reads Truth Women In The World: Old Testament Bible study. It has been so eye-opening for me and challenging to my life in a number of ways. On June 12th, I read Day 12 of this specific Bible study and God started working in my heart about specific changes that needed to happen. That day, I prayed that God would help me to not say anything negative when faced with the opportunity to gossip. Sounds easy enough, right? WRONG. First of all, many of those attempts failed. I found myself giving into temptations more often than resisting them. It was discouraging to say the least. Secondly, the truth is that I didn’t fully understand the need for a heart change. I simply prayed that I wouldn’t say anything negative. So if a group of my friends are talking negatively about someone and I don’t say anything, yet in my heart I’m only thinking negatively towards someone – does that make it wrong? ABSOLUTELY. That concept changed everything for me.

Today, I went back and read that same devotional again. This time, I ended not with a prayer that God would help me to refrain from saying negative things, but instead that God would change my heart. It isn’t enough to simply hold my tongue when I have a heart full of negativity. God knows the true intents of my heart. Even if I’m “holding my tongue” and not verbally participating in gossip, if in my heart I am feeling negative towards someone or thinking negative thoughts about them, God knows. He knows the depths of my heart and in fact, the Bible tells us that God actually searches the heart! (Jeremiah 17:10). Psalm 19:14 says, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” This verse really struck home with me because both the concepts of our words AND our hearts are mentioned and should be pleasing to God. I don’t know about you, but that really put things into perspective for me. When we have a heart change – a true, genuine heart change that only comes from God – we can glorify Him with our words as well. Now, that’s not to say we won’t fall or struggle, because we will. That’s the Christian life… and that’s the beauty of His GRACE.

“Change my heart, O God.
Make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God;
May I be like You.”
4-psalm-19-14

I won’t forget you, 22

Twenty-two is definitely going down in the books as my favorite age (well..so far, anyway).

On my birthday last year (which, by the way, was spent in the hospital on our vacation in Florida due to a bad stomach bug + pregnancy) I had no idea what the year would bring. Looking back at everything that has happened this past year, I am completely overwhelmed by the goodness of God and His grace in my life and the lives of others.

At the age of 22 I became a mother, a college graduate and a nurse. It was the year so many of the dreams I had for my life came true. I grew a lot as a wife as my husband and I started adjusting to our new roles as parents together. I had the privilege of watching my loving husband become a daddy (I still find myself watching him in awe sometimes as he fits the “daddy” role so unbelievably well). I developed a faith in God like I’ve never had before. I realized how fortunate we are to be surrounded by so many amazing friends and family members.

It definitely wasn’t a perfect year. It was filled with plenty of ups and downs, its own set of trials, lots of tears and some heartache. There were times I was discouraged, completely sleep deprived, running away from God, and even miserable at some points in the year. But… It was a year I will never forget and God used those hard times to teach me lessons I never would have learned otherwise. The ups were great and the downs were bad, but God saw us through it all. Even when I lacked trust for my faithful God, He took care of us. He taught me so much about Himself this year. He showed me that even when we lack faith, He is still in control and He is still God. He gave me grace for every day – even when I wasn’t necessarily looking to Him for it. I learned that His plan is far better than my own, even when I think I know it all (which, let me tell you, I definitely don’t). He is good regardless of our circumstances and He will continue to be good despite our failures and human imperfections.

22 was a year full of a lot of milestones & life lessons.
I am so excited to see what God has planned for 23!

IMG_8169 IMG_8224

Week 5

January 29th- Gus and I flew back to college today. It was bittersweet because even though we're ready to finish the school year, it was hard to leave our families. We had a fun flight, we just studied and did homework the whole time.

January 30th- Back at school, back to school consuming my life.

January 31st- Growing up in Florida, I never really got to see the seasons changing. Now that I've experienced it, I always look forward to the next season! There's something beautiful about winter and the bare trees-- I love it so much.

February 1st- I can't believe it's already February! Time is flying by. As hard as classes are every day, I pass by these beautiful flowers every time I walk to the cafeteria. For the past 2 days they've caught my eye and remind me that we can find beauty in everything.

February 2nd- Today was rough. Classes are started to get extremely stressful and I have been continuing to have migraines. (I've had them for a couple months now on a weekly basis--prayers are appreciated). Gus bought me and my friends some chocolate to help us study. He's a sweetheart.

February 3rd- Studying isn't all that bad when you've got your best friend by your side.

February 4th- It's Saturday and I have a microbiology test on Monday. You want to know what that means? Waking up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning to go to Panera from 7:30am-8:30pm to study with a few of my friends till our brains feel like jello. Gus came around dinner time to "study." You know what that entails? Sitting on a big comfy chair in Panera, pretending to study, and actually sleeping--- doing all of this while looking like a creeper. What a rough life;)

This week is going to be crazy. I’m so thankful that I’m finally starting to feel better– especially considering I have 3 tests tomorrow, 2 projects due this week, and 5 quizzes over the course of this week. It’s going to be busy for sure! It’s amazing to know that I can cast all my cares upon God because He cares about me. Is this week going to be hard? YES. It’s revealing my weaknesses already. However, it’s also revealing the strength of my Savior and the fact that when I’m weak, He makes me strong. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has a difficult week ahead. In fact, I’m positive there are so many people who are facing weeks ahead that will be way more difficult than mine. If that’s where you’re at, take pleasure in knowing that God can use our human weaknesses and difficult times to bring  glory to Himself. The will of God will not take you where His grace cannot keep you. Cast your worries at the foot of the cross.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Why I want to be a nurse

Sometimes it is so easy for me to lose sight of the big picture. When the homework starts piling up and the tests start coming, there are days when I feel like just giving up. “The work is too hard. I’m not smart enough for this. I CAN’T DO THIS.” Those are statements I’ve repeated constantly over the past year and a half. 

Why am I working so hard to get into the medical field? Why do I even want to pursue a career as a nurse?
If I couldn’t give you an answer to these questions confidently, I can tell you right now I would’ve given up a long time ago. The beautiful thing is that every time I start second-guessing my choice or think about giving up, all I have to do is think back to what it was that sparked my passion to become a nurse. Here’s a little bit of my story:

In November of 1998, my grandma passed away. I don’t remember too much about my grandma because I was only 6 years old. Her name was Edith, and from pictures I’ve seen and the vague memories I do have, she was beautiful. My mom has her smile. My grandma loved God with her entire heart and trusted Him through so much, including her battle with cancer. I know this personally because for my 16th birthday my mom gave me all of my grandma’s old devotional journals as a gift. They have become precious treasures to me. I am able to use my Grandma’s journals to learn more about what faith is and how we can stay strong in our faith even in difficult circumstances. Through her journals I am also able to see how real God was to her and how big her love for Him and for other people was. Even though I don’t remember too much about her, I know that she thought the world of my sister and I. I know I will see her again someday.

After she passed away in 1998, my poppy came to live with us.

My grandpa’s health quickly declined after my grandma died, and so my mom had a lot of added responsibility around the house. While raising 2 kids and taking care of her own dad, my mom also went to college and earned her bachelor’s degree. (I don’t know how she did it! She’s pretty much incredible.) Poppy loved puzzles, drawing, reading, walking the dog, listening to Johnny Cash, watching John Wayne movies, and eating. Oh, he loved eating! I was his little buddy. We did everything together. He would always call me “Lori” because I looked so much like my mom when she was younger. I didn’t mind though, it always made me laugh.

After living with us for a while, his health began to decline further and he moved into a nursing home. It was so difficult for us all but we didn’t have the ability to give him the care he needed from our home.

In 2006 his heath declined severely, and he was moved into Hope Hospice’s care. I don’t remember exactly what happened, I just remember that it all happened so quickly. As my mom explained to me what was going on, she has a peace about her that let me know everything we going to be okay. We got in the car and drove over to Hope Hospice. When we got there they already had a room for poppy. The nurses were so amazing. They explained to us what was going on and told us that if we needed anything at all they were there for us. They also told us that poppy only had a couple days left and his condition was worsening. They told us that he was weak and wouldn’t be able to talk. I didn’t know what to expect when we opened the door and went in the room.

Somehow, even in this situation, my mom managed to amaze me with her strength. She pulled a chair up next to poppy’s bed, grabbed his hand, and began talking to him. She told him stories upon stories about memories she had from her childhood. She talked a lot about grandma. She told him he was a great dad and that she loved him. She smiled. She even told him stories about her teenage years that would’ve gotten her into a lot of trouble if he knew about it when it happened! As she told him a story about yellow roller skates I just I sat back and watched in admiration as this woman, who already lost her mom, sat by her dad’s side as he struggled to stay alive.

Soon my sister did the same. She pulled another chair up to poppy’s side and began talking to him. She said, “Come on, poppy! Show me a smile.” A grin came across his face. I could tell it took a lot of strength for him to smile, but he did it. It was genuine. Poppy was always smiling.

I tried to follow the example of my mom and talk to poppy, but I didn’t know what to say. I just wanted to be there with him. I didn’t leave his side for so long. I held his hand a lot, and adjusted his oxygen mask when he looked uncomfortable. I listened as my mom talked to him. I chimed in with a story every once in a while. I kept telling myself that he would get better. I’ve seen him sick before and he got better so I thought that this time wouldn’t be any different. But before long I realized this time was different. I felt like I was losing a huge part of me.

As my dad was getting ready to take my sister and I home I looked at my mom and knew I couldn’t leave. I asked her if I could stay the night with her and poppy and she said yes. I wanted to be there. I wanted him to know he wasn’t alone.

That night, my mom and I spent more precious time with my grandpa. My mom read him Scripture passages, we sang to him, and we continued telling stories. We played a CD of hymns for him and we know he must’ve liked it because every once in a while a smile would come over his face. Even during my grandpa’s last hours with us I was comforting him and assisting the nurses as much as I could. The nurses at Hope Hospice were paying attention to how I interacted with my grandpa and told my parents that I had a God-given gift. My mom wanted us to try to get some sleep. I sat in a chair on one side of his bed, while my mom sat on the other. We each held one of his hands. I didn’t get too much sleep and I’m sure my mom didn’t either.
When morning came my mom told me my dad was coming to pick me up so I could go to school. I was angry. I didn’t want to go to school! I wanted to be with my grandpa. At the same time, I knew my mom probably needed time by herself. She told me I could come right back as soon as school got out. When my dad pulled up I said goodbye to poppy and told him I’d see him later. My dad dropped us off at school and then drove right back to Hope Hospice to be with my mom.

I was sitting in Geometry class after lunch when I saw my parents walk into the school. I’m sure Gus doesn’t remember this, but he was in class with me when this happened. As soon as I saw them I started tearing up. I can’t remember what happened, all I know is I went out to meet them in the lobby and I lost it. They took my sister and I into an empty class room and we all just cried. There weren’t any words. At first, there didn’t have to be. There were just hugs and tears.

After a little while, my mom pulled my face towards hers and smiled. She thanked me for being with him through the night and for being so strong. Then she told me that when I left the nurses came in to check poppy’s temperature. He had a fever of 106. 106! At that point, they were shocked he was still alive. They had never seen a fever that high before. Poppy was holding on until I left.
My mom still had this peace about her. I didn’t understand it. She told me she wanted to tell me exactly what happened when I left. I didn’t want to hear it. All I knew was that my grandpa was gone. God took him from me and it wasn’t fair. But my mom started telling me what happened anyway.

After the nurses took his temperature, they knew at any time he would pass away. So my mom put the CD of hymns on and skipped to the song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” She held my poppy’s hand and sang to him. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” As my mom sang these words to my grandpa, he took his last breaths here on earth and entered into eternity with his Savior.

My grandfather changed my life.  I am thankful that I had the opportunity to help care for him in his last hours on earth. God used this circumstance in my life to show me what I wanted to do. I know if poppy were here today he would be proud of me and the decision I’ve made to pursue nursing.

When you feel like giving up, don’t forget to look at the big picture. Things might be so difficult and you feel like you’re in over your head but God is in control and He has a plan. His plan is perfect, and He wants what’s best. He can use the storms you go through in life to teach you some of the biggest lessons you’ll learn.

“Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t stop, continue on. The Master whispers till the day of Christ. Keep going uphill, learning and growing till perfection.”

–          Edith Tally

I can see the finish line

Today was the last day of classes for the semester! Now the only thing standing between a lot of college students and Christmas break is…
FINAL EXAMS.
It would be so easy to just go into vacation mode now. I can’t wait to go home and enjoy this Christmas season with my family and friends back home. Monday-Thursday are going to be rough days for me. My grade on final exams in 3 of my classes will determine the overall grade I make in the class. It’s nerve-wracking. I’m so close to going home and I have so much work to do before I can even think about break! But I won’t give up, I won’t stop now. God has brought me this far and He won’t fail me now.

We can see the finish line and by the grace of God we need to finish this race strong.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
[2 Corinthians 12:9-10]

The next “big thing”

It seems like I’m always looking forward to the next “big thing” in life. When I was in middle school I couldn’t wait until I turned 16 so I could get my driver’s license. In high school, I couldn’t wait to graduate and be done with school. After graduation, I couldn’t wait to go off to college. When I went to college my freshman year, I couldn’t wait for summer break. When I went back to college, I couldn’t wait to graduate.

In high school people continuously reminded me to not wish my time in high school away. They told me that graduation day would be there before I knew it and that I should enjoy the time I had instead of always focusing on what’s to come. I honestly didn’t believe them. I felt like my high school graduation day would never come.
But it did…and the time leading up to that day flew by! Before I knew it I was going off to college.

Looking back, I wish I wouldn’t have wished that time away. I wish I would’ve enjoyed every moment. I can never get those days back. I squelched so many opportunities that God had for me during those times because I was so focused on what event was going to happen next in my life.

Recently, God opened my eyes to the fact that here I am (this time, in college) doing the same exact thing. Rather than enjoying the stage of life I’m in and taking advantage of the opportunities God has given me, I keep wishing time would hurry up so I can “get on with my life.” People say that college years are some of the best years of your life and yet I’m going through each day wishing it would fly by. I see my friends getting engaged, getting married, graduating college, and starting families and I can’t help but think “man, I wish it was my turn.”
On Saturday I went to a meeting where someone spoke on being content and blooming where God has planted you. That night I was reading in Philippians 4 and when I came to verse 11 it hit me…I am not a content person.  I struggle immensely with being content.

I’m praying that God will help me to be content. I want to enjoy every moment that God gives me, and I don’t want to wish it away. Eventually, it will be my turn. That day will probably get here before I know it. But until that time, I want to enjoy every day to the fullest and seek out opportunities to serve God with all that I have.

I should enjoy the time I have to date my best friend without constantly focusing on engagement or marriage just because a lot of my other friends are doing it.
I should enjoy every day I have in college without thinking about graduating and getting on with my life.
I should work hard in every avenue of my schoolwork and take it seriously so that one day I can be the best nurse I possibly can be to the glory of God.
I should cherish the precious time I get to spend with my family and not take it for granted, because life is short and we’re not guaranteed tomorrow.
I should live for God every single day because He gave His own Son so I could live.

I want to be content in whatever circumstance I’m in.
I want to bloom where I’ve been planted.
I want God to use me.

Philippians 4:11b “…For I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

Why, God?

Today, because of various circumstances, I found myself questioning God more than ever.

Why does He allow horrible things to happen in life? If He is a God of love, why is it that some of the things He allows to happen don’t seem loving at all? As I was going through all these questions in my mind I came across something I wrote last semester:

(Written on March 27, 2011)

I’m learning that it’s easy to trust God when life is going easy; when skies are blue and everything seems to be going our way. It’s easy to keep a smile on your face when you’re free from worry. The words “God is so good” are prevalent in our vocabulary in times like these. But what about when the blue skies begin to fade to gray, and a storm is on its way? Maybe you have a big test coming up, maybe you got into an argument with a friend, maybe you or someone you love is facing health complications,  or maybe you lost someone who was very dear to you. Your “easy” days have become ones now flooded with trials. Circumstances of life can change in an instant, and can potentially alter how we view our unchanging God. All of a sudden it’s extremely easy to forget that God is so good. If you’re anything like me, you find yourself asking, “why did God let this happen if He loves me?” I don’t understand why things happen the way they do. I don’t understand why God decided to bring my grandpa home to be with Him when He knew how precious he was to me. I don’t understand how a devastating disaster in Japan can be part of a loving God’s plan. After trying to figure it out for so long, I’ve found that I don’t always need to know. What I do know is that God is absolutely perfect. He knows everything, sees everything, is everywhere, and He can do anything. Because God is perfect, His plan and will for our lives is also perfect.  Deuteronomy 32:4 says “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” He is a faithful God, even in those times of trial. 2 Samuel 22:31 says “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.” When trials come into our lives we can run to God and take our refuge in Him. Another thing I am absolutely sure of is that God loves us and He has displayed His love for all of us by sending His son to die in our place. Because of sin,which is in complete opposition to the character of God, we deserve death. However, because of the great love God has for us, He has offered us the free gift of salvation through His son, Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). God didn’t have to send His own son to die- but He loved you enough to, so that you have the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. We see how loving God is through His desire for no one to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance and live for Him. For believers, we have the promise that “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Even unpleasant circumstances which are present  in our lives are unable to separate us from God’s love. Whether we’re facing trials or blue skies, as believers we can have constant joy because nothing is able to take us away from the love of God.

I’m not writing this to tell you that I know exactly why God allows things to happen the way they do. I struggle with having joy when my circumstances are unpleasant. I’m writing this simply to say that God is unchanging. His love for us is so amazing and never failing. He has a great plan for our lives and everything He does is for His glory and our good. Right now it may not look like the circumstances you’re facing could possibly be part of God’s plan- however remember that all things do work together for good for those who love God (Romans 8:28). Though we may not be able to see it now, over time God can use those trials in our lives to make us stronger. James 1:2-4 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. And let patience have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and entire , lacking in nothing”  God is good and He does have a plan.

This is a lesson I am still learning. Things  happen all the time that I do not understand. This year has been filled with circumstances that caused me to question God and His goodness. God is teaching me that rather than doubting His goodness, I need to react by placing all my trust in Him. Proverbs 3:5-6 is a verse which has been a huge encouragement to me this semester: ”Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” God is also teaching me that I need to constantly remind myself that He has a wonderful plan and He is in control. “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.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18