February Challenge | Love

This week we won’t talk about loving yourself, finding love in a mate, or even feeling unloved by others. Instead we’ll focus on YOU taking the initiative and loving others as you want to be loved. This challenge combines steps 1 and 2 of this journey.

Step 1: Leave people better than how you found them + Step 2: Listen to others with 100% attention = STEP 4

Love people the way you want to be loved.

Note this, as it is perhaps the only time that 1+2 will equal 4!

We easily expect love from others and make them feel bad for not living up to our expectations. We become so preoccupied expecting of others that we don’t expect anything of ourselves. We get so lost in how we should be treated that we treat others poorly. This week, look at your closest friends. How you can love them more deeply?

What can you give or do for them? How can you listen to them? What encouragement can you offer? I challenge you to take a moment today and create a list of ways you like to be cared for. Now, love your friends in all those ways.

Do it sincerely! Do it expecting nothing in return. Do it because you want to love Christ deeper by serving others more. Writing out a list of things you want and then giving that care to others trains us to look beyond our desires and needs. It helps us realize that it’s not about us. It reminds us that we aren’t the only ones with needs and insecurities. God commands us to love others. This exercise helps us accomplish just that!

That’s all I’m going to say for this challenge because, while it’s short, it’s loaded! We will encounter a lot of failure, forgiveness, and grace as we pursue others with genuine love. But in doing so, we will grow closer to Christ. Loving others draws us to Christ, and He is love. We need not fear the journey of heartache that may loom before us. God is with us! He will help us as we learn to genuinely love others.

Sierra Straightforward

One Day at a Time Brought Us HERE!

winter-januaryHow does it feel to be in the last full week of January? Can you believe we already stand one month into 2017? I don’t know about you, but this encourages me. Why? It reveals God’s faithfulness, and shows me that He will continue to be so as I advance throughout the coming days.

But I have a confession —

I used to view January as a depressing month. Strange considering I have a January birthday! Nonetheless, it follows the holiday season. Enough said, #amiright?

It’s bland, empty, and just feels depressing sometimes.

However, the problem might not lie with the month. Perhaps, the people living inside of January feel down and exhausted. Maybe that’s the key. It’s the people not the month.

It’s you, not the month.

It’s me, not the month.

By next week, we will have had the privilege of living an entire month. That’s 31 days of the 365 we get for 2017. Each day bringing us opportunities, moments, and memories.

Each one a gift from God!

I’m writing this for myself as much as for you. I want to live the rest of January in the best way that I can … a way that will glorify God. All of that one-day-at-a-time talk has brought us HERE. We are moving — fast. Look back and be encouraged by your progress and growth. Look back and be challenged to live more fully for God!

Even without the excitement of holidays, January is a wonderful month and no less important. It’s part of our whole year, and begs to be lived well. Don’t let the days go by without thanking God for the wonderful gift of life.

Keep living one day at a time.

Keep taking the next right step.

Keep choosing God.

Sierra Straightforward

It Happens One Day at a Time

one-step-at-a-timeWhen I was young, I wondered what being grown up would look like, feel like, be like, etc.
 
When I was young, I worried about how in the world I would pack up my room for college!
When I was young, I feared having to kiss my future husband in front of a lot of people on my wedding day. 
 
When I was young, I just didn’t know how I was going to get here. 
 
Here being that long-awaited grown-up state that you dream of as a 10 or 11 year old. What would it look like? How would I get there? What kind of stuff would happen? How would I manage without my Mom or survive on my own?
 
How? 
How?
How? 
 
Let me tell you how, it happens one day at time!
 
There are no magical steps, no perfect formulas, and no easy cheats. You just have to keep taking the next right step. You can’t look at a life full of decisions. Simply make the decision in front of you. 
 
Pretty soon, your room is packed up for college, you’ve said yes to the right guy, and you are kissing him in front of 100+ people, which happens to be no big deal. Lots of life happens in between, but you didn’t do lots of life in one day. You made small decisions on a lot of different days. 
 
You might be looking at 2017 as the year you graduate high school, the year you get married, or the year you start a new job. I want to encourage you to not try to live all 365 days in one hour! It looks impossible that way. It is impossible that way. God has given you today. He asks you to live today well. He unveils just what you need to see for those 24 hours and that’s it. 
 
You’ll get there by simply living one day at a time. So, choose God, and take the next step. If my 10-year-old self saw me now, she would see a marriage, a home, a job, a dog, a hundred responsibilities, and a column to write! These things did not happen in one fell swoop! My 10-year-old self would be overwhelmed to know she had to live a lot of life to get there. I don’t have a magical fairy tale dust, these happenings came about one decision at a time, sometimes BIG … but most often small.
 
Can I encourage you to keep making the small decisions in the right way? Keep taking that next step! Keep living each day for God, and when 2017 closes, you will find progress, growth, and so much life lived in 365 days!
 
And by the way, my journey is far from over. I still have each day to make small decisions that become BIG life things, which in turn remind me of God’s gifts and faithfulness. 
 
Together, let’s move forward. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other.
Sierra Straightforward

Resolution of One Day at a Time

new-years-daySome make 20 resolutions and others forgo them altogether. I tend to be the latter. I like to remember the previous year and set goals for the next one, but I also know that those 20 resolutions would go right down the drain in one week.

So, I’ve decided to do two things this year.

  1. Pick an attribute of God to mediate on for the rest of the year.

and

  1. Keep my old goals and live 2017 one day at a time.

This year, I’ll re-set my old goals. This year, I’ll work on becoming healthier, writing better, working harder, and learning more about God.

These old goals look far into the year and by the end of January, I will have failed multiple times. But, instead of making new, bigger and better goals, my resolution is to take one day at a time.

If I fail one day, I will get back up the next.

If I succeed one day, I will keep going the next.

My resolution is simply to take one day at time. Rather than look at the whole 2017 calendar year, I’m looking at today. What can I do better today? How can I reach my old long-term goals today? How can I meditate on God’s truth today?

Quite simply, how can I live today well?

I am not promised the whole of 2017, but I do have today.

So I take today, and I choose God.

Every hour I choose Him.

And when 2017 closes, I may get an opportunity to look behind me and see all the success, simply because I chose God for 365 days.

Happy New Year,

Sierra Straightforward

Loving Your Single Friends This Season

singleThe holiday season can prove especially hard on singles. Whether feeling lonely or unsure of how to fit in among dating/married friends, it can be a difficult time.

So let’s shed some light on this complex subject–

I imagine that my answer is probably similar to that of other singles: it’s sometimes hard to know exactly where/how to fit and not be in the way. My three closest friends all got married within the last 2 1/2 years, so I also didn’t want to seem like I was butting in or stealing their time when they were engaged and newly married. 

Personally, too, I think part of my struggle is that I haven’t had many healthy and godly husband/wife relationships around me as I’ve grown up, so I think I didn’t know exactly what to expect from them as a couple: how they will relate to/talk to me when they are together, what to say to their husbands (since I know these girls really well but have only met their husbands fairly recently), things like that. “

Hardest thing is seeing them (married couples) so happy. I have always wanted to be a wife and mom, and there are some days when I am so thankful that God has given many of my friends that life. I went to high school and college with girls who said, ‘I don’t want to be married right after college. I want a career. I definitely don’t want children in the first 5 years of marriage.’ Those are the girls who married before college was even finished, and had their first kid within a year of marriage. It is hard for me to see others given what I have been praying for when they don’t seem to appreciate it. I love spending time with my married friends, but there are times when I know I just can’t.”

Sometimes, I find myself wishing I had someone like they do. I envy that super close friendship that exists, and just having someone that loves YOU. But, I’m finding that it’s not about finding a friend, as much as being one. It’s also hard to be single when there are couples around; you sometimes feel “left out.” I sometimes catch myself seeing guys as “potential” rather than people. When you keep expecting Prince Charming to show up any day, you tend to think every knight that comes along is him.”

Couples, I challenge you to be aware of your single friends as you go about your holiday season! Get to know them so well that you understand how they feel about singleness without having to ask. Know them on a level that allows you both to bridge that life gap that sometimes stands in the way. Include them in your festivities, make them feel loved, post about your friendship, schedule a coffee date, go ahead and care about them in practical ways.

And for those of you who are single, talk to your dating and married friends! Get in their way. Be with them. Open yourself up and don’t view your singleness as a handicap. We need you to speak up when you are hurting so we can help and love on you this season. We need to understand you, but we can’t if you hole up inside.

The bottom line is that we all need to talk and learn how we can love each other! Let’s stop this holiday season from passing by without being aware of our friends.

It’s going to take work, but it’s going to be oh so worth it!

Sierra Straightforward

PS: To read more about the In Their Shoes series…click HERE.

Loving Your Married Friends This Season

marriedLast week, we shared a small excerpt from my In Their Shoes series, and today we will do so again. Many misconceptions surround engagement, marriage, and motherhood, so I believe these transparent posts will encourage and challenge us!

As this holiday season ensues, we will see an increase online of “perfect” moments, holiday romances, and lovely photos splattered throughout social networks. I am all for sharing the beauty, but I want to encourage those in hard places to see past the picture perfect moments to the struggles behind. So, let’s talk about your married friends. It seems pretty idyllic, right?! It’s far from it and I want to share with you some of these experiences—

A lot of things change when a woman marries. Slipping into those wife shoes can be wonderful, but just like any other life stage, the shoes can be painful. A common thread surged during this series — wives are women, and women desire strong friendships despite life stages.

Listen closely to these experiences:

I know to those who are unmarried it may seem like they are on different “levels” from their married friends, but they can definitely still relate because that married friend still has the same struggles as before, but maybe they look a little different now.  You keep friends the same way you make them … staying in touch, sharing bits of your life with the other, and especially relating on a spiritual level so your bond in Christ makes the relationship the strongest it can be.”

An unmarried woman is not second best, and a married woman still struggles as just as she did before. Marriage is not the magic potion that makes problems go away. At the end of the day, we are all living imperfections.

Married and single women alike need to be intentional about loving each other throughout life changes! It doesn’t have to be difficult, and yet in the following experiences, you’ll see how we sometimes box our hearts in.

One time, I was talking with a woman and my being married hadn’t come up yet. We were having a really good conversation, but halfway through it, I had mentioned my husband. As soon as I did, her whole face changed. She looked at me differently, as though I was in a higher level of life.

If singles know you’re married, they tend to automatically draw a line between you. The same can be said of wives though. They can just as easily draw lines between marriage and singleness.

But I see women on both sides wanting to fellowship and be together, simply because we are women. We have a lot in common. Womanhood is a great bond. I wish the lines would disappear, so I do what I can to erase the lines people like to put in front of me! I’m just like you. Let’s be real friends — married or not!”

I was the first of my friends to marry, so I can’t answer this question. But … I will say that as a newly married young woman, I was deeply hurt when I was left out by a few of my dearest friends who were single. I think they didn’t know how to incorporate me (in my new role as a wife) into their lives any more. I would have liked them to keep calling me. Keep inviting me to do girl things. 

I think I understand now, there is a need for both women to acknowledge feeling lost, and for both women to have a lot of grace and continual understanding that it’s a learning process — a friendship between a married and single gal. Always, always assume the good will of your friend! You aren’t friends because that person likes to make you feel bad.”

How easy it is for us to draw lines around ourselves simply because of our marital status! In both instances, you can see the honest desire that these women have for the friendship of singles! We don’t have to create walls and only give the house key to people that share our current life stage. So my question is:

Are you drawing a line and creating self-inflicted limitations because of your life stage?

Consider that it may be you and not the other person standing in the way of a potentially deep friendship. It is easy for us to blame others for our own lack of understanding and friendship. But, I dare say, we have all held the stick that draws the line in the sand!

Viewing the holiday season through social media can be dangerous if we don’t take the time to think about the hearts of our friends. So, let’s erase all those dividing lines we’ve drawn because real friendship happens when we live intentionally, allow others in, and open our hearts wide.

Sierra Straightforward

Loving Your Engaged Friends This Season

engagement-ringIn October, I hosted an anonymous series called In Their Shoes. We took a month and journeyed deep into the hearts of our friends, “putting on their shoes,” as we learned how to better love and understand them. Many of us found encouragement as we realized how similar we are!

I wanted to share some of that series with your during the holidays because it’s easy to fall into comparison, discontentment, and jealousy when we see our friends posting fun, perfect holiday photos. Over the next few weeks, I want us to step into the different relationship shoes to see the real heart of the matter.

Some of your friends will probably get engaged this season, which could lead you to feel less-than and/or left behind. Let me share some of the feelings your recently-engaged friends will face this holiday season (and any season for that matter!).

Mutually, we had seen so many broken friendships and hurt come from engagements and marriages that we communicated to each other, We don’t want to lose our friends just because we got married or engaged. That’s not the way it should be.

A marriage should bring two people together and create opportunities for stronger friendships, more friendships, more service options. Marriage shouldn’t be the thing that destroys friendships. Let’s make a conscious effort to preserve old friendships and pursue new ones. And we did.” 

Here someone has observed the common unraveling of friendships and has purposed with her significant other to do something about it.

Usually, life changes don’t divide us. We divide ourselves. While this couple worked together to bring about strong friendships, there are other cases in which this doesn’t happen at all.

I have also found that once friends are in relationships, their significant others don’t seem to want them to have lives outside of them alone. I just feel like that’s extremely unhealthy and that if both are walking with God, that it shouldn’t be an issue. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that separate activities should be a large part of any marriage, but do believe that it is healthy to have activities that can be enjoyed separately.”

A lot of people would agree with these thoughts! There should be a life outside of a dating/engaged/married relationship, but often the scenario illustrated above happens.

Be gentle with your friend who is in that relationship. It is easy to swiftly judge her for neglecting or forgetting you, but remember there is another person who is a big part of her world. They are both likely learning how it all fits together.

It’s easy to blame the happy couples for the friendships that fall to the wayside. While this can be the case, note that friendships don’t just fall apart because of the engaged couple. The single friend may be just as much at fault.

It seems to me when people get engaged, two things tend to happen. Either the engaged person temporarily forgetsher friends (that always frustrates me!) or certain friends of the engaged person close up and become stand-offish. I wish this wasn’t the case. It doesn’t have to be. And it hurts when friends start to close up just because you got engaged!

If both parities stayed open then both parties could maintain a strong friendship despite life changes. It doesn’t have to be difficult at all. We just have to lay aside our pride and pain and talk to one another! On top of this, even if you’re engaged you still have deep life struggles. Sometimes people think an engaged person is just full of butterflies and gumdrops. But it’s not true. Engaged or not, a person is a person and a lot goes on in the heart.”

Weakened and/or forgotten friendships can be the engaged couple’s fault, but it can also be the fault of the individuals on the other side. After reading through these experiences, the solution is alarmingly simple: BE OPEN with one another!

When you get engaged, do what it takes to keep your old friends and treat them the way you would want to be treated. Above all, don’t forget them!

If you’re watching your friends get engaged, do what it takes to keep those old friends and treat at them the way you would want to be treated. Above all, don’t forget them!

Did you notice that? The solution is the same on both sides, because we are all people. We want to be kept. We want to be loved, and we don’t want to be forgotten!

The holidays may look magical and special for the engaged couples, but they are struggling through things just as you are! Keep that in mind as you scroll down your Newsfeed.

In the end it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing the engaged shoes or not, we just need to remember our friends!

Sierra Straightforward

 

Be Thankful TO Not FOR

thanksThis title doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it? Just hang on tight, and I will explain. I sat in church one Sunday, listening to our pastor explain how to is greater than for. This phrase really didn’t make much sense until he began to expound on it.

As Christians, we are easily caught in the whirlwind of being thankful for things, but exclude God from the picture. We are thankful FOR our home, FOR our car, FOR our clothes, FOR our food … but we don’t take as much time being thankful TO God for these things.

We are thankful for the things because they make our lives easier, better, more comfortable, etc., but we are so busy being thankful for the things that we don’t well up in gratitude to God.

Am I saying that to be thankful for things is a bad habit? No! God gave you those things. You should recognize and appreciate them. However, it’s more important to be thankful to God, than to be thankful for the things He has given us.

Things are great. We’ve got lots of things. On Thanksgiving Day, abundance will surround us. Abundance from God. So, let us be careful that we aren’t just full of thankfulness for the things, but also full of thankfulness to God.

Let’s get to know more of who God is this Thanksgiving Day. Let’s be overwhelmed by His holy character full of love, grace, joy, and forgiveness. Let us be overwhelmed by a God who carries us through the valley of the shadow of death, who provides hope in the driest of seasons, and who stays with us deep in the trenches of life.

Let’s spend this special holiday overflowing with thankfulness to God instead of only expressing thankfulness for things. It will be one of your best Thanksgivings if you take the time to think of God, who He is, all He has done, and how He will be faithful tomorrow, next week, and all the days to come!

I know that I will be spending my Thanksgiving, reminding myself to give praise to God! Oh, it’s going to be a wonderful day, my friends!

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your family. Eat lots of food.

And remember to be thankful to God, the Great I AM.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

My Story | The Valley Depths

Several months before I turned 17, I experienced strong chest pains. It became so intense I could barely breathe, carry my books, or even open a door. My parents had left on an important trip, so if I experienced any problems I was to call Grandma who lived close by. She came over in the night, checked my blood pressure, and made the executive decision to take me to the ER.

Story2

I put on some clothes and got in the car with Grandma. Though my blood pressure seemed fine, the chest pain caused concern. It had started in my left arm and became progressively worse. On the drive there, the realization of how fast my life could change struck me. What I heard tonight could alter my life forever. Would I receive bad news? Did I have a tumor? Cancer? What was hurting my body? Even after leaving behind the overwhelming thoughts of death I mentioned in my last post, I still worried a bit of what might come.

Continue reading “My Story | The Valley Depths”

Grief & Joy Can Coexist

While I suffered the darkest years of chronic pain, I learned a lot about grief, about loss. It was hard to live inside a day experiencing so much physical pain. I hung up my dreams and resigned myself to a short life. I let my broken body rule my emotions. I grieved in the wrong way — without God. I forsook joy though I had every reason to know it. I became bitter and let physical pain wipe out gratitude.

griefandjoy
 

We have all been there in one way or another. We have lamented without God, and in the long process of heartache, we forget the joy we have in Him. Somewhere along the way, I learned that grief and joy can coexist. I can feel both.

It’s NOT Too Late to Have a Good Day

JoyDo you ever feel discouraged because you spent the entire day in a way you wish you hadn’t? I’ve had more days like that than I care to admit! I come into the day with good intentions only to find myself wallowing in disaster near the end.

I get caught up in this, that, and the other and begin to live my day focused on me and all that’s difficult in my life. And why shouldn’t I? Am I not having a bad day anyway? Can’t a human have just one day that they get upset at every little thing? What about that person who really hurt me? Can’t I stay mad about that? Oh good grief! See how easy it is to get lost in this kind of thinking? It feels good to think this way even though this thought pattern sucks out joy and thankfulness. And let me just tell you that one day of ingratitude and self-pity turns into many, many more!

I’m going to let you in on a secret this morning. Ready? Here it is …

It’s NOT too late to have a good day! Even if it’s 11:55 pm, you can still turn in the right direction. When you ask forgiveness of God and pray for His strength, He never replies with “No! It’s too late. You should have asked 2 hours ago.” He never, ever does that. He grants forgiveness to the contrite heart. He gives strength to the weary. He gives joy to the one having an awful day. It’s not too late.

Last week, we talked about the foundation of joy, which is a relationship with God. I hope you have grasped that and have begun to live it out. But I also know that even as we strive to love God and live a joyful life, we all still have hard days where circumstances seem to pit against us and life  seems so difficult. Having a joyful life doesn’t mean we will never experience hard times. It simply means that when these things come along … we choose to handle them the right way.

So I urge you to:

  1. Wake up and give your day to God.
  2. Cry out to God if you need to. Life is hard! We need His comfort.
  3. Forsake bitterness, no matter how appealing it seems.
  4. Rest in Him. Throw your burdens on Him. He wants them.
  5. Ask God to help you see the good once again.

But, if you get to 11:55 pm and every hour before was full of bad attitudes, hard times, resentment, anger, or ingratitude … remember that it is not too late to turn back to God and finish the day in a good way. God loves you and He desires to restore you. Let Him.

A thankful life full of joy doesn’t mean you smile 24/7 and throw confetti everywhere you go, but it does mean that you seek God with the daily, and often hourly, challenges that you face. It means that you give to God what is hard. It means that you don’t wallow in self-pity. It means that you continuously turn back to God every time you go astray. As you seek God for strength, as you ask Him for joy, as you rely on Him for healing, and give over your days … you’ll find rest and inexplicable joy.

So … good morning!

It’s not too late to turn back to God and finish this day the right way! You can have a good day, even when everything else seems bad.

The Foundation for Joy

Joy and thankfulness are the two easiest things to cast aside when trudging knee deep in the drudgery of daily life. However, seeking joy is the overwhelming trend on Christian social media. This gratitude, living small moments, looking for lovely has come on us in a wave and we don’t always know what to do with it.

knowingjoy1

So, we like the status, share the post, and go on our way. All too soon, the challenge to find the lovely gets tramped on and swallowed up in all the frustrations, relationship burdens, and inward feelings of failure. Thankfulness is hard and it’s not as hallmark as acknowledging a  moment of precious life. We are fallen humans, living in a sin-cursed world, clinging to God. We all know that gratitude and a heart of joy are no picnic … it’s a battlefield.

Today, I want you to consider something: You will not succeed in a life of thankfulness if you only find your gratitude in this earthly life. You cannot cultivate a true heart of joy only by finding the lovely things or enjoying the small moments. It’s not just about this precious life. Facebook posts and Pinterest quotes are catchy, and they can often persuade you of the shallow things. We make these earthly solutions our foundation, but when the moment of testing arrives a Pinterest quote can’t hold us strong!

To have a heart of joy, to fight for a life of thankfulness … you must have a relationship with God.

This is the foundation for joy. To have no relationship with God means you forfeit true joy. It means you will have trouble finding the precious moments in life. It means you will scramble to make small life moments into something great and worthwhile.

However, you can only know joy and live a thankful life when you know God. Having a relationship with God reminds you constantly of His love for you. It provides a way to fellowship with Him wherever you may be and in whatever situation you find yourself.

Daily life is difficult, but God gives you purpose, peace, and strength! He provides for you a sure and steady foundation. God is good and He never changes, so even when life is hard you can experience joy. God, Creator of Life, Savior, and Prince of Peace must first be your foundation. You must diligently pursue Him and know Him, and then these lovely moments, these small things, these bits of happiness in a chaotic life are easier to see and they begin to make sense.

Be wary of the feel-good quotes you see and the flimsy solutions we believe in for a thankful life. We are a people easily persuaded. If you only look for the lovely and the small life moments without knowing God then you will fill up empty every single time.

Seek God.

Know Him.

He is the Giver of Joy.

Still Learning,

Sierra Straightforward

Concerning Change | Part 2

Last week, I shared about our recent move back into Christian camp ministry. This week, let me tell you something else.

I am NOT a flexible person! I cannot do a somersault. My body refuses to move that way. Growing up, my friends would try and try to teach me, but I just couldn’t bring myself to put my legs over my head.

I don’t only struggle with physical flexibility but also with being flexible in daily life. I like days full of routine and weeks that repeat themselves. I like to know what to expect each day.

ChangePart2

However, when you and your husband move to a new county, delve back into camp work, settle into a new house, and begin new work areas all in the space of a month … nothing feels the same, and your capacity to adapt is tested.

You can’t stop change, but you can improve your “elasticity.” Having undergone some major life transitions, I can attest that my ability to adapt and do a “life somersault” has grown. I admit that during this last stretching period I still found myself in a fetal position for at least two days before choosing to rise and embrace the inevitable ups and downs that come with learning something new!

I want to share some important lessons I’ve learned from this experience.

1. Never make a decision based on an emotional five minutes!

Emotions make powerful convincers. Don’t freak out and run from something because it doesn’t fit the initial image you envisioned. Avoid making decisions based on those first five minutes and the avalanche of emotions that barrel down with them. Change happens in a moment, but adjustments take time.

2. Find time to process.

It may take a few days, but process all that happens to you. As you do this, your heart rates slows and you can let go of some of the harder aspects of the transition.

3. New beginnings always produce discomfort.

We look forward to things that excite us with a sense of being grounded and experienced. Change never starts that way! New beginnings can lead to confusion and discomfort, but you need the beginning to reach the wonderful middle you’ve waited for. Appreciate those first steps and accept its discomforts.

4. Ask questions, and be confident!

Never hesitate to ask questions and do so with confidence. Embrace your new work area, neighborhood, or community. Understand that you’re inexperienced and you will have questions. Contrary to popular belief, you can be confident and still ask questions.

5. Make new things special.

When you get to a new place or a job, everything is different. You experience things for the first time. Nothing holds special significance. I have found that picking a tree I see every day or taking a daily prayer walk helps me to connect to this new environment. Every time I see that tree or take that walk, I start to view this place as home.

Find those things as soon as possible, and you will be amazed at how quickly you begin to see this new world as your home!

Sometimes following these tips won’t come easily, but the outcome will be worth the effort. I can truly say that they do help! I’ve lived here less than two months and have already found myself enjoying my new home and making memories in a place that initially caused a lot of uncomfortable havoc! Discomfort is not a bad thing when you undergo transition, just keep on taking the step and live the moment in front of you in the best way you know how!

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

 

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Your Story Is Different than Mine

Comparing my life to someone else’s always comes easily. Chances are, if you’ve been in this Internet world long enough, you’ve read a blog post — or two or three — about the futility and vanity of comparison. They are right! It destroys and leads to pride or discontent.

I’ve fallen in the comparison trap plenty of times. Too many. We all have! By this point, most (if not all!) of us know that comparison is empty and we don’t need another blog post to tell us all about its vanity. Instead, I want you to get excited about your story. Look at what you have, the experiences you’ve been through, the adventures you’ve enjoyed, the trials you’ve endured, and become excited for this gift of your life!

differentstory

Not too long ago, I stumbled into the comparison game. Unrest plagued me as I pondered on what I had missed as though it held the key to my happiness. I became so absorbed in what might have been and in trying to squeeze into another person’s reality that I totally disregarded my life.

It left me drained and restless. So, I embarked on a partial media fast. I steered clear of Instagram and the Facebook Newsfeed, and I only used Pinterest for recipes. Instead, I focused on my own story. I decided to remove distractions to get to the heart of my problem.

Continue reading “Your Story Is Different than Mine”

On Worry | Part 3

It all came back. Not in the force of the dark thoughts that I had before. This was totally different, but it had the same effect. These new thoughts twisted my gut and imprisoned me. I didn’t expect it. I hadn’t dealt with an onslaught like this for a long, long time. But, it came. Fast and sure, and plunged me back in the depths. Even though I’d climbed out before, I didn’t know how to crawl out now. I felt trapped. I felt broken. I felt dark.

worry3I had succumbed, dived deep, and here I struggled again. Frustration and heartbreak overwhelmed me. This all over again?! The earlier darkness hadn’t returned but worry plagued me, thick and suffocating.

If only…

What if….

Maybe if I…

How come I didn’t…

It circled endlessly, tearing at my heart. As I backed away from social media, talked to my husband, and worked through these personal struggles, I realized the root of my worries. I also began to apply, once again, Scripture truths to my life.

I asked myself the hard questions. Who defines my worth? Christ. Is this____ true about my life? No. Is this____ real in my life today? No. So, what is true? What is real? I did the hard work once more. I wrote Scripture on 3×5 cards. I prayed. I even started re-reading Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. (I highly recommend it!) I combated the wrong thoughts and chose to cling to real things and the truths of God. Once again, I found freedom from worry, from unreal things that didn’t matter. I found refuge in God, His Scripture. I’m 21 and anxiety, worry, what if’s, and unreal thoughts still come back to shake me to my core. I am imperfect. I get ragged and I fall back into the depths easily. Anxiety will follow me for the rest of my life.

BUT–

 There is hope. There is always hope for me and for you!

I have a sure way to fight this darkness. I know I hold the victory as I meditate on God’s truth, throwing out the untrue and unlovely, and embracing that which is real, honorable, and true. A lifetime struggle can look discouraging, but that is where I have to pause.

Am I facing the future right now? No. Is the future real right now? No.

What is true? This moment, right here. I can choose God’s truth or my own worry. What is real? The victory I have in Him. What do I need to think on? The truths of God.

Doesn’t all of this sound redundant? It is! We are experts at repetition. We just have to learn how to meditate the right way!

Perhaps, today you face discouragement because, after months of a worry-free mind, it has all come back. You crumple, not expecting this. The force of worry consumes you.

It buries you.

It pushes and pulls you.

It pierces you deeply.

You are not alone. It just happened to me. I am sure it will happen again.

BUT–

Decide to think on the truths of God. Ask yourself the hard questions, banish the unlovely and dark thoughts, and focus on real and true ones. Bathe yourself in Scripture. Experience refuge in God all over again.

Don’t despair! Rather, bask in the knowledge that God has the power to rescue you every time you fall! Every time! God will not refuse helping, comforting, and rescuing us — even after the 100th time you fall back into deep worry.

You will know freedom as you know Christ.

And you will have victory again!

Don’t dwell on the anxiety you may face tomorrow, two weeks from now, or next year.

What is real today?

The victory you have when you remain rooted in God.  

What do you need to think on today? 

The truths of God.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

If you missed them, catch Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.