Be Mine by Michaela F.

IMG_5860

Last Valentine’s Day, I wrote about how to love God better. This Valentine’s Day, I wanted to write about real life ways that God reveals His perfect love for us. He really is a romantic God and I want every girl to feel special today, whether you are receiving flowers and chocolate or not.

Imagine a scenario with me. A guy gets all dressed up, so excited to see his girl looking absolutely ravishing and walks to the door with a boyish grin on his face. He rings the doorbell and is met by a surprising sight. His date looks HORRIBLE. Her hair is a rat’s nest, she’s wearing her painting tshirt, and her face is covered in streaks of a makeup experiment gone wrong. What would he do? Unless he was an exceptional fellow, he would probably postpone their night out. But if that guy was Jesus, He would say “Hey, precious girl! I am so happy to see you and I can’t wait to spend the evening with you because you are the BEST!” Alone, we are a mess every single day, but our God still cherishes us!

Lately, I have become very disillusioned with popular romantic movies because they portray unrealistic and flaky relationships. When I find myself “ahhhh”-ing at a guy who did something sweet for the girl on the screen, I suddenly want to throw up because it is not love. The only redeeming thing about these situations is that I remind myself about my amazing Prince. The One who died so He could woo me to Himself day after day with the sweetest words, the most thoughtful actions and the most perfect love of all time. The love that pursues me when I am sitting in the middle of my sin, selfishness, confusion and pain. The love that protects me from all kinds of harm and the love that provides infinitely more than I could ask or imagine.

In December, I found myself really struggling with the fact that I had a really hard time letting God love me. I saw people who  had encountered the relentless, incredible love of God and I was so jealous to have my own experience. A wise friend told me to speak to a guy from our church who had gone through the same thing. He gave me advice and prayed for me and I went back to my dorm room feeling expectant. As I lay alone in my dark room, I had the urge to stand up and pace. I just started talking out loud to the Lord and speaking His truth over myself and it dawned on me that 1 Corinthians 13 is not just directions on how to love others. It also describes how our Father loves us. I started going through each quality of love and I got to the part where it says “love keeps no record of wrongs”. A little voice popped into my head and said “He doesn’t care!” and then I cried. He doesn’t even remember or care about what I said to my mom today or my bitter thoughts yesterday or my failure to seek Him last week. He just loves me. He just wants what is best for me. He just looks at me with a happy-tears smile. The King of the universe is enthralled with my beauty, inside and out.

I don’t know about you, but I have a big date with the One who chose me to be His before creation, wrote my DNA code, and pieced me together. I even shaved my legs and I just might wear lipstick! I am going to think of prayer as hearing His words of love for me and worship as thanking Him for His radical love. I am going to listen to this song over and over again until the truth of the words permeate my heart. Our God is the Perfect Father, the available Best Friend, the greatest love song Writer, the Painter of the skies, the Author of our story. And the best part about it is that there are no questions involved in the phrase “Be Mine” with Him. We are His and He is ours. That is the best news ever on this pink and red holiday.

 

Advertisements

Renewing Your Heart: Distractions and Busyness

michaela mini series

Billboards, background noise, school, smartphones, our seven favorite TV shows, a social life, infinite extracurricular activities, THE INTERNET. With such full lives, we can often feel over-stimulated and not as good at multi-tasking as we wish we were. None of these things are inherently bad, but added all together they make for a crazy chaotic existence with no breathing room whatsoever. And I don’t know about you, but I rarely hear from God when I am already striving to divide my attention by twenty-five other tasks and distractions. I hear him in the quiet when I turn off the radio, hide my phone and put my life on pause. As much as I like to think I can do everything well at the same time, I can’t. Multi-tasking doesn’t lead to success in all the things, it only leads to mediocrity in a few of the things.

Trust me, I understand what it means to be a teenager in today’s society. We are made to think that if we are not sleep-deprived, stressed out and caffeine-dependent, that there is something wrong with us. That we are lazy and that we are most certainly wasting our potential because we are not willing to work ourselves to death. Can I take the liberty to say that that is a lie from the pit of hell? We were not made to live that way. We were made to work hard with our hands in God’s creation and in the home, and then rest. We were made to sleep way longer than we actually do. We were made to have peace in our hearts because of God’s promises, not stress and anxiety because of man’s expectations.

I was at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and they had this video that grabbed my full attention. The film was animated, with no dialogue, and it portrayed this man dying in a hospital bed. When they showed the insides of his body, he was comprised of objects that represented stress instead of organs. His stomach was a ringing telephone, his heart was a ticking clock and I think there was a typewriter somewhere in there. The point of the video was that his cause of death was not necessarily a specific disease, but stress.

I can definitely relate to this conclusion because I have realized how many of my health problems are exacerbated by stress. I have really been working on learning how to fight a workaholic society’s expectations and find true rest and listen to God’s voice.

If you are thinking that this sounds great, but you don’t know how to slow down, here are some practical tips that have helped me.

  1. Limit TV show series that you are trying to keep up with to 1 or 2 at a time. Make sure they don’t drag you down with stressful drama or unwholesome morals.

  2. Delete social media apps from your phone and block them on the internet browser on your phone using parental settings.

  3. Set up something like the Cold Turkey program on your computer so that it can block distracting websites for a certain period of time.

  4. Practice being alone. Just you and God and maybe a pen and paper.

  5. Use time that you spend in the car anyway as a time for reflection and prayer. Sometimes I turn off the radio and talk to God out loud. It’s so fun!

  6. Practice focusing on one thing at a time. I used to feel anxious if I was watching a movie and not doing something else at the same time. I’ve had to learn how to be okay with just enjoying what I’m doing and finishing it before I go to the next thing.

//////////

This is part 2 in Michaela’s new mini series, Renewing Your Heart. Look for more soon!

Renewing Your Heart: Pull out the Drano

michaela mini series

I have a confession to make. I think I might be slightly addicted to weeding, cleaning out drains, and throwing away everything that doesn’t mean anything. There is just no feeling that compares to the reward of getting rid of extra, whether it be plants, hairballs, or trash.

Lately, I’ve been really striving for getting rid of the junk that so often clutters my heart. I never realized how many things I allow to come in and crowd out a completely radical, deep, consuming relationship with my Creator, Savior, and Lord. I began to notice that sin isn’t the only thing that Satan uses to try to wiggle his way in and steal my joy. There are bad attitudes, melancholy feelings, doubts, distractions constantly trying to drown out the Holy Spirit speaking into my life. Just as weeds crowd out beautiful flowers or extra stuff lying around makes life more complicated, our hearts begin to clog up and we feel stagnant, frustrated and disconnected from our Source of life.

I remember getting so angry when I couldn’t easily sense God’s direction and love and peace and I would frantically confess my pride, bitterness etc… to fix it. But there still wasn’t any room in my heart for the Lord to freely move and work. He wanted me to do the dirty work of figuring out what the clutter was, and then getting rid of it.

I am writing this series as I learn, so I certainly do not have all the answers. But hopefully together we can discover the things that have taken up residence in our hearts that drown out God’s voice, and then remove them bit by bit. I can’t wait to see the freedom and joy the Lord will bring!

////////////////

Over the next few weeks look for the rest of Michaela’s mini series!

 

Accepting Transition

998743_10201711498331892_811089900_n

{starting the family goodbyes}

For some reason, I just realized a week ago that me going off to college is called “TRANSITION.” I had yet to label it the big, bad “t-word” because in my mind, transition means moving across an ocean. I said to myself, “It’s just a few states away, no big deal.” Then I realized that I am packing up almost everything I own to move 765 miles away and start my life over. Again. And that is most definitely a transition. So I guess my point is, even if you’re moving a couple of towns over or starting a new school or even if you aren’t transitioning but people close to you are, it is still something you need to allow yourself to adjust to.

I’ve heard most, if not all, of the transition talks in the books and I can’t really think of a piece of advice from those talks that has made a huge difference in my life but one thing that has helped is giving myself time – time to say goodbye to people and places, time to think about what is going to be hard about the transition and what is going to be great, time to slow down and make a few memories before I embark on my journey to the next place or phase of life.

This time, my schedule has been so jam-packed that I have been feeling like I don’t have time to breathe. Between work and doctor appointments and dorm shopping and people who need me to drive them around, I have had to work hard to schedule any amount of free time that I’ve had in the last month.

I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to transition well if something didn’t change, so this last week before I leave I have stayed home. I have gone on bike rides to my favorite ponds, I have walked around the neighborhood I have come to know and love, I have sat on my favorite couch that has followed us to three houses over a period of ten years and I have hugged my family extra tight. I even asked my dad if he would read a Narnia book to me at night because I feel as vulnerable as a little child and I want to store up as much familiarity and security as I can before I enter a sort of desert for those feelings.

I’m not focusing on what I “should” do, I’m focusing on what feels right. If I want to postpone packing once again so I can curl up on the couch with my mom for an episode of Downton Abbey, then that’s what I do. If I want to linger a little longer over dinner in the backyard with my family, so be it. I can pack/organize/prepare all through the night if I have to, but my emotional and mental stability is extremely important if I want to survive this move.

This time, I’m not bringing all the people and things I’ve relied on during previous moves. It’s just me and the Lord. And I fully trust that if He leads me out onto the water, He will keep me from drowning. But I also know that I will be so homesick and so far out of my comfort zone that having these last precious times interacting with what I’ve come to know as “home” is going to help.

I don’t know if this approach is right for everyone, but I’m hoping that a few of you who also don’t really get how to apply all those transition talks will benefit from realizing that you can do it your own way. Do the things that you will regret not doing. Say goodbye well. And give yourself major buffers of time, even if it’s just to breathe.

On Prejudice in Ministry

DSC_0239

{photo credit}

I know, I know, I shouldn’t be writing about this because it shouldn’t exist. But, having experienced it firsthand, I happen to know that it does exist and it is a real threat to effective and Christ-like ministry.

When I say I have firsthand experience, I mean I have personally seen the people I was serving as different than me or even (gasp!) less than me. It’s hard not to think of people dressed in rags with no teeth that haven’t had a bath in months differently than I think of myself, a friend from school, or a kid from church. But if everyone really is our neighbor and we are supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves, we should see them as just as worthy, important, and lovable as anyone else.

The most powerful ministry we can ask the Holy Spirit to do through us is purely loving people at their worst and not asking or expecting them to change at all. After all, our only reason to live the lives that we do is because He did that for us. Loved us at rock bottom. Poured grace over our broken and sin-stained hearts.

When people feel unconditional love from someone who has experienced it so fully themselves, something inside them says, “Where can I get me some of that?” And then you have the awesome opportunity and privilege to tell them about the Well of Living Water that can satisfy them forever. A Well where it doesn’t matter what they look like or what things they’ve run to instead of running to Jesus. A Well that knows they’re going to get ungrateful and cheat on Him with substances and relationships and what not, but still offers the Water anyways.

I am so far from perfect at this, but I know by some of the reactions of the people I’ve ministered to that I do get it, at least a little bit. I know that when an African-American kid from the government housing project opens up to me about his greatest dreams, it is because I looked him in the eyes and told him I was trusting him to be responsible for a task. You know, I think sometimes the reason people under-achieve is because no one ever expected them to achieve. Sometimes all you have to do is believe in someone.

I also know from the warm smiles I receive that looking someone straight in the eye is so incredibly powerful. It shows that you aren’t afraid of their smell or their lack of teeth or their past. You just care about their heart.

And then my personal favorite: touch. TOUCH them. Germs schmerms, I say! Placing a hand on someone’s shoulder while you pray over them, hugging someone after a good conversation, squeezing a hand after you give someone a sandwich – these gestures will mean more than 10,000 words of even the most heartfelt encouragement.

////////////////////

Miss the first post in Michaela’s mini series? Read it here.

 

 

On Safety in Ministry

1017558_10201567400369775_336832219_n

One of the ladies I babysit for asked me if I could watch her kids last week. I had been dying to watch her kids again but I had to turn her down because I was going to be on a missions trip in Tijuana, Mexico. When she heard where I was going, she replied “Be safe!” While I know this seems like I’m over-analyzing, something about that comment got under my skin.

As a missionary kid, I have been around a lot of people who lived and worked in situations the rest of the world deemed “unsafe,”  so I suppose that’s why I even thought about it at all. I totally understand that we need to be wise about where we go, but just because a place isn’t rosy through and through, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go there. The darker the room, the more light needed, right?

There are people who have no choice but to live there and they need to hear that Jesus love them and wants to take care of them. And if I’m willing to go tell other people that good news, I should be willing to trust God to take care of me wherever He calls me to go. I never once felt threatened in a place that is looked down upon as a death trap. It’s all about perspective, with wisdom and proper caution as well.

Even in a trash dump full of drug lords where a boy had been shot less than an hour before, I felt nothing but safe. Safety is relative. I’m safe when I’m where The Lord wants me to be. If that’s in Tijuana or the Middle East or in closed countries in East Asia, so be it. I praise The Lord that I’ve learned early on that we are not in control of our surroundings, only our reaction to His call. So while I know people who tell me to be safe mean well, I tuck it safely in the box of advice I don’t obsess over. God knows, God sees, and I trust that His will for my safety will prevail.

A Different Approach to Valentine’s Day by Michaela F.

DSC_0474
If you’re looking for a cutesy article about chocolate and flowers and teddy bears and hearts and Pinterest pictures, I encourage you to keep looking elsewhere. This Valentine’s Day, while I will most definitely be celebrating in traditional ways, will look much different for me. And I hope it will look different for you, too.
You see, love is the most beautiful thing on this Earth. Love shared and expressed between friends, family members, couples, and yes, even animals, is just plain amazing. Life would be nothing without this complex noun and verb.
DSC_0476
Without sounding “cliché Christian teenage girl”, I would love to encourage you to reflect upon, grow in, and act on your love for your Lord and Savior as you pass out cartoon-covered cards or whip up a heavenly chocolate dessert. I always have a hard time when people say “I love Jesus” or “Jesus is the love of my life” because in my head I’m screaming “But what on earth does that mean?!?!” I so desperately long to feel the emotion of love when I think about the One who died and rose again in order to spend eternity with me, yet sometimes devos and prayer seem like a mere drudgery. I used to think I was alone in this, but I have since learned that absolutely every follower of Christ has those days and months and even years when time with Him does not fill you with warm fuzzies and a fiery passion.
DSC_0477
However, right now I am in a place where I just really do love Jesus. I roll out of bed and onto my knees to spend the first minutes of my morning committing my day to Him. For the rest of the day I am consumed with thoughts of what the Lord is doing in my heart and in the hearts of those around me and I cannot wipe the smile off my face for my life (not that I would want to). My conversations with my friends and family are full of praising His glorious goodness. I guess you could say I am head-over-heels. I have no idea how long this season will last, but I am so hopeful that there are actually little steps I can take to get to this place and keep it this way. Would you like to hear them? Oh good, I hoped so. (Some of them are from my own thoughts and some are from my youth pastor.)
First off, I will play Captain Obvious and point out that God made us in His image, including the way we interact with others. When we love somebody, we invest energy, time and resources into the relationship. We listen to them while they pour out their thoughts and we rely on them to listen to us as well. God made us to do this. I think that’s how we should love Jesus too. We should think about Him and how to please Him, talk to Him, listen to Him, and tell other people how great we think He is. It really is that simple, yet I know it doesn’t always work out perfectly or even well.
DSC_0493
I also know for a fact that a major fire-extinguisher in our walk with Christ is focusing on our circumstances. Life-changing decisions and little annoyances alike fill our thoughts and take our eyes off our Strength and Comforter. I have been practicing fixing my eyes back on the prize in those moments and let me tell you, it’s a game-changer. As we focus more and more on Christ by repenting of selfishness and focusing on thanking Him for every little thing in our day, we will be free to receive what He has for us.
If you are still not feeling the love, get yourself around people who are. It may not be your parents or people you think should be in love with Christ, because everyone has dry spells or gets busy etc… Think about who is literally bursting with joy and peace and life, chances are they are deeply in love with their Lord and Savior. Hopefully you will be able to catch a spark and fan your own flame.
A specific way I am going to try to learn more about God’s love for me is by reading through the Bible with rose-colored glasses, if you will. Not in a literal sense, but basically reading through the Bible looking for very specific evidence of His love for me, His creation. Whether it is a tough-love punishment for the Israelites or a tender-hearted statement from Jesus, I want to see the different threads of the greatest love story ever.
DSC_0494
Will you join me in this revolutionary approach to Valentine’s Day? If you do, please comment and tell me your plans or results-I love fellowship sooo much.

Love: a poem by Michaela F.

IMG_0628

love.
kinda confusing.
always unconditional,
but different situations
call for different expressions
of this verb we call love.
sometimes it’s a lotta TLC
not the channel-the acronym silly!
sometimes it’s tough;
you just gotta let them go
and hope they figure it out on their own.
sometimes it’s both:
gentle support
while you push them out the door.
it’s hard, it hurts
and it’s not always returned,
but loving like our Father is worth it.

A {Christmas} Thought to Start Your Week // Slow Down by Michaela F.

239957486365489170_yX2Gd6Dp_c

{via iheartfaces}

A fire crackling in the fireplace heats your stockinged feet and the only lights on in the room are the ones wrapped around the tree. Surrounded by loved ones and covered in warm blankets, you fall asleep to your all time favorite Christmas movie as snow flakes drift from the sky.

This is the perfect evening, at least in my mind. But sadly, with all the busyness and distractions we pack our days with, the chances of an evening like this are tremendously small.

Phones constantly buzzing or quacking or chiming, sports practices and games 24/7, drivers ed, band practice, video games, social media addictions-all of these keep us from a quiet and satisfying holiday season. We can barely even hear our own thoughts above the noise around us, let alone enjoy the peaceful and quiet rest that surrounds the Christmas season. Even buying gifts for people, though fun, can create unnecessary stress and hustle and bustle.

Slow down. Take a deep breath in and let it out. Take advantage of the break-it is a gift in itself. For goodness sakes just sit on the couch with a mug of cocoa for 10 minutes doing NOTHING.

Who knows? Maybe a friend or family member will join you and you can laugh and talk as you catch up on “life lately”. Wear some old Christmas sweaters your parents have lying around (the ones with the reindeer noses are always a hit) and  dance around the house singing a carol or two and embrace the words “tis the season to be jolly” because they were written for a reason.

And more importantly, rest is also Biblical. Genesis 2:2-3 tells us how God values rest:, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” And John 15:9b says “Abide in my love.”

So spend some time resting and abiding in God’s love and drink in Christmastime and live the “deck the halls” out of it.

 

//////////////////////////////////

481760_10200110702753003_1196404121_n

Michaela grew up in Germany and now lives in the US. She loves deep conversations with a good friend or two, walking in the forest with her Golden Retriever, and rainy afternoons with a good book/movie and a hot cup of tea in hand. Check out her website for teen girls here.

Confidence Is a Process

I read something along those lines recently and I stopped to think about it a bit more. I think I could really relate to that because, as most girls, I have low self-confidence sometimes and I struggle with how I appear to others. But the thing is, the more we fall in love with God and realize who we are to Him and in Him, the more confident we should become. Because how could you not realize you are loved after spending time with Someone who laid down their life for you? And how could that not help you live a more confident life? Now I probably shouldn’t be the one making this point because I am far from living completely confident in Him. But again, I think it is a process.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” -Hebrews 4:16