Don’t Waste Your Days: Laugh

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Each day, there are a few things I intentionally try to do, in order to consider it a productive day. First and foremost, I need time with Jesus, whether that be in prayer or in His Word or both. Either way, each day, I need to talk to Him and continue to develop my relationship with Him.

Also, I want to drink coffee. Yet again, I say, drinking coffee is more than getting my daily caffeine fix—although it is an added bonus. Drinking coffee is an experience for me. I love every bit of the process.

However, no matter how my day is, even if I am distant from Jesus or if I am on a caffeine binge, I always make it a point to laugh each day. I wholeheartedly believe the most wasted of all days is one without laughter.

Those who know me instantly learn how much I love to laugh. Unashamedly, I am the person who chuckles at hearing myself laugh. It’s just who I am. I am also that person who does not mildly laugh either. My laughter comes from the bottom of my gut, practically. I get a little obnoxious about it, which I am sure drives some people crazy, but it is one of my most treasured qualities. I have always been the type of person who gives 110 percent to an effort, so why hold back when I laugh?

My daily intention also spreads to those I come into contact with. As an introvert, I tend to use jokes or slight sarcasm to break barriers and begin building relationships with others. It brings me indescribable joy to see others enjoy fellowship filled with laughter. It brings people together on such a deep, personal level.

To tell you the truth, that very idea of one-of-a-kind fellowship is what got me through some of the darkest days before I knew Jesus. Growing up, I struggled with anger and bitterness. I struggled to process emotions and overall life. However, laughing, at least, one time each day, is exactly what I needed to realize I could deal with my life circumstances.

It also made me realize I needed to be intentional in sharing the joy with others. It’s a cliché, yes. But, seriously, you never know what someone is going through. Spread the joy of laughter. It maybe the light of Jesus someone needs, in that very moment.

I’m not going to list all the scientific health reasons why laughing is good for you because that’s simply not the type of person I am. However, I will say that finding joy in life through laughter is far better than being angry and bitter. Take it from someone who daily handles the battle of anger management. Second to Jesus, learning to find joy and laugh even just once each day, also made me realize life is way too short to spend it angry.

Today, my take away for you is simple–don’t waste your days. Laugh each and every single day. If you do not like the sound of your own laugh or are embarrassed by the way you look when you do, focus on the benefits and do it anyway. If I focused on how I looked or sounded in the moment, I would never laugh again. Quite frankly, I would no longer be my unique self if that happened.

Blessings,

Renata

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His Grace Abounds: Come As You Are

Come As You Are

I firmly believe God can use anything and anyone to bring His children to Him. No, I don’t think there is some systematic equation or conversation that will instantly bring people to Him. Just as each of His children is wonderfully and fearfully made, every testimony and journey towards knowing Jesus is unique and of its own. No story is the same because no human life is the same.

I accepted Jesus because of the guidance, love, and sweet testament of my husband. He, among many other amazing individuals, played a pivotal role in the moment I accepted Jesus. Because life is not perfect and human beings are sinful, I know some people did not get to know Jesus through wonderful fellowship.

Worshipping God is an every day, every moment decision, not just a Sunday morning praise and worship music slot on the calendar. Nevertheless, I fully believe and live by the power of music and words to bring people to Jesus Christ, whether it be for the first time or the millionth.

Sometimes, in my weakest moments, music brings me back to God and motivates me to seek the truth in God’s Word. Other times, music is what reminds me of the seriousness of life without Jesus.

Worship music puts to words what I cannot express some days. It reminds me I am not alone. It reminds me others share the same confliction and joy. It reminds me God is real, He does exist. I am at a point in my life where listening to worship music is what reminds me why I love God and why I value my relationship with Him.

Right now, I have a song that truly speaks to where I am at in life, “How Can It Be?” by Lauren Daigle. The song puts in perspective the magnitude of the cross. It puts to words what myself, and I am sure many other believers, continue to baffle over.

The chorus declares:

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be?
How can it be?

Truly, truly we all say, “How Can It Be?” Lately, I’ve struggled to be at peace with some decisions I have made in the recent weeks. I am ashamed of who I have been and the little glory I have brought God. I really struggle to grasp and understand just how much God loves me in those moments, so much so that He died so I could live and be free in Him. Rightfully so, I am slowly learning that I will never truly understand the magnitude of the cross.

Right now, I find myself here:

I am guilty
Ashamed of what I’ve done, what I’ve become
These hands are dirty

I dare not lift them up to the Holy One

And I find myself here:

I’ve been hiding
Afraid I’ve let you down, inside I doubt
That You could love me
But in Your eyes, there’s only grace now

I am sure I have said it before, but it is so true.  I don’t know about you all, but I tend to focus on the short moments of setbacks than I do the leaps and bound of change and growth. Now, that isn’t to say that my setbacks were completely acceptable, but it is to say that His grace abounds far deeper than the sin and strife I currently face. Sometimes, it is so easy to forget, though.

Even though I find myself in a difficult spot, I choose to rest in His grace. Sin may rule my heart now and forever, but Jesus’ grace will abound far beyond my sin. Because I share a personal relationship with His Son, all God sees is Jesus—standing in my place—and His sweet limitless, perfect, surrendering grace.

I don’t know where you are in life, but I do know you are not alone. I am right there with you, dear brothers and sisters. If you are beating yourself up because you took two steps back after taking four bounds forward, forgive yourself. Cling to the cross and the One who saved you from all the darkness and despair you feel.

God does not ask us to come as perfect, spotless human beings. He asks us to come as we are with a repentant heart and patient spirit. If He wanted a perfect, spotless human being, we wouldn’t need Him in the first place.

It’s okay to be convicted. However, it’s not okay to let that conviction keep you from pursuing Christ. Instead of looking at this song, or whatever song or person or thing that may be the anchor of your self-destruction and disappointment, take it with praise and grace. Then, run to Him in prayer and seek the Truth.

Blessings,

Renata

Don’t Live Life Alone: Why Fellowhip Matters

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The past couple of weeks, I have had an extremely difficult time opening up the Word and listening to what God has to say to me. I don’t have the motivation or desire to get to know God, which has made my relationship with Him suffer. Nevertheless, in the midst of my confusion and doubt, He rests a truth in me that has brought me out of some of the darkest days.

As I have shared before, I am going through a trial right now, one that is far from over. However, it is part of God’s perfect plan, and it was ordained to happen. It has helped me see for myself why it is important to not bottle up emotions. In the midst of all the uncertainty, God has used Paul’s message to the Philippian church to bring me closer to Him and some of the greatest blessings in my life.

It’s sad how much the world contradicts God’s Word. The world says it’s okay to never truly deal with situations, to sweep them under the rug, to never let others know you are hurting and struggling. The world seems more concerned about coming off as perfect and flawless, instead of broken and in need of a Savior.

For years, I thought the world’s way of dealing with difficult situations was normal. For years, I bottled up emotions and swept feelings under a rug. When I did express myself, I did not do so with a gentle and quiet spirit, but with a short-temper and fear. People did not want to associate with me when this happened, and I don’t blame them. I didn’t want to associate with myself either. Heck, I didn’t even know who I was to begin with.

Looking back at the past month, I have definitely revisited some of those same tendencies and uncertainties. I still do as I type this post, which is why I tell you I have struggled to find God in the darkness. I have been irrational, angry, confused, and ashamed. My husband has seen me at my worst through this current trial.

Although I slipped back into some of my old ways, with God’s help, I tried something new, too. This time, I put a previous quiet time with the Lord into practice. I reached out to someone who knew where I was at in this struggle, and it made all the difference. I wanted people to be present with me in this situation. I did not want to be alone in the pain. I wanted to be real and honest rather than put up a front for months on end. My heart deeply yearned to connect with those I love on a new heart level, especially those who knew the situation and could meet me exactly where I was in the chaos.

It’s important to note, though, that these individuals did not become my God or healer in this process. No, they became my brothers and sisters in Christ. They became the fellowship I need, the fellowship we all need.

God did not create us to live this life alone. He created us to share and be present with others, to walk alongside them. By the grace of God, I have a wonderful community of believers to support me through this trial. They are people who love on me and pray for me. They are people who hold me accountable for sinful behaviors, who ask me tough questions, and listen without judgment. They are people who point me to Jesus Christ.

Not only is it important to note that God is the ultimate strength and provider for all, but that sharing with others takes a step of walking out in faith and trusting God is present in the difficult discussion. If I have learned anything from my years of bottling up my emotions, it is that no one will truly know what you are going through or what you face until you reach out to them yourself. It’s not easy, but the small discussion is nothing compared to the peace that comes from letting others into your life, from walking with God and those whom He places in your life.

Treasure the relationships the Lord gives you. Even though some of those relationships are the very ones that bring pain and heartache, there are others that will be the very community that lead you to the cross. Don’t live life alone. Seek a friend or two and get to know him or her on a heart level. In the chaos of life, he or she will be there to lead you to the cross. Cling to the cross. Cling.

Blessings,

Renata

 

Personality Deception: Square Peg in a Round Hole

2 Corinthians 5 17

This past week, I took a couple personalities tests. I have always enjoyed understanding why I operate the way I do on a deeper level. I find it fascinating to research qualities about myself that could explain even the slightest details about my behavior. In fact, I wrote a research paper all about the Myers-Briggs personality type quiz for a psychology course in high school.

For the longest time, I swore I would always be an INTJ: introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging, or “The Architect.” To put it simply, and I mean very simply, this personality type is driven by finding a better way to do things in a logical manner. It is driven by knowledge and intuition.

In my high school and early college years, I thoroughly embodied this personality type. I embodied this personality type so much that I let it consume me and practically control me. I refused to believe that I was a feelings driven person. I wanted to so badly believe I solely used logic to make decisions.

Quite simply, I refused to believe I could change and develop into a different individual. In the middle of my struggle, Jesus Christ took me by the hand and made me a new creation in Him. Praise God, I haven’t been the same since.

To no one’s surprise, I had no trouble embracing the dominant qualities of myself, like my introverted nature. However, I did have trouble learning to embrace the weaker qualities of myself. Not only did I have trouble embracing them, I had trouble learning how to improve them as well. It probably does not come as a surprise to most of you, but I really had to learn how to understand my emotions.

When I set out to improve my fragile emotional state, I set out to learn how to manage and function with it. Before I could do any of that, though, I had to acknowledge it. This is where the grace of Jesus comes in. God softened and hardened many people’s hearts throughout scripture, so I knew He had the power to soften my heart.

Through my relationship with my husband, God began softening my own heart. I knew that if I was going to love him as Jesus called me to love the man I could one day marry, I had to make some changes. I was no longer as cynical and cold-hearted towards the world. I intentionally fought against bottling up my emotions. I cried when I needed to. I poured out my heart when I needed to. I opened myself up to the people God placed in my life.

Now, I tend to make my decisions with my heart, which isn’t bad. I haven’t completely let go of my logical nature either. Now, I am okay with crying in front of people. My heart overflows with love for countless of people. Christ has allowed me to love on people in ways I will never fully understand. There are numerous occasions when I find myself overwhelmed at how much I care for and miss someone.

This process towards changing and embracing who I am in Christ was not a short one. In fact, I continually strive to be more Christ-like each day. I will do so until I go home to Jesus. However, the difference between now and then is I am being honest with myself and others.

It’s silly and sad to admit, but I still tried to believe I was an INTJ, even though my new heart said otherwise. I insisted on being the square peg in the round hole. Then, one day, after years of fighting myself, I took the personality quiz again just to see if the changes I saw in myself were true. Sure enough, they were. This time, I found out I was an ISFJ: introverted, sensing, feeling, and judging, or “The Defender.”

Oddly enough, though, after taking the test again, I realized it didn’t matter what my results were. My changes in the exam did not come from anything I did. They all came from God. In that moment, I was okay with not being an INTJ anymore. I don’t have anything against people who have that personality type either. But, when I look at my former self, all of my actions were in vain. My former self lived to glorify me, not Christ. I thank God He transformed me into someone new.

I leave you with this: If you take any personality quizzes or anything of that sort, take the results with a grain of salt. Don’t let four letters or a color define you like I did for years. Don’t let them steal your joy or potential to change into someone better. God, the Creator of everything and everyone, has far GREATER power than four letters do. Only He can transform you into a new creation, which is only found in knowing Him personally. Rest in His truth and in His power, friends. Rest in Him.

Blessings,

Renata