Sweet Courage: For His Kingdom and Glory

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Somebody once asked me, “How honest are you with your blogs?” and “How honest do you plan on being with your public speaking or book?” I gave her my answer. At that point in time, I had a fairly solid response. I still stand by it today. It doesn’t matter how I responded, though.

However, I will say, sometimes it’s really difficult being honest about my life and my experiences. Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t such an open-book. A lot of times, I just want to curl up in a ball and not express a word to anyone. Other times, I want to blow a fuse and shatter every part of my life that everyone seems to have an idyllic picture of.

It’s a constant battle. It’s a fine line.

That fine line rests in how much God desires us to share in our afflictions and joys with others. He does not want us to live alone. He wants to us share about His magnificent power and glory in the best way we know how—through our own messy redemptive stories. Yet, I still let fear hold me back.

As I continuously reflect on my blog, I see how many topics I don’t write about out of fear of hurting someone or tarnishing someone’s image. Then, there are other times, where I don’t want to write at all because I feel like no one cares or wants to hear what I have to say. Yet, I do, because I always fear there is that one person who expects my blog, and I if I don’t have it, I will let this person down. Even if that someone is almost always me. I constantly fall victim to the trap of people-pleasing.

Let me tell you, it’s psychologically and emotionally draining to watch the number of views sky-rocket or never rise above the ashes. It plays with your mind. A view count, from a blogger’s perspective, can be outright manipulative. There are a lot of times I have wanted to flat out stop writing simply because the week before I got a response of dead silence.

Reading other people’s blogs or emotional posts that come flooding with tons of responses, praises, and shares can also be depleting. It’s really hard to not fall into the trap of comparison, too. We live in a society where everything and everyone is fighting for some of the most treasured gifts anyone can offer—their time and attention.

We want to make sense to anyone but ourselves. We want just one person to say, “Wow, your story inspired me. Look at how far you’ve come.” “Because of you, I want to get to know Jesus.” We want to be the clay in the Potter’s hands. We want validation that what we are doing glorifies the Kingdom. We want assurance that our work is not in vain, that at least one lost person hears what we are saying and is changed.

Yet. That takes courage. Such sweet courage. I know people do not ask bloggers, writers, speakers, or anyone who walks around with their heart on their sleeve to share with the world. Yet, we do. It’s a vicious cycle: We usually begin with a driven, motivated heart that wants to help others; then we begin to question why we are so transparent; then we do it out of expectation; then we question why we do it all; then God introduces us to one person, just one person, who is changed by our work and we are inspired again.

I am not asking you to feel sorry for me or to shower me with compliments. I am asking you to see it is just as hard some days to be real and honest as it is to clam up and shut down. I am not asking you to tell me my work has changed your life. I am asking you to realize that some days the only reason why we persevere is so we can one day change our own lives by trying to make sense of it.

I thought it was fitting to show you my life from a different perspective. For, my life story is a true vessel solely for the glory of God. I may hold back some days. Others, I may shout it from the rooftops for all to hear.

While there have been plenty of times in this past year that I have wanted to quit, I push on. Not for myself. Not even for you all. But for God and the glory of His Kingdom. I may never see how He uses my platform to bring people closer to Him. And that’s okay.

Even if thousands of people, one person, or no one at all is changed by my blog or my future goal to be a public speaker, it will still be worth it. Regardless of what happens, I am fulfilling the call the He has for my life—to share my testimony and be a light for Jesus. There is no sweeter gift.

Blessings,

Renata

My Constant Health Limbo: Lessons Learned

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For the past week, I have been sick with what began as a mild version of the flu and turned into a nasty head cold. I have been run down and utterly exhausted. But, that wasn’t my main concern of the week. Each time I am sick, I am reminded of a constant thought.

As most of you know, I was adopted from a foreign country. Therefore, I don’t know much about my health records or my family history. Quite frankly, I know nothing about my family history. The little I do know about my health records I have to have translated because all of my records are in Russian.

Living with the understanding that I know nothing about my family health history can be comforting and absolutely terrifying. It can make weeks where I have a cold or anything more severe somewhat frightening.

I cannot trace back any sicknesses I have had or may have in the future to genetics. I don’t know what possibilities lie ahead. I don’t know if I may get cancer. I don’t know if I may get diabetes. I don’t know if I may have heart issues. I don’t know anything.

It makes filling out health information paperwork a breeze. Usually, the section with family is the longest. All I have to do is say I was adopted, initial it or sign it, and move on. It makes conversations with the doctor fairly quick, too.

It can be comforting, though, for I have no future possibilities to fret about. I cannot become anxious about the maybe or the probably. In some ways, I can be at peace knowing I have nothing to possibly look forward to.

My radar is one sickness at a time. And the human in me who desires control and assurance frets like crazy sometimes. I used to really struggle to know that God is in control of my health, regardless of if I know my family history.

As I get older, I fret not because I wonder if God is in control. I fret because I want to be informed. I don’t necessarily want to know what could happen. I simply want to know if what happens to me is a common genetic factor. In other words, I would like to know if what I am experiencing is common, not alarming.

Because I know I will never have the ability to be fully informed as I wish, I will do what I know I can do. Trust God and unravel my health one sickness at a time. I want to show people what I have learned in my constant health limbo.

I want people to realize the blessings I myself and they have. It can be daunting to have no idea. If I have learned anything from my experiences of being sick, it is that regardless of one’s health circumstance it all comes down to trusting God. Just because my husband knows his health history and I don’t know mine doesn’t mean we have to trust God on a different level than the other.

Regardless, we both have our fair share of health struggles. No one is the same, yet no one is completely different. As unique human beings created in God’s image, we can be individuals and a support system for each other all in one.

My challenge to you is simple. If you have the option to find out your family health history, learn about it. Don’t just wait for life to make you know. Be curious. Be informed. God has you in His hands.

And if you are like me and you don’t know, it’s okay. God has you in His hands as well. He’ll make the scary, daunting health limbo not so frightening.

Blessings,

Renata

Nearly a Year Later: Plans for a Book

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I have had my blog for nearly a year a now. It’s so crazy to think about this. I remember when I sat down to write the blog. Not the first time I said I would write a blog. But, the night I began typing my first blog post.

I was sitting on my air mattress. Yes, I own an air mattress. It became a staple in my college living. And I just started typing. In fact, within an hour of talking to my husband, then fiancé, I had a blog.

In nearly a year, I have had 50 posts. Fifty posts talking about my struggles, my joys, my expectations, my life lessons, and much more. Sometimes, I read my beginning posts and reflect on where I was not even a year ago. I cannot help but be amazed, sad, and overjoyed all at the same time.

As I look at each post, I remember exactly why I began the blog in the first place. I make sense of life through the written word. I want to share my experiences. I want to be an open journal of Jesus’ grace, redemption, and sweet truth.

I think it is absolutely important for people to be able to look back on their lives and see answered prayers, to see God working. I also think it is absolutely important for people to truthfully see their ups and downs in life. As I read each post, I can pinpoint exactly where I was in life when I published it.

I can see shifts in my attitude, beliefs, and experiences. I can see trying times of deep sorrow and despair. I can see a young woman who wants to be there for others in their time of need. I can see a young woman who wants to spread Jesus in the best way she knows how—through her own redemptive story.

I tell you all this to say, I will write an autobiographical book one day. If this blog has taught me anything, it is that I will write a book one day. Even if I never travel and share my testimony to a single soul, I will write a book. I tell you this to keep me accountable. Much like this blog, I have said I will start writing an autobiographical book numerous times.

However, I have never sat down to do it. To simply begin.

After tonight, I hope that will be different. I am still trying to understand what I will say and how, but I know it’s a deep desire of my heart. I will pursue it and by God’s will, I will hopefully achieve it.

Regardless of what happens in my life from now and then, I know Jesus will continue to work in me. He will continue to provide me opportunities and people to improve my grammar and writing. He will continue to provide opportunities to share in sweet fellowship with people and share my story. Most importantly, He will continue to mold me in His image.

I leave you with this, don’t be afraid to look back on your life. Life is a messy work of art worth sharing. Life is worth reflecting on. Even if you have tears, shame, and regret in the process, do it. You’ll never know what has gone on in your life if you never take the time to see just how far you’ve come.

And here’s to hoping in the next year, I have a chapter or two of my autobiographical book finished.

Blessings,

Renata

Expectations: The Thief of Contentment

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Bear with me, there are some topics I may touch on and discuss many times. As I continuously think about what to write about each week, I’ve learned that’s okay. That’s okay because we are human people who never truly forget about a topic, person, or event. In one small way or another, it comes back.

This could be due to a lack of gratification. This could be due to a desire to always know more about ourselves and the experiences that shape us. Whatever that may be, I’m stuck in my own reoccurring topic.

I’ve been married for about eight months now. The past eight months have been absolutely wonderful and I praise God that He gave me my husband. I praise Him that He allowed me to experience such an amazing gift and to be a grand testament to His grace and love through my covenant marriage. Yet, I feel discontent in my own contentment. Let me explain.

I do not want to be in a different season of life. Yet, I am not comfortable with being okay where I am. We live a society that always expects something from people. For young people, it’s courting or dating, then an engagement, then marriage, then a house, then kids, then this or that. You get the point. Society always wants people chasing things. But, what happens if we don’t want to chase or race to the next step?

This is where I am, friends. I so desperately want to tell people I am joyful in my current season. Yet, I am afraid to be honest. I am afraid to let people know that what I am experiencing right now are in fact the desires of my heart.

Yes, I still have my fair share of trials. But, I am so grateful where I am. And I feel wrong. I feel disgusted. I am right where society wants me. I am giving in to the pressure. I am a peer pressure seeker and dweller. I always have been and I probably always will be.

In my deepest moments of confusion and doubt, I have to remind myself that I do not live according to the world’s standard, but according to God’s. I am resting in His peace. I am resting in the desires of my heart. I am resting where I am.

We are created for far more than a Catch-22 life, so we cannot allow ourselves to live one. We cannot allow ourselves to get so caught up in what the world thinks of us. We cannot give into the lies that we aren’t good enough in some way or that what we are doing is not meeting a standard or expectation. We cannot be ashamed of the desires of our heart. Yet, we cannot fight a change in them either.

I know that one day I may not be satisfied with where I am or with what I am doing. As of right now, though, I am not going to create a false discontentment to please others, nor should you.

I leave you with this, be gracious towards others. Be observant. Don’t try to pressure people into changing their current season of life because it’s not what you expect of them. It’s awkward and uncomfortable. Be rest assured that even though others may not be living the life you think they should, they are living the life God has planned for them.

Blessings,

Renata