Trusting God: All in the Details

Matthew 10-28-31I am one of those people who tends to be cynical and negative in life. I tend to be a skeptic before fulling believing in something. In fact, I’ve even had a handful of people tell me that I am a pessimist.

To be honest, those people aren’t completely wrong. But, they aren’t completely right either.

Let me explain.

As I have mentioned time and time again, I was born in Russia. I began the first five years of my life as an orphan. I longed to have a family. I longed to be loved.

As much as I longed for it, though, I often created opportunities—subconsciously and consciously—for people to leave. I created opportunities to confirm my mistrust of people. I used to live a great part of my life in constant mistrust of others. I refused to believe that there would, in fact, be people in my life who would never leave me or forsake me.

It took me a long while to realize I should be looking towards the One instead of other people as a sign of refuge, strength, and constant presence.

But, even though I knew in my head that God would never leave me or forsake me when I accepted Him into my life, I did not entirely know it in my heart.

For years, I tested His trust. I tested His omnipresence.

You guessed it, I created opportunities for Him to leave me, thinking, “Sure enough, He is going to walk away from me now. There’s no way He could love me after this sinful mistake. He’s done with me now.”

Because God is a God that never gives up or fails, He also tested me for years. Unbeknownst to me, He continuously put small detail after detail in my life to prove I could trust Him wholeheartedly.

Much like in my prayer life, He had to use small details to prove His greatness. Yeah, wrap your head around that.

For some, that may seem completely skewed and counterintuitive. But, it was what I needed and God knew it. He always did.

He created me to be the meticulously detailed person that I am. He created me to go nearly haywire if the coasters on my desk at work and at my home are not completely perpendicular with one another.

And because He created me to be that way, He knew I wouldn’t listen to big gestures of His love, such as His Son dying on the cross or my adoption. After all, it’s not every day that a natural born Russian finds herself a home in the United States, right? It’s not every day that a perfect, sinless Savior dies on a cross for wretched, sinful souls, right?

One would think I’d trust God completely just based on those two portions alone. But, I didn’t.

I am not ashamed to say that either. When I first accepted God into my heart, I didn’t trust Him with my whole heart, mind, and soul. But, I did believe in Him. I did believe in His undeserved gift, the atoning blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

And I believed that I would one day find myself in a place where I could fully trust Him. I trusted Him to work in me. In the beginning, when I first began my walk with the Lord, that was the faith of a mustard seed that I needed.

The details of my life that God continues to use to bring me closer to Him and trust Him more are my mustard seeds. For, I will focus far more on the seemingly insignificant details that lead up to the climactic event far more than the event itself.

I believe in the build up more than the production. God knows that. He knows it well.

And it is because of the same God that knows me better than anyone ever has or ever will that I am able to say that my trust issues, in general, are radically better than they used to be. I mean, for goodness sakes, I am married now.

And as I much as my younger self always swore those [marriage and radically changed trust issues] would never happen, God always knew they would. He knew He’d be able to take the small orphan in Russia so scared to let anyone in and allow her to blossom into someone who loves and trusts to a whole new level that is only God-breathed and God-given.

Now, I am at a point in my life where I can trust people, understand that they are sinful, and still love them, even when they hurt me in ways I never thought possible.

That being said, though, to this day, I still struggle to trust God in some situations of my life and walk with Him. But, I do not struggle to trust Him as the Almighty One. I may struggle to trust what in the world He is doing in seasons filled with change. But, I do not struggle to cling to His majesty.

Day by day, I am slowing learning that the same majesty and greatness I trust about God Himself, I can accept in my own life. For, I am one who often thinks something is acceptable for everyone else around me, but completely off limits for myself. But, that is for another day and another time, dear brothers and sisters.

For now, I leave you with this: May your faith be a mustard seed. May God use small and big moments in your life to show you His goodness, to show you He is a trustworthy God. Not only that, may God use small and big moments in your life to show you that He is the only One we can completely trust in this life. For, He is the only One who will never leave us or forsake us, even unto eternity.

And if you are struggling to trust God wholeheartedly like I have and still do to this day at times, due to human relationships or events proving you wrong, I pray that God would be your ever-present help in an oh, so familiar season of hurt. You are not alone.

Blessings,

Renata

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My Blog: Private, Yet Open

Ashton- Kutcher-privacy-quote

I have had this blog for over two years now and I have yet to explain one crucial aspect of it. I have yet to explain one of the foundational elements behind why I write the way I do on this platform. Today, I am going to explain to you why I keep most of my life private from this platform.

I am not going to beat around the bush. I have talked about quite a few heavy topics on here before. My blog is a realistic representation of the regular ebb and flow of my life. Thus why, one week I might talk about my love for dogs while the next I may talk about a Bible verse that got me thinking.

I only write about what is on my heart and what is most prevalent in my life at the time. But, even then, I still have a limit.

I will not point-blank name specific people or events in my life. I won’t do so because I understand the power of social media. I understand the importance of privacy.

Honestly, I have no idea how far a post may go or who might read it. Other people and events often inspire my writing, especially since I use words to process what I’ve gone through. I have no idea if the post I publish will come back full circle to the person or event that inspired it.

I also keep specifics out of my blog because even though anyone can read it, it’s still an outlet for myself. It is still a place for me to reflect on my life. I don’t need many details to remember what exactly happened. Because I don’t need many details, I won’t share more than necessary.

I won’t share more than I need to because my blog isn’t about the specifics. It is about the lessons and aftermath of the specifics. It is about learning from experiences. It is about God’s purpose and plans in the middle of every season of life, good or bad.

It is not about the specifics or nitty gritty. That’s not who I am as a person. I am a big picture person who tries to see how one minuscule event shapes my whole life. I am all about the tiny puzzle pieces that ultimately create my life. I am motivated to see how one small puzzle piece has a bigger purpose.

I also keep specifics out of my blog because I respect those I know and love. If I ever mention anyone, even my husband, I ask for their permission. So, considering the focus of my blog, I leave out specifics. Otherwise, I’d be asking for permission nearly every week.

But, then, sometimes I keep specifics to myself because I know my virtual platform is not my whole life. I know it is a small part of me. I also know once I share something, it is hard to take it back. Therefore, I only share what I am most comfortable with and ready to share.

Therefore, there are some topics and events I am not comfortable sharing, nor am I ready to share. Instead of forcing something for the sake of content or readership, I will keep it to myself, even if it takes years to explain or address—this blog post is a wonderful example of that.

I will only post what God lays on my heart to share. Ultimately, this blog is meant to bring Him glory. So, no I won’t share the specifics with you, but…

I will show you my heart.

I will show you raw and real honesty.

I will show you that one week may be difficult while the next is filled with joy.

I will show you my doubts, my fears, my struggles, and my insecurities.

I will show you my sin and Jesus’ grace time and time again.

I will show you one can be open with others but still live a private life.

Lastly, I tell you this: Just because I choose to keep my life private does not mean everyone must do so. It does not mean those who are more open are wrong or bad. It does not mean I am being dishonest by keeping certain details to myself.

It simply means it is what God has called me to and what I am comfortable with. I hope this blog challenges you. I hope this blog convicts you. I hope this blog inspires you.

Most importantly, I hope this blog brings you closer to Jesus.

Blessings,

Renata

My Testimony: He Softened My Heart

2 Corinthians 5-21When I first began this blog, I knew I wanted to talk about my relationship with Jesus Christ. But, I did not know to what capacity or frequency this would occur.

I had faith in Jesus when I started this blogging journey. But, I wouldn’t say it was secure. My faith often wavered. I am not ashamed to say this either.

Even though I began this journey with wavering faith, I still knew that without Jesus Christ, the blog would not exist. Ultimately, He always has been and always will be the purpose and life behind my blog.

When I began my blog over two years ago, I had only been consciously and actively walking with Jesus for a brief time. It was at this time that God was no longer an afterthought. Instead, He slowly became the forefront of my life.

Growing up, I heard about Jesus at church and vacation Bible school. I even heard about Him from friends and family. Even though I vividly remember accepting Him into my heart at the age of eight or so, I did not fully grasp what I had done. I did not fully grasp what it meant to walk with and trust in Jesus. In fact, it took quite a few times of proclaiming to know Him for me to understand the magnitude of what I’d done.

All this to say, fast forward 15 years since eight-year-old me accepted Jesus into her heart. I am ready to blatantly share with you who Jesus is and why I cling to Him and trust Him wholeheartedly. I am ready to share with you about my precious Redeemer, Savior, and Friend.

Part of the reason why I struggled to blatantly share about Jesus Christ prior this moment is because I did not feel confident in my ability to do so. But, God has laid this deep desire on my heart to share. He has helped me realize it is not about my ability to do so. It is about Him. So, even if I don’t get all my words right, I know God will use this for His good and glory.

I will be using the lyrics from the song The Gospel Changes Everything by Meredith Andrews to help share The Good News. For, I am someone who often uses music to deeply connect with God.

The song opens with the verse:

The gospel changes everything,

The turning point in history.

Even now, it’s changing me

From who I was.

Yes, the Gospel changes everything. It truly is the turning point in history.

Before I knew Christ, I was separated from God because of sin. We are all born in total depravity and sin. We are dead in our sins and trespasses until we are made alive in Christ.

The next verse of the song proclaims:

The story of my Savior calls

Me to the wonder of the cross.

The gospel changes everything

And it is changing me.

Indeed, the story of my Savior calls me to the wonder of the cross.

Even though we are dead in our sins and trespasses, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the propitiation for our sins.

He sent His perfect, sinless Son to save us from our sins. He sent His Son to take our place, so we do not have to spend eternity separated from God.

The song later proclaims:

You saved my soul

By Your blood

And I’m undone

By Your great love.

You made a way,

So I could come

Just as I am

To You, my God.

Yes, Jesus Christ did save our souls by His blood.

In Isaiah 53, Jesus is called the suffering servant. For, without uttering a word, He led Himself to His death. He did not argue. He did not fight. He let those that He came to save oppress Him and judge Him. He was despised, rejected, and scorned by the people He came to save.

Isaiah 53 4-6 declares:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,

And our sorrows He carried;

Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten of God, and afflicted.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities;

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

And by His scourging, we are healed.

All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.

I would like to point out the phrase by His scourging. Scourging is not a pleasant word. Scourging means He had a painful death.

In this death, He was spit on, He was whipped, He had his clothes torn from His body. He had nails pierced through Him and He clung to a wooden cross. He was crucified.

But, I tell you, dear friends, there is hope in this painful message.

For, not only did Jesus die on a cross for our sins, He rose again from the grave so that we could one day know Him intimately and personally. He rose from the grave three days after His death, so that we could spend eternity with God.

For, Isaiah 53:11 declares:

As a result of the anguish of His soul,

He will see it and be satisfied;

By His knowledge the Righteous One,

My Servant, will justify the many,

As He will bear their iniquities.

Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us (Romans 8:34). Instead of seeing us as broken, sinful people apart from God, God sees those who choose to believe in Him as Redeemed, beloved children because of His Son.

In my own life, in high school, I was a cynical, hard-hearted person. I resented God and wanted nothing to do with Him. I thought He did not love me with an everlasting love because of all the trials I had been through, specifically starting my life as an orphan in Russia.

However, God began a new work in me. He chipped away my anger and frustrations towards other people and situations that were out of my control. He softened my heart.

Now, I strive to love people as Jesus loves me. I strive to find my peace and comfort in Him, rather than any person or situation. Now, I see Him as a loving Father who will never abandon me like my biological parents did.

He had a plan when I was an orphan. He has a plan today, as I find myself happily married. He has a plan for the future and whatever trials and joys come my way.

No, I do not have a perfect walk with the Lord, but I know that, in Him, I am beloved, cherished, adored, protected, cared for, and so much more. If you’d like to hear more about my testimony, comment and let me know.

So, what are we to do with all this? What are we to do with this truth? What are we to do with The Good News?

We are to cling to it. We are to trust in Jesus Christ and accept Him into our lives. We are to trust that He died and rose again.

We are to accept that we are sinful people who deserve eternal damnation. But, instead, we have a God, who loves us so much, that He was pleased to crush His Son, for the sake of man and for His glory.

We are to proclaim the Gospel and spread The Good News to the ends of the earth by obeying the call of the Great Commission. We are to tell people that one day each of us will stand face to face with God. We will either see Him as our Judge or as our Savior.

We are to fight the good fight of faith. We are to run the race. We are to spend our lives on this Earth wholly dedicated to Him until the day we see Him face to face and He declares, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

No, this does not mean we won’t be sinless people once we accept Jesus into our lives. Nor does it mean that our lives will miraculously become easier. Walking with Him is a daily commitment of repentance and turning from sin. Walking with Him means going through trials and tribulations and moments of joy, all intended to bring us closer to Him.

Thankfully, it also means, just as God has changed my life, He can change yours. We can live a life dying to ourselves and striving to be more like Jesus each day. Most importantly, we can be assured that we serve a God who is with us until the end of the age.

Lastly, I tell you:

Accepting Him into your heart does not have to be anything fancy. You can simply pray:

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for sending your Son to die for my sins. Please forgive me for my sins. I trust in You. I want to follow You with all my heart, mind, soul and strength.

In Jesus name, Amen.

I pray that even one of you would be touched by this. I pray that God would use this post to bring you closer to Him. I pray that you would run towards the underserved, redeeming love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

If you want to know more about Jesus and what the suffering servant that He is, I would encourage you to read Isaiah 53 in its entirety. Also, please do not hesitate to ask me questions. No, I am not a theologian or pastor. Nevertheless, I am a young woman after God’s own heart, who longs to spread the Gospel to the ends of the world in the best way I know how—by writing about it and sharing my story.

Blessings,

Renata

Confronting Death: We Are But Vapors

James 4-14As I sit down to write this, I find my heart hurting in a way I never thought it could. My heart aches and pains for two people I barely knew. It throbs me to my core.

For the first time in my life, I know what it is like to deeply, uncontrollably cry over the loss of a stranger. I don’t know what it is about these deaths that are so different than all the others I have experienced.

Maybe it is because these people were young and after God’s heart.

Maybe it is because these people were just starting a new life together as husband and wife.

Maybe it is because, even though I did not know these people, I know they loved God wholeheartedly.

Maybe it is because their deaths are a reminder that God gives and takes away, whether we be young or old.

Maybe it is because earlier this week marked two years since some dear friends of mine lost their mother to cancer.

Maybe it is because, even though I have never lost someone unexpectedly, I do know what it is like to go through a whirlwind trial—to wake up in the morning at peace, yet go to bed lost in a sea of confusion.

Maybe it is because we serve a God who declares, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9.

Maybe it is because we serve a God who also declares, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –  Romans 8:38-39.

As I grow older, I learn more and more each day, life is not absolute. Death is inevitable, for we are not invincible. We are but vapors in this life. I am at peace with this, for I know Jesus Christ will call me home. I am at peace because my heart longs for Jesus’ second coming. My heart longs for His will to be done.

I can mourn in strangers’ deaths and rejoice because they are home with Jesus Christ. I can understand and fully grasp that death is inevitable, but still hurt for those I do not know, especially those who do not know Jesus.

Although I understand death is inevitable, it does not change the pain that follows it. It does change the heartache and confusion.

So, whether I go home with my Savior in His second coming or I go with Him beforehand, I know my death and life have a purpose. My inevitable death and my life have a purpose in Jesus Christ.

It is because of this purpose I find in Jesus Christ that I will never shy away from talking about death on this blog. It may be an uncomfortable topic, but it needs to be made known. May this verse of the song In Christ Alone be the cry of all our hearts this day and forevermore:

No guilt in life, no fear in death,

This is the power of Christ in me;

From life’s first cry to final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny.

No power of hell, no scheme of man,

Can ever pluck me from His hand;

Till He returns or calls me home,

Here in the power of Christ, I’ll stand.

I pray for every one of you reading this. I pray that God would bring you to Himself. I pray that if you have been running from Him, that you would run no more. For, we never know our last day on this earth. Our days on this earth are short compared to the magnitude and permanence of eternity.

I pray that God would open your heart to His everlasting love. I pray that you find peace and comfort in death. I pray that you find peace beyond understanding and relentless joy for God, the Father.

Blessings,

Renata

Lessons Learned: God Protects

Psalm 18-2My husband and I have our anniversary next week. It’s crazy to think that when I started this blog, we were only dating. Now, here we are, married for nearly two years. Time really does fly by. Before I know it, we’ll be celebrating 50 years together, Lord willing.

We have learned a lot in two years. We have gone through our fair share of trials in two years. Each event that we have gone through, good and bad, has brought us closer together. As I’ve mentioned throughout portions of this blog, I found myself in a deep pit about a year and a half ago.

Within the first six months of our marriage, we had quite the rollercoaster ride. As I continue to process that event and everything that has happened, one major lesson sticks out to me. In these nearly two years of marriage, God has taught me He is a protector. He has taught me His grace and goodness are rich and sweet.

In the middle of chaos and the pit I found myself in, my marriage only deepened. That isn’t to say we didn’t have our trying times. Believe me, we did. In fact, there was a time in the middle of it all that I questioned if I believed in God. There was a time I hit rock bottom.

Looking back now, I realize:

God protected my marriage in the chaos.

My marriage remained sweet and kind.

My marriage was true and genuine, even as I found myself sinking into a pit filled with lies.

My marriage was strong, even as all the other relationships I thought were strong began to crumble.

My marriage was God-breathed and God-given.

Even as I look back at the time before I got married, I can see God’s hand in my life. I can see Him protecting me from the trial to come, in order to bring my husband and me together as one.

I can see Him knowing me and loving me so well in His perfect timing. I can see a God who is so much stronger and mightier than I will ever be able to fully comprehend.

I slowly experienced God’s presence and protection in a way I had never felt or understood it before.

It took going through the pit for me to see God for the protector, shield, and defender that He is and always will be. It took walking through a deep valley in the first year of marriage for me to understand the power of God’s perfect timing.

Although I still do not fully understand why this trial took place, I do understand God on a deeper heart level than before I found myself in a pit. I may never know why the trial occurred. I am slowly starting to understand that it does not change what I have learned or what I will continue to learn from the trial, nor does it change who God is.

I tell you this: As I walk into my third year of marriage soon, I have a greater reverence for God. I stand in awe of His goodness and undeserved grace. I surely do not have marriage or the Christian walk figured out, but I do know Him deeper and more intimately today than I did two years ago. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Blessings,

Renata