Medal in What Matters: A Bride-To-Be’s Perspective on “Stuff,” Living Generously, and Holiday Giving

My walk-in guest closet had become a black hole of catch-all, and the time had come to face it. The less “stuff” I have to move after my wedding, the better!

Most of the boxes stacked there centered on my childhood, so maybe that’s why I had put off going through them. Don’t ask me why tossing childhood memorabilia is so hard for me, but it just is.

As I opened a heavy cardboard box, I found myself facing my high school Bible quizzing trophies. I had worked hard to earn them and been so proud of them! However, they’ve been boxed up for years, and I never plan to set them out on a bookshelf again.

Maybe you have your own trophies or keepsakes, and if you’re not ready to part with them yet, that’s okay! Tangible motivation has its time and place. But cleaning out my closet reminded me of a truth or two I don’t want to forget.

Realize what matters in the long run.

What matters more than the medals themselves is what they represent. I spent my high school years memorizing chapters and books of God’s Word. Today, I can’t quote the Bible like I used to, but I believe that these Scriptures will not return to me “void” (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV) but that the Holy Spirit will bring to my “remembrance” those promises just when I need them (John 14:26).

These medals will ultimately deteriorate (faster now that I’m contributing them to the trash), but those Bible verses will resound in my memory.  As Isaiah 40:8 says,

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (NKJV).

Choose wisely what we treasure.

As a visual society, we often focus on the tangible. We see our cars, our houses, our vacation (or wedding) plans, and our Christmas gifts under the tree. While those things have their place—and I’m certainly grateful for them—they’re just a shell compared to what’s more important: the spiritual conditions of our hearts.

What do we truly treasure? Oftentimes, we can find the answer by watching how we spend our time and money. That’s some self-examination we all need to do. As we consider our answers, let’s remember Jesus’ words:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV).

Live generously and enjoy God’s blessings today.

Yes, the holidays are upon us, and most of us enjoy giving and receiving presents. There’s nothing wrong with sharing and enjoying gifts, as long as those “things” don’t claim a higher place in our hearts than they should. Regardless of our financial status, we should keep our trust in God alone and enjoy what He has given us. I like how Timothy poses this challenge to his readers:

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (I Timothy 6:17 NKJV).

Wow! God gives us all things “richly” to enjoy. Really, that’s no surprise, considering He has also called us to live abundantly (John 10:10 NKVJ).

Paychecks aside, consider how we can bless others this Christmas. Sometimes, the best gift is our time or simple ways we can express thoughtfulness and God’s love.

This holiday season and every day, let’s medal in what really matters: living for God with everything we have.

~ Kristen

Special thanks to Ashley L. Jones for hosting this post on her website. Click over to BigSisterKnows.com for more godly encouragement.

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4 Ways to Love God with Gusto (Part 2 of 2)

In September, my church hosted a 5K to raise money and awareness for foster care. For those not familiar with running terms, that’s a little over 3 miles.

Running didn’t come naturally to me, but now, it’s a lifestyle I’ve learned to enjoy. My fiancé, though athletic, hates running. But to his credit, he ran the race with me, adopted my pace, and even smiled for photos. He got out his comfort zone, and it meant so much to me.

Last time, I shared on BigSisterKnows.com how we can love God volitionally, which involves a choice or act of the will. In my case, my fiancé chose to run even though he didn’t want to. In addition, he invested time and physical energy to show up and finish.

This example, though perhaps cheesy, brings me to another way we can love God: with all our strength.

Loving God through Our Actions

As author Gary Chapman explains in his book The Five Love Languages, physical touch is one of the primary ways people express and receive love. Although we can’t physically “touch” God, we can still love him through our actions.

In Scripture, we see examples of believers performing acts of service again and again.

  • The Shunammite woman and her husband built an upper room for the Prophet Elisha so that he had a place to stay when he visited them (2 Kings 4).
  • Martha opened her home to Jesus and served him dinner (Luke 10). For all the bad rap she gets for being too busy to simply listen like her sister Mary, Martha deserves credit for her hospitality and generosity.
  • A widow gave everything she had to the temple treasury (Mark 12).

Of course, Jesus himself modeled service to others time and time again through miracles, washing his disciples’ feet, and ultimately dying on the cross.

No matter our situation, we all have varying degrees of physical ability. Some people can travel for mission trips or volunteer locally. Others serve behind-the-scenes doing preparation work no one seems to notice. For someone with limited physical ability, this action might look like a hand-written note of encouragement or even a whispered prayer.

The bottom line is that when we act to help others, we please God. When we love “the least” of the people who cross our paths, we’re loving him too (Matthew 25:31-40).

Click over to BigSisterKnows.com to read one more way we can love God with everything we have.

I’m grateful to my friend and author Ashley L. Jones for inviting me to share this two-part series on her beautiful blog.

~ Kristen

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4 Ways to Love God with Gusto (Part 1 of 2)

Thanks to author Ashley L. Jones for hosting this week’s post on her blog at BigSisterKnows.com. Check out her site for more godly encouragement.

One of my favorite books is called I Dare You by William Danforth, and in it, he challenges his readers to live what he calls “the four-square life.” Following Jesus’ example in Luke 2:52, he dares us to grow mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially.

And Jesus increased in wisdom (mentally) and stature (physically), and in favor with God (spiritually) and men (socially). (NKJV, parenthesis added)

The other day, I was reading Mark 12:30 and realized that we are not only to grow in those key areas of our lives, but we’re also supposed to love God with four related areas.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (emotional/volitional), with all your soul (wholehearted), with all your mind (mental), and with all your strength (physical).’ This is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:30 NKJV, parenthesis added)

Coincidence? I don’t think so! God wants us to live for him and love him with all that we are. What does that look like? Let’s dive a little deeper into these four areas and see what Scripture has to say.

Love God Volitionally

When we typically think of our “heart,” we usually think about our emotions. Although our emotions are part of the idea here, “heart” goes far beyond them to include the will.[i]

In other words, love is more than a feeling but a choice, and we must exercise that choice in our relationship with God. He didn’t make us mindless robots, pre-programmed to love him. Instead, he gave us the privilege of deciding to love him and made it possible by loving us first.

In the educational world, we call that “modeling.” It means showing someone how to do something before expecting them to try. God modeled perfect love when he gave his own Son to mend the broken relationship between us and God, caused by man’s first and all consequential disobedience. By doing so, he offers restoration and the ability to love him back, “because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).

Wow! So how do we reciprocate? We can love God volitionally when we:

  • Choose to accept his salvation made possible through Christ’s sacrifice (John 3:16).
  • Choose to praise him when circumstances don’t go our way (I Thessalonians 5:18).
  • Choose holiness over what the world tells us is acceptable (I Thessalonians 4:3-7).
  • Choose an attitude of truth over how we feel at the time (Philippians 4:4-7).

Love God Wholeheartedly

The second way to love God is with our “soul.” Wait, aren’t the heart and soul similar? Isn’t “heart and soul” an expression to mean “all of me”? Or what’s the difference? I’m no Bible scholar, so I did some digging.

When I graduated from high school, my aunt gifted me with a copy of Strong’s exhaustive concordance which has been a priceless reference for me. Strong’s reveals that “soul” comes from the Greek word “psuche,” from which we get our modern word “psyche.” According to dictionary.com, the word’s origin literally means “breath” or “to breathe, blow, hence, live.”

Okay, stay with me. Strong’s further clarifies that the related Hebrew word means “heart (+ily), life, mind, soul …”

I paused on the word heartily, because it instantly reminded me of Colossians 3:23.

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men …” (NKJV)

In other words, we’re supposed to love God with everything we’ve got, or, as my friend and author Ashley L. Jones often reminds us, with gusto!

Can you think of some ways we can do that? What might loving God with gusto look like for you on an everyday basis?

~ Kristen

 

[i] Faith Bible Ministries Blog does an excellent job of breaking down the biblical meaning of heart if you’d like more information.

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Finding Center in Life’s Turbulence

In my recent travel adventures, I noticed the flight crew now refers to “turbulence” as “rough air.” I’m not sure why. “Rough air” sounds no less pleasant. Regardless of how we spin it, turbulence remains a reality for air travel and, honestly, for life in general.

Sometimes, we don’t even have to be in the air to experience it. My last travel experience involved being grounded in a plane for two hours before the airline allowed us to disembark (due to weather).

As I waited in the crowded plane, just ready to be home, I felt a rising frustration at my helplessness. I closed my eyes and tried to pray, but my emotions were less than Psalm 23 worthy.

I typically can find the positive in the negative. This is a first-world problem. At least the AC is working, and you’re sitting next to your best friend. But despite all these happy thoughts, an unrest clung to my spirit like gum to a shoe. Have you ever felt that way?

In the grand scheme, this was just an inconvenience that taxed my tired travel nerves. However, God used this low moment in my life to remind me that circumstances shouldn’t control my emotions but that He should be my unshakable center.

To read the full post, visit BigSisterKnows.com. I’m grateful to my friend, author Ashley L. Jones, for the invitation to share on her blog this week!

~ Kristen

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God doesn’t give you more than you can handle…or does He?

I’m grateful to my friend and blogger Ashley L. Jones of BigSisterKnows.com for sharing this encouraging post. Her biblical, honest approach to this topic of “too much to handle” was a blessing to me, and I hope it will be to you as well.

“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I’ve heard this saying all my life, always from well-meaning Christians.

But there have been plenty of times when I just couldn’t “handle.” After my grandmother passed away, I couldn’t handle the grief, and depression set in for two years. Later on, my body couldn’t handle what I was eating and the stress I was under, and I suffered with physical pain for several years. During those periods, hearing that God hadn’t actually given me more than I could handle felt disingenuous. What’s more, it added to my frustration and self-condemnation.

So let me give it to you straight: yes, God may give you more than you can handle.

You are human, after all, and human beings are fallible creatures. You will make mistakes. You may suffer from illness or grief. You may be called into a family role or ministry that is far more than you can do on your own. At some point, you’ll feel like you’re drowning.

But that doesn’t mean your “failing” at being a Christian.  In fact, that over-your-head feeling is all part of God’s plan to make you understand and accept your reliance on Him…

  • Like the Jews had to do in the wilderness
  • Like Noah had to do when he built a boat unlike any other
  • Like Jonah when he was sent somewhere he didn’t want to go
  • Like Paul when he shared the Gospel to the Gentiles for the first time.

The good news—no, the great news—is that you don’t walk through life alone. As a follower of Jesus, you have His ultimate protection over your life, and the Holy Spirit as your inner guide. Whenever you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed, remember that God is in control. The journey may not be comfortable, and you may not end up where you wanted to go, but God is with you, and He has good plans for you. (See Jeremiah 29:11.)

I’m speaking from experience here. During my times of grief and illness, I relied on God completely. He was my Comforter, Protector, and Guide. And in the end, it was He who healed me and made me whole.

When you’re going through a rough patch, don’t rely on platitudes. Instead, claim powerful verses like these as your own, reading them out loud to encourage your spirit:

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 11:29 NAS).

 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4 NAS).

 “We would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10 NAS).

 “The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NAS)

 “‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him'” (Lamentations 3:24 NAS).

Platitudes may sound nice, but the Word of God is powerful. Let His Truth give you comfort and guidance in every season of life.

Have you ever needed a word of truth, only to receive an empty platitude? How did it make you feel? Does that experience encourage you to speak truth into the lives of your loved ones?

~ By Ashley L. Jones of BigSisterKnows.com

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Love, Truth, Love

You are in for a treat! My friend and writer Ashley Jones of BigSisterKnows.com is my guest here today. She and her husband Robby demonstrate how differences can complement each other. Are you more like Ashley or Robby? Read on to learn how each personality type has its own strength and weakness … and how these blended styles help us make the most of our relationships.

Guest blog by BigSisterKnows.com

My husband Robby and I have been happily married for over six years now. One of the reasons we work so well together is that neither of us likes drama. We prefer the simple life. But, sometimes, stuff happens and you just have to deal with it. And that’s when our complementary personalities really shine. You see, Robby is a natural-born peacemaker, and I’m…well…scrappy. As you can imagine, we didn’t always see this difference as positive thing.

Early into our relationship, Robby’s “can’t we all just along?” temperament grated on my “why can’t everyone just do it right?!” attitude. It wasn’t long before we realized some very important things about ourselves.

Truth, Truth, Truth

I am a “truth, truth, truth” kind of person. Not only do I want to know the truth, but I want to relay the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, at all times. If that hurts your feelings, I’m sorry—but not really, ‘cause I can’t help that it’s the truth.

Love, Love, Love

Robby, on the other hand, is the quintessential peacemaker. He is a “love, love, love” kind of person. Yes, he wants to be truthful in all things, but if he has to pick, he’ll choose a loving silence over a truthful discourse any day.

Truth or Love?

At one point, we talked about what was more godly: truth or love? Fortunately, I was taking Bible classes at that time, and we looked into the following verse:

 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 NAS)

The teacher suggested that “in spirit” means “in love,” since we know that “God is love” (1 John 4:16 NAS).

Although the context of John 4 is worship, all of our activities can be considered worship if we do them as unto the Lord. (See Colossians 3:23.)

Pulling these concepts together, I realized that my words and actions should be as loving as they are truthful.

Love, Truth, Love

That’s when Robby and I made a pact. He would be more upfront with the truth, trusting that I wouldn’t overreact or blame him for passing along difficult news. And I would be more loving, sweetening each word of truth with love. Now, we’re both striving to be “love, truth, love” kind of people—sandwiching the necessary truth in love.

I have to admit that this has made me a better person, wife, and friend. It’s also enabled me to minister to others in a meaningful way.

Learn to Love

If you’re a truth-focused person like I am, take heart! You can learn to be more loving in your interactions with others. Here are a few tips.

  • God first – Remember, the great commandment is to love God, and the second is to love your neighbor. (See Matthew 22:37-39.) We can’t fulfill the second commandment until we fulfill the first. It might help to think of the image of the “love cup.” Focus on your love for God first, letting that fill your love cup. Then let God’s love overflow and pour through you into your relationships with others.
  • Fake it – In the meantime, “fake it ‘til you make it.” I don’t mean that you should be a fake person, but if you make an effort to be nice and caring, you’ll find your emotions follow suite.
  • Pray – You can’t dislike someone you’re praying for—at least not for long—so pray daily for their welfare.

Learn to be Truthful

If you have a hard time telling difficult things to people you love, you can learn to be more truthful.

  • Right motives – We should never speak the truth out of a sense of self-righteousness or judgment. However, we should speak truth in love if it will help the other person in some way. This could be as small as telling your friend that she has spinach in her teeth; or it could be as big as confronting her with her addiction to alcohol. Just make sure your motives are righteous before you speak.
  • Faith – If you need to say something, then have faith in your friend and in the strength of your relationship. Even if the truth rocks the boat a bit, your friend should appreciate that you said what you did in love.

What about you? Have you struggled with speaking truth in love? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

“But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NAS).

~ By Ashley L. Jones of BigSisterKnows.com

Thank you, Ashley, for sharing this guest post! You can follow Ashley on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Adored Giveaway!

Thank you to everyone who participated in and shared about last week’s Adored giveaway.

Congratulations to the winner, Elizabeth!

 

 

What Fire Won’t Destroy: 2 Tests to Discern Lasting Value


My friend and blogger Ashley Jones invited me to guest blog on her website BigSisterKnows.com, a place where we can find encouragement for our daily lives from a long-time big sis! Growing up with brothers (who are awesome, by the way), I’m blessed to know Ashley, who has become like a big sister to me in many ways. I hope this post encourages you today. Click over to her website to read it in full, and check out some of her other resources.

Post excerpt

If you’ve seen the news recently, your heart probably goes out to the people in California who have lost their homes—even their lives—to wildfires. I read about one couple who started packing their car with priceless vases and artwork, only to find they couldn’t evacuate in time. They lost everything but survived.

If you had a wildfire tearing toward you, what would you do? While I hope this scenario never happens, the question does prompt us to consider what we value most.

In Luke 7, a discouraged John the Baptist questioned if he’d missed the mark, if everything he “valued” counted for anything. He sent a message from prison to Jesus along these lines: Are you really the Christ, or should I look for someone else? Given his circumstances, can we blame him for asking if he were following the right man? After all, heralding Christ’s arrival (his life’s work) was costing him everything. Had he chosen the wrong path?

Recently, my Bible study group discussed this interesting passage, and I’d like to share some takeaways that might help us discern if what we’re valuing is worthwhile.

Click here to read about two tests to help us discern if what we value will last.

~ Kristen

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