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Christianity, Devotional

Controlling Fear

All my life I never wanted anyone or anything to control me. I grew up headstrong and independent, never letting anyone tell me what I could or couldn’t do. When I was 5-6 years old I flat out told my older sister that she could never tell me what to do. So if she did I would go out of my way to do exactly what she told me not to. Why? Because I didn’t want anyone, other than myself, to control my life. When I accepted Christ at the young age of 5, that attitude of wanting to control everything was still there. Yes God was now a part of my life but as I grew up I never let Him control my life. In fact when He would tell me something He wanted me to do I would often ignore Him and run in the opposite direction. What He was calling me to do was not at all in MY plans for my life.

Looking back now I can’t help but shake my head and chuckle at how stupid I was–thinking I could control my life. As a 20 year old girl struggling to survive in the adult world, lack of control is now sending me into panic. Because of that I realized that the whole time I was trying to keep anyone from controlling me I had opened up a door for the worst person to come in and do just that. Satan. He was controlling me by the very thing I craved–control. I had spent 19 years of my life trying to control and fix everything. When I was no longer able to I developed anxiety, depression, anorexia, etc. Even through all that I was still unwilling to let go and let God control my life. My main reason? Fear. His plans for my life had me full of uncertainties; where exactly did He want me? What was He going to have me give up? How was He going to fit all my dreams and passions into one thing? Would I have to give up some of them? Would He call me to a country far away from home? Would I face scary and hard times? Was I ready? Was I even the right person for the job?

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Last September as I was living MY life in Florida, 19 years of trying to control everything came crashing down. As I was laying there, not even able to control my breathing for goodness sakes, I threw my hands up in the air and cried out–“God I can’t do this anymore! Take my life. It’s your turn to control it.” I flew back home to New York where God began to work at undoing all the damage in my life I had caused by my want to control. It is the hardest thing I have had to work on my entire life. Everyday I have to stop myself from trying to control or fix even the smallest things. Even the simplest things, such as driving, can send me into a anxiety attack because the fear of something happening while I’m behind the wheel that I can’t control sends me into a panic. There were also many times I withdrew from friends or social outings because the fear of not being able to control how people thought of me was unbearable. The fear that control brought with it destroyed my life. I destroyed my life. I am so thankful that I have a Heavenly Father who can restore al things and gave me a second chance at life…His way this time.

 

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Every night as I lay in bed talking to God I have a conversation with Him that goes something like this–“Well Father you had your work cut out for you today. It honestly astounds me everyday that you love me enough to never give up on me. I falter so many times. It’s like I never seem to get it! I have no idea what you are doing or why you picked me for this job. There has to be someone better suited for this–right?” I swear I make God face-palm multiple times a day with my blunders and doubts. Amazing thing is–He never stops patiently explaining to me and assuring me that He has everything under control  and that He is preparing me and equipping me for the calling He has set for me. As I lay there listening to God comfort me and encourage me to keep pushing forward I can’t help but smile and say–“Alright God you’ve got this under control. Help me to continue to learn to step back and let you lead. I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing but I know you do. Please continue to turn my fear of the future into excitement for what you have in store. Help me to surrender daily of my want to control my life and the things around me. I no longer want to live controlled by fear but by the power, hope, and joy that you give.” Don’t get me wrong, not all my prayers are like that. I have my share of those “What are you doing God? Why would this happen? What am I suppose to do now?” kind of prayers but these are the ones I love the most because when I am being honest with God about my doubts and fears I’m letting go and having a deep one on one conversation with my Heavenly Father. There have been so many times when I was struggling,even after I surrendered, where I was emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted and as I lay there crying all I could cry out was “Father hold me!” I will never be able to explain the utter peace that comes over you when you feel His arms wrap around you as He holds you.

That my dear readers brought me to a whole to realm of tears–joyful, happy tears that I had never experienced before. Because as I was running away from the calling God had from me I was also turning my back on my Heavenly Father and pushing Him away. He was always there holding His arms out saying “I’m here to take this burden and hurt from you Crystal. Why won’t you let me? It’s hurts me to see you hurting” But I wasn’t ready to let go. There would be times I’d be lying in my bed extremely depressed and wanting to cry but being unable to because it hurt so much–I would hear God say “Let me hold you Crystal. Let me comfort you and bring you peace. Let me heal your wounds. Please don’t turn away from my love.” But I still couldn’t let go. That day that I finally let go and surrendered to Him I received the greatest gift of joy and contentment I could ever dream of. Because  after I cried out “Father hold me!”  I laid there with God’s arms wrapped around me and heard Him say “I’ve been waiting 19 years for you to say that. My precious daughter I have loved you from the beginning of time. Your worth is indescribable to me. I will never let you go. I will always be here to hold you.” I can’t ever forget that feeling of unending, uncontainable, indescribable love that I felt at that moment. Now step by step, day by day, I am living life less controlled by fear and more controlled by the Holy Spirit and Love that my Father in Heaven blesses me with everyday. I am NEVER going back!

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Christianity, Devotional

Enduring Praise

Over the past three weeks as I suffered with everything from the flu to bronchitis and now my wonderful spring allergies I’ve found it hard to continually praise God. It was easier to complain about how miserable my life was at the moment instead of looking for all the wonderful little things God was placing in each and every day that I could have been praising Him for. I had never been much of an optimist so the first thing I thought of  was the worst case scenario in everything. Now as I’m working on my relationship with God He is teaching me to always search out that small ray of hope in every situation. So instead of complaining about not being able to sing I thank God for the little break He has given me. Yes it’s still frustrating at times when I try to sing to a song on the radio and my voice sounds like hermit the frog, but I’m choosing to praise God for the voice that I do have–frog like or not. In this past week since I’ve decided to focus on praising God instead of complaining guess what I discovered. A happiness beyond description. I love to give God praise because I know that it makes my Father in Heaven smile. He gives so much to us everyday that we could praise Him for but we don’t notice them because we are focusing on the “awful” things happening and wallowing in our own self pity. As a person who was constantly having her own pity parties almost everyday I can honestly say that my journey to realizing all this was definitely a tough one. In fact God had told me to write this blog a week ago but I didn’t feel a bit ready to write about praising Him when that was something I didn’t want to do at the moment. There have been so many moments in my life that I could have enjoyed and praised God for but instead I chose to focus on the unimportant things that I thought ‘ruined’ my day. Praising God should not be an option or something we do only when we feel happy. God deserves our praise at every moment of our lives. Yes there will be times where it’s hard to praise Him but are we going to let the grief and struggles overcome us or overcome our struggles and grief and praise God unconditionally? One of my closest friends has gone through so much in her life. Her singing and music meant everything to her. It was her passion, her safe place, her God-given gift. Yet over the years she lost her ability to sing and eventually even the joy of teaching people to love playing piano as much as she did. Her health deteriorated to the point that going out and doing things was almost impossible. Yet every time I talk to her she is praising God for what He has done in her life! Her praise is enduring. She convicts and encourages me to do the same. I know I will be able to sing again yet she never can so why am I complaining? Why can’t we all learn to praise God even a fraction of how much we complain to Him. We are always asking Him to fix our problems but often times forget to thank Him for the things He has fixed. We always ask God to give us this and please bless me with that yet we never remember to praise God for the multiple things He has given us. This week I want to encourage all of you to find 10 things everyday to praise God for, and not just the obvious. When something bad happens look at it in a different perspective and praise God for His presence in your life. My praise this weekend as we celebrate the day Jesus rose from the grave and defeated death, is that He looked at me and saw a reason to die for me so that I could be with Him forever in Heaven. That reason was that He loved me beyond compare and had a special purpose for me. So as I continue to overcome things in my life I’m praying that God will help me to see the bright side of things, all the things to praise Him for, instead of focusing on the hardships I may face. I want a praise that Endures all things!  Psalm 66:1-4 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You. All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to Your name.”

Christianity, Devotional

What Does It Mean To Worship?

What is worship? What does it mean to truly worship? How do we worship? There are so many questions that we think of but never really search out the answers to, so today I’m going to give you my thoughts on what worship means to me. When I was 13 years old I started leading worship with my older sister in the small town church my dad was pastoring at. Ever since I can remember I’ve loved to sing, I guess you could say it was in my blood. For over 5 years my sister and I sang up front every Sunday. Eventually my two younger brothers joined us as we each learned an instrument and began playing and singing together. It’s going on almost ten years that I’ve been up there singing and playing but I’m only now learning what leading worship really means. Every Sunday when I would stand up on stage to ‘lead worship’ I was only ever just singing. It took me forever to realize that there was a difference. Now as I’m searching the Bible and seeking out what it means to be a worshiper of God and how to lead others to that place of worship I’m discovering so many things I had never even thought of. So what made me begin my search? What drove me to seek out what worship meant? I would have to say my longing for a better understanding of worship began last summer. My brother’s and sister and I were given the opportunity to lead worship for the youth at our family bible camp that I’ve attended since I was born. I grew up there, and sadly, through the years, I saw the youth and young adult generation begin to slowly be forgotten and pushed to the back burner. As I stood on that stage looking out over the teens standing in that youth tab I became very sad, because what I saw were so many people my age and younger wrapped up in chains, with no idea how to untangle themselves. How did it become this way? Why were the young people so depressed, discouraged, and silent when they should have been happy, lively, and thriving? I longed to see them happy to sing about God and praise His name but instead they stood still and sang with faces empty of emotions. Hands were barely raised, clapping rarely happened, and shouts of joy were never heard. Yet as the week progressed I felt a stirring, a longing within their hearts to be set free, free from the chains life had trapped them in. I felt the presence of a revival waiting to happen–but it didn’t. Why? Because many of them, like myself, had not come to that place of surrender, they were fighting it, and because of that the ability to truly worship God was hindered. To come to that point of true worship a sacrifice must be made. We must come to that point of surrender! In one of my favorite songs, “Touch The Sky” by Hillsong, it brings to mind what it means to surrender–In the chorus it says “I touch the sky, when my knees hit the ground.” What a simple but amazing way to put it. We must fall to our knees in surrender of everything that is holding us back so that we may feel that freeness, almost as if we could touch the sky, of truly worshiping God. That’s what was missing in that youth tab last year. They weren’t free, they had to many chains holding them down. The biggest chain that I saw wrapped around those teens was fear. They were afraid of what others would think of them if they raised their hands, or jumped up and down, basically acted outside of the norm. What the people in front, behind, and beside them thought of them was so important to them that they were unable and unwilling to fully surrender themselves to God in worship. I’m not saying this in judgement of them because I was the very same way. Looking back at it now I am ashamed of myself. God gave me an opportunity to be an example to them, to share my story and my struggles, but because I was afraid of what they would think of me I ignored Him and threw away the opportunity He gave me. Once more I let fear control me. Worrying about what other people think of you robs you of so much joy and happiness. It robs you of the amazing and all consuming feeling of awe and wonder when you experience what it is to truly worship God with everything in you.  When I experienced that in my life it changed me beyond description. I never wanted to go back to just singing, I wanted to worship God with all that I was, every opportunity I got. Not only that but I desperately longed for another opportunity to share what it means to truly worship God to those teens. I wanted to see them free of the very chains that kept me bound and extremely unhappy. I wanted them to experience the free, all encompassing, feeling of worship. David experienced it and he could not contain himself. He danced! He was a king, he had an image to uphold, but when it came to worshipping God he threw off his kingly robes so that he could freely exalt and worship the Lord. He experienced true worship! So why aren’t we seeing that today!? Why are not only our teens, but also adults, in the churches today so hesitant to let go of everything, their pride and fear, so that they can truly worship? When are we going to stop letting Satan control us and keep us from experiencing the power of being fully engulfed with the holy spirit as we serve and worship God? We have to free our minds of all the worries and fears that distract us and hinder us from fully worshiping Christ, and step out like David did–undignified and stripped of all earthly thoughts so that we might worship God with ALL that we are. ALL people! That means dance down that church isle, clap those hands, shout out words of joy and exalt His name, raise your hands in worship, surrender, and praise. God long’s for that! He delights in our praise! So let’s stop letting Satan hinder us from truly worshiping the God that created us and loves us beyond belief. Surrender yourselves and experience what worship really means.

Christianity, Devotional

Single But Not Ready To Mingle

Ever since I was a young girl (and by young I mean 5) I have been obsessed with boys. Boys were my favorite topic in every conversation. The whole idea of being in love captivated me beyond my young childlike imagination. All I ever wanted was for someone to sweep me off my feet and ride off with me to a beautiful castle all my own. As I grew up and hit my teen years that longing to be wanted and loved expanded to the point of being all I focused on. The idea that a boy would find me attractive and want to love me was something I had only ever dreamed about, but wanted so badly. After multiple one-sided crushes I began to give up on the idea that I would ever be special enough for someone to love. Fast forward a few years to the present and I find myself realizing that the male gender has finally started noticing me. After 20 years of being single you would think I’d be excited to finally have the chance at love—but I’m not. You might be wondering what changed? How did I go from boy crazy to single and not wanting to mingle? I guess you could say boys were no longer my top priority. Other things became more important to me. I started to realize that there was much more out there for me then just settling down and starting a family. Don’t get me wrong that is still something I long to do, it’s just not first on my list anymore. Following God’s time table for my life was something I had decided to do when I gave up trying to run it my way. That was one of the hardest things for me. I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to waste time.  So many places to go, things to see, people to meet, adventures to have, and memories to make, and here I am waiting. Waiting for God to give me the green light on what I’m suppose to do next or where I am suppose to go. Your probably wondering ‘So what does that have to do with relationships?’ –well… everything. I’m still struggling and learning a lot about myself and the calling that God has for me and honestly I can’t handle a relationship right now. I don’t want to let my relationship with a guy distract me from my relationship with God, and I know it will because it’s happened before when I only liked someone. How much more will I be distracted if I’m actually in a relationship with someone? I’m not saying it’s easy, God knows I still yearn for that special someone to come sweep me off my feet. I still dream about it all the time and pray constantly for God to bring that special someone along soon. But that’s my timing again. God knows that for me to be in a relationship right now would be unfair to that person because how do I expect him to understand me when I don’t understand myself? –Of course if we are honest that’s a lot of us girls. I am constantly at war with myself. One minute I don’t want to be in a relationship. I love my single life; getting to hang out with my single friends, going on last minute girl trips, talking about cute guys we saw on our travels, etc. Then the next moment I’m begging God to bring that special guy into my life right away. I want to experience the feeling of being loved, spending time together, talking about random things, having deep talks about what is important to us, going out and doing dumb crazy things. There have been moments that I longed for that so much I would break down and cry… but God knew that I wasn’t ready for that yet, and wherever my future spouse may be, maybe he isn’t ready for that either. Which I can’t blame him, a relationship with me would be a handful, gonna take one brave guy for that haha. But for now I have a relationship with my Heavenly Father to work on and that takes precedence in my life right now. Until I can keep God first in my life and look to Him for everything I need; Love, satisfaction, purpose, happiness, all those things, only then will I be ready to pursue a healthy God-given relationship with someone. That’s my greatest wish, to have a relationship built on Christ and held together by our mutual desire to love and serve God with everything that we are.  So yes at this moment in time I’m single and with God’s help I will learn to be satisfied with that until He decides that both of us are ready. Meanwhile I will continue to wait and most importantly pray. Pray that He will trust God with everything, that he will put God first and foremost in his heart and life, and that He will wait for that perfect moment when God brings us together to help, encourage, and love one another. I want to encourage each and every one of you reading this to do that. Pray for your future spouse daily or whenever he crosses your mind because trust me he is going through a lot too. The same struggles you are going through he may be experiencing as well. It’s just as hard for him to wait for you as it is for you to wait for him. So pray for him, lift him up to God and pray that God will provide him with strength, wisdom, trust, patience, and most of all a yearning to become a strong man of God that will lead you and your future family into a stronger relationship with Him as you serve God with your lives.

Christianity

Ariel Got Nothing On Me

What’s a girls childhood without her Disney princesses? Though Ariel was not my all-time favorite I did end up becoming a lot like her as I grew up. Ariel and I have one major thing in common, the lack of being content. Ariel’s troubles started when she wasn’t content with what she had and where and what she was. She wanted a different life, and when she saved the man of her dreams she wanted to be a part of a whole different world, even if it meant sacrificing the things she held dearest to her heart.  I always thought she was stupid for giving up something so precious as her voice and even her family but then I realized I was doing the same thing. All because I wasn’t content with what I had, who I was, or where I was suppose to be. I tried to make deals with God to change my life, I wanted a different one, one that was more famous and exciting. As you can guess my life started going down hill, fast. My first sacrifice was myself; my happiness, my joy, my freedom, my spirit, everything that I used to be. When that wasn’t enough I sacrificed my family. I turned away from their love and support and I refused to listen to any words of knowledge or help they tried to give. I moved away to a different world to try and start the life I dreamed of. Just like Ariel I found out that my dream world wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. In fact I was less content then when I was home and living the life God gave me to live. My life outside of God’s plan sucked. I had no voice, no hope, no spirit, and I was far from being content. I went back home defeated and without the strength to fight for anything anymore… but that’s when I got my miracle. God gave me a second chance to live the life He had for me in the world He created. I got my voice back, my hope back, and most of all, my spirit back. I realized that the life God had called me to lead would be so much more exciting and action packed then anything I could ever dream of. Surprises, suspense, trials, new friends, new relationships, and happy endings were all in store for me if I just learned to be content in all things. Even though I understand now that God wants me to be content where He has placed me at this moment in time and to live life enjoying the present instead of worrying about the future I struggle with it everyday. It’s hard to be content when you are surrounded by 2 feet of snow instead of basking in 80 degree weather. Or trying to be content when you are stuck at home babysitting instead of hanging out with friends. It’s hard. I want to be out traveling; exploring different countries, meeting new people, trying new things. I want to make an impact on people’s lives. I want to make a difference. How am I suppose to do that when I’m stuck in a small country town? Have you ever felt like that? That you were wasting time? That God wasn’t letting you experience your dreams? How were you suppose to be content when God wasn’t giving you anything to be content about? I understand those feelings. I’ve asked those very same questions. Girls we aren’t wasting time. We are in a crucial learning point of our lives. God wants us to learn to be content in ALL things. When we can learn to be happy with the small things and appreciate them for everything that they are then the bigger things that we yearn for and look forward to become even more of a gift to experience. We need to take every little opportunity in life that God gives us as a big opportunity. Where He has placed us at this moment in time is where He wants us. Even if we don’t think we can do anything important where we are right now we need to be content with where He has placed us until He moves us. We can’t see the bigger picture from our viewpoint but God can. Maybe that person you complimented at the store today was having a bad day and those words really helped cheer them up. They in turn then helped out an elderly vet on the side of the road catch a taxi ride home. That elderly vet then shared an amazing conversation with his taxi driver about his life and experiences in the war and how God helped him through his struggles. That taxi driver went home that night and cried out to God for help instead of committing suicide like he had planned. Though this is all what if scenarios, God has and will, use you in ways you never thought of or will know about on this earth. Wherever you are placed or whatever life you are called to live be content in all things. God knows all the lives you will touch when you are faithful in the smaller things in life as well as the big. Just as Ariel had a happy ending to her story God has a happy ending for yours as well, but only if you learn to be content in every little thing God places in your life. Happiness is found when you can look at the smaller things in life and see their beauty for what it really is. A gift from God.