Hope for the Heart

“Your future looks uncertain and feels flimsy – even precarious. This is how it should be. Secret things belong to the Lord, and future things are secret things. This, like all forms of worry, is an act of rebellion: doubting my promises to care for you.”

– Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

I dedicated my prayer month of February to worry. I have struggled with this issue in my faith for a long time. I am both a worrywart and a control freak so handing over something – like my future – is extremely difficult to me. While I believe God wants us to do things for ourselves and take personal responsibility, ultimately, He will always be in control.

During the first three weeks of the month, I felt I made no movement in giving up control and my daily act of worrying; in fact, after a few hits to my budget and difficulties at my side job, I felt even more overwhelmed by worry than usual. But in the past week, scripture has come to my rescue, helping me to forgo some of my worries. Both big issues – with my budget and the second job – resolved themselves in the best possible way, and the sermon at church this week was all about letting go of anxieties (Matthew 6). If that isn’t God’s reassurance to let Him sit in the driver’s seat, I don’t know what is.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in the last two months of this elevated prayer journey, it’s that – no matter how strong your faith is – you will experience high and low periods. God is continually testing us to see if we really do trust Him with our lives. When faced with troubles and triggers that set off a list of worrisome questions in my head, I have learned to calm my fears by praying. When I don’t have the words, I simply say The Lord’s Prayer, and I’m overcome with peace.

As difficult as it seems sometimes to give up the weight we carry around each day, I know it would be much more difficult to face my troubles and anxieties alone. With God in my court, I know I truly don’t have anything to worry about.

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Force Quit on your Losing Streak

Almost a month in, and I’ve stuck to the most important of my new year resolutions: to grow in faith. At the end of last year, I was at odds with relationships in my life and wanted to turn everything over to God. Not only would dedicating the New Year to God bring me closer to Jesus, I felt doing so would also give me the answers I needed to mend the troubles I was having.

2017

In order to hold myself accountable, I made a list of 12 people in my life I wanted to either improve my relationship with or needed to forgive; I make a similar list of 12 topics I wanted to focus on, in order to be a better Christian. I decided I would consciously pray each day for the person I dedicated that month to, and would read specific scripture each day addressing the topic of the month.
The list included subjects such as my parents, my sister, specific friends, my desire for a boyfriend, and working to overcome the negative perception of news. Topics included forgiveness, jealousy, worry, judgment, and being enough for myself.

What I’ve learned in my first month is that both mending and growing relationships, with people and God, takes time. I approached the resolution with optimism and was quickly rewarded with lines of open communication between me and the person I chose for January. But praying and reading the Bible does not automatically grant me positive mending every day. I’ve learned this is a process – there will be days I feel I’ve taken a step back. Yet, overall, I feel more complete. In just one month, a peace has overcome me. While I know there will be days and months full of ups and downs in 2017, I also know I have a God that I can always turn to. And as I grow in this journey, I hope to learn how to better listen and hear His voice, in all the times I turn to Him.

 

Disclaimer: I have not stuck to my resolutions to practice French twice a week or practice piano three days a week.

Make Following Your Heart the Whole Point

Dropping to my knees, I cried out to God, “What do you want from me?” Physical heartache is a real thing, except, at the age of 23, it wasn’t a boy I was sobbing over; it was a different type of soul mate.
My new year resolution was to look toward God for an answer: where did He want me? Driving to my third-shift schedule each day, I began listening to Christian radio stations. Truthfully, it was because they were one of only a few stations I could count on to have music, rather than commercials, as I drove through the dark. But they also became a source of answers. I asked God to tell me where He wanted me – and hoped He’d reveal the answer through one of the song

When Nothing is Sure, Everything is Possible.

In the five months that lead up to the moment I found myself crying on my bedroom floor, I felt His guidance answer both “go” and “stay” in nearly every aspect of my life: through the songs on the radio, through discussions with friends, and through readings at church. Yet on that day in May, with each new breath I drew in, the only thing I felt was defeat.
I had been striving to get a job in my dream city, Austin, for nearly a year. And for nearly a year I’ve been faced with one rejected application after another. I was often asked why I loved Austin so much, and I never had a good enough answer for even myself. I didn’t know what drew me to Austin, but I knew I had to get there.
After the failed application in May, I began to think more heavily about leaving my current life, and simply moving to the Texas capital, without the means to pay for rent. Without a clear answer from God through music or prayer, I simply thought, “He wouldn’t give me this desire without a reason. I must need to be there.”

Be Fearless in What You Want.

Now, I wouldn’t recommend quitting a job to move to a city without another job to most anyone. But I didn’t feel I had any other choice. It wasn’t just that I wanted to be in Austin; I was so unhappy where I was living and felt my life had no meaning. Time after time, I tried to make the move, and for one reason or another, the efforts never worked out.
Hunched over my computer with an Excel spreadsheet open, I crunched the numbers another day. I did everything I could to save up as much as I could, so that I could pay rent for as long as it took to stand out to an employer – at least enough for one to say to me, “You’re hired!” Even as my savings grew, stress poured from every pore on my body.
But as always, God had a plan. He never leads us where He can’t provide.

When You do Things God’s Way, You Get God’s Results.

On August 19th, 2015, I pulled away from my friend’s apartment, where I had been staying for two weeks until I could move into my apartment in Austin, and left Lubbock in my rear view mirror. I moved into the cheapest apartment I could find, with three randomly-selected roommates. And as God would have it – it was one of those roommates that would help me land a job.
Twenty-two days after driving six hours from one end of the state to the other, my phone rang. I got a job.

Everything You Are Going Through is Preparing You For What You Asked For.

Looking through my phone a few months ago, I stumbled upon an email draft for a blog post I later wrote. Instead of deleting it, I kept it as a nice reminder of how quickly God can turn seemingly hopeless situations into moments of joy.
Dated September 25, 2015 – one month after I moved to Austin and days after I started my new job – I wrote, “If you are wondering if it will be worth it, it will. If you question if you can do it, you can.
At my lowest point, I told myself, making it to my goal and living out my dream would be great, but it wouldn’t be worth the pain in that moment.
I was wrong.
All the pain, all the doubts, all the worry that haunted me, day in and day out, vanished with the call that I had gotten a job. The next time I drove down the road and turned to see the Austin skyline paint itself across the sky, I thought: ‘I live here. This is my life.’
And just like that, a year worth of desire was satisfied.”
It’s amazing to me, when I look back on the last year of my life. There are so many moments I reflect upon and think, “If I took control of my life, rather than hand it over to God, there’s no telling where I’d be.”
If I had moved any of the given times I tried to, I wouldn’t have met my roommate. If I moved into any other apartment complex, I wouldn’t have a stranger-turned-friend to thank for my first job in Austin.

Take Every Risk. Drop Every Fear.

Though my mother came to Texas to help me move in, I never truly felt full support from either of one my parents to quit a job and move somewhere without one to replace it. While growing up in a loving and supportive household, I’ve always had different dreams and desires than my parents. After each phone call home filled with tears, I wondered if they truly understood what this dream meant to me. Three days before I received the call that I was no longer unemployed, I sent this email to my mom.
“Thought I would share this happy thought with you…
I knew moving to Austin would make me happy eventually, but I didn’t know how happy it would make me, or how long it would take. Aka, how much moving was the “fix” I needed in my life.
A couple weeks ago in church, after the sermon when they stand up and list off prayers (“Lord, hear our prayer”), the last one is always ‘and for those intentions held in the silence of your heart.’ For more than a year I asked for a job in Austin, to move to Austin, for a way to get to Austin, etc. For the first time since I can remember, I literally stopped because I didn’t have a prayer. In the moment of silence, I could not think of one single thing to ask God for; I had it all. It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I could not have even imagined what it would feel like. Pure happiness. Knowing I made the right choice; that I’m in the exact place God wants me.”

I still struggle to explain it to people – when they ask me what it is I love about Austin so much – but I no longer struggle for an answer myself. I call Austin my soul mate because it is for me exactly what I always imagined a spouse would be. Austin makes me what to be a better person; the city makes me what to go out, experience live, and fall asleep happy. In a way, my heart was broken a year and a half ago, just as in a breakup, when yet another rejected application meant at least one more day away from the place that makes me feel most authentic.
Going through the unhappiness and the struggle of trying to figure out what to do with my life and where to live it, brought me closer to God. In an effort to know all the answers, I developed a new relationship with The Lord, like one I hadn’t experienced before.
I still don’t have all the answers. I don’t know God’s plan for my life or why He put this desire and love for Austin on my heart, but never before in my life have I ever felt as if I was any more in the right place at the right time, as when I drive by the city’s skyline. Whatever His plan is, I know that I am living it out.

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Collect Moments, Not Things.

Indulge endlessly in all that inspires your soul. You’ll never get bored.

“When we submit to God’s plans, we can trust our desires. Our assignment is found at the intersection of God’s plan and our pleasures… Each of us has been made to serve God in a unique way… The longings of your heart, then, are not incidental; they are critical messages. The desires of your heart are not to be ignored; they are to be consulted. As the wind turns the weather vane, so God uses your passions to turn your life. God is too gracious to ask you to do something you hate.”

As Christians, we are taught to follow God’s Plan for our lives, and ask for His guidance when we feel lost. Mere months after getting the promotion I asked and worked hard for, I found myself, instead, being pulled down a different, but old and familiar path. So I prayed, asking God for a sign. Days later, I read the devotional above, and knew the path I felt compelled to walk again is exactly where God was leading me.

A year ago, I left my news job in Lubbock to live out my life in Austin. “You’ll miss it,” one coworker told me my final day. Though the possibility of that becoming truth couldn’t formulate in my mind at the time, his words never left me. Now, just 12 months later, I was feeling pulled back into the newsroom. I did miss it.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift; the purpose is to give it away.” I’m not sure whether to attribute the quotation to Pablo Picasso, William Shakespeare, or some other person, but it seemed fitting, reading it the same week I was offered a job back in news – this time where I feel most at home, in Austin. The process of applying, interviewing, and accepting the offer went so quickly, I knew I was not only following the desires of my heart, but also the path God created for my life.

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”

God wants us to thrive, so everyone sees the beauty of Him, through us. I left the news industry because I felt discouraged and distraught, but that doesn’t mean being a part of the industry wasn’t part of God’s Plan; it just wasn’t His timing. I believe God puts passions on our hearts as signs, leading us down the path He has mapped out for our lives. If you wake up each morning and ask yourself what God’s Purpose is for your life, take a moment to think about the scenarios you daydream about, what inspires you, and what persuades you to be a better version of yourself. I truly believe living in Austin and working for the news are two passions God placed on my heart for very deliberate purposes, and at very deliberate times.
And I couldn’t be more grateful that He did.

Easter: The Season of Renewal

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.”
Matthew 28:1-6

For many Christians, Easter is like New Year’s Day. Jesus was resurrected on the third day, so the number three must be good. After possibly failing to commit fully to their New Year resolutions and Lenten promises, NOW is the time they change for the better. He is risen, and you will change.

It’s the journey that matters, though, not the final result. Everyone makes mistakes, but if you get up, ask forgiveness, and live each day fulfilling The Lord’s plan as best you can, you will be successful in reaching Heaven.

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”
Jeremiah 17:10

EasterSunday

New Year: New Outlook

Each new year, as the clock strikes 12, billions of people resolve to change something in their lives (after sharing in a toast… or two of champagne). It’s the fresh start that fills us with the idea of hope. Of course, there are always those Negative Nancys, telling us we shouldn’t wait for a new year to start that diet, or give up smoking – but if indulging in a whole pizza one last time helps you get your health on track, I say, start whenever you want.

Attending church on a regular basis, spending time each morning with God, or somehow growing in faith, is a common resolution. Church on the first Sunday of the year looked like the first day of a new college semester: filled 20 minutes before class by people you won’t see again until finals (or in the case of church, Easter). I didn’t even get to sit in my usual pew. Fellow Catholics out there, you know the struggle.

Vatican on Christmas & New Year

St. Peter’s Square at New Years, 2011. Source: AP

I don’t mean to join the crowd of Debbie Downers when I say, January 1st isn’t the only time we renew our faith. In taking a Bible study class the last few months, one of the real lessons I’ve uncovered is the truth of Purgatory. A scary word to most Catholics, Purgatory is believed to be the place one gets “stuck,” if unworthy of Heaven, though aren’t immediately sentenced to Hell. Many have grown up, fearful of getting “stuck” in this “in between” for an infinite amount of time.

Studying Corinthians in this particular class, I read, “Each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)

Like a light bulb above a 1960’s cartoon character’s head, I was suddenly faced with a different, and less scary, picture of Purgatory.
Rather than a punishment for your sins, I wondered out loud to my Bible study group, if Purgatory could instead be a place of cleansing. Like fire cleans gold and silver, Purgatory seems to me more of a “second chance” for us sinners.

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Source: ChinUpLittlePup

I believe in a forgiving God, but not a forgetful God. As humans, we all sin. God can, and will, forgive us of our sins, if we ask for forgiveness and truly accept Jesus Christ as the way to and through that forgiveness. But that doesn’t mean we get a free pass into Heaven. I think Purgatory could be a place for us to completely cleanse ourselves of all our sins. Just as we feel exiting a confessional booth, or walking out of a salon after a facial, we can walk out of Purgatory and through Heaven’s Gates feeling stripped of our Earthly wrongdoings. Instead of fearing Purgatory, I started to feel thankful for the chance to present myself to The Lord “whole” and “clean.”

The idea of a complete, fulfilling and healthy life is just what many look toward reaching and achieving when it comes to New Year resolutions, but whether you decide to focus on health and fitness, faith, career aspirations, or something else in 2016, don’t think of small progress each day the way older Catholics think of Purgatory. Progress isn’t punishment; it’s preparation for the perfect presentation of yourself.

Happiness to Last

“Is happiness merely a passing emotion, or a permanent state?”
In my daily devotion book yesterday, it explained, both states exist.

“There is happiness that reacts to events (this is temporary and volatile), and there is happiness that overrules circumstances (which is strong and lasting).”

I’ve been asking for happiness for some time now, without realizing there are two solutions to my desire – one less satisfying than the other.

Be happy... not because everything is good, but because you see the good in everything.

Events create temporary happiness: moving to Austin and getting a job. But in the days or weeks after the event, happiness can fade; it’s the lasting happiness that satisfies, and that comes from The Lord.

I think the same principle can be applied to marketing. I’ve been searching for a content marketing position for months, after learning of its lasting effects. I’ve been on job interviews that focus solely on sales and numbers, but that ideology is like temporary happiness. After a few days or weeks, you are looking for your next sale or event to make you and your client happy again.

While ultimately business growth is viewed from a numbers standpoint, content marketing works to grow businesses by creating relationships with clients. This is accomplished by writing blog posts or ebooks, creating videos or infographics, and attracting clients with a clean website.

All these content marketing strategies show transparency and build trust. Because of that trust, clients are more loyal and the numbers follow. This is a stronger foundation to build businesses on, and will create a lasting happiness for both you and your client.

Moving to Austin was great, but living here is what keeps me happy each morning. Getting a job will be great, but growing and learning in the position, creating friendships, and meeting goals is what will keep me engaged and happy walking into the office each day.

Lasting happiness comes from knowing you are following God’s path, and you are in the right spot for the time being, even if you aren’t happy at the moment. While I wish I had a job right now, I feel satisfied knowing that moving to Austin was the right decision. This weekend presented overwhelming tasks at times, but when I asked myself if I regretted the decision, it was a resounding “no.”

The happiness I experience from moving to Austin will last, and I believe more lasting happiness will come my way.