2020 Was …

Fill in the blank.

Recently, I saw this quote on a friend’s Facebook post, asking viewers to respond using a word ( or several ) on how they would describe2020. To my surprise, I saw the words “ a blessing ” along with a heart emoji right next to it. Wow, someone had a good year. And then I thought, so did I . It in fact was a blessing.

THIS.YEAR. Was hard.

If you were not affected somehow by this year at all – God bless you… but if you’re like the millions of others on the planet that were, well you’re in good company. From reading tragic stories of lives lost from the virus, to hearing about families claiming bankruptcy, losing their businesses, or losing their sanity, nothing about this year seemed to go right for anyone. The world stopped. We all found ourselves in the same place – desperate for answers; Desperate for relief. And even until now we are a world still searching for hope and peace from a year that shook us to our very core.

I had Covid-19 this summer and practically spent it in my room. I couldn’t see my fiance for a few months at a time, nor much of my friends or family. On top of that, Joe was working on a Covid floor when it all hit in March. We were also planning our outdoor wedding, I was teaching virtually a couple of hours a day, and taking two classes, all while trying to heal from the virus. Oh – and we were also trying to find a place to live. Want to talk about stress ? However, this blog IS NOT to compare the trials I faced to your own. I’m sure whoever is reading this right now is going through your share of setbacks as a result of 2020. I’m writing this in hopes that someone out there can relate.

Basically, I feel you girl !

This week during my devotions, my husband and I discussed this year in review and were completely amazed at the goodness of God in our lives. That despite this pandemic, despite my contracting the virus, and my husband working on the frontlines of it all – God showed Himself faithful ( as He always does). As I’ve been sinking my teeth a little more each day into the Word of God, The Lord keeps giving me this verse from the book of Isaiah chapter 30.

” For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying , ‘This is the way walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.’ “

I got this picture of God in the front of a classroom sitting behind the desk watching his students with compassion as they complete their tests, rooting for each student to pass. ” You can it, Christa. Remember what my Word.” I believe He is rooting for you too !

Although this year felt like the biggest test of our lives, know that your Teacher was there. Maybe silent, but observant, and still in the room with you. Maybe you didn’t have great experiences with teachers however I am here to help you see God as a teacher that is FOR his students. He is always watching ready to guide you and lead you to the next step. I love that image of God being behind us, gently telling us where to go. He also lets us make our own decisions in hopes that they align with all that He has taught us. Because a teacher should want the best for their students and look for their best interests even in the midst of hardship. He only hides himself for a moment, so that we could turn to Him in need of answers. He doesn’t withhold the answers from us but gives us insight into where to go next. And guess what? He goes with us.

Adversity and affliction aren’t words we would like to have define our lives, ( honestly, they sound icky), however without them, we would only continue to grow stagnant; complacent in a world that needs the power and the hope, and most importantly the love of Christ Jesus our Lord. Beloved, your teacher is with you. With tears welling up, I want you to know the Lord has not abandoned you but He is growing you more, even through what feels like chards of glass.

Remember, Beloved, you have a Teacher, a Good Shepard, a Heavenly Father who cares for you. He does not sit waiting to see you fail, but he is actively listening and involved in your life providing discipline as a loving father would to His child.

I believe God is shaking up this world, to remind us that we are not in control of our circumstances. In His mercy, God is pleading with His people to turn to Him. Why? Because He is the overcomer of the world ( John 16:33). We can trust Him, even in the midst of pain and hardship.

As someone who struggles with mental illness, I have let my mind wander into some deep and dark places. I was so afraid I would lose Joe this summer. I was so afraid I was going to succumb to this virus and leave behind my love, my family and my friends. I remember calling out to Him, earnestly praying that God would heal me and would bring me back to my fiance and that Him and I would get married. I didn’t know if this was going to be the end. I prayed more than I ever prayed in my life and held onto Psalm 91 – great chapter by the way. I asked Him everyday, God, would this be it for me?

BUT GOD – Ok, I’ll brag on God now.

In 2020:

  • I landed a virtual teaching job that actual paid me more money than I would’ve earned working somewhere else
  • I received a little over $1800 for the classes I took in the summer – No student loans were required and the courses are completely paid off !
  • I lived with my parents when I had Covid – and they never got it !
  • I tested negative twice in August from the virus and was reunited with my sweet Joe
  • Joe never got Covid !
  • Joe and I got married on a beautiful day in October at our friend’s ranch and it was the best day of my life – also, no one reported getting sick from the wedding!
  • God found us a beautiful home in New Jersey, a month before we got married. Joe and I didn’t start to live together until after the wedding so we got to go straight home together
  • Joe and I went on a honeymoon to South Carolina, in Murrell’s Inlet – beautiful spot!
  • I finished my last course for my ESL (English as a Second Language) certification this past semester and will be student teaching this spring semester
  • I have two more courses to take and will be receiving my Masters in Teaching English as Second Language by the end of 2021

All the things I was worried about, God took care of every single request and answered every prayer! Trust me, I have fallen short before the Lord and I haven’t always made the right decisions, but God is faithful, and just as His word says, He hears the cries of His people and He answers. I don’t deserve His grace at all – but He still loves me with a love so unconditional it practically melts my heart. *Insert Olaf quote*

I sobbed as the clock struck 12 on New Year’s Day. My husband looked at me and said “Baby we made it.” The tears couldn’t stop rolling down my face. We held each other so tightly, as fireworks bursted outside our living room window. We prayed and praised God for His faithfulness during 2020 and welcomed the New Year fully committed to seeking God with all of hearts.

Beloved, if you take anything from this, I hope it’s that you can trust in His goodness, even when everything around you is crumbling. He is for you and goes before you, eager to lavish you with compassion and mercy. Don’t let what happened in 2020 discourage you from the destiny and plan God has for you and your life. As we put 2020 behind us, let us take the lessons we’ve learned from that year and let it compels us to look to Him always – our Father, sweet Friend and Teacher.

Happy New Year!

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Confessions of a Covid Bride

I am a bride during the Covid -19 pandemic… and I have Covid. I tested positive for the virus in the beginning of June. I was in sheer panic when I read the results. Leading up to the test, I felt some chest pain, shortness of breath, and headaches that wouldn’t go away. I figured my body was just under a lot of stress. After 3 days of experiencing these symptoms, I completely lost my sense of taste and smell.  It is the weirdest and possibly the most upsetting feeling ever because I absolutely love food ! I quarantined for 14 days, tested negative and a couple of days later, the symptoms I had experienced resurfaced. I tested positive for the virus for a second time! You know what that means ? Back to quarantine.

Today is day number 5 of quarantine. Can you guess what this bride is doing ?

I am watching “ Say Yes to the Dress” on TLC while stuffing my face with Chinese food. I absolutely love this show, not just because Kleinfield produces some of the most amazing dresses on the planet, but I love seeing the faces of brides when they find their dream dress. So much emotions all in one episode. There’s laughter, and a whole bunch of tears from the bride to the mothers, to the best friends and even the consultants.

Also, watching Randy choke up, is precious ! And I adore Hayley Paige – the baddest bridal designer ( in my opinion)! She is so sweet and I love her cute outfits… especially her boots.

This blog isn’t about the show though,

It’s about the possibility of not having my wedding day and if I can be honest, it hurts.  Some of you reading this may know me personally, and KNOW how long I’ve wanted to be married. And probably like every girl, I’ve waited for this day since I was a little girl. When I was 14 years old, I remember making a commitment to the Lord that I would save myself for my wedding day.

Yes, I’m a 30- year- old virgin.

Growing up, I learned the importance of waiting for marriage. I learned that God created such a beautiful act between a husband and a wife.  For this reason, I wanted to honor the Lord by keeping myself until He brought me the man He had for me. I knew I didn’t want to give my body to anyone, so with a lot of patience and PRAYER, I haven’t.  I’ve been told I  was unrealistic, naive, picky and “too religious” for prioritizing sex within marriage. But I knew in my heart, God wanted this for me.

After years of waiting, my Papa God blessed me with the man of my dreams. A tall, blue eyed, loving, and tatted man of God who lights up my world ! This man loves me in ways no other man ever has, and together we have made a promise to wait to have sex until our wedding night.

My dream of a wedding was soon to be a reality and I was ecstatic ! God was fulfilling a promise He had for me and my sweet fiancé Joe. After our engagement, we got right to picking our wedding date and soon after started planning the details of our day. Our dear friends offered there beautiful home for us to have our wedding at. They live on a beautiful property surrounded by trees, farm land, and a beautiful barn in their backyard. Of course we said YES! We booked our vendors, I started to look for dresses, and we picked our bridal party.  I was counting down the days until our beautiful day would come, but then …

Covid-19 happened.

Planning the wedding had lost its luster, and it was put on the back burner for a couple of months. Hopeful, I figured this whole thing would blow over by the fall but sadly I could be mistaken.

It is  exactly three months until our wedding day and planning for the wedding has been on hold. I am not sure what a bridal shower would look like at this time, or a bachelorette party, let alone the wedding. There are days that Joe and I pray so fervently  over our wedding day, with so much belief in our hearts that God is going to come through in an abundant way. But, then there are those days where all I unravel because I don’t know what the future holds. 

The moment I’ve been waiting for my whole life, seems to have been lost in the fear and uncertainty of this virus. Not to mention, I am still recovering from the virus myself.

 In someway I feel cheated.  I feel like the year I wanted was taken away from me because of this pandemic. I just envisioned a night of sweet romance, dancing, tears and laughter, with my friends and family celebrating with me and Joe.  But to be honest, I am not sure that will happen. Right now I am just grieving, and I think that’s ok.  

So many brides right now have had to cancel or postpone their wedding until next year. Countless brides are rushing to find another date, in a different season than they imagined, hoping their vendors be available on that day. Planning a wedding alone is stressful; Now add a global pandemic on top of it,  and it really adds to the pressure!

Can I just say one thing though ?

GOD IS GOOD !He is so good !

I say this with an array of emotions in my heart. Tears are welling up as I write this, but I believe that God is still good! Although this year has not turned out the way any of us had expected, I am so grateful that God continues to be there.

Not one time, has He left me. Not one time has He forgotten me. God has been making Himself more known to me. He’s been strengthening my faith through this time, and I’ve been learning to trust Him more and more each and every day.

I have too much to be thankful for, to let the uncertainty of the future cloud God’s vision for Joe and me. 

God has blessed me with an incredible man who loves ALL of me ! I am so blessed to have friends and family that support any decisions I make in regards to the wedding. I am so thankful for so many people who have been praying for me and for Joe.  God has protected Joe from the virus, which was a prayer of ours since this whole thing started. Joe works on an ortho-trauma floor of a hospital in Philly, where he has treated a number of Covid-19 patients on his floor.  Praise be to God, He has kept Joe healthy and safe.  During the lockdown, we were unable to see each other for two months. Talk about hard. 

But still I am thankful!  I believe God was protecting us through this, not only from the virus, but from doing something we would later regret.

Let me tell you, as you get closer to the wedding, the temptation to jump each other’s bones is no joke ! Sorry, but it’s the truth. We love each other deeply, but we are adamant about waiting until our wedding night. Then we can get crazy * insert winking emoji*. 

Joe and I  still plan on getting  married on our original date even if that means 5 people will be in attendance. In the meantime, we continue to praise the Lord for his faithfulness ! Because He is still good … and soon, Joe and I get to be husband and wife! Glory to your name, Father God ! 

This time has helped Joe and I to really focus on our marriage. Besides, the marriage is the most important part, right ? The wedding is great, but it’s one day. Marriage is for the rest of your life. 

We’ve praying for a marriage that honors each other and honors the Lord. During this time, we have sought ways to fully love each other ( without sex) and learning ways to be fully present with each other. We have talked so much about the things we want for our future, our home, our children, ministry and so much more.

Do I have my moments where I ask God why ? Yes. All. The.Time. Do I have moments where I find my dream of a wedding slipping through my grasp ? Yes I do. But I have to believe that God knows what is best for Joe and I, and what is best for my family and friends.  

So for now, I am going to trust Him, and say thank you Lord for all the blessings in my life and I’m going to continue to pray with Joe for our wedding day. Regardless of what may come, it will be a day that the Lord has made, especially for me and my Joe. I’ve chosen not to plan for the wedding until I know what this is going to look like for us in the Fall. At this time, I have to focus on my health and getting better. Unfortunately, we will have to downsize the amount of guests due to the virus, but I am hoping we can stream it for our loved ones at home.

Either way, God is in control. 

 

Blessings, 

Christa

 

 

 

The Outcry of Our Time

People, racism is alive and well in our nation.

I have scrolled through countless posts and videos of people completely outraged by the injustice and mistreatment of African Americans in our country. It’s been overwhelming to watch the tragedies of these innocent men and women killed by the hands of merciless racists.  Is this really the United States?  I’ve felt like I time- traveled to the 1960’s, during the civil rights movement. Protests and riots are filling every major city in response to the murder of George Floyd. Protesters from around the world have gathered in unison against the heinous crime committed against him.

As I look at the outcry of those enraged by the senseless murder of George Floyd, a word has come to mind: Conviction. We all have a sense of conviction and conscious in our innermost being. To our core, we know when  something is unjust or downright evil. Why? Why does it infuriate us when we witness blatant racism in our communities? Why does a murder like George Floyd, or Ahmaud Arbery, or of other innocent black men and women, strike a nerve within us to respond justly?

The answer is this: God created us with the ability to distinguish right from wrong. The Bible says that “He has written the law on our hearts,” (Jeremiah 31:33). God is a just God who proclaims justice for all people, especially the oppressed (Psalm103:6, Psalm 146:7-9, Isaiah 30:18). So what am I saying here? God made you with a heart like His own. This tells me that humans were built with a sense of justice. When God created you, He made you in His image (Genesis 1:26). We are his image bearers and for that reason we are able to discern what is right, wrong, fair, just, righteous, or wicked, immoral, and prejudice.  That’s why racism is despicable in our eyes, because it goes against our moral standard. And where does that moral standard come from? God. What breaks our hearts is a strong indication of what breaks His heart too.

The Bible beautifully describes Heaven as a place filled with every nation, every tongue and every tribe ( Revelation 7:9). That means Heaven is the ultimate melting pot of God’s creation. People will spend eternity with a loving Father, and with their brothers and sisters of every nationality. So what does that say about God’s character? That He loves every nation, every language, and every color.

Every. Color.

His kingdom is diverse, and it is FOR all those who believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ. Our Heavenly Father has prepared a place not just for his “white children,” or “black children” but a place for ALL of His children.

If you are a Christian, I am speaking to you right now.  My friends, the God of the universe created us to mirror Himself to one another. Jesus said to his disciples to love their neighbor as they love themselves (Mark 12:31). Jesus didn’t say love your “black neighbor only,” or “your white neighbor only” or “your Christian neighbor only.” He said “love your neighbors.” Period.

That includes your “racist neighbor.” I know, that is hard to do, trust me. But if you are a follower of Christ, Jesus calls you to love your enemies, as well ( Matthew 5:43-47).  Pray for your enemies! Pray that racism would break off of them. Pray they will be given hearts and eyes to see the beauty of every race. Pray they come to repentance of their sins ! Did we forget that Paul, the greatest missionary of Christianity,  was once a killer of Christians? However,  after his experience with Jesus, he spread the Gospel of Jesus throughout Asia. He also wrote more than half of the New Testament. If God can change the heart of a murderous extremist, He can do the same for someone else. Pray that God will change hearts in such a way that it will bring lasting reconciliation for years to come.

Its been hard for me to refrain from lashing out. I have black friends who have been like family to me over the years. I can’t imagine one of them being treated in the same way ! But God has continued to convict me to not let darkness settle inside of me. It will not help the cause. Instead it will turn me into the same people I despise.

Remember “we do not wrestle with flesh and blood but with the spiritual forces of darkness” (Ephesians 6:10). Understand that the enemy has used the spirit of racism as a way to divide and conquer us. This tactic has been used for thousands of centuries in the dismantling of families, homes, and countries around the globe.

My challenge for everyone today is to pray for this nation. Pray for this world. 2020 has not been the easiest year but I believe God is calling people to Himself. Today, remind someone of their value, regardless of their race or their beliefs. The reality is that our world is growing colder and is hardened against the love of God. Don’t harden your hearts today. Jesus came to set every captive free, the oppressed and the oppressor. I love this quote from the late Martin Luther King Jr.

” Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Do not let the darkness of evil consume you. That’s not who you are! Let love have the final say. Band together in the name of love and that’s how you defeat the enemy.

The Worst in God

Truth be told, I struggle to trust God’s plans for my life. Maybe if you’re reading this you feel the same way. I’ve replayed endless scenarios of the Lord taking away things I love so deeply: My family, career, finances, and my dreams. Maybe it’s the OCD in me that catastrophizes everything; always preparing for the worst. For the longest time, I have struggled with enjoying good things in my life for fear that God was just conspiring against me. I’ve seen God as someone who takes pleasure in pulling the rug right out from underneath me. I’ve seen him as a Father who only likes to give tough love, and is more concerned about my behavior, rather than loving me.

I was led to a passage of scripture in Exodus 14. This is an epic story of God parting the Red Sea, freeing the people of Israel (the Hebrews), ultimately, from their Egyptian captors.  The Hebrews were enslaved for hundreds of years by the Egyptians. After a few epic showdowns where God unleashes several plagues on Egypt, pharaoh finally lets them go and Moses leads them out. The whole nation of Israel treks to the promise land only to find themselves stuck between a great body of water, and the Egyptian army at their heels. The people of Israel can only do one thing – fear for their lives. They cry out to the Lord, but not for mercy, or for saving; they cry out to blame God for their present circumstance. Let’s take a look at a couple of these verses:

    “When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the      Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, ‘It is because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? …Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness?’”

Does their ranting sound familiar? In one way or another we have all been guilty of believing the worst of God just like the nation of Israel. Listen to them again. They believed Moses led them out of Egypt just to die, as if it was some sort of trap, devised by God himself. They not only question Moses’ motive but God’s. The people of Israel mistrust God’s will to deliver them. They even say they would prefer to go back to Egypt as slaves again. Why? Because they too believed the worst in God. They didn’t think He was really that good. I also believe the people of Israel felt embarrassed of thinking freedom was even possible. Maybe they feared this was too good to be true. “Freedom? No way, not for us?” One thing is for sure, the people of Israel saw catastrophe over promise; fear over faith.

The Israelites may have struggled with a diminished sense of self-worth. Years and years of captivity may have spurred that on. They believed he had brought them so far, to let them rot in the wilderness. They believed His power had run out, right there, on the shore of the Red Sea.

After reading this passage, I related to the Israelites. When a situation looks terrible, or utterly hopeless, I believe it’s God who is behind it all. My thoughts tempt me to believe the lies that God intended calamity for me.   I knew you would do this God! I knew you would eventually abandon me. I mean, isn’t that what the people of Israel were believing about God? Essentially they were believing that God was conspiring against them the entire time.

But God didn’t leave them to their doubts, just like He doesn’t leave me with mine. Instead he made the impossible happened. The pillar of cloud that was leading their esteemed leader Moses, had now moved behind them, facing the advancing Egyptian army. The Lord tells Moses to lift up his hand towards the ocean and divide it! You may know the rest of this story. That’s right, the sea is split right down the middle and the people of Israel walk right on the sea floor! The people of Israel are saved from their enemies, and the Egyptian chariots are laid to waste as the waves comes crashing over them.

Here is the truth: God is a loving father, compassionate to His children. Although he disciplines us, it is out of His love for us. If anything, God the Father has the best in mind for us; even hardships and trials. He uses times where we feel weak in helpless to demonstrate his power! The Bible says His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).  We simply can’t fathom what he has in store for us. And all He asks, is that we believe Him and love Him in return. God is not conspiring against us. He is for us ! ( Romans 8: 31).  A lot of the time, He is testing our faith to see what is really in our hearts ( Deuteronomy 8:2); to see if we really do trust in Him.  Maybe, you find yourself having a hard time trusting in His goodness. Maybe, today, you have fallen on troubled times and can’t seem to understand why God has allowed this season in your life. I know, because I’ve been there too. Remember that in our weakness, He is strong (2Corinthians 12:9). You don’t have to be strong enough. His grace for you is sufficient. Stand firm, and let Him work it out for you.

Although the people of Israel are skeptical of God’s provision, the LORD prevails and does exactly what He said He would do. Even in their disbelief, the LORD stepped in and proved to them that He was there all along. Do you believe God is in your battles with you? Or are you still believing He’s brought you all this way to hurt you, reject you, or leave you? That battle that you’re facing, that financial situation that’s been burdening you, that relationship that has broken your heart, those test results you’ve been losing sleep over, KNOW that you’re God is in control. He is not fighting with you; He is fighting for you! Don’t lose hope! God is moving. He is willing and able to separate that “Red Sea” for you. For your best. Believe Him.

 

Beloved,

Worship Means War: Praising Him in the Midst of Uncertainty

I believe God laid this blog on my heart to write about 3 years ago when I was on the mission field. Why has it taken me this long to write it?  Well if I’m honest, it’s partly because I was procrastinating. But I think another part of it was that I didn’t believe it was necessary. I struggle with worshipping God when the grips of uncertainty choke me. I struggle with worshipping God when all I want to do is yell at him! I struggle to worship God when I can’t see what he’s doing. Can anyone else relate?  Then Covid-19 happens. And let’s just say, God “cleared my schedule” to write this for you.

COVID- 19 has been wreaking havoc across our nation and our world. This is the first time I have seen the world stand still. People are desperately fearing for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Unemployment has skyrocketed, businesses have shut down indefinitely, and the spread of the virus continues to escalate. Our world is afflicted and in need of a Savior. Our current circumstance has seemed to dictate our lives now. Our minds are consumed by this present danger. We try to find the positive or the “light at the end of the tunnel,” so to speak, but more bad news has threatened any glimpse of hope we might have. So we result to complaining, to bitterness, to anger, pride, attitudes of entitlement, as if those things will help our current situation. But we don’t realize that fear has us in its entangling web of lies. Depression and anxiety has sat with us on our couches or bedside waiting for the perfect moment to unravel us.

If you’re not a believer of Jesus, this may not pertain to you, but you are more than welcome to read on. However, if you call yourself a believer, then you’re in good company. You are called to worship despite your circumstance! God is asking you to not look at what is around you but to look up. That’s right, I am asking you to turn your face to your loving Creator. I am telling you to change your horizontal perspective to a vertical one.  Lift your eyes and call out to the Father, your God.  Worship is not just a “feel- good” experience. It’s not just something we press on our Spotify playlists, or YouTube searches. Worship is an act of surrender. It is a time of intimate fellowship in your Heavenly Father’s presence.  Your eyes are on God, not on your circumstance, not on the bad day you had, not on the person who betrayed you or hurt you, not on your finances, but on the Author and Perfecter of your faith, Jesus Christ. Why? Because there is power that happens when you worship! In your worship, the enemy is completely defenseless. Your praises have power to obliterate any tactic of the devil against you, against your family, and against your world.

There are several accounts of the Bible when worship is used to dismantle enemy armies and bring about the salvation of God’s people. The Israelites were asked to stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord upon their arrival to the wall of Jericho. The account goes on to say that the Israelites marched around these cemented walls for six days and on the seventh day they were given the command to let out a shout of praise. To their amazement, their cries and shouts completely leveled the walls of Jericho. No grenades, no nuclear bomb, no weapons of mass destruction were used during this battle, but it was the worship of the Israelites that devastated their enemies!

II Chronicles 20 tells of another account where the Lord protected the land of Judah by their praises. The people worshipped God giving thanks to the LORD for his steadfast love and with their praises it says the LORD set an ambush against their enemies (II Chronicles 20:22,ESV). God used worship to intimidate, confuse and completely desolate the enemies of his people! It goes on to say that when they came to Jerusalem with harps, lyres and trumpets to the house of the Lord, the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries because they knew who was fighting for them! (II Chronicles 20:29, ESV). Wow! Their enemies knew who was on their side: The One and True God. That’s right, our enemies KNOW who is fighting for us!

In the New Testament, there’s an account where Paul and Silas are thrown into prison for preaching the Good news of Jesus Christ. Instead of getting mad at God, instead of grumbling and complaining, or wallowing in the fear of their sentencing, what do you think they did? They worshipped. The Bible says, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. It says that as they were praising the Lord there was suddenly a great earthquake that shook the foundation of the prison. The doors had opened wide and everyone’s bonds were unfastened (Acts 16:25-29, ESV) The jailer was so afraid about what had just happened that he wanted to kill himself, but Paul stopped him and spoke to him about Jesus. That night the jailer was saved.

There are several things we can take away from these three accounts of Scripture. When we are faced with opposition, it’s important that we worship the Lord God. We know that the Lord inhabits the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3, KJV) and because he dwells in our worship, he does not abandon us even in the most troubling of circumstances. Under the weight of our pain, our tears and our fits of control, he is there! The enemy will be destroyed by our singing and our shouts of praise! Fear is extinguished in our time of worship if we let the peace of God flood our hearts. Chains are broken, just like in the story of Paul and Silas. It says that EVERYONE’S bonds were relieved. Worship affects those around us who are struggling in their trials. It changes hearts like the jailer who asked to be saved. Worship isn’t selfish in anyway. It offers hope.

I can imagine that our world right now is living in despair. Fear has spread more rapidly than COVID-19. People are feeling threatened, and without a sense of hope. But God is giving us a weapon against this battle. He is ushering us into his presence to worship him, in spite of what is going in our world. David said it best “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Psalm 23:4, ESV). Doesn’t it feel like we’re walking in a valley of death?  God is saying don’t look at your valley, but look at me who is walking with you through that valley. God is so ever close to those who draw near to him (James 4:8, ESV). He is not afraid of this virus. He is certainly not shocked by it. In this time, we must turn to Him who is far greater and far more powerful than anything we face.

Is it easy to worship God in the midst of trials and suffering? Absolutely not. It goes against everything you are feeling at that time. I know, because I have been conflicted to worship during this time. I found myself saying “What’s the use?” or “I don’t feel like it.”  I am asking you to go against your feeling, and to choose to worship God anyway. When we are met with adversity, our reaction is to fight it or flee from it. Our bodies are saying “This doesn’t feel good. You have two options. Fight or leave.” So I’m saying to go against what you feel! Fight this battle in your mind and in your body by worshipping God. Go into your room, shut the door, and put on some worship. Call out to him, and I promise you will experience His peace. You will experience a change in your mood, and a change in your perspective. Your faith increases in your worship!

Beloved, our worship is essential to our faith in the Lord. It’s our living sacrifice to him. God does not despise a contrite heart. Worship is recognizing his presence among us. It is CHOOSING to look at Jesus, and say “I take you at your word Jesus.” Worship brings us to a posture of humility, and reverence to God, where we admit who we are and we believe who he says we are, his beloved children. It’s surrendering to his will, and asking God to fight this battle that has been waged. He is ever present and ever ready to fight for his people! WORSHIP GOD TODAY! Fix your eyes on the Lover of your souls, the Savior and LORD of our lives. So lift out a shout to the Living God and the enemies of your faith will have no choice but to surrender.

 

Hope In The Chaos

The coronavirus pandemic has made a global impact on our society. Just a couple of weeks ago, word on this seemingly small issue had not picked up speed, until hundreds of casualties were met.  From the looks of things, it seems like our world has come to a screeching halt. Schools, bars, restaurants and some small owned businesses have closed for risk of spreading the virus. Families are left to stay at home in quarantine, in hopes to contain the disease from getting to their neighbors or loved ones. People are faced with unemployment, un-paid bills, and the continuous threat the virus brings daily.

This morning, as I was reading my Bible, I journaled some thoughts about what’s been going on. This pandemic has made global history ! All around the world, we are hearing about the devastation this virus has caused. Healthcare workers are in high demand, along with medical equipment, and medicine. People are fearing the worst.

It’s almost like watching a scene from ” I AM LEGEND.” After a serious spread of a virus triggered by a vaccination that was meant to cure cancer, Will Smith’s character is left alone in a completely abandoned world with his dog in the hopes of finding a cure to the raging epidemic. There’s a scene where Will Smith is driving through New York City, and it looks invaded with growing trees and high grass. He even comes face to face with a lion, in the middle of Time Square ! I couldn’t help but replay that scene over and over again in my mind. Could you imagine if the world ever got to that point ?  My mind can really start to wander.

However this morning, instead of turning on the news, instead of scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook, I decided to sit with the Lord and pray. Then he reminded me ever so gently , “Christa you are not in control.”  Ew, that’s tough. I agreed, however. “I know God, you’re in control.” I was led to the book of Job in the Bible. Job was counted as a righteous man before God, who suffered the loss of his family, his livestock, his property and his own health. Instead of cursing God, he praised him through his pain. Jobs goes onto wallow in his sufferings and asks what he has done to deserve such a penalty.  God finally responds to Job’s appeal- and man, did I feel God speak this morning!

” Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? … Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements- surely you know?”  Job 38:1-2,4

Could you imagine, if the God of the universe asked you this ? I think I would have immediately fell on my face. God continues to question Job all the while reminding Job who is in control. I challenge you step into Job’s shoes for a moment. What would your response be in this time of sheer fear and panic ? That may be hard to tell, but let me just say this.

If we believe that God created the heavens and the Earth, if we believe that he orchestrated the orbits and moons and planets to revolve around the sun, if he created you and I out of dust and fashioned the world to be what it is today, is He not able to continue to sustain us ? God led me to one of my favorite verses in scripture. “Be Still and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10. It doesn’t say ” be still, and “know that you are in control,” or ” know that things will just work out.” It’s an immediate command to stop looking at our circumstances and remember who is with us! It’s a reminder that we can be still  and rest assured that the God who created the heavens and the earth has got this!

From my previous blogs, I have written about my constant struggle with the ” what-if’s” that seem to run a muck in my head. So as they began to bombard me during this morning’s devotional, I flipped the script and made my ” what- if” collide with optimism. But what-if God was allowing this to happen, because he is in fact inviting us to turn to him and rest in his unfailing love ? What if God is using this to awaken a revival in our nation, in our world ? What if the time spent at home, causes us to actually stop, slow down, and relax for a change? What if he wants to hear the prayers of his children call out to him in humility and in love? What if spending time with loved ones will create a culture where family comes first ? And what if people stopped looking inwardly at their own issues and started looking to help their neighbors? 

I don’t know the answer to all these “what-if’s ” but I do know that I had to refocus and  acknowledge how BIG God truly is in the midst of such a critical time. God is in control, no matter what the outcome may be. God was not thrown for a loop when the outbreak of the virus occurred.  He is not worried, nor does he fear what is coming next. Neither shall we! I want to leave you with a couple of verses from Romans 8: 31, 35 and 38-39.

” What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famines or nakedness, or danger or the sword? For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Nothing, no virus, no calamity, no fear, NOTHING can keep you from the love of God. He works all things out for good ( Romans 8:28). Pray for strength during this time. Spend time reading your Bible and ask God to reveal to you his sweet truths. Blast some worship music, like I did this morning and relish in his presence. Let’s not forget to Be STILL and remember that God can handle whatever we face. Nothing is too big for Him.

Beloved, there is HOPE!

So What’s Next ?

It’s been a long time since I wrote here last – maybe too long. I promised myself I would come back, but just didn’t know when. After finding out that I would have four weeks off from my job, due to the ongoing corona virus crisis, I decided to whip out my laptop and start writing again. Ugh, how I’ve missed it.

If you haven’t read any of my blogs before, THAT IS OK ! Let me introduce myself. My name is Christa and I started to blog a couple years ago when I participated in an 11 month mission trip to 11 different countries called The World Race. Since then, my life has changed completely thanks to Jesus Christ, my personal Lord and Savior. Oh, yeah I forgot to mention. I am a Christian. Most of my blogs are about life, my struggles with OCD, personal accomplishments, areas of growth and, well, anything the Lord has led me to write about. So Welcome ! I also like to invite you to request some things you would like me to write about on here. I love to write…but sometimes the words don’t come out right all the time. I would be interested in exchanging important topics to discuss on here with you guys. Also, I am forever grateful by the amount of support my blogs have received over the years. Thank you for taking the time to read them – and bearing through the countless grammatical and punctuation errors.

Can I be honest? I have let my self doubt take hold of me for the past couple of months. There is nothing like getting your blog posted and hearing such great feedback from other bloggers and readers ! It’s like a writer’s “high” when someone reads your blogs and says ” Wow, you’re an incredible writer!” Man, it feels like there is nothing like it. But usually, that mountain top experience soon fades when the ideas of writing a blog clash with your inability to find the “right” words to describe precisely what you mean. Does that make sense ? I fought the urge to not write, because I knew this was something God had placed on my heart to continue a few years ago. I remember how much God had used my blogs to help others during their own personal trials and experiences. I was encouraged by how many people were encouraged by me !  I can get very vulnerable on here, and sometimes I am mortified at what I write, because it feels like I am tearing out a page from my journal and exposing  it for all the world to see. But to God be the Glory !

I was reminded this week about a particular verse in the Bible ( Oh, I also love the word of God and usually post few verses in my blogs for inspiration). Paul mentions in I Corinthians 2:1, some things that I can personally relate to as a blogger and a follower of Jesus. He writes,

“And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words or wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” ( 1 Corinthians 2:1)

Paul was not afraid to share his faith, his beliefs, nor his personal struggles with others, no matter how it sounded. The most precious thing to his heart, was testifying that Jesus Christ lived and died for the sins of the world, resurrected on third day, ascended, and will be coming back for his children again. That’s the Gospel in a nutshell. We are saved by grace and not by anything we have done.  Paul was faced with adversity, conflicts, and pain. He was thrown into prison several times, was shipwrecked, hungry, beaten and abused, yet he didn’t stop preaching the word of God – no matter how the words came out.  Paul believed that even in his weaknesses he was strong, because the one who lives in Him was strong enough to uphold him ( 1 Corinthians 12:9-10) . As follower of Jesus we believe that His Spirit lives inside us. He walks with us, speaks to us through his word, and uses us for every good work ( Ephesians 2:9-10).  So, if Paul could preach the Gospel with words that were  not so plausible and easy to listen to, then I didn’t need to worry if my blogs were not written as ” perfectly ” as I’ve wanted them to. God doesn’t discriminate between how well you can write or speak, he just asks that you do it in obedience to Him. Is there something God’s been asking you to do, but you just feel inadequate ? Maybe, he asking to you trust him with it and do it. You’ll never regret obeying Him!

I hope all my readers take away something, ANYTHING, after reading my blogs, but most importantly they walk away learning something new about Jesus. I pray that my blogs draw people closer to knowing the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That is my heart and my reason for writing.

So, what’s next ?

Well, I am recently engaged to the love of my life, Joe ! He is a wonderful man whom God has given me the privilege to do life with.  I can’t believe I am a bride ! ( That’s for another blog). Joe and I are getting in married in October of this year. We are so very excited ! Also, I have one more year left of completing my ESL certification, and I will be moving in a couple of months with my new husband. So much is going on, but I am so excited for what God is doing in these next couple of months. I also plan on blogging during my stay at home.

Be blessed Beloved,

Christa

 

 

When I Looked Doubt in the Face…

All I saw was fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what could happen. Fear of myself. Behind the mask of doubt I saw fear in its truest form.

For years I’ve struggled with doubting. Doubting what you may ask. Well… everything. I doubt myself, my abilities and my purpose. I’ve doubted the good things that have come in my life and agreed with the bad saying ” I knew this would happen!” It’s like I’ve become a “psychic” in constant dread of the future.

Ever see a spider capture it’s prey ? It’s poor victim is so entangled that it becomes unrecognizable. Doubt produces a tantalizing web that knits and spins itself into a downward spiral of intense fear. It disguises itself as ” what if’s ?” or “maybe’s” and the spiral begins until you feel lost in your own thoughts.

I’ve even doubted my faith at times, because I don’t always trust that God is working out everything for my good. Which then leads me to believe that God couldn’t possibly love someone who doesn’t trust him, right ?

Anxiety doesn’t automatically make you someone who has no faith. Read that again.

You are not disqualified as a Christian because you struggle with anxious thoughts ! Actually, you might have more faith then people who have been going to church all their lives, but you wrestle with doubting. This does not exclude you from God’s grace ! The Bible says we can enter the throne of grace confidently, “that may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need ” (Hebrews 4:6).

I mean, even some of his disciples, his closest friends, waned in their faith and they saw the living Christ work wonders and miracles before their eyes!

The truth is… even when the disciples doubted, even when they vowed to never leave him, yet did, even though some of them had to see him for themselves after his resurrection, Christ so dearly loved them. He loved them so much he even told one of them to touch his side and touch his hands where the piercings were just to assure them that he wasn’t a figment of their imagination ( John 20:27-29). Jesus resurrected from the grave ! Since that moment, they took the gospel throughout the world not only to share the good news that we are no longer bound to sin, but we are set free of doubting. We don’t have to doubt him because he has risen! He has defeated death and he is coming to reclaim his kingdom.

I, like the disciples, struggle to believe in God’s goodness because sometimes I can’t see it. I can’t see how losing a spouse or a child unexpectedly is God’s goodness. I can’t see how natural disasters or famine is a portrayal of God’s love. But when I can’t see his goodness, I ask him to show me his heart. I ask him to show me where his hand is in these pressurizing moments of fear. And he shows me that he is there. He reminds me to change my perspective and to remain grateful for all he has done thus far. But often I allow doubt to cloud my view of him.

Beloved, I am anxious. And if you are too, I’m here to tell you I know the feeling. Here is something you can hold onto. While having a devotional, I stumbled upon this verse in Proverbs.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down but a good word makes him glad. ( 14:25)

God knew we would be anxious but he shares with us a remedy for our troubled hearts. I always feel reassured when someone encourages me through the lows of life. I feel the anxious thoughts and worries dissipate as the words of peace are being declared over me by a sweet friend. However, instead of hanging onto every word that our loved ones may say to us, the reality is that we must cling onto the very words of God because they bring life! In that moment of despair read your Bible. In that moment of fear and doubt read of the stories of those who also feared and doubted in scripture and see God’s provision. In that moment of giving up, READ THE WORD, because it is HOPE, and it nourishes our soul.

My prayer today is that when I feel anxiety and doubt start to leak into the areas of my life, that I would shut it down by God’s word. That I would surrender my fears to him daily and take hold of his peace and rest in my life.

Take some time to read scripture that can help you in your time of worry. Put those verses to memory and when the fear comes you will be ready to denounce it by God’s truth. His word never returns void. Beloved, read your Bible and know that God is with you always.

The Journey Awaits, Beloved

 

I am so excited to announce that I have started my blog! This has been a dream of mine and I’m thrilled I get to share with all of you some of the things God has placed on my heart. I’m here to share the incredible parts of life, the funny moments, the lies we believe about ourselves as women and also the deep, hard, REAL, things that God has been teaching me.

Why?

Well… (to put it simply) because life isn’t easy. We all need someone to speak into our lives; To uplift us and to encourage us to keep moving forward and to remind us that we can’t do life alone. So sis, I’m here to tell you, you’re not alone. I want to communicate with you in a way that is authentic, relatable, and reflective of God’s infallible grace in my life. I also want you to know that I am a regular girl from the Jersey Shore, with a lot of thoughts, a lot to say, and want to be able to express those things to an audience that gets it – that gets me. But most importantly, I want to share Jesus with you all. Whether you are a believer or not, my heart’s desire is that you would know that there is a God who sees you, who loves you, and who is pursuing you daily. He longs for your affection.

You are His Beloved.

God gave me this word over a year ago after a grueling 3 months of anxiety and depression. This was one of the darkest times for me. I felt like I was getting dragged unceasingly under a wave of fear and doubt. Daily, I was being taunted by own thoughts. I remember sitting on the carpet in my room, journaling, crying, trying to read my Bible, and of course crying some more. I stopped for a moment to listen carefully to the word that was ruminating in my mind. The following is an excerpt from my actual journal right before I came to terms with what God was whispering in my heart.

*Side note: My journal entries sound like I am talking to myself and for the most part… I am. Bear with me.

           Who do you want to be Christa? I want to be a God fearing woman. A woman           secured in her identity in Christ as a  daughter of the King. As much as I don’t like being a woman of sorrows… a woman who is compassionate and loving…I want people to see Jesus I want to be happy.

 You see, at this time of my life the tears didn’t stop. I cried almost every day for three months straight! I saw being an emotional woman as a burden, a curse, or rather a thorn in my flesh.

In 2017 I went on the World Race, an 11month mission trip to 11 different countries.  While I was doing ministry in Eswatini, Africa, I got the words woman of sorrows from a verse that I had read in Isaiah 53: 3 where it’s describing Jesus as being a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” While I read this over and over again, I felt God was gently saying that I was like Jesus, that I was indeed a woman of sorrows, a woman acquainted with grief- just like him. I felt pain, but I felt not only my own but the pain of others. I carried the weight of the world on my shoulders along with my own baggage. This notion of being a woman of sorrows was something that I embraced during my time on the mission field but slowly this idea dissipated while I was going through such inner turmoil of my own.

Shortly after writing this entry, I wrote the word “Beloved.” Then I wrote “be loved.” I began to pray. It was in that moment, God was asking me to believe that I was dearly loved.  He also wanted me to know something else. That being loved meant that I could truly walk in the destiny God was calling me into. Because I am already loved by a Heavenly Father I don’t have to fear trials, the uncertainty of this life, nor death, but that I can stand boldly as a daughter of the Most High God. Like a bride, I am renewed, adored and completely drenched with the love of my sweet groom – Jesus Christ.

And that’s when I got the idea to start a blog. Yep, a year ago. Not only to remind me of who I am in him, but to remind you reading this who YOU are in him; His precious love, so dear to his heart… His BeLoved.

Sometimes it so hard to walk in that idea of already being loved because maybe for many of us, being loved doesn’t coming naturally. If anything, we feel less than worthy of it. Perhaps, someone in your life made you feel unloved, and that wound has lingered  and has caused you to be defensive, unwilling to love wholeheartedly. I pray right now, that the lie that you are unloved is broken in Jesus name!Just because we don’t feel love doesn’t mean that we are not loved. Our feelings are not reliable sources of truth.

Here’s the truth:

YOU ARE LOVED more than you could ever IMAGINE by a Creator who thought of you before the beginning of the world. I am in need of this truth daily my friend. He chose you for a specific purpose that he longs to reveal to you. Let the truth seep into your heart today.

I am here to extinguish the lies and provide Biblical truths to you and to myself through my writing. My desire is that through this blog you’ll be able to embrace these truths, and walk in freedom as a daughter who is lavished by the love and grace of God, and who is at liberty to be yourself, the way God created you.

Why, don’t you join me on this journey of more discovery, freedom, truth and can’t forget… love? You’re invited!

Beloved xoxo

Christa