Life Interrupted

What do you do when life gets interrupted? What do you do when you have everything planned out and it changes? Do you get upset, ignore God, disobey Him, or “go with the flow”?

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God has a tendency to interrupt lives. He interrupted Noah, Ruth, Moses, Esther, Jonah, the 12 Disciples, Mary and Joseph and many more. God has a history of finding people who are comfortable in their lives and challenging them to change. All of these people had plans and were living their lives, pretty comfortably from what I can tell and then God interfered.

Noah was good and focused on God, but when God decided to destroy everyone else, Noah had to build an ark and show up with faith that God would provide. Ruth had a husband and good in-laws but in the blink of an eye, God took away the men and Ruth had to decide to stay with what was known or to walk by faith with her mother-in-law to a foreign land. Moses was tending his sheep, when God spoke to him through a burning bush and changed his life forever. God took Esther from a simple girl to a queen that would save the Jewish people. The 12 Disciples were just living their lives until Jesus called them. Mary and Joseph were an engaged couple looking forward to starting a family when God interrupted and made them earthly parents to our savior.

I don’t particularly like change and I think a lot of people feel the same way I do. I like routine and planning things out. I know where I like to shop, what roads to take, which restaurants, etc. I like the stability of a routine but God likes to challenge me to step out of the comfort zone. He pushes me to grow and to experience discomfort.

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God likes to interrupt people. God interrupted my life when I thought the normal thing was working 70+ hour workweeks and focusing on career. He stepped in and brought me on an amazing adventure that has been better than anything I imagined. Now, as I’ve gotten comfortable and really begun to grow roots in South Korea, He has called me home.

While the circumstances causing me to go home aren’t ideal, I am so thankful that I am able to. I can see how He’s set it up and how He’s working. I can see how He’s been helping me build my faith so while I have moments of worry (where will I live, will I find another good church, where will I work, etc.) I know that He will provide for me. God’s plans are always better than my dreams and while I never know what exactly is coming, I can walk in faith that He is always with me.

How has God interrupted your life? How do you respond when He does? If you’re interested in sharing your testimony through Grace in Action, let me know via a comment or email me at ah.taylor413@gmail.com ! I love hearing from y’all! 

A Spiritual Plan

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I love planning. I am the person who joyfully skips to do a budget, makes bucket lists, five year plans, etc. but for some reason I’d never thought of a spiritual plan. With the decision to go back to the US, one of my concerns is finding a strong church community.

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Before I moved abroad, I occasionally attended church but it wasn’t until moving to South Korea that I became active in church and I think it’s a bit different living abroad. I attend church and life group but because I live abroad, all of my close friends here are people I’ve met through church. So while my focus remains on assisting my family member with her health issues, my second priority is finding a church as soon as possible.

When I was discussing this with one of the elders at church, he suggested I come up with a spiritual plan and I love the idea. I thought I would share here for some additional accountability and to see if you all have any tips or suggestions to things I should add or be thinking about.

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Target Date

Find at least 10 churches in the area that I will be living in that meet my criteria By 3/15
Narrow down the list to 3 to 5 by listening to online sermons or reading messages from the church By 3/23
Share the list with people I know in the area who might want to visit the churches with me By 4/6
Visit the churches and speak to leadership and members there Month of April through May (1 every Sunday)
Commit to a “home” church 5/21
Get plugged into a Life Group or Community Group 6/4
Find a way to serve in the church 6/11
Become a church member TBD

The dates are a bit flexible but should fall within that range. I don’t want two weeks to turn into two years of no church but I also want to make sure that I don’t just bounce from church to church either. It’s important to me that I get plugged in as quickly as possible.

I have already been looking into churches and a lot of the ones I like sound really big, which is intimidating to me when I am going to church alone. Since this was an excuse for me in the past, I am making plans so that this won’t become a stumbling block. I will keep you all posted on my experience when I get stateside.

What do you look for in a church? If you have a home church, how did you find it/choose it? What suggestions or additions do you have for me? I love hearing from you guys!

Taking Up the Cross Daily

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23

This is a pretty familiar verse to me but it wasn’t until I really began studying His word that it clicked for me. I had always tried to prove myself and would get so discouraged when I slipped up. Turns out I was trying to do it through my own strength.

Choosing to follow Jesus is not a one-time thing. Yes, we only have to repent and ask for salvation one time but following Jesus is continual. Every day we can choose to pick up our cross and follow Him or to walk past the cross and live for ourselves.

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This verse remains me that I’m never going to be a perfect Christian but every day I have the opportunity to live my faith for Christ or to live for myself and the world. It’s not an excuse when I slip up but an understanding that God knows I will slip. Pardon the analogy but it’s like being on a diet – just because you mess up one meal doesn’t mean you stop eating; it means you get back on track next meal. I have some days where I put the cross down multiple times and have to go back and pick it up and other days where I feel like Super Christian – just kidding that hasn’t happened yet.

What does it mean to deny yourself? Denying yourself means that you stop focusing on self. It means focusing your eyes on God and aligning your goals with His. It’s the opposite teaching of this world. The world teaches “every man for himself” but Jesus teaches that we are to serve others. The world says that we should put ourselves first and the goal is to fight to the top to acquire as much fame and money as possible. Jesus teaches us to put our faith in Him and to focus on putting ourselves last.

What does it mean to follow Christ? It doesn’t just mean asking for forgiveness and receiving His salvation, although that’s the first step. It’s important to make sure you’re obeying Him and walking closer with Him everyday. It means growing in Christ and learning to live like Him.

This verse means understanding that you will make mistakes and fail but that tomorrow’s a new day. No matter what you’ve done, there’s a choice to be made – pick up the cross and follow Christ to life or keep on walking into the pit.

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What do you think of this verse? Do you have any verses that “clicked” for you? As always, I love hearing from you guys!

Embracing the Single Season

I recently posted about the benefits of the single season and while I alluded to some of the challenges I worked through before coming to peace with my single season, I don’t feel like I addressed the struggles. Some people barely struggle with the single season but I struggled pretty heavily for a few months until I learned to embrace it.

I am a relatively new “true” believer. I was brought up in the church but never committed to Christ until May 2015, so I had a secular view of dating and marriage. I had been in a relationship on and off for several years but it just wasn’t progressing. I was watching so many of my friends get married and have children that I was eager for the next step and he wasn’t. When I quit my job and moved abroad you would’ve thought I’d be content but I was dissatisfied and jealous.

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I really struggled watching people get engaged or get married or get pregnant because I was so focused on myself and how I was single. I wondered what was wrong with me or what I was doing wrong, etc. I was so focused on myself that I didn’t realize it’s not finding someone – it’s about being the right someone.

I reached out to a friend, who prayed for me and recommended a book called “Ladies in Waiting” which I highly recommend. It gave me a new perspective although I didn’t agree with everything it said. Reading some books by Corrie ten Boom inspired me immensely as I saw how she used her single season. I talked about the struggles I was having with friends, family and of course, God. Sometimes I discussed it nicely with God and other times I was like a cranky two-year old who hadn’t had her nap. (I really hope I’m not the only one who has conversations like that with God).

In my life group, a few of us were discussing our single season when a friend suggested we watch Andy Stanley’s series called Love, Sex and Dating. This was a great series but the most profound thing he said was about being the person that the type of person you’re interested in is attracted to; I think he said it more eloquently than that but hopefully you get the point.

It began with changing my thought process. I stopped looking at it from what am I missing to what can I do? I made a list of things I want to do but I also took a close hard look at what qualities I’d like to cultivate. I wanted to focus more on developing a servant’s heart, continually maturing in Christ, patience, humility, etc. Some of these were minor things but things I felt called to work on. Piece by piece, I felt God working in me and removing the anxiety and discontentment I had about being single.

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Now I’m happy to say that I appreciate my single season and I celebrate the freedom I have to serve Him.  I came to terms with the person in the mirror and discovered that I’m pretty great if I do say so myself 🙂 This peace and contentment didn’t come overnight – it was a process and some days it still is but 98% of the time I am happy exactly where God put me and how He made me (okay – I wish I could eat as many carbs as I want and not gain a pound but that’s one of the few things I can complain about).

It doesn’t matter what season you’re in but do you have any tips or advice for people in the single season? What do you think about embracing the single season? I’d love to hear from you.

When Life Changes Course

I am not a good chess player. I went through a phase where I studied up and tried to play chess but I just wasn’t that good. I couldn’t strategize far enough in advance and quickly learned that checkers was more fun.

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I like to plan and dream but I’m not able to plan out every single detail or plan for every scenario. Luckily, God is. I love looking at my life and finding threads He has woven into my life. If I look closely enough, I can see where He has set things up years in advance of something happening but most of the time I have to look hard to see His subtle movements. It’s easy to look at things and claim it as a coincidence or good fortune or if it’s a tough time to focus on the negative.You see, God knows everything and has planned every step out. It might not seem that way, especially during the difficult times but God is there. You are never alone.

Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord’s message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.”

-Haggi 1:13

He knows the way and has been guiding your footsteps every moment. He is the North Star and if I stop to consult my compass, it will surely point me in the right direction. What do you do when a storm forces you to change course? You pull out the map (Bible) and the compass (God) to consult where land is.

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A close family member has had a stroke and after a lot of thinking and praying, I have made the decision to go home.  God has given me complete peace with this decision. I have seen how God has been putting the pieces together to prepare me for this. I can see how being debt free and having my emergency fund in place gives me the freedom to go home and not have to stress about finding a job immediately. I can see how He has provided for my family and for me as I ready to depart a few months ahead of schedule.

I am thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to fulfill a dream of mine. I was lucky enough that God provided me the opportunity to quit my corporate job and move abroad. I have been in South Korea for about 7 months and have enjoyed the vast majority of it. I have made wonderful friends, grown in faith, traveled and experienced a new culture. I have been living the dream and I’ve learned that His plans are always better than my dreams so while I don’t know what the future holds, I know that it is good and that He will provide.

One of my favorite poems is the footprints in the sand and I wanted to share that here.

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How have challenging times helped you see God working in your life? Why do you think He lets difficult times happen? As always, I love hearing from y’all!

Biblical Finances – Baby Step 2

“In a new CreditCards.com survey, 21% of people said they expect to be outlived by their debt.” – Forbes Magazine

Continuing with the financial posts I have shared, here is Baby Step # 2. This step was a life changer for me. For those who haven’t read my earlier posts, I am an avid Dave Ramsey fan and am following his 7 step financial program.

Baby Step # 2 is to “Pay Off Debt”. This step means that you focus on paying off all of your debt, except your house mortgage. I wish I could tell you that I went from Baby Step #1 directly to Baby Step #2 with enthusiasm and joy but I’d be lying.

I enjoyed saving so much that I kept saving and failed to progress to the next step. I had “normal” debt – a car payment, and a student loan. Luckily, I didn’t have any credit card debt, since I’d already had a run in with credit cards and had a policy to never carry a balance.

I listed all of my debt from smallest to largest. It was a bit scary to see how much I owed. It was about ½ of what I made in a year, which was shocking. I thought I was responsible with money and doing the right things but the numbers told another story.

I was making the monthly payments but I was just one car accident away from being in financial trouble and it turns out most of us are in the same position. According to a survey found on Nerdwallet:

“The average household has $129,579 in debt – $15,355 of it on credit cards.”

That should terrify you! That’s a lot of money to owe someone and it can feel overwhelming if you’re just starting on this journey but it’s also freeing to see your numbers in black and white and to have a plan for how you’re going to break free.

Here is an example of how I listed my debts and related information – please note the amounts provided do not reflect my actual situation.

Debt Min.

Payment

Monthly Payment Total Balance Interest Rate Due Date Target Pay off Date
Medical Bill 50 100 300 0% 1st 3/1/16
Car Loan 400 400 19,000 8% 15th 7/15/19
Student Loan 600 600 30,000 4.60% 20th 5/1/21

The process Dave Ramsey recommends for paying off debt is the Debt Snowball. The thought process is that any extra money goes towards your first debt and then once the debt is paid off, all the money that was going toward Debt A is applied to Debt B. This shows you making progress and increases the likelihood of maintaining motivation in what is one of the toughest parts.

I mentioned earlier that I had continued saving with Baby Step #1 and was almost at my “magic” safety number, but “Evil Dave” feels so strongly about the importance of getting out of debt that he stresses pulling all savings (unless there are extenuating circumstances like a job layoff, etc.), except the mandatory $1000 emergency fund, out to pay off debt.

I didn’t like this idea one bit. I remember thinking that Dave was stupid and my plan to repay debt would be fine, etc. I hate it when God gets in my way. Everywhere I looked there was something about the dangers of debt, or tips on being financially responsible. It was in my face, so I made a deal. I’d take half of the money out of savings, pay off a debt and see how I felt.

It became addicting and I am pretty sure everyone began to get tired of my discussing becoming debt free. Since I’m single I stayed motivated by plugging into Dave Ramsey’s show on YouTube and discussing it with family and friends who I knew would keep me accountable. I took out the rest of my savings, keeping only the emergency fund in place, and began paying off debt. Every time I reached a new milestone or paid off a debt, I celebrated. My friends and coworkers teased me about my envelopes but I could feel myself breaking free of the burden.

There were setbacks along the way but I finally paid off ALL of my debt in March 2015! Being debt free changed my life in ways I couldn’t imagine. I was able to make decisions without finances being the motivator. I quit my job and moved across the world. I’m planning trips and enjoying the fact that the money I have isn’t going to bills. According to Forbes I wasn’t the only one: “Some 22% of Americans say they have zero debt, up from 14% last year.”

Is anyone else getting out of debt or have gotten out of debt? Did you follow Dave Ramsey’s principles or another plan? Are you interested in the next financial post focusing on Baby Step # 3, budgeting, the envelope system or more on getting out of debt? Let me know if you have any questions, I love hearing from you all.

 

References:

Grace in Action – Amanda’s Story

As I mentioned in a previous post, I will be sharing other people’s testimonies under Grace in Action. Others’ testimonies should serve to encourage us and glorify God by seeing His grace in their lives.

I am so excited to introduce my fellow blogger, also named Amanda, who has offered to share her testimony, so without further delay, here’s Amanda’s testimony:

Disappointment with God

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I’m so excited to be able to write this post on Amanda’s blog because I started my own blog recently, but decided that while I’m a Christian and a writer that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to be a “Christian writer”. While I’ll always have those lenses on in the way I view the world and interact with it, sometimes you have to let go of trying to write about everything, for the sake of targeting and creating a really good blog. If you’re curious, I even have a recent post on it and you can check it out at Reluctant “Christian”.

So I guess this is the beauty of getting to do guest posts! 🙂 And today, Amanda has asked me to share my testimony, so here goes!

The way I’d say I’ve always experienced God in my life is through my feelings and emotions. I’d feel God lead me through my emotions or I would get excited about God during worship or at church or in my daily life. But what happens when those feelings and emotions aren’t there anymore?

I grew up going to church, and even though I didn’t always go to church, I ended up following a leading I felt to go back to church in my early 20’s during a confusing period of time in my life. I got baptized a few years later and then a couple years after that I ended up going to a different church after experiencing the loss of a relationship.

Even in those early years I experienced a great excitement with discovering a relationship with God and growing in that relationship by building relationships with people in the body. And perhaps you need that feeling of motivation and excitement in the early years.

But then the truth is, those feelings and emotions don’t always last forever. And besides, we know we don’t always have the option to do things in life when we feel like it, like writing every day or going to work, or reading your bible, persevering in faith, or doing what’s right.

When I started going to a new church, I felt another wave of excitement, feelings and emotions as I learned new things about God and experienced his healing power in my life helping me overcome years of depression. But again, those feelings came up and came down again.

In the past season, I’ve also experienced disappointment with God, disappointment with not being where I expected to be in my career, relationships, or even spiritually. But out of that what I’m learning is to press into these times with God even more deeply.

As I recognized that I had been harbouring disappointment with God and started to move out of that, new emotions started to return and stir in me. But this time I asked God, no, don’t return those emotions to me, just yet. I want to learn to seek you, to know you more, to persevere in you because it’s not about the emotions.

Again, I love to feel those emotions, and I think that’s one of the ways that I’ve always felt led by God and communicated with Him. But I feel like, for a season, maybe God was asking me, is it OK if I turn off this primary way that you experience being with me so I can grow you up and grow you stronger in some other ways? So realizing that, my answer is wholeheartedly yes.

I blog at https://amandayvonne.wordpress.com/ where I write about navigating life, blogging for a living, and finding your voice. If you’d like to get in touch with me, feel free to leave me a comment there. I’d love to hear from you!

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Rahab2: I hope you felt inspired by Amanda’s testimony and I encourage you to check out her blog to hear more about her journey. If you’re interested in sharing your story, please leave a comment below or email me at ah.taylor413@gmail.com.  

 

Do Not be Afraid

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I don’t pretend to understand God’s plans but I love and trust Him…except when I allow myself to worry. It’s when I take my focus off of God and focus on the problem that I feel overwhelmed and hopeless and afraid. It’s when I lean solely on family and friends or secular things to solve my problems that these feelings grow.

Please don’t misunderstand: I am extremely thankful for the support of my family and friends but they cannot solve my problems. They can listen, pray and offer advice but ultimately they have their own lives to handle and it can sometimes be overwhelming for others to help carry the burden.

God can handle anything I throw His way and He has no limit. He is never overwhelmed by what I am feeling or distracted by other issues. My God is all powerful and longs for me to come to Him with my problems. He longs to hear from me and wants me to hear from Him. As I am struggling to understand what is going on with my family member’s health, I found myself vacillating between tears and panic as I imagined every single possible scenario but when I turned to His Word through the promises and the verses people shared with me for comfort, I felt His peace.

He is available to talk to 24/7/365. He’s always there when I need Him and I never get on His nerves or drive Him mad with my fear or what if situations. He just calmly redirects me to trust in Him and to find my refuge in Him.

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I was afraid of the “what if” scenarios. I was afraid of what this would mean and how it would change things. I was afraid of not flying home for fear that something would happen. I was afraid until I looked up and focused on God. I think the most appropriate verse for this is found in Joshua 1:9

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

It’s when I look at God that I notice the things I should be thanking Him for. Things could be much worse, but He is a good and kind God.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”        – Philippians 4:6-7

With that in mind, I want to focus on all the things I have to thank God for in this situation:

  • I am thankful the person wasn’t alone and was immediately taken to the hospital.
  • I am thankful for good doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.
  • I am thankful for technology that allows me to get updates immediately.
  • I am thankful for having an amazing support group of family and friends.
  • I am thankful for the promises God has given me through His Word.
  • I am thankful for the comforting verses some of you shared with me.
  • I am thankful for an understanding Director.
  • I am thankful for prayer and all of the prayer warriors I have in my life.
  • I am thankful for the positive signs and news the doctor has shared.
  • I am thankful for being able to go directly to the Lord with my worries.
  • I am thankful that I have family coming to visit in just a few days.
  • I’m thankful for my brother, M, who has handled my 25,000 messages 🙂
  • I’m thankful for my brother, T, who supports and helps where needed.
  • I am thankful for the faith He has given me.

The days ahead will have their challenges as I am sure everyone reading this can attest to but do not be afraid because God is already there. What do you do when you feel overwhelmed with fear? Are you good about turning to God or does it sometimes take awhile to turn to Him?

Jesus wept – Responding to Difficult News

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“Jesus wept.” – John 11:35.

Today I received some not so happy news from home and was overwhelmed with emotion. I hate receiving bad news when I am so far from home, but other than be there, I’m not sure what I could do besides pray. It was between the tears and the anxiety and the fear that I reluctantly turned to do my quiet time.

God is so good and faithful. I began with my devotional reading in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young and the message addressed anxiety and really spoke to me. I then moved into my Bible reading plan, which is John Chapter 11. It’s about the death of Lazarus and while I’m not dealing with death, I am experiencing similar feelings.

I sometimes forget that Jesus knows what we’re going through. He has experienced everything we have (except giving into sin) and then some. He is greeted by a grieving Martha, who shows her faith by saying that if He had been there Lazarus wouldn’t have died. Jesus alludes to the resurrection and she misunderstands His meaning.

Martha goes home and sends Mary to go talk with Jesus. People thought she was going to the tomb to grieve, so they followed her. It’s when Jesus sees Mary and the others weeping that “…He was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” (v.33). Jesus asks where Lazarus is buried and they show Him. Then in John 11:35, we see Jesus weep over His friend. The entire verse is just two words: “Jesus wept.”

Despite knowing that He would be raising Lazarus from the dead in just a few minutes, Jesus wept. This might sound weird but this verse is such a comfort to me. I don’t know what God’s plans are. No one has died but they are sick and I don’t know what the Lord has planned. I do know that Jesus understands what I’m feeling and I find comfort in that.

I find comfort in knowing that God’s got this. Lazarus, Martha and Mary were close to Jesus and I can see where the Jews were wondering why Jesus didn’t come immediately and heal Lazarus. He didn’t heal Lazarus because He was going to glorify God through the raising of Lazarus. God’s plans have a purpose, whether we can see them or not. While this event impacts me, it might be a necessary part of God’s plans in her life or someone else’s that this occurs.

I am reminded that God knows what He’s doing and all I can do is trust Him. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is such a comfort and I’d like to share it:

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” – Psalm 56:8

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I don’t know how many times I’ve tossed and turned or how many tears I’ve cried this morning – let alone in my life but God does. He has the information recorded and if He cares about something this small enough to record it how much more does He care about our prayers and our big challenges? When things get tough and they don’t make sense, I encourage you to find comfort in the Father and know with all your heart that He’s got this.

Prayers are appreciated. How do you deal with bad news or tough times? Do you have any Bible verses that are particularly comforting or uplifting to you?