Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Christianity and Hypocrisy

Vulnerability is scary. I am writing this fully aware that some of you may agree with me, and some of you may think this is completely inappropriate and wrong. I respect both opinions, but this has been placed on my heart and I want to share it. I also would like to note that my intention for my openness and vulnerability is that Christ would be lifted high, and that I would be brought lower.
I've written about my struggles with the church, my struggles with losing my dad, my struggles in marriage, but I have always somehow deflected identifying my day to day sin.

I've heard a lot of Christians accuse atheists and agnostics of having no morals, being bad people, etc. I am rejecting that statement and hope to show that following Christ is not just about having morals and being a good person. I hope to show you that with and without Christ, I am no better and, on my own, I fail all the time at practicing what I preach. I have always been scared of being called a hypocrite, but here I am, showing you that I am 100% a hypocrite. (So thankful to go to a church that embraces our hypocrisy). I just ask that now you would hear me out.

I have some very serious sin in my life. I know a lot of unbelievers hate the word sin, but defines sin (as a noun) as “any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse, etc.; great fault or offense.” Even if any of you live by a “no regrets” motto, I am sure you still regret at least one thing you have said or done in your life.  I view my sin, whether it is against me or another person, as also committed against God. I also believe the Bible gives clear outlines about what sins to avoid, and also the punishment of sin. Again, please hear me out. (I’m starting to get really nervous…)

As a follower of Jesus, It is easy to follow my own desires and temptations. I am opening up to you—maybe you feel alone in your struggles, or maybe you are annoyed of Christians pretending to have it all together. But here I am, a Christian who DOES not have it all together. My sins and struggles may be different than yours, but regardless, you and I are loved (and I will get to that….)

1   I do not see a problem with having a beer or two with dinner. (Or wine, bourbon, etc. if that’s your thing) But unless I am in a controlled environment, I struggle with self-control. I would love to tell you that the last time I was drunk was on my 21st birthday (or actually, if I could tell you I've never been drunk), but that would be a lie. Aside from the Bible telling us to not get drunk, I will tell you why I see drunkenness as an issue for me.
a.    My body does not want to be productive while hung-over.
b.    I ALWAYS wake up regretting something I said or did while drunk. Social filters are pretty much gone.
c.    If we are on the feminist track…I have never been more disrespected or violated than when I was drinking or interacting with drunk guys at a bar or party. (Luckily, this IS something that hasn't happened in 2-3 years)
d.    More times than not, if you've seen me drunk, you've seen me cry. Drunkenness and Kelsey= angry sad emotional sentimental beast.

While getting drunk and partying isn't a huge part of who I am anymore, the fact is, if I’m not in a controlled setting, I will easily keeping drinking. In an effort to make every drinking setting a controlled setting for me, I have asked Alex (my husband) to keep me in check when we are out (I am more of a social drinker…if we have a beer or two at home, it’s easy for me to stop). I recently have decided to be open about this being a struggle for me. I have an accountability group that I am 100% honest with. This helps keep me in check, but when I do fail, they encourage and lift me up, not judge and try to make me feel more shame than I already do. While I am so proud of my efforts to control my drinking, none of these things bring redemption.

Here’s another big thing: gossip and insecurity.  I have and do say hurtful things about people. I almost always regret it immediately after, and I am always working on minimizing that talk in my conversations. It adds nothing, and it really goes against the whole “love your neighbor as yourself” commandment Jesus gives us. I am not justifying my actions, but any negative talk about someone is always founded in an insane amount of insecurity I possess. As a follower of Jesus, I still seek affirmation and security in shallow things. I also get extremely jealous of other people. I try to stop talking about people and to be content with who I am and what I've been blessed with, but redemption is not found in my sometimes successful, most of the time failed efforts.

I could really go on and on with sins I struggle with, but the last one I will point out is a sin I think is primarily a religious sin. (Maybe not, but I think it is found mostly in the church). I can be very judgmental and guilt based in why I think people need Jesus. What do I mean by guilt based? Well, it is easier for me to point out why a sin is wrong than it is to point people to Jesus.( I could probably even give you a Bible verse telling you why it is wrong!) I can list off every single sin I struggle with, but still be in awe about sin present in someone else’s life. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? My judgment of myself and others doesn't bring anyone to redemption.

Here I am-- someone who claims to follow Jesus exposing a lot of my dirty laundry for you to read. If I am not somehow lifted up and better than you for following Jesus, how am I different than someone who chooses not to?

11)    We are ALL loved by God. Every. Single. One. of us. What’s different about me? I have accepted that love and have a desire to have others accept it too.
22)    I am released from the punishment of sin. While all of us are loved and have the same opportunity to accept it, I cannot deny the truth of the Bible. I believe every human being will stand before God on judgment day and answer to Him.
33)    While sin remains, it no longer reigns in my life. Our pastor, John Murphy, says that frequently in his sermons, and it always sticks with me. My redemption is not an excuse to keep sinning, but that sinful nature does remain in me while I am in this world. At the same time, my sin does not reign over my life. The sin that once consumed me has been replaced with hope and an incredible love that overshadows guilt, shame, and regret.
44)    I believe that Jesus came on this earth and gave himself up for us as the ultimate sacrifice for sin. He is how I am able to approach the Father as clean and worthy.

 If there is any point I hope to make with this post, it is that I do struggle and fail as a follower of Jesus, I put a lot of effort into making it better and “fixing” my problems, but that the true solution is Jesus. He is far more capable of restoring and renewing my heart than anything I could ever do on my own. I pray that as you search your own heart and try to make sense of life, that you would encounter Jesus and the great love he has for you. He doesn’t want sin to own you, but instead wants to offer the love and freedom that comes from Him. As always, if you want to talk about it, I'm here.



Monday, September 29, 2014

Our Meal Plan This Week (1)

Hello there!

I love meal planning, but sometimes, it is really hard. Seriously, when I sit down, I can only think about making tacos and grilled chicken. Or I'll plan a pasta dish every single night of the week. I'll try recipes that we both love, but I easily forget about them. So, hopefully this will serve as a reminder and help me with future meal planning. 

Sometimes I have to search for motivation to meal plan, but sometimes meal planning is the best part of my day. Today, I was really excited to meal plan! 

Here is what we have going on this week: 

Monday: Chocolate Chili. This is one of those meals that when I ask Alex if there is anything he would like, he always says "let's have chili one night this week!" Seriously. Every.Week. But, it's really good and gets better and better on day 2 and 3. We have both of her cookbooks, but she also posted the site online. If you are into paleo/real food cooking, I recommend her cookbooks! We really like them! Chocolate Chili-The Clothes Make the Girl

Tuesday: Dinner plans.

Wednesday: Dinner plans. Buuut I did volunteer to bring dessert...mostly because I want to try this: S'mores Bars- Mix and Match Mama (I love her site and am determined to try 99% of her recipes--the 1% I can't try involve mushrooms...because Alex hates mushrooms, I scroll past those) Thanks Trish for showing me her site!! :)

Thursday: Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers. We've never tried this recipe before, so we shall see. I found this one on Pinterest. We love quinoa and bell peppers, so I don't really know what could go wrong with this recipe :) (And they look reaaaally easy) Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers-Cooking Quinoa

Friday: Normally we do leftovers of anything we still have from the week. We are going to a wedding on Saturday, and have stuff going on all day Sunday, but this is my "just in case" meal (and something I can make Monday if we don't need it during the weekend :)) This is another Pinterest find and our first time trying it! Also, it's a crock pot meal! Sausage and Cheese Tortellini- Recipe Mothers

***Next time I do this, I'll put what we thought about the 2 new meals we tried! :)

I am lucky to have an awesome husband who lets me try out all of my Pinterest finds on him (we have had some nights of "maybe we should order a pizza instead"). I am also so thankful for the time right now to invest in meal planning and building our own traditions and favorite meals. I know that motherhood/fatherhood, work, and other obligations can take a lot of time out of planning meals, and I hope that this has in some way made planning dinner a little easier for you :). I will probably do a couple more of these as we try new recipes, and as we make recipes we love and think you'll love too. God bless!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Where Does My Hope Come From?

My heart is completely broken by the hate and mistreatment of fellow human beings. I think that we have become so desensitized to hate and hurtful acts that it unfortunately takes a huge act of injustice to evoke an emotional response.  We have become some immune to evil around us that we are astonished and appalled when great acts have been committed. We trust in fellow human beings to do the “right thing” and provide justice. Even if they do, that hate and resentment still lingers. Evil still surrounds us. Nothing is ever made fully “right.”  Prejudices are still formed and taught to our children.

To me, this can only mean one thing. Our hope can only be found in something greater. Our peace can only be restored by the One who has made every person on this planet in the image of Himself. Our forgiveness and restoration can only be found in the One who forgives and restores us from the hate and evil found inside of ourselves. 

I’m praying for those affected by the injustice in Ferguson, MO. I’m praying for those victimized by ISIS in Iraq. I’m praying that my heart will be broken to all evil, not only the kind that makes it to the news.  I’m praying that people will find comfort in the One who prevails over all evil.

John 1:4-5 “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Friday, July 25, 2014

Marriage Isn't Always Pretty, But It's A Beautiful Thing

Today, Alex and I have been married for 1 year and 2 months. I wanted to write this on our one year anniversary, but I was still trying to sort through my thoughts and figure out how much/little I wanted to share. This post is 100% about my perspective and my lessons learned, so if you want the flip side, you'll have to ask Alex himself about what his thoughts are.

Our first year of marriage was...difficult. Very rewarding, but very difficult (most married folks are probably not surprised by this). Two young twenty-somethings trying to figure out what it is like to share everything (not parts), but EVERYTHING with another person. The good, the bad, the positive traits, the faults, the hurts, the disappointments, etc.

Two very stubborn people who were going to figure this marriage thing out, on our own, with little consideration of the other person. It sounds really silly, but it's true. It is very easy to create expectations for the other person without actually considering the other person. The same is true of expectations for yourself.

So here's a list of things I have learned about myself and marriage through our countless discussions, disagreements, and prayer. (And of course, from the wisdom of countless friends and family members)

1) Maturity and wisdom come with time, not with a marriage license. Every day, we are learning and growing together. It's really a beautiful thing. Every day, I can choose to grow with Alex, or I can choose to grow apart from him. A lot of prayer and reflection continually reminds me to grow WITH him.

2) I have more control of the peace or discord in our home than I ever realized. I have tendencies  to be critical and to complain--about anything. It really has a poisonous effect in our home. Not only can it make Alex feel inadequate, but it doesn't contribute to love and peace in our home. Discussion that is productive solves problems, complaining and nagging adds to them. For me, changing my heart to a heart of thankfulness and praise is something I need to pray for DAILY. I fail all of the time, but this has been a conviction of mine that I strive to work on every day.

3) Comparing is a very dangerous game. What Alex and I share is unique. The Lord has given us gifts and personality traits all our own. It is not fair to every compare our marriage to anyone else's. Likewise, it is not fair for me to compare him to any other husband. We both have godly people in our lives with whom we admire and strive to be similar to in our disciplines and desires, but we cannot copy or have a marriage like anyone else's. I have been guilty of comparing Alex to other husbands, and for that, I have had to apologize and really focus on why I love and married him. One thing that has really helped me is praying for him. When I pray for him, his job, and his character, I notice thankfulness for him coming more naturally. When I focus on wanting the best for him and on being the person who goes through life with him, I am encouraged and find loving and encouraging him to be a lot easier. I also like to reflect on the qualities he possesses that I love about him. This is also a daily thing. It seems like every day, I think about something different I love about him, and I think this is also true in every season of life.

4) My identity is in Christ, not in Alex or being his wife. I have noticed a direct correlation between my relationship with Christ and my relationship with Alex. When I am spending time in His word and prayer and when I am trusting in God's plans over my own, I notice a lot more peace in our relationship. I am able to love and serve Alex, but as an out pour of the love I receive from the Lord. When I skip out on quiet times, or when I "don't have time" for prayer, I notice my patience runs thin, I constantly seek approval from Alex, and I rely on him to fulfill all of my needs (which he cannot do, nor should he have to!).

5) I have women in my life who encourage and challenge me. These women listen to my hurts, but never let me complain or insult Alex. I am constantly challenged to reflect on my part in any situation and how I can make it better. I am also encouraged to look to Christ in any and all situations.

6) Prayer changes more than I am capable of. Like I said, I am a natural complainer. I have noticed that when I pray about things before complaining (or shortly after repenting about it), there is always a heart change following. My heart has changed a lot regarding things I was very stubborn about, and Alex has had several heart changes as well. This did not come from complaining or whining, but giving those situations to the Lord and praying for His will in everything.

7) On May 25, 2013, I chose Alex for life. I have to  continue to choose him every day, and honestly, given any other option, I would choose him over anyone else. Even in the hard times.

In my walk with Christ, I strive for 3 things: a heart that loves, a heart that is vulnerable, and a heart that is authentic. This short list of things I have learned serves as a reminder to me. I have not perfected any of the above, but it is what I have to work on every single day. I also realize that the challenges don't stop after the first year, and I know that there will be many more lessons and insights. I really am happy to talk about my struggles (I know, weird) and how the Lord works in my life, so seriously...if you want to talk, reach out to me!

"Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one", answered Jesus," is this: Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12: 28b-31

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Lifelong Struggle With Christianity (and the Church)

I have had a lifelong struggle with Christianity and the Church.

Well, maybe that's a little bit fabricated because if you knew me as a child, you know that I really loved singing and dancing along to "Father Abraham" and reading through my picture Bible.

I guess my real struggle with Christianity (and the Church) came in high school and lasted all until about last year.

Throughout my teens (and early 20's), I really struggled with insecurity and wanting to belong (shocker!). Because of this, I had some "good" church friends, and some "bad" party friends. Herein-lies my first struggle: the constant comparison between "good" and "bad." I was labeled "good"  by some of my "bad" friends and "bad" by some of my "good" friends. I cringed a little bit when myself and others would share their testimony and say "I used to hang out with really bad people. It made me do really bad things and then I found Jesus and my life is good." Good, bad, good, bad.

I then struggled with how the words "good" and "bad" were defined. Because some of my "good" Christian friends (myself included) were making some of the exact same decisions the "bad" people were making. Were we "good" because we went to church and knew what to say and do to hide it?

 My second struggle was this: why are we labeling and judging people "good" or "bad"? Why aren't we loving and welcoming to the "bad" people? Why do us "good" Christians need to hide our struggles? Why do I need a relationship with Jesus if I can be "good" or "bad" without Him?

I became extremely resentful of the Church and how easy it is to be superficial and to answer every Sunday school answer as "Jesus" and still feel so lost.

I let these feelings become excuses. I let resentment due to my perceptions shape my belief system. I let others control my faith.

Like I said, these are all the views of a very impressionable, insecure girl. A girl who has been judged (and judged others). A girl who doesn't always give grace but expects it from others. A girl who spent a lot of nights making decisions not because she was "bad" but because she was very lost and looking for somewhere to belong. A girl who had taken on the very same attitudes she was accusing the Church of having.

If you look past the things I said about the Christianity and Church, you will see a  reoccurring theme. All of my views were shaped on my selfishness and my expectations. I was excusing my sin by fixating on the flaws of the people of the Church. I also missed entirely what a relationship with Jesus was all about...

At the end of the day, I am accountable for one and only one person's life. And that's my own. I do believe that at the end of our lives, we will all stand before Christ and give an account for each of our lives.

Because of this, I want to love the Church  ("Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and give himself up for it." Ephesians 5:25). (If we were all perfect, why would he have to die for us!?)

 I want to follow Christ's example and instruction ("Jesus replied 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matthew 22:37-39  and "Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28: 18-20 )

I want to stop judging (Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:7)