Be Beautiful.

I bet if we asked every person in the world what beauty is, we would get a million different answers. You see.. beauty is the perception of an object, a person, an aspect. It is a fully formed opinion and cannot be proven by fact or law since it is completely based on a person’s mind and what that mind distinguishes. They say there are two categories of beauty out there… inner beauty and outer beauty. Does inner beauty not show through the outside, though? I would prefer to distinguish them based on beauty of the mind, heart, and soul and physical beauty. Physical beauty would include those things that catch the eye… you know… appearance, complexion, eyes, smile, body and yada yada. Beauty of the mind, heart, and soul would be comprised of characteristics, traits, and the personality. Both of these types of beauty have an effect on people in various ways, so which beauty should we be focusing on?

You have a beauty that is based on character… attitude… charisma.. personality… the expression of who someone is. You have a person who is confident, elegant, classy, tasteful, respectful of others, optimistic, glowing with happiness… yet you as a society want to steal that kind of beauty from them because they may not be as physically attractive as the person standing next to them. You want to put the idea into their mind that inner beauty… the beauty of the mind, heart and soul… is something that people use to refer to those who are physically “ugly” just to make them feel better about themselves. Shame on you. Look in the mirror. Search your heart. SHAME. ON. YOU.

Let me share with you why that physical beauty you seek so hard for is just not as important as having beauty within. “Inner beauty” holds no lies and it attracts the heart. It is a beauty that is not temporary, it is enduring. It is what makes everyone so uniquely different in  world where everyone is physically trying to be the same. It is a beauty that will never cease to exist because it creates a lasting impression on those who are exposed to it.

Our society encourages women… and men for that matter to cultivate a beauty that is skin-deep. God tells us to pursue an inner beauty of great worth. If you focus on inner beauty, fear God, and live to SERVE OTHERS, you will make a difference in people’s lives. Your BEAUTY will make an impact on the lives you touch.

Search yourself. I am so challenging you right now. What kind of beauty are you trying to cultivate? Are you intentionally working on your heart, mind, and soul… or are you giving more attention to your outer appearance? The way we think about and attend to our personal appearance is really a mirror of our hearts. Think about this: we either reflect godly motivations or selfish motivations. It reveals whether our priority is to cultivate beauty within us or outer beauty.

Let’s continue this heart check… trust me, it’s 2017- we ALL are guilty of caring too much about our physical appearance with the wrong intentions. This is a good way to keep our hearts and minds focused on what is right… what is true beauty. Do you spend more time daily caring for your personal appearance than you do in Bible study, prayer, and worship? Well that was a slap in the face wasn’t it? Do you spend excessive money on clothes, hair, and makeup, or is it an amount that is God-honoring?

Let’s talk about wellness….. do you want to lose weight to “feel better about yourself” or do you desire to be self-disciplined for the glory of God? Are you on a quest for thinness to impress others, or do you seek to have good eating habits that honor God? Do you exercise to try to create or maintain a “good figure” so that others will find you attractive or do you exercise to strengthen your body for God’s service?

Now on to being grateful and uplifting of others… is there anything about your appearance that you wish you could change, or are you grateful to God for the way he created you, in his image? Are you jealous of the appearance of others? Do you wish you had the wardrobe of others or are you happy for them when they are able to afford a new outfit? When you attend an event or activity… do you sinfully compare yourself with others, or do you ask God to show you how to love them? And this question…. this is for a whole other blog entry, but also fits here… Do you ever dress immodestly or with the intent of drawing lustful attention to yourself, or do you dress in a manner that pleases God?

To close- I will ask again… which beauty should we be focusing on? If we ask ourselves these questions on a consistent basis- it will help us to weed out worldly values and focus more on our inner beauty and on having a heart for God’s priorities.

 

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Reliability: A Skill We Should All Master

I spoke on productivity the other day and it really made me think. There are a lot of people out there who are more productive than we realize, they just aren’t reliable when it comes to the delivery of their productivity. I get that changing tardy, unreliable ways is much easier said than done. It means shifting your focus to other people (by the way that’s the cornerstone of adulting). It means being completely honest, even when it’s uncomfortable or means you’re letting someone down. It means being able to say no when necessary. That’s really scary stuff, I’m aware- but it is very possible to become the most reliable, trustworthy person ever. Whether it’s at work, hanging out with your friends, with your family, or among your extra curricular activities. I’m going to try my best to share some of the things I do to keep myself accountable and reliable.

First of all, I try not to over-promise. It’s really tempting for someone like me who loves to be involved with everything (to a fault) to say yes to everything! It’s in an effort to be agreeable, nice, and thoughtful. You have to remember these good intentions can backfire when you take on too much and then can’t deliver. If you aren’t sure of how much you’re able to take on- weigh the pros and cons of what you’re being asked to do and take some time before you respond. Sometimes saying “no” is the more thoughtful response.

Believe it or not- you should say yes more often than not. I get that you’re super busy (we all are: it’s 2017- it’s not a time of sitting at home on our tushes and twiddling our thumbs) I don’t want you to use your busy tendencies to cause you to take my saying no tip to the extreme. Saying no to EVERYTHING just makes you an unhelpful person and eventually people will stop even asking you for help- therefore rendering you unreliable in a different sense. Part of being reliable is that you DO provide help on a regular basis. It’s really about finding that happy medium.

With all of that being said, there are going to be times when you just can’t follow through with a commitment- and that’s your fear, right? That’s ok. There are appropriate ways to handle not being able to follow through without destroying your reliability reputation. The moment you realize you can’t hang out, or finish the project on time, or make it to the meeting- say so! You need to offer a SINCERE apology. If you care about others I shouldn’t even have to say that. Don’t hide or make excuses. Know that your lack of follow through affects others and take responsibility without shifting the blame. Make it right by handling it in a timely manner.

Now I have to sidebar- because y’all know by now that my mind is a drifter. Let’s refocus. Before you do any of these things I’m suggesting (because let’s be honest, I don’t control you and this is ultimately your reputation) YOU have to decide from now on that you’ll be a reliable person. You have to tell yourself you’ll finish what you start. You have to tell yourself… I am a person that keeps promises. You have to reassure yourself you’ll do better in your friendships, in your career and in your extracurricular activities now that you are more reliable. You should give yourself the affirmation that people respect you because you can be counted on. If you get these ideas floating around in your head- you’re more likely to stick to them!

Something I realized I didn’t care about a long time ago was receiving or demanding credit. Genuinely think that helps with the positive attitude necessary to be a reliable person. Reliability should just be a thing you DO. It isn’t something special or something you deserve praise for. If you’re demanding credit- you lose the goodwill that comes from the help you have provided. The people you have helped are completely aware so there is no need to memorialize the day… or brag about it on Facebook… or fish for compliments. If a compliment is given- say thank you and remind them… to thank God, for we do everything we do because of him.

Some of you may be sitting there mad because you don’t consider yourselves reliable and this hit home. Some of you may not even think reliability is an important trait to have. If that’s how you feel, I encourage you to ask around for opinions. Ask your peers how they feel about unreliable people. Their answers may scare or offend you- so be prepared. I’m 100% positive without any doubt in my mind you’ll find that NOBODY appreciates an unreliable person, so it is best to just not be one of them.

Now that you’ve decided you want to be reliable and you know what it truly means- I’m going to take it one step further and say: BE AWESOME AND OVER-DELIVER! If you agree to take on a task, promise yourself you’ll go above and beyond whenever you possibly can. Use that old saying… “under promise and over deliver” … This will SHOW PEOPLE YOU GENUINELY CARE about the work you are putting in for them. Also- under promising provides you with a little wiggle room should Murphy’s Law kick in and everything that could go wrong actually does.

Hanging out with other reliable people can seriously rub off on you, also. No one wants to be that one friend who isn’t reliable, but if all of your friends are like that- it doesn’t really matter- so be wary if all of your friends are flaky beyond measure. Their bad habits will probably start rubbing off on you no matter how strong willed you are. It could even start bubbling over into other areas of your life. When you associate with people who are reliable, it becomes more natural for you to be more reliable. People will always take on the traits of those they associate with the most… ding ding ding that’s why choosing the right partner to do life with is so important! In short- don’t hang out with flaky people and don’t be a flake yourself.

THIS MEANS: respect everyone’s time. If you tell someone you can meet or have something done at a certain time, you have made a promise to them. Being or delivering on time shows others that you are A PERSON OF YOUR WORD. When late you’re saying… my time is more valuable than your time… and i’m finally going to call unreliability what it really is: SELFISH.

So for those of you out there who are still leaning on that selfish fence… let me share with you some perks that come with being reliable and maybe you’ll change your outlook.

Trust. Reliability is a magnet for trust. The integrity you show by being reliable and accountable draws people to you. Don’t fear that people will dump THEIR responsibilities on you… being reliable doesn’t make you a doormat, it makes you worthy of trust.

Real charisma. Reliability is proof that charisma is not a scam or manipulation. It shows you have no hidden agenda. It shows that your charisma, character, and care of others is real. You become known as the real deal- the one who gets things done. This is a PEARL in business… and in life.

Respect. So many of you demand respect without earning it. your accountability and reliability respects others and earns you their respect in return. your actions honor your promises to them. What you do respects their needs and uplifts them. This brings you the respect, gratitude, and loyalty of others.

First pick. (This sounds weird I know- hear me out)… Your accountability broadcasts dependability to everyone who knows you… who doesn’t value that? Who doesn’t want someone they can depend on? Reliability makes you a first pick, a desired partner. It opens doors for you in business that your lack of experience might otherwise keep closed. It connects you with people you wouldn’t otherwise meet. It creates your image of being strong and caring. IT IS YOUR BRAND. Don’t buy into the myth that reliability is boring and predictable. You can still be inventive and spontaneous- they are not opposites.

Confidence. Having this attribute shows you have confidence and people love to be around that. You don’t shrink from challenges or responsibility and you  inspire others. It shows that you are gracious and that is a powerfully connective force. Having confidence and being able to connect with and influence others in a positive manner is one of the greatest perks to being reliable.

Safety. Interaction can be risky, even scary. Your reliability replaces the anxiety in others with safety. You don’t dump on others, you take ownership of what you say and do- and they in turn feel comfortable with you. People call you a good egg… because you don’t blame them for your interaction missteps. you account for your own behavior; you don’t attack them. Your reputation soars. This possibilities from being a reliable person are infinite.

Simplicity. AHHHHH the joy of working with someone who makes life easy and simple. Ownership instead of defensiveness. Learning instead of hiding. Success instead of detours. Your accountability and reliability makes everything SIMPLE. Now think of the doors that will open for you.

Reliability makes you easy to trust, sincere to believe, authentic to confide in, safe to approach, and effortless to be around. Remember to say yes to as much as you can. Show others you care and stop being selfish. Inspire others with the confidence you receive from knowing others can depend on you.

One last time for those who need it: reliability does not make you a doormat. You are still  in control of what you agree to take on. Find that happy medium. Make the world a better place.

Church: the Bride of Christ

Buckle up, y’all. I’m about to compare church to a relationship and some of you are going to find what I have to say really TOUGH. It will be okay and you’ll get through it.  Just have an open mind while you read, that’s all I ask. Hahaha I find this super ironic considering I never wanted to blog about relationships again.

In my past blog I never had to think of topics. It was about my dating experiences. Go on a date: boom. Blog about the train wreck. It was that simple. I’ve been praying about this blog for a while now. Months, actually. Mostly because… this is yet another thing to fit into my schedule and PLAN. Oh that dreaded word- I know most of you hate it. God has me convinced that he will lead me to topics. I’m not fooled, though. I know he is going to challenge me at some point, I’m just not sure when.

Tonight I prayed and this instantaneously popped into my mind. I had jotted several topics down and even asked a few of my close friends whose opinions I respect highly what they’d enjoy hearing my view… take… story on. Whatever you want to call it. None of those are what came to me.

The original thought that popped up was: so many people have told me lately: “I should probably go to church. I stopped going because I didn’t really like my church. I used to, but it just became lackluster.” Or “I’m really considering leaving my church, it just doesn’t feel right anymore.” Did all of them say it exactly the same way? Of course not- that’s ridiculous. They all have this same context, though.

I genuinely try to be the person who listens without judging and who guides by using God’s word and not my own opinion. In this situation… I can actually use my own personal experience, though. Did I not just tell you all yesterday I was in this same mindset at one point? Maybe for different reasons… but ultimately the same circumstance.

Here, like I had to painfully do to myself, I’m going to have to challenge you and ask… are you partially to blame for your disinterest in church? Let me back way up.

Going to church is not mandatory for your salvation. I just want to be clear before any type of argument ensues. Plenty of people who love Jesus do not attend church. God won’t be angry at you. However, God does require obedience. Hebrews 10:24-25 also clearly tells us not to give up meeting together. If in your busy schedule you can find the time to meet with other Christians and encourage each other, hold each other accountable, fellowship and study the word in the way God wants us to do… and you can do that with obedience, then no- going to church on Sunday is not a formal requirement written in the Bible.

If you cannot promise this to yourself- well you’re with the majority. You’re with that group of us that needs the church to hold us accountable for our actions. None of us are perfect. We all sin. We need to surround ourselves with people who are obediently trying to do the right thing who can hold us accountable for our actions. We need to be in a setting where we can study God’s word diligently and learn it’s meaning together so not to misinterpret it.

Let’s step back again. For those of you who say church just isn’t working for you… I have some questions. What IS IT about the church that isn’t working for you? This is where I’m going to compare the church to a relationship. Please, Lord, help people to understand where I’m going with this so not to be offended. Is there instability in the leadership of the church? Has the community of the church become toxic in some way? Are there doctrinal issues that have surfaced causing you to question this body of believers? These are all very valid reasons to leave your church… but not to leave church in general. Trust me when I say: do not blame all churches for one church’s errors. I missed out on 10 years of building a relationship with God because of that mistake. Please learn from mine.

My guess with a lot of you is… that it isn’t a big “thing,” it’s just something small… something blah. It’s like a long dating relationship (believe it or not I’ve actually had those) where one day you just wake up and you realize you want out of it. There was no infidelity or dramatic reason for breaking up. You just realized they aren’t the one for you and the magic dimmed.

If that’s your story, I get it. In my own heart, I’ve felt this too. For me- I don’t feel comfortable in the worship style, gen-xer acting as a millennial to relate to my age group Pastor type of church. Is there anything wrong with that brand of worship? Absolutely not. There are a ton of great people engaging in that community and I love that a new brand of worship has evolved that has attracted a younger generation to the church. My point here is that in the wrong atmosphere we can all feel the way you do. Most people in their 20’s and 30’s are being drawn to a stylistic approach of worship. I’m different. Call me an old soul.

In reality we are all looking for the same thing… authentic Christianity, a truer Christianity, we are looking for Jesus. The same Jesus that can be found in all of the strange places he has always been found. In bread, in wine, in baptism, in the word, in suffering, and in community.

A change in the church happens with every generation. It happened 50 years ago when we just needed more of that sweet hymnal singing, it happened 25 years ago when they no longer wanted that and preferred the rock n roll that all of the cool kids were listening to. Not to mention fewer pulpits, more humor, and significantly more hair product. Like we will continue to do 25 years from now when no telling what is in style.

My guess is that a lot of you haven’t grown tired of church. You have only grown tired of your church experience because you’re on the line of needing something different than where you’ve been. Something that fits you, and your beliefs more so than where you are. Something that makes you feel comfortable. Just as the right partner makes you feel comfortable. None of this is the church’s fault, or yours. Tastes change, romances fade, and without some measure of progress… relationships will end.

This leads me to the next question… what is it about YOU that isn’t working for the church? This question REALLY hits home for me. So I’m going to ask you the same HARD questions I had to ask myself. How’s your heart? Really. Look inside yourself and take a while to examine your attitude about the church, about your beliefs, even about your expectations. I’m asking you this because just like in a relationship, our hearts can grow bitter. Maybe in the beginning everything was flowers and happiness. You were in the honeymoon season and every sermon genuinely spoke to you! All of the music was spot-on and the community, focus on the Bible, outreach, children’s ministry, missions- everything- was like nothing you have ever seen before! Then… duhn duhn duhn (yeah that was a sound effect- a terrible one) the honeymoon phase ended. You drifted into a regular old relationship that you have to work to maintain. You have to work and make the conscious decision to keep that relationship vibrant.

So you… the ones struggling with your church and the ones who have left the church just because of the things I’ve explained above… would you entertain the idea that maybe there isn’t an issue with the church? Maybe there is a staleness in your heart? I had to entertain that idea… because my heart was stale. This isn’t an attack on your character. It is simply an educated guess based on a well-worn road where people become enchanted by the Sunday show, feel like they’re engaging in the community, never actually know others or allow themselves to be known, then wonder why they’re bored with this place.

Well DUH! They’re bored because you can’t just be a stagnant spouse and expect to have a marriage that is successful. You have to PARTICIPATE. You have to laugh together, fight, apologize, and remember why it is you fell in love in the first place. Can I get an Amen?

This leads me to my final question I want to ask you… what is the point of church?

The reason you fell in love with and were/are drawn to church is because church is the bride of Christ. Yep, y’all it’s THAT kind of relationship. It “ain’t” one of consumerism, or catchphrases, or meaningless logos. It’s one of a marital bond. To put it more beautifully than anything I could EVER write:

“HUSBANDS, LOVE YOUR WIVES, JUST AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER TO MAKE HER HOLY, CLEANSING HER BY THE WASHING WITH WATER THROUGH THE WORD, AND TO PRESENT HER TO HIMSELF AS A RADIANT CHURCH, WITHOUT STAIN OR WRINKLE OR ANY OTHER BLEMISH, BUT HOLY AND BLAMELESS. IN THIS SAME WAY, HUSBANDS OUGHT TO LOVE THEIR WIVES AS THEIR OWN BODIES. HE WHO LOVES HIS WIFE LOVES HIMSELF. AFTER ALL, NO ONE EVER HATED THEIR OWN BODY, BUT THEY FEED AND CARE FOR THEIR BODY, JUST AS CHRIST DOES THE CHURCH—FOR WE ARE MEMBERS OF HIS BODY … FOR THIS REASON A MAN WILL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE UNITED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO WILL BECOME ONE FLESH. THIS IS A PROFOUND MYSTERY—BUT I AM TALKING ABOUT CHRIST AND THE CHURCH.” (EPHESIANS 5:25-32)

So even though I said earlier that it does not directly command us in the Bible to go to church, this is why we go… because Jesus says the church matters. He loves the church and you love him. So even if you feel a disconnect with your church, or you’re further than disconnected and you have actually left the church. I encourage you to search yourself. It’s up to you and God whether you should stay and rekindle and repair the situation or whether you should mourn the loss and move on. I’m hopeful that my story will help you to see that while you may be quitting on – or may have already quit YOUR church, that you shouldn’t quit on THE church.

Take it from thousands of years of Christians- the church is still relevant. It may look different and feel dysfunctional at times. It may even lose its footing, but it is still the best option for finding and maintaining a relationship with Jesus Christ.

May we always remember how beautiful the bride is.

 

Passion = Productivity.

 

I’m back, y’all- but in a totally different capacity. I broke away from relationship blogging a year and a half ago, potentially longer. Mostly because it was depressing, but also because it was bringing me no positivity- only further discouragement. I realize my negative experiences gave others entertainment and honestly it was fun to write, but in reality- that was my life. A bunch of negative dating.

I put my time and energy into something else and the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I get asked SO often how I can possibly have time to do what I do and have so much productivity with such little time, so I decided to blog about it, explain it, and maybe help someone else discover their passion so they can be productive with it as well.

First I would like for you to know a little bit about me in case you don’t already. I’m a 31 year old who has never been married and I have no kids of my own. I have several chillenz in my life I could easily call my own, though- thanks to my incredible friends and church family. My father is completely blind and has been since I was in highschool: This will be important for you to know and understand in the future. I am a full time professional makeup artist, which allows me to have a very flexible, but simultaneously very time consuming schedule. Yes- that’s a real job. For those of you reading who think you can’t do something you love and get paid for it someone along the way has led you down the wrong path of thinking. Work hard and you can do whatever you want.

Now… a little history. I was never raised in church. I did attend a few youth groups as a middle schooler and high schooler, but was never an active church member and frankly knew nothing about religion. My parents were good people. We had a great life. I was treated well and grew up very fortunately, but we were missing God in our lives. When I graduated high school I dated someone who was actively involved in church and became a very active participant myself. This is when I was saved and baptized (19 years old). Some very wrong and by wrong I mean- sexually inappropriate things (not to me, but to a very close friend)- happened within the church and it really turned my stomach. I was one of those people who made that excuse… church is full of hypocrites- there is no point in going. In my life before church I never saw things like this happen, and I wasn’t sheltered. I’m going to keep that story short and vague. Essentially I was turned off. It was handled appropriately and I have the utmost respect for the other members of said church now, but at the time I just couldn’t open my eyes because I was so discouraged.

Then in my mid twenties I came back around to going to church with my parents. I’m not sure what drew me there, but something did. The only thing I participated in was choir. I would volunteer for something here and there but nothing major. I was still detached. I never blamed God for this detachment, but … I wrongfully put my faith in people and this was why I kept becoming disappointed. Again, I drifted. I don’t know if I wasn’t ready to see the big picture… I’m not sure where my lack of interest was, but my faith was not strong. My parents at this point had been saved for around 5 years and I saw a huge change in their lives, but I was still simple minded when it came to church or organized religion as I referred to it as for so long.

More years went by.. and one day when I was 30 I woke up and said – I’m going to church with mom and dad this weekend. I saw such a change in my dad from the time he first started going blind to now that I just couldn’t deny the fact that God was 100% a part of putting him in the right place. When I say God performed a miracle on my dad- he HAD to cause him to go blind in order to change who he was as a person. You HAVE to have faith when you see the drastic complete change that I witnessed. Dad asked me to do a special song that day and called his Pastor, now my Pastor… and arranged it. I sang Victory in Jesus. (Now my favorite song). I saw tears, smiles, gratitude, sadness… so many emotions when I looked into the congregation that I had to close my eyes to make it through the song without getting emotional myself. My now church family welcomed me with warm… open hearts, genuine words, and a sense of family I had never felt anywhere else. I knew immediately that I was where I was meant to be and have only missed one Sunday since due to uncontrollable circumstances.

What does that have to do with time and being productive, Leah? I needed to disclose all of that to get here. This place has become such a home to me that I actively participate in everything I possibly can. Is that everything the church does? No. God knows we have to work to live our lives. He only expects from us what we can give and I have personally chosen to give everything I can to the youth within my church. When you know you are where you’re supposed to be… and you want to be involved, do it. The timing will work out as long as you make the effort for it to.

We make time for things we are passionate about. When you are in the right place, you WILL be on fire for God. If you aren’t, that’s some soul searching you need to do within yourself. When you have that fire lit inside of you- he WILL lead you in the direction you need to go in.

If someone would have told me two years ago I would be actively involved with the youth in my church I would have literally laughed in their face. Now, I miss them every day that I don’t see them. I had ZERO qualifications for leading youth, counseling youth, or planning youth activities… ZERO. God knew… and buddy he led me FAST. I would literally pray about things before bed and wake up with an entire plan or set of ideas. It’s incredible what wisdom he will equip you with WHEN YOU ARE READY. When you surrender to him.

But how do I do my full-time job and do so much within the church? PLANNING. I set aside planning hours. When you care about something- you just have to do that. It’s no different than anything else in life. Of course you have to be flexible because your plans probably won’t all go the way you anticipated, but that’s the beauty of being involved with the youth. It keeps you young and on your toes.

No, I don’t have my own family that I dedicate my time to, so that probably does make it a little different for me, but you don’t HAVE to be the planner to be involved. You can simply volunteer and be active when it’s convenient for you. The point of this all- as messy as it is written in comparison to the things I normally write, is that when you find your passion- you can always make the time. No
Matter how busy you are with life. It takes dedication, it takes action, it takes control of your life. It keeps you on the right path and forces you to hold yourself accountable. It MAKES YOU A BETTER PERSON.

What are the gifts that God gave you and how will you take the time to use them? Will you set aside a few hours a week to serve the one who gave you life? Or will you live it selfishly under control of the devil?

It is really just a choice that stands between the want to do something and the action of doing something. That choice is to get started or keep putting it off for another day. Make the one God is pulling you to make.