One Word for the Year

If I am ever asked to describe 2020 in one word, I think I would struggle to pick one right off the bat. How do you describe a year that has been unlike anything you’ve ever experienced? How do you describe a year that has been somewhat beautiful but also devastating? How would you describe 2020 in one word?

Just like any year, we’ve all experienced many different seasons and changes within 2020. I think this time around though, we’ve had more time to reflect on the year. When I think back to what my life looked like in January of the year, I remember feeling very anxious, overwhelmed, and somewhat lost. I didn’t know what this year was going to look like. I thought I needed to have a game plan for the year and know exactly how I wanted my life to play out. I thought I needed to fix myself in a lot of ways but didn’t know how or where to start. I felt busy, tensed, and pressurized.

I spent a few moments this morning reflecting on this past year. For me, the way I view this year is in multiple different seasons. Looking back at my journal, I had to break this year up into four different parts. This helps me to understand where I have grown and what areas of my life still need some shifting.

To answer the original question of this post, I think I would describe this year as complex. According to Google, the definition of complex is “consisting of many different and connected parts“.

I think this word could be used to describe many different years in our lives. But, the reason I chose it for 2020, is because I am starting to see how God used all the parts of this year to shift my attention, focus, and mindset back on Him.

When I look back on this year, I can see that many different struggles, months, and seasons contained different parts of my story, my growing, and my becoming. I can also see how the events around the world greatly affected my personal life and how it is related to my story as well. Most of all though, I see how I struggled with things at the beginning of the year that I don’t struggle with anymore, or at least not as much, mainly because God has shifted my view and perspective on things.

Certain things have to happen in your life in a certain way to have a certain outcome that God can later use for His Kingdom.

I’m not sure what ways or outcomes this year has brought you. But, I believe that this year was not wasted time. Some things might not have gone the way you thought. Heck, things might not be going the way you thought as you are reading this. However, God’s love is still evident even here.

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. – Romans 8:27-29

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:37-39

Our Creator has always had a plan. His plan is still in process for this year as well. He is working all things out for your good. Even the things that are tough, hurtful, and difficult to overcome.

The beauty of this life is that we don’t have to have all the answers and know all the ways things will work out. Because our God already knows. He already won the victory when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We already have freedom and an inheritance waiting in heaven.

Remember this, life can be beautiful. Life can be tough. Life can seem like it will last forever. However, this life is only temporary.

We’re able to take this life day by day. We don’t have to do this life alone either. We can rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us, shape us, and grow us in this lifetime. We can lean on one another and learn from one another as we go through life as well.

I want to challenge you to take some time either today or this week and reflect on this past year. Remember the different parts and challenges it brought. Remember the different emotions you might have been feeling and the different events that took place and those that didn’t happen as you thought they would. Think about how you felt and what you struggle with at the beginning of the year, and if any of those feelings or challenges have changed for you.

I hope this challenge will help you to see the growth you’ve made over the past year. I also hope it will encourage you to set some new goals for the month of December or going into the new year.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

With love,

Claire

Fruit of the Spirit: SELF-CONTROL

Hi friends! Today we are wrapping up our Fruit of the Spirit blog series with self-control. I am excited to share this blog post with you and even more excited for what is to come in the future 🙂 alrighty, let’s jump in.

WHAT IS SELF-CONTROL:

There is not a very clear definition for the meaning of self-control in the Bible, but in Proverbs 25:28, we are given a picture of what life looks like without self-control.

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. – Proverbs 25:28

When I think of this verse, I picture this image of people easily coming into a city, offering their opinions of how things should change within the city, and not many people are there to defend it. For us, I think realistically that can look like Satan entering our minds and twisting our emotions for us to act in the way Satan wants us to. Self-control for me is being intentional and mindful about your decisions, your words, and your actions.

GOOD INTENTIONS, BAD DECISIONS:

Growing up, I had this motto (and I still use it), “always do the right thing”. Over the years, I have been able to acknowledge that just because I have good intentions going into a situation does not mean that I am not sinning.

So picture this: I go to school. My friend, Sally Sue, comes up to me. She starts being really mean, calling me a bunch of bad names, and just tears me down. Say this just really upsets me. I go to the bathroom, I’m really emotional, and my friend Alice comes in. She asks what’s going on, is everything okay. In my mind, I’m thinking “okay Claire, tell Alice what’s going on because once you get it off your chest, you’re gonna be able to go back out and love on people and not let this ruin your day”.

So I tell Alice what happened. BUT I talk about the situation with my opinion, my feelings, and my emotions. Technically, this makes me feel better and I can calm down, but by calling Sally Sue rude and mean, I just gossiped about her to a friend. Who then might say what I said to someone else. See where I’m going?

I think in life we can be so focused on what’s in front of us, but forget to check our blind spot. When you’re in a car, if you are only focused on the road in front of you and don’t check your blind spot, you might hit a car when changing lanes. Your intentions were good because you were focusing on the road in front of you, trying to pay attention and not cause a wreck. But you forgot to check the blind spot.

We can have great intentions on making good decisions, but if we don’t check if our decisions are aligning with God’s word, then we can still fall into sin.

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. – Proverbs 16:2-4

The way we see it might look pure to us, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a sin.

LEARN TO USE CONTROL:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. – Titus 2:11-14

I think an important reason to study God’s word is to learn wisdom from Him. He wants us to live a holy and upright life. He wants us to understand what breaks His heart. By studying and memorizing scripture, we are able to be equipped with the word and take it with us in life.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:17

If you go into a battle without a weapon and say “I don’t need it, I’m gonna win the war without it”, you might lose the war because you weren’t prepared and equipped for the battle. God wants us to use His word as our sword for battle. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus fought back with scripture. It’s important to take the time to memorize and understand the power of God’s word.

I want to challenge you today by memorizing one of the verses mentioned in this blog post. Remember, self-control is about controlling our desires, our feelings, and our emotions, which can easily be tempted by Satan. I hope this week you are able to look at your blind spot in situations and use God’s word to help you make your decisions.

With love,

Claire

Fruit of the Spirit: GENTLENESS

Over the past few weeks, we have learned about what it means to live a holy and pleasing life for the Lord. We have talked about living a life full of faith, being kind to others, and seeking joy during difficult circumstances. Today, I want to continue this series with gentleness.

WHAT IS GENTLENESS:

When the Bible mentions gentleness, most of the time, it is speaking about how we should act gently with one another.

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” – 1 Peter 3:14-15

What I find so interesting and wonderful about the different attributes of the fruit of the Spirit, is that they are all somewhat connected to each other. For example, gentleness is related much to kindness and love. But just by living in a manner that is holy to God, we are embracing all the attributes of the Spirit in a united way.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:1-2

WHAT DOES THE LORD TEACH US ABOUT GENTLENESS:

When I think of the word gentleness, I think of my words. The words that I chose to use when speaking with others and the meaning behind those words. Many things flow from our heart, but one that is deadly to ourselves and those around us are the words we speak.

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” – Matthew 15:18-19

Think about it, when we are connecting and interacting with each other, the majority of the time, we are speaking words to others. But the question is “Are we using a gentle heart when speaking to those around us?”

Here’s where I don’t want to confuse you though. Having a gentle heart does not mean you are a pushover. It doesn’t mean things don’t bother you or you can’t stand up for yourself. You totally can. But it is in the way you do it that is the kicker. The attitude you use, the way you speak your words, and the meaning behind it.

I have been reading a book called “Speak Love” by Annie Downs. I recently found it at Barnes and Noble, and I truly just thought “You know, I need to take the time to get better at learning to be more mindful of the words I speak and acknowledge when my words can hurt.” But one point Annie brings up is that we learn how to act in a holy manner by learning about God.

“God is our example. How God uses His words is how we can learn to use ours.” – Annie Downs

We see God using His words to create life at the beginning of Genesis. We also see God using His words through the life of Jesus. When Jesus was ministering or fellowshipping with His disciples, Jesus would stand up for Himself and His Father even when people tried to attack Him. However, He did it gently.

I truly think the reason Jesus was able to speak in such a way (other than being God Himself) was that He loved everyone around Him. His heart was good, gentle, kind, and true and it allowed Him to speak gently and lovingly to those around Him.

LIVING WITH A GENTLE HEART:

I don’t have a perfect answer for living with a gentle heart, but I can tell you the things I try to do.

Learn from God’s words. Reading scripture and meditating on how God speaks to those, such as Abraham, Moses, and Noah gives me a way of how I should handle my interactions with those around me. And learning about how Jesus speaks to those around Him, gives me hope that I can speak truth in the life of others because of the power of the Holy Spirit.

“for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” – Luke 12:12

Set your mind on things above. I was reminded this past week that in a lot of situations when I get frustrated, overwhelmed, or confused in life, things really aren’t as bad as they seem. And things could always be worse. We will suffer in this life. But remember that this is our temporary home and a heavenly kingdom is in store for us in the future.

“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.” – Hebrews 11:16

Be mindful and take your time. It is very important to allow yourself time to think before you speak. I think we live in such a busy and rushed world that we are used to immediately putting our words on paper or out into the world. But, it is perfectly okay to take time with your words.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” – James 1:19

I hope that this week, you can not only see how God is speaking to you in different ways around you, but you can learn more about how God sees you and loves you. Be gentle with those around you and with yourself. Take things day by day and focus on the present place God has you in.

With love,

Claire

Fruit of the Spirit: FAITHFULNESS

WHAT IS FAITHFULNESS:

Faithfulness means to be full of faith. It is a way in which we can show God our trust, loyalty, and obedience to Him. In Hebrews chapter 11, the author talks much about what faith is and reminds us of many people in the Bible who walked with faith.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. – Hebrews 11:1-3

We cannot always see how God’s plans are going to come to us or how they will play out. We cannot always see that God is working for us, even when it feels like everything is going wrong. However, by having faith, we can trust and have confidence that God is working all things out for our good. He is trying to teach us, guide us, and fulfill His plans through us.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. – Hebrews 11:6-7

When God told Noah to build an ark because the Lord was going to flood the earth, he did. Even though Noah could not see the future that God had in store, he still trusted and obeyed God. He did exactly what was told of him.

HOW IS GOD FAITHFUL:

I think God is faithful in an abundance of ways to us. A lot of the time, God is faithful to you and others around you in different ways and circumstances. Maybe, you prayed for your purpose to be shown to you, and God fulfilled it and rewarded you with a job. Maybe you dealt with some difficult circumstances in life or got your heartbroken. God might have shown His faithfulness to you by offering you time to heal and giving you friends and family members to help you get through those times.

His faithfulness might be shown to us in different ways, but overall, God is faithful. We all are unified by many faithful actions God has already done as well. A major example is that God was faithful by sending His Son to sacrifice Himself and die so that we may have eternal life with Him.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:16-17

The Lord promised that a Messiah would eventually come to save God’s people long ago. Eventually, Jesus was born and shed His blood for our sins, so that we may live and walk with Him. God wanted you to be apart of His kingdom, so He fulfilled that promise He made long ago and made a way for that to happen.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

WALK BY FAITH:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. – James 1:5-8

I can’t give you one simple and easy answer to the question of how to live by faith. But I can tell you that a life with faith means walking, trusting, obeying, and approaching God with confidence in who He says He is and what He says He will do.

Walking by faith is not just about believing in God though. It says in the book of James that even the demons believed. A life full of faith calls for us to not only believe in God but to live out our lives faithfully, by our actions and our words.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. – James 2:18-26

Set your heart and mind on God’s word, His character, and His love. Remind yourself of the moments in your life where God showed His faithfulness to you. Reflect on how Jesus obeyed and walked by faith in His Father. Learn from those in the Bible, like Noah, Abraham, and Rahab, who have each shown us their faith. Allow this to not only let you see God’s promises become fulfilled but also let your mind and heart be reminded that we can walk by faith as well.

With love,

Claire