As you may know, I recently turned twenty-three. It's a pretty significant age, if you ask me. It's my first year of adulthood. My first year of being completely independent: financially, emotionally, physically. I'm making the money, paying the bills, feeding the... well, feeding me. It's a really incredible experience, one that I am ever thankful for. I'll never get tired of looking at the glowing lamp and thinking "hey, I paid for that to be lit"! But with all of this added responsibility comes a lot of other things: stress, worry, monotony. I find myself looking back on this last year of my life with a lot of questions: where did it go? What have I accomplished? What is my purpose?Whether you're experiencing this first year of freedom/independence/adulthood alongside me or you're a weathered veteran one thing is certain: it's easy to get bogged down. So I have adopted a phrase, one that I repeat to myself as a little reminder every day... a motto, if you will: fresh manna.To me, fresh manna is a lifestyle. In the bible, we are first introduced to manna in Exodus 16. It's a promise that God gives to His people and also a lesson in obedience. He provides manna each night and the Israelites are to collect just enough for each member of their household. We're told that though some collect much and some collect little they all (miraculously) end up with just enough for the day. Those who try to save for the next day awaken to find it infested with maggots and beginning to smell.Though we aren't living in a time when we are actually to go out and collect manna each day (I think that's why Panera Bread Company was created), I've found much happiness and contentment in applying the same principles to my life. I wake up each day and focus on the fact that today is a new beginning. There is no use clinging to the blessings or frustrations of yesterday and no merit in worrying over what tomorrow will bring. Each moment should be lived to the fullest and appreciated for what it is because it can't be saved for tomorrow. God will provide just enough for you each day... and even if you look at your peers and think "they have so many more blessings" you can rest in knowing that God will provide just enough for each of us every day... He's good like that. I think present day society would call him an "equal opportunity" God.So when you're feeling a little stale or getting lost in the monotony and looking to the future for comfort, remember that everyday we're given fresh manna.
This is a letter I recently wrote. It is very raw and very real, but I'm sharing it in the hopes that you'll be able to see the what God has been doing in my life. And how, if you just let Him, He will teach you incredible lessons about His will for your life and His bigger picture if you just let go and listen.
You are a lot of things. Friend. Son. Uncle. Student. Musician. Lyricist. Hugger. Encourager. There is one thing you are not, though. Not to me, at least: boyfriend.
It took me long enough to realize it, didn’t it? It’s been almost a year: a year of trying to make you into something that you are not. I so desperately wanted you to fill a specific place in my life. Just like a child trying desperately to solve a jigsaw puzzle, I was trying to alter your curves and edges to fit into the place I thought that you should.
You displayed so many of the necessary characteristics: you were the right color, had three peninsulas and a rounded corner… but your proportions were off, ever so slightly. I could warp the cardboard and shove you temporarily into that place I was scraping to fill, but it was obvious something was not right. Despite my manipulations and best attempts to make you fit, there were still gaps. You were aching to burst free, to find the place where you actually fit.
But what was I supposed to do? Sure, there were hundreds of other puzzle pieces waiting on the sideline, all looking for their place as well. And yes, one of those pieces was the one I was searching for, the one with the exact color, proportions, curves and edges to fit where I needed it. And somewhere inside of me I knew that when I found it the picture would come together beautifully, with none of the gaps or wrinkles left from trying to shove you into that place. However, patience has never been my strong suit. I didn’t want to go through the time and effort to find that piece I needed when I had one that was almost an exact match right in front of me. Almost.
I was missing something, though. As cliché as it may be, I was missing the bigger picture. It never occurred to me that while you wouldn’t fit where I wanted you to fit, you were… you are… still integral to the picture of my life. There is a place in my story where you fit perfectly. A spot only your colors and curves and edges will fulfill. I still need you, just not in the way I once thought I did.
So this is my apology. I am sorry for trying to make you into that one thing you are not. I am sorry for repeatedly trying to shove you into the missing space in my puzzle. I am sorry for bending your cardboard and warping your picture. But, most of all, I am sorry for not realizing your potential to fit perfectly elsewhere in the picture of my life and for not realizing that your unique curves, edges and colors are a beautiful and necessary exactly the way they are.
There are some words that you just associate with certain things. Peace is one of those words. I automatically associate peace with hippies and Christmas. (What? Laugh all you want, but you know it's the truth.) Peace was not, however, one of those words that I associated with myself.This is not to say that I have some sort of constant inner turmoil, I've just never really connected myself with "peace." My mind is in a general state of racing, my thoughts are always on the next thing and my worries are often focused on the decisions of tomorrow. But in this season of my life, God is showing me time and time again how, if I just trust Him, the peace of the Holy Spirit can be absolutely overwhelming.Philippians 4:6-7 has become vitally important and relevant to my life as a post-grad. The words have transcended ink on a page and become a rock to which I cling day after day. I find solace in their meaning and hope in their promise."Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."There have been a few situations in my life recently that have plagued my mind: try and try as I might, I could not make a decision, solve a problem, "fix" my life. Eventually, I gave up. I realized that I was not the one in power. They were not my decisions to make, my problems to solve, my life to fix. So I began praying: constantly, fervently, urgently. You would not believe the response. The moment I stopped worrying about these things and turned them over to God and trusted that He had the answers I was looking for an unspeakable peace swept over me. The only thing that mattered was that I had a God who was much bigger than all of my "problems".But the best part? Within days of giving everything over to God I begin to see Him working in my life. And that peace never leaves me. Decisions are made easy when you know that you've considered them prayerfully and can feel God's hand pointing you in the right direction. And sure, new problems arise and new decisions have to be made, but our God is unfailing. He is greater, stronger, higher than any other.So now, after months of faithfully living Philippians 4:6-7, I have a new word association. When I hear peace, I think of myself. A twenty-two-year-old girl who is ready to take on the world. A girl who is unfazed by big decisions and unafraid of life changes. A girl who is filled with God and His peace, which truly does transcend all understanding.
I’ve always been a huge proponent of the phrase “view the world through rose-colored glasses.” I mean, what a great phrase! While it is often used in a negative sense, belittling the person it’s bestowed upon. It paints them as shallow, dense, naive, immature… they have no clue what is really going on in the world, no idea of the bad, the hurt, the pain that exists. I, however, always enjoyed the phrase. I choose to see the person as optimistic and eternal: they know of the bad, the hurt, the pain but they choose to focus on the good, the happy, the beauty. They have the right idea. And I, of course, always pictured the glasses as the stereotypically 70s (or was it 80s?) glasses like those Kate Hudson sports on the infamous cover of Almost Famous, which gives the person in my mind that air of effortlessly cool.
But I’m getting away from my point. I was at my bible study and one of our leaders said, almost in passing, that God sees us through Jesus’ blood. But the statement was not lost on me: it struck the deepest chord in my heart. This God we love and serve and worship, He sees us as perfect and sinless and blameless, as His son Jesus was. Jesus, who’s blood covers all of the bad that we do on a daily basis. And the more I though about it, the more I related it to the figurative “rose-colored glasses”. Every morning, God wakes up (in theory… I’m sure there’s no sleeping on His agenda) and dons His rose-colored glasses, the lenses made up of Jesus’ blood. Those glasses allow Him to see me, you, everyone as perfect, something we all know we are far from. Those glasses enable his faultless grace, his depthless mercy, his endless love. Those glasses allow for the salvation of each and every one of our souls, if we so choose to accept Jesus as our savior and let his blood cover us.
How beautiful is that? I have chills. And, in appreciation, I’m going to try to view my world through rose-colored glasses as often as possible. I know that there is evil, heartbreak and death… but I’m going to make a concerted effort to see the good, healing and life.
As I was doing my homework for bible study last night one of the statements struck a chord with me. "Often, the desire to know is in direct opposition to the desire to trust." I read back over and over it countless times, astonished at what I was reading. That one sentence expresses so much of the frustration I have with myself and society in general and explains so much.I personally find that one of my biggest struggles with my faith is trust. I trust in God. I trust in His will. I trust in His son. I trust in His perfect plan for my life. However, sometimes I negate that trust with my statements. For example: I am the queen of saying things like "I know that God has the perfect husband picked out for me... I just wish I could know who he was, or at least where or when I'll meet him." Now, let's revisit what my bible study said: Often, the desire to know is in direct opposition to the desire to trust. RIGHT?!So the more I thought about this, the more my eyes were opened. We, as humans, have such a thirst and desire for knowledge. We want to have all of the answers. It's a desire that has been embedded in us since creation. Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil when the serpent told her that it would make her like God: she would know what He knows. (And we all saw how that turned out for her and all of the rest of us.)However the more I thought about this truth the more evident it became to me that this transcends spirituality. While this desire to know does effect our trust in God, it also effects our trust in people, in events, in everything! Just think about any suspicious person in a relationship: they're willing to "trust" their spouse, but they need to know where they were and what they were doing. Or how we're willing to trust a car to get us somewhere as long as we know how it works and where it was built. Or even something as simple as a recipe: we're willing to trust that all of these ingredients will make a delicious meal if we know what the picture of the result looks like.I've had enough. I'm frustrated with the fact that "the desire to know is in direct opposition to the desire to trust" is both true and repeatedly evident in my life. So I'm making a change. I'm going to work on living in a blind trust. I will trust friends on their word without needing to know every detail but most of all I will trust God and His plan for my life without asking for hints to how it will all turn away. After all, I never wanted to be the girl who read the last chapter of a book first.
In the whirlwind that has been my last two weeks I have learned my fair share of life lessons: lessons on independence, money management, packing for a move, what you actually need in the event that your power goes out, etc. One of the biggest lessons I've learned, however, is how to live without.When I first moved into my new digs I was without hot water. Have you taken a freezing cold shower lately (or ever)? I don't recommend it... at all. Then, with the storms from the hurricane I lost power for 14+ hours (which just so happened to co-inside with my cold showers and first day of work). I also find myself existing without the luxury of furniture as mine hasn't been delivered yet due to my tricky work schedule. Air mattresses are really great until they become the only furniture you have, but it still trumps the floor (as I've quickly learned). To add insult to injury I have also decided to opt out of the frivolous expense of cable and internet. As a young twenty-something recently out of college I spend an embarrassing and unnecessary amount of time on the internet doing a whole lot of nothing... and the same goes for mindless TV watching. So I've decided to give living without it a go... partly because I find being free of these modern day "necessities" liberating and partly because I am really, really cheap. So far, so good. (This blog post, in fact, is brought to you by my local Starbucks: both their internet and their caffeine being major contributors.)I have found myself getting continuously caught up in the mindset of self-pity... it's easy to allow yourself to throw a pity party when you're without nearly everything you've come to rely on daily. I have to keep reminding myself that my situation is only temporary. Next week brings the promise of furniture, my hot water has been restored (hallelujah!) and I can access the internet with a short car trip.However lately it's been weighing on me just how lucky we are. I've found myself burdened with thoughts of those "starving children in Africa" who would love all of the food I didn't want to eat as a child. I bet they've never had a hot shower. And they surely don't have the luxury of electricity, furniture or internet.But more importantly, they and most other people around the world don't know the freedom we take for granted, freedom to worship and to live and to work and to wear what we choose to wear. The freedom that was threatened nearly 10 years ago today, an event which many of us have all-too-easily forgotten. And when you consider that priceless freedom, what else even matters?So with a full heart I've been thanking God for all that I do have and letting all that I don't be a reminder of those less fortunate: I'm sure they'd be overjoyed by my four walls, air conditioning and carpeted floors. And as has happened many times before and will continue to happen for the rest of my days, I find renewed import and urgency in the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:18—
"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
There are a lot of things that I love about my generation. We are fearless in our faith. We are powerful in our praise. We are brave in our brotherhood. We are wild in our worship. We, as believers, have revolutionized the Christian faith in many ways. One of these ways is our understanding of the idea that it's not about religion, but rather about a relationship, and the urgency to implement that into our daily walk.Because of how much this idea of relationship has grown we have taken strongly to the concept of God the Friend. However, in sensationalizing this movement in which God calls us "friend" I worry that we have lost sight of God the Father.It is easy to love your friends. They are fun, they hang out with you, they support you, and you can talk to them about anything. You can tell them anything without fear because they have no authority in your life. Your parents are sometimes harder to love. They are fun, they hang out with you, they support you and you can talk to them about most things. But they have authority over your life. They can punish you. They can implement rules. They can take away privileges.I think that it is the same with God. We are so into this idea of God the Friend. We carry on a dialogue with Him about everything that is going on. We share our hopes, dreams, aspirations. We expect Him to be fun and to hang out with us and to support us. But we forget about God the Father, and we struggle when hard times set in. Why would He let us suffer? Why would he let us feel pain? Why would he let us feel loneliness, hopelessness, unhappiness?Perhaps I am generalizing. Maybe this is a personal struggle and nothing more. I know that in my life I am so quick to be buddy-buddy with God. When the going is great He and I are great too. But the second the dark clouds begin to roll in I struggle because I think that God my Friend has forsaken me. I am quick to anger and to feel abandoned and alone. I forget that God my Father has my best interests at heart. He knows what I can handle and what will make me stronger. He knows the obstacles that are necessary in my life to keep me on the correct path. He knows the plans he has for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans for hope and a future.It's God the Father I need to rely on in times of hardships. It's God the Father who will carry me when I can't walk on my own. It's God the Father who will fight off my enemies. It's God the Father who provides unending mercy, grace and love. It's been my aim lately to try to focus on not only thanking God the Friend for opening doors and providing opportunities but also thanking God the Father for closing other doors and keeping things out of reach, knowing it is for my own benefit.Do you have a healthy balance in your view of God?
God’s timing is one of those things that always fascinates and amazes me.
As you may (or may not) know, I am a recent college graduate. As you may also know, as such I have everything figured out. Okay… that’s a lie. But one thing I have figured out that there is no messing with God’s timing.
My final year of college was very different from the three before. In that one year of school I built some of the most sincere, deep, genuine, close and trusting friendships that I’ve ever experienced. God put some really incredible people in my life almost all at once and they completely changed my world. They changed how I thought, how I felt, how I acted, how I loved. These people entered my life and immediately gained my trust and became a support system that I had never known outside of my family. They learned about me, I learned about them. We spent countless hours together and made even more memories.
And then, graduation happened. And all of a sudden I was moved back in at home and none of those friends were with me. And I was confused. Why would God put me in this situation? Why would He fill my life with these people, these boys and girls who had become like family to me, and then yank me out? I didn’t feel ready for real life, much less without these friends I had come to rely on and expect to see regularly. How would I function without their hugs, their advice, their company? But God’s timing is perfect. He knew that I had taken what I needed from them and that it was time for me to go off in the world, seemingly on my own.
It’s like they were my training wheels. They taught me how to live the life that I deserve and want and need. And then, when God saw fit, He took my training wheels off. I’m still in the unsteady phase of riding on my own: the part where I have fear in the pit of my stomach, I feel wobbly on my own two tires, scared that I will fall at any given moment. I still want my training wheels back. But there is one thing that I can be forever grateful for: unlike really learning to ride a bike when my dad eventually let go of the back of the seat, God will never let me go. He will be there, running next to me, holding on to the seat of my bike as I ride through life: never alone.
Today was a big day… today it rained in The Woodlands, Texas. I know what you’re thinking… “big deal, it rained.” But now consider the fact that it has rained twice here all year. Twice. And consider the fact that I am absolutely infatuated with rain and everything that goes along with it: thunder, lightening, dark clouds, naps (okay, that last one might be situational, but still). So now do you see what a big deal this rain was?
Regardless, it was a big deal to me. I was sitting on the couch, watching a movie and I just couldn’t tear my eyes away from the rain out the window. It was such a welcomed sight… I had been longing for rain: the sound it makes, the comfort it brings, the calm it exudes. Before I knew it I was up and walking towards the door. Yes, I am a twenty-two year old college graduate. But without thinking I found myself standing outside, in the pouring rain, looking skyward: eyes, mouth and heart opened.
I’ve always wondered why people say that rain is God crying. I’ve never felt that way about rain. I find it to be such a blessing, something I always look forward to. I’ve been wrestling with the “post-collegiate blues” as they call it and today, standing out in the rain, I was reminded that God is here with me and He would never throw anything my way that I couldn’t handle.
Every raindrop that hit my face was a promise: of hope, of happiness, of healing. And with the rain He washed away my fears and failures. I am His, and in Him I am perfect. It’s something I lose sight of all too often.
I’m at a cusp in life. As Mr. Allen would say, “things are happening.” A lot of things are changing in my life, and with that comes a lot of unknown.
With all of this unknown I’ve found solace in focusing on things I can control. One of the most exciting things about a new phase of life, in my opinion, is the opportunity to change the things about yourself that you’ve found unsatisfactory. When you move to a new place people don’t know you… they don’t know your habits or your fears or your social tendencies. If you were always shy you can be outgoing. If you were a gossip you can keep your tongue in check. If you feared confrontation you can be bold. You can change how you’re perceived.
I’ve always wondered how I portray myself to the world. As a Christian, I know what my life should look like. But do I always succeed in putting my best face forward? Can people look at me and see what I’m living for? Who I’m living for?
I was getting my hair cut last summer when I had an epiphany. I was sitting there, staring in the mirror (it’s either that or staring at the other customers which, I’ve discovered, can get you into trouble). I was looking in the mirror—at the floor in the mirror, at my hair in the mirror, at the art on the wall in the mirror—when I realized something: you can’t look at a mirror. You can look at things in a mirror, but you can’t actually look at a mirror. If you try and recall a mirror you can think of the frame, and when you think of the mirror itself you will undoubtedly imagine what is reflected in it’s surface: the bathroom wall, the bedroom behind it, your face in it. A mirror’s sole purpose is to reflect, and it is good at it.
Then I had this thought: what if every Christian sought to be a mirror. To be reflective of God and all that He is. What if you looked at me, Aimee Belcher, and couldn’t see me, but only God in me?
It’s a beautiful concept, one I’ve been thinking about for a while now. We are called to live a life acceptable to God: to be a picture of our maker. So imagine if we each started to live with the intention of being reflective. If our one goal was to emulate God as much as possible with our human flaws, enough to be a reflection of His mercy, His grace, His compassion and His love. Think of the difference it could make. Think of the beauty we could create. Think of the lives we could change. All of that by simply being reflective.