Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Surrender All

Photo: Erika Thorness

Remember when your head was filled with bright, wonderful dreams for your future? When the world was this great big place filled with possibility? You could do anything, be anything. Your whole life was laid out in front of you. Did life bring you the wild and wonderful desires of your heart? Or did it deliver you into a reality filled with ups and downs? 

Don't fret. You still have time. Too many people dwell on the past, on what they could have been, what they gave up. Some people try to re-live that past, to be young again.They submit themselves to surgery, start partying like a college student, lose themselves in romantic flings. 

Don't get trapped in wishing for what could have been. It could kill you, literally. Dissatisfaction with your present situation can send you into a dark place of no return. Whether it be depression, drugs, drinking, it can consume your life. Trust me.

It's never too late to take a hold of your life and allow yourself to find joy in your present circumstances. So maybe you don't work from home, like you always dreamed you would. Maybe you can't have kids, no matter how hard you try. Maybe the responsibility of adulthood feels like too much to bear. All it takes to find peace with the present is surrendering your circumstances to God. This action is so hard sometimes. Developing an attitude of surrender takes practice and patience. It takes determination. But if you truly desire to be happy, only you can make the choice.

Why give it to God? Because He wants to take care of you, He loves you, and He says to cast your problems on Him (1 Peter 5:7). You can trust Him. You can trust Him more than you can trust anyone on this earth, including yourself. Sometimes, the things that your brain and heart tell you to do are the dumbest things you could possibly do. When you surrender your life to Jesus and follow His Will for your life, you can't go wrong. The path He has for you is perfect. It's exactly what your brain and heart need (Jeremiah 29:11-apparently I really like this verse, I use it a lot).

I defer to a selected few stanzas of an old classic:

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.


Jackelyn Stange

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dare To Be Different

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Life is strange. It has so many twists and turns, so many different paths. Keeping up with it makes us all a little crazy. Anyone in their right mind is going to eventually lose their mind. It's inevitable, why not embrace it?

Too many people are so obsessed with being "normal." It sounds bogus to me. What kind of fun can you have spending hours preening in front of the mirror to attain perfect hair and makeup? How stressful it must be to worry constantly about what you say, afraid people might find you strange.

We're created to be different from each other, no two people are exactly the same (1 Corinthians 12:12-25). We all have unique abilities, strengths, and personalities. Embrace those differences. Be proud of who you are. Don't let social norms hold you back. Be the person that God created you to be. He has a plan for you (Jeremiah 1:5), He has placed a calling on your life. Don't let that go to waste, simply because you are afraid of what other people might think of you. Who cares about what those people think? Do they know your heart? No!

A Stepford world—in which everyone you meet is the same as everyone else you already know—sounds outrageously boring to me. We weren't meant to be cookie-cutter people, we were meant to be individuals.

It's hard, as women, not to compare ourselves to other women. I'll admit, the "perfect" ladies out there make me uncomfortable. I have one girl out there that I've known for quite some time that never ceases to disrupt my mental health. She's one of those that is always very polished looking, professionally dressed, super skinny, heavily made up, etc. She's educated, has a career, flirts with the men I date, so on and so forth. This kind of stuff gets under my skin a bit. Here I am, wearing sweat pants, rocking the unwashed hair, trying to lose a few pounds. I often feel my insecurities bubbling to the surface when she is around.

But I have to ask myself. Why does she spend so much time and energy on her perfection? What on God's green earth could drive someone to that level of self-sculpting? Insecurity. The very thing that she instills in me. She is so darn insecure, she has to prove to the world that she is Super Woman. What a concept!

The people who try so hard to pretend that there isn't anything weird or abnormal about them are doing so because of how little they think of themselves. They don't have enough self-confidence to simply be themselves, so they have to imitate what they think society expects from an ideal woman. They're incapable of letting it all hang loose. They just can't do it.

Don't be that woman. Don't be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2). Don't focus on what society says about you. Be different. Be unique. Be FUN! Nobody wants to be friends with the "perfect" version of you, everyone wants to be friends with the "real" you.


Jackelyn Stange

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Just Like You

Photo: Stephanie Beaty

It's complicated, sometimes. Trying to figure out how to live our lives, how to be a faithful Christian. There are too many options. Should I do this? Or should I do that? Will other people judge me for this? Will anyone appreciate that? In our Bible reading last night, I came across a new way of thinking for me: Live a life worthy of imitation.

In 1 Corinthians 4:16, Paul is urging the Christians in Corinth to follow in his footsteps. To act like him. To copy him.

When I was a kid, I had a really hard time with the copy cats in my life. I really struggled with giving someone grace when they "stole my idea." My mom reminded me that imitation is really just a form of flattery. That person thinks that my idea is so good, they want to claim it for themselves. Granted, it's still hard to watch someone else get credit for your genius, if that's the way things go. But it does help to know that when someone copies you, it's because they appreciate your brilliance.

Not all imitation involves stealing ideas, there's also copying the way someone dresses, acting similarly to the people you spend the most time with, decorating a house the same as another, etc. We all imitate things we see every day. That's why Pinterest is such a popular place. Everyone loves finding ideas and making them their own.

I've come to realize that people imitate those they want to be like. We who are in a leadership role within our church should take a lesson from Paul. We should be an example to those who look up to us. Our lives should reflect the Holy Son of God, so that the people in them can see Him through us. We should strive to be more like Jesus, so that those we influence will also be more like Him. The more Christ-like we are, the better the world will become.

We all have a sphere of influence. Let's saturate that area of our lives with the love of Jesus. We'll all be better people for it.

Jackelyn Stange

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Follow Up

This is going to be a follow up on my last post. Hurting people. It's a big deal. We all do it. We all do it A LOT.

Here's something that a lot of us often forget: even if we don't mean to hurt someone, even if we don't know we're hurting someone, it's still not okay. I understand that our actions which cause pain aren't always intentional. But if someone does get hurt, maybe we should have acted differently.

I think a lot of us need to be more observant of the world around us. Rather than rushing around only worrying about ourselves and what's happening  in our lives, we should slow down and be aware of the people around us. Our careless actions can easily hurt someone else if we aren't careful. We can be doing exactly what we think we're supposed to be doing, but if our choices impact other people, it is so easy to unintentionally hurt them.

Hurt can come in so many shapes and sizes. Including small things, like an off-handed comment about a bad hair day, jumping into someone's place in a group, taking someone's regularly appointed seat, anything really.

It's hard to apologize if you feel like you've done nothing wrong. Even harder if you don't know what it was that offended the other person. But maybe it is important that we do apologize for these things. Because maybe it's the best way of showing God's love for the world. If we can't own up for our actions, what kind of witness can we be?

I love sarcasm, but I have a variety of new people in my life that don't seem to pick up on it quickly. I've learned that I need to tone it down around them, because my words can easily be misinterpreted.

When somebody in your life is hurting, be careful with them. People are fragile. The things you say and do can have a lasting effect on them. True friends should be there in a time of need. They shouldn't force those who are hurting to be a certain way or act a certain way. We need to be aware of what the people in our lives are going through.

Tred lightly. A person's life can resemble broken glass. We don't want to crush the fragments. We should be there to pick them up and fuse them together.

Jackelyn Stange

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What's Love Got To Do With It?

This world is a sensitive place. There are so many different personalities, such a variety of tempers out there, it's hard to keep everyone happy all of the time. Impossible really. But something we need to remember is this:

If you're hurting other people you're doing something wrong.

I understand that when people are angry, or sad, or stressed, they often respond without thinking. It's to be expected. Humanity is selfish, we want everyone to do things our way. It's so easy to forget that not everyone thinks the same thoughts as we do. But we need to remember not to sin in our anger (Eph. 4:26). Don't harm someone else simply because they don't understand you.

It's so hard to be nice to the people that we don't like, the ones that have a personality that clashes with ours. We don't have to like them, but we do have to love them as brothers and sisters in Christ (Mark 12:31). God loves them unconditionally, and we are to love them as He loves them. That means not putting them down, not talking behind their back, not setting them up for failure. We should be kind to them, encourage them, welcome them.

We don't have to torture ourselves and spend every waking minute with these people, just show them God's grace when they're around.

My biggest problem is momma bear syndrome. When someone hurts a loved one of mine, I will jump down their throats. Did you make my best friend cry? I will hunt you down and... well... pain, lots of pain! I'm so protective of those I love (I do blame you for the fact that I inherited this, mom.) When they hurt, I physically feel the pain. It's a writer's problem. A great man (Austin Hummell) once said: "Writers feel so much more than anyone else." While it might not be specific to only writers, it is accurate in my case. When someone I care about is hurting, I want to straight up destroy anyone who might have caused even a bit of that pain. In the most eloquent description: I will cut you.

But in all seriousness, this is a real problem. I have the burning desire to cause people pain if they do something to harm my friends and family. Here's the issue with that...Two wrongs don't make a right. Me hurting another person does not make the pain of the past go away. It just creates more anger and aggression and hurt.

I'm slowly learning how to hold my tongue, how to be more pleasant, how to do something constructive rather than something detrimental. The most helpful thing I've learned along this journey? The first thing to pop into your head is probably the worst thing you can say aloud. Never EVER go with your first instinct when you're emotionally distraught. It will only make things worse. And always keep in mind, the people around you are human too. Their feelings are just as fragile as yours. Would you want someone to treat you the way you're treating them? Be gentle, be kind. That's what love is (1 Cor. 13:4-7).


Jackelyn Stange