When Your Heart Needs That New Car Smell

When Your Heart Needs That New Car Smell

Soaped down, hot water jetted, and towel whipped, your car might as well have come out of the furnace like a piece of blown glass, crystal clean.

You know the feeling. Your beautiful wheeled baby is free from the layer of grime that had begun to build on the doors. Not a spot or blemish can be found sprinkled on the windows. The leaves stuck in the windshield wipers have been vanquished. And that’s not all.

The crumbs wedged in the crevices of the seats have been lapped away along with the dirt and candy wrappers that littered floor. Dust no longer coats the dashboard and the coffee stains have been scrubbed until their existence is forgotten.

To top it off, a little cardboard tree hangs from the rearview mirror filling the car with the aroma of sexy Black Ice or whimsical Tropical Sunrise.

That drive home feels just as satisfying as if you had driven straight off the lot with a new car. Remember that feeling and savor it as I tell you why a car wash is on my mind.

You see, that’s how I feel when I read the Bible. That’s how I feel when I spend time alone in my room praying. And not just the “Dear God, A. B. C. Amen” kind of praying, but simply being in total awareness and transparency with God, which is a state we tend to reserve for when we’re really in a bind.

As a result, I always end up feeling clean and new, but I often wonder why I don’t strive for that as often as I could?

Can we really say we drive a clean car when we only clean it once in a while?

Only when the dirt and clutter get too overwhelming, we finally cave and clean out the car, just to wait another six months before doing it again.

Our hearts are the same way. Every day adds another layer of grime or a new addition of garbage and we are the culprits. We allow it. Wouldn’t we feel better if we just kept the car clean?

I know God would prefer it that way.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” -Proverbs 4:23

The God of the universe can hold the stars in his hand like a pile of gold dust and yet He sent His Son so that our hearts could be His forever. We are just that precious to Him.

If we don’t take the time to maintain the condition of our heart with God’s Word and His presence, our heart will suffocate from the negative forces designed to strangle the life out of us. Their weapons? Chainmail of laziness. Arrows of bitterness. Daggers of anxiety. And of course, the tempting poison of everything the world has to offer.

As I challenge myself, I also challenge you to make more room in your heart for Jesus because He is the ultimate satisfaction and the greatest weapon for when Satan tries to steal it away. Believe me, he will try. It might take more work, but all the effort is worth it.

Don’t be caught with a dirty car, because you’re chauffeuring the King of Kings.

God bless!
-LJM
Romans 12:2, Psalm 51:10, Matthew 5:8

Surviving “Singles Awareness Day”

Surviving “Singles Awareness Day”

Singles Awareness Day, more commonly known as Valentines Day, is all about making you feel crazy sorry for yourself.

I mean it’s about love—celebrating love.

If you’re in a relationship, congratulations! I hope you and your other half make the day special, saturated in rosy romance. But for me and my single pringles out there, it’s a reminder of the fact that we don’t have someone to shower us in love, attention, and gifts.

Leading up to this day, we single folk like to collect the fixings for a Happy Valentines Day without the main ingredient: a significant other. Our recipe includes chocolate, rom-coms, wine, etc, and we give it all to ourselves to make us feel a little bit more special. Why? Because the world says we need to feel a little more loved on this day.

Even though I might be among you curled up on the couch watching a romantic comedy with a chocolate heart in hand, I want to give you a few reminders for this day.

You are beautiful. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

You are loved. (John 15:9-17)

You already have the hero who gave up His life for you. (Romans 5:8)

You have the deepest love letter in your possession. (2 Timothy 3:16)

Be thankful for your singleness. Be thankful for your significant other. Both can be such a blessing in your life, and it would be a shame to waste a blessing because of the warped perspective we have about love.

I invite you to join me in reflecting on our first love, how beautiful and pure we look in His eyes, and how we live to show the world our love for Him.

So, if you’re like me and have a twinge of self-pity rise within you on Valentines Day, remember a greater love surrounds you that is deeper and wider than any love a human can give.

God bless you lovelies!
-LJM

Post Grad Life: One Year Out of the Bubble

Post Grad Life: One Year Out of the Bubble

I read a post on Facebook this morning that read:

Adulthood is like looking both ways when crossing the street, and then getting hit by an airplane.    -unknown source

The quote got me giggling, because sometimes life hits you with a strong force you didn’t see coming. Sometimes it can be awesome, other times, it can throw us off balance.

My first year out of the college bubble has been all about making practical decisions, assessing needs over wants, and basically evaluating and reevaluating what to do every day. I’ve had to remind myself that I’m on a journey, and a journey involves taking one step at a time.

But in as much as it’s been about discovering life, it’s also been about deepening in relationship with God. I went to a Christian college–one of the best blessings in my life–but once I graduated, I quickly realized how strong that bubble was.

Now I’ve left the bubble behind, and I’m open and vulnerable and out there for the devil to send his arrows at me full force.

You know what I’m talking about.

The doubt creeps in, the rejection hurts, the routine wears on you. And the BIG QUESTION hangs over you like a threatening rain cloud. “Am I doing this thing called life right?”

But instead of just living with that rain cloud over head pouring down whenever it wants, it helps to dance in the puddles like the carefree child we once were.

One of Satan’s most successful tactics is to make us feel like we are inadequate. He nudges us and whispers in our ear, “You should have a job in your field by now. Why are you not in a relationship yet? You’re not doing enough. How do you think it looks that you’re not living on your own? Look at all these people who have their life together more than you do!”

And though these thoughts have a tendency to find their way into my mind, I know they’re lies. I know that God has paved a road specifically for me complete with all the signs I need to follow, the stops I need to take, and the final destination with my name on the welcome banner.

As I’ve navigated my first year out of college, I’ve learned that it’s all about how I react to the journey. I can’t let it overwhelm me and ruin the person I’m made to be. When that airplane hits, I need to be able to hang on tight and ride it to my next adventure.

So no matter what part of the journey you’re on, remember this: striving for a fulfilling career, a happy marriage, and a lot of fun will only get you so far.

BUT if you,

“apply all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

-2 Peter 1:5-8 (NASB)

THEN you are doing this thing called life right.

***

If you’d like to see my year of growth for yourselves, here are the links!

Post-Grad Life: First Month

Post Grad Life: 3 Months of Limbo

Post Grad Life: The Selfish Six

For you college grads, how’s your first year out of the bubble going? Let me know in the comments!

God bless!

-LJM

 

 

What Are You Seeking? -Guest Post by Tessa Emily Hall

What Are You Seeking? -Guest Post by Tessa Emily Hall

January is a month for vision-creating and goal-setting. Like a clean page in a new journal, we have an opportunity to start fresh. Establish good habits and break bad ones. Strive forward in achieving our dreams and ambitions.

The New Years Resolutions we create say a lot about what we’re seeking. If we make a goal to put more hours in at the gym, then we’re probably seeking health; if we make a goal to spend more hours at work, then we’re probably seeking prosperity.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with setting New Years Resolutions—however, there is something wrong when our sole ambition lies in attaining worldly achievements. When these “goals” actually transform into idols that suffocate our pursuit of Christ.

You see, we’re all seeking something. Even if we don’t have a dream we’re chasing, there’s still an underlying motive for every decision we make.

The man who unwinds after a long day by indulging in one drink after another? He might be seeking an escape from depression and anxiety. The woman who spends hours pampering in front of a mirror before facing the day? She might be seeking acceptance and approval.

What are you seeking? I challenge you to examine the decisions you make and the goals you’ve set for this New Year. Then, ask yourself: Am I seeking something that only a relationship with God can provide (such as peace, joy, purpose, and unconditional love)? Are these ambitions greater than my desire to pursue God and grow in my walk with Him?

The thing is, when we chase Him wholeheartedly, we’ll no longer desire anything this world has to offer. Why? Because in Christ, we find lasting fulfillment. There’s nothing more satisfying than living the life Christ intended us to live and remaining in the center of His will.

Matthew 6:33 (NLT) says,

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Notice this verse says when we seek Him first, then He’ll give us everything we need. In other words, when our ambition lies in seeking God, then we will be fulfilled, even if we never achieve our New Years Resolutions.

We won’t lack. Why? Because our Father will give us everything that we need—as long as we make the most of the time, resources, and gifts He’s entrusted us with.

Sure, we can set goals that may propel us forward in our careers. Who knows? This might even be the year that our dreams of success finally come to pass! But as we strive forward, let’s continually take a heart-check. Examine our motives and align our priorities with the Kingdom of God.

Besides, as we seek Him first, we store up treasures for ourselves in heaven (see Matthew 6:19-21). I’d much rather work for treasure that lasts for eternity rather than wealth that vanishes tomorrow, wouldn’t you?

 

 

 

Tessa Emily HTessaall writes inspirational yet authentic YA fiction to show teens they’re not alone. Her passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as an Associate Agent at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PursueMagazine.net. Tessa’s first teen devotional will release with Bethany House in 2018. She’s guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating her insulin pump, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website: http://www.tessaemilyhall.com.

New Year, New Story

New Year, New Story

Ushering in the new year can fill you with bubbles of elation, infusing your mind with dreams and possibilities of the next 12 months to come. So it should. We all need that jolt of motivation and inspiration that charges us to take that extra step.

Though December 31st and January 1st feel the exact same to some, others look at it as if we have crossed through a magical portal that makes us a clean slate with a fresh path ahead of us.

I can’t help but compare God’s power to the wonder of the new year. His love made us pass from death to life just as simple as passing from 2017 to 2018. Through Him we can continue to live as a clean slate with the knowledge that He shares a piece of the future with us each step of the way.

Like leafing through the crisp pages of a new book or journal, adventure is waiting for you. This year is another chapter in the story that will make you the person God created you to be.

I will always encourage you to make time to spend with your Savior this year. My last new year’s post suggests how. Why? Because with a new year comes new difficulties and probably some tough times. But blessings are also coming your way and maybe even some miracles. We must accept whatever happens with the strong faith that Jesus is in it all.

Keep going. Those words are the beat to which my anthem will follow for 2018, what about you?

happy-new-year-sms-2018

God bless!

-LJM

 

 

 

Hanukkah Truths for Christians

Hanukkah Truths for Christians

I never grew up celebrating Hanukkah. Everything I ever associated with the holiday was just a vague understanding that it involved gifts, candy, and candles like Christmas, but only for Jews.

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Downtown Hanukkah Display

I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve come to believe Hanukkah holds spiritual truth for Christians and plays an active role in the faith. 

Surrounding each flame on the menorah is a story that reoccurs throughout history and one that is not over until the end of time. It is the story of Satan, the adversary, taking the form of a person driven to wipe out God’s people.

But God.

That is the refrain of history. God’s people always seem destined to be defeated by a tyrannical ruler with a vast army.

But God is sovereign.

But God is in control.

But God intervened for His people again!

His people, usually small in number, held tight to His ways, and that was enough reason for them to fight. Instead of sitting back and letting the world take over with their ideologies and traditions, they were willing to defy the odds even unto death.

Once the evil was purged from the temple, they could rededicate. They cleansed what was impure and shone light into what was dark. Our hearts should be open to follow their example by letting the light reveal our impurities so we can take them to God and be set free.

With the prayers, the fried foods, the menorah, and of course the history, we celebrate the encouraging truth that in the battle for God’s people, we are on the winning side. But victory comes with the charge to follow His ways, to be a light to the world, and to keep our temple pure.

Hanukkah not only reminds us of God’s people, but it prophecies of a future to come. Satan is gearing up for another attack and will continue to do so until Jesus returns. But if we stand on these truths, we will be an unstoppable force for when Satan strikes again.

As we wrap up this season and I’m asked why I, as a Christian, celebrate Hanukkah, my brother had the best answer:

“This is our father at work; it should be remembered and celebrated, and we should be thankful for it.”

If you want to know more about Hanukkah, you can find the historical account in the first book of Maccabees.

Happy Hanukkah!

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God bless!

-LJM

True to Your Heart or Your True Heart

True to Your Heart or Your True Heart

If I were to take a special X-ray of your heart–not the one that pumps blood but the one that dreams and feels–what would I find?

I asked myself that question and decided to paint the results.

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When I examine my passions and dreams, I see a performer who runs after goals, who hopes for love, and who maybe drinks a little too much coffee.

You may look and think these elements are what makes me a unique person and see nothing wrong with that. But, let me share what I see.

I see a heart that is consumed.

What looks like personality traits or unique characteristics can actually be disguising what’s truly underneath. The heart I see is vain about appearances, obsessed with career goals, addicted to coffee, desperate for love, and thirsty for praise.

I’m not downing myself; I’m being honest about what makes me–me.  God has given me dreams to pursue and interests to enjoy.

BUT, there’s a fine line. The line separates God’s intentions for these qualities and my intentions. If I allow these things to control me in honor of “being true to my heart,” then I’m damaging my relationship with God in the long run.

!!!BREAKING NEWS!!!

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. -1 Corinthians 3:12-15

One day, we will all stand before Jesus and he will let us look back on our lives. Then, we will watch as a fire consumes everything we believed, everything we worked for, and everything we were passionate about. What was true and pure will remain and shine like silver, and what was in vain will burn like chaff.

I want to start testing my heart now to be sure of what will come through the fire and what will be burned. I don’t want to suffer from the loss of a life doing wasteful things. I don’t want to find out that everything I thought was good enough could have been better or put to better use.

I challenge you to look at your heart. Not only at the negativity that resides there, but also look at the good. Look at what you believe is harmful and harmless. Examine your time, your hobbies, your dreams, your deepest desires and ask, “Is God over all or just a small piece?”

God has work to do in our hearts, let’s not stand in his way, but let’s give him the torch.

God bless!

-LJM

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