13 October, 2017

Behind Existence

I’d been thinking about this post: what to say and why, relevant verses and experiences, and what I wanted people to get from it. But when I came to actually write, nothing happened.

Some call it writer’s block, but it’s more than that. It’s how I’ve been existing, and I don’t like it. It’s living dry, inspirational-less, motivation-less, lacking energy, lacking joy. It’s a drag. I’m scratching the bottom, wondering why I’m doing what I’m doing. Things that should be spontaneous and life-giving have become forced.  Everything is on the to-do list, and it still doesn’t get done. I blame study or commitments, but that isn’t true because a few weeks ago it wasn’t like this, and all that’s changed is me. Guys, this isn’t life. 

I like to think of life, living, as overflowing: I blog because I have an abundance of thoughts and they have to spill over. I laugh and have crazy dance hugs with my sister because my zeal for living (and lack of sleep) knows no bounds. I study because my desire to be informed to help others needs a release. I share on Instagram because blogging can’t contain all the snippets of inspiration. I randomly create or connect because I’m bursting to bless someone. I pursue God because I can’t stop. It’s a natural result, not anything we can force. It’s living because of something else. Then, everything becomes a blessing, a gift, a special bonus – because this is the overflow. We don’t expect anything from it, therefore everything we gain adds to our delight. It’s blissful, it’s joyful; it’s living. That’s what I want my life to be like.

So, this is where I am: trying to get back to living overflowing. I’ve tried to generate that experience, and it doesn’t work. Lack of sleep, poor eating habits, stress, missed devotion time, extra time on social media – none of that helps, but there is something bigger behind all this which I regularly forget. We discredit it, and then wonder what’s happening to our lives. 

We’re living in a battle zone. There is an enemy. God is real, but He has an opponent who’s plotting our defeat as surely as God has won the victory. This is what I was trying to write four hundred words ago. 

I didn’t want to do the 31 Hugs Challenge this year. I said I didn’t have time, and it’s a lot of effort – every day comes around very frequently. But God knocked some sense into me: did I just say I didn’t have time to give to others? What is my life?! That’s meant to be my focus, my mission, the thing I would love to make more time for. It was a needed reminder to get back to what matters, so I took up the challenge to give every day of October, and it was exciting. 

Then last week – the first week of the challenge – was crazy, busy, tiring, and stressful, between being away, having late nights and early mornings, new units to read and watch for study, and four assignments to do in three days. I had study group meetings, and volunteering, and teaching. I missed an important appointment, and felt pushed and worn. And I was meant to be taking time each day to think of and invest extra in someone else?! I missed a few days – actually, I missed the first day of the challenge. I got discouraged, and started second guessing myself and the motivation behind 31 Hugs.

Then, bam. I had a realisation: this is the devil. He’s on my case muddying things up, getting me discouraged, keeping me busy and distracted, and having everything land on me when I’m trying to do a good thing. 

So this was going to be an amazing strategy-filled post based on Ephesians 6, discussing spiritual armour, and spilling all the things I’ve been thinking out (overflowing, see). But it’s not; it’s life. Sometimes it’s messy and hard, but here’s the truth: it isn’t about us. We’re in the middle of a war, and there is an enemy! He’s the one getting us down, and it’s him we're warring against, not ourselves. But it’s not a battle we have to fight, because it’s already been won. Our job is to claim that and walk in His victory. But it is a shooting ground, and we need armour, we need strength, we need to be in constant communication with the Captain, we need to be familiar with the Guidebook, and we need to prioritize these things, because this is life we’re talking about – eternal life, but also life here, today. 

Jesus came so we could have life, and we could have it more abundantly. He says whoever lets Him flow like water into them, will not only have life, but will have rivers of living water flowing out of them. Let’s go back to the source – the only One who can fill us, give us abundant overflowing life and victory in this struggle.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Ephesians 6:10 


How have you all been? I feel like it's ages since I've posted and we've chatted. What are your thoughts on living from the overflow or spiritual warfare? What do you think truly living constitutes of? Also, does anyone else have a hard time naming posts?! Stay strong, friends. xxx

26 September, 2017

Announcement - 31 Hugs - October 2017!

The thirty-one hugs challenge is back! Maybe you remember the 31 Hugs Challenge of October 2016. It’s almost October again, and this is one small way we can combat the darkness, and ‘spur and encourage each other on to love and good works’ (Hebrews 10:24). So, I’m excited to announce 31 Hugs Challenge for October 2017!

The challenge is to make an extra investment in someone else’s life every day in October. It's about looking into the meaning behind a hug, and conveying that to someone every day for the month of October. A physical hug can mean support, care, love, appreciation, gratefulness, sympathy, congratulations, and so on. It’s a tiny investment in someone else’s life that can mean a lot to them and have a large impact.  

The purpose behind the challenge is to show support and appreciation, share hope and joy, and be the light for God’s glory, as Matthew 5:16 says. It’s a call to rise above the busyness of life and give to someone – even the smallest thing could brighten a mood, change a day, lift the spirits of someone.

Jesus also says that ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive,’ (Acts 20:35) and this focus on giving will a blessing for ourselves as well. ;) 
It will look different for everybody – whether you plan who you’re going to ‘hug,’ write a list of ‘hug’ ideas, or take things as they come. Most importantly, think broadly. Hugs can be given to family, friends, workmates, cashiers/sales attendants, the person next to you on the bus, bloggers, youtubers, authors, artists, musicians: anyone. They can be a literal hug, words of appreciation, a note or message, a phone call, a gift, homemade treats, a picnic lunch, a hike together – anything that’s a little extra investment in someone. Here's last year's list, for more ideas and suggestions.

I want to add a community element to the challenge this year. It’s easy to get discouraged with another thing on the to-do list, and every day comes around often. But we can pray and encourage each other to keep the vision, and share experiences and things we’re learning. I’ve started using Instagram recently, and plan to post regularly about the challenge using the tag #31hugs. Please join in – share your own posts, let’s have discussion! (And, side note: drop me a comment or something on Instagram @applesofgold.97 so I can find and follow you!) Otherwise the comment section here, and email inbox are always open for conversation. :)

I don’t have everything figured out (note my ‘procrastinate now, panic later’ tendencies), but I plan to have some surprises along the way, so keep an eye out for those. ;)
This is where it’s over to you. Who would like to join me in the challenge of sharing hope and joy, showing appreciation and gratitude, and being Christ’s light? This isn’t about me or my glory; if I can touch one heart with His love and become a more giving person, the mission of this challenge is fulfilled. 

I’m excited – just writing this post has my hugging motivation and inspiration levels up, and I can’t wait to see how God works through this! Do you have more questions, comments, tips, suggestions, experiences? How can we best support each other during the challenge? Are you in?

15 September, 2017

Hope Outside Ourselves

It’s national suicide prevention week in America, and Elissa is doing a beautiful series on why it’s worth it to stay. I was reading through the posts of her guest bloggers, and thinking about my take on stay. I remembered a post I’d written a couple of months ago challenging the ‘be yourself,’ ‘you do you,’ ‘live your own truth,’ idea. It didn’t feel right to share back then, but now I realize why it means so much to me.

I agree with living authentically and being genuine. God created us with different interests, preferences, and tastes, and He has a purpose in those differences, a plan to use them together in His service. We enjoy different foods, sports, and hobbies; we like different style of dress, art, and music; we have different talents, gifts, and callings. That’s the wonderful diversity of humanity, and that’s the way it should be.

But how does this relate to suicide prevention? Because if the only direction I had was ‘be you,’ I don’t know if I would be here. When I look inside myself, it isn’t pretty, it isn’t noble, and it doesn’t offer hope. I’m selfish, I mess up, and I hurt people. Sometimes I make someone smile, achieve a goal, or find satisfaction in new possessions, but it isn’t lasting. At the end of the day, I still have reason for discouragement and depression.

It’s a law of nature that we become like what or who we focus on. To rise, to find hope and reason to stay, we have to look outside ourselves. Even if our goal is to become our best self, we must analyse people we admire, consider qualities to imitate, look at the past and choose how the future will differ. 

But my goal isn’t to become the truest version of myself, because I don’t want to be that selfish failure. I’m not aiming for the best version of myself, because all my goodness adds up to nothing before Him. Instead, my greatest satisfaction and hope begins in laying myself down, and becoming who I was created to be: like God. As Vishal Mangalwadi explains:

As I started rereading the Bible’s first chapter, I found a radically different view of the human self. It says that God created human beings in His image (“man” – both male and female). On one hand both dogs and I are creatures. We are similar in many ways. For example, we are both mammals. Yet, in fundamental ways we are very different. I cannot know the essence of my humanness by studying dogs. If I am made in God’s image, would not knowing God be essential to knowing myself? The Book That Made Your World page 47

If dogs could reason, the only place they could look to be themselves is within. There is no greater dog they are made to be like; they can’t elevate themselves. But we’re made in the image of God, to be like God. If we want to rise, to find out who we’re meant to be, to discover the reason for our existence, we have to study the Pattern

I believe the answer is not to look in, but to look up. That’s why I have hope, rest, and reason to stay, even amid my mistakes: I know I am loved by a God who never lets go, and He’s slowly shaping me to be more like Him.

So don’t misunderstand – we’re purposefully unique individuals. But immaterially, in your soul, in the deepest parts of life, don’t do you. Don’t be yourself or live your own truth. Look up; look to the only One who understands what you’ve been through, who picks up the failures and messes of our broken existence and meshes them together as only grace and love could imagine. Be who God made you to be: a beautiful soul created in His image. Our hope is in Him

P.s How rare and beautiful it is to even exist... Listen here.