We are all Willow//Maggie

Ever since I adopted my wonderful puppy, Willow, last November, God has been using her to teach me a lot about myself and my relationship with Him. I’ll give my roommate Jocelyn the credit for coining the phrase that we say daily in our house: “we are all Willow”. Her (Willow) relationship to me has helped me put myself in her shoes…bear with me here. Willow and I have a child to master/mom relationship. I am not at all relating myself to God, because I am not perfect or even close to being like God, but it’s more that I’ve been able to look at Willow and her behaviors, and see aspects of myself in her. There are three big things that I notice about my dear pup, that I can apply to me walking with Jesus.

  1. She thinks she knows what’s best for her.

Something that I tried so hard to avoid when rescuing a dog was getting a young puppy. I wanted it to be easy, coming to me perfectly trained. I realized how selfish and unrealistic that was especially with rescue because I had no idea the life they had before they got to the shelter. The first thing Willow did when I met her was jumped and nipped me in the face. It has been a long yet rewarding process watching her learn and respond to me. Even still, she knows better when not to do things. Whenever I leave the house for a while, she will try to find anything she can eat or chew on. She knows that she shouldn’t be counter surfing, but she wants to do it, so she does, and then I come home and she is so ashamed. In my relationship with Christ, I think I know what’s best. I try to control my time and the plan for my life. I go back to things that I know is going to hurt me in the long run because it’s what I want, and then I come to God ashamed of messing up. He doesn’t want us to feel shame when we mess up. He loves us. He’s taken care of our sin on the cross. He knows what’s best for us, and we have been set free from the bondange of sin. It doesn’t have a hold over us, God still has us.

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the fruit you reap leads to holiness, and the outcome is eternal life.” Romans 6:22

We are living in the now and not yet, the process of sanctification is that, a process. When I come home and Willow can’t look at me and cowers in the corner, first, I laugh because she looks ridiculous, but then I call her into my arms and I pet her and tell her it’s ok. We think we know better, but God is the one who we can trust with our lives. God has what’s best for us. Even when it doesn’t make sense, God knows what we need that will bring us closer to Him, and help us to grow. He loves us.

  1. She lets fear consume her.

Most of these past 8 months with Willow, she freaks out if I leave her presence. When I would go get ready for the day and she’d sit out in the family room with Nayra last year, she would whine at my door just laying there wondering why in the world I left and thinking I was never returning. She couldn’t see me, so to her I was gone for good. I abandoned her in her time of need (which is always). This past year has been a really tough one emotionally. My team had experienced unimaginable loss, and it just seemed like bad things kept happening. I started to live more in fear than in peace and trust of God. As I headed to Ocean City for summer mission (which will have to be a whole other blog post), I lived in fear of the next bad thing happening. I wondered if I would experience something horrible, and I sat in that for the first couple weeks. Thankfully God was using the Word and people in my life to speak truth and encourage me so my perception of “waiting for the next shoe to drop” was removed and God gave me peace in my heart.

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’.” Romans 8:15

  1. But, she knows the sound of my voice and listens to it (mostly) because we spend so much time together.

I chose Willow to be mine, and that gave me the responsibility of loving her and raising her well. The only way she was going to listen to me and trust me was if we spent time together and I showed her how much I cared for her. She had trust issues when I first got her because the shelter picked her up after living on the street for a while. Because of the time I’ve invested in her, and because she loves me so much, she can differentiate the sound of my voice from anyone else. She recognizes me as her dog-mom. She chooses to be with me rather than other people sometimes because of who I am to her. She comes running to me when I call her.

With God, spending time in His Word is so important because that is how we get to know His voice. We have the Holy Spirit in us to guide us and teach us, but lies can get into our heart too. We can get truth and lies jumbled up if we aren’t spending time knowing God and knowing his truth. That was a theme for our women’s time in OCMD. Truths and Lies. Being able to believe truths deep down in your heart, not just as head knowledge, is key to combatting the lies we hear every day. We need to spend time with Jesus to know His voice. By knowing His voice we can cling that much harder to the truths he speaks to us in our heart when everything around us is cutting us down, telling us we are worthless and no good for anyone.

“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand.…”John 10:27-28

We are all Willow. We think we know what’s best for us, and we turn to fear. Thankfully God is in control. He loves us and knows what’s best. He gives us peace. We can know his voice by spending time in His Word and sitting at his feet.
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This is Willow trying to be a part of the blog writing process yesterday. What a goof. <3

 

At 20–What I Wish I Had Known//Maggie & Heather

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Hello friends,

In light of Valentines day being justttt around the corner we[your Tidewater Cru staff ladies] wanted to share things we wished we had known in college about dating, relationship, love, and purity.  Today is day 1 of 3…enjoy!

[Maggie McNeely]When I was 20 I was in my first real relationship. I had “boyfriends” and guys I was interested in in middle school and high school but this was my first real boyfriend. And this is what I wish I had known:

I wish I had known that kisses didn’t mean he loved me.
I wish I had known that staying up past midnight talking to a guy is ALWAYS a bad idea(for me).
I wish I had known that just because we were both Christians didn’t mean it was a “Christ-centered” relationship.
I wish I had known how to have hard conversations when they were needed.
I wish I had known to let go of him rather than staying in an unhealthy relationship.
I wish I had known that depending on him for my worth and value would leave my heart shattered in pieces when we broke up.
I wish I had known that healing takes longer than you want it to and you shouldn’t force the process.
I wish I had known how important it was to have someone holding you accountable for boundaries in the relationship that we set up and crossed… instead of pushing my friends away.
I wish I had known how deeply loved I was by Jesus and how much healing he provided for me.
I wish I had known that being single didn’t mean there was something wrong or flawed about me.
I wish I had known not to settle just because I wanted someone to love and care for me.
I wish I had known that seasons of singleness are also a gift from the Lord.

I wish I had known all of those things, but I didn’t and because of that relationship I learned so much. I’m glad God used it to shape me more into the woman of God he wants me to be, and to teach me that my identity is in Christ who loves me deeply and knows me completely.

[Heather Persing] //forever Tidewater alumni staff:)

It’s easy to look back now and see a lot of ways I would do things differently, but I would say the one thing I wish I would’ve known and experienced back then was that Jesus really is the one who satisfies. I spent so much time and energy in college thinking, talking, and dreaming about relationships. We’re made for relationship so in some ways I think that was normal, but deep in my heart I believed I would finally be fulfilled when I was dating/engaged/married. The problem with that is I was always looking for the next thing to satisfy me. Once I was dating, I wanted to be engaged. After I got engaged, I couldn’t wait for marriage. Now that I’m married, there’s several other life stages that I can find myself believing will finally bring true life. It’s a cycle that never ends. This also doesn’t give much room to sacrifically love who God brings in your life. It becomes all about me and how my needs are being met instead of laying down my life for someone else. Marriage is great, and it’s brought a lot of joy into my life; however, Jesus calls us to something much more beautiful than even the best marriage–he calls us to himself. He is the only one who can truly give us what our hearts so desperately need and crave.

 

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

 

 

//check back tomorrow for day 2 of 3//

 

 

 

Uncomfortable Sweet Change//Maggie

Change: “the act or instance of making or becoming different.” It is a concept that I don’t embrace very often, and sometimes (even though I know I can’t control it, I try to avoid change).Why does change make me uncomfortable? I think it’s because there isn’t a set pattern, I can’t control the change or keep it from coming, and I don’t like having unknowns. I am a J on the Myers Briggs after all. I like everything to be planned out, to have its place, and for things to happen on my timeline. These past several months have been the definition of change. I moved out of my house in Newport News, said goodbye to a lot of friends. I spent six weeks in Colorado for Cru staff training only to come back and continue traveling every weekend for a month for weddings. Then I lived at home up until 3 weeks ago to support raise (and God provided 100% in 100 days woop woop!) and now I live in an apartment in Newport News with a brand new dog…that’s a ton of change. I think I handled it well, but I also think I avoided handling it at all and I just moved on without processing all the differences in my life.

 The Lord has been slowly showing me how my life is different as single 24 year old Cru staff member and dog owner. He’s reminding me that change is good. He doesn’t say it’s not painful. But he does say it’s healthy. In John 15:1-3, the analogy of the vine and branches is used. It says “…and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it so that it will bear more fruit”. God has shown me this in my friendships and community. I went from having a bunch of friends at CNU, to CO where I had to make new friends and then leave them, to head home where there were no friends and return to campus this week where there are a ton of people. I needed to have this season of being alone at home because God showed me how I, yet again, was depending too much on others for fulfillment. Community is so wonderful, and a huge blessing from the Lord, but it so easily became an idol for me that I needed a heart check, for that community to be removed for a short while to realize that. I love that we have four seasons (sometimes just in one week). It reminds me that change is a good healthy thing, and through that changing of seasons, we grow. If it always looked the same every day, there wouldn’t be much room for growth and movement. This process of pruning might seem unfair at first, but looking back it’s easier to grasp the reasons for it. The wonderful thing is that in all of this changing of seasons and chaos, the one constant we have in this life is Jesus.“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Through this season of change in my life, Jesus dying for my sins is still true, Jesus loving me fully and completely is still true, my identity is still a daughter of the most high King, and through all the chaos I still live to glorify Him. None of that has changed. In seasons of change, I will cling to the one constant I have, Jesus Christ.