“God Loves You Too Much to Leave You Where You Are…” : A Letter to My Freshman Self // Sarah

“Girlfriend, God loves you too much to leave you where you are. If you surrender to Him, you’ll see grace in His character and in His care for you, and because of that, you’ll see more of who He is and who you are in the process.”

That’s just a little snippet of what I would love to go back and tell my freshman year of college self. Little Sarah and I would have a lovely chat, let me tell ya… ((cookies would for SURE be present for this chat too, no doubt)).

To give some background, I really began to walk with Jesus during my freshman year, meaning I actually started to read and study scripture like forreal. I poured out my very lonely heart to Him quite frequently. Because of that, His presence became real, He drew near to me and I tasted and saw how good the Lord was in the first year of my college career. The gospel came alive to me for the first time after years of just walking through the motions. Through each semester thereafter, I anticipated (and sometimes cringed) knowing God was going to continue to stretch me, prune me and teach me in each stage even more so than the last.

Coming into college, I had a vision of what my life would look like over the course of my four years at VCU. I was under the impression that I would find my best Christian, college girlfriends within the first week of class, have the best time of my life, get married right after graduation and have a family who is the perfect little picture of “Christian success.” It seemed as though following Jesus was some time of cake walk, read the Bible semiregularly, do the right things and obey Him and life will be good. Safe, semi-comfortable, steady and sure.

Haaaaaaaa….. Reality check nah, nope, nada.

Life looks completely different than I ever anticipated and that, I have learned, is g o o d thing and I praise God for it. Why is that, you may ask? As I have reflected in these summer months “post-college”, I have seen a themeGod loves me too much to leave me where I am in my sin, in my circumstances, in my selfdependency, and in my brokenness to not intervene. That means, He shakes things up, He convicts me, He allows my heart to be confused, to break, and to search for Him. Through each year, He draws me to Himself, showing me more of my lack and more of His goodness. He meets me here in my brokenness. And it’s in this place I have also learned how wicked and deceitful my heart is, even on its best day. I have learned that what I have planned pales in comparison to God’s ways and God’s will. I have learned that safe, semi-comfortable, steady and sure is not where I would want to be on my own, because only in Him am I safe, in Him can I be sure and only He is steady.

I am not the only one who He loves too much to leave to their own devices and comfort. He has been loving people “too much” since the beginning of time. Let me explain…I have been studying straight through the Old Testament in the last few months. I am currently makin’ my way through Numbers. ((I can hear you cringe lots of words and lists but so much goodness and God’s grace)). To give a highlight recap for where we are stepping into:

Genesis= God calls a people group (Israel) to be His holy people, via the lineage of Abraham and his descendants. He calls them to go from their home (their comfort) and their land (their safety) and follow wherever God was to lead them. They struggle and wrestle yet God kept His covenant to be faithful to them.

Genesis 12:1-2 “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”

Exodus= God continues to leads His holy people, this time out from under the rule of Pharaoh and they begin their wandering excursion around the dessert for quite a bit of time. During this time, they start to regret following Moses and trusting God through the uncertainty and through their discomfort. The struggle continues as they get hangry and cranky, and yet again God remains faithful.

Exodus 29:45 “I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.  And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.”

Leviticus= God gives His people the law for sacrifice and holy conduct. He gives very specific law, not ‘cause He just likes a good barbeque sacrifice, but because a holy and perfect God longs to meet with sinners in the Holiest of Holies. God draws them near. He desires to meet with them. The Lord wants to dwell among them.

Leviticus 22:31-33 “So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the Lord. And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the Lord who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord.”

Numbers= God has promised His people a land called The Promised Land, sometimes referred to as Canaan. Because of their wandering and idolatry of self and pagan gods, Israel continues to doubt God’s goodness and leading. They complained, rebelled and rejected God’s guidance. They forgot again how the Lord had delivered them, provided for them and lead them into a place where they didn’t anticipate. The Israelites started to wish to be in captivity again, in their safe and enslaved homes. Because of that, God withholds a good thing He promised and graciously disciplines His people.

Numbers 14:18 “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgressions…”

And that’s where I found myself this morning…

I saw myself in the shoes (or sandals?) of the Israelites. As I continued reading, I started making the connection to my heart and their hearts, their situations and mine. In the last four years, I have seen God lead me into circumstances and situations that didn’t always feel great, often times through tears and confusion. And like the Israelites, I have asked God questions and doubted His goodness. My comfort and certainty has been stripped away over and over as I have followed Jesus. And guess what….God has met me there, time and time again. For that I am so stinkin’ thankful.

So to conclude my talk with little freshmen Sarah and to other sisters in Christ, I would share this…

“I am thankful that God loves us too much to let us stay where were are, comfortable and complacent, Queens of our own Castle of Self. Instead, He leads us into season after season of walking by faith, in a total lack of control but gentle surrender to His leading. God’s word and His law have been a place of refuge in each of these seasons, reminding us of Who He is, who I am and to Whom I belong to now because of Christ.”

Praise God that He loves us too much!

Hi there! I am Sarah &  I am on staff as an intern with Cru in RVA! I am fresh-off-the-stage VCU alumni and now I get serve on my fav campus, along with J. Sarge! God has me in a place I never thought I’d be in but am SO grateful to be. Cookie dough is my ultimate weakness, running is my therapy and Jesus is continuing to teach me that He is always better. Thanks for reading!
@babyhouch

That Time I l Left Social Media for a Week // Jocelyn

How would I do this practically? What started out as an idea to dedicate specific hours during certain days of the week as my time to disconnect pretty quickly turned into a desire to take this seriously. One week. Cold turkey. So that’s what I did. Last Tuesday evening, I officially signed out of all accounts and completely went off the radar.

A week later, I won’t say I now have the absolute greatest pieces of wisdom and advice on this. A week really is not as long as we may think/feel like it is {seriously guys, anyone can do this!} But I did learn a handful of things.

My initial thoughts? Right as I first signed out of everything, I would say I felt a bit more.. free? I found myself thinking “wow, I don’t even have to check anything right now!” while simultaneously telling myself, “you never had to in the first place, ya dummy.”

Throughout the rest of the week, I will say I had to deal with some slight FOMO, especially when others would say “did you see what so-and-so poste-” and then quickly realize, “ohhh right, you’re not on social media right now..” #awk. So it was a bit odd to want to have intentional conversations with others, but yet not be able to participate if it was related to something happening online.

I love the creative aspect of social media, but time away from it forced me into finding other creative outlets – and moments for that were actually provided! I got to read, write, paint, and even transform my & my roomie’s faces into 70-year-old versions of ourselves for Halloween.

I also realized that I had to learn to deal with silence. {It isn’t really something I prefer. I’m the person in the car who asks if we can turn the radio on/up because it’s just a bit too quiet.} Instead of coming home for lunch or in the evening and watching a couple youtube videos (or 10), I sat in silence and read a book. And guess what? It wasn’t that bad.

That brings me to another big thing. I read. A lot. At times I couldn’t help but think “hm, so this is what people had to do for entertainment back in the day…” (And all of the non-millennials let out a unified groan.) But for real though, I do genuinely enjoy reading, but it was insightful to realize just how much I would reflexively go to tap on an app without a second thought, and have to consciously choose to read instead.

Sometimes it’s good to be left alone with our own thoughts. Maybe we use social media to avoid that. Maybe that “maybe” is more of a definite. We seem to have to be entertained and stimulated in some form at all times. I’ve realized that sometimes I just don’t feel like putting the mental or emotional energy into diving into my own brain. Admittedly, social media enters the picture as an easy way out of that.

 
“Unfortunately, the outbreak of technology and social media has not simplified life, but rather complicated it to the point of fatigue. It is becoming harder and harder to remain focused on any level of cognitive thinking for longer than a few minutes … In this culture we are finding it harder and harder to spend any appreciable time meditating on who God is or developing a greater depth of understanding and appreciation of God.”

– Glenn Jago, Deeply Rooted Magazine

Being away from social media allowed me to be more introspective, way more introspective than I would have been had I spent time watching videos and double-tapping instas.

It also coincidentally seemed like every book/magazine I dove into had something to say specifically related to this fasting experience, as if the Lord used these wise, Jesus-loving authors to help me evaluate my life during this week-long dare that I challenged myself to. What a gift.

So have I concluded that social media is this evil thing that is stealing my time? Of course not. Social media isn’t evil. I wouldn’t even say it’s bad. It’s a great tool for staying connected and expressing creativity, and it can be used for fantastic things! But is it the bestway to spend my time? Ehhhh, no, not always. Another great magazine I found myself drowned in talked about the difference between good and better things:

 

“Did you know there are good things, and then there are better things? I didn’t always know this. I knew there were good things, and there were bad things. I knew that there were things that the Bible called sinful. And to spend my time gossiping or being lazy or something like that is not only a waste of time but displeasing to the Lord. We all know this. But then there are things that are just good. They are not sinful or even questionable. Often times, the good things are necessary and important, and they’re things like having a clean house, doing the laundry, tackling home improvement projects, being in a book club, or even taking a break and watching TV. There is nothing condemnable about them, but there is nothing eternalabout them either. The things that are eternal are the things that are best. And there are three categories for things that will last for the rest of time: God, God’s Word, and the souls of people.”

– Abbie Schaller, Tapestry Magazine

My life has been given to me to utilize it in (hopefully) the best way. With social media, how much of me is being utilized? My thumbs, for sure. So that’s covered. But what about the rest? Technology savvy or not, anyone can post an instagram or send a snap or post a status. What about the specific ways that God has gifted me? The things that make me distinct from everyone else. How are those things being used and cultivated?

I don’t find my worth in social media & instagram likes. But is it an addiction for me? I’m not sure, because I think if that were the case, this fast would have been a whole lot harder than it was, and it turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. But I do turn to it anytime I have a moment to waste, or even when I don’t. Is it a type of drug for me?

In her book Present Over Perfect – yes, the fourth piece of writing I’ve drowned myself in this week – Shauna Niequist says, “You can make a drug – a way to anesthetize yourself – out of anything: working out, binge-watching TV, working, having sex, shopping, volunteering, cleaning, dieting. Any of those things can keep you from feeling pain for a while – that’s what drugs do. And, used like a drug, over time, shopping or TV or work or whatever will make you less and less able to connect to the things that matter, like your own heart and the people you love. That’s another thing drugs do: they isolate you.”

Maybe social media isn’t even a problem for you. Or maybe you would say it’s a problem and you couldn’t fathom signing out of your accounts for a single day. Whatever it is, what is your good but temporary thing? How are you spending time? Even free time?

If you find yourself being similar to me in this area, or you want to do this for yourself just to see what would come from it, I encourage and even challenge you to do it! Maybe it’s just for a day, maybe for a week, or maybe you want to get real crazy and go off the radar for a month. Come up with a time frame, and just commit to it.

If it helps, bring others around you in this! Maybe a friend or two can do the same thing. Even if they don’t, though, I’d encourage telling a few close friends what you’ve decided – and giving them permission to call you out if you don’t stay committed!

Again, social media isn’t sinful. I’m still a huge fan! And you’ll still see me on just about every platform. But my perspective is different. Sometimes you have to step back from the good-but-temporary for an amount of time to allow yourself to see where your perspective should be. Other times it does mean stepping back altogether. It’s a case-by-case thing, and taking at least a little time to step back can allow you to discern where you’re at.

Since I’d love to keep this perspective fresh in my mind as much as possible, there are a few practical things I have implemented since my week-long fast. Feel free to ask about them!

If you’re thinking through something like this for yourself, let this last quote encourage you, and perhaps even help you decide:

“The perishable, temporary, good things will burn away. All those dishes I cleaned? Burned. All those hours I watched Downton Abbey? Gone. All the time I spent cultivating the perfect yard, the perfect house, the perfect body? Yep, burned and gone forever. BUT all those small moments spent on eternal things? Rewarded. Those moments I spent worshipping God with my mouth, with my prayers, and with my work? Rewarded. The hours spent reading Scripture and in Bible study with other women? Praise. The chapters from the Jesus Story Book Bible I read and reread and read again to my boys at bedtime? Glory. The times I stopped to snuggle or cherish or meet a need for my boys? Rewarded. The risks taken to broach spiritual topics with my neighbors? Rewarded.”

– Abbie Schaller, Tapestry Magazine

I would personally love to hear about anything you’d like to challenge yourself to do, and what came from it if you decide to do so!

Praise God for moments of silence, for moments of reflection, and His ability to refresh or completely change our perspectives when we make ourselves susceptible. More reasons to sing His grace.

What Are We Doing?//Kathleen

As the new intern on the TRVA[tidewater + richmond] Cru team, I’ve come to meet many new people, discover fun things about Richmond, and learn all the lingo that I was not previously privy to. I faced numerous challenges getting to Richmond such as finding housing after my plans fell through, raising all my support, and maintaining my sanity while living at home. I thought once I finally moved, I would be in the clear, but God had some more challenges in store such as: a break-up, buying a new mattress by myself, making new friends, and a handful of other things.

No no, this isn’t a pity party. This is me gathering my thoughts and catching you up to speed. It’s so easy to get caught up in life’s messes, in the exciting things, and even in the trivial day-to-day things (aka grocery shopping always). However, I’ve been faced with a question time and time again upon arriving to Richmond:

–WHAT ARE WE DOING?–

This question comes from a new f397ea274a5a85328f0d85739cfe91371riend who is a fellow staff member. He constantly challenges us as a staff team when we are planning events, when we have conversations, even when we’re not talking at all. He has a great grasp on the eternal- the everlasting results of our work and of God’s ultimate plan.

The apostle Paul writes to us saying, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10). Paul is challenging us to truly seek from where we receive our approval. If you continue reading that passage (which I highly encourage you do so), He assures the audience that the Gospel he has been preaching is not a man-made teaching, but rather a Truth from God most high, from our Creator, our Savior.

So what are we doing? Are we toiling our time away on Instagram to receive praise? Are we watching Netflix instead of doing work? Are we choosing comfort instead of God’s plan (trust me, His plan usually isn’t all that comfortable)? Yes. I can say yes to each of these but daily, I pray and work to be able to one day say no to these. I pray that you will ask yourself these questions and ask those around you– What are we doing?

Find friends that are willing to challenge the status quo.

The friends that will choose to serve others and love tangibly.

Community that loves and encourages.

People that ask tough questions and share Truth.

What good is Christian community if we’re not discussing deeper things and sharing the grace we’ve received from the God of Grace?