Take My Yoke and Be Equally Yoked

There are a few times in the Bible when a yoke is mentioned. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In 2 Corinthians 6:14 we are told not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers.” What exactly is yoke though? Well, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a yoke is “a bar or frame that is attached to the heads or necks of two work animals (such as oxen) so that they can pull a plow or heavy load.” So, what? Does Jesus want us to wear wooden bars around our necks? No, not exactly… at least not actually, but figuratively speaking, yes He does! Let me explain how what these two verses mean and then I’ll explain how I think they correlate with each other.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Over and over again, Jesus makes it more than clear that we, as Christians, will have many burdens to carry while we are on this earth. He also makes it perfectly clear that we are not to carry them alone. Instead we are to share a yoke with Him and He will help us carry our heavy burdens. In the modern way of speaking, He’s basically saying, “Hey! Stop stressing! You don’t have to worry and fuss. Just come to me and I’ll help you out. I’ll give you a reason to feel well-rested, joyful, and hopeful! So, take a breath and just chill!” Easier said than done, sure, but that’s exactly why it’s important to constantly remind ourselves of this passage in Scripture, because Jesus is the real deal Superman who can and will carry whatever burden will throw at Him, because He’s God and He can lift anything and everything on just His pinky finger, ya know?

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” When you get married, you and your spouse become one being. You no longer have separate burdens, but instead, your burdens also become one and you carry each other’s burdens equally, or at least you should carry each other’s burdens equally. Therefore, before you get married you have to make sure you and your potential spouse to be are not unequally yoked. In other words, you have to make sure your basic belief systems are the same. If your spouse to be does not share your deepest convictions, then you will most likely face problems if you get married. If you are a Christian and He is an atheist, a Buddhist, a Muslim, or even a Jew, then odds are you neither have the same basic beliefs, nor the same deep convictions. That makes you unequally yoked and being unequally yoked will only breed trouble, especially if you have children and you each try to raise them up in your own personal beliefs. Marriage is sacred relationship created by God and He does not want you to constantly battle with your unequally yoked spouse. If you were both oxen, it would be like one of you is 10 feet tall while the other is only 5 feet tall. There would be no way for your yoke to be equally balanced, which is what God means when He tells us not to be unequally yoked.

Now, I believe these two passages tie together perfectly. Before we can even think about being equally or unequally yoked with a potential spouse, we must first be yoked with Jesus. Every day we must take up our cross, which would be our burden, and hand it over to Jesus, who will in turn give us His burden and share our yokes with us so that we will not fall over because it is unbalanced. The same is true for our potential spouses. One day, I hope to marry a wonderful man and live happily ever after, but I will never be able to do that unless he—the man God will one day have me marry—first trades his heavy burden for Jesus’ much lighter burden and shares His yoke. Then, he and I will have to way our burdens (convictions and belief system) together and measure whether the yoke Jesus has given us will be well-balanced when we try to carry it together. If it is equally balanced our three yokes are equal—my personal yoke with Jesus, his personal yoke with Jesus, and our yoke together—then we’re in the right place and we can proceed to get married.

Long explanation short: there are two kinds of yokes that every Christian can carry. The yoke that we share with Christ and the yoke most of us will one day share with a spouse. And, the most important thing to remember is that we first carry a yoke with Jesus and then carry a yoke with our spouse or spouse to be.

“I’m a Girl; I Need Drama”

The other day, one of my friends said something along the lines of, “I’m a girl; I need drama.”  I laughed and agreed as we went on to talk about someone neither of us particularly likes, because of some drama that is going on in that person’s life. The idea that “I’m a girl; I need drama,” is totally normal for girls to think. In fact, I’m sure that it’s probably a phrase that every girl has heard or thought at least once in her life at one point or another. However, even though it may be normal, it’s not right. My friend and I weren’t necessarily talking badly about the other person, but we weren’t talking about that person in a positive and uplifting way either. When the Bible tells us not to talk about people, it says:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

And, earlier in the Old Testament, God talks about the power of gossiping about people:

A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.

Proverbs 16:28 (NIV)

It is very hard for someone to get on my bad side. Once you’ve made an impression on me, assuming it was a good first impression, you have to do a lot of stupid and hurtful things to get on my bad side. On the other hand, if one of your first impressions on me is a bad one, then it’ll be really difficult for me to see you in a positive light. To those who have made good impressions on me, I am loyal to a fault—so that even if that person (and of course he or she does) have a fault, I can normally look completely past it and lift him or her up higher than I probably should. However, to those who haven’t made a good impression on me, it’s very easy and more likely that I will remember every single shortcoming he or she has that I have seen and discuss it with someone else every chance that I get.

As effortlessly as it is for me to speak highly of my favorite people in the world, it’s even more effortless for me to speak down about my least favorite people in the world. I can only think of three people that I have ever had to genuinely try to like, because they were that hard to like, that I pretty much always talk down about; but I can think of about half a dozen to a dozen people who have burned me enough that I go back and forth between talking highly and talking down about them. As I’ve written in past blog posts, I am a church girl. I grew up in the church so I’ve heard every variation of the “Gossiping is Sinning” sermon, but knowing it’s a sin doesn’t make it any easier not to do it! As much as I like to pride myself in saying I try to love everyone who crosses my path, that’s not always how things happen for me. I catch myself gossiping more times than I’d like to admit and gossiping is not loving…. Gossiping is hating.

As much as I know that gossiping is wrong, it doesn’t feel wrong in the moment. It feels easy, natural, normal, and even good. As my Favorite Minion, Holly, once told me, “It is easy to gossip because it feels good in the moment… and you think you are building yourself up. But in reality you are just digging a deeper hole for yourself and you start believing the world is centered around you.” Whether consciously or subconsciously, I gossip because it makes me feel like I’m better than whoever I’m talking about. Nothing is wrong with me feeling good about myself, but everything is wrong with me feeling good about myself at the expense of someone else. When I talk about people behind their back, I am no better than a bully. In fact, for all intents and purposes, I am a bully.

The words I say about someone, whether to their face or behind their back, can and normally do leave a permanent mark on that person’s life. When I speak good and wholesome things to people, it will most likely make them feel good about themselves, whereas when I speak mean and hurtful things to people, it will most likely leave some kind of a permanent scar on their heart. When I speak positive things about people, those who hear me will most likely think positive things about the person I’m talking about; whereas when I speak negatively about people, I am most likely a catalyst causing other people to think negative thoughts about the person I talk about.

My point in this whole post is to say, “Yes, we are girls, but no we do not need drama!” Drama is almost always a direct or indirect result from something that someone said to or about someone else. My goal is to stop talking to and about people unless I have something positive to say about them. I challenge you to make that your goal as well! It’s time we say and think, “I’m a girl. I need to avoid drama and put out the fire that starts it!”

This goal won’t be easy to accomplish because in James 3:8, the Bible says “no human being can tame the tongue” and in Proverbs 12:18 it says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” However, in Proverbs 21:23 the Bible also says, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” and let’s not forget that Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” You and I might not be able to tame our tongues on our own, but through the power of Christ, if we allow Him to work through us, we can and will tame our tongues so that we will speak only words of kindness and love about people.

My God Cares about the Little Things

            I believe in a God who still performs miracles. The first miracle I ever remember directly happening to me was something small, and one might say insignificant, but for me, it changed my life! When I was seventeen years old, I accidently locked my only set of car keys in the minivan my parents designated for me to drive. I knew my parents, especially my mom, would be irritated with me if she found out I locked my keys in the car, so I did the only logical thing I could think of doing. I went inside and got the clicker (car remote) to unlock the doors. There was only one problem though. That clicker had not worked in the two or so years that we owned the used vehicle and I knew that, but I was desperate, so I tried it anyway. I clicked it a few times, but it didn’t work, so I started praying, begging God to let it work, just that once. I clicked a few more times as I begged for God to make it work, telling Him that I knew He could and asking Him to prove to me that He cared even about the little things. After five or so clicks, I heard the doors unlock. I opened the door and got my keys out of the van. It never worked before then and it hasn’t worked since. One might say that was purely coincidental, but I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe God honored my faith in Him and chose to perform a little miracle for me. That was about three years ago, I’m twenty now, but I still remember it like it was yesterday, because it proved two very important things to me. First, God does still perform miracles. Second, I really do serve a God who cares about every detail of my life, even the little things.

            Another small and insignificant part of my life when I remember God proving to me that He cares, even about the seemingly unimportant things—those that are essentially ineffective in furthering His kingdom—was when my friend/coworker and I traded shifts at work. She had asked me to take her evening shift, so she could take my morning shift and hangout with her friend who was visiting from out of town. I didn’t think I had anything planned that day, so I agreed to trade shifts. Almost immediately, another friend reminded me about a previous engagement that I had. So, I texted my work friend and asked if there was any way she could find someone else to take her shift. For a good half hour, she and I thought that neither of us would be able to participate in the events we wanted to go to, but then someone asked her if they could take her shift and it all worked out. I truly believe that was God working things out for my friend and I, because from the moment I knew I needed to take my shift back, I had started desperately praying that God would make it so that she and I could both do what we wanted to do. God answered my prayer the way I asked Him to and proved to me once again that He really does care about the little things!

            Tonight, He proved to me once again that He cares about silly things. One of my goals for 2014, because I failed to accomplish it right after graduation last year like I wanted to, is to eat healthier and exercise more. I’m so serious about this that I’ve written it down on my prayer notecards and even asked some of my friends to pray for me to stay disciplined. Tonight while I was at work, I planned on getting a peppermint milkshake while we still have them, but when I got home, I realized I forgot to get it. I immediately had this feeling that it was God looking over me and helping me to stick to my commitment of eating healthy. I could have remembered to buy that milkshake, but I didn’t, and I firmly believe that it’s because, as long as it doesn’t go against His commands and commandments, God cares about the things I care about. He knows that I’ve been trying to be healthier and He knows that I’ve been praying to Him, asking Him to help me to stay disciplined. He honored my attempts to better my life and answered my prayers.

            I know those three things are kind of silly and to you I might look like a crazy person for getting excited about things that are so trivial, and quite frankly, kind of shallow, but I don’t care. God is something to get excited about and He’s the reason I’m still excited about things that happened a few years ago, a couple of years ago, and just today. When I think about these three occurrences in my life, I can’t help but think of the passage in Luke when Jesus talks about the sparrows. Even though the passage is talking about not fearing about things that might happen in life, I believe Luke 12:6-7 is very relevant to a lot of other aspects in life.

6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?

Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.

7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)

            God cares about the sparrows which are of no value even on earth, why would He not care about the little details in my life? In the past, I have heard many people tell me that God doesn’t really care about every detail in your life. All He really cares about is that you’re following His rules and commandments, but I don’t buy that! Why would He count the hairs on my head and collect my teardrops in a bottle* if He didn’t care about every single detail of my life? That theory just doesn’t make sense to me! I know my God cares about each and every detail in my life! He cares about whether or not I go to college; He cares about what career path I take in life; He cares about who I’m going to marry and how many kids I’m going to have; and yes, He even cares about whether or not I eat the delicious peppermint milkshake whose several hundred calories would pretty much negate my efforts to be healthy.

 

My God cares about the little details; if your God doesn’t, I suggest you read your Bible and find that He really does care! J

 

*Psalm 56:8

True Success

2014 – The year when I’m supposed to start going to college.

College – Something that is supposed to train me for a career.

Career – Something that’s supposed to help me get more money.

Money – Something that is supposed to measure how successful I am in my life.

My Life – Something that is supposed to be approved of by everyone I come across.

At least, that’s what society and even a lot of church members seem to be telling me.

“Go to college,” they tell me. “College will help you figure out what you want to do with your life.”

“I already know what I want to do with my life,” I tell them, but they don’t listen.

“Okay, go to college; it’ll teach you important skills that will help you in your career so that you can hear a lot of money and be successful.”

“I don’t need money to be successful,” I try to explain to no avail.

“You won’t get very far in life without money,” they say as they look at me with pity in their eyes as they continue to explain why my “wisest decision” would be to go to college. At this point, I just nod and “mmhmm” politely, because it’s taking all I have to keep a pleasant smile on my face while they try to tell me that not going to college is stupid and naïve.

I just don’t understand why everyone takes it upon themselves to worry about something that is totally out of their control. If I want to “go nowhere fast” as they pretty much tell me I’m going to, that should be my decision. I shouldn’t have to explain myself to everyone, but because it’s a part of my testimony and I know God plans to use me somehow in some way through not going to college, I will explain myself and my motives to everyone who asks.

I’m not going to college. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m a 20 something high school graduate who isn’t going straight into the military and I’m choosing not to go to college either. Before you ask, no it’s not about the money. With FAFSA, I could probably get into college for next to nothing because of where I live and because I live with twelve siblings. I’m not going to college because I feel like I could be more effective in this world if I didn’t go to college. My goals in life are to be an author (I’m currently in the process of writing a book right now) and to inspire young women to admit they are hurting, confess their brokenness to God, and accept His offer to heal them. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound.”*

I spent all of 2013 and half of 2012 thinking, praying, reading the Bible, and reading other religions books in order to figure out what exactly it is that God wants me to do with my life. While I believe He would bless me if I chose to go to college, because He has given me a free will and will use me somehow in some way regardless of my decisions. I believe God will be able to use me most effectively if I spend 2014 writing my book and posting blog entries. I believe that for me to go to college would be wasteful, because I would be using the money that the government doesn’t have to get a diploma in studies that I do not have to have in order do what I feel God has called me to do. I can write a book and start a ministry without going to college. Why should I waste my time and the government’s money when I could be using my time for more important things and the government could be paying for another student to attend college? It just doesn’t make logical or spiritual sense to me.

I even went through all of the motions of applying for college (the University of Texas at Austin was my first choice), looking for majors, and ultimately ways to use my majors, but I was never at peace while I was doing any of that. Sure I was excited, because it was a new adventure that I would be able to embark on, but I was not at peace. However, I have been at peace with myself and with God since the very moment I accepted the fact that God didn’t want me to go to college. God has uses many tools to show us if we are following the best path in life; a spirit of peace is one of His greatest tools. If you’ve chosen to do something that doesn’t bring you a sense of peace and joy, then you should probably reevaluate, because God is probably trying to tell you something.

Money won’t make me successful. Everyone’s follow up question to whether or not I’m going to college is how I will earn money if I don’t go to college. I have a one word answer to that question, “God.” I know without a shadow of a doubt that God will provide for me as I choose to follow Him in my life. “Are not two little sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s leave (consent) and notice. But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, then; you are of more value than many sparrows.”** God cares about the birds of the sky enough to give them food and shelter, who am I to doubt that He will also take care of me and provide all that I need, whether that be food, clothes, shelter, or money? I am “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”*** I do not possess the power to question God when it comes to providing for me. It is my job to trust Him and do as He has asked me to; it is not to worry about how He will provide for me.

While I believe the people who worry about how I will be successful if I don’t go to college and earn a lot of money ask with the best intentions, I also believe they are seriously missing the mark by measuring success with college, careers, and money. Success isn’t about where I do or don’t go to college; it’s not about what career I have; and it’s not about how much money I earn. Success is about living a life that is pleasing to God. Success is about leaving a mark in this world that will carry over into the next life when Jesus comes back to take us with Him to Heaven. My success isn’t measured by where I won’t go to college, what career I might have, or how much money I’ll make in the future. My success is measured by what God thinks of me and if other peoples’ opinions don’t match up with His opinion, then that’s okay, because I’m not looking for their approval! My only goal in life is to please God, love the people around me, and leave an impact on the world that will last long after I am gone!

I’ve been planning on writing a blog post about success since Christmas time and then I read the blog post below and was truly inspired to really right it. The fact that they probably sound really similar is pure coincidence, because Lauren’s words fit “my” definition of success perfectly!

http://labump.blogspot.com/2013/11/success.html?m=1

Blessed Beyond Belief–God’s January 2014 Promise Coming True

            In January of 2013, I went for a walk/jog on which I had my music off and was talking to God. I was asking Him about what His plans were for me. I remember thinking about my blog and praying about it. After a few minutes, I remember very distinctly hearing Him tell me that something huge would happen in my life in January 2014. On February 4, 2013, I wrote this in my journal:

God, I know that I know that I know I’m supposed to be a writer… About a week ago, when I was thinking and praying about my calling, You gave me a date, January 1, 2014. I have no idea what this date means, but I do know that something miraculous [which is synonymous to amazing, incredible, and unbelievable] will happen or begin in my life or for a cause that I believe in on January 1, 2014 and will last until at least January 14, 2014.

            On January 1, 2014, something unbelievable started in my life. I learned about a young woman named Lauren Bump. The circumstance that caused me to learn about her was tragic and awful and if I could do something to change it I would, but I can’t, so I’ll be grateful for the life lived by a twenty-four-year-old young woman who I never had the privilege of meeting. As I wrote in my post Live Like Lauren, Lauren Bump is one of the few people who can truly be described as a diamond in the rough. She was surely an angel in disguise sent to this world to balance out all of the evil.

            Lauren Bump was a close friend of my best friends’ so in the days that followed her death on Tuesday, December 31, I clicked every link that I came across with her name or face on it. I wanted to know about the girl who made such a deep impression on the lives of my two best friends. With each link that I pressed, my respect and admiration for Lauren grew and grew until she had inspired me so much that I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer. On Sunday, one of my friends changed her Facebook cover to support Lauren, so I commented on it saying, “I never even met her, but after all that I’ve heard and read about her in the past week, she has inspired me more than most people have in the several years I’ve known them! The positive impact she’s so clearly made on so many people’s lives is inspiring and amazing!” Writing that comment made me want to write a status about how Lauren, someone I had never met, had inspired me and even left a deep impression on my life. In the seconds, my words became too many to be a status, so I decided to write a blog post instead. All I wanted from that blog post was to be able to share with my best friends, and maybe a couple of their friends, about how much Lauren had impacted my life in an unchangeable way in only a few days. Little did I know that that post was what God was talking about when He told me a year beforehand that He would make something unbelievable happen in January of 2014.

            In less than three full days, over 900 people have read that blog post and the number is constantly growing by a few readers every five minutes. Compared to popular bloggers, having a blog post be read by 930 people doesn’t seem like very much, but when you compare it to the fact that that one post has been read more than four times as many times as all of my blog posts from 2013 combined have been read, that is truly unbelievable! God has used two burning lights to shine four times brighter and four times farther in three days than one light shone in a whole year!

            I don’t know why God has chosen to bless my blog and get me so many readers in such a short span of time, and I may never know, but I choose to use this opportunity to shine even brighter than I ever have before. My intentions in writing about Lauren Bump were not to bring glory and attention to myself, but simply to share about a young woman who changed the world. Now that God has chosen to use Lauren to bring attention to my blog, I will accept it as a blessing and go at life with a new fire and a brighter light to leave an irreversible impression on the lives of every person who comes across my path. As I wrote in the first post about Lauren, my desire is to be like her in that even after I’m gone people remember me for the fire I have for God, the love I have for others, and the passion I have for everything I do. For the rest of my time on this earth, I will “seek peace, keep a joyful heart, and in all things, do with love,” as Lauren advised.

            January 2014 isn’t half over yet, so for all I know, God may continue to bless me and my blog beyond my expectations, but if doesn’t I will be beyond okay with that, because for me, it’s enough that He used to Lauren to inspire me go at life with a new fire inside me, and it’s especially enough to know that He has had so many people read something I wrote. If does choose to bless me and my blog more this month, then I will take it as it is, a blessing and encouragement to continue to shine in this broken world where tragically evil things happen to beautifully godly people!

 

To support Lauren like Live Like Lauren, a page on Facebook that was created to support her.

 

To support her family, buy a pink or black t-shirt here.

 

For more information and posts from D.A.R.E. to HOPE like D.A.R.E. to HOPE Ministries on Facebook.

 

And for prayer requests or anything else, send an email to daretohope12@aol.com.

I’m Thankful for My First World Problems

            Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about everyday things that I take for granted. I live in America, so I’m already more fortunate than the majority of the rest of the world, but even still I’m more fortunate than a lot of Americans. At twenty years old, I still live with my mom, who pays for everything but my gas. I have a car to drive, a job to go to, a house to live under, and a bed to live in. I have warm clothes and multiple pairs of shoes. I have running water, both cold and hot and the only health issue I have is that I have to wear glasses. I’m thankful for my first world problems that I take for granted on a daily basis—my hair, my life, my job, and my freedom of religion.

            How many times have you gone on Facebook, Twitter, and or Instagram and seen someone post a picture with a hashtag complaining about their hair with another hashtag mentioning how it’s one of many first world problems? I can’t speak for you, but I know for me it happens on a pretty regular basis. So, it might sound silly to you that I’ve been concerned about how I’ve been taking my hair for granted, but that’s okay. I’m not afraid to sound silly. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about cancer, because I’ve seen several movies on Netflix that had main characters with cancer and because one of my favorite authors, musicians, and actresses, Paige Omartian, had cancer when she was growing up, a little girl whose family is friends with some people from my church was diagnosed with cancer this past year, and my team leader from work had a sister who lost her battle with cancer in the past year. I have thought about how the treatments for cancer often lead to hair loss and I have wondered what I would say or do if I was diagnosed with cancer and lost all of my hair. Honestly, I would probably cry about it. My hair has always been my favorite thing about myself. At some point or another, I have complained about every square inch of my body, physical, mental, and emotional except for my hair. So, yes, I have felt guilty about taking my hair for granted and I’m trying to remember to thank God for it every time I look at it, stroke it, or push it out of my face.

            I’ve been thinking about how I have taken my life for granted. I’m not guaranteed another breath, and yet I act as if I’ll live forever! While taking life for granted isn’t necessarily a first world problem, it is a lot easier for those of us who live in first world countries to take our lives for granted, because unlike the residents of third world countries, most of us don’t have to fight for our lives on a regular basis. In the past, my mother has been pregnant at two different times with babies that didn’t even get to live long enough to see the world with their own eyes, my team leader’s younger sister passed away as a young teenager last year, a week ago a young woman only four years older than me was murdered, and there many people somewhere fighting for their lives right now. Right now, I am breathing in and out, I’m tapping my feet to the music coming from the TV, and I am using my fingers to type these words. Those are things the previously mentioned people never be able do again and yet I take this actions for granted on a daily basis. Inhale. Exhale. I did it again, and I’m still doing it, I’m breathing. That’s not something to be taken lightly and it’s certainly not something to take for granted. I’m still breathing; I should be thanking God for blessing me with life.

              I am daily taking my job for granted. Not only do I have a job, but I also have a job that pays well. I have a job that pays me $7.25 an hour. By American standards, that’s minimum wage and isn’t considered a high paying job. In fact, having a minimum wage job is often considered a first world problem, but compared to most of the other countries in the world, that’s a lot of money. In America, $7.25 can’t even get me more than one coffee at Starbucks. When I compare that minimum wage to that of other countries, like China, I can’t help but laugh at myself for complaining. In China, minimum wage is $1.19. That’s not even enough to get a tall Passion Tea Lemonade from Starbucks, which is one of the cheaper items at Starbucks. It’s barely enough to get me a small ice cream cone at Chick-fil-a for $1.18 (including tax). I take job for granted, especially when I consider the fact that I’ve been employed since 2010 and my managers pretty much let me take off 8 to 9 months a year for volleyball and basketball each year until I graduated high school in May of 2013.

            Finally, I take for granted the freedom of religion that living in America grants me. I have the freedom to worship whichever god I want to worship and not be burned at the stake because I choose to worship the God of the Bible. I have the freedom to stand in a street corner and proclaim the praises of my Lord and Savior. I have the freedom to sit under the stars with a group of friends singing worship songs to our Creator, the one who created the stars above us. And, I have the freedom to publically meet with fellow believers on Sunday mornings in a movie theater, in a building rented from someone else, in my own home, in an actual church building, or in the middle of the field. My freedom of religion is something that I’ve grown so accustomed to, that I often forget that there are still more countries than I can count that are persecuting Christians who publically proclaim their belief in Christ. As an American, I may be verbally persecuted by people that don’t understand what Christianity is really all about, but what is verbal abuse when I could be living in a country that would torture me for my beliefs? It’s nothing but a first world problem!

            My challenge to you and to myself is that we stop taking things for granted! We need to remember that we are blessed! We need to be thankful for our first world problems! I am blessed to have hair, to be breathing, to have a job, and to have the freedom of religion! What are you blessed to have? My challenge for myself this year is to write on a sheet of index paper at least one thing I am thankful for each day until the end of the year. Why am I doing that? I’m doing it so that when times get rough, I’ll remember the things God has blessed me with. I’m doing it so that at the end of the year, and years from now, I’ll remember the little things that I’ve been blessed with, and I’m doing it so that I will remember to have a thankful attitude each day. The more you make yourself think about the things you are grateful for, the more grateful you become for all the things that you have.

            Now that I’m done writing this blog entry, I’m gonna go appreciate some of the things I’m grateful for—my soft mattress in my heated bedroom (it’s only 43* outside here in Texas, which is considerably warm compared to the negative degree weather in most of America right now, but it’s still freezing for us), my warm UT Longhorns snuggie and UT Longhorns house socks, my two fluffy pink blankets and soft Texas flag blanket, and both of my pillows with my UT Longhorns pillow pet. And, I’m gonna to enjoy something else that I take for granted each night—sleep! Thank you for reading this blog entry, I hope you enjoyed it! J haha

Live Like Lauren

 

**DISCLAIMER** I cannot and will not claim that I ever knew Lauren Bump, because I didn’t. In fact, I think I had only ever heard her name once or twice before Wednesday, January 1, 2014. Nor can I claim ownership of the picture above or the creation of the title of this post, so hopefully I won’t get in trouble for using them and her quotes. The purpose of this blog post is to share from an outsider’s perspective about a young woman who changed many other young women’s worlds. Please forgive me if you knew Lauren and feel that I have overstepped my boundaries as a total stranger to her. I sincerely apologize.

            So many times in my life I’ve heard pastors and teachers speak on the importance of a good reputation. They’ve spoken about living a life that will speak for me long after I’ve moved onto the next life to live with Jesus. Many of them have warned of making wise decisions and living a life that is pleasing to God so that when I do go to be with Him, I will be remembered for my love, my good deeds, my selflessness, and my heart of gold. I always thought those were good lessons, but to be honest though, that’s all they were to me, good lessons. Before this past week, I never thought about what people would remember me for after I died. I’ve always lived in the moment and been more concerned with people liking me now and not with leaving a lasting impression that is not only pleasing to God, but important and life-changing to the world of people who live after me. When I have thought about the future, it’s always been to stress and worry about selfish things, like monetary success, where I’ll end up on the social ladder, and if I’ll ever really fall in love and get married.

            Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to live in the moment, after all our life is but a mist, but I think it’s even more important to live for the future, for the very same reason—Our life is nothing but “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” I don’t know how long I have on this earth. I’m only twenty years old, so statistically speaking, I should have about fifty to sixty more years in this world, but who’s to say God’s plan isn’t to take me a week from now, a day from now, or even seconds from now? What if He does choose to take me sooner than later? Am I ready for that? Have I seized every opportunity to live life to the fullest in such a way that anyone who has come across my path has also come across His path? If God chooses to take my life tonight, what will I be remembered for? Have I spent my life trying to please Him or have I lived it trying to please others?

I know the answer to the above questions and quite frankly, I’m not too happy with the answers. I have spent a large majority of my twenty years on this earth trying to please other people and what has that gotten me? It’s gotten me stress, displeasure, depression, and dissatisfaction. Even in the past year and a half when I’ve really grabbed hold of God and tried to live for Him I’ve slipped up more times than I’d like to admit and found myself doing things because I thought other people would be happy with me rather than thinking about what God would think of me!

You might be confused with what I’ve said so far. “Brittany, you said in the first paragraph that having a good reputation is important. That would mean we have to care about what other people think of us. Now, you’re saying that instead of pleasing people, we need to please God. What’s the deal?” Well, ya see, what I mean is that the only people in history who have truly left a positive and lasting influence in this world are the people who didn’t care what other people thought of them and acted in the best interest of those around them.

            It’s true that we live in a world full of evil and selfish people who only care about furthering themselves and getting the best out of everything for themselves, but every once in a while, you’ll come across a person that is so humble and so selfless that you wonder if they’re really angels in disguise sent down from heaven to balance out all of the evil in this world. People who don’t care what other people think about them as long as they are doing what they know is right. Queen Esther broke the law of the land and risked her life to talk to the king without him first summoning her, all in the name of saving other people’s lives. She didn’t care what the king thought, she knew what was right and she did it. Now, thousands of years later, she’s known as one of the most empowered women in history. Mother Theresa traded a life of luxury for a life of meagerness and indefinite virginity, so that other people could have food and shelter. I’m sure people thought she was crazy, but she didn’t care! She did what she felt was right and now she’s remembered as one of the most selfless women in history! A young woman named Lauren Bump was also one of those people. She didn’t care what people thought about her. She loved with all that she had, cared for everyone around her, and personally invested in the lives of the other girls around her many of whom were a few years younger than her.

Like Queen Esther and Mother Theresa, I never met Lauren Bump, but after all that I’ve heard and read about her in the past week, she is the person who has caused me to take all of those teachings about having a good reputation seriously. I have seen, heard, and read about the positive impact that she has left on people’s lives and even without knowing her, I know that Lauren was a bright light for God who didn’t care about what other people thought about her as long as they knew she loved them and that God loved them even more. I know that Lauren must have been one of those angels in disguise who was sent to earth to remind people that there is still a God who wants us to know there can be good in the world, if only we will accept Him and follow His ways.

Lauren Bump had a rare beauty about her that radiates from her even now, after she was dealt an unfair fate that led to her passing on to be with Jesus at only twenty-four years old. She’s one of the few people who can truly be described as a diamond in the rough and even without ever meeting her she has inspired me more than most people have in the several years that I’ve known them! She has inspired me to start living a life that will be remembered long after I’m gone! Before this year had even started, I had decided that my only resolution would be to seek God in all that I do, but now, after learning about Lauren Bump and the positively impactful life she lived, I have been inspired to broaden my resolution for 2014 and every year to follow. I will live a life and speak words that encourage and inspire other people, especially younger girls and young woman who are my age, to live for God, to live life to the fullest, and to love themselves as much as they love others! I will live in such a way that no one can know me without also coming face to face with God. I will live a life that continues to inspire and encourage people long after I’m gone!

The positive, inspiring, and amazing impact that Lauren Bump made on so many people’s lives is so clear that I have no doubt in my mind that she has a beautiful place to live in Heaven where she will wear a crown so decorated with radiant jewels and precious minerals, like silver and gold, that it’s nearly impossible for even her heavenly body to hold it up!

I’m not sure who coined this term, but I’ve seen my best friends (who were very close to Lauren) use it, so hopefully it’s okay for me to use it too… We should all Live Like Lauren and take the advice she gave when she said, “Seek peace, keep a joyful heart, and in all things, do with love.”

Thank you Lauren Bump for inspiring me even though I never knew you! Thank you for being a positive influence in my best friends’ lives! And, thank you for inspiring me to write and finish my first blog post of 2014. I hope you can somehow know that you’re still encouraging and inspiring people, including people you don’t know, even after going to live with Jesus! Once again, I never knew you, but I kind of wish I did, because you’ve inspired me so much in the five days I’ve known about you, it’s crazy! Rest in peace and know that your life was not wasted!

To support Lauren like the page created for her on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/livelikelmb

And buy a shirt to support her dreams!

https://www.booster.com/livelikelmb?share=611437535624523