In light of the recent tragedy in Connecticut, many people have been posting on my social media feed about prayer, God, and religion. And what I love so much about my social media feed and the people I’ve met personally through social media, especially agriculture, is that not only do they inspire me when it comes to our common bond, agriculture. The people I’ve met also inspire me in other ways.. whether it be crafts, cooking, or more importantly, my faith.
My friend and well known blogger, Dairy Carrie, posted this post about Choosing Faith. In it she talks honestly about her own personal struggles with religion and her own faith. And she also talks about working on her own personal relationship with Christ. In that post, Carries says,
“I freely admit the times I have typed the words “I will pray for you/your family/your dog” does not equal the number of times I have actually taken the time to do the praying. I also admit that while I love the idea that every time I hear or see an ambulance with lights on taking the 30 seconds to pray for whoever so desperately needs help, I forget to do it or just don’t.”
Her words resonated with me. And for the few days following it, I took some time to think about my own personal relationship with Jesus, spending some time in the Bible, and praying. Until very recently, I haven’t been open with sharing my religion and discussing it with other people, in fact, there were times I will admit I was embarrassed to admit that I went to church. Growing up, a lot of times I struggled with religion. I was one of those kids who spent her entire childhood in church. Up until 6th grade, I attended a private Christian school. I could recite to you Bible verses, stories, and parables. Upon playing Barbies with my cousin, I accepted Jesus into my life and I will always remember that moment. There amongst the Barbie RV.. My older cousin and I prayed. And so begun my relationship with Him. And my relationship went well until about 6th grade when I moved from a private school into a public school closer to home.
Attending public school brought together children from all backgrounds and beliefs. No longer did we attend Chapel on Fridays, say prayers in our classrooms, or memorize Bible verses. In fact, God was rarely brought into the conversation. Being an insecure teenager, I basically hid the fact that I had gone to a private school in fear of being made fun of. Instead, I ran with a group of girls whom none of their families attended Church. And when they spent the night on a Saturday, Sunday morning my parents would wake us up for Church and these girls would have to attend with us. I can remember being that snotty teenager and fighting with my parents about attending church. And why did my friends have to come with us? Eventually it got to the point where my friends always wanted ME to spend the night in hopes that they wouldn’t have to attend church with me. But it never failed, even if I spent the night at my friend’s house, my parents would come pick me up.
I went through what I call “dark years”… As any parent knows, raising a teenager is probably one of the most difficult times. Their sweet little baby girl becomes a reactive ball of emotions who can blow up at any moment… And let’s face it, for me it was no cake walk either. Many times I came home crying to my mom about how mean the girls or boys at school were. And I wanted what every other kid at the age is searching for… just to fit in. Little did I know that rather than straying away from God, but instead strengthening my relationship with him would have probably helped me in achieving that goal. It took me a long, long time before I started actually wanting to wake up and attend church as a young adult.
And now that I look back, I could have avoided a lot of hardship and heartache if I would have stayed close to Him instead of strayed away. But, the best part out of the whole thing… He loved me the whole time. Even when I figuratively spit in His face and knowingly ran away and sinned, even when I broke His heart over and over again… He was still there, waiting for me to return. And when I finally did return to him, He reminded me of all the ways in which he has blessed my life. And all those times I took those blessings for granted.
Life here on the prairies of North Dakota has been BUSY. And when life gets busy sometimes our faith has a tendency to get thrown in the back seat. As with any relationship in life, a relationship with Him doesn’t come easily. It takes work and dedication. And my friend Carrie’s blog reminded me of that. And that when times get busy is when I should be putting the most work and dedication into my relationship with him. It is close to the end of the year and that time of year when people begin to think about New Years Resolutions and setting goals. So I figured I’d sit down and first and foremost, set my spiritual goals for 2013 and beyond.
I started a prayer journal a few months back. This prayer journal allowed me to do a few things I really enjoyed about it. First of all, it should come to no surprise to many of you that writing is how I organize my thoughts, especially when they are emotional. Trying to talk it out just leaves my brain all jumbled, but writing gives me structure and a chance to calm down and organize. I have found this helps with writing down my prayers too. Secondly, it helps me remember when I tell someone I will pray for them. It’s written down and therefore I don’t have to remember when it comes time for me to sit down and actually pray. Third, it forces me to spend some quiet time every day, writing down prayers, blessings, and spending that time with Him.
For those of you interested more about how this works, I structured my journal like this:
Constant Requests: bettering my relationship with him, health and well being for loved ones, living spiritually through my personal relationships with others
Specific Requests: Whatever is needing prayer in my life, whether it be someone unhealthy, a big life event, etc.
Blessings: Basically what I am thankful for in life
And sometimes I jot down a Scripture for Today
And for each I basically jot down a few sentences or key words. Also, I’ve read that some leave space underneath each request to write Praise Reports when prayers are answered.
First goal is to keep up on my prayer journal, to try and pray daily, and that when I tell someone I will pray for them, really do it!
Another thing I started thinking about was how much I love to read. Last Christmas, Mom totally surprised me with a Kindle Fire. And I love that thing. With no distractions and the time set aside, I can read through a book in no time. But with all my avid reading, besides in Church and listening to my pastor online, rarely do I read the Bible… Why? I don’t exactly know. While attending our Church back in California, around the first of the year, they would pass out a guide that helps you read through the Bible in a year. Now I don’t know how vigorously you would need to read in order to do so… But I’d like to at least attempt to read through the entire Bible once in my life and be able to absorb it all. So, I am starting by first including the Bible in my avid book reading. And going from there.
Sometimes I find it hard to get through the Bible, so to help me out… On my church’s (Calvary Chapel Chico) website, I found this resource. Basically it’s a recording of teaching from all the books of the Bible (almost every chapter, but not quite). Second goal, reading the Bible on a regular basis and including it in my regular reading material.
And my third goal… This one is a tough subject to bring up. But I made a promise to myself, I want honesty when it comes to my faith. So here it is… Since moving, I have found it very difficult to adapt my faith to another church. My church back in California, Calvary Chapel is a non-denominational Christian fellowship. And although my new town of Ashley is rich in faith (for a population of 800 there are about 9 churches), there is no Christian church here. There are Baptist, Lutheran, and Catholic churches… I haven’t studied much religion besides my own so I really don’t know how each facet differs. But the difference between my church back in California and what I’ve experienced here is rooted in tradition. Back home in California, some people who may be rooted in tradition would probably be appalled if they stepped foot into our church. Not only has our church taken up residency in an old movie theater, some people even wear a t-shirt and jeans to church on Sunday morning. Our assisting pastor has been quoted on saying, “I’ve always felt that the Lord was more concerned with my heart than my clothes.” I was basically raised in this church. So stepping into another realm of religion leaves me feeling kind of nervous. I am not familiar with the traditions, the hymns, the affirmations (is that what they are even called, I am so sorry if I am butchering the terminology here!)
I do make it a point, usually on Mondays, to sit down and attend “virtual church” which is my pastor’s (in California’s) teaching from that previous Sunday. But despite my insecurities, I feel like it is important I get involved in a fellowship here. Third goal is trying to attend church regularly on Sundays here in North Dakota, despite how crazy life gets.
So there you have it. Thank you to my friend Carrie for a reminder in my own faith and for in a round about way pushing me to set goals in my faith. And thank you to those of you who are reading for allowing me a place to be honest and 100% real with you all. And for not judging me, but accepting me for who I am and loving me anyway. You’re some of the best!
What are your spiritual goals for 2013 and beyond…?