Living for Every Second

There has never been a time in my life when I was patient.

I’m not patient waiting in lines or being the car that can’t quite make it through before the light turns red.

I’m not patient when my professor takes twenty minutes explaining a concept that he could have covered in five.

And I am not by any means patient about waiting for the future to get here.

When I was a little kid, my favorite number was always the age I was going to turn next. I was always looking forward to what was next — the next grade, learning the next thing, growing a couple more inches.

But this anticipation stole my contentment with where I was at. Since I was so busy looking to what was next, I never slowed down long enough to enjoy where I already was. To enjoy what God was blessing me with right now.

And I didn’t outgrow that when I turned 10… or 13… or 18. I’m still impatient and discontented, and I think I’m starting to realize why.

We don’t see the pain in the future, we only see the pain around us right now. And when we get small glimpses of the future we get the good ones, not the bad ones. When I got to hold my cousin’s baby over Thanksgiving break, nothing in me wanted to go back home to college finals and projects. I got immensely impatient for the years down the road when I am done with college and have kids of my own.

But that season of life, as amazing and sweet as it will be, will have struggles too. All I saw was a few hours of holding a sweet baby, I didn’t see the sleepless nights while he was teething, I didn’t see the tantrums or the endless diapers to change and laundry to do. I didn’t see that that phase of life will have sickness just like this one does. There will be job struggles, financial struggles, relationship struggles, and health struggles just like there are now.

And here’s what else, I’m living a part of life right now that I always dreamed of growing up. I’m old enough to drive and have my own car and the freedom to go do things with friends when I want to. I’m at an amazing university studying a field I am passionate about under professors who hold a wealth of information. I have some of the best and closest friendships that I’ve ever had and for the next few months, almost all of my best friends still live right here at home. Life is good, and yet I tend to focus on the negatives.

I tend to get impatient.

But God keeps gently nudging at my heart, Taryn, enjoy what I’ve blessed you with right now.

In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of being content, whether well fed or hungry. Whether in abundance or in need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” — Philippians 4:11-13 (HCSB)

I can do everything through Him. The good days, the bad days, and everything in between. 

I have one life to live on this earth. And as much of it as it may seem like I still have in front of me right now, it’s going fast. I don’t want to wish my life away. I want to live passionately and purposefully and enjoy every day. I want to make every day count and point people towards Jesus with every second that He gives me.

I don’t want to be impatient for the future and miss right now. With every second that passes goes another chance and opportunity that I will never get back. I don’t want to take that for granted anymore. I don’t want to focus on all the negatives in my day and neglect to focus on all of the joy. I don’t want to miss right now and all the treasures that this time of my life holds.

I want to learn to be content, to learn to focus on all the blessings around me, and to live life for every second, not just in the future, but right now. 

Taryn

 

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The Importance of Community

Yesterday was my church’s Senior Sunday. As I stood at the front of the sanctuary, fighting back tears next to some amazing Jesus-loving goofballs, I started truly reflecting on what the church has meant to me over the past 18 years of my life.

I remember going on hayrides and singing Veggie Tales songs at the top of our lungs with these people when I was 9. I remember building a church on a mission trip with these people when I was 15, I remember singing with one voice to our Savior with these people, I remember losing a dodgeball tournament at camp with these people when I was 12, and I remember sitting in a circle with all my other senior girls last summer and crying for three hours because of how awesome Jesus is and how much He has worked in us as a group over the years.

There have been divisions. There has been drama. There were weeks, months, and even years where we let petty things come between us and neglected to function as the Biblical community that God has called us to be. But when we did live out that community, we were not only fulfilling God’s call, but we realized our lives were being fulfilled.

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” — 1 Corinthians 12:27

Being the body of Christ is not a burden, it allows us to live more effectively and abundantly by having all of the other parts of the body working with us. In essence, the rest of 1 Corinthians 12 explains that a hand or a foot or an eye off by itself is not worth much of anything, but when attached to a functioning body, it has a great purpose and value!

I remember my youth minister speaking on a Wednesday night during the spring of my freshman year. I remember him challenging all of us to resolve any enmities or dissensions between ourself and anyone else in the group. I remember making a list of 7 people that I needed to go apologize to or talk with about something that had come between us. The next 2 weeks were some of the most awkward and emotionally draining weeks of my life as I made my way down that list, but they were also some of the most freeing. So many broken relationships were restored, and two of those seven are now some of my very closest friends. For the first time I fully grasped the way church is supposed to be, the community we are supposed to share, and how amazing it feels to experience that without any tension or strife interfering.

Since then, I have made it a point not to allow jealousy, anger, or gossip permeate my relationships that way ever again. Sometimes that means confrontation in love, sometimes that means awkward conversations, but community free of hindrances is so worth it. Community that allows us to reach the full potential that Christ has for us. We can’t do it alone — we need people to pray for us, work alongside us, encourage us… And they need us! Whether that is a formal gathering in a church building, a group of Christians at school, or even you and a friend praying and reading the Bible together — start somewhere with living out your Christian walk not only as an individual, but as a part of community. It’s so worth it.

 

“Perfect Church Girl” doesn’t exist

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have my life all together! Not by a long shot. But I definitely fall into the “perfect church kid” stereotype. I’m at the church every time the doors are open, I play in the praise band, I’ve been a camp counselor, I know everyone there and they know me… but none of those things are synonymous with the word “perfect”. I’m really good at putting up facades. I’m really good at faking things. For the first fourteen years of my life, I let everyone believe I really was a pretty great kid. I hid the darkness in my life, and always smiled and knew the Sunday School answers to all the questions. But I was never vulnerable, I never let my guard down and admitted that I was struggling. And after hearing that I was “perfect” one too many times, I started feeling pressure to live up to that. 

My identity became being that “perfect church girl” I felt that was what I was supposed to be. I started believing that anything less was not acceptable. I was completely missing the point though. God doesn’t call us to be perfect through the world’s eyes. He calls us to follow Him. And that means admitting that we are not perfect!! Only in Jesus can we be made righteous. 

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is God’s gift. Not from works, so that no one can boast.” — Ephesians 2:8-9

Now, don’t get me wrong, God does call us to holiness. (Leviticus 20:26) We are called to do our best at everything to do for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:13, Colossians 3:17). But we aren’t doing any of this through our own power. And it’s not about what we do anyway. Being “perfect” isn’t a standard anyone can ever live up to. Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself or anyone else. Even the apostle Paul, who was stoned and persecuted for his faith, declared,

“But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ — the righteousness from God based on faith.” — ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:7-9‬ 

The goal isn’t perfection. “Perfect church girl” doesn’t exist, and it’s not the goal anyway. Don’t put pressure on yourself or anyone else to be that. Instead, focus your energy on following Jesus and living in His righteousness. Be willing to be vulnerable and admit that we aren’t perfect, that’s why we need God’s grace. And thankfully were drowning in His sufficient grace every day of our lives. Grace that covers our failures and shortcomings. Grace that covers all the times we are less than perfect. 

I used to let the fear of other’s opinions paralyze me. I was more worried that I would lose my “perfect” reputation that that I was living less than the abundant life God had planned for me. One night the summer before freshman year, all my facades crumbled. My youth group was on a mission trip, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t hold together my “perfect” image anymore. I made rash decisions that shattered my image and revealed how not together my life really was. I regretted it instantly, but not because I felt guilt for my sin. I regretted that my image and reputation could never be the same again. 

Now, I wish I could go back and not do the mean things I did that night, but God taught me so much through that experience. He taught me that my priorities were all twisted and while I thought I was living all for Him, I was really living all for myself. Living to be “perfect” is our selfish way of trying to win the world’s approval. I am more than guilty of that. But God has been revealing to me for four years now that “perfect” isn’t the goal. Living for Him, and admitting I’m hopeless without Him, acknowledging that I need His help and grace… That’s the goal. 

If I were to walk up to God on judgment day with a scot-free reputation but a dirty heart, He would see right through me. I need Him to cleanse my heart and make me new. And I have to humble myself and admit that my heart is a filthy mess without Him. I may be a “perfect church girl” by stereotype, but I don’t want to be that anymore. That doesn’t even exist. Don’t settle for a label or reputation less than the abundant life God has for you. He urges us to lay everything down before Him and live passionately pursuing Him, that’s how we find abundant life. So I’m laying down my reputation, I’m not going to focus on what others think, I’m going to try to be who God has called me to be and rely on His strength alone. Will you join me?