Bringing the Pieces Together
I’ve never really been big on puzzles, but the other day God reminded me that He uses all the pieces in our lives for His plan. The revelation brought me to tears, tears of joy. I began to think about pieces of my life that I deem mistakes or unusable that are all part of His plan. I can’t wait to look back and see how a painful stage in my life was laying the groundwork for how I could inspire or encourage someone else.
And that’s where the faith comes in. The faith to know your present pain serves future purpose.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:18-21)
My favorite chapter in my book No Shame in Sharing: Discovering Yourself in Life’s Un-Postable Moments is Chapter Twelve: Jewels in the Dark. This chapter resonates with me because it wasn’t the season where I got the job I had been waiting for, it was the season God poured into me future plans; He didn’t give me a present gift but a future revelation. He revealed why He planted a passion in me to volunteer in certain areas and how He would use that passion for His glory.
Excerpt from Chapter Twelve: Jewels in the Dark:
“I had been mulling for some time about an idea for a non-profit to help young women and the homeless, the two areas God led me to serve in months prior. Then in that same entry, God revealed an organization that would help both groups and utilize my MBA to grow the idea! I was blown away. God didn’t have to share all that, but He graciously did. God doesn’t stop pouring out blessings in barren seasons; if anything, the blessings are easier to see because we’re less distracted.”
I don’t know what season of your life you’re in. It could be a season of increase; it could be a season of drought. In either case, I encourage you to draw near to God.
“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58: 11)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119: 105)
I find a more natural cadence in my relationship with God when things are rough. Wouldn’t you agree? You find yourself fervently seeking Him when you’re anticipating a miracle or an answered prayer. But what about when things are calm in our lives or going well?
When things are going well in my life, I have to check myself. I try to make a conscious effort to stay in tune with God. I don’t want to serve God only for what He offers; I don’t want to only find myself seeking Him for a way out of trouble or distress. I want a healthy relationship.
“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 105:4
When I read this verse, I focus in on the word face. When you’re interacting with someone it shows the utmost reverence to look them in their face. When you look someone in the face you acknowledge their presence; you signify you value their existence.
This verse challenges me to seek God’s face. How am I showing reverence? I have busied myself as of late with my new merch business, book efforts, and personal relationships. I feel a tugging back to God’s face. God and I were eyeball to eyeball the last year as I returned home and went nearly a full year without a full-time job. I constantly read my word, I prayed, I journaled, I worshiped. While at the moment, my life isn’t as distressing, I can feel a tugging to get back to that place; in God’s face.
Practical steps I can take include communing with God earlier. I’m not a night owl so at the end of the day, God isn’t getting my best, vibrant self. In my quiet time, while my life (praise God) isn’t in major distress mode, who can I get in God’s face for? Who do I know who needs earnest prayer? In journaling, I’ll pause to see what God has to say to me. How does He best want me to use my time?
I’m excited to make these adjustments and continually nourish my relationship with God. Admittedly, this is a cadence I have found myself in before. But I don’t think we should beat ourselves up. Once we notice our relationship with God could use some tweaking, we can seek Him to see how we can make adjustments and move closer to Him.
Love yall and let me know if you have any prayer requests!
If I had to identify this season of my life, I would say it’s a time when I’m learning to not let my emotions get the best of me. God has been stretching me in the area of not reacting in my emotions. Often times my first inclination is to return an equal level of [insert emotion here] i.e. pettiness, anger, frustration, etc.
I don’t always rise to the occasion but when I do, I am grateful. The lessons are teaching me patience. Often times in life when you do something positive the payoff isn’t immediate. You may feel inferior when you let someone’s petty comment go or when you don’t entertain a hostile exchange. But don’t worry, God is watching and taking note.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
While I have been learning to not react in emotion, I’ve also been working on not holding onto emotions too long. It’s a natural inclination for me to want to cut someone off if they do me wrong…but I know that’s not sustainable! I’d literally have no friends or family! Lol
Not holding onto emotions is an exercise in forgiveness, especially in these trying times. When someone says a snappy comment or does something that hurts me, I try to step back and remember the meanness they are showing could be a deeper symptom of something that has nothing to do with me. That’s when I take my pain to the Lord and ask Him to help me forgive that person.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:12)
God delights in showing mercy, should we not do the same?
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7: 18-19)
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
As hard as it is to forgive sometimes, it’s not something that is above us. I encourage you to walk with God as He guides you in this area. I can personally attest, there are blessings on the other side!
I have a tendency to stop. I’m always trying to arrive somewhere and pause. But now I’m slowly embracing a lifestyle of progress. You may have heard the phrase, “progression, not perfection.” I think I chased perfection in many areas of my life because it represents an end-state.
One of the definitions of perfection from dictionary.com: “The action or process of improving something until it is faultless.”
When I chased perfection in an area of my life, I could mark something as complete and move on. Ok yep mastered patience, check. We don’t need to revisit this lesson, what’s next God? (Caveat, patience is a lesson I’ll be working on for a lifetime!)
However, I’m seeing the Christian walk is a progression. I will never reach perfection, and I need to be ok with that. I need to rest in not being perfect while also not allowing myself to grow complacent.
Afterall, if perfection were possible, why would we need God?
“If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come…” (Hebrews 7:11)
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9)
Our spiritual lives mirror education. Most people go through high-school and while some may not go to college, education never stops. Learning a new language, mastering a new social media platform, learning a new interface at work, are all examples of how we all are continually learning. Our spiritual walks are the same, sure you learn the basics of salvation and the way to God through Jesus, but our knowledge shouldn’t stop there, we should always press forward.
“Anyone who still lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgement.” Hebrews 5:13-14, 6:1-2
That is our path forward, always striving to mature in our faith. For a long time, I was overwhelmed by what seemed like a daunting path, moving toward something that could never be achieved, perfection. But now I’m excited about the journey of refining my faith. I hope you are too!
A Fine Work
You are a work of art. God’s Word says so.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139: 14
And because God loves us so much, He is constantly molding us into the best versions of ourselves.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15: 1-5)
As a writer, I think about God editing us. Some of those edits may be major plot restructurings while sometimes an edit may be minor like the addition of a comma or period. Some situations in our lives may be so miniscule it doesn’t even phase us. While some storms in our lives may be huge and feel like we may not come out on the other side.
“Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’” (Matthew 8:23-27)
But no matter how seismic our edits may seem at the moment, we can trust our Editor and find peace in His care.
Commentary (Life Application Study Bible, NIV): There is often a stormy area of our human nature where we feel God can’t or won’t work. When we truly understand who God is, however, we will realize that he controls both the storms of nature and the storms of the troubled heart. Jesus’ power that calmed this storm can also help us deal with the problems we face. Jesus is willing to help if we only ask him. We should never discount his power even in terrible trials.
God’s got us! Nothing catches Him by surprise.
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1: 11-12)
Commentary: God is sovereign; He is in charge. When your life seems chaotic, rest in this truth: Jesus is Lord, and God is in control. God’s purpose to save you cannot be thwarted, no matter what evil Satan may bring.
I encourage you to cling to God during life’s trials and remember you are a work of art and equip to not only survive the storm but thrive.
Rugrats was one of my favorite shows growing up. For anyone who’s unfamiliar or needs a recap, Rugrats was an animated show that focused on a group of babies and toddlers and their wild adventures. Some of the main characters were Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, and Angelica. In short, Tommy was the adventurous leader, Chuckie was scared of his own shadow, Phil and Lil were eccentric twins, and Angelica was a bully. Growing up I longed to be Tommy but more identified with Chuckie. I was timid and shy. But recently, I realized I’ve grown to be a Tommy. I most identify with Tommy in the area of faith. I see myself as bold in my faith and expectant of God for His promises to come to pass. I had gotten frustrated recently and I questioned why God had me where I was at. I felt isolated, like, I didn’t have fellow bold people around to encourage me. I think my spirit had to be reminded that people didn’t have to be geographically close to me to encourage me. I was also reminded that no matter how difficult the journey may seem; God always has a way to refresh me at the right time.
“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” Jeremiah 31: 25
That’s when I thought of Tommy. Was I placed where I was at to be the Tommy of my group? Not in the sense of leading wild adventures but in the area of faith walk. Metaphorically, I see myself carrying a lit torch leading people. Am I called to encourage people with my bold faith walk? Are you?
At my moment of discouragement, I was reminded to press on. I’ve heard a lot of messages recently about challenges and being broken. These messages each have an undertone of trials and training. As weary as the process may be, I’m hanging in there because I know I’ll be able to benefit in some way.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6: 9
Don't Lose the Wonder
I’m always challenging myself to serve others and recently I’ve felt a passion to help young girls. I was a Girl Scout in elementary school and middle school, and I thought this would be a good area to serve. I now help lead a Daisy Troop. Daisies are Girl Scouts in Kindergarten and First Grade. Working with girls ages 6 and 7 has been energizing and refreshing. It’s a stark and humbling change from my business school presentations to CEOs—phew those little girls have little time for nonsense! Is the subject engaging? What’s in it for them? But beyond brainstorming ways to quickly get lessons across, I’ve enjoyed soaking up the girls’ pure joy. Seeing the girls get excited about patterned construction paper and flower stickers warms my heart. It’s a reminder to take joy in little things. It shouldn’t take expensive gadgets or lavish trips to excite us.
“I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders.” (Psalm 9:1)
Commentary (Life Application Study Bible, NIV): Our inward attitude becomes outward expression. When we praise God, we help ourselves by expanding our awareness of who He is.
Who is God to you? A big, scary judge that sits above? A magic genie? While I’m sure I’ll never be able to grasp the fullness that is the Creator of the universe, I know He is a good, forgiving, merciful God that desires an intimate relationship with all of us.
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever, he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103: 8-12)
When we reflect on God’s character and goodness, our perspectives are shifted, and we have so much to be grateful for. Each day when I say my morning prayers, I start with gratitude. Waking up with all my senses, in my right mind, with a safe, warm place to sleep are things I try not to take for granted. I’m curious if we shift our focus, will God restore our eyes to see wonders we may be missing in everyday life?
Fan into Flame
My first blog of 2020, how exciting! Admittedly, my 2019 had a few struggles but 2020 is off to a great start. It was like a spark was ignited. I told someone about a passion project I was working on and they connected me to someone who is doing the same thing and who is well-researched in the area. In one day, I went from jaded on my project and unsure when it would come to pass, to on-fire and counting down the days until I could launch it. A scripture I’ve connected to as of late is 2 Timothy 1: 6-7: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-defense.”
I really latched onto the “fan into flame” portion. It challenged me to ask myself what I was doing to nurture the gifts and projects God has laid out for me.
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2: 10)
As I work to fan into flame on this project in 2020, I’m seeking God first. I’m relying on Him to guide my steps as to what actions I should take and what connections and relationships are best. I’m also doing my best to keep God first and not make my dream an idol.
“You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)
For a long time, I believed idols were the kind you hear about in the Old Testament i.e. gods carved out of some sort of material. I thought, I’m good on that God, I’m not bowing down to anything man-made. But an idol is anything we put before God. I love this excerpt from a blog from preacher Heather Lindsey. She writes, “An idol can be anything we place ahead of God in our lives, anything that tugs at our heart more that God does, such as: possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions to alcohol/ drugs/ gambling/ pornography, etc. Unfortunately, God is often nowhere to be found as we zealously pursue our idols. Worse yet, the significant amount of time we often spend in these idolatrous pursuits, leaves us with little or no time to spend with the Lord...”
So, in essence, as I pursue my project, I’ll be keeping God first. Everything I do should be unto Him.
“Everything under heaven belongs to me.” (Job 42:11)
As you pursue your passions and dreams, I encourage you to check in with God and make sure you’re on His page. I’m curious to know what you’re working on! You can leave a comment below or we can chat on Twitter @Marilyn_Renee
My 2019 Reads
I’ve always loved to read and with business school ending this year I got some free time to read for pleasure. My favorite genres are autobiography and adventure. Here are a few books I read and what they meant to me.
Salt In My Soul: An Unfinished Life by Mallory Smith
Salt In My Soul is the story of Mallory Smith, a woman who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of 3. Mallory shares her quest to live a normal life while battling the brutal disease that is often invisible to the naked eye. The book is in journal form and follows Mallory’s life from age 15 to her death at age 25. This book was moving because Mallory was so open with her life from questions about death to vulnerability with love. I got teary at the end but admired her family’s strength. All profits for the book are being donated with a majority of the funds going toward cystic fibrosis research. Special thanks to my friend Tamara Stone for introducing me to Mallory’s story!
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Nike has always been one of my favorite companies, but I never knew the story of the company’s early beginnings. Shoe Dog shows us how Nike went from Oregon startup to global empire. I was amazed not only by the detail of Nike’s founder’s account of the company’s early days but with his grit. Many times, Nike almost failed; many times he gambled it all. Netflix is set to create a movie based on Shoe Dog.
We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
I’ve never met Gabrielle Union but when I listened to her audiobook it felt like she was sitting across from me telling me her story. The audiobook is read by Union and her book is written with such frankness and humor. It felt like an older sister sharing her scars and strength.
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
This novel is beautifully written and allowed my imagination to travel to the Italian Riviera for an unforgettable love story. The romance between a teenager and a guest at his parents’ house is raw and passionate. There was a movie adapted from the novel but I’ve yet to see it; the book was so good I don’t want to ruin it!
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
I one day hope to work in the world of entertainment production so tracing the steps of the powerhouse behind Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder was great. Shonda is a self-described introvert who for one year decided to say yes to everything that scared her. The great opportunities she accepted and things she learned about herself were truly inspiring.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
There was a lot of hype around this book so I thought I’d check it out. I appreciated the level of detail Tartt used when describing the famous painting and art in general. The nearly 800-page novel spanned several years and countries. I appreciated an unpredictable ending and an imperfect narrator.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Tiny Fey is funny and a great comedic writer so it’s no surprise her autobiographical book is hilarious. Tina takes us from her early days in Pennsylvania to helming 30 Rock at NBC. Along the way we see how Tina survived college, landed her first job, and manages motherhood.
It was great to get back to reading at such a high volume and I look forward to tackling more books in 2020!
God can use us at any point in our lives. Sometimes I get in the habit of thinking God can’t use me until my life is “together.” But is our life ever really fully together? In our mess God can use us. The other day a friend was down and texting me. I told her to write her blessings down and she would quickly see how they outnumbered the bad things in her life. I had just been instructed by the Holy Spirit to do the same activity a week prior. As much as I feel like I’m in a bare, stripped season, God is still allowing me to pour into other people. I’m grateful for this season of peace, growth, and insight. I know if my life would have taken a different path post MBA aka diving right into a job I would not have gotten a chance to reconnect with my family who in the previous two years I saw once or twice each year. I wouldn’t have the chance to do a bible study with my parents and put the finishing touches on my memoir (which I’m tentatively planning to have on shelves fall 2020!) Not to mention the food is great and free at home! I say all that to say—in an uncomfortable stage God is still working and I’m discovering in every stage I can help someone else. Despite my circumstances I can see God’s goodness. I’m grateful to have a home to come to and recollect. Every day I saw homelessness right outside my door in LA. People who slept on the sidewalk and were thankful for even half a sandwich. My perspective is forever changed.
I also noticed in this stripped down season that I learn from God the most. In this season I was reminded that my value and identity doesn’t come from a job, a title, or a relationship. And I know that this season will pass. I have hope in the Lord.
“But those that hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:24-25.
In this season I am waiting patiently and I know that this period will be a testament to me later and even an inspiration for others right now.
Hi! I'm Marilyn!