I am not okay

“Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.”

-Psalm 31:9

I am not okay.

I haven’t been for a while. But if you know me, you know I don’t like to admit that. I like to think I have my life all together and I’m perfectly fine, but I’m not. I’m working on being more vulnerable and opening up about what’s been going on in my life recently. So I decided to post it on the internet where anybody can read it. (kinda terrifying for me)

This past year has been horrible. Great and amazing things have happened and I’m so thankful for those happy moments. But this year as a whole had been really rough. I have dealt with a lot of death. I don’t even want to count the amount of funerals/memorial services I’ve been to. From the death of a baby, to two double funerals, my friend, my amazing instructor, and more.

I want to think I’ve handled it well but I haven’t. My friend Alyssa who died over six months ago I think of every day and every day I cry from the pain. My karate instructor, who was so much more to me that that, recently passed away and I can’t even begin to know how to move forward from the loss.

I suffer daily with anxiety. I never know how I’m going to react. Every day I deal with anxious feelings, tenseness, and uneasiness. Some days, I can barely be around people at all. I frequently, way to frequently than I’d like to admit, have anxiety/panic attacks. These happened before all of the sorrow and death, but have increased recently.

It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted from the pain and heartache. I’m exhausted from constantly fighting tears and sadness. I’m tired of being afraid of how things are going to affect me or how I’m going to react. I’m tired of wondering who is going to die next and what’s the next thing that’s going to cause me pain before I can heal from the last painful event. I’m tired of constantly dealing with anxiety. It’s just tiring.

I’m starting counseling/therapy which I am praying will help, because I really need help. It’s hard because I have amazing friends, a loving family, a wonderful, incredible boyfriend, and college is great, but there’s all this hanging over it, wearing me down.

I’m trying my best, and I want to be better. That’s why I am starting counseling.

Life is hard.

I know I will be better, but right now, I am not okay. I ask for your prayers as I learn to navigate through this hard thing called life right now. We all go through tough times, I’m just ready for this one to be over. Thank you for letting me share a small portion of the things I am going through and letting me be vulnerable.

-Madison

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More than the Benefits

Jesus is bigger than the benefits He brings.

That thought-provoking quote was said by Dr. Scot McKnight-a theologian, seminarian professor, author, and so much more. He said this in an episode of his podcast titled, “The King Jesus Gospel

As I was listening to this episode I was really convicted. Because you see, in our Americanized-evangelical churches, we are overly individualistic. Even to the point that we tend to only think about Jesus in terms of what He does for ME, how does Christ fulfill ME? What can I get out of Jesus? To be honest, none of those are necessarily bad or wrong questions. However, they aren’t the most important ones either. When we only think about the benefits that Jesus brings with salvation, I think we are truly missing the point of salvation all together. We get so focused on the “me” part of salvation that we forget the Jesus part of it…which is the whole part.

Jesus is so much more than anything we can imagine, and He is definitely bigger than the benefits He brings to you and me.

I truly encourage everyone reading this to go listen to the podcast episode for more insight on this.

Some questions to think about:

  • Do you think of Jesus as just a “key” to get into heaven?
  • When you pray are the only things you pray about for yourself?
  • When you read a passage of scripture, do you only focus on how it applies to you personally? –applying scripture is extremely important, but it is not the only thing we should do while reading a passage. Instead, try asking the following question first: “What is this telling and teaching me about God/Jesus?

These are just a few questions, but hopefully help you start thinking more about this.

By only focusing on the benefits of Christ we miss out on experiencing a fuller understanding and relationship with Christ.

I am not writing this to make anyone feel guilty; because I am the first to say that I do this. It is something I am continually working on. I am writing this to encourage you to pay attention to the way you think and to start conversations on who Christ really is: He is bigger than the benefits and more than we can imagine!

*Thanks for taking the time to read this post! I apologize my latest posts have been short and few and far between. Life has been super crazy! I just moved into my dorm at college this weekend and once I get settled into a routine I will be posting more!  -Maddie*

PRAYER: ft. special video

Hey everyone! I hope y’all are all having a wonderful start to your summer. I recently started a job so that’s been interesting and fun!

Recently, a friend of mine, Abby Lynn, posted a video on her YouTube channel talking about prayer. She shared some testimonies of prayer from her own life and in the later half of the video shared tips and advice for beginning/having a strong prayer relationship with the Lord. This video is full of great wisdom and I highly suggest you all watch it and subscribe to her channel!

Prayer is something that is so important to Christ followers because it allows us to connect with God in a personal way, which is so beyond amazing! If you aren’t sure how to pray or what to pray about, the video linked is a great place to start. I love this quote by Max Lucado,

“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.”

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I want you to know that I am praying for all the people who read this and if you ever have prayer requests feel free to message me on my social media pages:

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

I would love to pray for you and any requests you have💛

My First Time Preaching

This past Sunday I had the wonderful opportunity to preach the sermon at my church. It was graduation Sunday and since I was one of the graduates, and had a call to pastoral ministry, my pastor asked me to preach. I loved it! Although I was a little nervous beforehand, once I got behind the pulpit, all those feelings went away. My sermon was titled, “Rebuilding Our Foundation” and I will put the link to the audio recording HERE if you would like to listen to it.

Since there were several extra things going on in the service, my sermon didn’t need to be that long. It ended up being a little over 10 minutes. A few things I know I can work on is pausing more, and slowing down just a little while talking.

After I got done preaching, my senior pastor did something I am so grateful for. He walked up and told the church our view on women in pastoral roles and church leadership. He said, “Who are we to judge who is called by God?” And he told the congregation the biblical truth of equality: that ALL are equal in the kingdom of God.

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭3:28‬

Although I knew our denomination and our church’s beliefs on this, I’ve never heard it proclaimed from the pulpit and hearing it was so refreshing and such a blessing! So many woman are called, but don’t belong to an affirming church and it’s heartbreaking. I am so thankful to have had that opportunity and for my church to allow me to step into my calling.

When I was 7 years old, I would line up my dolls and stuffed animals and play pastor and preach sermons to them, at 15 I realized I was called to be a pastor, and on Sunday I was able to take another step closer to that calling.

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”

Acts 20:24

BOOK REVIEW-Emboldened by Rev. Tara Beth Leach

A woman, Mary Magdalene, was the first to proclaim the risen Savior on Easter over 2,000 years ago. So I thought it would be fitting to discuss a book all about women in ministry & pastoral leadership this Easter Sunday, 2018.

The book Emboldened by Rev. Tara Beth Leach is one of my favorite books! She writes in a conversational, very inviting, non-judgmental tone which is so nice to read. She speaks with both love & truth! I would like to note that although it is taking about women in ministry, it is written for both men and women and I would recommend anyone in ministry or considering ministry to read it.

The foreword of Emboldened is written by Scot McKnight and he says a profound statement, “How can young, gifted women know there is a place for them on the platform if they don’t hear stories about women ministering?” Well Rev. Tara Beth does just that. She saw what was missing and wrote this outstanding book.

One thing I love about this book is right at the beginning she brings up how Jesus sees, affirms, & emboldens women. She says, “Jesus boldly affirmed the value & worth of women, & appointed them to be colaborers in the mission.” She emboldens women by reminding them that women are among the priesthood of ALL believers as stated in Galatians 3:28.

All throughout the book you can tell that Pastor Tara Beth finds her confidence in the Lord and that is very encouraging and creates a great perspective.

She talks about how God doesn’t just work within our human made stereotypes, but that God works everywhere! Something that she wrote that really resonated with me and blessed me while reading was this paragraph:

“You see, our femininity is not rooted in ideology or cultural norms but in our humanity, which is firmly rooted in the humanity of Christ. The life, death, resurrection, and ascension of King Jesus informs our identities. We sometimes bear children & sometimes we don’t, but childbearing isn’t our identity; instead, our identities are ordered in the saving and transforming activity of the triune God”

In many church settings, a woman’s worth is centered around being a wife and mom, which are both amazing things, but that excludes so many women and is not a woman’s greatest/only calling. I’m so thankful Pastor Tara Beth stated that in her book!

In chapter 4, she discusses what to do when people don’t affirm you or are opposed to your calling. She has a very positive outlook on this and focuses on not being bitter, which is what many people fall into. “However, the moment I decide to let anger and bitterness deep into the very depths of my being is the moment I lose sight of what I was called to do in the first place” She mentions that there will be people who are against you and that it is good and important to know your theology but that it is also equally importantly trust the Holy Spirit.

Our culture is very self-minded, we are competitive and often hurt others to boost ourselves. However, Rev. Leach has a whole chapter dedicated to women encouraging and emboldening one another-not something we often hear, but something we NEED to hear.

Although I love every chapter, my favorite one is probably chapter 6. It is all about singleness, family, and marriage. She talks about how God uses and emboldens single people whether or not they ever get married in the future, Christ sees value and uses them to further His kingdom. Pastor Leach talks about marriage and especially mutuality and mutual submission. She discusses the mom guilt and difficulties you may face as a mother and a pastor. It was so refreshing! These are things I have worried about and thought a lot about and it encouraged me so much to read. She also has a section in that chapter written to Pastor’s husbands, in which she encourages them, and discusses the difficulties but also amazing things they will see and be a part of. Reading her words to Pastor’s husbands literally brought tears to my eyes!

In our self-focused society, we often forget about the mission of God, but Rev. Tara Beth does not. She reminds us that God’s kingdom is one of inclusivity and acceptance. She has this quote which floored me when I read it,

She didn’t keep on so she could prove to the world that women belonged in the pulpit, but she kept on because the mission of God needed to continue.”

We often get caught up in the craziness of life, but our focus should be on God’s mission.

Pastor Tara Beth has a whole chapter dedicated to men and how they can embolden and come along side women together to better further the kingdom of God. If you are a man in any ministry, please read this book but especially that chapter!

I could go on and on about this book, but I will finish with a final quote from the book Emboldened,

“Now is the time, dear church. Not tomorrow, but now. Now is the time for women to claim their full callings and be freed from gender-based restrictions. Now is the time for women to rise up and use their God-given gifts with boldness. Now is the time for the church to no longer be lopsided, but to move forward in it’s full potential, with men & women serving alongside one another-unhindered. Now is the time to be the church we were meant to be-a sign & wonder.”

Rev. Tara Beth Leach links:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

BUY EMBOLDENED HERE

Tears, Emotions, & Prayer

All too often we try to shut down our emotions and pretend they don’t exist, especially in church settings. However, I, as a human, am an emotional being created in the image of a God who also has emotions! So why do we keep acting like emotions are taboo?

Over the past year, I have dealt with some pretty hard, sad things. People super close to me have too. I have had many times that I went to pray about it and I literally couldn’t do anything but cry. But here’s the thing, I believe that those tears were prayers too. Those tears, God understood. Even in the Bible, Christ showed emotion! We read in John 11:35 that, “Jesus wept”. Not just shed a tear, but WEPT!

That is why I believe that tears on the altar are one of the purest forms of worship.

Jesus said in Luke 10:27, “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, and will all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind…” Our minds control emotion, and our hearts break, so I believe giving our emotions to God is worship and God honoring.

Sometimes our prayers will just consist of tears and hurting, and that’s okay. Sometimes our prayers will be very deep and articulate, and that’s okay. Sometimes our prayers will be awkward and uncomfortable, and that’s okay, because God doesn’t mandate what our prayers look like, and He Himself created us to be diverse and to have emotions.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

‭‭[Psalms‬ ‭56:8‬]

The Conversation in the Library

Story time.

This past Monday I was at the local community college where I take some dual credit classes. I was in a group of people talking in the library. One of the men asked me what my major will be when I attend university in the fall. I replied, “Theology & Pastoral Ministry” and proceeded to tell him I was called to be a pastor. I wasn’t sure how he would react because it’s a sensitive topic. He began speaking about how he is trying out different churches and how it seems like there are so many denominations. I agreed. We discussed some of the differences and somehow got onto the topic of Complementarianism vs Egalitarianism (one of my favorite topics to discuss) and we had similar views on this (both egalitarian).

He then asked me a question I wasn’t expecting, “So how do you think racism affects the church?” I gave him my answer which went into how it creates injustice, hurt, and turns people away from the true love of Christ. He proceeded to ask me another question, “How are these people in churches justifying their racist beliefs and actions?!” I could tell he was speaking from experience and wanted to know how I, a white Christian, felt about it. We discussed many things but ultimately our main answer was that people twist scripture to fit their lifestyle, motives, or personal agenda instead of taking Jesus and scripture and letting that shape your actions and lifestyle.

It was a great conversation about gender and racial equality in the church. How it is right and more often, how it goes wrong. I’m writing this to let you know that people deal with racism and gender inequality all the time in church. It hurts & confuses people, and definitely doesn’t draw people close to Jesus. If you have never discussed problems within the church, now is a great time to start asking those tough questions. We NEED to have these conversations more and actually change our actions to combat injustice. We NEED to be showing the love and the actions of Christ in church, and the world around us. Our God is a just God, so maybe we should try to be a just people as well.

-Madison💛

The Greatest of These is LOVE💛

Happy New Years everyone! I hope y’all have an amazing 2018! Today’s post is about love. I’ve written a post about Loving Others before, but I felt God calling me to write another post about it. Hope you enjoy!

“And now, these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” {1 Corinthians 13:13}

Faith. Hope. Love. All three things are important, however Paul states in 1st Corinthians that love is the most important. Why? God is love. When we love, both in action and feeling, we are portraying a character of Christ, a fruit of the Spirit. Love is what draws people to Him. Imagine how different our lives would be if we actually followed Jesus’ example of love. What if we loved like Jesus? How would the way we interacted with people, spoke to people, voted, taught people, and treated people change? We live in a world of hate, and it is so easy to get caught up in the chaos hate causes. We live in a world of discrimination, fear, abuse…because of hate. There is a very powerful quote by A.Z. Tozer I want to share with you: I want to challenge you (and me) to have a different mindset this year in 2018: a mindset of love. Let us love like Christ loved us and it will make an impact, it will make a difference, and it will further God’s kingdom.

-Maddie💛

Purity Rings & Purity Culture

The tradition of purity rings began in the ‘90s in the height of what is now known as “Purity Culture” within the church. They were given to young, teenage girls as a way to symbolize their commitment to save sex for their husband in marriage. Now, I believe purity culture had good intentions, yet executed many things wrong. I have several issues with purity culture and will have links at the end of this post for further reading. I am in no way saying that if you choose to wear a purity ring that you are a bad person or have bad intentions, so I hope that is not the message that comes across. I want to share the reasons I personally decided to stop wearing my purity ring and why we should take a closer look at the motives behind them and how we approach the topic of purity in the church.

First off, if you look at why girls choose to wear purity rings it is to save their virginity for marriage. Now, there is nothing wrong with making a commitment to do that, however, it promotes the idea that a person’s virginity equals their purity, which is NOT true. There are many people who are not virgins who are “pure”, and many people who are virgins who are not. God’s goal for purity is not virginity. If it was, then victims of rape and sexual assault would not be pure (and they 100% are!) There are people who have chosen by their own free will to have sex and sexual intimacy before marriage and have since repented and been forgiven by God. They are pure.

When do girls wear purity rings? They wear them before they are married. Now I have an issue with this because it implies (often unintentionally) that once you are married, you are no longer considered pure. This feeds into the lie that sex is dirty. I wish more Christians would be proactive in teaching young women that sex is not dirty and their sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of. Of course, sex can be manipulated for evil or used in an ungodly manner, however, within marriage, sex is good and God created it to be enjoyed. Purity is a part of marriage just as much as it is before marriage.

Wearing a purity ring that symbolizes refraining from sex/sexual intimacy before marriage can often make purity more about action instead of the heart and mind. Purity isn’t about the act of having sex.  It is a heart issue. What are your motives? It’s a mind issue. What thoughts are you entertaining?  It involves EVERY aspect of your life. We need to stop thinking of it as “sexual purity” and just as “purity”. I’ve known people who were taught that having a crush was a sin, and that having any sort of sexual desire was lust. Please hear me out, having a sexual desire is completely normal and was created in us by God. There is a big difference between that and lusting. As teenage girl, I plead to all the moms, youth leaders, pastors, and all those it might concern, to change how you present the idea of purity to the young women in your life. The church is known for shaming women and making sex into something that should be feared and that can cause serious issues later on in life including in future marriages.

I would also like to point out that for the most part, purity rings are only given to and worn by girls. Purity culture has put too much of an emphasis on women’s purity and hardly any on men’s. This is not only sexist, it can cause issues as well. When churches teach “purity” they all too often put more pressure on women to “not cause young men to stumble” and this puts the responsibility of the young men and their “purity” all on the girls. (click HERE for a great post to read on this topic) This causes fear and shame on young girls. Calling a girl, a “stumbling block” is dehumanizing and shame-ridden. (click HERE for an excellent video on this topic).

After saying all of this, I am not saying you can’t or shouldn’t wear a purity ring. These are just some personal issues I have with wearing one and why I think everyone who does wear one should examine their motives and reasons behind wearing one. If your motives are God honoring and the message you share with people about it is not one of shame and instead one of the amazing grace of Jesus, then by all means, wear a purity ring. If you are interested in reading more about “Purity Culture” here are some resources and links for you to check out:

https://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2017/05/teaching-purity-wrong/

https://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2016/05/purity-culture-waking/

https://www.cbeinternational.org/blogs/7-lies-purity-culture-teaches-women

http://phyliciadelta.com/why-christian-girls-are-done-with-courtship-culture/

http://thefederalist.com/2017/07/12/purity-culture-isnt-wrong-loving-chastity-using-weapon/

http://phyliciadelta.com/virginity-is-not-gods-goal/

https://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2017/06/purity-culture-lies-about-sex/

https://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2016/01/purity-culture-10-things-that-scare-me/

Why i

 

How I Came To Know God Was Calling Me to Ministry

Looking back, I can really see how God was influencing me from a very young age to pursue ministry. However, I didn’t know what that meant at the time or what it would look like. I was that eight year old that would set up her American Girl dolls and would preach sermons to them and would hold Bible studies for them and my stuffed animals. I’d like to clarify and say that I think everyone is called to ministry in some way and that your life is in fact a ministry. When I am talking about ministry in this post, I am referring to a pastoral ministry.

The day I turned thirteen years old I went to my mom sobbing. My reason? I didn’t want to be a teenager. I laugh about it now, but I was so scared of being a teenager because growing up, the only way I heard adults talk about teenagers was negative. “Teens are disrespectful.” “They are selfish and don’t care about anyone else.” “Teenagers don’t take God seriously.” “They are rebellious and lazy.” This is what I had heard about teenagers and it was NOT what I wanted to become. A few months later, I attended a talk about being strong for the Lord in your youth and teen years. I realized it is possible for me to have a strong relationship with God and to pursue holiness as a teenager. I wanted to share that message to teenagers and to help them understand God and grow in Him. However, I had never even seen a female youth pastor at that time so the thought that I could be one never even crossed my mind.

Not too long after that I began dealing with chronic pain and depression. You can find a more detailed story HERE. It was during that time I had several youth pastors on our church district come up and say encouraging things to me and pray with me. Keep in mind, they had no idea what I was going through, yet they helped me get through one of the hardest times of my life. I had also begun to see female youth pastors and even female senior pastors and the thought that I could be a pastor started to become a reality. After I had surgeries and began to reflect more on what God had done in my life, all these things seemed to connect and make sense. I heard God saying what He had been saying for a long time, that I was to be a pastor. My specific calling is to be a youth pastor and be in youth ministry. I believe youth ministry is vitally important and will probably make a separate post on why soon.

Since I accepted my call, I have been preparing in several different ways for my future. I have been studying and learning. I have been talking to my pastors at church and have even led youth group and will be leading Bible studies for the adult group soon. I will be attending SNU this next fall and will be majoring in Theology/Pastoral Ministry.. I know it won’t be an easy road, but I am super excited about the future and all that God is going to do. If you think God might be calling you into some form of ministry, my advice is: to pray a lot, talk to your pastor or a trusted mentor, and listen for God and what He is trying to tell you.

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” {Acts 20:24}