A Moment to Reflect

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Sometimes when I finally get a moment to step back from the crazy season of life my husband and I are in I can hardly believe all that has happened just in the last year and a half of my life.  It can honestly be a little overwhelming.  I met Zack in the Fall of 2012, I went to Turkey and Greece for 2 1/2 weeks that Winter, we got engaged February of 2013, I moved in with Zack’s mom and sister that summer and planned our wedding, Zack was out of the country on a missions trip for 6 weeks during summer, then we he got home we had about three weeks until we got married.  Then life started full swing to us as soon as we got back from our honeymoon.  Our work situation and schedule seemed to change every month in the first 6 months of our marriage, and I feel like I spent about half of our first six months being sick.  Financially we were not quite stable and were dependent on God each month.  I remember when we got home from our honeymoon thinking, “if we just make it to Christmas and all our bills are paid it will be a miracle from God.”  Well God was so faithful to us and we did, but then after that I found myself thinking, now what?

Life is still just as busy for us, but thankfully we are now in a season where we are more financially stable, and our schedule is at least consistent.  At least for now, until May.  From there we do not know exactly what we will be doing.  We kind of have two different “plans” depending on what happens with a few things in the next few months.  The encouraging thing is that both of those “plans” are good, of course God could direct us to something completely different that we don’t even know about yet, but He has been so faithful and I know that He will direct us to where we are supposed to be.  It might seem like I’m just kind of rambling here, and maybe I kind of am, but I guess what I’m trying to express is that the Lord has been so faithful and good to us even though our life has been incredibly crazy.  And it has been hard, trust me, there have been days where I have been utterly overwhelmed because everything seems to be constantly changing, and I wonder if there are other newly weds who go through the same thing.  The funny thing is that even though I’ve had those days, and life has been crazy to say the least I wouldn’t change any of it.  God has taught my husband and I so much that we never would have learned if life would have been “easy” and “smooth”.  He has humbled us and broken us in many ways, and He has proven Himself faithful time and time again.  My faith is still so immature, but I know for certain that God has used this year to grow it in so many ways, and praise Him for that.

I don’t know what God has in store for us for the next year but I know that He will be faithful to direct us, provide for us, and grow us more into the image of His Son and that brings encouragement and hope to my heart in the midst of this constantly changing season of life.

My friend Daisy sent me this quote in an email this morning and I was so encouraged by it:

“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” -Spurgeon

 

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Better than Happiness

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 Happiness. It’s something everyone always seems to be seeking after.  We all want to be happy.  Our definitions of what happiness means may differ, but at the core of every human being is the desire for happiness.  It is not that happiness is wrong, or that even desiring to be happy is a bad thing.  It isn’t, however much of the time we base our “happiness” on our feelings and circumstances, which I think is why we rarely feel like we’ve attained “happiness.” There’s always something lacking, and we are never really satisfied.  I wrote in my last post about what the Lord has been teaching me lately about joy, contentment and thankfulness.  I spent some time the last few weeks studying joy in God’s Word.  I know the only way that I can grow in joy is by immersing myself in the Word of God and understanding what biblical joy really is.  As I studied I noticed the stark contrast between Biblical joy and happiness as our culture would define it.

 Joy is mentioned many times in Scripture in both the Old and New Testament, and it is mentioned in a handful of different ways.   After studying I found that the majority of passages about joy could be categorized in the following five ways (again, these are not the ONLY contexts in which joy appears in Scripture, but as I studied I found that most of the times joy is mentioned in falls into these five categories)

1. Joy comes from God

Psalm 4:7 – David says that God has put more joy in his heart, than even the ungodly when they have an abundance.

Psalm 43:4 – God is the psalmists exceeding joy.

 2. Joy in God’s presence

Psalm 16:11 – David says that in God’s presence is fullness of joy.

Psalm 21:6 – David’s joy was God’s presence.

Isaiah 12:6 – The inhabitants of Zion are called to sing for joy because the Holy One is in their midst.

3.  Joy in God’s Character

Psalm 67:4 – The nations are called to sing for joy because of God’s justice and sovereignty on the earth.

Psalm 5:11 – David takes joy in God’s protection.

Psalm 81:1 – We are called to sing for joy to God because He is our strength.

Psalm 92:4 – Joy in the work of God.

4. Joy in Our Salvation

Psalm 71:23 – the Psalmist sings for joy because the Lord has redeemed his soul.

Habakkuk 3:18 – Habakkuk says he will take joy in the God of his salvation even in the midst of immense trial.

1 Peter 1:3-9 – our great salvation is what we rejoice in during trials; God has saved us according to His great mercy, we have an imperishable inheritance in heaven that He is keeping for us, and He is guarding us now through faith and He will bring us home to glory.

5. We are commanded to have joy

Galatians 5:22 – joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit.

Psalm 32:11 – the upright in heart are commanded to shout for joy in the Lord.

Psalm 100:2 – All the earth is called to make a joyful noise to the Lord and come into His presence with singing.

Friends, as I studied this I was so encouraged.  I knew a lot of these verses already, and had thought about joy multiple times before. This time though I was so struck by the fact that joy is something is grounded in something outside of us; our feelings and our circumstances.  That means it is something we can have no matter what is going on in our lives.  Joy is rooted in God, in His presence, His character, and His gospel.  Those are all things that do not change, so my joy can be secure even when my feelings and circumstances are not.  I hope that encourages you as it did me.  As I think about these things there are a few ways I can really seek to apply joy to my life:

 1. Go to God in prayer casting all my cares on Him looking to Him for joy (not myself or other things), and find joy in His presence.

2. Remember my salvation. Simple, ponder the reality that I hated God and was living in rebellion to Him, but He in His love and mercy saved me through the atoning work of Christ.

3. Meditate on the Character of God; His love, His mercy, His goodness, His faithfulness, His immutability, etc.  There are few things that bring more joy than thinking about the awesome character of God.

4. Offer sacrifices of praise to God even in the midst of difficult circumstances; thank God for the grace He gives me to endure the trials, and thank Him that through trials He is maturing and perfecting my faith.  Praise Him and thank Him even for the hard things, because He is using them to work all things together for my good and His glory.

Happiness as our culture would define it is unstable, always changing, and honestly unattainable. However, true joy is always available to us who are in Christ, because our joy is rooted in a God who does not change no matter how much our lives do.  Praise God that He has given us such joy!  Let’s take hold of the joy that is ours in Him!

Love and blessings,

Willa

Joy: It’s always a choice

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Good morning blogging friends!

Recently I have been thinking about joy, contentment and thankfulness.  The Lord has been leading my husband and I through a very challenging season.  In fact, in the last year both of us have been battling spiritual depression on almost a daily basis.  That might sound crazy to some of you, you might be thinking, “didn’t you just get married in this last year? Shouldn’t you just be exploding with happiness? How could you be struggling with depression?” Those same questions have run through my head in the last couple months on more than one occasion. The truth is that yes, we did get married, and we are SO thankful for our marriage and for each other, and for the way God has used our marriage to grow us both in the last five months, and we do have joy in all of that.  The last year of both of our lives has been one of the most amazing, and happiest, because God brought us together.  At the same time though it has also been the hardest in both of our lives because we have battled with spiritual depression continually.  I have doubted my salvation at times, because it would seem as though the only thing coming out of my heart was sin, that I wasn’t growing, and even though my earnest desire was to please and love the Lord that it just wasn’t happening.  Feelings of doubt, guilt, and despair seemed pretty relentless in both mine and my husband’s heart. We prayed so much that God would restore the joy in our hearts, and would work in us to cause us to love Him more and be changed, but at times it seemed like He just wasn’t answering our prayers.

There’s a lot I could write about concerning all of this, because through this last year the Lord has been teaching me so many different things about Himself and His Word that I don’t think I would have learned if He hadn’t purposed for me to go through a “spiritual depression.”  However, what I wanted to focus on in this blog post is what He has been teaching me recently about joy, contentment, and thankfulness. In the midst of struggling with depression joy, contentment and thankfulness do not come naturally. I have definitely failed in all three of those things in the last year, but praise God that in His grace He has been working in my heart in the last month to grow me in them.  What I’ve been learning is that joy, contentment, and thankfulness are all a choice. They are not based on feelings or even circumstances. Joy is rooted in God, the gospel, and His promises, and I can choose joy every day even when the world around me seems dark.  I can choose to be content in whatever circumstance because He is sovereign over them all, He is good and His will is perfect. Also in Philippians 4:11-13 Paul says he learned to be content in any circumstance and it was Christ who strengthened him to do so, and just as Christ taught and strengthened Paul to be content He can do the same with me.  I can choose to be thankful every day because God has given me so much more than I deserve.  I deserve His just wrath and eternity in hell for my sin, but He has saved me and poured out His grace, therefore I always have reason to be thankful.  As if my salvation isn’t enough God blesses me with so many things every day; He continually provides for me and my husband, I live in a country where I’m free to read my Bible and can attend church without fear, I could continue to list things but there are so many that it would be a very long list.

My point is that I have a choice in all of those things.  I can choose sin.  I can choose to give into discontent, complaint, and despair, and if I do life will feel incredibly dark.  Or I can choose joy, contentment, and thankfulness, and even though life might not be perfect, and trials will come I will not be living in a foggy darkness.  What I’ve realized is that those sins; discontent, complaining, and despair are really deceptive.  They cloud my view of God, they cause me to doubt His promises, and I begin to think my circumstances are hopeless.  I base everything off my feelings, and I feel like everything around me is dark, when in reality joy is right there within my grasp, if I would repent of my sin and choose joy it would be mine.  Praise God for that, and praise Him for His grace.  This is still a battle that I face every day, but praise God He has been doing so much work in my heart and in my husband’s heart as well.  My hope and prayer is that this post would be an encouragement to you, and that you would choose joy, contentment and thankfulness, because it is right there within your grasp if you will choose it.  And God will give you the grace to be obedient to Him.

Love and blessings,

Willa

A story worth sharing

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Hi Friends!

It has been on my heart for the past several weeks to write out my testimony and share it here. Some of you might read this and already know a lot about me, but some of you might read this and not know me at all.  Regardless, what I’m going to share now is the most important thing you have to learn about me, because it’s not really about me at all, it’s about the saving work of Jesus Christ.  May He be glorified in the words I write now.

I was not raised in a home where we went to church or read the Bible. My parents are extremely loving, and raised me with kindness and good morals, which I will be forever grateful for, but they are not believers. I love them with all my heart and long for them to be saved, and pray for them continually.  

As a little girl I was always a very curious and deep thinker, but I was also very shy so I kept my thoughts to myself.  I can remember being about five years old and at the time we lived in Colorado.  I was riding in the car with my mom and I looked out the window at the beautiful Rocky Mountains, and I distinctly remember thinking, “this world didn’t come from nothing, so where did it come from? Where did I come from?” and then concluding with the thought, “There is a God and He is real.” I couldn’t explain how I knew that, especially at five years old, but Romans 1:19-20 says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”  Now when I look back after having an understanding of Scripture I know that my understanding that there was a God and that He is real came from the fact that God does reveal Himself through creation, and even though I had no biblical teaching I still knew at five years old that He existed. This still leaves me in awe.  Praise God that God reveals Himself in creation.

When I was six my family moved from Colorado to Northern California where we have lived since then.  As I grew up my curiosity about God continued to grow.  I desperately wanted to know why I knew that there was a God and since I believed He was real I wanted to know Him.  In John 6:44 Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”  What I know now, but didn’t understand growing up is that all through my childhood the Lord was drawing me to Himself.  One of the ways He did was specifically through a Christian family that I met through dance classes.  I took dance classes all through my childhood, and in those classes I met two sisters that were from a Christian family.  We became friends, but shortly after circumstances arose that caused us to lose contact for a handful of years.  All of this though was more of God’s incredible sovereign plan of drawing me to Himself. 

In my early teen years dancing became my life.  Ballet was my expertise and I threw all my energy and effort into dancing, because I felt like it was the only thing in my life that I could control and the only way I could express my emotions.  I had come to a place where I was bitter and angry towards my mom.  I still knew in my heart that God was real, but I blamed my parents, and especially my mom for not having an explanation of that knowledge.  I felt that since my parents weren’t believers and didn’t go to church that it was there fault that I couldn’t explain my knowledge that God was real, so my heart grew increasingly bitter and angry toward them.  All of the emotions I felt went into striving hard after whatever it took to better myself in my dancing, and much of that involved chasing after the perfect ballerina figure.  My view of what was healthy and beautiful was completely distorted.  I worked as hard as I could to try to stay as slim as I possibly could, though I never was full blown anorexic, I came dangerously close.  Yet in the midst of striving after all those things I would never feel satisfied.  In my heart I knew everything I was living for was vanity.  At the same time that all of this was taking place God worked to bring the two sisters that I had met through dance classes several years earlier back into my life, and they started to become my best friends.

By the time I was fifteen my heart was completely hardened toward my mom.  I didn’t want to spend any time with her, and took whatever opportunity I could to spend time away from home.  I spent most of the time in the home of the two sisters who were my best friends.  It was during that year that I started to go to church with my friends and their family.  Over the course of that year of going to church I began to understand three things: 1. That God was holy 2. That I was a sinner and 3. That I could do nothing to save myself.  This understanding led me to distress and depression.  I knew I couldn’t save myself before a holy God, and I knew I was destined for His just wrath.  I didn’t understand the gospel or what Christ had done on the cross.  I talked to my friends about this and asked them, “How do I become a Christian? I want to get saved.” My friends gave me a Bible and told me to read it, and that it would help me understand.  The year I was fifteen I read the Bible for the first time in my life.  I don’t remember exactly what I read, but I do remember reading some from Psalms, and thinking to myself, “all of this is really great, but I’m not saved.  God is holy and His wrath toward me is just because I’m a sinner, so none of this applies to me.”  All of this led me to depression, because I had no hope.  In the midst of this I labored even harder in my dancing, because again I felt it was the only thing in my life that I could control.  

This all continued into when I turned sixteen.  My heart became even more hardened toward my mom, I pursued dancing even harder, and I even began to plan in my heart more blatant rebellion.  I had always been known to my friends as the “sweet naïve”  girl, and somehow that just wasn’t going to cut it for me anymore.  I didn’t want to be a stereotype anymore, and I was planning in my heart the things that I would do to show everyone that they were wrong about me.  I wanted to prove to everyone that I was not so naïve as they thought.  Thankfully, praise be to God, that it was in this very time that He saved me.  I started going to a youth group with my friends where God’s Word and the gospel were clearly proclaimed.  The youth pastor’s wife reached out to me the first night that I was there.  After going there for about a month one night after youth group I wanted to talk to the youth pastor’s wife and ask her about salvation.  I went with my two friends, and the youth pastor’s wife and asked her what I needed to do to be saved.  She explained the gospel to me.  She articulated the truths in Ephesians 2:1-9, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] But[c]God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” The Holy Spirit worked in my heart so that I could see and understand Christ’s work on the cross.  I finally understood that Christ had borne all the Father’s wrath for me, and that salvation comes through faith in His finished work. That night I repented of my sins and trusted Christ as my Savior, praise be to His grace.

One of the first immediate changes that took place after the Lord saved me was my attitude toward my parents.  God began to change my heart of bitterness toward my mom to one of love and compassion, and I began to spend more time with my family and share the gospel with them. God worked in my heart an attitude of love, submission and gratitude toward my family.  I can honestly say now that I love them with all my heart and am so thankful for them.

 God also worked by changing  my desire to throw all my energy into my dancing changed into a desire to throw all my energy into learning more about Christ and serving Him.  He began to change my perspective on what true beauty is, and though it is still sometimes a struggle for me, He has continued to renew my mind in His truth and to teach me to be content with how He has made me.  I still have so much to learn, and will until glory but I praise God for His amazing redeeming work in my life.  I shutter when I think of what would have happened if the God didn’t intervene and save me when He did.  He is so kind and gracious to save me even in the midst of my rebellion against Him! His love and grace are amazing. Glory be to Him. 

What I’ve shared is only a glimpse of all the incredible things God has done in the last almost 5 years of my life.  He is so faithful and I so look forward to continually putting off sin in my life and growing in Christlikeness by His grace!

I cannot end this post though without asking the question; do you know Christ? Have you repented of your sins and placed your faith and trust in His saving work? If you haven’t you are living in rebellion against Him, and if you do not repent you will be destined to an eternity of His just wrath.  But His grace is available today! Romans 3:23 says that all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but the very next verse says that salvation come to us as a gift through Jesus Christ.  If you have not trusted in Christ for salvation I do pray you would think about these things, and for your salvation.  If you want to talk to me more about these things please feel free to contact me! I would love to hear from and talk to you. 

With love,

Willa 

Easy dairy free “icecream”!

Hi Friends!

A little over a month ago I was seriously craving ice cream.  It was after dinner, and ice cream just sounded amazing! However, I had two problems the first being that we did not even have ice cream, and the second being that even if we did have ice cream I wouldn’t be able to eat it.  It was then that I remembered something my Titus 2 Mom, Alisa, shared me with a few years earlier; you can make a really good “mock” ice cream from a frozen banana! So I froze a few bananas (they need to be pretty ripe), and then the next night made ice cream! And it was sooooo good! Ever since then I’ve been meaning to share with all of you!

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Here’s what you do:

First cut up a few bananas (I usually do 3 or 4, but you only need 1 to make 1 batch of ice cream)into 2″ pieces and then freeze the bananas over night.

Once the bananas are frozen put 1 bananas worth of pieces into a blender.

Blend the bananas until all the big pieces are gone.  Then scrap down the sides of the blender.

Here is where you can add whatever flavoring you might want.  I’ll usually either add a few drops of vanilla stevia, and a spoonful of cocoa powder if I want chocolate, or vanilla stevia and cinnamon, it just depends on what type of flavor you want.

After that blend again, and then scrap down the sides.  Continue doing this until the banana looks like it does in the picture above. Once it looks like that your ice cream is done! It’s delicious and totally dairy free and easy! Enjoy!

 

With love,

Willa

 

Fall: The Sweetness of a New Season

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I love when seasons change. I love seeing the beauty of God’s creation with every breeze & falling leaf, every snowflake, every blossoming tree, and every summer night.  The changing of seasons always makes me thankful and brings refreshment to my heart.  

Some of my favorite things during the Autumn months are homemade tea lattes, baked apple crisps, cozy blankets, scarves, cool days, candles, and seeing leaves change.  All of these things that are sweet to me and bring me joy simply point back to the Lord and His goodness and Him as Creator. God is so gracious to give us so many things to enjoy, but He ultimately is the treasure and the One who satisfies the soul.  He is so kind. 

What are some of your favorite things about the Fall season? What are those “little things” that are really gifts of His kindness? I’d love to hear from you! 

With Love,

Willa 

Where to begin?

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You know that moment when you are working on a paper, and you have so much inspiration and ideas about where you want your paper to go, but you have no idea where to begin? Well, if you know that feeling, that is what I’m feeling right here at the start of this blog.  I love to write, learn, and challenge my own growth through writing.  I have so many ideas of things I’d love to write about, but I don’t know where to start.  The only thing that comes to mind is an introduction, so that for anyone who reads this (or if anyone does, either way!) you will at least know who I am and why I write.

My name is Willa.  I’m 21 years old, and a newly wed (I love my husband and I love being married!!!). On August 3rd, 2013 I married the man I’d prayed for and dreamed of for a handful of years, and best friend, Zack! Praise God for His goodness! The Lord saved me by His grace through the work of Christ when I was sixteen years old (I may tell that story in it’s fullness later).  Ephesians 2:1-10 beautifully describe the Lord’s saving grace through Christ. Praise God for His great mercy! The desire in my heart is to know Christ more, grow more into His likeness, and live to glorify Him.  That’s a very brief picture of my testimony, and it’s all by His grace.

Ever since I was a young girl I’ve loved to write.  I would write stories, poems, songs, and just my own thoughts.  I have journals and journals full of writing I have done over the years.  Somehow writing seems to be one of the best ways that I think through important things, learn, and grow.  The reason for me creating this blog is so that I’d have the opportunity to do that (it’s almost like a type of accountability), and to seek by God’s grace  to be an encouragement and help to anyone who might read what I write.  The Lord has placed in my heart many different passions, as well as things I enjoy, and those are the things I will write about.  My heart is that God will be glorified in whatever I write about whether I’m sharing about something the Lord is teaching me through His Word, a topic from God’s Word, life experiences, marriage, recipes, or even nutrition.  All things exist by Him and for His glory!

Well, that’s the best I have for an introduction about me, and why I write.  My prayer is that through writing God will continue to work in my heart to love Him more, be challenged, and grow, and if you read this that is my prayer for you as well!

With love,

Willa