Prayer. Purpose. Praise. Perspective

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One day I woke up and I thought I could do better, I can be better. I was starting to get complacent, and I was stuck in a daily routine: Wake up, go to work, go to class, finish homework, go to sleep, repeat. As a college student and for anyone for that matter- it is so easy to get stuck in a continuous cycle of simply completing the things scheduled for the day. I would check off my “to do” list of responsibilities and then end the day. I was not apart of anything bigger than myself. I was going through the motions every day worrying solely about what needed to be done but what I realized is there was so much I was missing. Sometimes there comes a time when you have to ask yourself, “Am I a part of something bigger than myself?” One day I woke up and I prayed, I found my purpose, and praised God before beginning my day. I want to share my results with you. I cannot simply be better, or do better on my own. I wanted to make a change in my life so I started with God, and began with prayer.

Prayer– “A request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or a form of worship.” The very moment you wake up is crucial; Put God first, and include Him in your day. When I first made a point to pray every morning, I found myself praying only for myself. Praying for yourself is not a bad thing, but it is definitely not the only thing. Deeper into this process, I found myself praying for others. More importantly, I started praying that God would use me in a different way than ever before and in a result, God gave me a heart for others that I had never experienced. I had remembered hearing about their struggles, and I so badly wanted healing, restoration, joy or whatever they needed to come into effect over their lives. People started coming into my life and I didn’t know why at the moment, but I remember saying something as simple as, “I’ll be praying for you, or for someone in their family who needed prayer. Also, something I said would make them laugh, and they would make it a point to tell me, “I really needed that today.” These seem like simple things, but I began to focus on the small things that I was doing for people: bits of encouragement I could throw their way, or anytime I could make someone laugh who was having a rough day. I found that I began figuring out how to share God’s love with someone else through my expressions. It was all through my actions. I wouldn’t have to bring up Christianity or Jesus, but somehow they made a point to bring it up in conversation. When starting my journey of beginning every morning with prayer, God opened my eyes to more than I had ever seen before. I was fixed on more than myself. I was fixed on how God could use me for that given day. When meeting new people, or conversing with others I never had to ask them, “Do you know Jesus?” I noticed that they were the ones bringing it up. You can bring the love of God into your college, your workplace, or even your home through your actions. You do not have to “shove Jesus down someone’s throat.” If you’re doing the right thing, you’re following God’s plan, you’re encouraging and sharing the love with others, they will more than likely come to you and ask you about Jesus. Do not fixate on how you can witness to someone because I can assure you will be surprised about how natural it can happen. It’s as simple as being loving, kind, and showing you care. Every time I have told someone about Jesus was when they brought it up in conversation. This is not how witnessing to someone will turn out 100% of the time, but by showing you care, loving on them, and encouraging them they will be more open to either bring it up themselves or listen to you when the time comes. The focus should not be on witnessing. Rather, the focus should be on just being a witness. I was no longer worried about what I needed to do for myself, but how God could use me. I found my purpose.

Purpose- “The reason for which something is done or which something exists.” Through prayer, I had found my purpose. My purpose in life was more than just finishing a “to-do list” and ending the day. Every new day, I had a new purpose. It was important to pray and ask God what my purpose would be. Waking up with intention was a newfound motivation for me to take on life in a new way. I didn’t want to just exist anymore. I wanted to live; I wanted to live with purpose. I woke up intending to do great things. I woke up with intentions to go to work and class. However, I became focused on the way I completed my daily schedule. Yes, I still had to attend to my daily responsibilities, but I now had purpose attached to everything I was doing. You may think what you’re doing is not meaningful. However, have you asked God to show you why you work at the place you work, or why you attend the college you attend? If you attach purpose to the one thing you have to do, and you involve God in your daily schedule, It will be clear why you are in the situation that you are in. God will place people in your workplace, your college, or an organization you are apart of, that need the love of God. They may need encouragement, something to smile about, or they may need to hear, “God has it under control.” It doesn’t need to be some elaborate sermon. A simple phrase to let them know that you care is all they may need. Everything you do should have a purpose behind it. Do not go to work or school because you have to, go because you get to and because there’s a deeper purpose attached to it. You may not know what your purpose is, but you need to praise Him until you find your purpose and praise him in order to continue your purpose.

Praise– Express warm approval or admiration of. Finding my purpose through prayer caused me to praise God, and in turn, he showed me the true meaning of praise. I knew that in any situation I was in, good or bad; God always deserved praise. No matter what, I realized that God chose me, he set me apart and called me to do big things. He died for me and rose again three days later. He loves me more than anyone else possibly could. He has given me unique gifts, and a unique purpose for life. It’s not always easy to praise God through a storm, but if you trust Him and not let circumstances phase you, He’ll pull you out of it. If you adopt this mentality, you‘ll have the strength to help others through difficult times. You would have a story to share with others of what it’s like to praise God through a storm and see Him pull you out of it. God wants to bless you, but you have to take action. Praise God, even if you’re in an unfortunate situation because God deserves to be praised regardless of circumstance, solely because of who He is, what He’s done, and what He’s going to do. Praising God through every situation will change your perspective on your life. You’ll begin to see yourself, how God sees you.

Perspective- “A particular attitude toward, or way of regarding something; a point of view.” Praying, following God’s purpose, and praising Him solely for who He is will cause you to change your perspective on life. Praying for how God will use you to help others, finding your purpose, taking action, and praising God through every situation will create you into the best version of yourself. Taking the focus off of yourself and allowing God to use you to help others is motivation to make a difference in other peoples’ lives. Without knowing it, your life will also change.

If you ever wake up thinking, I could do better, I could be better then follow prayer, purpose, praise, perspective. If you want to make a change in your life, start with God.

“What you are is God’s gift to you, but what you become is your gift to God.”

Are you following Your plan, or God’s Plan?

This question has been asked at the end of my day throughout my life, “Have you had a good day?” Typically, my response would be, “Yes, it went well.” Or, “No, it was awful.” I’ve noticed that my definition of having a “good day,” meant that everything went the way I thought it was supposed to go. However, I came to the realization that if every day went exactly how I thought it was supposed to go, why would I need God? If everything worked out according to “my plan” I wouldn’t need God’s help. However, I’m only human. If I followed my own plan and based every decision solely on my emotions without God’s direction, my life would honestly be a “train wreck. Instead, I choose God’s ways over mine and His plans over mine because they are far better than any plans I could ever create for myself. For instance, the School Psychology Master’s program that I am currently in is very competitive. Only 12 students are allowed in each program, and hundreds apply. I had my heart set on the University of Dayton. When I was denied acceptance, I was heart broken. BUT God had another plan for my life. I received an acceptance letter from Miami University the same day, offering me free tuition with a full-time graduate assistantship and a $13,000 stipend. Trust me, God’s plan is ALWAYS better than any plan you’ve ever came up with for your life. God loves you more than you’ll ever know, and He has higher plans for you than you would ever think about creating for yourself.

Next, I started thinking about what typically defines my day as “bad”? I came to the conclusion that I have based my response solely on circumstances that are out of my control. One’s circumstance is only temporary. I stopped allowing temporary circumstances that are out of my control define my days as “bad,” and I stopped having bad days. Furthermore, this does not mean that every single thing in my life went perfectly after this realization. Additionally, it means that when you stop allowing temporary circumstances that are outside of your control affect you, you are expressing to God that you trust Him and you’re allowing Him to take control over what you can’t. I began to focus on what I could control, and began to see God move in my life than ever before. Why stress over things that are outside of your control, when God is eventually going to work everything out for your good if you love and trust him?

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Moreover, I began to challenge myself when people asked me the question, have you had a good day?” I would take this simple question and reflect on my entire day. Every temporary circumstance that was out of my control, I would pray and ask God to take control over it. Secondly, I would pray that God would direct me in following His plan for my life every single day. I challenge you to do the same thing, and I promise that you’ll find peace in uncomfortable circumstances when you follow God’s plan. Allow Him to handle what you cannot control.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Drastically Different

Being placed in a new setting can sometimes be out of our comfort zones. Being around new people that do not know you can be intimidating. Introducing yourself for the first time is not always easy. Why? It’s all about first impressions. When people first meet you how do they describe you? What do you impress upon them? Or are you only trying to impress them? The word impress can have two very different meanings. Either you can take matters into your own hands and impress good upon others, or you can be afraid of being different and choose to alter your actions to impress others. Which one will you choose?

Growing up, I was raised in church my entire life. I was dedicated as a baby at the church my family attends. My great grandfather founded the church, my uncle is now the pastor, and every family member holds their own part. Growing up, being a Christian is the only thing I ever knew. Every Sunday we went to church, no matter what the circumstance was, we were there. In high school, I never fell into the “party scene,” and I was not really tempted to either. I had Christian friends, and the friends I hung out with did not attend the parties either. In high-school I didn’t really feel different. I played sports, I had friends, and I enjoyed my all four years. However, when I graduated and my friends and I started to get older I started to realize how different I was. I am 23 years old now, and I attend Miami University for grad School. After moving out and being around students my age every day, I have found that I. do. not. blend. in. at. all. After settling into the “college atmosphere,” I began to feel less and less like I belonged.

Furthermore, around the first week of grad school my new friends asked me to go to a bar with them one night. They were aware that I didn’t drink, and they respected that I was different. I accepted because I felt like I was not doing the best job at making friends. I was not like everyone else. I was afraid everyone would think I was “boring.” I began to feel tempted. I wanted so badly to fit in, and to show them that I’m young and I can have fun as well. I wanted to feel accepted and wanted by this new “college setting” I was now immersed into, but most of all I wanted to fit in with the group. Next, As I’m sitting in this bar, a friend in my grad program started sharing his life story with me, it began how he is from a different country. His parents moved to the U.S. when he was young, and he never felt welcomed. He was bullied in school. He told me countless stories about how no one ever chose him, and he didn’t even get along with his family. He explained how he was constantly searching of ways to fit in, and how he would try and find role models, but then they would disappoint him and let him down. He even went back to his country, and was no longer welcomed there because his family left. “I just have always felt different he said.” After hearing this my heart ached. In the middle of this bar, I had to share with him that Jesus loved him so much that He died on the cross for his sins and rose three days later. He still lives. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. He chose you. He set you apart, and He wants you to follow him. Jesus will never let you down, He’ll never disappoint, and He will choose you every single day for the rest of your life no matter what. After all of these things flooded out of my mouth it hit me. I have been feeling the same exact way as he had. What I said to him was exactly what I needed to hear all along. Jesus was speaking through me to tell him what he and I both needed to hear. I was in awe.

After understanding that I didn’t need to fit in because I was already accepted and loved. I started to realize not everyone grew up the same way I did. Not everyone had the same opportunity I did, like my friend in the above story. I thought, I know Jesus because of my parents and my background. I always asked the question, “if I didn’t have Christian parents would I know Jesus?” I wanted to find the reason why I was a Christian, and why I believed in God. After witnessing to my friend and being put in a tempting environment. I found my answer, clear as day. Jesus. Chose. Me. Now it seems very simple, but it’s powerful. I was chosen to be different, and share the gospel with those who didn’t have the opportunity to have Christian parents or role models. Not everyone grows up knowing Jesus, or going to church every Sunday. That doesn’t change anything in His eyes. If I didn’t have the opportunity to grow up learning about Jesus I would hope that someone would share the good news with me. Everyone is tempted, but it’s how you choose to handle the temptation that matters. Having a “Jesus. Chose. Me. Attitude” can help you overcome any temptation in life. I was chosen to stand out, and encourage others going through the same situations as I am.

So next time you’re in a new setting, out of your comfort zone, around new people, and introducing yourself for the first time do not be intimidated. Think about what you will impress upon them. The first impression is everything. You never know what someone is hiding behind their smile, they may need your encouragement more than you know. I always ask myself, ” if I would’ve been afraid to be different, and chose to drink… would I have been able to witness to my friend, would he have taken me seriously if I would have? Do not get caught up in trying to impress others if your impression gets distorted while doing it. Do not be afraid to be different. remember Jesus. Chose. You. Share the good news, be the light, you never know who needs it. If you blend in with everyone else, why would anyone want what you have when you’re no different? When people see the true joy that you have only Jesus can provide, that’s when they’ll ask you, “Why are you so happy all of the time?”

What makes you drastically different?

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2