Two-Thousand Eighteen: A Reflection

When we think about how much we change over time, our memories typically fall on the monumental, tentpole events which rocked our tiny lives in the sea of life. For better or worse, these notable events oft time result in immediate action to be taken. We are forced to make changes because the environment around us has changed. Our circumstances have changed. We are forced to adapt to the seemingly ever-changing world around us. However most of the changes in our lives occur slowly over time. They are small, almost unremarkable things which go unnoticed or outright overlooked. We are the results of our choices and habits that we have formed. Thus, when I look back through my social media at the places I’ve been and the people around me, I cannot help but see where I’ve gone and where I’ve grown!

I started the year off in Atlanta, Georgia with 50 of my closest peers for a conference! I experienced, for a native Texan, the very arctic like eleven degree temperatures. I was able to visit Stone Mountain Park and watch my friends go “snow” tubing down an artificial hill. I was able to worship and learn with fifty thousand plus college students at the Passion conference. I experienced what usually happens on church trips: buses breaking down and extended hours of time on the side of the road. Honestly, these are some of the best memories because the focus is not on the situation but the people you spent it with.

I took part in many church events from discipleship groups, to camps, to lock-ins. I also left my job at Chick-fil-A and began working in ministry vocationally! I transferred from Seminary to Liberty University to finish up my undergraduate. I’ve made many new friends and have grown away from others as well. I’ve been humbled and been built up. I started getting into photography, and I adopted a husky for a week. I had two very close friends get married, and had others get engaged! I’ve seen God do many, many incredible things in my life and my friend’s lives! Now, I’m settling into my new job and preparing to go back to Passion in the next week or so.

All of these events mark different points in my life over the last year. Places, people, and times. But I’ve changed. Who I was at the beginning of this year is not too different than I am currently. But I am different. I less rough around the edges. I’m less critical of myself. I’m not resisting God’s calling on my life or am I trying to make it happen. My desires have grown more strong and my opportunities have gotten more substantial. I’m more aware of other’s feelings and emotions. I am able to more effectively use my knowledge of scripture in a way that others may be able to understand. I’m less hardheaded. I have friends who know me far better than they did and have learned that we are more similar to one another that we knew. I have people to call me out and to encourage me. To rebuke me and to offer wisdom. Something is different about me, something’s changed. My dependance on God has only grown more and more. My perspective is less cynical. I am less of who I once was.

I can attribute all of these things to God who has orchestrated everything together. I do not find it a coincidence that I’m surrounded by the friends that I have or the ministry we are apart of. I am not surprised by the challenges I’ve faced or the crazy life changes that have occurred. All that I have has been given to me by God’s blessing! My job, my family, my health, my friends, my ministry, etc. has call come by God’s hand and timing! I must admit that I am grateful for all that God has done in my life because I am so incredibly different to who I was not too long ago. My life has been entirely transformed because of God and I am free! I am more fulfilled in life because of God! I am satisfied through God because He has provided exactly what I need and I trust that He will continue to provide and lead my life. I also trust and know that the desires that God has placed on my heart will come to pass in His timing! All I have to do is to move when He says move and to wait while He says to wait.

If I can leave this at this, I have been saved by God! I have been changed by God. He started a work in me and I will follow Him all the days of my life.

My dear friends,

I want you to know just how thankful I am for you. For how much you’ve impacted my life and have been a blessing to me. All the encouragement you’ve given me this year, the high fives, the hugs, the laughter, and the shared meals. You mean a great deal to me, so much so that I cannot find the words to express my love and affection for you. Y’all have had such a positive impact on my life, and I know that God brought us all together so that we may be a beacon of light in the darkness! Thank you for sharing in ministry with me, ministering to me, and for loving me! This year has been incredible for no particular reason other than that God is so good! I love y’all all so, so much! I honestly wouldn’t know what to do without y’all! Thank you for being part of my life!

Sincerely,
Terren

Fleeing Discouragement

This evening has been a struggle, a battle really. The enemy has tried his best to drum up every bit of doubt and discouragement that he can muster within me. While I am not unaccustomed to going through periods of sadness or depression, this is something different. The last couple of months have been the precursor to change. This past weekend, my mother graduated with her Master’s degree in Theological Studies, we celebrated the Dean of my school’s resignation, and I’ve gone through the process of transferring schools. Seasons of change are inherently prone to uncertainty. I am not surprised that the enemy has taken this opportunity to attack me. God has been affirming me and working on my behalf to put things in order.

God has done a great deal of work in my life over the last year in order to further my growth and devotion to Him. I very recently became a co-leader of my college small group, I made preparations to finish my undergraduate degree, and have begun setting better habits in my spiritual walk. Through all of this, God has been providing and encouraging me. I just registered for a couple summer classes at Liberty so I may continue making progress. I still have no idea how I am going to pay for my education. While not much more expensive than my previous school, I am having to cover much, much more of it. Enter the enemy, who has spent much of this afternoon trying to stir up discouragement, uncertainty. Doubt.

He’s whispering every lie possible to turn my gaze away from God. You’re never going to finish school, Terren. You can’t afford it. Nobody is going to help cover the cost of your education. You’ll never get out of your parents house. You’ll never have a fulfilling life. You’ll never meet someone, have love, or whatnot. Lies that are entirely bogus, but not out of the realm of impossibility. The enemy is speaking through my insecurity, the areas where I have some second thoughts. Speaking through things that I am not entirely certain about. For what purpose? To distract me from the truth that God provides abundantly.

I bought a hammock last week with the purpose of using it to relax, but also to retreat into God’s creation and spend time with Him. While I spend a marginal amount of time at my house during the week when I’m not sleeping, the enemy likes to attack when I’m away from people. I have begun to take full advantage of being amongst God’s creation as creation speaks of the God who created it all. Away from my television, my computer, my phone, my gaming consoles, I am among the structured universe and the God who created it. This has been greatly beneficial for me, because I have to be purposeful in setting my tent up between the trees and then clearing my mind of every thought and idea that shoot endlessly between neurons. I am quite the over-thinker, and I have to discipline myself not to think. This has resulted in having conversations with God in a very different means than I am accustomed.

Instead of presenting a petition, I’ve just told God, “Hey, I’m going to just sit here and if You’d like to speak, then I’ll listen. But for now, I’m just going to sit here with you.” I can’t begin to explain to y’all the wave of peace that crashed over me. After some time, I’ll then begin to converse with God about some of the things that are in my mind. I don’t want to say that it is a casual conversation, but rather spoken like you would with a friend with whom you speak slowly and intimately and fully listen before response is had. As I’ve made purposeful, intentional efforts to deepen my relationship with the Father, I am not surprised that the enemy is attempting to disrupt that.

This evening I went and set up my hammock and shortly thereafter my mother came out to check on me, as it was apparent that something was amiss. Instead of stewing in the lies the enemy was spewing, I fled to where I would not be able to sit in it. I went and prayed. I went out and went to God to thank Him for all the He has provided. My heart poured out in overwhelming thanksgiving because God’s hand has been on my life for so so long and I have not always appreciated it. I have not been overtaken and the Father has set my life on a path of which He will use to bring glory back to Himself. I know that this path is far, far better than any one that I have imagined.

So if there is a lesson to be taken away from this, flee from sin. Flee from the enemy. Enter into the presence of God, sit and bask in His might and glory! Trust in His provision and know that He is for you, not against you.

Grace and peace,

Terren-It-Up

The Selfish Heart: A Lesson on Thanksgiving

Since I graduated from high school, I’ve made constant stints from one food establishment to another. I started off making coffee in a book store, then moved on to a real coffee shop, then I began my own business venture as a media contractor, then I made a very brief stint as a food runner at a movie theater chain, and then went unemployed for a period of time. Through all this time and many years gone by, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself, about people, and about work. All of which has helped shape me into the person I am today. Now, last year, I started a new job at Chick-fil-A. It is not the ideal job I wish for myself, nor is it what I see myself doing for the rest of my life (but what do I know, Lord?). I must say, being a team member at Chick-fil-A is one of the least stressful, most fulfilling jobs I’ve held. I’ve been blessed with better pay as a starting position than any of the management positions I’ve held previously, I work with talented people with many various passions, traits, and skills. Furthermore, I’ve got a purpose and things I want to achieve.

During my time at Starbucks, I wanted to get promoted. I spent a year working hard and seeking betterment for myself and my team. I did eventually get promoted and then spent another year honing my skills and abilities as a leader and as an individual. During that time, I also sought to become what is known as a Coffee Master. A Coffee Master is a specialized employee (or Partner as Starbucks calls them) who has spent time to learn and study the craft of coffee. They are familiar with the process of growing, roasting, and packaging coffee. They know the ins and outs of how different regions and altitudes and levels of roasting affect the flavor of coffee. They know how to pair coffee to different kinds of pastries to bring out different flavors of the coffee and/or dessert. Have you ever wondered why chocolate pairs well with coffee? Well, semi-sweet chocolate helps high light the cocoa notes of the very popular Central America sources beans! Try it for yourself, try drinking a black, and it needs to be black, cup of Central American dark roast with a chocolate chip cookie! Anyway, a group of my partners and myself went through this process and were awarded with knowledge and a special black apron which signified our knowledge of coffee.

34.jpg

Now, at Chick-fil-A I seek to continue to become a better leader and a more well rounded person. I truly have been blessed and as my signature welcome goes, better than I deserve (thanks Dave Ramsey!). So how does this relate to the title of this post? Well, over the last year I’ve been rather discontent with my situation overall. Being a middle twenties college student who still lives at home and work in fast food is not quite what I had planned for myself. Not to say that my plans were grandiose or unrealistic, but they were not inline with reality. Thus, last night I was laying in bed, as you do, when I was struck with some deep conviction… I’ve not been thankful for what God has given me. Y’all, we are far too easily for focused on what we don’t have, that we lose sight of the bigger blessings that we were not looking for. We’re not thankful enough for what God is doing, and what he’s doing in our lives! We’re blinded by own own selfishness that we make ourselves blind to the blessing God has poured out upon us! I find it scary to realize the extent in which my selfishness affects my being!

Our selfishness breeds discontentment. Nothing is ever enough! Nothing we’ve been given can satisfy the endless desires of our wandering heart, each new item that it covets temporarily fills some void that refuses to say enough! Fortunately, Christ’s death upon the cross was sufficient for salvation and to allow us to say enough is enough. Christ’s sufficiency that was displayed on that cross was and is the ultimate means by which we can experience blessing! Who am I to take part in enjoying that blessing? Who am I with my endlessly selfish and coveting heart to be among the court of Christ? Fortunately, it lies within this sacrifice that I am able to be thankful. I can identify the blessings that God has extended toward me and I am able to count them with all joy.

A position of gratitude is not one that is not always pleasant. Especially when stepping into the presence of God and having to admit that what I had or what I was seeking was not up to the standard of what God ultimately gave in the end. A thankful heart is one of gratitude and of humility. When we say that what God gives us is not enough or not good enough, we reject God’s supreme authority. We essentially tell God that we’re better than what he has given and that we’re more knowledgable of what is best for us. Who are we to speak to God like that? Who are we to say that our path is better than the one God placed before us? We’d be foolish to denounce God’s direction and seek our own. Yet our selfish hearts put us onto that path. Our selfishness rejected God before we were saved, denounced the supremacy of God. We were walking blindly through life, seeking anything to satisfy the unsatisfiable. I, for one, am tired of chasing what cannot be satisfied. I’m tired of this game of running after the things that God has said would not be beneficial to me. I tired, and its time to count my blessings.


I find it amusing when I sit down for a meal, at home or out with friends, and someone suggests that we ‘bless the food.’ One, the food was created by God for the nourishment of our bodies. Secondly, the food was already blessed because God provided it. A small qualm on my part, yet the idea of asking God to imbue divine favor (which is what the word bless is defined as) upon his creation is strange. I understand the sentiment, but we’re really giving thanks for the provision and not for God to divinely turn junk food into good calories. Well… I’m not sure what the health gurus do… you do you. It is here, where selfishness and thanksgiving collide is where I find myself. I’ve not been thankful. Or at least, I’ve not expressed my gratitude to God for his provision. Thanksgiving is demonstrated time and time again throughout the Bible. Expressed in a multitude of ways and means, thanksgiving is a celebration of provision that was freely given and/or met a need. Paul, throughout his letters (epistles), constantly begins with a statement of thanksgiving. Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians all begin with a passage where Paul thanks God for the work being done in and through these church congregations! Then throughout the letters, continues to thank God! Time and time again, Paul expresses his thanksgiving in a meaningful way.

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.”

-Romans 1:8

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge.”

-1 Corinthians 1:4-5

“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saint, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”

-Ephesians 1:15-17

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.”

-Philippians 1:3-4

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel.”

-Colossians 1:3-5

“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.”

-2 Thessalonians 1:3

Paul expresses a very real and a very genuine gratitude, even in the midst of his own plights. He is thankful for the numerous churches who were faithful to God and faithful to the gospel and were carrying on the commands of Christ. Thanksgiving wasn’t some passing moment of a couple sentences spread over a meal, but rather a continued lifestyle that was evidenced through Paul’s letters. Paul’s attitude is revealing of the work God did in him. Paul was humble and confident. Grateful and meek. He understood that what God would provide was better than whatever situation he found himself. This idea is plainly seen in Philippians 4:

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

-Philippians 3:10-13

Paul understood how God was working through him, and he was faithful to go where he led. I, over the last year or so, have not been. I desired things, good things, but the time was and is not yet right. I rushed God for things he has promised, before they are due to me. How foolish am I! Y’all, even now as I write this I’m still looking back and coming to make sense of the season of old. Of things I did not fully understand then, as I do now. There is much to be thankful for, and much to rejoice in. I’ve come to find that I’m not nearly as smart as I think I am, nor am I as holy as I think I am. Yet, I trust the Lord.

Being at the stage of life I am, I have desires which are appropriate but not yet at hand. I want to be married, to have a family, to have my ministry, to have independence, to have security. All of these are good things, but only in the time which they are appointed. I’m not ready yet.

Tonight, I was at our youth ministry where I serve. We were speaking on some things, a few topics, when we came to the very topic I now write. Anyway, this friend just made their relationship ‘Facebook official’ and we, as peers, have been celebrating it. I shared some of my experience over the last year or so, when they said something along the lines of ‘she’s coming.’ I smiled and replied, ‘and I’m waiting.’ You see, I’ve learned that it is far better to wait on God’s timing than my own. I could chase a relationship right now that would fulfill my desire of that kind of relationship. But it would not be the best of what God could provide. I could search restlessly for that someone fruitlessly, pushing God to make the time now, when I’m surely not ready. So too with the other aspect of my life, God will provide a means and a way when the time is right, and not when I want it to be.

There is so much to be thankful for, and I am thankful for the wait. God is not delaying or is he holding something back. Rather, he is growing me, challenging me, and calling me to something bigger, something better. And I am thankful for the lessons I’ve had to learn as I’ve gotten older about waiting patiently. I am thankful of the opportunities at work, to be poured into by my leaders, to be a leader myself, for the purpose and fulfillment that comes from work for God, for the ability to carry the gospel into a place where someone may need it. I am thankful for the ministry of people who surround me, who care for me, who seek to grow deeper in their faith. I am grateful for the second family that I’ve gain, who love me endlessly, challenge me to be more than I am, who instill in me qualities that make me Christ-like. I am grateful that I am able to see where I am lacking and can make attempts at addressing those areas. So, as I continue to grow older and I am continually blessed beyond imagine, I will be grateful and I will give thanks.

Grace and peace,

-Terren-It-Up


P.S. To my future wife, if you’re reading this, I pray for you now. That you’ll be held in the arms of God, that your heart is protected. I pray for your community, that they challenge you to be the faithful, Godly woman Christ has called you to be! Know that God cherishes you more than you could imagine! Trust in his timing, and find your refuge in him.

-T.