There are so many different seasons in life, and right now I’m in the pruning season, painfully learning how to honor people who do not treat me with the respect that I give them. I’m learning how to go the extra-mile for someone who doesn’t deserve another foot. I’m truly understanding that grace is never earned. Instead it demands to be given away to the seemingly ineligible.
Yesterday I was reading my “Cultivate” devotional/magazine, and one of the writers discussed a time that he learned about pruning from an orange grove farmer. He explained that, “many young orange trees must be exhaustively pruned for the first few years of their lives to ensure maturity and to sustain long-term growth.”
Pruning, from the outside, looks cruel: branches are being cut off, making it practically impossible to bear fruit. I’ve been feeling the pain, heartache, and disappointment this past couple of months or so. All I’ve been longing for is to bear big ripe fruit for my good Father, yet my branches are barren.
Would a loving Father prevent fruition?
I have the hope that my pain is not useless in this season of my life. My good Father is pruning me to sustain immense life-long growth. His cuts aren’t frivolous; they’re planned and necessary. He doesn’t leave me alone; He stays beside me until the pain has passed. A young orange tree will actually die prematurely if it is not pruned. In all honesty, what kind of loving Father would avoid pruning just to get some fruit for only one season?
So here I have planted my roots. Humbled, I will stand tall with my barren branches until it is time for Spring. There may be no fruit visible, yet I will continue to grow. I am daring to be pruned, pruned for good.
-Written By: Amanda
I attempted suicide at 15.
When I awoke from my failed attempt, one of the first things Elohim told me was "I'm not done with you. You have more to do on earth."
It was a message that had echoed through various people and encounters for the past year, so I took it as my mission to shine my light on the world. 3 homes, 2 years on the streets, and an abyss of revelations later, I have come to find such different meaning in the words He spoke to me almost 10 years ago.
I have come to find a different sort of path to tread, a unique light to illuminate, and a far better plan then I could have ever imagined.
When God speaks into your life and says, “I know the plans I have for you, great plans for you to prosper, a future of hope,” we can get this idea that it is going to align with all our ideas and dreams. We believe that God’s plan will match our wants and passions.
But our minds are so microscopic. Our thoughts are mere weeds among the giant redwoods of God’s ways. We are so miniature in this universe, and our sight and minds are even smaller.
The past few years have been a journey of letting go. I had to learn to let go of things I grasped too tightly to and to things and people I placed my identity in. Ideas I just assumed would make me happy and dreams that I thought would satisfy me had to be abandoned.
My life has been a journey into a desert of desolation only to be shown a much grander picture than I could have ever painted in my mind's eye.
When God tells me to trust the plan that he has for me, how could I do anything but follow? How could I even think to stop myself from running full speed towards His plans?
At some point, if one is willing to listen and truly has the heart and drive, your spirit is called away from the small, mediocre universe you created where everything revolves around you, into a vast and unknowing world.
Slowly, ever so slowly, He starts to take the pleasures that you prided yourself in away. All of it. One molecule at a time until you are in lonesome desert, scared and angry and wanting nothing more than to go back to your old and terrible life. But, a voice speaks softly to you and tells you of all the wonders that lie beyond this desert, of the towering cathedrals and vast mountains. Something resembling faith starts to build in you and pushes you through the dryness and desert you encounter along the journey. With the hand of God, you keep pressing on to find the sacred wilderness that he is leading you to.
I am seeking far greater things than anything I have left behind me.
Written by: Chenaniah Keshka
I used to think that I didn't have much of a testimony. I was that kid that was born and raised in a Christian home; I knew all of the Bible stories and I could recite memory verses in my sleep. Recently, I was challenged to look back on my faith and analyze how certain events or portions of my life have shaped my walk with Christ as well as my personality as a whole. It broke me, in a way, to realize that there were absolutely times in my life where my faith was completely stagnant. However, this has shown me just how far I have come in my walk with the Lord and I am all the more grateful that He has never given up on me.
You have a story. Everyone does. This is just a little piece of mine.
In May 2008, my mom was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Cancer. As a little girl that had just turned twelve, the thought of losing my mom was more than words could possibly describe. Images of what I thought my prom night or my wedding day would look like without my mom by my side haunted me for weeks. It was made evident very early on that this form of cancer was extremely curable, and after six months my mom would be expected to make a full recovery. While this was incredible news, I still could not get over my anger with God. My parents were so strong in their faith and encouraged me to trust in God and know that this was all a part of His plan. I didn't feel that way. In my stubborn mind and hardened heart, it seemed to me like God had left us. Looking back, that was such a selfish and foolish thought. Time and time again, the Lord revealed Himself in huge ways but I just would not allow myself to see it. Bitterness is death. It steals every ounce of light you have. The worst part of all of this was that no one knew how I was feeling. I put on this front that allowed me to shut everyone out.
I remember the night that I finally let all of this go. It was a Thursday night worship service at our youth group. The song "You Never Let Go" by David Crowder was played. There is a line in the song that says, "In joy and pain, in sun and rain, You're the same, oh, You never let go." As this line was repeated over and over again, I felt my knees go weak and my hands go numb. I finally allowed myself to let go of the illusion of control. I remember running through the door and jumping on my mom's bed and just crying in her arms. He never let go.
Friends, I want to encourage you that in the darkest moments when you feel like you have nothing left, He remains. This is just one example of many where God showed me just how faithful He is. No matter how far you wander, no matter how much wrong you have done, He has never stopped pursuing you. He has never stopped loving you. I am saying this to myself as much as I am to you.
You have a story. I pray this small part of mine was in some way an encouragement to you. Keep fighting. Keep pressing on. One verse that has been on my heart as I have been writing this is Romans 8:37, " No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (ESV). We are MORE than conquerors. He has already won. Rest in that promise.
Written by: Adyson
Blog Picture by: Capturing Paradise
My name is Layn Tallent. I’m a world renown mess maker, a professional life-rider, an ugly laugh snorter, a first time blogger, a college go-getter and most importantly, a Christ follower.
Whenever I was first asked to write a blog about living life as a cross-chasing college gal, I was excited and honored! Then, insecurities took over. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes and life has thrown its curveballs. However, my testimony is not captivatingly dramatic. It’s the simple story of grace. I was reminded of a Christian rap song by Da’ T.R.U.T.H. called “My Story”. [I am also an avid Christian rap jammer, fyi.] His testimony is much different than many other Christian rap artists. His past was not filled with violence or drugs or sex-addiction. Da’ T.R.U.T.H. talks about how he realized that his testimony was not actually his story, but the story of Jesus played out in his life each day. With that being said, what better testimony could I give than my simple story of grace
I watched my little cousin sneak a piece of his sister’s candy. When she looked up, he gave her a sheepish grin. She said, “That’s okay. Do you want this piece too?” That’s grace. There is not a word or action more beautiful and more Christ-like. Throughout high school, I never understood that Christ could love me right where I was. I had this idea of “perfection”. I was always trying to “clean up my life” before I felt like I was worthy enough to spend time with God. I was sixteen years old when I fully understood that I could run from Christ and I could fight the calling of obedience as much as I wanted, but He would always run alongside me saying, “That’s okay. Lean on me when you get tired of running.” Accepting Christ did not immediately diminish my issues with body image, and it didn’t make the negative words of an ex boyfriend hurt any less. It didn’t make losing a friend any easier, but it did mean that I no longer had to measure my life by sin. In that moment, my heart was captured by Jesus and I never looked back.
One of the greatest lessons I have learned in college is that acceptance doesn’t always mean approval, and grace is contagious. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ accepted us without approving of our sinful dysfunction. College has questioned my faith, tested my morals, attempted to compromise my testimony, and it has brought me face to face with many who are lost. In Matthew 22: 37-39, “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” As women of Christ, one of the most powerful things we can do in college is to love people right where they are. I fully believe that you must surround yourself with others who love Christ, but I also fully believe that you must surround yourself with those who do not know Christ; you might be the only source of Jesus they ever meet. In the words of Andy Mineo [one of my favorite Christian rappers], “Christ died for this terrible heart; that's why I wanna be where the wild things are.”