When the Choice You Need to Make Isn’t the One Culture Suggests

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Making decisions is difficult, but they become increasingly stressful when the choice you need to make isn’t the one culture suggests. In those circumstances, it’s important we turn to Scripture to seek guidance.

But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self–control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people.
2 Timothy 3: 1-5

So many of the things listed in the above verses have become “the norm.” Doesn’t culture tell us to be “lovers of pleasure” (v. 4a)? In doing so, culture simultaneously and consequently tells us to choose pleasure “rather than [be] lovers of God” (v. 4b). And isn’t money held in highest esteem? Isn’t boasting, pride, and conceit traits which are encouraged amongst society?

The conflict of culture versus God isn’t anything new. Let’s consider Sarah. God promised Abraham and Sarah (Abram and Sarai at the time, pre name change) that they would have many descendants (Genesis 12:2); however, they were older and by Genesis chapter 16, Sarah was tired of waiting and thus decided to take matters into her own hands. She told her husband to take Hagar as his wife, to which Abraham did not object. What we must keep in mind is that Sarah’s suggestion was a cultural norm at the time. While we balk and gawk at this decision, having your maidservant sub in during Sarah’s day and age was anything but unheard of; in fact, it was common practice.

It’s hard not to wonder, though, what Sarah felt or thought, deep down. If she’d been honest with herself, did she feel ill at ease with this idea? Had she hoped Abraham would object to this proposition? Culture told her one thing, but God had told her something different.

Culture tells us that we can say we are Christians but continue to act in sinful ways. Yet Scripture warns of people who will be “holding to the form of godliness but denying its power” (v. 5). So what must we do to hold to the form of godliness but embrace God’s power? We must allow God to come into our lives and invade our every day. Think about when a king or queen entered a room during his or her reign. Absolutely everything changed. The room straightened. The atmosphere shifted from one of lax to one of authority. So, too, are our lives to change when we ask Christ to be our king. He is to engulf every part of our lives so that our life is completely different, as though a king has entered it. When the Risen King enters our life, nothing can be the same. Culture tells us one thing, but God calls us to something different.

Timothy is pretty forthright here. Not only does he provide a detailed explanation of how people will become, he says to avoid these people. (See also 1 Corinthians 15:33.) Timothy was warning his audience so that they would not be influenced by such acts. We are to love God and love others (Luke 10:27), but we aren’t to allow ourselves to become corrupt in the process. James chapter 4, verse 7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Being like Christ only when it’s convenient and putting ourselves in situations we know we’ll be tempted isn’t part of the deal. But doesn’t culture imply this is ok?

Sometimes in life there comes a time when you must make a decision to go the right way or the wrong one. Making right decisions is hard, and it’s hardly ever the popular route. But take comfort in knowing that this isn’t a surprise: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Have you made wrong decisions? Yes. We all have. We have all fallen short. But we are always given a choice to make new decisions. Every day we are given this opportunity. Christ gives us a chance to be redeemed, and He can redeem anything.

We can stand back and see the folly, but we have to make the decision to not be a part of it. And you can make that decision! Be encouraged that you are called to be a lover of God, and make the choice not to just know that, but to be that.

Working, Resting, and Knowing God Is Who He Says

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I’ve always been on the move. As a child, I wanted to walk everywhere, which usually turned into running everywhere with a cartwheel or ten thrown in along the way. I’m still occasionally called out for being a mover and a shaker. At a teacher orientation I attended a few years ago, the speaker picked me out of the crowd having noticed that I was shaking my foot. I remember being taken aback because I wasn’t even aware I was doing it.

I had a conversation this week with a friend about yoga. She’s really enjoying the exercise, but as I told her, I’ve always found it boring. I realize that the point of yoga is to relax, to calm, to stretch, and to center, but I’ve just never gelled with that kind of exercise. (In yoga’s defense, I didn’t even really like Zumba. I tried it, but again, it didn’t require enough energy for me.) Personally, I prefer an open road for a run or a hot studio for a high-intensity dance class.

But sometimes running is part of my problem. I go, go, go until I’m tired, worn out, and irritable. I can go on lack of sleep for a while, but eventually it catches up to me, much to my dismay.

Though you may not have moving and shaking personality tendencies, on some level we can probably all relate to experiencing a lack of rest in a spiritual sense. We forget to rest and take time to replenish our souls – the most important part of who we are.

In Psalm chapter 46, the well-known verse “Be still, and know that I am God” (v. 10) comes from a time of battles and war. God wanted His people to know that He would be “exalted among the nations.” He was reminding them that He is ruler.

Let me pause and say that God doesn’t tell us not to work or to sit back and simply hope for the best. After all, He gave us a model of working for six days and resting for one when he created the earth, and Jesus told the parable of the talents to teach that we are to use the gifts God gives us. (See Matthew 25:14-30.) Aren’t we told to work as if we are working for the Lord?  “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23). When we work, we are to work. But when we rest, how are we supposed to rest?

There are so many articles and books being published right now encouraging a message of rest. In our constantly moving, hectic, and busy world, these messages are good reminders, certainly. But most importantly, we must remember that God wants us to rest in Him. Psalm 68 says that He “daily bears our burdens” (v. 19). In everything we do, we are to please the Lord, we are to remember Him, and we are to know that He is God. One way we acknowledge Him as God is through prayer.

David was quite the pray-er. He wasn’t afraid to be honest and vulnerable in his prayers. When he felt threatened, weak, angry, thankful, or happy, he prayed. And wow, did he! Just look at Psalm 69 or read Psalm 70 to see his truthful, humble, and heart-wrenching words. These prayers are models for our own. And though David was honest, he was still respectful. He both loved and feared the Lord. Reading David’s prayers can encourage us to be just as honest but respectful before God as well. He already knows our hearts anyway, but through prayer, we rest in Him. We can gain knowledge from the Holy Spirit, we discern His will for our lives, and we draw closer to him if we allow ourselves this time.

I’m still working on prayer, and I guess I always will be. Last week, I had a prayer answered. It wasn’t answered because of what I said or how I prayed though; it was God’s doing. The answer wasn’t the exact outcome for which I’d prayed, but there were an unending number of outcomes that I prayed against. And I believe God answered my prayer. I am thankful to Him, and I give Him glory in answering that prayer. I want to be intentional in acknowledging Him as God, and though he doesn’t always answer our prayers as we pray them, we continue to be still and acknowledge that He is God. We rest in Him.

I’m better at being still than I used to be, but I still push myself too much sometimes. I want to continue to learn the importance of resting in God. I hope to continue to gain friends to rest with, too. Won’t you join me?

 

But if not, He is still good.
Daniel 3:18

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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“Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.”
Great Expectations

There is no possible way to do this book justice in one blog post, but here’s a quick review anyway. Great Expectations, one of the greatest classics ever written, is set in Victorian England and tells the story of Pip, an orphan who faces monetary challenges, relationship struggles, and life-changing choices.

Pip’s tale begins with much excitement. The opening scene takes place in Kent, specifically in a graveyard, with an escaped convict preying upon Pip and ordering him to bring him “wittles” (food) and “a file” (small handsaw). The convict’s legs are still chained, and Pip is his only hope in escaping such a burden. Lucky for Pip, his brother-in-law is a blacksmith, so Pip is able to return with the convict’s demanded items after having been severely threatened if he did not. Though Pip plays no part in the convict’s capture, the convict is ultimately caught and taken back to the Hulks (old ships used as prisons), but from that point on, Pip’s journey becomes one of both great fortune and detestable misfortune.

Some scenes later, Pip is invited to the wealthy Miss Havisham’s house to play with her adopted daughter, Estella. After being exposed to the upper class, Pip’s view of the world changes, along with his ambitions and aspirations in life. He greatly desires to be wealthy and to leave his life of blacksmith apprenticeship behind. He falls in love with Estella, who treats him with utter contempt, yet his ultimate hope is to become a gentleman to both impress her and win her heart.

Interestingly enough, Pip receives word that he has been given a large inheritance (his great expectations), and he moves to London to – that’s right – become a gentleman. While there, he comes to believe that Miss Havisham is his mysterious benefactor and that he will one day marry Estella. Pip meets Herbert, and the two become the best of friends, but Pip’s relationships at home in Kent become strained. Pip learns much in London, including the truth about the circumstances that brought him there and the real desires of his heart.

Much of Pip’s focus is on his shortcomings; he is constantly upset with himself at his failure to be better child in Kent with his sister and brother-in-law, his miserable attempts to impress Estella, and his awkwardness in becoming a gentleman in London. Yet Dickens seems to encourage his readers to look at Pip’s actions, not just his words. Pip deals with much internal conflict as he learns he must live with the choices he makes, but his great adventures, conflicts, gains, losses, and changes allow Pip to develop as a character while also giving the reader the ability to easily connect to Pip.

Dickens is known for his development of character, but his style and the choices he made as an author are certainly worth appreciating: the importance of the settings and their reflections of Pip’s journey; the development of themes; the characters, objects, and elements of symbolic nature; the depth of the allusions made; and the beautiful imagery Dickens creates. Critics disagree about the worth of the numerous coincidences (often involving characters) which are so prevalent in Dickens’s works. Regardless of your take on the happenstance of the characters’ relations, you’ll likely agree that Dickens was very creative in his creation of such coincidences.

So much can be learned from Pip’s journey into adulthood, including the need for loved ones, the unimportance of wealth, and the value of staying true to who you are. If you’ve never read Great Expectations, you’re missing out on a story from which much can be learned. Happy reading!

 

“That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.”
Great Expectations

From Tropical Mangos to Sunny Main Streets: How Mango + Main Is Making a Difference

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Photos |  Mango and Main

Recently I discovered a boutique called Mango + Main. (Shoutout to Instagram for taking online shopping to a whole new level.) The idea they promote is that products made by artisans in areas where mangos grow can be sent to the main streets of America.

When I saw that M+M sells only fair-trade products, my interest was peaked. I’m all for this type of work! Not only do the profits received from the purchase of these products go back to the artisans who made them, the products they create and produce are absolutely beautiful. These artisans desire to earn profit to better their communities, support their families, and thwart a life of poverty. You can read more about the artisans from all over the world that make these incredible, handcrafted products here.

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Mango + Main’s business is so much bigger than themselves. Each purchase, no matter how big or small, makes a difference in the artisans’ lives. So while the consumer receives authentically-created, intricately designed products, the artisans are supported in their work. M+M is making a beautiful relationship possible in this way.

I believe it’s worth spreading the word about companies who are doing business like this. Not only do these kinds of businesses give back, they remind us of the importance in doing so in our day-to-day lives and inspire us to remember to serve and put others first. I’ve linked the bags and keychain I have (and love!), plus some of my favorite M+M pieces below. You can click the picture or the caption to read a description of the product, who makes it, and where it comes from. Also, you can use code REBECCALEECURRY10 for 10% off your purchase! Shipping is a $6 flat fee, and purchases over $75 receive free shipping.

 

Tasseled Pouches

Tasseled Pouches, set of 3 | $32

Keychain

Fabric Keychain | $4

Bold Stripe Kitchen & Hand Towels

Bold Stripe Kitchen & Hand Towels | $30

Large Wola Nani Bowl

Large Wola Nani Bowl | available in 3 sizes and 3 patterns | $18

Wola Nani Bowls - set of 3

Wola Nani Bowl, set of 3 | available in 3 patterns | $34

Pillow

Cusco Alpaca Pillow Covers | $62

Leather Leaf Earrings

Leather Leaf Earrings | available in multiple colors | $28

Beaded Cuff - white

Beaded Cuff, white | available also in black and red | $24

Wristlet

Ruffled Wristlet | $36


I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Acts 20:35

 

Hello, College Football: Tim Tebow’s Book, Shaken

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It’s not just that football season is fast approaching. It’s that it’s already here. And I couldn’t be happier! If you’re like me, you’ve busted out fall scented candles, and you’re hunting for all your orange-y pumpkin decor. (This is especially exciting for me this year since I’m decorating my new place!) And during game days, you can hear the roar of lively crowds, the tunes of marching band music, and the commentary of enthusiastic football announcers in my living room because my TV is and will be set on ESPN and SEC Nation.

In honor of college football’s beginning days, I decided to make this week’s blog post one for the boys of fall. A few months ago, I wrote a review of Tim Tebow’s recently published book Shaken for Lifeway’s Women All Access. (To see the original post, click here.) It’s seems fitting to re-post it again, this time, here on my blog. You can read my review below. If you’re looking for a seasonal read, let me encourage you to pick this one up.

Shaken

When your world is shaken, when the plans and dream you’ve created, perhaps even banked on, get obliterated, when the path on which you walk is moving in an unknown and a particularly unwanted direction, what do you do? Better yet, what do you hold on to?
Tim Tebow

I teach high school English, and while I was reading Tim Tebow’s Shaken, I carried the book back and forth with me to school. One of my students spotted Tim’s book on my desk, and he told me his parents got him the book for Christmas. Low and behold, over the next few days several more students commented upon seeing the book. I’d say this goes to show just how far Tim’s audience reaches, and that’s especially the case with this book.

The premise of Shaken is that our ever-changing life circumstances are not what make us who we are; it is our identity that defines us. Sometimes we all need to be reminded and encouraged that the external should not dictate who we are, because money, popularity, and success will come and go in this life. We are and should be identified as a child of God.

My family and I are in no way Gators fans (go Vols!); however, we have been Tim Tebow fans since he played for Florida. I was pretty excited when he announced that he was working on a second book, especially since so much has changed for Tim since his first.

If you’ve kept up with Tim since his college football days, you’ve seen a rollercoaster of a ride. Honestly, Tim’s journey made him the perfect candidate to write this book since he’s experienced both highs and lows in his professional career on a very public platform. His book isn’t one of veiled analogies or vague allusions. He uses the circumstances of his own life as examples of when life doesn’t go as we hope or even when the plans we initially think God devises don’t work out.

Tim starts with the end, so to speak. He opens with his experience being cut from the Patriots, the last team he played for in the NFL. Even if you don’t know a ton about football, you know that for Tim, this was disappointing to say the least. But he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to give the play-by-play (pun intended) of his careers. While you may not be able to relate to his job, you likely can relate to his situation in some way. He is open and honest in expressing the questions he asked during these disappointing times which were intermingled with his desire to trust God, even when his own plans failed.

This isn’t just a book about Tim Tebow’s life though; it’s a book about lessons. He tells stories of amazing people who have faced overwhelmingly difficult circumstances with incredibly strong attitudes and faith-based outlooks—and what lessons he’s learned from their stories. Their faith is described as unshaken in the midst of trouble. Chelsie Watts’ faith, for instance, is awe inspiring. Chelsie was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer her senior year in high school, but her gift for loving others and following God never wavered. Her story will grab ahold of your heart and encourage you.

Throughout the book, I felt like Tim had just given me a pep talk. He addresses problems you or I might run into in our day-to-day lives. I was giving Tim some silent but enthusiastic fist pumps along the way. I’ll admit to wondering if this was going to be a book with ambiguous pieces of advice, but Tim was upfront early on saying that he didn’t know what my purpose is but that by having our identities founded in God, we are all able to impact others and “become part of a bigger picture.” There we go!

Tim also gives some words of wisdom telling of the importance of having an inner circle, being self-confident but not prideful, standing up for what you believe in, and listening carefully to God. Tim has been subject to a lot of criticism, and he talks about the difficulty and the overcoming involved. He says, “What God knows about us is more important than what people think.” Success is not the endgame; God’s approval is.

Tim uses his story to serve as an example of when plans go awry, and his sense of empathy goes a long way because of it. Shaken explains that by being grounded in God’s truth, we can overcome rejection and unfortunate events. My friends, this is a book of encouragement.

Celebrations of Life: Birthdays

I’ve always thought that having a twin would be really neat. Sharing life experiences and seasons together has always sounded fun, and I probably would have tried swapping places if I’d had a girl twin. Don’t want to go to art class today? Let’s swap, and you can go to science for me.

So I don’t have a twin…exactly. My brother and I are a few years apart, but our birthdays are only separated by four days, so we always celebrate them together. I’m not always one for traditions, but this particular tradition is very special to me. I’m sure that some years we’ve had grander celebrations than others, but the most important thing is that when I think about all my birthdays, Ryan was right there celebrating alongside me.

Growing up, Ryan and I were never really in competition with one another, which is surprising because we share so many of the same interests. Part of this is probably because we are girl-boy siblings, so even when we were doing the same things, they were still different, too. We love music, but we play different instruments – that kind of thing.

We’ve always gotten along well, too, and sometimes when this subject comes up, people suggest that it’s because we’re somewhat far apart in age, but I know better. It’s how our parents raised us. I can’t explain it well, but somehow mom and dad helped make our relationship one of friendship. I’d say their relationship played a huge part in this. We never watched them argue or fight, so I guess Ryan and I just didn’t think that was an option either. There’s much more to how they made this possible, but you’d have to talk to them. To me, it’s magic.

For as similar as Ryan and I are, we are a whole heck of a lot different, too. For example, we share the same sense of humor. Like when we play Apples to Apples, we get aggravated at picking each other’s cards – haha. Ryan’s way funnier than I am, but I like to laugh, so that’s convenient. But Ryan sees the world in black and white while I get captivated by grays sometimes. Good or bad, he makes decisions quickly, and I take my sweet time. He procrastinates (he’ll tell you about that sometime…), but he’s much more laid back than I am. He’s a math wizard, and I read a lot of books. 🙂 Our similarities bring us together and our differences help us balance each other.

Having a brother, specifically my brother, wasn’t something I knew to ask for, but he was something God knew to give me. I admire the person he is and the choices he’s made. I’m thankful he has my back, and he’s always been my best friend. I’m also grateful he married my now sister-in-law who is my other best friend. I tell people that it’s like I have this best friend who happens to be married to my brother. It’s wonderful.

So what does any of this have to do with you? I hope this makes you think about the people in your life who you cherish, who are there for you, and who have been there for you. Don’t take this as siblings are the end-all-be-all. Sometimes relationships don’t turn out the way we’d hoped. And sometimes what we hope for isn’t what we end up wanting anyway. Maybe you desired a loyal best friend or a close sibling or a caring husband. But maybe instead you were gifted a husband, sibling, or best friend. Cherish the people who choose to be loyal, who choose to be close, and who choose to care.

Birthdays are a celebration of life, and they’re a reminder that we’ve been given another year. Who are you celebrating life with? Are you making the most of your time? Are you recognizing gifts God gave you, even when you didn’t ask for them?

And to close, here’s a few pictures for your enjoyment. Haha! 🙂 Happy birthday, Ryan Alan!

 

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What We Can All Learn From the Summer Months

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It seems like only yesterday I was rolling my windows down, listening to Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar,” and getting ready for the summer ahead. Now I’m bidding farewell to my fun, laidback, and relaxing summer months. I went to Kirklands last week and didn’t even make it in the door before being greeted by orange leaves. Fall wreaths hung on the entrance doors, and pumpkins had moved in and taken over the inside of the place. Then last Saturday I stepped outside to head out for a morning run – and bam! Fall weather had seemingly moved in overnight. Now I know there are likely plenty more scorching days ahead of us, but I was just surprised at the drastic drop in temperature (and humidity – thanks TN!) to say the least. I’m definitely ready for SEC football, but I can’t say I’m totally prepared for fall.

The summer months gave me a lot to be grateful for ☀, but I feel for Annie Downs in Looking for Lovely when she writes about having a hard time enjoying the present for knowing it’s going to come to an end. Part of that is because I know my vacation time is up, and around the fourth of July, it seems like I start a mental countdown knowing I’ll turn around twice and school will be starting back. Plus, stores don’t help with their “Back to School!” reminders either.

Clearly I can’t complain because two months off in the summer is about as good as it gets. I’m thankful for all the wonderful, fun, and exciting things I enjoyed this summer. I got some quality family time, and if you know me, you know that’s of the utmost importance. I love both spontaneous visits and planned togetherness with everyone. We went to the beach and the mountains, the two places my heart remains, and the vacations were perfect! And while my friends and I did plan several outings, we also got in the habit of texting each other in the mornings and asking if anyone wanted to go to the farmers’ market, the mall, or breakfast. I read seven books, none of which were school-related, and I just kicked back and enjoyed flipping the pages in the real world while entering into lands of a fictional world. Sitting on my front porch in the mornings became a lovely habit where I drank my coffee as slowly as I wished and read for as long as I decided. I also didn’t miss putting on makeup everyday. 

I say all this to say, how important is it that we enjoy our present? Sometimes we just have to remind ourselves what gives us happiness beyond money, work, and busy-ness. In fact, I’d argue that most of the time, those things can cause us to be our least happy selves. Even with work starting back up, I’d like to continue enjoying these fun things this fall as much as possible, especially leisurely time and togetherness. I’m so grateful for even the smallest of blessings. 

Are you taking time for fun? Hang out with your family. Leave room for unplanned fun time with friends. Sit on your front porch. Make yourself a dessert. Watch a good movie. Find a funny TV show. Leisurely read a beautifully crafted book. Go to the store without gobbing on makeup. And remember to enjoy the present. As my sweet Granny always said, there’s no time like the present.

 

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.
Ecclesiastes 3:12