Identity Status: Single

Bekah is writing for us today, in a beautiful post full of encouragement and honesty. She is refreshingly open about her own struggles in wanting a relationship, and she challengingly reminds us where our worth is truly found, breaking down the lies that tell us our value is in relationship with others. Whatever stage of life you are at – whether the desire for relationship occupies an uncomfortable proportion of your thoughts, or whether it’s something you haven’t considered yet - this post is a valuable reminder of our identity as a saved, loved child of God.

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As I sit on my bed, half eaten bar of chocolate at my side, propped up by cushions to prevent the stinging of yesterday’s sunburn, I realise that I don’t really know how best to start. Talking about something that you’ve struggled with arguably more than anything else in your Christian life is, unsurprisingly, pretty difficult. At the same time, that seems to be all the more reason for me to share.

I am a perpetual singleton.

With an apparent propensity for the over-dramatic.

As I’m only approaching twenty, I know what you’re thinking: isn’t that a little bit too early to resign yourself to the eventuality of becoming a ‘crazy cat lady’? Perhaps you’re right.

Nevertheless, my relationship status is probably the thing that I have most frequently wrestled over with God. Reading back on prayer journals from the past few years, aside from a worrying over use of the word ‘I’, the theme that comes up most frequently is my love life. 

‘Why won’t he like me back?’
‘Why haven’t I found someone yet?’
‘Where is he, God?!’

For the majority of my walk with God, I shamefully admit that I have rarely been fully satisfied in Him, spending most of my teenage years obsessed with the idea that I was incomplete unless I was in a relationship. 

I’d repeatedly tell myself ‘seeking a godly man isn’t a bad thing.’ And yes, it’s true. Seeking to be in a godly, Christ-centred relationship is not a bad thing. The problem came when this search consumed every part of me. I’d spent a long time capitulating to the cliché of a Christian woman: I’d written lists featuring such essentials as ‘taller than me’ and ‘prefers dogs to cats’; I’d heard near enough every talk that I could find on Christian dating; I’d even read Joshua Harris’ books. But still, nothing was able to fill this man-shaped gap in my life. 

It was in the summer before my gap year that I started to understand the gravity of the problem. Attending various Christian camps, I’d find myself, instead of listening to the talk, glaring around the room, asking God repeatedly whether my future husband was sitting anywhere near me. I’d massively overreact any time a Christian guy even spoke to me. I’d see smiling faces announcing their engagement over Facebook and curse their happiness, and my singleness, muttering 1 Corinthians 7 under my breath. It was almost a disease; it utterly consumed me. 

It was with this realisation that I decided that I would take a year out from relationships. It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? A girl who isn’t in a relationship taking a year out from them? Nonetheless, on 11th November 2012, just over a year and a half ago, I started out on my year of singleness. 

If I’m brutally honest with myself, the main reason that I did this was because I thought that God would reward me by giving me my husband at the end of it. Suffice to say, this didn’t happen. Instead, I began to learn something far more valuable: God started revealing to me the truth. For however many years of my life, I came to learn that I had believed pervasive lies about who I truly was. In learning the truth, I’ve found unexpected freedom. My prayer is that, as I tell you about these lies that I believed, God will show you his glorious truth as well.

Lie #1: I’m single because I’m [insert word here]

For me, that sentence ended in an infinite number of ways. Because I’m too fat. Because I’m too ugly. Because I’m too boring. Because I’m not funny. I’d look around at other girls who were in relationships and compare myself to them. I’d think that they were prettier than I was, or more intelligent. I’d think that if I became more like them, I’d instantly find a boyfriend and therefore, be happy.

I can’t even begin to express to you the extent that this is a lie. Comparing yourself to other people is like a disease; it damages every single part of you. I am not somebody else for a reason. I am created in the image of a powerful, beautiful, creative God (Genesis 1:27). 

I may be throwing every Christian cliché out there at once but this is the truth, whether you’re single or otherwise:

You are the daughter of the King of Kings. He has called you by name. You are beautiful. You are worthy of love. There is nothing that you could do that could make him love you anymore. Nor can anything make him love you any less.

Lie #2: My singleness defines me

This is something that I’ve struggled with enormously. Having to force out a smile when asked the dreaded ‘have you finally found a boyfriend yet?’ at family parties, the fact that I’m single has caused massive problems with my identity in the past. I’d allow the word ‘single’ to permeate every aspect of my life and I believed that I was truly defined by the absence of a relationship rather than the evidence of a whole lot of other stuff in my life. My singleness began to define who I was; I thought my value and worth came from my relationship status.

In my year of singleness, God showed me that I wouldn’t suddenly gain an identity if I were in a relationship. I began to learn that I had an identity already; I was already defined by something else. I am a new creation in Christ and that is where my identity lies (2 Corinthians 5:17). Not in whether I have a boyfriend. Not in whether I remain single forever. God gave me value before I was even born, value that can never be taken from me. I’ve started to understand that my singleness doesn’t define me. God does. 

Lie #3: Nobody can fill this man-shaped space in my life

In the midst of my angst and worry about my relationship status, I’d begun to notice that I had created within myself a void that I believed only a man could fill. I didn’t think that I could be fully satisfied in life were I not in a relationship and eventually married with children. I was determined that this was where my life was headed and nobody, not even God could stop me.

What God revealed to me was not what I expected. He showed me that I did have a hole in my heart which needed filling. A void in my soul that needed satisfying. But it couldn’t be contented by just any man. It had to be filled by him. Only by putting my trust and hope in the only one who will never leave me, never forsake me, never let me down, can I be truly fulfilled. Only God can satisfy my soul.

It’s taken me a long time to realise these truths. It feels like the journey has gone on forever. 

Will I ever put my relationship status above God and treat it as an idol again? Undoubtedly. I’m not perfect. I’m not going to pretend that one year has completely transformed my way of thinking forever.

But perhaps now, I can walk into a church without thinking with hope that maybe my future husband is somewhere in this room. I can see another Facebook status about someone’s engagement and be overjoyed by the gift of marriage for them and not have to feel alone and envious. I can know that my identity is in Christ and that I am the apple of His eye, the crown of His creation and the daughter of the King of Kings.

I’m never going to be the perfect wife. And I’m never going to find a perfect husband.There’s only one person that will ever complete me. Only one man that can ever fully satisfy everything I need. Only one who would give everything for me, no questions asked.

His name is Jesus. And He’s already given it all.

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Bekah

Hello, I’m Bekah. I’ve just finished my first year studying English at Durham and absolutely love all of its quaint coffee shops, wonderful people, and beautiful scenery. When not studying, I live in the Midlands and spend my time reading books, drinking copious amounts of tea, binge watching cookery programmes, pinteresting, and writing. I’m daily overwhelmed by God’s awesome grace and mercy in my life and he’s given me a real heart to seek justice, love the unlovable, and live out Isaiah 58.

Beauty & Trust: More Than Skin Deep

This is the first post I’ve ever read on how to deal with skin problems from a Christian perspective, and yet I think it’s an issue that occupies so many girls’ thoughts and conversations. I think it’s really important for us to be thinking about whether we’re acknowledging God as our King over every single part of our lives – and this includes how we feel about the way we look, even down to our skin. This is why I’m so glad to be able to publish the post below on More Precious this morning, and am so grateful to one of our writers for opening up about how her own particular struggles led her closer to our loving, sovereign God. I hope her encouragements might point you to Him too. Enjoy…  - L xo

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“People look at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart”

At its worst, my skin was a mess of spots, scars and red patches that left me feeling self conscious, despondent and upset. What had begun as a few spots on my forehead an “inevitable part of growing up” that I would “soon grow out of” quickly became acne that spread across my face and chest and threatened to stay, consuming the appearance I took such pride in.

I can clearly remember talking with a girl in my English class and watching her eyes snatch glances at my red, raw, lumpy cheekbones as we spoke. I chatted and laughed with her but inside I was painfully self conscious, desperate to leave the room before she could take another discreet look at the skin I hated. What was she thinking? I panicked that people would think I didn’t care about my skin when in reality I’d used every wash and cream on offer, had dutifully eaten my five a day, had been to the Doctors and taken different types of antibiotics yet still my skin remained the one part of my appearance that I simply couldn’t control.

Our culture tells us quite plainly to get rid of our blemishes; our spots are not what people want to see. Instead, TV and magazines present images of girls with dewy skin, they are pore less and perfect.

When I was struggling I found comfort in reading that whilst “people look at the outward appearance” God looks past our exterior – “but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) In a world where our image is so often judged before our character how great to have a God who is concerned only with our ‘inner selves’:

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes.
Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight”
(1 Peter 3:3-4)

We spend so much time agonising over, talking about and bettering our appearance, I wonder if we ever think to spend that time working on our “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit?” I know that I certainly don’t, yet God sees our unfading beauty to be of “great worth.”

It’s exciting too, to think of the new bodies we will receive in heaven, “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5). We will be made perfect like Jesus in heaven, given heavenly bodies that do not dissatisfy us like our current bodies as they inevitably change.

Medication has now cleared my skin up but looking back God has taught me many lessons through my sore skin. I’ve been humbled; I’m not in control of my appearance – God is and I must commit my appearance to him. My skin showed me how judgemental I can be towards people struggling with their appearances – it’s easy to judge those with problems you don’t have, much harder to be the one being judged.

Please don’t think that I’ve grasped all this and that my appearance is no longer an issue to me, of course it is. Once my skin was treated it didn’t take long for me to find other parts of my body that I was dissatisfied with rather than being thankful for the healthy body God has given me. I continue to struggle daily to trust God in every aspect of my life – including my skin but how great to know that we have a loving God who loves us whatever our appearance.

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Living For Something More

Sometimes it’s misleadingly easy to read and write these posts, safe in the More Precious bubble. Surrounded by a sphere of subscribers, followers and encouraging comments it’s easy to forget about the people who find the posts ridiculous, who find Christianity outdated and irrelevant; I forget that living for Jesus is hard and uncomfortable a lot of the time.

What I dreamt for this blog was that it could be a place where God was honoured, stories could be shared, and we as girls would be encouraged to live with Him as our King in everything we do. Little by little, God has used the site to do just that – and some of the messages we get sharing stories are incredible. So many of these messages have included questions about how we can manage to live as a Christians in the face of peer pressures at school, at college or beyond. This struggle isn’t shared by everyone, and my post won’t cover all bases – but it’s something that I’ve found hugely difficult, have thought about lots and would like to explore in my little contribution to our Summer Series.

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“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life: your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
(Romans 12:1-2)

As Christian girls, not only do we have to navigate the complex, messy world of teenage girlhood – but we also have to make tough choices as we try to love God and honour Him with our lives. These years of growing up are hard: how do we know what decisions are right? What kind of person will we grow into? What do we want to do, be, say and achieve? How can we fit God into any of this?

When I was at school, I didn’t really know many girls who had continued living for Jesus past their early teenage years. I had great role-models in my life, but they mostly seemed to be older and at a different stage of life, and didn’t always understand the agonising balance of trying to fit in at school while not compromising on my Christian values.

As time went on, this balance became harder and harder, and I start to think that perhaps Christianity was outdated and irrelevant. It was easy enough to go through the motions on Sundays at church, but it felt frustrating and embarrassing to be a Christian the rest of the time. I found myself questioning: if God really was omnipotent, where was He at school? Where was He at parties? Where was He when I had to keep saying no to drinks, no to boys, no to using fake IDs, no to all the things that everyone else was doing as an unquestionable part of growing up.

I struggled. Deep down I loved God and I knew what Jesus had done for me; but I desperately wanted to stay popular and keep up with my friends. The keeping of rules that I didn’t understand gradually wore me down, and God seemed further and further away.

I’m grateful to God that I’ve learnt a lot of things since then that have made me realise how good He is and how He really does want the best for our lives. Most importantly, I’ve realised that Jesus died for me so that I am able to have a relationship with God, NOT so that I must remain bound by a rule-orientated religion. I want you to know this for yourself too.

This post won’t be a step-by-step guide on How To Remain Funny, Beautiful, Popular and Godly. (If you find one, let me know. My highest score remains a rare 1/4) – but I’m going to leave you with a few lessons that I’ve learnt over the past few years that I’d love to share – hopefully they will encourage you to keep pursuing God even when it feels tough.

1. Don’t base your life on rules, base it on LOVE. 

We are saved by grace and not by what we do. This is huge.  My halfhearted attempts to ‘stay Christian’ by doing the right things left me confused as to why I had to keep rules without believing that they were good or worthwhile. Yet once I realised that I could have real, living relationship with God – the idea of ‘rules’ was replaced with a desire to live wholeheartedly for God. This became a joy and a freedom. For if we trust God, we must trust His best for us.

Being a Christian girl isn’t about ticking boxes or jumping through hoops to please a strict, judging, fun-spoiling God. Life with God is so much more than ‘not getting drunk’ or ‘no sex before marriage’. These are tiny parts of God’s big, big plan for our lives, and our decisions must be based on a genuine, love-fuelled desire to please our Father and trust that His way for us is best – not on how far we can go in our own direction, before winding up guilty and despairing.

Don’t run on empty: don’t become burdened by rules and religion. Refocus your gaze on the One who knows you better than you know yourself; learn to love Him, and you will want to live for Him.

2. Don’t be scared of being different. 

Give up your dreams of blending in – as Christian girls we are called to be different and radical. Remember Romans 12:1? Don’t become so well adjust to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. 

To me at school, fitting in sounded ideal! I wanted to fit in, to be accepted, popular and liked by everyone – but actually, I don’t think Jesus was primarily out to be any of these things. He wasn’t cool or popular in the world’s terms – yet He lived the greatest, kindest, most radical and attractive life in history. I used to think it would be perfect if I could just fit in comfortably – and I was doing a great job if people didn’t even notice that I was a Christian. Reality is, Jesus wants in on every part of our lives: He wants us to be like Him – He wants us to be differentand while this can be scary at times, if we trust in God, He will provide, and we will never be let down.

3. Don’t let peer pressure cause you think that God spoils your fun.

Like a Father with His children, God wants the best for us – even if we are too young, inexperienced or stubborn to see what that ‘best’ really looks like. Even when we can’t see why God would have us say no to certain things, we trust that He is sovereign and He knows best in all situations. He wants to grow us, challenge us, shape us into the people we were made to be. He wants us to have rich lives, vibrant relationships, creative minds and a balanced view of ourselves. He gives life to the full, as we’re pointed to in Romans 12:2: “Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings out the best in you.”

4. Don’t be afraid to live for something more. 

Saying ‘no’ to things and upholding your beliefs isn’t a sign of being uncool or uptight… instead it shows that you are living for something BIGGER than the world. At school, doing things with guys or doing crazy things while drunk was a way to show that you were outgoing, fun or confident enough to take opportunities and be adventurous. As I’ve got a little older, I’ve notice that people tend to realise fairly soon that everyone can take these opportunities if they wanted to – and in fact, it is the people who don’t take them that gain the most respect. This is because you show that you are looking beyond the temporary and are focusing on what is constant and true. So: don’t be tempted to drop your standards in order to boost your reputation – Jesus saved us and we are designed to live with him: this is worth so much more.

5. Don’t think that it’s all about you.

Let’s return back to where we started in Romans 12 – a call for us to fix our attention on God, where we will be changed from the inside out. We aren’t changed outside-in, by our attempts to please God by doing good. The great news for us is that in our weakness, God is STRONG. He will change our hearts and give us the strength to live for Him even when nobody else seems to be. This is freeing and massively encouraging for me, amidst my many, many daily mistakes and distractions. I hope it’s encouraging for you too, as you keep pursuing God in all areas of your life.

I want to end by asking you to read over the opening verses of this post, taken from Romans 12:1-2. I also want to introduce you to the MSG version of Romans 12:3 (below), where we’re reminded of how big God is and how little we have to offer Him – no matter how ‘good’ we think we might be. Let the truths in these two passages sink into your heart as you remember that God is in control, and that we are understood by what He has done. How incredible it is that Jesus died so we could have real, life-giving, love-filling relationship with our Father:

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God.
No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

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Lucy Twitter-Bird@lucybeauchamp

I’m Lucy and I’m just coming to the end of my second year at Durham University. I love my hometown Cambridge and I also love living in the beautiful little city of Durham, where the coffee shops are plentiful and the people are GREAT!

Running More Precious is one of my favourite things and it’s the biggest source of encouragement for me! Like I said in my bio, I’m still learning how to live out a little of the thankfulness of Pollyanna, the kindness of Katy Carr and the faith of the Proverbs 31:25 girl - perhaps one day I’ll get there!

NB: This post only skims the surface of this issue, I know – and definitely misses out lots of wise and helpful advice. We are hoping to explore this topic in more detail over the next few months on the blog – so do keep checking back for updates, or feel free to send in your own stories or pieces of advice to lucy@moreprecious.co.uk – I’d love to hear from you! 

Does It Really Matter Who I Date?

Dating has never been a simple task, but choosing who to date is a whole other minefield. Here, the fabulous Emma has offered up her thoughts and struggles with the commitment to only dating Christians. After all, does it really matter who I date?

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When I was at school, I wanted two things: (1) to get into university, and (2) a boyfriend.
I figured out that a good way of trying to get into uni was to work hard. So I knuckled down and hit the library during the holidays to make it happen. But finding a boyfriend was proving tricky…

At school, my close girlfriends were an amazing group of lovely, caring and also incredibly beautiful girls. They always looked stunning, wore great clothes and were confident in themselves. I was always a bit jealous of how they always had a guy who was interested in them, how there was always someone on the scene, and he was usually sporty, attractive and fun. In stark contrast, I was just the girl that the boys copied notes from in history class. Not exactly what I was after!

If I’m honest, thinking about the priorities that God has in terms of dating did not really enter into my thoughts at this stage. I knew that if I were ever to get married, I wanted to marry a Christian but when I was 16, this seemed like a lifetime away. Surely who I dated wasn’t going to affect ‘proper’ relationships that I might have in the future?

When I was a fresher at university, lots of things changed. The types of boys who had previously been interested in my friends at school were now paying me more attention. A couple of the sporty boys who were popular and fun to be around began to ask me out. They were exactly the sorts of guys who I’d wanted to date when I was at school. I liked it that the cool guys liked me. It gave me confidence and made me feel part of things.

However, right at the same time I began to think more about the priorities that God would have in terms of dating. (It’s funny how the timing worked out…!) These guys, great though they were, were not Christians. Did I think it was ok to go out with someone who wasn’t a Christian?

My thoughts were muddled. Surely it is ok if it only lasts for a little while and I know where my boundaries lie? Can I try to make God my number one priority while going out with a non-Christian? I still knew that ultimately I didn’t want to marry a non-Christian, (not that I was planning on getting married anytime soon!) and realised it might be harder to break up the longer we stayed together.

The Bible doesn’t really talk about dating. It talks about marriage, and a bit about singleness, but little about dating. So what was I meant to do? I asked my Christian friends for advice and the overwhelming response was that I shouldn’t go out with a non-Christian. I didn’t like this. I thought they were being boring, and that they wanted me to be uncool and have no fun. What made it worse was that the boys at my church were totally disinterested in dating. It wasn’t like any of them were planning on asking me out, so was I meant to turn someone down and stay single even though I really wanted to be in a relationship?

Things came to a head during the second term of my first year. During one of our college ‘bop’ events (which was basically a night of cheesy music, fancy dress and dancing) one of these guys came over to me and we started to dance. Dancing turned into kissing, and what made it worse was that everyone had seen it happen. I felt so bad about it, and knew that I had to make a decision.

Was I going to pursue a relationship with someone who wasn’t a Christian, or was I going to try to prioritise my relationship with God even if that meant being single?

It wasn’t easy. I really wanted a boyfriend, and I was quick to make excuses: “he doesn’t mind that I go to church”, “my church friends get on well with him”, “he even came to church with me this week”, “the Bible doesn’t actually specifically say that it’s wrong to go out with a non-Christian”.

But, and this only happened because of God’s abounding grace, I began to realise a few things that helped my decision become clearer. Firstly, I began to realise that I have the best thing ever – a relationship with Jesus. I don’t need anything else. I don’t need popularity, or a boyfriend, or anything else at all. Nothing else will really satisfy me or make me feel content.

My contentment is found in Him and Him alone.

He is by far the best thing that has ever happened to me, and nothing is going to change that.

Secondly, I began to understand that because God has given us everything, through Jesus, our response should be that we live lives that worship him. That means that all of my life should have the aim of praising God. Sometimes this will mean that we have to give things up that we want to hold onto, and it might feel costly. This isn’t because God doesn’t want us to be happy or is trying to ruin our fun, but it is because he knows what is best for us, and sometimes, even though we don’t like to admit this, we just don’t see this. I had to give up my desire to be in a relationship because it was going to get in the way of my relationship with God. I had to take the risk that I might not look as cool, or be as popular, because going out with a non-Christian meant that my time and energy would be going into a relationship where two people were ultimately pulling in different directions. It just wasn’t going to work.

Even once I had decided, I still found it difficult. But I knew that my small sacrifice was nothing compared to the amazing sacrifice that Jesus made so that I can be in relationship with God. It doesn’t even register on the spectrum in comparison.

It really does matter who we date, whatever age or stage we are at. Let’s not settle for second best and date someone who doesn’t love Jesus. It just so isn’t the best thing for us.

We can trust that we have the absolute best thing already.

God gave us the overwhelmingly amazing gift of his only Son, his Spirit lives in us, we have a hope of eternity with our Father who is the King of the whole universe. The more we realise just how amazing this is, the more we realise that this is the most precious gift, and we don’t need anything else.

Click here to read the rest of our summer series.

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Emma

Emma graduated from Cambridge two years ago, having studied law. She now enjoys working in finance, which comes as a surprise to those who know her. Emma lives in Cambridge and loves being a member of Christ Church. She loves music, food, her friends and Jesus and is very excited about her wedding next April – (PS. Emma is now married! Yippee!).

An Insatiable Hunger

Few of us will remain untouched by the world of Eating Disorders and Mental Illness. With 1 in 3 now experiencing some form of depression in their life, we should be ready to offer up our love and fellowship to those who are battling.

Below is a story of how one girl found herself in the depths of Anorexia, only to find her way to the light with God’s help.

Unfortunately, not all stories end in recovery.

However, Eating Disorders and Mental Illness vary from person to person. One girl’s struggle will never be the same as another girl’s, and that’s one of the most important things to understand when dealing with illnesses of the mind – the stories are never the same.

My eyelids open, my stomach groans. Fifty sit-ups – it’s habit.  I sneak out the house and run. I run until my heart aches. I run from pain, run from pressure, run from people, run from breakfast. I jump in a freezing cold shower, scrub my skeletal body.  I make an excuse and plaster on a smile… today is another day. Dark thoughts creep in, thoughts that aren’t mine. I see the stares and hear the whispers – you think I don’t know? I smile, laugh it off. Everything is fine… “I AM FINE”. My stomach groans. 

Three years ago I had anorexia. To be honest, I never thought it would happen to me. I grew up in a  loving Christian family and wore the ‘Christian’ label all through school, but Jesus for me was  just someone who, like everyone else,  was someone I had to protect, impress and convince I was good enough. 

I managed to keep this up until I was 16 and I have to say, I managed it well. I had lots of friends, was known for being responsible and kind. Most important to me, I was admired by my friends, teachers and parents for being the ‘good girl’.

But then I got tired. I got really tired of pleasing people, tired of the pressure, the fear of failure and the silent tears. I don’t remember the actual day that anorexia took over my life and stole my happiness, but what I can tell you is that the illness escalated at a alarming rate. 

It’s hard to write down about the 18 months that followed, but it was dark… very dark.The number of  habits spiralled out of control and my trusted identity of the ‘good girl’ was quickly replaced with awkward eye lowering, gossip and avoidance from my peers.  This only made things worse and the amount of times I wished I was simply dead are countless. I never felt as lost as I did in those months.

After countless days of shame, secrets, lies and fear, and when I had absolutely nothing left, something within me urged me  to pray. In all honesty, my prayer was ugly and  I doubted anyone was listening, but I pleaded with a God to help me… and to my surprise he did just that.  As I prayed  that day, he took the weight of guilt from my shoulders, as well as the pain and self hatred that I had been wearily carrying, and replaced it with an overwhelming sense of love and delight.  ‘He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.’( Zephaniah 3vs 17) 

God uses broken people – he uses people with mental illnesses, addiction and those who are lost. God chose to use Jonah for his glory and to advance the kingdom, a man in the Bible who asked God to kill him so that he didn’t have to endure his life.  If you are reading this and are currently battling an eating disorder (trust me I know it is scary even to admit that) take heart, because God has overcome (1 John 5:4). 

Recovery is terrifying. To recover is to do the one thing you and I fear most but first, know that your situation is not your fault. The bible says that: 

“The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy but Jesus came so that you may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.’ ( John 10vs 10). 

Be assured that you are not defined by this hold, but instead are called a ‘daughter’ by the King of Kings and in his grace we are hidden in him (Colossians 3:3). Be encouraged that healing is promised to everyone, if not now here on earth then upon his return.  We can look forward to a heaven where there is no such thing as an eating disorder, and we can feast with him without guilt and without fear. How I long for that day!

For me, on that day I prayed, I gave up control over the one thing that controlled me to a God that loved me so much that he died for me.  God so graciously healed me of anorexia and led me through recovery, but more importantly he welcomed me into his family and satisfied my deepest hunger.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have to  take up my cross three times a day, but Jesus’ love his beautiful sacrifice spurs me on to honour him at meal times. I boast not that I am strong, but in my weakness he is strong in me.

Right now, we need to stand up, as people of God we need to not shy away from the stigma of eating disorders ‘for such a time as this’ (Esther 4 vs 15).   There is reluctance from both society and the church to engage with this issue that affects 1 in 4 women and an increasing number of men. It breaks my heart. So here, I want to offer some support to anyone who knows or has a friend or a family member living with an eating disorder.  I am neither a medic or qualified in mental health but I urge you brothers and sisters in Christ to see past the illness and mimic our Lord by looking to the matters of the heart.“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). Eating disorders are often just associated with food, but they are far more complex than just skipping lunch. When supporting a loved one with an eating disorder, valuing their spiritual needs and treating them like any other person in this broken world is vital in addition to showing your love to them in order to create a safe and sensitive environment for you to discuss your concern sensitively  with them in order to ask them how best to support them in recovery.  There are plenty of helpful resources written by medically trained professionals to support a loved one with eating disorders, a useful weblink is: www.b-eat.co.uk/get-help/about-eating-disorders/worried-about-someone/.  

And to everyone else, let’s not be afraid to talk about eating disorders. The more we address this topic the less it is brushed under the carpet and the more we can shine his light upon this illness. ‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 4:6) 

Click here to read the rest of our summer series.

The Infinite Shades of Grace

A few months ago, Lucy and I were toying with the idea of scheduling a summer series for More Precious that revolved around living a Godly life in the 21st century. But we were nervous – anxious about discussing topics that truly terrified us.

And then this post found its way into my inbox, and God made the decision for us.

Below is a post that frankly breaks my heart. It is a story that is not all that uncommon in the church, and yet pornography among women remains a taboo – a taboo in popular culture, nevermind in the church that can sometimes be a few steps behind. But the body of the church has to be willing to discuss the things that are hidden in the shadows, and we have to be determined to bring them into the light.

What you’ll see in this post is the consuming darkness of a fallen world, but you will also see the redeeming light of the cross.
That’s what makes this post so remarkable. – Hannie xo

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I don’t know where to start when writing this post. I suppose with the fact that it is a miracle, a testament to God’s amazing grace and power, that I am even doing so. I have to tell you that I’m absolutely terrified – but I believe that it is important and I pray that it will help all of you who have similar struggles or those with friends who have. At the very least that you would see what an amazing, astonishing God we have! So here goes:

I struggle with pornography. 

Even writing that down is scary. I already want to hit the backspace button and give up. I have struggled with pornography since the age of 14 and only seven years later was I able to tell just one person. To say it out loud. So I’m writing this for my 14 year old self and anyone who has ever been or still is in my situation.

For seven years I often felt like I was living a double life. By the time I was about 14 I knew that I needed Jesus as my Saviour and wanted him as Lord in my life. I was astonished by God’s love for me and in awe of his forgiveness and acceptance of me. But now it was time for me to get on and be a good girl, right? I went to church, to CU at school, I read my Bible and I prayed with my friends. To people at church and to my friends I was that girl. Sure, I had little problems, but so does everyone. 

However, at the same time I was becoming addicted to pornographic literature, increasingly aware that it was wrong, in and out of trying to exert self-control and stop, stuck in an absolutely helpless spiral of self-loathing and despair. What would people say if they knew? Wouldn’t my friends be disgusted? And what about God? How could He love me? How could I say that God has forgiveness for this? How can I pray to a perfect God? This is what sin does. It isolates us, entangles us. It drives a barrier between us and God and between us and other people. All sin. And unfortunately there are some sins we are so afraid to admit that they are like poison in our relationship with God and others.

And here comes my favourite word from the Bible…

BUT.

But God in his infinite mercy did not leave me in this situation.

Through some bold sermons by people unafraid to talk about the ugliness of sin and amazing grace of God, by people unafraid to talk about the sins we like to avoid talking about, through quiet whispers in times of stillness that told me again and again of God’s mercy and eventually through a brave friend who opened up to me about her struggles with pornography and God’s amazing power for change in her life, God allowed me to admit my sin without fear, to receive his unbelievable forgiveness and to accept his power to change me.

You see, this was my problem: I had been trying to fix myself – to use my own efforts to stop going back to pornography. Trying to pass my own test of ‘goodness’ before I deemed myself worthy to go to God.  But all along God had given me the gift of His power in me. He gives us new hearts. Hearts ruled by Christ, not by sin. Hearts free to live joyfully for Christ, not despairing hearts enslaved to sin. 

So when tempted, I don’t need to believe the devil’s lie that there’s nothing to be done, I can’t avoid sinning. I can look to Christ, knowing that all things are possible with God (Mark 10:27) and that I can live by the power of Christ:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

And when I have given in to sin, which I do and will, I don’t have to run from God in shame, but can run to Him, my loving Father, free to admit and repent of my sin, free to receive his forgiveness with trust in its sufficiency, thankfulness and joy and trust in his promise to transform me into Christ’s likeness.

Struggle with sin is hard. For all of us. We all stumble and fall. Some of us will have times when we feel irretrievably far from God’s love. Don’t believe it. Remember: there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) NO condemnation. This is true for all of us who believe – just look at people in the Bible like David. I mean talk about far from God – he committed adultery and had a man killed to cover his sin. But was he too far for the reach of God’s grace? It’s fair to say we can answer that with a resounding NO. And therefore, we can say along with Paul:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-9

Click here to read the rest of our summer series.

Below are a number of online Christian resources to provide accountability and support for any who are struggling.

However, it is important to note that one of the most powerful tools will be simply telling a member of church leadership, or even just a friend.

There is no shame in Christ – you are covered in His grace and righteousness. Do not let the lies of The Deceiver tell you otherwise, precious daughter.

www.covenanteyes.com

www.covenanteyes.com/2014/06/30/resources-women-struggle-porn/

www.dirtygirlsministries.com

www.xxxchurch.com

Marriage and The ‘O’ Word

Welcome to Part 2 of Emma’s exploration of a Godly marriage. I am a strong believer that dating and marriage are two of the biggest witnesses in modern culture, since there is no doubt that God’s original creation of marriage is a far cry from the 212st century equivalent. Here Emma explores these stark differences, beginning with the concept that cause so many of us girls and women to shrink away: submission.

The ‘O’ Word

To obey, or not to obey, that is the question. When Tim and I were planning our ceremony, I was asked if I wanted to say ‘to love, cherish and obey’ in my vows. A contentious issue in many marriage ceremonies these days, so what does the Bible say about wives obeying their husbands?

There is, of course, the famous passage from Ephesians that says ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.’ On first glance, this doesn’t sound like it fits in with the modern, independent woman of today. To suggest that a wife must be submissive to her husband throws up images of fixing sandwiches and tending to his every whim and need.

But this passage is not saying that women are of lesser value or have a lower place than men – it is not that at all.

The Bible says that marriage is a partnership – two people coming together to worship God better together than they could alone.

1 Corinthians 7:1-16 talks about a husband and wife belonging to each other equally and stresses the importance of both parties fulfilling their duties to each other, not just the wife to the husband.

Biblical obedience is different from the word ‘obedience’ as it is used in today’s society. It is not about being submissive or inferior as it is portrayed in the media. It is important not to take Ephesians 5:22 out of context. Yes, the Bible does indeed say that wives should submit to their husbands, but we are forgetting the very important last part of the verse – ‘as to the Lord’. We are obedient to the Lord, and part of that obedience is love and worship and honour. So, part of a wife’s obedience to her husband should be love and worship and honour, with as much respect as she reserves for God.

The passage then goes on to state that husbands should love their wives ‘as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’. And what did Christ do? He died for the church, to present it holy and blameless.

If a husband is following this message, then it is his job is to present his wife just as pure and holy and blameless as Christ did the church – to present his wife in the best possible light, so that no one is in a position to criticise her. The husband’s job is to love and protect his wife and even be willing to die for her. 

Submitting to your husband is not at all about shutting up and letting your husband make all the decisions. Obedience is about trusting your man to step up to his job as a husband, trusting that he will love and protect you and your family with as much force and strength as Christ did the church. 

The Wedding

I was never one to dream about my wedding or the man I would marry, but when it came up in those late-night sleepover conversations, I had a rough idea of what I wanted – a sunny day and a big white tent in the field of a fancy manor house. But let me tell you, once Tim and I started dating (and probably way before that, if I must admit) and I discovered Pinterest (or ‘Hinterest’ as Tim likes to call it) the wedding bug hit hard. And once we were engaged it got worse. I like to think I was a laid-back bride, but let’s be honest, everyone goes a little nuts about matching table cloths and napkins and hem lines and where exactly the grandma you don’t really like is going to sit without offending anyone. It’s natural, and it’s perfectly normal.

But there were a couple of times in the midst of pre-engagement and pre-wedding fantasy that I caught myself only dreaming of the wedding – what it would be like getting ready, how Tim would react to seeing me drift down the aisle in a cloud of tulle and lace… and I realised that I was forgetting why exactly I wanted to get married: to be with Tim.

Many of us are guilty of wanting everything immediately that we rush into relationships or jobs without a moment’s thought. And so many girls fantasize about The Wedding so much that they forget why they want to get married in the first place – because you love and trust someone so much that you are willing to share everything about yourself with that person, for the rest of your life.

Marriage is not about a wedding in the same way that a wedding is about a marriage.

Marriage is tough, it requires hard work and it changes with time. It is known that the rush of infatuation you feel at the beginning of a relationship fades over time, to be replaced with something more relaxed and contented. Marriage is not about having the white dress and the cake and the fairy-tale happy-ever-after. It is not the end to your life as a single girl – it is the beginning of your partnership as a wife.

Yes, the wedding is insanely fun – but it’s only a party at the end of the day. If there’s a power cut and dinner is an hour late or your dress gets mud on it or the DJ forgets your first dance song (all things that happened to us!), at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.

What matters is you and your new husband, and the promise you have made to God to work to love Him and each other. 

Click here to read the rest of our summer series.

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Emma

Emma lives and works in the fabulous city of Leeds with her husband, Tim. She has a passion for encouraging those who are low in spirit and loves to hear stories of God’s perfect timing. Her favourite things include a good latte, travelling, eating dessert for breakfast, dim sum and making people happy with food.

Click here to read the rest of Emma’s posts.

When To Say “I Do”

Choosing to commit to someone in marriage is always a loaded and multifaceted decision. However, in a culture that increasingly rejects the idea of holy matrimony, how do those of us in relationships make the decision to enter into the covenant of marriage? With God at the centre, of course.

The beautiful Emma is back, and this time she’s here to tell us about how her and her husband Tim found themselves walking down the aisle at 20 and 21.

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About three times a week, someone will exclaim to me, ‘you’re twenty two and you’re married? But you’re so young!’

Questions along these lines have been frequent for the last year or so since I got engaged, along with well-meaning enquiries about how we would support ourselves once we were married, where we would live and the loaded question, ‘don’t you want to experience life before you settle down?’

Tim proposed when he was nineteen and we got married last year when he was twenty and I was twenty one. I had finished my undergrad degree a few months earlier and he had only just finished the first year of his. Being at uni or being newly graduated is stressful enough, but to throw marriage on top of that? We must be crazy! 

It wasn’t that long ago that no one would have batted an eyelid at a twenty year old getting married, but we are not normal by the standards of today’s society. We are an anomaly. Why did I not wait until I had a job? Why on earth didn’t we wait until Tim had finished university? Are we mad?? But in my hometown, if I told someone I was pregnant they wouldn’t bat an eyelid, so why is it so controversial for me to be married at twenty two? The answer is this: because I have chosen to be committed to something serious at a young age. There are many people that will doubt whether our marriage will last and they are not unfounded in those thoughts – my generation has developed a reputation for jumping in to things too quickly and not sticking at them.

But there is something unusual about our marriage because there are not just two people in it – God is at the centre.

It would have been very easy to move in with Tim after I finished university and wait until he finished his degree to get married, but we believe that God reserved that intimacy for married couples. We didn’t have sex before we were married because we believe that God created sex for marriage. We did not enter into marriage lightly; we both asked God whether it was something He wanted for us, we spoke to our families, sought pre-marital counselling with another couple who have an awesome marriage, and made sure we were aware of the difficulties we may face in getting married young. But our faith in God is our biggest and strongest uniting factor – it is because we discovered that we are better equipped to serve God together than we are apart that we decided to get married. 

Yes, we are both very young, and we may miss out on some aspects of our youth and we still have a lot of growing up to do! But we have chosen to do life together, and that means growing up together and travelling together and struggling together and chasing our dreams together and learning how to worship God together. I believe that it will make us stronger in our faith.

None of this is to say that getting married at twenty two is better or greater than getting married at thirty two or seventy two. God rejoices when two people come together to worship him, whatever their age. It just so happens that God blessed me with a partnership early on in my life. And just because we’re married doesn’t mean we’ve lost our youth – where would the fun be if you had to be serious when you’re married?

Does God tell you to get married? 

‘God is writing my love story.’ 

I had this little quote pinned up on my wall while I was at university – I suppose it was a little reminder to me to trust in all that God had planned when Tim and I were dating and that if it was meant to be it would all work out.

But did God plan a love story for me? Did God tell me to date Tim? Did He tell me that I would marry him one day?

The honest truth: I don’t think He did. God can be pretty clear in his intentions and I’m sure that with some people He could lean down and whisper ‘that’s The One’. But that just wasn’t how it happened for me. I don’t think He was in anyway clear about whether He wanted Tim and I to date or marry. To be frank, I just don’t believe God plays matchmaker like that. 

To quote a great talk I heard at a wedding, ‘you do not fall in love – love is a choice’. And we know that God is the same – He is not a dictator; we must chose to love Him and so in the same way, we must chose to love other people. 

A little quote from ‘The Problem With Dating’ says, ‘the key to succeeding in a relationship is not finding the right person, it’s learning to love the person you found.’ It might not be true that God told me to love Tim, but God placed him in my life at exactly the right time. Whether we are perfectly matched is up for debate, but I chose to love all of Tim and not just the parts that I like, just as God loves me, all of me, including my failings and flaws.

Be sure to check back on Saturday when we will be publishing part 2 of Emma’s post!

Click here to read the rest of our summer series.

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Emma

Emma lives and works in the fabulous city of Leeds with her husband, Tim. She has a passion for encouraging those who are low in spirit and loves to hear stories of God’s perfect timing. Her favourite things include a good latte, travelling, eating dessert for breakfast, dim sum and making people happy with food.

Perfect Standards for an Imperfect Soul

There are two different kinds of perfection I’m going explore in this.  The first being perfectionism as the world sees it, particularly focussing on high standards.  The second being perfection as God sees it.  I personally believe the two are polar opposites of each other.
The first is self-seeking and often defined by a fear of never being good enough.
The second is a radical call to self-sacrifice entirely motivated by love.

When ‘perfect’ isn’t good enough…

I have dedicated as much time as possible of the last 21 years of my life to becoming ‘perfect.’  I have always loved being the best and frankly being ‘Miss Average’ terrifies me.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve, but when perfectionism crept in, I lost all perspective.  I became disillusioned and focused on myself. It has been an idol I have worshipped and placed before Jesus so many times. 

For me, it took shape in academia and my relationship with God.  I worked out of fear through my time at school to get the grades I deemed as ‘perfect.’  The fear of not reaching my high standards became uncontrollable to a point where I had constant panic attacks. In terms of my relationship with God, I was constantly striving, always trying to make it better.  I wanted to be the perfect Christian and have my life sorted. I slowly but surely lost all perspective. 

This left me feeling far from perfect. In fact, I felt worthless and disappointed in myself.  In this place, I would project these feelings onto my relationship with God, constantly asking Him to enable me to reach the bar I had set for myself.  Then my eyes were opened.  As I was praying about all of this God gave me a picture of me doing high jump, but I was constantly missing the bar.  I then saw Jesus walk over and instead of him lifting the bar as I had expected, He took the bar away and said, ‘Sarah, I never placed these expectations on you.’  

I don’t know if you have ever felt that this – if you’ve ever been deeply disappointed with not being able to attain the high standards placed on you by society, by friends, family or even yourself?  What is it in your life that you so desperately try to improve?  Is it your exam results, relationships, your looks…?  For each of us there will most probably be an area in our lives we try to make ‘perfect.’ Now I’m not saying setting goals or wanting to be good at something is necessarily a bad thing.  However, we can’t allow this to define us, to steal or compromise our identity as children of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17)

The mask of perfectionism…

If I truly allowed the word of God to define me, would I strive for this kind of perfectionism?  The painful, but honest, answer is ‘no’.  We live in a fallen world which parades around in a mask of this so called ‘perfectionism’. 

A mask, that’s all it is. 

The mask can take many different forms, which we each customise with our own fears and anxieties. Pride is a common feature of this mask, as perfectionism holds a fierce independence to do things in our own strength. But this is far from the words of Jesus, who knew he could do literally nothing in his own strength – ‘I can do nothing on my own.’ (John 5:30)  This is the Son of God, the perfect and blameless one, the one who defeated death – yet his identity was not fashioned from his own achievement, but from his relationship to the Father. 

In wearing this mask we don’t allow ourselves or others to see who we truly are.  We hope that one day we will reach this standard of achievement, but deep down we know that actually this stuff will never fully satisfy us. 

Lovely one, I urge you to take off your mask and to invite Jesus into that area of your life, let His perfect love drive out all fear and allow His word to realign your perspective. If like me, you know that striving for high standards and perfectionism is a weakness for you, then allow God into that place.  We have the incredible promise that in our place of weakness the perfection of His power is made known (2 Corinthians 12:9).  I’m not saying this will be an overnight change, but I believe as we submit to the process of being transformed into His likeness there is grace for every stage of the journey.  

A different kind of perfection…

‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ (Matthew 5:48).

As I said earlier when the Bible speaks of perfection it is on a whole different level to perfectionism we see in our day to day lives.  Matthew 5 is all about the radical, counter-cultural nature of the Kingdom of God; to live in humility (v3), being a light in the world (v 14) and to love our enemies (v44).  It is in this context that Jesus calls us to a life of perfection. As John Wesley wrote: ‘He well knew how ready our unbelief would be to cry out, this is impossible! And therefore stakes upon it all the power, truth, and faithfulness of him to whom all things are possible.’

Jesus is perfection itself.

On the cross He stood in our place, laid on Him all our imperfections that He would become our perfection.  Lovely one, there is a higher call on your life, not that you have to attain perfection by your own efforts, but Jesus, the perfect one has won for us a life of overflowing with love, not dictated by the law and a set of impossible standards to attain.  You are not defined by your outward appearance, your grades, your relationships, but rather you are defined solely by love.  Your life has value and purpose because of who He is, not because of what you achieve. My prayer for you is that you would know heaven’s perspective and grace in abundance as you choose to live by a different standard of perfection.

Click here to read the rest of our summer series.

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Sarah

Hi, I’m Sarah and I’ve just finished my second year as a Social Work Student.  I have the privilege of living in the beautiful city of Oxford and it’s fair to say I have totally fallen in love with it.  When I’m not studying I love spending as much time as I can with the many wonderful people in my life.  I am passionate about seeing God’s justice outworked for the oppressed and voiceless and love seeing His word radically transforming the hearts of the broken.

Guilt-Free Purity

This is a beautiful post where we see just how gracious, loving and good God is despite our continual failures, weaknesses and compromises. We know that we will all continue to make mistakes, including physical ones, but that we are not to despair, because Jesus has already saved us and we are forever daughters of the King! Read and be reminded our grace-giving Father who loves us no matter what we have done.

I think I was about nine years old when I discovered that the white wedding dress worn by brides symbolised purity and virginity. One of the Blue Peter presenters was getting married and I think there may have been a newspaper article on how her Christian relationship meant that she could ‘truly wear white’ on her wedding day. Six years later, and I was watching another wedding when the realisation that I could no longer ‘truly wear white’ on my wedding day began to sink in. I became a Christian 3 years later, and watched girls who had never kissed a boy dream about their perfect wedding, their perfect dress, and their perfect man, all the time their faces glowing with a kind of purity that I felt like I had forsaken years before.

But as I grew, I realised the truth and the revelation about Christianity: that I had been absolved of all my sin, and that I could stand pure and blameless before Jesus, as he had taken every sin that I had committed and had washed them all away. The relief I felt on that day was almost painful, as I gave over to God my past relationships and all the wrong things I had done. I got baptised and I died to my sin, coming back up a new creation in the Lord, determined to pursue this new purity I had been granted. I was determined to eschew my old life and grab on to this new start.

But what happens when this goes wrong? I feel as Christians we are so quick to talk about our old life and what has been done when we were ‘unsaved’ and still living with the consequences of our sin. But what about when we are living as a new creation, and we despoil that one too? Just because we are born again does not mean that our new life is without sin, or huge struggles, and I feel like as God’s people, we need to stop shutting these ‘problem cases’ away, to be dealt with elsewhere, but to really accept the fact that although we have a new life, we are trying to pursue Jesus’ example in a broken world, and there are times that we will mess up.

For me what happened was completely unexpected. If someone said to me last year that I would have gone through the things I did, I would have been very offended and would have completely rejected it. But we need to appreciate the fact that it is often at our highest point where it is easiest to get knocked. I had had a completely ‘Christian’ summer; Christian camps, mission trips, social action projects. I was reading my bible, praying, loving experiencing God in my everyday life…and then I met someone.

He was kind, funny, and intent on spending more time with me. I was flattered, and began to shut God out, more and more each day, as I let this boy in, more and more. He wasn’t a Christian, and I think the way I acted around him and things I failed to say must have portrayed me as a nominal Christian, not someone who just a month before had been so excited and passionate about pursuing God and putting all relationships to the side to honour Him. From the beginning I knew what I was doing. I knew I was disobedient. No one likes to be told off so I covered my ears to the One who made me, who loved me even though He knew what I had done, was doing and was going to do.

The day when I knew it had gone too far was the day I took off my ‘I love God’ bracelet, one that had been given to me by someone so dear to my heart, one that had been worn for months without taking it off. It, instead of being the beacon of my faith to the stranger walking past, embarrassed me. That was the day that I slept with him. It was incredible how easy my new celibacy crumbled, and how empty I felt knowing that I had run away from the God that had claimed me as his own. So I filled this emptiness with that boy.

I would still pray, sometimes in the dark at night. I would be angry with Him: ‘Can you see me now God? Are you happy? Why didn’t you stop this? I thought you were all powerful?’. I shut out my Christian friends, knowing that they would give me the uncomfortable truth. Because actually, when I had got so far, it was the hardest but most clear decision for me to make: a present, tangible worldly satisfaction of someone who loved me but made me shun God…or a righteous life with a Creator God, and an acceptance of the sacrifice that was made in my name.

I knew the choice was so painful to make, so I prayed. I said to my God ‘Father, I cannot do this in my own strength. Your will be done’. And His will was done. The decision was made for me. I look back and see only my weakness, but we know in our weakness, Christ is unbelievably strong. 

I love Romans 3:23: ‘For all have sinned and  fallen short of the glory of God’. For our Christian society, the sin I committed with my body, the way I messed up is abhorrent to them. It is considered a bigger sin than others, and for me, it was heartbreaking. But ALL have sinned and ALL have fallen short of the glory of God. It is so important to lay off judgement. Speaking out from this shield of anonymity I plead with you to remember that all sin is equal, that we all sin. For me, my immorality sometimes feels like a prison sentence. Not many people know about my not so distant past, so people talk about “those sexual sinners” in front of me – and I just hear condemnation. Worrying that no ‘godly’ man would ever dream about marrying someone with the past that I have had… I instead have to return constantly to the fact that ultimately I am forgiven by the only one that matters, who, when I was still far off met me in His son, and welcomed me home.  

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:19)

Because fundamentally, if I get married, I am able to wear white on my wedding day, not because of anything I could ever do or ‘make up for’ - but because God never changes. He loves us more than we can imagine – so I am not tempted to despair: I am born again. I accept the white robes, and the clean life He bargained for me.

When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there, who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died, my sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.

The great unchangeable I am, the King of glory and of grace
One in Himself I cannot die, my soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high, with Christ my Saviour and my God.

- Before The Throne Of God Above, C. L. Bancroft

Click here to read the rest of our summer series.

Introducing Our Summer Series!

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Well nothing says it better than welcome back to More Precious! Lucy and I would like to first apologise for the relative silence over here on the site. Lucy has been busy finishing her second year at Durham, whilst I have been starting at a new job. Yes, God is good indeed!

Another reason for the break has been due to some rather exciting developments that we are now ready to share with you all. Back when we published an anonymous piece about Eating Disorders, we were surprised and moved to see how many of you reached out and were grateful for content that spoke into areas that can sometimes get sidelined in Christian conversations. Lucy and I realised that we felt the same, that we were hungry for more girls and young women to speak up and share their stories. Stories of a fallen world colliding with God’s grace. We also sought wisdom and advice – how do we toe the line of living a Christ-filled life in an increasingly non-religious society? In sum, what does being a Christian girl or young woman in the 21st century look like, day in, day out?

And so we reached out to our fabulous writers, armed with topics that we were eager to cover. Each of them proved as faithful as ever, and we are pleased to announce that over the course of the summer we will be publishing each and every one of their stories. We will be discussing a multitude of topics, including the decision to only date Christians, struggles with depression, control and perfectionism, all the way to one girl who opens up about her addiction to pornography.

There are a number of topics that might require some consideration before reading. If you recognise a topic from your own struggles, then do take caution and responsibility for how you read the post. None of the posts contain any graphic content, but the girls have done an amazing job of being brutally honest with their struggles; therefore if you’re a little younger it may be best to read through any sensitive topics with a friend or a parent.

So – look after your heart, and look after your soul – God’s work can often be uncomfortable and intense, and therefore it is important to be supported throughout the process.

Other than that, I can’t express how excited we are about sharing these stories. Never before have I seen a collection of testimonies that speak so vividly of God’s power of redemption. We pray this summer will be a time when you witness God’s love and healing in your own life.

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Hannie Twitter-Bird@hanniefrost

Hi, I’m Hannie – Co-Editor here at More Precious. I recently finished my time studying at the University of Birmingham and have since moved back to Cambridge to start my new job as an Account Executive at a marketing firm. It has been a season of plenty as I am also recently engaged, and look forward to marrying Jake in summer 2015.

Running More Precious with Lucy has been more than I ever dared dream, and it has been a true privilege to see God working so plainly in the lives of the readers. Although the responsibility and weight of More Precious can sometimes be overwhelming, we rest in the knowledge that God directs our steps – without Him, we are dry bones.

 

Taking a Breath

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My “default setting” is action. I am always chomping at the bit to get going. I like to do as many things as possible, and preferably as quickly, efficiently and successfully as possible.

It is so often the case that I end up in the middle of a task that is falling apart, or project that is beginning to go pear-shaped, before I stop and realise what I have forgotten. Or really, who I have forgotten: my loving Heavenly Father.

When I stop and ask myself why this is the case, I realise it is because I’m not fully trusting that God is who He says He is. Instead, I am putting my trust in almost everything but God – in my ability to get stuff done, my can-do attitude, my work, my energy levels or my perseverance and enthusiasm. But these things can only do so much for me, before they let me down. My ability to get stuff done wanes as soon as I am distracted by an update on my Instagram feed, or an article about Prince George’s shoes. My energy levels let me down when I just sit down on the sofa for a cup of tea, and the next thing I know, I’m stirring from a snooze. My enthusiasm disappears very quickly when I haven’t been given credit for something amazing I’ve done or when I’m criticised.

I desperately need to grasp more fully who God is, and the gift of grace. I find it all too easy to forget. I need to pause, take a breath, go back to square one and remember who God really is. I need to pray that He would imprint His true identity in my heart.

We are children of the King, who loves us more than we can even begin to imagine: ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’ (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)

Through Jesus, God gives us the gift of eternal life: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16 NIV).

Through grace, we are saved, and he has given us the gift of a relationship with him: ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.’ (Ephesians 2:8, 9 NIV).

He has promised to sustain us: ‘Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.’ (Psalm 54:4 NIV).

God is powerful over all of creation: ‘For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.’ (Colossians 1:16 NIV).

Prayer is powerful. God hears us and is at work in our lives: ‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.’ (1 John 5:14 NIV).

He gives us the Holy Spirit who is at work in our lives every day: ‘[Jesus says] But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.‘ (John 14:26 NIV).

Perhaps pick one of these truths and pray that God would bring it alive in a new way for you. My prayer for all of us, is that God would show us more of who He is and help us totally, whole-heartedly and fearlessly trust in Him. I want my “default setting” to become one of utter love for and trust in God, so that my whole life, and all of the action that it involves, is for Him.

Image credit to Daughter by Design

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Emma

Emma graduated from Cambridge two years ago, having studied law. She now enjoys working in finance, which comes as a surprise to those who know her. Emma lives in Cambridge and loves being a member of Christ Church. She loves music, food, her friends and Jesus and is very excited about her wedding next April – (PS. Emma is now married! Yippee!).

I Say Worship

Worship

I say worship, you say… What do you say? 

It is so easy to get caught up with the thinking that worship means singing a couple of songs on a Sunday morning, or muddling through a bit of thanksgiving prayer every now and again. Those are both great things, but did you ever think that if you find yourself ticking worship off the list for this week, then something is fundamentally wrong? As Christian girls in today’s world, are we lulled into forgetting that worship is supposed to be a lifestyle? Or, even more challenging, that worship might be a little more difficult than we take for granted?

‘Worship is the submission of all our nature to God, it is the quickening of our conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His beauty; the opening of heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose- and all this, gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable.’ -William Temple

Creatures of worship:

We have been created to worship. In fact, God allows all things to exist because they glorify Him. We should be aiming to worship Him in everything that we do – worshipping with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength and all our mind. (Luke 10:27). True worship should bind our lives together and point us definitively towards God. 

We are called to even submit, that is, to be sacrificial, in the way we worship. Every year, without fail, my Dad jokes he’ll give up expensive champagne and caviar for Lent. 

But giving up something that means nothing to you isn’t difficult. 

Maybe it’s that we only give up the small things to God, the odds and ends of life we think don’t really matter, and fool ourselves into believing we worship God with our whole lives. But this is the Creator God we’re talking about; He can’t be shrunk to pocket size. 

Worship with ALL your heart?

“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations” Malachi 1v13-14

Blemished animals are no good. Like I said, we were created to worship – we might as well do it properly. Half hearted isn’t an option here – God wants ALL of you to turn to Him in worship. He gave us life so we could have it to the full (John 10v10), and therefore point it back to Him in glory. As the Great King to whom we have supposedly surrendered our lives to, doesn’t he deserve it? 

‘Do we give Him the best of our time?

Do we give Him the best of our energies?

Do we give Him the best of our thinking?

Do we give Him the best of our dreams and plans?’

-Ravi Zacharias

How quickly these things slip through our fingers as we try to hold them up to God, how suddenly we find ourselves worshipping idols and recklessly lending out all our ‘best bits’ to the world rather than the God that made them. 

We all worship something, it’s choosing who, or what, to worship that counts:

Turning our worship away from the short-term relief of this world towards the eternal gift of God is going to be hard. After all, there is no doubt that you will face pressure to worship the world and its idols.

“Nebuchadnezzar said to them “Is it true that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? If you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace” Daniel 3:14-15

Oh, I said pressure? Sorry, I meant the blazing, seven times hotter than usual, furnace kind of pressure.  If we don’t feel that pressure, then we’ve already given into it. God challenges us to be countercultural in worship and we should expect to suffer for it. 

There is a significant pain to be endured in pushing the world aside in pursuit of Jesus. There might be dominating aspects of worldly life that we have to ditch, but often the biggest challenge comes in a far more familiar form: ourselves. For instance, if it’s pride getting in the way of your worship, you can be sure ripping that out at the root won’t be a painless experience. And yet all the same, Jesus came to overcome. The great news is that we don’t walk alone, something found in Daniel 3. From within the fire we find that we are walking with Jesus, a man who has endured a furnace far worse than ours could ever be.

Be challenged by this! Turn to God and give Him everything because lack of worship in our lives is a lack in the source of joy and purpose for which we were created. But equally, worship is the way we draw close and walk alongside Jesus. We know worship will be our eternal occupation in heaven, so let’s get practicing.

‘Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” Revelation 4v8

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KatrinaHi, I’m Katrina. I’m in my last year at Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge and in the process of applying to study sport at uni. I love rowing, autumn and spend a copious amount of time baking. I’ve spent the last year learning on the job at being a CU leader but have loved every minute of it and am so excited by seeing God’s grace in action.

When ‘Productivity’ Becomes Your God

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Wanting to write this post came from a slow realisation that my life has started being defined by lists. To-do lists, and lots of them. They fall under categories of what I must do for uni work, for my summer plans, for the blog, for all my commitments, for the friends I need to catch up with, the phonecalls, the emails, everything I need to complete.

I know that when I’m stressed or busy, uncategorised time is a luxury and I make sure to label it so that I’m maximising what I’m doing at all times. I  know that this slightly unhealthy trait is one shared by lots of our readers – we get messages from the girls drowning in coursework, wishing they could leave school and not have to face another deadline, from the working girls who crash with exhaustion as soon as they get home; and then there are the what-I-can-only-describe-as superwomen girls, who seem to be responsible for stabilising the economy, tackling global poverty, running marathons and winning at A-levels all at once.

So I think that lots of us will understand this feeling where the ins and outs of life feels like a relentless wave that comes crashing in every morning. For me, I try and keep on top of it by creating a long and detailed list every week in my poor, long-suffering Moleskine diary. It was when things like ‘PM: pray’ or ‘Read 3 John before lunch’ started tiptoeing onto the list that I thought perhaps this approach wasn’t completely as God would intend me to spend time with Him. The worst one of all was for this very post – ‘MAKE TIME to write post on productivity!’ – so painfully ironic…

God’s place in my life should never be as a fairly low-down member of a long to-do list.

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Matthew 6:33

Seek first the kingdom of God. How did I let all these other things get in the way of that? My thoughts turn again to doing, and being scared of slipping up. So… I’ll have to get up earlier, and make the days a little longer in order to spend enough time with Him first thing – and then I can still manage to keep everything under control. But wait:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Without Him, I can do nothing? I read this and believe it on the surface, but still deep down I still can’t quite let go of the fact that I have to continue to do things in my own strength, else things will start falling apart and people will see that I’m a failure.

But Jesus tells us to remain in Him, not to remain being productive and make sure we include enough Christian activities in our already packed schedules. We don’t need to try really hard to remain in Him in our own strength,  but rather, we are created to serve Him, and therefore everything we do needs to be for Him and can’t be through anything but His strength alone.

I need to be careful not to wrongly put ‘God’s Work’ into a subcategory of ‘My Work’. In my last similarly-themed post, The Idol of ‘Busy’, I wrote of my desire to honour the God that honours rest, and how rest is a really important way of telling the world that we live for something greater than ourselves.

Rest is built into the Ten Commandments, it is fundamentally built into the creation of the universe. And how many times do we see Jesus encouraging his disciples to rest, to escape the crowds and the commitments and spend some time with their Father. When you honour rest, you are making a statement that you trust in a God who is bigger than any of the stresses and strains of this world. When you rest you are committing your time up to God, trusting in His plan above your own.

I want to start committing my time up to God, not just by ‘doing’ for Him, but by being for Him. God doesn’t need my small to-do lists or my attempts to get things done. He uses me for my benefit, and not because He needs me.

Julia Sterne wrote the most useful and hard-hitting article that I’ve been thinking over for a good few weeks now. I found this quote from it really helpful:

“The greatest gift in the Garden was not the work given to Adam and Eve, but the presence of their loving Creator. I long for good work and productivity but even more I ache to be in the presence of my Lord, my Father, my King.
I have misappropriated my gifts.
Work is a good gift, but even better is the Giver.

Isn’t that so beautiful? Work, and therefore in a sense, ‘productivity’ is a gift from the Ultimate Giver. God does give us time. He gives us passions, skills and resources and places us in situations where we can flourish by bringing Him glory. And this is our greatest gift – not a somewhat obsessive penchant for making lists – but the eternal presence and promise of a loving Father who knows what is best for His children. We have the gift of Jesus, His life-bringing, sin-forgiving Son. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit, who works in us to make us better than we could ever be on our own.

I focus my gaze back onto the Giver, and I’m already feeling like I can achieve a lot more than I could on my own… For I was designed to praise my Creator, I was made for my Maker; and God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

Are we declaring to the world that we have a sure hope, a total dependance and joyful contentment in Jesus in the way we approach life? Are we trying to ‘do life’ in our own strength, or are we prepared to recognise that our time on Earth is fleeting, our capabilities are limited and our purpose to life can’t be self-designed or self-centred. 

For me, I think this will look as small and simple as creating space; being prepared to devote uncategorised time to learn more about the character of my infinitely good, saving, miracle-making Father. I want to wake up every morning and remember that I am doing His work first and foremost, to approach life with the right attitude: I am a servant – and God is not my butler…

I want to make time to remember that all I have comes from Him and that my primary goal in life isn’t to try in vain to propel myself forward in this life in a fluster of to-do lists and never-enough-time. I must be less so that He can be greater.

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Lucy Twitter-Bird@lucybeauchamp

I’m Lucy and I’m just coming to the end of my second year at Durham University. I love my hometown Cambridge and I also love living in the beautiful little city of Durham, where the coffee shops are plentiful and the people are GREAT!

Running More Precious is one of my favourite things and it’s the biggest source of encouragement for me! Like I said in my bio, I’m still learning how to live out a little of the thankfulness of Pollyanna, the kindness of Katy Carr and the faith of the Proverbs 31:25 girl - perhaps one day I’ll get there!

Written by Lucy

The Life Lessons of a Recent Graduate

Following my last post on the total loss of control new graduates face, I was so encouraged to find that I’m not the only one who lies awake at night planning out each variable. It became clear that control is an issue that so many of us struggle to hand over to God. Seeing as there are so many of us out there, I thought I would share a few of the life lessons I’m currently learning, praying that they may not be too dissimilar to what you are facing in this moment.

Wait

Patience

A wise friend of mine recently told me that patience is something we are only taught by experience. I responded by assuring her that I would have done a fine job by learning patience objectively. Apparently God thought otherwise. I’ve made it no secret here on More Precious that I am somewhat of a control freak. I flourish in schedules, routines and to-do lists, and my timelines are punctual and short. Just ask my boyfriend and he will tell you of my deep hatred of lateness (it may or may not have caused an argument or two…).

Yet sitting here I feel like God is late. 

I am ready to work, I enjoy working, and yet there is no work. I’m standing in the corridor with doors that have either been shut in my face, or cannot be opened. And suddenly I am at the centre of God teaching me patience by experience. 

Believe it or not, I don’t want to stay this way. I am too high strung, even for me, and although I truly believe my “get stuff done” attitude is the way God made me, I need to dial it down. So here’s what I’m learning, or at least trying to learn: 

Whilst I’m sat with all these stupid doors staring me down, I have to learn to praise him in the corridor. No matter how long it takes.

Blooming where you’re planted

Apparently God does not pay much attention to my plans. As I’ve said before, I’m convinced this is somewhat of a mistake. I am a great planner… and yet my plan for my post university summer is, well, not going to plan. I had forged a path that I felt would get me to the place that I needed to be, whatever that means. Yet as I walk down this path, I notice that God’s made a few amendments, and the destination, that was so sure if my path had stayed as I had instructed, now grows hazy in the distance.

And I feel like I’ve failed. 

If I can’t reach that far-off ideal destination, then what do I do instead? After all, I don’t do this – I don’t fail

You’re experiencing some of my black-and-white personality, and I’m hoping some of you can relate (at least please tell me I’m not the only one!). I’m not good with grey – I don’t know what to do with it. But God doesn’t see my rerouting of plans as a failure. In fact, the road that I am on, and the destination that I am heading towards, has always been His Plan A. Whilst I walk down this path, looking around in panic at the unfamiliarity, God extends His hand and asks me to follow Him. In the midst of it all, there is a quiet whisper that seems too easy to drown out:

“Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” 

No, I’m no queen, but for such a time as this? Maybe there’s something there. 

The value of prayer

The breakdown came after yet another rejection. This rejection particularly frustrating as I was told I performed well throughout the interview process, but a change in financing meant the company was no longer hiring. In frustration the tears welled up and the peace that had felt so tangible merely an hour before, quickly disintegrated into doubt. Feeling overwhelmed and unable to help myself, I texted Lucy to ask for prayer. It is so tempting to pray for our circumstances to change, and I am not saying that we should ignore our circumstances altogether. But in that moment of disappointment, it wasn’t a job I craved, it was the rhythm of peace.

Instead of asking for Lucy to pray for a job, I found myself asking her to pray that I would be reminded of God’s character and His purpose. I needed to be reminded that God works for the good of those who love Him, and His silence was not representative of His abandonment. As much as God cares about my employment status, He cares far more about the state of my heart. And in those moments of disappointment, it was my heart that was flagging.

It’s not about me

This has been the toughest and most reassuring lesson of all: it’s not about me. Any of it. It’s so easy to fall in rhythm with the rest of the world who tells you that your life story is all about you. The world says your life is about how successful you are, how much money you earn, what status you have, or how single you are. Either way, it’s all about you, and the pressure is on.

God turns around, and with a gentle authority says, “None of this is about you. It’s all about me and my glory”.

The last few months and weeks of graduating has really made me think about what purpose my life has. Do I want to be a career driven ambitious woman? Do I want to pour my time into my community and the relationships in my life? Is my work going to be focused on the home and my family? All of these are good options, and a worthy way to spend your life, but I think I’ve been missing the point. Rather than deciding what my life is going to be focused on, I need to decide who’s going to be at the centre of my life. Me and my desires, or God and His plans.

As followers of Jesus, we are extended a true privilege in an invitation to join God on His quest to save His people. We get to take the sidelines and watch, nose pressed against the glass, as God rescues His children. And I realise that’s what I want my life to be about. I want to live up to my birthright and follow Jesus’s example of loving His people sacrificially. I want God, His message and His love to be at the very core of who I am. And when I realise that, my career doesn’t seem as important. I don’t mean that work is secondary and we should all join ministry. No, what I mean is that God knows exactly what job I need to be in in order to shine the brightest.

God has a plan, much bigger than I, and I need to wait to take my place, patiently. And so I wait, nose pressed against the glass, ready to see miracles happen.

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photo1-1Hi, I’m Hannie, Co-Editor and Social Media Manager here at More Precious. I recently finished my time studying at the University of Birmingham and have since been abruptly dropped into the “real world”. I love running, fresh flowers and spending a copious amount of time in coffee shops with friends. I am passionate about encouraging a generation of girls and young women who radically pursue their God-given purpose.

Why Being Polite Isn’t Good Enough

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Love is something that I think gets easily overlooked, especially as a Christian. We group together our niceties and general etiquette, tie them in a bow, and assume we’ve ticked the box. Love my neighbour? Done. But the fact that God tells us again and again to love each other… well, maybe it’s not as natural as we think.

If I could summarise my relationship with God right now, it would be to push outside the limits of the everyday. I don’t want to have a relationship and journey with God that is stilted and expected. I want Him to bleed into every area of my life, until He’s all that you see. Especially in my relationships.

The problem with Christian culture can be that we tend to align ourselves with just being nice, being polite and refraining from being an idiot.

And I don’t think that’s enough.

No… not when I find myself inwardly (and sometimes vocally) cussing at the car that cuts me up when I’m cycling. Not when I find myself glaring with irritation at the very sociable sales assistant. And not when I find myself coming up with the best responses at dinner with the girl that I just can’t get on with.

No in those moments, I don’t care about love. I care about me.

God is love: 

Why is love so important? Because love is the very essence of God.

Any love we experience on this Earth was born from His heart, and it is by grace that we get to experience just a taste of His love as a fallen people. But to know love is in its fullness – to know what it means to be loved in the way that humans crave, and to love beyond our human capacity – is impossible without first knowing God. He has been loving us beyond our capacity to understand since the world began. Well, of course He has – He is love.

In fact, God’s love took the very human form of Jesus on this earth, and it is by love that our relationship was restored. Don’t you see? Love is at the very core of who we are as believers in Christ. If we don’t understand that, and respond accordingly, well… I can’t help but wonder if we’ve lost the meaning of His sacrifice. I know that I can find myself falling into a trap that God is somehow lucky to have me, the bubbling of shameful entitlement below the surface. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am saved by love and love alone – a love that is not blind but relentless in His pursuit of me. 

As a result of this birthright by adoption, you and I are called to love those around us, the way our Father has loved us. It’s in our blood. Just as He loved us, so we are to love one another. Think of it as our family characteristic. Some families excel at sport, others at music, the family of Jesus Christ? Well, we were called to love radically and sacrificially – that is how people recognise our family and want to meet the Father.

Love in practical terms:

But in a culture that already esteems manners and etiquette, what does radical, Christ-born love look like? 

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I think we’ve limited the reach of our love. We’ve boxed up the expectations that God might have of us – yes, love one another, but only within your capabilities… and never to your downfall. 

Paul says something quite different:

Really love them. 

So, my holding my tongue at the dinner table with the girl I can barely tolerate doesn’t quite fit God’s description of love? Shoot. No, God calls me to love her with genuine affection and to take delight in honouring her. This means celebrating her when she’s put me down for the hundredth time, and speaking to her in a way that is full of genuine kindness. No sarcasm and short remarks from this girl.

God calls us to help those who are in need, and being ready to have a house full of unexpected guests - including those who you would naturally run a mile from in. God not only asks you to smile at them in the street, but to invite them into your home.

Paul tells us to walk through this life with one another, bearing with each other through delights and sorrow.  

When faced with wrongdoings, we are told not to think up our best retaliation, but rather to recognise their pain and sorrow, and pray for whatever emptiness they might be feeling. 

It is a love that knows no bounds. It is a love that recognises how broken and fallen we are without God, and how none of us should forget where God found us. It is showing the same mercy and grace that God shows you day-in, day-out, to those who hurt you. It is recognising your birthright and your family, knowing you now come from a family of love – not a family of self-service and egoism. It is going the extra mile, even when it is not acknowledged, and then doing it again. Above all, it is knowing your Father.

After all, I’ve been told that love can perform miracles. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s how we all wound up here, right? For God so loved the world… 

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photo1-1Hi, I’m Hannie, Co-Editor and Social Media Manager here at More Precious. I recently finished my time studying at University of Birmingham and have since been abruptly dropped into the “real world”. I love running, fresh flowers and spending a copious amount of time in coffee shops with friends. I’m passionate about encouraging a generation of girls and young women who radically pursue their God-given purpose.

Listening for the Call

Today we have another post from the simply delightful Katrina. Here she is going to talk to us about listening for those quiet whispers of God – why we should listen, how we listen, and this epic journey that God invites us on.

Be Still

“My question for you is, why weren’t you ready for God to speak to you in a more powerful way?”

A few weeks ago, somebody asked me this question and I was pretty much lost for an answer. Why wasn’t I ready to hear God’s voice? What was it that was holding me back? 

“But as for me, I am filled with power and the Spirit of the LORD.” Micah 3:8 

Holy Spirit, the voice of above

The Bible makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is constantly speaking to us. Acts is littered with examples of the Spirit making Himself known in the early formation of the church, as well as through the prophets of the Old Testament, such as Isaiah. We are told that the Spirit teaches us (John 14:26), intercedes for us (Romans 8:26), leads us (Matthew 4:1), gives life (John 6:63), and fills us with the same power of Christ (Romans 8:11). That is some mighty strength there.

And yet, this is often a forgotten fact. Do we listen for this Spirit that leads and teaches us? Do we embrace the power and strength that led Jesus on this Earth? Do we even welcome His voice? After all, if someone made you an offer to have constant interaction with our Creator God, wouldn’t it seem ridiculous to turn it down? 

Instead, our defensive walls and need for control limit how much of ourselves we reveal and make vulnerable to God. I sometimes find myself feeling jealous when others experience that presence or direct word. But how can you be jealous of something that you can so easily change? The Spirit speaks to us constantly; it is through our own doing and distance that we limit our interaction with God. 

Trusting His call:

So, what happens if we do hear something from God? What do we do about it? 

We are very good at passing over directions from God, pretending we didn’t hear or convincing ourselves we can’t possibly do what He is asking us. Take Jonah for example, he certainly tried to ignore God and look where it got him – right where God invited him to willingly go. And if we do choose to ignore Him, what does that say about our faith? 

“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:40 

God has revealed himself fully in His word, demonstrating time and time again His trustworthiness. He always delivers His promise and is the rock from which we can draw strength to counter our weakness.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me… For when I am weak, I am strong’ 2 Corinthians 12 v 9-10 

Following His Call:

As children of God we are called to listen to what He has to say to us and react intentionally, whatever the call. In ‘Walking on Water’, a call to action given to Leaders in the Church through David Noakes, the message is clear

“Teach them the ways of God; teach them the way of listening for the voice of my Spirit, and spontaneous action in obedience to those promptings.” 

Our lives are so taken up with talking that we forget to listen. So why then, are we surprised by the silence? If we want to hear God, do we make the effort to retreat to a place of quiet and peace, following Jesus’s example, just to listen to God’s gentle whisper? Probably not. 

One thing is for sure, doing nothing is not an option. As followers of Christ, we have to actively listen to what the Spirit is saying, actively question it and then actively do something. I am unbelievably uneducated to be writing this, since listening is an aspect of my relationship with Jesus where I constantly fail. I feature in an almost daily struggle between desperation to hear God’s distinct voice in my life and a conscious rejection of His word through my own pride and fear. Evidently, here lies a part of my heart that is resistant to making the changes God asks of me and, consequently, I refuse to listen. Because of that, I lose out on the joy that comes from challenging my faith and surrendering my entire trust (fears, future and all) into His loving hands. 

Doing what God says might be a scary prospect and there will be times you won’t always be sure about what you’ve heard; remember God is on our side, He knows what He is doing. In the frustration of identifying His voice above the chatter, don’t be tempted to stop listening. Who knows? You might even find yourself taking a leap of faith.

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KatrinaHi, I’m Katrina. I’m in my last year at Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge and in the process of applying to study sport at uni. I love rowing, autumn and spend a copious amount of time baking. I’ve spent the last year learning on the job at being a CU leader but have loved every minute of it and am so excited by seeing God’s grace in action.

A Control Freak’s Guide to Letting Go

Control

I’ve never found a period of my life more uncomfortable than this.

In a mere matter of weeks, I will graduate from the university that has become my home, and be thrown haphazardly into the real-life that I know so little about. As of right now, I have no secure job, just a plethora of interviews, whilst my nearest and dearest are being dispatched all over the country to further education, jobs or the familiarity of home for some time to re-evaluate. Decisions need to be made, except making them with a few thousand possible variables running through your mind makes the process tiring to say the least. A worrier and a planner by nature, I now find myself up at 3am running through each scenario for all the possible outcomes, just so I’m not taken by surprise.

And God watches on in amusement.

There’s a fairly apt quote by Woody Allen that keeps running through my mind: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”. Well this young woman is grappling at the straws of how little she now controls in some effort to formulate said plans, whilst God looks on, laughing.

And I think I’m doing this all wrong.

God is in control

This frustrates me. I know it shouldn’t, but frankly, I’m a very good planner. My automatic response to God’s sovereignty is that if He didn’t want me to wrestle with control so much then He maybe should have dialled down the type-A aspect of my personality. But since that’s not about to happen, or maybe that’s exactly what this is, let’s take a look at what the Bible says about God being in control:

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

Our God is in heaven;
he does whatever pleases him. Psalm 115:3

Sensing a theme? I know I am. My plans are just that, plans, but God’s will? Now that’s something else entirely.

God’s purpose will prevail and there is nothing I can do to stop that. If God wants me to be in a certain city, you can bet I’ll somehow end up there. Whatever God desires to happen in my life, be that in relationships, work or location – there is nothing that is going to stop God’s will. If you want a better example of this, well just look at Jonah.

The prophet was ordered to go to evangelise to the Ninevites and help deliver God’s message of love. Not being a fan of the Ninevites, Jonah decided that someone else should deliver the message and off he went in completely the opposite direction.

That is until God put him in a fish and literally dragged him to Nineveh.

Now, metaphor or literal, God had His way. He had decided that Jonah was going to relay this message to save the people of Nineveh and that was that. No questions asked.

God’s goodness?

In spite of my incessant desire to create plans, I actually don’t doubt God’s sovereignty. After all, He is God and I’m fairly confident that He’ll get His way. No, where my inherent need to plan and worry comes from is a doubt of His character, a fear of His goodness.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” – Romans 8:28

Here, I begin to cringe a little inside. As some of you may know from my very first post on more precious, my mother has been critically ill since I was sixteen. To cut a long story short, I grew up a little naive, truly believing in the Happy Ever After of “God will give me everything I want”. The problem is that my Happy Ever After was one that was found on this earth, and not the eternal dream-come-true that God freely gave us. I still find myself bitter and angry that the past few years for my family have not turned out the way I wanted them to. I still crave an earthly happy ending and find it hard to be satisfied with the eternity I’m offered instead.

Simple evidence of my ignorant humanity if ever you needed one.

My struggle to reconcile these feelings with what I know about God is why I struggle so much to trust God’s goodness. I can’t help but look back and just scoff. Goodness? This hasn’t felt like goodness.

But then again, I’m blind. Jesus said so himself:

“You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will” John 13:7

But what do I do when the someday is too ambiguous? Someday isn’t enough to send me to sleep softly at 3am. I need something more. I need more of Him.

Look back, sweet soul:

I’ve been making my way through Deuteronomy following the recommendation of my housemate, and I’m really loving it. Here, God is in full-on parent mode, fathering the Israelites as they make their trepidus and long-winded journey to the promised land. Along the way, they continue to express fear about entering this promised gift from God, doubting His faithfulness. During one of their little panics (sound familiar?), God reaches down to them and says:

“Do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place” Deuteronomy 1:30-31

And my soul hushes to a quiet. Finally.

God is already in September. That great abyss that I fear more than I could ever put into words? God’s there. He knows where I’m going to be, and He’s already gone ahead to prepare the way, to make secure my shelter.

He will fight for me, the same way He has fought to hold me and my family together over the past five years. That is how I learn to trust in Him. Not by looking forward into the misty haze of the future, but by looking back and seeing the good, oh so much good, that God has done in our lives in this difficult wilderness.

That is how the soul is stilled. By climbing into His arms of love and asking Him to reveal the small places He has moved in the deserts of fear. That is how we trust in a future that is unknown because we have a God who is always faithful.

Look back, sweet girl. There you’ll find grace in your very midst.

Written by Hannie

Countercultural Peace

It’s exam season. The libraries are full, conversations are tense… and amidst the rising stress (and caffeine) levels, it’s easy to forget that we have a God who promises peace.

And I realise that something about my rushed work schedule and panicky conversations doesn’t fully reflect the sovereignty of God in my life. I’m quick to start relying on my own efforts: how many hours of work can I fit in today? Am I doing as much as everyone else? How would I cope with the embarrassment of failure?

These thought patterns come when I focus on myself and forget that I have a Father who is mighty and gives rest. Obsessing over competence and productivity mean that I’m barely acknowledging God’s hand over my life, and I’m falling very short of glorifying Him.

I’d love this to change. I think there’s something so powerful about demonstrating to the world that there is something bigger to live for than what we can achieve on our own, especially in times of stress and worry, not just in spite of.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

These two verses take my worries and combat them with the permanent and supernatural love of our Father. Instead of working because I’m scared of failure and craving success, I can work because I know I’m defined as a child of God, regardless of what I do/don’t achieve. In Him, stress is met with peace, fear is met with comfort, uncertainty is met with promise.

So, how can we be distinctive? How can we point people to Jesus in stressful and busy times? I want to start practicing Proverbs 3:5-6 day after day, making it habitual to look to God above the things of this world.

Trusting in God from the bottom of my heart

I’m not very good at trusting God with all my heart – and when the things in life pile up, I know my faith can turn into more of a word then an all-hoping, all-praying, real  faithI want to work on having real faith, in trusting God at the worst times as well as the best. This means that if the future appears unclear, or my failings seem overwhelming, I don’t need to despair but instead I can fall back on God’s never-failing love.

Learning to stop relying on myself

This is something I am even WORSE at: surrendering the ups and downs of my life completely to God and learning not to do things in my own strength. Even as I learn more about God’s power and sovereignty – I still find it difficult to be at peace, and my anxiety often gets the better of me as I aim for perfection in everything. So – especially in the context of success and work – this is something else I’d love to incorporate more into my life: total dependance. Because the more I recognise my weakness, the more I realise God’s greatness and His gracious love for me in all seasons of my life.

Acknowledging Him in everything I do

I know that I hadn’t ever really thought about how my approach to studying and busyness might reflect the amount of trust I was placing in God (and equally the amount that I hadn’t quite surrendered up to Him) until one of my first conversations with Jessie - one of our lovely writers, and an inspiring friend in many ways!

I asked Jessie how she was finding work and exams and I remember being so struck by her answer: yes, often she found herself worrying like everyone else – but actually she was trying to be more peaceful so that she would be pointing people to Jesus, knowing that we aren’t in control but He is. Jessie is our example today of how to live out a little of Proverbs 3:5-6! We can and should acknowledge God in all our ways – including our approach to studying.

To see somebody falling back on God’s provision and grace rather than their own understanding is refreshing, attractive and countercultural. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be known as girls that were different in some way; our lives recognisably characterised by God’s peace? So, particularly in the difficult and chaotic seasons of life, remember to continually turn to God and ask that you would know His peace, that you might continue pursuing something higher than the things of this world.

For His peace surpasses all understanding, and our lives are in the hands of His love everlasting.

“I look to the hills, where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, Maker of Heaven and Earth.”
(Psalm 121:1-2)

Written by Lucy

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PS: The wonderful girls over at Clay blog published a great post about how to approach exams healthily, while still investing in our relationships with God and with others – take a look here.

Idols & The God Who Saves

Grace

I’ve been thinking about idols recently. When I say ‘recently’, I mean for the last few years. And when I say ‘thinking about’, I mean that exposing the idols of my heart seems to have been a big theme for God in that time… Evidently it is a major project!

This week I was led to a Bible passage that gave me some fresh insight on the whole topic. Isaiah 44:6-23 starts off with a declaration by Yahweh, the God of Israel:

“This is what the LORD says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.” (v.6)

“Yep,” we say to ourselves. “I’m totally on board with that. So far, so doctrinally true.” We know that there is one God. We read about Him in the Bible, we pray to Him, we sing worship songs to Him. Why are we even having a conversation about idols?

Calves and Carpenters

Listen, creating idols is as easy as falling off a log. Take the Israelites – 600,000 men (not to mention the women, children and animals) walk through the Red Sea without getting their feet wet, and the Egyptian army pursuing them on their chariots is completely swallowed up. It’s a dramatic and miraculous rescue by their awesome God. The Israelites burst into a song of praise – “Who among the gods is like you, Lord?” (Exodus 15:11) … and three seconds later they are building a golden calf out of their earrings.

We smile to ourselves. Those silly Israelites.

Isaiah 44 goes on to paint an equally ridiculous picture. It describes in derisive detail the process of fashioning an idol out of metal or wood – ‘The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker…’ (v.13). It points out that from the same lump of wood, half is used as fuel for the barbecue, whilst the other half is venerated as a divine being – ‘Half of the wood he burns in the fire… From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me! You are my god!” (v.16-17). It is laughable. It is meant to be.

But before we point the finger at those naive Old Testament idolaters, we need to realise that this passage is also speaking to us.

What… me, too?

How many times have we put our trust in something other than God to save us? How many times have we worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator? Or, to put it another way, what do our desires/fears reveal about what our hearts are resting on?

• If only this person liked me, then I would feel secure (their approval will save me)

• If only I looked like that, then I would feel confident (this diet/hairstyle/makeover will save me)

• If only I could get this grade on the exam, then my life will work out (success will save me)

• If only I had the latest iPhone/a bigger house/those shoes, then I would be happy (my possessions will save me)

• If only I had a boyfriend/husband, then I would feel loved (this relationship will save me)

What is it for you? My idols tend to be other people. Up they go on the pedestal of my adoration, and I am consumed with trying to win their affection and approval. I am a slave to their opinion of me. A kind word and I’m elated. A brush-off and I’m having major abandonment issues. Our need is desperate. Our fears all-consuming. And so we work harder and harder to try to get our idols to save us. We pour every ounce of ourselves into trying to be likeable, looking a certain way, studying, shopping, seeking out potential partners, etc. No wonder we feel exhausted – ‘…he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint.’ (v.12)

Morning Mist

And so as I read Isaiah 44 this week, it was with recognition and a heavy heart. I know my idolatry and I struggle to rid myself of it. I know the Lord deserves my pure and unadulterated worship, but my wayward and foolish heart gets entangled in the false promises of other gods. Then I got to the last three verses of this section. “Remember these things, Jacob, for you, Israel, are my servant. I have made you, you are my servant…” (v21) – “Oh, here we go,” I thought. “Here comes the rebuke.” I braced myself.

How little I know my Lord.

“Israel, I will not forget you. I have swept away your offences like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (v21-22)

Such grace. Such sweet, surprising, undeserved love. Like the first warm day in spring, like beautiful music, like seeing the face of a loved one after being apart, these words flew into my heart and lifted it up in grateful joy. I remembered my Redeemer and suddenly all was made right again.

This is the God who saves. Not a god of my own creation whose powerlessness leaves me aching and exhausted. No – my Creator, whose strong and everlasting arms have stretched themselves out on a cross in order to sweep away all my sins, including idolatry, and are stretched out in loving welcome to embrace me.

Apart from Him, there is no god.

 

If this is a topic that has struck a chord with you, and you want to think further about it, then I recommend reading No Other Gods by Kelly Minter.

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Vicky

Vicky

Vicky became a Christian at 17 after her A Level Biology teacher told the class about Jesus. At university she learnt a lot about the Bible, for which she is very grateful, but in recent years the Lord has really captured her heart. She lives and works in Cambridge as a university admissions officer. She loves making music, watching movies and spending time with friends and family

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