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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Transformation

So apparently, the whole process of creating a blog vision and executing it takes longer than I thought, but I wanted to write and update you guys on my life, what God's been teaching me, and just be a little bit more casual on here.

The vision for the other blog is very much still being developed, I want to create an online resource for Christians struggling with acne, and other issues, and I want to create a place where I can share what God's been teaching me, just teach in general, summarize sermons I've heard at church, post sermons I've heard on youtube, and in general just create a place where people are simultaneously challenged, encouraged, and feel loved and at home. That's the big vision.

The problem is pulling it all together, creating it, and making it not all about image and good graphics and pictures. If this blog is going to be a thing, and going to be a part of my ministry, I want it to be led by God completely, and orchestrated and held in place by Him and FOR HIS GLORY, because if it's done in my own strength and for my glory, then it's all just in vain.
So I have been, a bit, but will be praying more how the blog should be created/designed, and how I should organize it, because I'm not sure how to connect the acne portion, to the christian resource portion, or if that should be a completely separate site. We shall see, and thanks for bearing with me throughout this process!

Now on to my life, what's been happening lately? Turns out, quite a lot!
August and September have been very full for me, I moved back into my parents house, and have a nice little nook here, started my senior year of college, joined the leadership team at BCM, and got a new job. It's taken some adjusting, but I felt throughout the summer that God was leading me to a new season in the fall, and that He definitely was, and although of course, there are some hard patches, God's been awesome at guiding the process and equipping me and blessing me in so many ways.

As I keep telling you about my life has been, I'm going to have to take a moment to brag on God, because He has been so amazing, answering prayers left and right, provision after provision, He's been growing me so much lately!
Before school even started, He called me to a week of prayer for the semester, for me, for the things He's going to do, and in the middle of it, He convicted me about evangelism, and actually gave me the boldness to evangelize to someone (PRAISE GOD!!), and He's just been doing so much in my life that I am just overflowing with thankfulness. 

And I'm not joking or over exaggerating when I say there has been SO much change and transformation, both in the past few weeks, and throughout this past year.  
Tomorrow and all of this weekend I'm going to the annual BCM beach retreat, that happens every fall semester in September, and I was just remembered how God used the Beach Retreat to connect me with Him again last semester, and how things were last semester and how different things are now because of Him.

I'll be going on my college ministry's beach retreat tomorrow, and thinking back to last year's beach retreat I remember how lost, confused, in pain, insecure, and alone I felt. I had just been through an incredibly painful time in my life, and was still limping emotionally, mentally, and physically like a wounded animal, I was insecure about my acne, and was unsure about anything having to do with God. I wanted answers, I wanted to feel closeness to Him, I wanted to know why I had to go through all that pain, and I wanted things to get better.
And You know what? God heard me, and He answered my prayers. He met me during that trip, especially during the special time we have with God alone, on the beach, where I got to cry, and yell at Him, and ask Him why He let me go through all that, and then let Him come to me and comfort me. To understand that His love for me was like the waves hitting the shores, over and over again, never stopping, an eternal motion. That He had a plan for me, and He loved me. 
He met me after that trip and continued to meet me throughout this entire year, and He's changed and taught me so much.
Sometimes I complain and cry about my life now, and wish things were better, but I shouldn't, not only because complaining is a sin, but also, when I look back and remember all He has done, and look back at the pictures and the journal entries I wrote, and everything He's done in my life, and repairing my relationship with Him, and growing me and disciplining me, and training me vigorously in godliness and holiness, showing me that He died for me and He loves me--that He is the Lord of everything and to be respected, feared and obeyed--I can only be overwhelmingly thankful. (A gigantic run-on sentence, I know. Bear with me friends, it's late, and I'm hungry!)

Now, fall is officially here, even though it still feels like the end of summer here, and God's been teaching me to die to myself and live for Him and for others, to pour myself out as a drink offering, and put my focus on loving, reaching out to, ministering to, evangelizing to, and encouraging others. 
So often I can be so self focused, and only think about my relationships with others in terms of what they are and aren't providing for me, but God's been reminding me and teaching me, and it's been AWESOME to see what He's been doing. 

And He's been blessing me all the way through it, through friends who call me in the middle of the night to help me with a speech when I posted online I was having trouble with it, to a hike in the woods where the beauty of the Florida woods just hits and warms my heart, He's constantly reminding me what a good God He is. 
And if you can believe it, I haven't even told you the half of what all He's been doing in my life! Hopefully those will be later posts :)

Be praying for me, and my walk, the blog vision, development, and execution/my ministry, and for the Beach Retreat this weekend, that I would yield myself and pour myself out to serve and love others, and that God would touch and speak to many hearts and lives this weekend--including mine!
I'll leave you with this passage: 

1 Corinthians 15:58


58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
I love you all, and will be writing soon!
--Ariana

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Called: To Seek and Obey

Hey all,
I just wanted to give you all a quick update on some things I've been thinking about, as well as making some declarative statements to myself about the future and what it holds. 
I think what's been happening is that I have so much to do, and so much looming before me, that I have yielded over and over again to the temptation to just not to do anything/.
I need to be creating the new blog, I need to be working on things for my services marketing class, I need to researching apartments and filling out job applications, I need to buy a new laptop, but what do I do?
I go to school or go to work, come home, eat, and then just veg, Watch YouTube videos for hours, scroll around on Pinterest, research things that aren't of any real importance. 
I don't know why my response to the conviction to do important things is just to slink into my old habits, and I've been noticing so much backsliding in myself that it's been driving me crazy.
Not only procrastination and putting off the things of God, but also the temptation to be vain and to be too focused on my looks is always there, whether its in a positive or a negative way. It could look like me researching what to do cure perpetually dry hair, checking out my dark circles in the mirror, or taking a selfie and thinking I look cute, I feel that old pendulum trying to swing back and forth inside of me and it's driving me crazy. 
Everything inside me longs to pour myself out to God and to others as a drink offering, a sacrifice of praise and service, yet the old flesh keeps rising up, telling me I can make it on my own, I should focus on myself, I deserve a few minutes of checking social media, my life is so hard, I deserve to complain and vent a little, that sins aren't such a big deal. 
That flesh, I want it dead, crucified, burned into a harmless pile of ashes, never again to bother me, to try to get me off track. 
I so often forget I'm living in a spiritual battle, that if my intention is to serve God and bring Him glory and tell others about Him, satan will never stop trying to get me off track or render me ineffective. 
Throughout this past year, I've noticed one of the biggest traps satan uses to keep me out of the game, to get me off track is just me. To keep me focused on me. To keep me looking in every mirror, trying to create the perfect wardrobe, messing with my hair, trying to perfect my skin, thinking about how others seeing me, trying to nourish and cultivate ME ME ME ME ME. 
First it was deep rooted insecurity and trying to become society's definition of perfection, and fighting against myself and the world tooth and claw to get there, the obvious kind of self absorption, then came the more hippie kind, where I "needed" to spend a ton of time listening to music, taking mysteriously cryptic photos of myself, properly "nourishing" my soul, and amassing a hipster wardrobe kind of self absorption that feeds on the philosophy, "You can't love others until you properly love yourself!" 
Then the year that appears in my memory to be swathed in darkness and shadows happened, and I don't really know what was happening inside of me then. I was in very many ways, just struggling to survive, trying to resurrect myself, convince myself without much success that my body and my mind and my heart weren't all just done. 
Jesus has done a lot of work since then, taking me at my word when I asked Him long ago to refine me in His fire and burn away my dross. I don't know why things happened the way they did, but they happened, and He has taught me a lot from it, things I don't ever want to forget. 
I want to have them tattooed on my arm, my forehead, anything to keep me from forgetting, backsliding, wasting what He brought me through, misusing the time He gave me. 
That's why I can't give the trap of me, and all the other distractions satan waves in front of my face on a daily basis keep me from every day going into God's presence and chasing after what He wants me to do. 

This isn't my photo, I got it from Pinterest, link here but the urgency of that verse, and the context of the story really stands out to me as I think about my own life and all the things I need to do, but don't do. This verse is a quote from the book of Esther in the Bible, when Esther, an unlikely queen of hidden Jewish heritage, is put in a position where her people, the Israelite's, are in danger of being wiped out. The quote above was spoken from Mordecai, Esther's uncle, to urge her to speak to her husband, King Xerxes, about saving the Israelites. In the end, his words and God's conviction led Esther to fast and pray, and then obey, ultimately playing a role in saving the nation of Israel from slaughter. 
Her story must have not made sense to her while it was happening, but God knew what He was doing when He placed her in King Xerxes' court, He had her there for a reason, He gave her a purpose, she just needed to seek guidance, than obey.
In a way, I am no different. No, I'm not a Jewish maiden so beautiful I was chosen to be queen, and I'll probably never do anything quite so dramatic as save an entire nation from slaughter, but God knows what He's doing in my life too.
He's given me purpose, He has things He wants me to accomplish in my life, He has a purpose for the little clay pot that is me. 
My role, like her's, like anyone who follows Christ, is to seek guidance and instruction, then obey. 
It's comforting and convicting. 
I know the first step is to connect with Him, which lately, has been harder than usual. 
I often feel like I can sort of understand what God wants me to do, and what direction to go in, but as far as Him, and how to connect with Him?
To me that's far more of a mystery, but of course that doesn't mean I shouldn't try. 



One of God's many promises is that when we call on His name and earnestly seek after Him, He will reveal Himself to us, so I guess I just need to rest in that promise, and try.

That's only a part of what's been on my mind lately, more will come later, as the pieces come together and I ask God for guidance and things get figured out. 
For now the plan is still to create another blog, as intimidating as that is, and to have a couple of main threads running on there, with the goal of sharing what God is teaching me, has taught me in the past. To give a more specific glimpse into into what I plan on writing about, a longtime goal of mine has been to create an online resource specifically for Christians who suffer from acne, to be a support and try to answer some of the questions I always had. I remember when my acne was beyond horrible, several times, trying to find a place online for Christians going through the same thing I was, trying to handle it all in a godly way but not knowing how, and just not knowing what to do and needing support, and not finding a single resource online that was helpful. That's what I want to be on my new blog, among many other things.
I also just really want to share the different things God is teaching me and putting on my heart, it seems like every time I read a scripture or hear a sermon, I just want to share and teach about it, as best I can, and SHARE how awesome God and His word and knowledge is! 
This is all just the rough draft forming in my mind, nobody take it as gospel fact, as I will be praying about it and asking for guidance, but if it is God's will, I'm hoping to get the new blog up in a month. 
Along with ALL of the other important things I need to get done.
Pray for me guys, it's a lot, and sometimes I feel like I have so much going on I'm coming undone, but then I need to remind myself--HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT. 
I love you all, comment if you want to chat, or need prayer, or just want to comment on something I've said, I love reading them and replying, I honestly, honestly do. 
Many blessings,
Ariana 




Friday, March 20, 2015

He Makes All Things New

I promised I would be sharing more often, and here I am, and my goal is to share some of the things that have been going on in my heart and mind, to be vulnerable, helpful, and encouraging, and to bring a voice into the silence that this blog inhabits so often.
First of all, let me say that I have been struggling with a huge amount of fear/writer's block when it has come to this blog lately. I would sit in front of my computer and think "Okay Ari, you made a commitment to write more often, God is doing stuff in your life, you have stuff in your head that you could write about--so write!" But more often I would get no more than a paragraph in before giving in to my doubts and fears.
But, letting fear boss me around isn't a good norm for me or anyone to be in, so I decided that today, I would share. 
So what's been going on with me?
It's the middle of last semester as a Junior at UWF, so I've been trying (mostly) to do my best and head into my senior year well, having done my best and worked against this beast of procrastination in my life. So far it's been going pretty well, I've had some slip-ups and a disappointing test grade, but I have to remind myself that that's just further motivation to do my best to bring GOD glory through this semester.
And that leads to the what has been defining this time in my life, and what should be defining all of my life, who I am and what I do, which is seeking after God, meditating in His word, and actually doing what He tells me to do, and orienting my whole life around bringing Him glory. 
In late February God made the way for me to go to a weekend conference with my college ministry, and there, along with conviction of give up social media, had led to deeper and deeper conviction that God needs to be at the center of my life, and for that to be something I actually live instead of just say. 
To read the Word, to live every moment asking myself, "Is this action, this word, this thought, this motive glorifying to God? Am I bringing HIM glory and honor and recognition through my life?"
One of the worst habits I have gotten into is to have an attitude of a combination between self pity and a wrong view of God. Too often I catch myself thinking, "Why am I here? Why did you make me? Why me? Why am I like this? Who are you, God? Can you really be good, and how can you be good if my life doesn't turn out the way I want it to? "
I marginalize God and think of Him as little and weak, unable or unwilling to solve my problems, and more than that I put my own dreams, plans, and comfort above God's glory. First of all--my life is not as bad as I  often think it is, as I drag my mind once more through a slog of self pity, Jesus has blessed me in so many ways, so not only am I guilty of accusing God, I am guilty of not being thankful for what He has given me.
Sure some things may not be the way I want them to be, and I'm confused about some things, but I have a pretty healthy, functioning body, I have two parents that love me and support me, and so often go out of their way for me, not only to help me increase my walk with Christ, but also just to help me in general, I have been given so many opportunities throughout my life, I have a car, I have two jobs, I was able to move out and now I'm in a little apartment, albeit with it's faults, but with a low rent, quiet neighbors, and surrounded by trees. 
That is so much to be thankful for me, and that most of that stuff doesn't even matter eternally. 
Once more I find myself to be foolish, rebellious, self indulgent and self pitying, forgetting who God is, what He can do, and what He has already done. 
The fact that He has done many things in my life is pretty awesome, but that shouldn't be why I worship Him, why I seek after Him, why I read the word or pray. I should be doing all those things because He Is who He Is. He is the God that has always existed and will always exist, who created everything and creating new things every day, who has the power to forgive our sins, to change and renew our lives, and loves us despite the fact that our best attempt at a good deed is at best a filth-covered rag. He Is Holy, He Is Good, He Is Love, He Is Just, He Is Faithful--He is the very definition of those words and the only reason we can have any kind of a concept of those attributes is because He exists.  
I keep just seeing the faults in the present, keep looking to future wondering how it's going to turn out, when I should be looking up, to Him, and looking for, expecting, glorifying Him in my life. 
To be honest, I'm not sure exactly what that process completely looks like yet, but I'm trusting my Heavenly Dad to show me. 
I will be the first person to tell you I DO NOT have this life/Christianity stuff figured out. In a lot of ways, I'm kind of a mess, but I'm God's mess and I know He can figure it all out. 
I would ask you all to pray for me, there is a lot about me that still needs to change, a lot that confuses me, a lot I'm not sure, and terrified of being wrong about. 
And just know, that if you ever have something you're going through, if something I write about resonates  with you, or if you're just going through a tough time, leave me a comment and I promise I will lift you up in prayer, and if the Lord gives me the words to say, try to help or encourage you in any way I can. 
Thank you all for reading and for bearing with me through all these times, I know I haven't been the most consistent blogger, but God's working on me. 
I love you all, and I promise, God loves you so much more!
Ariana 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Uncovered: Into the Light

On this blog, I usually like to project positivity. Not to be fake, and not to pretend like I don't struggle, but to write encouraging material that will lift someone up instead of bring them down,  and because I believe that in the Christian life, one should be an optimist, and retain and project hope to others.
However, that combined with many other factors led to me only having three posts in the year 2014. The lack of posting is not connected to a lack of writing, I have about six posts sitting in my drafts section, some finished, some unfinished, all unpublished, and I couldn't really tell you why other than I didn't feel 100% about posting them.
However, lately, I've been writing all the time, journalling in almost all of my free time, trying to make sense of everything that is going on in my heart, head, and faith and I still can't seem to make heads or tails of it all, yet I still feel this pull on my heart to share it all with others, with you. I often refrained from posting my struggles because I didn't want to cause anyone else to feel burdened or to struggle, and I didn't want to show my weakness and inability on a blog where I'm supposed to be helping and encouraging others.
However, it's almost six in the morning, and I've been up since three. Yesterday evening I felt so restless and confused, unsettled and trapped, that I did as I sometimes do, get in my car, in the middle of the night, and just talk and cry so hard I can barely see the road, and drive, drive out to the middle of nowhere and park, and talk and cry and pray and try to make sense of everything. My head is so full of thoughts, questions and doubts that don't seem to go away, and sometimes the enemy attacks me so hard that I don't know how to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Even as I write this, I am full of doubts as to whether or not I should post this, because as I express my struggles and my doubts, I am reminded of truth, that I should be hopeful, plus I don't want to be one of those people that writes about their struggles so others will feel sorry for them or take notice. I'm also worried that through writing out my doubts and expressing them, they'll be even harder to get rid of.
Not that it's all bad, my spiritual, emotional, and even physical state has improved a lot since this time last year, and some days I am okay, even good, even happy, and its easier to be positive and think hopefully.
But other days are a lot like today, where everything about my faith is so confusing, and I'm carrying around so much baggage and hurt that I won't let myself let go of because I don't want to be hurt again, and just the physical act of writing it out and sharing it with you guys not only reminds me of the truth, but is also just cathartic in general. Plus even though I'm a blogger, and I want to be helpful and encouraging to you, and, Lord willing, be a conduit of God's spirit and truth, I also want to be real with you guys, because there's so much going on behind the scenes that you guys don't see.
And I've been struggling so much, guys.
With my relationship with God, wondering if I can even know Him, whether or not what I hear in my head is really from Him, what on earth is He doing with my life, why this year happened the way it did, how I'll ever be able to have the same relationship with Him like I did before.
In my personal life, feeling an inability to be close to people, often feeling invisible and unwanted, despite how much I know those feelings aren't true, that I am loved by many people, the enemy really targets me in that area.
Feeling too broken to be repaired, despite the fact that I know God can make all things new.
With the fear that tries to bind me in on every side, of being hurt, of hurting others, of being duped, of doing something wrong, going down the wrong path, not walking in my calling, of not ever recovering, of being depressed forever.
With a heaviness, sadness, and loneliness that so rarely leaves.
With feeling confused by the various ways of living the Christian life, how can I ever know the truth if everyone has a different way of interpreting things? I don't want to be just content with my own interpretations and what "works" for me, I want to know and follow the truth.
With my inability to rest or feel at peace, because I'm afraid to give everything to God again.

As you guys can see, I'm a mess. But I really feel like a part of my calling is communication, and even though I've barely posted at all this year, and what I'm posting right now certainly isn't a masterpiece, I don't want to hide this from you guys, and I want to work through it, while being an encouragement to you guys. Maybe someone else is struggling with some of the same  things I am, and maybe it would help them to know they aren't alone. Regardless, I'm sharing this with you guys, letting you in on my life and journey, because I value you guys, and I feel it will help both others and me.
I love you guys, those who still read me, even after a sparse year like this one, Thank you, that really means a lot to me, and I pray that as I share myself with you guys that God will not only be working in my life, healing and growing me, but also will be working in your lives as well.
I can't, we can't give up because He IS.
I know this is a rambling, somewhat confusing post, bear in mind that I've had around three to four hours of sleep, but though it may be poorly written and confusing, this post is being published because I'm tired of being silent, and I pray that God makes these words I tiredly type out into something that may bring Him even a little glory.
This is me right now guys.
Sorry it took me so long to show you.
Ari