Wednesday, June 10, 2015

30 and Never Been Kissed

The concept of "radical" celibacy is something that Hollywood is both fascinated by and eager to take a jab at. We have shows like 19 Kids and Counting and The Virgin Diaries that esteem courtship and not kissing until the wedding day as the highest of honors and greatest of accomplishments. Then we have movies like Never Been Kissed and The 40 Year Old Virgin... The answer for those is to, "stop being a dork, get laid, and you're happy!" It's a less than fulfilling message, and at best, slightly entertaining.

All cards on the table. I am that dork.

I reached 30 last year and realized I made it through two full decades with no love for these lips; and not entirely by my choosing. That stirs up a myriad of emotions; primarily being curiosity and awe at the Lord's purpose and plan for my life.

At a young age, the Lord gave me a heart for purity and a unique perspective of love, sex, and romance. Second to God's grace, a lot of that has to do with the truths my parents instilled in me. But, at the end of the day, a kid can choose to listen to authority or run from it. Something very deep in me (in hindsight, I see as the working of the Holy Spirit), yearned to heed the voice of the Lord and follow the path of obedience in the realm of sexuality. Even at a young age, I knew that His way was best. I wanted that.

I made a commitment to Him at the young, tender age of 13. I committed to guard my purity (of mind, body, and heart), to withhold from indulging in my fleshly appetites until marriage, and to view sex as a gift to be opened in His timing. That day I shut that door, locked it, gave the key to the Lord, and begged that He would protect me and preserve me- and in His timing- give that key to my husband. Over the past 17 years the Lord has, by His grace, preserved me and given me the strength to stand by that promise. (sometimes barely making it, other times only obeying out of legalism, and still other times kicking and screaming and pouting- praise God that HE sustains me, not myself)

Having worked with youth for 12 years, this is a popular topic. I've written and taught Bible Studies on purity, I've shared my story with hundreds of students, I've wept alongside girls who struggled deeply with shame, I've met with parents who didn't know how to ask their daughter if she had an STD, I've ministered to girls who felt overlooked and unlovely,  I've counseled girls who had pregnancy scares... As I've entered into these spaces, I've been given really awesome opportunities to share truth and proclaim Christ. We live in a culture where an unbiblical view of sexuality screams so much louder than the view that God has graciously given us in the Scriptures. It is so easy to get wrapped up into that, and forget the beauty of what we're called to. Here are 10 little tidbits (of so so many) that I've gotten to share along the way. I hope this is a bit helpful and encouraging!

  1. Sex IS a gift
    - I won't harp on this, because we've all heard it. God created it- not just for procreation, but for pleasure. He created it for the purpose of being enjoyed in marriage. He doesn't give rules and regulations because He's some killjoy, but because He knows that's best. He created us and thought up sex after all. He knows where it works best. He knows where true enjoyment of it is found.

  2. Purity is so much more than withholding from the physical act of sex
    - You can be a virgin until the day you die at 70 years old, but that doesn't make you pure. Purity starts in the heart and mind. Multiple times in the New Testament Jesus refers to the 7th commandment (You shall not commit adultery) as including looking at a man or woman in lust. Purity begins in the heart, goes to the mind, continues to your eyes, and makes its way through your entire physical body. Fantasizing, day-dreaming, staring, pornography, self-pleasure, etc... are all forms of sexual immorality. When people hear just the tip of my story, they'll often say, "you are just SO pure- it's awesome!"- and I'm quick to say, "you don't know what my heart is prone to and you don't see into my mind." But Christ does. And it's wicked and depraved when left to itself. Praise be to God that His blood covers my sin.
    - He's not interested in our perfect, righteous actions. He's interested in our hearts- He's interested in our hearts being wholly submitted to Him, loving Him, following Him. When we do submit to Him and follow Him, we are called to obey Him. We are called to pursue holiness and Christ-likeness. That's where a true, deep, real purity comes in.

  3. It is not old-fashioned to abstain from certain physical affection
    - Being in high school, choosing not to date, and being the only one of my friends who had never been kissed; you can imagine the jokes directed to me. (even being home-schooled/ shout out!) That didn't surprise me. You expect that in high school. What did surprise me was going to a Christian college, then graduating, and being mocked for my convictions. I struggled quite a bit with that. All around me were friends making out with random guys, "going too far" on first dates, and giving their virginity away because their boyfriend professed his love.  I remember being 20/21 years old and just feeling crushed and confused. I was given the name, "Second Virgin Mary" by several people- I took it in stride, but it made me question a lot.
    - "Is this too far fetched?"- "Are these convictions crazy?" - "Is it worth being so different that even Christians are mocking me?"- "Do I love You enough, Lord, to pursue this?" - "Are you really better and is Your way really best?" - "Am I doing this because I love you or because I want recognition?" - "What's the point?"
    - Heeding the Holy Spirit's convictions and walking in purity is not ridiculous or old-fashioned. It's obedient.

  4. On the flip side, abstaining from certain physical affection doesn't make you better
    - Enough said. I wasn't awesome. I'm not awesome. And neither are you. GOD is faithful and gracious and good. It's HIS grace (given to both the self-righteous older brother and debaucherous younger brother) that makes you better. That makes you clean. That makes you whole.

  5. You don't pursue purity so your spouse will appreciate you more. You pursue purity because God is a loving Father, and He told you to. It's to the praise of His glorious grace
    - For so many years, I failed here. I held tightly to my purity because I wanted my husband to love and appreciate me more. The older I got, the more it became about him, not the Lord. I envisioned this perfect marriage because I was willing to say no all those years of hormonal cravings. I had an incredibly misplaced desire that further revealed the wickedness and idolatry in my own heart.
    - Pursue purity because you are His. If you profess faith in Christ, you are God's son or daughter. You were purchased by the blood of Jesus. You were bought with the price of His life. Therefore...honor Him with your body. Your body is, first and foremost, the Lord's, to be handled and used in a way that is honoring and glorifying to Him. You pursue sexual purity because you are presenting yourself to Him. A secondary (and temporary) gift is that of one to your (future) spouse. They are not primary. Christ is.

  6.  You can choose to say no to your flesh and yes to the Lord
    - It is possible, and I'm proof of that.
    - Can you believe I was foolish enough at a certain time in my life that I literally prayed, "God, can I just be like everyone else? Can I just not care and sleep with guys and then experience Your grace and share it with others?" He was patient and gracious to say no to that prayer. He had other ideas in mind for me. Every time I was in a position that would compromise my purity, I made the conscious choice to obey Him, regardless of how difficult it was.
    - With maturity came the increasing desire to obey the Lord. I held on tightly to promises in Scripture that proved He was for me and His strength and grace was sufficient. Check out 1 Corinthians 10:13, Hebrews 4:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-13, Ephesians 5:1-21.
    - I could teach an hour long Bible study on this, but knowing and studying Scripture is key to walking in obedience and holiness. The Word is your sword. It's how you fight battle. Be prepared and ready for battle. You cannot approach sexual purity with laziness or apathy. You have to be willing to fight and fight with ferocity.

  7. Pursuing purity is exhausting and at times, really really difficult
    - I've said this for years, and I'll say it now; I think sexual immorality is one of the enemy's favorite playgrounds. He loves taking ownership of it and whispering lies to you and I about what sex is and isn't; how important immediate gratification is and isn't, etc...
    - Saying no to sex is like fasting from food. If you've ever fasted, you know that after the second skipped meal, your tummy is pretty much a constant rumble. You can already taste the meal that's going to happen. Try fasting for 30 years. I have willingly chosen to say no to physical yearnings that are not inherently sinful; and are, in fact, given by the Lord. That can be a pretty hard pill to swallow at times. If He created me as a sexual being, why isn't He giving me an outlet to live that out?
    - Some days are a lot harder than others. It's really challenging when you're young and your body is doing all sorts of crazy things. Remember that it's God who created you. He knows. And He wouldn't call you to something that is impossible. Trust Him in that.
    - So yes, it's hard. But...

  8. Pursuing purity is incredibly rewarding
    - ...It's so good.
    - 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that the more you behold the Lord, the more you are transformed into His likeness. As I've pursued the Lord as His daughter the past 21 years, I've continually been redeemed, sanctified, and transformed into His likeness. And I will continue to be until the day that I stand face to face with Him. It's in the difficulties, the struggles, the frustrations that I've come face to face with who God is- and I've been given glimpses of His incredible glory. I've seen Him pursue me and give me strength and grace I didn't know was possible. And it's Him and His strength that has shone in my weakness.

    Nothing makes God look as beautiful as when we, who have tasted his goodness, would use our lives to testify that we will forego any momentary joy in order to taste more of Him.
    Fabienne Harford

  9. You are NEVER outside the reach of His grace
    - Statistically, 1 in every 3 teenagers has lost their virginity by the age of 17. That number just increases with age. So, chances are high that you are one of those. But He gives more grace. As you read and study Scripture, you'll see that you - and I- are in good company. Some of the greatest and godliest men and women in Scripture struggled, and royally failed, when it came to walking in obedience to the Lord in this regard. But His grace is sufficient. The atoning work of Christ on the cross was for your sin and my sin. You are not, ever, outside of His reach.
    - In studying Scripture, you see the Lord's heart for women who were stuck in sexual sin. He welcomes the prostitute, the adulterous, the wayward. And what does He say: "Come to Me..." He says, "I don't condemn you, go and sin no more." The kindness of the Lord leads you to repentance, and it's His gentleness, love, and grace that will redeem you.

    Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
    Isaiah 1:18

  10. All of this is meant to point to something greater
    - CS Lewis says, "When no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."
    - If you are in Christ, your greatest purpose in life isn't sexual fulfillment or marriage or love. It's to know Him and love Him. Those of you who are married, you know that your marriage is meant to be a shadow of Christ's love for us. Those of us who are still waiting, our waiting is meant to be a shadow of our waiting for the ultimate marriage feast.

If you are like me, never been kissed and dateless every Friday night...
There is no shame.
You are His.
If you've given your kisses away and sit in the regret of past mistakes...
There is no shame.
You are His.

Jesus is our Redeemer. He grants grace in the moment. He purifies, redeems, forgives, atones for, cleans, makes new. He is worthy. He is good.

103 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;[a]
    he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children's children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Summer 2015!

Hello friends!

I know that many of you have kept up with my travels and the various trips I have the joy of leading with my job. I wanted to give an overview of my 2015 summer trip season! At the end of June, I will be mailing out newsletters of my June trips; and at the beginning of August, I will be mailing out newsletters of my July trips. If you would like to be added to my newsletter, please let me know! In the meantime, enjoy!

Ecuador: June 11-17
  • Our team is leaving this Thursday morning. We are going with a group of 22 from The Village Church Flower Mound highschool group. There are graduating seniors on this trip that I've known since they were in 5th or 6th grade. It's a huge joy for me to be able to co-lead this trip and watch those students share the love of Christ. Since going to Ecuador in March, I have kept in close touch with many sweet friends I met there. I truly cannot wait to hug them and catch up, face to face! Technology is a blessing when there's a country divide, but nothing beats human to human contact. I am so looking forward to it!
  • Please be in prayer for us over the next week. Pray the Lord would receive all the glory. Pray He would save men and women, boys and girls. Pray these students would be bold in proclaiming His hope and walk in obedience to the call He's placed on them to be His representatives to the lost. Pray for those on NEXT staff (Ron, Jake, myself, and one of our interns, Eli). Thank you so much!

Costa Rica: June 20-26
  • I have a quick turn around between these two trips. Pray I will rest well, get lots of sleep, and be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ready to hit the ground running quickly after!
  • This trip we are taking 30 from the Stonebriar Community Church youth choir, 10 from Faith Christian School, and 3 staff from Golf Fellowship. I'm so excited about the groups going and seeing how the Lord meshes us together to be voices of His truth. Pray, first and foremost, for God to be glorified! Pray for salvation for Costa Ricans, for bold testimonies for our students, and for rest and strength for NEXT Staff (Wes, Shawn, myself, and one of our interns, Hanna).

Romania: July 6-15
  • Just as with Ecuador, I can't wait to see my sweet friends from Romania that I met on my trip last May. It's been over a year, and I couldn't be more excited to see them!  I'm so happy because I've been given a break out of our schedule to spend time with a young woman I got to share Jesus with last May. I get to meet her family, continue sharing the love of Christ with her, and just be able to talk, face to face. She will also be joining our team on the field, which is such an awesome opportunity.
  • This trip will be made up of 13 from FBC N. Augusta, SC, 7 individuals from the Dallas area, and our staff (Wes, Jenn, myself, and one of our interns, Hanna). Pray as you pray for other trips- for God's glory and renown, for the Lord to break through the darkness with His marvelous light! Pray for rest for participants also- this is a trip with long flights and long days. Pray for the strength of the Lord to persevere!

Kenya: July 20-30
  • I love that my summer is ending on this trip. I've always dreamed of going to Africa; and going as a voice of the gospel of truth. We will be working with an unreached people group who are primarily Muslim. Pray even now against the workers of darkness. Pray for dreams and visions from the Lord to come to these men and women, so that when we share with them, there is fertile soil! Pray the Lord would do a mighty work on the coast of Kenya!
  • This trip is made up of 13 college/adult participants all over Texas (the majority in the DFW area), and NEXT Staff (Ron, myself, and one of our interns, Eli). I have friends on this trip myself, so I cannot wait to spend the week ministering alongside them. Pray God would be glorified mightily! And just like with Romania, pray for rest with long flights, crazy travel days, and exhausting schedules! Pray He would mightily use us!

We fly back from Kenya the early evening of the 30th, and I go home and I catch a 6am flight the next morning to be in a dear friends' wedding in Georgia. Please pray against sickness for me. When I'm exhausted, my body breaks down. I want to fully enjoy that weekend of celebrating their love and standing up to support my friend, without the distractions of sickness or weariness. Pray I'm able to tap into the inner child and have a crazy amount of fun, affection, energy :)

Thank you, everyone, for your love, care, support, encouragement, and prayers on my behalf. I know that you are not only praying for me, but are praying for the hundreds we will be sharing Jesus with this summer. Your prayers are being used by the Lord- and not one of them is wasted. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I'm truly humbled to minister alongside you and grateful for the various roles you've each played, and continue to play, in my life.

Have a joy-filled summer! If you have any specific prayer needs throughout the summer, please reach out. I'll have spotty WiFi in each location, but will be able to check in occasionally! Please know that I love you!

I have been crucified with Christ. It is not longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:7-10