What the Fruit? The Fruits of the Spirit – Part 6

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

-Galatians 5:22-23 NLT


If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably know that I’ve been slowly working my way through the Bible verse above, sharing my thoughts on the fruits of the spirit and what it means to live a fruitful life with God. And if you read my last post, then you also know that I’m pregnant (talk about bearing fruit… hehe). You may or may not know that one of the most common symptoms of pregnancy in the first trimester is fatigue. Well, I may not feel pregnant in any other way, but I’ve definitely been experiencing this symptom. So if you ever start to wonder if I’ve fallen off the face of the planet, don’t worry. I’m probably just too busy lying on the couch in my pajamas to write a blog post.

For the moment, however, I am here and ready to write. So let’s get down to business… in this post, I’m writing about the fifth and sixth fruits of the spirit, kindness and goodness.

These two virtues are so simple, in my opinion. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that being kind and good are, well, good things to aspire to. Even many people who aren’t Christians believe that kindness is the key to a better planet. If we’re honest, we might even say that people who aren’t Christians often appear to be better at being kind to others than Christians are. Maybe it’s just a minority of Christians who give the rest of us a bad reputation by being judgmental, self-righteous, and unloving. But either way, I have grown uncomfortably familiar with the seemingly popular negative perception of Christians. Is it just me, or does anybody else feel that it’s ironic (not to mention twisted) that people who claim to follow Christ are often thought of as harsh and unwelcoming? We should be known for our unconditional, God-like love for others above all else. So where did things go wrong? Why does Christianity have such a negative connotation for many people?

If you ask me, it happened because some Christians, both past and present, forgot to love. Or, even simpler than that, they forgot to be kind. They forgot that every single person on this planet is cherished by God. It doesn’t matter what a person has done or how they live, God still loves them beyond reason. And even though many people reject him over and over again for their entire lives, Jesus would still willingly and gladly die for them. He just loves them so much. Now I understand why it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to love every single person that we come into contact with. But even if we fail to love them, we can still always choose to be kind. Treating every person with dignity and kindness should not be negotiable for those of us who use Jesus’ name to identify ourselves.

Of course, we can neither love others nor live in kindness towards them every day without help. We are human, and we are weak. My kindness can often dissipate in the blink of an eye for any number of reasons; perhaps I’m hungry, or hormonal, or in some cases, perhaps I’ve actually been wronged in some way. But God doesn’t want us to be kind only when we feel like it, or when the other person deserves it. He wants us to be kind always! Since that doesn’t seem to be possible (at least for me), I am relieved to know that I don’t have to struggle to do it on my own. Kindness is a fruit of the spirit, meaning that the Holy Spirit (God’s “agent” on Earth) produces this characteristic in us when we keep our hearts and minds focused on God.

So why do so many Christians seem to struggle with this? Maybe it’s because they don’t keep their focus on God. They get distracted and lured away from God by the tempting things in this world. They decide to live as “Christians” by their own power, instead of by the power that Jesus feely gave. The result is that Christians are often more human-like than Christ-like. And it’s sad, because there is so much more available to us if we are just willing to reach out and grab it.

The same is true with goodness. The way I think of goodness is basically a deep desire to do what is right. People who are good are considerate of others, treat people well, and understand that there is a higher system of right and wrong than our own constantly changing opinions. Being good may be something that we naturally want to do, but it usually isn’t something that we naturally achieve on our own. At least for me, my humanity gets in the way. Instead of acting based on my morals and what I know is right, I act on my emotions and my impulses. And even though I consider myself to be a “good girl” based on the world’s standards, I know that based on God’s standards I have fallen short—very, very short.

That is why I need God. (Well, it’s one of many reasons.) I need the Holy Spirit to be the one guiding my actions each and every day. Without him, I am simply not good. Yet the last part of that sentence sounds so wrong to me, because I know that now, with Jesus, I am good. I am perfect and whole and overwhelmingly good in God’s eyes, because when he looks at me, he sees Jesus. Knowing that just makes me want to live up to the person that God has shown me I truly am. Jesus made me good, my Father sees me that way, and his Holy Spirit works in me every day to help me live it out. All I have to do is let go of my own attempts to control my life and let God take the wheel. Fortunately, he’s a much better driver than I am.


Excuse Me, I Have an Announcement to Make…

The time has come for me to tell you some big news. About a month ago, during the same week that God led us to our new home, Cory and I discovered that there was one more big change to be excited about. We are very happy to announce that in March 2014, we will have a new family member joining us. We’re pregnant!

When I first found out, I was shocked and amazed. It was the first month that we’d been trying to conceive, and to be successful on the first try is very fortunate! We definitely didn’t expect it that soon. But God clearly had a plan in mind for when we would have a baby. He put Cory into the perfect job, moved us to the perfect house, and started knitting together a baby for us all within six weeks. There’s really only one word to describe that kind of miraculous series of events; Godly. He is making all of the pieces fall into place, and all of the glory for that goes to Him! So I say it again… God is good. So, so good.

Today I am in my 8th week, which is still pretty early. We have a long wait ahead of us, but I’m excited to be on this journey! In just over 7 months we’ll be holding our precious baby. We’re both convinced that it’s a girl, but we won’t know for sure for another 8 weeks or so. We are definitely going to try to find out the gender as soon as we can!

For the most part, I’ve been having a very easy pregnancy. I have no morning sickness whatsoever (neither did my mom) and really no other unpleasant symptoms. I’ve been a little more tired and unmotivated to get things done, but other than that I feel fine. Last week, however, I did find myself in a scary situation. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that I’m experiencing a symptom that is definitely not normal. My midwife recommended an early ultrasound to investigate, which I went to on Thursday. The results were ambiguous; there wasn’t much to see, since it was so early in the pregnancy, but it didn’t look bad either. I scheduled another ultrasound for August 1st to get a better look. I will be in my 9th week of pregnancy at that point. We are praying to hear, or at least see, the heartbeat at that appointment. If we do, then the prognosis is very good for a healthy, full-term pregnancy!

Even though I was really scared at first, I have since come to a place of awesome peace. It took me a while to really believe it, but now I know that God truly does have his hand on our baby. He is protecting her (and me) from any and all harm. I know now that it doesn’t matter what it may look like on the outside. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” I am walking through a potentially scary time with complete faith in my Father. Even though my eyes may try to convince me that something is wrong, I know that all is well. Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Because I follow an amazing God, I have assurance that my baby is healthy and safe. My pregnancy is in His capable hands. Hallelujah to that!

This week, I’m still feeling excited about being an expectant mother, but I’m also eager to start seeing some changes related to pregnancy. Cory and I are both thrilled to be becoming parents, and we couldn’t be more ready. But as it turns out, being pregnant, at least in the beginning, isn’t as exciting as I thought it might be. I feel almost no different than I did before I was pregnant, and at times it just doesn’t feel real. Is there truly a person growing inside me? It can sometimes be hard to believe! I am very much looking forward to developing a baby bump, and just making “progress” through my pregnancy in general. For the rest of my first trimester, I will be posting updates whenever I have new information to share. In my second and third trimesters, I may try to post short weekly updates depending on how much I can find to write about. I’m excited to share this adventure with you, my readers!

Thanks for sharing in this exciting news with me, and as always, thanks for reading.

What the Fruit? The Fruits of the Spirit – Part 5

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

-Galatians 5:22-23 NLT


Having patience is not always easy. Obviously. I mean, who really wants to wait for things that they want right now? Nobody! But patience is one of the fruits of the spirit, meaning that when we walk with Jesus and follow God, his Holy Spirit develops this trait in us. So what’s the big deal about patience, and how are we supposed to get it?

Like all of the fruits of the spirit, developing patience is not something that we have to do by trying really hard. God doesn’t expect us to please him by being good through our own efforts. The reality is, we all kind of suck. If it was left up to us, we would never be able to be good enough for such a perfect and awesome God. But thankfully, it isn’t left up to us and we don’t have to (and never could) earn his love or grace. Jesus paid the price for us. Then, he gave us the Holy Spirit so that we could live our lives in a way that pleases God. The Holy Spirit is our helper; he helps us walk on the path that God wants us to walk on. The fruits of the spirit don’t come from us, they come from him!

So what does patience look like, and why does it matter so much to God? If you ask me, all of the fruits of the spirit are things that are not only pleasing to God, they are also good for us. Perhaps that’s one of the major reasons that they are pleasing to God, because he wants what’s best for us. Think about it—life is so much better when it is filled with love, joy, and peace. Patience is no different. When we aren’t anxious about anything, we are able to more fully enjoy what we have right now. Patience means that we are okay being where God wants us to be right now, because we know that it’s all part of his ultimately perfect plan for our lives.

Do you know what patience doesn’t mean? It doesn’t mean doing nothing, allowing ourselves to get stuck in stagnation, or waiting forever. When we are waiting for something that we really want, we should use that time of waiting to prepare ourselves and draw closer to God. Other times, what we really need isn’t patience, it’s faith. I believe from my own experience that sometimes when we feel stuck, God isn’t asking us to wait, he’s asking us to take a step in faith and go for it.

My pastor once taught us a simple truth based on 1 Corinthians 13:13, which says “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (NLT). He said that when it comes to living to the fullest that God has for us, faith, hope, and love are the keys. “Hope expects it, faith takes it, and love is the motivation,” he said. In other words, we expect to be blessed by God because we have hope, and we receive his blessings through believing that we will receive them—that’s faith.

Faith means even more than that, though. It doesn’t just mean that you believe you will receive great things from God eventually. It means you believe that you have already received what you’re asking for! Because ultimately, from God’s timeless perspective, you already have. Faith is when we thank God in advance for what he is going to do, or rather, for what he has done. Mark 11:24 says “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (NIV). When we ask in faith, we receive.

Love is the motivation for our faith and our hope. Understanding God’s love for us gives us perfect trust in him. We know that he loves us so much that he would never allow anything to happen to us that he won’t somehow use for the good. He loves us so much that we can surrender ourselves to his control over our lives. One way that we show our love for God is by trusting him completely.

When we are walking in faith, hope, and love, we often don’t need to wait very long for the things that we desire. And when our first and foremost desire is for God and his will, the Holy Spirit fills us with the patience that we need. When we seek his will, and pray for what we are asking in his timing, we will receive it at the best possible time. What a relief!

Of course, patience doesn’t just mean waiting for things. It also means that we are graceful in how we deal with others. We should remember that at times, we can all be extremely annoying. We all make mistakes, do stupid things, and act like bratty little snots. So when other people do the same things, wouldn’t it be wise of us to give them some grace? As difficult as it can be, we should focus on letting the Holy Spirit reign in our hearts and minds instead of acting on our own impulses. When I feel like cussing out that awful driver who just cut me off, I focus on the Holy Spirit and I am reminded how much God loves that person. When my husband’s incessant tapping on the desk is driving me crazy, I focus on the Holy Spirit and remember that God loves my husband, and so do I, and honestly, what’s the big deal about something so small in the grand scheme of things anyway? When that random lady at the grocery store is so undeservedly rude to me that I feel like ramming my cart into her ankles, I focus on the Holy Spirit and remember that he loves her, and she’s probably just having a bad day. You get the picture. Patience leads to peace, not only in our own lives, but in our interactions with others.

Patience given to us by the Holy Spirit is truly a gift from God. It allows us to enjoy our lives on a day-to-day basis, seeing the beauty in what we have now. We can also look ahead to the future and feel excited for what’s to come, because we know that something good is coming. We can have joy knowing that God’s timing is perfect, and we are where we are for a reason. Then, when the timing is right, all we have to do is ask, and God will bring us into that next great thing in our lives. How exciting is that?!

Jesus is in the House

Hello readers! I just wanted to share an update about our living situation. In my last post, I wrote that we were waiting to find out whether we were approved for a lease on a house that we really liked. Well thank Jesus, because we were approved on Monday and moved in on Saturday! It was a crazy week, but also very exciting. The house is perfect for us and we are thrilled to be living in it now. God is so good! He is doing a lot of amazing things in our lives right now, and honestly my biggest struggle at the moment is believing that he still wants to give me so much more. It sometimes seems impossible that all of this would fall into place at once, but for God I know this is just a drop in the bucket. He has so much that he wants to give his children. I hope that you can start grabbing ahold of that today. Jesus loves you and wants to fill your life with goodness! I know, because he’s doing it for me right now.