Guest Post: Maggie Yow

Like many freshmen at UNC Chapel Hill, I struggled to find a place on campus that I could truly feel like myself. Everything seemed so new and foreign to me. I had a new room, new church, new friends, new teachers, new classrooms, and a new town. Sometimes I just felt uprooted and then replanted. As I was finding my way around campus, I decided to explore “Coker Arboretum” while walking back from class. Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect or if it was even worth my time to go inside.

As I stepped into the arboretum for the first time, I was in awe at how many beautiful flowers, plants, and trees were so intricately placed to create an exquisite garden. Something about being in the arboretum triggered a greater intimacy with God in me. I think this was a combination of the artistry of the flowers, the charm of nature, and the essence of being still on a busy campus. As I spent more and more time in the arboretum, I found that this campus was the place the Lord had planted me for this season in my life.

The significant beauty of the arboretum reminds me of the quote by The Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales, “Bloom Where You Are Planted.”  As I found peace in the arboretum, I found peace within my own garden of life. As a Christian, it is important to unpack this concept of blooming where we are planted when we feel uprooted or planted in the wrong place. Finding contentment in our current place can be paralleled to the basics of good gardening.

1. Be Planted Deep

To be “planted” is to be placed somewhere intentionally. When planting flowers, the soil is fertilized, a hole is dug for the seed, then covered up with more soil. If the seed is not deep enough in the soil, it risks being washed away by the rain. Gardeners spend a lot of time strategically picking the perfect place for a garden, preparing optimal soil, and individually placing the seeds where they are supposed to go.

God is like our gardener. He prepares the soil, and then He intentionally plants us there. Whether we feel like we are planted in the right place or not, we are there for a purpose. At Passion 2018, Pastor Levi Lusko said, “Being planted can feel a lot like being buried.” When we are planted deep and feel buried underneath the weight of the soil, we must not forget that God is calling us here for our benefit. It reminds me of Psalm 42:7, “Deep calls to deep,” (NIV). This verse means that “our deep need calls out to the deep kindness of God’s love” (TPT).  We need Him to provide the fertile soil, and out of His kindness, He has buried us deep to protect us and optimize our growth.

“rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” Colossians 2:7 (NIV)

2. You Must Be Watered

Once seeds are planted, it takes water to help them grow. Flowers bloom into vibrant colors when the moisture is soaked up, thus a lack of hydration hinders their bloom. As believers, we must also be watered in order to bloom. Metaphorically, this water symbolizes suffering, but it also symbolizes a catalyst for growth in Him.

As I was scrolling through Pinterest one day, I saw the quote “I asked God to help me grow, and it started raining.” This reminded me of the story of Job in the Bible. Job withstood so much suffering that this rain came in the form of a hurricane. As bad thing after bad thing kept happening to Job, I’m sure he felt as though he was drowning in the flood of suffering. However, through the storms, Job came to a place of submission to God’s Holy Will. He not only lived through the rain storm, but he bloomed through it. God sends rain not to drown us, but to nourish us.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 16:33 (NIV) 

3. Get Plenty of Sunshine

My favorite days in the arboretum are the ones where the sun is shining bright and all the flowers seem to be facing up towards the sun, as they soak in every last drop until it sets. As Christians, God commands us to do the same. No matter where He has planted us, we must always be in the posture to receive Him. The gift of the Son is life giving.

When I think of the sunshine, I think of walking in the light. We all know that every day and every circumstance isn’t bright and sunny, but we always have the Son, Jesus, to guide us. In order to bloom where we are planted, we must find Jesus in every place. For me, the arboretum was the place that fostered that intimate gaze while planted in college. As Christians, keeping our eyes on Him can bring spiritual peace and control our attitudes. When we dwell in Him, we dwell in the light we need to grow. 

 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)

4. Enjoy the Beauty of the Bloom

When I was in high school, I was a dancer. After each performance, I would leave with an armload of flowers from my family and friends, somewhat of a cultural norm in the dance world. I remember thinking one year, “why do all these people spend money on flowers when all they do is die in a week?” I wasn’t unappreciative, I just truly questioned the concept. I tell you this to emphasize the fact that what I was missing was the simple, yet extravagant beauty of the bloom.

Bloom” is an action word, something we must do. To bloom is to produce something beautiful. As believers, we are never in the wrong place to serve God and bloom into something beautiful. Seasons will come and go, and while rain and lack of sunshine are inevitable, each seed is planted with the intentionality to bloom. One of the greatest tragedies is to waste an opportunity and miss the beauty in the bloom. No one delights in the beauty of the bloom more than The Gardener himself, so honor the Lord and grow in the place He has planted you. Your beautiful bloom is the proof that He is sovereign in every stage of life, providing everything you need. 

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

Towards the end of the school year, there is a lot of uprooting and replanting going on. Whether that be moving from a dorm room to your home, your campus to an internship, far away from your friends, studying abroad, or maybe graduating and moving to a new chapter of life, God could be planting you in a new place. If you’re experiencing a season of rain or a lack of sunshine, don’t doubt the design of His garden. We are called to “bloom where we are planted” as a part of His Garden, not our own. 

Maggie Yow // @maggie_yow

Encouragement for the Discouraged Mother

My mother knew that in order to raise children who would choose to walk with Christ on a daily basis, she needed more than rules. She needed to be a living example of a woman after God’s heart.
Your children observe your lifestyle.
After all, it is a direct reflection of your heart. A lifestyle is seven days a week- not just the seventh day. Making the choice each day to submit to Christ can be difficult when we are overwhelmed by our circumstances, people (yes, even your lovely children), or anything else we cannot control.
Sometimes I feel like asking, “God are you really listening?” As my heart burns with a desire to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God and to be a solid Christian example for the little ones in my life, it seems insulting to let the thought cross my mind that I might need to jump back into the driver’s seat of my life and let Jesus take a break for a few miles.
           
I was reminded a few weeks ago of John’s doubts while in prison. In Matthew 11:3, John asked if Jesus was really, “The One who is to come?” Note, John had already baptized Jesus even though he felt he was “unworthy to touch His sandals.” John knew who Christ was. He baptized Him in the name of His Father. Lastly, in v. 2, John had heard what Christ was doing while he was sitting in prison.
Jesus never rebuked John for asking questions.
For wondering.
For maybe even fearing a little.
And Jesus will not rebuke us in the moments of life when we just can’t seem to grasp what He is doing and we do not know what we should do either.
           
When my heart is burdened and I can’t seem to release what I know He can hold, instead of bashing myself, I know I should remember how Jesus worked in John’s life. John found himself in prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus, fulfilling the prophecy that he would be the forerunner of Christ. He did not stay caught up in his doubt-He continued to love like the author of love. He found faith in our awesome God to be all he needed, and he lived a life of devoted ministry to Christ.
“Truly I tell you, among these born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared..” (Matt. 11:11). 
God strengthened John to fulfill his calling in this life and He will strengthen you, too, as you fight the good fight to raise champions for Christ.
           
Your success as a mother is not dependent on your ability to bake the best cookies, to keep a spotless house, or to be liked by your child at all times. Your success as a mother will hinge on a consistent walk with Christ. Following Jesus will not exempt you from parenting woes, discouragement, or children gone wild, but following Him does mean you are equipped with the armor of God and perfect guidance and direction for each day as you raise your mighty warriors of God.
I encourage you to submit yourself to Him and be faithful to make decisions each day that place Christ at the center of your home. The fruit of God-fearing will grow and bloom in the lives of your children as they watch you trust in The Lord with all your heart, leaning not on your own understanding.

Guard Your Plans

Part of my morning routine includes praying over my plans for the day. Lately, I have found myself filling the pages of my planner with snippets from my meeting with God earlier that morning.

A few words. A few minutes of my time. A major impact on my day.

I am reminded what is most important: Serving Him who put me here.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life. It is equally easy to become immersed in things of this world rather than to stay focused on why we’re in the world to begin with. I sometimes find myself signed up for too many things, leading too many groups, or committed to too many personal obligations.

But why?

Because no one else signed up and the schedule was due. Because no one else felt comfortable leading and someone had to take charge. Because I hadn’t seen that friend in a while and felt like I should reconnect.

There is nothing wrong with signing up to serve on a committee, leading an organization, or taking personal time—until it becomes a distraction to our relationship with Christ. These distractions can continue to snowball, pushing God further and further away until we are no longer giving Him our first fruits but the leftovers.

I have chosen to align my heart with Christ, and I seek to honor Him in each block of my time. Therefore, I must be discerning.

In Proverbs 4:23, we are urged to “guard our hearts.” If my heart’s desire is to seek God’s will in my life and respond accordingly, I should begin with daily choices that reflect Him as top priority. When I am overwhelmed or exhausted by the things filling my schedule, I am not preparing myself to be a useful tool in the hands of an awesome God.

Saying yes to serving God means saying no to people, things, or activities that fail to build us up in Him. Where, how, and with whom we spend our time is a direct reflection of the posture of our worship and the state of our hearts.

I have realized that my day is more than lesson planning, meetings, organizing girls’ ministry, or writing. My value is not based on my performance as a teacher, Bible study leader, friend, or daughter.

As you glance over your schedule, introduce your plans to your Savior. Ask God to make it clear to you what is most deserving of your time. Be sure to take notes during your daily one-on-one conference with Him so that you can assess and reflect.

You may not get everything accomplished. That is ok.

You may need to say no to someone. That is ok.

When we get in the habit of prayerful planning, we will begin to notice that our attitude towards day-to-day activities shifts to desire a spirit of submission to the Father. While walking closely with the Prince of Peace, He will remind us of His plan and purpose for our lives.

Christians Against Culture

Christians aren’t better, just forgiven.

Is our goal to change culture, avoid it, or simply live and let live?

Christ-against-culture people see a clear and unreconcilable division between the goals of Christ and the goals of current culture. Jesus’ words and actions picture a new way of life, a way that is at odds with the status quo.

To pray, “Thy Kingdom Come” is a petition of surrender, a letting go of the objectives of this world in favor of the way of God. You can’t look like the world and have a heart sold out for Christ.

We all fall short of what God wants us to do and to be. The forgiveness of Jesus Christ is radical, wide reaching, and life changing.

Jesus came preaching a gospel that set people free from cultural norms and for new life. The question before us is: Will we follow where Jesus Christ leads? Chances are, you won’t look like everyone else. You might even offend someone.

Jesus’ words speak directly to us. We are now the ones who carry the responsibility of living a life reflective of the gospel and sharing the gospel faithfully.

Just as Jesus challenged His first disciples to believe in Him and follow, so He challenges us today through His word.

depending on the grace of God; part one

Depending on the grace of God and finding my worth solely in Him has always been a challenge for me. From a very young age, I battled the effects of being determined to succeed in MY plan by MY strength. I still wrestle with showing God I don’t need grace by reminding myself of areas in my life in which I consider myself an overachiever by nature.

I am the best daughter. I am an awesome granddaughter. I take pride in both of these areas of my life. Neither one is sinful in itself- in fact, I am commanded by God to honor my parents. But why?? I am called to be a wonderful daughter and granddaughter for the purpose of furthering God’s Kingdom. Not my own.

My point in sharing this is to confirm how incredibly easy it is to live a life based on ME rather than HE. After you label yourself as an overachiever in any area of your life, it is really easy to find your identity in what you are overachieving in rather than in Christ.

The Gospel clearly states this is sin. As Christians, we are called to replace ourselves piece by piece with the character of Jesus. Only in full surrender do we live by God’s grace. However, I am not dismissed by God when I make a mistake. He made it possible through the gift of His son for me to live a purposeful, grace-filled life despite my sinful nature.

When God says no..

Disappointment follows me (aka Satan). Not even kidding.

I was so excited to be going indoor skydiving today only to find out that it is not an activity permitted for those with previous shoulder dislocations or surgeries (aka HKY). Many moments of my life have been overshadowed by the looming effects of my injury. I have learned to accept that no one will understand the pain, fear, and disappointments that come as a package deal. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the many things I can do.

I won’t lie, I was frustrated with God for allowing some stupid accident to happen to me that has cost me a lot of fun the past 3 years.

I think life can be a lot like my situation today.

We make plans, dream dreams, and work tirelessly to achieve that one thing we think will fulfill us but never does. Sometimes God says no, and sometimes we are able to persist but nonetheless, things don’t go as planned.

When God says no, maybe instead of using our energy to mope or feel sorry for ourselves, we should embrace the opportunities He has placed in our laps that we CAN do.

{Seeking God’s will can be challenging or uncomfortable but that doesn’t mean we are overlooked by Him.} #divinepurpose #divineplan #imperfectlyplanned #perspective

Is His voice the loudest reality in your life today?

I always dreamed of being a writer.

I wondered how it would feel to finally sit down and start writing a manuscript. I still imagine the day I will see my book on the same shelf as authors I have adored through the years.

God has blessed this crazy writing journey of mine. I never thought I would be in my current situation at this point in my life. I’m a college student working on a manuscript and a blog.

Months ago I would have called you crazy if you thought I would be focusing on writing. It was NOT my priority. (Honestly, neither was my relationship with Christ.)

If He puts a desire in your heart, don’t shy away because you think it’s impossible for someone your age or in your particular circumstances. Don’t worry about what your friends will think. Don’t fear the unknown. Let HIS voice be the loudest reality. He will provide. He will quiet your concerns with His love and peace.

He will give you the ability and resources to carry out His plan for your life if you seek Him first.

#yikes

#istartedamanuscript

What desire has He placed in your heart??