Lessons From a Sea Sponge

I’ve always referred to myself as a “sponge” when it comes to learning things. Reason being, I tend to soak up a lot of information on an almost constant basis.

sponge lessons | Life, Unleashed

I love to learn! In fact, while researching some things for this post, I also learned some things about sponges that I didn’t know before! For example:

  • Once cut, a sea sponge will re-grow within a few years, often to become bigger & healthier than it was originally.
  • Sea sponges have a life span of a few months to 20+ years.
  • Even the tiniest fragments of the original sponge can be used to regenerate & grow new sponges.
  • Sea Sponges are capable of regulating the amount of water that flows through their bodies by the constriction of various openings.
  • Sea Sponges are capable of drawing in and out 20,000 times their own volume of water in a single 24-hour period.
  • Sponges survive by anchoring themselves permanently to other solid objects on the ocean floor (eg. coral, rocks, shell beds, etc).
  • Sea Sponges are composed perfectly for their environment by means of the hole-ridden structures, and could not survive without their unique design.
  • While sea sponges are technically “animals,” for all practical purposes, they grow, reproduce, and survive as plants

And, also…

sea-sponges | Life, Unleashed

Fascinating, right? At least, I thought so.

Originally, this post was going to be about using what you’ve learned. I tend to consume so much information in one sitting, sometimes, that it’s almost impossible to put any of it into practice {Input is one of my StrengthsFinder “top 5”, after all}. For example, I can get on a site like JamesClear.com (which I absolutely LOVE), and follow the links, reading article, after article, after article — because it’s all so good! But, even though I agree with what he’s written, and think, “Man, these are amazing & simple ideas — I should implement this stuff!“, I have already consumed so much that I get overwhelmed with where to start, and then choose what is easiest… which is doing nothing at all; meaning all of the information I consumed is practically useless. After all, if we don’t practice what we learn, then what’s the point?

But, in researching sponges, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to our Christian walk. So, here are a few lessons I believe we can learn from the Sea Sponge:

PERMANENTLY ANCHORED

The Sea Sponges permanently anchor themselves to the ocean floor by attaching to something that doesn’t move. This is how they survive. Likewise, God is our unmoving and unchanging “anchor”. When we attach ourselves to Him, He becomes our unshakeable hope, and the way that we can stay grounded, despite the turmoil in our lives.

We have this hope as an anchor for our souls, firm & secure.
 — Hebrews 6:19 

 

SELF-REGULATING

Sea Sponges regulate the amount of water that moves in and out of their bodies. In similar fashion, we need to monitor what we put into us, whether that’s food, or information. Too much of anything is not good for us. As evidenced by my own information overload, it’s more helpful to consume things in moderate or bite-sized amounts, and then use that up, or practice it for a while, first, before taking in more. That way, our intake is actually useful and doesn’t go to waste (or to waist!).

BETTER THAN BEFORE

God likes to prune us, removing anything that doesn’t help us live the life He has planned for us. This pruning can often be painful. But, like the Sea Sponge after being harvested, we, too, can then grow to be “bigger” (with a deeper, stronger faith and character) and healthier than before.

UNIQUELY DESIGNED

The Sea Sponge’s unique design — with all of its pores and adjoining channels — helps it to be able to survive and grow.

For example, look at its hard outer layer and soft interior. We, God’s children, aren’t called to be timid, but to be strong & courageous, bold, shrewd, and discerning! This is our “outer layer”. At the same time, we are called to be quiet & gentle, kind and compassionate, and innocent as doves … our hearts are to be soft, and not “hardened” with unbelief.

But, the most important aspect of the Sponge’s design is its ability to let massive amounts of water flow through its body. This makes me think of Jesus, and how He describes Himself as “Living Water“. When we have this –when we have Him– we have everything we need.

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

So, there you have it. Lessons from the Sea Sponge. Bet you didn’t realize you could learn something about God from something you use when you take a bath! Ha!

Stealing Christmas

I used to love the Christmas holiday. Truthfully, part of me still does. But I also feel that Christmas is being “ruined”, in a way, by commercialism.

Stealing Christmas | Life, Unleashed

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday — the family get-togethers, the fires in the fireplace making a home feel cozy, the traditions passed down through the years.

However, with the recent trend of stores, and even individuals, starting to decorate or put out Christmas paraphernalia sometimes even BEFORE Halloween has come & gone, it’s practically “ruining” Christmas! It steals that “magical” feeling that Christmas has always brought — the 2-3 days of celebrating the real reason for the season: Jesus’ birth. When the focus skews toward making sure you buy your presents early, and get your decorations up before everyone else, you lose that “magic”, and you lose sight of what’s really important.

Christmas isn’t about the presents or the decorations. It’s supposed to be a time of celebrating the fact that Jesus came to earth in human form, in order that He might show us how He can relate to all of our human struggles & joys… because now He’s experienced them, too. He came “to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray” — and we shouldn’t forget this.

Perhaps you think that having only a couple of days, or a couple of weeks, to celebrate Christmas just isn’t enough time. But then you have to ask yourself, WHY is that? What has caused your life to be such that you can’t take 2-3 days to rest, and to truly enjoy the time with family? Is it the hectic schedule of running from one get-together to the next? Is it that you work so much, and Christmas is your only time off? Is it that you’ve said ‘yes’ to more than you should?

I, personally, hate the way that the season has become so commercialized. It’s now all about decorating, and what you can/should buy. This is why, despite the fact that the neighbors have their Christmas lights up already (some even had their Christmas trees up as early as the first week in November!), and despite the fact that all around me, people are “prepping” for the season, I will continue to wait until it’s closer to the actual date. I normally don’t put up my Christmas lights (on the house) until after December 1st. And my tree won’t go up until 2 weeks before Christmas.

Join me, won’t you? Let’s bring back the real meaning for this holiday season. Let’s remember to rest, and be thankful for our Savior.

 

A Double-Edged Sword

It took me two tries to watch the movie, “The Book of Eli“. The first time, I shut it off after only the first 5 minutes. The opening scene made me ill, and the violence that followed was too graphic for my tastes.

Double-Edged Sword | Life, Unleashed

But, my husband encouraged me to give it another go ~ he’d already seen it, so he assured me that there weren’t many more violent scenes, and that it was worth pressing on.

So, the next night, after fast-forwarding through the opening scenes, I watched the film in its entirety (closing my eyes for the major fight scenes, mind you). 

And hubby was right ~ the film was definitely worth watching through to the end. I’m glad I did.

If you are a born-again Christian (a follower of Jesus), I think that this is an important movie for you to watch. It really gets you thinking. And, more to the point, it reminds you of what’s truly important in life.

At one point in the movie, the girl, Solara, asks Eli what life was like before the war (the Apocalypse). And, Eli tells her about how people had more than they needed, and how they used to throw away things that wars were now being fought over (a little extra shampoo, for example).

The whole premise of the movie is that Eli is in possession of the last existing New King James Bible, and he is on a mission to carry it West, to a place where he knows it will be safe & protected. Others view this Bible — this “Book” — as a weapon, though, and will do anything to get their hands on it. They know its power, and they want that power for themselves.

This film really got me to thinking about how often I’m lax in my daily Bible reading, and about how I don’t give Scripture memory much importance (if any) in my life. Bible reading has become somewhat of a chore ~ something to tick off of my daily “to-do” list.

But… what if there were no more Bibles, and the world was given over completely to its dark side? How would I fight without my “sword“… without my armor?

Armor | Life, Unleashed

Eli read the Bible every single day, “without fail”, he said. He had the whole Bible memorized, word-for-word. And, while I don’t think we’re called on to memorize the Word in its entirety, I think it’s wise for us to have a good portion of it memorized, and tucked away in the event that we need it. God even told us that we are to “be prepared” for battle (2 Timothy 4:2-5; 1 Peter 3:15-17).

In the end times, knowing what God’s book says is going to be our only weapon against evil. Jesus used it to battle temptation, and we should do the same.

And yet, in my own life, too often I give every other book more time of day than I do the most important book of all.

What a shame…

My daily prayer, from here on out, will be that God’s Word will become precious to me, and that I will not lose sight of how important it is to get God’s Word into me, buried deep for future recall. You just never know when it’s going to come in handy.

Remembering My Source When I Need Direction

If anyone ever told you that choosing self-employment was easy… they lied! I will say one thing, though: It is definitely character-building!

Remembering My Source | Life, Unleashed

For many, many years, now, I’ve had the deep desire to be an Entrepreneur — to be my own boss, make my own rules, set my own schedule. My grandpas — both on my mom’s side, and on my dad’s side — were entrepreneurs; a couple of my uncles are, too; and so is my sister. So I like to say that Entrepreneurship is “in my blood”.

In 2013, I finally got the opportunity to pursue this dream of self-employment. And, while my business model has transitioned several times since then, it has all been a part of the learning process.

One thing that has become clearer to me, though, is that God designed me to be an Entrepreneur. I see this because of how everything has ended up working out to allow me to continue pursuing this path — even despite the times when it looked like things wouldn’t work out. If God didn’t intend for me to be self-employed, I would have been thwarted at every turn, and would be back out working for someone else, right now.

I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned, so far, through this journey — and it’s something I’m STILL learning, really — is how important it is for me to seek God’s guidance and direction for each move I make with my business.

For example, just yesterday I set out to work on my “ideal customer”, and I created a survey to help me with this. Then I shared that survey in several of my Facebook groups. But I ended up getting some pretty harsh feedback from those in my groups, and it got to me… it had me in tears (even though I know they meant well).

As I sat and processed this, God seemed to whisper to me, asking, “Why are you turning to those secular groups for direction, instead of coming to Me?” It was a gentle reminder that I had gotten caught up — yet again — in seeking answers from the “world”, and I’d forgotten to FIRST go to my Source {God}.

Not surprisingly, as soon as I asked God to give me His opinion on it all, peace washed over me. The stress I’d felt, minutes before, melted away. And I started seeing better questions I could ask of myself, which helped to calm & refocus me.

So, let me just encourage you, today: If you are self-employed, don’t forget to put God first in your business. Go to Him, first, for direction. I know it’s easy to forget to do this. But the more we practice, the better we’ll get at making it automatic (and, God is gracious enough to offer us reminders when we do forget!)

“You will keep in perfect peace
    all who trust in You,
    all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”
~ Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

Spiritual Disciplines? No, Thanks!

As a Christian, have you ever felt the pressure to take care of your “spiritual disciplines” (Bible reading, prayer, devotions, going to church, etc.)? Have you experienced guilt and shame because you haven’t kept up with these as well as you feel you should?

Spiritual Disciplines? No, Thanks! | Life, UnleashedWell, guess what? God doesn’t demand that you do these things in order to “be a good Christian”. He doesn’t love you any less when you can’t squeeze in the time for these practices. He isn’t disappointed in you!

“…the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.”
(Micah 6:8, NLT)

“Jesus replied, “‘You must
love the Lord your God with all your heart,
all your soul, and all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.
A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
(Matthew 22:37-39, NLT)

These are what God wants from us. Our greatest “mission” and purpose here on earth is to love God and others, to make God known, and to bring Him glory in all that we do. He craves a relationship with us.

While the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible reading aren’t required in order for you to be “righteous”, or a “good” Christian — or, even for God to love you — practicing these two things helps you to know God better. And, guess what? When you know God, it helps you to love God… and when you genuinely love God, you then want to spend time with Him through prayer, and you want to learn all you can about Him through His Word!

Trust me: I used to want to run in the opposite direction when my mom or grandma “preached at” me about this stuff! But over time, God has shown me more of Himself, and He’s taught me these things that I’m sharing with you, now. He showed me that it’s not about have to — that’s legalism. Instead, it’s about the Creator of the Universe reaching down from heaven and saying, “Hey, come talk with me! I’d love to hear from you.” It’s about His patience with us, and His love softening our hearts to the point where we desire to spend time with Him — because we start to understand what unconditional love truly is.

So, the next time you read or think about prayer, reading the Bible, or any of the other spiritual disciplines, try to look at them as God’s invitation to you to get to know Him better… see them as His way of teaching you how much you are valued and loved.

The Hole In Our Faith

I believe there is a serious hole in our Christian faith, today. Too many people become a “Christian” in order to avoid hell, or because someone convinced them that they needed  to commit their life to Christ. However, these same people are then left without any idea of what they just got themselves into. What did you really just sign on for?

The Hole in Our Faith | Life, UnleashedSure, these people can go to church (or a church group). They can learn the “lingo” and rituals. They can hear the Bible stories. And they can “mimic” what they see the more “seasoned” Christians doing. For many, this is what happens, and what they settle for.

But here’s the real question:

DOES ANY OF THIS CHANGE YOU?

Because it should. Your life, when compared to that of someone who isn’t a Christian should look radically different. Life with Jesus should spark an authentic, genuine change of heart and behavior. Jesus was –and IS– compelling! Christianity isn’t a set of rules, and it’s not supposed to be boring. Jesus died to set us FREE — to enable us to live life to the fullest! (John 10:10)

Over the next little while, I hope to show you the transformation that I, myself, have gone through — how God showed me more of who He is, and what He’s taught me, thus far. I want to inspire you to live out what you believe, to seek God more & more in your everyday, and to show you that life with Jesus really is far from boring!

“My heart has heard You say, “Come & talk with Me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming!” (Psalm 27:8)

Above All Else

I had a dream, last week, that at first I thought was just strange — but it kept niggling at me. So I wrote down the details of it in my journal; and all-of-a-sudden, I saw meaning within it.

Above ALL Else | Life, Unleashed

In my dream, I was in the backyard of a house out in the countryside. Someone was with me, but it wasn’t clear who it was. The yard was littered with large gemstones, some buried beneath the surface of the earth, some poking through. There were also some large sea shells. I was crawling around the grass, collecting as many of the crystal gems as I could; there were so many that my arms couldn’t contain them… they were spilling over. I felt like I was in a rush to grab as many as I could take with me. All these crystal gems were probably a good 5 lbs each…

Strangely, I also uncovered 3 small statues of Jesus (each only about a foot tall). But I didn’t collect those — I just left them where they were. I was more interested in grabbing the stones.

{ J E S U S }

When I wrote all of this out in my journal, God gave me insight into the possible meaning of all of this.

I so often chase things, in life, that aren’t really important — not in the grand scheme of things, anyway (not in God’s opinion). I chase material things, people, experiences… but, how often do I chase after God? Isn’t He supposed to be the only thing worth chasing?

God seemed to be saying to me that I need to chase after my relationship with Him — above all else. Everything I need can be found in Him alone.

Colossians 3:11 says, “…Jesus is all that matters…”

As Tsh Oxenreider wrote, in the article I shared last week, “…life will be richer when the things that really matter have more wiggle room.

 

Can You Live With Only What You Need?

For quite some time now, I’ve had this desire burning inside me to simplify — to cut back what I own, and get rid of all of the excess. I read “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, and he talked about choosing only the essentials in life, and getting rid of the rest (not just physical possessions, but activities and other things, too). This really resonated with me.

As such, I’ve been wanting to write about this craving for simplicity — this desire to simplify my life — but hadn’t yet found the words. Today, one of my favorite bloggers shared a guest post, written by Tsh Oxenreider, and it basically said what I’d wanted to express. So, I’m sharing the link — and some of her words — here. Tsh’s (excerpted) words are below.

Can you live with only what you need? | Life, Unleashed

There’s a beauty to curating our life’s needs to the basic essentials… I’m surprised at how little I need.

I hear God asking me… “Can you live with only [the essentials]?”

It’s an act of discipline, a trust that God will provide for my needs exactly when they arise, and that I can live without the things I don’t really need.

Traveling light means a trust in God that life will be richer when the things that really matter have more wiggle room.

{ … read the rest of the article … }

The Importance Of Mindset

Today I’m sharing a snippet from my future eBook. This is from the chapter on the importance of thoughts and mindset.

The Importance of Mindset | Life, Unleashed

For years, I’ve struggled with low self-esteem. I could blame it on my parents’ divorce, or any number of things. But that wouldn’t change my situation. If anything, dwelling on blame, resentment, and/or any other negatives only adds to the problem.

What I have been coming to discover, recently, is that so much of life depends on our thoughts and our mindset. In pretty much every area of life, how you look at things determines how they are. It’s very much about perspective. Even the Bible agrees! Proverbs 23:7 {KJV} says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” And, Philippians 4:8 encourages us: “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”

God frequently reminds us, throughout Scripture, to PAY ATTENTION… to keep alert, and to be aware. The reason for this is because we are in a constant war — not physically, but mentally and spiritually; good vs. evil; our flesh against our spirit.

Joyce Meyer tells us that our mind is the battlefield — our battles are won or lost there. Think about any temptation you’ve faced. If you kept thinking about the thing, eventually you would give in, right? But, if you don’t allow yourself to dwell on thoughts of the thing — if you dismiss these tempting thoughts right away — then you are able to stand strong and resist.

Nowhere has this been more evident to me than in my eating and my attempts to lose weight. The more I think about eating when I’m not hungry, the weaker I get. Eventually, I have made enough excuses and rationalizations in my mind that I end up giving in.

However, on the (still rare) occasions when I dismiss the tempting thoughts outright, and distract myself with other things, I find myself victorious, and moving forward!

Taking control of our thought life, then, is so extremely important! It’s a cliche now, since it is said so much, but it remains true:

YOU NEED TO CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

Something that has been helpful to me in becoming more aware of my thoughts has been to write out the negative things I think, and then — directly beneath the negatives — write out the positive alternatives. Psychologists call this exercise “reframing”. So, for example:

Negative: I cannot lose this excess weight.
Positive: I am taking baby steps toward losing my excess weight, and getting healthy

Negative: I am so stupid when it comes to this!
Positive: How can I go about learning more about this so that I feel more confident and capable?

It is important to remember that Satan will do anything and everything he can to “kill, steal, and destroy” what is good and positive in our lives. He is intent on keeping us stuck in the mediocre and mundane, so he puts negative thoughts in our minds to keep us from living in the Truth. He knows that if we get control of our thoughts, he’s going to have an awfully hard time making us miserable from that point on.

Another great way to change your mindset is to “reframe” with Scripture. Logan Wolfram, in her book, “Curious Faith”, calls this “Praying the Opposites”.

Say you’re feeling discouraged. The opposite of this would be feeling hopeful. So you would then look up verses in the Bible that talk about hope, and you’d use those verses to pray to God, asking for Him to “renew your mind” according to what His Word says.

You can do this with the negatives you are thinking about yourself, as well! For example:

Negative: I cannot do this!
Positive: Philippians 4:13 says that “I can do ALL THINGS through Christ, who strengthens me!”

Negative: I will never be able to pay my bills this month.
Positive: Philippians 4:19 tells me that “My God will supply all of {my} needs, according to His riches…”

So, don’t let the devil win! Take control of your thought life, and pray for a renewed mindset. It’s the only way to walk in victory.

WHAT NEGATIVE THOUGHTS DO YOU BATTLE WITH THAT YOU CAN TURN INTO POSITIVES? HOW WOULD YOU REFRAME THEM?