Posts tagged Guest Journal
Dying to Self {Guest Journal}

We are so pleased to welcome our sister Victoria Baker as a guest writer on the blog today. 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
— Matthew 16:24-26, NLT

Right now, the Lord is teaching me something sacred and painful, yet completely life-giving. What may you ask is this? Wait for it...wait for it... dying to self. Yes, He is teaching me what it looks like to take up my cross and follow after Him. To be okay with the world not seeing Victoria: but through her death, seeing Jesus. He has paid the price and died in my place and gifted me with Himself.

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At a young age, I came to know and believe in Jesus. He was a friend. He was where my mom and I would sit down and pray, where I felt peace. As the years progressed and life was life, I found my understanding of Him changing. I was discovering how much I was leaning on my own "strength" (which is really nothing) and through years of eating disorders, anxiety, OCD, and perfectionism, He drew near. He drew near to the little girl who lived in a world of people pleasing, approval needs, and fear. He began to show me how much shame and guilt was a part of my life. He began to show me that I was His and He never wanted me to try and atone for my sins in human ways. He began to flip my world upside down and inside out.

In college, I was baptized. Late high school into early college was when He and I went deeper and deeper; my faith became what felt like my own. He began to show me how tangled I was (even more than I realized) and he held me dearly. He began to shift my understandings of what love looked like, what my identity was rooted in and how I was secure.

As a perfectionist, security was something I cherished. He showed me how nothing was secure in my life apart from Him. Because of what He had done, I could rest securely. This is something that even to this day I am growing in. Even in my failures and flaws. He peeled off so many layers. He was patient as I denied Him so many times, choosing myself and other things. He continued to carry me to the foot of the cross and to His throne room.

Soon, the nations began to captivate my heart and international outreach became a passion. Empowering women and seeking to find the beauty in the mundane was the adventure my heart longed for. He met me in sunflowers, in tears, in praying for widows and in the ridding of myself. I returned from a year abroad and struggled to resettle at home in Miamisburg. I revisited old struggles, OCD panic attacks, eating disorder lies and falls, as well as seeing again the vastness of my brokenness. He began to speak to my heart in new ways: pictures, metaphors, whispers. The truth of His Word, which had been proven through all of this to be alive, gained even more momentum despite my continued failings.

Over the past few months, the Holy Spirit has been laying many prayers on my heart. Even the prayer for me to ask the Lord to mold my prayers while praying! He has brought up heart motives, marriage, perseverance, humility, dying to self and truly growing in living out what loving people and loving Him looks like.

As a dreamer by nature, He is growing me in practicality and I am stoked for His continued workings. He continues to teach me that apart from Him I can do nothing. He reminds me that self-flogging does not make us right with Him: only the power of His blood can do that. He continues to teach me to take the posture of a humble servant. He continues to grow me in walking in grace. He has helped to grow the desire to be nothing, and for Him to take full stage.

Dying to self is hard. It's a lifelong thing. It doesn't end. I have been around for almost 26 short years and have barely skimmed the surface of growing in this. But He remains faithful despite my faithlessness. He reminds me that I never have to be perfect because He has already paved the path and simply desires for me to keep my eyes on Him. However He asks me to die, so ultimately I may live, is for the best: for He is better. This truth has been echoing in my heart as I reach for him and I cry out to be rid of me; the me who blocks so much life.

He reveals that He is Perfect Love. And perfect love is a humble servant.

Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
— 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, NLT

This morning, I was sitting in a coffee shop and I was reminded of a picture: a rope that is tangled. I was reminded of how Jesus and the power of His Perfect Love enters into our lives and helps to untangle us. We are freed of ourselves, the ones who are all tangled within and afraid of being nothing. He unties the knots, and in the process, helps us to see that there is no fear in love; but hope. Hope in losing ourselves for the sake of the Gospel and for His name. We have hope that like Paul says, it is only Jesus and the power of the Spirit that allows us to keep our bearings and become to a Jew like a Jew, a slave like a slave, and to sit in wisdom.

Oh, how Love is on the move. Oh, how newness and deeper understandings are on the horizon. He is making all things new, and that includes our understanding of His love and how in it, there is no fear.

To be a servant. A humble servant. To simply be okay with being a clear vessel, a rope. For people to grab hold of the good news, resting in Christ and holding onto the rope; by the power of the Spirit and all by His doing, following the invitation and taking a seat at the table...where a spot has been prepared for them!

He is life. As I grow in getting out of the way, He shows how much true life is found in Him. He is fully satisfying and abundant. He continues to show with patience and love that He is better. The dying of me will allow for more of the invading of Him!

Victoria wants to live in a world where servanthood is the desired career of choice, love is tangible, and self is tossed at the door so people may see how life is found no where in self but in Christ.  When she's not teaching young kiddos how to grow in a love for reading, you can find her sitting around the table soaking in conversations, out and about in the forest, and exploring the beauty that breathes around her. Whimsy, adventure, truth and grace inspire her as she is uncovering the beauty of humble servanthood. Her favorite Scriptures are...Philippians 3 and Psalm 103!  Feel free to connect and share in conversation anytime:

When Jesus Wants to Hold Your Hand {Guest Journal}

Today we would like to share a guest journal from our sister, Stephani Duff. 

This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts.
— Isaiah 58:6, MSG

The notion of fasting has always baffled me. In junior high and high school, before I knew Jesus or understood what it meant to be so distracted by the world that setting my gaze on Him would feel crippling, “fasting” felt like some sort of social experiment. I gave up things like soda, or fried food, and inevitably broke it just days later, never to look back as I popped the tab of an ice cold can of Coke and laughed next to friends with whom I’d promised fasting in comradery.

Once I really began to know Jesus and understand more fully what it meant to walk with Him, I would hear people within my community, or at church, talk about fasting and a proverbial hunger pang would ripple through my body. I am not a woman who withholds much – least of all her tongue, her coffee, or her caloric intake. And why would Jesus want me to walk around hangry all the time, anyway?

But He is always ready and willing to educate us more about Himself, isn’t He?

Years later, post that insecure junior high student who did the no soda thing because her friends were doing it, too, and now more comfortable in the skin that often feels like it’s too much, I am a woman who travels as part of her work. I am a woman who has a spiritual mentor, because the Lord and I both know this hot mess needs accountability and good, tough love from someone I will not roll my eyes at and walk away from. I am, against all odds and misconceptions I’ve had about myself, a woman who genuinely wants to be better.

Recently, in a conversation with my mentor, I confessed I didn’t want to be distracted by men and dating while I was traveling. My time with Jesus always feels the sweetest and most intimate when I am international; undistracted by technology and easy access to my favorite people, my wandering heart is forced to hit those speed bumps slow and come to a stop – and I have come to savor those tender moments.

My sweet mentor smiled softly at me as she laid the hammer down. “Steph, if you don’t want to be distracted by men, then don’t allow the space for them to distract you in the first place. I want you to pray through fasting from dating.”

I scoffed, thinking how deliciously cute it was that she thought I’d even mildly consider giving up dating, attention, and conversation with men who were interested in me for any amount of time.

But then it became all I could think about. What would this look like for me? What might I learn about myself in the absence of being hungry to garner attention? Even more, what might I learn about Jesus?

I began to consider all the ways this would lead me to stretch myself – in the quiet moments when I didn’t want to be alone, but wouldn’t have someone to reach out to fill it, I would need to position myself before the Lord, asking Him to fill the space, the heart within me, the loneliness that all too often beat like a drum. It occurred to me this would strengthen a muscle I may have not even realized I possessed before, let alone knew how to use. The questions mixed with my fear of willingly stepping into a season of intentional singleness, and instead of fear roaring like a deafening death toll, all I could hear was the softest whisper, imploring me.

Meet me here. Won’t you just meet me right here?

 I won’t pretend to be an expert on fasting – listing all the ways this has, or will, transform me into a better, stronger woman. I won’t deign to believe that every step of this will feel easy and soft, a welcoming down comforter after a long day. And I don’t know how this will end. But I do know He is in it. He asked me to join Him and He hasn’t left my side for one moment.

In all the hours I spent trying to make conversation happen with men who were painfully and obviously wrong for me, I was unknowingly closing doors of entry to better understand my Maker.

I am in a season of fasting right now, and here’s what I’m learning.

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Jesus is a gentleman. I don’t know many of them. But I am for certain He is one. He is careful with me. He waits patiently for me. He longs for my time so He can remind me of His love for me. He takes Scripture I’ve read and underlined before and makes it new – just for me. Y’all, Jesus is sweet. Maybe this isn’t news to you. But maybe, just maybe, you are like me and don’t fully know His character. He enjoys showing sweetness to His girls. I am certain.

Fasting will cultivate cravings for something better. In His grace, I have not missed dating. That’s not to say it will never creep up on me. But I find myself excited to open my Bible, to discover what He plans to teach me from one day to the next – and this is new. When we become so consumed with a facet of our lives that it’s what we wake up thinking about, we are missing the bigger story He is crafting on our behalf. We are missing the opportunity to be found hopeful.

When we welcome Him into the fallow ground of our hearts, His harvest will be bountiful. In the midst of this season of fast, I am also seeking medical assistance for food sensitivities and allergies. I said it before, and I will say it again – I am not a health conscious person. I like what feels and tastes and smells good. Whether it is a wise choice for me, or not. But what are we missing when we hold tight to only what we’re certain is good, in place of what He promises will be better? I’ve been walking around so consumed with the desire to be known and seen by another human that I’ve missed all the times Jesus has snuggled in close to me and said, just let me hold your hand, girl. I’ve been kicking up stones and dirtying my hands with mud, trying to dig up something I’m so convinced is right, and all the while, He’s waiting to plant wildflowers and say the word, ya’ll.

 Bloom, girl. Just, bloom.

 Let Him do the planting. Let Him break the chains. Let Him write the story. And trust that when He’s asking us to wait, we are most certainly in good company.

Steph Duff wants to live in a world where every voiceless child is given articulation and Jesus is the name on every lip. When she's not sharing Kingdom-shaking stories with Back2Back Ministries, you can find her drinking copious amounts of caffeine, curling up with her nose in a book, laughing loudly, continuing an on-going attachment to semi-colons, planning her next trip to India, and making snail mail cool, again. Her favorite scripture is "Look among the nations and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told." Habakkuk 1:5 ESV. Learn a little bit about what makes her blood stir and the yearnings of her heart at