Five Ways to Grow Spiritually this Summer

This is from my newest article at RELEVANT. You can read the entire article here!

5 Ways to Grow Spiritually This Summer

With summer in full swing, it’s easy to get into the rhythm of letting the days slip by without much intentionality. The sun shines longer, we play harder and many of us take extra days off of work. But while we may want to let go of some stressors during the summer, one thing we don’t want to let go of is our spiritual growth.

Here are five ways to keep growing spiritually during the summer months:

1.) Get Outside!
With nicer weather comes great opportunity to experience God’s beauty in creation and let it shape our prayers and our worship. Take a prayer walk around your neighborhood, asking God to give you His heart for your city and the people there—and let the sights and sounds of where you live inspire your prayers. Or go on a hike and take your Bible with you and read Psalm 19 or Psalm 8 out loud, thanking God for how He’s created the earth and given you life. Swim in the ocean (or the pool!) and break to read John 7:37-39, considering the living water that Christ gives to us that sustains our very spirit.

Don't let your faith slide this summer. Five ways to grow with God right now! #faith #summer Click To Tweet

2.) Make the Effort to Get to Church.
I know, I know. With summer travel, vacations and holidays, it’s easy to blow off church on the weekends. But even if you’re traveling, find a church in town you can attend on Sunday. It’s a wonderful way to continue to growing in relationship with God, to get to know other believers and to experience church in a new way. God’s people are worshipping all over the world—go ahead and join them, wherever you are!

Read the rest of the article–including mixing up your Bible-reading routine and serving in a new way–here, at RELEVANT!

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

Creating Friendships that Last

The Secret to Creating Friendships that Last www.annswindell.com

This is the start of my newest piece for RELEVANT Magazine.
You can read the article here.

In a world bloated with quick fixes, instant gratification and social media profiles, it can be hard to know how to build—and keep—lasting friendships. And while we may want to portray a particular side of ourselves online, the truth is that we need friends who know us here and now, in the middle of our mess and our daily routines. And we need to be those types of friends, too.

The secret to these kinds of friendships is actually pretty simple: You just have to show up.

The secret to the best kind of #friendship? Keep showing up. Click To Tweet

The Scriptures calls us to draw near to Christ and to draw near to one another: “let us draw near [to Christ] with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” and “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:22, 24-25). As people of faith, we are called to live so that we are encouraging those around us toward love and good deeds. I think this comes most obviously and importantly through deep, meaningful friendship.

Here’s how to start—and build—friendships where we spur one another on to godly lives and where we reflect God’s love to one another:

Show Up With a Meal.

A friend doesn’t have to be sick to need a meal. A new baby doesn’t have to be born, and it doesn’t have to be a holiday. Many times, we need a friend to care for us—spiritually and practically—in the midst of our everyday lives when things just feel like a little too much to handle. I’ve taken meals to friends who are emotionally overwhelmed, to friends who have sick kids and to friends who just need a break from adulting. If you don’t cook: Take a pizza. Breaking bread together—sharing meals—is something that marked the early church, and it’s not hard to understand why. Sharing a meal together feeds both the body and the soul. It’s not hard—it just takes intentionality.

We all need friends who give us a break from adulting. Click To Tweet

Show Up With Prayer.

Hanging out and talking, watching a game together, laughing together—these are good gifts of friendship. But being friends who follow Jesus also offers us the rich opportunity to pray not only for but with one another. I’ve found that my times of prayer with friends have been some of the deepest and most steadying parts of our friendship.

Can it be awkward, especially if you’ve never prayed together? Sure. But it can also crack open the opportunity for deeper relationship and trust. Maybe you can’t help your friend practically, with her need or with his struggle. But you can pray with your friend, right there, asking God to meet that need and provide grace in the struggle. If you don’t know what to pray, consider getting a copy of The Book of Common Prayer and praying a liturgical prayer together. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But when two or three of us get together in the name of Jesus, He’s there with us (Matthew 18:19-20). When we pray, He hears us, and moves on our behalf.

Read about other ways to show up here, at RELEVANT.

4 Things I Wish I Knew About My Body in My Twenties

What I Wish I Knew About My Body in My 20s. www.annswindell.com
This is the start of my newest article for RELEVANT Magazine. 
You can read the entire article over at RELEVANT.

I spent a good portion of my twenties focusing on my body and being critical about the shape of it, the size of it, the weight of it. If my pant size moved up, I did what I could to move the size back down. I worried that my body wasn’t as it should be, that it wasn’t good enough and that it needed to change.

Now, in my thirties, I have come to a comfortable peace with my body. Are there still things I would change if I could? Sure. But over the last decade, as my relationship with God has deepened—and as my body has altered and shifted—I have been able to cling to gratefulness.

Your body’s main purpose is to worship the God who created it. Click To Tweet

My body has carried me through severe sickness and emotional pain. It has grown and stretched with a child I love dearly. It has walked me over thousands of miles across the world. I am thankful for it, jiggles and all.

Here are the things I wish I had understood about my body in my twenties—the things that have allowed me to not only accept but rejoice in the body I have:

Your body’s main purpose is not to attract others to it.

Our culture shows us more than enough images of bodies to make us believe that they exist simply to attract others. And in large part because of that, I had a lot of angst in my twenties about how my body appeared to others. I looked in the mirror for lumps and bumps in what I considered to be the “wrong places,” and chose my clothes based on how attractive I thought they made me look to others.

I wanted to look beautiful, and I wanted to be attractive.

Now, hear me: I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with wanting to appear attractive. I still want to be a beautiful woman. But it was the way I approached my body in my twenties that made my mindset so unhealthy. I was operating from the lens that culture had taught me, rather than getting my grid for beauty and attractiveness from Scripture.

I’m not suggesting that we wear paper bags and frumpy clothes, but what I wish I would have grasped in my twenties is this: Your body’s main purpose is to worship the God who created it.

The book of Romans exhorts us: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

Your body is primarily a means of worshiping God—through service, through love, through acts of praise and mercy. Attracting the presence of God through the lives we live in our bodies is much more important than attracting the passing attention of others.

Attracting the presence of God is more important than attracting the passing attention of others. Click To Tweet

Sex is wonderful but it isn’t the pinnacle of existence.

Part of the angst about attractiveness and the shape and size of our bodies stems from a culture that is obsessed with sex. And when the act of sex is at the center of a culture’s focus, then bodies become hyper-sexualized—everything about their attractiveness stems from sexualized ideals. But what I wish I had known in my twenties was that the other aspects of sex—the emotional aspect, the spiritual aspect, the relational aspect. These are the things that make sex deeply satisfying, over and over again, with the same person, in the context of a godly marriage.

I needed to hear in my twenties that it’s not the shape or size of a body that makes sex wonderful—it’s the context of sex within a loving marriage to a fun and thoughtful spouse thats gives sex its power and delight.

Read the rest of the article here, at RELEVANT!

When You’re Too Busy to Connect With God

My newest article is up over at RELEVANT Magazine, and I’d love for you to check it out!

WHEN YOU'RE TOO BUSY.Swindell

Here’s the start of the article:

Busy. It’s a word many of us use most of the time—we’re too busy, so busy, very busy, or just plain busy. We’ve got work to do, children to raise, meetings to get to, appointments to keep, friends to connect with, spouses to love.

So how do we stay connected to God even when our lives swirl around us at a rapid pace? How do we keep Him central in our hearts and minds while we live our very busy lives? Here are a few ideas for staying close to Jesus even when life gets crazy:

Start with Scripture.

My goal is to read the Bible every day—early in the day—so that everything else I do is seen through the Biblical lens of reality. Reading the Bible is one thing that keeps me grounded in truth and connected to God. I have found, for me, that when I start my day in the Bible, my heart and mind are better prepared to respond to God’s presence throughout the rest of the day—and I usually find that I am kinder in my responses to other people and more gracious with myself.

When I start my day in the Bible, my heart and mind are better prepared to respond to God's… Click To Tweet

And yet, even though I know how important it is for me to read the Word in order to stay close to God, it is surprising to me that something so simple can be so difficult to do on a consistent basis. So get creative if you need to. Do you commute to work? If you’re driving, listen to the Bible on audio. If you’re sitting on a train or on a subway, read the Bible on your phone or carry a pocket version of the Bible with you.

Listen to Truth.

There are a lot of voices swirling around us every day—voices that tell us we aren’t good enough, that we have to find love for ourselves, and that we need to be more attractive and make more money. If I listen to those voices too long, I get sucked into those lies. So I seek to fill my head with music and words that keep me focused on God throughout the day.

If you’re reading this, there’s a high chance that you have access to an incredible amount of Christ-centered media options. Podcasts that point me back to Jesus in the midst of a crazy world, music that focuses my attention on Him and sermons that keep my mind grounded in truth—these are the types of things I try to fill gaps of free time with. They help me remember that in Christ, I am loved and that I have all that I need—things I constantly need to hear.

Read about praying throughout the day, pausing when you’re overwhelmed, and Christ-centered friendships over at RELEVANT!

10 Things Every Newlywed Should Know

My newest piece, “10 Things Every Newlywed Should Know,” is up at RELEVANT Magazine. It’s a letter I wrote to my newlywed self–one I wish I’d had for those early months and years of marriage. It’s also one that I would do well to re-read every day, as a reminder of what it means to live healthily and joyfully in a marriage that’s going to make it for the long haul. I hope it encourages you!

10 Things Every Newlywed Should Know--really, things any married person should know!!

1. Repent and Forgive—Daily and Out Loud.

Marriage, in all of its glory, also brings up some ugly sins. When you know you have sinned against your spouse, humble yourself and ask for forgiveness. Out loud. And tell your spouse you forgive him or her—out loud.

Saying “I’m sorry” is different from asking “Will you forgive me?” Asking for forgiveness requires humility before God and your spouse that builds an incredible trust in marriage. Some days, you will need to repent to each other more times than you care to admit, and on those days it’s a good idea to go just to bed early and start over the next morning.

2. Lavish Your Time, Energy and Love on One Another.

There are seasons in life when you will be busier than you imagined. But if you have the time in these early months and years to spend together, take it! Enjoy one another, spend ridiculous amounts of time getting to know each other as husband and wife, laugh together, snuggle, share ideas, dream together out loud. Be one another’s biggest fans.

3. Enjoy Sex and Talk About it Together.

There’s a big learning curve in sex. It’s wonderful and difficult and fun and funny. Don’t forget that phrase your mentor told you: “there’s always an extra limb in sex that doesn’t fit anywhere!” But whatever you do, keep talking together about sex. Be gentle with the vulnerability offered from your spouse. Don’t blow anything off if your spouse brings it up; take it seriously. Satan wants to keep spouses silent in the broken places; by opening up about sex and talking through concerns and questions, you can avoid a lot of additional pain.

4. Find a Church Home and Plug In.

As important as it is to lavish on one another, ultimately, no marriage thrives well in a hermit hole. Find a community of believers and press in. Ask questions. Hang out with older married couples. Ask for help. Go to potlucks. Make friends and pursue those friendships.

Jesus loves the local church, and your marriage is a powerful part of what God is doing—in you and in the larger community you are a part of.

5. Set Aside a Date Night.

Once a week, minimum, for the rest of your lives. Build it into the budget. Intentionality equals trust and love.

Read the other five reminders over at RELEVANT!

Are you waiting for God to breakthrough in your life-

 

Relationship with God: My Newest Piece at RELEVANT Magazine

My most recent piece about relationship with God is up at RELEVANT Magazine. I’d love for you to check it out!

Relationship with God

 

“Having a personal relationship with God”—it’s a phrase that gets tossed around in many Christian circles. But what does it actually mean to have a relationship with the Savior of the Universe?

Knowing God is going to look different from any other relationship in our lives. We can’t see God. We can’t look across the table at our favorite coffee shop and talk with Jesus in bodily form. So, in a world where we cannot text God or send Him an email, what does it look like to be in a relationship—to be in a friendship—with the one who created all things (Colossians 1:16)?

Intentionality

No deep relationship happens apart from intentional cultivation. Even the relationships that seem to happen “organically” in our lives—those friends we click with immediately—need to be nurtured to one degree or another. We reach out to the people we care about, and we have to seek to be intentional in order to get to know one another. Determining that we actually do want to grow in our friendship with God—and then setting aside intentional time to spend with Him—is an important first step toward getting to know Him better.

No deep relationship happens apart from intentional cultivation.

But while we may be intentional about growing in relationship with God, it may seem challenging because we may not feel God’s intentionality toward us. Still, His intentionality in loving and knowing us is always, always there. The One who created us—the One who “knit [us] together” (Psalm 139:13)—has never wavered in His intentionality toward us. He made each of us specifically and with great love. We are worth a great deal to Him (Luke 12:6-7).

We don’t have to ask God to pencil us in to His calendar—He always has time for us. Whether it is 15 minutes in the morning where we read the Bible and pray, an hour-long jog while appreciating His creation, or a weekend retreat spent worshiping Him, consistent, intentional time spent getting to know God is one of the foundations of a deep relationship with Him.

Communication: Talking

But what do we do during the time that we’ve set aside to connect with God? As with earthly relationships, the hope is that we will communicate. Communication with God looks both similar and different from communication with earthly friends, but it includes what all healthy relationships include—sharing, confessing and praising.

We share our hearts with God through prayer and tell Him what we’re excited about, what we’re worried about, and what we are thinking about. We open up about the places we have fallen short and confess our sin to Him. And we praise Him for who He is and what we love about Him. We thank Him. We worship Him. Just as we tell our earthly friends how much we appreciate them and are thankful for them, we do the same with God—to the highest degree.

Read about another two aspects of relationship with God, Communication: Listening, and Acts of Love and Service over at RELEVANT!