Today, Ciara speaks to us about Gomer, foster care, and how she is navigating her recent trials.
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: Growing up, I was a youth pastor’s kid who turned into a lead pastor’s kid. Life was pretty easy and good, except for the always watching eyes. In the eyes of some, I could do no wrong. In the eyes of others, they were just waiting for me to fail. However, I had some incredible parents who always reminded me that the opinion of others did not matter as much as the opinion of God. I was a homeschool kid who entered a public school my sophomore year.
“I had some incredible parents who always reminded me that the opinion of others did not matter as much as the opinion of God.”
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now, He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: To be still and stand in faith.
There are a couple things that currently seem absolutely impossible (relationship struggles, future endeavors, emotional healing). But when I pray about letting it go, God continues to tell me not to worry, but to be still in His presence, trust Him, and stand in faith when it all seems inconceivable because He is the God of the impossible, and His plan will ALWAYS prevail. This includes when no one else around me thinks what I am believing for is possible.
Profession: Student at Ohio University studying Social Work.
Barista at a local coffee shop (Rost Coffee).
Direct Support Professional at First Capital Enterprises.
If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be: “Oh, You Thought Life Would Go the Way You Wanted? How About You Try Trusting God Instead.”
When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? I first encountered God at a very young age. I was at Kids Camp over the summer at my church. We were worshipping one night, and I just felt the love of God reach into the darkest part of my heart. I was completely overwhelmed, brought to tears, and I just did not know what to do with myself except sit there and bask in it. Since then, I have grown in my faith a lot (especially, in the past year) and with that has come a lot more encounters with God.
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? There have been A LOT of things that have helped me grow spiritually in this season. One of the main things is trials and/or battles (as crazy as that sounds). What I thought was the right path, struggle with individuals who make it hard to love them, relationship struggles, and the list goes on and on, but without all of these trials, I wouldn’t have to lean into God and trust Him. Through all of these, I have had a strong community who gives me space to be who I am even in my brokenness, reminds me to lean into God, and give space for moments that God wants access to. In many cases, I could’ve shut Him out of my brokenness, but when I let Him in, He always meets me there.
Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): Currently, I am reading In His Image by Jen Wilkin. It is teaching me to truly analyze the character of God and be aware of the characteristics I should be presenting as one of His children. One of these very defined characteristic is His love. I have been striving to love like He loves day in and day out. This includes loving even when I don’t feel like it.
Top three essentials:
1. Music– always listen to music. I listen to music at least 6 hours a day.
2. Journal– I write about everything and it helps me process and makes me feel closer to God.
3. PEOPLE– I couldn’t live life without people. I’m a total extrovert and need people around always.
How did God speak to you recently? In many cases, God simply speaks to my heart. I don’t often hear an audible voice. It isn’t very often that I get a word from another believer. In most cases, God speaks to my heart through worship music and His word. Recently, He spoke to my heart through Exodus 14:14, and He reminded me that He is fighting the battle for me.
I’ve been fighting a daily battle of struggle, depression, and emotional turmoil for the past couple of months. But, He reminded that He is fighting the battle for me– that I am His child and He doesn’t need me to fight in this season; He just needs me to have faith that He is fighting the battle for me. He has also been using the song Open Space by Housefires to remind me to continually have my heart and life open to whatever He wants to do, however He wants to do it. It’s an act of surrender – surrendering the battle, the struggle, and the outcome to Him having faith that He knows exactly what I need and what others need, as well.
Hobby: My favorite hobby is taking a car ride and listening to music. The range of music on those car rides go from quiet worship music to soul worship music all the way to rap music. I am a big fan of rap and hip-hop. (This hobby, of course, comes after hanging out with people, friends, and & people because I’m 98% extrovert.)
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong:
1. Personal, quiet time with God. You will only stay strong if you are connected to the One who is the source of your faith. He desires your time just as much as you desire to spend your time how you want. Time is the most expensive commodity. Make sure you’re using it to get to know the heart of God and get to know Him personally. Spending time with Him and in His word is the quickest way to get to know His voice.
2. Community. We were made for community. Even God needs community – Father, Son, Holy Spirit, even the angels. If God needs community, how much more do we need community. Community keeps you accountable, reminds you of your worth, and makes sure your focus is set when the world around you tries to steal your focus. Press into community, and your faith with remain strong.
3. Use your resources. Resources, meaning spiritual leaders, Bible apps that you can flip to wherever you are, sermons you can watch/listen to online, pastors, etc. These resources are there for your growth and the more you inundate yourself into those things, the stronger your faith will become for the hard seasons.
Favorite person in scripture? My favorite person in scripture is Hosea. His story truly inspires me because of his obedience to God, no matter the cost it brought to him. That and at one point in my life, I felt a lot like Gomer. The story of Hosea and Gomer made me realize the depth of God’s love for me no matter my actions or how many times I ran from His embrace.
“The story of Hosea and Gomer made me realize the depth of God’s love for me no matter my actions or how many times I ran from His embrace.”
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? When people look at me, I want them to learn to find joy in every season. The joy of the Lord is our strength, and if that is true, then it will sustain us through the good and the bad seasons.
“The joy of the Lord is our strength, and if that is true, then it will sustain us through the good and the bad seasons.”
How do you leave your mark on your community? There are a lot of ways I leave my mark on my community. Part of my job is working with children and adults with disabilities. I engage them in community activities and humanize them to the people around. This helps me leave an impact on my community.
Another way I leave my mark on my community is simply through prayer. I feel like prayer is downplayed a lot, but prayer is a big part of my world. I am constantly praying for those around me (even the people I don’t currently talk to, but have played a role in my life.)
Those are two big ways that I leave my mark on the community. One other way, is I simply try to love people – serving them, being kind to them, going out of my way to be an ambassador for Christ because that is my highest calling – to love God, to love others, and to make Him known.
Favorite holiday? Christmas (cliche, right?). I just have a lot of good memories from around Christmas time.
A goal you have? Start a ministry/church with my family (futuristic goal when I’m married and have kids).
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep? Every Christmas Eve, my family goes over to my grandparents house. After eating dinner and before opening gifts, we read different passages from the Bible about Jesus coming to earth and the lives of those involved – Mary, Joseph, the Magi, shepherds, etc. After we ready the passages, we talk about what impacted us the most that time of reading them.
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? How often did You laugh at all the silly things me and all Your children did?
Thing you want to raise awareness about: Foster care/ adoption! Adoption and foster care is huge. A lot of the foster care system is under supported when it comes to foster families, and there are so many children that simply need a family to love them – often, they need that more than anything. Fostering doesn’t always end up in adoption, but being that family for one child is HUGE. More than that, God asks us to take care of the orphaned. It’s time we start taking that seriously.
“More than that, God asks us to take care of the orphaned. It’s time we start taking that seriously.”
What does your morning routine consist of? Wake up at 5:30 am, get ready for work, go to work (2 hours), watch a sermon, and clean something around the house or spend time in worship.
What is on your nightstand? A clock (to remind me that time is valuable, spend it wisely). A candle (to remind me to spend personal time with God whenever I light it). A light (cause everyone needs a light on their night stand! It also has a plug-in for my phone, so that’s a plus.) A thank you card that was given to me (because words of affirmation is my love language), A plant (to remind me the importance of continued growth). A jar of pens (because I’m a writer/journaler, and I always need pens). A room spray (because I like my room to smell good).
Define Christianity in a sentence: Christianity is a personal relationship with God that affects every other relationship in your life and pushes you to love the people around you in whatever time is given to you.
For more Ciara:
Instagram – @_ciarahope_
Twitter – @cicihopeh
Blog – http://www.ciarahopeonmission.wordpress.com
Video/Media Coordinator at Church Triumphant (www.churcht.org)
Until next time, keep witnessing!
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