The Cross = Love

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13 (NIV).

As a writer and aspiring author, I’m somewhat of a fan of stories. 

Ok, I’m going to be totally honest with you guys – that’s an understatement. I love stories; like really love them. I was that kid who went to the library every weekend to get new books to read all through grade school. You know the kid I’m talking about.

The one who brought books with them wherever they went. Who would sit on the steps at recess to read the new book in their favorite series. Who stapled very-homemade looking stories together and illustrated them herself with her crayons. That was me, I was that kid. And today, I’m pretty much a grown-up-version of that kid. 

I have a pretty wide range of stories that I have read and loved, but some of my favorite stories are the ones that focus primarily on the friendships and relationships between characters. Not just romantic relationships—but relationships in general. Stories about friendship, and commitment, and sticking by the people who matter most through thick and thin. Stories that give us hope, and show us the better side of humanity.

I think the reason that stories like this have always stood out to me is because there is something inside all of us as humans that longs for this. To have someone in our corner who has seen us at our best and our worst. Who knows us better than we know ourselves. Who will always stand by us, through the thick and thin. Who loves us unconditionally.

We were wired for this kind of extravagant love—however, too often we can try to look to the wrong place to find it. 

So many of us try to fill this need with our relationships with those around us. Maybe we look for it in a particular friendship. Maybe we look for it in a clique, or the approval of a certain group at school. Or, maybe we look for it in a dating relationship—believing that if we can just have our happily-ever-after with the perfect rom-com soundtrack, all of our problems will dissolve in an instant.

However, none of these relationships will be able to satisfy us in the end. Sure, they might be great and they might bring us some sense of happiness, but they will never truly fill the need that we were created with—to know and be known by our Creator. No story that we hope to create or recreate can ever compare to the greatest story ever told—the story of a God who came down to save a world that was broken and shattered and completely without hope. 

Jesus was with God in the beginning, when they (as a Trinity, along with the Holy Spirit) created everything in the world that we see and know today. Every blade of grass and every branch on a tree. Every cell and every particle. Every fish in the ocean and every bird in the air. He also created the first humans (Adam and Eve) and had perfect communion with them, until they broke God’s law and brought original sin into this world—separating an entire human race from a Holy and perfect God. But even still, He loved us far too much to let us stay lost, and broken, and in chains.

He took on the sin of the entire human race and offered Himself as a final sacrifice so that we could be welcomed into God’s Kingdom. He loved us so much that He couldn’t bear the thought of spending eternity without us—even suffering on a cross to give us life. And it is in His death and His Resurrection that we find life, love, purpose, and everything that we were created for.

I know this is a familiar story to many of us and I know that this is something that many of us have heard time and time again. But it is still something that is so important to remember—perhaps, especially during Easter week, when we remember and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, and the sacrifice that He made for each and every one of us.

If you are reading this and you are already a Christian, than I want to encourage you to never stop seeing this story with fresh eyes, and sharing this hope with a broken world.

If you are reading this and you have never heard it before, than I want you to know that God loves you so much and desires a personal relationship with you—all you have to do is let Him in.

If you are reading this and have somehow been burned by the church or by Christians who have acted less than Christ-like, than I want you to reconsider your ideas about God—and not hold God responsible for the things that people do. To know that God loves you and is still pursuing you—and wants you to see Him for who He really is.

Whoever you are reading this, God loves you. 

And this, to paraphrase Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas, this is what Easter is all about. 

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“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NIV). 

 

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21 Lessons For 21 Years

Hey guys,

So, in case you didn’t already figure it out by the title, today is my 21st birthday! 

It is hard to believe that another year has already come and gone, and if I’m perfectly honest, twenty has been so full of blessings, lessons, and new experiences that it feels like three years packed in one. I know twenty-one will be just as great, and as an annual birthday-tradition on 1 Timothy 4:12 Girl, I have created a list of lessons that I have learned in my twenty-one years on the planet. Hope you guys like it! 

  1. Keep growing in your faith – No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, there is always something new that God can reveal to you through His Word and the people around you. There are always new ways that we can grow, and learn, and become more like Christ. So stay in the Word, make prayer your lifeline, and stay in tune with the Holy Spirit. The Christian walk is a journey. Own it.
  2. Find a community – Stay plugged into a community of fellow Jesus-followers who are passionate about God and life. Join a small group at your church, and find like-minded friends. Start a Bible study and encourage each other in Christ. The Christian life was never meant to be lived alone and there is so much we can learn from godly friendships. Make these friendships a priority.
  3. Stay close to your family – They have seen you through your best and your worst times. No matter how old you are, never neglect your time with them. Meet your mom for coffee and ask your dad how his day was. Stay in touch with siblings if you have them. Call your grandparents and see how they’re doing, or hang out with them in person regularly if they live nearby. Your family members will always be your biggest cheerleaders and your greatest fans.
  4. Wait for the best – There are still guys who care about God and purity. Who are seeking God’s best for their lives and who will love and respect you in equal measures. Who will challenge you in your faith and challenge you to be the best version of yourself. Wait for a guy like this, and don’t ever settle.
  5. Believe for the best – Even when you can’t see it, believe that better things are right around the corner. Sometimes we have to go through the bad to appreciate the good—but these are only seasons. Never loose faith in people and never loose faith that there are things ahead better than anything you could’ve ever dreamed.
  6. Become the best version of you – Become that person that you always wanted to be. Find your confidence in Christ. Dive deeper in your faith. Make a positive impact in the world around you. Take up that new hobby and chase after that dream. You never know where it could take you.
  7. Expect the unexpected – So much in my life looks different than it was three years ago – but in the best way possible. Sometimes change can be good. As scary, and crazy, and gripping as it can be, sometimes change can be the best thing in the world for you. Trust God. He knows what He’s doing.
  8. Appreciate the little things – Appreciate the beauty of the sun when it’s first starting to rise. Appreciate the sound of birds outside your bedroom window. Appreciate the small, meaningless moments that will turn out to actually be some of the most meaningful and memorable ones. Appreciate your family, your friends and all of the blessings that God has given you.
  9. Let people in – Let the people who have proven themselves to be trustworthy and goodhearted people in. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with these people, and share your struggles and your joys with these people. Lean on them and be the kind of person that they can lean on too. I promise you won’t regret it.
  10. Lead by example – Strive to be the kind of person that your younger siblings, cousins, or next door neighbor could look up to, and look to as an example. Stand in your convictions. Love people genuinely. Live a life of faith, love, and purity (1 Timothy 4:12). Because I can promise you, someone is watching you.
  11. Trust God – There are so many details of our lives that we still don’t know. What (specific) job we’re going to have. Who we’re going to marry. What our lives will look like ten years from now. It can be so easy to make ourselves crazy over these things, but we don’t have to. We serve a God who knows all of these details and more. Trust Him, and don’t rely on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  12. Live in the moment – Plan for the things in the future that you can plan for, but don’t neglect the present. Don’t neglect the life you are in right now and the ins and outs of this season of your life. Live fully in the moment and appreciate the blessings that God has given you right now. Never be so future oriented that you neglect to be fully alive right now.
  13. Choose to be brave – Oftentimes it can be so easy to let fear hold us back, but through Christ, we can face our fears and live courageously. We can share our faith with that person that doesn’t know God. We can lead a Bible study, or a small group. We can do all of these things and more, through Christ, who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Choose bravery – even when you feel afraid.
  14. Its OK to not be OK – My youth pastor once said, “It’s okay to not be okay but it’s not okay to stay there.” Sometimes, in this life, you’ll have trials – but when this happens, take the steps towards overcoming them. Go to God in prayer and ask others to pray for you. Talk to a friend, parent, or youth leader. Find some encouraging verses of Scripture, and some good worship songs. These seasons are hard, but they are only seasons. As I said in point #5, things will get better.
  15. Stay creative – No matter how busy we get, it is so important to give our soul room to breathe. Find a creative hobby that allows you to express yourself and blow off some steam. Take up drawing, or photography. Start a scrapbook. Learn an instrument. Start a blog (hey, it worked for me!). There are so many different outlets of creativity. Find the one (or multiple ones) that you enjoy the most.
  16. Allow yourself time to rest – We live in a society that operates in constant go-mode. That constantly pushes for ‘harder, faster, and more’. However, we can be busy without being productive. Give yourself time to recharge. Read a good book, or call up a friend. Watch A Walk To Remember for the hundredth time. Put on some good music. We all need time to recharge sometimes.
  17. Embrace your quirks – There was I time in my life when I felt like my personality was totally oddball. During my teenage years there were a lot of things about me that made me feel a little less than normal—like my love of tea, cats, and apathy towards heavy metal. I didn’t fit the paradigm of what I thought a ‘normal’ teenager was. However, these ‘quirks’ are all part of the way that God has created me, and with time I have learned to embrace them. So embrace you. Because you’re fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image!
  18. Stay true to your convictions – Being a Christian in college (or high school, for that matter) can make you feel a little out of place sometimes. But stay true to your convictions. Dare to be that gal (or guy) who is committed to absolute purity until marriage. That person who won’t experiment with drugs or alcohol. That person who believes there is something bigger out there than the here and now. I have been (and still am) that person and I have absolutely no regrets. Dare to be different. Dare to be original.
  19. Strive to see the best in people – Strive to see the best in that professor who gives you twenty pounds of homework each week. Strive to see the best in that boss that mixes up your schedule for the billionth time. Strive to see your best in that classmate who who you can’t seem to find a shred of kindness in. These people, like you and I, are still created in the image of God. Choose to see them that way.
  20. ‘Adulting’ isn’t what you think – You don’t become an adult when you get your license, get your first job, or graduate high school. You become an adult through the small, seemingly insignificant decisions that you make every day. Through taking ownership of your life and the person that you want to be. When you dare to live a life you can be proud of. This is what ‘adulting‘ truly is.
  21. Never stop savoring that awesome piece of cake on your birthday – Because hey, you made it to another year! And that is totally worth celebrating! Image result for 21 years

How about you? What are some life lessons that you’ve learned over the years? Feel free to share them in the comments section below! I’d love to hear them! 

Peace

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  – John 14:27 (NIV).

Peace. It is a word that we all long for, yet few know how to find. A word that in just five letters, sends calming images to mind and a feeling of comfort to our hearts. A word that conjures up images of beaches and long summer nights. Christmas lights and fireplaces. All things nice, and cozy, and well—peaceful!

It is also a word that is severely lacking from most of the word’s  vocabulary today. 

As humans in present-day-society, we are often encouraged to view life through the lens of lack and scarcity. We are encouraged to chase more prestigious jobs with a higher pay. We are encouraged to get into the most impressive college and make the dean’s list. We are encouraged to change our appearance based on perceived flaws and social norms. We are encouraged to be better, faster, and more. All while killing a part of ourselves in the process.

Little by little, we begin to place our hope in these things—forgetting that as Christians, our joy was meant to be something a lot more eternal.

Though it is something that on some level, I’ve known for years, I have been learning what it means to find peace in Christ, even in seasons that try and test this peace. I am learning what it means to breathe. What it means to let go and let God. What it means to find rest in God’s grace and love—and remember that in itself is enough.

As I write this, I am reminded of some of the things that give me sort of a ‘peace’ in the physical realm. Warm tea. Ice cream and a good movie or TV series on Hulu. A new book. The feeling of a warm blanket. Lights strung during Christmas time. I am also reminded of the things that tend to steal my peace. Too much homework. Early shifts at work. Unexpected bad news. Running late for anything. Driving in torrential rain. These kinds of things, despite my desire to stay calm, often have a tendency to rob me of my peace in an instant.

Writing both about the things that give me peace and the things that send me into panic mode, I feel led to ask you this question—which is your faith for you? Is your faith in Jesus a place where you can find rest, a place that gives you the peace of eating ice cream and watching your old favorite movie? Or does it feel more like akin to the anxiety of too much homework—a task that feels overwhelming, and that you feel you must ‘perfect’ in order to win God’s approval?

According to Jesus, in Matthew 11:28-30, the Christian life should feel more like the first example. This passage says, “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me.[a] I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.[b] 29 Simply join your life with mine.[c] Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle,[d] humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me.[e] 30 For all that I require of you will be pleasant[f] and easy to bear.” (TPT). 

God wants us to find an unexplainable peace in Him. A peace that can carry us even when our lives are anything but. A peace that does not come from religious works or legalism, but from a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. The Christian life does not mean we will not have trials, or feel stress from time to time, but it does mean that we have a hope and a love that can carry us through it. We have something that can sustain us even through the seasons that threaten our peace. 

This week, I want to challenge you to sink into that peace. To rest in God’s presence. To sink into His oasis. To remember that Jesus is gentle, humble, and easy to please.  To find peace in His love, mercy and grace. And, to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV).

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How about you? How do you sink into God’s peace when the storms start to come your way? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments section below! Also – check out this really great song all about this by Lauren Daigle here! I heard it at a Christian conference a couple of weeks ago and it is really good! 

Borrowed Faith

“Love empowers us to fulfill the law of the Anointed One as we carry each other’s troubles.” – Galatians 6:2 9 (TPT).

A couple of days ago, I had someone tell me that they felt extremely led to inform me that I needed to talk about borrowed faith on this blog—in those exact terms too. So, considering that doesn’t happen very often, and that I try to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s leading in regards to this blog (and you know, life in general) I decided to give this post that exact title.

To clarify, when I use the term ‘borrowed faith’, I am not speaking in terms of salvation. Every person must make that decision for themselves and we cannot rely on someone else in our relationship and walk with God. We do however, all at some point, reach a time when we are struggling to have faith for our particular struggle or season. Seasons where all we can see is a tunnel of darkness with seemingly no clear end in sight. I have gone through seasons like this and I’m sure you have as well. They are only seasons, but when we are in them, they can seem to last a lifetime.

That being said, in times like these, we can (hopefully) lean on those around us to get us through. Where we can ‘borrow’ the faith of others when we struggle to have faith in the midst of our own situation. I had a season like this when I was a new Christian, way back in Jr. High School, when I was dealing with some complicated situations within my family. Situations that felt nearly impossible to walk through at that point in time. I’ve also dealt with plenty of other smaller seasons where I felt lonely, confused, or anxious—where God surrounded me with people who have helped me get through. People who’s faith I could ‘borrow’ when the weight I was feeling felt like too much to carry on my own.

However, sometimes, we are called to be this person for others. To have the kind of faith that someone can borrow when they’re in one of these seasons. As Christians, we are called to be sensitive to the needs of those around us, and be someone that others can turn to during these times. Someone that a friend could call up to share their problems with; someone who will pray for (or with) someone who’s struggling, and who reaches out to that classmate at school who is sitting alone at the lunch table nearby. 

Maybe you’re reading this today and thinking, “I’m the one who needs to borrow faith today”. If that’s you, than I want to encourage you to reach out to someone you can trust; whether it be a relative, a friend, a youth leader, or a pastor. I want to also encourage you to go to God directly. Get on your knees and just cry out to Him. He knows every detail of your situation no matter how hard it may be or how alone you may feel. And things will get better. It may not seem like it right now, but life has a way of turning around at the most unexpected times in the most unexpected ways. So keep holding on tightly to that rope – you never know where the next chapter might bring you.

Or maybe as you’re reading this, someone comes to mind. A friend, or fellow student at your high school (or middle school, or college). A co-worker, or neighbor. Someone from church, or an extracurricular. Whoever it is, I want to challenge you to be intentional with this person this week. To let them “borrow your faith” so to speak. Be the person that you needed during a season like that. Tell them you’re praying for them, or offer to pray with them. Let them know Jesus loves them. Be a friend, and an ear that will listen. Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” And in John 13:35, we are told that we are to be known by our love. 

Also, if there’s anything that you’re dealing with, please leave a note in the comments section or DM me through my Instagram page! I’d love to let you ‘borrow my faith’ and pray with and for you guys! 

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How about you? How can you be a voice of encouragement in your school and your sphere of influence this week? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below! 

Identity – A Guest Post

Hey everyone,

Today I am excited to announce that I have a special guest post brought to you by a good friend, and all-around awesome human-being, Evan Krause. 

Some of you reading this may already know Evan, but for those of you who don’t, Evan has been working for about a year with a Christian missions group called the Circuit Riders and with a national tour called Carry The Love. Last month he had the chance to work with The Send—a Christian revival that has been called the ‘Jesus Movement‘ of this generation and he’s without a doubt one of the strongest Christians I know.

He has some powerful words about finding our identity in Christ and living in the freedom that God intended us to have! 

I promise you will be blessed by it and even if you are not Christian, I pray that you will still take a couple of minutes out of your day to watch this video! You won’t regret it! 

If you have any thoughts you would like to share, please leave a comment below! As always, I’d love to hear what you have to say! 

Fix My Eyes

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” – C.S. Lewis. 

In our day to day life, it can be so easy to get caught up in our everyday troubles, and miss what matters most. To miss the one thing that we were put in this earth to do; know God and make Him known.

Recently, this has been something that God has been placing heavily on my heart, and I felt led to share. It is something that I have been learning, and processing, and figuring out in my own life. Something that I cannot say that I live out perfectly, but that I have been striving to improve in. Something that I feel like every Christian must grasp in order to grow.

Hebrews 12:2 says much of what I would like to try to say in this blog, as it reads, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.” (MSG). As Christians, we are running a race. And if we want to achieve full victory, we must keep our eyes on the prize, which is Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

I cannot stress enough how easily it is to stray our focus onto other things. It is something that I battle in my own life, as a Christian college student in the 21st Century. There are a million things that scream for our attention as we struggle to juggle all of these things at once. I have seen this struggle in friends and peers in regards to school. I have seen this struggle with others in regards to work, or a goal of some sort. I know I personally have dealt with this in a variety of situations at various points in my life—ranging  from potential jobs to potential relationships. From lifelong dreams to algebra exams. 

However, last week in my hometown there was a shooting at a local high school. Someone took their own life right in the middle of the school. Tragedies like this remind me how important it is that we always keep first things first, and never let the everyday-ness of life distract from the things that God has put us on earth to do. To never let school, or work, or guy-drama detract from sharing God’s love with those who are hurting or who don’t know God at all.

There’s a world out there that is starving for love. That is starving for someone who is willing to reach out to them, and share the love of Christ. And as Christ’s hands and feet here on this earth, it is our job to spread that love to those around us. To never miss a chance to share the Gospel with someone, even if it may be uncomfortable in the moment. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (NIV). This is our calling as Christians, no matter what other callings God may have given us – to share His Word with the World.

To conclude, I would like close with a passage that I believe speaks into this. It’s found in Philippians 3:15-17 (MSG). “So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision – you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal.”

Every day is a new opportunity and a new chance to set our eyes on Jesus. To focus on our Savior and the mission fields that God has given us in our day to day lives.

To, in the words of the Hillsong New York Pastor, Carl Lentz, ‘Occupy all streets’.

What will we do with these opportunities?

What will we do with these chances? 

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How about you? What are some ways you are striving to ‘occupy all streets’ in your town for Jesus? I’d love to hear how Jesus is working in your lives in the comments below! 

Perfect

“I got a couple dents in my fender. Got a couple rips in my jeans. Try to fit the pieces together. But perfection is my enemy. And on my own I’m so clumsy but on Your shoulders I can see. I’m free to be me.” – Francesca Battistelli, Free To Be Me.

I was approximately nine years old when the song Free To Be Me, by Francesca Battistelli, first aired on the radio. My family was just starting to listen to the local Christian radio station around this time, and immediately, I resonated with this song. I felt like  Francesca Battistelli had written those lyrics just for me. Ever since I was young, I have always struggled with perfectionism.* And, in some ways, it is still something that I struggle with from time to time today.

To give you all some context on this, I’ve recently discovered that I’m an Enneagram 1w9. Ones are notorious for being perfectionists, and they tend to set extremely high standards for themselves. On the surface level, this can look like a good thing. I’ve never drank or used drugs, I’ve always made pretty decent grades, and I do my best to be kind to the people around me. These are all good things. The not-so-good thing is how, at times, I’ve made my faith about me more than God. How I’ve sometimes put my worth in what I’ve done rather than what Jesus has already done for me. How I put weights on myself that Christ never intended for me to carry.

A couple of years ago, back when I was still in high school, I read a book about this by Emily P. Freeman called Grace For The Good Girl. I wrote about it in a previous blog post, here. The author, like me, has struggled with perfectionism for most of her life. She writes, in one part of the book, describing her struggle, “When bad girls perform to get their needs met, they get in trouble. When good girls perform to get the same thing, we get praise. That is why the hiding is so easy for us. We work hard, we do right, and we try not to ruffle feathers. And even if we do all that by the strength of our own selves, we tell ourselves it’s okay. It seems to work, therefore it’s acceptable.It is not wrong to try to do the right thing, and follow God’s ways and His heart to the best of our ability. The problem occurs when we put our worth in what we do rather than who we are in Christ. When we rely on ourselves rather than relying on God.

Here’s the thing guys, Jesus did not come so that we can make a couple small behavior adjustments and throw Him into our backpack along with our grades and our accomplishments. He came to completely wreck our lives with His love and make dead people alive! To quote Emily P. Freeman once again, “The story of redemption and healing is that Jesus came to exchange my not-good-enough with his better-than-I-could-ever-imagine. He came to trade my life for His, my weak for His strong, my ashes for His beauty. He longs for each of us to receive the gift of Himself.” It is only when we fully grasp this truth that we can really experience the fullness of God’s power and the freedom that He intended for us to have in Christ.

If any of you are like me, and struggle with perfectionism, I want to challenge you to sink more into Jesus. To rely on His power more than your own. To realize that this journey with Jesus is so much grander than to-do-lists and checklists and trying to be good. To fall in love with Jesus and live your life as an outpouring of that love. To realize that grace is not simply the thing that we experience at salvation, but the thing that carries us and sustains us through the rest of our days and the rest of our life. 

To live faithfully, clinging to Jesus every day and every moment. 

Bringing your best, and trusting God with the rest. 

Loving God and loving people every step of the way. 

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*Full disclosure: I’m also a tad clumsy. So I can also admittedly relate to that part of the song.😉   

How about you guys? Do any of you struggle with perfectionism, or trying to win the approval of God and others? If so, feel free to share about it below! I’d love to discuss this in the comments!