Fearless

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

For many people, fear is a familiar face. 

It’s the thing that we feel deep down as we step out of our comfort zone. The feeling that we get when we go up on stage to sing or give a speech. The worry that plagues us as we talk to someone new. It’s likely something different for all of us, but regardless of the specifics, there’s something that we all have in common.

We all struggle with fear in some capacity. 

Maybe not on a daily basis. And maybe we don’t experience it to a crippling degree. But, if we’re honest, we’re all afraid of something. And whatever it is, I believe that it’s something that we can overcome. I believe that we all have the capacity to move past the grips of fear.

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” God doesn’t want us to live our lives out of fear. He wants us to have peace, to trust Him, and live courageously and confidently through His power within us.

I’m going to be honest, fear is something that has often been a stumbling block in my own life. I touched on this a couple of posts back, in my post about vulnerability. It’s a real struggle for me to open up to people, and let people in. I consider people who open up with ease to be some of the bravest people I know, because it’s one of the things that I struggle the most with. But lately, God has been helping me overcome this. He’s been helping me learn to break down my wall. To let people in and trust that they won’t let me down.

Maybe for you, fear looks a little different. Maybe it’s a fear of public speaking, or of talking to someone you don’t know. Maybe it’s a fear of the future, or of the unknown. Whatever it is, God already knows about it. He sees you and loves you in the midst of it.He’s not disappointed in you for having fears—but as our Heavenly Father, He wants us to have peace and joy. He wants us to lay down our fears before Him and trust that He’ll trade those fears for joy. He wants us to learn day-by-day how to live confidently in Christ. 

Here’s the thing guys, we’ll never be able to live out the fullness of the plans that God has for us if we remain trapped in the prison of fear. God calls us to be bold, and boldness can only really happen when we lay down our fears at the foot of the cross. He wants to use us for big things—and oftentimes, that means stepping outside of our comfort zone, and daring to be uncomfortable. These are the times when we bring what have, and God brings the rest. He will never bring us to something too hard for us to accomplish. In the words of Luke 1:37, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

This week, I want to challenge you to live fearlessly.

To embrace the fullness of God’s plans for you.

To live boldly, to love fully, and to be the change right where you are.

Dare to be fearless; embracing the freedom found in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in Whom we find our strength, power, and perfect peace. 

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B.A.S.I.C. – A Post About Love

“He said come to the table, come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior now, sit down and be set free. Come to the table.” – Sidewalk Prophets 
Recently, I have been challenged to write a post about love. The challenge came up on Sunday night, as I was talking to a group of friends at church, and one of them mentioned that she had recently read a devotional about love. Thus, she gave me this challenge, when I asked for blogging suggestions: write about love. 
And in that moment, I accepted the challenge.
Initially, I wasn’t quite sure which kind of love to write about (According to C.S. Lewis, there are four different kinds; storage, philia, eros, and agape). My first instinct was to write a post about God’s love, but I had just written about that two posts back, in #RelationshipGoals. My other thought was to write about dating relationships, which is something I’ve been studying lately. But, that didn’t feel quite right for this post either, although I would like to eventually touch on that topic more in the future. Finally, my mom gave me this idea, as I was talking with her the other day.
Write about B.A.S.I.C. – what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ. 
And, as you can see by the title of this post, this is the topic that stuck. 
For as long as I can remember, the vision of every believer being part of the family of God has always captivated me. Growing up as an only child, there were often times when I used to imagine what it would be like to have a brother or a sister. I would watch my friends interact with their siblings, and wonder what it would be like to have a sibling of my own. Thus, when I accepted Christ and read Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:50 that “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”  I was immediately intrigued.
Since then, I have grown to see more and more the beauty of this teaching, and how it directly relates to the real-in-the-now moments of each of our lives. How it changes the way that we see and interact with those around us, and how it gives us a vision of hope and love to live out in a world that seems to grow a little more cold, isolated, and autonomous every day.
Every person that we meet is a person that is, or has the potential to become our brother or sister in Christ. And God desires that each one of us would choose to become a part of this big, diverse, worldwide family. He wants to adopt each one us as His sons and daughters, and wants each of us to turn to Him as our Heavenly Father.
What would happen if each one of us chose to truly live this teaching out to its full? What if each one of us really chose to see each other this way, and treat each other like family? What if we chose to embrace one and other with this kind of radical love in a world that is too often governed by division and hate? What would change in our communities? Our cities? Our nations? Our world?
And how incredible of witness would it be for our faith? 
Right now, the world is starving for something real. In a world of shallow connections, airbrushed images, and competitions for the most ‘likes’,  we are desperately in need of real love, family, and community. One that will be there for us when things get hard and the odds seem stacked against us.
What if we, as Christians, made the choice every day to love?
To love God.
 
To love our brothers and sisters in Christ?
 
To love those who God wants to bring into the family?
What if we made the words of John 13:35 our mission statement? Where Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
What if we chose to become world changers—loving every person that we meEt the way Jesus did, living out the mission and heart of the Gospel in every interaction we have; changing the world through God’s amazing love—one life at a time? 
What if we really chose to be B.A.S.I.C.? 
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Strength In Vulnerability

You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back.” – Barbara de Angelis. 

Vulnerability. Transparency. Openness.

There is a lot packed into these three simple words. Things that are scary for many of us. Choices that make us feel afraid. Decisions that force us out of our comfort zone.

But recently, God has been speaking to me about all of these things, and I feel led to share what I’ve been learning with you, in hopes that maybe, just maybe, it might inspire someone.

So, here it goes…

* * * *

For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been good at opening up to people. I don’t have a specific reason exactly – likely some mix of being a more reserved personality by nature and going through seasons where I’ve been hurt by people – but for as long as I can remember, this has always been my story. I could write and speak about my faith and beliefs, but anytime I tried to get personal—about my life and my own struggles, I choked. It was easier for me to talk about things from an intellectual standpoint than a personal one.

This got a million times worse once I got to college. 

My first year of college, I slowly began to feel like my life was falling apart. First my schedule changed, and than my expectations changed, and than little by little, I began to feel a lot of my friendships beginning to change—until eventually it felt like everything that had come together so perfectly towards the end of high school was gone, never to be recovered again.

My life, little by little, began to turn into something of a to-do-list. 

I got up. I went to college classes. I went to work. I did my chores and daily-tasks. 

And shut down almost 100% emotionally and relationally. 

In some ways, I felt hurt. Why was it so hard to get together with old friends? Why were people changing so much? Where was God in the midst of all of this? I began to fear that if I let anyone else in, I would only get hurt—over and over again. And somewhere down the line, I held back from fully letting God in. On the outside, I looked strong. On the inside, I was a total, complete train-wreck—with OCD and anxiety slowly starting to run my life.

In retrospect, I was somewhat aware that I had a problem—even if I didn’t know how to fix it. But to be honest, most days I was trying so hard to just get through that I couldn’t really see the full picture, and how much I really was falling apart. In my mind, it was all just a part of life that I’d have to get used to. 

But recently, things have changed. And that’s what I want to share with you. 

As some of you know, I’ve started going to a new church, which I wrote about here. It has been an incredible blessing, and I’ve loved going, but I had no idea when I first went how much this church would end up helping me. And how much it would change my life.

My first week there, I was blown away by how connected everyone seemed—and how everyone really seemed to interact as one big, awesome, diverse, beautiful church family—taking the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:50 and putting them into action. The following week, I saw it even more up close and personal, as I went for the first time to the church’s young adult/college group. And that’s when things really started to change.

After taking note of how genuinely nice the people in this group seemed, the second thing that I noticed was how they opened up. Like, really opened up. More than I’ve ever seen people collectively open up in a church group before. And not only did they open up to each other—they opened up to God. Being a part of this church, I’ve seen so many people on fire for Jesus—striving to grow closer to Him above all else. And little by little, I heard God, starting to convict me. 

“You need to start letting people in. You need to start letting me in.” ‘

This has completely changed my life, and my outlook on life. It wasn’t a call to come to Christ—I accepted Christ years ago, back when I was still pretty young. But it was a call to give God all of me. My hopes. My fears. My dreams. My carefully laid out plans. 

And it was a call to start really opening up to those around me.

Slowly, I’ve started doing both of these things. It’s been a process—I can’t say I’m where I’d like to be quite yet, but I’ve made progress, even admitting in front of my whole group that I struggle with OCD and anxiety (which, by the way, has slowly been lessening). And I’ve found that the more that you give God your all, the less you worry about being hurt by other people—giving you the freedom to really open up to those around you. 

These last few years have been a journey—but for the first time in a while, I’m living—not just breathing.

And I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for me. 

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#RelationshipGoals

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

As human beings, we’re naturally and innately wired for relationships. 

From the time that we are children, we’re motivated to forge relationships with those around us. No one has to teach us that we need other people. It is something that we instinctively know; whether introverted, extraverted, or somewhere in between, regardless of culture, gender, race, or ethnicity. It is God’s fingerprint on His creation—and one of the clearest and most incredible ways that we are made in His image.

We were made for relationships with other people.

And, even more importantly, we were made for a relationship with God. 

While it is often easy for us to remember that we need to be in close relationships with those around us to flourish, it can often be easy to forget the importance, and life-altering significance of our relationship with God.

Many of us, if we’ve been in the church for a long time, have heard the old cliche ‘Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship’, but in our real, nitty-gritty every day lives, this can be a difficult truth to live out. It’s all too easy to fall into routine with our faith. To read our Bible, go to church, and pray—all while missing the breathtaking beauty of it all. That the God of the universe wants to know us personally, and loves each of us more than any human being on this earth ever could. 

And until we shape our lives around this truth, nothing else will ever be enough. 

The truth is, in my own life, this has often been a struggle that I’ve personally dealt with. Though I know this truth deep down in my heart, there have been far too many times that I’ve tried to place something else where God should be. In some seasons, it’s been an achievement. In other seasons, it’s been a close friendship. Yet in other seasons, it’s been my own struggle with perfectionism. There have been times when I’ve been so focused on what my life looked like on the outside that I’ve totally neglected what was really important—the condition of my heart on the inside.

Sometimes, even really good things can distract us from deepening our relationship with God. Things like pursuing a talent that God has given us, or a relationship with someone God has placed in our life. The problem isn’t always the thing itself, but the weight that we give it. Anything can turn into a negative thing if it keeps us from turning our hearts most fully to the one most important thing.

No matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done, God wants a deep, personal relationship with you. He sees you as His beloved child and friend and would die for you all over again even if you were the only person on earth.

As you go throughout your week, I want to challenge you to fall more in love with Jesus. To see your faith and quiet time with God as a way of growing closer to the One who wants to know you, rather than just a list of tasks. To never stop being captivated by the heart of the Gospel.

To never stop pursuing a relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

Through Christ

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

From the time that many of us are young, we have dreams for the future.

Maybe our dream is to write a book, or go to college, or enter a certain line of work. Maybe it’s to start a family, or become a missionary in a third world country. Likely, the details of our dreams and desires will look somewhat different for everyone, but there is one thing many of us struggle with, regardless of our many differences and strengths. Something that is a common fear amongst many of God’s children, and that can be nearly paralyzing—holding us back from our destiny and our calling in life.

And that thing is, the fear of failure. 

This can be especially highlighted for those who have graduated this year—either from high school or college, and who are faced with a new chapter in life. I remember my own high school graduation just a couple of years ago, and the feeling of being plagued with a sense of fear and anxiety as I stood on that stage to accept my diploma.

What did God have next for me? And what did life after high school look like?

Many of my friends who have graduated this year have expressed similar concerns. Some are still trying to decipher God’s calling post-college graduation, and some will be entering college campuses and universities for the very first time.

Even if we aren’t one of the lucky graduates of 2018, we likely still deal with some of this same stress and worry about the future. A lot of us have a dream for the destination, but don’t know how we’re going to get there. Some of us may feel hesitant to even try.

Nonetheless, while these are all very legitimate fears and concerns, there’s something very important that we can remember as Christians during times like this. Something that can carry us through any fear or doubt or worry that we face, and something big enough to carry us through any trial that we encounter.

We aren’t in this alone. 

We serve a God who painted the stars into the galaxy. Who said ‘Let there be light’ and there was. Who created the Heavens and the earth and who knows each of us by name—and who wants a personal and intimate relationship with all of us. The same God who tells us that “If we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains” (Matthew 17:20).

Here’s the thing guys, we are never alone in our hopes and dreams. We were never meant to try to do big things for God. We were meant to do things with God—as image bearers and beloved children of our Heavenly Father. And if we trust our dreams to God (assuming they’re His will), they will come to pass.

God wants to use each of us to play part of His larger story in humanity. No person is too small, and no dream is too big for the God of the galaxies. He has a history of using ordinary people for an extraordinary purpose. He transformed Shepherd boy into the king of a nation. He used a young girl from an ordinary family to give birth to the Savior of the world. He used a former murder to write most of the New Testament.

If God could use David, Mary, and Paul, than He can use you too.

As you go throughout this week, I want to encourage you to pray big for the things that you want to see come to pass in your life. Pray with confidence over your future and the future of those around you—believing wholeheartedly that God will answer your prayers in His timing. We were each made for something incredible, that we were meant to accomplish with and through Christ, who gives us strength.

All that we need is faith the size of mustard seed. 

 

A New Church And An Answered Prayer

Recently something pretty big has happened in my life that I feel compelled to share with you. Something exciting, that I feel is deserving of a post all its’ own. 

My family has found a new church. And I absolutely love it. 

My parents and I have tossed around the idea of trying another church for a little while now, but have never actually made the move to do it. We all really liked our home church, but had a trouble connecting, and it was so small that it was often hard to make friends. But two weeks ago, we actually did it. We boarded my dad’s car and headed to a new church—ironically, one that was only a couple of miles away from the church that I grew up in.

Naturally on the way there I felt a typical mix of excitement and nervousness that comes with trying a new church. Will I like it? Will it be any good? Will the people there be nice? Thankfully, once we actually got there, all of my fears were dispelled.

Within a couple of minutes of being there, I could tell that this church was vibrant and alive. That this was a church filled with love, sincerity, and faith. 

It was also a church that was really diverse—something I’ve rarely seen in most local congregations. This church was filled with people of every race and age—all coming together for a common purpose and faith; something that I’ve always seen the ‘Church‘ as being, but that I was seeing for the first time in a literal church building.

Within only a few short moments, I witnessed friends laughing and talking amongst themselves, was greeted by a lot of really nice people, and saw young people actually participating in the service—many who were up on stage in the band during worship or greeting newcomers at the front door.

Oddly enough, I wasn’t an anomaly as a young person in church—I was the norm, surrounded by both people my age and people older and younger than me. In this church, I witnessed solid friendships between members—some, who seemed to have little in common on the surface aside from a common faith. I saw the beauty of what the church is, and has always been, displayed right before my eyes. And I nearly lost it.

For years, I’ve dreamed of being part of a church like this. A church that lived out the meaning of the word ‘church family‘, and where anyone was immediately welcomed in. Where it didn’t matter if you were young or old, and where everyone felt equally at home. Where I could learn, and grow, and belong—along with other believers who would support me in my walk and who I would support in theirs.

Finding this church was an answer to prayer, and as I sat through that service, I felt closer to God than I had in a while. It was like I felt Him right there in the building—revealing to me that this was exactly where I was supposed to be right now.

I’m going to be honest, this past two years have been rough—probably more so than I’ve let on in this blog. I’ve struggled with major changes in my life and moments of heavy loneliness and anxiety. And at times, it only seemed to worsen in public settings. There have obviously been good points in my life as well, but the last couple of years out of high school have by no means been easy for me. Deep down, I’ve longed for something stable—a place where I could actually plant down roots, and connect with other people my age. Something like my new church—and by extension, new college Bible study, which I tried last week and absolutely loved. Something like a church family. 

Through all of this, God has reminded me of His faithfulness and love for His children. I’ve also been reminded that even during the times when I’ve felt the most lonely, I’ve never been alone. God has always been there for me and He’s always had a plan for my life. I was simply in a season of life—one that I feel is coming to an close even as I type this.

If any of you reading this are in a similar season of life, take heart. Life has a way of getting easier, and God has a bigger plan for your life than you can see right now.

Keep holding on and keep pressing on in your faith.

Who knows? You might find an unexpected blessing just around the corner.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17 

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Twenty Lessons for Twenty Years

So…today is the big day. My twentieth birthday. 

And if I’m totally honest, I feel no different than I did yesterday.

Nonetheless, in the tradition of posting a blog-per-birthday, I decided to write about twenty things that I’ve learned over the last twenty years.

And I hope you enjoy reading them!

  1. Trust God – I know that I used this one last year, but it is still so relevant! Every year life changes, and we are faced with new challenges, trials, and oppositions. Nonetheless, in the midst of this God is always constant. He was, and is and is to come (Revelations 1:8) and He never changes or acts inconsistently. Through all of life’s trials, we can always turn to Him for guidance and direction.
  2. Hold onto your true friends – As we go throughout life, it’s likely that we’re going to meet tons of people. Some are going to enter our lives and some are going to exit. Nonetheless, through all of this it is so important that we keep our true friends close! Friends are hard to come by, and when you come across the ones that will stand by you no matter what, don’t let them go! They’re one of life’s rare gems.
  3. Stay true to yourself – God has crafted each one of us into something unique and special. We were all created with innate worth and potential. And, in a world where everyone is trying so hard to fit in, it is so much better to stand out – making the choice everyday to be true yourself and live your life with confidence in Christ!
  4. Stay close to family – The older you get, the more you realize how important your family really is – and how short of a time that you have with them. Make the most of the time that you have with your parents, grandparents, and relatives. More than likely, they have a lot of wisdom that they’ve obtained over the course of their lives – and they’ll always be your biggest cheerleaders!
  5. Appreciate the small moments – Because one day, those small moments will be big moments.
  6. Chase your dreams – In the words of a song by 33 Miles, “You only get just one time around, you only get one shot at this…one try, one ride, one life.” Don’t be afraid to make this life everything that you want to to be – and go after your goals with the confidence that you can achieve them.
  7. Working hard pays off – Sometimes, hard work isn’t easy or fun in the moment, but it pays off in the long run. Put your all into every project, every job, and every assignment that comes your way. I promise you won’t regret it!
  8. Make a difference – Every day we are given the chance to make a difference in someone’s life – no matter how small it might seem. Don’t waste the opportunities that God has given you to be a light for Him, and make someone’s day a little brighter.
  9. Hard times never last forever – Each one of is going to face trials and tribulations in this life. It’s part of living in a fallen world. But we’ve all been there, and it will get easier. Don’t forget to reach out to God, family, and friends during these times. Sometimes, we all need to ask for help, and we all need somebody to talk to.
  10. Don’t be ashamed to rest – None of us were made to keep going 24/7. There’s nothing wrong with resting, and taking a break after a day of hard work. We all need rest sometimes, so we’re refreshed to keep going in our daily lives and tasks.
  11. Life is more than the things you post – In the modern world, it can be so tempting to constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to post a picture on Instagram, or a quote on Twitter, but life is so much more than that. Don’t forget to live in the moment, and forget about your social media for a little while.
  12. Age is just a number – Sometimes, once you get into your teens, birthdays can get a little scary. You’re faced with the realization that you’re getting older, and you have a lot of life decisions ahead of you. But sometimes, it’s best not to focus on the number, and just do what you need to do each day, which brings me to my next point…
  13. Take one day at a time – Jesus actually gives this same piece of advice in Matthew 6:34. He says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” If you take one day at a time, life becomes a lot easier to handle.
  14. Find something that you love to do – For me, hobbies have always been a great way to relax and have fun. They help us to de-stress from the responsibilities of the day and give us an outlet to pour our energy into. Personally, my main hobby is writing—but for you, it may be any number of things, from singing, to sewing, to soccer. Find out what it is – I promise you won’t regret it.
  15. Don’t make a SO your whole life – For those of you who don’t know, ‘SO‘ is a trendy term for a ‘significant other‘. And the reason I use this term is because it’s not just a girl problem—guys do this too. Since I’ve gotten to college, I’ve seen more and more people get so consumed in a boyfriend or girlfriend that they forget about everything else around them. There’s nothing wrong with dating, but never get so wrapped up in the person you’re dating that you forget the other important areas of your life.
  16. Stand up for what you believe in – Never be afraid to use your voice and stand up for what you believe in. It can often be scary to share your views, whether they be a belief in God, a political opinion, or a cause that you feel strongly about, but it’s so worth it. Speaking up can make a real difference, and they say that one spark starts a fire. Never be afraid to speak out.
  17. But do this with gentleness and respect – Branching off of the last topic, as important as it is to stand up for your beliefs, it is also important that you do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). It is important that we respect those around us, and present each of our beliefs and views with love.
  18. Don’t be afraid to try new things – I’ll be the first to admit that I hate change. Nonetheless, sometimes change can be good. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new things.
  19. Take the time to appreciate beauty – Every day we are surrounded by beauty in this world – whether it be a kind word or a beautiful flower that we see outside. Take the time to appreciate these things, or as the old saying goes, ‘take time to smell the roses‘.
  20. Celebrate life’s accomplishments – You know, like writing a post to celebrate getting older. That sort of thing.😉

There you go! Twenty lessons for twenty years! I hope you enjoyed reading these, and if you have anything that you’d like to add, feel free to write it in the comments section! I’d love to hear your thoughts!😃