Confident

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14. 

Confidence. It is something that all of us want and desire. A topic we discuss often in our modern day society. It’s also pretty much the theme of my blog’s tagline—”striving to live confidently in Christ”. But what does it mean to truly be confident—and what does it mean to live confidently in Christ?

I’m going to be honest with you guys. I wrote this same post almost a week ago, but later, felt that I needed to take a different approach with it. Because while I spoke the truth and said it in a way that sounded pretty good and ‘Christian-blog-esque‘, I didn’t tell you a whole lot about my own battle, and my own journey with confidence. And after talking with a group of friends this week, and really getting real about what we were dealing with, it occurred to me that sometimes, what we need to hear most are people’s stories. We need to know that we are not alone in our struggles—and that they’re not all that unique. That other people have dealt with the same things we have, and that others are fighting the same battles that we are. 

You see, the truth is, even though I’m twenty-one years old, and even though I’ve been a Christian for over half of my lifetime, I still sometimes struggle with confidence. I still sometimes get insecure. I still have my moments. I still feel inadequate sometimes. And one of my biggest struggles in confidence is my tendency towards quietness.

I’ve heard people say before that I can sometimes come off as ‘stoic’ in group settings. Because I’m quiet, people don’t always realize that underneath the ‘stoic-ness’, I really do desire to connect on a deeper level with those around me. I just don’t always know how. I get stuck inside of my head. I try to make a good impression. I wrack my brain with conversation topics that I think will help me grow closer to the people around me. And, in the end I find myself spinning my wheels so hard that I sabotage myself from being able to do the one thing that I am trying to do to begin with—and forget that the only opinion that truly matters in the end is what Jesus thinks of me. 

I think if we’re honest, a lot of us can relate to this struggle in some way, shape, or form. Maybe you’re insecure about your intelligence, so you hesitate to answer questions in class—even when know you know the answer. Or maybe you’re insecure about your appearance, and feel too embarrassed to hold your held high as you walk down the hallways of your high school. Or maybe you struggle with confidence in something else. Regardless of the specifics, the root is still the same. We have forgotten who we are. And more importantly, we have forgotten whose we are.

Contrary to popular opinion, self confidence never begins with self. It begins with something greater—something outside of ourselves that can never be changed and never be shaken. Self confidence starts with God confidence, and who He has said that we are in His Word.

When we feel inadequate, we can remember the words of Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV). When we feel worthless we can remember what God says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV). When we feel weak, we can think back to Deuteronomy 31:6 , “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”’ (NIV).

When we remember who we are in Christ, the lies of the enemy and this world start to lose hold on us—and we begin to see ourselves as God sees us. Beautiful. Capable. Strong. Courageous. Worthy. Loved. And when we remember these words and begin to speak them over ourselves, we will find that God created us exactly the way that He did for a purpose and a plan that only we can accomplish through Him and for His glory.

This is what I believe it means to live confidently in Christ. To wake up every day knowing and remembering that we are fearfully and wonderfully created by a God who loves us and knows us intricately. To recognize that He has given us gifts and abilities to impact the world and bring Him glory. To recognize the lies of the enemy and to remember that we have the fingerprints of our Creator within us. To live in full realization of God’s extravagant love and share this love with every single person that we encounter.

This week I want to challenge you to walk in confidence—carrying with you the knowledge that God loves you. I want to challenge you to see yourself through His eyes, and not your own. I want to challenge you to live confidently in Christ.

Loving God.

Loving people.

And, loving yourself by seeing yourself through our Father’s eyes.

Do you wish you had more confidence in what God is calling you to do? This post shares why we can be confident in Christ and use the abilities and gifts God has given us with assurance and boldness.

“For God will never give you the spirit of fear,[a] but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love, and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (TPT).  

How about you? Have you ever struggled with insecurity? If so, how did God teach you (or how is He teaching you) to have confidence in Him? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

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All This Time – My Testimony

Hey guys,

So lately, I’ve been praying and I’ve been feeling extremely led to do a video blog about my testimony. How I became a Christian. My walk with God. My journey through college. And God’s faithfulness in the midst of it all.

Thus, posted a video below about my testimony.

Hopefully it encourages somebody!

 

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). 

 

Social Media

In our modern world, social media is something that we use at rapid pace. 

Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and a host of other apps and websites, we have information at our fingertips literally twenty-four-seven. We can go on Twitter to see the latest thoughts and anecdotes of our favorite celebrities. We can go on Instagram to see what our friends and classmates are up to. We can go on Snapchat to chat with our friends and post to our “stories”. We can go on Facebook to see everyone’s opinion on literally everything.

And in many ways, this is good. It lets us keep up with those closest to us and allows us easy access to what’s-going-on-in-the-world. But, like with most good things, social media also has it’s drawbacks. And as young people setting out to impact the world for Christ, it is important to be aware of these drawbacks as we navigate the wonderful and complex world of social media and devices. 

A couple of weeks ago at my church’s youth group, our youth pastor mentioned social media in his lesson. He was talking about culture, and he said that statistically in our modern world, the average teen gets anxiety when separated from their phone. That’s scary y’all. Have we as a culture become so attached to our phones that we get stressed out when we don’t have them? And, is it possible that we could be part of that statistic?

The truth is, I’m writing this to myself just as much as I’m writing to you. As a blogger, it can be a real challenge for me to keep my social media use in balance, and not spend more time online than I should. A couple of weeks ago I was at a leadership meeting and before it started, I was hanging out with a group of my friends, laughing and talking. And as we hit a pocket of silence, I got out my phone and got video footage of the room for my Instagram story. And thinking back to that moment, I couldn’t tell you why I felt such a compulsion to post over just enjoying the moment. But at this point in our society, that’s part of the culture that we live in. You do something fun and post about it—without stopping to just soak in the moment free of phones and devices. 

Yet at the same time, social media can be used for so much good, right? It can be used to spread the Gospel and share God’s Word with the world! You often have a bigger audience on platforms like Twitter and Instagram than you do in your real-day-to-day life, giving you the perfect opportunity to use those tweets and posts for good—and for the glory of God! So, how do you balance it? How do you use your social media for good without letting it run your life? 

I think the first thing remember is to keep it in moderation. Try to limit the amount of time that you’re online per day and try not to mindlessly scroll when you have a free second. There are so many things that we can do when we’re bored besides go online—read a book, listen to music, pray, or call a friend! Live in the moment, and try to enjoy the minutes of your day, without feeling that you have to post everything online.

Second, give yourself a mission! I talked last week about being leaders and social media gives us the opportunity to do just that—right where we are! Use your social media to share your favorite Bible verses, or highlights from a really good sermon at church*. Use it to encourage people and help them in their faith. I have one friend who recently started an online prayer ministry, which I think is an incredible idea! Be creative, and let God show you how He wants to use you in the online world!

Third, be realistic. This is something that we don’t always do with social media but that I feel needs to be said. You know that girl who always posts those perfect pictures of herself at the beach or in meadows of flowers? The girl with the perfectly braided hair who always looks happy and excited about everything? Her life likely isn’t as perfect as it appears online. We have a tendency to post our best selves on social media, which can make many of us think that everyone else’s life is going better than our own. But we don’t see the ugly cries behind the scenes. We don’t see long nights of insomnia. We don’t see the stress, insecurities, or piles of homework. We don’t see a person’s real life on social media—so never compare your behind the scenes to another person’s highlight reel. 

Fourth, be careful about oversharing! This pertains both to safety and to spilling our personal lives online. Not everyone should have access to your personal information (which could be used against you by online predators) and not everyone should have access to your most personal moments. Rather than share your schedule, share your heart. And rather than posting about your messy breakup with your boyfriend, call a close friend who can talk to you and pray with you about it! Social media has a purpose, but it should never replace our real life interactions with those closest to us! 

Fifth, never post anything that you wouldn’t want your children to see or read in the future. Some of you may read that sentence and think, “I’m twelve. That’s a looooong ways off Courtney!” But the truth is, things online have a tendency of sticking around for a while. And if you don’t want your future employer, your children, or your future spouse reading something or seeing a questionable picture, than you probably shouldn’t post it. I’ve tried to live by this rule for as long as I’ve had social media, and it has helped me keep the right perspective when posting stuff online. In the worlds of Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Post about the things that will uplift and inspire, not that will tear down or embarrass you later down the line!

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How about you? What are your thoughts on social media and stewarding it well as Christians? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below – I always love a good conversation!😀

*But for the sake of your pastors, please do this after the service is over.

True Beauty

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

For many of us, we see things that we don’t want to see. Acne. Weight. Hair that’s too curly/straight/some weird combo of the two. A nose that’s that’s too big or small. etc. etc. etc. Odds are, if you look closely enough, you can find something that you don’t like. And in the world that we live in, we’re told that’s the norm. We’re told everyone hates the way they look. In fact, we’re told that unless we look like an (airbrushed) model on the cover of a magazine, we should hate the way that we look—and do everything in our power to change it.

But God’s word says something different. 

Psalms 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

In our world, we have a very narrow definition of beauty. To the world, beauty means being a size two with perfect hair and a flawless complex. To God, beauty means being you—because every single person that He created is beautiful in His eyes. Every perceived imperfection that you have is beautiful, because it is part of what makes you you—and when when the God of the universe looks down on you, He doesn’t see anything less than someone who is beautiful, worthy, and loved!

Furthermore, despite what our society tells us, beauty is so much more than skin deep. 

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” And 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

This does not mean that it’s wrong to care about your appearance – it is perfectly OK to enjoy dressing nice or wearing makeup and jewelry! But our self worth should never come from these things, and we should never use these things as measuring sticks for our beauty as human beings! Ultimately, the most important thing about us is our heart; and God values the state of our hearts far above our appearance or outward beauty! When a person is truly kindhearted, compassionate, and caring, it makes them a billion times more attractive than someone who just has their looks! 

This week, as you go throughout your days, I want to challenge you to see yourself as God sees you. To wake up each morning that you are loved, beautiful, and cherished by your Creator! To see your self-worth and be able to praise God, because you are fearfully and wonderfully made! And to ultimately, focus on your inner beauty—choosing every day to be the kind of person that you would want to have for a friend!

In the words of the old song by Johnny Diaz,

There could never be a more beautiful you. Don’t buy the lies, disguises and hoops, they make you jump through. You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do. So there could never be a more beautiful you.

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How about you? Have you ever struggled with the way you looked? If so, what helped you to see your worth? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below! 

Guest Post – Because He Is, I Am

Hey guys,

So…I have some good news and some good news (you were expecting me to say good news and bad news, weren’t you?)! The first piece of good news is that my life is finally getting back to normal and I should be back to my regular posts next week! The second piece of good news is…this week’s post was written by my good friend and sister in Christ, Julia Carvalho! 

Julia and I met back in April at a Bible study at my church and she’s legit one of the coolest people that I know! She also has a lot of wisdom – so I’d strongly advise you read on! You won’t regret it!

So…let’s all give a big round of virtual applause for Julia! 

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It is only when I know who God is, that I know who I am and discover the purpose and calling that God has placed upon my life.

“’But what about you?’” Jesus asked. ‘Who do you say that I am?’

Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’

Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah…And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.’” (Matthew 16:15-18).

So, who do I say that Jesus is? He is gracious and compassionate. He is holy and awesome. The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy. He is good. He is love. He is my anchor when life gets rocky. He is my mountain, my safe place. He is my fountain of living water. He is light—shining into the darkest parts of my life. He is peace. He is joy. He is patient, even when I make the same mistake over and over and over again. He is my shield, my refuge. He is my Savior—bearing my burdens daily. He is with me, holding my hand in every moment. He is my king, my friend, my father.

And because I know who He is, I know who I am. Because He is my father, I am His child and I reflect His image. Because He is strong, I am strong. Because He is peace, I am filled with peace. Because He is a leader, I can lead in confidence knowing that He is going ahead and paving the way for me. Because He is brave, I am brave. Because He is a rock, I am a rock—stable, unwavering, faithful. Because He is patient, I am patient. Because He is beautiful, I am beautiful. Because He is confident in who He is, I am confident in who I am and who He created me to be. Because He is, I am.

And it’s in the quiet moment when I am declaring who He is, and I am being reminded of who I am, that He whispers to the depths of my soul my purpose, my calling. It’s a path that only I can walk. A calling that only I can fit into. A purpose that only I can fulfill, because He has created it uniquely for me, just as He has created a unique purpose just for you.

So, who do you say He is?

Scriptures referenced:

Psalm 11:4,7,9; Psalm 34:8; 1 John 4:8; 1 John 1:5; 2 Peter 3:9; Psalm 68:19-20; Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 36:8-9; Colossians 3:15; 1 Peter 5:7; 1 Peter 1:8-9; Romans 15:13; Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 10:46-52

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If you want to hear more awesomeness from Julia, be sure to check out her vlog, Jewels From Jules! Just click through the link below and subscribe to her channel! I promise that you’ll love it!😃

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2OKlYvzTybAOgwkxUzzG2g

 

Some Lessons From College: What I’ve Learned So Far

Last week, I started my first day back to college for the fall semester—after a summer that flew by way too fast.It was also my first day of my third year of college, which feels funny to say, considering the fact that it seems like just yesterday that I started my first year as a nervous and excited college freshman.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot. About myself. About life. About my faith. And though I still have a long ways off until I graduate, I feel led to share about what I’ve learned so far, and my personal journey as a Christian college student. Hopefully, if any of you are going into college, or in the midst of the insanity of college life, you’ll find this post insightful and helpful!

So, without further ado…here is my list on how to survive as a Christian college student! 

  1. Find a community of believers who share your faith – This is so important y’all. I cannot emphasis this point enough. As Christians, we weren’t meant to do life alone. This is a point that’s emphasized time and time again in Scripture, and through the example of the early church in Acts 2:42-47. Furthermore, Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”                    Depending on the college that you’re attending, there is a very good chance that you’re going to be a minority in your faith. Even if you’re going to a Christian college, it is a good idea to get plugged into a smaller club/Bible study/church where you can meet people on a more intimate scale. College life can get pretty hard, but it is so much easier when you have a solid group of Christians in your circle to do life with.
  2. Stay close to God This is an important one for any stage of life, but when you’re in college, it takes on a whole new urgency. College is a time filled with changes. Odds are, you’re probably going to change your major at some point, and a lot of people even change their career path during college. You will probably also have a lot of changes to your schedule and sometimes, even your state. This can be pretty hard for a lot of people (especially if you’re and ENFJ like me!) and staying close to God will give you the security and solid ground that you’ll need to endure these changes. College can be a time for real growth in our faith, but if we don’t actively pursue God through prayer and Bible reading, it can be all too easy to miss out on the lessons that He is trying to teach us.
  3. Ask Questions – For many people, college is a time when people really start thinking about what they believe and why. Many Christians see this as a bad thing—but it doesn’t have to be. I have learned so much through the questions that I’ve dared to ask and the answers that I have found. I would never detour someone from asking hard questions about their faith – because there is no question too big for God to answer. So dare to ask questions and think critically about the world around you. Read books. Listen to lectures. Engage with your faith and make it your own. Asking questions doesn’t mean your losing your faith – it means that you’re growing in it.
  4. Life probably isn’t going to go as planned…and that’s OK – When I got to college, I thought I knew exactly what my plan was. I was going to do two years at a local community college and than transfer to one of my state’s universities. I was going to major in teaching or psychology and than become a teacher. I was going to work at one part-time job all through college. However, when I actually got to college, everything changed. I still am taking classes at the local community college, but rather than going to the university I was planning on, God led me to get my bachelors’ through Liberty University Online with a double major in Linguistics and Theology. I still am working towards becoming a teacher, but there was a journalism detour along the way. And I did get that part time job—but it closed down a few months after I started working there—leading me to a brief office internship and later, to a position at a different store in the same mall. Long story short, nothing turned out the way I thought it would. But God’s plan was better than my plan (isn’t it always?). And now, as chaotic as it was, I’m thankful for every experience that God has given me.
  5. Stay true to your convictions – In college, you’re probably going to meet people who live pretty differently than you. That’s almost inevitable. And as we probably all know, sex, drugs, and alcohol aren’t exactly a rarity on most college campuses. But as a Christ-follower, you have the power within you to stand against temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.Through Christ’s power within us, we can stand courageously against peer pressure and the attacks of the enemy – and dare to live original and be a light in a world surrounded by darkness.
  6. Study what interests you – In college, we have an opportunity like never before to study the subjects that we find interesting. You need electives for your degree anyways, so why not take the time to study things that you care about? You want to become a better communicator? Take a public speaking class! You want to improve in your creative writing skills? Do it! You want to learn more about politics and policy in America? Go for it! You’re only in college once, so take full advantage of the opportunities that God has placed in front of you!
  7. Schedule, schedule, SCHEDULE! – If there’s one thing that any college student will tell you, it’s that time is valuable because in college, you don’t have a lot of it! Between part-time jobs, classes, and church activities, your schedule is going to be full! The good thing is, if you’re careful to plan out your time, you can usually get everything done with some free time still available. Make a to-do-list, or get a daily planner. Prioritize, and decide what’s important and what you can do without. In the words of a quote I found online, “You gotta make it a priority to make your priorities a priority.”*
  8. Have a healthy view of your GPA – Grades are super important in college. Many of us know this and have been preparing all through high school to succeed in college. And for those of us aiming to get into a post-bachelors program, the pressure is all the more real. However, never let your grades define you. There is so much more to life than getting that A+ on your exam or making the dean’s list. You have inherent worth as a Child of God that is not rooted in your grade point average—and there is nothing that you can do to change that! So work hard and study hard, but never put your grades in the place where God should be.
  9. Find Godly mentors – 1 Peter 5:5-7 says, “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”[aHumble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.Having godly Christian mentors is such a blessing, and I am grateful to all of the older women who have spoken into my life through my transition from high school to college. I would highly recommend finding someone (or a couple of someones) who can speak into your life, and help you through the ups and downs of college life.
  10. Have fun – You’re only in college once, and one day, your going to look back on these days as a faint memory in your rearview mirror. Make them count, and take advantage of the blessings and opportunities that God has placed before you.
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My first day of college back in 2016.
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My first day of college this year.

How about you? Do you have any advice that you would give someone in college? Or any experiences from your own college days that you’d like to share? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below! 

*This quote is by Riche Norton, whoever he is.