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. 

 

Advertisements

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 

images 2

Growing Up On 1 Timothy 4:12 Girl

Hi everyone, I hope that you had an awesome Easter and a wonderful stuff-your-face-with-candy-day-after-Easter! I know I did, and if you want to see some of the pictures, you can feel free to see them on my Instagram page here.

For those of you who don’t know, or who are new around here, I’ve been publishing blogs on this site since I was seventeen years old. As a college student who’s now almost twenty (eek!), I’m pretty proud to admit that!

Nonetheless, with time comes change (Even though as an ENFJ with a hard J, I’d prefer nothing changed—ever!), and the older I’ve gotten, the more stumped I’ve become for topics. For those who are worried, I’m not planning on breaking up with this blog anytime soon (love you guys!), but I am planning on making a few changes around here.*

You see, over the past three years, I’ve mostly used this blog as a place to publish articles on all things faith, growing up, and living. I’ve addressed a pretty wide range of topics too, ranging from social issues, to politics, to relationships, to friendships, to living confidently in Christ. However, going forward I would like to expand my horizons. Rather than making this blog soley about various challenges and issues that we face as young Christians, I’d like to make this about all-things-life.

My goal has always been to keep this blog real, and lately, I feel like I’ve been struggling to do that. Because if I’m honest, there is so much more that I’d like to share with you guys besides just articles. I’d like to share about my random thoughts and musings. I’d like to share about that-really-awesome book that I just read the other day. I’d like to share about what God’s teaching me, and interesting experiences going on in my day-to-day life. I’d like to make this blog a journey—where we both travel to figure out the Christian life together. 

The last three years have honestly brought about so many changes, challenges, and new things that it’s hard to believe that it’s been just three years. Somehow, I’ve transformed into a high school senior just starting to grow into her own skin to a young adult—making decisions about college, life, and my career. I’ve graduated, had my first part-time-job, worked my first internship, made new friends, and experienced many ups-and-downs of life. It would be a lie to say that I’m exactly the same person that I was when I started. It would also be a lie if I said that my blog hasn’t already evolved into something much different than it was when I launched it back in 2015.

So let’s keep growing. Keep learning. And keep traveling together.

One step at a time.

Trusting God all the way.

*As you may have noticed, I already changed the layout to a pretty sweet new one! 

Thankful List 2017

Hey everyone, despite the fact that this has been a bit of a rough week for me, I wanted to post ten things that I’m thankful for, as I do pretty much every year. For those of you who are wondering, I am doing better (though I’m sure it will take some time) and as much as has gone wrong this year, there has still been a lot that has gone right.

Thus, here area some things that I am thankful for in 2017…

  1. Family – In the midst of all of the changes that have happened this past year, some good and some bad, I’m thankful to have a family that I could turn to through all of life’s moments. I’m thankful for both my parents and my extended family, who have supported me as I’ve gone through my year, and my transition from kid to adult.
  2. Friends – Someone once said that friends are the family that we choose for ourselves, and I can truly say this of my friends. I am thankful both for the friends that I grew up with, who are as comfortable as an old favorite sweater, and for the friends that I’ve met over the last few years, who have been there for me in ways that words cannot even begin to express. I am thankful for the long talks, the lighthearted times, and for all of the times in between.
  3. Faith – As always, I am thankful for my salvation through Christ and the ways that He has sustained me through this past year. I am thankful that I can always turn to Him and that we serve a God who has a grace for us when we fall short. I am also thankful for the ways He has led me to places far greater than anything I could ask or imagine.
  4. My school – I feel super thankful to be at a school that shares my faith and values, and for the flexibility it has given me to further pursue my passion for writing, a part time job, and time with family and friends. I have had amazing professors this past semester who have shown me grace through some of the trials I have gone through and who I have learned so much from. I have always enjoyed the classes I have taken that have helped me learn about faith in addition to academia.
  5. My job – Right now I am at my favorite part time job so far. I love the store that I am at (which is beautifully decorated for Christmas) and I love the people I work with. They are all super friendly and I get along with them all really well. Working has been an exciting thing for me this year, and I am thankful to have the opportunity work part time while going to school.
  6. My church – I am super thankful to be able to say that I’m at a church that I love! As I’ve mentioned before, during my teenage years, I was at a church that wasn’t healthy and I’m glad to be at a really good church now! The pastors are all very cool, the people are nice, and the church is very real – which is something that can all too often be hard to find. I am thankful that God has led my family to my church and I really like it there.
  7. Books – This year, I have made it my goal to read more, and I am thankful to say that I have found quite a few books that I have loved! Some of these awesome titles include Four Weeks, Five People, Every Last Word, Someday, Someday, Maybe, and A Walk To Remember. I would highly recommend any one of these!
  8. Writing – Honestly, I think writing (after God) is the one thing that keeps me sane. I absolutely loving disappearing into another world or writing down my thoughts in a blog. Also, I have a couple things in mind for book releases that God willing, should be showing up in print soon!
  9. Health – As always, I’m thankful not just for my own health, but for the health of those around me. This past year my grandpa had to have back surgery, but thankfully, he’s doing better now. Meanwhile, I have also become more aware of the importance of mental health, and have taken steps to better get my OCD under control. So far, though I still struggle, I’ve been doing a lot better.
  10. Food, water, shelter – These things, like health, are also something to appreciate. Especially after the terrors of all of the hurricanes this past year.

How about you? What are you thankful for? Feel free to discuss it in the comments below! 

On Dealing With Grief

Note: I plan to finish my series on writing good fiction, but right now, I feel God calling me to write about something that I have been dealing with lately. 

. . .

We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” ― C.S. LewisA Grief Observed

Recently, over the past week, I have dealt with my first significant experience with death. My great grandma passed away. 

She has been experiencing health problems for a while now, and last month, she was rushed to the hospital after being found unconscious. I thought, as she was recovering, that we were past the worst of it, but a couple of short weeks later, she passed away.

The funny thing is, I can still remember her vividly. When I was younger she used to come down to visit on a regular basis, and I can still remember times when she’d come over for the holidays or go to the mall with us, or go to the photo studio with me for Christmas pictures. She stopped visiting as often as she got older, but I still remember the times that she did. Meanwhile, the last couple of days in the present have felt like a blur, like they’ve all blended together in some sort of surreal dream.

Nonetheless, in the midst of it, there’s still a peace. 

Before my great grandmother passed, she used to read books by pastors such as Joel Osteen and Max Lucado. She had a next door neighbor who used to talk to her about Jesus, and my great grandma once told us that she knows Jesus and is confident about where she is going when she dies. And as a Christian, this gives me some peace. 

I’m not going to use this post to give easy answers to life and death. Nor will I try to turn this into an opportunity for some sort of lesson. However, I would like to take the chance to say that if you’re going through a grief of your own, I get it. It may be different than mine, but grief is still grief. I would also like to note that as Christians, there is hope for us when a Christian family member or friend dies.

Revelation 21:4 says of Heaven, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[a] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Meanwhile, in John 14:2 Jesus says, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” 

Death is never easy. It is one of the hardest things we have to deal with on this earth, but it is not forever. Someday, God will abolish death when He creates a new Heaven and a new earth, but in the present, God will give us peace when we morn.

In the beatitudes, Jesus gives comfort to those who experience trouble on this earth. 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:3-12. 

If you’re mourning right now, take comfort in Jesus and give yourself grace as you grieve. Death is never easy—but as Christians, we can find hope in the fact that it is not forever.

Someday we’ll see our loved ones again, in the biggest family reunion of our lives. 

“Christians never say ‘good-bye’, just ‘until we meet again’.” – Woodrow Kroll 

Thoughts And Ramblings of The Christian Writer (Part One)

“The Christian in the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.” 
― Francis A. Schaeffer

From the time I was a little girl, I’ve been an author at heart. I have always loved telling, creating, and reading stories. Whether it be a book I found at the library, a movie that I just saw at the local theater, or a real person’s growth and testimony, stories fascinate me beyond belief. Being a storyteller is an integral part of who I am.

As most of you (hopefully) also know, faith is an integral part of who I am. If I was to rate each part of myself, faith would always come up on top, as my relationship with God is the most important thing in my life. And while there are many great Christian authors who do not include their faith much in their stories, I cannot imagine keeping my faith out of my stories. One way or another, Christianity is bound to play some sort of role in my writing—it is simply the way God has called me to write.

Nonetheless, like many other people have pointed out, Christian art doesn’t exactly have the best reputation right now. Some may pin it on the fact that we live in an increasingly secular society and others may blame it on small budgets, but a fact still remains.

Oftentimes, faith based stories come out sub-par. And as a Christian and a writer, this is something that I find quite sad. 

I don’t think it is because Christians are inherently bad at storytelling. I also don’t believe that it’s because Christianity makes for a weak storyline—look at the Bible! I believe most of our problem is in our approach, and that with a little hard work, we can create stories that are both well made and and reflective of the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

Thus, I have decided to create a short series on writing good Christian fiction—and the first part of this series will be on writing good characters.

One of the most important things in writing a good story is creating a strong cast. For me, characters are the first thing that draws me to a story. That said, one of of the biggest problems that I’ve seen in (some) Christian fiction is that the characters exist for the story—not the other way around. 

In real life, we live amongst a wide variety of personalities, narratives, and temperaments. Ask me to name my five closest friends and I can point out specific traits that make them unique and special. However, in a lot of Christian novels, I have only seen a few personalities represented—and they’re often in extremes for the point of showing a character come to Christ.

Elaborating on this, many character only have struggles that are dramatic, cliche, or too-subtle-to-notice. I have seen female protagonists who come across like a damsel in distress, but rarely female protagonists that battle stubbornness and hard-headedness. I seen male protagonists who struggle with lust or anger, but rarely male protagonists who struggle with overeating, or self image.

Furthermore, I haven’t often seen characters who have quirks or interests that aren’t essential to the story or lesson. In The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, Tibby loves filmmaking, Bridget is impulsive, Carmen is introspective, and Lena is noticeably introverted. Those details aren’t necessary to the book (though, I suppose Bridget’s impulsiveness could be argued as essential in the first book) but they added life to the characters. They made them feel real and they made them relatable to the audience. Meanwhile, in The Hunger Games, there was a guy named Peeta who’s a baker. Corny? Maybe. Memorable? Absolutely.

In short, it is important to know your characters intricately, and for them to be written as if they have a life outside of the story. It’s important that they feel like characters we can get attached to and relate to. And, considering the vast diversity that we have in our churches, it is important that they represent a variety of different personalities and people. The kind of books that I love the most are the ones that  make me feel like the characters are my best friends. This is something we must do if we want our stories to feel real. Interview your characters. Stick them in various situations and see how they react. Consider how they would think or fall in love. Or how they would dream.

The kind of characters that become the most memorable are the ones that feel the most real. It is our job, as authors, to breathe as much life into them as we can.

Christian books/series/movies that get this right.

  • The Christy Miller Series by Robin Jones Gunn
  • The Left Behind Series by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
  • SouledOut Sisters Series by Neta Jackson
  • There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
  • October Baby 
  • Do You Believe

How about you? Do you have any tips on how to create good characters? And have you read any books that you feel do an exceptional job with this? Feel free to share in the comments section below!

 

 

World Mental Health Day

One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.

Around 450 million people currently suffer from mental health related problems.

Mental health disorders are among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide (World Health Organization).

download 3

Over the last couple years, the issue of mental health has become a prominent subject matter in the public square. Celebrities have raised awareness for those who suffer from mental illness and websites like Twitter have allowed more people to have a platform to spread information about the importance of mental health. People are starting to realize that mental health is just as important as physical health—and slowly, the stigma attached to mental health struggles is beginning to fade.

Thus, with it being such an important and widely spoken about issue, I have decided that to write a post about mental health for my blog to help raise awareness for this issue.

If you have been reading my blog for a while now, you may know that I’m no stranger to this issue. For years now, I have struggled with OCD and anxiety, which can at times can be crippling—making it difficult to handle situations that most people would be completely comfortable in. I struggle with both stressful, unwanted thoughts and quirks such as not wanting to touch a doorknob and checking my cups to make sure they’re clean.

Nonetheless, over the last few weeks, I have made a conscious decision.

I have made a decision to be healthy.

By choosing to be healthy, I don’t mean that my OCD has gone away entirely or even that I believe it will go away entirely. In some way, shape or form, I’ve suffered with it since childhood. When I was in grade school, I used to arrange my crayons by color and run to my mom whenever I had a thought that I considered “mean” or “bad”.

Nonetheless, I have recently discovered that there are steps that I can take to cope with it and intentionally lessen it; and I believe that many of these things can help those who struggle from other forms of mental health as well.

Pray

To clarify, I don’t believe mental health problems are a sign of a weak faith or not trusting God, as some suggest. However, I do believe we serve a God who cares about the well being of His children. James 5:13 says, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” The Bible encourages us to pray during times of trouble, and I believe that if we ask, God will give us peace during our storms—and the strength to get through them

Eat right

Before I tried it myself, I used to think that people who touted healthy eating as the answer stress and anxiety were crazy. Nonetheless, after changing my diet and implementing more whole foods and vitamins, I’ve noticed that my anxiety and even my acne has decreased tremendously. It is obviously not the answer to every problem, but it can help you feel better and more at peace. Eating less processed foods and more foods with vitamins shown to treat anxiety has helped me leaps and bounds in my journey to mental and physical health.

Exercise

I’m going to be honest—I am a complete and utter bookworm. Given the choice, I would much rather read a good book than hop on a treadmill. However, despite the fact that working out isn’t always fun for me, I have begun to take more initiative to exercise. Exercising naturally increases serotonin levels in our brains, which is often something that people with high levels of anxiety tend to lack. Through exercising, we can increase our serotonin levels while staying fit in the process.

R&R

In a world as fast paced and intense as ours, it can be hard to force ourselves to relax and unwind. There’s always something we need to do or that we can worry about. However, God didn’t intend for our bodies to work like this. As finite creatures, we cannot keep going without facing some serious burnout.

So, the next time you find yourself feeling anxious, depressed, or worried, take some time for yourself. This isn’t selfish—it’s healthy. Read a book. Soak in a bubble bath. Watch your old favorite movie. Do whatever it is (within reason) that helps you relax and calm down. Don’t be afraid to slow down and let yourself rest. If you do this, you’ll be refreshed and ready to face those tasks when you return to your daily to-do-list.

Self-talk

Oftentimes, our worst stress is caused from out-of-control worry and stress. When our minds get out of hand, sometimes it’s best to try to talk ourselves down. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Sometimes we can be nicer to others than we are to ourselves, but according to the Bible, we are called to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Mark 12:30-31). It’s important that we show the same kindness to ourselves that we show to others, and part of this is remembering that things often aren’t as severe as we imagine them to be.

Talk to someone about it

Sometimes, one of the best ways to stay mentally healthy is to talk to someone—whether it be a pastor, a counselor, or a friend. Maybe you have something you need to work through, or maybe you just need another person to tell you it’s all going to be OK. There’s no shame in seeing a counselor or asking for prayer and advice. We weren’t meant to do this life alone—God has placed other people in our lives and our paths for a reason. Never be too prideful to ask for help. Furthermore, if you feel it is serious, never be afraid to contact a professional.

Note -– If you’re in a moment of crisis and you’re in emotional distress right now, don’t hesitate to talk. Call 1-800-273-8255.  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

How about you? Have you ever struggled with mental health? And do you have any advice for those who do? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!