Life Giving

Right now, we are right in the midst of my favorite time of the year : The holiday season.

I know this isn’t true for everybody, but for me, Christmas has a way of bringing me joy without fail. Last night, my family decorated the tree together, hauled out the decorations, and reminisced through a pile of ornaments. Later that evening, my mom and I watched a new Christmas movie, and soaked in every inch of the holiday season.

In other words, a perfect Friday night.

Among Christmas, there are so many other things that bring me joy. Talking to a close friend over lunch and spilling-our-guts through the beauty and pain of life. Getting a new book from the library that I’ve been waiting to read for months. Seeing family members that I haven’t seen in a while. Engaging in meaningful work. Writing a new story. Cold air after a far too-long-summer. Reading a posts by blogger I find particularly inspirational (right now I’m totally obsessing over Sarah Bessey’s blog, and I’d highly recommend checking it out!).

These are just some of the small things that feed my soul, and some of the things that I’m slowly learning to allow myself to chase after. 

In the world that we live in, it can be all too easy to get sucked into a cycle of negativity. We go on Twitter and see people arguing back and forth over politics. We turn on the news and hear one mass shooting after another. We get caught up in an ever growing list of tasks, leaving us with little time to breathe and live in the moment. We let meaningful connections slide, as we get caught up in the busyness of life.

Sometimes, we don’t even realize how immersed we are in the everyday stresses of life until someone points it out for us. A couple of days ago, I was venting to my mom about how lately, everything seems to be setting me off. I’ll see a snarky political tweet and groan inside. I’ll hear someone talk about how bad this world is getting and feel deflated. I’ll scroll past an article with a conspiracy theory laced view that seemed totally out there and want to scream.

Needless to say, I wasn’t doing well.

In response to that, my mom encouraged me to be a little more selective about what I give my attention to, and to-maybe-spend-a-little-less-time-on-Twitter.

Since then, I’ve taken her advice, and I can already feel my mood improving.

Granted, there are some stressful situations that we need to stay present in. We can’t very well just decide not to do math homework because it makes us anxious. We can’t skip going to work if we’ve had an off day and really don’t feel like it. Sometimes, we have to push through.

However, oftentimes we have more control over other things than we think we do.

Do we really need to follow that twitter hashtag that we know is just going to annoy us? Do we have to listen to that extra fifteen minutes of the news when we already have an ever growing migrane—and when it will still be there tomorrow? Must we Google every big decision that we have to make, rather than simply talking to someone who already knows us about it?

Sometimes, we all just need a break. 

Sometimes we need to chase what we find life giving—and give our souls a chance to breathe.

Sometimes we have to run towards what makes us feel alive, rather than what makes us feel dead inside. 

Philippians 4:8 says “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.

God knows we can’t go on adrenaline twenty-four-seven, and that sometimes we need a break. That’s why Jesus went off to pray by Himself during his time on earth. That’s why in the Old Testament, God gave the Israelites a day to rest. That’s why Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30 that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

So this week, take some time to find your place of rest and chase what makes you feel alive. Shut out the voices of negativity and embrace joy.

And never forget that God is with you—something that we can always find peace, hope, and joy in.

 

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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 

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).

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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!

 

New Book On Wattpad!

Hey everyone, I have some big news for y’all—I recently published a new teen devotional on Wattpad.com!

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If you have an account on there, be sure to check it out. It’s called Confidence In Christ: A Devotional For Teen Girls, and it’s basically a compilation of blog posts in the form of a book, with a song for each post.

I hope to see you guys on there, and I promise to post more to my blog soon!

Here’s the description and link below!

Growing up as a Christian teenager can be a difficult journey. In each of our lives, we’re faced with questions. Who are we? What do we believe? What do we stand for? In this devotional, we’re going to explore some of those themes together, and learn how God wants to move in each of our lives, helping us to become confident in Him, and live out the dreams He has for each one of us. We were each made for something great, and it all starts with the greatest decision any of us can make.
Will we follow Jesus?

https://www.wattpad.com/story/104871825-confidence-in-christ-a-devotional-for-teen-girls

 

God Likes Us

Every once and a while, we stumble upon something that jolts us in a way that we didn’t expect.

For me, this happened recently, at my local Publix.

Like on many occasions, as we were checking out, my eyes wandered off to the magazine section, and even though I know most of the stuff over there’s complete trash (not to mention gossip), there’s always a weird impulsion to see what’s going on in good ole’ Hollywood. And, as I looked in the magazine area, I caught a quote by William Paul Young that caught my attention on a religious themed magazine: Not only does God love us, He likes us too!

For those of you who don’t know, William Paul Young is the increasingly popular author of The Shack, and whatever you think about The Shack, you have to admit, that’s a pretty insightful quote. And tonight, as I lay awake dealing with a particularly stressful OCD episode, I’m reminded of that quote.

I can’t speak for everyone, since I am only one person, but for me, this is too often an easy thing to forget. I know God loves me, as well as every other person in the world He created. And as a devout youth group attendee in my early teen years, I know literally every lyric from David Crowder Band’s ever-popular song “How He Loves” (“Ohhhhhh how he loves us oh, oh how He loves us…how He loves us oh!” Sorry, I had to do that). Nonetheless, while I know that there’s nothing we can do to earn God’s love, I often fall into the trap of believing there’s something I have to do (or not do) or say (or not say) or a way I have to act (or not act) to earn God’s “like“.

I’ve been a perfectionist pretty much since childhood, so I’m sure that plays into it. I have always strived for the best grades, to earn all of my teachers’ approval, and be the perfect Christian girl who has it all together (even when on the inside I know I’m not and I know I most certainly don’t). When I fall short it’s often an extremely aggravating experience for me and I tend to be far more dramatic about it than I should. I suppose in the back of my mind somewhere, I struggle with this false illusion (or delusion) that I can somehow be good enough and earn enough brownie points to earn God’s like. And as much as the Bible, churches, and evangelical culture tell me otherwise, old habits can be hard to break. Furthermore, this delusion can get all the more frustrating during an OCD episode, when my thoughts seem to be running in every sort of crazy direction with no control on my part—and I end up asking God for forgiveness 15 billion times for some frightening heretical thought or another.

As an OCD struggler, the lyrics to an old Anthem Lights song often ring so true for me.

Before I even know it I’m right back at the start. I’m doing what I hate and breaking my own heart“.

I think each one of us struggles with something. For me it’s OCD and perfectionism. For you, it may be something different. Maybe for you, it’s a struggle with an eating disorder, or a battle with depression. Maybe it’s self harm, or a temptation of some sort. Or maybe you don’t fit the mold of what you think a Christian should look like, and feel people judge you for it. I don’t know what your personal struggle is, or what difficulties you face, but I do know that even if your battle looks different than mine, the core feelings are often the same. Too often, faith can become a marathon instead of a resting place.

Nonetheless, in the midst of all of our our stress and failures and anxiety—God still likes us, delights in us even. Psalm 139:13 says

“For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth…”

God knows every inch of our personalities, our pasts, and our scars. He knows about our doubts and questions. He knows about our favorite foods and why our favorite movies touched us so. He knows about that time that hurt like nothing else could. And yet He rejoices in saying that “This is my Creation, this is my son or daughter. There is no one else like them.”

Not only does God loves us, He likes us too!

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How To Cope With Heartbreak

This post may seem like somewhat of a downer at first sight, in light of the fact that one of the most relationship-y holidays is on the horizon. Nonetheless, recently God has put it on my heart to address those who may be struggling through this Valentines Day. Thus, I put together some tips that I believe are helpful with sort of thing and wrote a post for all of those who are dealing with a lost relationship (or crush) this Valentines Day.

Valentines day can be one of the worst days of the year if you’re going through a recent heartbreak. Everywhere you look, there are candy hearts, gifts for your significant other, and too many cards to count. Combined with the fact that after a heartbreak, everything seems to remind you of them, this is a very bad combo.

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Though, like I’ve admitted before, I’ve never been in a relationship, I have dealt with heartbreak in the past. It’s ignored or forgotten too often in society, but sometimes a crush gone wrong can cause the same sensation. There were real feelings involved and somewhere along the way, they got squashed. Stomped on. Broken.

It’s a feeling that can feel almost like an illness. Your stomach hurts, your throat feels swollen, and you don’t want to move out of your bed. You listen to Taylor Swift songs on a loop, as the situation goes from “sad, beautiful, tragic” to hating on his “stupid old pickup truck” (If you’re a Taylor Swift fan, you saw what I did there😉). You feel like you’ll never recover. You do, but you certainly never forget. Even years later, you’ll still remember the sound of their voice and meaningless details about them, but that’s OK. It’s a part of your past, and those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.

Because heartbreak is such a universal topic—and ever so relevant around this time of the year, I decided to write a post about it, and give some advice on how to get through it.

Pray about it 

This is something that, admittedly, I didn’t do enough during my times of heartbreak. I journaled about it. Boy, did I journal about it! As a writer, my journals were the first thing I ran to when I faced heartache and my first one got quite a bit of air time, looking back. Nonetheless, I believe I may have healed quicker if I had prayed for God to take the pain away. As embarrassing and painful as heartbreak can be, God already knows about it, and as our friend, He’s a safe person to talk about this kind of thing with. I tell my earthly best friend practically everything, so why not do the same with our Heavenly friend and Savior?

Let yourself Rest

Going through heartbreak can be physically exhausting. One of the most tempting things during this time is to turn into a vegetable—lying in bed in sweats and watching too many episodes of Gilmore Girls. We should never remain in this position, but it’s OK to give yourself a break. You’ve been through a lot and your body needs time to recover just as much as your heart. Be nice to yourself during this time and give yourself a little thing we as Christians like to call grace.

Be wise

Thankfully, during the times that I went through heartbreak, I didn’t have social media. If I did, I’m almost positive I would have at least been tempted to pull the “social media stalking trick“. But please do yourself a favor—don’t do it! Looking at their pictures and status updates is only going to make this thing a hundred times worse. You don’t need to give this person that much thought. They’re a part of your past, and right now, your job is to find your way into the future. Which brings me to point #4.

Focus On Other Things

You don’t need another person to make you happy. The only one who can fill the emptiness that often accompanies heartbreak is Jesus. Turn to Him! Read your Bible, and maybe some good books. Hang out with some friends. Take up a hobby. Too often, we can make a person into an idol, and let them take up the place that only God should have. Never forget that another person doesn’t complete you—God does.

Allow yourself to remember and move on

The truth is, if the relationship/crush/person was significant enough, you’re never going to entirely forget about them. From time to time, you’ll wonder what ever happened to them and who they became. That’s OK. Like I said before, you’re going to remember them. They were an important part of your life, and hopefully, you learned more about life and yourself through that experience. You can’t live in the past, but you can be thankful for the lessons learned—and choose to move forward in your life.

When I first started this blog, I often used to post a song at the end, and for this post, I believe it will be especially fitting.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Pslams 147:3