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. 

 

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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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A Prayer For Christmas

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This Christmas let us remember the reason for the season.

Let us, in the midst of the cooking, the wrapping, and the shopping, take some time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Let us reach out to others, remembering to put them before ourselves and helping those who are less fortunate.

Let us pray for the homeless, the veterans, those away from family, and all those who have situations much more difficult than our own.

Let us remember those closest to us, and spend some time with friends and loved ones as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Let us never take anything for granted but be thankful for what we do have, as we anticipate a new year filled with hope, resolutions, and promises.

Let us take some time to enjoy the little moments, those small nameless moments that get pushed aside for the glamor of Christmas, because someday those small moments won’t be so small anymore.

Let us remember those we miss, be thankful for those that we do have, and move forward with the hope and knowledge that someday we’ll be see our deceased loved ones once again.

Let us put aside our busyness, our stress, our fear, and our worries, remembering that in the midst of all of the stress of life, we have a Savior who understands, and a peace in the midst of chaos.

Let us deck the halls, enjoy our Christmas dinner, exchange gifts, and surround ourselves with love, because this season only comes once a year.

And, despite the fleetingness and busyness of this season, let us keep its spirit in our hearts, so that in some ways, this holiday may last all year long.

* * * * *

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, see, the angel of the Lord came on them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:8-14

 

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.

 

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!