Just The Way You Are

“You just have to be yourself and go full with confidence and be courageous.” – Gabby Douglas

If you’ve been around the world of the internet and inspirational quotes for a while, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard the story of the goldfish. Goldfish, as we all know, were meant to swim. They have the God-given ability to live within water and breath through their gills. Nonetheless, there’s one thing a goldfish cannot do no matter how hard it tries. Fly.

To fly would go against a goldfish’s very design. They have no wings. They’re not wired to fly. A goldfish has wonderful tasks it was created for, but if it’s told it’s whole life that it should fly, the poor fish will eventually get beyond discouraged.

For many of us, that goldfish is relatable—a symbol, if you will. Many of us have spent huge portions of our lives trying to be something we’re not, only to deny the person God created us to be. 

For me, this was a battle that I faced during my early years of high school. During this time, I was on a journey to find myself. Nonetheless, as hard as I searched and as much as I tried to forge my own identity, I always felt like there was this girl I was “supposed to be”. This girl who sat on a bench inside my brain and constantly told me one thing.

Something’s wrong with you.

In retrospect, I couldn’t exactly tell you what caused these bouts of insecurity, or the exact moment it started. Likely, it was a mix of a bunch of things—perhaps partly stemmed from culture and my own perfectionism. I felt like the girl I was supposed to be was different than the girl I was becoming. And this scared me. 

During this time, I did what most young Christian girls in my situation would do. I prayed. I listened to music. I bounced back and forth between trying to be perfect and rebelling in small, retrospectively insignificant ways. I wanted to be myself, and I wanted to be confident in that person. 

Little by little through small baby steps, I slowly began to become that person as I got to my older teenage years. I found a different church to attend with my family. I began to own my faith a little more, and be honest about my thoughts, questions, and doubts. I read a book by Emily P. Freeman called Grace For The Good Girl that impacted me in a big way. I began to find friends and role models who weren’t afraid to be themselves. I started a blog. I sang two songs in front of a crowd senior year—one that I wrote myself and one by one of my favorite singers.

Somehow, through it all a realization hit that helped me find myself and confidence in the way God made me—”Maybe God was OK with me just the way I was”. 

In Psalm 139:13-16, it says “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

God created each and every one of us exactly the way we were intended to be. He created us uniquely, with individual passions, hopes, dreams, and personalities. When we find life in Him, He doesn’t intend for us all to look the same. He wants to use each gift that he’s given us to bring glory to His name, and hope to a broken world. 

We weren’t all created for the same purpose, and we aren’t meant to all look the same, but we do have this one thing in common—we were each created for something wonderful.

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And God loves each of us in the midst of our personalities, our beauty, and our flaws just the way we are.

Fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. 

Voice

Hey everyone,

I read a really inspirational post by my friend from passionandpixels.wordpress.com the other day and I wanted to share it with you.

This is a reminder to always use the voice that God has given us!

https://passionandpixels.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/voice/

Also, be sure to check out some of her other posts! They’re all very good!

 

Some Thoughts On Patience

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

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I’m going to be honest with y’all—growing up is hard.

Statistically, millennials are the most stressed out generation of all four of the living current age groups (Millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers, and Matures), according to a study on apa.org. Obviously, the cause of stress is different across the board, but many of the concerns are universal. College (and the cost of it), major life decisions, and trying to make it are a few of the many things that most young adults think about on a regular basis. Even for those still in high school, stress can be rampant, between bullying, peer pressure, and deciding on a future career.

Heck, even middle schoolers and elementary school students battle stress in some form or another! 

As a Christian, stress can be slightly easier to manage. There’s the assurance of a personal God who hears your prayers, a community of believers for support, and the Bible to turn to during our toughest seasons. Nonetheless, we still live in the world and have to find a way to deal with the pressures that come with it. Each of us have unique situations and drives that make us susceptible to some kind of stress or another. 

For me, I’ve always been an overachiever. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it often causes me to put huge amounts of pressure on myself to succeed. Wanting so much to be successful in life, I often find myself spending my thoughts and energy worrying about how to achieve my goals. Sometimes, it even causes me to envy those who seem further along than me—which as a Christian, is always wrong.

Meanwhile, in a crazy, stressed out, maddening world, Jesus calls us to do the opposite of what the world says. He tells Mary—the model overachiever seek him before her duties. He calls fishermen to be His disciples. He accepts the humble sinners over the knowledgable proud.

He tells us that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can move mountains.

I truly believe that if God has put something on your heart, He’ll work out the details of it in time. Nonetheless, sometimes God’s timing is different than our timing. Sometimes, He says to “seek first the Kingdom Of God and all of these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). God has a plan for your life—but sometimes, those plans take time to unfold. Many of my hopes and dreams have taken time to come to pass, and I have no doubt that my current goals will take time and patience as well. That’s how God helps us grow. Before any dream, goal, or relationship, God wants to be number one in our lives. 

So many of us are Martha’s but God wants us to have the heart of Mary.

So many of us are worried about so many things, when only one is important.

This week, let us make a conscious effort to trust God with our stories.

After all, If we have the Maker of the stars as our author, how can we possibly go wrong? 

What Is Love?

Philosophers have been asking it since the beginning of time, and with Valentines day only two days away, now seems as good as ever to discuss the meaning of love on my blog.

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As a Christian, my first and foremost source is the Bible—which contains everything we need to know about some of life’s greatest topic. Mixing poetry with history and truth, the Bible covers a wide range of some of our most explored topics—including identity, faith, grace, relationships, life, and death. Furthermore, when it comes to love, there is no shortage of Bible verses to guide us in navigating this difficult and ever explored topic.

In Scripture, we learn that we’re supposed to love our enemies (Luke 6:35), our neighbors (Mark 12:31), and Jesus (Matthew 22:37-38), our friends (Proverbs 17:17), and if married—our spouse (Ephesians 5:33). We also learn in John 15:13 that Jesus showed the ultimate demonstration of love— by laying down His life for each and every one of us, making us friends of God.

We are also given a description of what love, ideally, should look like in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, which reads that love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, and rejoices with the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres, and it never fails.

Please note that this is not some sort of impossible standard that we’re supposed to keep 100% all of the time. Some people have said that if your relationship with someone you loved didn’t perfectly match this standard, it wasn’t love. I don’t believe this is either true or Biblical. The only one who fulfills all of these things all of the time is Jesus Christ—who is the personification of love in flesh. Jesus’ standards are always something we should aspire to, but as humans, we will never be able to love perfectly all of the time. All of us are living in the in between, where our ability to love is both broken and beautiful at the same time. We’re affected by the fall, but we’re also new creations in Christ, created to do good works and make this world a brighter and better place and point others to a perfect love in the form of Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, as likely many of us are aware of, even on a subconscious level, there are different types of love. C.S. Lewis breaks these types of love into four different categories—Storage, Philia, Eros, and Agape. According to Lewis, Storage is a general kind of love—the kind that we’re supposed to have for the world, Philia is friendship love, Eros is romantic love, and Agape is an unconditional love—like the kind that God has for us.
These different kinds of love each play a part in our life in various ways—from our close friendships, to our families, to our desire to reach lives. Each of these different kinds of love were created for a specific purpose, to touch the world in a unique way when used right and according to God’s purposes. Furthermore, the Bible gives instructions on how to wisely steward each of these loves—teaching us how to love in our greatest capacity and in the most beautiful ways.

This Valentines Day, let us strive to be people who love well. In our families. In our friendships. In our communities.

Let us be known as people who love, and people who serve the God who created it all.

Thirty Day Blogging Challenge #2: Day Twenty-Seven

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Day Twenty-Seven: A Letter To Somebody

This is a letter to my thirteen year old self. During this time, a lot of changes began to happen, and if I could tell my younger self anything during this time, this is what I’d say.

Dear Younger Me,

Congratulations on making it all the way thirteen and preparing to embark on journey through your teenage years. As we both know, you’ve already seen a lot in your life. You’ve seen a near impossible prayer answered in a way neither of us could have expected. You’ve started attending church with your family. You’ve made a group of close friends in your classes. You’re already beginning to form in to the person you’re going to become. But, there’s more—there’s so much more.

I wish I could prepare you for something that’s going to happen soon. I wish I could warn you somehow, and numb the blow, but I have a feeling that you’re going to have to find out the hard way—the way I did. This may sound impossible now—as a Bible toting youth group student, but you’re going to start to struggle in your faith after watching Christian leader take a fall. You’re going to have a hard time going to church and become more aware of other problems you were previous unaware of. Your life is about to be turned upside-down, and you’ll feel a little lost for a while.

It will get better though. You won’t always be as jaded as you’re about to become. You’re going to meet two friends in high school who will help you stay afloat in your faith, and eventually, you’ll stumble upon a blog that will help you find the beauty in faith and church again. You’ll find your own voice and find that maybe you’re not a freak for asking questions—you’re human. What you’re about to witness would be enough to shake anyone’s faith, but it won’t remain shaken. You’ll climb out on the other side, victorious.

I want you to learn to humble yourself. I don’t know if this will change a thing, but I have to say it anyways. Please don’t let the reputation that you hold so tightly to, the reputation of being a good girl, stop you from being real. Don’t slip into the horrible habit of pretending to be fine when you’re crumbling inside. You’re not a bad Christian for having questions and doubts, and you’re not the first person to wrestle with their faith. You’re not the first Christian to go through a period where God feels distant—like He’s a million miles away. You’re also not loosing your faith. It may not seem like it right now, but you’re actually growing in your faith. You just don’t know it yet. God hasn’t turned His back on you.

Also, don’t be afraid to let people in. During your time in high school, you’re going to loose a couple of people, but you’ll also make some of the truest friends you’ll ever have. Don’t let one fallout ruin your desire to make new friends, and don’t let it dim your light. Pretty soon, you’ll meet a girl who’s also in a rough season. Befriend her. She’ll eventually become your best friend.

There’s so much more I could say, but for now, this is the best advice I could give you. Stay true to yourself, keep following God, and believe that it will all work out in the end. Your moment will come, and you’ll eventually find the confident version of yourself that you’ve been searching for.

Sincerely,

Future Courtney.

Thirty Day Blogging Challenge #2: Day Twenty-Six

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Day Twenty-Six: Write About Someone You Really Care About

Friends are the siblings God never gave us – Mencius

I’m blessed to be able to say that I have a lot of people in my life that I really care about. Many of them, can be described as friends.

I didn’t grow up with siblings to hang out with, but I can honestly say that my friends are like the brothers and siblings I never had. Some of them, I’ve known for years—since middle school, even. Others, are newer friends. Hopefully, all of them will stick around for years to come.

For me, my friends have been the people who have seen me during my best and worst times. Together, we’ve gone through crushes and heartbreak, successes and failures, and from zits to clear skin. I can also say that I’m blessed to have a very mixed group of friends—some guys and some girls, some introverts and some extraverts, some like me and some as different from me as possible. But, each one of them has made a mark on my life and helped shape me into the person that I am today. 

To me, true friendship is an extension of family. It’s staying up late when a friend has a problem, even if you’re really tired and want to go to sleep. It’s staying together even when you disagree, or when they drive you absolutely crazy. It’s praying for each other, laughing together, and vowing to be the insane old ladies hanging out together in a nursing home someday.

In my view, friendship is forever, and ideally, beyond if they share your faith. 

Things change in our lives, but I believe that if both parties work at it, friendship doesn’t have to end—especially when social media makes it so easy to keep in touch for years on end. Boyfriends and girlfriends come and go, college starts and eventually finishes, and most people go through various jobs, but I believe that if we truly see our friends as family, those ties don’t have to fade away. Too often, friendship is seen as something disposable nowadays, when it should be seen as something permanent, the way David and Jonathan saw friendship (1 Samuel 18:1-5), Ruth and Naomi saw friendship (Ruth 1:16-18), and Jesus seemed to view friendship, based on the closeness He had with His disciples.

Let us always strive for these kinds of friendships.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10