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 sisters 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 

Thirty Day Blogging Challenge Returns: Day Fourteen

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Hey everyone, I’m finally back after a far too long hiatus! 

For those of you who have been wondering, everything is totally fine on my end. There haven’t been any illnesses or catastrophes of any sort—that is, unless you count the absolute frustration of writers block. For a while, I have been completely stumped on the prompt I’m about to answer today. I have had plenty of problems in the past, but I wasn’t quite sure which to use. Nonetheless, after talking with my mom about it, she gave me an excellent idea:

Talk about the transition from high school to college. 

As some of you know, this has been my first year out of high school and I’m currently in the process of transferring to Liberty University—a college that I believe will be the best fit for my future career. Nonetheless, before I decided on Liberty, I was attending a local college near my house—and the year of 2015 may be one of my rockiest years to this date. 

For a while, I have avoided writing about the fact that I was homeschooled on this blog. I wasn’t ashamed of it, but I was worried it would conjure up stereotypes of an anti-social, socially awkward girl in her room doing math problems all day—which is far from my actual experience. Nonetheless, because I strongly believe in the process of being real and sharing your stories with others, I have recently began to write about it—especially since I believe it had an effect on my high school experience and my subsequent transition to college.

Contrary to the stereotypes, I wasn’t raised in a church—but began attending with my mom during late elementary school. Nonetheless, because many homeschool environments (though not all) are run by Christians, I’ve pretty much been in that subculture for my whole life. College was the first time I was ever in a school that lacked faith. 

Because I was well aware of this, my best friend and I spent long hours talking about what college may be like and all-but planning an escape plan in the case of a God’s Not Dead scenario. When graduation night came, I felt more terrified than anything. What did the next chapter hold? What was my life going to look like? From the summer of ’16 all the way through the end of the year, I began experiencing weight gain, acne, and other physical stress syndromes.

During my time at college, I faced both internal and external conflict. I began to think about life after high school, and experience almost paralyzing fears about the future. I wondered if my unusually close friendships would survive into adulthood and if I would end up as the little personification of the crazy cat lady. I also worried about my career, missed my high school classes, and tried to figure out what the heck I wanted out of my life. I had a basic idea, but my career path changed during my time at college from teacher to journalist, subsequently affecting my degree and college choice.

At college, I was faced regularly with dramatic clashes of ideologies. I heard things that never, in a million years would have been taught in any of my high school classes. Friendship and family ties were all but mocked, prayer was seen as unimportant, an obnoxiously loud sociology teacher in the next room over taught that sex was between two or more people, and that rape was simply inconvenient, and I met a fellow classmate who was a self proclaimed witch. I felt like I had entered an alternate universe and all but emotionally shut down. 

Nonetheless, as difficult as this time was for me, God managed to teach me a lot and bring good out of bad. He taught me to depend more heavily on him and open up to wise Christian friends and mentors. The more stressed, anxious, and depressed I became, the more people God brought into my life to help me. It’s easy to follow God when things are going well and you feel like you’re on top of the world, but it’s a lot harder when you feel like everything you know is crashing down all around you. This experience taught me to trust and fully lean into a God who’s a lot bigger than myself. 

I also became more aware and humbled by the fact that everyone has a story—and that sometimes, we have to learn to simply love people where they’re at. It can be so easy to disregard people as some kind of giant agenda or conspiracy, but there’s always more to people than this. I learned that one of my professors, who I had a huge personality clash with had a much more difficult life than I had originally thought, and learned to have compassion through hearing their story. I also learned that the classmate who practiced wicca really wasn’t a “bad person“—just a lost one, who also had a difficult past.

Now, that season is finally behind me, and I couldn’t be more excited to start at the university I believe God is leading me to—but I don’t regret a moment of my time at my first college. I learned valuable life lessons and I believe I’ve become a stronger, more compassionate Christian and person because of it. If you’re going to college this fall for the first time, I’m not going to lie and tell you it will be easy. It will likely be a challenge—a grueling one, even—at times. But you’ll survive it, just like I did. Trust in God, lean into friends and mentors, and don’t let fear control you.

God has a plan for you even in the midst of your hardest battles. 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 

Three Day Quote Challenge #2: Day Three

“Home is where the heart is.”

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What does it mean to be home? For many of us, the word has positive associations. Many of us, when we hear this word, think of close family members, such as our parents, siblings, grandparents, and maybe a family pet. For others, we may also think of close friends—people who have watched us grow up and who have always been there for us. Still for others, we may think of a particular place that brings back found memories, such as our church or our house that we grew up in.

For the Christian, the word has an even deeper meaning. Home, for the believer, is all of these things and more. It’s a place that we’re traveling to, as we walk down the winding road of life. It’s the place that we anxiously anticipate, where we’ll be united with our Heavenly Father. This point is beautifully illustrated throughout the Bible and in numerous Christian novels.

Jesus paints a picture of Heaven in John 14:2-4, giving us a glimpse of what’s to come.

“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? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.””

Nonetheless, we cannot discount the journey. In the midst of the greatest ups and the lowest downs, God has each of us here for a reason. We are all fellow sojourners, called to make an impact and touch the lives as we make our journey home. We may be called to a variety of vocations here—from writers, to musicians, to business men and women—but if we know Jesus, we’re all heading to the same destination. No matter how insignificant you may feel, your life matters. In this dark world, you’re called to be a flashlight. Each one of us is called to be a spark that lights a fire—lighting the way like streetlights to help others and and know their Savior. 

We are called to fight the good fight and run the race of faith. We are called to make a difference, following God’s footprints and paving a way for others. We are called to follow Jesus, trusting Him and clinging to Him as we live life—always ready to welcome others into the family of God.

We were made for something greater than this life. We were made for an eturnal home.  

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”—Hebrews 12:1 

Nominees for the last day of the quote challenge!

Processing The Journey 

Consecrated Tree 

Juni Desiree