Twenty Lessons for Twenty Years

So…today is the big day. My twentieth birthday. 

And if I’m totally honest, I feel no different than I did yesterday.

Nonetheless, in the tradition of posting a blog-per-birthday, I decided to write about twenty things that I’ve learned over the last twenty years.

And I hope you enjoy reading them!

  1. Trust God – I know that I used this one last year, but it is still so relevant! Every year life changes, and we are faced with new challenges, trials, and oppositions. Nonetheless, in the midst of this God is always constant. He was, and is and is to come (Revelations 1:8) and He never changes or acts inconsistently. Through all of life’s trials, we can always turn to Him for guidance and direction.
  2. Hold onto your true friends – As we go throughout life, it’s likely that we’re going to meet tons of people. Some are going to enter our lives and some are going to exit. Nonetheless, through all of this it is so important that we keep our true friends close! Friends are hard to come by, and when you come across the ones that will stand by you no matter what, don’t let them go! They’re one of life’s rare gems.
  3. Stay true to yourself – God has crafted each one of us into something unique and special. We were all created with innate worth and potential. And, in a world where everyone is trying so hard to fit in, it is so much better to stand out – making the choice everyday to be true yourself and live your life with confidence in Christ!
  4. Stay close to family – The older you get, the more you realize how important your family really is – and how short of a time that you have with them. Make the most of the time that you have with your parents, grandparents, and relatives. More than likely, they have a lot of wisdom that they’ve obtained over the course of their lives – and they’ll always be your biggest cheerleaders!
  5. Appreciate the small moments – Because one day, those small moments will be big moments.
  6. Chase your dreams – In the words of a song by 33 Miles, “You only get just one time around, you only get one shot at this…one try, one ride, one life.” Don’t be afraid to make this life everything that you want to to be – and go after your goals with the confidence that you can achieve them.
  7. Working hard pays off – Sometimes, hard work isn’t easy or fun in the moment, but it pays off in the long run. Put your all into every project, every job, and every assignment that comes your way. I promise you won’t regret it!
  8. Make a difference – Every day we are given the chance to make a difference in someone’s life – no matter how small it might seem. Don’t waste the opportunities that God has given you to be a light for Him, and make someone’s day a little brighter.
  9. Hard times never last forever – Each one of is going to face trials and tribulations in this life. It’s part of living in a fallen world. But we’ve all been there, and it will get easier. Don’t forget to reach out to God, family, and friends during these times. Sometimes, we all need to ask for help, and we all need somebody to talk to.
  10. Don’t be ashamed to rest – None of us were made to keep going 24/7. There’s nothing wrong with resting, and taking a break after a day of hard work. We all need rest sometimes, so we’re refreshed to keep going in our daily lives and tasks.
  11. Life is more than the things you post – In the modern world, it can be so tempting to constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to post a picture on Instagram, or a quote on Twitter, but life is so much more than that. Don’t forget to live in the moment, and forget about your social media for a little while.
  12. Age is just a number – Sometimes, once you get into your teens, birthdays can get a little scary. You’re faced with the realization that you’re getting older, and you have a lot of life decisions ahead of you. But sometimes, it’s best not to focus on the number, and just do what you need to do each day, which brings me to my next point…
  13. Take one day at a time – Jesus actually gives this same piece of advice in Matthew 6:34. He says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” If you take one day at a time, life becomes a lot easier to handle.
  14. Find something that you love to do – For me, hobbies have always been a great way to relax and have fun. They help us to de-stress from the responsibilities of the day and give us an outlet to pour our energy into. Personally, my main hobby is writing—but for you, it may be any number of things, from singing, to sewing, to soccer. Find out what it is – I promise you won’t regret it.
  15. Don’t make a SO your whole life – For those of you who don’t know, ‘SO‘ is a trendy term for a ‘significant other‘. And the reason I use this term is because it’s not just a girl problem—guys do this too. Since I’ve gotten to college, I’ve seen more and more people get so consumed in a boyfriend or girlfriend that they forget about everything else around them. There’s nothing wrong with dating, but never get so wrapped up in the person you’re dating that you forget the other important areas of your life.
  16. Stand up for what you believe in – Never be afraid to use your voice and stand up for what you believe in. It can often be scary to share your views, whether they be a belief in God, a political opinion, or a cause that you feel strongly about, but it’s so worth it. Speaking up can make a real difference, and they say that one spark starts a fire. Never be afraid to speak out.
  17. But do this with gentleness and respect – Branching off of the last topic, as important as it is to stand up for your beliefs, it is also important that you do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). It is important that we respect those around us, and present each of our beliefs and views with love.
  18. Don’t be afraid to try new things – I’ll be the first to admit that I hate change. Nonetheless, sometimes change can be good. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new things.
  19. Take the time to appreciate beauty – Every day we are surrounded by beauty in this world – whether it be a kind word or a beautiful flower that we see outside. Take the time to appreciate these things, or as the old saying goes, ‘take time to smell the roses‘.
  20. Celebrate life’s accomplishments – You know, like writing a post to celebrate getting older. That sort of thing.😉

There you go! Twenty lessons for twenty years! I hope you enjoyed reading these, and if you have anything that you’d like to add, feel free to write it in the comments section! I’d love to hear your thoughts!😃

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Thoughts And Ramblings Of A Christian Writer – Part Three

Let’s be honest. Each one of us, if we’re telling the truth, wants to write something that leaves a lasting mark on this world.

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Each of us, as a writer, has a story inside of us that needs to come out.

Each one of us has a story that we want to bring to life.

Each one of us has something to say.

Each one of us wants to say something that matters.

This is where the concept of a “theme” comes in. A theme, in short, is the lesson, moral, or a concept of a story. And as authors, especially Christian authors, the concept of a theme is absolutely essential to our stories. It’s the meat and depth of our novel. It’s the heart and soul of our prose.

In my experience and observations, a theme can come into the picture in really any stage of the planning process. For some people, it’s easiest to start with the theme and structure the storyline around it. For others, myself included, it’s easiest to come up with the plotline first and than zoom into the lesson that you want to teach. The order doesn’t matter so much as the lesson that you choose to teach through your story. No one else can choose it for you. It has to come from your own heart, passion, and experience. It has to be something universal and unique—something that will inspire your readers in their own real, day-to-day-life. 

Personally, when I’m in the process of discovering my story’s themes, I do some soul searching—as I try to figure out what message I can convey through the storyline and what God has put on my heart to incorporate into my story. Oftentimes, I can even draw from my own life, as I think of things that I wish that I had known when I was younger. A theme, in short, can be anything from the importance of close friendships, to the problem with censorship, to the transforming power of faith in God. 

According to an article on www.novel-writing-help.com/what-is-theme-,html, “Theme is the deeper layer of meaning running beneath the story’s surface. While the surface story entertains the readers, the theme helps them to reach a new understanding of some aspect of the human condition.

Thus, while the story’s surface intention is to entertain, the story’s theme adds an extra, hidden dimension to a novel. It gives it depth, and helps us recognize things about ourselves and our world—much like how Jesus’ parable’s teach us important lessons about God and the world that we live in.

As humans, we’re all different, but we all experience many of the same experiences, hopes, and desires. Stories with strong themes capture this, and help us to see that we’re not alone. We find that other people have shared our same struggles and challenges, and have come out on the other side. When we delve deep into a novel’s theme, we often find that we’re not as alone as we think. 

As Christians, we have a guiding source of truth, which is God and His Word. Through spending time with God in prayer and reading our Bible regularly, we can develop strong themes and guiding principles for our writing (and life!). Thus, if you’re writing a story, I’d highly encourage you to look to Scripture for inspiration about your story’s theme. Like with anything else, God’s Word is always our best place to start. 

Some books that have gotten it right

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton 

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

Some movies that have gotten it right 

Do You Believe? 

Soul Surfer 

Freaky Friday 

Inside Out 

Dangerous Minds

How about you? What are your thoughts on creating a “theme” for your novel? Is there anything you’d like to add to this discussion? If so, please feel free to share it in the comments section below! Discussion is always encouraged here!😃

 

A Life Update And A Lesson Learned

Hey everyone, sorry for the long-time-absence. I promise that nothing has been wrong, other than my sheer busyness and procrastination. Nonetheless, there has been a lot that has been going right lately, and I wanted to share it with you guys.

Recently, I have made a career change and I feel really good about it.

 I have realized that God is calling me to become a teacher. 

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Interestingly enough, this was my original plan all through high school—and truth be told, I’m honestly not sure the desire ever went away completely. I watched shows like Glee and imagined how cool it would be to leave an impact on the lives of others—the way Mr. Shcue does in his Glee club.

I also thought back to my own high school years (which honestly aren’t that long ago) and how much the classes I was in affected the person I am today for the better. I went into high school shy and insecure, but left confident and with a group of friends better than I could have ever imagined. I would love to the chance to play a small part in helping other students grow—and create the kind of classes that they’ll remember for years. Though you can make a positive difference in journalism as well, I realized that as an extravert, I really need a career where I’m around people—as I’m pretty sure I’ll go crazy otherwise.

Since I’ve made this change, I’ve been feeling much better about life and the direction that it’s taking. Furthermore, I realized a mistake that I made for most of my freshman year of college—I realized that you can’t live your life by another person’s script.

Because I was in the midst of such a drastic change, I fell into a pattern of looking to others for what I should do in life. I wanted some kind of direction or path from those who have gone before me.

In doing this, I failed to see the beauty in my own story, and my own unique journey.

I switched to journalism because one of my favorite authors became the successful fiction writer I wanted to be through that career. I was down on myself for not yet having a license to drive on my own—when I was sure I’d be further ahead by now. I felt like something was wrong with me because I didn’t have a boyfriend (or an interest in getting one, for that matter) when literally everyone I knew started dating—even though I was in the process of getting over a really long-term crush.

Now, with that year behind me, and a few lessons learned, I’ve realized that my story isn’t the same as everyone else’s and neither is yours. God has different plans for each one of us, and that’s OK. We should never copy someone else’s path because it worked for them—we have to find our own path, and stay connected to that still small voice in the process.

As much as I sometimes long for a step-by-step checklist, life doesn’t usually work like that—and sometimes we have to find our story one piece at a time—trusting that God is writing something beautiful with our lives.

If we do that, than we might just be on the right path after all.

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

Some Lessons And Highlights from a High School Graduate

As the year comes to an end, I can’t help but think of all that has changed since I graduated from high school last year. All throughout my teenage years, I was required to write an essay—reflecting on on the ways I’ve learned and grown throughout that year.

Now, even though I’m no longer in high school, I’ve decided to bullet point some of my biggest lessons and highlights from my first year as a college student. Hopefully, with any luck, this will provide inspiration to graduates who are reading this, and nostalgia to those looking back.

Thus, without further ado, here is a reflection of my year!

  • Friendship 

Throughout this year, I have been reminded more than ever of the importance of true friends in our lives. I have written in the past about the closeness of my friend-group and this year, I believe I’ve grown to appreciate my friends on a whole other level.

As I went through some of the more difficult parts of this year, they have been my anchor, as they listened to me vent about everything from crazy professors to my endless job hunt. I have also learned what it means to stay in contact with friends in the midst of ever changing schedules and paths. One of my biggest fears this year was that I’d loose contact with the people who have been like a second family to me all through high school. Nonetheless, I’ve found that with a little effort, a little scheduling, and a lot of texting and phone conversations, it’s not as hard as it seems to remain in touch with high school friends.

Especially if everyone makes an effort. 

  • Faith

I believe that my faith has grown immeasurably this year, as it has faced tremendous pressure like never before from outside forces. It was one of the few things I could hold onto as I made my way through a local college and struggled with more personal issues than I’d care to admit. Before this year, I was used to being in the majority as a Christian. After this year, I realized for the first time the stress of being one of the only Christians in my school open about my faith. Nonetheless, I believe that through it all, I’ve grown closer to God and learned to trust Him more in the process. Life doesn’t always make sense in the moment, but through it all, we can always trust that God has plans for us bigger than any of our wildest dreams. 

  • School

Though I’ve maintained high grades throughout my year, school has been one of my most difficult challenges this year. On top of the frightening realization that I’m officially out of high school and an “adult”, I changed my major, changed my career field, and changed to a school better fit for my career aspirations. I have also faced the struggle of shifting through various ideologies and world views at the local college I attended during the fall semester—deciding for myself what I agreed and disagreed with. Nonetheless, as I’ve begun my first semester with Liberty University online, I have regained a love for learning and feel content with my decision for college.

  • Work 

In addition to the excitement of starting at a new school, I have recently started my first real part time job in retail. So far, this has been an excellent experience and I have found it very empowering to have an official job in the workforce. It took a while to find a job, but now that I have one, I believe that the search has been worth it. In the end, I believe that all of my time spent sending in resumes and applying at various stores in the area has been worth it, as I enjoy both my job and working with fellow employees/managers.

  • Responsibility 

Lastly, I have begun to take on more responsibility. Between working, going to school, and driving more, I finally feel that I’m on my way towards successful “adulting”. I have also begun to make more decisions for myself and take on more responsibility—which I believe has been incredibly rewarding.

All and all, as awkward as this year has been at times, I wouldn’t change a thing, as each step helped me grow to trust God more and become a stronger person. We all face trials in our lives, but the important thing is not our struggles—it’s how we handle them. We each go through different seasons, but the important thing is that God is still God in the midst of every season of life, and He has our lives in the very palm of His hand.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11 

How about you? How do you believe you’ve grown this year? And if you’ve graduated from high school or college, how did that season of life shape you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 

Nineteen Lessons For Nineteen Years

Hey everyone – big news! Today is my nineteenth birthday! 

Thus, inspired by my friend Mfon from Dainty M., I’m going to write down nineteen lessons that I’ve learned so far in my nineteen years!

  1. Trust God with your life – This one can seem so easy yet be so hard at times! So often, we want the full picture when God will only show us a small piece of the puzzle. But if we trust Him, the whole thing will all come together beautifully in time.
  2. Believe in yourself – I know this one is SO cliche, but it’s important! God made us just the way we are, with all of our quirks, details, and gifts – with an intent to use us for something amazing! So have some confidence in the beautiful you that He created!
  3. Work hard – nothing in life comes without hard work. From our goals, to our dreams, to making a basic paycheck, a good work ethic is essential to a fulfilling life. So keep on fighting and do your best in everything you do!
  4. Go easy on yourself – This one may seem counterintuitive to the one above, but it’s really not. Sometimes, as hard as we work, we should allow ourselves a chance to rest, and give ourselves a mini “sabbatical”. Even God, Creator of all things took a rest after an intense process of creating the world, so why should we expect to go with no breaks?
  5. Stay young – One of my good friends has always made a point to stay young at heart. She always notes that she still loves “kiddish” stuff and doesn’t want to become stiff and stuffy as an adult. I believe there’s a lot of wisdom here, and a little bit of a kid in all of us. Embrace that kid sometimes, we can’t adult all the time, right?😉
  6. Don’t be afraid to dream – Dreams are something that sustain all of us to some degree. Without dreams, we lack motivation, which can result in pretty depressing existence. Set goals for yourself and trust God to help you fulfill those dreams in his timing. Your dreams might just be a part of His plan.
  7. Appreciate your family and friends – Family and friends are some of God’s greatest gifts to us. They’re the people who help us grow and see us through the good times and the bad times. Never forget to take care of those relationships, and continue to nurture them even through the business of life.
  8. Keep learning – To often we limit learning to just school, but the truth is, learning is (or should be) a part of our daily lives. It’s continuing to grow and being open to new experiences. It’s allowing God to speak to us through our life experiences. Learning is part of what helps us grow as people.
  9. Be your best self – It can be easy to drag through life on some days. We’ve all had moments like that, haven’t we? Days where we just want to stay inside and watch Netflix on repeat. While it’s OK to have these somedays, try to embrace life with vigor and excitement, giving your all in each day. We only get one life—and it’s our job to decide what we do with it.
  10. Think of others – Jesus says to “do unto others as we want them to do to us”, and I believe this is a great motto to live by. Imagine what would happen if everyone looked out for others interests as much or more than their own. The world would be drastically different for the better.
  11. Never believe you can’t make a difference – It can be easy to feel like because we’re only one person, there isn’t much of an impact that we can make, but this is a lie from the enemy. God gave us this life and has equipped us with everything we need to accomplish the purposes He has for us. Plus, even the smallest acts of kindness can make somebody’s day.
  12. Find your passion – Passion is the thing that adds color to life. For me, my passion is writing. I love the sound of the written word and the shape of sentences. I love creating something and I love jotting down words that can help and inspire others. For you, your passion could be music, art, or teaching. Whatever it is, follow it! God has given you your gifts for a reason – steward them to the best of your abilities!
  13. Don’t be afraid – Fear can be crippling, and while there are some situations where it’s called for (AKA, dangerous situations), most of the time it is simply a hinderance. One of the biggest areas of fear can be the future, but God has gone before you. He’ll be with you every step of the way – all you have to do is trust Him.
  14. Enjoy the little things – God has blessed us in so many ways on this earth, but sometimes, when we get too busy, it can be easy not to notice the small gifts we experience everyday. As a wise man once said, “don’t be afraid to stop and smell the roses”.
  15. Try new things – I’m admittedly bad about this one, as I tend to be very into routines and what I’m accustomed to, but oftentimes trying new things—whether it be a hobby or a new food, can often lead to something awesome.
  16. Read (at least a little) – Though I’m probably more of a book worm than some people, I believe that everyone can benefit by writing. Pinpoint something your interested in, or an author you absolutely love and find books accordingly. If nothing else, read the Bible, because I can promise that book will change your life!
  17. Take time to unplug – It can be easy to stay attached to technology in the world we live in, but sometimes it can be good to take a break. Read. Hang out with family. Walk your dog. Enjoy life outside of a screen.
  18. Look up to wise mentors – God has put people in your life for a reason. Look to those who know Him and who seem to have a lot of wisdom for guidance. It’s always helpful to have seasoned Christians around to help guide you through life!
  19. Be a role model – Be the kind of person you’d want your sibling or little cousins to emulate. Try your best, follow God, and be the kind of person others could consider a role model in their lives. Someone’s always watching, even when we aren’t aware of it.

How about you? What lessons Has God taught you over the years? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!