B.A.S.I.C. – A Post About Love

“He said come to the table, come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior now, sit down and be set free. Come to the table.” – Sidewalk Prophets 
Recently, I have been challenged to write a post about love. The challenge came up on Sunday night, as I was talking to a group of friends at church, and one of them mentioned that she had recently read a devotional about love. Thus, she gave me this challenge, when I asked for blogging suggestions: write about love. 
And in that moment, I accepted the challenge.
Initially, I wasn’t quite sure which kind of love to write about (According to C.S. Lewis, there are four different kinds; storage, philia, eros, and agape). My first instinct was to write a post about God’s love, but I had just written about that two posts back, in #RelationshipGoals. My other thought was to write about dating relationships, which is something I’ve been studying lately. But, that didn’t feel quite right for this post either, although I would like to eventually touch on that topic more in the future. Finally, my mom gave me this idea, as I was talking with her the other day.
Write about B.A.S.I.C. – what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ. 
And, as you can see by the title of this post, this is the topic that stuck. 
For as long as I can remember, the vision of every believer being part of the family of God has always captivated me. Growing up as an only child, there were often times when I used to imagine what it would be like to have a brother or a sister. I would watch my friends interact with their siblings, and wonder what it would be like to have a sibling of my own. Thus, when I accepted Christ and read Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:50 that “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”  I was immediately intrigued.
Since then, I have grown to see more and more the beauty of this teaching, and how it directly relates to the real-in-the-now moments of each of our lives. How it changes the way that we see and interact with those around us, and how it gives us a vision of hope and love to live out in a world that seems to grow a little more cold, isolated, and autonomous every day.
Every person that we meet is a person that is, or has the potential to become our brother or sister in Christ. And God desires that each one of us would choose to become a part of this big, diverse, worldwide family. He wants to adopt each one us as His sons and daughters, and wants each of us to turn to Him as our Heavenly Father.
What would happen if each one of us chose to truly live this teaching out to its full? What if each one of us really chose to see each other this way, and treat each other like family? What if we chose to embrace one and other with this kind of radical love in a world that is too often governed by division and hate? What would change in our communities? Our cities? Our nations? Our world?
And how incredible of witness would it be for our faith? 
Right now, the world is starving for something real. In a world of shallow connections, airbrushed images, and competitions for the most ‘likes’,  we are desperately in need of real love, family, and community. One that will be there for us when things get hard and the odds seem stacked against us.
What if we, as Christians, made the choice every day to love?
To love God.
 
To love our brothers and sisters in Christ?
 
To love those who God wants to bring into the family?
What if we made the words of John 13:35 our mission statement? Where Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
What if we chose to become world changers—loving every person that we meEt the way Jesus did, living out the mission and heart of the Gospel in every interaction we have; changing the world through God’s amazing love—one life at a time? 
What if we really chose to be B.A.S.I.C.? 
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Strength In Vulnerability

You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back.” – Barbara de Angelis. 

Vulnerability. Transparency. Openness.

There is a lot packed into these three simple words. Things that are scary for many of us. Choices that make us feel afraid. Decisions that force us out of our comfort zone.

But recently, God has been speaking to me about all of these things, and I feel led to share what I’ve been learning with you, in hopes that maybe, just maybe, it might inspire someone.

So, here it goes…

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been good at opening up to people. I don’t have a specific reason exactly – likely some mix of being a more reserved personality by nature and going through seasons where I’ve been hurt by people – but for as long as I can remember, this has always been my story. I could write and speak about my faith and beliefs, but anytime I tried to get personal—about my life and my own struggles, I choked. It was easier for me to talk about things from an intellectual standpoint than a personal one.

This got a million times worse once I got to college. 

My first year of college, I slowly began to feel like my life was falling apart. First my schedule changed, and than my expectations changed, and than little by little, I began to feel a lot of my friendships beginning to change—until eventually it felt like everything that had come together so perfectly towards the end of high school was gone, never to be recovered again.

My life, little by little, began to turn into something of a to-do-list. 

I got up. I went to college classes. I went to work. I did my chores and daily-tasks. 

And shut down almost 100% emotionally and relationally. 

In some ways, I felt hurt. Why was it so hard to get together with old friends? Why were people changing so much? Where was God in the midst of all of this? I began to fear that if I let anyone else in, I would only get hurt—over and over again. And somewhere down the line, I held back from fully letting God in. On the outside, I looked strong. On the inside, I was a total, complete train-wreck—with OCD and anxiety slowly starting to run my life.

In retrospect, I was somewhat aware that I had a problem—even if I didn’t know how to fix it. But to be honest, most days I was trying so hard to just get through that I couldn’t really see the full picture, and how much I really was falling apart. In my mind, it was all just a part of life that I’d have to get used to. 

But recently, things have changed. And that’s what I want to share with you. 

As some of you know, I’ve started going to a new church, which I wrote about here. It has been an incredible blessing, and I’ve loved going, but I had no idea when I first went how much this church would end up helping me. And how much it would change my life.

My first week there, I was blown away by how connected everyone seemed—and how everyone really seemed to interact as one big, awesome, diverse, beautiful church family—taking the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:50 and putting them into action. The following week, I saw it even more up close and personal, as I went for the first time to the church’s young adult/college group. And that’s when things really started to change.

After taking note of how genuinely nice the people in this group seemed, the second thing that I noticed was how they opened up. Like, really opened up. More than I’ve ever seen people collectively open up in a church group before. And not only did they open up to each other—they opened up to God. Being a part of this church, I’ve seen so many people on fire for Jesus—striving to grow closer to Him above all else. And little by little, I heard God, starting to convict me. 

“You need to start letting people in. You need to start letting me in.” ‘

This has completely changed my life, and my outlook on life. It wasn’t a call to come to Christ—I accepted Christ years ago, back when I was still pretty young. But it was a call to give God all of me. My hopes. My fears. My dreams. My carefully laid out plans. 

And it was a call to start really opening up to those around me.

Slowly, I’ve started doing both of these things. It’s been a process—I can’t say I’m where I’d like to be quite yet, but I’ve made progress, even admitting in front of my whole group that I struggle with OCD and anxiety (which, by the way, has slowly been lessening). And I’ve found that the more that you give God your all, the less you worry about being hurt by other people—giving you the freedom to really open up to those around you. 

These last few years have been a journey—but for the first time in a while, I’m living—not just breathing.

And I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for me. 

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#RelationshipGoals

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

As human beings, we’re naturally and innately wired for relationships. 

From the time that we are children, we’re motivated to forge relationships with those around us. No one has to teach us that we need other people. It is something that we instinctively know; whether introverted, extraverted, or somewhere in between, regardless of culture, gender, race, or ethnicity. It is God’s fingerprint on His creation—and one of the clearest and most incredible ways that we are made in His image.

We were made for relationships with other people.

And, even more importantly, we were made for a relationship with God. 

While it is often easy for us to remember that we need to be in close relationships with those around us to flourish, it can often be easy to forget the importance, and life-altering significance of our relationship with God.

Many of us, if we’ve been in the church for a long time, have heard the old cliche ‘Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship’, but in our real, nitty-gritty every day lives, this can be a difficult truth to live out. It’s all too easy to fall into routine with our faith. To read our Bible, go to church, and pray—all while missing the breathtaking beauty of it all. That the God of the universe wants to know us personally, and loves each of us more than any human being on this earth ever could. 

And until we shape our lives around this truth, nothing else will ever be enough. 

The truth is, in my own life, this has often been a struggle that I’ve personally dealt with. Though I know this truth deep down in my heart, there have been far too many times that I’ve tried to place something else where God should be. In some seasons, it’s been an achievement. In other seasons, it’s been a close friendship. Yet in other seasons, it’s been my own struggle with perfectionism. There have been times when I’ve been so focused on what my life looked like on the outside that I’ve totally neglected what was really important—the condition of my heart on the inside.

Sometimes, even really good things can distract us from deepening our relationship with God. Things like pursuing a talent that God has given us, or a relationship with someone God has placed in our life. The problem isn’t always the thing itself, but the weight that we give it. Anything can turn into a negative thing if it keeps us from turning our hearts most fully to the one most important thing.

No matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done, God wants a deep, personal relationship with you. He sees you as His beloved child and friend and would die for you all over again even if you were the only person on earth.

As you go throughout your week, I want to challenge you to fall more in love with Jesus. To see your faith and quiet time with God as a way of growing closer to the One who wants to know you, rather than just a list of tasks. To never stop being captivated by the heart of the Gospel.

To never stop pursuing a relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

How To Have With A Crush (Without Going Insane)

It happens to all of us, doesn’t it? The first butterfly. The sinking realization. The late nights agonizing over them.

The person who has suddenly taken up space in our mind and left us with one-too-many love songs on our playlist.

The person who it could never work out with, yet who leaves us with shreds of hope that someday, somehow, maybe it could.

The whole thing can be absolutely maddening sometimes. 

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We’ve all dealt with the agony of a crush at some point or another. It’s one of the few experiences we as humans deal with that’s nearly universal. It has been the topic of songs, books, movies, and TV shows. Ross’s crush on Rachel (Friends). Corey’s feelings for Topanga (Boy Meets World). Practically every Taylor Swift song ever. We have dealt with the pain of an unrequited crush.

Nonetheless, as stressful as it can be, I do believe there are some things we can do to make the whole thing a little less agonizing.

  1. Talk To Someone – One of the worst things we can do when we have a crush is to keep the whole thing bottled up inside. Oftentimes, talking with a close friend can help lessen the intensity of the situation, giving you the chance to talk through it and get some of those bottled-up-feelings out in the open. It is not always wise or feasible to confess your feelings to the person you like, but it is smart to have someone to confide in, who can help you walk through the very difficult and awkward situation of having a crush.
  2. Pray for them – One of the best way to deal with feelings that you don’t know what to do with is to channel them into something productive—and what’s more productive than prayer? It can also be wise to pray for yourself, and ask God to lead you through your circumstances with wisdom and guidance. He’s always someone we can confide in and though He may not magically make the crush disappear or bring you to a relationship with this person, He will make the whole thing easier to deal with.
  3. Trust God – God knows the entire course that our lives will take before we’re even born. He knows how many hairs we have on our head and He knows each and every one of our hopes and dreams. He also has plans for us when it comes to relationships—whether it’s a marriage and family or a call to celibacy with lots of close friends around, both which He will equip us for and give us the strength to live out. If it’s God’s will for you to be with this person, He’ll orchestrate things for you guys to be together. If it’s not, trust that He has something better for you down the road. No matter what path life takes us down, God always has our best interests at heart.
  4. Be their friend – As hard this can be when we have strong feelings for someone, sometimes it’s best to just be their friend for the time being. As much as the ‘friend-zone‘ is bemoaned as the worst situation to be in when you have a crush, I believe it is still better than nothing at all. It gives you the chance to get to know the other person on a deeper level, and if the circumstances someday allow it, it creates a great foundation for a future relationship.
  5. Don’t loose focus – One of the most frustrating things about having a crush is how distracting it can often be. It can be so easy to spend time wallowing in self-pity, watching movies, and listening to dramatic songs on replay, but it’s important to stay focused on other aspects of your life besides your crush. You have and always have had more in your life besides just them and it’s important to remember this fact. Go out with friends, accomplish some goals, and read some good books. You still have one life to live to the absolute fullest, crush or no crush.

“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? Do you have any on dealing with a crush? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments! 

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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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.

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