Guest Post – What Happens When You Give God The Pen

Hey everyone – in honor of today being Valentines Day I have asked my good friend Julia Carvalho (a name you might recognize from a previous post) to write a guest post for my blog. Her story is truly amazing and a testimony to God’s goodness and faithfulness! She has a love story that only God could’ve written and the first time I heard it, I was beyond inspired – and I believe that this story will inspire you the same way it inspired me!

So, without further ado, here is her incredible post and story!

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Once upon a time, there was this girl. When she was thirteen-years-old, she read this cheesy romance novel and the main character mentioned that she had letters for her future husband. As a thirteen-year-old, nothing sounded more romantic than writing letters to a man she didn’t even know existed. However, even though she didn’t know who he was, she knew that God had already set him apart for her.

So, her first entry in her designated “Dear Future Husband…” notebook was not a love-letter, but instead, a prayer. A prayer that God would bring them together in His perfect timing, a prayer for strength for both of them to stay pure and follow His ways, and of course, at thirteen, a prayer that he was the most handsome man on the planet.

As the years went by she continued to write prayers and letters in this little notebook. She would write about her day, what was going on in her life, her struggles, her victories, really wishing she could look into his eyes and speak to him instead of gliding her pen through her pages. Fast-forward to holiday season 2017…or maybe a little before then. She was eighteen- years-old now, and it had been three months since her family had moved from the one city she had ever known, and she was still heart-broken.

Finally, by November, Jesus worked within in her in ways that only He could move, and she realized that she was never alone, that through it all, Jesus was right beside her, holding on to her and guiding her. So, despite craving a romantic relationship so badly, because all her friends were starting to date, she decided that she was content with just Jesus. If that was all she had in her whole life, she would be content.

The same book she read when she was thirteen came out with a continuing series of the
main character’s life following her through her college years. In the second book of the college series, the main character tells God that she no longer wants to hold the key to her heart. She no longer wanted to decide which guy could come in, because they ended up just leaving a mess in there. So, the character gave God the key to her heart and decided to let Him decide when the time was right.

The girl from our story thought that was beautiful, and it was the same sentiment she was feeling in the weeks before, so she prayed the same prayer. For the first time in her life, she truly felt satisfied. And honestly, she thought that since she had prayed that prayer, God’s perfect timing would be lightyears away and she wouldn’t have to worry about boys for a very long time, but, my friends, was she so very wrong.

Not even two weeks later her parents tell her that one of her dad’s lifelong friends from Brasilia (the capital of Brazil) was going to be in Orlando during Christmas time and they would be spending Christmas together. She was so mad. Finally, Christmas Eve arrives and the families are introduced.

Long story short, girl meets boy, girl hates boy and thinks he is a stuck-up brat (boy also dislikes girl). Next day, boy is super sweet and genuine and girl’s heart melts, girl says boy looks like a homeless man who found his clothes in the dumpster (hey, I guess no one told him you shouldn’t wear a super hole-y shirt on Christmas), girl is embarrassed she just called the cutest boy ever a hobo, boy laughs and thinks girl is so incredibly cute and loves her honesty, boy and girl try to get families to hang-out as much as possible during the holidays, boy falls in love with girl, girl falls in love with boy, boy flies 2,000 miles back home to California… *record scratches* wait, what?

“Jesus, now what? That’s all I have to say, now what?”

So, in case you haven’t caught on yet, the girl in the story is me, and we are at the most heart-breaking part of my story. I had finally met a boy who had the same passions as I did, who loved Jesus as much as I did, and who actually liked me back, but now he was flying across the country to go back to school. He would probably forget all about me as soon as he landed. He would definitely find a girl who was prettier than me and funnier than me. Why would he even want to be with me when we lived 2,468 miles apart (yes, I actually looked it up).

I definitely knew I wanted to date him, but I was so fearful that I was just falling into feelings and not into God’s will for my life. I was scared because I had never felt this way about a boy before. I had never been in a relationship before him, so everything was new. It was beautiful, and exciting, and terrifying.

Now, mind you, before he went back to California (and in the span of ten-days from meeting him to him leaving) God answered so many prayers about this boy. Like, so many. (To be honest, if I were to list all the prayers that God answered in those ten-days, we would be here until Valentine’s Day 2020. So, I’ll list the ones that were the most impactful, but if you want to know them all, just ask Courtney for my DM and we can talk.)

I was not afraid to ask God for big things. Things that couldn’t happen unless God was involved. For example, right after he left my house on Christmas, I realized we hadn’t shared any of our contact information with each other. So, I told God that if this boy found a way to contact me within 24 hours, that I would let him continue pursuing me. (keyword: him pursuing me, not the other way around.)

Eleven hours later, he found me on Instagram and sent me a DM. But then I was like, “Okay, God, but come on, it’s social media. Anyone could have found me there. So, if this boy asks to pray with me, then I’ll let him keep pursuing me.” Because what twenty-three-year old boy asks a girl he likes to pray with her?

Three days later, he asks if I would be okay with us taking turns praying every time we talked (we sent a lot of audio messages praying to each other). “Okay, God, I see You. BUT I’m not sold yet, so, if he asks to read the Bible with me, I’ll let him keep pursuing me.” 24 hours later, he asks me if I wanted to start a devotional with him on YouVersion. And my prayers went on for weeks, each time I was bolder and I was more specific in my requests. God never ceased to amaze me. He answered every single one of my crazy prayers within 24-72 hours. It was mind-blowing to me.

Little did I know, that by answering those requests, God was allowing me to be pursued by a man that I deserved.

One month and half of texting constantly, facetiming for 4-6 hours at a time, and tagging each other in memes on Facebook, he flew back to Orlando to ask my dad if he could date me. (Girls, take notes. Men like this actually exist in the world. Wait for them.) Tomorrow, February 15, Davi and I will have been dating for one year. I can honestly tell you that there were moments in my life before him that I wanted to date any boy that looked at me just because I wanted to be in a relationship. And I can honestly tell you that I am so glad that I gave God the key to my heart in those moments instead of letting my flesh takeover.

Women, I beg of you, wait for the one who God has set apart for you. Wait for the man who will take you to Magic Kingdom on your first date because you love Disney, even though he couldn’t care less for the Mouse. Wait for the man who will fly out and surprise you to help your family move. Wait for the man who will hold you while you cry, but who will look you in the eye and tell you the truth even when you don’t want to hear it, just because he knows it will make you a better person. Wait for the man who sees your beauty in Christ, and who wants to treat you with honor and respect. Wait for that man, because he is out there and so worth it.

Men, I beg of you, wait for the one who God has set apart for you. Wait for the woman who will go to a double-header soccer game to watch your favorite team with you, even though she doesn’t really understand the game. Wait for the woman who tells you what you are worth, because you deserve to be treated like a king. Wait for the woman who buys plane tickets to fly out to your sister’s wedding in Brazil. Wait for the woman who sees and respects you as leader in Christ, and who wants to trust and follow your lead. Wait for that woman, because she is out there and so worth it.

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Where Your Heart Is

“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion. It is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” – Billy Graham.

As Christians, we spend a lot of time talking about outward ministry (as we should). How we can be an effective witness to others. How we can share Jesus in our circles of influence. How we can shine our light for Christ. All of this is great, please don’t misunderstand this – I hope that these are questions that you are asking yourself every day. However, if we are going to be effective witnesses for Christ, we must first start inward—with the condition of our heart. We must first start with seeking after God’s own heart.

Jesus talks about this very concept in John 15. He says, I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches.[e] As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless. If a person is separated from me, he is discarded; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire to be burned. But if you live in life-union with me and if my words[f] live powerfully[g] within you—then you can ask whatever you desire and it will be done. When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father!

“I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. You must continually let my love nourish your hearts. If you keep my commands, you will live in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands, for I continually live nourished and empowered by his love. My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness! John 15:5-11 (TPT). 

As Christians, we are called to be so full of love and so full of Jesus that it is contagious, and it spreads to those around us. People should look at us and see something beyond ourselves – they should see the love of Christ moving in and through us. Jesus talks about this in John 13:35 when He says “For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you’re my true followers.” (TPT). We are called to fall in love with Jesus and spread this love to everyone that we know.

If you’ve been a Christian for a while than you’re probably familiar with terms like “falling in love with Jesus” or “it’s a relationship, not a religion“. These are terms that I personally have  heard since I was nine years old. However, there have been points in my life when it’s been hard for this message to really get through—for me to really understand this on a heart level. It is easy to go through the motions in our faith; reading our Bible, praying, going to church and Bible studies. It is something else entirely to maintain a relationship with a God that we cannot see. But once we encounter the width and depths of His love, our relationship with Christ will never be the same. 

As humans we are wired for relationships. We are wired to be connected to people in a deep and personal way. It doesn’t take more than a simple observation of children in a Kindergarten classroom to know that there is something in us that longs for connection. It is only in our older age, and acquired hurts that we start to believe the lie that we can go at it on our own. Christ wants us to approach our relationship with Him with the wide eyed innocence of children—throwing off chains of legalism and “religion” that too often characterize our approach to God. God wants your heart – not your perfection and not your works. He simply wants YOU! 

This Valentines Day, I want you to take some time reflecting on a different kind of relationship; whether you are single, dating, or married. I want you to reflect on your relationship with the God who loves you with an everlasting love and who left the glories of Heaven to pursue you. Who wrote love letters to you through His word and who continues to chase after you daily. I want you to see and experience the “overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, who chases you down, fights ’til your found and leaves the ninety nine”* – Fully embracing the fullness of God’s love, mercy and heart and sharing this breathtaking love with the world.

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God still loved us with such great love. He is so rich in compassion and mercy. Even when we were dead and doomed in our many sins, he united us into the very life of Christ and saved us by his wonderful grace!” – Ephesians 2:4-5 (TPT). 

*Words courtesy of Corey Asbury.

Role Models

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV).

You are a role model. Whether you think so or not, there are people in your life who are watching you—and looking to your example for guidance on what to do—or, not to do. Whether it is a younger kid in your neighborhood, a younger sibling, or a cousin, you are already a role model in someone’s life, even if you are still relatively young yourself.

When I started this blog almost five years ago, I based my title largely after this theme, and the verse listed above. I was sixteen at this point, and have already had a number of role models who have influenced me in my own life—ranging from youth leaders, to celebrities (such as Bethany Hamilton and Francesca Battistelli), to older girls at my church. I also knew that as a Christian teenager, I wanted to set an example in my own life for those who were younger than me. People who were where I have already been, and who were striving to live out their faith to the best of their ability. I wanted to live out the words of this verse in my own life—and set an example for other people my age through speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.

It doesn’t take long to look around at our society and see that as a whole, people don’t really expect much from middle, high school, and college students. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people say “Oh but they’re a teenager! Of course they’re going to do XYZ!” Even at twenty, the stigma remains. It is simply assumed that people my age and younger are going to party, drink, and sleep around*. It is something that is simply thought of as something that is normal for people our age.

However, we have the chance right now at our current age to be the change that we want to see in our culture. We have the chance to rise up and be role models for the next generation, defying the expectations that come with youth. We have the chance to be a leader in our spheres of influence for Christ. To rise up and defy expectations—running passionately after our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Recently, I had the chance to talk to a younger girl at my church who is starting a Christian club at her high school. I know another girl who, at only fourteen has started making Christian vlogs and posting them to YouTube. These people are living examples that you are never too young to make a difference and lead people closer to Christ. You have the chance now—right where you are! 

I want to challenge you to go into your week with this takeaway: you have a chance to be a role model in your generation. You have the opportunity influence those around you in a positive way—it is up to you how you use it. Today, in this day, you have the chance to be a positive influence in the lives of the people around you. 

To lead people closer to Christ.

To encourage kindness in those around you.

To love people like Jesus.

To live a life characterized by faith and purity.

You have the chance to set an example. How will you use it? 

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“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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV). 

*Note, if you have some things that you’ve done and regret in your past, I want to be the first to let you know that God doesn’t love you ANY less! He can still use you and use your testimony for His glory. I know a number of people who haven’t always been walking with Christ who are now fully on fire for Jesus—and making a difference for His Kingdom every day! You are never to far gone for our God!🙂

A New Year’s Anthem

As we go into this new year, let us strive to be people of purpose.

Let us fill ourselves with a holy passion and fire as we go into this world and transform it for the cause of Christ. 

Let us not love merely by our words, but our actions—conveying God’s love to each and every person that crosses our path. 

Let us see people not simply as another face, or another name, but as a magnificent and glorious human being, created in God’s own image. 

Let us carry this love to our schools, our workplaces, and our places of influence.

Let us turn this same love back on ourselves, and never forget our worth and value as children bought at a price by our Savior.

Let us never grow complacent with these truths, storing them away as simply an abstract belief or idea. Let us instead, live out a faith that sparks action. 

Let us love loudly, live boldly, and worship passionately. Let us never let our faith become just another routine.

Let us live without regrets, and chase God honoring dreams, while still living fully and wholeheartedly in the present—in the time in between.

Let us never forget that we are a sparka spark that can start a great fire.

And let us stay on fire—living as reflections of the One who has called us into His glorious light. Forever and ever, amen

Now is the time. What are we waiting for? 

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Christmas Classics: Miracle On 34th Street

* Warning, this post contains spoilers.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:1-3 (NIV). 

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You know, I’m a symbol. I’m a symbol of the human ability to be able to suppress the selfish and hateful tendencies that rule the major part of our lives. If you can’t believe, if you can’t accept anything on faith, then you’re doomed for a life dominated by doubt.

I have always loved Christmas movies. I love practically everything about them, cliche as they often are—the warmth, the heart, the soundtrack, and the novelty. Every year, I make it a tradition to rewatch some of my old favorites along with the new ones, and one of my old favorites is the timeless classic, Miracle On 34th Street. 

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, Miracle On 34th Street is a heartwarming Christmas movie about a young girl (Susan Walker), her now-single-mom (Mrs. Walker), their handsome next-door-neighbor (Bryan Bedford), and of course, Santa Claus (or, Kris Kringle). The movie opens up with the annual Coles’ Thanksgiving Day Parade. Mrs. Walker hires on an actor to play Santa who turns out to be a less-than-fit for the part, and is forced to hire a man who looks just like Santa Claus. Later on in the movie, he gets hired to play Santa at the Coles department store, and even though Mrs. Walker has told her daughter that there is no Santa Claus, young Susan soon comes to question her disbelief.

Throughout this movie, we consistently see a foil between Susan and her mother, Mrs. Walker. Mrs. Walker is jaded by the world, and her daughter has a childlike faith. Mrs. Walker sees believing in Santa Claus as silly, or foolish, while her daughter genuinely wants to believe. Mrs. Walker is firmly persuaded that there is no Santa Clause, while her daughter isn’t so sure.

In the Bible, Jesus tells His followers that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, they must become like children. They must come to Him with the same belief and wonder of a young child. Just as Susan Walker comes to believe in Santa Claus, we are called to have a childlike faith in God. This is not to say that the two are the same, but in this movie, Santa Clause is a symbol. He’s a symbol for the things, or should I say, The One Thing, that we choose to believe in or not believe in. 

In our own lives, we can’t see or touch God with our physical senses, and we can’t always see the ways that He is working in our lives behind the scenes. A belief in God is not unfounded, as there is a plethora of evidence in history and Creation that points to His existence, but we still must come to Him in faith—believing in His presence in the world and our life. When we pray and trust that He is a God who hears our prayers, we are coming to Him in faith. When we worship Him, and sing praises to a God we cannot see, we are coming to Him in faith. When we trust and believe the promise of Romans 8:28, that all things work together for the good of those who love Him, we are believing these things in faith.

The truth is, each one of us puts our faith in so many things in our day to day life, whether we realize it or not. When we sit down at the table to eat dinner, we have faith that chair will not collapse underneath us, and that the food will not poison or kill us. When we get into our car to meet a friend at Starbucks, we have faith that our car isn’t going to break down on us, and that those around us will follow the rules of the road. When we make a new friend, or enter into a new relationship, we place our faith in that person, trusting that they won’t let us down. If we can have faith in finite, imperfect people and matters in this world, than how much more can we have faith in a loving God—who created us and knows every single detail about us and our lives? 

This holiday season, let us be reminded that even as teens and adults, we have something (or Someone) that we can believe in. Let us let the ending of the movie, when little Susan Walker hands a dollar bill to the judge that says in God We Trust, remind us that we do have a God we can trust. Because of God and His great love for us, we are given the gift of belief. Let us come to God with the faith of a child, the way Jesus instructs us to in Matthew 18. 

Let us never stop believing in the one thing that we are never too old to believe in—Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, forever and ever, amen! 

How about you guys? Have you ever struggled to believe or have faith in your own life? How did you overcome this? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments section below!😃

Giving Back

It is officially the week after Thanksgiving—which means that we are right in the thick of the holiday season. A season for lights, and festivities. A season for family and friends. A season for finishing off those leftovers from Thanksgiving before they go bad.

It is also a season for giving, and making a difference in the world around us.

Though giving is something that we can (and should) do all year long, there is a certain spirit of generosity that fills the air during the Christmas season. There are more chances to give than practically any other time of year—through donations, through time, and through small acts of kindness. And as Christians, we have the chance to be a light for Christ as we make a difference in the world around us! 

In John 13:34-35, Jesus is speaking to His followers, and gives them a simple command to follow. He says, A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (NIV). As Christ followers, we are called to love the world around us. And one of the greatest ways that we can share God’s love is through giving.

This does not simply mean giving financially or materially. Giving can take a lot of different forms, and if you cannot afford to give in this way, there are so many other ways that you can give! You can give of your time, and of your love! You can volunteer at a soup kitchen, or take time out of your day to mentor someone younger than you!

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. And Christmas is the perfect time to be intentional and give back to your community! It is the perfect time to reach out your hand to another and make a difference right where you are. And, it is the perfect chance to be a blessing to those around you.

This Christmas, I want to challenge you to give. This could be as simple as baking cookies for the widow down the street, or participating in Operation Christmas Child. You could participate in a church Christmas drive or babysit for a single mom who is struggling.

I don’t know how God is calling you to be a blessing, but there is one thing I do know – if you are alive and breathing today God can use you to make a difference in someone else’s life. And no matter how small it might seem to you, God can use your faithfulness in extraordinary ways! Through our giving, we have the chance to start a chain reaction, and spread an attitude of generosity in our homes, schools, and spheres of influences.

This Christmas, let us be a light for Christ, and reach out to those around us. Let us make a difference, and reach out to those who are struggling. Let us be the change that we want to see.

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“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’” – Matthew 25:35-40 (ESV). 

How about you guys? Do you have any suggestions for ways to give back during the holiday season? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section below! I always love hearing from you all!❤️