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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When Worlds Collide: Some Thoughts On Christian Dating

I’m going to be honest. I have a serious weakness for romantic comedies/dramas. 

Like a lot of people, I love movies like Sweet Home Alabama, A Walk To Remember, and Sleepless In Seattle. Not to mention pretty much every Christmas movie that they play on Hallmark in December.

I love seeing both characters grow through their relationships. I love seeing the thrill of first love. And of course, I love happy endings to a perfectly fitting soundtrack.

But, if there’s one thing that most of us know, it’s that love isn’t always as simple as it is in the movies, is it? There are bumps in the road. There are complications. There are a lot of Taylor Swift songs. And there are a a lot of really hard decisions to make, forcing us to ask, “What is God’s will in the midst of all this?

Since I’ve graduated high school and started college, I’ve seen more and more friends move into relationships and ask really good questions. Questions about knowing if they’re ‘the one’, navigating fights, dealing with emotions, and establishing boundaries. Even as a single girl, it has become pretty clear to me that relationships can be hard. And, if we don’t come at them from God’s perspective, they’re only going to be ten times harder.

I’m going to be honest, I don’t claim to know everything about this. I’m not an expert and I certainly don’t have any kind of relationship-certification. But as Christians, we do have two things that we can always turn to with our questions: God and His Word. If we continuously go to God with our questions about this, He’ll lead us in the right direction. And, as I’ve been seeking to better understand God’s will for relationships, I’ve come across some advice that I believe is a good starting place when it comes to dating.

The first thing, which many of us are familiar with, is to be equally yoked. I can’t stress enough the importance of this one. 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” This is not to say that we should never interact with unbelievers, as Christians we are called to be salt and light in this world (Matthew 5:16). But, our closest interactions should be with those who share our values. And in dating, our boyfriend or girlfriend should always share our core beliefs and convictions. 

The second, is to pray about the person that you are dating (or, the person that you would like to potentially date). Ask God what His will is for your life and ask Him to reveal it to you. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Here’s the thing guys, God has a plan for your life. I don’ t know what it looks like, but He does. And if marriage is part of His will for you, than He’ll reveal the person that you’re supposed to be with when the timing is right. In the meantime, trust Him with His perfect timing.

The third thing is to look at their character. What kind of person are they? What do they care about most? Do they love God? Are they kind to those around them? What kind of father (or mother) would they be (assuming you want to have kids)? These are all vital questions to ask yourself when you like someone. A love for God, a love for people, and a desire to live life God’s way are some of the most important qualities to look for in a person. These things will all affect how they treat you and how they treat those closest to you. Galatians 5:22-23 says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” These are all important qualities to consider when you’re looking to date (or court) someone new.

The fourth thing is to understand their personality and yours. As human beings, we are all fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image (Psalm 139:14). We were each made for a divine calling and purpose. And we are all given different strengths, gifts, and personalities. And more than likely, your boyfriend or girlfriend is not going to look exactly like you. Thus, it is so important that we take time to understand the other person. Are they introverted, or extraverted? Do they make decisions based on logic or emotion? Do they like to have a schedule, or are they more spontaneous? With personality, there is no ‘wrong’ way to be, but it is important to understand both yourself and the other person in a relationship. Romans 12:6-8 addresses how we are all created differently, with different strengths, as it says “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

Fifth, listen to the input of your friends and family – Oftentimes, our first instinct is to be defensive of the person that we like, and ignore the input of others. However, as Christians, it is so important that we listen to what our friends and family have to say about the person that we’re dating, because oftentimes, they can see things that we can’t. I would even advise asking common friends about them before going out with them, asking if they see anything that could be a potential red flag in a relationship. Proverbs 16:20 says, “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD.” The people closest to us will always have our best interest at heart, and if they see a lot of red flags in the relationship, than it is best to listen to them.

Sixth, work on the other important relationships in your life – There is so much more to life than romantic relationships and dating. And though there is often pressure from society (and sometimes, even other Christians) to get into a relationship, it is totally OK to be single! Singleness is not a curse or something to be ashamed of – Paul was single and so was Jesus! And whether married, dating, or single, it is important that we make our relationship with God our top priority! It is also important that we maintain strong relationships with our family and friends. Not to mention, grow in knowledge, faith, and compassion as human beings. Marriage temporary, but our relationship with Christ is eternal. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31.

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How about you guys? What advice would you give about relationships and dating? And what do you believe are important qualities in a potential spouse? Let’s start a conversation about this in the comments section below!

 

#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

Real Talk About Relationships: A Post For Valentine’s Day

Relationships.

Admittedly, this is a topic that I haven’t talked much about on my blog. It’s also probably the one topic that most people would expect to see on a teen blog. For years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to address this topic here, and have never really come to a resolution.

Nonetheless, lately, I feel very much compelled to address it, and I feel that it’s about time I did a post on dating relationships

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You see, the reason I’ve never posted about relationships on here is because I’ve never been in one myself. And I have always felt sort of inadequate to give advice on such a complicated topic. Throughout high school, I was always heavily immersed in what some have dubbed “the Christian subculture“. Almost none of my friends dated. Almost none of my friends were even allowed to date. So, when I started this blog, I focused on things that I either knew something about or current social issues that could be easily resolved through research.

Needless to say, dating didn’t exactly make the cut.

Considering I barely had a fully formed view of dating relationships in high school, I decided to hold off on this topic until later—when I had more insight into the topic. Admittedly, I’m not much further along than I was a couple of years ago, but I do feel more equipped to speak about dating at this point. In fact, my lack of knowledge serves as sort of a lesson in itself for this post.

Christians need to talk about relationships. 

In the midst of relationship messiness, we as young people need instruction. And most of us, if we’re really honest, are seriously lacking in dating-expertise. 

Speaking on behalf of Christian teens (of which I still sort of qualify, at nineteen years old), most of us half been hit with dating theories left and right. Many, which my friend Emily so apty pointed out, that are born more out of fear than wisdom. We’re bombarded with a billion prerequisites that go beyond the realm of Biblical truth.

We’re expected to know if we can marry them before our first date. We put up so many boundaries that we throw trust, intuition, and normal interaction out the window. We’re encouraged not to “get too attached” or “give our heart away” while on the hunt our soul mate. We’re encouraged to start dating at eighteen, and get married three or four years later, because it would be simply dreadful to end up as an ‘old maid‘ at twenty four.

It’s enough to make you want forget dating altogether and live vicariously through chick flicks and Nicholas Sparks novels. 

Nonetheless, lately, despite my own lack of experience with dating, I have started thinking more actively about dating relationships and what makes for a good relationship—as I’ve discussed the topic with friends and talked about it with my mom.

Thus, I would like to keep it simple, and list some of the basic principals that I believe equal a healthy relationship.

Love, Honor, and Trust.

For many of us, it has been all too easy to grow up with presuppositions about the opposite gender—especially for us gals. I’ve spoken about it previously in relation to male-female friendships, but the struggle is all too real with dating relationships.

Between TV, movies, and offhand comments from well meaning people, girls aren’t taught to hold out for a man with self-control. We’re taught that all men are all basically walking hormones—and within this toxic teaching, we fail to teach girls to wait for someone they can trust. As a culture, we’ve failed to differentiate between normal, self-controlled, imperfect guys with struggles and sexual predators.

Even Christians have often been guilty of making excuses for inappropriate behavior—thus choosing to stereotype our brothers in Christ rather than assume the best about the majority of men. Because of this, too many girls have come to expect the worst of guys, and stayed with toxic, abusive boyfriends—brushing it off as “typical male behavior”. Girls aren’t taught about warning signs to watch out for, and abusive men are often been brushed off as “normal”—creating a recipe for disaster.

As God’s children, fearfully and wonderfully made in His image, we deserve to be with someone who respects us and respects the God that we serve. We deserve a man who will treat us right and honor us. We deserve to know that there are still good guys left in the world, and that we ought not to settle for less than our best.

The Freedom of Not Knowing 

Sometimes, a date (or a courtship) can be just that. A date. Not an engagement; not a marriage proposal. It doesn’t make us shallow or a ‘serial dater’. It just makes us human. It just means that early in the relationship, we might not know if they’re the one. And that’s OK.

Expecting a person to know 100% who they’re going to marry when they’re still getting to know the other person and themselves is asking a lot. True, we should be someone we could potentially see ourselves marrying down the line. And true, they should have our core values and beliefs. But we don’t have to sign a contract on our first date. Sometimes, it’s OK to not know—that’s what the dating process is for. So we can get to know them. We don’t have to book a chapel on our first date, just as long as we treat the other person right, and don’t lead them on.

Listen To The Voices 

Oftentimes, our intuition can be a helpful aid in making big decisions, such as ‘who to date’. While we shouldn’t solely listen to our intuition, we shouldn’t ignore it altogether either. This pertains both to the specific person and to our standards. Do guys who are quick to anger make you nervous? Then stay away. Do you want a guy with certain core values, like honesty and integrity. Listen to that. Oftentimes, problems arise when we refuse to listen to our gut and the Holy Spirit’s counsel and try to rationalize behavior that we know is wrong. Don’t ignore that still small voice in the midst of strong feelings.

In addition to listening to our own intuition, it’s important to hear out what others have to say. Friends and family can provide insight on things that we haven’t even considered. Furthermore, it can be easy for judgement to get cloudy in the midst of a feelings for another person. If we listen to our voice and the voice of others—including God, through prayer and Bible study, we’ll save ourselves from a lot of mistakes and heartache.

Be OK with singleness

Too often, society and the church elevate marriage and dating relationships so much that they isolate people who are single—either out of calling, or for a period of time. Single people are often viewed with suspicion, or as somehow ‘less-than’ compared with their married counterparts.

Nonetheless, both statuses are fully respected in God’s eyes. Whether we eventually marry or not, we’re all likely to be single for at least some period of time. It’s important that we all learn to be comfortable with ourselves before we jump into a relationship with someone else. Ultimately, God is the only one who can give us true joy, and when we replace God with anything else—even a good thing, we will always be disappointed.

How about you? Do you have any relationship advice that you’d like to share? If so, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section! It’s always great to hear your thoughts!