Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Advice to My College Self

I didn't want to go to college. I decided in sixth grade that I was going to be a movie star and I didn't need college. That was my mentality my first year at High Point University. Looking back, I wish I had made the most of my freshman year instead of going through the motions.

My mom told me I had to go to college, so I knew I was going to go. When it came down to time to decide, I didn't know where to go. I had great options - North Carolina State University, Appalachian State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and High Point University. The problem was, I wasn't passionate about one over the other and I didn't want to leave home. I finally chose UNC-G and decided to live at home and commute.

My first semester of college was a struggle. I wasn't prepared for the self discipline it took to get to freshman seminar on time, I wasn't dedicated to doing well in my classes, and I was nostalgic for the simplicity of high school life. It was a mess. My GPA was less than stellar, and I wasn't completely sure I was where I should be. I started the process to transfer to High Point University, although I wasn't sure that was the answer either.

Once at High Point, I tried to enjoy college more. I tried joining some clubs, but ultimately I didn't have much reason to spend time on campus because I lived at home and still had local friends, so I didn't make many friends at first.
I was a theatre minor, and thank goodness for that - it forced me to spend many hours on campus working on shows. Through the theatre program, I started making friends.
During my senior year (fifth year I might add), HPU got a new sorority - Alpha Chi Omega decided to start a chapter there. This was my final attempt at making college somewhat meaningful. The process was a lot of fun and I ended up being not only a founding member of the Kappa Omicron chapter of AXO, but serving on the first executive board. I had a blast.
A few months later when my collegiate years were coming to a close, I wasn't ready.

I went on to attend graduate school at Appalachian State University. I had always been interested in ASU, but was never brave enough to do it. Although it was tempting to attend grad school at HPU and stay with my sorority sisters, the mountains were calling.

My time at Appalachian State was undoubtedly the most pivotal time in my life. I get chills writing about it. Getting away from home and making a new home in the mountains of North Carolina was an invaluable experience. In fact, it was essential. I cannot imagine my life without it. The spiritual and personal growth I experienced was phenomenal. I had a whole different outlook on life after Appalachian. I am a better person because of my time in Boone, North Carolina.

So there's my story; now here's my advice.

1. Go out on a limb. 
If you want to go far away for school, don't let fear paralyze you. It ended up being good for me to be at home because I got to spend a ton of time with my grandma for the last couple years of her life, so I don't regret not going away - I just know that getting away from home lends way to new perspectives and adventures. Even if it's hard at first!

2. Join clubs and organizations!
Joining the right Greek organization can be an awesome experience as long as you make sure to stay grounded in your morals and beliefs. But say no to hazing! I met some amazing women by joining Alpha Chi Omega. I was a maid of honor in one of my AXO sisters' weddings last year and now I'm the advisor for the AXO chapter at HPU, getting to work with awesome women throughout the school year and attend fun and informative workshops in the summers. Greek life doesn't have to end after college!
Joining a campus ministry (New Life) at Appalachian was SUCH a wonderful decision. Not only did I meet one of my best friends for life, but I grew so much in my Christian faith by having like-minded believers surrounding me and encouraging me. I'd recommend joining a faith-based group to anyone with any religious affiliation. I wish I had done so at High Point University.

3. Stay true to yourself.
Don't look around and try to mold yourself to the standards of others, or what seems to be the "norm." I teach high school, and I know that's how it is there. But in college, being different is more "cool," thank goodness. Definitely work hard and make good grades, but also take time to have fun. Find a balance. Don't have too much fun! College can be a time when it's tempting to get off on the wrong path. It is so easy to start following the crowd and doing what they do, and often that can lead to danger. Just because Mama and Daddy aren't there to make sure you're acting right doesn't mean you should go crazy and get in trouble!

Apply to the schools you want to get into EARLY. Find out the earliest deadline and have your application in by then. There's so much competition out there, so the sooner you apply, the better your chances are of getting into the schools you are interested in.
Apply for every scholarship that you think you can get. There are so many scholarships out there and no reason not to get FREE money!
There are also many loan options, so if money is an issue, it doesn't have to keep you from reaching your dreams. Know there are resources that can help. Like Earnest for example. They have a ton of information about how you can save money by refinancing your student loans! Check them out.

5. Make the most of it!
These four (or five :)) years will FLY by. Enjoy every minute, and don't take it for granted! The real world and a steady income may seem appealing, but you should never wish your life away. College is an amazing time in life. You get to make your own schedule, meet tons of new people, try new things, and learn so much. Don't waste any of it! Savor everything college has to offer.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Approval of Others

One of my downfalls is seeking the approval of others - of caring too much what others might think about the decisions I make / of wanting someone to tell me what THEY think I should do because I feel like an objective opinion is better sometimes.
Granted, I seek this advice and approval from spiritually like-minded friends, articles and books by Christian articles, etc, but the main source of my guidance and approval should be the Bible / the Lord.

Today, with social media and our lives on display, it's easy for everyone we know to know every little move we make if we choose to put our business out there. For me personally, with big decisions I've made, I've always thought "What would other people think about this decision?"
-choosing the college I went to
-choosing the grad school I went to
-what city I choose to live in
-buying my house
-the job I choose to have / where I choose to work
(just some examples)

While it's great to seek godly advice and read Bible-based literature, the main thing I should be doing is seeking God's guidance and letting Him lead me to do what His will is. He has a unique plan for MY life, and I will not find the answers for my life in the situations of others.

My friend Ashland always tells me "Do what makes YOU happy - you are the only one that has to live with your decisions."

My friend Grace told me just the other day, "You have to go off of what the Lord is telling you to do. Outside of that it's YOUR life."

And I knew these things, but boy, is it great to have friends who will constantly remind me of such truth!! Friends who will point me to Christ when my mind is getting bombarded. I am involved in lots of things, see many people all the time, and everyone has input and an opinion. It's important to stay focused, no matter how much you respect the opinions of these people.

The Lord loves you and wants His best for you more than anyone else in the world does.
Hello, He CREATED you! Of course He KNOWS you better than anyone...and has a perfect plan for you.

I also have gotten really caught up in looking to articles written by Christian counselors, speakers, pastors, etc. That's great, and God puts those people here to help guide us, but that should never be my first go-to when I need answers. They might not even have the answers I need specifically for MY life! They don't know me at all - the Lord knows me better than I know myself.

There's no recipe for success - God has a different plan for everyone, and your plan might look odd to some people in your life, and that's okay! Follow Him where He leads you. Let your heart be open to the opportunities He has, and if they seem sketchy or hard at first, have faith that He knows what He's doing. Because He does!

Pray, pray, pray! The closer you are with God, the more in-tune you will be with His Spirit and able to hear from Him.

Looking around, you'll lose your focus; looking to God, you'll be provided with direction, even if it doesn't seem like it. Keep pressing into Him and asking Him to reveal truth, make a way, provide clarity, and get rid of the things in your life you don't need.

*Constantly reminding myself of all of this.*

Image result for the approval of others

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Come Wrestle Us and Win

A few weeks ago, the message at church was about Jacob literally wrestling with God and God giving him a new name and identity. Jacob has been dealing with some hard things and plans to spend the whole night alone praying, but God interrupts his plans to come and wrestle with him. Jacob demands a blessing, which pleases God, and God delivers. 
“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob [deceiver], but Israel [strives with God], for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).

I've been thinking a lot lately about Psalm 46. It is all about God's sovereign power and how He is with us through anything we go through, and how He will always win. He won against Jacob because after the match, Jacob changed his ways, lifestyle, and lived up to his new identity. At first, though, Jacob was headstrong and wanted his own way.

Thinking about times in my life that were difficult, or where I wanted my own way, I think about how I've spent so much time wrestling with God. He always wins. I have been headstrong and wanted my own way and begged Him to comply, but more often than not, He has said "No, I have something different for you."
And it has always been better than what I could've planned.

I wanted my first teaching job to be at Southwest. It wasn't. I was crushed. The Lord had other plans.
I grew in leaps and bounds as a person, and spiritually at Andrews High School. I also made some lifelong friends, including one of the best friends and spiritual encouragers I've ever had (or will ever have). 

I wrestled with God over many things while I was in grad school. Right before I moved to Boone, I experienced a horrible breakup. My first week in Boone, we found out my uncle had stage four lung cancer. A few months later we found out our 14-year-old family dog had cancer. She passed away, and a couple months later, so did my uncle.
I wrestled with God over these things. They were hard. I didn't want them to happen.

Looking back on that time in my life, it has been (so far) the most pivotal time as far as spiritual growth. I learned how to truly rely on the Lord and His will and guidance and judgment and power. 

I learned how to truly identify as a Child of the King and "live like I'm loved."

I learned how to truly praise Him in life's storms.

I learned how to say, "And if not, He is still good."

I learned that His plans are far better than the ones I create for myself, although it never seems like it at first.

I learned that even if He doesn't answer right away, or in the way that I want, awesome things can still come from the situation.

I learned to truly "rejoice in trials," for they bring about growth and endurance.

I learned that truly, when I am weak, Christ's strength is shown.

I wrestled God, and He won. He won because I grew in Him.

I went from 'saved' to 'filled with the Holy Spirit.'

I was broken, so He could fill me.

I became sanctified.

For my students' warm-up today, I had them write about a time when they didn't want to do something, but they did it anyway, and they were glad they did. They all had various stories about how they did something difficult or daunting, or something they just plain didn't want to do, and how they felt better after.

That's how it is with God, often times. His will might not line up with our own. But if Jesus Himself had to bow to His Father's will, how much more should we?

Usually when you do something God compels (or forces) you to do, you find out afterward, you benefit in some way if you let your heart be open to the opportunities and blessings that come with the situation.

AND, in Psalm 46, we are reassured that through it all, the Lord will be with us through the fire, as a shelter, through the fiercest battle. 

Going through things with Him by our side will only bring us closer to Him.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

When You Feel Like You're Not Good Enough

Last night at church the message was about spiritual attack and lies from Satan that distract us from doing God's work or tempt us to get off track.

I lead a small group of amazing middle school girls that I love so much, and our discussion after the message was great.

A couple weeks ago, I was talking to one of my best friends on the phone (she's in San Antonio) and she brought up a good point - Satan knows exactly how to tempt girls/women. He knows that we are, for the most part, concerned with our looks and being accepted and admired, and he uses that to feed us lies and try to get us off track.

Last night we talked about how with social media, it's harder than ever for girls and women not to compare themselves to others. With filters and HD photos and the ability to post only your best pictures and make it look like life is perfect, it's easy to scroll through the Instagram news feed and start to feel really bad about your own self because everyone else looks so perfect.

This is exactly what Satan wants. Ladies, he wants to attack your self-esteem and get you to think about and dwell on
how many likes you get
how perfect YOUR pictures look
how perfect your life is NOT
how are these other girls so perfect?!
They have perfect lives
and perfect looks
and perfect bodies
and perfect hair
and perfect friends
and perfect boyfriends
and perfect clothes
and lots of likes
and people love them

......and that's the opposite of my life...
and I'm not good enough.


Satan knows if he can get you into this rut - this negative thinking - that these thoughts will control you and get you down and keep you from getting involved in activities and investing in others, serving the Lord, etc.

Teaching high school and being involved on college campuses for different things, I really see the reality of this. It makes me so sad to know how genuinely concerned young ladies are about posting pictures that they think will get a lot of likes, and how genuinely crushed they are if the pictures don't get the amount that they desire.
How genuinely worthless they feel when they see another girl who gets more likes.

Ladies, social media can be used for SO MUCH good, but it can also be SO DESTRUCTIVE, very often without even meaning to. These girls don't post 'perfect' pictures to make YOU feel bad -- you feel bad because you are listening to Satan's lies!

IF you know you can't look at social media without feeling down about yourself, don't look at it!

Spend time in God's word, reading scripture and letting the Lord pour His truth into you.
His truth:

You ARE a child of the King - Galatians 3:26
You are worth more than gold - Proverbs 31
You are precious  - Isaiah 43:4
You are STRONG - Proverbs 31
You are ONE OF A KIND - Psalm 139:14
You are favored - Psalm 5:12
You are blessed - Deuteronomy 28:1-14
He loves you just the way you are - John 3:16
Because HE created you just the way He wanted you to be - Genesis 1:26

When you start learning and growing in the Lord, your self-esteem will increase and you won't worry as much about other girls and compare yourselves to them. You will go about your merry way, serving the Lord and feeling fulfilled in HIS love.

And remember:
*Never compare your life to someone's 'highlight reel.'
*That means:
-You know your life and it's a rollercoaster. Lots of ups and downs.
-Every single girl on Instagram has a rollercoaster life, just like you.
-Just because they don't post pictures of their tears and struggles and eating disorders and fights with parents and breakups and bad grades and not-so-cute outfits does NOT mean these things don't happen to them.
-No one's life is perfect, no matter how perfect it looks on Instagram.

Don't believe the lies!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Psalm 46

Last Thursday night I got in my car and drove to Hilton Head Island for a mental health mini-vacation. I was meeting two precious friends down there, and had five hours in the car all to myself. I had a LOT on my mind from last week, and although the drive was brutal for my legs and fanny, I got to talk on the phone with a precious godly accountability partner / encourager (BFF) and spend time in my thoughts in silence and with my worship music, and most importantly, talk to God.

I was listening to my worship playlist on Spotify and the songs ran out, so Spotify started playing songs recommended for me. "Psalm 46" by Shane and Shane came on, and I had never heard it before. I loved it immediately, so I played it again and really listened to the words.

O come behold the works of God the nations at His feet. He breaks the bow and bends the spear
and tells the wars to cease. O Mighty One of Israel you are on our side. We walk by faith in God who burns the chariots with fire Lord of Hosts, You're with us with us in the fire, with us as a shelter, with us in the storm. You will lead us through the fiercest battle, oh where else would we go, but with the Lord of Hosts. O God of Jacob, fierce and great, You lift Your voice to speak. The earth it bows and all the mountains move into the sea O Lord You know the hearts of men and still you let them live. O God, who makes the mountains melt come wrestle us and win. O God who makes the mountains melt come wrestle us and win. Though oceans roar, You are the Lord of all, the one who calms the wind and waves and makes my heart be still. Though the earth gives way, the mountains move into the sea, the nations rage, I know my God is in control. Though oceans roar, You are the Lord of all, the one who calms the wind and waves and makes my heart be still. Though the earth gives way, the mountains move into the sea, the nations rage, I know my God is in control.

This morning I decided to look up Psalm 46 and see what it was all about.
I was reminded of one of the sermons I sat through Sunday. It was about Jacob wrestling with God all night one night and the Lord asked him his name and he told Him, and when asked HIS name, the Lord did not reply (meaning He had won), leaving Jacob to realize that it was God Almighty. The Lord then gave him a new name (Israel) and identity and delivered him from a lifetime of struggle through sin and pride and jealousy.
"Come wrestle us and win."

What are we wrestling with right now that God needs to free us from? We are safe in Him.
He's with us as a Shelter
With us in the FIRE
With us through the storm
With us through the FIERCEST battles we face.
Through Him, we WILL prevail and conquer our sins and trials.

This passage / song speaks of the sheer power of the Lord and how nothing can defeat Him, although it may seem as if the world around us is going crazy, and the battles within ourselves even scarier.

Even if the Earth gives way and the storms become violent and the trials in life are as mountains that can't be moved, we know our God is in control.

"The Lord will fight for you; you only have to be still."

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Reality of Sin

Yesterday I was blessed to sit through THREE amazing church services. Lately, I feel like I really need to absorb as much of the Word as I can on Sundays in order to thrive through the week. It is so easy to get caught up in the stress of daily life, and I've found that the best way to combat that is to be poured into through spiritual teaching. I can't pour into my students or my family or my friends or my middle school girls on Wednesday nights if I'm not constantly growing and learning. 

It's also really cool / interesting to sit at different churches with entirely different groups of people and hear the Word presented in different ways.

Different churches appeal more to families or young people or older people for different reasons.

One thing I realized as I sat in my home church yesterday morning (OakView Baptist) is that although we don't have the lights and the music and coffee, we do hear the Word in a way that really gets deep into your soul.

It's a trend nowadays to preach and celebrate victory over sin and shout that we are conquerors through Jesus and be positive and happy and all of that is true and awesome and motivational!!!

...But I realized yesterday we (I) sometimes through this, lose sight of the realty of sin.
The detriment of sin.
The weight of sin.

Pastor Steve brought a message that desperately needs to be heard over and over again in churches all across the nation. It was timely and it was hard. It was necessary.

My heart has been so burdened lately by our culture. It seems like people are celebrating sin and godlessness everywhere we look. We can't escape it, and as a high school teacher I see it more than most. I see how it is affecting our young people. I see how it has affected friends and family members. It kills me.

But this weekend, I was challenged to ask the Lord to reveal sin in MY life through the Holy Spirit and deal with it accordingly.

I took some notes yesterday and wanted to share them here:

From Joshua 7 and the story of Achan who hid treasures under his tent (symbol / metaphor for sin we cover up in our lives) ---

-ONE SIN can ruin a WHOLE life.
Example: One episode of drunk driving is all it takes to kill someone.

-One 'small' sin can be a sign of a sick heart.
Examples: ONE cancer cell can spread and eat up your entire body.
                  ONE blood clot can trigger a stroke.

-Sin HAS to be dealt with -- you absolutely cannot defeat Satan if you are constantly living in sin you have covered up.
-You cannot ignore it, or it will get bigger and spread like cancer and ruin things in your life.

-You have to realize and admit what you are struggling with / doing wrong. That's the first step.

-If you struggle with being tempted to sin, if you don't look at what tempts you, you won't be tempted to covet (want) it.
Examples: Had David never looked at his neighbor (and kept looking), he would've never wanted to                     have an affair with her and later kill her husband to cover it up.
(Lives ruined because of one man's sin)
                 If I know it tempts me to look at websites where I like to online shop, I don't need to go                      to those websites!
"Don't look upon the accursed thing."

-Our sin GRIEVES God's heart. The Bible says it makes Him grieve.
Why would we want to do that to Him when He has done everything for us?
When He CHOSE to die on a cross for the very sin we keep hurting Him with?

-When I think about it that way, it hurts me to know I hurt HIM!
-My idolatry hurts Him.

-Your sin never affects just one person (you).
-Other people will always suffer as a result.
Examples: Innocent victims in drunk driving accidents.
                  Families of those who are addicted to drugs / pornography / gaining material things
-We have to think about our sin in this way: "How will this HURT the people I love? Is it worth it?"

-SIN keeps the Holy Spirit from doing what it wants to do in our lives. The Lord is trying to work in us and we block Him from doing that when we routinely participate in sin.
-We block ourselves from growing and living our best and most abundant life.

-There's nothing hidden that won't eventually be brought to light.
-You may hide certain sins for a while, but God sees all, and it won't be long before the side affects of the sin start to seep out and intoxicate every area of your life. Your heart will suffer, and will show it.

-Become sanctified (turn from the sin) or God will not stand by you.
(He is always with us, but His comforting presence will leave us if we keep sinning the same sins and not repenting of them.)

-There has to be repentance and there has to be change.

-Basically, you have an ultimatum. Keep living in this sin, or live in Christ.
-Choose God or your sin. You cannot have both.


***This challenged me to evaluate my pride and my idolatry. My lust for material things has gotten to the point where it scared me. It's a constant battle I fight, but the Lord has showed me over the past few years that clothes and jewelry AND EVEN CUTE SHOES won't bring peace or joy.

***When you realize your sin and how it affects you and your relationship with Christ and your friends and family and romantic relationships and your ability to live abundantly in freedom...
All of a sudden, going to the mall and seeing cute clothes and jewelry repulses me and I'm not tempted by it.
But if I were to get caught up in buying things all the time again, I would go right back to that sinful place where I want more and more and it's never enough.
And I would reap the consequences of that sin yet again.

I hope this helps someone!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Why Me??

I've written about this before - how could I not? Yesterday I wrote about how sometimes God allows us to go through things so that we can help others who go through the same things later.

Waiting is especially hard.
Why do I not have this or that yet? All my other friends do.

Why am I going through this particular struggle? When will it be over?

Why do I keep having to deal with struggles?

Well, absolutely NO life is struggle-free, and the Christian life was never promised to be easy.

James 5:7 says to be patient.
"See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains."

Sometimes we just have to wait a little longer to get a blessing that's just a little sweeter.

Sometimes we have to wait in seasons of wilderness and desert so that we can say "Christ is enough for me" because He's all we have.

Sometimes it's so that we can see HOW faithful He is when we see Him making "a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (Isaiah 43)

Sometimes it's hard to remain positive because it's been so long and you've been so patient...
These are either opportunities to grow our faith or wallow in self-pity (and as I'm writing this, I'm half-wallowing in self-pity, so please don't feel like I have it all together AT ALL. I am working on this daily. This is where I'm at right now.)

Even the tiniest bit of faith can be grown into the kind that moves mountains.

"Faith commanded, and the mountains moved."

Why do I have these mountains in my life?

I guess so that my patience and faith can grow. I don't always know. I might not know til much later in life or I might know next week. I have to let the Holy Spirit bring me peace while I wait. And keep in mind Romans 8:28:
"For we know that all things work together for the good of those that love The Lord, who are called by His name."

Why me?
We will see.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Filled to Be Emptied Again

It's so hard when something unexpected happens that just kind of rocks your world. Especially when things are great and you've been on the nountaintop. But it's also hard to HAVE to rely on God when you're on the mountaintop, so you have to go through valleys.

Last night on the radio, I heard the best reminder at the best time:

"God may not be allowing you to go through this as punishment, but because He knows you will be able to help others through the same kind of situation if you have gone through it yourself. He is using you to help others."

That's how I've always tried to see my challenges, and if just one person can benefit from my trials, then I can count it worth it (not always as easily as I say this. Most things are easier said than done!)
Because let's be honest, when things are hard, I use writing as therapy and cling to Jesus just a little more than usual. I read my Bible more and get my fanny into the prayer closet more often and pray a little harder. I'm more on fire when I'm going THROUGH fire, and He knows that, and He knows others can see my passion more during these times.

It still really stinks to go through tough stuff, but if there's any sort of good outcome from my trials, and others can benefit, I can have more peace.

He constantly fills me to be emptied again.
Emptied: Pouring out what He has done in my heart and telling others how He has sustained me through everything so that others can learn/receive/benefit

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Power to Overcome ANYTHING.

Exodus 3❤️️

Before Moses was the leader of the Israelites, he murdered an Egyptian but we remember him as a deliverer.

If you want to be a deliverer, you have to be delivered from something.

You have to deal with things in your life you need to be delivered from in order to be a deliverER. God has to deal with your heart.
Moses needed victory in his heart / soul / deepest places.

Moses had to go to Pharaoh. He had to run TO the thing he had to be delivered from and defeat it.
Don't run AWAY from it.

Moses had not yet settled his identity as a child of God. When we do that, we can be used.

>> If you want to experience victory, you first have to experience defeat. <<

Biggest battles in life are internal battles. He had to settle that within himself before he could "lift the lid" and set the people free.

The Lord told Moses through all of this that He would be with him, and the same goes for us.

When you know who your life belongs to, everything can be overcome. You see yourself as not defeated, but as an overcomer.

Whatever you are battling, the answer is found in knowing who you are (child of God) and that The Lord is inside of you.

"The same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives in US."

We see obstacles; He sees opportunities.

He always meant for us to live in freedom, never in bondage to sin.

Never give up and say "This is just how it is."

As long as you have flesh on your bones you will have a battle.
If Satan can't get your soul, he will settle for trying to control your mind.

At the end of the day, Moses was willing to OBEY and that's how he was able to work for the Lord.

"There is power in the name of Jesus to break EVERY chain."


Monday, February 27, 2017

Refreshingly Simple

So I decided to write a post tonight. I haven't posted in a while. Work has been busy. Life has been busy. I got sick last week...

Anyway, I went to get some juice from the refrigerator to enjoy while I wrote, and noticed the grape juice said "refreshingly simple," which perfectly describes what is on my heart to write about tonight. How perfect.

Now I'm drinking my refreshingly simple grape juice, thinking about how the same should be said about our faith in Christ. I read on Friday the part of Mark where Jesus talks about how you won't enter Heaven unless you have childlike faith. That means simple, trusting faith. The kind that children have in the tooth fairy and Santa and Mommy and Daddy.
(The kind Emery has that I will feed her every day and she won't ever go hungry.)

I feel like we get worked up and worry about things that don't matter, therefore wasting our time and thoughts when they could be used in better ways. At least I do.
In our girls' Bible study tonight at church, we talked about how Satan tries to fill our minds with lies and cause us to overthink.
We talked about how as women, we often have FOMO ("fear of missing out") and social media makes it worse.
We talked about how we sometimes think we have to be 'important' for God to use us ('Instagram famous,' popular, etc).
We learned about how God uses simple, ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
We read the story of Jael, a woman in the book of Judges, who killed Sisera to deliver Israel from the troops of King Jabin. She was not famous. If they'd had Instagram back then, she would not have been one to get many followers or likes. She wasn't living in a big city, working a cool job. She just lived in a tent in the middle of nowhere and God used her to help His people.

Thinking about my weekend, it was refreshingly simple. I've been going and going, spreading myself way too thin and trying to be everywhere for everyone. Lately, I feel like I've been convicted with the importance of resting and finding peace in the Lord.
This weekend I got to have meals with my mom and sister, see my students in a play at school and relax by the pool (yes, in February) with Drew, catch up with friends, and take naps. I haven't been able to do things like that lately.

What I'm left with before I go to bed tonight and start another week is this:

--Don't let Satan cause you to overthink and steal the joy of childlike faith. Don't be naive, and don't be gullible, but also, don't let your mind complicate things that God intended to be simple.
--Rest in the Lord. Don't overwork yourself. If something is not adding value to your life and is not necessary, cut it out. Life is too short to stress so much.
--Don't give in to FOMO! Know you are created with a purpose and always strive to be better and have cool adventures, but you don't ALWAYS have to be moving and adventure-ing.
--Don't ever think that God can't use you; He can use you in amazing ways - and wants to. If you just keep an eye out and pray for opportunities, He will present them to you, whether they are serving others, leading people to Him, etc. That's what we were CREATED FOR!!!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Stop Getting Offended!

...That's what I keep telling myself. I feel like I FEEL more lately... like I get ruffled by the slightest comment someone makes, even if they don't mean it in a rude way (sometimes they probably do :)).

TO REMAIN UNRUFFLED (one of our vocab words this week in ninth grade English), I use this little chart from a book we went through in a Bible study I was in a couple years ago.
(The curriculum is L.I.F.E. - Living In Freedom Every day. It's a program from the Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama.)

"Six Ways to Stay Unoffended by Studying the Life of Jesus"

1. Take the lowest seat.
Consider everyone more important than yourself. Put the needs of others before your own. Strive to please God, not yourself or others. Be the servant, and don't expect anyone to pay attention to you.
(Obv this doesn't mean NEVER take time for yourself or do something that makes YOU happy because if you don't, you get burnt out from serving and neglecting yourself isn't good either!)

2. Always remain grateful.
It changes our attitude, by keeping us aware of God's provision and blessing.

3. Give others their freedom.
Don't try to control others (I HIGHLIGHTED THIS IN BRIGHT YELLOW BECAUSE I ADMIT, I HAVE AN ISSUE WITH THIS. BIG TIME!!!). People need freedom to make their own decisions. Sometimes they make good ones; sometimes they make bad ones. Either way, it is their decision.

4. Make decisions that promote life in others.
When someone offends you, it may seem natural to ignore that person or pay back wrong, but Jesus says there is a better way. Choose to speak and do things that reveal the Tree of Life. How they respond is up to them.

5. Trust God to bring justice when an offense comes. 
Vengeance belongs to the Lord. None of us really wants true justice or what we really deserve - we'd rather have grace!

6. Dedicate time to the Lord.
Find refreshing in prayer, Bible study, and fellowship. 
God's presence brings change!!!
(I feel like the more time I spend with the Lord - in prayer and in His word, the less offended I become by other people because I see things in a more supernatural way and realize that EVERYONE will fail me except Christ. Human nature says we WILL fail each other sometimes. Then it's not as personal to me.)

Monday, February 6, 2017

* Waiting - One More Thing You Shouldn't Worry About *

Looking back through my old blog posts from Februaries past, looking for inspiration to write new posts... I really like to write about love in February because I feel like Valentine's Day has been commercialized to the point that we forget what real, true love should be like. 

Anyway, I saw this post I wrote in 2015 and feel led to share it today, adding some "insight" two years later. A lot has changed in two years - I have grown in my faith and as a person. Looking at this post now, I still agree 100% and can add some things:

At our church, the youth are doing "True Love Waits" in Sunday school right now. Sometimes when you hear "true love waits" you think of holy-roller Baptists who are firm in their decision to save themselves for marriage and wear rings to show it, am I right?!?! And I would never knock that (I heard someone the other day bashing Jessica Simpson for saving herself before her first marriage and it made me very angry), but there's so much MORE to waiting for your future marriage than just holding off physically. I think that's what we've been missing sometimes. 

"True Love Waits" can mean a lot of things:
- Trusting God and finding fulfillment in Him rather than constantly searching for the person you'll end up with / praying for God to send them to you
- Keeping your thoughts and actions pure IN ALL ASPECTS of life, knowing that all impurity starts in your mind and that what you do today could affect your relationships down the road. 
- Serving in some capacity while you are a single person and pouring the love you have into some sort of mission or project that will further the Christian mission - this will help you put your time and energy into something meaningful and worthwhile
- Surrounding yourself with other Christ followers who can build you up and encourage you in your faith - this will also fill the 'void' you think you have without a significant other
- Trusting God in knowing that HE created your heart, so HE knows who will hold it best, and knowing that you don't have to worry at all if you are focused on Him; He will send the one who deserves it in His perfect time

I wish someone had told me all this in high school! I never participated in any True Love Waits programs, or even in my youth group at all. I did the right thing because it was the right thing and I was scared to do the wrong thing. I think with adolescents it's important for them to know WHY God gives us rules (to protect us and save us for the best that He can give us), otherwise they are just rules and following Christ is just going through the motions instead of living in freedom.

When we obey because we love Christ, it feels a lot better than obeying because our parents or youth leaders told us to. 

February 9, 2015

Who Deserves Your Heart?

I was thinking...

Isn't it funny how we sometimes try to control our own destiny, seeking out what we think is best for us? Especially when it comes to relationships...
"I deserve ________(insert some sort of quality/standard/relationship goal here)________!!!"

We try to navigate our way through the messiness of 'love,' learning lessons the hard way, getting hurt, riding the emotional rollercoaster that dating can be. And that's fine! It's part of life for most people. Some get it right the first time; some go through a lot to get to the right person.
But it's important to ask yourself something - something that might alleviate some of the troubles of dating:

 If God created me and knows my heart better than I know it myself 
(hello, HE CREATED my heart!), 
shouldn't I trust Him to ultimately lead me to the person that He knows is best for me?   

That takes a lot of pressure off me. 

All I have to do is focus on God and keeping my heart pure, and He will take care of the rest.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Love / Dating - Run as Fast as You Can!

This is something I wrote in February of 2014, inspired after seeing a quote and spending time focusing on the Lord and not trying to find a relationship. I wanted to repost it today to kick off February! <3 

Love/Dating - Run as Fast as You Can! #repost

I saw this e-card on a girl's Instagram and immediately thought,
"This is the best dating advice I've ever seen!"
Someone worthy of your time and [[possibly sharing your life]] will seek God just as diligently and earnestly as you do. If you're seeking God with all your might, you don't need to worry about finding the right person. He/she will be led by Christ to you.
This person will not take your focus off of Christ and His plan for your life. In fact, the right person will foster your growth in the Lord. You will grow in Christ together and help each other, not hinder each other.
If this isn't the case in your relationship, you are wasting your time!
Don't stay with someone who doesn't bring out the best in you most of the time.
Don't stay with someone who doesn't have your spiritual health in his/her best interest.
Don't stay with someone who isn't avidly seeking God like you are.
Do NOT stay with the guy that pressures you to be physical.
RUN from that guy. He does not respect you or have your best interest in mind AT ALL.
If the relationship is God-centered, then it will be healthy.
Until that is the case,
run as fast as you can towards God, and if someone keeps up, introduce yourself!!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Pressed But Not Crushed

This was my Facebook status the other day after reading the tiniest bit of David Jeremiah's book What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do:

"I have quoted "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9) over and over but never, until this moment, realized that it literally means that you will NOT become spiritually mature until you have gone through a trial (or ten) of some sort. You have to be weak at some point in order to be spiritually strong, just as gold has to be refined by fire.

It's like how it's not really fun to go to the gym and it usually hurts, but if you want a result, you have to go through some pain!

THAT'S why we should be thankful for hard times. Even though they aren't fun, they will make us better - give us perfect strength. There's hope in knowing the hard time you are going through will produce something good eventually.

It's like I know all these things but they haven't quite connected yet. I realized the connection between this and my "Seasons in the Vineyard" post.

(Relate it all to working out or wine making and I will get it, rest assured)

I was at a winery last spring for a bachelorette party, and we got a tour of the facility. We got to see where the wine is made! I still don't understand it all, but from what I understand the little grapes have to be pressed to get the wine after the harvest season. The phrase "pressed but not crushed" kept going over and over in my head.
The grapes are pressed and it hurts them, but they have to go through it to become made into the final product - the wine 
(***which should never be consumed to the point that it alters your mind - Ephesians 5:18 - Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit***).

I knew that God allows us to go through trials so strengthen us, but until the other day, I didn't realize that we HAVE to go through trials IN ORDER TO become mature spiritually. 
I remember telling someone a couple weeks ago that it was unfortunate that I had to go through so many difficult events to get close to the Lord, but in reality, I would've never gotten close to Him had they not happened.
***It's not just me - - it's that way for everyone!!***

Just like it hurts to work out but we won't get the results we want if we don't endure the pain...
And the grapes in the vineyard have to go through pain to become wine...
WE have to go through some things to become like Christ - perfect and holy, filled with the Spirit 
(because you CAN be saved and not completely overflowing with the Spirit)

- It is not God punishing us. If we could see the end results, we would see why He allows us to go through trials.
- ALL evil comes from Satan and the evil within the world that stems from Adam and Eve's sin. God does allow it, but does not CAUSE it.
- I have seen great things come out of terrible situations - wonderful things that would not have happened had the terrible situation not happened.

It's hard to think about it this way sometimes, but maybe this will help anyone who is going through something rough - it has to mean that something great is happening underneath all the turmoil and will be revealed in time.

This just reminds me that I am constantly learning and still have so much more to connect and learn. How exciting!

Happy Monday!!