community

5 Ways To Grow In Christian Community

I have personally never moved before. I’ve lived at the same quaint house my whole life, across the road from a cornfield, and looking out the same windows covered by green shutters. I’ve memorized every nook and cranny on my country road, and could probably drive to my hometown blind-folded. Even when I went to college, I simply moved 15 minutes away into a dorm room on a campus where I have grown up my whole life. And even as a I looked towards graduation, I never really thought I would be moving. I thought I would be getting an apartment in Pittsburgh, preferably with one of my college friends, and be able to see my mom pretty often. Actually, until I was contacted mid-spring by a company in Lancaster, PA, I was solely looking for job opportunities in Pittsburgh. Though my uncle lived in Lancaster,  I definitely thought a four and half hour drive from home wasn’t for me. Oh, how God has a great sense of humor.

As I am writing this post today, I have currently been living in Lancaster for about a month working at my new job. I am four communityand a half hours from home and living in a place where I have to MapQuest how to get to a gas station. And though I love this  new city and this new season of life, there are definitely hardships that go along with moving somewhere new. So, I am hoping that if you are someone who has just relocated after college, moving or starting a new college or high school this September, or someone who has just  moved back home for the first time in years, you can relate to this post. Because no matter where we are, we all crave community. And, if you are reading this blog, there is a good chance you are craving Christian community.

The definition of community is a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. It’s easy to find community when you are in college or high school. Frankly, you walk into college and everyone is just as thirsty for friendship as you are. You can virtually make friends over night. When I was in college, I literally had to decide who I could properly invest in, because there were so many great people around me and on my freshman hall. What a contrast I have now, where I moved to a big city and can attend a young adult group and no one so much as looks at me.

Maybe you, like me, are wondering why the heck it’s so hard to just make some decent friends in a new area? I’m sure you’re likable, attractive, and have plenty of offer; so why don’t you have any fish biting? Or maybe you’re so introverted that the thought of going out to meet new random people makes you want to throw up? Either way, whether you are still in college, not in college, or just graduating high school, we can all agree that we need a community to properly function as Christians.community

I know that I am not alone in the way I am feeling, actually, all my college friends are currently struggling with finding new friends and trying to find a new group in the new cities or old cities they find themselves in. I guess we’ve all just watched Friends too many times and are wondering where we can find a great co-ed group of people to just go to a new movie with on the weekends. Fear not, God wants us to live in a community.

“Live in harmony with one another.”- Romans 12:6

“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.”- Proverbs 27:9

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.”- Hebrews 10:24

He wants us to live in community so that we can bear each other’s burdens, encourage one another, and build each other up in the Spirit of Christ. We need people to speak God’s truth to us when we are broken, are alone, or are lost. So how do we get this community? How can we as a church be better at showing community to our new young and single members?

1.Put Yourself Out There

I am a person who is 98% extroverted. I’m not kidding, every time I take my personality test it just keeps climbing up. I love to be around people, get energy from being around people, and hate to be alone. But even I get anxiety from facing the dreaded Christian young adults group. I hate walking into a social setting with hundreds of people and not even knowing a soul. Now, I am the first person to complain about having to run into people from high school, but by moving somewhere completely new, I sometimes wish I could see a familiar face. But I know what you’re going through. You bring your Bible and a notebook because you want to seem extra “Christan.” You try to go up to a group of girls because you don’t want to look like you’re thirsting for a “spiritual leader” to be your husband, And you might try not to sound too fake in your conversations and only use the words: “faithful” and “blessed” every couple of sentences.  But you need to keep this up. community

I love the quote by CS Lewis, ““In friendship…we think, we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of an another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

God brought you the people you were supposed to meet in college, in high school, through clubs, and church camps. He will bring you community where you are now too. But, you have to do your part. You can’t just pray for God to give you your dream job, but never apply to any. Likewise, you can’t cry about not having a community, but not actively seek it out. If you don’t live in a big area, travel to a bigger church that has a young adult group. Sign up for Bible studies, volunteer somewhere, try a new hobby, sign up for a gym, go to a places that will force you to interact with other people. And when you go to those places, actually go out of your way to talk to people. Join in on others people’s conversations. Make the effort to people and I promise they will reciprocate.

2. Don’t Forget About Past Community 

Luckily, we all have friends. Whether you’re the person who has a booming social community, or the person who has a small circle of friends, no one is alone. Don’t forget about reaching out to those people even if you live in different places. Keep up with those college friends and high school friends who helped shaped you to be the person you are today. Set up a time to talk to groups of friends or one friend, once a week or month. Do a Bible study with your friends over Skype. Share prayer requests, concerns, dreams, and desires with these solid relationships you already have. Let these sweet friendships you already have refresh your soul while you’re looking for a community in a new area.

3. Reach Out To Others community

If you are someone reading this who already has a solid group of friends or feel like you have a grip on your community, look out for those people who don’t. It’s so easy in Christian circles especially, to get cliquey. To be on fire for God and want to help other people, but not realize how easy it is to reach out to those around you. You don’t have to serve at a youth group, on a mission trip, or at a nonprofit to reach out to the broken. All you have to do is look at your church service on a Sunday morning or the person sitting by themselves at your young adult group. Reach out to those people, and include them in your group. You can never have too many Godly and intentional relationships. We have all been in a position where we have prayed to God to bring us, friends. We have all felt awkward in Christian circles like we probably aren’t cool enough, probably can’t do calligraphy with Bible verses, and might not lift our hands enough in worship. We have all felt like a fish out of water. So don’t ignore those people, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you right to them.

4. Be Real

Don’t put on the “Christian” act. I mean obviously, don’t self-disclose your whole life story and struggles to people you’ve just met, but don’t feel like you have to be someone you’re not to get authentic Christian relationships. When I have shared with friends about my personal struggles with Christ or the times I have felt spiritually dry, I have never felt judged.  I normally am met with “me too.” This is a great way to open up some real Christian dialogue. So, if you are someone who is more reserved, don’t worry that you won’t be enough. As a wildly outgoing person, I adore quiet and wise people. Most of my best friends are talkative introverts who listen to me blather on. And if you are worried you are too much, don’t be. God will bring you the friends who can handle all your crazy. And at the end of the day, it’s exhausting to be someone you’re not. So be yourself, and let God bring you the people He wants.

5. Be Intentional community

Hopefully, with the tips above you’ll start making some friends, so be intentional with these new friendships. Once you have the foundation, you have to constantly be watering it so that it can grow. Especially new friendships. Out of sight can really be out of mind…forever. So don’t be afraid to initiate hanging out with someone you like and have recently met. To ask them to get coffee, or go out to lunch, or even to just sit with them at church. Have you ever been annoyed when someone has reached out to you in this way? Then don’t assume that other people will be annoyed when you ask. If you ask someone about themselves, take an interest in their lives, and intentionally try to see them, your friendship is going to flourish.

I hope that today you aren’t too discouraged about not having that perfect group of friends. I hope that you aren’t feeling all alone in a big city with almost too much to do but  no one to do it with. I hope that you realize that God will bring you a new community of Christian friends and that He wants to grow you through this time of being alone. To refine you by growing your patience. He loves you so much, even when you go to a young adult group and no one talks to you. He loves you even when you spend that Saturday with Netflix again. He loves you even when your best friend from college is thousands of miles away. He loves you, He has plans for you, and He has friends for you. So put yourself out there, put on some makeup, and go out in public today. Take the plunge and I guarantee it will be worth it.

 

God's will quote

How To Recover When God’s Will Breaks Your Heart

Thy will be done.

It is well with my soul.

These sayings and more are written to give us comfort when life seems to utterly break us. It must be God’s will. Something better is just around the corner. Consistently the top worship songs on any countdown are songs about struggles, overcoming our trials, and trusting God when we have absolutely nothing else to trust.

But what about when God’s will hurts us? What about when we are left with nothing but our faith to lean on? How can it be God’s will if it breaks our hearts?

As a recent college graduate, I know a thing or two about the devastating power of God’s will, and also of His unwavering faithfulness in the midst of my doubts. About two months ago, when I was knee deep in applications, Indeed.com messages, and updating my Linkedin profile, I was offered an internship out of the blue. A company reached out to me and offered me a full-time internship for the summer at a digital marketing firm.  The chance of it becoming a full-time position was so high that they didn’t even want to give me an end date on my internship. It seemed like an absolute dream come true to someone who was beginning to believe that God had forgotten about her in His quest to give everyone around me their dream jobs. But here was my chance. God had finally answered my prayers. Honestly, it was too good to be true.

Then, at 10 pm five nights before I was supposed to move to my uncle’s house to start my internship and what I thought was the rest of my future, I received a startling email. I thought it would be to elaborate on the email they had sent me the morning before about securing my state date for Monday, instead, I received an email that told  me that they actually didn’t have enough work for me to do this coming summer. So, ultimately, they needed to rescind their offer because they couldn’t afford me. To say that I was crushed was an absolute understatement. This was my future, my happily ever after, and now they were just going to take it back?

I turned off my computer and glanced around my crowded room that was filled with unpacked boxes and papers with to-do lists on them. I had just rerouted my mail this morning, permanently I might add.

God's will quote But I hadn’t even sought out this company. I had gotten an email with their offer as suddenly as they had rescinded it. And I was left with no summer job, no job prospects, and no idea what my future was going to hold. At the moment, all I had was tears, disappointments, and outrage at God.

How could He allow this to happen to me? Why was it always me that was going through something?

It doesn’t help that as young adults who have just graduated from college, we have this innate desire to try to one-up each other on social media. That even though none of us have any clue what we are doing, we still feel the need to pretend that we do. It’s so easy to look at someone’s perfectly Instagrammed picture of their new apartment and not see the loneliness and fear that they are feeling. It’s easy to look at people’s excited Snapchat stories about them starting their first day of work, and not see the exhaustion they have every day from their long hours. It’s easy to put on a façade online, when we’re all facing the trial of trying to put what we’ve learned in classrooms into real jobs. It’s easy to see people vacationing to exotic places or maybe getting engaged, and thinking that they have it all together. To think that God must love them more than you. It is easy to feel like you are the only jobless loser on the face of this earth and that you are going to die alone in your parent’s house. Trust me, I’ve thought that for the past month practically. And I wish I could tell you that I turned to God right away when I heard the news. That I rushed into the word and didn’t let the devil instill fear into my heart. I wish I could tell you that. But I would be lying.

I didn’t do any of those things. I cried myself to sleep, woke up the next morning and wallowed around in my pjs all day, and definitely made sad bitter remarks of my outcome to my friends and family whenever I could squeak it in. I was a girl who felt utterly abandoned by God. Luckily, I am not someone who wallows long. I dived back into the word, back into my applications, and reached out to my professors for help with connections. I prayed on my knees every single day that God would provide me with something, anything. So I wouldn’t be stuck in my college hometown working at Tommy Hilfiger when all my underclassmen friends returned to school. I tried my best to have faith, even when I felt like the last two years of my life had been a constant battle with God to get a sliver of happiness for longer than three months. Maybe that’s slightly melodramatic, but still, I was upset.

In my time of desperation there were two things that kept me going. A song by Hillary Scott and a story about an old king named Hezekiah.

Hillary Scott has written a song recently that is climbing up the Christian charts called Thy Will. It is about wanting God’s will to prevail, even if it means we have to be hurting. That God’s will needs to come first, not our happily ever afters. A lyric from the song that resonated with me is,

 

“ I don’t wanna think, I may never understand. That my broken heart is part of your plan.”

Do you ever think that your trial, brokenness, and hurt could be part of God’s plan? That He has purpose in our trials that we might never understand or see purpose for. The most impactful part of that song( which I have attached at the bottom of this post) was that I was someone who regularly prayed for God’s will to be done in my life. I prayed that God would give me the desires He had for me, and that His will would be done in my life even if it hurt. But I didn’t really mean it. I don’t think many of us do when we pray that courageous prayer. Of course we want God’s will to be done, but only when it’s for our ultimate good. Of course it’s God’s will when we meet our future husbands by chance, when we get our dream jobs, when we get the raise, when we get into the sorority, when our families are healthy and striving. But what about when our jobs get cut, when we have no job, when we send out application after application only to hear nothing, when we are lonely in our first apartment, when we can’t find a church body that agrees with us, and when we can only afford cereal for dinner each night. How can that be God’s will?

God's will quote

 

 

Many people marvel and question what God’s will can truly be for their lives. It can be hard for them to make tough decisions because they are afraid God will punish them if they make the wrong choice. But God is omnipotent and omnipresence, He knows every thought we’ve ever had and the quietest desires of our hearts. He alone will always know what we are going to choose.

“For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.”- Romans 8:28

He isn’t just working for your good when everything is going well, He is working for your good and protecting you even in your toughest trials and moments. He was working for my good even when I didn’t get that internship. He was still working through my hurt and pain.

“When are times are good be happy; but when times are bad consider: God has made one as well as the other.”- Ecclesiastes 7:14

If we didn’t suffer, we would not be refined by God, and thus we would not be able to properly appreciate His blessings. Shockingly, the process for refining gold or minerals is not an easy one. It involves melting the gold, pouring acid over it, burning it, stirring it around, and hardening it. And it isn’t just your “friendly kitchen acid”, it’s nitric acid, hydrochloric acid. The process is so intense that it can only be completed in labs. Essentially you have to break down, destroy, and harden gold to get it to become the beautiful treasure we pay hundreds and thousands of dollars to possess. God is breaking you down to make you beautiful. He is going to use what you are going through right now as a story to encourage others, to strengthen your faith, and to be living proof of His faithfulness.

In 2 Kings 19, we are confronted with a story that takes place during King Hezekiah’s reign. King Hezekiah, unlike the kings before Him, followed the ways of the Lord. In this story the commander of the Assyrian army is threatening Jerusalem with war. And this was not a threat to be taken lightly. The Assyrians were the ultimate war dogs of the time period. They completely destroyed any army that was placed in their tracks and made slaves of all the nations they defeated. Assyria was trying to turn Judah from King Hezekiah. By telling them that the Lord their God could not defeat their army. That they should surrender now before they were enslaved.

“This is what the king of Assyria says: Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. He says the Lord will deliver us. Has the lord of any nation ever delivered His land from the king of Assyria?” 2 Kings 18: 31.

But Hezekiah didn’t let His people or His army relent. Instead the people prayed and fasted before The Lord. They did not forsake Him because the world said they should. In today’s world, people will say that you are crazy to depend on anyone for anything, especially God. How can God save us, they ask.

Hezekiah was in the same position and He never relented, just like we should never relent in our faithfulness to trust God’s provision. So what happened next? God stepped up like He always does. He sent an angel of death to the camp of Assyria and put a hundred and eighty five thousand people to death. Judah didn’t even need to fight, God destroyed their enemy before they could even touch them.

Now I have no idea what battle you are fighting today and the hopelessness you might be feeling, but take heart! God sees your brokenness and He is longing to bless you. He is preparing good for you right now, even in the midst of your pain. God provided for me, even when I thought He had left me forever.

God's will quote

Within four weeks of that company rescinding their offer, I currently have received two job offers from prominent companies in my field. Full-time offers. In the same area as my internship I might add. So even though I was broken-hearted about losing out on my  happily ever after, God was preparing job offers for me that were so much more than I could ever imagine. And I am not sharing this to rub salt in your wounds if God has not provided for you yet. I am sharing this with you to show you that it does happen. It might not happen as quickly as mine did, but it will happen.

And who knows, this job might not be perfect either. This job could bring me trials or blessings. But you know what? I am much more equipped now to truly want God’s will to be done. To trust that He has a plan for me that might include me needing to be refined first. We are not promised goodness always when we become Christians, but we are promised that we will never walk alone. That God will not forsake us even when all seems lost. So is this my happily ever after then? Being able to start a full-time job at great company in a new city? No. Because I don’t have a happily ever after here on earth and neither do you. Our happily ever after is only fulfilled when we join our Savior in Heaven. There we will finally be refined like silver and gold, and completely ready for our forever with Him.

We might never understand the hurt and pain we must endure in this life, but we can understand that our God is for us, not against us. That He is good, even when our circumstances are not.

 

Link to Thy Will by Hillary Scott and Family! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dp4WC_YZAuw

graduation

Final Remarks From A Graduating College Senior

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”- 2 Timothy 4:7

I remember the first day of freshman year like it was yesterday. And frankly, most of the time it feels like it was. I was a totally out of my element 18 year old who had short hair, a Tommy Hilfiger striped shirt, and baggy shorts from the recent weight I had just lost from a mission trip to Haiti. I had no friends, no idea what the heck I was doing, and was terrified I was going to completely fail out and have to transfer. And yet, I remember being so utterly excited as I walked into the cramped triple that was going to be my future home for the next 9 months. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, I was very excited to start.

Now as I prepare to spend my last day on the Grove City College Campus, I am left with very similar feelings. Being excited, yet terrified, as I look to begin a new chapter in my life. For many of us( myself included), that means moving away from our homes, it might mean going home in the hopes of finding a future, it might mean starting a graduate school.  Either way, we all have one thing in common. We all have to pick up our feet and begin a new journey.

Without getting too sentimental, I can easily say that Grove City College has been the best four years of my life so far. I am not saying (hoping) they will be the best four years I have ever had, but for a girl who went to a pretty red neck high school it was practically paradise. It was a dream come true to walk onto a college campus where people also dressed preppy, loved the Lord with all their hearts, and would actually compliment me. Looking back, it makes me so sad to realize I went so long without the amazing friends I have discovered in college. I have met friends who have been with me through some of the toughest times of my life and helped me to weather the storm. Friends who one second are making an inappropriate joke, but then teaching me and encouraging me in Christ the next.

And I know that right now can seem like only an ending and not a beginning. Because if you don’t have a job or a plan for after graduation, it can be really intimidating to move back in with mom and dad and seemingly lose your freedom overnight. But I know from experience that we all have to start somewhere. In the very famous verse from Ecclesiastes, one of the times God describes is a

“A time to build and a time to uproot. A time to scatter stones and time to gather them.”

Currently, we are all in the “being uprooted and yet to be planted” stage. And it can be terrifying to be uprooted. To leave the nice cozy dirt of college and classes and homework and friendships. To leave napping, and late night Sheetz runs, and comfortable surroundings. To be yanked out without wanting to be planted somewhere else. But fortunately, we’ve done it before. Obviously moving from high school to college is not as big a transition as blazing our way to the real world, but it is a similar time of transition. Remember how scared you were to not make any friends, or what if you couldn’t handle the class load, or the food made you sick? You wondered what if you didn’t make the cut and high school was your peak time? Fortunately, it only took a little bit of time for us at college to get adjusted to the class loads and to make new amazing friends. We were uprooted, but we were planted and able to flourish.

So what advice would I give to myself and other graduating seniors? Of course I don’t come close to having any answers, but I hope that some of these tips can help both of us

  1. Never Forget

“ You who are young be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.” – Ecclesiastes 11:9

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

To not forget the people and places that have shaped you for the last four years. Now I am not advising you carry around a tub of ice cream, only wear your Greek shirts out in public, or to constantly be reminiscing about the “good old days,” but to not forget the lessons you worked so hard to learn in college. To not forget about the friendships you have forged, and realize that any relationship can work if you are willing to put in the effort. Yes, instead of having sleepovers in your dorm rooms you might have to settle for monthly or every couple of month trips, but your foundation is already there.  Don’t allow it to crumble if it’s important to you.

Don’t forget to stop learning. Even if you aren’t in a graduate school, continue to learn from the people, places, and colleagues around you. Everyone has something to teach us if we are willing and able to listen.

Don’t forget to stop dreaming. College isn’t where the road ends. God has big plans for us and how He wants us to impact those around us. Don’t miss out on His quiet whisper for your heart because you are too hung up on the past. Don’t think that just because we are young and inexperienced that we can’t contribute well to society. These years after college are the time to explore new cities, travel, take jobs that we love that don’t pay us super well, get our dream degrees, start our own businesses, and meet anyone and everyone. Now I am not saying to chase a dream that is utterly unrealistic. I don’t want anyone to tell their parents they are going to move to Thailand and pursue their dream of being a surfer just because they read this post. But don’t let satan trick you either. Don’t let him make you think that you aren’t able to accomplish the plans God has placed on your heart and prepared you to do.

  1. Make new friends

“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” Proverbs 27:9

I love the saying make new friends but keep the old. Don’t be a hermit in the place you end up after graduation. Do things that will purposely get you to interact with new people. Join a Bible study or young adult group, interact with young people at your work place, talk to those kids you sit by in your grad classes, enroll in a class at the gym, or even get a cup of coffee at a place inhabited by young people.  There are so many amazing and wonderful friends that we have yet to meet. There are going to be new people we encounter who we are going to question how they haven’t been in our lives longer. So, don’t ditch the college friends who have made you who you are, but don’t confuse fear with loyalty. Get out there and make some friends.

  1. Rely on God and other people

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”- Romans 8:28

I am blessed to still keep in contact with some of my friends from college who have already graduated. And I know from them that the real world is not very easy. It is a hard transition. Going from an easy final semester of senior year, straight into a 9 to 5 job that requires skills you are still harnessing, is going to be tough. We need to expect it to be tough. But, we know from watching others, that just because it is difficult doesn’t mean it isn’t doable. Listen, if you can make it through Grove City College, you can make it through practically anything. Just remember when you feel out of place that you are equipped for that job, that test, that interview. God is there. God is willing to give us the skills we need to succeed. He is working for the good of us. He will not forsake us or let us down. So we need to rely on Him. He is the only constant that has been with us through all our transitions. He knew the people we needed to meet at college, He knew the professors we needed to learn from, He knew the experiences and lessons we needed to have. So He knows the job we need to take, He knows who our new friends will be, He knows the right church where we can serve and be refreshed. So, instead of throwing ourselves pity parties when things get tough, we need to be striving to ask Him what He wants for us.

And likewise, don’t be afraid to rely on the people you love. To call your mom up when you have no idea how to make her favorite recipe or turn on the stove, to call up your best friend when you just want to hear her voice, to be able to be broken and vulnerable with other college graduates about what you are going through. To know that you are not alone, so you don’t have to act like you have it all together.

  1. Anticipate failures 

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”- Ephesians 2:10

Anticipate the messiness of post-grad life. We are going to fail, because we are imperfect people with imperfect lives. Yes, it’s not going to be as easy as college, also you can’t nap at your job, but there are still many benefits. Like being able to decorate your first apartment, finding your own church, having money to actually go out to eat, not having to study or write papers, finally being able to read again, the peace of not being stressed out, Sabbaths, bars that don’t just serve you in plastic cups, and no more greasy college food.

Yes, college changed you hopefully for the better, but other things and people will change you just as much. We have a new journey to begin and a new path to take. We will not be alone, and luckily our guide knows where all the pot holes, ditches, and poison ivy will be. Life will get hard, but when has it been easy? The most important lesson I have for this post is to just trust in God and meditate on His promises. Don’t let not being around a Christian community of encouragers stop you from pursuing Him and witnessing to others out.

Literally in two short days, I will walk across a stage, hopefully not be sniped, and proudly be able to say I am a graduate from Grove City College. I’m not an English major, but it truly was the best of times and the worst of times. But I am glad for every moment all the same. So take these next couple of days and weeks to mourn your college experience and all the emotions that go with that. But, eventually, we are all going to have to take that tentative step into adulthood. In the fine words of Dr. Seuss,

“ You’re off to great places, today if your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.”

Honest Confessions of a College Senior

When I was a little girl, and let’s face it still to this day, I used to be terrified of the dark. I was afraid that something was sure to grab me, kidnap me, or torture me if I didn’t have at least a little bit of light shining in my room. This of course seems ridiculous to someone who is older and wiser now, but I still can’t quite seem to fall asleep in absolute darkness. I like being able to see at least a sliver of the moon.

I wish I could say that the fears that plague me today are as easy to solve and cure as being afraid of the dark. Yet, there is no night light, cracked door, or moonlight sliver that can save me from the fear of the future or maybe just adulthood.  In around 30 days (give or take a few days) I will walk across the stage of my college and receive a piece of paper that represents the last four years of my entire life. It seems terrifying to me that something so easy to spill something on, be torn up, or blow away by the wind could be used to represent the most important four years of my life. That tiny piece of paper can’t begin to hold the countless friendships I have been blessed to find, the lessons I have learned inside and outside the classroom, the activities I’ve been able to lead and participate in, the tears I’ve cried, laughs that hurt my side, and memories that changed me into the woman I am today.

As I spend my last couple of weeks walking around the campus that has been my second home for the last four years I wonder, where has the time all gone?

I hope that you won’t scoff and laugh at my honesty too much in the rest of this post, but I hope that you can look at the words I feel compelled to write and feel a sense of relief that you aren’t alone. So what are my thoughts as I think about my life after college? It’s easily summed up in one word.  Terror.

college bible verse

I am terrified of being catapulted into a world where I have nothing to study, no new young people to meet, and have to make my own meals edible. I am terrified of never getting hired, or worse getting hired only to hate the job I have accepted. I am terrified that I will get fired from every job because my college education didn’t prepare me for the real world. I am terrified that my employers will hate me just because they can. I am terrified I will never make enough on a Communications salary to actually be able to live in an apartment, even with a roommate. I am terrified of losing touch with the amazing friends I have made in college. I am terrified of having no community. I am terrified of never getting married because I couldn’t find someone in the biggest pool of Christian boys I have ever known here at my college. I am terrified of getting fat because when will I ever have time to work out when I work a 9 to 5. I am terrified that I peaked in college. I am terrified that God is going to leave me alone to navigate this whole new exciting and terrifying world on my own.

And if you’re honest, I hope that you can admit and agree with some of my fears as well. I am not saying that I want to stay in college for years and years and never leave. I am simply saying that the date of graduation is approaching far quicker than I expected.

If I’m being honest, I would say that truthfully I have been pretty proud of myself for how I’ve handled this whole “college graduation approaching” thing. I have been calm, collected, trusting in God, and prayerful. I have not been intimidated when people asked me about my future, because I so ardently believed that God had a great plan for me. One that preferably included me landing a job before graduation and moving into an apartment right after. I thought that my June would be filled with me beginning a new chapter in my life and going to craft stores to decorate my apartment. Even though I love my home and family, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to work at Tommy Hilfiger for the fourth summer in a row. So what happened? What happened to the girl who couldn’t be shaken in God’s plan for her? One word again, rejection.

I’ve had phone interviews, skype interviews, in person interviews, second interviews, third interviews, and what do I have to show for all of that?  One word, two letters, NO. Perfectly polite emails telling me, “Thanks, but no thanks,”  “If only you had 2 or 20 years of experience,” “We wish you the best of luck with your future.” And frankly, I just hit my breaking point.

To continue with my bout of honesty, I feel like I did the best I could to set myself up to get a job. I worked so  hard on my grades in college, got involved in a wide array of activities that could help boost my resume, but also that I just really enjoyed, I stressed, I persevered, I singlehandedly led group project after group project, and what did I have to show for all that work? Oh right, no husband and no job. It probably wouldn’t seem that bad if the comparison hadn’t set in. It’s hard not to feel like crap when it seems like you are constantly  surrounded by an endless wave of people gushing about their futures and exclaiming their great news through creative social media posts.  I am so happy and excited for all my friends that have their futures sealed up neatly with a bow, but it’s hard not to wonder why I can’t be as happy as they are too? Please, God, just this once?  Why does God always have to lead me through the a path of mud, steep heels, and tree stumps to get to my destination? Why does God make it look so easy for everyone else?

Maybe you’ve asked yourself that same question. Maybe you’re wondering where the heck God has been when He’s supposed to be planning your happily ever after?

bible verse

But I am here to tell you some honest news that I desperately need to hear as well. God is good. Not sometimes, not when He feels like it, not to just certain people, not depending on the weather, but always. He is always faithful. He is always just. He is always looking out for us. I can tell you the story after story about my life that sound just like this. God leading me through a path that is full of thickets and thorns, brush burns and scraped knees, which ultimately lead to me learning a lesson along a journey that grew me into a more Christ-centered person. Because every time I have come up against a challenge and a period of waiting, God has revealed Himself as far greater than I could ever imagine.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”- Ephesians 3:20

 “ Our soul waits for the Lord: He is our hope and shield.”- Psalm 33:20

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, take heart, and wait for the Lord.” – Psalm 27:14

He was there when I was stressed out and crying because I had bombed my math SAT and thought I would never get into college. He was there when I was terrified about not making any friends in college. He was there when I thought I would never get an internships last summer, and provided me with one when the time was right. He was there when the social activities, papers, and assignments seemed to be all too much for my sophomore heart to handle.

God knows what we need and when we need it. He knows where we are going to be a year from now, when we are so grateful for all the “No’s” we have received. He alone can build something good and beautiful out of the wrong turns, mistakes, and sins that our lives are littered with.

So take a look back at your life. Has there ever been a moment where God has not seen you through? Where His way has not ultimately made you the happiest and led to the best results? Where He has not had your best interests at heart?

Being a senior in college is a terrifying time, but instead of wasting our time pouting, crying, and stressing out about what is yet to come, we need to bow our knees before the King and ask Him to show us. Ask Him to strengthen our hearts as we wait. Ask Him to allow peace to invade our anxious and competitive souls. Ask Him to show us the path when we are left out of options and have absolutely no where to turn.

So in tbible versehe honor of continuing in my honesty, there are still some days when I am really frustrated with God. When I see yet another Facebook post of another friend getting that dream job or getting engaged, but that doesn’t take away from the amazing and good plans God has already put into place for you and for me. There are days where I can barely fall asleep because my stomach is sick with the thought of what life after graduation is going to look like. Days where I cry to God because I don’t know why I was rejected from yet another job that seemed so perfect for me. Because we can’t see the big picture that God can. We will never understand why we have to endure struggles, see pain, and have these frustrations, but we do know that God is ultimately leading us to Him.

 

Remember back to the beginning of this article when I was talking about my fear of the dark. Now, it’s the fear of the future. But this time, instead of the night light or sliver of moon to help me feel safe, I have something much better. And He’s just waiting to take my hand and yours and lead us out of the dark and into the light.

The Real Reason You’re Single This Valentine’s Day

Ah, Valentine’s Day.  The birds are singing, the chocolate is selling, and love is in the air..except for you. Once again you’ve received flowers from your family members and heartfelt notes from your girlfriends telling you of your importance, but still nothing from the men you have been pining after or hoping to be noticed by. It can be easy to feel that there has to be something wrong with you or something terrible you’ve done to deserve this fate of singleness. Today, I hope that you realize that you are so loved and cherished by the God of the universe. That you were not created on a whim, on a random thought, or by accident; you were made on purpose for a purpose. No boy, no man, no relationship can possibly satisfy you the way that God alone can. So why are you single this Valentine’s Day? Let’s find out!

  1. It Is Strengthening Your Faith

“ Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from satan to keep me from becoming proud.”- 2 Corinthians 12:7

I don’t understand why you are single, why you feel lonely, or why that man with a heart after God’s own didn’t like you back, but I do know that God is always good. In the midst of painful heartbreaks, loneliness, and dateless Valentine’s Days, He is still good.

singleness quote

Before this year, I failed to realize what a blessing singleness could be; what a gift from God it truly is. I look around at some of my closest friends and see the ways they have been devastated by boys, held them as they cried from their broken hearts, and saw their love cast aside by the men who promised to never let them go. I realize that God protecting my heart from these pains of life should not be seen as anything other than a positive. I have no idea why some girls have to go through more heartbreak than others, but I do know that we face different things in life to learn different lessons. Wherever God has placed you on this day, whether in a relationship, single as a pringle, or getting over a heartbreak, He has a specific lesson He wants you to learn through this trial. He does not want you to become conceited. He wants you to wholly rely on Him.

For many girls, having a boyfriend means having built in affirmation and confidence. But, when you have never had that boyfriend, you have to look for affirmation in other ways. One of the ways we can become dependent on God is by asking Him to fill our hearts with His affirmation. I have to constantly ask Him to remind me about His promises. To realize that He will  never leave me, forsake me, or abandon me. He promises to constantly love me, that I am always His, and that He has great plans for me. He tells me that I am altogether beautiful, that I was loving crafted, and promises to wipe the tears of every unrequited love from my eyes.

No man can possibly affirm you with these statements every second of the day. No man can intimately know you and love you the way God perfectly does. No man can guarantee that he will never leave you. But God can promise these things. Men may hurt our hearts, fail us, and leave us broken, but God is the one who stitches us back together. A man may not pursue you, but God is constantly in pursuit of our attention and time. So, yes, you might not have Mr. Darcy strutting across a dewy field to find you in the early morning, but you have an all-encompassing God who is with you every waking and sleeping moment of every day, just anxiously waiting to woo you

2. Your Standards Are Too High

First, having high standards is an absolutely necessary and healthy part of any relationship. It keeps us from suffering abuse, cruelty, and harmful situations that we shouldn’t be in, in the first place. However, as all girls will confess to, we often have ideas of exactly how we want our future boyfriends and husbands to be that aren’t so healthy.  We make up unrealistic expectations and scorn perfectly lovely men because they are “too hipster” or “not funny.” Is that really what we should be most worried about? What about finding a man who can encourage you to be a better person and most importantly encourage you in your relationship with Christ? What about finding a man who will love God more than He will ever love you? What about finding a man who is hardworking, kind, considerate, and patient? What about these intangible qualities that aren’t as much fun to wish for as athletic, musical, and dresses well?

singleness bible verse

The only standard that God calls us to look for in our spouses is this:

“ Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. How can the righteous be a partner with wickedness? How can light live in darkness?”- 2 Corinthians 6:14

I am not saying that there aren’t other important qualities to look for in a dating relationship, but this is the most important. Being able to find a man who can lead you in your faith and who can be the spiritual head of your household is the one area where God tells us we can’t settle. Just a side note, it’s important to realize that it is very unlikely to meet a boy in one of your college classes that is ready to be the spiritual head of your household. I must confess that I just learned how to cook grilled cheese over break; I am not ready to be someone’s wife. But part of any good relationship is seeing the potential in the other person and working towards the common goal of marriage together.

It’s great to have deal breakers when looking for future men you can enter into relationship with, but make sure they are in line with God’s word and His promises, not our own human flaws.

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. We use our time to pout and cry and whine about not finding any great Christian men. We can roll our eyes with our friends about how no one has the guts to pursue us, but are we really looking? Or are we caught up in the men who aren’t right for us, the men who have broken our hearts, and the men that God knows would be all wrong for us? Are we really praying for discernment and being open to whoever God might bring along for us, or are we too busy eating out of our ice cream cartons to lift our eyes? Sometimes the men that are exactly right for us are right in front of our faces, we just need to take the time to look.

  1. It’s Not In God’s Timing…Currently

“ Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”- Ephesians 3:20

“ For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”- Ephesians 2:10

singleness quote

It can be easy as we look around at a media full of Bridal television shows, Facebook posts filled with unexpected engagements, and even our own groomless wedding boards on Pinterest, and  feel like we are the only ones that are alone. But think of some of your best friends and loved ones that are single just like you. What do you think is the matter with them? As a culture and as the religion of Christianity, we need to stop believing that we are somehow less as women, less as people, and less close to God if we don’t experience Godly relationships or marriage. That God is punishing us for the mistakes we have made in the past. That God thinks that we are too dirty, stained, or blemished for some of the men who love Him most of all. That if a man isn’t actively pursuing our hearts that they aren’t worth pursuing.

I don’t know why I am in a season of waiting on a relationship, or why God has called me( not by my own choice), to remain single throughout college and high school, but I do know that He is unfolding a much bigger plan than I can ever comprehend. That someday in the future when I meet my Mr. Right, or if I simply find something bigger I am called to do, that I will see His fingertips at work through the entire process. They were stealthily at work through all the nights I cried myself to sleep, hated who He had created me to be, and felt so discouraged about finding anyone who could love me. That while I felt like absolute garbage because no one asked me to their fraternity formal, that God was right there constantly reminding me of my worth. I urge you to stop wasting your energy on being impatient, and instead pray to be the women you need to be when you are called to be a wife and mother.

Pray to love the God of the universe more than the butterflies you get around that special someone. Pray to be able to serve your future spouse in a way that can constantly point them towards Christ. Pray that you aren’t missing God’s bigger purpose for your life by whining about your singleness. Pray that God will reveal to you how utterly and exquisitely enough you are. It is up to us to push onward in a vast sea of happy couples to find the greater plan that God wants to use us for right now.  Embrace this time of singleness as a way to plug into your friend groups, school work, ministry opportunities, and time with God.

I hope this blog post has helped you to realize that there really is no specific or valid reason why you are alone this Valentine’s Day.   Remember that you are a daughter of the one true God. He will never leave you, forget to text you back, or insult you. He will never make you feel like you are too much, not enough, or unappreciated. He is ready to satisfy your dry and cracking heart today. Though the chocolate covered strawberries, flattering words of a man, and flowers may fade, our God’s love for us will always remain the same. Happy Valentine’s Day!

5 Ways To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

Oftentimes, comparison to others can start off harmlessly enough. Someone that inspires you to be kinder, wiser, or dress better. But the problem with comparison, ultimately, is that it doesn’t just stop there. Soon enough everywhere we turn we find someone who is better at this or that, prettier, or more Godly. Suddenly what started out as a good intention becomes a nasty habit that latches itself on to our deepest insecurities and doubts.

I think as women we can all relate to times that we have become prisoners to comparing ourselves to others. To the times we’ve cried because we wanted to be smarter, prettier, funnier than the girl sitting beside us, one of our best friends, or a girl in our office.

Comparison has always been an area where I have greatly struggled in my faith. From wishing my prayers sounded like another girl’s at youth group, to wondering if I’m not a true woman of God because I’m not taking any Biblical classes, to striving to make my makeup look just as effortless as the girl who sits beside me in class; I constantly wish I was someone else.  Comparison quote

At my smaller Christian college ring by spring isn’t exactly a joke. I definitely anticipated meeting the love of my life at this college. I easily pictured getting married the summer after graduation, and then living happily ever after as all our children sported “Future Grover” onesies. I wish I could say I was kidding. Yet, here I am the spring of my senior year, just as single, though hopefully wiser, than my naive freshman self who thought all of this would happen. Being single is a great gift, but it can also be a curse. I know that there are hundreds of fabulous single people all around me on my college campus, but I don’t choose to focus on them.   I choose to spend my days focusing on the people that are dating. And trust me, I’ve heard plenty of the “The right person comes when you aren’t looking,” “God has someone so special saved for you,” and “Would you even want to date who are they dating, anyways,” crap to last me a lifetime. But some days, it doesn’t change the fact that I am confronted online every minute with pictures of happy couples, flashy engagement rings, and Pinterest wedding boards, all while I’m sitting across from a couple canoodling in a study area across from me. This is not to say that I am not wildly happy for my friends that are in relationships and getting engaged, I am, but I also want it to be my turn too. Let’s all be happy and dating together, am I right?

I have liked plenty of boys over the course of my 21 years here on this earth, and with that comes plenty of opportunities to both be liked and to not be the one liked. I constantly find myself in positions where I’m not chosen over another girl. Sometimes the boy has no idea I even liked them, sometimes they do and they only liked me as a friend, and sometimes I just annoyed them. But either way, it is too easy for me to find myself comparing myself to those “better” girls they chose over me. It is easy to get consumed about why you weren’t chosen. Is it’s because she’s funnier than me? Because she’s shorter than me? Am I too much, or not enough, or show my gums too much when I smile? The list can go on and on. And I’m left crying in my bed knee deep in her 8th grade pictures on Facebook wishing that God had made me more like her. Because according to that boy I had obsessed about, she was worth it. And since I wasn’t picked, I was not.

That’s how I used to let myself think. I used to let myself get jealous of my friends successes, spend my days wishing I was someone else, and hating certain qualities about myself that made me who God wanted me to be. This New Year, I am learning to be expectant. I think it is all too easy at times to believe that God has great plans and ambitions for other people. The type of people who can recite whole chapters of scripture, who never have a bad hair day, and who always win awards. But that’s not the case. That’s a lie we have told ourselves again and again like a bad nursery rhythm to ease the pain that we are not enough. You are special, you are loved, you are chosen. Not enough? That thought is unfathomable to a God’s whose thoughts we can’t even begin to imagine. He wants to use you right where you are today. comparison quote

In this crazy life we think we can be satisfied if we are given a sense of worth; if we win the employee of the month at our work places, get complimented on our outfits, or get the highest grade in the class. We think that our worth depends on what we do, who we know, and how we look. I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t. Our worth was determined for us long ago when Christ hung on the cross to pay the price for our sins. He didn’t just die for the people that have it all together, the popular kids in high school, the girls you think are more beautiful than you, He died for all of us. Because we are all worthy and equal in His sight.

For example, it’s like being the worship leader at a church. Because let’s be real, everyone wants to be the worship leader, right?  It seems so exciting to be able to lead people in singing songs to the King of the World. They show love to people during altar calls, stir up the Holy Spirit through a simple repeated verse,  and get the credit for picking songs that quite literally save people’s lives.  No one really thinks about the person pushing the words along on the PowerPoint. Unless, of course, they get off and you don’t know the words to the song. But the person who is pushing the slides on the PowerPoint is just as valuable and important in God’s eyes as the worship leader. The worship leader needs the person pushing the PowerPoint too. If people don’t know the words to a song, the worship leader’s job is irrelevant. No one’s lives would be touched, no one would get that “Come to Jesus” moment they are craving. Because to have a great worship service you need both parts.

“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

And I don’t know you or the area where you are struggling with comparison today, but I can guarantee you that wishing for another’s gift will only lead to you wasting yours. We all have different purposes, different tasks, and different challenges we face every day. For example, I am not a girl who has ever been overly self-conscious of my body.  It breaks my heart to see my friends and loved ones spending their days hating the details of themselves that were loving crafted. But, where many of my friends have dealt with that issue, they have had no problem getting boy attention, where I have struggled.  Because the enemy wants us to believe that it’s just us who feel left out, abandoned, and less than at times; but that is not close to being true.

Maybe you’ve wondered if God could ever use you because you look around at your Christian friend group, church, or college and see plenty of people more prepared, and in your mind, better equipped to serve God’s kingdom. Maybe you wonder if there’s enough room for you to also have this dream, or that desire, or that ambition. What if you’re too late?

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” – Matthew 9:37

I am not a competitive person by nature. When I used to run on my track team in high school, I would literally size up the other girls on the race line to see if I would be ok with them beating me. “If she beats me I won’t be upset because she went to States last year, but that girl, she’s so annoying. I have to beat her.”  I’m all about pushing myself, but I don’t have much of a pain tolerance or a big desire to push so hard I throw up. The ironic part of all this, is that while I would love to be more competitive on a sports team which is healthy, I chose to be competitive in comparison.

I hungrily read blog posts written by other strong Christian women, on the online magazine I often write for, or a book suggested by a friend and end up feeling miserable by the end. Because, I’m afraid that her great article that has so much wisdom and knowledge means there isn’t enough room for me to post anymore. After all, she got more likes and comments than me anyways, right? Wrong. Remember the verse above, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.

comparison and grace quote

Just because she is very talented in the same area of you…doesn’t mean you have to get a new hobby.

Just because your friend got a job first…doesn’t mean you won’t also get a job you love.

Just because everyone around you is dating…doesn’t mean God is calling you to be a spinster.

Just because she has the same dress.. doesn’t mean you’ll look the same or less good when you wear it.

To be honest, while I was writing this article I took a break to casually peruse Instagram. Suddenly I found myself looking at photos of my friends studying abroad, seeing other friends reconnecting, and of course, date night photos. All while I was writing this article in my pjs on a Saturday night. I tell you this to let you know that I haven’t perfected this either. I can only give you some tips that have helped me and hope they can do the same in your life. Because like I said before, no one has it all together.

  1. Spend time with God each morning. This is a major struggle for me. If you know me at all, you know that I am a 10 pm in bed kind of girl. However, I don’t spring up and sing like Snow White in the mornings either. I like to sleep, 10, 12 hours. Getting up for me is never fun, frankly getting up from sleep ever is never fun. But I do notice a significant difference in my ability to control my thoughts when I do my devotions in the morning versus the afternoon or night. Every morning when we wake up we are facing a great battle. This happens between the enemy and our thoughts. Don’t give him any more ammo.
  1. Be on the look out. Every day from God is a gift. We need to be on the look out each day from the urgings of the Holy Spirit to talk to that person who looks lonely, speak the Bible verse our friends need to hear, and follow the call to sign up for a new club or activity. We need to realize that God has a plan to use us each day in big and small ways. Don’t miss your gift by noticing everyone else’s.
  2. Limit your time on social media. Social media is the food that feeds the comparison mResting in comparisons quoteonster.  Though social media is a great way to keep in contact with others, it is also too easy to get caught up in how many followers, likes, and comments we get on something we’ve posted. Suddenly, we are comparing ourselves to Amy’s photos wondering why we aren’t cool enough to get as many likes as she did on that picture of her cat.  That’s the problem with social media. So I’m not saying to quit social media, but if you know that you struggle with comparison, limit the amount of times you check it each day.
  3. Give yourself a break. Realize that you are going to have days where you are bloated, have zits covering your chin, and forget to pluck your eyebrows. On those days or other days where you feel like you could never be as good as insert name here, realize that you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. God has already proved to you that you are worth it and worthy of being pursued. The moment those toxic thoughts enter your head, simply take a deep breath and relinquish it to God. He can take these thoughts and give you the peace you require. He can give you the confidence to stand on top of these thoughts and conquer them once and for all.
  4. Finally, fill yourself with what God says about you, not what others think of you or the horrible things that you think about yourself. Look to the verses that say that you were chosen, you were set apart, you are loved, you are worthy, you were created beautifully and with a beautiful purpose. God can satisfy our deepest desires and handle our deepest fears. Let Him shoulder your burdens, insecurities, and doubts each day when they’re too much to handle.

Remember that comparison is a battle that we all are constantly facing, but what do you say? Are you ready to win that battle today?

Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Keep Failing

2017. A year that looms before us unknown and sweet with expectations. It’s exciting to think that we have no idea what this year will bring. Many of us wish to find something new to fill the void in our hearts this year; a new person, a new hobby, a new figure. Many of us see this New Year as an opportunity to become the person we’ve always wanted to be. The person who spends time regularly with God, who invests more in other people, or actually gets on that workout regime. C.S. Lewis quote

But we face a problem as we hastily throw down resolutions after resolutions on notebooks and random scraps of paper. We face the problem of reality. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when 2017 has just begun. It only takes a minute to look out at the gray and snowy January day for you to lose the hope that you had to complete the task. So why do we fail? Why do we forget about achieving our resolutions by the time March rolls around? Why do we not become those people that we hope to be?

I think that the answer is rather simple. We are set on being someone new instead of becoming someone new. From the minute our glasses clink ushering in the New Year, we are set on being this “new version” of ourselves.  Maybe for you that meant being less selfish, gossiping less, or being a better friend. Maybe you hoped to find contentment, to increase your spiritual life, or to help out your family more. These are all great plans, but we must remember that nothing comes easily in life. Process is everything. We need help. We need God. We are broken and damaged shells of people. We are not our own.

In the Bible, we see story after story of characters undergoing trials and joys on a journey that would lead them to who they were ultimately designed to be. They didn’t just wish that God would use them in big ways, they took steps to put God’s plans into motion. Think about the story of Paul. He had a major transformation, yet he didn’t become God’s vessel to the Gentiles overnight. He probably was scared to death and afraid, just like many of us. Luckily, God can take our brokenness and weaknesses to be used for His strengths. We are able to read book after book of Paul’s spiritual and personal trials to see how he learned to depend on God above anyone and anything else.

Or let’s look at the life of Peter. When God first called him to be a fisher of men, did he become one of the main leaders of Christianity the next day? No. Face it, he was just a smelly fisherman that was curious and maybe even a little bored with his mundane life. But he took a step. He gave God the opportunity to shape him and make him into who he was intended to be.  By letting God see his heart, his loves, and his failures, Peter became the man who was the rock of the Catholic Church. Do you think after the rooster crowed he was thinking how powerfully God would use him in the lives of others?

Just know that you are not alone in trying to improve yourself but falling short. You are not alone in having great intentions that you Proverbs 3:5couldn’t quite keep. We live in a crazy busy world. We spend our days racing from work to the gym to our quiet time to dinner to trying to squeeze in an episode of Netflix, all while trying to maintain 8 hours of sleep. Our eyes are bleary from the all-nighters we have pulled. And we find ourselves putting on more activities, finding new hobbies, maintaining more friendships, and having less time for God each year.  Have you ever stopped to ask God what desires and plans He has for your life? To ask Him how He wants to use and shape you this New Year? Maybe that’s where you need to start.

And then we face the question of what are the best resolutions? Thanks to social media and modern blogging( haha) we find that every publication, friend, and parent has an idea of what we should be working on this New Year. So we find ourselves up to our ears in self-help books, crazy weight loss solutions, and “read the Bible in a year” plans. All seem to promise that we will better ourselves, be someone different, and become who we always wanted to be just for signing up for their newsletter. That’s not true.

The only person who knows what we need to work on, what sins we need to improve, and what idols we need to kick, is God. Have you asked Him? Maybe this year He’s calling you to give up a bad habit, maybe it’s leading a Bible study, maybe it’s joining a ministry on your campus. But it could be as easy as smiling to everyone you pass on the sidewalk, or talking to that girl who seems lonely in your humanities class. Whatever it may be, I urge you to spend time prayerfully asking God what He has in store for you this New Year. Every year has its fair share of ups and downs, but by having God as your constant companion, you can be prepared for whatever life throws at you.

Over these next few weeks I will be introducing different resolutions I have for the New Year for you to either join in on or to ignore. This New Year, I hope to find ways to not be someone different, but to begin the process of becoming the woman of God I have been created to be. I want to become more content, unplugged from social media, expectant, intentional with others, and more serving. Now, none of these are easy tasks that I can complete overnight. Unfortunately, I can’t offer you any quick tips to become these things in 10 minutes or any cheats. My only offer is to dig into these issues using scripture and to start a journey that most likely won’t be completed in 2017. Because we shouldn’t be striving to become better just for 2017. We should be trying to become the person that God will say, “Well done good and faithful servant,” to at the end of our lives.

So are you ready to become a better kingdom server for God? Are you ready to stop making resolutions and start making changes? God is ready to guide you through this uncertain and unknown New Year, all you have to do is ask Him to lead the way.

Isaiah verse

What Does God Say About Women’s Roles

But what if I’m not gentle and quiet? What if I can’t cook? What if I want to work? These thoughts and more have consistently come to my mind when trying to understand what my role as a woman of Christ should be. Let’s face it, it’s tough enough to be a woman in today’s society without the pressure of feminism, sexist workplace behaviors, and traditional roles. Many of us are left wondering what exactly are God’s plan for women? And are we not able to serve God as well as men?

To be honest, I am not the typical woman figure. I hate cooking and any forms of baking, hate cleaning, and have far too much energy to be content staying at home every day while I kiss my husband goodbye as he goes off to work. Oh yeah, and I really can’t sew. Does that mean I’m going to be a failure to my husband if I get married? Does that mean that I am a disgrace to women?

a7381ce0753e99dc487ad17bb8563c39

Ladies, let me be the first to tell you that God does not have the same roles for any two people, so why would we assume that He should have the same roles for any two women. He might call one woman to a life of staying at home and looking after her family, while He calls another woman to life working high up at a business. Both are able to make a difference for God’s kingdom, but they are used in two very distinct ways.

Have you ever noticed that women that are quiet seem to have all the luck? That they are the ones who always get the boy attention because they  appear to be so “quiet and mysterious.” To be frank, I’ve always wanted to be a little more quiet. To not constantly be getting in trouble for saying something I would regret later. But we have come to believe the lie that we as women are expected to behave this way. That we are only worthy to God when we are off to the side and silent. This is not true.

God created no two personalities to be the same, that is why He knew exactly what He was doing when He created you loud or soft spoken, introverted or extroverted. He had an exact plan and exact skills He gifted you with different from anyone else. Women, we need to stop being so silent in our congregations, silent in our Bible studies, and silent in the way we are serving God.

God now more than ever needs to have women who are vocal, women who are outspoken about His truths, and women who are not afraid to combat the expectations of the media and voices of the world. We need to be powerful in the way we serve the Lord. God can use us to make a difference in other women’s lives in ways that men could never imagine. We need to have women who can mentor each other, who can teach our daughters how to be modest and how to be kind, and women who can be missionaries to those broken by sex trafficking and rape. God has unique plans for women to not only serve other women, but to serve children, men, and any age group. Don’t let the verses in the Bible( particularly Timothy) that are about women’s roles  allow you to remain silent. God has amazing plans for you to further His kingdom in ways that men never could.

So what the only food you can make perfectly is scrambled eggs? So what you sometimes forget to dust your dorm room? So what you enjoy sweatpants more than dresses? Does that make you any less of a women of God? Absolutely not.

One verse that really identifies how we should behave as women of God is 1 Peter 3:4 that says,

“ Let your adornment be that of an inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.”

1 Peter 3:4- bible verse about women

News flash ladies, gentleness isn’t a personality type, it’s a type of action. One of the words I have consistently heard mentioned( mostly by my own mother) that I lack would be gentleness. If you know me at all, you know that I am a pretty loud and energetic person, a quiet spirit is pretty much farthest from the truth.

But does that mean I will be a failure to my husband if I get married? Not at all! Learning to be gentle and learning to be more of a Godly woman are not skills we are born or not born with, they are skills we are meant to learn. So let’s unpack this definition of the word gentleness, shall we?

According to a Biblical dictionary, gentleness means the sensitivity of disposition and kindness in behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.

So what does this look like in real life? It means being kind and mature in the ways that we handle conflict and controversy. That could be choosing our battles with those who disagree and antagonize us, instead of adding fuel to the fire with our hasty words. So we must become women that are quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Not women who are the first to write a heated Facebook post or vent about that one girl on our hall. It means watching what we say because we know that all we do can either positively or negatively be connected back to God.

It means being strong. To be women who are not afraid to gently confront our friends when we see them going down a wrong path, to tell our best friend the guy she is dating is not a strong enough Christian, and to have the willpower to not get drunk on the weekends when it seems like everyone else is doing it. To stand firm in our convictions. To not let the new guy we just started dating push us farther than we are comfortable physically, or not allowing ourselves to give into the temptation to wear the shorter skirt or lower cut top when we know we’ll be around a boy we are interested in. It’s not only knowing and understanding the Bible, but living it out in our actions and deeds. We must be strong women who hold fast to Biblical teachings when the world and even our friends and families are trying to lead us astray.

Be a women of a quiet spirit

Finally, being gentle means being kind. Not just acting kind to people’s faces and later talking about them behind their backs, but actually being kind. Truly caring about others and loving them as God loves them.  Realizing the gifts that other people have to offer and  encouraging them in those, instead of  becoming jealous that they are not our own. Dropping everything when a friend is in need or just when your roommate needs someone to look over her paper. Being the type of friend that God calls all of us to be. Intentional, encouraging, prayerful, and loving.

It can be tough being a woman in today’s world, but by looking to God to help us understand our roles, we will be able to serve Him in ways we never thought possible.

So the next time you find yourself feeling bad that you have more of a passion for the homeless than for baking in the kitchen, realize that God has placed that calling in your heart.

Don’t let what you think you should be stop you from what God has called you to be.

 

To The Girl That Has It All Together

Who am I?

This is a question that has haunted women for generations. From trying to wear the right clothes in middle school, to picking the right major in college, to even going through that mid-life crisis, we find ourselves asking, who are we? Where do our identities lie? Where do we get our satisfaction and worth?

The typical Christian response is from Christ. It can be so easy to say “Of course my identity comes from Christ.” But have you ever stopped to consider what that really means?

When I think about who I identify myself as so many words come to mind.

I am a daughter, a friend, a student, an athlete, a reader, a blogger, a leader, a lover of preppy clothing, an overachiever, a sorority sister, a regular sister.

set apart quoteBut  I still have many sins to hide.

I am broken, I am selfish, I am prideful, I am judgmental, I am a gossip, I am hateful.

Yet, it can be so easy to forget the most important statements of all.

That I am redeemed, I am loved, I am worthy, I am beautiful, I am saved, I am a prize, I am His. 

I think that it can be hard for any of us to admit just how much we care about how other people see us. It’s easy to hide behind our plethora of activities, easy to hide behind our awards and achievements, and easy to hide our faith from the world. Every day we wake up and are faced with the battle of having to prove that we are worthy to the people around us somehow. So we force ourselves to get up early and make sure our hair is done just right, we interrupt our classmates in our pursuit to be the smartest voice heard, and we sign up for the mission trip we are unprepared for in order to get the accolades from our Christian friends.

But what if we stopped doing all that? What if we truly embraced our authentic identities in Christ alone? What if we didn’t question who we were in response to another?

“ But God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”- Romans 5: 8

“Therefore I urge you, brothers, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship.”- Romans 12:1

We aren’t perfect beings. And we never are going to be. So no matter how many awards, “Job well done”, and praise we receive here on earth, nothing is going to wipe away our sins except for Christ. That is why it is completely impossible for us to try to find our identity in any other earthly element, because God is our creator who has made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

I am talking about this subject today because I definitely speak from experience. I would definitely classify myself as a grade A overachiever. I am involved in so many different events both on and off my college campus, and take great pride in the leadership positions I have been able to attain going into my senior year. But I take too much pride. I take too much pride in being the girl who seems to have it all together. The girl who gets good grades, dresses well, is organized, and goes to bed early. But I’m not the girl who has it all together, and I am never going to be. And unfortunately neither are you.

I am just as broken as any other individual on my college campus. I face trials, endure hardships, and cry in the shower when my days become too much to handle. I get stressed out, say things I shouldn’t, and care way too much about impressing fickle boys. When I put my worth and my identity into being the girl who does everything and has it all together, I fail. My identity needs to come from Christ and Christ alone.

Too many days I find myself not seeking God when I am stressed out or upset, but turning to other things to get comfort. I seek to find my worth in social media, how many friends I have, and reminding myself of all the things I’m “good” at. I allow myself to obsess over my reflection in the mirror, for the girl who has it all togetherobsess over the conversation where I said something stupid, and obsess over posting a photo on Instagram to let everyone see how much “fun” I am having. But I don’t obsess about God. I don’t obsess about others and intentionally hearing them. I don’t obsess about the grace I have been given.

So let’s stop. Stop putting our worth in earthly awards and positions and start building up our treasures in heaven. To learn to love ourselves and to feel that we are worthy of love no matter how many campus activities we invest in. To be approachable and open about our struggles. To not be afraid to talk to our friends about Christ and encourage them to live life with Him to the fullest.

I can’t be perfect, you can’t be perfect, but together with God we can become perfect. I have no idea what identity you have been hiding yourself behind these past years. Maybe it’s being a really great athlete, or the mother of your friend group, or the smartest kid in your classes. But those things don’t define you, they are only evidence of the gifts that God so richly blesses us with; don’t turn a gift into your self-worth.

“He rescued me because He delighted in me.”

He delighted in you. Not because you were president of student government, not because you were Homecoming Queen, not because you went on 12 mission trips, but just because you were little old you. Riddled by sin and desperate for grace. So embrace your fallen nature today, you never know how God is going to use your scars to bless another.

 

5 Tips For Your Senior Year Survival Guide

Senior year. Whether you are jumping for joy at the thought of being done with college forever, or already internally cringing when an adult asks what your plan for after graduation is, it happens to all of us eventually. Unlike high school, after we walk across that graduation stage amidst the flashing of cameras and excitement of family members, many us may be unsure where our paths will lead us next. This year will be full of changes. From parting with friends who have become like family, to moving to a new town where no one knows you name, to moving back home, it is important to realize that this unexpected journey has already been mapped out by the Creator of all. So take some time right now to relax, sit back, and let me pass on some wisdom of my senior year survival guide.

1. Be content.

“For your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”- Matthew 6:8

“To the God who is able to do immeasurably more than you can ever ask or imagine.”- Ephesians 3:20senior year bible verse

As I was praying for God to show me what He wanted me to learn and experience in this coming season in my life, one word kept coming to my mind, contentment. If you think about it, many of us are not content in our day to day lives even when we have so much to be thankful for. It can be all too easy to dwell on the negative, like being unhappy doing spreadsheets in your internship instead of being grateful for the opportunity, or being annoyed when your mom makes you help her make dinner, instead of realizing how lucky you are not to worry about food. We all do it.

Learning to be content doesn’t mean always being happy. It means fighting the battle every day of choosing praise over complaints. It means accepting that everything isn’t going to go the way you want it to, but trusting God anyways. It means seeing the good when you’ve recently experienced a whole lot of bad.

This coming year is going to be an onslaught of “Just landed the perfect job” and “We’re engaged,” social media posts. There might be days where you feel like you can’t even check Facebook because you are sick of everyone else getting good news. Do not fall into the trap of comparison. God made us all with completely different gifts and life plans. Just because Suzie lands her dream job in October and you have to move back in with your parents after graduation, doesn’t make Suzie more loved or better than you. Who knows, Suzie might land that job, but end up absolutely hating it, while you end up waiting at home and landing a job you’ve always wanted.

So choose satisfaction. Choose praise when you get rejected from another job and realize you have to move back home. Choose praise when you worry about never getting married or worry if your boyfriend is ever going to pop the question. Choose praise when everything in your once perfect life seems to be spiraling out of control.

No matter how many resumes you send out to hear no replies, how many times you ache to have a date on a Saturday night, or how many times you stain your bed spread with tears from it all being too much, God has not abandoned you. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and He is the same in your period of waiting and the same if this year leads to you getting everything you’ve ever wanted.

Ask God to grant you contentment during this time of uncertainty and to show you the ways He is working in your life that you never noticed before.

2. Don’t be overwhelmed.

“Peace I live with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”- 1 John 14:27

“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”- Psalm 61:2 senior year bible verse

College in general is a time of stress and juggling a million things.  Trying to fit in a meal date here, while doing a meeting there,  and doing your homework in the time cracks in between it all.  As a person who barely has enough room to fit her activities on one page of her resume, I can relate to doing too much. Though it is great to be involved in many activities and avenues while in college, you don’t want to spend your senior year making up for lost time. You don’t need to try to go on every mission trip, lead every organization you’ve been in since freshman year, and then sign up for a new activity that sounds fun.

Take a deep breath. Don’t try to cram every memory, project, and fund raiser into the first month of school. Though we are told to savor every moment of senior year and continually told how it is going to fly by, nothing is ever that quick. You still have 9 months to make the most of your senior year, so relax and enjoy being involved and enjoy your friends. Pray that God will give you wisdom and discernment to say yes to the right things and no to those things that are getting in the way. This is your last year to be a college student, so sleep in those days you don’t have 8 ams, say no to going out to stay in and watch a movie, and don’t read all the miscellaneous things assigned to you.

Find the balance between school, activities, and friends that you can handle. It really is true that you can’t do it all, so don’t burn yourself out trying.

3. Don’t check out.

Kind of piggybacking off my last topic, don’t check out this senior year. It’s hard to invest in new people, new campus groups, and new things when you feel like you barely have enough time to spend with your friends, but don’t check out. Take the time to do that mission trip you always wanted to go on, join that group that always looked like fun, and get to know those people in your major you always thought seemed cool.

Likewise, don’t skip out on meetings and plugging into those activities you’ve always loved. If you are on a sports team or in a sorority, take the time to talk and get to know those freshman. You never know the way you can be used to mentor them or how God can use them to bless you.

Whatever you choose to spend your senior year investing in, do it wholeheartedly. Do it lovingly. And do it without any regrets.

4. Be intentional.

“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.”- Proverbs 27:9

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”- Luke 5:16 senior year bible verse

The hardest part of anyone’s senior year is saying goodbye to the friends and loved ones who have helped you to transform these past three years from that naïve freshman into the senior strutting across the stage to grab her diploma. Be deliberate in all your relationships. You might graduate and move to a new town where you don’t have any friends or family. Take the time this year to invest deliberately in the friendships that you want to last beyond college. Make meal dates, friend dates, and weekend hang out times. Tell your friends that you love them and really want to spend the time growing with them this year.

Invest in your parents. They are the ones who have taught you everything, and no matter how much you feel like you are independent since starting college, you still need them. Truly soak in their knowledge and learn everything you can from them. For me that means letting my mom teach me to cook when I really hate it, or allowing her to buy me things I need to for my house for Christmas over clothes. It means asking for advice instead of rolling our eyes when we receive it. It means watching Lost with my family every night this summer instead of holing up in my room watching Netflix. It means taking the time on breaks to put away our cell phones and plug in to our families.

Invest in our savior. College is the best time in our lives, because we have four years to selfishly and unapologetically focus on nothing but ourselves. We get caught up stressing out in all we have going on and our classes, but really we are stressed because we don’t have time to work out or hang with friends. None of our decisions really impact other people.  God is the only one we can rely on when our life is changing like crazy. He is the only one who understands how bad we feel to be sad that our best friend got a job when we didn’t. He is the only one who gets how scared we might be to get engaged or to leave college never having a boyfriend. He alone knows how we are going to feel and how to comfort us. The real world is going to be scary and unknown, but we can’t properly tackle it without God’s help. That means laying the foundation before we get there. That means taking the time each day to sit before His throne and lay our burdens on Him. That means listening to His call and choosing it even if it isn’t what we had in mind. It means learning to be His servant and realizing we are not our own.

Each of these relationships are important to our growth, but only one can sustain us for all time. Choose intentionality this year.

5. Don’t cry until it’s over

Don’t cry before it’s over; smile because it happened.”- Dr. Seuss senior year quote

My last bit of advice is harder said than done. I would consider myself to be a fairly easy crier. I cry every time Hillary Duff gets humiliated in A Cinderella Story at that pep rally, cry when I’m overwhelmed in the shower, and cry when I skin my knees. I am more than prepared this upcoming senior year with tissues in case I get struck unexpectedly with nostalgia. Don’t live like that!

Embrace all the little and big moments that senior year has to offer. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Likewise, who of you by crying and bemoaning senior year ending can add days to it? So try your best not to dwell on it ending, but live in the present every day. Don’t waste your weekends wallowing in your dorm room with friends, go out and have fun.

I have decided to try my best to not cry until I walk across that stage to get that diploma. That might be unrealistic, but I can tell you I don’t want to waste my precious college memories stressing about them ending. I have plenty of time to cry when it actually ends.

So seniors, go out and build the kingdom this new school year. You have 9 months, let God help you make the most of them.