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glimpses of my heart at 18.

Often, there are nights that turn into mornings as you reflect on life… on decisions, on experiences, on regrets, on expectations. Sometimes you think back on choices made over the course of your life, wondering how exactly you got to this moment you’re in— this single moment in time, this moment that somehow defines exactly who you are, and who you will be. In the past, there were moments such as this one now, and in the future they’ll occur again; it’s a never-ending cycle. Wherever you are, whatever path you take, you’ll always remember how you got there, and as you see yourself in these glimpses of the past, you choke back the words you wish you could say. Maybe there’s advice you’d give yourself in a relationship, or strength you’d offer yourself in a time of weakness, or wisdom you wish you had during tough circumstances. 

For me— tonight is one of those moments.
Tonight I’m wishing I could write a letter to a version of myself from the past. Maybe myself right before I started college; eighteen years old, ready to take on the world and naive enough to think I had my life all planned out. Now here I am, almost four years later, a year from graduating and entering the real world, and not a single thing I planned for my life has played out.

As I’ve learned more and more about myself over these past few years, I see glimpses of moments that I wish I could change. Moments that I look back on, and see someone that looks a lot like me, but seems so unfamiliar. And if I could tell that naive little girl just a few things, this is how I envision it might go:

To a girl searching for her place in the world,

/Be ambitious. Your dreams won’t make themselves happen. You want to be an author? Write. Write everyday. Write it all down— write your feelings, write your thoughts, write your heart. Don’t take no as an answer. Every time you fail, try twice as hard again. Know what you want out of life, and make it happen.

/You have a great family. You have incredible parents. Don’t ever let anyone tell you different- just because your family may not be what some people call normal, they are special because they belong to you. Cherish them, because more than anyone in your life, they will teach you the power of forgiveness. At some times, they’ll be the ones that hurt you the most, but at all times they’ll be the ones that love you the most.

/Learn to lay down your pride. Learn to apologize. Learn to say, “It’s my fault,” even if it isn’t. Avoid arguments at all costs- they aren’t worth your time or your energy. 9 out of 10 fights will be over ridiculous things that you’ll regret in the morning. Instead, work everything out fairly and with a good attitude, the outcome will be better than if you argue. 

/Stop being selfish. In a few years, you’re going to realize how often you thought of yourself, and how little you thought of others. There are people around you that cherish you and would do anything for you. Cherish them back. Be selfless in your relationships. Learn what it means to humbly take a backseat to your own desires, to fulfill someone else’s. I promise it will be ten times more rewarding that anything you could want.

/Take the time to serve those around you. Serve in an environment that’s out of your comfort zone. But also, don’t forget to serve your friends; sometimes, they’re the ones that need you most. Relationships will come and go right now, but some friends will stick by you forever. Sacrifice for them. Be there when they need you. Open your heart up to them, even the darkest corners that no one has ever seen. You can trust them, so let them trust you too. Be honest, be honest, be honest. I can’t stress enough how much dishonesty can ruin any relationship in your life. Don’t let it. There will be a time that you allow it to. Learn from it so that it never happens again. 

/You might think you need to prove yourself- don’t. To anyone. Ever. People love you for exactly who you are. They don’t love you based on your appearance, your weight, your assets, your intelligence - if anyone desires you solely for these things, run in the opposite direction. People like this are meant to tear down your self esteem, and you’re stronger than that. Don’t let people walk all over you. Be confident in who you are. Confidence is contagious and it’s attractive. So don’t be ashamed to work it, everyday!

/God is going to put an abundance of people in your path. He’s going to provide you with the chance to be loved by phenomenal people. Love them back. Soak in every moment that you have with them. Put them first. Show your love for them- every single day.  And though you may not want to hear it, there will people that hate you too. Love them back ten times more. Even when it hurts. Pray for them. Even when it hurts. You’ll never wish you didn’t, but you might regret it if you don’t.

/Those amazing people? Not all of them will be there to stay. Know that people are going to leave you. People you thought would be around forever will walk out of your life, and you will have to let them walk. Don’t chase after them- your future is not tied to a single person that can leave you behind. You might feel like it’s your obligation to run after them; your heart might make decisions in the heat of the moment that you’ll regret in the morning. So don’t run; don’t chase; don’t follow your impulses. This is the time and place in your life that I’ll tell you not to follow your heart. Why? Because you always follow your heart, and this is your time to listen to your head.

/This is your time to learn who you are, your time to learn that it’s okay to be alone, that your relationships don’t define you, a man doesn’t define you. Your entire life, you have allowed everyone but yourself to tell you who you are, and you need these next years to figure it out for yourself. Use them wisely, because they won’t last forever. And I won’t lie- moving on with your life will be the hardest thing you ever do, and to an extent you may not ever fully let go. And it’s okay for it to hurt like hell to think back on certain memories, but that’s why everyday you must remind yourself that all of this is molding you into the woman you’re called to be.

/When it comes down to it, God is sovereign, and His plans will always work for your good, even when you don’t see it. Every choice you make is intended to bring you closer to the destiny He has called you for, so if ever you do take a wrong turn or get lost in the chaos, remember that as long as you focus on Him, you’ll end up where you need to be. And hey, don’t worry, because at this moment in time, you’re exactly where you need to be.

<3

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"I am the thorn in Your crown, but You love me anyway. I am the sweat from Your brow, but You love me anyway. I am the nail in Your wrist, but You love me anyway. I am Judas’ kiss, but You love me anyway."

Sidewalk Prophets, “You Love Me Anyway”

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"God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful — “severe mercies” at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our heart’s desire except to give us something better."

Elisabeth Elliot (via set-apartgirl)

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"Only when we fall in love with Jesus Christ and build our lives completely around Him can we experience human love and romance in its purest and most beautiful form."

Leslie Ludy, Authentic Beauty

(Source: extravagantlylovedbyhim, via reflectivesoliloquy)

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What Do You Boast In?

As God always does when I’m searching, today He led me to an affirming passage of scripture – a simple, well-known verse I’d heard many times, but seemed so much more powerful this time around. In 2 Corinthians, Paul is writing about the visions and revelations he had received from the Lord. Even though he received all these wonderful revelations from God, he chose instead to humbly boast about his weakness. Rather than going on and on about how “spiritual” he is, and all he’s doing for God’s kingdom, he’s bragging about his weakness! Unexpected, huh?

As the passage continues, to prevent Paul from becoming proud, he was given a thorn in his flesh (the thorn is a symbol for an illness or chronic physical condition that is unknown). Regardless of the case, the point is that the “thorn” was an unceasing problem that took authority over, and was a hindrance to, Paul’s life and ministry. We all have our personal “thorns” in our lives that represent weakness - lust, rejection, jealousy, pornography, pride, gossip, homosexuality, lying, etc. – and these can hinder us from going further in our walk with God. Paul continually prayed for the removal of the thorn, but God refused, and each time He said, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”

Think about it.

We repent and pray that God will forgive our sins, and He does! But, that doesn’t mean that we might not still be tempted by the same sin that we struggle with the most. Those same sins are dangled in our faces daily to keep us humbled, reminding us of where we came from. God can’t show us His power, without showing us that we are so weak without it. When we’re aware of His power over our lives — that’s when we’ll win the battle over our weakness. But, apart from God’s power, we’re still as weak to give into these sins as we always were.

For example, on a daily basis I constantly face the spirit of rejection because of experiences I’ve dealt with in the past. For years, this fear of not being good enough, of being rejected, has followed me around no matter where I go, and I’ve constantly asked God to take it yet it’s still there. I’m not afraid to be vulnerable and “boast” in my weakness, because through this, God has shown me that the struggle will always exist, but when I’m starting to go down that path, I submit my weakness to Him and He gives me the power to turn and run in the opposite direction.

Weakness limits even the best of us; it gives us boundaries and fences us in. Weakness says, “You can’t do it on your own. Give in. Give up.” As we recognize these limits, we begin to depend more on God for our success rather than on our own talents. Our limitations not only help us to develop into the image of Christ, but also deepen our worship, because in admitting them, we affirm God’s strength.

This is all the more reason not to fear our weakness, but instead to embrace it. For it is when we are at our lowest point, that God is lifted up highest. It is when we are most humbled, that He is most glorified through us. It is when we are weakest, that He is made strong in us. We cannot yet receive the true strength that God has promised us until we let ourselves reach the lowest point of vulnerability and realize that apart from Him, we are nothing. And it is then, and only then, when we are emptied of everything belonging to ourselves, that He is able to fill us up with His strength and power.

In your vulnerability, follow Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians… boast gladly about your weakness! And yes, he says gladly - not bitterly, or cynically. Boast cheerfully, happily, and willingly. Because being weak is normal. It’s okay. In fact, it’s ideal. So, when weakness knocks you to your knees, sit there and pray. And even when it lays you out flat on your face, lay there at the feet of Jesus. And while you’re at His feet, open your hands and give Him your weakness, and with these same open hands, pick up the strength that He has promised you.

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just love

Although this post is lengthy, if you are reading this sentence, I encourage you to keep reading :)

A simple concern I’ve been pondering: are we, as the church, becoming so focused on gaining all this knowledge of God, rather than simply taking time to know Him? There is quite a difference between the two.

When I love people - truly, madly, deeply love - I want to know who they are: their personality, their favorite things, what they detest & adore, etc. I want this knowledge not so I may show off how much I know about them; but because my heart so desires to please them, and to do so I must know the things they hold most dear.

Isn’t this even more important with God? We love because Christ first loved us, so why are we not loving Him & each other in that way? We should be more interested in knowing the attributes of God, instead of selfishly wanting to know what He can attribute to us. I just want to know God for who He is. Simply. Truly. Not for what He can give to me, because He has already given more than enough: His son.

Where is the love? Because sometimes it’s so hard to see.

There is no love in competition. So, why are we so concerned if we’re doing more or less than someone else? Why are we wasting our time comparing ourselves to others instead of just doing what the Lord asks of us individually?

All we’re doing is putting on this show for people who don’t want to praise us! People don’t care about all our accomplishments: how many books we’ve read, how many scriptures we can recite by memory, or how long we spent in prayer today.

Neither does God.

People care about the heart.

So does God.

Everything must be rooted in love. Everything must spring forth from the heart. For the Word says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34) and “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).

Say love: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. - 1 Cor. 13:1

Without love, your words are just words.

Show love: If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. - v. 2

People don’t care about what you know, until they know that you care.

Be love: If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. - v. 3

It does not matter how many or how good the works you do for the Kingdom are. If they are not rooted in love, you will gain nothing.

Bottom line: just love!

Stop comparing yourself to others.
Start comparing yourself to God.
Stop being concerned about others opinions.
Start being concerned about God’s opinion. 
Stop worrying. Stop doubting. Stop pitying yourself.
Stop being insecure about who you are. Stop being prideful about who you are.

Love who God made you to be, and love others for who God made them to be.