I have a confession to make.
Are you ready?
I am a little bit of a perfectionist.
And my second confession?
I am not perfect. In any way. At all. Ever.
So why then do I waste so much of my time and energy on being “perfect” when it’s obviously something that I can’t attain? Why do I constantly hide behind a facade of perfectionism so that no one can ever really see the dark, totally imperfect parts of my life? Why do you carry your mask of perfectionism around with you?
Because, please, I can’t really be the only one.
I can’t really be the only one who would rather Instagram see my “spiritual” moments of coffee cup in hand and Bible on my lap than the not-so-spiritual moments when my hair is a mess and I’ve yelled at that certain family member more than once already and it’s only 9am.
Maybe all of this is because sometimes...sometimes I can believe the stereotype that Christians are supposed to be perfect.
Don’t believe me that this is a stereotype?
Let’s be honest, if a Christian makes a big mistake, chances are people are going to make a bigger deal out of it than if that same mistake was committed by someone who did not call themselves a Christian.
Why is this? If no one can be perfect, then why do we place such a higher standard on Christians? Why do I try so hard to hide behind my perfectionism façade?
Maybe it’s because we’ve forgotten that Christians are forgiven because they are not perfect, not because they are perfect.
Because I can promise you one hundred percent that Christians are not perfect and they’re not called to be perfect either. We're called to a holier way of living and a higher standard, yes. But perfection? Nope.
So if we’re not called to be perfect, then what are we called to be?
Christians are called to be authentic. (Matthew 15:7-9)
When we get caught up in the idea that we are to be “perfect,” we end up being fake. Jesus talked a lot about fake Christianity.
In the time that Jesus was living on the earth, there were people known as Pharisees. These people were kind of the religious leaders of that day. They made up a whole bunch of rules that people had to follow to be right with God. If anyone was seen as “perfect” during that time, these were the guys.
Yet, Jesus comes along and He calls them hypocrites. Basically He’s saying they’re fakes. Frauds. Because on the outside they look shiny white and sparkling clean. They look “perfect.” But on the inside, Jesus knew that they were far from being perfect.
Putting on a fake mask of “I’m better than you are” or “I’m perfect” only leaves us as frauds in the end. Instead, Christians are called to be real about their struggles. They’re called to be authentic to others about who they really are, and all their imperfections. Which means...
Christians are called to be honest about their imperfections. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Let me be real with you for a second. Sometimes I can be afraid of showing my imperfections, because I’m afraid it’ll make me look weak. (Can someone say pride?)
When Christians are honest and real about their imperfections and their shortcomings, they’re putting on display the whole point of the Gospel. Christ came because we were imperfect. Christ came because we were sinners who needed saving. Trying to act like we have it all together only dilutes the reality and the power of the Gospel.
So I’ll be the first to put down my pride and wave my hands in the air declaring, “I’m not perfect. Far from it in fact. But in my weakness, He is strong. And that’s the whole point of the Gospel anyway.”
Christians are called to imitate Christ. (Ephesians 5:1)
While Christians can never reach perfection here, they are called to be more like Christ every day. Will this happen over night? Absolutely not. If it happened over night I wouldn’t have argued with my sister over doing dishes today. For the second time. (Or maybe third, but who’s counting?)
Christians are going to fail. We’re going to mess up. We’re going to be imperfect.
Our calling is to not stay in that place.
We’re called to get up again and try better next time. We’re called with each choice we make to live a little bit more like Christ would.
Only God is perfect. And as Christians who bear His name, we are challenged to imitate His perfect example a little more each day.
Perfect Christianity is a myth.
If perfect Christians existed, there would have been no need for a perfect Savior. If perfect Christianity existed, I sure would be in a whole lot of trouble.
But praise God, I don’t have to be perfect because His perfection covers me.
And each day, He is making me--and you--a little bit more into the person He wants us to be.
This is a letter to the girl who thought her life would be a straight path from start to finish.
To the girl who was so sure of what her future would have to hold. Who thought that if you made a plan and stuck to it that somehow life would follow that perfectly. The girl who believed that for something to be beautiful it had to go according to the plan she set for herself.
This is a letter to the girl who was shook to the core when plans flipped upside down and life felt so different from what she imagined and it turned out to be nowhere near that ideal she imagined for herself of where she would be in five or ten years.
For that girl was me.
Dear younger me,
You think that if you pray about something hard enough and you plan for something long enough that it’ll somehow all turn out exactly as you planned and hoped and dreamed.
You believe that if you push towards your goals and hopes and plans with all of your heart that surely… surely they’ll all come to pass if you just work hard enough. You have put your trust in all of your plans and hopes because you somehow thought that life was in your control. Or maybe that’s what you hoped for, because sometimes it’s so much easier to try to control it all than surrender it all.
You thought that if you started here and your goal was to end up there that somehow if you just kept walking towards that finish line, you’d get there without all the detours and interruptions that life is famous for.
But life didn’t turn out like that five or ten year plan you always mapped out for yourself.
It doesn’t turn out exactly that way for anyone.
And somewhere along the way it all broke your heart. Maybe it was the moment when you felt you lost control of it all and you were scared to surrender it. Maybe it was the moment when things changed so much you weren’t sure you could handle your “new normal.” Or maybe it was the moment when you realized that life is more like a roller coaster than a straight path.
But maybe most of all I think that what broke you the most was when you whispered, “How can life be beautiful here? In the middle of all the change and hurt and different and things I never wanted or hoped for. Surely life can’t be beautiful this way.”
For that moment was when you believed a lie that could’ve held you back from all that your good God had planned for you. It was the moment you were almost content to lay down in the lie and stay there, allowing its destruction to harm you more.
And if I could reach back and tell you one thing it would be this:
Oh yes, brave soul, life can be so… so beautiful in the unknown or chaotic.
God makes no mistakes. His plans might include a few bumps or twists and turns, but they’re going to turn out good in some way. His plans might hurt and ache and cause you to wonder when the tears will end, but He’s still good. And someday you’re going to realize something that will affect how you view the rest of life…
Just as flowers and Christmas tree lights are both beautiful, they are oh, so different. Yet each one is beautiful in its own way. Your life is going to be oh, so different than you imagined or dreamed, but His plans for you? They’re beautiful. A different kind of beautiful than you maybe imagined, but beautiful just the same.
For truly He makes everything beautiful in His time.
Keep holding on to see it. He is worthy of your trust.
“When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle.”
Recently I was driving to a new place while my passenger was controlling our GPS.
When the GPS said “turn right,” I accidentally turned left. I’m awesome at following directions like that.
Immediately the voice on the phone said “Recalculating new route” and proceeded to give me new directions that I also messed up because I had already started to turn around. Impressed that I did not completely confuse the GPS as I had myself, it must have rerouted me three times before getting me back on the right track.
And if I’m honest, sometimes my life can feel a little bit like it needs some recalculating. It can feel a little bit like a mixed up detour that I hadn’t planned for and hadn’t even intended on taking.
Ever felt that way too?
Well, I know I’m not alone because there are some people in the Bible who must have felt this way a little bit too. The Israelites.
When God took the Israelites out of Egypt the Scripture tells us that He didn’t take them along the main road--the road that was probably faster, maybe easier, and perhaps not as scary as the wilderness road He instead took them on. You see, God took them on a detour.
My first reaction is to nod emphatically along with this story because I understand how that feels. How it feels to be re-routed by God onto a road and journey that you weren’t quite expecting.
After all, I don’t always expect the twists and turns and roadblocks that I don’t plan into my story. I don’t always desire the longer route that sends me into a wilderness season of waiting.
But there is purpose even there.
You see, God didn’t just detour them for no good reason. He didn’t just direct them into the wilderness because He felt like it.
He had a purpose. “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”
God could see down the road what they couldn’t. And, oh, the lessons He wanted to teach them in the wilderness.
He’s got the same reasons for you too, friend. So next time you find yourself in a wilderness detour situation, here are some things I want you to remember:
When life feels like a detour, it could actually be God’s preparation for what He has coming next.
When life feels like a detour, it could be because there is something coming ahead that He sees even when I can’t.
When life feels like a detour, it could be that He has something to teach me on this new route that I never would’ve learned otherwise, and because of it I’ll be stronger.
When life feels like a detour, God still knows how to get you to your destination.
Hang on for the journey. He knows what He’s doing.
“I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak His praises.”
I used to think that worship meant singing songs at church on Sunday morning.
I used to think that it meant clapping along to cheesy guitar rhythms and drum beats while repeating the same lyrics over and over. I used to think that it meant singing the words “Hallelujah” or “God is good” or “Amen” over and over with a smile on my face. The smile on my face that I had to show everyone on Sunday morning so that I looked like a good Christian worshipping my Jesus.
But worship is different than I thought.
Worship, in fact, isn’t all about singing after all. It’s not even just about declaring the cliché Christian phrases like “Hallelujah” or “Praise God.”
You see, I thought of worship as an external act, but I learned that worship is more about an internal act.
Worship is about my attitude toward God, my relationship with God, and my love for God.
I learned that washing my dishes with a heart of gratitude for what God has given me can be an act of worship. I learned that singing Chris Tomlin songs in my car on my way to work can be an act of worship. I learned that reading my Bible or memorizing Scripture can be an act of worship too. I learned that any area of my life where I am showing an attitude of honor and gratitude and awe towards my God can be an act of worship to Him. I learned that doing my favorite hobby—such as writing—with the desire to glorify God through it, was an incredible act of worship to Him.
And maybe most importantly of all I learned that one of the most important things I can offer to Him in worship is my broken heart and my broken life.
You see, my broken hallelujah with tears streaming down my face can be a deeper act of worship to Him than when I hide my pain behind my smile and cliché Christian phrases.
One of the greatest ways that I can worship Him is by acknowledging my pain and my hurt...and then praising Him in spite of it.
So often we can think that to worship God we have to hide all that junk and hurt and messy, painful things. But really? He wants that part of you, friend.
He wants the messy, broken pieces. Because it takes strength to declare, “My heart is broken...but even so, He is good. Even so He is my God. And even so I trust in Him.”
You can worship God while sitting on your bathroom floor with your back against the wall as tears stream down your cheeks. You can worship Him while hugging a friend who needs some encouragement to keep going in life, even when your own heart hurts. You can worship Him while admitting the hurt but acknowledging that He is greater. Not denying the pain, no. For you can recognize the pain’s presence while also recognizing its place. And pain’s place never comes before the greatness or goodness of God--it can never be greater than that, no matter how much it hurts.
So worship Him there. Worship Him in the dark valley. It’ll look differently than you might think. But it’ll be beautiful. A beautiful brokenness that shows the world His power and goodness.
That is a worship that will change your life.
I don't bake.
Now there is a reason for that and the reason is simply--I'm bad at it. Like really, really bad at it.
I knew this when I decided that it would be a fantastic idea to try making a homemade pecan pie. After all, what could go wrong?
I mean, the recipe I found didn't look that hard. All I really had to do was follow the directions. So that's exactly what I set out to do.
I mixed my filling together excitedly and slowly stirred in all the pecans. Everything was going great so far. Then I reached for the frozen pie crust and noticed that it was sitting in a tin foil pan, and I wasn't sure what to do with that. Assuming it probably didn't matter either way, I opted to take the pie crust out of the foil pan and just place it on a baking sheet after I poured the filling in. I figured if anything spilled over, at least the baking sheet would be there to catch it. (I am aware that this was not my smartest moment ever.)
But I was doing so great at following the directions, surely nothing would go wrong and nothing would spill over.
Let me assure you--there is a purpose for that foil pan the pie crust comes in. And you should always, always leave the crust in the pan.
My perfect pecan pie had probably only been baking about five minutes when I turned on the oven light to reveal disaster. Cue my panicked gasp and rush to pull the pie out of the oven.
The crust appeared to have melted and completely flattened, allowing all of the filling to spill out. Without the foil pan holding the crust in place, it wasn't going to be able to stand firm in the heat of the oven while it cooked.
Unfortunately that is the end of my sad pecan pie story, as I have decided that next time I will simply go to the grocery store and pick one up. However, as I stared at the gooey mess of filling and melted crust, I also realized that I could learn something from this pecan pie. You know, something besides the lesson that I shouldn't be left to bake alone.
I learned that sometimes in life I can place my focus in the wrong places.
And when I place my focus in the wrong places, I can lose sight of what matters most.
You see, I became so focused on my pie filling and making the perfect pecan pie, that I actually failed to focus on my crust, which was the most important part. Without the crust being taken care of properly, everything else inside was going to fall apart.
Sometimes I do that with God. And I'm not the only one.
The story of Mary and Martha is a popular one and I have read it over and over again. We can find it tucked between the text of Luke 10:38-42. If you're not familiar with the story, allow me to recap it for you.
Jesus was coming over to Mary and Martha's house. Now if Jesus was coming over to my house, I probably would've gone into the same mode of serving that Martha defaulted to. She quickly set to work making sure everything was in place for Jesus and she set her focus completely on just serving Him.
Meanwhile, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and chose to just be with Him. She knew she could serve Him later, but for now her focus needed to be in the right place--simply being with Him.
This irritated Martha because she was already worried and stressed out. Because when our focus is in the wrong place at the wrong time, worry and stress can abound.
What did Jesus tell her? He gently reminded her that she had her focus in the wrong place and that indeed the only thing she needed to focus on at that moment was exactly what Mary was doing. Serving Him is important, but she had it mixed up in the wrong place, because she allowed her work to come before her Savior.
I mix it all up too. I mix up my priorities and I mix up my focus. Just like I did with my pecan pie.
I can constantly focus on serving Jesus and doing for Him, but then I take my focus off the most important aspect of serving Him--my relationship with Him. They go hand in hand. Your relationship with Him and your service for Him.
Next time I become more focused on other things and lose sight of what matters most, I'm going to remember what I learned from failing at my pecan pie.
And I'm going to remember that if my focus is on my relationship with Jesus, He is going to hold everything else in place. I hope you can remember that too.
We've been playing the waiting game for what feels like forever.
Waiting for next week or next year. Waiting for a new job or a new house. For a relationship or someone to love you. For a time when you're older or things aren't so busy. For summer or for winter. For an event you're excited about or for a dream to finally come true. Constantly waiting.
And the sad thing is, the majority of us waste our lives waiting for that adventure to come along or that dream to happen. We waste our lives thinking "someday" I will do this or "someday" I will do that. And then we spend our days trapped in "what if's," looking back on the days that went by and wishing for them back. It is like a game of either looking ahead or looking behind.
We rarely stop to look around.
But you see, the secret that most people don't realize is that....today is an adventure too.
Waiting for the day when things slow down or when you finally grow up, is wasting the adventure you are right in the middle of at this moment.
For 2019 my word of the year has been "breathe." And because of that I have been taking purposeful time to just step back and look around--embracing where I'm at during this moment.
And that's when I realize what an adventure I'm living right now.
I was a little girl with a wild imagination (yeah, I was crazy), and I yearned for adventure. I longed for the opportunity to do something great. To solve a mystery, to experience something amazing, to publish a book, to speak on a stage in front of hundreds, to go somewhere new. But I always thought "someday" I will get to do those things, but not today-- today couldn't possibly be an adventure in the middle of so much ordinary.
But let me look into your eyes and motion for you to come closer as I whisper this truth to you:
Someday isn't guaranteed. Tomorrow is not promised.
What if today is the only adventure you have left?
The thing is, I look at today now and I realize what a beautiful adventure it really is. What an adventure it is to look at each moment as the moment that God could use you to change someone's world or to impact someone's day. I was 16 and 17 when I wrote my first published book, and it was because I finally chose to take today and realize God wanted to use me right then, not "someday." According to the world, I should've waited until I was older and had better experience. But guess what? The world really doesn't know much at all. According to God, my adventure was waiting for me already.
What adventure could you be missing out on today by looking back on yesterday or wishing for "someday"? What book could you have written? What story could you have told? What drawing could you have painted? What song could you have sung? What trip could you have taken? What moment could you have stepped into? What friend could you have inspired?
Oh, and, dear heart, don't miss out on the priceless, little adventures of every day life either. For they truly are an adventure beyond what you can imagine...
Watching the sunset with someone you love. Taking a walk with your siblings and laughing at who can make the funniest face. Going out for donuts at almost midnight (admittedly one of the best adventures ever). Singing music as loud as you can into your microphone (which is technically a hairbrush, but it still counts. Admit it, you've done this at least once in your life). Sharing words of encouragement that could inspire someone else towards greatness. Being a friend to someone and changing their life.
These little adventures are what make up our lives. They are the adventures God gives us every day to whisper "I love you," to us. Don't you see? God is so crazy about us, that He gives us these amazing little adventures that are right in front of us every day. We just have to search for them instead of searching for "someday." We have to take the time to stop, look up from our phones or our busy schedules and breathe in this moment.
Every time we stop to embrace the adventure God places in our present moment, we can whisper back to Him, "Thank You, I love You too."
Today truly is your adventure of a lifetime.
And now I'm going on an adventure (donuts might be involved)....who's with me?
I recently saw someone I know and they were trying to figure out which twin I was. (Yes, I have a twin, and yes, we look alike.)
While they're trying to figure it out, I'm talking constantly like I always do. Finally they said, "You're Bella, because you're talking so much."
I laughed, but they weren't wrong. I do talk a lot. And because I talk a lot, I always have someone that I'm going to for advice or to rant or to talk through a decision. Outside of my family, these people are probably my circle of closest friends. I go to these people for wisdom, advice, and encouragement.
But sometimes I can go to them in the wrong order.
Because you see, sometimes I can rush to the people I think can help me when in reality, I'm neglecting the One who holds all the answers.
Recently I did an object lesson with teenagers about prayer. The object lesson went something like this:
I handed two of them a piece of paper with scissors. I then showed them my paper which had been cut in a specific way to look like an "s" almost. (No, I'm not that smart, I learned how to do it on YouTube).
I told them that they had to duplicate what I had done without the instructions. However, they could ask anyone in the classroom for advice on how to do it.
They first tried to get it on their own, but when they quickly realized that they couldn't figure it out, they began to ask each other for help. Well, none of the other students knew how to do it either.
Finally, at the point where they were ready to give up, I asked them, "Who do you think you should've asked for help?"
Suddenly they all got it. They should've asked me.
I knew how to do it. I knew where they needed to make the cuts in the paper in order to do it right.
But they were so busy trying to figure it out that they forgot I had the answer.
Oh, how easily I do that with God.
So easily I can become so caught up in trying to do better and get all the answers on my own that when I need help I first run to everyone else but God. I go to others to ask advice instead of first seeking my answers in His Word. I talk and talk to people instead of meeting Him on my knees.
I forget the One who has the answers because I become distracted by my own ways of thinking that I know what to do or how to find the answers.
And I can miss so much when I do that.
So my question for you is simply: Where do you rush to when you need help or encouragement or advice or strength? Where do you go?
Do you go to God for everything before you go to anything else?
Of course He often speaks to us through others and the people He places in our lives can give us lots of good advice, encouragement, and help. But if I put them before Him, I'm missing the point.
I want to rush to God first because I know that He holds all the answers. I know that He is One I can trust above all.
Let's make Him our first priority before anything else.
Have you ever stood in front of the ocean, shielding your eyes, squinting, to see how far it goes?
But you never find the ending, do you?
The ocean is one of my favorite places in the world. Hearing the thunder of waves crashing into the sand that squishes between your toes and feeling the cold water hit your ankles. These are things I love.
And so many times I've stood in front of the ocean and looked out, trying to see as far as I could. But I've never found the end of the water. It seems to go on forever.
And you know the love of Jesus?
It's like that.
His love is strong and beautiful. His love goes as far as what you can see and even beyond that. His love really does go on forever. There is no beginning and no end. He has always and will always love you forever.
And maybe that's why I love the ocean so much. Because it reminds me of His great, unending love. It reminds me that the One who created something as beautiful and powerful as the ocean, loved me enough to make one of me too.
But you know what?
Sometimes we forget His love.
Because the world is so distracting, isn't it? Sometimes it distracts us so much that we turn away from the greatest romance of our lives because the world has caught our focus instead with glitter that'll fade.
We get caught up in the love of this world. The temporal, fading love this world offers us that will never last. The love we see in Hollywood and the love we see in the media. We reach for it in every way we can, thinking it'll make us complete. By dressing to impress, flirting to get attention, and going from one relationship to the next, searching. Searching for that endless love.
We get caught up in the dreams of this world. The cheap, plastic dreams that promise if you get a good education, a good job with benefits, and climb the corporate ladder, then maybe you'll make your mark on the world. We reach for it by constantly wearing ourselves out working so hard to make that next sale, make more money, get that big job. Searching for something to satisfy.
We get caught up in all of it. All of these things that we think will satisfy us. All of these things that we think will fulfill us. We get caught up in it because somewhere along the way, we got distracted from the Lover of our soul that whispers His love to us in everything.
That rainbow after the storm? It's His promise to you. That hot summer day where the sun kisses your cheeks and makes you feel free? It's His whisper of joy found in Him. That ocean stretching farther than you could ever see? It's His promise of unending love.
So here's my question for you, dear heart:
You know the truth. You know His love. You know how much you mean to Him. You know that He is the true Lover of your soul. You know that He is crazy about you. You know that nothing you ever do will ever make Him walk away. You know that you make Him smile. You know that His love is everything you will ever need.
So is He everything that you want?
Are you willing to make Him all that your heart desires, whatever that means?
Maybe it means letting go of your earthly ideas of love to grasp a hold of this crazy, radical love He is offering to you. Maybe it means walking away from a dream of this world to take a hold of His great and holy dreams for your life. Maybe it means losing things close to you to stand with Him. Maybe it means being rejected by the world so that you can find your acceptance and identity in Him.
Here's what I promise you.
He is all you will ever need. He is everything.
Run back to Him, dear one. Whatever has distracted you or taken you away from Him, run back to His arms. Remember that He is your true Lover.
Let Him be all that your heart ever wants.
And next time you stand at the ocean? Let those crashing waves remind you that His love never ends.
His love is everything.
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Growing up, I used to dread Father's Day.
It was the one day out of the year that I never wanted to come. It was hard and if I was honest? It hurt. Sometimes more than I wanted to admit.
I knew that God was my Father, but did that cause me to always jump up and down for a day celebrating earthly fathers and declare my joy?
I still had wounds deep in my heart from an earthly father and facing a day celebrating great earthly dads was just plain hard.
Maybe you feel that too. Maybe, you too, have tried to hide your pain behind a smile as you just hope the day passes more quickly. Maybe you've been wounded by an absent father, by an abusive father, by a selfish father. Maybe your father was nowhere near what you had hoped and the person who was supposed to help you learn about love actually hurt you before anyone else could.
Or maybe the pain of Father's Day in your heart really wasn't your father's fault at all. Maybe you lost your dad at an early age and you barely remember him, or maybe the loss of his life is more recent and stings more than you thought it would.
Whatever your situation, I understand the pain that Father's Day can sometimes cause. And so if you're fighting back tears today, here are 3 truths I want you to cling to:
1. It's okay to cry.
Often I would bury my pain. I would hide it and smile and pretend that it didn't actually hurt and I wasn't actually broken over it.
It's like putting a band aid over a deep wound. It'll cover it up, but it won't heal it and in the end it'll only provide an atmosphere to cause deeper pain, an infection.
Cry if you need to. Let it out. Weep.
It is one hundred percent okay to cry. Even Jesus wept. (John 11:35).
It's okay to cry and admit what you're feeling and I promise you...you'll never cry alone. Jesus is right there, embracing you and giving you the strength to dry your eyes. Because while you might not feel okay right now, He's mending your heart every day.
2. This part of your story is not for nothing.
I used to ask God, "Why did I have to go through what I went through with my earthly dad? Why did I have to be the one with this painful story?"
And the truth is that I sometimes still ask that. But what I've learned?
God doesn't allow anything in my life to go to waste. Not even the messy, broken, painful parts. And a beautiful thing that He has shown me? Because I have walked through this painful dad journey, I can help someone else walk through their own painful dad journey too.
I know how it feels. I know what it's like. And because of that I can meet someone in their brokenness in a way I might not have been able to if I hadn't walked through it myself. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
God can turn your greatest pain into your greatest story of His goodness. Trust me on that one.
3. He's making you stronger, day by day.
While I may not always feel stronger, I know that He is making me stronger in the pain. He is giving me His strength, His strength is filling my weakness, and He is giving me the ability to do all things through Him.
He's doing the same for you too.
You may feel weak here and tired. You might not have the energy to face another Father's Day of pain.
But trust me on this one too--He's not leaving you there. He's filling you with strength. You can do this in Him. Because in Him, you are capable of more than you could possibly ever imagine.
Keep your chin up today, friend.
I know today might be hard. I know many days might be hard when you don't always understand why you've had to walk this journey.
And while the pain might stay, you still must know--your Heavenly Father is the greatest Father you will ever have. It might sound cliché and a little hard to grasp and that's okay. But it's true.
He is the Father that is never leaving, never walking out, never letting you go, never quitting on you. He loves you. Beyond your wildest imaginations and beyond what you could possibly grasp.
Rest in that today.
Keep being brave.
So maybe today held some things you weren't expecting?
Or maybe everything changed so suddenly you were left wondering how 24 hours could change so much. And maybe you feel so exhausted you don't know what to do next.
Yeah, bravery takes a lot of strength.
It's hard. Being brave, being full of courage, is just downright hard. And some days?
Well, some days we just don't have the strength to face it all.
Because sometimes the scariest thought of all is stepping into what's unknown.
Embracing the unknown moments of tomorrow seems scary enough, but embracing the unknown moments of next month or next year? Nope, no thank you. That takes too much brave.
Sweet soul reading these words right now, I didn't break into your day to tell you a list of ways to step up and do the right thing even when you're scared. I didn't write this post to show you all the ways you could be brave but aren't.
I wrote this as a reminder.
A reminder that brave is your middle name.
Because no matter what you may feel about who you are, it can never change or take away the truth about Whose you are. And the One to whom you belong? Well, I can promise you that He's big enough for any scary moment that tomorrow or your next moment holds.
So yeah that scary step you're not sure you should take? That courage you're not sure you can muster up to step into the unknown?
Take a deep breath and this, this is what I want you to always remember:
You are brave because He is brave in you. And with your God you can scale any wall of fear in your path (Psalm 18:29), and with your God you can defeat any Goliath standing in your way (1 Samuel 17:45-46).
You are brave. You are strong. He has given you just enough courage for this moment in front of you.
You got this.
But you can't give up, okay?
Don't quit and don't give up. Keep going--keep on being brave--even when it's hard.
It'll all be worth it in the end.
Let Him be the brave inside of you today, dear brave you.
For the last four years of my life I have lived more days sick than I have well.
And I'm not going to lie to you. It's hurt. It's shaken me. It's been hard. I've cried many tears.
But I've also learned more than I ever thought I would. Through the last few years of my life, God has really specifically been pressing this truth into my heart that He has beautiful things to show me and you in the hard and broken places where we sometimes think He doesn't even go. But He does. And the beauty He has is more beautiful than anything we could dream up on our own.
Not easy, that's for sure. Nothing about living with chronic pain and sickness has been easy. But maybe the beauty I'm looking for? Maybe just some of that can be found in what God has taught me over the last few years, specifically from my chronic sickness.
Maybe it'll bring some light to your story too, whether you live with chronic pain or not.
1. God uses my weakness for His glory.
For so long, I used to think that I had to have it all together for God to use me. I thought I had to know what I was doing and I especially thought that I had to achieve some unrealistic idea of intelligence before He was going to use my life.
There is nothing Biblical about that.
Because here's the thing: I'm never going to be perfect. I'm never going to measure up all the time. You're never going to do any of those things either.
But praise God we don't have to.
So many days when I have been sick, I have been unable to do some things to the "perfect" level I wish they could be. So many times the pain has caused brain fog that prevents me from speaking as clearly as I'd like and I wonder if anything I share or write has any real impact or meaning, or even if it makes sense. And in those moments, I have felt as if God couldn't use me.
But honestly that's exactly where He wants to use me.
Because it's in my greatest weakness that He wants to show His great strength. He's using my weakness for His glory. And He's doing that for you too.
"And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
2. There is joy to be found even here.
Honestly, it's not always easy to find joy when you're living in physical pain. If you live with chronic pain and sickness you know this to be true.
It can be easy to get grumpy or irritated. It can be easy to just let the sickness take over.
But something God has been showing me over these last few years is that it's okay to have "meltdown" days where you cry out to Him and ask why. But it's not okay to unpack and live there.
He has more for you in store than staying stuck in that place. It's not going to be easy. But He does have a joy for you that you can grab hold of and embrace, even when it's hard and painful. Joy isn't meant to be easy. But it's worth it.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4)
3. God can use my story to help someone else.
When I first started fighting chronic pain and sickness, I didn't really talk about it, let alone write about it. That felt too...vulnerable. To talk and write openly about something that was so hard and made me feel so weak. I honestly didn't want to talk about it. I mostly just wanted to ignore it.
But through the years I've learned that when we walk through some dark valley, God can use that story to impact and help someone else through their valley.
No man is an island. We aren't meant to do life alone. We aren't meant to hide our weakness and suffering from each other, because sometimes sharing our own pain can be the very thing to help someone else through theirs.
God can use your story in a way you might not even realize. He can use your story to help someone else through theirs. So share it...share your story, reach out to others, be a friend to someone in need.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
If you live with chronic pain or sickness, my prayer is that God would give you the strength to endure this season and still bring glory to Him. Keep being brave. <3
I have always loved working with and spending time with kids.
There's something so special about a child's innocence and perspective on life and faith. If you spend enough time with kids, it's going to change you.
So today I wanted to modify a speech I gave a few weeks ago and share with you here three things that kids have taught me. And maybe you too, will be encouraged by what kids can teach us about life.
First, kids taught me: Jesus is more important than my to-do list.
Now this was something I knew and believed, but I didn’t always live like I believed it. And sometimes it just takes a child to put things back into perspective for you.
So quick back story, when I was a teenager I participated in a competition called the National Bible Bee. And if you've been following my blog or writing for any length of time, you've heard this a time or two.
I did the Bible Bee for five years, but then when I was too old to compete anymore, I decided to become a host for the local division of the competition. This placed me in charge of mentoring, encouraging, and guiding all the young people signed up under me to participate. I was a host for three years and we always had a predominantly younger group of kids--usually in that 7-10 age category.
One of my favorite things to do was talk to these young kids at meetings we would have and go over their memory verses with them. During my second year of hosting, I remember that one of the younger kids really stood out to me because she was so young but she knew her memory verses really well. Her mom told me that she had decided to give up some other things like play time or games that she wanted to do, because she wanted to study her verses instead, since she knew that Jesus was more important.
Hearing that about a little girl was just so convicting to me because there are so many times as an adult that I get caught up in my schedule and my things and what I want to do and I can forget...
I forget that Jesus is so much more important than anything else happening in my life or anything on my to-do list each day.
Let's live more like that little girl, shall we? Letting go of anything that keeps us from wholehearted devotion to God and running after Him with everything we've got--no matter what sacrifice it takes.
Secondly, kids taught me: Sing loud.
When I was a teenager I helped out a lot with the music portion of the Vacation Bible Schools our church had each summer. That meant I would get up on stage, teach the songs to the kids, and just in general act crazy to make kids laugh.
I always loved watching the kids from up on the stage though because they would get so excited for each song, and even if they were doing the motions completely wrong, they would give it everything they had. And oh, did it get loud in that room as all of the kids sang as loud as they possibly could.
Now there were some years that I wasn’t up on stage helping. Those years I would sit in the back with the other teenagers and I was a lot more hesitant to do those silly motions and sing crazy loud. After all, what would people think of me?
The kids were just excited to be singing songs about Jesus, they didn’t care what people thought of them.
But me? Sometimes I can care too much what people think. And sometimes instead of doing what I know God wants me to do, I can tend to hide from it in fear of what people are going to think.
This idea that I learned from kids of “singing loud” doesn’t necessarily mean to literally sing loud. Trust me, I'm not going to literally sing loud in front of you. But it does mean to consider what God wants me to do and do it enthusiastically, without fear of what people might think.
And now finally, kids taught me: Sometimes it’s a good idea to dance in the mud.
If you watch kids long enough, you’re bound to see that kids like messy things.
That's just all there is to it. Slime? Kids could play with it for hours. Mud? Kids love to jump in those puddles.
It's definitely not my thing at all. I prefer to stay nice and clean without getting in all that muddy mess, thank you very much.
But kids love it. They get on those rain boots and they go stomping in the mud puddles and they love it. And they’ve got this joy--this exuberant joy--over even the messy, little parts of life.
And that’s a challenge to me.
Because there are a lot of muddy, messy pieces of life that I don’t handle with joy. Like when I have a disappointment, or an interruption that makes everything suddenly feel really messy. Or those times when life feels like there’s a lot of rain pouring down emotionally and I feel stuck in the icky places.
And it’s in those moments that I would rather complain and sulk in my problems instead of going out and dancing in the metaphorical mud puddles that could get me a little messy. But in that mess? There is joy to be found even there in God’s strength, and sometimes we don’t always see it until we start dancing in the mess and jumping in the puddles.
So friend, become more like a child today. And go dance in the rain.
About a year and a half ago, I wrote an article with my "ABC's of Advice." I thought it would be interesting to recreate the article with my thoughts now (without first looking back on my old post). Sound good?
A: Always put God first above all else. Nothing compares to Him.
B: Be kind, even when you don't feel like it.
C: Carry your burdens to the cross.
D: Don't forget who you are in Christ--loved, chosen, forgiven, HIS.
E: Even when I don't understand, God has a perfect plan.
F: Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the prison of bitterness. So forgive freely.
G: Grace is enough.
H: Hope always, even when it seems dark.
I: Inspire others with your faith.
J: Joy is a choice. Choose it every day.
K: Kids are a gift. Give them your attention.
L: Love others without condition.
M: Maybe your biggest interruption could really be your biggest God-appointment.
N: Never give up. Sometimes you have to miss the mark a thousand times before hitting the target.
O: Overthinking isn't going to help. Trust me.
P: Pray about everything. God is the best Friend you'll ever have.
Q: Questions are good. Don't be afraid to ask them.
R: Remember to look for the stars, the little blessings God sends into your darkness. Because sometimes there are beautiful things you can only see in the dark.
S: Serve more than you expect to be served.
T: Thank God every day. For everything.
U: Understanding things from someone else's perspective will often help your own perspective.
V: Victory is already yours through Christ.
W: Worry will wreck you. Put it in His hands and let it go.
X: eXamine your heart and figure out why you do what you do.
Y: Your youth will not last forever. Use it to glorify God.
Z: (be) Zealous for God above anything else in your life.
If you want to check out the first edition of this post that I wrote in 2017, read it here:
This week I turn 22.
It's crazy to me how fast time goes, especially as the years go by.
As I've been reflecting on what God has taught me and how He has worked in my life over the last year, I contemplated things that He has been teaching me over the 22 years of my life.
Today I wanted to share those things with you...
1. Nothing else comes close to Jesus. If I don't have Him, I have nothing. All the accomplishments, relationships, money, dreams that this world has to offer will never come close to the surpassing worth and greatness of knowing Him as my Savior.
2. Life doesn't always turn out how I think it will, and that's okay. Different doesn't mean any less beautiful. But when God takes a hold of the different, He just makes it a different kind of beautiful.
3. Life doesn't slow down, so stop waiting. It's easy to think that "when life slows down" or "when I stop being so busy" then I'll finally make time for all the things I want to do and all the people I want to love. Life doesn't slow down. Stop waiting.
4. Donuts are always a good idea. Do I need to further this point?
5. Find joy in the mundane. Not every day is a roller coaster adventure. But every day has something amazing in it.
6. It's okay to not always be okay. Life hurts and the wounds don't always heal overnight. It's okay to not be okay right now, but don't stay there forever.
7. Your heart will heal someday. Especially when we're young it can be easy to wonder if the pain we face in this crazy, sin destroyed world will ever go away. I have learned that you can't heal on your own, but there is a great Healer who will heal your hurts and make you whole. Nothing heals wounds like God does.
8. You're never too old to dance. And if you dance in the produce aisle at the grocery store singing the VeggieTales theme song, you are my hero.
9. Everything in life is an opportunity to glorify Him. When you walk down the hallway at school, you can glorify Him in your interactions with your friends. When you write that book because He's gifted you with the talent of writing, you can glorify Him through the words. Life is meant to be lived for Him and His glory--every part of it.
10. Organize your room. You'll feel better afterwards.
11. Anxiety is big, but your God is bigger. Any battle you face--anxiety, depression, grief--all of those hard things that life throws at you feels like giants in your path. But your God specializes in knocking down giants.
12. It really doesn't matter what people think of you. And if we're honest, they were probably more worried about what they said than what you said.
13. Smile at strangers. Everyone deserves to see God's love. Start with a smile.
14. A relationship will not make me complete. Only God can complete me. A boyfriend could never do that. And it really is okay if I don't have a boyfriend right now. Life is not all about romance.
15. Gratitude will effect your attitude. Not every situation in life is going to make me feel grateful. And certainly not everything in life will bring a smile to my face. But if I can count my blessings even through the tears, I have grown.
16. Be present more. Yeah, Snapchat streaks are fun. And yep, Instagram has a bunch of new stories to watch. But there are people right in front of you at this moment. There is a sunset waiting to be watched. There are people needing to be loved. Step out of your screen and be present.
17. Read your Bible every day. Relationships take work and time. The only way to develop a relationship with God and know Him is to spend time with Him. And it's greater than any other relationship on your agenda right now.
18. Following God's will for you will most likely terrify you. Follow Him anyway. He's not wrong.
19. It's okay to feel weak sometimes. God's not finished with you yet. And in your weakness, He is strong. He wants to use you as you are now, but I promise you He's not leaving you that way.
20. Don't take good health for granted. There will come days where you won't always have the energy and health you have now. Cherish the good days.
21. Never stop learning. You can always grow and learn. Pay attention to the people God places around you--kids, peers, older adults, everyone.
22. Jesus is worth it all. That sums it all up.
Here's to walking closer to Jesus in my 22nd year. <3
Last year I wrote an article titled "21 Things I've Learned in 21 Years."
I had fun comparing them after I wrote this year's article. If you want to have a look too, go here:
If you are a follower of Jesus, there is a high chance that at some point you have believed a lie about what following Jesus actually looks like.
I have debated for hours on how to open this post and I finally decided that would be a good place to start.
You see, there's quite a few myths going around about what following Jesus looks like, and they're all just that--myths. You hear them in schools, in friendly conversations, in families, and...even in church.
As Christians we can sometimes swing from one myth to the next or land somewhere in between, while still believing the lie they've planted in our hearts. Don't believe me?
Well, that's why I wrote this article. To show you four common myths that Christians believe about following Jesus and why they aren't true.
Myth #1: Following Jesus means a happy life free of pain or suffering.
This is more commonly thought of as the prosperity gospel. And oh, is it ever wrong.
Jesus never promised a life with no pain or suffering. In fact, all He promised was that if we followed Him we surely would face suffering and even persecution for Him.
Yes, God is a good Father who loves to give good gifts to His children, and I certainly have received countless blessings from Him. But that doesn't mean I never suffer or I'm free of pain.
But when I follow Jesus, I know and believe that I have a faithful Friend to walk through the pain and suffering with me. He doesn't promise no pain. But He does promise I'm never alone.
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you." (Isaiah 43:2)
Myth #2: Following Jesus isn't really a sacrifice.
The first myth can often lead into this one. And this one can get pretty tricky very quickly.
Here's the truth: If you are following Jesus wholeheartedly, it is going to cost you something.
It's not enough to say we follow Jesus and then live our lives however we feel like living them, without sacrificing anything for Him.
He gave up everything for us. Why can't we give up everything for Him?
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25)
Myth #3: Following Jesus is done only on Sundays.
Jesus didn't just die for your sins part-time. So don't live for Him part-time.
Following Jesus is not like a job where you "clock in" at church every Sunday and Wednesday and then when you leave you're done following Him for the week. Nope, not how that works.
Following Jesus is hard and messy sometimes and it's definitely a 24/7 deal. If we are to develop a relationship with Jesus and know Him, it can't just be for a couple hours a week. Relationships take work and time.
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." (John 10:27)
Myth #4: Following Jesus is about a list of rules that I have to follow perfectly.
Oh, did I believe this one for a while. And sometimes it's the easiest one to start believing.
This lie can convince us that we have to do more and be more and try harder to earn God's love. It can deceive us into believing that if we do not follow all of the rules we think we should, then we have failed at following Jesus.
Here's the truth: I sin every day. Every day I mess up and I fall and I get messy. And every day in His mercy, God picks me back up, dusts me off, and reminds me to keep following Him.
God cares more about you than He does your performance. Following Jesus is more about a relationship than it is a list of perfect rules to follow.
"For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart--these, O God, You will not despise." (Psalm 51:16-17)
Following Jesus isn't easy or pain-free, it takes a lot of sacrifice, it's 24/7 commitment, and it's more about a relationship with a perfect God than following rules to be the perfect Christian. Following Jesus will always look differently than we first think, but one thing I do know: It's the greatest adventure of life.