I had a book review to post today and I quickly finished reading the book this morning so I could post the review this afternoon.
Before I wrote the review, I ran out to the mailbox to get the mail because receiving mail is one of my favorite things. When I opened our mailbox (like a ninja, mind you, to avoid coming in contact with the spider on top), I saw a lovely decorated envelope addressed to me. There was no return address, so I hurried inside to open it.
When I read the contents of the sweet note, I felt so blessed. There was no name signed, but I was amazed that someone had taken the time to send such a sweet encouragement to me as a writer.
So instead of sharing my book review today, the author of my mystery note has inspired me to instead write a little post about random acts of kindness.
We live in the painful reality of a broken world, and sometimes true kindness is harder and harder to find. Yet we all know how wonderful it feels when we are the recipient of an act of kindness. So why don't we start showering the people around us with kindness today?
I have decided to compile a short list of ten random acts of kindness that are so simple you can complete one or two of them even today!
1. Do an extra chore for a family member. Is it your sibling's turn to wash the dishes or take out the trash? Do it for them! But try your best to get it done before they notice. If my mom has gone out to water her flowers, I will pay attention to that and hurry to go make her bed for her before she comes back inside.
2. Send a "Thinking of you!" text to a friend you haven't chatted with in a long time. I love receiving these from friends and I make it a point to send them as often as I'm able. It takes less than fifteen second just to type, "Thought of you today! Praying for you!" But it could make that person's day so much brighter.
3. Send a surprise note in the mail. It doesn't have to be long and you don't even have to go all out with decorating the envelope if you don't have time. But take a card or piece of paper and just write out a short encouragement. Maybe it's a Bible verse you write or a little prayer, but share something encouraging and then send it off on its way to encourage the recipient!
4. Pray for someone you know is going through a hard time. I think one of the most special blessings in life is having friends who go to God in prayer for you, even when you don't realize it. The person you're praying for doesn't even need to know you did, but God hears. Pray for His blessing on your person today.
5. Give a compliment to every cashier, waitress, or store worker that you come in contact with. Do you have to run to the grocery store quickly? Going to dinner? Need to buy shoes before Sunday? Working in retail now and having worked in restaurants in the past, I know how hard that kind of work can be. A simple, "Your smile lights up this place!" or "Hope you're having a great day so far!" or "Thank you for being so friendly," can really go a long way.
6. Slip a little note into your parent's or sibling's Bible. Stick it next to your favorite verse and just say something short and sweet like, "I love you!" or "You're the best."
7. Text a friend and set up a lunch date. Tell them you've thought of them today and ask if they're available to hang out soon to talk about Jesus and eat some yummy food! If your close friends don't live near you, set up a video chat lunch date. I've done this before and we've still had just as much fun sitting at home eating our lunches and chatting over FaceTime.
8. Bake something extra for your neighbors. Are you baking any treats today? Maybe making a special casserole or dish? Cupcakes (because cupcakes are always a good idea)? Make just a little bit extra than you normally would and package it up and run it over to your neighbors! I'm sure it'll be a pleasant surprise in their day.
9. See a need? Meet it. Don't wait to be asked. If you overhear someone mentioning a need they have--whatever it may be--and you're more than able to help out, do so! Jump in and get it done.
10. Smile. Your smile could light up your world, friend. Let it. Let the light of Jesus shine through your smile as you give it to everyone today--even the hard ones.
Let's light up this world with a little bit extra kindness today. And confetti. (Because confetti is super fun when it is thrown around virtually and you don't have to clean it up.)
Are you with me?
What sort of random acts of kindness do you like to do? What acts of kindness have you shown today?
Pain is something that each of us inevitably feels in our lives.
Maybe it's overwhelming grief from an unexpected loss, or rejection that stings, or maybe the pain from harsh and unkind words. Maybe it's the pain of a betrayal or a heartbreak that makes you wonder if it's possible to go on. Maybe it's even a chronic physical pain that wears you down every day.
Whatever the pain is, we have all felt it. We live in a fallen world where pain is a part of every day life.
But pain hurts. And even if we don't want to admit it, it can be easy to put up guards around our hearts to avoid pain at all costs. Instead of letting ourselves feel the pain, we mask it.
Sadness turns into bitterness. Pain turns into anger.
And when we do not allow ourselves to feel pain, we prevent ourselves from healing properly.
Here's the thing about anger: Anger convinces us that if we are just angry over what happened to us, then we don't have to feel the full blow of the pain. Angrily arguing with someone who hurt you or treating them badly in return, is oftentimes a whole lot easier than saying, "Hey, you really hurt me."
And the thing that anger doesn't tell you? It doesn't take away the pain, it just buries it inside a prison that prevents the true healing you desperately need.
I know it's hard. I know it's hard to fully feel that pain you're carrying in your heart and I know it's hard to embrace something that hurts so much.
But you never have to feel that pain on your own.
"The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit." (Psalm 34:18)
"You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book?" (Psalm 56:8)
If you are brave enough to feel that pain, you will find that He is holding you and bringing the healing that you truly need.
When life hurts, instead of becoming bitter or angry and running away from the pain, embrace it, so that He can embrace you right there in the midst of all of it.
"Believe in yourself!"
"You got this."
"You can do whatever you want to do."
These are sentences that the world throws our way on a consistent basis. They're on home decor, T-shirts, magazine covers, and all throughout the media.
Constant messages meant to encourage young people to believe in themselves, the power of their dreams, and the ability to do whatever they want in life.
And they seem harmless at first, right?
What's wrong with believing in yourself? Or believing that you've got what it takes to make your dreams come true? Well, nothing. From the surface.
But as I've looked around at my generation listening to these things, I've begun to see a pattern. A pattern of young people becoming prideful in their self-confidence and believing that they can do things their own way.
I'm definitely not exempt from this either. I've tried to do things on my own. I've tried to just "believe in myself."
And do you know what I've found?
When we try to believe that we've got things on our own and we can be confident in our own abilities to handle life, we will fail because we were never meant to do things on our own. We were not created to just believe in ourselves.
John 14:1 encourages us, "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me."
In this verse Jesus doesn't say, "You believe in God, believe also in yourself." Nope. He says to believe in Him.
In Philippians 4:13 it says: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." It doesn't end at "I can do all things." It says that we can only do all those things through Christ.
When I think back to John 14:1, the first part of it really gets me. Don't let your heart be troubled. At what point does my heart become troubled with anxiety? When I'm believing in myself to do everything.
I believe that self-confidence is a lie the world is feeding us. The lie that, "If you work hard enough, you can do whatever you want to do. Just believe in yourself." That sort of self-confidence is a lie.
And here's the true reality: On your own you can do nothing. But with God on your side, anything is possible.
So what have I learned about true confidence in this world that has told me to just believe in myself? I have learned that God-confidence is what I need most of all, not self-confidence. And that true confidence comes from my belief in God's ability to work everything out for good.
I don't have this on my own, but I know the One who's got me. I don't have the ability to make every single one of my dreams come true, but I know the One who holds my future and has good plans for me, whatever they may include.
I believe in the God who loves me endlessly, and that gives me the courage to believe in who He has created me to be for His glory.
Where is your confidence today?
I never thought it could happen to me.
I knew people who were sick. I knew people who had chronic illnesses with names that were sometimes hard to even pronounce. I knew people who struggled to be healthy.
But me? I never thought that could be me.
I never thought that at twenty-one years old I would struggle with having the energy to walk outside. I never thought that at twenty-one I would keep a calendar simply to check off the days when I felt good...the days that were few and far between. I never thought that at twenty-one my purse would sound like I carried around a pharmacy because of the medicines I had to make sure I kept with me always.
I never thought that at twenty-one I would spend more days sick than healthy.
I remember one of the first times it felt so unfair. I remember how it felt when my family asked me if I wanted to go with them on a walk down the street. And oh, how I wanted to go.
But my body just couldn't. I just didn't have the strength in my body to walk out the door or handle the ache in my legs when I walked.
I remember opening a text my sister sent me saying that she wished I had come along. And I wished I could've come along too. I remember the way I cried. I remember the way I asked God that day: "Why me? I'm so young. Why can't I live my life?"
I'm not sure if I'll ever know why, but I really don't think that's the point anyway. I don't need to be concerned with why because the how is so much more important.
How am I going to use this sickness for His glory? How am I going to live my one life for Him regardless of my physical circumstances?
Isn't that the point after all? To not become so consumed with why we must suffer a certain trial or why He chose us for this path, but instead how we can glorify Him through it?
I'm certainly not an expert at this and I certainly have my days where all I want to do is curl up with a blanket and hide from the world and the pain, but I've learned some things along this journey of chronic pain and sickness. Oh, yes, how I've learned things.
First, I have learned that His grace is sufficient for all of my needs.
The Lord is my Shepherd. I have no need for anything. He meets every one. In the pain, He is my Healer. In the weakness, He is my strength. In the discouragement, He is the Lifter of my head. I don't have to do everything on my own because I can't. But with my God I can scale any wall or sickness I ever face. (Psalm 18:29, Psalm 23:1, 2 Corinthians 12:9)
But I have also learned that it is okay to rest.
When I look at the story of Mary and Martha in the later part of Luke chapter 10, I can certainly identify with Martha. I seemed to always be doing for Jesus, that I didn't take as much time to be with Jesus. I didn't slow down. I didn't rest at the feet of Jesus as Mary did.
And then I got sick. Being sick makes you rest a whole lot more than you would sometimes like. I felt ashamed. I felt like a failure. I felt like there was so much I could be doing and I wasn't able to do it. And that's when I knew: Being with Jesus is just as important as working for Jesus. It is one hundred percent okay to rest.
Finally, chronic illness taught me that life is precious and I should cherish every moment.
Every moment may not be easy to embrace, but every moment can be faced with courage, because the God I serve? The God I serve is good. He is good to me and He is good always. Maybe some days it's harder to feel the goodness, but I will never stop believing it.
All of those moments--the hard and the good--go so fast and life passes by before I know it. This past February, my life consisted of coming home from work and then laying down in a dark room in so much pain that I couldn't get up. So many times I would say to myself, "I don't want to cherish these moments. I just want these moments of pain to go by really fast."
I felt like I was wishing my life away. So I tried doing something new. I would search for the good moments in even the pain. Like the moments when a family member would bring me home a favorite snack to help me feel better. Or when I would feel the embrace of God in those moments when I couldn't lift my head on my own.
With all of this said, yes, I never thought this would be my story. And no, I don't know why.
Maybe you feel the same.
Maybe you don't know why either and maybe you don't understand why this is your story. I stand with you in this, friend. I want to look into your eyes and tell you to keep going. To never give up. To keep fighting this battle bravely every day. And as I cup your face in my hands and look into your eyes I want you to forget the question of why and I just want to know...
How are you going to glorify Him through it?
Have you ever been so busy that your head feels like it's spinning?
We live in a world that is constantly on the go. We're constantly moving from one activity to the next, turning in one deadline only to struggle towards another, and scrolling through endless social media feeds. We have constant information thrown our way and people need things from us daily.
How do you juggle the endless demands of life without burning out? How do you handle all of life's responsibilities without feeling exhausted and empty?
I certainly don't have this skill mastered and I can be known for stretching myself too thin. But this past year as I have battled many health issues, I have learned a few things about rest that I'm not sure I would've learned if God hadn't slowed me down physically.
So here are four ways that you can rest when you feel that emptiness of burn-out creeping in...
1. Make sure you're putting Jesus first. I know it can be so hard when you have a hundred things pulling at you as soon as you wake up. But if you don't fill yourself up with Jesus first before meeting all those demands, then you are going to burn out. Spend time having a conversation with Him. Give Him your to-do list. Ask Him what He has for you this day. Become refreshed in His Word. When you're full of Him, then you're better able to pour out to others throughout the day.
2. Learn to wait for best. I hate saying no to people. That's just how I am. I tend to say yes to every person who asks or every opportunity presented to me and then suddenly my to-do list is so full that when God's best for me comes along, I have no space to fit it into my schedule. I know it's hard to say no. I know it's hard to feel like you're disappointing someone. But learn how to graciously decline an invitation or opportunity while still thanking the person asking, but letting them know you just can't fit it into your schedule this time. Pray about all of your decisions before making them, and when you allow space in your schedule for God, He will bring you the best He has for your schedule.
3. Stop scrolling through Instagram. We can get so caught up on all of the many social media apps on our phones that we lose track of time and before long, two, three, even four hours have passed and we're nowhere near done the to-do list we had for the day. Pay attention to how much time you're spending scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. There are so many people to love, don't get caught up in just studying their lives from afar. If you want to connect with someone, send them a text or a private message or an email and genuinely ask them how they're doing. Connect with them personally and get off of your social feeds.
4. Set aside one day a week where you just REST. I don't care what you do on this day or what day of the week this is for you, but take one day and rest. Don't worry about a to-do list. Don't worry about meeting a bunch of deadlines. Hang out in the sun with your family all day if you want to. Cook a nice meal for your family. Maybe call a friend you haven't heard from in awhile. Write a card to a long-distance pal. Whatever you do, just spend time enjoying the life God has given you and rest.
Be careful not to fill up your schedule so high that you don't have time to invest in your relationship with God, your family, and the friendships He has given you. These relationships are going to be what matters in five years, not whether or not you met another deadline for the week.
Keep pressing on, friends.
What are some ways that you rest when feeling burned out? What are some fun activities you like to do with family or friends on your rest days?
Since it is officially my favorite season of the whole year, I am taking advantage of wearing flip flops and t-shirts everywhere I go, drinking too much lemonade, and getting just a little sun burnt.
I have never liked being cold, so putting me out in the summer heat makes me just about as happy as can be. As you can imagine, I try to make the most of every summer day God gives me. I enjoy every moment and try to make every summer a summer worth remembering.
I don't know how you feel about eighty degree temperatures and flip flops, but whether or not you enjoy summer, I have compiled a simple list to help you enjoy summer just a little bit more. ;) I compiled this list with just a few of my own ideas on how to make this summer your best and most memorable yet. Ready? Grab your lemonade and let's start having fun...
1. Memorize Scripture. Maybe I'm biased because I've spent my summers doing Bible Bee since I was fourteen years old. But either way, memorizing Scripture is something we should be doing year-round. What better time to start than in the summer when the days are longer and less full? Maybe purpose this year to memorize a verse a day all summer long, or maybe a passage a week. Or maybe next year even join the Bible Bee and dedicate your entire summer to the Word of God. ;)
2. Have a Bible study at your house. Invite family and friends over to spend some time studying God's Word together. Summer nights are the perfect time to put out some chairs and sit under the sunset and discuss the Bible. Maybe you could make it a weekly thing, or maybe it's more attainable to just do it once or twice in your summer. S'mores are always a bonus for this event.
3. Visit a new park. I don't know about you, but I don't care how old I get, I am going to love swings. I love visiting new and old parks throughout the summer time. Be a kid again and play around!
4. Go swimming this summer! I love swimming, even though I haven't actually been swimming in forever. Go to a water park or an outdoor pool. If a friend has a pool, see if you can visit them. If you have a pool, invite friends over for a pool party with pizza!
5. Have an adventure at midnight. At least once during your summer, you must go for a late-night adventure. (For minors: with your parent's approval, of course.) Maybe you simply go out to a fast food place that is still open, or you go get donuts at Walmart. Or maybe you just take a drive and listen to music with the windows down. An adventure doesn't have to be grand and extravagant. Adventures are made up of meaningful moments with people you love.
6. Try a new summer drink. I will always stick to my lemonade, because that's just how I am. I did try Chick-fil-A's new white peach tea lemonade, but I'm not a huge peach person so it wasn't my thing. Starbucks usually has new summer drink flavors, so go somewhere and try something new and refreshing. (Milkshakes are always a good idea too. That totally counts.)
7. Run barefoot through grass. Okay, this is one of my favorite things to do. I love going barefoot in the grass on a summer night. Always be careful where you're stepping, but I just love this feeling. Embrace your inner child!
8. Plan a picnic with your family. Go all out. Get a picnic basket and blanket, all the picnic foods (I adore macaroni salad, so yes, please), and go to a lake or nice park to eat together! You could even bring your Bible and discuss some passages together as you eat. And don't forget the camera to take lots of pictures. This is what memories are made of.
9. Stay off social media for 24 hours. No posting, tweeting, or sharing any pics or videos from your day. No scrolling news feeds or reading posts. Just get off social media and embrace your day. Have fun. The best kind of summer day is when your phone is still at 70 percent battery life by the end of the day because you were barely on it. :)
10. Try creating a one-second video of your month. Okay, my sister got me into this because her friend got her into it. At first I was a little bit hesitant because it didn't sound that fun. But after I started trying it for July, I love it! Start on the first of the month and every day take a very short, one-second long video. I didn't know how much could fit into one-second, but they are actually longer than you would think they would be. At the end of the month, piece together all of the one-second videos and you have a 30 or 31 second video of your entire month! It's so much fun and I can't wait to see what my July video looks like at the end of the month.
11. Read 5 new books. Summer is the perfect time to do what I love and read! Try splitting up your book genres and reading new material. Maybe read one fiction book, one classic, one devotional, one Christian living book, and one Bible commentary. Enjoy learning and growing as you widen your range of reading.
12. Sing aloud in the car. I love driving with the windows down in the summer, singing aloud to my favorite songs with my family. Wherever you may be driving, play your favorite music and sing with all of your heart!
13. Have a water balloon fight. Or you can use empty bottles that you fill up with water. Kenzie and I try to do this on the hottest days of summer. We will laugh so hard our sides hurt as we run around the house spraying each other with water. Activities that involve water are always a good idea in the summer.
14. Try something new. Maybe it's an activity you've never tried, a sport you've never played, a food you've never had, or a place you've never visited. Try new things this summer and keep a list, so you can look back at the end of the summer at all the fun, new things you tried!
15. Give back. Volunteer in some way this summer. Maybe you can volunteer to help at your church's VBS or in the nursery on Sundays. Maybe you can visit a local soup kitchen and help serve food one week. Maybe you could collect a bunch of canned food over the summer to take to the soup kitchen! Come up with your own unique ideas and give back to God this summer by loving and serving the least of these.
16. Cherish every moment. Time goes fast. Summer comes and goes before I can even catch my breath. Enjoy and cherish every moment. Say yes to new adventures. Dig deep into your Bible and invest in your relationship with God, family, and friends. Don't let this summer pass you by without making memories to last a lifetime. <3
Happy summer, friends!
What are some of your summer plans this year? What is your favorite part about summer? Let me know in the comments below!
This past weekend I saw one of my favorite bands in concert.
The lights and music were all so exciting and everyone cheered with happiness. As the band played a new song, "Joy," I was struck by the lyrics that said: "The time has come to make a choice, and I choose joy."
I listened to the music and I shouted along with every lyric that I knew. And in that moment it was so easy to choose joy because I felt like being joyful. It was easy as I danced and sang about joy to make that my choice because it felt good. But when I went home? I knew it wasn't going to be that easy.
I knew it wouldn't be easy to choose joy when I went back to work and had to deal with a difficult customer. I knew it wouldn't be easy to choose joy when I woke up in a bad mood or had a disagreement with a family member. I knew it wouldn't be easy to choose joy when I didn't feel good, when I had a disappointing change of plans, when friends hurt me, or when I was stressed out.
And that's what makes this choice for joy so difficult, friend.
Because joy is a choice based not feelings but on a decision. A decision to keep an eternal perspective in the midst of not-so-great temporary circumstances.
Did you catch that? Joy is not something that we always feel, because it's a decision we make. The decision to believe that God is good, that God loves me, and that God wants what is best for me, no matter what is going on in my life at the moment. The decision to draw my happiness from the cross and the gift God has given me there.
And yet I know it is still a difficult choice to make. So here are just a few things that I believe will help make it easier...
1. Stay in God's Word. The more time you spend in the Word of God, the more mature you will become in Christ and the easier it'll be to draw your joy from His strength. You can't expect to rejoice in God or find your strength to be joyful in Him without spending time with Him. Wake up thirty minutes earlier if you have to. Go to sleep thirty minutes later. Stay off your phone or social media or TV for thirty extra minutes. But make time for Jesus first.
2. Surround yourself with a community of believers who love Jesus. Have you ever met someone who felt like sunshine? Someone who was enthusiastic about Jesus and encouraged you whenever you were around that person? Surround yourself with these people. That's not to say your friends won't ever be sad or go through hard times and you need to be there for them when they're feeling down. But these are people whose focus is on Christ and you work towards encouraging each other in your faith.
3. Take a social media break. Relationships are super important to me and so whenever I take a social break, I still keep in touch with friends through the phone, text, or email. But the social media break I'm talking about is staying off of your Facebook and Instagram news feeds. Stop scrolling, stop comparing, and just take a step away. Maybe you only step away for a day, maybe two days, maybe a whole month. But figure out how much time you need to step back and regain your joy in the Lord and then take your break.
4. Count your blessings. I know it sounds so cliche to say, but it holds so much truth. There are so many little blessings around us daily. Like the way the sun shines in your open window or you opened your fridge to see that your mom had bought your favorite snack. God sends us so many blessings. Keep your eyes open to notice them, journal about them, tell friends. Be mindful of them.
5. Listen to worship music. I have a super wide range of music taste and I love so many different kinds. But when I'm having an especially rough day and joy is a hard choice to make, I enjoy listening to upbeat worship music that puts a smile on my face and a dance in my step. Songs that praise God and His faithfulness are especially good. Hillsong Young & Free have lots of fun worship songs or you could always listen to For King and Country's "Joy." ;)
I want you to know that I'm not ignoring the pain in the world or the pain in your heart. I recognize suffering. And I believe there is a time to mourn and grieve (Ecclesiastes 3:4; Matthew 5:4; Psalm 34:18). One of the things I dislike the most is when Christians cover up pain and suffering or make it like it is not a very real thing.
Choosing joy doesn't mean that you give everyone a fake smile and cover up all the hard stuff with Christian sayings. Choosing joy sometimes looks like allowing yourself to feel all the hurt and the grief your heart is holding, and still choosing to believe that God has a perfect plan even though you cannot see it. Choosing joy sometimes looks like praising God for who He is because He never changes, despite the heartbreaking changes of your circumstances. Choosing joy may look like tears running down your face and crying out to God for answers, but telling Him that you trust Him no matter what He says.
I can't promise it'll be easy, but I invite you to join me in this dance of choosing joy through the pain.
The joy of the Lord will be your strength.
What are some things you have learned recently that help you choose joy in the midst of painful circumstances? What does joy look like to you? Do you have any favorite songs you listen to that encourage you to choose joy or worship God no matter what?