I've heard it said many times before that, "Everyone dies, but not everyone lives."
Which begs the question of, "Are you living?"
Obviously I'm not talking about physically, but are you truly living your life? Or are you just doing enough to get by and hopefully get through the next big event, the next holiday, the next day?
It seems kind of surreal to me that here we are at the end of 2016. The last few hours before a brand new year dawns upon us.
2016 has been a crazy, amazing, totally-different-than-I-had-planned, kind of year. Looking back on this year I realize that just because things or plans don't turn out how you had dreamed them to, doesn't mean they are any less beautiful. Every moment we are given is a miracle, and every moment has the possibility of being amazing.
However, the choice of making those moments amazing is totally up to you.
And as we stand on the verge of the new year, 2017, I want to leave you with this one thought...
You are human and someday you will die. One day your life will end. Life is short, it goes too quickly. We don't know when our final moment will be. You could die tomorrow, you don't know. The length of your days is not in your hands.
So thinking about that, how are you going to live today?
Are you going to decide to actually truly, fully live? Are you going to make every moment of 2017 amazing?
I'm not talking about making the big, happy, moments of 2017 amazing, although you should certainly do that too. I'm not talking about the amazing moments like a graduation, a new job, a special holiday, an event you've been anticipating.
No, when I dare you to make your 2017 moments amazing, I'm mostly talking about those days in between all the big events. The day after New Year's. The day after that event you've been anticipating. Day seven of your new job. The day when nothing is going on and you're lost inside the mundane.
I dare you to make those moments special too.
While those big moments we anticipate or look forward to are a part of our lives, the moments that make up the majority of our lives are every day in between. Every minute, every second in between.
And if tomorrow was your last day to live, I think you would consider these moments today to be pretty amazing.
Today I dare you to start living fully alive.
Embrace today. Embrace the uncertainty. Embrace even the painful moments, because someday looking back you will see the beauty God had in mind, even in those moments. Embrace every day that God gives you because it is truly a miracle.
And standing on the edge of this new year, I ask you to give God 2017. Let 2017 be the year you fall more in love with God than you've ever been before. Let 2017 be the year that you allow God's plans to direct your path and you trust Him every step of the way.
Let 2017 be the year you stop walking through every day just to "get by," and move onto the next day.
Let 2017 be the year you realize the shortness of life...and you live it well.
I dare you.
Happy New Year!
Have you ever dreaded something so much you can just feel the dread in the pit of your stomach and the anxiety in your chest?
Have you ever gone through something that was so difficult it felt like a flaming fire all around you threatening to consume you? Something that was so strong and you felt so weak, and it felt like a tidal wave going to take you down?
Have you ever lost something you loved or stared at the ashes of a broken dream, wondering how you could trust God with what comes next when you don't understand why He took away what He did?
Well, I have.
I know what each of those things feels like because I have lived each of them in one way or another. And although I don't know you or what you're going through right now, I do know this.
You've felt this way too.
How do I know?
Because you're human and life is hard. Things don't go our way. Things fall apart. And sometimes it's hard to trust God when He does things differently than you thought He would. Sometimes it's hard to trust Him when you cry out for Him to save you from the fire of a trial you don't think you can bear, only for Him to ask you to walk through it anyway.
I felt this way when God took away a dream I had this year and I wondered how I could trust Him when I did not understand His plan.
And God placed this passage in my life over and over until the truth of it hit me one day.
"But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. 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."
That's when I understood. These verses became real to me and I finally got them. And I want you to get them too, which I why I've written this post.
Although this verse was written for the nation of Israel, I know it was meant for me and you too. Just replace "Jacob" and "Israel" with your name and it becomes that much more personal.
Thus says the Lord who created you, Bella...fear not for I have redeemed you...you are Mine.
Just as it was true for them, it's true for me. Just as it's true for me, it's true for you too.
The last verse of this passage encourages me the most.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned.
And honestly, walking through a fire or walking through deep waters is exactly what our lives can feel like at times. When God took away my dream it felt like the heat of this trial was too strong for me to bear.
Maybe you're feeling the same right now.
Like the situation you are facing this very moment is too strong for you to bear. It feels like the flames of this trial are too hot for you to stand against and they may just engulf you. Like the waters are too deep for you to keep your head above them any longer.
But the promise was never that we would not go through the deep waters.
It wasn't that we would never walk through the fire.
No, the promise was that when we did go through the deep waters, they would not drown us. They would not flow over our heads. The promise was that when we did go through the fire, it would not destroy us.
Thinking about that brings to mind this passage from Job 23:10--
"But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold."
As gold must be refined by heat, the trials and tests that feel like giant fires around us, will refine us if we let them. If we let the heat of these trials cause us to turn to Him, instead of away from Him, we will become closer to Him and who He has created us to be. Then when the testing is done, we shall come forth as gold.
The first part of that verse is also a special reminder.
He knows the way that I take. He knows the way that you take.
He knows where you are right now, He knows what your heart is feeling, He knows your pain. And He knows because He is with you through it, right by your side.
I'm not saying it's going to be easy.
I'm not saying the pain won't be deep.
But I am saying that when you go through the fire, hold onto His promises. Believe in who He says He is, even if you don't feel Him all the time. Just because you don't feel Him doesn't mean He isn't there. Feelings lie. But the truth is always the truth.
And the truth is that when you go through the fire, He walks with you, keeping you safe every step of the journey. ♥
Ten years ago I got the crazy idea that I wanted to be a writer.
After completing a homeschool creative writing project when I was about nine years old, I discovered that penning stories made me feel something I hadn’t felt before. And from that point on I determined in my heart that I wanted to write for the rest of my life.
Every year that followed that moment, I dreamed of being an author. I dreamed of seeing my writing in print.
Then something different happened when I was sixteen. God asked me to do something I hadn’t really attempted before. He asked me to write a non-fiction book that was a call to my generation to use their lives for God, and pursue the dreams He has given them.
Put simply, God said to me, “If you could only ever write one more book, what would you want it to say?”
So I took a leap of faith and I attempted something that scared me, something that was hard, but something that would be an incredible journey closer to God.
I finished writing my first published book, I Dare You: Finding Your Passion and Lighting Your World, when I was seventeen. The purpose of my book was to inspire my generation to do something big for God with their lives and to pursue the passion He placed in their heart.
And this is how I saw inspiration…
Have you ever been to a candle lighting ceremony? Maybe your church, like mine, does a candle lighting around Christmas? I was sixteen when I attended a candle lighting at an outdoor music festival that I will never forget. It was huge, there were candles lit everywhere.
As I stared out at all of the candles, I decided that this must be what inspiring someone looks like.
I mean, the hill started out completely black with only one person holding a lit candle. That small flame they held in their hand probably didn’t look like it could do much amongst the huge crowd. Yet all the person holding the candle had to focus on was lighting the dark candle of the person next to them. As each person focused on doing that, the whole hill became transformed with a bright, vibrant light.
What if we viewed changing the world that way?
What if we viewed inspiring people that way?
For truly, you don’t have to do some great and mighty act to change the world. Maybe you will. But if you don’t, you can still change the world by focusing on the person next to you. Maybe you won’t inspire someone by standing on a stage somewhere and speaking into a microphone. But you can still inspire the person next to you by speaking encouragement into their life.
If you view your life like that one lit candle and you focus on reaching out and touching the lives of those around you every day, it will create a ripple effect that impacts history.
After writing my book, I Dare You, I learned about self-publishing and a great company called CreateSpace. My dreams of becoming a published author were almost coming true. All I had to do was decide which of the books I’d written I wanted to publish first.
I had many novels I’d written, stories that were a part of my heart. Yet, God tugged on me and pushed me towards publishing I Dare You first.
The thought terrified me.
This book was my heart and soul on paper. It was my testimony of what God has taught me and done in my life. There was no way I could publish this book first. What if it wasn’t good enough? What if no one liked it?
And God said, “What if this is your candle?”
That was the moment I knew this book was the candle God had given me to inspire the people around me.
Publishing that book wasn’t easy. In fact, it was one of the hardest things God ever asked me to do.
Yet publishing that book was truly my candle, which is why the cover has a candle on the front. I wanted a candle on the front cover because I wanted it to remind you that you too have a candle.
Your life is a candle and you can choose to light the dark places around you, or you can choose to keep your flame all to yourself.
It’s truly up to you.
How will you use your candle?
Will you inspire the people around you every day? Family, friends, co-workers, strangers? Will you make a difference, even in the small things?
The choice is yours.
But please, make your choice wisely.
Spread your light.
I dare you.