Saturday, November 21, 2015

Let's be Real

It all comes down to a choice.

     Every second of every day, you make a choice. You cannot escape making choices, and you will not always know what those choices will bring. Sin is a choice. So is redemption.
     I heard a story once about a woman who threw a pitcher on the ground and then spent all night putting it back together piece by piece. It was tedious and occasionally painful. When we are presented with the choice to give it all up for God, it is not an easy-ride ticket for the rest of life. It's going to hurt at times. It's going to be hard. It's going to be way too easy to invent a million excuses for why we can't or won't. But it is worth it.
     Some of the hardest nights we will ever endure are the ones where we begin to question why we've chosen this path. Every little insecurity becomes a whisper in your mind asking you is this really worth letting go? Can I make it? Am I enough? Is God enough?
When you look at your face in the mirror, just your face without any makeup or anything on it, what do you think about? What makes you decide to reach for foundation, blush, mascara; what fuels this need to cover, conceal, hide what we really look like? Why do we photoshop and retouch and still feel unhappy about our photos? And ultimately, what are we so afraid of?
     God did not create us to be afraid. "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV). We are haunted by our insecurities and fears of what other people will think and we are so absorbed that we forget how much greater God is than all of this. Our fears prevent us from being real and honest with people. How many times have you told someone "I'm good" even when you're a half-step away from breaking down? We lie because we are afraid of looking and feeling weak; because the thought of how other people might react to our honesty is frightening. But it shouldn't be. God created you with exactly the flaws and strengths He wanted you do have. Nothing you endure is without the guidance and presence of God. We are the children of God and we were made for more than this. 1 John reminds us that "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18, NIV).
     Like I said at the beginning; it all comes down to a choice. We can let ourselves drown in our insecurities, or we can choose to let God cast them away. We can surrender to our fears or we can choose to fight them with God's help.
     Put down the makeup brush. Stop with the retouch tools. For just one day, stop telling people you're fine and admit to them that you're struggling. Remember that God lets us go through troubles so we can grow, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in admitting that you are not perfect because neither is anybody else. When we lie to ourselves and others by concealing our hurts and our faults, all we do is isolate ourselves and make ourselves feel alone with our fears and failures. God gave us community to build on each other. So today, maybe for the first time in your life, try reaching out. Step outside of your insecurities and remember that God's love is enough to overcome your fears. When we are able to be real with the people around us, we start to bond through our struggles and our relationships with each other and with God are strengthened by it. It's a terrifying choice, and it's probably going to hurt a little or possibly a lot. But no matter how much it hurts, God will not let it kill you. Sometimes the hardest decisions to make are the best ones when we're able to take that leap.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Prayers and Comfort--Reaching out to Paris and Beyond

     What is prayer? I mean, we know the theory, that praying is talking to God and all of that. But really, that's a very vague description. If I say that I'm #prayingforParis , what does that mean?
Especially in times of disaster and trouble, prayer seems like a good way to do nothing and hope the conflict all blows over. But I think this is such a painful misunderstanding of what it means for us to join hands and pray.
     Not all of us can fly to Paris to track down terrorists. Not all of us can travel as relief workers to all the places impacted by hurricanes and wildfires and other tragedies. Not all of us can afford to donate to agencies trying to help refugees in Syria and Turkey. But that does not mean we are useless!
     When we are weak, He is strong. When we are helpless, He has a plan. Though prayer may seem a pathetically small offering in the face of such trials, remember that it is so much more than simply a wish for peace. God is listening to our prayers. When it feels like there's nothing we can do, we look to the One who can do something and we ask, we beg Him to touch our world with His healing. When we cannot comfort the grieving, we ask Him to hold them close.
     One of the big things on social media following the incident is to draw attention to other disasters that have not received nearly as much press as Paris has. I won't tell you who or what to pray for. If God breaks your heart for Paris, pray for Paris. If He's directing your focus to somewhere else, let Him be the one who guides you. Don't shame people for praying for Paris; if that is what God has convicted you to pray for, follow His leading. God gives us all different purposes so that we can reach out to the whole world.
     So pray. Pray for Paris. Pray for the world. Don't ever stop praying, or letting people know that you're praying. Prayer is not useless. Prayer is the best thing we could be doing right now. It is through this communication with God that He will prompt our hearts to whatever action we are capable of. But while the world sees our actions, the basis of them should always, always be prayer. Please, join me tonight wherever you are in praying for Paris, for Syria, for Lebanon and Mexico and any and every place God lays on your heart. Reach out to God. If you are in any of these places, know that God is still with you. God is still present even in the most hopeless and heartbreaking disasters. He is our protector, our comforter. And it is He to whom I lift my eyes in prayer tonight.
     May God bless you all and keep you safe.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

I'll Title It--wait, someone liked my status!

     I never used to be big on social media. I didn't even have a Facebook until about six months ago. I have since discovered that what they say is true: social media really does start to take over your life. I tried to document the amount of time I spend scrolling through my Facebook feed, checking notifications, and replying to messages. but I couldn't even keep track. And I think it's a problem. I'm sure you've all heard a lot about how "social media is bad for us, it's taking us away from real meaningful relationships, people aren't interested with the real world.", etc. All true, but what I started to find is that Facebook wasn't just eating up time; it was killing my motivation to do anything else.
     When I moved here to New York, Facebook became my primary means of keeping in touch with people back home. We'd chat via Facebook messenger, share funny pictures or videos with each other, comment on each others' posts. Scrolling through my feed helped me feel like I was connected with the people and the events going on at home, something I really needed as I made a very dramatic transition.
     Or at least, something I thought I needed.
What I've actually been finding (and I'm sure my roommates can corroborate this statement) is that I'm always talking about home, talking about my friends, about what's going on, everything from my family to the weather. In fact, I've spent so much time thinking about home that I started comparing everything here to the way things are at home. "It doesn't rain like this at home." "We don't have traffic like this at home." "Why won't it snow already; it's snowing in Colorado!"
     I do want to say briefly that this is pretty normal for a person who's just moved halfway across the country. You miss what you've left and you try to understand where you are now by comparing it to what you already know. This is normal. But the more I thought about home, the more I missed home; the more I missed it, the more I wanted to feel connected to it, and my Facebook and social media time skyrocketed. I spent more time trying to stay in touch with my friends from home than I did putting in a conscious effort to make new friends here.
     How much time do you spend on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or other social media networks? Do you notice the impact this time has on you? I know I started getting frustrated with Facebook the more time I spent on, but I just kept getting on, posting, sharing, pretending to talk to people. It distracted me from my loneliness, sure, but that isn't the point. God didn't call me to pack up and move so I could spend all my time ignoring the people He'd put around me, people who I know are desperately in need of Him.
     I think sometimes we substitute a sort of "social media revival" for actual, relational evangelism. We act like posting "I believe in Jesus", "God loves you", or following the classic "type amen and share" is enough. People see it on our wall, we're standing for our faith, and we're encouraging others. Full points for effort, right?
     Humans are naturally relational creatures. It is made so clear in Jesus' ministry that relationships were what mattered to him. He spent time with people. He dined with "tax collectors and sinners" (Matthew 9:11). He taught people and stayed in their homes and reached out to them. The early church saw this and they followed this example. We don't bring people the love and mercy of Christ by putting #jesuslovesyou as our Facebook status. I'm not saying these things are necessarily bad; I'm simply says that this is not the extend of the ministry to which God has called us.
     Social media is distracting us from the world that's actually physically around us. Do you want to know how many times I actually stopped to check Facebook or messenger while I was typing this post? (The answer: too many). We need to tear our focus away from these pointless distractions and realise that the real world has so much more to offer us. There are real people with real needs and real struggles living all around me; why did I feel like Facebook was my only connection to the world?
     I'm not going to tell you you should bail on Facebook and all social media entirely; I actually think it can be an incredibly useful tool for us to connect with people who may never hear the Word of God any other way. What I am going to challenge you to do is be aware of the amount of time you spend on social media, and the impact it's having on your life. Are you constantly frustrated as you scroll through pages of people posting their political opinions just to get people riled up? Maybe you need a break. Does the amount of time you spend online exceed the time spent in meaningful conversations with the people around you? Try talking to people. There's a lot more to a person than what they post online. Be careful as you allow the internet into your life, because it's scary and time consuming and often not worth the trouble we go through for it. *News Update: I've officially deleted both Facebook and messenger from my phone; it was taking up too much storage space and WAY too much time.*

     What are your thoughts on social media? Have you tried giving it up? What did you find? Always love to hear from you!


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Beautiful Rest

     I was up before my roommates today. I'm the sort of person who generally doesn't get out of bed until you drag me out or lure me out with food, but I woke up at about 7:15 and just didn't feel like sleeping anymore. I slipped out of the apartment and enjoyed a brief stroll through the rather brisk October air, taking my Bible and my prayer journal with me.
Our campus has these little secret spots; little pockets of forest tucked in among the lawns and landscaping. In particular, we have a big rocky outcropping that juts over the parking lot of my apartment building. It isn't hard to climb up to the top, so I did. I settled myself back into a hidden place in the rock.

     And I was still in the presence of the Lord.

     I think that sometimes I forget how perfect it feels just to breathe in and know that God is the very breath in my lungs. I forget what it's like to be still and know that He is God. I can't speak for any of you, but I know I often get hung up on the small things--I don't want to get up early, it's chilly outside, people will think I'm weird sitting on top of a big rock at 8am--and I forget how incredibly worth it this time is. I was able to sit, removed from the distractions of people and school and Facebook and just breathe. Feel the air fill my lungs. Over the sirens that seem to be constantly wailing in the distance, I heard birds and squirrels chattering. I hadn't expected to find any of this here, in New York, so far from the forests and mountains of my lovely Colorado. For the first time in days, my heart was truly thankful for all that God has given me. For the first time in days, I wasn't plagued by anxiety or self-doubt or loneliness or any of the other roller coaster feelings I've been experiencing since I came to college. As I focused on He who Was and Is and Is to Come, I remembered to just let myself be. Rather than trying to fill any role or accomplish any task or fit into any category. Just be. Exactly as God made me. No make-up, no fancy clothes or fancy words, just me and God on a chilly October morning.
     I have to say I treasure this time. I don't get to steal these moments as often as I could (or should). I almost didn't go this morning, for fear that someone would think I was weird. I'll admit I've struggled a little feeling like I don't have friends here yet. I almost didn't go because I wasn't sure how to meet with God. I feel like I've been very disconnected from Him over the last week or so. I almost didn't go because I've been feeling a lack of purpose in my life, and the last thing I want to do is be out of bed feeling useless and unproductive. But God knew all these things. And He used my time this morning to address each of them, in His timing, in His way. And I just remember thinking how incredibly, indescribably beautiful is He who comes to meet us as we are, who presents Himself in the stillness of an autumn morning or the drops of rain that fall on a September night. My heart is eight times lighter than it was when I left the apartment this morning.

     Never let it be said that God is not good.

     Tell me about your quiet moments. Sometimes I think we choose not to make room for rest because we think it isn't productive, but remember that we need rest in order to be rejuvenated and reminded of our purpose in Him. He uses rest to heal us, and to bring us closer to His heart. As always, I am happy to pray for you. Leave me a comment, email, or Facebook note. God bless.

Friday, October 2, 2015

My Response to the Oregon Shooting

     This doesn't strictly relate to beauty, but it's important. It's something God sort of put on my heart and I need to share it. I think it's important to remember that God has called us to courage, to something better than this life.
     Most of you have probably heard or read about the shooting in Oregon. I cried when I read the articles. It's frightening, knowing these things can and do happen. My prayers go with those who are with the Lord and those who are still struggling to make it. I pray they and their families will be wrapped in God's arms and that He will hold them close.
     But God also asked me something I wasn't sure I could answer. If I was in that room, if someone had pointed a gun at me and asked "are you a Christian?" would I have said yes? Would I have remembered Jesus' promise that "whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven", even if the risk was my life? Would you?
Continue to pray for these families. Continue to pray for Christians everywhere who are in danger of their lives for the message they bring. And have courage. Because even in their final hours God did not abandon them. He will not abandon us. And since He has not abandoned us, we do not need to fear for our lives, because no one can harm us unless it is in His will.

     Following is a quote from the BBC article covering the shooting.     "Stacy Boylan, the father of a woman who survived the shooting, told CNN that his daughter had described how the gunman asked his victims to state their religion before opening fire.
According to Mr Boylan, his daughter said the gunman told the Christians he killed that they were 'going to see God in just about one second'."

     "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." -Joshua 1:9

     "You give and take away; you give and take away. My heart will choose to say: 'Lord, blessed is your name!'"


Friday, September 18, 2015

Defending Beauty

     I made a mistake today.
     I came home and hung out with my roommates and some friends in our room for a while—because, you know, I live there—just talking and stuff. Then they started talking about this girl who goes to the school, making comments like “she’s just not pretty” and “she tries too hard”. They scrolled through some pictures, alternately laughing and wincing at her attempts to appear “sexy” and attractive. After a while, I started to feel uncomfortable, imagining how devastated she would be if she could hear what they were saying. I felt like I needed to say something, ask them to be a little more respectful of her in the way they were acting. But I kept my mouth shut.
I shouldn’t have.

     We all need a place to speak our minds, even if what we have to say isn’t kind or friendly. But the mindset that leads us to say things like this about people is a problem. A huge problem. This kind of gossip condemnation of people without consideration of their lives and motives is a complete dismissal of them as a human and individual. This is a problem, ladies.
     Remember that day when you woke up and you just really wanted people to think you looked nice? You tried something new and maybe a little crazy with your makeup. The new dress you bought last week was a little bizarre but you’re dying to try it out. You go for it. Maybe the look isn’t the best but did you feel good? Maybe the dress didn’t “accentuate your body type” perfectly? So what?
     Whether someone looks good or not, they are a creation of God. Whether they dress in good taste or not, they are given the right to choose what to wear. Whether you think they are pretty or not, God still created them to be beautiful.
     Recognising our own God-given beauty is only half the battle we fight as women of God. It is also incredibly important for us to defend each other’s right to be beautiful. Disparaging the way someone dresses or the way someone’s body looks or the way her hair curls in the humidity, whether to their face or to someone else, is removing them from the status of an independent human formed in God’s image and subjects them to an analysis that shouldn’t ever happen because it shouldn’t even matter. So next time you hear someone behaving like this, say something. And next time you catch yourself doing it, apologise. You don’t know why she wore what she wore. You don’t know what she went through trying to satisfy herself with her appearance. You don’t know why she perhaps struggles with her weight. Stop focusing on physical attributes; these don’t even matter! 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that
“‘the Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”

     Defend the right to be beautiful. Don’t perpetuate the mindset that you dress so people can analyse your appearance. Don’t make the mistake I made today by not saying something.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Singing in the Rain

It rained the other night. I didn't actually know it was raining until I walked out of my apartment on my way to class. I didn't have a jacket, and I didn't go back for one; I ran to class in the rain, barefoot, because flip-flops don't do so great in the running department. I was already wet when I made it back to my apartment at 9:00. But for some reason, I didn't mind being a little damp. In fact, I minded so little that I went back and stood outside for over half an hour, just enjoying the rain.

Not the most flattering picture by most people's standards. I'm definitely wet, hair falling in my face, you can't see in this picture but I'm not actually wearing shoes, either. But I think it's somewhat less important to notice how I look than how I felt.
I hate to use the phrase "everyone has a happy place" but it's kind of true-I think everyone has a place where they feel like they belong. And every girl has-and definitely needs-a place where she feels beautiful.
This was my place.
Yes, it's a little bit crazy. Barefoot in the rain spinning circles outside of my apartment building, I'm pretty sure most of the people who saw me thought I was nuts. But read what I posted on Facebook shortly after coming inside:

"I am a barefoot princess born of wind, fallen from the sky, forever turning my face up to God who cradles my face with every speck of water that drops from the heavens. I am the one who is most beautiful drenched in a storm-driven happiness."

So maybe this is a little overly-poetic, but the point is still: standing in the rain letting it soak into my clothes and run through my hair made me feel happy. More than happy, it made me feel beautiful. Because in that moment, I could focus completely on the beauty of God in sending the rain that night, on the smell of the earth and the cool breeze, turning my eyes up to heaven and seeing beauty--this is what made me happy. This is what made me beautiful. Because God created a place where it wouldn't matter what I looked like or what I was doing or what was going on in my life.

Where is your beautiful place? What things do you find direct your thoughts to heaven instead of dwelling on your own life? Share what's going on in your world!


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Who I am

         My family and I watched the movie “Courageous” the other night. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you do. I think it’s powerful and challenging in a lot of ways most of us don’t encounter often but desperately need. The movie focuses primarily on the main characters—all men, as they make and try to fill a commitment to be the husbands and fathers God has called them to be. You would think, then, that the movie is mostly to challenge men in the audience, but sitting there and watching brought me to a realisation: it isn’t just the men in our lives who have the responsibility to uphold this kind of commitment.
         Think of a time when you tried to do something in service to someone else, and they blow you aside, doing nothing to accept the effort you are making for them. For any of you who are or have ever been wait staff in a restaurant, you probably see this all the time. How can we expect the men of our world to offer us the respect, protection, and leadership the Bible commands them to provide if we are unwilling to accept it?
         I sat down a bit ago and wrote a letter to my dad. I felt like I needed to do it, after feeling God convict my heart so strongly about this. I mentioned how much I have struggled with becoming the person God wants me to be. I made a commitment to respect his authority and his guidance, something that won’t be easy but I still know is right. It’s a precursor to the vow I will someday make at the altar, to a man my dad believes to be right for me in addition to my own feelings. It isn’t going to be easy to uphold, but I still know it’s right.
         The Bible does not just lay out guidelines for how men should behave and live. There are instructions for us as well, instructions that we don’t always like to follow because they include submission and service to our fathers and husbands, hard work caring for a family, selfless support of the men who lead us. Children play. Boys and girls shirk responsibility and fail to understand what is expected of them. There are millions of people in this world who will be boys and girls until the day they die. For eighteen years of my life, I have thought of myself as a girl but I realise that’s not what I am anymore. God is preparing my heart and my life to turn me into the woman He created me to be. I am choosing to be more than a girl. I am a woman and someday I will devote my life to a man who is willing to be a Godly leader in my life. This has been my challenge and it has been issued more than once. Tonight, God made my heart ready to accept it.
         Will you choose to be a woman with me? Will you fill the role God has created you to fill, standing side by side with Godly men and supporting their search to honour God with their lives and hearts? We, too, will face a battle, but God will give us the strength to prevail for what is right. Instead of dreaming of a man who treats me right, I am choosing to be the woman worthy of that treatment. The change starts with us, with you. It starts in my heart and yours. Before you start wishing more men would be respectful and polite, consider what you have done to encourage these behaviours. Instead of fearing there won’t be a Godly man for her, raise her to be Godly and to inspire Godliness in others. We cannot mandate change in someone else; we have to inspire it by changing ourselves first.

As always, please share your thoughts. I would love to discuss or pray with/for you! Please pray for me as I am an official college student (as of Saturday) and am going to be facing a lot of different things. God bless!


Sunday, August 9, 2015

What's so Hard to Talk About?

This post may be a little hard to write. Actually, that's kind of my point in writing it. So I guess I'll just jump right in.


Sex should not be hard to talk about, nor should it be a topic of discussion lightly. Often as Christians we shy away from the barest mention of sex because it is "unclean" and "improper". As teenagers, we are very prone to talk about sex like its a game. Sex and the weather can come up in the same conversation because there is no reverence or regard for it. Neither of these is right. Sex is a gift from God. It was meant to glorify God. To avoid discussion of it is to hide from the fact that God intended for a man to be joined to his wife in every way. But casual discussion of sex ignores the holiness and purity with which this gift was bestowed.
My pastor preached today on sexuality through the book of Proverbs. There was one point he made that particularly stood out. Our society is obsessed with outward appearances. We all know that. But the impact this has on our view of sex is huge. Proverbs 30:20 says
"this is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says 'I have done no wrong'". Sex becomes an appetite; a commodity. But it is a commodity of the flesh. A person is more than a body. The heart is one with the body and one with the soul. Sex outside of marriage is trying to take the body without the rest of the person. If you are not willing to take the entire person in commitment and complete unification, you cannot have the body. But our marketing, our culture, our way of life treats sex like any other product you can buy. In this way, we place the emphasis on outward appearances until it's become an unbreakable obsession. The goal of outward attractiveness is simply a method to cover up the undesirable within our hearts. We want to either be beautiful or be with someone else beautiful, hoping that beauty will be enough to cover our shame. But that's not how Jesus sees it. Jesus did not die for you because you were beautiful. He died for you to make you beautiful. And His beauty can cover your shame.
Jesus can set us free from many things, including our misdirected attitudes toward sex. When we start viewing sex as the gift it is, it is no longer a taboo or a dirty joke. When we escape this blind obsession with outward looks, we can stop sexualising ourselves and focus on what really matters. Because really, this wasn't that hard to write.

Many thanks to God and my pastor for inspiring this one (pretty much my sermon notes turned into complete sentences). Leave a comment and share what you've been hearing about in church, or what you think! I'd love to hear from you. And, as always, God bless!


Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Source of Lies

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
-Ephesians 6:12, NIV

Ladies, pull out the full battle gear and buckle your helmets because this one can be a little hard to deal with.

When you're walking down the hall and just know the girl in the corner is talking about you, who do you blame?
A) her
B) the girl she's talking to
C) the one who corrupted her heart to malicious gossip

When you can't find clothes that fit that your mom passes as "modest" ANYWHERE in the store, whose fault is it?
A) your mom's; she's waaay too picky
B) yours; you should really lay off the midnight snacks
C) the ideas that skimpy outfits are "in", and the one that inspired those ideas

When you look at yourself in a mirror and you just can't seem to make yourself like what you see, who is held responsible?
A) the mirror
B) you; again on laying off the midnight snacks
C) the one who whispers the lies that you're not good enough

Yes, as tempting as it is to throw the blame on someone else for our insecurities, and as easy as it sometimes can be to throw it all back on ourselves, the verse above reminds us of the truth: the girl who's gossiping about you in school is not your enemy. Satan is.
It's really been driven home to me more and more that the Devil is actively conspiring against your perception of self-worth. In other words, he does not want you to feel like a priceless and perfectly formed child of God. He wants you ensnared in the lies and insecurities. He wants you to feel trapped in shame from whatever sins you've committed. Because when you stop seeing yourself the way God created you, it is easy to distract you and drag you away from the things God has intended for your life. To the girl who struggles with her weight, he will say "you are not beautiful". To the girl who became too involved in a relationship before marriage, he will say "you cannot escape your shame". To the girl who feels like she doesn't have any friends, he will say it is because she isn't good enough. Satan does not want you to know that you're beautiful. He does not want you to know that you are loved. Your true, internal beauty points the glory directly to God and he can't stand that. Your security in who you are as a child of God allows you to selflessly and tirelessly pursue the furtherance of God's kingdom and he can't stand that either. Remember who it is you are really fighting! But also remember that you can't win this battle; God must win it for you. Satan will try to drown you in insecurity and sin, because he does not want you to realise that you are already free.

"And haleluiah; we are free to struggle.
We're not struggling to be free!
Your blood bought and makes us children.
Children drop your chains and sing!"
-Tenth Avenue North, "The Struggle"

I know sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in sin. "How can I possibly be beautiful and valuable after all the things I've done?" I ask myself. But this is forgetting that we are ALREADY forgiven and set free! He has redeemed us, and we don't have to give in to Satan's lies.

Are there ways you feel the Devil is trying to drag you down? Let me pray for you. I would love to help lift you up. Hope all of you are having a wonderful day!


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Internal Snapshot

         I was reminded today of something I should have known; something I knew that's been nearly forgotten for a long time. I sat down to watch a movie with my family about a woman--Sarah--who, after years of pain and abandonment, finally discovered redemption in the form of five Amish nieces and nephews looking to her as their only family. I thought it was beautiful, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried because I think tears are beautiful, too, when we shed them for things that really matter. The movie, one I haven't seen for several years, laid open my heart a little bit; we'll call it an internal snapshot.

         First, I wish I could feel love the way the people in the movie do. It's so easy to be moved by someone else finally realising how greatly they are loved, but it's just a story. How often do I feel like my family never has and never will understand? How many times have I wished I was closer to my sisters and brother than I am, but could never find the courage to open up? Eighteen and a half years I've lived with the people I call "mom" and "dad", and still I know nothing about family. And I wish I did.
         Sarah may have felt abandoned by her sister, who left to join the Amish community, but she had so many memories of her sister to look back upon that she never really thought about until she received a call telling her her sister was dead. I'm crying all over again at the thought that we--that I--rarely stop and savour moments, reliving memories of good times and bad ones until the people we care about are gone. As I'm slowly packing up and preparing for a 2,000 mile trip to college, the weight of the things I always wanted to do but never did and can't now is growing heavier every day. I never remember to live in a moment until I've moved on and it's too late.
         I'm jealous of the closeness and the faith of the Amish family. They had no secrets, no lies. They knew each other and they knew God. I spend so much time thinking and talking about love, but love begins first with God and second with family. They prayed with each other and for each other. Far too often, I wish that I could say the same.
         I'm selfishly feeling lonely and unloved. I attended a wedding today in which a beautiful young couple presented themselves before God and the church in a commitment to be one in the Lord. I've always been a writer; I could write myself a million happy endings but I encounter endless frustration trying to see where God is bringing me next. They have each other, but a part of me desperately wonders who I have. I have friends who would do anything for me and a family who loves me, I know. And I'm only eighteen--goodness knows I'm not ready to be married--but parts of me feel so much older than that. But you can't achieve that kind of closeness with friends or with family, no matter how devoted they might be. So I find myself wondering what God will have in store for me, if He will ever bring me the right person because I know a lot of amazing people. But I know in my heart I haven't found him yet.

         There you have it. I know it's kind of a mess; I'm kind of a mess. But sometimes messes can be beautiful, too. And I think the beauty or perceived beauty matters so much less than living a life of meaning. Because in the words of Point of Grace, "Take a few chances; let it all out. You won't regret it, looking back from where you have been 'cause it's not who you knew, and it's not what you did; it's how you lived." -Point of Grace, How you Lived (Turn up the Music)

I ask you to pray for me. Whether you leave me a prayer request or not, I will be praying for you. God bless.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Anyone Here Speak Greek?

         I go to youth group every Tuesday night. Currently, we’re working through a series on prayer, which has really challenged me on a couple of points: one, that praying is one of the hardest things I will ever wrestle with in my walk with God; and two, I need to spend less time doubting my ability to hear God’s voice and more time learning to hear Him better. These two growing revelations led to me sitting on the couch in an empty room reading through the gospel of Mark, wherein I found the story of the woman (identified as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus in John 12) who anoints Jesus with perfume during the Passover. When the disciples chastise her for “wasting” such a precious product, Jesus defends her, saying “‘leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.’” –Mark 14:6, ESV
         A beautiful thing. Other versions translate this as “a good deed” (NASB) and “a good work” (KJV). The original Greek word used in this verse is kalos, a word translated by Strong’s New Testament Lexicon to mean: “good, excellent in its nature and characteristics, and therefore well adapted to its ends” and “beautiful by reason of purity of heart and life, and hence praiseworthy”. This word, which is used to describe an act of absolute devotion, of giving everything to Jesus out of love and faith, is the same word that is used in 1 Timothy 6:12, which calls us to “fight the good fight of the faith”.
         Good. Kalos. Beautiful and pure. We spend all this time looking for beauty in our lives; there it is! Fight the good fight. Fight the beautiful fight. We are being actively chosen and called by God to participate in a lifestyle that is in and of itself beautiful. What other form of beauty do we need?
         So my personal challenge to myself is this: focus on living this beautiful lifestyle, instead of trying to have a beautiful reflection, something that can only be accomplished through prayer, constant involvement in God’s word, and encouragement and support from people who share my commitment. So I’m going to spend the next two-ish weeks going all the way through the gospel of Mark, one chapter a day. That’s my commitment; feel free to check in and ask how I’m doing. If you would like to make a similar two week commitment, leave a comment. I’ll be over on Facebook (see the “Contact Me” page for my Facebook link) posting my favourite verses from each day. I’d love to see yours up there as well!


Friday, June 26, 2015

What's In a Relationship

I'm actually in Illinois right now, slightly sad to be apart from my lovely Colorado but much consoled by the light rain falling outside right now. My mom's parents live here in Illinois and later today are celebrating fifty years of marriage together. How incredibly special is that? Making a marriage work for half a century takes a lot of work and commitment.
My parents celebrated twenty-five years in May, so this is really a pretty special year. Being not much a relationship expert myself, I've actually been watching my parents' relationship pretty closely for the last month or so, just wondering what has made them the dependable, cooperative team capable of raising four children, running a household, working three jobs between the two of them, and spearheading an incredible outreach to the teens in our church and schools. Here's a lot of what I've noticed, not only recently but throughout most of my life.

They never do anything important alone. Simple decisions--"mom, can I go over to a friend's house Friday night?"--can be handled by whichever parent is present. But important things--"mom, my French class is going to Europe next summer, can I go?"--definitely a two-parent problem. Seriously, they are always talking to each other, agreeing on scheduling, chauffeuring, who's doing what where and when and their relationship has certainly benefited from it. Achieving some vague semblance of organisation is hard enough in my own life; I can't imaging trying to do it with allowances for five other people.

They truly know each other. My dad is leaving again soon after this trip ends so he can go to Montana for his grandmother's funeral, and my mom, while she's staying here to work and run the house, is going to be supporting him before he goes, praying for him while he's there, and waiting for him when he comes back. She knows this is going to be hard for him, and she knows him well enough to know what he needs in the middle of it. They got to know each other before they were married but they didn't let it stop there. They've been continuing to learn about each other for the past twenty-five years.

They know when and how to lighten up without lightening their wallets. Our family has never been wealthy but we make ends meet and still manage to have fun thanks to a lot of creativity on my parents part. Rather than fight over money, they discuss how to save and where, but they also know when it's worth it to spend a little. My dad just walked in with a bunch of roses for my mom, which was probably a touch expensive but it was also a sweet and heartfelt gesture that reminded her how much he loves her.

They like to be together. They take time to go on walks together and talk. They treasure the time they have together, because they know how important that time is. And they want to spend that time together, instead of being out doing "fun" things with friends.

I can't say as much about my grandparents' relationship; I see them about two times a year, compared to the two times a day I see my parents. But obviously there must be something incredibly special because the commitment it takes to make fifty years is mind-blowing. Here's to hoping that, someday, I'll be able to say the same (but not for a very long time yet).

What does it take to make a relationship like that work? If you have an idea, leave it in the comments section below. I'd love to hear from you!


Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Days I Struggle the Most

Some days I really just want to scream. I want to scream and scream until I can't hear anything or think anything or feel anything because the day has been so hard. Everyone has their limit; the one thing that makes them fall to pieces. We treat it like a secret because we want people to think that we can deal with anything, but we all know it's there so I might as well be the first to open up:

The one thing
I truly cannot handle
is feeling alone.

I'm sure you can all relate to some extent. No one really wants to be alone all of the time; sooner or later, we're going to need someone's help. I'm not saying I never ever want to be alone, either, because sometimes people are just too much to handle. But being alone and feeling alone are different. I think there's this huge misconception that a person can't be lonely if they're surrounded by friends but I know for a fact that sometimes the loneliest place a person can be is with other people who remind them that they are in a moment but not a part of it. Too often, I feel myself plagued by the lie that having a boyfriend means I won't be lonely anymore but I know that doesn't work either. I have a boyfriend, and he has done all he can to be there for me and connect with me when I need him but he can only do so much and too often I feel like I ask too much of him as it is. I believe God has created us (women) with a space in our hearts that only a man--the right man--can fill. Some of us are so perfectly happy to be single that they don't feel this type of loneliness, but some of us will always struggle, even after we have the right guy in our lives. I fall solidly into the second group.
Loneliness can only really be compared to a void. On nights like tonight, it feels an awful lot like I'm falling headfirst into a bottomless pit and I can't seem to drag myself out. It's something I'll struggle with my entire life. I'm reaching out tonight because I need prayer, and because I need to feel like I'm connected to someone, but mostly because I know that loneliness isn't solely my problem. I may not know you, I may not know your name or your face or your story or what you've been going through, but I want you to know that you're not alone. I never know for sure, but I always hope my words will find a way to reach someone, to help them somehow. Maybe that someone is you. I hope and pray that whoever and wherever you are, the grace of God is upon you, because His love is unfailing and He will hold you through any storm. Even on nights when all I can do is cry, I know He is holding me.
As always, I would love to pray for you. You can contact me via the comments section on this post or the Facebook and email info on my "Contact Me" page on the left side of the screen. May the Lord be with you all, no matter what you're feeling or where you are in life. God bless.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Only Thing that Matters Right This Second

The sky is rumbling and a light rain is sprinkling down through the aspen leaves. I got to spend two hours with my best friend/boyfriend this morning, I'm home all by myself listening to the rain on the roof, I have to be at work in an hour but right now I just feel peaceful. One of those moments where time ceases to matter and everything I'm worried about-college, future plans, tuition payments, moving all the way across the country and my phone being Lord only knows where-is less important than what's happening right this second. Right this second, I am completely and perfectly at peace. Right this second, I know that by the grace of God everything I'm afraid of will be worked out. Right this second, I know God is good and there's a future for mankind. Right this second, I can't even say that I feel beautiful because I feel so much that whether people think I'm beautiful or not doesn't matter. Right this second, I love life.
What are you feeling right this second? I would love to hear it. Sometimes we spend so much of our time living for the future that we forget this moment is the one we're living in. So why don't we all just jump out and live it.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Quick Update

Just so you all know I am on Facebook now. There isn't a whole lot there right now but I'm hoping to be pretty consistent in updating that. Feel free to look me up by typing "The Beautiful Life" in the search bar, or by using the link below:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Prom and Power Outages

Learning to Live and Living Without

Weekends are always interesting in the mountains. Saturday, 2 May was my high school's prom, at which I learned two very valuable lessons: May can be just as cold as any other month, so sleeveless dresses are not always the wisest choice, and people in my generation have a tremendously skewed idea of beauty.
Alright, so I actually knew both of those. But the latter really hit hard over the course of the evening, and I really felt God compelling me to address it here. I was getting ready with a friend and heard her suddenly yell "ouch!" She'd glued her fake nail in the wrong place and pealing the glue off was apparently a rather uncomfortable experience. Ever a fount of unique and useful advice, I told her to stop because "hurting yourself is bad for you". "It takes some serious pain to be beautiful," she replied. And it made me think. How much are we sometimes willing to pay to have someone else label us "beautiful"? Is it worth it?
What really struck me as I thought about it was that an indescribable amount of pain has gone into making you who you are. If pain is the price for beauty, it has already been paid. Paid by a man who was 100% human and 100% God, who died in lonely agony to be able to call you His own, to make you in His image and make you beautiful. So all of the silly things we do, the fake nails and tanning salons, the makeup and hairspray and six-inch heels, are unnecessary pain. If God wanted you to be 5'10" and have curly hair and long nails, He would have made you that way. It's fun to dress up, of course-I wore makeup and a fancy dress and did my hair-but sometimes it's good to look at ourselves and wonder how far we're taking it. Can you feel beautiful without all those things? Because you should always know that you are. Can you live with yourself the way you are?

Speaking of May being cold, the weekend following prom was one of the strangest weekends of my life. My parents' anniversary is in May, so we intended for the weekend to be a nice relaxing weekend for them to celebrate. It was a much-deserved break, but unfortunately not as relaxing as they'd hoped it would be. Because it snowed. A lot. On Saturday, 9 May, we got almost a foot of snow up in the mountains where we live, which was certainly interesting. But it's all fun and games until the power goes out, which it did at about 7:30 Saturday night. And didn't come back.
Well, we fired up our wood-burning stove and kept the house plenty warm, and we had water still in our water tank so that wasn't too much of an issue, so my sisters and I lit up some candles and snuggled in to play some Mindtrap and wait. As we carried over into Sunday with still no power, we started to feel some side effects of the power outage. Like, not having enough water to shower or anything. We melted some snow in a skillet to wash our faces but that was about it. At which point the lesson was thoroughly impressed upon me that sometimes we just have to live without. Majorly live without. But God still gets us through and He still finds ways to remind us that there is beauty all around and within us no matter how strange or difficult the circumstances are.

Hoping it's warmed up to nice May temperatures everywhere else. Would love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences on the matter!

Friday, May 1, 2015

What the Mirror Tells You

I was at a service at my church doing prayer stations. I sat down at a table by myself and found myself facing a small hand mirror and the question: "Look at your face in a mirror. What do you see?"
Sometimes an honest answer hurts. I had to look at my face and admit to myself that I see a girl who spends too much time telling herself she isn't good enough and not enough time remembering that God made her in His image. I see a girl who spends too much time worrying about the insignificant difficulties of life and not enough time praising God for the eternity He's promised her. A girl who spends too much time wanting someone else to tell her that she's pretty but not enough time letting God show her that she's beautiful, a girl who could find every minuscule flaw in her complexion but doesn't remember that God chooses everything for a reason. When I look in a mirror, I see a girl who's trying hard to become the woman God created her to be but she's nervous and scared because she doesn't know how.
Look at your face in a mirror. What do you see? I know it isn't easy. Sometimes I think we avoid mirrors, just because we're afraid of what we'll see. Not just afraid that the outfit we were so excited about this morning doesn't look as nice as we thought it would. Afraid that the person we see in the mirror isn't the person we're supposed to be. We have to remember that the only thing we're ever "supposed to be" is what God has created us to be, and there is nothing that can ever derail God's plans. He will make everything beautiful in its time, so we don't ever need to be afraid of what the mirror is telling us.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Getting Creative | Working Around a Declining Standard of Modesty

I'm finally getting over being sick (I think), which is the biggest reason I haven't posted for a month. The other reason is that my eyes have really been bothering me, and staring at screens hurts them a lot, making it extremely difficult to type. No typing=no blog posts.

Prom at my high school is about a month away; the first weekend in May. I’m a senior, seniors go free, despite my overall dislike for high school dances as a whole I decided to go. And then almost changed my mind when I ran into one teeny-tiny little issue: a dress. I needed a dress.
I made the mistake of looking up “prom dresses” in the Google images search bar. Some of the dresses are really pretty. Most of them bare far more skin than I would ever consider modest or acceptable. I’m choosing not to post any pictures of them but you can look them up if you’re curious.
I went dress shopping with a friend of mine last year when she was looking for her prom dress, so I know that this isn't just an issue of the pictures popping up online. I also know that this issue isn't exclusive to dresses. Shirts that bare the stomach (or dresses that have the stomach open), open backs, sinking necklines, skintight fits, and short shorts/skirts are becoming painfully common. I’m sure you've all noticed it. I don’t buy that kind of clothing, and I don’t buy into the ideas that inspire it. I recognise that I’m kind of a loner in my generation when it comes to modesty but I really believe that some things are better left to the imagination. Modesty is my standard and I can be pretty picky about it.
I don’t want to take the time to detail it right this second, but maybe in a later post (or you can leave me a comment if you’re curious now) I can be more specific on what my standards are, because “modesty” is kind of an ambiguous term. I’m sure some of you can relate, though, when I say that I have an incredibly hard time shopping for things I’ll actually wear. Sometimes that can be remedied by a tank-top worn under a shirt that dips too low, or buying something a size larger than I normally wear. But not always. So sometimes, you have to get a little creative.
The thought of trying to find a dress almost put me off the idea of going to prom. In three years of dress shopping with my friends I've found maybe a handful of dresses that match my ideal of “modesty attire”. Trust me; I've tried. The suggestion “get creative” is a little harder to work around in terms of formal wear, so I had to do some serious thinking. There were several factors I needed to consider, and after a bit I came up with a few conclusions:

1.      Even cheap prom dresses are waaaay out of my price range. Dresses are expensive!
2.      I have trouble finding dresses that I think are comfortable and I can move in.
3.      I can never seem to find a dress that I like.
4.      Even if I find one that’s comfortable and I like, that modesty thing is a serious issue.
5.      When taking into account all of the above factors, there’s only one real solution: I needed to make a dress.

Right off, people started telling me I was crazy. I probably am. But I started sewing yesterday and I really actually think it’s going to work.

So is this the most brilliant, creative idea I've ever had, or the craziest? Do you sew? Tell me about some of your projects. How do you get creative when it comes to dressing modestly with today’s fashions?


Monday, February 16, 2015

It's All About the Chocolate

Yes, I know; I'm two days late to do an official post about Valentine's Day. But I was doing speech things all day Saturday and have today off, so I'm wishing you all a belated Hallmark Day (so named by my best friend, who says the holiday wouldn't exist if Hallmark didn't make money from the cards).
So to start, let's open a box of chocolates.

AREN'T THEY ADORABLE?!?!?!?! (The answer you're looking for is yes.) I got sick of seeing that stupid Forrest Gump quote every third image in Google, so I pasted this one in just because. But seriously:

and Chocolate


and...oh, dear; chocolate box is empty. Super sad face

Okay, so I know I'm being ridiculous. But aside from the fact that chocolate makes me happy, I actually do have a purpose in bringing this up. Honest.
How many of you received a chocolate heart for Valentine's Day? Something like the one below:
I did not. Really that's alright with me; I definitely don't need anyone buying me sugar. How many of you received said chocolates from someone other than your husband/fiancee/significant-other? How many of you bought YOURSELF chocolate for Valentine's Day?
My friends and I used to refer to Valentine's Day as "Singles' Awareness Day". We contemplated buying each other flowers but it was too expensive. We did, however, buy each other little treats, chocolate and other things, just because.
Valentine Chocolate is on sale right now. I have it on pretty good authority-aka, my mother-that some of it is fairly cheap. Buy yourself some chocolate. Buy your girlfriends some chocolate. Know a woman who is alone on Valentine's Day-divorced, or widowed, or maybe has a husband overseas? Do something for her. I promise you it can make someone's day. If you do something for someone, leave me a comment to tell me about it. Valentine's Day may be commercialised to focus on a person's significant other, but it doesn't have to be. So maybe Valentine'd Day isn't all about the chocolate; it's about love. Loving our friends is important too, and we all need that little pick-me-up from time to time. That's why God gave us friends; "as iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend" (Proverbs 27:17, NIV). And when someone buys you chocolate, don't feel bad about eating the entire box. :)
PS Anytime one of you wants to buy me chocolate, you're more than welcome. ;)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Some Days are Not Like Others

Do you every feel like you just need to pray? Without knowing why, without any measure of understanding what's going on? Just that feeling, like you're going to need God to be especially close to you? I've felt like that lately. I get this sometimes, almost like I know something is going to happen. I felt it just before the terrorist attack on  the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. I've been feeling it for a while, this sort of feeling that something is going to be happening in my life, good or bad, that is going to test my faith. Something I'm going to need to be prepared for.
I've been having a lot of discussions with a friend lately, and one thing she's brought up is the point that life's not fair. Specifically, how unfair it is that one person can work their whole lives trying to accomplish something, and another person comes along and gets it on the first go. She said it felt unjustified, like the second person didn't earn it and therefore didn't deserve it.
Hardships are designed to make us question. Question others, question ourselves. Question God. Think about Job; the entire point of the suffering the Devil inflicted upon him was to make him reject his faith in God.
The difference lies in what my youth pastor (aka my dad) describes as "head knowledge" versus "heart knowledge". The first thing I think of in this Jeremiah 29:11
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord;
'plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.'" NIV
I could have recited this verse when I was eight years old. But it wouldn't have meant anything. The verse itself is head knowledge. Logically, when something happens we should not be concerned because God says He has everything under control. But consider what other parts of the Bible say.
"I have hidden your word in my HEART,
that I might not sin against you."
-Psalm 119:11 NIV
This is where heart knowledge comes in. A few years ago, I found myself really stuck in a rut, unable to motivate myself to do anything. I still end up there on a semi-regular basis, and I've come to terms with it as a psychological routine that I'm just going to have to deal with, but the first time I just couldn't seem to get out. You've all had those days I'm sure when your friends tell you "you're beautiful" and you really want to believe it, but you can't convince your heart that it's the truth. That's the difference, the tell-all between head knowledge and heart knowledge. Bible verses are head knowledge. Faith in what they mean to you is heart knowledge.
Some days, I really wish I could see the future. I wish I could even get a glimpse into God's plan for me. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened yet, but when I get feelings like this I really try not to ignore them. These feelings, for me, are a conviction. A reminder that I should be super-close with God ALL of the time, not just when I feel like something's going to happen. The friend I mentioned earlier? I gave her advice to comfort her dilemma, and maybe I should follow it myself. I told her that sometimes God does things, things we don't feel we deserve, because He's trying to tell us something. Maybe that message right now is a sort of reminder that without God, I am nothing. Without God, I have no reason to exist. Without God, I should be afraid of what's going to happen.
If you feel God has put it on you, I would ask you to pray for me. I don't know what's going to happen in my life over the next few weeks but my month-long blogging break is evidence of how stressed and busy I am. And, as always, I am happy to pray for you if you would like me to. Actually, I'm praying for all of you whether I know who you are or not, but if there is something specific I would love to lift that up. Feel free to comment, and I hope you all have a wonderful day.