Embrace Today

“Wherever you are, be all there.” – Jim Elliot

During my college years, one of my bosses challenged us with this phrase. Asked us what it meant to “be all there,” at the time my answer was easy, enjoy college. Don’t wish for the next stage of life, just enjoy where I was at that day. But as I’ve graduated and spent a couple years in the workforce, I’ve come to realize just how important this phrase really is.

“Wherever you are, be all there.” 

Every day I get up and go to work. At that time I have a choice to make, I can drag my feet through the day and wish I were working full-time in my desired career field, or I can “be all there” and embrace the people I’m surrounded with and the job I have right now. I can choose to be annoyed by the elementary kids who don’t behave, or I can choose to “be all there” and listen to their stories, laugh at their jokes, give them hugs, and make them feel loved. When I go to my afternoon coaching or my high school youth group, I can choose to put up with the girls knowing it’s an extra paycheck or a good deed to do, or I can be a listening ear, an encouragement, an older sister type mentor, or whatever it is they need. I can “be all there.”

Too often, I hear people (my self included) wishing to time travel to some other stage of life. They wish to go back to the good old days where their family was all together around the kitchen table, or where their college friends were right down the hall. They wish to fly to the future, having their spouse, career, or own family all figured out. Some wish for retirement or a new location. Whatever it is you find yourself wishing for, I challenge you to ask yourself — In the midst of my wishing, am I still “all here.”

You see, when we wish for the future or the past we often neglect the present. We don’t see the neighbors, students, patients, or others right in front of us. We fail to realize who we are right now is needed right here right now. Maybe my future spouse won’t come along for another few years, or maybe not at all, but if I neglect my opportunity to love on the elementary kids I see every day and the volleyball girls and youth group girls I have the chance to lead, then I’m wasting my time. If every Sunday I’m not “all there” with those girls, then I’m depriving them of the opportunity to have a leader who is fully invested in their lives.

Let me take this one step further, when “being all there” that means ALL: mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically, etc. This doesn’t mean being with someone and being on your phone wishing you were with someone else. This doesn’t mean being at church but thinking about the pile of work sitting on your desk at home. This doesn’t mean showing up at your kids soccer game but wishing you were at home with a good book. No, this means be engaged, be involved, be THERE. 

The other day, I had my volleyball team over for an end of the season cookout. Yes the 7th graders are crazy, but I love those girls. As they were all hanging out in the living room, my mom pointed out something wonderful — all nine girls were laughing, talking, and enjoying each others company WITHOUT any phones. Not one. It was such a refreshing sight to see these girls being able to have real conversations and to know they were “all there.”

These days, I think America could use to be a little more “there.” Put the phone down. Listen to the conversation. Better yet, turn the phone off for a while. Understand the emails will get answered in time, the social media world will survive without an extra like or favorite, but kids can’t go with out a present parent or teacher or coach. Go out with a group of friends and be there, be an invested friend not a distracted one. Go to a kids sporting event and be there, not just physically, but mentally, without the work phone.

When we start being where we are, not the future, not the past, not in the technological world, but right here right now with those who are with us in this moment, imagine the impact we could have. Imagine the problems that would dissipate when we started being fully present in the lives we lead. So…

“Wherever you are, be all there.” – Jim Elliot

Advertisements

Blessed to be Stressed

I’ve put off writing a new blog for a while, simply because so much is going on right now I didn’t know exactly what to write about. On one hand, life is exciting and new but on the other hand I’m stressed and worn out, hoping for the path I’m supposed to take to show itself soon.

I’m at the stage in life where change is inevitable and as much as I love new adventures, I’ve found I’m one who loves routine and familiarity. In the last couple weeks I’ve left my full-time job and moved 12 hours away into my parents house so I can start my Masters degree.

Being back with my family is amazing, I love being able to invest in my sister, hang out with my dad, and do life with my mom. Yet, starting over is never easy. My friends seem to be everywhere in the U.S. but here, my boyfriend and I are joining the multitude of long distance couples relying on FaceTime dates and nightly phone calls to make the distance seem smaller, and the job market seems to be as dry as the Sahara Desert.

And as the days drag on, my stress level increases.

Grad school, car payments, insurance, you name it, the bills are hitting hard and my income is non-existent.

And as much as I’d like to say I’m calm about it all, I’ve seemed to internalize the stress, resulting in an exhausted emotional tank.

You might be wondering why I’m telling you all this, but the truth is, we’ve all been here. We’ve all been to the point where we’ve exhausted our emotional tank. We think we’ve run out of options, we’ve hit that wall and we don’t know what to do. And if you haven’t, without sounding like a debbie downer, I’m sure at one point in your life you will.

The most encouraging thing I’ve found during this time though, is my authenticity with God and my reliance on Him has grown.

When you have no control over what happens in your life and you’ve hit your emotional end, who better to turn to than the one who created you and knows exactly how to fill the empty tank?

I can apply to jobs day in and day out, but I cannot control who calls me back and who leaves my application on read. I can bottle up all my feelings and worries and stresses inside, or I can express them to the one who can actually take care of them. For me, that seems like an easy choice.

By focusing on what I can control and leaving the rest up to God, I’ve found a sense of peace in the madness of uncertainty. If God opened the door to Michigan and being with my family, He will provide an income and the friends I need.

Matthew 6:25-32 states:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

God cares about us more than we can even imagine. He knows our needs. He isn’t surprised by my grad school bills or lack of a job, so why am I worrying that He will not provide. God is our provider (Phil. 4:19). It’s one of His names. It’s part of His nature. So why do I doubt? What is worrying going to solve? Absolutely nothing.

In times of uncertainty, hardship, insecurity, or wherever you’re at, we must learn to rely on God. Study His names. Know who He is. Memorize His promises. Because He will not fail us. He will not disappoint. And all we need to do is trust.

So as I go into this week, still staring bills and job uncertainties in the face, I will trust in the one who provides. I will know He has it under control and I will chose to rest in His peace and the truth of His word.

God will provide. It may not be in the way we imagined or in the way we hoped but He will provide. For He has promised to do so and God does not lie.

Take the weight off your shoulders, fill your emotional tank, and find your peace in the only one who can guarantee it will be given to you.

Do you really deserve it?

Have you ever given a gift to someone and instead of them saying “thank you” or showing appreciation for the gift, they take it as if it was something they always deserved and you were just finally getting around to giving it to them? If you have, you understand how frustrating this is, if you haven’t, I assure you, live long enough and you will.

Blame participation trophies, government handouts, or whatever you wish, but our culture and generation has started to believe everything is entitled to them. They don’t need to work or earn anything. It’s the “I got a degree, so now I deserve a bosses paycheck” mentality and it’s ripping apart the work ethic and the gratitude of our society.

Unfortunately, the issue of entitlement and lack of gratitude isn’t a new issue. It may have been classified as something different back in Biblical times, but in Luke 17:11-19, Jesus faces the same issue:

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

In this story, Jesus saw the men with leprosy and had pity on them — they weren’t entitled to healing, they didn’t work for healing, they simply were blessed with Jesus’ pity and love. Yet, only one of the ten returned to say thank you for the gift of healing he had been given. Jesus saved these ten men from being outcasts in their society, they were able to rejoin their families and friends. They could be a part of the working class again and no longer have to beg for a livelihood. Not only did Jesus give them healing, he restored their status and their families, yet they still did not say thank you.

What I find interesting is the one that did come back and say thank you was a foreigner. Back in the times of Jesus, the Samaritans were despised by the Jews, so as Jesus healed the men, I wonder how many were Jews and how many were Samaritans. Did this man come back and say thank you because he knew Jesus was a Jew and therefore it was even more of a statement and miracle that Jesus chose to have grace on him? No one would have questioned Jesus’ choice to heal the Jews, but a Samaritan was a whole other story. Maybe the others felt they were entitled to Jesus’ healing powers, after all, if they’re of same cultural backgrounds they were supposed to have an upper hand in society. But does that make it right to ignore the gift given and go on without gratitude?

Do we as American’s tend to feel entitled to all that is given to us? As Christians do we just figure since we prayed the prayer once we are entitled to the grace given and forget to say thank you to Christ for his sacrifice and his daily grace? Or do we truly appreciate every gift that is given to us? Do we have an attitude of gratitude, never letting an act of service or a gift be given without a thank you?

Honestly, it’s easy to get into a rhythm of entitlement. Our society surrounds us with images and messages that we deserve everything and it’s our right to have what we want. But God’s society teaches us to live life knowing we deserve nothing, yet are given everything because of God’s grace, mercy, and love for us.

Jonah 4 is another perfect example of our entitled mindset. In this chapter of the book, Jonah is sitting in the hot desert sun, God provides a source of shade for him to sit under, but then some bugs come along and eat the leaves causing the plant to no longer provide shade. Jonah becomes furious with God because he no longer has shade and once again is out in the blistering sun. Yet what did Jonah do to deserve the shade? Instead of seeing the shade as a gift from God that was graciously given and can be taken away at any time, Jonah felt he was entitled to the shade and it was God’s duty to provide it to him.

If you don’t believe you’re living an entitled life, think through these few examples:

Your janitor takes out your trash every day, they miss a day because they were busy doing something else…do you help them out and take out your own trash or do you get frustrated because they didn’t find the time to take it out? When was the last time you thanked the janitor for keeping the office clean?

You’re on a team and your team goes out for dinner or for an activity, do you gratefully appreciate wherever they chose to go, or do you complain because it’s not the exact place you wanted to go? Do you complain about the driving of the coaches or do you appreciate the money spent on getting a car so the team gets to go out on fun adventures and isn’t stuck in the hotel all weekend?

When you continue to pray a prayer, but God choses to respond in a different way than you asked, are you appreciative for the response and thankful for a God who cares enough to listen, or do you get upset and abandon your faith because you felt entitled to the result you didn’t get?

Whatever it is you feel you are entitled to, realize everything in this life is a gift. We aren’t entitled to God’s grace, His grace is a gift given to us. If He choses to extend judgement instead of grace, we shouldn’t be upset because we don’t deserve anything but judgement.

So please stop living an entitled life. Live a life full of gratitude. If someone does something for you, say thank you. Say thank you a hundred times a day, to the cashier, the waitress, the janitor, to whomever it is you tend to take for granted. Don’t be like Jonah or the nine ungrateful lepers. Be thankful for the shade and the healing God has given you, and if it’s taken away, say thank you for the time it was given. Be grateful and see everything as a gift. I promise you, your life will become a million times brighter when you do.

The Journey Through Change

Change isn’t always easy. Yes some people thrive off change, the new excitements, the new memories, and the chance to restart wherever you go. Others hate change, it causes anxiety, stress, and the thought of having to restart somewhere new seems like the end of the world. For me, I’m somewhere in the middle. I love to meet new people, make new friends, and have a clean slate to start from, but the thought of leaving the people I’ve met and come to love in the places I’ve lived cause extreme heartbreak.

This past year and a half I’ve lived in Richmond, VA — I’m not gonna lie, it’s been an extremely challenging year and a half. I’ve had two failed relationships, left an internship for a job that was different than I originally thought, went through a cycle of friendships before I was able to settle in, and even transitioned churches because I just didn’t feel at home. But among all those challenges I’ve met some of the most incredible people, friends who poured into me, challenged me, and helped me grow through the process. I’ve gotten to know a group of volleyball girls who I’ve grown to love spending time with and investing in, making this move more difficult than I originally thought.

As I get ready to move I think through the past moves I’ve made in my life and what’s helped me transition well. Through every up and down, every place I’ve lived, I realize it’s always about the people. The people is what makes moving hard but it’s also what makes moving exciting. A year and a half ago, I didn’t know any of the people I’ve grown to love here in RVA even existed. A year and a half ago, Richmond was just a place on the map we learned about in history class. Now it’s a place that will always have a piece of my heart, not because the city was so amazing, but because of the people who took time to invest in a midwestern girl who was starting off on her own.

USPAV 2017 Girls

God calls us to love people — yes the city is important, the structures are cool, and the sports are fun, but the people are what makes a place purposeful. Everything we are called to do in a city revolves around loving the people of that city. As I’ve learned that, I’ve started to understand that if God calls me to move, I need not be upset or frustrated. He’s calling me to love the city/country/state he’s put me in until he calls me to move and love someplace else. This home is temporary, our real home is in Heaven and when the earth becomes a mere place to make relationships geared towards Christ and not a possession to hold onto, it can completely shift our perspective on change from one of fear and uncertainty to one of joy and excitement.

Whenever I start to get really upset about the changes happening around me, or am chillin in my room crying because of the people I’m leaving, I’m reminded of the journey and life of Paul. Paul lived his life on the road. We get to experience and learn so much through his letters, but do you ever sit and think about the fact that the reason he had to write letters was because he wasn’t with the people in person? Paul constantly reminds the churches of his love for them, read any of his letters (the 13 Epistles) and you’ll see his unique investment to each group of people making up the church in that city. Paul missed the friends he made along the way, but it never stopped him from pursuing the life God had called him too. He didn’t resist change or resent God for making him leave again, but instead he used each and every opportunity to make an impact on the place he was in. He kept in touch with the people he left and invested in the people he was with. It allowed him to make an impact that God has continued to use through today. If Paul had told God “No, I’m not moving again, I like these friends here too much” then we might never have had the “Roman Road” or the book of Ephesians (one of my personal favorites). Instead, Paul wrote in Philippians 2:17, “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice of service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” Through physical suffering and emotional pain, through shipwrecks, sickness, loss of friends, and years of traveling, Paul found unrelenting strength through his faith.

As I move and am heartbroken to leave the people of RVA, I’m challenged and excited to invest in the people of Ada, MI. I will have the opportunity to be back with my immediate and extended family and given the time to invest in those relationships. I have college friends I’ll get to reconnect with, and high school friends I’ll be closer too. There’s a church I’ve been following from afar who I’m excited to finally call home. Yes I’m leaving a wonderful group of people, friends who’ve become family, and volleyball girls that will forever be like my little sisters, but God’s shown me both through life and through scripture that He is with us wherever we go. At times it might not be clear as to why our path is leading where it is, as I’m sure Paul was a little confused at times while sitting in jail or experiencing another shipwreck, but God never fails. He will come through no matter what the change is we’re facing.

So as I leave this place I rejoice in the memories, learn from the pain, and thank God for the opportunity to meet the people I have. And for as long as I live I will stand by the words of Isaiah 6:8:

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Contagiously Beautiful

Scrolling through Instagram you pass by hundreds of pictures. Proms, graduations, summer vacations, perfect couples, flawless selfies, you name it, it’s there. At first it’s a harmless scroll, killing time while you wait for the next thing in your day. But then…. the “I wish..” downward spiral begins.

“I wish my hair looked as good as hers”

“I wish I had a boyfriend as good as hers, or even a boyfriend at all.”

“I wish I had a body that was summer ready all the time like her.”

“I wish….”

Whatever you “wish” you start comparing to your life, and not only comparing, but criticizing. Before you know it you’re harmless time killer is now a mood killer and an attitude bringer.

We all do this — maybe it’s not on Instagram and maybe it’s not as obvious but we do it. We’re human, we compare, we find flaws, and we hone in on those, forgetting how beautifully and wonderfully made we are.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” but honestly, that’s only one side of beauty — it’s how we, as the beholder, see it. What if we changed the phrase to “beauty IS the eye of the beholder”. By taking out the “in” we change the phrase from us having our own opinions and excuses for what we call beautiful to a universal measurement for beauty.

Let’s face it, everyone has a different look, everyone is unique and there is no set standard for beauty. If you don’t believe me, ask a group of people who their celebrity crush is — you’ll find out right away who goes for the athletic look, the music/artsy look, the country boy look or whatever else they’re interested in. If we consistently judge beauty on the outward appearance we will forever and always be disappointed.

When beauty is in the eye of the beholder we still compare, we judge, we create our own version of what we feel is acceptable, and when people question us we throw the phrase back at them. When beauty is the eye of the beholder, suddenly it’s no longer how we think beauty looks, but rather our ability to find beauty in everyone and everything.

No more comparison. No more judgements. Just straight authentic beauty.

This lesson really hit home for me in the last few months. When the guy I was head over heels for dropped me like a dime for another girl who I believed was skinnier and prettier. Personally, I thought she was beautiful and I told him that, but in an effort to cheer myself up, I started the comparison game.

“She may be skinnier, but you’re more athletic”

“She’s a total party girl — he’ll have fun taking her home to mama…” 

“Her cheek bones are extremely noticeable…so weird”

On and on they went — until I realized it really wasn’t making me feel any better. If anything it was making me more upset because I started to feel I was better yet I still lost. I was tearing down another girl who I didn’t even know just to hopefully give myself a glimmer of confidence in the situation. Was tearing her down really going to make me feel better? No, not really. We may think it will, but all it does is keeps our mind dwelling on the situation. It keeps us self-focused which more often than not leads to self-destruction.

Maybe it’s just me, but do people really enjoy being around the “mean girl”, the girl who constantly is judging others and pointing out their flaws just to make her and her friends feel better? Cuz I sure don’t… I  would rather spend our time around the girl who finds beauty in everything. Instead of seeing a girl at the mall and judging her for her outfit, she compliments the girls hair. Instead of making a negative statement about a couples relationship, she points out how cute they look together (and genuinely means it).

You see, when we start to point out the beauty in others it starts to reflect back in ourselves. God created us in His image (Gen. 1:27) — therefore we are ALL created beautifully. Where our beauty shines through is not in how we physically compare to others, but rather in how we lift others up. Are we constantly pointing out the beauty we see God’s created? Or are we dwelling on the negative the devil’s brought to our attention?

When we find the beauty in others we start to genuinely see the beauty in ourselves. We stop comparing ourselves, we stop trying to measure up to anything, and we start to fully believe and understand that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14). We have a healthy confidence in who God has made us, so we don’t have a desire to tear anyone else down in an attempt to make us feel better. We can give out genuine compliments without any back minded thoughts. We live life so joyfully and freely because we start to admire the uniqueness of each individual.

Honestly, this goes so much deeper than just admiring peoples outward appearances. Have you ever talked to someone who is truly passionate about something, I find people become so alive and absolutely beautiful when they start talking about their passion. My friends are beautiful because they love on kids all day as their teachers, they’re beautiful because they care so much about the heartbreak in this world, they’re beautiful because they’re unique and don’t need to fit in. They’re beautiful because our Creator made them that way — no extras needed.

So go be beautiful — see the world the way God created it, beautiful, unique, and full of life. Build others up, learn to love yourself, not for how you measure up to others but for how uniquely you you are, spread love and joy and you will become the most beautiful person. If you don’t believe me, just try it — for one week challenge yourself every single time you see someone, to notice something beautiful about them. Their heart for others, their contagious laugh, their unique clothing style, whatever it is notice it and mention it. After a week or two of doing this, it will become your natural instinct. No more noticing someones outfit and automatically comparing it to your own. No more pointing out someone else’s flaws in order to build yourself up. Instead, you’ll notice others for how beautiful they are, you’ll be filled with more joy, and you’ll have a whole new perspective on life.

Beauty is the eye of the beholder — see the world beautifully and I promise you will become contagiously beautiful.

Finding Amazement

Amazement : An overwhelming feeling of surprise or astonishment


This past weekend I flew to Indianapolis for one of my dearest friends weddings. While on my flight back, I ended up sitting next to a young boy who was traveling alone. I don’t know if this was his first flight but during takeoff, I couldn’t help but notice how he stared out the window in amazement while so many other passengers were already engrossed in their work or movies.

It got me thinking — the first time people fly they go through a wide range of emotions. Most are completely amazed by the airplanes ability to hold all the people, luggage, and machinery it takes to operate, yet still fly so easily. Some have hesitations, but chose to trust the ability of the plane, the past planes they’ve seen, and the testimonies of people enough to get on the plane. Some are excited to see the world in a whole new light, and any fear they may have had begins to slip away.

Yet, overtime all of these emotions seem to level out. People who travel a lot lose the amazement of flight. They no longer stare out the window mesmerized by the takeoff and landing. They don’t admire the mountains, oceans, cities, fields, and millions of people they fly over. They simply pull out their book, put in their headphones, or start their work the minute they sit in their super small seat. Some even close the window, completely shutting out the view. They’re still trusting the plane to get them from place A to B but are no longer excited for the journey, instead they’re simply there, using the plane for a means to get to their end.

As I thought through this, I couldn’t help but notice how it not only happens to our flights, but more importantly, it happens to our faith. When starting off, new Christ followers are on fire for God. So excited about the journey ahead, maybe slightly fearful but irregardless they trust the ability of our Creator to get them to where they’re going. They stand amazed as they see the world in a whole new light, admiring what God has created and the difference His presence makes in their life. But as time goes on and they become more comfortable in their faith, life happens, and the church experience is no longer new, they become unamazed. Simply going through the motions each day — still trusting God, but no longer enjoying His journey fully — just simply getting through the ride.

I’ll be honest, it’s easy for me to be amazed by God when I’m in a new place. Sitting on a mountain side in California a couple weeks ago, there was no prompting needed, I could easily dwell on the amazing ability of our Creator and the magnificent world He has made. But in the mundane of daily activities? I mean how do you find time to be amazed by God when you’re drowning in work or running from one activity to the next? When at the end of the day the only thing that amazes you is how great your bed feels when you know you can fully give yourself into sleep?

Truthfully, I’ve found it’s not hard, it just takes effort and the ability to be still. You see, on the mountaintop in Cali I’m by myself, no cell service, no interruptions, no distractions, just simply me and the amazing creation around. At home, I have work, practice, friends, Netflix, and a host of other distractions. In both places, I have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside me. In both places, I have the ability to talk to God, but in one place I have the desire and amazement, in the other I have distractions and deterrents.

I’m guessing for you, it’s the same way — in the quiet of your life, you’re able to focus on God and His amazing nature, but as soon as your day begins He becomes a mere item crossed off your list instead of the mindset guiding your thoughts. With the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us, we have an irreplaceable gift — literally God lives IN us… that alone should make us live constantly amazed.

Hebrews 12:1 states, “Since we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us.”

When was the last time you “threw off everything that hindered you?” Don’t misunderstand this, this isn’t asking when was the last time you got rid of a bad sinful habit or repented of your sins but with the distinction made, the writer is separating what hinders you from what entangles you. Both keep you from spending time with God and reaching His full potential for your life, but our hinderances don’t have to be sinful. Maybe one of yours is binge watching a season or show on Netflix — although not sinful, is it helping you “run with perseverance the race that is marked out for you?” Or maybe your job is so overwhelming that it constantly consumes your mind — again not sinful, but it’s keeping you from spending time with God. So what are your hinderances in life?

Now let’s be real — for some people (like myself) your schedule always seems to fill up, whether it be with every church activity or a wide range of interests, you’re never sitting still. I’m not suggesting you change your entire lifestyle, but rather re-learn to be amazed. Throw off a few hinderances so you have time to think as you go from one place to another — turn off the music and enjoy the drive home. Notice the cute houses or the busy street — marvel at the fact that every single person you pass, God knows indefinitely. Admire the fact that each person, tree, dog, or whatever you pass was created uniquely by God’s design — no two things look exactly alike. Or turn on the radio and appreciate God’s gift of music and the people He’s chosen to give the gift too.

Choosing to be amazed isn’t difficult but so often we bog ourselves down with so much stuff, we don’t give our minds time to dwell in amazement. We put God as an item on our to-do list: morning quiet time  prayer before dinner  said goodnight grace √  and then fill our day with every other activity we can think of.

Instead why don’t we try threading God throughout our day. Teaching our minds to notice the amazing world He has blessed us with. Spending time reading His scripture to learn, instead of to check it off our list before rushing off to answer emails. Seeing each interaction we have as not just another interaction at work, but realizing the person in front of you or on the phone with you is a unique individual created by God, loved by God, and known by God.

I challenge you to change your mindset, be like the boy on the plane, sitting in amazement even if nothing is new. Run the race God has for you, not the busy race the world is telling you to run. Enjoy the small moments. Thank God for the unexpected blessings. Notice the sunny day, love the uniqueness of those around you and pray for a heart of amazement.

Throw off the hinderances, dwell in the Spirit, and I promise you’ll be amazed by our Creator.

Freedom isn’t Free

Freedom isn’t free — a common known phrase often used around Memorial, Veterans and Independence Day. Why? Because we never want to downplay the sacrifice our soldiers and their families gave in order for us to obtain the freedom we have today.

This past Memorial Day I was preparing the devotional for the volleyball team I help coach and stumbled upon that phrase. We so often think of freedom only being in a political sense. Our Bill of Rights gives us the freedom to do a lot of things — speak, petition, vote, etc. We’re the “Land of the Free,” a place so many run to to find refuge from their oppression. But how true is that phrase when looking at our spiritual freedom?



As a Christian, our spiritual freedom allows us to talk with our Creator, to be free from our past and the mistakes we’ve made. It allows us to be washed in an ocean of grace so we have the full assurance of our salvation. This freedom guides our future, allowing the best path to open for us if we fully follow what the Word says.

Freedom isn’t free. The freedom we’ve obtained through Christ came at a cost.  For America, men go off to war all the time, hoping to come home to their families again, but know there is a cost to keep our country free. For Christ followers, God sent His one and only Son, knowing full well Christ would be ridiculed, tortured, and crucified, so that we could obtain this freedom (John 3:16). He wanted us to live a life free from our sin stained flesh, much like our government wants us to live a life free from the restrictions of the lands they left.

20130704_freedom

If you’re new to the Christian faith or haven’t really explored it much you may think I’m crazy in saying Christians have “freedom” — since let’s be honest, many people feel Christianity can be restricting. Honestly, yes it can, but when you realize the restrictions are for your own good they soon become less restrictions and more guardrails, keeping you from going where you could hurt yourself.

Think of it this way — if our government didn’t have the laws in place and we just let anyone and everyone do what they wanted to do, our nation would be a disaster. People would be stealing when they saw fit, no taxes would ever be paid so our roads would be worse, we would start to live in a world of fear — is this freedom? No not really. Our freedom lies inside the guidelines our government gives. Through these guidelines we are able to achieve great things. Our homes are safe. Our highways are paved. Our lives are lived without real fear.



Christ’s sacrifice gives us THE SAME sort of freedom. Let’s look at a hot topic: abstaining from sex until marriage (Eph. 5:5; Heb. 13:4). God puts this as a rule to protect us — nothing good ever comes from extramarital sex. Think about it, you’re connecting yourself with someone in the most intimate way possible — no one can know you more physically than someone who has sex with you (Gen. 2:24) — yet there is no promise they will stay with you, no matter what they say there is no guarantee of forever (because the Bible also says a marriage covenant is forever — but that’s a whole other topic). Has anyone really woken up from a one night stand and not had any guilt about it? Or gone through a breakup and regretted giving their all to the person? Is that freedom? Or are you becoming a slave to your sexual desires — only fulfilling the need because it’s there and it feels good, not because it really benefits your life? Maybe that’s just my mindset but I’ve seen too many friends deal with this to really think you can shake it all off as easily as people try to play if off like they can. Let me clear something up — I have nothing against sex at all, our God-given desire is to be known fully by another — but that doesn’t mean we need to be fully known by the entire high school baseball team. Understand? Look at this on the flip side — talk to any couple who waited until marriage to have sex and you’ll notice there is absolutely no regret in waiting. Their sex life means something because it’s just between them and doesn’t have their past in the bed with them causing them to compare. In both scenarios we have the freedom to choose. One choice leads to freedom from guilt and shame the other choice leads to momentary fulfillment but weight on our conscience.

I know it’s just one example and y’all might not agree, but when looking at freedom you will always have discrepancies as to what being “free” really looks like. A free spirit is usually someone who just goes with the flow, does whatever they feel, and doesn’t have a care in the world. Their perception of freedom might look way different than someone who needs a lot of structure in their life to feel fully themselves. God’s freedom allows us to be completely who we were made to be. Hebrews 12:1 says, “let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us.” Being set free in Christ is releasing the weight of life from your shoulders. He’s got everything under control. You’re free from worry. Free from guilt. Free from shame. You’re given grace and forgiveness. Your life is a whole new blank slate every day — nothing — and I mean nothing — can separate you from His freedom once you’ve fully accepted it.

A part of the freedom Christ gave us was the freedom to choose. You may not believe in the whole Jesus thing — you might think you’re better on your own and making your own decisions — and that’s your choice. God isn’t forcing you to choose Him, He’s giving you the option, but when you fully understand the freedom you have in Christ, the gift of Heaven, the salvation from Hell, and the love you will receive, the choice becomes a whole lot easier.



As I wrap this up, let me be clear on one thing — God’s freedom does not include freedom from hardship or suffering on earth. Our freedom to choose comes with consequences and unfortunately we don’t get to choose those consequences. Sometimes we have hardships that have nothing to do with our specific actions but rather are tied to the fact that evil is in the world. God doesn’t enjoy suffering, so please don’t ever think that God is wishing suffering upon you. Yes, Hell is a place full of suffering people are condemned to, but if you choose to reject God and all that He has offered to you there’s consequences for your choice, just like if you choose to commit a crime, there are consequences for your actions. I don’t wish that upon anyone — if it were up to me, everyone would come to love the Lord and experience the freedom I have found in Him. But unfortunately that isn’t everyone’s choice.

Freedom isn’t free but a life in Christ is, and it provides you a freedom you won’t ever regret. A freedom you never knew you wanted and a freedom you’ll want everyone to have.

A WingWoman’s Guide to Singleness

Every girl needs a good wing-woman, someone who can get along with the guys and introduce you to them. Someone who makes you look good and builds you up in a way no one else can. Over the years that’s been me. The girl who’s best buds with all the guys. The girl who never seemed to be able to get a guy, but got plenty of numbers to “give to my best friends.” And honestly it got quite annoying.

Unfortunately, it didn’t change in college or after college. My friends are all off getting married and I’m still as single as they come — surrounded by the guys interested in dating my friends and not me. The difference now, I’m actually ok with it.

You see, in high school and the beginning of college I constantly wanted to be the girl that people liked but didn’t know how. I kept trying to be who everyone said girls should be. I’d try to do makeup and fail — and I mean bright purple eyeshadow kinda fail. I’d try to dress up at school and got asked if I was a sub for the day because apparently I only knew how to dress professional and not cute. I felt out of place and didn’t know how to “fit in.”

Looking back now, I wonder why I tried so hard to fit in. I’m a “unique blend of everything” kinda girl. I love baseball probably a little too much. I wear heels one day and sweatpants the next. I’m the life of the party when I wanna be, but can curl up in the corner of the room with a book and be just fine. I’m more interested in building muscle than being a size 0. I love to sing and dance but get nervous to do so in front of people. I’m caring and compassionate yet firey when I’m upset. Really fancy dates freak me out and I normally don’t enjoy them at all. I can’t curl my own hair or do winged eyeliner to save my life, but that’s ok.

Know your worth

I’m everything listed and so much more, and over the years I’ve grown to be comfortable with it. To be real with you all, this past weekend I got sunburnt beyond belief, I literally was walking through the airport waddling like a duck. Then yesterday, two really cute guys came into my work and here I am chillin at my desk in a cute dress but my face is peeling like a snake — so attractive. But you know what, that’s who I am and that’s ok. I can laugh at myself and the misfortunate time to be sunburnt. I can own the awkward situations and use this time to build into myself.

Being single isn’t the end of the world. At times it feels like it, trust me I know. I make jokes to my friends all the time of how I’m destined to be the crazy cat lady all their kids call aunt Bri. But at the end of the day I’m thankful for this time and here’s why.

In the last year and a half as a mostly single girl I’ve been able to move to Richmond on my own, knowing no one, but making an amazing life here. I’ve been able to travel all over the U.S. with a national travel volleyball team. I’ve been able to learn more about myself through a rollercoaster relationship and the peace I find being out of it. I’ve been able to redefine what my dreams and aspirations are and make new goals on how to get there. I can go grab a drink with my guy friends, or go to a hockey game, or explore D.C., not worrying about what others may assume.

Paul single quote

You might think since I mentioned I had been in a relationship in the last year my notes on singleness no longer mean anything, and to be honest I can’t blame you, because I used to think that same way. But the relationship I was in was so not normal or healthy in any way that I actually prefer to be single than to be back in the mess of that relationship.

Being single isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing in and of itself. When else are you going to be able to make sporadic decisions knowing you can actually follow through on all of them? Or spend so much time building into yourself so that you are fully comfortable being yourself with yourself, not needing anyone else’s opinions to be ok? Or better yet, spend so much time pouring into other people because you aren’t funneling all your God-given love to one person?

So stop throwing yourself a pity-party because your Prince Charming hasn’t arrived yet. God has it all under control and for now, He’s asked you to be single or to be in whatever stage of life he’s asked you to be in. Just do yourself a favor, don’t settle. Know what you’re worth, know who you are, and find someone who treasures you for all of that and so much more. You are worth someone’s time so don’t tell yourself you’re not. If someone’s broken your heart or killed your confidence, don’t let them ruin you anymore. Pick yourself back up and realize you’re better off without them because at the end of the day you are.

Go be uniquely you. Be the girl with the loud laugh or the baking obsession. Own the quirky little traits that make you everything you are. Because some day someone is going to fall in love with the girl in a baseball cap who wasn’t afraid to love herself.

 

 

Social Media & Me

These days it seems like there are millions of articles about the effects of social media on today’s society. I’m no expert on the matter, in fact I really have no psychology background besides my freshman college gen ed requirement. BUT I can tell you, social media has had a profound effect on my life, and today I’m going to share it with you.

The picture on the left is of me at a fundraiser banquet. I took the picture and was hesitant to post it, because honestly I hate posting selfies, never been a fan and probably never will be. The picture on the right is of a favorite quote and reminder. I had absolutely no hesitation in posting the quote because it’s something I care about and is something I feel is great to spread. When I posted these two photos, my selfie got close to 175 likes on two social media platforms (which for me is A TON), my quote got a mere 25… so what does this show me? Who I am on the outside matters more to people than who I am on the inside. Now would we say that out loud? OF COURSE NOT! But inwardly we are professing it every time we value someones outward appearance over their inward ambition and beliefs.

Now you might think I’m crazy, and if so, congrats you’re one step closer to realizing we’re all a little crazy. But let me ask you something, how many of you have posted something on social media just for the likes or just to make it seem like your having the time of your life? When in reality you’re not happy, you’re tired or worn out. To be honest, I think we all have. I think we post so many selfies because we want to be seen as beautiful, we want to keep up with what society is telling us. But for what purpose. You got 150 likes on your selfie, so what? You got 15 likes on your post, what does it matter? At the end of the day you are you. And to quote Dr. Seuss:

Dr Seuss

If we are who we are — why do we worry so much about what others think. Why do we count the likes on the pictures. Why do we have to make it seem like we’re having a great time, when in reality we’re chillin’ at home watching baseball? Why do we make it seem like our relationships are going extremely well, when they’re falling apart at the seems? Don’t you get it — we all have struggles, we all have bad hair days, we all have doubts, but we’re all valuable, we all matter EXACTLY THE SAME to Christ. He isn’t going to welcome us into eternity based on the number of likes we have on a picture, based on the number of retweets we got, or based on the number of followers we have. He’s going to welcome us in based on our faith in Him and our belief in His sacrifice and saving grace.

Be yourself quote

So next time you get on social media, rejoice in your friends relationships instead of feeling left out that you don’t have one (and trust me I’m speaking as much to myself on this point as I am to anyone). Encourage your friends to post ABOUT themselves not OF themselves. Don’t feel like you need to post selfies constantly, let’s be real, your face hasn’t changed that much from last week or last month…. Use your social media to express who you are because only you are you! To be completely real, when I open someones social media and see a ton of selfies my first thought is not “oh gosh she’s beautiful or he’s hot” my first thought is usually “woah they’re kinda self centered.” Is that the mindset of everyone, no probably not, and I personally need to be better at not judging others. But let’s be real, when we post selfies are we thinking of other people or are we usually thinking of ourselves?

Challenge yourself to post about other people, books you like, quotes you live by, movies you saw, whatever it is that makes you unique and wholly you…. THEN, turn off the notifications. Seriously do it. I started this last week, turned off all notifications on all of my social media networks and let me tell you, it is the MOST REFRESHING thing I have done in a long long time. I don’t feel the need to get on it all the time. I don’t feel like I have to come up with these amazing posts that are going to make everyone love me. I just post, knowing that what I post is true to who I am. I’m more productive at work, more relaxed when hanging out with friends, and more confident in being truly myself.

Stop caring

Yes I still compare myself to others, and I think to an extent I always will, but it’s been so much better since I’ve found peace in just being myself. Every once in a while post a selfie, but use it to show us who you are — post it with a fun hat you found, with your new favorite workout shirt, or with the mountain you just climbed. Stop just posting to post, to try and prove to yourself that you’re beautiful because the truth is YOU ARE, but it’s not your face or your body that makes you that way. You might think you’re trying to prove to everyone else and not yourself, but a million selfies isn’t changing someone’s mind. It’s how you act and treat others that prove to others how beautiful you really are. This week I found the song Pretty by Lauren Alaina and it has become one of my favorite songs simply because IT’S SO TRUE! It proves the exact point I am trying to make and the point I hope you all take home with you today.

I’ll be honest, this isn’t an easy task. We’ve grown up in a society that glorifies social media but in the midst of it, we’ve stopped living. Go out and have fun with your friends and put the phone down. Enjoy the moment, make memories, have real conversations, be vulnerable, be yourself, and win your life back. Stop worrying about how everyone is going to perceive your adventures or your nights you’re staying inside. If you love to sit and read then sit and read, don’t make it seem like you’re out having a great time or feel bad that you aren’t. Be true to who you are, because the people who know you already love you for it. Please stop hurting yourself by letting everyone else be the judge of your self worth. You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are You — so let us see the real you, the true you, the baseball loving sweet tea drinking late night reading you, not the you you feel you have to be for society’s sake.

Choosing Joy. Everyday.

I’ve had a hard time recently thinking of what my next blog post should be about. My last two were so open and vulnerable, so to follow I felt I had to have something drastic to say. I’ve come to the realization though, that everyday lessons are just as important as those drastic AH-HA type moments.

Each day we are faced with millions of choices.

Can I hit the snooze one more time?

What outfit should I wear? 

Starbucks for the flavor, or WaWa for the price….

These choices may seem simple or mundane; choices we make without giving more than a couple seconds thought to it. But what about our attitude choice, do we consciously choose our attitude day by day, moment by moment? It may sound weird to think about, but humor me. When was the last time you consciously chose to be happy, even if the situation didn’t necessarily warrant it? If it’s been a while, then today’s post might be just for you.

One of my favorite new found quotes is by Henri J.M. Nouwen,

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.

 

Choosing Joy

 

Joy is a choice we make EVERY DAY. There is ALWAYS something to be joyful about.

If you’re a real debby downer or are going through a difficult time in life you may disagree with me, but bear with me for a couple more minutes and I’ll prove to you why I think this is true.

John 15:9-14 states “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.”

Christ has filled us with His joy if we follow his command to love one another. Our choice is to love others and as we go about our day loving others, Christ’s joy will be full in us. It’s why at Christmas we sing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come” Because Jesus is our joy.

Now let me make a quick disclaimer, joy and happiness are NOT the same thing. Happiness is a feeling, joy is a state of being. Happiness is dictated by what happens to you. Joy is dictated by how you view yourself.

If you view yourself as a beautiful creation, made in the image of God, loved by God, saved by God, and given the ability to spend eternity with God, you will no doubt have the joy of the Lord in you. When you come to a full understanding of how precious God views you and how valuable you are in His sight, then there is reason for joy day after day. The Creator of the universe loves you unconditionally, despite our failure, despite our attitudes, despite anything and everything we do, God love us. That in and of itself is reason to have joy. Every. Single. Day.

Now let me be clear, this doesn’t mean we won’t have troubles or that days are going to be easy. It just means that in the midst of hardship, confusion, or desperation, we have a joy to cling to. When everything seems to be going wrong, we have the joy of the Lord to remind us in the end, everything will be right. And when everything is going right and life seems to be all rainbows and butterflies, we don’t have to worry about the rollercoaster of potential happenings, we can be secure in God’s joy, knowing whatever may happen our joy is complete in Him.

Joy quote.jpg

So how do we go about achieving this joy — by making a conscious choice EVERYDAY. By reading the Word of God and meditating on it, by filling our minds with the truth God has promised us. By loving others. When we’re selflessly loving and generously giving a joyful heart becomes natural. Seriously, have you ever seen a truly generous person with a bitter heart? Or witnessed someone who continually loved others have an ungrateful mentality? I sure haven’t. Because when you continually love and continually are authentically generous, you start to see yourself in a different light and start to see the materials you own and the time you have as mere tools instead of possessions you can’t let go.

If you’re failing to find joy everyday, try for one week to consciously change your mindset. If it’s a rainy day, thank God for the invention of umbrellas or the rain for the crops. If you don’t like the meal your mom made, find joy in the fact you have food on your table and a mom who prepared it for you. If you hate your job, be joyful you have one, find joy in the education you’ve earned to be able to apply for one, or consider it joy that we live in a country where you have the freedom to change jobs. Whatever it is you let steal your joy, try counteracting it. Try opening your mind to find the joy every day. And if all else fails, use this as a motivation to start memorizing God’s word, because I promise you, that will not disappoint.

Joy is a choice. So make it yours today.