to the girl who feels lost, and like God is silent

Dear girl who feels lost,

First of all, I know. I know the feeling. Maybe you’re a junior/senior in high school and you are being bombarded with questions of where you’re going to college, what you’re going to major in, whether or not you’ll continue to play sports, dance, cheer, join a sorority, or whatever other questions they like to throw at you (because don’t you know, at 18 years of age, you’re supposed to already have all this figured out??). Maybe you’re a freshman/sophomore in college (or junior/senior) and you still haven’t declared a major or found anything that really sounds appealing to pursue for the rest of your life.

Maybe you’re the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” and all your friends are married or about to be, and you don’t even have a boyfriend. You may be at a crossroads about to make some major decision, or you didn’t get into the program that you needed to, so now you have to completely rearrange your plan. Maybe the man you were supposed to marry didn’t come through for you, and now your life seems to be at a stand-still.

And you’re sitting there, crying at God, pleading for Him to give you some divine revelation about what the heck you are supposed to be doing with your life, and: silence.

Why isn’t He talking? Everyone else has gotten “their plan” from Him, why hasn’t He given you yours yet?

I have read many, many blog posts and devotions about determining God’s will. I have wrestled with this concept and I have sat there in the same spot as you and asked why, why, why? Why isn’t God telling me anything? But it seems like the more and more you try to figure out how to figure it out, the more and more lost you feel. Does God have a specific person in mind for you? Does He have a chosen career path for you? How do you know? How does God communicate His purpose for our lives to us?

Dear friend, let me tell you something that may seem discouraging at first glance: God may or may not come to you and tell you specifically and explicitly exactly what He wants you to do, what career to pursue, who to marry, where to take a job, where to join a church, how many kids to have or whatever else you could possibly be worrying about.

God’s set of instructions to us are found in a book called…

wait for it…

The Holy Bible.

*applause and cheers*

It is completely within God’s power, and at times within His pleasure, to come to us individually and give us more specific instructions. For example, if you are called to be a pastor, or missionary, or some other form of ministry. Those kinds of things are specific duties for specific people called by God. But, for the most the part, I believe that we should not expect God to do that. God can absolutely do it, and He does sometimes. But in addition to that possibility, we already have unquestionably all the guidance and instruction we need per the Holy Bible.

Hint: that’s why God gave the Bible to His children in the first place.

The Bible is given by inspiration of God, and is a good and perfect reference for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and instructing. And by all those things we receive through the Bible, we can make better decisions about our life, and we will be better equipped to be servants of the Lord. (Find this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

I was told one time to not think of God’s will as a singular pathway that I am restricted to. I should view God’s will as a large passageway with many various pathways inside of it. They all lead to different lives, but at the same time, they all work within God’s will.

The Bible does NOT tell me: Betsy, you need to marry John Smith.

The Bible tells me: Betsy, marry someone who is a man of God; someone that is faithful and loving, patient, humble, and gentle. Someone that will be a leader and provider to your family and someone who seeks after God.

The Bible does NOT tell me: Betsy, you need to be an English teacher.

The Bible does tell me: Betsy, use the skills and abilities God has given you to bring honor and glory to His name.

If whatever you choose to do in life can be used to demonstrate God’s grace and glory through the skills and talents He’s given you, I sincerely believe that thing can totally be within God’s will for your life.

I suggest reading from the beginning of chapter 1, but Ephesians 1:11-12 says, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

When God made us His children, the purpose He established in us was to live “to the praise of His glory”. Our main goal while we live here on Earth is to praise God through any and everything we do. God’s ultimate will for your life is to praise Him. So, I have to believe that anything you do that can be used to praise Him, is acceptable in His will.

That thought is soooooo comforting, isn’t it? You are not bound to one specific person, career, etc… If you were, what would the consequences be if you chose wrong? How scary would it be to live like that?

That’s how a lot of us live. We try so hard to complicate God’s will. We want some divine revelation from God Himself. And honestly, dear friends, that is somewhat of an arrogant wish- that we should expect God to give us a “better” explanation than the thoroughly perfect instruction guide already provided for us.

It’s kinda like God’s thinking: ok, I’ve already given you this detailed instruction guide filled to the brim with perfectly applicable wisdom and knowledge, what more do you need??

How to Make Sure a Decision is Within God’s Will:

1. It is cohesive with teachings found in the Bible.

The End

If you feel led to something or someone, and a part of that something or someone is at odds with things you find in God’s Word, you can be 100% sure that this something or someone is not in God’s will for you. Sin will never be a part of God’s purpose for your life.

So to you who feel lost, determining God’s will for your life should not be an anxiety-inducing thought. There was a time in my life where I would sit for days and wrestle with figuring out what God is calling me to do. And each time the wrestling began, it was like, alright here we go again, bring on the stress and exhaustion. Did I think to look to the Bible? No. But I don’t believe it should be that way. Seeking God’s will should be comforting and encouraging. Mainly, because His will for you is perfect and good, and living according to our complete instruction manual makes for a godly and joyful life.

God allows you freedom to make decisions. And the most comforting thing about it is, those decisions are automatically going to be within God’s purpose for your life as long as they let you live “to the praise of His glory”.

I am in no way limiting God. He can open doors for you, He can provide opportunities, He can bring people in and out of your life, and He can place a desire on your heart, guide the course of your days, or send you a divine revelation however and whenever He chooses. But in general, if you find yourself at a point where you are afraid of making the wrong decision, or afraid to go in a direction that is outside God’s will, refer back to our good and perfect instruction guide. Everything you need to know about what decisions to make and how to live are already provided to you. It’s not as complicated as you think. You have the freedom to choose. (read: you have the freedom to choose!!)

Love,

someone who knows exactly how you feel

 

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2016 has been a disaster

This is the current joke running through the Internet right now- that 2016 has been a disaster. Thank God this year is over, let’s hope 2017 is better. People of the world have seemingly automatically agreed that this entire calendar year has just been catastrophic for the general human population. I realize that this year has held challenges- political decisions, the media, court rulings, riots, police shootings, terrorism, several well-loved celebrities passing away, and not to mention the presidential election that nearly tore our country apart.

Yet despite all this, I cannot latch on to the claim that “2016 has been a disaster for me”. I have laughed, I have loved, I have hugged, held, and been shown miraculous grace to have even lived another 365 days. That’s far from disaster.

We’ve absolutely had major issues this year, not only in our country but across the world. People are angry, and bitter and self-centered. Politicians are dishonest. Foreign terrors are real. Our country is incredibly divided in every way. From my point of view, the values of our society are quickly spiraling downward.

However, my life in 2016- or any other year for that matter- is far from disaster. I have a family that loves me. I have a roof over my head. I’ve formed new relationships and sustained old ones.

I’ve spent another 365 days with God watching over me and Jesus by my side.

I’ve lived through 365 opportunities to praise God for His love and mercy.

365 opportunities to spread love.

365 opportunities to live in joy.

I didn’t succeed everyday- there were several days I wasn’t praising God and I wasn’t living in joy.

But I still had the opportunity. That alone is enough to be thankful for. That alone is worthy of praise. The fact that I was even given another year to live is more than what I deserve.

The problems in the world will not define the happiness of my life.

The government officials elected, the court rulings, the opinions of the media and whatever else do not determine whether or not I am I living a happy, successful life.

Your happy, successful life is determined by what you do with what God has given you- whether it seems like a little or a lot. It’s defined by what you do with the people he placed in your life, the opportunities, the challenges, and even material blessings. The success of your life cannot be determined by things you cannot control. Whether or not 2016 was a success cannot be determined by what the world was doing around you, instead it should be defined by what God was doing within you. Do not throw away an entire year because things happen that are outside your control. This life we live on Earth has so many challenges, but because we live under God’s grace and love, it also has so many gifts.

With that being said, enter 2017 with the same outlook. You are about to embark on a 365 day journey filled with opportunities and people that can be part of God’s plan for you. You are about to be given another year to praise God and to live under his miraculous mercy and grace. You are about to receive more chances to grow into the child of God that you were designed to be. There will be struggles, and things will happen that you wish you could change, but don’t be surprised when you face heartache and disappointment. That’s to be expected, because we live in a broken world. But don’t discredit the blessings you receive because you’re too focused on the brokenness that you can’t control. Contentment in your life doesn’t come from outside circumstances, it comes from the peace and joy God has placed in your heart.

You have no idea what blessings and opportunities will unfold in 2017. And no matter what trials and struggles you find in this year, God can carry you farther.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

The workings of God within your heart are infinitely more important than the workings of heartache in the world.

 

you don’t have to be pretty like her

I have a story.

On one particular Wednesday morning, I was running late for class. Having an hour long commute to school, and an 8 AM class preceded by a 5:45 AM alarm, this not an uncommon occurrence for me.

you-dont-have-to-be-pretty

This morning, like many other mornings, my eyes were doing this really cool and unique thing where one is slightly more open than the other. I can wash my face, I can stretch my eyebrows, I can apply lotion, but nothing solves this problem. It’s great.

So, I have two options: put on a full face of make-up to the point where the smaller eye looks like it’s caved in (not a good option) or wear no make-up at all (a worse option).  On this particularly rushed occasion, I chose the latter.

So I run down the stairs after throwing on an outfit that I’m highly dissatisfied with because it makes me look like a safari tour guide and I begin to make my cup of coffee. My cup brews, so I pull out the milk and pour some in. And then I smell something.

And I look down at the expiration date and realize that I just poured spoiled milk in my coffee.

So no coffee today.

So here I am, no make-up, one eye half closed, unhappy with my outfit, and no coffee. And away to school I go.

In my first class that day, I meet a girl. She’s tall, literally the size of a toothpick, with a beautiful face, hair piled into a cute messy bun, and perfectly polished fingernails. She’s wearing athletic clothing, so she obviously must be in perfect shape, and her blonde straight hair definitely beats out my frizzy, air dried, semi-waves in any kind of imaginary beauty competition.

And I put her image up against my own in my mind. And nearly every ounce of self-esteem I had inside me drains out.

Lies spill into my heart telling me that I am not as pretty as I should be. I don’t try hard enough to look presentable for class. Why do I ever skip the make-up? I know I don’t look good without make-up. I am not who I should be. This girl must have her life completely together, I mean just look at her. She’s probably less clumsy than me, more feminine, more organized. She’s probably happier. Probably never misses an assignment. Probably has a clean room. Probably has a nicer car. The list goes on and on and on…

Unfortunately, this type of situation is not a rare one in my life. And I have a feeling it’s not rare in yours either.

What I’ve been trying to convince myself since that day, and the thought I hope you can sink into your heart is this: You are, by no means, under the obligation to strive to reach someone else’s standards of “perfection”. Because you are not placed on Earth to be someone else. You are not placed on Earth to please anyone else.

Someone else’s beauty does not take away from your own beauty.

Someone else’s skills and abilities do not take away from your own talents.

Someone else’s cute outfit does not take away from your own unique sense of style.

You don’t have to look, talk, dress, or act like that girl. You can look, dress, talk, and act like you.

You don’t have to be pretty like her. You can be pretty like you.

I have another story. It’s about a girl named Leah. Leah was a young woman who always seemed to come in second place to someone else.  The Bible tells us that Leah was pleasant, but her sister Rachel was beautiful (Gen 29:17). When a man named Jacob asked their father, Laban, for a wife, he was promised Rachel, but received Leah instead. When Jacob realized this he said, “What is this thou hast done unto me? Did not I serve with thee for Rachel? Wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?” Not only was Leah not as beautiful as her sister, but she also became a newlywed who was rejected by her own husband.

Don’t you have days that you feel a lot like Leah? Don’t have days when you feel as if you’re always second place to someone else, like you’re supposed to be so much more than you really are?

I have those days too.

God eventually blessed Leah to give Jacob a child. Despite the fact that this man has rejected her, Leah praised and thanked God for blessing her with a child to give Jacob (vs 35). Leah understood something that is should be such a precious reminder for all of us.

Leah understood that she was not placed there to serve people. She was not there to serve Jacob, to please her Father, or to try to live up to her sister’s standards. God placed Leah on Earth to serve and praise Him. And that’s exactly what she did. Leah was not beautiful like Rachel, but she was beautiful because she was a young woman who remained faithful to God and served and praised Him.

When you allow yourself to believe that you are not as good/pretty/skinny as other girls, you begin trying to please people more than you are trying to please God. You are admitting that others’ approval is more valuable to you than God’s approval.

Dear friend, you do not exist to please people around you.

You do not exist to win beauty contests, to win over all the boys, or to win anyone’s approval.

You exist to serve God.

You are not beautiful because of the color of your eyes, the color of your skin, the style of your hair, or the shape of your body. You are beautiful because God created you for Himself. You are beautiful because God is pleased by your praise and faithfulness. You will become so much more content with who you are when you have a firm grasp on what your purpose is- to serve God, to spread love, to honor and worship the One who made you beautifully and perfectly.

how to respond when your dreams crumble

I experienced a break up this year.

In March actually. For a little over 12 hours.

break up

As I’ve mentioned in many relationship posts, I’ve learned this year that choosing another imperfect human being to experience life with is not a task for the faint of heart.

It takes more patience, understanding, and forgiveness than I could’ve ever imagined…and we’re only two years in and not even married. So without elaborating on details: conflicting schedules, minimal communication, and semi-long distance caused me to believe that our relationship was falling apart. I trust now that the real reason is that God needed to teach me something.

I know I don’t have to describe this feeling to you. The devastation that swallows your heart when you can feel something failing, whether it’s a relationship, friendship, job prospects, your dream school, scholarship opportunities, basketball try-outs, nursing school admission… whatever you want to fill in the blank with. Feeling lost. Feeling like a disappointment. Wondering what in the world am I even supposed to be doing?

It’s crushing. It’s heartbreaking.

Because you know that you were born to be a nurse…

Because this was your chance to prove your talent…

Because you’ve always dreamed of getting a scholarship to that dream school…

Because you really did love him…

So now what?

Because you felt like this was really God’s plan for you, and everything just fell perfectly into place up until now, and it just felt right, and you were doing so good, and everyone was cheering you on and expecting you to succeed, marry them, get the job, make the team, get into the school or program… Maybe you’ve been dreaming about this your whole life, or maybe it’s something that your parents have always wanted for you, and everyone has these expectations of you to succeed, and now it’s all crumbling.

And now what are you supposed to tell everyone? You’ll have to explain to everyone what happened and what you did wrong. You’ll have to let everyone down. They’ll be disappointed. They’ll say, “well, it was never going to work out anyways”. Everyone will wonder, just like you are, how something that seemed so perfect just fell apart. You’ll have to explain to everyone just exactly how you failed.

But here’s the new hope that you need to let sink your heart: sometimes God lets things fall apart, so He can put them back together.

I think failure shifts our focus. It makes us ask:

What went wrong?

Was it something I could’ve done better?

What can I learn from this?

How could God be preparing me for something?

What other plans could God have for my life?

That dream school may put you in a place that distracts you from God. Those countless rejection letters are only proof that God is saving you for something better. That friendship crumbled because they were no longer building you up, maybe they were pulling you down. Maybe God was giving you room for new friendships. Maybe God needs your focus somewhere more important than that sports team that you “weren’t good enough” for.

When my dreams crumbled, a new, greater hope was eventually placed in my heart: giving your hopes and dreams over to God is the absolute best way to guarantee a joyful, meaningful life.

God called me to let go of something that I had made my idol, something that I had wrapped my entire life around. He ended something that had become my only source of fulfillment. When I put my hopes and dreams in His hands, and I did what He was calling me to do, He built our relationship back up in a much more beautiful and Godly way.

I’m not saying that God is always going to give you back what you lost. In my specific situation, He did. But that isn’t necessarily true for all cases. He may build your plans back on a completely and totally different pathway than you started out with, or He may put you back on the same path with a lesson learned. You have to trust that He has your best interest in mind. Because He does. And when your plans crumble, that doesn’t always mean you failed. It just might mean that God needs to redirect your path.

In these months that have followed our break up, we have grown in our faith and beliefs as well as our love for each other. We’ve learned to love each other in a more Godly way, we’ve learned more about each other’s needs, and much more about our Savior and the place He holds in our relationship. I’ve learned that a relationship with another person, no matter who it is, can never be my only source of fulfillment. I’ve learned that when my relationship becomes an idol in my heart, it actually does more harm than good for both people involved.

Allowing something that you’ve invested months, years, or maybe even a lifetime into to crumble may be one of the most difficult and earth-shattering things you’ll ever have to do. But coming through to the other side of the heartache, where God’s plan is waiting for you, provides an immeasurable amount of joy and peace.

When you face the heartache knowing that God may be using it to build you something greater, it becomes something strangely beautiful. And I cannot begin to explain what it feels like to experience the blessings that God gives once you decide to follow where He leads. You cannot imagine the joy, peace, and contentment that I feel knowing that putting my trust in God created something beautiful.

Each and every one of us will experience failures throughout our whole life. I hesitate to make the claim that everything happens for a reason, but I am convinced that absolutely everything about your life is subject to God’s control. The heartaches and crushed plans don’t seem so devastating when you can put total hope and confidence in God’s providence in your life.

And trusting in God’s providence gives you this new hope: maybe things only fall apart so God can put them back together His way.

 

 

the art of Getting Along with Others

I have Romans 12:9-21 sectioned off in my Bible and labeled as “how to get along with others”.

People (including me) seem to have such difficulty with this. Getting along with others is something that adults and guardians drive into our brains as soon as we become functioning, social beings. Share your toys. Say “please” and “thank- you”. Wait your turn. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Somewhere between preschool and adulthood it seems like this art of “getting along with others” is either somewhat forgotten, or completely lost altogether. Why does it become harder to get along? Why does it get harder to treat others politely, and with kindness?

Maybe it’s because we grow up and realize that not everyone is as good as we thought. Maybe it’s because everyone begins to develop more diverse personalities, which makes it easier to clash with one another. Maybe as we age, the world seems to get colder and people seem to get harsher. We realize that not everyone can be a winner, and since we all want to be a winner, we do everything we can to beat down the competition.

Whatever the reason, it’s a shame (to put it in my dad’s words) that the simple art of “getting along” is such a hard concept for most of us to grasp.

So, for the world’s convenience, and built around scripture found in Romans 12:9-21, I have put together the Comprehensive, All-in-One, Complete Lesson and Guide to Getting Along with Others 🙂 if everyone would read this, the world’s problems would be solved right?

Right.

Lol.

getting along with others

Starting in verse 9,Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (10) Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Seems fairly simple, right? You know, in the King James Version (my fave version, btw) love is replaced with charity. Charity is any action that may require sacrifice of yourself for the benefit of others.

Charity is goodwill towards others without worrying about what kind of sacrifice you have to make for yourself. So love others with sincerity. Place the happiness of others before the happiness of yourself, hate what is evil, and cling to what is good.

Don’t fall into the pressures of sin. If people around you are engaging in a particular sin, leave them, but continue to love them from a distance. Cling to the goodness. Cling to the good you see in others. Cling to the love, joy and peace of God, and then throw it around like sprinkles on everyone else’s ice cream.

Verses 11-13 are centered around your relationship with God. Which makes sense, because your relationship with God is the foundation for all other 3elationships. “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” I’ve noticed that my attitude towards others changes when I’m in a low period in my relationship with God. I’m more impatient, less forgiving, and less cheerful when I’m not focused on God. Human beings, despite how frustrating they can be at times, become much more lovable when you look at them through God’s love.

Verses 14-20 are pretty self-explanatory, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’”

Bless those who persecute you. I have this mindset that when others ridicule you or speak badly of your good deeds, it’s either because they see something in you that they are jealous of, or they something in themselves that they hate. This mindset gives should give you all the more reason to love on them. Whatever ugly things they have to say about you only show their true colors, and also just proves how much more love they really need.

Mourn with those who mourn– this one is easy. Rejoice with those who rejoice– this one is not. Don’t ask me why. I guess it’s just our human nature to automatically be jealous when good things happen to other people. The solution to this is to look at everyone around remembering that they are children of God, and precious in His sight. If they are precious to God, they should be precious to you. If their life is important to God, it should be important to you, and rejoicing with one another’s victories is the sweetest proof of love.

Do not take revenge when someone hurts you, instead, give help to them when they need it: “if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Or in other words, kill them with kindness. The focus of this point is, repaying good for evil is an awesome testimony of God’s love. It paints the perfect picture of mercy and forgiveness. Instead of hurting those who hurt you, be an example of a life lived in a better way. Give them a reason to wonder what you have that fills you with such grace.

There you have it! Betsy’s Comprehensive, All-in-One, Complete Lesson and Guide to Getting Along with Others. Seems pretty simple. Yeah? I just solved all the world’s problems, right?

I love, love, love these passages of scripture, and the lessons taught here can be found in so many other places in the Bible, specifically in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7.

I am a huge believer that your day-to-day living is the greatest testimony you have. The way you live your daily life is proof of where your focus is and where your heart dwells. You can choose to show others that your heart dwells in the world, or that it dwells in Jesus.

 

 

My Dear Single Girl: Lessons Learned from A Non – Single Girl

I wrote this post a little differently from my previous ones. This post started out as a ramble in the notes section of my phone, but I began to see some good lessons in my babbling and decided to make a blog post out of it :-). The words that are italicized are part of the original writing, and they are absolutely straight from my heart, so I decided to leave them in there.

My Dear Single Girl: Lessons Learned from a Non-Single Girl

My Dear Single Girl_

Maybe we agreed to trudge through life together because we thought we could fill all the cracks in each other’s hearts. We thought we could close in the gaps for each other. Maybe we thought that this arrangement between us would clean up all the mess inside us, we thought that it would wipe away the hurt and the heartache that others left behind for us.

But I’m learning that that’s not how love works. Love works in the mess and the heartache, it doesn’t erase it. Love sticks through it. Being in love with another person doesn’t put the chaos in your heart back in order, it chooses to stick with you through the chaos.

If you’re looking for someone to fix you, you’re looking in all the wrong places. If you need someone to clean up your mess, look up to Heaven, not around on this Earth.

When we signed up for this, we didn’t know that sometimes love would be the cause of the mess and the worry and the hurt. That sometimes, love would turn its back and refuse to speak. We didn’t know that love wouldn’t always cultivate happiness, or that some days or weeks or months, happiness would be nowhere to be found.

Maybe I thought that you would always love me well, and maybe you thought I could always love you well. Maybe that’s why we chose each other, we were hoping to be loved perfectly by another person. Maybe we thought that we could be the cure for each other’s loneliness. We didn’t know that affection and kindness wouldn’t always come easy. We didn’t understand that just because you love someone, it doesn’t mean you’ll always feel affection for them.

I’m learning now that no one can love me perfectly except The One. During seasons of singleness, we look for the one that we think is going to love us perfectly and deeply no matter what we do. We don’t realize that we’re actually just searching for Jesus. And even when you’re in a relationship, maybe you still expect him to love you perfectly, and so when he inevitably fails, you crumble. Maybe all the things you’re searching for in a relationship with a guy are really only things that you can find perfectly in a relationship with Jesus.

Maybe we checked “agree” without really reading all the conditions. The conditions that said in order for the relationship to last, sometimes a lot of times, you’ll have to lay down your happiness. The conditions that would’ve told us that by agreeing to this relationship, we will learn how to sacrifice like we’ve never had to before, that we would learn how much pride and selfishness we really have in our hearts. We would’ve been prepared for the difficult and heartbreaking moments, the days that feel empty even though the person you love is sitting right next to you.

The promise between two people in love doesn’t guarantee happiness or an easy life.

The promise between two people in love guarantees growth. We are guaranteed another person to struggle and hurt with. We’re making a promise to another soul to keep choosing each them every day no matter what.

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably keep saying it until the day God calls me home: the deeper I go into understanding God’s love, the more I realize how terribly I fail at showing His love. I’m learning more and more that a relationship is not for my own benefit, it’s for the other person’s. And ultimately, a relationship (with anyone) is for the glory of God. I’m learning that if I go into a relationship for the purpose of fulfilling something in my life that I believe to be missing, I’ll never be satisfied.

So, why then, do you choose someone to be in a relationship with? What’s the point? And how do you choose them?

You choose them because you see something special in their heart, something placed there by God. Choose the one that has a love that resembles the love of God.

Choose someone who loves you and others in a way that reminds you of the way God loves.

Choose the person who is going to protect your relationship with him, with others, and with God.

Choose them because you see godly characteristics in them- forgiveness, patience, kindness, and faith. And then you love them for who they are not for how they love you.

When you are looking for the one, choose them because you have a desire to add joy to their life, and you want to help them grow and you want to encourage their walk with Christ. Don’t be looking for someone if your only focus is to see how much they can do for you or how well they can love you.

Don’t check “yes” if you expect them to fulfill everything for you, or to be your sole source of happiness and purpose. That’s not what they are. They are a companion to help you grow and learn. They are someone to help you honor God. Part of the purpose of your relationship is to be a godly example and to be a picture of the love of God to others. They are simply someone to walk through life with, because God knew that it would be easier for us if we didn’t have to do this life alone.

I can’t fix the emptiness inside

Sunday morning I was feeling really good about myself. My hair looked good, I was wearing make-up for the first time in a long time, and I had a new dress that I knew I looked good in.

Once I was fully fixed, with every hair in place and all my jewelry on, I was giving myself the final once-over in my sister’s full length mirror. You know, girls- the concluding check before deciding that you’re ready to face the world.

A rush of confidence surged through me for a solid 10 seconds, and then I was shocked at what followed: emptiness.

The thought ran through my mind, “ok, I look really good. I know I do…but, now what?”

I had been feeling pretty insecure all week, my face had been breaking out, and I was having one of those “fat weeks” (you know when you just eat everything all the time and end up feeling like a whale). After only working and doing summer-y things that require no make-up and only a semi-clean t-shirt, I was finally going out, dressed up, and looking good.

And I felt empty.

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Do y’all see where I’m going with this? I am not the cure for my own insecurity. My happiness and contentment cannot stand on my appearance, clothes, or anything else about me. No matter how much I dress up, or how much make-up I put on, it will never be enough. I’ll continually be searching for the next thing- a new haircut or a new outfit, etc…

The spaces in my heart will not be filled by a shopping excursion, a makeover, or trip to the gym.

My contentment with myself will remain shaky and unstable as long as I depend on my looks to bring me security.

I have been desperately trying to engrave this concept into my soul: contentment comes from God.

I can get as skinny as I want, buy as many new outfits as I want, and become a make-up expert…but I will never be satisfied. I will never be satisfied until I embrace the fact that contentment with my life and security in who I am comes from God and Him alone.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body…” – 1 Corinthians 6:19

Our bodies are a living temple for God. Inside you, within your heart, is where Jesus resides. Who are we to be dissatisfied with the body that God gave us? Who are we to use something that God created for His glory, for our own ego boost? While you were created beautifully and for a purpose, you are not your own.

How selfish of me to seize what was meant for God’s glory, for my own glory.

My satisfaction and contentment with who I am comes not from how glamorous or attractive I can make myself look, but from how I look through God’s eyes.

Unblemished. Spotless. That’s how I appear to God. That’s where my security stands. Anything I put my self-worth in besides Christ is a weak foundation to stand on. Who you are is defined by what Christ did for you on the cross, and any other place you put your confidence will surely crumble. Rely only the lasting foundation that Christ provides for your joy.

I believe everyone on this planet is searching for fulfillment. Every living soul is seeking something to pour themselves into, something to make their bad days good and heal their heartaches, something that they can look forward to every morning that they open their eyes, and something that makes them feel like their life has a purpose. On this particular day, I was relying on my appearance for my satisfaction.

Some girls turn to their looks, some turn to boyfriends. You can seek fulfillment in your grades, athletic ability, friendships, success, money, whatever… and all of it will leave you feeling empty.

Nothing in myself is enough to fulfill my contentment. There is nothing about me that is worth praise. I cannot fix myself enough in order to find joy solely from who I am. There will always be something else I need to fix, something about me that is still not good enough.

This relates back to my journey to joy: If every morning I wake up anticipating only my appearance, money, success, talents, or anything else to get me through the day, I’ll be an unhappy girl a lot of days. Nothing can bring you greater joy than this: the fact that you are made blameless through Jesus Christ, and that you belong to God and Him alone. Nothing you do on this Earth can fix the emptiness inside you. The only consistent fulfillment you can find anywhere comes from Christ.

Filled with Greater Joy

Hopefully, most everyone has noticed by now that Tender, Kind & Refined has been moved to Filled with Greater Joy. I’ve been thinking about changing the name for a while, but I couldn’t come up with a title that I was satisfied with until now. I’ve been meaning to write an explanation behind this change earlier, but I’ve been super busy (and a bit lazy) so here it finally is!

joy

Joy is such an important concept to me, and it’s also something I’ve always really struggled with. I’ve always admired people who can go through every day with a smile of their face, while their heart is actually shattered on the inside. I can imagine that takes an incredible amount of strength, and also an incredibly strong foundation in their faith, and it’s something that I’ve never succeeded in doing.

Without going into a ton of detail, I become overwhelmed extremely easy. All the sadness and heartache in the world really lies heavy in my heart, and sometimes I let it engulf me.

It seems like someone is always getting hurt, someone is always going through tragedy, people die, people are starving, people hurt each other, and it seems like it never ends. These are the streams of thought that almost constantly go run through my mind. And because of this, joy seems far from my soul at times.

But that’s just this world- and this world is not my home.

And I know that God can overcome anything and everything.

I recently ran across this verse:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” – Habakkuk 3:17-18

This is it, y’all this is the verse! Can you believe that I’ve gone all this time trying to embrace this concept, but had never come across this verse??

Yeah. Me neither.

And it seems like now that I’ve discovered it, I keep seeing it pop up everywhere. Funny how things happen like that, you know?

Though everything in my life that could possibly go wrong may be going wrong, I will still rejoice in my savior.

THIS HAS BEEN ON MY HEART FOR SO LONG, Y’ALL.

Because it’s important. And also, because it’s difficult.

We are creatures of habit. We are creatures of routine. We are creatures that desire everything to go according to our way, our wants, and our time frame. We want perfection, and we want it quickly and effortlessly. So when we don’t get our way, when we don’t get perfection, when things are hard to do and they take a long time or maybe they seem impossible, we crumble.

Maybe the fig tree that won’t bud is actually you feeling as if your talents and abilities are going to waste.

Maybe your lack of sheep in the pen and cattle in the field is actually a lack of digits in your bank account or the scarcity of food that you can put on the table.

Maybe the fields that produce no food are actually the hours of time you put into something you care about, and you never see the fruits of your labor.

Maybe the lack of grapes on the vine is lack of sustained friendships or family relationships.

But you can still rejoice in your Savior- you can still be joyful in the Lord.

Because the very fact that you have air in your lungs and a beating heart is enough to rejoice. The fact that you wake up every morning with Jesus by your side is more than enough to be grateful for. Whatever you have in life, whether it is a lot or a little by the world’s standards, it is still more than you deserve and it is still a tremendous blessing.

We deserve nothing, so the fact that we have anything at all should be motive enough to celebrate our life in Christ every single day.

On my journey here to being filled with greater joy, I’ve learned that when I slip into a funk or start throwing myself a little pity party, counting my blessings always helps. Literally. I begin a mental list of things that I am thankful for. Sometimes, it’s even more helpful to actually write it down, because I have a visual representation of how much I am blessed with.

I recognize now that despite what whirlwind of devastation is going on around me, my joy and contentment come from God, not outside circumstances. I recognize that comparing my life to anyone else’s shatters my joy. I’m learning that joy is beautiful and contagious and extremely important for someone following after Jesus. My goal is have true lasting joy throughout my life, no matter what surroundings or struggles come my way.

My goal is to live my life filled with greater joy.

 

the truth behind the instagram

For anyone who keeps up with my blog regularly, you pretty well know that I have a serious bone to pick with social media, namely, Instagram- (you can read about it here, here, and here). I love it because I love seeing what other people are doing. It genuinely fills me with joy to see people spending time with their family, and friends, reaching milestones in life, accomplishing goals and dreams. I love rejoicing with others’ lives. But with all of that comes the inevitable need to compare all of their lives to my own. I enjoy seeing people I care about and their happiness, but it seems like I can’t keep myself from wondering how my happiness sizes up with theirs. Do I do as adventurous things as them? Do I spend as much time with my friends and family as her? Is my relationship as “godly” as theirs?

I pray that y’all will spare your judgment of me throughout this post and recognize that we all do this. This obsession with portraying our picture-perfect lives while hiding the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes stuff runs through each and every one of us. What if instead of cute captions, we posted the reality behind each of our posts? How differently would others see our lives? We are terrified of everyone else knowing the real stuff.

In an effort to provide a real-life example, here is the reality behind several of my Instagram posts (again, spare your judgment please)…

Reality: in general, the way I portray our relationship is all lovey and smiley all the time- but that is absolutely not the reality. There have been struggles and heartaches and almost an end to the relationship. I urge y’all to please, please, please never feel jealous of anyone else’s relationship that you see on social media. We honestly never see the whole picture.

Reality: this picture was not *as* spontaneous as it seemed to be. I took around 5 billion pics before settling on this one and almost wrecked just as many times trying to take it (not recommended- don’t use your phone while driving, kids)

Reality: this looks like just a cute date night for a couple in love, but this night was about repairing damaged hearts and mending injured trust

Reality: I literally kept my finished starbucks drink for hours after I was done, solely for the purpose of taking this picture. Also, I had finished this book for a while, and had no other reason to post about it besides the fact that I just felt the need to post something.

Can I just say that the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes stuff is my real life? Looking awkward and smiling weird in pictures is my real life. Being a homebody who is sometimes afraid of adventure is my real life. School, work, and not a whole lot of play is my real life. And cute couple pics? Or people you think are “relationship goals”? Don’t even get me started- that’s another post for another time (coming soon!).

It’s amazing how we (me!!) can so easily become more preoccupied with publishing our lives in a certain way instead of actually living our lives in a certain way.

Spend time connecting with your friends and family instead of wasting time trying to get the perfect “postable” pic.

Spend time in the Word and building your relationship with Christ instead of adding scripture to every selfie you post.

Pray for a godly husband and for God to transform you into a godly wife instead of gawking over “relationship goals”.

Work on your own life, relationships, goals and heart instead of comparing them to someone else’s.

This is not a call to give up social media or to stop striving for cute pictures with your friends. This is not a hate post against the Internet and the modern age we live in. It’s simply a suggestion to maybe not take it all so seriously. Just keep in mind as your scrolling that the illustrations of people’s lives online is absolutely no accurate depiction of what their life is actually like. You can’t allow yourself to get jealous over someone’s “online image” when it most likely isn’t their reality.

You have three options:

Sit there, watch other people’s lives, and pine over them.

Live a fake portrayal of your life through Facebook or Instagram.

Simply live your life.

Living your life seems like the best option to me. God has given you insurmountable blessings. The life you have and the people you are surrounded by are nothing short of gifts straight from Heaven. Don’t take them for granted while trying to live up to someone else’s standards.

Also, remember that your actions and opinions and the way you live your life is solely between you and God. The way that He sees you is far more important than the way you wish others to see you. Living up to God’s expectations should be your goal, not the world’s.

 

 

filling yourself with Jesus

I like to fill my heart with different things. We all like to set up little comfy homes in our hearts for the things that we think are going to make us happy. We want these things, events, or people to live comfortably inside us and bring us contentment, security, comfort, etc… for the rest of our days.

I like to think that once this thing happens, I’ll be happy. Once I get “x” amount of money, I’ll be happy. If I could just have more material things, I’ll be happy. And then “this thing” happens, and I’m left with a couple moments, weeks, maybe even a few months of happiness, and then I’m left feeling empty again. I like to rest my contentment, security, and comfort on an object, or event or person. And then when that one thing inevitably lets me down, my whole world comes crashing down. Because my whole world revolved around that one thing.

And it’s the same with anything- you can wait to get a boyfriend, to graduate high school, college, for the weekend, for summer- whatever it may be.

filling yourself

I think part of the reason we like to pour all of ourselves into earthly things, events, or people is because they are more concrete. They seem more real to us. I am easily satisfied when I visually see my paycheck deposit. I’m usually really content with myself when I come home from a successful shopping day and review everything I bought. Comfort is easy to seek from hugs or affection from friends and family. Those things are physical. We can certainly see them, feel them, or reap the physical benefits from them.

Our relationship with God is not always as tangible. We can’t see Him, we can’t always see what He’s doing or what He’s telling us to do. He isn’t a physical presence in our lives.

But the reality is, there is nothing more real, or more secure or lasting than our life we have in Christ. It’s important to understand that although earthly things are more concrete than your perception of God seems, your relationship with God is far more permanent. Anything we fill ourselves with other than Jesus is eventually going to let us down. Anything other than Jesus will leave us feeling empty.

There’s this song by Bethel Music called You Are My One Thing and it’s a really beautiful and meaningful song.

Just to be close to you

Just to walk next to you

This is my one thing

You are my one thing

Just to be in the presence of Jesus, just to know that He is in our lives should be enough. To wake up every day realizing that Jesus walks through life with us is enough for us to hold on to. Jesus is more than enough to fill ourselves with.The fact that you even have breath in your lungs and have the privilege to exist in a universe where you have Jesus Christ as your Hope and Savior is far beyond more than enough to hold onto.

He’s the only thing that will last through changing days, or years. He’s able to comfort and protect you better than anything or anyone. He can bring you more peace, joy, or security than any physical thing or any person. And it’s enduring. Your relationship with Jesus is more permanent and secure than your relationship with anyone else, and definitely with any other material thing.

He’ll last beyond your graduation date, beyond the day you finally get a boyfriend, beyond the weekend and summer. He never ends, and He certainly never lets us down.

If we live our lives constantly waiting for the next thing to fill ourselves with, we’ll be perpetually searching for contentment. The space in our lives is only shaped for Jesus. Only Jesus is enough to fill up the expanse of the hole in our heart. Anything you latch onto other than Him will always leave you looking for more.

So that boyfriend isn’t going to bring you joy. Graduating high school or college won’t bring you joy. Neither is the weekend or the summer or the next paycheck. Those things will make you happy for a period of time. Eventually the newness wears off or the thing lets you down, or it altogether ends. Jesus is lasting. Filling yourself up with him will never bring you disappointment.