Monday, April 27, 2015

Can I LIVE?: When you're "too mature" for your age



I'm twenty years old. I attend church more times per week than many people do per year. I teach Sunday school, and when I'm not teaching, I'm attending. I sing in the choir. I'm a member of the Emmaus community. I write this blog. I try earnestly to practice what I preach. No, I'm not bragging, just getting that all out there so this makes sense. But am I doing too much? Am I too spiritually mature for my age? I would hope not. While I strive to learn more and do more to grow in my faith, some people seem to think I'm too young to be this into my "church life"... whatever that means. 
When people realize how involved I am in church, I hear one of two statements: 
  1. "Wow! I'm impressed that you find 
        the time to do all that AND go to    
        school!"
  2. "You really should be more focused 
        on being a college kid. You should 
        enjoy being this young!"
All I know to do there is smile and try not to look uncomfortable. Now, I don't believe for even a second that anyone that says something like that to me means harm or insult. I think it's coming from a good place, always. But, I do think many people fail to realize that I'm in church because I WANT TO BE THERE. I love going to church. I love hugging the necks of people who are also choosing to be there. I love singing and working with the kids. I AM enjoying being this young. Just not the way I'm expected to. 
I do, however, find it so sweet and humbling when I talk to people about my faith and my journey so far and they tell me they're 'shocked of my wisdom' and they 'wish they'd known that at twenty'. Even though I don't know what to say here, I'm absolutely giddy inside. 

So why is it that most people assume I'm too young to seem to be so invested in my spiritual growth until they actually know how  serious I am about it? Why is it so hard to believe that a twenty year old can learn from their mistakes and grow from them? 
I think young people are so expected to keep making the same mistakes and just go on about their day. We're expected to focus on more worldly things and spend our time trying to prove that we're better than everyone. I think that much of the younger generation is so focused on friendships, dating, and the latest gossip that when the ones focused on God are encouraged to be young, we lose sight of what is really important. We lose motivation to strengthen our relationship with the Father and we base our worth solely on what other people think about us. 
So what if we want to focus on our faith? Should we let doubts and what others think about us hold us back? NO

    "Don’t let anyone look down on you
    because you are young, but set an
    example for the believers inspeech,
    in conduct, in love, in faith and in  
    purity."
                              1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)

If you want to be active in church, be active. If you want to tell others about the real, unconditional love of Christ, you tell them all about it. Use your youth to your advantage. Use your experiences, your lessons learned. Connect with others in any way you know how. Set an example for your friends and those younger than you. You might even be setting an example to those older than you. Whatever you do, don't let a fear of rejection get in your way. Keep your focus on God and he'll guide your path. He will never lead you through a storm and leave you there. Doors you may think you should go through will be slammed shut from time to time, but better, bigger doors always open wide. Keep your faith and love God with everything you have. I promise while you love Him with every breath, He loves you even more. 

So the next time you second guess your abilities based on your age, remember that you wouldn't have been blessed with certain gifts and abilities if you were supposed to just chose not to use them. As soon as you figure your talents out, show them off and give God the glory! You are young, but more importantly, you are His. 





Prayer: Dear God, thank you for giving me the opportunities and the tools to praise you. While I may not know exactly who I am, I know that I will give you the glory. Please continue to give me opportunities to praise you. Please grant me the courage to be a disciple for you. Thank you for always loving me and guiding me. I love you, God. Amen

Monday, March 30, 2015

25 Things You'll Never Hear a Southern, Church Going Woman Say


1. No, I don't go to Sunday School. 

Oh, yes I do.


2. Oh, sorry, you can't sit in this pew.
I'll move just so you can have it.

3. I only donate if I can get a tax credit. 
I donate before I sell.

4. I choose to work on Sundays.  
It makes me miserable to have to work on Sunday.

5. I don't have time to pray. 
MAKE time!

6. No, I never cook on Sundays. 
Sunday dinners are the best.

7. I don't have time to make a casserole for the potluck.  
Which recipe should I use? Can I make three?

8. I really don't want to go to the tea. 
I'd like to help plan it! I love tea!

9. Sure honey, we can skip church and go fishing. 
NO. Just no. 

10. I'm really tired of being nice all the time, it's exhausting. 
Kill 'em with kindness!

11. I'm not a hugger. 
Oh yes I am, get over here!

12. They're not the type of people we want in our church. 
Hey, you should come to church with me!

13. What's the big deal about having a greeter?
It feels weird when the greeter isn't here.

14. This church is too welcoming. 
Did I hug enough people today?

15. I never get anything out of the sermon.
I feel like the sermons are for me!

16. No, I don't have any prayer requests. 
People always need Jesus.

17. My family is perfect, we don't need any spiritual growth.
Please pray for my family. 

18. I'm better than you.
I don't deserve His grace. 

19. Am I showing enough cleavage?
WOAH! Cover them bad boys up!

20. That song "How Great Thou Art" is so annoying!
I LOVE that song! 

21. Oh, I don't need another Nativity scene.
This is precious, I'm buying it!

22. What's so important about Easter?
Easter? Right out there with Christmas in my book!

23. No, my kids don't need another Easter outfit.
Isn't this precious?!

24. I don't care that she's four years old, lace-ruffle socks are tacky.
Oh my stars, how sweet!

25. I have my real family, I don't need a church family. 
My church family is my real family.

Monday, February 9, 2015

20 Things I Wish I'd Learned Before I Hit 20

When I was in high school, my parents, older siblings, and cousins would give me advice and I would blow it off and think they couldn't possibly understand. But looking back, I couldn't have been more wrong. I find myself talking to younger girls about things that they face, giving the same advice that I once heard and blew off. The whole time I'm talking about my past experiences and trying to help them I'm thinking, LISTEN! WHY DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?!
There are so many things I wish I would've known in my teenage years, so many things I wish I could make teenagers believe now. 


1. Eat the burger. 
I think we (girls mostly) get so caught up in not only watching our weight, but in other people watching what we eat. I don't think you should ever let yourself be unsatisfied in what you eat, especially when you're paying for your meal. If you want a salad, eat a salad. If you want steak, get steak. If you want a burger, eat the burger! 

2. Keep your online life clean. 
In this age of social media, everyone
checks your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Everyone includes family, friends, future employers, and anyone you meet ever. What's on your account will leave a lasting impression about you. Keep it clean and watch what other people put on it. 

3. Your wardrobe should say a little bit about you. 
Whether you love animal prints, neon colors, or fur, your clothes should reflect that. Don't buy the newest fad just because your BFF has one just like it. Personally, I like more modest, neutral clothing. But hey, if you like to step out with a bang, you do your #ootd thang! 

4. Siblings will be your best life-long friends. 
I really wish I'd learned this sooner. But your brothers and sisters will always love you no matter what, even if they don't act like it. Keep them in your life, and give them reason to keep you in their's. 

5. Dad scares off the boys for a reason.
To be honest, this wasn't too much of an issue for me. But my dad is an intimidating looking guy, a teddy bear really though. Let's just say he scared off a good bit of not-so-good-news guys that were interested in my sister. We're all thankful for that. Dads look out for their little girls, it's their job. Let them do their job.

6. Mom may not be perfect, but she has your best interest at heart. 
My mom and I haven't always had the best relationship, but I'm so glad we're where we are now. I love my mom and should have listened to her when she told me that the boy that I was so in love with when I was fifteen wouldn't matter a year later, or that my happiness was most important, or to chose my friends more wisely. Moms know what's best for their kids, listen! 

7. Relationships do not define you. 
It doesn't matter how many followers you have, how many texts you get a day, or how many boyfriends/girlfriends you have. What matters are the memories and connections that you make. Don't base your happiness on how many people you think are your friends. 

8. High school is a bump in the road. 
While high school should be taken seriously because it's what colleges look at when considering you, it won't really matter after you graduate. It's fun when you're in clubs and pageants and running for homecoming queen, but that stuff shouldn't be taken too seriously. I'm not knocking having fun high school, but high school shouldn't define you either. Everyone I knew, myself included, were members of clubs, I competed in the high school pageant, and some of my best friends ran for homecoming queen. Those are great memories to have, but once you're graduated, the events themselves and the stress they caused you won't mean anything. 

9. You should have at least one friend that you can tell anything to. 
There should be one person in your life that you can go to about anything. Once you find that person, or people if you're lucky, KEEP THEM. Let them know often that you trust them and that they can trust you. People like that are hard to find. 

10. Never do something just to impress someone else. 
Do things that not only better you, but bring God glory. No one else. That simple. 

11. It is okay if not everyone likes you. 
You can be the sweetest peach on earth and there's going to be someone out there that just doesn't like peaches. You can't please everyone. This is something that I struggle with to this day. Remember #10, it's not about other people. It's about you and God. 

12. It is okay to say no. 
I struggle with this one as well. Especially when I think it's something that is good. 
You should always say no if it's bad or could bring you harm. But sometimes we feel obligated to say yes to every favor. More often than not we barely have time for these favors. That's okay! It is okay to say no! 

13. Always keep your boundaries. 
Stand your ground. Always. There is a lot of regret in knowing that you did something you didn't want to do all because you couldn't say anything. 

14. Stand up for yourself. Always. 
It is perfectly acceptable to tell someone if they're hurting you in some way. In the long run, you'll earn respect and keep your dignity. 

15. Learn when to walk away. 
There are going to be plenty of times when you need to throw in the towel. Some things just aren't worth the pain. And that's okay. It doesn't make you weak. It takes a lot of courage and strength to know when you've had enough, and even more to admit it. So when that time comes, and you get the chance to walk away, do it tactfully and keep your head up. 

16. Know when to keep quiet. 
There are some things that just won't need your two cents. If you don't have a little bit of knowledge about the subject at hand, it may be best to not say anything about it. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. 

17. No one likes a complainer. 
There is next to nothing more annoying than listening to someone complain about everything. (Disclaimer: there is a difference between complaining and confiding). Don't complain about your hair or how much your parents nag you. People will listen to you but won't want to. 

18. If you love them, tell them. 
You may not always get a second chance to tell someone you love them. So if you know you love them, tell them as often as possible. More importantly, show them! Do everything in love. Always. You never know when you can't prove it anymore. 

19. Class is always in style. 
When you're angry, happy, sad, whatever you're feeling, show it with grace. Do what you need to do tactfully. If you must give someone a piece of your mind, do it with a smile. Throw in a little bless your heart as well. 

20. When in doubt, smile. 
When you have no idea what is going on, just smile and wave. You'll look sweeter and no one will know that you're confused. Keep a gentle smile on your face as often as possible. Smile at everyone that you pass. You never know who's day you might make. 


Monday, February 2, 2015

Walk By Faith

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to Revolution in Columbia, SC as a youth leader with an awesome group of kids. I used to attend conferences like these when I was in youth groups myself, but this was a totally different experience for me. There was something so touching and peaceful in being in an auditorium of nearly 2,000 teenagers so lost in God that nothing else mattered.
    The speaker, Jonathan McKee, used Mark 2:1-12 in one of his lessons: 
     A few days later, when Jesus again 
     entered Capernaum, the people heard  
     that he had come home. They 
     gathered in such large numbers that 
     there was no room left, not even
     outside the door, and he preached the 
     word to them. Some men came, 
     bringing to him a paralyzed man,
     carried by four of them. Since they
     could not get him to Jesus because of 
     the crowd, they made an opening in 
     the roof above Jesus by digging 
     through it and then lowering the mat
     the man was lying on. When Jesus 
     saw their faith, he said to the 
     paralyzed man, "Son, your sins are 
     forgiven." 
     Now some teachers of the law were 
     sitting there, thinking to themselves, 
     "Why does this fellow talk like that? 
     He's blaspheming! Who can forgive     
     sins but God alone?" 
     Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit
     that this was what they were thinking 
     in their hearts, and he said to them, 
     "Why are you thinking these things?
     Which is easier: to say to this 
     paralyzed man, 'Your sins are 
     forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take 
     your mat and walk'? But I want you to
     know that the Son of Man has 
     authority on earth to forgive sins."
     So he said to the man, "I tell you, get 
     up, take your mat and go home." 
     He got up, took his mat and walked 
     out in full view of them all. This 
     amazed everyone and they praised 
     God, saying, "We have never seen 
     anything like this!"
                                 Mark 2:1-12 (NIV)

     I remember hearing this story over and over in Sunday School and whenever the many miracles performed by Jesus was discussed. However, I never heard the whole story. Maybe I just didn't listen until now, but I don't ever remember hearin that he didn't heal the man right away. I guess it just goes to show that we never stop learning. 
I love when we can learn so many different lessons from one story. So, coming from a twenty year old, here's what I learned:
1. Sometimes all it takes is faith. These men knew that Jesus was going to be there, so they went knowing that their friend could possibly walk after seeing Jesus. Most people would turn around and go home after they saw such a large crowd, not these guys. They carried this grown man on a roof, dug a hole in this roof, and lowered him to Jesus. Woah, that's commitment. 

2. God knows what we need, even when we don't. Seeing their faith, Jesus forgives the paralyzed man's sins. If I went to see Jesus thinking that all I needed to be happy and live my life was the ability to walk, I might be pretty shocked when he tells me I'm forgiven, but I still can't walk. But all we really need is his grace, which he always gives freely. 

3. God always knows what were thinking. 
Uh oh. Always? Yes, always. No one said anything out loud about Jesus forgiving sins, they thought it, to themselves. But Jesus quickly taught them that he is the Son of Man and had that authority to do so. Maybe we should be more careful of where we let our mind go. 

4. God really wants us happy, too. He could have just let the man go without healing him physically, but he knew what the man really wanted, so he was able to get up, take his mat and go home. 

These are the things we love about our Savior. He loves us unconditionally and wants what is best for us. That's the God we serve, and what a mighty God he is. 


Monday, January 19, 2015

The Perks of Being in a Christian Relationship


     Before I began writing about how awesome my relationship is, I should make sure that you know that I am a FIRM believer in having a relationship with God before having a relationship with anyone else. I should also be clear in stating that my relationship with Matthew is by no means perfect and I'll never claim it to be. But I do know that no matter what happens, he was an answered prayer.



             

1. Dating to Marry.

      One of the sweetest things that attracted me to Matthew is that he had never been a relationship. He is quite the cutie so he had plenty of offers, but I was the only one he pursued. That is such an honor to me. I, however, wish I had been so smart. I had boyfriends all throughout high school because I felt that I needed to be validated, but the only one that needs to approve of me did so a LONG time ago. Luckily, he has the same values as me and isn't dating me just to have a girlfriend. We're dating with the intentions of spending the rest of our lives being disciples of Christ together.

2. No Pressure!

       From the beginning, boundaries were set and agreed upon. If one of us doesn't like what's going on, we have no problem saying, WOAH! I'm not okay with this, and here's why. That, to me, is one of the most comforting things about any relationship. I know that I am always respected and I will always respect him.

3. Forgiveness Comes With Compassion.

      When we fight, we fight GOOD. I'd be scared if we didn't fight. Since we both know that Jesus came to Earth knowing He had to die on the cross to forgive us, how could we not forgive each other for mistakes and misunderstandings? I'll be the first to admit that Matthew is much quicker to forgive than I am. However, he has accepted that and loves me unconditionally still. (Sound like another guy you know?)

"To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." - C.S. Lewis


4. Understanding and Acceptance.

       Matthew and I have been together for over three years now, from high school to the first few years of college: two different colleges. I'd be lying if I said a long distance relationship isn't hard. It's way harder than I ever imagined and there are plenty of days that I want to give up. But, when we decided to attend different schools, three hours away from each other, we set some more boundaries. We agreed that if either one of us felt that our relationship was getting in the way of our school work or our relationship with God, we'd talk about it and if the problem didn't get better, we'd step back from each other. I honestly believe that because we made this promise to each other, understanding our priorities and accepting one another's goals, we're growing stronger as a couple.


5. Motivation for Self-improvement. 

      We're both always looking for ways to not only enhance our walk with Christ but our journey to continue to find ourselves. There's a mutual respect and support for each other, and we both try to motivate and compliment each other as often as possible. We are constantly trying to find things to do that make us better Christians.

6. Couples That Pray Together Stay Together!

       I heard this statement a lot growing up. But now that I have actually grown up, I'll be passing it on. Neither one of us prayed out loud often, especially around someone else. It wasn't until this past year that we began praying with each other. The first time we decided to pray out loud to each other, he prayed first, and began with me. That is hands-down the sweetest thing he does for me and I can't think of anything more attractive. 

7. Always Have Someone to Grow in Faith With.

     This is Matthew's favorite perk. As I began writing this post, I asked him for his favorite thing about being in a relationship with me. His exact words were, "Just knowing I have some one to talk to about God if I ever needed it." I love knowing that if we have questions, we can find the answer together. I also love knowing that he knows he can come to me with anything.



There are many more positive things that come with dating a good ole southern Christian boy, but those are my top seven. I've been blessed with a relationship that helps me grow in every part of my life. Thanks Matthew for always being there and for inspiring this post. I love you!




Monday, January 12, 2015

Faith? Bad timing.

How often do you have faith? 
How big is your faith? 
Maybe the better question is this: Who is your faith in? 

As I began a new Bible study I recieved as a Christmas gift, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa Turkerst, (thanks Mrs. Debbie), I am blown away at the immediate reaction this one verse in particular gets out of me. 
        I will bless The Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs      me. I know The Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right    beside me. No wonder my heart is     glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in    safety. 
              Psalm 16:7-9 (NLT)
Wow. If that hits you like it hits me there's no need to go on. But, being the over-sharer that I sometimes am, I'll go on. 
I'd like to break the verses down. 

     The first line: "I will bless The Lord who guides me,". 
Am I blessing Him? His name? 
What could I do to bless Him? 
I'd like to say yes to the first two, and give you a perfect answer for the latter. But if I'm being honest, no, I can't do that. And that's heartbreaking to me. 

     The next line: "Even at night my heart instructs me."  
It's 11 o'clock at night, I'm lying in my bed, writing this. Night, for me, is the best time to think about my day, lessons I've learned, chances I've had to be a disciple, but mostly, my thoughts go to where I went wrong. But here's the thing I often forget, in pondering my day, the moments I wish I could do over and the what-if it had gone another way, there's the lesson in itself. I've learned how I could face those challenges, the what-ifs.
I've grown from my failures. Isn't that reason enough to praise? 

     Next: "I know The Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me."  
GOD'S GOT THIS
Don't believe me? 
Those moments where you feel like nothing is going right and you have nowhere to go, who do you call on? 
See, there's a little bit of faith there. And I bet he's always come through. 

     Lastly: "No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety."  
If you believe the previous line, really believe it, then you don't have a problem accepting this one. God has this under control. He knew about it long before you did and he knows how it's going to end long before you will. No wonder we can praise Him, He's got this! 

One of my biggest struggles in my relationship with God is who I put my faith into. Some days it's in Him, often days, it's in myself. I try to justify it and say, "Oh, I can handle that!", or "God's got enough to worry about."  
Then I find myself stressed out about it and complaining to someone who can't help me and could probably care less anyways. So why couldn't I just take it to God? Not only can He help me, He will. And He cares about me more than anyone I know. 
The same goes for you. He loves you more than anyone and only wants the best for you and from you. Let's put out faith back in Him, because none of us can do it alone.