Thursday, December 31, 2015

The New to Come

Here we are, on the last day of the year.

We'll pull apart party poppers (say that three times fast), drink sparkling grape juice, make resolutions we sort of intend to keep, and make a big deal out of everything because "it's the first of this year!" And then there are those people who are always like, "remember last year, when..." and then go on to describe something that happened five minutes ago (okay I confess that person is me).

I hope you had a good year, even if was a hard one. In some ways, I think the hard years are the best years. They're the ones that help us grow, that make us better. 

For me, this has been a long year. On the outside, they don't look too different. but everything feels so different than they did twelve months ago.

I'm ready for this year to be over. It's kind of like Christmas. It's great and wonderful, but only for a limited amount of time. If Christmas lasted any longer than it does, it wouldn't be as special. That nostalgic feeling, that anticipation leading up to December 25 wouldn't be the same if it lasted all year (sorry, Buddy, I'm not going to treat every day like Christmas). It's like how Frozen was so over-commercialized that even I got sick of it.

I think a new season of life is about to begin for me. Honestly, I can't wait for this one to end. I'm tired of this semester, this year. It's go on so long it's overstayed its welcome.

I'm ready for a new season, I think.

I'm braver than I was twelve months ago. I'm closer to God, which is the best thing that happened. I'm more okay with who I am. And with who other people are. I know myself better, but I also learned that's it's okay to not know exactly who I am.

Everything that happens adds more to who I am. Every heartbreak, every happiness, every conversation, every blog post, every yes and every no make up big and small pieces of who I am.

I'm really grateful for this year. The opportunities, big and small, that God has given me have helped me to become a little bit braver. More honest, graceful, and confident.. More who He made me to be.

That what we writers call "character development."

Even though this year has been good (albeit hard and long), I'm ready for it to be over. I'm ready for this season to end and for a new one to begin. I'm excited for the coming year.

I'm going into it with the Lord as my strength, confidence, and song. I'll let go of the past to take hold of a New Year. All the same, there are memories and lessons I want to hold onto.

To the memory of hurt and the low places, to remind myself that I can make it through the dark.

To the memory of exhaustion--emotional and physical and spiritual--to remind myself that I'm stronger than I think.

To the memory of insecurity, to remind myself that I am more than what I see.

To the joy, happiness, and excitement, to remind myself that every good thing is from God, and should be cherished.

To the encouragement and love poured into me by friends and leaders, to remind myself that I am not alone.

I want to remember this. The very end of a long year. A vulnerable blog post. Words God gave to give me hope for the future. The expectation of unexpected hope. The end of a season that has overstayed its welcome.

The beginning of something, God only knows what.

I know that I will chose to love, to hope, to give grace and receive it, to be honest, to be confident. To be a little bit more brave.

I hope you'll come with me.

It's a New Year, and that's what's up.

>hg<

|| "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17 ||

Monday, December 21, 2015

Waiting for Joy


|| O come o come Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears ||

A nation in exile.

A nation in exile again and again and again.

A nation waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

A nation losing hope.

Until hope appears.

*~*~*~*~*~*

I love Christmas. I love the entire season, as it eases in from the beginning of November, growing up until Boxing Day. To me, it really is the most wonderful time of the year.

I love the music and the traditions and the cheesy Hallmark movies. Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of the shopping. I like being at home, or at parties with my friends, looking at Christmas lights inside and out, listening to Michael Bublé and drinking hot chocolate. It's just so wonderful and lovely and joyful.

Because that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

It started with a promise of hope glimmering in the darkness.

That glimmer rose and fell. Hope seemed to come and go to the nation of Israel. God's chosen people turned away and turned back time and time again.

It turned into a steady pace of waiting.

Waiting for things to change, to get better, to finally get this one right, waiting for joy.

And so one day, the Savior Israel had been hoping for, the King the world needed, Emmanuel, was born to a young girl. Born in an unsanitary cave behind a full inn in an overcrowded city. Born to the most unusual greeting ever.

Hope was born when no one was looking.

Joy arrived when everyone was ready to give up.

The Savior of the world came when the time was right.

So when you wonder why now? Why not now? Why haven't You showed up yet?

Hold onto hope.

Hold onto joy.

*~*~*~*~*~*

A nation waits for joy to come.

The greatest joy arrives.

A captive people wait no more.

Freedom, small and crying, enters.

Not with flashing lights and arrows.

A baby. The greatest destiny.

The greatest joy.

|| Rejoice 
Rejoice
Emmanuel shall come to thee
oh Israel ||

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

An Expectation of Hope

|| "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring." Proverbs 27:1 ||


Nothing this year went how I expected it to.

For instance, I did not expect "man buns" to become a big thing (unfortunately they did). Or for people to demand that I watch them do a stupid dance move (I'm proud to say that I have never whipped or "nae naed"). Or for people to demand to know what my shoes are (that was probably the most annoying thing). Or any of the other weird things that have happened this year.

But more seriously, there was a lot of disappointment. In different ways, with different things. That's not to say there weren't great things that happened, because great things did happen. Like, I got a cat and went to NITOC. But not so great things happened too.

Maybe it's just me, but I always have these unspoken expectations at the beginning of each year. At New Years, at my birthday, at the beginning of the school year. I expect all the things I've been waiting for to finally happen.

But a lot of those things didn't happen.

Some of them almost did, but came one step short. Or a lot of steps short. Some things faded away, other things grew in ways I didn't foresee.

Things have changed a lot in the last year. My priorities, my friendships, my relationship with God. Everything feels different.

I expected things of other people, I expected things of myself, I expected things of God.

But, as it turns out, I'm really bad at predicting things. Unfortunately for me, I day dream. A lot. I like looking ahead to the future, even just the near future. This leads to expectations. Expectations, too frequently lead to disappointments.

I misunderstand things and misinterpret things. I say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I ask the wrong questions, I put pressure on myself and other people. That's not fair of me. It's selfish. You don't owe me anything, any explanations. I have no right to ask, to expect that much of you. I'm sorry I have.

I want to be right about things. I don't want to be surprised, but that's usually the case. Life moves slowly, but when we look back it feels like an instant. Memories can be deceiving like that, and memories fuel expectations.What has happened, what people have done, change how we expect them to continue.

I have expectations for next year, even if I'm not sure what they are. But I have no idea what will happen next year. I can control so little. What I can control doesn't usually feel like enough to make any difference.

I guess that's why we have to live in the present. Worrying about the future doesn't change it. Worry keeps you from taking action. Worry holds back more good than bad.

So the expectation I choose to have is that of hope and faith. Hope that I'll make it to the other side. Faith that God holds the days of my life. Hope that extends beyond disappointments. Faith that is stronger than fear.

Sometimes the plans we make and the plans God has are two different things. We have to be willing to release our expectations, to have faith that His calling is greater than your five year plan, greater than the college we've had you've had your heart set on, greater than what you think you're capable of.

The future will come, and when it comes it will be different than how you expect. But nothing lot surprises God. He saw that plot twist a mile away when I didn't notice it until after it happened.

I don't know what's gonna happen next, but I know I'll need grace to get through it. That's what's up.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Gospel Actually is Good News

If you've ever spent time in a Sunday School classroom, you know that 'the gospel' means 'the good news.' And obviously the Gospel (Jesus coming to save the people of the world from their sins so they can live with God forever) is good news. So what's the big deal? What's the point of this blog post?

If you've ever spent time in the Youtube comments section ... you know that some people take "sharing the gospel" as "reminding someone that they're a horrible person who deserves to go to h-e-double hockey sticks" without giving these people any hope.

At the same time, we see Christians who are like "yah do whatever you want Jesus loves you he just wants you to be happy" and neglect to actually remind them that there is a big problem with just doing what you want.



So many modern day Christians have fallen into the trap of one of these two ideas:

1. You're All Sinners Who're Going to Hell Heck


This isn't necessarily false. It's true that we're born sinners, and thus we're born destined for Hell. But when this is the only message we teach people, no one is going to want to follow Christ. It's a fear tactic, and can actually have the opposite intended affect. People hear this and think "well, if I'm going to hell anyway, I might as well live how I want to."

Yes, the people of this earth are born sinners. But when sharing this message, we forget the message that should follow: there's hope. We're born sinners, but we can be born again children of God. In our race to get the first half out, we forget to mention, "oh, by the way, you can be saved from Heck because God loves you that much."

In our rush to judge, we forget to love. While people do things that are wrong all the time, spewing a bunch of hate at them isn't going to help. That makes it sound like God wants to send people to Hell, as if He takes pleasure in it. But that's the opposite of the truth! God doesn't want anyone to go to Hell which is why He sacrificed His Son so that we don't have to go to Hell. That's the point of the Gospel! That's the goodest any news could be!

But sometimes, people take the "good news" to mean "feel good news." Which brings us to number 2

2. God Just Wants You to be Happy


This kind of message is very popular in mainstream culture. Every time I go shopping I see at least one t-shirt in every other store that says "good vibes only." We live in a feel-good culture. Wondering why sex sells? Because sex feels good (for a little while). Why do people party? Because alcohol and drugs feel good (for a little while). This is why mainstream Christianity is so accepting of everything. It makes Christianity attractive. It takes out all the hard parts of following Christ so you can go to Heaven with all the benefits of living an earthly life.

This type of Christianity is super inclusive and sounds great on the surface. Mainstream Christianity is feel good Christianity, and feeling good feels good. How do you become a part of the Feel Good Gospel denomination?

Step 1: Take a verse out of context!

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 - AKA the only verse in Jeremiah. (Unless you ask the super fundamentalist Christians from the first point. Then Jeremiah 17:9 is the only verse in Jeremiah.)  

Step 2: Interpret the verse to fit your opinion!

Well, since God's plans for me are good, then that means my life is gonna be awesome! Nothing bad is ever gonna happen! Whatever I do, it's good because God said so right there in Jeremiah!

Blimey Cow may have done a video on this already...

Step 3: Tell everyone how great Christianity is!

You can do this with inspirational Instagram posts, clever tweets, and fluffy blog posts! Just don't mention condemnation of sin or anything,  Those are major turnoffs for potential future members of the Church of the Feel Good Gospel.

Step 4: Feel great!

Now that you and everyone who sees your inspirational Facebook posts are encouraged, go on living your life exactly how you want!

In all seriousness, God wants us to be happy. But we don't know the best way to make ourselves happy. He does. And more important than our happiness, God wants us to have a relationship with Him that goes beyond reading the verse of the day and snappy tweets. The Good News is that the gap between us and God was bridged by Jesus's sacrifice. You don't have to water God down because the Gospel is better than any feel good philosophy mainstream culture has to offer.

What I'm trying to get at in this really long blog post is that the Gospel, at its very core, is the absolute best news you'll ever hear. Because of that, it's only natural that we share that good news with others. Not out of a legalistic obligation, but because we care about others, and we want them to hear the good news too.

The greatest commandments are to love God with everything you have and to love others like you love yourself. If you want the good news, you should want others to have the good news too.

The Gospel is the best news; that's what's up.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

I'm Thankful and Stuff

Ah, Thanksgiving. The day of food, football, and awkward family relations. There's turkey and potatoes and getting hit in the face with a football, and wishing you hadn't eaten as much as you did. Plus, you can get Christmas shopping done on this wonderful day, because now Black Friday starts Thursday evening.

Honestly, I'm not a big fan of Thanksgiving. I don't like watching football or most of the traditional food eaten on this day. But my least favorite part of Thanksgiving is the day after.

I don't think there's anything wrong with going out and getting a great deal on Christmas gifts for the people you love. That's great. Go shop on Black Friday at whatever time you want to. That's not what I don't like. But I've noticed this thing that happens around Thanksgiving.

For about four weeks, starting November 1, everyone becomes really grateful for everything. Grateful for family, and food, and friends, and football. I'm all for gratitude. But on the Friday after Thanksgiving, all the Facebook posts and trending hashtags and pretty Instagram feeds are just gone.

I listen to Christmas music starting on Halloween (don't get me started on Halloween). I love Christmas. The decorations, and traditions, and just the way Christmas feels (plus who doesn't love the occasional cheesey Hallmark movie?) is great. I love it. A few of my friends, however, have accused me of "skipping thankfulness" because I don't wait until the day after Thanksgiving to start Christmas festivities.

But here's the thing: Christmas is about gratitude.


|| "No one shows greater love than when he lays down his life for his friends." -John 15:13 ||


I'd go so far to say that Christmas is (or at least should be) more about thankfulness than Thanksgiving. The pioneers are great. Yay America. But shouldn't our gratitude skyrocket during the Christmas season? I greatly appreciate the people who began this nation. But 1000x more than that, I appreciate and cannot express the amount of gratitude I have toward the One who gave up everything to give me life.

But, instead of Thanksgiving marking the beginning of a season of gratitude and joy, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a season of stress.

Thanksgiving should be a reminder to give thanks, not an obligation to post a long Facebook status about all the obligatory gratitude and the obligatory unhealthily big meal. Thanksgiving could be the start of gratitude, not just a day of football and the regret of overeating. Thanksgiving could remind us of the sacrifices made by those around us, and should inspire us to make those kinds of sacrifices.

I don't care if you eat a lot of food, or watch a football game with your family. Go ahead. Do those things. Have a great time. Be thankful. Be thankful today, and tomorrow, for the rest of this year. Be thankful for all you have been given, but more so for the people who have given to you. Let's make this day a reminder to be thankful all year, not just a day.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. I'm thankful for you (yes you, reading this blog post when you should be spending time with family. Thank you). That's what's up.

>hg<

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paintball, Popularity, and Perfectionism

|| "'For we are God's masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.'(Ephesians 2:10) Our English word poem comes from the same Greek word (for masterpiece)." -Emily Freeman, A Million Little Ways ||


Getting shot in the thumb is not a fun experience.

Not even if it's just paintball.

When I went to the paintball place with my friends from speech and debate, not prepared to play. But when I got there, after a little bit of convincing and the gathering of funds, I ended up playing.

And I discovered that paintball is not my thing.

The fields were incredibly muddy, and I was wearing my good converse and jeans (remember, I did not come prepared to play). I walked through the mud (and by 'walk' I mean tried not to sink down into the pit), my breath fogging my mask, trying not to accidentally shoot myself in the foot, and wishing someone had put me on camera duty instead.

First round I got shot in the leg, but the paintball didn't break, which I later learned meant I wasn't really out. Second round, I got shot on top of the head (???) and it didn't break then either, but it hurt so I got off the field. Third round, we moved to a different field, one that was under cover and less muddy. I lasted a long time behind a stack of tires. It was a great hiding spot. If I got hit, I'd probably get hit in the mask, which doesn't hurt.

I'm still not sure who hit me, but that thing popped and and it popped on my thumb and I looked down and I could've sworn there was orange blood all over my hand.

I made my way off the field, trying not to get annoyed with the people asking if I was okay. A couple of other girls came off the field, both of them with neck shots, which probably hurt worse than thumb shots. They were all fine and smiling like, 'no pain no gain' and I, hardly able to hold my gun, was crying and thanking God for waterproof mascara.

I decided to stop playing after that. The mud and pain and my poor sneakers weren't worth the thrill of getting shot with bright orange paint.

That night, when we were hanging out at one of the families's house, the other girls who had been at paintball were casually talking about getting shot in the back, in the neck, shooting other people and I was like "I don't like pain" and they were like "no pain no gain."

I like wearing skirts and heels and sparkly eyeshadow and curling my hair. The other girls like those things too, but they prefer getting up to their knees in mud and wearing Nike shorts and t-shirts whenever the opportunity presents itself. That's not a bad thing at all, but it's just not me.

But when I see my friends like that, I sometimes wish it were.

Maybe if I didn't mind getting shot with paint, maybe if I didn't cry when feeling anything but 'okay', maybe if I were different, if I were more like then, they'd like me better.

But I cry easily, and I don't like getting shot, and I prefer skater skirts to athletic shorts, and I feel really weird sometimes. Sometimes I want to be what I think is normal.

This is really just perfectionism. Wanting to be different or more than I am to please other people. To fit in. To look good.

Sometimes being different feels like a curse, But what if it's actually a gift?

Maybe being more emotional means I can empathize with other people better. Maybe seeing deepness in everything means I can connect to more lives. Maybe being different isn't a bad thing.

Maybe the same is true for you.

Maybe you have words your afraid to say because someone might think you're weird. Maybe you're afraid others won't like you for who you are. Maybe you don't want to lose popularity. Maybe you just want people to think you have it all together.

You are different for a reason.

It may not make you popular or perfect, but it makes you who God made you to be.

So be brave, and be who you are created to be, whether or not you like paintball.

 || "We are walking poetry, the kind that moves, the kind that has hands and feet, the kind with mind and will and emotion. We are what happens when God expresses himself." -Emily Freeman, A Million Little Ways ||

Friday, November 06, 2015

Your Body is Not Your Worth

|| "The Lord will be your confidence and keep your foot from being snared." -Proverbs 3:26 ||


Demi Lovato makes me sad.

Not because she went through rehab, or writes sad songs, or because the end of Princess Protection Program is emotional (though it is my favorite Disney Channel movie). Demi Lovato was on the cover of "Cosmopolitan" magazine in September. What did she have to say to those criticizing how sexual the cover image was?

"I feel incredibly empowered and the most beautiful I have ever felt on this magazine."

Demi just came out with a song called "Confident."

I hate it.

I don't hate Demi, don't get me wrong. But her song isn't about confidence. I don't think she even knows what confidence isn't. That's not her fault. Almost no one these days knows what confidence is. It's a word that's thrown around a lot, and there are a lot of definitions, but for now I'm going to talk about the definition mainstream media supports.

Today I watched Ariana Grande's "Focus" music video I got exactly what I expected.

The song is repetitive, like most pop songs. The repeating line is "focus on me," not surprisingly. But Ariana isn't asking you to focus on her. Not her personality or heart or soul. She wants you to focus on how sexy she looks while dancing, and how pretty her lips and hair look, and how high she can sing. Very impressive, Ms Grande.

I watched the Selena Gomez "Good For You" music video. I almost cried.

Selena is sexy, I guess. She can run her fingers through her hair and show her legs off and have a racy album cover. She can break up with Justin Bieber and hang out with Taylor Swift and pose for magazine covers.

But listening to "Good For You" makes me want to cry. I don't care if she broke up with Bieber. She's desperate for people to think she looks good. She cries for attention by taking clothes off, all the while saying she's become "confident."

Demi, Ariana, Selena. They make me sad.

They make me sad because girls my age grew up watching them on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. Because girls my age see album covers and music videos. Girls my age download their songs. Girls my age eat up the sexy lyrics, sexy magazines, and sexy videos. And they equate sexy with confidence.

|| "[People] say modesty is a result of body shame. They say women who cover themselves do so because they lack self confidence; that if they were really free, they would shed those standards and their “modest” clothes along with it." -Phylicia Masonheimer ||


Because Demi can pose topless and makeup free, she must be confident. She must love her body.

Or maybe she showing her cleavage gets her the attention she craves.

Because Ariana can perform some sexy dance moves, she must be confident. She must love her body.

Or maybe what she really wants is someone to see past the close ups on her lips and legs and focus on the real her.

Because Selena can have a "revival," she must be confident. She must love her life.

Or maybe she realized that being a sexy former Disney star gets her attention, and she equates attention with adoration.

Maybe all these young women, and others like Taylor Swift, Fifth Harmony, Meghan Trainor, Katy Perry, and a dozen more, are just desperate for the love they aren't finding in camera flashes, big paychecks, and millions of Youtube hits. Maybe they just need someone to tell them "you're beautiful," "I'm proud of you,""I love you." Maybe cleavage, sexy dance moves, and crazy performances are just masks, hiding the fact that they don't feel like they're enough. Maybe they feel like being sexy, this idea of "confidence," is the way people will come to notice them.

And that breaks my heart.

Real girls, desperate for real things. Real acceptance. Real love.

So they show off their bodies and call that being "confident."

Please, girls. Please, please, please don't buy that lie. Don't buy the lie that you can shed insecurity by shedding clothes. You don't escape skinny shaming or fat shaming by showing off your body and saying that's confidence. Finding your identity in how much of your body you feel comfortable showing off will leave you broken and insecure every time.

Your body is precious. Please don't throw it around like loose change. Sex, bikinis, nudity. These aren't the things that satisfy your heart.

"I feel incredibly empowered and the most beautiful I have ever felt on this magazine." 


Sorry, Demi. But I don't believe you. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think you feel the most insecure and needy than ever on this magazine. If you truly valued yourself, you wouldn't feel the need to show off your body at every opportunity.

Dear girl, you are precious. You should love your body. But that love should come from the fact that the one who made your body made your body as a temple for His spirit. He's given you a gift; don't abuse that gift.

Dear girl, if you're searching for worth, look no further than the arms of Jesus.

|| "God made me sexy, I don't care if only I know." -Tori Kelly ||

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Seen and Heard


I stared at the sky. This was one of the few, maybe the only time of year I could see the night so clearly. Even with the bright lights around the field, the stars glowed, more and more appearing as I kept watching. The stars came after I walked down the edge of the lake, watching the last of the day's sunlight reflected on the water and wondering at God's creation.

I thought of the girls in my small group, and the rest of the girls in our youth group. I thought of the girls who I wished were there. I thought of the hearts of the people I know, their words, their faces, their lives. I thought of my own life, the things I've been through. In the moments of the sunset, the light of the stars, the wonder of the magnificent, I wondered why.

Why did God step down, leaving behind the robes of majesty, the worship of angels, and the glory of Heaven, to touch our sickness, heal our disease, redeem our lives? Every sinful heart offered salvation. Every good girl given grace. Every heartbreak connected to healing.

We are so small. We don't think God, in all His majesty, His glory, His hugeness would ever see tiny, invisible us.

But He does.

He sees us. He doesn't make awkward eye contact and then look away as quick as he can, unimpressed by what he sees. He doesn't avoid us, or evade our phone calls.

He sees us. He doesn't look down or turn up his nose. He doesn't walk away, judging our weakness.

He sees us. Invisible us.

He hears us. He doesn't sit next to us and then check His phone for more important things every two seconds. He doesn't excuse Himself to get another slice of cheesecake (though I would understand if He did; cheesecake is pretty fantastic).

He hears us. He listens to the out pour of our broken hearts, the tears flowing from pain.

He hears us. Small, tiny, insignificant us.

Because to Him, we are not small. We are not insignificant or invisible. We may be broken, battered, bruised. We may have secrets and a rotten past. We may not be perfect (we aren't).

But, in Him, we are seen and heard.

And we are accepted and loved.

The creator of the stars, painter of every sunset, feeder of every sparrow, sees you. He hears you. He loves you.

Look up at the stars and know you are known.

|| Follow my blog with Bloglovin ||

Friday, October 09, 2015

The One Thing I'd Tell Her

The high school girls small group more than doubled when last year's eighth graders moved into ninth grade.

I didn't know how going from three or four girls each week to 8-9 would go. Would we have to start over the book we'd been working through during the summer? How would the new girls and older girls get along?

That first night we sat down, all squished together on the sofas that have been in the youth room for as long as I can remember. About five of the new ninth grade girls squeezed together on a couch made to hold three people. I've known most of them for two or so years, but some are brand new to the youth group. I make sure to remember all their names though. Names are important.

We start off with an ice-breaker. Age, school, favorite book, kind of shampoo. A few times, I want to get on my soapbox and rant about how they really ought to read more books, but I hold back. I probably shouldn't traumatize the newbies on the first night.

Once the fun parts are over, we start discussing the book we're going through. It's at this point I start really watching the girls faces. I imagine what they've been through to reach this point, though I don't really know much of their stories. There's so much I want to say to them. So much I want to learn about them. So much their hearts need to know.

I let the actual adult leader in the group do most of the talking. For now, they don't need to hear me ramble on about how much God loves them, how beautiful they are, how much they matter, how amazing they are as they are. Later, yes. But right now I just want to know them, know where and who they are, know what they're passionate for, who they love.

But what if I had only one chance to speak to these girls? No chance to hear each of their beautiful hearts? What would I say?

I think I would start with you are loved. You are valued, accepted, treasured, and wanted by God. Your worth is not based on your grades, the the number of inches around your waist. Your beauty isn't defined by your height, weight, clothes, hair color--your beauty is made up of the life inside your soul, the heart behind your words, tears, and smiles. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of acceptance. Not because of what your friends think, what a boy thinks, what your parents think, or what your grades are, but because of what God made you to be.

You are valuable because you were made valuable. That will never change.

Hopefully, I'll get more than one chance to tell them that.

This post was inspired by this post. Check it out :)

Friday, October 02, 2015

September is Over, October is Here

I was up until one the other night, so there was a moment when I looked down at the clock before going to bed and saw this:

This small box in the bottom right corner of my laptop screen was the biggest relief. Not that September was the worst thing ever, but there was so much going on the whole month and, unlike most months, it did not go by fast.

But it's over now, and I can look back and say I did productive things! September is one of the busiest months of the year for me, and October is one of my favorite months, so I'm going to share what I learned in September and what I'm looking forward to in October (spoiler alert: it's not Halloween).


What I learned

1. I work better with a deadline

If I absolutely have to get something--a speech, a novel, a blog post--done by a specific time, I will get it done. Loose deadlines leads to procrastination and scrolling Pinterest and watching Once Upon A Time reruns. And then when I realize I should probably do the thing I should've done a week ago.and it's a big mess. Solid deadlines are my friend.

2. Sometimes I have to take a step back

If I spend too much time worrying about things that ended, things that won't last, or things that will never be, I can't think about anything else and I get really overwhelmed. It affects my entire mood and actions towards other people and then I feel even worse. I have to take a step back, write a journal entry, take a break from what's worrying me and move on.

What I'm looking forward to

1. Sweater Weather

It's 71 degrees outside right now and I couldn't be happier. Fall fashion is my absolute favorite. I wore boots for the first time since March yesterday, and I swear boots make me feel more confident and just happier in general. Jackets and booties and scarfs and oranges and plums (the colours, not the foods). I'm so done with 95+ temperatures and I am so ready for leaves to fall and for 65 degree weather.

2. Writing Freedom

I had a writing deadline for the last of September, so for like, half the month I was panicking about finishing a bunch of things with my novel. I basically couldn't do any other writing related thing because all my writing time, including blogging, was devoted to editing my novel  Now that September is over, I get to take a little break from my really important novel and have fun with blogging and working on different projects instead of edits until 2am. 

3. Fall Retreat

One week from day, I am going with my youth group to Sky Ranch and I'm so excited because I didn't get to go last year. There'll be a shaving cream war, sleeping in really cold cabins, amazing services, and decent enough camp food, not to mention my ah-mazing friends. (Plus none of my friends will have phones so they won't be snapchatting the whole time like usual.)

Autumn is my favorite season and I'm so glad it's finally here after a deathly long summer (in case you didn't know, Texas summers start in April and don't end until October/November). That's what's up with me, so why don't you tell me what's up with you? Let me know in the comments and I will love you forever.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I Love Ice-Cream Until I Hate It

When I see ice-cream in the freezer, I get really excited. I probably forgot it was there, and after a day of  school, writing, debate and speech, it looks exceptionally lovely. All sweet and creamy and cold and sometime have cookie dough, and that's even better.

But after a second, the excitement fades. I don't mind going through the trouble of washing a bowl, getting a spoon, and thawing the ice-cream. That's all worth it for the sweetness and general loveliness. But other concerns cross my mind.

I probably shouldn't have any ice-cream, especially after everything else I ate today.

I mean, my hips are big enough already.

And have you seen the way my thighs get all wide when I sit down?

Or the way my legs jiggle so grossly when I run?

Or ... anything else.

Regardless, I find some excuse--I won't have any tomorrow, or I'm going to play Frisbee tomorrow, or whatever--and scoop the ice-cream into the bowl. I pull my laptop up and edit my novel, taking a few bites, keeping my cat's nose out of it.

I finish, and leave the bowl or mug on the coffee table until I go to bed. It's when I'm in bed that my mind goes back to the ice-cream.

The vanilla and cookie dough don't feel as good anymore. The ice-cream doesn't seem as sweet anymore. My excuse isn't as valid anymore.

I don't feel happy anymore. The joy has faded. Instead I feel regret. I feel fat. I feel ashamed. I wish I could throw it up and--

Did I really just think that? Even if I know I would never do that (I would never do that, right?), the thought scares me. 

My excitement over the ice-cream is long gone. Instead, every food I ate over the day is running around in my head, reminding me how I failed to eat healthy like I want to. How I failed to eat less like I want to.

Tears sting my eyes. Another thing I messed up, along with schoolwork, debate research, and speech writing. Not to mention my general awkwardness. And the million other things I messed up.

I shouldn't be thinking like this. And there's another thing I failed at--not thinking about what I think I failed at. How, exactly, can I succeed here?

Can you love something and be afraid of it at the same time? Because food scares me, but I love it too much to quit eating it. Food is good, right? You need food to live and stuff. Plus it's enjoyable.

Until it's not.

Until it becomes a source of shame and self-hate.

Until it makes you want to throw up.

Until it makes you scared to eat.

Food isn't the problem. 

Fear is.

Fear I won't be thin enough. Fear I can't get past this. Fear people would treat me different if they knew I struggled with this stuff. Fear I won't measure up.

But I know now, and I'm learning...

|| "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."  -1 John 4:18 ||


There's no pressure, not from the One who matters. No pressure to be perfect. No pressure to measure up. No pressure to be something I am not meant to be. No pressure to be something someone else tells me I should be.

No pressure. That's all that's up.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Start Here.

For the one who desires to be honest, but are afraid others won't accept your brokenness

For the one who has heard the word grace a thousand times, but don't know what it really means

For the one who wishes she were confident, but can't figure out how

For the guy raised learning Sunday School answers, but feels like he doesn't know anything

For the girl who wants to make a difference, but feels too small to be noticed

For the "cool kid" who knows how to be liked, but is crushed when they aren't

For the teenager who has something to say, but fears no one will listen

For the good girl who is breaking inside, and the good boy who won't show his struggles

For anyone who wants to be brave, but doesn't know where to start

I'm writing for you.

I'm afraid of honesty, but I know the risk is worth the reward. The only reason I know what grace is, is because I need it every day. I try to be confident, but I'm still learning how.

Bravery isn't just moving to a new city. It's not roller coasters, skydiving, or tightrope walking across the Grand Canyon. Courage isn't just being a missionary overseas. It's not starting a charity or speaking in front of a crowd in from a thousand people.

Bravery doesn't start big. It starts with a small step outside your comfort zone. Then another step. And another after that. You say the next yes, and the next one, until you look back and see how far you've come. Bravery is learning and living out the lesson. It's being afraid of coming change, but choosing to face it anyway. It's knowing that you're not perfect and being able to receive grace.
Use your words, your actions, your heart. Use the gifts God has given you.

I want to be brave, and I want you to join me. I don't know everything, but I'm learning.

If you want to be brave, but don't know where to start

Start here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Follow Your Heart (And Other Things Christians Should Do)

"Psh, that's ridiculous." I thought while watching Pocahontas for the millionth time. The whole spinning compass and magic flower wind was a little out there for my fourteen-year-old sensibilities. "You're not supposed to follow your heart. Haven't you ever heard Jeremiah 17:9?"

||"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" -Jeremiah 17:9||


Clearly, you should not follow your heart. It is deceitful (above all things!!!) and super wicked (like, even more than the musical), and incurable and just generally horrid. If you do follow your heart, you'll end up miserable and cold and alone. No one can ever conquer the heart, so you should probably just ignore it when it tells you about that thing you're passionate about, or that crazy idea you've had for years.

So you take this seemingly sound advice, and you leave behind those crazy things your heart keeps telling you to do. After all, no one would listen to or notice or see you anyway. So you put those things in a drawer named Maybe (Probably Not). You put aside your dream for more sensible things, for what head-knowledge and everyone else say you should do. You put aside your feelings, gradually, until you no longer know what you want and why you're so discontent. Then you put the discontent in another drawer and hope no one notices that you want something more.

Maybe that was never the intent of the whole "don't you dare follow your heart because Jeremiah 17:9 says..." Regardless of the intent, you've ended up a heart that's miserable and cold and alone--wait. Wasn't that the point of the J17:9 thing? That you wouldn't end up like that?

When I chose to follow the J17:9 philosophy, I thought that was what I supposed to do. When I felt hurt, I did what I "supposed" to do: ignore those feelings, hold the tears in, and said that I was "fine." When I felt like I was on top of the world, I ignored that, too. When my heart told me I had something good, or when I desired something, but because my heart is deceitful and wicked and all that jazz, it was clearly wrong and I was just being ridiculous as usual. In the end, I just ended up hurting more.

||"...For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." -2 Samuel 16:7b||


Hold up! Hold the phone. Why is God looking at the heart if it's so wicked and incurable and stuff? And if God is looking at the heart then ... maybe we should too?

Okay, okay. I know the heart is naturally wicked and blah blah blah. But, in the words of Emily Freeman, "if we continue to live as though our hearts are desperately wicked, we have tragically misunderstood the work of Christ."

Jeremiah 17:9 isn't the only verse to talk about the heart.

Ezekiel 36:26 - "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."

Psalm 51:10 - "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."


If God gives us a new heart, how can it be entirely deceitful and sick? The cure for our wicked hearts is Christ. No, not everything you feel is right, and you shouldn't base decisions solely on feelings. But don't ever, for one second, ignore your heart. Even if you don't follow it, give it a listen. It may just point you back to your creator. Listen to your heart. With God's help, learn to understand it.

||"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." - 2 Corinthians 5:17||


The whole wind and leaves and compass thing from Pocahontas isn't the goal (although learning another language with the help of cool leaf wind would be cool). But neither is living a life that denies all desires. And if God gives us the desires of our hearts when we delight ourselves in Him (Psalm 37:4), those desires cannot be evil and wicked.

So follow your heart, but not before you follow God. That's what's up.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Where I'm Standing

||"You are your own definition of beautiful." -Taylor Swift||


It seems like almost every Christian blogger is obsessed with coffee. Maybe it's just me, but between "About Me" pages and Twitter descriptions, the phrase "coffee-lover" is everywhere. It's not just bloggers. It's other teenagers in general. It's on t-shirts and Pinterest boards and giftcards because you couldn't think of something personal to get someone.

I don't drink coffee. I don't like coffee. I just don't.

I'm not a mother (obviously). I don't blog about raising children. I'm only sixteen.

Only sixteen.

I have a hard time finding blogs written by other Christian teenagers. When I'm looking at Twitter accounts it's always like, "Christian blogger, mother of like 5 amazing kids I lost track because I have enough love for 20 of them." I've never even changed a diaper.

I find a lot of blogs written by college students. Those are a little closer. Still, I don't spend my days studying for finals that will determine my future, buying overpriced textbooks, or pulling all-nighters (I did that once and it was stupid).

College and children and coffee. Three things I just don't relate to. That doesn't mean I get nothing from these women. I love reading those blogs and I do learn from them.
I had this idea in my head for the longest time that being a teenager meant that I was unqualified to blog about my life. I was too young, too small, too quiet. No one would hear me.

The truth is that I was afraid. I was afraid people would look at my little blog posts and ignore me. Honestly, I'm still afraid. I'm afraid people won't read my words, and I'm afraid they will.

One of the keys to writing well is knowing your audience. Before now, I just had this vague idea that I was writing for "Christian teenagers, but also people who are older, and like middle schoolers too, but mostly high school girls and then whoever else." I think, though, I'm writing to myself. I write to people who were raised in the church, who would like to think they have all the answers, who have heard the word "grace" a thousand times, but don't know what it means, who can't figure out the balance between confidence and pride, who hide the pain and brokenness, who don't feel like they've ever done anything really brave, who feel small. I write for the good girl who doesn't feel good enough. I write for the girl who looks like everything and feels like nothing. I write for the boy who looks like he has it all together, but is falling apart inside. 

I stand where I am. I am not who I was two years or one year ago. I am not who I will be in a year. I am not a mommy-blogger, a college student drowning in textbooks, I don't drink coffee. I'm me, and maybe that's what the world needs. The world needs you, too. Not a copy of someone else, you. Your ideas, your heart, your passion. Don't you dare wish you were someone else, because I need you too. God made you to be you for a reason. Your life has reason because it is a life.

Stand where you are. Don't rush to "catch up" to the people you think have it all. Be who God made you to are. Don't pretend to be someone that you're not. Your story is yours. Own it, tell it, give it.

I don't like coffee, and that's what's up.

||Have you ever wished you had someone else's story? How can your story inspire other people?||

Monday, August 03, 2015

What I Learned in July

Ah, July. The month of Independence Day parties, illegal fireworks, swimming, speech and debate camps, and wishing I had my license. This month went by really fast, but I did learn (or re-learn) a few things in its 31 days.



1. Calendars are more fun when they're pretty


I got a new weekly/monthly planner the other day, and if it weren't for the lovely green and blue cover, I probably wouldn't ever use it. But since it does have a lovely green and blue cover (and interior), planning things months ahead may become a little more common.

2. Journaling actually helps


No, I don't write in meticulous detail about everything I did that day. That would be boring. But I do write how I feel about things, which keeps me from imploding. When you write, it doesn't have to be extensively descriptive. Just get your thoughts down and you'll feel better.

3. Panic doesn't help


But I still panic. And it doesn't help. Don't panic. It just stresses you out and makes everything worse which makes you panic even more.

4. Sometime the answer is "not right now"


And that can be the hardest.

5. All great things take risk


Letting thoughts like "it might not work," or "they won't understand," or "what if I'm wrong?" control your actions will lead to a life of mediocrity and week-long Netflix marathons. If that's what you want to do with your life, then have fun. But don't let fear be the reason you're there.

6. Writing is the answer to writer's block


Sitting around not writing will not fix plot holes, get page views, or finish a novel by Christmas. You may need to take a break sometimes, but don't take breaks just so you can marathon Call the Midwife and Phineas and Ferb (two very different, very good shows). Take a walk without any distractions. No music, phone, etc. Think about what could happen, then go home and write it.

7. It's okay to hurt...


It doesn't mean you're not strong. It doesn't mean you're a bad friend. It doesn't mean you'll never recover or that you did something wrong. It's okay to feel confused, lonely, heartbroken, and angry.

8. ...But don't stay there.


Once you acknowledge your pain, find out what's causing it and work to overcome it. You don't have to get better right away. Sometimes it's a process, and that's okay. You may need to make tough decisions. Don't shy away from the hard things because that's where beautiful things come from.

***

That's it for my (belated) July blog post. Summer is ending soon (what how did that happen what do I do now I have to write a speech and a case what the why?)  Unfortunately, summer weather here in Texas will last until late September. Then it's all sweaters and blankets and fuzzy socks and that's what's keeping me going right now. August is already turning into a month where I'm learning a lot. Maybe I'll post on time next month. ;) And that's what's up.

-HG

Monday, July 27, 2015

Living Confidently

||"Believe in yourself!" -The lamest confidence quote that is supposed to make all your insecurities go away. (how???)||




My debate partner got me socks for Christmas and I love them.

They're not normal, solid colors. They aren't no-shows. They are knee-high, purple and green/black and purple striped glories. And I wear them with my suits.

Don't freak out. I don't wear them into speech or debate rounds. That would be a little far. But I do walk into tournaments, totally professional from hair to knees. Pencil skirt, hairspray, blazer, blouse. And, of course, knee-high bright green socks.

I don't wear the socks to get compliments or attention. I wear them because they're awesome, and wearing them with my professional tournament attire is a beautiful summation of my personality.

When we talk about confidence, the conversation is all too frequently reduced to positive self-talk and smiling more often. But saying "I am beautiful," or "I can do this," just doesn't do it for me. Believing in myself sounds like a great idea, but what happens when I fail? If I, "myself" don't measure up, cute sayings and inspiration Pinterest photos aren't gonna cut it.

There was a time in my life when I would spend time trying to fit in with the people who I thought were "cool" (what even qualifies some to be cool?). I would hangout with these people, and the day or evening would start out with me feeling like I could totally be best friends with them. But by the end of the day, I ended up feeling bad about myself for not liking the same things they did because I thought they were cool. I didn't share their interests and I had very little in common with them, so when I tried to fit in with them, I failed miserably and wanted to cry. But when I hang out with people who encourage me to be myself, that's what I am.

||"Confidence is being 100% real with who you are and not being afraid to [show] it." -Katie Gregoire||


If you're most yourself while throwing a Frisbee, or while putting on makeup, or while making Youtube videos, or while writing novels, then rather than hiding behind what you think is "normal" or "cool," you need to embrace those things. Don't do things because you want to please other people. God made you to be you, not your best friend, your siblings, or that kid you think is sooo cool. He made you to be you for a reason, on purpose.

To me, living confidently means choosing to trust that who you are is who you are meant to be, regardless of how cute your outfit is, how good you are at ping-pong, or if you wear crazy (awesome) socks or not. Yes, you should believe in yourself, but with an attitude of humility, not self-importance. Inspirational Pinterest quotes won't give you confidence because confidence is a choice you have to make every day. Acting like someone else will only take away your confidence. And that's what's up.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Living Gracefully

||"Cease striving and know that I am God." -Psalm 46:10||



One of my friends from youth group is a ballet dancer. Every year, from early September to late November, is Nutcracker Season. At the busiest part of this season, she's in the dance studio seven days a week. She and the other dancers practice hours each day, memorizing each dance, learning to move to the music with every limb in place, a smile on their face.

Oh how I admire ballet dancers.

Thanksgiving weekend, they perform. And it's beautiful. The dresses and sets are nice and all, but the real beauty comes from the dancers. The movements are smooth, practiced to perfection. The months of practice come together in one fantastic show. These girls have learned exactly when and where to move in time to the music.

Sometimes I live my life the same way.

Don't get me wrong. I have about as much coordination as a baby elephant. Ballet is not soon to be listed among my list of talents (which currently includes writing decently, eating raw cookie dough, and procrastinating).

What I mean is that I rehearse, I try to choreograph my life. I'm also pretty bad at it. Looking back over the past twelve months, next to nothing has gone how I planned it. Looking forward, there's a cloud I'm trying to decipher.

I want there to be a rehearsed answer to every question. I want every question to be "yes" or "no" like cross-examination in a debate round. I like knowing the answers. I like raising my hand in confidence when my debate coach or youth pastor asks a question I know the answer to. I like the feeling of flipping to the right verse at the right moment.

But life has been throwing me questions that aren't easy, that aren't yes or no, that I don't know the answer to.

What do you say when a friend hurts you but you don't want to lose them?
How can the answer be no or not yet when everything in you says yes?
How can you believe everything will be all right when everything seems all wrong?
Will what I write today matter mean anything to anyone?
Is it possible for my one small voice to make a dent in all the noise?
Is it okay to want so badly to be loved?
Can I ever be good enough?

I'm learning, though.

Not the answers. Those are complicated, hard, hidden in the fog of the future. I'm learning that I don't have to know the answer.

The art of living gracefully is found in Psalm 46:10: Cease striving and know I am God. It is found in Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. God doesn't tell us the future, not in so many words, but he shows up the next step. He doesn't give us a To Do list. He gives us grace.


||"Graceful, in this case, doesn't mean perfect. Instead, it means free. Free to believe Jesus rather than the voice in your head that says you aren't good enough. Free to hope even when things look and feel hopeless." -Emily Freeman, Graceful||


Living gracefully means letting go of having to know the answers, letting of the lies that say you aren't enough, living step by step, even when you don't know where the path is leading you.

On Tuesday nights, I go swing dancing.

After a couple of weeks practicing with my friends, I started dancing with strangers. At first, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep up with some of the more advanced dancers. I soon found, though, that as long as I had a good lead, following was easy. I hadn't rehearsed a fully planned dance for weeks or months, like my ballet dancer friend. The song didn't have specific steps. Swing dancing is about freedom and having fun. Mistakes frequently turn into new dance

God will lead us into each move individually. We cannot see the end of the dance. We don't know every step to come, but we can trust our Lead to guide us through the next one.

Cease striving ... Stop trying ... Don't predict ... Be still

Know that I am God.

||"This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." -John 6:29||


Believe. You don't have to try so hard. You don't have know all the answers. You just have to believe in the One who holds the future and receive what He has given you. And that's what's up.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Living Honestly


||"I'm a mess and so are you; we've built walls nobody can get through. Yeah, it may be hard but the best thing we could ever do ... Ever do ..."||


(If We're Honest by Francesca Battistelli)



I sit across the table from him while the others listen to another generic pop song. We started out discussing a debate ballot, but the conversation has gradually reached a different point. Though my friend already knew some of the story, even more than most people, I knew I needed to share the whole story.

For the past seven months, I'd been keeping my friends at an arms length away. After losing a friendship the summer before, I didn't want to get hurt like that again. But that night, in mid February in a hotel in Missouri, I chose to trust again.

***

Honest is one of the bravest things we can be.

We have this instinct that tells us we have to be perfect and happy all the time, or at least look that way. So we build a wall to keep our friends out, and they do the same. We build these bright walls that say "I'm fine" and "I'm happy" and "I'm perfect."

But you're not, are you?

Neither am I. Neither is anyone else who looks perfect. Jesus is the only one who has never sinned, but even He struggled with temptation. He experienced pain just like we do. He wasn't happy all the time. And He was honest (Mark 14:32-36). He cried (John 11:35). He hurt.

Honesty requires bravery because it makes us vulnerable. What if people think differently of me? What if they won't accept my brokenness? What if I'm the only one? But honesty is a beautiful, necessary thing. It's how friendships deepen and people grow. Beyond that, living honestly allows us to heal.

That night after the debate tournament, I started overcoming the pain brought by the lost friendship. I was able to forgive my former friend, and trust my current friend. That doesn't mean that pain is gone forever, but I don't have to listen to it anymore.

When we're honest with our struggles, other people see that and feel free to be honest as well. It's like an honesty chain. I admit I'm struggling with trust, and someone who relates to that admits a similar struggle. We're naturally influenced by the actions of others, especially our friends, so when we see other people share their brokenness, we feel free to share ours, And when we share our brokenness, we learn we are not alone.

***

As I spoke to my friend across the table, he listened patiently, never making an excuse for me or my former friend. Instead, he related to me by sharing a similar story. I was honest with him, and he was honest in return, and I thank him for that.

Living honestly requires a little bit of bravery. It's not easy, but it is healing. And that's what's up.

||"Bring you're brokenness and I'll bring mine, cause love can heal what hurt divides; and mercy's waiting on the other side ... If we're honest."||

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Thing About "the List"

If you are a teenage girl who has ever read a relationship related book or blog post by a Christian woman, you've heard of "the List."


The List, if you don't know, is the concept of making a list of qualities you look for in future husband (I don't know if there are guy books/blogs out there that encourage the dudes to do this for future wives, but I guess that's a possibility). It's well-intentioned, and in the right circumstances, it can be beneficial.

Typically, the List starts off with one of the various ways of saying the 'obvious':


1. Must be a die-hard Christian


There are a thousand ways to say it, but that's the basic idea. This obviously isn't a bad thing to want/need. There's nothing wrong, with wanting to date and marry a Christian. In fact, you should date and marry a Christian. But all too frequently we end up with this unclear idea of what a Christian is.

And so teenage (and even preteen) girls start writing this list, put the obligatory "Christian man" at the top, and then anything goes.

2. Must be super-duper funny in every way...


3. ...But he also has to be serious at all the right moments.


4. I'm not saying he has to be hot, but he has to be hot.



Then there's there are the other obvious ones: must love cats and also dogs; must know how to dance (preferably swing); must be ENFJ (or other specific MBTI personality type); must wear Converse and/or flannel button-downs. And it goes on.

Honestly, the times I've tried making a list have turned into a rambling about all the things I like about the guy I have a crush on (I'll not say what those things currently are). While you should definitely have standards concerning your "significant other," (okay, is it just me or is that term kinda weird?) all too often, the list turns into an Instagram-esque reading of "relationship goals." 

Often times, we limit our options to this super strict list of must-haves, thinking we know what we need. The problem with this is that we could also be limiting God. Obviously, God can't actually be limited. But when we have such a specific list of what we "need" and someone comes into our lives who doesn't match up with every little detail, we instantly discount them because they haven't cured world hunger yet

If you're looking for a perfect guy, you aren't going to find him. People aren't perfect. If you want perfection, the only place you'll find it is God.

God's plan for you life rarely (never) looks the same as your plan for you life, and his plan is always best. It may be messier than you expect, but it's also so much greater. Whether you make a list or not, always pray and trust God to help you make the right decision. Maybe your future husband will fit every detail on the list, and maybe he'll totally flip you expectations. Just don't freak out if God tells you to go out with a guy who isn't 'your type.' Thing's don't always go according to plan, and it's better that way. And that's what's up.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Say the Next Yes

Normally when people think about being brave, images of sky diving and roller coasters are what appear. Or maybe you think of people going on missions trips to third world countries. We think of big, bold choices and actions.

But bravery isn't always big.

The seed of starting a blog was planted in my head when I was twelve. I told my youth leader Sarah that I wanted to be a writer, and she mentioned blogging to me. A couple of years later, I started Kitkats and Impromptu, which focused primarily on speech and debate life. It was a small decision, one that I second guessed more than I should have. I started the blog for fun, mostly so I could ramble about speech and debate to people who would relate. It's still really fun. I get to draw stick figures on paint and write about something I love.

Occasionally, I would write about more serious stuff. Those posts rarely got as many views as my funny posts or my parodies. But I still wrote them.

However, they felt out of place. Having a post totally unrelated to speech and debate just didn't fit with the theme. The thing was, starting a new blog was scary. So for months, I kept coming close but not taking that step forward.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a Youtuber named Katie Gregoire. I watched all of her videos in one night, even though I kept telling myself I should save some of the awesomeness for later. She was one of the first teenage Christian girls I saw online, actively encouraging other Christian teens. That was the night I decided to start this blog.

It was a small decision. I was just like, "I'm gonna do it." I said yes to what I knew God was asking me to do. There wasn't some huge booming voice from the heavens saying "HADLEY YOU MUST START THIS BLOG!" That would've been a little scary and I might have cried because I cry when I'm scared. Even without that big voice, I knew what God was calling me to do. So I said yes. It was a little yes, not something like moving to a new city or choosing a college. The hardest part was choosing a name (which I changed three weeks later).

I said that yes. Then I said yes to a blog post. And to another blog post.

Bravery is about small choices we make every day. It's choosing to turn off an immoral TV show. It's choosing to forgive someone who doesn't deserve it. Bravery isn't usually glamorous, and it's not always seen. But being brave isn't about the glory and praise. Bravery is about saying the next yes, even if no one else sees, even if all the eyes are closed and heads are bowed. 

||Bravery is about small choices we make every day|| 


I was reading Let's All Be Brave by Annie Downs the other night. One random phrase at the end of a sentence reached out and grabbed me. (Not physically, obviously. It was just ink on a page.) "[I] said the next yes." I was so touched by this one phrase that I wrote "say the next yes" on my whiteboard, mirror, and hand. I circled that phrase and put a big star on the page. That one little phrase, stuck onto the end of a sentence, is what it means to be brave. 

Say the next yes. Or maybe say no. Maybe say later. Not every decision is going to turn your life completely around, but after 100 brave yeses, after 100 brave nos, you look back and see how much different you were a year, a month, a week ago.

||"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin." -Zachariah 4:10||

Don't disregard a small decision as being unimportant. One yes leads to another yes which leads to a no which may lead to a bigger yes. And so on. Bravery is saying yes to a blog, a blog post, a commitment to truth, encouraging others. Nothing good happens before you say yes. That yes isn't always easy, but when it's the right one, it'll make all the difference. And that's what's up.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

What I Learned in June

When I was thinking about what I learned this month, I realized just how many things have happened to me in the last four or so weeks. I've grown a lot, and been in situations I've never experienced before. Here's what I learned in one of longest months I've been through.

1. Swing dancing is seriously amazing


My friend had her 16th birthday party at a dance hall in a sketchy part of Fort Worth, and when I saw the place for the first time I was like "what the heck did Kat get me into?" But once I got inside and started learning how to actually swing dance, I learned I'd been missing out on something amazing for years. If you get the chance, you should grab a few friends and go out dancing!


2. I am ridiculously sentimental


I cleaned out from under my bed this month, and I realized that I keep way too many things. I honestly don't care about the crafts I made in VBS when I was ten, but I still had all the little cardboard baskets and picture frames and horribly painted animal things. I keep every letter I get, even thank you notes. I keep shoe boxes and put all those sentimental things in them. It's honestly ridiculous.

3. Shopping is only fun if you let it be


Going shopping--with family or friends--is only fun if you want it to be. It can be a totally miserable experience. Trying on clothes, walking around everywhere, price tags, sales, blah blah blah. It can also be a ton of fun. My advice is to not worry about the actual buying of clothes and whatever else and just focus on being with the people you love. It'll be a thousand times more enjoyable.

4. Conversations even remotely related to confrontation terrify me

At the start of this month, I felt I had to talk to one of my close friends about some stuff that happened at speech and debate nationals, and we talked over the phone. I am not good at phone conversations, and I was kind of freaking out before the actual call happened. It ended up going fine, but it was still nerve wracking and I do not want to do that again.

5. Dreams are nothing without bravery


This month I reread Emily Freeman's book A Million Little Ways, and I was inspired by how she talked about dreams and desires being something from God, and not just selfish things from sinful hearts. God created us to do the things that make us come alive. But if we don't step out in courage, our dreams will never be realized.

6. Inside Out is an amazing movie


Go see it. It's fantastic. I cried. A lot.

7. Talking to friends is different than writing in a journal


A few weeks ago, I was texting one of my good friends and I told her about some of the stuff I was going through. Even though I'd written about those things in my journal, it was so helpful to just vent and also get her perspective on the situation. Unfortunately, my phone deleted those texts.

8. Kittens will attack anything that moves

I'll have to write more about my cat Lucie later, but for now I'll just say that she attacks literally everything, including my feet. And my face. She's a stinker!

Lucie! She's precious :*


This has been a really long month, and a lot has happened in it. It's weird that all this stuff happened in the last month. June has lasted for forever, and now it's over and I'm starting to look forward to all July will hold. And that's what's up. :)

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Little Bit Brave

For the last few months, I've felt God calling me to start a blog.

But I was afraid.

Up until a couple of months ago, I didn't see any girls close to my age doing things like starting blogs about living for God. I knew teenagers with writing blogs, and I saw a lot of blogs written by women in their twenties, but in my heart I knew that I needed to write to other teenagers about living from a love for God.

Yesterday, I got to reading some of Annie Downs' writing. Her book Let's All Be Brave is technically supposed to be for adults, but I still read the free excerpt because I love Annie's writing.

That little excerpt is all I've read of the book, but even that touched that space in my heart that keeps trying to push me forward, into unknown, uncertain places. And I listened.

Sunday morning at church, the sermon was given by a woman, something I was super excited about. Then she, Holly Wagner, started preaching about bravery. Again, that space in my heart whispered be brave.

Bravery isn't easy. Bravery means facing danger and fear. I looked up a definition, and the top result was "ready to face and endure danger or pain." I'm not really agreeing with this particular definition, specifically that word ready.

I am not ready. I am not ready to share my heart with the world. I am not ready to reach out to other teenagers. I am not ready.

Yet here I am.

I'm not coming into this with a tool-belt filled with the right words and witty phrases. I don't have a guidebook telling me how to have an awesome blog that gets tons of shares and views. But I knew God was calling me here. And I said yes. Only it was more like murmuring well if you're sure, then I guess I'll do it.

I spent too much of the first day of this blog's existence trying to come up with a name I didn't steal from a Francesca Battistelli song. Even after I got myself to settle on a title, I wasn't satisfied. Until I wrote this post, I didn't know what I really wanted to name this blog.

I realized while writing tonight that being a little bit brave is what this blog is about. It takes a little bit of bravery to live honestly, gracefully, and confidently right now.

A little bit of bravery can lead to a late night conversation with a friend about the fear in your life. A little bit of bravery can lead to living a life of freedom. A little bit of bravery can lead to your greatest dream.

Being a little bit brave means taking a step towards uncertainty, unprepared and a little (or a lot) scared.

I am not ready. But I am tired of waiting.

A little bit of bravery can lead to trusting that God will use this tiny corner of the internet to touch someone's life.

So here I am, trying to be a little bit brave, and hoping to help you do the same. And that's what's up.