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.