On Change, Bitterness, and Standing on the Rock

Things have been getting more real over here on the blog lately. I don’t enjoy writing about things that I can wrap in beautiful paper and tie up with a bow because it’s not real life. That’s just not how it goes, and I don’t always want to write about my highlights and list the great ways I choose to do great things. I’ve been challenged by an encouraging friend to be more thoughtful and intentional in my writing because that’s when I and others will reap the most benefits (she doesn’t know she did this — hi, Rebekah 🙂 ) Sometimes writing and posting is therapeutic while giving others hope that they’re not alone and that there’s a solution. That’s simultaneously what I’ve been trying to do and why I haven’t posted as often. So, these posts that are more open and raw aren’t pleas for encouragement or compliments or recognition; they’re just me sticking closely to the premise of my blog, speaking the truth in love: inspiration for seeking souls.


After we moved to Arkansas in 2016, I wrote a post called Bloom Where You Are Planted. I was excited and motivated and ready to face new change and challenges — something that’s a little out of character for me, but I embraced it fully. In that post, I described plants being uprooted and given the choice to grow or fail where they’ve been planted. I said:

“Just like those plants, if not more so, we have the ability to bloom where we’re planted. And we can grow taller and more beautiful than they can because God will help us if we trust Him. It doesn’t matter if you’re living at home, in high school, in college, recently married, moving away or about to do any of these things – we are all in different seasons of life than we were before this moment, and we have to learn to bloom right there. Because you can’t change your situation but you can change yourself.”

In the past two years, I’ve been replanted four times, which is two times more than I expected — home from college, home to a new town with my husband, new town to another new town, another new town to another new town — you get the picture. Almost nothing has gone the way that I anticipated when we got married, and I think that’s been teaching me about the unpredictability of life and walking through God’s will. My patient husband consistently reminds me that life is full of change, and not much is going to go the way I’ve planned; God’s ways are higher than my ways.

As many of my readers know, we moved from Arkansas to Mississippi five months after adjusting and making friends. Our new town is smaller, with far fewer places to shop and eat, and slim to no Christians my age. It’s just different. Before you think I’m complaining: the church here has been more than accommodating, we like small-town feels and really don’t care to shop that much anyway, we probably like Zaxby’s more than sit-down restaurants, we’re close to our families, we keep in touch with our distant friends, and God blesses us richly. But I have to admit,

I haven’t been blooming.

I’ve been that plant that gets replanted and is like, “Whoa, no, stop. I don’t like it here; I’m just going to shrivel up instead.” I’ve struggled to answer when people asked me if I like it in my new home; all the things I don’t like have come sliding through my mind like a PowerPoint, and I just mumbled some kind of answer like, “It’s OK, I guess. The church is good.” I’m not naturally an optimist. I’m actually inclined to be more of a realist-pessimist, so I have to work at finding the joy and beauty in situations instead of looking at all the little things that went wrong and catastrophizing the fact that I spilled something in the floor. So, when we moved here, I was excited, motivated, and slightly less ready to face changes and challenges. For the first few months, I soaked it all in, got used to the roads and back ways to my favorite places, took time to try new things. But, I had been through that a few times already, and it was losing its appeal. I’ve become more like one of my struggling petunias outside that’s kind of alive, but kind of has dead leaves and stems, and has kind of happy petals occasionally even though it gets watered all the time (I like plant analogies. *insert shrugging emoji here*).

Instead of finding joy and thanking God for blessings, I’ve buried them and piled negativity on top.

Instead of being excited to wake up and walk my dog in the mornings, I’ve dreaded rolling out of bed.

Instead of joyfully going about my daily tasks, I’ve let them pile up and then complained when I felt overwhelmed.

Instead of asking God for satisfaction through His word, I’ve looked for satisfaction in Instagram feeds and an organized life.

Instead of looking ahead to the future with confidence, I’ve constantly looked over my shoulder for what has been.

This is a recipe for bitterness and the world’s most unpleasant person, and it’s simply one of the things that I deal with.

Once we got used to the new place and got everything situated, I started having these snowballing feelings, but I couldn’t put a finger on why (typical me), and I let them happen instead of confronting them until I felt consumed by them.

Finally, after about six months, I became fed up with them. I figured out the problem: I went from getting used to extra socializing to getting used to not much at all, which is a sensation I have never experienced.  Before, I could text a friend and within a few minutes, we could meet up for dinner or a movie or just a cup of coffee on the couch. Because I’ve lived a comfortable life with friends minutes away and regular coffee dates, I’ve become blindly accustomed to leaning more on other people for support and less on God. That’s disheartening to think about and even more disheartening to write. But it’s true! It’s probably true for many of us. And it’s something we have to get a handle on for the sake of our souls and the Kingdom of God. I have to learn to find a healthy balance between letting myself be edified and encouraged by God’s people, but leaning wholly on God instead of totally relying on God’s people and sometimes being edified and encouraged by God.

What if every Christian chose to keep pressing forward with God instead of living in stagnant dissatisfaction with the world? What if my attitude looked like this?:

Instead of putting minor inconveniences on top of God’s blessings, I praise Him anyway and thank Him for all good and perfect gifts.

Instead of dreading the next day, I joyfully put my feet on the floor and tackle the day’s challenges.

Instead of letting my daily tasks pile up, I get them done immediately without complaining and keep myself from laziness.

Instead of looking for satisfaction in my “highlight reel” and a perfectly organized schedule and home, I accept imperfection and seek satisfaction through God’s word.

Instead of living in the past, I look forward to the future of my life and God’s Kingdom and reach for Him.

That is a major paradigm shift. It’s a necessary and simple and concept, but it’s never easy to adjust a habit-formed mindset. But, imagine the spiritual and physical work that can get done if I intentionally think this way! I’ve experienced it on good days, but rarely when my day goes sour, and that needs to change.

If we live with our feet in ever-shifting sand instead of standing on the solid Rock, then we’re going to be unstable if life doesn’t go the way we expect.

I want to include a snippet from my friend Rebekah’s blog post about her move states away from her comfort zone:

“As you are working through the transitions of your move, it’s important to keep two different “Better Day”s in mind. First, there’s that day somewhere off in the future when you’re driving around town and you think, “Whoa. This is that Better Day I read about in some random blog post about moving.” It’s that day when you have somehow managed to turn the anxiety down and the town feels like home and you’re genuinely excited about your niche. Granted, these days still kind of come and go for me (and really, they do for everyone) but that’s when it’s most important for me to lean on the best “Better Day”:

It’s that Better Day when God’s presence fills every hole of loneliness and doubt. It’s that Better Day when I am finally in an assurance so strong that I am no longer vulnerable in any shape or form. It’s that Better Day when I achieve the unmerited success as a “good and faithful servant”. It’s that Better Day when I am finally able to say, “This is it. This is the place I’ve been looking for.””

In the past six months of dealing with bitter and uncomfortable feelings, I forgot this important piece of truth: the point of blooming where you’re planted isn’t just so you can feel comfortable. It’s so that you can glorify God in every situation you find yourself in. So that you can say, “I did this thing. God helped me through. Everything is always going to be OK because of God.” So that you can work toward the true Better Day that Rebekah talks about above and you can please God in all aspects of your life — no matter what changes you experience.

Philippians 4:8-13 (NKJV)

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. 

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Count your blessings, give God the glory, and keep moving forward. Giving up is never an option.

Philippians 3:14 (NASB)

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. All glory goes to God. If you want to see more like this, follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.  Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms; I only ask that you link it back to this site. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day. 🙂

The Belt of Truth

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth,” (Ephesians 6:14a)

What is the Belt of Truth?

The word girded comes from the word gird, meaning “to encircle or bind with a flexible band (as a belt);  to make fast (as a sword by a belt or clothing with a cord)” (source). It’s related to the word girdle, that many people are familiar with now, from the definition that says, “anything that encircles, confines, or limits” (source). Often, when the word gird is used in the Bible, it’s used as a call to action. So, what this verse means is, essentially, to prepare yourself for action against the devil with the belt of truth.

Keep in mind that the physical armor we’re discussing here is comparable to Roman armor, with many separate, heavy parts a soldier would put on. The girdle, or belt, would be a band around the soldier’s waist that held the sword and tightened around the other pieces of armor to keep them steady (source). In Ephesians 6, this belt is an analogy for truth.

Truth refers to absolute truth, and absolute truth only comes from God. Cruden’s Complete Concordance says:

“What is opposed to a falsehood, lie, or deceit, Pr. 12:17. Fidelity, sincerity, and punctuality in keeping promises. Generally to truth, taken in this sense, if referred to God, is joined mercy or kindness as in Genesis 24:17. Truth is put for the true doctrine of the gospel, Gal. 3:1. Truth is opposed to hypocrisy, dissimulation or formality, Heb. 10:22.”

We know that God is a God of truth (Deuteronomy 32:4) and Jesus calls Himself “the truth” in John 14:6. The belt of truth holds the sword of the Spirit; God’s word is the sword of the Spirit (this will come up again in a later post). Because the word of God contains and is truth, it only makes sense for the belt and the sword to be so closely tied, for the belt to actually hold the sword. Just like a Roman soldier can’t wear the belt and expect to fight without the sword and carry the sword with nowhere to put it, the Biblical soldier can’t wear truth without also carrying the word of God. So, it makes sense that we would need all of our armor to be held firm by truth. Without God we wouldn’t have a solid standard of truth to rely on.

Why do we need it?

God’s truth provides us with a standard to keep ourselves aligned with Him; we can find everything we need to know about walking the narrow Way in the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). Truth is needed to combat the lies of the world which come from Satan himself. As I mentioned in the preface to this series, the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Any lies the world tells us are planted by him; Satan is the influence of evil and he will stop at nothing to make sure he succeeds.  He may use a relationship, social or entertainment activity, or temptation we have (probably all of the above!) to pinpoint our weaknesses and attack us where we think we’re strong. He will be successful if we don’t know and gird ourselves with the truth.

Because Satan spreads lies, what we believe as truth isn’t going to be accepted by most of the world. We need the truth in order to be sanctified, or set apart, from the world, just as we’re called to be (John 17:19; Romans 12:2). If we didn’t have the truth within us, we wouldn’t know how to be set apart from the world in a way that would be pleasing to God — we probably wouldn’t even know that we’re supposed to be different in the first place.

John 8:32 says, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” This freedom John writes about is freedom in Christ, outside of the devil, a freedom that we have because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. The only way we can truly be free from the clutches of Satan is by adorning ourselves with God’s truth — the only absolute truth.

The truth can preserve us. Psalm 40:11 says, “Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord; Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.” A synonym for preserve is protect, which is why truth is included in our protective armor.

How do we use it?

What we need to do to fight is to wear this belt at all times, because now we understand that knowing God’s truth is powerful. We have to be constantly alert to any untruths and act on that. Because Jesus is the truth we know that if we have Him on our side, we’ll be able to fight the devil’s lies with success and win our battles over evil. We can do a few things to stay in action.

1 | Think on good things

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

“These things” that Paul refers to here are all the good things from God — all good things that come from His truth.

Because we know the truth and what these good things are, we can resist the devil with our minds. I don’t mean with telepathy or anything like that; we can fill our minds with the truth so much that it’s easier for us to resist temptation. Now, because the devil is so persistent and because we’re human, those temptations are always going to be there. But we will be more successful in resisting them when we’re able to remember God’s truth in the midst of being tempted. Our consciences will be pricked, and we’ll be able to win more battles against temptation.

2 | Use the truth as a basis for fleeing or correction

If we have the truth, we’ll be able to use it when others try to cause us to stumble. This may mean fleeing, like Joseph did, or it may mean correction. If Satan decides to use a human relationship against our souls, we can both remember God’s truth in that moment and explain to the other person exactly why we won’t participate in his or her sin, whatever that may be. If he uses entertainment, we can think on God’s truth and decide whether we’re going to participate based on whether that activity would glorify God.

3 | Pray for a deeper understanding of truth

We can pray to understand the truth more thoroughly and that God will help us use it to combat Satan and sin. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray without ceasing; this is one of the biggest and most important things we can ever pray for. Our souls, and others’ souls are at stake in this war, and, like I mentioned in the preface, God wants us to know that we aren’t alone if we’ll only look to Him. So prayer for focus on the truth is entirely necessary if we want to move forward. As a side note, David even prays in Psalm 40 for the truth itself to protect him (“preserve”) him (mentioned above). He recognized that he needed the truth if he wanted to be free from the burden of iniquity.

4 | Spread the truth to everyone

Psalm 96:3

“Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.”

Another significant thing we can do with the truth is simpy to spread it! We need to teach it to others so that more and more soldiers will enter the ranks and enter the gates of heaven. We can share it with our friends, our co-workers, our families, and our children both through example and the spoken/written word. The more we do this the more we glorify God and defeat Satan.


This is part one of my 6-part Armor of God series. I’ll post one installment each week, with the sword of the Spirit and prayer combined (it should wrap up around Thanksgiving).

Related: Preface: Armor of God + Resisting the Devil ; (related posts here and here).

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Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

Why Example is (Almost) Everything

This is a repost from February 10, 2016.


Influence. Presentation. Being a role model. There are a lot of words and phrases closely related to “example.” My mom and others have told me countless times: “People are watching you whether you know it or not.” You might not know who it is, but you need to know that you’re being watched by someone, being an example to someone all the time. Your words, your actions, your friend groups, they’re most likely being watched, especially in the age of rampant technology. Something you’re doing is probably encouraging someone to act the same way. You’re most likely being imitated. It could be children or peers or people older than you. Either way, you need to know your example is powerful, no matter who you are.

Example is almost everything. Even Paul said “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). It’s only almost everything because God’s glory is everything. Being like Christ is everything. It’s only a stepping stone to showing God’s glory, but it’s one of the most powerful ones out there.

Especially recently I’ve seen many, many posts on Facebook and Twitter about how disappointed parents are in celebrities for being bad examples or role models for their children, fans are disappointed because well-known people have gone back on their word publicly, how they don’t like someone’s actions because these actions don’t reflect what they have said they stand for. It’s difficult to stay consistent outside of the spotlight, and I suspect even more so when you literally have cameras following you around constantly. So when these people mess up, they get criticized, bashed, and they lose people’s trust.

But that’s just it. It’s all because their actions don’t reflect their words. Which is something every single person on this earth has been guilty of at some point (Romans 3:23). But, it’s not OK to throw our hands up and move on exactly the way we’ve been living, using this verse as an excuse to do what we want and act how we want. In order to be a positive example, we have to repent of this and fight every day, being careful about what we say and what we do – it can turn into blatant hypocrisy if we’re not diligent. That’s not appealing to Christians or the world, and it’s especially hated by God (Matthew 23 covers this topic fairly extensively). No one can be a positive example or influence, and certainly aren’t doing themselves any good, if their actions don’t match up with their words (Matthew 12:33-37). Friends, if we want to be good examples for other people, especially if we’re Christians, we need to match our actions up to our words. It should never be a “do as I say, not do as I do” situation. Consistency, continuity, and unity in our actions and words are more important than many people like to believe.

Even if our words and actions do line up, and we’re saying and doing things that aren’t right or excusable, people are watching. People see what you say and do: your peers, your church, your family, people in the world. I Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: bad company ruins good morals.” Most of the time, this verse is used to warn against the people we hang out with and spend our time around. But what about being bad company? It could be worse if we’re the people who are ruining good morals for other people. People can be easily influenced, which is why Romans 14:13-23 says to “decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” If something we’re doing is going to cause another to sin or even just discourage that person in some way, then we aren’t doing what’s right. Do you really want to be the downfall of another person, another soul?

I do want to emphasize the positives because this post isn’t meant to be harsh or judgmental; it’s meant to be an encouragement, to make you think. There are so many good and right things we can be doing with our example that won’t cause others to be discouraged. I talked some about this in my post called The Thing About Social Media, but, especially if we’re Christians, we can be using our social media accounts to bring others to Christ, not only in the words we write, and the links we share, but also in the way we live and portray that to others. We can share as many Christ-focused articles and Bible verses we want, we can talk about how much we love God and want to be like Christ, but if our pictures and “likes” and attitudes don’t line up with that, we’re only being a negative example because we aren’t truly living it.

The greater power and influence you have, the greater responsibility to follow through and make a positive impact on the world. If we know there could be people watching us, if we know there could be focused attention on us, even if it’s just one person, how much more of an opportunity to show them a good example!

But you can be a good example even without this earthly power. The most humble people in the Bible were the greatest influences – Ruth, for example. She wasn’t a queen, she didn’t think she was someone who had all eyes on her, but she was determined to live the way she should, showing kindness to her mother-in-law after they had lost some of the people dearest to them. When everyone else left Naomi, Ruth stayed at her side. And Boaz noticed ( Ruth 2:11 & 3:11). Someone watched her, and told Boaz. He wanted to be associated with such a “worthy woman,” and eventually they were married. Your example is that much more powerful if your character is what makes people want to associate with you.

Be like Christ.

You can take your example and help someone. If others see you legitimately living as a good person, an encourager, a helper, it’s going to be so much easier to gain friends and gain souls for the kingdom! No one wants to be part of a church or a group of people if they don’t see them spending their time differently than the world;  if they want to act like the world, they’ll just continue to be part of the world. A friend once said “Don’t look like the world because the world doesn’t look like God.” Be different from the world, and you’ll have a big impact. It’s what Christians are called to do in the first place! “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2). This is what it’s about. Not being of the world, not being interested in the world’s things, but being interested in God’s things – following Christ’s example.

Follow Christ’s example to use your example to spark a light, start a conversation, enlighten someone, point the way to God, make friends and make brothers and sisters out of those friends. After all, Christians are called to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). When you’re not speaking it, live it. Live and show others why being in Christ is such a blessing.

What does it mean to be like Christ? It means to be a truth-teller, to be just, to be humble, loving, merciful, completely obedient to God the Father (see any of the gospels to read how He lived while He was on this earth – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). It means to serve others instead of asking to be served 24/7, to tell the truth peacefully and with love, to give to those who need it, to be patient, and to treat others well. It means to do everything in your power to please God and influence people in the most important of ways, leading them to salvation. I challenge you (and myself!) to ask yourself if how you’re acting, talking, and living is a way that Jesus would be living. Be the type of person who sheds light instead of darkness on people’s lives (Matthew 5:16).

The greatest of responsibilities when it comes to example is to glorify God through your words and actions because ultimately it’s not about us. It’s not ultimately about being liked or friend groups or popularity or money or whatever else your influence might bring you. It’s about bringing glory to your Maker. He made us all in His image, and we need to act like it – to act like people who will stop at nothing to bring honor to God.

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5 Real Ways to Encourage

Last December, I wrote a post called 8 Ways We Can Serve Others; you can think of this post as an extension of that one. They build on each other and what I outline here might enhance the things I mentioned in December.

Christians are to be encouraging people. We are to speak and do kindness to others as a reflection of Christ. It’s not always as easy as it sounds, especially if we’re trying show meaningful kindness. I’ve come up with a few ways we can do this intentionally.

Proverbs 27:17

As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

1 // Comment on the person, not their looks.

I always get a little confidence boost when someone tells me they like my outfit or my hair or the way I’ve done my makeup for the day — it’s flattering! But sometimes encouragement is more than flattery, and it needs to have some substance, especially since character is what truly matters. Maybe we can start telling people we appreciate them for their kindness. Or that something they’ve done has been encouraging to us. As good as you’ll make them feel when you comment on their appearace, they’ll be twice as encouraged by the thought you put into a comment on based on who they are. Now, if telling that person they look pretty is something you know will encourage her, then go for it — but try to be specific in your compliment. Anyone can say, “you look nice today.” But what exactly does that mean? Tell her, “That color looks great with your skin,” or “Your hair looks so pretty in a bun!” Compliment personalization can make all the difference.

2 // Give meaningful gifts.

If you have an opportunity to give someone a gift, especially during a hard season in his or her life, it’s always beneficial to personalize that in some way. Even if it’s just the generic coffee mug, find one that speaks to them — one with a Bible verse you know they need or love, a quote, a joke, a pretty picture, or just their favorite color! A couple of years ago, when I had the flu, I had a friend bring me a care package that was full of all the things I liked: the bag was Tinkerbell, a One Direction notebook, colorful packages of tissues, my favorite flavor of cough drop, a plastic Tangled cup, and a bottle of nail polish. I was missing worship services and was just feeling down; this thoughtful goodie bag was all I needed in that moment to encourage me to be positive! So, try to give a gift that you know will lift their spirits. Even if it takes a little more effort, your friends will appreciate it.

3 // Offer to help — and follow through.

So many times people say, “Let me know if I can help!” But they literally wait to see if you let them know (I struggle with this) and end up not helping at all. Some people are shy about asking for help, and they don’t want to impose on your schedule. To show them that you really care, you could text or call them the day before they need help and offer one more time, letting them know that you would love to help if you can. Another option: if you know what time they’ll be getting started on whatever task they’re tackling and know they could use the help (packing, mowing, building something, homework, cleaning, etc.), just show up! As long as you know they wouldn’t be offended by your random appearance at their house, then you can show up and dive into the project with them. This isn’t in my personality to do, but for some people it’s a viable option. All of this lets your friends know that they’re not alone in what they’re doing, and that you’re sincere in wanting to help, in turn encouraging them.

4 // Sympathize.

Because not every discouraging situation calls for a gift or a meal or handiwork, sympathy –or even empathy — might be the only thing that will do the trick. Sometimes when we’re down, all we really need is someone to sit down with us, tell us they understand and that it’s going to be OK. Sympathy can go a long way. If your friend is going through something you couldn’t possibly understand, just listen to her, hug her, tell her you’re sorry and tell her you’re praying for her. (By the way, telling people you’re praying for them is encouragement all on its own.) If there’s a problem that needs to be resolved, listen to her first, sympathize second, and offer input third (this process is true especially for most girls).

5 // Always stay positive.

I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is a new day, and I believe in miracles.

-Audrey Hepburn

Positivity is encouraging to most people even if you’re not speaking directly to someone about their struggles. A cheerful smile, brushing it off even if you’ve just had the worst day of your life, and having genuine joy are some of the most encouraging traits I’ve ever seen in people. People who are resilient and strong and genuinely happy are a joy to be around! If you just radiate positivity and joy in Christ, that can be enough to push someone in the right direction, and it reflects Christ’s character the way that Christians are supposed to.


I believe that in doing each of these things, we can encourage people through our character and lead them closer to Christ. Even material gifts can help someone who’s having a hard time because those gifts are a symbol of friendship, love, and togetherness.

Romans 15:1-7

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,  that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

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How I Use My Simplified Planner

I’ve been using my Simplified Planner for almost a year now, and I LOVE it. It’s helped me sort out my thoughts and plans and lists and generally just kept me more sane than I was before I had it. (By the way, her 2017 planners just debuted, so check them out!) I’ve thought about writing this post several times, and now that I really do have a set way that I use the planner, I decided now is a good time — especially if there’s anyone reading who’s considering purchasing one for 2017 or even for the academic year!

My Planner

I have the Daily version in Happy Stripe. The Daily Simplified Planner has a full calendar spread on the first two pages of each month, and two days per opening throughout the month. There are time slots from 6am to 9pm down the left of each day page, an empty to-do list to the right, dinner for the night on the bottom left and a section for extra notes on the bottom right. Every planner has monthly tabs on the sides of the pages and a sturdy pocket in the front that I use for lists, receipts, coupons, etc. — you’ll see them poking out of the top of my planner throughout the post.

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The beauty when I got it last December

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I’ve smudged the gold foil over time 😦

How I Used It

How I use my planner isn’t complicated or drawn-out; I don’t even use stickers because they seem to defeat the purpose of simplicity and take up too much time to use for my liking.

There are two ways I’ve used my planner that have been successful throughout the year. When I first got my planner, I tried using a pencil (just in case I messed up), and then I was just getting eraser smudges all over it, and I don’t keep many pencils on hand. And let’s be real, I just don’t like pencils. So that just didn’t work well for me.

Second, I tried color coding with these amazing pens. I mainly used light blue, lavender, pink, fuchsia, orange, and occasionally red — all depending on the tasks I had to do that day. I loved this because I could easily separate the tasks from each other and visually prioritize them if they weren’t written in order of priority already. It worked well for me until I started losing pens or leaving them in my car so that I couldn’t get to the color I needed when I needed it, and like the stickers, it took up a little too much time — it looked pretty, though!

When I was using these pens, I was thoroughly planning my day by time (as in, if I needed to clean the bathroom, it was in the time slot at 11am or whenever I decided I needed to do it the next day). I was completely filling the planner pages, and that quickly became overwhelming. This may work for people who can stick to a timed schedule like that, but sometimes I prefer to change up when I do a task, so it didn’t quite cut it for me.

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How I Use it Now

I really use my planner interactively; I use everything that’s printed in the planner to my advantage — which I’ve done since I first got the planner. For example, there are quotes at the top right of each page, and if I see that those quotes are going to be an encouragement or even a good mantra, I’ll bubble it or put a star next to it or highlight it (anything to draw attention to it). I also use the checklists next to “Sunday,” and the slot that says, “write a happy memory from this week.” They help me to live each week intentionally.

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I don’t know, I was just really excited about the taco salad that week. And I don’t think I stuck to those meals.

I’ve switched to using whatever black pen I deemed as my favorite at any point in time. 😉 Right now it’s a ballpoint click pen with a clip and a blue, white, and purple paisley pattern on it. I no longer color code, and I only write what’s necessary or what I think is important to make sure I remember throughout the day — sometimes I even write tasks that aren’t my favorite, but they feel more concrete in my planner (so that way I have to them, right?!) Although I don’t use stickers, I do occasionally put a sticky note wherever I need extra room to write, but don’t want to take up space in my planner in case something changes.

Usually on Saturdays or Sundays, I go through and write out tasks and meetings for the week, plus I meal plan in the dinner slot. I try to keep the time slots fairly open in case something comes up that I absolutely have to attend. There are usually one or two tasks in the morning, one around noon, and depending on the day, one or two in the evening. Then, I’ll fill in my to-do list section with whatever else I need to get done but don’t necessarily have a time constraint as long as they’re done that day.

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My notes section is mainly used for birthdays, important dates, or something I don’t want to forget but isn’t a task. I’ve used it for phone numbers if I need to call someone that day or even something I don’t want to forget at the grocery store (which can also go in the dinner slot).

And that full-spread calendar at the front? I use it, too. I put birthdays, holidays, my husband’s off-work days, football games if it’s football season, and vacations there all where I can see it over the span of a month. I don’t use it as much as the daily pages, but when I need to visualize how much time I have left in the month or until a particular day, the calendar is so, so helpful.

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I have fun with my planner! I used to get completely bent out of shape if I had to mark something out or rewrite it on the next page or misspelled something in the planner until I realized that that’s just life. I’ll have to scratch things out and make changes, and Emily Ley says it perfectly when she gives herself and anyone using the Simplified Planner “a standard of grace, not perfection.”

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This is inside the back cover.

Because not every page of our lives are going to be picture-perfect, neither are our planners. 🙂

 

How Exercise Can Be a Spiritual Discipline

For me, exercise has been encouraging in more ways than one. I’m always going to be encouraged to push myself further in my exercise routine and in my everyday routine when I exercise. It’s a natural energizer because it’s working to keep my body healthy. But I’ve also found that it can help me spiritually.

Although I’ve never worked out in the traditional sense of the term, I’ve done some running and I’ve practiced yoga for around three years. Both of these routines were big steps for me because:

1) I didn’t care about intentional exercise for a long time.

2) I’d never done either of them before (outside of that mile run in middle school that I mostly walked).

It didn’t quite hit me until just this week that not only are there Bible correlations with running, but any type of exercise can be or lead to spiritual discipline. A lot of yoga classes I’ve attended incorporate setting an intention at the beginning of the practice; this could be anything from a physical component you need to focus on or mindset you’d like to achieve. At the end of my practice on Monday, my instructor (online – I’ve been using FitStar Yoga) said, “Now go back to that intention you set at the beginning.” I don’t usually set one just because I’m focusing on the poses, not any one aspect of the practice. (I realize this could sound fluffy and a little bit out there, so stick with me.)

But as soon as she said that I realized how I could be using my time during my yoga practice to focus my mind on things above (Colossians 3:2). Instead of setting an earthly intention like a better stretch or getting a tough pose or grace when you fall out of a pose, I decided the next time to set my mind on a Biblical virtue. So, during my next practice, I set my mind on patience. I chose to be patient with myself and with the practice, and to be fully there while I was exercising my body. Then I thought about patience with others, and as I was holding poses thought of situations in which I would need to practice patience. Not only did this help get me through the yoga practice, but I also felt that I’d grown.

The same is true with running. While you’re giving yourself grace and pushing yourself to just run through that pain, you’re also training your mind. Because in a lot of ways these types of exercises are teaching you tools you also need to fight as a Christian.

Through exercising, we can learn patience and grace and perseverance and strength and so many other things. The writer of Hebrews says, “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” in chapter 12, verse 1. And in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, the same type of analogy is given as a lesson about discipline and perseverance toward the “imperishable crown”:

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

I realize that Paul is talking here about spiritual discipline, and he isn’t even saying that we all need to spiritually discipline ourselves while we’re exercising, but in the Bible, both parables and analogies are given that will increase understanding because people can relate to the topic – or are at least familiar with it.He’s talking about fully disciplining our spiritual bodies to strive toward an eternal home with God. If learning some type of discipline during exercise weren’t relevant, this wouldn’t have been written.

It takes self-control, perseverance, and confidence to get through a tough exercise. And it takes self-control, perseverance, and confidence to get through this tough life.

That’s why the time we spend exercising, which is usually a big chunk of time, can also be a spiritual discipline, even if we aren’t specifically “setting an intention” during that yoga practice or those two miles or during every weight-lift. It can teach us lessons about our minds and bodies that will help us learn physical and spiritual discipline. We can apply the same mindset to our spiritual walk through this life because that perseverance is the same perseverance that will help us reach a heavenly goal.

 

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How Exercise Can Be a Spiritual Discipline

This World Is Not My Home

A re-post from April 19, 2016.

Living Four Fifteen

We sang this hymn Sunday morning with the church where my husband and I have been attending since we moved to Arkansas. It was even mentioned in the sermon that morning as a bullet-point about Christians’ true citizenship. It’s one of my favorite songs because of the picture it paints in my mind of reaching the true end goal. Here are the lyrics below if you haven’t heard it before (by Albert Brumley):

This world is not my home I’m just passing through
my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

They’re all expecting me and that’s one thing I know
my Savior pardoned me and now I onward go
I know He’ll take me through though I am weak and poor
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

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Our Memorial Day Trip & Mini-Vacation (Part 2)

This where the next phase of the trip begins. Leah arrived in Auburn in time for services Wednesday evening, and we transferred all of my things into her car. Then we left an hour or two later for Destin, Florida, where we would stay for the next (almost) four days. Leah is a veterinarian, and she had a Continuing Education conference, so she invited our friend Meredith and me to tag along.

Leah and I got to Destin around 2 am Thursday morning. We stayed in a motel across the street from the big resorts and the beach that was about 30 minutes away from the Sandestin Resort where Leah would go every day for her conference.

Thursday morning around 6, Leah left for her CE training, and I slept in for a while. I woke up around 10:30 and killed some time until she got back. Once she got back, we changed clothes, and got ready to spend a few hours at the beach (YAY).

We ended up going to Henderson beach, a public state park beach that we expected to be fairly empty – we didn’t want to be in a crowd of people the whole time we were there because that’s just uncomfortable. Thankfully it was, and we had a little stretch of beach to ourselves, where we ate a late lunch of veggies, hummus, and fruit, and relaxed until dinner time.

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The state park and I share a name!

Since we got out to the beach around 3:00-3:30, we weren’t in the hottest part of the day, and were able to enjoy the beach for a while without feeling too sticky from humidity. Plus, we didn’t have a schedule to stick to, so we just stayed out as long as we wanted to.

We wanted to spend as much time as possible on the beach that day, so we stayed out until around 6, then went back to the motel to clean up and get ready for dinner. We ate a late dinner at Smashburger because the restaurant we wanted originally planned to go to (Panini Pete’s) was already closed by the time we were ready to go. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and conversation, and then headed back to the motel to go to bed.

Friday was a busybusy day. When Leah was at CE on Thursday, she ran into the Padgetts, a family we used to worship with in Auburn. She gave Karen my number, and we decided to hang out on Friday morning/afternoon. I rode with Leah to the resort where the conference was being held and met Karen and her kids there to do some exploring. There was so much to do at this resort! We walked all around The Village of Baytowne Wharf where we saw a neat treehouse on our way to look at all the ships in the marina, and then we went on to find a little playground she thought one of her kids might enjoy. It took a while, but we got there and played Peter Pan on the pirate ship section of the playground. It started to get hot, so Karen left her oldest boy with me, took the baby with her, and went to get the car so it would be a quicker trip back to the Village. Once we got back, we went to a cute little pizza place (I wish I had pictures!) and ate before it was time for them to take naps.

I met back up with Leah and we went to find the Indian Temple Mounds and Museum of Fort Walton. We thought they would be a cool thing to see and something fun to do. Unfortunatelt, we didn’t make it before the museum closed but we did get to see the temple. It wasn’t quite as big as we expected, and we thought it would be the “real thing” instead of a replica but it was still educational and fun. We didn’t spend too much time there, and decided just to go back and prepare for Meredith to meet us at the motel.

On our way back, we found another public beach area at Elgin Air Force Base Beach that we decided to check out since we still had some time. It was nice and empty, and this is where we spotted the first beach wedding we would see on the trip! We collected seashells and found what we thought were either clams or mussels, but we weren’t sure which, and we just enjoyed the sunshine for a little while longer.

After our spontaneous beach stop, Meredith met us at the motel, and we all went to Lulu’s.  (Leah and I were proud of how spontaneous we were on this trip because it’s completely uncharacteristic of both of us 😉 ). Lulu’s is a great restaurant that usually has live music and is right next to the bay, so we got to watch the sunset over the water while we ate and talked.

After dinner we went over the The Village of Baytowne Wharf to walk around and see what we could find to do. It was awfully crowded, so we just walked around for a little while, I showed them the treehouse and the marina, and then we made our way back to the motel. I believe this was also the night we stopped to get frozen custard from Shake’s. It was delicious, but we were all so stuffed that we could hardly get through it! We took our custard back to the room and Meredith unpacked, then we watched HGTV until time for bed (we watched A LOT of HGTV on this trip – and I’m not complaining).

Now for Saturday. This was one of the most eventful days we had. Saturday was the day that Meredith and I had planned to spend all day at the beach and in the sun. We got up that morning, got all of our food and beach toys ready to go, and were so pumped, then we opened the door to leave….and it was raining. Since we had to stop for gas and bottled water anyway, we decided to go ahead and leave. By the time we got to the beach it had stopped raining, but it was still very windy! We braved the wind, set up our towels and music – the works. We even saw the second beach wedding of the trip. It was overcast, but we didn’t mind because we knew we could still get some sun this way, and wanted to take advantage of the beach time we had.

Below are just screenshots from my Snapchat story (yes, I make those) that I took during our stormy beach day.

Then we heard thunder. And saw lightning – but it was way over the water, so we stayed put. The storm kept getting closer, with a little rain shower (that we thought would let up). So we just wrapped up in towels until it was right over us.

Finally we decided to go sit in the car until it was over. As soon as we got to the car, the rain start to pour. We just decided to have our lunch there and see what the weather would do. It stopped after about 15 minutes, so we gathered our things and went back out to the beach. This time the weather stayed nice, and the sun was out, so we enjoyed the beach until time to meet Leah for lunch. Once she told us she was headed back, we packed up and went to the motel where we all snacked for a while before going to Elgin Air Force Base Beach again to spend the rest of the afternoon.

By this point, it had gotten chilly, and we didn’t get much sun, but we did see dolphins! There were somewhere between 8 and 10 dolphins swimming just out on the edge of the ocean (close enough to the shore where we could see them well). We were all so excited! Seeing dolphins is one of my favorite parts about going to the beach – they’re such graceful creatures when they’re all swimming together. After this, we spotted the third and last beach wedding from where we were sitting. We spent some more time here until it got too chilly to stay, and then we left to clean up to go to Panini Pete’s for dinner. I love paninis, so that was delicious!

After dinner, we went to HarborWalk Village, which we were expecting to just be a nice boardwalk. It turned out to be an actual village behind a fancy hotel with shops, activities for kids, night life, and everything. I bought Widget some homemade dog treats while I was here. I also looked for something to get my husband, although the shops didn’t have much John Mark would like, so I didn’t end up getting anything else. The shop we liked the most was one that had kids’ toys and creepy animal masks and little souvenirs; we stayed in here for about 30 minutes.

This was an exciting part of the evening that I think we all enjoyed, but we were glad to get back to the motel to start packing and sleep before a long Sunday.

Sunday morning didn’t quite go as expected. Leah had some car trouble, so it took her a little longer than she was hoping to get to her last 7 am session. Thankfully, Meredith had her car, so they were able to jump off Leah’s car and get her where she needed to be. While she was at CE, Meredith and I packed the remaining luggage into Meredith’s car, cleaned up the room, double-checked that nobody left anything behind, and then we checked out of the motel.

Since we had a little over an hour to spare, Meredith and I went to breakfast at The Pancakery, which was delicious! She got an omelet and pancakes, and I got two giant Belgian waffles. We both got coffee and water. Then we headed to worship services at South Walton Church of Christ, where we met up with Leah and the Padgetts. This congregation was tiny, but so very encouraging; they were welcoming and I could tell they have a true love for the Lord. After worship was over, we talked to some of the other visitors and members there, then we went to McAlister’s Deli with the Padgetts. We enjoyed almost two hours of conversation with them, and then all of us had to get on the road. We all said our goodbyes and gave hugs, and then we left.

But before we left Destin, we stopped at Henderson beach one last time to get this picture of the three of us (how had we not done this already??).

Sadly, this ends our beach trip!

We were all going back to Auburn, Alabama for evening worship there, although Meredith drove separately from us. Leah and I had more encouraging conversations and laughs (and a few car troubles, which are all worked out now) on the way back to Auburn, and got to University Church of Christ early enough to talk to some people before we sat down. We met up with Alexander (my brother) again.

After services we talked to some more of our friends – I unexpectedly saw a few from Prattville, John Mark’s and my first married home, while we were there – and made our way back to meet my parents in Anniston (where Leah lives). This part of the trip also wasn’t without its events, but I’ll spare you the details and say that we made it Anniston by midnight with the help of Alexander and our parents! We dropped Leah off there, got a short tour of her home, and then were in Athens by 2:30 am, where I stayed with my parents until Monday evening.

My parents and I all went straight to bed when we got home (Widget had stayed with my parents and was overjoyed to see me – here are some pictures of his trip).

I slept in some Monday, and they got up the next morning to go to work. While they were at work, I spent some time outside with Widget, did some laundry, and then my long-time best friend Peyton picked me up; we got ice cream at a local ice cream shop and then drove around all afternoon just like we used to in high school. It was so fun and so needed! She also got to meet Widget – they instantly hit it off. 🙂

When my parents got off of work Monday, we loaded their car with the rest of my things and headed to Collierville, Tennessee so that we could meet John Mark halfway to our home in Arkansas (finally! 🙂 ). John Mark and I made it safely home by around one the next morning, as did my parents.

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Notice Widget’s Batman ears.

This whole, long trip was so fun! And not without text after text and FaceTime after FaceTime with John Mark. I’m so thankful I got to see so many of my old friends and spend some one-on-one time with both Leah and Meredith. It was truly an experience. 🙂

Our Memorial Day Trip & Mini-Vacation (Part 1)

This series of posts is mainly for my own documentation and for family or friends who are curious to keep up with what we’ve been doing. Just to make my trip post a little more bearable and cut the read time in half, I’m going to split it up into two parts. Today you’ll see part one, and tomorrow I’ll publish part two. 🙂

If you follow my blog, you’ll recognize some of the names and faces I mention, but I want to start off by introducing our newest family member, Widget! He’s a miniature pinscher/dachshund mix (DoxiePin), and we got him almost four weeks ago. He went with us on our trip down to Alabama.

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A couple of weeks ago, I got back from a mini-vacation over Memorial Day weekend and the following week. John Mark and I (plus our fish – more about my traveling fish here – and Widget) went back home to Alabama where we visited both of our families. We left on a Thursday, after John Mark got off of work (he took off Friday), and got in late that night. Because I knew we would have so much to load into the car the day of travel, I did most of my before-travel preparation in the days leading up to it. I also had a friend coming to visit and meet Widget Thursday while John Mark was at work, so I knew I would need to have the house cleaned up and everything packed before Thursday. That day, while my friend Holly was here, I just did some laundry and made sure I gave Widget a bath so he would be clean for the 6.5 hour car ride to Alabama.

Holly met Widget, and we had some catching-up time, and then when John Mark got home, I made supper to eat in the car, we loaded all of our luggage, and then we headed out for Alabama.

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He loves car rides with the windows rolled down!

We always split up our trips home half-and-half because our families only live 15 minutes apart from each other. So, our first stop was to stay with his parents. We got in late that night, so we only spent a few minutes visiting, his parents meeting Widget, and then we all went to bed so we would be ready for a busy day on Friday. Friday morning we all got up and went out to see John Mark’s maternal grandparents. We met their new dog and they met ours, then enjoyed spending some time with them before we went back to the house to hang out, eat lunch, and get ready for dinner that night.

For dinner we met up with some more of his family at Piccadilly, a cafeteria-style restaurant. We got to see his brother & sister-in-law, aunt & uncle, maternal grandparents, and parents. We recently found out that we’re going to be aunt & uncle, Lord willing, so we got to hear all about the new baby and what the rest of the family has been up to since Christmas. After a delicious meal and good company, we went back to the house where John Mark’s paternal grandmother, aunt, cousin, and brother & sister-in-law met us to spend some time before it got too late.

We had dessert and coffee, and everyone enjoyed playing with Widget (somehow he kept becoming the center of attention). Even in the short period of time we had, it was wonderful to catch up with both sides of the family since we don’t get to visit often now that we live in Arkansas.

Friday night, we got together a spur-of-the-moment visit with our friends from Prattville, who we hadn’t seen since we moved. So, the next day, Saturday, they drove the 2.5 hours to North Alabama to spend a few hours with us before they had to go back home. It was a short but much needed visit with them. We all (John Mark’s parents, Rhett, Bess, & Truman, and us) spent time talking and laughing (and some crying) before we went to lunch at Big Bob Gibson’s, a delicious barbecue place that John Mark grew up going to. After lunch, we packed up, said goodbye to his parents, and we all drove to my parents’ house so Rhett, Bess, & Truman could see them for a minute or two. Then we had to say our goodbyes to them so they could get on the road to home.

(I wish I had thought to take more pictures of this portion of our trip, but with such a crunched schedule, I just didn’t remember to.)

This began the block of days we would spend with my family. My brother was also home from Auburn, so we got to see him, as well. That night, my parents’ had invited our extended family over for a small cookout of ribs and veggies and dessert (yum!). Both my maternal and paternal aunts & uncles came over, as well as one of my cousins and my maternal grandmother. My friends Leah and Bethany also got to come.

This was an exciting night we got to spend outside. We got to see a lot of my side of the family at one time and just enjoy everyone’s company. Thankfully the weather was beautiful, and we were able to stay out the whole time and visit with each other over a meal.

John Mark, Alexander, Leah, and Bethany started playing a card game once most of the company was gone, and since I didn’t really want to play, my dad and I decided to take a short walk around the neighborhood. We enjoyed spending some much-needed quality time together just catching up while my dad shared some of his wisdom. 🙂 After we got back, I visited with my friends some more, and then told them goodbye before we went to bed.

This is my brother, Alexander, holding Widget as he struggled to get a bite of food off of the table.

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On Sunday morning and evening we went to worship services with my family. Then we enjoyed a lazy afternoon with them.

John Mark, Alexander, and I went to get Hawaiian Shaved Ice with a few friends after services that evening before we went to get a bite to eat and go home, which brought back tons of summer memories for me! I used to get shaved ice with the same friend, Tara, every summer after we went swimming in her neighborhood pool.

The church we worshiped with Sunday was the church I grew up in, so I got to see lots of familiar faces, and hug some of my sweet friends who still live in the area. Later that night we spent some more time hanging out and talking with my family, and then went to bed so we could enjoy the next day.

Monday, Memorial Day, we spent all day outside. We didn’t want to drive anywhere, so when we got up that morning, John Mark and Alexander went fishing in a neighboring pond that belongs to family friends, and my mom, dad, Widget, and I sat on the patio with our feet in a kiddie pool (I called it our redneck vacation 😉 ). We sat here for hours because it was so refreshing in the heat. Although we only had the morning and early afternoon before John Mark, Alexander, and I had to go back home, it was such a relaxing day!

Around 4 o’clock on Memorial Day (after a spontaneous milkshake run and visit with my grandmother) John Mark packed up and left to go back to Arkansas. I stayed behind because I planned on riding down to Auburn with my brother to stay a few days before a girls’ beach trip to Destin, Florida. (This was the first time I had been away from John Mark since we got married – it wasn’t the easiest transition, but I kept myself busy enough to be distracted.) We had encouraging and much-needed conversations all the way to Auburn. We shared a car for about three years in college, so it reminded me of all the times we rode back and forth from Auburn to home, and it was a great ride.

When we got there, he took me to some friends’ house where I would stay for the next two nights. I went in and went straight to the room I would be staying in until all of my friends got home, and then we had a short visit before we all decided to go to sleep. My friends had to go to classes and music lessons and band camps and all kinds of things the next few days, so I was by myself most of the time, except lunchtime and after dinner. They let me watch TV shows on Netflix while they were gone, and I spent some time eating lunch with my friend Christian who had made us a super-healthy and super-delicious lunch Tuesday afternoon. That night I went to dinner with my brother at Pieology, a pizza place I had never been to. I got one with gluten-free crust and all kinds of toppings. That was delicious. 🙂 Later I got to see my friend Emily-Anne when she was home, and we talked again until it was time to go to sleep.

Wednesday morning Christian took me to Mama Mocha’s Coffee Emporium and Roasters (somehow I had never been there, even though I spent four years in Auburn!), and we had good coffee with even better conversation. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long because she had a music lesson to teach. So, she took me back to her house, where I waited until my brother could pick me up for lunch. Alexander and I went to Chipotle around noon and got to spend more quality time together before he took me back to the house and went back to work for another few hours.

I spent some more time watching TV/packing/cleaning up some as payment to my friends for letting me stay with them, then my friend Anna picked me up and took me to her house where we had a meal before worship that night. We didn’t get to spend as much time together as we would have liked, but it was wonderful to catch up with her and get ready for worship at her house like old times. (I didn’t live with her, but I spend 50% of my time at her house my Junior year of college and a lot of my Senior year there, too).

I hadn’t gotten to visit Auburn since January, so worshiping with my brothers and sisters there was so encouraging! There were a lot of new faces since it’s a college town, but I did get to hug some college friends and catch up with them while I was there.

 

// This is it for part 1 of the trip. Part 2 of our Memorial Day Trip & Mini-Vacation is coming tomorrow! 🙂

On Singleness, Dating & Marriage

This is going to be a long post, so if you’re interested in this topic, please stick around! But if you’d rather not read over 2000 words about singleness, dating, and marriage, feel free to move on – I understand!

I’ve written several posts in which I talk about what I’m learning from marriage and my experiences with it so far, but a friend requested that I write this as a recently-married twenty-something who is still close to the stages of singleness and dating. Now, I don’t know everything and I don’t know everyone’s situation, but I can give you my point of view and the issues as I see them.

Hindsight is 20/20. And that’s not always a bad thing! Many of the things I’m going to say are based on my experiences or things I wish had been explained to me more. So, because of my point of view, I’m mainly going to speak to girls – although some of the points might be helpful for guys, too. I don’t know everything, and I’m still joyfully learning – but here’s what I’ve found so far.

Singleness & Dating

I strongly believe that the purpose of dating is to find the person or type of person you may want to marry. Dating is fun. It’s exciting and it feels good to be doted on and cared about.  But sometimes it’s too easy for girls to rush into dating and forget the purpose or forget to be intentional about what they’re doing. They can get swept away in the emotions of it all and the joy that comes from being noticed, making it difficult to truly treat the guy right. People have varying opinions on dating, but after high school I began to view it as an opportunity to learn and grow while I found someone to marry. So, I didn’t get into the whole “dating for fun” scene. While nothing’s really wrong with that, I just knew it would be harder for me to be serious about it and keep my mind focused on my idea of the purpose of dating.

That being said, the single/dating phase can be rough. It certainly wasn’t easy for me. There’s low self-esteem (I actually wrote about self-esteem here) and there’s the obsession over the impression you’ll make, rushing into dating or dating for the wrong reasons, being honest with yourself and the guy about how you feel – all kinds of things.

I’ve found that all of of these are highly spiritual issues – a thought that I wish I’d had long time ago, but as I’ve grown I’ve realized that it’s not a me issue; it’s an issue of faith and strength in God, and in turn confidence in yourself as a person.

Trust in God first.

Being single and dating sometimes blur together a bit. Some people say you’re single if you’re not married and some say it’s when you’re not dating – my generation has always used the latter. Either way, being single & dating (together as a phase in your life) is a period when you should be preparing yourself to be the person you need to be.

You should take this time to prepare yourself to be the person you need to be as a Christian, as a friend, as a daughter, and as a person. I realized that when I started bettering myself and stopped completely obsessing over having someone to date, things started falling into place, including my spiritual strength.

When you’re single/dating is really the perfect time to work on this because you’re more vulnerable to heartbreak and roller-coaster emotions. You’ll have those awkward, in-between phases when you’re hoping for the next possible relationship to pop up, and you should think of these times as good rather than lonely. Use them to your advantage, and examine yourself as a person and a Christian. How can you improve yourself? What do you need to do to grow closer to God before you find a boyfriend or a husband? When you’re grounded and solid in yourself and God, you’ll be more likely to find a grounded and solid guy to date or even marry down the road. This carries over to the impression you’ll make on a guy. Being grounded and solid in yourself and God will lead you to confidence in the dating world. Then, if the relationship doesn’t turn out how you’d hoped, it won’t seem like the end of the world, plus you’ll put faith in God and His will for you.

Date at the right time and for the right reasons.

There are a variety of reasons for rushing into dating or dating for the wrong reasons. But nine times out of ten, it’s because of the low amounts of “godly-esteem” you (as a general term) have shown in that area. This lack of a godly view of yourself will lead to the lack of a godly view of dating and relationships. Don’t think that having a boyfriend will change your current situation, be a quick fix for self-esteem, make you popular, make you feel better…whatever it is. It could be a distraction for a second, but in the long run that’s hurtful to you and your significant other. Throw out personal gain.

Use wisdom when you choose who to date, when to date, and why you date because dating isn’t trivial. My advice is to take a step back and ask yourself why you’re dating. If the answer is something that’s going to harm the relationship, you’ll need to re-evaluate yourself and your motives.

Although it’s probably an innocent motive, it might not be healthy – that’s when you need to consider spending some time to grow. I wish I had done more of this before I got serious about dating – especially because I tend to have a wide range of strong emotions that can be difficult to reel in if I’m not careful.

Be completely and totally honest.

I know.  We all talk ourselves out of our feelings and sometimes our wisdom because it’s just too hard to face them.

It’s so hard to be honest with yourself about how you feel. It’s hard to be honest about the right thing when the right thing doesn’t feel good. It’s hard to be honest about something when you know it might end badly. Sometimes it’s hard to be honest even when you know it might end well. And it’s hard to be honest with your guy about all of the above. I’m intentionally not being specific here, but I just want to make it known that honesty is best every time because it falls under the category of godly communication.

This is something I really wish I had been able to handle easier when I was dating (and still work on now). Be honest up front and continue to be open about your thoughts and feelings – we need more of this in relationships. When you hold your thoughts and feelings in (because you think it could be harmful or painful or even just because you’re confused or embarrassed) they will continue to build up until one day they explode, and things are worse than if you’d opened up. If you start practicing this while you’re dating, marriage will be that much easier.

Forget about society’s views.

Our society places a huge emphasis on the “glamour” of dating or being in a relationship, and most of the time the way it defines that relationship is through the romantic or even sexual aspects of it. It ignores the fact that the only place sex has is in marriage, but it also forgets that love is more than a romantic gesture of flowers or a meal or a love letter. Love is more than mushy feelings when you’re at your best. Society defines a simple dating relationship based on what’s being done instead of character and its Creator’s intentions.

Now, I enjoy a good Nicholas Sparks movie or romantic comedy – but it’s just not realistic. Love isn’t simply gifts or showing off the nice things you have and can do. It’s an active appreciation and care for someone – a huge part of the relationship you actually have to work at.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. –1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. -1 John 4:8

You have to know what love really is before you can truly be successful in a relationship. Christians, especially, need to stand up for this and teach their children what love is because real, godly love is being, and always has been, attacked. People need to see godly love.

So, really, it’s all a spiritual issue. Each of these aspects are important to being single & dating because they’re important to God. They’re things you need to learn while you’re in this stage of life because it will be that much easier and your dating period will be that much less of a roller coaster if you continue to focus that time on God. If you’re right and strong in God then your waiting game will all be worth it (Romans 8:28).


Marriage

So, you’ve been preparing yourself through singleness and dating, and you’re ready to think about marriage.

First, I want to say: marriage is truly a wonderful gift, but it might not be for everyone. And that’s OK! The apostle Paul wasn’t married (that we know of), and look what he did for the kingdom of God. You don’t have to be married to make an impact in the kingdom and on this world. You just have to be focused. But since I am married, and I believe my husband and I can do a lot of good as a team, you’ll get that perspective.

To those people who grew up (or are growing up) in the church, I know this is a topic you hear a lot – how serious marriage is. But they aren’t kidding. And I’m not kidding. Take it seriously, and try not to get tired of hearing about it. Accept the advice willingly because it will make your life easier. Believe me, you can always learn something new.

In a biblical marriage, the husband is the head and should love his wife just like Christ loves the church, and the wife should submit to and respect her husband – really the same way she would Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33). This doesn’t mean that the husband is better than the wife or that the wife is a weakling; it just means she’s valuable in her own way. The wife was made to be a helper for the husband because man didn’t need to be alone (Genesis 2:18-24). Men and women are vastly different, and because of that, they were given vastly different and equally important jobs in their lives and in the church.

Just like the church, both parties have a different role in the marriage, and both are of equal importance for the marriage to be both godly and successful. And it’s designed to represent the relationship between Christ and His church, so it’s really not something to be tampered with. All of this is incredibly important to understand before you marry and remember throughout your marriage.

So if I haven’t stressed it enough in the paragraphs above, marriage is a big deal. Anyone who’s getting ready to be married needs to be serious about the marriage and the guy and know what you’re getting into. You need to possess a certain level of maturity and understanding before you get married, but keep in mind that you will always grow and you can always continue to let God mold you into a godly woman – growth, not perfection.

Have a solid understanding of marriage.

For a while before I was married, especially during the figuring-it-out phases of dating, I thought that marriage was going to be something in which I would magically change into a perfectly put-together, confident woman who never had to deal with another personal problem. Obviously that’s not true, and thankfully I formed a more solid view of marriage as I was preparing to be married.

Even though I’m embarrassed to admit that I thought all of that, I think a lot of girls believe it to be true because of the way it’s portrayed in society.

You’re not Cinderella. You won’t change overnight. There won’t be a magical transition into adulthood in which you suddenly know everything about everything – you’ll simply keep learning. And these are all good things! It would be lame if the husband and wife both suddenly changed and didn’t know each other anymore the minute they got married. But people tend to think and teach that if you have your dream guy by your side then you can conquer the world (YAY!!!!).

Ladies, only God can do that for you. Husbands are amazing and encouraging and helpful, but they aren’t God.

While that huge, magical shift to perfection would be nice, marriage is simply a bigger step forward in life (an awesome one!), and you still have to work on your priorities and mindset and everything just as much, if not more, than you were before.

There are huge differences.

You’re working as a team now. You should be heirs of the grace of life together (1 Peter 3:7).

Be aware that when you get married, you have to alter your mindset to think about two people instead of just yourself. And this applies in every single situation. Every action you take and word that you say will affect your spouse somehow. Because of that you have to make an extra effort not to be selfish, whether or not what you’re doing would be considered selfish in the first place. Even if something you’re doing doesn’t violate God’s commands or your conscience, it may be an annoyance or even a hindrance to your spouse.

Your husband is still a person, and he’s still a child of God – not an emotional target. This means it’s necessary to remember to treat him as you would any other soul, with love, respect (in all situations), and understanding.

As a woman, it’s all too easy to forget that I think and operate differently than my husband. And I always have! I just didn’t realize it as much before we got married because we didn’t live together and see each other every single day. I have work to control my emotions and think logically based on what’s best for him and our marriage, while he has to work to understand my emotional needs for the same reasons. No one’s challenges will be the same, but most of the time, there will be significant personality differences in the husband and wife. Because of these differences, you’ll have to be even more in tune with each other and what works within your marriage so that you can constantly grow. Pay attention to your husband so that you know what to expect and how to be considerate.

Don’t lose sight of your before-marriage relationship.

You’ll still have fun together, and you won’t lose all of your friends. You still get to go on dates and hang out together. Although there will be big changes, you’ll usually be making decisions about them as a team, and if you’ve stayed focused on God and each other, you won’t lose sight of what you already had. 🙂

Marriage is absolutely beautiful and wonderful and one of my favorite gifts from God – but just like all the other gifts from God, it needs to be taken seriously. The best part is that, even though you might not change overnight, you get to change together and grow together “’til death do you part.”

What’s most important is simply to be intentional and thoughtful and always put God first. That’s the biggest and best thing you can do for any relationship on this earth – because if you do that, everything else will fall into place.

 

// So, there it is. Over 2000 words on what I think about singleness, dating, and marriage. What about you? Do you have any advice or lessons learned to share?