The Space in Between: Advice From a Twenty-Something

I’m 20. I have made countless mistakes. I have learned. I have grown. I am still in the process of both. I am a firm believer that every wrong decision can be redeemed, every step backwards can equal two steps forward, and every bad can be used for good. Experience what there is to be experienced, but do not waste your life, your hurt, or your time. My single, biggest regret is not following Jesus sooner, but I do not dwell on this. I use my past to propel my future and let Him guide me every step of the way. Here are things I learned in my twenty-something years and I hope they stimulate you to reflect and admire on the moments you have been given. Whether you are a freshman in high-school or a senior in college, here is my advice to you. Keep this close, read it often, and do not dismiss it.

Invest in who you want to be NEXT.

If bad company tempts you, don’t go along with them.

Become a minimalist.

Do things that get you out of your comfort zone.

Don’t assume you know it all.

Earn a reputation for living well.

The best time to work on a marriage is before you have one.

Don’t “kill time” with someone just because.

Don’t just know about the people in your life, KNOW the people in your life.

Make sacrifices. They will all be blessed by God.

Stay inspired & uncomfortable.

Become humble through the giving of time, money, and self.

Determination and hard work will not help you achieve fulfillment, total surrender to Him will.

Overcome the obstacle of prayerlessness. There is nothing more substantial than prayer- even going to church, studying the bible, having small group, and watching sermons online.

Fall in love with your Creator in creative ways.

Remember that everyday is a new beginning.

Forgive, over and over again.

Drink green tea, exercise, and smile.

Spend less time on social media.

Do not feel pressured to live up to society’s expectations. Focus on God’s expectations of you. 

Don’t focus on one thing too much, either. Stay versatile.

Let your opinions and viewpoints evolve, but make sure they align with The Word.

Truly obtain the qualities you seek in others.

Seek out advice from people you admire.

Don’t ever stop being spontaneous and making priceless memories.

 

Life, Interrupted

“Every time I look down and see you’re calling or have called, my heart does a happy dance. Sweet dreams to my wonderful daughter and love forever!”

This was the last text I received from my mom before my sister called me the next morning to tell me she had driven herself to the emergency room (yes, you read that correctly). Going in for what she thought was either a severe case of pneumonia or a broken rib, the nurse saw something else in the X-Rays.

A suspicious shadow.

Cancer is not something that happens to OUR family. Cancer is seen from afar. I have watched  other families go through this. I have prayed for other families going through this. My mom and I have fund-raised and walked hundreds of miles for OTHER people. Not her. Not OUR family.

Initially, I was breathless. Suffocating. The words “cancer” and “more than we thought” are words that tend to do that to you. The phone call from my sweet daddy left me speechless and sobbing. This was NOT my mom’s life. This was NOT our family’s life.

Take a step back. Gain perspective. Pray.

There is boundless uncertainty because I am human.

But GOD.

With God, there is boundless certainty. He is not confused. He is not surprised. Let me tell you what He IS. Caring. Loving. Unconditionally sovereign. Healing. Powerful. Faithful. Invincible. Greater. 

Isaiah 54:4-5 (NIV) “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by His wounds we are healed.

My faith has not been tampered with. My faith is unwavering. My faith is zealous. My faith gives me peace that surpasses all understanding. My faith gives me no room for Satan’s lies and schemes. My faith gives me a boldness to pray BIG prayers. My faith makes me confident that my prayers will be answered. My faith convicts me that this trial will be used for a greater good (Romans 8:28). My faith gives me hope that my family will glorify the King’s name through it all. My faith gives me belief that miracles are modern.

Dear Mom: I want you to know that you are tenacious and unyielding. Your faith surpasses any mountain that could be placed in front of you. We are in the valley, but your heart is still dancing with joy. I have watched you give the glory to God in the most minuscule victories, such as walking to the door or eating a bite of grits. Your sociable persona makes you want to visit with every friend that walks through the hospital door, even though your body is weak and tired. Answering nearly 100 texts daily for you is a testament to the kind of woman you are. The influence you have had in your community and beyond is unmatched. My favorite part of this journey is listening to people tell me how much you mean to them. How you have touched their lives. How you have been their light in the dark. Whole congregations and small groups and offices have prayed for you. People who have met you once or twice have fasted meal after meal for you. Your importance in this world and to this family is matchless. You live life with spunk, newness, and adventure every chance you get. You put your family first. You love the people you work with and your clients so well. The phone calls and video chats we have mean so much to me because you have become my best friend, the one I confide in, and the one I seek prayer  and encouragement from. I hope you know that you have loved me best. You have loved this family unceasingly. You have never given up. You are a fighter for what you are passionate about. You have raised strong and confident women through your example. We are strong through this because of you. I love you to the stars and back, Mom.

Genesis 50:20 (NIV) “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

This is just a small detour, not the destination. 

Getting High

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4

Well, what about when we are hurting, God? What about when the test and challenges seem like too much? What happens when we feel like giving up?

The first time I can ever remember my heart truly being broken was when my Poppie passed away. I had never experienced someone so close to me die. It all happened so suddenly; I remember the phone call I got from my mom when she informed me of the tragedy and all I could say was “No no no, I love him. This can’t happen.” I can still feel that perpetual gut-twisting moment when I thought about how he would never get to be the preacher at my wedding (as we always dreamed about together) or how he would never see me graduate high school.

The second time I ever had my heart-broken was not too much longer after that. It was my freshman year of high school, after the break-up with my first real boyfriend. I was soOoOoo in love and so head over heels with this boy and truly thought I was going to marry him. He was the first boy to ever shower me with love and affection and gifts and kind words. I was devastated when things did not end up working out. No matter what I did and no matter how much I begged him to take me back, he was gone. I felt completely and utterly out of control. He had moved on to the next better, prettier, and smarter girl and I was just “me.”

At this point in my life, I was unable to see past all of this. I chose to go down a completely destructive path trying to numb the deep pain that came along with rejection and loss. I soon realized that if you numb something long enough, it becomes cold- and that is exactly what my heart did. I made myself numb to feelings and emotions and intimacy. Instead of living life the way it is supposed to be lived, with zest and spontaneity, I lived it through boys, alcohol, and shallow friendships. I was constantly searching for something that would get my mind off of whatever hardship life threw at me or whatever sadness I felt. Eventually, I built a tolerance to these worldly highs and was left in a dark, cold, and scary place. Nothing could get me that good feeling anymore; I was emotionally exhausted. 

So many people can relate to the inner distress that comes with having their heart-broken. Whether it is a traumatic experience, the end of a long-term relationship, or the death of a loved one, not one person is exempt from the pains of this world. When your heart is broken, you have two options- you can choose to take the worldly, destructive path that brings temporary satisfaction or you can choose to take a different path. I want to tell you about the different path a recently took that really did help me be “okay”.

Heartbreak is inevitable. Recently, I rediscovered that painful feeling once again. Yes- the nausea because you physically can not eat, the anxiety that consumes your daily life and the exhausting thoughts constantly running through your head. I understand it from the core of my being because if you are anything like me, you feel things DEEPLY. When I love, I love hard and when I hurt, I hurt even harder. But something in me told me that I can not take that path that I did in high school. I can’t go to that dark, cold, and scary place again. I needed to do something different. I needed to FEEL better- physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

SOOOOOOO….

I ran to Jesus. Not only did I run, but I full on sprinted. During college, I truly found my relationship with Christ, but still felt some uncertainty when it came to trusting Him with all of my being. All I knew is at this point, I had to hand everything over to Him. I spent my days and nights in prayer, the Word, and in Christian fellowship. I asked Him to HELP me trust Him because it was hard. I prayed for Him to give me strength and peace and let me tell you… He was SO faithful.

There is no place so desolate that we cannot find Him there.

So after being vulnerable with you guys and gals, I want to tell you the ways I sprinted to Him in case you literally have no idea how to (because at one point I didn’t either). God works! He is the only one who can fully heal a heart and transform your mind.

  1. I started my very own War Room. I wrote down the desires of my heart. I wrote down comforting scripture. I wrote down long, deep prayers. I hung up pictures of people I needed to pray for during this time. I did this all in my closet (just like the movie war room:) and that became my place of comfort. I would sit in there all hours of the night just talking to God.
  2. I asked God to HELP me trust him fully. I never understood how someone just “trusts” God 100%. That was always a hard concept for me because I can’t physically see Him. So I asked! And once again…He was faithful.
  3. Open up. I love to bottle up my feelings and pretend like they don’t exist half the time. I have a bad problem of living in denial. Find someone to open up to and be completely honest with them. For me, that was my mom. Her and Christ became my ultimate safe space.
  4. Acknowledge God multiple times a day. Whisper to Him thankfulness. Sing to Him his goodness. Meditate on His sovereignty.
  5. Stay in the Word. It gave me instructions on how to make it through the days where I thought I couldn’t. Start in Romans! I found so much comfort reading this.
  6. Surround yourself with people who bring you joy! Even if you don’t feel like it… do something with someone. Don’t be alone with your thoughts too much. It is so easy for the Devil to speak lies into your head and heart if you are not constantly guarding them. Which brings me to the next point…
  7. Don’t let the Devil steal your joy. The Devil is real people. He is out for YOU and he is out for ME. I verbally tell the Devil that he can not have my peace, my joy, or my life.
  8. annnnnnd last but not least- God doesn’t offer a “quick fix” for the healing and restoration of our hearts. He offers us peace and comfort- but that does not make the heartbreak go away. He transforms us during this time. He builds our character, prepares our hearts, and builds our trust. When we feel weak and want to take the “easy” way out, remember that we are only hurting ourselves in doing so. He wants to make us stronger and we need to let Him.

REAL QUICK let me tell you about this miracle I had during this experience! At one point, when my anxiety was so bad it felt like I could hardly breath and move, I got on my knees. I prayed and begged for Him to take it away because it was so debilitating. And in that moment, I physically felt the anxiety leave me. LITERALLY, from my tips of my toes to the top of my head…gone. Now tell me that isn’t a full on miracle. I FELT it. That verified all over again what a personal and loving God He is.

Thanks for letting me share and be REAL with ya’ll! Hope you learned a little something and I encourage everyone to be more vulnerable to themselves, others, and Christ!

Check out my sweet, sweet friend Jenny’s blog for more love on this topic.

Galatians 5:1

xoxo

Jet Lag

Don’t be scared to walk alone. Don’t be scared to like it. There’s no time that you must be home, so sleep where your darkness falls.

Dream your dreams but don’t pretend
Be friends with what you are
Give your heart then change your mind – 
John Mayer 

Is there any comparable feeling to knowing your suitcase is packed and you are about to travel 9,000 miles away? Planning out my next adventures (or where I am going to eat) is a natural high for me. I live for the moments when I can say “Yes, I have been there!” or “I am going there soon!”

I was blessed with the awe-inspiring opportunity to travel abroad this past month to the two most alluring countries in the world: Australia and New Zealand.

When I was accepted into the discover abroad program at the University of Georgia (after waiting months for someone to drop out because the program was so popular), the same adrenaline rush that comes from going down the first hill of a roller coaster hit me without warning. The lessons I was about to learn, friends I was going to make, and the mistakes that were bound to happen were dangling in front of me… I just wanted that day to be here already. I wanted so badly to step on the airplane that would make the experience feel real.

Like others, I was not thinking about the potential hardships that would come from traveling abroad. I was not thinking about the fact that my phone and wallet might get stolen or that one of my friend’s passports would fall into a river while bungy jumping. Nevertheless, lessons have to be learned one way or another so why not have them while swimming in one of the most beautiful places in the world such as the Great Barrier Reef?? I would like to share what I learned about myself while studying abroad, for I truly believe the moments I experienced were transformative.

Learning to Get Lost in the Moment:

After my phone was stolen, this lesson hit me in the face like a brick. Not only could I not use my phone to look down at during awkward situations, but I could not take the pictures and videos I wanted to. After anxiety filled days and restless nights, I had to learn to let go. I learned to breath in the fresh air a little deeper and immerse myself in the natural landscape of the land or the beautiful man-made architectures. I was urged to journal more about my experiences, such as star gazing in Canarvon Gorge and swimming with wild Dusky Dolphins in Kaikoura, rather than staring through a camera lens so much. I was able to notice different aspects of people that I never would have noticed if I was looking down at my phone every other minute.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1244.
Kaikoura, New Zealand

Building Confidence:

The hardest part about losing my identity (basically) was that my parents were 9,000 miles away. There was limited cell service to sort this out with my parents on the phone. They were not readily available to comfort me or to offer immediate answers on how to fix the situation. After realizing that everything I lost is replaceable and that I was still alive, my perspective changed. I cherished the short Facebook video chats I got with my family or the sweet emails telling me how much they missed me. They were confident that I could overcome this; their energy poured into me. Without the security of a credit card or cell-phone, I had to place my trust in God as my father-figure in a way I had never experienced before. He was not going to let me fall. I was here for a reason. If that’s not a confidence booster, I don’t know what is.

Not Everyone Thinks Like Me…. and That’s a Good Thing.

Fortunately, this program provided one-on-one time with the local people of each area. Hearing how they choose to live their lives was fascinating- it is so different than in the United States. I often got asked the question: “Why didn’t you take a gap year?” (the second most frequent question I got asked was how I felt about Donald Trump…..). This was something that never even crossed my mind…it’s not what’s expected of us. The expectations are different and it makes me question how our own assumptions are shaped. Learning to respect people’s ideas and perspectives by listening and absorbing their words helped me understand why I personally value certain things. Even if I do not agree, I feel like my stance is constantly becoming more and more well-rounded.

Taking Chances

Oh boy did I take some chances…..like jumping out of a plane 12,000 feet in the sky??When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is presented to me, I learned to take it (this cures fomo pretty nicely) Do everything you can. Feeling brave and empowered can only help people in the long run. I am not scared to go out of my comfort zone anymore…I already took the first step.The experiences we have while were young help shape who we will become (I don’t know about you, but I wanna be a really freaking awesome person). I want be able to say “Yep! I’ve done that!” to everything….well, almost everything. So, despite what your parents told you, if your friend jumps off a bridge, YOU DO IT TOO (aka bungy jumping).

DCIM100GOPROG0052479.
Queenstown, New Zealand

Humbleness

Without the help of my parents, graduation money, generous donations and prayer, this would not have been possible. My parents have provided me with an amazing life that I never fully appreciated until I went overseas without them. I hope to be able to provide the same experiences for my future family as well. I am so blessed to have people that miss me when I’m away and people I can’t wait to come home to. Travelling makes my time at home or school more fulfilling. I appreciate my friends, memory foam mattress, and good Mexican food a little more.

And Yes, You do Start to go Crazy After 48 Hours Without Sleep. It’s OK, you’ll Eventually Get Used To It.

 

Resfeber (n.)

the nervous feeling before undertaking a journey; the restless race of a traveler’s heart before the journey begins, when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together. 

 

By the way… watch my short YouTube video that sums up  my trip quite nicely. Not pictured is swimming with dolphins in freezing water (and some people witnessing a sperm whale), seeing sharks while scuba diving, 500 cows wandering in the middle of the road, getting kicked out of a restaurant for falling asleep, and a huge New Zealand sheep farm.

I hope whoever reads this is inspired to GO. Become the best storyteller ever.

Forgive

Naturally being able to forgive others has never been a strong point for me. When someone hurts me, I find it so hard to just forget about it and move on. I sometimes take things personally when I shouldn’t.

I often wondered whether or not other people felt the same way as me. I know so many people that are able to forgive so effortlessly. They love people no matter what- I envied these people tremendously.

After some soul searching, I came to a conclusion.

I know I am not the only one who finds it hard to forgive people because God specifically had to touch on this subject multiple times throughout the Bible.

One example comes from the verse Leviticus 19:18 and says this:

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.”

Yes, some people in your life are toxic. They will make you question your sanity and will literally raise your blood pressure. It is HARD to keep them in your life. It is hard pretending like everything is okay when it’s not. And sometimes it’s okay to love these people from a distance (sometimes the farther the better).

However, I also came to another conclusion, one that isn’t so easy to do. One that is easier said than done.

To forgive and forget.

It might sound cliché, trust me, I would know. I hear it all of the time.

But here is the real and heart-wrenching truth.

People constantly spat in Jesus’s face, called him names, and mocked him to his face. Yet, Jesus LOVED these people, prayed for them, and continuously forgave them. Continuously.

He keeps NO record of wrong!

What a hard concept to wrap my head around.

It is so easy to stay mad at people. It is so easy to forget about all of the things I have done wrong and point out everything others have done wrong.

But what I have learned is that holding grudges hurts me more than it hurts them. It gives me more stress wrinkles than it does them. They aren’t the ones losing sleep… I am.

What is hard for me to remember is that no one on this earth is perfect. No one even comes close. Sometimes I expect people to be  this super human and that is an extremely unrealistic and unfair expectation.

Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Forgiveness comes naturally for some… for others, not so much. If you are like me, then God might have made this difficult for you for a reason. He wants you to come to HIM. He wants you to ask Him for help. Maybe, just maybe, if you ask Him to help you with this, you will have a better appreciation for the forgiveness He gives us daily.

I know that when I struggle with this, my initial thought is to stay mad at whoever hurt me. The last thing I want to do is ask God to give me a forgiving heart- one that keeps no record of wrong and loves unconditionally. But, I want a heart like Jesus. I want to be able to love and forgive like He can. And I know the only way I can come close to that is solely through Him.

Jesus, please give me a heart like yours!

Follow

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to change my major. After discovering of all the courses I was going to have to take, I realized I was not really interested in any of it. I obviously want to love what I am going to be learning about, so I changed it. This did not exactly settle well with my friends and family. I got a lot of “you are going to get no money with that major!” or “just stick with the other, it’ll be worth it.”

I felt pressured to go back to what I did not feel comfortable doing. Maybe I am just an indecisive teenager who doesn’t know what I want in life (by the way, this is very true).

What I DO know is that God has blessed me with certain strengths and abilities. By this point in my life, I know some of the things I am good at and what I am not good at. I certainly know what interests me and what can put me to sleep in a heartbeat. So the question is this: should I capitalize on what I know I can be good at, or should I put forth extra time and effort into something I know I will never be more than mediocre at in life.

Stress is my middle name. Although I KNOW God ultimately has a plan for my life, it is hard to trust this at times, especially when time feels so limited. Occasionally I sit back and think “I’m young, I’ve got time to figure this out!” (although my academic adviser likes to tell me differently), but I still worry and stress and rip my hair out over this stuff.

And then one night, as I was having one of my late-night Pinterest binges, I came across this:

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”  Philippians 4:6-7

Why do I sacrifice the time I am blessed with worrying about a future I am not promised? After reading this beautiful verse, I know that God will always lead me in the right direction. Actually, I’ve known this all along, I just pretend sometimes that I should be the driver of my own life.

My life is not in the hands of fate or luck or by random chance: God knows everything that has happened to me and is going to happen to me. As Philippians 4:6 says, all I need to do it pray and God will handle my life from there. It might not necessarily be what the world views as “successful” or “popular,” but He can use anyone for His glory in His own way.

I will wait for His good timing and I will follow where He tells me to go. 

I rest assured in this.

 

 

Rest

“He lets me rest in green meadows.” Psalm 23:2

My weekend started today, on a Thursday. My classes were cancelled for today and fortunately, I have no Friday classes. Yay! I spent the entire week thinking how much stuff I could get done today; clean our apartment, pack for the weekend, study for my finals, finish all extra credit homework… the list goes on. On my “day off” that I was so excited for, I felt more stressed than ever. College life was consuming me and I was drowning in the countless responsibilities I had.

I need rest.

No, not the kind of rest where I try to squeeze in a nap in the middle of the day to re-energize. Not the kind of rest where I try to get more than five hours of sleep at night.

I needed the kind of rest where I spend time in absolute solitude with my one and only Father.

A noticeable trend has been taking place in my first semester of college. The closer I am to God, the better I feel. My grades are better, my mind is healthier, and I have little worries. I know God’s got me! It’s the days where I do not make time for God, my prayer life is lacking, or I just do not see the bigger picture he has for me- that is when I start to feel stressed, worried, and doubtful. In turn, feeling {stressed, worried, doubtful} makes me feel like I do not have the time to spend with Him, that I should be attending to other things.

However, I still manage to make time for my friends, boyfriend, socials, Netflix, etc.- these are not evil things taking over my time by any means. The fact of the matter is this: God comes first and everything follows. Christ should be at the center of everything I do in my life. When I am weary, I should come to God first. Peace will follow. God’s got me.

 “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Psalm 23:2-4

God never fails to remind me that HE is the one who renews my strength. That HE is the one who lets me rest in green meadows.

On that note, I think I have the perfect excuse to curl up in my bed, drink some coffee, and spend some time with the One and Only.

 

(oh, and by the way… Daylight Donuts, as pictured, was my inspiration for this post. so great, so good, so blessed)