To the searching heart:

I’m not quite sure when it happens. I’m not quite sure if there really is a specific time frame in our lives where we can expect it or wait patiently for it to rear its ugly head. I’m not quite sure what influences it the most, or if it is our mere existence that prompts it at just the right time. But nevertheless, it comes. It comes often times, quietly and unnannounced. Other times, it comes so loudly that it’s all we can seem to hear. I’d be lying if I said it never visits or checks in, seeking to convince me that my life was somehow better off with it. I’m sure you’ve made friends with it just as much as I have. Perhaps you’ve even allowed it to become your home, because you’re so tired of searching for something to fill the gaping hole it leaves.

“You’re not good enough.”

Perhaps no one has ever told you that. To be honest, I don’t believe that I have ever heard those words muttered from the lips of someone in my life. The thing with this lie is that it takes shape to anything and everything. It forms at exactly the right time and precisely to the struggles we are dealing with. It’s good. It’s very, very good. Or so it wants us to think.

The thing with this lie is that it’s showing up earlier in the lives of others than it ever did with me. I don’t think I fully experienced the extent of its viscous repercussions until I was left alone with my thoughts for hours on end. People always told me our lives change when you leave for college. That truth in my life is an incredible understatement. My college years changed me to the very core.

The world has a way with convincing us we aren’t worthy; that we aren’t good enough. The world doesn’t have to scream those words at me for me to believe them about myself. The world doesn’t have to send me a letter in the mail telling me in print that ugly lie. The world is an incredibly creative place, with a constant desire to grow and transform. With every transformation, we are being told that if we don’t transform, we somehow miss the mark. The mark set by a world full of individuals who care about nothing lasting. I catch myself believing I must meet that mark. I catch myself tempted to believe that meeting that mark will somehow solidify my calling and my eternity. I catch myself believing it so much, that I’m tired of it. Watching the people around me, young and old, fall prey to this ridiculous lie is damaging us in more ways than I think any of us are willing to admit. I need you to hear the truth, not because I know you’ll listen, but because I need to speak them to myself too. Young, old, man, woman, anyone… please listen to what I’m about to tell you.

You’re going to be forgotten. I don’t mean to be morbid, but in all seriousness, you’re going to pass through this life so quickly, and there will be nothing left. You’ll leave behind your accomplishments, but even the greatest of the greats aren’t talked about everyday. We have holidays, clothing lines, museums, and statues all around our world signifying the great lives of others before us. Does discussing them bring them back in the slightest shape or form? No. Eventually, years will slowly begin to pile up and they will soon be forgotten too. You’re going to be forgotten, and that’s going to be perfectly okay. Your best friend will stop showering you with attention, and you’re going to go through seasons of your life where people won’t even take a minute out of their day to speak uplifting words into your life. Don’t fall into the lie that the actions of others somehow dictate who you are and what your heart has to offer. God didn’t call us to live a life based on the actions and words of others. He didn’t call us to a life where we could develop an alternative route into never being forgotten. You’re going to be forgotten, and what you do with that truth will change everything in your life. You can either spend it blindly seeking approval from others with their words and actions, or you can spend it spreading the truth that’s worth spreading. This world is not our home. Live in it, but never let it become you’re final ending. More importantly, don’t let people dictate your finale. Go out with a bang by sharing something that matters.

You’re not going to enjoy everything that is handed to you. We live in a world dictated by need and want as if those are our only two options on the remote control. Someone might get sick. That someone might be you. That doesn’t make your life unworthy. Some of the greatest stories have shared some of the most inspiring people with the world, because of their illness being spoken into their testimony. Your life matters. You’re going to look at your life and wish that your parents were still together. It’s heart-breaking, I know. That doesn’t mean your life is dictated by the lie that love can’t last. You can make it last. Your family may be broken and hanging together by a thread. Someone may have left, and someone may have let you down in ways that you can barely bring yourself to talk about, let alone think about. But the thing with hanging by a thread is that your life still has potential to be used. Even though I know it’s easy to assume that a thread indicates the end, it’s actually the beginning. That’s how all great things are sown together – a single thread. Your life can be that thread. Be wise enough to realize who you give the needle to. Not everyone wants your life to be sown into a beautiful tapestry. But good people are out there who want your life displayed for all to see.

Finally, and this one goes out to my students, who will probably never read this, and will probably smirk because it’s just another one of Miss Wymore’s life lessons. First off, your life matters. I need you to believe that. You’re going to meet so many people in this life who are going to make you feel that you aren’t worth anything. Sometimes, those people will be your family. That doesn’t mean it’s true. We all know how easy it is to hurt those closest to us. We are all guilty of it. Have patience with those in your life who don’t value you the way you wish they would. Sometimes, those people will be your closest friends. Choose wisely who you allow into your heart. Not everyone wants your life to turn into something beautiful. I wish everyone’s intentions were good, especially with your life, but that will sadly never be the case. Your friends matter because those are the people you will become most like. Take a good hard look at the people closest to you. You’re becoming like them, even if you don’t like it. Guard your heart. Last, but certainly not least (don’t forget that), sometimes, that person is going to be yourself. You’re going to tell yourself that it’s too difficult; that you can’t take it anymore. You’re going to hate everything in your life, because it’s not giving you what media promises you that you will someday receive or that you somehow deserve. You’re going to feel abandoned, unloved, unworthy, and unimportant. You’re going to feel a lot of emotions, because you’re growing. You’re growing, because that’s what you’ll always be doing. Your life was not created to be stagnant.

I need you to realize something important. You’re going to hear many different voices throughout your life. You’re going to hear family members, friends, foes, strangers, and your own. And you’re going to need to realize that not every one of those voices is speaking to do your heart any good. I’m not saying go home and tell your family that their opinion doesn’t matter. I’m telling you there’s a voice that’s more important. I’m not telling you to go home and abandon all of your closest friends, because they aren’t doing for you what you wish they would. I’m telling you there’s a voice that’s more important. I’m not telling you to seek out your foes to make them feel the same way they make you feel. I’m telling you there’s a voice that’s more important. I’m not telling you to go home and develop such a self-hatred for yourself, because you can’t escape these thoughts that convince you you’re not good enough.

I’m telling you there’s a voice that matters more.

It’s not mine.
It’s not your family.
It’s not your friends.
Its not your foes.
It’s not yourself.

It’s your Savior. He’s the game changer. He’s the end-all. He’s the reason you fight this battle daily, not because He seeks to see you suffer, but because he loves you TOO much to watch you suffer. With every one of those voices you hear, regardless of where they are coming from, there will be some truth in them. But the greatest struggle you will face in life is allowing the devil to twist those words into something they’re not. Your Savior is fighting for you to help you overcome those thoughts. But first, you have to let Him in. You can’t defeat the thoughts if you don’t know what the better route is. It’s going to mean nights where you’re clenching your fists in anger and confusion. If your fists aren’t clenched, then it’s going to be your heart, and it’s THEN that you’ll have to call upon His name to help you overcome those thoughts.

You see, people don’t do a good job letting people know they matter. People don’t appreciate others and remind them why they are important. Encouragement isn’t the normality, even though it’s what we are all so desperately crying out for. You have the opportunity to allow Him to change everything. You have the opportunity to decide for yourself that you won’t be dictated by those thoughts anymore. You have the opportunity to show people they matter. You have the opportunity. You matter, regardless of where you are in life. Your life holds more value than you can ever understand. I say so. God says so.

Don’t be people.

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An open thank you to parents.

Dear Parents,

“Your children are the greatest gift God will give to you, besides each other, and their souls the heaviest responsibility He will place in your hands. Take time with them, teach them to have faith in God. Be a person in whom they can have faith. When you are old, nothing else you’ve done will have mattered as much” // Lisa Wingate.

Time and time again, we see articles, clips, and words spoken that consistently remind parents they aren’t doing their job correctly.

As if you don’t already have ‘provider’ stamped before your name, you are consistently bombarded with titles that you have to live up to, in order to appease your family, your children, and the world.

I’m no expert. I don’t have children. The most parenting I have done is babysit, teach my students, coach, and that one time in high school when I was required to care for the electronic baby. I don’t know how difficult it is raising another human being, with emotions, struggles, and mood swings. I commend all parents, especially mine.

But more importantly, I want to personally, from the bottom of my heart, from a first year teacher, from a growing woman who eventually hopes to have a family of her own, thank the parents who encourage their children, love their children, and take interest in their child’s heart.

You are the real world changers.

You make differences that I’m sure not many people notice. You sacrifice daily. I don’t mean in the way you work. I don’t mean in the way you struggle to put food on the table and clothes on their back. Although that in and of itself is an accomplishment that deserves to be acknowledged as well. Thank you for working so hard.

But when I say thank you for sacrificing daily, I mean you take time to stop, pause, and speak truth into their heart. Thank you for telling them they are loved. Children need to hear that. Teenagers need to hear that. Adults need to hear that. I mean more than the ‘I love you’s” exchanged before leaving the house or dropping them off for school. I want to thank the parents who make sure their children KNOW their love.

Growing up, there was never a night I closed my eyes and questioned whether my parents loved me. Did I question their reasoning? Absolutely. Did I question their judgement on who I hung out with or was attracted to? You bet I did. But I never put my head on my pillow at night, doubting that my parents loved me with their whole heart. I knew it. I still know it. I know it so well, that it is permanently engraved in my mind and heart.

And because of that, I better understand the love of God. You don’t have to be a saint in order for your children to see the love of God mirrored through you. I see you struggling to make ends meet. I see you struggling to live from pay check to pay check. I see you struggling with depression. I see you battling insecurity, because it is so easy to compare yourself to the grade A parents. I assure you, those don’t really exist. Just as media has a way of forcing their idea of “accepted” in terms of image with your child, the media also has a way of making even the greatest parents feel like failures.

You are the farthest thing from a failure. I need you to believe that.

So you can’t buy your child a brand new car… or any car for that matter. Who cares?

So you can’t pay for your child to have the nicest clothes or the newest technology. Who cares?

So you don’t have the nicest house on the street or even in the neighborhood. Who cares?

You want to know what I think of when I reflect on how my parents have really provided for me and my siblings?

I think of waking up every day and coming downstairs to my parents doing their devotions.

I think of walking into my parents’ bedroom to see my father praying by his bed, only to return thirty minutes later to see him still praying.

I think of my poem book assignment in Elementary school, where I had written a few poems of my own, and my mom hanging one of them outside her classroom for people to see.

I think of my dad taking us to the softball field every Sunday afternoon, growing up, because he knew we loved it.

I think of my parents cuddling on the couch together and always showing each other their love and adoration.

I think of my stays in the hospital and my mother, knowing she couldn’t heal me physically, but knowing she could comfort my heart spiritually, praying with me.

I think of finding encouraging verses written on notes, that I still have.

I think of their forgiveness.

Sure, my parents gave me things. They gave me food and the clothes I wanted. I’ve never been in need of anything. But those aren’t the things I will tell my future children about their grandparents. I will tell them about their love for Christ being reflected in how they loved me, how they believed in me, how they adored me, and even admired me.

I know you don’t hear it enough. I know that not everyone will stop you and commend you for your efforts. I know that not everyone will even take time to notice that your little girl or boy still wants to hold your hand. I know that not everyone will forgive mistakes, and only look toward the good you have done for your child. I know that not everyone thinks providing for your child means encouraging them and loving them too. I know that some nights you go to bed thinking you’re a failure. I know that some days you dread waking up, because you’re battling depression so heavily. I know that marriage is difficult, and that many people experience some incredibly difficult hurdles. I know you don’t hear it enough. I know you need to hear it.

Thank you. Thank you for adoring your child. Thank you for pushing them toward Jesus and showing them what matters most. Thank you for praying for them, believing in them, and admiring them. Thank you for caring enough to guide them in the right direction, and applaud them when they show signs of growth.

I need you to know how truly great you are.

You deserve to hear this everyday.

And from a teacher, a coach, a daughter, a future wife, and a future mother,

You are my hero.

You.

Strong is refusing to be people.

You won’t be able to hide from it.
You won’t be able to avoid it.
You won’t be able to run from it.
I promise you, no matter how hard you try, it will still be there.

Negativity.

I assure you, before this day is over — this NEW day of a NEW year — you’ll hear it. You’ll hear it in your family grumbling. You’ll hear it on the news and see it in the magazines. Perhaps the loudest voice you hear is your own.

You know what I think ‘strong’ looks like?

Strong is being surrounded by negative remarks, but still refusing to participate.
Strong is turning every corner and hearing the complaints and whining of others, but still not letting them discourage you.
Strong is finding the good. Strong is seeing the good. Strong is being the good, and being willing to point it out.

Strong is refusing to be like all of the negative people in this world. Strong is refusing to be people.

You know, God calls us to many different avenues in life. He calls us to be pastors, chefs, teachers, politicians, and even mailmen. He calls us to do life with many people, and He calls us to give up relationships closest to us.

He calls us to leave home, and He calls us to build up what’s been broken.

But you know what’s amazing about this life we get to live? We get a choice in how we decide to live it.

We can wake up everyday and assume the worst will happen. We can assume that our country will progressively get worse and discuss that hours on end. We can vent to our family and friends about the person who ‘ruined’ us or destroyed our lives. We can talk about our biggest regrets and biggest mistakes. We can talk about how awful and unbearable certain people and situations are.

Or.

Or we can talk about how blessed we are. We can talk about how wonderful the people in our lives are. We can tell those same people how wonderful they are. We can find the good in our still free country and discuss that God is still in control even in the chaos. We can talk about the people who make us better and how we’ve grown to be who we are today, because every mistake is a lesson. We can find the good the second we wake up and assume the best for tomorrow when we close our eyes at night.

We can do that.
I can do that.
You can do that.

It’s really not difficult. It’s just a decision. It might make people stare. To be honest, it might make people feel awkward, because pointing out the good in people isn’t a normality anymore. I’ll take awkward over negativity any day.

The best part?

There’s something else you won’t be able to hide from.
There’s something else you won’t be able to avoid.
There’s something else you won’t be able to run from.
And I promise you, no matter how hard you try, it will still be there.

Jesus.

It’s your choice this year. It’s your decision. You can choose to be like everyone else and conform your thoughts, words, and actions to the negativity that seems so impossible to ignore.

Or.

Or you can choose to see the good, everyday. Regardless of what everyone around you is doing. Regardless if people hurt you and ridicule you. Regardless if your job, relationship, or even this country is questionable at times. You still have the power to decide for yourself what kind of life you will live.

One that focuses on the negative or one that chooses to see the good.

Good will never happen to those who can’t even recognize it.

People will find every reason to find negativity acceptable.

Simple enough, don’t be people.

Tell me something good.

What is your life teaching the world?

“I wondered if there were other restless people asking the question with me: What if Jesus meant the stuff he said.”
Shane Claiborne

 

I would say one of the largest problems with the world today is that we don’t actually mean what we say. One look at the divorce rate and you’ll soon begin doubting if wedding vows are even necessary. One would think that by now we would have someone at every wedding, shouting “Do you really mean what you are saying? Do you really mean for better or for worse?” A simple ‘I love you’ can no longer tread heavy waters, because too many relationships crumble so quickly. Too many are ready to say what really matters. Not enough are ready to do what really matters. I say all of that, because I am just as guilty. I may have never experienced divorce. I may have never stood before hundreds and committed to something, only to break my promise a few years later. But I have committed my life, or so I say I have. I have committed my heart, or so I think I have. I do not write this to pine after your already guilt-ridden heart. I say this to bring to light what I myself feel personally burdened about.

What is your life telling others about Jesus?

If you have grown up with any sort of church background, you have probably heard that question asked countless times.

People are watching. People are also judging, but that’s beside the point. They’re watching you. As if we don’t already have a huge responsibility in being the only light some people see, we are also a light to those who have grown up knowing that truth, or have decided recently that this Light is worth following. Granted, each and every person is responsible for their own actions and decisions there is still a very domineering issue at hand.

Following Jesus is not such a mind-blowing, life-changing and altering experience anymore.
We are communicating to the world that following Jesus is done when and how we say we are doing it.

Following Jesus is buying the T-shirt to feed the hungry child in Africa.
Following Jesus is meeting up for Bible study and just listening to what people have to say.
Following Jesus is living life, going to work, coming home, watching TV and going to bed, only to repeat the same cycle tomorrow.
Don’t get me wrong, that last sentence is unavoidable for the most part.
The other examples are incredible ways to impact the lives of others.

The reason my heart feels heavy is that we are completely content with JUST that. I’m not in any way saying that we need to be in the midst of war, screaming the Scriptures into the barrel of a gun for Jesus. I’m not saying we need to sell all of our possessions and live in the slums. I’m not saying we can’t drink Starbucks and enjoy a vacation on the beach. I’m not saying we can’t eat out and stuff our face during the holidays. I’m not saying we have to boycott all Christmas traditions, the Kranks already tried that once.

I’m asking… Why are we content with doing so little? Why are we content with calling Him, Lord, but not striving daily, moment by moment, to bring glory to His name? I lay awake at night, asking myself what I did that day that pushed me closer to Christ… and sometimes, I can barely even muster enough courage to THINK about the fact that I did not pray once, as if my Savior does not already fully know every detail of my life.

Why are we content? Why do fall prey to this idea that we deserve a life of comfort and leisure? Why are we satisfied with the mundane life?

Following Jesus is more than doing the great things. It’s more than showing up to church and Bible study. It’s more than your quiet time in the morning. It’s more than telling someone you will pray for them. It’s more than saying “in God we trust” when proudly talking about the country you live in. Following Jesus does not have a prerequisite of going on a mission trip or spending a summer in a less fortunate country.

I’m tired of being a part of this ‘bored’ Christianity.

I mean, seriously, we are in our race toward eternity, and based on the amount of deaths I have experienced within the last year alone… it is coming faster than I want to admit.

Following Jesus is letting your life reflect that nothing else matters. Following Jesus is saying “yes” to ‘for better or for worse’ even when you have no idea what your future entails. Following Jesus is being kind to the family member that makes your heart twist and turn in bitterness and anger. Following Jesus is not letting your actions and words control your life. Following Jesus is getting over the idea that you need to go save an entire country from slavery to somehow redeem your worth in Him. You don’t need a “Dr.” in front of your name to be a follower of Christ. You don’t need to be a teacher to teach the world what it means to truly follow Jesus. You need to be willing.

We could learn a thing or two from Katniss and her volunteering.

I’m tired of the gimmicks. I’m tired of the religious reasoning that people try to convince you of. I’m tired of people leaving their families, churches, friendships, organizations, and lives because it does not fit their picture of “ideal” in this life. I’m tired of people choosing a life of negativity, even though they claim to live for the most positive Being I could ever dream or think of.

Where are the people not afraid to be “too” different, “too” loud, “too passionate” or “too” obnoxious about what they love? The way I see it, when you love something, to the point where you give your life for everything it is, you don’t know what ELSE to do besides talk about, act for it, and live because of it.

Who’s going to take the stand to walk on the ground Jesus did?

Who’s not afraid?

Are you the one doing the head check to see who is looking before you raise your hand? Or are you the one shooting your hand up in the air, begging to be picked?

As Francis Chan once said, “isn’t it a little bit of a privilege to be following the God of the universe?”

What is your life teaching those around you?

 

 

(This is a blog I wrote for http://www.reachcommunity.net/blog/ – Check us out!)

“But I feel so alone.”

“We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love” // Mother Teresa.

Words have a way of speaking truth into our hearts. Words also have a way of ripping every shred of hope from our limbs. Words matter. Words speak volumes. This isn’t a word to encourage your heart. This is an open letter I am writing to myself.

I’m not writing this as a writer. I’m writing this as a needy heart. May it breath life into your soul, as the cold, brisk air of pre-winter days fill my lungs each and every morning.

Here it goes…

I believed that it would be easier. I honestly did. I believed I wouldn’t feel this way. I convinced myself with every fiber of my being, that when I chose this path, I wouldn’t feel lonely. I believed the world and the people in it would speak reminders of love to me. Yet some nights, I’ve convinced myself that the world has forgotten me. Who was I to think I was someone to remember?

We shy away from saying what our heart really feels. Often times, that is the only way we will overcome what we are feeling.

People don’t ask “How are you doing?” anymore, fully awaiting the pouring out of someone’s heart. People don’t strive to understand. People don’t strive to ask or even remind.

We live in a world consumed with the idol of being well known, yet wear masks, never knowing what people are hiding. Hiding, only waiting for someone, anyone, to ask.

The nights will come where you will feel alone. They will come in like a storm, and drench you with an anguish you never knew existed. They won’t always linger, but often times, they’ll overstay their welcome. You won’t be able to describe them. You won’t be able to understand their purpose or even their birth in your heart.

You’re going to feel alone. Perhaps, in every worldly aspect, you will be.

But the beauty of loneliness in this world is that God doesn’t adjust His power according to your needy heart. He remains the same. He doesn’t change or walk away or refuse to forgive and love. He’s there and He’s beckoning you to realize you’re loneliness is a human infested emotion.

He didn’t create you for loneliness.

People will make you feel alone. Circumstances will convince you that you are indeed, without. Life will hand you trial after heartbreak, and everything in between.

I may feel alone, but it’s nothing more than a feeling. My Savior is beside me.
People may forget me, but they’re just people. I don’t have to be people.

You know what lonely feels like. You’ve all felt it. Instead of allowing it to create a tangled web of heartache and misery, call it out for the demon that it is and refuse to play victim to it.

When people forget, don’t be people. Remember. Go out of your way.
When people don’t ask, don’t be people. Ask. Go out of your way.
When people don’t care, don’t be people. Care. Go out of your way.
When people don’t love, don’t be people. Love. Go out of your way.

Refuse to let anything consume you to the point where you become just like the world in all the confusion and chaos it creates.

You were made for this: to love, to share, to remind, to give, to care, to praise, to encourage – all for one reason and one reason alone: Jesus.

Love never takes the first step and then refuses to continue until something is given back to it.

It gives. Even when it’s ignored, even when it’s mocked, even when it’s forgotten, even when it’s left alone.

Because when love is left alone… what’s left?

Jesus.

Sticks & stones.

“What other people think of me is none of my business” // Eleanor Roosevelt.

Day in and day out, I find myself battling the thoughts others fill my mind with. Some indirectly smother me with these thoughts. Others go out of their way and point their gangly finger in my face with words of criticism. Regardless of who I am, what I do, or who I want to become, I have grown to realize that no matter what I do, I cannot escape those voices.

However, as if on cue, God has awakened my eyes and heart to something more. Because of His great mercy and love, I can say that I have grown because of trials, through trials, and in the midst of trials. I am so weak on my own. With Jesus, I can stand firm. Repeat that with me. I am weak on my own. I am weak on my own.

I am weak on my own.

Here’s what I wrote a few nights ago, in tears, laying in bed, bombarded with thoughts others have tried to convince me of, and even thoughts I have convinced myself of.

Often we take the victim standpoint. “You wronged me” or “you hurt me” are very justifiable statements that I, myself, have repeated over and over again in the dark of the night. However, when we take on that persona, we are risking much, much more.

When we allow ourselves to be beaten down by others, through our hurt, we often hurt others. We allow words and actions to define us, and what we allow to define us is often portrayed in our actions to others.

Think of it this way: you’re young and in love, you feel loved, you feel important and special and your heart seems as if it is indeed smiling through your chest. In those times, it is SO very easy to treat people the same way. Your feeling of being loved and important and wanted is contagious. Incurable optimism or the joy of our Savior — it’s practically leaking from you. Oh how I wish that was the only contagious emotion.

However, there are dark times in our lives where we feel as unimportant as anyone could possibly feel. Because of words said by others, actions done purposely or on accident, we identify ourselves by what the world tries to tell us we are. We feel isolated. We feel as if no one understands. We feel unimportant, unwanted, and certainly not loved. What we allow our heart to dwell on is typically what we portray in our actions. Whether we lash out in anger or bitterness, or cower in depression and hurt feelings of insecurity, it still affects those around us. What you feel in your heart is IMPOSSIBLE to hide from the world, and most importantly from those closest to you. Think of the days you lashed out in anger toward people, or were so impatient with the most simple of issues, it was probably because someone wronged YOU or hurt YOU, or YOU weren’t feeling good about YOURSELF. Where you find your worth every single day of your life is how your life will be dictated every single day of your life.

When we choose to find our identity in Jesus, the opinions and words of criticism spoken in anger and bitterness from others, play no role in our eternal lives. When I say identity, I don’t mean simply calling yourself a child of God. I don’t even mean simply forgiven, loved, or accepted by God. I mean entirely, irrevocably immersed in WHO your God is, not in who YOU are. What you look like, what you accomplish, what your job is, or who is in your life at this moment mean nothing. The focal point was always Jesus and will always be Jesus. It is coming to the realization that regardless of what insults the world hurls at you — and they will always hurl at you, no matter who you are and what you do — your identity is never shaken. You are grounded in Jesus and FOUND in Jesus.

That critic will observe you with a magnifying glass, trying their hardest to discover something about you that can break you and tear you down. And guess what? That still says NOTHING about you. It says EVERYTHING about that person. We follow Jesus… we say we are His only. The leader you are choosing to follow wasn’t accepted by the world. He was followed, simply to be mocked and ridiculed and questioned. Regardless of what you do — how you do it — why you do — people will ridicule you.

Take heart. This life isn’t about how many people praise your name. This life is about how you praise your Savior.

Even when the insults come, even when the voices mock.

The very cross your Savior died on was made of sticks and stones.

Beware of the thoughts you allow yourself to believe — many of them are lies. Beware of how you let the words of others channel through your own actions as well. When squeezed and pushed and shaken, what’s in our hearts — what’s deep inside of us — WILL come through. Make sure it’s Jesus that’s being shown. Fill your heart with His goodness.

God has reminded me over and over again, and it seems that I am just now starting to get past the letter A on this outline of notes on what it means to follow Him. I am reminded that words matter and that they can build and burn. Actions and responses matter too. But most importantly, we cannot allow ourselves to focus on the wrong done to us or said about us, but only to the call to love regardless, and to let ourselves be truly identified by JESUS, not sinners… Including ourselves.

It’s funny that God teaches me lessons even when I think I’ve overcome certain issues. Often times He teaches me in serious heartache and loss. But other times He teaches me in simple ways, in my students, in the girls I coach, and on my drive home from work late at night. He never stops teaching me.

What’s your heart filled with today?

What to expect when you’re out there expecting.

“You deserve to be with someone who makes you happy.”

“You deserve someone who won’t complicate your life.”

“You deserve someone who won’t hurt you.”

You’re told what you should expect. You’re told what you deserve. You create an idea in your head and heart of what you want and need in a person. The world tells you that you’re too picky. The world tells you that you’re settling. But the truth is, the world doesn’t define what you need. The world doesn’t know what your heart needs or what your heart wants. The world can’t possibly decide what is good enough for your life, because the world isn’t the one living it. Stop listening to the world. Stop basing your standards on what the world deems acceptable. The world accepts abortion. Stop letting a place that seeks to destroy you, convince you that they know what’s best for you. There has to come a point in your life where you stop listening to what the world tells you and listen to what God tells you.

The only way to find a relationship completely committed to Christ is by first committing yourself completely to Him. One thing people abuse is the idea that if you live for God, you can make any relationship work. In my opinion, that truth only applies in marriage. Marriage is a covenant; something that is never meant to be broken. But when it comes to dating, if someone isn’t committed to Christ the way you are, your relationship will suffer. That reality is unavoidable. You can’t make someone want Christ in their life. You cannot simply hold to the truth that God will help you make a relationship happen with His grace, mercy, and love if you’re not first and foremost living your life for Him. Why would God help you make something last or make something happen if you’re not willing to let Him have full control? He won’t. His will for your life isn’t to live happily ever after and have the best love story in this world, with the cutest wedding. His will for your life is that you GIVE your life to HIM, regardless of what you are given in this world.

In terms of dating:
“But I’m living for God, why can’t my relationship work with __________?”

I’m just going to be honest and ask: Why are you bothering with someone who doesn’t want God the same way you do? God never commands you to compromise the depth of your love for Him by loving others and staying with them. Staying with someone and making it work doesn’t somehow boost your relationship with Christ. Will it teach you love? Yes. Will it teach you patience, forgiveness, and grace? Absolutely. Will it push you closer to a God – honoring relationship? It will for you. But if that person you’re pursuing doesn’t want God the way you do, they won’t want Him in the relationship the way you do.

Plenty of godly men and women are out there wondering if their standards are too high; wondering where their man or woman of God is hiding. This is me saying, keep on. Don’t settle. Honoring God with your life is worth eternal value; something that lowering your standards for someone else isn’t.

What should you be expecting?

First of all, you shouldn’t expect your man or woman to be RIGHT where you are. I spent many years expecting the man for me to be heading down the same path in this world. I expected him to be interested in what I was interested in. I expected his likes and dislikes to align with mine perfectly. I can’t tell you how wrong I was. The only desire and passion you NEED to have in common is that you BOTH want to serve your Savior with your life. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Part of the loving and learning process is building off the strengths of each other. If you want your future person to love something the way you do (kids, sports, missions, etc.), don’t deny every person that doesn’t fit into that category. I have learned more about loving and appreciating things this past year than I have in my entire life. YOUR future man or woman will help you love things in a different, new way, because that’s what love does. The beauty in love is that you’re always learning, always growing, and always stretching your heart. Your future person will complicate that heart of yours, because they’re going to show you how to be better. They’re going to make you want to be better. They’re going to make you want to work harder to make love work, to make relationships last, and to stretch yourself in ways that you never knew you could. Love will always make you a better version of yourself.

Second, stop telling yourself you can fix someone. The person for you doesn’t need to be perfect, just as you know you aren’t perfect. But for the sake of your heart, stop settling for someone, because you think your love for God will somehow channel through to their heart. Can you encourage them and love them? Yes. Can you point them toward Christ? Absolutely. But DON’T give your heart to someone who doesn’t realize the eternal value of it. The only way someone will value your heart eternally is if they first, realize the eternal value of their own, in Christ. They cannot begin to comprehend or understand how fickle this life is if they don’t want Christ to control it completely. Their excuses of “well that’s not what I believe in” or “well I don’t show my love for God the same way you do, but it’s there” or “be patient with me” are all very appealing to our compassionate heart when you feel something for someone. But please tell me what will happen when you feel God calling you to do something with your life and your significant other doesn’t even understand the concept of being called and directed by God? How will that result in a God-honoring decision? Your significant other cannot want Christ simply to have you too.

I spent many relationships trying to make them want God the same way I did. That’s not to say that I am somehow holier than they are or better than they are. That’s saying that I’m selfish. That’s saying I was willing to focus on making someone want God rather than telling them it has to be a heart change for God, not me. That’s saying that I made the decision to grow romantically involved with someone who wasn’t what God had for me to begin with. “I want to be the one for you spiritually” is probably one of the most contradicting statements I have ever heard. The one for you spiritually will be the one who wants God so deeply, that whether they have you or not, they are content with God nonetheless. One doesn’t try to be spiritually fit for another person. If it’s a genuine commitment to God, you won’t have to pretend or attempt to be something, because you’re already working for it on your own. That’s not to say that just because you’re committed to God, you don’t have to work for a relationship. You still have to learn the importance of sacrifice, commitment, and selfless love. There will never be a day where you have mastered love. Love is not something to be mastered, it is something to be lived. Never accept someone wanting God, only because they want you. That feeling will fade away.

Finally, expect struggle. It will grow tiring, and equally as frustrating waiting for your special someone. You pray, you guard your heart, you grow interest in someone, only to find out that the feeling isn’t mutual. Don’t grow weary. God gives us what we need, when we need it. Never let the idol of having someone to love overrule your desire for your God. Expect a true follower of God. They exist. But they aren’t running down the wide, open road of the world. They’re on the narrow road, and chances are, as empty as you may feel that it is, it’s actually filled with godly men and women, waiting just like you. Expect them to be guarding their heart. Their life may have a messy past, and their home life may not resemble yours. Your interests may conflict. They may go completely against what you’ve always gone for. They may be a little selfish. They may be a little insecure. They may be a little stubborn. They may have burdens that you’ve never experienced. They may have ugly scars. But you know what they’ll have? Jesus.

If they don’t have Jesus, then they don’t have any business having you.

Stay encouraged. Follow Him. He won’t ever leave you or forsake you, and He will always provide for you in every circumstance of life. Don’t compromise your heart for God for the heart of someone who doesn’t value that importance.

Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want.

If a godly person is what you expect, keep expecting it. Don’t settle for what the world tries to convince you is love. The fuzzy feelings won’t save your soul. The words of another person won’t save your soul. Christ must be your first love, before anyone can give that same love away.

Follow God. Having faith is expecting something to happen without seeing or having tangible proof that it will. God brought you this far, maybe He just needs to bring you a little farther to catch up with that man or woman you’re waiting for. Let God guide your expectations, not this world.

Keep on.