Y'all know the Taylor Swift song: "I don't know about you, but I'm feeling twenty... three?" 23 doesn't sound quite as good as the number 22, unfortunately. But hey, that's where I'm at. And boy, the year 22 was incredibly eye opening and full of revelations from God. I write in mini journals, and throughout this last year I wrote in a total of 5. I took the time to re-read all of them, pulled out my favorite quotes +inspiring moments and compiled them into a list of things I learned this last year.
1. I have an addiction to bubly waters.
I blame my parents for this one. One day their beverage fridge was full of them and now I drink 5 of them every day. My apartment's recycling bin is full of them. My favorite is peach!
2. Trading in an iPhone for a flip phone can save you money and help control your social media addiction.
I will admit this was an impulsive decision. But boy, was I so ready for this. I had casually mentioned it to a few friends before I just drove to Best Buy one day and paid $30 for this bad boy. Yes, strangers and friends still give me the craziest looks when they see me whip it out and struggle to text someone back.
I'll tell you what, this purchase was great for a few reasons:
a) If I need to drive somewhere I go to google maps and write down the directions on a sheet of paper. It forces me to really focus on the road and be hyper aware of the cities I travel to for photoshoots. Old school folks!
b) It only costs me $10/month for unlimited talk and text. I am saving a lot of money.
c) I am no longer tempted to pull out my phone in a social situation or when I'm bored. I am learning to be even more active in conversation and aware of my surroundings.
3. You do have the option of protesting a speeding ticket, the fine might be reduced!
Confession: I got pulled over in early September after promising my dad I would stop being a left lane cruiser... I just paid the fine and told him later. He, and many others, informed me that I could have gone to court and protest because they usually reduce the fine amount. WELL these are things you should teach your kid before they leave the house. Guess we missed that lesson.
Please call me out if you catch me left lane cruising on i43.
Okay, hope you might have giggled when you read the first three! But now, here's where we get to the deep stuff. Get ready, folks...
4. Be honest, it's OK to say "no".
If you're someone like me that likes to say "yes!" because:
a) it's seems like a fun opportunity
b) you know you'd be great at the task EVEN THOUGH YOUR LIFE IS STRESSFUL ENOUGH AS IT IS, this one is for you.
Please, please, please take a step back and realize that it's OK to say "no". You can't do everything. You will be stretched so thin that you won't have a social life, you will be unable to care for your health, AND most importantly you will no longer have time for God.
Have a chat with God about it and someone who knows you well. Listen to their key phrases like "hm, do you have time for that?" or "but what x, y, and z?"
Those phrases are translated to this: "I don't think you should take on another task right now."
Back in Fall of 2018 I was being pulled in a million directions with school, glaze, my photography business, babysitting, church music... There were so many responsibilities that I felt far from God and could barely hear my own thoughts. I ended up taking a semester off in Spring 2019 and that was one of the greatest decisions I could have made. God revealed so much to me during that time. I had the opportunity to travel, do mission work, save money, and really take time to address the noise in my head. It is OK to take a step back for the sake of your relationship with Jesus and state of your mental health.
5. Quit trying to "be skinny".
For as long as I can remember I have had an unhealthy relationship with food. Sometimes I eat so much it hurts because for a moment it fills an emotional void that could have easily been fixed with prayer, going for a walk, or a chat with a good friend. I would gain weight, be unhappy with my appearance, try this diet, lose the weight, and gain it back again. I would look at my small, skinny friends and dream of being that size.
Well, let me tell you what. It is way too much work tracking and measuring everything. How about this... instead of playing the game of comparison why don't we take a look in the mirror and remind ourselves that God made us in his image?
So yes, go for a run, get sweaty, be strong, get your heart pumping but also just eat. When you decide what to eat, ask what foods bring you joy but also fuels you to live life to the fullest each day? I have come to the conclusion that I need to prioritize being HEALTHY over "being skinny". So if that means that I have a squishy tummy, strong arms, curvy thighs but I can easily run a 5k and eat a donut afterwards? Then yes please!! You relieve an incredible amount of unnecessary pressure off yourself. Stop worrying what the opposite sex will be attracted to or if someone will judge the shape of your beautiful body upon meeting you, because people shouldn't judge you on your appearance, they should know you by your heart. And you too, check yourself that you're truly loving others because of their heart not their size.
Crazy eyes because I love food! This was a Nutella and banana stuffed calzone
that my friend Hannah and I ate together in St. Louis.
6. Why did God allow me to go through so much emotional pain these last 2 years?
Let me set the scene: Summer 2017 I was feeling stuck. I remember thinking that I craved a change of some kind, I wanted to feel like I was growing somehow. A couple of weeks later I found out my boyfriend cheated on me, experienced a horrible breakup, lost a friend to suicide, moved back to my parents house and I failed a semester of college... It felt like everything was crashing down around me and I had no clue how to process it. I remember driving home feeling so so empty. I prayed "God, I'm hollow. Please fill me up."
We ask God to help us grow but complain when it starts raining.
I read this quote months later and knew it applied DIRECTLY to this time of my life. God knew I was so far away from Him. I can confidently look back and see that the only way God was going to win me back was by allowing all of this to happen. I would not be the woman I am without all of this happening to me.
This piece of scripture helped put this time of my life into perspective:
"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings! Knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-6 ESV
I would not be as strong today if I hadn't been put through suffering, because that produces the endurance to withstand current and future trials, the endurance now built a stronger sense of character and conviction in my heart for myself, and now I am rooted in the living hope of Jesus , His amazing love for me, and the whole world. I can look back now and see God's hand in every step of the way. I'm THANKFUL for the scars, because they made me who I am and encourage me all the more to live out my life for Him.
image by Joel Nobis
7. Does my lifestyle match my identity?
Starting in February up until now I have been carefully evaluating how I present myself to the world in my everyday and professional life. Is the woman I'm presenting to the world, flaws and all, line up with the faith I profess so boldly on social media? In public and private? More simply put, where is my integrity at?
I can post about being disciplined, loving to others, and reading your Bible everyday but am I truly doing the same? Did the snarky comment I made to a co-worker reflect my faith? When I'm alone am I scrolling on social media, drinking alcohol every night, or messaging a boy for a little attention instead of reading my Bible?
When I'm disconnected from God my relationships and behavior are out of line with my character.
It's more than just your appearance to the world. It's what is going on in the private moments between you and God. That reflects to the rest of the world what your relationship with Him is really like. And I felt God calling me to take drastic and radical steps to make sure we were aligned so I could accurately represent Him.
Romans chapters 7-8 talk about the transformation of the mind. "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he..." If my actions are not lining up with my identity then I need to take a close look at my heart and ask God to make it clear to me what needs to change.
"Let the Holy Spirit lead you to kill the things that want to kill you." - Pastor James Hein
(Listen to that sermon here).
The Holy Spirit led me to be take these radical decisions:
a) Detox from social media during the week.
b) Stop drinking alcohol for 1 whole year.
c) Do not date or invest in a romantic relationship for 1 whole year
photo taken by Monica Rae
8. Discipline is part of the training program.
You want to change? You HAVE to cut off the old.
God says very clearly when it comes to sexual immorality to RUN as far as you can from it. That is the same for EVERY sin that hinders your relationship with Him. So when I wanted to take those drastic measures I knew I needed to reach out to a few very close faith-filled friends and ask them to keep me accountable. Because the good LORD knows I like to break rules and fall back into temptation... community and accountability are so important. But more about that in #15.
I'm training for the long run. The journey of faith is a marathon, not a sprint. These issues I'm addressing and probably will continue to revisit the rest of my life are building up my endurance. I want to walk at a pace of grace. It sorta stinks to not be a part of a group of friends at a bar right now or say "no" to my desire to have relationship with a decent guy. But the Bible asks us to have an eternal perspective. I'm willing to surrender or delay comforts of my life here on earth. Be willing to sacrifice for the future. Read Hebrews 12: 1-11. This is all temporary, but I believe with all my heart that it will be WORTH IT.
(Listen to that sermon here).
9. God, do you hear me??
"If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. and this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."
1 John 4:20-21 ESV
God literally will not hear your prayer or enter your heart if you have any anger, hatred, grudges, bitterness, or lack of forgiveness in your heart. Read Matthew 18:21-25. We can beg God for His mercy and He will freely forgive all our debts. But if we can't forgive a neighbor here on earth He will do to us just as He did to the servant that would not forgive his fellow servant.
I cannot offer my prayers of thanks and requests to God if I still have anger in my heart for past hurts, grudges from work, or judgement in my heart because of how someone treated me.
a) God speaks against it and it's the exact opposite of how God loves us.
b) Why would I want to live with all of that "ick" still taking up space in my heart?
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other. Just like Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:32 ESV
"Pay attention to your heart. What makes you angry? It usually has something to do with something you deeply care about. It will never go away unless you have compassion and learn to forgive."
- Pastor James Hein
(Listen to that sermon here)
I took some time to write out what I deeply care about and how that connects to the bitterness in my heart and I asked God for forgiveness. Let me tell you how much peace that gave me. God has also opened up opportunities to ask a few people from my past for forgiveness. I feel my relationship with Him has opened up so much more because I'm seeing people who have hurt me the same way God sees them: humans created in His image in desperate need of His grace. More on this in #17...
10. In order to take control, you have to surrender.
My weight! Grades! Photoshoots! Perfect social media! Co-Workers! My money! My car!
There was an intense moment inside the Prayer Palace in El Salvador when I was fighting the voice that told me to release everything to Jesus... after a good struggle I finally gave in. I broke down crying, confessing it all and letting God have it all. At the same time felt this overwhelming sense of peace.
"God is saying to us, 'If you would allow me to be the one in the center of your situation, I can give you a better way that will not leave you with the consequence of your own actions.'" - Mike Todd
The minute I let it all go and TRUSTED that God will take care of it all, is the minute I understood. None of these blessings were mine to begin with. They were all gifted to me from God through people that have helped shape my life. I am simply a manager. God already knows what will happen, He's got me this far. Whatever comes next I should trust that He is in control, and I need to mentally remind myself to give up that control.
"I found my life when I lay it down" - Hillsong United
This is the lake in El Salvador where I was baptized in April.
11. God is a trespasser.
"He knocks down your walls, the restricted access areas in order to dwell in your heart."
- Pastor Greg Washington
Pastor Greg gave a sermon back in September 2018 based on 2 Kings 4:11-17 that I think about often. (Listen to it here). There are parts of my heart and life that I don't like God in to see. It's messy and complicated. I just want to feel good when I worship and not worry about those parts sometimes. It's hard to be vulnerable. But He doesn't respect those boundaries, because He already knows what I try to hide. He doesn't see it as messy and complicated. He loves every part of my heart and wants to be a part of it all. He knocks down walls because He's searching for me. He doesn't have to be in my life, He WANTS to be in my life. So much so that he laid His life down for me.
"There's no wall you won't kick down, lie you won't tear down coming after me."
12. Be Still.
I didn't know how to do that. I tried it. It was awkward and uncomfortable. Why? Because all the things I didn't want to think about would keep coming up. I couldn't think about it without trying to manipulate past and present situations in my head or make excuses for myself. All God was asking for me to do this whole time is to surrender and let it go. I try to vision and talk big about what I want for my life, when instead God was asking me to simply listen.
"Sheep have awful vision but really good ears for listening." - Pastor James Hein
Once I let it go, or rather, learned that it's easier than I thought, then I could truly be still. Being still can mean sit and be quiet, it can mean read my Bible, it can mean go for a walk! It changes each day. I can tell in myself when I have slacked in finding time to be still, because my anxiousness is higher than normal and I let my sinful nature take over much easier. I've slowly learned to make it a top priority in my daily life.
Now, being still + listening isn't always sitting quiet all alone like a meditation guru. Most of the time being still means simply listen. I like to take my headphones out, put away my phone and open my ears. I pick up every noise I hear around me. Sometimes I eavesdrop on the strangers having conversation on the bus, notice birds chirping above me, or listen to the sound of the barista making coffees. God needs us to accept the noise and find Him amidst it all. We crave more of Him, whether we realize it or not, but we are ignorant to the fact that this world is saturated with God everywhere we look. Find him in a stranger's smile, the beauty of nature in the seasons, the child's laugh, the sound of music... 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to be alert to His word and ways, He's trying to work on your heart.
"Pay attention to what God is doing to your heart in the quiet, humble places." - Pastor Mark Jeske
photo by Lottie Lillian Photography
13. Pay attention to the ways God speaks to you.
"God will bring people in your life that confirm something in your spirit... something that God already planted in you that God used someone to pull it out."
- Pastor Aaron Cole
(Listen to that sermon here)
For me, direct people in my life would include pastors and dear friends in growth/life groups. There was one specific woman in El Salvador named Amanda that spoke to my heart and pulled out something I knew God planted inside of me a long time ago. Honestly, these people and messages were always in an unexpected situation and my initial reaction was to reject it, or be defensive. They spoke to parts of me that were sensitive, it was convicting and lined up exactly with the Bible. That's how I knew it was God speaking through these people.
"Key to process and growth is hearing the voice of God... listen." - Pastor Greg Washington
I also could see God speak to me when I would practice being still and listening. God speaks to me through my daily Bible readings and conversations with faith-filled friends. When I cut out all distractions I can hear my conscience speaking to me about the issues on my heart for the world and myself. Social media drowns out that voice so easily though... everyone on those platforms are competing for attention and want to proclaim their truth. When I observed this I was reminded by something my friend Levi said in El Salvador when he gave a devotion about being a courageous lion, like God. This quote convinced me that social media was one of the biggest distractions to pull me away from hearing God's voice loud and clear:
"Sometimes we can't hear His roar because we are distracted by disguised lions roaring in this world."
The story of Elijah in the desert (1 Kings 19) reminded me that God's voice is not usually how we would expect an all powerful God to communicate with us. Normally people would fear a god and expect a thunderous voice with lighting and fire falling from the sky as he brings down his wrath. Rather, God speaks to us in the midst of our storms in a still, small voice. Like a whisper... Another reason to learn how to be still and listen.
(Here's a great sermon about being still.)
Amanda and I in El Salvador.
14. God uses you for a greater purpose, even if you feel broken.
"God is glorified in your struggle." - Pastor James Hein
(Listen to that sermon here).
During this last year someone shared in confidence with me a traumatic event that happened to them. As they told me how this has affected their life I stood speechless and in tears. My heart broke for this person, and I felt so helpless. I'm a fixer. I want to fix an issue right away. But this is something I truly couldn't do anything about... This person has played a great part in the building up of my faith and I couldn't believe the struggle they were dealing with that I had no clue about. This person was so discouraged and felt like they couldn't do any good for God because of their struggle.
I took a couple of days to pray about it. God and I had some pretty tough talks. He revealed His truth so beautifully to me, and this is what I told my friend:
"While you were wrestling with God and guilt, God STILL used you to touch many, many lives. Including mine. God uses broken people all the time in the Bible, and they are living proof that you too are used to advance God's kingdom."
I could write out a huge list of people from the Bible that prove this point, but I'm going to encourage you to go read the Bible and see for yourself what I mean.
This experience was trying on my heart but now gives me so much hope. Hope for myself, for others who are really struggling right now... God never lets your struggle go to waste. It all has a purpose even if you can't see it.
15. It is not good for man to be alone.
I remember my prayer to God for new, Jesus-loving friends. I was dealing with intense lonliness that I would turn to unhealthy ways that only made it worse. Yeah, I could spend time with God and read his word, but Jesus and the apostles always encouraged people to be in fellowship and worship together. It builds you up in faith and your life, and teaches you a little more about God's M.O. every time (which is bringing dead things to life). He answered that prayer and gave me more than I had asked for. It was hard getting to know brand new people and fight the fear that they may not actually like me all that much... But I knew in order to have friends I first needed to be a friend. I'm so grateful for the amazing, constant group of believers that are a part of my life today.
16. Good things take time and effort.
If God is making me wait, He must be working out something extraordinary! Think about it this way: if someone starts a project today and finishes it today, the product lacks. But, if the crafter takes months on this one project, He pursues every little detail without rushing. It will contain his BEST work that he truly admires and can confidently present to the world. Jesus is the ultimate crafter.
Friendships, a business, school, relationships, and personal growth... if you are craving change in a place in your life you have to remember that good things take time! Are you letting Him mold you in His timing? Or are you giving Him a due date?
I love the story of David. His dad puts him out in the fields to be a shepherd away from his family. He had a lot of time out there to learn how to defend himself, take care of the wandering sheep, and even play music and worship God. When Samuel came to anoint the next king of Israel Samuel ignores David's strong, older brothers and chooses him. He anoints his head with oil in front of his whole family... and then leaves. He LEAVES David there! If that were me I would be confused asking if this was all a joke. So God anointed him but told him to stay right where he is. Now if you keep reading you can see that God eventually made David king after years of serving for Saul and being hunted by him. But think about that in your own life.
Maybe there is something you KNOW God is calling you to do. But God is not making the path for that clear or easy, it's almost like he's asking you to still stay in that 9-5 office job or school...
Stay in the fields a little longer. Wait on the LORD. Keep listening and tending to sheep. God doesn't waste a moment of preparation for you and your life. How can you best serve in the fields now, firm in God's promises, so that when God calls you you are READY?
(Here's my favorite sermon series about waiting it out until God knows you're ready
17. Want to love like Jesus? Be full of compassion.
I struggle with this one. I admit I easily fall into the temptation of judging someone whose sins and situation are different than mine. A friend opened my eyes to this struggle of mine and told me to look at them with compassion because maybe it's not their fault that they don't know or understand... Everyone's situation and experiences are different. I was once (and still am) a struggling human being. I want to give grace and be the person I needed when I was younger.
The more I read the gospels the more I realize how ridiculous Jesus must have looked talking to the lowest of people in Israel's society. His actions were full of compassion, His words filled with convicting truth, He traveled without means, never worrying about food or where He and the disciples would sleep...
This shows me that in order to love others and bring the good news of Jesus you HAVE TO BE RADICAL. Outside the norm. Oftentimes looking crazy. I need to get out of my own head and truly see the people around me. Each one of them are struggling to get through life. So smile. Offer to buy someone's coffee. Ask how people are doing. Don't just offer to pray for them, pray for them right there, immediately. The guy at the corner of the street with the sign, offer him a meal or ask what he needs. Matthew 25:31-46.
I want to love others better... my family, friends, strangers. I can't do that until I can comprehend and truly know Jesus's incredible love for everyone first.
(Here's a great sermon about sacrificial love).
The day this all started to make sense to me was back in April. Click to read my interaction with the Milwaukee Flower Man.
18. There is no fear in love.
When I switched colleges back in 2017 I kept my mouth shut in classes. I avoided conversations with people in fear of offending them because of my faith or being told I'm wrong. I held back in friendships and lived in fear. And I paid the price for it. I was lonely, unable have an honest and authentic relationship with Jesus and others.
I look back now and see how silly that was. If we live comfortably and in fear, avoiding risks how will we ever grow and know what our purpose is?
When I finally started to open up, I connected with a professor and now babysit her beautiful children often. When I showed up to a group called 20ish as the one new girl I met some of my now closest friends, went on a mission trip with them, and discovered that God was calling me to pursue mission work. When I was honest with these friends they listened and shared their own stoires that opened my eyes to God's love even more than ever before.
I always worried what others think of me and if they would judge me for being so open about faith and Jesus. The answer is yes, I do look crazy. And I've come to be OK with that. When someone asks me why I believe what I believe I need to stop being so worried about my answer to defend the validity of the Bible and all the technicalities. The apostle Peter tells us in about suffering for righteousness' sake and how it is all worth it:
"Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do this with gentleness and respect..." 1 Peter 3:13-17
"I don't have to defend the Bible, that's the pastor's job. I simply need to give a reason for the HOPE that I have."
- Pastor Aaron Cole
(Here's the sermon about sharing your faith)
Giving a reason for the HOPE that I have is easy! I can do that. My job is not to transform hearts right here and now, my job is simply to plant seeds, by sharing my joy in Jesus and let Him take care of the rest.
"There is no fear in love..." 1 John 4:18 ESV
I've heard people say "That's death" going into sketchy neighborhoods. Not just ones in third world countries, but even here at home in Milwaukee. Well, Jesus didn't have to go to a scary neighborhood for His death, He walked straight into death carrying His cross to Calvary. He calls us to GO into all the world and build His church. So I'm going to go, unafraid. And if that means my death one day for the sake of the gospel then I'm ok with that because I know where I'll be after this life. Our God is for EVERYONE not just for the privileged that live in safe neighborhods with nice cars and big churches. Luke 14's Parable of the Wedding Feast and Parable of the Great Banquet sum it up pretty well:
a) Do not expect this high place of honor when you serve Jesus. Your heart should be humble, sit at the lowest place. Be with the people down there.
b) At the grand feast God will invite the poor, crippled, the lame, and the blind, He will send His messengers to go to the highways and hedges and compel others to join you. Freely give without expecting anything in return.
"Here am I! Send me." Isaiah 6:8 ESV
"For He who is in you is greater than he who Is in the world." 1 John 4:4 ESV
"If you gave your life to love them, so will I." - Hillsong United
19. Love is a choice.
I've spent quite a bit of time reflecting on past romantic relationships. The more I observe my past behaviors I realize that the "love" I felt was nothing more than infatuation with the idea of being with a partner. I looked to them for complete acceptance and to cure the insecurities deep down... God allowed so many of these relationships to fall apart because the deep love I craved is only found from someone perfect and blameless, like Jesus. Understanding Him and the noise in my head has helped me truly look at earthly romantic relationships with a different lens.
Relationships are not easy. They take a lot of work. I thought I was ready for marriage 3 years ago, and now I look back and imagine God looking down at me chuckling saying, "Oh, honey you think you know... just you wait, I'm about to reveal so much to you."
Love is a sacrifice. Not infatuation. It's undeserving grace. Gentle. Kind. Not jealous. Never fails.
Love is a choice. I can choose to look past the comment from a family member and extend kindness to them, I can choose to set aside my own worries and be present with my friend that's struggling, I can choose to help out my parents despite my own disagreement with them, I can choose to listen to the homeless man asking for money and give them my tip money... you get the idea.
20. My sister is my best friend.
If you know me well you know that my sister and I are really opposite. She likes to be in the middle of the woods, while I prefer the center of a big city. We've just been frustrating to each other ever since we were little.
Something changed from January - August of this year. God told both of us to take a semester off of school at the same time. Meaning, we would be roommates back under our parents roof for the first time since we were 9 and 6 years old. It was a struggle, I liked to stay up late and she needed her beauty sleep. PLUS we had to share a car for all of our jobs.
I can't quite pin point what changed... maybe it was the late night conversations, the day we went hiking just the two of us, or the attending of church together. Either way at some point I suddenly looked at my sister and felt this immense amount of love and appreciation for her. I was overcome with emotion the day she moved to Alaska. There was a lot of regret for not taking more advantage of the time we had the last 9 months. This girl has seen me through so much, as have I with her. She can be the goofiest human yet can tell it to me straight without hesitation. Her strengths are my weaknesses. We are a great team. She makes me want to be a better person.
photo by colleen kubiak photography
21. God, you're allowing this to happen for a reason, what are you trying to teach me?
"If He leads you to it, He will lead you through it." Sometimes we expect God to only lead us to blessings and up to the mountaintops. But what about when He keeps us in a valley for a while?
I can preach all I want about how good God is and how much He's changing my life. But I had to realize that there isn't going to be this "I've made it" mountaintop moment in my faith journey. That's really prideful and ignorant. Yes, there have been moments along the way where I have felt at peace, that things are "falling into place" and making sense. But that doesn't mean the deep issues are suddenly gone. The closer I feel to God the more satan attacks me. There are a few things that I've been praying about a lot, asking God to remove them from my heart. Some, yes He has removed. But others are still there.
It can be super frustrating. I get tempted to think that I've done so much to be better for you God, why won't you help me with this? (Which, by the way, the moment after I thought that to myself my conscience said "How DARE you ask that?!")
"Sometimes Jesus holds back "victories" in our life to prevent us from getting boastful."
- Pastor James Hein
You know how we talk about God being our good Father? We sing out the Hillsong song "I'm a child of God, yes I am!" Well, let's take that analogy. A good parent will hold back certain blessings because they know their child isn't ready for it yet, that it will actually harm not help them. Driving, for example. My parents refused to get me my own car during high school. It was super frustrating because I often had to wait around for them to pick me up from cheer practice and take me to work. They were not always on time (they will protest this fact) and I was tired, I just wanted to get home. They would sometimes let me borrow their vehicles for social time with friends and I loved that tiny taste of freedom. Even then I lied often to them about where I was going and was incredibly irresponsible.
I didn't officially get my own car until I was 22 years old. I can look back and see that I was not ready for all the responsibilities that comes when you own a vehicle... Payments, insurance, oil changes, replacing brakes, safe parking... In the moment is seemed like God was depriving me of a blessing, when in actuality He was looking out for me. Now I look back and wish I could have had a different perspective on it all. Instead of grumbling and staring at my phone comparing myself with others waiting for Dad to pick me up, I could have talked to someone who was also waiting for a ride and made a new friend.
Without my times in the valleys I would never learn to appreciate the views on the mountaintops, or my conversations with God along the way. There is beauty in the journey.
Life will have bumps along the way. I can't just ignore the current problems and put my hope in the next exciting thing in life. That won't fix the problems at hand. The next thing will also have problems of their own... How can I make the most of right here, right now?
God, you allow all things for a reason. Open my eyes, what are you trying to teach me right now?
"I will praise you on the mountains, and I will praise you when the mountain is in my way." - Hillsong United
22. Be Present.
One of my favorite parables in the Bible is the parable of the talents, or managers. There are two versions of it recorded in the gospels, Matthew 21 and Luke 19. This parable speaks of the gifts God gives us. He asks us to not live in fear but to go out into the world and use them. It doesn't matter if you have 1, 4, or 10 talents. The servants he gave money to went out into the world, invested them, and the quantity of their money doubled! So if you think that you only have 1 talent, try to engage that 1 talent with the world. God will reveal to you that you actually have more talents than you realize!
I had an honest moemnt with God when I was feeling discouraged about school. I knew I was taking a semester off, but I considered quitting college all together. I was practicing being still, talking to God, weighing out pros and cons, then this quiet voice (100% positive it was God) in my head said "Okay you can quit. But can you confidently walk away knowing you used all your talents to the best of your ability?"
I broke down right there and then.
I can't expect God to take me around the world to do big things if I can't be a good manager with the small responsibilities that He's given me here in Milwaukee first. I'm learning to be obedient. To find purpose in the waiting and trust in it. God can use me best when I am present, using my gifts right where my feet are at.
-- So that is my list. Thank you to the spiritual leaders in my life, dear friends, and family for your constant patience and support. Thank you for pointing me to Jesus. This last year has been incredible. I'm so grateful for each and every one of you --
I love music and connect my life events with it. Here's a Spotify playlist in case you too want to hear some powerful music related to all the points above.