Joy is a Choice

What is joy? We probably all have a pretty good idea already, but humor me for a minute. 

The Bible has “The Love Chapter” (1 Corinthians 13) that lays out plenty of love is… statements. 

There’s also “The Faith Chapter” (Hebrews 11) that starts with “Now faith is…” 

But the Bible doesn’t lay out what joy is that plainly!! I’ve always known that joy is a deeper sense of happiness, knowing that God is taking care of me… but it wasn’t until recently that I learned what joy in my own life really looks like.

~~~

I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my youth minister last summer at church camp. I was miserable. I didn’t feel one ounce of joy, and I felt completely empty. I believed in God, I didn’t doubt that for a second, but aren’t Christians supposed to have joy? I was filled with guilt because I believed I was an awful Christian if I was incapable of having joy in my Savior. 

I remember him telling me that we don’t always feel joy. Then he prayed over me, and that was such a special and touching experience to me, but still, the weight of his words didn’t hit me. 

Joy is not a feeling!! I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that, but now the truth is right in front of me. 

Joy is knowing that God is control. Resting in the love and peace that He provides and choosing to let that be enough. 

“The joy of the LORD is your strength” — Nehemiah 8:10

Joy isn’t a feeling, but choosing to have joy often does fill me with peace and a feeling and sense of excitement, knowing that God is so faithful. It strengthens me and fills me, but how do I make sure I have joy?

Joy is a choice. I get to wake up in the morning and choose to remember that God is control. Choose to rely on His faithfulness. Choose to let that be more than enough, and then that joy really does start to strengthen me. 

Some days, choosing joy is easy. But some days, it takes a conscious, concerted effort. One thing I’ve really enjoyed doing in 2016 is keeping a “happy journal”

 This journal was started as a project based on Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts”. It’s just a simple list of things that make me smile in a day. For example:

  1. Having a great hair day
  2. Understanding the physics chapter
  3. Sweet texts from sweeter friends

It may seem small and insignificant, but choosing to be thankful, choosing to recognize God’s provison, choosing joy really does make a big difference. I have so many reasons to be thankful and constantly staying aware of them keeps my perspective right and makes life so much sweeter. 

Christians are called to have joy, but not to “feel” joy. I’m going to make this year about choosing joy deliberately. Will you join me?

“Rejoice in the LORD always, I will say it again: Rejoice!” — Philipians 4:4

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“Perfect Church Girl” doesn’t exist

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have my life all together! Not by a long shot. But I definitely fall into the “perfect church kid” stereotype. I’m at the church every time the doors are open, I play in the praise band, I’ve been a camp counselor, I know everyone there and they know me… but none of those things are synonymous with the word “perfect”. I’m really good at putting up facades. I’m really good at faking things. For the first fourteen years of my life, I let everyone believe I really was a pretty great kid. I hid the darkness in my life, and always smiled and knew the Sunday School answers to all the questions. But I was never vulnerable, I never let my guard down and admitted that I was struggling. And after hearing that I was “perfect” one too many times, I started feeling pressure to live up to that. 

My identity became being that “perfect church girl” I felt that was what I was supposed to be. I started believing that anything less was not acceptable. I was completely missing the point though. God doesn’t call us to be perfect through the world’s eyes. He calls us to follow Him. And that means admitting that we are not perfect!! Only in Jesus can we be made righteous. 

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is God’s gift. Not from works, so that no one can boast.” — Ephesians 2:8-9

Now, don’t get me wrong, God does call us to holiness. (Leviticus 20:26) We are called to do our best at everything to do for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:13, Colossians 3:17). But we aren’t doing any of this through our own power. And it’s not about what we do anyway. Being “perfect” isn’t a standard anyone can ever live up to. Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself or anyone else. Even the apostle Paul, who was stoned and persecuted for his faith, declared,

“But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ — the righteousness from God based on faith.” — ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:7-9‬ 

The goal isn’t perfection. “Perfect church girl” doesn’t exist, and it’s not the goal anyway. Don’t put pressure on yourself or anyone else to be that. Instead, focus your energy on following Jesus and living in His righteousness. Be willing to be vulnerable and admit that we aren’t perfect, that’s why we need God’s grace. And thankfully were drowning in His sufficient grace every day of our lives. Grace that covers our failures and shortcomings. Grace that covers all the times we are less than perfect. 

I used to let the fear of other’s opinions paralyze me. I was more worried that I would lose my “perfect” reputation that that I was living less than the abundant life God had planned for me. One night the summer before freshman year, all my facades crumbled. My youth group was on a mission trip, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t hold together my “perfect” image anymore. I made rash decisions that shattered my image and revealed how not together my life really was. I regretted it instantly, but not because I felt guilt for my sin. I regretted that my image and reputation could never be the same again. 

Now, I wish I could go back and not do the mean things I did that night, but God taught me so much through that experience. He taught me that my priorities were all twisted and while I thought I was living all for Him, I was really living all for myself. Living to be “perfect” is our selfish way of trying to win the world’s approval. I am more than guilty of that. But God has been revealing to me for four years now that “perfect” isn’t the goal. Living for Him, and admitting I’m hopeless without Him, acknowledging that I need His help and grace… That’s the goal. 

If I were to walk up to God on judgment day with a scot-free reputation but a dirty heart, He would see right through me. I need Him to cleanse my heart and make me new. And I have to humble myself and admit that my heart is a filthy mess without Him. I may be a “perfect church girl” by stereotype, but I don’t want to be that anymore. That doesn’t even exist. Don’t settle for a label or reputation less than the abundant life God has for you. He urges us to lay everything down before Him and live passionately pursuing Him, that’s how we find abundant life. So I’m laying down my reputation, I’m not going to focus on what others think, I’m going to try to be who God has called me to be and rely on His strength alone. Will you join me?

Makeup Isn’t a Bad Thing

I feel like there’s two messages about makeup being blared over the loudspeaker into the minds of teenage girls. The first one is…

You’re not pretty without makeup! You have to wear makeup to be beautiful, get attention, or be popular!

This is obviously ridiculous, and I think most girls recognize that, but the alternative is often…

Makeup is a mask that girls hide behind. True beauty means not wearing makeup and being confident in your appearance without it. 

Yes, I agree with parts of that, but there’s also parts I don’t agree with.

Growing up surrounded by Christian media with uplifting messages, I was constantly told I was “remarkably and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) which I completely agree with. But I constantly felt pressure to quit wearing makeup. This message caused me to worry that I wasn’t confident if I wore makeup, or that doing so meant I didn’t believe God made me beautifully.

It took me way too long to realize that that is not true!! I am fully confident in who God made me, I know that He made me amazingly and I am so thankful for it! And I enjoy wearing makeup. Those two statements do not contradict each other!

There’s days I go out of the house without an ounce of makeup on, today was one of them — I went to work, went to the mall, and felt great without makeup. And there’s days I love experimenting with ombré eyeshadow or bright lipstick. There’s days I want to look extra professional for giving a speech and so I wear eyeliner and red lipstick, and there’s days I braid my hair and run out the door without a second thought. And I’ve finally learned to be confident either way. To not feel guilty either way.

I understand that my true beauty is in my heart, and I also understand that makeup is not a bad thing. I’m confident either way in Jesus, but it’s okay to have fun with makeup sometimes:) I wish I could go back and explain all this to my 15-year old self overwhelmed by all the mixed signals the world gives, but hopefully I can encourage someone else so they don’t have to face the same struggles I did.

— Taryn

When Dreams Die

I laid on my bed sobbing uncontrollably. I’m generally an emotional person, but this was different. It felt like my life, my identity, my future, was all gone, and I didn’t have a clue how to get back up and keep going. Mononucleosis had been relentlessly ravaging my body for nearly a year. I spent that year fighting with every ounce of strength that I had. I didn’t take “no” for an answer and saw taking time to rest as failure. But at long last, it all caught up to me. I am not a superhero and I don’t have control over everything. —-

I started taking piano lessons when I was eight. I have an unmatched passion for music — every aspect of it. It is a vessel that God uses to bring me immense joy. I knew from the time that I was eight that playing piano, being involved in music in whatever capacity possible, was my dream. The May of my first year playing, I witnessed my first Senior Recital. I beheld the seniors playing as unobtainable, as perfect, as my life goal and dream. And I set out to make that dream a reality.

I was never a naturally gifted pianist. There’s things I’m good at, such as memorizing songs, or picking things out by ear, but technique was never my strong point. I practiced twice as long as it should have take before I could learn some basic things, but it was more than worth it to me. I set crazily high expectations for myself, and did absolutely whatever it took to achieve them. That taught me discipline, perseverance, and hard work that have stuck with me through all of my life.

By my freshman year of high school, I was practicing for about two hours a day, and starting to consider pursuing music as my college major and career one day. I talked with my teacher about what that would take, and was willing to do it. Anything to achieve my dream. That year I also got to know another senior pianist that reinvigorated my passion to be able to play like he could. I was willing to push myself to even more hours, even harder music… Anything. I had intense back pain, but I fought through it, all the while believing I could do anything with enough hard work.

Fast forward to fall of my junior year. I contracted mononucleosis in August, but thought that maybe I was just extra tired because of school starting and so I didn’t go to the doctor. By the time I finally went to the doctor three months later, I was beaten to a pulp. My body could hardly handle going to school in the mornings, much less practicing piano for several hours a day. I fought the impeding verdict for an entire year. Each day straining myself to practice as long as possible, but it was never enough. By last summer, the summer before my senior year, God made the truth painfully clear.

My dream of having a senior recital was over. My dream of a piano performance major was over. There was physically no way my body could withstand that kind of pressure and commitment. My dream that I had striven after for nine years seemed pointless. It seemed wasted. Why would God have let me spend thousands of hours doing something that was going to end in what I considered failure?

Slowly but surely, God began chipping down my walls of bitterness. He began revealing to me that my dream might be dead, but it wasn’t wasted. Spending so many years working so hard towards a goal taught me perseverance, taught me hard work, and taught me discipline. I learned to work with other musicians, and at the root of it all, I spent thousands of hours doing something I love. Those hours weren’t wasted. There were hard days, sure, when the last thing I wanted to do was practice. There were songs I despised playing. But there were so many more good days. So many more times that music was my therapy. So many more songs that I loved playing.

Music and piano are gifts God has given me. His intention wasn’t necessarily for me to use them as my career, but that’s okay. His intention was to bless me, and also to enable me to serve Him through something that I love. I’m never going to stop playing in whatever capacity God allows me to. I play for church, I play for fun, rarely does a day go by that I don’t sit down and play just because it makes me happy. My dream may have died when I realized I couldn’t have a Senior Recital or a Piano Performance degree, but my dream was not wasted. I don’t know exactly where my future leads now, but I’m confident that He does, and that’s more than enough for me.

Just Keep Walking

“God, please make Your will abundantly clear. Please give me peace about what You would have me to do.”
This is a prayer that I’ve prayed more times than I can count. With every twist and turn of life, I want to make sure I’m following the plans God has for me. I want to make sure my actions line up with His will for my life. That’s good, that’s the way it’s supposed to be… Right?

Well yeah, of course. But what happens when I don’t feel God’s divine voice speaking into a situation? Am I supposed to wait idly by until God decides to reveal to me exactly what I’m supposed to do? Am I supposed to wait until I haven’t the slightest sliver of doubt before I do something? I had honestly never thought about that until this past week. I was lying in bed praying that God would give me perfect peace about which path to take. And all of a sudden, God made something crystal clear. The right path to take… is the path where I keep walking.

My biggest fear has always been that I will do things outside of God’s will for my life. That I will somehow mess up His plan. But as my best friend likes to remind me, God isn’t going to fall off of His throne if I make a wrong choice. He’s still God, and He’s still faithful to work things for good. I realized that God wants me to keep moving, keep serving, keep loving, a lot more than He wants me waiting around to make absolutely sure I don’t make the wrong choice.

“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.” — Eric Metaxas

What I felt God was pointing out to me, was that Satan wanted me just standing here waiting. Not doing anything because I was scared of doing the wrong thing. Being an inactive Christian and not doing anything for the kingdom of God. But I know what God has called me to do. He doesn’t need to send a special revelation for me to know that. I know He has called me to love everyone, I know He has called me to make disciples, I know that He has called me to glorify Him in everything I do.

“Make Your ways known to me, LORD; teach me Your paths.” — Psalm 25:4

God has already made so many of His ways known to me through the example of His Son. Jesus is my example, and as long as I’m doing my best to follow Him, to go out of my way to serve and love passionately, I’m following Him.

If an opportunity is placed before me that I know lines up with what He says to do in the Bible, and that I have peace about doing for His glory, I’m ready to take it. Yes, I’m still going to pray first, but I’m not going to spend weeks and months wavering in uncertainty before I take the first step. I’m going to keep walking, and knowing that God can show me if I need to redirect my steps. I don’t want to be a Christian that does nothing for the kingdom anymore. I want to run towards Jesus. Whatever that looks like.

“Think about Him in all you ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.” — Proverbs 3:6

I’m a Social Media Hypocrite

I’m a social media hypocrite. If you were to scroll through my Instagram feed for the past several months, you’d think my life was all sunshine and rainbows. In a way, I’ve led you to believe that. And that’s a blatant lie. Now, don’t get me wrong, life is great. God is good, and those church events, concerts, and vacations really did happen. But so did a lot of other things. Scrolling through the pictures I’ve handpicked to put up on social media, you see highlights. You see good days. You see me trying to convince the rest of the world, and in turn myself, that life is great and that I’m content and joyful.
But there’s a lot you don’t see. You don’t see how exhausted and physically drained that great day made me. You don’t see that I couldn’t get out of bed for two days afterwards because I was so sick. No one knows that when I post happy throwback pictures, it’s because I’m trying to boost my own shattered self confidence and there’s not any current pictures on my phone. My feed doesn’t tell of the broken hearts, the hopeless doctors’ verdicts, or the anxiety attacks. No mention is made of rude customers at work, of failed Calculus tests, or of feeling isolated and alone.
Now I’m not saying this is wrong, I don’t think we have to, or necessarily should post all of our woes on the internet. I don’t think that would help much of anything, and frankly, I’m not too keen on sharing my hard days with a couple hundred people. But the problem is this — we are ALL social media hypocrites. Far too often, we forget that crucial fact.

“The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” — Steven Furtick

All I see of other people’s lives, is what they want me to see, what they choose to put out there, what makes them feel good about themselves. But what do I see of myself? I see every failure. I see every hard day. I see every headache and tear and insult. And I fall into the trap of comparison. I fall into the clutches of the nasty monster that is self pity. I start complaining and cease to be content with the life God has blessed me with.

Life is hard for everyone. Just because they put up a smiling picture doesn’t mean life is perfect or that they’re not hurting inside. We can’t take social media at face value anymore. All that’s doing is sparking envy, causing us to think we want what others have. Thinking we want their lives, when in actuality, we probably don’t. God has specifically equipped each person with the strength to take on the challenges He knows are in front of them. I’m not made to live your life and you’re not made to live mine. Instead of saying “oh poor me, I’m at home alone while so and so is out having fun with friends” we have to learn to be content with our own lives knowing that no one lives a picture perfect life.

“Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”” — Hebrews 13:5

I’m a social media hypocrite. And that’s okay. It’s fine that I pick and choose what parts of my life to broadcast to the world. As long as I realize that everyone is doing this. As long as I don’t compare the hidden parts of my life to the highlighted parts of someone else’s. Remember that the next time you scroll through social media. And remember that it’s more than enough to know that God will NEVER leave not forsake us. And then maybe, just maybe, we can put social media in its place and learn to be content and joyful with all that God has blessed us with.

What is True Love?

What is true love? Well, let me start by telling you what I know it isn’t. Love is not a feeling, because feelings change day in and day out and 1 Corinthians 13 clearly states that “Love never ends”. Now, I’ve always known in my head that love isn’t a feeling, but I didn’t realize until recently quite how diverse love really is. Love is based on actions. Love is putting someone else above yourself and being willing to do whatever it takes to take care of them. Love is wanting the absolute best for that person, and pursuing that selflessly. But that can look different for different people and at different times.

Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained. — C. S. Lewis

Love doesn’t always, and honestly rarely does, look like a knight in shining armor saving a damsel in distress. But even thinking realistically, in my day to day life, love takes many different forms. On days that I’m happy and life is good, I am receptive to my friends and family showing me they love me by saying kind and encouraging things, by planning fun things for us to do together, or by giving me hugs. But on days where I’m feeling my lowest, those things aren’t what I need. Sometimes I just need someone to sit quietly next to me while I cry or to listen to me rant for a while.

I’ve been overwhelmed this year with all of the different things that love looks like. It can take completely opposite forms at different times. Sometimes it means talking to someone for hours, and sometimes it means understanding that they aren’t ready to talk about something or are too busy to do so. Sometimes it looks like making a big deal out of someone’s birthday, while other times it means knowing that they just need calm and quiet.

Through all the ups and downs of life there’s a few things that I’ve learned are constant about love. Patience. Love always looks like putting the other person before yourself. The opposite of love is not hate, but rather selfishness. That always requires being patient and understanding. Stepping back and remembering that this person is so important to you and it’s more than worth it to be patient and loving.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” — 1 Corinthians 13:7-8

I’ve learned that I love lots of different people in lots of different ways, and that’s how God designed life in community to be lived out. I’m so blessed by the people God has surrounded me with, to share His love with and to be loved by. He’s shown me that He is the standard of true love, that true love was demonstrated for me on the cross, and that I need to strive to live with that kind of love every day. Selfless. Relentless. True.

17 Things I Learned While I Was 17

This post was inspired by Katie Gregoire’s YouTube video “What I Learned When I was 17” . That video really caused me to think about this past year and the many things God has been teaching me. It’s been a full year, and so many things have changed — I’m not the same person I was a year ago. For that, I am very thankful. I’m learning and growing and turning into the person God is calling me to be, and that’s an incredibly exciting process.
1. Change Can Be Positive — If someone were to ask me what my biggest fear is, my honest answer would probably be change. This year though, God has repeatedly reminded me of all the ways He can use change for good and has taught me to trust in Him more than I ever did before.

2. “Lay down what’s good, and find what’s best” — These are lyrics that from the bridge of the Johnny Diaz song “Breathe” that really resonate with my heart. Multiple times in the past year, God has asked me to lay down something that I didn’t want to let go of. I would argue back, “God! That’s a good thing! Why wouldn’t you want me to get rid of that!” But He’s been so faithful in gently reminding me that He doesn’t want me to live a “good” life but rather an abundant life. Life to the fullest. And only He knows what that truly looks like. So I should trust Him.

3. It’s okay to not be okay — Sometimes there’s hard days, and that’s okay. I learned that it’s okay to extend myself some extra grace sometimes and that I’m not a failure for having hard days.

4. Love comes in many different forms — I learned this year that love looks different for different people at different times. Sometimes it looks like giving advice and actively helping a person, while other times it looks like sitting with them quietly or holding them while they cry. Love doesn’t always look the same, because love is not one specific thing. Love is the action of putting that person above yourself and doing anything possible to ensure that they’re taken care of.
5. Makeup isn’t a bad thing — I like wearing makeup. I like trying different things with my eyeshadow and new lipstick colors. And that’s not bad or wrong. I used to feel guilty for always putting it on because I was “hiding how God made me” or “not confident”. But that’s the farthest from the truth! I go out of the house without makeup all the time, but I enjoy wearing it when I have time for it, and that’s okay! Makeup is a way for me to express myself, and that is totally fine. Makeup is not evil.

6. I’m beautifully flawed — God calls me to righteousness, to holiness, to be like His perfect Son. But I’m not perfect, and never can be, and He knows that. However, He is able to take my brokenness and make it into something beautiful. Through my flaws and failings, He’s able to work for good by allowing me to relate with others, allowing me to truly learn about His love and grace, and to be an example for why we need Him in our lives.

7. Some dreams die, that doesn’t mean they were wasted — This year, my whole life has turned upside down. Things I never thought I would quit, I had no choice but to quit. Things that had been my dreams for more than half my life suddenly were not options because of my health. I spent literally thousands of hours of my life on hobbies that were suddenly obsolete. But I don’t regret the time I spent. I don’t regret the joy that they brought me. I don’t regret the self discipline or the hard work that I learned. And just because my dream is gone, doesn’t mean God didn’t use that in my life.

8. Confidence doesn’t come from pleasing people — Confidence comes from being sure in your identity. Knowing who you are and knowing that is enough. You can never please everyone. Trust me, I’ve tried. It’s exhausting, and never works. It hair made me even more insecure. God taught me this year that I have to not worry about what they think, and instead be sure of who He has made me to be. Because He calls me loved and priceless and His. In Him, I am more than enough, and knowing that is how I have truly found my confidence.

9. This world needs Jesus more than I need anything — This hit me hard on Easter Sunday. This world is finite. My days here are limited. And when my life here is through, I have abundant life in eternity to look forward to. So why am I stressing about building a life for myself here? Everything I have should be poured into spreading the gospel with the limited time I have on this earth. I should be willing to sacrifice money, time, comfort, and everything else to make sure everyone has a chance to know Jesus and His saving power.

10. God doesn’t shine light on the whole path, just the next step — I am a planner. I want to see everything planned out perfectly on paper before I take the first step. But God doesn’t work like that. He calls us to have faith. He says “Go here” and doesn’t answer how, why, for how long, or any of the other dozens of questions filling my mind. He just says go. But He has always been faithful, and so its my job to go, and trust that He knows what He is doing.

11. To have strength to pour out to others, I have to let God pour into me — I learned his working as a camp counselor last summer. I was running off of 5 hours of sleep or less most days, and had six middle school girls looking to me for every need and also to be their role model and confidant. I had zero strength left by the end of the week. I didn’t want to have patience and didn’t feel like I had anything left to pour out to those girls. Then God showed me that I didn’t have that strength, but He did. I needed to allow Him to fill me with His strength so that I could share some of it with the people around me.

12. Joy isn’t a feeling — Joy is the fulfillment and peace that comes from knowing and trusting in God. It’s the absence of worry. It’s knowing that no matter what happens on this earth, Christ is coming back to claim the victory. Sometimes I don’t “feel” joyful. Sometimes life is hard and I want to burst into tears. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have joy. In this world, we will have trouble, but we can have joy knowing that God has overcome this world and that in the end, it’s all going to be okay.

13. God doesn’t follow the timeline the world wants to set for my life — I will be attending college next fall, and according to the world around me, admissions counselors, teachers, I should have figured out what university I was going to a long time ago. But you know what? I didn’t feel ready to make that decision until just two weeks ago. God kept telling me to wait, that He would show me. Now, I don’t know why He waited until March to show me, but I know that God’s timing is always best, and I can trust it, even if the world doesn’t like that answer. I don’t have to be panicked, He’s got it under control.

14. When I ask God to give me faith, He will, but it won’t be easy — I found the entry in my journal today. On May 22, 2015, I prayed that God would fill me with faith. That He would take me to a desolate place where I had to learn to rely on Him because He was all I had. Now, I don’t want to make my life out to be a horror story. My life is great. But a lot of crazy things have happened this year that I never would have expected. Changes I didn’t see coming, choices I knew I needed to make that I never would have thought I would make. And I know that God is answering my prayer. That answer has not been easy or fun. But it has grown my faith in Him in astounding ways, and for that, it’s been totally worth it.

15.  Think of reasons to be happy, not sad — Let’s be honest, we all have bad days. There’s days I want to just wallow in self pity. Days that I want to think I have a reason to be selfish because of all the bad things going on in my life. But even if I let myself believe that, my situation isn’t going to change. I can’t change my circumstances, but I can change my attitude. Instead of making a list of all the bad things going on and the reasons to pity myself, I’ve learned to count my blessings. Even if it sounds small and insignificant. Sometimes when I get in the car after a long day at work, all I can think of to be thankful for is “Thank you, God, that my car has gas in it.” Or “Thank you, God, that it’s over now” but giving thanks for even small things can change my attitude very quickly, and it’s so worth it.

16. God gives the strength for each day as I come to it — God didn’t drop all the strength I need for my whole life at my feet on the day I was born, He instead gives each ounce of strength as I need it, causing me to need to rely on Him every day.

17. Praying out loud over someone is so powerful — I’ve experienced this multiple times this year. One of the best things I’ve ever experienced having someone do for me is pray over me. Prayer in and of itself is so powerful, but there’s something special about praying out loud over someone else. I’ve been on both ends of this kind of prayer, and it’s incredible every time. It can feel awkward at first, but it’s so amazing.

All in all, I’m seeing a common thread running through what God has been teaching me this year — trust Him, and have faith. He wants me to know that He has everything under control, whether that’s college, relationships, my health, confidence, strength… I can trust Him with all of it. I’m so looking forward to the next year of my life. I know it’ll probably not be anything like I expect, but I know that God will keep being faithful, and that’s really all I need to know. 18, bring it on:)

A Letter to my 13-year old self

Hey,

You’re gorgeous! There will be days that you don’t feel like it — but God made you remarkably and wonderfully! Your life will change a lot in the next few years — you will find new things that you love doing and things that you never imagined will change… will change. But I can promise you some things — God is faithful. He really does have a great plan for you. At the time it won’t always feel like it, but keep trusting Him. When you look back in a few months — you’ll see that His ways really were best.

Enjoy the next few years. Don’t take your friends for granted! There will be times that you don’t feel like anyone wants to be around you, I promise that isn’t true. You’re amazing, you’re loved, and people are so blessed by you. People make mistakes and some people will get mad for no reason. Just be quick to love, quick to forgive — you’re a great friend, never forget that.

Life will fly by, enjoy every day and spend them making memories. Take a million pictures, laugh and dance and be crazy, be yourself! It’s so much more fun that way, and I promise your real friends will still love you. Talk to your mom. Take crazy selfies with your siblings. Do your best, but DON’T stress over one bad test grade. That’s not what will matter in the long run. Keep praying and listening to God. Life will be hard, but He will NEVER let you go.

Sincerely,

Taryn

It’s okay NOT to be okay

 

 

 

“Hold it all together, everybody needs you strong…”

 

These are the opening lines to one of my favorite songs “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns. Honestly, that’s how I feel about life most of the time. Like I’m not allowed to fall apart, I have too many people counting on me. I need to be a good sister, daughter, employee, friend, band member, student, and so many other things… All while having a smile plastered on my face because as a Christian, I’m supposed I be joyful. But you know what? Sometimes I don’t feel very joyful. Sometimes I’m falling apart on the inside, and sometimes, I don’t have the strength to fake it one second longer. As the next line of the song says

“But life hits you out of nowhere, and barely leaves you holding on”

Sometimes, God is calling us to put on a smile and keep going. And I’m not saying that we should make our life into a pity party. But it is okay to admit you’re struggling. It’s okay to
need help. To need rest. Some nights, it really is okay to need to scoop a bowl of Blue Bell and collapse in bed at 7pm. And some days, it’s okay to not be the strong one and instead admit that you’re hurting. To ask for help and prayer and let down the facades for a while. It can be tough to be vulnerable, and it’s easy to feel like that’s weakness. Like we’re not supposed to let ourselves have problems. Like we’re supposed to push through and not let them bother us. But that’s definitely not the case.

Throughout the first half of my junior year of high school, I was extremely sick with mononucleosis. It should have put me out of commission, but I didn’t want to let it. I wanted to prove that I could keep working, keep going to school, keep playing in the praise band… But in reality, I couldn’t. And although I though I was “being strong” and “being a fighter” I was actually hurting myself all the more. It took hitting rock bottom where I could barely climb out of bed to be willing to admit I wasn’t okay. To be willing to ask for time off work. To be willing to tell my friends I was the furthest thing from okay. And you know what? Sometimes that’s okay.

Sometimes I still have awful days. Whether it’s physically, emotionally, or some crazy combination of the two, there’s days I need some extra grace. And that’s okay. You don’t have to pretend you have everything together, no one does. Some days you’re going to need a nap, and you know what, God knows that. He made us to need rest, and He’s going to keep being faithful when we take some. Be willing to take that first step, admit you can’t do it anymore and fall on His grace, I promise it’s more than sufficient.

“When you’re tired of fighting, chained by your control, there’s freedom in surrender, lay it down and let it go”