A Letter to my Freshman Self

I’ve written a letter to my 13 year old self before, but this one is more of me reflecting back over high school since I just graduated this weekend — that’s also why I missed posting last week, but I’m back now!:)

Dear Freshman Taryn,

I know starting at a new private school sounds terrifying, but don’t worry or panic. I promise you’re going to love it! You’re going to meet your best friend, you’re going to have teachers that push you and teach you in ways you can’t even imagine, and you’re going to be changed more than you can imagine by these next four years of high school. 

You’re going to meet a lot of people right at first that you’ll want to impress. People that are popular and would be cool to be friends with. But you don’t have to be cool or pretty or have designer clothes to have real friends. Don’t be afraid to go sit with or talk to anyone you want to, but stick with the people that want to be around you even on the bad hair days. 

Do your homework, and please don’t put off all ten calculus lessons until the night before they’re due. But don’t put crazy pressure on yourself to be perfect. Other things in life are important too. Sure, getting straight As is amazing. But so are spending time with friends, playing in the praise band, working a job, and reading. Realize that striking a balance is important so that you don’t crash. It’s more important to do really well at all the things you choose to do than to focus all your energy on being perfect at one. 

Don’t take your opportunities for granted. On your graduation day, you’re going to wish you had spent more time getting to know your amazing classmates. You’re going to wish you could go back and do some things differently. But you won’t be able to. So right now, enjoy life and don’t take yourself too seriously. These four years will be hard, but they will be so amazing. Go get ’em, Taryn. You’re gonna do great things in this world. 

Sincerely,

My newly graduated self

Advertisements

The Importance of Community

Yesterday was my church’s Senior Sunday. As I stood at the front of the sanctuary, fighting back tears next to some amazing Jesus-loving goofballs, I started truly reflecting on what the church has meant to me over the past 18 years of my life.

I remember going on hayrides and singing Veggie Tales songs at the top of our lungs with these people when I was 9. I remember building a church on a mission trip with these people when I was 15, I remember singing with one voice to our Savior with these people, I remember losing a dodgeball tournament at camp with these people when I was 12, and I remember sitting in a circle with all my other senior girls last summer and crying for three hours because of how awesome Jesus is and how much He has worked in us as a group over the years.

There have been divisions. There has been drama. There were weeks, months, and even years where we let petty things come between us and neglected to function as the Biblical community that God has called us to be. But when we did live out that community, we were not only fulfilling God’s call, but we realized our lives were being fulfilled.

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” — 1 Corinthians 12:27

Being the body of Christ is not a burden, it allows us to live more effectively and abundantly by having all of the other parts of the body working with us. In essence, the rest of 1 Corinthians 12 explains that a hand or a foot or an eye off by itself is not worth much of anything, but when attached to a functioning body, it has a great purpose and value!

I remember my youth minister speaking on a Wednesday night during the spring of my freshman year. I remember him challenging all of us to resolve any enmities or dissensions between ourself and anyone else in the group. I remember making a list of 7 people that I needed to go apologize to or talk with about something that had come between us. The next 2 weeks were some of the most awkward and emotionally draining weeks of my life as I made my way down that list, but they were also some of the most freeing. So many broken relationships were restored, and two of those seven are now some of my very closest friends. For the first time I fully grasped the way church is supposed to be, the community we are supposed to share, and how amazing it feels to experience that without any tension or strife interfering.

Since then, I have made it a point not to allow jealousy, anger, or gossip permeate my relationships that way ever again. Sometimes that means confrontation in love, sometimes that means awkward conversations, but community free of hindrances is so worth it. Community that allows us to reach the full potential that Christ has for us. We can’t do it alone — we need people to pray for us, work alongside us, encourage us… And they need us! Whether that is a formal gathering in a church building, a group of Christians at school, or even you and a friend praying and reading the Bible together — start somewhere with living out your Christian walk not only as an individual, but as a part of community. It’s so worth it.

 

“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

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.

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