What I Got for Christmas

Most likely, the title of this post has you all fooled into thinking I’m going to list off the shirts and books and jewelry that my loving friends and family got me for Christmas. And although I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that, and I’m extremely thankful to each and every one of the special people in my life, I want to take a different approach to this. 
Over the past year, God has blessed me with more amazing gifts than I can count. 

* Relationships 

“Two are better than one… for if one falls, the other can help him up.” — Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

God has most certainly filled my life this year with people that help pick me up when I falter. Life has been a whirlwind, but I haven’t had to face any of it alone. 

* Health

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

To be sure, I am not fully healed. But a year ago, I wouldn’t have imagined being able to handle the semester I just made it through. I still have a ways to go on learning to be healthy and eat better and get my strength up, but God is proving so, so faithful. 

* Direction

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. Think about Him in all your ways, and He will direct you on the right paths.”

A year ago, I was halfway through my senior year. And thought I knew what my future plans were, but boy was I wrong! Thankfully, God’s plans are so much higher than mine could ever be (Isaiah 55:9) and He showed me exactly what they were in His perfect timing.

* Opportunities

From starting this blog, to being in a university program where I can work on my Bachelors and Masters at the same time, this year has been full of blessings in the way of opportunities. I’m learning not to take them for granted and to appreciate all the things God is doing around me. 

—–

Isn’t it ironic that on the day we celebrate the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we are the ones receiving the gifts? And yet He continues to pour out blessings and all we have to return to Him is our lives and our praise. It may not be much in the comparison to all His radiance and glory, but I want to focus on it more nonetheless. 

Thank you, LORD,  for this beautiful year, and for the hope and joy You bring through Christmas. May I never take for granted what You sent that very first Christmas, and may it impact my life forever. Amen. 


— Taryn

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I Can Never Do Enough

This world is so, SO broken. 

It’s hitting me hard today. 

I’m around so many hurting people, and although my heart is breaking for them, the reality is that I can do so little to help. And that’s hard. 

I can’t solve their problems, can’t bring back their lost loved ones, and for some reason a smile or picking up their dinner bill just never seems like enough. 

I can’t do enough. I can never do enough. 

God calls us to “look after the orphans and widows in their distresses” (James 1:27), but I don’t have the capability to really help them. 

But wait. 

Who does have that capability and that power?

God does. 

How am I so quick to forget? It’s not my job to heal and save and restore. That’s His job. He has asked me to be a vessel through which He demonstrates His love. God wants me to love through the strength and power He provides, but He is the only One that can truly fix this broken world. 

Everything I do seems meaningless in the grand scheme of things. But every little thing I do can serve a bigger purpose if I use it to point back to Jesus, to show those around me where hope really comes from. 

Hope doesn’t come from me. I can’t offer anyone hope that comes from myself, but I can invite them to experience the hope that I have that can only come from Jesus Christ. 

I want to learn to throw off the mentality of wanting to do it all myself. I want to humble myself and realize how much greater God is and how much more He can do than I could ever dream. I want to let Him do the miracles and be amazed and honored that He allows me to be a small part of them. 

I can never do enough. But He can and already has. And that’s what’s really important. 

When the Music Fades

I filmed this two summers ago when I was in the fullness of my music life. And I look back at this now, often with tears, because it chronicles so much of my music journey. These seven songs span five of the years of myself chasing after my music dreams and giving it my all. And even though that door closed, and many tears were shed, I can look back on this and smile too. Because even though I can’t play like that anymore — not two hours a day, not professionally, I can still play with that passion for my Savior. It’s all for Him and it’s always going to be, and no matter whether I lose the health or the technique or the career, I never have to lose the heart that made me love it in the first place.

Thank You, LORD, for music and the way You have used it to reveal Yourself to me all throughout my life. Thank You for giving me an outlet to use to praise You. May Your praise ever be on my lips for now and forever, Amen.

— Taryn

Living for Every Second

There has never been a time in my life when I was patient.

I’m not patient waiting in lines or being the car that can’t quite make it through before the light turns red.

I’m not patient when my professor takes twenty minutes explaining a concept that he could have covered in five.

And I am not by any means patient about waiting for the future to get here.

When I was a little kid, my favorite number was always the age I was going to turn next. I was always looking forward to what was next — the next grade, learning the next thing, growing a couple more inches.

But this anticipation stole my contentment with where I was at. Since I was so busy looking to what was next, I never slowed down long enough to enjoy where I already was. To enjoy what God was blessing me with right now.

And I didn’t outgrow that when I turned 10… or 13… or 18. I’m still impatient and discontented, and I think I’m starting to realize why.

We don’t see the pain in the future, we only see the pain around us right now. And when we get small glimpses of the future we get the good ones, not the bad ones. When I got to hold my cousin’s baby over Thanksgiving break, nothing in me wanted to go back home to college finals and projects. I got immensely impatient for the years down the road when I am done with college and have kids of my own.

But that season of life, as amazing and sweet as it will be, will have struggles too. All I saw was a few hours of holding a sweet baby, I didn’t see the sleepless nights while he was teething, I didn’t see the tantrums or the endless diapers to change and laundry to do. I didn’t see that that phase of life will have sickness just like this one does. There will be job struggles, financial struggles, relationship struggles, and health struggles just like there are now.

And here’s what else, I’m living a part of life right now that I always dreamed of growing up. I’m old enough to drive and have my own car and the freedom to go do things with friends when I want to. I’m at an amazing university studying a field I am passionate about under professors who hold a wealth of information. I have some of the best and closest friendships that I’ve ever had and for the next few months, almost all of my best friends still live right here at home. Life is good, and yet I tend to focus on the negatives.

I tend to get impatient.

But God keeps gently nudging at my heart, Taryn, enjoy what I’ve blessed you with right now.

In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of being content, whether well fed or hungry. Whether in abundance or in need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” — Philippians 4:11-13 (HCSB)

I can do everything through Him. The good days, the bad days, and everything in between. 

I have one life to live on this earth. And as much of it as it may seem like I still have in front of me right now, it’s going fast. I don’t want to wish my life away. I want to live passionately and purposefully and enjoy every day. I want to make every day count and point people towards Jesus with every second that He gives me.

I don’t want to be impatient for the future and miss right now. With every second that passes goes another chance and opportunity that I will never get back. I don’t want to take that for granted anymore. I don’t want to focus on all the negatives in my day and neglect to focus on all of the joy. I don’t want to miss right now and all the treasures that this time of my life holds.

I want to learn to be content, to learn to focus on all the blessings around me, and to live life for every second, not just in the future, but right now. 

Taryn

 

10 Things I Learned My First Semester in College

Hey everyone!

So technically, I’m not done with college until next week, but as I’m in the midst of finals and projects and all of that fun stuff *not* I had all of these things bouncing around in my mind and wanted to go ahead and get them out there:) Some are basic college tips, some are about life and growing up, and as always, God has revealed some pretty awesome things to me about Himself as well. Thank you to everyone who has come on this journey with me through reading my thoughts a couple times every week, you’re brave 😉 Here we go!
1. Use Rate My Professor — Just do it. Of course it’s beneficial to stay away from the bad professors, but also, look around and figure out who those professors are that you just have to have. This may be just me, but it’s much easier to get myself up and to class in the morning when I’m actually excited for the lectures. I have two professors whom I absolutely love and that gets me to class on days I really don’t want to go.

2. You have to be proactive about making friends — In high school, especially going to a small private school, making friends came naturally. Here on a campus with 30,000 people, I could easily go all semester without speaking to anyone *guilty as charged* I told my Mom I have one and two-half friends on campus, and even that is a stretch. Honestly, I know some of my professors better than any classmates! I’m pretty upset with myself and how I let this semester get away from me. Be willing to start conversations, get to know the people around you, it won’t just happen if you don’t put any effort in.

3. Go to office hours and ask questions — I already mentioned that my two “best friends” on campus are professors, and this may sound really nerdy, but talking to professors excites me so much!! They are such smart people! I love asking questions after class or going to office hours to talk about things in more depth. They love when students come to talk to them about things other than makeup exams and late assignments. Take advantage of the wealth of knowledge at your disposal!

4. I’m no longer a slave to fear — I have sang these lyrics for years, but honestly sang them without much thought. It seemed like a no-brainer because I had never felt enslaved to fear in the first place. Until this semester. I have no idea how or why, but anxiety has been taking hold of my life bit by bit this semester. And honestly, it seems like it is still getting worse before it gets better. The littlest things can set me completely off, and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night absolutely sure that something terrible has happened. I worry about anything and everything, and yes, I know the Bible says “do not worry” 365 times. But when I go into panic, I have no control over that. I make myself physically sick and life seems completely and utterly overwhelming.

Now all that sounds really negative and not at all like something I’ve learned this semester. But God has been right here leading and guiding me through. Even though I can’t always feel His presence. He keeps reminding me through His words and promises that His grace is still more than sufficient, He has a hold of me and is never letting me go, and although Satan wants me to be afraid, I am no longer a slave to fear. He has called me by name and I am His. I am His child, and nothing can ever change that. He wants me and loves me just as I am, anxiety and all. And that is something worth rejoicing and celebrating about.

5. Don’t take all your classes on one day — Especially seven. Don’t do seven classes in one day. Because inevitably exams and group projects come up and you will be at school for 14 hours straight. I won’t make that mistake again.

6. You’re not a failure — In a way, these next three all flow together. I have always been a perfectionist and put way to much pressure on myself. But I finally had to realize that I’m not a failure by Christ’s standards. I can’t make everyone happy. Not my friends or family or professors or even myself — and that’s not the goal. The goal is to pursue Christ with everything I’ve got and let that be enough. And when I do that, “failing” is irrelevant.

7. Push yourself, but give some grace too — I had to realize this semester that I couldn’t push myself in absolutely every area or I was going to crash. I pushed myself to take a lot of classes, so I had to realize I couldn’t beat myself up if I couldn’t keep a 4.0. There’s balance in life. I worked incredibly hard and studied for all my exams, but some nights I just needed to read and eat ice cream and forget about it all for a few hours. You won’t survive without the grace, so don’t feel guilty for it.

8. To say no! — Yes, that extra Bible Study on Thursday nights would be great. Yes, going to the grocery store every single week would help my family out a lot. Yes, I would love to be able to take my siblings to McDonald’s and the library all the time. My two best friends are captains of their soccer and basketball teams and I would love to be at all of their games. But I can’t do everything. Even all the good things. Even all the things I want to do. So sometimes I have to step back and say no to things, even good things, so that I can say yes to the things that are really most important.

9. Group projects aren’t pretty – -True story. I have a group project due on Monday for a group that has seven people in it. We had our first meeting three weeks ago and four people showed up. The next three still haven’t ever done their parts. Some people don’t care, some people never text back, and that’s going to have to be okay. You aren’t responsible for all of them, just do your best and let it go:)

10. God has already won — In a song by my favorite band, Anthem Lights, they sing Our King has won the war, He reigns forevermore, Hallelujah Hallelujah

The lyrics are simple but so true. God has displayed that truth in my life over and over this semester. When I struggled with health issues, He reminded me that He was the ultimate healer and His ways are so much higher than my own (Isaiah 55:9). When I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks, He reminded me that He was my peace and He was never ever leaving me (Isaiah 26:3). When Satan threatened to attack, when I ran out of time to study for my math exam, when everything around me tried to knock me down… God had already won. He is so much bigger than anything I faced this semester and then anything I will ever face. He speaks victory over me, and I get to live in that victory every day for the rest of my life.


Wow, as much as I wanted to share all of this with you guys, it also reminds me of how faithful my God is and makes me realize how much He has brought me through and taught me over these past four months. I can’t wait to take on whatever He has next, however crazy, I know that His grace will be more than sufficient for all of it.

Taryn

Will It Ever Be Enough??

I’m really good at playing the Thanksgiving game.

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“What are you thankful for?”
God, family, friends, health, education…
*10 minutes later*
Making my Christmas list, complaining that the wifi is slow, asking if we seriously ran out of milk. 

—-
Wow. We laugh it off by calling them “first world problems” and attempting to justify our lack of thankfulness. But changing how we label it doesn’t change what it is.
Discontentment.

Selfishness.

Entitlement.

I like the idea and thought behind Thanksgiving. I’ve written posts in the past about thankfulness and choosing to have joy which I still completely agree with. But a fault I’ve started recognizing in myself is that I tend to convince myself I’m “being thankful” when in actuality, my heart is far from it.

“In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content. Whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” — Philippians 4:12 (HCSB)

Contentment. Joyful contentment. I think that’s the key. Not just being thankful for what we have, but letting that be enough. Not pining after or basing our happiness on what is next, on what will satisfy our earthly longings for one more day. But rather digging wholeheartedly into our Savior who is more than enough for us.

This world will never be enough.

All things are wearisome; man is unable to speak. The eye is not satisfied by seeing or the ear filled with hearing.” — Ecclesiastes 1:8 (HCSB)

I like to convince myself that I am being thankful, I can make my list of things I’m thankful for a mile long, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. Honestly, it helps my attitude a lot to think about things I am grateful for. But I have let it become a ritual an routine and the true joy and contentment that I am supposed to have in Christ has faded into extinction. I am often “thankful” because I am supposed to be, all the while taking for granted all that I have and all that God has blessed me with.

What kind of message is that sending to God and to this world?

God, You aren’t enough. You sent Your Son to be brutally killed for my sake even though I could never deserve it. You have gifted me with life and loving family and friends around me. BUT that’s not enough. I want more. I think I deserve more. Can’t you just make my life easy?

Wow. I would never verbalize it in that fashion, but is that not what I’m saying? I wouldn’t ever want to be that way. I wouldn’t ever want to be that selfish and shallow. And yet I am and I’m not even noticing it because I am still “being thankful”.

“And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.” — Colossians 3:15 (HCSB)

As long as I keep living with fake gratitude, I will never think anything is enough. I will always feel entitlement and contempt. But God has already provided so much more than enough. His gifts, are more than I could ever need. His faithfulness is everlasting. I want to start living in recognition of that. I want to live in recognition of the fact that I do have enough, and I want to live consciously in awe and amazement of what my Savior did for me. Because that… is so much more than enough. And that’s what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving.

 

— Taryn

We Crown HIM Lord of All

“All hail the power of Jesus’ Name
Let angels prostrate fall
Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown Him Lord of all”

I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but our country is in the middle of an election right now.

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Voting has started already and will carry on until next Tuesday night when this whole chaotic roller coaster will come to its climactic end.

Regardless of the election results next Tuesday, on January 20th America will inaugurate her 45th president.

Regardless of the election results next Tuesday, I am saddened about the direction in which our country is currently going.

Regardless of the election results next Tuesday, our country is neither going to be spontaneously combusted nor resurrected.

How do I know that?

Because regardless of the election results next Tuesday, the one and only true King is coming back on the clouds to reign victorious, and I am going to root my hope in that for all eternity.

I voted already, and I have a preference on who wins this election, but I am not putting my hope in that person. Maybe we can make American great again by being stronger together.

And maybe not.

“And behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” — Daniel 7:13-14 (ESV)

In Daniel’s prophetic vision, he saw Jesus being given power and dominion and authority over this whole world. It has all been His since the beginning anyway. We may try to give power on warth to fallible people, but no amount of earthly power is significant whatsoever when compared to the vastness and awesomeness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On Januray 20th, 2017, we will “crown” someone in Washington. But Jesus Christ doesn’t need us to crown Him in order to receive His power.

“He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior” — Acts 5:31a (NASB)

We have the choice whether or not to vote next Tuesday. And if we do decide to vote, we have four names that we can choose to check the box for. And most of all, we have the choice of whether to crown Jesus Christ as LORD of our hearts.

Inevitably, whether we vote or not, a president will be chosen.

Inevitably, whether we vote or not, the candidate with the highest number of electoral college votes will win the election.

Inevitably, whether we crown Jesus LORD of our hearts, He is already LORD of All.

He is already the LORD of Heaven and earth. He has already proven Himself mighty and victorious over sin, death, and hell. He has already established His rule and reign. But He still leaves it up to us as to whether we are going to accept that. We can choose to make Him LORD of our lives or to ignore His presence and power.

As for me, I chose over eleven years ago to claim Jesus as LORD of my life. I chose to acknowledge the truth that He already is LORD of All. And now, when this crazy election season attempts to pull the rug out from under us, when Satan (or social media) wants to convince us that we have no hope, when things look bleak and hopeless, we don’t have to live under that. Because this world is not our home and although we live in the land of the free here on earth, we are looking forward to Heaven, hoping in our Savior, and secure in Him no matter what this world throws at us.

So yes, go vote, and yes, I’m gonna be up half the night on Tuesday watching election coverage. But no matter what happens, HE already reigns victorious, and that’s more than enough for me.

— Taryn

Being a Steward of Strength

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” — 1 Peter 4:10

Growing up in church, I heard the words “steward” and “stewardship” get thrown around a lot. Usually, people use them in reference to money. You are a good steward of your money if you use it wisely and in a way that would glorify God. When we are really stretching our minds, we say that we should be a good steward of our time or our possessions. Using them in the most astute manner as to please the LORD. But when I was lying in my bed one day extremely sick, I felt God nudging me saying, “Taryn, I need you to be a better steward of your strength.”
“Wait, umm God, I know You know what You are talking about, but what do you mean a good steward of my strength? I’m doing everything I can with my strength to glorify You, isn’t that what You want?”

I’ve told the story before of having mono and all the long term affects that has had on my health, my life plans, and everything else. My game plan through the whole thing was to try to prove someone or something wrong. Whether that was the doctors, people who told me I couldn’t keep doing everything, or the diagnosis itself. I wanted to prove that I could still juggle high school, working, pursuing a professional piano career, volunteering at church and school, my social life, and everything else. Well guess what? I couldn’t. But I adamantly refused to admit that until I was flat on my back unable to move for two days just because I went to the park with my friends.

Still, I was determined to do everything that I possibly could and never stop to rest when I could have been doing something for the kingdom of God. It took God completely knocking me out of commission to get a point across. 

“Taryn, you need to be a better of steward of your strength”

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” — 2 Corinthians 12:9

Sometimes, God doesn’t give us abundant strength. But He always gives us what we need for what He has in store for us. What would happen then if we wasted all of that strength before we got to what God wanted us to use our strength on? That’s what I have been convicted of so often recently. 

My mentality has been to use up every last ounce of strength that I have or “hit the bed hard” as my youth pastor likes to say. But here’s the problem, I’m using the strength just because I have it and then I run out… and then I completely miss what God wanted to do through me. 

When I wake up in the morning and jump out of bed and run errands just to prove I can, I waste all my energy and make myself sick. Then that night when God asks me to go help out a friend who needs encouragement, I can’t because I’m too sick to get out of bed. 

So yes, God asks me to do things for Him. And He gives me the strength for them, He promises His grace is more than sufficient, but that doesn’t mean I can’t waste that strength. I want to learn to be a good steward of the strength I do have and use the gifts God gives me the ways He wants. Time, money, resources… and strength. 

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.