Unfiltered: because the world needs more vulnerability.

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i.

 

It has been much too long since I have sat myself down to write. In the past months, exhausting and chaotic as they have been, I have lived.

 

I have mourned things that would never come to be. I have both sat on the floor of my room sobbing for hours, as well as driven myself to the beach in the middle of winter to dance with joy, alone on the shore, letting my feet be tickled by the ocean waves.

 

I have spent countless hours with friends, working through relationship issues and talking through breakups. I have attended Bible studies, and I have made too many commitments. I have scrubbed floors and washed thousands of dishes and cooked too many complicated dinners.

 

I have stayed up late to get work done, and gotten up with the sun some mornings. I have slept through too many of my alarms, eaten too much ice cream, spent too many hours on social media, and then realized how empty I really felt.

 

I have gotten on planes and braved hours of traffic to hug precious friends from all over, and have gone to coffee shops by myself and pored over my laptop with an overpriced cappuccino trying to force myself to absorb information. I have passed exams, and I have failed them. I have lived up to my own expectations, and I have failed myself too.

 

I have lived with a free and contented heart, rejoicing in both the goodness of God and the sweetness of my circumstances, and I have laid in bed late at night and realized the depression I thought I had beat and the loneliness that came along with it never truly went away.

 

I have prayed apathetically and worshiped sporadically. I have studied the Bible intensely, and I have pleaded with God wildly.

 

I have read books. I have gone exploring. I have lost people I was holding too tightly onto, and have grieved over the people I have disappointed.

 

And in all of that, through the joys and the sorrows, I have become exhausted – too tired to let myself think, but in not letting myself contemplate, become even more drained with the seemingly meaningless chaos my life has consisted of.

 

ii.

 

I find a script in my head, a list of the things I say to myself to manage it all. Something to settle the cognitive dissonance, to translate the confusion into something I thought I could swallow:

 

I tell myself I am all alone.

I tell myself I have to be strong, independent, guarded, and fearless.

I tell myself that love is for everyone else, but not for me.

I tell myself I am not enough, I am not wanted, I am too much.

 

So what do I fill my life with more of? More Facebook (newsflash: social media is NOT good for the soul). More Netflix (oh, all it does is distract). More striving to be someone I think I have to be (living another’s life and calling is completely wearying). More commitments (why do I think I have to be so busy?). More friendships forged in my own strength (ah, but to live out of obligation and not out of love serves no one).

 

In all of this, I have discovered something about myself – something uncomfortable and unbeautiful, but something so integrally part of me nonetheless: I have always lived in pursuit of something.

 

In shameless pursuit of something else, something more, something bigger and better or maybe even worse, but something.

 

In sixth grade I created a plan to be done with high school math and teaching myself calculus by eighth grade. That never happened, but I was so, so determined, and I felt like a horrible human being for not reaching the ridiculous goal I set before myself. Achievement was my addiction.

 

In seventh grade I was consumed with memorizing Scripture, with bringing my friends to youth group with me, with making sure I brought my Bible every week. I made sure I was always wearing shorts that went down to my knees, never anything form-fitting and especially never sitting next to or hugging boys. My rigid, exaggerated version of holiness was my vice, and I thought I was succeeding.

 

In ninth grade, I created a plan to read the entire Bible, four chapters a day, starting in January and finishing in October. While the discipline of reading Scripture was good for my heart, I fell into a pattern of obsessive obligation, not reading about my Lord because I loved Him.

 

The very same year, I’d skipped the grade before and told myself I’d be done with high school at sixteen and college at eighteen. I was pursuing my depiction of success at the expense of my sanity, and ended up dropping a class and a half because they were eating away at my soul and I was finding myself in a puddle of tears at midnight at least once a week.

 

I pursued being good. I pursued being smart. I pursued having everything all together, being everything to everyone, being right and sweet and a slave to perfectionism.

 

In eleventh grade, my world was rocked and I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was not seen or known, and I did not know if I was loved. I was afraid to embrace all of who I was. And it was then, I think, that I really let myself hang onto grace, because it was all I had left.

 

iii.

 

I read 1 Corinthians 12:9 over and over, internalizing what this verse meant for me, for my faith, for my life.

 

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

 

I had quoted this verse for years. I had written it on index cards. I remember walking upstairs to my room one day years ago, this verse echoing in my head, and thinking, “But what does that even mean?”

 

I had lived so long with the idea that grace was not for me. Sure, it covered my salvation, but in return, I had to live the identity of the good girl in return.

 

But when I finally realized how imperfect I was, I reached for grace. When I realized how weak I was, I reached for grace. And I found it.

 

But I wasn’t prepared for the creeping lies of perfectionism and depression to visit me again.

 

Here’s what I’m learning in the midst of the mess: when we listen to the lies that tell us we’re not enough or we’re too much, that we have to be everything to everyone, that we are a burden to those around us, that we are not loved and we are on our own and that the desires of our heart will not be met by God, we are not accepting the fullness of what grace offers. Because while Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection happened once two thousand years ago, grace is not limited to one historical event.

 

Grace says, you are not good enough on your own, but because of Christ, you are whole, you are clean, you are renewed in all the fullness of life and the Spirit of the living God lives inside of you. And therefore, you ARE good enough. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:11)

 

Grace says, you are never without hope because Jesus Christ came to give us abundant life, whether in this world or in Heaven. (John 10:10)

 

Grace says, the perfection you long for on this earth is met in Him, and while the desire for perfection exists because we were designed in total goodness, even though this world is broken all perfection is achieved in Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 10:10)

 

iv.

 

I think we’ll always have pieces of our life we don’t like that we have to deal with, something I refer to loosely as ‘our things.’ We all have our things that hold us back, that keep us up at night, that we can let hold us captive. Maybe it’s anxiety, or despair, or perfectionism, or bitterness, or hopelessness, or fear. Whatever your thing is, the part of you that you hate bringing out into the open because vulnerability is uncomfortable and it’s easier to smile and make it look like you’ve got everything all together, the battle to overcoming begins with a complete acceptance of grace.

 

It’s waking up in the morning and saying, “Lord, I know You love me. Thank you for giving everything for me.”

 

Fill your days and your mental scripts with small prayers like mini letters to the Creator of the universe, words penned in the heart, held firmly onto even when it’s hard to see and breathe.

 

“On my own, I’m not enough. But You make me enough, God, so thank You.”

 

“I am wearied by life, Jesus, so thank You for bearing my burdens.”

 

“Life feels so hard right now, but I thank You that You have overcome the world and I’m never hopeless in You.”

 

“Thank You that You see me as clean and new and right in Your sight. It’s hard to feel, but I know it’s true, so help me believe it, my God.”

 

“Faithful You have been, and faithful You will be. Help me hold onto this truth, Lord, that You’ve never forsaken me, and You never will. Thank You.”

 

I am convinced that the acceptance of grace is wild and messy and filled with thousands of thank-you-Lord prayers over and over, even when God’s presence is hard to feel in the moments of grief and uncertainty and exhaustion. It is reading Scripture when we do not feel like it, because the Lord is so, so good, regardless of our emotions. It is staying rooted in the Word of God so our minds are renewed in the reality of His goodness and faithfulness.

 

v.

 

Right now, I’d like to wrap this up in a neat little bow and say I’ve got it all figured out now, but I don’t. I’d like to say it’s as simple as praying for five minutes and reading a chapter of the Bible each day, but if it were, none of us would still be struggling.

 

But here’s what I do know:

 

God has not abandoned you, nor forsaken you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

God looks at your soul and feels only love towards you. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

When you wonder if you’re enough, you are, because in Jesus, all his holiness and goodness has been credited to your account. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

You have permission to fully live out the uniqueness of the person God created YOU, individually and specifically, to be. (Psalm 139:13-16)

There is nothing you can do to earn grace – it is not a loan that needs paying back, but a free, underserved gift that’s completely, totally yours for the taking. (Titus 3:4-7)

 

And know this – unpopular and heretical as it may sound, hear this out – if you did absolutely nothing to change your life after meeting Jesus, if you only believed on His name for salvation and nothing else – you are still just as saved as if you had lived a life of ceaseless devotion. The love of Jesus is not conditional, nor do we have to pay for some maintenance plan to ‘keep grace.’ (Ephesians 2:8-9)

 

If grace is dependent on us, it is not grace. If unconditional love is based on our works, it is not unconditional. If the love of God is earned, it is not a gift, but a business transaction.

 

I want to invite you into a space of vulnerability here – to open the platform for us all to say, We don’t have it all figured out, but we’re resting in the God Who does.”

 

If you’ve ever been caught up in the game of pursuit, of going after that next thing either because you think it’ll make you content or just that you have to in order to be enough, I want to invite you into what I’m walking through. I want to invite you into a life of resting in Jesus, above all else, because He has already pursued you and all you have to do is reach out your hand and say, “I accept your grace and I want to dance in the joy of what You’ve done for me.”

 

Let’s dance in joy over this lovely, wild, messy grace we are invited to partake in. We were called to live in freedom – so let’s live free, full of thank-yous and rooted in the truth of the gospel of grace.

 

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Disappointed: for when life hurts, and you’re wondering how God fits in.

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Sometimes life just doesn’t turn out the way we always thought it would.

 

Sometimes we feel like we’re left with more questions than answers – more waiting than action – more hours of crying than smiling. Sometimes, something that seemed like it would be so perfect just wasn’t.

 

That dream school – that relationship – that job – that friendship – that trip – that opportunity. When everything felt so right, so God-led, so hopeful, and nothing comes, it’s easy to become discouraged. The question is not, “God, if You’re good, why did this happen to me?” as much as, “God, when I felt like You were leading me to this place, did I hear Your voice wrong? Was I wrong to trust You for this? Are You still as faithful as I though You promised me that You were?”

 

And as I’ve been walking through this, I’ve realized a few things.

 

I’ve realized that if I make the object of my joy, my satisfaction, and my hope anything other than pursuing Jesus Christ, I’ll never find the peace in my heart that I crave, even if my circumstances seem to be exactly what I thought I wanted.

 

I want to be faithful right where I am, trusting the God that’s directing me to right where He has for me to be. Not because those circumstances are the ones I’m dreaming of – but because I will only find true joy when I’m pursuing the Person of Jesus, not because I think He’s a shortcut to achieving my own desires.

 

For where else can we find hope in our brokenness? Where else can we find grace for our weakness? Joy in heartache? Peace in the midst of missed opportunities, rejection, and despair?

Continue reading “Disappointed: for when life hurts, and you’re wondering how God fits in.”

Cry, Pray, Trust: for when you’re stuck in a season of waiting and need a reminder of God’s faithfulness.

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Sometimes all you can do is cry, and pray, and wait. And trust that God is in control, even when it takes every ounce of faith inside you to catch even a glimpse of that.

 

*

 

I wish I could say I spend my New Year’s Eve in a glamorous way. I didn’t.

 

At 10 pm on Sunday night, my family went to bed, and I washed dishes alone, in my kitchen. I played a worship album two times over, and fell to my knees and cried all the tears I’d been holding in for a week. I prayer journaled and dedicated my year to Jesus, and tiptoed into my living room to watch the ball drop in the darkness of my house, holding a flute of formerly-sparkling cider.

 

3…2…1…and, it’s 2018. Everyone celebrate with your friends and lovers, but I’m still over here alone. I flicked on Netflix to numb my thoughts, and played that worship album again as I drifted off to sleep.

 

*

 

God is faithful. The words echo in my head, and as I think about one word that would define 2017, it’s that one – faithful.

 

Over and over, God spoke. Both in the loud and in the quiet, in rooms full of worshipers and in the solitude of my bedroom, He confirmed those three little words, time and time again – I. Am. Faithful.

 

Gracious, good, perfect God, remind me again what Your faithfulness looks like, won’t you? Because I’m stuck in a long, hard season of waiting right now, like I’m teetering on the edge of a cliff, and gravity hasn’t yet decided if I’m going to stay or if I’m going to fall. Oh, how I need you.

Continue reading “Cry, Pray, Trust: for when you’re stuck in a season of waiting and need a reminder of God’s faithfulness.”

On Why We Need to Stop Idolizing Relationships, Marriage, & Everything Else.

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“Marriage was never meant to be about me. It’s always been a great allegory of the love between Christ and the Churchof which I am a part, and am invited to partake in the fullness of. Of which all of us are invited to partake in. See, it’s this cosmic love story, the most beautiful of them all — and one created, as all things are, to display the glory of God, time and time again.” Continue reading “On Why We Need to Stop Idolizing Relationships, Marriage, & Everything Else.”

Real Life: grace, twinkle lights, depression, & me.

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If you met me today, you’d be meeting a pretty normal girl. I like coffee, and cozy sweaters, and reading, and smiling, and driving, and Chick-fil-A.

 

And I really, really love Jesus.

 

If we had a conversation, we might talk about how I like your hair, where we’re each from, or what our day-to-day lives look like. I might ask you if you like coffee or tea better, what makes you feel alive, what your favorite ridiculous bad jokes are, or how I could be praying for you.

 

Sometimes I think we only let the world see one side of us, and today, I’m here to say that it’s okay to be a lot of things. It’s so important to be you, every ounce of the you that God designed you to be.

Continue reading “Real Life: grace, twinkle lights, depression, & me.”

where i’ve been, what i’ve learned, and the God who’s been constant through it all. // + my photography!

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It’s been too long.

 

Each time I’ve tried to sit down and write, I’ve either gotten distracted, become unmotivated, or overwhelmed, hence the silence on my part. And so instead, I’ve been gone, treating my blog as an intimidating monster to be slayed, not a haven to use to think and rest in, which I think has done me more harm than good.

 

Regardless, here I am, and thank you for sticking around to read – it means the world.

 

The past few months have been stretching for me. The end of my summer marked the end of a metaphorical season in my life, and whenever a season ends, in my experience, it’s like something’s come out of nowhere and struck me blind, leaving me dazed and confused about where to go next. Moving forward was the only option, and while I’m not sure if I’ve done it gracefully, it’s been a necessary and worthwhile journey.

 

And so, I took a trip with friends from all over North America. We traipsed around different states, drank a lot of coffee, and had extensive, passionate conversations until the sun came up. I came home with a renewed sense of what I want my life to look like, reality colliding with my visions, my passions, my dreams, and my desires.

 

And since then, I’ve had so many more conversations across the miles with those friends who mean so much to me, and I’ve discovered even more about myself, about God, about the people with whom I share my life, and who I want to be. Continue reading “where i’ve been, what i’ve learned, and the God who’s been constant through it all. // + my photography!”

When God Chooses to Work in the Ordinary & Call Us to Where We Already Are

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I’ve been writing this post in my head and heart for too long.

 

It’s the byproduct of so many late night wrestlings, so many journal entries and tweets and long-winded conversations with the people closest to me.

 

It’s those texts we send our friends about waiting for the next thing to happen – about anticipating the answers to our big questions, about finally finding that thing after waiting so long, hoping so desperately.

 

It’s the prayer we pray of God, just show me where to go and I’ll go, what to do and I’ll do it, who to be and I’ll be that person.

 

I’ve been there so many times, and honestly, I’m often still in that boat. Most of my daily prayers close with something along the lines of, “Lead me, Lord, to where you want me to be, who You want me to meet, to the future You have planned for me.”

 

And over the years, as I’ve grown as both a young adult and a Christian, I’ve often been so focused on that next thing, that I haven’t embraced the space where God has put me.

 

See, something that I’m ever-realizing is this: God doesn’t need us to be anything extraordinary in order to be used by Him; He uses us right where we are to fulfill His purposes that are so much bigger and more beautiful than just ourselves.

 

That’s not to say He doesn’t lead us ahead – simply that sometimes, the place He has for us is directly in front of us.

Continue reading “When God Chooses to Work in the Ordinary & Call Us to Where We Already Are”

On Coming out of Depression & Experiencing the Faithfulness of God

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i.

 

Oh wow He’s faithful.

 

There’s something so ethereal about knowing when God is speaking.

 

Oftentimes, before I leave my house to go be with other Christians, I pray a few things. One, that I’d have some sort of meaningful conversation, two, that God would speak, and if I remember, then three, that I’d be filled with the Spirit and used by Him.

 

And the funny thing is, once I arrive, when I kick off my shoes and put down my phone and start hugging people, I completely forget that I ever even prayed it. And every single time that I come home so filled, I’m overcome with awe at how He worked.

 

I’m stunned by the conversations that left me glowing with joy, how I heard God in worship songs and in listening to my friends preach, tangibly experiencing God’s love and presence in everyday interactions.

 

I heard His voice again this weekend, and it left me breathless.

 

For three days, I’d been praying hard that God would lead me to trust Him. And He has. Oh, how He has.

Continue reading “On Coming out of Depression & Experiencing the Faithfulness of God”