Embracing Seventeen

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i.

 

I turned seventeen this past Sunday – on April second, two-thousand seventeen.

 

If you don’t know me personally, you may not have known my age until now.

 

And it’s not as if it’s a secret – I simply decided a while ago that I didn’t want people to judge me or my writing on my age alone, or have to try and explain when I mention school that I’m a college student, even though I’m supposed to be a high school student, and kind of still am for a few more months.

 

(See? Complicated.)

 

But something hit me really hard last week. I was talking to some college friends, and coming to the realization that the average age of the majority of my friends is around twenty years old.

 

And it’s funny – because I joke about it all the time, the fact that I forget that I’m not twenty, myself.

 

But it’s more than just a joke.

 

After spending almost an entire week discussing everything under the sun with a dear friend, a friend that’s my own age, I realized how important it was that I don’t forget that I’m only seventeen.

 

I’ll only ever be seventeen once.

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It’s Time For Me to Be Real Here

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I’m sitting at the counter, jittering from my intake of caffeine, waiting to take a final, and seriously thinking about the future.

 

To be perfectly honest, I’ve been a little disoriented lately. Thinking about what I’ll do next is so tiring, sometimes.

 

Because every time I think I’ve figured everything out about what I’ll be doing and where I’ll be in a few years, something changes. My desires change, my situations change, anything and everything and it sends me into a mental frenzy.

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Trusting God Through the Journey (+ giveaway winners!)

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Every good story involves some kind of journey.

 

I’ve been thinking about my journey a lot, lately. Thinking about how in five years I’m gonna look back on this moment and remember the things I felt, the things I thought, what I did and who I spent my time with and how I lived my life, and I’ll be so far removed from those things then.

 

I’m looking ahead to the day I’ll look back and see how things have changed.

 

How I’ve changed.

 

How those around me have changed.

 

Because even now, I look back, and I’ve learned, and grown, and changed so much. Even the very way I approach life now is so different. I have different perspectives, different struggles, different voices in my life I listen to.

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Why I’m No Longer Trying to Figure Out What to Do With My Life

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For the past few months, I’ve been thinking and praying, seeking to know, grasping to discover what to do with my life. I have somewhat of an idea; somewhat.

 

I have my passions. I have my friends and family that encourage me. I have my hobbies, my loves, those things in my life I can’t imagine doing without.

 

And so lately, I’ve been on this journey. It’s been somewhat subconscious, in the back of my head, and on those days where I’m home alone with my notebooks, my Bible, my phone, and computer, I can choose to either think, or be distracted.

 

Sometimes, I choose to think.

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Today-Living (Or, What to Do When You Have No Idea What to Do With Your Life)

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Lately, I’ve been having this series of existential crises, those “What am I doing with my life?!” freak-out sessions of ranting and frantic heavy-breathing and banging my head against walls because I literally have no idea in the world what’s gonna go on with my future.

 

It’s…exhausting.

 

I’ve been talking a lot with my amazing parents and my amazing friends about the whole thing, and they’ve tirelessly said Amanda, stop. Breathe. It’s gonna be okay, God’s in control, you’ll figure it out, God’s plan will prevail, and you don’t need to worry.

 

But they’ve also said one thing that has really stood out to me, and if you’re in any similar situation, I hope it’ll help you too.

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Dear Christian Teens: You Were Made for More (+ EXCITING NEWS!)

Dear Christian Teens_ You Were Made for More (+ EXCITING NEWS!)

 

Dear Christian Teens,

 

You were made for more. You were made to do great things. And it all starts right here.

 

I understand what it’s like to be stressed out over school and work and life in general. I understand the pressures we face from all sides – the pressure to be perfect, the pressure to give into temptation, the pressure to be consumed with busyness – it’s rough.

 

But we don’t have to give into the pressure.

 

People are going to tell us (if they haven’t already) that the teen years are all about fun. Partying. Living it up. Chilling out, messing around.

 

And then after we turn eighteen, get shipped off to college, and come out somewhat alive, we’ll be ready for a fantastic life. Get a good job, get engaged, and hopefully find something fulfilling in our lives. Maybe add a little religion to our busyness. Can’t hurt, right?

 

But that’s not the right message in my estimation.

 

Because if the time we turn thirteen until the last day of being nineteen is used to just get by, what will the rest of our lives look like?

 

If we don’t learn how we should live now, how will we know how to live when we’re adults?

 

If we don’t invest in our faith now, how do we expect to be mature Christians later?

 

If we don’t love others now, how do we expect to love our future families?

 

If we don’t practice serving God now, how do we think we’ll be effective in the future?

 

But this shouldn’t be discouraging. No, now is a great time to make the most of our lives.

 

Today I turned sixteen. I’m finally starting to grasp what it means to be a teenager, though not by the standard of the culture.

 

I’m learning what it means to prepare myself for my life instead of just getting away with the bare minimum. And to be honest, it’s a difficult lesson to learn.

 

But I’m investing in my faith by studying the Bible regularly. I’m learning how to be discerning. I’m learning how to use my personality to serve God the most effectively. I’m finding the roots of my faith.

 

And you know what? These are some of the most fulfilling things I have ever done.

 

Working hard is scary, I know. It’s easy to watch Netflix all summer instead of getting a job. It’s easy to be lazy (which is different from rest, by the way). It’s easy to disrespect our parents, and it’s easy to think that we always know best.

 

Taking cues from authority figures will truly lead us in the right direction. Learning how to work hard now will help us develop a good work ethic for our adult lives. Knowing why we believe what we believe is so important in having a strong faith.

 

But it doesn’t have to be painful.

 

It doesn’t have to stress us out.

 

No, in our stress from everyday life, we can grow our faith and strengthen our relationship with God. We can find comfort and peace, instead of anxiety. Instead of freaking out over not knowing how to be productive, we can pursue efficiency while there’s less pressure.

 

We can surprise the people around us who expect us to rebel by being kind, loving, and patient.

 

Dear Christian Teens, you really were made for more. More than just scraping by.

 

And instead of being crushed by the pressures, we can live with hope. Hope that we are never alone. Hope that God will always lead us. And hope that this isn’t the end.

 

Oh, guess what! I have exciting news. Gabriela and Nadine persuaded me to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. Which means…I AM WRITING A BOOK!

 

Crazy, right? When you all took my survey, I got lots of people begging me to please write a book. That made me happy, and motivated me to actually pursue writing more than just 700-word blog posts. And I’ve actually gotten most of my book outlined, but here is where you guys come in.

 

If you want a certain topic to be addressed in more detail than I would be able to on this blog, TELL ME. Even if I’ve addressed the topic on the blog before, LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE BOOK. Comment on a post of mine, shoot me an email, tweet me, or whatever floats your boat.

 

I WANT YOUR INPUT!

 

Hopefully, by the end of April, I will have written 25,000 words. Who knows if that will actually happen, but I am going to try. Pray for me, peeps! Thank you all!

 

*aj

When Happiness Isn’t Enough

When Happiness Isn’t Enough

Dear Readers,

 

I want you to know that sometimes, I dream.

 

I dream of a big future, a bright one, a happy one.

 

As I get older, I’m thinking more and more about where and who I’ll be in a few years.

 

I’ll be honest, I want to be an editor. Most of you, if you know me, have probably heard me blabber on about that. I want to edit books, and live in an adorable top floor apartment in New York City, drinking coffee and cranking music at all hours of the day, wearing cute clothes, reading lots of books, and hanging with my good friends on the weekends.

 

While that whole scenario seems highly improbable and dream-like (not the editing part, I’m actually serious about that), there has been an underlying wish there that I’ve had my whole life.

 

Before I completely reveal that, I’d like to take you back to when I was five years old. My cousin and I were always close, and still are to this day. She and I were at our grandparents’ house, and she asked me, “Amanda, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I thought for a moment, and then replied, “I want to be a singer or an actress.”

 

I always hated to sing or speak in front of people, because I was painfully shy and self-conscious, but I still had a dream in my heart that one day, I’d find something to really make me happy, and right then it seemed like acting or singing was the way to go.

 

I love to sing, and I also love to entertain the delusion that I can act. But as I’ve matured, I’ve realized that neither of those is probably the path I’ll wind up taking. I enjoy those things, but I don’t feel a passion for making either of them my life’s calling.

 

However, I do love words, if you hadn’t already noticed. So for me, it seems like editing would be a good career, at least for the next couple years or so.

 

And sometimes, when I think of my mental “wish-list” for the future, I put an asterisk besides everything, saying “as long as it makes me happy, which I’m sure it will.”

 

I think that by having a certain job, a certain sized paycheck, a certain house, certain friends, certain environment, certain material possessions, that then, I’ll be happy.

 

But you know what?

 

Chasing happiness is like pursuing a shadow, or trying to catch the wind. You’re always striving, but never savoring what you have.

 

And while this seems a tad depressing, keep on reading, because I promise that it doesn’t have to be.

 

I told myself when I was young that when I “became a teenager,” that I’d be happy and free and all that jazz. I told myself that when I finally got a job and paycheck, I’d feel contented that I was somewhat independent. I told myself that when I finally started a blog, I’d feel an overwhelming sense of peace and purpose, and feel like I was important, that I was contributing something to the world, that I was valuable. I told myself that when I started dressing with more style and less Aéropostale graphic tees I’d feel more beautiful. I’ve told myself so many things over the years about what new thing would make me happy.

 

And I have news for you.

 

That happiness is so short-lived and shallow, and so easy to move on from as soon as we find “that next thing” to chase after. All those things have happened, and I’m not any happier because of them. Perhaps they’ve added some dimension to my life, but nothing on this earth can fulfill the hole in my heart for something more.

 

But there is One who can.

 

If I didn’t have my faith, I don’t know where I’d be. I don’t know who I’d be.

 

Things don’t make me happy, per se, but I am still a satisfied person, with joy in my life.

 

Philippians 4:11-13

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 

This is one of the most quoted passages in the Bible. The last verse, at least. In this chapter, Paul tells us that in everything, the key to contentment is facing all things with the strength of Christ.

 

Now strength may not seem to connect with being content or happy, but let’s think about it.

 

This isn’t the strength that athletes claim before a competition. This isn’t “I can win this thing because I’m mentioning Jesus, and then I’ll get this gorgeous trophy showing how amazing my life is.” It’s facing every aspect of life with the mindset that we are never alone in facing trials. It’s knowing that life won’t always be good, but trusting God that He has a plan in all of it.

 

That, my friends, is what brings us to true contentment.

 

We can chase things, but they’re never going to fill us 100%. Or we can choose Jesus, to sustain us, to strengthen us when we succumb to our weaknesses, to hold us together when we fall apart. We can look to His grace when we fail, and mess up, and our lives are in disarray.

 

And that’s satisfying to me.

 

I know that I’m doing right now what He wants me to. I know that I’m letting Him lead my life. I know that I’m imperfect, but He has forgiven me.

 

That is what fulfills me.

 

That is what brings joy to my heart when I’m depressed.

 

That is what gives me meaning, a reason to go on, and inspires me to move forward.

 

I might not ever be rich, or famous, or have really wonderful stuff. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

 

Because life is about so much more than just being happy.

 

*aj

There is A Plan For You.

There is A Plan For You.

10:26 PM. Document 43. 0 words.

 

Sometimes when I write, I have a clear focus of where I’m going. I have some fantastic quotes in my head, Bible verses for reference, blog posts to link to, anecdotes that I’m dying to share, and a great idea for graphic design.

 

Other times, I sit at my computer after a long day of school, karate, music binging, and a favorite show on Netflix, and bore a hole through my eyeballs from staring at the white screen and blinking cursor.

 

I can converse with people over text all day. Not that I do, but that I don’t run out of things to say and it feels so simple. So easy. So great.

 

And then there’s my blog. I love it to death. I love writing, I love my readers, I love being so involved. But sometimes, my words just won’t write, and too bad for me that I created this thing called a schedule, which ties me down to writing twice a week. And half the time, I have no idea what I’m doing.

 

And a lot of times, I feel like that with my life in general.

 

I know how to do a lot of things. I end up doing a lot of things. But sometimes I wonder: am I really doing things that matter? Do I really know what I’m doing? Should I be doing better things? Should I be better at the things I choose to do?

 

It’s a frustrating feeling.

 

As I wrote in a recent post, Don’t Regret Where You Are, I want each and every person alive to know that your life is not a mistake. We can’t go around second-guessing what we’re doing (unless we’re doing something obviously wrong, but that’s a totally different blog post for another day). If God has placed us somewhere, why should we think that we’re not good enough, not lovable enough, or not equipped enough?

 

I have to address those questions in my mind that make me think that I’m doing something wrong, the thoughts that question the talents God has given me, the ones that question the opportunities God has clearly placed before me. Who am I to question God’s perfect plans?

 

I might not always feel like I know what I’m doing – in fact, most times I don’t. I don’t always feel smart, or strong, or gifted. I get lost in my plans for the future. I don’t even hold the plans.

 

But you know who does?

 

Exactly. God does.

 

2 Samuel 22:31

 

“This God—his way is perfect;

the word of the Lord proves true;

he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”

 

Jeremiah 29:11-13

 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

 

God’s plans for us are perfect.

 

If you’re like me and you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, turn to God.

 

Proverbs 16:9

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

 

It’s alright. God is the one in control, not us. God leads us where we need to go. He wants what is best for us.

 

The question is not “Am I doing the right thing?” but “How can I be faithful in this thing that I’m in?” Let us not neglect to do all for the glory of God – and use His strength to accomplish what He sets before us.

 

I’m still learning this, as I finish this post past midnight. I’ve written over 700 words.

 

As that question inches into my mind and laces my thoughts with apprehension and self-doubt, the question of “Should I even post this?” I’m pushing it away. Who knows where my blog will reach, who it’ll speak to, or even if the only one learning anything from it is me. It doesn’t matter.

 

It doesn’t matter if I have a hundred thousand followers or two hundred total.

 

All that matters is that I’m speaking the message God has given me.

 

And that is true of every one of you. Don’t second-guess your platforms. Use them to bring people to our Savior. Let us show the world what grace truly looks like.

 

12:30 AM. “There is A Plan For You.” 767 words.

 

Until next time,

 

*aj