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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Where to Find Hope in Pain

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I probably don’t have to tell you that life’s really tough, sometimes.

 

I’ve done so many posts about pain – about depression and anxiety, about feelings of hopelessness, about when life throws things at us that we’re not ready for, about what we’re supposed to do when we literally have no idea what to do.

 

Life’s messy.

 

Painful.

 

Confusing.

 

And my first reaction, honestly, is to go hide away in my room and look for a distraction.

 

It’s awkward to admit that, but it’s true. I want distraction over comfort, desperate feelings over peace, extremes over hope.

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Hope For When God’s Promises Seem to Be Hidden by Pain

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Often, I’ll look around me and see those people that just seem to have everything so together.

 

Whether online or face to face, there are always those people that simply seem to have life down. They’re walking around, living life, and gently saying things like, “Oh yes, I trust God,” and “Of course I can feel how much God loves me,” and “I am so content, no matter what.”

 

And seeing those people like that…it’s so inspiring, yet oftentimes so intimidating.

 

Because it’s easy for us to say, or at least for me to say, “I trust You, God,” when life is simple.

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How to Satisfy the Human Desire for Love, Joy, and Fulfillment

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Humanness.

 

There’s something so interesting about being a human being, living in this seemingly endless series of experiences and emotions, events and times of extreme joy and extreme pain.

 

Life is so beautiful, and so fragile, and we can be so sensitive to all of it.

 

I know I am.

 

I’ve noticed this pattern in myself and those around me, of being caught in this awkward middle place of knowing that the Christian answer is that only Jesus can satisfy me – and yet still chasing after these things that I’m sure will bring me happiness.

 

Because deep down, we all have these intrinsic desires in our hearts. And they’re not wrong at all. Unlike Buddhism, which says “All life is suffering, and suffering comes from desire; therefore, rid yourself of desire,” I say, no, we should keep on desiring.

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Why I Never Made a Future Spouse Checklist (And Things to Consider Before Making Yours)

Why I Never Made a Future Spouse Checklist (And Things to Consider Before Making Yours)

Happy Saturday, everyone. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been on somewhat of a relationship-topic kick lately. When We Feel Unworthy of Being Loved, Crushes + True Love: Twenty-Seven Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Twelve, and random posts I’ve been stumbling across online have gotten me thinking about what love truly is.

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A Fresh Look At Positivity

A Fresh Look at Positivity

 

In this world, we hear a lot about positivity. We hear people tell us to not let the negativity of others affect our attitudes.

 

That’s a powerful message.

 

People say that we should keep our heads up because ultimately, whatever we want in life, we’re going to have to work for. So if we want to accomplish our goals, we must not let anyone deter us.

 

We must be positive. See the glass half-full.  See the sky as always sunny. And move on from gloom as quick as we possibly can.

 

The positivity message tells us to just keep swimming, because it’s gonna be alright. Don’t worry; be happy. And I do believe happiness is good, but we should have a reason for it.

 

What I want to know is this. In a godless world, how can we be happy? How can we be positive? How can we know that life really will go on? How can we accomplish what we want to when it seems absolutely impossible?

 

Forgive me for being blunt here, but this is where I see that the positivity message cannot hold up.

 

Positivity does not offer lasting hope. But Jesus does.

 

Positivity is a form of self-empowerment: If you think it, you can do it. And that’s not all bad, truly. Sometimes the only thing we need to keep going is faith in ourselves and perseverance because we already have everything we need to do it.

 

Sometimes, when everyone around us is cutting us down with discouragement, we need to be the ones to step up and say, “Hey, look. The end is in sight. We can make it.” Pressing on toward something is valuable.

 

So the question is not, “Should we be positive?” but “How can we be positive?”

 

For me, having a good attitude by just “trying to” is like trying to sing or speak without taking a breath. Pulling the positivity card out of nowhere has no depth to it, no standing, because it becomes just words.

 

But it doesn’t have to be.

 

The missing message of positivity is this: we can have joy in every situation.

 

Philippians 4:12-13

“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.

 

The secret to facing anything is doing them through the strength of Christ. That’s what gives us joy. That’s what lets us go on when things seem impossible. That’s what propels us through the times when we feel like giving up.

 

Not putting on a mask of happiness, but living it.

 

Positivity is something we can only truly grasp when we experience the joy of the Lord.

 

Nehemiah 8:10b

“And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

 

The joy of the Lord. Not the joy of nice things, a good relationship, a happy circumstance, no. This joy is knowing that we are loved. Knowing that His grace is lavished on us. The guaranteed assurance that we are new creations in Christ. Our pasts are not counted against us.

 

And we know this all because we have seen the cross. We have seen who Jesus is in the Bible. We have felt his presence in our lives. We have known His power.

 

And so the simple message of positivity just seems so shallow. “Be happy.” Okay, yes, but why should I be happy?

 

Because we are loved with an everlasting love by our Creator. We are treasured. We are provided for. We are never left on our own. And we are definitely never forsaken or forgotten about.

 

To be truly positive is about so much more than just feeling something – it’s what we can live in as Christians.

 

And that kind of positivity is the best of 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