Embracing Seventeen

Embracing Seventeen.png

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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.

Continue reading “Embracing Seventeen”

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

Dear Christian Teens: On Relationships

Dear Christian Teens 1

Happy Tuesday, awesome blog readers.

Today’s post is a bit different than normal (and I do know that I say that a lot). However, some things have been on my heart recently about teens and relationships.

This is a shorter post today, because today is my first day back to school and last night I was trying to get to bed early. A near-impossible feat on a blognight, I know (and I just made that term up now).

But nevertheless, the points still stand. And I’d like to share them with you.

I am planning on planning on doing more “Dear Christian Teens” articles in the future. (Yes, I am very indecisive and unpredictable, so I can’t promise anything, but I will plan on planning on it.) 😛

I mean, this is a teen blog, after all.

So, here goes. Dear Christian Teens #1. In which Amanda talks about romantic relationships. And dating. And other things she has never quite experienced, but probably will someday.

**

This is written like three separate letters. (Have you noticed my obsession with letters yet?) It’s rather choppy, I know, and I’m sorry. But I wanted to alternate. Because alternating is fun.

So…to be blunt…

Dear Christian Teens,

Dating is not a sport. It’s not “marital practice”. We should focus on the final goal when we are considering a romantic relationship – marriage – for our hearts are much too precious to be thrown around like bowling balls.

Dear Christian Guys,

Value the modest girls. The ones who care about God’s opinion over yours. Beauty fades. Dignity stays.

Dear Christian Girls,

Value the gentlemen, not the bad boys. Humility and selflessness are to be treasured, not thrown away.

Dear Christian Teens,

Choose to love someone who loves God over you. If your eyes are fixed on others and not God, you won’t find The One God has for you. You will find them by focusing on Him.

Dear Christian Guys,

True beauty comes from the inside out. Not the other way around.

Dear Christian Girls,

Don’t compromise your purity to be loved. Rather, prove that you’re worth it by staying pure.

Dear Christian Teens,

Love your family. Treat them with respect and kindness. How else do you expect to be ready for having a family of your own?

Dear Christian Guys,

Your walk with God is invaluably important; you are to be a spiritual leader. You don’t have to be a pastor, but God calls you to be the head of your family and to lead them in truth. Never compromise that.

Dear Christian Girls,

You are God’s beautiful creation, and not an object. Don’t make people think you are by dressing and acting without decency and dignity. Never forget that who you are is defined by what Christ has done for you, and you do not have to prove anything.

Dear Christian Teens,

God must be the center of your life. If He is not, especially in terms of relationships, your life will not be solidly built. Form your life around your relationship with God, and let Him lead you.

And Christian Teens once more,

Marriage will not always be glamorous like in the movies. It won’t be all butterflies and rainbows. But love, and the most beautiful kind at that, is a love that is committed. Not just when it’s easy, but always.

**

I’m sorry if my thoughts are incoherent.

But I guess what I’m trying to (indirectly) say through these mini-letters is this.

God should ultimately be the one guiding our relationships, not us alone.

We all are precious and valuable, and none of us should ever see others as objects (despite what the culture says).

“Old-fashioned” virtues like modestly, decency, humility, and selflessness are BEAUTIFUL. To be treasured, and valued and appreciated.

When commitment to God and to each other is the center of a romantic relationship, it will be much stronger. Seriously. God isn’t to be put on the back burner, people.

And lastly? Dating and relationships are to be taken seriously. As are our relationships with our families. Because really, the ultimate goal is to raise up families to love God and know Jesus.

We can’t listen to the culture when it comes to such important matters. Marriage is beautiful, people. Not to be corrupted.

We were made for each other, God designed it that way.

So Dear Christian Teens,

Let’s be serious. Let’s focus on God first before others, and treat everyone like Jesus would.

Anybody with me?

*aj

Rebel is Not a Synonym For Teenager.

Spring Flowers

Rebel is not a synonym for teenager.

I’m fifTEEN years old. A teenager. But I’m no rebel.

(Okay, so maybe I do occasionally enter through the EXIT at Walmart. But that is beside the point.)

Just because I’m between the ages of thirteen and nineteen, doesn’t mean I disagree with my parents every chance I get, try hard to do the opposite of whatever wise people tell me to, or compromise the beliefs that I grew up holding fast to.

Society would tell people like me me, “You, girl, are insane. Live a little. You are young and free. Party all you want. For this fleeting moment, life is all about fun, of course. Don’t heed advice, all those old folks have no idea what they’re talking about. Experience life for yourself. Make your own choices. Be free to ‘be yourself.’ And you’ll be happy.”

Um, no, actually. I’ll keep my head square on my shoulders, thank you very much.

Not only is this view unwise, but it leads to trouble. And frankly, I have no desire to live wastefully.

But you, reader, may be thinking, “Why is she so different?” Well, I’m glad you ask.

My Faith Is My Own.

I made a decision at a young age to become a Christian. As Jonathan Edwards once said, “Resolved I will live for God. And if no one else does, I still will.” I don’t live for God because my parents force me to, or because an author wrote it in a book that I should. This is my own choice, and no matter how hard I am pulled, I will not be torn away from my foundation that I have built my life upon. The Lord has revealed Himself to me, and I can not deny it. I will not compromise because I am pressured to. I will hold firm because I know the Truth, and it has set me free.

By Obeying Authority, I Am Obeying God.

It’s already been established that my faith is my own. I’m not a brainwashed religious freak. I have fallen in love with my Savior. The authority that humans rebel against is much bigger than parents, or the police, or even the President. If I am to disobey anyone in authority (unless it goes against the Bible), I am disobeying God.

Ouch.

Ephesians 6:1

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

If God says to do something, and I do not do it, then not only am I showing disrespect to those whom I am not heeding, but I’m deliberately rebelling against the Creator of the universe, who also happens to be my Heavenly Father.

Double ouch.

Romans 12:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

When I do not conform to the patterns to just about every other teen on the planet, I am being obedient to God. And by doing this, I can discern His will. Is that not awesome?

The Teen Years Are Preparation For The Rest Of My Life.

Right now, I am getting ready to live the rest of my life. If I want to live wisely in ten years, how will that happen if I do not live wisely right here and now?

I’m not going to waste these precious seven years so that I can have temporary (and harmful) fun now. What’s the point?

And seriously. How many adults actually look back on their high school and college years and say, “I am so glad that I partied, did just what I wanted to, and ignored my parents because I knew better than them. It really helped me in the life that was ahead of me.”

Seriously? We are smarter than this.

I’m Not A Child Anymore, Even Though I’m Still Not An Adult.

It doesn’t make any logical sense to behave recklessly like a child and yet demand to be treated like an adult. By doing this, we prove to the world that we are immature and not ready for actual responsibility.

When I was five years old, my parents sat down with me and we had a talk. The main point was, “With age comes responsibility.” (This meant that I had to start emptying the dishwasher every day before I could watch Caillou.) If, for instance, I were to refuse to accept my responsibility, I would not prove to be mature enough for more privileges. The older I became, the more responsibility I was given, and in turn, the more freedom I was given.

Come on, guys. We can act like adults (in the way that we accept responsibility) and so prove that we are ready to be adults. If we act like foolish children, we won’t be ready for everything that life throws our way. So let’s “man up” (or “woman up,” if you prefer) and be wise. I’m not an adult yet, but that doesn’t mean I can start preparing to be one.

Yes, I am a teenager. But I’m not a rebel.

I never had the place to be rebellious anyway. So Why should I? Where is the real and true benefit?

God gave us authorities for the reason of keeping order in this world, for He knew that we all have a sin nature that wants to run rampant inside of us. But as a Christian teenager, I give no authority to my sin.

Galatians 2:20

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

I do not live for my rebellious self anymore, but for my Savior.

And I do not let “rebel” be a synonym for “teenager”.

Note to Parents:

I’m not a parent, so I cannot guarantee to you that your kid is going to obey you or listen to you. But as for me, I have made my faith my own. I desire to heed authority, for I know it is good. Not because Mom and Dad forced me to follow a set list of dos and don’ts, but because my relationship with my Savior is the most important thing in the world to me. It’s my own choice. And it is the best choice I’ve ever made.

*aj