Looking Back at 2018

Looking Back at 2018

Happy New Year! We are officially in 2019 and I just can’t believe it.

I’ve made it a “thing” to post a recap of the year for the past few years now. So, naturally when December 31 hit I felt like I had to sit down and hammer out a post. Silly, I know, but this is really how my brain works.

Also, I feel like this is a really good time to hit “pause” and remind you that the word God gave me for this year was “rest.” Yet, I spent the last day of the year stressing out about something I told myself I had to do with excellence. Cue laugh track here.

Anyways, I felt this enormous sense of pressure to sit down and write a great post that somehow captured the way God moved and all the milestones in-between while still being relatable. Spoiler alert: I did not get it written by my own self-imposed New Year’s Eve deadline.

I ended up spending most of the day hanging out with my siblings and friend, Dom, who is in town from Australia. Then, I threw together a brief 2018 recap on my Instagram story to at least acknowledge the end of the year (Very original, I know!) and then before I knew it it was midnight and time to yell “Happy New Year!”

When I felt pressure to post, I just kept telling myself, “It’s really okay. If you want to get it done, you will get it done but just relax.” Don’t get it twisted, I still let the worry and stress creep into my thoughts but I ultimately ended up relaxing about it.

And even though I am typing this at 10:32 p.m. New Year’s Day to get it done, choosing to be present yesterday instead of charging ahead into what I felt I had to do is a big step for me. It shows me that God has worked on me and grown a restful spirit in me- even if it’s been small progress.

So, in these very first days of 2019, I just want to remind you that the same is true for you.

God has worked in you this year. He has moved you closer to who you want to become, even if you don’t realize it. And the best part is, He has not loved you any less or forgotten you in the process.

As I look back on the year 2018 turned out to be, I am having to trust that this is the truth in my life, too.

This year was so many things for me. It was exciting, challenging, difficult, good and hard all at the same time. But I’m learning that is how God works, He has a purpose for each of us in the highs and the lows.

I think often times I’ve always thought of the highs and the lows as being separate- and sometimes they are- but this year God taught me that they can also be deeply intertwined…

In January, I started working as an Arts & Life writer for my college paper, the North Texas Daily, in Spring 2018. I was awarded “Reporter of the Month” in January and was published in the paper many times. I gained so much confidence as a writer and learned a ton during the semester. I ended up being offered a paid position as a senior staff writer for Fall 2018. It was still a good experience but it was more work and I felt it. It lead to anxiety and dread (I wrote about it in my blog post called “Anxiety, Rest & Jesus”) so I made the decision to leave the paper in December. It was a rollercoaster ride and the paper was a major part of my year that I am very thankful for. Leaving was hard but I have felt peace and energy since.

In February, my dad’s uncle, Uncle Bob, passed away. He was the closest thing I had to a grandpa on my dad’s side and meant a lot to our family. Even though it was a sad time, it ended up working out for all five of us to get on a plane and go to his funeral in Georgia in the middle of our school semester. It felt like a miracle and was a really sweet time.

My sister, Ashley, and I got our wisdom teeth out during Spring Break with no complications (Hallelujah!) but it was a week full of applesauce and pain. The unglamorous, forced break ended up being what we both needed, though.

I finished out my three years as a middle school girls leader with the same group of ladies I started with in 2015. Watching them grow from 6th graders to 8th graders was one of the greasiest privileges of my life. Leaving them to go into high school felt bittersweet but I knew it was time. My last Wednesday HUB was the day before my 21st birthday and they threw me a surprise party…it was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. Oh, and I went to Los Angeles to celebrate with my dad, too. Seriously, the best!

I was offered my dream editorial internship at D Magazine over the summer and took it! It was very exciting and a wonderful learning experience. But it also ended up being really hard, from the commute to Dallas to learning how to fit into the different workplace environment. In the end, God used me in an unexpected way and reminded me that His plans are always greater. And I made some lifelong friends along the way!

And I spent all the moments in-between through the year loving, crying, laughing and living with wonderful family and friends.

Of course, there were more highlights than I can count that were just absolutely wonderful. And some pretty disappointing low points, too, that were just plain hard. I think we both know I could sit here and write about all of them for a long, long time…

So, instead, I’m just going to say that 2018 was a year I am thankful I got to be a part of. When I look at all the tiny puzzle pieces that create the picture of this year I see laughs, so many tears, hurt-filled words and moments of celebration. I see adventures and scary steps into the unknown. I see strength and healing and endurance and rest. Each piece is important and a part of me now.

And when I step back, I really see a clear, beautiful and real picture of Jesus. Not cheesy, not sugar-coated…just Him and His love that has held me together through it all.

I tell you all these things not to brag about myself or make my year seem like something it wasn’t.I mainly just want to share the reality of my year through the redemptive lenses of Jesus.

He is always who He says He is, always doing what He says He will do- saving us.

I don’t know what 2018 looked like for you. I have a feeling you have some highs and lows and some in-betweens, too. But my ultimate hope for all of us is that we can step back and remember Jesus. I hope we can remember how He moved boldly through our year so that we can receive His grace to step forward into the fresh, new year He is giving us.

So, Happy New Year! I have a really good feeling 2019 is going to be His best one yet.

“Be alert, be present. I’m about to dosomething brand-new.It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?

There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,rivers in the badlands.

Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’—the coyotes and the buzzards— because I provided water in the desert,rivers through the sun-baked earth, drinking water for the people I chose,the people I made especially for myself,a people custom-made to praise me.”

-Isaiah 43:19-21 (MSG)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

-Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

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Change Can Be Hard

Change Can Be Hard

Wow. What a month it has been! May has been jam-packed with so many exciting adventures and new challenges.

As I was thinking about this month’s post and what God has been doing in my life, the word “change” kept bubbling up in my mind. So, naturally, I thought that was what the focus was going to be. I was planning to do a mini update on all the changes that have happened and how they are new adventures full of sweetness and wonder. It was going to be great!

But, as I started to write this post I realized there is so much more going on inside of my heart. And I never created this blog to just write some pre-planned words so I could check a box off in my mind to feel accomplished. This is a part of my personal ministry, using the gift of writing God has given me to express what He is doing in my heart. This is real, I always want it to be real.

So, this post is no longer just a sweet recap of all the awesome, exciting things that have happened in the past month. It’s also going to be a snapshot of where my heart is right now as I trudge through the hard parts that come along with the change.

You may be wondering, what changes I’m talking about? Well, let me tell you.

This month brought new beginnings. I turned 21-years-old and got to celebrate with the amazing people who make my life such a blessing. I also finished my junior year which was easily my best year of college so far.

But, at the same time, this month brought bittersweet endings. The biggest one, in my heart, is my transition out of Wednesday HUB (which is my church’s youth ministry) where I have been serving for the past three years as a middle school girls leader.

This month has also been full of new, unexpected adventures! I ended up getting to go to Los Angeles for a week with my dad to celebrate my birthday and it was so much fun. I am very thankful for those special memories we got to create together.

But the biggest adventure that has “fallen” into my lap is probably why this month feels so crazy to me and is where those tough heart things are coming from- I started a “big girl” internship!

It’s a very long story that I’m going to do my best to keep short…basically, I have to do an internship to graduate. I’ve known this ever since I started studying journalism at UNT and I remember being very excited when I first realized it. Internships sounded so fun to pre-college me (they still do!) and I remember picturing myself in a cool office, working for a magazine in a city somewhere.

Well, it hit me this year that I am getting closer to graduation (I am one year away!) which means I am getting closer to needing that internship. I knew I wanted to do it during the summer so I could focus fully on interning and not worry about going to class. So, in the back of my mind this entire year I have thought about how I need to do an internship and pretty soon.

But there was something else in the back of my mind too. As some of you may recall, last summer I worked at a Christian camp called Camp WOW and I LOVED it. I didn’t write a ton about it because last year I didn’t keep up with the blog as well. But it challenged me and humbled me and rocked my world and gave me a second family and, basically, I love camp. So much. And this summer I wanted to go back to camp. So bad.

I could see the need for an internship but I could also feel my heart wanting to be back at camp. So, I decided I would just go back and figure out my internship situation next year. Simple.

I didn’t even ask God though and let me tell you, He had his own plan.

He started whispering, “Apply to your dream internship, just try.” And, even though it confused me, I did.

For me, the ideal internship would be at D Magazine. It’s a hugely successful magazine (which is where I want to work someday!) and it’s in Dallas.

So, I applied and told God that if He wanted me there He would have to make it happen, half-heartedly believing it would go anywhere.

And God responded! He opened the doors and gave me the internship. I needed a clear answer if I was going to choose this over camp and getting it was a very clear answer from Him to me, “I want you to spend your summer at home, doing this internship.”

I remember getting the email and being so surprised, excited and nervous all at the same time. This was unknown, this was not my plan. But I heard Him tell me, “I am with you wherever you go, just trust me.”

So as I write this, I am currently sitting in that cool office that’s on the 22nd floor of a big, shiny building I dreamed of getting to intern in as a newly graduated high schooler just a couple years ago. Officially, I am an editorial intern for Dallas Innovates through the D Magazine Partners internship program. WHAT?!? God is SO good. Part of me still can’t believe I’m here.

It’s been so cool for so many reasons, He has continued to give me signs that this is where He wants me. Getting to meet people who are passionate about the same things I am and learning from professionals in the world I hope to be apart of someday…it’s already been such a neat experience.

But, if I’m being honest, it’s also been a huge change for me which is where the “not-so-warm-and-fluffy” heart stuff comes into play right now.

The commute to Dallas, the long hours, learning how to communicate with new people, and the transition has been challenging in ways I didn’t expect.

And what I’m trying to remember is that’s okay, it’s normal. I have to keep reminding myself of that: the uncomfortable transition is part of the experience and learning how to adjust is part of the process.

Now, don’t get me wrong! There have been some really wonderful moments already and I have no doubt in my mind God has put me in this internship for a reason. I know it’s where I’m supposed to be and I am beyond grateful to get to go through the hard parts of this experience and soak up every ounce of this dream internship I didn’t ever think I would have. 

But, I want to be honest about all of the parts of this new season because sometimes it is just plain hard. And not talking about it would just discount how good God is in those overwhelming moments, so I’m going to talk about it!

What I’ve realized over the year is just because He calls us to something doesn’t mean it’s going to be any easier. I’m actually convinced it’s in those uncomfortable, exhausting moments where He speaks louder than ever.

I’m learning that He is there in the long commute and in the frustrating conversation and in the daily 3 p.m. mental crash. He is there.

I am weak but He is strong. He is there lifting me up and reminding me that He is in control.

Change is hard. Being an adult is hard. Life is hard. That’s why we need a Savior who makes our burdens light and gives us the courage to keep going, even when all we want to do is give up.

It’s the truth but if I’m even more honest, I usually forget this part. I get focused on the circumstances of life and my own shortcomings- and y’all, that will make anyone want to give up. But the good news is, even when I forget, He is with me.

And as I type that, with my puffy eyes tired from the almost 7 hours I have been sitting and staring at this screen writing assignments, I breathe a sigh of relief because I desperately need to know He is good and He is with me, trudging through the change.

That’s the biggest thing I want to say: if you are in a new season that has turned out to be less sunshine and roses and more of a sunburn and thorns, just know you are not alone. I get it, but most importantly, God is with you- YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 

Even the moments that haven’t been so perfect and sweet have all happened on purpose and for a purpose. Through the change He is shaping us into who He has called us to be.

Change is a part of His plan for us. It isn’t always fun and can be really hard, like “I-want-to-give-up-why-is-Dallas-traffic-this-terrible” kind of hard. But that’s the cool thing about God, He doesn’t abandon us when it gets tough. As a matter of fact, He gets even closer.

It’s in the hard moments of this world that His refreshing presence collides with the brutal reality of life, reminding us that He changes all things but He never changes. Thank goodness.  

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” -Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)

“Every gift God freely gives us is good and perfect, streaming down from the Father of lights, who shines from the heavens with no hidden shadow or darkness and is never subject to change.” -James 1:17 (TPT)

“He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” -Romans 8:27-28 (MSG)

Jesus Is Everything // Holy Week Thoughts

Jesus Is Everything // Holy Week Thoughts

My mind has been everywhere this past month, it’s been both restful and restless, chaotic and calm. Since a good chunk of this month was Spring Break, I’ve had a lot of time to do nothing…let me explain. While all my friends seemed to go on fun adventures during the break, I spent mine recovering from wisdom teeth surgery. I know, crazy! No seriously, it was a glamorous week of milkshakes, ice packs, and The Office.

Not that I’m complaining, it was a nice and much-needed break from the whirlwind of homework, deadlines, and commitments but it was also very difficult for me to do nothing (even though I physically had to!) The whole thing just reminded me one more time why God gave me the word “rest” for this new year.

Anyways, all this to say, I’ve had an interesting month of wanting to do both nothing at all and everything at once. It’s a weird place to be.

And since I’ve had necessary downtime, I’ve also thought a lot about what I want to write for this month. Some of my initial ideas came from the things I’ve been struggling with lately- anxiety, restlessness, feeling like I’m not living life fully…but today I realized that there’s only one topic I want to talk about.

Or, I guess I should say, there’s only one person I need to talk about- Jesus.

Maybe it’s because the Easter season has me more excited and aware of His sacrifice for us on the cross or maybe it’s because deep down I know He’s the only One I could write about that matters.

I just know that Jesus is everything. And as we go through this Holy Week and walk through these few days leading up to Easter weekend with hearts weighed down by the heaviness of the crucifixion but expectant of His resurrection, I am desiring to truly be aware of His power and presence.

Even sitting here typing out these words, I realize I’m not even sure what that means, to be fully aware of His power and presence. Jesus is so much better than anything my tiny, human brain can conjure up. But I know my soul longs in ways it can’t express to get even just a glimpse of the glory of Jesus, of the true life He gave me when He gave up His on the cross.

I need that resurrection life. I need that hope. I need that overpowering light. I desperately need Jesus.

And the greatest thing is He desires to be with me too, with all of us. I think that is just insane. I mean, really thinking about it is just too much.

Jesus is everything, yet He wants me. He wants me, the one who forgets Him and what He’s done more than I remember. It’s in the brief moments of His glory when my heart overtakes my mind when I get a glimpse of how overwhelming His desire for me is, how real it is.

He is everything. And I want to be aware of how true that is, not just in the days leading up to Easter Sunday but every day of my life. I don’t want to miss Him, I want to be in awe of Him especially in the normal parts of life.

I want to be in awe of His grace when I wake up to a new day, even if I’m snoozing my alarm clock for the third time. I want to be in awe of His protection over my life when I pass hundreds of cars on I-35 to commute to school. I want to be in awe of His creation in every blade of grass and beam of light that stretches before me as I walk across campus.

He is everything and He is in everything.

I want to be in awe because to be alive, to have these in-between, beautiful moments where His love lives is awe-inspiring in itself.

But He doesn’t stop there. He gives us beauty and joy and hope and dreams, He gives us Himself- He gives us everything.

Even though we don’t deserve it, He gives. Even when we aren’t aware of Him, He gives. Even when we forget He is everything, He gives. It’s a no-strings-attached, genuine and pure kind of love. What a beautiful reality, the love of Jesus.

I am so grateful He picks me up every morning, looks at my heart, gives me a purpose and leads me by the hand into the life He died to give me. I am so thankful He went to the cross on the ultimate rescue mission for my soul, that’s my Jesus- my Savior, my Rescuer, my Everything.

It’s too much, to think about every detailed way He lavishes love on my heart every day just simply because He can and desires to. It makes all the struggles and hardships of this world melt away, knowing I am loved by Jesus, the One who conquered death and darkness forever.

I am loved by Love Himself and He is worthy of celebration. He is everything and He deserves everything we can offer.

Thank You, Jesus, we love You and remember who You are and what You did. You won.

“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.” -Isaiah 53:4-5

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” -1 John 4:9

“And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” -Ephesians 5:2

“The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King
Has rendered you defeated

Forever He is glorified
Forever He is lifted high
Forever He is risen
He is alive, He is alive!” -Forever, Kari Jobe

Fruit Smoothie For The Soul

Fruit Smoothie For The Soul

 

 

We all have a soul. I believe it is what makes us who we are- our passions, desires and beliefs all intertwined into this being that lives inside of us. I also believe our spiritual souls can get just as unhealthy and sick as our physical bodies.It seems like such a simple concept, yet I didn’t realize how sick my soul had become until recently. It’s not like I had done anything bad (in the worldly sense) & my life was going really well (in the worldly sense).

This is the worst kind of toxic soul I could have, if you ask me, because I began to mistake my outward appearance to be the same as my inward appearance. Over time my heart had pushed out God’s promises and power and had become full of anxiety and judgement and fear.

I realize that this is bound to happen- I mean, I am a silly, impressionable human who lives in a world that is trying to bombard my heart with anything but the truth! But just like my physical body has to be cleansed daily- my spirit has to be cleaned out too. And that was something I had forgotten to do in the midst of attempting to keep my life under control.

So when I would spend time with God, I felt so cluttered & distant from Him. I couldn’t get my mind to focus or I would get so caught up in trying to have this “perfect” meeting with Him that I would forget the whole purpose of just laying at His feet & resting in Him. I would pray and get way off track (like, “What should I have for lunch?” off track!). I would procrastinate doing my morning devotional until I only had a few seconds to squeeze it in or else I’d be late to wherever I was running off to.

Basically, I was already so full of the toxic stuff that I had no room for His fruit to grow in my heart. Instead, I was trying to survive on my own, self-produced (& extremely expired!) fruit.

That’s a weird place to be in- especially when you aren’t truly aware of it. You feel anxious and discontent & like you’re always missing something. Thank goodness He opened my eyes to what was happening inside me.

You know what my soul needed? A fruit smoothie* made by the true Smoothie King!

Love.

Joy.

Peace.

Patience.

Kindness.

Goodness.

Faithfulness.

Gentleness.

Self-control.

All of them! Blended up together into fresh, juicy spirit-filled goodness. My soul needed a detox. So so so badly. It needed to flush out the worldly toxins & darkness- it needed a spiritual fruit smoothie.

So (thankfully!) that’s what God has been pouring over my heart & soul for these past few weeks. And it tastes gooood.

Now, I’m not perfect & I most certainly do not embody a soul full of His “fruit of the spirit smoothie” all day, every day- but I am seeking Him to give me glimpses of how good a life full of His fruit is & having that kind of perspective changes everything.

When my soul is focused on His fruit- His love, His joy, His peace, His patience, His kindness, His goodness, His faithfulness, His gentleness & His self-control- everything is so much clearer.

I am so thankful that I have a Father who loves me enough to clean up my messy soul & treats me to the sweetest fruit smoothie this world has ever known.

Being His daughter is always the yummiest & most satisfying adventure for my soul.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”-Galatians 5:22-23

 

*Shout out to Jacelyn & all of my crazy AMAZING sixth grade ladies for coming up with this “fruit smoothie” revelation during small group discussion! Y’all remind me each week how simple God’s love is & how sweet life is when we choose to follow Jesus! I love you girls so super much!