Comfort. Courage. Chaos. (The End of 2020)

2020… it’s been a year! For me, 2019 and 2020 have felt reminiscent of 2011 and 2012. In 2011, I had a breakdown that could’ve led to serious professional help. Thankfully, God got ahold of me before I needed it. In 2019, I was dangerously close to another breakdown. In 2012, I grew closer to God than I had ever been and found my place and my people in the world at Compass Church SA. In 2020, I grew closer to God than I ever have been and learned to let go of my place and people in the world.

I spent seven years of my life as a tween and teen craving love and acceptance. I tried to please everyone. I tried to be whom I thought they wanted me to be. I’m still not sure who “they” are, but it was no one in my life. When I was eighteen, literally on my birthday, I had a come to Jesus moment and realized His opinion of and love for me were all that mattered. Just before I turned nineteen, only after I learned to cling to God and only care what He thought of me, He led me to the people who would love and accept me the way I always longed to loved and accepted. Flash forward seven more years, I was forced to let go of the people who loved and accepted me. I didn’t get to see them for six months. I didn’t get to sit next to my best friend every Sunday morning at church. I didn’t get to linger in the building that was not and is not the Church but does feel like home. I had to walk the walk and show with my actions what I said with my words—I love the Giver more than the gift. If the gift is taken away, then I will still cling to the Giver. And here’s what I learned in 2020. There is some truth to “If you love something, then set it free.”

I went out of 2019 and into 2020 with two goals—trust God and choose courage. Two of my best friends are named Shelby and both of them have helped me with these goals. Shelby the younger is adventurous and outgoing. She has taught me if I want to do something and there’s no legitimate reason not to do it then I should do it. Shelby the older is chill and confident. She has taught me if I don’t want to do something and I don’t have a legitimate need to do it then I don’t have to. If I think something will keep me or others safe, secure, or comfortable, I do it. I follow the rules. I stick to the status quo. I even make my own ridiculous rules that I “have to” follow. Or at least, I used to. In 2020, I learned to do what I want to do and not do what I don’t want to do. It’s been freeing and in freeing me it’s given me what I need to be courageous and trusting.

At the cusp of 2019/2020, I read “Let’s All Be Brave” by Annie F. Downs, “Live Fearless” by Sadie Robertson, and “Get Out of Your Head” by Jennie Allen. I also kicked off the new year alone in my bedroom worshipping with Passion Conference 2020. It is my firm belief that I only thrived in 2020 when the world was falling apart around me because I chose courage and worshipped my way into the new year.

I also firmly believe that I thrived in 2020 because the only thing that saved me 2019 was learning to rest. God taught me (sometimes while I was kicking and screaming) in 2019 to practice Sabbath and create margin. He continued to teach me that in 2020. Because I had margin and celebrated Sabbath in 2020, the hard things in life didn’t hurt as much. I had more clarity to make the right decisions. I was able to hear God speaking to me more than ever before. 2020 wasn’t much different for me than the years before. It was still financially straining. I’ve still had to rely on others more than I would choose to rely on them. I still had moment when I was fearful, anxious, doubtful, and skeptical. Those moments were fewer and farther between though. They didn’t last as long because I’ve been well-rested enough to combat those lies with truth. I was able to breaks and journal. I learned to trigger positive reactions in the same way I learned to prevent triggers for negative reactions. I truly hope 2020 has taught others to do the same.

Until a couple days ago, I had no idea what 2021 would be asking of me. I didn’t have a clue what God wanted me to focus on 2021. Usually, I know at least a month in advance what tools I’ll need in the following year. Before the other day, I thought I’d be going into 2021 still choosing courage and trust. And I will be, because that’s not something I’m just going to stop doing. My main focus will be forgiveness. I’m not sure why, because I felt like I dealt with that a couple years ago and again last year, but I guess I’ve still got some things to learn. I’m going into 2021 reading and journaling “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget” by Lysa Terkurst. And when I did one of those goofy Facebook generators asking “What’s Your Word for 2021?” I got forgiveness. Seems fitting since I’m reading that book and still learning to let go of things that I don’t want to hold onto anymore.

I’m also going to kick off 2021 the same way I kicked off 2020, with Passion Conference. Because whatever happens next year, just like I wrote on my bathroom mirror last year, I want to say, “God whatever you have planned I’m ready.” It seems to me kicking off the new year with worship rather than explosions is a pretty great plan. It worked for me last year and I’m sure it’ll work for me this year. If you choose to and are able to celebrate with fireworks, then I pray you are safe and happy. I pray you have blessed and restful 2021. I pray the Lord will restore the year the locusts ate from you this year. And I pray John 10:10 over you. The Brittany Alexandria version saying, “Jesus has come that you may live life to the fullest, seize the day, carpe diem, yolo!” Because the word He used in the original Greek was “Zoe” which means the future spiritual life AND your present physical life. We don’t have to worry about the future. We shouldn’t let it come without some planning, but for the most part we should be living in the moment. We should be living life without worrying about tomorrow “for today has its own concerns.” So, let’s do it. Let’s go into 2020 letting go of the chaos of 2020, choosing courage, and reaching out of our comfort zones! Happy New Year!

Success–Peace, Joy, Love

Four years ago, on New Year’s Eve, I ended the year with my best friends, Allie and Holly, and their family and other friends. We danced, “drank,” and were merry. We played games and enjoyed the end of the year like we had no cares in the world.
The next morning, they left for a winter retreat with their Christian college group, Cru. Then, I went back to sleep and woke up later to find a text message asking me how the girls were doing. The night before, one of their friends was attacked and killed at the park.
My Facebook feed and local news were flooded with stories about a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, twenty-four-year-old girl who had been ruthlessly murdered while the rest of the world was celebrating a fresh start in life. She was a gentle and quiet spirit. She was full of life and joy. And she longed to help give life to others, but had her life taken from her instead.
I didn’t know it then, but a year and a half earlier, Lauren Bump affected my life the very first day I met Allie and Holly. At youth group, where I met the girls, we had a discussion called “Roses and Thorns.” During this discussion, you share with the group the good and bad things in life that you want to praise the Lord for and pray to Him.
Exactly four years ago, on January 6, 2014, after I read about Lauren Bump, I wrote a blog post about her. At twenty years old, I needed an outlet to express my feelings about an unimaginable situation. Death is already hard enough to understand. It’s especially hard to understand when the dearly departed is so young. I was overwhelmed by the flood of emotions felt after learning someone took the life of a twenty-four-year-old girl. Now, I need to do the same thing. I need to write a post to grasp my feelings on the subject.
I’ve stated before that I am an empath. When I say that, I mean it a thousand percent. When I feel something, the feeling never quite goes away. In 2014, when I felt the impact of Lauren’s life and death, it didn’t come and go. It came and never left. In recent months, I have been heavily reminded of the life and death of Lauren Bump. Why now? Because, on December 22nd, 2017, I turned twenty-four—the same age Lauren was when she was killed. I came to that realization while I was talking to Allie and Holly’s mom recently. This year, I am as old as Lauren was. Unless—God forbid—something happens to me, by the time her birthday comes around again, I will have officially lived longer than she did. That is an unsettling and even kind of frightening thought.
Lauren was and still is an incredibly inspiring young woman. Four years later, even though I never knew her in person, I still often think about Lauren Bump. Not only when I pass on the tradition of asking people what their roses and thorns are, but also just in everyday life. Sometimes, I think about her quote, “Seek peace, keep a joyful heart, and in all things, do with love.” I often think about my original post about her, Live Like Lauren. And wonder if I have lived the way I said I would.
“I will live a life and speak words that encourage and inspire other people, especially younger girls and young women who are my age, to live for God, to live life to the fullest, and to love themselves as much as they love others! I will live in such a way that no one can know me without also coming face to face with God. I will live a life that continues to inspire and encourage people long after I’m gone!”
My last blog post of 2017 was about how I had a rough year. I’ve felt unsuccessful and just beaten down at every turn. As I read through my previous posts about Lauren before writing this post, I also read her last blog post, “Success.” God has been reminding me about Lauren a lot lately. He’s allowed me to go through a very rough year. Now, He led me to Lauren’s blog post where she spoke about a rough patch in her own life that eventually led to the success she was seeing in her final year. How funny is it that God works in such methodical ways, even when it doesn’t seem like it?
The beautiful thing about success is it doesn’t need life to prosper. Lauren’s life has continued to be successful even after her time on earth was up. In her blog post she wrote, “When people look at me and my life, I don’t care what people think of me. I care about what they think of my God. My goal in life is to love God and love people. My grades, my schooling, my accomplishments, contribute nothing to a truly successful life. Those are temporary things that will not have any value when my life on earth is over and I approach the Pearly Gates.”
I spent much of 2017 feeling like my life hasn’t been successful. I have credit card debt, I don’t work a job that I love, and I am single beyond belief. None of that matters though, not when I get to Heaven. So, why does it all matter so much now? It shouldn’t. That’s not to say I shouldn’t pay off my credit cards, look and hope for a job I love, or continue to pray for God’s will on my love life—or currently lack thereof. It’s simply to say that in comparison to Heaven, nothing in this world matters. What does matter is how I handle it! Do I seek peace in my financial storm? Am I joyful, even when my situation isn’t happy? Do I love everyone no matter if I’m single or taken?
After reading Lauren’s post about success and her own dry season, I have to wonder if that’s why God has allowed/is allowing me to walk through my current dry season? Am I missing the bigger picture? Am I trying too hard to be successful in the eyes of the world or even just in my own eyes? The answer is yes. While I genuinely don’t care most of the time what the world thinks of me, I sure care a whole lot about what I think of me. You see, I had a plan and I don’t think I’ve quite let go of it yet.
I was going to grow up to graduate from high school with honors and a boyfriend. I was going to go to college at the University of Texas in Austin. Then I would get married, have babies, and live happily ever after. That was the dream. Reality is a little different. I graduated high school a year behind. I didn’t go to college. I’m still single and I live with my sister in an apartment next to our childhood neighborhood. Reality is also that God knew I wouldn’t be ready for “the real world” in 2012 when I was “supposed to” graduate—I’m barely ready now. He knew that I didn’t need the added stress of unnecessary school and homework brought on by a college education I didn’t need to be a writer. He knew that what I really needed was the college experience without the stress. So, He gave me best friends who attended college at UT and let me regularly visit them for “field trips” and other outings that “normal” Christian college-aged kids got. He also knew that even now, I wouldn’t be ready to fall in love. My heart has been broken and twisted in a lot of ways throughout my twenty-four years and it’s still not quite ready to let one of God’s men in yet to love it. That’s okay. God knows me, He knows my heart, and He knows what plan is best for me to be successful in life on earth and in Heaven.
So, now, as I write this blog post, thinking about Lauren and success, I’m reminded that success is objective and it’s different for everyone. For Lauren, success was best obtained through spreading light, love, and hope after death. For me, success is best obtained by walking with the Lord as I live a completely nontraditional life. I’m a twenty-four-year-old virgin who is “forever single” and currently unemployed after not going to college. That may not seem successful, but right now, it’s the life God has called me to and I’m going to use this life for His glory. I’m going to remember His beloved children. I’m going use my talents to write and speak, and I’m going to grow closer to Him by starting every morning with Him in the Word.
Now, I finally know what my 2018 goals are. My goals are to rest in the Lord and know He is God and let go of the grip I have on the last threads of my plan. I will continue to try to live out the goal I set for myself in 2014. And I will continue to #LiveLikeLauren as I “Seek peace, keep a joyful heart, and in all things, do with love.”

2018 and the Quarter-Life Crisis

**Disclaimer** Please be advised, I am not making fun of Britney Spears with the above photo. On the contrary, love her or hate her, Britney Spears has made a great comeback in the past ten years. I applaud her for publicly breaking and then coming back much stronger than ever before. While I don’t believe that everything about her is worthy of praise, I do believe her comeback is worthy of admiration.

 

2017 has been a long hard year. While many feel that the year slipped away before their very eyes, for me it dragged on and on. Every day has felt like one step closer to slipping into the deep end of nothingness. Nothing particularly bad has happened, but nothing particularly good has happened either. With every passing month, week, day, and hour, I have felt as if I’m having a quarter-life crisis or something. It seems like I haven’t accomplished anything of worth in my life. It seems like none of my dreams will ever come true. I feel lost and confused and unsure of everything. I mean, for crying out loud, a few weeks ago I sat on my bathroom floor crying because something wouldn’t stay on the wall. Then, I realized I was being ridiculous, so I got up, went to the kitchen, and ate a bowl of fruity pebbles. Why? Because being twenty-something is hard. Adulting period is hard. Still, hard is not impossible. I may be going into 2018 as lost and confused as I’ve been throughout most of 2017, but at least I’m not alone. I have God and I have friends. I have characters from books, movies, and TV shows. I even have characters from my own writing. I’m not alone. I’m not hopeless. I’m not even unaccomplished. So, I’ve decided to write a kudos post as a reminder to myself and as a reminder to anyone reading this that small successes are still successes.

1. Yes, I had to wait five months. Yes, even after moving in there were issues. Yes, actually renting is harder than renting from my roommates’ parents. That being said, I did it! I applied to live in an apartment with my sister. Now, I’m sitting in that apartment as I write this!

2. When I felt like God was calling me to take a new position at work, I took at a moment’s notice. Then, when He used that position to show me how life sucking the job as a whole was, I quit altogether.

3. I started writing a series called, “Malachi Gregory,” and have at least four regular fans! Everyone starts somewhere, right?

4. I go horseback riding on a semi-regular basis now. That’s a dream come true! Gotta count the little victories!m

5. I have over 250 subscribers on YouTube and that’s without consistently uploading!

6. I cook and bake a lot of my own meals!

7. I’m currently caught up on all the TV shows I watch as the air!

8. My siblings love me and like to hang out with me–most of the time!

9. When I’m feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed, I normally go to God right away instead of wallowing in it.

10. When I’m feeling some kind of way about family issues, I not only go to God, but I also share my surface feelings with my best friend instead of bottling them up inside!

And, the list could probably go on for a little while longer, but the point has been made. When life feels murky and deep, we don’t have to get stuck or let ourselves drown! We can and should hold tight to the little life preservers of small successes that God gives us! While this post is written to myself so I can have something to hold onto as 2018 threatens to swallow me up already, it’s also for you! If you’re having a quarter-life crisis, or just need encouragement for a bad day, then write your own kudos list! And feel free to eat a bowl of cereal, buy your favorite candy, or eat icing/ice cream right out of the tub! No one will judge you! We’ve all been there, girl! In fact, I’ve been there at least once a week almost all year! Don’t feel ashamed of where you’re out. If you’re feeling lost, confused, anxious, depressed, stressed, or all of the above, then own it! Take your floods and storms to the Lord and trust that He can handle it even…especially when you can’t!

And so, as I go into 2018 more unsure of what the future holds than ever before, my only goal is this: To rest in the Lord and know He is God.

Happy New Year! I hope to see you a lot more in 2018 as I write and you read more! Just by reading this, thanks for being a ray of sunshine through my storm! ❤