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! ❤