the greatest oxymoron.

I used to go to a church where we had communion every Sunday.  I didn’t understand why at first.  Then I worried that it would become rote, with a weekly occurrence robbing it of its sacredness.  But after a few months, my family and I embraced it.  It brought us closer as a family because there were always recent events that we needed to apologize to one another – instead of trying to wrack our brains once a month for stuff to say sorry for.

The same can be said for the Easter story – all of the events surrounding the crucifixion, the burial, and the resurrection.

If you’ve grown up in the church, you’ve heard this story.  A lot.  You’ve been to multiple services on Easter weekend, all touching on some aspect of the story, and maybe you’ve even been to Passion City Church’s Good Friday service with Louis Giglio (which, if you haven’t, is a must because it’s unparalleled).

Easter, in a sense, can also become rote – obvious and dull for all of us who have grown up listening to this story over and over since it’s so essential to the Gospel.  In the midst of meals with extended family members, egg hunts with small children, and making sure your outfit is finished by Easter morning, it can even be forgotten.  This same struggle happens around Christmastime, when the true meaning for all of the celebrations is pushed aside by the chaos and distractions.

This is true for me.  In the past, I’ve had to repent for focusing more on traveling to see family members than on Jesus’s precious gift to me.

That’s one thing I never want to lose sight of.  It’s the greatest oxymoron I’ve ever known – that by His wounds, He gave me healing.  I’ll never get over that.

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 53:5

This Easter, spend time with your family members and enjoy the egg hunt (it’s perfectly fine to be scared of the Easter bunny, though it’s too big why I don’t understand), but take the time to get alone with God.  Sit in your room or take a walk in the woods or drive on a random road in the mountains – whatever it takes to get rid of all of the distractions and outside chaos.  Think about what He did for you, and thank Him for it.  I know I’ll be doing it, because I’ve been awestruck by His grace and love – the love that saved my soul.

coffee session | some things i’ve learned recently.

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(for le blog aesthetic / not mine)

You know the drill.  Grab a cup of coffee, listen to some music, and let’s have a chat.  (My side of the conversation is below; feel free to share yours in the comments!)

*sips coffee*

So my sister got some toffee nut syrup from Starbucks a few weeks ago and y ‘ a l l.  It’s so good.  Makes her mad when I “borrow” it, but it makes my coffee soooo yummyyyyyy.  (Why yes, I am drinking it right now – why do you ask?)

*sips coffee again*

I have a coaching call in literally one minute but I’m here writing out this post and if that doesn’t say something about my time management skills, I don’t know what will.

What’s a coaching call, you ask?  WELL.  CollegePlus – Lumerit, SORRY – is a distance-learning thing, and the thing the company does to keep you on track is give you a coach that calls you once every two weeks to chat about your life and your schooling and how it’s all going – and, most importantly, how you’re handling it all.

{musical interlude while I do my call}

Anyway, my coach is amazing and I love her to death.  She’s my fourth coach because I had three coaches in a year and let. me. tell. you. – that was not fun.  But she’s an angel and I think I love her best out of the three.  If I pass my last two courses (fingers crossed because they’re a little harder than I thought they’d be), I’ll be finished in March and that’s kinda sad because I’m going to miss talking to her every few weeks!  Plus she’s getting married, so that’s pretty dang exciting.

*sips coffee*

(it’s actually the next day and i’ve got coffee again and… yeah.  me in a nutshell)

So the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack came out the other night and oh my gosh.  It is all kinds of wonderful.  Seriously, I don’t know that I’ve related to a musical so much.  It’s so needed, too.  Such a beautiful, beautiful thing.  Listen to it.  If you’ve only got time for one song, listen to this one.  And really listen to it – turn it on, put headphones in, close your eyes, and just sit for a minute.  It’ll make you day a million times better.

I stayed up ’til after 1am listening to it when it came out, first laughing and dancing and dramatically lip-syncing in the bathroom and then sobbing while curled up in my bed with the blankets over my head.  Because that’s just the kind of musical that it is.

*sips coffee*

Like I mentioned before, college is hard.  I knew that going into it, and all the courses I’ve done have been different kinds of difficult, but… dang, these last two.  I’ve cried more over these than I have over any other course in my entire four years of college – which is kind of a lot because I don’t get stressed too easily.

I’ve always been super hard on myself, and have always had high expectations for myself, beating myself up inwardly if I didn’t meet those expectations.  I’ve always known that it’s probably not best for me to do that (LOL) but I’ve always let it slide because how else will I do anything well?

WELL.  All of the stress – courses, moving, trying to finish a freaking novel – came to a head over the last two-ish weeks (hence why I haven’t posted anything in a while – sorry, guys).  And it was bad.

Because I used to not get stressed too easily and then I was stressed literally all the time, I had to figure out how to take care of myself.  Definitely not by lowering my expectations for myself – because how stupid is that – but by not beating myself up in addition to everything else that’s putting pressure onto me.

SO.  While I certainly do. not. have. the. answers. (as evidenced by the fact that I still get stressed easily and will most likely cry over these courses again next week – looking forward to it), here are some things I’ve learned.

First and foremost, ask God for help.  Literally, this is the best thing you can do.  I think worrying is just being blinded by your own incompetence, so it’s a great idea to lean on the One who is good at everything, right?  Ask God for help and He’ll guard your heart with His peace that passes understanding.   Approach His throne with boldness and He’ll give you grace.

Second, figure out what’s giving you the most stress and see if you can relieve some of the stress.  Is your room a wreck but you don’t have time to clean it?  Do it in steps: Make your bed one day, take five minutes to pick up all the clothes the next day, spend ten minutes on it instead of on Facebook the day after that (which should be the first thing because we all need reasons to stay off Facebook these days).  Family member making you stressed?  Get out of the house, if only just to spend some time in the backyard or something; use headphones to shut it all out for a little while; or, better yet, encourage them to get out of the house.  (There’s almost nothing better than having an entire house to yourself.)  School giving you trouble?  Find someone who can help, work on it in spurts, set deadlines for yourself, reward yourself.

Which brings me to my third idea, the one I’ve been learning the most about recently:

SELF. CARE.

This is literally one of the best things you can do for yourself.  I’ve found that it’s mostly talked about in the realm of people who have depression, mental illnesses, self-harm issues, or other issues like that, which is kind of a shame because everybody could use it.

I’m so glad I started to learn about self-care personally, because it’s changed how I cope with things.  Instead of just bottling up the stress and pushing forward and never giving myself a break, I know how to deal with it in a better way now.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve learned how to reward myself when I’ve done my best by taking breaks after a long study session and curling up with a good book or guilty pleasure show.  (I’m halfway through the second season of said guilty pleasure show and halfway through the book I’ve been rewarding myself with.)  I set aside a day a week to work on my novel, which is a good idea because it needs to get done, it’s part of my massive final project, and it’s getting me into a good routine for when I’m done with college and can focus solely on my writing.

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t work hard anymore.  Far from it, actually.  I’ve found that making myself take breaks has made me work even harder – and better.  My writing has improved, my focus has improved, and my general attitude towards life has improved.

Plus, it’s always nice to have unexpected blessings, like spending the day with a good friend or your mom surprising you with gluten-free cupcakes.

All in all, my life has been pretty crazy lately, but mostly in good ways.  I’ll probably be here less, but I’ll come back when I can.

Have some laughing babies.

“give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.”

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this will forever be one of my favorite pictures of all time. my siblings and i helped my grandma set up her tree last thanksgiving and we had such a blast.

I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. – Ps. 9:1

As I think about how far I’ve come since last Thanksgiving, I’m amazed and in total awe of God’s goodness and grace.  Some of you may remember my totally angsty thanksgiving post from last year.  (*facepalm*)

In all honesty, I still have days like that, but they’ve been fewer as of late.  Mostly because I’m constantly realizing how incredibly blessed my life is.

Just how blessed am I?  WELL, I’M GLAD YOU ASKED.

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I have the best siblings ever.  Seriously, they’re amazing.

They never cease to make me laugh, stretch me, and teach me – everything from random facts about music and TV shows to anger management (*wink*).  I’d be so lost without these kiddos.

(And we totally won Halloween, especially considering we had about two hours’ notice for costumes.)

I love my parents to DEATH, too, but I don’t have any recent pictures of them.  So I’ll just say this instead: my parents are the best.  They teach me so many life lessons, they love me even when I’m hard to love, and they support me constantly.  I’m forever grateful.

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I also have the literal best friends.

Friends who will Gilmore-bound to coffee shops with me, play weddings with me, and then invite me and my siblings to come watch Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life with them…

 

 

 

 

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Friends who will invite me to Charleston for my very first girls-only weekend and get dressed up for a fancy-schmancy dinner in the car in a parking garage and talk to random guys about protesting and make totally inappropriate jokes with…

 

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And friends who will let me stay at their house for a week and then take me and my siblings to Universal.  And sing Moana songs 24/7.   ALL THE HEART EYES FOR YOU GUYS.  (And what a good looking group of people, if I do say so myself.)  (“AND THANK YOU!”)

 

 

 

 

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I’m grateful for books and the pretty places I can read them.  This particular spot is my hidden sanctuary.  I come here once or twice a week and read, drink coffee, or just sit.

 

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And, finally, I’m thankful for coffee, especially on a rainy Sunday morning in Charleston with two of my best friends beside me.

(And more pictures from my Charleston trip are coming.  Because I’m obsessed.)

 

What are you thankful for?

 

what courtship-advocating parents don’t understand.

Disclaimer: I love my parents.  I love my friends’ parents.  This isn’t about anybody’s parents in particular.  This is just something I’ve been thinking about, with no particular set of parents in mind.  AND this isn’t meant to offend anyone.  This is for you, my readers – to encourage you and to let you know that you’re not alone.  Anyways.  Onward.

(Disclaimer #2, or In Which I Realize I Should’ve Talked To My Parents Before Posting This…. See the end of this post.)

Courtship.

Depending on how you grew up and what you were taught, that word can either send shoots of awkward pain through your body or make you feel all warm and tingly.  The same can be said for the word…

Dating.

(Half of you just hissed and scurried back to the shadows, I just know it.  XD)

I’ve talked about how I grew up before a little (especially my thoughts on purity rings), but if you don’t know, I was raised with the courtship mindset.  (And, before you freak out and unfollow, I’m still holding to some of those beliefs, though not all of them.)

To twelve-year-old me, courtship meant finding That Special Someone (or, rather, him finding me), getting to know him and his family better, him asking my dad for approval of our relationship, and us moving forward with a deeper relationship.  To be honest, that’s still basically what I’m hoping for, but some aspects look a little different.

As I’ve grown up, though, I’ve realized that it isn’t that easy – not by a long shot.

Although never explicitly said, it feels like our parents and the books we read and the Bible studies we did implied that if we courted (and saved ourselves and all that), then a great guy would find us and we’d be happily married and ride off into the sunset.

As some of my friends and I have discovered, the courtship mindset isn’t a formula.  It’s not waiting + courtship = relationship + marriage before 22.  Agreeing to save ourselves and wait and court and all that jazz does not guarantee marriage.

In fact, it seems far from it.

Growing up with a courtship mindset kind of skewed my mind a little… and it did the same for my sisters, too.  I realized the other day that I’d always assumed I’d have to court a few guys before I “got it right” – essentially that I’d make a ton of mistakes before finally meeting “the one.”  For my sisters, one grew up so scared of making mistakes, and the other was at the verge of throwing caution to the wind.

(I’m feeling a pull to go off into a “Since when did pursuing more than one guy before landing on the right one become a bad thing???” tangent, but I’d better not.  That’s another blog post for another time.  XD)

One of the worst parts about growing up with this mindset, though, is being a girl in this sub-society where girls have to wait for the guy to approach them – or, in extreme situations, to approach her dad before she even hears of his interest.

What’s even worse (and here we finally come to the reason for this post) is that sometimes – sometimes – our parents don’t understand.

Obviously, if your parents courted, they know how you feel, and this post isn’t really for you.  But if you’re a first-generationer like I was (and still am – gosh, I’ve got to get that figured out)… it’s hard.

“Wow, you’re really bashing my parents, aren’t you?” you say.

No, I’m not.  (At least, I’m trying not to.)

I’m just trying to say that these parents who strongly encourage their kids to court all their lives really don’t understand how hard it is.

How hard it is to be in your twenties and never been on a date.

How hard it is to be this age and never know that a guy has ever been interested in you.

How hard it is to look on the past twenty-plus years and wonder if that’s what the next twenty will be like – with an absence of romance and a multitude of worrying.

I once tried to explain this feeling to my mom.  My sister got it, but my mom didn’t. “You’re saving yourself!” Mom said.  “You’re going to have the best marriage.”

It took everything in me to not say, “Yes, I know – you keep telling me that.  But you started dating at fifteen, and I’m almost twenty-two and I’ve never been on a date, so it’s looking pretty bleak!”

I’ve since gotten a lot more content in my state of singleness, but it’s still hard sometimes.  (Especially now, when families are starting to get together for the holidays and everybody’s asking about your love life cAN I GET AN AMEN?!)

HOWEVER.  I’m not going to throw away the last ten years of waiting just because it’s getting hard.  Because that would be stupid and negate all the time I’ve waited.

I’m not telling you to rage against your parents and renounce everything they’ve ever taught you.  I’m just telling you… I get it.   If you feel this way, you’re not alone.  Your thoughts are valid.  Just because some people don’t get it doesn’t mean that nobody does.

Our parents are wonderful people, and they may understand more about the world than we ever will.  But if they dated and you’re not planning on it… this is one thing they don’t really get. And that’s okay.

“I get it,” you’re saying (hopefully).  “I’m not mad at my parents for not understanding this, but I’m still confused about what I do from here.”

I’m confused, too.  The only thing I’d recommend doing is the only thing I’ve found that works – to just accept it and wait.  Pray for understanding for them and peace for yourself. You’re not a terrible person for thinking that they don’t get it (and you’re definitely not unlovable just because you’ve chosen to wait).

I’m not going to say that you’ll find love, because I can’t guarantee that.  I’m also not going to say that your parents will understand in time, because I can’t guarantee that either.

However, I will say that we’re blessed with a God who does understand and that, as His children, we’re given the freedom to approach Him with confidence, knowing that He cares for us.

Therefore, since we have such a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  (I Peter 5:7)

What are your thoughts?  Have you decided to court or date?  Where do your parents stand? Let me know in the comments!

ADDENDUM: Waiting is hard.  I’m not trying to blame my parents for how hard waiting is, and I’m not trying to blame the courtship system.  And just because it’s hard does not mean that I’m going to throw away the last ten years of protecting my heart.  I’m not going to go get pregnant just because I’m tired of waiting.  There are some days where I’m done with waiting, but that’s not the majority.  I went to Charleston two weekends ago with two single friends, and we had a blast.  We even talked about how great it was that we were all single and didn’t have to clear it with our significant others.

I know that waiting is hard, guys.  But I think it’ll be worth it.  And waiting is a decision I made when I was like eleven, and I’m sticking to it, no matter how hard it gets.

(Also, if you don’t think your parents understand what you’re going through, talk to them.  It’s something I should’ve done before I posted this, and I’m sorry for representing them poorly by posting this without talking to them about it first.  I love them very much.)

don’t you worry, child.

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Flashback to May of this past year.  I was obsessing over something to the point of exhaustion.  I wanted something to happen so badly that I didn’t know what I would do if it didn’t happen.

I spent hours thinking and overthinking about this thing, texting friends and coming up with multiple scenarios in my head.

To be completely honest with you guys, I didn’t handle it well.  The only thing that got me out of this abyss of overanalyzing and obsessing was the knowledge that what I was doing was INCREDIBLY STUPID and that no amount of worrying would make it happen.

By the time The Thing came around, I wasn’t worried about it any more.  I’d given it to God (daily, y’all – d a i l y), and I’d forced myself to stop thinking about it and trust that God had my best interests at heart.

And guess what?  Nothing happened, and I was okay with that.

I’m not perfect, guys.  Far from it.  I just wanted to share this small thing I learned – that sometimes it’s okay to stop thinking, stop obsessing, stop placing your entire happiness on one small event that may or may not even happen.  Give it to God, trust Him, and (if you can) forget about it.

God wants your best, guys.  Even if you can’t see it, even if you don’t believe it.  His ways are best and you’ve just gotta trust that.  Ask Him for strength and then wait on Him.

I’ll be back later with some ranty posts I’ve been thinking about for a while (look forward to it *smirky emoji*), but I just wanted to share that with you guys.  What has God been teaching you lately?

how to be a christian instagram girl.

Here you go, ladies.  Be a blessing to our fellow Christians by posting pictures of your superior-in-every-way devotional time!  (Except Katie forgot the insanely detailed notes that everyone is supposed to do.  Shame on her, not having drawing skills like this.)

Follow me on Instagram.  Job 19:17.

Special thanks to my mom for showing me this video and to Naomi for directing me back to her channel with Katie’s courtship vs. dating video (which is fantastic and you guys should totally watch it).  Brownies for both of you.

love is a risk {a follow-up post}

Surprise!  I’m back for another love post!  (Actually, a kind of follow-up post to my ‘actively waiting’ post, now that I think about it.)

I wasn’t going to do any more posts about love, but I started reading this blog post about it, and I was just like, “I have got to reblog this.

But first, my unsolicited opinion!  (Because it’s my blog and I do what I want.)

I’ve been talking to so many people about love lately – my sister, my best friend, some other friends – and it’s just been really interesting to hear so many different opinions from my friends in different stages of life.  One girl is in a complicated friend relationship that may turn into something more (which she’s slightly afraid of), one is swearing off guys for the moment, one is reaching that age when she feels like she’ll never be married, one is swearing not to date a guy unless he’s marriage material, and one is afraid of guys.  (You know who you are!  Hugs and kisses. *wink*)

Confession time: I’ve been in all of those places.  (And right now, honestly, I’m constantly swinging between trying to be satisfied in Christ {and I’ve been trying to learn how to be satisfied over the past like five years} and wanting to just scream “DATE ME!” at a guy I like.)

My views of marriage and guy/girl relationships have changed so radically over the past five years that I wish I could go back in time and give my sixteen-year-old self a firm shake, a hug, and a promise that it’ll all be a little more clear in the future.

Relationships aren’t complicated, guys.  That’s my revelation from the past few years.  Guy/girl relationships can be a little complicated at times… but only if you make them so.  If you’re constantly worrying if you’ll ever get married or if a certain dude is THE ONE, congratulations, you’ve set yourself up for a few weeks/months/years of worry.

(Tangent: And hey, guess what?  The only way to know if a guy likes you is to ask.  Plain and simple.  I thought asking the dude was stupid… when I was twelve.  And it is stupid… when you’re twelve.  At eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-five… DO IT.  There’s no use pining over some guy you have no chance with.  Ask his sister, ask his mom, ask him… but don’t think about him sporadically {or constantly} and worry if he likes you or not.  Ask and move on – either with him or away from him.  And if you’ve done that, WELL DONE – you’ve saved yourself loads of time!  Trust me; it’ll be far better in the long run when you’ve moved on instead thinking you’ve moved on and being reminded of your feelings towards him when you’re invited to his future bride’s bridal shower.  Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything… *cough*)

As Phylicia says in her post, Dear Girl, It’s Just a Date, we as Christians have made guy/girl relationships too complicated by insisting that they be destined for marriage.  When I was younger, I swore I’d never date – and I’d only court someone (whatever that means) when I was absolutely, positively, one hundred percent SURE that I’d marry him.

Golly Pete, was I naive or what?!

Over the last year or so, I’ve realized that it isn’t that simple.  Courtship does not equal marriage.  Dating does not equal divorce.  Yes, if your definitions of the two are wrong (especially excessive, serial dating, or even excessive, serial courting), you’re setting yourself up for failure.  I’m not saying that dating is wrong and courtship is right (or the opposite), but we need to reevaluate our views on the two.  Is a failed courtship a failed relationship?  Nope, not if God taught you something through it.  Is going out on a date with a guy sinful?  Nope, not if boundaries are set and God is the focus.

I’ve seen both dating relationships and courtship relationships end in disaster.  Dating where neither is fully committed and boundaries get crossed and, hello, babies get made.  Courting where the couple is never left alone to figure out if they’re comfortable with just the two of them and then marrying and finding out that – heck, no – they’re not comfortable at all.  Both are wrong and both have lifetime consequences.

The way I see it, a guy/girl relationship (be it courtship or dating) is only a failure if, when it ends, it scars you for life and radically negatively alters your perspective.  If you’ve been in a courtship and it failed, that is okay.  We need to stop pressuring people into thinking that you can only “get to know someone on a deeper level” if you want to marry them.  Can you imagine how much pressure that must make the guy feel if he does ANYTHING wrong?!  Not to mention how much pressure is put on the girl!  “Getting to know someone on a deeper level” only means that – getting to know them.  How can you know if a person is compatible for life if you don’t get to know them first?

Don’t make relationships more complicated than they already are.  I’ve seen relationships falter and die a tragic death because of too much talking, too much bad counsel, too much worrying, and way too much analyzing.  Yes, relationships are a risk (especially guy/girl relationships), but that’s faith – trusting in God and moving forward even when you can’t see (II Corinthians 5:7).

Okay, enough rambling – to my original intent for this post!

As the following isn’t my post, I’m just going to put some of it here and encourage you guys to go read the rest.  ‘Cause it’s amazing.

just a date

Dear girl,

We the Church – we’ve made relationships heavy.

Relationships are a serious thing – serious because they involve real hearts and raw emotions. We have to walk wisely and think clearly. But not all relationships are meant for marriage.

Maybe you already grasp that concept in your head. But I want you to grasp it in your heart – and on your next date.

Don’t try out his last name.

Don’t picture the Facebook status.

Don’t go there.

It’s just a date.

I’m not saying to lose the romance and I’m not saying to abandon all common sense. I’m not suggesting you settle for less or that you approach relationships carelessly. I’m saying that your truest self – the self you want a man to know and see and love – isn’t revealed when you’re knee-deep in the Christian-relationship mating ritual. There, we must bear the weight of a potential future, and bear in mind that marriage – marriage could be on the line.

All on the first date.

But despite the best efforts, we can never guarantee a first date will lead to marriage. No one can.

These days we move strategically, chess pieces navigating the game. We have to know if he’s ready to spiritually lead and financially take on a family. We have to know where it’s headed because otherwise, it’s a waste of time – right? Dating is supposed to lead to marriage – right?

Not always.

We the Church – we’ve made relationships complicated.

We meant well, really. We seek to protect purity and uphold marriage. We want to embrace God’s design. But we keep missing a consistent gospel theme: freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17). In relationships, that means if you’re walking by the Spirit of God you are free to go on a date without demanding a DTR. [Ashley’s note: Define The Relationship]

We want it all in order from the beginning. We want the promise of no broken hearts, no disappointment, no struggle through the just-friends-but-not stage. We want to guard our hearts from hurt by only dating people we could see ourselves marrying, but the pressure is too soon, too heavy. A Starbucks hour won’t tell you if this guy is marriage material. It takes time.

Girls wonder why the guys run scared. I would run scared. I don’t believe Christian men are afraid of commitment. I believe they are afraid of commitment expected on the first date. In a church culture where a date equals intention of marriage, the pressure is on. You can’t just ask a girl out and get to know her; you have to know your intentions first. But how can you know your intentions if you don’t even know the girl herself?

Read the rest of the post here, then leave a comment and let me know what you think!  Do you agree or disagree with what I and Phylicia said?