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Whole Heart: A Love Without Walls

Your love
It comes with no conditions
You give us Your whole heart
My hope
Is in the blood of Jesus
I know who I am
Because of who You are
- Whole Heart by Passion 

Ya'll, I cannot stop playing this song... It's the opening track to Passion's new album titled Whole Heart, and I'm obsessed. 

Just a quick overview of Passion: it's a conference for young adults, ages 18-24, hosted in Atlanta featuring all the big-name Christian speakers and worship leaders. It's a movement really, of young adults passionate about making Jesus the center of everything. Unfortunately I haven't been able to go the last few years; but I attended my senior year of high school and freshman year of college, and to this day I remember how the teaching and worship experience changed my life. 

Each year the Passion worship band releases an album of the songs played at the conference, and the first few lines of the first track (Whole Heart) have been constantly running through my head lately.

Your love
It comes with no conditions
You give us Your whole heart

Once again, I am reminded of how the love of God is so unlike human love. 

Little Thoughts, Vol. 1

Hey friends.

So I've been wanting to write for a while, but have been struggling with what to write on. If I had the chance, I would sit across from each one of you with a cup of coffee or lunch at Chick-fil-A and just want to hear about your life.

So let's just pretend like that's what we're doing here and catch up on some little thoughts that have been running through my head lately.

We Are Called To Dream

I am that friend that is obsessed with Disney.

Everyone knows it, and I'm not ashamed to say it. As soon as someone even remotely refers to Disney, my senses are on high alert and every head in the room spins to look at me.

Some people love Disney for the characters and the timeless stories of magic and fairytale. Most people would say Disney played an integral part of their childhood memories. Others love this company because of the excellence with which they operate. If you love theme parks and creativity and history and business and world domination, it would be hard not to be a fan of Disney in some way, shape, or form.

I love this company for all these reasons and more, but the thing that I admire the most is their commitment to dreaming.

I love that the tagline for Disney's Parks and Resorts is "Where dreams come true." They have created an atmosphere of magic and fantasy, transforming kids into real life princes and princesses, pirates, and storybook characters. A little girl's biggest dream could be to meet Cinderella; and here there's a place to meet her, see her castle, and even transform into Cinderella herself.

And if Disney can make a kid believe that even their wildest, most fantastic dreams of whimsy can come true, how much easier is it to convince them that their smaller, yet still big real-life dreams can too?

Monday Motivation: For When You Don't Feel Like Wonder Woman

Hey friends.

Something you might not know about me:

I am easily intimidated.

I have dealt with high social anxiety in the past, though it is quieter now. I make a lot of assumptions and can easily be trapped in the lies of comparison. It doesn't take a lot to make me feel small inside.

Recently I felt my levels of anxiety begin to rise, and I realized I was feeling intimidated by my week. It was Sunday night, and as I was looking across the horizon of all that I had to do, I already felt nervous and defeated before even really starting.

I was looking at the mountain of literal things to do like homework assignments and classes. I was looking at the work and effort it would take to get those things done. I was looking at the people in my life that I love the most, and the time and emotion it takes to invest in them. I was looking at my future in all of its uncertainty, knowing the resumes and applications and interviews it would take to get where I want to be.

I was looking at all this mess; and while I told myself "I can't do this," I just immediately felt in my spirit the Lord say, "You will not and cannot be intimidated by tomorrow."

Goodbye 2017

You didn't think I'd skip out on an end-of-year blog post, did you?

I don’t know about anyone else, but this was one of those years that flew by; and yet I can still remember every messy and beautiful moment.

I remember where I was (literally and figuratively) a year ago, writing a post (linked here) in my favorite coffee shop in the world in Tulsa, Oklahoma, greeting 2017 with hope and anticipation. I had little dreams of writing more and big dreams of becoming a better version of myself. A year ago there was a lot of grief over who I had become, but out of that place came a deeper thankfulness and understanding of the Lord’s grace and mercy.

This past year held so many adventures for me.

Get Your Hopes Up

"Don't get your hopes up."

I've begun preparing for the post-graduation realm by looking at jobs and preparing my resume, and while for the most part I have no idea what I'm doing, there are a few opportunities that can't help but stir excitement and passion in my spirit. But the more I get stuck in my head, the more overwhelming and intimidating the future appears; and I subconsciously prepare for the worst by whispering this phrase...

"Don't get your hopes up."

The other day, I was thinking about some friends of mine and how I wish they would commit to coming to church or lifegroup with me so that they could have just one encounter with Jesus that would begin to change their lives. I found myself discouraged and disappointed, thinking... 

"Don't get your hopes up." 

Sometimes I am lonely. I know the Lord is for me, and in Him I have all that I need. He has purposes and plans and dreams for me beyond what I can picture, yet I wonder if I will ever stop experiencing seasons of loneliness that settle around me like a thick, heavy cloud. In an attempt to ease my anxiety, I repeat over and over...

"Don't get your hopes up." 

I pray this doesn't sound like you; but if it does, you're not alone. And even if you never purposefully tell yourself this phrase, how many times do you subdue hope under the cover of realism? 

Something the Lord began to challenge was my belief in every part of His character, which meant believing He is the God of all hope (Romans 15:3). If I believe that He is a God of love and grace and mercy, peace, kindness, joy, forgiveness... then I must also believe that He is a God of hope, and that His desire is that we should practice and grow in this trait as much as the others. 

Why Making Time Is Making A Difference

Everyone hates excuses, but the one I hate the most is "I'm just so busy."

And I write this because I am the worst about throwing around this phrase, when I really mean to say "My priorities and time management skills are out of line."

We all have 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week. Taylor Swift has 24 hours in a day. The President has 24 hours in a day. Jesus had 24 hours in a day.

And although I don't have those peoples' personal planners sitting in my lap right now, I'm betting they have more on their to-do list than I do; and somehow life is working for them.

When someone tells me they are busy, I already know that. My assumption is that time is of the highest value to everyone. My assumption is that you aren't just laying on your couch every day... you either have a job, school, clubs, events, most of the time: all of the above.

And this is normal. If someone were not doing one or more of these things, we would say that person is lazy or doesn't have their life together. This is the way it is in an American culture as fast-paced as ours.

But I think something we can do that will begin to transform our society a bit is to stop the glorification of "busy."

T-Swift And The Problem With Hardened Hearts

I think the most cringe-worthy moment of 2017 was the moment I heard Taylor Swift's new song "Look What You Made Me Do." 

Okay, so hear me out. Tswift is my girllll, and her songs were the anthem to my teen angst; so I'm not going to sit here and bash her as a person or her new sound or how she's not the same, etc. Music artists change their sound/style all the time, and there's not much you can really do about it. Am I a "Teardrops On My Guitar" over "Blank Space" kind-of-girl? Yes, but irrelevant.

My concern here is for this twenty-seven year old girl's heart and the message she projects to people all over the world. 

Taylor Swift is probably one of the most (if not the most) well-known name in pop culture. This girl has had some crap happen to her, and she's done some crap to other people. Regardless of what's true or how I feel about her personally, her song gave me actual anxiety just by listening to the lyrics. She openly claims to write music from personal experience, so we know these words come from her heart. 

Here are some of the most concerning lyrics to me:

Goodbye Summer

Hi friends!

For the first time in 2017, I've missed posting for a while on my dear lil blog. I had been doing pretty well on consistent posts though, right? The month of July has just flown by!

I won't use the excuse of busy-ness, but I really have been running this past month. When I'm not working, I'm spending every waking moment with my roommates taking pics and doing other fun stuff in Florida. And if I'm not doing one of those two things, I'm sleeping/conserving energy for our next adventure. All the while, little blog thoughts are floating in and out; but when I sit down to write, the stillness catches up with me, and I just feel instantly tired.

But just some things I wanted to share with you before the summer ends...

Hands That Pull

Something I would like to practice boldness in is speaking life and affirmation over others.

I was on the phone with my friend Brooke the other day, and we were both feeling pretty down and discouraged about a few things. But discouraged is not how I left our conversation. After sharing some of the burdens I had been feeling, Brooke was quick to encourage me and speak truth over who I am and remind me of the promises of God that would be fulfilled to me.

It wasn't just a pat on the back or half-hearted complement to try and boost my spirits... she was so quick to affirm my identity as a Christ follower, while also dissipating any lies that told me that the Lord wouldn't come through for me.

Our conversation pushed me to seek more of the Lord even in discouragement. So I thought to myself, when have I ever given such a truth and faith-filled response to discouragement? When have I jumped at the chance to affirm all the good I see in someone? I want to be more like Brooke in this way.

He Remains

These days I find myself extremely thankful that the Lord stays the same, but doesn't always stay in the same place. That He moves. He goes with us physically to new and far off places; and He goes with us spiritually through new seasons of life, while He remains the same God yesterday, today, and forever.

I feel like this is a subject I've written on before, and maybe I have... but it's a truth that I never want to be lost on any of us.

One of the things in life that I think can hurt us the most is when a person changes. I'm not talking about changes from a drug dealer to... well, not a drug dealer? I'm talking about the kind of changes that we would say are negative; like when we feel a person changes who they are or becomes a worse version of themselves. These changes burn us. They break our trust.

There's a number of reasons why people change. Maybe because of new places or people or circumstances. At least those are all the things I know have changed me, both negatively and positively. Being yourself can be a hard thing.

So I think that's why I'm so in awe of a God who has remained Himself for so long. I read about the God of the Old and New Testament, and I see the same God who is with me today. Through places across the world, people across the world, and circumstances across time, His character hasn't so much as flinched.

He remains the same.

He simply remains.

A Place At The Table

"You don't have to fight for a place at the table."

Such a simple phrase, but a beautiful reminder that there is no partiality with God.

You know that feeling when someone forgets to invite you somewhere? Or when you're meeting friends at a restaurant and you get to the table, and no one saved you a seat? It's awkward and uncomfortable and makes you wonder in the back of your head why no one thought of you.

I think sometimes it can feel like we have to fight to earn a place or even just stay in someone's life. And because we as humans are flawed, people can leave us broken, hurt, and feeling like we're not enough.

Puzzle Pieces

I always forget how much I love spring time at LSU.

Maybe that's because I've only had one spring to love so far.

It is the first day of school for the spring semester. I'm sitting outside in the courtyard of the business college, eating a ham and cheese sandwich and drinking a juice box while fighting the wind on its insistence that I eat my own hair for lunch, and I am content.

I struggled a lot last semester with contentment, and I've decided I will not struggle with that this semester.

I've been fretting a lot about what I want to do when I graduate, and even what I want to do this summer. Or rather what I feel like the Lord wants me to do. If it's not on my mind, I'm trying my hardest to keep it from being on my mind; which actually means it's inherently on my mind!!!! And even without knowing what I will be doing in the future, I've wanted to hurry up and be there because logically if I'm doing what I'm doing, then I'll be past the whole process of worrying about what I'll be doing.

Yeah, that all made sense.

But in taking a quiet moment with the Lord this morning, He just asked that I wouldn't fret so much about something that is so far in the future that I forget to take advantage of today.

Hi, 2017

Hi, 2017.

I'm excited to meet you, as so many are.

I'm aware that we are already a whole 48 hours in to the new year, so that makes me a little late on posting my New Year's thoughts; but I hope my non-conformity/writing slack won't discredit me.

I'd like to say I don't fall prey to the idea that everything up until January 1, 2017 doesn't matter anymore and the whole "new year, new me" quips; but I do. I do fall prey. I don't think I can help it! There's a full 365 days ahead of me that I can do whatever I want with, and I never truly appreciated that until now. We tend to remember events in our lives by the year, and it's exciting to think that 2017 remains unblemished. There's something so thrilling about "new-ness." Something officially clean of whatever has happened in the past, and the fact that we can claim this year as our own.

But as beautiful as you are my new friend, 2016 was kind to me; and you have big shoes to fill.

A year ago, I was entering 2016 with anticipation and anxiety; for I would be spending exactly half of the year in a place of complete unfamiliarity. But what an adventurous half it turned out to be.

2016 gave me people. It gave me people from Australia and New Zealand and South Korea and all over the U.S. I love those people. I wish I could take every person's hands into my own and communicate how much their friendship is treasured... but I can't because that's literally so many people, and also that's weird.

I'll always look back on this year with a smile, but I won't say it didn't come without heartbreak.

The winter break has given me a lot of time to think, and my conclusion is that somewhere along the way, I lost myself.

Dear God, You're Invited

I am a person who has to do things herself.

I will not ask for help. I don't like asking for help.

I can prove that I am strong enough, smart enough, capable enough... just enough to do things on my own.

I hate googling actors that I recognize in movies but can't place, because I know I can command my mind to remember this trivial piece of information.

I hate going to SI sessions for school work, even if I'm struggling in the class.

I won't even take medicine when I'm feeling sick because I somehow figure I can get over it myself. I'm ridiculous, I know.

These little examples of my obsession with self-sustenance are funny and make you shake your head and distantly question my sanity. But what I've been noticing is the way these little things translate into bigger things that affect my relationship with Christ.

Sometimes we unconsciously get in the habit of keeping personal life and spiritual life separate, when really they should be intertwined. Too often I hear of students feeling overwhelmed by school work or stressed about this relationship or that friendship. We are in tune with God during life group and church and worship, but then when it comes to school or social life, it can be easy to set God in the background.

Boredom Is Not An Option

There's always a call to more.

We will never master Christianity. We will never run out of things to know about God, the world, people. We never have to be bored.

I've been silent in writing for a while, not on purpose... just out of busy-ness and an absence of thoughts to write about. It's funny because I'll randomly get a thought sometimes of "wow, I should write a blog post on this," and then when I sit down to write, I suddenly become apathetic or unwilling to make myself think. I have to consciously will away thoughts of unworthiness or inadequacy.

But that's not what I want to focus on in this post. Something the Lord has put on my heart lately is the fact that there is always something more to learn. There is always something to be doing or learning to fill my time with. I should never experience boredom in my walk with Christ.

Life Is Not Always Friday

My favorite days are and have always been Friday's.

I've always had school on Friday's, but that feeling of being done with school and it's finally the weekend... well, that's my favorite feeling. Pure freedom.

Some thoughts:

I live a blessed life. I go to school at the best and most beautiful university. I live with my best friends. My hair is growing at an acceptable pace. I now have friends all over the country... all over the world in fact. I serve a God who faithfully meets with me everyday.

I have so much to look forward to in life, but I pray that I would serve God just as faithfully even when I don't have so much to look forward to. The whole "I will praise You in this storm" theme comes to mind when I say that, but I don't think we regularly dwell on that when life is going as it should.

It's actually easier for me to be in relationship with God when life is going well. It's easier for me because I credit all good things to come from Him.

But when storms do come, when I have a torrential downpour of days that don't feel like Friday's, it's hard for me to cling to God when I need Him the most. I get distracted and try to balance everything on my own during a time that I should be depending on Him the the most. In feeling that He has turned His favor from me, I turn my back on Him.

More Compassion, Less Of Everything Else

My heart breaks for the city of Orlando - a place I've come to know as my third home.

Three tragedies have occurred in less than a week; the shooting of singer Christina Grimmie, the Pulse shooting with at least 50 lost lives, and most recently, a two year old boy dragged into the water by an alligator and is yet to be found. The loss of life here is great, and it's taken a toll on everyone.

It's been a bittersweet comfort to see the incredible responses of love and support shown by the people here and across the nation. Blood drives are receiving donations past their capacity. Candlelight vigils will be happening soon. Social media is covered in hashtags and pictures featuring #OrlandoStrong and #PrayForOrlando. Theme park characters and staff have taken photos making the heart sign with their hands to share their love and support.

The circumstances of this outpouring of unity are indeed unfortunate. But what I find most unfortunate is that with every post and prayer of support, I find an argument on gun control... a religious debate... a critical lesson on parenting.

Sure, these are important issues that should be discussed reasonably; but think about the purpose of sharing your thoughts on whatever matter it is. Is it just to share your own opinion with everyone else whose minds probably won't be changed over your Facebook status?

Is it to prove that you understand good parenting so that that situation would never happen to you or your child?

Is your opinion really so great that it needs to take the focus off of the most important thing, which is loving and supporting and praying for those whose world is now shattered?

His Praise Will Never Cease

Worship of God will never cease to exist.

God has been and will always be. He will be glorified forever; if not by His people, the rocks of the earth will cry out (Luke 19:40).

I can't wrap my mind around that fact... that a Being exists and is so marvelous that even the rocks of the earth cry of His glory. A Being that will always be worshipped. There is no amount of time, no matter how small, that God is not being exalted.

He has been worshipped since the beginning of time. Yes, our day to day lives should be a constant act of worship, but here I'm talking about a deliberate outward expression. "Praise" is a more accurate term, if you will. Worship styles may have changed over the years... Worship may have occurred in a temple or in the quiet of a home. Sometimes there are flashing lights and impressive sound quality. Sometimes there are only voices to shout or sing of who He is and what He's done for us.

Wherever or however worship has happened over time, we as believers have all worshipped the same God. We have all witnessed His beauty and divine hand in our lives. We have all been crushed by His grace and compelled to praise Him.

That's amazing.

It's Okay To Be Lonely

Sometimes I am lonely.

Not for friends, or company, or someone to talk to.

I am lonely for a "significant other." A soulmate, a best friend with a side of romance. A Jack to my Rose; a Noah to Allie; a Troy to Gabriella. Ah, the plight of singleness.

I know every girl feels or has felt this way before. It's not a new thing, and I don't even think it's something to be ashamed of.

Yesterday as I was walking to class, I passed a couple who were walking and talking together. I just happened to glance at them when their hands met, and their fingers intertwined. And it just stuck out to me because it was so natural, like their hands were made for each other. Like they just fit.

Now I don't even know these people. I'm just creepin'. I don't know what their relationship is like or who they are... I didn't even look at their faces. But in that moment when their hands met, I felt a subtle ache in my heart. I couldn't get this couple out of my head all day. I had this longing for romance; to love and be loved. I wanted that. And honestly, don't we all?

Whenever I would experience loneliness and longing in the past, I would have asked God to take it away from me. I didn't want to go through it anymore; I just wanted it to be gone. Feeling nothing was better than hurting. I was ashamed of myself for feeling this way. I felt like longing for a relationship was weak or pathetic.