Hindsight

Hindsight, unfortunately, is 20/20 a lot more often than the present moment is. When I look back at the last year, I can see many not-so-great choices I’ve made despite the gentle hints of God’s guidance. The little nudges He gave me through friends or a song or even a TV show or His Word or nature or anything else He allowed in my path now seem to speak so loudly to me. How did I not see His Will and His truth earlier??? 

Hindsight is 20/20. 

I have to ask for God’s patience in my disobedience. My mind is so human, so dependent on instant gratification and what feels right in the moment. God, be patient with me. 

I also have to ask Him to clean up all the messiness I created from not listening to Him in the first place. The mess of my heart, circumstances, decisions; I need Him to fix ALL OF IT. It’s freeing to acknowledge that when I fail to listen to God, only He can bail me out. I feel so inferior to Him and I love it. I depend on Him, and only Him, to make me white as snow.

The last thing I can do is to ask Him to help me to be better from now on. I pray that I’ll listen for His voice sooner and I pray that His voice will drown out the empty desires of my own.

Maybe that sounds crazy in a culture that is so focused on doing what we as individuals want and “listening to our hearts”. But I can tell you first hand that listening to God before listening to myself has saved me from stress, heartache, and confusion…the times I wait to listen to Him until the last minute, I feel fully stressed, broken, and confused.

Don’t wait till it’s in hindsight to listen to God.

 

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Underdog

My life is basically a series of awkward moments, a lot of studying, and singing Disney songs with my roommates; ie. I’m not that cool. I don’t have perfect grades, a perfect body, or a perfect list of talents. I like music, but I’m not a musical prodigy. I enjoy school, but I don’t have a 4.0. I’m incapable, honestly, of being that perfect. My humanness is so obvious.I’m just an average Joe at the end of the day.

That used to bother me so much. Averageness was my biggest fear. But honestly, who the heck cares? Let me remind you, reader, that God could care less if you’re mediocre. In fact, consider yourself a prize possession of God if mediocrity is your best friend.

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1: 26-31

God wants the lowly, the foolish, the weak, and the nobody’s to proclaim His strength wisdom, omnipotence, and all-encompassing presence. You’re skills or lack thereof are not a sign of your worth or usefulness. If anything, God wants to use the underdog to help carry out His plans.

When you feel inadequate, pray about it. Find the ways that your perceived weaknesses can be used for good.


I struggle with public speaking, being loud, being assertive. 

Lord, let my quiet spirit reflect Your own gentleness. 

My intelligence isn’t as great as many of my peers.

Lord, help me try my best so I can use what knowledge I have to serve you.

I don’t look as beautiful as the models on Instagram.

Lord, let me be concerned with hearts and souls and not outward appearance. 

I’m fearful: of change, or taking risks, of the future…and a million more things.

Lord, let my fear be used to help me practice relying on You in scary situations. 

I’m not the “best” at anything.

Lord, let my averageness show that YOU are the best at everything. 

Church vs. Politics

I’m currently studying at a coffee shop and hear these two Christian guys discussing how some of the church is failing to look beyond the walls of America. They’re discussing how certain churches have literally told their congregations to vote for Trump and “make America great again.” They also mentioned that they know of churches who are praising America more than they are praising God. Unfortunately, I have also heard of these kinds of things first hand.
I don’t want to take a political stance (ask me in person, I’d love to share), but I feel so overwhelmingly compelled to agree with the commentary these guys are discussing a few feet away from me. Bear in mind, these are white, Christian males who are seeing the shortcomings of the church. This makes me happy because sometimes people can easily get the impression that these types of guys don’t understand other kinds of people; these guys shatter those stereotypes. It’s also encouraging to hear people verbalizing thoughts I’ve had for months and years.

Again, I’m  not taking a blatant political stance. But I want to share some of my thoughts for the church and for Christians.

  1. The church doesn’t serve America (or any country); the church serves God and the people He has created. They’re not obligated to be in charge of or associate with political parties. The church’s obligation is not to drag itself into the capital, but to encourage people to come into the church.
  2. While the church isn’t obligated to stand up for political parties, they are obligated to stand up against oppression. Even if you don’t believe that every single person should be allowed to stay in the US, or that anyone can fly into our borders (it is your right to decide), it doesn’t mean that you can’t speak out against abuse of people that don’t look like they “belong” here. If that’s not the kind of oppression you feel called to speak against, pick up your spiritual weapons and fight against something else: cancer, depression, poverty, homelessness, domestic abuse. Let’s not be a stagnant church.
  3. We all see that many millennials are fed up with the church. This might be controversial to say, but maybe there is a reason…? I’m not suggesting that the church change its theological standpoints or adjust its doctrine to fit in, but the way Christians interact with others and the way the church includes people needs to change. I wish I could write up a full church plan on how this should be, but I won’t for today (gotta study, but maybe someday I will). There are a few things I see my church doing: Having more than one service with varying types of music so different types of people are attracted. Diversifying the church in terms of race, age, income, social status, technology. I see that my church is reaching out to different types of people in the community, not just waiting for these people to come into the church.
  4. Listen. Let’s listen to the opinions of others in a calm way before we rush to the Facebook comments section to discuss our beliefs and the reasons we think we are “right.” Sure, sometimes non-Christian people on Facebook are also annoying and disrespectful on social media or even in real life, but that doesn’t make it okay for Christians to be that way. If anything, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. If your words are not pure, kind, patient, and good for the building up of others, then keep them to yourself (Ephesians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Zechariah 8:16) . Instead, listen and then pray.

I’m no expert on being the best Christian in this political climate, but thanks for reading my thoughts. Hopefully this is taken as encouragement to the church and not a hate message. I love the church and all it’s done for me in terms of community and growth. But there’s so much we can change and improve on as Christians. For the last ten years my heart has ached for this; for a deeper removal of the hypocrisy and pain caused by the church towards its members and to the outside world. More than ever, all of our hearts should be aching for this renewal

To finish, I gotta share this amazing quote.

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Mahatma Ghandi

Oh man, this quote says so much. Ghandi is also the coolest ever. Even though he wasn’t a Christian, he sure makes me want to be a better one.

For When Feelings are the WoRsT

I hate sadness, discontentedness, discomfort. I don’t want to live in a world with no resolution to my problems.

When I’m sad I want to control it and contain it.

I often try to bury the sorrow and ignore whatever is hurting me…but no matter what or how, the sorrow digs itself out and digs me my own grave.

Sometimes, though, I don’t bury it; I run. This means completely distracting myself so I don’t have the brain space to feel (sometimes I do this by going on literal runs lol). This one hurts just as much; every runner needs their rest.

My third and final way of dealing with sorrow is to obsess over it; to wallow until I can find a solution. I give in to the urge to analyze, dissect, and relive every moment causing my sorrow; I can’t resist it until I’ve come to a solution or conclusion because I am afraid of how long the sorrow will last and how badly it will scar.

I’ve found that God’s viewpoint on sorrow is a bit different than my own.

When I read about Jesus in Garden of Gethsemane, I see Him crying out to God with vulnerability and awareness of the depth of His own pain.

  1.  He literally says that His soul is grieved to the point of death; He became distressed. Okay, wow, the creator of the universe is showing the deepest kind of sorrow and pain; agony even. He’s not ignoring it or letting it fester in His heart. He’s not running away from His fate or pretending that He could care less about the pain; He actually cares so much. He’s also not being aloof with God or with the disciples. Jesus clearly expresses the depth of His humanity by showing His attachment to His Father and his friends.
  2. He shares it with God, and knows that His Father cares. Jesus easily goes to His Father in His pain. He doesn’t doubt that God can hear Him or cares for Him. Often, I feel like my problems are so dumb that God could really care less. But I wish I trusted Him more with the little things, because when I do, the closeness to Him becomes so much more real. The more I tell Him what’s on my heart, the sweeter it is when He draws me near.
  3. He even asks God to take away the cup of crucifixion. When Jesus asks God this, He admits He wants an escape from the pain. I find myself praying a similar prayer often as of late. I don’t feel weak when I pray this; it not only acknowledges God’s ability to take away any kind of pain, but also highlights my neediness for God.
  4. He asks God for His will to be done even through His sorrow. Jesus knows that God’s ultimate plan will be fulfilled and that it could be a very painful process for Him. He’s still not denying His pain, but He does accept that God’s purposes are bigger than earthly ones. He also knows that God can bring beauty out of what seems like a worst nightmare. Truth be told, this kind of scares me! Of course, I want God to bring all the beauty out of my life, but I know that beauty is sometimes created from ugliness. Jesus’ life is the biggest example of this; God didn’t take the cup of crucifixion away, but it was only then that He was able to conquer death. He faced the emptiness of death to get (and give us) the fullness of life.

 

Devotional.

 

Devotionals are books I’ve always grown up with, but I’ve also learned that a lot of people don’t really know what they are or don’t really get the point of them. While reading the actual Bible is always the most important, reading devotionals has been a huge part of helping me understand God’s Word and God Himself.

The purpose of a devotional is to help you understand what God has written to you in the Bible. Generally, they include a passage of scripture for each day with a few short paragraphs about applying the scripture to your life. Sometimes they also include prayers, questions, or further scripture suggestions. These kinds of books can be really beneficial for possible Christians, new Christians, old Christians, doubting Christians, or very strong Christians. Personally, devotional books have helped me see parts of the Bible in different ways and have even helped me think more deeply when I am just studying the Bible on it’s own.

Today, I wanted to give you some devotional suggestions. Before I start, here’s kind of how I schedule my time with God: read a section of Scripture, write notes in my journal about it, read my devotional and also write notes about it, and then write down other thoughts, prayers, and thanksgiving (basically, I go through a lot of journals). Ideally, I would like to do this everyday, although there are definitely days when I forget… 😦

The first devotional is Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Many, many, many Christians know of this book because it is insanely life changing. Each month starts with a verse to kind of set the mood and theme for the month’s lessons (check out the pics). Each daily post has a paragraph written from God’s point of view based on the scriptures that are listed at the end of the section and Young’s personal prayers with God.

At first, it was kind of weird to read it from God’s point of view, but once you start reading it’s easy to see that everything is scripturally based and God’s presence is completely woven into every sentence. This book is definitely for someone who wants to pursue a more intense and intimate relationship with God. It can also been good for someone who is struggling with getting to know God or grasping His love.

Here’s the link to read some reviews and buy it on Amazon (you can also check out her website.) Seriously, recommend it. It has really helped me see that a relationship with God is not just legalistic, but about having a legitimate dialogue with Him.

The second devotional book is Grace For the Moment by Max Lucado. Here’s the front cover.

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For each day, this devotional has a verse and an application scripture to help explain the verse. This usually includes a story, practical application, or challenge.

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I love this book because it was my first devotional book ever, which I probably picked up in middle school. It’s simple, short, and the passages are not too heavy and intense. If you like something a little more straightforward, yet challenging, this is a great book! I also like how the scripture is written out for you, in contrast to Jesus Calling where the verses are just named at the bottom (although that does encourage you to go open the actual Bible 🙂 ) Here is the link to buy it on Amazon.

Lastly, I am going to talk about Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day by Peter Scazzero. I don’t have pictures of this because I bought the Amazon Kindle Cloud reader version (here’s the link), so I just read it all online. Guys, I haven’t even finished reading this once through, but I adore it already! It starts and ends with two minutes of silence (while I love the idea of this, I kind of struggle with silence, so I’m still working on that part). Next, it includes a scripture reading followed by the application/discussion portion. This often involves a story or an excerpt from another Christian book. It then concludes with a prayer and a challenging question (and the two minutes of silence). Honestly, this is such a great book to deepen the deepest of relationships with God. It’s freshly written and looks at scripture with a divine lens. I can’t even explain it well enough in words, because it’s just something you have to experience. The best way I can put it is that it has made me fall in love with God more; it’s also helped me release some things that held me back from being everything He meant me to be. I will potentially write more about this one once I read the whole book.

Also this, one is also split into sections and themes, if you’re into that kind of structure and organization (I know I am). Additionally, this book only goes over 40 days so it’s not a year-round devotional with a page for each day, BUT the posts are so good, I find myself rereading the same couple of pages for days and days. It can definitely be read multiple times through. For real, check this out.

Last thing to say: all of these devotionals have helped me out perfectly in different seasons of life and you truly cannot go wrong picking any of these up! I firmly believe each are scripturally based (always gotta make sure). Most importantly, though, it’s always important that the actual Bible is your #1 (who doesn’t love all those love-letters from God??)

 

 

 

 

 

The Positives

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. — Genesis 50:20

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Anxiety doesn’t seem like something that would really help anyone gain anything. But anxiety deserves a little more credit–well, God deserves credit, actually. God has used even anxiety to bring some goodness to my life. In the spirit of positivity, here are some of the things I have gained from anxiety:

Anxiety has drained me, but now I know what strength I am capable of. 

The tiredness that comes with anxiety is often not the satisfactory exhaustion after a long run. It’s the kind of anxiety that makes your brain feel like undercooked ramen noodles; like stiff thoughts in the puddle of your brain. Pushing past this anxiety requires a fine tuned attention to God. It requires allowing His light to break past the darkness of human thinking. It has shown me that with God I can escape the lowest of lows. God has made anxious minds so full and deep that our sensitivity to everything, including Him, can be proclaimed even through our anxiety.

Anxiety has made me feel numb, but now I know what it means to be alive. 

Back to the ramen noodle analogy: when anxiety hit me the worst in 2016, I felt so out of touch with the world around me. I was barely able to contain myself in my own body. It felt like my spirit was wearing away while my body was just going through the motions. Fast forward a few months to when I worked at a camp that changed my life (I didn’t know it at the time, but it really did) and then when I went back to school for junior year, suddenly it was like I could see in color. I appreciate, now, so many of the every day moments. I’m so much more invested in small interactions with others and so much more conscious of my own thinking. I actually have room in my mind to be grateful and present. Although, I do still have days when I struggle with this, I am all the more thankful for the moments God helps me to live beyond the mundane.

Anxiety has frustrated and hurt loved ones who have had to watch me struggle, but it has allowed me to have deeper and more unique relationships.

I hate the way anxiety has made me argue with my mom or distance myself from friends or even God. I wish I could apologize for every time anxiety has gotten in the way. I know I truly don’t have an excuse for not always being the best friend or family member, but I do know that God has still allowed me to have great relationships despite my active mind. I’ve had to reevaluate how I look at myself and people. I have to actively remind myself that I’m not interacting with others to please them or be “fun” enough, but that I’m purposefully getting to share God’s love while actually getting to know people. Their perception of me or my “image” holds less and less importance when I look at others as God’s creation and not as a human idol that I’m trying to make happy. I don’t believe I would have felt the same way if I didn’t struggle with anxiety and insecurity the way that I do. I can think of four or five instances directly where anxiety has positively helped relationships. (I can also think of a few times where anxiety has hurt a relationship; I know with God’s help even those relationships can be repaired.)

Anxiety has also opened my heart to be more understanding of different kinds of people. I know how great it feels for someone to notice me or smile at me when I am feeling particularly low, and now I’m more inclined to be that person for someone else. I try to be much more aware of the people on the fringes or the ones that seem too nervous to join in. This has allowed me to meet and understand people that I would have never expected to be friends with. It consistently teaches me how God has created each person with something interesting and special inside their hearts, no matter how anxious or different they may seem.

Anxiety keeps me awake at night, but now I appreciate the sweetness of rest. 

Every few months I go through a few weeks of treacherous sleep. I either don’t sleep at all or spend most of the night in and out of restless sleep. I know a lot of people struggle with this and that it contributes to that feeling of brain noodles. One of the ways I deal with this is to just accept that I am missing out on human rest, but that God will give me spiritual energy to get through the day. I literally don’t have to rely on myself at all and trust that God will fill me up and pull me through. Usually, when I fully grasp that sleep is not my source of energy, I end up sleeping way better because I’m not overthinking it! And on the nights that I sleep well, I appreciate it so much more. I am grateful for what I have instead of taking it for granted.

Fun fact: I’ve taken a few final exams and major tests on 2-3 hours of sleep because of anxiety…and those are some of the tests I have gotten my best scores on. I love this, because it shows me that God was helping me take the test despite my tired mind. Anxiety may have won the battle of those nights, but that God was fighting my bigger wars for me.

Anxiety works the most intensely in me by making me feel worthless, but I have found something outside of myself to place my worth in. 

This is the #1 way that anxiety wears me down. There are so many different ways it makes me feel worthless or inadequate. When I would start to feel this way in the past, I started to strive for things that would make me feel like I had worth. Good grades, looks, likes on Instagram, being perceived as “nice and sweet,” success in extracurriculars. Unfortunately, I also have major performance anxiety. So whenever I’m anxious I do about 234082034 times worse on tests, social interactions, performances, you name it. So it became a vicious cycle of anxiety encouraging me to find worth, but then destroying me on my journey to achieve. I had to come to the point (and often still have to remind myself) that searching for my worth is equal to spending my whole life living for myself.

I still get general stress before tests and public speaking, but it does not overwhelm my whole entire being for extended periods of time anymore. I realized that living for myself is exhausting and enables anxiety to fester in my heart. Moreover, placing my worth in who God says I am is much more fulfilling.

Now when I spend time studying or playing piano or working out it’s not a stressful form of self hatred, but a way to worship God. God is teaching me that it is not about me at all, it’s completely about Him. This doesn’t make me feel unimportant; it actually makes me feel super important because I’m living to serve someone who is filled with ridiculous amounts of love and power. This is the most freeing thing in the entire world.

Anxiety fills my thoughts with fear, but now I know what it is to be courageous. 

Anxiety is scary. Shortness of breath, claustrophobia, chest pain; it can all be very terrifying.

I remember a few months ago I was so frustrated at myself for having so much driving anxiety. I felt stupid and childish because I would get nightmares and panic attacks about driving and constant chest pain when making turns or being at busy stoplights. I thought I was the most ridiculous person in the world.

Now, I don’t look at myself as weak and fearful. I am proud of myself because despite the extremely real physical symptoms of anxiety, I still continued to drive. I now drive all the time (not on the highways yet hehe….), but so, so much more. It doesn’t come with the chest pain and nightmares as often and if it does, I am able to contain it. However, I don’t look back at sophomore Sarah with disgust or frustration; instead I am astounded and overjoyed that I have made so much progress.

When I do start to panic on a drive, which does happen from time to time (thank you, construction on Hillcrest), I tell myself to ride the wave of anxiety and just accept that an attack could come. So I basically live through the physical symptoms while continuing to be a safe driver. It maybe sounds ridiculous that construction makes me nervous, but I think it’s pretty awesome that I can be courageous enough to withstand driving anxiety and continue to improve.

Anxiety has caused me to sin, but I have been able to see the fullness of Grace.

Sometimes when I’m anxious, I want to fill my heart up with things that are not good for me. Self indulgence, self punishment, distraction…you know the deal. Similar to what I said earlier about relationships, God has mended my heart even if I have been the one to hurt it.

Unfortunately, sin also hurts God. Forgiveness can be hard to ask for, but it is also feels like the best kind of deliverance. God always leaves me in awe when He so easily forgives and welcomes me. I’m not saying there’s never any punishment, but there definitely is not a lack of His love that I am so glad I have experienced.


Congrats to you, if you’ve read this entire thing! I feel as though I should also point out that I’m not trying to downplay anxiety. I don’t sit through anxiety attacks or anxious days with a smile on my face and a peppy attitude; usually I have to call a friend or my mom and often times I just want to sit and cry. Nor do I always conquer anxiety each moment; there are still times I forget to cry out to God or times when I do and I don’t feel Him near immediately. But it is totally possible to live with an anxious mind and still see all the good in yourself and the battle in your mind. Anxiety stinks, but it doesn’t mean that life does.

Even if your struggle is not anxiety, I know, without a doubt, that God will show you the positives.

 

Desire

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4 


Sometimes I ask God for stuff when I know He’s already said it’s not His will. I hold tightly to things that God clearly wants me to let go of; this can include objects, people, actions, decisions, or whatever else I believe is best. These kinds of prayers often stem from selfishness, self pity, anger, etc.

For a few weeks I struggled with one of these things; I prayed to God for certain things to happen even though I knew it was not a productive prayer. I knew this because it didn’t stem from a place of wanting God’s will to be done; I just wanted my own satisfaction that things were right and “fair” in my own little world. Even though I was aware of this, I felt like I couldn’t let it go.

After sharing this with my friend, she encouraged me to ask God to change the desires of my heart. 

I don’t know if that hits you like it hit me. But like actually asking God to change what we desire? Like that’s pretty amazing. It BLEW my mind. I knew it in the back of my head, but hadn’t really heard it until then. So many of my prayers are focused on God fulfilling what I want. I create my desires and He fulfills them…it feels gross to type that out–to admit that I often view God as a genie who is going to grant my every wish.

After asking God to actually shift what I desired, so many great changes resulted (not that I’ve got a perfect relationship with God at all).

  1. Letting go of that desire actually became so much simpler. I still do struggle with at times (sometimes a lot), when I’m not asking God to consistently help me, but it feels more and more possible each day to let it go. I’m not trying to change my heart all by myself, God is doing it with me (He’s doing most of the work tbh). I know I’m not in the struggle alone.
  2. It has improved my prayer life. Instead of focusing on what I want, I can focus more on what God wants to do in me. So cheesy, but actually so true.
  3. I hold less tightly to my life plans. Maybe that sounds kind of awful, but in reality, it’s actually really freeing. In perfect Sarah-land, I’m supposed to have straight A’s, lose 1.5 pounds each week, marry a soccer player at 27, be preparing for optometry school somewhere on the East coast in a big city, have a perfect social and academic calendar, etc., etc. Almost none of those things are happening according to the formula I had in my head, but God is giving me the capability to look outside of my plan. I’m actually learning to take life day by day. If you know me personally, you know that’s a big leap for me. I still do hold tightly to my plans, but they seem less and less important the more I surrender to God.
  4. God didn’t automatically give me new desires. He didn’t give me a list that said I’m going to have straight B’s, lose 1 pound per week, marry a baseball player at 25 (also I hate baseball), live in California, and all that. Instead my desire is just desiring what God wants. To be close to Him, to know Him, and live in His presence.

Finally, this is kind of side note, but for the the majority of my life I actually thought that Psalm 37:4 meant that if you were close to God, He would give you what you want. While I do believe that God does bless His followers and often fulfills our requests, that old mindset was pretty toxic. I assumed that if God wasn’t blessing me it automatically meant that I wasn’t “close enough” to Him. I’m not denouncing that God may punish us when we step out of will, but setbacks don’t always mean that your relationship with God isn’t good enough. When I did have that mindset, I convinced myself to try and figure out God and somehow become worthy enough so I could get what I wanted. I sincerely meant well, but it ultimately led me to feel like I needed to jump through the right hoops in order to make God who I wanted Him to be; this just harbored resentment in my heart against Him that took a long time to untangle. Honestly, I could write a whole separate blog on this topic, but wanted to include it here.

Psalm 37:4 doesn’t necessarily mean that earthly success reflects spiritual success.

Now I read this verse as saying that a vibrant relationship with God completely changes your heart–instead of just desiring God’s blessings, we desire God.