A Christian's Walk

My Life as a Single Christian and God's Unexpected Curveball

My LIfe as1 Being single is a struggle sometimes. Of course being married is its own struggle. Just being a human being is hard and rife with unexpected circumstances no matter what your relationship status is on Facebook.

But because I haven't dealt with the struggle of being married, I can only talk about what it's like to be single.

I've written about a lot of personal things. But one of the things I haven't written about much is my first romantic relationship. Partially because for a while I was too emotional to be fair in writing about it and I respect the guy I dated too much to trash talk him on the Internet; in ten years when I'm a super famous author, I don't want people to troll him. I'm joking but the INTERNET IS FOREVER, PEOPLE. Also, I haven't told my story publicly because it wasn't just my story to tell, but if my story of being single is gonna make any sense, you're gonna need a little background info.

Aside from a guy I wouldn't even let drive me to prom my senior year, I didn't date anyone at all til I was a freshman in college. Then when I was 18, a sophomore began pursuing me hard. In my mind, the beginning of our relationship was chick flick level perfect. It was equal parts cheesy and sweet and I loved it. If you were at MCC between Fall 2011 and Spring 2012, you most likely saw us sitting on a swing multiple times. We were smitten. It wasn't long before we were talking marriage. I don't mean in the abstract "make sure you're both on the same page" way. I mean we had our lives planned out. We talked baby names and where we would live. I had the next 50-70 years mapped out and I loved it.

But we weren't ready for a serious commitment like that so things went south and the relationship ended. I was devastated. But life went on and I adjusted to being single again.

At first, all I wanted was to go back to the first relationship. Then I wanted to be loved and adored by someone new. Thinking back, I was getting obsessed with the idea of being in a relationship. I still had standards, but I was no longer ok with being single. However, as time passed and I got used to being comfortable alone, I got so sick of hearing myself and others lament their lack of romantic partners. I was convinced that viewing being single as a curse was wrong and not biblical. So I took to heart Paul's message in 1 Corinthians 7 about how it's better to be unattached. I even read the passage multiple times a day when I was feeling especially discontent. And gradually I became content with being single. To further convince myself and others, I arrogantly preached to anyone who I thought needed to hear it how God didn't promise us spouses and being single isn't some curse.

Both of those statements are so true, and while I don't retract my statements, I do apologize for the spirit they were said and thought in. God didn't call me to be a beacon for single girls everywhere. That's someone else's job and may she fill her role with the grace, love and softness I abandoned.

Because strength doesn't lie in bravado or assurance. It lies in gentleness and quiet perseverance. It's the ability to keep going and stay compassionate and not let life make you hard.

No, Jesus didn't call me to singleness and he's recently revealed that to me. He very firmly told me "Jackie, you've preached singleness for so long but I made you for marriage. I made you for nurturing."

Which was kind of jarring to hear. My first thought was something along the lines of "What do you mean I'm made for marriage? Why have I worked so hard to be ok alone for the past few years if you didn't want me to be alone forever?" I don't really know the answer to that question except that I am alone now and I might still be alone during my life. Because I don't know whether I am made for marriage with a man on earth or to be a part of the Bride of Christ and lovingly serve through the church. Maybe I will nurture children of my own or maybe I will give my love and time to other people's kids. But as a Christian, I'm not called to be know everything; I am called to be faithful and that's what I'm trying to do.

For a while I needed to learn how to be independent and comfortable on my own but I've learned that lesson. Now it's time to work in cultivating the qualities of a biblical wife. I'm not discontent in my singleness but I am seeking the Lord daily and preparing to be a helpmeet and learning about submission and gentleness. I'm kind of excited about it. I've got this new challenge in my life and I'm learning more about the different ways to glorify God with my life. It's a struggle every step of the way and it's hard but I'm going to keep trying and relying on his strength and grace til He sends me the unexpected, life shaking challenge. Til then, y'all.

Authenticity

Sometimes I don't like to blog because I know that not as many people will read it unless it's accompanied by the perfect graphic or if the layout of my blog doesn't scream "Jackie." I get so bogged down by the design aspects, of which I am good but not great at it nor do I have the right programs. I get so bogged down by my blog not being pretty enough that I forget that my words can be pretty. Because I am not a cutesy, artsy person who always chooses the right Instagram filter. I am not always wearing the latest designer or fashion trend because I like what I like whether it's popular or not. Wanting to dress in your own style and not just what's popular can be REALLY tough. But I do it. There are many fads that I never participated in simply because I didn't like it for myself. There were ones that I did participate in because I like it. I own and often wear a pair of Chacos. I like them, they're comfortable and they work well for my flat feet.I know it seems like I'm rambling but my rambling has a point. It is SO important to be authentic. To be genuine. People want to see the real you. They don't want to see the perfectly polished version you put forth on social media. There's a reason people like celebs like Zooey Deschanel, Jennifer Lawrence and Taylor Swift. When you see them in magazines, tv, social media, etc. you get the feeling that you could be friends with them. We feel that way about them and other celebrities, because they are genuine. They are real.

Wanna know something fun? Nobody likes it when you or I are disingenuous.

People want to see the real, raw, messy you. This is me giving you permission to share with others that you're not that great sometimes. This is me telling one of my favorite youth Sunday School teachers that the job search is really hard and it's really frustrating instead of my stock answer of "it's going good."

This is not me giving you permission to only complain though. Celebrate the wins when you have wins. Celebrate the little wins as well as the big ones. Yesterday, I texted my sister telling her how excited I was that I finally made it through a barre pilates class without starting to black out. That's a victory. That's progress. It's small but small things are important to you. Sometimes the highlight of your day is getting a good parking spot or getting in a short line at Walmart. And that's okay. That's more than okay. That's awesome. Celebrate it. Own it.

I'm learning lately to be okay with who I am, strengths AND weaknesses. They all make up who I am. They all offer me room for growth and ways to glorify God. A few months ago I wrote in my journal how I wanted to be like a couple of famous writers who are known for their words. I wanted to be big. And I just had this overwhelming assurance from God that he didn't need me to be big. He needed me to be small. He reminded me that my role models were small before they were big and that now was my time to be small. So here I am. Living in a small state, in a small town, in a small bedroom learning to be okay with being small.

I don't know if this makes much sense to anyone but myself but I think it's important to share what's on my heart sometimes and this is on my heart. In the spirit of authenticity, I am sharing this without a picture and I am letting you know that I had trouble spelling authenticity because I am a HORRIBLE speller. Seriously, I would have had a lot more trouble in English classes had I been born prior laptops and spellcheck becoming the standard practice.

Is anyone else going through a season of life that seems counter intuitive to culture? Let me know!

Value.

Have you ever noticed how when you're closer to God, you literally see the world thru a different lens? It's one of those things you forget both when haven't been close to God in a while and when you've been faithful for a while. You're only aware of the lenses in that twilight space. I am in that twilight space and it's kind of astounding me.

One of my favorite TV shows is called Community. It's this quirky TV show that's occasionally self aware and is constantly talking about other movies and TV shows. It takes place at a community college that somehow gives out four year degrees... Don't question it! It's perfect for someone like me who enjoys consuming media. However, it's not the cleanest show. In fact, it can be offensive and irreverent, though, always in a clever way.

I started rewatching it this week because it felt like a good ending to college.

In the first scene of the show, the main character Jeff Winger is having a conversation with Abed Nadir. It ends like this: Jeff: "Now I see your value, Abed." Abed, as Jeff walks out of hearing distance: "That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me."

And it hit me. At our core, that's what we're all looking for. We look for it in every interaction and every relationship. We're secretly, subconsciously waiting for someone, anyone, everyone to say: "I see your value. You have value and I have noticed it."

But the thing is others aren't here to give us value. If they were, we'd be in a sad state. Think about it. You're more concerned with others affirming you than you are about affirming others. With a few exceptions, everyone else is doing the same thing. We get so wrapped up in our heads that we quit worrying about others.

As a Christian, you should seek to find your value affirmed in Jesus, the one who said "I value you, you so much I am going to subject myself to torment so that you can avoid it."

Your value is in Christ and nothing else. You are valuable because he loves you and saved you and gives you value.

Your value doesn't rely on your talents or how smart or how pretty or how strong you are. Your value doesn't lie in your ability to make friends or your relationship status. Those things are good but they do not give you value. And when we choose to find value in these things, we cheapen Christ's sacrifice and give away some of our real value.

You have value. It is given to you by Christ. Acknowledge it. Revel in it.

And while I don't think we should find value from others, maybe we should start acknowledging the value we see in others.

Tell her she is clever. Tell him he is passionate. Point out the good things you see in people. People are often blind to their own strengths and weaknesses, be their mirror. See value in people. See value in everyone.

How to Survive Valentine's Day with Grace

Valentine's day. Probably the most controversial and divided holiday. For couples, it's a wonderful chance to just dwell in each other's love and be adored. For singles, it can be a sad reminder of the fact that no one special person constantly cherishes and adores them. Or it can be a day engage in love - no matter the type of relationship. There is no special guy who cherishes me right now and there may never be. But that's okay. Because I have a loving group of friends who care for me and show me love anyway they can. I have a mom who is my biggest fan and manages to have high hopes for me without pressuring me to be or do anything I don't want. I am so grateful I have a father who showed me how a man should love a woman and support her no matter the circumstances. He has told me he loves and that I am beautiful for as long as I can remember. I have two sisters who are my best friends in the whole world and get me better than anyone else.

So yes, Valentine's day is about love, but it doesn't have to be strictly about romantic love.

To the Couples If you're in a relationship, take the time to show your love for someone who's single. But promise me this: don't do it in a condescending, "I was worried about you because you don't have anyone to love you like I do" way. People in relationships, I love you but it is so easy for some of you to get wrapped up in a love bubble and forget that it's possible to live without romantic love. Take time for your single friends. Cherish them and thank them for being there when you weren't in the love bubble. Last, don't forget to spend some time adoring your creator as well.

To the Singles Dear one, don't dwell on the sad parts. You are beautiful and precious and unique. Don't ever tell yourself something is wrong with you because you're single. You are completely lovable and worthy of love. I can't make your day better but you can. Instead of saying, "woe is me," look for someone else to love on. Maybe it's a friend who's struggling more than you are and needs someone to remind them that they are wonderful. Maybe it's a stranger you know nothing about. But I challenge you to dig down deep in your heart and take a handful of you to bless someone with. Show love. Show love hard.

Last, love and adore your creator and savior. The one who loved you so much he endured excruciating mental and physical pain so that you might go free. Someone does cherish and adore you, thank him and love him back.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

"Delight yourself in The Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." -Psalm 37:4

Recently, my grandfather sent me a text message first thing in the morning saying that I was precious and that he prayed that God would give me the desires of my heart. First, I'd like to point out that getting a message saying you're precious and that someone is praying that God gives you the desires of your heart is one of the best ways to start your day.

Initially, it put a smile on my face. And I am I very thankful to have someone who prays that prayer for me. But then the message changed from an encouragement to a mirror. What are my desires anyway? Are they the ones God wants me to have? Hmmm, I don't desire inherently bad things like ultimate power or taking over the world. But let's be honest, I wouldn't mind some shallow things. Like a wardrobe containing everything I've lusted over on Modcloth's website. Or to be graduating college debt free. Or to be in shape without working out. Although I'd settle for being in shape because I love working out and being outdoorsy.

Of course, not all my desires are shallow. I want to use words to show love and change the world or at least a few people. I want to be healthy. I want to get a fabulous job where I can help make the world a better place. I want to marry a man who will romance me like my dad does my mom and Jesus does the church and who helps me show the gospel to a lost and hurting world. I want to have children who love history and knowledge and reading. I want to live in a place with arts.

But ultimately, I want my desires to be what God desires for me. Because that's what Psalm 37:4 is about. When you are delighting in The Lord, your desires will be his desires. So for now, my ultimate desire is to delight in The Lord more. I know I'm not where I need to be.

C. S. Lewis once said, "I pray because I need God. The need flows out of me, waking and sleeping. Prayer doesn't change God. It changes me."

I've been praying a lot this past week about the future and my vision of what I want it to be. I committed to praying about this issue every day for a week. At first, my prayer was, "God I really want this." Then my prayers changed to: "I really want this but I understand if it's not your will. But I really want this." Then the prayer changed to: "God, right now I want this. But I don't want you to give it to me because I keep asking. I want your best for me. I want this to be the best but I understand it might not be. And that's ok because I want your will in this."

My prayers don't need to change God. They need to change me. My heart needs to be calibrated back to God's best. Maybe after a few more days of praying, I'll be ok with saying completely "Thy will be done Lord." When I delight in The Lord, my desires change to his and during the process while I still have my selfish desires, I begin to become aware that they aren't God's best for me. Psalm 37:4 is so much more than God giving you want you want. It's about reading on to Psalm 37:5: "commit your way to The Lord and do good; trust in him and he will do this." It's about aligning your desires with God's will.

I am so thankful for a God who will give me what I want when I begin to want the best for me. Just like your parents wouldn't let you play with matches as a kid, God won't give you things you want that will burn you, at least not without a purpose. I am so thankful for grandparents who are prayer warriors committed to my future and inspiring me to examine my inner self... Never a fun thing.

I hope you read this and begin to let the self-examination slowly begin. Stand in front of the mirror and honestly examine yourself. Be brave enough to admit the truth if you aren't delighting in The Lord and his best for you. Then go out and do something about it.

For Such a Time as This: 21st Century Edition

To preface, I wrote this aimed at bloggers. However at the end, I realized that these issues also apply to the people who sit in the pews, discontent with the state of the church and either do nothing or, worse, complain. It's time for the Church to be doers of the Word and not merely seers.

I have a bone to pick. I am so sick and tired of blogs about how the Church is doing this or that wrong and they need to change and step up their game.

To clarify, I am not saying that the Church is without fault or even that some of the issues brought aren't completely valid issues that need to be addressed. Additionally, it's completely possible that some of the bloggers are called by God to be catalysts by using their words. But I feel like words can also easily turn into a copout.

I have, at times, been distraught with the current state of the church and unable to reconcile this issue in my heart. My, albeit flawed, decision has been to not go as much because I felt hypocritical to go somewhere I saw flaws in. However, as I've grown up, matured, and become a bit wiser, I've realized the futility in avoiding church because I was not happy with some of its practices.

In my opinion, all these call to action type posts are doing the same thing. The authors of these posts are aware of an inadequacy in the church. Since the church is full of people, we are constantly facing mistakes and flaws and scandals. That's just how it is. However, I wonder if maybe God is showing these authors the inadequacy in the church for a different reason than writing about it. If you see an issue that needs addressing, don't address it to the internet. Go to the leadership at your church and say, "Hey, this isn't right. We need to change this." Pray about it. Find out if others agree with you. If they do, get them to help you change things.

THEN write about it. Tell the world how you were dissatisfied with the way certain things weren't glorifying God the way they should. Tell the world how things changed and whether you think it's an improvement. Tell the world even if it's a failure. God doesn't call you to be successful. He calls you to be faithful. And I know that's a cliché but it's a cliché I couldn't be a Christian without. A ruler who cares about your obedience more than your talents and lists of successes is so much more beautiful and accessible than one who requires you to get it right. Listen to James 1:22: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

This makes me think about what Mordecai says to Esther when the Jewish people are in mortal danger. I'm paraphrasing here... He says, "Don't think that if you stay silent you will escape. Deliverance will come from somewhere if not you. Maybe the reason you here at this moment is to save the Jews."

If God shows you an issue in the church, I fully believe it is for a reason. I also believe that we have a God of action not inaction. A few years ago, my former youth minister, Joseph Bird, made the comment that the church is spiritually obese. We eat and eat God's word but we don't go out and do.

The irony in my post calling out those who call out others is not lost on me. However, God laid it on my heart and I had to share. I apologize for any hypocrisy. I give my promise that from now on when I am discontent with issues in the church, I will try to change things rather than complaining. I challenge you to do the same.

Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Pastor

Yesterday, my church said goodbye to a wonderful pastor, Wayne Edwards. He wasn't just a preacher. He was a pastor who cared about people. He genuinely loved everyone at Midway.

He means a lot to everyone but he has really treated my family and me with love beyond comprehension in times of trial.

Shortly after beginning his time at Midway, my mom had surgery in Jackson. I still remember waiting for her to get called back to surgery and then to be done. Bro. Wayne, His wife, and our former music minister sat with us the entire time. It's one of those little, tiny things that mean so much.

Unfortunately, my mom had complications from surgery and was in life-threatening condition for several days. A three day hospital stay turned into a week and a half. Through it all, Bro. Wayne and Mrs. Patty made multiple trips to Jackson- just to see us and sit with us.

This encounter shaped the rest of Wayne's time at Midway. It was always clear that he cared, and he's one of those special people that understands something really important- it's not what you do. It's where you go. He understood that sometimes people don't need anything more than someone outside of the situation to sit and talk about the news. People don't always need you to do something in times of crises. They just need you to sit there and silently convey, "I am here for you. Everything might not turn out all right but through it all, I will never leave your side."

While I am sure that God has a wonderful replacement lined up for Midway, he won't be my friend. He won't be my Old/New Testament teacher from MCC. He won't be the man who called on me to do the before/after for Jeremiah in children's Bible Drills. He won't be the man who offered to beat up my first ex-boyfriend when we broke up. He won't be the pastor who got onto me for not telling him when family members were sick.

I may not ever get to know this man who will be replacing the wonderful pastor I love so much. But that's ok. Because someone else needs the new man like I needed Wayne Edwards.

Maybe God will decide to bless me again and eventually I'll find another pastor who loves me and my family like Wayne did. But I'm not holding out for that. Greatness is hard to replicate and if anything describes Wayne Edwards, it's great.

Star Gazers and Rainbow Seekers

Van Gogh once said, "For my part I know nothing with any certainty but the sight of the stars makes me dream."

Most people are rainbow seekers. They get so excited in the midst of a rainy day when they get to see the sky painted brilliantly in a one small, crescent-shaped area. I love rainbows. They are beautiful and wonderful and a statement of God's love and protection. But I am not a rainbow seeker. God does not put rainbows in the sky to woo me. Maybe that's weird. I mean, first it's not like the whole sky revolves around me. Second, who doesn't fall in love with rainbows? Jackie Giles. That's who. You know what does makes me swoon and weak in the knees thinking "God, you are so amazing!"? The night sky. A full moon. Pinholes of light sneaking through the so dark blue it's almost black of the night sky. I hate cold weather to the point that I nearly cry BUT you know what I love about winter? The sky and the stars at night are never more clear and beautiful. Do you remember how you felt when you first fell in love? Everything in the world makes sense and you find yourself sighing with happiness in the middle of the day? That's how a full moon makes me feel. I look up at the glorious light shining down and I know that God loves me and wants me to be wholly his. Last night, on what I had already deemed the first official day of my senior year (I'm back in Starkville- but school hasn't started yet), I saw two shooting stars. And maybe it's superstitious and conceited of me, but I felt like it was God's present to me. It was God saying, "Everything may not always be ok but I am here for you and I adore you." So here's to my senior year. Everything will not go as planned. I will struggle and potentially feel like a failure but through all the ups and downs, God will be there saying, "My child, look up and gaze at my glory. I made this and I am making you into something even more spectacular." Because that's the thing about God. His creation is GLORIOUS and we are his ultimate creations. Be you a rainbow seeker or a star gazer, Christ died on the cross to save you and wants you to be apart of his family. Know this: you are not perfect and that's ok. Christians aren't hypocrites when we mess up. We are real human beings, struggling to become more like Christ every day but we try. For weeks, I've been wanting to write something to preface my senior year or something that was "15 things to do or not do your first year of college." While that would have probably garnered a larger response, it wouldn't have been true to me. I had to wait til I saw the shooting stars to be able to write this. And really that feels like a metaphor for life. You can't skip steps. I have to do everything I will go through this upcoming year in order to be ready for my career or whatever I do afterward. Maybe life is like a Jenga tower. Take one stick out and the whole thing might topple over. I know this for sure: everything I have done and experienced has made me who I am.

I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night. Galileo

For me, the future is like the night sky. Dark, vast and unknown. But the moon and the stars will be the light to guide me safely home.

Are you a rainbow seeker or star gazer?

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Perfectly Imperfect

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Reading through my old blog posts, my heart began to hurt. My pride was hurt. My self-identity was embarrassed.

"Here is Jackie Giles!" shouted my blog. " She struggles with being content in Christ's love, living in the present and dealing with loneliness."

At first, I wanted to start over- get a clean break. Blog about my successes. Like when I got an "A" in a class I struggled in or when something good happened and I was genuinely thrilled which is something I don't get often and show even less often or that one time I had a spark of creativity and put pictures in the shape of a heart on my wall and it looked GOOD.

But then I remembered why I blog. I remembered what I am called to do.

I do not generally write for the masses. I do not write to present myself in the best possible light. I am egotistical and conceited enough in my current state (and isn't that what Instagram is for anyway?).

I am called to write about my weakness for in that, Christ's perfect strength is made known.

So yes, I have struggles. And yes, many are the same struggles that I think I have overcome. But if I could get over something that easy, it wouldn't be a struggle. It wouldn't be called "dying to self."

So yes, I have struggles. And I am unashamed.

My name is Jackie Giles. I do not have a 4.0 GPA. I am a little overweight. Sometimes, my inner voice curses. I am judgmental. I am discontent with my wonderful life. I sin. I neglect my savior. I have asthma, chronic hives, mastocytic colitis, migraines, and probably a connective tissue disorder.

But that's not all I am.

I am intelligent. I am witty and funny. I am strong. When a problem comes my way, I deal with it. I am, at times, wise. I have a great memory for people's names and random facts. I have wonderful friends and family. I am truthful about my faults and I am dealing with my issues openly. And in our modern society that encourages perfectly posed snapshots of life, choosing to reveal your weakness is incredibly brave.

Maybe I will start talking about successes more, but one thing is for sure. The minute I start hiding my faults on here is the minute I quit being true to myself and my purpose.

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I challenge you to live openly.

Of Bitterness in Uncertainty OR My Everyday Struggles

Recently, I wrote about how my life in the past couple years hasn't gone according to plan. And of course, life decided to imitate art and go against my plan. Again. Around a year ago, I said in a Bible study with some close friends that recently God had been teaching me to be ok with not knowing the future and having the answers to everything. Wonder what I would have said if I had realized I'd still be working on that same issue now. I'm done with everything in all my classes from the spring semester. Basically, it's summer for me. But ask me what I'm doing this summer and you will get a response along the lines of, "I'm not sure yet. I might..."

And you know what? I hate it. I want to be able to say, "I'm doing this awesome thing this summer. I'm working at this super great internship next year [said internship will guarantee me a fabulous job when I graduate] and I'll be moving to x when I graduate."

Y'all, I am struggling with uncertainty SO bad. And the repercussions have left me bitter and constantly worried. I have gotten so jealous of people who have (or appear to have) their lives together. I am bitter towards people who everything seems to be working out for effortlessly. I don't want to be this person. I want to say, "I have learned to be content in all circumstances." I haven't mastered that quite yet, but I am learning. Regardless, I know that God is God in times of certainty and uncertainty.

So here I am. Midnight on May 11.

Boasting in my weaknesses and trying to remember that his grace is sufficient for me.

Ernest Hemingway said, "Write hard and clear about what hurts." That's what I've tried to do with this blog, with the exception of bragging on people I love.

Right now I am hurting and I wrote hard and clear about it *wink wink, so if you cared enough to read all the way to the end, can you do me a favor? Send a prayer for me- not for me to experience certainty but for me to be ok with uncertainty, for me to be surrounded by a cloud of God's love.

Never Goes According to Plan

For the past 3 or so years, my one of my favorite quotes has been,

I may not have gone where I intended to go but I think I ended up where I needed to be.- Douglas Adams

I've officially had this blog for a year now and a lot has happened, not always what I intended but I think it was usually what I needed.

So much has happened. I have changed and grown in ways you never imagine until the growing up happens. I'm still in the stage in my life where a lot changes every year.

18-year-old Jackie never would have believed that 20-year-old Jackie would be happily single and not still in love with "The Boy." Two years ago, he was everything. My future. The thought of life without him was devastating to me. And life without him did devastate me --- for a little while.

Looking back, I realize how young and stupid we were. I realize that our plans never would have worked. Even more than that, I am so thankful that they didn't work.

It's been nearly a year since I talk to the boy and that's completely ok. I am happy without him. He is, I'm assuming and hoping, perfectly happy without me. Crazy how something that seems so integral to your happiness and future can disappear and life can go on in spite of you.

I suppose I could blame him for all the hurt I went through because there is blame to lay on him. But there is also blame to lay on me. Even though it didn't end like either of us planned, I had a really sweet first love experience. For a few months, I was adored by the boy and it was nice. It helped make me who I am today.

If anything, I am now thankful for the devastation I went through at the end. It gave me a new perspective. It gave me a way to relate with others that I hadn't before. It made me a stronger, wiser young woman and taught me to rely on Jesus for love and affection.

Maybe that's what this life is about. Experiences that make you stronger, grow you. Experiences that show you the depth of Jesus's love for you.

I remember lonely nights just asking Jesus to wrap me in his love- and he did. If anything can sum up how I felt, it's this song. Thank you God that I have cried my last and you did indeed bring beauty from my pain.

After all this has passed, I still will remain After I've cried my last, there'll be beauty from pain Though it won't be today, someday I'll hope again And there'll be beauty from pain You will bring beauty from my pain

(In keeping with the opening quote, I never intended to write about my first heartbreak. I intended to quickly recap all the great experiences I've had and the wonderful people I've met over the past year... But I think I ended up what I needed to write :) )

Leah the Loved: Women of Faith

Women of Faith: Leah the Loved
Women of Faith: Leah the Loved

The story of Leah is a beautiful, overlooked tale in the Bible. She was unwanted and unattractive.

Her husband, Jacob, loved her sister Rachel, his other wife, but not Leah. By her husband, her sister and even society in general, Leah was hated and God noticed. Because of this, he gave Leah the ability to have children and left Rachel barren.

While we don’t get much info on Leah or her life, the little bit we do see is very telling. Leah’s firstborn is named Reuben. To Leah, Reuben was hope. Finally, now Jacob would love her too. He would have to since she gave him a son, Leah thought. Except he didn’t. Then again with Simeon and Levi, Leah saw them as hope that Jacob would notice her although she does lower expectations. With Reuben, she used named him after the word “love” but when Levi comes along, Leah is only hoping for “attachment.” Still, no love comes from her husband.

At this point, I’m imagining Leah hits rock bottom and realizes that if Jacob won’t love her for having three sons, she will never be able to earn his love. Leah will always be second best to her sister Rachel. Somewhere between being rejected once again by Jacob and having her fourth son, Leah comes to a life changing revelation. It reminds me of when Job says, “The LORD gives and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Leah bases the name for her 4th son, Judah, on her attitude change because now she was simply going to praise the LORD.

Leah is unloved and forgotten by her husband but not by the LORD. He wooed her and comforted her. After Leah reaches contentment, she ceases having children. To me, this says that Leah was truly content with the LORD and no longer worried about pleasing Jacob.

You are loved by God. He is enough. He is all you need. Sometimes he uses methods that we mere mortals don’t understand. However, everything in the universe and everything that happens to you- that is God proclaiming his love for you. He is telling you that you are good enough. His love is enough. You don’t need anything else. Nothing else will satisfy you. So, do you know which of Jacob’s 12 sons were in the line of Jesus? It was Judah. Leah’s son named for her praise of God. Seriously? The literature nerd in me is going crazy. Can you get more perfectly cute than that?

Leah does have more sons later on and I don’t know if she stayed content in the LORD all her life. But that’s not really the point of Leah’s story. Growing up, I remember thinking Rachel has it so much better and if I had to be one, I’d wanna be Rach. But I don’t wanna be Rachel anymore. She’s portrayed as somewhat petty. She worships her family’s household gods and steals from and then subsequently lies to her father. Leah’s not perfect. But that’s kind of the point. She’s real. She has problems and she grows and understands life better. Leah is unattractive but she is wooed by the creator of the universe.

I am Leah not Rachel. I am fighting to be loved and noticed and appreciated. All the while, I forget the most important truth of all: Jesus died to save me from eternal damnation and to give me life abundant. The entire Bible and the short story of Leah can be summarized the exact same way: The creator of the universe loves you more deeply than you can imagine and he wants you to know that. He wants you to love him back and realize that the meaning of life is to seek and find contentment in him.

I hope we all realize that though we feel unloved like Leah, we are loved; truly, madly, deeply (I wanna stand with you on a mountain).

Also, please excuse the Savage Garden reference. It's 2014 for goodness sake!

Read about Anna, another woman of faith who inspired me too!

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Anna: Faithful for 84 years|Women of Faith

Women of Faith: Anna the Faithful
Women of Faith: Anna the Faithful

Anna The story of Anna is found in Luke 2:25-40.

Anna was widowed after only seven years of marriage. It’s bad enough to lose your husband after such a short period of time. It’s worse when you live in a culture where your worth and livelihood all depend on your husband and you earn respect through having children.

Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.

Isaiah 54:4-5

Anna should be an inspiration to single women, both those who are widowed and those who are unmarried. The Bible says that Anna never left the temple because she was fasting day and night. After she was widowed she completely and wholeheartedly gave herself over to the Lord. Her maker was her husband like listed in Isaiah 54. That blows my mind.

I worry about what would happen if I never get married or don’t get married within the next 5 or so years because I have placed my future into the hands of a guy I either haven’t met yet or just haven’t connected with yet. I have made the future and my future husband an idol. There are so many problems with this.

  1. Think about what this says to my Creator, the one I have supposedly put my faith and future and my whole life in. It says, “I want one of your creations more than I want you.”
  2. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “And for every girl who loves Jesus there shall be a husband who is at least six inches taller than you with a smoking hot bod who loves Jesus, is athletic and musical, and will be loved by your friends and family alike.” No, this is not promised in the Bible. In fact, in many places, we are essentially promised the opposite. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, Jesus and God command followers to leave everything they have to follow him. We like to look at the rich young ruler as an example of this but there are good examples of people with follow through too. The 12 disciples. Abraham. Paul. Ruth. This may be material goods or it may be family and it some cases, both. Either way, the message is clear. Following Jesus is about your love and devotion for him. It’s not about a get out of jail free card that also comes with a magic genie.
  3. It takes away from the sovereignty of God. I am inadvertently saying I place my future on the wishes of someone other than God. I probably covered this in points 1 and 2 but seriously this is ludicrous and an insult to God.
  4. Can we talk about the fact that it’s the 21st century? Girls no longer seriously go to college to find a nice doctor or lawyer and get that diamond diploma and MRS degree (Pronounced M R S Degree. Definition: a girl who is in college only to get married). Also, the median age of girls getting married is now 27 and its 29 for guys. So the average of when most girls get married is two years later than the end of the spectrum for when I think I deserve to be and should be married. My perceptions are so skewed. First, I shouldn’t expect to get married at a certain age especially since I am currently unattached. Second, I think I am so entitled when in reality I don’t deserve anything. God doesn’t owe me anything and he certainly didn’t promise if you become a Christian at age 7 you’ll live happily ever after with the Christian version of prince charming. Oh wait, he kind of did. That’s Jesus Christ and the Church is his princess bride. But do you (meaning me) specifically get your own Prince Charming? No! He. Owes. Me. NOTHING.

Back to Anna, she is a model of what single women should be doing. Looking for a new husband? No. Lamenting and grieving over their misfortune? No. Serving the Lord day and night? Yes! So today as you walk through your day, consider Anna and worship the Lord not his creation. My resolution is to fall in love with Jesus and let the rest fall away.

Read about Leah's struggles to be loved in another Women of Faith article.

Maybe Some Questions Don't Have to Be Answered

Last semester, I had an existential crisis of sorts. A religious one. It was ignited by lots of factors. A philosophy class that raised the "Question of Evil," coming down from the mountain post summer missions, not having a small group/mentor/spiritual community I felt comfortable being open with in Starkville to name a few. In addition to the question of evil, I wondered if God really existed and if he does, does he matter and care, and furthermore, why am I studying PR at a college in the Bible Belt. Basically, I was questioning what's the point of all this and where do I fit in.

So I did what any good Christian would do in our "hide your scars" and "walk it off" culture. I shut myself off. To God. To the Bible. To Church. To other Christians. I became "too busy" for BSU.

Until one day I had a conversation with a friend whose beliefs differ greatly from mine. Suddenly I realized that even through my dark place of separation and doubt, I could not completely stop loving or believing in Christ and his salvation. And I found that I agree with most of what the Baptists believe. So much so that to hear someone down Christ or Christians hurts and saddens me.

Then I realized, I needed to tuck my tail between my legs and go to church and pray and read my Bible. EVEN WHEN I DON'T FEEL LIKE IT. Read more about what C.S Lewis has to say about that here.

I still don't have the answers and I probably never will. I am not a great theologian who can convince you to become a Christian like me. Even if I was a theologian, only Christ can do that. I realize that I could just be a crazy, superstitious person but when I pray, stuff happens and if you want examples, just ask.

I don't believe in believing in God just because I'd rather be wrong and go nowhere when I die than not believe and be wrong and go to hell. That's not what true Christianity is about. It is about believing something crazy. It's called faith for a reason. I will probably always have doubts but thru it all I love Christ and am overwhelmed by his love for me.

All I know for sure is if our world doesn't have a creator and savior, then I'd rather be crazy and happy than sane and miserable.

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The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky[a] proclaims the work of His hands.Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge.There is no speech; there are no words; their voice is not heard.Their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

20 of My Favorite Quotes: Words for the Soul

So I love these quotes for various reasons. Some describe me. I want others to describe me. Some inspire me. Some are just plain beautiful to me. 

  1. Sandwiched between their "once upon a time" and happily ever after, all had to experience great adversity. -Dieter Uchtdorf

     

  2. Right is right even if everyone is against it. Wrong is wrong even if everyone is for it. -William Penn "(Pennsylvania is named after him)

  3. A woman should always be two things: classy and fabulous. -Coco Chanel

4. For my part, I know nothing with any certainty but the sight of the stars makes me dream. -Vincent Van Gog

5. Your naked body should only belong to those who fall in love with your naked soul. -Charlie Chaplin

6. If I'm honest, I have to tell you I still read fairy tales and I like them best of all. Audrey Hepbur

7. Always be a little kinder than necessary. -J.M. Barri

8. And why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn how to pick ourselves up. -Alfred, Batman Begins

9. Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. In order to move forward, one must let go. -C.S. Lewi

10. Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it yet. -Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

11. The way I see it, life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things; but vice versa the bad things don't always spoil the good things or make them unimportant. -Doctor Who

12. Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. -Corrie Ten Boom

13. Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid. - Albert Einstein

14. Your dresses should be tight enough to show that you're a woman but loose enough to show you're a lady. -Edith Head

15. Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak. -Rachel Zoe

16 A lady's is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a matter of moments. -Jane Austen

17. A woman's heart should be so lost in God that a man must seek him in order to find her. -Max Lucado

18. Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heels. 

19. The best way out is always through- Sarah Dessen 

20. We must overcome the notion that we must be regular. It robs us of the chance to be extraordinary.- Uta Hagen

I am afraid

"The gospels list some 125 Christ-issued imperatives. Of these, twenty-one urge us to "not be afraid" or "not fear" or "have courage" or "take heart" or "be of good cheer." The second most common command, to love God and neighbor, appears on only eight occasions. If quantity is any indicator, Jesus takes our fear seriously." Max Lucado, Fearless

I read somewhere that you need to write about what hurts because that's what matters. So here goes nothing:

I am afraid of geese and drains in parking lots. 

Bad storms still have the ability to turn me into a five-year-old hiding her head in the couch like an ostrich in the sand.

Some days, I'm still that quiet, insecure fourteen-year-old girl afraid that nobody really cares if she's here or not. 

My biggest fear though?

Gonna have to say "What is the future for $1000, Alex"

Not knowing where I'm gonna be, what I'll be doing, or who I'll be with in two years, well frankly, that kinda terrifies me. The issue of who I will marry has been a struggle for me for a while. But I really wasn't too concerned from March until a week or so ago. Y'all, I really rocked the contented, in love with Christ only thing this summer. Then I got back to the real world. Now I struggle to love Christ enthusiastically. I worry that I'll give in and settle for the American dream and not live a life that matters. I worry I'll either be too scared to move away when I graduate and I'll marry a man who wants to stay in meridian his whole life or that I'll never find someone to change my last name for. 

But as I just read in Psalms 34, the Lord never withholds good from those who seek him. So I know I can trust him to give me exactly what I need, at exactly the right time. He is never late or early. So that's me, a little scaredy cat. In spite of all that, I know I am loved and protected by Christ and his undying love for me. 

 

 

Disney Princesses, Christ, Paradoxes, and me

I simultaneously feel the need to write and feel writer's block coming on.  Which is a pretty good explanation of me in general. I am a paradox. I have passionate feelings and great apathy. I am struck by the conviction to speak the truth boldly and the conviction to be loving and non-judgmental. All this and more in the body of a 20-year-old woman. 

Like all strong character traits, this can be both a good thing or a bad thing. I easily come off offensive to those who do not know me well. I once heard someone say they had tons of compassion for non-believers and none for believers gone astray. At the time I thought this was harsh but somewhere along the way I became someone with merciful love for non-Christians and only tough love for fellow Christians. I am still not sure whether this is the right way to be or not but I make no apologies because Christ is never seen to be a nursemaid coddling us.

The Gospel may be a real life fairy tale but it is still being written so it's gotta be more than a comforting bedtime story. Cinderella suffered. Snow White worked hard. Rapunzel was isolated. Belle loved an unpleasant person in a foreign environment. Even Westley from The Princess Bride talks about this:

"Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

But it's so hard to remember. We get so disheartened when life isn't a walk in the park. So we binge on Netflix or work out or do something to zone out and get the stress out other than going to our creator. 

This isn't anything close to what I was intending to write. But that's one of the reasons I write. It clarifies what I'm confused about and shows me what I've blocked myself from seeing.  

Looking for my Dream

Have you ever been in the middle of a crazy, busy something or other fighting a meltdown and then the perfect words come along and all the sudden you have nearly an out of body experience? I did this summer. All my life, I have fought the battle of "who am I?" and "there's nothing special about me."

It was even worse this summer when I was on the creative arts team with four girls more talented than me in one way or another. I know what you're saying here, "Jackie, you're talented too" or "Maybe you aren't an amazing singer but you have other talents." But for the sake of this blog, just put away those thoughts and start with the premise that most of the time, I feel plain and inadequate for recognition. 

Back to this summer, one of the songs we performed was "Free to Be Me" by Francesca Battistelli. One of the times in July after I had just turned 20, I was having a really rough day of feeling like there was no real reason for me to be there. Then came time for me to sing this song with two other girls.

At this stage in my life, nothing describes me better than that song. Even more specifically, the first line could have been written by me. I do not know who I am or where I will be in a few years even though I am constantly asked the question of what I'm doing after graduation.

But that hot July day in Orlando, Florida when I was close to tears and falling apart, I realized that it was okay that I didn't have a clue because God is in control and he has plans for me. I could live in a big city or a tiny town. I could get married in the next 6 months or I could stay single forever. I might graduate and start working right away or I might go to grad school or even seminary.

Who knows? Oh, wait. God does. And that is what gives me peace in the middle of chaos.

One day I might find a dream but for now, it's just loving God and his people and that's alright with me. 

The lyrics to the song are below in case you don't know it and you took the time to read this far. If you did, feel free to say paisley out loud... Promise I'll hear it :) 

At twenty years of age, I'm still looking for a dream
A war's already waged for my destiny
But You've already won the battle
And You've got great plans for me
Though I can’t always see

‘Cause I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
On my own I'm so clumsy
But on Your shoulders I can see
I'm free to be me

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