Be Still.

I’ve been stressed. Emotionally. Mentally. This semester has been much harder than any other I’ve ever faced, and I am the queen of taking on way too much and being way too busy, so that’s saying a lot.

This semester, I’m tackling 18 credit hours, directing a Spring Sing show, planning a Soundings Unveiling, helping put together the Soundings journal, working two jobs, and juggling relationships with friends, family and a boyfriend. When homework isn’t taking up every second of my free time, I’m trying to catch a moment of sanity with one of the people I love. On top of that, I’ve been working towards looking for a place to live and searching for an adult job after graduation, which if I’m being quite honest, is absolutely terrifying.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to shake off the fact that I feel like I’m drowning in everything I’m trying to do. The worst part of it all is that I didn’t have to do everything I am doing, but I decided to and due to my commitments, there’s no turning back. I’ve called my parents to vent way too many times. I’ve cried on Brad’s shoulder more than I’d like to admit. I’ve had to cancel plans on people. I’ve worn my body down so much that I even got pretty sick at the beginning of this week with a terrible cold.

“Paige, you need to give it to God and rest.” My mom told me.

Not that I listened. At least not at first, because I’m much too stubborn for that.

“I can’t,” I claimed. “I have Spring Sing Practice, homework to do, classes to attend. I can’t just stop.” Of course, I ignored my mom’s wise advice and pushed myself a little harder, even though I didn’t really have the strength do push. Day two of sickness and I was worse off than the day before.

I called my mom again.

“Did you rest?” No. “Paige, you need to trust in God and give your body a day off.” I try not to be dense multiple times in a row, so I figured I’d listen to my momma this time. So Wednesday, I took a day off. I skipped my only class. I slept. A lot. I prayed to God to heal me. I didn’t go to Spring Sing (a shocker, I know!) I just stayed in bed and when I wasn’t sleeping, I worked on homework while drinking hot tea and snuggling into my sheets.

Thursday hit and I was feeling 100 percent better. I took a day off to take care of myself, something I should probably do more often. Yet, that one day wasn’t enough. Instead, I found myself stressed out all over again. I had exams. I had Senior Salute. I had work stuff. I had homework to turn in. I had Spring Sing. And that was just in a single day. Not to mention, I’d been feeling homesick in a way I’ve never felt before, because I can’t drive home anymore. My parents are 23 hours away and that hurts a little more than I’d like to admit. It didn’t really hit me until I picked up my cap and gown and the only people I wanted to show were my mom and dad, because I knew that they’d be excited to celebrate in this small victory with me.

So dealing with the stress of my day, I called my parents again on Friday. I told them I was overly emotional. I told them what I was dealing with. I told them I needed a break. And like any good parents, they both gave me advice about how to handle my crazy life. I’d never been so grateful for speaker phone.

And if I’m being honest, my mom has been the key to telling me the thing I need to hear in this time of stress time and time again, even if I wasn’t really willing to hear it. I’m at a really difficult point in my life. Everything is changing. My brother just got engaged. He has a baby on the way! My sister is finishing up her master’s degree and living life in Kentucky. My parents are loving life in Miami. And here I am, failing at being an adult. I don’t know what I’m doing. I just want my mom and dad to take care of me like they’ve done before without having to ask them to do it. I want life to be easier and I don’t want to deal with all of the challenges I’ve taken on.

Why do I feel this way, though? I’ve never felt this way before. And then it hits me. My mom’s words. Her wisdom. Things she keeps saying, but things I’ve refused to hear.

“You have the strongest faith out of anyone in our house.” Not currently, I think.

“You should start your day with God.” I start my day running out the door, because I’m already running behind.

“Reading the Bible in the morning always makes me feel better. Also, praying to God when I first wake up.” I think about the thousands of things I have to do when I wake up. Not God.

“Oh, but I talk to God throughout the day, too. I’m always talking to God.” I only talk to God when Brad reminds me and does it with me.

And most importantly, “Trust in God. Place it in His hands. He’ll take care of you. He always does.” But mom, I’m trying to take care of myself!

As much as my mom has been reminding me, I haven’t been listening. I’m not giving my worries to God. I am not letting Him guide me. I’m not letting Him control my steps. I am being a worldly person by trying to handle all of these things on my own–a feat that no one can do!

Which is why I’m telling you that I’ve made the resolve to give it all to God. I graduate in less than 70 days and I don’t know what life will throw my way at that time. Nonetheless, I’m giving it to God.

Spring Sing is a week away and I’m nervous and excited. Soon, all the practices and craziness that have been the last month (year seems more like it!) will be over with. I will have so much free time, I don’t think I’ll know what to do with myself. (Though spending much needed quality time with my loved ones seems like a good place to start.) And GIVING IT TO GOD!

This crazy semester full of too many classes will be done with soon. Soundings will be over in April. Everything will settle down, but God will always be constant, so I’m giving it to God.

So today, I’m making time for God. I’m being genuine in my prayers and actually giving it to Him, instead of just talking at Him and trying to maintain my control. I am enjoying the sunshine He has created. I am breathing in a moment of rest and enjoying the stillness on this wonderful Saturday.

After all, God tells us to “Be still and know that He is God,” something I have not been doing. So today, I’m being still.

Will you be still with me?

20 Lessons from My 20th Year Part 3

Well friends, my birthday has officially come to an end. There were birthday muffins, leftover seafood Alfredo for lunch, a 4 hour car ride, Opening Night with friends, food trucks, a British Baking Show, and the end of 2015. As my birthday closes, I remember again that I love birthdays, especially when I get to celebrate with family and friends.

I appreciated each phone call, Facebook post, card, and text message. Honestly, they meant the whole entire world to me! With that being said, my social media accounts were so busy yesterday that I figured I’d post the final 6 lessons today. Here ya go!


 

  1. God’s timing is not my timing! 

    As I look at 2015, I realize that God definitely worked out my life according to His timing instead of my own. For instance, people I’d known of for over a year became my friend during the summer when I needed people the most. I was always afraid that I would lose a friendship because it was developing at the wrong time, but God new otherwise. Relationships aside, he also did this with things like my career and even paying for OC! God always does this according to His timing, which has always been perfect timing even if I questioned the wait.

  2. I will ALWAYS need my parents.I would be lying to you if I said tensions weren’t high in my household right now. Everyone is dealing with the stress of my parents move and it’s really hard. With that being said, I love having a mom who still goes to the eye doctor with me and who cuddles with me in bed for a little while. I love having a dad who will sit outside with me for hours and talk about everything and anything. I love having a dad who takes care of my car every time I come home–cleaning the windshield, putting oil and windshield wiper fluid into it, and making sure it runs well! Parents who make me breakfast just because or buy me birthday balloons because I think they would be fun! I don’t care if you are 5 or 35. You will ALWAYS need them, which is actually quite nice because they love you unconditionally.
  3. You should go outside and you should go outside often. 

    Really! There are so many wonderful things to see when you are outside and fresh air is good for you. I even have my own little spot by the lake that I like to go to. At night, I can sit on a rock and look at the stars. During the day, I love to watch the water clash against the shore. It’s breathtaking and truly wonderful when remembering how awesome our Creator is. My 20th year reminded me that walks are good. Picnics are even better! And being outside makes the soul feel good.

  4. Writing your prayers down is super helpful! 

    I’m a pretty visual person. With that being said, I’ve learned that it is a lot easier for me to pray when I write out my prayers. I stayed focused and don’t get distracted. It forces me to sit down and really think about what I need/want to pray for. Plus, I get to look back and see how God answered my prayers! Which is super neat. Honestly, I love that I started writing down my prayers, because I feel like with my type of wandering mind, it really helps me.

  5. Cooking is NOT as hard as I thought it was. Seriously, my family used to tease me and say that I could burn water (rightfully so. I’m pretty sure I’ve burned Ramen, and really, who does that?) Not anymore, however! I started cooking this summer and realized I’m actually pretty good at it. I don’t even need recipes for things once I’ve made it once AND I’ve found a love for cooking everything from scratch, because it is truly so much better that way (Something I’ve learned from my grandma and my mom!) This year, I’ve cooked complicated things and easy thing. I’ve cooked for one and I’ve cooked for 10! I’ve also learned that cooking for people you love makes cooking so much better. There is something about sitting down for a meal with your friends and family and just enjoying one another’s company. With that being said, if you can’t cook, try again. It’s as simple as following a recipe. You don’t have to do anything crazy! Feel free to start small and work your way up to the hard stuff. Also, note that gingerbread cookies are a nightmare, but totally worth it once you eat them!
  6. Having God centered relationships is the way to go. 

    I’ve had plenty of relationships with friends and family members before that didn’t always feel fulfilling. I felt like we weren’t on the same page and that we weren’t really growing towards anything. This year, I’ve made it a point to center ALL of my relationships around God and wow! What a difference it has made. This year, I’ve talked about God more. I’ve prayed for people more. I’ve prayed for my relationships with people to focus more around God. It’s been super fulfilling and I am so blessed by how God uses those relationships to grow my faith in Him! I used to be nervous about giving people Bible-related gifts. However, this year I stepped out of my comfort zone and went for it! For instance, I bought my brother his first Bible and my sister a devotional. They both loved their gifts! Also, I’ve been praying so much so that I was lucky enough to witness my dad and brother get baptized this past month. I’m telling you that when you center every relationship around God, whether it is romantic, familial, or a friendship, God will work in wonderful ways. He will grow the person you are working on a relationship with. He will grow you. The both of you will have a stronger relationship, because it isn’t about benefiting one another anymore, but instead, it is working together for the glory of God.


 

This year has taught me so much about myself. I’ve grown a lot and I know I will continue to grow as I take on 21. People say that the most change and challenges occur during your twenties. I would say that those people are absolutely correct, but I look forward to every single lesson learned.

For now, I’ll continue to reflect on my 20th year while enjoying this next milestone–21.

Blessings,

PB

A Very Different Kind of Christmas

christmas blog 1

Yesterday morning, I woke up quite early. 7 a.m. to be exact. And while this is normal for most on Christmas morning, I found myself thinking back to the fact that I haven’t woken up early on Christmas morning for quite some time. The house was quiet. No one was awake. I stared towards the window, watching the sunlight sneak through the blinds and dance with specks in the air. It was calming and brilliant–as if God was saying “Look at what I’ve created. This moment is for you.”

Those words echoed throughout the day, too. First, as I called each of my grandparents to wish them a Merry Christmas. What a reminder that as we grow older, distance makes the holiday seasons a bit harder. My grandmom Elaine was particularly reminiscent of times where children were younger, reminding me that Christmas is always better with children who believe in the magic of Santa Claus. She was spending time with some of my cousins who are still young enough to wake up at the crack of dawn with excitement for what Santa brought on his sleigh. My grandma Maria reminded me that Christmas was meant to be spent gathered with family as she prepared a feast for family members. My grandfather Brown spoke of distance, reminding me of Christmases we used to spend in the glorious mountains. My grandma Ces told me of a meal she prepared for friends, reminding me that family isn’t solely blood. My grandpa Art talked about distance, as well, specifically the distance of Florida as my parents prepare to leave.

You see, if anything, this Christmas taught me that being away from family on the holidays can be hard and sadder than I could have ever imagined. After talking to my grandparents, I spoke to my mom and dad, who I was also away from this year. Due to the move and lack of children home for the holiday, I’m assuming my home did not feel like Christmas this year to them either. My parents didn’t get the chance to put up the tree. They didn’t make cinnamon roles. We didn’t gather around the tree to pray a prayer of thanks for Jesus’ birth. We didn’t go to the Christmas Eve service together.  Dad didn’t hand out presents. Jess, Dyllon, and I didn’t tease each other endlessly. Our traditions, things that we had established years ago, did not occur this year, because we weren’t together to make them happen.

christmas blog

My siblings and I, although we didn’t talk on the phone, did text each other throughout the day. I think all three of us felt the pang of being apart during the holiday season. My brother, the only child at home this year, told me that Christmas felt weird. My sister said it was a Christmas without a dinner and without family. We all felt the absence of one another.

However, even with Jess in Kentucky, Dyllon in Texas, and me in Oklahoma, my brother still reminded me of simpler times when we were younger. In a moment of trying to cheer us up, particularly my sister, Dyllon reminded us of times when we used to search the house for hidden presents before Christmas day. Of course, that reminded me of the year my parents hid my brother’s Christmas rifle under his bed for months–something he never found due to the amount of crap he stuffed under his bed.

Then, I realized that although distance could really stink, it was not the end of the world. Because at the end of the day, I was reminded of the love of my family. My brother and sister, even in distance, still tried super hard to cheer each other up. My mom and dad were only a phone call away and wished me a Merry Christmas, which was one of my favorite holiday wishes this year. My brother and sister reminded me that they loved me. I felt my home even when I was a thousand miles away.

christmas blog 3Lucky for me, Christmas didn’t only mean long distance this year. I was blessed to spend Christmas with the Eckhart family as well. Growing up, my family spent a lot of holidays with friends that felt like family and this was no exception for me. They made me feel so welcomed in their home. They even provided me with my very own stocking–glittered ‘Paige’ letters and all. With the Eckharts, I was able to experience new Christmas traditions-pancakes, opening gifts one at a time based on age, playing a board game, and reading on a couch. I was even blessed enough to help with Christmas Dinner and given the chance to make my mom’s garlic mashed potatoes– a reminder of home when my heart ached for it so much. There was lots of love, lots of laughter, and lots of Christmas.

You see, this Christmas was extremely different than any other Christmas I’ve ever had before. Nonetheless, it was filled with endless amounts of love and care. It was full of prayer and glory given to God. It was reminiscent of past Christmases and shined a bright light on new traditions. It was full of moments that God gave me. Moments that I believe are truly special.

If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that God will be given glory no matter who you’re with on Christmas. Jesus’ birth will be celebrated. People will gather with one another and commune together. They will bring one another joy and love and thanksgiving.

christmas blog 4This Christmas season I was given so many gifts that will forever fill a special spot in my heart. My brother and father were baptized. I was able to speak with each family member on Christmas. I was able to spend time with new friends and partake in their traditions. More importantly, I was able to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, which is a gift I will celebrate every single day of my life.

You see, we get older and traditions change. Family spreads apart. Coming together is more difficult. But God is with us always. Not only that. God is with our loved ones always. What could be greater than that?

christmas blog 2I hope you all had a Merry CHRISTmas. Continue to remember God throughout the rest of your holiday season and throughout the New Year.

Blessings,

PB

A Plea for Help

depression-quotes

I took an online quiz today and it told me I was depressed. Normally, I don’t put much thought into online quizzes, but this one was a bit different. You see, I told my friend yesterday that I feel sad all of the time-even when I have absolutely no reason to be sad. This morning, I woke up to a text message from her with a quiz that determines a person’s level of depression.

I’m moderately depressed. Basically, I’m depressed enough to need to talk about it, but that’s all the results really said. There was no encouragement or ideas of who to talk about these feelings with. Super helpful, I know. Thus, I blog.

I knew the outcome of the quiz before I clicked submit.

Do you have motivation to do the things you need to do? No.

Do you look forward to anything during the day? No.

Do you find yourself feeling sad more than happy? Yes.

Do you find yourself feeling sad when you should be feeling happy? Yes.

Did you know it is estimated that 350 million people of all ages deal with some type of depression? It makes sense. There is so much negativity in this world. So much destruction.

More than that, there is so much to live up to. You have to be your best, the best. You are always competing against people. You are always performing and providing people with what they need. It can cause a lot of anxiety and feelings of not being good enough. If rejection doesn’t play a hand in depression, I’d be pretty surprised.

The worst part is I don’t know why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling. Not really. I know I’m loved. My parents tell me how much they love me every single day. I have great friends. My boy friend constantly goes out of his way to show me how important I am to him. So why do I feel so unimportant? Why then, do I feel like I am not gaining any sort of fulfillment out of anything I do? How come I can be surrounded by people who love me and feel so unloved?

My mom and dad are moving away. Maybe that’s why? They were in Miami this week and I think it really put everything into perspective for me. I’ve never been more than 3 hours away from them. Now we will be 23 hours apart.

Or maybe it’s because the holiday season is coming and I know I’m working Christmas and my siblings won’t be home for Thanksgiving. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’ll be turning 21 on December 31st and for once in my life, I don’t have my birthday completely planned out down to the second of how I want to spend it.

Maybe I’m depressed because adulthood is knocking at my door and I just can’t do it. Graduation is 158 days away. There are 158 days separating me from the next stage of my life. A life I’m not ready to tackle just yet.

The things I used to find so much enjoyment in I no longer do. I sit down amongst my peers and think to myself, “I have so many other things to be doing right now. I don’t want to be here. Why am I here?” And it isn’t because what they are doing isn’t important, because it is. It’s just not something that reaches the same level of all the other things I have on my plate, at least not in my mind.

Maybe I’m depressed because I’m overwhelmed. Projects. Exams. A Christmas Market to plan. Soundings meetings. Work Meetings. Time Sheets to fill out. People to help. People to spend time with. No time to sleep, but feeling exhausted every second of the day. 3 weeks left of the semester to get so many tasks accomplished and the whole time I feel like I’m drowning. I need help. I just don’t know what kind of help I need or how to ask for it or what to do.

And the words, “You did this to yourself” echo in my head as I replay a conversation I had with someone at lunch the other day. She’s right. I did. Not that her words were helpful in any way, shape, or form. If anything, they cut me deeper than anything I’ve ever been told before, because I did. I brought this on myself. I know she’s right.

Depression

So what am I going to do about it? Well, I’m going to share how I’m feeling. Hopefully, that is a good enough start.

I’m overwhelmed. I’m lonely. I’m exhausted. I’m busy. I’m sad. I’m hurting. I’m in pain and I don’t even know where the pain is coming from.

But I don’t think these feelings I am having make me weak. I think, if anything, they remind me of where my strength is to be found. I’m going to take this battle one day at a time, because I know God is on my side.

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” ~Deuteronomy 31:8

“The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.” ~Psalm 34:17

“I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.” ~Psalm 40:1-3

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” ~1 Peter 4:12-13

God is with me. If you are feeling similar to me, I promise He is with you too.

I’m hoping for better days my friends. For you. For me. For everyone.

Until then, I think it’s important to count my blessings. I used to write down all the good stuff that happened to me within a day. I found myself drifting from this habit, but I want to start again. Maybe you should give it a try, too? After all, God blesses us with more than we really give Him credit for.

Blessings,

PB

 

The Key to Success is Not to Stress

3 years ago I was a senior in high school. Life was easy in retrospect, even though I thought it was hard at the time. I remember being nervous about the next stage of my life. I was constantly questioning what move I should make. My thoughts circled around the same 3 questions: What college should I go to? What should I major in? What do I even want to do with my life? 

It’s funny to me that 3 years later and I’ve only answered two of those questions: Oklahoma Christian University and Creative Writing. It’s even funnier that with those 3 questions, I still find myself asking similar ones now that my college graduation is approaching. When April arrives, I am supposed to have the rest of my life figured out. Everyone keeps asking me what’s next, and I honestly have no idea. And once again, I find myself stuck with the same 3 questions. What Grad School do I want to go to? What do I want to get my Masters in? What am I going to do with the rest of my life? 

I find it humorous that 3 years later and not much has changed. The future is still trying to rule my life. I am still biting off way more than I can chew. Opening up to people is just as hard now as it was then. Feeling inadequate when I find myself struggling with a subject takes a huge toll on me, whether Pre-Calculus or Accounting. Extracurricular activities, although fun and worthwhile, are still extremely demanding and trying at times.

Thinking about how much has changed in the last few years, and then noticing that nothing has really changed at all feels really stagnant. I feel like there’s been a lack of growth. I want to say that I am leaving college this full fledged adult, but I’m not.  I’m still learning how to budget my money. I am still teaching myself not to procrastinate. I am reminding myself that God is important always and that He shouldn’t get pushed to the side. I have to tell myself that contacting my parents is important and making them a priority is necessary. Being a friend and allowing people to be a friend to me in return is crucial for survival.

Most importantly, I am learning that words that helped me manage my senior year of high school can help me manage my senior year of college as well. I posted on my Facebook about an assignment I have due in a few weeks and asked people to share quotes that helped shaped their lives, specifically their faith. My old debate partner and sweet friend who is just now beginning her first year of college reminded me of a quote that helped her through these last couple years. Funny enough, it was my quote.

“The key to success is not to stress.” It was words we lived by in our little debate world. We could only prepare as much as we had time for. We could only perform to the best of our ability. Everything else wasn’t in our hands, something that was hard to accept at times, but the absolute truth nonetheless. Words I told Marissa to focus on I had so easily forgotten in the last few years. I am pretty grateful for the reminder, now, as she told me that through this silly little mantra I developed to make us feel better during hard times, she was able to focus on God’s plan. She focused on God’s understanding, and not her own, something I have been struggling to do lately.

You see, my final year of undergrad is here. I am taking my final classes. I am working. I am participating in extracurriculars. I am living the best years of my life. So why am I wishing this year away by focusing on next year? Why am I throwing away these moments for knowledge of my future? Why am I fearful of messing up? Not being good enough? Not doing enough?

I have prepared myself all that I can. I have worked as hard as I can. I have no control of the future. I only have control of my present.

So today, I am thankful for Marissa, for reminding me of my own words. I was wise for living by that silly little motto of mine, and I think I’m going to bring it back into my life. After all, the key to success really is not to stress, because I know God’s got this.

Two Are Better Than One

You could probably guess this upon first getting to know me, but I am really good at making friends with people. Not to brag, or anything. It’s just a skill I’ve accumulated over the years. People tend to like me. I, in return, tend to like people. I thrive off of them. The more people I know, the better off I am.

Or so I thought. Lately, I don’t know how to connect with others. Or maybe, I know how to connect with others too well. I find myself constantly reaching out to everyone I meet. I want to know their problems. I want to help them and love on them and make them feel better. But in doing so, I forget about myself. I don’t tell people when I am hurting, or when I need help. I feel like I have to be so strong for everyone else, like they are too fragile to handle the weight of my problems too. Thus, I pick them up, throw them on my shoulders, and carry them through their burdened journey and avoid going down my own path that desperately needs to be adventured on.

I know when the problem started. I know why it got worse. I know why it is so hard for me to let people in, but I’m not sharing it. I don’t know how. Or maybe I don’t want to? Maybe it’s my way of hiding my vulnerability. But aren’t we called to be vulnerable with one another? Aren’t we called to lean on one another?

God never asked me to walk alone. He never asked me to take on everyone’s burden. You see, this time last year I was starting my job as a freshman RA. While tackling that job, I quickly lost friends. It was too hard for people to schedule around the fact that my life no longer revolved around me, but instead around the girls that I took on as my charges. I had curfew, again. I had dorm events and devos. I had people that needed me, and my friends had plans that I didn’t fit into because of that. They wanted to go out after Midnight because they could. They wanted to go out for dinners and play games and do things that conflicted with the time I had to spend with my residents. And at first, that was okay. But then it continued. I felt left out, unwanted, and most importantly, unloved.

A few months later, and I finally started to connect to people again. I was open with people, telling them how I was feeling. I was telling them when things were wrong. I told them when I was hurting or in pain. At first, it worked out quite nicely and I was once again surrounded by people who loved me. And then, those people weren’t there either faster than I could blink my eyes. I kept picking these people who I thought would stick around, but instead, decided to serve a short time in my life and leave.

You see, that’s the problem with being able to friend well with lots of people. You are able to connect quickly, but that doesn’t mean the connection always lasts. To them, I served my time, and that was enough for them. They moved on, leaving me to move on too.

Here I am at the beginning of the school year, though, and I don’t trust people. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of friends. I know they love me and that they would do anything for me. They’ve proven it so many times this year. Yet, I cannot for the life of me tell them what is wrong. I can’t tell them my hurts. I don’t want to talk about the fact that I’m stressed to the max. I don’t want to cry in front of them. I don’t trust them enough to be weak, and that’s not okay.

If anything, I’ve been reminded by people that it is okay to share my burdens. I’ve been reminded that I have friends that won’t leave me high and dry. And to be honest, I’ve been reminded of that fact by people I wouldn’t have ever expected to tell me things like that.

Like I said, God never called us to rely on ourselves, or do life by ourselves. People need people. We need friends, family, and we need God. So here I am, about to start my final year of college. I have people in my life that love me. I have people that are willing to talk to me, hear me out no matter what I have to say. More than that, they push me to talk to them even when it’s hard. Because of that, I know this year will be better than last year.  And because of them, I know that I can rely on them just as much as they can rely on me, and for that, we will be better off.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” Ecclesiastes 4: 9-11

You Can’t Pencil God In

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I have gotten used to my planner, my Google Calendar, and even my schedule being written down on my fridge. I know what I am doing each and every day. My life is pinpointed to the very second and I get alerts constantly reminding me where I need to be and when I need to be there. The organization is like my security blanket, or my safety net. It allows me to feel secure in my life. With my schedules showing me every second of my day, I can note the time I get to spend with friends, the workouts I’m doing with Kelly, the work things I have to get accomplished, and any time in between to spend doing insert random task here. My life has literally become a series of to do lists, which is slightly ridiculous. I’ve scheduled my life so much that I cannot handle a single second out of place.

So what happens when your boss completely rips apart that schedule by adding two extra days of training and completely disrupts the plans you’ve put so much effort into making? Well, you definitely cry on the phone to your dad like the non-adult you are, because your life just fell to pieces. Maybe I was being a little dramatic. And maybe my dad is the real MVP in this story, because what father likes listening to his baby girl heart broken and a billion miles away? Not him, let me tell you.

But he listened anyway. He told me to suck it up in real dad fashion, while also telling me I needed to stop crying, because he felt terrible that he wasn’t here to fix all my problems. Guys, my dad is actually the best man on this planet in case you were wondering. Of course, I told him he wasn’t being helpful and asked for mom. I was wrong in doing so, because my dad was just what I needed at that point in time.

He hung up the phone. I stood in the bathroom at work, looked at my tear stricken face, and took a deep breath. It wasn’t the end of the world. I could adapt. I was a strategic person. I splashed some water on my face and went to work watching children with a better perspective on the not so welcome changes that had come earlier that day.

You might be wondering why I decided to share this over dramatic story, so here it goes. Being an adult is hard sometimes. Working a real job comes with a bunch of new territory you may have never experienced before. Your boss is going to expect some flexibility. You might not have time for your friends. You might have to move some things around. But that’s a-okay. After all, if we sit with our whole entire lives planned out, we never allow ourselves the opportunity to experience the extra moments in life, like buying a cup of coffee and sitting in your car for an extra few minutes because your favorite song came on the radio.

One more thing. I was planning life so much, that I tried to pencil God in. Silly, I know. I was so focused on every little task that I had going on. I wanted to be as focused on God as I was a few weeks ago when I was doing His work in Swaziland. At that time I had been praying so much. I had been learning about the Old Testament. I was researching God’s word and reading it as much as I possibly could. For two weeks, God was every part of my day and I wanted it back so badly. But I was going about it the wrong way.

You see, I told myself 60 minutes of God time a day, whether that was writing in my prayer journal or going to church or reading my Bible. And when I tried to schedule God in my life, I found that I did not have time for Him. He was not a necessity. Actually, He was one of the first things to go when I found myself crunched for time, because He would always be there. How messed up is that?

I talked to Kelly about it. She’s pretty great at dealing with my mental breakdowns. She told me I was going about it wrong. She asked about how I managed to make God such a big part of my day when I was in Swaziland, or prompted it out of me in the way only she can do. When I thought about it, the answer was simple. I filled all of my free moments with God. An extra five minutes between class? I’d write a prayer for someone. 30 minutes until lunch? I’d read my Bible. A random hour after dinner? I’d sit down with a friend and have a discussion.

You can’t pencil God in, because He should be found in all the moments of our lives. Not only should we be doing all of our work for Him, but we should be filling every extra minute with Him too. He should not be an option, but more a way of life. He should be found in every second of our day, and if we try to schedule every moment, we lose a part of that. That’s pretty sad if you think about it, because doesn’t God deserve every second that we get to live?

So, I want to leave you with this verse.

Proverbs 3: 5-6 Being an adult might be hard at times, but I trust that God is guiding my steps and leading the way. When my boss changes things up on me, it’s a reminder to be flexible and adaptable. Being Type A won’t always be doable, and that’s okay. I’m going to have good days and bad days. All of my days are God’s days, which is something to remember the next time I try to pencil Him in. 

Blessings,

PB

Defined By God

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Sometimes I sit back and think about everything I’ve done with my life and wonder, What was the point? I’ve always aimed for this idea of success, but I’ve never really paid much attention to what the success that I was reaching for really was. What was the idea? And more importantly, if I couldn’t pinpoint what I was reaching for, did it even exist at all? And if I didn’t reach this unidentified success, did that make me less of a person? Did I fail? And if I failed, did it affect anyone negatively? Did it affect me at all?

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These might seem like a silly string of questions. However, tonight I found myself feeling assessed, inadequate, and more importantly, like I was not accomplishing enough. I felt like I needed to do more. I needed to be more. Not for me, but for all the people around me. Considering I don’t really have any clue as to what people expect of me, or the amount of success they want me to achieve, this way of thinking is extremely hurtful. More importantly, it’s damaging.

My success is not defined by my grade point average. My success is not defined by the college I go to, or how I’ve ended up paying for it. My success is not defined by how many people I am friends with or how many individuals like me. My success is not defined by the amount of awards I win or recognition I receive. My success is not defined by words of affirmation. Nor is it defined by accomplishments.

Just the same, my success is not deflated due to my failures. It is not diminished due to the opinions of others. My success does not evaporate when something goes wrong.

Because I am not defined by success. My actions are not my successes. My words are not my successes. Who I am is not my success. Because in all the things I do, God should be the only one who gains any sort of glory. In all I do, I should give the praise to God always. 

Focusing on my successes has given me too many tears when I didn’t reach a goal, specifically goals I didn’t even know I was aiming for. Focusing on my successes and myself when everything I did to achieve them belongs to God is selfish, because I know without Him, I would have and be nothing.

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I am not defined by my success. I am defined by God as a child who messes up on a regular basis, but who is still loved. Loved when I mess up. Loved when I do good. Loved when I fail more than I achieve. Loved when I have sinned. Loved when I have done right by God. I am loved. And that is what I am defined by. Because God, He does not care about what this world deems as successful. He cares about what we do to serve Him and His kingdom. He cares about how we love, because He loves.

I am not defined by my success. When I accept that, I become the most successful person I can be, because I allow myself to be defined through love.

Prayers Answered 3 Years Later

Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

This time 2 summers ago, my mom and I had a conversation in which she did not believe OC was the school for me due to how expensive it was. I understood her apprehension at the time, because private Christian colleges are not cheap. Not to mention, I didn’t have that much scholarship money at the time. Due to some other things that happened, my mom and dad doubted that OC was where I should attend and were strongly encouraging me to look for more affordable schools, because they didn’t want me to go into debt for school. They are good parents for their concerns. Yet, I fought against it and told them I knew God wanted me at OC and I would do everything in my power to get school paid for. I remember praying to God in a fit of tears, begging Him to help me. “If OC is where you want me God, please, just  help me convince my parents. Help me show them that it is truly affordable. Help me get there. Help me stay there.

The first year, my mom and dad paid $10,000 for me to attend OC and I was grateful to them for trusting me enough to give me a chance to attend for the first year. They gave me the chance to prove to them that what God had placed on my heart was OC and that was where I needed to be. I got in there, worked 2 jobs, took a ridiculous amount of hours and made it happen. In the process, I fell even more in love with OC and with God.

Then, I went home for the summer and because my brother was no longer in school, I lost the only grant I had. It was frustrating. I contacted the school and my financial aid counselor told me there was nothing she could do for me. Here I was trying to prove to my mom and dad that God wanted me to be at OC and the outcomes didn’t really prove my point. To them, it seemed like maybe God didn’t want me there. To me, I knew how much I had grown and that there was an adversary going against me. I did everything in my power to fight to be there. I contacted the head of Financial Aid and he worked on getting me something to cover the loss of my grant. A few weeks later, and he had found a scholarship to not only reimburse what I had lost, but also gave me $600 more. Then, out of no where, I stumbled upon more money. Between the RA position, a Four Star Leadership scholarship of $2,000, and the money I had saved from working 40+ hours, my mom and dad would only owe OC $3,000. That was a HUGE difference from the year before and something to THANK GOD FOR! He had answered my prayers and my mom and dad confirmed what I had known all along. OC was the place for me. To make it even better, I got to school that year and was offered a yearbook position which included a scholarship, so I got to save the money I made for the summer and I later used it to pay for this summer’s classes! God was good.

However, this summer, I had been given the biggest blessing yet. You see, I originally told Dr. Rix I couldn’t go on the mission trip. I was afraid of paying for college. I didn’t know how much I’d owe and I was so afraid that if I didn’t work this summer, I wouldn’t be able to pay for the cost of school. I wanted to control the situation, instead of giving God control. I had a conversation with Jeff McMillion,  however, who told me I was being silly. He reminded me that God had constantly provided for me  to be at OC and shown me that I was in the right place. He reminded me that God would not take away OC from me if I chose to do mission work for God during the summer. So this summer, I didn’t work. Instead, I stayed in Oklahoma, nannied 3 amazing kids for room and meals, and took 3 summer classes. I was basically making no money.

As the mission trip got closer, I still didn’t know how I was going to be paying for OC this year. I didn’t know how much exactly I would owe. I was nervous and extremely worried about it, because this is going to be my third and final year of college. My mom stayed positive. She told me they would figure it out no matter how much it was. She was a blessing and was pushing for something I held so close to my heart for these last few years.

While on my mission trip, I contacted my new boss and he informed me that my job of being an assistant Resident Director would include room and a meal plan. This meant that the money I owed the college was no longer non-existent. My balance of $4,000 disappeared before my eyes. I owed a big, round goose egg! On top of that, I’d be getting a paycheck, which would allow me to start saving for possible Grad School in my future.

So here I sit, thinking about two summers ago. My tears. My prayers. And my God taking care of me and leading me every step of the way even when I couldn’t see Him doing so yet. My mom and dad do not have to pay anything for me to go to school this year. God made OC affordable. He proved to them that it was definitely the place I needed to be. He demonstrated to me the importance of following the path He places on my heart. It is such a blessing, but also a reminder to remember that prayer occurs over time. You have to be patient and rely on God. He guides the way.

This leads me to the future. Everyone keeps asking me what I plan on doing once graduation occurs in April and to be honest, I have no earthly clue. However, the last three years have proven to me that God is my guide and He will help me down the path that leads to the glorification of God! So this year, I plan on being open minded. I am going to apply for grad schools and possible jobs. I am going to pray. I plan on opening every door that I can and asking God to shut the ones that aren’t for me. I am asking for God’s leadership to bring me to the place that will bring Him the most glory the same exact way He brought me to OC.

So I challenge you guys, as I challenge myself. Ask for God to guide you. Be prayerful. Be mindful not of what you want, but what He wants and needs from you. Place God first, because He leads you to things you could never imagine for yourself.

She Speaks for the Glory of God

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I have always been a talker. I love to be front and center. I love discussing things. I love giving my opinion on any and all subjects. Public speaking has never been a negative in my life. In high school, I gave speeches in class, participated in Speech and Debate against other schools, and even led pep rallies every Friday in front of the whole entire student body. Speaking was easy.

Yet, as I prepared for my mission trip to Swaziland, speaking to others caused a deep fear inside of me. I was so scared and full of negativity, that I even spent time crying out of this terrible fear. I began to ask myself, “What am I supposed to say? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I say something culturally offensive? What if what I do say isn’t a good representation of God.” There are so many reasons why my thoughts were wrong to have.

First of all, my thoughts were not God centered. Notice the I’s in those statements. I was making public speaking about me! Not God. Which is wrong, because the point of the mission trip is to bring glory to God. It is to represent Him. For God to gain ALL of the credit. My fears were irrational, because it was never about me. It’s always been about God, and only him.

Secondly, I was blessed with the gift of public speaking. God has always allowed me to speak well in front of large groups of people- exceptionally well! The fact that I would question Him in a gift that He gave me is disappointing. Because of God, I have been able to talk with so many people about God’s love. I’ve been able to lead devotionals. I’ve been able to pray with people. I’ve been able to give my testimony. God has never failed me and has always given me the right words to speak when it comes to showing Him praise.

It took a conversation with my dad to make me remember all of these things. He was so encouraging and reminded me that God opened up the door for my mission trip for a reason- because he knew I’d be able to do work for Him! Like usual, my dad was so right about this.

When I got to Swaziland, students were full of questions. We were in charge of leading groups and getting people to discuss things. This came fairly easy for me when I understood the work, because I am a natural discusser. I love discussion of all kinds. I thought to myself, so far, so good.

Then, I found myself working at the MOM project with some students from the African Christian College. I inquired about how they decide who teaches the kids Bible stories each time. Then, Darian, one of the team members for my mission trip, saw that Veronica was teaching the next lesson, and before I knew it, she made it to where I was the new teacher. I was so afraid before my trip about what I’d discuss, and I didn’t have to be, because God gave me everything I needed to say. You see, they plan out each lesson, so I was given a topic. I had to tell the story of the Tower of Babel. Easy enough, right? And in ways, it was.

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However, it was still new and a challenge for me. You see, I’ve never taught children before, so I had to make sure I was being a story teller. I needed to keep it at their level, so that they could learn about God. I needed to make sure they were active in the story and that they didn’t get lost or bored. There was one more challenge. I had to do this through a translator. You see, in Swaziland, most of the children learn English in school. Unfortunately, a lot of the children we were feeding were not in school, or not at the level in which they could readily speak English yet. For those who could, they got my version. For those who didn’t, well an ACC student shared my words with them. It was such a unique and difficult situation. It was also really rewarding, specifically as little faces with big smiles looked up at me.

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My next opportunity to speak was at ACC’s Women’s Chapel. Again, I was nervous. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I didn’t know what to speak about. Focusing in on prayer, I wrote down a prayer specifically about what to say and what kind of message to speak about to the women of ACC. Again, God showed me that my worries were silly. At ACC, they have a theme for chapel each week. That week, it was “Don’t Forget.” Not only that, but they had verses for each day. I had Mark 3: 20-15. They basically spoon fed, but you will hear no complaints! I had all that I needed. After talking to Dr. Rix, who was leading the men’s chapel, I got some ideas and began to write my short devotional.

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I talked about something familiar to me- family. You see, in Mark, you have the story of Jesus and Beelzebub. More importantly, you see Jesus getting denied by his family. “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:21). Jesus was trying to get rid of demons and his family questioned him! However, the true magic of the story happens in verses 31 through 35. “Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and the told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

You see, I was able to talk about family. The family we are born with. The family we choose (sport families, debate families, friendships, college families, church families.) You see, in Mark, Jesus demonstrates that some families we don’t choose. We just get thrown into them. Other families, well we get to decide that they are the right family for us. Our Christian family, the one we receive when we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, that family is a choice. We choose it. We live with them. We love them. We hold them accountable and they hold us accountable. I am so blessed not only by the family I was born with, but also all the families I’ve gotten to choose, because they continuously help me grow in my walk with God.

Here I was freaking out about how to be a missionary. I was nervous about the abilities God has given me. I was afraid I wouldn’t know how to speak. As I was wrapped up in all of these thoughts, God laughed and guided me. He spoon fed me the whole time. He placed my words in front of me and I spoke. For Him. He gets all of the glory.

It’s not about what we can do as individuals, but instead what God can use us for. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do God’s work through a gift that He has blessed me with.