Joy in 2019

It wasn’t until late 2017 that I first heard the idea of choosing a word for the year. The idea intrigued me: choose a single word that all of your yearly goals point back to. To be honest, I don’t remember the word I chose for 2018 – or if I even chose one.

As I reflected on 2018, however, I did choose a word for 2019.

Joy.



I am not looking to do any and everything that makes me happy. I am simply doing two things: I am carving out the time to do the small things that I love – and am being grateful that I get to do them – and I am remembering that no matter what is going on in my world, I have a Joy that can never be taken from me.


I spent too much of the previous years trying so hard to do what I felt like I was supposed to do. I had to clean my house a certain way. I had to dress a certain way. I had to set goals a certain way. I spent so much time trying to be who I thought I was supposed to be that I never took the time to figure out who I really was, who God designed me to be.

I looked more to people on social media to figure out what I should do than I did looking to God. I decided I should do things because other people did them rather than because I wanted to do them. I have always struggled with feeling pressured to do what others do because I think it’s “the right thing to do.” I also let my circumstances dictate how I felt, leaving me feeling pretty crummy a lot of the time.


Maybe becoming a mom caused something to change, because quite frankly I got quite tired of living that way. But changing the habit of trying to conform to others’ standards so that I feel like I’m “doing it right?”

Yeah, that’s hard.

I’m a people pleaser by nature. I so badly want to have it all together.

But I don’t. And I never will. And I had to accept that just because something works for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for me – and it doesn’t mean it has to work for me. I also had to accept that if I let the circumstances of my life dictate my life, I was going to be a miserable person.


I decided to stop robbing myself of little things that I love because I felt like I had to be this super-structured person who lived by a strict schedule and always had everything done.

I’ve started doing things that I love again simply because I want to. Small things like reading four books at once, writing fiction, spending time with friends and family, and watching sunsets. These little things may seem insignificant, but they are little moments, little things, that I am so grateful for.

We can’t throw our responsibilities to the wind, but we can learn to be more flexible. We can leave dishes in the sink overnight because it’s been a hard day and we’d like to take a bath and relax. We can fold the laundry later so that we can play with our kids. We can do the things – big or small – that we’ve always wanted to do but never carved out time to do it.

Even more than these things – and these things are great – I’m remembering Who my true joy comes from. Please hear me here: My goal in life is not to be happy, it is to please God.


And to please God, we have to trust in Him always. We can’t give in to worry and anxiety. We have to remember that no matter the circumstance, not matter the battles, our Savior is with us always. Paul instructs us several times in the New Testament to rejoice in the Lord. He is the source of unwavering joy.

This is one of the hardest seasons of my life, but my God has so lovingly reminded me that His love is covering me. He is my true joy.


So this year I am carving out time for things that I enjoy, and I am resting it the unwavering promises of my Savior. I am finding joy in 2019.

With love,

Photo credit:

unsplash-logoTom Sodoge
Advertisements

Silver Linings

For the most part, I have always been one to try to find the bright side in every situation. Several weeks ago, however, my husband – very gently and with grace – pointed out that I had been only seeing the negative in practically every situation. He reminded that I was always the one who found the silver lining no matter the circumstance, and that was not who I had been lately. And he was right. With taking 6 classes, working 20 hours a week, and being horribly sick in my first trimester, I was overwhelmed, over-stressed, and just done. 

It was a real wake up call hearing it come from him, but I really had become the ultimate Debbie Downer. I made a decision that day, however, to not let negativity rule my life anymore because it made me – and surely him – miserable. Because that’s the thing: being extremely negative about an already difficult situation is going to make the situation immensely worse. I remembered the power of simply being grateful for the things that we do have and for the things that are going right. When you do that, you realize you are much better off than you thought!

I still have a tendency to overreact and become overly stressed about certain things (thanks, pregnancy), but my sweet husband is always there to gently remind me to focus on the things that are going right, because what we look at – what we focus on – greatly determines our outlook on life.

So if you’re in that place right now where the world seems to be against you and you are in over your head, I’d like to remind you that for every negative in your life, there is a positive (I promise, they’re there); there is always beauty among the ashes. Focus on those things. Give thanks for those things. Hold onto and focus on the One who never leaves you and is always there even during the rough things. You can still have joy during those things, don’t let anyone – especially yourself – take that away. Find that silver lining.

With love,

B

Photo credit: unsplash-logoDaniel Páscoa

Doing More of What I Love

Sometimes life seems to be an endless repetition of tasks: wake up, eat breakfast, get ready, go to class, eat lunch, do housework, do homework, go to work, eat dinner, sleep, and repeat.

Honestly, life often is a series of repeated tasks, but that doesn’t mean we have to let our lives become boring and stale. Recently I’ve made it a goal to do more of the things that I enjoy. Some of these include:

  • I go to the gym three times a week. That may not sound like an enjoyable thing, but to me it is. I enjoy how I feel after, and I enjoy seeing how hard work results in progress, even if the progress is slow. It also requires a lot of discipline, and being disciplined in this area of my life helps me to be disciplined in other areas of my life (“Discipline” is my word of the year, so bonus!).
  • I read everyday. I’ve made it a point to read something everyday in addition to my Bible reading. I prefer to read a mixture of fiction and nonfiction everyday, but I’m satisfied if I get to read one of the two.
  • I listen to more podcasts. I take advantage of long care rides by listening to some of my favorite podcasts (which include Happier, Uniquely Woman, Cultivating the Lovely, and Mosaic).
  • I write everyday.  Just like with reading, I’ve made it a goal to write something everyday. I love to write – obviously, hence the blog. I have been an avid writer since I was in first grade and participated in the Young Author’s Convention (so if anyone ever asks, my first book was really Sammy the Toothless Shark). For years a lot of my free time was spent writing or daydreaming about stories I wanted to write. Because of school, work, life, and excuses I haven’t spent much time in the past few years writing much other than blog posts (which I definitely love writing). I’m getting back into writing fiction which fills me with so much joy.

•••

Life often is a series of repeated things to check off of the to-do list, but these tasks can be made much more enjoyable by pairing them with the things you love (for example, listening to a podcast while cleaning). Your days will also become more enjoyable if you schedule in time for activities you love; the things I’ve listed are things that are put on my to-do list. I carve out time among my daily tasks to do things that bring me joy. Why? Self-care is important: take time to relax and do enjoyable (and creative!) things without feeling guilty because you think you should be doing something else.

So that is my challenge to you: make time in your schedule to do things that you love. You’ll be happier for it!

Photo Credit: Jacalyn Beales

Seasons of Life

Our lives are not linear; we do not stay in the same place constantly. Like the seasons of the year, the seasons of our lives come and go. This thought is comforting in difficult times and perhaps bitter in more joyful times.

The season that we are in is unique to us and may look quite different from the people around us even if they are in a similar time in their life. For example, my best friend and I are one month apart in age, we are both seniors in college, we have similar majors, and we are both married, yet we are in very different seasons of life. The season I am in involves managing a full-time course load for school, work, and an internship. I am not home very much and spend most of my time doing homework and housework. Genelle on the other hand is going to school full-time as well, has a work-study through the university, and is preparing to have a baby in three months! Though the seasons that we are in share commonalities, they are quite different indeed!

Both of the seasons we are in are beautiful in their own ways, and one of my favorite things to do as of late is have conversations with her about what is going on in her life and sharing what is going on in mine, because for the first time, the seasons of our lives are more different than similar and the priorities and focuses of our lives are different. I love it.

•••

The thing about life is that we can never really expect what the future seasons of life will look like. For instance, when I was a freshman in college, I never would have guessed that I would change my major or that I would be getting married my junior year. We can plan all we want, but that doesn’t mean that things are going to work out that way – and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Genelle, for example, wasn’t necessarily planning on having a baby this year, and the season she was expecting to go into changed, but the unexpected season turned into a season of joy and blessings.

A valuable skill I have learned in the past few years is to accept the season of life that I am in. The current one I’m in is quite busy. I rarely get to spend time with my husband or my family and I have to be extra intentional about finding rest and being still in the presence of the Lord. When things feel like they are too much to handle, when I’m upset about not seeing my husband as much as I would like to, I simply say to myself, “It is only a season.” Though it is a trying season at times, it is a season full of immense blessings and joy as well. I can’t sit around and wait for that perfect time in my life to come along – it’s never going to. I have to find joy in each day.

This season will go and the next one will come. What will it be like? I have no clue, but perhaps the mystery is part of the adventure.

Photo Credit: Fineas Anton

These Last Eight Months

I sat down with my adviser the other day to discuss my degree plan (because there was a confusion and it didn’t get done last semester like it was supposed to) because I graduate in eight months. It sounds cliche, but I remember my first day of college like it was yesterday.

I’ve been getting quite emotional recently about graduating (it doesn’t help that I just finished Gilmore Girls and near the end of the series Rory graduates from college). It is certainly an exciting time – but it is sad as well. College has taught me so much: how to manage time (I get better at this every year), how to accept failure, how to work collaboratively, and not to mention how to survive on little sleep.

I love my school dearly and I love learning. I know that I will be a life-long learner, but there is a good chance that after May I will never learn in a formal classroom setting again. I may never again feel that rush of accomplishment after receiving a good grade on a paper I slaved over. I may never get the opportunity to spend months of my life focusing nearly purely on learning. It makes me sad.

Yet I’m excited. I’m excited to equip the information and experiences from the past few years and step into the work force. I’m excited to get a job where I can impact people’s lives in ways I couldn’t before getting my degree. I’m excited to read books and articles about topics I’m interested in solely because I want to – and without deadlines!

You can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a lot of tears shed on that fateful day in May when I go from an undergraduate student to the holder of a Bachelor’s Degree. I will cry for the professors I will miss, the friends I will miss, the experiences I will miss, and the campus I will miss. Yet I will also cry with gratitude over the professors I got to know, the strangers that became friends, the unique things I got to experience, and the campus that became my home. I will cry with gratitude over the fact that I made it.

Though I know I will grumble along the way, I will cherish these last eight months, these last classes, these last college experiences, this season of my life.

Photo Credit: Baim Hanif

The Monster Inside Me

It starts sneaking it’s way in, and before long, you don’t really notice it anymore because it becomes the new normal. The sad thing is, you don’t even want it to be gone because it’s taken up a permanent residence inside of you; it’s a part of you. What you don’t realize, though, is that it’s squeezing the joy out of you life as it gets its sleazy little tentacles wrapped tighter and tighter around your heart.

Anger.

Are you surprised that that was what I was talking about? I would have been, probably. Throughout my life, anger has probably been one of the hardest things for me to overcome – especially since I didn’t know how it was affecting me. It has a snowball effect: the longer you let it go, the bigger it gets and the harder it gets to stop.

At some point I guess I either no longer noticed or no longer cared how the anger in my life was affecting me, because I no longer tried to keep it at bay. When something made me angry – even something minuscule that shouldn’t of bothered me – I just rolled with it. And the sneaky thing about anger is that it isn’t always obvious. I didn’t – always – lash out or express my anger in overt ways. Most of the time I just hid it and brewed about it secretly. Before I knew it, my little anger problem was breeding some ugly friends: cynicism and bitterness. Soon, they, too, were taking up permanent residence inside of me, robbing me of joy, love, and contentment.

I began seeing people only for what the did wrong or for how they were lacking, never for what they did right or the abundance of good things in them. I was quick to criticize (even if it was only in my head) and quite slow to praise. I thought, “Oh, sure, they did it right this time, but what about the other hundred times that they didn’t?” That kind of thinking kills your spirit, drains your compassion, and just plain hardens your heart.

I didn’t have an outlet; I just kept bottling up my anger and adding to my List of Things That People Do Wrong. It kept getting bigger and bigger and quite frankly I didn’t care; the problem was with them, not me.

I’m not sure when it happened – when I started noticing that my heart had all of these ugly tangles trying to squeeze every last bit of love out, leaving it shriveled up and dry – but I wasn’t okay with it.

I wasn’t okay with the fact that my husband expected me to tell him all the things he should have done or that he did do and should have done better. He should know that I appreciate him and all that he does – and he does a lot – but I wasn’t showing him that.

I didn’t want nearly every thought I had about my loved ones to be negative. I wanted to once again look through eyes of love, not the eyes of a critic.

So, I decided to change. The second half of 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I knew that my thoughts definitely weren’t falling into the “Obedient to Christ” category. So every time I was angered over something small or started criticizing someone or held on to bitterness, I rebuked the thought. I try to take a step back and pray, asking God for wisdom in the situation. I reflect and ask, “Is my criticism necessary? Is my anger justified?” And it’s not easy; it uses way more mental energy to change a thought than to just think it.

It can be hard and tiring and I fail sometimes, but my heart is no longer a dark, shriveled up thing, it’s filling with light and love and compassion again. I’d rather try hard and say to my husband, “Can we talk about this?” instead of yelling at him when we disagree – I’m sure he prefers that, too.

And, no, I don’t like painting this picture of myself. I don’t like saying, “See how awful I can be sometimes!” but the story ends with growth and healing. I also know that I am not the only one who has let the life-sucking monster that is anger make a home in my heart. I tell you this unflattering tale of myself so that if this is you, you might realize what anger is doing to you, or if you’ve realized it already, you can take heart and battle it.

Until next time, lovelies.

Stealing My Song

This morning at church we sang 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord), a song I have sang dozens upon dozens of times at church, at home, as a lullaby to kids I babysit. This morning when we sang it, however, the first verse struck me in a way that it hasn’t before.

The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes

It made me think of how some days I wake up singing praises to the Lord, but by the end of the day, something has stolen my song. But this verse, this prayer, says “whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.” Did you catch that? Whatever.

I can’t let circumstances steal my song of praise.

I can’t let my feelings steal my song of praise.

I can’t let other people steal my song of praise.

This really woke me up. It’s time to praise no matter what the situation, I can’t let Satan steal my song.

•••

Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle

Real Life

As time goes on, I realize that life isn’t always what I think it should be. It seems that the Christian life is portrayed as a life with no problems or that if problems do arise, we are sad for a moment and then are miraculously  better. I’ve come to realize that this is not true in the slightest. Life as a follower of Christ can be just as difficult as that of a non-believer. Tragedies still happen, depression is still a real thing, stress still exists. The list goes on and on. The difference is that having hope in the Creator of all things, having hope that the One who paints the sky and crafted nothing into a functioning universe holds our lives in His hands, having hope that He can make beauty out of ashes brings us peace. But even as followers of Christ we sometimes still have a problem with holding onto that hope. We let the problem consume us and it enslaves us, making our God seem small. Our God is so much bigger than any problem or circumstance, but if you hold onto the problem, your heart hardens, when all you can talk or think about is your situation, you become bitter. God waits with open arms and I bet it breaks His heart to see us clinging to our problem instead of Him. God has shown me to worship Him through the storm I’m in, because the thing is, worship isn’t based on how we feel, it’s based on who He is, and He is good and deserving of our praise. Bad things happen in real life, but we get to choose how to handle them, we choose what to cling to.

•••

Photo Credit: Daryan Shamkhali

For Real

I mentioned in last week’s post that I began the book of Matthew.  The past few days I’ve been in the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  I’ve read it before, heard sermons on it before, but this time I noticed a common thing as I studied.

  • Jesus says that we know that God told Moses to tell the people not to murder and those who murder will be judged and punished.  He then goes on to say that those who are angry with their brother will be judged (chapter 5).
  • Jesus again says that we know that God forbade adultery; however, He says any man who lustfully looks at a woman has committed adultery in his heart (chapter 5).
  • Jesus says that we are to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors (chapter 5).
  • Jesus says that when we give, do not do so in front of other people where we will be praised, but to do it secretly in front of the Lord (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to pray in front of others as if it is a show or to ramble on, but to pray privately and concisely (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says to forgive or we will not be forgiven (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says that when we fast, do not make a spectacle of it, do it quietly (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to worry (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to judge others, because how we judge, we will be judged (chapter 7).
  • Jesus says that those who seek will find what they seek, that we should continue to ask for what we need (chapter 7).
  • Jesus says to treat others as we want to be treated (chapter 7).

Do you notice a common theme? All of these things have to do with our relationship with God (e.g. are we praying just so others will see us or do we have a true relationship with God?) and the spiritual condition of our hearts (e.g. yes, murdering is bad, yet God says so is harboring anger at someone).

If you’re like me, you look at this and think that this is impossible. When you’re having a terrible day it’s hard to treat someone how you want to be treated, when things are hard it’s difficult to trust God and not worry.  Yet these things I have listed (only some of the things that Jesus says in this sermon, there is plenty more!) give me hope.

I have hope in the fact that Jesus lived a sinless life.  Hebrews 4:15-16 in the Voice translation says, “For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws.  He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious without failing God.  So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace when we need it most.” Isn’t that amazing? Jesus knows these things are hard to do, yet we have the Spirit to guide us and the free-flowing grace of God at our fingertips (for more on this topic, check out a previous post: Victory in Jesus).

I also have hope because I know that my relationship with God is what’s important.  I don’t have to put up this charade that I have my life together so that other people will see.  I also know that when I have a real relationship God  I am filled with the Holy Spirit, and Galatians chapter 5 says that the Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  When you have a real relationship with God these things will start to become a part of who you are, and when these things are a part of who you are, doing what God wants you to do instead of what you want to do becomes more natural.

We will always struggle, we are human, but when we take part in a real, intimate relationship with God and allow our hearts to change, we find it is easier to live like Jesus.

Check out the Sermon on the Mount for yourself if you haven’t before, or if you have, read it again.  The Word of God is alive and relevant.

Photo Credit: Cherry Laithang

The List

Yesterday morning I began the book of Matthew.  I haven’t read it in over three years and it’s one of my favorite books of the Bible, so I’m pretty excited.

So I began chapter one, the first half of which is the genealogy of Jesus.  Now, I’m pretty sure the first time I read it, I skipped this part.  Since then, someone has pointed out to me how cool genealogies can be, and I’m going to elaborate a bit on the cool stuff I found in the genealogy of Matthew 1.

  • It shows how God fulfilled His promise of the Messiah through the line of David.
  • It shows that Old Testament stories are more relevant than we think – did you know that Rahab the prostitute that hid the Israelite spies is the mother of Boaz who married Ruth? or that Ruth and Boaz were the great-grandparents of David?
  • It shows that God can use anyone and everyone – Tamar seduced her father-in-law, Rahab was a prostitute, David was an adulterer and murderer,  Mary the mother of Jesus was a virgin.
  • It show’s God’s faithfulness.  The genealogy starts with Abraham – the first to be called by God – and it continues through a list of unqualified, messed up people who were each a part of God’s plan to bring the Messiah into the dying world.

Every part of God’s Word is alive and relevant. This list of name after name points to the faithfulness, love, and ability of the Father.  God orchestrated the lives of hundreds of people to bring the Messiah into the world in the exact context that He wanted Him to, yet we think God doesn’t know what He’s doing when it comes to our lives.  Scripture says differently.

Remember, you are loved by a mighty God. Until next time, lovelies.

Photo Credit: Michał Grosicki