Life, Liberty, Happiness

Photo: Unsplash

Happy Independence Day! I hope you’re all having a fun day celebrating with your family and friends!

July 4th has always been one of my favorite holidays. I love the parades, barbecues, and fireworks, but I especially love what we’re celebrating: the birth of a new nation built on the idea of liberty. The Declaration of Independence is a brilliant piece of writing, and I believe, inspired by God. The beginning of the United States of America was truly a miracle, and it’s only by His grace we’ve made it this far. Today seems like a great day to reflect on those words Thomas Jefferson wrote 241 years ago!

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

  • Life: for the unborn and the elderly, and everyone in between. Because God has given us this right, no one can take it away; in fact, one of the only reasons government exists is to protect this right. We all have the right to live, and to defend the lives of ourselves and those we love.
  • Liberty: the freedom from a tyrannical government that dictates and controls our lives. We have the right to live as we see fit, and to make our own decisions about where to live, how to spend our money, and how to worship God and live out our faith every day.
  • The Pursuit of Happiness: the freedom to work hard and make our own way and to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We have the freedom to choose how to live our lives, the freedom to try and fail and then pick up the pieces and start all over again.

I don’t know about you, but I feel incredibly blessed to have been born in this country that was founded on these principles, and based on the idea that the purpose of government is to protect the rights we were given by our Creator. As we celebrate today, let’s not forget to pray for our country, that we would turn back to God and continue to enjoy the blessings of liberty for many years to come.

“…Proclaim freedom throughout the land and to all who live there…” Leviticus 25:10

My Redeemer Lives

Happy Resurrection Sunday, friends! I hope and pray today that you know the hope, joy, and new life that Jesus gives, and that knowing Him is making a difference in your life.

Today we celebrate that death was swallowed up by His life, and darkness was extinguished by His light. Just as death was no match for His power, our sins are never beyond His redemption. Through His life and resurrection, we can have hope and abundant life here and now, and the promise of eternal life with Him. Today, let’s rejoice in the knowledge that our Redeemer lives!

“Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. Then the angel spoke to the women. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.'” Matthew 28:1-6
 

Grace in the Waiting

Grace in the Waiting | Grace to Grow Blog

Dear girl who’s struggling..

I know you’re not where you thought you would be at this point in your life. Maybe you’re living at home when you thought you’d be on your own by now; single when you thought you’d be dating or married; childless when you thought you’d have a houseful of babies; working part-time or for low pay when you thought you’d be on your way to establishing a career. Whatever it is that you think you should have accomplished or achieved or attained by now, I know it haunts you sometimes late at night as you’re trying to sleep, or as you’re scrolling through social media and seeing how perfect your friends’ lives seem to be. I don’t know what’s kept you from those goals and dreams, and maybe you don’t either. Maybe you took some wrong turns that brought you to this place, or maybe there’s nothing you could have done and this is just a season of waiting and learning. Either way, there are a few things I hope you know.

Life is not a race. You are not falling behind. Just because your friends are all getting married, landing their dream jobs, or whatever the case may be, it doesn’t mean you’re somehow losing to them. In fact, if you can take the setbacks and struggles of life and try to see them as blessings, as opportunities to trust God and learn from the situations you’re in, I think that means you’re actually winning at life.

Nothing goes to waste in God’s economy. Maybe your life doesn’t look like you thought it would…but maybe that’s okay. You never know how God is working behind the scenes, how the situations you’re in might turn into something or lead to something better than you could have imagined. You never know how all the puzzle pieces that don’t make sense now might end up fitting together. Years from now, when you look back on this time in your life, maybe you’ll finally see the beauty that grew out of the pain and the longing, even if it wasn’t the result you thought you wanted. God makes everything work together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), even if it doesn’t match our definition of what we think would be good for our lives. He knows better than we do, and we can rest in that truth.

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout…so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.'” Isaiah 55:8-11

You are not a failure. To the world, it may look like you are, if you don’t have that house or that job or that ring on your finger. You may feel that way sometimes too, but it’s not true. The only way you can fail at life is to give up, to stop learning and growing and trusting that God has a plan bigger than you can see. You don’t have to keep up with the world’s timetable and definition of success. All you have to do is follow God’s leading and trust that He is working to accomplish His purpose for your life, even when you can’t see it. Never doubt His promise that He “who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Phillipians 1:6)

So whatever you’re trying to do…if you’re still trying to find that job, build that savings account, pass that test, or find your true love…don’t give up. Whatever your dream is, don’t give up. If there’s something you can do to accomplish it, put your best effort into it, but don’t worry about what the world thinks of you. Don’t forget that God loves you fiercely and wants what’s best for you, in His perfect way and time, and rest in that truth when you feel worried or discouraged in the waiting.

Dear girl…don’t give up. There is grace in the waiting and hope up ahead.

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Priceless the Movie

One of my favorite music groups for the last few years has been for King & Country, a Christian group led by two brothers, Joel and Luke Smallbone. Last year, they had a concert less than an hour away from where I live, and it happened to be on my birthday, so of course my family and I had to go! 🙂 At the concert, they talked about their movie Priceless that came out in theaters in October, and is now out on DVD and streaming. Joel Smallbone is the lead actor, and some of the other Smallbone brothers helped with the writing, producing, and directing of the movie. Here’s the description of the movie from their website:

“Inspired by true events, PRICELESS is a powerful drama/thriller about James Stevens who was, at one time, a good man with a great life — but that was then and this is now. After the tragic death of his wife and losing custody of his little girl, James is at the darkest crossroad of his life. Angry, desperate, and unable to hold down a steady job, he agrees to drive a box truck on a shady, one-time trip cross country for cash — no questions asked. But when he discovers what he is delivering is actually who, he is compelled to save two beautiful and frightened sisters who are unaware of the danger that awaits them.

Can love, strength, and faith redefine his past and change the course of his future? This unlikely hero risks it all to save these women, confront the forces that oppose him and ultimately discover the life he was meant to live.”

We rented the movie on iTunes while my sister was home for spring break, and my whole family watched it together. It was really powerful and eye-opening, showing how real human trafficking is and how easy it can be for girls to get caught up in it. In the case of this movie, the two sisters thought they were coming to America to work as waitresses or maids to help support their family. The movie does a good job of showing the internal conflict of James, the main character. At first, he didn’t want to acknowledge what was happening; he just wanted to keep his head down and take care of his own daughter, even if it meant doing something a little shady to make the money he needed to support her. As the movie goes on, he realized that he needed to do something to help the girls he had befriended, but he didn’t know what he could do. Luckily, with the help of a new friend, James found the courage to take a stand and try to rescue the girls he unwittingly delivered to their captors, even when it put his own life in danger. This struggle that he faced put his life on a new path and showed him his purpose: rescuing more girls like the ones who changed his life.

This is a really good movie: the story, music, and acting are all very well done. It wouldn’t be appropriate for young children, but is definitely good for young adults or for parents to watch with their teenagers. If you want more information before you watch the movie, you can read Focus on the Family’s review here. This isn’t a fun topic, but I think it’s an important movie to watch. If you want more information about how you can help, go to http://pricelessmovement.com/.

5 Reasons Sisters are Awesome Best Friends

My sister and I have always been best friends, pretty much since she was born. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized how unique the relationship between sisters is, and the more I’ve come to appreciate having my sister as my best friend! Here are five of the many reasons having a sister is awesome 🙂

5 Reasons Sisters are Awesome Best Friends
Photo credit: Unsplash
  1. You’re always together. Especially when you’re growing up, so much of your daily lives are lived together. That also means you have more opportunities to get upset with each other, but you have to learn how to deal with conflict and how to get along, because she’s still going to be there tomorrow! But the best part about doing everything together is that you have a friend with you all the time, whether you’re going to school, church, events, or just living your life.
  2. She understands you. Sisters know you better than anyone, and they understand your dreams, fears, and motivations. You grew up together, probably in the same house with the same parents and a lot of the same experiences, so you understand each other in a way no one else can.
  3. You can be yourself around her. You don’t have to worry about what she thinks of you; she’s your sister, you can’t scare her away! Even if you do or say something silly, she’ll be right there to laugh with you, not look down on you or think you’re really strange.
  4. You can talk about anything. She’s the person you know won’t judge you, and she’s the one who best understands where you’re coming from. You know you can trust her to listen and give good advice, and you can be a listening ear for her too.
  5. She’ll always be there. You know you can count on her throughout all the changes and stages in your life. Other friendships may come and go, but sisters are friends for life!

Five on Friday

Happy Friday! 🙂 I know I’ve been a little absent here on the blog lately…not exactly keeping up with my goal of posting twice a week. So while I’m working on some posts for next week, I thought I would share with you five things I’m loving this week!

1. We’ve had some serious winter weather for the last two weeks, but the last couple of days have been sunny and in the 40s-50s! It’s so nice to go outside without a winter coat, and to know that spring is just around the corner. It’s been a bright spot in the middle of winter…because I’m sure we’ll be back to our normal snowy and cold soon!

2. My latest favorite song is Love Broke Thru by TobyMac. So good!

3. My fun adventure this month was driving down to visit my sister at college a couple of weeks ago. It was so fun to spend the weekend with her, get to know her friends, and go to a few of her classes. Now she’ll be home in a little over a week for spring break!

4. I’m making progress on my embroidery project! This is the third out of six designs I’m embroidering, and then my plan is to make them into a wall hanging. I’m much better at embroidering than sewing, so we’ll see how that goes!

5. I know this isn’t a unique sentiment, but I absolutely love Fixer Upper. I love seeing the transformations in the homes Chip and Joanna work on for their clients, but I think what sets their show apart from other home improvement shows is seeing their relationship play out, how well they work together and how they seem to have a lot of fun doing it. Reading their book and knowing a little more of their life story makes the show even more fun to watch!

What’s been making you happy/inspiring you lately?

You Are Loved

It’s Valentine’s Day…a holiday almost everyone loves or hates. If today is a hard day for you, or even if you do have a Valentine this year, I just wanted to remind you how much you are loved. No matter who you are or what you do, you are loved unconditionally, relentlessly, sacrificially, and completely by the God who created you and sent His Son to redeem you and prove to you how much He loves you. Whatever your relationship status is, I hope these verses encourage you today!

“…But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love….” — Nehemiah 9:17

“I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul..” — Psalm 31:7

“Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.” — Psalm 33:22

“‘For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,’ says the LORD, who has mercy on you.” — Isaiah 54:10

“Long ago the LORD said to Israel: ‘I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.'” — Jeremiah 31:3

‘”For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.’” — Zephaniah 3:17

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” — John 13:34-35

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” — John 15:9-13

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” — Romans 5:8

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” — Romans 8:38-39

“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.” — Romans 13:8

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” — Ephesians 3:18-19

“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” — 1 John 4:10-12

 

What it Means to be a Woman

This weekend, there was a lot of news made by the Women’s March in Washington D.C. I hadn’t heard much about it until it happened, but I knew it was supposed to be a protest against President Trump and in support of women’s rights. After hearing some of the coverage, I have some thoughts I want to share about how I view womanhood and femininity a little differently than the media would lead you to believe most women do.

What it Means to be a Woman | Grace to Grow Blog

Watching that rally would make you think that being a woman means being mean, rude, and vulgar. It would make you think it means supporting a woman’s “right to choose” to kill the child in her womb, to discard the unique gift we have that men don’t: the ability to bring new life into the world. It would make you think it means believing that screaming and yelling and getting angry will change things. But to me, that’s not at all what it means to be a woman.

Being a woman means being an image-bearer of God, made to complement and work alongside men. It means loving and encouraging our families. It means bringing joy and beauty to the lives of the people we love. It means serving the people around us, showing compassion and empathy. It means teaching our daughters how to be ladies and teaching our sons how to be gentlemen. It means standing up and speaking out about the things that matter, but with love and truth, not anger and lies. It means protecting the vulnerable; the children in foster care, the unborn babies, and the young, scared mothers who think they have no choice but to abort their baby. It means reaching out and showing love, especially to the people we don’t agree with, even starting with the women who marched in Washington, many of whom are genuinely hurt and afraid. As women, we have the potential to greatly impact the world around us with the unique feminine traits God has given us, but only if we act out of love.

Those women made the news last weekend because they’re angry and upset. And you know what? I’m upset about some things too, and I’m glad we live in a country where we can talk about those things and then do something. I’m upset that tens of millions of babies have been killed over the last few decades, before they even had a chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I’m upset that a lot of their mothers felt trapped, like they had no choice. Some people celebrate these things as “women’s rights.” But what about the rights of the girls who never got the chance to become women? What about the mothers who were told the lie that it wasn’t really a baby, that they would be better off without the burden of a child anyway, and that no one cared enough about them to help them raise new life, that the only help available was to help their unborn children die? So yes, I’m upset. But mostly I’m upset with myself for not doing more to change things. Because you know what? Protesting doesn’t change anything. Screaming hatred for our new president doesn’t change anything. Only love, God’s love, has the power to truly change hearts and minds and souls. Only love can change things, and love, like faith, is a verb. It requires action, putting yourself out there, giving of yourself.

So whatever it is that upsets you, that makes you angry, don’t just protest, make a sign, post on Facebook, and go on your merry way. I’m all too guilty of that sometimes too, but I want to change. Whatever your issue is, go out there and fight for what you believe in. Start small; don’t worry about doing some grand gesture. Do what you can with what you have, where you are, but just do something. I’m reminding myself of this too. Because what it really means to be a woman? is to show love through action. Take the love and passion God has given you and use it to help support and encourage the people He’s called you to.

2017 Goals + Word of the Year

Well, it’s taken me long enough, but I think I’ve finally decided on some goals for this year. I haven’t quite planned out all the steps I’ll need to take to accomplish them, but I’m headed in the right direction!

I’ve never really had “word of the year” before. I follow a lot of bloggers who pick a word to define how they want to live that year, but this is the first year I’ve tried to pick one for myself. It may change, but here’s what I have right now: discipline. That doesn’t sound very fun or exciting, I know! But it encompasses a lot of the goals I’ve set for this year. My main, overarching goal for the year is to create habits (while I’m still fairly young) to set myself up for success later in life, and I will definitely need discipline to do that. Then maybe next year, my word can be more fun 🙂

So, here are my goals for the year:

Spiritual:

  1. Set aside time to consistently read the Bible (possibly using She Reads Truth, especially during Lent, Advent, etc.).
  2. Read Fervent by Priscilla Shirer.
  3. Use my Val Marie Paper prayer journal. This is the one I have.

Physical:

  1. Commit to eating healthier (probably the Trim Healthy Mama plan).
  2. Drink more water! Work up to a gallon per day.
  3. Exercise regularly (find something I can stick with).
  4. Develop an evening routine and consistent times to go to bed/wake up.

Personal:

  1. Stick to my EveryDollar budget (save money for the future!).
  2. Read 100 books. That sounds like a lot, but I’m a fast reader and I got a Kindle Unlimited subscription for Christmas 🙂 I also want to read more nonfiction…maybe 1 out of every 5 books I read.
  3. Learn how to get the most out my bullet journal and update it regularly. I just started a bullet journal at the beginning of the year, and I’m still figuring out how to use it, what things to put in it, and what things I can leave out.

Business/Career:

  1. Blog regularly (2-3 times per week).
  2. Start a Facebook page for my blog and promote it more on social media.
  3. Interact more with other bloggers (commenting on posts, etc.).
  4. Take a blogging course. I’ve been looking at some free video courses on Skillshare and Building a Framework by Abby Lawson of Just a Girl and Her Blog. If you have any suggestions, let me know!
  5. Research some career possibilities I’m interested and figure out what the next steps would be (going back to school, etc.).

Well there you have it! My goals for 2017, which are written at the front of my bullet journal so hopefully I won’t forget 😉

What are your goals for 2017?