20 things I wish I could tell the 20 year old me

Oh if I could sit down with the 20 year old me.  With such love and tenderness I see her now so much more clearly.  Terrified to be bold and wanting so desperately to belong.  She was confident but unsure, pretty but insecure, bold but petrified to be different.
Big dreams paralyzed by insecurity and long eyelashes I desperately wish I could somehow get back.

20 things I would say to my 20 year old self

Dear 20 something me,

Let me buy you a coffee, snuggle into a corner booth at the coffee shop, look into your true self and tell you what I have learned the hard way. I know you think you know better.  I know you think you are the only person who has ever had your struggles but, in truth, everyone my age wishes they knew then what they know now.  You don’t have to make the same mistakes.  You just have to listen to those who have gone before you.  So sip up on that coffee, and let’s dive in…

  1. Stop trying so hard! Sheesh I am exhausted remembering how hard you worked to make everyone love you.  It’s an impossible task!   The people that do love you know the real you.  And the real you isn’t so bad. 
  2. The only way to avoid criticism is to do nothing and be nothing.  But dear young friend….BE SOMETHING.
  3.  Being kind will get you a lot further in life than being right.
  4. Wear Sunscreen for the love!
  5. You can’t change others, you can only change yourself.
  6. When you have a job, a family, a mortgage and volunteer organizations you will find it comical you ever said you were busy.  Believe it or not you have a lot of extra time on your hands. Use it for something that will last longer than the end of the greatest Netflix series.
  7. If you can’t find Jesus in the sanctuary look for him in the lives of the broken, and the poor.   It will change your life and you will meet Jesus there, guaranteed.
  8. There are so many little things that worry you.  Think BIG picture as much as possible. Will what is stressing you even matter 5 years from now?  Yes there are some big scary things out there but even in fearing death, we are never promised tomorrow.  But worrying about it is guaranteed to steal THIS moment when you are alive.  So enjoy the current moment and don’t let worry steal it away.
  9. Fredrick Buechner  said, “The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Start diving into your passion now!  But don’t make the grave mistake of waiting for the heavens to part for God to reveal “YOUR CALLING” Many of us just need to stop waiting and start looking where God is already at work and join in.
  10. While we are quoting, also note John D. Rockefeller said, “I Never Would Have Been Able To Tithe The First Million Dollars I Ever Made If I Had Not Tithed My First Salary, Which Was $1.50 Per Week.” Never think you have too little to contribute to the kingdom.
  11. Worry less about finding the right guy and focus more on becoming the right girl.  
  12. With your time and your money, invest in stuff that LASTS. Again think long term…do you see a theme here?
  13. Rollercoasters that used to give you thrills winding upside down with your hands up the whole way will now make you want to loose your lunch by simply looking at them.  So have fun on them now is all I’m saying.
  14. One of the biggest factors of the decisions you will make in life have to do with who you hang out with.  Make sure you are surrounding yourself with the right people.  Friends by definition should inspire you, challenge you, and call you to be the best version of yourself.
  15. “Everyone else is doing it” is the best reason I have ever heard NOT to do something.  The majority of americans are in debt, overweight, overstressed, on too many medications, and NOT living happily every after.  Do you really want to be like everyone else? Moreover, define your “everyone” who is your friend group?  If your “everyone” is making decisions you said you would never do before you met them…you may want to re-think who is in your tribe.
  16. You won’t understand why your parents worry so much until you have your own kids.  You’ll one day find out what’s like to have you heart living outside of your body with little feet and little hands.  Your parents may not always get it right but they love you with fierce intensity, you should probably listen to them more.
  17. Seek people that won’t always agree with you but will tell you what you need to hear.
  18. What you are doing today will one day affect your future. When you’re 20 you never stopped to think about that.  But there is no erase button in life. This is especially true in sexual relationships.  There is more to sex than just physical.  There are consequences to sex outside of marriage, there just is.  It’s not a matter of opinion it’s a matter of design.
  19. Who you marry is probably one of the biggest decisions you ever make.  It is a covenant, it is forever, and it involves two selfish humans destined to make lots of mess and hurt each other some along the way.  Marriage is not always easy.  But I can not even comprehend a marriage to an unbeliever.  May a man who is seeking Jesus be your NUMBER 1 quality in a future spouse.  Everything else if trivial (but you should make sure he has good taste in music too…I mean let’s be real)
  20. If you ever ever ever ever date another guy who says he is a Christian but lives no different than any other guy.  I will personally grab you both up by the ears and lecture you for hours on end about how relationships are designed to model Christ’s love for us on earth.  Is he respecting your body, your heart, and your beauty as Christ loved the church?  Are YOU guarding his eyes by what you wear and how you date?  Both of you are someone’s future spouse.   Are you preparing him, is he preparing you to be a good lifelong spouse or are you in the midst of creating baggage you will have to explain one day.  You are daughter of a KING and if you are not being treated like one OR ACTING like one then you have no business dating anyway.  Two halves make broken disastrous relationships, two whole and complete lovers of Jesus make beautiful loving forever relationships.  Get whole before you date.  Wouldn’t you want your future spouse to do the same?
    Drops-the-mic

Sweet dear 20 somethings.  What I see in front of me is a life that is valuable and worth more than you can possibly know today. I hope to save you a lot of time, pain and regret, if you listen to what I wish I’d heard before.

You are precious! You have the world at your feet.  Please be brave, surround yourself with the right people, and mostly love Jesus.  Truly love and trust him with your everything. The rest will fall into place.

Don’t complain about the darkness, start lighting candles

America started with a prayer

“We are driven into exile for the Gospel’s sake; we leave our homeland and are now in God’s hands.”

This was the prayer recorded by an un-named pilgrim and her family who came to America in the 1600’s.  They faced harsh conditions and many didn’t survive the 2 month journey.  But succumbing to the church of England who put the ruling earthly King instead of the King of all Kings was not an option for many of our distant relatives.

History continues in prayer…

In 1774 a group of  extraordinary devout Christian men got on their knees in prayer before they would sign our declaration of independence. Witness said they spent hours in prayer before their heavenly father in complete dependence on Him as ruler of this important document.
The prayer by chaplain, Jacob Duche’ was recorded:

“O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, from your throne you reign with supreme power over all Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we fervently ask, on these our American States, who have fled from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves to your gracious protection, desiring to be forevermore dependent only on you. (full prayer here)

constitutional-convention-founding-fathers-prayer

America the beautiful founded for religious freedoms and guided from hearts totally dependent on God  formed our nation.

At critical junctures in history God raises up a remnant to reestablish His reign and rule.  It’s rarely a majority.  In fact, it’s almost always a small minority.  But all it takes is a faithful few to begin a reformation.  -Mark Batterson Draw the Circle

If you are worried about the future of America, hiding and complaining makes absolutely zero difference. But just as we began we can get back to our roots and i believe it’s a simple as coming together in prayer.  We have the opportunity to celebrate with the God of the universe as he takes back his beautiful county of America to himself.

The next great awakening won’t be because of a planning meeting, a new policy or even a new president.  It will begin when people turn their hearts toward heaven and pray.

change the world

Wherever we are, we have the remarkable opportunity to pray for those around us, point out the good we see in the world and dive into missions…in other words…light candles.  Just a few examples of candles I see being lit:

25 years ago Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York  could barely draw 26 people to a Sunday service. Today the congregation is 6,000 strong–filled with converted prostitutes, pimps, drug addicts, and homeless people, and more… All credit due to the prayer meetings they started on their knees, giving God total control of their church.

Serfei and Aleona Isakov Russian fashion designers highly respected in their field left their home country to bring their talent and their mission to America.  The stated “we believe that revival is coming to America and we want to be a part of it”

At our girls school I watched young teacher who invested in a 2nd grader who had no parental support.  In one academic school year he went from “trouble maker” to honor student….all because someone believed in him.

Businessmen praying for those they shake hands with
Athletes praying for their team mates
Janitors pray for those who will sit at the tables they wipe
Hair dressers pray over the chair where their next client will be
Teachers praying over the desks in their classroom
Doctors laying hands over their patients rooms
Waitress praying over the tables they serve

America, you are oh so beautiful.  I love to watch your people rise together in prayer, lifting their candles.  No darkness can hide.  It’s time to claim the victory that is already promised to us at the cross.

“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and seek my face…I will forgive their sin and heal their land”

Fill the comment section with candles you see being lit around you!  I can’t wait to start the trend of seeing the light instead of the dark!

candles copy

I see a warrior

If you feel under-qualified and overwhelmed then God has you right where he wants you.

I’m reading about Gideon in Judges  Funny side note I used to call Gildan T shirts Gideon.  But anywho.  I love this Gideon fella.  I think we can all relate to him on some level.  He feels under-qualified, doubtful, and just not good enough. Ever been there?

From Judges 6, Gideon is feeling like a total loser and wants to pull the cover over his head and never leave his tent again.  He is young, inexperienced, and just not the guy we would pick to lead any army to any type of victory.

But the part that totally blows my hair back is God sees the picture completely differently.
Paraphrase from Judges 6:13:

 “God is with you, O mighty warrior!” 

 Gideon replied, “With me?

God looks at this runt of the litter with his weak and outnumbered army and says, “Gideon you are a MIGHTY WARRIOR”

Gideon looks over his shoulder thinking there is no way he is talking to him.  “Mighty warrior where?”

God sees in us what we don’t see in ourselves.  God saw in Gideon a mighty warrior.  And when the story ends (spoiler alert) Gideon defeats an army of about 120,000 with an army of only 300.  That’s 400 to 1 odds.  If you were placing a bet you are NOT placing it on Gideon in this fight.
Yet the under-qualified and unexpected Gideon seals the victory…because God saw in him a MIGHTY WARRIOR.

And this is my point here.   Sometimes we just need to see something in a friend that they can’t see in the mirror and take the time to tell them what we see.  We are always our own worst critic.  The way I see it, it’s always the most incredible people that are the hardest on themselves!

So to all my inadequate, undervalued and heavy hearted friends this is for you:
You are so much more than what we see on the surface.  You are the only one of your kind made with care and precision. Psalm 139:13-16 You are a precious jewel, more rare than fine gold Isaiah 13:12, so expensive and so rare, one would go to great lengths to find you and protect you.

The glorious Trinity has made you to be born at THIS TIME, to be RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE TODAY.  All equipped with your unique gifts, talents, your specific smile, hands and feet.  None of this was accident.Ephesians 2:8-10

Your purpose is ETERNAL.  Your value is everlasting.

Now ask yourself, ‘Who do I belong to?’ The Bible says you belong to God. He exchanged His own Son for you!  The Cross proves your value. Jesus didn’t die for junk. You are incredibly valuable. Nobody has ever paid a greater price than God paid for you.

Dear reader, come close. Let me tell you; YOU ARE A WARRIOR.   You are stronger than you think you are; prepared, capable, and victorious on the fight for your heart.  2 Corinthians 12:10

If you are under the age of 30 let me tell you specifically what I see in you.  I see a generation tired of making the same mistakes countless people have made before them.  They want to stand for something more than the temporary and empty promises of hangovers and heartbreak.  They are hungry to be world changers.  They are lying down selfish desires and leaning on each other as they collaborate on battle plans to conquer the social injustices of this world.

I see beautiful friendships being formed in the barracks preparing for battle.  When the temptations come and the enemy tries to overcome, they put on their armor (Ephesians 6) and fight like a graceful and skilled ninja soldiers leaving nothing but ashes remaining from the enemies attempts to pull them down. BOOM

When the battle looks like 400 to 1 odds,   you feel undeserving and out of place look in the mirror and see a Warrior instead.  That is what God sees!

The WORLD needs you to put your armor on. Be fierce, be brave and BE A WARRIOR!

warrior

Culture says sex is like scotch tape but what if it’s really more like cement?

Our Culture says sex is like Scotch tape, but what if it’s really more like cement? We say we can  stick ourselves to relationship after relationship, when it doesn’t work out.  No worries we can just remove ourselves from that relationship and go on to the next one.  But what i present here is maybe sex is a little more like concrete.
After sexual relationships end we are left with scars.  Cement is not easy to move and always leaves us with a mess to clean up after the wreckage of separating the two.
Maybe the God who made our bodies, our minds, our hearts and gave us the gift of sex.  MAYBE just maybe, He knows better for us than the movies and cosmopolitain magazine.  Just maybe.
Sex is made to be shared with one man and one woman.  Bonding them for life.  Cement is so complicated to up root.  Everyone knows the scars are deeper than just removing a little tape.  Let’s stop pretending it’s all fun and games and start realizing you don’t use cement unless you want something to stick together.  FOREVER.

I was shy about sharing this little video but apparently people are liking it. It got a few thousand views on Imperfect People’s facebook page so I got up the courage to share it here.I hope you enjoy!]Sex is like cement

 

Jesus breaking down walls on Greek row

“The place God calls you to is the place where your passions and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Frederick Buechner

I find myself totally where I’m supposed to be right now (finally) in college ministry.  Greek life to be exact. Crazy, magnificent and unexplainable things are happening over there.  People keep telling me I need to write this down…so here it goes…

Minding my own business, I was reading “walls fall down for victory” a bible plan from the you version bible ap. When I came across this verse:

Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.
‭‭Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.”
‭‭Joshua‬ ‭6:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The words stood off my iphone left me bewildered, confused, and a little excited.  First of all, what the in the ever loving world does this even mean?
No one is coming in, no one is coming out.  The walls are securely barred and God says (I imagine totally nonchalantly with and a little bit of  “I mean DUH” to his voice)…(God’s sarcastic with me….he get’s me).  “I have delivered them”

I knew there was something big there but I didn’t know what.    I was looking at the commentary and everything.  Unable to find any reasonable explanation for this verse I resolved to “I will figure it out later” then went on with my day.
Later that SAME DAY while listening to the audible version of  The circle maker  by Mark Batterson (book I owe to rocking my prayer life through the roof) Batterson mentioned praying over a property for their church that seemed impossible, insurmountable, and just pretty much just absurd to even ask for.
While walking prayer circles around the block, Batterson came to the EXACT SAME VERSE.
The walls were securely barred , No one went out and no one came in.
‭Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered them into your hands”
‭‭Joshua‬ ‭6:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬ (Katie paraphrase)
 “See, I have already given it to you” God says.  “Yes, it looks impossible but you are looking through your eyes, not mine.”
Batterson makes the point that what seems impossible to us, is just an invitation for us to Pray.  And not just a wish in the well type of prayer either, but aligning our prayers with the will of God and celebrating what he has already promised!
 breaking down walls on greek row
I almost laughed at the parallels how on Greek row where the walls seem so high.  The search for significance on sex drug and rock and roll are encouraged in the name of YOLO.  Yet giving away of our bodies in casual relationships, the hang overs, and the endless search for significance leaves nothing but emptiness…and God says  “see I have delivered them.”

I decided to start praying a circle around greek row.  As in, getting out of my car and being the random “grown up” walking by all the beautiful mansions in prayer.  I started praying boldly, in the powerful and matchless name of Jesus that his precious sons and daughters would be taken back into his arms.  Rebuking the devil and claiming those big beautiful homes to become houses of worship (all quietly lest i get arrested for people thinking I was drunk).

And guess what…..at the end of the row there was a tarp WALL put up surrounding the perimeter of one of the fraternity houses for the week.  It is all a “joke” to hide the shenanigans that take place during their philanthropy party week.

A wall surrounding the city….and God says, “I have delivered them”

But wait, there is more.  As if I don’t already feel the earth shake below my feet.  My friend, who was in ADPI the same time I was, now a missionary in Peru, sends me this facebook message:

Big prayers, are resulting in BIG WALLS falling down on greek row. God is in the midst of taking his sons and daughters back to himself.  As I said before  greek row is full of trendsetters. And I see these trendsetters starting MOVEMENTS THAT MATTER. Movements that change lives.

They are realizing  the search for significance is something SO MUCH MORE abundant than what generations before them have tried to find. Leaders are rising up and falling relentlessly in love with their captivating Savior.

I see a generation rising up to take their place with selfless faith.  -Hillsong

Press on warrior prince and princesses! You can change the world!

Why I believe sorority girls can change the world

Once upon a time I was a sorority girl.  At the time I was totally convinced I had found the abundant life at the best fraternity party, with the hottest date, the finest outfit, and a deliciously strong cup of hunch punch in my hand. But when the make up came off, the drunken buzz turned into a terrible headache, and the guy that promised forever would never call again, I started to realize this life wasn’t so abundant after all.

sorority girls can change the world

Later, I truly found the abundant life through a simple carpenter named Jesus (my full testimony here).  But I found him just after I had graduated.  Now my heart is to tell these incredible young women about the abundant life and why, I believe, they truly have the power to change the world.

I work for a company that sells T shirts.  We see first hand as the trends come and go. In this industry alone I am constantly astounded at the extraordinary influence sorority girls have over trends.

It was not so long ago girls would ask for the smallest size they could squeeze into.  Now, even the skinny girls ask for an XL because somewhere along the way sorority girls decided over-sized shirts were cool, and thus goes the trend.

 Then the girls got these over-sized shirts and put their sorority letters across the shoulders on the back.  They exploded in popularity faster than a chubby kid running after the ice cream truck.  The trend spilled over out of greek row (as many of their trends do)  Now even cheer moms are sporting the fad.

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Comfort color T shirts was a brand that used to only be popular in tourist shops near the beach.  Then sorority girls decided they liked them.  I saw first hand the comfort colors brand scrambling with all they had to meet the sudden demand for their shirts.  Now, I get an email on a weekly basis notifying me of stock shortages.  Comfort Colors literally can’t keep their tees on the shelves!

Sorority girls have brought new life back to Birkenstocks, black rimmed glasses, yoga pants and even taking pictures with a pineapple.  No seriously it’s a thing. Sorority girls thought it was cute idea and now the high school girls are doing it too.  It’s all over pinterest and no body even asks why. Sorority girls decided it was cool and therefore it was.  FullSizeRender (1)

They don’t realize it but they are leaders in their generation simply because of their power of influence.  They have no idea they are trend setters.  But I’ve seen it time and time again, people look to them to what is trending what is popular and the age old question, “what is cool?”
infulence

It got me thinking, what if this extraordinary power of influence was used for something more significant?  What if they used this incredible leadership potential to show the world something amazing….even more amazing that taking pictures with pineapples (I know right!)

  • What if philanthropy was a bigger deal?

Yes I know greek life supports philanthropy and does some amazing things BUT…
WHAT IF
(I hope you’re sitting down for this)
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Philanthropy was more important than socials???!! Or better yet, what if philanthropy was the social?

What if 150 girls partnered with a fraternity (which is what they often do at socials).  And brought that man (and woman) power to habitat for humanity or any other local organization changing the community.  What if all 300 guys and girls saved the $5 they would normally spend on just 1 drink and donated it to said organization.  That’s $1,500!  That could go a long way for a non-profit.

They could even do something as simple as going to the darkest part of the city and paint over graffiti. pick up trash, and love on some kids.  No appointment needed. I’ve done it before and the response is overwhelmingly positive from the community.

PARTNERING with a local non-profit where the MAJORITY of the sorority is invested and getting their hands dirty for a cause they believed in could
TOTALLY
CHANGE
THE
WORLD!

Fair trade ensures safer working conditions and fair wages from everything to the farmers growing the cotton to the women sewing the fabric.  With the amount of T shirts sorority girls buy they could flip apparel industry on it’s head!  Their power could force competitive companies to pay attention and shape up the treatment of their workers and practices!

Empowered Women

  • The final most important power of influence I see in sorority girls is choosing who they date.

I met a young man the other day at church.  Handsome fraternity boy who had recently come to Christ.  He stopped me and said, “Hey my friends told me about you, You’re the lady talking to the sororities about how they can change the world.”

My heart leapt that the word is getting out about this movement so I gave him my quick elevator speech about T shirts and socials then I mentioned how they date. With all the passion I could muster I gave him my quick soap box on dating “What if sorority girls demanded the guys they date be gentleman, protect their bodies and hearts for both of their future spouses and lead her spiritually instead of physically?”

He smiled and said,  “You are right about that.  Supply and demand, guys would certainly shape up!”

If all the beautiful women of the world demanded better.  Guys would shape up!

Imagine a world where the women decided their hearts were worth romancing.  Realizing they were daughters of the one true King making them royalty and to be treated as such.  Imagine a world where the women decided their bodies were worth saving for their spouse.  They want to experience this cherished, fragile and sacred gift of sex believing it is more than fun and games to be enjoyed with anyone we choose.

From the Good Man project, author Dave Booda says it this way:

Ladies, if you really want men to step up and become the real men you talk about, you must demand it. I’m not saying ask for it, I’m not saying hope for it, I’m saying demand it.  What does that mean? It means you don’t settle for anything less. It means if you aren’t satisfied, you walk away. Men will rise up and meet your challenge, I promise, it’s what we do best. We love challenges. We love it when women make us step up and work.

Men are hard wired to work, we just have to expect no less of them!

If you’re afraid this will leave you alone.  First of all look in the mirror…you’re gorgeous.  Second look at your birthday, your still a baby.  And third look at your heavenly father.  Don’t you think the desires of your heart are fully known?  Don’t you think your good and loving father wants better for you than a guy who pushes your limits physically and makes you worry if he is true to only you?

Oh ye of little faith.  He’s got this.  I promise.

In closing remember this:

  • Your dollars matter.  As a large group you make large purchases.  You can EASILY set an impact with your dollars.  Take a look at what your supporting, from the entertainment to the T shirts.  What could you change with your spending power?
  • What would your campus and community miss if your sorority didn’t exist?  Who would miss you more the bars or the local charities?
  • What message are you telling guys by the standards you set.  Are you worth more than what you are accepting?  If you want to learn more about becoming the type of girl a christian guy is seeking.  Read this.

I know it’s hard to see past the boys and the parties but all that is there is hangovers and heartbreak.  The abundant life is SO MUCH BIGGER and longer lasting than the temporary trappings of this world.

To seek the abundant life:

  • Seek out a community that is seeking Jesus (lots of great campus christian organizations)
  • Reading the whole bible can sound overwhelming but start in Matthew to read about the life of Christ.
  • Pray, “Father I have searched for the abundant life on my own and came up empty, can you show me your way?”

I love your comments.  How are you seeking the abundant life in college?

Crazy enough to change the world

Carli Salzberg the girl who’s story you need to read

One of the reasons I started this blog in the first place was to have a platform for people to share their testimony.  If you would like to share your story contact me!

As today’s guest says it best, “My testimony might offend some people. It might offend a ton of people. It also might show someone that there really is a God who loves them abundantly”

That’s what testimony’s do they are real, relatable, raw, real and unarguable.  My sweet and precious friend Carli’s story is no exception.  She is opening hearts and drawing people to the cross with her story.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  

Written by Carli Salzberg.  You can follow her at her blog, Choosing freedom. 

carli

My testimony starts out like many others you have heard I am sure. I grew up in a Christian home. My mom was Christian and my dad was Jewish. My dad made us attend Hebrew school throughout our elementary years and my mom held Bible studies for us at the kitchen table every Sunday after church, until they got a divorce when I was in the fourth grade. Divorce is pretty common nowadays, actually so common that more than 50% of marriages end in it. So most people, including me, are not shocked when we hear stories about other people’s parents going through one.

I mean all I have ever known was divorce. My parents, my friend’s parents, even my parent’s parents. My parent’s divorce in particular didn’t affect me. At least on the outside it didn’t. My sister, Lindsay, 13 years old at the time and my brother, Jeremy who was 6, both handled it the way a kid those ages should. They mourned the loss of a “normal” family. They cried and begged my parents to stay together. But I on the other hand, did not shed a single tear. I knew I had to be strong for my brother and sister but I also had too much pride to show any kind of emotion towards the divorce. I remember having a conversation with an old friend in my room, and I was telling her about my parents. I specifically remember saying, “It’s not a big deal, I’ll get over it eventually.” From this point in my life to the next 8 years, that was my mindset. I will get over it. It isn’t that big of a deal. That was the start of my life without Jesus. I mean I could handle it on my own…right?

In middle school, I found a group of friends that knew how to get my mind off the crappy hand I was dealt and turn it into some good clean fun. Okay it wasn’t so clean but it was definitely fun. At the time. The seventh grade was the first time I was introduced to marijuana and alcohol. I tried both and liked both. Mostly alcohol because it allowed me to loosen up, be free, and take my mind off everything else. Now usually when there is alcohol and weed involved, there is some sexual activity. Let’s just say I might have jumped the gun a little bit and got a head start on most things people our age waited for. No, I wasn’t  having sex , but I was doing things I knew I would regret later.

I’ll admit it, I wasn’t the easiest child.  The only times we ever really communicated was when we were arguing about me getting into trouble at school, speeding tickets (doesn’t matter how many, alright?), and spending too much money. I longed to hear the words “I love you” come out of his mouth for years. I still do. I didn’t hear them from him often growing up. But when I did, I believed they were just empty words that he felt like he had to say as a father.

I continued using drugs and alcohol but to a larger extent. I was blacking out every weekend and hooking up with guys that I wouldn’t even recognize the next day. I kept trying to fill that hole that only God could fill. I wouldn’t even allow myself to think such a thing because even just an hour alone was miserable. My thoughts consumed me and dragged me deeper into darkness.

My junior year of high school I got into a relationship with a boy who wasn’t one you would normally bring home to a family dinner. He sold drugs and for some odd reason I was into that. To sum it up, he got kicked out of my high school for getting caught and everything just went downhill from there. My parents forbid me from dating him. But there wasn’t a chance in the world I would give that up, so I did what every teenage girl does. I hid it from them for two years. I would sleepover at his house every night and they never found out. I figured my mom either wasn’t paying enough attention or was completely oblivious.

Senior year, my relationship with this boy had only gotten worse. It was physically and verbally abusive. He was cheating on me one day and then telling me he loved me the next. And of course those were the words I had been waiting to hear from anyone, so I forgave him time and time again. We were having sex during this time. Sex didn’t mean much to me then. It didn’t mean much to anyone. I wanted to feel wanted, and if having sex was going to make me feel that then what was so bad about it?

Winter break of senior year, my dad took us on a ski trip in Colorado. I remember one night of that trip so vividly. I was lying on the couch after a long day of skiing and I began to feel super nauseous. This was the third or fourth day that week that I had gotten this feeling. I tried to convince myself I had the flu, but deep down I knew that it was more than that. So the second to last day of the trip, I asked my dad to call me in some nausea medicine. The next thing he said was a line I will never forget because it changed my life. I believe it was a statement sent straight from God as a warning that I needed to come to my senses. My dad responded jokingly, “You’re probably just pregnant.” I laughed the most fake laugh anyone has probably ever heard. There was so much pain behind it and it sent a cold shiver up my spine because I knew I had to take a pregnancy test.

When I got home, I called up my two best friends and asked them to take me to get a pregnancy test. We drove straight to Walgreens, and I bought a test and went to the bathroom to take it. Sure enough, it was positive. Yupp, I was pregnant. I was pregnant with a child by a guy who was verbally abusive, selling drugs, and cheating on me.  The situation couldn’t have been better. I knew I couldn’t tell anyone. My two best friends were the only ones that knew and of course their first question was, “What are you going to do?”  I didn’t even know what I was having for dinner that night, let alone how I was going to raise a family at my age.

My first thought was that if my parents ever found out, I was out on the streets. So telling them was not an option for me at the time. I mean I have been keeping secrets from them for years now, what would one more do to me? Anyways, I will get over it. It isn’t that big of a deal.

I remember rushing home that night, running up to my sisters room and just weeping. I could not get a single word out for fifteen minutes. I finally gathered the courage to say it, “I’m pregnant”. Lindsay, the amazing and comforting sister that she is, just said to me in the most calming voice, “It’s okay Carli. We are going to figure this out.”  Nothing anyone else could ever say would make me feel the peace that those few words made me feel. Lindsay has always been that person. Someone could have been shot and she would be right next to you saying, “Everything is going to be okay, don’t you worry.”

I was sitting in my bed that night. I wasn’t crying. I wasn’t even sad. I was empty. I felt like someone could have sucker punched me in the face and I probably wouldn’t flinch. It was just me, my unborn baby, and incredibly loud thoughts running through my mind.

The next day, I woke up and had made my decision. I couldn’t keep the baby. I could not bring a child into this world with a broken family. There wouldn’t have even been a family. Would my child see his father every other weekend the way I saw mine? Would he/she have to be surrounded by drugs and alcohol because of the way we were abusing them? I couldn’t think of any reason to keep my baby just so they could be born into a life full of brokenness.

I could not think of any reason to keep my baby because I didn’t know Jesus. I wasn’t aware that He was able to give me and my precious child increasingly more than we could ask for. I was blind to the grace and forgiveness that was being handed to me right then and there.

Now to him who is able to do in full measure more than all our desires or thoughts, through the power which is working in us

Ephesians 3:20

So, I did what I thought I had to do and I got an abortion. I can honestly say that the entire process was a blur. That month of my life vaguely lingers in my mind because I spent years mentally blocking it out.

I went on with my life, acting as if this tragedy never even happened. I got over it eventually. 

As I was packing for college, I knew that I wanted more. A desire grew inside my heart for a deeper relationship with Jesus. I had been on mission trips, church retreats, etc. and I knew what He was about but I wanted to experience this oh so astounding love that everyone talks about.

My freshman year at Georgia Southern University, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I started attending Connection Church in Statesboro and I was just consumed and surrounded by love in that place.

After being saved, I was expecting a radical change in my life. I was expecting all of the pain and hurt that was tucked away to just disappear. I was even prayed over hundreds of times. No exaggeration. You know when the pastor does the altar calls at the end of every sermon? Yeah, I was that girl that went up every single time. I could never get enough prayer. Don’t get me wrong, prayer is a good thing. Asking for prayer is a sign of strength, not weakness.

I knew what Jesus did for me. I knew that He took all of that shame and guilt that I felt after my abortion and nailed it to a cross. I knew God loved me SO much that He sent his ONLY son to die.

I knew all of these things. But did I actually feel in my heart that I was loved this much? I didn’t even feel loved by my own earthly father, how could I be loved by a God that has never sinned EVER?

I struggled with the thoughts of being unloveable and unworthy for the next two years. Until about three months ago, I had a complete revelation.

A friend told me that God wanted me to share my testimony with everyone. Not only because It will give other people the opportunity to know Jesus, but because it will set me free.

So that is what I did. That is what I am doing with you. Right here and right now.

I am sharing my story with you so you would know that we CAN experience true freedom. We have been delivered from our pasts since the day that we confessed it. The Lord knew my heart. He KNOWS our hearts. Every time the enemy tries to use our sin against us , the Lord is saying,

“You are my beloved. I knew what you were going to do before you even did it. And I still love you. You are perfect to me.”

Because of the way God has forgiven me and loved me so generously, is the ONLY reason I have been able to forgive myself. And because I finally forgive myself for the decision that I made, I am able to share it with all of you in hopes that you would know that Jesus is waiting. He is waiting to lead you into a life of passion and purpose. So what are we waiting for?

We are called to freedom. So let’s live in it.

Romantic Jesus

“It’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.”
― Noah (Ryan Gosling) to Allie (Rachel McAdams)  The Notebook

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Picture source

“Don’t forget I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”
—Anna (Julia Roberts) to William (Hugh Grant) in Notting Hill

“No matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.”—Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) to Cora (Madeleine Stowe) in Last of the Mohicans

Ahhh romantic movies.  I’m such a sucker for them.  And I’m not alone! Romantic comedies earned an average of $111 million EACH last year! (source)

We love romance.  It’s as if it’s part of our DNA.

Hmmmm….

There is an incompleteness that makes us long for these perfect
you-and-me-together-forever type of relationships.  As if part of us is missing without being the peanut to someone’s peanut butter.

How many of you swooned when Jerry McGuire told his wife “you complete me”

you had me at hello

Every woman, whether they admit it or not, so desperately longs for her heart to be romanced. For a man to tell her she is worth fighting for and for him to stop at nothing to win her over.

There is an emptiness, an ache within us where we long for this knight in shining armor to sweep us off our feet.  The only problem is we are looking for this fulfillment from another sinful human being.

A marriage can compliment you yes, and who you marry is no doubt one of the most important decisions you can make.  But a guy can simply not fulfill everything a woman’s heart longs for.

This ache within us to be romanced is actually formed in everywoman ON PURPOSE, to draw us back to the one who has been after our hearts from the very beginning of time.

The book of Hosea is such a beautiful love story that is insanely applicable today.  It is about a man called to marry a prostitute.

TIME OUT
Can you imagine how that conversation with God was like?

God: “Hosea you are such a honorable man, you seek me with all your heart and you are true to your word….I would like you to  marry a prostitute….don’t worry it will have meaning”
Hosea: “Ummmm, I was thinking maybe  I could marry a nice girl and have a sweet little family, could we try that instead?”

But there’s that whole “God is God and Hosea is not” thing so It looks like God won out on that.  But thank goodness because we are left with this truly captivating story that totally blows my hair back.

Gomer (yes it’s an unfortunate name) has this rock like, dependable, strong and trustworthy husband.  But she tells herself he isn’t enough and mostly that she isn’t enough to deserve this kind of relentless undeserving love. She is beautiful but she doesn’t see it. She is worth him fighting for but she tells herself she doesn’t deserve it.  She keeps leaving him to pursue what is familiar to her, what she told her self she deserves. And he keeps going to fight and even buy her back to be his wife.

Don’t miss how huge this is.  She is leaving the one true faithful and loving man in her life and giving herself back to men who use her and discard her.  It’s sounds crazy…but it’s really not any different than today.

hosea

The whole story is a picture of God’s unrestricted, unequivocal, determinate and Jealous love for us. His heart breaks and gets angry when we give our hearts to lesser things.

Therefore I will block her path with thorn bushes;
    I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.
She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
 Hosea 2: 6-7

Just like a prince fighting for his fair maiden he will do anything in his power to win her over to himself.  The words in the scripture below would make more hearts flutter on the big screen than anything Leonardo Dicaprio every thought about saying from the bow of the titanic.

She decked herself with rings and jewelry,
    and went after her lovers,
    but me she forgot,”
declares the Lord.

 “Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her. Hosea 2:13-14

Grab a tissue

“You can live unafraid in peace and safety.
I will make you my wife forever,
    showing you righteousness and justice,
    unfailing love and compassion.
 I will be faithful to you and make you mine,
    and you will finally know me as the Lord.

 Hosea 2:19-20

Oh you guys it just gets me ya know!  I mean I am so that girl “prostituting myself” with a busy schedule, a worried mind, and lots of “good things” that are not usually the BEST thing.

A hunger for romance and to be desired is written all over the face of our thirst for money, status, and failed relationship after failed relationship. And I totally get it!  I was the girl in college who thought a boyfriend is what I needed to be complete and I am still that girl today telling myself I am too “busy” to invest my everything into the one true source of all my tomorrows.

Lord help us to fall in love with YOU all over again.  The true romancer of our soul.  It was and will always be only Jesus, my true love, my true romancer. The one who knows my every flaw and died for me anyway.

He is always looking to romance us, we just have to listen and notice.  How has Jesus romanced you lately?

To the little girl in all women

I was deep into kitchen experimentation mode, when our 6 year old little girl danced into the kitchen.  She (like always) was wearing a princess dress.  She floated around dreaming of being at a ball or a royal castle I’m sure.

As she danced by the fridge she saw a snapshot of Bryan and I on our wedding day.  She stopped for a moment and then started day dreaming of being a bride.  She told me all about her beautiful dress and the glorious day it would be.

She danced a little more while singing to the princess music coming from her room.  After twirling about a little more she stopped her dance.  She demanded my attention for her next statement. With all the confidence and poise a 6 year old can muster she declared, “I will marry someone that loves God…I will marry daddy.” Then proceeded to the ball taking place with her sister in the living room.twirl

I stopped measuring and stirring for a minute to smile as my heart was captivated by her words.  Should I tell her, that daddy is my man so back off?  Just kidding.  I love it that she thinks this way.  By God’s grace I married a man that models Jesus to our family everyday and I’m so thankful for that.

Every woman was once this little girl.  Day dreaming of being a princess who falls in love with the ONE “perfect” man.  She dreams of being adored and cared for and adoring him right back.

The desires of our heart are for romance, to be treasured, and to be part of something great.  Modern women pretend we are too “strong” and independent to have these desires.  Yet romance novels and movies still fly off the shelves.  These are the desires of the heart of a woman and they are put in us by the amazing God whose image we bear, there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

Somewhere between the dreams of our youth and becoming an adult, something precious has been lost.  Somewhere along the way girls start to forget they are a princess.  When and why is this taken from our girls? When does it become ok for a little princess to lower her standards to a man that is doing anything less than chasing Jesus.  When did we lie and tell ourselves he was good enough to date a princess if he doesn’t protect your body for your future husband?

Our heart is to be guarded ABOVE ALL ELSE.

Guard your heart…

Because your heart is extremely valuable. We don’t guard worthless things. I take my garbage to the street every Wednesday night. It is picked up on Thursday morning. It sits on the sidewalk all night, completely unguarded. Why? Because it is worthless.

Not so with your heart. It is the essence of who you are. It is your authentic self—thecore of your being. It is where all your dreams, your desires, and your passions live. It is that part of you that connects with God and other people.

Solomon says, “Above all else.” He doesn’t say, “If you get around to it” or “It would be nice if.” No, he says, make it your top priority.

-Michael Hyatt 

You are still his 6 year old in a princess dress day dreaming of meeting your prince.  He delights in the way you smile, the funny things you do and your determination do  it “all by yourself.”

PROTECT and GUARD the precious and irreplaceable jewel that you are.  It baffles me how many young women date a guy who, in no way protects her heart, leaves her emotionally scared yet she stays with him because she is afraid of being alone?? On what planet does this make sense?

A man that is not chasing after God’s heart, has no business chasing yours.

God has set within everywoman a femininity that is powerful and tender.  Misunderstood and sometimes assaulted.  Your true feminine heart is worth protecting, worth guarding.

Jesus has come to win you back to himself…All of you. God is in the business of setting his precious daughters free from the trappings, temporary pleasures, and many down right lies of this world.  Have you asked Jesus to come to win your heart over?

 

 

princess
Daughter of the Almighty God

Uh oh

Over the course of human history there have been several huge mistakes EVERYONE thought were right…that is until we knew better.  From thinking the earth was flat to believing big hair was a good idea we have learned a lot along the way but we have not arrived.

big hair 80's

In the 1950’s and 60’s EVERYONE smoked.  Those serving in Vietnam were sent as many cigarettes as they could smoke.  Doctors even endorsed it!

And then they said “uh oh” that stuff will kill you.

smoking

In the 1980’s we became a “fat free America” so the nutrient rich fat was taken out of many processed foods and filled with refined sugar, modified food starch and other questionable ingredients.  Now our fat free america is fatter than ever and we say “uh oh!” Turns out fat from healthy sources is vital for growth and actually suppresses hunger.  Aspartame, food dye, and modified food starch not so much.

Our culture is just starting to wake up to realize food from plants and animal are much better for you than something made in a lab and labeled as “food.”

butter

Today we live in a culture  of shack up with whoever you want whenever you want.  Babies are born with a dad nowhere to be found and a mom still trying to be a child herself.   

Our culture is still totally blind to it.  Sitcoms have a guy waking up in bed beside a girl saying, “what was your name again?” and the audience laughs.  We pretend it’s funny, we pretend it’s fun.  We pretend it doesn’t hurt.

But in fact, depression and  suicide is at its highest rate in 25 years (source)  Blame it on what ever factor you want but I can’t help but notice the strong correlation with our growing acceptance of no-strings-attached sexual relationships and a growing rates of depression.

Sex is the cement that holds the relationship together.  Which, taken in the context of marriage is a good thing.  But taken with no commitments is catastrophic.

Tearing up cement is messy, painful, destructive and the original piece is never left the same.

You don’t pour cement on something, unless you are committed to it being there….forever.

Sex is a wonderful gift from God; but it makes a terrible idol, brutal and unyielding in the misery it inflicts. —RANDY ALCORN, author, The Purity Principle

I cannot think of any gift of God that has been more abused and mis-used than that of sex. What was intended to be a stunning, pure, earthly picture of amazing heavenly, eternal realities, has been perverted into an alluring but false god that is in fact a grotesque caricature of the true God. —NANCY LEIGH DEMOSS, author, host of “Revive Our Hearts”

Our culture hasn’t woke up yet to the perverted way we have mishandled this gift called sex.  But just like realizing the earth isn’t flat, you need healthy fats in your diet, and smoking will kill you…this too will eventually be realized.   

And you guys will be on the cutting edge because now you know better. 

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