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look at me now

This Monday, I begin my final seven-week college class in this certificate program with Northwest University. I began this program almost two years ago and I’ve been attending college for three years. And it just hit me earlier today that once I finish this class, I will be able to go in for an interview with my district to receive my credentials.

For those of you who don’t know what that means… by the end of April I will be a licensed pastor. Like, a pastor. Assuming all goes well with my interview, of course.

This is just absolutely mind-blowingly crazy to me. I remember around last Thanksgiving I was going through a really tough time, struggling with depression and brokenness. And I remember thinking to myself, “I’m going to be a pastor some day. I can’t be this person. I have to be better. I’m not good enough. I’m too broken. I’m so unqualified.” And I remember feeling so utterly laid low in my own heart. All I wanted was to figure out how to get past my issues and become the leader I knew I had to be.

It was hard. And between last Thanksgiving and now, well, things weren’t easy. But now I sit here and I’m amazed. I’m amazed at how far I’ve come.

A little over a week ago, I had a radical encounter with the Lord and I felt my spirit unleashed inside of me. I’m confident that chains of depression, suicide, anxiety, and insecurity were broken off of my life. And even if there remains some areas of struggle with that, I have a renewed strength like I’ve never felt before.

What’s crazy is the tremendous journey I’ve been on this year. I’ve been fasting and praying and I’ve absolutely felt something accelerating within my spirit. Chains are breaking off my life. I feel greater liberty, joy, peace. I feel like I’m more in tune with the Spirit. Things are changing. In and around me.

And I’m so excited for these next couple months as I complete my final class, as I prepare for my life as a youth PASTOR. All I feel is a great sense of pride. I’m proud of myself for how far of come. But so much more than that, I’m immensely thankful for a God who is faithful, who never fails, whose mercies are new every morning, whose love extends beyond the furthest reaches of the universe, who refines me, whose promises are yes and amen. I’m so thankful.

If you’re in a place right now where you’re desperate for a change in your circumstance, for an answer to a prayer, for something radical to shift in your life… don’t count God out. Let your desperation be the fuel that drives you further into His presence. You know what I did the day I encountered the Lord and He broke the chains of depression? I spent that whole fasting, praying, and worshipping. I was exhausted. I was depressed. I was crushed. But still, I fasted, prayed, and worshipped in the midst of it.

The Lord saw my desperation and He broke into the midst of it. He always honors the heart of the seeker.

God is good, guys. If you’re desperate for something, remember this: desperate times call for desperate measures (like starving myself for 24 hours…)

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the bait of satan 

Long ago I decided to regularly incorporate study books into my daily Bible study. Alongside the Scriptures, I’ve devoured such books as Kyle Idleman’s Not A Fan, Francis Frangipane’s The Three Battlegrounds, and John Bevere’s Good or God. Currently, I’m reading John Bevere’s The Bait of Satan. 

And BOOOOOOYYYYY. This book.

Bait of Satan deals directly with the Spirt of offense that people struggle with. A friend had been trying to get me to read it for months, but I always said “Offense? I don’t carry offense. I don’t really need to read that book.” How wrong I was. As I’ve read Bait of Satan, I’ve realized how much offense I really did carry in my heart. In fact, it wasn’t just big things from hurtful moments in my past. Most of it was actually trivial, daily things, moments throughout my day where I allowed offense to settle in over the smallest issues.

This book has been immensely eye-opening. I could. It recommend it more. Offense is a deeper issue than I thought. And as I’ve been dealing greatly with uprooting those thorns from my own spirit, I realize what a thief offense is. It robs you of heathy relationships. It removes joy, life, and vibrancy from your own life and the lives of those you’re in relationship with.

Perhaps the greatest revelation I could take away from this book is that even if I am truly and deeply wronged by someone, I have no right to be offended. That is, if I want to be like Christ. Jesus was betrayed by His disciples. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. David was hunted down by his spiritual father. And yet none of these men allowed offense to settle into their hearts. They chose, instead, to respond with grace, love, compassion, mercy, and soft hearts.

This is the kind of man I want to be. And I refuse to allow the spirit of offense to rob me of my joy and vibrancy in my life and my relationships.

Offense is like thorny soil. It chokes out all fruit, all life, all progress. So I’m going to do what I can to uproot those thorns. I’m going to yield to the hand of the Lord as He prunes those thorns and throws them into the fire.

Refinement is painful. But so so worth it. 

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the best we can

A few months ago, back before Thanksgiving, I went on my first date with an actual human girl. Things were going well. I really felt a connection. This girl and I seemed to be on the same page in a lot of ways. Plus, I discovered there was a whole new side to me that I really enjoyed when I was dating. I was more confident in myself, my identity, my purpose, my convictions.

Then, about a month later, this girl broke it off with me, claiming she wasn’t ready to date again. To be honest, I was at the same place. I was enjoying dating, but I wasn’t ready for anything serious. I wasn’t ready for the type of relationship that would change my entire world, that would shift my priorities, that would take over every little part of my life. I was only just beginning to discover who I was as an individual. So, no hard feelings that this girl wasn’t ready to date, right? We could still be friends after all.

Sadly, that was not the case. It wasn’t long before I noticed this girl not only removed, but also blocked me from all social media sites without explanation. I thought things had ended on good terms; I didn’t realize there was something weird between the two of us. But then, I saw in passing that she was with another guy not long after she broke it off with me.

Needless to say, this left me quite confused. Was it not that she wasn’t ready to date, but that she wasn’t ready to date me? Was there something wrong with me that turned this girl off? Was I too this or too that? I didn’t know. But as soon as I began to think those things, I realized I didn’t really care. Why? Because I know who I am on my own now. I’m confident in myself. And one day I’ll find a girl who will look at me and accept me for my loves while loving me for my strengths. She won’t see the cracks; she’ll see the light that breaks through.

What I learned from all this, though, is…. girls are confusing. And so are guys. To be honest, I think the world is just full of a bunch of confused people trying to figure themselves out and make their way in the world the best that they can. So I can’t get made when people do something that doesn’t make sense to me because in my heart I know that it really isn’t personal in most cases. It’s just human.

We’re all confused. And we’re all confusing. That’s just the way human interaction works. There’s no easy fix or guidebook to figuring out other people. We’re all just doing the best we can. It’s human nature to confound each other. And sometimes, with the right people, that can be beautiful.

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things i learned last year

I know I’m a little late to the game, but these first ten days of 2017 have been busy as I get back into the swing of things. 🙂 It’s been a phenomenal ten days and I anticipate many more great days ahead.

But looking back at 2016, I am thankful for the many lessons I have learned this past year. Some were hard, some were easy. All were important.

To make this blog post easier on both you and I, I’ve compiled a list below.

ALL THE THINGS I LEARNED LAST YEAR

  • friends often come from unexpected places
  • my feelings aren’t always the reality
  • love is selfless; and sometimes that means i have to set aside what want for what the person I love wants
  • I am strong. After everything I’ve been through and experienced, I’ve not only survived, but I’ve endured. And that is just beautiful.
  • God is faithful. God is good. even when there’s nothing good in me, He is gracious, loving, and merciful.
  • as a believer, I do not fight for victory, but from victory.
  • family is far too deep a word to be confined to mean “blood relatives;” family is something you carry with you in your spirit. the blood between two people is not so much a factor as the spirit they carry between them.
  • brotherhood/sisterhood is so so so important.
  • I may be lonely at times, but I am never alone.
  • as I spent the year fasting all forms of secular music, I realized that while I do enjoy fun music from time to time, I am not willing to risk the presence of God in my life for Taylor Swift…
  • the things I pour into my spirit will determine my character; so I must spend time feeding myself the right things.
  • if I want to see the face of God, I must approach His presence as Moses and Joshua did.. with barefoot faith.
  • revival isn’t a moment; it’s a movement.
  • only I decide what kind of man, brother, friend, son, and leader I am going to be.
  • the devil is a liar.
  • my soul family* is the best.
  • when God lays something to ruins in your life, He will always rebuild something bigger and better from the ground up.
  • I can only control the type of person am. I can’t control anyone else. So I must love everyone, even if no one loves me.
  • I may not be your typical male stereotype, but I am a man of God with all the authority, strength, and courage of a man of God. it is my character that makes me a man; not whether or not I like musicals and cardigans.
  • seasons come and go, but He remains.

 

THINGS I’VE LEARNED SO FAR THIS YEAR

  • I am in control of my emotions.
  • I don’t need to worry about troubles that may or may not come in the future. all that really matters is the truth of here and now.
  • by the grace of God, I can put a fence on the insecurities, the fears, the doubts, the worries, and the things I overthink.
  • when you love others selflessly and focus on the positive rather than the negative, your relationship with that person becomes much healthier and far more fruitful.
  • I may be immature in some areas of my life, but I can be confident that my experiences and my upbringing have made me spiritually mature. rather than take for granted the knowledge and experience I carry about spiritual matters, I should allow that maturity to shine in every part of my life.
  • I don’t know everything, but what I do know, I know well and I can be proud of that.
  • I have blood family and soul family* who take pride in me and are blessed by their relationship with me.
  • Prayer changes things.

 

*soul family – a term I coined to describe the intimate bond between my best friends and I. 

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the thing about love

Brace yourself. It’s about to get real.

2016 has, thus far, been the most profound year of my life. I found new relationships that I never thought I’d ever have again. I grew – spiritually, emotionally, and mentally – in leaps and bounds. But some things remain the same…

I’m still single. I’m still unpublished. I’m still just an ordinary 20-year-old. And, worst of all, I’m still insecure.

The thing I’m most insecure about at any given time is… LOVE.

You see, I’m the type of person who, when I love someone, I really love them. I show them. I tell them. I’m constantly trying to learn new ways that I could help them to feel or know that I love them. I spend endless amounts of time and energy focusing on how I can love that person. I literally pour myself out for them. And I don’t do it begrudgingly. I’m glad to do it.

Now, I’m not saying all this to exalt myself or to tell you that you should be like me. None of that, now. What I’m saying is…

I FEEL ALONE.

“Why?” you ask. Well, the problem with loving people so very deeply is that it’s a very rare occurrence for that love to ever be fully reciprocated. You may be saying to yourself, “Well, love is selfless.” And you’re right. I spend my life trying to push myself aside to make things easier for those I love. I constantly hold my tongue when hurtful things occur. I try to let things roll off my back. I try not to let things bother me. I try not to ask anything of anyone. And I do it simply because that’s the kind of person I want to be. I want to love selflessly.

The only problem, though, is that sometimes I lose myself when I push myself aside for the sake of others. And, lately, it feels like I’m losing myself more and more.

That being said, recently I decided to start saving up for a solo vacation/getaway trip to Ireland (woot! woot! I’m totally doing this!). When I told my best friends, they didn’t believe I could do it. “A trip all the way to Ireland? All by yourself?” They didn’t believe that I could stand being alone for a whole week in a foreign country. (Fair enough, I suppose.) This was all the evidence I needed to realize that I have to do this.

The reality is that I am alone. I’m not married. And while I am willing and able to pour out endless love and affection on those around me, I’ve learned that to expect the same in return is to be sorely disappointed. That’s not to say that the lack of reciprocation is intentional. For some, there’s just other things going on. For others, it’s that I’ve not even told them that this is how I feel. Whatever the case, though, the reality is that I am alone. The level of love and affirmation I receive comes and goes. I have no steady “income” so to speak…

So I imagine that this solo trip to Ireland will help me to realize that I need to not only become comfortable with being alone, but I also need to learn to enjoy it. Because I’m tired of waiting and hoping for a level of love that may or may not come. I’m tired of hoping that I’ll wake up to see a random text from my best friend telling me that he’s praying for me or thinking about me or just that he loves me. I’m tired of fighting to spend time with people and feeling like a nuisance because of it. I’m tired of being no one’s priority.

So I guess I need to prioritize myself right now. No, I’m not going to stop loving the people I love. Because to do that would be to deny myself the simple pleasure of loving others deeply – that’s just who I am. But, somehow, someway, I need to figure out how to accept the fact that I am not likely to ever receive that same level of love in return.

All I want in life is to be loved as deeply as I try to love people. I’m completely confident in the fact that those around me know exactly how I feel about them. They get to rest in the security of knowing that I love them. I do not have that privilege. Instead, I get to second-guess whether or not I am loved when nobody texts me like I do them. Or because people rarely seek to spend time with me. Or because people seem to spend more time with others than they do with me. Or because many of my attempts at showing love or affirmation go completely unacknowledged.

Is all of this selfish? Maybe… I guess I’m still in the process of figuring this all out.

All I know right now is that I don’t feel as loved as I know those around me do. I know that people rarely put in as much effort to show me love as I do for them. And it’s not that I resent that. It’s just that it can become exhausting.

I’m just looking for someone – a friend, a significant other, whatever… – to love me as deeply as I would gladly and joyously love them. I have a lot of love to give. Is it so wrong to want to feel that kind of love for myself?

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heart and soul

Last Friday, my novel Love and the Sea and Everything in Between won the 2016 Wattys. Those of you who don’t know, The Wattys is the world’s largest online writing contest, hosted by Wattpad.com, which is the world’s largest online writing community. LATSAEIB won in the category of Hidden Gems.

Out of over 140,000 entrants, only 100 were selected as winners. And my novel was one of them. Somehow, the judges saw something in my little book that caught their attention.

This novel has been my heart and soul for more than a year now. So I’m sure you can imagine the euphoria of learning that it had won an actual award. Of course, I couldn’t wait to tell my family and my best friends. I was at work at the time, so I texted them all that I had news but refused to share it with them until I could see them face to face.

This is the moment that makes it worth it. Actually, I take that back. The moments that make it worth it are when readers will message you or comment on bits and pieces of your story and they will tell you how you inspired them. I’ve had innumerable readers tell me that my story gave them hope. It inspired them. It challenged them. Those are the moments that make it worth it.

But I’ll admit, it’s incredibly affirming to think about the fact that I am now legitimately an award-winning novelist.

Now, if only an agent or publisher out there can just see it. 😉

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waiting for someday

Those of you who know me know that I’m a very family-oriented person. I grew up believing firmly that I would marry at 21, that I would have my firstborn at 23. That I would be living the life.

Well, here I am. Almost twenty-one and the only girlfriend I’ve ever had (it was a long distance thing that lasted all of three months) is now a lesbian. And as far as I can see, I won’t be getting married anytime soon.

I won’t say that I feel hopeless or dissatisfied or unfulfilled in my life because that’s absolutely not true. I feel completely hopeful and satisfied and fulfilled. My parents and siblings are awesome. I have found a beautiful soul family in my best friends. I have a wonderful job that will enable me to be able to support a family in the future. I lead worship at my church. I am growing in Christ. Life is good.

Still, something is missing. And I’m learning that that’s okay. It’s normal.

I see all these articles coming from Christian media that say single Christians have to learn to be okay with being single. I disagree. If you want to be okay with being single, go ahead. But if you know that God has called you to marriage, then hope and dream and strive all you want.

It’s perfectly normal to feel that there is something more if you’re single and are called to marriage. Why? Because man was created for community. And the marriage covenant is the single most intimate human relationship this broken world has to offer. What’s more? It’s a beautiful image of the relationship between the Christ and His bride (us, the Church).

The desire to marry is profound. It’s a desire to take on the responsibility of at least one more human life. It’s a desire to love selflessly and share your life – your wins and your losses, your hopes and your dreams – with someone else. It’s a desire to never be alone. God didn’t create the marriage covenant on a whim. He knew what He was doing. He knew that man would crave companionship. Yes, intimacy with God is the ultimate.

But what if – and this is just a shot in the dark, here – what if… intimacy with a spouse cultivates a deeper level of intimacy with God?

That being said, I will never stop hoping and longing for marriage. One, it’s who I am. Two, it’s who I’m called to be. Three, God created marriage for me. So that I would not have to be alone.

And nobody is going to tell me that I have to “just be ok with being single.” Because that doesn’t even have anything to do with it.