A Perfect Plan

It is the season of thankfulness and Thanksgiving is just a few days away. I think a lot of times we don’t grasp the full meaning of giving thanks. We always say we are thankful for our family, our friends, and the food on the table. Those are excellent things to be thankful for. But I think there is so much more that we forget to be grateful for.

Sure, the people and things in our lives are awesome. We should definitely be thankful for those. But we should also be thankful for the things that come from those. Such as the experiences we are afforded because of the things in our lives. Everything God has given us intertwines to give us the really rad lives we live.

For example: My mom and dad have made me who I am and have worked to give me opportunities that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t their child. The things they give me lead to experiences that mold me and introduce me to people who make life special. Those people give me other experiences and people. My parents are more than my parents, they’re my gateway to the world. I don’t know how you even begin to thank someone for that.

It is an awesome series of perfectly lined up circumstances that brings us to where we are today. It’s these circumstances that I think we often forget we should be grateful for, both the good and the bad.

Maybe you’re not happy with where you are right now. Maybe life has got you down. But there have been a lot of awesome ups to go with the downs, and we have to remember that. If anything, an awesome series of perfectly lined up circumstances are allowing you to be breathing right now. That’s pretty incredible.

I like to reflect on the series of events that get me to certain points in my life. It’s interesting to look back and see where the decisions you and others made got you to where you are. A lot of times I can see this when I go back and read my journal entries. That’s a good place to see where things that went wrong in my opinion ended up leading me to some even better things. You know, one door closes and another opens or whatever the saying is. Too often we miss how closed doors lead us to better places.

So this holiday season I encourage others to think about the people and the things in life you’re thankful for, but also the circumstances surrounding those that have made you who you are. And then take that beyond just the season. We are some lucky people to have a temporary home here on earth with some incredible experiences in store.

In the end, the plan for our lives is perfect, and we have to be grateful for that.

*Header photo courtesy of Carlie Ross

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Handle With Care

One huge thing I have learned from camp  it is that people are oh so very broken. Everyone puts on a happy face to go through their day. We live in a social media world where people only put out their very best, and everyone feels miserable because they think everyone else has got it way better than them. Our society believes it’s not okay to not be okay.

But friends, every single one of us is very very broken.

I’ve seen a lot of really hard things at camp. I’ve watched my friends admit that they’re walking through terrible trials and temptations. I’ve had young girls tell me that they’ve never felt loved, even by their families. I’ve watched guys struggle with pornography and girls with terrible lust. I’ve seen families struggling when they look like the perfect picture of love on the outside.

My heart has been broken for what breaks The Lord’s.

Yet I continue to pray that He breaks it daily.

It is so very important to remember that we are intricate and fragile creations. We aren’t created to be perfect.

We as a society need to stop expecting people to hide their brokenness. It’s okay to battle mental illness, to come from a broken home, to feel lonely, to wrestle desire and pride. It’s okay to struggle. This life isn’t easy.

It’s okay to admit you’re broken.

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Want to know why? Because there are people who want to love you and help you heal. If we don’t admit we are broken and hurting and weak, then the people who matter in our lives can’t come alongside us and walk through that with us.

As  a camp counselor, I got to come alongside so many broken young women. Both campers and other counselors. And I also got to spend time with people who would come alongside me.

I wish everyday life viewed brokenness the way that camp does. Camp is a place where the downtrodden come to find rest. The point is to facilitate that rest and that healing and send stronger campers back home. But why can’t we do this for our friends and family every day?

We need to start asking people if they’re okay. And really meaning it and taking the time to listen. And if we get asked if we are okay, we need to be transparent and say how we really feel. We have to battle the hurt with unending love.

This year has been extremely trying. And I have been hurting bad. I tried to stuff it down for a long time, but it got too far. My mental and physical health was at stake. Admiting I was broken and lost and that I didn’t know what to do allowed some very wise people to speak truth into my life. This hard year has made me stronger.

Our world is a broken world, but we can’t begin healing it until we are transparent about that. And when that happens, we can only heal it with love.

Psalm 34:18

Read and Reflect

I think everyone knows by now that I am a huge advocate of reflection in order to grow. I love journaling and quiet time to work through my thoughts and seek self-improvement. However, I think there are more ways than these to work on reflection and better oneself.

Books.

That’s right. Reading.

I struggle big time finding time for leisure reading these days. My free time is consumed with college events and homework. And I hate that. When I do get free time, I often squander it on my phone or watching TV because I feel I need a break. I take for granted the type of break reading a good book can bring.

There’s something refreshing about leaving your own thoughts and entering those of someone else. It’s also a space where you can learn a lot. Seeing how someone else approaches their thoughts can boost your reflection.

I have a few books that I’ve been working on (when I have time). They’re mostly Christian literature. This genre of literature often blatantly prompts the reader to reflect, so I love them.

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Echoes of Eden by Jerram Barrs

This book is about getting in touch with art as a Christian and appreciating the world around you. The main message is that we can not boast in our art, but exemplify Christ through them. Barrs looks at popular works of art like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Shakespeare works, and C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen novels.

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Prayer by Timothy Keller

This selection goes in-depth at what prayer looks like and how to revolutionize your prayer life. This piece definitely pushes you into your thoughts as you are pushed to think about how you communicate with God. Keller teaches how to approach things like loss, love, and sadness in your prayer life.

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Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

This book is a classic. It can either teach you about the basic thoughts of Christianity, or reaffirm your Christian foundations. Lewis makes readers rethink their moral foundations and what values have made them who they are. It’s also just a brilliant reminder of the perfect pieces that make up the Christian faith.

Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller

In this book, Keller helps readers explore where their priorities lie and what they value most in life. It’s a rude awakening to where we place our money, time, and thoughts. This is the ultimate guide to reflecting on life.