4.21.2015

Why People Don't Like Love



Too often, I think we refer to 'love' and 'romance' as one and the same.  
But are they truly?

They both have to do with a man and a woman, yes.  But only one can make their relationship flourish past friendship.
They can both easily be faked, but only one can withstand the test of time.
They are both beautiful things, but only one is eternal and imperishable.

Romance is what makes us want to watch cute movies in which attractive characters fall in love with each other and we think 'Oh how I wish I was him/her!' 
Romance is what makes your heart flutter when he sends those sweet texts late at night.  
Romance is what makes you smile when she calls you by your favorite pet name.

But love. What is love?

Love is the beautiful, tormenting, heart-attacking knowledge that wells up inside of you at just the sound of their voice.  
Love is the reason behind all the late-night phone calls where you fall asleep to the sound of the other breathing.  
Love is the confidence that no matter how much your hair color fades, no matter how many pounds you gain, no matter if your eyes grow dim.  Love is what keeps the romance alive.
  

“People don’t like love, they like that flittery flirty feeling. They don’t love love - love is sacrificial, love is ferocious, it’s not emotive. Our culture doesn’t love love, it loves the idea of love. It wants the emotion without paying anything for it. It’s ridiculous.”
- Matt Chandler


Love is not an emotion, like romance is.  Love is a knowledge. A pledge.  A vow.  It's what stands when everything around you both has fallen.  And when asked if you still romance the one you love, you can answer 'It is because I love, I am able to romance.  Forever and always.'  Love is a choice and action, not a feeling and emotion.  Love is a choice.  A decision.  And this isn't exactly an all-time favorite. 

Love isn't convenient.  It isn't easy.  It's complicated, it's difficult, it sometimes happens at the most unexpected times.
  
I think there are two types of love:
1)   Falling in love with who the person is.
2)   Reminding yourself why you chose to love that person.  Even when you don’t necessary LIKE them (during an argument, disagreement, etc.), you must still choose to LOVE them the way Christ loves the church. 


"In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up.  And when that happens, you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love.  So what do you do?  You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling.  You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actos, you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful.  And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings.  This is what can happen if you decide to love."
- Timothy Keller


"I'm single, Raquel," you say to your computer screen.  "How does this apply to me?"

Maybe it doesn't...yet.  But it might in the future.  Maybe even soon.  The things is, you're living your wedding vows right now.  How are you staying committed to your future spouse right now?  How are you staying faithful to being theirs - in body and soul?  These are all ways that you can practice building a strong foundational love to your marriage even though you're currently single.

"But it's not easy."

Heck no, it's not.  Who says it would be?  Loving an imperfect person is gonna be really, really hard.  But guess what?  You're not perfect either.  And they're gonna have to put up with you.  Pretty humbling thought, huh?  I think about that a lot too.  I'm like 'What if I just can't deal with them anymore?' but then I remind myself of the vows that I plan on making on my wedding day and I tell myself 'Those are going to be one of the most important words I will ever utter from my lips.  And I will pledge them with my whole heart.  That means no backing out.  Ever.'

Love isn't going to be the Disney perfect happily ever after ohmygosh forever and ever kisses all the time kind of happiness.  Love is hard.  It's going to be hard.  Sometimes it'll be grand, and sometimes it won't be.  It will be fun, yes, but that doesn't mean it always will be or that it won't take work sometimes.  During the most difficult times, the most important thing you can do is to continue to love. 

Love is not about you.  It never will be.  The purpose is not about your own happiness and pleasure and self-gratification.  That is not true love.  Love is not about what the other person can give you and do for you, but what you can do for them.  

Love is the most selfless act in the universe.  

The purpose of love is the very essence of it, the act, the art, the life lesson of learning how to love another human being.  And that will probably be one - if not the most - darnest difficulty you will ever experience or have to face.  But it'll be worth it.  It will be so worth it.   

Love is choosing someone over everything else, including yourself, your ego, your pride, your desires, unfailingly, every day.  Forever.

It is not in our nature to love, but it isn't against our nature either.  Then what is it?  It is above our nature.  It's the greater good.  It is what God is (1 John 4:8).  And aren't we called to be like Him?  This is something we must reach for, strive towards, because it is inspirational, because it is noble.  Because it is right.
  
"The healthiest thing you can say to someone you love is, "I would be okay without you, but yet I choose to stay'."

---

This post was originally published by Raquel on Brave

4.20.2015

Music Monday | 10 Fun Road Trip Songs


The following songs are personal favorites or otherwise proven to be fabulous songs to listen to on a road trip.  Enjoy!

---


1)  Come With Me Now - Kongos
Four South African brothers who have incredible musical talent.  Need I say more?  And this song is beyond catchy and will have you singing for days.

I think with my heart and I move with my head
I open my mouth and it's something I've read
I stood at this door before, I'm told
But a part of me knows that I'm growing too old



2)  Best Day of My Life - American Authors
This is kind of one of those go-to-happy-and-carefree songs.  I mean, the title says it all.  They're pretty good live too.

I'm never gonna look back
whoa, I'm never gonna give it up
No, just don't wake me now
O this is gonna be the best day of my life



3)  Centuries - Fall Out Boy
Seriously one of the best break-up songs that's legit and intense but at the same time fun to listen to.  I may or may not have listened to it six times in a row the other day......

Some legends are told
Some turn to dust or to gold
But you will remember me
Remember me for centuries
And just one mistake
Is all it will take




4)  The Middle - Jimmy Eat World
A great and upbeat song telling a little girl not to compare herself to what other people think of or say about her.

Hey, don't write yourself off yet
It's only in your head you feel left out or looked down on
Just try your best
Try everything you can
And don't you worry what they tell themselves when you're away



5)  Good Time - Owl City ft. Carly Rae Jepsen
Another go-to song.

Good morning and good night
I'll wake up at twilight
It's gonna be all right
We don't even have to try
It's always a good time



6)  Shut Up & Dance - Walk the Moon
My brother introduced me to this song a few months ago.  I got it and was like 'Okay, not too bad.  Whatever.'  Then it came on shuffle a few weeks ago, and I found my head bobbing and feet tapping and singing along to the chorus by the end of it.  And this last Saturday, on the trip back from the coast, we blasted it.  And it's kind of fabulous.

Oh don't you dare look back
Just keep your eyes on me
I said, "You're holding back"
She said, "Shut up and dance with me!"
This woman is my destiny
She said, "Oh, oh, oh
Shut up and dance with me."



7)  Uptown Funk - Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
This song may be overplayed on the radio, but I can never stand still (or sit still...while driving...) whenever it comes on.

Ride to Harlem, Hollywood, Jackson, Mississippi
If we show up, we gon' show out
Smoother than a fresh jar of skippy



8)  Shake It Off - Taylor Swift
C'mon, who can resist blasting this song in the car, driving down a highway and yelling at the top of your lungs 'CUZ THE HATERS GONNA HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE'...?  You?  Yeah, I didn't think so.

But I keep cruising
Can't stop, won't stop moving
It's like I got this music in my mind
Saying it's gonna be all right




9)  My Lighthouse - Rend Collective
Ohmygosh I love this song so much.  Organic awesomeness at its finest and catchiest tune.  I blast this song with the windows rolled down allll the tiiiime.

My Lighthouse, my Lighthouse
Shining the darkness
I will follow You
My Lighthouse, my Lighthouse
I will trust the promise
You will carry me safe to shore



10)  Moments Like This - The Afters
If there was one song I could pick to sum up the moment I feel overwhelmed by God's grace and goodness, it would probably be this song.

Here we are
This is the time
Like a dream coming alive
We live for moments like these
We come alive in moments like this


---

What are some of your favorite road trip songs?


4.14.2015

Be Brave


As humans, we can be easily intimidated.

Life scares us.

Circumstances happen and we panic.
People hurt us.
Fear lurks in corners of our spirits and minds.
Why?

Because we let it.

Now lets look at the other side of the spectrum.
As Christians, we are not of this world.
Life is controlled by a holy and sovereign God.
Circumstances happen for a reason; with a purpose.
People are in our lives to teach us many different lessons.

And fear has no hold on us.

For God has NOT given us a spirit of fear.  But of power, of love, and of a sound mind.
- 1 Timothy 1:7

Listen to how much potential that verse holds.

In a later passage, Paul tells Timothy that God has 'called us with a holy calling'.  And with such a calling, fear has no place and should have no privilege.

It's a struggle - to live without fear.  In this dark world, sin has a habit of slithering its way into every second of our days.  This is why we must always be on the alert.  To be steadfast.  Not only to keep sin from entering, but to confront it.  To be brave.

We think of this bravery as something attainable.  Something we need to work for, work towards, and someday reach.  But the truth is that we are brave.  We live and breathe the power of bravery.  We must only act out on that form of being.  We must exercise it.  We must remind our own timid hearts that they were not created to be shy.  But great.  Wondrous.  God wants to shine through us and touch others with His love.

He desires us to be brave.

He wants to manifest His power and greatness through us.  What an awesome thought.

Who should you fear?
Who should you be afraid of?

You have salvation and a stronghold in the Creator of a million galaxies.  He is on your side.  You are on His.  He already won this war.  The battle of fear that you are facing is already claimed.  We are victorious.

Be brave.

This post was originally published by Raquel on Brave.

4.13.2015

A Perspective on Secular Music


Is it okay for Christians to listen to and enjoy secular music?

I’ve been asked this question by many readers, multiple times.

And my answer is yes.

While deciding whether or not to listen to secular music, there are main factors to consider.  

First of all, is the purpose of music solely for worship or did God create it to also be entertaining?  King David (the most famous musician in the Bible) used music in his worship to God. (Psalm 6:1, 54, 55, 61:1, and 67:1 are just a few examples)  It was also used in 1 Samuel, in the story that I’m sure we’re all familiar with, where Saul called David to play the harp for him, because he was being tormented by evil spirits.  The Israelites also used musical instruments during battle and to warn of danger.  In the New Testament, we are instructed in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 to encourage one another in ‘psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’.  So while music is primarily viewed as a form of worship in the Bible, it is most definitely allowed for other uses as well.

Secondly, many secular artists are very talented.  They perform well, are great entertainers, make catchy music, write songs that are thoughtful, insightful, and have positive messages.  Not all are as ‘of the devil’ as a lot of Christians have said in the past.  I will say, though, that much of secular music doesn’t match up to the standards in Philippians 4:8 regarding the purity and integrity of the mind.  Many modern songs talk about things that go against God’s Word or are considered abominations in His eyes.  Such songs as these, no Christian should listen to and glorify.  But there are also secular songs that hold no mention of God and are perfectly pure and enjoyable.  Some love songs, for example, even promote the purity of true love but don’t even mention God or the Bible.  These, I think, can be listened to and still enjoyed.  

Music is such a passion of mine.  And I consider my singing ability as a gift from God so what better way to worship Him than by using the talent He gave me?  But does that mean that He will be angry with me if I choose to blast secular songs while I'm driving?  Or listening to a film's soundtrack that is just instrumental?

I think we need to be more careful before we say that ‘listening to secular music is bad/wrong/sinful!’  Also, to quickly jump to the conclusion that someone who listens to secular music is ‘in sin’ or ‘not a Christian’ is ridiculous and downright stupid.  There is nothing in God’s Word that says not to listen to ‘non-Christian’ music; no Biblical basis that declares any specific kind of music to be ungodly.  Nowhere does it condemn the use of certain instruments or certain styles of music either.  And yes, there’s the given that obviously guitars and drums and pianos weren’t existent in Bible times, but as one of my favorite Christian artists pointed out: ‘Nearly all forms of modern music are variations and/or combinations of the same types of musical instruments, played at different speeds and/or with heightened emphasis’.  (By the way, percussion is mentioned in the Bible.  Check out Psalm 68:25.)

We are all convicted of things differently.  These are just my personal thoughts.  I will end with a warning and reminder: what a person listens to will eventually come out of him.  It will control his way of thinking, his speech and his actions.  It’s the lyrics of a song that are what should determine whether it’s something profitable or not for a Christian to listen to.  For some, certain kinds of music is tolerable.  While for others, it becomes a stumbling block and an addiction.  We must keep Philippians 4:8 and 2 Corinthians 10:5’s words as our standards for the kind of music we should or shouldn’t listen to.

Enjoy music for what God intended it for - to enjoy, entertain, and use for worship.


4.10.2015

He is still sovereign


Every year, on my birthday, I choose a Bible verse that I feel God wants me to memorize and apply to my new year.  The verses are always placed so strategically in my day that it couldn't be more of a clear sign that they are from God.

My birthday was last week.  I had been reflecting on this last year, and was repeating to myself the birthday verse of 2014.

"Come, let us return to the LORD.  For He has torn us, that He will heals us.  He has wounded us, but He will bind us up.  On the third day, He will raise us up so that we may live with Him forever..."
- Hosea 6:1-2

Believing in a sovereign God is not easy.  Many times it's so testing on my finite mind that I must remind myself 'You believe He is sovereign because He is God.'  Because if He is God, but not sovereign we're gonna have big problems.

Trusting God's sovereignty is applicable in every aspect of life.  But when difficulties hit us, when rough times slap us across the face, when storms of life lay us flat on the ground, believing in His sovereignty is easy to question.  Why would God allow something like this to happen?  Does He want us to get knocked down?  'But He is a loving God,' some will say.  'He would never intentionally afflict us.'

Oh but wait.  Read that passage from Hosea again.

It says that He breaks us.  And tears us.

But He won't leave us like that.  He will heal us.  He will bandage us up.

We may never known why He ordained certain things to happen in our lives but a trust and often-quoted verse is one that I am sure you're familiar with:

"For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are called according to His purpose."
- Romans 8:28

With the comfort of that promise, we can rest in assurance and peace that no matter what great trials cross our paths.  He is bigger than it.  He has a purpose for it.  And He is never far from our grasp.  He is a God of comfort.

"I am filled with comfort.  I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction."
- 2 Corinthians 7:4

How could Paul be so joyful in his afflictions?  Because he is comforted by this sovereign God.  The LORD will never abandon us.  He won't see us going through the storm He designed without holding our hand and walking with us against the wind and sleet.  He is ever-present, ever-sovereign, never-changing.

Trust the sovereign God who tears, so He will heal; Who wounds, so He will bandage.  Look for and pray about the lesson He is teaching you amidst these.  And remember the comfort He offers.

I love how that passage in Hosea ends...

"Let us know.  Let us press on to know the LORD.  His going out is as sure as the dawn.  He will come to us like the rain, as the spring rain that waters the earth."
- Hosea 6:3


4.06.2015

Everyday Blessings // 31


>> turning 20
>> two of my favorite guys hanging out with me at work
>> having friends over for a late birthday celebration on Saturday
>> blueberry muffins
>> pay checks
>> morning phone calls
>> long drives on back roads I've never been on
>> flowers, flowers and more flowers (I got two bouquets for my birthday, and a potted plant for my office desk)
>> spontaneous hang outs at a friend's house
>> getting paid to go watch movies and write reviews on them (Insurgent)
>> receiving a package with birthday gifts from a Twitter follower
>> thoughtful and heartfelt gifts from family and friends
>> dates with coworkers
>> yoga balls
>> receiving a video from a friend in Peru of my boys wishing me a happy birthday
>> ESV R.C. Sproul study Bible
>> long walks with friends
>> having a job
>> Insurgent (watching the movie, and receiving the book as a birthday gift)
>> a Guardians of the Galaxy mug
>> Easter Sunday dinner with relatives

---

How did your April begin?

4.01.2015

20 Things I've Learned During My 20 Years of Life


Today is my 20th birthday.

All I can say is 'Wow'...

Teenager years are behind me.

Wasn't really sure how I felt about this, or what I wanted to write about on my blog.  But I decided on sharing with you my oh so grand wisdom that my 20-year-old brain now holds.  These are just life lessons I have learned over the years, with maybe a few memories mixed in there.

Enjoy.

---

1.  My parents love me more than I could ever realize, though I may understand one day when I have children of my own.  They have always given me advice, encouraged my dreams, and cried with me over my mistakes.

2.  Stars are my obsession that was birthed on my second birthday when my Mama bundled me up and took me outside to watch as Comet Hale-Bopp shot across the sky in 1997.

3.  Even though my brother and I have grown apart and lead very different lives, he is and always will be my number one partner in crime, my protector, and one who will never judge my decisions but rather support and encourage me in my choices.

4.  My little sisters and brother are some of the daily challenges I face, but I can never imagine my life without them.

5.  I dislike money.  Sure, it's useful, but it's so freaking inconvenient.  And you have to worry about when to pay what and how much and where and and and...

6.  Rainy days make for some of the best days.

7.  The truth will set you free.

8.  Travel.

9.  It's okay to leave pieces of my heart in other parts of the world.

10.  Reading never gets old.  Make time for it.  And I can never have 'too many' books.

11.  When in doubt, choose black.

12.  Music is life.  It's not a passion.  It's part of who I am.

13.  Explore different styles until I find the one I feel cute and comfortable in.  And if that style is a little bit of everything, that's okay.

14.  Languages are addicting.

15.  Tea can heal.

16.  The most important quality a man must possess is his undying, passionate love and fear of God, coupled with his ability to lead - physically and spiritually.  Once that is distinguished, everything else will fall into place.

17.  I can never make someone understand anything.  All I can do is say what I feel needs to be said, and trust that God will use my words in whatever way He sees fit to.

18.  The world is full of people who will literally find pleasure in hating others.  These people are not worth my time and if I get down about what they say about me, I have let them win.

19.  True friends are very hard to find.  Friends who will stick with me through thick and thin, invest time and effort in my life.  When I find those individuals, never ever let them go.

20.  God laughs at what I think is impossible.  And then proceeds to show off (because He can) in allowing to happen what I could never have ever planned or accomplished.


---

As part of my new year as a freaking 20 year old, I will be doing a 365 day photo challenge on Instagram.  Follow along @itsjustraquel.


3.27.2015

5 Ways To Not Destroy Your [Future] Marriage



I recently read an article, shared on Facebook, called ‘5 ways you are unknowingly destroying your husband and killing your marriage’.  It received a lot of views and gained popularity by leaps and bounds.  Author Katelynn Carmen had great points in her article.  I was inspired to write a post, on the same topic, but relatable for singles instead of specifically to married women.  

Because, believe it or not, we are impacting our future marriage even now.

1)    Respect.
Ladies, learn to respect men.
Men, learn to respect women.
This is something that is so lacking in today's culture.  And I'm sure you would all agree with me.  The fact is, some women feel that 'respecting a man' is like 'submitting to him'.  But I don't think this is exactly the same.  I may respect a lot of the guys in my life, but that doesn't mean I'll submit to them, do what they tell/ask me to, and trust them to make decisions for me.  No.  I respect them because they have proven themselves as gentlemen, as someone worthy of respect.  I am so blessed to say I know a few men like that.  I will, however, respect the man I submit under.  But in the marriage context, whether I find my husband 'worthy' of my respect or not, I am commanded to honor and obey him (as long as what he wants me to do does not go against Scripture).  Your father and brother(s) are good guys to practice with, by the way.
And guys, you need to learn to respect women - whether they are ladies or not.  You need to learn to respect and treat women well now before you even think about dating one.  
Respecting your spouse will be one of the greatest keys to a good marriage.  I have seen this truth time and time again in the many couples I know, including my parents.  You cannot truly love without respecting that person as well.  And of course you'll have your up and down days with the spouse.  But learning to respect them, no matter what, is essential.  Even now.

2)    Submission.
This one is more for the ladies.  And one that tends to get overlooked very often, especially by single women.  I get the whole hulaballoo about how 'submission' means to 'submit under one's authority; the act of being under a superior force; having a submissive conduct or attitude'.  That doesn't sit very well with many women.  And it's because some of us, as humans, don't want to be 'under' anyone's authority.  Especially a man's.  We aren't weaklings.  We can do things on our own.  We can make our own decisions.  But being 'submissive' isn't about owning up to any of those.  Let's look at what a wife called to be?  A helpmate.  An encouragement to her husband.  The strength behind him.  Right?  And what greater strength must a woman have than to trust and submit to her husband's decisions and support him no matter what?  To submit isn't about being weak.  It's about having the strength it takes to be the solid rock of foundation and assurance, the encouragement and help to push forward.  Practice being this encouragement with the men in authority over you - namely, your father.
And guys, learn now that your wife isn't submitting to you because she's the weaker sex.  But because she trusts you and is giving her all to you to care for, and to lead.  I don't know what more of a manly responsibility you want than that.  It's a pretty scary thought, honestly.  By marrying a woman, you are accepting full responsibility to care, cherish, and honor her - body, soul and spirit.  Think you can do that?  Learn to.  Even now.

3)    Budget.
This is sooo important, people.  Learn to budget and save money BEFORE you are married so you won't go into horrible debt the first year you're married, and you won't have problems saving and budgeting once you have double expenses...or start a family.  That's about all I have to say for this.  But for reals.  Learn to budget.  Even now.

4)   Household skills.
'When I have my own house, I'll do my own laundry.'
'Organizing is such a waste of time.'
'I don't need to make my bed.  I'm just gonna sleep in it again tonight.'
Oh just you wait until you're married and your while-single-habits get on your spouses' nerves.  Better nip those in the bud now, peeps.  Oh and cooking!!  Guys AND girls should both learn this skill.  Ladies, because you'll need to know how to feed your husband a hearty meal, and maybe someday children too.  And gents, one of the biggest turn-ons to women is seeing a man in the kitchen, cooking up a fancy meal.  (Especially like in those Kraft commercials...hint hint.)  It's attractive, okay?  Learn to be skilled and handy around the house.  Even now.

5)    Patience.
No matter how 'in love' you think you'll be, or how many kisses and flowers your marriage is going to be filled with, patience is a virtue that will never got out of style and will always be needed.  Patience is useful in all stages of life.  And as a single person, you can focus on cultivating it with your parents, your siblings, your coworkers, your boss, your church family, etc.  I have talked to many couples about the best foundations to a healthy marriage, and 'patience' was always on their list.  Practice patience.  Even now.

What are some other qualities you would suggest that singles hone before being in a relationship?



This post was originally published by Raquel on Brave.