12.17.2016

One Christian's View On Tattoos

Tattoos.

A topic that many people have many different opinions on.  There are more conservative views, and also very liberal ones too.  A lot of Christians have tattoos, while others are convicted against getting any.

In my opinion, neither is right or wrong.

The ones who are hardcore anti-tattoos may beg to differ, but lets take a look at Scripture, shall we?

The most popular verse that conservatives bring up when talking about how tattoos are "wrong" and "ungodly" is Leviticus 19:28, which says:

"You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead, nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD."
(NASB)

At first glance, it seems to indicate that God is telling His chosen people to not tattoo themselves.  And this is true. But, like any passage of Scripture, we need to read this verse in the entirety of its context.  Not only the verses before and after, but also the time period in which this was written.

"(26) You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divinations or soothsaying. (27) You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. (28) You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. (29) Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall into harlotry and the land become full of lewdness.  (30) You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the LORD. (31) Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them.  I am the LORD your God."
- Leviticus 19:26-31

I think it's pretty clear that God is talking to His covenant people of Israel in this passage, and that His commands were specifically for that era and those individuals.  He is commanding them to stay away from specific practices of any of the nearby religious groups - such as, eating bloody meat, practicing witchcraft, cutting hair and beards, prostitution, and cutting one's own skin in memory of dead relatives.  This was a very common practice in pagan cultures as a physical, outward show of mourning.  It's very important to note that it's specifically talking about cutting and tattoos for that specific reason.  It no way implies that it's for body decoration or art.

Let us also look at the original language that this passage was written in.
The word for "tattoo" that is used in Leviticus 19:28 is the Hebrew word "qa aqa" and is the only place in the whole Bible that it appears.  This Hebrew word means to literally "cut", but taken in the context, indicates a mark imprinted onto skin - and I feel that we can safely assume that it's still in reference to marking bodies in mourning for the dead.

Another simple reason why I believe Christians are free to tattoo their bodies is simply that we are living under the new covenant.  Therefore the old Law is done away with and we are no longer subjected to the rules that the Israelites were under.  If we still were, then why aren't we sacrificing animals to redeem ourselves, and why are we eating pork, and not wearing clothes made from two different fabrics?

Today, the tattoo is a decorative art form for self-expression.  (Personally, I don't think anyone should get a tattoo unless it has a personal meaning to them because, let's face it, would you really want something permanently inked into your skin unless it wasn't something that was significant to you?  I think not.)  Just how people use makeup, piercings, different hair styles, body-building, etc. as forms of modifying their appearance, so tattoos are used to change and decorate someone's body and look. And you know that phrase "Outward appearance reveals the inward heart?"  Well, whatever you choose to get tattooed on the outside of your body is a representation of your inward self.

I'm not saying that, since tattoos are not sinful then every Christian should go out and get them!  It's definitely something you need to consider and prayerfully seek God's direction in whether or not to get tattooed.  He convicts every individual differently.  I, personally, currently have 10 tattoos (and plan to get more).  If He has convicted you otherwise, then don't get any.

Tattoos are a life-changing and permanent choice.

Some questions you could ask yourself if you are considering getting some are:

  • Am I legally old enough to get a tattoo?
  • If I live with my parents, would they support my decision or would it be disrespectful to their house if I chose to get one?
  • Would I be defying their God-given authority at my current age?
  • Would I still want this tattoo on my body even when I'm fifty years old?
  • Is this tattoo something my future spouse would like to see on me forever?
  • Is this tattoo easy to hide in case of any future career opportunities that don't allow tattooed employees?
  • Would this tattoo bring glory to God in its phrasing, image, placement, etc.?
  • Do I feel fully convinced that Christians are permitted to get tattoos?

Let me know what you decide on;)

12.13.2016

Shoutout to You


Working in the coffee industry has been enlightening in the fact that I get to meet and interact with many different kinds of individuals.

It's also taught me something about life that I'm not sure I would have otherwise ever learned.

Since being a barista for over a year, one huge part of my job that I've come to realize is that a barista is almost like a therapist.  We serve so many different people throughout a shift and by the end of the day, we have had so many stories told to us, so many hugs given, sometimes tears shed.
We're entrusted with narratives of car accidents, weddings, funerals, pets.
We meet the businessman needing a strong cup of coffee to start his day at the office.  Or the mom running errands before picking up her kids from school.  Or the traveler, who is road tripping to this or that state.  Or the high schooler who just attended their best friend's funeral.

The reoccurring theme I see in the faces, the smiles, and the stories can be summed up in one word:

s u r v i v a l

We're all attempting to live this life, to get through it one day at a time.  We're all trying to survive.

And we all do it differently.

For example, I'm sitting here in bed, wearing an XXL men's hoodie, eating pizza, drinking pink moscato, and unwinding after a seven and a half hour work day and not getting home till 1am.  That's how I'm choosing to live my tonight.  That's how I'm deciding to survive.

And no, I didn't get everything accomplished today that I wish I had today.  And I may not finish my "to do" list tomorrow.  But you know what?  I'm going to try.  The sun will rise and I will try again.

And keeping trying.

And keep surviving.

And damn it, I hope you do too.

I hope you wake up tomorrow morning, eager for another day on this beautiful earth.  I hope you choose to make it even more beautiful.  I hope you stop and notice a little detail amidst your busyness and smile because you know God chose to do add a spark to your day.
And I hope you keep trying, keep surviving.

This is a shoutout to you.  

There's never going to be enough time to do everything you want to do, but at least try, okay?
Try to make time for yourself.  Reward yourself for getting things done, for getting through the day without snapping.  Because that's a huge accomplishment in and of itself.

Keep up the good work.  You're doing great.

10.31.2016

Religion Vs. Relationship


I hate it when people label me as "religious". 

Christianity is a religious term, just like Buddhism and Hinduism and Catholicism. But I don't practice a religion. 

My faith isn't a religion.  It's a relationship that I work at, that I cultivate, that I have with God.  Just like any other relationship I am a part of - such as with my parents, my siblings, my relatives, my friends.  
Knowing the difference between these two words - "religion" and "relationship" - is very important for any individual to understand about the Christian faith.  Not only do we follow Christ, but we also love Him, and we obey His Word because our love for Him compels us to.  I don't have to do a daily a, b, or c to make sure my faith is secure and that, if I die, I'll go to heaven because I remembered to follow those requirements.  
The Christian faith is based on belief and trust that once you ask God to forgive you of your sins, believe that Jesus Christ came to this earth to take the penalty for every crime you've committed against the Triune God, the Holy Spirit will come and reside in your heart and make you a new creation. 

This does not mean that you are now perfect.  This does not mean that you will never sin again. 

What it does means is that you believe that Jesus' blood was enough.  That His grace is all-sufficient to cover ANY sin - whether big or small in our eyes (because in God's eyes, it's all the same).  And that no matter how many times you slip up and falter and stumble, God will never let you go and say "You've had too many chances. You're on your own." 

Being a Christ-follower is about cultivating a relationship with your Savior.  It's not a matter of "how good you can be for how long", but about living day to day with His glory as the forefront of your actions, the reason you do what you do, so that others can see His hand in your life.

Because my faith is a relationship with Christ, it will look different than my pastor's relationship with Him, my best friend's and my coworker's.  Just like the bond I share with my Mama is different than with my Dad, or the closeness of my friendship with my best friend is a different relationship than with my boyfriend.  My relationship with Christ will differ from yours.  And that's okay.  There's no one way to be a lover and follower of Christ. 

It's all you and God.  This is where personal convictions come in, such as how God convicts you to do or not to do certain things.  Tattoos are a good example.  Personally, I don't view it as a sin to get them and I have several.  He has convicted me to never smoke or do drugs, but for other Christians, maybe that's something they're okay with doing.  It doesn't matter what the world thinks of you, or even other Christians.  Your relationship is between you and God. 
Yes, we are called to encourage and admonish each other as siblings in Christ and warriors in His army, and if a professing Christian is blatantly sinning or living a life of lust and greed and worldliness, we must speak to them with God's Word in hand.  Nevertheless, He is the ultimate Judge and will deal directly with their heart and soul in His timing.

In the meantime, I'm gonna keep living for my God because what I have with my Creator is more than just practicing rituals and obeying rules.  It's more than a religion.  It's about a relationship.

10.27.2016

A Challenge To My Fellow Women


I've heard many women of my generation complain about “how chivalry is dead” and “guys don't know how to treat us well anymore” and how they “wish we could go back to the day and age where men were real men and respected us”.

My question back to them is always - Well, are you giving them an example of a true woman and someone who deserves respect?

I am NOT saying that guys should treat women the way their character deserves to be respected.  (Because, honestly, I think women should be treated with dignity across the board - no matter her age or occupation.  And men don't treat women half as well as they should.)
But really.  
Are the women of this day and age setting an example, being a woman, demanding the respect and treatment they deserve as the female sex?

I remember a time when a a guy friend of mine paid me one of the greatest compliments I have ever received.  He said: ‘You deserve recognition [as a lady].  You make me want to be a better gentleman.’
When he told me that, I was like "Wow".  I felt a sense of accomplishment, in being able to encourage my guy friend to feel the need to be a better gentleman.  And the fact that he felt that his chivalry wouldn’t go unnoticed by me - because I actually care that men act like gentlemen - was flattery in itself.

I am disgusted by the way women treat men these days, but yet they still insist on being treated well.  You should do unto others what you would have them do to you, right?  That's a Bible verse that is constantly quoted - when it's in a person's favor to use it.  But when it's used on them, it's suddenly "something from an old book full of stories".  I'm serious.  I'm done seeing guys trampled on and walked all over, but made to treat women like queens, to have their feet be kissed and every wish and whim fulfilled.

A friend of mine texted me today and said that after two successful dates with a girl who he really liked - and who claimed to really like him - she suddenly stopped returning his texts and phone calls.  Just flat out dropped off the face of the earth.  Not one peep of a message back to him.  Now there is absolutely no excuse for that.  She didn’t block his number.  She just ignored him.  You don’t ignore someone for however many days.  Even if I’m extremely busy with work and family and life stuff, I always try to make an effort to let people know “Hey, I’m busy at the moment.  I’ll get back to you when I have more time to focus on a conversation.”
My friend asked me why women can't just be upfront and honest, but kind at the same time.  They're either brutally extreme or don’t communicate in the least.  Now what kind of an example is that setting for the guys we want to be kind and honest with us?!  Women are always saying "Why can't he just tell me if he likes me or not?"  And "Why can't he just talk to me or ask me out instead of being so shy around me?"  Well, why can't you do the same thing?  Why can't you be honest and tell him "Yes, I am interested in you" or "No, I would rather decline a date invitation, but thank you for asking”?  There's a way to do things in a straightforward, direct, yet nice way. 
Something I've noticed about women is how hard it seems for them to say "no".  And I get it.  We're sensitive creatures.  We're afraid of hurting a guy's feelings.  But hey, this is the real world.  Feelings are always going to get hurt.  If you're honest and upfront with them, that's the best way to go about anything.  But be kind at the same time.  And the way a guy responds to your answer is not in your control.  You don't control the way he reacts.  A good, sensible, respectful man who respects you - and women in general - will be mature about any and all responses that he receives.  

There was a guy who I had gone out with twice.  He was super sweet, we got along well, he was very creative in his date planning, just an overall super sweet guy.  I didn't feel any special connection or feelings with or for him, though, and when I ended up dating another guy, I told guy #1 - "Hey, I just want you to know that I'm not interested in pursuing anything with you and you deserve to know that I am seeing someone now so please refrain from pursuing me."  The guy I was with at the time said that guy #1 was going to totally flip after reading that text from me, but guess what?  
He responded with maturity.  
He said something along the lines of "Thank you for telling me.  I hope that whoever you with knows what a lucky guy he is."  
Now that, ladies and gentleman, is a sign of a good, sweet, kind, mature man.  He knows how to take rejection.  Not in the pity-party "oh she played me" sort of bullcrap way, but “oh she found someone who makes her happy and for that, I am happy".  He set an example for me.  And I will always be grateful for that, and respect him for the way he chose to react.

If women are asking why chivalry is dead, then maybe that's a reflection of the examples - or lack - of courtesy and grace that men are receiving from the women around them.

So I challenge you, my fellow women, if you're demanding respect, give the men something to esteem and honor. 
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Rant over.
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DISCLAIMER:
I know that I will probably get bombarded with feminist comments and emails on this article.  Maybe something along the lines of "your article was sexist" or "not a tribute to strong women".  But, trust me, I'm saving that for another time.

10.20.2016

How I Found God


“How did you find God?  Like, what happened?  What clicked?  What does it feel like?”

A friend of mine texted me this question out of the blue tonight.  
It took me a while to respond.  
Not because I didn’t know what to say.  
I just didn’t know how to say it.  

Here's my futile attempt.

---

I believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God.  Whatever it says is right and true and holy.  
One verse in it talks about how man has fallen short of the glory of God.  
This means that we as humans cannot compare to God’s glory and because of the sin in our lives, there is a barrier between us and Him.  

But there is hope!  

Because God loves His creation, He wanted to save us from ourselves, from the sin that we carry in our imperfect souls and that is in this world, so He sent His only Son to come to this earth and die for us, making Himself a human sacrifice.  And because of His blood covering us, God no longer sees our sin.  He sees His Son’s perfection and selfless love.

As far as how I found God, well, I didn’t.  

He found me.  

Because since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and His divine nature have been clearly seen by all, so no one is without excuse of His power and glory.  You can’t look at this universe, the galaxies, a newborn baby, a snowflake, a fingerprint, without seeing His beautiful and perfect design.  He’s a Creator who is intimately acquainted with His creation and takes delight in showing His glory through His work.  He wants to have a relationship with us.  That’s how He designed for it to be in the Garden of Eden, but man chose sin over God and thus began the barrier between human and holy.  

Before He found me, I was just a wandering soul, living in a human world, content in my own way of life.  No person wakes up one day and decides “I’m going to follow Jesus.”  It doesn’t work like that.  There has to be an inward change of the heart, and then an outward declaration of faith.  

But the only One who can change the heart is the Holy Spirit.  

You see, God is a God of order.  He is not chaotic.  He plans, He purposes, He predestines.  Before the foundation of the world, He foreknew His chosen ones, the ones He would conform into the image of His Son.  And the ones He predestines, He calls.  And the ones who come, He justifies.  And the ones He justifies, He glorifies.  

What does it feel like?  Well, I will be one hundred percent honest and say that the Christian life is no easy journey.  It’s not all sunshine and roses once you’ve received His calling and committed to a relationship with Him.  

Why?  

Because it goes against human nature.  

We want to be our own god.  We want to make our own decisions.  We want to make our own rules.  God gave us His Word because He knows what’s best for us and what is evil and what is right.  And through it, He tells us so.  The enemy, also, wages wars against God’s people.  We do not fight battles against flesh and blood but against evil spirits and the world forces of darkness.  The war has already been won though.  After He died on the cross, Jesus was buried for three days, yet rose again, defeating the greatest curse - death.  

He has overcome.  
And we will win.  

For greater is He who is in us, then he who is of the world.  

And I consider that anything I suffer from in this present age won’t be worthy to be compared to the glory that I will receive when I die and go to heaven.  

So no, I didn’t find God.  He found me.  

And by His sovereign unexplainable love, He chose me as one of His own.

What does it feel like?
It feels like the most freedom you can ever have, the greatest victory you will ever experience, and the sweetest love you will ever receive.

And while the Christian walk is a difficult journey to follow, I will never regret my commitment to Him.  He gave His life for me, so I’m living my life for Him.  

And He is so worth it.

10.18.2016

50 Ways To Pray For Your Future Husband

  1. Pray that he lives in accordance with God's plan for his life
  2. Pray that he would be steadfast in the knowledge of his identity in Christ
  3. Pray that he will be learning to lead your future family 
  4. Pray that he is a hard worker
  5. Pray that the LORD will bless his job
  6. Pray that he be a witness for Christ wherever he goes
  7. Pray that he is blessed with godly friends
  8. Pray that he is surrounded by people who bring him up, not tear him down
  9. Pray that he learns to love as God desires him to
  10. Pray that he would lean on Christ in his trials
  11. Pray that he will hope in the LORD
  12. Pray that he would learn to trust, and trust the right individuals
  13. Pray that he will be content
  14. Pray that he would have a giving heart
  15. Pray that he would sacrifice himself for God and others
  16. Pray that he will always seek God first
  17. Pray that he will submit to God and any authorities that are over him
  18. Pray that he would trust in God's plan, not his own
  19. Pray that he would give everything to the LORD in prayer
  20. Pray that he would seek wisdom
  21. Pray that he would set aside daily time to spend with Jesus
  22. Pray that he would have a humble, teachable spirit
  23. Pray that he learn to control his anger
  24. Pray that God would give him discernment
  25. Pray that he wouldn't let past relationships affect his relationship with you
  26. Pray that the LORD would teach him to be a good husband, and likewise you, to be a good wife
  27. Pray that he would submit his fears to God
  28. Pray that he would fully grasp his purpose in Christ
  29. Pray that he would constantly be reminded of God's love for him in everyday life
  30. Pray that he would boldly declare the Truth of the Gospel
  31. Pray that he would grow spiritually through reading, studying and prayer
  32. Pray that he would be bold and confident in sharing Christ's love with others
  33. Pray that he would be quick to forgive
  34. Pray that he'll live a self-controlled life that is a result of his salvation
  35. Pray that he will grow and flourish because of his trust in the LORD
  36. Pray that others can see God through him and the way he lives his life
  37. Pray that he will be faithful in all things
  38. Pray for his maturity
  39. Pray for his integrity
  40. Pray for his protection against temptations
  41. Pray for his purity
  42. Pray for his patience
  43. Pray for his family, and his relationship with each of his family members
  44. Pray for his discernment in handling finances and that he would be good with his money
  45. Pray for his health
  46. Pray strength over him
  47. Pray for his humility
  48. Pray for his heart
  49. Pray that God's face will shine upon him
  50. Pray that God will be glorified in your future marriage

10.13.2016

Loving Someone Is A Privilege


Loving someone is a privilege. 

It's a rare occurrence when someone trusts you with their heart and gives you the power to either bless or break it. 
But everyone loves differently, and needs to be loved differently. And because love is selfless, it's important to love them the way they need to be loved.

While your significant other may need words of affirmation, but you are more of a physical touch sort of person, learn to love them through words that they need to hear. Or if you feel loved through acts of service, but your partner feels love most through gifts, then they need to learn how to help you with projects and not expect you to feel love from them through buying you gifts that they would like.

Relationships take time and effort. You should never change who you are for someone else, unless it's in a healthy way. And learning how to live and love to make your partner happy and feel loved can be a rough road sometimes.

Relationships aren't easy. It's about two imperfect people choosing each other above anyone else they know or will meet and continuing to choose that person through the good, the bad and the ugly. 
Learn about your significant other. 
Learn how to love them because afterall, they're giving you that special honor to care for them and their heart. 
They don't need you to survive this life. 
They're choosing to let you be a part of it. 
Don't take that for granted. 

And don't let them regret their choice.

10.11.2016

I Support the Right To Bear Firearms


With all these stupid gun control debates, I thought I'd show my support of firearms by posting this picture. 
I grew up around guns. I shot my first one when I was about eight years old. 
My uncle taught me how to aim, Mama taught me how to squeeze the trigger, and my other uncle taught me how to breathe while shooting. 
I've shot rifles, pistols, gone skeet-shooting, and target practiced. 
Guns themselves aren't harmful.  It's all about who's handling them, and who's pulling the trigger.  In this day and age, I actually feel safe knowing that firearms are nearby and that I can use one if need be. 
I believe they should only be used in self-defense, to put meat in the freezer, or for practice shooting in a safe area.
I support the right to bear firearms. And will use them without hesitation to protect myself and the ones I love.

10.07.2016

6 Ways To Know You're Guaranteed To Lose Me


1) If you ever lie to me
Honesty is one of the key elements to any relationship.  I trust that someone is telling me the truth until they give me a reason not to trust them anymore.  And once that happens, that trust will take forever to rebuild.  If ever at all.

2) If you ever yell at me
I've had too much experience with guys looming over me, demanding this or that, and thinking that raising their voices at me will make me "listen better" or "pay attention" or that that's the best way to get a point across to me.  But it has the opposite affect.  I lose respect for them.  I get scared.  And above all, want to be as far away from them as possible.

3) If you ever manipulate me
I don't think girls realize how easily guys tend to manipulate us.  It took me a while before figuring out that the way a certain guy would talk to me, and ask me things, or try to get me to do things for him, were all forms of manipulation.  The second a guy says or does something to make YOU feel bad, it's manipulation for something that he wants you to do.  I've had too much experience with this and am very aware now of when it's happening.  Thanks to a few jerks I've had the pleasure of knowing.

4) If you ever give me a reason to not trust you
I would never be in a relationship with someone I didn't trust.  And by trust, I mean, trust in and with anything.  Money, girls, my belongings, my family.

5) If you ever hurt me
I don't know which is worse - physical or emotional abuse.  I don't think either can be weighed in a spectrum of painful damage.  I've experienced both and I can guarantee that if either happens just once, you won't get a second chance.

6) If you ever stop pursuing me
This may sound like an attention-seeking, childish reason, but in all honesty, there's nothing worse than falling for someone, going through the honeymoon stage and then one day, waking up and realizing that they're "used to you".  If you truly love someone, you will pursue them indefinitely.  You won't take them for granted.  You won't assume that they'll just always be there.  They're choosing to love you, as you should choose to love them.  And show them this love.  Even if you aren't a super heart-to-heart, oozing feelings type of person, there are always ways you can show your significant other that you appreciate them, and love them in the way they need to be loved and how they need to feel valued.

9.27.2016

Meeting Your Own Criteria


I think it can be safe to say that we all have a certain criteria that we’d like our future spouse to meet.  You pray that he/she is faithful, God-honoring, kind, gentle.  And these are all wonderful characteristics to look for.  But when you put all of that together into the person you would consider "perfect", can you look at yourself and say, "I’m the exact kind of person he/she wants"?

It’s a very humbling and convicting thought.  
And one that I’ve been wondering a lot about lately.  

Am I the kind of person the person I want is looking for?

You want them to love God.  But are you a faithful Christian?
You want them to be loyal.  But are you a loyal person?
You want them to be hard-working.  But do you have a good work ethic and are you goal-oriented?

First of all, remember that there is no such thing as a perfect person.  
Secondly, no matter how much you want to be perfect or "good enough" for the person you want, you can only do so much to cover up your imperfections and hide your mistakes.  You can try to look as good as possible, try to impress people, try to be someone who the person you want would want, but we, as humans, are pretty decent actors.  And if you don’t want your future spouse to be a good actor (a.k.a. liar) to you, then you should be just as brutally honest and transparent as you want them to be with you.  

Oh but I won’t leave you on that borderline depressing, almost heart-aching note.

This world focuses on the outward appearance.  Everywhere we look, the body is glorified, is made more beautiful, is praised.  And yes, here enters the very cliche, overrated line of: But what matters most is what’s in the heart.  This goes hand-in-hand with the fact that we are imperfect, we all have things in our past that we wish we could erase, we have all made mistakes.  But where we are now, who we are now - this is what I want to focus on.

The person God has planned for you is someone who will see you through Christ’s eyes.  And Christ sees you as forgiven and beautiful.  There’s nothing you can ever do to make yourself better.  Jesus already accomplished this.  In His Father’s eyes, you are completely clean. White. Pure. 

"It’s when we see how imperfect we are, that He does the most amazing things in and through us."

You’ll have days that you’ll be super focused on God, feeling good about your spiritual, physical and emotional life, and then whoops! You slip up. You make mistakes. 

You aren’t perfect.  

But neither is your future spouse.  

You’re not the only one who is imperfect.  Your future wife may be wishing she hadn’t said or done that one thing.  Your future husband might be hoping that he’ll never have to face that temptation again.  You’re not alone.  And the love God will give both of you in your union is more than enough to overshadow both of your mistakes.

God is always breaking, healing, stretching and growing us.  If you were perfect, there’d be no more room to grow and learn more about Christ’s love.  And a relationship/marriage is just a bigger step in being taught about Him.  Being in a committed relationship with someone is a process of working together.  Two imperfect people, serving a perfect God, and striving to push each other more towards Him.  

"God uses the most imperfect people to accomplish His perfect will."

You’re focused on your imperfections and how unattractive they are, but God’s grace covers all of them so that even your future spouse will see you for you who are in Jesus - covered in grace and beauty.  "Love covers a multitude of sins."  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to be more like Christ.  But while we’re doing that, we don’t have to beat ourselves up over our imperfections.  We can - and must - still work towards being a better person, being a better Christian, and being more of the kind of man/woman the person we want wants.  But don’t stress.  
God’s got this taken care of.  
The story has already been written.

9.21.2016

6 Reasons I’m Not Answering Your Texts

I always have a reason for not texting someone back.
These are those reasons.  
And yes, they're in order - of most regular occurrence.

1)  I'm busy.
I'm in a moment where I see your text but I legitimately can't stop what I'm doing to answer you.

2)  My phone is on silent and/or died.
I honestly prefer keeping my phone on silent so I don't have to be hearing it going off every few minutes.  Instead, I can just have it on silent and go look at all my notifications when I have the time to.  My phone very rarely dies, but there's also that reason.

3)  I'm sleeping.
And you should be too........ Unless it's one of those rare midday naps I rarely get to partake of.

4)  I don't have time.
If your text is something that I know will trigger a long conversation but I don't have the time to give you the full attention it deserves, then I won't respond at all.

5)  You're annoying
And I honestly have no idea why I gave you my number.

6)  I never gave you my number
And there are clear reasons for that, so why would I encourage you to text me by texting you back?

9.19.2016

This Is How You Will Let Them Go

"Getting over" an ex always sounded so harsh to me.  Almost like they were a sickness that you're recovering from.
I like to think of it more in the terms of something you realized wasn't good for you, so the break-up was needed for your own benefit and health - which, by the way, is absolutely okay.

It doesn't make it any easier though.  There are days you'll have to verbally remind yourself that hey, it didn't work out and now it's time to focus on me and my heart.

There will be days that memories will come knocking, yes.  Gravity won't help stop the flow of tears. And everything will blur in a puddle of pain.  There will be days when your heart is physically hurting and you think you're the only person in the world who has felt this sort of agony.
Trust me, it won't be an easy road.  You loved and you lost.  You opened yourself up to something that you thought would last, something beautiful that you thought would bring joy upon joy, but it didn't.
And you're hurting.
And that's okay.

And this is how you will let them go...

1)  Look over all the pictures you took together
This will not only be painful, but it will also be good closure.  You'll remember the good times, the good memories.  And after looking at each picture, click the "delete" button.  Trust me.  It's for the best.  You're letting them go with each one you erase from your phone.  And it's okay.

2)  Listen to the songs that were once "yours".
These songs hold old memories, but now it's time to make new ones with them.  Don't let the past dictate your future.  Cherish the old, but don't be fearful of creating the new.

3)  Travel down memory lane.
Whether mentally or physically.  And yes, it's okay to think about the not so good memories too.

4)  Stare at your phone when they're online and hope they message you first
There will come a time where you'll just have to stop this.  And if deleting and blocking them is what's necessary for this to end, then do it.  Remember: it's over, and it's okay.

5)  Forgive them.
It was a privilege to love them, wasn't it?  But it was also freeing to let them go.  Both choices shaped you into the person you have become and they were both good choices.  Forgiveness is more freeing than holding any sort of resentment against them.  Letting them go by forgiving them.

"I will forgive you for being so perfectly flawed that I see you so perfect for me; damaged and broken...  For what it's worth, I do not regret knowing you at the time I am most vulnerable.  You are a beautiful person whom I met at the wrong time.  Someday, everything will make sense for both of us.  If we cross our paths again, I will look at you with no self-loath; no pain.  I will smile to you and not hate you, I promise.  I will do that because I am better without you; that, we both know."


9.16.2016

To Care Too Much

I feel like I care too much sometimes.  


I literally forget all the bad that certain people have done to me and remember only the good things, the good memories, the good times.  I remember all the good talks we had, the fun times, the laughs, the craziness.  And I want that back.  
But not the bad.  
Not the times they lied to my face or manipulated me or made me feel like I was the worst human alive.  I don't want that.  I just want the good.  Because that's all I see in them.  

I literally have to remind myself why I shouldn't go see them or pick up my phone to text or call them.  Or add them back as a friend on Facebook after they deleted me.  I have to be like "No, Raquel, that person hurt you.  They didn't care for you like they should have.  They don't deserve you in their life"...

I miss people so much.  I forgive so easily.  I forget too quickly.

Is this a fault or a folly?  Is this a problem - that I get attached so quickly?  And that once I decide to care for someone, I do everything in my power to please them and make them happy.  

It's never about what I want or how I want them to treat me.  I've been walked on, taken for granted of, manipulated, and yet, I still care for those people.  Is there something wrong with me?  I give people so many chances.  People who don't give me the time of day, people who don't deserve my time or friendship. I know that.  Yet I can't help but care for them.  Once I love someone, I let them into my heart.  And they're there to stay.

I'm sure you've all heard the saying "Don't cross oceans for people who wouldn't cross a puddle for you".  But I'm the opposite.  Do cross oceans for people, I would say!  Love people, all people, every person you come in contact with.  No conditions attached.  No payment required.  Nothing demanded in return.  Don't question whether you think they're worthy of being loved or not, because as a creation of God, they do deserve to be cared for.  Living and loving isn't about what you gain, but about what you can give.

But I have decided that sometimes it's okay to let go. 

Just because I'm letting go doesn't mean I don't care for that person anymore.  You can be separate from someone, some thing and still care for them.  But simply that, for my own sake, for my own well being, it's best to close the door to certain relationships.  Maybe just for now, maybe forever. 
But regardless, you can't control the way they treat you or the way they react to your words.  
You are only in control of yourself.
And being in control of yourself means caring for yourself, and your heart.  So sometimes, it's okay to say goodbye.
SaveSave

9.14.2016

Never Stop Hoping


I was thinking today.  (Not a rare occurrence, I assure you.)  
But today, I was specifically thinking about how sad it is to know that after your first love, you will never be the same again.  
You will never view love the same way.  You will never feel for someone the same way.
Because before your first love, your heart existed without being hurt.  You were like a child, young and innocent, enjoying life for all it was worth.  You didn’t know the meaning of the word “pain”.  Everything was perfect in your eyes.  Until the day you were hurt.  And then, it was like a child seeing death for the first time.  
You’ll never view life the same way because you have seen the bad things that can happen, and how people can hurt others.  And after your first love, nothing will be the same because you know what love is, and you know that to love means to allow yourself to be hurt.

Crazy, isn't it?

You also learn something else after your first love, your first heart break, your first encounter with the painful side of loving someone.
You learn that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems, life does go on.  And it takes a day at a time to cry, to love yourself, to move on.  And it takes even more time to allow yourself to begin to hope again.  And you need to allow yourself to hope.  Because without it, this world would be a much darker place.  You can't always live in fear and hopelessness that you're going to keep getting hurt.  I'm not saying that you won't ever experience pain again.  I wish I could promise you that we all feel it just once and then the rest of our lives are perfect.  But that's not the truth.  The truth is, though, that hope is greater than fear.  And hope is the little candlelight against the vast darkness of unknown that will guide you to whatever and whoever God has in store for you.

Most of all, remember that you aren't alone in this struggle.  Many people have been hurt.  In fact, I can safely say, almost everyone has.  Pain is a part of the process of life.  It always will be on this earth.  
But just because it's something you feel, doesn't mean it's something you have to be.  One of the greatest beauties in this world is seeing someone have the strength to rise after being beaten down, to find the beauty in the ashes, the courage to move on, to start fresh.  Be that person.  And don't let a lost love define your future.  Hope for an even better second love.  Or third.  Or fourth.  

Just never stop hoping.

9.12.2016

The Number One Question You Should Ask Yourself About the Guy You Really Like


Is he respectful?  Is he considerate?  Is he romantic and wooing?  Does he give you space when you need it?

Sure, these are all great points and questions that you should be able to answer "yes" to, but what is more important than all of those?

As a follower of Christ, my utmost goal in life is to live according to His Word and to glorify God with all I do, say and think.  This does not mean I always achieve that goal.  It's a day to day process of giving up myself, and giving it all over to Him.  This includes anything related to boyfriends, dating, potential-future-husband-material, etc.

We all desire a man who will treat us the way we deserve to be treated.  A man who treats us the best.
Who is the only One who has already done this?
God.
So He should be your highest standard.

Am I the one saying this?  Not exactly.

There are many passages in Scripture in which God says for us to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus 11:44, Leviticus 20:7, 1 Peter 1:16).  And if you are called to be holy, and you desire to marry a man who loves the LORD as you do, then the holiness standard should be something you expect from the man you really like.

So what if he's a neat Christian guy?  Don't marry him.  Avoid him like the plague, as Matt Chandler says.  What you're looking for is a man who is directionally headed towards godliness.  He's gonna have weaknesses, and flaws, and he's gonna fail.  A ton.  Because he's human.  As are you.  But if he has a desire to grow into a more Christ-like follower, then that is the kind of man you want.  You're not looking for a perfect man.  You're looking for a man who knows his weaknesses, knows he needs the LORD, and is truly striving to follow Him and be like Him.
And what better man than that to commit to marry and spend the rest of your life with, striving for more of Christ together?

What is the number one question you should ask yourself about the guy you really like?  It's this:

Does he love the LORD our God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength - and is he endeavoring to live his life for His glory alone in all that he does, says and thinks?

Without that mindset, ladies, a relationship with him won't last long.  Why?  Because without God at the center, anything and everything will fail.  And if you can't say "yes" to that question about the guy you really like, then say goodbye to him and move on.  If you're looking for a man who will treat you the best, he won't be it.

In closing, I'd like to share a quote I read one time, written by a guy:
"Ladies, we want to treat you well.  We really do.  You don't have to tell us every 10 minutes how you deserve to be treated.  You go on and on about how you deserve to have the door opened for you, how if your husband doesn't cry when you're walking down the aisle that you're going to walk away, and how your man eater have the abs of Ryan Gosling.  That's a lot of pressure.  Instead of looking for a Disney prince to kiss you in your sleep, how about you look for a man who will love you like Christ loves the Church?"

8.18.2016

Not Succeeding Doesn't Mean You're A Failure


I've always been an extremely ambitious person.  I set high standards for myself, and am always making goal lists.  Goals for this week, for the month, for the year.  I want to have such and such accomplished by this time in my life.  I want to be able to look back at a goal that was once just a word on a piece of paper and say "Yes, I made that a reality."

The thing about this, though, is that when I don't succeed in reaching certain goals, I become incredibly discouraged.  And sometimes even tell myself that I just suck and I'm a failure and I'll never be able to accomplish anything.

But that's the wrong sort of mentality to have.  Perspective is everything, right?

It's been proven in history that just because someone failed at something once doesn't mean that they should give up on it altogether.  Take Thomas Edison, for example.  Some historians estimate that he made over 10,000 attempts at designing a light bulb.  And what did he say?

"I have not failed.  I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

Now that is optimism if I've ever seen it.

On the other hand, though, there is the possibility that God is closing doors for you to reach a desired destination simply because that's not His best plan for your life.  In which case, you try until He says "No".  And when He says no, you ask Him "Now what?"  And after you ask Him this, then you set out on a new road, a new adventure.  Try out other opportunities.  Pursue other dreams.  See where He takes you with each of them.

In my own personal experiences, I have tried many things that ended up at a dead end.  I tried to pursue acting.  I modeled for a while here and there.  I tried to start a band.  I planned to go to a school that I was accepted at (that was like a dream come true for me) but God closed the door to it when I least expected Him to.
I'm not saying these were all easy roads.  I was so frustrated with God that He would let me get even just a little ways in pursuit of something I wanted, only to have a roadblock halfway into achieving it.

But I learned something through that...

I learned to accept the fact that everyone is trying to accomplish something.  Everyone is striving for something.
Not succeeding doesn't mean you're a failure.  You need to mess up every once in a while to figure out just what to do and how to go about doing it.  And by doing this, you'll find out what God is saying "No" to, and you'll have to get up, turn around, pick another dream and pursue it as far as you can.  There's nothing to be ashamed of.  Don't start pursuing something but not tell anyone about it because you're embarrassed that you won't succeed.  You need encouragement.  You need cheerleaders.  Brag about what God is doing in your life and the doors of opportunity He is leading you through.

Remember that you're not a failure.

The only people who are failures are the ones who never even try.

8.15.2016

Sorry To Break It To You, But Love Is Tough


True love isn't a perfect picture.
True love is very tough.
You are deciding to be romantically involved with a person who might very well break your heart.  Or you might break theirs.
Love and relationships should never be approached with the mentality that it will be full of candlelit dinners, long walks, cuddles, hugs and kisses.  You need to be aware, you need to be cautious.  Those super romantic moments may come, but those moments are nothing to base a lifelong decision on.

This is the real world.

I know a lot of sheltered kids who, honestly, scare me at the thought of them being in a relationship one day.  Because many of them are taught that "God has the perfect one planned for you" and "He'll let you two meet at the perfect time", etc.  Now don't get me wrong.  I believe those two sentences to be incredibly and 100% true.  But God also sends trials, tests, and difficulties our way.  And your first boyfriend, your first girlfriend isn't always going to be "the one".

The truth of the matter is...
You may not be his first.  You may not be her first.  He may have cared for another girl before you.  She may have kissed another guy before you.  He's not perfect, but you aren't either.  You're not the only girl he's ever made laugh or had that butterfly affect on.

So what are you going to do?

You're going to try and be the best you can be for them.  Not because you're living FOR them, but because they make you happy, you make them happy and you want them to be a permanent part of your life.  You're going to give them all you can.  And you know what, sweetheart?  You're giving him your heart.  You're giving her your heart.  A heart that they can break.  And you have the power to break theirs too.
Love is about being selfless.  It's about learning to care for them and even amidst trying your very hardest to treat them the ultimate best way they want to be treated, you might hurt them.  And they might hurt you.
Don't take moments for granted.  Smile when they make you happy.  And miss them when they're not around.

So even though you're not their first, make yourself the most memorable.  And hopefully, the last.

Do not fall in love with only a body or with just a face.  And do not fall in love with the idea of love.  It's a dangerous place to be.  You need to fall in love even during the pain and the hardships and the cruel moments, because those are the moments of testing.  The moments of trusting that your love will overcome.  Trusting that love never does fail.  And trusting that the man or woman you love is the one who will forever be the one.

Love is a choice.  And it's tough, but it's possible

Fall in love with the choice that you will make to love and keep on loving one person.

"To hate is an easy, lazy thing.  But to love takes strength everyone has, but not all are willing to practice."
- Rupi Kaur

8.09.2016

Fifteen Years Later | My Baptism Story

I received Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was six years old.
Four years later, at the age of ten, I was baptized at a small church that I had been going to for a couple of months.  I got baptized then because, growing up in a Christian home, I was taught that baptism is a public declaration done in the presence of witnesses to acknowledge one’s commitment to God.  I was baptized fully knowing this, and my family and church witnessed it.

Fast forward to 2016…
The subject of baptism kept popping up in my life here and there.  I didn’t know why, until a crazy thought crossed my head.  
“Maybe I should get rebaptized.”  
Immediately, I started praying about it.  Just to see what God would have to say on it. (“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…” - 1 John 4:1)  
After praying over it for about a week, I started talking to wise older Christians in my life and asking them what their thoughts on rebaptism were.  Some told me that there was no need to get rebaptized, while others encouraged me to continue seeking the LORD and see what He led me to do.  
A couple weeks later, my pastor announced that my church would be holding a baptism service in August and if anyone wanted to be baptized, to speak with him about it.  
So I did.  
I told him how getting rebaptized is something that I had been praying about, and asked him what his thoughts were on it.  He asked me what my intention would be FOR being rebaptized and I explained to him that when I had gotten baptized at the age of 10, I did it because I wanted everyone to know I had received Jesus as my Savior.  But at the time, I had no clue what it meant to have a relationship with Him.  Now, eleven years later, I do.  And the last two years have been incredibly huge spiritual milestones for me.  
My pastor said “Well, pray about it and if God is prompting you to get rebaptized, maybe it’s not meant to be so much of another public declaration of your faith, but maybe it’s something He’s inviting you to do as a public declaration of the love you share with Him.”  
When he said that, I was like “Wow… I never thought of that way.”  
So I prayed for another two weeks, and then, on August 7, in sixty-five degree Pacific Northwest weather, I was baptized.

My awesome pastor who baptized me!
Check out a video of my baptism on my Instagram - @itsjustraquel.