The Faith Aspect of Doubting

To have feelings of doubt can be a scary thing.  Sometimes it's frowned upon to feel doubt - about your decisions, your life choices, and yes, even your faith.  Because, in a sense, it's as if you're unsure, you're second guessing yourself, or even just plain wrong.  You've probably equated doubt as sinful at one point or another because, in most churches, doubting is looked at as a lack of faith.

Then guilt starts to creep in.

I think we, as a believers, tend to get a lot of judgement passed on us because doubting is considered faith taboo.  If you believe in something, you should never doubt it.  Right?


Want to know why?

Because to doubt is simply to not be sure of something.  It is a lack of understanding.  We, as humans, have a finite mind.  It is in our nature to doubt, to be curious, to be skeptical, to ask questions.  What we don't understand, we instinctively doubt its authenticity.  Our hearts desire truth, to know what is real, therefore we question God.

"Faith is developed in doubt.  Faith always develops in doubt.  Faith learns to depend on God because of doubt.  If you never doubted God, you would be Him... God is not going to allow you to become so arrogant that you never have doubts.  If He removed the doubt, He would remove the need for Him; for you to know that He is God and you are not.  That's why you doubt.  There are benefits to the doubt... That's where you find the revelation of the goodness of God.  Not in your self-confidence, but in your self-doubt."
- Stephen Furtick, "It's Okay To Have Doubts"

King David is a prime example of being faith-filled, yet still having doubts.  In Psalm 77 he writes about his times of doubt.  He cries out in questions, such as "Will the LORD...never again be favorable?  Has His steadfast love forever ceased?  Are His promises at an end for all time?" (verses 7-8)  This is the same man who is known in the Bible as "the man after God's own heart".  Interesting how David is never referred to as a sinful doubter, or a man of little faith.  But in his efforts to know and understand God more fully, he questions Him.

Now this isn't to say that we should doubt and question God to the point of being blasphemous.  Or to view our doubt as a dead end.  "Well I don't understand so forget this."  When our doubts begin to push us towards rebellion and make us question who God is or His authority and power, this is where we must retreat back to our solid foundation and remind ourselves of what we already know is true.  But rather, challenging our faith and seeking answers to the honest questions we have is good!

Doubt can very easily take over the battle instead of being commanded by faith - which David does in the verses directly following his doubt-filled please.  He fights against his humanly feelings by recalling to mind the truths he does know and is certain of, regarding God and His faithfulness.

"I will remember the deeds of the LORD...  I will ponder all Your work and meditate on Your mighty deeds.  Your way, O God, is holy.  What god is great like our God?" (verse 11-13)

Our Creator is far beyond our comprehension and His ways are not our ways.  We do have His Word, though, in which we learn more about His character, and ultimately, His sovereignty.  Yet even then, He reveals Himself to us in little sparks rather than an all consuming forest fire.  What we know about Him cannot be fit into a human sized box.  Think of it as breadcrumbs that we will be following all the way to heaven.  We're never going to understand Him fully, and seeing Him move in our every day lives just acquaints us more with how He works, not His intention for every occurrence that takes place.

"What the Bible reveals of God is precisely what God wanted revealed of Himself - no more and no less.  But it isn't everything about Him.  Scripture raises as many questions as it answers."
- Barnabas Piper, "Help My Unbelief"

This is where faith and doubt unite as our human brains attempt to grasp at Who God is, what He's doing, and why He's doing it.  Questions like "Why does He allow bad things to happen to good people?" or "If God is the Healer, why doesn't He answer the prayers of the sick and heal them?"  These are questions that many people cry out in the midst of pain and suffering.  Who wouldn't?  But does this mean that they are sinning because of their lack of understanding, because of their "lack of faith"?

In Mark 9, we are told the story of a father who brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus.  The father says "...but if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."

He used the word "if", implying that he was doubtful.  He showed that he was hopeful by bringing his son to Jesus, yet at the same time, he was worried that his child might be ruled by this evil spirit forever... unless Jesus really could heal him.

Jesus answered the bereaved father by saying, "If I can?  All things are possible for one who believes."  Here He is acknowledging that the father indeed was filled with doubt, yet He encourages him to believe.

The words which the father answered Him are ones that are often quoted by many:

"I believe.  Help my unbelief!"

If there was ever a moment of raw honesty in the Bible, I think this is it.  He not only acknowledged that he had faith, but that he also needed Jesus to help him attain a deeper understanding of the faith he desired.

That is where I want to be.

In moments of pure vulnerability, brutal honesty, telling God that I believe in Him, I have faith in His authority, yet even then, I need more.  I want more.  I want to know Him deeper, more intimately.  I have questions, but I know He has all the answers.  I question His ways only because I don't understand them.  I doubt my worthiness of His forgiveness and grace, only because I believe He is holy and just.  I am skeptical of His love because it is reckless and unfathomable.

And a truth I do believe in, a cornerstone to my relationship with Christ is this:

"If I am faithless, He remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself." (2 Timothy 2:13)

Don't let doubt and unbelief rule, but instead, let it be part of the journey to seeking Him and asking faith-filled questions with the intention to fall into a deeper relationship with your Creator.


6 Ways to Set Yourself Up For Success in 2019

1. Change your mindset.
Decide whether or not the views you had in life for 2018 are the same ones you want to proceed with and how you want to think and view the way you're going to live in 2019.  Whatever situations you feel that you failed in, whatever ways you feel you lacked wisdom, in whatever situations you feel you needed more guidance, figure out what you fall short in as an individual or how you need to change, and refocus on that as you proceed into a new year.

2. Let go.
Anything that ties you to heartache, pain, or makes you feel worthless - let. it. go.  Don't allow yourself to bring the past into the future.  Sever ties.  Cut off anything unhealthy from last year.  Yes, this includes people.

3. Forgive yourself.
You made mistakes, you allowed people into your life who didn't deserve your friendship, you went places you shouldn't have, you spent your time unwisely, you bought things that added no value to your life, but hey.  It's okay.  Forgive yourself.  Move on.

4. Let yourself heal.
Take time for yourself.  Allow space and moments for you to rebuild a foundation.  But this year, a stronger, more solid one.
I've said this a million times, but I know I'll probably say it a million times more before I die: no matter how much you think others will be there for you, in the end you are the best only person who knows what you need.  You are the only one who can protect yoruself.  Healing always takes time, so it's not like the end of 2018 was supposed to have all the answers and be all that you needed for you to be done with pain and heartbroken.  But at least give yourself a good head start to be on the right path for 2019.  And remember that healing takes time.

5. Embrace the new.
Not all new things are scary.  Or sometimes the new is scary... and it's good.  Or even the best thing for you.  2019 will bring lots of change and eye-opening situations.  And it will stretch you, just like 2018 did.  But you survived last year, right?  So you got this.  Don't be afraid of turning your life around and, in essence, starting over.  It's good to get a fresh start, a new beginning.

6. Focus.
Decide on what the most important things are in your life.
Prioritize them.
Whether it be family, your job, your faith, your hobbies.  And yes, it's okay if "Myself" is at the top of that list.
Decide what you want to invest in.  These are going to be your primary topics of focus in the new year.  These are going to be what gets you out of bed in the morning, what keeps you going, what keeps you invigorated for 2019.  Choose wisely, and don't doubt your heart.  And don't compare yourself to anyone else, either!  We are each living our own journeys.  Whatever causes you to be distracted, feel insecure, doubt yourself, feel discontent or compare yourself to someone else, cut it out of your life.  If it's not adding anything good, helpful or encouraging to your mind and heart, it needs to go.

Enter 2019 with a fresh perspective, a self-awareness, and a renewed spirit of confidence.

You got this.


What 2018 took from me

At the beginning of 2018, I vowed to myself that it was going to be a great year.  I was going to learn a lot, I was going to be willing to learn a lot, I was going to go places, I was going to push myself to try new things…  And I did all of the above.

Followers have been asking me to talk about my last year - favorite things, worst things, to share what I’ve learned, which resolutions I actually accomplished, etc.  Here are a few:

  • Road-tripped to Redding, California, by myself.
  • Got septum, navel, and industrial piercings. (The septum piercing didn’t stick around for long)
  • Got more tattoos.
  • Moved.
  • Became manager at Black Rock Coffee Bar.
  • Expanded my plant and crystal collections.
  • Read 12 books.
  • Started boxing training.
  • Visited family in California and Texas.
  • Read at a poetry slam.
  • Road-tripped to Canada.
  • Became a worship leader at a church.
  • Didn't eat fast food.

This year has been one of the best and worst years of my life.  I’ve lived and learned and lost a lot.  Honestly, sitting here and writing this is helping me process it all.  And it’s not easy.  But I know it’s for the best.  I need to.  I’ve kept things at bay for far too long, afraid to feel what is bound to be felt when topics are brought to light and memories resurface.  It’s crazy to realize how much I’ve changed and developed in the last year. 

I titled this post “What 2018 took from me” because at the beginning of the year, I asked my heavenly Father to expand and decrease me.  To bless me in ways only He knows how to, but to also take away anything that wasn’t for my good.  Anything that wasn’t His best for me.  And anything that needed to get out.

Two months ago, I watched a sermon by Pastor Robert Madu, when he guest spoke at Elevation Church in Texas.  I can honestly say that it was the most life-changing and impactful sermon I have ever heard.  Throughout the last two months, I have re-listened and re-watched it almost a dozen times.  The sermon title is “Get Out” and in short, Pastor Madu speaks on telling anything negative, unbelieving or ungodly to get out of our lives.  Because, as believers, we “have not been given the spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).   Therefore, anything other than the fruit of the Spirit needs to get out.  The sermon is so much more than that.  Honestly, if you have 45 minutes to do anything today, watch/listen to it.  (Seriously, stop reading this and go do it right now).  Another topic he touches on in the sermon is how we, as humans, are all connected.  Not just because we are all made by the Creator, but because our lives are all entwined by feelings and emotions, situations, experiences, everything!  We affect each others’ lives through words and touch.  The impact you leave on someone just by a five minute interaction can affect them for the rest of their lives.  How are you choosing to influence others?  How are you choosing to decide things for your own life?

Not only was this sermon motivational and affected me so deeply because of the pure authenticity in his words, but it also resonated with a lot of what I learned this year.  And if there are three lessons that I want to share with you the most, they are these:

1.  2018 took loneliness from me.
There is no one you should invest time in more than yourself.
I’m not saying this in a self-centered way, but rather “put your oxygen mask on before assisting others”.  If you can’t love and care for yourself first, no one else will.  If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will.  And here’s the biggest one for me - if you can’t enjoy your own company, no one else will value it either.  
I have always been a social person.  I would rather spend time with other people than spend time alone.  I have never enjoyed going out and shopping or being out in public by myself.  I always wished I could have someone to call up and ask them to join me.  Quality Time is my greatest love language, so naturally, I want to spend time with other people.  That’s how I get my cup filled.  Or at least, how I thought I needed to.
Until God really started teaching me about embracing - and enjoying! - my own company.  No, Raquel, it’s not weird to go out to dinner alone.  It’s not crazy to road trip by yourself to another state.  It’s okay to go on a date with yourself.  It’s hella fun to go to a concert by yourself.  
For so long, I think I just felt awkward because it was so far out of my comfort zone to do anything like that alone.  But once I started challenging myself and stepping out to at least try doing things on my own, it honestly wasn’t so scary anymore.  You can often find me strolling through downtown Portland, exploring parks, going on hikes, road-tripping, perusing in a bookstore, at a nice restaurant… all by myself.  2017 taught me much about choosing the right people to surround myself with.  2018 taught me that I’m my own best company and friends will cross my path when God orchestrates them to.  Until then, I can be my own best friend.

2.  2018 took misplaced security from me.
It's easy to get wrapped up in people or places that you feel comfortable with/in.  You can even go so far as to say that you love them so much that you set your security, your value, and your worth into whatever you gained from being around them.  Whether it be words of affirmation or feeling like you have purpose or direction in life.  It's not easy to admit this.  And usually you only realize it when circumstances change and those people or places aren't as prominent anymore.  It throws you off.  The rug gets pulled out from under you.  Because basing your security in anything changeable will mean that your identity will shift as well.  And I learned this lesson well in 2018.  God gently reminded me that my occupation(s) in life shouldn't be where I focus and base my identity on.  And it takes a lot of refocusing to rebuild a foundation of security.  But this new year is going to be so good.

3.  2018 took unhealthy relationships from me.
In the words of Halsey, "And I was like 'You know what? I'm done.'  And I cut a lot of people out of my life.  Some for a little bit of time, and they came back around.  Some for good."  This just about sums up what I did this year.  And I hope you know that you have the permission and the power to do the same.  Anyone who reminds you of your past, continuously points out your flaws, manipulates or takes advantage of you, makes you cry on a regular basis, needs to get out.  You deserve to be surrounded by people who build you up and remind you of the good they see in your heart, the amazing impact you have on lives around you, and encourage you to love life and always strive for better.

Happy New Year, dear readers.  I pray it holds many lessons and blessings for you.  It's going to be an amazing year.


2018 favorites:

“For thus says the LORD who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), “I am the LORD, and there is none else.  I have not spoken in secret, in some dark land.”
- Isaiah 45:18-19

“But remember the former days when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings.”
- Hebrews 10:32

“O LORD, You are my God.  I will exalt You.  I will give thanks to Your name for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness."
- Isaiah 25:1

“Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves.  So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.  For He inflicts pain and gives relief; He woads and His hands also heal."
- Isaiah 5:17-18

“Finally, be strong in the LORD and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
- Ephesians 6:12-13

Sing My Way Back - Steffany Gretzinger
Born Again - Cory Asbury
Tethered - Phil Wickham
Steady Ground - Christian Carcamo
Defender - Rita Springer (Upperroom version)
Freedom - Kim Walker-Smith
Move - Chris McClarney
Known - Tauren Wells
Living Hope - Phil Wickham
Hypnotized - Tory Lanez
Forever Right Now - Conor Matthews
You & I - Picture This
There’s No Way - Lauv ft. Julia Michaels
Drunk Me - Mitchell Tenpenny
You Might Be - Autograf ft. Lils
Electric Touch - ARIZONA
Born - OneRepublic
Over & Over - Ben Rector
Battle - David Guetta ft. Faouzia
Born To Love You - LANCO
Jet Lag - Gavin Haley
Fractures - Illenium ft. Nevve
My Thoughts On You - The Band Camino
Green Lights - NF
Jump - Julia Michaels ft. Trippie Redd
Without Me - Halsey


Don't Date An Aries Woman Unless You Can Do These 18 Things

1. Accept her boldness.
Be it the way she talks or just her self-confidence, Aries are known for being the most courageous sign in the zodiac.  They will emit their bravery throughout all areas of life, including relationships.  She'll do anything to make you two work, including agreeing to reasonable compromises.  It doesn't matter how dark or bumpy the road is, she'll brave a storm to reach you.  This also goes for how she views herself in society.  She doesn't go with the flow.  If someone tries to put her in a box, she will break out of it and show that she's nothing like what you pinned her down as.  She has her own identity, her own story, and she is shameless of it.  Don't try to make her fit your idea of perfection.  Accept her for who she is, sit back and enjoy the unapologetic magic.

2. Accept her honesty and bluntness.
Because she will say whatever is on her mind.  She can be inconsiderate of others' feelings sometimes, but always apologizes if she knows she's offended someone.  It's rare for her to meet someone who can handle her opinionated self and not take it personally.  Or patiently call her out on her unintended rudeness.

3. Let go of her past and look beyond her imperfections.
Because she already has.  And when it comes to anything negative that happens in her life, she processes them quickly and efficiently, and then lets them go.  She doesn't hold onto guilt from the bad choices she's made, and she doesn't think about them all the time.  She recognizes that every human has faults and flaws - including you - but she won't focus on the bad.  She thrives on loving the good in herself and in others.

4. Be adventurous with her.
Not only is she down for adventures, but she's down for spontaneous, impulsive adventures.  She'll either look for them, they'll find her, or she'll make random activities and outings into adventures.  She's all about creating memories.  She's the one with the crazy ideas, the unintentional life of the party, the discoverer of the unknown.  Be willing to experience life with her, or at least give her the space she needs to experience it.  You can encourage her passion from a distance, but don't ever try to hold her back from living her daily life to the fullest.  The Aries hates being bored - or better yet, the word "bored" doesn't exist in her vocabulary.  She is always wanting to change and grow and mature.  And it's all an adventure to her.

5. Accept her independence.
She doesn't need you; she's accepting you as part of her life.  She's independent.  If you can't respect that, then you won't last long.  You may not hear from her for a couple hours, but it doesn't mean she doesn't want to talk to you.  You may not always see her at any and every chance you want, but that doesn't mean she isn't interested in you.  Don't be afraid to be honest with her and let her know that you need some time in her presence.  She appreciates when you're direct with your needs and want to be near her.  And she will always make time for you.  Aries know who and how to prioritize.

6. Handle lots of questions.
She wants to get to know you, what you like, why you like it, what you want to do, why you want to do it, etc.

7. Accept her big heart.
Not only do Aries love to love, but they are also incredible forgivers.  She doesn't hold things against you.  She is good at making amends.  She doesn't let things fester.  She wants to talk about it and fix whatever the issue is right away.  She gives you plenty of chances (sometimes too many - don't take advantage of this!).  She may not always bounce right back into being touchy-feely after you've said something hurtful, but she processes quickly and won't let her anger last long.  She already let you into her mind and heart, and that's where you'll always stay.
She notices and loves the little and imperfect things in life.  She cares for what others may find unappealing.  She'll be fascinated with small wonders and make you stop to enjoy them with her.

8. Be pretty cheesy (or at least love when she is).
She's all about creating and capturing memories, so say hello to taking cute couple photos, holding hands, lots of PDA, random kisses, thigh squeezes, and smiles from across the room.  She's proud to be with you and she won't care if people know it and see it through her actions.

9. Be very patient.
Because she isn't. #balance

10. Appreciate her deep thinking.
Aries are far from shallow.  She may always seem to live in the moment, but it doesn't mean her brain is at rest while her body is living.  She is always thinking, always analyzing, always wondering, always dreaming.  She is not only a great conversationalist, but you may be surprised at her way with words.  She brings a new perspective on life.  Don't be surprised if the way you start to see things changes after spending some time with her.

11. Handle sassiness.
Because Aries are the prime sassy-pants-wearer.

12. Brave the fire.
Because she is fiery.  Not just because fire is her element, but because her personality is all flames and excitement.  She is fearless.  And she'll always leave you feeling more, becoming more, and wanting more.

13. Be willing to give her attention.
She's confident in her own skin, in her own thoughts, in who she is as a person, but don't let that fool you.  She needs your eyes on her and she needs your words of affirmation.  She doesn't want to be the center of everyone's attention.  She just needs to know that she's the center of your attention.

14. Appreciate her protectiveness.
No, Aries are far from being the jealous type, but they are protective - of themselves and what they consider to be theirs.  She looks after the people she cares about.  She's careful with people's hearts, and attempts to handle everything with care - whether that be words, songs, writings, or her lover's hand.

15. Love the delicate and appreciate the tough.
Aries are hopeful romantics.  She not only wants a one-of-a-kind love story, but she also knows that her vulnerability to find love can backfire and burn her.  This doesn't phase her though because what doesn't kill makes her stronger.  She can handle a lot - both physically and emotionally - and this will be something you will admire most about her.  She's the type of person who will carry others, even if she has her own issues going on in life.  And even when she seems the most tough, there will be rare moments where her walls completely come down.  You'll see her vulnerable and she'll call it weakness.  You'll see her break down and she'll call it a flaw.  But when you see this side of her that very few - if any - people get to see, you'll realize that there isn't anyone more beautiful.

16. Be prepared for commitment.
Yes there's the dating stage, but an Aries woman knows what she wants and if she looks for it and finds it in you, then she'll want to have an intentional relationship from then on.  If you get cold feet or make up stupid excuses (and yes, "We haven't known each other for very long" counts), then you'll lose her.

17. Be okay with passion.
Because she will pursue you, love you, kiss you, be angry with you, hug you, speak to you, write about you... all with an immense load of passion.  To some, it can be stifling.  To others, it can be just what they need to truly feel cared for.  Figure out which type of person you are beforehand.

18.  Be prepared to fall in love with her. 
Because I promise it can happen easily, and when it does, you won't regret it.

But be aware that if you let her go, you'll never forget her.


Originally published on Thought Catalog.


6 Ways To Know If You Are Compatible With Someone [Or If You're Really Not]

Like I've said many times before, relationships are something you choose to be in, not something you do for entertainment, to pass the time, or to look cool.  Yes, they are fun, but the commitment level that's required will either make or break you as a couple.

Being compatible with your significant other isn't something you can force, though.  People talk about "the spark" or "the click", and while sometimes, this can just be a fantasy wish, most of the time, it's 100% true.  It's either there or it's not.  You two are either going to work out or not.  There's only so much distance you can cover before "choosing" to continue dating someone may just not be the healthiest decision for you.

So how do you know if you're compatible or not?  What will it take to make this work?  How can this be a good match even if your zodiac compatibility summary is below 50%?  How do you know if you're forcing this relationship to happen or not?

1.  You don't try to change each other.
You don't start dating someone because you like a, b, and c about them, but plan on changing d, e, and f later on down the road.  You aren't dating them to change them.  You're dating them because you love who they already are and who they will ever be.  This doesn't mean that some things won't eventually change, or need to change, but both of your mentalities should never be "How can I make this person better fit for me?", rather  -"How can I better myself for this person?"

2.  You're able to reach compromises together and look out for each other's best interest.
Regardless of how frustrating a situation may be, your love for one another should always be at the core of how you want something to be resolved.  Your goal is to see your partner win - at their job, at their dreams, at life itself.  Whether that means you giving up a habit, or making a conscious effort to say/do something, or coming to a fair agreement regarding a situation - you will do just that.  You will do whatever it takes.  At all times.  And know your significant other thinks the same.

3.  You both know how to fight.
Arguments are inevitable.  Two people won't always agree.  Two spirits won't always have harmony.  Two humans won't always be selfless.  But when these issues arise, how do you handle it as a couple?  Is there name-calling?  Are sarcastic comments dropped often?  Do you tear each other down?  Is it you against your partner?  Or you both against the problem?   Are you a team or both flying solo, hoping the other will reach your level at some point?

4.  You ask, study and know each other's insecurities; and work to overcome them.
Insecurities can seem silly when you're the one dealing with them, but having a boyfriend/girlfriend who wants to know them regardless of how foolish they may be to you is a healthy sign that they care and want to crush your fears.  Even a strong relationship isn't perfect, but it's the weaknesses that are brought to life that can be worked through and conquered to continue building a solid foundation for the future.  And you should feel secure enough in your relationship to be able to tell your partner of any chipping in your armor.

5.  You feel safe with them.
I'm not just referring to physical safety, but emotional and mental safety as well.  You trust them, you know they are and always will be honest with you, you don't question their love, or doubt their level of commitment to the relationship, you can be at your most vulnerable and exposed moment and know, without a doubt, that they won't leave, that they'll stay even when things get ugly and rough, that they'll fight for not only you, but you both as a couple, and that they'll be there to help you pick up any broken pieces when it's been a tough day.

6.  You bring balance to each other's lives.
Whether you knew you needed that balance or not, having them in your lives has made you realize what a blessing they are and how stabilizing their presence is.  This can be in anything from personality differences, weaknesses and strengths, how they teach you things you never knew, the way they communicate, etc.  It's as complex and as simple as that.

Compatibility isn't about having a picture-perfect romance and relationship.  Nothing is perfect in this world.  But two imperfect people can make a very perfect right.  And when not only the compatibility, but the desire and effort to work through things as a couple is there, I can guarantee you this:

You two have a shot.


Originally published on Thought Catalog.


50 Short But Meaningful Text Messages You Can Send To Your Significant Other

I'm sure we can all attest that "texting" is a convenience, but sometimes a very annoying form of communication.  Using it to send encouraging little reminders to your boyfriend/girlfriend and to build up one's relationship makes it not such a bad thing, though.  Especially if your work schedules clash, you can't see each other often, or you don't have time for a phone call.

It's fine to be a person of few words, but it doesn't hurt to make those few words count.  And if your partner's love language is "words of affirmation", chances are high that the following text message examples will gain you brownie points.  I do ask that you use only the ones you truly mean.  And have fun!

1.  You are my favorite person.

2.  You make me happy.

3.  I'm proud to be with you.

4.  Thank you for loving me.

5.  Thank you for letting me be the one to love you.

6.  I will always do my best with you.

7.  Our relationship matters to me.

8.  I love your smile.

9.  You fascinate me.

10.  I admire you.

11.  How can I pray for you today?

12.  I'm kind of crazy about you.

13.  I'm thinking about you.

14.  Hey hot stuff

15.  I can't wait to hug you

16.  Hey guess what?..  I really like you.

17.  Your eyes are my favorite.

18.  Date night soon?

19.  Hey don't make plans tonight.  I'm coming over.

20.  Can we take more cute pictures together?

21.  I will always be intentional with us.

22.  I hope you have a good day at work.

23.  Please be safe.

24.  You're always on my mind.

25.  You're my favorite notification.

26.  Thank you for being patient with me.

27.  You are an amazing partner.

28.  I'm so blessed to have you in my life.

29.  I am so attracted to you.

30.  You're the first person I think of when I wake up.

31.  I'm your biggest fan.

32.  You're the only one who can make me smile when I'm in a bad mood.

33.  You're not only my lover, but you're also my best friend.

34.  What should we do this weekend?

35.  We're cute.

36.  Loving you was the second best thing I ever did.  The first was finding you.

37.  You're a game changer.

38.  You're the first person I want to share news with.

39.  I don't know why you put up with me, but wow, I'm glad you do.

40.  I choose you.  And I'm going to keep choosing you.

41.  I know you're busy, but I just wanted to remind you that I'm thinking about you.

42.  I care about you.

43.  You look beautiful today.  I haven't seen you yet, but I don't have to.

44.  You add color to my world.

45.  Talking to you makes my day.

46.  I will always want you.

47.  You're worth it.

48.  It's crazy how much you add to my life.

49.  I don't think you'll ever realize how much you mean to me.

50.  Hey, I love you.


It's Just [My Skin Care Routine]

no makeup, no filter
I posted this picture on my Instagram story a few days ago and have gotten an overwhelming amount of comments and messages asking me what products I use in my skin care routine.

Well, wonder no more!:)



Cleansing -
The first thing I do when I get out of bed is turn music on, wash my face and brush my teeth.  I make sure my hands are freshly washed and clean before splashing hot water onto my face.  While my face is still damp, I take my cleansing balm from Botanics and scoop about a dime-sized portion out, rub it between my fingers and apply it gently.  I then let it sit for a couple minutes (usually, I brush my teeth during this time).
When you purchase this balm, Botanics provides a linen cloth to use in your face wash routine, and when removing the balm from my face, I soak the cloth in hot water and then gently press it against my skin.  I don't rub the ointment off.  The hot cloth naturally draws it off of my skin, yet leaves it feeling soft and smooth.

This cleansing balm has a variety of delicious and natural oils such as olive, jojoba, bergamot, lemon, and rosehip (which is rich in Vitamin A, as well as Omegas 3 and 6); & organic ingredients like beeswax and shea butter.

P.S.  It smells heavenly.

| I purchased this product at Target. |

Moisturizing -
The directions on the cleansing balm jar say to seal your pores with a cold water compress after rinsing, but instead, while my pores are still open from the hot water cleanse, I apply a drop of Young Living 100% therapeutic grade essential oil directly on to any blemishes and yes, even scars.  I have experienced firsthand how it has helped my scars be less prominent.
Young Living oils are 100% pure and can be a bit intense to your skin if you aren't use to their potency.  To dilute it, use a fatty oil (olive, coconut, jojoba, almond) when applying it to your skin.  This is actually all I use to moisturize: 100% pure organic coconut oil and a drop of YL's lemon oil.

Young Living Lemon essential oil, $15.13
*as a Young Living Distributor, I can get you this bottle at a 24% discount.  Contact me if you're interested!*



Cleansing -
My nightly cleansing routine consists of shower + hand-crocheted cotton washcloth + my evening cleanser: Alba Botanica's Acnedote scrub.  It is made from 100% vegetarian ingredients, not animal tested, no paragons, phthalates, or synthetic fragrances.  It is oil-free, contains ground walnut shell, and 2% salicylic acid acne medication formulated from willow bark.  This stuff is tough on acne, but at the same time, super gentle for facial skin.  It has a very cooling effect as well, and I've noticed that after rinsing it off, my face feels like it just spent a few minutes in front of a fan.  It's magical.

Once I'm out of the shower, I use the same moisturizing technique that I use in my morning routine: coconut oil and a drop of Young Living lemon oil.

| I purchased this product at Target. |


...a little extra - 

I don't know if any of you struggle with those lovely little bags under your eyes every morning, but if you do, I got something that will change your life.
Yes, I already talked about a Botanics product that I use for cleansing, but this stuff is amazing when it comes to getting rid of that annoying saggy skin.  This is an eye roll-on ointment made with hibiscus flower extract.  It works wonders.
I apply it after both, my morning and evening, skin care routine.

| I purchased this product at Target. |


Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Botanics or Alba Botanica.  My reviews are based purely on my own experience with these products.
I am a member & distributor of Young Living Essential Oils.  When purchasing through our site, please use my member #1333654.  Or contact me personally with any questions you may have about our company or how you can get $300 worth of product and a 24% discount for life!


This Is Why I'm Not A Model [Christian]

I've never been one to fit the stereotypes.

My Mama always told me that I was the most difficult child.  I was the stubborn one, overly-confident, very honest, and a go-getter.  I didn't let mere things or circumstances stand in the way of what I wanted.  I would tell you whatever was on my mind.  And yes, I was good at sneaking around the rules and lying to cover up the disobedience.  Quite the handful, as you can imagine.

As a teenager, I graduated two years before my peers, ignored the stares whenever all 7 of me and my siblings would walk into a church or store, and I got used to seeing the shocked faces of people when I told them that I had been homeschooled - because apparently I "didn't act like a homeschooler".  (This must've come from their unfortunate encounter with socially awkward Bill Gothard cult followers.  Poor things.)

What I'm getting at here is - like I said, I don't fit stereotypes.  Never have.  And this, dear readers, is why I'm publicly announcing that I am choosing not to be a Christian prototype anymore.

And yes, I use the word "anymore" because for the longest time, I had this assumption (whether planted there or simply thought to be true based on what I observed in the environment I lived in/church I attended) that, as a self-proclaiming Christian, I had to have a distinctive appearance, give a certain kind of impression, fit into a specific mold: the definition of what today's Christian is and looks like.  And believe it or not, I actually tried to.  Crazy, right?  After me just telling you that I don't go with the flow of things, I'm admitting that I attempted to mimic the crowd calling themselves "Christians".

No, I'm not going to tell you a sob story about how imperfect I am.  Or how one day, I realized that I could never reach the standard of a "good Christian".  And no, it's not because I had some crazy revelation that I didn't have to try anymore.  I simply chose not to.

And here is why...

I remember once talking to someone I had recently met.  He candidly asked me if I was a Christian.
"Yes," I replied.  "Why do you ask?"
"You act like one," he said.  "But you don't talk like one."
When I asked him to elaborate on what drew him to this conclusion, he said that my tattoos and piercings threw him off, and the fact that I had spiritual reasons behind each of them.  My "casual yet edgy" fashion statement was also similar to how I expressed myself with words.  "But the way you mention Jesus or church - it's like those are natural parts of your life.  You're not forcing yourself to look spiritual."

I guess I could understand his intrigue.  The most common feedback I've heard from non-Christians is how fake claiming Christians seem to appear.  "It's as if they have their life all together and they don't have any relatable issues."  I've had non-believing friends tell me that I am approachable about my faith because I don't try to force it down anyone's throat.  I guess I'm unlike many Christians because I don't have a goal of how many people I must lead to Christ every year.  If you do, more power to you, but in my eyes, reaching the lost and hurting shouldn't be a race to see how many eggs we can get in a basket.  It should be a loving connection-based and nurtured relationship viewpoint because, honestly, how many of us jump feet first into a life-changing decision unless we've weighed the pros and cons, feel comfortable and connected to whatever we're choosing to allow be a part of our lives forever?  I believe that I am simply called to live like Christ.  He will open doors of opportunity for me.  He will lead me to the people He wants me to influence and talk to and befriend.  And then He will do the rest.

The fact is, I'm not that great.
Yes, I lead worship at my church.  Yes, I love to lead prayers.  Yes, I have a very intimate spiritual relationship with my Jesus.  I know I am called to be like Him, but ultimately, you shouldn't be looking at how I'm living.  You should strive to look more like Christ in your own life.  We are all convicted differently.  You may not feel His blessing to get a tattoo or piercing, whereas I have 7 piercings and 16 tattoos.  (And those very things have opened doors of opportunity to share His good news with people who also have tattoos and piercings!)  You may not feel His blessing to wear any type of pants, but I wear jeans, shorts, capris and leggings.  We're all unique in our personalities and characters and yes, our relationships with Him.  Each person's spiritual life is theirs and His, not theirs, His and yours too.  It shouldn't be about looking like the person in your life who fills you with inspiration and wonder.  It should be rather - "What about my role model imitates Christ and how can I look more like Him through following their example?"

All I know, though, is that the Jesus of the Bible wasn't some holier-than-thou guy with a standoffish attitude who spoke with a deep monotone voice talking all about how God is going to punish everyone who goes against His commands.  But He didn't beat around the bush either.  He said the truth and the truth wasn't always pretty, but wow was He real.  He loved.  He forgave.  He healed because He could and wanted to.  He hung out with the people no one else wanted to be seen or associated with - thieves, beggars, whores, loud children, single mothers.  He Himself was homeless, He wasn't super educated (according to some), came from a humble and hard-working family, and I bet you anything, He smelled like fish most of the time. He called people out on their crap, flipped tables, called religious leaders poisonous snakes, washed dirty feet like a mere slave.  He knew the very definition of the word "suffer" like no one else has or ever will.  Some guy, huh?  Not the typical model person you would mold a leader after and decide to follow with your whole heart.  But oh, He's my biggest role model.  I hope I look like Him, at least in some areas.  I wish in all.  I want to be known for rocking the boat, speaking out for the lost and broken, taking that extra second to speak life into someone's world of hurt, to hang out with people the Christians of today's mold wouldn't want to be associated with.

You see, molds are manmade.  Molds can be broken.  Molds aren't eternal.
I think today's culture is so fixated on titles and cliques that even Christians get caught up in the labels and create subcultures of perfectionism when in reality, it's not about who is doctrinally sound, who worships the "right way", which pastor speaks better, who prays the most eloquently, which church building is the biggest.  If you took all that away from the average church-goer, what do you think you would have left?  I know that for me, if you took away the complexity of it all, you'd be left with a twenty-something year old woman who struggles day to day to silence the enemy's lies, who is always fighting private battles, who has a battered and bruised heart, a powerful story of redemption, sixteen tattoos, seven piercings, who practices meditation, douses herself in essential oils, uses crystals and nature as a way to recharge, who cusses sometimes, who has some songs labeled "explicit" in her iTunes, who strives every day to touch just one person with words of life and love and hope, who tries to become a better human, in any and every day attempting to mimic the life and walk of a Man who lived on this earth 2,000 years ago but Who is eternal and reaches through time just to touch my soul and remind me that I am wholly, fully, and completely loved.

"When someone asks me about tattoos, cussing and parties, I'm more bothered that we're not bothered by greed, poverty, dichotomies, and self-idolatry.  Jesus navigates the caves in our hearts before the cracks in our behavior.  Love saves us into truth, not the other way around." 
- J.S. Park

No, I don't have all the answers.  I'm not claiming to "know the way to draw people to Christ".  I do believe that living out our faith by example is the greatest show of vulnerability and the way to be the most relatable and appealing.  We have enough things in this world forcing us to be better, be more perfect, be sexier, be more in shape, be more attractive.  What about the people - like myself - who feel like they fall short of that?  Where can they look for realism and encouragement?

All of my faith is based on a deep knowledge in my soul that what I choose to believe is the truth.  And I believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.  The same God who made this universe, who knit me together in my Mama's womb, who knew all the mistakes I would make, all the days I would screw up, all the times I would knowingly go against Him, and yet He chose to sacrifice Himself for me in spite of it all.  And because I have been shown the greatest example of love, only through this can I say that I will love people no matter who they are or their background or what they believe.  I don't talk to people for the sole purpose of converting them.  I talk to people to grow connections and to show them - through my example, through my life, through how I live - that I serve this awesome Spiritual Being who made them and desires to have a personal relationship with them.  Our souls are what we have in common with God.  They're eternal and made in the very image of their Creator.  This is why I can say that I see His art in and through everything.

I'm not saying that I've rejected Christianity and I despise churches and everyone who attends them. Or that people who claim to be Christians are fake, or that the door-to-door evangelist is doing it all wrong.  What I am saying is that God won't be found in anything that tries to put on a show - whether that be your life or a church sanctuary.  We aren't here to bring attention to ourselves.  We're here to live out this wonderful one time thing called "life", to live it fully, and for His glory.  If someone asks where we get this living water from, then by all means, we should share this crazy amazing story of forgiveness and hope that we all have planted in us.  But lets not go up to someone and try to drown them with it through labels and pointing fingers and judgement.  Because that's not how Jesus won any souls.  Throughout the whole Bible, there is story after story of God using super messed up people to accomplish some of His greatest displays of love, hope, redemption, and grace.  He used someone who got blacked out drunk partying one night to repopulate the entire world.  He used an adulterer and murderer to restore justice to His chosen people.  He used a man who had 700 wives and 300 concubines to design and build His holy temple.  He used a hooker to be part of the lineage of that would bring His Son into the world.  He chose people who made mistakes, caused pain, tore families apart, doubted, disobeyed, questioned who He was.  He can use anybody.

And this is why I can look at myself and know that if He can use those people, He can use me somewhere in this mere breath of eternity.

"I have learned that I will not change the world.  Jesus will do that. I can, however, change the world for one person.  So I keep stopping and loving one person at a time. Because this is my call as a Christian."
- Katie Davis

Also published on Thought Catalog