That place called "church"

Every Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people who call themselves Christians, gather at a morning or evening service (with a potluck afterwards, if you're lucky) in a building called "church".  They sing songs, listen to hear a 45-minute sermon, chat with the people they only see once a week, and then go to their respective homes to live another week of work and play, and show up in seven days to do the same routine.

And that's what it is to a lot of people.

A routine.

Every once in a while, you might meet those "behind the scenes" church goers.  The ones who are at the church before anyone else is - setting up, prepping for the long day ahead and for the crowds that will soon ensue the building.  There is definitely a lack of commemorating these individuals for their serving hearts, so shout out if you're one of them!

For others, going to church is just "the thing to do".  It's the way they were raised and how their parents were raised.  And they know their grandparents would be disappointed if they didn't dress nice in their Sunday best and go to the presbyterian church down the street.

It's almost like a mandatory lifestyle.  Something people feel obligated to do.  Heaven forbid you don't attend church if you call yourself a Christian, because once you title yourself as one, not going to church would appear sinful and hypocritical.  (Oh and don't forget to take communion.)

I think I can safely guess that if you were to ask anyone, "What is the church?", you would most likely receive an answer along the lines of "It's a place that Christians go to on Sundays".  They would refer to the church as a location, a building.  And while that is the convenient name for the gathering place, "the church" itself is much more than that.  It's the title of the group of people who follow Christ.  Maybe you've heard that answer too?

A good verse that clarifies that statement is Ephesians 5:23.  It says that the husband is the head of the wife "even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and He Himself is its Savior."

But let's take it a step further, shall we?

The overall American culture view of church is "attend, sing, listen, leave".  And while I firmly believe that going to church is very beneficial for my spirit, and necessary for community, fellowship and challenging my spiritual growth, I just as firmly believe that my faith isn't restricted to the four walls of a building.

I can worship God anywhere.
I can listen to a sermon anywhere.
I can meet up with fellow believers anywhere.

The significance of my faith isn't determined by the number of Sundays I manage to make it to church.  If that were the case, I'd be a pretty bad Christian since I only went to church once this month.  (Does that make you cringe?  Sorry, I don't have time to explain my personal life and reasons why I didn't attend.)

My point is: if you have a personal relationship with God, you are the church.  His Spirit resides in you.  Your body is the literal, physical temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), so worshipping Him isn't something that should only happen once a week.
Honestly, God has met me more powerfully while I've watched the sun set on the horizon while driving through the Argentinian countryside than in a lot of churches I have visited.  Why?  Well, my guess is because the majority of the people attending those churches were doing so out of obligation, not because they had a yearning to meet with Him.

"God created everything that surrounds me - the fields, rivers, the forests.  The land is my church.  And I pray.  Each day."
- Uhtred Ragnarson, The Last Kingdom

You don't need rows of chairs and a stage to officially be in church.  You don't need a bunch of instruments and "professional" worship leaders to praise Him.  All you need is a willingness to learn about Him, to know Him more intimately, and He will always meet you in the moments you set aside to spend in His presence.

I am a member of the body of Christ, the family of God.  And I love the church I attend every Sunday (or as weekly as possible) because I love to be surrounded by fellow believers.  The people there have welcomed me into the family, the messages I hear are thought-provoking and feed my soul, the worship is incredible.  I don't go because I have nothing better to do and I want to keep up a good appearance.  I also don't worship God only on Sunday mornings.  His Spirit is tangible in that place.  Yes, in that building.  But it's not because it's a holy location.  We make it holy by acknowledging His presence there.  So if that is the case, then why can't my place of worship, my "church", be in the forest I go for a hike in, or at the foot of a waterfall I discovered, or in my bedroom with my Christmas lights flickering around me, or in the car on my way to visit my family, or while showing my friend one of the best views of Portland?

I speak His name everywhere I go.  I try to share His love with as many people as I come in contact with.  I watch sermons and listen to podcasts because I love being encouraged in my faith and I am uplifted when I hear words of wisdom from teachers who I can learn so much from.  And I worship my God through my service, through my words, through my writing, through my music.
There's no limit to how much we can praise Him.  So why confine it to one day a week at a place on 15th and Cedar?

"For through Him, we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the LORD.  In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit."
- Ephesians 2:18-22


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!