Faith, Lifestyle

Choosing Barabbas

You may or not be familiar with the story biblical account of the holiday known as Easter, but that is the inspiration behind this post. At the time I began writing this, it was Holy Week, and I’ve delayed posting it due to getting way too caught up in my studies to make time to edit my blog, but I still think it is of value (to someone) to share.

While Jesus of Nazareth was on trial by Pontius Pilate, the Jews & Pharisees did not believe Jesus was the Christ and wanted him to be executed for claiming to be. Pilate was willing to let Jesus go because he didn’t believe he was guilty of any crime, but the crowd protested. Following custom, Pilate gave in and allowed the crowd to select one criminal to be set free: Jesus of Nazareth, or thief & murderer, Barabbas. The crowd was so convinced Jesus was falsely claiming to be the Christ, that they pressed on with the idea of his crucifixion. Who should be set free? “Barabbas! Give us Barabbas!” They yelled. Pilate let the criminal Barabbas go & allowed Jesus to be sentenced to crucifixion.

You know what I find interesting about this? The crowd was okay justifying a man’s evil, hateful & illegal actions and letting him go free of consequences so that they could punish a peaceful man who says things they didn’t like. If you really think about this, we do this kind of thing all the time. When taking a look at mainstream media & celebrity culture, we often excuse or continue supporting people who have been convicted of horrendous felonies and even come up with hashtags like “#freeSoAndSo,” but as soon as someone in the limelight says one thing we disagree with, be it politically, religiously or whatnot, we ostracize them and say that “celebrities should stay out of this,” “they’re only here to entertain us,” and decide we are no longer going to see any film they’re in or listen to any song they release.

Now, I’m not saying that if you do this you’re horrible- you’re not. We all do it. And it’s fine to not want to associate with something that contradicts your values, but that choice should have continuity across issues & not hold double standards. If we excuse theft, violence & disregard of the law, but ostracize free speech or opinions (and I don’t mean in the hateful or threatening sense) that differ from ours, we are making ourselves out to be hypocritical. We are, in a sense, choosing Barabbas.

You may remember by my recent post chronicling my Holy Week/Easter weekend. In that post, I briefly mentioned that I participated in my University’s Easter Pageant. I was a crowd member, meaning I had to angrily yell at “Jesus” on the cross, and had to beg Pilate to release Barabbas instead of Jesus. This experience was very emotional & really brought things into perspective. I felt bad that I was saying the things I was, even though it was just acting, because in real life I know Jesus is the Christ. During these moments in rehearsal, as well as our devotional time, the idea that we “choose” Barabbas daily was brought up and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I can’t help but think that some of those people in the crowd, denying Jesus, were once followers of Jesus who succumbed to the pressures of those around them to condemn him. I’ve realized that that’s exactly what I do all the time, whenever I decide not to share my faith, or do something I know is against God’s will for me. If it’s available and the world accepts it, but it’s wrong, it’s much easier to accept it yourself. If it’s not widely accepting but others and it is right, it’s much more difficult to believe and accept it while standing alone.

Friends: it’s not easy to admit, but we choose Barabbas everyday. I don’t like that thought, but it’s so true. It’s important that we recognize this so we can find the strength to resist. Would you rather choose a murderous thief or an honorable & peaceful man? I, for one, would much rather choose Jesus. I still slip up & make bad decisions, but with God at my side, I know I can stand up and be strong.

Let’s think things through and evaluate our choices. Let’s pay attention to how we live our lives and seek out the goodness. Let’s stop choosing Barabbas and start choosing Jesus.

Until next time,

College, Faith, Lifestyle

Chronically Optimistic

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always been pretty good at being- or at least acting optimistic and cheery.  Before I truly found God, however, this optimism was often a façade; I acted optimistic in order to feel better about my life and hide my true feelings from the world. Once I made my relationship with God a priority, I have truly felt hopeful and optimistic, regardless of what life throws at me. Now that I’ve shared a little background info, let’s move on to the nitty-gritty. How does optimism and hope impact my life?

If you’ve been around a while, you may know that I have a chronic illness known as Dysautonomia, with a subset of the illness called POTS- or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Basically what this means is that my heart rate escalated quite high just from slight changes in posture- especially the switch from sitting to standing. Because this is a syndrome, it comes with a very long list of symptoms that I’m not going to list here due to the fact that A) I’m not an expert in the topic, just a patient, and B) the point of this post is not to solely inform you about one of many invisible illnesses. No, this is much deeper than that.

You see, there are many things that occur to me chronically- I live with pain, chronic fatigue & exhaustion, temperature intolerance and extreme discomfort everyday- but my chronic symptoms far surpass just the physiological ones. I have battled with depression and anxiety, I often still do. I, like many of you, have been known to be very insecure and have low self-esteem. It happens to all of us, but our feelings about ourselves don’t define who we are.

Sure, my life doesn’t look like a lot of people I know, but imagine how boring life would be if it did! To be completely honest, the past two weeks have been extremely rough for me, and I got stuck in a dark, low place I hadn’t been in for a while. I was still optimistic and was clinging on to the little hopefulness I still felt to get me through. One of the most instrumental things pulling me through this slump was a small, emotion-filled worship and prayer service on my campus last week. My spirit was unsettled and fighting off the lies of Satan and his cronies, but the presence of the Holy Spirit overtook the darkness and freed my soul from the gripping evil presence that was trying to destroy it. Many tears were shed, but I began to feel calm again. At peace, rather than in pieces.

Now, this is not to say that I still didn’t struggle this past week, but that I survived the struggle. College is hard. Having a chronic illness is hard. Life is hard. But difficulty is not impossibility. I cant explain to y’all how close I was to giving up and tossing my dreams and future plans aside- but I couldn’t. You see, the thing is, I never give up. Its like an impossible thing for me to do- believe me, I’ve tried. Deep in my soul, no matter how tough life gets, I still have the tendency to remain hopeful and optimistic. It’s in my DNA. God gave me an optimistic spirit and I believe that is why I am where I am today. No matter what obstacles come my way, I am able to search for alternate routes to get where I need to be. The optimism deep inside me overcomes all the negativity- and this optimism came from God. The further I separate myself from Him, the more negativity and self loathing fills my brain.

Dysautonomia & POTS make everyday a battle- and some days are worse than others. As much as it has affected my life negatively, this illness has also been one of my greatest blessings. By having dysautonomia, I have found a passion for research, reaching out to others with the various forms of autonomic dysfunction, chronic illness and autoimmune diseases, and being an advocate for increasing public knowledge of invisible illnesses. I believe I will get better, and that in the future, we will learn more about it and find more effective treatments, quicker diagnostic timelines and eventually a cure!

Now, 6 years ago, I would’ve thought that was an impossible pipe-dream, felt extreme self-pity and accepted my fate as someone who was going to be sick forever. This illness has helped me grow and turn my test into a testimony. Any time something goes wrong in my life or others’, I now encourage them to be hopeful and insist that things will get better. Some people may think I’m naïve for being so hopeful, but God has given me all the hope I need. I may not get better during my time on this Earth, but when I join my Father in heaven, all pain, sorrow and struggle will end- and I think that’s wonderful to look forward to.

Yes, I have a chronic, not-yet-curable health condition. Yes, I have had to make a lot of lifestyle changes and give up things I love in order to cope with it, but the only direction I have to go is up. You could say I’m chronically ill, but I say I’m chronically optimistic. 🙂

Til next time,

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College, Faith, Lifestyle

From Now On…

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably obsessed with all things The Greatest Showman. I could talk for hours about how much I love everything about this movie- from the music, the choreography, the casting, the costuming, everything.

Despite that wee fan-girl moment you just witnessed, this blog post is not a movie review. It is, however, inspired by the movie.

If you’ve seen the film or listened to the soundtrack, you know that it’s almost possible to pick a favorite song as they are all so beautiful lyrically, but one that’s really inspired me lately is the powerful ballad at the climax of the movie- “From Now On.” From Now On is the the song PT Barnum (Hugh Jackman) sings with the circus cast after an unfortunate event, when he realizes he hadn’t been acting like himself due to chasing the fame and glamor of the world. He decides that he is no longer going to focus on the things that don’t matter, but instead shift his attention to the things that do.

What does this mean to me? Well, let’s take a look at some of the chorus’ lyrics really quick:

And from now on, these eyes will not be blinded by the lights.

From now on, what’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight.

It starts tonight.”

As a Christian college student in 2018, these lyrics pierced into me.

“…these eyes will not be blinded by the lights..” In this age of social media and television, it’s so easy to become distracted by, even obsessed with popularity. By how many followers we have on our social networks, by how many people we know, by the idea of having people know your name, or having some type of fame. We often end up, in a sense, “blinded by the lights.”

As a Christian, I recognize that this is something to be wary of- we are warned against this kind of idolatry of worldly things, or the desire to be of the world. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The apostle Paul wrote this because it was relevant to the people culture in Rome thousands of years ago, but it’s still very relevant today.

If we are so focused on fulfilling the glamorous, glittery expectations of the world in order to “fit in” or be seen as “like-able,” we are not paying attention to God’s beautiful and perfect will, his plan for our lives. By doing this, we’re sending ourselves down a road of destruction. We lose the very depths of who we are by not utilizing our spiritual gifts and opportunities- just like PT Barnum lost who he was in the film. In The Greatest Showman, we see Barnum get caught up in fame, esteem and wealth- so much so that he neglects his circus family and brushes off his wife and children in order to pursue more wealth and fame.

As viewers, we may think “Seriously, P.T.? You have so much greatness happening right in front of you- why would you run off?” But we know deep inside that we do the same thing all the time. We don’t appreciate what we have in the pursuit of something we perceive as better, even if it ends up hurting us or leaving us dissatisfied. If we turn our focus back on to what we have, from now on, back to God and his plan for us, we will be more satisfied. That satisfaction may not come during our time on Earth, but it surely will once we’re in Heaven with our creator, living in eternal satisfaction.

Another struggle we face is procrastination. We wait to do things, and I’m not just talking about homework! When faced with the opportunity to pray out loud, share our testimonies or tell someone about God, we often think “eh, I’ll do it next time/week/month/year.” This response becomes repetitive & we continue on this trail of putting things off that could’ve planted seeds. We keep neglecting our garden that’s right in front of us. God knows when we recognize an opportunity he’s called us to & neglect to take advantage of it. I can name numerous times I had the opportunity to share the gospel or show God’s love to people where I didn’t, and I feel upset about it.

Those days of waiting are over, my friends. I challenge y’all to join me in prayer and challenging yourself to use the opportunities before you. Seize the moment, share the love & work together with other believers to spread the word of God to everyone who hasn’t felt it. Stop procrastinating life, stop procrastinating sharing the Gospel & stop procrastinating everything because the time is now. As the Greatest Showman said, “what’s waited for tomorrow starts tonight!”

God Bless,

Faith, Life

Dear Dysautonomia

As a person with a chronic illness of the autonomic nervous system, I’ve had to make many adjustments & try different treatment plants. It’s a battle, but it’s a battle I’m willing to fight. Since creating this blog, I have joined some online communities of other Christian bloggers my age. Many of these ladies also deal with chronic illnesses- some have dysautonomia, some have EDS, some have MS or RA, and the list goes on. I’m extremely blessed to have been able to talk with these people and build a community with people who understand what I’m going through. Many of these ladies have way more challenges to face due to their illnesses than I do, but they are so strong and inspiring to me. They give me support & the optimism to push through even the toughest days.

I’m not gonna lie… At first I thought this diagnosis was the end of my plans, dreams and goals. I was glad to have a diagnosis after almost half my life searching for one, but the reality of knowing the changes I was going to have to make made me negative and sad, leaving me feeling just plain broken.

I still have rough days, but thanks to God giving me strength, my healthcare team, my family & my community of fellow “spoonies,” my mindset has shifted. And because of that, I have a few words I’d like to say to this sly, confusing little illness:

“Dear Dysautonomia,

I know you think you’ve won. I know you think I’m going to accept that I’ll be sick forever. I know you think I’ll be debilitated and give up on everything I’ve ever dreamed of… But you are so wrong, my “friend.”

Okay, so I had to stop dancing, my favorite art form and sport of all time, until further notice. I bet that made you ecstatic. So I had to “give up” cardio workouts until further notice. Okay, well that’s not the end of the world. Yes, I spend every day in pain, and with a skyrocketing heart rate. Yes, I find myself sweating even when it’s cold, having chronic hypotension and downing liters upon liters of water- oh & don’t forget all that salt! I’m sure you’re enjoying every bit of this, waiting for me to crack. To give up and fall victim to your grasp.

The thing is… you don’t own me, you don’t own my life. You can throw countless annoying symptoms at me, make me take medications that I cannot pronounce, cause excruciating migraines, panic attacks and pretty severe anxiety, but you cannot take away who I am: a fighter, a motivator, an artist, a student, a friend, a daughter, a leader & most importantly, a child of God.

You can throw all these inconvenient, stressful things at me, but my God is right here with me. I’ve accepted the fact that you’re an obstacle I have to juggle daily- but I will not be overcome by you. For all the flare ups, all the days you make it nearly impossible to get out of bed, I remember who I am. I’m not running away from this diagnosis anymore because you don’t scare me. You may be a storm, but let me tell you, my God is bigger than any storm. I’ll keep dancing in the rain and enjoying the things I can do. You can keep doing your thing, but you will not beat me.

Before I go, Dysautonomia, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for showing me how strong I am. Thank you for making me turn to God as my strength in a time I was separating myself from him. Thank you for showing me that I’m a fighter, an overcomer and a goal-getter. Thank you for showing me that there’s more than one way to do something- if I just allow myself to be creative and motivated. Thank you for causing me to pursue other avenues of creativity and rediscovering my love for old hobbies and art forms, reminding me of so many of the gifts God gave me not only to cope, but to glorify him with.

Dysautonomia, you may beat up my body, but I refuse to be a victim. I will keep fighting until there’s a cure- until this “invisible illness” is well known, and is no longer stigmatized or brushed aside.

One last thing… leave everyone else alone. I hate seeing what so many others are going through. I hate seeing how many people don’t have access to amazing doctors or a strong support system like I do. You can mess with me all you want. Just know, I NEVER quit.

Sincerely,

A girl with POTS.”

To all my fellow “spoonies,” I’m praying for you and rooting for you. You’ve got this. Don’t hesitate to send me a message if you need anything. Never give up.

Xoxo,

College, Faith, Lifestyle

19 things I’m thankful for

Psalm 95:1-2 NIV:

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”

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I’ve been on this Earth for 19 years now, so I’ve learned quite a bit and have found myself to realize what is important, and how much I truly have. I will keep learning and growing and developing appreciation for things, but that is a topic for another time.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, which is one of my favorite holidays that happens to have just happened, I thought I would share with you all a few things I am thankful that year. 19 specifically, just because I have 19 years of experience and learning what to be appreciative of.

Without further ado, here are 19 things I am thankful for this year :

1. Life. I am thankful to have been able to be on this earth the past 19 years, many people don’t get the chance to live this long, or much at all. I’m thankful to be alive & have experiences that make me feel less like I’m idly existing and more like I’m truly living.

2. Family. I’m beyond blessed to have a family that loves me. We’re all a little weird and crazy, but we have each other through the good times and bad. I’m thankful to have people in my corner to do life, because it’d be so much harder if I were alone. This goes for biological family and otherwise.

3. Freedom. I’m beyond grateful to have grown up in the United States. I know this may seem cliché, but it’s true. I have gotten to live with an abundance of freedoms in a land of opportunity. This is possible in other countries as well, but there are far more countries who don’t have the freedoms and safety I have. I’m thankful to be a citizen of one of the greatest countries that provides me with unlimited opportunities to achieve my dreams.

4. My church. I’m so thankful for a family of people that offer genuine fellowship and accountability. To my home church and to my college life group- thank you. So blessed and appreciative for the love and support you people give me. Everyone needs this kind of community & I’m extremely blessed to have it- because again, some people don’t have the freedom to gather or praise God like we do here in the U.S., and some haven’t found the right church family for them. I’m grateful I have.

5. Education. As a woman, the fact that I have the opportunity to pursue an education in whatever field I desire to is something the be immensely thankful for. There was a time even here in the states this wasn’t a foreseeable or realistic task, but now that it’s a reality, I’m so blessed to have the chance to study, stress & have a sleepless night or too. The end result will be well worth it.

6. Our troops. I cannot express my gratitude to those who risk everything to defend our country and protect our freedoms. They are making the ultimate sacrifice and doing/seeing things most of us could never imagine or willingly take part in. If it wasn’t for them, who knows what kinds of things we’d be dealing with. To our service members- active, reserve, veteran or passed on- thank you. So much. You are heroes.

7. Healthcare. Though the economic side of this topic often leads to debate, which I am not going into on this post, I truly believe that I’m blessed to have the healthcare I’ve received here in Texas. As someone with a chronic illness who has spent a fair amount of time in the US healthcare system, I can say I’m extremely thankful for all of the doctors, nurses, PA’s, medical assistants, physical therapists etc who have helped me. Our medical technology and training has and continues to improve and I feel extremely blessed to live in an era where medical research and treatment is at a new height- and more about our bodies chemical and anatomical composition is understood. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to live with certain conditions- or potentially die from them- if I were experiencing them 50+ years ago. It’s astounding honestly.

8. Service. I’m so thankful to be able to help other people, and to serve God’s kingdom freely. I am thankful to have gotten to go on mission trips and participate in service projects that were often uncomfortable for me but were used for the betterment of myself & others. I’m grateful for those who have pushed me and funded me to get there- and to have been allowed to participate in said things. Some service opportunities are difficult to come by without connections or certain strings & specific stipulations, but I’m thankful to have had as many as I have.

9. My friends. I’m not going to sit here and name all of you, because I don’t think that is necessary. You know who you are. Whether we are super close, not as close as we once were, hang out daily/weekly, see each other a couple times a year, etc., I’m thankful for you. I’m thankful you’re part of my life and have been here for me, experienced life with me, laughed with me, cried with me, danced in the rain with me. I’m thankful that y’all are who you are and have shared parts of your life with me.

10. UMHB. I cannot say how thankful I am for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor for providing me with such a Godly environment to grow and learn in. This university has challenged and pushed me spiritually and academically & has been one of my life’s biggest blessings. From the Christian fellowship to the small class sizes, the awesome professors that actually care about my life, education and future, the people who I don’t know well that pray for me and offer me comfort- to the coursework that applies my faith and creativity while challenging my intellect.. I couldn’t ask for more from an academic institution. This place is so much more than a school, it’s home.

11. Theatre. I grew up doing community theatre, as well as school theatre. Though I’m not extraordinarily gifted in the theatrical arts, theatre has helped me grow in many ways and I am so thankful God brought it into my life. Theatre helped improve my confidence, my speech, my memory and more while stretching me to be creative- and being fun all at the same time. It also brought me together with people just as quirky as me- from all walks of life, and gave me a comfortable environment to let loose without fear of being judged as weird, so much so that I’m able to be myself anywhere I go now, though I was once extremely shy.

12. Having a home. This one is simple. I’ve moved a few times, and we’ve had financial struggles throughout the year, but I’m blessed to have always had a roof over my head & food in my belly. Many people in the world could only dream of this luxury and we often take it for granted. As I’ve grown and seen poverty in the world around me and seen the extreme circumstances many have had to live through, I’ve come to realize just how good I have it and made it a point to always remember that what I have is a luxury and not a given with life- it’s something I must always remain appreciative of- especially as I didn’t contribute to the finances because I was a child, and will have to work to provide for myself in the next few years.

13. Science. Like healthcare, science has come a long way throughout the years. It’s one of the most interesting subjects to me- and it helps me to further realize the complexity and greatness of our creator. I believe God gave us science to learn and understand more about his creation, and I think it helps to prove God’s existence, because it’s so complex yet perfectly thought out- a greater power HAD to have constructed this. I’m so thankful for this field I’m able to study and how it helps us help others, understand more about ourselves and our planet- and about how powerful and all-knowing our amazing God is.

14. Dancing. Like theatre, God brought me to dance when I needed it most. It taught me many life lessons & has provided me with many memories- some good & some bad. Dance pushed and challenged me mentally and physically, but helped me develop my work ethic and desire to keep pushing through adversity in order to achieve what I’m capable of. It taught me the value of discipline and hard work.

15. Teachers. The people who don’t get enough recognition, nor enough pay. I’ve been blessed with many AMAZING teachers throughout my life, and they’ve all left a mark on me. Again, not gonna name each one individually, but I have many former teachers on Facebook- and if they’re on my Facebook, I consider them to be a great teacher. So I’m writing this to those who have impacted me greatly: you are awesome & you are a light. Your passion to educate young minds and pour your heart into you work inspires me & I thank God for you. I’ve dealt with teachers who seemed detached, uninterested and bored who made school pretty i enjoyable at times, but you guys who love what you do made me feel motivated to do my best and keep chasing after my goals- and you helped me with all of my struggles for countless hours after school and didn’t stop until you knew I understood. You were there for me when I felt unconfident or blue & you brightened my day. Never forget that what you do is worth it & many students are extremely grateful for you- even though we don’t tell you enough.

16. My roommate. I’m thankful that you’re always down to jam out to Hamilton, bake junk food or have an existential crisis with me. And also that you’ll procrastinate with me by stress cleaning or watching cheesy movies, tagging me in memes and for reminding me that I’m not stupid. Thanks for understanding the struggle by having the same major/minor as me so we can both stress about the same classes. Thanks for knowing the things I don’t know and for being a hard worker who motivates me to get stuff done. Thanks for teaching me what it’s like to live with one other person and share the responsibilities of chores like a team. And for being there for my rants, mental breakdowns & POTS flare ups (oh and taking my moms calls to drive me to the doctor when I won’t go). Also thank you for not being a crazy roommate like those I hear about in horror stories that cause unnecessary drama and stuff. I am blessed to have a roommate that I can call a friend, even though you’re not as quiet as I thought you were at camp… (which is good because I’m not quiet either!) Hahaha but really, you rock.

17. My hometown. I know I make jokes about it and was happy to leave- but that’s just because I needed to branch out and grow and find myself. I’m proud of where I grew up because I met great people, learned a lot and created a plethora of memories. La Porte will always be home and I’m not gonna lie, I miss the comfort and ease of it at times- especially because I don’t return often and being in a new place is overwhelming at times, no matter how big or small it is. I’m thankful to have experienced my childhood and teenage years in the place my parents and siblings did, where my family name is known by many in the district- where my name and family ties left me no choice but to behave in school. And of course- the opportunity to take college classes for FREE that I was able to transfer- not many districts provide that luxury and I’m grateful (it also gave me many of the teachers I mentioned earlier and that’s awesome!!). Now that I gone, I can really appreciate what all this place offered and I think my life would be way different had I grown up anywhere else.

18. England. Yeah, y’all have probably heard me talk about this place a lot in the last year… but seriously. I’m so grateful to have experienced this place and taken in its history and culture. I’m so thankful for the bonds I made- both my my mission team and with the people I met across the pond. Travel and immersing yourself in a new place is eye opening and challenging, but it’s one of the greatest things you can do, in my opinion. I’m so grateful I was able to embark on the trip and have this opportunity. I’m thankful for what it revealed to me and how God is using the experience in my life and in his for me. I’m thankful for my family across the pond, my hosts that took me in graciously and treated me like they’d known me forever. I’m grateful for the newfound awareness I have for spiritual warfare. I’m all around thankful for this country that my family originated from, and for the connection I felt with it. Wow oh wow.

19. My blogging community. Y’all, I’m so thankful for my fellow bloggers who encourage me and push me to develop better, deeper content. I’m grateful to have found people who share the desire and passion to spread God’s love and goodness through this kind of platform, those who love writing and channeling their creativity to reach others. I can’t say how many times I’ve thought about giving up on this whole blogging thing out of discouragement or lack of time, because your kind words, comments & discussions help me keep going & taught me to make time and plan out content. This goes for fellow bloggers as well as my readers. I’m so so grateful and thankful for all of you who take the time to read what I put on my corner of the internet & interact with me! I hope you get something out of my work, whether it be serious or silly, as I post a little of both.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart for reading this and joining me on my journey. Be on the look out for lots of new posts soon, after I survive finals! Hope everyone had a wonderful thanksgiving and I wish you safe travels!!

God bless you,

College, Faith, Lifestyle, World Issues & Current Events

Living Sober

“Why do you wear that bracelet?” “What does it mean to you?” “Are you Sober?”

I know what you’re probably thinking after reading the title of this post, but it’s not what you think. This post is talking about sobriety, but I’m not referring to alcohol sobriety, per se.

I will say, my inspiration for this post, however, did stem from experiences I’ve had watching loved ones face & overcome addictions. This has become a large part of my testimony, and I always wear a purple “live sober” bracelet as a constant reminder of the hardships, strength & trust in God it took to get through that situation. I never take this bracelet off, and it is constantly there reminding me to remember what is important in life. It’s a great conversation started that often leads to me being able to share my testimony (boom, God works is many ways my friends!) with new people & cultivate fellowship. It reminds me to walk through life soberly.

I’ll also tell you that posting this was incredibly difficult. I’ve been working on this post for 3 months and constantly editing it, trying to get it right because this is an important topic to me. It’s still imperfect and redundant, but I found getting too wrapped up in the intricacies of this post pretty much contradicted the point I was trying to get across, so I decided it was time to stop stalling.

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After listening to many sermons, attending revival at my university and diving into the word, I got to thinking. God put it on my heart to dig deeper into this topic and write a post to share about it & here goes:

Sobriety is typically associated with not being under the influence of drugs and alcohol, but to me it’s so much more than that. Sobriety is living clearly, without worldly distractions clouding the sky. Living without getting tangled up in distractions and addictions of any kind.

As a college student in this society, I know first hand that life is full of things that distract us from truly living & from our focus on God. From social events to social media, from GPA to finances, from embracing the freedoms of singleness to chasing the possibility of relationships- we all get caught up in things that are so minute in the grand scheme of things. If all we do is focus all of our attention to any of these things, among many others, we aren’t really living. Our judgement becomes clouded and we often miss out on the little things that truly matter.

You see, we tend to get so caught up in how many followers we have on social media, how aesthetically appealing our instagram feeds look, how good our GPA is, how pretty we look, how much money we have, etc. that we obsess over them. We let these things consume our minds, even if we do not mean to. These are not necessarily bad things, but we shouldn’t put any of them in front of our relationship with God. I know I am guilty of this, and if you’re reading this, you probably are to, in some way or another. Maybe you struggle with obsessing over social status, maybe school comes before everything, maybe you are caught up in the clutches of drug and alcohol misuse.

I know, I know, what does “sobriety” have to do with this? Daily distractions are waaaaay different than drunkenness and drug use, aren’t they?

The quick answer is no- they’re not. Anything that we obsess over so much that it hurts or threatens our ability to socially interact, connect or direct our focus is an intoxicant. It distorts reality- just like social media, for example. People usually portray themselves differently on apps like Instagram, Facebook & twitter than in real life- or only show the best parts of their lives. Those sites are great, but they don’t paint the whole picture. We don’t know the full story unless we make real interactions and act intentionally and genuinely. Be vulnerable, be real. Don’t hide behind a screen, a GPA, a relationship, etc. Just like alcoholics don’t want to be identified or known solely as alcoholics, we should not allow ourselves to be defined by things of this world. Be in it and not of it, but don’t simply be in it. Live fully in it.

Wherever you stand, I have a challenge for you. Get your priorities in order. School, finances and relationships are important, but they mean nothing if you idolize them. They mean nothing if you’re not using them to glorify the creator. Don’t let them blind you. Don’t worship worldly things, and don’t let the world tell you that they are more important than God, or your well-being, or living. If you’re doing something or addicted to something, no matter what it is, that is harmful or stops you from living a meaningful and purposeful life, stop it. Sober up. Stop doing the things that hurt yourself and others.

To be fully aware and in tune with life, to truly live, we must remember what we were created for. We must remember WHO created us. Don’t let the distractions affect your focus on the Lord. Be sober in mind, body and spirit.

I’m not suggesting that you should throw all of these things out the window; I am just suggesting taking a step back.

Put things in perspective, and reprioritize God. If we put God first, everything else will fall into place. We just have to be genuine & yes- intentional. Don’t allow yourself to drown your focus in unimportant, material or media based things. They block your focus from God & also from your daily relationships. If we get distracted from God but daily, worldly things, how often do these things distract us from discipleship? From the great commission?

We need focus and clarity in order to truly live- and God is the source who clears the fog.

I know this is beginning to sound redundant, but bear with me, please. Let us all try not to be so intoxicated by the things of this world that we forget who created it, and why we are here. It’s difficult to go make disciples if we are too wrapped up in the superficial, temporary things of this world. Life here is important, but it’s short. Eternity is at stake, so don’t forget about your purpose & don’t count other people out either. As a church, we are in this together, and we need to reach out to as many as possible.

Thanks for reading this, but now is the time. Lock your phone, close your computer. Go out and disciple. Make fellowship, interact with people and build relationships. Spend some time with God, be purposeful.

Live Sober, my friends. And live fully.

Xoxo,

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College, Faith, Lifestyle

Why I Chose to Attend a Private University

“Where do you go to school?” “The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.” “Ohhhh, Baylor, wow!” “Uh, no, not Baylor.” “Sic ’em bears!” “Well actually…”

This is a conversation I have pretty much anytime I meet new people or go home. No one has heard of my little school (that I love). Those that have heard of it know that it’s a very small, private Christian university. They immediately question why I would choose an unheard of private institution in a small town over a huge state school. They also accuse me of being stupid or financially irresponsible for paying private school tuition (though it’s not really their problem), and they also wonder why I’d go somewhere where we are required to attend chapel services & are surrounded by churchy functions. So, in this post, I will answer all of these very things!

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Why did I choose the small, relatively unknown University of Mary Hardin-Baylor over schools such as Texas A&M, University of Houston, Stephen F. Austin, etc? Well, it’s not because I couldn’t get I didn’t apply for them- I did, but they weren’t for me. I got in to quite a few state schools, but I applied to more private schools than state because as I toured, I realized that’s kinda what I was looking for. Don’t get me wrong, for a while I had my heart set on A&M because my brother went there and loved it and I enjoyed the traditions, but all it took was one week of nursing camp at UMHB to fall in love with it and put a new dream school at the top of my list. I’m telling you, from the moment I stepped on to this beautiful campus, God said “yes.” It immediately felt like home and like the perfect place for me. Knowing how pricey private school tuition is, I did apply to many schools just in case this one didn’t work out (but I’m SO glad it did). I found UMHB my junior year of high school and had priority early acceptance- I was accepted within 48 hours of applying before my senior year began, so I pretty much knew that that’s where I wanted to be. I fell in love with the campus, the program, the Christian atmosphere and the fellowship and kind people I met, as well as the small little community we have as a campus. Being here at this university has helped me grow in my spiritual walk in ways I could never imagine, and in ways I don’t think I could’ve at any other school. I truly felt God leading me here, and my parents felt the same way, so we knew we’d find a way to make it work (and I’m so so thankful). This school has so many opportunities to grow spiritually and academically & I am still satisfied with my decision to come here and take in all it has to offer. The academics are challenging, but the faculty and professors want you to succeed and are willing to help you and invest in you if you make an effort, plus small classes mean your professor probably actually knows who you are- which is a good thing in my opinion.

Being a person who thrives with more individualized attention in coursework, UMHB was a perfect fit- because I don’t feel like a little fish in a huge pond as I would in a larger public institution. There are so many activities and organizations to get involved in and meet people, which is also amazing. While the small school and community is something I really love, the biggest point drawing me here is the Christian atmosphere. No, not everyone here are super devout christians, as people have different reasons for school selection, but many of the professors and staff are & the school has many Christian traditions and honor codes, and opportunities for Christian fellowship and developing your faith. For me, this is important. As a young Christian whose faith has been newly restored (that’s a part of my testimony), it was very important for me to be surrounded by Christian community to keep me accountable and motivated, so I wouldn’t veer off from my faith or make excuses that opportunities aren’t available to me, and I worried that I wouldn’t continue growing in my faith in the ways that I have since coming to this school.

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Through attending my lovely private, Christian school, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to the U.K. And serve God’s kingdom with some of my peers and I’m so blessed to have been able to experience that. I would not have had this opportunity had I not followed God’s plan to attend this school. I know what you’re thinking.. that must’ve been expensive! Well, it was, but God always provides when things are according to his plan. I felt called to go on the trip early during my first semester, and continuously prayed about it. I was more and more convinced, so I began fundraising, as I definitely was not in the financial condition to just dish out that money, it wouldn’t happen. Fundraising was tough, but like I said, God provides. My trip was fully paid for via fundraiser (thank you to all who donated/participated, y’all rock) and was the trip of a lifetime. I learned so much about the world, the U.K., myself & Christianity in general. I will hold those memories forever & have found further callings for my return to the beautiful country to continue my services, in God’s timing of course.

To further explain, I truly believe college is an investment. The classes AND the experience AND where you go play a part in shaping who you’re going to be, especially if you do enter college immediately following high school. I’ve taken classes at junior colleges and they’re great- it’s a good way to knock out some credits and save money, and for some people it’s the best option to attend full time while starting their college education, but it wasn’t the plan for me. If I had stayed home and gone to my junior college, sure, I’d have saved money, but I wouldn’t have become so involved, learned how to be more of a “people person,” been surrounded by the Christian community that I am at UMHB, and wouldn’t have learned to be as independent as I have been (though I still have work to do.) so yes, it’s a fantastic option for so many, but I believe I wouldn’t be as happy or successful in my first year had I not taken the leap to move away.

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I truly believe God intended for me to be at Mary Hardin-Baylor. I can feel it all the time. It’s pretty unexplainable, but it’s a feeling like no other and it feels so right. It always feel right to be in the middle of God’s will. I’ve tried to ignore his plan for my life and go my own way so many times, but he always takes the reigns and pulls me in the direction he wants me to go, so I had to stop fighting it. I still struggle with this, but since coming to this school, I’ve found great spiritual mentors, accountability partners and wonderful friends who remind me of God’s awesomeness when I somehow seem to forget- and that further tells me how badly I needed to be at this school. I’m growing so much in my faith while preparing for the crazy world of adulthood, and I feel like I truly could not reach MY full potential if I ignored God’s call. I also made so many lifelong friends & had to push myself to be social and make such friends- as I did not know a single person attending this university and had grown up in the bubble of people I’d know my whole life- so I grew up a lot in the social aspect!

Yes, the school is expensive & believe me, I tried SO hard to like other schools more, but I’ll tell you what- when something is God’s will, God has a way of making it happen. You must have faith & do your very best to help yourself and fight for things to work- but God WILL guide you. Everything is according to his will. I’m not telling everyone they should go out and attend a private university or a big university at all, but I do suggest really thinking about your future as you plan to go to college- especially out of high school. Think of finances, education, what you hope to get out of the college experience, about what you want to study & where God is calling you. I applied to 4 private, baptist universities, so it’s safe to say I felt God calling me towards a private school system. And like I said, God makes his plan happen in his timing. If you feel called to make a similar school choice and have no idea how you’ll make it happen- I’ve been there. Pray and work hard. Apply for every scholarship you can & ask God where he’s leading. He helped me make this school a possibility, and took care of financing my mission trip when my family was having financial difficulties. One of the most important things I’ve learned at this school is that GOD COMES THROUGH!

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Well friends, I could go on but this post is starting to get longer than most of the essays I’ve had to write in the past year, but feel free to ask me any questions about my school, applying for scholarships or the college application process! I’d love to chat. 🙂 And always remember Jeremiah 29:11-

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you & not to harm you, plans to give you hope for a future.”

Xoxo, IMG_0851

Faith, Life, Uncategorized

I am a vessel

I am a vessel, slowly drifting through an expansive and mysterious ocean.
It’s easy to get lost;
To drift further and further from the shore out into the dark, deep unknown.

I’ve faced stagnant waters, where nothing seems to be changing, and I’ve faced rough waters with crashing waves so fast and powerful that it feels I may capsize- or even sink.

I’ve been stranded, feeling completely lost and alone;
But I was found.

My creator sent me the coordinates to send me sailing back in the right direction.
He put out buoys to guide me so that I do not drift too far.

He cast his love over me, anchoring my soul in his amazing grace.
I may drift and I may be knocked around,
but the Lord, my God, will not be shaken.
He is the mighty anchor that keeps me from disappearing & losing all hope.
And for that, I am truly grateful.

I am a vessel, anchored in the miraculous and gracious love of Jesus Christ.

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Thank you for reading this that I wrote recently. Remember that God is a strong and trustworthy anchor who covers us with grace and fills us with hope!

God bless,
Cassie

Faith, Life

A Faithful Challenge: I Have Been Called. [2018]

*** A/N: This blog post is from the fall of 2016, when I began my fundraiser to go on a mission trip to the UK. Last summer (2017), God made that happen. I have been called to return this coming summer, so the sentiment of this post still rings true. The shirts mentioned in this post are an old fundraiser, though I do have some leftover if you’d like to buy one for $15 and get them off my hands :). Keep reading if you’re interested in how I was called to go on this trip & feel free to send me a message or comment below if you have any questions! I will link my Etsy shop soon if you’d like to purchase any of my handmade items to help support the trip, and other updates will follow soon. Sorry this is so long, but I hope you’ll read the following, as it means a lot. ❤

-cassie


“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Mark 16:15

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God has really been working in my heart for a while, but in the past few years, I’ve really been developing a heart for missions. Those who know me know that I am initially a shy, timid person who used to never delve into social situations out of my comfort zone. That being said, through a lot of prayer and conversations, I have felt God tugging on my heart and calling me to serve him in places that are out of my comfort zone. After 2 unforgettable mission trips in Puerto Rico, which was way out of my comfort zone due to the language barrier and my lack of experience with missions the first time around, I felt myself changing for the better and realizing a purpose God had for me- service.

I’ve always wanted to be a part of something much bigger than myself and go places I’m unfamiliar with, but haven’t yet had many opportunities to do so. This is one of the many reasons why I chose to attend the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, as the school puts a ton of focus on faith, fellowship and ministry. I knew that goon here would both challenge and strengthen my faith, as well as provide many opportunities to serve the LORD while still in school. From the first time I ever stepped on campus, I felt God’s presence and a calling that this is exactly where I needed to be to obey his plan for my life. Since I’ve been here, my faith has been challenged and strengthened and I’ve been introduced to many opportunities to serve him. I’ve also been forced to get out of my comfort zone as I am in a new town filled with new faces and none of my high school peers are at the same school as I am. God definitely used that fact to get me plugged in and involved from day one. I began hearing of many mission trips that are through the university and couldn’t wait to discover which one I may one day be called to embark on, as I have decided to minor in Christian missions and hope to one day use my nursing career as a way to embark on medical missions as well. That, and getting more experience with serving our God is very important in preparing me to follow His plan for my life. College is definitely the perfect t time for these kinds of experiences as it is a time where my experience will shape who I am as an adult, and I don’t yet have a family of my own to provide for- or the lack of energy to put into things such as this.

After attending a Wednesday morning chapel service where students shared about their experiences on the mission trip to England, I knew I had a lot of praying to do. During the service, I heard students pour their hearts out in testimony of what the trip entailed and I had an unexplainable feeling in my stomach and heard the words “you have been called; go” from a voice in my head. I had never felt quite this way before, but I knew it was God speaking to me and I had to find out more. After discussing it with my parents and a LOT of prayer for guidance, I decided to go speak with the school’s chaplain to get more information and a trip application. During my conversation with him, he told me the trip would be very challenging emotionally and that I would leave changed, that it was an experience like no other. I, being a person in need of getting out of my comfort zone and accepting new challenges as I start my young adult life, began feeing excitement as fell as anxiety about going on this trip- but mostly excitement. I know it’ll be completely unlike my previous mission experiences & I will tell you why:

Puerto Rico did have its challenges, as there was a language barrier between English and Spanish speakers and developing the whole mission mindset, but I came in contact predominantly with people who were Christians/Catholic or at least had some experience or knowledge of God. The trip was amazing and the people I got to meet and serve will always have a place in my heart, but my jobs on the trips were mainly running VBS, helping with painting and renovating churches and canvassing towns with fliers for new churches. This trip to England will be COMPLETELY different and I believe will really help develop my faith and heart for missions, as well as allow me to be a part of something BIG and special, in a way totally unlike I have experienced before by bringing the word of God to people who desperately need it.

England is historically known as a Christian country, but has become increasingly secular and could really use the spread of the word of God. Less than 3% of the county is Evangelically Christian. Many are completely secular, but Islam and Hinduism is also growing there. England is spiritually starving and needs the sustenance provided by our savior, Jesus Christ. This is challenging for me, as well as the rest of the students going on the trip, because we are very used to being surrounded by believers and fellow Christians, or serving in places where he is quickly accepted, but in England it’s very different. We’ve already been told that we may not see anyone accept Christ as their savior in the two weeks we are there, but our purpose is to help guide them closer to accepting him, even if the process is slow. This is a very new environment and culture to experience, but I’m really looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone and seeing how God uses all of us to make a difference in this country. We am just vessels and God is doing the all of the saving, but I would love for him to use us as tools to expand his kingdom and reach these people’s hearts so they may feel the love, comfort and wholeness that we feel because of him.

On this trip, we will primarily be ministering to college students throughout various places in town by sharing our testimonies, listening to them and doing any service projects in the Northern England community that we possibly can. I’d really love to be a part of spreading our Saviors love in a place that is lacking Christian fellowship because it is really important to me that the knowledge of his love and name will be known the “end of the earth” (acts 1:8). We will be in England from May 11-25, 2017- which will be here before we know it, but I’m really, really excited (how many times can Cassie use the word “excited” in one blog post!?) to dive into this and experience the plan of our Father.

In order to make this trip possible, I am selling some comfort colors shirts (see below) through a company known as Fund The Nations for $22, and I am also planning on selling some handmade crafts and foods in the future. I have also designed a baseball style of the shirt that will sell at $25 a piece! If you’d like to purchase a shirt, give me some odd jobs to do or if you feel led to make a small donation, I’d be forever thankful. Mostly I just wanted to share with y’all what God has called me to do and ask for your prayers as I embark on this journey that is new and out of my comfort zone. The trip is $2500 total and I know that it is totally possible for me to raise every penny if it is God’s will and I put forth the time and effort.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this and I’d absolutely love if you keep me on your prayers or send me some positive thoughts! You can email me any questions you have regarding further details about this trip, my testimony and why I feel called to go at: Cassie.allred1998@gmail.com

God Bless,

Cassie

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Faith, Lifestyle

The Testimony Effect

   Growing up in the church, I often heard people speak of their testimonies, or the story of their relationship with God, at church and camps, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I realized how much impact their words can have on me. 

    Most preachers or church camp speakers mention their testimony at some point during their ministry, but have you ever truly listened to the struggles and obstacles they’ve faced? 

  I remember in seventh grade, I went to a Fall Retreat for my youth group and the theme was “My Story.” We were spoken to about testimonies and developing our own and that’s probably the first time I realized the meaning of the word “testimony,” in reference to the Christian Faith. We were encouraged to write our testimonies so we could profess them to others. Our shirts for the camp said “Ask me about my story,” and the purpose of them was to be a catalyst for people to question us so we could tell them our testimonies. At the time, being the shy person I am, the thought of doing such a thing made me sick to the stomach. I hated talking about myself to people and in front of people. I was also not very exposed to much hardship- at least not the I could comprehend as something worthwhile to help explain the power of God’s love. I never wrote down “My story” that weekend, for two reasons:

  1. I thought was socially invisible & no one would ever inquire even if I wore my camp shirt 
  2. I didn’t think I had a story worth telling. 

Let me tell you- I was quite wrong. The t-shirt was a bright shade of blue and and the lettering was a vibrant shade of orange… And people were curious. Random peers would ask me about my story and I would break out in a sweat because I had not prepared myself and didn’t know how to react and never told them my testimony. (Don’t do this, P L E A S E)

  I share this tale of my naïvety, not to talk down on myself, but to offer you some encouragement. Middle school me (yikes, I hate thinking about it) was blatantly unaware of the effect  a testimony can have on someone struggling in their faith, and that is something college me truly understands. 

 I think the first time I really felt and understood the power of Christ in someone’s testimony is when I went on my first mission trip to Peñuelas, Puerto Rico. It was on this trip that I was first exposed to a completely different culture and lifestyle. Many of the people we spoke to did not have as many luxuries as all of us from the mainland United States, and yet, they all were so grateful and joyful. I realized the things I had taken for granted (especially air conditioner) and it humbled my heart and drew me in to the people. The people who shared their testimonies with us really struck a chord with me, as I realized the similarities and differences of their struggles and how Christ helped them overcome. 

   Since then, I really put thought into my spiritual journey that is still (and will always be) a work in progress & decided to write out at least a basic synopsis of my story, in case I ever need to share it. I’ve heard many over the past couple years since that trip as well as my return to Puerto Rico this past summer, and they often times make me so very emotional. 

  And now that I am at UMHB, I hear testimonies 2-3 times weekly, thanks to church, chapel and Worship in the Quad. While the stories told at all of these events have an effect on me, I think the most influential are the one told at Worship in the Quad. For those of you who don’t know what Worship in the Quad is, it is a weekly event in which students willingly gather to worship together for an hour and share testimonies. Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard heartbreaking stories from my peers and they always get me thinking. Through my time here, I’ve come up with a few reasons why listening to testimonies, especially ones of your peers/colleagues, is beneficial to your faith. 

  1. Fellowship. By listening to the intimate details of someone’s walk with Christ, you get a better insight to who they are and why they are. I immediately feel connected to my peers, even the ones I haven’t met, because they made themselves vulnerable and shared a side with me and other students they don’t necessarily show to anyone else. This draws us close in the body of Christ, and even makes me feel led to go speak to that person and give them a hug or thank them for sharing. I’ve noticed in similarities in their stories I can relate to, as well as things that I may not understand as well. The people I befriend who are so brave as to share their testimonies in front of so many peers tend to be the closest of friends and it immediately forms a bond of trust. This is important for building Christian fellowship and finding accountability partners. 
  2. Knowing you can get through anything.  Worship in the quad takes place in Thursday evenings, so I enjoy going to help me get through the end of great weeks as well as stressful, long weeks. When I feel as though everything is going wrong, I can listen to the words of my peers and hear about the adversity and hardship that they’ve faced, and I remember I’m not alone and that I CAN get through it. Some of the people who speak have been through the unimaginable & my eyes have really been opened. I also knew my burdens and struggles and thought they were unique, but by opening my ears, I realize they are not. I take comfort in knowing that these beautiful people can get through such painful and difficult situations through the power of Christ, and I instantly stop pitying myself. The messages they tell remind me how big God is and how powerful his love is. Testimonies remind me that people have overcome more difficult situations than I am in by putting their faith in God, and I instantly take comfort in that. It restores balance back to my faith when it is trembling in doubt. 

While these are things that I’ve discovered for myself, I hope they can apply to you as well. Start listening to what your peers have faced on their spiritual journey, testimonies can be very powerful. Also, do not be afraid to speak out about yours- you never know who has gone through similar situations to yours who can relate and take comfort from your story- or even be lead to Christ. God gives us the courage and ability to share our words & he speaks through us to reach those in need of saving. We have a big big God and he works in mysterious ways, and he works through us. Our words, through the greatness of God, have the ability to reach many, but it’s also important that we not depend on our own words, but learn and grow from the experiences of others.  Listen to what people have to say because you can get so much out of it & it can help you grow in your spiritual journey immensely. 

Acts 1:8 – But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Blessings and prayers to y’all,

Xoxo, Cassie