Sweet Home Santa Barbara

Thursday, October 31, 2013

31days // We Made It!

It's 10:04pm, and I'm typing up this final post for 31 days. I'm simply in awe of God right now. 

I can remember the first moment this idea came to mind, sitting in Annie's car, driving from Indianapolis to Chicago. All weekend long, I had heard incredible women sharing their ideas for 31 days. Zero percent of me thought I was going to participate. 

And then the idea hit: I could write about purity. I got that feeling of my heart igniting on fire, that beautiful tension in my chest that I can only associate with passion from the Holy Spirit. 

But 31 days? Really? Could I seriously write for 31 days about purity? And even if I did, would I still have people reading my blog after that? 

I just knew none of that mattered. I knew it didn't matter if 1 person read these posts or 1 million people did. Because I knew I had to do this for my heart. I knew the Lord was calling me to explore purity, and He was calling me to do that in a public setting on my blog. 

And so, here I am, 31 days after starting this mission. These 31 days consisted of trudging through my past experiences, digging into scripture, pouring out my heart. They were filled with battling temptation, tearing up at the support & encouragement of others, and praying, begging the Lord to guide my words. 

They were filled with so much, and they were just the beginning of my journey to discovering what true purity looks like. What it acts like. What it thinks about. 

My life is transforming, it's transforming every single day. Your's is too, have you noticed?

I want to thank you. Yes, you. You who read each and every post. And you who used social media to encourage me, support me, and ride along in this journey with me. You who prayed over this series. And yes, even you, who stumbled upon this post and are thinking "whaaa?"

You all play a role in my life. You all play a very important part in the beautiful story God is writing right now. I pray that you know that, how important you are to Him. 

It is my prayer that after these 31 days, you feel encouraged in your pursuit of purity. Whatever that looks like right now, I pray that if anything, hearing my story encouraged you that you can move forward in yours. 

I love you. I really, really do. 

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

31days // Advice

My friend Hilda asked a really great question that I thought deserves its own post, so today, I'm going to be sharing some advice. Advice for teenagers pursuing purity. Advice for adults pursuing purity. And advice for myself. Because let's be real: we're all in this battle together. None of us have it all figured out, we're all pursuing this beautiful "purity" thing together. 

Purity, it can be daunting. I hope that through these 30 days, you have come to find it a little less daunting. I hope that you have come to find that it's a whole lot less about perfection, and a whole lot more about Jesus

I've come to find that many of my struggles are directly related to my beliefs. The times when I want to run straight to a man are usually the times when my heart is hurting. Maybe it's insecurity, maybe I'm stressed out, maybe I'm avoiding something, but whatever it is, it pokes at my heart and causes an instinct to kick in: run to a man for comfort. 

In those moments, I have to stop and ask myself an important question: Do I believe that this man can comfort me more than God can? It's easy to say that God is the Comforter of all comforters, that His love is all I'll ever need, but do I really believe that? 

And I'm going to be brutally honest right now; sometimes, I don't. Sometimes, I have to get on my knees and ask God to help me believe that. Because if I don't? I will always be stuck in that cycle of running to a man, or a shopping spree, or a bowl of ice cream, or ___________ for comfort when I'm hurting. 

And our God is so good. In those moments where I am brutally honest with myself, and honest with a God who already knows what's going on in my heart, it's those moments where I give Him access to my heart. It's in those moments where He sure as heck does show me how to believe. By confessing that I need His help to strengthen my faith, I give Him permission to do just that. 

So my advice. First thing's first, take some time to pray to God and ask Him to show you what true purity is. I have to do this far more often than I do, and I know that I will always need to pray this. I will never have it all figured out, and I think that's the point. We are always going to need to be in a humble place of submission to God, if we truly want to maintain a pure heart. 

Don't be afraid of temptation. Don't let that temptation lead to shame. If you're feeling tempted, bring it to God, or bring it to a friend who knows and loves God. It's not a bad thing to be tempted, even Jesus was. He just didn't give in, and we don't have to either. 

If you fall down, get up again. Don't lose sight of the mission, to live a life that glorifies God. 

Don't keep anything hidden. Even what feels like the worst of the worst of the worst, tell someone. Someone who lives and breaths the gospel, because a person like that will never judge you. But they will point you straight back to Christ.

 And most importantly: fall in love with Jesus. I'm working on this one. Some days, I really feel like He is the love of my life. Other days, He feels like a name in a history book. {Again, brutal honesty here}. All I know, is the more you fall in love with Jesus, the more you'll find Him changing your heart to look like His. And honestly, that's what purity takes.

It doesn't take action on our part, it takes action on His. Real purity comes from a heart changed by God. And if you fall in love with Him? You can't possibly not be changed. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

31days // Tunes for Tuesday

Actually, it's just one tune. But "Tunes for Tuesday" has quite a ring to it, right? 

This 31days series is just the beginning of something the Lord is doing in my life. There's no doubt in my mind that He's after my purity, that He is fighting to restore my mind and my heart where my own flesh and lies have distorted things. It's sweet, really. When you can tangibly feel that the Lord is after your heart? There's nothing better. 

I've heard this song many times, but lately, it's been speaking to me in a whole new light. 

Hallelujah, we are free to struggle. 
We're not struggling to be free. 

Those lyrics, they get me every time. We are free to struggle, but we're not struggling to be free. You are free, friend!! That habit you've been stuck in for forever, you can break it! I don't care how engrained it is, I know that you can be set free. And I only know that because of my own life, because of my own engrained habits that are now nothing but a memory.

I pray that this song blesses you today, friends. 

Love you all!

Monday, October 28, 2013

31days // Accountability

Today, I'm here to talk accountability. And not to guilt you into sharing all that dirt in your closet. But because this is something that has truly transformed my pursuit of purity. It changed everything, guys. 

You see, I made the decision to pursue purity. And for the first few months, I was amazed at how simple it seemed. Boom, God flipped a switch in my heart, and suddenly I craved His way instead of my old sinful way. Or so it seemed, until one day it wasn't so simple. 

I look back now, and realize that it wasn't quite as black and white as I had thought. I was still very much allowing old habits to creep into my thoughts, and my lifestyle. It was only a matter of time before the temptation crept up, too. If I was still walking the same path, the destination wasn't going to change, no matter how much I wanted it to.  

And so, I reached a point where I was very much living a double life. I was going to bible study, getting plugged into in my community group, and attending church every week. I knew I wanted to strive for purity in relationships, but my actions weren't matching my intentions, because I was knee deep in a battle of sin. A battle that no one really knew about, or at least no one who could pour truth into me. 

I knew I couldn't do it, keep up this balancing act. I had to choose, continue living my old life and give up the new one, or ditch the old one completely. Why was it one or the other? Because living with one foot in each left me miserable in both. And honestly, I knew what I had to choose. I couldn't go back to the old life, not when I knew the new one was the only way. I had tasted Jesus, and there was no way in heck I was giving that up. 

So something had to change, and thankfully, God helped me figure that out. I met a friend for lunch one day, right in the thick of my intense battle with sin. I didn't mention it to her at the time, but instead, I listened to the beautiful love story that God was writing her. Tears fell from my eyes as I realized He wanted to write one for me, too. And this entangled mess of temptation and sin was not what His story included. 

There is no doubt in my mind that what happened next was from God Himself. Through teary eyes, I asked this friend if she would consider mentoring me. I told her she should most definitely pray about it, but she didn't have to. She said yes right away. 

This woman was by far the most Spirit filled person I had ever met. I met her on the Boston Prayer Tour, and I am fairly certain that she literally mentioned Jesus to every single person we encountered that weekend. If you had told me then, that she would become the person I would confess all of my mess too, I would have laughed. And, I probably would have been afraid. 

It happened so naturally. We started meeting weekly, and the conversation would flow each and every time. Usually, the tears would flow, too. I started telling her everything, all of my struggles and temptations and sins. And you know what she did in response? She showered me with the grace and love of Jesus. 

She never once judged me. She never once condemned me, and she never once made me feel shameful. Instead, she inspired me. She helped me trek through my battle with sin, and continues to do so today. Never once has she gotten weary of the burden. 

Through all of this, I realized the power of confession, and accountability. The fact of the matter is, I can't hide anything. I don't want to. Because the second I start hiding things, is the second I go back to living that double life. And why hide things, when there is no condemnation? The Bible tells us so. {Check out Romans 8:1}

So friends, if you don't have someone already, I encourage you to find someone who can handle all your junk. Someone who knows and loves Jesus, and knows and loves you. Someone who understands that His grace covers all, but also that His Spirit frees us to abstain from the very sin that requires grace in the first place. 

That temptation you feel? Tell someone. That sin you committed? Tell someone. 

There is freedom in confession, my friends. I would know. I have to do it a lot. ;)

Love you all. 

And thank you, Karen. Thank you for being a faithful servant of Christ, and for loving me and supporting me through all of my trials and stumbles. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

31days // Lessons

Can I be honest with ya'll? Posting for 31 days straight is haaard. Especially posting on the weekends!

So now that I got that disclaimer out, you'll understand if any posts in these last of the series are lackluster. Forgive me, will ya? :)


Tonight, I'm going to answer the second part of my wonderful friend Julie's question. She asked
what has been my favorite thing that I've learned from this series so far. 

As difficult as it may be to put together substance for these last few days, it's worth it for how beautifully God pulled my story out of me with this series. That has absolutely been my favorite part, digging deep into my past, and talking about how my mind was molded and shaped regarding purity. And then how the Lord came and completely reshaped my view on the topic.

I think my favorite lesson that I've learned through these 31 days on purity has been the reminder that God is constantly going to be renewing my heart. I am constantly going to face battles with maintaining a pure heart, and it's freeing to be reminded that 
only God can give me the strength that the battle requires. 

I've also been incredibly blessed by the support of you readers. Every single sweet comment, every single retweet, or social media shout out has been a giant blessing. It's your way of reminding me that 
the Lord will turn my mess into His glory. 

And for that, I will always stand in awe of Him. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

31days // Pure

We've got just over 30 minutes left to talk purity today. So, I've got a short and sweet one for you. 

Pure bliss. Doing Christian based yoga on the beach. 

If you're local, you gotta check out Faithful Heart Yoga! Or better yet, let's take a class together!

Pure joy. Spending time with these awesome 5th graders for Math Club once a week. 

Pure beauty. This place that I am crazy blessed to call home. 

Pure talent. My beautiful friend Hosanna has sure got one heckofa voice. Check her out:

Hope your having yourself a purely spectacular weekend. :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Giveaway For YOU!

I know I already posted today, but just wanted to wish you a Happy Friday one more time. 

This time, with a giveaway:

Violet from Blythe Ponytail Parades | Elise from Sunday Charm



Colleen from Paisley Blvd. | Dani from Love Me, Dani Marie

Karissa from Karissa & Company | Joyce from Joyful Outfits

Heather from Glitter & Gloss | Amy from Sweet Home Santa Barbara

Tori from Eye Candy | Karly from Good Enough to Read

Maria from Agape Love Designs | Allison from Modern Memo

Open to US only. Sorry!

A bunch of us ladies are getting together to give one lucky winner our favorite beauty supplies! A giant thank you to Cara for organizing all of this!

Good luck, lovelies!

31days // Truth for Thursday, I mean Friday

I posted an Ask Anything post this past weekend, and my sweet friend Julie asked a great question about scripture. She asked what my favorite verses were on purity, and I'd love to share one with you today. 

This is written on my wall at work, and I think it is one of my all time favorite verses. 

There are so many things that I love about this verse. The first is how it states "since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses," because that statement is oh, so true. 

I am surrounded by witnesses. You are surrounded by witnesses. We all are surrounded by witnesses, every single day. Whether we like it or not, we truly are a representation of Jesus Christ here on earth. We are His church, His peeps. If we don't represent Him, who will? 

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles," that, right there, summarizes the pursuit of purity. Throw that sin off, it doesn't belong here! We are no longer slaves to anything. We are free children of God, time to start living like them!

"And let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us." My Bible uses the word endurance, and I just love having that reminder. The Christian walk is not easy, pursuing purity can be quite counter intuitive. It takes perseverance, and requires endurance, the Bible confirms it!

I just love this verse so much. And I pray that it blesses you today!

Happy Friday, loves! If you've got something you want to hear about in the last days of this series, feel free to ask a question over here!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

31days // One Question

I've talked a lot about my struggles in this 31days series. I've shared an awful lot about my story, and haven't shied away from the fact that I stumble a lot. Sometimes, I think it's easier for me to talk about my struggles than my strengths. Struggles are relate-able, and you certainly don't have to worry about sounding prideful when you're talking about falling flat on your face. {Which I do, quite often}. 

But there's another part to this series that I want to dig into. The part where I share what has helped me in my walk with purity. Because the fact of the matter is, even with the 34098 stumbles in between, I'm one heckofa different person than I was when I first decided to give this purity thing a go. And if you're reading this series, and hoping to find some help for your personal pursuit of purity, I pray that you'll find that here. 

We've all heard that question, right? The "What Would Jesus Do?" question. We're supposed to ask ourselves in each situation, and the response will help lead us in the right direction. Well, I have a question like that. It never really was something that I intentionally started doing, but it has very much become a key part of my pursuit of purity. 

The question: 

Does this glorify God? 

The fact of the matter is, I want to live a life that glorifies God. That is why I want to strive after purity, because I believe that I have a Savior that is so amazing, that I want nothing more than to glorify Him with each and every aspect of this one life that I've been given. 

Every moment of my day might not seem mega-impactful, but I firmly believe that every moment can glorify God. It's a battle, and sometimes, I make the wrong choice. But incorporating this question into my lifestyle has helped me use wisdom & discernment in my daily decisions. 

Listening to a friend express her frustration at something she's facing? Glorifies God. Taking that information that was confided in me and sharing it with someone else? Not so much. 

Dedicating my 9 hours a day to working diligently on my assignments at work? Glorifies God. Scrolling on Instagram or Twitter during that time? Not so much. 

Bringing my aches, pains, and any other uncomfortable emotion to the Lord? Glorifies God. Avoiding those emotions by running to the comfort of sin? Not so much. 

And for the record, I am guilty of each one of those "Not so much"s listed above. But asking these questions has helped me dramatically shift my mindset. When I stray from God, either with gossip, or another sin of choice, 
I notice it

As we talked about here, purity is about so much more than just sexual sin. There is so much more freedom to be found, if we open our hearts to it. Asking myself this question has helped me find that freedom, in areas of my life that I didn't even realize I was missing it. 

Are there any questions or scriptures that you use regularly in your life? 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

31days // Hope Spoken Link Up

Since this whole series was prompted by a conference, I think the Hope Spoken link up totally fits in my 31days! ;)

Today, I'll be linking up with my fellow conference attendees, and sharing a little bit about myself! If you're new here at Sweet Home Santa Barbara, hello! I'm Amy. 

{Photo taken by the amazing Megan Westmoreland}

I'm a 24 year old California girl, working as a financial analyst, blogging my nights away, and lovin' Jesus 24/7. He came and changed my life, and now I can't help but life the rest of it for Him. 

The thing I am probably most nervous about for the weekend is asking for the time off work. I know it will be fine, but I'm kiiind of worrying over the fact that I'll be taking two weeks off in January for this. Once I get that part over with, it'll be all excitement from there!

Speaking of excitement, I am sooo looking forward to reuniting with some amazing friends (like Annie & Kerrie) and excited to meet some brand spankin' new friends, too!

What I am most hoping to bring back from the conference is a better understanding of the love of Jesus Christ. I hope to feel refreshed while I'm there, have those tense shoulders relax a little bit. I can never fully grasp just how good our God is, so I hope to come back thinking to myself "dang, He's even better than I thought!"

And something fun/random about me is that I have the goal to visit all 50 states. I'll be crossing off Texas at Hope Spoken! Woo hoo!

Happy Humpday, loves!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

31days // Learning to Walk

I remember when I decided to cut out meat. Or should I say, I remember the last time I decided to cut out meat. I was in Boston, sitting at a restaurant with friends. I was stuck without exercise for six weeks due to my good friend boot, so I told myself I would focus on nutrition. Sitting in this restaurant, something inside of me made up my mind, I was going to try going pescatarian, cutting out all meat except seafood. 

I remember consciously deciding not to tell anyone. I was visiting my friend, who's been a pescatarian for as long as I've known her, and I wasn't going to tell her about my decision. Why? Because I was afraid that I would fail. 

You see, I had tried cutting out meat before. Many times, actually. And none of those times lasted more than a week or so; I just couldn't do it. I had little faith in myself that this would be any different. And I probably wouldn't have told anyone that day, if it hadn't been for a mix up with my fish tacos that left me with a plate of beef tacos (I had a good laugh over that one). 

Welp, here I am, over a year later. Haven't had meat since that accidental bite of taco, and cut out seafood 5 months ago. Maaaybe, I should have had a little more faith in myself. 

{Sharing more pictures from Fall Day. Because I have enough to fill every post from now until the end of 31days. You're welcome.}

So why do I tell this story? Because the same thing happened the day that I decided to strive for purity in relationships. Just like I will never forget that moment in that Boston restaurant, I will never forget that moment on my way to San Diego. I made up my mind that I was going to try this, try this new thing that went against every instinct I knew. But I didn't tell anyone, because something within me felt destined to fail. 

And I felt that way for a long time, that I was either succeeding or failing. There were days that I thought this purity thing was a piece of cake, months actually. And then, boom, a day hit where I fell flat on my face. I'd struggle with feeling like a failure for days. 

I don't think that's how it works. I'm fairly certain that running off success and failure can only lead to two things: pride and shame. The fact of the matter is, there are going to be easy days. There are going to be days where my heart tangibly feels different than it was before, and I can feel the purity of Jesus Christ running through my veins. The purity that only He can put there in the first place. 

There are going to be those days, and there are going to be hard ones. There are going to be temptations. There are going to be moments where I look in the mirror and find a girl I thought I left behind. There are going to be days when purity is a fight, one that can feel physically exhausting. 

And on those hard days? You bet I need Jesus. You bet that I can't do it on my own. But guess what. I need Him just as much on the easy days. Because purity never comes from me, it always comes from Him. 

I feel like pursuing purity for me, is learning to walk all over again. And it's not just a one time thing, I have to learn and re-learn every single day

On a particularly difficult morning, I opened my Jesus Calling devotional to find this. It spoke to me, and maybe it will speak to you:

Some of my children I've gifted with abundant strength and stamina. Others, like you, have received the humble gift of frailty. Your fragility is not a punishment, nor does it indicate a lack of faith. On the contrary, weak ones like you must live by faith, depending on me to get you through the day. 

-Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

I am a frail one. I am a fragile one, a weak one. Please don't, for one second, read my blog and think that I have it all figured out. Those that know me best, know that I struggle. They see me on those easy days, and they see me on those hard ones. I'm pretty sure they can tell just by one look which one of the two it is. 

I struggle. I stumble. I fall. 

But each time that I do? I get up, and I learn to walk all over again. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

31days // Confession

Gooood morning, lovely people!! Hope you had a fabulous weekend!

I have to be honest with you all. I just didn't have time to get a blog post together for 31days today, because I was busy doing this yesterday:

It was such a lovely day! We said goodbye to the beach and ventured up into the valley for some fall fun in Solvang. We went to this pumpkin patch, and to this apple farm. Highly recommend both!

Consider this my way of saying Happy Fall! From me, to you.

And allow me to direct you to this weekend's 31 days posts, if you want your fix. 

Looking for some scripture for your Monday? You can find some here!

And, I would looove to hear from you right on over here. I'd really love to hear if there is anything that you would like to talk about in these last 10 days on purity. 

Happy Monday, guys! I hope yours is a great one. :)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

31days // Ask Anything!

I've done this before, and had a blast answering your questions. I've been wanting to do another Ask Me post, specifically for this 31days series. I want to hear from you!

Do you have any questions?

Or, is there something related to purity that you would like me to talk about in the next 10 days? 

Let me know! Even if you just want to share your thoughts on this series, I would love to hear what's on your mind!

Questions can absolutely be asked anonymously, and you can even e-mail them if you'd like! Shoot a message to sweethomesbblog (at) gmail.com. 

Can't wait to hear from you!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

31days // Scripture

Alright guys, I've got a funny story for you. It's just 2 hours short of Sunday, and I know I've gotta crank out a 31days post. The one thing that I want to share with you is a scripture that I've been memorizing this weekend. These past few days have been humbling for me, but for that, I'm thankful. I know that the Lord blesses a humble heart, and I'm thankful for the reminder that I need Him in every aspect of my life. 

Memorizing Philippians 4:6-7 has truly helped me surrender my thoughts to God. To invite Him into my anxious worries, and over analyzing tendencies. And friends, it's made the world of a difference.  

So, I was doing a google image search for that piece of scripture. I'm scrolling through, and nothing has the exact wording that has so powerfully spoken to my heart these past few days. Nothing, until one particular picture catches my eye. And guess what? I made it. 

Got a good chuckle at that one. :)

(You can find my original post here)

Scripture is powerful. Any time you feel yourself struggling to maintain a pure mind of Christ, I would highly encourage you to pick out a favorite piece of scripture, and repeat it to yourself. If you're anything like me, you'll find that the thoughts that aren't from the Lord will slowly slip away, and be replaced with His truth and His peace. 

Nothing better than that, my friends. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

31days // Humility {My Story Cont.}

Purity is a journey. For some, we were born into it. The road was paved for us by our parents, or by the church. And for some, we found the road later in life. We had to unlearn so many things that we had learned over the years to carefully put one food in front of the other along this road paved by God. 

Regardless of if you have been on this journey your entire life, or 7 days, I'm sure you have had moments of struggle. Whether it's battling your own temptations, or dealing with the confused looks of others who don't understand why you would choose to walk this path, there are difficulties. It's worth the struggle, but the struggle is there. 

Something that I have learned in my life is that purity and humility go hand in hand. I would venture to say Christianity and humility go hand in hand, but we'll focus on the main topic here ;). 

For the majority of my life, I never thought that I could pursue purity because I thought that sex was a vital part of a relationship. I'm fairly certain that I told myself this to ease the guilt of having sexual relationships before marriage, but regardless, I strongly believed it was true. And I had people around me who agreed, so who could argue with that? 

This view of mine didn't go away over night. Even after my surrender on this day, I still wasn't sure where I stood on the issue. I think this was mainly out of fear, I had been walking on one road for my entire 22 years of life, how could I change that now? 

I have seen that a major way to combat fear, is with pride. Instead of acknowledging that fear, it's easier to just shake it off by assuming "I'm right. Sex is a vital part of a relationship." And that is exactly how pride gets in the way of purity and Christianity, because we start believing that our views are better than God's. 

God is never going to run out of things in our life to heal. He's never going to run out of things in our heart to reveal to us. In order to be healed, and in order to have those things in your heart revealed, you have to have humility. You have to be willing to believe that maybe, just maybe, God has a point here. Maybe His way is better after all. 

I say this because this is exactly what my last {almost} two years have been like. God is constantly healing me, constantly digging deep into my heart to free me of things I didn't even realize were there. 

And this happened once, shortly after that January 1, 2012 day. It had been a few months, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that my Bible reading, and worship music lovin' hadn't faded yet, like it had before. I was driving home to visit my family in San Diego, and had made it to Irvine, which is anywhere from 2-3 hours from Santa Barbara, with traffic. I had switched the radio station to Country music, and suddenly wanted to switch back to the worship music I had on before. I didn't know the stations well, so I simply flipped through them until I heard a song that I recognized. 

Well, I didn't find one, but I did find a voice. I found a station that was streaming a sermon, and even though I never listened to sermons in the car, something tugged at my heart to hear this one. I quickly realized, and was surprised to find that I recognized the voice behind the radio. I wasn't certain, but thought I would listen anyway. 

It turned out to be a sermon about dating. It was a message to people like me, out on the hunt for marriage material. And in it, this man emphasized the importance of being equally yolked, and staying pure in your relationship. He was sharing stories of experiences he has witnessed, and I was hooked on every word. For the first time, it made perfect sense. And it didn't matter that I had made mistakes, 22 years worth. All that mattered was I suddenly had the desire to pursue purity, the way that God designed and intended it to be. 

The sermon ended, and they announced the speaker. I already knew, but hearing it confirmed gave me goosebumps. It had been my pastor, Britt Merrick. I was 3 hours from home, and God had so intricately put my own pastor on the radio to preach straight to my heart. My heart was changed in that moment. 

So get rid of all the sin in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. 

// James 1:21 //

What does God have to teach you today? 

Happy Friday, loves!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

31days // Truth for Thursday

Man, I love you guys. I really, really do. Your support and encouragement and love means more than I could ever thank you for. But I'll certainly try: thank you. 

It has been such a wonderful journey digging into my past and writing out my story. It's one that I honestly love to share, because I know that there is incredible power in our testimonies. If you're thinking we're at the end, then I'm sorry to break the news that we're not. The moment that I surrendered my life to Jesus was almost 2 years ago, and a lot has happened since then. I want to encourage you that it's not smooth sailing once you reach that point, at least for me, it hasn't been. So if you're in a rocky phase, know that you're not alone. It's okay, and perfectly normal, in my opinion. 

But the beauty of those rocky seasons post-surrendering your life to Jesus is that you've got someone in the boat with you. Not only someone in the boat, but steering it. It's a beautiful thing, really. And it's true, happiness may come and go, but joy abides. 

Because I've already dished out a lot of my own words this week, here are someone else's:

Friends, if you are feeling abandoned today, allow me to give you the biggest cyber hug I possibly can and reassure you that you are not. He has never left you, and He never will. 

I know it can be hard to feel Him there. Maybe you've never really felt Him to begin with (I've been there), or maybe you're walking through a season where you feel angry because you're sure He's no where to be found (I've been there). I want to tell you that you're feelings are valid. Your frustration, confusion, anger, it's valid. 

And you know the one person who can help you through it? God. He wants to hear you vent. He wants to hear your frustrations, and confusion, and anger. He's big enough to handle it, and He can help you move past it. 

He hasn't abandoned you, love. He's right there, just waiting for you to reach for Him. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

31days // When Everything Changed {My Story Cont.}

Just after turning 22, I found myself in a relationship. The kind with established titles, and roles. He was my boyfriend, I was his girlfriend. And you know it was real because even Facebook said so. It was the first time since high school that I was in something with security, rules. My heart had been desperately searching for something like that, after having been denied it so many times in college. 

We dated for four months, and in those months, I think we spent more time intoxicated than sober. I will never forget one day walking through the streets of downtown Santa Barbara. Some people were handing out flyers, and spreading the news that Reality was opening a campus in town. I had heard of this church, a few years back while walking on campus at UCSB. A guy was raving about this amazing college ministry, and it intrigued me so much that I interrupted these strangers to ask which church they were talking about. "Reality," they said. "They meet in Carpinteria at 7pm on Fridays." Considering Carpinteria was a half hour drive away, and Friday nights were dedicated to going out with friends, it's not surprising that I never made it. 

We kept walking, and my boyfriend began nervously rambling about "that place." He shared how a friend had started going there, and completely changed. He thought it was creepy, and cult-ish. 

I was suddenly aware of how little this man knew me. I looked at him, and calmly stated "you realize that I'm a Christian, right?" He didn't really respond, but I will never forget how beautifully convicting that moment was for me. Here I was, dating a man who didn't even realize that I believed in Jesus. That's how small of a role faith was playing in my life. 

We dated for a few months after that, before breaking up in mid December. It was painful for me, mainly because it was unexpected. I probably should have expected it, but I was so caught up in things that I didn't realize how unhappy both of us were. I reached out a few times, trying to sort through my confused mind and piece together the friendship that was lost. But really, I was just doing what I always did, clinging to the source of identity of being someone's girlfriend. It's where I felt most comfortable, and yet, where I felt the most anxious, too. Putting your identity in something other than God, means always having to worry about it going away. 

It was merely a few weeks later when New Year's Eve came around. All of us friends were getting together to celebrate, the friends that this now ex-boyfriend and I shared. He had warned me before hand that he wouldn't be attending, and I felt the usual simultaneous relief and disappointment. That night, I found out through a close friend of his that he had been dating someone since immediately after our break up. I spent the beginning of the new year crying in a bathroom. It was the beginning of my breaking point. 

The Lord has beautifully crafted my testimony, with dates that are so significant that I know they can't be coincidental. The next day, January 1st, 2012, was a Sunday. I had already made plans to go with a friend to Reality Santa Barbara. It was not only my first time ever going to Reality, but my first time sitting through a church service in months. 

Words can't express what happened in my heart that day. I felt so incredibly broken, but in the most beautiful way. I wasn't just broken from this most recent break up; I was mourning the loss of everything my heart had been through. All of the dreams that had been crafted through out relationship after relationship, shattered on the floor. The feelings of rejection, abandonment, embarrassment, everything that I had experienced in my failed relationships. The desire to get married to a man who loved me, feeling so unattainable and far away. 

I was broken, so that I could be put back together. For the first time in my life, it clicked in my heart that 
in order to be whole, I have to surrender the pieces. 
The words "I'm desperate for You" flowed through my mind over, and over, and over again. 

This was the day that my entire life changed. And something inside of me knew it. A midst the brokenness I was feeling, and the mourning that I was experiencing, there was joy. So much joy. 

Because something within me knew that the brokenness and mourning were temporary. Something within me knew that everything was about to change. I went to sleep on that evening with a broken heart, inviting the Lord into my sorrow and pain. 

I woke up on Monday, January 2nd, 2012 with nothing but joy. The change was happening, and nothing could stop it now.