So with all this being said…WOW. If you’ve followed along thus far and read ALL these posts, THANK YOU. I appreciate it so, so much, and I love being able to share these fun times with you all, but this is the part I really want to hit home, the reason I share anything about my trips at all, is because of the insights God gives me through them. I have lots of lessons I’m going to do my best and summarize here because the truth is, about all of these lessons could be expanded into full blog posts… I kept pretty solid notes on my phone of any thoughts I had because I’m a pretty avid journaler but knew I was not going to have time to write or reflect at all. We had a couple moments here and there maybe just sitting in the car (when Corrine was in Dollarama! Haha) but not really, and that was fine because the whole point was us being together and doing all these things. BUT…if you think you can ever just escape life by doing that, you can’t, and that’s what I really want to write about with these lessons and thoughts and personal notes I wrote to myself on my phone.
You have to know a little background information about my life first prior to this trip. Nothing was wrong with me or anything, but we went on this trip the last week of June, extending into that first week of July. School had gone later into June due to all our snow days we had last year, and we got out of school a mere couple days before my family went on their trip to Canada and I stayed in Estherville with my grandparents. And if you read my recap blog post about staying with them here, I actually talk about how I was kind of struggling because of trying to unwind with school being stressful and just not being able to let go of some of my bad mindsets. So, only a couple days later, we were going on this trip, and I knew I did not want to be having a bad attitude on that trip. I know enough about myself to know I get obsessive about things, and that’s never a good recipe when you have bad mindsets you’re harboring. So I did end up praying and writing a lot. I’m thankful God used that for me and helped me to keep an open mind about it because that helped immensely, and I was also able to learn that much more about everything and have that much greater joy, and now I want to share those lessons with you, too.
You have to let God be in control of what you want. You would think since I’m being blessed with this amazing trip, nothing else would matter, right? I wish that were the case, but oftentimes we have to be careful about having blessings because it can be all too easy to wish for more. It’s certainly not bad to pray your desires to God and still have desires even after you’ve been given some because that’s life, there will always be more of what we want to do, see, etc. But what becomes a problem is if you, like me, are prone to thinking about that next thing. You know how it goes. I’m in the car with Kirsten on our way back from the Twin Cities, following our moms in the rental car, when my mind starts drifting. About thoughts of my writing. Is it going anywhere? Will it ever go the places I’ve dreamed? Or then it’s about guys again. Do they like me? Are they thinking of me? And I imagine all this stuff I think I should have then, and it starts eating at me, and I feel my lack of patience being triggered yet again. You know what all this really is? Distractions. They’re distractions because they’re going to suck you out of the moment you’re in, ruin any peace you would have, and leave you not enjoying the life you’ve been given.
But I do have desires, I do have dreams, and it’s all too easy for me to think my life revolves around those instead of the present moment. So I remind myself of what I’m about to be experiencing, I tell those thoughts to God, and I begin typing out a note on my phone—of which I probably have tons just like it—and it goes something like this, “You’re doing too much. If you’re reading this, quit trying to find any other truth: you’re doing too much. Worrying too much. Let it go. God CAN and WILL handle it.” I also wrote about learning to control your thoughts because you DO have a choice with how you think about things. I used the example of a country song I heard and liked, “Love Someone,” and for me, I said I could be down about being single, or I can accept the truth that I will love someone, too, in God’s timing—and pour my heart into the people I have right in front of me.
If you can’t learn to surrender like that even when you don’t feel like it, then your peace is only as good as your emotions and what you’ve been given. That’s not a recipe for joy—I can tell you that from all my fits throughout sophomore year, haha. My poor mom.
Pictures are great and all, but don’t make your life revolve around them. So, I learned pretty early on, like the first day of this trip, that not all of the photos being taken of me were the most flattering. Not every photo was turning out the way I’d dreamed it should in my head. And in a world where your life is only as good as what you post, and in someone’s mind who’s got a thing for photography and is already a perfectionist…that’s really not a good combo. I have journal entries dating back to me being in seventh grade and literally being mad over my pictures and them not turning out the way I wanted… It may seem dumb, but it’s a struggle I face regularly if I’m not careful. It is a struggle that is extremely amplified in a society that prides itself on being so visual and blah blah blah… Look, I get it, okay? I love photos as much as the next person and maybe even then some. Photos have been an immense source of joy in my life—God has used them on more than one occasion to remind me of my blessings and His faithfulness. But like anything good that He uses, you better believe the enemy is going to try and attack you by twisting that on you.
What is sad to me, though, is how social media revolves around this. The best of the best in terms of photos and things you’re doing—otherwise, what even is your life, is the message we’re all being sent. Well, social media is a lie. And you know what else? Even pictures can be a lie. The reason I tried to include our bad moments on this trip is to show you just that. Life is a mix of good and bad. This was an amazing vacation, there’s no doubt about that, but people still got stressed. People still got tired. I got stressed and tired. Your mind can still wander to places you don’t want it to go, and not everyone is going to be nice to you. Not everything is going to go as you planned. But you know what? That’s everyone. That’s life. And likewise, not every picture is going to turn out perfect. But you can really hurt yourself and make yourself upset if you live through what you post. Pictures are staged. Do I love the pictures we got on this trip? Yeah, I do, and there was a lot of special memories behind them. But they were still staged. Big time. Social media is even showier. I prefer writing this blog to posting on social media any day because at least here, I know I can be authentic. I can tell you about what really happened behind that “perfect” photo, but with social media, everyone’s too busy playing a game of keeping up with each other’s highlights. It’s pathetic, and I won’t play it. The world thinks photos are everything precisely for this reason: they cover up pain and give the illusion of a perfectly happy lie. Please don’t fall for that. If you’re staging photos, and you’re upset by how some turn out, then don’t think for a second other people aren’t doing the exact same thing. Let your worth not come from your photos. I’d rather be known for being real and vulnerable than being showy and unattached any day. I don’t want to make people jealous. I want to make them feel secure in the love and joy God has for them. You don’t do that by sharing your highlight reel.
Plus, one bad photo is not a reflection of who you are. I had some photos I loved of myself and others I despised. These things are fickle, and what people decide is cool and trendy changes before you can even keep up with it. And it’s EXHAUSTING trying to keep up with it. So just don’t. Let God’s plan for you be enough because it IS. It’s made just for you, and the enemy wants to do everything to take your joy from you. Place that hope and trust in God alone, not things or trips or photos. These things all fade with time, and they rarely go exactly as you dreamed, anyway. They’re wonderful blessings God can give, but they can never fill the ultimate blessing of knowing Him deeply.
This brings me to my next point…
The key to being content is literally enjoying right now. Oh my gosh, if there was one thing I learned on this trip, it was this. Of course, I’ve always known this, but after going on a trip of my dreams, it was even more obvious to me. Everyone thinks, oh, if I go do this, I’ll feel better…or once this happens, life will get good… Um, I don’t know how else to say this except no, it won’t? Every time I go on a trip, I think maybe I’ll act different, like be so in awe of things I just lose my mind, I guess? I don’t know, I think it’s part of that fantasy that again, when you go and do things like this, you’ll be the happiest you that you’ve ever been in your life. But I was shocked at how normal I felt. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but I was just…me. Same personality. Same wishes and dreams and thoughts about my writing and guys. Same worries about fitting in and getting good photos and making it to the hot tub in time and will we see any hot guys? Same love for pink and shopping. Same capacity for joy and same potential to worry and think negative. Did you hear that? Same capacity for joy and same potential to worry and think negative.
That means, plain and simple, changing your location is not going to change your joy. It is not going to change your mind. This can be good or bad. If you have God as the center of your life and know your joy comes from Him, you’re going to have that much more of an enjoyable trip. And if He’s not at the center or you’re not intentional about putting Him first, then your struggles and temptations are going to be the same as they were back home. Doing fun or fancy things doesn’t numb any long-term pain or free you from battles in your mind or other temptations you face. Jesus alone does those things. Please know that. I know I am so prone to comparing myself to others, and it’s so easy for me to think, wow, if I just took photos like her my life would be made, or if I would go to all these places, I’d be so happy. False. If you’re not happy right in the moment you’re in, you won’t be. As a disclaimer to that, though, I’m not saying every moment should be happy because some things in life genuinely do suck and aren’t what God rejoices in—like our incident on the road, for example. That was a scary thing, and there would be something wrong with me if I wasn’t down after that. However, I am talking about your overall mindset, which is greater than your circumstances. I’m talking about how you think of your joy being—does it come from what you have or what you post, or does it come from God’s faithfulness alone and reflecting on His goodness, even when you don’t feel it?
It’s worth thinking about because a vacation alone is not going to fix that, but it may reveal to you where you stand when it comes to being content. Are you able to enjoy each moment of your life or place your trust in God when something doesn’t go as planned, or are you constantly looking for the next thing to do, the next high, and plunging forward with no reflection or gratitude?
The key to being content is that you are not working for something else or waiting for something else to get your joy but just being present in each moment with God. If you do that, even the little things feel like the big things, and if you don’t live for God and are content in Him, then the big things will never feel good enough or be enough to replace that emptiness in your heart. So the next time you see someone you are jealous of or are thinking of something and can’t have peace about letting it go…remember this. You truly can have joy right this second. But you have to know that true joy only comes from loving God. Nobody’s highlight reel can even hint at the goodness and peace of loving Him. I could never record that if I tried. I can only write about it and attempt to do Him justice, and I don’t come close. Until you experience this yourself, it’s hard to just explain it. But my prayer is that through reading this blog, you all can become more inspired to live a life for God. My goal is not that you feel more inspired to live a life like mine—you have your own life and story God wants to bless, and all I want sharing my life to be is inspiration for you to pursue Him, who never stops pursuing you.
Lastly…after having some good, deep talks with family in the hot tub, I wrote a note to remind myself of some areas of things I struggle with and what I know to be true. If you want to have this joy and fellowship with God, I pray this inspires you.
Don’t be the obsessed girl. Don’t be the desperate girl. Don’t be the restless girl. Be the passionate girl, who loves God with all that she is and is beyond grateful for every moment. Be the confident girl who knows her worth is not in what she has but in who God is shaping her to be. Be the content girl who appreciates where God has her and is not trusting in things or people to make her happy but takes everything as it comes from God and lives for Him always. That’s when you’ll be a mature, beautiful girl that truly leaves sparkle behind for God’s glory and lives life as He intended it.
Bonus…I have never been more thankful for my COUNTRY. Yes, Canada is beautiful and I enjoyed my time there, and no, the United States is not perfect, but DANG. The way we do things here, for the most part, I am truly blown away at how people take our freedom for granted. No country can parallel our blessings here, and I’m so proud to be a citizen of the United States. I kept telling Mom we’re the “United Great” haha. I pray God will help us to be a light, though, in the decisions we make, but just because some people make bad decisions is definitely not going to stop me from loving this country and praying for it to shine for the glory of God. It was pretty fitting we were back in our country on the Fourth because God bless the USA!
Okay, I think that about covers most things! Like I said earlier, if you’ve followed along with all of this, I can’t thank you enough. I pray you’ve enjoyed seeing all the pictures and reading about all the funny moments, but more than anything, I pray you’ve been touched by the insights and the lessons God is trying to teach all of us, including you, regardless of where you’re at. I love times like these, but I love Him more, and it’s because of my love for Him that times like these are as special as they are despite the trials that may and do come. Thank you all so much for following along.