God's Got This

Hey, everyone! This is another old post I wrote that got lost in my drafts and never published, so I thought I'd share it today! I wrote this on June 6, 2016, right before we were leaving for our trip to Canada! I can't write as much content on this blog right now as I normally could because I'm hard at work on a new project to be announced SOON! I still pray for you all, though, and I hope that this post over what God has taught me about trusting Him can help you, too! xo Ashlee

We all have that something in our lives that causes anxiety. Maybe it's a long term thing, or maybe it's just something temporary that is stressing you out. Whatever it is, I want you to know that God has it in His hands. He really does.

I have a lot of fear in me. We all do, but I think it's safe to say that some people are better at trusting God than others. We all go through struggles where we question Him, though. Still, I want to be somebody that doesn't fear because I totally trust in the Lord. Most of us think it's easier said than done, but it's really not that hard because you can totally let go and let God. The hard part is resisting the urge to worry.

You can totally let go and let God.


I'll give you an example of a worry that is short term and one that is long term. A short term worry would be preparing for a trip, which we are doing. I'm not even the one dealing with most of it, but I still have to get prepared, too. It's easy to have doubts about it, too, because there's never a guarantee that a vacation will go the way you want it to.

A long term worry could be something like someone dying. You're so afraid of losing someone, and it constantly steals your peace. I've learned a lot about keeping your peace over the last few months, and I'm still learning. But God has been so faithful and patient with me, and He's showed me a lot. I pray that He would for you, too.

Understanding Where Worry Comes From

There is one thing that causes you to worry and one thing only: Satan. That doesn't mean you can just blame your worrying on him. You have to fend him off with God. But worry does come from Satan.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
— John 10:10 ESV

My mom and I have talked about how Satan will attack you at your worst areas, too. He knows when you're at your worst and most likely to believe his lies. He knows when you're tired or stressed about something. He knows your weak areas and is going to hit you there. For example, I used to have this huge fear of losing my parents. I think I've mentioned that before, and every time they left the house I feared for their lives. I definitely don't worry as much about that, but it is still one of my weak areas, and Satan knows when to taunt me with it.

You all know I've had a challenging year, especially with friends, and one thing that Satan would lie to me with is that since I don't have any godly friends, God is going to take away my parents, too. Along the same lines of losing my parents, he would try and tell me that God was going to take them away to test my faith. Yes, God uses things to strengthen us, but He is a good Father, and His desire isn't to take away everything you love just because.

***UPDATE: Sometimes, God does let you lose everything, but there is always a sovereign purpose for it, and if you know Him, He's always working things for your good (Romans 8:28). He doesn't set out to give you everything you hate.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
— Matthew 7:11 NIV

How Do You Conquer Worry?

Focus on God

READ YOUR BIBLE. It is a simple yet powerful thing that totally transforms the way you think and live. Without it, then what? Where are you getting your inspiration? How are you growing as a Christian? You're not. And it will be that much easier for Satan to attack you, so put on the armor and submit to God.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
— Ephesians 6:10-17 NIV

Pray Consistently

The amazing thing about God is that He understands your fears and is very patient with you. You can run to Him in prayer with your fears. Get real with Him - He can handle it. Ask Him for guidance and the faith to conquer your fears. Pray this for other people, too. Prayer is a vital weapon against Satan and the lies he tells us. I saw a quote one time that said Satan will try to keep you from praying because he knows that your praying will keep him limited.

Have you ever not prayed about something because it seemed like none of your prayers were being answered? I've done that. I think, well, it's not like this prayer is being answered, so I'm just going to quit praying about it. This is easily one of Satan's biggest lies, though, and I don't want you to fall for it. He only says that because it is true, prayer makes all the difference. You have to be patient sometimes, but God is working behind the scenes.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
— Ephesians 6:18 NIV

God is always working behind the scenes, and we may not even realize that what He is doing is so much greater than what we could imagine.


Meditate (On Verses)

The meditation where you close your eyes and say the little "OMMM" thing is not going to do you a stinking thing, and neither is any of the other meditation you've probably read about on cheesy sites and blogs that promise earthly happiness. But if you meditate on verses, that will help you so much because God is the only one who can satisfy your needs (Psalm 107:9).

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:7 NIV

Worry Is a Sin

Worry is a sin because you're doubting God's plan for you. You're doubting that He understands what you're going through, doubting that He could help you, and doubting that He would help you. All believers struggle with worry, but you have to give it to God. God definitely understands what you are going through, even if it's something petty. He made you, after all. And He cares.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
— 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

God can help you, and He will. People think that just because God doesn't help you the way you envisioned means that He didn't, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. He is the Creator of the Universe. He knows what's best. I say this a lot because, myself included, we get all high and mighty and think we've got it all figured out when we're just looking at a piece of the puzzle, and God sees the whole thing. We must look like total idiots when we do that, and we make God the enemy. Don't do that. He knows best.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
— Romans 8:28 NIV
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
— Psalm 16:10-11 ESV
‘I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
— Job 42:2 ESV

Be Understanding

As I mentioned above, God is understanding of your fears and wants you to cast your anxiety on Him (1 Peter 5:7). You need to do this for other people as well. Sometimes we see somebody with a certain fear and roll our eyes, like good grief, what a ridiculous fear. But do you want God to feel that way with you? Just because that person's fear isn't yours doesn't make it any less real for them. There's nothing worse than being truly afraid of something, and all somebody tells you is to get over it.

I also understand that we DO need to face our fears. We do need to get over them, but God is patient (Psalm 86:15) and helps you get over yours, so you need to be patient with others, too. Pray for them to get over their fear, and instead of complaining about how stupid it is, ask them how you can help.

Besides, no one wants to have fear consume their life. Everyone wants happiness. And we can get that true happiness found in Jesus alone, the One who has commanded us again and again to fear not. Don't be that person that gets chained by your fear. Allow God to free you from it.

How to Be Happy {The Basics}


This is a short post I wrote back on May 5, 2016, that I never published. It talks about how to find true, lasting happiness. With all that goes on in my own life, I need this - the TRUE way to get LASTING happiness. Believe me when I say these are just the basics. Since then, I've had my faith seriously tested over and over again, an insane amount of mood swings, and yeah. It's great. The perks of being a hormonal teenage girl. I'm kind of kidding.

But praise be to God that is He is sovereign over any trial, mood swing, and yes, hormones!

I will eventually write a longer post over this topic, but I have also written more extensive posts over the topic of happiness and joy, such as Is Life Beautiful? (my newest post over the topic; talks about having a joy despite circumstances), The Power of Jesus (written in June 2016 over what truly gives me energy and peace), and It's a Beautiful Life (my oldest post from summer 2015; this is when I would just write and never cite Scripture, but I still agree with what it says).

I will also write a post with what is new in my life because believe it or not I've actually made a pretty big decision that will affect how much I write on this blog.

Oh! And if you haven't seen my new and FIRST vlog, you totally need to go do that :)

Without further ado, here's how you find true happiness...

Happiness is something we all want. In today’s society, there are so many things that scream at us, saying that if only we do X, Y, or Z, we will be happy. And so many of us believe those lies. They’re all over in the blogging world. The common theme these days is that if you follow your dreams and have a profitable business, you will be happy, and the list continues with just about everything except what happiness really is.

Or, worse yet, a common message we hear is that we create our own happiness, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. We live in a fallen world, and no “good vibes” or dreams that you fulfill can make you truly happy. They might offer some temporary satisfaction, but that is fleeting.

So what is happiness?

The only way you can find happiness is by accepting Jesus Christ. Nobody wants to admit that anymore. They’re worried they’ll offend people - even Christians do this! - and so they come up with some pathetic, cheesy, temporary ways you can create happiness. What they don’t realize is that they’re setting people up for failure - as you are doing whenever you don’t tell someone the truth out of love. I’m trusting you can have discernment on that. If somebody got a shirt you hate? Don’t tell them that. If somebody is living in a certain sin? Tell them that.

This world is a hard place, and Jesus is our only hope. Those dreams you have are going to die with you, and if you don’t accept him...then what? It’s pointless to fulfill your dreams. Pointless to think about good vibes. But those with Jesus have something to live for. It might not always be easy, but God promises to never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6). To those who accept Him and keep Him first, He promises a good plan (Jeremiah 29:11).

I have three tips to help you find your REAL happiness versus the fake kind everyone throws at you.

Meditate...on verses. NOT good vibes or whatever meditation people say to do. Chances are they’re not talking about Bible verses, but that’s what you SHOULD do. For example, I cannot stand bumblebees. I’m sorry, but they just scare me. I live out in the country and go out to run a lot, so unfortunately, avoiding bees is practically not possible. Sometimes they’ll buzz around me, and for awhile I would sprint off. After lots of prayer and reading verses, I feel better. I’m still not a fan of bees, and I may never be. Whenever I hear one, I still get tense and apprehensive. But I learn to trust God.

Here are some verses that helped me with my fear:

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. - Psalm 23:4 (Or in my case, a valley of bees!)

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. - 2 Timothy 1:7 (Yes, Ashlee, self discipline. DO NOT SPRINT AWAY!)

And this is the verse I remember about my dreams and life in general:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. - Matthew 6:33

Read the Bible...not e-courses. I don’t have a problem with e-courses. I think they’re awesome. But I notice that is the new big trend, and everyone is trying to solve a problem with them and their blogs in general. The only problem they fail to even address is people rejecting Jesus!! God’s Word is the only thing that will fix your problems. Period.

Recognize your need for God, and cling to Him. Day after day, choose to follow God and His Word. Trials are going to come at us everywhere, and you’re going to dig yourself a deeper hole without God’s Word in your life. You can’t create your own happiness. It is only by your relationship with God that you can experience the true peace and joy He gives us.

Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Be close to Him. He loves you so much, and with Him, you can get through this world.

<3 Ashlee

Why Do We Need to Read the Bible?


Do Christians really need to read the Bible?

You would be shocked at how many professing Christians never read their Bibles. We're actually doing a study at my church right now about the importance of God's Word and how to study it, which makes me feel the need to write this post that much more.

When I was a new Christian back in 2014, I never read my Bible. Occasionally I may have gone to Sunday School, but it was super boring, and I only did it because I was required to. I loved Jesus, I know that, but I hadn't yet learned just how important it was to read His Word, and let's face it, I was still too selfish to devote that kind of time to Him. I learned verses thanks to my mom and grandma, who have both done an outstanding job of teaching me about Jesus and gently but boldly pointing me to the truth, time and time again. 

But to be honest, I devoted my entire life to the computer. I worked on writing everything in 2014, and that was my priority. I remember Mom would always ask me, "How much time do you give to God in a day?" And I would always get all defensive and be like, "I talk to Him all day long...."  Yes. Now let me go talk to Him about what's new on Pinterest.

But finally, little by little, the Holy Spirit started cleaning me up like He does with any new Christian. And I started to get it. I started by getting devotional books. Then I worked my way up to a Bible study devotional type book, and in 2015, I finally started getting into my Bible, dissecting it, consuming it, etc. Now I know just how important it is to read the Bible--not just because I need to, but because I truly want to.

But with that being said, what if you don't WANT to read it? Do you HAVE to?

Short answer: yes. But not for the reasons you probably think.

You don't read it to go to heaven. Your salvation isn't based on you reading your Bible X amount of times, etc. That's religion, where you have to do this and this and this to be saved. That's not true. Salvation is found by believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins (John 3:16). Look at the thief on the cross. He didn't have time to do anything like that, yet he went to heaven with Jesus based on his faith in Him (Luke 23:43). But then keep in mind that the thief on the cross was alive for an hour after that. I'm sure that if he'd had more time, he would've read the Word. Why? Because that should be your natural response.

So many people go the opposite way where, just because it's NOT a requirement to be saved, they will never read their Bible. And that just tells me they're trusting Jesus only to save their skin and not because they genuinely desire Him. Jesus didn't just come to save you. He came to get you to God, to have a RELATIONSHIP with Him. And what I had to learn is that you can't have that relationship when you never take the time to learn about God. And how do you know that? You read His Word, which is by Him (2 Timothy 3:16). You need to read the Word because that's how your relationship with God grows. It absolutely cannot grow without it. You need it for your soul. And when you realize this, you should want it. So many people only go to Jesus for their eternal security. They have no desire for Him. And something is wrong there. If you did that in any other relationship with someone, you would not have a relationship with someone very long. Hey, I'm just gonna use you so that I'll be okay when it comes to XYZ, but other than that, I'm not going to learn about you, spend time with you, or read what you've wrote to me. In fact, I don't really want you anyway, but I need you for XYZ. And it sounds terrible when you put it that way. But believe it or not, that is exactly how so many professing Christians act.

Here's what I've learned from studying my Bible about why you need to read the Word and why you should want to. It's also important to remember that you can't always go by your feelings. You may not FEEL like praying or FEEL like reading the Bible everyday, but do it anyway. You will never waste time praying or reading the Bible. And I'll also share some tips on what to do if you find it boring or hard to understand.

You need to read the Bible to be a good witness.

And when I say a good witness, I'm not talking about your reputation, where I have to do something so that I'll look like a good Christian. Once again, that is religion. When I say you need it to be a good witness, I'm talking about when you come in contact with nonbelievers or even other Christians that are misguided about something. When you use Scripture to back up your points, no one can argue with you, because then it's not YOU saying something, it's GOD. I once saw a quote that said the Bible is like a lion in the sense that once you let it out, it doesn't need you to defend it, it can defend itself. God's Word, truly, is supernatural. You don't need to try and change or convict anyone by giving them a Bible verse in its context. When you do that, let the verse speak for itself. God's Word has been designed for that.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
— 2 Timothy 3:16 NIV

You don't need to teach on your own. Use the Bible as your guide, and it will speak for itself. Let the Bible rebuke, correct, and train somebody. It is authored by God, after all. This is why it's important to know your Bible so that when somebody has questions or are taking a verse out of context and twisting it to their own desires or just when somebody is doing something contradictory to the lifestyle Jesus has called us to, you can share the truth with them and let God do the talking, since after all, the Bible is God-breathed. :)

You need to read the Bible to live an abundant life in Christ.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
— Psalm 119:105 NIV

I don't understand how you can have a good relationship with Jesus or be able to live an abundant life in Him without His Word, which is what tells you how to get it. How can you follow somebody if you don't even know them? How can you follow Jesus if you never take the time to learn about Him and what He has done for you and expects of you? You can't. His Word is the light on your path. Without it, how do you even know you're going down the right path?

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
— Joshua 1:8 ESV

We are to obey what the Bible tells us to do. How do we know what we're supposed to do without it? Also notice how this verse says to mediate on it day and night. It's stressing the importance of consistent Bible reading, not just once in a blue moon when you feel like it. It should be constant. Only by doing that will you "make your way prosperous". That's something I learned the hard way. It wasn't until I finally started reading my Bible consistently that I saw how much success it brought to my life, just like the verse promises. Obedience to God, whether you feel like it or not, is always the right thing, and you will always be blessed for it. I don't mean that in the way where you read your Bible and now you will have a prosperous earthly life because of it, but because it refreshes your soul, gives you the joy found only in Jesus, the joy no circumstance can change. It gets you focused on the things that are unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18). And when you do that, regardless of your circumstances, you will have a joyful earthly life.

C.S. Lewis had an excellent quote I saw the other day, and I love how he said it:

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth, and you get neither.
— C. S. Lewis

Also look at Psalms 37:4. But that's not something you check off your list just to get a reward. Delighting yourself in the Lord is a daily thing, forever, and it should flow out of your deep need and love for Him. But when you are truly doing that out of love for Him in your heart, you will be surprised at just how true the second part of that verse is. I know I definitely am.

You need to read the Bible to find hope.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
— Romans 15:4 ESV

Where are you getting your hope and encouragement if it's not through Jesus? I have quite a collection of memories where I tried to find hope through so many things until finally I just went to my Bible, and it was amazing how it just clicked. It was amazing the strength that I could draw from it.

On July 6, 2016, I was up with my grandparents, and there were numerous different situations that were stressing me out. I guess I kind of expected to maybe just run away from my problems, like oh, two weeks with my grandparents will make me feel better, or I'm sure Grandma will be able to make me feel better! Problem is, as fun as the two weeks were and as wise as Grandma is, that can't fill the deepest longings in my heart. Only God can do that, and the way He communicates to us is through His Word. Thankfully I figured that out and wrote on Facebook, "It's amazing how late at night I could be really tired or just some nights when I'm an emotional wreck and I lay this stuff out and feel this sense of strength not from this world."

Yes, that is the effect the Bible has.

You need to read the Bible to know what is good.

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
— James 1:21 NIV

The Bible tells us what is good and what isn't. How do we know how to behave and live without it?

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
— Psalm 119:11 NIV

We cannot grow as Christians without it. 1 Peter 2:2 says, "Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation." We all know how newborns need milk to grow, and it is true of Christians with the Bible. We can't possibly grow in Christ without it. His Word is the truth (John 17:17).

There are so many more reasons than these, but I just wanted to hit some of the major ones today. The more you read your Bible, the more you will want to because you will recognize the deep need you have for it.

Now... What if it's boring or hard to understand?

I have a few tips, lots that I've learned from trial and error.

1) Always pray before you read.

Don't just plow into it like I did when I started. Ask God for discernment, for understanding, for wisdom. He promises to deliver.

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
— 2 Timothy 2:7 ESV

2) Start somewhere simple, like John.

I'm really speaking from trial and error here. Don't get me wrong, there is no wrong place to read in the Bible, but the OCD in me always wanted to read the Bible in order. And I did do that once. But I don't think I understood any of the Old Testament because I didn't have a lot of background knowledge at all. Start with John. It has so many of the principles we live by and so many important different lessons. If you find reading the Bible boring, this is especially important.

3) Annotate what you read.

Take notes about what you're reading. It will help you get into it more and also help you apply it to your life. Take notes of the key messages and themes in the verses you read. If you have questions, write them down. Take note of the verses that speak to your heart. Make it personal. The Bible is how God speaks to you. Ask Him to speak to you, and He will (Jeremiah 29:13).

4) Listen to it on audio.

Some people don't like to read. That's fine. There are other options, like listening to the Bible on audio. You can still take notes and get the same effect.

5) Buy a study Bible from a trusted resource.

I bought the Jeremiah Study Bible, and it's been helpful! Try getting a study Bible to help you comprehend what you are reading. This especially helped me when I went back and read the Old Testament again.

6) Join a Bible study.

This is crucial. Learn from other people further along than you, and offer insight to those who aren't as far as you. God has given us the church to help each other like that (Proverbs 27:17).

If we want to be close to God, we have to listen to Him too. We have to get to know Him. We have to read the Bible. It's as simple as that. God's Word is truly a precious gift, and it breaks my heart to hear Christians treat it as some nuisance or something that is unnecessary. That's not true. Jesus came to get us to God, sealing the gap that our sin had created. God wants you. A relationship can't be one-sided, and the Bible is how God speaks to you. Think about it: that is how the GOD of the UNIVERSE talks to YOU. And He wants to.

So, will you let Him?

What God Taught Me in 2016

I promised to write a blog post dedicated solely to what God taught me in 2016. On New Year's Day, my family spent most of it traveling home from my grandparents' house. I really don't mind traveling, and I don't typically mind long car rides. They give me a nice opportunity to relax, think, and observe. And that's what I did.

I journaled in my favorite pink composition book packed with some sporadic journal entries I wrote towards the end of 2016 about each of the years I can remember well and as far back as I can remember when my relationship with God started, and my guess is that was around 2013. As I was reflecting on the past four years, I wrote down one word for each which summed up each year.

2013 was surrender. I wish I could tell you I remember the exact day I got saved, but I really don't. I remember loving Jesus my whole life, but I know there came a point where I had to understand my deep need for Him, and I honestly do think that came in 2013, when on one stressful morning, I can vividly remember telling Jesus that I couldn't do life on my own anymore. He had to have control. ALL control. Not just the control I was willing to give him but ALL of it. That may have been the day I got saved, or it may have come later. But I do think that day was definitely a turning point. Either way, I never forgot that day, so maybe that means something? I don't know. At the very latest, I know for a fact I was saved on June 24, 2016, coming home from Canada. . . . I'll go into that story as one of my lessons.

2014 was purpose. In 2013 I wrote this crap story that was around 30,000 words when I quit it because it was pathetic. It was about my thoughts in fifth grade, and oh goodness, let's not go there. But then in the beginning of 2014, I began what is now my first completed novel that I believe in still, and I finished it the end of 2014. Then, in the summer of 2014, I started reading blogs. My cousin and I ended up starting a blog, and then I started teaching myself how to design blogs by Googling things, and I guess I ended up being okay at it. That was the summer we were trying to get me a website for my writing, but then in my free time I started loving the power of blogging, and in August, Sparkles by Ashlee was born.

2015 was foundation. In 2015, I started seeing the importance of knowing God more and more by reading His Word, and I became closer to Him than ever as we dealt with some different trials. There were many different events that happened to shape, mold, and grow my relationship with God.

2016 was strengthen. Once I finally had a strong faith in God that had been tested by trials, suffering, and skepticism, it was time for that faith to blossom and grow even more. And that's what happened in 2016. One lesson after the other. They weren't always the easiest lessons, but looking back, I am so thankful I learned them. 2016, while at times difficult, was crucial in my walk with God and crucial in shaping who I am today. Here are, briefly, because each of these lessons could have so many blog posts written about each, what I learned.

Be careful who you hang around. I'm not saying you can never hang out with anyone who thinks or acts differently than you, but when someone you hang out with is getting into sin and you're tempted to join in too, be very careful. It is true to some extent that you become who you hang around with. Always make God the priority of your life, and this one should come easier when He is first.

There’s a lesson to be learned in everything. I've written a few posts about how life can be like some random event and what you can learn from it. I've done this with racing and hockey. I really think that there's something to be learned for anything God allows in your life. Even your failures. God can use anything.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. {James 4:8}

You’re never really alone. We all know I've felt alone at many points in my life before. I've been through some extremely lonely days at school. But I can definitely say that God was there, and I could see Him working and feel His presence. He has promised you will never be alone (Deuteronomy 31:6, just to name one verse). And I can testify that He hasn't broken that promise, and He never will. Sometimes I think I'm closest to God when it's just Him and me versus me being in some big clique. Do I like being alone? No. But He's there, and while I'm waiting for people to come along, I want to get closer and closer to Him.

The Holy Spirit will work in you. You should always be growing. I've seen the Holy Spirit work in my heart a lot this year, and I'll go into specifics through more of these lessons. But what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit and Him working is amazing because it is so accurate. That alone is evidence for Christianity. When I first became a Christian, I had so much to learn (and I always will). But I was so worldly in the beginning. But the Holy Spirit cleaned me up, one area at a time, and I can still see Him doing that in the parts of me that need work. Are you growing? I see so many people that claim they are Christians for like five years, but during that five years, have not grown one bit. Why is that? Do you really understand the Gospel and have you totally surrendered to Jesus? We'll never be perfect, but we should always be growing. You should be able to see the Holy Spirit working in your life.

Don’t get sucked into the worldliness of blogging. "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Colossians 3:23 ESV). #EnoughSaid.

Life is about more than pretty pictures. I'm going to tell you something really dumb: I can honestly get really mad with photography because I love taking pictures, and I'm a picture perfectionist, so when my photos are a little too blurry or a little too much this and not enough that I can honestly get mad. It's dumb, I know it is. I actually have some diary entries from the spring 2016 where I literally go on a rant about how mad I was that my pictures didn't turn out. I guess my point is, life is about more than pictures, how good they turn out, whether you got one of something you wanted or not, or whatever other petty little thing is bothering you that will one day mean nothing. Are my pictures coming to heaven with me? Doubt it. It will not matter what I got pictures of and what I didn't or how good they were, and in the meantime, am I going to waste the moments being upset about not getting a picture?

God will give you the grace to get through whatever He puts in your life. {2 Corinthians 12:9}

Pizza at 10:00 is always a good idea.

Never underestimate the importance of godly people.

Canada is not a place to be a fashionista. So don’t pack like that.

The scariest thirty minutes of my life can be summed up in two words: unforgivable sin. Okay guys I'm finally going to tell you my story of learning about the unforgivable sin! I'll try to make it as quick and easy to understand as possible. In fact, actually, what helped me understand it was reading other articles, so here's one you can start with. It's easy to understand, and really it comes down to this: have you trusted Jesus Christ to be your Savior? If you haven't, and then you die, you've committed the unforgivable sin. That's the unforgivable sin in basic form.

But I didn't know this at first.

So we got up WAY too early to drive home from Canada, and we were driving the entire fourteen some hours I think home. Maybe it was around six when I read this? Anyway, we were back in Iowa and close to home actually. We were going to pick up my dog. My phone was at, like, 10 or 5%. But I was reading one of my favorite Christian blogs, and I noticed they said something about an unforgivable sin, and they said we weren't going into that in this post.

And my reaction to that would be:

Wait a minute we need to go into this. There's an unforgivable sin?!! WHAT is it?!

My heart was beating so hard, and I started looking at all these articles. It took me about a half hour to figure it out, and it happened while we were getting my dog, so I was just trying to hold in my panic. The articles talked about the hardness of heart, which is when you let sin take over your life, and then it takes over so much you can't repent or see your need for Jesus. And all that time I was thinking about my own sin, especially this recurring sin I had, and thinking, Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I'm not doing a good enough job fighting this sin, and is it going to take over my life and make me unable to repent?! HAS IT ALREADY?!!!!!!

Plus, might I add, these articles were saying things like once God makes a decision, He won't change His mind, and I am like, KEEP THAT ENCOURAGEMENT COMING!!! So needless to say, after thirty minutes of me asking for forgiveness every five seconds practically as my phone was at 1% and we're trying to get Willy and I'm having a panic attack thinking I need to talk to Mom RIGHT NOW about this and I'm praying my phone isn't going to die and I'm praying I'M not going to die because if I have committed this sin and God will never change His mind. . . .

That was maybe the scariest thirty minutes ever if I haven't already said so. But, listen, the reason I felt that way was because I didn't understand it. I'm certain that if I would've died then I hadn't committed that sin, because we ALL struggle with sin, and just because you struggle with sin doesn't mean you've committed the unforgivable sin. It's when you let sin take over your life, and Jesus goes out of the picture, and you don't CARE about your sin. That's what leads to the unforgivable sin. That's why, if you're scared, it's actually a good sign, because then you do see the horror of sin. It would be bad if you didn't care. Here's one article that really brought me peace, especially if you have fallen into sin: Is God Fed Up with Me?

Things aren’t going to go as you planned. Trust that God knows best, and let life happen.

At the end of the day, all you need is God. With Him, you have everything. And without Him, you have nothing.

The Bean Boozled Challenge. Do it. And record it.

God lays certain situations and people on your heart for a reason. Go after that lost person no one else will.

No one is too far gone for God’s grace. The grace of God can reach anyone. God can save even the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).

It’s not enough to condemn sin. Anyone can do that. Our purpose as Christians is to go beyond that. This year, I started understanding how important it is to reach out to people with the Gospel and actually take it to them because it's easy to condemn sin. Anyone can condemn sin. But our job as Christians is to go one step further, telling people about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins in Him (Matthew 28:19). You witness someone bullying another kid, and you know that's wrong. You're watching your local news when you hear of the latest homicide, and you know that's wrong. Someone gets fired for lying about their job, and you know they deserved it because it was wrong.

Well, good. We should never condone sin. But who's going to go after the lost sinners in your life? For those of us in Christ, we know the horrors of sin and what our sin causes. We know where we should be but by the grace of God will not be. But there are people who are so lost they don't even know where to begin in finding themselves. So go after those people and lead them to Christ. That is really the most loving thing you could ever do for someone.

God will meet you at your darkest place.

When the Holy Spirit is calling you to do something, you better do it. The Holy Spirit won't put something on your heart unless there's a purpose for it. A purpose that will glorify God (so don't say sinning is a call from the Holy Spirit because I can promise you right now it isn't) and oftentimes make you step out of your comfort zone. I've had the Holy Spirit lay things on my heart, and unfortunately, many times I've ignored Him. But this year, I realized how important it is to take risks, especially when it comes to sharing Jesus. I'm not saying you have to be stupid when you take risks, but oftentimes those risks are when you have to step out of your comfort zone. But do it anyway. In the end, it will be worth it.

God can revive any situation.

You must believe when you pray. I read this book that had this awesome message about prayer, about a girl who was in a drowning accident, and due to the time she was underwater, her odds of ever making a recovery were nonexistent. Her grandpa, who was a doctor, realized this, and prayed for God to take her home. But then she recovered. Fully, completely recovered. And it was just a beautiful story about how God has no limits, so don't give up praying on any situation.

If God is laying a task on your heart to do, He’ll give you the opportunities to do it. Will you trust Him? Back to what I was saying about when the Holy Spirit calls you to do something. If you have to step out of your comfort zone, God will be with you. He will give you the favor and opportunities to do what He's calling you to do. Do you believe that?

I had a time this year where I felt like God was leading me to do something. I knew, though, that by going through with this, it would involve taking some risks. But I discussed it with some people to make sure it was something God was calling me to do, we worked around the obstacles, and God gave me favor and solutions to the problems that arose with this. He opened the doors, and while I'm still not sure how God is going to use what He called me to do, I believe it was the right thing to do and something He wanted me to do, and I believe that He is going to work.

Your work for the Lord is not in vain. {1 Corinthians 15:58}

Be totally and completely real with God. He knows everything about you, and He loves you. He desires an intimate relationship with you, and you don't have to put up walls or filters around God because He sees right through. This song by Citizen Way opened up my eyes big time about this.

There’s nothing greater than telling someone about the love of God.

The most helpful, loving thing you could ever do for someone is share with them the Gospel. I mentioned this earlier, and that's because I read this quote from Billy Graham: "I am convinced the greatest act of love we can ever perform for another person is to tell them about God's love for them in Christ." And it's true. We're all desperate for Jesus, dead in our sin (Romans 6:23). But we know who sets us free. We can't save anyone, but we can lead someone to Christ. God has given us the privilege to throw out lifelines to people, and He is the only lifeline (John 14:6).

There’s nothing like a great story. I have read maybe over ten Karen Kingsbury books, and my goodness, she is an amazing writer.

Wait on the Lord. Don’t worry about anything.

You will have hard days. And God will be right there with you.

You cannot MAKE anyone act a certain way. But you can be a light.

There is no way I believe in coincidences. Everything happens for a reason, and if you know God, look for the ways He is working in your life. I have had one too many small "coincidences" at just the right time this year to believe that these events are actually coincidences.

Not every prayer will get answered when you want it to. I remember one day I was praying for something at school. It was the morning, and I had to wait until lunch to hear anything and hear if my prayer had gotten answered since I was praying for an event taking place that morning. I was pretty sure that in the morning as I prayed I could almost have this knowing from God that said wait on the Lord. I kind of blew it off because I hate waiting, so that was music to my ears. I'm like, okay, God, I'll wait three more hours until I can get on my phone for updates.

Well, yeah. You may not always understand the waiting, but God does. Trust Him in the waiting. And if anyone has any tips on that, I'm all ears. ;)

No pain is meaningless. Embrace it and learn.

God’s mercies are new every morning. Run to Him when you fail. So many people when they sin will pull away from God. I can even do that, because we feel unworthy. But God couldn't love you more, and He couldn't love you less. Run to Him when you fail. He'll love you when nobody else does, even despite the ways you've failed. You cannot EARN His love, God is love, and so He loves you (1 John 4:8).

Don’t let your dog sit by you at the table. If you're friends with me on Facebook, you've seen the pictures I've taken of my dog. One day we had the brilliant idea to let him sit by us at the table. It was hilarious. Problem is, now he comes up there every. Single. Meal.

Life is too short to wear boring clothes. I was shopping at a consignment shop one day, and that is literally a sign they had. #canigetanamen And then another time I saw a Pinterest quote that said, "Life isn't perfect, but your outfit can be." :')

Life is also too short to care what people think of you getting a picture. I will get a picture by a busy highway if I want to.

Don’t vlog with your mom in the car unless you want your phone confiscated.

Nothing brings me greater joy than leading someone to Christ.

Embrace all the little things. I actually learned this one an hour after we rang in the new year, when my cousins were messing around watching COPS, and down came my grandparents' Christmas tree. Good times!

Jesus, Talking, Food

I've been spending a weekend with my grandparents for Christmas, and it's been enjoyable as always! I always cherish the times I have with them. How has all of your Christmas breaks been going? Mine has been good; I've read so much, haha. Today Grams, Mom and I went out to eat at Godfather's, our tradition. We do this a lot, and Mom and I do it back at home too. I've learned three things by always having these times to talk with them, and they're something you can apply to your life too.


1. Jesus makes life rich.

Every time we're together, we always talk about Jesus. By the grace of God, we've been saved, and we love talking about him to each other. We can bring all of our struggles to each other and be totally open with each other. We can share our victories and how God is working. It's awesome. Jesus says he is the bread of life in John 6:35, and it's so refreshing talking with them about him.

It's so important to have godly people that you can be totally real with, hold accountable, and come together as sisters/brothers in Christ. You talk about the things you love most, right? I love talking about Jesus. I'm not afraid to because I know he's what matters; he's the only thing that matters.

for more on mentoring and connecting with people: On Being a Mentor and the Mentors in Your Life


2. We need real, authentic people.

We need people. That's how we were created. But we don't just need any people, we need people that will care for us no matter what, that won't give up on us despite our flaws, yet someone who can help keep us accountable, people that are real about life and Jesus. I'm so thankful for Mom and Grandma; they are those people for me. Do you feel alone and need some mentors like that? Read this post. I've been alone, too, and in many ways, I still am. But Jesus will never leave you. He does provide, and He will be faithful.

Also . . . since I know what it's like to be alone, it makes me want to make sure I reach out to other people who feel that way, who are forgotten or rejected by the world. So I want to prompt you to reach out to someone who may not have anyone godly that can help them through life. I especially encourage you to do that for someone who's lost, because let me tell you, they need the fierce, relentless love of God most, and we're on a mission to go get those people (Matthew 28:19). Reach out. I truly believe that's our purpose as Christians, and that's why I do what I do.

I had the awesome opportunity to reach out to someone lost, someone drowning in their sin and mess they'd made of their life, and all they'd received was hate for that fact, so I got to reach out and tell them about Jesus: his perfect, unconditional love, his amazing forgiveness he can give when everyone else refuses to, and the indescribable, perfect joy found in him alone (John 14:6). It was awesome! That person, well, who knows if they have anyone who will encourage them, and I felt drawn to reach them because I know what it's like to be alone. I know what it's like to feel unwanted and hopeless. And I want them to know about the one who never left me.

One thing we talk about is reaching the lost, how so many people are hurting and dying in their sin. It's so important to fellowship with other Christians (Acts 2:42). But we're also going to get all of eternity to do that, so don't become so focused on that where you forget about reaching other sinners in desperate need of Jesus. This is that mission:

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
— 1 John 1:3 NIV

Go find people all around you that need him so that they can be part of this awesome fellowship we have with Jesus and with our fellow believers. I don't care how sinful someone is. Romans 3:23 makes it perfectly clear how we're all "done for it" with our sin, and Jesus died for ALL (2 Corinthians 5:15), so labeling someone as too sinful for the forgiveness of God is nothing but pure hypocrisy on our parts (Ephesians 2:9).


3. Lastly, Jesus promises to provide for our needs.

Don't worry about anything. Jesus promised he will provide. When I'm out eating all that lovely junk food, I always take a moment to count and reflect on how Jesus has provided for my needs and beyond. He told us not to worry about ANYTHING.

‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?’
— Matthew 6:25-27 NIV

Don't worry about your life, the food, clothes, nothing. Jesus has got it all taken care of. With him, we're safe.

So when I'm out eating with them, I remember . . .

Only Jesus can make life meaningful, and knowing him is what makes life rich. Connecting with others over him is great, and finding others for him is even greater. And as I'm leaving and done eating, my job is to trust him with everything, keep loving and knowing him more and more, and then. . . .

Go find other people who need him. Being alone at school for me has been hard. It's been really hard. But I can truly say that Jesus never, not once, left me. And for that reason, even despite me being alone, I think I'm more joyful than all of the other students because they worry about their lives and don't understand the amazing peace Jesus gives. And I can say it's fueled my faith, made it stronger than I ever thought it would be, and it's given me a deep desire to go reach the lost. Especially those that are so lost they're forgotten and rejected by everyone else because it's so amazing telling them about the most beautiful, eternal fellowship ever. The fellowship that hasn't forgotten or rejected even them. The fellowship I've found with Jesus.

It's priceless, and it's urgent we tell people about it. Why? To sum it up, it's better than any fellowship you'd ever have with someone in this life over greasy pizza.

It's the best fellowship in the world with the one who is the bread of life (John 6:35), and it's available to everyone. Including you. So claim it, and then don't waste any time. Go share it.