What to Do When It Hurts

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There have been numerous occasions throughout my life where it seems all I’m able to do is breathe, and maybe even that doesn’t feel possible. Some situations are really ugly, feel really debilitating, and knock even the strongest people to their knees. Nobody gets exempt from pain in this life, regardless of the facades they may put on.

I feel like I am finally free from a long season of recurring hurt, some of which could be attributed to the typical teenage emotions, but really, that was the icing on the cake of dealing with trials that run far deeper, ones that seem endless. But that is proof again of how no season lasts forever, even the bad times won’t be there to stay, not when a person has Jesus. But in the midst of one of those ugly seasons, what is a person to do? Sometimes even with faith, life can feel worthless and unbearably painful. And if you really feel that way, then I do encourage you to get help from others, because there are people who can help you with those feelings. If you genuinely do battle depression or something along those lines, please reach out for help because like I talk about in this post on anxiety here, there isn’t any shame in that and sometimes it’s necessary. I can’t and won’t make this post about medical advice; all I can do is share my struggles and how God has helped me through them. And I’m praying it will inspire you, too, because even the strongest people go through times where life doesn’t make sense and everything hurts.

Contrary to what people believe, it’s not something to be alarmed by. I would be more worried if you’ve had a cushy life, seemingly without big trials, never knowing what it’s like to have nothing to cling to except God Himself. People like that will be brought to their knees one day, and without making God first, it won’t be good. Then again, sometimes people have to fall like that to find Him. We can’t think we’re exempt from that. But there is nothing more beautiful and liberating than that moment where you realize everything has come undone in your life, and now all you have is God, and it’s just you and Him, and there’s this amazing sense of conquering the world even though everything is a mess. That’s called His peace, that’s called knowing He is all you need, that’s called having the best joy in the whole world because that’s what it is—pure happiness that the world is a mess and there’s not a thing you can do about it except trust God. I’ve been in those moments, and you think you’re going to be freaking out, losing your mind, but you’re not. If you’re in God, He won’t let you. That’s when He’ll pour out His joy in your heart. Everyone else may be hysterical, and you’re the happiest you’ve ever been in your life. Why? Because you’re sadistic? No! Because that moment of total surrender, of knowing you don’t have to be the one to fix things and that the God of the universe is instead fighting for you at that very moment when you need it most is one of the most glorious feelings in this life!

That’s something a pain-free life will never give you—if you even want to call that life pain-free, because anytime you’re doing life without God happiness is just a fleeting pleasure, and pain is by default the norm. I don’t mean to sound harsh with this, but I have to be blunt. I absolutely can’t get on this blog and write about temporary crap that might help you be happy, because it won’t do a dang thing if it’s not accompanied by an authentic relationship with God. I talk more about true happiness in this post here, but God is our Maker, so of course to be happy, we have to be walking with Him.

In those moments of overwhelming pain, it can sometimes be hard to even know where you stand with God. I know I’ve felt that way. Even just recently when I’ve gone through some stuff, I feel so out of control, so everything feels out of control, including Him. And then I accuse Him of not caring for me, of not helping me. But that’s never the case. My grandma has had to remind me several times, that when bad things happen, He’s not the one doing them. That’s such a common misconception people have, and it can be easy to have. It seems natural that when something goes wrong, God made it happen, because He didn’t stop it, did He? But that’s, again, not the case. God looks at trials very differently than we do, and in His eyes, trials are not a bad thing. That’s not to say that He doesn’t think horrible things that happen aren’t horrible—because He absolutely does. But He uses trials to shape us. We should expect them not because He causes them but simply as a result of living on an earth plagued with sin. It’s only natural. But we should handle them differently, because we know more than anyone that this world isn’t going to remain the way it now is, and that even through the darkest nights, God has already won the battle (more on this here)! He’s already taken care of it! Just because you can’t see that, doesn’t mean He hasn’t.

I know it’s hard to think this way when you’re in the midst of something huge. Believe me, I do. And I by no means have always acted like the perfect Christian example in all of my trials. Just recently, in fact, I had a meltdown I am in no way proud of. Sometimes God has given me a strength that surpasses my own understanding in trials, and my character is exemplary. Not so this time. I remember talking with my mom, and literally just about every word that came out of my mouth was a curse word. I really don’t like cursing at all, mainly because everyone does it and thinks nothing of it, and I don’t think it honors God at all. Even so, I’ve been guilty of thinking bad things in my head or letting the occasional one slip here and there, but this time I was going off. And I wasn’t just using the “little” words. No, I was using the big ones. And my mom was like, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you like this before.

Normally I’m not, but on that particular night I was so mad and upset about how certain people acted, about things that kept recurring and never going away. I won’t say I didn’t know what I was doing because I did. I knew what I was doing, and I wanted to do it. And that’s the worst part. I knew I was mad, I knew I felt out of control and distant from God, and it was like I wanted to prove something. Of course, it got me nowhere. Does God still love me? Of course, and I’m so thankful for that. But does He also know I can do better than that? Absolutely.

We can’t justify our behavior because of pain. Everyone has pain, so to think people get a free pass on bad behavior as a result is not okay. But thankfully, God can help us do better. And why would we not want that? Just because we are out of control never means He is. He knows exactly what is going to happen before it does. And because of that, one mistake doesn’t have to be the end.

Because nights later, when I was extremely upset and frustrated again over the same thing, I was pacing, trying my best to talk to God instead of stewing about things. Anyone who’s actually felt that knows what a burden that is to carry anyway, to be mad. It’s not worth it, but sometimes necessary. But that’s why it’s so important to let God have it. So I was talking to Him, and I walked out into my kitchen, and I just had to breathe. And I stopped and I just became conscious of that fact. I’m breathing, breathing just fine. You know why? Because I am just fine. What God is listening to me tell Him does not define me and does not define my life. Is it painful? Does it upset me? Yeah, a whole lot. But it’s not the end. It’s not everything. I just had to stand and breathe and literally feel the strength God poured into my veins, that beautiful feeling I talked about at the beginning. Of knowing despite my rampant thoughts and feelings, I am doing just fine. I’m better than fine, as a matter of fact. Considering the circumstances, I’m doing great. Because He’s promised to make sure of that, to provide for you, to fight for you. But you have to let Him.

Moments before I felt this, I was accusing Him instead of merely venting about things: I was venting and then turning on Him, saying I felt so far away from Him, how I didn’t understand why He wanted me to hurt like this, etc. etc. And I said I didn’t feel Him, didn’t feel Him talking to me or telling me what to do. So finally I’d had it, had it with being mad, had it with fighting a battle I knew I would never win. So I sat on my bed, and I just told God, what do You want me to do? And then a verse did flash in my head: Philippians 4:6-7.

It’s a verse I’ve quoted many times before, but I’ll quote it again:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

But notice how there is something God was telling me to do in there, as a prerequisite to that peace. Present your requests to Him. With thanksgiving. That is huge, that content, thankful mindset.

Because most of the time, that’s half the battle. We construct ideas in our head that we’re somehow exempt from trials and then get entitled and angry when we do go through something. I know that’s how I felt on this particular night. I thought it shouldn’t be happening to me. I shouldn’t have to deal with it. And granted, that may be true. But the world is sinful, and we don’t yet live in a world where people are exempt from heartache. And it was my expectation that life should be better that was really getting me down. But when I thought about that verse, it did hit me. How many times had I just wanted to be done? Fed up with the world and life? But how could I be so blind to how good God has made my life? That’s the real question. Because the truth is that none of us deserve a dang thing. Pain should be a constant in our lives because we deserve it. We’ve all sinned against God and brought this curse against ourselves. But God in His amazing love isn’t going to leave us to suffer in that. He doesn’t owe us anything, but He chose to do that. He chose to die for our sins, to lift us from that curse. And if we are in Him now, we’re not a slave to sin (Romans 6:1-7). That alone is the best gift in the world, to have that perfect relationship with God Himself. Anything else He gives us is extra blessings we also don’t deserve, yet God gives freely because He’s the perfect Father, and that’s what they do.

I haven’t had a bad life by any means, despite the trials. I’m not going to have a bad life. Trials come for seasons, but seasons don’t last forever. Literally speaking, the winter we are hopefully coming out of for good here in Iowa was horrible. But these last few days have been beautiful, dream weather, the kind that makes everything seem right in the world. Nothing bad will last forever.

And for those of us in Christ? We don’t have to worry about anything no matter what season, because we know that He’s going to get us through every single one and make everything beautiful in its time. There will be warmer days. There will be better days. But with Him, every day can be good. He’s the only One who can heal a broken heart, and on your worst of days, He’ll be right there with you. And your best of days, He’ll be right there with you. And a true Christian does not forget about Him once they enter the lighter days. No, those days are sometimes what brings us even closer to Him as much as the bad days because He’s walked you through that journey and now brought you those gifts of wonderful days, and you see Him at work through all of it. Everything good in this life is from Him, so it’s not a sin at all to enjoy good days. Let the good days keep you even closer to Him. Because this is life, the cycle of bad and good, but with God:

Everything ends up being for good. And you just have to remind yourself of that, allow Him to remind you of that. That’s what you’ve got to do when it hurts.

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My Thoughts Lately

Oh my gosh you guys I am so sorry it’s been over a month since I’ve posted….. I’m not on another hiatus, at least certainly not by choice, but I’ve been more busy than I ever have been between balancing the workload of school this year and then taking driver’s ed, too. Thankfully that is about over—I just pray to God I pass ***I DID THANKFULLY—UPDATES LATER IN THE POST***. But needless to say, a lot has happened since then, in my faith and in life. So I’m going to recap all of those things now as well as things I’ve been learning along the way… And then hopefully I can start getting back into all the other posts I’ve been planning, like my second letter to my future husband, and yeah, all that good stuff. ;)

First off, I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been hard, though over the last month, I’ve seen a significant change in my thoughts that God has helped me with, and I’ll go into that later. I’ve been trying hard not to be so stressed because life truly is short, and if there’s one thing that’s been evident to me lately, it is that God always works things out, but there have been some legitimate times that would cause any person stress. In terms of my extended family, we’ve been hit with one of the hardest trials I think any of us have faced yet. It’s led me to do a lot of reflecting on life as a whole as this trial is closely tied with life and death, and that puts things into perspective. Now it’s been a matter of seeing all the things I’ve previously believed about the meaning of life become reiterated on how true they are—and then living that out at a time where it’s absolutely crucial to do so. I know we all would appreciate prayers with this because it’s really hard, but I have been amazed by the faith of people like my grandparents, who are a couple of the people impacted most by this. They have been such a witness to people, as they are true definitions of people with authentic faith. You seriously can tell how authentic somebody is by how they respond to trials. I’m not saying they don’t ever have breakdowns or times where it doesn’t hurt because it absolutely does and would cause any sane person an excessive amount of stress, but it has not stopped them from pursuing their hope in Jesus or from witnessing to others. And they really have, especially to someone like me, where very little goes unnoticed.*

*That may be a half truth. I always thought I’m an observant person, but I went to my friend’s volleyball game, and evidently she tried to wave at me and I never knew, so! I apologize for all the times I’ve blown people off like a snob; my head is in the clouds far too much.

Upon reflecting on some of my own stress and still having to go to school and function like a normal person and meet constant deadlines, here is something God laid on my heart that I took note of:

You know you have the peace of God when everything around you should leave you crying hysterically and unable to function but instead you’re up and you’re not crying and there’s this sense of feeling good inside of you that makes absolutely no sense given the circumstances and moods. It makes no logical sense but it’s there and it’s undeniable.

You get it through humbling yourself, by reading His word, by talking to Him as often as possible. And then He works in your heart and it catches up.
— My note

I have been honestly amazed by the times it feels like any other person my age would lose their mind, and instead I’ve felt downright happy, almost on top of the world, even though my world could be crashing. But that abnormal feeling is exactly what God promises for His followers: it’s the John 14:27 peace He’s promising for anyone who is in Him, the peace that sustained His followers through their darkest times repeatedly throughout history. And even though my trials may feel insurmountable, they’re seriously nothing compared to some of the horrors that Christians before me have went through, yet they acted amazing and did not give into sin or pressures of the world. They are my inspiration, and my prayer is that my life can reflect that, too.

And you CAN obtain that peace. It comes from developing a relationship with God. So many people say they believe God gives that peace and that they personally have tried to find it but still feel incredibly stressed in situations—situations that I think, to be blunt, are just drama compared to what some people go through. And then I look at their walk with God, and I’m like, well, how serious are you, really? Because these are the people who go to church when it’s convenient and otherwise spend no time with God save for their prayers that are purely about their own problems. A) I am not saying prayers about your problems are always selfish, but I am saying when that’s all you pray for and the only time you give God attention and never just because of who He is, then yes, I think that’s selfish. B) If you are not dedicating yourself to God everyday, why would you have His peace? These are the people who just want to use God or use Christianity as a social label or insurance for heaven, and it doesn’t work that way. The very essence of Christianity and the whole purpose of why Jesus died for us is to connect us to God, so we can have a complete, intense relationship with Him. So if you give Him your time when it’s convenient or when it looks good or when it’s fun such as during retreats and games (which again are not bad but can be if that’s the only time you give God attention), then would you honestly call that a relationship?

And if you don’t have a relationship with Him, WHY would you have His peace? His peace comes from knowing and enjoying Him, from the faith when it’s hard, from the readings in your Bible even when you don’t feel like it, from the diligence of praying for things you already have a million times. THAT is when a relationship with Him is built, when good seeds are sowed, and that is when you really develop that relationship through good and bad that sustains you through anything. But don’t think you can give Him attention one day out of the week or between five second prayers about your problems and then experience that peace, because you don’t know God, so why would you know His peace? I know this from personal experience. When I am so stressed to the point where I can hardly think—which has happened to me about thirty different times over the past few months, no lie, about stupid things—it truly is because I haven’t been devoting myself to God. That’s the hard, honest truth, and I’ll be the first to admit it. But when I focus my attention on Him? It’s amazing, the changes that happen. It’s why I can’t stress this authenticity enough. People act so shocked when they fall apart during trials because they claim they had faith, but I’m like, well, if your faith was only as good as going to church every Sunday or talking to God when it’s convenient, that just isn’t enough as the purpose of being a Christian is that you’ve died to yourself and live for God—ALL OF THE TIME. And again, I’m not saying you don’t ever screw up, but your heart is right with God, and He helps you back on the right track because you feel that conviction.

We were blessed in spite of all this to still create some special memories, though, and get to do fun things. On one weekend, we went up to Estherville again (read all about that town here) to see my grandparents.

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In the meantime, I became addicted to these. I actually bought these thinking they’d be chocolate overkill and therefore disgusting, but no, they’re actually amazing:

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AND I got the most gorgeous (and most expensive ha) notebook to add to my expansive collection, BUT IT HAS MY NAME ON IT so what’s not to love?! This is actually my writer’s notebook, so it’s a comprehensive notebook consisting of everything from novel ideas to blog post ideas to character development ideas to song inspiration. I’ve been needing a notebook like that, and I’m certainly getting my money’s worth with how much I’ve already wrote in it.

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See, isn’t Estherville beautiful? I had fun getting to see some cousins of mine, and also I spent a majority of my time outlining this notebook, which was a tedious process as I’m a perfectionist and this is the prettiest notebook I’ve ever owned, so it has to be perfect. ;) This is the Swinging Bridge we were on that goes over the Des Moines River.

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There have been so many little things that have stressed me out where God has always remained faithful. I ended up being sick pretty early in the year for multiple days, and missing a couple days with my workload is like missing a month, so that had me stressed beyond measures. BUT there would be times where I may not know exactly what I’m doing, but somehow manage to get a high score on an assignment. I pray for favor, and I know my mom and grandma do that for me as well, and it just goes to show how God honors that. I’ve had to do a lot of reflecting on that because it’s turned into a pattern, where I stress excessively about something and somehow it works out. In fact, one day after learning how to park in driver’s ed (a huge stress for me haha), and it went way better than I thought, a verse I read in Psalms came to mind: “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all,” (Psalms 34:19 NIV). That has been so evident for me. It oftentimes feels like problem after another, and I just think, well, once I make it out of this, or that, etc. But then I am reminded of what God revealed to me in my prayer here, that life is a series of good and bad and the only joy that can be found is knowing and enjoying Him in the right now. He works the rest out. :)

The next weekend we headed up to the Cities for some much needed and cherished time with family up there. That visit was wonderful, and I loved having another opportunity to connect with my two cousins Kirsten and Amanda, who are like my sisters. Read all about them here in this recap of the fun things we did in Okoboji and the Cities last summer. We were leaving right after school for a weekend, so the downside to that is since it’s a five hour drive it made for a long night, BUT I got to do something I absolutely love: seeing city lights at night. I don’t know why that appeals to me so much, but it always has and always will. Going through Des Moines at night is my fave, too. But I’d never seen Minneapolis illuminated at night. I got some decent pics; what I really need is better camera quality haha. On our way up, we stopped and ate at Wendy’s by Cabela’s (of course the boys had to go there…whoever said men don’t shop has never been with them there for hours ha…).

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And I just walked around being conceited as always and trying to find photo opportunities and expensive clothes to buy and daydreaming about my future husband probably and if I’ll go through the same with him ha. You know, the usual ;’)

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Here are some of the best pics I could manage, even though they weren’t as great as they could be:

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All of that of course put me in a very contemplative and wistful mood because then I started dreaming about where I may live or what job I have, but the whole visit really put life into perspective for me, and I decided, while praying to God on the way there as we passed through the glowing city, that this needed to be my prayer through it all:

I pray that all the success I get in my life may be used to glorify You, God, and that I can have success for Your glory. And help me to have a positive attitude and know that You will use me, I just have to be patient.
— My prayer

We got to stay in a hotel, which thrilled me, because I just all around love the hotel/city life. A random side note is these flip flops I got—they were the only shoes I wore the whole weekend, and I absolutely love them. I picked them up super cheap at some JCPenney store I believe, and for the price they are very comfortable and add that sparkle I need to any outfit. :)

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Another random note is that I think it’s cool they have a Bible in the rooms like this. My brother asked me if I was going to read it, and while I didn’t get around to doing that, I think it’s nice that each room has that. It’s what people ultimately need, and cities often make me think of where different people are at in their lives. Everyone needs Jesus, though, and everyone needs the hope He alone offers, so it is appropriate that they have that. It also reaffirmed my dream to have a job where I can (a) travel to various cities and (b) stay in hotels. I think some job in business communications would be good for me if my dream to be a millionaire author doesn’t work out ;D Luckily an English or communications degree can open doors for both, something I definitely am going to pursue.

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That night I did some really deep thinking and deep writing; I’ll have to share some of that in a later post because this one is already turning into a book. I had an awesome visit with everyone, though, and got to see my two fave girls!

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Headed back to the hotel

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I do love working in hotels

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Except I always get distracted with shopping :’)

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My dog while I was sick

The good news is that lately God has helped me get my thoughts aligned with His, which I am so thankful for; it was something I prayed over here. For example, I’ll use body image. That’s something I started struggling with heavily since entering high school, but God has been showing me just the encouragement I need to combat that unhealthy mindset. I read Kylie Bisutti’s book I’m No Angel and have also looked into her blog and interviews, and God has used her to help me immensely. She was a former Victoria’s Secret model who actually left the modeling industry to pursue her faith. The advice she gives about body image and the insight she has on that horrifying industry is exactly what I’ve needed to hear—and essentially what people have been trying to get through to me all along. But it finally clicked, and I’m so thankful. I’m actually learning to have godly confidence—not to be arrogant, but not to always put myself down, either. Going off the example of body image, just because I see another pretty girl doesn’t mean that I am not, necessarily. And that could be with anything: writing, school, etc. God is teaching me not to be so competitive and just to trust Him with opportunities in life. I’m very grateful for that.

Another fun thing—well, fun for the time being—was getting to go to Iowa City to consult with my jaw surgeons. That is unfortunately going to get worse before it gets better, but I was thrilled to check out Iowa City since I’d never been before, and I got to go shopping, so for right now it’s all fun and games, and for right now, just let me stay in denial, thank you.

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So when it comes to the Hawkeyes vs. Cyclones debate, I’m personally a Cyclones fan, haha. Which is totally against, like, everyone in my family… But for whatever reason, ever since I’ve been little, I’ve wanted to go to Iowa State. My grandma and I have had some fun trips over there to this one bookstore I love and just driving by the campus, which I am convinced is the prettiest. But we’ll see… Iowa is known for its writing program, so I might convert… Might…..

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Kinnick Stadium, home of the Hawkeyes

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My mom and I walked around for a little bit after my appointment, which went very well. The downtown and traffic was actually dead for whatever reason, but I know Mom was in heaven because she had been terrified about the driving.

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Then we went to the mall of course :)

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I got these adorable stationary items my mom picked out for me that I can’t wait to add to my collection and a tee from PINK.

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So I suppose I should also talk a little bit about driving. Well, I was stressed to the max every single time, but again, God remained faithful. I did have one traumatic moment… All I will say is that I-80 sucks, but I passed thank God, so I’m more than happy for that part of my life to be over.

And here is Kylie’s book that I got signed!!! She is so sweet and such an inspiration in faith. I would recommend her book to any girl; it sheds so much insight on a world that is portrayed as being glamorous when the reality is far from.

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Another thing we did as a family was attend an Iowa Wild hockey game with some of the Minnesota Wild players in it. Unfortunately my fave Zach Parise couldn’t come see me but whatever… Oh my gosh I don’t even remember if I told you all this, but I actually got to see him!!! Last December, he came down to play with the Iowa Wild for a night to see how he was recovering from an injury, so of course we got tickets on a whim because Zach Parise coming to Des Moines is an opportunity one should never pass up. SO I GOT TO SEE HIM!!!!! <3 I went down by the glass with my brother, and we were so close to the players. He actually waved at this little kid next to me, but of course I got nothing… :’) And Mom with all her practicality of course was like “well he’s married so why would he wave to some teen girl?” Well, some actors have been known for teasing their fans even if they don’t actually mean it, so he could have still winked at me but again, whatever. ;D

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Zach Parise <3

Well anyway I hope he never reads that… The game was still a blast, though, as they always are, and I know Mom enjoyed me badgering her for food and to take my picture by this window I’m in love with because all.the.city.lights.

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This is really random, but I think this bridge would be a good place to be proposed to on. Maybe, I don’t know? I’d really like to walk it sometime, I know that much, and for whatever reason it just seems like an ideal location for that.

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I also want to go driving around at night in Des Moines just to see the lights, which may or may not be a good idea, who knows, but I’ll definitely be having someone drive me haha…

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I’ve loved the fall weather these past months, and one night we got to have a bonfire.

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Willy has also been doing a good job hunting. <3

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It’s also worth mentioning that I embarrassed my mom with this picture in the middle of the grocery store aisle. ;)

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And though you can’t see it very well in this picture below, over the summer I got this strawberry pink winter coat that I adore:

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AND these booties that Mom thought were quite obnoxious, but once I saw them I knew I had to have them… :) I am SPARKLES by Ashlee after all!

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I also want to start trying makeup haha. I bought a lot last year but never use it because I’m too lazy to get up in the mornings to do it. I’m also unsure of exactly what type of makeup I should use…like blush, foundation, bronzer…? I know a lot of girls are way more knowledgeable about this than me, so leave me recommendations please! :) My mom was trying to put some mascara on me in the below picture, but I can’t hold still because I thought my eye was going to be gouged out, so I ended up wiping it off and then taking this mirror picture like the conceited girl I am. :’) But seriously, leave me makeup recommendations that don’t break the bank please, and I’ll let you all know how that process of me doing makeup turns out…

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But I ALSO HAD ONE OF THE BIGGEST HAIR WINS OF MY LIFE… You know, God is very good at surprising me with the little things, and He totally did with this. I left my hair in that bun pictured above and slept in it like that, and then the next morning I pulled it out and got my dream blowout hair… It didn’t last long, but if I would’ve used hairspray then we might’ve been onto something… I took about two thousand pictures of myself with it, because oh my word, it made my day. I’ve wanted curls like this since I watched Big Time Rush as a kid and saw some blonde with curls like this…

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I also got a whole stash of pink ornaments I’ll be putting in my room eventually, because my room can always use some more pink as you can see! :D

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My mom and I also got to spend a nice day together for an appointment. We want to go to an Altoona outlet mall in November for some Christmas shopping, and I’m thrilled for that. Getting Mom to shop with me is a hard job but is always worthwhile!

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And so of course while we were in the city we did do just a little of this…

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And I think this recaps about everything. I would love to hear from all of you now: what have you been up to lately? What are you struggling with that I can pray about/write about? What future posts do you want me to write? I love and appreciate your feedback, and thank you so much for following along with my thoughts and adventures! xo

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It Doesn't Have to End There

I just finished watching the Scott Peterson movie. The one about how he got arrested for murdering his wife. I can believe sinful things like this happen because I know it's a sinful world, but that doesn't make the pain and disgust at it go away. And it shouldn't. It makes me long for the day when Christ comes and makes everything good and perfect.

Without pain.

I did not expect this movie to have hope or end well. How does a story like this end well? It doesn't. Unless, of course, you can find Jesus. But this movie wasn't about Christianity; I knew that. So I really didn't expect this movie to make me feel good when I was done watching it. And yet I watched it anyway.

Scott had this one friend in the movie. I don't know if this was the case in the real scenario or not, but he had this friend that stuck by him literally the entire movie. You could say he was in denial about the situation. No matter how hard people pressed him or the cops gave him evidence that Scott had, in fact, murdered his wife, he still wanted to believe Scott was innocent. He refused to believe Scott was guilty until it was totally, utterly proven. He said that the Scott he knew would never do that.

It wasn't until the end of the movie that they finally arrested Scott out of town. When they brought him back in a police car, all of these people were waiting and protesting or whatever it was, and they were banging on the car as they drove by and screaming and holding up signs that said GUILTY or something along those lines. And they showed this friend . . . they showed him, and he met eye contact with Scott in the car. He was the last person they drove by. Even then, this friend looked like he was shocked. Just, I don't even know, like he just couldn't comprehend what Scott had done.

I knew the movie wasn't going to end well.  There were only about five minutes left at that point, and so I could do nothing but watch at how this horrific story came to its hopeless, inevitable ending.

The friend . . . went home. And he listened to his voicemail. He had a message from Scott. Basically it said that he was in jail, and I don't remember the rest of it even. What I remember and probably will never forget is how that friend, now knowing this was reality and was going to be the reality of the situation, collapsed to the ground and sobbed.

I also remember an earlier scene where the mother of the murdered wife watched the television screen as they shared all of these details, and she just sat there and wailed. And I do mean WAILED.

The movie ended where they show Scott walking into a cell in a neon orange jumpsuit, and they pause at his dazed, checked out, hopeless face.

And that's how it ends.

And I mean what did I expect? The even sadder reality is that this messed up situation is just one of many unfolding in our world. It's awful. Nothing good comes from this.* The family of the wife is now grieving that they lost their daughter, and they shouldn't have. They trusted Scott, and look at what he'd done. Then we have the people who loved Scott, especially this one friend, coming to the terms that Scott had done what he'd done, and that would be absolutely horrible, coming to terms with that conclusion. That someone you'd loved and believed in and trusted had done something so horrible.

And it was just so stupid of Scott because it did not have to be that way. The whole reason he even killed his wife will ultimately not even matter because he was thrown in prison, where he still is. Oh, and did I mention his wife was pregnant and about to deliver their baby?!

I won't go into the details of the story. There was this whole affair thing on Scott's part, and it was just yucky and sinful in so many ways.

I've mentioned here on this blog about my growing interest in prison ministry and how there is a situation right now where a kid murdered another kid over some love thing too. I am so sick of stories having to end this way.

I love to tell stories. I absolutely love writing, I love fiction, and I love telling stories.

But I like to tell real stories.

I don't want to write sappy romance novels. I don't want to write some new phenomenon intended just for entertainment or whatever. When I write, I want my words to reflect real life. Real situations. Real realities, whether we like them or not.

And real hope.

I see all these books where a certain someone or a certain something saved someone's life. There are books about love and relationships, how a certain person saved the other's life, brought them hope, blah, blah blah, blah blah. And there's all these quotes in our society, "Believe it and achieve it!" And there's name-it-and-claim-it preachers that are all about having FAITH and you will be HEALED and EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE AND DANDY IN YOUR LIFE! And if you come to Jesus, he will fulfill all of your desires and help you reach your dreams! And you're in control of your life, and live! And do what you want to do because it's short!

Oh, stop.

I would LOVE to hear one of those people go talk to a prisoner. I think it would be quite interesting to hear what their words of wisdom would be. Do you think they'd even HAVE hope to offer? Probably not, because by the world's standards, the same world coming up with these ridiculous ideas of hope, is the world that hates, and I do mean HATES, prisoners. So if you ask them, they probably don't give a rip. Let them rot, they say. Let them get the death penalty, they say. Let them burn in hell, they say. They blew it, they say. They don't deserve happiness, they say.

Or I suppose you could have someone that will tell them, well if you just think GOOD VIBES and take charge of your happiness, or maybe if you have enough faith in God, He'll get you out of prison, but only if you truly wholeheartedly believe that.

I like to write sad stories. I really do! I like writing stories like THIS, where EVERYTHING is taken, and the hope is gone.

Because, what I have learned, is that: that is where God steps in. That is where His glory shines bright. And that is where I get the opportunity to write about that.

I'm not going to write you some pretty little stories that promise you will have a pretty perfect little life because YOU ARE NOT GOING TO. I'm not going to write you a fairytale story that lets you escape your problems for awhile, because you don't need to escape; what you need to do is face them head on. So I will write you stories that might make you cry. Maybe it's because you realize that's reality. That's life. That's our world. Or maybe the story will resonate with a problem in your life. But at the end, I hope and pray you will be crying because there is hope. And that hope is not illogical or based on fairytale beliefs or just wishful thinking.

There are real, dark situations in this world. This world is real, and it is cruel. But there is also a real, unshakable hope and joy to be found in Jesus and through the Lord only. I will not sugarcoat life for you, and I will not sugarcoat that hope.

I don't believe that, as soon as you accept Jesus, he will make everything right in your life. Although, that depends how you look at it and what life you're looking at. In this world you will have problems, he says in John 16:33.

But I have overcome the world.

That's our hope. It's not illogical. There is evidence for the God of the Bible and Jesus and the resurrection as it was told in the Gospels, and you just have to be willing to look into it because if you're not, it doesn't matter how much evidence there is, you won't believe it. It's not based on fairytale beliefs. I'm going to write some blog posts over evidence for Christianity, but there is evidence historically, scientifically, psychologically, etc. like there is for no other religion. And it's not wishful thinking to think there is hope in Jesus.

I just finished writing four letters on this blog about that hope and that love and forgiveness God extends to us. And I was inspired to write those based on a situation like this.

Humans, to think that we just came to be and evolved, with all of our different personalities and deep desires for love that all point to something higher and deeper than what anything in this world can offer you, is ridiculous. The way humans are made, and the desires we have, are so accurate with what the Bible says. Everything is, really. And then you have all these other religions that are basically telling you that you need to do XYZ to be saved, and that totally goes against what the Bible teaches, and these religions believe the Bible is corrupt. Clearly they have not read 2 Timothy 3:16, and there are other verses besides that one too. Like John 17:17, Psalm 33:4, Revelation 22:18, Psalm 19:7, etc. But that's for another day.

Here is John 16:33, the full verse:

‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’
— John 16:33 NIV

He has overcome it all.

*If you read the part where I said nothing good comes of these situations and thought about how God works through them, that's good. You're right. Just last Sunday in church my pastor gave an awesome sermon over how when situations look utterly hopeless and impossible to fix, that is when God steps in. He is able to do so much more than we can imagine, in fact, that's a verse, and just read it along with the one that follows it:

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
— Ephesians 3:20 NKJV

Then it is followed by verse 21, which rings so true in these situations especially:

to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
— Ephesians 3:21 NKJV

Forever and ever. If you think there isn't any hope for this situation or the situation similar to this I've been following or even for your own life, there is. There is so much hope in the Lord. How do you get it? You repent of your sins. You get right with God, you believe in Jesus and what he has done for you--died for you on the cross to take away your sin, and was raised from the dead. Death had no power over him (Romans 6:9), and your "hopeless" situation is not too hard for him to fix.

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’
— John 14:6

In Jesus there is truth, and there is LIFE. For YOU. For ANYONE who comes to him in repentance and believes in him. So yes, even Scott Peterson, if he were to do that, and you know what, I pray that he does. Maybe one day I will go into prisons and share this. I would love to do that. But for now, I am telling you this, and I am praying for you, that you would see this. And here is John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 NIV

Back to when I mentioned it depends on what life we're talking about Jesus will make right for you. Some people think they can accept Jesus, and their earthly life will be perfect, and he will remove all their problems. I don't agree with that. Your earthly life is not going to be perfect, not when we live in the world we do. And Jesus is not just going to take away all your problems. He does not say that. What he says is that he will be there even through your problems.

Here's Matthew 28:20:

‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
— Matthew 28:20 NIV

Here's Hebrews 13:5

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

’Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.’
— Hebrews 13:5 NIV

Also, note how that says "be content with what you have". You don't need money, or earthly success, or health, or to be out of prison, or whatever it may be, to be joyful and have hope in Christ. In fact, most of the times we are without these things, is when God can work in our hearts the most. Listen to this:

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
— Hebrews 12:11 NIV

Do you learn anything by having an amazing life? No, you don't. You learn to love money, to love yourself, which is everything this prideful society preaches. You forget God, and you forget what He commands us to do. And sometimes you have to fall FLAT ON YOUR FACE to see this, to really and truly grasp Jesus and JESUS ALONE. Sometimes you have to have the world taken from you so that you will not rely on the world to make you happy but your Father who loves you so much, enough to die for you. Paul endured so much hardship, but he brought all glory to God through it. Listen to him talk here; I think these verses are absolutely awesome:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
— Philippians 3:7-9 NIV

He said whatever were gains are now losses for the sake of Christ. If you have to lose everything to find Christ, so be it, because finding Him, KNOWING Him, is so much better than anything else, Paul is saying. And he would know as he went through beatings, prison, etc. You can read all about that in Acts.

I don't think the name-it-and-claim-it lines up with what the Bible teaches at all. If you must go to prison to find Jesus, if you must be sick to find Jesus, if you must lose everything to find Jesus, it's worth it because nothing compares to knowing him. Jesus has given you eternal life (1 John 5:11). THAT is our hope. We still live in this world, but the time is coming where every tear will be wiped (Revelation 21:4).

But until then, God, in His mercy, has given you today to claim this truth, to get right with Him. Your story does not have to end in death or sin. Whatever you have done, or wherever you may be right now, in whatever your circumstances may be, you can find hope in Jesus right now. Read my letters about that here, here, here, and here.

Your story does not have to end in sin, in condemnation. Don't wait. Get right with God now, and your story has only just begun. To Him be ALL the glory.

to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
— Ephesians 3:21 NKJV