So I Got Deferred from Princeton This Week.

I don’t talk about my personal life on here all that much, but today I want to share something that happened this past week and the big lessons that I’m learning from it.

I’m in the middle of the college application process, and most of you probably don’t know that my dream school is Princeton. This is a dream that developed relatively recently as I researched and visited, and let me tell you – I want to go there so badly. 

So in October, I polished up my application and hit submit. I was told I would find out in mid-December.

Well, the decision came out this week. I was deferred.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with college-speak, that means they aren’t deciding yet, that since I applied with the early round, they’re waiting to decide with the next round in the spring. Basically, I still have no idea what’s going to happen, and I have to wait three more months to find out.

Was I disappointed? Yes, of course. Obviously I had hoped that I would get in and my future would be settled.

But that afternoon, I heard God saying to me – You don’t trust me yet. So I’m going to make you wait a little longer. 

And that brought such a strong sense of peace.

God is giving me another, longer waiting season so that I will learn to lean on Him, to let go of things I can’t control, to trust in His plan. He is making me wait, so that I can learn that it’s all going to be okay, so that I can let go of my own plans for my future, open my fists and give it all to Him, and say, with total honesty – Lord, I trust your will over my own.

He started to teach me this, in a small way, at Nutcracker last weekend (and the timing of this is amazing). I had some fast costume changes, and a few times during the shows I didn’t make it and had to enter late for a dance. The first time this happened, I was so stressed out, but as the weekend went on I felt something shift – and I had peace.

During the final show, I was late once and almost late a second time. And I was okay with it. I knew that in the scheme of things it didn’t matter, that I couldn’t control it. I was at peace, going with the flow and trusting God’s purposes.

I’m normally a huge perfectionist, so this was a major shift in perspective. It could only have been God. And I think He was preparing me, teaching me to trust on a small scale so that when it came to the big stuff, I would be ready.

And so, on Wednesday, when I opened my decision and read “The admissions committee has deferred a decision on your application until the spring”, I could be okay with it.

Waiting is hard. But it is in waiting that we have to cast ourselves onto God the most. It is in waiting that we must rely on Him, because we have nothing else to lean on. It is in waiting that the Christian life becomes most different from the worldly life, in waiting that our faith is tested, in waiting that our faith becomes solid and unshakeable.

I don’t trust God enough yet – I know that. And I know God is calling me to this waiting season for a purpose, to teach me to trust, to strengthen my faith. So in the next few months, I’m going to have to learn. I’m going to have to learn to live my life the best I can, not worrying about what will happen in April. I’m going to have to learn to give my stresses and my worries to my God constantly.

And most of all, I’m going to have to learn to hold my plans for my future with open hands. Because the plans He has for me? They are good.

Better than anything I could ever dream of.

Whether they include Princeton or not.

love, grace

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Favorites: Fall 2017

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Fall is my favorite season. It’s so beautiful outside, I love the crisp, but not freezing, weather, and I get to wear scarves and sweaters and boots (finally). Here are a few other favorites from this fall season (September through November):

The Nashville Statement (Desiring God): Every Christian should read this manifesto of Biblical sexuality in an age when all of these points are up for discussion and debate.

Found this video challenging and thought-provoking:

 

Image result for a mango-shaped space A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass – this book made me cry my eyes out late at night. Be warned. Recommended for ages 10+.

And then if you need cheering up, a few favorite Blimey Cow/Jordan Taylor videos:

 

four tips for breaking the strong female character trope - a guest post by Christine Smith [header image]100% agree with this article – must read if you are a fiction writer!

Image result for elantris Elantris by Brandon Sanderson – for an example of how to do the aforementioned “strong female character” correctly (and just about everything else in fiction) – my Goodreads review – recommended for ages 14+

Loving This World As It Really Is (Well Said) – an absolutely beautiful discussion of how we as Christians see the world

Formulaic for a Reason: The Existential Appeal of Hallmark Movies (The Gospel Coalition) – loved this take!

And speaking of romance, this happened to one of my favorite YouTubers this fall:

 

Finally, I don’t really like this actual song very much, but this cover of it features a whole bunch of different genres and is so creative and amazing!

 

What are some of your favorite things from this fall? Do you agree with any of mine? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Quotable Quotes Volume 1 (Thanksgiving Edition)

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I hope all of my American readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Here are some of my favorite quotes about gratitude to encourage you to keep counting your blessings all year long.

“So then as long as thanks was possible, then joy was always possible. The holy grail of joy was not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here, in the messy, piercing ache of now.”

-Ann Voskamp

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

-G.K. Chesterton

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

-Charles Dickens

“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.”

-A.W. Tozer

“A spirit of thankfulness is one of the most distinctive marks of a Christian whose heart is attuned to the Lord.”

-Billy Graham

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”

-A.A. Milne

 

Which of these quotes is your favorite? Do you have other favorite quotes about gratitude? How do you cultivate a thankful heart all year? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Music Spotlight: The Gray Havens

Image result for the gray havens  Image result for the gray havensImage result for the gray havens

 

 

 

Modern Christian music is a bit…disappointing…these days.

Okay, okay, I admit it. I listen to typical contemporary Christian music pretty often. There are good songs, and I think that anything that truly encourages me or prompts me to worship is worth listening to.

But there’s a lack of quality, both spiritually/theologically and musically, and once in a while I find some Christian music that makes me realize what I’ve been missing. The Gray Havens’ albums are like that.

About Them

The Gray Havens centers around husband/wife Dave and Licia Radford. Since their beginning in 2013, their projects have been hailed as “an imaginative treatment of faith…[having] a visionary quality that’s both playful and enraptured.” They have a knack for creating a listening experience similar to paging through your favorite book, with richly textured compositions and multi-layered lyrics. Releasing their debut EP on Noisetrade in 2013, and their first full-length album, Fire and Stone, in 2015, the duo has gained a steady following of listeners nationwide. (from their website, www.thegrayhavensmusic.com/)

Why I Love Them

The first time I listened to a Gray Havens song (“This My Soul” was the first one I heard), I knew immediately that this was some special music. The message that song expresses is just the simple redemption story that most other Christian music also shares: man sinned, and Christ came to die for us so that we could have eternal life. But it doesn’t just say it; this song captures the incredible beauty and wonder of that message in a way that I’ve never heard in any other song, a way that gives me chills every time I hear it. I loved it from first listen.

And as I listened to more of their music, my opinion was reinforced. “This My Soul” is still one of my absolute favorites, but every single song expresses truth in a beautiful, wonderful way.

The best thing about them, I think, is that the lyrics are deep, poetic, and thought-provoking. It isn’t just about the catchy chorus; these songs have truly great writing to go along with the high-quality music. You won’t catch every lyric the first time you listen to a song, or the second time, or the third time. I even recommend looking up the lyrics and reading them while you listen to the song. I’ve done that a couple of times, and I always get so much out of it. The lyrics of these songs express Biblical truth in a way that actually does justice to the wonder and mystery and depth and transcendence of it. They make you want to worship in a far deeper way than most of the worship music being marketed today.

Plus, just the musical quality is amazing as well. The instrumentation is interesting and there are different structures and styles; it’s not just the same formula over and over again. You can tell that they have poured heart and soul and tons of work into every single song.

One of my other favorite songs is “Jack and Jill pt. 2”. The first time I listened to it, the feeling I had at the end was that feeling you get when you finish a really incredible book. Music has never made me feel that way before. I can’t even describe how amazingly creative and lyrically brilliant it is.

Basically, this husband and wife get it. Their music does justice to Christianity in a way that no other contemporary music does that I’ve heard. They get that you can’t reduce the gospel to a few cliche choruses. They get that God’s power and glory are supposed to give us chills and make us fall to our knees. They get the wonder and the mystery and the incredible awesomeness of the God that we worship.

Because, in the end, that’s what Christian music is about: prompting us to give glory to God, leading us to repentance and worship and thanksgiving and love. And The Gray Havens’ music does that in an incredible way. I can’t recommend it enough. All I ask is that the first time you listen to it, you listen to it carefully and really let it soak into your soul.

Favorite Songs (all of them are so good, but here’s a sample)

Have you listened to the Gray Havens before? If not, will you give them a try now? (I hope so!) Have you found any other amazing Christian music recently? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

Read more:

Why I Don’t Limit Myself to “Christian” Entertainment

A Peek Inside My Music Library

A Day of Rest, Joy, and Worship

Why Growing Up is a Good Thing

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I turn seventeen on Friday.

In theory, sixteen and eighteen are both milestone birthdays, and seventeen is just kind of…hanging out in between somewhere. But to be honest, turning seventeen feels like much more of a big deal than turning sixteen did. It seems so much more grown up. It’s your last year of childhood.

In the world’s eyes, growing up is almost a tragedy. Childhood is seen as the best time of life, the simplest time, that will never return again. Now you have to enter the scary world of “adulting” and deal with the fact that the best years of your life are hypothetically over.

But is this the right way to think?

As I was thinking about this more and more, I realized something. Nowhere in the Bible is childhood idolized the way it is in our culture. There is not an ounce of nostalgia or sentimentalism towards childhood in God’s Word.

In fact, the opposite is true. Maturity and adulthood are lauded as good things, great things, things to strive for and look forward to.

Take a look at these passages:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…

-Ephesians 4:11-15

When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

-1 Corinthians 13:11

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

-1 Corinthians 14:23

Clearly, Paul does not consider childhood the best time of life. In fact, to him, “childhood” is synonymous for “immaturity”, which is something that all Christians should strive to overcome.

And this was really encouraging to me – childhood is not supposed to be the only good time of our lives. It’s not supposed to be a bad thing to grow up. It is, in fact, supposed to be a very good thing.

This does not mean that we cannot look back on our childhood with nostalgia. It is a wonderful time, certainly! And if you had a wonderful childhood that makes you not want to grow up, be thankful for that gift that God gave you. But you don’t have to feel like the best time of life is over once childhood ends.

Childhood is a training grounds for life. It’s a time for us to learn from the godly adults in our lives as well as learning from the various experiences we have. It’s our chance to make mistakes without the pressure.

But childhood is not the end goal. Here is the end goal:

Epaphras, who is of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 

-Colossians 4:12

In all of these verses, we see that the Bible views growing up as a good thing, not a bad thing; something to look forward to, not something to dread; something to pray for, not something to struggle against.

Once we begin to reach these last years of childhood, we will have mixed feelings, certainly. Looking back, we ought to be grateful to God for the many blessings he gave us while we were still children. But we don’t need to get bogged down in what-ifs and should-haves. You don’t need to feel guilty if you think you didn’t live your childhood to the fullest, use your teen years well, or appreciate what you had while you had it. What God gave you, and what you experienced, was what you were supposed to experience, and it was enough. It was enough to prepare you for the adult that you are going to be, exactly what you needed as training for the rest of your life.

And as you turn your gaze forward into the future, be excited! Trust in God’s wonderful plans for your life, and realize that there will be just as many wonderful gifts in this life stage as in the past one. Look forward to the depths of faith and maturity that will grow and take root as you get older, the deeper and more meaningful relationships, the chance to do even bigger things for God in the world. The end of childhood is not the end of “the good years”. If you are with God, your whole life is good, and it is under His control.

He is with you in the present and the future, just as He was in the past; now take hold of His hand and move forward in faith and confidence.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity…

-Hebrews 6:1

love, grace

Another Way to Think About the Christian Life

I wrote a post about works vs. grace a long time ago: Why Be Good if Jesus Died?

Today I want to elaborate on everything I said in that post, and use an illustration that will hopefully help you understand this concept even better. I know that it really helped me.

Because this can be a tough thing to get- if we aren’t saved by our works, why do we then have to live in holiness? What’s the point? If God forgives sin, why do we have to fight against it? Obviously it’s a complicated question with a lot of facets, but here is one way to think about it.

Leviticus talks about several different types of offerings. One is the guilt offering. This was an offering given when someone broke God’s law, in order to cleanse them and restore them to favor with God.

Another type of offerings were thank offerings. These were given to God from gratitude for the many blessings He had provided.

Think of your good works as offerings to God, something that you give Him. As guilt offerings, they will always be temporary and inadequate, just like the sacrifices of the Old Testament.

The good news is that those sacrifices were symbolic of Christ, as I talked about in this post. Each sacrifice was temporary, a shedding of blood to pay for the sins of the people. And then Christ came, and paid the ultimate sacrifice, and His was not temporary. It was eternal. And we have nothing else to do to earn salvation. It is finished. He was the ultimate guilt offering.

But our good works are still offerings. In Christ, they become thank offerings, something that we give to God because of who He is and what He has done, a way of thanking Him for all of His blessings. When we get to know God, we want to please Him. We owe so much to Him for the salvation we have from Christ, and so we seek to live in a way that honors Him because we know He deserves it.

The catch? Both of these lives will look the same on the outside. Whether you are living your life as a guilt offering or a thank offering, the outward form will be pretty much the same. It’s about your heart, your motivation. Are you trying to earn your way to heaven, to pay for your own sins by doing good things? Or are you trusting in God’s salvation and doing your best to live in a way that shows how much you love Him?

What do you think? Do you like this way of thinking about it? How else have you wrestled with this concept? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

June 2017 Month in Review

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Summer is in full swing, and if you’re like me, you suddenly have quite a bit of free time on your hands. I encourage all of you to use some of that free time to get closer to God this summer. Read your Bible more than usual, memorize some verses, spend an hour praying about something close to your heart. Make God a first priority and let Him guide your activities. He can and will make your summer peaceful, fruitful, and enjoyable.

And even if He doesn’t, at least not right now, you can know that He is on your side, and all you have to do is trust Him faithfully. Your life is in His hands. Your summer is in His hands. So go and be at peace, regardless of what storm is raging around you.

Bloggings of the Month

faith in humanity2.jpg the problem with this popular phrase

Image result for heartless reviewing this Alice in Wonderland prequel

Favorites of the Month

I saw For King and Country in concert last night…it was so uplifting and encouraging. This is one of my favorite songs by them, for anytime you’re having a bad day:

Untitled design-46 To the Graduates…yes, this is long, but I’m begging you to read the whole thing. Slowly. Whether you’re a graduate or not. It’s beautiful.

The_Sheer_Awfulness_of_Christianity The Sheer Awfulness of Christianity from Kingdom Pen. Basically if you’re a Christian who writes fiction, you must read this. And then reread it. Like every week and month and year. Pin it to your desktop, print it out and stick it on your bulletin board. THIS is how to write Christian fiction that isn’t sappy or cheesy or overly sentimental. So good!!

This video offers a life-changing perspective:

Purely for fun…bookworm lifehacks that may or may not change everything for you.

Encouraging and insightful:

And finally…this song is incredible. Listen to the words carefully.

Coming Next Month

A new blog schedule! For July and August I will be posting twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I always have more time to write over the summer so I’m excited for that!

While I’m on the twice a week schedule I’ll be writing a review or other entertainment-related post every Saturday. In July I’ll try to give you a movie review, a book review, a music spotlight, and then my post for the Silmarillion Awards Fantasy Celebration. 

I’m turning 17 this summer…and I’ve been thinking a lot about childhood and growing up. I recently had a realization about the Bible’s view of childhood, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

I’ll also hopefully be posting about:

  • another way to think about good works in light of grace
  • teens who think we’re unstoppable
  • ideas for overcoming cell phone addiction (and a challenge for us)

See you on Wednesday to kick off July!

What do you think? What are you looking forward to doing this summer? How will you put God at the center of your summer? 

love, grace

Read more:

7 Childhood Books I Still Love

Podcast Review: Age of Minority

A Peek Inside My Music Library

Why Christians Shouldn’t Have Faith in Humanity

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Classmates shave their heads in solidarity with a sick child.

Someone shares their meal with a homeless man on the street.

A policeman stops to help a little kid tie their shoe.

And the world cries, “Faith in humanity restored!”

Even Christians talk this way without even thinking about it. But I think there’s a problem with Christians using this phrase. Isn’t the fallenness of humanity one of our fundamental beliefs?

Truthfully, we can have no ultimate faith in humanity. 

If our faith is in humanity, our faith is in something that will always ultimately fail us. Back in the Garden of Eden, humanity failed us, in the form of Adam and Eve, and ever since then people have been a mess.

The kid will get bullied. The homeless man will get ignored. The disabled girl will be ridiculed and the bad people will reach the top, no matter how little they deserve it. That one sin back in Genesis started a chain reaction that will continue for the whole history of Earth.

Ultimately people will always fail, and people who put their hope in people will always be disappointed.

But what about all those heartwarming stories, all those people doing genuinely good things? They can’t be discounted completely. They can’t be ignored. If humanity is really in as horrible a state as I’ve described, how do we explain random acts of kindness, acts of service, acts of love?

These things should not restore our faith in humanity. They should restore our faith in God. 

If the Christian looks at the good things in the world and feels restored faith for humanity, they are committing idolatry, putting humans in the place of God. When we look at the good things in the world, our faith in God should be strengthened, increased, heightened.

Because if humanity is really as badly messed up as Christianity believes, the existence of any good at all is proof that God is present, and He is always working.

He is the one prompting people to serve others, changing hearts and changing lives. On our own, humanity can’t get anywhere. We’re stuck in a cycle of anger and fear and hurt and selfishness. But with God, anything is possible. And because of Christ, He can take a broken humanity and bring beautiful things out of it.

So, those “faith in humanity” Pinterest posts and stories on the radio? They should mean so much to the Christian, because we know that the existence of those posts and stories is only because of God’s grace to the world. When we hear them, we should not feel an arrogant faith in the human race. We should feel a humble, grateful faith in God, who is the only source of beauty and goodness, and who can redeem anyone.

Faith in humanity will get us nowhere. Faith in God will.

love, grace

What do you think? Have you ever really thought about this phrase before? Do you agree with me? Disagree? Share in the comments below! 

Read more:

After the Rain: Lessons from a Stormy Day

Why I Don’t Limit Myself to “Christian” Entertainment

Boundaries, Rebellion, and “Living on the Edge”

How I Enjoyed Reading Deuteronomy

A little while back, I decided that I wanted to read through the whole Bible. No schedule, no obligation, no finishing date, just me reading straight through, as much or as little as I wanted, finishing when I wanted.

I started in Genesis, and was happily reading along. Then I hit the middle of Exodus and things started to get rough.

It must have taken me several months to get through Leviticus and Numbers. I struggled, often simply skimming the tedious passages of Hebrew law just for the sake of having “read” them so I could move on.

And then, as I began Deuteronomy, I decided to try and find passages that I could apply to my life, even when it seemed like there was nothing. And guess what? I found tons of them! Little tiny nuggets of truth that could mean something to me.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Guess what? This verse applies to all of Scripture, not just the things that seem like they directly apply to us. These verses apply to Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy too.

There will always be something to learn from the Bible, but you have to be actively engaged in reading, looking for the connections and lessons. You can’t just skim.

Something that has helped me with this is starting to write in my Bible, underlining things and jotting my thoughts in the margins. I love going back and looking at things I’ve written, and it helps me to stay focused on reading.

So, don’t give up on the hard passages of Jewish law. Just because they’re challenging doesn’t mean they aren’t worth reading. There’s always more to learn! And when you find those things that apply to your life, you will discover that the reading is much more enjoyable.

love, grace

This post was originally published on my old blog, Me, You, and God, on June 4, 2015.

 

After the Rain: Lessons from a Stormy Day

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That afternoon, the motivation wouldn’t come. Homework piled up, not to mention my own list of goals and plans. The guilt set in. The tears came. Dragging myself to dance class was the last thing I wanted to do, but at the last possible second, balled-up tissue in hand, I threw my hair up and gathered my stuff and made myself walk out the door.

It was raining.

My first reaction was disgust. Now, on top of everything else, I had to drive in pouring rain. The weather confirmed my gloomy mood.

But as I got into the car and turned the keys in the ignition, I was reminded of something God had taught me a few days ago, something I could learn from the rain, something I had been so excited to share.

Rain is a wonderful metaphor for the suffering in our lives. No one likes it while it’s around. We see it as depressing, frustrating. But without the rain nothing would grow. We would have no grass, flowers, trees, greenery. The world would be dry and dead. God always knows exactly when to send rain, exactly when the ground needs watering so that things can grow as He wills.

Rain brings growth. 

Suffering is like that. It’s unpleasant, scary, sad. But with suffering comes incredible growth. The sadness of one season is preparation, so that in the coming sunny season we can bloom and grow in glorious shades of green.

And as I drove down the street in the dark, windshield wipers on full blast, I thought about the metaphor and tears began to stream down my face again. But this time it was from fullness, not emptiness. The rain, rather than being one more problem, was a symbol for what God was doing in my heart that night, and I will never forget the feeling once I knew that. As it poured down, it mirrored my tears. And I knew that my heart was being watered, my faith was being deepened, and that the next day would bring the flowers.

“There is no fear in letting tears come. Sadness is a gift to avoid the nothingness of numbness, and all hard places need water. Grief is a gift, and after a rain of tears, there is always more of you than before. Rain always brings growth.”

-from The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, chapter 11 (“Breaking Into Being Real”)

love, grace