Should We Accept Ourselves For Who We Are?

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I googled the words “accept yourself” when I was getting ready to write this blog post, and it came up with page after page of results. “Accept Yourself for Who You Are”. “How to Accept Yourself, Your Life, and Your Reality.” “How to Accept Yourself Unconditionally.” “Why Acceptance is the Answer to Most of Your Life Problems.”

This is just one of the many cliched phrases that our culture has taken as its mantras. They say that if we can only accept ourselves for who we are, where we are today, somehow that’s the magical key to happiness.

We might have heard this so many times that we barely give it a second thought. But as Christians, we can’t believe these things without first thinking about them and considering whether they are really in line with the Bible.

So how does this narrative of unconditional acceptance fit with Biblical truth?

The answer is, it treads a fine line. There is a partial truth in it, as well as a way it can go dangerously wrong. Here’s why: we are called to accept our circumstances without accepting our sin. 

As Christians, we are called to be content with our lives. We know that wherever God has put us at a given point, it is for His glory and our good, and as such we can have joy, even if the circumstances themselves are painful.

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”

-Philippians 4:11-12

So, when the world tells us to “accept where we are today”, “accept our life”, “accept our reality”…for the most part, that’s advice that Christians can take. In fact, we know the secret the world doesn’t know: when you believe in a good God, it’s a lot easier to be content with where you are.

And now, the problematic part…”accept yourself the way you are.” The “accepting your body” narrative is a little more complex, a separate issue that I definitely want to talk about some other time. But in terms of your personality, strengths and weaknesses, etc., this can so easily move into dangerous territory for Christians.

When we truly understand who we are according to the Bible, it’s really hard to accept ourselves. We know that, on our own, we are depraved sinners with no hope.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world…we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

-Ephesians 2:1-3

But that verse is in the past tense!

The fact is, we are being gloriously transformed. We don’t have to accept ourselves the way we are, because we know we aren’t going to stay this way forever. We don’t have to accept ourselves the way we are, because that isn’t what our life or our happiness depends on. We know who God is, and we know who Christ is, and we know that Christ’s righteousness now extends to us.

That is what we accept in order to live joyful, purpose-filled lives. We don’t love ourselves for ourselves, but we don’t hate ourselves either. Instead, we don’t think about ourselves at all, spending our lives in worship and totally focused on God.

So accept the things you can’t control: the chronic illness, the hard life circumstance, the fact that you’re better at music than sports. But don’t ever use this as an excuse to accept some “personality trait” that is actually a sin, whether that’s perfectionism, arrogance, laziness…if something is a sin, it needs to be fought, no matter how much you feel it’s engrained in your personality.

The good news? God is on your side, sanctifying you a little more every day. One day, you will be able to accept yourself completely, as a perfect, glorified person.

Until then, don’t settle, and don’t let “unconditional acceptance” become a guise for letting sin slide by.

What do you think? Have you believed the lie that you have to “accept yourself the way you are” to be happy? Do you agree with me about its problems? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Read more:

So I Got Deferred from Princeton This Week.

4 Reasons to Read the Bible

Why Growing Up is a Good Thing

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Should Christians Read Fiction?

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For the past little while, we’ve been exploring what it means to use the arts well as a Christian. I’ve argued that the arts are important for Christians to pay attention tothey are a valid career path for Christians, and that as Christians, our art should be of the highest quality.

Today and next week, I want to look at two very specific types of art, ones that I am personally involved in, ones that I feel some Christians look askance at. I want to explain why I believe they are important and why I believe God created them.

First up? Fiction. Storytelling. The art of writing, of crafting plot and characters and settings to explore themes. I write fiction, although I don’t talk about it much on here, and I believe that it is such an important element of the human experience as God created us.

Whatever is True?

I remember stumbling on one of my mom’s homeschool books when I was much younger, a book where the author talked about her family only read nonfiction or fiction that could be real. They didn’t allow fairy tales, fantasy, mythology, talking animals, etc., using Philippians 4:8 (“Whatever is true…”) as their reasoning.

Even at a young age, that bothered me. Partially because I had already fallen in love with fantasy stories and stories in general, and I wondered if it was wrong to read those things, if I should give them up.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized why it really bothered me even then.

What Fiction Does

As Christians, storytelling is one of the means God has given us to reveal his truth. When we limit this storytelling to only representing things that happen in the “real world”, we lose a hugely powerful avenue of witnessing to truth and beauty.

Different genres have different purposes, but all fiction serves several important purposes.

Through fiction, we see the world through different eyes and gain the ability to empathize with people who are different from us.

Through fiction, we get to see how the universal truth of God’s Word plays out in a variety of situations that we will never actually experience.

Through fiction, we gain a more well-rounded understanding of God’s character than we would in the course of our everyday lives.

What About Fantasy?

I want to look at fantasy specifically for a second. Even though so many Christians avoid it like the plague, I think fantasy is so important. Through made-up worlds and magic and epic quests, truth and beauty find one of their best representations.

The best fantasy books are those that look seriously at real issues. By taking those issues into a made-up setting, we can consider them detached from the baggage they carry in the real world. Because of that, we can see the problems and their solutions more clearly.

The other thing fantasy does really well: illustrate the clash between good and evil. In fantasy, we see over and over that good always wins, that evil will ultimately be defeated. There is an ongoing battle between good and evil in the supernatural realm of the real world; in fantasy, without the limitations of the natural world, it is much easier to represent the truth of this fight in the way that does it justice.

The Impact of Fiction

Ultimately, fiction and nonfiction must work together. Nonfiction expresses the truth, and fiction illustrates the truth. Fiction takes nonfiction’s ideas, adds dimension, and makes them beautiful. Fiction shows the truth to us in the light of people and places and stories.

Fiction has the potential to impact the world for incredible good. The truths we learn through fiction often stay with us forever, changing our lives more than the most helpful self-help book. That is a power that Christians need to be harnessing and using for the glory of God.

And as for Philippians 4:8, there is often more truth in stories of talking animals and magic wands than there is in the most realistic of contemporary novels.

What do you think? Do you read fiction? Fantasy? What impact has fiction had on your life? 

love, grace

Read more:

4 Ways to Read More During the School Year (+book recommendations!)

Writing for Building Up (or, I’m Tired of Depressing Stories)

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

Why Christians Should Care About the Arts

 

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Photo by David Hofmann on Unsplash

I love the arts.

I write fiction, and I am a voracious reader. I’ve been dancing since I was six. I sing in choir and play the piano.

And recently, as I’ve started to make plans for my future, I’ve been thinking a lot about my purpose. Since the arts are such a big part of my life, I’ve been thinking a lot about their purpose, too, and about how I might be called to use them.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that the arts are a vital, important part of the Christian life, and of our witness to the world.

Made in God’s image, we create because He is creative. Without Him, art would not exist. Beauty would not exist. From the Fall, He left us remnants of beauty, slivers of what heaven will be like, reminders that He is good, and beautiful, and lovely, even when it feels like the world is a mess. And so for the Christian, everything we create is a little reflection of the beauty of the God we worship.

This is why I believe the arts are so important. I think that in artistic expression, we see God’s glory in a different way. There are parts of God’s nature that can’t be put into words – and the arts help us to portray that feeling of awe and love that can’t be expressed any other way. Well-made art is glorifying to God because it shows His beauty, helping us to connect with Him more deeply and fully.

Thanks to God’s common grace, this even extends to art made by unbelievers. Since there would be no beauty without God, anything that is beautiful points back to Him, intentionally or not. And if even secular art brings this kind of glory to God, what happens when Christians purposefully harness the power of creativity as a witness to the world? What happens when we cultivate our talents and then channel them into making real, high-quality art that honors our God?

Amazing things happen.

So I think it’s a mistake for Christians to be afraid of the arts, to refuse to let their kids read fiction, to think all dancing is sinful…or even to think that artistic pursuits are less important, less valid, not a real career or a meaningful contribution to the world.

We believe in a beautiful God. And our art, whether music or writing or dance or anything else, brings Him glory in a special way, and broadcasts His beauty to the world.

 

This post probably doesn’t even do justice to the amount of thoughts I’ve been having on this subject lately – expect to see more exploration of it in coming months. So let’s start a conversation in the comments! I could talk about this all day. How do you glorify God through art? What do you think about secular vs. Christian art and media? Where do you see God’s beauty in your daily life? 

love, grace

Read more:

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

Music Spotlight: The Gray Havens

4 Reasons to Read the Bible

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We’ve all been told many times that to be good Christians, we should read our Bibles. But have you ever actually thought about why?

Well, duh, you say, rolling your eyes, it’s the Bible, Grace. Obviously we have to read it if we’re Christians.

But so often, we read it without really knowing what the point is, why it’s important, and what we’re trying to get out of it. We wander aimlessly through the pages, looking for that “spiritual growth” we’re supposed to find if we read for fifteen minutes every day. But without a clear purpose, growth is hard to come by. We need to know what the Bible is, what it is for, and how we can truly get the most out of it.

We’ll talk about the “how” part later. But for now, let’s talk about the “what for” part. Why should we read our Bibles? What is, truly, the purpose of it?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 sums it up best:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

From that verse, here are four reasons to read your Bible.

1. Scripture is God’s literal Word to us.

First of all, the most obvious reason. The God of the universe gave us a book of truth. Why wouldn’t you want to read that?

The Bible is not just a human book summarizing the history of the Christian faith and the dos and don’ts of the Christian life. Everything the Bible holds is God’s truth, breathed out for us to use. Hebrews 4:12 puts it this way:

“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.”

Every time we read the Bible, God is working through the power of His Holy Spirit, opening our eyes and our hearts, teaching and training and correcting and inspiring. Fundamentally, the Bible is an amazing gift, and to neglect it is to neglect the one thing that will help your Christian walk the most.

2. Scripture shows us our sin and our need for a Savior.

So what, specifically, does the Bible show us and teach us? First: it reveals our sin in all of its ugliness. As we read God’s law, and see what He requires for a righteous life, we see all the ways in which we fail to measure up.

This does away with conceit and shows us our need for Christ. There is no way, after reading the Bible, that we can delude ourselves into thinking we are “good people”. And so we come away humbled and ready to accept the salvation that God requires, leaning on Him, knowing that on our own we could never live a truly upright life.

3. Scripture shows us who God is and what He has done.

As we read the Bible, we are humbled. We see ourselves for who we are. But we also see God for who He is.

The entire Bible is the saga of a people who rebelled and a God who loved them anyway, so much that He sent His Son to die. The more we see our sin, the more we realize the wonder of salvation, and the wonder of God’s love. Through the Bible, we come to love God more and more, as we learn more and more about His love for us.

We also learn about His character. God is so complex, and the best way to know Him better is by reading the Bible. Every time you read about God, you will learn something new about who He is.

4. Scripture shows us how to live a godly life.

And finally, once we have seen our sin and God’s love, and once we accept salvation, the Bible gives us a blueprint for our lives. Because while we will never be able to perfectly measure up to the righteousness God requires, through His work of sanctification we begin to change, growing more and more like Christ.

The Christian life is a hard walk, and the Bible is the guidebook. It is there for us to go back to again and again, seeking the way we should go in every situation. We should be familiar with it from cover to cover, learning to base our entire life upon the truth it contains.

If you’ve never read your Bible, or if this overwhelms you, don’t worry! This is the beginning of a new series I’m going to do on Bible reading. Next week we’ll start getting into the practical details, so stay tuned for that, and let me know if you have any questions I can address during the series!

What do you think? Do you read your Bible regularly? How have you seen these four benefits play out in your own life? 

love, grace

Read more:

Lessons from the Law: How to Get Into the Old Testament for Yourself

24 Resolution Ideas for Christian Teens

How I Enjoyed Reading Deuteronomy

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”

Lessons from the Law: The Sacrificial System

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Can you imagine having to kill an animal every time you sinned? Each angry word, impatient attitude, selfish action. Every time you worried. Every time a lustful thought, a jealous thought, a prideful thought entered your mind. Every time you put something else before God in your heart.

One of the most prominent features of the Old Testament law is the sacrificial system, taking up a good portion of the beginning of Leviticus as well as some scattered passages elsewhere. It can be difficult to read through all the specific requirements for offerings, when to sacrifice a goat and when to sacrifice a dove, and which parts of the animal to burn, and on and on.

But this is meant to make us realize how much more difficult it would have been to actually carry out these instructions, and to point forward to the One who released us from this burden once and for all.

The Sacrificial System

In Israel, overseeing offerings was one of the most important duties of the priests. Offerings were given for many occasions, such as festivals and the Sabbath (Numbers 28-29), but especially to atone for sin.

What did this offering look like?

It always required the shedding of blood, unless the guilty person could not afford an animal (Leviticus 5:11-13).

It had to be done in a particular way, with the help of a priest.

It was temporary, a way to atone for one particular sin. Therefore, it had to be repeated over and over, and could never fully remove the reality of sin from the life of the Israelites.

(If you want to read more about it, look at Leviticus 4-6.)

The Depth of Our Need

So why did God give us all of this incredibly detailed information about the Israelites’ sacrifices if he doesn’t expect us to sacrifice in this way ourselves?

To show us how desperately we needed Christ.

Here’s the thing: all of the sacrifices of the Old Testament had to be without blemish, that is, as perfect as possible, the best of what the guilty person had.

“When any one of the house of Israel…presents a burnt offering as his offering…if it is to be accepted for you it shall be a male without blemish, of the bulls or the sheep or the goats. You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you.” (Leviticus 22:18-20)

Lame animals? Not acceptable. Sick animals? Not acceptable. Injured animals? Not acceptable. God would only accept the best of the best.

That’s bad news for us. Because the sacrificial system was not meant to be permanent; it was meant to point forward to a time when our debt could be settled for good, when our sin could be paid for permanently. And the only kind of permanent sacrifice God would accept was going to have be the best of the best, perfect.

Who was there in the world who could meet those standards? None of us could. The Bible is very clear that every single human being is sinful. There was no way for us to save ourselves.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

The Glory of Easter

Once we see the complex demands of the Old Testament sacrificial system, we see our great need, and we see the glory of Christ’s death and resurrection, the only thing that could permanently pay for our sin.

None of us could meet God’s sacrificial standards, so Christ came and met those standards. All of us are sinful, but Christ lived a life without sin. We couldn’t save ourselves, so Christ came and saved us, because he loved us too much to leave us where we were. 

See, that Romans passage goes on. It doesn’t leave it at that horrible truth.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:23-25)

The writer of Hebrews explores the idea of Christ as the final sacrifice:

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come…he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption…indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins…

“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come…it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near…for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins…

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

(excerpted from Hebrews 9-10; I highly recommend reading both those chapters in their complete form, as they pull this idea together very well)

This is why God gave us all the details of the sacrificial system for sin. He wanted us to see the absolute necessity of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, and how glorious those truths are.

Because it is glorious. Christ, in one final sacrifice, did what centuries of animal sacrifices could not do.  He came, died, and rose, and in doing that he paid it all. 

That’s what we celebrate tomorrow, Easter Sunday.

love, grace

What do you think? Have you looked at the sacrificial system this way before? Are there other passages in the Bible you can think of that complement the ones I shared? Tell me in the comments! 

Read more:

Advent Reflections, part 4: Love

A Day of Rest, Joy, and Worship

Why Be Good if Jesus Died?

Lessons from the Law: Don’t Ignore the Old Testament!

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What Bible verses do you see quoted most often?

John 3:16, perhaps. Psalm 23. Jeremiah 29:11. 1 Corinthians 13. I’m sure many others come to mind, verses that every Christian falls back on. And it’s true that those verses are the Word of God, wonderful, beautiful, and greatly encouraging in hard times.

But you know what else is also the wonderful, beautiful Word of God?

Exodus. Leviticus. Numbers. Deuteronomy.

If you cringed as you read that, this series is for you.

Why Read the Old Testament?

Many Christians dread reading the Old Testament, especially those first few books that are full of Israel’s laws. So we float around in the New Testament, with maybe some Psalms thrown in for good measure, and somehow never get around to truly reading and understanding the Law.

It’s true that Jesus fulfilled the law of Israel, that we are under a new covenant after his death and resurrection. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important for us anymore.

As I read through the law at the beginning of this year, I tried to come to it with an open mind, and God taught me so many amazing things because of that. The purpose of this series is to share them with you, to help you see the purpose of the Law and its place in the Bible.

Because nothing in the Bible is junk. God gave the entire Bible to us, every single word, for a reason. It is ALL meant to encourage, convict, instruct. I want to fall in love with the entire Bible, and I want you to fall in love with it too.

What We’ll Learn

Over the course of the next few months, we’ll learn about:

The Old Testament sacrificial system and how it points to Jesus

The cleansing laws and how they point to Jesus

Worship in the Old Testament and what we can learn from it

Equality in the law and how amazing it is

How to get started reading the law for yourself

I hope you’re as excited for this series as I am! I can’t wait to share the things I learned as I read through the law, especially Exodus and Leviticus, and to explore how this often-ignored part of the Bible is full of wonderful truth.

love, grace

What do you think? Do you avoid reading the Old Testament? What has God taught you from the law books? Is there anything you want me to cover that wasn’t listed above? Let me know in the comments! 

Read more:

How I Enjoyed Reading Deuteronomy

24 Resolution Ideas for Christian Teens

How to Take Sermon Notes

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

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Surprise! A post on a Friday. I had something I really wanted to share while it was still fresh in my mind. I think I’ll continue to do this; I plan my Saturday posts ahead, but sometimes I get ideas that just can’t wait. So you may get a surprise post every now and then.

There’s Christian music and Christian books and Christian movies.

There’s also secular music and secular books and secular movies.

So what do we listen to, read, and watch, and what do we avoid? Do we only consume explicitly Christian media, or is secular entertainment fine as long as it is appropriate?

Here are my thoughts on this:

God created the world. God is truth. The created world cannot help but reflect God’s truth. Secular media may unknowingly reflect deep and profound truths about God and who we are in God.

Of course, there are many sources of entertainment that are completely inappropriate or promote messages absolutely contrary to Christianity. Those are a no-no, no questions asked, no exceptions.

But in the vaguer areas, the songs that are appropriate but don’t really have a “Christian” message, the children’s movies that aren’t inappropriate but aren’t particular Christ-centered either, the books by secular authors, look for little nuggets of truth.

They may be unintentional, but they will be there.

This train of thought, for me, was sparked by the song “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. I was listening to it on the way home from dance and started wondering whether, as a Christian, I should limit myself only to Christian music.

Then I started paying attention to the words of the song.

Here’s just a few lines that really hit me.

“Everybody’s been there,

Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy

“Fallen for the fear

“And done some disappearing…

“Don’t run, just stop holding your tongue…

“And since your history of silence

“Won’t do you any good

“Did you think it would?

“Let your words be anything but empty

“Why don’t you tell them the truth?”

That could be a Christian song, couldn’t it? As I listened to these words, I felt myself inspired to be a witness, to stand up for what I believe without fear, to stop my shy silence and speak up. Even though it doesn’t specifically mention God or Christianity, this song got me thinking about spiritual things. And anything that does that, to me, is good.

If we really listen, we can find truth all around us. And that can be so encouraging.

So use discernment. Don’t limit yourself just to Christian media. When you do consume secular entertainment, pay close attention to the worldviews and messages. When you find anti-Christian messages, avoid them, as I’m sure you’ve been told many times before.

But there is a flip-side to that, too, that rarely gets mentioned. When you find truth in secular media, rejoice! Let it encourage you.

God can speak through sources that aren’t explicitly Christian. Secular media can portray truth and beauty as well as, or better than, “Christian” entertainment. God is the creator of all art, everything that is lovely and good, and art is meant to be enjoyed.

love, grace

What do you think? Have you ever found exciting nuggets of truth in secular entertainment? Do you disagree with me, and limit yourself to strictly “Christian” media? How do you use discernment in your entertainment choices? Share in the comments below! 

Read more:

5 Ways to Stay Grounded in Truth This School Year

A Peek Inside My Music Library

Thoughts on Unrealistic Expectations and “Happily Ever After”