Happy Anniversary to Ditching Comfort Zones

It is so hard for me to believe that one year ago I took the leap of faith and decided to open up and share myself, and my story, with the entire world through this blog. This past year has been an incredible journey, and I am so glad that y’all all shared along in the ride with me.

When I look back in hindsight, it’s crazy to think about how much changes in the process of a year. I’ve had a birthday, dyed my hair dark (then dyed it back to blonde), graduated college, began grad school (S/O to that current 4.0), gotten a job, moved to the DFW metroplex, went to Maryland, made new friends, had a couple heartbreaks, and have grown SO much as a person.

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Just an example of the difference a year can make

I began this blog not knowing where life was going to take me, and for the sake of transparency, that bugged me to no end. I can be so type-A, hearing what God wanted from me but not being able to see it caused some serious issues with me personally. I’ve opened up about this over the past year – how all I wanted was to know where God was going to take me but I didn’t want to share until I got there.

I’ve come to realize how wrong it was for me to think this way. Just because I firmly believe God is doing a great work in my life doesn’t mean I can’t share the journey along the way. Actually, it’s selfish of me to believe God is doing a great work in my life and not share it with others.

Walking forward and not knowing what lies ahead is intimidating. I think we all realize this. We like our comfort zones. We want to hold on to what we know. Comfort zones are the reason I held on to my old life so tightly the moment I realized God was telling me to let go. It’s a moment I will never forget.

Things were getting hard for me. I knew change was coming. I was in a time of what could be called “spiritual apathy” and I started trying to turn back to God for answers. I opened my devotional and read these words:

This is a time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control. In order to let go of something that is precious to you, you need to rest in My presence, where you are complete.

This was all I could remember reading in that devotional. It was all that stuck out to me. I was furious with God. I was scared to death. I didn’t want to let go. I didn’t see what God could possibly have in mind for me letting go. There’s a picture on Pinterest of a little girl holding on to a teddy bear and not wanting to let go and Christ is standing in front of her with a larger teddy bear behind his back saying “trust me.” This was me.

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This is a simple (and somewhat silly analogy) but it speaks a large truth. I couldn’t let go.

Yet what I completely neglected was the second part of the same paragraph in that devotional:

As you relax more and more, your grasping hand gradually opens up, releasing your prized possession into My care.

I learned to let go. Letting go was by no means easy, the process took much longer than most realize, but every day I was able to move forward with the help of Christ. That’s how I ended up here. That’s how I started this blog. I let go, but I didn’t know where I was going to go next. So I started writing. I started sharing my experiences with the world, no matter how odd or how foolish they might have made me seem.

Realizing God was writing a story for my life totally unique and I was keeping it to myself ate me alive. I couldn’t stand not telling others about the work God was doing in my life. So I started writing.

Becoming the epitome of putting my heart on my sleeve was by no means easy. There have been plenty of times I thought “but what will this person think if they read this?” or “I wonder what perception this gives of me?” but I just kept writing.

This past year has been such an incredible and rewarding growth experience. I feel like it would sound silly to say this blog was me going beyond my borders, but to an extent it was. I have always been what you could call a “writer” but actually sharing my writings with other people, well that’s a whole different story.

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Yet blogging has helped that. I believe this blog has made me stronger as a person. It has helped me see the world in a different light. It has helped me tear down some of those walls I built after my life was unmade and share how God has helped me completely remake my life.

This is one of the greatest joys the past year has brought me. Beyond people telling me they loved certain posts or seeing which of my posts has the most reads, knowing that I’m truly sharing a story totally unique, entirely my own, and providing spiritual encouragement to those around me, that’s the reward of this blog.

For the past year I have thought if I could just touch one person through my writing, then I would have done my part. I don’t know who they are, but I hope they’re out there, and I hope I have provided them with any sense of encouragement and comfort they could need.

A little over two years ago I couldn’t let go. I couldn’t step out of my comfort zone and I wanted God to follow my plan for my life. By no means have I been on a blind journey, but I also know God called to a life where I absolutely have to place my trust in Him and Him alone. This has not been easy, but I have learned there is beauty in the unknown of this world. So I am going to keep running and chasing after it with all I have. Certain aspects of this process scare me to no end, but how else would I grow as a person? How else would I see all that God is capable of if I continue to limit Him to the confines of comfort zone?

Here’s to the next year of ditching comfort zones and seeing where God’s plan will lead me next! Happy anniversary gilliamgirl friends!

Music Wednesday: Praise the King

I genuinely apologize if you’re tired of hearing me talk about The Porch, the Tuesday night worship event I’ve been attending in Fort Worth, I’ve just enjoyed it SO much!

However, last night at The Porch I heard a worship song I had never heard before.

It’s funny how it started – the band started playing and this girl in the crowd yelled “YES!” Sure we all laughed, I mean doesn’t everyone get excited whenever they hear their favorite song start playing? It was an amusing moment. Yet once I heard the song and started singing the lyrics, I completely understood why the girl was shouting yes.

The song talks about the reason we find our freedom in Christ, and why we stand here now forgiven – Jesus is alive.

It would be too long to put all the lyrics in the post, but the bridge says this:

The grave could not ignore it when all of heaven’s roaring. Hell where is your victory? Death where is your sting? The world could not ignore it when all the saints are roaring. Hell where is your victory? Death where is your sting?

If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what will. Maybe that’s not the reason the girl yelled yes when the band started playing the song, but I like to believe it was.

Worshipping God because the King defeated death, is risen, and alive? I can’t think of a better reason to yell yes.

Where Were You?

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Where were you?

September 11, 2001. Where were you when the world stopped turning? Do you remember what was happening? Do you remember who you were with? Do you remember the first time you heard the news, saw the TV footage, and felt your heart stop?

With a tear on your face and a lump in your throat, do you remember seeing the black smoke fill the sky as you stood in shock and felt the pain pierce your heart on that cold September day?

Where were you?

It was less than a month after I had turned seven. I was in the second grade at Little Cypress-Elementary, a student of Mrs. Sonnier’s class.

The day started normally for me, as it did for everyone else. Perhaps I was oblivious, perhaps time has blocked out painful memories, but by 10:28 a.m. I wasn’t aware the face of my nation had changed forever.

It was a Tuesday. Tuesday’s were ballet days. I had gone to dance per my normal routine schedule, yet something was different. The teachers were acting different. The parents were acting different. I danced my heart out as usual, but something about that ballet class was simply different.

I honestly don’t remember who picked me up from dance, whether it was my mom or my dad, but that doesn’t matter. I got home from dance that evening, walked from the garage down the back hallway of our house, and straight into the living room.

I stood, frozen, next to my dad’s chair as Fox News displayed the most horrific images I had ever seen in my life.

I walked a little further into my living room. My dad turned to me with a solemn look in his eyes and said “I need to explain something to you.”

Where were you?

I sat down at the foot of our couch, my usual spot, and kept staring. I kept trying to wrap my mind around what was happening. My small, seven-year-old mind kept trying to figure out if what I saw was truly a reality.

My dark hazel eyes quickly turned red as they swelled with tears. My heart kept stopping. It was real. It had happened. My world shattered.

Where were you?

On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda coordinated four terrorist attacks on the United States.

Between the hours of 8:46 a.m. and 10:28 a.m., United Airlines flight 11 and American Airlines flight 175 crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center. American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. The fourth plane, United Airlines flight 93, was headed for Washington D.C., but instead crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

A total of 19 hijackers used mace, pepper spray, tear gas, and weapons to overcome the flight crew and passengers. Chilling records report people calling home with the words “We’re not going to make it. I love you.”

At the Twin Towers, people called 911 stating the rooms were filling with smoke, asking if first responders were going to make it in time, and if they were going to die.

2,996 people were killed, over 6,000 injured.

Nearly all were civilians. 343 were firefighters. 72 were law enforcement. 55 were military personnel. The terrorist organization successfully caused the largest attack on first responders in United States history.

The United States was hit in the heart.

A searing pain I can only imagine resembled that of Pearl Harbor, the United States would never be the same.

Where were you?

On September 12 I woke up, still in shock, and pulled out a white t-shirt with a small American flag in the middle of it and the words “Proud to be an American” printed under it. Somehow I inherently knew I had to wear it that day.

Everything was different. Mrs. Sonnier was filled with both compassion and caution as her class of seven and eight year olds attempted to wrap the events of the previous day their little minds. One student, James Williams, said he heard President Bush was going to declare 9/11 as Patriot’s Day in the United States. I sat in my desk quietly thinking “Good. This is a day no one should ever forget.”

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Where were you?

As with the rest of the nation, and most of the world, I was filled with emotion to this day I cannot fully comprehend. I was upset. I was angry. I was heart-broken. I was filled with patriotism. I wanted to make a difference.

For weeks after, it was always the little things I did that seemed to have a profound meaning behind them. I distinctly remember one day getting ready to leave for gymnastics. I came out of my room and my dad stood still, staring at the TV. The word Baghdad was printed in large letters on a map of Iraq, I’m sure surrounded by other cities such as Mosul, Basrah, and Ramadi, but I only remember Baghdad.

I looked up my dad and said “Look daddy, I wore my red leotard and blue shorts today with my red scruncci today. I’m doing it in support of our nation, in support of Uncle Jimmy. People need to know I back our government.”

My dad looked down at me and smiled. I knew he was proud of me, but in that moment, I was more focused on showing the world that what mattered to me was God, family, country.

Where were you?

In the grander scheme of things, my wearing red, white, and blue to gymnastics did not make a difference, but to me it was important.

However, there were those who answered the call. There were those who sought to make the difference. There are the big names we know who sought to answer the call – Pat Tillman and Chris Kyle. There were those, like my uncle, who were apart of Desert Storm and continued to answer the call. But then there are those lesser known people. The one’s we know only in our towns who became filled that act of valor.

Those like Lance Cpl Shane Lee Goldman and Private First Class (posthumously promoted to Lance Cpl) Chance Phelps who enlisted and paid the ultimate sacrifice in the Anbar Province of Iraq just four days apart.

The story of Goldman is one I’ll never forget. For a reason I have yet to understand, it has always stuck with me, always impacted me. His sister was one of my dance teachers. It was his dream to be a Marine. He said he never wanted to let his family down. He didn’t.

Goldman and Phelps are not alone. They stand with a band of brothers and sisters who all answered the call and served. Uncommon valor became a common virtue among these Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines alike.

Where were you?

15 years ago on that cold September day, the world stopped turning.

15 years ago, 9/11 became a day that changed the face of this world and the way many choose to see it today.

15 years ago, America was struck, America was reminded freedom isn’t free, and America became stronger.

Where were you?

To those who fell, and to those who carry on, we will never forget.

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Relationship Goals: Identifying the One

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As promised, this is the second part of my two part series on Relationship Goals, a sermon series I have heard the past two weeks at The Porch in DFW.

“The one” is such a haunting concept. Who is it? What do they look like? When we will meet? And the biggie – when will I know?

These are questions I am willing to bet we have all grown up asking ourselves. Of course, when we ask them out loud the answer we get is along the lines of “you’ll know when you know.” But what does that mean? Yes, I am willing to bet 100% of us have asked and wondered the same questions.

However, here’s the thing about “the one” – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wondering and dreaming about the future, but when it comes to marriage, you can’t wonder about the one, you can’t date looking for the one, if you don’t even know what you’re looking for in the first place.

An interesting twist to the sermon series (I felt) – JP did not take us down a traditional path of scripture focused on love and marriage, but instead used a scripture often quoted by church youth groups:

“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”
1 Timothy 4:12

Interesting, right? Youth groups often use this verse to encourage the kids based on the first part of the verse – let no one look down on your youthfulness. Yet as far as JP was concerned, it’s the five traits listed in this verse that are more important – but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

These are the five character traits that should define our entire outlook on dating. Or, as JP would put it –

“If your standards are not God’s standards, then your standards are stupid.” 

You laugh, maybe roll your eyes, I did too but it’s true.

SPEECH

What does a person say? You can tell a lot about a person by their speech. As James would put it, we need to people who are quick to listen and slow to speak. Not quick to speak and then apologize later for what we said. Listen to what they’re saying. Whatever comes out of a person’s mouth is what lies in their heart. Watch their speech, and watch yours as well. Then you can find your identity in Christ and not your attitude.

CONDUCT

What are they known for? Similarly to speech, studying someone’s conduct and how they act can tell wonders about them. Proverbs tell us in chapter 11 verse 20 that the perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord. Now, I could be wrong about you, but I know personally I would never want to be an abomination to the Lord. Though, if I’m being honest with myself, I know I’ve been there before.

Yet Paul tells in Philippians 2:15 that Christians should conduct themselves in such a way that they appear as lights to the word. As Christians, we should literally glow with Christ. Our conduct is a direct indicator of that.

Past behavior is a perfect indicator of future performance. But that does not mean Christ cannot heal anything and anyone. He can. When it comes to conduct, their repentance needs to be as strong as their rebellion.

LOVE

How do they love? How have they loved others? This is huge. Major. You don’t love someone because of your feelings. I hope you realize how selfish this is. A major sign of immaturity is when a person allows their feelings to design reality. Feelings do not define a relationship, who put you here does.

When we love, even if a relationship doesn’t work, we should leave someone better than we found them.

Let me repeat that: leave someone better than you found them.

I hope you realize how truly radical this idea is – to love someone so much that no matter what happens between the two of you, you never, ever beat them down but instead continue to love them and lift them. You continue to help them become better than who they were you met. That’s love.

FAITH 

I feel this is very commonly understood, but what do they believe? What is the trajectory of their life faith? Does it align with yours? These are such important questions to ask. These will be things that begin to define, and possibly divide, your relationship. If you can’t agree on matters of faith, you will not be able to agree on other issues as well. Run with Christians and a myriad of issues can be missed.

PURITY

Yes or no. That’s the only way to answer this questions. Are they relentless about purity or no? This is the time to set an example. God can restore anything. I truly, truly believe this. God can restore anything, but the time to pursue the discipline is now, especially if you’re single. Pursue purity now. Remember you were bought with a price. The Holy Spirit lives inside of you. Your body is not yours. Respect that.

I may sound crazy here, JP probably definitely sounds crazy here, but the important thing is you’re not dating to find someone perfectly compatible. If you’re dating to find someone you match up with as your friends would say “perfectly,” if you’re dating because of they way someone makes you feel, you’re dating for the wrong reasons. You will run with things get hard, and then wonder why the relationship failed.

Find someone fully committed, fully yoked to Christ.

JP joked with us on Tuesday that he once dated this girl and no matter what she never ceased to surprise him with how committed she was not only to him, but to Christ. She was always there, but she always loved Jesus more. He stood in awe and wondered “what am I doing dating this girl? She loves Christ so much. Why am I dating her?”

No, they didn’t break up. To quote JP exactly – “So I stopped dating her and put a ring on it.”

Those fully committed and fully yoked to Christ. Those who seek to do the will of God in every facet of their life, as Christians, those are who we should surround ourselves with. Christ first, ourselves second. This is how we identify “the one.”

Music Wednesday: On A Thursday…

“We need less butt guys, less boob guys, and more bible guys.” -JP

If you read my post yesterday, then you know the past couple weeks I’ve been going to a Tuesday night worship event called The Porch in Fort Worth. (Btw, if you live anywhere in the DFW metroplex area, I highly recommend it. There’s one in Dallas too).

For the past few weeks, the young adult pastor, whom we call JP, has been preaching on “Relationship Goals.” He has covered everything under the sun about what Godly dating and Godly marriage should look like.

Tuesday night his sermon was on the all-encompasing idea that haunts us all – Identifying the one.

Now, I don’t want to give too much away because there will be a post about identifying the one soon. However, the quote I used to open this post, while it may be a little racy, has been stuck in my head. It struck me when JP said it and two days later I’m still sitting here and it’s making me think “Do I know any bible guys?”

It’s been two days and I’m still thinking, are there any guys my age that I know that are bible guys? Are there any guys my age that have a longing desire to seek and do the will of God in absolutely every facet of their life? Or are they just like “every other guy?” (Which by the way, is not a compliment in my book).

I thought about guys I’ve prayed for years now would put the will of God before their own desires. I thought about my best friends. And I’ve just thought.

Until today (well yesterday) I landed on a song I have used many times before, and I’m sure I’ll use many times again, to pray for someone in my life.

I’m sure it’s a song you know, it’s a song I love, and I feel like it’s a song that really exhibits this idea of being a “bible guy.” It talks about men rising up to be leaders and make change. It talks about men realizing they were made for so much more and wanting nothing more than serve the Lord. It talks about men who stop being talkers and become doers. It talks about men becoming courageous.

Courageous by Casting Crowns is a great song. It’s a powerful song. Written for the movie Courageous, it inspired a revolution among men to take the courageous challenge, and become the leaders God created them to be. That’s “relationship goals” right there.

After hearing JP’s sermon and agreeing we need more bible guys, this was just one of the songs that came to mind as the perfect fit. I mean, how awesome would it be to meet a guy who describes himself as a bible guy???

P.S. Ladies don’t think this doesn’t apply to you. We need to be bible girls as well.🙂

 

Relationship Goals: Check Your Baggage

Last week I began attending a Tuesday night worship service in Fort Worth with my cousin called The Porch. I have no other way to describe it other than purely amazing. The service itself takes place at multiple campuses across DFW, but the Fort Worth location alone sees nearly 400 young adults weekly. Spending time with these young adults all coming together to worship God is difficult to beat.

Anyway, so I’ve been twice now and I have loved it both times. I came in during the middle of a sermon series called Relationship Goals. Two sermons, both amazing. Naturally, I am going to do a two part series over both sermons.

Both of these sermons come straight from the young adult Jonathan Pokluda. It was just one of those things that JP’s sermons were so convicting, I had to share them.

While I can be weary of the term relationship goals sometimes, I do see what JP is getting at with his sermon title. I don’t believe we should strive to have the exact things another relationship has, however, there are things in relationships we should definitely strive for.

First things first, date for biblical marriage. I have said it before, so I will reiterate what JP said last week, if you’re not dating for biblical marriage, you don’t need to be dating at all.

Next, love people. I am a firm believer loving people can change the world. God loves us and therefore we have no right to love other people. It can be hard, we can say people hurt us, and therefore they don’t deserve it. Hear me out, they do. God loves them, so love them.

So when you know to date for biblical marriage and love people, what do you do next? Deal with your baggage.

Baggage. We all have it. Whether we want to admit it or not, it’s there. We’ve been hurt. Wronged. Angered. Abused. Beaten. Neglected. You name it, we’ve felt it.

Why should you deal with your baggage? To put it bluntly, you have no business dating until you do. When you don’t deal with your baggage but decide to date anyway, all you’re going to do is dump that baggage on someone else. You’ll end up hurting them in the ways you’ve been hurt.

There is no better reason to get rid of the baggage. Take off the baggage and put on Christ because Christ is who makes you new.

So what happens when we don’t deal with our baggage? We end up with unchecked sins, hurts, lies that seek to destroy us.

JP classified unchecked sins as “pet sins.” These are the sins we ignore and therefore struggle getting rid of. We can think of it as old clothes, the ones you never wear yet are always hanging in your closet. Those clothes exist in sins in our lives as well.

The problem with these unchecked sins is they seek to hurt a marriage before it even begins. You cannot expect a marriage to survive if you’re okay allowing sins like addiction, pornography, and so, so many more thrive in your life.

How do you deal with this? You do whatever it takes to deal them. If you don’t they will end you. They will result in deep hurt. You seek help, you talk to others, and you seek God. It may take longer than you wish it will, but healing will come.

Sin isn’t the only thing JP addressed though. There are still hurts and lies left that need to dealt with as well.

So what are hurts? Hurts are the things that have happened to us. As stated before, these are the instances where we’ve been wronged, abused, neglected, and angered. These are the things that leave us broken. This is a brokenness we have to deal with. It will eat us to death if we don’t.

I don’t think I can emphasize enough how important it is to find healing. Bringing the hurts to the light and letting God work, we experience empathy with God. Even more, healed people heal people. The lack of forgiveness results in trouble, the opposite results in healing.

Lastly, lies left unchecked will lead you astray. When we don’t deal with the lies in our life, all we do is shuffle them around. One lie becomes another lie, which becomes another lie, which becomes another lie. By the time it’s all said and done, we’ve wandered so far away, we need God to guide us back.

The important thing about relationships is to remember they don’t point to our happiness, they point to who put us here. Relationships point toward God, nothing else.

The whole conversation about baggage reminded me of an episode of Gilmore Girls. In this episode, Lorelai whole-heartedly tells Christopher, Rory’s dad, that no matter what her relationship status has been, she always had the prospect of Christopher in her mind. She then proceeded to tell Christopher that she feels she has subconsciously sabotaged all of her relationships because he was so linked to her mind. But (there’s always a but) she’s telling Christopher this because now she feels she can move beyond it.

Are you making the face I am? Christopher is Lorelai’s baggage and in that two minute speech, she told Christopher he is the reason for her unhappiness in the past 16 years, that he is the reason she endured unhealthy relationships. Lorelai never dealt with her baggage and proceeded to blame everyone else for it, especially Christopher.

It hurts. It hurts having someone else tell you that you’re the reason for any struggles in their life, whether they realize they’re doing it or not. It hurts to be on the receiving end of it, but it also hurts to be the one giving it to.

To say that we can’t have healthy relationships because of someone else, to say that we can’t love someone or even talk to someone, isn’t a result of that person, but a direct result of the baggage we lug around in our own hearts. This is why we seek healing and this is why we check our baggage. We will not be able to move forward in life without it.

Music Wednesday: The Song of History Majors

The song of history majors? Is it really called that? I honestly don’t know. To me, it is though.

It’s an interesting song. Interesting beat. Interesting flow of lyrics (because the lyrics were written before the actual tune of the song itself). Yet it somehow manages to cover 40 years of history in an incredibly catchy way.

Know which song I’m talking about?

We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel begins in the year 1949 with Harry Truman. In a delightful (and sometimes humorous way), Joel then proceeds to walk the listeners through some of the most influential instances in pop culture throughout the decades.

Joe DiMaggio. North & South Korea. Marilyn Monroe. H-bomb. Queen Elizabeth II. Stalin. The Communist bloc. Einstein. Castro. Bob Dylan. Pope Paul. JKF’s assassination. Woodstock. Sally Ride. The Pepsi vs. Coke battle. The list goes on.

The song covers everything, and I mean everything!

While I could see it as weird or annoying to some people, I find the song fascinating. Plus, as a history major, I appreciate the numerous references to all of these people, places, and events that shaped our world into what it is today.

Therefore I present to you one of my all-time favorite songs (and yes I know it word for word).