photo taken by @jayanthonyphotos on Instagram
So last month, I turned 24.
To me, it's a little surreal. Time is fleeting lately, and I feel as though I'm right in the prime of my journey; right at the beginning, yet being over one year into it.
Like I've said in my previous post, this past year was a significant one in terms of personal, spiritual, and overall growth. I've decided to make a list for you; this list will hold hope, encouragement, and inspiration – the recipe I was given from those who have inspired me to make incredible changes in my life.
1. Change never happens overnight – you need to be patient with yourself.
The fact that you even want to make a change is beautiful. It's pivotal. But it's taking that next step, and then the next one, day by day. Allow yourself to change gradually, not all at once. I had to learn to be ultra–patient with myself in my process of overcoming anxiety and insecurity. Those things had to be weeded out of my every day life one-by-one, whether it be in the small things or the big things. Every chance I got to become self–aware, I would confront Holy Spirit about it. He made me so much more aware, like a new–found consciousness, of every detail of my change. I made sure each day, I wasn't taking any steps backward, but with each outcome, I was progressing forward. Little by little, and with every word written and prayer shot up to heaven, I look back now and see the results of that. At the end of the day, being patient with your growth is the key to overcoming long–term success in any area.
2. Faith always proves itself to be bigger than fear.
This was the hardest thing (and still, sometimes is) to overcome. It's a daily process. It's a process that you literally have to challenge yourself on every day – that the things you come up with in your head when it comes to fear are ultimately lies from the enemy, and God is so much bigger than that. All He wants is to talk to you, be with you, and hear your heart out, but you have to initiate that. I had to learn to quickly divert any thought of a lie or a fear that would pop up in my head before I even entertained the thought. My natural tendency would be to react out of fear that I was going to end up hurt, lost, or whatever it may be, so I had to fiercely counteract that. I would screw that up countless times, but if I hadn't, I wouldn't have learned that faith in God's ability to deliver me from those fears are actually possible when you surrender in that moment. He's always right there ready to forgive you if you stumble over your emotions. You may feel the weight of the moment, but choosing faith over fear can do miraculous things.
3. You have a calling on your life, and you need to answer that call.
Yes – I left a very well-paying job full-time for part-time hours, a pretty drastic change right in the middle of the year. After months of prayer and figuring the logistics out, I was finally able to make the switch. Why? I had a deeper calling. A calling that consisted of much more than just doing the same thing every single day; a dream that I had to help others and write. I felt it so strongly that it haunted me. I felt so driven to make it what I was going to do for a job, hobby, and really, the whole package. God's audible voice told me, "you need to start a blog" right as I sat at my previous desk job. I had no idea what that meant, but the feeling was incredible. It felt like hope. It felt like true worth and purpose – something I had been praying for. No matter how impossible a dream looks, or how difficult it is to follow your calling, in the end, it's your purpose and it's designed specifically for you. Never settle for anything less! Start small, and don't be afraid to dream.
4. You find peace when you learn what peace really means.
I've found a lot of peace in this past season of my life. In fact, I re-defined it for myself and how I access it personally. Of course, real peace comes from God and His unfailing promises and truths. But I've learned how to bypass anxious thoughts and unreasonable doubts by creating my own kind of personal peace inside my mind. It's simple: find what makes you feel at peace and meditate on that in your mind when things start to swarm around in your head. Pray, but don't pray a religious-type prayer; talk to God like you're talking to someone you're extremely close with. Tell Him you feel the absence of peace, and feel Him fill you with peace. I think on the nature of who He is and how He brings me to higher spiritual ground when I'm sinking. Once you find your new inner peace, it becomes easier to feel it rather than straining to access it in the midst of worry.
5. Self-improvement means a lot of cleaning (inner) house.
So you know that when you want to re-do your room you'll need to do a lot of re-arranging and cleaning out of clutter. This is also the same for your inner self; if you want to make room for new habits and new ways of thinking, you're going to have to clean out that junk stored away deep in the corners of your mind. Take it day by day and step by step. With every new thing I learned this past year, one thing changed significantly in me. I found that the things I needed to improve upon were hidden in things as small as the every day task, and on the other hand, the pretty deeper issues as well. Be constantly weeding out the gardens in your mind. Don't ignore the weeds; they'll only grow thicker and stronger amongst your flowers.
6. Speaking of self...selfless is the way to go.
We already know we're living in a pretty self-serving and self-obsessed world. It's finding that rare balance between becoming your better self and learning to be selfless that will be so key in your overall improvement. It was definitely liberating to take a year's break from social media, but in ridding it completely, I gained new perspectives on why I even have it in the first place. I was using it for really no reason at all, simply for personal use, and that was a big gateway into letting selfishness sneak into my heart. It's so easy to want to please others, look a certain way, and fit in with the current trends, but it will catch up to you. You will be emptied of your confidence pretty quickly. The only way to protect the knowledge of your worth and your confidence is through representing Jesus through everything you post, do, and say, and becoming hyper-aware of your motives and heart. If you start to feel selfishness, own it. When you focus more on having God improve yourself rather than taking that upon you, you have the Perfect One molding you into someone more genuine rather than your sin-natured self.
7. To be human is to truly crave soul-connection rather than outer appearance.
Having thoughts and feelings of insecurity really cut to your core. There's a lot of hidden reasons why, though, that I found to be the root of the issue. I was definitely lacking the passion to connect with other people on a deeper and more personal level and only focusing on surface level things. We all want love. We all want connection. We want these things, but when we water them down to worrying about appearance, status, popularity, etc., true human connection is lost. Our confidence is depleted, and insecurity sets in. I found that to be really evident in my life, and once I set out to help others rather than focus on outer things, purpose rose up in me. Soul-connection is ultimately giving up the physical realm for improving our inner selves, which in turn will make our outer selves glow with destiny.
8. Learn to accept your flaws, but live higher above them.
One of the toughest things to do is live with the fact that we are human and constantly stumble and trip over our own nature all the time. I would become so frustrated with myself when I felt fear or doubt and wanted to simply shrink back, but here's the catch – the enemy may throw these things right in our face, but what we do with them is what really matters. Fear, doubt, worry, anxiety, guilt, shame.. all of these things need to be handled with heavenly perspective. We may face them every single day, but quickly shutting them down and simply laying the burden down to Him is literally throwing a sucker punch right back at the enemy. I found that in the moment, I would divert those things with writing, playing music, speaking Jesus' name over it, and turning to people I could talk to. Remember – we're never given more than we can handle in this life, and anything that tries to stop us can actually harness the power to make you stronger spiritually.
9. Learn yourself.
"Who are you, really?", the first line of one of my favorite poems ever by Madisen Kuhn. God made you someone incredible, someone extremely rare and limited edition. You aren't going to feel like anyone else can. You aren't supposed to fit a mold, a trend, or a style. You are your own, and when you find out what makes your heart swell with confidence and joy, you've found you. You have to let God take you on the journey of learning yourself so you know how to handle the earthly realm and all that exists in it to try and tear you down. I have to remind my self every single day that I'm becoming more of who I'm meant to be with every moment, and everything I say and do determines that. Most importantly, God holds my blueprint; He knows me in full, and He will gently let me grow into myself in a beautiful process that's tailored just for me. He helps me know me.
10. Watch having gratitude completely change you into a different person.
Thankfulness is not supposed to happen just around a holiday, you know. I hear too many people say that they're simply 'doing life' and that's just how it goes. No! So long as we live here in America, or even Europe and Australia, we have so much. Opportunity is right outside your door. You have the ability to change your entire course, make more money, whatever you think is limiting you. Starting with thankfulness is where happiness is born. You actually develop the ability to look at others and not feel that sting of jealously. You'll notice a glow in your complexion. Your attitude and even your health will improve. Ever since I became completely satisfied with where I'm currently at in life, I've felt like I can take on the world. This opens a door filled with abundant blessings for God to pour into your life that wouldn't have been there before.. because it wouldn't have been appreciated.
11. Spend more time with those who benefit you.
I'm the kind of person that absolutely loves being around others and also spending quality one-on-one time, but I have to remember who the people are in my life that I know will benefit me and my journey. Choosing to be around positive, uplifting people who genuinely care about you isn't selfish or singling them out from others, it's honestly so wise and will keep you right on track. Don't forget to love all people, though. It may seem impossible, but too often we forget that we're all human and everyone needs positivity and Jesus' love.
12. Spending time with God may be a lot more different than you think or have been taught.
I remember back in March of 2016 when I felt absolutely nothing towards God; I knew He was there and I needed to freshen my relationship with Him, but I didn't know how. I needed new ways and new habits. I prayed the prayer "God, I don't want you, but I want to want you." If that doesn't make any sense to you, think on this: spending time with Him and hearing His voice is not a religious act. It's not done in a certain place at a certain time, saying the right set of words. It's literally being honest with yourself and doing what allows you to connect with Him in the best way. For me, it became writing/journaling. I started to write to Him. I wrote endlessly. From there, I started hearing from Him. Things started happening that began to change my life. I would write, speak to Him while going about my day, and simply just listen to worship music while driving. It never seemed like a task to me, it became my new daily habit and a part of my day that I needed in order to hear from Him.
13. God's not a vending machine, either.
Why do we treat prayer like some foreign, odd thing? We have a tendency to think that prayer is often a one time thing that happens at certain times. While some of that is true, I've learned that if my heart desires something, I need to be offering that thing up to Him every day, as often as I think about it. He gave us free will and access to His blessings, but He wants us to initiate all of that and treat Him more like a Father. He's not a giant nebulous cloud floating in the air waiting to dispense things. He's waiting for you to genuinely come to Him with your heart's desires and your burdens. Why carry the weights of the world when He's waiting right there to take them from you?
14. You find what you're looking for when you aren't looking for it.
The title really speaks for itself, but I spoke this phrase to a friend the other day explaining that everything in life that is meant to happen to us and for us, will happen when we surrender. There's an amazing balance in seeking out different opportunities and also learning to go through a season of waiting.
15. You are not your past, who others say you are, or what you've done.
This is a heavy thing for anyone to come to accept. But if you even remotely believe in Jesus, you've accepted the knowledge that He died to pay for everything you've done against Him...but coming to recognize the freedom in this revelation is so important. I finally feel free knowing that everything that may have happened in my past or even just yesterday, it's paid for once I've repented of it. It's literally cast onto the enemy. It's not mine anymore – and that's beautiful. I can live my life knowing it will abundantly full rather than striving not to fail or feeling the weight of guilt or shame. Will you choose to do the same?
16. Stop apologizing for being who you really are.
People will try and subconsciously shape you based on their opinions on how things should be, so don't let those get to you. Being you is your job, per se. It's how you were made. No one should ever have to apologize for being themselves, and no one should be ashamed of being who they really are. I'm feeling more and more like myself these days. I think that's something that also comes with time and allowing God to mold you like the clay in His hands.
17. Care for yourself. You're a living temple.
Nowadays it's so easy to let health physically and mentally slip through the cracks simply because we're so unaware of what we are and aren't doing. If you feel mentally drained, get enough sleep. Feed your body what's good and what it needs. Drink water, and add lemon if you can't stand it after a while. Remember to meditate on His word and soak in worship music or calming music. I found it to be so exhausting when I would just zone out on my phone or just sit and worry about certain things that didn't even matter. We aren't meant to feed our minds and bodies things that are toxic – we're housing the Holy Spirit and need to maintain our well-being for carrying out our success and dreams.
18. You have specific talents and abilities that only you can bring to the table.
One of the biggest things I've had to battle these past few months is comparing my journey to how far along others may be. If you're trying to reach a specific goal, allow others to propel you forward rather than thinking that you're too far behind to accomplish it. What's done by them cannot be done by you – you have a specific way of bringing about what you really want to do. This is why God made each one of us differently, and if He wants you do accomplish something, it won't ever look the same as anyone else's.
19. Surround yourself with positivity.
It's true – I've seen both ends of the spectrum and the happy-go-lucky kind of people always seem to be getting ahead in life. Being positive is something that comes naturally to me, but if it isn't natural for you, you need to surround yourself with it. I try to keep my Pinterest, Twitter, and other social media platforms a positive and safe space for people to find uplifting quotes, words, sayings, etc. Music that's positive works wonders in your mind as well. Any time my moods would switch and I'd start feeling negative, I would counteract that spirit and force positive thoughts to enter in. By now, I've made it my default, and fear and anxiety seem to be attacking me a whole lot less.
20. Each season holds something in it.
As I've gotten older, I've seen more and more come out of each season of my life, and I've become more aware of what every season may hold. Some seasons are extremely hard, others are filled with pure bliss and clarity. Even though winter may strike in our hearts, there's a lot that can be gained from it. Nature shows us that without a certain level of coldness and a certain amount of time, spring is unable to bloom fully like it needs to. We have to go through winter. We have to go through the autumn season of what needs to change. It's a part of the balance in life, and if I had never gone through a few tough seasons, I wouldn't be where I'm at today, for sure.
21. Even when you don't see God working in your life, He still is.
Our feelings are tainted. Too many times they're riddled with confusion and often go through the wrong filters in our minds. But even when we don't necessarily feel God moving and working in our lives, it's never based upon our feelings. He's still there. He's working wonders. All you have to do is surrender and be still. Don't go into it looking for something to feel, but something to gain when you don't feel anything.
22. Storms never last.
But what does last are the results of what comes out of the storms in our lives. You can be rebuilt into something stronger. With every storm that comes crashing through life, each time you have the ability to rise. Don't be tempted to lie in the rubble and wish everything were different. Let the storm change you. Let it re-make you. God allows them for very specific reasons, and He can bless you greatly from your response to it.
23. You never know the story of the person next to you.
Kindness is seriously lacking in today's world, and everyone's personal agenda seems to be much more important than the humans we encounter every day. Judgement, racism, hate.. it's all a major heart issue that can start with you. Love the one in front of you. Never assume that just because someone looks a certain way or lives in a certain place that they're somehow lower than you. We're all equal in the fact that we're human. Offer love, and watch blessing come pouring into your life. Offer hate and judgement, and watch it come right back at you.
24. Strive for spiritual connection rather than knowledge and theology.
God never asked His people to have fuller minds rather than fuller hearts. People never ask or want knowledge in their heart of hearts; discernment will come when we connect wholeheartedly with the One who made us. We can't put theology in front of relationship with our Maker – He brings ultimate clarity. You don't have to be reading the Bible for 5 hours straight or constantly reading up on the latest church scandal to understand what's going on in the world today. It's so much more valuable to stop, breathe, and focus in on your spiritual health and maturity and the rest will come. So much wisdom is gained from this!
Don't get me wrong – I am learning these things and so much more every single day. I'll never stop learning and growing. I hope what I've shared will impact you in many different ways as it has impacted my life. THANK YOU for being here and reading my words, always.