Going Through The Motions

Going Through The Motions

And how it lead me to Him.
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Much like many families I grew up with in the Bible Belt, I was raised in church. We were there every Sunday morning, rain or shine, and every Wednesday night as long as one parent was off work. The majority of the time I was excited to go, but only for my few friends that I had class with. It was never really about God or religion, but rather a social calling for me and required family time. As any good student, in class and out of class, I paid attention. I memorized Psalm 23, could distinguish different locations on a map and could tell you names of the twelve disciples. I went through the motions of being a believer for the sake of pleasing my parents. It was one of the best things my parents could have done for me.

Even though I was just going through the motions to please my parents, I learned a lot about Jesus and his love for the world. I would have never admitted it to them then, I probably wouldn’t have admitted it to myself either, but church gave me a lot of insight on life in general. By my parents making me go to church, they formed an incredible base for me, as an adult, to stand on. They taught me to pray even if I only did it out of selfishness when things didn’t go the way I wanted it to. They taught me to forgive even when every ounce of me said not to. And they taught me to have faith even in the midst of a storm.

But ever bigger than those things, they gave me hope for a better tomorrow. I stopped going to church sometime in high school. I was angry about life and how things had panned out. I had to move to a new town, make new friends, lose relationships, have my first heart break by myself and grow up in a matter of weeks. Everything about my life seemed awful. I even stopped praying. This went on for about three years. I didn’t start praying again until my world got turned upside down by someone I thought I loved. Again, I was selfish and didn’t pray until something didn’t go my way.

I spent years blaming God for deaths, for my parents divorcing, for my boyfriend not loving me the way I wanted him to, for basically everything that had ever gone wrong in my life. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I realized that all of this had led me on a certain path. Had none of those things happened exactly when they happened, I probably would have never met my husband. I probably wouldn’t have had my two beautiful little girls. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have found the best church I have ever stepped foot in.

Earlier this year, I was bound and determined to find a church where we belong. I wanted our daughters to have a solid base to stand on, even if they were just to go through the motions like I did. I wanted to be able to wake up in the morning and praise God for giving me another day to live. I wanted to be able to show my daughters the same kind of love that He has shown me. I needed for them to be able to know how to pray, how to forgive, and how to be faithful. Knowing God through a personal relationship was no longer a solo journey for me, but a journey that I wanted my family to be a part of.

It did take a few different church tries to find the right one. While I grew up in a church with less than a hundred members, somehow the church we fell in love with is big enough to need three different sanctuaries. We have been going to this church at least two Sundays a month since February, but we aim for every Sunday. I will never know how anyone actually makes it on time to anything with two toddlers and a husband, but my intentions are always pure. With me being in church, my life has felt easier. I’ve started praying more, letting more things go and enjoying the little things. Earlier this week I went to my first small group and was able to pray with a dozen other women on our personal requests. It was amazing. The amount of freedom I feel now that I have found the right church is amazing.

If you live in the Middle Tennessee area, this is me extending an invitation to try our church, World Outreach. Pastor Allen Jackson is amazing and always knows just what to say. You can feel the love running through the building every Saturday and Sunday. If you aren’t sure that the time is right for you, you can even find Pastor Allen Jackson on television, listen to his podcasts and share our journey from the comfort of your own home. And if you just want to start off small, find a small group that they offer. I’ll see you there.

Cover Image Credit: Patheos

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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I Could Brag, But Why Should I?

Being humble instead of a handful.

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When it comes to the opportunities that have been presented to me, I have always been someone who prefers to remain levelheaded and grateful. I have never been the type of person to take things for granted, because I always knew that nothing is guaranteed to me, or to anyone, and nothing is permanent. This can, in part, be attributed to growing up part of a family that had been affected by cancer.

I have been able to remain humble, and I am, quite frankly, really proud of myself for that.

I have crossed paths with many people throughout my life who grew up in a manner that one might refer to as privileged or spoiled. Some of these people really showed it. I cannot speak for all of them, and it would be wrong to do so, because this generalization is one that feeds into negativity. However, I can fairly say that I have spent time with people who grew up in a world where all they knew was getting what they wanted, and honestly, I don't envy this.

When I was young, I dreamed of having a life where everything goes right. I think all of us have dreams like this at some point.

But as time went on, I began to realize, just like anyone, that life just simply doesn't work this way. Or at least, not for most of us. And you know what? That's okay. Actually, that's great. I think it's better that way.

The struggles and strife are what keep us appreciative of the other end of the spectrum. Without the bad, how do we learn to appreciate the good?

I could sit here and tell you I've been through a lot.

I could sit here and write all of the sob stories, the heartbreaks, the grief, the losses, the undeserved backstabs. I could ask for your pity, or your sympathy. But I won't, because that's not the point.

All of us have been through some sh*t, when it comes down to it. But what is telling is how we come out on the other side. Whether we allow those experiences to harden us and turn us into stone, or whether we take those experiences, let them shape our outlook, and use them as tools to grow into softer, wiser, more humble human beings, especially when we find ourselves in a time where things begin to go right for us.

I like to think I am the latter.

Right now, I find myself living the best life that I have thus far, and to be painfully honest here, I could brag. If I wanted to, I could brag about my wonderful friends and the incredible people I have in my life, whether they have been around for a while or only just joined the crew. I could brag about being able to follow my heart in New York City, which is home to my college campus and my dream summer internship. I could go on about the people I get to meet, the things I do, the places I go.

But what's the point? Why should I brag? To establish some bizarre feeling of superiority? To put myself on a pedestal? To use what the universe has brought me as a means of making others feel worse or inferior?

Why the hell would I want to do that? Why would anyone?

In times where we find our hearts happy and our lives fulfilled, sure, it can be easy to fall into a mindset that leads you to believe you are "better than". The real test is fighting this.

I can't say I have never given in and allowed myself to adopt that feeling. I don't really think any of us can sit here and pretend we have never ever acted superior, or felt it. We are human, after all.

But I don't think it is right to allow that feeling to take over, and I don't ever want to let that happen.

When that feeling takes over, we lose our graciousness. Our gratefulness. Our humbleness and humanity. We lose the things that make us, down to our cores, human.

I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound so good to me.

So, I will continue my daily commute thanking the universe for allowing me to have that. Even when the train is delayed, or the PATH train is crowded, or the tour groups take over the city sidewalks. I will continue to sit at my desk on days when work is slow and I will thank the universe for even giving me that desk, or that work.

I will continue to thank the universe for everything it brings me, because why shouldn't I?

Why shouldn't we all?

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