Creative Mentorships

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For almost two years, I have been incredibly blessed with the opportunity and privilege to be a part of Delight and Be as a mentor, big sister, and leader for young women. At age 17, I moved out to Los Angeles from Florida to pursue my career in the entertainment industry. While Hollywood is not an easy place to discover who you are as a young woman, I realize even now at age 23 that in today’s culture, it isn’t easy for anyone no matter where they live. Community is the glue that has held me together. Authentic, genuine accountability and friendship is an extremely rare and precious gift that has absolutely changed my life.

There is a quote from one of my favorite books, Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that so eloquently states this truth:

“The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.”

Wherever you find yourself on this day, I encourage you to take a moment, stop what you’re doing, and jump in your time machine. Travel back to your teenage years…specifically when you were between the ages of 13-21. Regardless of your experience, I think we can all agree that growing into the young women God designed us to be is no easy task…especially when we attempt to do this on our own.

For the past year and a half, God has transformed my life through Delight. Delight is home…Delight is family…Delight is a place where I now have hundreds of little sisters and big sisters to do life with.

Delight is the place where creative girls, ages 13-21 can experience the unconditional love of God, growing closer to Him while simultaneously growing closer in community to hundreds of other young women who remind them that they are not alone. Being a teenager isn’t easy and it can be especially difficult when you’re a ‘creative weirdo’ that doesn’t fit the mold. But in Delight, ‘weird’ is the norm. Creatives are free to be who God created them to be: unique, quirky, silly, and fun daughters of the King.

Today, we are launching the LAST part of our campaign for Delight! We are sharing mentorship offers with some incredibly talented professional artists. I am absolutely honored and excited to be donating my time as a mentor for acting or writing. 100% of the money from these skype mentorships will go to Delight (to fund the house for young women, scholarships, and more!), and each of us artists are gladly donating our time and services because we believe in this cause!

If you know a creative young woman who could use a mentor in any of the areas below, you will be investing in her future while simultaneously investing the futures of hundreds of young ladies through Delight!

Music or graphic design…

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Music…

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Childhood photography…

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Marketing or wedding photography…

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Senior photography…

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What started as a retreat for photographers has now grown into a ministry that celebrates all areas of the creative arts. We are excited for this upcoming year as we have plans to really focus on these seven areas: Theater/Drama, Culinary Arts, Music, Graphic Arts (graphic design, drawing, painting, etc), Photography/Videography, Dance, and Writing/Blogging.

We want to see every single creative young lady find purpose in her God-given gifts and talents. Thank you for helping invest in the futures of these incredible young women.

***These mentorships are first come first serve. If you are interested, please email delightandbe@gmail.com

What voices will you believe?

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“My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand.”
-John 10:27

Over the years, I have made a serious effort to breath, rest when needed, and not allow the busyness of life to overwhelm me. However, every once in a while, like the human I am, I find myself completely engulfed in the chaos. This season of life in particular has been filled with many things to do, and as I strive to be anxious for nothing, I fall short more often than I’d like to admit.

Tonight, for instance, my heart and mind were already in a vulnerable state, drained from a very busy work day. In this kind of exhaustion, my soul was craving peace and truth. But what did I do? Scroll through Instagram. Now, social media is a huge part of my job, and I love the positive tool it can be. However, there is no substitute for the word of God. I fed myself junk food when I needed to be nourished.

The funny thing is, no matter where I turn, there’s always another voice telling me something else I should be doing. In our culture, staying busy often provides a false productivity that validates and fills a space where something greater, something eternal, should be residing. This media filled generation is full of countless opinions and endless noise. Have you ever noticed that when you fall short, find yourself out of breath, and at the end of your rope, most of the voices in the world aren’t there to offer grace, hope, or love?

You’re not good enough…
You’re not doing enough…
You are not enough.

I don’t know what lies and insecurities have been infiltrating their way into your life, but we must combat them with the only weapon that works. Recently, I read an article by Beth Moore where she stated:

“We’re going to have to let truth scream louder to our souls than the lies that have infected us.”

If we aren’t filling our souls with truth, they will become filled by something else. Beth Moore goes on to say,

“God will put you in a position to wrestle with your identity and choose whom you believe: Him or you.”

This world will always try like crazy to define who we are. For too many years, I allowed various people, job titles, or opinions to cultivate my identity. It wasn’t until I focused on who God designed me to be that I found true freedom.

His sheep recognize his voice. Choosing to believe God, for me, is a daily decision. It wasn’t a prayer I made once to save my soul. It is an every day choice to save my life…who I am right now, today, in this moment.

Choosing to recognize God’s voice requires daily, intentional effort on my behalf. It means that I have to seek his face through the fog of lies and words that have been spoken about who I am, beyond billboards, commercials, magazines, Instagram, or Facebook posts. In a generation of constant access to millions of voices, I have to seek the one truth that won’t just be staring me in the face through something pretty and shiny on Pinterest.

Choosing to hear truth will require sacrifice. Perhaps there are unhealthy relationships in your life with friends or family that are in need of better boundaries. Maybe you need to limit your time on social media if it is slowly infecting you with lies and insecurity.

The kind of women we become is our responsibility, and it will happen based on the voices we listen to and what we let define us.

Who will you choose? What identity will you decide on? What voices will you listen to?

{Photo credit: Jessica Lauren photography}

Changing God’s Volume.

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Acknowledge God. Acknowledging God first thing every morning transforms my day. I often begin my day by reconfirming His authority over me and submitting to Him as Lord in advance of my daily circumstances. I try to accept the words of Joshua 24:15 as a personal daily challenge: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.”
-Beth Moore

I used to view God as silent…much like an imaginary friend who I truly believed existed. In the depths of my being, I knew He was there, but the process of prayer would leave me feeling as if I were talking to a wall.

We’ve all known those people who have radical, miraculous encounters with God. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have never audibly heard God’s voice. I have never tangibly felt His presence. This separation and great divide was the cause of great frustration in my life for many years. Why was He silent? Where was He when I needed Him?

If you’ve ever experienced this hurt, we aren’t alone in this feeling.

“God, are you avoiding me?
Where are you when I need you?”

-Psalm 10:1

I can’t tell you the amount of times I have asked those questions, cried out to God, and wondered where He was. I don’t have a big secret to communicating with God, and I don’t have His phone number like in Bruce Almighty. But I have learned that I can change the volume at which I hear from Him.

In my frustration and times of deep pain, I learned to tune Him out. During my darkest days, I wouldn’t pray. I let dust collect on my bible. I knew exactly how to avoid His truth. God’s voice was so quiet and pushed so deeply into the caverns of my soul that I could barely notice it.

However, just as I know how to tune Him out, I also know how to tune in and turn up the volume. Like any healthy relationship, it requires time, energy, effort, intention, and patience.

God’s love and truth is loud. It is living. It is in His word. It is in the beauty around us. It is in our suffering. It is in our victories. It is in our encounters with others. It is in our prayer. It is in our silence.

We truly can experience the presence of God if we take the time to open our eyes and ears…to be still and focus on who He is. Some of my favorite ways to connect with Him are through…

-Prayer (It doesn’t have to be formal, just talk to God. Be real with Him, He can handle it).
-Gratitude (It’s easy to focus on the struggles, but when we give thanks, we can really see the ways God has blessed us and is present in our lives.)
-Meditation (It is crucial that we learn the discipline of being still and knowing He is God…clearing away distractions and allowing Him to be our fuel.)
-Studying Him (If you love someone, you want to know them. The more I prioritize reading His word and understanding God’s character, His truth silences the lies and doubts in my mind. Memorizing scripture has been an enormous tool for me to carry through life’s difficulties, as it is a way for God’s living words and promises to go with me always.)

Starting the day by connecting with God has helped me immensely. I highly recommend finding a short morning devotional that fills you with His grace, love, and truth prior to stepping out into the unknowns that come with each new day. With my lapdog snuggling close by and a hot cup of coffee in hand, each morning I read Jesus Calling, which has a short message from Him for each day of the year. Enjoy the truth below, and remember to silence distractions and turn up the volume of His presence. God wants to love you out loud today.

“Modern man has lost the perspective of eternity. To distract himself from the gaping jaws of death, he engages in ceaseless activity and amusement. The practice of being still in my presence is almost a lost art, yet it is this very stillness that enables you to experience my eternal love. You need the certainty of my loving presence in order to weather the storms of life. During times of severe testing, even the best theology can fail you if it isn’t accompanied by experiential knowledge of me. The ultimate protection against sinking during life’s storms is devoting time to develop your friendship with me.”

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{Photo credit: Meredith Sledge photography}

War of the Women

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Freedom & feminism…two “F” words that I feel need to be discussed today.

As a young woman living in Hollywood in this generation, I have been tempted many times to allow myself to get sucked into the way the world tries to define us. I will not speak as to how men define women, because I am not a man. That is an entirely different discussion, and I think we need to start infiltrating from within the walls of our own army…women. In a culture of “strong women” fighting for equality, rights, and the desire to be taken seriously, it truly blows my mind to see the way that WOMEN are defining women. You don’t have to leave the radio on for too long to hear how women talk about our gender…

“I’m bringing booty back
Go ahead and tell them skinny b****es that
No, I’m just playing. I know you think you’re fat
But I’m here to tell ya
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top

Yeah my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
She says, “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.”
You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along.”

Not only are we hating on women who aren’t our size, but we are making ourselves sex objects.
Curves=someone will love you. Curves=someone will have sex with you.
So, as women, we are saying that’s the goal? That’s the grand prize? Look a certain way, and you get to be deemed a sex symbol.

Now, I get it. It’s a fun, catchy song, and she’s trying to tell women they’re great the way they are. I’m not trying to jump to another extreme here. However, I do think the way we are communicating and conveying our messages to and about each other is not healthy, strong, or freeing at all. Referring to each other as b****es, hoes, and other demeaning “vocabulary words” isn’t going to help our cause. If we care about the way men and pop culture define us, we should be more careful about the identities we are cultivating for women ourselves.

If we want to be taken seriously,
These words, condescensions, and comparisons need to stop. If we want to be seen as intelligent, capable, and more than just sex objects, isn’t it time that we start spreading that message ourselves through the way we live, communicate, and treat each other?

We are projecting our own small point of view and personal experience on every other woman.
Skinny hating curvy.
Curvy hating skinny.
Working hating the stay-at-home.
Stay-at-home hating the working.

You’ve probably heard me say this in past articles, but it’s so much more effective to promote what we love rather than bash what we hate. When did it all become a war of the women?

When we shame and condemn each other, it is counter productive to our common goal of wanting to be seen as strong and worthy. It ends up being clear insecurity. Learn to love who you are rather than breaking others down.

Freedom is not found in the label of feminism.
Freedom is not found in comparing ourselves to other women.
Freedom is not found in changing our bodies to please men.

Freedom is found in being wonderfully made. We are all unique…different shapes, sizes, colors, backgrounds, identities, minds, hearts, and souls. Our strength and freedom comes from stepping into who God designed us to be.

We can’t change the way everyone else views women. But our personal efforts matter, because it is a personal matter.
In the ways we demean each other, we are defining each other.
In the ways we condemn and compare, we are controlling and taking away our own freedom.

Why is freedom greater than “feminism?” Because while true, authentic “feminism” may be freeing for some (when lived out as the actual advocacy as women’s rights and freedoms), for most, it has become just another label with many more controversies and comparisons. What would happen if we left the labels behind, stopped comparing ourselves to others, stopped trying to prove something to the world, and actually found true freedom in who we were made to be as intricately crafted masterpieces?

As women, together, let’s stop putting each other in a box. Condemning and being hateful toward our fellow sisters doesn’t serve any sort of positive purpose in regards to building strong women. It makes us weaker and causes further damage and self-esteem issues in the hearts and minds of other ladies. Bashing and/or labeling each other takes away our freedom as women and only chains us to our insecurities.

Call it what you want…feminism, freedom, whatever. The point is, if we want to be valued by men or anyone else in the world, the battle begins with us. How are you treating the women around you? How are you communicating the message of who women are? How are you carrying yourself with strength and dignity? How can you live as a woman who believes she is wonderfully made?

We are on the same team.
We are fighting the same war, and we can fight together toward the goal of being known as valuable and cherished.
Be an infiltrator of freedom in the lives of the women around you today.

{Beautiful photo credit: elizabethlaurenphoto.com}

Beautiful Things.

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{Photo credit: Meredith Sledge photography.}

“All this pain//
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way//
I wonder if my life could really change at all//
All this earth//
Could all that is lost ever be found//
Could a garden come up from this ground at all//

You make beautiful things//
You make beautiful things out of the dust//
You make beautiful things//
You make beautiful things out of us.”

-Gungor, Beautiful Things

Can I be real with you all today? I’m just going to write this article without overanalyzing, over-editing, and reading through it multiple times. It is time to spill my thoughts, click publish, and not worry with perfection.

This time a week ago, I was flying into Washington for a retreat with girls I’ve been in contact with online for a couple of years. I was ready to have my Hollywood facade on, have it all together, and live up to my Facebook/Instagram presence (you know, where you only share your best and throw a filter on top.)

I stepped off the plane to be greeted by my sweet friends, Jessica and Emily who picked me up. My plan was to throw my makeup on, look flawless, and have it all together to meet these friends for the first time. However, the Wenatchee airport is tiny. Since I had been awake and traveling since 3 AM, my strategy was to run for the bathroom after stepping off the plane to freshen up…but I immediately saw these girls waiting for me, and I had to accept the fact that they would see the real me…natural, normal, flawed, exhausted, imperfect me.

God made it incredibly clear from the very beginning of the week that this trip wasn’t going to be about my plans or my attempt at perfection. The words “out of control” overwhelmed my mind, and I knew I needed to rest faithfully in that and see what He had for this time.

Throughout the week, I felt that God had stripped me down to my most basic form. I felt naked…the walls had been broken, and I was unable to keep up the filtered facade. The beautiful thing was that God showed me that these people loved me…the real me.

One of my friends there came up to me and said,

“I am amazed by everything you are doing. But I want you to know that you don’t need to have it all together to be used by God. That isn’t the story He has for you. God is going to use you in your brokenness, not in your perfection. You are going to be the example through the joy you exude in the difficulties.”

I’m not going to lie, that wasn’t exactly good news to me. But it was true. God had been telling me the same message for a very long time. I wanted to be the girl who lived perfectly…had it all together…and could be used by God through being some sort of Christian Martha Stewart. I’ll never be the blogger who has the perfect, spotless home.

My friend Katie, who I met at the retreat, does beautiful hand lettering. I found this one morning on the coffee table and it immediately spoke to my heart. She told me these are actually lyrics from a song she wrote:

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Beauty does not mean perfection. The greatest lie is that we have to get it all together in order to be loved or have influence.

This week, I had a radical turning point in my life. I realized that certain things about me will always be incredibly flawed. I will never be perfect. This truth can either create great insecurity, or great freedom.
There are scars on my body that I will always have, and I don’t have to pretend they don’t exist. The scars are part of my story.
My spine will always look like an “S”. And the scoliosis is a curving reminder that my life is an out-of-the-box adventure, not a predictable path.
I don’t see my many freckles and moles as weird, but as my adorable chocolate chips.
My home won’t look like an Anthropologie ad. It will be lived in.
My stories won’t be cookie-cutter ones, they will be authentic.

This is what it means to be wonderfully made. I used to think that it was about being someone else, and God does transform us, but ultimately He uses the broken pieces to make something beautiful. He makes beautiful things.

I know that this article is filled with grammatical errors, run on sentences, and probably horrendous spelling. But today, I am accepting the imperfection so that I can share my story. You don’t have to be perfect to share yours.

“We can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
-Romans 8:28

Boundless Joy.

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“A reckless love too wild to understand
Breathing the world to life in Your romance
So here I am
Your love has got me up in arms again
And this hope won’t let me go
My joy is boundless
My soul knows its worth

In arms stretching wider
Than my heart could ever fall
You own the skies and still You want my heart
Casting Your throne aside to lift me up
So here I am
Your love has got me up in arms again
And this hope won’t let me go”

-Hillsong United

Last week, I had an incredibly difficult day. It was one of those days that left me feeling exhausted and defeated. The details of my struggles are irrelevant at this point, because the details of the joy found in that day are far more powerful.

This particularly difficult, beautiful day made me think about what Paul was saying about joy in all circumstances. He wasn’t saying that the situation or season of life would always be easy or fun. But there is always beauty to behold.

“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”
-Philippians 4:12

Though this day, for me, held many tears, frustrations, and disappointments, God’s glory shined brightly in so many ways…

A dear friend who made me lunch, complete with teatime and homemade cookies…
Watching two little girls interpretive dance while worshiping God…
My friend’s sweet daughters who gave me cheek kisses and hand-drawn pictures…
Phone calls from loved ones…
Music playing…
A beautiful sunset…

There is always light in the darkness. There is joy everywhere…in the smiles exchanged, laughs shared, cheek kisses, and sunsets. Through it all, God is present, and for that reason, my joy is boundless.

Not Another Instigatory Blog Post.

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“Why your way is the wrong way”…

The title above is just one of many blog article titles I’ve seen recently in this new trend of posting eye-catching, controversial posts, written for the sole purpose of gaining popularity and quick attention. Now, don’t get me wrong. We all want our words to be read, we want our voices to be heard. But who are we willing to hurt along the way to get views and clicks? What truth will we ignore for those extra likes and shares?

Through my personal blog that you’re currently reading, and the online magazine I run (Identity Girls), I have become quite immersed in “blogger world.” It’s a temptation to seek popularity and lose sight of why I began blogging in the first place, 6 years ago when no one was reading it.

I started my blog because I wanted to have a positive impact on our world…to cultivate beauty…to inspire and encourage…to exude joy…and to share God’s truth in love. It’s easy to hide behind our computers in our safe little bubbles where we can’t see the people we are impacting, or potentially hurting. To all of my fellow bloggers: God has entrusted us with an incredible responsibility…our words can reach and touch the lives of many. But how are you using that influence today?

When did we decide that our opinions were more valuable than the word of God?

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
-Romans 12:18

Too much of what I see Christians posting on social media is about stirring up problems, fighting, hating, judging, condemning, and spewing unbiblical, harsh opinions…all for the recognition of the online world.

“A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.”
-Proverbs 16:28

Our motive for posting anything can’t be fame, popularity, clicks, likes, and shares. That isn’t what Jesus was about. Jesus was a diplomat. Posting blog articles with offensive and eye-catching titles, the content filled with harsh words and judgmental tones…who is that helping? Who’s kingdom is that building?

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
-Matthew 5:9

Even if you’re not a blogger, this applies to you. It applies to each of us. In our generation of social media, we post our every thought on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I advise you to think before you post. Would you say these words to someone’s face? Are they coming from a place of love? Use your words and social media platforms to breath life rather than to break it down. Use the opportunities and spaces you’ve been given to make a positive, loving impact.

Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate. Speak out of kindness, because no matter how “right” and justified we may feel, our God calls us to be kind…to be peacemakers…to love…to nurture. What will you post today?

“I therefore urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
-Ephesians 4:1

ONE.

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Back in 2009 (my first year in Los Angeles), I was a teacher at Gymboree and would ride the metro orange line from my place in NoHo all the way on the straight shot to Woodland Hills where I worked. With tired eyes and a thermos full of coffee, this introverted girl would hop on at 5 AM, headphones in, ready for some alone time before a day full of noisy children.

On one particular morning, a girl entered and sat alone on the bus a couple rows ahead of me. Honestly, I don’t know what it was, but I immediately felt that I should go sit next to her and say hello.

Crazy, right?!

I can assure you, it was truly the last thing I wanted to do. I tried to drown this silly idea out with the sound of my classic 80s rock playlist, but Bon Jovi was no match for what was on my heart that morning.

“Good morning. I love your scarf–such a beautiful color on you.” I said to the stranger.

Much to my surprise, her eyes filled with tears, and she slowly began to mutter a small… “Thank you.”, along with a somewhat forced grin.

I didn’t want to press on, but my heart was growing with concern for this girl I didn’t know at all. “How is your week going so far?”

She didn’t make eye contact with me, but with her glance straight ahead and a few tears falling, she said, “Not great. My boyfriend of two years just broke up with me last night. I’m heading to work and was so upset I didn’t even bring everything I need for my day.”

My heart broke for her. Not because breakups are uncommon, but because she was in front of me. She was important. She was on my heart. We become so desensitized to the pain of others, and sometimes even invalidate or compare it. But in that moment, all I wanted to do was help in whatever small way I could.

She went on to explain that she was also a bit lost, so I I gave her some directions, along with one of my protein bars and enough change to catch her bus coming home. She hugged me and went on with her day, and I with mine. I ended up being late to work that day, but it made me think of the verse below.

Matthew 18:12-14 is a beautiful picture in my mind of the importance of the one person who we may be able to impact during our daily routines…

“If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.”

Every day, we are encountering people all around us who are lost physically, spiritually, or emotionally. The idealistic hero heart in me wants to do something big…to save everyone…to make a grand gesture that makes a huge impact on our world. The truth is, I can’t save the world.

Often times, my efforts feel insignificant, futile. But I can make an impact on one person each day…I can pay attention to the one in front of me who has a need that perhaps I can meet.

Jesus didn’t generalize. He cared about the one. The strangers that cross our paths aren’t robots…they are unique humans, individuals, sons, daughters, mothers, friends, dreamers, and people who may be experiencing deep heartbreak. The one matters incredibly. Who is in your path? Who is the one you can love today? Our efforts for the one matter…


Saving the one lost sheep…
Smiling at one stranger…
Asking someONE how their day is going…
Sponsoring one child…
Giving water to the one
Bus fare for one….
A blanket for one
A goodie bag for one
Food for one

If we are doing our part, our individual best, and are all looking after the one lost sheep in our path, we are closer to community, unity, and wholeness. Do for one what you wish you could do for many.

Where Dreams are Cultivated

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A couple years ago, with numb fingers, stiff crossed legs, and my largest ugly sweater to keep me warm, I sat on the damp grass of an Encino soccer field and blogged while the 5 year old boy I used to nanny was running around at soccer practice. In my idealistic, introverted world, I prefer to have complete silence, peace, and solitude while working and writing. However, throughout the different seasons of life, reality sometimes gets in the way of our preferences.

It wasn’t easy writing and blogging on the cold, dewy sidelines accompanied by the banter of 30 little boys. But I knew that to be faithful to the dreams God had entrusted me to, and to ever fulfill my purpose, I needed to take advantage of the tiny moments where I was able to do what I was made to do. I have learned over the years that no one else will make my dreams come true…the people around me will not always bend to make it easier for me to flourish. I am responsible for how much, or how little, I thrive.

I used to make a lot of excuses for why I wasn’t really stepping out in faith, working hard, and chasing my dreams. I felt that my dreams and passions just weren’t conducive to my lifestyle. It is still an ongoing challenge for me to find the self-discipline to be motivated and push forward, as my current situation is far from perfect, and definitely still has it’s share of distractions.

Books are created in tiny studio apartments…
Screenplays are written on un-air conditioned living room floors…
Song lyrics are scribbled into journals while working a side job…

Your dreams don’t require a perfected atmosphere to come to fruition. They simply require your willingness. Start with a blank page, a really strong cup of coffee, and a whole lot of gumption.

Are We Out of the Woods?

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“Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
Good.”

-T. Swift

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

This one simple word made me a target in the woods and wilderness of my life. Why? How? When fear is planted in our hearts and takes root, it grows and flourishes, and what started out as a fear in one area of your life rapidly spreads like wildfire into every other fragment.

While I’ve never lived in the woods, I have lived in my own concrete jungle. There was a season of my life here in Los Angeles where I felt trapped…stuck in the woods…caught in unfamiliar territory that left me feeling painfully vulnerable. While I attempted to protect myself according to the world’s standards, no boyfriend, apartment, acting job, or amount of money could save me.

In one particularly desolate season “in the woods”, I found true hopelessness because I realized what had left me stranded in the first place:

I did not believe I was loved.
I did not feel worthy of love.
I did not know if I would ever truly be loved.

I had been pushing God away for a very long time…because if I wasn’t worthy of love from those around me, I certainly wasn’t going to be loved by the creator of the universe. But like I said, I was desperate. At this point “in the woods”, I was at the end of my rope. I decided to heat up some mac and cheese for one, sit alone in my studio apartment, and crack open my dusty bible.

“The perfect love casts out all fear.” -1 John 4:18

While I now found these words comforting, at the time, I remember thinking that God must really have a sense of humor. I decided to combat his humor by humoring Him. Blame it on my stubbornness, but that night, I decided to google and research everything I could find about God’s love.

My hardened heart was quickly softened as I realized that it wasn’t God’s fault that I didn’t feel loved…it was my fault for pushing it away…rejecting it…not accepting a gift that was readily available to me. I was so ready to get out of the woods…to get out of my isolation…to get out of the dangerous, destructive, unhealthy situations I was living in. However, I didn’t have the ability to be bold and make huge life changes until I believed I was loved by Him.

“Courage comes from a heart that is convinced it is loved.” -Beth Moore

Today, I really wanted to share the inspiring message that one of my sweet friends sent me. Mariah Fields, a 17 year old gal in the group called Delight that I am a mentor for, so eloquently and honestly shared about how she felt when she was “stuck in the woods” of her life, and how she found peace:

“For many years I believed that once I got past a certain struggle or season, then I’d finally reach that point of joy I so longed for. I believed I just had to keep going and that eventually my life would be perfect (as perfect as is possible in a broken world). I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sometimes there are seasons that are dark and crippling, and sometimes there are seasons that are life-giving and rejuvenating. But there are all those in betweens time too when nothing is extreme, nothing is exciting or depressing — those seasons can cause as much emotion as the others, just subtly. I had such a hard time reconciling the fickleness of my heart AND my surroundings.

Why did Jesus give me the heartbreak and the time of mending? Why did Jesus give me quiet times and then times when I couldn’t keep up? Why all the inconsistency? I felt like a puppet that was being emotionally worn down by all the “your life is finally at peace” false-alarms. Peace never stayed. But, when I finally started listening to Jesus instead of myself I found that the consistency lay within Him. The common thread that was woven throughout each and every one of those seasons – the crippling, the joy-filled, and the boring – was love. Agape love. The love that breaths life no MATTER the situational components. Whether it was the depression I went through or my best friend coming into my life, each moment he was forming me and rebuilding my heart. So, does the inconstancy end? No, I don’t believe it does. But, my soul no longer feels played with, my heart is not being raw and vulnerable in an unhealthy way. Instead, I have truly found peace in the truth of Jesus’ faithfulness. I know that the dark, the beautiful, and the uneventful all have a place. They’re Jesus’ way of bringing your heart closer to His. They’re grace, and inexplicably perfect love.”

Whether you are in the woods and in the dark spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, there is hope because there is love. This love does not make everything easier, take away all of our pain, or promise us perfection. Instead, our humbleness acknowledging our great need for this love as survival is what brings beauty, hope, and light to our wilderness.

Love fought my fear. Love’s flames were stronger than the flames of fear. Love was louder than fear. Love brought me out of the woods.