Sometimes life hurts. I’ve been there. I am there. Sometimes when life hurts us, all we want are answers. An answer from a person, or an answer from God, or an answer from ourselves.

“Why did you _____?”

“How could you let ______ happen?”

“Why do you care?”

And sometimes we have to accept the silence as an answer. We have to accept the apology that we never received, accept God’s plan, or accept our emotions. We have to accept it and move on. And moving on isn’t easy, trust me. “Turning the page” can feel like it just leaves us with paper cuts. Yet it needs to happen because we can’t change the past. We can’t usually change people, we can’t always change our emotions, and we definitely can’t change God’s plan. We need to move on.

Moving on is still a process. You may not feel okay right now. Or tomorrow. Or next week. But it will happen. You’ll keep pushing forward, and then you’ll be okay, then you’ll be good, and you’ll just keep going. You need to “just keep swimming.”

Maybe one day you’ll get your answer. Or, maybe you won’t. But one day it won’t matter. For now, just be still and know that He is in control.

Psalm 46:10

My 10 Favorite Books

My friend suggested I write a list of my favorite books for a blog post. I figured a helpful addition to this would be the reasons why. Now being a teenage girl, I definitely read and enjoy young adult novels. However, I only consider books to be my “favorites” if I feel changed. None of these books got on here by a crazy plot twist (Everything, Everything), making me cry (thanks TFIOS), or by just being a good read. Those books belong on another list. This list is for the books that made me look at myself, my beliefs, or other people differently. Because of these requirements and my beliefs, most, but not all of these books are Christian books. But I find it’s helpful to read things you don’t always agree with, to figure out what you believe and why. Excluding the first, this list is in no specific order. So here we go…

1. The Bible

● I know. This is every good Christian’s “favorite” book. But it honestly is mine. No matter how many times I reread certain chapters, verses, or books in the Bible, I always feel like I’m learning more about myself, God, and the people around me.

2. If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowsi

● This is honestly the book I talk about the most. My copy has so many things underlined and annotated, and I add more every time I reread. Jamie Tworkowski is the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms, one of my favorite non-profits that helps find help for people with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. This book is basically a collection of essays and letters that Jamie wrote throughout different stages of his life. He speaks about mental health, friends, adventures, love, and loss. In the words of one of my friends, “This book cut me to the core,” and it truly does. I feel that this is a book that everyone can connect to at least one part of or another.

3. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

● This is simply an incredible book. It is the story of a girl who faced things that many of us can’t begin to imagine, and who continues to tell her story.

4. Radical by David Platt

● Okay, Radical is the book that changed the way I view Christianity. It’s part of what brought me to a place to accept and pursue my calling to ministry. The author, David Platt, challenges you to question what parts of the American Dream you’re mixing with Christianity, and how that can differ from what Jesus actually commands us to do. He put into words, things that I had questioned about the Christianity I had known for years.

5. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

● Maybe it’s because If You Feel Too Much was partly inspired by this, but this book was one of the most relatable books I have read. Not because I agree with, or believe everything he says, but because it is so real and honest. The streamline, “Nonreligious Thoughts On Christian Spirituality,” is possibly the best way to describe the style of this book. He directly questions God, religion, and the way christianity usually works. It encourages the reader to understand why we believe what we believe and live the way that we live.

6. Jesus>Religion by Jefferson Bethke

●  Jesus>Religion is one of the most spiritually challenging books I’ve read. It pushes the boundaries of “safe” Christianity, challenging us to think about how Jesus acted instead of what religion says we should do.

7. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

● This book is one of the few non christian books on this list, as well as one of the only young adult novels. Around my freshman year, this book went through a very popular phase, as did the  movie. Nonetheless, while this book had its fifteen second of fame four years ago, it is still one of my favorites. It is one of my most quoted books/movies. The way it broke down a stigma around mental health, especially in a way without using big labels, was truly a step forward during the time it was written. In addition to this, being set in the early 90’s makes it more interesting than other young adult novels.

8. Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson

● This is probably one of the few times that a summer reading book made it onto a student’s top 10 list. However, this book is honestly worth the time it cost me from the summer break before my senior year. This book captures the struggle of loss, racism, and a need for revenge in a murder mystery plot. Maybe it was the fact that I had to annotate the whole thing while reading, (Thanks Mrs. Banks) but I connected with this book on a level I didn’t expect to.

9. No Man Is An Island by Thomas Merton

● If I’m being honest, I have yet to actually finish this book. I am currently on chapter 6. However, this book has already firmly found its place on this list. This is a book that requires you to look at your own existence in order to understand the full meaning of what the author is saying. It’s a book packed with theology and that addresses questions we all face about human existence.

10. I Was Here by Gayle Forman

● Yes, I was one of those girls who read and watched If I Stay, cried, and wished for love, and all of that fun teenage stuff. If I Stay is a good book but I Was Here is great. If you haven’t noticed by now, a fair amount of my favorite books center around mental health and this one is no exception. It carefully depicts the pain of loss without glorifying it, which is a very careful line.

And here we are. Whether you read any or all of these books, I encourage you to read. Read from people you agree with and people you don’t. Read things that make you really think. Typical nerd quote, but I truly believe that books can open up a whole new world. So now, go explore.

My 20 Seconds of Insane Courage

One week ago I packed most of my belongings into a car.

One week ago I hugged my sisters, brother-in-law, and cousin, and said some of my hardest goodbyes.

One week ago I started on probably the biggest adventure of my life.

In the past seven days, I visited our nation’s capital. I spent 20+ hours in a car. I said goodbye to my friends and family, and I became an official college student. In one week, I have done things that I never thought I would have the opportunity or courage to do.

This post isn’t to talk about how incredible my week has been, but instead to encourage you. As my sister said before I left, “College is crazy. You go to a place where you usually barely know anyone, to plan for your future. You just have to make friends.” She’s so right. Looking at a freshman class of about one thousand, and thinking “okay, time to make some friends,” it honestly feels crazy.

However, one of my favorite quotes has continually proven to be true. “You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just, literally, 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” Even if all that bravery is just building you up to talk to the people at your table, wave at someone, or believe you’ll be okay, something great can come of it. In any new situation there will be awkward moments and situations. Those will pass. Then, you take a deep breath and start over again.

So, whether you’re starting school, college, or just living life, remember to breathe and try new things. Just 20 seconds of insane courage can get you through some crazy things.

And So I Kept Living

Today the TWLOHA theme for World Suicide Prevention Week 2016 was released. “And so I kept living.” Today is also the day I packed up the car, and said my final goodbyes before I drive a thousand miles south for college. Today I was reminded that there are people that care about me and my future. There are people that are glad I kept living, and will continue to do so. There were times I didn’t believe that. I’ve had moments I’ve doubted my worth, my future, and my importance. It took me a long time, and a lot of outside help (and letting people inside to help) for me to recognize the value of myself and my story.

I’ve been told that life is a marathon and not a sprint. Some moments of this life seemed like I wasn’t even running the marathon, but merely dragging myself along. But, even those just dragging along are still moving. I dragged myself along. Eventually, I found people who would walk beside me. When I’d stumble or fall, they would help me up. They became my cheering team, still encouraging me to keep going while I convinced myself I was running this alone. Now I don’t run real marathons. However, people that do are usually people that either enjoy running, or run for a cause. In the same way, living without a passion for something makes it so much harder to live. I’ve found a passion for sharing my story in a way that would encourage others to share theirs, or at the very least, come to love their story and want to continue it. Your passion probably won’t be easy. There will be people, possibly including yourself, who say you can’t do it. They’re wrong. God gives us passions for a reason, and He doesn’t just call the qualified. He qualifies the called. Finding your passion and finding your people won’t make the struggles disappear, but it makes it easier.

I believe suicide prevention and mental health shouldn’t be only talked about one week a year. So please, keep living. Some days it may feel like a whisper of hope, but one day it will feel like a victory cry. “And so I kept living.”

An open letter to people who disregard the opinions of teenagers

Recently I saw a post from a friend, younger than I am. Without going into detail, they posted an interesting video on new types of energy. I always appreciate teens and young adults taking initiative to learn and educate others. This post was met with a response that basically disregarded the possibility that they had any idea what they were talking about because “youth is wasted on the young.”

Unfortunately, I see and hear this all too often. I’ve seen many girl’s political and social beliefs disregarded because of how often they posted selfies. I’ve seen well thought out political posts (that I did’t necessarily agree with) from teens responded to with how they would understand when they were older. The worst is when those teenagers become 18 and don’t know what they believe about certain issues because they’ve been told for the last 10+ years that their opinion didn’t matter anyway.

I’ll be the first to admit that teenagers don’t know everything. My generation has its faults, as does ALL of the others. We’re humans. We still have a lot to learn. Please encourage us to form our own opinions and beliefs. Please show us that people can disagree and still be kind.

And so ends another chapter…

“It always seems impossible until it is done.” -Nelson Mandela

     Today was my last day of high school. Tomorrow I graduate. What seemed impossible is now done. High school is now done. Everyone asks if I’m excited/nervous/sad/ready to be done. I am all of those things and more. High school has been a journey, and now the journey is done.

     Each year of high school brought many ups and downs. There were many days and nights where I wanted to, even dreamed of giving up. Reaching senior year and graduation seemed impossible. However, if I had given up, I would have never learned the lessons that this chapter was meant to teach.

     For those whose situation feels hopeless, endless, or worthless; I promise it will end. It seems impossible now, but it’s something to be taken one day at a time. One day this will be another page in the story that you share with others.

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