Snow Angels

“O’Lord, I know You hear my cry.
Your love is lifting me above all the lies.
No matter what I face this I know in time.
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right.”

– Lauren Daigle, O’Lord

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It’s funny how God’s timing works. Have you ever tried telling God your plans? Have you ever told him, “Hey, this is how I’m going to do it,” and then He looks down at you and laughs? I can imagine God sitting in heaven shaking his head, crinkles around his eyes just thinking to himself, “Oh, just you wait.”

When I came home after the summer, I had everything planned out. I was learning to trust God, but I was still trying to take control. I had given my future to Him, but there were other parts of my life I was still gripping with no intentions of letting go. I had decided that this school year was going to be smooth, a time to focus on myself and my friends and nothing more. Funny how life never goes as we expect right?

 

The past few weeks I made many little discoveries in my faith. I realized that prayers must be demanded, not halfhearted hopes laced with doubt. I realized that God hears every cry, but not everything is instantaneous as we would hope it to be. God works in His own time and we must respect it. I learned that you can’t surrender the big parts of life without surrendering the little ones first. And, I have learned to be careful what you pray for because it will be answered.

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Some of my little discoveries occurred when discussing new plans for the house. I was asked what I wanted in my new room when the house is built. My old room had been my dream, so I didn’t really know. After hours of brainstorming, I came up with one simple request: a nook. I wanted a place to sit and read that was cozy and private. However, this request was turned down. I was so frustrated that the one piece of input I had couldn’t be included. I had forgotten to consider that this house couldn’t be expensive. Money is tight and extra costs aren’t welcome.

A few days later, I was at a Bible study. It was said, “Prayer requires full faith.” If an ankle is injured, it does no good to say, “God, I hope this ankle will heal.” It shows a lack of faith in what God can do and in the powers Jesus had that the Holy Spirit enables us to use. Prayer is a demand. Saying, “I command this ankle to heal, in Jesus’ name,” does something. It channels the gifts of Jesus and displays an undying faith in the power of three simple words: in Jesus’ name.

Prayer is the tool to creating miracles. God hears the cries of the needy. He heard my family and He heard me. This past week we received news that our new house has had air conditioning machines, high tech exhaust fans, spray foam insulation, and plywood donated at no charge by various companies who merely wanted to help.

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Do you ever lose your wallet and search for hours trying to find it and eventually give up? Then, about ten minutes later you find it when you aren’t looking for it anymore? My other discoveries showed me that God works the same way.

Like I mentioned earlier, I had everything planned out. I was going to finish the season of high school without a scrape and get on with life. I had told God I was ready for an adventure after graduation, but I have been trying to control every little detail leading up to it.

I met a person who is very quickly changing the direction of where I thought I was going. I thought I had surrendered to God, when in reality I had just told Him my plan. God decided to say, “Haha nope. I’m going to take you down the scenic route of life instead.”

After meeting this person, I began to pray. I prayed for peace and guidance for the both of us, but also signs for the right path. I asked that I be shown if I was heading in the right direction. Without fail, signs began to appear everywhere.

With these answered prayers, I began to realize I was growing. I was beginning to surrender over the little parts of life that I had never considered a shared relationship between me and Christ. But, in reality, everything is shared. That’s what makes it so intimate. The little parts of life are what lead to the big life-altering moments in our testimonies. We simply don’t have the luxury of seeing how it will add up beforehand.

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Today, it was almost seventy degrees. Two days ago, Houston was layered in a sparkling blanket of snow. God is a man of creativity, making beauty out of the dust. I urge you to remember these things. I urge you to pray with full faith and to entrust Him with the little things. I urge you to stop trying to control a plan when God has one that’s infinitely greater. I urge you to be careful what you pray for, because it will happen whether you were expecting it to or not. Lastly, I urge you to start paying attention when He shows you where He wants you to go. If He can create a scene of picturesque wonder out of  place still wracked by so much mourning, God can send you on a path only available if you’re willing to let Him walk beside you.

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The Most Important Story I Have to Tell

Seventeen is a weird number. When you’re sixteen, you can drive. You earn a freedom like no other. When you’re eighteen, life gets real. You can go to jail and get tattoos. The only change at seventeen is R-rated movies. It’s the verge of being designated an adult, the verge of figuring out life before it comes and whips you, saying, “Hurry up! It’s time to go.” On Halloween, I turned seventeen. It’s felt like an eternity, but I know my life is just beginning.

I’m a huge believer in the fact that your story, your life, will make an impact on someone. More importantly, as Christians, our testimonies can change lives. People can deny God, but they can’t deny your experiences. Whether you grew up in the church, a believer since childhood, or have had a life-altering experience, your story matters. Don’t ever think differently.

Testimonies are the stories of your walk with Christ. They are ever-changing, always adding on to the last sentence. It’s the story of your life. In honor of seventeen years of living, here’s mine.

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This story is long. In order to understand my tale, you are going to need a little bit of background.

I grew up in a large family: two happily married parents and three older brothers. By sixth grade all of my brothers had moved out and I was the only one left. We have attended the local Methodist church ever since I can remember. As a baby, I was baptized into the Christian faith. I grew up as a VBS and Veggietales girl. Nothing special, really. It’s a common start for many Christians.

My family was “that family.” People would look at me and say, “Oh, you’re a Yelovich,” or “There goes the Yelovich’s!” My parents ran a Sunday School class. My brothers were popular in the youth group. I was the little baby, involved in all of the music programs.

Now you’re ready for my story.

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In elementary school, I knew all of the Bible stories like David and Goliath or Jonah and the Whale. However, at school, I didn’t really fit in. I was incredibly tomboyish, and preferred playing sports with the boys at recess rather talking in the corner with the girls. I was all brunette curls, purple glasses, and lanky arms.

Fast forward to junior high: I went through Confirmation in sixth grade and became a full member of the Methodist church. Church was pretty good, I guess, but school was another story. Junior high was a time of drama and homework and puberty all wrapped in one giant mess. I began to straighten my hair, wear contacts, and boys started being boys. I was best friends with the most popular girl in school. We were the “It” girls. We could sing. We were athletic. We were pretty. We thought we had it all figured out. At home, my parents were constantly telling me I needed to improve myself. I wasn’t respectful. I wasn’t nice. I was selfish. To put it blatantly, I was a total brat.

There was another side to this junior high mess. I’ve always carried the label of the “Mom friend.” People come to me with their problems, expecting me to listen and have all the answers. I accepted my title gladly, but at the time had no idea how to handle it. Numerous friends of mine were depressed and I shouldered all of their burdens, but nobody was willing to help me with mine. You see, the summer of seventh grade started a pattern; I lost a loved one. I went to a funeral that summer. The summer of eighth grade, I lost two more. Two more funerals. I began to convince myself that I was going to lose everyone I loved. I pushed my friends away, letting very few in my inner circle. I was sad and I was lonely.

By the time eighth grade ended, I was in a terrible place mentally. I was a shell of a girl and I hated it. I hated putting on a fake smile everyday, pretending to be the happy girl everyone thought I was. I wasn’t my best self and I decided it was time to change that. I took a drastic step and cut off all of my junior high friends. Over the summer, I worked on bettering myself and becoming close with my best friend who is still by my side today. I lost another loved one that summer, making it summer number three. It was time to start a new chapter and I had no idea who my friends were going to be.

Freshman year was a hot mess. The youth group was in shambles. I refused to go. I hated every part of it. At school, I had numerous acquaintances, but I was so, so lonely. There was no one that I was close with. So, what does any person do when there’s a void of loneliness? They find a significant other. Freshman year, I found my first boyfriend.

There are only a few things you need to know about this. This guy was great, but I was so lonely I latched onto him. I ignored the only close friends I had. The boy and I didn’t make the best decisions and there were repercussions. My parents lost all trust in me. I entered another summer broken and hurting, having no idea what to do. I didn’t turn to God. I felt like a screw-up, unworthy of anything remotely good.

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It’s funny how at your lowest points, God flips everything into perspective. Everything make sense. That’s exactly what happened the summer after my freshman year.

Towards the end of the school year, my church hired a new youth pastor. I started to go again, to test the waters. Come July, it was time for UMARMY, United Methodist Action Reach-Out Ministry by Youth. This is an annual mission trip for those in high school who have completed at least their freshman year. Work crews consisting of a few teens and an adult are given multiple projects to be completed in a week. The work mostly consists of building wheel chair ramps, but can be anything from painting to yard work to replacing windows and siding. All of my friends told me you would go in one person and come out another.

Our trip was to a little town known as Lufkin, Texas. My crew’s first project was a wheelchair ramp inside a paved car port. Proving to be more difficult than originally thought, the ramp took about a day and a half longer to complete than expected. However, our setback created time to bond with our client, Ernest. Ernest was a diabetic amputee who had had a tough life growing up. He told us he was on the track to jail time when a pastor took Ernest under his wing and changed his life. I grew close to Ernest in that short time, finding his story inspiring. Despite that, I didn’t understand the big rave about UMARMY. It was hot, hard work. It didn’t seem to be anything more than that.

Things started to change on Wednesday. On Wednesday, I witnessed a miracle. We were talking to Ernest and invited him to Thursday’s client night, a dinner and worship service for all those who had helped serve or were being served. It was an opportunity for fellowship, worship, food, and stories. Ernest wanted to go, but said he had surgery Thursday and wouldn’t be able to. Our head pastor was on site and asked if we could pray over him. Gladly obliging, we circled around Ernest and laid hands on him. We prayed for healing and peace and when we said, “Amen,” it was evident something incredible had happened. Ernest’s face was indescribable, filled with childlike wonder. The only thing he said was, “I’m going to that dinner.”

Thursday night, my crew was ready to give up, but, fifteen minutes late, Ernest rolled in. Fresh out of surgery, he had popped an extra painkiller in order to eat with us. That night, I understood. UMARMY wasn’t about building ramps or painting walls. It was about impacting people and building relationships, whether you saw the impact or not.

Following dinner, we went through a prayer walk. There were twelve stations. The first began with a rock. You were supposed to write down a burden on the rock and place it in your pocket. The rock traveled in my pocket until the second to last station which said to lay your rock, your burden, at the cross. Give it to God, the card read.

I knelt at the altar for over twenty minutes, staring at my burden, tossing it from hand to hand. I was so scared to let go. I felt like I didn’t deserve grace or mercy, that what I had done was too much. I wasn’t worthy of such a love.

Eventually, I laid the rock down at the cross. This led me to the last station. Before me laid a pile of envelopes. All were a blank pasty white, stacked on each other in a disordered fashion. Each envelope contained a different letter, the one you received up to pure chance.

The paper tore as I removed the seal of my letter. Inside, I pulled out the single most important paper I have ever received. In slanted handwriting was my letter sent from God, titled Peace Be With You. The following read:

“If my promise is only for those who obey the law then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And you are all certain to receive it.

I saved you by My grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from Me. Salvation is not reward for good things you have done, so you cannot boast about it. For you are My masterpiece. I have created you anew in Christ Jesus so you can do the good things I planned for you long ago.

…nothing can ever separate you from My love. Neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither your fears for today nor your worries about tomorrow- not even the powers of hell can separate you from My love. No power in the sky above or the earth below- indeed nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate you from My love.”

NOTHING could separate me from Him. I reread those words over and over as tears fell down my face. He called me, an imperfect sinner, worthy of love. I was loved. I am loved. That letter changed everything. I began to surrender. I began to be made new.

Overwhelmed by God, I decided it was best I sleep. I wiped off my face and gathered my things. I headed upstairs an laid down. I replayed those words in my head, “…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons…” as I closed my eyes to rest, but sleep was nonexistent.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find my dream world. I tossed and turned until I heard something, a voice. It whispered in the back of my head, an almost inaudible sound instructing, “Go back downstairs.” Startled, I looked around the room. There was nothing. I closed my eyes again. “Go back downstairs.” The voice was louder, urgent. It was a whispering sound, different from my own thoughts. I argued with the voice until I finally succumbed and went back downstairs. I had no idea what I was looking for. There seemed to be no reason. It was late. I was tired. I didn’t know what to expect.

The first person I saw was my best friend crying in the back row. I walked over and sat beside her, praying as she wept, elbows on her knees, head in her hands. I still didn’t understand why I had been called downstairs. About twenty minutes had passed when the song came on. Lauren Daigle’s Blessings started floating through the speakers. The chorus reads:

“‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”

I broke down, again. My body shook as sobs wracked my body. Tears puddled on the floor. Somewhere in the midst of my breakdown, hands began to touch me. I was covered by people, prayers being whispered in a jumbled chorus. I knelt there, shaking, until the prayers were done. I opened my eyes and dried my eyes. The weight was gone. I had let go. I was free.

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Returning home from UMARMY, I was on fire for the Lord. I was involved again, investing as much as I could in choir and in the youth.

I had been home for two weeks when Ernest passed away, marking summer number four.

Summer number four was different. My mindset had changed. Prior, anytime someone passed, all I could think was that I had lost someone else. I had had someone ripped from life when I didn’t want them to be. This time, I thought to myself, “He could have been gone two weeks before I ever met him.” I realized God’s timing is perfect, it’s intentional. God had a purpose for Ernest and God tied it into my story, too.

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Sophomore year started off great. I was a member of the two highest choirs, an officer as well. I was a returning varsity soccer player. I had two best friends at school. Church was awesome every week. I was living life.

And then Katie passed.

Katie was nineteen when she was found in her dorm by her roommate. I grew up with Katie in church. She was a bright, kind soul with a heart for people. Katie was the only reason I joined choir at school, a decision which permanently impacted my life.

Her funeral was the hardest one I attended. I didn’t understand why she was gone so soon, but it was still different than the others. I did my best to be at peace with it.  I never thought, “I’ve lost someone else.”

Life began to move on. Things were normal for the first time. I was on top of the mountain just enjoying life.

Unfortunately, life is never a smooth ride. While I was enjoying it, tensions were rising behind the scenes. To avoid telling a story within a story, we are going to fast forward to May of sophomore year.

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The third weekend of May was a pivotal weekend for my family. It was the weekend of my brother’s wedding. Normally weddings are wonderful, happy occasions, but this one was different. Just hours before the ceremony, my brother’s bride-to-be called and left him with an ultimatum: her or our dad, her or our family.

He chose her.

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The days following the ceremony were a living hell. My parents were heartbroken, shells of themselves as they tried to understand the unfathomable. I couldn’t take being alone in the house with them as I tried to handle my own grief.

Summer slowly arrived. Little did I know, I was in for another summer that would change my life.

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This past summer, I chose to work at Camp Tejas in Giddings, Texas. I had willingly signed myself up for early mornings washing dishes, steamy afternoons by the lake, and nights under twinkling stars unhooking people from the zipline.

Camp ended up being many things for me. It was a refuge, an answered prayer. It was a family while my own tried to put the pieces back together. Camp was a place to grow and learn and prepare for the time ahead. It was a place to witness miracles and understand what it truly means to have a relationship with Jesus.

The last week of camp, I chose to rededicate my life to God. By my choice and my choice alone, I was baptized into the faith once again, a symbol of the life that I want to lead, a symbol of my transformation over the past year.

Coming home was hard. I had been healed of my wounds, but my parents were still trying to manage their own. I had to learn to use the skills I had acquired without being surrounded by a support group of dedicated Christians 24/7.

School started and I was thrown back into reality without time to adjust. I felt lost, pining after the summer that had ended so quickly.

Then, my house flooded.

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Here we are, back to the now. I believe my summer of growth and healing was in preparation for my house. If I had been stagnant all summer, I don’t know where I would be right now, but I do know that God has a plan. I may not always like it, but there’s a reason for every trial and every triumph. We are pushed to our limits and beyond in order to keep growing in faith. I know that prayer is the most powerful tool that we have and that with that power comes great responsibility. God wants to use us as His vessels for change, we just have to be willing to trust Him and listen.

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This is my story. What’s yours?

 

 

 

I’m Thankful…

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is my PALs project that we were assigned. 

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 I’m thankful…

For a foundation because it means there’s still a place to rebuild.

For the dirt in our front lawn because it means there’s a chance for new growth.

For the weak air conditioning because it means I have a temporary place to live.

For the boxes stacked in the living room because it means we still symbols from the past.

For the ugly drapes because it means there’s shade from the sun.

For the plastic picnic table because it means we have a place to eat together as a family.

For the two twin beds stacked on each other because it means we have a place to sit.

For the fights about new room designs because it means progress is being made.

For the crew that tore down our home because it marked a new beginning.

And for the friends and family that we don’t recognize near enough because it means we are loved.

Dancing

It was a typical flight back home. As usual, I sat in the window seat. My Beats were on and the music shuffled.  I stared out at the stars and down at the city lights, twinkling as if to reflect the sky above. Meddled in my thoughts, the music was a filler, noise to drown out the world as my brain’s theater played Wedding Weekend on repeat. I’d never felt so empty, so pained by something that should have been so joyful.

A simple piano riff cut through my swirling thoughts. The notes rang through my ears, sweet and light. Steffany Gretzinger’s voice began to sing:

“You steady me, slow and sweet. Take the lead and I will follow.”

She sounded so sincere, the lyrics a promise to God saying I trust you through it all.

The song went on to the chorus which reads:

“When my faith gets tired,
And my hope seems lost,
You spin me round and round
And remind me of that song,
The one You wrote for me.
And we dance.
And we dance.”

When I’m tired and lost, You hold me close and dance with me. Whenever we hurt and feel like there’s nothing left, whenever the black hole sucks us in and crushes our spirit, whenever we have nothing left to hold onto, there’s a Lord waiting to take our hand and lead us and say, “I’m with you.”

I began to cry on that plane. Silent sobs wracked my body as I let the Lord in on my struggles. As my tears tried to fall to the ground below, the last couplet repeated itself over and over, a prayer:

“It’s nice to know I’m not alone.
I’ve found my home here in your arms.”

For an hour, I played that song on repeat. I let it seep in to my soul, a warm comfort in the loneliest of times. It was my prayer and my reminder. I wasn’t alone and never would be.

I sit here now, typing, listening to the same song. I’m at a low. I smile through the days as they drag by, but the impending death of my childhood home lingers in the back of my mind. This song is my hope. This song is my prayer. This song is my lifeline.

I’m dancing.

 

Every Storm has a Rainbow

My house flooded.

That’s one of the most common sentences I’ve heard lately as a South Houston native. My story is the same. My house flooded. Hurricane Harvey turned many people’s lives upside down, including my own.

I live right on a creek. It was a beautiful wooded lot, filled with raccoons and owls and snakes. We had a large backyard complete with a pool. It was our own private paradise. There was room to run around with the dog or to kick soccer balls over the fence or to tan in the summer sun. The house was an old two-story home, filled with imperfections and character. There was a door frame tracking the family’s life in inches. There was a smiley face drawn into the texture of the wall. There was memory after memory symbolized by a window or a picture.

Torrents of rain began crashing down Saturday night. We moved the cars up to high ground, just to be safe. At 9:00pm, everything seemed fine. Moving the cars was just a precautionary measure. I went to sleep expecting to wake up and go to church the next day. It would be normal. But, life was far from normal the next morning.

12:45a.m. Dad shook me awake.

“Get up. The creek’s in the backyard. We gotta move things up. Wake up Jamie and come down,” Dad’s whispers were urgent.

Pausing my story real fast, Jamie is a German foreign exchange student that we had picked up from the airport only five hours earlier. Welcome to Texas, right?

I catapulted out of bed and ran to Jamie’s room.

“Wake up. We have to move stuff upstairs. I’m sorry,” I frantically told Jamie.

I ran downstairs and flew out to the backyard. Sure thing, the creek was a fourth of the way up the yard. I went back inside and put Jamie in charge of moving pictures upstairs. Meanwhile, I took the first things I saw. There were boxes of childhood art, wooden chairs, vacuums, and computers. I emptied out cabinets, stacking things on counters. The house had never flooded more than three feet, so that was the mark. Things went on top of counters and tables and above the fireplace. I ran outside again. The water was halfway up the pool.

Frantic, I ran to the front yard. The water was over the mailbox. I looked next door and realized I didn’t hear her dog. All lights were off and her car was still in the driveway. My neighbor wasn’t awake. The next thing I knew, I was pounding on her door, willing a light to turn on. After what felt like an eternity, she finally opened the door.

“What’s going on?” she said groggily.

“Carry, the water is coming. Move the dogs upstairs. Save what you can. I have to go. Stay safe!” and then I sprinted back to the house.

Another hour passed, and we were working as smooth as gears in a clock. I was constantly checking the water. Submerged the pool. Up to the deck. The tree. Inches from the door step…

The power died at 2:30 in the morning. We grabbed an extra set of clothes, our phones, chargers, and the dog. We took one last glance around the house and then we left. We walked through cold, chest-deep water to get to the cars up the street. My mom took her SUV and my dad took his truck with Jamie. My dog and I got into my SUV and followed my parents. We drove to the next neighborhood to stay with our friends. The cars sped through the water-covered streets at a whopping five miles an hour. I prayed and prayed for my car not to stall out and, by some miracle, we made it to our temporary home with all three vehicles.

By 7:00 in the morning, the creek had reached historic levels. Dad estimated there was four to five feet of water in the house.

Days passed before we were able to make it back to the house. It took a few more for the street to be low enough to wade across. It was about a week in total before we walked inside for the first time since this “800-year flood.”

The doors stuck together, swollen with humidity. Glass was shattered all over the porch. Inside, everything was destroyed. Water had reached 4.5 feet inside, crushing the 3 foot mark. The rowing machine floated from the living room to the kitchen. Toiletries were found in the kitchen and the bedrooms. The washer was flipped. A mirror fell off the wall. Board games were destroyed. Vinyl records littered the floors. Layers of mud coated the floors.

It was awful. The house I’d grown up in was in shambles. My childhood home was destroyed. I’d lived in that house for almost seventeen years. Ghosts of giggles and tears, hugs and games,  and movies and meals haunted me at every turn.

The days that followed were a blur of the same. Toys were thrown in trash bags. Dry wall and insulation was stripped. Salvageable items were carefully dried and placed in boxes. The smell of water and mold gained strength as the small hill of garbage in the yard turned into a mountain.  People flowed in and out. Current friends and those from years past siphoned through, bearing hammers, money, food, or hugs.

Soon, the job was done and we were moving into a rent house three doors down from our storm shelter. Bleach was in hot demand as we cleaned and washed. Boxes were slowly emptied and things found a place in our temporary home. We made ourselves a new normal.

Why recount these painful events? We’re one of hundreds of thousands of similar stories. What’s the use in sharing this story when people are just trying to move on?

Have you ever felt the crushing feeling of loneliness? It presses down on your chest, leaving you tired and exhausted. Many of you may not believe it, but that’s been a huge struggle of mine. I’m the nice girl. I’m everyone’s friend. I always have a smile to share. But, all the same, it doesn’t always feel that way. My closest friends go to different schools, limiting our time to texts and the occasional Friday and Sunday.

Harvey taught me that I have incredible friends, despite when it feels like I’m on my own. Not only did they help tear my home apart, they started a fundraiser. They sold shirts, jewelry, clothes, and opened a GoFundMe. Surprising my family and I, they revealed to us that they had raised almost five thousand dollars to go towards our recovery.

I had no idea what my friends had been planning. They loved my family and I unconditionally, doing whatever they could to help.

If you get nothing else out of this post, I hope it is this. During periods of dark, when you think no one is there, I promise you someone is. They may not vocalize it all of the time. They may not raise you five thousand dollars. But, someone is there. Sometimes, you just have to turn around and look. Those near and far are waiting for you. Whether you need to laugh for twenty minutes or hug while you cry, someone is there. You’re never alone.

 

A Rebel’s Purpose

Many of you know that I worked at a summer camp for a few months. I spent my time running rec games and washing dishes and it was easily the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. While working at the camp, I was trained for the gift shop. This was the ultimate hangout place for all of the campers as it was home to souvenirs, smoothies, and espresso. Comfy chairs and cold air conditioning provided a welcome break from the hot, Texas sun.

In the gift shop, we sold a variety of shirts. There were baseball tees and glow in the dark shirts. But, there was also a shirt known as the “Renegade” shirt. This shirt came in salmon pink and turquoise blue. The front read, “Be a renegade. Conform no more. Romans 12:2.” I always thought that the shirt was cool, but I never appreciated it until I found out the meaning of renegade. A renegade is a rebel, one who turns away from the typical standards of society. A renegade is a person who is passionate for their cause and doesn’t break in the face of a challenge. A renegade sets their own rules despite the opinions of others.

Now, bear with me, as I’m going to switch gears for a moment.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people use age as a limiter. When someone says, “You’re too young to understand,” or “You’re too young to make a difference,” my blood boils. I fully believe age does not change what you are capable of doing. 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” I try to live by this verse as it is a call to action for all young people. We are the ones to set the example. We are the ones that will change the world. We just have to take the first step.

This brings me to the name of my blog. I believe I am a young renegade, a teenager called to make a difference. I believe I have been called to break out of the confining box of society. I wanted to create a way to follow my personal journey. Maybe this blog will help to inspire other young people to make a difference. Maybe this blog will provide guidance for those looking for help. Maybe this blog will change someone’s life. Maybe, just maybe, this blog will start to change the world.

Today, I Actually Learned Something at School.

To ensure the privacy of others not involved in this blog, all characters will be given pseudonyms in this post and any post following from here on out. 

I’ve wondered what I would post as the heralded “first blog post.” There’s a myriad of possibilities ranging from camp tales to sermons to a random story. But, I’m not going to talk about any of those today. I’m just going to start with what’s fresh and what’s fresher than a story picked today?

To provide a little bit of back story, I was always the “Mom” friend. I grew up the mature and responsible one. After watching three boys grow up older than you, you learn what mistakes not to make. People rely on me to have the answers to their problems and the puzzle pieces to their jigsaw of life. I fully accepted that position, but a few hours ago, everything changed.

Fast forward to today. It’s fifth period, approximately 11:45 a.m. and Coach Boulder is giving a lesson on active listening: the art of listening to understand, not to respond. To successfully be an active listener, one must also recognize an important truth. You don’t need to give advice. Walking alongside a friend as moral support is all that’s required. Why, you ask? The advisor can quickly be the victim of blame when supposedly good ideas fail. An unhealthy dependency can also develop and the friendship can be doomed to fail.

Listening to Coach Boulder’s lesson, I was shocked. As the 24/7/365 go-to contact for many people, all I had grown to know how to do was offer a plan of action. Many of my relationships were a one-sided need for answers to the problems that couldn’t be solved with “e. all of the above.” Hearing, “you don’t need to give advice,” was a foreign delicacy, a dessert I had never considered tasting.

The day progressed and my mind continued to churn around my newfound insight. I remembered Psalm 16:8 that reads, “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.” It occurred to me that maybe, to truly be Christ-like, walking next to someone is all it takes to help them through. With Jesus on one side and a strong friend on the other, what could go wrong? 

Today, my view on my relationships has changed. I’m not the “Mom” friend, knower of all things wise and responsible. I’m just a teenager who was given a strong gift of empathy and a large heart full of love for those who need it. It’s not my job to fix what I didn’t break. It’s my job to simply be a friend and nothing less.