on comparison.

God’s voice has not been the loudest one in my life lately. Instead, His voice has been drowned out by the sound of doubt, insecurity, and comparison. Like most other twenty-somethings, this season of my life is about seeking purpose; not the purpose of the girl whose instagram is always on point or the person who’s on track to become the youngest millionaire in their company or whatever. I’m searching for my own purpose– for the thing God promised to me and brought me out here to find. I’m trying so desperately to set my eyes on God, but I’ve gotta be honest — it’s really hard to ignore the rest of the world sometimes.

This morning, I was overcome by a wave of comparison while scrolling through the instagram of a young woman who pastors youth at a well-known mega church. She’s two years older than I am, married, about to have her first child, and — the thing I’m most jealous of — a phenomenal illustrator and writer. From what I can infer by the tiny, little squares on this app, her life and calling is everything I wish mine could look like. It’s silly and I hate having to admit it, but this morning at the breakfast table, while I was supposed to be spending time with God through my daily devotionals, I was too busy convincing myself that this woman is living out my calling.

This, of course, is not true. I know who my God is. I know He called light into being and that He’s crafted the entire universe from a single breath. His resources are unlimited; He did not knit me out of fabric from the scrap pile; He didn’t run out of all the good plot lines when He wrote the story for my life. 

But I do this all the time. I discount the gifts He’s placed in me and gaze longingly at the things He’s given to others. I waste so much time thinking about all I am not and it discourages me from stewarding over all that I am. Comparison truly is the thief of all joy and I’ve willingly handed it over every time I scroll through social media and wish to have something different. 

The truth is I’ve spent nearly every moment of my life doubting my capabilities and comparing myself to people I think are prettier, skinnier, and more talented than I am, that I’m not even sure what my life could look like if I just listened to Jesus’ voice instead.

Instead of the doubt.

Instead of the insecurity.

Instead of the comparison.

How much brain space would be freed up if I wasn’t constantly obsessing over my image? How much more fully would I laugh if I wasn’t so self-conscious of the teeth that have shifted out of place from not wearing my retainers over the years? What could I write if I wasn’t so busy telling myself that I’ll never be as good as my favorite authors? What could I create if I stopped believing there was only space in this world for one type of greatness and that everything worth creating has already been done? 

What would my life look like if I stopped trying to make myself into something for the validation of this world and instead surrendered it all over to God? 

God makes no mistakes and he makes no carbon copies. We are not made in the image of each other but in the image of God himself– He who is infinite and unbounded and everything we are and could never be. He doesn’t write the same story or the same person twice; He has placed in us different gifts according to His grace, so we may discover the unique purpose He has for each of our lives. We were not placed on this earth to imitate one another; we were called to this earth to emulate Jesus. 

My prayer this week is that we would not lose sight of the unique treasures God has so gracefully given to us; that we would not envy the gifts of others. I pray comparison would not steal our peace this week; that we would remain attentive to what sparks joy and steward obediently over them. I pray in the name of Jesus that the word of Hebrews would ring true in our hearts, so we may run with endurance the race set before each of us. That we would not lose our footing while looking over at another person’s lane, but keep our eyes set on Jesus, who is the perfecter and founder of our faith. 

afraid

My darling,

I am writing to you today because I have something to share with you. A piece of advice that I’ve been keeping for a while now. I’ve had this reoccurring thought almost every night for the last twenty-ish years or so and I’m willing to bet you’ve also felt the weight of this at some point or another.

It’s true I haven’t lived very long. Two decades and four years is hardly enough to know, well, enough. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I don’t know where I’ll be on this day in the next two decades and four years, but I think we can all extract a small seed of wisdom from each season we’ve found ourselves planted in.

You see the truth is, my darling, that I’ve been very afraid.

I’ve been afraid of making mistakes, of choosing the wrong, well…everything.

It’s the reason I haven’t written in so long. The reason I stopped singing. The reason I’ve scaled my heart back. The reason I’ve been so cautious.

I’ve second guessed every single move, word, outfit choice, lover and decision and can I tell you something? It’s left me absolutely exhausted.

So I’m done being afraid.

I’m done being afraid of not being perfect.

I’m done with being afraid of not being loved.

I’m done with being afraid of my own voice.

I’m done with being afraid to dance and sing and to look silly in front of people.

I’m done with being afraid of saying the wrong thing, of saying to little or too much or of making the wrong choices

I’m done with being afraid to l i v e.

I’m done letting fear hold me back from the things I know God’s called me to do.

So it starts today with this: With these words and this blog. With me and you.

Big will always grow from small. So let’s start small today, my darling. Let’s start with a paint stroke. With a bold piece of jewelry. With a blog post that no one will ever see. Let’s start with a phone call. With the strum of a guitar. With a song you like to sing when no one’s listening. You’ve been created just as you are for this life– for your life.

So let’s do it together, my darling. Let’s be unafraid together.

I

I hate that I’m struggling with this so much.

With moving.

With this job.

With moving on.

With where I work.

With the little money that I’m making for a job that asks so much of me emotionally.

I moved into this season with a God confidence like never before. It was the first time in my life where I felt like I was moving in the very same direction God wanted me to be in. And I guess because I felt so adamant that I was doing what God called me to do, I failed to prepare for how difficult and emotionally taxing it would be.

It isn’t even 9:00am yet. It’s Monday. My week has barely started, and I’ve already locked myself in the single stall restroom across the hall from my office, crying and frustrated at myself for not being tougher.

I have ten more months of this. And it hasn’t even gotten bad. I know this because my supervisor has warned me, “it’s only going to get harder.”

Ugh. God, why did you bring me here. Why did you choose to place me here, in Kensington, where I’m constantly looking over my shoulder, worried if I smile at anyone or anything I’ll blow my cover of not being from here. Of being scared.

I said I wanted to be uncomfortable. I wanted to go where God wanted me to go.

Well, I’m here now. And it’s a lot harder than I ever could have imagined.

you owe it to yourself

I think you owe it to yourself to stop worrying so much.

About the bills you have to pay, about what people have to say about you, and about when you’re going fall in love. It’s great to have goals and to want to put your best foot forward, but I don’t think we ever stop to think about how much our worry is costing us. Why does it matter if you’ve paid back your student loans or gotten married by the time you’ve turned 30? Do you think that means something about your life if it does or does not happen? Yes, it’s important to think about the long-term, but please don’t discount what’s in front of you. We can’t just store away our lives for the day we have it all together.

I think you owe it to yourself to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do.

You know, the thing your heart always comes back to when there’s a lull in your day. I think you need to go for it even if you’re not exactly sure where it might lead, what it might look like or if you’d be any good at it. You want to start a blog? Write that first post. You want to learn a new skill? Buy what you need and take a class. You want to start traveling more? Book a freaking ticket. Far too often we get paralyzed by the build-up. We think too much about the ‘what’s’ and the ‘how’s’ and the ‘what-ifs’ that we never actually get around to just doing it. I think life would be a whole better if you just realized that sometimes you have to build the boat out at sea. And let me just remind you: YOU ARE NOT TOO OLD AND IT IS NOT TOO LATE TO START. As long as you’ve still got air in your lungs and a calling on your heart, you can always begin something new.

I think you owe it to yourself to move on.

Not because the love wasn’t real or because it isn’t still painful. But because lIfe is far too short to spend it pining after something that wasn’t meant for you. I know it’s hard to imagine life without them and I know it’s scary to think about starting over; but you deserve a love that is unconditional, a love that is a kind, and a love that chooses you. Even if that means it’ll be awhile before you find it. It won’t be easy and it might hurt like hell, but I promise there will come a day when you find yourself living life without the person you never thought you could be without. And on that day you’ll be so grateful you decided to let go.

I think you owe it to yourself to forgive them.

Him, her, and yourself. I know sometimes it feels better to hold onto anger. It’s like we somehow convince ourselves that we’re stronger for it– that it’ll protect us from getting hurt. But I think it’s time we realize choosing not to forgive is only destructive to ourselves. It’s prideful, immature, and whether we choose to admit it or not, it’s the easy way out. Forgiving is hard. It forces us to be humble. It forces us to take a second look and realize the humanness of our aggressor. But we don’t forgive for the sake of others, we forgive for the sake of our own hearts. Just imagine the space you’d free up if you just stopped holding onto what was hurting you. Think of how much lighter you’d travel through this world if you met every single transgression with grace. 70×7– remember that.

I think you owe it to yourself to fall hopelessly in love with the person you are and the life you’ve been given.

I think it’s time you stop wishing your nose was smaller or that your hair was different. Stop wondering about what your life would be like if you had a different family, more money in your bank account, or a better body. Instead, spend more time with yourself. Pay attention to the songs that make your spirit come to life. Notice interactions between strangers in the street that make your heart full. Admire the depth of your eyes and the softness in your belly and the way your head tilts back when you’re laughing. Take inventory of the people you’re grateful for. Keep stock of your favorite memories. Lay in the grass under the sun when your soul feels tired.

I know we hear it all the time, but we can’t redo yesterday and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. All we have is right now. And if I told you that this “right now” is all you had left, what would you do differently?

I think we all need to start appreciating where we are at in this moment and stop losing sleep over our yesterday’s and tomorrow’s. Yes, I know your life may not look the way you want it to. I know you wish were further along in your career, or that you were finished with school already, or that you didn’t waste so much time. But do not let that discourage you– the place you are in right now is not a mistake. You were meant to be here in this space, in this season, for a such a time as this.

So please stop wondering when you’ll get there, stop holding yourself back, and start doing more of what makes your heart come to life.

You at least owe it to yourself to see where it will take you.

this one’s about healing.

My darling, 

You’re going to want to forget. A lot of things, actually.

Like all of the moments you were besides yourself with jealousy and anger. You’ll want to forget the nights anxiety kept you awake, wondering where they were, what they were doing, and who they were with. You’ll want to forget the times you acted like a complete idiot; the moments of insecurity that led you to call an embarrassing amount of times and blowing up once they finally picked up the line.

My darling, you’ll want to forget all those fights you had— the big ones, the small ones, and the downright stupid ones. You’ll look back and think, “gosh, did I really say that? what was I thinking?” You’ll want to forget the nights you stirred the pot for no reason at all; beautiful nights you ruined with your attitude; perfect moments ruined by your insecurities. There may even be days when you want to forget entirely the person you were when consumed by love.

I know it’s hard to face the person you used to be. I know how painful it is to remember the people you hurt and the mistakes you made when you were broken. But please, I beg of you— don’t force yourself to forget. Far too often, we push unpleasant  memories of ourselves from our minds because they’re more comfortable in the corner or behind the closet door; like the weeks worth of laundry we let pile but never wash. I know it’d be so much easier to forget the old parts of who you were– the parts you never loved much anyways. I know we think if we could just push those memories far enough away, if we could just bury those messy parts of ourselves, then maybe—just, maybe— we could wipe our slates clean. Run from the person we used to be and start over. With someone new, in someplace new, as someone new. 

But my darling, I beg of you— please, learn to be kind to yourself. You can’t shame yourself into a better, happier, more complete version of you. You’ll never be able to mend your broken bits by condemning the very heart that suffered the blow. I know how embarrassed and ashamed you feel looking back on the person you used to be. So I’m writing you this letter because I hope it will encourage you not to hate who you were last week, last month, or even last year. 

Because that person, though unrecognizable now, is an extension of you; she was the person you needed to be to get to where you are now.

My darling, I know this is hard to come to terms with, but here’s the plain and simple truth: you are who you are now because of that broken, insecure, mess-of-a-girl. And even though she made mistakes, even though she made a fool of herself, even though she loved a little too hard in the most destructive of ways, you need to learn how to love every last bit of her. 

So here is my promise to you, my darling: every day, I will learn to fall a little bit more in love with the old versions of you that I used to be so ashamed of. The versions of you that were always anxious, paranoid, too much, too crazy, too sensitive, and overbearing. The versions of you that loved to the point of exhaustion, the you that laid your heart on the line again and again only to have it taken for granted every time. Because the girl you once were deserves just as much grace as the woman you are now becoming. 

I know these last few months have been tough for you, my darling. But you’re growing stronger every single day and I’m so proud of you.

I’m proud of how your heart is changing; proud of the forgiveness you’ve let pour out of you. And maybe that’s the truth about healing. It isn’t about revenge. It isn’t about putting on a little black dress and hitting the town, moving on first, or harboring resentment in your heart for the person you once loved.

Maybe true healing is all about grace. Not just for them, but for yourself, too. Maybe it’s about learning how to clean up the mess you’ve created without reprimanding yourself for breaking in the first place. Perhaps its learning how to speak words of kindness and encouragement over yourself and learning how to have patience with your heart on the hardest of days. Maybe that’s really all there is to it. 

Just promise me you’ll hang in there a little while longer– alright my darling? Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep waking up in the morning and drinking coffee from your favorite mugs. Keep writing. Keep growing. Keep letting yourself feel.

I promise there are better days ahead of you. So much goodness is going to come from this. So keep on going, my darling. I’m so in love the person you have been and the person you are becoming. I’m so proud of how far you’ve come. So on days like today when it all feels like too much, come back to these words and remember who you were. Remember how far you have come and remember to love every version of yourself that brought you to where you are today. Because you are so, so worthy of love, my darling. And you always have been.

i hope this reaches you one day

I know it’s been tough. Not knowing what comes next. And I’m writing this to tell you I’ve been struggling with it, too. I understand that it feels like you’re traveling in five different directions, but are unsure if any of them are the right one. 

I know what it feels like to hit the ground running every single morning, only to go to sleep in the same place every night. I know you’re discouraged, alone, and tired. But I’m here to tell you that it’s all going to work out in the end.

And since I can’t tell you all this myself, I’m writing this in hopes that it reaches you one day:

I hope you know that I pray for you often. I pray you wake up with a full heart every morning. That when your alarm goes off, you wipe the sleep from your eyes, draw your curtains open, and say good morning to God. I hope you thank Him for what He worked on while you were sleeping and feel prepared to receive whatever he has in store for you.

I pray you find that dream job you’ve been thinking about. You know, the one you’re not quite sure is your dream job yet, but you think about it when you’re standing on your feet for 8 hours a night, waiting tables and driving alone at 2:00 am. 

I pray you finally finish those classes you’ve been taking and get that degree you’ve been working towards. I know it’s taken you longer than you expected. But might I suggest it’s actually taking you the perfect amount of time? Perhaps you were always supposed to be here, right where you are now, because God’s been working on something BIG for you. And if it were to come at any other time, if you were to finish any sooner than he had planned for you to be finished, it wouldn’t be perfect timing. And if there’s anything we know about Him, it’s that his timing is always perfect. 

I pray you find the courage to leave home; to get out of the town you grew up in and see the world you’ve been dreaming about since you were 16. I hope you come to realize you’ll probably never save up as much as you think you should. That if you don’t leave now, you’ll always be chasing some imaginary number you believe will give you the security to uproot. I pray you realize life continues to move forward despite those extra zeroes in your bank account and that sometimes you have to build the boat out at sea. (I pray this for myself, too.)

I pray you find peace on your hardest days. That when you can’t get to sleep at night, and when you can’t pull yourself out of bed in the morning, you think about the beautiful life ahead of you. And even though it’s hard to imagine it right now, even though you have no idea how you’ll get there or when, I hope you find peace knowing this is not your forever; if it is not good, it is not finished yet. 

I pray you find love again. And I’m not talking can’t-eat-can’t-sleep-can’t-breathe-without-you kind of love. I’m talking the real thing. A love so much greater than all the other loves you’ve had in your life, it knocks you right off your feet. A love that pushes you to be better and encourages you to grow. A love so strong and secure, you could build mountains on it. A love that brings you closer to God and makes you laugh until your stomach hurts. I pray you find a love you can build a marriage on. A love that never falters. A love that isn’t perfect, simple, or easy, but so damn worth every pinch of effort, you’ll be thanking God every single day for bringing that person into your life. (I pray this for myself, too.)

I pray you forgive yourself for all of the things you swore you could have done better and for all the things you never did. Forgive yourself for the things you said and for the things you never had the courage to. 

But of all the things I pray for, I mostly pray for your happiness. Because I know how hard you’ve been working and I know how much you’ve been hurting. And even though it feels so far away from you right now, I encourage you to keep going. Keep working, keep praying, keep moving on.
Because I have faith one day this will all be worth it for you.

But since I can’t tell you all this myself, I’m writing this in hopes that it reaches you one day.

I really hope this reaches you one day.

to my heart, on the hard days

it’s natural to want to shy away from the pain,
to stay far from the places you used to go
to shove the pictures in a box under the bed
and fall deaf to the music that brings memories.
it’s so much easier to say, ‘i don’t care anymore, i’m over it,’
than it is to admit how much it really hurts.

but how can we can expect to grow from this experience
if we’re too busy pretending not to feel anything?
how do we expect to rebuild
when we refuse to let ourselves be broken?

out of sight, out of mind can only bring us so far
and you and I both know pretending to be unaffected by our losses
will only make it hurt longer,
like forcing a wound to heal before it’s been treated properly.

when will you understand the beauty in being so honest?
have you stopped to consider how brave it actually is
to reveal the most broken parts of yourself?
to present yourself to the world as you are now:
unfiltered and raw.

there’s no need to feel embarrassed by the depth
and intensity to which you have loved.
nor should you feel shame by how deeply
the loss of this love has affected you.

this isn’t a game; it never was.
there are no winners and losers here.
you have permission to put your
bravest face and i-dont-cares on the line
so you can say what’s really on your heart
‘this really fucking hurts today.’

so instead of running from the pain,
sit with it.
become friends with it.
lay it all down and cry out,

‘JESUS!
I can’t carry this anymore.
it’s too heavy.

please, it’s all yours.’

go ahead and surrender your pain
call out to God and let your heart break open
be unashamed and unafraid.

for it is only when we give it all to Him,
when we trust His plan,
when we PRAISE Him for the storm,
will we begin to feel the work He is performing in our lives.

so today, let us lay our dreams to rest
retire the plans we clung to.
it’s time to make way for His dream,
for His plan.

because I have faith,
that the plans we had for our life
cannot even hold a candle
to what He has in store for us.

xx.
ariana