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Earlier this year, February to be exact, I had a regular check up with my primary care doctor. What was meant to be like any other yearly physical, turned into an unexpected road to heart surgery.
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These past few years have been spent with my head down plugging away in my program. All nighter after all nighter, countless weekends spent in studio and hours working on projects refining my skills. I’ve enjoyed the time being pushed by my professors, my creative peers and my dreams that seemed far on the horizon.
I’ve finally come up for air to realize that graduation is on the horizon. My parents called me today to discuss my graduation party and the budget for it. That’s how close this is to completion.
For so long it was too far away with so much work to do to get there. I couldn’t even imagine what finishing would look like and what it would look like after I finish.
Instead I have been building up my necessary skills to advance in the program, creating my portfolio, applying for and getting into studio, starting Junior studio and then moving over the hall to Senior studio to work on thesis. Now here I am, with thesis completion and graduation slowly creeping up on me.
With this realization, it’s time to self-reflect and make sure my next steps align with all the hard work I’ve been pushing towards these last few years.
Pausing and finding time to ask questions that make sure you are striving in the right direction is important, especially when you've found yourself nearing an end of a chapter to start a new one.
Here are the questions that I’m asking myself to make sure I am moving in the right direction post-graduation.
This program has grown and stretched me in countless ways and I’m eager to see what is to come post-graduation.
Now my challenge for you is to pause, reflect and re-evaluate your goals and make sure you are pressing towards them in a realistic fashion. It’s a great exercise, especially when you’re plugging away at something with no reference as to where you are going next.
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In the worlds eyes, you will never be good enough.
Skinny enough, tall enough, talkative enough, pretty enough, etc.
Stop looking to the world.
Stop looking in the mirror.
Look outside yourself, look to the One who created you. The one who fills your lungs with breath and gives you the power to run to the beat of His heart.
You are chosen.
You are a child of God.
God knew your name before you were born.
He knows all your mistakes, your fears, your stumbles and he loves you the same.
He doesn't want you to be chained to insecurity or to be chained to comparing.
God has made you perfect. Yes, you were created in His image. Genesis one, we were created in the image of God.
Flawless in His sight. Set apart. Redeemed.
Sing that over your life and you will never have to look to the world for your identity ever again.
There's no shame in admitting that we all stumble. There is power in recognizing the things that keep us from living out what God has called us to do.
I've been there. I've lost my identity to a relationship and once it fell apart I couldn't stand to look in the mirror because my identity came from a person, a person that is imperfect like us all.
If you stand rooted in what God has spoken over your life, you will never have to look to the world for your identity. You won't have to compare and you won't have to look for outside validation in relationships.
John 8: 3-32 MSG
"Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. "If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you."
I hope this encouraged you and reminded you that your identity comes from God, not this world.
Check out the worship song that inspired this post, "no longer slaves" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYB_mElJtTI
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I know from experience how it feels to walk into a new place and not know anyone, but long to be known or at least acknowledged. My natural inclination is to try to blend into the wall and hope no one notices that I’m new and out of place.
Two years ago, when I first walked into the Garden Church I snuck past everyone at the coffee station, pried open the doors to the auditorium and took the furthest seat in the back that I could find. It was dark and I was early, so the band was still rehearsing.
Shortly after moving to Long Beach I went through a terrible breakup with a long term boyfriend. I was new to the city, my university and felt very alone. My roommate saw the turmoil I was in and suggested I check out the Garden. She attended a different church on Saturdays, so I went alone. I was uneasy and I just wanted to sit in the back, blend in and then leave as soon as possible.
Since the breakup was so recent, I could feel myself ready to unravel at any moment. Walking in with swollen eyes from crying all night took a tremendous amount of courage.
As I was sitting alone, fidgeting with my phone, a lady approached me and introduced herself, asked for my name and wanted to know if I was new. She was very warm and inviting, and from our conversation I found out that her family knew the Pastors at my old church back home, which in my mind reassured me that I wasn’t walking into a cult. Later on, I realized that she was the Pastor's mom, which was pretty cool.
The conversation was short and brief, but it was the pivotal reason I came back. I continued to sit alone in the back and observe every week. After a few months of coming by myself and leaving quickly, I decided to reach out to the college age community group to possibly join.
My roommate joyfully supported me and went with me for the first community group gathering. I could tell right away that this was a special group of people. I continued to show up and thankfully I call them all friends to this day.
Entering the unknown can be scary and plain hard. Just driving to church that day was difficult, but I knew I couldn’t make it without joining community and facing my brokenness.
Looking back, I can’t remember the message that was preached that day. I’m sure it was a great one, but what I remember was the small act of kindness the woman showed by reaching out and saying hello. It was so simple, yet it had a huge impact on why I decided to keep coming back.
As humans we all want to feel welcomed and acknowledged, so I encourage you to be the person to approach someone you don’t know and make them feel accepted. As Christ followers, we should go out of our way to make others feel known and loved. You never know the impact you can have on someone’s life just by saying hello.
If you’re the person who is coming alone and sitting in the back, I encourage you to keep showing up and reaching out to join and create community. Life is hard enough and you shouldn’t have to go through it alone.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” Romans 15:5
Thanks for checking out this blog, I hope it encourages you to step out for those who are new or over looked, you never know what that small act of kindness will do to make them feel loved and accepted.
If you're in the area and want to check out my church, I would love to sit with you!
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"Be A Fountain, Not a Drain"
I heard this quote recently while listening to an Andy Stanley podcast one late night while working away at another project. Andy Stanley is a pastor at North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He is pretty awesome, extremely wise and someone I enjoy learning from. I know that isn't a quote originally from him, but since I heard it, it has been etched in my memory. It made me stop and reflect on my own friendships and how I interact with people relationally. Yesterday was one of those days that I walked away from hanging out with friends thinking, wow, thank you Jesus for these life giving people.
Maddie and Kristen drove down yesterday to see my apartment, explore Long Beach and catch up. These two remind me of the power of being a fountain. When they left I felt more empowered, full of life and encouraged to take on anything. I truly believe that this is how friendships should be, especially when your friends are actively pursing a relationship with Christ. This is a direct reflection of the fruit that He is producing in their life. These types of friends don't spend time tearing people down, gossiping or bringing any negativity to the table. Instead, they pour into you and others, spread joy and point you towards Christ with their every action. No, this does not mean that they are perfect or have everything figured out, but it does mean that they're seeking guidance. These types of friends are constantly seeking what is lasting and their lives reflect that. Every time I leave interactions with friends like this I don't feel drained or like the life has been sucked out of me. Instead, I feel empowered to be a better person and friend. These are the friends that we should all aspire to be like.
I'm sure we can all pinpoint friends in our lives that leave us feeling exhausted, empty and drained after every interaction. All of us can agree that friendships like that are hard. They're not friendships that you want to be around continuously. Strive to be different. Don't model your friendships after people like that. I've always been told to never compare yourself to the worst person in the room in order to make yourself feel better about what you're doing. Instead look to the person that is doing better and strive to be like them. Figure out why they make you feel empowered and do the same to others around you. Maybe they're a good listener or encourager and that's something that you need to work on. When you are seeking to be more like Christ, you will start to be the person that flows like a fountain to those around you instead of draining the energy out of the room.
So friends, I just want to encourage you to be a fountain NOT a drain. Encourage, empower and uplift people. Leave people better than you found them.
Kristen took all these photos and she did a little blog post of our day together! Here's the link to her blog kristenellingson.com/