Reinvention.

Version 2

Tonight I was decluttering my computer space and sorting through old documents in hopes of decluttering my mind and becoming the minimalist I aspire to be. I came across an article I wrote during the first few months of college and never posted. The article was simply titled “Reinvention.” It expressed the desire to reinvent my identity in college, move away from insecurities in high school, and become who I wanted to be. And yet I had found myself frustrated at the lack of genuine connection in college. So far college was a constant get-to-know-you game of introducing myself and excitedly making empty promises to hang out. I expressed my weariness at forever feeling new. I wanted to know people and for people to know me in a way I was never known in high school. Yet I concluded by reassuring myself that deep relationships would come in time and by committing to continue to introduce myself and make myself present until those relationships formed.

As a junior looking back on these reflections, I am overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness. Those deep relationships and genuine connections I longed for? Freshman-me was right. They have come with time. The desire to reinvent myself? When I surrendered that desire over and stopped aiming for a new identity, Jesus completely reinvented me. (Or perhaps, I am an invention in progress, being ideated over the years.)

Jesus flipped one hundred and eighty degrees all of my preconceived notions about my college experience. He flipped my major, my language of study, my summer opportunities, my leadership roles, my future career plans. And His plan has truly been SO much better than I could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

This afternoon a good friend and I reflected on the idea that people “find themselves” in college. And yet what we have found is not ourselves but our Jesus. The closer we get to Jesus and the more we discover who He is, the more we discover about ourselves. It’s beautiful irony. In finding Him, I have found myself.

I love myself more than I ever have. I am learning to fall in love with my imperfections and embrace my quirks. I am so much happier with the person I see in the mirror today than the person I saw a year ago. I have realized what makes my face light up and also what makes my heart ache. I have let go of things that caused me stress and embraced what gives me life. Slowly slowly I am continuing to find myself in Jesus.

I did not have to reinvent myself to get here. Even freshman-me realized faking an identity would probably end up leaving me empty. Instead I had to surrender my identity and allow my Maker to continue inventing me by His design. Sometimes it is a painful process. I have to continually surrender my insecurities over, and often I don’t see what God is doing. But His character never changes. He has answered the fears and desires I had years ago, and I trust He will keep answering the ones I offer up today.

Learning, not Learned

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetThey told me college would go by fast. I didn’t believe them. Four years felt like a long time to be away from family. And after first semester’s final exams, I thought to myself well, that was fun. 

But now the past two years have gone by in the blink of an eye. And I want to hold onto the next three semesters and tell them to just slow down. 

On my high school graduation announcements, I chose the verse Ephesians 3:20, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” That verse was true then and it is even more true now.

Now people are asking me about where I will be in the next three years. Where do you see yourself after college? What do you want to do with that major? What is your dream job?

My answer? I don’t know. 

Strangely, that answer doesn’t worry me. I’m okay with not knowing. The future is not calling. I don’t need to pick up. I’m learning my responsibility is to live right here, in the moment, taking the next right step. There is strange peace in knowing I can not mess up God’s plan for my life with one or two seemingly wrong decisions.

My job right now is to learn, to discover, to take in new information. And I’m learning far more than how to give a professional presentation, write a research brief, or balance a company’s balance sheet. (Praise the Lord.)

I am learning that I was not created to be productive; I was created to love God and love people–and sometimes that is the least “productive” but most important thing I can do. In the words of my roommate, we were created not to produce but to project. I am learning to project His peace, His grace, and His joy.

I am learning to keep short accounts. In being open, honest, and humble, there is immense healing.

I am learning to listen to people’s stories. I do not know or understand the experiences of my friends who are minorities, but I can be an ally when I am quiet and when I listen.

I am learning that making difficult, controversial decisions may lose me the respect of my peers. Yet I am also learning that when I am convicted of something, I must act. Knowledge calls for action.

I am learning that home is more ambiguous a word than I thought. Home is where my family is, it is where my body is, it is where I feel most at peace. Home is less of a place and more of a state of being. Home is not one but it can exist in many forms, yet its multiplicity does not decrease its significance.

I am learning to pay attention to the things that make my heart break. Often I would rather not care so that I can keep moving forward. But I am learning to take a step back, to sit in the pain, to allow myself to cry, and then to give it all to God.

I am learning that the Gospel is not for the fearless or the tearless. Jesus did not come for the strong. He came so that the weak would be strong and the broken would be whole and the fearful would know love.

I learning that I still cling to the past I long to be rid of. The same insecurities I thought I released are still a struggle. And sin continues to manifest itself in similar ways. And yet–there is grace for that.

I am learning that it is okay not to know what I have learned, but to simply know that I am learning.

Where is the good?

Version 2

God, where is the good?

Lately the cry of my heart has been for glimpses of His goodness. The past three months have been full. This summer has been the most challenging and most rewarding summer of my life. And so, fear wracked my heart as I prepared to head into a new semester. Fear that I would become stagnant. Fear that I would forget what it is like to feel alive. Fear that I would become overwhelmed and stressed and anxious all over again. Fear that I would become overly invested and wear myself out.

The past two weeks have been exactly that. I’ve felt dead inside. I’ve become overwhelmed with the constant motion of life. I’ve felt like I’m running and can’t breathe. My empathy has become toxic. I am tempted to withdraw from life.

On mornings like this morning, I am on the brink of tears from the moment I wake up. The bad seems to be overshadowing the good. Transition is hard. My friends and their families are struggling. The news headlines only project negativity. Oh God, where is the good?

And so He shows me.

He shows me good in laughter with friends, windows rolled down, and music playing loud. When we sat on the edge of a lake eating ice cream and talking about the realities of life. When we rode around a small town in the back of a pickup truck.

He shows me the good in the flowers that spring from the Earth and the changing of the leaves. When I stopped to admire the colors of fall and marveled at tiny creatures hanging from thin branches. And I realized, God cares for even the smallest of these.

He shows me the good in conversations with friends. As a good friend walks into my house and everything feels right in the world again. When that friend and I take a walk, stopping to buy expensive (organic) chocolate and reminiscing about our summers, but mostly asking each other the hard questions of life.

He shows me the good in His Word. When a speaker shares a message that shakes me to the core and I am reminded of His faithfulness. In that moment when I can’t even hear the worship band because of the voices singing loudly around me and I turn to see so many hands lifted up in praise.

He shows me the good when a friend texts me to remind me she is praying for me. And when my mom sends me Scripture on a Monday morning because she knows right where I am emotionally, and she also knows what I need.

Yes, this is the good.

I have to constantly remind myself of the good. I so easily get consumed by the realities of life. I forget that God is faithful and worthy of my trust. I forget too quickly that He has already won the ultimate victory over sin and death. And I often disregard the fact that this world and its struggles are only temporary.

Talking to a friend today, I was convicted that I so easily become worried and negative because I don’t trust that God is actually working all things out for good. When it comes down the root, I simply  don’t believe that I can trust Him to handle my struggles. I focus so much on finding the next “high” and the next “good” thing that I lose sight of the fact that He is good.

So today as I carry a heart heavy from the pain of my friends and the hurt in the world, my soul whispers, show me the good… And I know He will. Because that’s just who He is. He is good.

 

Straight Outta Summer #1

Straight OuttaAll summer I have been wrapped up in the pursuit of an answer. What will God teach me? What is God teaching me? What has God taught me? I’m mulling over that third one a lot now, as the end of summer draws near (*sob*). All these experiences & emotions & people & places—where do they fit in my story, in God’s story?

A few nights ago, my mom and I were in the kitchen, after a long political conversation around the supper table. A lot of processing at that meal. Then more processing in the kitchen. Always processing. I was talking about politics and me and where I fit in. And in the middle of some well-thought-out point, it hit me. The summer came together in a giant firework display over my head.

IDENTITY.

If there’s one thing God has been teaching me this summer it is the lesson of identity. My identity lies in Him. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I thought I learned this in high school. I went over to West Africa to teach this lesson to children. But I guess I needed to be reminded of it again.

Because as I’ve been analyzing my summer from the perspective of non-intern me, the common thread running through my summer is plucked out. And it is illuminated in 3 areas. Ready for honest talk with Phebe again? Here we go.

My political views do not define me.

For as long as I can remember, I have been bold in my political opinions. I remember being a 3rd grader and discussing Bush’s re-election campaign with my Sunday school teacher, who wasn’t convinced of his ability. I certainly was. For whatever reason… I can’t even remember now. I wore my “Viva Bush” shirt with pride and counted campaign signs on the way to school. Yep, I was that kid. In high school, I volunteered for political campaigns, handed out ballets on election day, and watched the presidential debates. Most of my friends could care less. But I if they were willing, I was always up for a political discussion.

Then I reach college. I immediately run for secretary of the College Republicans. I go to CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in the spring. Without getting into too much detail, that weekend changed my perspective. Here I was, surrounded by the top conservative minds in the country, and I didn’t feel the thrill and pull that I thought I would. Everything felt so shallow and superficial. I came away from that weekend realizing one thing: I love America but I love Jesus a whole lot more.

I had defined myself. I wasn’t just conservative in my politics. I was a right-wing conservative.

Through conversations at college and over this summer, my views have started shifting. I’m realizing that I’m not always “right” (in both senses of that word) and that is okay. At first I was terrified. Without my right-wing views, who was I? If I didn’t want to have a career in politics, then where did my future lie? Most importantly, was I letting people down?

I still love politics: the debates, the discussions, the documentaries. The difference is that I’m still figuring out what I believe and I’m not placing my identity in my political beliefs. I don’t think Jesus would have been a “capitalist” or a “socialist;” He wouldn’t have been a “republican” or a “democrat.” He wasn’t apolitical. But He wasn’t defined by the world’s political stigmas or labels.

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: I don’t want people to remember my political beliefs; I want people to remember my Jesus.

My body does not define me.

This has been a weird summer for me and my body. I have felt beautiful. (*Gasp* Can I admit that in a public space?) But the flaws that I see in myself have also been accentuated. I’ve been insecure about my height, my spider veins, and my nose. My siblings have been laying on the height jokes hard this summer. Oh, and my brother is now 4 inches taller than me, and one of my sisters is almost as tall as me. So that’s great too. But I’m done with the body slamming, because it’s miserable to feel miserable (I have a way with words, I know). So I’m taking back my body and owning it.

I love my spider veins. The way they add color to white, white legs. The way they make me just a bit closer to being Spider Man. The way they are hereditary—inherited from two strong, beautiful women, whose genetics I am honored to carry with me. The way a friend commented that one set looks like a smiley face—and I’ll rejoice that I carry positivity marked on my body.

I love my height: my 5-foot, 3-(and a half) inch frame that enables me to climb through playground obstacles after my sisters with relative ease. That means I have to climb on the counter to reach my tea, which is a lot of fun when the parents aren’t looking. That allows me to fit my whole body in a reading chair and under a blanket. That keeps me humble and reminds me to laugh at myself.

I love my nose, the nose that is a perfect blend of my mother’s and my father’s noses, and matches the sister who reminds me of myself. The nose that stands straight out on my face, that defines my profile, that is my one sharp facial feature, that represents elegance and strong will in one.

No, my body does not define me. I think of how we label people by the way they look. I’ve heard friends do it this summer. I’ve been labeled. How thankful I am that the way people perceive me does not dictate my identity. But I throw this out there: when will we choose to stop looking at the body and start looking at the person?

My summer internship does not define me.

I went from attending a gala with state dignitaries and attending cocktail receptions to standing in front of the scanner for hours. I’ve been frustrated by the lack of eternal impact this summer has seemed to have. It’s been fun, relaxing, adventurous, exciting, restful, also busy. But then I have friends who are serving in Cambodia, or Uganda, or China. And I’m here, in Washington DC, hanging out with fascinating minds, eating good food, and spending my days in air conditioning looking at 20th century musical scripts. Sometimes I feel like the lesser Christian.

Yet a mentor reminded me that God’s perspective is much larger and wilder than mine. The things that He is doing I may not see now, or ever, but He is always working. He does not stop. The things that I can’t see are the things that are eternal.

And observing people on the Metro and interacting with academics have reminded me—Jesus is needed everywhere. Wherever He opens up opportunities and places me for a time, that’s where He wants me. All I have to do is follow.

Stay tuned for #2, where I discuss where my identity lies and who I actually am! Coming to you straight outta summer and (hopefully) in a few days.

11 Things: Closing (and starting) Freshman Year

I’ve been home for three days. Over the past few weeks, as freshman year has drawn to close, I started thinking about what I’ve learned this year. (Check out my first semester list here.) If a new freshman were to ask me what they should know, what would I tell him or her?

Without further ado, here are 11 things I learned and they (you) should know!

  1. You will miss home more than you think.

I’ll start honestly, right off the bat. I learned too late in the year that it’s all right to mourn being away from home. The first month or so (at least for me), I got swept up in the novelty of college life and didn’t take time to realize how life was changing. And so, when it finally hit me, it hit me hard. I was ashamed of how I felt, because everyone around me seemed relatively fine and excited about being away from home. And all I wanted was to be back with my family. Everything around you is changing, life is not normal, and you are going to miss home. I struggled with homesickness for a large portion of my second semester. You somehow have to process the change that you are going through. What I know now, and what I wish someone would have told me, is that missing your family is not a sign of weakness, but it’s a sign that you have something beautiful. Being an adult is hard, but we all learn, we all go through it, and (most of us) come out just fine.

  1. Go to office hours.

The classes that I enjoyed the most were the ones where I had a good relationship with my professor. Go to office hours and find out who your TA is (if you have one). Usually they will be intelligent, interesting, and helpful. Personal example: During the last review session, I found out that my Macroeconomics TA was super friendly and helpful. She looked at Macro from a Micro perspective because she preferred Micro (as do I), and taking the time to attend her sessions earlier may have saved me from suffering. Moral of the story: go to office hours early. You don’t have to go back if they turn out to be unhelpful or rude, but most of the time your professors and TAs will be good allies, and it’s great to have a professor/upperclassman know your name.

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  1. Give people grace. We’re all trying to figure out how to do life.

Somebody borrows a cooking pot and leaves it dirty in the kitchen? Won’t ruin your day. Hall mates decide to throw a party when you are sick in bed and want to sleep? You will survive. When a friend seems to be ignoring you or not communicating, there is often more to the story. Everyone at college is trying to figure out how to balance homework, family issues, social events, club commitments, etc. You will be a lot happier if you just treat everyone with respect and love upfront.

  1. You do you. (Don’t play the comparison game.)

One of the most unnerving things is looking around and thinking everybody else has it all together. Let me tell you a secret: they don’t… and they probably feel like you do. We compare our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel. It’s a sad fact of human nature and a social-media obsessed world. As we say on Brown Hall 2nd floor, you do you. You are unique. You are beautiful. You are talented. At college (and especially at a school like William & Mary), you are one in a pool of very impressive people. And you too have something to offer! Keep doing what you love. Keep up with the study habits that work for you. Try new things. But don’t feel the need to be anyone else… but you!

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  1. Give yourself room to change.

At the same time, give yourself room to find out who you really are. What makes you happy? What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to be? College is a chance to recreate yourself. And it’s one of the last opportunities you have to freely and honestly explore your identity. Don’t try to be the same person you were in high school. Some things are going to change by circumstance (I’ve become more socially outgoing), but others you get to decide (I’ve become more passionate about environmental issues). Figure out what you like about yourself and what you would like to do differently. And then, go do!

  1. Write down your first impressions.

This is definitely something I wish I had done! Take the time to write down what you think of your roommate, the person across the hall, your RA, your bathroom, and the dining hall. You will thank me later. You’ll want to remember what you first thought as a baby freshman. And first impressions make for pretty great conversation later on…IMG_4717 - Version 2

  1. Invest in people who make your life more wonderful. And let the others go.

This applies to both high school friends and college ones. You get to choose who you keep in touch with from high school. College is a busy, go-go-go time and the truth is that you will have limited time to spend with people. So choose wisely. Invest in people who challenge you, inspire you, and make you laugh. Invest in people who will encourage you. But also invest in the people who you can be there for and who you can minister Jesus’s love to. Choose an inner circle of friends and confidants. As far as the rest… be polite, smile, say hello, ask how they are doing, but let them go.

  1. IMG_4810Your morning devotion time may be the only moment of peace you get.

College is all about running the race well. As I said above, life is busy. Some days you won’t even have a chance to slow down. So intentionally use your morning devotion time. Most mornings you will be tempted to read quickly and move on to your impending homework (or you will be tempted to hit snooze 10 times). Yet that quiet half hour, or however long, may be the only time you have to center your thoughts and breathe. So take advantage of it. You will never regret spending some extra God-time. And He will reward the time you take for Him.

  1. Leave your door open.

One of my most favorite things in the world is a spontaneous conversation that goes deep real fast. This won’t happen if you seclude yourself from the world in your tiny dorm room. Yes, homework is important, but so are people. You will miss out on the spontaneous: the laughter, jokes, dance parties, political debates, religious discussions, and opportunities to help. Keep that door open and the best will happen. (And do your serious studying outside the dorm.) This is how you build those lasting friendships…. and find quality tweets…

  1. Being in over your head is a good place to be.

A summary of this semester would be “in over my head.” I knew at the beginning of the year that this would be a semester to persist. Taking 17 credits of difficult classes was a lot. Add cold weather, dark days, sickness, busy weekends, homesickness, a packed schedule, and competitive academics. I was overwhelmed and exhausted by the first few weeks. But I learned to humble myself, allow people to support me, and rely on God for my strength. Being in over your head is a beautiful place to be, because when you can’t do it on your own, God’s glory is demonstrated more fully in your life. You will have more than you can bear sometimes, but Jesus holds you and strengthens you the whole way.

  1. This year will (most likely) be the hardest and best year of your life so hard.

If someone were to ask me how my freshman year was, that’s how I would simply describe it. This year was the hardest. I made mistakes, I was lonely and homesick, I experienced frequent illness, I had to learn how to be independent, I had to deal with tragedy away from my family, I was mentally exhausted, I was pushed academically, etc, etc. Yet it was also the best. I made wonderful friends, I tried new things, I achieved many small (and big) victories, I went on adventures, I was independent, I grew spiritually, and I fell in love with a college and a town. I realized this year just how hard life is and how messed up our world is. Yet through it, I also learned more about myself and became happier in who I am.

That’s freshman year in 11 sentences (well, quite a bit more than that). For all you who are about to graduate high school and head into this grand new adventure, that’s what I wished someone would have told me. Now you know. Go and do college grandly!

— Phebe

  

Spring Break Review

… because I couldn’t come up with a title more unique than that. (Give me a break, I’ve been on a break!)

This week was exactly what I needed. Originally I was going to be doing an Instagram campaign for an ethical fashion brand, Sseko (www.ssekodesigns.com), as one of their Spring Break advocates. However, my shoes didn’t come in time, so my social media advocacy will have to wait until later in the month. (But stay tuned for a post about Sseko and why I support them!) Although I was initially disappointed, because I had plans for photo shoots, adventures, etc., God knew what I needed. The week was instead spent at home, seeing only a few close friends, and having quality time with my sisters and mother.

My week was filled with delicious, healthy, organic food (which brings me much joy after a college student, cafeteria food diet), princess movies, manicures and pedicures, tea parties, and shopping trips. And nothing beats being at home, where one can curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and talk to a loving, wise mother in person.

A few more snapshots from my week…

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A “Chocolate Library” found in the mall — two of my favorite things in life collide

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the newness of Spring calls for change

A pile of Barbies on the floor is a sign that I’m home, that imagination exists, and that childhood is a good mess.

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Through the honesty of a friend, I’ve also been convicted about my current addiction to social media. So I’ve given it up just for the weekend, and will be limiting my use of any social media, except that which pertains to my Sseko advocacy for the next few weeks. I am hoping that a break from this constant bombardment of information will give me a chance for more productivity in classwork, more opportunities to read substantial articles, and more time with God.

Speaking of articles, here are a few gems I’ve found during the week.

Coast to Coast: Insta Honest In a generation of social media, where it’s easy to display only the best side of ourselves, how can we use this media to reach out to others? How can we be genuine?

Hosanna: Reclaiming a Fatherless Generation A beautifully written article on the image of God as our Father and the redemption of His love. (Also, check out the rest of Hosanna’s blog–she does spoken word and creativity workshops!)

Alison Marie Smith: When Home Isn’t Home During a time when I’m feeling especially reluctant to go back to college (and also worrying that I’ll never be able to fully live on my own), it’s good to be reminded that I’m not alone in my loneliness.

A prayer that I want to begin praying over the last two months of my first year at college (also from Alison Marie Smith):

Jesus, we long for you to meet us in our mess- to sit with us, to mourn with us, to pick up the pieces and put us back together again. As we wade through the mess of our lives and the mess of our world, help us to know that you are in the middle of it with us. Help us to find joy in the fact that you came and entered into our chaos and that you will come again to make all things new and whole. Amen. 

Here’s to the breaks – may they remind us of how good it feels to rest and be loved. And here’s to the chaos – may we remember that Christ is ever-present in our messiness.

– – Phebe

A Night Divine

During this Christmas season, my ears were opened to the truth sung in our traditional carols. The words are often repeated and heard so often that we sing them mindlessly. The music stirs joy in our hearts, but we don’t pay much attention to the actual lyrics. (Or at least that’s true for me.) But this year, on three different occasions, I heard “O Holy Night” and realized how the words proclaim the “reason for the season.”

I copied the lyrics below and put some of my favorite lines in bold.

O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices.
O night divine O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
O night divine, O night, O night divine

So much of the holiday focuses on the story of the Nativity (which is important indeed). Yet the significance of the story is forgotten in the sweetness of the manger scene.

Jesus was born in a stable, amidst the chaos of shepherds, wise men, farm animals, and two new parents. God incarnate was there in the crowded, dirty, smelly stable. Life is messy. And on that divine night, God joined us in the messiness. He was no longer a stranger to our weakness and chaos.

The significance of the Nativity story is that God chose to be with us in our messed up world. Because He loved us, He joined us. His love was proven; the soul felt its worth. The Nativity story gives us purpose and importance.

As a result, we have hope. The birth in a manger led to death on a cross. The cross broke our chains. And so, a birth defeated death. The hope is that we no longer have to fear the world. Evil has been conquered. 

Because God joined us, loved us, and defeated death, we have a mission: to spread love and peace. There’s a lot of anxiety, pain, and sorrow in the world tonight. Until Jesus comes back, there’s not a lot we can do to get rid of the evil. Yet we can do as Jesus taught us, loving the world and living in peace. I’m not good at it, but I’m reminded of the significance of small acts of kindness.

So tomorrow, as we open gifts, read the Christmas story, and sing carols, let us remember why we celebrate Jesus’ birth. The words of “O Holy Night” say it much better than I ever could. The lyrics are familiar but ring ever so true.

Listen to Rend Collective’s rendition here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnPMWpwGiA8.

Merry Christmas!

– – Phebe

day four: be in nature

I’m currently writing this post in a cabin in the woods with no WiFi. I’m spending the weekend with 30 other college students from InterVarsity at Virginia Beach. After a long and trying week, I was so excited to get off campus. And now that I’m here, I am so thankful.

Getting away has been wonderful. God is so good. I love being surrounded by a community of believers again. So refreshing. Being able to unplug from school and technology has also been so relaxing. This morning we were singing songs, enveloped in nature, worshipping the Creator. Beautiful.

This afternoon we went to the beach. The salt water is healing for the soul and body. I feel renewed and reinvigorated. Community. Laughter. Conversations. Small group. New friends. Worship. The weekend is exactly what I needed to be ready for another week of school. I am so encouraged to know that these people are willing to walk through life with me on campus. I can sense that the deep friendships I’ve been waiting for are beginning to take root. And, oh, it is good.

I’ve been tempted to think about what’s waiting for me when I get back on campus. But “being” is present. I want to live in the moment. So I’m taking things as they come. Accepting that it’s okay to not be busy. To rest. And to play.

– – Phebe

New Guest Blog!

I am so excited to announce a new collaboration between God Gazing and Little Hobbit! I had the pleasure to write for its first ever guest blog post, which was published today. Little Hobbit is a lifestyle blog that focuses on looking good and feeling great. Most importantly, its author, Kiersten, also desires to share Christ through her writing.

I had the opportunity to write about an issue that is near and dear to my heart: the environment. I have recently become interested in environmental issues as I took delight in the world around me and wanted to find ways to preserve raw beauty. In this article, I explore what God thinks about environmental issues and how you can take some simple steps to become more environmentally-friendly.

You can read the article HERE!

Dating vs. Courtship *Spoiler* Neither Wins

Recently there has been an article going around Facebook titled “Why Courtship Is Fundamentally Flawed.” The article has been praised and shared by many of my friends, all of whom I respect very much. However, I would like to address why this article is fundamentally flawed.

Check out the article here. It is quite long, but a skim will give you the main ideas.

There are a few things I appreciate about the article. First, I applaud the author for starting a discussion on a sensitive subject. The pros and cons of courtship absolutely need to be evaluated, especially within the homeschool community.

Second, I also appreciate that the author defines traditional courtship and traditional dating. While the idea of name-calling relationship methods bothers me, it is important to have an understanding of the basis and intent of different methods.

Third, the author does uncover many of the flaws of the traditional habit of courtship, including exclusivity in a relationship, high parental control that can lead to rejection, and the lack of “getting to know someone”. The author argues that courtship can lead to frustration in a relationship, because there becomes a level of seriousness before the individuals have had a chance to get to know each other or other potential partners. In traditional courtship, everything is serious and everything is monitored. I agree with the author that it is important for parents to trust their children and for individuals to get to know each other in an informal context.

However, I also found there to be several problems with the article itself. The author sounds bitter towards courtship, based on his judgmental tone towards the subject. His bitterness leads to a a one-sided discussion of courtship. The article is obviously pro-dating and as a result, does not consider the other side of the argument. The author points out that courtship has led to a higher divorce rate, but his statement is based solely on personal observation. The author supports dating because it is “fun” and has “less heartbreak”. Both of these points are valid, but not absolutes. In addition, his tips for single men and women do not include a discussion of age and maturity—both of which are essential for a healthy relationship.

I don’t want to discuss whether “dating” or “courtship” is the right approach. Here’s what I would like to argue: There is no one-size-fits-all method. The discussion of both points of view would have made his article much more credible.

The “traditional dating” method, as practiced by our grandparents generation, is promoted by the author. As defined by the author, traditional dating refers to going on multiple dates with different people during a short span of time. Both of my grandparents were part of this generation. One pair of grandparents have been happily married for sixty years. The other pair divorced many years ago. In regard to non-traditional dating, my childhood mentor dated only one man and is now happily married to him.

All this to say, there is no tried and true method for finding your marriage partner. And there is no assured method to success.

Since I'm talking about relationships, I had to use the cutest couple that ever graced television.

Since I’m talking about relationships, I had to use a picture of the cutest couple to ever grace television.


Some people defend courtship because they believe the process is more godly. The author argues that courtship is not Biblical. I agree. But neither is dating. The Bible does not discuss either. It’s a “grey area.” What the Bible does discuss is purity – emotional and physical – and the pursuit of righteousness.

So how should Christians respond to the courtship vs. dating debate? How should Christians go about having godly relationships?

Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

I would contend that seeking God is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. And God is the ONLY thing truly worth pursuing. When we are in God’s will and following His commands, we will be blessed.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

When we actively seek God and find joy in Him, the desires of our heart will become aligned with His. We will end up receiving the desires of God’s heart. His desire for us is to live in relationship with Him, seeking to love Him and love others.

When we are living a life to honor God, we will find our identity in Him.

God’s will is not for us to find our identity in a relationship with any human. I believe that God’s desire for His children in any relationship is to honor Him. The purpose of marriage is for a man and a woman to seek and obey God together. And I believe He wants the same for our relationships before marriage, whether we call it “dating” or “courtship.”

In either situation, we will be tempted.

In either situation, emotional heartbreak can occur.

No method will ever fix these problems, unless God is the main focus in our lives. And even then, we will still be hurt. Our response through relationship struggles should be to turn to God for healing and love.

In the words of Jesus, the greatest commandment is to…

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” (Matthew 22:37).

No matter your method, you won’t have a happy relationship until you achieve that first.

And you will never have a perfect relationship on this earth. Whether you choose to date or court before marriage, when you choose to get married, you choose to love the other person unconditionally. It is not fair to blame your parents or your relationship habits for your marriage struggles. Marriage is a covenant before God. (But that’s a discussion for another blog post…)

One final topic I would like to address: The author argues that traditional dating is the system to to help young people make good decisions. He also writes, “Traditional Dating fits our culture like a glove.”

As Christians, our goal should not be to “fit” the culture. We should look different.

I leave you with this:

Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (NLT).

God’s will is for you to love Him with everything. Whether you choose to “date” or “court,” seek to stand out in the culture as an example of what real love looks like. (Hint: it looks like Jesus.)

– – Phebe