Advice to Myself for the New Year: A List of Resolutions

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making resolutions; in fact, I make them year-round. Keeping them is much more difficult for me than making them, though, but I like the idea of following through and seeing them be made complete. Here are a few that I’ve been thinking about for a while. The fresh start of a new year is the perfect time to begin!

A List of Resolutions for a Happy New Year

Be more confident

Emilee, why do you walk around like you have a reason to be ashamed of yourself? You don’t have to apologize for not wearing makeup or having a few acne scars. You don’t have to keep fighting against your weight or trying to reshape your body. God made you perfectly, remember? If you’re good enough for him, you’re good enough for yourself.

Be friendlier

A lifelong fear of being awkward or saying the wrong thing has kept you at a distance from most people, and it sure hasn’t earned you many friends. But you often encounter people who rarely get any human interaction, so why not take the opportunity to brighten their day a little? After all, a little small talk and a smile will break the awkwardness of any quiet waiting room or restroom line.

Improve my driving skills

Ok, so you’re not the best driver. You’re a little aggressive, and you have a heavy foot, and sometimes you don’t see stop signs…so slow down and start paying attention, Emilee! Your driver’s ed teacher would be ashamed.

Be a better neighbor

There are 30+ dogs in your neighborhood. It does absolutely no good to yell at them and chase them off, because they will inevitably come back and dig up your flower garden again. And then your offended neighbors won’t even try to stop them. Maybe invest in a fence.

Stop procrastinating

You somehow managed to pass three classes this semester by cramming in the last three hours before the tests. But the stress wasn’t worth it, now was it? You know what mom always says…”Why do it later when you can do it now?”

Get creative

Use that new journal you got for Christmas and write every day. Finish up that portrait you’ve been working on since two summers ago. Start painting again—get into the habit and maybe you’ll be able to open your own Etsy store. That would be sweet!

Kick my sugar addiction

It’s NOT acceptable to eat Christmas cookies for every meal, Emilee. They’re getting stale. Throw them out.

Gain some willpower

If you can give up the sugar, you are definitely ready for other challenges. Think of all the things you could accomplish: giving up aimless internet surfing, getting off the couch instead of watching hours of Netflix movies, training for that half-marathon this summer…I know you have it in you!

See myself how God sees me

You know the truth, but you’ve been avoiding it: you have to get into your Bible to know who you are in Christ. His truths are what you need, not self-help books or talk shows or internet campaigns. These are great and encouraging and all, but without God’s word, you’re missing something. You will never be able to fill that hole in your identity without him.

Seek God everyday

Speaking of which, your faith has gotten a little stale, and the fire isn’t going to be reignited by happenstance. You know you need to read your Bible and pray every day, so get back in the habit. Don’t keep ignoring God, don’t keep pushing him away, and don’t allow yourself to drift any farther than you already have. This is important, so if you don’t accomplish any of the rest of these resolutions, at least check this one off.

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IMG_1563 Emilee Hackney is a recent high school graduate living in the
mountains in Tazewell, VA. She is attending a local college
this fall where she hopes to discover God’s plan for her career. She
loves her grandma’s house, her boyfriend of three and a half years,
and anything with an unhealthy amount of sugar.

 

4 Lessons in 4 Years

Crockett and I have been together for four years now. We met when we were very young, both still in high school, and we have grown together and in God so much since then. Today I wanted to share a few of the most important life lessons he’s shown me (even though he probably doesn’t realize it).

4 Lessons in 4 Years

  1. What faith means

Crockett and I didn’t become Christians until several months into our relationship when an onslaught of challenges made it a necessity—we had nowhere else to turn, not even to each other, and so we found God in the process. I mostly turned to Christianity because I thought it would fix my problems (which it did not) and completely change my life (which it did, but not in a way I could have ever imagined).

I was shocked when my life became more difficult after accepting Jesus, as if believing in him would simply perfect my life. Every little challenge I faced made me want to give up my new faith. It wasn’t supposed to be that hard, right? But I witnessed Crockett face enormous difficulties and hardship over the years of our relationship, things I would never want to face—and he kept strong in his faith. In fact, it grew exponentially. No adversity or evil thing could steal his joy and trust in God, and I found myself admiring him. I wanted to be like that. His is a faith that was never shaken, that no circumstances could derail.

  1. How to relax

On a date with Crockett a few years ago, I had a huge bulging pimple that even makeup couldn’t cover up. As he was driving, I sat staring at this particular pimple in the visor mirror, wishing it away. I’d fold the mirror up, then pull it down a few seconds later to look at the pimple again. Then I’d fold it up, and pull it down, look again, fold it up, pull it down…I must have done this a dozen times. A very perplexed Crockett finally asked me what I was doing, and I practically yelled, “I NEED MY FACE TO BE PERFECT!” I can’t remember if I burst into tears, but knowing me, it’s pretty likely.

I was born wanting every aspect of my life to be totally under my own control, rather than just accepting it for what it is. This is our biggest difference: perfectionism is my own worst enemy, and Crockett accepts things as they come. I’ve asked him how he can be so relaxed when there are a million things to do and chaos is everywhere, and the reason is that he knows God is in control of our situations, so worrying and stressing doesn’t do any good. I try to keep that in mind every time I start to feel overwhelmed. Hopefully I’ve become a little more laid back than I used to be.

  1. How to be generous

I was raised to take care of myself before others. I’m not saying this is always wrong or blaming anyone in any way, because when you don’t have much you instinctively want to keep and save as much for yourself as possible. As a result, I’m just not a giver. A few dollars in the Salvation Army bucket isn’t uncommon for me, but I wouldn’t even tithe until recently because 10 percent was just too much.

Now Crockett hasn’t always been generous—he may not realize this, but he was far less willing to give when he had more than enough to live by. Then when his financial situation became a little less stable, I noticed him suddenly leaving really nice tips, donating instead of selling, volunteering in the community, paying for items to give away out of his own pocket…what a change God worked in his heart! He has become a cheerful giver in spite of what he has. Every time I see him commit another act of generosity, it makes me want to do the same.

  1. How to be less selfish

Besides showing me how to be generous with my money, Crockett has given me plenty of inspiration to put others’ needs before my own. Even if he’s busy, he’ll still make the time to talk to me when I’m having a bad day. He takes the time to hold my hand or at least be in the room when I have to get blood taken (shiver). Last week he even went to see Coal Miner’s Daughter at our local theater for an anniversary showing, even though he’s seen in 9,000 times and probably never wants to hear Sissy Spacek’s voice again. As stubborn as I am, I’ve seen through him that sometimes it can be more rewarding to sacrifice my own will and not get what I want.

  1. Why obeying God is essential

I’m a pretty great listener (I’d much rather listen than talk)…but being obedient to what I hear is a whole different ballgame. Like I said, I’m extremely stubborn, and I’d much rather do what I think is best rather than what I’m told. I couldn’t count the times that God has spoken to me and I’ve ignored him, doing what I want in my own way—not his. One of Crockett’s most admirable qualities is his unquestioning obedience to the Lord. If he gets a word or direction, he follows it to the letter and doesn’t even hesitate.

I’ve never understood how someone could have so much faith as to do exactly as they’re told, with no promise of the outcome. So I’ve usually just chosen not to obey, to do what I determine to be most reasonable. I don’t know why I keep doing this, though, because when I wander off on my own path, there are usually quite a few consequences and repercussions I have to face later on. But when Crockett immediately and perfectly obeys God, he ends up with great opportunities and unexpected blessings—things that I want, of course!

 

Thank you, Crockett. You’ve been such a heavy inspiration in my life, and following God with you is a fresh blessing every day.

* Editor’s note : To see the story behind the soaked graduation picture, you’ll have to read this post.
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IMG_1563 Emilee Hackney is a recent high school graduate living in the
mountains in Tazewell, VA. She is attending a local college
this fall where she hopes to discover God’s plan for her career. She
loves her grandma’s house, her boyfriend of three and a half years,
and anything with an unhealthy amount of sugar.

Forgiven by Terri Roberts

I was recently selected to become a member of the Bethany House Bloggers Review Program. Admittedly, I am a little bit late on my reviews of two books they have graciously sent me. Thank you, Bethany House, for this opportunity and also for your patience with me.

(Photo credit to amazon.com)

The Nickel Mines Amish School Shooting that occurred in 2006, was a tragedy that rocked America to its core. Why would anyone want to harm such a peaceful people as the Amish? What tragedy must this person have faced to drive them to such violence? Could someone really be that intrinsically evil? At least these were the questions running through my mind when I watched the newscasters describe the carnage. I was only ten years old when this occurred. Some of the victims were younger than me.

Yet something even more newsworthy was about to occur. The Amish were going to extend grace to the perpetrator’s family. They were actively choosing to forgive.

This memoir is written by Terri Roberts, the mother of Charlie Roberts who was the man responsible for this dreadful event.

I was broken by reading Terri’s recollection of the tragedy. Her faith and trust in God was made evident through every twist and turn of the story. Her tone is compelling and honest.

If you have experienced any type of grief (haven’t we all?), or if you have the desire to help others cope with grief, this book is a must-read.

One thing I admired most about Terri’s story was that she refused to block out the good memories. In the face of such unbelievable trauma,she encouraged good memories to come to mind. She could never escape the reality of what Charlie had done. But she could always remember the good moments with him. The loving care that he provided for his wife and children, his tenderness towards animals . . . these attributes were just as real as the harbored bitterness that destroyed him.

Terri found a way to embrace the good memories while still examining what could have been done differently. What signs of bitterness and depression had she missed? How could other families prevent this from happening?

Although, I have never faced a tragedy nearly as devastating as what Terri has faced, her strategy for coping with loss would be beneficial for anyone. Remembering the good moments of a relationship that ended badly, remembering the lessons learned from a boss that fired you, remembering the happy times with a friend crippled by mental illness . . . These are all practical examples of how we can embrace the good despite painful memories.

The forgiveness of the Amish people was a tremendous expression of grace. There are no words to express how Christ shined through the hearts of this Amish community. They were as concerned for Terri and her husband as they were for each other. How different this story may have turned out if the Amish had expressed bitterness and hate, instead of forgiveness and love.

I wish I could share more about how God showed himself to the Roberts family through the Amish, but I don’t want to be a spoiler. You can purchase the book through Amazon today, available in Paperback or Kindle format.

Terri Roberts currently writes at Joy Through Adversity, spreading the message of the gospel through the pains of this life. Terri was diagnosed with Stage Four breast cancer during the writing of this book, and is currently undergoing radiation for treatment. She has remained close to the families affected by this shooting, and continues to exemplify a love for Christ through her writing and speaking.

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Dear Lord,

Thank you for providing such grace for Terri and her family. Thank you for the spirit of forgiveness that you spread throughout the hearts of the Amish people. May we all be filled with your forgiveness and peace when tragedy occurs. Please bless Terri’s doctors as she faces this diagnosis. Thank you for the medical treatment available within this country. Please provide continual healing to the Amish girls who survived the attack. Thank you for sparing their lives, and spreading your love through them.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

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Would you be interested in reading this book?

I’d love to discuss your thoughts on healing, forgiveness, and the power of Christ’s love in comments!

Joyfully yours,

Melody Maynard

“Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer.”

4 Ways College Will Challenge Your Faith

I hope you enjoy Emilee’s post on faith and college as much as I did. College has definitely been a giant challenge in my life, and these points are so relatable. Enjoy!!

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4 Ways that College Will Strengthen Your Faith

Since I started college in August, my faith has been challenged—and strengthened—by so many different aspects of typical college life. Here are the four that have tested me the most:

1. Time

Being a full-time student is hard! I decided to take five classes this semester, and even though they’re pretty general, I still have to spend hours each week on worksheets, essays, quizzes, and studying outside of class. When I actually do get all my obligations out of the way, I’d much rather collapse up on the couch and watch a movie than crack open my Bible or pray. It’s tempting to want to relax when you’ve spent a long day in class, but complacency makes your faith stop growing.

God isn’t meant to be last place in our daily lives.

When I started getting busy with schoolwork, I didn’t have the time for prayer and Bible study, and I didn’t make the time, either—I was tired, and I had to get up early the next morning, and, well, the excuses kept piling up. Days and weeks without God time can accumulate easily. And when you put Him on the back burner, living without the continual guidance of His word and presence, He suddenly seems very, very far away when you realize you need Him.

College is a challenging season, so don’t grow away from your strongest support system.

To keep the daily obligations of classes and homework from stealing your time with God away, be careful with how you spend your time. You’ll probably have to carve out a specific portion of your day just for Bible study and prayer. That could mean decreasing certain activities or just decreasing the time you spend doing them, or you could find creative ways to incorporate God into your day—Christian radio, lunchtime Bible study, or listening to scripture in the car.

(I discovered cassette adapters a few weeks ago—absolutely fantastic, since my Subaru is almost my age).

2. Stress

As earlier mentioned, curling up and watching Netflix is my favorite thing to do on those rare occasions when I have nothing to do. Curiously, it’s also my favorite thing to do when I have so much to get done! I have to defer everything for a couple hours or risk a nervous breakdown. And when I have those kinds of days, where I have two tests in four hours and three papers due by the weekend, I find myself so frazzled that I turn to Titanic and Chunky Monkey ice cream (no shame here).

Stress is pretty much inevitable for a college student balancing the workload of half a dozen classes, as well as countless other obligations with friends, family, work, and church. It’s how you choose to deal with that stress that demonstrates your maturity in Christ.

Although it’s tempting to cry, overeat, or watch your favorite movie for the 500th time, handing your stress over to God is a much wiser decision. Junk food, TV, smoking, drugs, or even aimlessly surfing the internet can’t help you at the very root of your stress. Worldly things like those are just distractions from the only One who gives us peace beyond all understanding—beyond your failed Biology test or upcoming research paper.

3. Professors

My community college is pretty conservative—Bibles and Christian literature are often handed out without much opposition, and Christianity is the only religion with an organized club on our campus. I’m glad to have a science professor who doesn’t try to convince my class of ideas Christians generally disagree with, but I have encountered one professor who makes daily snide comments about the Bible, Christians, Jesus, and Christianity’s conservatism.

Everyone has a right to their opinion, of course, and I’d much rather him voice it than be oppressed by Christians. However, biting comments can easily put a seed of doubt into your mind. When your very intelligent, respectable professor points out the flaws in what you believe, it’s tempting to begin to question for yourself.

At colleges where Christianity is not widely accepted (and sometimes even looked down upon), it can be hard to stand strong for what you believe and hold on to that. Recent statistics show that many young Christians abandon their faith in college, and I can honestly understand this—who wants to be a lone voice in a tsunami of opposition?

College can be a constant onslaught of a million voices telling you’re your beliefs are wrong, and the criticism can hurt, especially from professors or other respected people. This is why God is more necessary now than ever—He is our Rock and our Truth in spite of what others say to us.

4. Friends and Classmates

Socializing is a very important part of the college experience, and making new friends is so exciting!  A lot of the people you meet will be from places that seem a world away from your little hometown, and it’s fun to learn about a lifestyle and culture that is very different from your own. Being invited out for a group lunch or sitting beside someone new is a great feeling, but you have to be careful that your relationships always honor God first.

As much as I’d love to be friends with everyone, that just isn’t possible—or wise.

Hanging around people who swear a lot, drink and party, or don’t keep their grades up is probably not a very good decision—it’s generally true that you are who your friends are, after all. The relationships you make with others should give glory to God and be encouraging and positive.

You have enough going on in your life right now and you don’t need other people to hold you back from your faith!

And just like the challenge that some professors present, classmates can also test your faith. When all your peers around you voice their disapproval of Christian beliefs or religious ideas, it can be tempting to also doubt with them. Being in the minority is discouraging. But don’t lose your faith because of a few critics—God has shown his existence to you, and you have to cling hard to his truth. Sometimes it can be the only way to keep your sanity in college!

How has your faith been challenged in college?

What steps could you take to stay close to God in college or another new season?

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IMG_1563 Emilee Hackney is a recent high school graduate living in the
mountains in Tazewell, VA. She is attending a local college
this fall where she hopes to discover God’s plan for her career. She
loves her grandma’s house, her boyfriend of three and a half years,
and anything with an unhealthy amount of sugar.