Look Back, Look Forward, Look Up

By Emma Stephens

emma

Anashe asked me to put together a piece of encouragement and advice to post on her beautiful blog. I will admit I was flattered, but a touch nervous. At 24, I hardly feel as if I am in a position to give anyone advice worth a listen. I know I’m older than some of you out there, but I know that I’m much younger than many of you as well. But 24 years of living is a long time, if you think about it; if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 24 years, it’s that no matter how unique you think your journey is, undoubtedly there’s been a stretch of your road that intersected someone else’s once. There is nothing new under the sun; you never know how your story will influence someone else.

About me: I’m 24 years old. I’m a college graduate working on an MA in English while working full time at my university’s IT department. I was born and raised in the South, but lived in Germany for a year. I received Christ as my savior when I was 7 years old. I got married to the love of my life a year and 7 months ago. I love cats and literature and coffee. I’m introverted, more so every year. I’m a die-hard The Lord of the Rings fan. I love to learn, I love to laugh. And, as easy-going as I’d like to think I am, there’s nothing that riles me more than injustice, and one of the world’s greatest injustices is the burden of double-standards, hatred, and violence poured out on women’s heads. Hence my blog, Liberated, where I explore the incredible, earth-shattering, empowering liberty God gives His daughters by His grace. His grace is greater than our sin and the sins of others; greater than fear, doubt, or pain, and it is on this almighty grace that I depend.

I say I blog, but to be honest, I haven’t been blogging faithfully at all lately. I don’t think I’ve written anything that wasn’t course work in months. I’m trying to change that; get back into writing. I’m grateful to Anashe for giving me the opportunity to do so.

Here is my advice to you all, my sisters, my friends:

Write. It. Down.

Write down your prayers. When I was in college, finding time for God was really difficult sometimes. I got up early to steal thirty minutes of peaceful silence before the rest of the dorm woke up to read my Bible, but I’d fall asleep again the minute I closed my eyes to pray. I bought a journal and started writing down my prayers—the activity kept me awake and gave me a record of my spiritual walk for that semester.

Write down your fears. The best thing I’ve found to help me sort through my various anxieties, aside from praying through them and talking about them with my supportive spouse, is writing them down. Your entries will be angsty. They will be raw. They will sadden you a little when you read them again years from now. But you’ll be glad you have that record; you’ll be able to see how far you’ve come.

Write down your successes. Every triumph is important. Even the little ones. Some of you out there are struggling with mental health issues—getting out of bed in the morning may take more effort for you than for others. But getting out of bed, even when you felt like there was no way on earth you could, is a success, and it’s worth noting. The giant triumphs are easy to remember—note those, too, of course, because even the brightest memories blur with time. But the little successes are just as valuable.

Write down your dreams. Is there something you really want to do with your life? Write it down. Make it a goal. Or discard it when another idea hits you that works even better. As you record each new ambition, you are drawing a map of your journey. You will grow, your ambitions will shift, and that’s beautiful.

Write down your friendships. The people in your life are shaping you as much as your presence in their lives shapes them. Relationships are important. That person you’re really close to right now may drift away by necessity of her own journey, and even though you still care about her, the good memories fade as the connection stretches thin over greater distances. Remember the happy moments. Write them down.

Write down answers to prayer. Make a list of people or concerns you’re praying over. As the requests are answered, check them off. There will come a time when you fear God won’t listen to you or answer your prayers—looking back at this list will help you remember how much God has done for you.

Write down your blessings. Gratitude isn’t an attitude as much as it is a practice and a choice. When God gives you a good thing, write it down so you don’t forget. Again, even the small things are significant. That beautiful flower you saw on the way to work? A gift from God. The rain that fell during lunch? A gift from God. Even the things that annoy us or disadvantage us, like a lost job opportunity or other disappointed hopes, turn out to be blessings in the end—God always has something better. Write it down so you don’t forget.

The most useful piece of advice I could give you is this: no matter what your fears, dreams, prayers, friendships, or blessings are today, they will shift and change over time. Tomorrow is always a new and different day with new and different choices. Sister, no matter what horrible or beautiful thing happened to you today, no matter how down or how happy you may feel, God always has something better waiting for you down the road. There will be hard times and happy times, and God is in all of them, strengthening you, trying you with fire and flood and thunder.

You’ll never walk alone, though. He’s always there. He always listens. He will carry you through.

Write it down.

“For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

To see more of Emma’s posts or seek further advice visit her blog at https://theliberatedblog.wordpress.com/

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One thought on “Look Back, Look Forward, Look Up

  1. ladycee says:

    Hello Emma,
    I so enjoyed reading your post. Thank you so much for sharing and thank you too Anashe for opening your blog up to other writers. I am an advocate for writing things down, prayers, victory reports, gratitude lists, gripes, experiences and struggles. I like that thought of God always having something better for you down the road, whatever you are experiencing now – good or negative.
    Wishing you success in your studies and blogging ventures.

    Liked by 1 person

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