Guest Post: Maggie Yow

Like many freshmen at UNC Chapel Hill, I struggled to find a place on campus that I could truly feel like myself. Everything seemed so new and foreign to me. I had a new room, new church, new friends, new teachers, new classrooms, and a new town. Sometimes I just felt uprooted and then replanted. As I was finding my way around campus, I decided to explore “Coker Arboretum” while walking back from class. Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect or if it was even worth my time to go inside.

As I stepped into the arboretum for the first time, I was in awe at how many beautiful flowers, plants, and trees were so intricately placed to create an exquisite garden. Something about being in the arboretum triggered a greater intimacy with God in me. I think this was a combination of the artistry of the flowers, the charm of nature, and the essence of being still on a busy campus. As I spent more and more time in the arboretum, I found that this campus was the place the Lord had planted me for this season in my life.

The significant beauty of the arboretum reminds me of the quote by The Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales, “Bloom Where You Are Planted.”  As I found peace in the arboretum, I found peace within my own garden of life. As a Christian, it is important to unpack this concept of blooming where we are planted when we feel uprooted or planted in the wrong place. Finding contentment in our current place can be paralleled to the basics of good gardening.

1. Be Planted Deep

To be “planted” is to be placed somewhere intentionally. When planting flowers, the soil is fertilized, a hole is dug for the seed, then covered up with more soil. If the seed is not deep enough in the soil, it risks being washed away by the rain. Gardeners spend a lot of time strategically picking the perfect place for a garden, preparing optimal soil, and individually placing the seeds where they are supposed to go.

God is like our gardener. He prepares the soil, and then He intentionally plants us there. Whether we feel like we are planted in the right place or not, we are there for a purpose. At Passion 2018, Pastor Levi Lusko said, “Being planted can feel a lot like being buried.” When we are planted deep and feel buried underneath the weight of the soil, we must not forget that God is calling us here for our benefit. It reminds me of Psalm 42:7, “Deep calls to deep,” (NIV). This verse means that “our deep need calls out to the deep kindness of God’s love” (TPT).  We need Him to provide the fertile soil, and out of His kindness, He has buried us deep to protect us and optimize our growth.

“rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” Colossians 2:7 (NIV)

2. You Must Be Watered

Once seeds are planted, it takes water to help them grow. Flowers bloom into vibrant colors when the moisture is soaked up, thus a lack of hydration hinders their bloom. As believers, we must also be watered in order to bloom. Metaphorically, this water symbolizes suffering, but it also symbolizes a catalyst for growth in Him.

As I was scrolling through Pinterest one day, I saw the quote “I asked God to help me grow, and it started raining.” This reminded me of the story of Job in the Bible. Job withstood so much suffering that this rain came in the form of a hurricane. As bad thing after bad thing kept happening to Job, I’m sure he felt as though he was drowning in the flood of suffering. However, through the storms, Job came to a place of submission to God’s Holy Will. He not only lived through the rain storm, but he bloomed through it. God sends rain not to drown us, but to nourish us.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 16:33 (NIV) 

3. Get Plenty of Sunshine

My favorite days in the arboretum are the ones where the sun is shining bright and all the flowers seem to be facing up towards the sun, as they soak in every last drop until it sets. As Christians, God commands us to do the same. No matter where He has planted us, we must always be in the posture to receive Him. The gift of the Son is life giving.

When I think of the sunshine, I think of walking in the light. We all know that every day and every circumstance isn’t bright and sunny, but we always have the Son, Jesus, to guide us. In order to bloom where we are planted, we must find Jesus in every place. For me, the arboretum was the place that fostered that intimate gaze while planted in college. As Christians, keeping our eyes on Him can bring spiritual peace and control our attitudes. When we dwell in Him, we dwell in the light we need to grow. 

 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)

4. Enjoy the Beauty of the Bloom

When I was in high school, I was a dancer. After each performance, I would leave with an armload of flowers from my family and friends, somewhat of a cultural norm in the dance world. I remember thinking one year, “why do all these people spend money on flowers when all they do is die in a week?” I wasn’t unappreciative, I just truly questioned the concept. I tell you this to emphasize the fact that what I was missing was the simple, yet extravagant beauty of the bloom.

Bloom” is an action word, something we must do. To bloom is to produce something beautiful. As believers, we are never in the wrong place to serve God and bloom into something beautiful. Seasons will come and go, and while rain and lack of sunshine are inevitable, each seed is planted with the intentionality to bloom. One of the greatest tragedies is to waste an opportunity and miss the beauty in the bloom. No one delights in the beauty of the bloom more than The Gardener himself, so honor the Lord and grow in the place He has planted you. Your beautiful bloom is the proof that He is sovereign in every stage of life, providing everything you need. 

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

Towards the end of the school year, there is a lot of uprooting and replanting going on. Whether that be moving from a dorm room to your home, your campus to an internship, far away from your friends, studying abroad, or maybe graduating and moving to a new chapter of life, God could be planting you in a new place. If you’re experiencing a season of rain or a lack of sunshine, don’t doubt the design of His garden. We are called to “bloom where we are planted” as a part of His Garden, not our own. 

Maggie Yow // @maggie_yow

“Being Present”

my new mantra is “being present.” ☀️🙏🏼

A little less than a year ago, I became really convicted about my cell phone and social media habits. I would go as far to say that I was somewhat addicted to this rectangular device. I checked it constantly. I rushed to social media every five minutes. I went about 7 months with no social media. It was wonderful. I chose to go back on for ministry purposes but I made strict guidelines for myself such as who I would interact with, what times I would check it, how much time I would spend holding it in my hand, etc.
My latest conviction is checking the phone in general. I have discovered that 90% of the messages I receive do not require an immediate response. Therefore, my phone no longer receives texting notifications. I am not tempted to check it when it lights up. I am not distracted from being totally present wherever I am and with whomever I’m with. My new reality has been truly blessed by God.
I’m no longer a slave to my phone. I am learning that someone else’s emergency is not necessarily my emergency and that life goes on. I have written so much about being intentional- it was time I took it to another level in my own life. My phone alerts me when I receive a call or when certain people contact me, but that’s it. Everything else can wait. It can wait for you, too. Don’t be a slave to this rectangular box. Be present with those you are around in this moment.
I challenge you to consider how much of your time has been or is currently being robbed by a screen and take a few simple steps to experience this life God has given you and the people He has blessed you with.

Encouragement for the Discouraged Mother

My mother knew that in order to raise children who would choose to walk with Christ on a daily basis, she needed more than rules. She needed to be a living example of a woman after God’s heart.
Your children observe your lifestyle.
After all, it is a direct reflection of your heart. A lifestyle is seven days a week- not just the seventh day. Making the choice each day to submit to Christ can be difficult when we are overwhelmed by our circumstances, people (yes, even your lovely children), or anything else we cannot control.
Sometimes I feel like asking, “God are you really listening?” As my heart burns with a desire to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God and to be a solid Christian example for the little ones in my life, it seems insulting to let the thought cross my mind that I might need to jump back into the driver’s seat of my life and let Jesus take a break for a few miles.
           
I was reminded a few weeks ago of John’s doubts while in prison. In Matthew 11:3, John asked if Jesus was really, “The One who is to come?” Note, John had already baptized Jesus even though he felt he was “unworthy to touch His sandals.” John knew who Christ was. He baptized Him in the name of His Father. Lastly, in v. 2, John had heard what Christ was doing while he was sitting in prison.
Jesus never rebuked John for asking questions.
For wondering.
For maybe even fearing a little.
And Jesus will not rebuke us in the moments of life when we just can’t seem to grasp what He is doing and we do not know what we should do either.
           
When my heart is burdened and I can’t seem to release what I know He can hold, instead of bashing myself, I know I should remember how Jesus worked in John’s life. John found himself in prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus, fulfilling the prophecy that he would be the forerunner of Christ. He did not stay caught up in his doubt-He continued to love like the author of love. He found faith in our awesome God to be all he needed, and he lived a life of devoted ministry to Christ.
“Truly I tell you, among these born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared..” (Matt. 11:11). 
God strengthened John to fulfill his calling in this life and He will strengthen you, too, as you fight the good fight to raise champions for Christ.
           
Your success as a mother is not dependent on your ability to bake the best cookies, to keep a spotless house, or to be liked by your child at all times. Your success as a mother will hinge on a consistent walk with Christ. Following Jesus will not exempt you from parenting woes, discouragement, or children gone wild, but following Him does mean you are equipped with the armor of God and perfect guidance and direction for each day as you raise your mighty warriors of God.
I encourage you to submit yourself to Him and be faithful to make decisions each day that place Christ at the center of your home. The fruit of God-fearing will grow and bloom in the lives of your children as they watch you trust in The Lord with all your heart, leaning not on your own understanding.

Guard Your Plans

Part of my morning routine includes praying over my plans for the day. Lately, I have found myself filling the pages of my planner with snippets from my meeting with God earlier that morning.

A few words. A few minutes of my time. A major impact on my day.

I am reminded what is most important: Serving Him who put me here.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life. It is equally easy to become immersed in things of this world rather than to stay focused on why we’re in the world to begin with. I sometimes find myself signed up for too many things, leading too many groups, or committed to too many personal obligations.

But why?

Because no one else signed up and the schedule was due. Because no one else felt comfortable leading and someone had to take charge. Because I hadn’t seen that friend in a while and felt like I should reconnect.

There is nothing wrong with signing up to serve on a committee, leading an organization, or taking personal time—until it becomes a distraction to our relationship with Christ. These distractions can continue to snowball, pushing God further and further away until we are no longer giving Him our first fruits but the leftovers.

I have chosen to align my heart with Christ, and I seek to honor Him in each block of my time. Therefore, I must be discerning.

In Proverbs 4:23, we are urged to “guard our hearts.” If my heart’s desire is to seek God’s will in my life and respond accordingly, I should begin with daily choices that reflect Him as top priority. When I am overwhelmed or exhausted by the things filling my schedule, I am not preparing myself to be a useful tool in the hands of an awesome God.

Saying yes to serving God means saying no to people, things, or activities that fail to build us up in Him. Where, how, and with whom we spend our time is a direct reflection of the posture of our worship and the state of our hearts.

I have realized that my day is more than lesson planning, meetings, organizing girls’ ministry, or writing. My value is not based on my performance as a teacher, Bible study leader, friend, or daughter.

As you glance over your schedule, introduce your plans to your Savior. Ask God to make it clear to you what is most deserving of your time. Be sure to take notes during your daily one-on-one conference with Him so that you can assess and reflect.

You may not get everything accomplished. That is ok.

You may need to say no to someone. That is ok.

When we get in the habit of prayerful planning, we will begin to notice that our attitude towards day-to-day activities shifts to desire a spirit of submission to the Father. While walking closely with the Prince of Peace, He will remind us of His plan and purpose for our lives.

on the road again

It was really cold that day but none of us seemed to care. This wasn’t the first time I got to go on a super fun adventure thanks to my dear friend, Bailey. Bailey has sung all over NC. I jump at the chance to support her each and every time. Why? Why would I give up my day to go wherever she is performing & lose my “me time” I would have had at home that day?

In today’s society, it is very common to see self-centeredness. So often, we don’t even recognize it. We easily overlook those that love us because it’s easier for us to stay home or not return the phone call. Don’t get me wrong, it is impossible to go to every single event, accept every dinner invitation, and return phone calls everyday. However- it is not impossible to love well even when we are hard-pressed for time.

When is the last time you sent a text or email to a close friend to remind them you care about them?

When is the last time you made an effort to put supporting someone else over your “me time”?

When is the last time you sat down and exchanged meaningful conversation with a close friend?

I am so bad at these things it’s not even funny. I’m a work in progress. I encourage you to be one with me. What small way can you show your love & support for a friend this week??

{perks of having talented friends: @durhambulls took great care of us. We had awesome seats & I’ll take another hot dog anytime.}

#intentionalbyimperfplanned #imperfectlyplanned #durhambulls #springtraining

Honoring Your Mother

I want to start with the following disclaimer:

    I am not a perfect daughter. I have not honored my parents every day of my life.  However, I have studied what scripture says regarding this topic and I do my best to apply these truths to my day to day life.

For Mother’s Day of this year, I published a piece entitled, “Thank you, Mama, for being a parent, not a friend.” I discussed the importance of God-honoring motherhood. I was blown away by the massive response this article received. I still run into complete strangers that recognize me because of how far and fast this message traveled.

One of the questions I received following the article was, “As daughters, what can WE do to be God-honoring in our relationship with our moms?” I wanted to take time to answer this as best as I can.

I realize that not everyone has a wonderful relationship with their mother. However, I do know that each and every individual on this earth was hand placed by God into the family they are in. With Jesus, we have the ability to extend grace in the difficult relationships in our lives. This may not be easy and will look different in different situations.

Furthermore, if your mother is completely out of the picture for whatever reason but you do have a stepmother, grandmother, aunt, etc. serving as a parental figure, the following biblical truths apply to that relationship as well.

Have a teachable spirit.

You do not always have to agree with her methods but you must always show respect.

Proverbs 6:20-23

My son, keep your father’s commandment ,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching.
Bind them on your heart always;
tie them around your neck.
When you walk, they will lead you;
when you lie down, they will watch over you;
and when you awake, they will talk with you.
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.

Titus 2:3-5

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Serve her to the best of your ability.

This may mean making sacrifices in your own life to ensure your mother is taken care of.

1 Timothy 5:4

But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.

Ruth 1:14

Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

Obey her unless she asks you to go against the Word of God.

God commands our obedience to the authority he has placed in our lives.

Ephesians 6:1-3

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Colossians 3:20

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

Seek her counsel.

Your mother has probably been in your position at some point in her life. Appreciate her concern and abundance of knowledge.

Proverbs 23: 22

Listen to your father who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.

Proverbs 1:8-9

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
for they are a graceful garland for your head
and pendants for your neck.

Be genuinely thankful for her example.

As children, we are given the wonderful role of encouraging our mothers as they embark on one of life’s hardest missions: motherhood.

Proverbs 31:28-31

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.

Honor her with YOUR LIFE.

The least we can do to honor our mothers is to represent Christ (and her) well. Examine your life. Are you living intentionally? Are you honoring the wisdom your mother has so graciously imparted to you?

Proverbs 10:1

The proverbs of Solomon.
A wise son makes a glad father,
but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.

Proverbs 23:24-25

The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;
he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.
Let your father and mother be glad;
let her who bore you rejoice.

Exodus 20:12

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

   

Taste and See {GUEST POST: HANNAH JONES}

By: Hannah Jones.

Before I even stepped foot on campus my freshman year, I was praying hard for my future suitemates. I remember pleading with God to grant me life-giving friendships. I hoped my “Big Sis” would guide me with godly wisdom. However, I knew that I might not get all of those things. I was aware that my attitude and intentionality in those first few weeks was pivotal.

The moment I decided I wanted to grow closer with the Lord in college became one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was committed to taking ownership of my faith. For the first time, it wasn’t my parents taking me to church. It wasn’t my mom encouraging me to have a quiet time with the Lord each day. It was up to me. That first weekend on campus, I went to church by myself, and looking back, I am certain that set the stage for my whole freshman year.

Gradually, the Lord revealed to me that He had in fact granted me all the things I prayed for before coming to college. My suitemate became one of my greatest encouragers. We worshipped together daily; singing when classes got hard and homework grew tedious. We left each other notes and verses of encouragement and God used those words of affirmation to feed my soul. My Big Sis, who was in the junior class at Meredith College, encouraged me to check out a campus ministry that first week. In fact, I joined the Bible study that she co-led. She continues to intentionally pour into my spirit and she is honestly the big sister I never had.

The girls in this study became my closest friends. This is my community; my people. I had never experienced Christian community and godly friendships like this until I came to college. These women are the ones that stand by me on my hardest days, share in my joy, and never let me doubt my purpose.

When I think back to those first weeks as a college freshman, I remember feeling uncomfortable. It wasn’t the easiest thing for me to meet new people, share my testimony, and just be vulnerable. However, I am positive that God needed me to feel uncomfortable to mold me and to make me trust Him like I never had to before. I think the important thing for me to remember was that this was a new and sometimes uncomfortable season that wasn’t about me at all. His glory and His perfect plan was playing out through all my insecurity, my brokenness, my fear, and my sin. He wanted me right where I was all along, even in my failure. My time in college, full of ups and downs, was never His “plan b”. It took God molding and stretching me over a period of time to come to that realization. Once I realized this, so many doors began to open in ministry, my major, and in relationships.

Reading this, it might start to sound like I was getting my life together before I came to college, but I can tell you that is far from the truth. Honestly, I was trying so hard to act like I had it all together that I began to even fool myself. I tried to live a Christ-centered life with me at the center. And oddly enough, I still was so shocked when my life seemed to be spiraling out of control. I realized that when I said I was giving God full access to my life, it wasn’t long before I began wrestling the controls away from Him again and again.

If I can leave you with one thing, it’s what I’ve realized most about following the Lord in college: It’s truly all about your heart. Following Jesus requires intentionality. Everyday. Even when I oversleep and I am running across campus to class. Even when I’ve fooled myself into thinking that life is great and I don’t need to give God access to every area. Even when I experience heartbreak or I get in a car accident. He is still sovereign. He is still faithful. He is still so loving. He wants to offer me so much grace, even when I can’t seem to give it to myself.

And- He wants to offer it to you, too. So, taste and see His goodness, because once that happens, college will never feel sweeter.

With love,

Dear Daughter by Design

 

Psalm 34:8

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Hannah Jones is a current sophomore at Meredith College, majoring in Dance Education. Her passions are for her family, faith, and the performing arts. This past summer, the Lord laid it on her heart to share all that He was teaching her through her experiences in college. Hannah took a leap of faith into the world of blogging. Dear Daughter by Design was created as a place to share her heart and personal experiences as a Christian girl in college. She wants to encourage other women in their God-given purpose and remind them that they truly are daughters by His design.

To read more of her story, follow her writings at www.deardaughterbydesignblog.wordpress.com