Today, it hit me.
The fear. The severity. The heaviness.
The deep desire to pretend it’s not real combined with the ever-present reminders of its impact.
The frustration of talking about it in most conversations, but also not knowing how to not talk about it. Then, there’s the isolation and loneliness. And don’t get me started on the awkwardness that is a Zoom meeting.
I think It goes without saying that life is strange right now. My heart is breaking for people who are directly affected by this illness and those who have lost jobs and are struggling to provide for their families. It’s breaking for those who are dealing with the effects of this global pandemic as well as unrelated, yet devastating hardships like the loss of a friend or family member. My heart breaks for the bride who is canceling the day she’s looked forward to her whole life, and the college senior who won’t walk across that stage in May.
I like to write about solutions when I find them. Only this time, I don’t have a solution. I haven’t crafted a 10-step blog post to surviving a global pandemic. I don’t even really have advice. Like everyone else, I’m still figuring it out. I know that some days I feel like a Quarantine Queen, plowing through to-do lists, making time for fun, and even squeezing in some vegetables and water. I know that other days feel gloomy, suffocating, and heavy.
I don’t know it all, but here’s what I do know:
I am not in control of my life. This past January, I got to ring in the new year in Time’s Square, of all places. If you know me, you know that I have always been a sucker for the start of a new year. I live for making goals, plans, and dreams of what’s to come. This year was no different. I made a lot of plans. I made plans to see concerts, plans for friends to fly into town for the weekend, plans to have a new job lined up within the first few months of 2020. All of which didn’t happen. Standing in Time’s Square dreaming of the new year with thousands of strangers, I can’t imagine anyone planned for a highly contagious virus to shut down the world for a few months. The cancelling of plans, redirecting of paths, and lack of direction is painful. It quite literally feels like the world is spinning off its axis. Nothing feels secure anymore, but I'm reminded that my plans never were secure. It feels as if we lost control over our lives, but in reality, I never had control of it in the first place. It's a difficult and humbling thing to realize, but gosh, it takes some of the pressure off, doesn't it? We don't have to understand. We don't have to have it figured out. Thankfully, we aren't the ones driving this plane. We never were.
It’s ok to not be ok. This is something I’ve had to preach to myself for quite some time, but especially in recent months. In full transparency, I am one who struggles to be vulnerable about how I’m really doing, in fear of letting others see my more painful, negative emotions. I genuinely believe that people will be uncomfortable or disappointed in me if I am anything but “living the dream!” I recognize how crazy this is, but it’s true. He keeps reminding me to cast my cares on Him, who cares for me. I’m also learning that there’s a time for mourning, grieving, and sadness. If you’re experiencing any of that during this strange season, you’re not alone, and you have every right to feel what you’re feeling. It’s a really common theme, especially in Christian circles, to “get out there and smell the roses!” and simply “choose joy.” This has been my mantra for as long as I can remember, but according to scripture, joy and sorrow can coexist. We know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4). Suffering is actually necessary in order to produce endurance, and without endurance, there would be no hope. I don’t think God intended us to fake it til we make it when we experience trials. We are given the green light to suffer, mourn, and grieve. In fact, it’s necessary in order for perseverance to be created in us.
I wanted to add a third nugget of truth here because three seems like a good number, but truth be told, I don’t have a third. Right now, all I have is “I’m not in control” and “it’s ok to not be ok.” I believe God is still working on point #3 and He’s going to keep revealing points 4, 5, 6, and so on. Until then, I’ll keep living in this moment. Not tomorrow and not “when all this is over...” but right now.
I don’t know what He’s doing, but He’s teaching me to trust even when I can’t see. He’s bringing me back to the basics of dwelling in his presence. In the past few weeks, I painted for fun and actually bought real groceries and cooked them. I have had time to check-in with people I care about and time to tackle projects I’ve been avoiding for months. I drink my coffee a little slower in the mornings because I can. And frankly, somedays it’s the highlight of my day. And you know? I think that might just be OK.
The world seemed to spin off its axis during the Super Bowl Halftime Show. It only took minutes for Facebook to be filled with rants and judgments disguised as sermons.
“I stopped watching and went to bed. Totally disgusted. I’m reminded that we (God’s children) are not of this world but belong to another world.”
“Women, please act like women, if you want to be treated like one.”
“The only word to describe what was shown was nasty.”
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Shout out to the First Amendment, am I right? So while these opinions are valid, I saw some discrepancies and major concerns with these remarks.
I hope all of this chatter about the Super Bowl Halftime Show reminds us that life is too short to spend our energy tearing others down and casting judgments on those who do not look like Jesus. I’m reminded of the perfect and loving posture of Christ, who welcomed every and all to the table, ate with sinners, and called them worthy.
I recently went rock climbing for the first time since fifth grade. I’m sure I stuck out like a sore thumb in that fitness-freak, edgy-hipster gym, but I came confident and eager for the adventure. After all, I had great memories from the rock climbing birthday party I attended in 2007. Little did I know, the pain and torture that would soon ensue.
First of all, I was attached to a cord that might as well have been a spaghetti noodle. My friend, Mary, who literally works at a rock climbing gym, ensured me that it was safe, but I didn’t believe her.
I covered my hands in chalk and for a second, I felt like an Olympic athlete. That olympian feeling QUICKLY went away as soon as I actually started climbing that wall. I was absolutely petrified. I suddenly remembered that I am afraid of heights and have a strong disdain for excruciating fitness activities, which is, essentially, all that rock climbing is. So, that was great thinking on my part.
Halfway up the wall, I looked down at Mary, who was coaching me through the fiasco. She encouraged me to keep climbing, but I said something along the lines of, “Okay honey, I gotta get off this thing,” and she proceeded to say the words, “Just let go.”
“Do what now?" I nervously murmured from 30 something feet in the air.
“Let go. Just kick off the wall and the cord will catch you.”
I thought she had lost. her. mind.
My hands had the little rock in a death grip as my legs quivered in place. I attempted to let go multiple times before I chickened out and shrieked like a dying animal. Clinging to the wall, I was paralyzed by fear. The expert was telling me it was safe, but my distrust in her was the loudest voice in my head.
Eventually, and against my will, I obtained the confidence to jump. Low and behold, the cord did exactly what the expert said it would do. I didn’t fall to my death. I didn’t break both my legs and get shuffled away on a stretcher. In childlike faith (and a lot of adult fear), I took the jump.
I can’t help but remember how much differently my rock climbing experience went when I was 10. I zoomed up the wall without fear and jumped without hesitation. I had full confidence in the experts who told me it was safe to take the leap. Isn’t that what childlike faith is about?
Oftentimes, we tend to equate maturity with independence. When a person is no longer dependent on their parents, they have reached full maturity. In our faith, we become mature when we become fully dependent on our father. It almost feels backward, but it’s the way Christ intends it. He wants us to be childlike in our faith: fully trusting and fully confident in Him. He wants us to jump knowing that we will be caught by our father.
So, jump! In what areas of your life are you clinging to the wall, afraid to let go? We can have peace knowing that He will catch us every single time. After all, His strength is entirely stronger than a spaghetti noodle rock climbing cord. He is who He says He is and He'll do what He says He'll do. It isn't an easy process, but through faith in Him, we can trust our father with the scary jumps, even ones that involve a rock wall.
The day I moved to Nashville was one I’ll never forget. One minute I was bobbing along to “The Great Adventure” by Steven Curtis Chapman; the next, I was this close to turning my car around and calling the whole thing off. But with good luck texts and a plethora of good wishes, I felt alive. I was doing the thing I always wanted to do, breaking free from my boring hometown and embarking on an adventure in Nashville, of all places. Taylor Swift and I would become best friends and Dolly would adopt me as her own. The world was my oyster.
Sooner or later, the hoopla of moving died out. I had my “party’s over!” moment as people started turning off the hypothetical lights of my hypothetical party. People stopped texting me. Reality set in. I realized I was in a city where I knew a handful of people if that. I didn’t even know how to get to Target, which is a crisis in itself. I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into. All was well.
Luckily, things started looking up. At some point, I realized I could finally get to work without using Google Maps. I noticed I had a favorite drink at my new favorite coffee shop. I found comfort in new traditions like Sunday night Mexican. Though I missed the familiarity of home, the newness now felt refreshing and exciting. I had arrived. I was finally achieving the goal I so desperately longed to achieve: to become settled.
And then Wednesday happened. Just a normal Wednesday. There was nothing particularly stressful or obscure about this day other than it was a Wednesday in which I felt "off." Turns out, I was just feeling. The Enneagram 7 in me struggles to understand this foreign concept. I thought the pit in my stomach was a result of the burrito I had for lunch. When in reality, I was just sad. I missed home. I missed being known by the servers at my favorite Mexican restaurant. I missed effortless, deep friendship. I missed the simplicity of college, tight-knit community, and running into people I knew at Wal-Mart. I thought I had settled. I thought I was fine. Why was I sad?
The reality is, moving/starting a new job/post-grad life, in general, is hard. And it’s OK that it’s hard. We don’t have to act like it’s a walk in the park. If you’ve taken a risk, stepped out of your comfort zone, or are simply adjusting to an uncomfortable season, give yourself some credit. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling, and then allow yourself to move forward. You’re not “behind” just because you have days where you don’t feel settled. You’re not failing if you sometimes miss home. In fact, it probably just means you're a normal human being adjusting to a life-change. Isn't that liberating? Here I was thinking I was a psycho for missing a place I lived for 22 years. McKenna, honey, come on.
Things to Remember in Seasons of Change:
I believe that for every bad thing, there are 10 good things in the midst.
That may have been the most Enneagram 7 thing I’ve ever said, but before you peg me as a stereotypical, overly positive 7, let me confess: lately, I haven’t been so positive. I know, I know. Sue me. I recently graduated from college and moved seven hours away from home. I started a new job in a city where I know, like three people. It’s been a whirlwind of excitement and adventure while simultaneously being absolutely terrifying.
If you’ve ever walked through a new season of life, you know that it can be filled with a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. Even if you’re not walking through a new season, life, in general, can be filled with uncertainty and anxiety. If we’re not careful, we can become numb to all the good things and zero in on the scary stuff, which is exactly what the enemy would want us to do. He’s in the business of feeding lies and instilling fear in our minds and I’ll be the first to admit I’ve fallen prey to these tactics, especially in this weird and awkward season that is post-grad. But I don’t want to fall prey.
I want to choose to find joy in every situation, celebrate the good more than I obsess over the scary, and ultimately, be filled with a peace that surpasses understanding. I don’t write this blog post because I have a step-by-step cure to overcoming fear and anxiety. If I had that, I would’ve posted it a long time ago. Rather, I wanted to share something that has rocked my world when it comes to my thought-life and battle with fear and worry. A couple of weeks ago, I started challenging myself to list 10 good things when one bad thing weighed on my heart. At first, coming up with 10 was a challenge, but the more I wrote, the more good things kept floating into my brain. I eventually found myself dwelling on 11 good things and then 12 and then 20. I quickly realized that while life is sometimes scary, stressful, and uncomfortable, it doesn’t change the fact that there are still good and beautiful things in it. Sometimes the good things are right in front of you; sometimes you have to dig a little bit.
I don’t think “10 Good Things” is a novel idea. I’m pretty sure they teach this in therapy. If they don’t, they need to because this thing is a game-changer. I’ve found it to be incredibly beneficial in my efforts to dwell on what is good and holy, as Paul states in Philippians 4. Grabbing a hold of my perspective and anxious thoughts is a daily battle. Waging war against these things is no easy task, but I’ve found “10 Good Things” to be a useful tool in the fight. What are the good gifts in your life? When’s the last time you stopped and thanked the Lord for them?
10 Good Things:
Dear rising college freshman,
YOU DID IT! You successfully survived 18 years in the same school district in your boring lil hometown. You’ve made it through all the lasts, like prom and Friday night football games. You got through the stress of the SAT and though you were panicked for a minute there, you finally decided on a college. You probably have a roommate, a bedspread, and a crush you’ve been eyeing in the Freshman Class Facebook page. Been there, done it, honey. It seems like yesterday I was in your shoes. But somewhere along the way, I blinked and now I’m graduating in less than a week. Why I didn’t listen to Kenny Chesney when he told me not to blink, I’ll never know, but here we are; just days away from closing one of the sweetest, most fun chapters in life thus far. And lemme just tell you, I’m all sorts of emo about it.
Now I’m no college expert. I won't be graduating Magna Cum Laude, but rather, I’ll be saying Thank You Laude. I wasn’t involved in every campus activity and never won an award for being an outstanding student. Sorry, mom! But I learned a lot, grew more than ever, and made lasting friendships and memories that I’ll cherish forever. And isn’t that worth the $40,000 tuition? Lol. Well, let’s not talk about that.
Here are some nuggets of truth I hope you’ll always remember as you enter college:
With graduation just a little under a month away (*screams internally*), I’m oceans deep “in my feelings” as the kids say. I’ve been extra reflective, sentimental, and nostalgic, so go ahead and prepare yourself for all the sap that’s to come.
In a few weeks, I’ll move out of my first apartment. I don’t know about you, but I hate moving. Mostly because it’s a lot of work and who actually enjoys the pain that is packing? But in the spirit of sentimentality, I wanted to write a letter to the future girls of apartment number 138. I don’t think they will ever actually read this, but it’s symbolism, ya know?
So, to the future girls of 138:
There’s a lot you should know about this little apartment. For starters, you should be thankful for that microwave. It’s brand-spankin' new, so take care of it. The old one beeped for like three years, so you’re welcome. Use it to make popcorn at midnight, a lean cuisine if you’re into that, and tea when your allergies hit. Treat it like the amazing microwave it is, because if it breaks, it will be at least a month before it gets fixed. And you will be heating things up on the stove top like it’s the 1890’s.
The microwave isn’t the only highlight of the kitchen. That kitchen is strictly for dancing, incorrectly melting butter, and overcooking chicken. It’s for late night snacks with your roommates and singing to yourself while you unload the dishwasher. It’s for grabbing a bite of cookie dough and setting up the coffee pot for the next day’s coffee. Sit on the counter and tell funny stories. Talk about life when you have a million other things to do.
The living room is a pretty great place, though you won’t have the privilege of sitting upon the most comfortable and perfect chair in existence. We’re taking that with us, sorry ladies! It used to sit in front of the window, where it held us as we ate Chick-Fil-a, had heart-to-hearts and studied for tests at the butt crack of dawn. Well, I did that like once, TBH. Datelines were watched, games were played, and afternoon naps were taken in this room. Always choose to watch “just one more episode” and if goofing around means “taking an L” academically, do it anyway. You’re probably going to graduate and everything will be fine.
The upstairs hallway isn’t merely a hallway. It’s a gathering spot for late night conversations and a portal for instant procrastination. Bored with your studying? Mosey on down to someone else’s room. Bust up in there with conversation or a stupid meme. Instant entertainment within five feet of your bedroom. The corners of the hallway are incredibly sharp, perfect for scaring your roommates. You might just find yourself paranoid every time you turn a corner. The doors are functional, though we always barged right in. You might as well just leave them open.
At first, this place will simply be four walls and a roof, but eventually it’ll become your home. You’ll laugh, cry, fall down the stairs, get the flu, laugh, have a mental breakdown, laugh, and probably cry some more. You’ll clog a couple toilets, low-key break your dishwasher, and battle for the perfect thermostat temperature. You just might buy WD-40 for the first time and finally master the art of command strip usage. You’ll feel safe, known, loved, and accepted and these friends you took a chance on living with might just become family.
So, future girls of 138, LIVE. IT. UP. But always lock the door because there’s this theory about strangers wandering into the apartment complex and using the downstairs bathroom, but that’s beside the point. Don’t forget to buy a vacuum; Lord knows you’ll need it. Soak it all in and enjoy every moment of college. It’ll all be over before you know it and soon you’ll be wishing for just a little more time in 138.
The other day, I met someone for the first time at a church event. We exchanged normal small-talk like, “Where ya from?” “What’s your major?” “How long have you been coming to church here?” This girl, who we will call Karen, explained that she grew up in church, but fell out of it as she got older. She got involved in things she wasn’t proud of and lost touch with members of the church with whom she was once very close with. She told me that walking through church doors actually made her anxious because of the harsh judgment from believers she experienced when she strayed away. And that broke me. You should feel anxious before getting a root canal or before a big exam, but no one should ever feel anxious about coming to church. She didn’t feel welcome and she certainly didn’t feel loved by the church and because of that, she avoided it like the plague for years.
Her story reminds me of a hundred other horror stories I’ve heard from people who have been rejected and mistreated by members of the church. It’s important to remember though that the church is not perfect. Every single one of us is a sinning hypocrite in need of grace, so expecting perfection from believers is ridiculous and quite possibly, impossible. We will slip up, handle things the wrong way, speak too soon, and frankly, we will sin because we are sinners. However, as the body of Jesus Christ, we are to hold ourselves to a higher standard and ultimately strive to reflect the love of Jesus in everything we do.
Loving others seems like a simple concept, but it’s easy to get it twisted. Here are three misconceptions about loving people we tend to mix up:
Now, I’m not saying that Christians should accept, embrace, and encourage sinful lifestyles. Biblical correction and spiritual accountability are incredibly vital in the church. Ultimately, true love is helping one another become more like Christ and pointing each other toward the truth. But it starts with compassion and kindness. It starts with having open-arms, building genuine relationships, and caring deeply for people. Ultimately, Jesus does the changing, not us, but how are people going to experience Jesus if they’re afraid of coming to church? How will they ever trust our Gospel if they can’t trust us? If we want to reach people for Christ, it starts with our posture and attitude towards others. Are we exemplifying the love of Jesus to everyone we meet? Or do we reserve that love only for people who we feel are worthy of it?
Back in my glory days of the youth group (shout out to all my RHBCers out there!), I remember learning a specific concept that has stuck with me since. Horseshoes are better than circles. Sounds weird, right? But it makes sense, I promise. Imagine this: you walk into a church function where you don’t know a soul. Everyone’s clumped up with their crew, chatting it up and just enjoying some innocent fellowship. You want to join a group, but when everyone is positioned in a circle with no open areas, it’s physically pretty difficult to slide into the conversation. Of course, no one intends to be exclusive when standing in this position, but intentional or not, people get left out. So rather than standing in a circle with no open spaces, we should stand in the shape of a horseshoe, allowing others to easily join in on the conversation. It seems like a small gesture, but it’s entirely more inclusive and it goes way deeper than just standing in a particular way.
The horseshoes are better than circles mentality should be our mantra for how we love others as the church body. Are we letting people in? Are we postured in a way that includes and invites everyone? Are we demonstrating love in everything we do? This is how Christ calls us to love because this is the way that Jesus loved: intentionally, inclusively, and without condition.
I'm McKenna Best and I need to rest.
And nope, this is not an ad for a mattress company. Although with a slogan like that, I’m wondering why Serta hasn’t sponsored me yet.
I don’t need better sleep. Between my lavender pillow spray, melatonin, and Ralph Lauren cooling pillows, I sleep like a baby every night. So when I talk about rest in this blog post, I don’t mean I need more sleep, relaxing or slowing down. I know some people struggle to pause, be still and allow themselves to be unproductive, but let me just tell you I do not have that struggle. I’m pretty sure I came out the womb relaxing. But I do need to rest. Now, I know that sounds like a contradiction but bear with me.
When it comes to physical rest, I pass with flying colors. But spiritual rest? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother story.
Over the past few months, I found myself avoiding quiet time with the Lord, zoning out during sermons, and just singing another song in worship. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so disconnected. I noticed when stress and anxiety began to creep in, I didn’t even have the energy to go to the Lord about it. So I did what I do best and shoved it down, hoping I could just go about my life and not have to deal with it.
Well, update: that doesn't work. The things you bottle up eventually come bursting out like a shaken up bottle of Mountain Dew. And it’s messy. In retrospect, I can see that I wasn’t resting in the Lord. I tried suppressing my fears and anxiety rather than immediately giving it to Him and dwelling on His truth. But it took something like that to make me realize that I was trusting God half-heartedly and I wasn’t meditating on His goodness. I simply was running from rest.
But to think that the creator of the universe wants to carry our heaviest burdens for us is an incredibly liberating thought. He doesn’t command us to “figure it out” or “deal with it yourself,” but he invites us to simply rest in who He is. We don’t have to try and run this race with the weight of worry and anxiety on our back. We can give it to Him and experience freedom. We can surrender it and find peace. We can choose to breathe in the truth of scripture and find comfort in the words of Jesus. We can rest knowing that He is the provider and source of real love on this earth. And He’s inviting us to simply cling to that.
We’re all choosing to rest in something. Maybe it’s in our own abilities. Maybe it’s in the approval of others. Maybe it’s a job or a relationship. But the only place that will actually give our souls rest is in the presence of the Lord. Where is your mind dwelling? In whom or what are you finding comfort in today?
I go to a small Christian college: a place where coffee is considered an aesthetic and the majority of the student population dresses strangely similar to Justin Bieber. The people are friendly, the “Christian chicken” is consumed on the daily, and the Enneagram is worshipped and adored by all. (@ me) But perhaps one of the most distinctive qualities of a Christian University is the extreme emphasis on receiving a ring. No, not a class ring. Who really cares about that? I’m talking about an ENGAGEMENT ring.
You’ve heard it time and time again. “Gotta get that RING by SPRING!” “So when are you getting that MRS. Degree?” Of course, these catchphrases are always said in good fun, but they put a lot of pressure on people to find love during a time when God might be calling them to be single. Wait, what? You mean you may not find the man of your dreams in college? Bingo!
I remember when I used to think I’d meet my soulmate in college. I imagined it would go like this. I’d sit by a nice boy in History class. We’d be partners for a project. We’d slowly fall in love over the course of a semester, date for two years, and BAM, we’re married a week after graduation. That's the dream, isn't it? I was in for a rude awakening come midterms when there was no Prince Charming sweeping me off my feet like a knock-off Taylor Swift song. But literally, I thought that’s how it would happen. And it does for some people, but not everyone and that is completely and totally OK.
But for a long time, I thought that’s how it was supposed to go. If I wasn’t engaged by my senior year, I’d be a failure. If I didn’t have a boy roommate AKA a husband by the time I was 22, I’d be bunking in my parent’s basement, miserable and alone with 27 bridesmaid dresses and no white dress of my own. I thought marriage was the end goal for my college years and it’s taken me about four years to realize that it’s not.
Here’s what I realized over the years: God calls some people to marriage at age 22. He calls some to marriage at 37. And sometimes, he doesn’t call people to marriage at all. Ultimately, marriage is not the end goal for our Christian lives. Do I hope to get married one day? Absolutely. And I believe that He will give us the desires of our heart in His perfect timing. Not by spring. Not by college graduation. Not by any timing but His own. Yes, college is a fantastic time to date. Naturally, you’re going to be surrounded by people with similar interests. You’re going to spend a lot of time with the same people and it’s an ideal place to meet and fall in love. BUT it’s not the only place to fall in love. Believe it or not, there’s life beyond college. And we are still so YOUNG. Yes, 22 is YOUNG. Your back might hurt and you go to bed at 9 pm like a grandmother but you’re still young. Your life has truly only begun, honey. Don’t for a second feel like you’re behind.
I’ve been learning to make the most of my season of singleness. I’ve been striving to embrace it for what it truly is: a time to pursue the Lord, explore, and chase after my God-inspired dreams. Recognizing that singleness is not a punishment, but a season for growth, joy, and independence. Realize that the pressure to find your soulmate in college is irrational and that the only timeframe we should be concerned with is the agenda of the Lord. So in the meantime, study abroad, move across the country, go on a cruise with your friends because the world is your oyster! More than that though, seek His heart and rest in the sweet, sweet season that singleness can be if we can move past the idea that it's a bad thing.
So, girl who has been asked a million times if she’s getting a ring by spring and is nowhere close to it, take heart. If you get a college ring before you get an engagement ring, welcome to the club. You’re not alone, your life is not off track, and you’re not doing anything wrong. You are right where you’re supposed to be and everything is happening just as it should.
McKenna Best is a Carolina girl currently residing in the Instagram influencer capital of the world. She believes in Jesus, dancing in the kitchen, and slow mornings. McKenna is an assistant youth director and spends her afternoons working with middle schoolers in West Nashville. In her free time, you can find her eating Chipotle, making an excessive amount of Spotify playlists, writing in a coffee shop, watching The Office, or spontaneously buying a plane ticket somewhere. She is passionate about equipping youth to unlock their potential and be all that God has called them to be, whether that be through teaching Bible lessons, or writing articles for a variety of online platforms