Abide Thrive Praise
A blog by...
Samantha Gabrielle Morgan

Dating: My Story

                Dating is an obsession in our culture.  Every other movie, song, and book has some romantic theme.  The perfect guy swoops in, saves the day, and all the fanfare leads up to that dreamy kiss that causes hearts to swoon.  Would a girls night out truly be complete without getting the run-down on who everyone likes?  Keeping up with the dating scene is consuming. 

                When I was ten or eleven, my mom told me there would be absolutely no dating until I turned sixteen.  For guys I wasn’t interested in, it was a convenient excuse.  For guys I really liked, it was more of a bitter explanation. 

                But when I turned sixteen, I didn’t have that excuse anymore.  It was up to me to decide whether or not to go out into the fray and enter the dating world.  People would tell me that dating was just another part of life, that everyone was going to do it, and that I wouldn’t know what I liked if I didn’t “shop around”. 

                I wasn’t interested, though.  Going into my senior year of high school as a dual-enrollment student at the local university, I felt I had too much on my plate to dream of any relationship. 

                Life has a way of blindsiding us, however, and I fell straight into his smile and carefree personality.  Things spun quickly into more than friends, and I was caught up in the newness of it all.  He was wonderful. 

                But my gut told me it wasn’t forever.  After wrestling with the desires of my heart and the still, small voice in my head, I said goodbye to that relationship. 

                It tore me up.  Though only a month and a half long, I had already imagined a future together.  Leaving him meant leaving a part of me too.  Things were different.  My dream of marrying my first boyfriend was for loss.

                Had I messed it all up?  Was my love story not going to be as perfect because I hadn’t held out until I was absolutely certain?  And, on the other hand, why wasn’t I itching to find another man? 

                I set out on a journey within my own heart to find answers to these nagging questions and a rest for my guilt. 

                I wanted to date.  I wanted to find someone to spend the rest of my life with.  I wanted someone to think me beautiful and special and worth their time and love.  I wanted. 

                God led my search to a chapter I’d read dozens of times, a passage I had committed to memory, even, but hadn’t listened to or meditated on for a long time.  “Love is patient; love is kind; It does not envy or boast.  It is not proud, it is not rude, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.” 

                Love isn’t about getting what I want, about me being fulfilled.  It’s about being love to another till death do you part. 

                So many people, when dating becomes the topic of conversation, allude that I believe dating is wrong. Absolutely not! However, I propose a new kind of dating: a purposeful kind. 

                Think about this—that guy you like is some girl’s husband.  He might be yours; he might not be.  Would you be able to look his future wife in the eyes and have no regrets for the way you treated her groom?  Be a woman of integrity and character.  Date in such a way that protects your hearts and your purity.  Does that mean you can’t kiss him?  For some, it may.  For others, a kiss is another way to express their affection.  I invite you to do this: don’t kiss, don’t cuddle, don’t even hold hands if the act tempts you.  Every act in a relationship should be intentional, purposeful.  Don’t do anything just because you can.  That person doesn’t belong to you until you say “I do.”

                Is there a particular age when a person is “ready”? No.  I know within my own life that at sixteen, I have found out that I am not.  But I’m not going to sit here and say “you have to be eighteen or twenty or graduated or have a job before you should date.”  God’s timing is perfect and different for everyone.  Regardless, every guy is some girl’s Someone, and you are some guy’s princess.   Conduct yourself accordingly.  You are not obliged to give any guy your heart just because they’re interested.  Choose a guy who will treasure your heart.  It will be worth it, dear sister, when you can stand before your family and your Heavenly Father and say “I do” to your true Prince Charming. 

 

Pure Gold


If one goes to a major search engine and types in the following phrase- “Why are Christians so”- hypocritical will be one of the first, if not the first, suggestions given.  Why is that?  Why is the bride of Christ primarily labeled as such?  Why have we let our Heavenly   Father and Savior’s Name be dragged through the putrid slop of a sinful world? 

            Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt. 5:8).  He warned a little while later, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).  He also tells the familiar tale about the sheep and the goats (See Matt. 25:31-46).  Over and over again, Jesus emphasized the importance of being genuine in faith.  He even plainly stated that hypocrites were not welcome in the Kingdom. 

            So why have we as a body allowed such a treacherous name to deface the very sacrifice that made us whole?  Because being genuine, legitimate, and above reproach are hard. We are weak-willed and easily tempted creatures of flesh.  Paul wrote, “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:19). Perhaps we have become tired of the jeering and the ostracizing and the persecution.  Perhaps we decided to ‘get in their shoes’ and became a little too comfortable.   Perhaps we have tried some missionary dating and become the one converted.  Perhaps you’re sitting there going ‘nope, not me!’, and that’s great!  But are you prideful of that?  Or are you sitting comfortably, allowing the world to know you only for what you don’t do, not what you do? 

            I speak to my own choir. I struggle with pride and hypocrisy.  Someone once said “Humility is shy; the moment you realize you have it, it leaves!”  We should never get too comfortable with our spirituality and let our relationship slip. 

            What exactly do I mean by genuineness anyway?  I mean living in such a way that even those bent on tearing you down can only grumble about how Christ-like you are.  I mean being the exact same person at church, at school, and at home in your room at night.  I mean being a godly girl inside and out. 

            And how do we do that?  Let me give you some scriptures to ponder, and then I’ll mention five practical tips. 

Scriptures:

1 Peter 2:12    Proverbs 31:30            Ephesians 2:10            Ephesians 4:23

Ephesians 5:1-2           Phillipians 2:1-3          Colossians 4:6

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18         2 Timothy 2:22-24

Tips!

            1) Get in the Word!
                        Yeah, literally everyone says this, but how can you profess something you haven’t even read cover to cover?  How can you follow Christ if you are not immersed in His teaching?  Some of my most favorite verses are from the Old Testament!

            2) Think before you speak.

                        Many times rash tongues get us into worlds of trouble.  Don’t let a moment of anger scald the hurting.  One poor decision can ruin someone’s opinion of you and your faith.  Taming the tongue, as James said in chapter 3, is one of the hardest things to do.  Words can bring hope, but they can also bring hate.  Speak life. 

            3) Fill your mind with Christ

                        If Jesus popped in your earbuds, would He be pleased?  Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34b).  Worship is an attitude.  Just as the rain affects mood, so does music.  Choose wisely. 

            4) Allow room for buckets of grace

                        In striving for such a pinnacle of godliness, it’s easy to beat yourself up when you fail.  We’re never going to reach full Christ-likeness here.  When you mess up, go the extra mile to make it right and to ask forgiveness.  A girl who refuses to ship the blame and owns up to her mistakes is rare and respected.  Know also that God’s forgiveness is ample and all-covering.  Accept it and try again. 

            5) Enjoy the process.  

                        God refines on His time scale, not ours.  Be patient.  He will make you into pure gold.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

------1 Peter 1:3-9

 

Pilate

 

                Little is known about this man. He only appears in the latter half of each gospel, and then only for a couple paragraphs in each.  We know he was the governor of Jerusalem under the Roman Empire.  We also know he was the man the high priests dragged their worst enemy to one night, calling upon him to proclaim death upon their adversary. 

                Groggy and rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Pilate probably donned a robe and stumbled out to face the rioting and furious crowd.  A man, non-descript, with red cheeks and possibly a black eye, is thrown at his feet.  Priests begin screaming accusations and waving their fingers at Pilate to kill the man before him. 

                Pilate, wanting to be a good representative of the Roman Empire turns to the man and asks him to defend himself.  The man refuses.  Then, hearing a common thread in the yells of the priests around them, Pilate asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

                To this, the man answers quietly, “It is as you say.”

                Marveling, Pilate sits down on his great chair.  The priests are vile and filled with hate, and many people are joining in.  There really isn’t anything to charge the man, Jesus, with, so Pilate proposes a little trade.  “Only one prisoner will be killed,” he says, “and the other will go free.  Which do you want released to you?  This Jesus or Barabbas?”

                As he takes in the general opinion of the crowd, a messenger comes with a letter from Pilate’s wife: Do not kill the man called Jesus.  He is innocent.

                Over the screams of the crowd for Jesus’s blood, Pilate tries to reason with them.  “What crime has this man committed?  Barabbas is a murderer!  Do you want him on your streets?”

                But they refuse to relent, and Pilate watches the calm, sorrowful face of the man called Jesus at his feet.  He knows what will happen to this man.  Pilate almost feels sorry for him. 

                The crowd closes in, and, maybe afraid for his life, but wanting to please the crowd, Pilate holds up his hands and calls for a bowl and a cloth.  “I wash my hands of this man’s blood.”

                ---

                I wonder if Pilate and Jesus made eye contact as the Savior of the world was dragged away to death, death on a Roman cross.  I wonder if Pilate lay awake that night and felt sorry for his choice.  I wonder if he ever regretted not standing up for what he knew to be right.

                How many times are we a bit like Pilate?  How many times have we sentenced kind words, new kids, and honest work to their ‘death’ in our lives?   How many times have we let peer pressure and public opinion keep our mouths shut against injustice? 

                We don’t ever know what happened to Pilate.  I’ve always hoped he became a Christ-follower after Jesus rose again.  We do know, however, that we are Christ’s ambassadors on earth, just as Pilate was a governor under the Roman Empire.  We can’t stand back and allow hate and hardship to ‘crucify’ the hurting.  We’re called to stand up and love radically, with reckless abandon.  Some people will hate us, some people will hurt us, and some people will heckle us, but others will be touched by our actions and will turn to the One who makes us strong.  Don’t cave like Pilate did.  Let’s stand together, even when it’s hard, and make the right choices as daughters and warriors of the King. 

 

The Elephant in the Room...

If you picked an average girl off the streets for a little game of word-association, “relationships” would bring “dating” immediately to her mind.  Boys appear to be the object of every teen girl’s obsession.  Love songs, romance novels, and tabloids all perpetuate this idea that we need a head-over-heels, all-consuming lover to be complete or even mentionable.  Girls are told that guys will fill the deep ache in their soul, so they throw themselves from heartbreak to heartbreak until there is more scar tissue than healthy muscle in their hearts. 

                And we as innocent girls buy into the lies.  At earlier and earlier ages girls are chasing cute boys, gossiping about the “who’s with who” of the lunch room or even youth group, and spending ever more effort trying to improve their appeal to the new guy in their grade.  They look for the key that will unlock the knot of hollowness inside them and the boyfriend that will make everything feel right. 

                But it never really works. 

                Truth is they’re on a wild goose chase.  Only one person could ever fill that void in every human’s heart.  Hint: it’s not a significant other.

                This person is a radically loving, continually forgiving, always pursuing God.  He made that hole in you so you would turn to Him for living water.  He created you to long for something bigger and better, but our sin has convinced us that the ultimate pedestal is our favorite member of the latest boy band.   He is the lover of your soul.

                If God is so amazing and fulfilling, why don’t more girls, and guys, turn to Him for emotional and spiritual fulfillment?  “Well, one can’t see God, feel God, hear God, touch God, or smell God,” people say, “so He must not exist.”  I can’t sense God directly in physical terms either, but I can see the work of His hands in creation, feel His presence when I cry out to Him, hear His gentle rebuke when I do wrong, touch His love letter to me and the world, and smell the little details he put on this planet like dogwood blooms and peach cobbler.  There is no doubt in my mind that He exists and He loves me.

                Best of all, He loves you too.

                Boys are great.  They were, at least in the beginning, a ‘very good’ piece of God’s creation.  All of us will fall for at least one adorable boy.  Most all of us will find the perfectly imperfect guy for us and get married.  Boys are an important part of our lives.  God designed it that way.  But, they aren’t the most important, and for that, I am grateful.  Why?  Because I am imperfect and all guys are imperfect.  We are going to break each other’s hearts, get jealous, do wrong things to each other, and annoy each other.  Getting involved with guys includes getting hurt sometimes.  It’s inevitable that I’m going to have a bad experience with guys, but God will never break my heart, even when I break His.  He is always there to pick me back up and continue forming me into the godly woman and perhaps wife He calls me to be.  In Him I can find rest for my soul.

                So instead of centering all your energy on the other gender, pour your time into falling in love with Jesus.  He is the one you’ve been looking for this entire time, and His goodness and love will never disappoint. 

 

Beautiful Souls Pt. 2

What really is a relationship with Jesus?  Most certainly it begins with a salvation through faith by grace, as outlined in the Bible, but what changes beyond that moment?

                Everything.  Everything from how you take each breath to what jokes you laugh at to how you view the world around you changes when Christ makes Himself at home in your life.  Why?  Because He gives you glimpses of the world through His eyes.  I find these moments addicting.  I want to sees what Jesus sees, understand a bit of what He understands, and love a bit like He loves.  Jesus is my role model.

                We all have friends we want to be like.  Our relationship with them inevitably involves a great deal of mimicry.  We begin to use the same sort of slang they do, watch the same shows they do, and hang around the same people they do.  The same should be true of our relationship with Jesus.  As we get to know Him better, we should pick up His character traits.  I’m sure you’ve hear of the famous acronym WWJD (What would Jesus do?).  This lens for how we view the world comes more and more naturally the more we read about His life and what He did. 

                Becoming more like Christ is a learning process, but this is the key element in what makes a person attractive.  Only Jesus can make a truly beautiful soul. 

                So what does the beautiful soul He makes look like?  One of the most beautiful traits I think Jesus gives us is compassion.  The closer we get to Christ, the more broken we feel for the lost and hurting around us.  We want them to have the same relationship we do.  Compassion leads us often into action.  Helping those around us, speaking kind words to them, and simply loving them speaks volumes to the lost.  They begin to watch and see if you’re consistent.  Your compassion draws them.  Grow that compassionate seed in you, even when it gets hard.  Jesus will call you to step out from the norm and do things that will seem strange to the world, things that might get you ridiculed, but do it anyway, because even those who laugh will remember what you’ve done and search for the reason you did it.  Obey His call to love the least of these.  Let compassion grow in the garden your heart cultivates. 

 

Beautiful Souls Pt. 1

 “I love that dress; it’s beautiful!”

“That color is beautiful!”

“That waterfall is so beautiful!”

We use the word every day to describe everything from wall paint to prom dresses.  We pull it out from a velvet bag of positive adjectives and fling it ever closer to meaninglessness. 

But stop and think about what that word really captivates.  Roll it around on your tongue a bit.  Savor the syllables.  What does it mean to be beautiful?  Dictionary.com describes it as “having beauty; possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about, etc.; delighting the senses or mind.”

I actually rather like that definition.  With this in mind, what is the most beautiful part of you?  Your eyes?  Your voice?  Your sense of humor?  What would someone describe as your most beautiful quality?  Well I can’t tell you what someone would say about me, but I do know what I would hope they would say. 

Her relationship with Jesus.

Why?  Because everything else about me is temporal, at least in its current state.  My eyes will lose their luster, my voice will die away, and my sense of humor will never actually be funny.  The sole thing that transcends time and death is my walk with my Heavenly Father. 

And what a perfect thing to be remembered by!  My utmost goal in life is to live in such a way that people will see my life and praise God because of it.  I believe there is nothing more beautiful than a girl completely in love with her Savior. 

So join me on this journey!  I hope to be blogging about this topic for a bit, and I’d love to hear from you! Email the mag and ask for me.  I’d love your input on what it means to have a beautiful walk with God. 

 

While We're Waiting...

                Scrolling through social media has lately become quite uncomfortable for me.  It seems like everyone around me has a significant other, a mcm or wcw, or someone to call ‘theirs’, and here I am reading up on the history of Hawaii and running through choir music.  It’s not that I feel ugly or boring or unloved.  I just feel... ignored.  Half the people in my contact list are too busy to text me back.  Single friends are scarce.

                So I hang out by myself a lot, watching and waiting for a Prince Charming to swoop me off my feet.  Eventually, one day, it’s bound to happen.  Hey! Today might be that lucky day.

                One of the hardest things I find about being a Christian is being patient.  I want a relationship now! I get so focused on earthly suitors that I forget my soul’s Heavenly One.

                Instead of waiting for some guy to come and ‘fulfill’ us, we should dive into God’s service and bask—or abide—in His love.  According to Paul, singlehood is actually a precious time with God.  It’s a time to serve Him wholeheartedly and to devote our lives to His work. 

                Many people served God and their relations while single: Abel, Ruth, David, Daniel, Timothy, and the apostles.  To some, God brought spouses, and to others He didn’t.  A few were even killed for what they did for God. 

                Regardless of the outcome, we are called to serve, and now is the perfect time to do it.  Immerse yourself in Christ and His kingdom, and He will bless you richly. 

 

To Be Honest...

      I love to write.  One of those picture perfect moments for me is being curled up on the couch, pencil and notebook in hand, scribbling away to the beat of my nano on shuffle.  I collect notebooks and have a drawer full of ones I haven’t even touched yet.  I carry at least two of them and four highlighters, a pen, and a pencil around at all times.  I read books about writing, talk to friends about writing, Instagram about writing, and even get everything out and sit on the couch to begin writing.

  But the words don’t come. 

  Sure, I’ve created a totally different world for a series I’m writing (I’ve actually finished the first book and starting the second) and have put about 90,000 words on paper since last year, but sitting down to write articles is unbelievably hard and I don’t know why.  You’d think after all that I could write a short page about some devotional topic once or twice a week and post it and feel good about myself. 

  It just doesn’t work that way. 

 It’s not like I don’t have anything to say.  Feelings and thoughts refuse to squeeze themselves onto the tip of a mechanical pencil and onto a fresh page.  They just won’t do it.  I want to be inspiring, memorable, punctual, and truthful about everything I write.  I want to be a great magazinist (if that’s even a thing) and be the best contributor that ever set foot here.  I want things to flow effortlessly off into cyberspace and into your very lives.

 All this seems well and good until one sits down and digests the sentences.  I want... I want... I want.   So often I get caught in what I want to do for God, and what I want to look like to others, namely a fabulous Christian.  And this is my whole problem.  What I should want is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  I want to abide in His word, thrive in His love, grace, and mercy, and praise Him for all He has done for me.  This is why I titled my blog as such, right? 

 This is why I write.  This is why I write for this magazine and for my own personal pleasure.  This is why I breathe: to glorify my Audience of One.  This is why I will continue to write. 

 This is why I wrote this for you.  To let you see a piece of my prideful selfishness.  I am far from perfect. Never let me convince you otherwise.  I believe that we here at Crown of Beauty are a loving community of broken people.  We want to encourage you because we’ve been there, we’ve messed up, we’ve hurt.  We want to come alongside you and build you up to your full princess potential. 

  I hope that you will join me on this journey so we can abide, thrive, and praise Him together. <3

Builders for Christ

That alarm clock goes off unbelievably early and I sit up quickly and try hard to remember where I am and why I’m in a small room with a dozen groaning girls.  My air mattress squeaks below me as I recall my location, and I flounder around for a t-shirt, basketball shorts, toiletry bag, and hairbrush to take with me into the blinding light of the typical small churches’ women’s bathroom.  It is 5:30am, just hours after I collapsed into bed, another beautiful day at Builders.  

I splash water on my face in an effort to look alive and walk outside to the rising sun and the luscious smell of biscuits baking in the morning.  The kitchen ladies all smile at me and say hello, and I do my best to smile back and help with what little I can.

Other half-awake teenagers stumble their way out to join me, and we lay our heads on the tables to catch those fleeting moments of sleep before our always alert always cheery leader emerges from his camper.  

We have morning announcements and a prayer before we are let loose on the steaming buffet of southern classics.  We eat, even though it’s too early for our appetites to get up, and wait for the brave soul who offered to do devotion that morning.  We listen quietly as they share their little bit, and wince at the loud noise of our clapping at all of 6:15.  Then it is my favorite part of meals: we form a large circle around our tables and hold hands and count ourselves off.  At the end of the numbering we all raise our intertwined hands and sing a hymn: On Holy Ground.  

Our voices fade into the morning stillness and we are sent off to work.  The building is hollow and waiting for the sounds of measurements being called, boards being cut, and drills being spun into 5/8ths inch sheetrock.  I strap my tool belt to my waste and smile dimly at the bare studs and the tall piles of compressed dust wrapped in paper. 

            Our labor of love has begun again.

            In no time at all I am coated in a thick layer of white powder, inside and out.  We’ve managed five successful cuts, nearly a small wall two sets high, rasped a sixth board another quarter of an inch because we measured wrong, and completely confused which no lukewarm and grimy water bottle was whose.  I shove another cracker in my mouth before helping lift the board back up onto the wall and into its place.  That board screwed and flushed, we move to the next one.  Slowly, white sheetrock advances along the bare studs, closing in our room and bringing the building one step closer to complete. 

            They call us up for lunch.  I wash my hands and arms and marvel at how tan I actually am.  Procedure at this meal is the same as the last, and work continues in a similar manner that afternoon.  By dinner time my shirt is damp and sticky, my hair is powdered and half undone, my arms ache from the strain, and my heart is full. 

            After dinner they release us for showers in the small disaster trailers in the side parking lot.  They are not warm, or completely clean, but after working all day they are wonderfully refreshing. 

            My best friend and I take our Bibles and journals out to the porch and spend time with the Lord while the sun sets over the corn fields.  It is a blessing, coming to Eastern Kentucky and doing church construction.  I wouldn’t trade the dust or heat or showers for anything.  They are all pieces of the beautiful picture of mission work. 

            The evening we spend playing card games and cutting up with friends we see only this one week a year.  We stay up too late again, and we will regret it in the morning, but time with these brothers and sisters is priceless.  I miss each one, but I look forward to the times we will have next summer, touching another church and building the body of Christ through volunteer church construction. 

                                                                            ~*~

Interview with The Birdsongs!

The Birdsongs are a Christian rock band comprised of four brothers, one sister, and their father living in the suburbs of Knoxville, Tennessee.  A friend of mine told me to check them out one night, and I quickly fell in love with the meaningful lyrics and crazy electric guitar shredding.  As I listened and learned more, I was tickled by the bluegrass influences (my favorite musical style) and warmed by the camaraderie between the siblings.  I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to interview them, and I hope you will look them up on YouTube, ITunes, or at http://spartafirstbaptist.com/1spartafirstbaptist-birdsong-family.html

1. How old are all of you, and how long have you been involved in music?

Benjamin: Well, my oldest brother Matthew is 28, my sister Coleene is 25, my younger brother Timothy is 23, and my brother Philip is 22. My youngest sister Priscilla is 18, and my youngest brother Joshua is 13. I'm 27 and our dad Wendell is...dad. We started playing music in 1994. 


2. What was the inspiration behind starting this band and ministry?

Benjamin: My dad always played guitar, but he never drug us into his love for playing music. When Matthew was 10 he asked for a banjo, and I thought it would be cool to play mandolin. The rest of the family followed suit, asking for various instruments. We never thought that what started in our living room would grow into something that would change lives and encourage people all over the world. Music was something we just did for fun.  Then we began to see how God could use it, and that's when we considered doing it full time. 


3. What got you into Appalachian style instruments? 

Benjamin: Bluegrass music is known for being very family oriented and kids as young as 4 and 5 years old are commonly taught to sing songs by their parents and grandparents. We saw kids our age playing this style of music and thought, "We could do that, let's give it a shot!"


4. How do you find time to balance home, family, faith, and touring?

Benjamin: We have a great group of close friends that challenge us and hold us accountable to studying God's Word, and living it out. We couldn't do this without honest, Christ-centered relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ. They keep us grounded and humble and aren't afraid to point out errors in our mindset and attitude. We don't get to see them as much as we'd like but, when we do, we're honest about our struggles. It's very important to have godly friends!


5. What were the inspirations behind your songs Pieces (Hold On) and So Much More?

Benjamin: "Pieces (Hold On)" was written by Philip and myself. There had been a school shooting in the community we live in. I was searching for words of hope and truth. I thought to myself, 'If I had only one chance to share real hope and truth, what would I say?' I sat down and wrote the verses and Philip just started singing the chorus so I wrote down what he sang. God has used this song in countless ways to bring healing and encouragement to broken people. 

After joining a high school show choir class, I began hearing stories of young ladies trying to find their self-worth in how they were perceived: whether or not they had a boyfriend, whether they were popular, etc. I wrote "So Much More" to let them know that they were created for a purpose and that their Creator loves them. 

6.  Is there a particular song of yours that you are partial to?

Benjamin: "Will You Save Me?" 

Timothy: "Will You Save Me?" because it's an honest cry out to God that we need Him. I like playing it live and seeing people connect with the message. 

Matthew: "Will You Save Me?"

Philip: "Will You Save Me?" is pretty awesome. It's one of the heaviest songs we do so it's different and more aggressive. 

Coleene: "I'm Still Sure." I like that one a lot...it's really hard to pick one! "I'm Still Sure" is pretty and I like the message.


7.  What do you like to do in your free time?

Benjamin: This past winter I got into snowboarding, and I enjoy surfing when I get the chance. Wake boarding is a lot of fun...I guess anything with a board and a form of H2O! [laughs] It's a great way to pass the time. I also have a tall stack of books on theology that I'm reading. I love learning about God! 

Timothy: I like reading the Bible, hanging out with my family and friends, and playing the piano. 

Matthew: Watch Nascar. 

Philip: Eat and sleep. [laughs] I like to search for new music, different styles, different genres.

Coleene: I like reading and hanging out with my family. I like archery, too, when it's warmer and I have more time. I also like painting, and I'm writing a book. 


8. Who is your favorite Disney princess?  (We have a huge thing with princesses at CoB)

Philip: Anna from Frozen!! 

Benjamin: Feline from Bambi. [Coleene: She's not a princess!] Yes, she was! Who was she married to? [laughs] 

Coleene: I always liked Aurora because we're similar. We both sing a lot and have long hair. 

Timothy: Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

Matthew: [Stone-Faced] I don't have a favorite. [Benjamin: I think he likes them all!]


9. What would you tell girls who are struggling with self worth and finding a place in this world? 

Benjamin: Girls today live in what I believe to be the hardest culture and era for being who they were created to be. They're told they have to be a certain weight, size, shape, height to be attractive. This is a lie! What is truly attractive is a Godly, gentle spirit. This is very precious and pleasing to God and will help you attract the right kind of people. It's hard not to follow to culture's idea of what you have to wear, do, watch, and listen to, but if you really want to live the life you were meant to live, submit to God's plan for your life.
                                                                                ~*~

                                     Eleven Strokes

               Eleven small strokes start my day.  The ink tickles that sensitive skin. The promise is made.

                In this crazy, messy world, it’s so easy to lose sight of what’s really important.  We confine the King of Kings to fifteen minutes a day, to a convenient few moments between hitting the button on our alarm and starting our day.  Is it really possible to actually include Him in every second of our lives?  To show the world what He means to us without saying a word?

                The eleven strokes on my wrist are my declaration to the world, my invitation for God to step out of my bedroom and into the grocery store, the library, and the school, my pledge to the world to act like Christ. 

                But what are these eleven strokes?  What kind of impact can something so small have on my life?

                I’ve had two of those strokes the longest: the two halves of a heart.  The nails went through Jesus’s wrists as He poured out the greatest, purest love humanity has ever and will ever know.  Every pound of the hammer, every scream He unleashed, was the culmination of Love, its author, perfector, and demonstrator, lavished on me.  Me!  And, when I remember that I don’t have a boyfriend like every other teen girl on the planet, these two strokes remind me that I already have the best love and companion there is, one who is writing my love story with His precious blood. 

                The other nine are more recent.  One of the most important things Livy has taught me is what abiding really means.  Abiding is taking every breath and exhaling it in praise and adoration of our Savior.  Abiding is laying oneself continually at the foot of the cross, continually in Jesus’s arms.  Abiding is a never-ending way of life. 

                And, so, the word Abide joins the heart on my wrist.  Eleven strokes make up the most powerful lesson I have ever learned in my walk with Christ: the beauty of re-creation and salvation and the fullness of a life lived wholly for His glory.