Who We Are (A Guest Post By Julia Vanlandingham)

Who We Are

Hey everyone! My best friend Julia wrote an amazing essay which I posted on here a few months back, and… she’s done it again! I hope you enjoy this awesome guest essay. 🙂


Who are you? It’s an easy question, right? So simple: Who are you? My answer to this question most of the time sounds something like this, “I’m Julia, I’m 17 years old. I have four sisters and one brother. I also have one brother-in-law, one sister-in-law, and one baby niece. I LOVE mathematics, but I don’t like writing. I’m not that good at writing, because I have a very mathematical brain.” That may describe some aspects of me (some incorrectly, but we’ll get to that later), but does this answer really say who I am? I think not. This description say my name, my age, and my profession (or projected profession). This describes how others perceive me on my surface, but not really truly who I am.

The things we are passionate about, the activities and people we love, the experiences we have had: these are the things that shape us. However, what does that really mean? It means that as we grow older we change. The friends we have and the environment we live in will shape how we talk and act. The activities we participate in will either spark our interest in a certain field or scorch it. The people we love will change us in many ways. Whether it be that you pick your clothes up off the floor for them, or you mow the lawn everyday for them, it is a deviation from your normal behavior. So, people and events shape us, but is that what defines our identity? Are we simply the sum of all our actions?

Oftentimes we describe who we are based on what we do or what other people have told us we are. As an example, my whole life I have been told I was a bad writer. Now, let’s get something straight, at one point in time I was very bad at writing, but I worked hard and I have changed that. So, I always thought of myself as a bad writer. I thought that was one of the things that defined who I was. The longer I was told this, the more and more it was engrained in my mind that was me: Julia, the mathematician who can’t write.

I think that, in this case, the sum of all the parts is so much less than the whole. So, what is missing, what makes us a whole and not simply a sum of actions? Well, the answer is simple, but also so very hard to see at times: God. The missing factor is the Lord. This is what makes us who we are really, this is what defines us. First and foremost we are a child of the King. So, as I describe myself the biggest and most important part of who I am is not that I am a mathematician or that I have a big family, or that I once was not good a writing. It is that I have been saved by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. I have lived, died and been risen with him, and that is what makes me who I am.

So, we are not simply defined as what we do or who we know, there is so much more to each and every one of us. Oftentimes we do not take the time to get to know people deeply, to really get to know who they are. This leads us to see them as the sum of their actions. Often this can lead to misconceptions about people, and sometimes it can hurt that person deeply for a long time. When someone is told repeatedly that a certain characteristic defines them, they will eventually begin to believe it. They will start to tell themselves the same thing, and they may believe that is who they are. Once someone has told themselves that this thing defines them for long enough, it is hard to go back. It leaves a scar. One that most people can’t even see. One that maybe the person can’t even see themselves. It takes a long time and much help to see that this doesn’t define them.

So, whatever it is that you have been told defines you. Whatever you have told yourself defines you. Whatever you think you are bad at and that you just can not do that thing and it is going to hold you back. Forget it. That is not you. Do not let anyone else tell you who you are. Strive everyday to live your identity in Christ, the only thing that can never be taken from you.


I hope you enjoyed this amazing guest post! What are some ways we could learn to shape our identities in Christ? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon. 🙂

Challenging Ourselves: Why Writing Needs to Be Difficult

Here’s something that should be said more often: Writing is really, really difficult. From the outside, it looks deceivingly simple. You open up a Microsoft Word document, bang out somewhere around 40,000 words, and suddenly you have a novel. What could be easier? Why are those authors over there whining about the pitfalls of editing and the horror that is first drafts? What do they have to complain about? Writing is easy!

I used to think like that. I used to think that if it wasn’t easy for me, than I must be doing something wrong. I must not be a good enough writer. I’m procrastinating too much. My sentences are incoherent. Most the time, I fail to have an actual plot until I’m about half way through the first draft. I must not have had enough practice. I am not worthy to call myself ‘author’ unless I can write a new book every three months and have it be completely fabulous the first time around.

Here’s the thing, though: none of that is true. Writing is not easy. We don’t write because it’s easy. We don’t write so that, someday, it can be easy. We write because we have to, because it challenges us, because we are called to write. We write for the same reason that musicians make music and painters paint.

This might not sound super relevant, but stick with me for a moment: I work at a gym, a jungle gym, where kids come to learn parkour and gymnastics. Before I got a job there, I took classes. My teacher, now my boss, had a few things to say to us students about challenging ourselves. I am greatly paraphrasing, but, “If you’re doing something and it’s easy, then you’re not learning anything,” he told us, “Pick something difficult, something that you can’t do, and do that until it’s easy. Then pick the next difficult thing.”

So when we write, and it seems impossible to get it just right even on the third or fourth of fifth draft, let’s not complain (not too much, anyway). In that moment, you are learning something entirely new. You are learning the ten thousand ways that don’t work in order to find the way that does. You are mastering something difficult. You are improving your writing, even if in the moment it looks like absolute rubbish. Writing is not easy. It’s not supposed to be. If we wanted to do something easy, we would be shuffling papers in an office somewhere. Writing has to be difficult so that we can learn to write better.


Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed this post. What do you think? What are some things you find difficult, or some difficult things you’ve mastered or learned from in the past? Let me know in the comments.

🙂


Challenging Ourselves

The Importance of Words (A Guest Post by Julia VanLandingham)

Julia Guest Post

Today I wanted to share with you this lovely essay by my amazing friend Julia VanLandingham. She is a math and science nerd, but it seems she also has a bit of a penchant for essay writing as well. 🙂 Enjoy!


“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We’ve all heard this saying time and again. The truth is, though, words do hurt. Often times, words hurt people more than sticks and stones would have. Words can hurt the very core of a person, and while it may not be visible from the outside, the hurt can be devastating. Words often can continue to hurt someone for a long time after they have been said, as the person continues to think about them and play them over and over in their head. However, words are extremely important in our society today. Words can bring people together or tear people apart. Words can free people or incriminate them. Words and communication are everything. Without them, we would be lost.

            Often we don’t think about what we are saying to people; we just say it. This can be good in some contexts, as it is good to be candid and honest. At other times, this can be extremely detrimental and can cause a lot of pain and trouble. We all have things we wish we never said, times we wish we could redo and think before we said anything. Unfortunately, you can’t take words back once you’ve said them. Something you say that was in the heat of the moment or that just doesn’t sound quite how you meant it to, can never be taken back. Sometimes it can lead to funny situations when something doesn’t sound quite right. However, more often than not, things that are said in the heat of the moment are hurtful and can break down relationships. Words are extremely powerful.

            So, these words are important. These words can be very hurtful, but how are we supposed to trust ourselves to think before we speak? Should we just stop saying anything at all? The answer is no. If we were to seclude ourselves by doing such, nothing would ever get done. Communication is key. Some people feel as if technology is the most important thing in our society and in our educational system. However, all the technology in the world is useless without communication. This becomes very evident in the cast of scientists and mathematicians. They can have the most brilliant minds and find the most amazing solutions to problems, but if they cannot communicate their thoughts and ideas to others, the research is useless. We all need communication, we can’t just quit speaking for the rest of our lives.

            So, if keeping quiet is not the answer, what in the world is? Can we do it by ourselves? Should we put in some system of friends and family to help us think about what we are saying? Well, yes and no. We all need to guard our own tongues and employ our friends and family to help us as well, but we can’t really truly do it all on our own. No matter how hard we try we will not be able to truly guard our mouth effectively, because we are sinful. The only way is to ask the Lord to help us. David says in Psalm 141 “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” We all need to ask for this, it is the only way we will ever be able to begin to stop saying hurtful things.

            But, we’re all human and sinful; we will slip up, we will say hurtful things from time to time. What can we do then? Well, we have established that words can be very hurtful, but words can also heal a great many sorrows. Just a simply phrase such as “I love you” or “It will be okay” can change everything in a situation. One of the most powerful phrases that someone can employ when they have wronged someone else is “I am sorry”. It seems like a simple phrase, like just something that we were told to say when we were younger, but it is amazing what wrongs it can heal when said sincerely. On the flip side, the wrongdoer only wants to hear one other simple phrase, “I forgive you”. Another three words, but they are three of the most powerful words in the world. All someone wants to know when they are trying to make things right is that they are forgiven. So, next time you slip up, as you inevitably will, because we are all sinfully human, just remember that there are three simple words that can go a long way to making things right.


I hope you enjoyed this guest post! What do you think? In what other ways can we improve communication with each other? Let me know in the comments. 🙂