I was a ball of nerves.

I was in my bathroom, just getting ready for the day, looking in the mirror as I curled my hair and tried to ignore the fact that I was so nervous to lead worship the next night.

After suppressing the nerves all week, it finally hit me.
I started trembling and actually began to tear up as a wave of anxiety hit me.
I looked at the pathetically scared girl in the mirror and thought, “I’ve been leading worship for almost 5 years now. This is literally a simple church prayer gathering. This is ridiculous. Why am I still battling fear?”

I’ll rewind a little. I’ve spent pretty much my whole life hiding my voice. I’m not totally sure why or when that became a thing, but as long as I can remember, I never let anybody hear me sing. I loved singing when I was at home alone, or quietly humming when I used a blow-dryer so no one in the house could hear me, but as soon as another person was present, I could not get any real sound to come out.

It wasn’t until about 5 years ago that God spoke to me in my room one day.
He said, “There’s a big fear you have that I want you to get over. I’ve given you a voice. I want to use you to bless others in worship, and you’re being selfish by letting fear keep that locked up.”
At that time, I had recently made a commitment to God and myself to live fearlessly–that I would never let fear be the reason I didn’t do something.
So I said, “Okay God, I’ll start singing,” not totally sure what that would mean or look like.

I’ll never forget the night that started this whole singing thing for me. A few weeks after God told me to get over my fear, my church at the time was having youth worship team tryouts. I went back and forth with myself that whole day about whether or not I should go, until finally I found myself driving to the church, shaking, with my stomach in knots saying, “God, whatever You want to do with my life and my voice, do it. Whether I make the team or not, I’m doing this for You and to show fear that it doesn’t control me.”

I ended up trying out, and everybody was shocked that I could sing.
I made the team, and that opened the door to this whole new world of music and worship-leading for me.

The past 5 years since then have consisted of me learning from scratch. I learned how a band works, how to use in-ears, how to sing harmonies, I had to get used to the sound of my voice in a microphone, what it means to be a worship leader, how to feel a room and take the song where God wants it go…like I literally came into this not knowing anything haha. Over these past few years I’ve gotten to lead at different churches, sing at a few conferences, and even a few weddings. I’m now on my current church’s worship team at Jesus Culture Sacramento, where I get to serve with some of the most humble, gifted, and passionate worship leaders I’ve ever known. This worship-leading thing has been one of the most unexpected and beautiful journeys of my life.

However, every now and again, that fear tries to rear its ugly head.

Fast-forward to that moment in my bathroom (of all places, haha). That was going to be my third time leading worship that week, I had some kind of bug, my voice was giving out, and leading at this prayer gathering felt like more pressure than doing background vocals like I do most often at my church. So there I was last week, shaking, feeling small, and completely unqualified. For a split second, the thought crossed my mind, “Is this worth it? Why do I put myself through the nerves and nausea?” God, I can’t go on like this forever. Help me.”

I had a decision to make…Should I say it was a good run and plan to close the worship-leading chapter of my life pretty soon, or continue to fight the fear head-on until every last bit of it was gone?

I said to myself, “Why on EARTH would I let fear rob me of what I was made to do? God, YOU spoke to me. YOU called me to this, so help me face and overcome this fear once and for all.”

So for the sake of obedience, my refusal to let fear win, and for my hope to encourage other people that battle with fear, I decided to go to war in my bathroom.

I started singing the lyrics to “You Make Me Brave” until I was shouting them and until I believed it.
God helped me get to the roots of my fear so it could no longer control me.

I realized I had put all these different pressures on myself, that I think so many of us experience in the things we pursue.

I felt like I needed to perfect.
I thought, “The world has so many other gifted people, and I’m just some random girl that decided to be obedient. What could I have to offer?
I didn’t want to disappoint people.
I felt like every worship set I led had to turn into a super powerful, spontaneous set like the Bethel videos on YouTube haha.

And that’s when God told me, “Your worship doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s. You don’t need to be the best singer or worship leader out there for me to love your worship. You’re LEARNING. Give yourself the time and the grace to learn and grow! If you’re fighting your way through this fear and can only manage to sing Me the simplest song imperfectly, that is MORE than enough for Me. THAT is beautiful, costly worship.”

All of this pressure, comparison, and anxiety I had started to vanish. Instead I felt the freedom to be learning, the freedom to not be perfect, the freedom to just be myself.

The next night ended up being one of my top favorite times ever leading worship. Without all the nerves in the way, I was able to actually sing out what was inside of me. I looked around and saw a room full of people singing, shouting, cheering, dancing, and excited about what God was doing in our lives and in our city. There was a new level of freedom I hadn’t felt before. I remember feeling so alive in that moment, and every word I sang felt like driving another nail into fear’s coffin.

I share all this not to be like, “Oooh, look what I did!” but to stand on the other side of a victory and say,
YOU WERE MADE TO BE BRAVE TOO.

YOU WERE MADE TO BE FREE.

There is NO FEAR that has ANY RIGHT to control you.

WHAT IS THAT DREAM YOU HAVE DEEP, DEEP DOWN IN YOUR HEART THAT YOU’RE TOO SCARED TO EVEN ACKNOWLEDGE?
(And yes, I’m shout-typing this because THIS IS IMPORTANT!)

As I’m typing this, I really feel like this is your moment to wake up and allow yourself to pursue the things that sound crazy, unconventional, and impossible.

It’s time to let God to breathe on the little spark in your heart
until it’s a raging, unstoppable fire.

It’s time to leave behind the pressures of perfectionism, people-pleasing, and striving.

IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP FROM THE SLEEP FEAR HAS KEPT YOU IN.

Even if you’re trembling, have no clue what you’re doing, and feel completely unqualified, just start somewhere.
He can only help you “walk on water” when you decide to take the first step.

If GOD has called you and made you for this purpose, that’s ALL that matters.
The world will be a better place because you decided to do what you were made to do.

Take some time to sit and think about what your life would look like without any fear.
Ask God to lead you in doing whatever it is that He’s put in your heart.
I promise you, friend, it will be one of the most beautiful, worth-it things you’ll ever do.

I’m so excited for you and I’m cheering you on!!

Love,
Angela

 

P.S. – Feel free to write out what your “thing” is in the comments! What’s that thing you’d love to do but maybe have been too scared to start?
There’s something so powerful about saying it out loud.

December is always weird for me.
It’s one of my absolute FAVORITE months of the year, yet it’s also the month that a little part of me dreads.
I LOVE all the holiday magic, tree lightings, Christmas music everywhere, celebrations, and that the whole world seems to be a little more cheerful.
But December is also the month of my birthday and the last month of the year.
It kinda feels like a ticking time bomb.

I’m really big on starting each year writing out goals I plan to achieve, milestones I want to hit that year, and big miracles I’m believing with all my heart for God to make happen.
And as November and December start approaching, amidst all the holiday excitement, I also start to well up with a ton of pressure and worry.

Like, “Oh gosh, self, hurry up and get your life together before the clock strikes midnight on the 31st, or else you can consider this year a flop.”
Ever since high school, I’ve had this picture-perfect image in my head of how my life was supposed to pan out–Graduate college by 21 or 22, be in love and financially independent by 23, married by 26, be building an amazing ministry or career by 27, have kids by 28 or 29…and so far, every December, each milestone expectation that I’ve put on myself–that I’ve put on GOD–has been flung out the window. And each year as December rolls around, I’ve felt just a little more disappointed in myself…a little more disappointed in God.

But I’ve decided this year will be different.

It’s like something clicked and my eyes are being opened to how life actually works. This year I’ve noticed no one is actually living the life we think everyone is living.

As often as I tell people, “Don’t compare yourself to others,” and as many times as I’ve seen, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” in cute hand-lettered writing on Instagram, it’s like I’m actually finally getting it.

Maybe you do this too, but I realized I’ve taken bits and pieces from lots of different people’s lives and adopted them all as my own mental timeline.
Like, “That guy from high school got his Masters Degree by 23.”
And, “That girl was financially independent from her parents and had her own place at 22.”
And, “Worship-leading became her full-time thing in her mid-twenties.”
And, “That married couple is my age and already has a kid…”

It’s created this pressure in the back of my mind to make it all happen, but the truth is, none of them are even “making it all happen.”

The guy who got his Masters at 23 moved back home to start paying off student loans.
The girl living on her own at 22 was able to do so because she decided not to go to college and began working full-time.
While that singer started recording albums at 24, that other woman’s ministry exploded in her 50s with her husband.
The married couple with a kid has moved like 4 times this year and then back in with their in-laws to save money.

No one is actually doing EVERYTHING all at once, and yet each of those lives are beautiful! So why have I been holding myself to this impossible standard of living a perfect life?

No matter how perfect you think someone’s life is, or how cool it looks on Instagram, the truth is we’re all just living REAL lives. You can see what’s been captured on the outside, but you can’t see what’s going through their minds on the inside. The people you’re subconsciously comparing yourself to also have worries, areas they feel like they’re falling short in, insecurities they’re trying to cover up, maybe relationship drama, family drama, maybe a painful past they’re running from, or breakthrough they’re desperately waiting for too. We’re all human.

Life is only as fulfilling as you think it is. It’s in our heads.
So I’m working to change the narrative in mine.

Just like I admire things that other people have, there might be parts of my life that make it seem like everything’s perfect. But the truth is, I’m just trying my best to figure things out too. I’m super thankful for opportunities I’ve gotten as a young adult to discover and start living out some of my passions. But the flip side is there are a lot of other areas of my life I feel like I’m “failing” at. Well, until now. I’m 25, graduating this weekend (!!!), college took longer than planned because I invested so much time doing unpaid things I love, I’m currently living with my parents, trying to figure out what career path to take, trying to become financially independent, single, and I have big dreams that I am trying to work hard towards while also trusting God with them.

While I’ve spent so much of the past few years beating myself up for things not turning out like I had expected, I’m learning to say, “Hey, it’s okay! In fact, it’s perfect. I have followed God’s leading, and this is the story He is writing for MY life. And all of His ways are perfect. So who am I to waste time being disappointed when I should be CELEBRATING all that He’s doing?”

I’m doing great.
You’re doing great.

Where you are is right where you’re supposed to be.
Everything you’ve gone through up to this point was meant to grow you and build you into a stronger, more whole person than you would’ve been had your life turned out exactly like you planned.

I’m seeing that life is made up of maybe 10% massively life-altering days and like 90% small, gradual change everyday.
No, the way your life looks today isn’t how it’s supposed to look for the rest of your life, but today is perfect for today. And tomorrow will be perfect for tomorrow. And over time, you’ll see that every day added up to growth and life change.

So life will keep moving.
It won’t be today forever.
So while it is, enjoy it.

Love,
Angela

P.S. – If you’re waiting on a promise, God is not confined to our calendar year. To Him, the difference between December 31st and January 1st is just another day. So just because you didn’t see your breakthrough this “year” does not mean it isn’t coming. You’re closer to it than you’ve ever been, friend!

“If God is so good, then why have I been so hurt? Why do good people go through horrific things? Can I really trust Him, or will I be left disappointed?”

As a kid, life was pretty much just rainbows and butterflies as far as I knew. But as I’ve gotten older, lived more life, experienced heartbreak for myself, and seen tragedy strike some really wonderful people, it’s made me confront some difficult questions.

This life is imperfect, so we’re going to face pain and disappointment at some point.
If we’re not careful, we can let disappointment skew our idea of who God is.
Here are some of my thoughts and encouragement in case you’re looking for some perspective! 🙂

I haven’t had a ton of time to write lately, but I had time to do a quick unedited video in my car, so here ya go!

Love,
Angela

I know this seems like such a common-sense thing, but it’s actually not! As I’ve lived more life and jumped into new communities, I’ve experienced firsthand and heard from so many others how hard it can be to make new, real, DEEP, LONG-LASTING friends.

We all want those friends we can experience life with, laugh with, who will love us despite our quirks, who we trust enough to be there at our absolute lowest and will celebrate with us in our highs.

And I totally understand what it’s like to not always have that. Throughout my life, I’ve definitely had those weird, lonely, transitional seasons where I wasn’t sure who my “people” were.

Maybe you just moved to a new city, or you’re at a new school, job, church, or maybe you just let busy-ness get in the way of having a social life. Maybe deep down you’re afraid of getting hurt or disappointed, so you keep people at a distance. Whatever it may be, you’re NOT ALONE and we’ve ALL been (or will be) there at some point. But the good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way forever!

I want to encourage you with 6 practical steps I’ve learned about making those real, authentic, long-lasting kind of friends:

1. You’re gonna have to get out of your comfort zone – Shut down your Netflix, get off the couch, and go to some social events. Think of the kind of people you want in your life, and then put yourself in environments where those people are likely to be. You want selfless friends in your life? Sign up for some community service projects. Love playing sports? Join a rec team! Personally, church has always been a primary source of community for me, and about two years ago I started attending a new one. I didn’t really know anyone and it felt weird and awkward at first, but I knew I didn’t want to stay feeling lonely like that. So I committed to going to every event I could (even when it was scary because I had to go by myself and didn’t know anyone). But I kept pushing through and kept putting myself out there.

2. Making friends takes initiative – I was shy when I was little, and my dad used to always tell me, “Angela, you can’t wait for other people to come up to you. If you want friends, go out and make them.” It’s simple, but so true! Is it nice when you’re at a party and someone comes up to you and makes you feel welcome? Yes. But is that actually the norm? Unfortunately, no. If you want new friends, go out and make them! Step out of your comfort zone, go up to people, introduce yourself, show yourself friendly. If you find someone you want to get to know a little better, exchange numbers and make plans to go out to coffee or something!

3. Vulnerability bonds us with others – I learned in one of my psychology classes, “People will admire your strengths, but CONNECT with your weaknesses.” Be REAL. Life’s too short for surface-level conversations. Sure, it’s nice getting to know the other person’s opinion of the weather today or what they did this weekend. But find out what’s REALLY on their mind. Ask about their life story. What are they passionate about? What are their dreams? What are their struggles? It’s those real convos from the HEART that build the foundation for deep connection.

4. God’s got you. – Simple and true! A few years ago when I knew I needed some more close friends, I simply asked God to connect me with who He knew I needed in my life and who needed me in theirs. I made a lot of wonderful friends in that time, and felt like I was going on a zillion coffee dates every week. As time went on, I just naturally found myself and a few girls hanging out more and more. One night I was out at dinner with two of them and they just straight-up asked me, “Do you want to be best friends?” We laugh now about their straight-forwardedness (is that a word?), but it truly was God answering my prayers super literally. He came through and blessed me with some of the best friends. Which brings me to my next point…

5. COMMIT to connection – Commit. Commit. Commit. Taking someone from acquaintance to friend to close-like-family takes INTENTIONALITY, LOYALTY, and TIME. Life can get busy, but when you’ve made a good friend worth keeping, make plans to hang out often! This is especially important when building a new friendship. Commit to opening your heart up. Commit to trusting (even if it’s scary). Commit to being there for them. Be there to encourage. Share what’s REALLY going on in your heart. Be the kind of friend you want to have.

6. Don’t run when things get messy – The closer you get to someone, the more of them you’re going to see. That includes their best and their worst. You’re going to see their flaws. You’re probably going to get hurt. But if they’ve deemed themselves a good friend, do NOT let things drift just because some things about them bother you. If anything, it’s kind of an honor to see the imperfect sides of people because that means you’re close enough to see their whole selves.

The key is to TALK. COMMUNICATE. Get in the habit of being honest! This was a hard one for me, because I’m the type of person that would rather brush things off for the sake of keeping peace. But I’m learning how important it is to tell your friend when they do something that rubs you the wrong way. And let them be honest with you too. Honesty builds trust, and being able to talk through things with each other even strengthens the relationship. So again, COMMIT to connection.

So if you’re in a spot where you’re not sure who your “people” are right now, don’t stress. This season WON’T last forever. Promise!

Honestly, you’ve got this! Don’t overthink all of this. Don’t put a ton of pressure on yourself to make best friends right away. It’s going to happen SO naturally when you put yourself in situations to meet good people. Remember to be the kind of friend you want to have.

You’re amazing! You have so much to offer. And you’re never ever alone!
God’s got you, and feel free to reach out to me if you ever need an extra little push of encouragement!

Love,
Angela

 


P.S. – These fun pics were taken by the amazing Justina Burns @ http://instagram.com/justinalanaephotos ! I needed some group shots and these gem-of-friends agreed to help! Some are pictured and some aren’t, but I want to give a thank you to ALL of my best friends (pictured or not!) for loving me so well. Thanks for all the fun adventures over the years, wisdom, and for being my heart’s home in many ways. Y’all make life more rich.

“What do I want to do with my life?
Do I want to go to school?
Where do I want to go to school?
Where am I going to live?
Which jobs should I apply for? Why do I have a terrible fear of interviews?
Who am I going to marry?
I don’t want to be an old mom.
Alright, God…I need to be married, have a house, a thriving career, and thinking about having kids by the time I’m 30, so uhhh, could You hurry?
I also want to travel the world.
And can I squeeze some Hallmark movie marathon days in there too somewhere?”

 

Am I the only one that has these worries floating around in my head everyday as I navigate life in my twenties, or are you with me? Our twenties can feel like some of the most pivotal, make-it-or-break-it years of our lives. As we look around at the societal norm, there are so many milestones we’re pressured to make happen within the short span of these 10 years.

I am allllll about having goals, big dreams, and working hard to make those things a reality. But when I try too hard to make my life go “perfectly” according to my plan, I grip tightly onto control of it all and become weighed down by stress, pressure, and anxiety. Can you relate?

As I was driving the other day, I gave God a list of all the things I wanted to fall into place right now; all of the things that I thought would make me feel “caught up” to society’s “norm.”

“I know you think you should be done with college right now, but what if I still have you in school for a purpose? I know you want to find the right man for you right now, but what if I have a more perfect time for you to fall in love?” I felt Him speak.

“Why are you valuing society’s voice above Mine?
Society is following a whole other authority.
Take that worry off yourself, because that’s not how I designed you to live.

Society’s plan is not my plan for you.
Rest in Me.”

Friend, I’m writing this because I know how stressful trying to get our lives together can be. But our twenties can be some of the most beautiful, adventurous, and exciting years of our lives! God didn’t give us life so we could spend every day of it worrying, and working so hard to fit into a status quo.

We’ve been put on this earth to dream big dreams, to discover the unique reason why God made us, and to trust Him enough to take us there.

He’s with you.
He hasn’t forgotten about you.
He’s never late, He’s never early. He’s always on time.

Let’s readjust our thinking a little bit.
Contrary to what we’ve been taught, a degree, a job, a marital status, a paycheck, a car, the size of our house…those things are nice, but they’re not the TRUE measures of success.

At the end of my life, I want to ask myself:
How well did I trust God?
How well did I hear and follow His voice?
How well did I fulfill the purpose for which He created ME?

THIS is the true measure of success.

This has been my prayer:

“God, trust is where I keep getting stuck.
My lack of trust in You is what produces my worry.
You are a GOOD GOD. You are my PERFECT Father.
Help me to let go of my need to control everything. Help me to let go of society’s timeline. Help me to let go of my friends’ timelines. Help me not to compare my life to people’s on Instagram. Help me to embrace and CELEBRATE the beautiful, perfectly-timed, unique story You’ve written for my life.”

So friend, you’re doing a GREAT job.
Your life may look TOTALLY different than everyone else’s, but as long as you’re doing what God is calling YOU to do in THIS season, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Let’s let go, trust God, and live worry-free!
Cheers to us!

Love,
Angela