christianity

Finding God Through The Questions

I’ve been struggling lately. With fear and anxiety. With my children and my role as their mother. But mostly, with God. I’m struggling to reconcile the God who created the world and who loved us so much that He sent His Son to die so that we could be rescued and spend eternity with Him, with the God who allowed my friend Sarah’s 12-year-old son to die or who allows two of my close friends to struggle with infertility or who allowed my father-in-law to get stage three Hodgkins Lymphoma.

I question why these things happen. I question why life has to be so hard. Every day, it feels like a new question arises; and the one answer I keep coming back to is HIM. GOD.

HE IS BOTH THE QUESTION AND THE ANSWER.

He is a profound mystery that calls us to have faith in what we cannot see, and yet, He is the most certain thing I know. He is there in death and life and sickness and health. He is I AM.

My 34th year of life has been one of the best and the hardest of my existence. The highs have been high: Starting this website, a summer filled with beaches and lakes and Paris. The lows have been low: death, cancer, self-doubt and fear. As I look ahead to 35 and 2019, so much of what’s to come feels uncharted. Yet God is there. In the midst of the unknown.

He is both the question and the answer.

In my heart, I want a plan. I crave strategy. I think that if I can save enough, obey enough, parent a specific way, everything will be ok. But God is not a God of plan and strategy. He is a God of will and purpose. If the beginning of 2018 was about understanding who I am and what I’m passionate about, the latter part of the year has been about surrendering myself and my passions to God and His design for my life and for this world.

Life is joy and pain, beauty and mess, excitement and confusion. Life is both/and, not either/or; and God is still God in the midst of all of it. When the world seems overwhelming, take heart, He has overcome the world.

Because I am a woman who likes plans and strategies, I also want blog posts—both the ones I read and the ones I write—to wrap themselves up in a nice little bow; but life isn’t like that and sometimes blog posts aren’t either. There’s no good way to end this post, so I will leave you with Ephesians 3:14-21. It’s a passage of Scripture that I have come back to time and again over the past year, both in prayer for myself and for those around me. Wherever you’re at in life or your faith, know this: God is big enough. When we seek Him, He promises to make himself known to us. His love is high and deep and wide—even when it doesn’t feel like it.

He is both the question and the answer.

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

On Mental Health Awareness and Being a Crappy Christian: An Interview with Blake Guichet of Magnolia Ink

blake guichet headshot.jpg

Can I be honest? I struggle with social media. I vacillate between feeling inferior and alone because it looks like everyone is doing something infinitely more awesome than me or feeling like I'm part of the problem. On an Internet where people only the show the highlight reel of their lives, it's rare to see someone whose feed--and whose life--is beautifully honest. 

When I think of my friend Blake Guichet, those two words come to mind: BEAUTIFULLY HONEST. One look at her Instagram feed (@thegirlnamedblake), and you'll know I'm right. Blake is both beautiful and honest. She's also a talented writer, a mental health advocate and a self-proclaimed "crappy Christian." And did I mention that she's hilarious??

Blake and I connected through the RISE conference, and though we didn't get the chance to meet face-to-face, I felt confident enough in who she was as a person (and in her amazing graphic design skills) to ask her to re-design This Is Thirty Four. Every interaction I've had with her over the past few months--and everything I've seen her post on social media during that time--has only confirmed that Blake is as real deal. 

Blake's Instagram feed offers daily encouragement to me to be more intentional (you know I love that word) in the way I'm living my life. Her heart for Jesus and for others shines through in everything she writes. So, read this interview and be encouraged by Blake's words; and then go follow her on Instagram. You'll thank me later! 

Jenn Prentice (JP): Hey Blake! Thanks for doing this interview. For those that don’t follow you on Instagram (but will after this interview), tell them who you are.  

Blake Guichet (BG): I’m a born and raised Louisianian, like in the “never lived anywhere else” sense. I graduated from LSU in 2011 with plans to move very far away and begin my career as a writer/speaker, but God had other ideas. I met my now husband, Jeremy, about two months before I graduated, fell head over heels in love, and kept my roots right where they were. We got married a year later, had our first daughter, Pacey, a year after that, and our second daughter Elliot two years after that. We’ve packed a lot of life into the last seven years, but it’s pretty dang beautiful.

So now I’m a work from home mom wearing a lot of hats – business owner, graphic designer, writer, sometimes-blogger, and I’m sure a whole bunch I’m forgetting. But I love it. I love our life, and I’m thankful that God’s plan is always better than our best-laid ones.

JP: Well, from my perspective, you are rocking each of the hats you’re wearing, especially Magnolia Ink. Tell me more about your business.  

BG: Magnolia Ink is my branding and website design business, officially born in July of 2017, but it had been kind of lurking in the background in an unofficial sense for years before that. My number one priority in my business is using my abilities to enable other business owners to move forward towards their dreams with a brand and a web presence that accurately represents them.

JP: From working with you on the redesign of This is Thirty Four (thank you for that, by the way), I know that you have a well-oiled process for designing people's websites and branding. How did you develop that process? Or maybe a better question is: what lessons did you learn early on that led you to develop such a great process?

BG: This question cracked me up because my process is built exclusively off of trial and error. I did (& still do) a lot of “business” things wrong, have to learn lessons the hard way, & put policies in place to ensure they don’t happen again. But I definitely love where my process is now. My two week turn around for a brand and a website is really attractive to a lot of people because it enables me to focus on one client at a time and give them the attention and product they deserve. My business is super automated so that I spend minimal time on the small stuff and maximum time on the things I love and with my people.

JP: You have a beautiful blog yourself, but you recently took a step back from blogging. Can you talk about that and why you chose to step back?

BG: Honestly, I felt like God was telling me to. Is that a super Sunday school answer? I just started to feel like the blog isn’t where I needed to be putting my energy. So I stepped back and asked Him how he wanted me to move forward, knowing He’d be faithful to funnel my desire to serve Him with my words and thoughts to something else.

JP: So, what does rest and simplifying and scaling back mean to you right now?

BG: It means keeping my heart in check above everything else. It’s asking myself “why am I doing this, what is my intention? Is it to achieve and to feel better about myself, or is it to glorify the kingdom and use the gifts God gave me?” It feels weird to say that encouraging and challenging others is my “gift,” but I’m learning to lean into that a little more. I recently launched an email campaign where people can subscribe, and I’m sending out a weekly email with everything from Biblical insight to my favorite bra, and everything in between. It feels like a perfect middle ground between blogging and nothing at all. It’s much more personal and more private, but still a huge way to connect with people and continue building a community.

JP: Speaking of connecting with other people, one of the things that I think a lot of people can connect with you on is mental health. You're extremely open about mental health and the importance of managing your mental health. Can you talk about your own struggles and some of the things you've learned?

BG: I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Clinical Depression when I was 20, and it’s taken me about nine years of walking through life with those disorders before I started really openly talking about it. But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that pulling the things that Satan wants to be left in the dark - our struggles, the things he can pin us down with - that’s where the power is. Pulling that stuff into the light and declaring that Jesus already has victory over them, that’s when we win. Because then we get to join in with each other and stand next to our sisters and brothers and then no man is an island.

JP: You have a list of resources for people who are struggling with anxiety/mental health issues. Talk about that and how people can get access to it.

BG: Yes! I put together Through the Waves: Prayers & Verses for the Anxious Heart honestly as a resource for myself at first, but as I cultivated it and really leaned into using it, I realized so many people could benefit from it as well. So you can find it on my blog at https://www.thegirlnamedblake.com/home/through-the-waves

JP: I think pretty much everything I write starts out as something I need to hear and then ends up as something I share with other people in the hopes that they might benefit from it too. I know your resource guide is touching a lot of people’s hearts and minds and helping them in their journey.

 Let’s lighten things up a bit.  You are such a fun person to follow on Instagram because you are so freaking funny. What role does humor play in managing anxiety/mental health?

BG: Hah! This question made me laugh out loud the first time I read it. I don’t know if I’m funny as much as I am painfully honest, but I think sometimes that translates to funny. I absolutely have had to learn to laugh at myself & my circumstances. I honestly use sarcasm as a bit of a defense mechanism, sometimes to a fault (ask my husband). But being able to allow things to roll off your back and have a snarky comment to go with it makes life a little less heavy and can make it feel like the walls aren’t always closing in.

JP: And speaking of funny, you want to write a book, potentially entitled "Confessions of a Crappy Christian." I would read that book. I feel like that describes my life...or at least my journal entries..can you talk about your faith, the role it plays in your life and what it means to be a "crappy Christian"?

 BG: I think that’s going to end up being the official title of the book because so many people identify with it. I know some Christians will probably be highly offended by someone describing themselves as “crappy” in their faith, but my heart and prayer for this book are that not just Christian women are reading it. I want people who have heard about Jesus but are maybe turned off by this idea of perfectionism and holier-than-thou believers to pick up the book  and see someone who loves Jesus more than anything, telling the story of how often they get it wrong, and how much Jesus still loves them because of it.

JP: Yes! Yes! YESSSS! I think that’s a message we all need to hear, regardless of where we’re at in our faith journey. Well, you know me well enough by now to know that I could talk to you for hours. BUT, I am going to end the interview with the question I ask everyone: At the end of your life, what type of legacy do you hope to leave?

BG: Dang. This is a good one. My first thought is my girls. I want my legacy to be two strong, deeply rooted, on fire for the kingdom women who are consistently rocking the boat and confident in who they are in Christ. I want people to remember me as someone who made them feel a little less alone in their day to day crap, who challenged them to be the best version of themselves and maybe made them laugh along the way.

blake guichet family .jpg