Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Truth About Valentine's Day (2/14/18)

As my Valentine's Day gradually comes to a close, I get cosy on the couch in my living room and think about the different aspects of the holiday. Some people are celebrating their romantic relationship and the attributes they love about that certain someone, some people are waving their S.A.D. banners, proclaiming their completeness (albeit without a romantic partner) to the skies, and some people are ignoring the holiday altogether or coupling it with smearing ashes on their forehead for Ash Wednesday.

My day wasn't really any of those in particular; I went to college in the afternoon for my class as I always do on Wednesdays, I made dinner (which was a bit unusual), and drove to church for Wednesday night Bible study with my sister. On the surface, it looked like any other day in my life.

But if you look closer, and you look for the little things, you'll find them easily: my mom and two younger sisters made us healthy cinnamon rolls this morning, two of my other sisters did the laundry, my mom wrote each of us a little note, describing some of the things she loves about us most and assuring us that we will always have that love. There are others, and I could continue to list them, but I'll leave it with that short, heartfelt list.

As a teenage girl surrounded by couples that hold hands and laugh together, it's hard sometimes. I won't lie, there are times when I wish I was part of a relationship like that - but it's always fleeting. It's always a temporary wish that flees fast away when I think about everything God has me doing right now and all the things I want to do and be a part of someday. I have a dream of being in a relationship with someone special someday, but it's nothing like a Hallmark movie relationship - and I wouldn't want it to be! They're always so cheesy and superficial and fake. The couples that are on those shows would never last. God's is a love that lasts, and never wavers. My family's is the love that will follow me, no matter how far I go from home.

It's not about wishing for something you don't have, it's about appreciating what you do. It's about remembering and being grateful for the people you love and that love you, too. It's the little kindnesses, like homemade cinnamon rolls and handwritten notes, and the ones that go unseen and unappreciated, like the grace that we are given and the patience we are shown.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Stuck (1/23/17)

"Where are you going to college?"
"What are your plans for after you graduate?"
"What do you think you'll major in?"

These are the questions that I think many of us soon-to-be graduates hear often and sometimes, we just don't have an answer. These kinds of questions terrify us because they remind us that we have no idea what we're doing and we don't have a plan set in stone yet. There's so much that could go wrong, and whenever I scroll through possible college majors, I'm constantly haunted by the worry, "What if I choose wrong? What if I'm stuck doing something I hate?"

I have a wide variety of interests, although most of them can fit into the creative side of things. I love business and creating things to sell, figuring out how to build the kind of website I want, creating the designs and layouts, and actually making the products and advertising them to the public. Entrepreneurial work is something I'm very interested in and enjoy doing.

Writing is also a hobby I love getting involved in, but it's never been a serious endeavor simply because I've never taken it seriously enough. Lately, I've only been writing short stories and poems, but if you dig deeper under all the piles of abandoned dreams and cancelled aspirations, you can find the hope of writing manuscripts and novels, even Christian dramas.

Theatrical pursuits and the arts are something I am extremely passionate about, and I have a vague hope of a career in a Christian theatre that produces quality, Biblical productions. I love being a part of something bigger than myself, of putting on a production that will touch the people in the audience and maybe change their perspectives on different subjects.

I want to help people. Usually when I say that, people immediately ask, "Oh, what about becoming a nurse?" and although I have several friends that have gone to study to be in that field, that's not something that appeals to me. I'd love to be able to, but I'm not good with medical procedures or keeping cool in extreme emergencies. I can handle minor things, but I can't take major amounts of blood or bones showing or anything even similar. I get sick just hearing people talk about them sometimes! I want to help people, but I'd be no good trying to help in that way. I want to adopt as many children as my future home can fit (and more!); I want to volunteer my time and talents to something that I can completely lose myself in; I want something that sets my soul on fire, something that I can pour myself and everything I have into.

I have too much time and not enough at the same time. I don't want to begin life in earnest yet (get another job, sign up for more classes/apply for college, etc.) because I'm applying for a position this summer and I don't know if I'll find my calling there or if I'll find myself knowing I need to come back home. I don't want to start anything huge because of the time I'll be away.

I'm not afraid anymore; I just feel stuck. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Power and Grace of God (1/12/17)

I'm amazed by the power and grace of God.

In my sorrow, He gives me joy. In my confusion, He grants me peace. In my certainty, He humbles me. In my mistakes, He gives me mercy and forgiveness over and over.

It is easy to become discouraged in what we have failed to accomplish or in what we have worsened by our involvement. It is much harder to accept that our mistakes can be forgiven and forgotten both by the people around us and by God Himself. It's hard to work up the courage to try again when the last time we tried something of the same nature, it fell on its face - maybe even hurt someone we held close.

There are friendships that I've never proven I cherish. There are people who I've never told that I love them. There are prayers that I have prayed, but in my apathy and unbelief, never expected an answer.

I have so many hopes and dreams, so many ambitions for the future. I'm so excited for whatever may lie ahead!

Fear has always been one of the things that holds me back the most. It's a sort of prison that keeps me from pursuing dreams and from fully following God. I'm not a brave person; I'm not full of courage or valor or strength. I wish I was, but those are not some of the attributes God saw fit to bless me with. I'm willing to trust Him, as I know He is so much wiser than I am. His courage will be my courage, His strength my strength. His arm will uphold me and shelter me and He will hold my life in His hands.

I'm not afraid. Let the future begin. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

When I Thought I Knew It All (10/31/17)

When I thought I was growing and learning so much, I was forgetting some of the most important people in my life. 

The longer I live and the more days I go through, the more I realize that history repeats itself and that there is nothing new under the sun. In the times when I began to look down on people around me, God showed me what true humility looks like and how it is just the opposite of my own behavior. In the times when I was so caught up and distracted with unimportant events and happenings in my life that I neglected and left behind some of my best friends, He used someone to show me how my selfishness and insecurity had seeped in and hurt some of the people who are most important to me. There's not much that I regret more than the mistakes I have made in this last summer. 

In my very pride lay my insecurity; in my ambitions for the future, I idealized the past and discarded the present as useless, as something that was necessary, but undesirable. As the necessity which constrained me and held me back. In my excitement for what-may-be-some-day, I have taken for granted all of the opportunities and things I have now. 

I want to fix things, but I'm not sure how. I want to bring about complete reconciliation, but I understand that forgiveness isn't always easy and certainly seldom deserved. I understand that I have to earn trust again and that it is much harder to gain it back than to lose it and I'm not afraid to admit that I've been so very wrong and to work hard to be the friend I should have been all along.

God, give me a closed mouth and open ears. Grant me the serenity and contentment to be joyful in my circumstances and grateful for the place I am in right now. Please give me your wisdom so that I may better appreciate the gifts I've already been given.

I never knew less than when I thought I knew it all.

"Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Absolutely So (10/19/17)

Is it crazy that my best friend in the world lives over 2,000 miles away? Is it crazy that we've only met in person once, and that for a three-day sleepover? Is it crazy the way we count down the days to the next time we'll see each other, excitedly planning out every detail of the trip? Absolutely so.

Is it crazy that, of the good friends in my life, I met most of them during week-long drama seminars that happen once a year? Is it crazy how much they all mean to me still? When I think about all the inside jokes and funny stories and things that went hilariously wrong, I can't help but laugh. It's crazy, isn't it? It's crazy that I played a lead role, something that I dreamed of doing my whole life (even if it wasn't Cosette in Les Miserables - it's a good thing it wasn't. Those high notes, though...). At least, I think it is. 

What about running a business and making professional phone calls at the age of 14? Is that crazy? What about website-building, blogging, giving presentations, being a leader in the extra-curricular activity I'm involved with (which includes yelling at people in a gym - something I never thought I'd get used to doing without succeeding each outburst with an apology), writing stories borne of the rich imagination God has given me, and my dream of being a mommy someday? Is it crazy that one of my biggest aspirations is to be a mommy? By the world's standards, it's crazy. It's downright insane, and my coworkers let me know, believe me! 

What about the dream I had for two months of being the sickest Christian female rapper ever?

OK, that one is actually legitimately crazy. I had - and still have - issues. 

My point is, of all the highlights in my life, the best times - the best parts - are crazy. They're strange. The best things God had placed in my life are the unusual ones, the ones that aren't normal. For the longest time, I wanted to be normal without thinking what normal would mean. 

If I was normal, I wouldn't be homeschooled and be surrounded by all the good, godly friends I have. Normal would mean I wouldn't have read The Hobbit at 6 years old, or called Pride and Prejudice my favourite book at 10. Yes, normal might take away the things in my life that were wrong - but it would also take away the things that make me - me. It would take away every part of the things I excel at as it took my failings and shortcomings. As time goes on, I recognize more and more that every life is special on purpose - we're all different and crazy somehow. 

I forget as I go about life now that just months ago, I never would have dreamed of doing the things I do now. Only a few years ago, I was struggling through severe depression, anxiety, and loneliness and I consider myself blessed to have gone through that now. All of it. Why? Because I can understand people that go through those things so much better now and I can help them. Because I can share the story of how God brought me hope through complete and total hopelessness and despair. Back then, I couldn't imagine telling someone how much I was hurting. Now I'm giving presentations on my story.

Is life crazy? Of course.

Am I finally okay with that? 

Absolutely so.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Test All Things... (9/16/17)

Lately, I've been doing something that I'm not used to doing, something I haven't really done much before. 

I'm asking questions and I'm challenging what I'm being taught by others.

Not in a bad way, it's just I want proof that what is being taught is correct. I want citations and sources; if you say the Bible says that you can't become a Christian without being baptized (which, for the record, I don't believe), I want to know where you get that idea from. If you tell me that as Christians, we're not supposed to mingle with non-believers, I want the passages of Scripture that you pulled that concept from. 

1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, "Test all things; hold fast what is good." The next verse goes on to say, "Abstain from every form of evil."

As Christians, I don't believe we're supposed to blindly accept whatever doctrine is tossed our way. Everything should be proven and put to the ultimate test: Is this Scriptural? Is there a biblical basis for this concept? If put in the cultural context of biblical times, does the meaning they are presenting remain the same?

"That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ" - Ephesians 4:14-15 

I'm not challenging your ability as a teacher or your ability to understand the Bible when I ask questions or disagree with you on some points; I'm just clarifying and also seeking assurance that what you are saying completely lines up with Scripture (and if I disagree, it's likely because I can think of a few Bible stories or passages that seem to directly contradict what you are saying). I don't want to be a spiritual baby, still being taught the basics of real doctrine and theology. I want to keep growing, to keep becoming stronger in the Word - and I can't do that if I don't question what I'm hearing.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Leaving A World Behind (8/20/17)

Footprints following me down these silent halls,
The result of my own paths and those I've trod;
Once I encountered often these neutral walls,
And heard the many voices that made up our squad.

Familiar laughs, familiar faces:
The constant calling from front to back.
Different jobs, different places,
Always trying to stay on track.

All these encounters are only memories,

Only a world I've now left behind
Sadness left, and dismal worries
Of what I may never again find.

I miss my friends already,

The people who I've grown to love.
I miss the calm and patient, steady,
People who assure me I'm enough.

But I know that since I love beginnings,

Endings must also come in view
And the gorgeous sunrise my heart winning
Is worth the farewell to the evening crew.
I know I'm not alone in this world,
And all my pain will be repaid
I trust that a higher plan will be unfurled
And for that, there's nothing I would trade.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lessons/Creating My Blog (8/15/17)

These letters on the keyboard seem almost meaningless and I'm confused as to how to use them, it's been so long. What did I use to write about? What was the original purpose of these posts of mine?

I read back through, post after post. Some of them I admit I'm proud of, some of them I wish I could delete from the eyes of the world forever... but I can't. See, if I remove even the broken pieces that are scattered on my little worldwide nook, even if I only remove the horribly crooked or depressing notes, it's still removing a piece of something I've worked on since I was 14 years old.

An argument can be made that I shouldn't have began something like this at that age; that I was too young and didn't know what was acceptable to be posted for all eyes with access to the Internet to see. I don't know. I know God protected me from so much in this venture (I've never had to deal with cyber-bullies, for one thing) and I know that my reply to anyone who might ask about the wisdom of such a project would be be uncertain. All I know is that, even through all the cringe-worthy insecurities that paved my way for 41 followers and over 26,500 pageviews, I've learned so much. 

All I know is that God keeps teaching me 4 simple lessons:

  1. I am broken
  2. Everyone else is broken, too
  3. God is the only one who isn't broken
  4. There is a grace that I can't even comprehend that somehow reaches down to us broken people and pulls us up on a level where we have free access to the throne of God
Every circumstance, every opportunity, every day, God is teaching me these truths.

And somehow... no matter how many times I'm taught them, I forget. My own insecurities get in my way a lot more than they should, as do my mistakes. I forget that even the people I look up to and wish to be like are still just as human as I am. Somehow, I forget that God's grace is far more powerful and far greater than my sins (or anyone else's) can ever be.

So I'll keep trying to learn - I'll keep trying to grow. I'll try to be humble and content with the life I've been given, instead of wishing for things I can't have yet. I'll try to excel in the field I've been placed in and to bloom where I'm planted, instead of gazing with longing eyes at the neighboring farmer's garden.

Because I believe God knows better than I do that a little clover like me wouldn't do as well in a flat, golden cornfield. :)

(also, Jo turned 6 on the 11th. How awesome is that?!?)