Saturday, October 13, 2018

Remind Me (10/13/18)

Remind me, Lord, when I begin to forget the abundance of Your love for me.
Remind me how good and wholesome it is to be in the center of Your will when I am tempted to turn away.
Remind me when, in the humdrum of daily life, I lose sight of what is eternal and what is real.
Remind me what is it to follow You more fully and to dedicate each moment and each circumstance to You and to Your glory.
Remind me, Lord, when I begin to confuse what is comfortable and easy with what is unpleasant and necessary, and invariably am tempted by the former.
Remind me that I am not called to follow You only at certain times or in certain circumstances, but to give myself to You completely and follow You wherever You will lead.
Remind me, Father, when I feel lost and afraid, just how well and how lovingly You have cared for me and provided every need in the past.
Remind me that in every time of my life, You are holding me in the palm of Your hand and have commanded me not to fear.
Remind me that my mission in life is not to achieve my own happiness or goals, but to bring glory to You, to know You more each day, and to carry the Gospel to the people all around me.

I know what it is to follow You and trust You for all... to line up what I say and do and think with what is in Your Word and to live by it accordingly... but I am foolish and I fall and forget.

Please, with whatever it takes, remind me.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Winds of Change (9/26/18)

When I was 15, I decided I wanted the living room walls in my future home to be green. Not just any green, though - it had to be jade green. Nothing else would suffice. As I stated my future plans to different people in my life, I always got the same answer and the more I heard it, the more it ruffled me.

"Oh, well, your taste will change before then."
"By the time you're old enough to have your own home, you'll change your mind."
"You might like that now, but you won't like it later."

I'm not sure which part of it offended me most. Maybe it was because I thought they meant I was some flippant little butterfly that couldn't keep their mind made up. Maybe I believed that my taste and sense of style was something that was fixed in me and something I could not and never would change. I was probably mostly offended by their seeming lack of faith in my judgement and abilities. Whatever the case, the more they claimed I'd forget or change my mind, the more I was determined to go through with it.

I clung to that goal for longer than I care to admit through my teenage years. I wasn't sure what my house would look like or what kind of house it would be, but I knew the living room would be painted jade green.

I didn't realize just how fixed I was on this idea and how reluctant I was to change - even though there were other colours at this point that I actually preferred more! It's silly to think about.

"Well, I love this shade of blue... but I always wanted my walls to be jade green growing up, so even though I don't like it as much now, I guess I have to do it."

How ridiculous!

You are not obligated to be the person that you were five years ago. You're not obligated to be the person that you were last month. You're not obligated to be the person that you were yesterday.

Sometimes change takes years and sometimes it happens overnight. Changing is never something you should be ashamed of. It is a sign that you are living, and in many cases, it is a sign of growth.

Don't feel like you have to be the person that you were yesterday simply because that's the person that everyone knows if you can be better. Take heart and have the courage to be different than who you were last week! Study God's Word, live a life of prayer and an earnest desire to know Him more, surround yourself with good, Godly people that will encourage you in your faith, and reach out to people that don't know Him! Always be striving to grow and to change.

And no, I don't think I still want jade green walls. :) 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Here There Be Monsters (8/27/18)

When we left to come back home from the summer trip of a lifetime, our leaders warned us that it would be hard (but EXTREMELY worthwhile) to keep what we have learned as we traveled. Our standards and the way of life we adapted for nine weeks aren't exactly common, and even well-meaning people can cause us to stumble by trying to change our minds and make sure we "haven't changed."

I hope I changed. I think it would be almost impossible to be a part of something like that and not be changed. But... I'm not always sure how to go on from here.

I'll be the first to admit it: I've got dreams. And they are crazy, big, unusual dreams. Some would call them impractical, or even bizarre - and I couldn't agree more. I know what I'm good at and what I love doing, and I know how I dream of living one day. I don't know exactly how to get there, but I have a good place to start. Time can go ever-so-slowly, though, ticking past one second at a time; but then, time goes oh-too-quickly, fading fast away as we try to catch it - as futilely as grasping at smoke. Earlier this year, I couldn't decide whether I had too much time or not nearly enough. Now, I'm pretty convinced that I have just the time that everyone else has - the perfect amount. I have been very blessed as far as opportunities go, and am grateful for all the experiences I have gained.

Somehow, everything is harder at home. It sounds strange to say it, but it's harder to be patient. It's harder to be kind. It's hard to stay on a consistent schedule with Bible reading and devotions and prayer. It's harder to be a good, godly example to the young adults around me and to my family. I feel so lost and confused sometimes and I'm convinced that I need help more than anyone else. I'm so easily distracted and I put things off "until later." What if later doesn't come? If this was my last day on earth, what would be my biggest regrets?

I know of several. All the wasted time. All the moments where I let my fear enslave me (which, believe me, makes up a major portion of my life). All the times I said what I didn't mean and didn't say what I did. All the opportunities to be the light and love of Christ to a stranger - or even a friend, God forgive me! - that I squandered and shrugged off, telling myself that it didn't really matter. Not really. All the daydreams I allowed into my mind that not only wasted precious time, but dirtied the contents thereof. The first step in the wrong direction.

I could list regrets and failures until the sky falls down, but it wouldn't change a thing. I am a work in progress, and God in His goodness and mercy and redemption has not left me yet. I tend to be so focused on my own weakness that I am blinded to His strength, which was a hard lesson I learned over the summer. Just because it is harder to follow doesn't mean it is no longer required. Just because I am no longer surrounded by constant encouragement and biblical truths doesn't mean it is no longer necessary for me to keep growing.

Here there is trial and temptation aplenty. Here there are innumerable opportunities to stumble and fall away.

H E R E  T H E R E  B E  M O N S T E R S.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Homeward Bound (8/8/18)

This summer, I traveled with the Academy of Arts (which is a Christian organization based in South Carolina) for nine weeks, performing in a drama that followed the lives of the disciples, Mary Magdalene, and the Samaritan woman when they encountered Jesus. It was an adventure the likes of which I have never experienced before, but that I hope and pray will be repeated in the future. I learned and grew so much, and am so grateful to God for His provision and faithfulness - even when I doubted and failed Him daily.

We were a team of 15 people - 12 young adults, our team leaders, and their baby, who is only 15 months old. Leaving after only two weeks of training at the Logos Theatre (where they instructed us in how to run the tech, lights, sound, sets, props, costumes, and makeup, as well as directing us and helping us memorize our blocking, cues, and lines), we traveled from church to church and from state to state, giving our presentation. As we grew closer to God through prayer and through His Word, we also grew closer to each other, despite our differences. I think it would have been impossible not to, being crammed into a 15-passenger van together and sharing so many bizarre, hilarious, precious memories with each other. I love each and every one of the people God brought into my life this summer and am so grateful for every moment spent in their company.

If I were to try and tell all our stories and inside jokes and all the things God has used you to teach me this summer, and all the things that I have learned by your examples, it would take a lifetime. Team South... continue in what you have learned and been taught. Do not lose heart or grow discouraged by any of the challenges that will await you when you arrive home. Find people that will help you continue to grow and mature. Remember - we're NOT teenagers. We're young adults. Let's step up and fill in those gaps. Love you guys more than I know how to say and I can't wait to see you all again!

Caleb, Peter, Lexi, Elisabeth, Becca, Nicole, Jon, Levi, Jake, Emily, Cristina, and Cal

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Growing Up (In the Best Way Possible)

As I prepare to not only graduate, but to turn 18 as well, I find myself reflecting on where God has brought me in my life and where I started out. I find myself remembering things that had slipped so far down into the cracks of my memory that I'm shocked when I find them again.

Eight years ago, I was looking in a mirror and wrinkling my nose at the person that looked back at me. Big ears. Small frame. Scraggly brown hair that wasn't curly or straight. Freckles. An overbite. Shorter than my younger sister and looking younger than I was. I didn't care for that person very much - they were oversensitive and not terribly smart and kind of annoying. Kind of lonely, too.

Six years ago, I looked in a mirror again and inwardly grumbled. Same big ears. Same tiny, petite frame. Same brown hair that was too thin to be pretty. Same freckles. I had braces now to help my gap-toothed overbite, but I didn't like them. At this point, I had nearly given up on catching up with Allie's height, and it was not uncommon for people my age to assume I was 2-3 years younger. That person was more insecure and confused and lonely than before.

Five years ago, I looked in a mirror and for the first time, really hated what I saw. Every quirk and seeming flaw I saw as being infinitely worse than it was. My eyes had not magically turned blue as I longed for them to my whole life and were still the same dull brown as they had always been. My hair was curly now, but I didn't like it because I didn't know what to do with it. Still some freckles, but while I had liked them at ten, I despised them at thirteen. Struggling with anxiety and extreme depression in private, I tried to find friends and typically failed. I was too anxious to please, too desperate and clingy - I didn't really know why no one would talk to me. Social awkwardness is not uncommon and I wasn't the only early teenager to struggle with it, but I assumed there was something wrong with me and for some reason, I was not as good as other people.

Four years ago, I was still struggling to curb my anxiety (although God had taken away my depression the year before) and I didn't even bother trying to deal with my insecurities because I figured it was all true. I was socially awkward. I wasn't pretty, although I felt pretty at times and that's almost as nice. It was the ugly-teenage-chicken stage (if you've ever seen a teenage chicken, you know what I'm talking about) and I resigned myself to it.

Three years ago, I joined a cadet program and realized if I worked hard, I could rise through the ranks and do well. I could join the camaraderie that the cadet officers and NCO's had with each other and fit in. Obviously I could never hold a leadership position and I took for granted that any idea I had to improve something had already been considered by the other cadets, so I didn't like speaking up. On reaching the rank of Cadet Staff Sergeant, I purposely requested that they would not give me a leadership position because I was not capable. No matter who the other options were, I considered myself as the rightful last option for any position or job.

Today I look in the mirror, as I have countless times before without even thinking about it. Dark eyes that I have slowly come to terms with. Brown, curly hair that I'm learning how to tame. Straighter teeth that smile and laugh back at me. My ears are big - I've been told so and been made fun of for it a few times, but I don't mind. I owned it and learned to wiggle them at the people that bothered me about them. I have more confidence than ever before, and for the first time in my life I know that I'm smart - even though I've been told so countless times before, I never accepted it until now. I've got a best friend that has my back no matter what and am surrounded by good, godly friends that care about me and make me feel included. I love leading and working with people, and I accept that I will make mistakes sometimes and that God will forgive me and give me second chances. I'm completely capable and I get excited about new challenges.

Maybe someday I'll look in the mirror and see someone fearless, someone completely given up to God's will for her life. I'm trying to become that person and I'm learning to be patient.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Letting Go of Someday (4/12/18)

I finished crocheting a baby blanket last week that I've been working on for a long time. With every stitch, I cherished dreams of a home of my own someday and of a child that I could someday swaddle in it. The sunny yellow squares criss-crossing the perfectly white ones is such a cheery picture to me, but more than that, this little blanket is a dream for someday.

I've got a lot of dreams like that. Someday dreams. Dreams that I know can't happen right now. For the most part, I'm okay with waiting and biding my time because I know it's worth the wait in the end. But sometimes, something happens that stops my contentment in its tracks and causes me to wonder about things that I shouldn't worry about yet. When I see pictures on Facebook of different friends beginning a relationship with someone and my foolish heart whispers,

"You know, you're the same age as they are."

"You'll be 18 next month and you've never been in a relationship."

"Wonder what that's like."

"Maybe you could have had that if only..."

I think the two words I hate the most are if and almost. If has so much uncertainty crammed into it. Almost is a word full of regret. They're words that are used so often, sometimes we forget what they mean - to come so close to something, only to miss it. Something didn't work out that would have in other circumstances.

Some of my someday dreams are too close to my heart to share. They're too precious to put out there for people to know because to my young, naive heart, they hold almost sacred value. It's why I don't share all of my poems, why I don't know what I want to do when I grow up, and why I don't try to make those dreams happen. What if it doesn't turn out the way I dreamed it would? What if I mess it up? It's so much easier to let them remain in my mind as perfection than to bring them into reality and accept that they will have the flaws that everything in this world has.

Contentment. Peace. Patience. Wisdom. Humility. Purity. 

Stop focusing on what I may become one day : the Girlfriend. The Wife. The Mother.

And focus on what I am right now : the Daughter. The Sister. The Friend.

Stop imagining stories where I am : the Adventurer. The Hero. The Fearless.

And learn how to become what I would so like to be : the Author. The Mentor. The Selfless

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Impact of Literature (2/26/18)

It has happened that in the span of my lifetime, I have been gifted the title - the nickname, if you will - of "Nerd". It's an undeniable fact, whether I am proud of it or not. Fortunately for my self-esteem, I am rather pleased with it.

Some of my best friends are Edmond Dantes, Jane Eyre, and David Copperfield. How could it be otherwise, when Jane confides in me so trustingly her greatest hopes and fears, when I have known David since before he was born? How could it be any other way, when I have undergone all of Edmond's agonies in the Chateau D'If by his side and can understand his turn to vengeance?

There are many others that have strayed into my life: Elizabeth Bennet's muddy boots and stained hem have left their imprint on my memory... Anne-spelled-with-an-E left the shards of her broken slate lying scattered on the wooden foundation of my mind... Jo March's tears and ink stains have made a mess of my work-desk... the elusive, dashing Scarlet Pimpernel has snatched the victims of Mme. La Guillotine away to England out from under my very nose... Sydney Carton's final thoughts and his heart-wrenching, "You were the last dream of my soul," reduces me to a teary mass of flawed emotion every time I look back on it... I was left in confusion and dismay when the kingdom of Dor outlawed soup and rats (even though I hated both at the time!)... I closed the door behind us as Bilbo Baggins and I raced to catch up with the dwarves at the inn in Bree... I flew with Peter Pan to Neverland and cried when I had to come home... Even Sun Tzu has left his mark, like an old teacher that doesn't recognize when he is droning on (however boring, one must remember that all of his advice is extremely well-intentioned and he is only informing you for your own benefit)...

I am oddly and irrevocably attached to my literary friends - they have shaped my life and the person I have become as much as any friend I have been able to know and speak to in person.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

All the Lovely Feelings (2/22/18)

When a small child falls asleep on your lap, their head buried in your shoulder.

When the weather is perfect and you're driving with the windows down.

Singing to your favourite songs at a concert, with thousands of other people that know every word.

Laughing so hard that your eyes tear up and you almost cry.

Being a part of something bigger than yourself, something that impacts the world around you for the better.

Knowing the people that love and support you are right by your side and in no hurry to leave.

Traveling and going on road trips, and having a home to miss and go home to afterward.

Doing something - anything! - with the people you love most.

The idea of being independent and free, of flying and knowing your own wings will bear you safely.

Running as fast as you can to the person that you haven't seen in ages and hugging them tightly - the thought of never letting go again.

Walking barefoot on the cool, spring earth (and everywhere else - but especially in the springtime).

Working a trade that you love and supports you (and sometimes others!).

Going on adventures, and making memories that you will never forget.

Knowing that you are in the center of God's will for you right now.

There are so many lovely feelings in the world, each as different as can be, but they all have one thing in common:

Each of these experiences makes you feel as if you  b e l o n g .

In a world where that is in scarce commodity, it's such a beautiful thing to feel that your heartbeat is not one too many or one too little, but adds the perfect number to the group and completes it.