A Look Back Through Fall Semester

This school year I started to use a plain notebook I already had and make it into a bullet journal planner rather than buy one. It has been fun to be creative, but my favorite implementation is a reflection page at the end of each month. For the next few days, I’m going to share a few of my reflections with a photo taken from that month. I think it’s important to look at where we were at different points in our lives & to acknowledge how far we have come and what has changed. Here’s a glance at 2019.

September

“In you, Lord, I have found my rest”

Not an easy month. Sometimes, not a good one either. But in reflecting at the end of it all, I can see that God is present, meeting me right here once again. I miss Medora, but more than that, I miss the peace with God I experienced there. I’m realizing as I step into this new semester, though, that peace isn’t in the place – the location. It’s much more than that.

Peace from the Lord is beyond understanding and isn’t found because of setting, rather in who He is and what He promises us, His beloved children.

In you, Lord, I am learning where my peace is found.

October

“Yes, work toward a degree and work toward earthly friendships, but do so in His name. Chase the author of love and One who created you first. How are you supposed to figure out your purpose in this world if you don’t first follow the one who created your purpose?

Try your best. Study for the test. Do some squats. But focus fully on His name. And in your weariness, brokenness and on days when you are overwhelmed, breathe in and out. Then, look at where your feet are planted. God put you where you are for a reason. He’s gotten you this far. Why don’t you trust Him with your tomorrows?” – Unknown

I do not enjoy school. What is even the point of this constant, stressful grind? But even worse is knowing that it ends in a few months and I have to prove that I learned all I claim. October has been a month of trying to trust that He has me in this midst for a purpose – and that it’s a good one, better than I could even understand. My reminder as a new month begins: Just keep walking forward. You will be blessed as you believe the Lord fulfills all His promises, and He promises you life abundant. Cling to your hope and guide, alone.

November

“And He said to me… daughter you are in a desert, but I will send rain. There is aching, there is wandering, but my love will come rushing. You’ll be swept up in waves of grace. And you have no idea just how far I am going to carry you.” – Unknown

Do I give thanks in all circumstances? This month felt long – just preparation for hard classes what feels like every day for more hours than I have. I’m crazy nervous and frustrated by how little focus every other area of my life seems to have gotten. This is the first semester that school has my attention, and all my attention needs and craves Jesus. In answer to the above question – no. No, I don’t. I’m praying for the ability to let the joy of the Lord be my strength because I’m not living that. He deserves my gratefulness even when I don’t feel thankful for the circumstances.

December

I like the idea of reflection on life whenever possible, but I find that I am not always very intentional with or honest about it. Considering all that happened this past year and trying to understand what it all means has been much more difficult than I would have expected. Often in my mind, the bad has a way of outweighing the good so while I can acknowledge the joy that was 2019, what I can see much more clearly is the hard. A little dramatic, right?

All I can decide and conclude is that God has been faithful to me, in my unfaithfulness especially, which is frankly the majority. I do not deserve even for a second to be used in a campus ministry or to have met people from all over the world this summer or have the incredible women in my life that I do and I am so very grateful. And I suppose I am also grateful that life is a roller coaster of moments and peaks and valleys – the highs are so much sweeter when the lows are spent in the loving arms of Jesus.

Words Like Honeycomb

I honestly don’t know why I try to go to coffee shops to try to get work done, because I just get distracted by observations.

Overwhelmed by them, even.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks this morning with my back against the wall, facing the room of people. No one here is alone except me, and they are all middle-aged women meeting for coffee dates.

Interesting, in and of itself. I feel young, and a little lonely.

So I listen enough to catch a word or two – glimpses of conversation in a hectic room.

And these women, they gossip. They talk about their husbands or the choices their kids are making, they tell long dramatic stories. And they complain, oh my goodness, do they complain!

I just wonder why our words find their focus on tearing others and ourselves down.

Is it just easier? Is there fulfillment in it?

Maybe I sound judgmental… I’m not trying to be, really. Because, while I may not have a husband or kids to complain about, my conversations can reflect the very same attitude.

The thing is, the words we choose to use and the attitudes we walk into a room with have an incredible amount of power!

I was reminded of a verse while I have been sitting here and it seems worth reflecting on:

Gracious words are like a honeycomb,

sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Proverbs 16:24

Words that have power? Words that are sweet?

Encouraging, pleasant words bring enjoyment and health to the person in front of you.

Why aren’t these the words you and I are always making use of in our conversations?

I think I want more of that and less of the gossip, the complaining, the tearing myself and others down.

I hope you might, too.

 

Sentiment

On Friday in the midst of a conversation, someone told me I wasn’t very sentimental.

At first, I laughed it off. Then when I left, I got in my car and started to cry.

For the next hour, I drove to old places I used to wander when I lived at home, like my favorite park and coffee shop. I drove past the high school I went to on my way back to my house.

And you best believe I remembered it all.

When I walked into my bedroom, I pulled out a box that I have under my bed. It is filled with notes and cards, drawings, tickets from events, and photos — all the random things people thought I didn’t notice (like the “Hi, I love you”‘s on pages in my school notebooks when I wasn’t looking, and the handwritten letters I read a hundred times whenever I received them).

After I looked through each piece, I sorted them and read them. All these beautiful notes and letters and memories and all I could see were these few:

“I can’t describe how awesome you are and how happy I am that I know you. Stay awesome, beautiful, special and amazing – B”

“Seriously through, I’d be an absolute mess without you. Thanks mom 🙂 – K”

“You are my best friend for life. I love you.”

There were more, too. All from friends who held such significant role in my life yet are no longer in it, and so I couldn’t look anymore.

There were friends who chose drugs over me, relationships over me, and felt judged by my faith; and too, there were friends whom I chose my own pride over them.

This isn’t a post with an encouraging conclusion, I am struggling to find one to give and in turn one to find comfort in.

All I know is this:

People change.

Relationships change.

God is unchanging.

Blooms

Thirteen.

That’s the number of jobs I have sent in inquiries and applications for since March.

Maybe not a terribly significant number, but of those thirteen, I have interviewed for three and things looked somewhat promising.

Only for me to be let down three times and have to start over from scratch again.

Now, I’m not one to have any desire to do a job I am not a good fit for, however at this point I just need to make money and have something to do this summer.

You start to wonder what is wrong with you, you know?

I’m in a summer of transition between schools on top of that, so perhaps ‘a little lost’ is a good way to describe where I’m at.

But after spending a week or so moping around feeling sorry for myself, not changing out of my pajamas some days, crying more than I care to admit and quite frankly being ridiculously dramatic, I have pulled myself together.

And decided this:

In every season of life there is a purpose and in every transition there is something to be discovered. In some it is a little more obvious – the season of singleness is a perfect time to not be distracted from your walk with the Lord by a relationship or to focus on self care and improvement, the college years are a time of discovering who you are and what your career and life might look like. But our lives are constantly changing, as are we.

There are times, seasons, where hard work and putting up a good fight while allowing God on your side, is required.

And there are other seasons where He has you where you are for great purpose.

Flourish there, where you have been so beautifully placed. Grow there, where you are carefully tended by the Master. Where you are is no mistake.

So, to the best of your ability, enjoy the season or transition you find yourself in right now, for soon it will change once again as another lesson to be learned comes to light.

And most importantly, bloom where you are planted.

Glory, forever

My favorite part about my church camp years wasn’t the outdoor activities or the service projects or even the bonding time with girls from my church…it was always the music!

There is one song that sticks out in my mind as I write this, the bridge and chorus of which goes like this:

“Take my life and let it be
All for You and for Your glory
Take my life and let it be yours
We sing

Glory to God, glory to God
Glory to God, forever
Glory to God, glory to God
Glory to God, forever”

So long ago, I sang these words along with everyone else during worship. I find myself coming back to that now, wondering if I really understood the power within what I was saying.”Glory to God”…easy right?

What has been on my heart lately is glorifying God when working to better His kingdom. Ultimately, bringing others to Christ, volunteering and other acts of kindness – doing good things – is about God, and generally we say it is “all for His glory”…but it sure feels great when you get some of the ‘glory’ too.

If you knew me in high school, “glory to me” sounds more like it.

One big aspect of my personality is that before becoming more stable in my faith, I had a tendency to manipulate people. I’ve always been really good at reading others, which is an excellent skill to have, but also a dangerous one. 

Accepting Jesus as my Savior didn’t my thoughts and desires and turn them a complete 180° right away. As I grew, I constantly struggled with the desire to share my faith just to get attention and recognition for myself. Sometimes, my intentions in offering advice or caring for people were skewed – remember, I was good at saying the right words. This caused me to very poorly love some people in my life and ultimately lose valuable friendships – eventually some people in my life could see right through me to my true intentions: to glorify myself.  

I loved hearing things like “you’re the best Christian I know” or “you’re such a good person” and believe me, I heard those words more than a few times. 

But later, I also heard words like “you’re such a hypocrite”. 

And were they wrong?

Looking back on the years of growing I have experienced, especially the last year and a half of being in college, I can freely admit that that was who I was. It hurts to know that I could be so unkind to others and have so little respect for the sacrifice that Christ made for me on the cross that calls me to love others unconditionally.

But I am not that person anymore!

As I have grown in my relationship with Him, God has really just broken my heart for the people in my life who don’t know Him. I touched on this a little in my post, Think Again. Sometimes when I think about it to much, I find myself crying over the brokenness of the people in my life. It has become less and less about me and I have realized that even if my intentions had been pure, I could never even hold a candle to how incredible God is and how infinitely He should be glorified.

I guess what I am saying is that I just want the people in my life to know Jesus. I want them to know that they are loved, that they have value and it isn’t found in friendships or popularity or school or creating an identity for themselves. I don’t have any desire for the affirmation that I used to receive, I’ll take the harsh words if it means that God is placed on a pedestal and I am humbled.

One day, we will bow at the feet of the Lord of the Universe up in Heaven. There will be no more pain or hurt and all glory and honor will be His, for endless days.

Until that day, I pray our hearts break for those around us who don’t know Christ; that we would be fearless in our pursuit of Him.

And that we would no longer live a life for our own glory, but for His.

Take our lives and let them be yours.

Glow in the Dark

The glow in the dark stars on the ceiling are making me a little sad and sentimental.

You know, those little stick on stars that light up when you turn off all the lights, stuck to the ceiling so lovingly by your parents.

Or grandparents if you had some like mine.

My brother and I used to frequently stay overnight at my grandparents’ house when we were younger, leading my grandpa to stick up those plastic stars on the ceiling of the guest bedroom. They are perfectly placed there, maybe even in constellations, to this day. I know this because I am laying under this “sky” as I type.

They’re a little faded now. You have to squint your eyes a little to see them these days.

It’s almost metaphorical.

Spending the night ten years ago meant renting a movie or playing games, popping some popcorn, baking cookies, being teased mercilessly by my grandpa and falling peacefully asleep under a sky full of pretend stars. It was a house filled with the love of both my grandparents, and their two little dogs.

Gosh how I miss that.

These days, the dogs are up there hanging out with Jesus.

My grandpa is too.

It’s strange how the world changes around you and you just have to keep pressing forward. In the midst of my whole world changing, I hardly have time to notice.

I wasn’t at the hospital much when my grandpa died. It was my senior year – I had things to do, plans to make. I didn’t have time to think about it, and really, I don’t think I wanted to.

Now I have a little time to think, and miss him.

Now I have a little time to think, and I’m thinking.

These days I spend a night or two with my grandma when I can. She’s lonely without her husband and her dogs to keep her company and she’s a little sad because she knows she is slowly forgetting.

She gets confused and calls me by my cousin’s name sometimes. She misplaces everything and she stopped driving and using the stove. She asks me the same questions or makes the same statements in conversation. No, it isn’t funny. Yes, it is painful to watch.

Sometimes, I get jealous. It seems like my parents care more about her than they do about me as I try to navigate college and figure out life. Selfishly, I allow her to irritate me when I know with every fiber of my being that it isn’t her fault.

But I don’t want to be stuck in that. My grandma is a woman who loves the Lord. She loves other people and always puts them before herself. She and my grandpa left their life in Kansas to come here to be a part of mine and my brother’s lives.

I am grateful for the life I’ve gotten to experience with them and the life that is yet to come.

Because moments matter.

Life moves quickly. Here I am, with a head full of thoughts.

Under a sky full of faintly glowing plastic stars.

Think Again

If you read nothing else on this page today, I want you to read this: without Jesus in it, life is hopeless and empty, even if it doesn’t seem to be.

I got a taste of this first hand this a few months ago.

On my dad’s side of the family, I have two cousins – a brother and sister who are close in age to my brother and I. We have basically grown up together, although more recently have moved apart a little and seen one another less because of busyness.

When given the choice between a family event and a retreat for Cru, I wanted so badly to choose the latter. I would have built relationships, had intentional time with God and just have had fun. But ever since I realized that both of these events fell on the same weekend, I knew where I was supposed to be, and that was Middleton, WI, with my family.

My cousin has apparently gotten in with some bad friends, friends who encourage her to party and in turn her grades have slipped. Who knows what else she has done! She has become cold, cruel and painfully disrespectful to her family. As a recent high school graduate, she wants nothing more than to get out of the house and have the “college experience” – not taking into account that going to an out of state school will leave her in deep debt.

She’s never been much for conversation, but now things were even worse. There were so many things I wanted to say to her, but I just couldn’t find the words. Her parents obviously had a strained relationship with each other, not to mention their relationship with her.

I’m not really sure why God wanted me there instead of enjoying quality time with my Cru family. I hurt more after this weekend in May than I had for a long time. All I know is that I was there for some reason, whether or not I ever see the fruit of that.

As an outsider looking in, all I could see was how empty and broken this home was, and I felt the weight of those things too. At one point during the weekend, I cried in the bathroom; at another, I went downstairs to blindly watch my brother and other cousin play video games. I felt like more of a “broken vessel” than I could have imagined. All I could think about was how my cousin had found her worth in something that wasn’t Jesus, and how much I wished I could change that but felt helpless to do so.

By all worldly standards, my cousin was doing great. She fit in and I would describe her as popular based on the people she knows and hangs out with.

But to God? Hmm.

I’m not saying a life without Jesus in it can’t be somehow good. By some stroke of luck, one can spend their whole life never seeking the Lord and be perfectly content. For some people, its not the life struggles here that cause them to seek God, but the eternity in hell that poses a problem.

Maybe those who turn to partying and friendships that lead them astray truly are happy in life. Maybe families who are all breaking a little at the seams manage to be okay without Christ.

I wouldn’t know.

But, I do know this. Whether or not you feel like you need God, you do.

I’ve seen it time and time again, not only in my own life, but in the lives of others.

God takes lives who are lost, people who have turned to partying or substance abuse, people who have depression or anxiety, those who are questioning their identities, those who have turned to relationships and sex to fulfill them, families that are falling apart; He can take every last broken piece, even in those who don’t know their own brokenness, and make them wholly and entirely His.

 

It’s not about religion, but a relationship. And like any relationship, it takes a little work.

But its worth it.

Because we ALL need Jesus.

 

 

The photo above was taken by my friend Desmond, whose photography I now have permission to use on my posts – talented guy!

On the Job

Today was my first day of nannying for the summer. I’ve been going back and forth from excited to dreading for the last few weeks, and this morning I woke up a mixture of nervous and excited. It was a beautiful morning and I had high hopes that my first day on the job would be a success.

All three kids were awake when I got there at 7:30. They had already eaten breakfast, the TV was on and everyone was behaving. It was going great!

Until we went outside.

Kids were in the pool playing, I was picking up towels and avoiding getting splashed by the water fights happening in the pool, the dog was running around the yard. Then the oldest decided to walk to and ice cream shop with a friend. We got mom’s permission, all was well.

Or so I thought.

The dog, a year-old poodle named Ellie, wanted to follow them. I held onto her until they were out of sight so that she wouldn’t run off. Then, set her back on the ground. She sniffed around a bit, picked up a toy and put it down, then she must have remembered that she wanted to follow, because she took off after the girls.

I ran after her, calling her name over and over.

She was on a mission. 

The car didn’t stop.

She was dead on impact.

The rest of the day is a little bit of a blur. The parents were contacted, we rushed to the vets office, there were lots of tears and lots of apologies. I talked to the nurses in the vets office, who asked what had happened. One of them, somewhat jokingly, said “Not a very good first day, huh?” I laughed it off.

But really, ouch.

Her words, which were said with no intention of harm, had me sobbing as I drove home to the comforting arms of my mom after all was taken care of with the family.

I feel like a failure. I know it’s not really my fault, but I was the adult responsible, I was in charge. I’m still grasping for something I could have done, something I could say to fix it. But I can’t.

And I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that my first day…for lack of a better word…really sucked.

The most important thing, though, isn’t that I had an awful day, or that a family lost a very dear friend and companion. On my drive to their house this morning, I prayed that God would do with this day what he wanted to, and that it was in His hands. It would be easy, then, to blame Him for the day I had – after all, He was in the driver’s seat!

I don’t know why this happened, I don’t know where it fits in God’s plan, but I do know one thing that I will believe until my dying breath: God is good.

Even on the days that aren’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautifully (Part 2)

If you read my recent post, Beautifully, you may know that I decided to go the month of February without wearing makeup. It was an interesting and difficult experience that I would like to share with you.

I have to confess, the first two weeks or so – and especially the first few days – I nearly forgot that I wasn’t using any makeup and I would pull it out and set it on the counter only then to remember that no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t use it. In part this was because of the fact that I had become so used to going into the bathroom first thing in the morning and slathering on foundation, blinking into mascara and putting on chap-stick at the very least. There was also a part of me that truly did not want to put myself through this, and just wanted to give up and forget I had ever decided this in the first place.

But mostly, it was difficult to look in the mirror at my hyper-pigmented, scarred and blemished skin and small eyes that begged for mascara and eyeliner, and not be able to cover it up and hide the things I really didn’t like seeing in the mirror. So many times I argued with myself in the morning, coming close to slipping up and falling back into the routine I had become so used to.

But I didn’t.

I’m not writing this because I want pity – or recognition for muddling through it for that matter.

But, In blunt honesty, the entire month was hard.

Really hard.

I avoided mirrors so I wouldn’t have to look at myself. I had to keep reminding myself why I was doing what I was, but even that was unconvincing.

My most powerful lesson came after I had begun to wear makeup again.

I play piano, have for eleven years, which means I often get volunteered to play for events – especially at church. Anyway, the women’s ministry we have at my church had asked me to play for them at an event on Saturday, which meant I got to listen to the speaker they had lined up. She said something important in her lesson that I didn’t realize the power of until I was driving home after the event. It sounded a little something like this:

It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter if you are “too thin” or “too fat”, whether you have wrinkles or scars. You are made, fearfully and wonderfully in the image of God, and YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL and WORTHY despite the things you don’t like when you look in the mirror.

I’m paraphrasing a little, but this was the context of what she said, and I was blown away. It seems like women are told something like this all the time – by our parents, our friends, our significant other – you name it. How many of us actually believe it? Ha.

Yet, to doubt our own beauty and worth is to doubt that God’s creation is perfect and that he made each of us, knit us and molded us so intricately.

To not love ourselves and how we look is, frankly, an insult to God’s handiwork.So why is it so easy to pick and choose what we like and dislike about ourselves, and beat ourselves up over those things we have deemed unworthy and not beautiful?

I wish that I had a good answer for this, but I truthfully don’t. It’s hard to love the things we find so easy to hate. There are many days that I get so worked up in comparing myself to others and picking apart my flaws that I bring myself to tears. .

I see so many others feeling the same, and it breaks my heart.

So, if you are reading this, I challenge you. 

Don’t allow makeup to enslave you like I did, like so many other women have.

Freely, unashamedly look into mirrors and tell yourself how beautiful you are – even if you don’t feel that way – until you believe it. God made every piece of you, He has numbered the hairs on your head and He loves every last inch of you. In you, He created a lovely and fearless soul and He will gently remind you day by day how much you are worth if you let Him.

I have challenged myself to do the same.

Because I can promise you that you are fearfully, wonderfully, beautifully, intricately made in the image of a perfect, glorious and loving God.

Be loved, beloved

There are, arguably, four types of people when it comes to Valentine’s Day.

One, the couples who celebrate this holiday. They’re the ones who post photos of flowers or chocolates from their significant other, or a photo of the both of them. They might have a romantic meal, or give a card to one another. They at least try.

You know what I mean.

Next are the rest of the couples, who don’t really do anything for the holiday. Maybe they have been together too long to care anymore, or they have mutually decided that ‘Valentine’s Day is stupid’ and refuse to participate.

There are also those who mourn or miss past relationships on this day, reminiscing on what could have been even if the relationship ended for good reason and often claiming that they hate this holiday.

Can’t say I blame them…

Lastly, there are those who have never celebrated what is known as Valentine’s Day because they have never had a significant other to celebrate it with. Yeah.

Maybe there are more than four, in fact I’m sure there will be people who don’t fall into these groups. But I’m sure you get what I am trying to do here, bear with me.

I count myself in the last category. 

But unlike a majority of people who find themselves as chronically single as me, I don’t dislike Valentine’s Day. As I have grown in my faith throughout the years, I have found that I can often see God and His love in ordinary, every day things.

And yes…even in Valentine’s Day.

February 14th begs the question: what is love?

Love is not measured by boxes of chocolate, cards or bouquets of flowers. (That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with buying your girlfriend flowers, those couple dollars spent really will make her day. But still.)

It’s so much more than those little things.

Love is only one thing, one word, one name…. (drumroll please!)

Jesus Christ.

Here’s the deal:

You have been loved by Christ from day one, loved so much that he would willingly suffer and die so that you and I can have life. 

He loves you when you are happy. He loves you when you are sad. 

He loves you on those days when you look in the mirror and hate what you see. 

He loves you on the days you feel beautiful. 

He loved you all those times that you didn’t measure up to the world, and all those times you succeeded too. 

Every promise that the Bible gives us, every beautiful thing we have been given, and through every heartache and every blessing we are constantly reminded of the enduring love that our Savior has for us.

God’s love is often referred to as agape, which translated from Greek is most closely ‘unconditional love’. We can try to re create this love in our human relationships, but ultimately God is the only one who can truly show us this unconditional, agape love. And despite the fact that we don’t deserve it, He gives it without wavering.

It’s easy to forget all this, I know. No matter how you feel about today’s holiday, there is a love that tops everything we could possibly experience here on earth. I want to remind you to consider this love that you are so freely given.

So, beloved child of God, be loved today – and every day. You are worthy. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails1 Corinthians 13:4-8