Fix My Eyes

Guard your heart above all else,

it determines the course of your life…

…Look straight ahead,

and fix your eyes on what lies before you.

Mark out a straight path for your feet;

stay on the safe path.

Don’t get sidetracked;

keep your feet from following evil.

Proverbs 4:23, 25-27

My recent thoughts have been pretty focused on what my career might be. I know that I have time to figure it out, but I feel like I am somehow behind since I don’t have a clue what I want to do. I’ve been sending out emails to advisors and researching in an effort to calm myself only to realize that this caused more stress than comfort. The more options I am presented with, the more confused I get and it is honestly starting to make me a little crazy.But yesterday, instead of putting off my homework by stressing about my future career, I decided it was time to get caught up on my Bible reading – still putting off my homework, but shh. My readings was the first four chapters of Proverbs. I almost gave up and talked myself out of continuing after Proverbs 2 but I am sure glad I didn’t. The last piece I read is the set of verses you see above. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

Over and over again we have heard that God has a plan for our lives. I know I’m really hoping that this is the truth, but the harder part of this is truly trusting that He is in control. It’s easy to say we do, but whether or not we act on this is the goal.

Are you willing to fix your eyes on God and His plan for your life? Instead of being consumed by all the distractions this world offers to us, we can place all our trust and focus on the path before us and following the steps that God has mapped out for us. Will we slip up? Absolutely! He wants us to trust Him so much that we are willing to let Him pick us up and carry us through the turmoils of life every once in awhile. But if we are focused on avoiding evil, following God’s will and guarding our hearts from life’s temptations and distractions, the course of our lives will be for the glory of Him.

In my case, that means that someday I will know what my career is meant to be. Instead of panicking and annoying advisors with my confused emails, I have to be focused on what lies ahead and listen for the voice of the Lord.

The best part? God’s plans are so much better than anything we can work out. It will be so worth it.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Rest

Just some thoughts from quiet time today…

Truly my soul finds rest in God;

my salvation comes from him.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation;

he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Psalm 62:1-2

Can one allow their soul find rest in God alone? Not in searching, in wondering about the future or regretting the past; in losing themselves in friendships, work or school, relationships, but in Him alone? Yet our souls can reside there, in Him alone and not in all of those other distractions.

Our salvation comes from Him.

Through the cross we are saved.

Redeemed.

Beloved.

Not because of anything that we did, but because of what Christ did for us. Even though we are each in our own way unworthy of such a sacrifice, still it was freely given.

So now I can sit here, in awe, because He is my salvation.

And every time we hit what can only be called rock bottom, there he is.

The rock at the bottom.

Unmoved, unwavering, and waiting patiently for us to run back into his open arms.

A fortress surrounding us.

Protecting.

Defending.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, can penetrate the ultimate protection freely given to us by the ultimate protector.

No storms of life, no trials, NOTHING can separate us from God’s love, and because of that we cannot allow ourselves to be shaken from where we stand.

Oh sweet soul, you have been wandering for much too long. Allow Him to be your protector, your salvation, your fortress, your rock…

And most importantly,
just rest,
you are beloved. ♥

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 two 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’. If you need a quick refresher on what this means, here you go.

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

 

 [Photo found on picmonkey.com]