Sunday, December 29, 2013

To you who are soon departing for London:

from food to places to just plain advice. feel free to skip the boring stuff, or completely steal this and print it out or whatever.
Good Restaurants: 
o   Nando’s- baked chicken- ££ (closest one to Celtic is across and to the right coming out of Russell Square station)
o   Giovanni’s- pasta and sandwiches- £ (on Museum St. across the block from the British Museum)
o   Ruskin’s- pasta, sandwiches, pastries, tea, coffee- £ (30 yards from Giovanni’s and across the street from the church where we had class last year… hopefully you guys will be in the same building and will get to go there a lot and make friends with Ziggy)
o   Fastoche- make-your-own-combo pasta- £ (same shopping center as Nando’s)
o   Pizza Express- better than Pizza Hut and classier- ££ (EVERYWHERE)
o   The café at the National Theatre- the have good tea (naturally) and desserts, and you get a discount with your theatre ticket!
o   Pret a Manger- soups, sandwiches, salads… think of Panera Bread or McAlister’s- £
o   Costa Coffee- coffees, teas, and small yummies- £
o   Caffe Nero- a coffee shop very similar to Costa’s- £
o   Starbucks- they have it. It’s the same as America (except they have FLAT WHITES! Order a flat white, at least once) and not a penny cheaper. Most occasions you’re better off going to a true European coffee house.
o   Pubs- They intimidated me at first, but they’re such great atmosphere, usually good prices and great food as well. One of my favorites was the Shakespeare Head Pub on King’s Way, straight south from the Celtic. If you happen to stop by Bournemouth (on the coast), go to the Mary Shelley Pub!  £-££
o   Café in the Crypt at St. Martin-in-the-Field- Pretty darn expensive for a “café” but you feel so classy and like you belong when you eat there. At least I did. Plus they have GREAT Apple Crumble. ££
o   Noodle Time- If you find one, and like Chinese food, go. It’s so yummy and cheap. £
o   My Old Dutch Pancake- on High Holborn Street, back toward the classroom/west Bloomsbury. Every Monday they have £5 MONDAY MADNESS and you can get a huge “pancake” (think more of a giant crepe) that will probably last you multiple meals. It makes for an AWESOME group outing.  £
o   Gelatorino’s- I hope this place is still open. A LEGIT gelato shop just out of Covent Garden. The Gianduja gelato is THE BEST (it’s chocolate-hazelnut… so it’s basically Nutella ice cream). £
o   Pizzeria Rustica- It’s actually in Richmond, which is a far bit from the heart of London, even by Tube, but if you’re there for a play, it’s THE BEST PIZZA YOU’LL EVER EAT. ££
o   WonKei- Obscure Chinese restaurant in the heart of the West End. It’s down an alley off Shatesbury, but it’s worth seeking out and hitting up. You get a HUGE plate of food for cheap and it’s a pretty legit Chinese-London dining experience. £
o   Gregg’s- a fabulous bakery chain where you can buy a loaf of bread or a pastry or a sandwich lunch meal deal. Superb! £

Tesco, Waitrose, and Sainsbury’s are grocery stores (equivalent to a tiny Wal-Mart, Publix, and Kroger, respectively) and are AWESOME places to get relatively cheap, quick meals- especially their £2.50 meal deal! (well, it was 2.50 when we were there…)
v Boots = Walgreens
v Go to Kensington Gardens on a warm, sunny day (my first time, I went on a [literally] FREEZING, dreary day. It wasn’t too great.) Make sure you make it to the Peter Pan statue!
v Spend an afternoon in Regent’s Park!!!!
v Prayer walk through Hyde Park. It’s really awesome.
v Basically just go to as many parks and gardens as you can.
v Spend a couple hours at the John Ritblatt Gallery in the British Library- it’s up the stairs and on the left. You might cry; I did. It’s just so glorious.
v Get on the tube. Go to Embankment. Turn right out of the station, go up the stairs, and walk across the Hungerford Footbridge. During the day, at sunset, when it’s dark… it doesn’t matter. It’s the most gorgeous view and my favorite spot in the whole city!
v Do the Thames Riverwalk on South Bank. There are lots of families and tourists, which can be bothersome, but if you have a hot cup of tea and some free time (it took me about an hour to meander down most of it), enjoy walking and people-watching and pondering.
v Walk from the British Library (the one with the John Ritblatt Gallery. Also I’ve heard the Reading Room is awesome but I never made it there) back to the Celtic via Euston Road.
v Oxford Street is a really fun place to waste some time on a Sunday afternoon or something, browsing around and window shopping
v Go ice skating at Somerset House- if you can… the ice rink closes before the end of January, or at least it did for us
v Go to the Easter Sunrise Service at St. Paul’s! It starts at 4:45 or 5 AM but is SO WORTH IT. Best experience of my life.
v Spend some time on a Sunday afternoon at Speaker’s Corner on Hyde Park. We did this on a whim our last month there, and I wish I’d heard about it sooner! Really neat.
v Try some churches on your own! All Souls is great, as is the Hillsong London church. I also discovered King’s Cross Baptist Church (google it- it’ll be the first option) which is a tiny church I personally fell in love with. Take a friend occasionally, but don’t be afraid to be that awkward person sitting by herself. It’s worth it… Plus, most churches serve tea & ‘biscuits’ (cookies) after the service and would love for you to join their merriment and meet them. J
v Covent Garden is one of my favorite places to hit up on a Friday night when you’ve got nothing else to do. Grab some sandwiches at the Piazza Café or some of that awesome rice stuff in the giant cauldrons. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.
v Take the tube out to Abbey Road (it’s actually on the St. John’s Wood tube station). Take a sharpie with you and sign the wall at Abbey Road recording studios! Take pictures on the zebra crossing! Feel like part of history!
v Spend a whole afternoon by yourself or with friends at the Imperial War Museum. It’s such a huge part of world and British history and so intriguing, I had to go there twice.
v Natural History Museum- I’m pretty sure I could spend DAYS in there. Enough said.
v It’s awesome to just walk down Fleet Street and ponder on the tale of Sweeney Todd
v Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Any tourist’s London MUST.
v Waterstone’s book store is simply the best. They’re also everywhere, which is SO handy. Buy classic novels (or really any books) and read them during your tube/train rides. Rumor has it that the Waterstone’s on Piccadilly is where Jane Austen went to buy her books when she was in London.
v The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) has superb “special displays” come through quite often, and all the other stuff that’s always inside it is pretty cool too.
v Primark and H&M are basically the best places to shop. Selfridge’s, Top Shop, The French Connection, and lots of other places have really cute clothes but are usually pretty dang expensive. Primark and H&M had the same (if not better, especially in H&M’s case) stuff for super cheap.
o   And, to top it off, Primark promises there is no slave labor at all in their supply chain, and H&M is working toward guaranteeing the same thing in their second-tier suppliers (the people who supply them with thread/cloth/etc) and it’s already confirmed there is no slave labor within first-tier suppliers. I love that.
v Paperchase and Ryman’s are excellent papergoods/office supplies stores. Ryman’s has all your classroom needs, from pens and notebooks and sharpies to binders and dividers. Paperchase has all the cute stationery and gift bag and scrapbooking stuff. I just love to go in there and look at everything.
v The Foundling Museum, behind The Brunswick (in Bloomsbury), is quite possibly the most emotionally touching/draining museum I’ve ever been to (second only to the Imperial War Museum). It’s kind of a memorial to all the orphans that lived in London when orphans were seen as disgusting… and this house was their safe haven. Go there if you can!
v Sir John Soane’s Museum at Lincoln Inn Fields was one of my personal favorites. This guy collected the most random stuff… including the sarcophagus of Seti I, the dude who was Pharaoh when Moses was born. Just go.
v Possibly the most dangerous place for my wallet: John Lewis. This awesome chain of department stores that literally has EVERYTHING from the most wonderful throw pillows to quaint teapots to ultra expensive clothing to pretzel sticks. A marvelous store but costs a pretty penny.
v Fortnum and Mason’s on Piccadilly is a legend. It’s where the Queen (among other royals) is known to shop from time to time.
v Hit up Bond Street and don’t forget to stop by places like Tiffany’s and Fabergé for the true, sophisticated Bond Street experience.
v Hampstead Heath is a gorgeous place to get away from the hustle and bustle and study or journal or just love life.
v In Liverpool, you may or may not be able to stop at the Anglican Cathedral. If you can stop, get off the bus and go inside! It’s gorgeous!
v When it comes time for your Theatre/Art/LHC papers (ESPECIALLY the Art ones!) Westminster Reference Library might quickly become your best friend. It’s almost directly behind the National Gallery and has so many fabulous resources! Use it!
If you don't have anything to do, don't just sit in the Celtic and wait for someone to invite you along. I did that a lot and regret it now. Take a map and just go walking. Look up what's going on in the city on Timeout London (a FABULOUSLY invaluable resource) and go do something alone or invite others. Don't be afraid to venture. 

1.     USE YOUR STUDENT CARD. USE YOUR STUDENT CARD. USE YOUR STUDENT CARD. Ask for discounts everywhere you go (ESPECIALLY BOX OFFICES)- you’ll be surprised how many places will give you a little bit off if you just ask for student discount prices.
a.     The National Theatre has a £5 Entry Pass special for students where you can get tickets to almost any show for this awesome rate! Sign up early and TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT!
b.     Ryman’s gives 15% discounts to anyone with a student ID card!

2.     BARTER. Especially at Portobello Road, and even some of the souvenir shops in various places around the city- if the owner wants your business, they’ll come down on the price once you say, “I can’t pay that much for it” (I did this a couple times in souvenir shops along Shaftesbury Avenue, AKA The West End or Theatreland)

3.     Don’t let Londoners intimidate you. After home-stay, you’ll be a pro at navigating the city and will be giving tourists directions… but don’t totally give up your map. Sometimes it’s fun to just put your finger down in the middle of the city and find a way to get to where it lands. Also, they’ll probably make fun of your accent or unabashedly hit on you because of it. Sometimes you have to just walk off boldly and let them think their haughty English thoughts. ;)

4.     Walk as much as you can when you’re not with the whole group. Once you get a basic knowledge in your head of the city, make sure one of your friends has a map and start walking. Try to get a picture in your head of what connects where. I didn’t do this until the last three weeks and I really regret it now.

5.     TELL MR AND MRS RUMBELOW TO SPEAK UP. He/she will often be drowned out by the city noise, and people hate to say they can’t hear, then when the final comes none of you know anything from random segments of each walk. Just kindly ask him to repeat himself more loudly. You’ll adjust to the thick accent after a while, too.

6.     There are TONS of free music events on Sunday afternoons. Westminster and St. Paul’s both have weekly organ recitals (go to at least one. They’re actually rather glorious); there are often choral concerts and piano concerts and such on those chilly Sunday afternoons that you really don’t want to study anyway.

7.     GET THE EVENING STANDARD NEWSPAPERS. They’re free. They hand them out outside basically every tube station around 4-6 PM on weekdays. Pick them up and read them. Maybe even the morning papers too. Be engaged in what’s going on in the country and around the world. Play some Sudoku. Become and expert at crossword puzzles and making Boris Johnson faces. Some of my favorite memories are conversing over the Evening Standard or playing its daily Sudoku on a train ride.

8.     Sit in the lobby of the Celtic until 2 AM and bond with the people who become your second family. Not all the time, but let it happen. Those are some of my favorite memories.

9.     A. Wait by the stage door after shows and meet the cast/get signatures. Even of the ones you didn’t love as much or didn’t see any famous names or didn’t buy a program. Always have a pen and just get them to sign your ticket. I wish I’d done that more, and it only takes about 20 minutes of waiting after the show.
B. Go to random plays in the tiny theatres that exist above many pubs (like the Old Red Lion Theatre, just down from Angel tube station). Sometimes they’re the best.

10.  Take pictures. Make videos. JOURNAL A LOT (quick-journaling will become your best friend). Writing postcards really isn’t that big of a deal. Don’t worry about doing it a lot. Watch British TV shows when you’re in homestay. Make dinner for your homestay family (just don't burn the couscous, like I did). Do things you wouldn’t normally do. Go to a poetry reading. Try to step on a pigeon (no really, it’s hilarious). Whatever. Just go find adventure and do it. You’ll never regret any of it.

Basically, it’s a lot of walking and a lot of museums and a LOT of new information. Soak it in. Stay cheerful, guard against complaining, and be thrilled to be on that three-hour walking tour of yet ANOTHER art gallery full of altarpieces and naked people in paintings. You’ll miss it next year.

AND ABOVE ALL: DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU WHAT TO DO. Not even me/this suggestion sheet. This is your experience, your adventure, your dream. “Do what you like, like what you do.” Stick to the rules already laid out for you and then just have fun.

"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." -Samuel Johnson

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Upon the posting of the grades:

I absolutely loathe how easy it is to let numbers define me. For those who, like me, struggle to accept your true identity:
You are more than a number on a scale.
You are more than your GPA.
You are more than the number of hours you spend doing homework or in the practice room.
You are more than the number of followers you have on Twitter.
You are more than the number of likes you got in Instagram.
You are more than the number size given to you by clothing companies.
You are more than the dollars in your bank account.
You are more than any number of things you let limit you.

You are created in the image of God.
You are made to live life abundantly.
You are called to love God, and to love others as you love yourself.

and while we're at it, let's not forget the 'as you love yourself' bit of that.
You don't go around condemning your friends for not getting enough likes on instagram or for not having lost those 10 pounds yet or for letting their GPA drop a little this semester.
No one else is.

You're a beautiful, wonderful, living, breathing, child of the Almighty born to imitate Him.
Accept it.
Live like you believe it- even if you have to "fake it till you make it".

**I apologize for the utter cliché-ness of this post. I do, however, mean every word of it in the most genuine sense possible.**

Sunday, December 15, 2013

/He came among us at Christmastide/

One thing I love but hate about the Christmas season is how emotional it makes me. Mix finals with a month-long family reunion, memories of the past, missing school friends, and all the Jesus stuff and it just gets really messy.
I feel like all the relational/familial emotion stuff explains itself so let's skip straight past that to the Jesus stuff that really gets me.
Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's just that I always drift away from Him while I'm at school. Maybe it's just that I let myself forget, outside of the Christmas season, that Jesus was actually a HUMAN PERSON.
Whatever it is, once this time of year comes and everything seems to hit me all at once, I'm continually a ball of tears.
Today, it finally began hitting.
I went to the Crossgates Christmas program and cried for about half of it. Granted, most of the tears were over how much I wish my family were there with me, or that I were at home watching my church's Christmas program. BUT, there were loads of tears and mascara streaks over the Jesus part.

He, the baby Messiah, was born into a sin-obsessed world. The ultimate Savior- fully God and fully man- came to a weary world clothed as "a little baby thing that made a woman cry" (eloquence courtesy of J. Vernon McGee). The Bible straight-up tells us that He was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" and that we, the billions of people He came to seek and save, "esteemed Him not" (Isaiah 53).

He's fully God- He could easily have saved everyone from their sins by some awesome loophole and not have had to be crucified and resurrected and so on.
Why? I'm sure there's some great theological answer to this.
My answer: because He's just that loving.
He knew these now-sin-obsessed people He had created to be obsessed with His glory would need something to grasp on to. Something that made Him like them. Something that was more convincing than "just because".
He died because he knew I, Becca Stovall, would be too emotional to handle life on my own. He knew I would need someone who had come before and been familiar with every pain, joy, and temptation that I've encountered, to rely on. He knew my heart before it existed.
That is why He came.

One of my favorite Christmas songs this year is I Wonder As I Wander. The lyrics say,
"I wonder, as I wander out under the sky, how Jesus the Savior did come for to die for poor ordinary* people like you and like I. I wonder, as I wander out under the sky.
If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing- a star in the sky, or a bird on the wing, or all of God's angels in Heaven for to sing- He surely could have them for He is the King."
*(sometimes I like to pretend she says "ornery" instead of "ordinary" here, because it's funny and because most days I'm more ornery than ordinary.)

This song basically lays out my heart's questions. If Jesus ever wanted anything, he could have it. So why did he come to die for poor, ornery/ordinary people like ME? Why did he want to do that?

I still haven't solidified the answer in my heart. I'm still kind of wrung up over the fact that He DIED for little selfish me.
Then He rose again to seek me out and save me.
What a good Shepherd He truly is!

As much as I hate the fact that I am so sinful/selfish/prideful/dirty and He came for me anyway, I can't help but beg Him to keep coming and reminding and redeeming and renewing and doing this nuts emotional thing each Christmas.
Because maybe it isn't just me. Maybe He's moving in other hearts for our good and His glory!

"O come, O come, Emmanuel, and random captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Desire of Nations, bind in one the heart of all mankind. Bid thou our sad division cease, and be Thyself our King of Peace. Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death's dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!"

Maybe the more we beg Him to come, the closer He draws to each one of us.
I'm reminded of yet another Christmas song that states so simply how we should respond to His coming, His Emmanuel-ness, His being WITH US:
"He came among us at Christmastide- at Christmastide in Bethlehem. Men shall bring him, from far and wide, Love's diadem. JESUS, JESUS! Lo, He comes and loves and saves and frees us!…

Thou my lazy heart hast stirred, Thou, the Father's eternal Word. Greater than aught that ear has heard, Thou tiny bird of Love, Thou Son of Mary...

Little man and God indeed, Little and poor: Thou art all we need. We will follow where Thou dost lead, and we will heed our brother, born of Mary."

It sums everything up.
He came.
We worshipped.
He loves, saves, frees.
We responded.
We follow Him.
We love our brothers.

It's crazy to me how much sense it all makes. Despite its craziness, despite Jesus being UTTERLY NONSENSICAL…
It fits.
Mostly because my heart has a that-sized hole that it's constantly seeking to fill.

I pray (literally), this Christmastide that you, reader, remember and realize that He was a human.
He was a little boy who had to be taught to eat and walk and talk and read.
He was a young man who had to learn to obey and follow and trust.
He was a King who came to teach us to live his radical, nonsensical way.
He is still alive- remembering His human experiences and sorrows and being the best High Priest possible for us.
I pray that you catch a glimpse of His great goodness.
I pray that you cry a few tears over who He is and what He's done- or maybe more than a few.
I pray that you experience the realness of The Almighty God, creator of forever and stars and sunflowers and nucleotides, molding your life and blowing your mind and coming like the winter snow to wreck you in the best possible sense.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

blemishes of arrogance

It has been quite a long while since I've blogged, so obviously things have built up over time. Last night came a minor emotional breakdown, during which I wrote in my journal, "I feel like this thing that has built inside me is closer than ever to rupturing, but isn't quite there. I don't even know what the *thing* is. It just is."
it's like this weird emotional/spiritual pimple waiting to pop.
And that's about as specific as I know how to word it.
Among the meetings, the classes, the tests, the projects, the friend dates, the plans, the car drives, the tears, the small joys, the words, the thoughts, the emotions, and the procrastination that has somehow filled this semester, I recently found myself living for the applause. I've never seen myself as one who lived for the limelight or sought out recognition, so it honestly shocked me last night when I realized what my ambition has been for over the past few weeks.
I've been living for others to say good things about me. I've been living for others to love me fiercely before I love them. I've been waiting for my recognition and for someone to pat me on the back publicly. I've been waiting to fit in with the rest of the MC Bubble and telling myself that I deserve to be recognized, loved, applauded, etc.
How arrogant. How sickeningly vain I have been.

Over the past 5 years or so of my life I've realized I basically never get anything I want. And by that I mean I will be wishing for something and then not get it and realize that it was a selfish desire. For example: Jobs (summer camps, summer part-time, etc.), Scholarships (Presidential, outside scholarship contests),  Honors titles/programs (Mortar Board, Who's Who, etc.), Relationships (let's not even go there.), and those types of things. I just never get them.
Basically my selfish desires that I have gotten are: college. London. KT.
The end.
I think part of what makes it so bothersome is that I continue to seek these good things to attain, and then fall short of them.
Not that I'm not grateful- I'm so glad that God knows better than I do.
But it stinks, how much I want these things and how GOOD they are, but then I don't get them because they aren't GOD's for me.

Last night as I was bemoaning how I didn't get Who's Who (and that I deserved that honor and should've gotten it! I'm a good student, I have a great GPA and my teachers love me and WHY DIDN'T I GET IT…) and still sulking over my latest failure in the area of 'love life', God jolted me a little.
Um, Becca. They're all just titles. They're things that will sit on the shelf collecting dust and no one will remember. You have spent your year learning to listen and care and love fiercely. You're still growing, but isn't it better for your heart to be beautiful than for your resume to be?

Thanks for that one, God. Really boosts my ego.
But seriously.
I started thinking about that old song, Legacy by Nichole Nordeman.

"I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me
And I enjoy an accolade like the rest
And you could take my picture and hang it in a gallery
Of all the who's who's and so-and-so
That used to be the best at such and such
It wouldn't matter much

I won't lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights
We all need an 'Atta Boy' or 'Atta Girl'
In the end I'd like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world

I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to you enough
To make a mark on things? I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who blessed your name
and leave that kind of legacy

I don't have to look too far or too long a while
To make a lengthly list of all that I enjoy
It's an accumulating trinket and a treasure pile
Where moth and rust, thieves and such will soon enough destroy

I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to you enough
To make a mark on things? I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who blessed your name
Unapologetically and leave that kind of legacy

Not well traveled, not well read
Not well-to-do or well bred
I just want to hear instead
"Well done good and faithful one"

I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to you enough
To make a mark on things? I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who blessed your name
Unapologetically and leave that kind of legacy

I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me."
It suddenly all made sense. I've been seeking the trinkets, the treasure piles, and the galleries full of accolades.
How pathetic.
My family began reminding me of this when I was home for Thanksgiving (I have been so blessed to be raised by parents who are leaving marvelous legacies), and it all suddenly clicked.
Why am I not thankful for and content with my growing ability to love? Why do I feel the need to be patted on the back and loved first? Simple selfishness and fear.
Fear that I am not good enough or cool enough or lovable enough or worthy or whatever "enough" you want to fill in the blank.

Also, let's address the biblical part of this arrogance and need for recognition. In Matthew 6, God clearly addresses it: "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matt. 6:1-7, emphasis mine)

Ha. Thanks again, God.
Right in the heart.
Self, be reminded: God is there with you and sees what you are saying and doing. He will reward what needs to be rewarded- you must not seek it out yourself.
In doing so, you are only filling this heart blemish with more impurity to have to squeeze out later.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Little Darling teaches me.

I learn a lot of things from my students at the gym. Tonight, a new little girl started. It's her first time taking gymnastics/tumbling, but she takes dance.
Now, don't hate on me, but if a Momma comes in saying Little Darling is taking dance and wants to do gymnastics too, I assume the worst. Most of the little darlings around here that take dance are not very flexible, don't work very hard, and freak out when things hurt a little (especially stretches).
This new one was no different. She talked so much while stretching that I had to enforce that rule that no one was allowed to talk unless they were all the way down in their stretch- of course this little darling wasn't all the way down in any stretches, so she was (mostly) quiet from there on out.
As the lesson continued, she was excited/nervous about learning new things, and freaked out quickly whenever she didn't know how to do something.
At one point, we were doing handstands against the wall. I had been spotting her on several in a row while watching the other girls in the class and giving them pointers as well. A couple of them were excelling so I asked them to go stand on a line on the floor and do their handstands away from the wall. All of the sudden, I looked at new Little Darling and she's crumpled in a ball on the floor, head between her knees, crying.
I gently lifted her head, looked into her tear-filled eyes, and asked "What's wrong, sweetie? Why are you crying?"
To which she replied, "I can't do it by myseeeeeelllllllffff!" and let out a small, teary wail.
"Oh, girl. You don't have to do it by yourself! I'll be here to help you. I don't expect you to get it perfect on your first day! I just want you to keep trying. Besides, you're actually doing an awesome job for your first time, and I'm really proud of the work you're doing."

Her attitude suddenly shifted.
She stood proudly, pulled her arms up tight to her ears, and pointed her little right foot in front to show me she was ready for handstands again.
The rest of the class, she was often uncomfortable and made statements about how hard something was, or that the conditioning hurt, but she kept plugging along. She didn't cry any more, she didn't fall apart when she realized she was the only one in her class that couldn't do a specific skill. She just waited for me to come alongside her and gave it her best effort.

As I left work, listening to Taylor Swift (of course), "Innocent" came on. The words, mingled with the memory of this new Little Darling, suddenly struck me.

"Wasn't it beautiful when you believed in everything
And everybody believed in you?
It's alright, just wait and see
Your string of lights is still bright to me
Oh, who you are is not where you've been.
You're still an innocent
Wasn't it easier in your firefly-catchin' days?
When everything out of reach, someone bigger brought down to you
Wasn't it beautiful runnin' wild 'til you fell asleep
Before the monsters caught up to you?
Time turns flames to embers
You'll have new Septembers
Every one of us has messed up too
Minds change like the weather
I hope you remember
Today is never too late to be brand new."

and then it all added up.
How many times have I sat, head between my knees, tears filling my eyes, mourning my inabilities? How many times have I looked up to God and said, "But, God, I can't do it by myself"?
How easy is it for me to forget that people believe in me, that who I am is not where I've been, that I'm still innocent, that it's never too late to be brand new?
How easy is it for me to give up and assume God isn't there waiting for me to just try so He can do his thing and control my movements?
I am guilty of spending almost every minute of every day letting these thoughts and attitudes fill my heart.
It's not even out of purposeful laziness, it's just this awful hopelessness and insecurity and inadequacy that takes me over.

Then tonight He reminded me of His goodness.
His faithfulness to turn beauty to ashes, and make wonderful things out of my tiny human efforts.
His great ability to restore and make new.

Then, He answered my cries. He talked to me about the anger I've held against him these past couple of weeks. He told me he heard my prayers of Psalm 23 just a few nights ago and was answering them as I walked to Aven.
He led me beside quiet waters (quite literally… I laughed out loud as I walked between Ratliff and Provine by that awkward fountain gurgling and realized that He was *literally*, *physically* answering my prayers). Just to prove His goodness.
He is restoring my soul. 

Eventually, I'll tell you what He said to me about the anger I've been holding, and the answers to all my "Why, God?"s I've been asking lately.
Right now, I'm busy storing these things up and pondering them in my heart.

Monday, November 04, 2013

sometimes I like to beccatize things.

This is my very least favorite part of the cycle I go through with God. This part I'm in right now is the pits. Yet I keep coming back to it, slugging back through it, every few months.
The thing is, I'm not even at a "low point" so to speak, I'm just coasting. Not motivated to seek Him. Not really making any effort to become more like Him.
and oddly, uncomfortably, defiantly ok with it.
I hate it.
But I hate that I don't hate it more.
If I hated not being close to Him, I'd actually do something about it. I'm quite aware of our lack of closeness, lack of conversation, and my own distance from Him. and yet… nothing changes. I sit. I stagnate.

Lord, I need a shepherd. I need guidance and prodding, because I'm being a stupid, stubborn, distracted sheep. 
I do not want to be in want of You any more… I want You to pour Yourself out on me. Satisfy me with Your love.
Make me lie down in Your green pastures. Make me to know Your love, Your zeal, Your grace, Your rest.
Lead me beside Your quiet waters and restore my soul (and restore to me the joy of Your salvation!).
Lead me in Your paths of righteousness- not the paths my flesh chooses selfishly. 
Even when I walk through rough times- death, darkness, sadness, loneliness, desperation, drought- help me to live fearlessly. Bind fear and evil away from me, and help me to trust Your presence. Fill me, instead, with Your love and goodness. 
Comfort me with your presence and guidance. Mark me as Your own. Pull me back in with your crook. 
Prepare my future before I walk into it- a future that brings glory to You! Prepare my ways for goodness, grace, and glory. Get me ready for loving my enemies. I'm not there yet, but I know I need to be and will be. 
Anoint me. Pour Your spirit on me. Fill me with Your goodness and love.
May they follow me all the days of my life- even these humdrum plateau kinds of days that will happen along the way. Fill each one with Your goodness and lovingkindness. 

Thanks for using Psalm 23 to teach me to pray.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

today, I cried hot, angry tears; and I wrote.

I got mad at God in a really weird way today. I got mad at how good He is to me when He doesn't seem to be so good to other friends of mine. It's not that I am any more faithful or deserving than anyone, so why do they not see His works as fully, quickly, and accurately as I do? How can He claim to be so good and yet fail to have equally immediate compassion on all His children? How can He alleviate my pain so effortlessly and have others struggle through the same pain for years on end, when they're banging on the door of His heart for Him to end it? This infuriated me, and as I cried and wrote out my anger, a poem of sorts formed.

Sometimes I don't believe You.
Sometimes I think I don't really need You.
Sometimes, You make me angry
and I'm not sure how to relate to You.

You said You wouldn't delay
so why do we still wait
for the salvation to arrive?

You say You're good to your flock,
yet the passing time mocks
the healing that still hasn't come.

I want to believe You,
to hear You and see You,
and trust that You're working for us.

I want to be near You,
understand You and fear You,
and know why You're taking so long.

I'm sorry I'm angry.
I'm sorry I yell-
but if You're really that "good",
You'd have compassion on those who fell.

You wouldn't stand by,
as it seems like You do;
You'd wipe tears from their eyes,
yet they wait, broken, on You.

Move, if You will.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I promise I'm not a transcendentalist.

I have this weird thing I do where I try to assign God to different inanimate things and see if it works as a metaphor of His character. It's surprising how well this works with many things, and one of the many I've been pondering lately is an ocean.

'God is an ocean.'

People claim they love the ocean, but there's always that moment when you're with someone who "loves" the beach and they start complaining about how awful it is. They hate the sand, they hate the saltwater, they hate the sunburns, they hate the unreliable weather, the list goes on.
It reminds me of the nominal, cultural Christianity that plagues America. We "love" Christ but we hate how much he demands of us, how uncomfortable he makes us, how painful it can be to follow him, how illogical his plans often seem. We "love" Christ but we spend our days whining about things that aren't going our way.

People claim they love the ocean, but then there's always that person who doesn't get in past their ankles. You're at THE OCEAN, people. Get in. Let the waves knock you down. Let your throat and eyes burn with surprising saltwater. Be submersed. It is only after immersion that you can feel the waves rock you to sleep long after you have walked back in from the water.
It reminds me of the many times I sit in God's presence only dipping in my toes and wishing to still feel his presence. Then, of course, wondering why I don't "feel God". I'm not saying that after every experience with Him I should feel him- honestly I really don't think God is a super-feely being. I'm reminding myself, though, that if I want to find God, hesitantly dipping my toes in isn't going to cut it. Immersion and total loss of self and sense of direction and being caught up in the rip tide is necessary to fully understand God (which is why none of us do understand Him fully... we never let ourselves be swept away. We anxiously swim parallel to shore hoping to get back to 'safety'.)

If you want to feel the effects of the ocean, ya gotta get in the ocean.

Also, there's the whole wideness and deepness thing that David Crowder's How He Loves already covered for us: His grace is an ocean. We're all sinking.
And let's talk about the storminess.
A sea storm is a pretty frightening thing to behold, even just a tropical storm, much more a hurricane.
His jealousy over me is like the force of a hurricane.
His love is 90-mile-an-hour winds, and I am a sapling pine tree, not really sure what I'm doing growing near the beach anyway. I can't help but be overwhelmed and bent over by the weight of His wind and mercy.
"All of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions, eclipsed by glory- and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me."
The moment comes when I'm terrified of being blown straight over or ripped out of the ground and suddenly everything else grows "strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." All the 'afflictions' I am 'suffering' from don't matter. All I can see is His glory. His Shekinah Glory. His presence on me and in me and around me.
All I can see is His beauty and love. All I can remember is His faithfulness and justice and righteousness, no need to try to recall what life was like before this stormy sea took me over. I am undone.

Shouldn't that be the essence of 'christianity'? Shouldn't that be what children are taught to seek, instead of seeking to be a 'good' person? Shouldn't we be passing on to others the ability to be completely caught up, knocked over, and wasted for all other strains of 'goodness' aside from Him!?

But we cannot pass on the thirst for this moment, because we don't let ourselves experience it. We see our sin compared to His glory and we cannot handle it. We see the storm coming and we evacuate. We hide. It's been true since the very first humans experienced Him: "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked... And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden." (Gen. 3:7-8)

It is impossible for one to tell another how frighteningly wonderful the ocean is if he has only ever stood on the shoreline and watched the clouds come, before he goes running for cover.
Only after standing in awe of the might and marveling over the strength of the storm and being caught in the middle of the deafening thunder, blinding lightning, and driving winds and rains are we able to talk to others about the ocean, and completely understand it ourselves.

Can I say this again? LETTING YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH GOD STOP AT A CERTAIN LEVEL AND NOT LETTING HIM OVERTAKE AND WRECK EVERY AREA OF YOUR LIFE IS HYPOCRISY AND STUPIDITY. I am not condemning you, reader, for I stand on the shoreline every day and many days fail to dive into the ocean.
But I have chosen to dive in the past, and those short times of total immersion and being tossed about by the waves have taught me that God moves most and best when we open every area of our lives to Him. We feel the ocean most and best when we lay in it for hours being rocked and tossed about.

God is an ocean and He cannot be understood simply by being talked about or 'seen'. God is an ocean and to be His, we must swim straight into the rip current and float along with it and let it wash over us and rock us and shift us to where we need to be. God is an ocean and He therefore belongs to all of us, and there is more than enough of Him for all of us. He will never run out, never stop being, and we will never be able to see the end of Him.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Love, somewhat personified.

I'm learning a lot lately about love. About what it means, how it acts, what it thinks, how it speaks, and why it is so powerful. I'm not by any means insinuating that I know a lot about love- that is exactly the opposite of what I'm saying. I'm saying I know very little about what love really is, but I'm slowly learning.
"What Love Really Means" is currently a favorite song of mine (by the wonderful JJ Heller). It talks about people in different situations who are yearning to find someone who will love them as they are and show them what love really means. The thing I'm reminded of when I hear this song is how sadly true it is: no one knows what love really means. We all think we do. We talk about it like we do. We use the word "love" like we know what it means every day, but we don't. We take this beautiful, larger-than-life concept/feeling/covenant/idea and dumb it down to fit our vernacular and work well in Taylor Swift songs.
Then we leave hurting kids in corners, mock and shun those different from us, abandon God-ordained lifelong covenants, and so many more anti-love actions.
We apparently don't know what love means, if we claim to love yet this is what our lives look like.
Over the past few months, I've been very convicted of what it means to think and speak lovingly, and I've come to the conclusion that a HUGE part of living loved and lovingly is simply SHUTTING UP and LISTENING. Love doesn't sit waiting for a break in the conversation, thinking up a good way to tell her story or become the center of attention again. Love doesn't speak lowly of others in order that the listeners would find her to be better/cooler/funnier/____er than those she puts down. Neither does she speak of herself very much at all.
In most cases, Love listens compassionately and empathetically, letting silence in conversation bring deeper revelations. Love lets you pour your heart completely out, lets you cry until your tears have all left, lets you pretend to be ok until you're ready to talk without calling you out too early.
Love considers your pains, joys, wants, needs, fears, and memories before loudly questioning your motives.
Love, it seems, is much quieter than we realize. I often hear the phrase "Love is louder", especially in reference to the fact that love is louder than hate and depression and suicide, etc. Which I agree with... but I wonder if Love's "louder"-ness actually comes from being quieter. Maybe she stands out and seems so much "louder" because when we finally let ourselves stop and look, the brilliancy of love quietly sitting there waiting all along outshines anything else that could try to compete with it.
Maybe love is louder because her ability to be quiet is outstanding.
Maybe perfect love has the ability to cast out fear because she knows she is the essence of God's heart. She knows that He doesn't always come in the winds and rains and fires, but in the still, small voice. He came "like the winter snow: quiet, and soft, and slow"- He came with the quiet confidence and strength that is found only in love. He came bringing love herself as his mascot. Therefore love has the power cast out fear because she is God's favorite balm to apply.
The power of love is capable of changing, molding, renewing, redeeming, reviving, protecting, and more because she and God are synonymous. God is love, and love is God's language.

When I begin to realize all this, I realize I'm not necessarily learning about love so much as learning about God and how his life inside me changes the way my life inside me is spent. I'm learning what being God's means, how He acts, how He talks, how He thinks, why He is so powerful, and how to be His imitator. I know very little about who God really is, but I'm slowly learning.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Guilt Of Being Happy

Am I the only one that sometimes feels guilty for having an awesome life? If you read my blog any sort of regular amount or know me in real life, you know that I don't live in a world full of rainbows and butterflies. There are hard days and dry seasons and sometimes life really stinks.
But overall, my life rocks. I've been so abundantly blessed by my God that I can't even really thank Him properly. My parents are wonderful, and though we don't always get along and they argue basically every day, I wouldn't trade them for anyone at all. For the mushy gushy sentimental stuff about how much I love them, please see "Dear Dad". My siblings are also amazing and I would never trade them either, though I often wanted to when I was a kid. The majority of my friends are people that inspire, motivate, and challenge me daily. They encourage me, stand by me, and don't give up on me or abandon me for lame reasons (or really any reason at all). They love me in my mess and make my life more vibrant and thrilling. I go to a wonderful college that's full of a lot of people who a similar to me, and a lot of people who are different from me. I love the variety and kindred spirits I find in both categories. I have a mind that loves learning, which I can thank my homeschooling days for, and I'm a pretty intelligent person (I'm no Einstein, but I love deep conversations and can learn to converse about pretty much anything academic or philosophical). I have something within me that makes music continuously, which makes the music major life a lot more hearty and a lot easier. I am quite healthy, if you disregard the amount of soda and Taco Bell I consume and the number of pounds the world says I should lose to be "fit". I'm not on any medication, I have great eyesight and hearing (though the hearing is sure to leave soon if I continue blast 'You Make My Dreams' as loud as I do...). I'm not a big fan of my looks, but I figure if that's the worst thing that's wrong with me, aside from the things God is concerned with, then I'm doing ok.
I do have a sin problem. It's a big part of my life and something I give up every day and fail at most days. But God is so very faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), which He does for me A LOT.
Once you consider all this, please tell me I'm not the only one that thinks my life rocks.
Because I certainly believe it does.
As I've begun realizing THAT this summer (it's taken a year for me to find life to be beautiful again, so please forgive me if this realization seems a little late in life), I've also been hanging out with and talking to a lot of friends/acquaintances becoming friends that are in a quite different boat.
They don't have good, supportive families and friends. They have a lot of things in their life that they regret doing. They have a lot of things in their life that are kind of dismal and hope-draining.
And here I sit trying to encourage them and become a part of their lives, I begin to sound like that annoying Christian radio station that's always talking about how *awesome* God is and how ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS GIVE IT UP TO HIM and all those other cliché Christianese words and phrases.
As much as I never want to be that person that's so happy about life all the time that you just want to kill a puppy in front of them, I feel like I've become that person. And I feel guilty for it! I feel judged, and like I deserve the judgment, and like it makes sense for people to hate me a little bit and never want to talk to me about their life issues. I think I feel this way because I am so very familiar with the Slough of Despondency and the Depths of Despair {if you understand both of those literary allusions, please be my best friend!}. I remember quite vividly the pain and numbness and listlessness of life that has occurred before, and what little desire I had to have anything to do with overly happy people. Or people who "understood" or people who wanted to encourage me. I just wanted to sit in my mud puddle and pout and cry and be miserable. And if you wanted to jump in, well, the more the miserable-er.
I guess once I get down to it, I have no idea why any of this matters. I know not why anyone should care to read about why I feel guilty about my awesome, God-blessed life. The ponderings just happen and I can't really stop them so most of them just end up here, I suppose.
The questions I close with:
Why do we all stink at being happy for others?
What stops me from being able to relate to those whose lives aren't as sunny as mine currently?
What can I do to change that?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

loves and fears and mores and enoughs.

I have no idea where this blog post is going or what may come out of it, so please bear with me. There's a lot welling up in my heart and weighing on my mind lately, so this is my feeble attempt at sorting it out. Summer school has been keeping me busy lately, and especially busy writing. When I write for school, I usually approach it as I would a blog post: a hopeful preliminary attempt at sorting out my thoughts, be they thoughts on research or opinions or just emotions. And, luckily, it turns out pretty good in most cases. Well, for this psych class I've been attempting to approaching my writing as a blog post, and it's been wonderful... but it's made me despise even the idea of blogging because I feel like I've already blogged about 33 pages of information on children with exceptionalities.
However, I feel like there are some big things rumbling around in me (and I'm still unsure of their correctness level, so feel free to judge and add your opinion) and I'd like to get my thoughts out there, so here goes:

For a long time, I've thought LOVE's opposite was HATE.
I'm changing my mind.
I believe LOVE's opposite is FEAR.

"Every type of emotion has one of only two roots – love or fear. Out of love flow joy, peace, happiness, patience, kindness, gentleness, and hope. Out of fear flow hate, anger, bitterness, resentment, rage, worry, envy and hopelessness.

The fascinating part is that scientists have researched the anatomy and physiology of love and fear and found that these two emotions cannot coexist. You either walk in love or fear but you can’t walk in both at the same time."

Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd

This explains it all so well. I am incapable of loving if I am afraid of love, or afraid of what may happen, or afraid of my past. I am incapable of fearing if I love God and others with a love that surpasses even that of my self-love, which is continually greater than it should be. 

The other big thing that's tumbling around in me is the word MORE.
As a resident of 21st century America, I am quite familiar with this word and its meaning. It means that what I have now is not ____ enough. Maybe just not enough. Maybe not interesting enough. Maybe not beautiful enough. Maybe not clean enough. Maybe not fast enough.
It means that what I have now is not satisfactory.
It means that contentedness is not a option currently.

And yet... YOU are MORE.
You are more than what you say.
You are more than what you do.
You are more than what you did.
You are more than what you wear.
You are more than what you believe.
You are more than what you see.
You are more than what you love.
You are more than what you fear.
You are more than what others tell you.
You are more than your mistakes, hiccups, skeletons, pains, glories, prizes, accolades, and shadows.

It means that what you are now IS ENOUGH.
It means that what you are now is satisfactory.
It means that contentedness is possible.
It means that forgiveness is not only possible, but has been standing there waiting on you to recognize it.

and still, beyond that, HE is MORE.
He is more than what church says.
He is more than what church does.
He is more than what you did.
He is more than what pictures of him look like.
He is more than what we believe.
He is more than what we see.
He is more than what we feel.
He is more than what we love.
He is more than what we fear.
He is more than what anyone has ever told you.
He is more than words, images, and emotions can explain.
He is more than your experiences, regrets, rewards, light, and shadow.

It means that what He is IS ENOUGH.
It means that what He is can handle absolutely anything. period.
It means that what He is now will never change.
It means that contentedness is actually not an option, because we can only see the surface of the 'enough' that He is.
It means that He is forgiveness.
It means that He makes you worthy.
It means that He makes you enough.

He is more, therefore I am more.
Together, we are more than my loves and my fears. Together, He takes my 'enough', and makes it His, and makes it more.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"No man is an island..."

I giggle a little bit in my head as I begin to type this, because I can't shake the mental image of John Donne's statue in St. Paul's Cathedral... that's him, rolled in a sheet like a fancy little literary burrito.

There you go. Giggle a little bit at it before we get into the serious stuff.
Which is this: "No man is an island, entire of itself."
Wise words from Mr. Sheet Burrito, straight out of his poem No Man Is An Island.
If you've never heard this phrase or had the poem explained to you, "lemme splain". We, as humans, are not a bunch of little islands separated by chasms of water and free from affecting each other with our choices. No, we are a part of the main land, a bunch of little clods of dirt and rock and sand smushed together to form what is Humanity. Every action and reaction causes the reactions and affects the actions of the other little clods of dirt around us, in turn rippling out to the rest of humanity.
It's a scary but beautiful thought, that the actions I choose today will affect my friends & family today, and for generations, really.
In my psych class the other day we had several guest speakers talking about their family members who have varying exceptionalities, and how it sometimes makes life more complicated, but overall it's richer and more beautiful and worth the struggle.

and how dare we pity them or attempt to express sympathy for those whose lives are "worse" than ours? I believe empathy is necessary. I believe sympathy is sometimes unnecessary and easily faked.
Wouldn't you rather positively impact the clods of dirt around you than sit there stagnantly, faking your way through?
Live your life! Take advantage of the beauty that surrounds you and fills each day. Choose actions and thoughts that are good, right, true, noble, pure, just, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy! (Phil. 4:8)
Let the pieces of land that are washed away from you affect you. "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind," he says. Shouldn't the inverse, then, be true as well? Any man's life augments [grows, benefits, supplements, improves] me, because I am involved in mankind! Any man coming to Christ and living abundantly and learning to take the struggles with the easy stuff and appreciate life's lushness because of it makes me a better person because their ripples bounce around in my heart and make me want to do the same thing and live the same way.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee. 

It's a frightening prospect: that the choices I call tiny are sending out ripples and affecting all those around me. I am not an island, all by my lonesome. I am a small clod of dirt in the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

and the over-analyzation continues...

It's well nigh time that I post again, yet I have very little to say. I am, yet again, inundated with school things, practicing, attempting to still be a good friend (and failing daily), attempting to maintain some semblance of a deep relationship with my God (and also failing daily... but thankful that He continues pursuing), and basic day-to-day time-wasting via the internet.
and through it all, somehow, one thing continues to push itself to the forefront of my mind.
not God, sadly... because there's something about Him that asks you to push Him to priority position yourself. so I'm working on that.
but the thing is this: boys.
You'd think after living 20 blessed, wonderful years of life as a female that I'd be so much better at handling the weirdness. I'm not.
You'd think that being a slightly more intelligent/cultured/wise girl than the majority of girls my age (and I do mean SLIGHTLY) I'd be so much better at being able to think about other things and dwell on deep philosophical or theological thoughts. Which I am, sometimes. But lately?... nada.
Here's the scoop: close friends of mine are getting ENGAGED and MARRIED and GIVING BIRTH. At least once a week now, I find out about another engagement or there's another wedding or another pregnancy announcement. I've gotten past the weird aspect of it, for the most part, and am now to the point where I'm getting impatient. MAY I REMIND YOU I AM ONLY 20. I shouldn't be impatient. Yet with all the romance and twitterpation in the air, and the fact that I stand in often unromantic solidarity, with no change on the visible horizon... Well, you can probably see what I mean.
I start pondering if I should say something to someone. If I should be more forward and flirty. If I should go on that date with that guy my friend wants to set me up with. If I should do something differently about the way I live my life, because guys obviously aren't flocking to me.
And I feel so lame for admitting that. Because now, I see it. OF COURSE I shouldn't do more or change something or whatever! OF COURSE I should keep living my life the way I do and dying to Christ and striving to make Him the definition of me. OF COURSE I should be glad guys aren't flocking to me... If they were, I'm pretty sure I'd be doing this Jesus stuff wrong (unless I were really pretty. Cause there are some really pretty girls who do the Jesus stuff right and guys flock to them. so there's one exception).
I do the typical self-evaluation: (Me to myself)

What is wrong with me? Is my laugh too loud? It's probably annoying. I could stand to lose a few pounds. My acne sometimes flares up. And my eyes are the grossest color. And maybe he doesn't like girls that don't make the first move? Should I say or do something? Or continue waiting? What about the fact that I have basically zero history with guys? That's gotta make me even more awkward and socially unfit. I talk too much. I don't say enough. I sing too much. I like using big words, that's gotta be weird to guys. And I have no life so I'm always lamely hanging out with the same people, or living in the practice room. And I'm in KT so that automatically brands me as a weirdy a little bit...

It continues, many times, for much too long.
This summer has certainly shown me how often I think about myself.
It's also a circle of self-centeredness that is so very hard for me to escape. I certainly have not gotten the hang of 'thinking of myself less' as opposed to 'thinking less of myself' yet. Dear God, please help me remedy that one soon.
Anyway, all this just reminds me that God obviously has bigger plans for me right now than a relationship. God is obviously still working on my heart being tied solely to Him before it becomes tied to someone else too.
All of this seems cliche, as I re-read it, and sounds lame all typed out and blatantly narcissistic.
I apologize for that, and pray that you'll still be my friend.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


It's funny the things your brain finally connects and grasps and makes sense of when you have nothing to do but lay there listlessly watching countless episodes of The Office or think.
Around bedtime one night I was hobbling into the kitchen to rinse out my soup bowl and suddenly something made sense.
We use water for a lot of stuff: drinking, helping plants grow, washing things, etc.
Have you ever thought about water's ability to make things soften?
When you leave a bowl with remnants of food in it and it gets all crusty, what do you do? Fill it with water so you can rinse it out and wash it.
For some reason I'd never really thought about this aspect of water. Even things that we consider "hard"- wood, leather, ginormous books, etc- are softened when waterlogged.

Do you see the spiritual aspect coming here?
Jesus calls himself the Living Water.
John 4 puts it like this: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.... Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
Basically, Jesus is telling this woman that He is God's gift to mankind, that He is able to eternally satisfy our needs for spiritual (and physical) water. 

Can we shorten this to Jesus = water? Maybe that's being a little too free with summarizing the Bible, so sue me.

If Jesus is the spiritual water for us, then it means He has the ability- no, his CHARACTER is to soften that which is hardened. stuck. crusty. 

There are so many times in the Old Testament where God resolves to harden his heart against a person or a people, after their continual disobedience or rebellion. The beautiful part comes when He decides (as He did MANY times) to have mercy and soften his heart toward them once again.
We see him doing this for other people in the Bible as well- one of my favorite instances of which is Ezekiel 36. He's speaking to His Children, the Israelites, and He says: 

"It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. 

And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 
I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

I think that's pretty straightforward. His people have not held up the mightiness and holiness of their God, which is not OK, and he's saying THESE PEOPLE WILL KNOW THAT I AM THE LORD. and this is how:

I will forgive, cleanse, renew, and soften.

I think it's powerful and there's something to be said by the fact that God himself insists that the way people will know and fear Him (even when His own children often don't) is through His forgiveness and ability to soften that which has been hardened by sin.

My heart often gets hardened. By disappointment, by independence, by pride, by expectations. 

I get stuck, my heart gets crusty, and a lot of times I find myself enjoying my ability to sit and revel in my stuck-ness. It's easy there. It's comfortable. No scraping or changing or new things I must learn to handle.
God, somehow, knows the exactly perfect time to say, "Ok, enough is enough. I'm tired of My Name being profaned and other people not knowing that I am the Lord because of your lifestyle.
The time has come for you to be vindicated.
The time has come for you to be cleaned.
The time has come for you to sit in my presence and get soggy and waterlogged and gushy again.

Because if you don't, and you don't change, and you don't start praising my name among the nations again, then one thing that water cannot soften- the ROCKS- will be softened to be able to praise my name.
If you don't, THE ROCKS will cry out. If you aren't, THE ROCKS will be un-hardened. My power is that great, and My name is that worthy."

Let His water-ness soften and change and vindicate you. Let him gushify your crust and unstick you.
Then praise and glorify His name among the nations. Someone has to.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dear Dad...

I always struggle knowing what to say to my parents on days such as this. It seems like no matter how hard I try to convey what my heart treasures about them, I can't quite capture it with words. Today, I was driving back to Clinton from church and 'When Daddy Says I'm Beautiful' by Annie Moses Band shuffled on. I couldn't help but think of some my favorite memories with my Dad...
I remember the MANY nights he would come in from work, probably exhausted, when we lived in Rainbow City, and I would ruuuun to him and wrap myself around his leg. As a five-year-old, I thought it was hilariously fun to let him try to walk through the house with me latched on.
I remember how I thought it was so silly that Mommy was "teacher" and Daddy was "principal".... until I got in trouble and Daddy reinforced the punishment when he got home from work. Then I regretted thinking he didn't actually have a 'job' in the 'school'.
I remember the many arguments he and mom have had (bear with me for a moment, I promise this is a good thing). When I was a kid, it scared me because it seemed like when two people were crying and screaming at each other, that no good could come of it. I was always afraid they would get divorced or something because they argued... Now that I'm older, I'm so grateful to have seen what a working, growing, beautiful marriage looks like. There are fights, and they're not pretty, and they're not easy. But that doesn't mean giving up is an option.
Dad taught me what a husband should be and what a good father is and what a godly man looks like- He never hurt my mom or any of us kids, purposefully or accidentally. We all hurt each others' feelings occasionally, sure... but he handled his anger, and loved us anyway, and trusted the Lord to give him endurance when life was hard and we weren't supportive.
I remember the many Dad & Daughter banquets he took me to through the years, and how every time I felt like a princess. He would tell me how beautiful I was, and I never really believed him. He still tells me how beautiful I am, and I still don't really believe him, but at least I believe he means it.
I remember when he took me and Lauren to our first theatre production when I was 8- Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. I was so enthralled by the sophistication and wonder of it all that I don't even remember the play much at all.
I remember all the times he's asked me to open up to him and share my heart with him, and I've flat-out turned him down and not let him be a friend and confidant.
I remember him teaching me to drive, and how frustrated I got with him so many times, because I of course thought I knew what I was doing. He would always make me say "I could stop, I could stop, I could stop..." approaching a traffic light, then say "I'M COMMITTED." as I got to a point where I would have to drive through it no matter what.
I remember when I was just a preschooler and Daddy had cancer- Hairy Cell Leukemia- and we were constantly praying for him and practically bathing in Purell. I was just a kid then and didn't know what was going on, but now I can picture my dad, the father of four young kids, sitting in a hospital room getting chemotherapy and being so determined to outlive this thing, to fight and endure and live a long, happy life with us. Which he is doing.
I remember him teaching me to fish, helping me ride my first two-wheeled bike, teaching me Physics, holding me as I cried but refused to tell him my heartaches, teaching me to mow the grass with the riding mower, helping me learn to scramble eggs, leading me to Christ, and loving me the way I needed and wanted to be loved.
I can never thank you enough, Dad, for all of this. For teaching me to seek Christ by doing so yourself, for always being willing and able to fix anything wrong with my car, for always being ready to give advice and pour out wisdom, for being supportive, loving, and the most chivalrous and respectable man I know. I'm thankful for all of it.
For the easy and hard times with you, for the good and bad, for the memories I love and even the things I regret. I'm unbelievably blessed to have a father like you. Proverbs 4 is a chapter full of instruction from a father, and it always reminds me of you, because I'm pretty sure everything inside it I've heard come out of your mouth. You are valiant, determined, hard-working, loving, wise, and ultimately such a great picture of Christ to me and all those you encounter.
I LOVE YOU, DADDY! Even though I pick on you and tease you and mock your "Dad" questions... I'm so glad that you let me, and you ask tough questions, and you keep loving and being and doing. You're the best and you're kind of my hero.

"When Daddy says I'm beautiful, he smiles with his eyes, and a happiness that I can't describe fills me up inside. Confidence of love is content within my soul..."

welcome to midnight.

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