28 December 2010

itineraries and life-plans

This coming summer, my little sister, BJ, and I are going to Europe for nearly 4 weeks. This Christmas, my mom and dad got us a book called, Rick Steve's Europe Through the Back Door: The Travel Skills Handbook 2011. It's all about traveling in Europe by going off the beaten path to experience Europe as a local. As my mom puts it, she created monsters of us with it. We have been constantly reading it since we opened our gifts. Now, before reading this book, BJ and I were planning on just going to Europe and not having an itinerary of any kind, that way we could go where we wanted to and not feel restricted by our itinerary. But then I read this:

"If you have any goals at all for your trip, make an itinerary. I never start a trip without having every day planned out. Your reaction may be, "Hey, won't my spontaneity and freedom suffer?" Not necessarily. Although I always begin a trip with a well-thought-out plan, I maintain my flexibility and make plenty of changes....With the help of an itinerary, you can lay out your goals, maximize their potential, avoid regrettable changes...and impress your friends." (Steves 68)
This got me thinking about how an itinerary is like a goal-specific mini life-plan: they both help a person set goals for the future, have the ability to take care of the necessary details for each step, and get the best experience by taking the worries and stress out of life/trips.

Now, if you have read any of my previous posts, you may have gotten the feeling that I am not a big fan of life-plans. In fact, you could probably say that before this weekend, I was completely disgusted with life-plans or anything that resembled a life-plan. You could also say that I had been burned...by a life-plan.

When I was nine years old, I decided what I wanted to be, a nurse. From then on, I planned my life from that decision. Everything from what to be when my sisters and I played dress up to what classes to take in high school and where to go to college. On my fifteenth birthday, my family moved from Oregon to Colorado. Now for a insecure teenager just having started high school in the town she had lived in nearly all her life, that was the hardest move ever. I went to two high schools that year, ate lunch in a bathroom stall the first day, and adamantly decided that I was going to move back to Oregon as soon as I could, which meant for college. I was determined to dislike Colorado: it was too cold, too windy, too hot, and just plain too sunny! And to top it all off, it snowed...a lot!

Junior year: take Med Prep class through the nearby community college to prepare me for nursing school. When senior year came around, my parents decided to have me take an aptitude test from Johnson O'Conner Research Foundation (JOCRF) just to "make sure" that nursing was what I really wanted to do and what would be the best for me to pursue. So I'm sitting in the office of JOCRF, waiting for the proctor to explain my results. She comes in, sits down, opens up my result folder, looks at me then at my parents, and proceeds to tell me that with my aptitudes, nursing is not the best option for me. It was a life-changing moment. The moment that I heard her say that, it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was free! I didn't have to be a nurse! Then, I realized that my plan of going to a college in Oregon or Washington for nursing then living in Oregon/Washington for the rest of my life with my husband and kids and visiting Colorado as rarely as possible was not going to happen. In a few moments, with only a few words, one woman had completely knocked my life-plan out. KO. In the weeks that followed, I decided that life-plans were horrible because things just messed them up and then what was the point in having a plan if it didn't work out. I was burned by my life-plan.

What I realized with Rick Steves' book is that a life-plan is just a well-planned, well-thought-out rough guide to a journey. It's not something that is stagnant and doesn't roll with the punches. It is always changing, not letting the unexpected knock it down.

Abba, I ask that you lead my new life-plan. Help me to roll with the punches and see that even if something happens that completely throws off my plan, you are there guiding me. I ask that you be my ultimate life-plan, that every goal that I have on my plan comes from You. Give me the serenity to remain in You in every part of my life including my hopes and dreams.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." ~ Jeremiah 29:11

21 December 2010

lunar eclipses and reflecting God

Tonight was the lunar eclipse. I don't know if you saw it but it was absolutely spectacular! It was rather slow to happen however, it was positively beautiful once it was here. For those that don't know what a lunar eclipse "occurs when the moon passes behind the earth so that the earth blocks the sun's rays from striking the moon. This can occur only when the SunEarth, and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle" (courtesy of Wikipedia). In a way, you could say that the earth is changing the moon. Kind of like how God changes us. Just as the moon is affected by the earth being between the Sun and the itself, we are affected when God comes into our lives. We are not the same. We are eclipses. I am an eclipse, you are an eclipse; an eclipse that shows how God is changing our lives.

May you be forever changed by God's infinite and perfect love. May you choose to be changed, to let God into your life and rock your world! May you be like the lunar eclipse, forever changed by your Savior.

16 December 2010

deja vu and seeing hope

To those that actually read this, I am truly sorry for not writing in nearly two and a half months. As horrible of an excuse as it is, my life has gotten crazy. My life has been turned upside down. Well, not literally but metaphorically. At the beginning of this semester, I was stressed but doing well. Sure, I didn't have everything figured out but I knew sort of what I was going to be doing for the next year or two. I even had been thinking about long term plans (very loose version of "plan"). I had finally found a major that I was passionate about even if meant having to transfer schools in the future. I had found a place to live with amazing girls and even figured out how to pay the bills when finances got tight. My relationships with my friends, my sorority little sisters, my family, and God were going good. I was purposefully pursuing my friends. Everything was going great. Then, I got thrown a curveball. The plans that I had once again got knocked to the ground. It felt like I was having a repeat of my high school medical saga.

My sophomore year of high school, I got really sick and couldn't go to school. I spent my days sitting on the couch watching movies or reading books, just trying to get my mind of the pain. I went to doctor after doctor, hoping that one of them would diagnose me and get me better. And doctor after doctor had no idea what I had. Because I couldn't get to school because my pain was so bad, I was homebound and finished the fall semester by doing the bare minimum for each class through a tutor that came to the house. Finally right before Christmas, a doctor diagnosed me with Celiac Disease. That New Years was the first gluten-free holiday for me. I ended up having to withdraw from school in the Spring because my immune system was completely shot and I was catching every cold that I was exposed to. You would think that would be enough and I could go back to being a regular high school student. But nope. I got sick again my junior year. This time, I was able to stay in school but it was really tough going through it.

The last week of October (2010), was when my world got flipped. I suddenly went from walking three - four miles a day to not being able to walk for two minutes without getting out of breath, and just completely and utterly exhausted. At first, I tried to just tough it out. That worked for about a week. Then the insomnia came along with my constant hunger and extreme mood swings. After that, I went to the doctor. Unfortunately he didn't know what was wrong with me but just did a lot of blood tests. To me, it felt like high school all over again, once again in the pit of despair.

Last Friday, I was finally diagnosed with Graves Disease. I'm not going to go into detail about what it is. I'll let you read about that if you choose to. Graves Disease is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the thyroid causing hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone in the body).

I'm not well yet. I'm still a hyper insomniac who eats all the time. But I have hope, even if its not much at this point. I've noticed that it's really difficult to write about seeing God working in my life when I can't see past the huge mess of my medical issues. Earlier in the semester at the Annex, Bill talked about how God is painting color in our bland black,gray,and white lives; how God is painting hope in our bleak, drama-filled lives. I'm not going to lie, I'm going to be real. I've had a hard time seeing that color. There are days, that I don't want to do anything but mope about my house. And yet God keeps painting more color into my life through friends, Bible verses, songs, and so many other things. Even the fact that I have the focus to write this blog post is a blessing right now. From this point on, I'm going to look for the color, I'm going to focus on the positives and not the negatives, I'm going to look at the glass half full instead of half empty, I'm going to focus on the fact that God has been with me even in this dark time in my life.

May you see the color that God is painting in your life. May you choose to be a woman or man that doesn't drag their friends down with them but instead encourages them and brings light into their lives. May you always know that God will never, ever leave you. He'll be there painting hope into your life.

"In the same way I was with Moses, I'll be with you. I won't give up on you; I won't leave you." ~ Joshua 1:5 (The Message)

"Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take." ~ Joshua 1:9 (The Message)

04 October 2010

dining halls and acceptance

CU just opened a new dining hall called, the Center for Community or C4C for short. Just as all new things gain popularity for their novelty, it has become the popular place to eat; and for good reason. Unlike all the other dining halls, C4C has many different food options from Italian, to Persian, to Asian and that's just the start of what they offer. They also offer one other addition, people. Hoards of people all wanting to eat at the NEW dining hall with more options and debatably better food. Whether good or bad, it makes for a crowded and noisy mealtime during the peak hours.

So a couple weeks ago, instead of rushing over to the C4C for lunch, my friend and I ventured to Libby, the former 2nd best dining hall on campus. It was very much the opposite of the C4C. Instead of lines of loud, rambunctious people and the noises of the employees drowned out by the happy chatter of students, there was the low hum of the dining hall employees going about their duties and the very quiet clatter of dishes interspersed with very quiet talking. Libby, especially when compared to last year, was deserted; unwanted.

Have you ever felt unwanted? Like nobody could ever love you? Like nobody would ever want to spend time just being WITH YOU? I have. I've even felt that way more than once! Maybe its a situation where you've felt traded in for a new best friend or new boyfriend or girlfriend. Or maybe you are ashamed of something you did and because of that nobody would ever want you. Or maybe its a situation completely unlike either one of those.

But that is NEVER the case.
There is someone who wants to be WITH YOU; who wants you just as you are, not the newest and latest edition; who loves you no matter what you may have done. 

In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." He's there, waiting at your heart's door wanting to come in and make your life better to take your pain and heal your wounds of rejection and unworthiness, to fill the emptiness in your heart with joy, and to fill your heart so full with love that it spills over onto others.

One of the pieces that Dana, ADX's devotional chair, shared with us (ADX) goes right along with this:

"I know you through and through. I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to Me. I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings. I know every one of your problems. I know your needs and your worries. And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity My Father gave you by creating you in His own image.

know what is in your heart – I know your loneliness and all your hurts – the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations, I carried it all before you. And I carried it all for you, so you might share My strength and victory. I know especially your need for love – how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished. But how often have you thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures – with the even greater emptiness of sin. Do you thirst for love? "Come to Me all you who thirst…" (Jn. 7: 37). I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be cherished? I cherish you more than you can imagine – to the point of dying on a cross for you."

God, I'm answering my heart's door. I choose to invite you in, to be cherished, to be loved, and to be healed. That is my desire: to be with you just as you desire to be with me. Thank you for loving me, every part of me including the ugly parts.

16 September 2010

busyness and restoration

I don't know how many people read this. But I want to apologize for not writing for almost a month now. This semester started off super duper crazy, busy, and stressful. I know that's a horrible reason for not keeping up with this but it will have to be good enough because that's all I got. Once I get my life organized and calmed down, I will post again. (I have plenty of ideas running around in my head, I just haven't had the time to put them down on "paper.")

Have you ever heard the saying that Satan gave us busyness to keep us from growing in our relationships with God? That is sooo true. Right now with everything else in my life screaming for attention, God's quiet whisper is easily drowned out. Last night at the Annex, Jennie talked about being a person filled with the Holy Spirit and how our lives should look different once we accept Jesus as our Savior. In her talk, she mentioned two obstacles that get in the way of being completely changed with the Spirit in our lives: comfort and volume.

Answer this question, do you ever multitask? I would guess that nearly every single person has multitasked at some point in their life, especially if you live in the United States and are just the least bit tech savvy. Jennie asked when was the last time you had a long, deep conversation with a friend without any interruptions - no friends barging in, no texting, no answering phone calls, no checking your email; just you and your friend. In today's technology-frenzied world, our lives are so full of things that if we don't multitask, we can't get everything done. Our lives are so loud - with to-do lists, homework assignments, reading assignments, projects, text messages to respond to, Facebook pictures to look through, Youtube videos to watch, and so many other things - that we completely tune out the still quiet whisper of God. All He wants is to spend time with you, to grow in a relationship with you, to heal your pain whether physical or emotional, to be the one that you eagerly turn to when something spectacular happens, to be the one that you turn to when you are sure that life couldn't get any worse. He is there waiting for you to hear Him, to turn off all the rest of the noises and just be with Him.

"Be still and know that I am God." ~ Psalm 46:10

"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul." ~ Psalm 23:2-3

God, I want to be filled with your Spirit. I desire to have my life be different from when I first accepted you into my life. Help me to quiet my life so I can hear you whispering, leading me beside quiet waters and restoring my soul.

21 August 2010

expectations and surrender

I'm not perfect. I'm messy and scatter brained and insecure. I speed, make california stops, and have driven without my license. I pretend to not see some people sometimes; I make rash judgments of people I just met; and I blantently do the opposite of what God is telling me to do. So why does it seem like certain people in my life expect me to be perfect anyway? That I'm supposed to not be unsure of anything; that I'm supposed to always complete tasks before they are due; that I'm supposed to never question where I'm going in life.

You would think that I would learn that I will never be able to reach their expectations, that I will always mess up, that I can't base my self-worth on them and yet I continue to set myself up for their rejection. Why? Why is it so much harder to get my self-worth from the only perfection in the world, Jesus Christ?

Maybe my problem is that I'm not keeping my focus on God and I'm getting caught up in my own desires and dreams. If I say I have faith then I'm saying that I have complete confidence that Jesus is who he says he is and that he will do what he promises. And he has promises us that he has plans for us that will prosper us and give us hope. (
Jer 29:11)

Maybe instead of me trying to be the woman that the people in my life want me to be, I need to surrender to the One who will always be by my side; to surrender to becoming the woman He wants me to be, a woman completely surrendered to Him

So what could I say
So what I could I do
But offer this heart, O God
Completely to You
       ~ The Stand, Hillsong

30 July 2010

prepositions and connections

Prepositions. In my Italian class, we're working on prepositions, those silly little 2 or 3-letter words that connect verbs and nouns to form sentences. Now, for a native English speaker, prepositions aren't that difficult...in English. But in Italian, they are probably one of the most difficult parts of the language! Yet, without prepositions, all you have are conjugated verbs and nouns and subjects in a combination that makes no sense. I mean, think about it, if I stopped using prepositions in Italian, it would be like speaking gibberish. Take the following sentence.

Without prepositions:
I'm going Denver.

If I didn't know what I was trying to say, I would be confused. Am I saying that I'm going WITH Denver (Denver being the name of a person)? Or is it that I'm going FROM Denver (to another location)? Or even I'm going TO Denver?

I was thinking today in class that prepositions are kinda like parts of our relationship with God. Just as prepositions connect verbs, nouns and other parts of speech to form sentences, prayer, reading the Bible, and spending time with God connect us to God. Let's see if I can explain this better.

If I want a relationship with God but I don't ever spend time getting to know Him, through prayer and studying the Bible, then I would be like a group of verbs and nouns without prepositions. The relationship would be nonexistent. Just as prepositions connect verbs and nouns into sentences, spending time getting to know God connects us to God.

So what language are you speaking? Are you speaking with prepositions or without? Are you connected to God? My hope is that if you aren't connected, if you're like verbs and nouns grouped together; my hope is that you will want to become a whole and complete sentence, that you will want a relationship with God.

May you find the prepositions to connect you with the God who can transform you into a whole and beautiful sentence.

22 July 2010

dreams and my savior

In my Italian class, we have to write one paper every week with the theme of the paper focusing on the vocab and grammar that we learned the past week. So far, they haven't been that difficult. Easy topics like, describing my relationship with a friend, or telling how a friend and I met. Quelli temi sono facili! (Those topics are easy!) 

However, this week's theme is the future so of course the topic for the paper is my dreams. (Not the sleeping type dreams either, more like the hopes and desires type of dreams.) The problem with this topic, I don't know what my hopes and dreams are anymore. In high school, if you had asked me what I wanted to do or what my dreams were, I knew; I had a plan. Sure, I didn't have all the details worked out but I had a general outline of what I wanted my future to look like. And then my senior year happened. Everything that I had thought I wanted, I discovered, in a matter of a few weeks, I didn't want anymore. In a few seconds, I had gone from knowing exactly what I wanted to not having a clue about the future. At the time, I remember feeling like I had just fallen overboard right smack dab in the center of the Pacific Ocean. I imagine it looking something like this: 

You open your eyes, slightly confused for a few seconds at where you are and why you woke up. And then you remember. You're on a the sundeck of the cruise-ship M.Y.L.I.P.O, somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. "Aaaa, life is good," you think happily and start to drift off back to dreamland. Suddenly, there's a piercing scream and then the splash of something or somebody hitting the water! You quickly jump up, race to the side of the ship and look down trying to find the source of the disturbance. Oh, there! You found it, whatever it is.
"Quick, help!" you shout, and hurriedly look around, searching for somebody that could help you. There are a handful of other people on the deck with you but each of them is completely absorbed in their activities, that nobody hears your shout. You whip back around to the rail, and scan the water, searching again.
There. This time, you get a better look and your eyes widen in recognition. Its one of the girls that was on the ship with you! You squint against the glare of the sun on the water and notice that she doesn't have a life-jacket on. At that very instant, you realize from the way she is flailing about that she has no clue how to swim; she's trying to stay afloat but its like there's an anchor attached to that is dragging her down. 
"Help!" you yell again and again. Surely there must be somebody on this ship that will come out of their self-absorbed state and hear you. 
Quickly, you grab a pair of binoculars lying on a chair close by and direct your eyes out onto the water, this time to her face. Suddenly, she looks directly at you and you gasp, you can see the panic and hopelessness in her eyes. She knows that she is going to drown.

I think at points in our life, we can all feel like the girl in the water; utterly hopeless in the outcome of our situation. So why, why do I write about this? I honestly have no idea. 

Lately I have been struggling with surrendering everything, including my hopes and dreams and aspirations, to God. It's a daily challenge for me, giving them to Him and then like a toddler, grabbing them back and crying "mine!" at Him. When somebody asks me what my dreams and aspirations are, how do I respond? Do I tell them all of my dreams even though I say that I have given them to God? Or do I tell them that my desire is to do what my God asks me to do; that my hope, my feelings of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, is God; that the thing I want most in life is to follow, with total abandon, the One who saved me.
You're crying now, tears coursing down your cheeks and onto your shirt. 
"Why won't somebody come help?!" you scream silently in your head, angry at every other person on the ship. "If nobody will listen to me, I'll go make them listen to me," you say angrily and run to the nearest person and shake them forcefully, sure that they will realize the urgency of the situation.
Its only been a couple minutes but it feels like hours. After trying the people on this side of the deck, you stumble back to the railing, gasping for air as your eyes quickly sweep the water and stops on the girl's floundering form. She's tiring, you can see clearly how her arms and legs are moving slower and slower. "Come on," you whisper, "You can do it. Don't give up."
What was that? Your eyes pop open. You must be seeing things!
You rub your fists against your eyes and look again at the girl. There is someone else in the water with her! 
"Where did he come from?" you puzzle. 
You glance around the sundeck, hoping to find someone to come make sure you're not seeing things. Just as all the other times you looked for someone that isn't absorbed in themselves, nobody hears you. You turn back to the ocean and scan for the girl. 
The man has maneuvered the girl onto his back piggyback style, her hands clasped tightly around his neck, and is swimming with strong, quick strokes towards a small inflatable kayak about a little ways away. Your legs suddenly become like cooked spaghetti and you crumble to the deck, your hands still gripping the railing. Your tears have turned from tears of grief to tears of relief. You want to make sure that the girl and the man made it to the kayak but you when you try to turn your eyes on the water, you can't see through all of your tears.
Eventually, your crying gradually calms down enough so that when you wipe your eyes, you can see. You press your face against the rails, squinting against the glare on the water, and scan for the girl and the man. "They couldn't have gone that far, could they," you wonder. 
Just as you're about to give up on ever finding them, you see something in the distance that could be them. Once more, you bring the binoculars to your eyes, focusing on the speck you had found. Even with the binoculars, you couldn't make out much. The one thing you can tell is that it is the girl and the man. You smile widely for you just witnessed a rescue like none other. You turn from the railing and wander back to the lounge chair you had been sitting in before the rescue. Still thinking about all that happened, you sink down onto the chair and lean back to look up at the clear blue sky. You still aren't sure of everything that happened but there is one thing you are a hundred percent positive on. 
The man that rescued her from drowning, he is, without a doubt, her Savior.

 "Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave."   
               ~ Psalm 107:19-20

25 June 2010

writers block and listening for His voice

"Writer's block is a condition, associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task in hand. At the other extreme, some "blocked" writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers. It can manifest as the affected writer viewing their work as inferior or unsuitable, when in fact it could be the opposite." (Wikipedia)

Some of you might be thinking that it's rather odd that I start this off with a definition, especially for a condition associated with writing which I would consider myself inept at. But there is a reason and I shall try to explain it, we'll see if I can actually explain it well. When I started this blog, I came up with this unplanned format that I shaped each of my blog posts to and it works. It starts off with something that is going on in my life, something that at first glimpse may seem ordinary or mundane, and then applying it somehow to my walk with God.

Lately, I haven't been posting as often as I did during the school year. Its not because I am losing interest in blogging but more because I found out that some of my friends read my blog. Every time I think about blogging now, instead of inspiration coming quickly, I start to worry about whether my current idea is good enough; whether it will live up to my friends' expectations. I realized this week that to a certain extent, I have writers block (or in my case, bloggers block?). I'm telling you this because this is what's going on in my life and because the very condition that I "have" has cured me.

How many times in your life have you felt like no matter how much you yell, shout, plead, or cry out to God that he is not answering you? I know I have definitely lost track of how often that happens for me! It's like the open phone line between you and God is out-of-order, or at the very least, on hold. Just as I have a case of writers block, we can sometimes feel like we get hearing-God block, a condition in which it appears that God is not answering our prayers. Psalm 18:6,16 says, "In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried out to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears... He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters." Sounds to me like he hears my cry, and he answers me! Maybe hearing-God block isn't actually a condition, maybe the problem is that we are yelling and shouting so loud that we fail to hear God's quiet voice whispering "I hear you. I'm coming, my daughter."

That makes me think of my 2 month old niece. Here's what sometimes happens when she is hungry. She will start fussing and then it turns to crying. And if food doesn't come fast enough, the crying will escalate and continue getting louder and louder. In her young mind, she is so sure that mommy can't hear her cries for her and thus the crying escalates because of that on top of her hunger.  Now, my sister is a very good mother. This is how it goes from her perspective. Before my niece ever starts crying for food, my sister is watching her and has noticed that she is getting hungry. So she starts getting ready to feed her. (Its usually about this time that my niece starts crying) As my sister is getting ready, she is talking to her daughter, telling her over and over again in her quiet mothering voice that somehow miraculously came with motherhood, "I'm coming, baby girl. Mommy hears you."

Maybe the problem is not that God is not answering but that we are like my niece, so sure that God can't hear us that we shout louder and louder until we are worn out. God is always with us. Psalms 37:24 says that "the Lord holds them [the godly] by the hand." Maybe realizing that God is always there will help us calm down and then we will be able to hear God's wonderful voice whispering to us,

"I'm here, my child. I hear you and I'm coming."

God, thank you for always being with me, holding my hand and never letting me fall. When I am in trouble and crying out to you, help me to remember that you will never let go of me and that you do hear my cries.

"Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress."
                                                                   ~ Psalm 107:6, 13, 19, 28

11 June 2010

do-overs and perfect timing

Have you ever wanted a do-over in life? A chance to go back and change a specific part of your life; to take that one risk that you have forever since wished you had; to do that one thing that you regret not doing; to not make the decision that you wish you had not made? I know I have wished there were do-overs in life. For one, it would make decision making a lot less stressful. I mean, if the decision you made turned out differently than you thought it would, you could just do-over the decision. But if there were do-overs, then what would force us to grow in our relationships with friends and more importantly, God?

This summer, I've been doing a lot of soul searching. Have you ever had those time periods in your life? The times where you just want to sit around and contemplate the deep stuff in life; when you figure out what your purpose in life is? That's what I've been doing lately.

So much has happened since I graduated from high school, not just events that have happened like my sister getting married or my niece being born but deep stuff about the very essence of who I am. That summer before I started college seems so far away now. If somebody had told me then that where I am today is where I would be going into my junior year, I doubt I would have believed them. And yet here I am in the summer before my junior year. The same person yet intricately different because of the decisions that I have made.

The person that I am today is a result of making the decisions that I have made. The growth that I have seen in my relationships is because of those decisions and their impact on my relationships. How can I wish for a do-over when that do-over would change every single part of my life? How can I not trust that God is in control?

What if I had figured out what I want to major in before I started college. If I had, then I would be at a different school; I wouldn't have gained the friends that I have; and most of all, I wouldn't be the God-follower that I am today. God knew that for me to have the relationship that I have with him today, I had to go to the school that I did and make the decisions that I made. What I'm trying to say, is that God's timing is absolutely perfect.

God, help me to remember, especially in the times that I wish I could have a do-over, that you are in control and that your timing is perfect. Help me to trust that your plan for my life is the best possible plan. And give me the patience to wait for your leading.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
                                            ~ Jeremiah 29:11

27 May 2010

grad parties and what is needed

Have you ever been to a high school graduation party? If so, have you ever noticed how certain groups of people congregate together? You have your family group, your coworkers, your friends from that one class that you invited but really didn't think would show up, your band/sports/art/newspaper/specific activity friends, your friends that graduated before you that don't know many of your friends now, and your friend friends - the ones that you have the most memories with. Now the way most parties that I've gone to go is this: you get to the location where the party is, go in and try to find either the graduate or other people that you know, talk with the group that you know for a little while, and then leave and go to the next party, all while not really talking to people that you don't know. Why is it that most people don't go out of their comfort zone and talk with other people at these parties? Is it because meeting somebody new requires vulnerability? Is it because you have to put yourself out there for the other person to "judge?" Or is it because, in our culture, we have gotten really good at compartmentalizing our lives so much to that point that we put our friends into boxes or lists? That's how we keep our busy lives organized; its the way we are able to do so much more than we did 25 or 30 years ago.

I have several friends who are very organized. They have their planner with them at all times and have every task that needs to be done written down on a list. Now I'm not trying to bash on planning and making to-do lists, my life would be so much more crazy and hectic (in a not so good way) if I didn't use my calendar and to-do lists. The problem that I see with planners and lists is when our lives are so planned out and we are so boxed in that we don't know how to survive without it. It reminds me of Luke 10:38-42, when Jesus comes and visits two sisters, Martha and Mary. Now Martha, I see her as the biblical version of the modern "superwoman" or "supermom," the one who does amazing amounts of tasks each day. I would bet that a modern day Martha would be the one with multiple planners, several to-do lists, and basically lives on caffeine. Yet, Jesus tells her, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed." As much as I love being organized and being able to acomplish a lot in a little amount of time, I think this is a lesson that I need to remember. The only thing that is needed is to spend time with my number one, Jesus.

Jesus, help me to remember that you are the only thing that is needed and nothing else that I do matters if you are not.

18 May 2010

a tribute to one of my best friends

My little sister graduates from high school tomorrow. I can't believe that she's done with high school and is going to be leaving for college in just a few short months. Now normally I have a format for each post but this one is going to be different. This one is a tribute to my beautiful little sister.

BJ, I don't really remember when you were born, most of my memories of when you were really young are from pictures. You were without a doubt one of the most rollypolly babies I've ever seen. Even when you were four and five, you still had a lot of baby fat. In my little seven year old brain, I was positive  that you were going to be rolly polly BJ for the rest of your life. I couldn't have been more wrong. :)

Some of my greatest memories growing up are playing with you - although there are a good number of memories when you were just the annoying little one. Things like playing barbies until way past our bedtime and making giant Lego houses that took up five of the large Lego boards. Or working on our "river" by the swing, making it a little better each summer. Staying up all night just talking about life and boys and how tired we were.
I've seen you transform from when you were the shy, quiet girl that started your first day ever of school outside of homeschooling to the confident, silly, accomplished young woman that you are today. When everyone else saw the "invisible" girl mask that you wore, I got to see glimpses of the silliness that was hidden inside. The last four years have been an amazing journey with you. I'm so proud of you and I brag about you all the time - you can ask any one of my friends. Your talent with writing and ceramics makes me speechless and I can't wait to see what you do in college. One of the greatest things is seeing your relationship with Jesus grow. It is such a blessing to be here to encourage you, keep you accountable, and completely love you as not only a blood sister but an eternal sister. Remember BJ, you are the daughter of The King, which makes you a princess forever. You no longer have to dream about it, you are a true princess with a beauty that is not just an outside beauty but an inner beauty as well.  Jesus is the one who you can depend on always, he will never let you fall. Pour your heart out to him, give him your all, little one, and he will use you to do great things. I can't wait to see where he takes you on this journey of life.

Your hard work and dedication have paid off, little sister. You graduate tomorrow as the outstanding senior in the Art Department, a valedictorian with a GPA above 4.0, and several really great scholarships to the school of your dreams. I want you to know that no matter what you do or don't do in college, I will always love you and be here for you. Even when distance separates us, I am only a phone call away.

"The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."
                                                        ~ Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Jesus, I lift up my little sister to you; use her for your glory. I pray that she will learn what it means to completely surrender everything to you; to depend on you always, not just when its easy but each and every day. Help her to be a reflection of you, give her the love to treat everyone with love.

14 May 2010

nutrition, fable, and choices

On Monday, I started the first of three summer classes that I'm taking this summer. This one is nutrition. One of the first things my professor said was, "you are what you eat." If you eat a bunch of foods that aren't that good for you, your body won't be able to function as well as if you ate foods that are good for you. She used the example of Twinkies. Lets say you eat 3 or 4 Twinkies every day. At first, you probably won't notice anything different. But at some point, that will change. The instant in time where you realize you somehow gained enough weight that your favorite pair of jeans no longer fit. The process is a long term process. Isn't that so much like our Christian walk? I heard a song on Pandora Radio recently. It was talking about how what we do and what we hear and what we see all have a impact on our lives. It may not be immediate. But it will play a part in what we are like. What we put in - whether it be Twinkies or TV shows or books or blueberries - will affect us. It's like the video game, Fable. In the game, you are a Hero in a village and what tasks you do affects your reputation and even more what you look like. If you do mainly bad deeds, then you look evil (more like a devil_ and the villagers are scared of you. And if you do mainly good deeds, then you look good (more like an angel) and villagers love you. Isn't that so much like life? Every. Single. Little. Choice has an impact. A few weeks ago, I talked about how life is not a to do list with certain choices but an infinite number of choices that we make. I guess you could say this has been on my heart a lot lately. The only conclusion I've come to, is that we need to be aware of the choices that we are making. In the end, I keep coming back to one verse.

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
                                           ~ Proverbs 4:23

Jesus, help me to be conscious of what I am putting in, into my body and into my heart. Guide me in knowing what kind of affect my choices are having on my life. Give me the strength to avoid the temptations that are all around me. I choose you.

02 May 2010

swing dancing and relationships

I started swing dancing this year. I've always wanted to learn how, I just hadn't had the guts to go...well that is until now. The more I dance, the more I see similarities between swing dancing and our relationship with Jesus. Here are some of those similarities.

The first way is probably somewhat obvious, at least if you're familiar with dance. In dancing, there are two people - a leader and a follower. Just as I have to learn how to follow in dancing, I am learning how to follow in the dance of life. There are times that I try to take over and lead but my partner always gently reminds me that he is the leader. That reminds me so much of how Jesus will gently take the lead even when we have memory lapses and forget who is the leader. As a follower, I don't know exactly what step we are going to do next; I admit it, I can't read my partner's mind to figure out what step he's thinking of next. However, as I dance more with my partner, I start to recognize the little queues that he does to indicate which step we're doing next - the slight pressure on my back or the change in hand grip or even how his body is angled. Isn't that so much like our relationship with Jesus? When Jesus and I first started dancing in the dance of life, I didn't know know him; I knew about him, I had seen him dancing with others and knew that he was a good dancer but I didn't know him myself. As I continue to dance with him, I get to know his little queues at what is coming in the future. If you aren't already, I encourage you to dance with Him; it is a whirlwind dance full of unexpected turns and spins but it is so worth it! Just as dancing is exponentially better when I am dancing with a partner that knows how to lead, life can be so much better with Jesus leading. He is the ultimate dance partner.

Jesus, thank you for being the excellent dance partner that you are. Teach me how to follow better and become more in tune with your queues. I want us to be the dance couple that people look to as an example.

Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity.
                                                                ~ 1 Timothy 4:12, The Message

29 April 2010

a to do list and life decisions

I was talking with one of my good friends this last weekend about how nice it would be to KNOW what God's plan for us was. Like a loud voice saying, "declare this as your major because this is where I want you" or "apply for that job because that's the one you're going to get because that is in my plan for you." And even though it would be nice in times of uncertainty like now when unemployment is so high and college is so expensive that you don't want to explore a lot of options, I don't think I would actually enjoy having God tell me straight up exactly where he wants me. It would become just another person telling you what to do.

Do you remember how when you were growing up and your mom or dad would tell you had to do something. "Clean up your toys." "Get dressed." "Its bedtime." "Use your words to tell me what you want/need." How many times did you grumble or complain or pout about doing it or just straight out not do it, I know I did plenty of times. What is it about somebody telling us what we need to do that makes us do the exact opposite, or at the very least do it with a bad attitude.

Life is not just a checklist or certain things that must be accomplished; its not just a long list of decisions that must be made; its not a puzzle with a discrete number of pieces. Life is a process; its a conglomerate of infinitely many little decisions. Its how we choose to make those decisions that shapes our lives. As a God follower, that means including God in all of the choices in my life, knowing that he's the one guiding my life, and choosing to listen to his authority.

Jesus, I choose to include you in every part of my life, I choose to put you in the drivers seat, I submit to your authority. Give the patience and perseverance to make the time to be still and listen to your authority.

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

                                                                ~ 1 Timothy 4:12

"Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I'm on
Jesus take the wheel"
   ~ Jesus, Take the Wheel by Carrie Underwood

17 April 2010

wellness and excuses

Almost four weeks ago, my mom and I were in a three car accident (we were the middle car). Since then I have had a lot of back and neck pain and so I've started going to a chiropractor in order to get some relief. I know I don't want to deal with this pain for the rest of my life.

Now, I don't bring this up because I want to get pity or attention about my accident but rather because I realized something recently that goes along with it really well. A talk at the Annex  several weeks ago was titled "What Do You Really Want" and it was based on John 5:1-8 (I suggest listening to the talk which you can find here). It made me think a lot about what I would say if Jesus were to come up to me tomorrow and ask me, "Do you want to get well?"

I've had a lot of medical issues in my life and so I have an inkling of what the man from the Bible passage has gone through. If Jesus were to ask me if I wanted to get well, I wouldn't hesitate for a second! I would shout a loud resounding YES! Taking the pain and horribleness (yes, that is a word...at least it is in my dictionary) that goes with it would make life so much better. With my back pain right now, I would shout a loud YES if Jesus were to ask me.

So why, when Bill angled the same exact question towards mental/spiritual/emotional sickness such as partying, eating disorders, etc, did I pause? Why is it so much more difficult to want to be well from sin than to be well from physical pain? Isn't that just a different kind of sickness, the heart kind? Why is it that we continually come up with excuses for not immediately saying yes? Look at the man in the passage, he has an excuse. Do we come up with reasons why we don't want to not be physically sick anymore? "Oh well actually I don't want you to make this flu go away. I mean, the puking is good practice for something... like being pregnant some day" I mean really, who even does that?? And yet each of us, including me for sure, make excuses of why we have to hold onto our sicknesses - our partying, our raunchy movies/music/tv/magazines, our gossiping, our jealousy, our little white lies. Life can be.  so.  much.  better.

Jesus, I need to want to get well. I know I can't get to that point of actually wanting it without you. Help me to stop giving excuses for why I can't get well. And Jesus, just as I wouldn't hesitate at all if you were to ask me if I wanted to get well from my back pain, help me to have the same kind of response when you ask me if I want to get well from my heart sickness, a loud resounding YES!

02 April 2010

clay and trust

Did you ever read any of the Choose Your Own Adventure books? I used to love reading books like them. I think it was the fact that I could have do-overs. If I didn't like the ending, I could just go back in the story and redo it choosing something else that time. Wouldn't it be nice if we had something like that in real life. Like a machine that would let you go see what your life would have been like if you had chosen the other option. I guess that would just create a lot of depressed people wishing that they could go back and change their minds. Yet the second we start wishing for a redo, we're basically telling God that we don't trust him to work out all the kinks in our lives. That God can't take the not-so-great choices we've made and make something good out of it. If a potter can smooth out all the wrinkles and lumps and bumps and rough edges, and have it turn out as a masterpiece; and if God is considered the Master Potter, then I choose to trust that he can work it out. He can take my wrinkly, lumpy, rough edged life and make it into a masterpiece that reflects the Potter.

Jesus, I give you my life. Take it and make it new. I trust you to make it a masterpiece to glorify You, the Master Potter.

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out."  ~ Romans 12:1-2

29 March 2010

still processing

This last week was spring break for me. It was probably one of the best spring breaks I've had. I went on a mission trip with the Annex to Denver. We stayed at Crossroads of the Rockies and helped out with their food and clothing bank on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We also got to work with their children's director on helping out with the after school programs such as tutoring, basketball, and cheer-leading. It was an intense week that went by really fast. There is so much still whirling inside my head about what I learned from this experience and yet when people ask about my break now, the most I can get out is that it was really great and that I went on a mission trip to Denver. Why is it that sometimes we have so much that is being processed that we can't begin to start talking about it? Am I the only one who is experiencing this? One thing I can articulate, this trip has fanned the flames of my desire to get into missions.

God, this trip was a real eye-opener. Thank you so much for the opportunity to go and serve in Denver. Help me not to come back and just go on with life like it never happened. I want to grow and change from this experience. In Your name I pray, Amen.

For pics from my trip, click on this link.

20 March 2010

spring break and changing the world

It is finally spring break!!! I can't believe it is already here. It seems like just yesterday that it was the beginning of January and spring semester was just starting. What did I even do this semester besides go to class and do homework? Did I even do anything that will be remembered beyond this semester? If you want to change the world, doesn't it start with what you are doing now? If you don't start now, then when are you going to start? Change doesn't just happen. It takes time, and effort. In a way, that is like our relationship with Christ. If we want to have that close relationship with Him, we have to be willing to put forth the effort and give him the time to create that closeness.

Jesus, I want to change the world for You. Help me to remember that change is starting right now and to not procrastinate about it. Jesus I don't want to put off building a closer relationship with you anymore.

03 March 2010

blogs and fire

My sister and I were talking about blogs this last weekend. She started her blog last fall and that was part of the reason why I started this blog. She mentioned that most blogs "die" very soon after they are created. So I did some research and found out that 60 - 80% of blogs are abandoned within a month after their creation and that 66% of all blogs are abandoned. Another interesting fact I found was that the oldest running blog, Scripting News by Dave Winer, was created in 1997.

Why do I bring this up? Because I think bloggers and their blogs is an analogy for Christians and their relationship with Christ. How many times have you talked with someone who has just become a Christian and they are on fire for God. They are so enthusiastic about everything, sharing it with others, bible studys, going to church, having quiet times with God, you name it, they are right there with as much energy as a Labrador retriever puppy when he (or she) meets new people. Then maybe school becomes super stressful and their family starts having issues, and it seems like everything in life that could go wrong is going wrong and slowly their intense passion starts to fade and maybe instead of reading the Bible every night it becomes every other night. And every other night becomes two nights a week and then its drops to once a week and soon the fire is a pile of coals just barely warm. Isn't that similar to when you first get your blog? Everything you think about, everything that you encounter, you go through it all with a filter of how you could blog about it and so you post frequently. Yet the same thing that happened with the Christian happens with blogging, school and family and friends and volunteering and everything else starts to crowd in and soon you're blogging less and less until finally one day you realize that you're no longer blogging.

I think that is where I am right now in my relationship with God. I sort of had this relationship high about a year ago when I was pledging ADX and I've been coming off of that this school year. How do you find a balance between being like a super hot roaring fire and being a pile of coals? I know it doesn't make sense to be that super hot fire all the time just like being a pile of coals is basically like not being a fire at all, but I don't know how to find the happy medium. God, teach me what that middle point looks like. Show me what it means to be a fire for you.

27 February 2010

pointers and life questions

In my programming class, we are talking about pointers. Without getting into too much detail, a pointer is exactly what it sounds like; an arrow pointing to something else. Now you might be thinking that I'm pretty weird and most definitely a nerd (which I kinda am) for talking about my programming class on my blog. But I really do have a point so just stay with me. We're going to talk a  little about programming.

If you were to ask a pointer what its value was, all it would do is point to what the variable that it's pointing to. For example, let's say that a pointer, we shall call it p, is pointing to a variable, called v. And let's also say that v = 25. If we were to ask p what its value was, it would say "whatever v is, that is what i am. My value is 25." In a way, a pointer is an anology for our relationship with Christ.

Every single person has asked the life questions: Why am I here?, What is my purpose?, Where do I belong?. Maybe those questions that don't seem to have an answer are like pointers. Maybe instead of trying to figure out the exact "value" of each question, we need to look to what the questions are pointing at: Jesus.

Why am I here? To point to Jesus.

What is my purpose? To become more like Jesus.

Where do I belong? In Jesus' arms.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, "So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image." Jesus, I want to reflect Your glory. Help me to be like a pointer and point to You in all that I do.

25 February 2010

power and surrender

I think God is trying to tell me something. There is this certain phrase that keeps coming up again and again in songs. Have you ever experienced that? The hard part is that I don't know what to do about it. The thing that I originally thought it was about, I wouldn't be able to do until two summers from now (2012) and somehow I don't think that is what God has in mind. I guess in a way I'm nervous about what His plan is. I have this inkling that I'm going to have a period of struggle and surrender with Him. Why is it so difficult to surrender completely to God. Is it the idea of giving up control and power? If so, what is so thrilling about having that power and control? I was talking this semester with one of my good guy friends, we shall call him Rhys, about this. One thing that he said that has stuck with me is that for him, its the desire to have influence in people's lives - for people listen to him and do what he asks. But how much more influence could he have if he surrendered that power and control to God. I mean think of Jesus! He had surrendered completely to his Father and look at the power that he was able to use for the glory of his Father (the miracles). Maybe I'm just rambling on and I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm still not sure what total and complete surrender of every part of my life looks like and I'm still not sure what God wants me to do with what he's telling me but I do know that I desire to surrender to Him and to follow his plan.

Here I am, Lord send me. I'll go where you send me.

23 February 2010

midterms and grace

Have you ever had somebody offer you something that you were hoping for but yet you knew was nearly impossible? Yesterday, one of my professors (not one of my favorite ones) extended me grace when I knew I deserved waaaayy less then that. Since then I've been puzzling with it. Why? Why would he do that? Does he actually want students to do well in his class? And then I thought about how in a way it is similar to what Jesus did for us. He gave us grace so that we could "do well in his class of life" and get that "A," eternal life. Isn't it amazing at how God uses everyday situations to show us little glimpses of Him? Thank you Jesus for all the moments during the day that I see your awesomeness and thank you for giving each of us grace when we least deserve it. Help me to pay it forward to those that I interact with in my life. Give me the strength to extend grace to those around me.

21 February 2010

national convention and love

This weekend was National Convention for ADX and it has been a crazy 30 hours so far. 200 girls in close proximity for an entire weekend is kinda overwhelming. Not that I don't love each one of my sisters and love spending time with them but after spending all day with that much estrogen in one room, I am ready for some time around some guys like the ones in our brother fraternity, Alpha Gamma Omega. And just some quiet time with me and God.

Have you ever noticed how finances is such a topic full of conflict? It doesn't matter whether its your immediate family discussing how you're going to pay for college, where the money for high school graduation expenses is coming from, or a national sorority financial update about where the dues go, it is always accompanied by lots of emotions, arguing, and passive aggressiveness. Is it because money really does make the world go round? I, for one, would like to say that's false. Yes, money is important; and yes, it does help when trying to acquire a house or car or even a place to hold an event; but I refuse to believe that it is the most influential thing in our lives. I mean really its just pieces of paper with certain words on it. What if instead of having everything in your life revolve around money, what if we chose to have our lives revolve around God and love and service. What if instead of always having to be paid for doing something, what if we helped each other out just because we care? What kind of change would that make? There are so many passages in the Bible that talk about love. Matthew 22:37-39 says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" I encourage you to make that change. May you stop focusing on money; may you instead choose to live by Matthew 22 and live by love; and may you run after God with all your soul and mind.

17 February 2010

html and surrendering

I've decided having this blog will be fun. Since I got it, I have started learning HTML (way cool!!!). Instead of just being about my travels once I get to Italy, I am now going to just start putting my thoughts here. Hopefully I won't be really boring but then again I don't see this becoming a hugely popular blog so it doesn't really matter whether I am boring or not because those who read this will obviously want to put in the time it takes to read my thoughts.

Today, I went to the Annex for the fourth time ever. I am loving it! After hearing soo much about it all last school year and first semester this school year, I finally took the step and went this semester. Why did it take me so long to go to something that so many of my close friends were encouraging me to go to? Was it because I haven't wanted to go deeper in my relationship with Jesus because I'm fearful of what he has planned for me?
In Oregon, growing up, I was really involved in activities in my church. I was on the worship team, active in my youth group, went to all the youth festivals, helped out with the toddlers, worked with VBS. You name it, I was most likely there. Then when my family moved to CO, we were no longer an integral part of the church. At first when we found our church here, I wasn't involved in church activities because I hadn't met anyone yet. But then a month passed, and another and another and now five years out and nobody in my family is involved in our church. Somewhere along the way, we became the family that just sits in the church pew. 
Since coming to CU and joining Alpha Delta Chi (ADX), my relationship with Jesus has radically changed. I've grown in ways that I never thought I could. I'm finally understanding what it means to pursue God, to run hard and fast towards Him. And yet, I don't think I have truly surrendered to Him. Why else would I have resisted to going to the Annex, a place where I could grow in my faith through getting involved? God, I surrender everything to you. I desire to dig deeper in our relationship. Help me to take the steps to get involved in the Annex.

I'm leaving you with this verse. This is my verse for the day, maybe even the week or the month. May you leave the details of your life at God's feet; may you fix your energy on God; may you be transformed into his image; and may you answer God's call with the speed and urgency that he desires.

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."  ~ Romans 12:2 (The Message)

12 February 2010

studying abroad and families

So this coming spring, I am planning on studying abroad in Italy for the semester. I know my family and friends will want to hear about what I'm doing while I am there. That is what this is for. To give those that want to an insight into my life when I am not with them. When I was little, I tried to keep a diary but it epically failed so hopefully I will keep this up.