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)