Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Part of a Promise

I have finally had (read: taken) the time to process some of the Christmas/spiritual life thoughts I've been having lately. Because of that, what began as a short post on Facebook became this blog post. And as I wrote, it kept lengthening. But it's so good to think through these things - for me it helps them sink in better...and I need that!

I've been reading a daily devotional I received (thanks, Mom) that is designed to prepare you for the arrival of the Son of God through the month of December (Advent) through January 6 (Ephiphany). The reading from yesterday has stuck with me, especially as part of this past weekend's sermon echoed these thoughts as well.

WE are part of the story! WE are still receiving the blessing that resulted from the faith of those in the story we read. WE should be amazed and awed at the wonder God has shared with us and sing praises giving thanks to Him. For unto US a child was given, and He is our Savior and the Prince of Peace (paraphrased Isa. 9:6). Because of His birth, and our part in the prophecies foretold (which, incidentally is also because of His birth and our salvation through His death), WE (should) celebrate the glorious arrival of Jesus and His infinite wisdom, power, and love.

How can we just sit still? I mean, we don't really, but we do where it matters. I do! I am so tired from all the running around, the planning, the trying to be sure I haven't somehow left someone out or hurt them (how ridiculously far I over think this, few of you have any idea).

How do we not shout the news like the shepherds, or make the journey like the wise men? (This still makes me think of little Gladys Herdman: "Hey! Hey! Unto you a child is born!" When you haven't heard it before, it really means something, and it's worth shouting! People gotta know!)

How do we not trust like Joseph or wonder like Mary? I get so caught up in what I need to get done, or planning who to see and when (which is good, I grant you, but not enough), that I completely forget to TRUST God with the things that are stressing me out (today. this happened MULTIPLE TIMES - TODAY.) and I forget to wonder at the amazing story that He has given us, and made me part of when He made me His child!

I have always loved Christmas - just ask my mom. I love the seasons, the change, the beauty of each one, but winter is my favorite, and I know a lot of that is because of Christmas. The joy in the air, the family (both biological and chosen), time with friends, activities, and demonstrations of love through food, fun, gifts, laughter, and shared craziness - it is a wonderful thing. But often, I let the stress society (and myself) puts on it seep into my enjoyment. I let the stress of preparing to be away from work for a few days overshadow the joy and celebration of the season.

Then, today's reading spoke of mercy. The author describes mercy as "that which fulfills our heart's desire, that which gives purpose to our lives, that which also allows us not only to be loved, but also to love completely." While I'm not sure I agree with this definition 100%, I do love the perspective it gives and the direction it looks. Mercy from God is something that "always astonishes us." Or it should. Have you become accustomed to the mercy God grants? I pray it is not so! I pray you are always awestruck by the grace of God in granting His mercy to us. I hope that we are all astonished by the things God puts into our lives as He shows us His plan.

Lastly, the sermons at my church this month (first 3 weeks of December, anyway) have been about the 3 great blessings that are ours because of Christmas: Joy, Peace, and Hope (you can listen to the sermons here). I cannot tell you how much a blessing these have been to me these past couple weekends, and how much I am looking forward to this coming one! What gifts. Joy inexplicable! Peace that calms the soul. Hope that looks up and out and forward. Glorious Savior indeed!

Now, go enjoy your Christmas, and don't let the stress in - let HIM in!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Who are we, really?

I've had a strange couple of weeks. I feel overwhelmed, stressed out. I know that some of it is from lack of sleep which comes from lack of exercise and... stress. Work has been busy, but not really much more than normal. I have found I have less time for God, less time for friends, and less motivation in both departments. I have only really stayed on top of work because of my ridiculous sense of responsibility, but that just makes everything all the more draining.

The problem is, I'm having a really hard time identifying the source of this unrest. It has caused no less than 6 mild migraines, which doesn't help either. I feel simultaneously terrified of making a change, and completely stuck in almost every way. It's very strange. I don't like it.

I pray constantly, but have not had a dedicated time of prayer due to the schedule I'm keeping. Except as I try to fall asleep at night (or go back to sleep in the middle of it), and then, I'm usually praying that I can stop thinking about everything for long enough to fall asleep and be rested enough to do tomorrow. God has been good, gracious and faithful, and I keep getting through each day, each night, each week - He truly is awesome and I don't deserve what He gives me. And still... I feel this way.

So yesterday, and again this morning, it has had me thinking about my capital 'P' Purpose, and about who I really am. What am I doing here on this earth? Why am I still here instead of in heaven celebrating and worshiping my great God? I know that everything I attempt to do, if done with the right heart attitude and work ethic is glorifying to Him and gives purpose to my life. I know that there are many people who value me not just for what I can do but for the relationships we share, or have shared. I am grateful for them and for the work God has allowed me to be part of, but now, I am feeling like a change is in order... I just don't know what that means.

I also realized (today) that I seem to have 'holed up' internally, so to speak. I am a fairly emotional person. Most of you already know that. I'm not good at hiding how I feel, and even if I manage it, it does not last for very long. I get teary at movies, I cry reading books, and at the thought of people I care about moving away I sob. I am still tearing up at books, but that's it, and has become rare. What's wrong with me? Who have I become? I'm tempted to watch the saddest movie ever just to see if it upsets me, but then, part of me doesn't want to do that... we'll see what the week holds. The potential of a couple of friends moving away saddens me, but emotionally I feel like "oh well, I'll miss them, but it's whatever." WHAT?? Maybe once/if they actually go, I'll find the emotion that is lacking, but for someone who can't usually keep it hidden, I'm shocked. Not to say i burst into tears during the day all the time, but often it'll come out on my pillow, and that's not happening either. I just feel sort of lethargic and like I'm going through the motions more than anything else. Maybe I'm having too many emotions, so they're stuck and they just won't come out.

So, if you're the praying type, please be praying for me. Pray that God would show me His clear direction, His clear guidance for my life, and in the mean time, that I don't get discouraged taking step after step on faith. I trust Him, I do, and yet, I wish He would give me a break and shed a little more light on the path ahead. And if you see me, please encourage me - but please, don't patronize me. I do that enough to myself.

NOTE: I also realize I should say: I completely recognize that there are people struggling with much worse in the world - even people in my life - and I do not discount that fact. I think you can see in what I've written above that I fully know that God has and is taking care of me. Many things are good and well for me. But this feeling of ... whatever it is is beginning to feel like it will never go away, and that's not good, which I also recognize. So, I ask for prayer, I write to get it out, and I trust that God will, as He always does, follow through with me - because I am not forsaken. I am special, I am loved, and I am His. And He protects and guides His own. I just wish it was a little more clearly and quickly. So, for me, right now, this is my struggle. I continue to pray for those others to help keep my perspective, and trust that He will lead me out when He sees fit.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Therapy, in written form

I've been reading a lot lately. I made a goal this year, not for how many books to read, but to track them. So far, I've read 25, and I'm already in the midst of 5 more. (Yay.) It has been wonderful to come home and relax with a book, and still have a sense of moving toward completing a goal!

I have not, however, been writing much - here, or anywhere else. I have about 5 "starters" in my files of novels and short stories, and even one of poems. I have shared pieces here and there over the past couple years, but short of a couple poems and 2 short stories, I haven't finished anything else. One of my dear friends has read most of what I've written, and she keeps encouraging me to finish the one she likes best - the one I've got the shortest start on! ;) I have many ideas, and while I admit that some of those starters will never be finished, and will never see the light of day, a couple of them have real promise if I can convince myself to keep working on them. Even as I type this, there are ideas filling up my mind for turning the one short story into a novel (or a novella, at least), and for moving forward in two of the other starters.

This evening, I wrote over 1300 words without pausing to think. The story (yes, a new one) just flowed out of my brain into my fingers onto the keyboard, and into the document. I am so excited about it. It has potential. It felt so good to be writing again. And honestly, I don't even care if it doesn't get finished. Oh, I have plans to continue working on it. And it even sparked the juices to write this post - once you start writing, it's hard to stop sometimes. But as I wrote, I was reminded that sometimes what we write (those of us who do) isn't so we can complete something. It's because we need to get something out - something happy, something sad, something confusing...whatever it is, it must come out in some creative way. I don't mean creative like you might think. It's not artwork - not yet. But it could be, someday. Even if its just for me.

So, today, I engaged in writing therapy. And I know I'm better tonight for it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

To the lake: the post vacation post

First, presented without words:

That was my day of driving, and the first walk with my mom the next morning. I was there for 2 glorious weeks. I rested, I read, I walked, I took tons of pictures (see Facebook or Instagram), and I helped around the yard a bit too. I enjoyed a week with my parents and a week alone. Both had ups and downs, but were wonderful.

I read (or finished) 3 books and got so far through 3 more that I'll finish them before the week is out. I put together a beautiful Ravensburger 1000 piece Cinderella puzzle (with some help from my dad). I tried out a few new recipies, and made a couple favorites. I went to the best fast food joint on earth, Happy's, twice. I listened to loons, watched birds, fish, turtles, ducks, and frogs.

I was able to get some much needed rest, and didn't want to leave (as is always true). Taking the time to make the video above was a fun way to keep a memory of this year - and my favorite part is my mom and I laughing at whatever we were talking about. This is the reason we go. New memories, but often, ones that remind us of past ones, and always bring us together.

Here's hoping the rest doesn't wear off too soon! ;)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Something I rarely do: A movie review

The Fault in Our Stars.
You knew it because it's still less than a week since the release. There is too much (but don't worry, I'll share it anyway; and it's link-full). To sum up: It was amazing.

If you have been around me in the last 2 years, I have told you to read this book. If you haven't yet, what the heck are you waiting for? Get it here. Or here. Or here. Or from your local library. JUST READ IT, OKAY?

Okay. So the movie started production a while back, and since I follow the author (one John Green) on Twitter and such, I saw updates, pictures, and stories from set for quite some time. And I heard how much the cast and crew loved not just the book, but the story. They weren't just trying to make a good movie, but to lovingly tell the story they had been given. After the premiere last Monday, John made very clear in this video that he is no longer being paid and if he hated the movie, he'd let us  all know - but he can't say that because he loves it. I went with very, very high expectations. I was not disappointed. In my estimation, it could not have been done better.

The book was inspired by Esther Earl. There have been many tweets about her in the last week. She was pretty awesome from what I know, and I didn't even really know much about her until the last few years. One of her dying wishes? That more people would tell those around them that they are loved (like Valentine's Day for family and friends). Thus, Esther Day is celebrated by the Green brothers' community (Nerdfighteria) on August 3rd each year (her birthday). There are cards and everything. It's inspiring and wonderful.

Then the response from the rest of the world to this movie. Wow. John sums it up pretty well in this series of tweets: one, two, three, four, five. And it did sweep the box office this past weekend. The funny thing is, I didn't even realize this was a smaller movie. I had told so many about it, and so many people I knew had read or heard of the book that we were all stupid excited to watch the movie when it FINALLY came out. And I also felt like it was big because: website! But, in hindsight, I guess anyone can make a website for a movie, no matter how small - not like the 90's, folks. ;)

Anyway, it was fantastic, and I highly encourage you to see it. You will laugh, you will tear up (if not ball like a baby like many others in the theater with me), you will get warm fuzzies, and you will also be inspired by cancer kids who refuse to give in and play the sick card. Most folks I've ever met with cancer kick that stereotype in the butt, but I feel like this is yet another fabulous insight into how awesome people are. It will be worth both the money you pay for the ticket, and the time you spend in the theater. Honestly.

So, go see this movie. And if you haven't yet, then you should read the book, too.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hey, June.

June is one of the busiest times for us at work. Ok, every month is because there are four seasons: get ready for fall, get ready for Christmas, get ready for Easter, get ready for Summer Camp, and it cycles back again (and again). But June is usually when I'm also trying to prep for going on vacation in the summer so it's a bit of a double-whammy.

Summer camp starts here in a week and a half, and I have so much to do yet that I really shouldn't even take the (less than) 5 minutes it is taking me to jot down these thoughts. But here we are. I can't abandon you for too long... but likely will until I'm on vacation in July.

It has been making me thing through priorities and why I work the way I do. I'm currently going through highs and lows of DO ALL THE THINGS! until super late at night and then suddenly I'm more like, meh-I-just-don't-care-enough-to-do-much-of-anything especially not more than is possible in an 8 hour day (or maybe a little less). So of course I then evaluate myself and wonder what is wrong with me and why I can't seem to regulate to something between the two.

And I don't have it figured out yet, so that's where we stop. At least for now.

As I move forward the next (several) weeks, I will be praying and evaluating day-by-day (and sometimes moment-by-moment) and just trying to make it through. And I will make it through.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lessons on Happiness

(it's long, guys. read it anyway.)

A couple weeks ago, I went to Target for some groceries. It was a quick trip with a short list, and I was pleased with myself that I stuck to it. When I went to the check out lanes they were, as usual, fairly busy, but not crazy like they sometimes are. I found a lane in which the cashier was coming around to stand at the end and invite people into his line - but I beat him to it. He said hello, and asked how I was doing. I replied with the common "I'm good, thanks." He replied, "You're welcome."

How many people do you know who respond that way? When someone tells me they're fine, thanks, I usually move on in the conversation, or let it drop there. He did not. He also seemed to be someone who has some difference in interactions - social cues are not something he picks up on well. Because of this, he has honest responses that come out because of the situation he is in, and the conversation being given to him. When a person says thanks to you, the proper response is to say, "You're welcome," back to them. But we often let it drop.

I then asked him how he was doing and we had a very nice little conversation while he scanned and bagged my items. He was excited to see a cd (I can't remember which) and went on to tell me how good that music was and that he thought I'd enjoy it. As I left the store, I thought about how much my day had been improved by his genuine, kind interaction with me, and by his excitement for something that is in my world and outside of his. He was thrilled that I'd be listening to something we both liked later that day. How different would our lives be if we rejoiced more in the small things - even if they were things that were going to benefit someone else more than ourselves?

A couple days later, I decided to pick up breakfast at the McDonald's by work. I'm not there too often, but often enough to recognize a few of the employees who work the drive-through window. This particular day, I recognized the woman in the 2nd window, and smiled as she handed me my food. I have no idea if she recognized me, or if she just talks this way to everyone, but she called me honey (as in, "Here you are, honey") and when I said thanks, she said, "You have a good weekend, honey," with a smile. It was Thursday. She new I'd not be back on Friday. So, "have a good weekend." That day, a Thursday, about 3 or 4 weeks later, she told me the same thing. It is a tiny thing, and it may be for everyone, but it brightens my day every time.

I also stopped for a coffee from Starbucks this morning. The line was longer than I usually see at this particular location, but I was running early, so I decided to wait it out. I had money on a Starbucks card I'd been given, and needed the caffeine boost at the end of a long week. When I got up to the window, I was told by the barista that the car in front of me had paid for my drink. I have done that a few times at various drive-throughs, but have never had it done for me. I believe I said, "Oh, wow!" and then promptly asked how much the total was for the car behind me. It was about $10, which was 2x what I had planned to pay for my coffee - and I hesitated. I didn't have enough on my card to cover it. Then, I realized that that was ridiculous. I felt God whispering, "Really? You're not willing to give up an extra $5? It's really not that big of a deal!" $10 is still very cheap to "pay it forward" and I had $10 cash in my wallet. So I told her I wanted to pay for the car behind me as I reached for my money. She told me, "It's really ok," and I assured her it was what I wanted to do. She laughed, shocked, and told me it was like a line - 5 cars in front of me had been doing this. Wow!

Something someone decided to do 5 cars ahead of me had been blessing people far beyond what they expected. They expected to do a small nice thing for the car behind them. And that person decided to continue it, regardless of what happened next. I have no way of knowing who paid for my coffee this morning, and no way of knowing who I paid for behind me. I have no idea if it kept going after me, or if so, for how long. The point is, it was a small thing I was able to do - and I obeyed. I know it brightened my day, and hope it did for whomever was behind me.

It was this event at Starbucks that reminded me of the others in the last few weeks. Sometimes little things that are easily passed by or overlooked because they aren't big enough gestures, or are small but take a little effort, are the things that really can change the direction of someone's day. I am tired, I am super busy at work, and I have felt fairly overwhelmed several times in the last few weeks. But these small acts of kindness and genuine care shown in small simple ways over the last few weeks made today a good one - even as busy as it was.

The funniest part is that when I got in and changed my daily calendar over to Friday, May 16th, this is what I saw:

God has a great sense of humor, doesn't He?

It just cemented what I'd been mulling over the past half hour and reminded me that these are the things that create happiness. It is a choice - which I hate to admit - but the choice sometimes isn't in how you feel, but in how you react to how you feel. When you choose to give, to share, to be kind, you change your perspective and your trajectory. Sometimes you see the reaction and the impact your action gives, and sometimes you don't. Either way, we are to give
and love not because it is good for us, but because it is good for them. The amazing thing about our great God is that He knows we need a pick me up too. He knows that the joy we can experience from obeying in these small moments is truly what makes the difference in a life.

I want my life to be one marked by giving and loving. I can only do it because He enables me to do so, but I so desire that to be how people perceive me. I have been so frustrated lately, and my circumstances have not changed - and I don't expect them to any time soon - but today I choose to do a better job not complaining (even internally) and not putting on a fake front, but choosing to do and act out of love and caring and giving rather than the frustration or tiredness I feel.

Because of that, today, I'm really good.