December 31, 2010


"instead of telling our young people to plan ahead, we should tell them to plan to be surprised." "dan in real life"

new year's day. a day of black-eyed peas, turnip greens, and hogjaw. a day without fast food, chocolate, or coke. a day of stepping on the scale to survey the damage. a day of a revised budget. a day of a brand new schedule. a day of renewed energy, new promises, and a thousand plans. a day of resolutions that will be forgotten or ignored in only a matter of weeks.

i've only kept one new year's resolution in my life. it was the new year's eve of my sophomore year of high school when my dear friend chris uttered the following words: "charissa, i dare you to go an entire year without chocolate." at this point in my life i was an avid chocoholic averaging one or two candy bars a day, but as my stubborn nature would not allow me to refuse a dare, i said, "you're on." after a year and three days, terrible withdrawal, and nightly dreams about chocolate, i met my resolution. and what did i learn after demonstrating such discipline and self control? new year's resolutions are terrible ideas.

more and more in my life, i'm realizing that besides controlling my chocolate intake, little else is under my control. despite my best efforts at planning, the course of my life is constantly taking more different directions than i could have ever engineered. and i am constantly being reminded that i don't make the rules, write the script, or know the answers. there are forks in the road. the plans change. and sometimes you're simply left asking, "why?"

this new year is starting out differently than any new year i've ever had. tomorrow at 11:00 i won't be eating lunch with my family or hanging out with friends. i'll be at the funeral of a friend who died on monday at the mere age of 24. after fighting a disease for a year and a half in which the end looked hopeful, a sudden yet gradual turn of events took his life. i cannot count the number of prayers i prayed for him in that amount of time, nor can i count the number of tears i've cried in the past few days. but i know that his death is a reminder that life is short and out of our control. no matter how well we design the course, we simply don't steer the ship.

we young people are constantly under the pressure of planning. of choosing the right college. and finishing college in exactly 4 years. of choosing the right spouse. and just in the right amount of time. of choosing the right career. and finding the perfect big city in which to live. we're asked to be certain in a world full of uncertainty. to feel secure when only one wrong step breeds insecurity. and to simply answer the questions in front of us instead of questioning the answers.

therefore, this year my new year's resolution is to resolve...absolutely nothing. to not even begin to create a list of items that will only be discarded. to make no absolute plans. to make no false promises. to not guarantee the success of anything. but instead to seek and trust a higher plan.

instead of making GOD laugh by telling HIM my plans, i'm choosing to laugh at the surprises HE throws my way. instead of praying for a little tool set to create my ideal, little path, i'm asking for GOD to use HIS power tools to evidently reveal the path. and instead of limiting GOD'S power and impact in my life, i'm setting HIM free to do HIS best.

my 2011 belongs to GOD as every previous year up to this point should have. it's going to be out of control--my control. it's going to be about the fearless and reckless pursuit of a plan created by the only ONE who has the vision and foresight to see where the path actually leads. to involve daily prayer for the will of the ONE who truly knows what's best. and to fully let go and fall wherever the WIND may blow.

and while i should feel totally insecure and uneasy about resolving absolutely nothing, i feel completely peaceful and totally resolved. in a world full of uncertainty and at a time of such infinite possibility, i can only be sure of one thing: the LORD has a will, and i have a need to follow that will, to humbly be still, to rest in it, nest in it, fully be blessed in it, following my FATHER'S will.

December 25, 2010

last christmas

one of my favorite things about being home during the holidays is having a song service with my church on the wednesday night before christmas. worship consists only of singing praises for a straight hour. any man that wants to gets the opportunity to go up and lead the song of his choice. naturally, i have my personal favorites of the congregation. there's the old man who leads "how great THOU art" every time without fail. there's the little old man who shouts various song numbers as he walks to the front so that you have absolutely no idea what you're about to sing as the song starts. and then there's him.

him, with the tall stature and the kindest heart. my friend's dad with the wit and humor of steve martin in father of the bride. a grandfather who loves to show off his baby grandson whenever he visits. him, who used to be tall and strong and now is tall and so very thin. and every time i come home i can see that the cancer's done more damage.

on wednesday night as he made his way up to the podium, i wondered if this might be the last christmas. the last time i ever get to enjoy hearing this man sing right before my favorite holiday. the last time i get to truly enjoy his presence and his influence in my life. as all of these thoughts were singing in my head, he asked us to turn to the song, and he began to lead. "anywhere with JESUS."

i started to sing the first line, "anywhere with JESUS i can safely go. anywhere HE leads me in this world below." and that's when the strange and chilling realization hit me. we were singing the same song but with 2 different meanings. anywhere to me meant taking JESUS with me. backpacking through europe or working in zambia. finding a husband and having a family. getting a job and one far-away day turning 30. traveling to unknown places and experiencing unknown things. reaching new goals and taking new steps in life. but anywhere to him meant JESUS taking him. going only one place. experiencing only one thing. there was only one goal. only one new step in life. the biggest step. death.

my eyes filled with tears and i couldn't make it through the rest of the song. the rest of the song that said, "anywhere with JESUS i can go to sleep, when the dark’ning shadows round about me creep, knowing i shall waken nevermore to roam. anywhere with JESUS will be home, sweet home." there i was, in my youth and health, meaning that i'd take JESUS with me wherever i chose to roam, but there he was meaning that he'd cease to roam in order to be with JESUS.

and i can't help but question: can i sing those words the way he meant them? will i really follow JESUS anywhere? even if it means to death? to the big adventure? am i ready for the final goal? the final step? the biggest step? it was by seeing this man's fearless anticipation of the great adventure that awaits him that gave me the courage to live every day as if i'm facing my last christmas.

December 23, 2010

the 12 days of charissamas

in the seventh grade my best friend blake gave christmas a beautiful, new name... charissamas. through the years, i have acquired a nice little pile of "merry charissamas" cards which i recently found in a keepsake box and will treasure forever. and in the spirit of this unofficial holiday, i have been known to dress up as a charissamas tree which involves wearing a tree skirt as a skirt, wearing boots for their stumpy effect, wearing a tree topper on my head, and wrapping my whole body in charissamas lights. but i realized that aside from dressing as a tree and practically lighting myself on fire, i have done little to further the efforts of making my holiday official. therefore, in the spirit of charissamas and this holiday season, i give to you a revised list of a certain 12 days and what i've decided to do with them...

the 12 days of charissamas:

1) on the first day, give 1 compliment. to everyone you encounter. focus on the positive. don't be a regina george by saying something that you don't sincerely mean. but watch people's reactions as you tell them that they look really good in blue or that they really did a great job on that project or that they smell like petunias. watch their faces break out into smiles and their shoulders rise a little higher as you change the whole course of their day with a few kind words of affirmation.

2) on the second day, thank GOD for 20 things. make a list of the 20 things that you are most grateful for, and hang it on your wall. if some of those things are people, let them know. write thank you notes. write long letters. spend today expressing all the thanks you've been storing up. show your appreciation through spending time with someone or in letting someone know just how fantastic he or she is and how you just wouldn't be quite the same if he or she weren't in your life.

3) on the third day, make 3 overdue apologies. we all have that list of people that we have either intentionally or unintentionally hurt who are hoping that we one day get the courage to make things right. that day is today. seek out 3 people whom you might have mistreated. muster up all the courage you can. and don't let the sun set before you've done all you can to calm the storm.

4) on the fourth day, find 400 reasons to laugh. this is critical for burning all the calories that you're about to consume. laugh until it is absolutely impossible to breathe. spend time with children and old people as much as possible. watch funny movies. read funny books. and if you can't find anything else that's funny, learn to laugh at yourself. people go from laughing at you to laughing with you as soon as you start laughing, too.

5) on the fifth day, give 5 million smiles. walk everywhere pretending to be a walmart greeter. become buddy the elf, and make smiling your favorite. you will decrease today's wrinkle formations and prevent some cancer. smile at cute children. smile at questionable old men. smile at squirrels and birds. smile at the rudest person you know. and sugar the world with your sweetness.

6) on the sixth day, make 6 batches of cookies.
or 600 oreo balls. or 6 of something, but it has to be homemade. whether your skill be baking or underwater basket weaving, make something in multiples of 6 and give it to other people. and if what you make turns out ugly, give it to your mom as she will have to love it because she's your mom.

7) on the seventh day, forgive 7 people. make a list of the people who have intentionally or unintentionally hurt you, and forgive them without a second thought. stop pondering the reasons or overanalyzing the cause of the situation. drop your pain like a hot pocket, and forgive 70 times 7 times. because when you choose to forgive, you set a prisoner free only to realize that the prisoner was yourself.

8) on the eighth day, find the answers to 8 questions you've always wondered. use google. call your mom. read a book. but seek and discover the answer to any question that's been on your mind. ask other people hard questions. find out things you never knew. learn random facts just because you can, and most importantly discover truth about yourself.

9) on the ninth day, share 9 secrets.
the catch is that they all have to be secrets about yourself. tell someone your most embarrassing moment. or your biggest fear. tell a story you've never told. or tell someone how you feel. share your hopes. and share your struggles. open up. let go. let people know that they can relate to you. lose your pride, and share the gift you have the most of...yourself.

10) on the tenth day, record 10 memories. write down the top 10 moments of your year that you never want to forget. include a mixture of the happiest moments that made you soar and the saddest moments that made you grow. write down when, where, why, and how they happened and also share the feelings those moments created. keep the record in a journal or just a notebook so that you can return to it and remember.

11) on the eleventh day, make 11 new year's resolutions. disregard 10 of them. you're going to anyway. focus on the 1 resolution that is actually attainable and hone in on it. you're probably not going to lose 60 pounds or exercise every day, but you probably will be able to remember to wear your retainer every night. keep it simple. don't overshoot and get discouraged. dream big. but be a realist.

12) on the twelfth day, choose 12 themes. for the months of the new year. let january be a month of encouragement. or february be a month of discovering a new hobby. or march be a month of pet peeve toleration. decide on a theme and plan to use that month to concentrate and improve in that area. take a whole month to send people cards or just encouraging words. take a whole month to study for that big test in your future. or take a month to organize and declutter your life. be original and find specific areas to focus on to become even better.

the beauty of the 12 days of charissamas is that they can take place on any 12 days of the year, and my personal celebration will be starting this year on the real christmas day.

special note: many of my blog posts are inspired by the amazing friends whom GOD has blessed me with. so if a conversation with a certain friend inspired the creation of a post, i'm going to start giving credit at the bottom of the post. so...

special thanks to: spencer carroll

December 12, 2010

twas the night before therapy

the following is a poem i wrote in honor of speech therapy and the wonderful faculty at harding university. i read it at our annual christmas party this year and wanted to share it here with you. here is...

"twas the night before therapy"

twas the night before therapy, when the clinic was locked, not a creature was stirring, not even sara shock. the GAs had checked the therapy closet with care, but to their great surprise there was nothing there! the students were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of therapy materials danced in their heads. with ms. lowry in her ‘kerchief and dr. tullos in his cap, with mrs. fisher and mrs. traughber both taking naps, out in the parking lot there arose such a clatter,
martha vendetti sprang from her office to see what was the matter. away to the lobby she flew like a flash, and she busted through the front door with one, quick dash. the parking lot was vacant, with no one in sight. not a soul but vendetti was at the reynolds that night. when, what to her wondering eyes should appear, a red sebring and a driver full of cheer. a woman so knowledgeable that you better believe her, she knew in a moment it must be dr. weaver. more rapid than eagles the faculty they came, and she whistled, and shouted, and called them by name, “now, lowry! now, fisher! now, baker! now, chance! on, tullos! on, traughber! on, shock! let’s dance! go into the reynolds! now on down the hall! now dash away! dash away! dash away, all!” into the clinic they all began to fly, with bags of tests and materials there by their sides. and into the closet and the therapy rooms they flew. the mighty CSD faculty had serious work to do. they delivered all of the arizonas and the goldman-fristoes, but going into the wrong rooms received some “nay, nay, pacos.” they had the CELF-4 and the OWLS in their hands; jenga, monopoly junior, and several candy lands; otoscopes and audiometers and lots of fun dip; a brand new mighty mouth with bright, pink lips. a bundle of toys dr. weaver had on her back, and she looked like the fairy godmother as she opened her pack. her eyes, how they sparkled! her dimples, how merry! her demeanor, so regal! her lips, like a cherry! as she walked through the clinic, it started to glow, her elegant white hair the very essence of snow. they all filled the closet with games and toys so that therapy would be more pleasant for all the little girls and boys. ready to conquer the world one speech impediment at a time, the closet was now stocked with weber photo cards and rhymes. lateral lisps and troubled /r/s would be no match for all the materials there in the therapy hatch. but in the blink of an eye, the clock started to strike four, and in only a number of hours, clients would be at the door. and before therapy started, the faculty needed sleep, without giving away to the students evidence of their nightly creep. so without a word the faculty all rushed home, and to the lobby of the reynolds, dean weaver did roam. mrs. vendetti ran to the parking lot as dr. weaver flew to her car, and she shot out of there that night just like a shooting star. but mrs. vendetti heard her exclaim, ere she drove out of sight… “happy therapy to all, and to all a good night!”

December 10, 2010

for such a time as this

"life isn't about finding yourself. life is about creating yourself." george bernard shaw

this semester i've received many lessons in learning how to listen. i've done so by listening to countless numbers of my friends share their life stories with me and give me brief glimpses of their paths to here. friends that i've known for what seems like forever revealing stories that i've never taken the time to learn.

one was physically abused by her father till the age of 10. one had to endure the ostracism of being single and pregnant at 19. one was a preacher's son who rebelled under the pressure and expectations of those watching him. one was cheated on by a boyfriend. one was cheated on by a husband. one was raised in an environment where he was simply never told about GOD. one contemplated suicide. one waits as his parents contemplate divorce. one in her 30s still holds on to the dream of a husband and children. one is still trying to let go of the dreams of days past.

listening to these stories has revealed to me that we all share one thing in common: our imperfect paths. the truth is that we all have a past and need the blood of CHRIST to erase it. even the most put-together people are broken. maybe we're not born with baggage, but after time, no matter how carefully we try to avoid it, we all collect our own, unique baggage. and the luggage we carry cannot help but affect the journey we take. the path that GOD calls us to walk is winding and twisted, and no matter how beautiful and perfect the path on which we started was, eventually we find ourselves in a dark forest, tripping on roots and becoming entangled in thorns. sometimes the path seems worn and the road seems long, and sometimes we feel unlovable, useless, and ineffective.

but GOD has the unique ability to use our pasts, mistakes, and misfortunes for us. if rahab hadn't decided to hide foreign spies in her house. if ruth didn't lose her first husband and happen to stumble upon a field belonging to boaz. if david hadn't decided to take a walk on his roof. if tamar hadn't played a little trick on judah. without jeconiah, jehosophat, and uzziah... there'd be no JESUS.

it is empowering to embrace our present situations. our current circumstances. to attend and to be aware of each moment. and it is empowering to embrace our pasts. not to let them hinder us, but to let them help us. to embrace our life stories so far. to understand that every bad thing that's ever happened to us, every bad decision we've ever made, every wrong turn we've taken on our paths has led us to here and now. and to understand that we were made for such a time as this. to be exactly who we are, baggage and all.

maybe the life you dreamed of living is not the life you're creating. maybe you thought you'd be married by now. or maybe you're learning why everyone told you not to marry the person whom you did. maybe you're struggling to get your degree. or maybe you received a degree and have a job you dread doing. maybe you're a divorced mom. maybe you're a widowed dad. maybe you're a young adult afraid of growing up. maybe you've finally got your struggles under control. or maybe you struggle daily to break free of your web of sin.

if you're single, you have the enviable position of devoting your life completely to the LORD with no distractions. if you're married, you have the opportunity of blessing another person's life daily. if you're a college student, you are receiving a gift that many will never receive. if you hate your job, you have the ability to choose to make it the best job ever. if you have maintained a temporary hold on your struggles, you have the opportunity to be an example and inspiration to all who share that struggle. if you can't break free of your sin, you have the opportunity to share your humanity and to seek help from other people.

whatever your circumstances are, use them. embrace them. take the good. make it better. get rid of the bad. don't be bitter. use everything that has ever happened to you and is currently happening to you to create yourself. live as if you were made for this moment. because who knows if your singularity, the loss of your husband, your poor high school choices, the loss of your job, your long struggle in sin, your victory in JESUS did not make you exactly who you are for such a time as this?

"and who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" esther 4:14