January 31, 2011

the secret

"in this world it is not what we take up, but what we give up, that makes us rich." henry ward beecher

today on my way home from work i decided to pay my weekly respects to walmart. i was still all dressed up in my work clothes, wearing a dress and trying to look all professional. i walked inside, grabbed a cart, and was about to be on my merry way when the greeter, a man in his 50s, approached me. "you look very successful," he said, "what is the secret to your success?" i was surprised and hesitated as i realized that no one had ever referred to me as "successful." i contemplated the phrase "secret to your success" for a few seconds and suddenly knew the answer: "i alone am not a success, but JESUS CHRIST makes me a success."

for the next few minutes we talked about GOD, and i shared with him the many things that HE had done in my life. i told him about my best friendship with HIS SON and the difference it had made. i told him of my dreams of becoming a speech pathologist and my love of working with children and the ways i felt that GOD was using me. by the end of the conversation the man said, "i can tell that you love HIM. keep the faith."

the world measures success in a thousand different ways and by standards that we simply will never be able to meet. and as exciting and challenging and wonderful as it might be to reach those various levels of notoriety, deep down in our hearts we know that the world's success is so fleeting, so temporary, so meaningless.

but as christians, we can't help but look successful when we are clothed in GOD'S love. we can't help but look promising and inviting when his joy is expressed on our faces. we can't help but be recognized as knowing and loving HIM just in the way we look at other people. and we can't help it when total strangers know that we are going somewhere one day just by the way we treat them. they just need to know that the place we're going is heaven and that they are more than welcome to come along. and they need to know that one day sitting at the feet of GOD will be the ultimate, the only, the true definition of success.

"when they saw the courage of peter and john and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with JESUS." acts 4:13

January 17, 2011

the dream house

finding a man is like buying a house.

every girl has a dream house. and every dream house is unique. while one girl wants a 3 story mansion made of brick, another girl wants a tiny cottage made of siding and surrounded by a white picket fence. one girl wants a log cabin in the middle of nature, while another girl wants a 2 story townhouse in the middle of the city.

and we girls are told to shop around. to make a list of the requirements for the house we seek. that we need to have in mind what we want so that we won't settle for less. that we might think we want one house but might fall in love with its complete opposite. that we might want a certain house at a certain age but that our minds might change over time. that one house might appear to be really good, but one look inside will tell us it's not exactly what it seems.

some girls have the luxury of finding their dream house at a very young age and purchasing the first house that they ever find. others go from house to house never quite finding what they're looking for. some enter a house and know immediately that it's just not the one for them. others get right up to the big purchase and suddenly decide that they just can't go through with the deal. some get tired of searching and start believing they'll never find the dream house, so they settle for a house that is nothing of what they wanted but is still, no less, a house. others decide that since they've waited so long already that they can wait a little longer and continue the search.

when the search begins, we girls believe that we can go house hunting alone, but we soon find in time that this search goes a lot better with a whole team of realtors. not only do we want to love the house, but we want all of our friends and family to love the house, too. and we would be foolish not to take their opinions into consideration.

and that being said, there are a few things to consider and a few questions to ask ourselves: is this the house i've been dreaming of and praying for? is this house too good to be true? does it cost a lot more than its worth, or is it worth infinitely more than they're selling it for? can i trust this house? is this house even stable? will it bring me joy and laughter? or will it be a big pain in the neck? how old is this house? and does this house act its age? will i be able to paint those shutters? because they look awful. and can i please redo that kitchen? where is the laundry room? what changes need to and can be made, and what will i not be able to fix? what is this house's story? did this house have a previous owner? who lived here before? and what kind of damage has this house been through? is the leaky faucet the worst of my problems? or is there a crack in the whole foundation?

and the ultimate question is: how will this house handle the storm? the tornado? the earthquake? the flood? the fire? will it cave in under the pressure? or will it stand firm? what is this house's foundation? what is at the root of this house? what is this house truly made of?

and then that day comes. you're driving down a random street in the middle of a strange neighborhood. you accidentally got lost in this neighborhood because you were so frustrated with your search. you're about to give up, turn around, and go home. and then you look up. and there it is. the house you've been waiting for.

you pull into the driveway and are almost honking your horn with excitement. but then reality sets in, and you prepare yourself for the worst. this house may look good on the outside just like the others did but might be the same story within. but this time you walk in, and it's exactly what you've dreamed. sure maybe the kitchen's located in a different part of the house. and maybe a few faucets leak while a couple of floors creak. but somehow you just know that this is the house you've been waiting for. all of the previous worries are gone. all of the other houses are forgotten. and there is no doubt in your mind. and in a short matter of time the sign out front goes from "for sale" to "sold."

special note: this is the counterpart to the previous post "if the shoe fits" which can be found here. :)

January 12, 2011

so kiss me

"an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips." proverbs 24:26

it's our greatest desire and at the same time our greatest fear. it hurts while at the same time setting us free. some kill in the name of it, others die at the hand of it. some are brought together by it while others are torn apart. you can bend it and twist it. you can misuse it and abuse it. and things can never be the same once you hear it. the first reaction to it is anger, but love can't exist without it. people are made powerful upon receiving it, and without it trust is obsolete. some search their whole lives to find it. others have it but take its power for granted. and at the end of the day, it always finds a way to be revealed: the truth.

how many of us when describing ourselves would say that we are frequent and habitual liars? the truth is, most of us never intend on lying and try to avoid telling any big lies as much as possible. but when viewing ourselves in an honest light, how many lies to we tell by simply twisting the truth or omitting some of the facts? how many times do we say one thing but do the exact opposite? how many facades do we display by not revealing all of our cracks? how many lies do we tell because we're simply not willing to expose the whole truth?

how many stories do we exaggerate? and how many facts of stories do we tweak to portray ourselves in a better light? how many things never happen because we're too afraid to say how we feel? and how many people do we lead on because we're too afraid to say how we don't feel? are we too afraid or ashamed to stand for the standards for which we've always stood? do we swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in how we act, speak, and even breathe?

i'm amazed at the ability of the truth to always find a way to be revealed. even if a person never intends on someone else learning it, it always finds a way to be uncovered. sometimes people are brave enough to tell it, knowing that it very likely will bring about hurt and pain. others lack the courage, and allow a series of events to uncover it in their cowardice. others try to mask it and hide it at all costs as they are far too ashamed for it to ever come to light. but no matter the circumstances, it always does.

i love the witty analogies of the bible. as the proverb above says, an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. so kiss me, with the truth. because when we give people the truth, we give them the best kiss they could ever receive. when we give people the truth, no matter how much it might hurt, we give them 2 gifts they didn't have even the day before: freedom and power. no matter how disappointed or hurt or angry they might be, they now have the power that didn't exist yesterday to improve and to seek better.

and while ignorance is bliss, knowledge is power. while we might enjoy living in a state of illusion, empowerment is born in reality. and while we might rather be bound and blissful than free and broken, we have to see the unveiling of our new knowledge as a gift. and no matter how angry we are when a person tells us truth that we didn't even see coming or ever want to hear or believe, we have to thank them for having the courage to set us free.

"watch your thoughts, they become words. watch your words, they become actions. watch your actions, they become habits. watch your habits, they become your character. watch your character, it becomes your destiny." unknown

January 7, 2011

she just said "thank you"

this short winter break has been quite a time of loss. a few days ago we received the call that my dad's mom is about to go to be with the LORD and my wonderful grandfather, and today we went to see her for the very last time. she has affectionately always been known as "c.c." as the term "grandmother" was too complicated for our toddler selves to say, and a few years ago i got the great privilege of helping to take care of her for an entire summer. saying goodbye today brought on so many emotions, but it also inspired the following words that i'd like to share with you tonight. this is...

she just said "thank you"

we drove to atlanta
to say goodbye
because the nurses said
it was almost that time.

we crept in her room
and sat by her bed,
seeing bruises from her many falls
all over her face and head.

and the nurse helped her walk
so that she wouldn’t fall.
and she just said, “thank you,”
that was all.

she sat in a chair,
the oxygen tubes in her nose.
she looked thinner than ever
in her over-sized clothes.

91 years of wrinkles
were telling stories on her face,
my once sophisticated grandmother,
now moving at a listless pace.

and i helped her drink
some coke through a straw,
and she just said, “thank you,”
that was all.

she was once an english teacher
at a university,
knowing a thousand more words
than either you or me.

but every sign showed
the dementia had run its course,
and the memories had faded rapidly
with a never-ending force.

and today there were only 2 words
that she could recall,
and she just said, “thank you,”
that was all.

i sang her favorite hymns
as she held my hand,
drifting in and out
of here and another land.

but her smile said she knew
the face before her eyes,
and she squeezed my hand
to say she recognized.

but my name she could no longer
remember to call,
and she just said, “thank you,”
that was all.

i kissed her forehead
as we were about to go,
and i said, “c.c., it’s charissa,”
and she said, “i know.”

but i knew in a short time
she would be free from her pain,
and that when we met in heaven
she would remember my name.

and she said, “i love you,”
as we walked toward the hall,
and i just said, “i love you, too,”
and that was all.

January 6, 2011

the first word

"do you ever feel you've become the worst version of yourself? that a pandora's box of all the secret, hateful parts - your arrogance, your spite, your condescension - has sprung open? someone upsets you and instead of smiling and walking away, you zing them? 'hello, it's mr. nasty.' " tom hanks, "you've got mail"

this past summer i received one of the largest slices of humble pie ever to be ordered at a time when i certainly didn't plan on ordering any. a guy friend and i had gotten into a huge disagreement in the spring, and instead of acting with maturity and class, i handled the situation like a 5-year-old little brat. and although we were equally at fault, his trespasses were quickly overshadowed by my downright ugliness. i left school that semester with a spirit of complete disdain, an inflated sense of pride, and the most hideous of hideous frowns.

given it was summer and i wouldn't be seeing my former friend again until the fall, i had a good amount of time to start preparing my plan of attack. i started thinking of exactly what i would say to him the next time i saw him, and you better believe that my carefully cultivated, witty zingers were going to be ready at a moment's notice. the moment we ran into each other, it would be on like donkey kong.

but he beat me to the chase. he completely stole my thunder. because right as i was thinking up more reasons to hate him, he messaged me out of the blue. i took one look at the length of the message and knew i was about to receive the verbal lashing of my life. so with tense shoulders and squinty eyes i began to read...an apology? i did a double take and made sure i was in fact wearing my contacts. but sure enough instead of being blasted with words with the power of rocket launchers, i was being given words like: i'm sorry. i was wrong. you matter to me. your opinion of me matters. i think you're wonderful. i'll do whatever i can to make this right. and in those few moments i was left totally defenseless, completely powerless, and miraculously, speechless.

human nature leads us all to yearn for the final word. the last laugh. the final say. we want to be respected. we want to be missed. we want to be seen as the best thing there ever was and let others know that they are losing if they aren't on our team. but in our quest for self respect we do some of the most disrespectful things. in our hope to salvage our pride we become despicable people that we ourselves wouldn't be proud of. and ironically, we become the worst versions of ourselves so that others will think we're the best.

but who respects someone who doesn't respect them in return? who misses someone who gives them the look of death every time they come into contact? who thinks someone full of anger, pride, and malice could possibly be the best?

in my short lifetime i have developed quite a reputation as the queen of zing. not only have i been able to create some pretty powerful zingers, but i'm able to let the enemy know in a plethora of ways that it was much better to be on my side. but i'm learning that it isn't the final word that is the most powerful. it's the first. the final word brings a temporary satisfaction, but the first word brings a lasting peace.

the final word is harsh, nasty, and threatening. but the first word is kind, alluring, and disarming. it totally cuts through defenses and lowers weapons. after hearing the first word, the other party doesn't have a prayer. the other person is totally shocked, stunned, and silenced. and all that is left to do is to forgive, make up, and move on.

so from now on instead of insisting on having the final word and the last laugh, i'm going to do everything in my power to get that first word. not out of spite or vengeance but for the same reasons i used to use the last word: to be respected, loved, and appreciated by respecting, loving, and appreciating others. because when we talk badly about other people, we say a lot more about ourselves than we do about them. when we hold grudges, we hold ourselves prisoners, and the only thing powerful enough to break our chains is forgiveness. and when we choose to take vengeance into our own hands and try to be the best, we can only unavoidably and inescapably become the worst.

"my dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that GOD desires." james 1:19-20

January 4, 2011

no more mr. nice guy

my posts are predominately intended for the female population, but guys, this post is just for you. i recently received my first blog post request. surprisingly it was from a number of guys, all unaware of each other, who were wondering why we girls tend to date mean, jerky guys and give the nice guys that we've been "praying for" the shaft. they all share the same frustration of striving to be kind men of GOD who will make the best husbands and fathers, and they don't understand why they aren't receiving those opportunities. they even wonder if they should give up being a nice guy all together and start being mean and rude to get our attention. so after much thought, i'm going to try to explain why we girls do some of the things we do and how the world would we be a sad place if there were no more mr. nice guy.

i will be the first to admit that we women are confusing and irrational creatures. when a guy is dating 3 girls at a time, we call him a player as he's playing the field. when a girl is dating 3 guys at a time, we call her smart as she's keeping her options open. when a guy tells a girl that he's not interested in dating anyone and then starts dating someone else a week later, it's called lying. when a girl tells a guy that she's not interested in dating anyone and then starts dating someone else a week later, it's called changing her mind. you can't do right, and we are never wrong. and we pretend that we are rational, level-headed beings, knowing exactly what we want, when in reality we are just as clueless as you.

we tend to group guys into 2 categories: the jerk and the mr. nice guy. with the jerk, we never quite know where we stand. we never are quite sure if when he asks us out he's not also asking 2 other girls out at the same time. when he puts us down or makes fun of our jokes, instead of saying, "forget you," we start wondering how we can be better or how we could be funnier. it's a mystery. it's a challenge. and we never know if today or tomorrow will be the last.

and you, poor mr. nice guy, get to listen to all our complaints. we tell you all our boy problems and how the guys we're dating don't treat us the way we deserve to be treated. and the whole time you're taking it all in, thinking: "well, if we dated i'd know how to treat you. i wouldn't do any of those things. i'd know exactly what you deserve." and then finally we get the nerve to break it off with that guy, and you finally get the nerve to ask us out. and we say...no.

we tell you: "well, i'm really just not in any condition to date anyone right now." or "you're such a sweet friend, and because i treasure our friendship sooo much, i'd hate to ruin it." or "well, let's start by staying friends for a really long time and just see what happens." or we just flat out say, "i'm just not attracted to you like that."

but the truth is, we're just scared. we're just as scared as you are. it is a misconception that we're all ready to get married and to start families. we may want that eventually, but we, like you, don't want to feel too much pressure leading us in that direction. we might actually be really attracted to you, but the intensity and pressure we feel makes us not even want to think about it. we date the wrong guys for the same reason you date the wrong girls. with a wrong guy we know that most likely things are going to end and that we'll always have a legitimate reason for breaking it off. but with a nice guy we know that most likely things are going to work and that we might have no way of getting out of it, and that is an overwhelming thought.

we realize as you pick us up for a date, always right on time, and drop us off, sneaking us a handwritten note you wrote, that this might be it. this might be it. this might be IT! and then the panic sets in. is this it? is this the it we've been waiting for and praying for our whole lives? and while you guys are concerned with the concept of just one, we girls are concerned with the concept of the one.

we end a phone conversation with a jerk by hanging up on him and throwing the phone across the room. but we end a conversation with you by hearing that we're beautiful and that we're guaranteed to hear from you tomorrow. and that's yet another day. and seven of those make another week. and a clock, inaudible to the rest of the world, ticks in our heads making us wonder how much time we have left to determine if you're really it.

and all of this makes you, mr. nice guy, question if you should even exist. if we girls keep going out with jerks, what's the point in being nice? hear me now, don't sell yourself short. no more mr. nice guy would mean no more hope. the truth is every girl wants to end up with a nice guy, just as a guy despite dating a string of floozies wants to end up with a good girl. and after every wrong guy we date, we appreciate the importance of trust and honesty and the qualities of a good guy more and more. it's true that some girls never learn, but for the majority of us, dating a jerk is completely exhausting and we eventually start seeking a relationship that will truly make us smile.

so what can you do to win our hearts?
the secret is to trick us. blindside us. run as if it's a marathon, not a sprint, and pace out your strategy in a way that won't scare us. come in slowly for a sneak attack, assuming the position of a friend, and catch us totally unprepared so that we don't have time to raise our walls and put up our guards.

timing is everything. if you tell us on our wedding day that you called your mom after the first date thinking you had found your wife, we'll think it's the most adorable thing we've ever heard. but if you do so on the second date, we will spray you with mace. slow down. you may think we're the best thing since your mom's sweet tea, but let us know that over time.

don't play games, but also don't show us all your cards at the same time. we actually enjoy mystery as much as you do. it's the not knowing that ultimately drives us crazy and leads us to being crazy about you. wait to show your hand, and play the ace of spades when we aren't even aware you have it.

be confident. the turn on of a jerk is that he is confident to the point of cockiness. and it's hard not to agree with someone who thinks he's a complete catch. more than anything, show yourself self respect. don't let us win all the time or have our way. don't be a pushover. make us respect and admire you by respecting yourself.

don't try too hard. don't try to sneak in all the qualities that make you so great into conversation, but let us have to uncover them on our own. just as you don't like girls who practically give you a verbal resume describing just how wonderful they are, neither do we want you trying too hard to impress or convince us. just be yourself and be kind, and we will see all of your wonderful qualities unfold before our eyes if we're smart enough to look.

and ultimately, ask us out and keep asking. if you don't ask, we're not going to feel sorry when someone else snatches us up. and if you continue to go after bad or cheap girls, we're not going to feel sorry for you when you end up with one. but if getting a date with us feels like a lost cause, try anyway. and try again. and again. all of our bad experiences might be happening simply to send us straight into your arms. if you choose to be obnoxious about it, please go about it in a charming way. but ultimately don't be afraid to try.

and whatever you do, please don't let there ever come a day when there's no more mr. nice guy.

January 2, 2011

how to: pray more

the other night i was having my nightly chat with this wonderful guy named tyler. we were talking about christmas and plans for this next year when out of the blue he asked, "charissa, how's your prayer life?" it caught me totally off guard, and my immediate response was, "oh, it's great!"

and you'd think that after a 22-year-long career of being a preacher's daughter. after becoming the undefeated "fastest flipper" of my 2nd grade bible class. and after attempting to attend worship whenever the doors are open despite snow or stomach bug that my prayer life would be nothing short of stellar. but my prayer life? my prayer life is honestly nothing short of pathetic. horrid. embarrassing.

you'd think that someone who could virtually hold a conversation with a wall could carry brief conversations with GOD. but it's as if the moment i start praying the ADD child within me takes over. i'm supposed to pray continually, but there's nothing really regular or continuous about it, and it tends to disappear altogether when there's "nothing to pray about." sometimes i look up and realize that days or even weeks have passed by without a decent word with GOD. and i can truly empathize with the apostles when they sought to learn how to pray and fell asleep in the process.

the picture at the top of this post is one i took when i visited pompeii. it's a haunting thought, walking down the streets of the city, to realize that people were captured in their final moments, forever to be seen by those who visit. the following is a list of methods i want to implement daily in order to create my prayer life because i know that when disaster strikes or when JESUS returns, i want to be found in the same position as this man...on my knees.

how to: pray more

1) designate. i'm going to start designating my own, little special spot just for prayer. here in my house it's a little green chair in my bedroom. sometimes i'll sit in it. sometimes i'll kneel at it. but i won't leave it until i say what needs to be said.

2) list.
who can remember everything that needs to be prayed for, and who has time to pray for everything? i'm planning on trading my ADD with some good ole OCD and making a list of 10 things every week for which i specifically want to pray. i'll continually pray for those things in that time and concentrate on the few things i can actually handle.

3) eat. my family prays together before every meal, but sadly i have not carried this practice into my personal mealtime. but i'm finally putting my fork down and not even sneaking a bite before i thank GOD for all the many blessings HE'S brought me, including every "highly nutritious macaroni and cheese dinner and the people who sold it on sale" that might come my way. :)

4) bathe. whether it be just a shower or a watermelon bubble bath, the bathtub is most certainly a place of prayer. there's something about hot water that clears your thoughts and refreshes your spirit. i'm going to start cutting my celine dion power ballad medley a little short and replacing it with prayer time. the shower is a wonderful place for singing. an exceptional place for crying. and i figure an even better place for praying.

5) walk. unfortunately, i simply was not designed to be a runner. i support and appreciate these people who run the marathons and the half marathons, and i will gladly make them a sandwich when they finish. but no, GOD designed me to be a power walker, and i can power walk with the best of them. i read a book this summer about this woman who replaced listening to her ipod while walking with prayer. she'd walk her normal route in complete conversation with GOD, the true definition of power walking. tell me, who can beat increasing your prayer life while decreasing your waistline? no one. and there's certainly no shame in asking GOD to help speed up the waistline deduction process.

6) drive.
i simply love getting lost in joy...joy, arkansas that is. it's this tiny town full of little antique stores and lots and lots of grass. my friend megan and i like to hop into her little vw bug, roll down all the windows, and sing at the top of our lungs for joy. but this year i feel that joy is going to be the perfect place to get lost in prayer. i want to drive around admiring the grass and the cows while pouring my heart out to GOD in the middle of HIS marvelous creation.

7) pause.
i learned this one from my parents. whether they're passing an ambulance on the interstate or have just received a sad text from a friend, my parents stop everything and say a prayer for that person right then. it's so encouraging and amazing to see them use that very moment to make their requests known to GOD. i want to start stopping my life with the same important pauses.

8) rely. never has my prayer life been so strong as when i lived in italy. whether i simply wanted to find my hostel or desperately didn't want to get kicked off the train at midnight in croatia, i was keeping the phone lines pretty hot with prayers. and i saw GOD'S hand in what seemed like impossible situations. whether it be living in another country. or dealing with a really difficult person at work. or losing a loved one. or trying to pay back student loans. we all have our difficult situations and challenges in which the only answer is reliance on GOD. i'm going to try to seek out the situations that will make my reliance grow and focus on the challenges that will only refine my faith.

"rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is GOD'S will for you in CHRIST JESUS." 1 thessalonians 5:16-18

special thanks to: tyler perring