November 3, 2012

the aftermath of disaster

before i begin this post, let me say that these words have truly been on my heart and forming for the past week. i write to you as a fellow human being and a fellow sinner who falls short of GOD'S glory continually. i write to you as one who is frequently broken but healed and mended by the grace of GOD. i am not perfect by a long shot, and any wisdom that i might even appear to have is a gift from the LORD and usually the result of a lesson that i learned from lack of wise judgment leading to a difficult experience.

in my recent conversations with people during the past week, i have noticed a recurring theme: different ways of dealing with sin. i have witnessed and realized that we all have different struggles and temptations, and therefore, we also have different ways of handling the different dilemmas that come our way.

as a young girl, i mistakenly believed that i could avoid making my own mistakes and shortcomings solely by learning from the mistakes and shortcomings of others. i thought that somehow i could protect myself from all difficult situations that i could ever face by being so good and so perfect that i became untouchable and invincible. but as i have grown older and faced situations that i could have never predicted or suspected, i have learned that satan truly is a prowling, roaring lion seeking whom he may devour and that no one can finish this race without being tainted with sin and falling short of the glory of GOD.

romans 12:2 says, "do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of GOD, what is good and acceptable and perfect." i think that many of us have the false expectation that we can discern what is good, acceptable, and perfect without being tested. that we can fully learn from other people's mistakes what not to do. that we can walk through this life guiltless and free from blame or shame. that at the end of this life we can score 100% on the test as we escaped it without temptation, blemish, or failure. but it is, in fact, by testing that we come to receive the knowledge of right and wrong and that we learn what is good, acceptable, and perfect.

in other words, we all are going to be tested at different times in our lives. unfortunately, we won't solely learn how to be pleasing to GOD or how to live righteously just from the lessons of other people. we all will struggle. we all will be tempted. and sometimes we will fall short. sometimes we will mess up. sometimes we will flat out fail. sometimes we will see the good that we wish to do and do the opposite. sometimes we will do the exact thing that we hate or the thing that we never thought that we would do.

and i believe that it is at this moment that the real testing begins: how we choose to handle the aftermath of our personal disaster. how we choose to deal with our failure and our short-falling. how we choose to proceed with the rest of our lives from the point of our mistake.


i think that there are 3 ways that we as humans deal with and handle the aftermath of our disasters. the first method is quite rare, and i believe that few choose it. it's the approach of acceptance: accepting our mistake, accepting help from other people in order to escape and to be set free, and accepting the grace offered to us through the blood of JESUS CHRIST. satan hates this solution because it goes against every lie that he tries to tell us. satan wants us to believe that we are fully human, that we will never be perfect and will always fall short, and that salvation is impossible for us to attain. but the good news is that salvation is impossible for us to attain on our own. no merit of goodness or level of action will ever earn the redemption that is offered to us.

by accepting our imperfection and our sin, we instantly start beating satan at his game. by understanding our humanity, we start realizing our struggles and the situations in which we need to be even more alert and aware for us to avoid the same mistakes in the future. by being willing to forgive ourselves, we open ourselves up to the forgiveness of others and become accepting of the forgiveness of GOD. and by directly dealing with our issues, we allow ourselves to heal and to recover, and ultimately we set ourselves up to be able to move on.

the second method in which we handle our messes is the approach of dwelling: continually dwelling on the mistake that we made, feeling inadequate or hypocritical in doing good or in teaching others what is right, and becoming paralyzed and unproductive because we no longer have a perfect record. the truth is that there are two ways of continuing in sin: the first by continuing to act sinfully and the second, which i'm addressing here, by constantly thinking about sins and mistakes of the past. this approach is the middle man, and it's extremely dangerous as we remain in a lukewarm state, unsure of whether we will return to good or proceed with evil. all we can think about day in and day out is the wrong choice or the bad situation that happened, and we become stuck in a rut of continually beating ourselves up.

half of us believes that because we no longer have a perfect, spotless record, we might as well give up and give into our temptations while the other half hopes to return to walking in the light. but we don't realize that as long as we remain dwelling in the past, even though we aren't continuing to do wrong, we are paralyzed and prevented from doing any good or right.

and the third method in which we handle our sin is the approach of surrender: feeling so dirty, helpless, and tainted that we feel there is no chance for escape or rescue. feeling so judged and misunderstood by other people that we feel we can never belong again. for those reasons, we start surrendering and giving into the sin that at one time we hated so strongly. we throw our hands in the air, limiting our GOD and limiting HIS grace by refusing to accept HIS rescue and refusing to believe that HE can do immeasurably more than all we ask or could ever imagine.

and before we know it, we start justifying: believing that GOD made us a certain way, thinking that GOD'S priority is our happiness, and even going as far as to twist scripture and GOD'S word to meet and justify our sinful living. we no longer consider what GOD wants, attempting to change our lives to fit HIS words, but we consider only what we want, changing GOD'S words to fit our lives. and this is satan's favorite because he gets us to justify a perpetual state of sin while thinking that we are good and acceptable in GOD'S sight. satan makes us fully believe that because of our circumstances or our choices that we can never be set free from the sin in which we've become entangled.

but thank heavens that we serve a GOD who isn't limited by our circumstances. who isn't limited by the consequences from the sin that we fell into. who isn't limited by the fact that we refuse to believe HE is mighty to save. who isn't limited by the fact that we don't always believe that we even need any healing or saving. who isn't limited by our choice to dwell on or to surrender to our sin.

we are all prodigal children: choosing at different times and in different ways to leave the comfort of our FATHER'S arms and to spend some time with the pigs. and in those moments, GOD must and we must let each other go and stand our inevitable moments of testing. we must all face our own struggles and temptations and attempt to determine what is good, acceptable, and perfect. we must be tested and refined by fire, and unfortunately, we will all fall short of the glory of GOD. but we serve a FATHER who is pleading, hoping, and waiting for us to return and to accept the offering of grace for which HIS only SON died.

we must realize that all who wander are not lost and that sometimes stumbling prevents a great, big fall. none of us will score 100% on the great, big test of life, and there will be moments where we do the very thing we hoped to never do. but in those moments, we have the opportunity to pass the real test of our lives: handling the aftermath of disaster.

October 20, 2012

the upgrade

"the good often becomes the enemy of the best in life." jackie kendall, "lady in waiting"

"what if what i think is great really is great, but it's not as great as something greater?" steve, "the wedding planner"

it had been 2 long years. when i say that everyone else was getting one, i mean that literally everyone else was getting one. i had been patient, and with a dave ramsey kind of mindset, i had made the best out of my current situation. but there was no denying it: it was time for a change.

after much consideration, i approached my parents about it for some advice and wisdom. and to my utter delight, they confirmed that it was, in fact, time for an upgrade. it was finally time to upgrade my 2-year-old, outdated cell phone for the iphone.

at the time of my previous cellular upgrade, the iphone was just coming out, but i had been so ready for a new phone that i hadn't been willing to wait for the best phone. so i had settled and gone ahead and purchased a new phone. but even though the phone was new and much better than my previous phone, i knew it wasn't quite the best and that if i had been a little more patient i would have ended up with something better.

in thinking on this situation, i couldn't help but make the connection to the decisions that we make in our everyday lives. sometimes we are so ready for something new, or just something in general, that we aren't willing to wait for the best or right thing. but i've said it before, and i'll say it again: i would rather be stuck with nothing than be stuck with the wrong something.

sometimes we jump into friendships so that we will no longer feel lonely, not realizing that certain friendships could lead us down a new path in which we would be much better off alone. sometimes we jump into dating relationships so that we will at least have something even if we know it's not the right thing or really what we want or have prayed for. sometimes we jump into jobs or positions solely for the title and the paycheck that we will receive and not for doing something we truly love. sometimes we get something new, whatever it may be, for the sole purpose of having something new, different, and shiny even though we know that it's not the best quality and that deep down we could do a lot better.

sometimes in life, we are long overdue for an upgrade, and GOD is just waiting to give us that upgrade if we will only ask for it. sometimes we should have just held out a little longer and not settled in the first place, and GOD is silently begging that we just trust HIM and wait on HIS perfect timing. sometimes we don't realize that every good and perfect gift comes only from GOD and that when we choose to act outside of HIS will and timing, we can only set ourselves up for disappointment.

sometimes something may truly be good, but it's simply not the best or what GOD had in store. sometimes something may really be great, but it's just simply not as great as something greater. and we sell ourselves short when we buy, choose, date, marry, worship, idolize...settle for something different or less than GOD'S good and perfect.

today, there's a new iphone out that i don't have, and i realize that by the time i bought it, apple would already be working on the next one. there's a time in life when we must learn to be content and satisfied with the good things that we've found and the upgrades that we've been given. but there is a distinct difference in being content and in being complacent, and complacency is something that we must continually rise above and never choose to settle for. we must wait upon the LORD and fully believe that every good and perfect gift does and will come from HIM.

special note: thank you to my awesome grandmother for making my iphone possible!

August 15, 2012

this grass

"the grass isn't greener on the other side. the grass is greener where you water it." unknown

never in my life did i ever imagine that i would be here, standing on this grass where i am residing: a single, 24-year-old girl living in a huge city, in texas of all places. carrying out the job that i always dreamed of having. being surrounded by family and by new friends and faces with every new week. and feeling more fulfilled, content, and excited than i have in years.

but as a single, 24-year-old female, sometimes i feel almost pitied for being unattached. for being husbandless. for being "alone." and while i appreciate the sympathy, i can't say that i share the sentiment. while i am so grateful for every individual who is contributing in the search for my significant other, whether by praying for him or by setting me up on blind dates, not having found that man yet in no way makes me feel insignificant. while i do hope to one day say along with song of solomon 3:4 that i have found the one my heart loves, that one and that day have not arrived.

i am finding that satan is just way too crafty. instead of being grateful for the things that we do have and have already received, he tempts us to focus on what we are lacking and "missing." and he allows us to feel entitled to everything, just like he did to adam and eve in the garden. not only does he make us dwell on what we don't have, but he makes us believe that not having something is always bad.

but i have written this before, and i will say it again: i'm learning that sometimes we have to not only be thankful for what GOD has given us but also for what HE hasn't. the truth in the garden of eden is that by sparing adam and eve the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, GOD was ultimately sparing them avoidable and unnecessary death. by wanting to be spared nothing, adam and eve brought death into existence, creating their destruction.

i think of how many terrible and dangerous things we are avoiding when we let GOD take control of and govern our lives. and then i think about how many things we create and bring into existence when we demand to give our input and change our course.

i also think about how satan uses us to make each other feel like we are lacking something. like we aren't complete yet. or that we're missing out. like we aren't good enough. or that we haven't done something right. 

the truth in my life is that GOD has given me everything in CHRIST and that i can do everything through HIM. i am lacking in nothing. i am surrounded by love and get to practice love every day. i am complete, fulfilled, and content with my course. and more than anything, i am completely and 100% attached to the ONE my heart desires most.

i thank GOD every day for what HE is sparing me that i don't even know about and for what HE has already spared me from that i have already seen. i thank GOD for every mistake. for every failure. for every broken bridge. and every broken promise. for every redirection. and every insignificant change that has brought me to this grass. i look back at the almosts and the might-have-beens in my life, and i can't say that i miss a single one or that i feel lacking in any way because GOD didn't intend any of those maybes to be my definites.

my ambition is not to wonder what the grass is like on the other side of the fence but to water the grass that's right here in front of my eyes and under my feet. to not feel ungrateful for the things that i have and to not feel lacking for that which i don't. but instead to thank GOD both for what HE has given and for what i have been spared. and to not only water, but to mow, build a white picket fence around, and frolic barefoot through this grass.

April 29, 2012

fighting the fight

"fight the good fight of the faith. take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses." 1 timothy 6:12

13 years ago on april 25th, i decided to confess the name of JESUS and to be baptized for the forgiveness of my sins. i will never forget that moment for as long as i live as i felt a sense of transformation, relief, and identity. for a good amount of time, i allowed my existence to be defined by that decision...allowing my identity and self worth to come from the SOURCE of my new life. but as time passed by, and as i started to pursue other goals and ambitions, i felt a shift in my source of worth, joy, and delight.

i believe that many of us are suffering from major identity crisis...finding our value and worth in what we do instead of who we are. as i took my big, bad praxis exam yesterday, i realized that i have become a target of identity theft. for the past 2 years my self worth and value has been determined by scores. by tests. by my abilities. by my clinical competency. and by the future career on which i am about to embark.

as i reflected on this thought, i realized that i have allowed my identity to continually be defined by the things that i do. in high school my self worth came from the pursuit of musical and academic achievement, and my joy was the product of successful victories. it then took a turn in college, and i found myself pursuing social titles: sunshine girl, social club president, spring sing director, ensemble member...these were the definitions of myself that i chose to accept and to believe and that i chose to value and to define my worth. and now as i embark on a new adventure and phase of life, i have discovered that for the past 2 years i have only been known to myself as a speech-language pathologist.

i also believe that there is more truth to the phrase "pick our battles" than we realize because every day each of us chooses to fight a fight. but depending on what we allow to define our value, worth, and identity, in turn, defines the fight that we are fighting. as i read 1 timothy 6:12 this morning, i asked myself, "what fight am i fighting?" and i realized that i haven't been fighting the good fight. i've been fighting a fight based on my skewed concept of identity.

the truth is that we all have an internal battle raging within us: a fight for what will be our priority. what will we allow to be the center of our existence? what will we allow to define us? what will we choose to live and breathe? what will we be known for? what impression and legacy will we leave? what relationship will we value most? and what will be said about us when everything else is said and done?

instead of living and breathing the relationship i've found with JESUS CHRIST, i have been pursuing achievements, titles, and ambitions that yield either great success and self appreciation or great failure and disappointment. and when i examined these in the light of day, i realized that they are very empty and shallow measurements of value and that they don't accurately demonstrate identity. i simply have been picking the wrong fights.

and right in hand with fighting the good fight is taking hold of eternal life. but i realized that i can't take hold of eternal life or be filled with the fullness of GOD when i'm all wrapped up, tied up, tangled up in meaningless battles. i have been striving for perfection, not as my FATHER is perfect, but a perfection based on my earthly pursuits and my incorrect sense of identity.

while i am insanely excited about my new job and my new career, speech pathology is what i do and not who i am. my performance does not define my worth or my value. instead, i am choosing to take hold of a life...an eternal life...and for that life to define my identity, value, and worth. for that life to be the priority here on earth. and for that life to be the source of my joy and delight.

i am seeking to discover which fight is indeed good and to take hold of the life for which i am so eagerly desiring.

April 17, 2012

the parking lot

"don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got till it's gone? they paved paradise and put up a parking lot." counting crows

life is like a parking lot. and we as passengers on the road of life are always looking for the best parking space that we can find. for some of us, that search can take just a few seconds because we are able to find just the right space at just the right time. my family calls this principle "living right." for others of us, the search can continue for what seems like hours as it feels like there is just nothing available and that spot will just never be found.

some of us, for fear of never finding another spot, settle quickly on the first available one that we see. without second thought or hesitation, we simply park the car in the space and proceed to walk to our determined destination.

others of us, just as we are starting to pull into such a spot, begin to question whether it really is, in fact, the best spot that we can find. and we start to wonder if there is a closer spot. or one that's in the shade. or one that isn't right beside a huge puddle. and what if that spot is waiting just in the next aisle?

and so some of us back out of the parking space that we found and begin circling the lot in search for another. sometimes that better spot is just waiting on the next aisle, and other times we prospective parkers are left searching for a long while. and on rare occasions, it is, in fact, that the first spot was the best spot, but upon recircling we discover that it has already been claimed by another parker. and sometimes it would have been faster to park further away and walk than circle the lot 100 times in vain.

sometimes, after minutes of mindless searching, we spot an available space only to discover that we are not alone. someone else in that exact moment has spotted the space as well, and it becomes a race to see who will get there first. and don't you hate it when that other person wins? it makes me want to honk or accidentally "graze" that person's bumper to indicate that that spot was mine.

and sometimes just because a spot is the closest doesn't mean that it is the best. that close space might be directly under a tree with a family of birds just waiting to leave an unholy anointing on your windshield the moment that you walk away. sometimes that close spot is directly under a light pole, only to leave you obsessing over the irrational fear that it is going to fall and destroy your vehicle while you are shopping in the store.

but in our quest for the perfect, sweet spot, there are three things that i have discovered.

there isn't only one perfect spot in the lot. there are many good spots that could be equal candidates in efficiently serving the purpose of holding our cars, and sometimes it's simply a matter of choosing.

we should learn what type of parkers we are and own it. some of us will be satisfied with settling on the first spot we ever find, and that will be just fine with us. others of us will constantly question if a better spot exists, and we will need to circle the entire lot before making a definitive choice. either way, we need to learn what type of parker we are, embrace it, and own it.

and ultimately, we need to consider all of our options and choose our space on our own time. whether we are fast parkers who are on a mission to find a space and keep on moving or whether we are over-analyzers who need to make the perfect, informed decision, we must make our own decision at our own pace.

we don't need to continue looking in our rear views and lamenting paradise lost, but we need to press forward through the parking lot and claim our spots.

April 14, 2012

if you will

"two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth..." the first 5 lines of "the road not taken," robert frost


i had planned my path perfectly. and GOD was blessing it, so i thought it was HIS will. my future job was almost signed, sealed, and delivered. my friendships and connections here in arkansas were dancing a beautiful dance of harmony. and my relationship was secure and continuing just as i had always hoped.

in a span of 48 hours all three changed significantly. some friendships started changing, which is somewhat to be expected, and i didn't really think anything about it or think it was that significant. but then my job situation changed, and i wasn't able to accept it due to its geographic location. and soon i found myself at our little, local coffee shop ending my relationship and wishing for singularity.

i won't go into the details of why all of these things happened in a 2 day period, and i'm not really sure that my why matters. all i know is that these things happened in a 2 day period, and that had never happened before in my life. my plans and path had never totally changed in such a short amount of time, but nevertheless they did. please realize that i am not discounting the goodness of the things that i lost but merely saying that they weren't meant to be mine. almost every tie and connection i had holding me here in arkansas was somehow broken, and the most frustrating part was that it was totally out of my control. there was nothing i could do but to let go and to let GOD.

so i decided to let GOD. and i watched HIM work directly in my life and change up all of my plans. and i learned a valuable lesson: even if you will, GOD's will reigns. GOD is sovereign, and HE knows the plans HE has for us, leading to hope and a future. and as much as i might will something to happen, HE ultimately knows what's best and is ultimately in charge.

i cannot tell you how many times i have delivered the following prayer: "LORD, let YOUR will be done, but if our wills could somehow coordinate perfectly in the fact that they are identically the same, that would be great, too." so many times i have refused to let GOD be sovereign and to listen to what is happening around me. so many times i have ignored the signs and signals and continued with my will even though my gut feeling was telling me that something was not right. and it took very obvious and very significant changes for me to finally wake up and realize what was happening.

i believe that we take the road less traveled in the christian life when we choose to let go and let GOD be sovereign in our lives. it's taken when we wake up and really look and realize that maybe, just maybe, GOD's trying to tell us something. it's when we stop and listen to the things that are being said and done. it's when we stop trying to read GOD's every, little move and allow HIM to make big moves that make our answers obvious and our directions clear. and it's when we surrender our will and let HIS will completely take over.

in the midst of all of my personal change, there have been two predominant emotions that keep reoccurring within me. surprisingly, there really hasn't been any sadness or distrust in GOD's faithfulness. i know that HE is faithful and that HE knows every desire of my heart. and i have faith that HE has a plan of one day allowing some of my will to come true.

more than that, i have genuine contentment about my current state and uncontrollable excitement about what is to come. my contentment comes from realizing that where i am going is exactly where i need to be. i am in the exact state i am supposed to be in right now, not because i believe it, but because GOD does. i am a single, almost 24-year-old woman with a new place, a new job, and a new life just waiting for me. i have nothing tying me down or holding me back, and while i hope one day to be tied and held, i am currently content.

i am unbelievably excited about the fact that the same GOD who allowed so many things to be taken from me and to change in my life knows what is meant for me and what is waiting ahead. HE knows how my story began, and HE knows how it ends. HE is the author and perfecter of my faith, and HE is the author of time. my time is in HIS hands, and HE knows the perfect timing of when my desires are to become my reality. and in changing my path, HE may be allowing those desires to become reality faster than they would have with my measly plan.

GOD loved me enough to give me something better than i have tried to will or create for myself. and while that something is yet to been seen, i know that it is there. that is why i am letting go and listening and being observant of the obvious changes that HE is allowing. and i believe that if we step back, watch, and listen, the road that is to be taken will become clearly defined.

"i shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: two roads diverged in a wood, and i, i took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." the last 5 lines of "the road not taken," robert frost

March 29, 2012

undone

"love is not impatient. love is not mean. love is content. love is humble. love honors others. love seeks others. love is calm. love keeps record of rights. love delights in good and does not rejoice in lies. it never harms, never doubts, never despairs, never gives up." 1 corinthians 13 rearranged
 "love me when i least deserve it, because that's when i really need it." swedish proverb

the life lessons that i am learning just keep on coming. right when i feel that i have mastered one concept, i am then thrown back on my knees seeking help in handling and mastering another. my newest lesson as of late is that regarding the danger of becoming undone.

 i am learning that our true colors are shown in moments of trial and in moments of weakness. in those moments when we don't get the answer we wanted. when our world turns upside down. when the last thing we thought would ever happen becomes our reality. when we feel betrayed. when we feel alone. when we lose trust. when we feel wronged. when we feel lost. when we are confused.

and with the same token, true love is demonstrated to us in those moments when we least deserve it, and we show true love by giving it when it is least deserved. when we are the betrayed, alone, wronged, lost, and confused one, we prove whether we truly have meant the things that we have said or done by how we act in the few moments that follow.

 and in those moments, we only have 2 reactions to choose from: we either keep on doing, or we choose to become undone. when we choose to keep doing, we seek to continue the good that we have already done. we keep going. we keep building. we keep trying. we apologize. we make things right. we don't give up despite a bump in our course. and we keep showing the colors that we claim.

when we become undone, however, we lose it. we get angry. we seek revenge. we want repayment and vindication. and we justify it because we are hurting and broken. and we quickly undo every good thing that we ever said or did.

it begins like a run in your pantyhose that is, at first, insignificant and tiny. a tear in your jeans that nobody can see but that you can still feel. that one annoying pulled thread in your sweater that you can't help but notice. and once you begin to touch it. once you begin to pick at it. once you begin to pull it, it begins to unravel, and soon those little sweet nothings that you had built up and established turn into sweet little piles of nothing. everything good that you did becomes undone.

1 poor decision destroys 10 years of reputation. 2 minutes of gossip destroy 2 hours of praise. 3 sentences expressing doubt destroy 3 decades of trust. 4 words of anger destroy 40 years of peace. and 5 minutes of thoughtlessness destroy 5 months of thought.

so it is my knew goal to remain intact. to refuse to unravel. to refuse to lose it. to refuse to undo the good that has been done. and instead to keep on doing. to keep on going. to keep on shining. to keep on showing the color that i claim. to keep being consistent. to keep demonstrating my character. and to fight every personal temptation to become undone.

March 11, 2012

the great grad school 8

oh, friends, it has been far too long, and for that i apologize. but i am getting back into the swing of things as my educational career is some 50 days from coming to a close. :) with 6 years behind me and final exams, the PRAXIS, and my first job before me, i am enjoying checking off boxes and figuring out which hoops remain on my incredible journey of becoming a speech-language pathologist.

not only am i checking off boxes at this time, but i am also reminiscing and reliving the life lessons that i have learned in the past 2 years. i might even go as far as to say that the life lessons have surpassed the educational lessons in my experience. and i as i collected these thoughts tonight, i couldn't help but to share them with you. these are the great grad school 8 as they have greatly impacted and changed my life in the past 2 years.

1) hindsight truly is 20/20. i cannot say how many times in the past 9 months i have uttered the phrase, "if only i had known what GOD had planned." in moments of heartache, betrayal, or just plain confusion, i've seen firsthand that sometimes man's rejection is really a form of GOD'S protection. i look at what my life could have been if i had made certain decisions or if certain choices hadn't been made for me, and i am so grateful for all of the closed doors of my life. sometimes it is just so refreshing to treat life like a series of tests and to look back at the questions with the perspective of now knowing the answers. i look back at the test questions of my life that seemed so difficult to answer just a few months ago, and i say, "well, of course #4 was B!" i know that there will be many more tests and many more times when i don't have the answers, but there is such peace in knowing that those answers will be revealed and that GOD truly has a plan.

2) every dead end is merely a detour. with the idea of hindsight being 20/20, i've realized that every closed door is merely a signal that there's an open window somewhere very close. i've realized that just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly, but those final stages of caterpillarism were probably absolutely terrifying! at the end of the day, however, there's a silver lining to every cloud. a pot of gold to every rainbow. and a detour via a dirt road to every dead end.

3) every lost battle is a won war.
i'm realizing that every detour, mistake, or challenge in our lives may initially appear to be a lost battle. but we aren't meant to win every battle. we aren't meant to escape life with a perfect record. we are meant to win enough battles in order to win a war. and the truth is that we might not be able to win the war without the knowledge and experience gained from losing a couple battles. and while we will definitely lose a few battles, we must count and accept our losses, pick ourselves back up, learn from our defeat, and move onward to victory in order to gain our prize.

4) words hurt worse than sticks.
whoever said that stones hurt worse was extremely hard of hearing. we only fool ourselves when we pretend that the negative words said about us don't sting, burn, and wound. and we fool ourselves when we believe that the words we say won't return to their subject. it takes 10 positives to overrule 1 negative, and once a certain number of negatives are unleashed, we will never be able to take them back or to regain the trust we've lost. i have learned to choose my words with great care. to taste them first. to write them down. and to test them out before actually sharing them.

5) true friends stab you in the front. i believe that the single hardest thing for most people to do is confront. in my experience of being both the stabber and the stabbed, i have learned that there is little worse than hearing negative words about yourself from a secondhand source. and it is a coward who insists on using the back door instead of the front. i have discovered my true friends in the past few months by those who have been willing to confront me in times that i have needed correction or constructive criticism. and i am making it my new ambition to actually have the courage and respect for other people to confront.

6) the early bird beats the second mouse. there has been a great controversy among our society for the past several decades: does the early bird get the worm, or does the second mouse get the cheese? i am here today to say that it is my firm belief that the early bird does in fact get the worm. in my career as a student there has never been a card that can trump the triple threat of punctuality, initiative, and the second mile. there is just something so intense about a driven individual who makes things happen, gives them his or her best, and appreciates the sacrifices made by others in the pursuit of knowledge and abilities. the second mouse might get the cheese, but only if the first mouse wasn't crafty enough to fool the trap. the early bird, however, always gets the worm.

7) worry is a misuse of imagination.
in a nutshell, my imagination is as wide as the pacific ocean. i can over-think and over-analyze any situation with years of experience under my belt. the reason that i constantly overload and overwhelm myself with busyness is that if you give me too much time on my hands i will worry myself into a tizzy. but i am slowly learning to channel my worry into imagination and to allow myself to let go of my fears. by freeing myself to GOD'S control, i find that i have so much more time to fulfill the plans and purposes HE has in mind.

8) the LORD avenges the still.
i have always been one to think that i needed to be in the middle of the action. i believe that it is an inherent desire of people to receive attention and be noticed for their humor, personalities, abilities, and skills. but i have noticed the joy of living a quieter life. of stepping back and letting someone else receive credit. of taking some time to be still and to let GOD work. and i'm also finding that it is in those moments that GOD avenges us for wrongs that have been done to us. HE fights for the silent instead of the ones dying for attention. HE admires those who lead a quiet life and strive to be at peace as far as it concerns them. and with all of the quirkiness and bubbliness and momentum and pandemonium of my wonderful life, i am enjoying learning to be still.

February 2, 2012

driving in a fog

"living without faith is like driving in a fog." unknown

in charissa world, departure time equals 5:50 every monday, wednesday, and friday morning as it takes almost a full hour to drive to the rehabilitation hospital where i am completing my clinicals. let it be known that i am not a morning person, but i am typically wide awake after my hour of coffee, prayer time, and singing and dancing with myself in the car.

most mornings are typical and uneventful as i make my hour-long transition down the interstate and into the land of the living. yesterday morning, however, was a different story as i walked outside my door and into the deepest fog that i've ever seen. it was so thick and dense that i thought for sure that dementors had surrounded my apartment complex. i got into my car, turned on my headlights, and prepared for a long and slow journey.

when i got on the interstate, visibility was about 10 feet, and i began to feel dizzy as i tried to see the white lines and to stay in the right lane. after about 5 minutes i started getting frustrated. i felt like it was hard enough to wake up at 5:00 in the morning and to make this drive, and now of all things there was this thick fog clouding everything around me. and i became so frustrated that i verbally said, "LORD, would YOU please lift the fog?"

i felt completely alone in the middle of the big white cloud that wouldn't let me see ahead or let me know where i was, and i felt totally lost even though i knew exactly where i was intending to go. so being a faithful woman, i believed that surely GOD would answer my prayer, and being an impatient woman i waited a solid 5 minutes for HIM to do so. but after 5 minutes nothing had changed, and i was feeling dizzier and more frustrated than ever.

but right then, in my moment of annoyance and distress, a random truck came up out of nowhere and pulled up beside me. he passed me and then got directly in front of my little car, and the light from his tail lights totally cleared the fog directly in front of me and allowed me to see what was coming and where i was going. the rest of the fog didn't immediately clear, but i was able to continue on my journey safely by the light of my new, fearless guide.

and as i drove the 60 some miles to my destination, i couldn't help but compare my light in the fog to the SPIRIT of GOD. at bible study on wednesday nights we've been talking some about the HOLY SPIRIT and HIS role in our lives. and i think the analogy of driving in the fog is perfect for describing the purpose and action of the SPIRIT that dwells with us every day.

the reality is that GOD allows fog to fall on all of us at different times in our lives (matthew 5:45), and a fog can confuse us and mess up our path even when we know exactly where we are intending to go. we can feel totally lost and alone, even when we felt completely confident and sure of our direction just moments before.

sometimes the fog comes suddenly out of nowhere, and we are highly in tune with and aware of its presence. sometimes the fog develops over time, and it takes other people pointing it out for us to realize what it is. but when it comes, it tends to surround and cover everything around us that we consider precious and dear. it clouds our vision and makes us question who we are and the direction that we thought we knew.

sometimes the fog just won't seem to clear. and sometimes GOD doesn't clear the fog, even when we ask. but HE instead has given us a helper, comforter, and advocate to bring light to our confusion (john 14:16). HE has given us an inner light and guide to help illuminate and direct our path. and whether the fog eventually begins to clear or if the struggle through the fog never ends, the light never changes and is always there, directly in front of us. and if we follow closely, that light will always lead us straight to HIM.

"likewise the SPIRIT helps us in our weakness. for we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the SPIRIT himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. and HE who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the SPIRIT, because the SPIRIT intercedes for the saints according to the will of GOD. and we know that for those who love GOD all things work together for good, for those who are called according to HIS purpose." romans 8:26-28

January 30, 2012

a spoonful of sugar

"nobody likes having salt rubbed into their wounds, even if it is the salt of the earth." rebecca west

it was my first ever cheesecake, reese's peanut butter, and it had to be perfect because it was intended for a former boyfriend and his family. i had decided to unleash my inner betty crocker and to make it completely from scratch. i melted down the reese's peanut butter chips. i softened the cream cheese. i lightly beat those eggs. and then i dumped the sugar in...only to suddenly be overcome with a baker's worst fear: did i just use salt when i should have used sugar?

i immediately took my spoon and got a little of whatever i just dumped in and put it in my mouth...only to be relieved by the fact that it had been sugar. but the situation couldn't help but cause me to think about how many times i use salt when i should be using sugar in everyday life.

i'll admit it. i'm a huge people watcher. i could sit in a starbucks all day long with an IV drip of iced caramel apple spice and be perfectly content in watching people as they interact. and in my lifelong career as a human observer, i have made several observations and come to several conclusions.

my most recent observation is that 2 people can say the exact same thing in 2 different ways, and 1 will be totally accepted and appreciated while the other will be totally rejected and despised. and the positive one ALWAYS wins.

one mom says to her child, "you won't get to go outside and play unless you finish all of your chores," while another says, "as soon as you finish these chores, you get to go outside and play!" one teacher says to his class, "if you fail to come to class, you will lose points," while another says, "you will receive points for every day that you come to class." i've found that anything can be said with a positive twist, and the difference between the statements that essentially say the exact same thing makes all of the difference. it's all a matter of knowing when to use sugar instead of salt.

i've also noticed that too much salt can make a person bitter. and bitter people can sometimes dump their excess salt on other people's wounds without even realizing it. when someone is overly consumed with feelings of criticism or unrealistic expectations of perfection, that person begins to become overtaken with bitterness that can't help but overflow and touch the people with whom he or she comes in contact. the salt then touches the wounds of others, causing them to sting and to burn. people's hearts then start to close, and they tend to start drifting further and further away from the salt shaker.

now i'm not discounting salt. there's no denying that as christians we are supposed to become like salt and are supposed to make every attempt to keep up our flavor. and sometimes a good sting of salt is exactly what is needed to correct and to heal. but i believe that sometimes the difference between being effective and having the impact that we want with other people is knowing when to use salt and when to use sugar. just because we choose to take things with a grain of salt doesn't mean that we have to go crazy with the whole shaker. and sometimes we have to give and realize that it's only a spoonful of sugar that will actually make the medicine go down.

"you are the salt of the earth. but if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?" matthew 5:13

"instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, CHRIST." ephesians 4:15

January 9, 2012

12 for '12

"and what does the LORD require of you? to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your GOD." micah 6:8

i always love new years as they offer opportunities for fresh perspective, fresh insight, and fresh reevaluation. i love looking back on the previous year: reliving the high points, determining the low points, and analyzing what decisions, behaviors, habits, and attitudes allowed both to occur and figuring out the difference between the highs and the lows. this past year was wonderful in so many ways: i tackled the hardest semesters of my graduate program, i got to live and work in zambia, and i met important people that will change the course of my life forever. but as i reevaluate my life and my path, i notice some common themes and realize some important goals for which i want to be striving in this next, fresh, new year, and therefore i'd like to share with you my 12 for '12.

pursue JESUS.
some might consider this a typical, cliché resolution for a christian at the beginning of a new year. each year we christians make goals to read our bibles more or to pray regularly, and we become very discouraged when we fail to initiate and follow through with our determined plans. but this goal is different for me than a scheduled reading plan or a specific checklist to carry out. because the truth is that i can't remember a time that i've pursued JESUS like a potential job. a potential boyfriend. a potential grade. a potential fill-in-the-blank. i cannot remember a time when i was truly hungry for GOD'S word and craved it like a whopper jr. value meal. i can't remember a time when my every thought and word was motivated by my feelings and love for JESUS CHRIST, and that truth scares me. therefore, i'm stepping out of my lukewarm bathwater and putting the heat and fire back into my relationship with JESUS. i want HIM to feel pursued like i'm a lovesick girl who has HIS picture hanging all over my locker and who cannot stop talking about HIM to all of her friends. i want to give HIM the same gift HE'S given me: undivided attention, unending grace, and unyielding pursuit.

let go. i can hardly write about this one without smiling and laughing because of all of my failed attempts to be crowned the queen of control. with the lethal combination of my planner, my organization, and all of my other type A/OCD idiosyncrasies, there simply isn't enough time or security for me to be able to let go and to trust. i am so thankful to GOD for sending me a boyfriend who is so encouraging and who reminds me on a daily basis that GOD loves me and that HE is ultimately in control. and i am learning the relief that comes by making my requests and worries known to GOD first instead of immediately feeling anxious about them. i want to learn to lean more, letting go of the railing that my hands are so fiercely clenched to and setting myself free to learn how to follow.

pray for peace. and that being said, i want to start truly praying for peace. not just peace for the world and for GOD'S people, but personal peace as i realize that doubt, worry, and anxiety only lead to ineffectiveness and weakness. i want to seek peace with myself, learning to breathe, to let go, and to fully enjoy letting others realize the joy and hope that i've found that can only be seen by demonstrating trust and reliance.

put people first.
as simple as this seems, it is something that i fail to do regularly. i get so overwhelmed with whatever i'm doing or hoping to achieve that i forget the people around me. i forget that sometimes my worries are minimal compared to those of others, and i don't realize how selfish it can appear to get caught up and lost in my own desires which in reality are merely preferences. i want to remember that life is about people and relationships and that selfishness destroys those relationships and their potential influences.

only encourage. to be completely honest, it is so easy for me to gossip without even realizing it and then to justify it the minute that i know better. one person really needs our prayers, so naturally i share the request. i feel sorry that another person made a certain choice and ask if he or she is alright. i seek to know what happened to someone else, but all of these examples cause me to consider my motivation and intention in learning and sharing such privileged information. do i truly care, or do i enjoy the juice and the dirt? does this person i'm talking to really need to know the information i'm sharing? do i get satisfaction out of another's weakness or struggle? would i say this if the person were in the next room? am i encouraging gossip by sitting in on this conversation and listening? with all of these questions flooding my mind, i want to seek to only encourage and to only speak words that are necessary. sometimes we can't encourage and must instead be honest, but i want to carefully consider the necessity of each word before uttering it and never being able to reclaim it.

bear burdens.
for the first time in a long time i am beginning to understand what it's like to bear another's burdens. my boyfriend is allergic to all products made from wheat or dairy and therefore must eliminate them from his diet. as one of his christmas presents, i have volunteered to stick to his diet with him in order to encourage him and to motivate him to stay strong. so together we are eating gluten and dairy free and exercising more, and i must say that it's a fun and exciting challenge that is already making a difference. it's in making this small sacrifice that i realize the gravity of the sacrifice that JESUS made for us. HE allowed himself to become one of us and to be tempted in every way yet was able to do it without sinning. HE continues to carry our weight and to bear our burdens while remaining perfect, patient, and persevering. i want to start bearing little burdens regularly and to lift others up not only with words but also with actual actions and true understanding.

give grace. grace is something that i simply don't understand and cannot wrap my mind around. and in my striving for perfection, i can tend to be severely critical and unyielding. but when i realize just how much grace GOD has given me, it makes me realize that i need to give more grace to others and also to myself. that's not to say that i want to tolerate or accept sin but that i want to open myself to forgiveness and to set my heart free with grace. i love reading about david and knowing that he was a man after GOD'S own heart despite poor choices and sinful ways. not to excuse david or to live a sinful lifestyle totally dependent on grace, but i want to understand that nothing i do will ever be good enough to earn eternity with GOD and that GOD'S love will never change despite what i do or don't. and i want to extend that same understanding to everyone with whom i come in contact.

receive criticism. what helps me grow the most is when another person comes to me and tells me a way in which i can improve in a loving manner. sadly, many people choose to discuss our faults behind our backs instead of coming directly to us the way scripture encourages. i'm telling you now that if you come to me with love and tell me a way in which i can improve to my face instead of discussing it behind my back, i will be thankful for the rest of my life. initially, it makes me very defensive and somewhat sad, but once i choose to accept responsibility and make changes accordingly, i see so much growth and improvement. i choose today to no longer fall victim to playing the victim. i think nothing loses respect more than someone who continually feels victimized and fails to accept responsibility for actions. i want to start welcoming and accepting constructive criticism and learn how to use it in order to refine and improve myself.

seek humility. micah 6:8 is one of my favorite scriptures as i believe it is a simple statement on how to live. one way i need to grow is in learning to walk more humbly. i want to go out of my way to seek humility. i want to be less noticed and let the attention fall somewhere else. i want to be secretive in the good that i do and for the credit to be given to someone else. and i want to ultimately allow my self worth to be totally dependent on what GOD thinks as opposed to what others think of what i do or who i am.

be open to direction. as i am about to complete my graduate degree i realize the countless directions in which i could go. there are natural biases that definitely tempt me to choose certain paths, but i want to be truly open to anywhere GOD might lead. i don't want to ignore opportunities or possibilities, and i want to try to find the direction in which i will be most influential and effective.

eat beef. i mean this one in a figurative and spiritual sense as sometimes i feel like i am surviving on spiritual gerber instead of thriving on a diet of spiritual steak. i'm tired of surviving on baby peaches and baby peas, and i want to become stronger with what i'm putting into my system. i'm tired of forgetting scriptures and the things that i used to know so well growing up as your typical PK (preacher's kid, not point kicker). therefore i am seeking the filet mignon of GOD'S word and seeking to grow deeper in my understanding and knowledge of the bible. i want to challenge myself to memorize scripture and to become more familiar with what i've known all of my life.

get the point. quite honestly many times i feel like i am chasing after the wind and missing the whole point of life. i believe that sometimes we mistake good things for the right things and get carried away and confused with priorities and levels of importance. i really relate to the passage in the screwtape letters that talks about getting so overwhelmed with ourselves and what we are doing that we fail to notice and accomplish the right and important things. i'm tired of letting my goals and ambitions get in the way of relationships and opportunities to put people first. i'm tired of chasing after meaningless things that cloud my view of true priorities and the main point.