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Saturday, September 13, 2014

The running and the returning || #SheSharesTruth: Hosea

 Life catch up: school, school, and more school. All of life is school when you're taking 18 hours! (Welcome to senior year, y'all). It's crazy busy and exhausting. Pretty much sums up this season of life, I suppose.

In the midst of it all, I've been keeping up with my She Reads Truth studies. These studies were a spiritual life saver this summer at home. Though I was often too exhausted to do much Bible study, I tried to keep up with them this summer. I was almost always successful. I'm still pretty successful during school, even if it means I'm reading at 1am in bed using the SRT app (which is awesome. if you haven't checked it out, you should).

And then they decided to do Hosea. Right as school was starting.

After my friend introduced me to Redeeming Love (which is based off Hosea- and is a topic I could write an entire post about itself!), I've had some interest in studying it, but I've been kinda hesitant.  If you haven't read it, Hosea is an intense book of the Bible. I'd never studied it in-depth for this reason. it was so hard for me to study, hard for me to understand-- especially at the beginning of my most hectic semester to date. As someone that didn't grow up reading and learning scripture, reading these stories (especially Old Testament) are a bit scarier for me. SRT makes reading these books and stories I'm not familiar with easier, but still... it's tough.

I learned a lot I needed to learn, even things I didn't want to learn. I was challenged, even when I didn't want to be, about things I didn't necessarily want to be challenged about.

And I was reminded of so, so much that I needed to hear.

"The book of Hosea is not about Hosea, it is about God’s relentless pursuit of an undeserving people." (Day 1)

 Even when I run. (Especially when I run).

 Even when I'm a hot mess.

 Even when I fail and flounder.

 Even when I don't want to trust or follow Him, when I'd rather do things my way.

 Even then, He still wants me. 

He knows me. He knows me well enough to know I'll run and keep running. He knows my messes and my struggles and my story. And yet, He still pursues me. He chose me to be His.

I will never understand it. I will always wonder why.
"The chasm of sin grows wider and we run faster, but our God changes not. He is still sovereign, even as we flee." (Day 5)
There have been so many times that this story has been mine. I think that's part of what makes it hard to read: I have been the unfaithful bride, running away from the best thing that's ever happened to me. I have struggled with letting love in. With being fully known and fully loved. I've shut myself off to love and letting people love me for so long.  I have created this bulletproof shield, keeping my heart and love from everyone (too much trust has been broken to give it to people freely).  In doing so, I've been too afraid to let anyone in- including God. 
This has been a work in progress, this idea of letting people (including God) fully love me, over the past year. It's so much easier to run the other way, to flee in fear of getting hurt. It's easier to put my shield up to anyone that comes my way.

And yet, God still pursues me. He wants me. His love is unrelenting- even when I'm gunning it in the opposite direction.

He waits for me. 
He loves me fully. He knows me fully. Even when I don't want Him to.
He chooses me as His love. 
He knows I'll return, and patiently waits for me to come to my senses and come running back where I belong. 
He relentlessly loves and pursues every part of me.

That's a beautiful, yet scary thought. It used to be more scary than beautiful, but the fear is starting to be left behind- slowly, but surely.

"We are sinful. He is steadfast.
We are fearful. He is faithful.
We are broken. He binds up.
We cherish idols. He cherishes us.

His love and affection toward us do not change, no matter the depth of our sin." (Day 5)

"Build me a home inside Your loving arms, the only place I ever will belong"
When I think of me and my running, I think of this song. It made me cry when I listened to it after reading this post.

How amazing is it that He waits for me to return to Him? He doesn't just wait, either- He is joyful and unbelievably ecstatic when I return to Him, even if I've run 100 times to the opposite side of the world to get away from Him. Nothing will subdue His love and affection towards me. Nothing.
"Whether it’s the first time you’ve run willingly out of God’s precious protection that comes from obedience, or it’s the five millionth time, the Lord doesn’t stand unmoved by your genuine return." (Day 8)

How unfathomable is it that He constantly pursues me, loves me so much that He wants to have a relationship with me? No matter what I do, or where I am, or how far I run... His pursuit and love for me stay the same.

He wants ME! He pursues ME! He loves ME! And that will never change. 

   It's overwhelming.  I've never felt a love this strong towards little ol' me.

It's amazing how much your life can change when you're being pursued and loved so deeply.

Earlier this week, we had Ellie Holcomb speak and perform during chapel. It'd take me an entire post to relay her whole beautiful message, but she spoke a bit about being fully known and fully loved. It's a hard idea for me to wrap my brain around- the idea that God sees my mess, my screwups, and my failures, and pursues me anyway. But He does. Because if anything else, He is a God that fully knows His children for who He made them to be, and fully loves us in spite of our mess.

One of my favorites by her, Love Broke Through. (I bought this whole album after hearing her in chapel).
"Your love has called me out
Out of my sorrow
Out of my broken places
Hope has been renewed
'Cause there in the darkness
Love broke through"

And another for good measure: The Broken Beautiful
"I know that I don't bring a lot to the table
Just little pieces of a broken heart
There's days I wonder if You'll still be faithful
Hold me together when I fall apart?
Would You remind me now of who You are?
That Your love will never change,
that there's healing in your name
That You can take broken things,
and make them beautiful
You took my shame
And You walked out of the grave
So Your love can take broken things
and make them beautiful"

The book of Hosea and God's constant pursuit of us teaches me that no matter who we fully are or what we have done, He loves us enough to chase after us, and lavishly extend His grace and love to us when we finally return. Hosea teaches me that His pursuit isn't because of what we've done or haven't done- it's because He simply loves us and wants us to be loved by Him. No matter how far or how much I run, He will still be waiting, still be pursuing, and still loving me. And to me, that's pretty amazing.

Thank you, Hosea, for reminding me of the depth of His love.

Thank you, Lord, for the running and the returning back to where my heart truly belongs.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Along Came August

     Crazy how last time I posted around here, I was just returning back to "normalcy" post- Cozumel. April was kinda sorta the month from hell, and in May I immediately jumped from school mode to summer mode by beginning my summer job at a local day care. I was a fill-in/substitute teacher, helping when teachers went on vacation; if no teachers were on vacation, I spent my days split between the Pre-K and toddler classes, and helping teachers when they needed an extra set of hands.

   And now, here's August. Classes start two weeks from tomorrow. Friday is my last day at work. The summer both dragged on and sped by all at once. Time is interesting like that, isn't it?

 Transitioning from being a full-time student to being a full-time 40 hour a week employee was difficult. I was totally not anticipating the drastic change, though I totally should have. It's a totally different way of life.
    Besides that, I loved this summer. I enjoyed never being bored, unlike past summers. I laughed every day, both at funny things kids said or did, and at my co-workers' antics. The kids could make me smile AND drive me nuts within a 5 minute period. I've always LOVED kids, but if this summer has taught me anything, is that kids can sometimes be overwhelming. Okay, a LOT overwhelming. They are so all over the place-- and that's what makes them fun to be around (annnd definitely what makes me totally exhausted by 5pm every day).  This job taught me a lot about how to manage a classroom, even though my future classroom will likely be filled with teenagers. ;)  

  This job was my first experience with a full-time job. It made me grow up a LOT. I was scared at first, realizing that I was in charge of these tiny humans. Especially if I was by myself with the kids; the first few weeks, I was so unsure of myself. I didn't know what I had permission to do (if anything) or if I said or did something in a class that a co-teacher disagreed with, or if I should just jump in and act like their full-time teacher. I felt clueless at times. Really, I felt like a kid myself- how could I be responsible for kids in a classroom?!?! How were they going to look to me as the adult to listen to, when I barely felt (feel) like an adult myself?!?!
     After I got the hang of it so to speak, I loosened up and started feeling confident. Even when the kids were unruly, or when they wouldn't sit down or stop talking when they were supposed to, or when they started scream-singing Let it Go at the top of their lungs-- I tried to enjoy it and learn from it.

  And so, here we are at the end of the summer and the cusp of a new school year. Senior year, to be exact. (though I won't earn that official title til January). The fact that I'm at this point in my life is surreal. I'm gonna miss this summer more than I realized back in May when I started this job.  Friday is going to be bittersweet, leaving the munchkins and preparing for life back in the realm of college life. I'm mostly ready for it, because I miss my friends and am ready for my next chapter. I'm looking forward to starting classes (minus the papers and lesson plans that loom ahead) and being back on campus.
   But closing the chapter on this summer will be different than in past summers. It's been a summer of growth, a summer of (mostly) solitude (minus a few friend excursions, I've spent most of my off-time at home, reading or online shopping. Oops.), and a summer of fun, sweet moments with a bunch of cute, (slightly) crazy kids (and some crazy adults too).  I'm excited for what's to come, but am sad over what I'll be missing.

  August brings so must change, every year. This year more so than in other years. Though I'm sad to leave the summer behind, I'm excited to embrace what the fall has in store.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

What I Learned In March- COZUMEL EDITION!

So, I've had a really hard time articulating my thoughts about Cozumel this year, hence why I haven't written my usual Cozumel blog post (or any blog post as of late). It's been taking me a bit longer to process this time around, and a lot more time adjusting back to normalcy. I know friends and family that I haven't been able to talk to directly want to know some details about the trip though, so until I am ready to formally write about it, I thought I'd combine it with my monthly "What I Learned" Post via Emily.  I'll be ready soon with a more beautifully written prose about what Cozumel meant to me this year, but my heart needs a little more time to sort through it all.

Bottom line: it was an amazing trip, where I felt God moving and working, both in the old friendships and new bonds. It was wonderful, different (in good and bad ways),  and some beautiful memories were made I'll always cherish. I miss Ciudad and Cozumel with every fiber of my being.

Without further ado, here are some things I learned in Cozumel:

1. The best days/weeks go by the fastest. The worst days go by the slowest.
How is this right, universe? Why should the worst days take forever, and the best ones feel like they are cut short? We left for Cozumel 2 weeks from March 1st. Those were two of the painstakingly hardest weeks of the semester (between classes and the anxiousness of wanting to be in Cozumel), and felt practically unending. The trip itself was 8 days (including 1 1/2 travel days), and yet it felt like it was over in the blink of an eye. Though most days were long, (10+ hours) jam-packed busy days, it really never felt like it to me. Time goes by so fast when you do something you love. The irony is that the culture is so, so much slower down there. I love it, but it's such a tough dichotomy between  a slow, relaxed atmosphere and yet time itself going by so darn fast!

2. Reunions in the dark are hard.

On the 1st night we're there, we have our annual "S'more Fest", where we are reunited for the 1st time with the angels over s'mores outside on the campus. By the time we get to the campus, it is already dark, so it was hard to reconnect with some of the kids. Conny didn't recognize me in the dark, but the next day we were back to how we were the year prior, as if a year hadn't lapsed between visits! I love that girl.
The next morning, in the sunshine so I could see her beautiful face!
3. Never underestimate the difference 1 year can make. 

One of the things I love about this trip is the opportunity to go back year to year. I am so thankful I was able to go for a 2nd year, and Lord willing I'll return for a 3rd next year. It AMAZED me to see the difference a year made, both physically and in personality. Some were the same with some minor differences, some were drastically different, but there wasn't one kid that was exactly the same. I guess part of me felt like they'd freeze in time and stay the same, but they of course change and grow and grow up, just like us. I wasn't prepared for this, especially with the little ones! It's crazy what one year can do. 

Cristi- still the baby (for now!), but man, she isn't a baby anymore. So much bigger, more talkative, and so. much. sassier. (how on earth was THAT possible?!?!) Here, she was demanding it was *her* turn for her nails to be painted. (and they sure got painted too!)
And don't even get me started on how much THIS girl has grown up. **Sigh** Such a beauty.

4. No matter how much he grows up, I can always count on Carlos to take silly photos on my phone/camera. 
I'll let these pictures speak for themselves: 
We tried the whole "selfie" think but this is how it turned out. Haha.  

This one's my favorite. :)
Such. a. goof. 
5. The Sheet Game= Real-Life Name That Angel. 
At our team retreat, we play a very competitive game called Name That Angel, where we have to guess the kid's names after Mark reads us a description of them (we get a few minutes to study the info packet with names, pics, and descriptions). It's rather intense and a fun way to start learning names. 
So, on one of the nights we had the grandes (teenagers) over for food and games and a devo. The game Abby and Luke came up with was called the sheet game- we split up, Lipscomb vs. Grandes, sat across from each other, and each took a turn saying our names; after that, they held up a sheet in front of both teams, and one by one we sat in front of the sheet, the sheet would drop and we had to try to guess a person's name from the other team that was on the other side. Andrew called it real-life Name That Angel... and I about died of laughter. It was true, and absolutely hilarious! We played for practice at retreat... now we have to play the real-deal. 
Not gonna lie... this game stressed me out; but seeing how much the grandes got into it was the best. You'd think that since we knew the kids names and had studied them prior, we would have won, but alas- the grandes beat us by one! (sub-lesson: teenagers are competitive no matter what nationality they are). 

(enough silly stuff (for now), now onto more serious/Jesus lessons):

6. When you ask God for something specifically, He really, really delivers. 

He may not deliver in the way you expect, but man, does He deliver.

 I went into the trip very exhausted and drained; the semester (especially the hellish week leading UP to the trip!) has been busy and rough and all kinds of stressful. It showed on the first night (you know, the awkward reunion-in-the-dark), and I just knew I HAD to do better.

 I was having quiet time/journal time outside, by the pool the next morning, when Jesus Culture's "Holy Spirit" played on my phone. 

I had been journaling about the night prior and how I felt about it, and this song kind of stopped me for a minute. Instead of continuing to journal, I wrote out a prayer in my journal - a prayer that I would become fully aware of God's spirit, and that I seek His presence and where He was leading me with my whole heart. When you pray for God to show up, He doesn't just trickle in... He overwhelms. In the best way possible. 

 Becoming aware and seeing God's presence became a theme for me for this trip in different aspects, but it was in this prayer of asking for awareness that I was able to see and feel God throughout this trip. This whole writing down a prayer was a different thing for me- but I kept doing it everyday(anybody else think of Abilene writing her prayers from The Help like I did?); after I'd write about the day and what all happened, I'd write a prayer out for the next day, asking for whatever I felt like I needed to do or whatever was coming my way that day. But each prayer started with asking for His presence- and the awareness of His presence. And as I'll talk about in the next lesson, He answered this for me in some beautiful ways. Something about writing the words where I can see them and go back and see exactly how he answered my prayer is just so powerful. Even going back and reading them now, seeing how they changed throughout the week, how my prayers started including specific kids and events... it really brought me a whole different way of remembering parts and memories of the trip.  I've been continuing this practice since I came home, and I hope it becomes a habit in my prayer life. 

7. God works in the smallest, most spontaneous moments of our lives. 

I think I oftentimes look for and expect God in these grandiose, in-your-face, overt actions. Sometimes, He does come through those, in these larger-than-life moments that are unmistakably God. But as He's been teaching me, and as He primarily taught me through this trip, it's in those more miniscule, almost forgettable moments that He works His way into. . . into the margins of the day, in the little in-between details and the spontaneous moments and words that He speaks to life when we aren't looking. Sometimes it's in those moments that you don't think of when they happen, but look back on in reflection and have a sort of "aha!" moment- that God was all over that moment without my noticing. 

It's amazing to see how God works His joy into every part of our day, especially while I'm in Cozumel. While His presence became overwhelming (as I mentioned in lesson #6), it was overwhelming in these little obscure, fleeting moments where God revealed Himself and His lessons to me. It reminds me of one of my favorite hymns, My Father's World, particularly this line : "This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair; In the rustling grass I hear Him pass; He speaks to me everywhere."

Some of the best, God-soaked moments were the littlest, private details, such as:
-Marce pointing me out and recognizing me the 1st night- best. feeling. EVER.
-Painting nails with Conny and Cristi 
-Watching Conny color, write my name (how she remembered it AND knew how to spell it I'll NEVER know), and give her drawings to me as a gift. 
-Carlos and his silly faces
-Chasing Marce around the playground and hearing that God-given musical laugh. I miss that laugh. 
-Realizing that I have almost enough broken Spanish and Wendy has enough broken English to hold a decent conversation! 
-Letting Conny and Alicia play with my hair (the results of that were just fabulous)

-Seeing Wendy's face COVERED in stickers (and the fact that at age 13, she didn't seem to care. That made it better).
-Watching the kids that could swim really well, and helping those that couldn't swim (especially that little goober Cristi who was SO determined to get to the deep end despite not being able to swim a lick). It was kinda crazy sitting there thinking how much they depended on us in that moment...
-Seeing Marce's face light up when she saw me from across the playground- and her running into my arms for a hug (I think there's a picture of that somewhere, but I haven't found it yet)
-watching Wendy work on her own on a craft, then receiving a card (in English) from her. The sweetest. 
-reading to Marce and seeing her try to make some of the sounds/ faces of the story (Andrew was right, I WAS in heaven in that moment).
There are many more I could list, but I think I made my point: God is in everything. He really does speak to me everywhere, even when I'm struggling to hear Him at all.
It's amazing what one little prayer can do to open my eyes to His presence. Especially in such a God-breathed place- it's really not hard to see God there, but when you're struggling like I was, letting God open my eyes really showed me all the little places He was intervening in.

8. Relational trips are really awesome. They are also really, really hard. 
 Ask just about anyone that knows me, and you'll know I'm not the best with my hands. I'm clumsy, I turn just about everything into a bigger and better mess, and asking me to build something is just out of the question. Which is why, as I've learned due to previous trips, that a mission trip based around building/a work project is not for me. I used to think those were the only kind of mission trips, until I came to Lipscomb. I'd never heard of a trip solely based on relationships-- but it seemed right up my alley. Yes, we do work projects and some task-y things while we're at Ciudad, but the primary goal is to build relationships and love on these kids while we're there. It's so great, because I LOVE getting to know people and love that relationship and being with people is the center of our trip. It was so much fun spending time bonding and engaging in conversation that I'll remember forever. 

It's also really hard, because at the end of the week you have to leave those friendships back in Mexico, with a "hasta proximo año" (I hope), and return to normalcy. It's not easy. I miss the kids, I miss the conversations, the laughs... I miss it all! It's hard to come back to reality after 1 short week of spending time at Ciudad.

9. These angels are normal kids and teens, and should be loved as such. 

A friend/team member of mine pointed this out a couple times while on the trip; I didn't really 'get' it for myself though until later. I guess I kinda have a tendency to assume that since they're in a children's home, their circumstances make them extremely different.  But their circumstances don't make them any less human. They still act and behave like kids and teenagers do, they just come home to Ciudad as opposed to a normal living situation.  Yes, they do have some different situations and some things that are different about them, because of what they've been through and because of life at Ciudad; however, they don't let that stop them from being themselves. 

The little kids are like normal kids, that like to play games and want you to push 'em on the swings or chase them around. The teenagers are like normal teenagers that sometimes don't want to sing in front of everyone with their siblings for fear of embarrassment (sorry Wendy), or don't like school and would rather play soccer, or like the same bands or singers or movies you do. They all like hugs and high fives. They love crafts, and they love to laugh-with you and at you. 
They want us (me) to realize that they are human, and they deserve to be loved and treated like such--- not any different because of their circumstances. I'm starting to understand this looking back on the trip. 

10. Ciudad will ALWAYS have a piece of my heart. 

There aren't many words to describe what this place means to me. I can't wait to (Lord-willing) return next year to the friendships and the silliness and the sweet sweet people there. My friend Lydia last year said that God's fingerprints were visible all over Ciudad... and she couldn't be more right. My heart is filled with such joy and peace from the minute I'm there, and my prayer is that the love and joy and peace I had there will be visible back here too. It's hard, but I know God is here in Nashville like He was in Ciudad... I just have to tune my heart more to see Him. I can't wait to be back in this place someday soon. 

(& one last fun lesson!)

11. Mexican kids love Frozen too! 
We learned this during our Wednesday hang out time in Casa 3... After the Americans in the room gave a rousing performance of "Let It Go", we noticed they knew the words too! We then proceeded to find the Spanish version of the song and let the kids sing it. It was the cutest. thing. ever. Then all of us decided to perform the English version and video tape it... Probably one of the most outlandish things I've ever done, but it was so much fun! I have a video of them singing the spanish one... but my phone isn't cooperating at the moment, so hopefully I'll add it soon!

Until next time, thanks for reading about what I learned in Cozumel! 

Friday, February 28, 2014

What I Learned In February

Jumping on board with Emily again for her "what I learned" series.

I forgot that February was short, because February felt SO FREAKING LONG. It wasn't my best month, so I'm glad it's over; if I'd had to deal with another week of February I dunno what I would have done.  0.o One week I was sick,the next I was extremely busy (while sick), then this week was just one of those where everything that could go wrong did. So fun. Yay that it's over!

1. I always get sick at the most inopportune times. 

Always. Pneumonia 4 days before my service club's biggest event of the year? So fun. I spent Valentines weekend in bed, with very little human interaction. It was part glorious and part miserable. Two weeks later, I'm still coughing.

2. Never underestimate the power of bake sales. 

We raised a fairly decent amount of money with a bake sale and t-shirt sale. I was floored. People like baked things apparently.

3. Sitting in the student center at said bake sale everyday for 2 hours drove my introverted self in a tizzy (especially while still sick!), but it was perfect for people watching. 

Especially since it was 60 degrees almost all week, and EVERYONE was outside. IT WAS PERFECT, Y'ALL.  The introvert in me loved all the people watching. Crazy things happen when you sit in the student center for hours on end. (In a related story, I never want to sit in the student center that long ever again).

 I did sneak out some to sit in the sunshine, and man, it was wonderful. And now it's back to freezing and snow warnings and someone please make it stop. Please!

4. Baking is a really cathartic stress reliever. 

I already knew this, but I baked a lot this month, and this couldn't have been more true. Baking gives a sense of control to me when everything else goes haywire. And the rewards are glorious (though my rewards went to the bake sale and not to me, haha). My baker of a mama has apparently trained me well, my tagalong brownies were a hit. Mmm so good.

5. Poetry involves a lot of math.

Between figuring out the syllables to figuring out the meter, it made my head hurt. Any type of writing that requires math is NOT for me, I know that much.

6. My English professors would make very good theatre people. 

Seriously. So much theatrics! Especially Dr. Reed and Dr. Garrett, they are so dramatic in class. I love it. Dr. Reed particularly, she is downright adorable.

7. Sky High probably gave me my best workout ever.
Wall to wall trampolines, including a trampoline dodgeball court? That was a blast. I wanna go back!
  In other news, my pneumonia-sickly lungs still haven't forgiven me.

8. I am in dire need of quiet and rest. 

Sleep doesn't come til 1-2am most nights, and then I toss and turn so restful sleep rarely happens. Blah. I've  been going, going, going, ALL month long, and it wore me out bad, both physically and spiritually (the latter primarily).

 I've been good about quiet time this school year, but I've been slipping this semester. It's a struggle to make time, especially for someone like me that needs to do everything but be still and rest. Such a struggle.
 I need to take better care of myself, both spiritually and physically (cause obviously me getting so sick again is NOT an option. DO YOU HEAR ME IMMUNE SYSTEM?!?)

9. I love the Lenten/Easter season. (and NOT just for the Jellybeans.)

Okay the jellybeans might be part of it. Especially the starburst ones, though they are my favorite candy ever (don't judge).

But really, the Lenten season IS my favorite season of the year, spiritually speaking. It's so important and reverent and lovely. I love Easter and springtime coinciding, showing us literal rebirth of nature as we prepare and celebrate the resurrection. How poignant and fitting, right?
I'm still working on what I'm giving up and adding on for Lent, but I can guarantee you it'll have to do with #8 above. :)

10. Adding a new dog to the family after losing our boy is incredibly bittersweet. 

Losing Sebastian so suddenly and unexpectedly sucked. It's been so freaking hard; even three months later it takes everything in me not to cry when I think about it or look through pictures. Mom and I both knew we needed to add a new member to the family, to help ease the heartache of losing our bay Bastian. We knew it wouldn't replace or fill the hole he left, but we needed a source of some happiness back that we lost when he left.
So, when one of Mom's customers told her about a pug that needed a new home, Mom went for it:

This is Lola. I swear her face resembles Grumpy Cat's, but I digress. She's pretty darn cute. She's 2 1/2, so she's still in the puppy stage a bit. I haven't met her yet, but I'm hoping I can go home before Spring break to get some pug snuggles.  Mom calls her a hyper little diva. I love it.

Part of me is comforted and happy, part of me looks at her and wants to cry because I want my boy back so bad. I'm beyond happy my Mom has a new pug to love and snuggle with, I can already see a huge difference Lola has made in her. She's been ten times the wreck I've been since Sebastian died; while she won't bring him back, she does bring a bit of him back home, and for that, I'm happy.

As much as I love and miss my boy, I absolutely love our new little girl.

11. March is destined to be a great month. 

I'm calling it now!! Hear me, God? It's gonna be awesome.

2 weeks from tomorrow, I'll be back with these beautiful babies:


 And man, I  cannot wait. 

So here's to leaving February behind... and embracing March for the beauty that it's bound to bring. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

fully known. fully loved. [fully needed]

Normally, this semester, my Wednesday nights are alternated between two activities: Wednesday Night Devo (for Campus Ministry), and Cozumel meetings. This Wednesday was supposed to be a Cozumel week, but our "fun" meeting got postponed to next week, so I got to go to devo instead.

God plans things for a reason, I think.

Isaac, the guy that spoke, talked about John 17: where Jesus is praying for us, for unity, to be united in encountering Jesus, and the like. It was great.

But I'm not gonna lie: it's been a long week. A very exhaustingly long week.  I wasn't 100% tuned in in the beginning. And I probably didn't get the point he was truly trying to make, but God put me there tonight to here something, at least.

Then he spoke a little about being fully loved and fully known and what that feels like, and how once we encounter Jesus we can be fully loved and fully known. That grabbed my attention.

He said two things that really caught my attention:

He talked about how we are afraid if people really know us, they'll stop loving us- that's why we only let people see a side of us before we let them truly know us. We have to test the waters, to make sure people are worth letting in.
You can love me all you want, but if you want to get to know the whole me, I'm afraid you won't love me anymore, and vice versa (if you love me, you probably don't know me well enough not to love me)- this is the idea.

And he's absolutely right, at least for me.  I struggle with letting people fully into my world, for the fear that they'll walk out if they see me at face-value. If people knew the real- the whole- me, would I still be loved? Can I be loved by the people that know me fully and wholly? I want people to only see the lovable parts of me.  I don't want people to see the bad or the ugly... just the good, then I'll be loved.

But that's not the only side of me to be loved.

I probably need to be loved more because of the bad and the ugly; I need to be loved through and with the bad traits, bad habits, tough moments, and not just through the good things about me. But I can't let people fully love me- the good, the bad, and the ugly- without letting them fully know me- every part of me. I just can't win at this, can I? I don't want to be just known, either- being known but not feeling loved just plain sucks.  I want,  I need to be loved and known, because one really doesn't sit well without the other.

But it's hard. It's hard when you struggle with vulnerability like myself to let people fully know me, and love me, because I'm afraid people will write me off once I let them too far in. I'm afraid I'll be left broken hearted if I open my heart too wide. How can someone really love me in spite of the things I do, the things I've been through? Why would someone take one look at me and still decide I'm worth loving?
 These are the thoughts that plague me, day in and day out. It's taken me forever to realize that the people that say they love you and mean it want to know you. They want to know my life, my struggles, and love me through them. They want to love the pieces of my heart that aren't quite put back together. But they can't love me if I don't let the walls down, if I don't let them try to get to know me. The people that truly love you will stick around, and be a listening ear, and will be your support when you screw up and fall. They love you in spite of yourself, and those are the people to spend your time loving and knowing.

I love this Timothy Keller quote (yes it's from a book about marriage, but it fits!):

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

It's the same with God, too, I think. I want to show God how good I am, the good things I'm doing... but not the sad, the  brokenness, the struggles, and the heartaches. I want to keep all that under control myself and offer him the good girl part of myself.

But He doesn't want that. He doesn't want just that- He wants everything.  Relationship calls us to a two-way street- where we encounter God in every aspect of who we are, not just the times we need Him or in the happy times. He already knows who we are- yet in spite of the bad and ugly parts of our souls that we try to hide, he still chooses to love us.

I keep this quote where it's visible everyday:  

The very thing we are afraid of, our brokenness, is the door to our Father’s heart. -Paul E. Miller

What I'm afraid to share with God- and everyone else- is what He wants. He wants a full-on relationship, not just a glimmer of one.

Once we let God fully into our lives, once we fully encounter Jesus for who He is- then, we can start being fully known, and fully loved. Isaac said tonight, "Jesus may be the most beautiful person we encounter." I think He's absolutely right; when I can let my walls down and let Him fully into my life, there's nothing- or no one- more beautiful. His grace and glory radiate when He is allowed to work in and through us.

He closed the devo by talking about the Mary and Martha story, which is one of my favorites.  Martha only had it partly right- doing things and serving is only part of the relationship. Sitting at the feet of Jesus like Mary, letting Him fully know and fully love you, is what is truly important if we're aiming for an intimate relationship with Him.
Once we let Him fully love and know us for who we truly are- then we can unite together and love each other. Just like Jesus wanted.

{Psalm 139:1-16,23, The Voice translation with highlighting by me}:
1 O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am;
2You even know the small details like when I take a seat and when I stand up again.
Even when I am far away, You know what I’m thinking.
3You observe my wanderings and my sleeping, my waking and my dreaming,
and You know everything I do in more detail than even I know.
4You know what I’m going to say long before I say it.
It is true, Eternal One, that You know everything and everyone.
5You have surrounded me on every side, behind me and before me,
and You have placed Your hand gently on my shoulder.
6 It is the most amazing feeling to know how deeply You know me, inside and out;
the realization of it is so great that I cannot comprehend it.
7 Can I go anywhere apart from Your Spirit?
Is there anywhere I can go to escape Your watchful presence?
8 If I go up into heaven, You are there.
If I make my bed in the realm of the dead, You are there.
9 If I ride on the wings of morning,
if I make my home in the most isolated part of the ocean,
10 Even then You will be there to guide me;
Your right hand will embrace me, for You are always there.
11 Even if I am afraid and think to myself, “There is no doubt that the darkness will swallow me,
the light around me will soon be turned to night,”
12 You can see in the dark, for it is not dark to Your eyes.
For You the night is just as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are the same to Your eyes.
13 For You shaped me, inside and out.
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath.
14 I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.
You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;
Your works are wonderful;
I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.
15 You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You
As I took shape in secret,
carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb.
16 You see all things;
You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb;
Every detail of my life was already written in Your book;
You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it.          
23 Explore me, O God, and know the real me. Dig deeply and discover who I am.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

10 Things I Learned in January

So, one of my favorite bloggers has been doing this "ten things I learned" list at the end of the month for awhile. I've been meaning to join in as a way to look back and remember stuff that has happened over the course of the month, but alas, I kept pushing it off. I decided since it's a new year and all I decided to give it a shot. Will it actually stick? We'll see. This was kinda fun actually.

1. Always, always listen to Mom (especially when it comes to snow days). 
Seriously. The weekend the dorms opened back up was the weekend of what was toted as Snowmaggedon here in Nashville (though all us natives know that snow will hit anywhere but here). Snow or no snow, we knew that ice and super cold temps were on the horizon, so I decided it'd be best to head back to school Saturday instead of Sunday, especially since I knew school wasn't going to close for the weather. Mom said apparently it didn't look like it was gonna be as bad so she suggested I wait, but we went on and took me back Saturday night. Two hours later, a campus-wide email from Lipscomb's president announces that classes are gonna be cancelled for the next two days, due to the low temps and so that out-of-towners didn't have to travel in the bad weather. Oh, irony, how I loathe thee. I could've spent two more days in my bed! With home cooked food! And the irony is that Lipscomb NEVER closes. Sigh. But it was nice to have a couple days of quiet on campus. :-)

and also: Nashville, seriously get your act together. You can't be in the single digits (with WIND) all week then all of a sudden turn 60 flipping degrees on us. I am perpetually sick thanks to the bi-polar weather. JUST PICK A SEASON ALREADY! And please let that season be warm. We've had enough cold!!

2. Taking 4 literature classes in one semester will be the death of me. 

SO. MUCH. READING, Y'ALL. Some of it is fun, but Jesus... what did I get myself into? And so much writing, but I can live with that.

3. Literature for Young Adults is the universe's way of telling me that I am (finally) in the right major.

I love all my Lit classes (despite the amount of reading), however this one is my favorite. I think this is the world's way of telling me I've found my niche. So much fun, so many good books and topics, and plus- it's an all female, English major only class, so laughing and talking about books is pretty much required.

4. Lesson #2 really impedes the whole "reading for fun" thing. 

I started reading Allegiant in October and I seriously finished it today (and proceeded to cry through the last 70 pages). I decided to start re-reading it at the beginning of January since I stopped reading it once I lost my nook charger (woo technology) so technically it took me about a month, but STILL. When you have short stories and epic poems (darn you, Iliad) to read, reading for fun at the end of the day loses when the other option is sleep.

5. Live-tweeting should be a career. 

Specifically, live-tweeting awards shows. I'd make a fortune.

6. Quiet time is essential. If you can have quiet time on a lake somewhere, it's even sweeter. 

Quiet hour on Cozumel retreat is always one of my favorite moments. Cozumel retreat in itself is one of my favorite moments, but I always get so much from sitting in the quiet. Especially when I'm sitting in front of this:

Sub-Lesson- Things I also learned on retreat include: Boys do not appreciate the hilarity that is Pitch Perfect; Name That Angel is the most competitive game ever; and Mafia is ten times funnier when played at 3 in the morning. I love retreat.

7. McKay's is seriously one of the best and worst things that's happened to my life.
Best because it is literally book heaven:

Seriously. I got SO! MANY! BOOKS! For like 20 bucks. How had I never been to this place before?
Worst: simply because I could spend my every dime in there. My wallet sighs. But I neeeeed them, you guys.

8. Sharing your life with the people you love most isn't as easy as you'd think.
Especially in person, with my voice.  I can write all day long about myself and my life... in my journal, where no one sees it. Giving a devo about my life, my story? In front of people?  Especially the people I love and work with daily. Not easy at all- terrifying, in fact. One of the scariest things I think I've done. But oh, so rewarding. It was worth the scary parts to feel a little more free and open about myself.

9.  I have officially become a night owl. 

I used to be an early bird, y'all. I would sleep as soon as the clock hit 10. I would never hit my snooze button or sleep late on the weekends. Then this last semester happened (stupid 8AM class!). Sebastian dying at 4 in the morning happened. Now I can't sleep. Usually I don't even think about sleep til 1 or 2... and even if I do think about it, I lay down and stare at the ceiling usually til 2am. I don't like this. I LIKE MY SLEEP GUYS. Moreso, I like waking up at like 10 and feeling like I have a whole day ahead of me, instead of sleeping til noon (or past 1pm like I did at my Dad's... oops). I need to remedy this.

10. This is seriously one of the best things that happened to me this month:

Do yourself a favor and go read this book (The Fault in Our Stars by John Green). And watch the movie trailer. It'll make you laugh and want to curl up in a corner and sob all at once. It's that good. 
January favorites/ discoveries:
Books: Allegiant (duh), The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass by Mandy Hale (SOOO GOOD Y'ALL).
Music: Kacey Musgraves (Follow Your Arrow has been on repeat since the Grammy's); Lorde (love her); Dave Barnes' new album (specifically Little Civil War)
Movies: Pitch Perfect (see lesson 6); Mean Girls (this movie never gets old); Frozen- which I haven't seen yet (I know I'm horrible) but I'm determined to see it before it leaves theaters. I've heard the music and know the premise, but I'd still like to see the actual movie!
 "Anybody who has survived childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of the days." Flannery O'Connor (from my Lit Studies book) (so much truth)
and "The very thing we are afraid of, our brokenness, is the door to our Father’s heart." -Paul E. Miller (this one is so true for me, especially after lesson #8).

Well, February is here, and it is one of my busiest months. (And I thought January was bad!) but if it goes as well as my 1st day in February, where I saw this at the end of the unusually warm day:

Then February is going to be just lovely. :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

My One Word: 2014 Edition.

   Happy 2014! I'd planned on writing about 2013 and new years resolutions and whatnot a few days ago... but I've just been so busy being so lazy. I know when school starts back Monday (yay/boo!), life will be kicked into high flipping gear, so I'm soaking up the lazy days while I still have them. Between classes, work, PKS, Cozumel meetings and fundraising... it's gonna be a fun, crazy busy semester.
    2013 was a pretty good year, if I say so myself. The whole not doing a long messy new year's resolution to try (and subsequently give up on 3 months later) was a good idea. I didn't feel like I had something I had to add to my to-do list.
I did, however, adopt a word a la the "My One Word" concept. (confession: still haven't read the actual book about this. Gotta get a move on that).

   The "word" I chose for last year was beautiful.  I focused on changing my world using the word beautiful:  seeing myself as beautiful, understanding what the word beautiful means to myself and the world around me, learning how to love myself and see myself as God sees me.
It was one of those things that God apparently knew I needed, because He kept sending me things along the way to help me understand it better.

Things like Cozumel, where the love of a child was pure and beautiful and heartbreakingly powerful. I cannot wait to go back to where my heart feels whole in March! Cozumel helped me see myself differently: through the eyes of a child.

A video that just happened to go viral in the midst of trying to understand how I could ever feel beautiful. God is funny sometimes.

A wonderful book that is still helping me work through this whole mess. It's funny how the book transitions to talking about self esteem and beauty to talking about the word I've decided to work on this year. (More on that later...)

   God used plenty of other things to help me, too: other books, quotes and scripture, music... when I said I wanted to do this, it was as if God just put everything in my lap that I needed to succeed in it. He's good like that.

   Instead of focusing on a list of things to do, I focused on a word to be, a thought to believe in. I think, for the most part, I was successful.
    Do I always see myself as beautiful? More and more each day. It's a take-it-day-by-day kind of thing. For now. Am I understanding what beauty is and means? Yes. I'm starting to get it more and more, and am starting to understand it for myself. That's a beautiful thing in itself.

For me, it's been a whole thought transformation. I'm well on my way, though. At least I think I am.

  My one word for 2014 was pretty much set awhile back. It's been popping up so much in my life, it's as if God is saying, "are you listening NOW, child?!?"
    So, my word for 2014 is love. I want to focus one loving myself (a lot more), loving others more deeply, loving God more wholeheartedly.

  But I also want to focus on letting people love me. Letting people in more. Being vulnerable is one of the scariest things I've ever experienced, and one of the things I hardly ever let myself be.  Loving myself has to include letting others love me and walk by my side-not from a distance as I'm accustomed to.
  On a similar note, the word love to me includes not only loving God, but letting God love me. Like letting people in is a struggle, letting God in sometimes is too. I know that He knows everything, but that doesn't mean I don't like to pretend that I'm okay on my own. But I'm not.
I've mentioned in the past about I'm a little apprehensive about love in general, but especially when it comes to love and God. The idea of letting God love me, romance me... just plain freaks me out.

One of my mantra songs for the year- Beloved by Tenth Ave North

    Letting anyone love me has always been nerve-wracking. It's a trust thing... I'm always afraid of when the rug's gonna be pulled from under me. If I'm gonna say or do something wrong... the what ifs eat at my brain enough to close myself off from everyone. It's a lonely place. And it's got to stop.  Living like that is just plain hard.

   Last year I said beautiful was my "work in progress" for the year. NOT my resolution. It was something to strive to be, something to believe in for the year and beyond. The same rings true this year.

"Wanna Be Loved" by Ben Rector- a favorite of mine

This is the year I'm letting love in. All I can hope is that I finally begin to understand the depths of it.