Sunday, November 29, 2015

November Thankfulness....

I spent the month of November being Thankful for a lot of things.  I actually managed to stay on top of my thankful posts each day, which is a huge accomplishment for me.  I usually get behind and then have to do five at once to get caught up.  

Those posts allowed me to truly think about what I was thankful for each day.  It gave me a chance to focus on the good things that were going on.  So often I get so caught up in what is going wrong, or analyzing everything that is happening in my life that I forget to just stop and be thankful for the good.  

I am so thankful for the way God is working right now in my life.  Somethings are hard because I feel myself being chipped away.  I feel the things that aren't good in me being pulled out and thrown away.  That's hard.  It's a hard thing to realize those parts of yourself that need to be changed and shined up.  

Perfection isn't something that is within my grasp.  I can't be perfect, but I can be thankful for the things that I am learning and the ways that I am growing.  

In this month of thankfulness I have realized just how many people God has brought in my life.  I have realized just how much I have to be thankful for.  

I'm happy for the time to reflect, and am hopefully that I don't lose it! 

Believe without Seeing...

I have started writing this post 3 different times and can't seem to figure out what I want/need to say.  There is so much going on in my head and heart right now.  I feel filled up and empty all at the same time.  Is that even possible to feel both of those things?  

I feel filled up because I had an epic time this week hanging out with family.  It was just what my soul and heart needed.  Our family, they are the people that have seen us through everything.  Some extended families don't have moments together like we did growing up, but I feel like my childhood was shaped by my cousins, aunts, uncles, and our times together.  I learned how to play cards sitting around my grandparent's dining room table.  I learned how to joke around with people because my uncles, and cousins teased constantly. I learned how to have fun whether playing football, snowball fights, or just sitting around talking.  Those people, they impacted me.  Family should accept you for who you are.  That's what they should do.  Despite the imperfections and misunderstandings I feel like my family does.  They accept me for who I am.  We aren't a perfect family, but we love each other.  

So....filled up in love then why do I feel the opposite today?  Why am I questioning my worth and value?  What voice am I hearing.  Not God's.  I know that He loves and values me, I know that those around me love and value me, and yet I find myself unable to believe it.  

Today the challenge was to believe without seeing.  Believe and trust that God has everything in control and He will do what He says.  I want to believe.  I want to believe so much that He is faithful in answering something that I have been praying for awhile, but I just can't right now.  I don't know how to believe when I feel inadequate and like  I have made too many mistakes to deserve this prayer being answered.  

Sometimes being still and waiting is the hardest part.  Sometimes believing without seeing seems pretty much impossible.  

Perhaps it isn't trying so hard to believe without seeing on my own.  Perhaps the part that I need to get is I need to listen to the stories around me.  I need to seek what God is trying to say, and do...and I need to be quiet for awhile.  

Seeking Him in the silence.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Authentically Letting Someone Go...

When I think about those that have left deep imprints in my life most of the time they are people that I am still in contact with on a regular basis.  FB has definitely allowed the world to become a little bit smaller in that way.  I can see what friends and family are doing on the other side of the globe, I can share pictures of our memories, and I can stay close to them even though I am thousands of miles away.  

There are those though that have left imprints on my life, in my heart that I have had to let go.  There are those that I am still in the process of letting go.  I think letting go is the hardest when it is the other person that you know is going to hurt more from the loss.  It is the hardest when you see the potential for that person, but you know that you can no longer play a part in unleashing that potential.  It is the hardest when you realize that your friendship with them is actually more toxic for the two of you then helpful.  

How do you let someone go, when you have been through so much together?  When you have helped each other, hurt each other, and dreamed together?  I don't know the right answer actually.  I don't know if there is one set formula to letting someone go, but I do know that it has to happen.  I know that in a lot of cases letting go means moving on.  Letting go means healing from the hurt, pain, and toxicity that controlled who you were and are as a person.   

Sometimes the best thing we can do for someone else is to let them go.  Even though it doesn't seem like the right thing to do necessarily but if you are always looking backwards, and reopening past wounds, then there will never be an opportunity to look forward.  Letting go stinks sometimes, it causes more pain for a little while, but in the end I think that part of being authentic to yourself is realizing that God is the only one that can truly touch hearts, and change them.  He is the only one that can help a human realize their need for Him.  

Today I am letting go of someone that has been in my life for awhile, not because I don't care...but because if I don't then I can't be who I am supposed to be.  I can't move forward and truly live authentically.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

When my hometown became HOME again...

I haven't called Columbia home for awhile now.  The dwellings of my parents have really been what have kept me coming back.    Since I left Columbia for college, the longest I have lived in this city was 2 years.  Moving and change has been my thing.  I had this weirdness towards Columbia that I think came about because of circumstances that were beyond my control.  My life changed my senior year of high school.  This change whether it can really be called good or bad, I don't really care to define it.  Whatever it was though, it changed me.  It made me a person that didn't want to be confined to this city, to these streets, to this culture.  It made me a person that wanted adventure, to seek out those that were different from me, and to embrace the changes that needed to take place.  

I left, and didn't really look back.  I had moments of wanting to settle down in the United States, but never Columbia.  My heart was never there, as much as I willed it to be...I felt this urge within me to keep moving, having adventures, and embracing all that I could be.  I think some part of me thought that if I settled down in Columbia, that would be it.  Good-bye adventures, good-bye fun life.  It's a bit dramatic when you think about it, but that was my perspective.

Until this year.  I know that it has been coming for awhile.  I could feel myself easing in to a life in this crazy town.  I could feel myself letting down the walls that I had so carefully constructed around myself.  I could feel myself beginning to let down my defenses, beginning to be a part of this community.  Beginning to fall in love with the idea of settling down in Columbia.  

There's still a part of me that is fighting it.  There is still a part of me that is are halfway through your second year, isn't it time to start looking for a new place to move to.  But the part of me that wants to start looking for an apartment.  The part of me that wants to feel comfortable enough to be completely vulnerable with those around me.  That part of me is getting stronger.  

I have never had an apartment in Columbia.  I have always just lived at my parents till the next move occurred.  To me this next step is a big one.  It says I am willing to risk the hurt and pain to take a chance on this place.  I am willing to finally make Columbia my home again.  

I'm all in.  

Protests heard around the world...

Today I listened to a sermon that changed my life.  It wasn't because it was necessarily things that I hadn't heard or didn't already know, but it was because for once I saw a pastor standing up in front of a group of people being completely authentically real.  I saw a pastor saying let's truly look at this from Jesus' perspective and it warmed my heart.  

This past week has been SO incredibly hard in my city.  We have come into the spotlight of the entire world, and it has been eye-opening.  It has been hard to read the comments posted on social media this week, and not just completely break down sobbing because people are so cruel.  It has been hard to listen to "Christians" bad mouth each other, and make judgements based on race instead of on God's love.  

I wanted to write so many times this week, but I just found myself at a loss for words.  You see I have friends with all kinds of different opinions.  The thing is that I can listen to all of them.  I can listen to all of them because I have learned how to listen.  Am I perfect at listening?  No, ofcourse not!  But do I know that everyone has a story to tell...Yes!  

In my travels overseas I have oftentimes been a minority in a foreign country.  Sometimes it benefited me because people knew I was a white American, but other times it hurt me.  Other times it hurt me to my core.  A year of my life was spent with men making hissing noises, kissing noises, and yelling at me as I walked down the streets on a daily basis.  It wasn't fun, it wasn't fair, and it made me feel worthless.  That's part of my story.  I have been told that a man couldn't marry me because I was the wrong color.  That's my story.  Things have been said to me that I won't even write here because they are so horrible, things that men wanted to do to me because I am white.  That's also a part of my story.  Those things don't define me, but they affect me.  

When I see words that people write, words that are hateful and cruel, it makes me want to pick that person up and put them in a place where they know no one, where they are the minority, and where they have to rely on strangers to get around.  When everything is stripped away that is familiar I think that helps you understand a little more, have a little more compassion, and a desire to get to know the stories of others.  

We each walk in our own shoes.  We are each afraid of rejection, loneliness, and discrimination.  That looks different, to different people.  My willingness to listen and actually hear someone else's story without trying to figure out what I want to say next is the key to making this world a better place.  

This week there was a lot of hurt and pain.  There were a lot of things said that I think didn't need to be said.  There are still a lot of people that are hurt by the events, and probably will continue to be.  But like what was said this morning in our sermon.  There is no way that we will all agree.  It is impossible in the fallen world we live in, but there is a possibility of reconciliation with each other.  We have to be willing to be vulnerable and authentic.  To tear away the barriers that want to divide us, open our ears and listen to the stories of those around us.  That is when change, reconciliation, and new beginnings will appear.  

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Red Cup Dilemma...

I can't even really believe that we are having this dilemma right now.  The red cup dilemma...really people are getting so irate about the freaking color of a cup?  First of all, Starbucks doesn't have to do anything that involves Christmas, they don't claim to be a Christian organization.  If you don't like that they don't celebrate Christmas, then don't freaking buy STARBUCKS!  It's as simple as that.  There are SO MANY more important things going on in the world.  In fact take all the time and energy you spend getting mad over the color of a cup, and put that towards feeling upset that there are men, women, and children that won't have a home to live in during the Christmas season this year.  Get mad over the fact that elderly people can't afford to buy medicine because they don't have the income or insurance to cover it.  Or that people all over the world are DYING for believing in Jesus.  Put your energy into something that actually matters.  

This weekend I gave a homeless guy a bag of food.  I don't say that to brag on myself, but I say that because the look on his face when he got that bag of food, was pretty much the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed.  He was truly thankful.  

In the past I have been known to judge those standing on the street corners.  I have been known to overlook the fact that they have stories.  I have been known to say "why don't they just get a job."  That judgement on my part was part of this red cup- first world mentality.  Not everyone can just go out and get a job.  Not everyone knows where their next meal is coming from.  Not everyone has had the privilege that I have.  

It's a humbling experience to look in the face of someone who has nothing and hear their story.  Looking into their eyes and seeing the doubt and fear.  Understanding them in the depth of their soul.  That takes looking outside of myself.  That takes compassion and love.  That takes getting outside of the first-world mentality, and not putting myself on a pedestal.  

I don't belong on a pedestal.  There is nothing that makes me better then that man on the street I saw the other day.  Nothing.  He was created by God, the same as I was.  He is valued and loved just as much.  There is nothing that should make me feel superior to another human being, and yet I do.  I find myself standing in judgement a LOT.  

For this holiday season, I am going to challenge myself to know people's stories.  I am going to look up from my phone, look into people's eyes and listen to where they are coming from.  I am going to value people by helping when I can.  I am going to love them beyond myself, because after all isn't that what the holidays are truly all about?  Jesus didn't come to argue about a freaking red cup.  He came to show His love to a world that had lost hope.  He came to show us how to be His hands and Feet.  He came to give.....

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Doubt and Fear

Sometimes I think that I am in this continuous cycle of doubt and fear.  Doubt in myself, doubt in the way others view me, and fear that I am just making one mistake after another.  Do you ever analyze things so much that you lose track of yourself?  You continue to play every single second of every moment, thinking about your words and actions, hoping and praying that they came across right, and that you aren't in fact coming across as crazy as you somehow feel?  

There shouldn't be doubt in my heart or mind right now, because I know who I am.  I know what God has brought me through and I know what is expected of me.  But I just feel myself caught up in doubt.  I just feel myself afraid that I am not good enough, or strong enough, or wise enough to beat whatever it is that is trying to hold me back from being authentically me.  

Sometimes my fear and doubt comes from my expectations of others.  We are all traveling in our own little worlds, and sometimes we are unaware of how what we are doing or saying is affecting those around us.  My expectations for others are pretty high...I know that.  I know that I have this crazy way of reading into things, when they actually mean nothing.  I get my feelings hurt pretty easily, and I feel things pretty deeply when I really shouldn't.  

This is my reality, and I have to work on it.  I have to allow myself to feel fear and doubt without it affecting the way I view myself.  I have to accept the feelings for what they are, and find a way to overcome them.  To get past the analyzing, and just live in the moment.  So many times we say "give it to God" like it is super easy to just hand over all the self-doubt and fear that has had years and years to run wild in our minds and hearts.  Feelings can't just be handed over on a silver platter.  Feelings are real and true.  Feelings are what makes us uniquely ourselves.  

Today I accept that I have doubt and fear.  I accept that it is a part of me, but I also do not allow these feelings to define me.  I allow them to be a part of me for a little while and then work on replacing them with trust and hope.  Trust and hope that God has the power and love to overcome whatever feelings I am dealing with in spite of my unwillingness to let Him.  Trust and hope that in spite of my feelings I can be authentically and bravely me!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Drinking the Wrong Water...

Yesterday's sermon wasn't so encouraging for me, because honestly it made me face some of my past decisions.  It made me examine some truths in my life, that I would just rather push aside and forget that they exist.  You see I found myself sympathizing with the woman in the know the one that has had "five husbands."  Now don't get me wrong I am not claiming to have lived the lifestyle that Jesus so clearly called her out on, and yet maybe I have.  

It brought me to a place of self-examination, a place where I had to look at myself and realize that I had been "drinking the wrong water, only to be thirsty again."  What is it that makes us keep going back to those people or places that are clearly not good for us?  What makes me continue to spiral downward, when I know that all I have to do is look up and take the cup that He is offering me?  Why don't I do it?  

I want the easy road.  The other road, the one with the good, thirst-quenching water it is a hard road.  It is a road full of heart-ache and pain.  A road that I have traveled down and continually found myself with people, and in situations that seem so much more difficult then the other.  At least that is what it seems like from my flawed human perspective. 

Yet I wonder, maybe I need to go down the so-called "easy road" first.  Maybe I need to look my sin straight in the eye, and see that it truly doesn't quench my thirst.  Over and over again I seem to be blasted with the things that I do so completely wrong.  I seem to be blasted with the people I have let come into my heart that were not pushing me toward God, in fact they pushed me farther away.  

If I want to truly have my thirst quenched, don't I first have to realize what is making me so thirsty?  Don't I first have to see that the "water" I think I am drinking isn't in fact water, but vinegar.  It looks so good from the outside, and perhaps will even go down, but in the end it does nothing for my thirst, but leave a sour taste.  

I know that I often substitute the real living water for something more immediate and tangible.  I know that my heart has been hurt and torn because I have allowed my life to continue in a cycle of "soul thirst." 

The thirst quenching road it isn't easy, but it is worth it.  To be the "kind of worshiper the Father seeks."  To be real and authentic in admitting when I don't want the living water, but want a substitute.  

My soul doesn't want to be thirsty.  My soul longs for the Living Water, to experience love and beauty.  To worship in spirit and truth.  Sometimes I just have to be reminded that the cup is there, but I might have to have everything stripped away in order to truly taste the goodness that is in the cup.  Sometimes we can only taste, when there is nothing left but our deepest, fears and regrets.