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favorite blogs. by other people.

half the reason why i blog is because i love reading other people’s blogs. i thought, maybe other people will like reading what i write too.
mostly though, it was because britnie told me to do it instead of writing facebook notes. and i was so surprised that she read, much less LOVED, what i wrote, i figured i should do whatever she suggested. =]

and then today as i was catching up on the blogs i follow, i thought since i like when i get read, maybe they like being read too. so here are a few of my favorites.

oldenoughforfairytales.com(written by my friend’s sister who i’ve never met. i found it because one day someone from ciu shared one of her posts on facebook, and i found she’s so much like me that i couldn’t stop reading her. plus she has much better stuff to say than i do, so if you like mine, then you should definitely try her.)
livinonedayatatime.blogspot.com(written by one of my most favorite people in the world. she doesn’t update it anymore for now because she’s busy with the one below, but to really get that one, you should read some of this first)
britnieinsouthafrica.blogspot.com(even if you’ve never met her, the way she writes, you can’t help but excited about what God is doing. one of my friends who doesn’t know her said that about her. she got curious after i had told her lots of britnie stories and she looked her up)

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stories about life and God

come right out and say it.

the other day, i had a very uncomfortably funny conversation with God and realized i’ve been being super dumb.
i said “God, we haven’t talked in a long time and i don’t really know why.”
he says “because you’re hiding.”
and i say “oh. i guess that’s true…do you know why that is?”
i waited, and his reply shocked me:
“do you?”
small side note: God is a lot like dr gentry…you ask him a question, he responds with a question. they want you to think of the answer on your own. since they care about you and they’re on your side, they’ll help you get there(usually by asking you more questions), but they very rarely straight up give you the answer; in gentry’s case, that never happens.
that shut me up good because i would never make up God asking me a question; if i ever trick myself into thinking he said something, it’s always what i want to hear. so this for sure was not the other side of my head talking.
i thought for a minute and decided it’s because sometimes i don’t like admitting how i’m feeling about him. 
if i’m mad at, sad with, scared of, or confused about God, i don’t talk to him. i don’t know what else to say, and i don’t want to tell him that i’m not his biggest fan at the moment. but he never answers if i say what i don’t mean. i try to make conversation about my day or thank him for some random things, but it doesn’t feel like it’s doing anything.
disclaimer: i’m not saying he isn’t hearing them. he is. he just doesn’t humor my awkward small talk. see, i think God relates to us in the way he knows we’ll understand best. he’s the perfect friend. for instance, i have a friend who told me once that God is sarcastic with her. i laughed at that at first, trying to imagine that, but then i laughed even harder(you know how i laugh when really cool things click in my head) when i realized that’s exactly what she needs(sarcasm is her love language, her mother tongue, all those things. she’s hilarious and i miss her). in my case, he knows i need patient people who, when i have something serious to talk about, let me get to the point when i’m good and ready to; if he asked me questions and tried to pull it out of me, he knows he’d scare me off and i’d end the conversation right there. so he just waits(and it’s great for me because he has all of eternity to listen to me, so he never rushes me), and when i finally let him hear what i really want to say, he’ll let me hear what he really wants to say.
anyways.
i always feel like i need to calm down, count to ten(usually not seconds, more like days or weeks) and make sure i’m good and composed or i understand the situation, and THEN i tell God what’s up.
why? that’s dumb. whether i say it or not doesn’t change the fact that i’m feeling it. he KNOWS. so i may as well just say it.
and the best thing about it? since he knows what i’ve been thinking and feeling, and he understands my mind and heart better than i do, it’s okay if i yell, or cry, or just ramble and trip over my words and get frustrated with myself for not getting the words out right. this isn’t like an email to a professor(although, ask my teachers, they probably get some good laughs out of the dissertations i write asking a simple question) where i need to sound cool and collected and make my words make sense. he knows what i mean whether it comes out that way or not, so he never interrupts or asks me to clarify anything, because he already gets it. that never stops me from explaining each little thought and dissecting my sentences for him…but i don’t think he minds that. i’m actually pretty sure he gave me my frenzied, overanalytical brain purely for his own entertainment. which is all the more reason to really pray, because i’m sure he really enjoys hearing my thoughts(addressed to him, not just when he’s listening in as i think them to myself).
i’m figuring out that God doesn’t get mad at anyone for being mad at him. or questioning stuff he does. i mean look at the psalms. if God didn’t approve of us honestly expressing our deep hurts, or our hate for our enemies, or even our anger or impatience with himself, i don’t think many of the psalms would have made it into the bible.
so it’s probably much better and safer to vent them to God anyways. he won’t repeat it and he won’t take it wrong(since like i said before, he understands you before you even start trying to explain yourself).

well, the moral of this very long story: don’t bother beating around the bush with God. just tell him like it is. not saying what you feel doesn’t change how you feel. and saying it makes it start to get better, plus he’s much more likely to really answer when you really talk. and that’s the best part.

stories about nothing and everything

up in the air.

warning: repeating myself. if you hate when i do that(on the unlikely chance that someone besides my mom is reading this), sorry.
spring break is in THREE DAYS.
almost more so than FINALLY going to new york city, i’m kid-on-christmas-eve excited about the trip home.
i can’t wait to be on a plane, by myself, and in the chicago airport for an hour and a half, by myself. i’ll be invisible; no one i know will be anywhere close. it’s gonna be the best people watching i’ve ever been able to do. plus it’ll be the first time i’ll be legitly on my own and alone. i’ll have to get myself where i need to get, and i won’t have any help. i can’t WAIT. i get to be a real adult for a few hours! i’ve always wondered what that’s like.
and i get to go to three new states! that is, if a layover counts as visiting illinois. but i’ll be in new jersey and new york, and i’ll get a real memory of being in pennsylvania(i went when i was five or six and barely remember it, and we didn’t go anywhere special, just a friend’s house).
i am ridiculously excited.

stories about life and God

i know.

when i have a whole lot of big thoughts in my head and don’t know how to get them to God, i write my prayers. writing is the easiest way for me to process things; sometimes i don’t even realize how i feel about something until i write about it. plus, it makes it easier for me not to forget what God does for me, because when i reread them years later, they’ve usually been answered.
i usually don’t ever let anyone read them, but i’m posting what i prayed last night because i don’t know how else to write about all this.
——-
God, lots and lots of people that i care about are hurting right now, and thanks to that extra chunk of compassion you put in the spot where most people have courage or extra smartness, i’m hurting too.
sometimes i don’t mind that i feel people’s pain so much, but tonight is not one of those times.
i don’t have words in my head to tell you, so i just ask that you look at what i’m feeling in my heart and go by that.
i want to help everyone. but i don’t know what to do. or for some of them, i know what they need but i can’t be that. i feel helpless. and i feel super dumb for crying so much over something that’s totally not my problem. especially when everyone starts asking me what’s wrong. i’m like, don’t hug me, hug the person who really needs it.
but you know, i don’t want to not care. i may not know how to help but i can usually figure out what not to do based on how they feel; and if i couldn’t tell how they felt then i might become one of those annoying people who just rambles on about how everything’s gonna be okay.
still, i’m a very small girl to lug around such a big heart…so i need you to hold it for me for a while.
here’s what i need: i need you to give [i did write their exact names, but i’ll leave them out right here] exactly what they need to be comforted, because i don’t know what that is but i know you do. you don’t necessarily have to make their problems go away, though i’m sure they’d appreciate that, but if you could give them some peace, that would probably be enough for them. i’d like some of that too. let me let them go and leave them with you, and not feel so bad about not knowing what to do for them.
——–
i still didn’t feel much better. so i ran two miles, went out to one of my God places, laid in the wet grass and cried some more. see, when i’m really upset the only way to distract myself is to run until i’m too overwhelmed with pure exhaustion that i can’t think anymore. and when i need to be with God, i never feel close to him unless i’m outside. and, when i miss people, i like to be where i can see as much of the sky as possible. i know it’s the cheesiest thing in the world, but it really does make me miss them less when i think of how we’re under the same moon. well, except for jessie bailey who at that time would be under the sun…but it’s the same sky. =]
i’m rarely not thinking, but i really couldn’t right then. there were pictures in my head, but no words and no music. i just laid there and looked at the sky while my brain was silent for what i later added up was about twenty minutes.
and suddenly everything was okay.
yesterday i read in one of my books for my class on the gospel of mark that because God is the perfect comforter, he comforts each of us differently; he knows exactly how we need to be comforted at that moment.
when i go to people for comfort, i need one of three things. sometimes i need them to talk to me, sometimes i need them to listen, and then in some rare times, i just need them to sit with me and let us both be silent(but they do need to be hugging me). so last night when not even i knew how i felt or what i needed, God knew i needed the silence. and even though i was far away from any people, i didn’t feel the slightest bit alone.
this morning when i got up i still felt sad, but at the same time, i was okay. God is taking care of everyone.
it helped too that i had this song in my head.

where do i begin with what to say? i’ve played this conversation in my head so many times.
i’m certainly not claiming to know everything, but what i do could save your life.

i know, i know, that God is able, i know, i know that he still reigns
i know, i know, that love has found a way.

no matter what it is you’re going through, even if you think you’re far beyond where hope can see
i know there is a hand that’s reaching out to you, because he did the same for me.

it wasn’t that long ago that my own world fell apart
and everything inside me told me to let go
i found myself crying out to the one who knows my heart
and holding tight to the few things that i know.  

 

stories about life and God

the power of a tiny preposition.

2 corinthians 12:9 has been one of my favorite verses for a few years.
“but he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. therefore i will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

the part i constantly quote is “my power is made perfect in weakness.” the part about sufficient grace was nice, but i was more interested in my weakness making God look good. i used it all summer to remind myself that it’s okay to be weak because God uses weak people.
then at work today i was thinking about everything i wrote in my last post. and of course with my head full of the wonder that is this concept of grace, God’s grace being sufficient for me stuck out more today.
hermeneutics nerd that i am, i started making a mechanical layout in my head. basically what i just said there is, i did the Bible college version of diagramming sentences. it helps you understand a passage because it makes it easier to see how the thoughts relate to each other. it is SO much fun. and so helpful too. it’s really crazy how much you can learn about a verse just by seeing the words arranged differently.
in this case, i found that those two parts of the verse are inseparable. i wasn’t misquoting it by only talking about the power in weakness part, but i was definitely cheating myself out of the complete power of what paul is saying here.
look at this.

do you get it?
“for” here is like “in that”. if God’s power could not make up for your weakness, his grace would NOT be sufficient! but because of his grace, it IS okay that we’re weak and helpless.
so if it weren’t for the first part of the verse, my favorite part wouldn’t be true.
and now i just love the whole verse, even more than i already did.
isn’t that cool? now if you ever sit by me in church, and see me writing crazy things in my notes, you’ll get what i’m doing. =]

stories about life and God

grace on grace.

today, as i was writing a note to one of my friends, meaning to encourage them, i ended up encouraging myself. more like, God took the words i was writing from my head and shot them into my heart with a bazooka.
i use that description because it really was sort of painful. sudden realizations of great truth usually are.

i was talking about grace. how we don’t have to be good enough because Christ is good enough.
and that’s when God gave me one of the biggest DUH moments i’ve ever had.

to really understand the power of this statement, i need to start this story from the beginning.

my entire life i’ve never really felt “good enough”. at anything, by anyone’s standard.
not good enough for my softball coach to let me pitch.
not good enough for my dance teacher to give me a solo and stop calling me fat.
not good enough to not be fat anymore.
not good enough for my family to be proud of me.
not good enough for guys to notice me.
not good enough to be starting goalie.
not good enough to be an FLT.(for non CIU people, that stands for freshman leadership team. it’s sort of like an RA)
not good enough for God to use me.
not good enough to understand God.
not good enough for God to help me do anything.
not good enough for grace.

i had never really grasped the loving side of God. growing up i always knew he was real, and i knew he wanted me to be good. i knew all about the dos and don’ts. and i was terrified of what might happen if i did something really bad. i went through a phase when i was about ten where i would have panic attacks and not be able to sleep at night because i swore Jesus was coming back that night and i didn’t think he’d take me to heaven with him.

basically, God was an easily angered, far away being who just watched everything i did and waited for me to mess up so he could punish me. i was convinced that he didn’t love me, but i knew that was a terrible thing to think about God, so i was even more scared of him.

i got saved when i was thirteen, and i really did know what i was doing. but i’ve always struggled with doubting my salvation. i’ve never doubted God; i’ve always believed he’s real. i just doubted myself. “do i really understand this? do i really believe this? or do i just think i believe it and i’ve said it so many times that i’ll never know the difference? i’m gonna be one of those people who dies and is totally shocked when God says he never knew me…”

at first it was never a serious hindrance to my life or anything. until a very recent episode(which ended this morning) i never seriously believed that i was going to hell. i just had this tiny lurking worry in the back of mind. what if? am i doing okay? maybe i need to do a little extra for God just in case?

i had a few small spurts of significant growth here and there(most specifically: when i was fourteen and saw ballet magnificat for the first time, when i was sixteen and met beth, and when i was eighteen and met chris wells) those were real; i just thought after each time that i finally had the gospel figured out. i expected life to suddenly make sense and be easy, for me and God to right that minute be like french fries and frostys. and that’s why i would always forget them and go back to being mostly the same within a few weeks, only this time with more shame because i felt like now i should know better. i would fall right back into some old sin that i had thought would never be a problem again, and sooner or later i’d be back to tiptoeing around God, hoping i was legitly saved and agonizing over how to know for sure.

then last february, i took my first slip into the downward spiral that the past year has been.
i had applied and interviewed to be on residence life at ciu. i had good motives, and i totally believe that God wanted me to apply even though he didn’t want me to get it. but the whole situation turned out awful.
when i got the email saying i wasn’t moving on in the interview process, i cried for the rest of the day, didn’t go to class for two days, and was angry at God for two months. i had once again been proven that i wasn’t good enough. and instead of learning from it and moving on, i let it eat me alive.

i slipped down deeper in may.
i had this idea that i would write sort of a “how-to” guide for the new camp staff. i wrote this really long, really helpful note with things they needed to know and important things to remember.
this wasn’t a bad thing in and of itself; it really did help a lot of people. and i wouldn’t regret it at all if i hadn’t let stupid satan get in.
“hey. see alllll these people looking up to you? and now look up. nobody’s there anymore. you don’t have anyone to ask for help from if you don’t have all the answers. they don’t care anymore. you are all by yourself on top of the world. EVERYONE is depending on YOU. and YOU are not at all ready for that. you will NEVER be able to help anyone. but oops, you already made yourself out to be this big deal…i guess you’ll have to pretend you really do know everything. and don’t even think about asking for help. if you let anyone know that you aren’t perfect, they will never like you or trust you or depend on you again. you like people to like you, right? you WILL fail and people WILL think you are a terrible person. have a great summer! i’ll be around.”
now of course he didn’t give me that whole monologue all at once or in those exact words. but that’s basically what he whispered over the course of the weeks before camp, and i believed each one.
i gave him an inch and he took about eighteen miles.

the whole summer was awful. i kept messing up. and every time, i would think “i’ve had enough. i need someone to help me and pray for me.” but i’d hear “you don’t need people. you can do this on your own. and if you can’t, well that makes you a failure.” and i’d listen. keep going it alone. pretend i was still the super staffer everyone thought i was.

at the end of the summer, i decided(for the moment! i changed my mind in december) that i would never go back to camp. how could i? i had let my campers, the staff, cindy, and myself down. i couldn’t do anything right. i was hindering God by being there.(SO much wrong with that!! i really can’t believe how deep i let him get into me. we CAN’T hinder God, he’s GOD. he’s bigger than us! he did just as much work last year as any, i just couldn’t see it)

school started. i spent welcome week in my bed. if i wasn’t good enough to be an FLT then obviously i wasn’t good enough to be that cool upperclassman friend that every freshman needs.
classes started. everything was hard. i couldn’t focus(worse than how my ADD usually makes it). but again, i could NOT ask for help. i was going to be fine.
i wasn’t; i ended the semester with a 1.8 gpa and got back on academic probation.

now through all this time, notice i was never going to God for help, or comfort, or anything. the worse i felt, the more afraid of him i was. you know how when you don’t talk to a friend for a long time, and the longer you go, the harder it is to even know how to start a conversation? that’s how me and God were. i just didn’t know what to say. and i didn’t want to hear what he had to say. i thought he’d just be angry and tell me how much i didn’t deserve him. so i kept hiding from him and kept getting worse.

then i read crazy love over christmas break. i know most people think it’s this super inspiring best book ever deal, and i’m happy for all the people it’s helped, but personally all it did was terrify me. “oh no. i haven’t given all my money to the poor. i get bored in church sometimes. i don’t always look forward to my quiet times. i’ve never shared the gospel with a total stranger. i’m not really a christian i’ve just thought i am and i’m gonna go to hell for getting christmas presents.”
seriously. francis chan convinced me that i was going to hell. i had nightmares for weeks. every time i did the least little thing wrong i’d be reminded that as much as i want to believe, i must not really because i’m not perfect yet.

that is ridiculous.

now we’re up to speed. i’m writing this note. at ridge haven we talked about breaking bad habits, and how we can’t do that without God. i thought of that, and i wrote “YOU don’t have to be perfect because CHRIST is perfect!”

and then i dropped my pen and started crying.

what Jesus did on the cross doesn’t stop affecting us after the first moment when we’re saved.

i always understood that we can’t be saved on our own. we can’t get ourselves to heaven. that was easy to grasp. but what i unconsciously have believed since i was thirteen, is that if i am truly saved, God has made ME good enough to overcome sin and live a godly life. sure i’ll mess up sometimes, but not much. and if i keep falling into the same sins over and over, well i must not really be saved yet.

that is so not how it works!!

we will NEVER be able to beat satan off on our own! God never promised that. THROUGH CHRIST we are “more than conquerors”(romans 8 is even more my favorite now that i get this). not by ourselves; through Christ.
we don’t have to keep fighting the battle with sin because Christ has already won that battle FOR us! we just have to accept it! so if you keep saying “God, i’m sorry but i did it again, i promise i’ll do better next time” we will ALWAYS fail. but if we say “I have no power over this sin. but Jesus has ALL the power, and i am leaning on him today” we can win.
and it’s not a one-time thing, this asking him to be our strength. it’s a constant, everyday deal. we have to make a conscious choice to walk in that grace. because we’re human and we forget things, and sometimes when we’re good for a while we start to feel like we’re doing okay on our own, even though we were never doing anything in the first place.

no matter what, it will never ever be easy. not even billy graham is all “psh what’s sin? i got over that ten crusades ago”. if we expect it to be, then we’ll always be frustrated with ourselves and waste energy feeling unnecessarily guilty.

and no matter how many times we have to keep coming back for it, God never runs out of grace. but we can’t enjoy it unless we keep choosing to ask for it.

that is the piece of the puzzle that i’ve been missing all my life. yes, Jesus has paid my way into heaven, but he’s also already beaten every sin i’ll ever come up against. in him, and ONLY in him, i am enough.

stories about school

rest.

i spent a perfect weekend with my old youth group.
i laughed. i ate. i walked into rooms and people not only acknowledged my existence but were happy about it. and if i was ever quiet for more than five minutes, people worried.
none of these things happen very often at school.
and even though i got a total of 12 hours of sleep in the past 60, this has been the best rest i’ve had since november.
by rest, i don’t just mean taking a nap, or not doing homework for a little while, or even getting off campus and doing something fun. i mean being with God, in a place that i love, with people who make me feel loved and wanted and totally accepted, where i’m so distracted from the hard things in life that i don’t even remember that i’m being distracted from anything. sometimes i can get that rest by myself, but usually God uses people to get me into it.
i’m thankful that he used my old family this time.

stories about life and God · stories about school

the anti psalm 23.

last semester in psalms class dr crutchfield gave us this to read and i fell in love with it. it makes the truth of the real one twice as comforting when i read what it could sound like oppositely.
i’m not sure what translates to which verse, but i broke it up how i think it goes.

I’m on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing’s quite right.

I’m always restless. I’m easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It’s a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It’s a desert — I’m thirsty.

My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can’t fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life’s confusing. Why don’t things ever really work out?

I’m haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I’d rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.

I’m alone … facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can’t really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I’m so much all about ME, sometimes it’s sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.

My cup is never quite full enough. I’m left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, “Hell is other people.”
I have to add, “Hell is also myself.”
It’s a living death,
and then I die.