Please keep Madi in your prayers! Melissa has been living in Guatemala, waiting to bring her home for four years! Right now Madi is in the hospital with a ruptured appendix, but cannot receive an operation due to infection and swelling....please pray that the antibiotics would help to fight off the infection so that they can operate. Also pray for her dear parents Scott and Melissa. More info and ways to donate towards medical costs here: www.prayformadi.blogspot.com
I need a sabbatical. Something I have definitely learned about myself in the recent years is my great need for rest. I live and have always lived a highly stressful life, I thrive on stress and pressure. I catch myself so many times though just wanting to pull the car over, turn the radio off and just enjoy the amazing sunset being painted in front of me, or sit on the deck and just listen, or take a hike for the sole purpose of enjoying the beautiful scenery around me. Yet, it is rare that I follow those little pushes inside me to do those things. Most of the time I just take a deep breath and keep on pushing through. In these past few years I have noticed that I have become more of a people pleaser than I ever thought I would. Back in high school (and most of my H.S. friends would probably vouch for me on this) I was outspoken, stood firm, and didn't let people push me around. I grew up being a very strong-willed kid. Now circumstances and some chiseling from God has broken me down quite a bit, however, I find myself struggling to find a balance between people pleasing and trying to get through my to-do list so as not to let anyone down, and simply standing up for my own time, taking hold of the reins and placing value on myself and my time God gives me. Anyone else struggle with this or am I alone? My day to day schedule consists of taking care of kids, trying my best to help raise them the same way their parents are and keep life consistent for them, trying to get photography sessions in so I can pay my rent and then trying to stay caught up (usually costing me my sleep at night) so that people get their pictures on time (which I can never seem to succeed at despite the sleepless nights). Then I spend my other waking moments (usually laying in bed) thinking about what a horrible friend I am because I have not kept up with everyone and I don't have time to call friends who don't live here and everyone must just hate me...... You ever start going down that spiral? Now I'm not writing this because I have finally found the key or I've finally figured out how to add hours to our days (wouldn't that be nice though?) I'm just simply writing it...to put it out there...I've turned into a people pleaser...and on the teetering edge of unhealthy people pleaser. I have so much I want to do with my life, so many dreams and passions. I mean I just got back from Haiti and have so many passions that were once again un-covered and yet I haven't even taken the time to just sit and pray about it...listen to God...hear where He wants to take me. It's like the trip never happened....just get off a plane and jump back into the chaos of real life. I work and work and work and still barely make bills every month...yet I don't want my life to revolve around that. I want to re-focus. I want to pour into the passions God is allowing me to use...I want to pour into the amazing youth group I am so honored to work with, I want to pour my heart into missions and bring much needed awareness to our society....there is so much I want to do with my life....why am I letting people pleasing and chaotic schedules stop me?? I'm reading a book called Sabbath.....so good and I'm only two chapters in...and it has been a great reminder of one: how much I NEED sabbath time, time just to breathe and re-center my life around Christ and two: how much I know I long for it and thrive on that. I have several ways I like to take "sabbath" time: through photography...seeing the beauty of creation through a lens and capturing just a glimpse of it through journaling....it's incredible to me to go back and read prayers and entries and see how those were answered through reading...there is so much to be learned Through conversation with fellow Christians...people who challenge me, speak wisdom and share their stories of how God has worked in their lives through conversation with God...it's incredible what you can hear when you just stop and listen
So I'd love to hear....how do you make life work? How do you spend your "sabbath" time? How do you balance the chaos of life and not lose track of what's important?
There is no way I can write what I want to write here....for so many reasons. The basics being that the Internet is slow and I should have been asleep long ago. Getting on to Haiti has been anything but easy...the long hard week leading up to it as well as the actual traveling here was full of obstacles and challenges, but I truly truly believe with all my heart that "something" was not happy about us coming here. I have prayed numerous times for my reaction to Haiti, because I have heard so many different people come back and say things about it just being completely hopeless or that is literally a Hell on earth. I was so afraid that I would come here and feel that God is not here....as much as I believed He was here I still had that fear that maybe people were right. I can now say with great confidence that God is here and is very evident in so many different ways. Our long ride from Port Au Prince brought us through devastation, trash, waste, and rubble....but then you would see the beautiful coast line or the green covered mountains rising above it all...and I kept hearing.."I am here"...there is still beauty. Of course that's not good enough for me because it doesn't take away the devastation....so as I'm taking this in and thinking through it, Greg, our leader is talking about how much they had cleaned up and how different it looks just since he was last here a few months ago...and there was sign number 2. God again just kept saying..."I am here" there is hope. I believe that there is hope for this country. It may not fully be seen in our lifetime but it is our job to make sure that generations to come may see it. I look into the eyes of these kids and I listen to Michelle talk about raising these kids up to be Christian leaders in this country and I just am amazed at what a different picture I am seeing than what has been described as "Haiti". I have struggled all summer with the fact that I would be traveling to Haiti and not Guatemala, because as most of you know Guatemala is my heart. I was worried I wouldn't fully experience Haiti because my love for Guatemala is just so strong and so that has been a huge and difficult prayer that I have prayed is that for the first time ever...may Guatemala be pushed aside in my heart and mind for this week so that I would fully experience where I am. I think that prayer has been answered and lucky for me my heart is big enough for two countries. So on that note....I am going to go dream of tarantulas, cockroaches and centipedes......
So as I sit down to write this my head is spinning with so many lessons needing to be processed. Over the past five years I have been through the roller coaster ups and downs of learning to trust God, learning to let go of all control and leap out in faith. I've moved to new places, states and countries, I've met people who have hurt me and have blessed me, people who have challenged me and spoken unforgettable wisdom into my life. I mean, in just the last couple months my friend and I went from not knowing where we would be living, me not knowing if I would ever get a job that I like....etc....to being given a gorgeous home so that we can open it to hosting village (small group), welcome in guests and well, know that we are safe and, I have been given the best job I could ever imagine (although it was definitely NOT in my plans of what would be "best"). The faith thing has been hard...it's taken a lot of chiseling and molding me out of my grip of control to get me to learn that God's plans are bigger and when I just jump in and let the waves take me where God wants the destination is so much grander than if I had tried to construct my own raft and draw my own map.
But here is where I got smacked in the face......Tonight....by a bunch of young kids. who would have thought....right (look up 1 Tim. 4:12)? I stand back watching these kids come into youth group all hyped up on social energy, talking fast enough to keep up with Alvin and the chipmunks, playing silly youth games like they were about to win the lottery (only the prize is really just a monster energy drink)......they go from facing the stress and pressures of social circles, classes and activities.....then...the worship band picks up their instruments, the room becomes calm, peaceful....and at that moment...I'm not gonna lie...I can't even focus on the songs. I am so caught up watching the atmosphere of the room change into this complete surrender, worship experience. These "kids" are being met right where they're at, with their messy lives and all...and just being with God. It took me back to my youth group days and I longed to have that passion and life back, to see life in a much bigger way. There is something about that age that gives them a huge advantage for making a difference in this world. And if they allow it, if they are open to it...they have such potential for striking the match and fanning a flame in their relationship with God that will change everything in their future. Tonight the message was about our identity and and who we are....how are we identified? Does the identity come from loneliness, family, abuse, looks, friends? Or do we identify ourselves as children of God? It was awesome to see the youth soak up the message and then just let go, put their hands and hearts out and truly let go. They took it and ran with it. They showed surrender to God, true worship and true community as they stood by each other, prayed for each other and worship with each other. Aaron announced that the leader's would be there to pray with them, but what I watched was so much better...high schoolers were puling in the middle schoolers, hugging them and praying for them, guys were on their knees praying together. They were playing their own roles of leadership and community in the most positive of ways. That's what I love about them. They showed me something tonight...I became very good at one aspect of Christianity, the whole walking in faith, trusting God thing as been a main focus for me...but I've become a little stagnant in the whole, just enjoying God, just letting go and being with Him. Aaron hit it right on tonight....we as leaders come to pour into the youth and "work on them", but instead they are working in each one of our lives. Sometimes leaders just need to sit back and watch the action...let them take off and fly. This is why I love this age....All night I kept thinking of this quote from my favorite book: "It is small enough to ignore and big enough to change your life forever. Life is the sum total of what you do with the moments given you." ~Erwin McManus. My prayer is that they would grasp hold of this feeling, take hold of that moment, that their hearts would continue to be receptive and the curiosity they have would continue to flourish and cause them to seek God with all their hearts.
The last week has held so much...I've been working non-stop, thinking non-stop, and just simply going non-stop. I'm going to be honest and say that God has called me to do some crazy things and He speaks to me in awesome ways...but I still seem to find myself putting Him in a box on the shelf saying that I will spend time with Him when I get time, which doesn't happen. This usually happens every once in awhile when I lose sight of who it is that made it possible for me to be here, the one who called me here in the first place...luckily for me He's pretty persistent and weighs things very heavily on my heart. So this past week has been a week of me feeling God saying "Kelsey, I just want to be with you, just come be in my arms and let me take care of everything." I of course hear this but continue to say, well maybe I can do a devo before I go to bed tonight or maybe I can read a little of my Bible during breaks from photography work. I pencil Him in like it were a coffee date that I just don't really feel up to. I used to be great at letting God into all aspects of my life, including Him in my day, not just scheduling "God time". I used to not get through my day if I hadn't spent time with Him. I want that back. He wants that back. I, like most people, have a tough time sometimes grasping how much God loves me, how much He cares about me. But this week....I was very clearly reminded. He loves me so much He placed these amazing people in my life, He has provided just what I need, He has never left my side, He continues to blow me away with His creativity and plans for my life. I have been trying to process a lot this past week and have been trying to peel away my "self" layers and just be willing to surrender to God and let Him love me and to worship Him with all that I am. It's been a process. I miss Him. And the thing that really amazes me the most, is despite me trying to put Him in a box, He still has just overwhelmingly blessed me. I've been working for this incredible family the last couple months and we spent this week moving them to a new house so needless to say we spent a lot of time together and I am so challenged by this couple. They strive everyday to live as examples and raise their girls to have good character and love the Lord and it is a daily challenge to me to be better. Something else that God has really laid on my heart this week is how important it is that I'm doing what I am doing. At some point I think I fed into all the lies of people saying that nannying wasn't a real job and it doesn't come with any benefits or perks. As I was standing at a birthday party today a sweet baby in a sling on my spit up covered front, and three girls interacting with new friends it started hitting me how much responsibility I have. I am constantly having to pray for discernment for how to deal with situations and always wondering if I'm going to mess up all this great character building their parents have done. Again I am blown away with how much He loves me....that He would trust me to be a part of working for this family and I am so frustrated with myself for downplaying the path God has put me on. Lucky for us God is standing, waiting with open arms, always ready, always wanting to pour out His love. I never would have seen myself in this place a year ago....He is doing things beyond my wildest dreams and I'm loving every minute of it....just praying I can keep the focus and remember who it was who brought me here and who it is that will get me through all the stress and trials I may face.....
So it's been awhile and I've written several blog entries, but decided not to post any of them. I won't explain why. Let me give a slight update on life these past couple months and what the next few months are looking to hold (although you never know what God has planned). So my last update we were in the midst of a flood here in Nashville, I had just started a new part-time job, we were planning on moving, we had just brought two puppies into our home....life was crazy. Well, not gonna lie, it hasn't slowed down one bit....but a lot has changed, it has been filled with many plan altering moments..... The flood clean up has been phenomenal. I have been shown such a wonderful image of what it means to live in community here. Nashville definitely knows what it means to stand by your neighbor, help a stranger, and give freely to those in need. We have taken a disaster and have done the best we can....using mainly our own resources and helping each other from with, Nashville. It is definitely a sight to see and only strengthens my growing love for this place. After some stressful days/weeks (I've lost all track of time the past two months) Angie or should I say...Charlotte decided to arrive early...to be exact, she decided to come the day that I just happened to be flying to Colorado. Well so much for having plans ;) although I had to wait a week to meet her I am completely obsessed and cannot get enough of her while I'm at work. I flew to Colorado for a week to watch my sweet, all grown up, little brother walk across the stage and receive his high school diploma...I could not be more proud. It was so good to see him, spend time with family, introduce them to the new puppy (who yes, made the flight there and back on a separate airline than me) and just get away for a week. Through all of this things had been falling apart with the moving plans and it turns out we just couldn't afford to cut out of our lease early and after a long, extremely frustrating fight with our apartment company and lots of yelling back and forth on the phone we are just sitting tight till our lease is up at the end of October and praying about where God wants us after that. So...a crazy few weeks. The next several months holds lots of traveling (hopefully) and I am beyond ecstatic (for those of you who know how restless I get in one place). Jenna and I may be taking a very quick trip to MN beginning of July, then maybe, just maybe I may be going back to CO for a quick trip to see a dear friend get married, then Jenna and I head off on vacation with the dear Smith fam (so excited) then.....ready for it......I may be going to Haiti for a week in September!!! That is if I can come up with $500 by June 27 and then the other $1000 for the rest of the trip. It is a place that has been on my heart since middle school and I am so praying that it works out. Hopefully after that I can then get on my plans about going to Guatemala simply because it has just been too long since I have been to my beautiful home away from home. It's funny that all this has been coming up and so many discussions have been centered on living a life of adventure...not the lets go out and do stupid things kinds of adventure, but true, life living, God seeking adventure. And how although sometimes it would be nice to have a steady job with benefits and live in the same place for years and secure a nice little bubble around myself....I love love love not knowing what tomorrow holds, I love hopping on a place and not knowing what the next trip will bring into my heart, I love meeting people from all over the world with different stories, backgrounds, cultures and seeing them live out their adventures for Christ. This book I'm reading, by my new favorite author Erwin McManus is talking about moments. How a moment happens in the blink of an eye, a split second, in a breath....yet every moment can change your life, can impact the future is such enormous ways. A favorite quote so far that has stuck out to me is this, "Time was not created with the power to hold you back. And if the future terrifies you, then just take it one moment at a time." So right now I'm loving the crazy, ridiculous, frustrating, joyful, amazing moments God is bring to my life. I'm loving having no idea what the future holds, having no idea what tomorrow holds, I'm loving being on this crazy adventure that God has lead me to and I'm looking forward to watching it all play out. So that is my update..... Praying for you all.....love you, miss you (to all my far away friends and family)
*EDIT* soooo I am actuaully currently stuck at Angie's house due to these crazy storms and flooding. and we were just mentioning how maybe she should change her blog name to "Stop the rain" instead of "Bring the rain"......anyway please keep all the victims of the floods and tornados in your prayers, there have been deaths, injuries and so so many homes, cares, stores etc damaged. It may get worse as we are supposed to continue to get rain...we have already passed the record for most rain in one day here ever recorded. The flooding is crazy around here and although I am thankful I was blessed to be safe and have a place to stay, I pray for those stuck, those having to evacuate their homes and those waiting to see if they will be reached by the floods. (Also pray for my roomie...she is home with our sweet puppies and it's never fun to be home alone during this kind of thing...especially in our apartment)
You need to go buy this book and support this amazing woman! Let me tell you a little about who she is..... Angie Smith is married to Todd Smith (lead singer of Selah) Angie started a blog to keep her friends and family informed about their pregnancy with sweet baby Audrey and it turned into such a way to connect and let others know that they are not walking alone. It has been amazing to see so many touched by this story and I am so proud of Angie for being able and willing to write her thoughts for all to see. She is honest, vulnerable, raw and real. You can check out Audrey's story here (have some kleenex handy), it is a story of faith, trials, pain, inspiration and how God used the short life of one baby girl along with her family to touch thousands. This is not a candy coated happy-go-lucky Christian story of how they just smiled through it all and trusted God...it is so raw, real and refreshing. Her book gives even more detail and you will not be able to put it down. SO without further ado...go buy it
mmmm quiet....in my life that doesn't happen very often...even at night our "lovely" apartment building isn't exactly sound proof so there are always some sort of noises going on. but right now it's just quiet. Breck has finally settled down in the Wheeler's garage, polly is sleeping at my feet, sweet little E is sound asleep in her bed...the TV is turned off, no music is on, the busy day has come to a nice little halt....and as I thought about turning on the TV or watching something on the computer or listening to music I thought...I am around noise and hustle and bustle all day long, and so many times I wonder to myself why I have such a problem hearing God sometimes....maybe..just maybe..I'm not taking time to listen. Maybe I'm so caught up with HAVING to be busy that even when I have an hour to just sit in silence, I can't. So tonight silence it was. Silence and a WONDERFUL conversation with a dear friend countries away over the internet. Just what I needed to regroup from my weekend pity party and exhaustion...I finally kicked myself in the rear and got back on my feet. ...ok back to why I'm on here.... So...with all that has been going on and with knowing/hearing/seeing other people's stories too this whole "love" subject has sorta been just lingering in the air for some time now. Our pastor happened to touch on it awhile back while going through genesis a little more in depth than I ever had heard. This whole idea of "can we know love without knowing first hurt, pain, loneliness and shame?" Trying to answer that question everyone asks at least at one point in their life of "if God loves us...or if God loves me...then this would not happen, there would be no hunger, innocent people would not go through pain, there would be no trials, or struggles, families would not fall apart, people would not kill other people...etc." Ever since I heard our pastor talk on Genesis that night I have thought a lot about this and it has come up several times in this whole "community" search as well and what it is we need, look for, expect, in community.
I still don't think there is an easy "answer" but I do think there is an answer that can put, at least me, at ease a little.
When God created he created giving us free will. which can be a subject full of debate....personally I see no debate worth having...we are either robots with no feeling or we are free to make our choices and truly live. not sure who would pick robot....
I'm gonna try not to go to in depth cause I could go on for pages....
We are created with free will right? the freedom to make our own choices, right? Well isn't it true that every choice you make influences someone else? (those who say that your choice is your choice and takes no effect on anyone else are completely naive or in total denial). Even down to which brand of cereal you buy at the grocery store...it influences someone. Now take all the hurt in the world....every situation really is due to someone's decision. Corrupt government leaders, criminals, abusive relationships, etc. These peoples' decisions influence those around them...unfortunately the innocent are usually the ones who hurt from the decisions. Well here is the thing...they are free to choose the right thing to do...they don't, but they did have that decision to make. Just like every one of us has a decision to do the right thing every day. God doesn't "make" things happen to inoccent people, He may allow because he created with the freedom to choose...but He also feels. God hurts when His children hurt. He cries right along side you...but there is where the love thing comes in. Can we know love without hurt? Think of it like this...can you really appreciate something, without first having gone without it? Or having seen someone else go without? God loves us so much He gives us opportunities to confess, to come to Him, to choose to accept His love and to choose to love back. Love is a choice, In the garden after Adam and Eve had sinned they covered themselves and hid. Well as we know you can't hide from God...yet God still went along...calling out, saying "where are you"....He gave them a chance to come forward. Just like a parent..even though they know their child has just hit someone...still asks..what did you do? It's a teaching moment..and why do parents do that? Cause they love their kids...why does God do that? cause He loves us...He WANTS us to make the right choice, He gives us that chance. We wonder why God allows bad things to happen to good people...think about your life...have you ever lied to someone? gossiped? said something mean to someone? You hurt someone....You made a choice, the other person didn't yet they paid a price. That is the beautiful messiness of free-will. Without free-will we may not have orphans or hunger, but we also wouldn't have people who love enough to stop their own lives, travel across the world and bring families to those orphans, feed those hungry, touch a hand that no one else will touch....give someone love who had never felt love before...and in doing so share the overwhelming un-changing love of God. Without free-will, pain or hurt...we would have nothing to live for, no purpose, no story, no way of touching lives or being touched by lives. What kind of a life would that be? We can choose to love, we can choose to obey, we can choose to trust, and we can choose to walk in faith when "bad" things happen..knowing that this is not the end..a God who loves us enough to walk through the trials with us, hurting alongside you has a place prepared where there will be no more of the suffering....why? Because He loves us. Who else would be willing to send their perfect son to go through so much pain and suffering so that we may have life? Would you?
So my next post was going to be about the "love" subject along with my last post, but I just need to write a little update on what has been going on the last three weeks of my life......
Whoever says that God is boring, the Bible is bland, or church is un-exciting....has not experienced the God that I serve. And whoever says that there is no such thing as God only coincidence has to admit that there are just WAY to many coincidences that go on in my life to actually be coincidence. So anyway about three weeks ago I started having a very strong stirring in my heart that there needed to be some action taken in changing what I was doing in my everyday life. I came here to pursue my passions and dreams and always told myself that I would not just settle and have a job to have a job....I know, I know, I should be thankful to have a job because the economy is in the dumps. Please don't get me wrong here, I have been so beyond blessed to have jobs since coming to Nashville, but it's time to take some action and leap out in faith now. I have begged God daily to tell me what my purpose is in moving here and what I am supposed to be doing and the answer I have always gotten up until three weeks ago has been...wait. This is just a waiting period, I have blessed you with financial provisions and I want you to wait. In the meantime...when I call you to serve, just to serve not to gain more money...I want you to obey. So this has been my life for the last seven months. Working, babysitting, photography...when called to...free babysitting or photography. Well....the day after I started opening up to some options not thinking at all that this was when God was going to end my waiting period I had several opportunities dropped out of the sky for me and some part-time job offers that would work with those opportunities. Let's just say these were some stressful two days as I felt my near future being taken completely out of my control (as if it was in my control to begin with HA). So I told my current job about these things and prepared for the unknown road ahead, still unsure of what was happening...well the same day all this happened my roomie, Jenna, had gotten back in contact with this wonderful lady whom we had met back in October randomly at a Chick-Fil-A...long story short...they were thinking of looking for a part-time nanny. Do you see where this is going? So in just a few short (or should I say...verrrryyy loonnnggg) days I had given my notice to my job, began to pursue some options that I felt may be from God, and met with a wonderful wonderful woman of God who wants me to come help with her precious girls....God is a god of mystery and full of the unexpected. He does things when you have no idea they will happen...and it just further gives proof to His exsistence because no worldly thing could bring about these events. Now this was all slightly stressful, but exciting stressful...now we add on the OTHER events.... that same weekend Jenna and I somehow out of the blue one weekend night started looking at puppies online (I know, we are so lame and sit on our computers on a weekend). Anyway somehow by the end of the night we had made the very spontaneous decision that we wanted a puppy...we EACH wanted a puppy....that equals two if you didn't quite get that. ;) So we inquired about some that were super cute but the responses back were a little strange and the next day I came across these two little puppies on some random sight....now the pictures of these were these little black and whites and didn't exactly make them look...photogenic...if you know what I mean. So thinking we were really smart we decide it would be a good stress reliever and fun to just go see them and play with puppies. Just a note...never fall for this when you are with me... I am the queen of spontaneous decisions..that are not usually just small decisions. Anyway we each fell in love with a separate one, but it was to late to start the adoption that night. Both of us worked the next day and we weren't even sure we were allowed to have them in our apartment. Then we found out we can't have big dogs so we thought all hope was lost. But with some very smooth talking (something I actually DID learn at St. Olaf) we got our permission from our landlord. Went the next morning to get them..waited in the crazy mob outside till they opened..thinking they wouldn't even be there cause we had already missed a day....ran inside and found our puppies. Wait..did I mention through all this we decided that we would move early from our apartment to a place that we COULD have big dogs? yeah just another spontaneous decision to add to the pile. The next day, picked up our puppies, headed from there to meet with my new amazing future boss and had the BEST time on a rainy evening with our shoes kicked off curled up in starbucks chairs talking about random stories (best interview ever). I feel like I'm in for God teaching me lots of things through this beautiful family. The whole next week was filled with vet runs everyday, no sleep at night, nursing a very very sick little puppy back to health (apparently it was a really bad shelter), trying to figure out how I was going to make it financially by cutting my salary in half and started to realize we need to find a new place to live ASAP! But again...God has it all planned out and several people offered to work a flexible weekly schedule that goes around this new part-time job to supplement income, my new puppy started gaining weight and looking/acting like a normal puppy, and we found an AMAZING apartment..that we never thought we would get accepted to but we did (move in on May 29 if anyone is bored and wants to help). Now I had no say in any of this, this all happened just starting one day. I have felt so humbled and overwhelmed with the things God is doing and keep wanting to pinch myself to see if this really is real. I am a BIG dreamer and come up with crazy elaborate ideas but God never ceases to amaze me with how things work out...it's always so much better than what I had dreamed up. I have learned so much these past seven months and am so excited to see what new things are waiting to be learned and discovered this year. There is my super elaborate update, Im switching jobs, doing more volunteer/internship work, moving AND raising a puppy. :) Pretty much God is doing amazing things and this post really doesn't describe it to its full extent at all. I tried to limit all the crazy in-between details that went on that all helped make this happen.
Meet Breck (named after my hometown, Breckenridge..jennas is tonka for minnetonka) This is when we found him at the shelter....look how tiny and sick he looks Definitely not tiny and sick anymore!!! growing like a weed!
Well I was feeling bad reading through my last few posts because pretty much since I moved here it's been all about community and challenges and such...but I've accepted that it is the chapter that I am in right now...so why not fill it full? (more on this subject can be found in the book Soul Cravings by Erwin McManus..highly suggest you read it....and here...our pastor and his wife giving their testimony http://www.journeyfranklin.com/podcasts.php Feb 28, marriage.)
I just got off the phone with a dear friend and after having a very real, very honest conversation I just had some things on my heart. I was sharing with her some of things that I have been learning from our church, music, and a book that I am currently reading and how it has all been so intertwined, so impacting and challenging. Not just for me but I have talked with my roommate about, several friends and now this other dear friend....it started hitting me...these are things that the human race needs to be talking about, working through, striving for. This thing called love and the difference between God's ability to give unconditional love, and our longing to receive unconditional love from those around us...yet our inability to offer that to anyone. Communication, we don't communicate. Oh we think we do, we talk, we tell our stories, we vent....but we don't put up boundaries, we don't talk about our emotional needs or others needs, and what happens is we get so overwhelmed expecting to be loved unconditionally and wanting to love unconditionally that after weeks or months of constantly striving to be there to listen no matter what and trying to fix your friends problems and trying to......hmmm see that word trying? God doesn't try..he does. we try and try and try and get more exhausted after every attempt. Yeah, we are human, eventually we hit a wall, we get overwhelmed, and we have nothing left to give. But then you say...wait you have been talking all about our human need for community and walking alongside each other etc etc....yes. Something that I am slowly learning is the need for boundaries within community. This does not mean not sharing our stories and struggles, but being able to love enough to clue into other's needs. To know when maybe we need to stop talking and just know that we are loved, know that those people are there, and know that right now...there is nothing more they can say or do to fix your problem...in the end God is the only one who can fully satisfy, fully be there, and fully know what His will is for you. Sometimes I find myself feeling horrible if I can't be there for everyone and feel like the worst friend because they think that I won't love them or that I don't care...when really I just don't have the strength and if I tried to listen it would do more harm to them than good. We are constantly living in a cycle of selfishness and we don't know it. We are constantly living with these built up expectations and we have no idea we've created them, we are constantly coming up with excuses for everything that happens to us, we are constantly running away....yet we are hurt and angry with God when our friends walk away because they have become overwhelmed by our problems and struggles...we play the victim and think that they consider us a burden, that they obviously don't know what it means to love, that they obviously aren't true friends......and we don't talk to them about it...we run away...hmmm wait a minute...we...run...away......isn't that why we were upset in the first place....someone ran away.... We as humans are doing a whole lot of running...mostly running in circles... We don't want to be hurt, we don't know how to give anymore, we don't understand how to help someone, someone doesn't understand how to help us.....we all run. We don't always know we are running but we all do it in our own ways. Our pastor and his wife got up and gave their testimony because we are talking about marriage these days...I never thought I would get so much out of something and be able to apply so much to my own life....from hearing a marriage story. But wow....it was the perfect picture of this running, expectations, longing to be there but not knowing how, wanting someone to be there but not knowing how we want someone to be there.....no matter what end you are on it's all the same. It came down to them needing to accept each others' limits. After a long day of giving and giving...having a conversation and venting or arguing sometimes needs to just be let go. Not because you don't love each other, but because we are full of limits. We cannot give if we are not full and we cannot expect to be given to. It's amazing how sitting down and talking about something with a dear friend, a spouse, fiance, family member, can give you a new perspective on the situation. Hey I love you and I want to be there with all that I am, but, I am tired, I'm empty and I have nothing to give you right now...can we do this later? Know that I love you, know that I am here I just can't listen right now. Whoaaaaaa but we are supposed to listen, that's what good friends do. Yes. But. we need to understand that we cannot expect our friends or spouses to be God. We cannot expect a constant, ever flowing strength that is always over-flowing. See God never has to "re-fill" we do. I'm leaving it at that......I have so much more on my mind but don't feel like writing a book and not expecting everyone to listen to it :) Hmm maybe my next topic will be the other side of this conversation that me and this friend had.....love...what is it? what is the different between our love and God's love? and....why does God allow hurt.......how about this....can we fully know what love is without hurt and long and pain?
The learning process never stops does it? Ever since college I get these moments where I find myself in a learning situation and sometimes...just sometimes...I want to close it all off, plug my ears and shut my eyes tight. Sometimes, I just get tired and my brain can't take it. BUT, God is teaching me a lot these days. As usual. So I'm trying to keep my eyes open and pry my hands off my ears....... which leads me into how doing this 40 day water campaign has been tough, not going to lie, but I do find that somedays I just don't think about...I just drink my water, sometimes sigh to myself when I look at a coffee maker and then go about my day....never asking God what is going to be taught today, never opening my eyes to what may be revealed, never thinking about the "why" and the reason I am doing this. It shouldn't be that way. Now somedays it's constantly there, constantly making me aware of so many things. I am praying that I would continue to have more of the latter. Not only has this whole thing reiterated how important community is but it's also shown me how important awareness and intentional thinking is. First community: You can go at something alone, seek God's strength to get through, etc....but there is something about doing something, knowing that there are other people standing alongside doing the same thing, for the same cause, giving each other encouragement along the way. My brother is here visiting and has also committed to doing this water campaign with me. Usually Connor and I go on our traditional little coffee shop dates, we sorta started this after I went off to college and would come back to visit. Well it's been awesome to instead go at this together and find other ways to spend time together and put that money towards a greater need. Then on my really hard days when all I want is a big huge mug of coffee I head over to a certain facebook, the guy who spread the word about this and the person who inspired me to step forward in taking on this challenge. He is constantly putting up his motivation for the day or an encouragement for those doing the 40 day water campaign. It's through community that we are pushed, challenged and encouraged to make a difference in our world. Then there is awareness: You become so much more aware of what you spend your money on or how you spend your time when you take something as simple as buying a beverage out of your daily routine. A sacrifice that, in the end, doesn't earn you more success or help you up the totem pole but that brings awareness into your life. You spend more time thinking about what you have and what you take for granted and you have a simple chance to take that and turn it around to bring good to someone else who is in much greater need. I had done the whole 30 hour fast thing with youth groups growing up but I remember being so busy doing things during it and making it fun that I don't know if I ever understood the point. I've read about fasts in the Bible, heard about people going on media fasts etc and always thought that was great but just never thought about why. Now this is in no way a major fast (although I'm realizing just how much I depended on coffee) but it's enough to make me take a few steps back and really learn, be taught, look closer. It's a time to take something that I "need" (or think I need) to survive my busy American style, stessful day away and instead turn to God. It's a time when you are constantly being reminded of something missing and through that being reminded of these bigger issues in our world. I find myself praying more, seeking God more passionately, and aching to make more of a difference with my life. Now I also find myself praying to God that he would give me a shot of holy caffeine and espresso so I can face my day with the energy needed, but so far He has just answered with a "wait and see" see what He has in store. So lots of awareness, lots of prayer, lots of learning...like I said before, I am trying to pry my hands of my ears and open my eyes so I don't miss a thing. I also just want to say that I only am sharing this because I do with all my heart believe that this is such a good cause and because God has been peeling at some layers in my life and teaching me and I love to share that, I love to get other's thoughts and I am in the process of learning to put myself out there. I am not writing about this to brag about what I am doing, but it is a situation that is my life right now and why not write about it like I would any other situation? I'm gonna go drink some water and go to bed. :)
So I had this random awesome opportunity to babysit for Mike and Kelley (Mike's the lead singer in Tenth Avenue North) well it was an interesting night of getting to hear some inside scoop on things and it was also cool to get to hang out with the band a little. But man Mike and Kelley...most amazing couple. So adorable and they have the most precious baby girl. At one point Mike was on the bus and mentioned this thing that Blood: Water Mission was doing (if you don't know Blood:water mission is an amazing organization...check it out) anyway its a campaign where you sign up, have your own log and profile to keep track and you commit to going with only tap water for 40 days. Go here (http://40days.bloodwatermission.com/) to find info and sign up. You can do it lent style and take Sunday off or you can go straight through. It's such an incredible way to not only put your money normally used on frivolous drinks to a good cause but also to just give you a very slight feel of what it's like to go without something. Plus it's kind of sickening how much money is spent on just refreshments and coffee (I'm very guilty, I love my coffee and live off caffeine). My little brother is joining me on this 40 day venture and so many people all over are joining the cause......I highly encourage you to check it out, what's giving up something for 40 days? When it means that people who don't even have simple clean tap water, will be able to have that.
My heart lay heavy on the floor the trying and the running having drained every ounce of strength from my soul I'm just a stupid, clumsy girl always trying to carry the load on my own never seeing the stones that may cause me to fall stumble flat on my face and making me feel so incredibly small
I long to follow your path I desire to walk in your will so how do I always end up here at the bottom of the hill having tried so hard to climb up and somehow always getting lost always tumbling back down head over heels?
I follow blindly I step out in faith yet how do I continue to end up with the reins? how is it that it always starts with you and ends with me? how do I end up in this mess? How can I not see?
My intentions seem pure but my actions take control and leave me hurting on the floor I stand alone in the dark betrayed and deceived still longing for some guidance but no direction do I see
I know where I belong, right here and right now yet why? and for what? I try to figure out but I'm over the trying. I'm done doing it on my own and once again I'm laying at your throne tears pouring out, I lay all of me, broken and torn with no where to turn
I long to live the life that you wish I will take any step you say but right now I have no idea and I need you to take hold of my hand and walk with me the whole way....
So every February there comes this heightened presence of "love". Really this "love" just consists of red and pink things all over the place, hearts, candy, flowers, and of course those little valentines that you put sooo much thought into...I mean come on writing down everyone's names from a list takes a LOT of thought and "love". Well in honor of valentines day I want to write a little bit about love. There is something that has come up over and over again as I have moved here and faced so many new trials and challenges. And that is the importance of community and the human desire and need for love. As we have gotten involved in a church and just recently a small group we have discussed things like, why we had to be created with the freedom of choice, because love essentially is a choice, how when involved in a community or group in order to fully give and recieve love you must learn to be vulnerable with each other. Then my roomie and I started a book that is all about our soul's desire for love. (if you are looking for a great book, read Soul Cravings by Erwin McManus.)
So love let me begin with a few quotes that have stuck out to me.... "How can it be that in the postinformation age, in the era of the technological revolution, we still need something as primitive as love? No matter how many times we fail at love or how many times love fails us, we plow ahead. Even the scars of love rarely stop us from risking at love. Strange as it seems, in the midst of our most painful memories, we find our most treasured ones." "When love does not come to you, it breaks your heart, but when you do not give love away, it hardens your heart. One thing stranger than our need to be loved is our need to love, which again leads me to my conspiracy theory: We are designed for love."
Now this does not just apply to romantic love, and falling in love with someone but it fully applies to all your relationships. One of my biggest adjustments after graduating college has been coming home to an empty apartment. In college I was an RA/SHC which really meant that unless I was sleeping (and even then sometimes too) I had people in my room or apartment. There were constantly people around. Now we weren't always having deep challenging conversations, in most cases we were procrastinating, making late night snacks and taking a "break" to watch a movie. But there were people there, sitting by your side, you had companionship. Now flash forward to now, my roomie and I are now working opposite shifts and I have yet to meet any friends my age who aren't married with kids (no offense to those who are, I love you all). So I spend my day playing with my sweet kids I nanny, sometimes heading to the pump it up bounce house or the science center (only to be surrounded by highly caffeinated moms holding their starbucks cups, chatting about who's child is progressing faster or what type of formula they use) and then I head home and walk into an empty apartment. Most evenings I find myself lasting only about 30 minutes before I have to head to target, go to the gym or head to a coffee shop. Not because I am meeting anyone there and not cause I'm going to have a conversation with anyone there, but because there are just people there, there is a human presence and you feel like a part of something. We need love. We need to give love. We desire love. we thrive when we are in community. Although I am still working on the relationship thing here I have been given a view of something very unique here that I have not seen anywhere else that I have lived. People are so aware of what is going on in the world and what hurt is happening...you can't even go to the grocery store without over-hearing a conversation or seeing an adorable family with all their adopted little kids. There are constantly benefit concerts, fundraisers, organizations raising money....and let me tell you, you go to one of those benefit concerts, orphan sunday or a fundraiser dinner here...it does not matter that you are sitting next to a billionaire...there is such a longing in everyones eyes to serve, to look outside their own world. People here know what mission means. And I have been taught so much by just getting to stand back and watch.
I also wanted to add (without making this post too much longer....you are probably being lulled to sleep by now)....I have been following this amazing woman's blog for a long time now and not only is she just honest, funny and an amazing photographer...she has a heart to make a difference and show love in a way that is so often overlooked in our society. Her and a friend started this blog. Its simple. They post a picture, just a simple candid picture of a woman. And your job as a viewer is to comment on her beauty...with specifics. Have you ever had someone come up to you in the grocery store and compliment you? well I never had until just the other day. I was rushing through trying to grab something real quick and feeling pretty frazzeled when this sweet lady in her sweet southern voice says "darling, that is the cutest outfit I have ever seen! how did you think to even put that together?" now hopefully she was not being sarcastic...but that compliment not only caught me completely off guard but lifted my spirits so high. We desire acceptance and love. This blog is doing a wonderful job of starting at the basics. :)
Good night sweet friends...and know that I love you....
I have learned many lessons on this journey the past four and a half months but something that has stuck out the most is our human need for community. I have definitely taken community for granted my whole life and have had a problem with being content not having a "group" but instead having friends from all different "groups". I have truly been blessed with an amazing, diverse, strong group of friends and support and there is not a time in my life that I look back on and think, wow I could have made it through that trial without all those people. I always look back and see that God sent me a certain person/people perfect for each situation. Sometimes I get too caught up in thinking about how some friendships didn't last, or that some friends just naturally drift away. Or I kick myself for not being able to keep up with people that I have met and built relationships with. And then I realize (and am sometimes reminded by some people who love me) that the here and now is what's important. The fiends God surrounds us with are the friends we are meant to have at that time...no matter the age or differences that may seem important in the world's eyes. Now don't get me wrong I still have some incredible friends that I have kept up with for years and that is so important but I have learned that sometimes you need to just let go because you end up spending more time worrying and stressing over making sure you contact every person you know and you miss out on the wonderful community in front of you. I have also learned that I am a huge people person. I always think that I love alone time but then when I get that time....and a lot of it these days...I realize just how much I crave conversation and fellowship. My poor roommate understands my need for this because when she gets home at night my mouth doesn't stop going till I hit the pillow. And it is very obvious when we hit the weekend and every little activity we may do becomes a huge adventure and hilarious memory. I have been so blessed here with some amazing families that have been my support, community and encouragement through this whole journey. I have been so incredibly busy just trying to survive and pay bills though that I feel I have missed out on getting involved and having friendships with people closer to my age and lifestyle "status". I was so blessed to get to go home to Texas this Christmas and spend an amazing two weeks with my sweet Scott family and felt so filled the whole trip. It's amazing what a late night run to taco bell, or a simple midnight trip to walmart can do to fill you up. This is simply due to the fact that we as humans are relational. We thrive in community. I got to spend lots of time with all my sweet Scott siblings and was just overflowing with feeling refreshed. So my news years resolution coming back to TN was to force myself to maybe struggle a little more with bills, back off a little on all the extra side jobs, and take that time to intentionally get involved. We are not meant to live alone, we are meant to sharpen each other, challenge each other, keep each other accountable, live life together, laugh together, and walk along side each other no matter what the trial or triumph may be.
So speaking of being blessed, community, family, etc....here are just a few pictures from my wonderfully perfect Christmas.