Saturday, December 8, 2012

The spirit of one has an impact on many

 Today's post concerns the passing of a Kirkwood High School alumnus, one year younger than me. I write that and I am immediately taken back. The fact that someone younger than me could be taken away from this earth. I write that and I think of all the things she could have become, or done. I write that and I think about all the things I still want to become and do, but have so ignorantly put on the backburner, thinking I still have time. 

The loss of a Kirkwood alum, one who I personally did not know, has had an impact on the community as a whole. It reaches to people like me, that didn't know her, and it reaches to her closest friends. Her family is mourning, but the community is reaching out to them. I, along with many others have struggled with the loss of someone close in the past. It hurts. A lot. It's not easy to comprehend at first, and it may never be so. I think a lot of people, myself included, when going through this kind of surreal happening tend to think, "How could this happen?" or  "Why did this happen?"

Emily was taken from this earth far too early, in the heart of those who knew her. She had plans, I'm sure. For people who don't believe in Christ, it may be easy to say, "If He is so great, why did He let this happen?" That's a tough one. I have asked that before. The answer? Well, maybe He didn't mean to. In the absence of God, things happen. Another possible explanation? Maybe God's plan and her plan were different. It's hard to comprehend. I struggled with that idea in the past because of the loss of a friend but maybe, just maybe, the loved one that we lost already did what was on God's to-do list for them. I know for a fact Emily made tons of people smile. She inspired others. She loved others. I know Emily touched a lot of hearts, heck, she touched mine and I never met her. Maybe that was what God wanted her to do. She has a lasting impact, just a day after her passing. 

When I was 12 or so I lost a best friend who was just a year older than me. I struggled for a long time why God would take her away from me, from her family. She was supposed to become a teacher with me, she was supposed to ice skate, she was supposed to be something. Anything. Then someone told me something I will never forget. Sometimes, God puts people on this earth, just to make others smile. We think that she was supposed to do something. We think our knowledge is better than that of God's. Why? Because it is easier to place blame from a horrible event, than to accept the lesson He is busy teaching us. As hard as it still is for me to accept the loss of my friend Rachel, 8 years later, I now know that all of those things she was supposed to become were in my head. God intended for her spirit to make me smile, and that is just what she did. 

Not only did Rachel's and Emily's life have an impact on so many, but their death did too. By donating her organs, Rachel's family saved the life of three others. She taught me how to be grateful for what I have. So far, by Emily's passing, people have learned the importance of driving safe, as well as cherishing every single moment. We have to remember that God does have a plan for us, one that may differ completely from what we have in mind. We have to remember not to hold back in life just because it may not be comfortable, He didn't promise comfort. 

So my encouragement to everyone reading this is to tell people you love them. Forgive those who need it. Apologize to the people you have hurt intentionally, or unintentionally. It isn't worth holding a grudge. Thank everyone around you for being there. Smile. Live. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

God is present. Always.

A couple months ago I wrote here about my experience in Ghana influencing my faith. I wrote about the Adinkra symbols I saw in Ghana, specifically Nyame Dua, or the presence of God. I also mentioned the idea that I might get a tattoo of this symbol near my ankle, and well, I did it. I got the tattoo that I have been praying about and considering for a while. I couldn't be happier.

Before I got the tattoo I had a long breakfast with my old Young Life leader and good friend Jamie. It came up that I was going to be getting the tattoo while I was home for Thanksgiving break and she offered some really great advice. She, having a tattoo herself, was of course excited for me. Her tattoo is a beautiful piece done with I believe Lilies, and a pink breast cancer ribbon to honor the passing of her father and mother (Jamie if I am mistaken, please let me know!). I was telling her about how I landed on a symbol from Ghana and how once I got the respect from my parents I started praying and asking God for signs that this was the right thing for me to do. At a certain point I figured out that I was stressing out over not seeing these positive signs. I didn't see anything with God saying, "go ahead, do it." and was starting to get irritated. Finally I realized, I was busy searching for all these affirmative signs when all I needed to see was that God wasn't sending any NEGATIVE signs. He hadn't sent out any "No! Don't do it!" I voiced this observation with Jamie and she said something great. Sometimes God places these desires, ones that we can't always explain, because He wants us to do it. He wants us to be able to decide some things on our "own", without Him making it blatantly obvious. These desires are a good thing. After Jamie explained that I couldn't figure out how to thank her, because she had just put into words what I had been experiencing for 3 years almost. God placed the desire for me to get a tattoo praising His love and His work in my life, I just needed time to realize it.

So I went in to the tattoo shop on the Saturday of break with my roommate and friend, Margaret, and handed over the painting of the symbol I made a couple months ago. He traced it, sized it down, and placed th stencil on my ankle. It all felt right. After getting the placement right and watching ever so clearly to make sure he was pulling out a sterile needle (I am my mother's daughter) he began. I told Margaret she had to talk to me the whole time because I needed a distraction. I didn't complain, but the more it hurt, the quicker I talked and I know Marge picked up on it! 20 minutes later, I had a tattoo.

It was incredible. The feeling that I had after looking down and seeing my tattoo was COMPLETELY different than what I was expecting. I was thinking it was going to be this huge, emotional moment. I thought I was going to feel the weight of God on a good way. I thought I was going to feel this fulfillment. I felt none of those. What did I feel? I felt like that symbol should have been there all along. I felt confirmation that it was the right thing for me to do. This bothered me for a little. I wanted that big moment, where I could just feel God. Or at least I thought I did. Today I realized something. I already had that moment. I already felt that rush of God's grace. I felt that when I accepted Him into my heart at camp a while back. I felt that when I started my walk of faith. Now, luckily, I get to continuously feel God as a part of my soul, a part of my attitude. Not because of this helps, a lot more than I thought it would, but because God is continuously fighting for me. God is continuously present, as He was before I accepted my faith, but I know that now.

The tattoo has already done wonders. As humans, we are in a continuous battle of trying to be self-sufficient, but as Christians letting God in at the same time. The moments, while few, that I have forgotten to think of God since I have gotten the tattoo, all it takes is a glance to my ankle and I am reminded. I remember that while I try and be stand on my own, I need God to do so. I need God in every aspect of my life. I couldn't be happier to know that I have that reminder with me for the rest of my walk of faith. The road is long, and winding. I know I am not alone in saying that I have strayed away from God's plans in the past, and I'm not saying I won't now that I have this tattoo, because well, I'm human. What I am saying is hopefully this tattoo can remind me that I can always return to His plans if I do falter. He will always be with me.

Tattoos create controversy. I am well aware of this. If you are reading this and still have questions about why I got my tattoo, please don't feel weird asking. I got this tattoo knowing that there will be times when it will be opposed, and I will be critiqued for it. With that in mind, I know that there are many other parts of my life that I will be critiqued for, and just as I can't help a lot of those aspects, I now can't help this one. I became a Christian and got this tattoo despite future persecution for either.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Waiting to be someone's Eve

Today's topic is a little awkward for me to talk about, but is one that needs some light shed on it. I know there are people out there like me, that are scared to put it out there, but this whole blog is meant for me to share my faith, unashamedly, so others can maybe learn something or feel that they can relate. So here it goes...

...I'm saving myself for marriage. Growing up and through high school, I guess it was my ignorance to the real world and my involvement in my faith that kept me from the 'norm', but I didn't think it was that abnormal for me to save myself for my future husband. Once I got to college, I learned that close to 80% of people will have had sex by the the time they are 20. In high school, it wasn't a big deal for me, or really anyone around me. But now, the 20 year old virgin seems to be this strange concept on college campuses. I think a lot of it is how relationships seem to speed up in college, and also the fact that people are starting long term relationships that they wouldn't be mature enough to in high school. It also seems that this is the time people can just 'hook up' and feel no guilt walking away. Again, because of my faith, I can't seem to do that.

I understand for people with less strong of faith, or with no faith at all it isn't as big of a deal to hook up with someone, to have sex with someone who isn't their husband or wife. As humans we desire touch, affection, love. That's true. What I have a hard time with is the idea of sharing that affection, that love, with someone who might not love me back. I know God has a great man in mind for me. Just as Eve was made for Adam, "Then the man said, This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man." (Genesis 2:23) I know I am made for a specific man. The hard part is waiting for him to come around. Christians, especially Christian women, have been made fun of a bit on this topic, and I agree...a lot of times its exaggerated. We throw around the sayings "leave room for Jesus", "He doesn't have God in him" and "God put him in my life for a reason" more than non Christians can understand. This site has some funny, exaggerated, 'Christian Girl' sayings, like this one...

...again, funny and exaggerated! 

I think the individual needs to set their limits on what they consider pure. There isn't any line that God has created that shows when pure becomes impure. For me, I don't want to do anything I would be ashamed to tell my future husband. Nothing that I regret sharing with someone who isn't going to be by my side forever. Like I said, it's a personal decision. One that not everyone makes, and that's okay. What I ask, is to be respected for it.

It's hard. When people find out I am as 'innocent' as I am, they seem to get the idea that I don't desire the same thing they do. That I don't want the physical affection and love that comes with a relationship. I do. But what I don't want is to share that with someone I won't remember years down the road. I don't want to do the whole 'one night stand' thing. I'll tell you, it is damn hard to be the confident, 20 year old virgin on a college campus, because of all the stereotypes that come with being 20 year old, college girl.  I am made out to be this strange species, but just as I am unashamed of my love for Christ, I am unashamed of my love for myself, and my future husband.

Sorry if this wasn't a topic you were expecting to read about me. But maybe one day, my future husband will read this blog and appreciate it!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Be a Catalyst for God's love

Have you read Galatians? If you haven't you should. It's one of the shorter books in the Bible and it is jam-packed with encouragement. 
Rumor has it, my great-grandmother, Galata, was named after this book...and I can see why. It is about letting Christ work within you, being a catalyst for Christ's love and letting nothing stop you. Paul writes it, and is talking to the Galatians who seem to be consumed by all the rules, all the holidays of the church and not with what matters-God's love. Paul speaks about what I preach in this blog. It isn't following the laws of Christianity set by the church that shows you have a strong faith, it is your love for Christ and for others. (Galatians 2:15-16) 

I struggle sometimes, feeling like I haven't done everything I can to be a good Christian. I don't always go to church on a weekly basis, I have been known to curse more than I should, I stray off and think that I don't need God in certain aspects of my life. I don't give Him enough credit for all the wonderful things He has done in my life, nor for the people in it. One thing I always do though-declare my love for God. I aim to never be ashamed in a situation that I am a Christian, that I love MY God. I have faith that He is present in all situations, even if I forget to acknowledge that. Why? Because Christ died for me and I am going to try to always lift His name higher than mine. All that I accomplish cannot be done without Christ and I want people in my life to know that.

A few days ago, when I was at a coffee shop reading my Bible (one of my favorite activities) I fell in love with yet another verse. I posted it on my facebook and have been repeating it to myself lately. For those of you who haven't seen my facebook it is Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." I went to to the trusty to get a definition of crucify. I remember my friend Sydney asking me for a secular definition of it earlier this month and forgot to look it up. Today, I found it. To crucify means: to treat with gross injustice; persecute; torment; torture. Christ endured all of that, for me and for you because of God's will. He didn't have to. He could have decided against claiming He was the son of God, but he didn't because He was sent to save us. 

What I like about this verse is that Paul proclaims he has been crucified. Obviously, he hadn't in the way that Christ had, but his sins have. Paul's spirit has been crucified, in order to make room for Christ to take over. What I love is that Christ has me taken care of. I am filled with Christ, so I should try and live a Christ-like's the least I can do for the Son of God who gave His life for my sins. I aim to let Christ shine through my actions. It's an ongoing struggle, but this verse is a good daily reminder that I can always do more to honor my God. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

It's a meaningful (and wonderful) life

Today I woke up to a bird singing near my window. Now you might think, 'oh how fairytale-like, a girl waking up to birds chirping and the sun shining.' If you have ever had the joy of seeing me what I am like in the morning you know it is far from a fairytale. Needless to say, I did not appreciate the bird's song.

As I was thinking about what to write in today's blog, I couldn't help but think of that bird. And all the other signs this morning. Signs of life. Signs that God has given me another day to live in His creation. It is important to remember though, that living, truly living, in His creation is more than making sure you have a heartbeat. It is living with a purpose, and it is hard to remember sometimes to live with intention.

I've gotten caught up in it. I bet you have too. We go through the motions of life; get up, eat breakfast, go to your respective professions, come home, converse with friends and family about your day, do busy work before going to bed to wake up(hopefully) and do it all over. Somewhere in there God expects us to do more. He expects us to do something with our lives. I pray a lot, and ask a lot of people to pray for me, to live with intention. If I don't have a reason to do something, then why do it? God gave me this wonderful life, full of opportunity, for me to make something of myself and I don't want to waste it.

This made me think of one of my favorite books, along with my favorite teacher from high school. Tuesdays With Morrie is the book, and Mr. Eden is the teacher, he is the teacher for both the newspaper and yearbook. If Mr. Eden taught me anything about myself when I was on staff, it was that what I was doing for the paper(selling advertisements) was important and had a purpose. I think that is why I liked the paper so much, is because it gave me a purpose to do what I was doing, what I love. I love a challenge, and being able to meet a goal. I love feeling like I was a part of something.

At the end of the year, Mr. Eden gives the senior editors a copy of the book, Tuesdays With Morrie, with a little note at the end, a passage of the book highlighted for all of us, and another for the specific recipient. Such a great idea! For me, Eden highlighted the passage, "Remember what I said about finding a meaningful life? I wrote it down, but now I can recite it: Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning. You notice...there's nothing in there about salary."

If you haven't read the book, you should. If you want to borrow my copy, I'd be more than happy to loan it to you! In short, the book is written by a man who is rich in material wealth,  who goes back to his old college professor who has been diagnosed ALS(Lou Gehrig's disease) and becomes rich in educational and moral wealth through his professor's lessons of hardship. I don't want to tell you any more, because I want you to read the book.

The passage Mr. Eden highlighted for me works so well in every aspect of my life. Morrie, the professor, encourages the author, Mitch, to live with intention, with meaning. To not just go through the motions and gain wealth, but to love others and develop relationships. Morrie, throughout the book encourages Mitch to not focus on material wealth, as so many do and measure their success based on that, but to focus on making his life something he is proud of.

Now, I know that Morrie in this book is not a replacement for God,  but he is really catching onto what God wants for us. He wants us to be devoted to love, to those around us, and to be devoted to purpose.

Every once in a while, I need a reminder to live with intention, but I try so hard to find a purpose in all that I do. I'm getting an education to be useful to my future community of peers. I'm writing this blog to hopefully reach out to people about my faith. I'm learning about different people, different lifestyles, so I'm not ignorant to the world around me. I'm making mistakes to know what I believe is right. Sometimes those mistakes are unintentional on my behalf, maybe not on God's. However, what I do after them should be intentional. I should learn from them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Deepening Compassion-a healthy religion

If you only have 15 minutes, please watch this video. If you have 20 minutes, watch this video and read what follows!

I have said before and I will say it again, I love my church. It is on Washington University's campus in St. Louis, so it is about a 20 minute drive for me when I am home, but worth much more than that. It is Catholic, yes, but it is homilies like this one that give me chills and put my faith back in the Catholic church that has a reputation for being a bit boring.

Father Gary in this homily talks about good religion versus bad religion; something I have brought up here. One of the comments that Father Gary made at the beginning of the talk that hit home for me was this, "Healthy religion understands we need to listen lived experience of people across world especially those around us. If a religion can't be honestly criticized by its own and others, its not an honest religion and it will not be healthy." The Catholic church isn't ALL good. It has areas that can stand to be critiqued. We need to listen to its people and respond.

I can't help but think of one of my oldest friends Kelsey when listening to this homily. I have known Kelsey since Kindergarten, and have learned many lessons from her. The biggest one; making religion fit me, not trying to fit into religion.

Kelsey and I grew up in the Catholic church, going to a private Catholic school is how we met. While I still go to the Catholic mass, Kels has opted out, but has continued to deepen her relationship with Christ. For a period of time Kelsey, in a way, lost her faith. At least faith in the Catholic church. (Now Kelsey, if you're reading this, correct me if I'm wrong!) It was so difficult for me to see Kelsey lose faith in the Catholic church because I know she felt like she was being shamed. Why? Kelsey had the courage to admit she is gay during high school.

Unfortunately, I think the unhealthy part of religion got to Kelsey. Father Gary says in his homily that an unhealthy religion creates outsiders, and that's the truth. So many times a church seems to create rules and regulations for people to 'belong' but that isn't what Jesus wanted. That isn't what God wants. We hear, or observe so often, unhealthy churches preaching, "You don't sing the right way? You don't pray the right way? You don't name God the right way? You don't love like I don't belong, sorry." But that just isn't right. The church, the Christian religion for that matter, should be about inclusion. It should be about love.

I got to stick around to see Kelsey change her faith yet again, and I am forever grateful to my God for doing so. She realized she can be gay and be loved. Loved by both her physical family and friends, and by her eternal Father. He's not going anywhere just because she is attracted to women. Why would He?

Father Gary made a beautiful point at the end of his homily. He said, "if we are a healthy religion, if any religion is healthy, it's deepening compassion. It's what it's for." I googled a definition of compassion and liked what I found. Wikipedia claims compassion to be "the virtue of empathy for the suffering of others. It is regarded as a fundamental part of human love..." Our religion isn't supposed to shame those that are different. It isn't supposed to create insiders and outsiders. It is supposed to be a "springboard into loving those who are other than us...which is the hallmark of a healthy religion" as Father Gary puts it.

I'm on that train. I'm all about loving people for who they are in the present. I'm all about making them feel a sense of inclusion, a feeling of being welcome. What grounds do I have to tell people that because they 'stray from the norm' that they can't practice my religion, they can't love my God? Who knows if I am the norm?

I urge you again to watch that video. I urge you to try and take into action what Father Gary talks about. Don't let your faith become toxic. Don't let your church make you feel ashamed.

(Love you Kels! Thanks for letting me talk about you!)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

'Medase', Ghana, for your inspiration.

        For those of you who aren't fluent in Twi, one of Ghana's languages, the word 'Medase' means 'Thank you' in English (Don't be fooled...I'm not fluent in Twi by any means...this is just one word I learned while I was in Ghana!). I have a lot to be thankful for because of my trip to Ghana. I think the biggest lesson I learned while I was in Ghana was to rely on my God more and more. Sorry Dr. A, if you're reading this, that I didn't say anything regarding the 6 hours of course credit I received...all that was next in the line of things that I learned! 
        Like I said, Ghana really inspired me to rely on God to get me through my troubles, both present and future. I loved the attitude that most Ghanaians had that God would bring them through whatever troubles they had and the fact that God seemed to be ever-present in all the towns we visited. Okay, I could go on and on about how great Ghana is and how much it changed my faith in just the two and a half weeks we were there, but I'll get to the point. 
        In Ghana there are symbols called Adinkra symbols. They were created by the Akan people and are now used by the Ashanti people in particular, but can be seen throughout the country. Adinkra means 'a departing message' or 'a goodbye', so often times people would put cloth adorned with Adinkra symbols in a coffin, as a message to bring up to God, or give them to a person leaving for a long journey.  One of the most popular that I noticed was the Gye Nyame, which means "Except God". Essentially, nothing is important in this world, except God. 
Gye Nyame
    One that I fell in love with, is Nyame Dua. This symbols stands for God's presence, or the Altar of God. I have painted this on a canvas and hung it above my bed at my apartment here in Fayetteville, but since I have gotten home from Africa felt a stronger connection to it than any other symbol. 
Nyame Dua
   This brings me to my point in this blog. For a while now I have been debating getting a tattoo to symbolize all the work that God has done in my life, and my walk of faith with Him. This blog is all about seeing God through everyday occurrences and what I have learned about my faith through experience.  In this blog post I spoke about 2 Corinthians 12:10, "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." I related my ultimate physical weakness, my achilles' tendon, to the weaknesses in my life and always relying on God, whose "power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). That is why I would get this tattoo on my ankle, close to my achilles' tendon. I love the idea of having a symbol of God's presence close to a symbol of my ultimate weakness. 
    I know not everyone who is reading this necessarily agrees with or understands why I think I need a tattoo symbolizing my relationship with Christ and well, that's okay. I have been blessed with parents who struggled back and forth with me regarding this idea but respect me enough to tell me that it is my decision. I could never get this tattoo if I didn't think my parents would be with me in this. I have been blessed with friends that will listen to me as I explain it to them and ask them to pray for me in this decision. I am hoping to be blessed with you, as a reader, who will respect me in whichever decision I make, to know that I have struggled with this tattoo idea and to know that it means more than the aesthetic value of a tattoo.
         It reminds me that everyday I will struggle with my faith in the real world, and every day God will be there. It reminds me of my time in Ghana, where God was ever-present. It reminds me of the meaning of Adinkra-a departing message. In my walk of faith I would like to show people I come into contact with that God is present in the weakest of times. 
     I haven't completely decided whether or not I will get this tattoo, that wasn't the point of this post. It was to share with my friends and family something that has been on my heart for a long time. If I do decide to get the tattoo though, I know it will be because I have prayed long and hard about it with God, and believe whole-heartedly it is the right thing to do, and not just a temptation. 

I love you all for taking time to read my blog, I urge you all to try and see God in some aspect of your life today, tomorrow, everyday as I try to. It makes the day much more enjoyable!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

All you need is Love...and joy, peace, patience...

Happy Sunday!

Most of you know that every Sunday for the past 3 and a half years or so I have been sending out a 'prayer text' to a group of about 45 or so (If you would like to be added onto the list, just let me know!) I started doing it my senior year as to keep in touch with the group of people I did Work Crew with at a Young Life camp that summer, it has now grown to include friends from Summer Staff and friends from home!

Today was like any other day, I sent out the text and waited for responses. I get anywhere from 4 texts back to 15 normally. I don't ask that everyone responds every Sunday, but I like that they know the option is out there, if they need someone to pray for them, they can count on me! One of my great friends Maddie Lovell responded today (she is normally one to respond every week and I love her for it!) asking to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit.

Now, I knew before I responded to her that the fruit of the Spirit was essentially love and kindness and such but I am ashamed to say that I had forgotten the whole meaning of the phrase so I did my research. For those of you that are like me, it comes from Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is no law." Not only did I read this one passage, as a good Bible reader I decided to look into its context and man did I love what I read.

Galatians 5 is all about living by the Spirit and not but the sinful nature that us humans are prone to, and the battle that we fight trying to live that way. It is so hard to live and be filled with the fruits of the Spirit all the time...I've only ever known Jesus Christ to be able to do so. But what is great is the idea that although we know only Jesus and God are perfect in their intentions and actions, we can still strive to be filled with the Spirit and reject the sinful nature of the flesh in order to be closer to God. It should be our intention as Christians to do this.

While I was reading Galatians, I also read a little earlier than the fruit of the Spirit section. At the beginning of Chapter 5 it says this, "...The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:6) Paul here is talking about the irony of those who follow a law just because it's a law thinking and that by obeying it is the only way to get to heaven. He urges people to disregard the fact that there are certain laws set up and to love. Love is what will get you into heaven. Think about 1 Peter 4:8, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins." God makes it evident that we are called to love in this world, not to judge (neither others nor ourselves), and the rest will fall in place.

I think it is important that the first thing listed in Galatians 5:22 is love, because don't all the rest follow? With love don't you get kindness, goodness, joy and peace? It is important of course to try and achieve each one on its own, but I think as Christians, as humans, we need to focus on love. We don't need all these rules to get into heaven. "For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His only son so that all who believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16 says it all. God loved us, we need to love and believe in His son, and we will turn out just fine.

Thanks Maddie, for making me do my research

Monday, August 27, 2012

"We plan, God laughs"

I'm a planner. Most people who know me well, know that I can't do much without a plan. I just like being organized, knowing ahead of time what I'm going to be doing and where I'm going to be doing it. It's hard for me to do something just on a whim, as much as I wish I had the 'free spirit' to do so. Sometimes though, I am reminded though that I don't need a plan for every aspect of my life. 

Today was one of those times. 

I met with one of my professors from my study abroad to Ghana today to talk to her about picking up a minor in African and African American Studies. This idea has been on my mind since I got home from Ghana and I wanted to talk with Dr. Arrington about whether or not it'd be beneficial for me to do so. Once I got there I explained to Dr. A that once I was home from Ghana I came to the realization that I didn't want that trip to be "that one time I went to Africa". I also don't know how to incorporate what I learned and continue to learn from my trip to Ghana into my future career plans. After explaining my many problems, Dr. A stopped me and asked why I thought it was necessary to know the immediate benefits of getting a minor in African American studies. I stopped and said, 'well I guess I don't need to but that is how I've always really thought about things' (Dr. A if you're reading this and I am messing up what our conversation was really about, feel free to edit!) She got to the heart of my problem-I'm a planner. I have such a hard time accepting that I want a minor in African American studies for the pure fact that I enjoy it, and it will be beneficial at some point, but that's not enough...or it wasn't before I left the meeting. Her point was that the benefits of having this minor don't have to be blatantly obvious for me to enjoy them. 

At the end of the meeting she asked me to do one thing-enjoy the classes I am taking right now, live in the moment, and not worry about the semesters ahead. I laughed, and told her people have instructed me to do that before. What people haven't done is held me accountable for it and I have a feeling Dr. A will do just that. This semester I shouldn't be worried about next semester or next year. I shouldn't be worrying about what a minor is going to be doing for me in the next 10 years.

Where does my faith come into play in all this? If you haven't read Jeremiah 29:11 you should. God declares, "For I know the plans I have for you...plans to proper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Now, that excerpt God is talking to those who have been exiled, but nonetheless God has promised that we have a future. 

I think the whole purpose of today's meeting with the wonderful Dr. A was not to figure out whether or not I should get a minor in African American studies, but as a reminder that I don't need to plan everything down to a T. God has already done so. 

So thank you Dr. A, for reminding me that when I make a plan, God laughs. I bet he does, because when I look in hindsight about all the crazy planning I've done for my future, I laugh a little too. I am planning so much that I am not enjoying the freedom of college that I am supposed to. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

With tragedy comes difference

Until now I haven't really spoken about my take on the Aurora shootings because I want those who survived and those who are mourning to be able to become at peace with what happened rather than be overwhelmed with the millions of opinions on what happened, but I can't help but give my opinion on how people have responded to the tragedy.

In times of tragedy I like to think there are three types of people in regard to their faith; tragic Christians, tragic Non-believers, and those who are Constant in their chosen faith.

Now, I'm all about a person finding their faith and holding strong to it through thick and thin. So is God. Unfortunately, these tragic Christians can't seem to find God in their everyday life, only in times where they have no other way to explain the powerless feeling they have when tragedy strikes. They don't see God's work in all of their accomplishments. Now, God is all about helping in times of ultimate powerlessness ( 2 Corinthians 12: 9- "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.") but more than that He wants us, as Christians, to live the life as a constant Christian with all of its benefits. Only relying on God in times of tragedy is like taking credit for all the good things He has done in your life. It isn't fair to God to keep Him away from His beautiful creation that is you.

Unfortunately, there is another group on the other side of the spectrum, the tragic Non-believers. My heart aches for these people because they lose faith in God because of a man-made tragedy. I have a slight obsession with Mumford and Son's song "Hold on to What You Believe" because it has a Christian tie. The chorus goes, "But hold on to what you believe in the light, when the darkness has robbed you of all its sight." Now, if that isn't like 2 Corinthians 5:7 "For we walk by faith, not by sight" I should just end this post right now! I wish every Christian, or any person of faith for that matter, would listen to this song. I haven't come across a tragedy that has made me lose my faith but I can't imagine how terrible that would feel, to lose so much hope, and so much trust in Christ. I have been fortunate enough to know that the peace that I feel with Christ in times of good, or in the light, will carry me through the darkness.

Lastly, there is a group of people that I think I relate to most. These constant Christians, or constant Believers I think are best described by the woman who wrote this post about the Aurora shooting. This woman was in the theater with her husband and kids when James Holmes attacked. Her whole family survived and praises God for that. She responds to tragic non-believers, or constant non-believers on the internet asking if Christians "still think God is a Merciful God." In the post she answers whole-heartedly YES. Towards the end of the post, she writes something that could sum up my entire post I think. She says, "God is always good. Man is not. Don't get the two confused."

I thank God for directing me to read her post because it is a constant reminder that God is good, even when tragedy strikes. I urge anyone who read this post to read the woman's post above because it is a great reminder that not everyone who was involved in the shooting lost their faith, and not everyone who goes through life's tragedies will blame God for it.

So I leave you with her words: "God is always good. Man is not. Don't get the two confused."

Friday, July 6, 2012

Every store, vendor, taxi and boat.

Truly, I don't know where to begin. There are SO many aspects I could focus on about my trip from Ghana and I'm sure they will each come out at some point or another in this blog! Oh and I have coffee with me today...even though it's as hot in St. Louis as it was in Ghana...maybe even hotter!

I think for today I am going to focus on how incredibly easy it was to know that Ghana was Christian just by driving through the towns...I didn't even have to leave the bus to feel the acceptance of God's presence there. It's funny because my Professor said that last time she went to Ghana the plane she was on going over there was full of missionaries and she laughed because Ghana is so predominately Christian that the country doesn't need to have people come over and convert the my opinion it's the US that needs a lesson in faith from the Ghanaians! 

Every store, every vendor, every boat has some Christian tie to it, except for in the North where there is more of a Muslim influence. Let me tell you, the names of the stores we saw went from 'My Savior Coldstore' to 'He Lives Clothing'. The taxis and the trotros(public busses) had different Bible verses, many had different Psalms on the back window. For some people on our trip it was kind of comedic but for me it was just a reinforcement of what I was talking about here (ok it was funny when I saw 'Chaste Dry Cleaners') If you didn't go to the link I understand, but it was a previous post about Romans 1:16 that states, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." Ghana was unashamedly declaring their faith and I wish I had the guts to do it here. 

What I thought was living with no shame for believing in the gospel was NOTHING compared to how the Ghanaians do. It was a big wake up call for me, not that I was still ashamed of being a Christian but I'm not doing everything I can to declare that I am! Everyone I spoke to I could feel God's presence, the smile of the kids in their school uniform was a sign that God was there for me. 

One of my friends yesterday asked me flat out, "Was it hard?" Such an open question, with an infinite amount of answers. Yes, it was harder than I could ever imagine seeing kids with Kwashiorkor, men without the ability to move their legs begging on the streets and having to look the other way, it was hard seeing the desperation of men trying to all sell me the same souvenir, it was hard to see the mad woman naked on the street when there was a BMW dealership across the street, and it was hard feeling like I couldn't do a single thing about any of it. On the other hand, this beautiful country left me desiring their lifestyle. When most people think of Africa they think of the infomercials with sick children and dry desert land. Yes, I saw some of that, but what they don't show on those informercials is the rich culture, vibrant colors, and fruitful landscape that a lot of Africa is made up of.  They also don't show the fact for Ghana at least that these people are happy. They don't need all the fancy technology or clothing that we Americans seem to think we need. They need their family, a home to live in, foot to eat, and their faith apparently. What a life. These beautiful people rely on their faith more than I think I ever have in my life and it is incredible what God has done for these men, women, and children. 

While we were on the trip someone asked, "Could you ever live here?" and it got me thinking how much I would LOVE to live this simpler lifestyle. I think by going to Africa again and relying on God to bring me through whatever is placed in my life would be ABSOLUTELY life changing. I answered the questioning saying that in a heartbeat I would move to Africa in exchange for a simpler life (sorry Mom, Dad, and friends!) but it pains me to wonder if I could actually live and thrive here because physically with my skin and my reliance on Western Medicine. I hate that those two things are holding me back. I'd have to get used to the food too...

So today rather than a question, I have a suggestion for you. Try and live a simpler life. I'm not saying go throw everything out and live in a mud hut, but maybe pause every once in a while and see where God is around you. Be grateful for what you do have and desire to put God in more parts of your life. We all have those parts in our life that we don't think we need Him or He isn't there, but He is, we just have to look a little harder. 

Shoot me an email at if you want to hear more about Ghana, I would love to meet anyone for coffee or have a good phone call about different parts of the trip because everyone knows now how much I love talking about my trip!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Be Kind, Rewind...for the next Angel.

My parents have raised me well. I always look both ways before I cross the street, I don't do drugs, I say please and thank you. One thing that my parents taught me and my sisters was how to interact with strangers rather than just saying "don't talk to strangers". Okay, they were strangers to us but to my parents they were relatives, friends, or work friends. I will never forget my parents taking Kelley, Maggie and me to dinner parties and telling us to look for the lady with the purple eye. Now to a 5 year old it is challenge but to my parents it was a way to get me to look into people's eyes when I was talking to them. Ingenious I tell you. 

I'll credit my ability to talk to just about anyone with this lesson. So to Mom and Dad, thank you. I am happy that I wasn't a child that was kept on such a tight leash that I was told never to talk to strangers. Well, I don't think a leash could stop me, from what I hear I was a pretty rowdy red headed child. That's not the point though, and I'm sure you're all wondering what the point here actually is. Let me tell you. 

As I was reading my Bible the other day at the coffee shop here in Fayetteville (haven't left for Ghana yet, Sunday!) I came across Hebrews 13:2, "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it."

 How cool is that image?? By talking and simply being kind to those around me, the woman serving me coffee, the guy out in the parking lot giving out parking tickets, the man at the bar asking for a to-go cup of coffee, any one of them could be ANGELS. Okay so maybe not the guy giving out parking tickets, that's just not nice, but truly, God can and does send out angels into the world He created to interact and be with us.

It's that idea of Be Kind, Rewind. Who knows, back when there was VHS, you could have rented Angels in the Outfield right before the angel in the real world. Alright, so that's a stretch, but what if you hadn't rewinded a VHS for an angel, I bet you would have felt really bad. I have my bad days, as does everyone else, but I try and be nice to those around me despite not being so happy that day myself. I mean, why shouldn't I be nice? It can't hurt me to be nice so why not smile at a stranger? And now that I know God has angels down here to keep tabs on me, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will try harder to be nicer! 

I encourage anyone reading this to try and be hospitable to those strangers around you when you aren't feeling your best. It feels pretty wonderful to be that stranger.

**This is the last post for a while, I won't be able to blog while in Ghana but I will be posting an update once I am back in the states!***

Monday, May 21, 2012

You're going to GHANA? Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen!

***I tried REALLY hard to have a cup of coffee in my hand for this post, really, I did. I made a great cup of coffee around 4 intending to sit down with it and blog but my 'free wifi' at my apartment here in Fayetteville decided that it wasn't a good time for me to use it so I couldn't blog. I get what I (my parents) pay for I guess. What is important is that I am now able to blog after a couple weeks of not doing so!***

I am sure most of you know that I am going to Ghana in a couple weeks. The more people I tell, the more surprised they get. My teachers from high school couldn't believe it, my friend's parents were beyond surprised, and the more I tell it to people the more nervous I get! It's getting so close to my trip I am starting to worry! Of course I have been praying for my safety and asking others to pray for my safety. Going abroad without parents is a scary thing. The thought of going to Africa as pale as I am is even scarier. The title of this post has been a common response to me revealing that I am going to Africa, as I expected. Sunburns for me are no joke, my friends can tell you I have got a great routine down for not getting burnt. Let's hope that carries over to Ghanaian sun!

Sunscreen jokes aside, I am still very nervous about going to a 3rd world country as a white, well off, American. The thought of being pick-pocketed is a concern, the idea of trying new foods that wouldn't meet restaurant regulation in America is another. I'm not exactly "roughing it" as some people think when they hear I'm going to Ghana, I'm staying in hotels and resorts, but they don't exactly fit the US definition of 'hotel' and 'resort'.

I started (and just finished) reading Francis Chan's book Crazy Love towards the end of my semester, I have been wanting to read it for a while, especially since I saw him speak in Atlanta this past Winter and I was finally able to do so. Last night, I came across a section that I know was targeted at me, I just know it. The chapter was about obsession, the section was about our obsession with safety. Chan writes that when we pray to God something along the lines of-please keep me safe in my travels, and let me return home safely, we have "elevated safety to the neglect of whatever God's best is..."

What an incredible thought. This was such a needed realization that came at the right time for me. I have been praying for the Lord to keep me safe thinking that should be His will, what could be above my safety? But Chan challenges me, and all others who have fallen short of asking God to follow through with His will before our own, to ask God to bring us closer to Him. If that means risking our safety, shouldn't we sacrifice a little?

I'm not saying that I'm going to neglect my safety or my well being by not bringing sunscreen, or eating raw food, but who am I to ask God to put safety at the top of His predetermined list of things to do for me? It works in more situations than travel. Sometimes God has put me in a situation where I was scared, or I didn't know what was coming next, maybe not the safest  of all situations but that meant that I leaned more and more on Him, and His timing. This is His goal. For me to rely so heavily on His plans that asking Him for safety wouldn't even cross my mind. I should know that a little risk is worth having Him to back me up, keep me going. He knows what is best.

So as I get ready for Ghana, please keep me in your prayers. And as you pray, I would hope that my safety isn't your first or biggest concern. God has that covered. I would love for you to pray that I continue my journey with Christ through this trip to Africa and I rely more on Him than I ever have before.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Citizens of Heaven"

The following is a piece written by a non-believer about Christians. It is anonymous and we read it at camp a couple years ago. It is what I try and live by. Take time to read it all the way through, I'll share my thoughts at the end!

"For Christians are not differentiated from other people by country, language or customs; you see, they do not live in cities of their own, or speak some strange dialect or have some peculiar lifestyle...THey live in both Greek and foreign cities, wherever chance has put them. They follow local customs in clothing, food, and other aspects of life. But at the same time, they demonstrate to us the wonderful and certainly unusual form of their own citizenship. They live in their own native lands, but as aliens; as citizens they share all things with others; but like aliens, suffer all things. Every foreign country is to them as their native country, and every native land as a foreign country. They marry and have children just like everyone else; but they do not kill unwanted babies. They offer a shared table, not a shared bed. They are present "in the flesh" but they do not live "according to the flesh." They are passing their days on earth, but are citizens of heaven. They obey the appointed laws, and go beyond the laws in their own lives. They love everyone, but are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and gain life. They are poor and yet make many rich. They are short of everything and yet have plenty of all things. They are dishonored and yet gain glory through dishonor. Their names are blackened and yet they are cleared.. They are mocked and bless in return. They are treated outrageously and behave respectfully to others. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when punished, they rejoice as if being given a new life. They are attacked by Jews as aliens, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them cannot give any reason for their hostility. To put it simply- the soul is to the body as Christians are to the world. The soul is spread through all parts of the body and Christians through all the cities of the world. The soul is in the body but not of the body; Christians are in the world but not of the world." 

Wow...what high expectations huh?? Like I said before I got this letter in print from my 'boss' at camp when I was there as a server in high school. From the context it seems to be pretty old, speaking of Jews and Greeks, but stands the test of time as it can be applied to the present day. Being in this world but not of this world is a very hard thing to do, and I know I, and probably every other person has fallen short in doing so because we are well...human.

God has promised that "all who believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) That's great! It doesn't matter the sins that we have committed or are going to commit, as long as we live knowing that Jesus is the son of God, we will be citizens of heaven in the end. What a lot of people do, myself included, is think, "well if I'm going to be forgiven for this sin, it's ok to do it, as long as I know that it's a sin." Well is that really being a Christian? Shouldn't we be striving for perfection? Now we all know that there is no such thing as the perfect person, we all sin, but we should be always wanting to live a Christian life, meaning avoiding sin when we can. To be in this world but trying your darndest not to  commit worldly sins should be the goal of any Christian.

Like I said before, I have fallen short of being in the world and not of the world, and I know it will happen again, because I'm human. But trying to always improve, always live in a way where if someone were to meet me, they would know I'm Christian-that's the life I want. Despite my sins and despite my shortcomings, I hope that all who meet and know me, know me as a Christian. It takes more than wearing a cross around your neck to be a Christian, and I'm going to try and do that.

Monday, April 16, 2012

My Achilles' heel

My biggest fear: snapping my achilles' tendon. I know that sounds silly but it truly is. You know if it does snap it retracts back into your calf???

Alright, enough anatomy, I don't like thinking about it anyway. The reason I brought it up was the fact that I have NO idea where my super human strength/speed comes from when my friends play on my irrational fear. I swear, whenever one of my friends tries to grab my heel or walks too close behind me because they know it gives me anxiety that they might 'accidentally' step on my heel, I have such a strong reaction/reflex that I, myself, am surprised.

Why bring this up? Because I have found this is the perfect metaphor for 2 Corinthians 12:10- "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

This verse used to confuse me, I heard it but I never looked into the Bible for the context. Now that I have, it makes so much sense! We have hardships and persecution in our life. The good news is, we also have God. And God said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. 12:9) Perfect. His power is perfect. God places hardships in our life as a test, to see if we can let His light shine through the darkness. Like I have said in past posts, God doesn't promise an easy life because we have to proactively choose God. We couldn't just have perfection handed to us.

So back to Achilles. My ultimate weakness. Just as my strength is shown when my weakness is tested by my friends, God's strength shines through when the world tests me. I get this superhuman strength when I least expect it in both situations. When I think the world is against me or when I think it might be ending something happens to keep me going. I have to give it all to God in order to reap the benefits. At times that seems impossible, but in situations where there's no time to think, just react, I hope I can react in a way that points me to God.

He keeps my soul safe, I keep my heels safe. We're even right?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

37 days and counting...(not including Sundays!)

Update on the no make up for 40 days:

As Easter approaches, I am realizing more and more how much I relied on make-up to feel, well...pretty. I have such a great support system with my mother telling me all the time how beautiful I am, my grandma telling me she loves my fair skin and friends telling me that I can pull the whole "no make up thing" off when we go out. But I gotta tell you, I still relied too much on make-up to look presentable.
During the week days I think it was much easier to deal with. I normally just roll out of bed, with only enough time to make a cup of coffee before I have to leave for class so I never really missed having to take 5 extra minutes to apply foundation and mascara. (Those 5 extra minutes were spent in bed by the way!) What has really gotten to me is preparing to go out on the weekends.
The first weekend of Lent, I could have cried. I know it's ridiculous to think that but truly, I think any girl knows that the thought of going out into the world with out a drop of make up when EVERY other girl around you has beautiful make up on is a terrifying thing. Even if it is just foundation, with out it, all of your imperfections are exposed. I spent extra time with my hair and what I was going to wear out but I just hated that I couldn't put some mascara on to brighten up my eyes.
After that weekend I kinda realized it just didn't even matter. I wasn't looked at strange for not having make up on, people didn't ask me about it, they still acted the same with me. Why did I think that it would be different?? I'm not the kind of girl that can't be seen with out make up on but I still had similar thoughts on the matter.
Our society tells us that we NEED bright eyes. That having a perfectly even skin tone is necessary. It tells us that our lips need to be shiny and our eyebrows perfectly shaped. But why? God made me the way HE wanted me to look. He provided me with the tools to feel beautiful and with make-up I try so hard to change those. No matter how much I try and convince myself that I'm just "enhancing" my beauty, I'm changing it.
I can't say that I won't ever wear make up again, because I will. What I am saying is I have much more of an appreciation for my 'natural beauty'. I have worked up the confidence to be ok with out make up. Heck, if someone has a problem with me not wearing mascara, I'm sorry but I don't really want to talk to them! I learned just what I set out to when Lent started. I have found beauty in myself the way I didn't think I could.

All you girls out there, I urge you to go a week without make up. It's really eye opening.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Finding comfort in the uncomfortable

"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."-The Savage

Who knew I would actually enjoy one of the readings I had for my ethics class?? Last night at work I was doing my homework at my desk...usual...and I came across this quote. For anyone who hasn't read the novel "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley, don't worry, I haven't either. Just an excerpt from it it entitled, "The Utilitarian Social Engineer and the Savage" It is a story about a man, the Savage, who challenges this 'big brother' type of government that challenges the idea of needing any sort of religion because it creates discontent and eliminates the possibility for a sort of Utopia.

So maybe I'm bad at explaining the reading, I'll get back to you once I get the summary from my professor tomorrow! The idea that religion creates controversy is all around us. But is that so bad? The Bible tells us that life won't be easy(John 16:33) and that is just what this quote is saying. The Savage rejects the opportunity to live a perfectly happy life in order to have religion in his life.

But what makes it ok that sin exists, that fear and discomfort exist, is the fact that God has forgiven us for our sins. And the idea that God allows certain things to happen so we can learn from them. Some of life's greatest moments come from it's hardest ones.

My life hasn't been easy. Far from it. But not one point in my life would I trade for a perfect moment if that meant I had to give up my faith. What I learn from death, rejection, divorce, fights with friends, any hardship I have had or will have, is what makes life worth living. Like the Savage said, I want freedom, I want real danger because that is when I learn the most. I'm not saying I want to jump off a cliff and see what happens, but putting myself in new, uncomfortable situations might be just what I need. I can develop my faith through the unknown.

I don't have any specific Bible verse at this point to give you, I don't think I would even know what "genre" of a verse I would give you because this comes from my heart(cheesy I know). But truly, as a woman of faith, I know that situations where I risk messing up, I risk sin or discomfort, are what will bring me closer to my God who loves me despite my sins.

I'm not sure if this was how I was supposed to analyze my Ethics homework...especially since the reading was about 15 pages and this was just one sentence towards the end of the passage. I urge whoever is reading this though, to try and live through the discomfort, through the danger and freedom to a better life. A Christ-like life. It'd be hard to say no to a "perfectly happy" life if someone offered it to me like what happened to the Savage(fictional story let me remind you) but I would have to politely reject it. There is no satisfaction in having happiness handed to you. It's your experiences that create know the saying "happiness isn't a destination, it's a journey" applies here. That journey has its trials as well, but no doubt guarantees happiness as well.

If you get a chance, this is the excerpt I read from my Ethics book. It's chapter's 15-17, a little bit of a long read but if you find yourself absolutely confused by my description go ahead and give it a read. It will be worth it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

All Sinners Welcome

When I go home I'm definitely spoiled. Mom and Dad love to cook dinner(or even take me out to a nice restaurant that a typical college kid couldn't afford), my bed has clean sheets when I come home, I get to just lay around and not do much. But when I talk about being spoiled, I'm really talking about my church. If you haven't been to Washington University's catholic church, you really should go.

While on Spring Break this past week I went to church. My parents were out of town and Kelley and Maggie were busy with something else, so I put on a dress, hopped in my car and drove myself to church. I love to get there a little early and just watch. Sometimes the Catholic church is pegged as quiet, formal, and uptight, but the Newman center is anything but that. Sometimes it's hard to hear those with mics on because of everyone is talking to everyone. Each Sunday there is a Gospel question, last week's was "What is the worst thing you have ever done?" Well that shut us all up fast...

Father Gary started out his homily by saying to all of us, "you should be ashamed of yourself." But he turned it around by asking us if anyone has ever told us that, and if they have, they were wrong. Then he pointed out there was a sign that we all walked under to get into the church that says, "All Sinners Welcome". He had me hooked at this point. I was buying whatever he was saying because it was EXACTLY what I think the Catholic Church/any Christian organization should be. Father Gary was speaking about what I was here. We as humans aren't here to judge. We have all sinned, there's no doubting that. We are here to love. (1 Peter 4:8, Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins)

Gary spoke about shame being toxic to your soul, something I talked about here. Being ashamed makes you feel like something is wrong or bad about what you have done as a person. There should be no shame if everyone is a sinner. "There is a difference between shame and healthy guilt" Just because we sin, doesn't mean that we are meant to hide from the world, or the church. Our sin does not define us. What I think is great about Father Gary's homily is that he talks about his church WELCOMING sinners. Just what a church needs to do, welcome those that have sinned because if they didn't no one would be there to sit in their pews or even to give a homily.

What we do when we leave those pews is what counts. If we strive to change the path we once were on, THEN we can be without guilt for past sins.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Listenin' to that Jesus Music

Yesterday I was on my way back from campus and decided to check my mail. I'll admit, I know I don't get enough mail to check it everyday, but I always do in hopes that someday I'll get something. Well, yesterday was the day! It was my CD with all the music from the Passion conference that I went to this Winter Break.

I got so excited I tried to tear the cardboard appart, not even seeing the "tear here" sign on the back of it and once I got it out of the cardboard there was that pesky plastic cover that no one can ever get this point I was yelling at the CD because all I wanted to do was put it in my computer and listen to the songs! Finally, I got it open, and was able to listen and man was it worth all the frustration of opening it!

For those of you that don't know what Passion is, it is a conference of college kids(there was about 45,000 this year) that come together for a couple days to listen to speakers from all over and of course music from a handful of bands. I loved it. I advise everyone who can to go to Passion 2013!

Anyway, what really got to me about the CD coming in the mail were the memories from Passion. I was blessed with the ability to go to this conference and reunite with some wonderful folks I met while working at a Young Life camp this past summer. I loved that I kind of got a second chance for these people to see who I really was. If you know me, you know that I LOVE talking about you and your questions but hate having it turned around on me! I was guilty of that this summer, I think I got to know a lot of the people from camp but I realized once I left that they didn't know much about me. So Passion gave me a second chance to open up, to be me. And that's what I did.

Lacrae, a Christian Rapper(and a good one at that) was at the conference and he is very adamant about living life unashamed of the gospel. That got to me. Not that I was afraid by any means to share my faith or declare that I'm a Christian, which some people unfortunately are, but I wasn't doing much more to declare it than by wearing a cross around my neck. I wouldn't listen to Christian music in my car because I didn't want non Christian people to judge me for listening to "that Jesus music". Until recently, I didn't read my Bible in public because I didn't want to deal with the faces I would get in my direction. But why? Why did I limit myself so much?

As Lacrae declares in his music, on his clothing and in his words, Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile."

What I had been hiding, what I had been keeping to myself, is exactly what will save me. Why should I be ashamed of that? If nothing else, Passion taught me this; do not be ashamed of the one Being that will save you. I used to keep that part of my life private because I didn't want to intrude on anyone else's opinion or beliefs. But what if there is a person that is searching for someone to help them believe? Could I be that person? Same goes with why I keep a lot of my personal life private to those I love. I don't want to bother anyone with my "silly" problems. But who knows if there is someone out there struggling over the same thing? So I really tried to open up at Passion, tried to give myself fully to the Lord and open myself completely to those surrounding me.

You can find me blaring "that Jesus music" in my car, and reading my Bible at work(after finishing my homework of course!) because I will not be ashamed. My faith, which brings me so much joy, will save me one day. It really saves me every day, why did I ever think I needed to keep that to myself?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rely on the ultimate rule book

I went home this weekend...a much needed break from Fayetteville. Not that I don't love Fayetteville, but sometimes it's good to be back home! Saturday, as I tried to shove everything I could into one day, Mom, Maggie and I drove for about 35 minutes to watch my cousin Lauren play frisbee. Well, we drove the long way so we didn't even see Lauren play, we just caught up with her on the sidelines for 10 minutes or so before we had to turn back around to meet up with Dad for lunch.

On the ride there, Mom brought up an interesting topic. Recently, a St. Louis man was fired from his job at a Catholic school because he has decided to marry his male partner of 20 years. Homosexuality in the Catholic religion is seen as a sin. But is that reason enough to get fired from a job? As we were talking about this mom asked me when I thought it was appropriate to shy away from the church when I had differing opinions on certain things. Is it ok to still say you're Catholic even if you don't believe homosexuality is a sin? What do you do when your church supports something you don't?

Immediately I thought of this video (go it!) It's a four minute poem-turned-video that talks about the difference between religion and Christianity, or Jesus. Some of what the man says is out there, but for the most part, I agree with it. As I was talking to Mom, I said there are some things about the Catholic religion that I will always believe in; taking the blood and body of Christ, the apostle's creed, the tradition of a Catholic mass(no matter if it's boring or not!)

But there are some topics that I don't turn to the Catholic rule book but to the ultimate rule book: The Bible. I do shy away from Catholicism in some aspects because of it's "old" ways. Does the Catholic Church believe Homosexuality is a sin? Yes. Do I? No. I don't think I have the authority to judge a person by their sexuality so I can't condemn them. I am not here to judge, I am here to love(1 Peter 4:8). I will be saved from my sins because I believe in Him(John 3:16)

It doesn't matter what a person does. Yes, it is bad to go out and kill someone. In God's eyes it is just as bad to do so as it is to tell a lie. There is no 'greater' sin. What there is, is forgiveness and eternal life. God has forgiven me, forgiven you, forgiven everyone who believes in Him for every sin that I, you, they, will commit. He loves us that much.

So do I consider myself a Catholic? Yes. But do I search for my religion through their rules? Not all the time. Jefferson(the guy in the video, not Thomas) spoke about the church being a hospital for the broken, not a museum for the good people. A church should be where people who are broken, who are questioning should feel welcome, not shunned. It is my hope that people can see that I am just that. I am the embodiment of my church. I want to be the one someone goes to when they have questions, not to be looked upon as intimidating, or think I will judge.

I am broken, but I have found God.

From Matthew 10: 39 "Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it."

Are you relying on the church to answer your questions? Or through research of your own?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Why I'll always love being called Mom

Everyone has a nick name. Through high school I developed quite the interesting one. It had nothing to to with my actual name, but my actions. I was, and still am, called Mom. Don't worry, I'm far from having children of my own, but for now, I get to take care of my friends!

See that? I "get to". A lot of times my friends tell me I need to stop being a mom and start being a normal teenager(I'm almost a young adult-March 20th!!) But what they don't get is that being a mom is normal. Being a mom is just as normal to me as being a redhead is.

So what does this have to do with my faith? Well thanks for asking, let me tell you!

Going into college I could have sworn that I would be a Young Life leader by now. But I'm not. God sure does work in mysterious ways! It was a tough realization that I wouldn't be leading kids, taking them to camps, taking part in ridiculous skits, but I needed that realization because by doing so, I found where my ministry would be: my group of friends.

As I think I've mentioned before my group of friends back home are as different from one another as could be. I am so lucky to have a great mix of people that I get to take care of and be with whenever I am home! Now, how could I choose them to be my ministry? Another great question, let me tell you!

By definition, the word Ministry is said to be something that serves as an agency, instrument or means. That's just what my group does. It acts as an instrument for my faith. Just by being around them, taking care of them, having them know I am readily available to talk and always praying for them, my faith is growing. I see God working in all of them, whether they see it or not. Just as a mother sees there children grow, mature, in ways the kids can't see, I get to see my kids...I mean friends...grow! And that's why I love doing what I do!

Maybe one day I will have actual children to serve as my ministry!

So I ask you, what is your ministry? Everyone should have someone/something that acts as an agency for their faith, to help it grow and prosper. Something that you use to improve your outlook on God's creation.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I'll take Ashes over Blush

So I did some research before I started this blog today, and by research I mean I googled, "Why do Catholics give something up for Lent?" I figured I knew the answer, but I wanted some reassurance from and yahoo answers I guess. Being in the South for school, I have come to the realization that Catholics here are far and few between, making a little difficult to stick to my roots. The upcoming Lenten season is giving me just the chance I need to remind me of why I'm Catholic and not any other religion.

A lot of people will look at me strange this Wednesday when I walk around campus with ashes on my forehead, because here it is still a strange concept. Now if I were to be in St. Louis, I would fit in with the majority of folks, who even if they didn't have ashes on their head, the would at least know why I did.

To a non-Catholic, especially a non-Christian, it can be a hard concept to understand why I give something up for 40 days. Their mindset is kind of how mine was growing up. I used to give up Jelly Beans every year because I knew I only ever ate them on Easter morning! I gave it up so I wouldn't have to "suffer" through those 40 days. It was easy, so I did it. Well, I'm not a kid anymore so I think about what to give up a lot more thoroughly. Last year I gave up Starbuck Coffee, like I had the last 2 years. Man that's tough. I did it because that was my 'everyday indulgence'. I drank it because of convenience (we have one on campus here and at home it was always on my way to school) I gave it up because of the fact that it was an indulgence. I didn't need to spend money(and a lot of it) on something I could make at home. You know the seven deadly sins? Well that was my gluttony.

This year, I'm giving up make-up. Unlike coffee which is an everyday thing(I like my morning cup of joe..which I now make at home) I don't always wear make-up. That's out of pure laziness, but when I don't wear it, I normally wish I were. As every girl can relate, make-up is often times the source of confidence. Covering up imperfections, dark circles, widening your eyes with mascara or eyeliner, gives you a little confidence boost, makes you feel more presentable. Well, that also leads to insecurity when you're not wearing it. But why? Shouldn't I be happy with the beauty God has given me? Why do I feel the need to cover up my freckles on my face, or mess with my big blue eyes? Yes, mascara and eye shadow can make my 'baby blues' look bigger, appear more blue, but when the mascara comes off my eyes are still just as big, just as blue.

Like I said, I'm not one to wear make-up every day, but the fact that I have come to feel like I'm less attractive, or less presentable when I'm not wearing it isn't a healthy thought. That's why I'm giving it up for 40 days. There will definitely be times where I wish I had a little mascara or cover up to 'enhance' my appearance but hopefully I will find out that I can look just as presentable with out make-up as I do with it. I can remove the stigma that a make-up-less face isn't as beautiful as a face full of it. I hope to see what God has given me is more than enough to feel confident as His creation.

What are you giving up? Even if you aren't Catholic, I encourage you to give up something that will help you see what sin exists in your life. And by removing one thing, what great happenings can occur! If you don't give up anything this year, add something. Add 20 minutes a day of reading the Bible, take a walk around the block everyday and just look at God's creation. Heck, say a prayer before each meal, thanking Him for giving you another day. Whatever you do, know that it is for God, for His son, who gave up everything so you could exist!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Beauty in Uniqueness

Pickens, South Carolina. What a wonderful place, where you can walk around a flea market from 8 am till noon and still not make it to every booth. My entire family can agree with me on this one, there is no better place to people watch then the Pickens flea market that takes place every Wednesday.

My favorite part? Watching my grandmother barter for a deal for fake flowers with a man who doesn't have a shirt on while she is wearing all her best jewelry, her make up done as she does every day and her hair perfect, as always. My dad's favorite part? The boiled peanuts. My mom's favorite part? The blue-grass/folk/anyone is welcome, band that plays out front of the bathrooms and "food court" area. We always sit for a little bit, taking a break from all the bargains to watch the band. There's always a singer and guitarist, normally a banjo player, and there's always seems to be a man in overalls who constructs an instrument out of a stick, a bucket, and a string connecting the two.

It was while we were taking a break here one year, who knows how long ago, that Grammie made a statement I will never forget. She said, "Is it amazing that with 2 eyes, 1 nose, 1 mouth, and 2 ears, that God created so much diversity in humans?" I still think about it today, how truly amazing it is. God has done some amazing things, but man did He do a good job making all of us unique!
I love though, that within a family he has held some things constant. He has the ability to give me my great grandmother's red hair and make me look undoubtably like a MacDonald. Whereas my sister looks unremarkably like my mother when she was her age. God has given us these similarities to each other as a reassurance I believe. To know we are part of something, part of a family. A reminder that we didn't just come from nowhere.

Sometimes I look around the group of people I'm with and I'm just in awe. Kind of how I was talking about a couple posts ago about fearing God's ability, this is a perfect example. I love looking around and seeing my friends are so incredibly different, how could I not believe in the power of God? Something has drawn me to these people, made me want to get to know them better. That's God's doing.

Anyway, the next time you are around a group of friends, take a look around, what drew you to them? What about them is unique to only them? And the next time you are with your family, what similarities has God given you? Don't take them for granted, He did it for a reason.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Is it all worth it?

I love a lot of things, and people, and I guess I have a lot of love for scripture. I love when deciding to turn to a page in my Bible and just start reading, ends up providing me with a verse to live by. This happens to me quite often, I recommend all do this. More specifically, there was a day at camp this past summer that I will remember forever. God directed me to a passage in the Bible that reinforced my decision to share The Word and not be ashamed.

I was sitting with my good friend Bekah, 60 feet up in the air on the fourth and final tower of the ropes course(Don't worry mom and dad, I was clipped onto a wire that could hold me if something were to happen!) when I came across the end of Hebrews 10. I had read Hebrews 11(recommended to all) but decided I want to read the whole book, and I had finally made my way to the end. This was in between groups of campers so I was sitting and reading, Bekah was probably taking a cat nap, she liked to do that on the towers. I wasn't searching for anything in Hebrews, just casually reading, and I came across Hebrews 10: 32-35, "Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded."

And it hit me. That's what I was at camp for. I had found God's light and wanted to share that with these kids, who some didn't even believe in God yet. I had faced persecution, yet I had to(got to) be the example for these campers that even with persecution and conflict, God prevailed. It became the verse I read and reread the rest of time I was at camp. God really showed me the scripture I needed to reassure me I was at camp for the right reasons, not just because the ropes course was fun!

I look at that verse today and realize that it's not meant solely for camp. I face persecution as a Christian, and conflict as a human being, every day. In college especially, I have been challenged to hold strong to my faith. There are many sins and temptations throwing themselves at me, and it would be so easy to give up confidence in my faith and 'enjoy' those earthly pleasures. But as God commands me here in this passage, I will not throw away my confidence, I will not give in just because it's hard to be a Christian, and I will be "richly rewarded" for holding out.

If I can show just one person who has not seen God, that yes, it is hard to have a strong faith, but the persecution and conflict go away in the end, leaving just the joy of God and His love, I believe I have done my job. So I will stand by those who have been persecuted for their faith because I know how it feels. I would much rather stand by the persecuted than the persecutors. What do they get in the end?

*My beautiful Aunt Alice suggested that I end my blog posts with a question for those of you reading, which I think is a great idea. I will try to have a question at the end of each from now on but I can't make any promises!

Question: Who can you think of that needs a reminder that being persecuted for a strong faith is worth the reward in the end? Talk to them, encourage them. If it's yourself, talk to me! I would love to stand by you!