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.