Saturday, December 7, 2013

What do Frankl, Mandela, a dog, and Jesus all have in common?

What a better time to cozy up with a warm cup of coffee, a blanket and my computer to write a blog post than when I'm snowed in?? The town of Fayetteville has essentially shut down because of a little less than a foot of snow, so it has given me ample time to study, sleep, and put some thought into this blog post. 

A lot has happened in the past week. Along with studying for some pretty difficult finals I have had to say goodbye to my sweet dog, Billy, who was the best pet a person could ask for. I've also been following the news about the death of Nelson Mandela, one of the most influential people from the continent of Africa, and maybe the world. I've also been thinking a lot about my relationship with God. I know all of these things don't necessarily seem to connect right now, but let me share with you something that will make it all make some more sense. 

“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice."-Victor Frankl

Still no connections? Okay let me elaborate. Victor Frankl is one of the people I had to study for my final in my psychology class. He studied how people in concentration camps during World War II were more likely to survive if they found meaning in the lives of people around them, even if that meant giving a child their only blanket in the cold, or a stranger the only piece of bread they had. An amazing finding, right? I then started to think about how much Mandela must have suffered in his 95 years of life. He was in prison for longer than I've been alive. He became truly famous on an international level at the age when most people are retired. He lost a son to AIDS (many times people look over/don't know this fact). In all his suffering though, he found meaning. He became the president and worked for HIS people. More than that, he pushed for non-violence, which is hard to do in a corrupt world. He confronted his son's death and supported education for his people about the risks associated with HIV/AIDS. In his last few months and days on this physical earth, he suffered immensely. But I have a feeling he didn't dwell on the pain. He found meaning in his world. In our world. Not all of us can be a Nelson Mandela, but shouldn't we try?

And about Billy, sweet Billy. My entire family (and some of my friends) can attest to how much that dog was loved, and how much he meant to each of us. He may not have been a human, but a loss is still a loss. Having to accept his trip to heaven got me thinking. As I have learned in my class called "On Death and Dying" (what a semester to be taking this course..) it's normal for one loss to spark the memory of other hardships. It is not something I tend to brag about or share very often, but I have faced a fair amount of loss in my life-suffering if you will. It would be so easy to kind of give up and take on a negative view of the world. But for some internal reason, my heart and my head won't allow me to do that. I've come to think that internal reason is God. Pushing me towards knowing there's something better ahead, I just have to keep going. 

My sister, Maggie sent out a great email the other day, in the wake of dealing with Billy's loss that shared what she learned from a book by Joel Osteen. It read, "When facing a crisis, it is easy to fall apart, but what you don't realize is that that crisis is not a surprise to God, he knows the end from the beginning." That is exactly true. It sums it all up. God didn't promise an easy life, but he did promise full one. He promised that He knew what was and is to come. We just have to chose to follow Him. 

Let's talk about the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus. You could say He dealt with a fair amount of suffering in His life and you would be right. But in the end we see that Jesus found meaning in sacrifice. He says in John 19:30 "It is finished." Perhaps the most telling words in the Bible. "It" being his job. His job-being the ultimate sacrifice sent by God. 

So there you have it. The above train of thought is what happens when you take 11 inches of snow, a tad bit of studying, CNN, and a lot of extra time to think about things and you put it all together into one blog post. I hope the connection of Frankl, Mandela, Billy and Jesus all make sense now. 

I also hope that each person reading this can find meaning in their life to cease any suffering. It is a really hard thing to do, I know. But we have to at least try. Look at how successful Mandela was in doing so. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

All good things must come to an end

It's been a long week. The type where the days go by too fast but the week never seems to end. I'm sure everyone has experienced this at some point or another. Nothing in particular happened really...just a long week.

Today was kind of a big deal actually. I of course fell into my Sunday routine that consists of sleeping in, making my coffee while I eat breakfast, avoid starting homework, eventually starting said homework, getting distracted, somehow finishing what I needed to get done, checking the Post Secret website at some point and sending out my Sunday prayer text to some 50 people whom I know and love with all my heart. I've been following some version of this routine for the past four years. Always drinking coffee, always checking the Post Secret site for 4 years and always sending out the text.

But today was different. I sent out my last Sunday prayer text and it was really hard.

Now, it wasn't because I had a hard time figuring out how to send a group text to 50 people on my new iPhone(that was just time consuming) but because I've been holding off on what God has been telling me I should do for a while and today finally felt right.

I started the prayer texts when I got home from working at a Young Life camp my Junior year of high school as a way to keep in touch with the people I met there. Then it of course included friends from home, and then surely my friends from the time I worked at camp after my freshman year of college, and of course included family members and family friends. It became less about keeping in touch and more about a ministry. I have said before in this post that my friends have become my ministry-my way of strengthening my faith. The text helped my relationship with God grow, and it gave me confidence that I was a positive presence in the lives of others. I felt like I was doing my job as a Christian, being able to say that I ask at least 50 people a week, from all walks of life and all around the country how I can pray for them. It gave me purpose. And I loved it.

I knew that I couldn't send out this text forever, and last year I started contemplating when I would send my last one. I thought I would do it until Christmas, or New Years, or until the end of college, or when I found a job. I couldn't find a time that I thought would be appropriate because I felt like I was still NEEDING to send the text. I still needed the reassurance from my ministry.

The last few weeks I have felt God hinting that it is seeming like it is becoming too routine. The texts were losing their 'spark'. I still whole-heartedly prayed for those who request it, and I would never try to delete someone from the list even if they only responded once in the four years-what if the next week they needed my prayers? What if they liked just the idea of me being there for them?

In the past it was a way to find God, I could see how my prayers were affecting people's lives week by week. I could reassure someone (and myself) that there was a person praying specifically for them.

I think my relationship with Christ has gotten to a point that I don't necessarily need the reassurance it gave me when I started the text. I am finding much comfort in my relationship and I wanted to stop before sending the text becomes a chore. In the past I would get caught up in 'doing' so much of what a Christian should do and forgot about simply 'being' a Christian. I could go to a weekly bible study, send a weekly text, go to church, say 10 Hail Mary's and still not be a Christian. Rather, I could do what the Bible asks in Psalm 46:10- "Be still, and know that I am God" and find fulfillment.

I will find another ministry, and another way to find reassurance eventually. But for now I want to take some time just to BE a Christian. I want to let myself know and be with Christ. I don't want the chore of something to be what makes me lose that relationship or make it less appealing.

I'm going to miss it with all my heart. I hope that I still keep in contact with everyone who has received a prayer text and I will surely be sending out a few here and there. And I will still gladly accept prayer requests any day of the week.

My routine will change drastically for the first time next Sunday and for a girl that doesn't necessarily like change, proactively choosing to change my routine is a big step.

Where will God take me next, I wonder!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Catching up during a tough semester

Did you think I forgot about my blog?? To be honest I did for a little while. This semester has been Crazy...yes with a capital C. I have really missed this blog, and I feel really guilty right now for not having a cup of coffee by my side, but I figure I will be forgiven.

It's around this time of the year that I really start feeling God's presence. The crisp air, the beautiful changing colors of Fall, I figure it'd be appropriate to blog tonight on this cozy fall night.

Let me catch you up since I have neglected this blog for so long. I entered my senior year here at Arkansas with high hopes for a great year, excited for my sister Kelley to be getting married, excited for my best friend to study abroad in Africa, excited for a new roommate and new experiences. All of those things I continue to be excited about, I guess though with such high hopes I didn't expect a few lows to hit. This may be the hardest semester I've had here, hence why I haven't really blogged much because it's hard to put into words.

Within about a month, I had two friends lose a parent. On top of that I'm enrolled in a class called "On Death and Dying"-needless to say I am using personal experience in that class. It's been hard. Really hard, I hurt for them more than I ever imagined I would. I praise God for the community each friend has around them, for the prayers they are receiving constantly, but I always wish I could do more than pray. I caught myself asking God what else I could do because I didn't feel like I was doing enough. What I am realizing is that I am doing plenty, because God is working on their side. He is there for them, in their hearts, their thoughts, He is making sure they are okay. That's all I can ask for because God's support is enough.

What has brought me so much joy this semester has been the preparation and celebration of Kelley and Matt's wedding last weekend. I don't know exactly how Kelley and Matt feel about how it all went down, but I thought the day and night was perfect. Just perfect. I can't thank God enough for bringing together two people (two families) more perfect and worthy of each other. If their wedding was any sign of how their marriage will be it will be fun, happy, and full of surprises! I can't wait to see where their marriage takes them!

School is hard. Classes are really hard. I've been sick for about a month now(Mono-never fun) so it's been really hard to stay motivated and determined. I have been praying and asking for prayers for motivation and patience through all this, I know I will be healthy soon but I am just frustrated that I still don't feel like 'me' after so long.

With all this being said, I am SO excited to see where God takes me from here. I had a conversation about life with my wonderful professor Dr. A(whom I have spoken of on this blog many times before!) today that told me I needed to "have a little faith" in the next year. As excited as I am I catch myself getting a little anxious(me? anxious you say?) about the future. I like a plan as we all know and I am trying to turn the anxiety into excitement. God has blessed me with more than I could ever thank Him for in the past year despite all the low points of the semester, I am still finding myself praising His name each day. Especially on beautiful Fall nights.

This semester God has truly made his presence known more than I can remember him ever doing...or maybe I'm just more aware now. Either way, I like the direction He has put me in, I just have to keep "having a little faith".

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Trusting God Requires Vulnerability

Last week I went to Mass and the homily was about being a good Steward of Christ and trusting God...Exactly what this blog is about, right? One idea made me perk up, this idea of vulnerability. Anyone who knows me, knows I like to be put together, because when I'm undone, I feel like I've lost it, I'm completely exposed for the world to critique me.

Admittedly, there are VERY few people I have allowed myself to be vulnerable around. The idea of it scares me. Why would anyone want to be around a girl who doesn't have everything put together? I have also learned that there is a difference between being put together and packing my issues away. I used to 'give things up to God' thinking I was taking care of those issues, maintaining my put-togetherness, but I was just ignoring them. That was the unhealthy Abby, the one who broke down without anyone knowing at times, the one who took on everyone else's problems because she had 'handeld' hers.

The priest last Sunday talked about the difference between believing and make believing. For a while, I was make myself and everyone that I was okay. I wasn't actually trusting God. I wasn't confident He would nor would want to take care of my problems. Now, I have come a long way from that Abby. I am actually believing in Christ and His word rather than make-believing. I am believing in His promise of a fulfilling life. It is still a struggle obviously, I still hate being vulnerable.

Vulnerability is what God wants from us. He wants us to be completely open to Him in order to know Him completely. He asks us to let go of our so-called control of our own lives so He can follow through with His promise of taking care of us. If we show God our struggles, He can show us answers. We must have faith that He has those answers.

Steward: A Steward is an official who is appointed by the legal ruling monarch to represent them in a country...

We are asked as Christians to be Stewards of Christ. We are asked to share our lessons from Christ with others in the hope of enriching the lives of others. If anything I said above is true, being a steward requires being able to be vulnerable around Christ and teaching that to others. The priest said in his homily "Stewardship is about taking care. It demands serious and sober honesty with our authentic self." My authentic self isn't the one who has everything put together, she is the one working through her problems, having faith that they will be resolved by working with Christ. Not just 'giving them up to God.' A good steward is appointed because they are a valid representation of the ruling of their leader.

I want to be a good Steward, I want to show God's love to everyone around me. In order to do this I must do something scary; I must be vulnerable.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Entering the scary place to follow

I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's funny how God works. Just when I think I've asked an impossible question to answer, He sends me an answer like it's nothing.

At the beginning of the summer I decided to read Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. It has been on my bucket list of books to read and I bought it on Amazon. Let me tell you, if you are looking for a good introduction into Christian reading, this book is meant for you. I knew that going into it, thinking it would be about steps in Christianity I have already surpassed. One (of many) aspects of Christianity Miller wrote about that I haven't put much effort in thinking about was giving back. He shares stories of his secular life that influenced his Christian life. The one that got me thinking was his conversation with a friend who faithfully gives 10% of his earnings to the church. He later inquires with another friend who works for a church about the importance of giving money rather than volunteering, prayer, etc. A topic I've been wanting to know the answer of for a while. I loved his response so let me share it.

"When we do what God wants us to do, we are blessed, we are spiritually healthy...By setting aside money from every check, you are trusting God to provide. He wants you to get over that fear-that fear of trusting Him. It is a scary place, but that is where you have to go as a follower of Christ..."

This hit home to me. I realized I haven't been giving to an organization that pushes for God's work on Earth, and just like Miller I have felt guilty about it. Now, I am still under my parents roof, with their checks going to my tuition and rent (which I'm forever grateful for) but that should be more reason for me to give some of the money I do have to Christ rather than to the cute shirt at the mall.

So I finished reading the book back in is close to the end of July...I'm embarrassed to say I still haven't given. I have been trying to figure out who to give to. I could do the church, like Miller did. I could do a Christian organization. I could do a homeless shelter. I could give to all of these places. How do I decide? Enter Winston and Father Gary.

Last Sunday, Father Gary spoke in his homily about how to decide who to give time, effort, or money to when there are so many worthy causes. It was based on the story of the Samaritan in the Bible who took care of the ill man on the road right in front of him. God's message isn't to wait to hear who you should help in the future, it is to help the person right in front of you, right now.

That person right in front of me is Winston, and his soon to be wife Alissa. I know Winston from Young Life camp and I can honestly say he is one of the most giving people I have ever met. After camp he gave two years of his life teaching in Tanzania because he felt it was where God was leading him. He met Alissa there and now at the end of the two years, he feels he is being called back. They will return with jobs that either don't pay or are not enough to cover their expenses. They are relying on prayer, donations and God to get them through. They are entering that scary place Donald Miller's friend spoke of.

It clicked. By giving to Winston and Alissa, I am relying on God. I am honoring his work on Earth. It won't be much, just as Miller didn't have much to give originally, but I can only be envious of Alissa and Winston for relying so faithfully on God they are getting rid of their fear that God won't provide.

I just love when God answers my prayer so blatantly that I have to laugh. I sat in church that day knowing He was sending an answer and I am so glad I was listening.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Remembering a very important man

So I have this box. It was a gift from a few friends (I think...maybe just one) for my 18th birthday. The only reason I remember it was for my 18th was because it has "18 reasons why we love Abby Mac" on the inside of the lid. It has all sorts of bible verses written on it and I have deemed it my letter box. It has letters from anyone and everyone that I have felt the need to keep from different parts of my life to now, along with old journals, pictures, and other knick knacks that are special to me.

Every once in a while I pull out this box. It's a fun way to remember different parts of my life from high school, Young Life, going off to college, my first year at Arkansas, all the way up to my most recent birthday. Let me tell you though, every time I cry. It doesn't matter which letters I read, I always end up in tears.

This time it was a letter from my dad written on April 4, 1996. A long time ago, right? Let me explain. While my sisters and I grew up, my parents went to a retreat to focus the importance of faith and wrote us letters while there for us to read at a different points in our life. In 1996 my dad wasn't writing for four year-old Abby to read, but young adult Abby. This letter was about my grandfather-Gramps as everyone called him, who passed away when I was two.

I was already thinking of Gramps tonight because there was a big thunderstorm here in Fayetteville and I remember my dad saying Gramps loved to sit and watch and listen to storms. I'm happy to have inherited that trait.

What brought me to tears was reading how much my dad loved Gramps and how great of a man he was. I wish I knew that man more. I wish I knew the man that made my dad the wonderful dad he is. I love hearing stories and memories about Gramps from my family, and I love knowing Gramps isn't too far away from me, watching me grow up. I find strength in knowing that he is close.  My dad wrote, "You may not have realized it then, but you were held, touched, and loved by God thru Gramps. He had a wonderful touch and gift." I may not remember Gramps holding me, but I have a feeling it was similar to the feeling I get knowing he is watching over me from heaven.

It's times like these when I am reminded of how great of a man that my grandfather was that makes me grateful to have such a wonderful family. I thank God for these reminders.

I am somehow surprised to be brought to tears every time I open this box. They are always happy tears, and always remind me of the love I have found here on God's creation and the love that I have waiting for me above.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Accepting Undeserving Love.

Every once in a while I find a video that inspires me. A video that reminds me why I am constantly trying to live a life Christ would approve of and be proud of. I've shared one of those videos before, in this post. These videos really gets to my core and make me grateful for God's undeserving love.

I say undeserving because it's true. I don't, we don't, deserve the kind of love Christ has for us. The kind of love in which Christ DIED for us. There are a few people in the world that I would die for, and that is because they have gained my trust and love. Christ not only died for every person you will meet, He did it without waiting to see if we would give Him love. He did it without a second thought. Dying for us was His purpose.

Back to the videos. My incredibly inspirational friend who might as well be my sister, Mikkia, shared this video with me and our other good friends. If you have 9 minutes, go ahead and watch it. It involves the story of Barabbas during Jesus' crucifixion.   Pilate gave the people the option of setting free Jesus or Barabbas...I think you know who they chose. The speaker in the video makes an interesting comparison. He explains that we are Barabbas, we are the criminals, the sinners. We are the ones that deserve a crucifixion for going against Jesus and against God, but have been given this incredible gift of life by Jesus.

There are too many good quotes from this video for me to share, but one that I felt important to point out was when the speaker said "your greatest challenge is believing in the gospel. Could it be, that there is a God with a love so scandalous, so wide, so deep, so vast, so high, so expansive, so welcoming, so inclusive..."

I'll admit, sometimes I wonder why God would still accept me after everything I've done. Why would He accept me, if I've questioned Him? This is what the speaker was getting at. It is the hardest thing in the world accepting love we don't deserve. It's the hardest thing in the world, knowing and accepting that there is not a SINGLE thing we could do to make God turn His back on us. Why is it so hard? Because we are incapable of loving someone like that. Sure there are people I would die for, but I wouldn't die for just anybody.

 It is a constant struggle for me to accept the love I feel from God. The speaker is right when he says God tells us to "go (daughter), live your life. I'll pay the price." Gosh, even sitting here writing this I wonder how God could love me as much as He does. What Christ did for me can never be paid back. I can't even get close to repaying Him for all He did. What I can do? Work on accepting this love and sharing it with others. That's why I'm writing this post today. To show that it is hard to accept Christ's love when you don't feel like you deserve it. That's just it though, none of us do. But we have had it given to us.

I work everyday to try and pay Him back. I know I'll never get there, but it's the least I can do. I am going to show God and His creation the love I CAN give, and accept the love I will never be able to understand.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The benefits of social media

my newest addition to my coffee cup collection. I feel pretty cool drinking from it!  (Get it? It means Cool Beans!) 

For everything that may be wrong with social media, I love it. I love that I can discover websites, photos, job opportunities, songs, friends, anything on Facebook (and maybe more if I had a Twitter account). Last week I discovered both a cool blog post and incredible song. Like I have mentioned in my blog in the past, songs can have a huge effect on me. Last week I discovered this blog (song is included in it)

The blog is addressed as a letter to the church from a girl who went to a Macklemore concert and listened to a song about accepting gay marriage. She talks about the dangers of the church not accepting gay people. She talks about how the church is afraid of change. She talks about how that's not what God would want. I wholeheartedly agree with her.

As a Social Work minor I have to take a Human Diversity class. It is online and each week we talk about a different marginalized group here in the United States and ways to approach equality. This week we happened to talk about those who are gay, bisexual, or transgender. Of course this was a hot button issue with everything happening with gay marriage.

In the past I have talked about exactly what this fellow blogger spoke of-accepting and loving anyone. We as humans do not have the right to judge based on any particular characteristic, sexual orientation included. I truly believe a person is born a certain way, not all Christians do. In his song, Macklemore takes on the same belief I do by saying those opposite of me "think it's a decision and you can be cured with some treatment and religion. Man-made rewiring of a predisposition. Playing God..."

How can I tell someone the person they love isn't the right person? How can I not see a gay couple with all the tools to raise a child and not support it when we have unprepared couples raising children left and right? I am meant to love and be loved. I don't think I deserve, nor any human, to decide these things-playing God does not bode well for the person who tries to.

Macklemore's song, Same Love, embodies what it means to be accepting. He shares that the church and our society have not shown the respect all people deserve. There are more important quotes from his song than I can put on this blog so I really encourage you guys to watch the video on the blog I referenced above. The lyric that hits home for me is "I might not be the same, but that's not important, no freedom till we're equal, damn right I support it." The history of the United States is filled with efforts to create equality among everyone, whether it be Asian Americans, African Americans, women, the mentally and physically disabled, or those who love someone of the same sex. We have made great strides towards equal representation with minorities, and I believe soon enough I will be able to watch my friends who are gay walk down the aisle and marry the person they love.

Showing my support as a Catholic is a risky step to take, but it is one that needs to happen. I want to be known as a someone who emits the love of God to all I come into contact with, gay or straight, black or white. If a person is on this Earth, God put them here for a reason, He made them who they are. We can't mess with His beautiful work, we can only love and appreciate it. That is what I aim to do.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The love that let us share our name

**This was a post I wrote while flying home from San Francisco, and am just now getting to posting it, enjoy!**
"Always remember that there's nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name."-The Avett Brothers

Have I said how grateful I am for my family? In all of my social work classes we learn about the importance of a social support network, comprised of family, friends, peers and mentors. I can attest how much easier life seems to be with such a great group surrounding me. 

I don't have any coffee in my hand, I think the number of lattes I had this week will compensate for my current lack of caffeine. I am on a plane while writing this listening to all sorts of music, mostly Mumford and Sons and other acoustic bands like the Avett Brothers and came across the lyric that I started this post with. It couldn't have come at a better time because I have been thanking God this entire week for surrounding me with such a wonderful family. 

Dad planned an INCREDIBLE trip for our family, that could have only been made better if Kelley had been able to make it. We got to visit with cousins Lauren and Ted and his wife Jess, see God's beautiful creation that is California and celebrate my 21st year on this Earth (thanks mom for what you went through 21 years ago!) 

I wonder every once in a while how I got to be so lucky. It still amazes me the wonderful, undeserving gifts God has given me, starting with my family. I don't have the answer, and to be honest I don't think I want to know how I got to be so lucky because then I wouldn't have moments like this, sitting in an airplane where I can't think of anything to do other than to praise God. He has provided me with motivation to love and to share His love because I can feel His constant love. 

It breaks my heart knowing there are people in the world unaware of this unending love. There are people that don't have great sisters, cousins, parents, and friends. It is my hope and constant prayer that I can reach out to a few of those in my lifetime. I guess I try and always appear in the image of Christ to show those who might not yet know that God's love that it is near. 

If I can love my children half as much as my parents love me, they will be the luckiest children in the world. They will have incredible aunts as well. Most of all though, if I can show my future children the unending love of God, I will never be afraid they won't be immersed in love.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

God has the roadmap, I'm just trying to follow it.

Last week I tried really hard to post. I took my computer to the coffee shop, I was listening to my favorite Christian songs, I had a great cup of coffee and I had my Bible. I had a few things I wanted to mention, but I couldn't put it into words. I sat there like a fool for an hour with a blank page. I would fill it up every once in a while and then select all of it just to delete it. It was another one of those moments where God was telling me, "not yet...something better will come of this." So, frustrated, I finished my coffee, put my headphones back in and walked home. An hour seemingly wasted, with no blog to share.

Then this week happened. God was right, I have something to post about.

Let me start by saying I have a great friend and mentor in my professor from my trip to Ghana, Dr. Andrea Arrington, the woman I speak of in this post. She has come to know me as someone who likes a plan, and reminds me that I don't always have to have one for the next 10 years. This week I went to her saying that I tried really hard just living in this semester and year for what it is. Her advice was to take classes I wanted to and not think too much about the future. That lasted about 6 months...then my planning mind got the best of me. I told her that and she laughed, she knows me too well.

God has been playing with my heart lately, putting a new idea of what my future holds in my head. Before this week I hadn't voiced it, because I didn't know if I had the courage to follow what He had planned. I had been asking people for prayers of courage to follow Him, but I hadn't found that courage...not yet.

I finally said it out loud to Dr. A. I wasn't sure the path I was taking to become a school social worker was the right one anymore. I wasn't sure it would allow me to utilize my African Studies minor the way I want to. I wasn't sure going straight into grad school is right for me. I was scared that by doing so, my trip to Ghana was going to be that one time I went to Africa, not the first time. I was scared that it would be too hard to change my focus this late in the game though, that I should just keep going with at-risk education because that was what I had been doing for the past 3 years. I have opportunities lined up in that area, I have a heart for it. What God and what Dr. A reminded me though, was that I also have a heart for Africa. As cliche as that sounds, had I not gone to Ghana last summer I would not have discovered how many opportunities are out there for me to stay connected to Africa.

So I made a change of heart. I listened to God. I talked with my mom that day, the best mom in the world, and told her about my scary realization. It was scary for me because it strayed away from any plan I had previously made for myself. My mom reminded me though that God has His arms wrapped around me. As scary as this new plan is, He won't let me fall. If I had this feeling on my heart, He put it there for a reason. She reminded me that I'm not giving up on at-risk education/social work, that opportunity will always be around. I am simply listening to God's voice.

After some tears, and lots of talking it out, I am taking off on a new direction. I'm not 100% sure what direction that is but one of my favorite quotes- "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." The road I was on was taking me to at-risk school social work, the road I am on now is headed towards international social work. God has the roadmap, I'm just trying to follow it.

Thank you Dr. A, mom, and dad for getting me to voice what God placed on my heart.

Monday, February 4, 2013

We are His portion and He is our prize

The semester is in full swing! This is by far my busiest semester yet, with harder classes, work, being the stage manager of a play (yup, for the African and African Studies comes out on April 6 & 7, see you then!) and trying to be more involved socially, its hard to find time for a break! I have to say I enjoy it though, I would much rather be busy that bored. One thing I am having difficulty with though is finding time to read my Bible and take some personal time with God. I find myself talking to God a lot, asking Him questions and such, but I haven't seemed to listen as much as I have in the past.

I went to a new church yesterday with my roommate from Freshman year, Liz, and got a good serving of God. An hour or so of worship with song and prayer is what I needed and her church gave me just that. It was very different from the Catholic church, but still very beneficial.

It's funny how God knows all of the little associations I make when it comes to Bible verses and songs. For example, the song "How He Loves" will ALWAYS remind me of my time at Timber Wolf Lake as a Summer Staffer, and Hillsong's "I'll Stand" will immediately make me open my arms, stand, and pray for Him to live without fear of His timing. Those two songs played at yesterday's service and really got to me.

When "How He Loves" began to play all I could do was smile and sing along. My Summer Staff family and Young Life in general has been on my mind lately so hearing that song really made me feel like God has been listening. He knows what's on my heart, and let me know that it is there for a reason.

This winter I applied for an internship with a Young Life camp and unfortunately did not get it. I was a little heart broken. How could they not want me? What am I going to do with my summer? I thought this was in God's plan, how could it not be? I I haven't been as involved in Young Life here as much as I would have thought I would be and sometimes that bothers me. However, I do know that God has reminded me before and maybe again yesterday, "not yet". There will come a time when I am ready to go back to Young Life, to serve high school kids in a way that so many people have served me, but maybe I'm not in a place right now that makes me ready to. I know I will never have my faith 100% figured out, who would want that? But maybe God is having me hold off for something.

I am still learning from my experience with Summer Staff a couple years ago, and God reminded me of that with yesterday's song. As much as it hurts thinking I won't be spending my time at a camp this summer, it has to be for good reason. God has something planned for me to grow, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) All I have to do is keep living a life geared towards Him and I will learn step by step what that plan is.

Hillsong's song at yesterday's service reinforced the notion that I have to trust His timing, not to fear it won't happen and make my own plans. The plans I make my self cannot ever compare with the plans He has in mind for me. We all struggle with delayed gratification, and trusting His timing is the ultimate test, but it is worth it.

I still have no idea what I am going to do with my summer, and it scares me to no end. If anyone has a job opportunity for a soon to be Senior Psychology, Social Work, and African and African American Studies student, let me know! (I'm serious...I would love a suggestion!) In the mean time, I will be continuing to try and listen more to see if God is going to reveal the next part of His plan for me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Happy 2013!

Happy 2013 everyone! Sorry it has been so long since I have posted, lots of things have happened since my last post, but I haven't seemed to find the time to write about them. I'm back at school with a little bit of free time so I hope I can wrap up all that God has done for me the past month or so!

Well, my sister Kelley got engaged over break...that's pretty darn exciting! My family and I knew when it was happening but had to keep it a secret of course and let me tell you, it was hard. If you ever want a test of willpower, try living with someone you know is about to experience such an exciting time of their life, but they have no clue and you can't be the one to tell them! Matt (the fiance) has said before he was waiting for his name to appear in this blog so I guess there wouldn't be a better time then now to mention him! He is a great guy, not only am I excited to have a fellow redhead in the family, but I am excited for him specifically to be my brother-in-law. He makes Kelley so happy and that is all a sister can ask for, really. As a Christian I live to serve others, and to delight in their happiness. Matt has allowed me to delight in both his and Kelley's happiness and I love the idea of having another person added to the family. I'm sure my dad is happy to have an actual guy in the family and not just male dogs! I cannot wait to see how this wedding and more importantly marriage turns out, if it is any reflection of the marriage between my mom and dad, and from what I have seen of Matt's parents, Kelley and Matt will be blessed for the rest of their life. 

More exciting news in the family...Maggie has sold a million dollars worth of houses! I am reminded today of that success today from the cup that holds my coffee, it was a Christmas gift that has her company's logo on it! Go Keller Williams!

It is such a joy seeing both my sisters being successful in their lives. I have nothing but praises to God regarding my family this year and that is more than I could ever ask for!

Okay, moving past my family. Normally I have a list of New Year's resolutions ready by the time January 1 comes along, but this year I didn't. Last year I had two big resolutions. The first was to get in shape (along with what seems like the rest of the world) before I went to Ghana. I wanted to be able to keep up with the long days I knew I would face and more than that just be confident in my ability to live a healthy lifestyle. I think I had accomplished that by the time I went to Ghana and continue to practice that healthy lifestyle today. Another resolution was to take risks. I make this resolution every year to push myself to do things out of my comfort a positive way! I think I accomplished that more than ever this past year! Who knew I would go to Africa, declare two new minors my Junior year, get a tattoo that I couldn't be happier with and continue to dive into my faith without knowing where it will take me. I think the biggest risk of all this year is relying on God more than ever to lead me everywhere, not just in one aspect of my life, but in all. 

This year however, I am struggling to find a New Year's resolution other than to continue to take risks. Until today it bothered me. I've ALWAYS had a resolution. Today though, I realized that maybe it is okay for me not to. Maybe that means I am finally at a point in my life where I am more than content, I'm happy, with how I live. I've always had things to tell God I want to change in my life. I've always had aspects about my faith, school, friends, relationships that I wish I could change and I thought I had to wait until the New Year to do something about them. Why wait until January 1st to do so? I think I realized that this past year and have reached a new kind of happiness. It is a confident happy, one that I know I am happy because of the hard work I've put into each aspect of my life and I'm not waiting for someone or something else to determine my happiness. For a long time my attitude and my happiness was determined by comparing my life to others. This year, I found joy in looking past comparison and actually serving others, and looking inward and seeing worth in what I have accomplished without comparing it to anything. 

So this year I may not have a resolution, but that is okay. I like to think of it maybe as a New Year's Continuation. I want to keep going with what I discovered this past year and maybe in April or September I come up with a resolution that I know I can start right then and there and not wait until 2014.