Don’t Stop This Train.

Let me share a bit of my day so far…

My beloved Macbook Pro turns three years old on Monday. This means my 3-year Apple Care plan expires and I’ve never had to use it. So I decide it’s a good idea to take it up to the closest Apple service center here in Nashville to get it checked for anything that might be wrong that could be covered.
Turns out, nothing is wrong with it that can be covered, which is good news that I’ve had my Mac for 3 years and it’s still running strong, and bad news because I used my last bit of gas money to make the trip for nothing.
Traffic is insane in Nashville on this blistering Saturday afternoon, and to make it worse they’re doing major inter-state closings all over the city. The car I’m driving has this weird thing where it likes to die randomly without warning and the hot afternoon is making it worse while idling in traffic.
This leaves me sitting on the side of the road, not being able to use my a/c, with a ‘feels like’ temp of 110.

All of this hits me as sweat rolls down my brow and thousands of cars pass in ignorance. I start thinking about my life. How this is just ironic that I make a trip for nothing to end up on the side of the road. How my life isn’t going at all how I planned it to be. How I don’t have a job. How I don’t have money. How I’ve never been able to afford a reliable car in my entire lifetime. How God has placed me on a path in ministry I hadn’t expected and truthfully don’t really want at this moment.
I suddenly prayed a prayer, not for my car to make it to the next exit,  but for my path in ministry to change to the place it was well on the path to going but can’t because I accepted a position that takes me further into a ministry that isn’t my exact calling. God, PLEASE send someone to take over this. I don’t know why you gave this job to me, but I don’t want it anymore.

After I shed a few tears and get ahold of my brother, who is a mechanic, and he advises me to try to make it to the next exit, I hobble into the parking lot of Panera Bread. Trying to mask the fact that I’ve sweated ten pounds off, I head straight into the air conditioned bathroom and lock the door.

A familiar song plays over the speakers in the quiet; John Mayer’s “Stop This Train”. I hear the lyrics:

“Don’t stop this train, don’t for one minute judge the place you’re in. Don’t think I couldn’t ever understand, I’ve tried my hand. Honestly, we’ll never stop this train.”

Not only have I known these words for a very long time, but I’ve also heard this song at the times when I most needed to hear it. It’s just like God to put a small, quiet moment into a day of disaster. It’s just like him to use a pointless trip and an outburst of a prayer to speak to me when I was least likely to hear his voice.

I walked out of the bathroom with a determination to write this thought down. To share with you the journey I’ve made in a single day. To find a still, small voice play over the speakers in a restaurant bathroom.
I know I can’t stop this train. I know things can’t be perfect right now. I know I can’t judge this place I’m in according the place I thought I would be. I can’t know the thoughts of an Almighty God who knows exactly where he’s leading me and exactly what I need. How could I have thought that he couldn’t understand this place I’m in. He did, after all, try his hand in life as I am trying right now.

Honestly, We’ll never stop this train.

Wishes of a Heart.

You don’t know me… And I don’t know you… Not exactly.

But it’s what I do know about you that makes me wish these things.

I know if you just knew me, both of our lonely existences would be gone. I just have this feeling, this aching in my chest, that you could be the one for me.

I’ve been wrong before. God knows how incredibly wrong I’ve been.

I can’t help but think about all these stories I’ve heard. Not love at first sight… but this gentle urging, this small confidence, that this was it. This person is the one.

I let that keep hope alive.

Hope. That one day, the both of us will overcome the apparent social awkwardness of our personalities… and say hello to one another in a crowded room.

That would only be the beginning.

The next time, we might carry on a short dialogue at a mutual friend’s party.
And the next, sit down in a quiet place with a cup of coffee.

Just thinking of these small steps makes me smile with an inner joy I haven’t felt in so long a time.

Maybe after you know me, you’d admire those traits of mine that so many others find intimidating.
My intelligence and wit would be a comfort to a man as smart as yourself.
My odd sense of humor would make you laugh easily.
My honest opinions would intrigue you and challenge you to think differently.
And my gentle teasing would disarm you in a willing vulnerability.

Then I could find solace in knowing I’m not smarter than the person sitting across from me.
That your gentle voice could sing me to sleep over the phone, or in person when the time is right.
I could be excited to listen to your dreams, or just to listen to you ramble.
And feel comfortable enough to exist in silence, not feeling the necessity to fill the gaps in conversation.

All of this I can now only wish.

One day things will change. I know it’ll happen.

And then I will never have to wish or want for anything again.

Hiatus.

 

I stare at the blank walls around me,
Vast, empty, looming.
They mock and tempt me,
Do something, they say, Do anything.
Don’t just stand there, anticipating!

I can’t stand listening to them,
wondering if I’m wrong.
I’ve waited for you to answer,
I’ve waited for much too long.

You’re a fool for trusting him, they say,
You’re a fool for believing.
Why don’t you get up and seize the day?
Why don’t you live your own life?
I know they’re wrong, but what if they’re right?

Where will the next road lead me?
What is the next lesson I’m to learn?
Why won’t you answer me?
Don’t you see me here all alone?

It all seems pointless,
This hiatus I’m in.
As if my life means nothing.
I feel like giving up,
I feel like giving in.

I’m so angry with you,
And yet I see you in these blank walls…
Your face regards my disdain and you reveal nothing.
You don’t smile, you don’t wink.

You simply gaze upon me, appraising me with gentle eyes,
I can’t hold your gaze, knowing you hear my every thought.
I hurriedly glance up again, but all I see are tears.
Yours and mine.
They slip down our faces in silence.

Your eyes say everything,
Your mouth never moves.
I know, my child, how long you’ve waited.
I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do.

But through everything that’s happened,
through every tear you’ve cried,
Your eyes become hopeful, endearing.
I’ve never left your side,
I’ve been right here every time you’ve tried.

Then why is this happening?
Why do I still fall?
Why have you just stood there and done nothing?
Why does it feel like it’s all a big stall?

Your questions will be answered one day,
I can promise you that.
I lower my eyes, feeling again all that I lack.
“Stay with me.” I plead.
You smile, I will stay as long as you need.

I began to feel peace permeating the walls,
Sifting up from the ground beneath me,
The walls bow and tremble ,
And suddenly I could see…

The cage I’ve lived in,
With walls that mock and leer,
It no longer obstructs my view.
The surfaces had become lucidly clear,
And I find my eyes resting upon you.

I feel your arms around me,
Cradling my broken spirit in your hands.
I peer weakly into the unknown
as you help me to stand.

“My child, my child,” you finally speak,
“I know you think you’re ready for this,
but I know you better than that.
I want you to be free from this,
I want you to never go back.”

My eyes become wider as I see the outside world,
An invisible barrier is all that keeps me protected.
“This is the only way for you understand.
It’s not my will that you should feel rejected.”

Beyond the walls I see hurt and pain,
I also look upon triumph and gain.
“This is what’s next for you,
But first you must wait.
You must first learn how to open the gate.”

“Gate?
What gate do you mean?
I’ve known these walls for so long,
And this gate I have never seen.”

You usher me towards the gate,
“It’s been there all along,
Though I’ve just chosen to reveal it to you.
Use what I’ve given you, it won’t be long,
Soon you will have the future you are due.”

“Why couldn’t I leave before?
What was holding me back?
What was the purpose of this delay?”
I question you ruthlessly, my spirit suddenly slack.

You peer back with a loving look
in spite of my tortured glare,
“Oftentimes we are worried where we will travel next
when it’s right here that should hold our care.
What did you learn here, while waiting for an answer?”

I felt a surge of revelation course through my veins,
Our eyes met again, and I knew you knew.
I felt faith rise in my demeanor and confidence take hold of my reigns.
Your all-knowing expression held the final clue.

Instead of explaining to ease my mind,
You nod towards me, asking for my conclusion.
“Oh God, I’ve been so blind! How could I not see?
In all that has happened here,
Learning to trust you is what you were teaching me.”

You nod once more, an approving smile taking hold of your lips,
“Indeed,” you say slowly, “Indeed, it was.”
Then the gate was absolved and I faced the other side,
My nerves coming alive in an electrical buzz.

“Aren’t you coming?” I say as I turn to leave.
You stand placidly, your hands behind your back,
“I am with you always. But not always like this.”
I nod my understanding, courage filling my soul,
Bit by bit the cage fades to black.

Gazing ahead to the world before me,
a wonderful and terrible sight,
I think of the journey I had while waiting,
and recall your tender plight.

I take the first step into this unexplored terrain,
Feeling the invisible strength of a hand I already knew.
I glance over to see that I’m alone,
But in my head I hear your voice,
“Take heart, my child… I love you.”

2011: What If?

As I’ve done for the last couple of years, I will give you a song that sums up the last year for me.
My song for 2011 is: ‘What If?’ – Coldplay.
I picked this song because I actually discovered this song this year (6 years late) and spent many late nights with Coldplay playing over me as I stared at the ceiling, lost in the music beyond any anxiety or worry. If I could sum up the entire year of 2011 in one character it would be a big fat ‘?‘. And it was songs like this one that kept me going. In fact, the entire X&Y album became this year’s anthem.

The song asks the question in everyone’s heart: What If?. A question I’ve asked myself too many times to count this year.

After all the questions expressed, the song concludes: “Let’s take a breath, Jump over the side… How can you know it if you don’t even try?”
And that’s what I decided to do. This year I jumped over the side of a lot of cliffs. I didn’t know what would happen, but I knew something would happen. That was all I could cling to.

I’ve heard a quote that says: “IF is the center of LIFE.”

Last year, after a bit of struggle on my part, I made peace with my looming future and put it into higher hands. I walked into 2011 with the strongest notion that promotions were coming. But I also felt that these promotions wouldn’t come through natural veins of life. In fact, I felt an understanding that I wouldn’t get a good job, wouldn’t start my career, but instead I would be tried financially, emotionally, and mentally. It was a year of self-denial. But the payoff was that the promotions I’d receive would be spiritually. That 2011’s growth would set me up for the beginning of the future I so desired.

Sure, okay. Was my response to that urging. But I had no idea that everything I felt was going to happen so blatantly and without wavering. Without going into a long, drawn-out spill, the first couple of months I did everything in my power to get what I wanted. It wouldn’t happen. Throughout the year, I casually applied to jobs… jobs I should’ve had in the bag… I didn’t get them. But somehow each month, I managed to pay my bills through odd jobs here and there. Until August.

When August rolled around, I had been without any sort of income for a month or so and had still managed to scrape together bill money and pledge money for the church. But I couldn’t do it anymore. I had ZERO income coming in. So when it came time to pay these things, I had no choice. I couldn’t pay them. So I increased my crying-over-the-phone skills and asked for extremely decreased payments and deferments, and God allowed that that could happen for me.
Thankfully, I’m still living at home and have a gracious family that would give me gas money and other things to help me along. No, they didn’t fully understand what what going on, and told me increasingly as the year went along that I needed to do SOMETHING for income… even if that meant getting a job at McDonald’s. I couldn’t. I refused.
See, another thing I promised myself, my pastor, and God when I graduated college  in late 2010 was that I would not settle for just any job. I would hold out for a job that dealt with photography and I wouldn’t be selling my talents short. I meant it when I promised it.  I knew what I felt at the beginning of the year to be true. This wasn’t the year for my career. I could wait.

So I existed for a year, mooching off the charity of others, living in a state of limbo, not knowing what or when something good was going to actually happen. But the thing is, I’ve learned more about managing my finances and charity when I didn’t have money to manage or give.
I’ve been so humbled by this situation. I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help, that there is no shame in being poor, and that in this state of ‘relative poverty’ I had more than I needed. Even when I didn’t have money to put gas in my car, I had more than 75% of the world. I learned that I am an extremely blessed individual, to have a roof, a family, my health, and a free country to live in.

Now… like I said before, this year was meant for spiritual growth. Including what I just spoke of happening in my spirit through financial hardship, many MANY wonderful things have happened to me this year.

I accepted a position on the Evangelism team at church. Not because I wanted to, but because I didn’t want to. I know it sounds crazy, but because my spirit reeled back in fear from the idea, I knew I had to accept it. I am so glad I did. Through this ministry I gained a deeper love for people that I cannot begin to describe. I faced my fears of social situations, and grew bolder and more radical in the topic of evangelism.

I lost all fear associated with singing on stage. My love for Music Ministry has been set in stone this year. There was one Sunday in the old church building (We finally transitioned to our new location this year!) when I was singing a solo in the service. I went to the prayer room and started to pray the same prayer of anxiety I always did: “Lord, use me tonight, anoint my voice and keep it strong…” but something caught me. Why am I making this about me? so I changed my prayer that night to something like: “I don’t care what my voice sounds like when it comes out, but I pray that you would work through my voice to bless someone, that I could have the privilege of bridging the gap between you and the person whom my voice falls upon. This about you, not me.” — Needless to say, something broke loose in me that service. My voice was laughably the worst I’ve ever heard myself sing. But somewhere during my singing, I found myself not thinking about the song or my voice or what it sounded like. I was completely lost in this moment with God, with no fear or anxiety. It was the most liberating experience. As it turns out, the person I had prayed to bless that night was myself. I was finally free of self-consciousness and self-doubt. God used me to get over myself.

Leadership. At the beginning of 2011 I was invited to attend a monthly meeting that had once been reserved for ‘young ministers’ but became the ALT: Aspiring Leadership Team. Basically it’s a time where my pastor, Tim Zuniga, can pour into us anything and everything he can about what it means to be a successful leader, both in the world and in ministry. This class has been like a feast of meat and meat and more meat. It has taught me volumes of principles and techniques that I can implement practically in day-to-day life. It has changed my entire perspective of the Kingdom of God and how it works. Without going into major specifics, I was elevated to higher positions in multiple ministries I am involved in. And while it’s been trying and overwhelming, I can’t begin to relay all that I have learned from these experiences in leadership. It has been incredible.

One night, around September, I lay in bed thinking about all that had occurred (past and present)… and it was like a wave hit me, and suddenly I could see the hand of God in everything that had happened to me in the last couple of years. I lay awake, literally prostrate before God, until around 4am, sobbing uncontrollably. And afterwards, I felt the most amazing peace. All of those What If’s had disappeared. I could only feel confirmed in everything that had passed, even if I had no answers as to why any of it happened.

Already, it being the first week of 2012, change is happening rapidly around me. I feel released from all that was in 2011, and that this year I will finally be able to see the fruition of the future I have dreamt about since I was 15.
But that’s another blog post. 😉

Beauty.

In case you haven’t heard me bubbling about it over the last couple of weeks… I finally finished the first rough draft of my book: Beauty.
I had originally thought it would be a short story that I could potentially share over the internet, a glorified blog post. I soon realized that this story had a lot more pages than I felt comfortable sharing over the web, or because of it’s personal message to me, sharing it at all.

‘Beauty’ isn’t just any story. It’s basically a metaphor for what I’ve struggled with my entire life. A couple of years ago I overcame some huge obstacles dealing with low self esteem and self-worth.
For the first time in my life I felt beautiful. I no longer considered beautiful as being able look in the mirror and wink at the attractive face/body staring back. I no longer compared myself to others or constantly downed myself in my mind.

That’s when I started this book. I knew what it was like to be that girl, who was beautiful in more ways than one but never saw it. I wanted to challenge the reader to examine what they thought beauty meant in a completely non-confrontational way. So I used symbolism. I wedged the inner thoughts of my journey into the story of a girl and a boy, both in search for something beautiful.

In a sense, this book mimics certain aspects of my life for the past couple of years.
Without spilling my guts all over my keyboard, I will now give a small insight as to why this book is so special to me.
I wrote the original relationship between the two main characters out of sheer emotional release from the reality of something similar in my own life. I guess you could call it wishful thinking. Then, as the characters discover, I came to realize that what I was searching for wasn’t love or success or my future, I was searching for self-worth. Even after I had come so far, I still didn’t know what I was truly worth.

I’m not sure why it took me over 2.5 years to finish this novel. For a long time I knew exactly what I wanted to write, only I could never make myself sit down and write it. I was stuck half way through the story, with no motivation to finish.
During this hiatus, the reality I drew my inspiration from sent me through a few puke rides at a carnival. I receded to a place I didn’t want to go anymore, all the while trying to judge my own self-worth again. It took one last shovel full of mistakes before I hit rock bottom.

I was finally over it.

So I picked up the pen (or computer) again. This time writing with resolve instead of longing. I was able to finish it with the correct thoughts in my head, with the true meaning of beauty coursing it’s way through my veins.

The plot of the book turns out the way I had always wished it had, but I struggled invariably for quite sometime on whether it should follow along with the reality it was inspired from or not. I chose to stick to the plan, purely because I felt it needed to.
And like the magnificent assumption in the movie ‘Becoming Jane’, Jane Austen wrote happy endings for her characters because she would never come to one. Just because this particular ending didn’t happen didn’t mean a happy ending wasn’t deserved by the people whose lives I created on paper.

I wanted to leave you with something from my book, because it’s cruel to talk about it so much and never have let you take a peak.

“Beauty is witnessing the endless sky transition from a bright glow through hues of sunset and into darkness speckled with tiny pinholes of light. Beauty is creation. Creation of art, creation of memories. Beauty is destruction. Destruction of pride, destruction of self. Beauty is finding the very thing you were looking for right in front of your eyes. Beauty is gazing into the eyes of the one you love as they walk towards you, down a path of redemption and commitment. Beauty is anticipation, endeavor, and passion. But most of all, Beauty is love.”

The Faucet Romantic.

Valentines Day… Single’s Awareness Day… Whatever you want to call it. It’s coming up, in case you haven’t noticed.

Every year, no matter how hard I try, I get sucked into the greeting card section like a fat kid to the smell of brownies cooking in the oven. I can’t stay away. Why? First of all, I love greeting cards. Second, I love cheesiness. Third, I always imagine buying this card for my future someone or imagine it’s being said to me in order to make myself feel better.
It feels so good to read them and yet so depressing at the same time. The idea that the other people in the aisle are thinking the same thing I am about them… “I wonder who she has to love? Look at how happy she is.” makes me get a tad gushy and turn on the faucet of romanticism I keep carefully tucked away in my brain. Before I know it, it’s flooded every rational thought I’ve ever had and all I can feel is bitter and angry because it’s better than feeling isolated on such a day as this.

I stopped beating myself up about not having a valentine probably back in high school. That was when I made my first rebellious move on V-Day. I made a gigantic heart and colored it black, with scratched inky letters that spelled ‘ANTI’ (emo much?). But there’s still that little twinge of loneliness that tugs at your heartstrings when you see a couple holding hands, whispering sweet nothings. (What does that phrase even mean? If you’re saying something sweet, it can’t very well be nothing too can it?)

So what can one do?
If you read my blogs regularly, which I know you don’t, you’d know that this year I made a covenant to not ask for anything in the subject of intimate relationships (Christianly intimate for what it’s worth 😉 ). Let me tell you, I’ve never been so tested about the subject until I promised not to ask. So V-Day is an automatic no-go when it comes to swooning and drowning and all that nonsense.
I’ve never put too much emphasis on this day anyhow, considering how ridiculously commercialized it’s become. It’s still a nice thing though.

The truth is… This year I don’t feel depressed about it. I don’t feel like I have to make a big deal and go out of my way to be bitter or obnoxious to those who have someone. I don’t want people to tell me that it’ll be me next year.
Instead, I feel peace about it. I’m looking forward to the 99¢ box of chocolates (5 to be exact) my mom buys me every year. I’m even looking forward to seeing couples be happy in their coupledom. How grown-up of me, eh?

I think it’s because I’ve finally started to understand where I truly am when it comes to the subject of love. I know I’ve never felt it on this earth and wouldn’t know the extent until I’m there… but I do know the steadfast love that Christ bestows upon me. This past year or so has taught me so much about God’s love. You hear that everywhere, about how God is love and he will love you no matter what… I think we’ve heard it so much that we become desensitized to it. Have we forgotten what it’s like to truly be loved?

I haven’t. In fact, I feel it more now than ever. It’s his love that’s changed my attitude about V-Day and all it’s affiliates this year. I don’t know when his love will be extended through someone here on earth… If ever. It would be great to have that, but I know it’s not what’s most important in life.

So if you’re out there, single for another year like me, I encourage you to not wallow in self-pity and enjoy being single while you can. Don’t be bitter towards a love you don’t fully understand, instead make it a point to discover what love really is. Beyond a day out of the year that makes you feel like crap, beyond a friend who makes it a point to exclaim his/her excitement for their established coupledom. Beyond that empty tug at your heartstrings.
Look beyond and soon enough you’ll find the love you’ve always wanted.

Cheers

Twenty Eleven.

I think of this year as a boat being tossed in a storm.
It came in a whirlwind of forced responsibility and stressful scheduling… but as a new year always does, I had a hopeful outlook. I experienced many things in the past year, the most important one is that of desperation. I have never felt so desperate in my life, only it wasn’t always a bad thing. It started my health journey and kept me fighting. However, the one sentence that comes to mind when I think about my spiritual walk is this: I’ve never truly been angry at God before this year. It hurts to know I was there, it hurts to know that I neglected my relationship because of my surroundings and situations.
There are times when we must stop trying to fix things… That is, we must stop trying to stop leaks from springing and the boards of the deck from peeling back. There’s a time when even the sail can’t be saved from being torn into shreds. There was a point in the storm when I had to put all of my effort into holding on for dear life. I had to forget about what was falling apart around me. I had to make sure I stayed alive.
But I knew within those dark moments that I wasn’t going to give up. I made a decision a long time ago that no matter what happened, I wasn’t ever going back to living my life without Christ guiding me. I had to give myself some time to step back and look at my life, look at what I was doing and where I was going to go if I continued to let my life run me. One of the only things that kept me going was a small hope for a better future. In fact, I found myself dwelling so much on the future, I ended up finding the one thing I needed most for the future… A renewed desire to seek God. I held on to the tattered rags of promises I had managed to keep with me and finally began to put my life back into action 9/12 (nine-twelveths) of the way through the year.

    As I said before, it hasn’t been all bad.

I created this blog in 2010, which has helped my writing and become a major outlet to emotions.
This year I graduated from college. What was a source of a lot of stress during the process turned into an amazing feeling of accomplishment and good memories.
I also went to Washington D.C. on a much-needed vacation after graduation. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the awesome time I spent with my Dad and brother. It sounds so small, but when you dreamed of running away from life so many times in one year, a small vacation becomes a lifeline of sanity.
Of course, you can’t ignore what I started in the beginning of October. My health improvement. That in itself has changed me more than I could ask for. I am so thankful for that jump-start.
Then there was December… I was in charge of conceptualizing, directing, and finalizing the Christmas Eve service at church. It was the first time I’d ever been given such a great responsibility or trusted that much by any leaders in my life. I learned so much about myself and feel it’s the beginning of things to come. I loved doing it, and I loved being done with it. Haha.

    So what’s going to happen in 2011, you ask?

I have no idea! To tell the truth, I’ve been quite apprehensive about it. I wouldn’t call it scared, but I would call it gun-shy. Even with the last few month’s success, I can’t help but look at the year ahead and think, “What trial is coming next? Why was this past year so hard? Could it be that it was only in preparation of the even bigger storm around the corner?”
My boat is still sailing, but the repairs from the last storm aren’t finished yet. I don’t think I’ll ever have this boat looking the way it did prior to the storm and I don’t really want it to be. I want it to leave evidence of my journey so I never forget the lessons I learned, but I know that my boat is going to come out looking better than it did before.
Even though I don’t have any of my questions answered, I do have this feeling in the pit of my stomach.
This year will change my life.
I’ve already committed myself to more work for His Kingdom than I’ve ever undertaken. I’ve already received a word from the Lord that my main focus this year needs to be on ministry and not on furthering my career or finding a job. I feel a deep conviction every time I send in a job application… it says: “A 9 to 5 job will never work for what I have for you.” …I have student loans to pay off and a bill from the State of TN for damaging the guard rail that saved my life two years ago. These things need money. For my future to get started off on the right foot, I can’t take these debts lightly. It makes tears well up in my eyes to think about it. But I know God will help me make these payments. I know because he has already shown me through different situations that he’s got my back.
Also, this year our new church will be finished and I will say goodbye to the only building I’ve ever described as being ‘my home church’. It’s bittersweet, and entirely exciting. I can’t wait to see what God is holding for us there and what he’ll do in our lives to get us there!
I can only tell you one thing: This year will take everything I have and push it to the brink of greatness and beyond.

    With all of that said, Here are my 2011 resolutions:

I will reach my weight loss goal. I can’t tell you exactly what that goal is, but I know that I’ll know when I get there. For me, it’s not about pounds, inches, or dress sizes. Those are all relative factors. I am already happy with myself, I don’t need a number to tell me when I’m finished.

I will give everything I have to God. Spiritual increase has always been on my list, but this year is going to be different. The goal this year in our church is about spreading the gospel, and I’ve come to realize that a passion for souls has been lying dormant in my spirit since about 15 and only now am I letting it rise up in me. I am going to give everything I have to this and push myself further in other ministries I am passionate about as well. I also plan to amp up my prayer, fasting, and studying life. I do these things, but a step up is never a bad thing.

• I will not ask God for anything in the category of relationships. This one is kind of hard to explain, but I feel it’s another time when I should stop focusing on fixing the boat and focus on keeping myself alive. This isn’t one of those typical ‘I’m focusing on me’ times. This is about is focusing on what God is doing through me instead of what God is doing for me. Oddly enough, I see this one as the most challenging one. You really don’t realize how often you ask God for something until you make it a point not to ask anymore. I do pray that God honors this covenant.

All in all, This year promises to be the most challenging, most fruitful, and most change-filled year I’ve had yet. May your 2011 be the same for you.

Thanks for reading!

Week Thirteen/Fourteen.

December 14th — December 28th

Sorry, no bells and whistles this time around, guys.
Couple of days late already, and I really just wanted to write, with it being the end of the year and all, about what I’ve learned so far.
It’s been a crazy wonderful couple of weeks. Christmas came in a wonderland of snow and stress and left with lovely chocolate turtles and exhaustingly fun family time. I know what you’re thinking… “She flopped.”
And you could be right. 😉
I am so thankful for the boost phentermine has given me to get back into action with my health, It has helped open my mind and gotten me to start seriously considering what I’m doing with my life. For that, I am grateful.
Here’s the deal… I haven’t taken phentermine for over a week. Why? I don’t know… I just haven’t felt like taking it. I still have the month’s supply to finish out, but I’m pretty over it right now. I know now what it’s going to be like without the medicine as a crutch, and let me tell ya, it’s hard. What an epiphany, right? Who knew that weight loss required so much dedication? Haha. Totally joking, folks. I promise.
This little rebellion against putting chemicals in my body has shown me what it’s going to take and that I can say ‘no’ to the wrong foods without the help of an appetite suppressant. Yes, I do grow hungry more often and have to swallow back carb cravings more often… BUT… I’m not sweating out of every shirt I put on and I don’t have extreme, constant dry mouth. I also don’t have amplified emotions that cause me to snap and get irritable very easily. I’d say, on the whole, I’m pretty sure I’m done taking phentermine.

With all of that said, I gained one pound over Christmas. Darn those left-overs. That’s what got me. Why can’t people take the desserts they brought to our dinner home with them? Haha.

And tomorrow is New Years Eve… More parties! But I’m getting back on track now. I’ve learned how crummy it makes you feel to be lazy and to eat junk food constantly. I ate a delicious and perfectly healthy meal on Sunday and I immediately felt a change in my attitude, it made me want to go home and exercise… No joke! It amazes me how my mind and body reacts in such a positive way when I treat them with respect.

So here’s to the beginning of a new year, a year filled with health and happiness. This Is It!

Thanks for reading!

(P.S. This isn’t my New Years blog… That one is coming soon. :))

The Beginning of Servanthood.

Last week, my Pastor asked for all those who’d been serving the Lord for twenty years or more to stand.

I couldn’t decide whether I should stand or not. It’s an extremely relative question that leaves me seriously pondering when exactly I started serving the Lord. From what point does one measure?

My first instinct was to say that when I received the holy ghost was when I should start counting. That’s what everyone else seems to go off of. But that measurement doesn’t seem right to me.
I was raised in church. I found my personality and first friends while rolling under pews and making houses for my barbies out of red song books. I did my homework at church, and I slept at church.
I received the holy ghost around the age of eight or nine. I’ve always struggled with remembering, but neither I, nor anyone in my family, can remember how old I was, what grade I was in, what year it was, or anything that would give away the answer. This was before the delightful idea of certificates was fathomed apparently. 😉 However, I can tell you just about everything that happened that night. All the way down to what my brother said to me when I was praying. (funny story, you should ask me about it sometime.) So, if using the date of receiving the holy ghost is what I should do… I’m out of luck. And plus, wouldn’t repenting and getting baptized count for just as much?

Then, I thought I should count from the time I decided that this was it and there was going to be no turning back from here. The point I decided that I was going to follow God for the rest of my life and then some. That happened at about fourteen.

Even though I started at a young age, I don’t know if it’s right to count the years of uncertainty and turmoil in my own spirit. I don’t know if I being raised in church qualifies me to count the years I played under the pews. I don’t know if I can count from receiving his presence and spirit into my life when I very much doubted for years after that I’d even received it, based on the fact that I couldn’t specifically remember saying anything that sounded like another language that night. I didn’t settle that issue of doubt all the way until almost sixteen.

Then… maybe serving God starts from the moment you accept that he’s real. From the point you acknowledge him, not even as your ‘personal Savior’ just yet, but just as being there. I never did doubt he was real, though the ninth grade brought mass confusion over creationism vs. evolution, I still believed God was up there somewhere.

It’s then, in my opinion, that one begins to serve, in actions if not always in words. Even as children we serve God by being an innocent witness of faith in it’s ironically beautiful simplicity. God casts our sin into his vast sea of forgetfulness, so why should we remember and discount the times we struggled, or only remember the times we took the next step forward? It’s all a part of our walk, a part of being a servant.

In that case, I’m not sure I can recall the exact moment I acknowledged he was real, being raised from birth into a belief-heavy environment and all. I know it’s not the same for everyone, some probably can remember that exact moment. I think that’s great. I really wish I could. I imagine it would be a delightful memory.

Do you remember the exact moment you knew he was real? The beginning of your servanthood?

Derivation, Perspiration, and Aspiration.

Blood. Sweat. Tears.

Future goals seem to be the running theme for my blog in the last year. I’m always talking about what I want out of life and how I’m getting there. And yet, every time I think about the future, I always end up thinking about the past.
I don’t let it hold me back anymore. I don’t look back with disdain and judgement like I used to. I no longer cry over my past.
Now I think about my past with a bittersweet smile plastered awkwardly onto tear-stained cheeks, eyes glazed over in wonder at how far I’ve come.
These tears are cried for what the past tells me about the future. I wouldn’t call these tears sad. They’re tears of victory and revelation. Tears of insanity and hilarity. Tears of remembrance and longing. Tears of understanding and gratefulness.

Woven within my tears of aspiration are the perspiring of many memories, some failures and some victories… Still, there is one final ingredient missing: Blood.
It’s not my blood, though I’m sure I’ve thought it was my own plenty of times down through my life, but it is the blood of Christ intertwined into every past memory and every future goal that I have.
It’s in Christ that everything I have done is ultimately based and it will most certainly be Christ that my future revolves around.

Down through my life I’ve always lived for one of these three things. Only now, I’m finally starting to see that they are all one. It’s all or nothing. If I live life without the balance of the three, there is just that, no balance.

There is unhappiness and slaughtered expectation.
There is doubt, fear, and rebellion.

There are obvious downfalls to basing your life in only the past or the future. Basing your life in Christ only doesn’t seem so bad though, right? Wrong. When I based my life in Christ alone, it was possible to live for a time without acknowledging my past or future. However, in dwelling in Christ, we are moved to move. It is impossible to be stagnant in the covering of his blood. You can’t continue to dwell under his covering without dealing with the past and future.

When I combine the three, they become a driving motion that pushes me forward into living the way God made me to live. A life of true freedom.

The old phrase rings true:
God covers us in his blood, the heritage of Christ is our derivation.
The sweat of our past comes to join in, the work we’ve done is our perspiration.
The future is within view, the product of our past and the covering of our past by the blood of Jesus Christ is our aspiration.

Our lives are made in Derivation, Perspiration, and Aspiration.