Tuesday, November 10, 2015

God's Early Christmas Presents

I've been thinking of James 1:2 today: "Count it all joy, brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds."
What? Joy? We're supposed to experience joy when facing hard things?

I'm realizing that life's hard things are like God's early Christmas presents.

You know how on Christmas Day when you're six years old, someone hands you cash, and you're secretly thinking, "Umm, okay, but I was kind of hoping for that toy I was telling you about"?
On the other hand, when you're 18 years old, and someone hands you cash for Christmas, it's awesome, because you appreciate it and know exactly how you're going to use it.

Life's hard things are hard to appreciate as gifts until later down the road.

When I was younger, it was riding a bike and eating my vegetables.
Half a year ago, it was finishing high school.
Today, it's registering for classes for spring semester and getting through a really hard college geography course.

These are all God's Christmas presents. While that seems weird now, I'll know that it was good for me later--just like I'm glad now that I ate my vegetables, learned how to ride a bike, and graduated from high school.

Hard things really are blessings--presents, even. It just may take a while to see why.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Politics: Thoughts on Hilary Clinton & The Benghazi Case

Note to the Reader: I was catching up a bit on the news today (which is something that I'm finding more and more important as an 18-year-old registered voter and American citizen, even though I've never really discussed it on this blog), and I saw the headlines for Hilary Clinton on trial for the Benghazi case. My first thoughts were, "Thank you, God, finally this is being addressed!" However, I've been hearing some aggressive comments against Hilary Clinton and I wanted to write these thoughts down and share them with whoever wants to read them. Since I haven't posted in a long time, I thought that even though it's political, something written on this blog is better than nothing. Let me know if you'd like to see more posts like this, and feel free to comment your thoughts on this. Thank you, and enjoy!

The media is exploding with news on Hilary Clinton and the Benghazi case today.
There is strong evidence that Hilary Clinton royally messed up, that she did something selfish which resulted in the severe harm and death of many good people and their families.
On the other hand, I don't think any person has gone through life without doing a selfish thing that severely hurt (or, on a rare occasion, killed) someone else. I've probably done several selfish things in my life that hurt people--LOTS of times.
Hilary Clinton is no exception to this.
Here's the thing: she may have messed up, but that doesn't mean she should be hated. And I'm not talking about the cultural meaning for hate, (e.g. "Don't be such a hater!") I'm talking about the hatred that is outright wishing harm upon someone else. I know plenty of conservatives and liberals who absolutely hate Mrs. Clinton. 
By the way, this is coming from a Republican here. I'm not trying to defend any selfish actions that have caused the death of others, just to be clear. 
I just want to say this: There is no one--not liberal, conservative, Democrat, Independent, Republican, male, female, American, or non-American who is better than Hilary Clinton, and Hilary Clinton is no better than anyone else.
A lot of people are saying that it's people like Hilary Clinton that are killing America. From my perspective, I think it's the attitude that people are better than us or that we're better than everyone else that's really destroying the world, not to mention the hatred.
Public service announcement: It's a 100% guarantee that hate is NOT going to make this nation better. Love your neighbor--because he or she is just like you: full of a past with mistakes and regret, but also full of potential for a hope and a future.
God's grace is open for everyone--even Hilary Clinton.

Questions for the Reader: What are your thoughts on Clinton and the Benghazi Case, and/or the email scandal? Any thoughts on the 2016 presidential election in general? Any thoughts on Paul Ryan becoming the next Speaker of the House?

"Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
--Romans 8:33-39

Monday, March 30, 2015

3 Seconds of Envy

Yesterday on Facebook, I saw SEVERAL classmates and teachers post selfies of themselves in front of the beautiful masterpiece: "The School of Athens" by Raphael. 

This is one of my favorite paintings ever and right there, all over Facebook, were friends, classmates, and teachers alike taking in that masterpiece in person. And I wasn't there with them.

I was jealous. Not really jealous, but just enough to feel sad about my life for three seconds.

And friends, three seconds of envy can be DANGEROUS--to you, to your heart, to your thoughts, to your soul, to your relationship with God--ALL of it can be poisoned with just three seconds of envy.

That's when I decided to take about 60 seconds to reflect. 
While it is awesome that my friends saw a beautiful painting in person, does that make any part of my life worse? 

No, it doesn't. 

That's when I decided that even though my life often feels pretty mundane, it's actually really beautiful.

Even on my worst days, I go outside and see purple mountains and really green grass--painted and sculpted by the Lord of All Creation Himself! I think that tops Raphael any day of the week.

Be Grateful
If you ever find yourself in those poisonous 3 seconds of envy, STOP and take 60 seconds to be grateful for all of the days that God has made your life amazing in ways both big and small. (Here's a hint: there are billions of ways, whether you see them or not.)

After those 60 seconds of gratitude are up, remember that person you envied before. Remember that no life dedicated to God is better or worse than another life that is also dedicated to God. You are no better than anyone else, and no one else is better than you. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we all blend into one perfect, holy person--that's Jesus.

Challenge Yourself
The next time that you find yourself in those 3 seconds of envy, challenge yourself! Turn it into 3 seconds of rejoicing in that person's happiness. This is very hard to do, but don't forget that with God, all things are possible. You'll find that you will become just as happy as the other person and then all of a sudden, no one is happier than the other. 

At that point, when everyone is grateful and rejoicing in others' happiness, what do we have left to envy?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

One Small Thought

Note: There are times when I think that my blog posts aren't worth publishing unless they are a certain length. Then I thought, "What if I just post small thoughts every once in a while?" So I'm giving it a try. I hope you enjoy it.

I've been writing some short stories this school year, and I'm finding a slight pattern in the endings: someone gets sick or hurt, and someone unexpected comes around and helps them.

At first that was somewhat discouraging: "Aren't I a better storyteller than that?"

No, for crying out loud, that's the story we're living in!

No one comes out of this life unscathed, and we are all tempted to buy into the lie that we have to figure it out alone.

But we don't have to.

That's why it was such an amazing thing that Jesus died for us on the cross. He didn't have to help us. He could have left us alone.

But he didn't.

He was the unexpected hero to come and help us in our misery and hurt.

So I keep telling stories every now and then, enjoying the search for the patterns that represent real life that I didn't know were there at first.

Friday, March 6, 2015

How My Week Went & How Life Pretty Much Goes in General

In answer to the question, "How was your week?"

This week was really good and really hard.

It was emotionally, physically, academically, and spiritually challenging and draining. I gave my ALL in all of those areas this week (except maybe in spiritual, that was more of God working in me than me doing the work). I came through in many ways, but I also failed in many ways this week.

One minute I was running through a meadow because I was so happy, the next minute I was gritting my teeth trying not to say something I would regret.

One minute I was praying "You're amazing, God!" and the next minute I was praying, "God, what--why--how, URGG!"

One day I wanted to journal about how perfect life is and the next day I wanted to angrily scribble about how stupid and unfair life is. Both times, I ended up not writing anything at all, believe it or not.

This week I felt like a child and I also felt like an adult. One night I would be venting about how I have no idea what I'm doing and how much help I need, and (literally) the next day I was thinking "This isn't too bad, being an adult. I can handle this."

One day I was praising God for how many wonderful people He has placed into my life and then the next day I was asking God why in the world he put "this one annoying person" into my life.

One day I accused someone for not "being there" enough, and the next day I felt like an idiot because she has actually given up a lot of her time just to make sure I'm doing okay.

One day I was daydreaming about graduating high school, and the next day...well, I was still daydreaming about graduating high school. (Some things don't change.)

One minute I remembered how God has come through for me so many times that I've been hurt in my life, and the next minute I remembered how God came through (and forgave me) for so many other people I've hurt in my life.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Glennon Melton-Doyle has a great word for life and how much it see-saws: "Brutiful."

Life is brutiful...Brutal AND Beautiful!

Both/And. Mixed. Joined. Together. Tough & Lovely. Brutal & Beautiful. BRUTIFUL.

So, yeah...that was my week!


How was yours?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cinderella Mornings

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to waste time? 

I've done some productive things today, but I'll be honest, I haven't accomplished much. I'm WAY too overwhelmed by my task list! All I want to do is snuggle my puppy, eat chocolate cake, and watch re-runs of The Carol Burnett Show.

I call mornings like these "Cinderella mornings." 

You can probably relate--those mornings where you look at your to-do list and become increasingly overwhelmed and then become paralyzed by the tasks before you. And then you start daydreaming, because, let's face it, any state of mind is better than the reality you're facing now, right?

I bet you anything Cinderella was like that (yes, I know she's fictional, stay with me). She'd wake up early in the morning, go about her morning routine, deal with her cranky family members, and get started on a to-do list as high as the ceiling in the house...and by the way, Cinderella will be cleaning every inch of it later on! Yet every now and then, when she had the opportunity, she'd stare and daydream about the castle out her window. "Will I ever get out of this?" she thought. "Will I ever see the day where I'll get to spend just an hour in that castle?"

That's when I think about heaven.

It's that place that we think about all the time.

"What will it be like after I leave the world? Will I have arrows that shoot hearts? Will I have wings and play the harp all day on a ceiling?" (Apparently today's theme is ceilings...) No!

Heaven is that place we've always dreamed of living in. It's the most perfect place there is. I think of heaven as the place where everyone gets to sing together in front of God (kind of like church worship service but you can actually SEE God right there!). It might have a small pasture with a summer breeze and cherry trees, and unlimited access to a library with billions and billions of books (happy, thought-provoking, beautiful books). 

And time with God, lots of awesome, precious, endless time with God. La la la... :) <3

And then I think about the evenings in heaven (that is, of course, if heaven has an evening). I've heard that in some cultures in the world, almost every night for family dinner, someone cooks a fabulous meal and everyone eats and talks about anything and everything for hours...and hours...and hours, on a rooftop, surrounded by growing, fresh, colorful vegetables in the night air. I think evenings in heaven will be like that. People spending time with one another in the most beautiful place imaginable, telling stories, sharing thoughts and memories, and getting to know God more, being completely unified with Him.


Yup. That sounds way better than making vocabulary flash cards and studying for tests, but I can still have joy doing those things knowing that I won't be doing them forever! In the meantime, I'm setting aside that time for chocolate cake and t.v. re-runs. :)

"Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created." James 1:16-18 (NIV)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcome, 2015

Today I'm still reflecting on 2014. I know I should have done that yesterday, but I don't think it's ever too late to reflect.

Here's what I learned in 2014:

  • I learned to be more responsible. It's okay that I'm becoming an adult--adulthood is HARDDD, but it's beautiful. Have I mentioned that I'll be eighteen in only 6 days? (See this post for more about what I learned in becoming an adult.)
  • I learned to forgive and to love. I know that these sound like easy things to pick up, but I realized this year that I had no idea how DIFFICULT it is to really love the people around you, and to forgive the people who have affected your life for the worse, big or small. I also learned how to love and forgive myself, which I had to do before I ever accomplished this with anyone else. I learned that I was a little worse for wear, that I still had a lot of hurt that God's been trying to walk me through, and that if anyone is worthy of listening to for opinions and advice, it's definitely God. He taught me how much worth I have and that it's not about who I have been before or how other people around me have done things that hurt. I'm defined by who I am in God's eyes alone and how I interact with Him.
  • I learned how to be honest about who I am. I learned that even though I'm a messy human being, it's okay to embrace that messiness. I can do hard things. I can make the right decisions. I can do as I ought. I can do my best without worrying how I'm going to be judged by others. All of these things in the end glorify God, and I was never expected to be without mistakes in the first place. When God said "Be perfect as I am perfect" I believe that he wanted us to do our best. To give our 100%. Just show up. Pray. Love. Forgive. Rest, knowing that you gave it your all and asked God to make up for what you inevitably lacked. Ask for his forgiveness (and don't forget to forgive yourself) in the ways that you will inevitably mess up. Ask God to help you learn, help you forgive, and ask Him to still love you and forgive you. That's perfection. It's knowing that because of God's grace, we are able to be His children who do as we ought. "All beautiful you are my darling, there is no flaw in you." We're flawless because we're His children who have accepted Him. (See this post for more about what I learned in being honest.)

Maybe the reason why I keep looking back on 2014 is because it was kind of a train wreck that I can't look away from. 2014 was probably one of the hardest, yet most beautiful years of my life. It really demonstrated what it means for God to make beautiful things out of the ugliest of messes. 2014 was that disastrous train wreck that showed the ways where I was weak, but it also showed me the ways in which God is strong...and beautiful and wise and perfect and loving. And it showed that He can make me all those things too.


Welcome, 2015. Maybe you're an oncoming, ugly and beautiful train wreck just like 2014. But maybe you're a Christmas present that I wasn't expecting. Maybe you're like a giant fortune cookie that gives me a ton of advice or encouragement that I need. Maybe you're like a roadmap that will show me where I need to be going and the steps that I need to take to get there. And maybe you're a travel guide that shows me just how beautiful each of those places on the map really are if I decide to see them in person.

Dear God, 
I pray that 2015 is like all of these things. I know that I'll have a few train wrecks, but will you help me learn from them? Maybe it'll be like spring, where all of the flowers are ruined by pounds of snow from winter and they'll grow again when the sun warms the ground. 
Will you give me fortune cookies that have encouragement and wisdom and gentle reminders--and yes, even hard, painful, killer reminders? 
Will you be my roadmap--a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path--guiding me where I need to go and the steps I need to take to get there? Will you also be my travel guide and point out the ways in which this life is so beautiful and breathtaking, which I often forget to appreciate? 
2015 is no longer the future. It's the present. And you, O Lord, are the hope for the future. A gift full of bright beginnings with grace and love.
I'm ready for another year, only because you're here to help me through it--just like you were always here to help me through the last one.
Just one more question before we go. Am I still young enough for you to hold my hand?