Surgeon General’s Warning

As I pulled into a parking lot in my apartment complex, I saw a girl my age smoking a cigarette.

A few thoughts crossed my mind, but in the end, I’m sure she is already aware of the health risks. Perhaps she thinks they don’t really apply to her, or maybe she is only focused on the here-and-now, or maybe she would vehemently argue that it’s none of my business. Either way, she made a decision, because she was very happily smoking her cigarette.

But then I had to stop myself, because while I was pondering the physical health of this stranger, I realized that I was doing exactly what she was doing.

I have this really sweet, loving, beyond-words Savior who knows me quite intimately and cares about all of the intricate details of my life. He has warned me of what will happen when I choose not to obey him; of what happens when I only think about the hear-and-now or my selfish needs or, honestly, anything outside of His glorious gifts (and, sometimes struggles).

Yet we all have a choice to make. And I, like that girl, ignore the “you should”s or “you’re supposed to”s or “it’s not good”, and I follow my own rules. My own path. After all, it’s my life, right? I shouldn’t have to answer to anyone!

Foolish, foolish of me.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  – James 1:17

When I Speak Too Much of My Own Accord

I have spoken against the Creator,

the love of my life, the maker of my heart, the knitter of my soul.

I have allowed my problems to have a greater hold of my thoughts, my emotions, and my actions than they should. I have danced with fear and listened to its many whispers about what I am incapable of doing and, even more devastatingly, what He is incapable of doing.

Yes, I have ignored what I know to be truth in the attempt to make sense of all the things I can’t control. I have ignored his word and the promptings of Proverbs 3:5 (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding…). Yes, I traded His truth for my own crude lies.

But enough of that. He knows the depth of my sin.

I will leave Elihu’s remarks to Job here:

But it is wrong to say God doesn’t listen, to say the Almighty isn’t concerned.

Wrong. So deeply wrong.

honestmiracle

I want to see the miraculous.

>>hmph. or what I believe to be miraculous.

In all honesty, Abba, I want you to send blessings from Heaven

in the form of a man or a woman

who, for some reason, feels compelled to pay for

all of my  current student loans. All of my future schooling.

And then I want that peace of mind that would likely follow that miracle.

…..

Continue reading

To Imitate

Christians.

Followers.

Imitators of Christ: His actions, His ways, His thoughts.

And I forgot that for far too long today, because I became very easily discouraged this morning.

It took one word – well, technically two – and one glance at an event invitation on facebook.

Suddenly, I was flooded with doubt. Insecurity. Lack. Need. Sadness. Despair.

“I am not original.” “Nothing about my plan is unique.” “It has been done already.” “Where will I find money?” “Can I even do this?” “I feel so lonely in this.”

Ah, but had I remembered to imitate Christ,

at the first drop of the self-disparagement; at the first flood of negative light,

I would have looked to my Savior and remembered who He is.

He prayed in full faith. He did not immediately take up arms, as I did, and seek a boxing match with His Father.

Man of sorrows as He was, He did not baptize himself in self-pity when confronted with the enormity of His task on earth. He did not doubt that the Father would aid Him, be His companion, encourage whenever His face was sought.

He spoke the truth. He spoke the Word over Himself.

He withdrew, He prayed confidently,

and then He continued walking.

Thankfully, I remembered this soon enough. He brought it to my memory.

So now, I go forward to follow Him,

and to imitate

His faith.

Joy Comes in the Morning – 1 Year Later, and Before the Joy

Funny.

It’s insanely hilarious and ridiculously disheartening how quickly all of my knowledge and wisdom and understanding can turn into a pile of mush on the ground – nothingness, irrelevant, and ignored.

One day, I am overflowing with love for Him and for people. One day, I conquer mountains and cross parted seas; I trample doubt and speak boldly against Fear and her friend Complacency.

–Insert one incident. One small, minute thing that triggers the downfall of an empire, the rumbles of an avalanche, the tremors of an earthquake. Come, on, you can find it: just one thing that reminds me of my incompetence, my lack of faith, my ability to be easily replaced within a matter of months… —

There you go. Good. And now it is the Next day, and I am drowning in my own self-hatred, projecting my self-disgust onto the people I love most, care about most – or, should I say, those who care about me. Love me. Stand by me.

To them I say, “You are foolish. You are a foolish idiot whom I love dearly and I need you to – ”

(ah, need. Because “need” is a word and it implies that I have come to appreciate your assistance, you and your pride-squashing love must be eliminated)

” – and I need you to stand very far away. But please don’t. Also, I’m sorry that you’re being punished for the things I find wrong with myself. In my defense, you were stupid to say that you love me. And, if we’re being honest about my self-questions, how far do I trust you?”

Today is a day of disappointment, all directed at myself. Today, I look blankly (or sometimes smilingly! It depends) at the world, but do not mistake that for disinterest. No, it is merely isolation.

“Hello, Self. You don’t want to be alone, do you?”

No, you know I do not.”

“Great! Wonderful! Let’s make sure that you will feel it, even in the midst of the most non-lonely company we have found!”

“I would rather not.”

“And yet, you will.”

“Yes, I will.” 

.

It’s Thursday, and to be honest, I don’t even remember when Sunday started.

Never Give Up

I just came from a church service where the pastor preached to married couples on the topic “Never Give Up.”

But I’m writing to you because I was distinctly amazed by what happened after the sermon was over.

Normally, I assume that people hear messages, but don’t always put them into use. I imagined that married couples in the room experiencing seasons of dryness or near-divorce or hatred towards one another would have left the room and driven home together without addressing the depth of the message or even making eye contact.

But as hundreds of bodies flocked out of the building, sparing no time whatsoever, I noticed one lone couple still standing in the middle of a section of deserted seats. The man held the women close, and she slipped her arms around his waist as she gazed up into his face.

But she wasn’t the one talking. No, her expression was – thawing, maybe? You know, like she had been cold towards him for so many months – barely surviving – but now this man, her man, stopped her as she gathered her things after service and said, “We need to talk.”

Now she looked up at him, and he was saying very serious words to her. While everyone else was pushing to get out of the building, he was pressing into her heart, and she was melting, finally melting. She nodded to some of the things he said and  smiled like people do when they are trying to maintain immovable exteriors but are simultaneously stunned by the words of adoration being offered to them. That’s the best I can describe it; it was an incredibly sensitive and beautiful thing to watch.

Because I haven’t seen this part, when the husband takes the first steps to bridge the distance in his marriage. There was a sense of humility, shattered pride, and difficulty in their expressions, but there were having this conversation anyway, and they were not going to wait. They refused to give up.

I thought that was beautiful and worth sharing.

Novel #2!

Hello, friends!

I love to write. Using words to paint pictures of feeling, beauty, living – that is a worthy pursuit.

I have another story I want to write, but I need your help making this world – the characters, their fears, their desires – a tangible reality.

If you have the ability to give a donation to my next book’s publishing fund ($5, $20, $50… whatever you can give!), please visit the link below and check out my campaign! Anything will be greatly appreciated.

http://www.gofundme.com/shaken 

Thank you ❤

Photography Lessons

I took a photojournalism class last semester.

I don’t own a camera and certainly haven’t dabbled with $4,000 equipment before. I figured a class like this would be fun; an easy way to appease my academic advisers and earn three more credits towards graduation.

I had no idea that my class in photography and journalism would encourage me to live my life.

My professor was a superstar. He began each two-hour class period – which strangely, I quite enjoyed – with anecdotes about his days “on the field”. Crazy things, things that a text book could never teach you. Things like “always carry a life preserver in the trunk of your car” or “and that was my running gag with the president”.

On the first day of class, he summarized our objectives as follows: control your background, fill your frame, wait for moments. These were three rules that he promised, by the end of the semester, we would learn to apply when building the composition of our photographs. Over the course of the next fifteen weeks, I failed at each of those components at least once. Either the background was sloppy or I didn’t crop into the photo enough or I shot a mediocre moment that would have improved if I had waited just…two…more…seconds.

On the last day of class, the professor told us he was going to summarize the course, and this is what he meant:

1. Control Your Background

He told us that everything we do – whether it be what we post on social media or how we interact with strangers – will leave a trail of fingerprints behind us. When we are preparing to enter the workforce, one run-in with the law or one photograph floating carelessly around the internet could return to destroy the dreams we’ve worked so hard to build. He wanted us to take control of what others know about us.

2. Fill Your Frame

“Live your life. It’s okay to take risks. Comfort is not a good enough reason to do something.” We are young and endless possibilities lay before us. Yes, choosing to start a business is riskier than a guaranteed job, but if we the passion, we should follow it. Yes, travelling to another country may be costly and upset the traditional timeline (college > job > rise ladder in job). Yes, moving to Texas without knowing anyone may be uncomfortable, but sometimes we should go. Jump. Live a life full of new experiences.

*Disclaimer: I personally don’t think that going to tons of events and having six thousand friends and going to a new country every week means that my frame is being filled. There’s something much deeper to this concept…I don’t know how to put it into words, so I’ll leave it for you to figure out.

3. Wait for Moments

We move too fast to enjoy the seconds of life. We’re so focused on the big plan: what classes will we take next semester? what will we do when we finish grad school? what is our five-year-plan? But we are missing everyday moments. We are missing the sunshine between storms or the few minutes each day when the entire family is gathered in one room. We are missing the quiet things, the moments that don’t announce themselves in advertisements or invitations.

I wanted to share these words with you, friends, and I hope they are of use to you. I don’t have a fancy way to wrap up this post, so I guess I’ll just leave you with this:

Live Fully.

Forget Me Not

Faith and trust are often overlooked.

We assume that because we believe in a supreme being, we’ve covered all of our bases. God, faith, hope, trust…all of it, nailed. But we’ve missed the point.

He wants a relationship. He wants intimacy. And He wants the moments when you don’t trust Him.

He wants you to call out and say, “I don’t believe you, but I want to. Help me. Have mercy on me.” (Mark 9:24).

He wants you to acknowledge the icky parts of your life that would threaten to disarm, discourage you, dismantle you. The things you’re thinking about right now… The ones that keep your lips sealed shut in the presence of friends and your heart mindlessly numbed in your loneliness. He wants all of that.

For me, those moments took the form of overarching statements – things I proclaimed to be true, simply because investigating the foundations of my claims would be too painful.

  1. “God has left me in a season of wanting for too long. I suppose this is the life He has chosen for me. I think He wants me to remain in a place where I do not receive my deepest desires.”
  2. “Okay, I know He is good. He can rescue me from X and Y, but I really don’t see how He can do Z. I’m not in any circumstance where that could be possible right now.”

Readers, understand that these are lies and that they do not reflect the character of my God. Here was His answer:

Last night, I caught up on long-overdue readings by starting in my favorite book: Psalms. I flipped to the center and began with Psalm 77. Imagine my surprise when I learned that I was not alone in my frail trust!

When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted… You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray! I think of the good old days…when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever? And I said, “This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.”

Wow. I can’t count the amount of times I have prayed almost the exact words expressed in this Psalm. All of the hurt and waiting and longing leads to one very human conclusion: this is my life now. Sadness and dejection are what God is pleased to see me live.

No. No, friends, if you have ever said these words – as I have – I beg you to continue reading this passage.

BUT THEN I recall all you have done, O Lord. I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works…

And the writer goes on to describe God’s extraordinary intervention. My favorite is verse 19: “Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters – a pathway no one knew was there!”

Hmph. Isn’t that an answer to my unbelief which stemmed from not being able to see how He would do something? I don’t need to see the details; I just need to know and trust that they are there. The plan is there. More importantly, He is there.

And in response to only trusting “half” of God’s power (which isn’t possible, by the way. He’s an all-or-nothing kind of God), Psalm 78 described Israel’s relationship with Him as they were led through the desert.

They stubbornly tested God in their hearts… “God can’t give us food in the wilderness. yes, he can strike a rock so water gushes out, but he can’t give his people bread and meat.”

And that grieved Him. It must grieve Him when I do it, too. I’ll acknowledge some of His greatness and wonder, but undermine the grand implications of such an undeserved gift by saying, “but He didn’t do this for me, so He probably can’t.”

Ouch.

God did give Israel the things they needed, by the way. He even gave them the things they wanted, causing birds to fall from the sky and into their camps so they could have the meat they so desired. But they forgot Him again, and He corrected them.

Forgive me, Abba. Forgive me for all the times I have forgotten you, or have been too lazy to learn who You are.

And for you, friends, I deeply hope that you will learn His character today. He is not one to abandon you or throw you into misery. Follow Him and take His hand, dear friends. He knows the way.

Why is Everyone Jumping?

MOVE

I’m a writer. I really like metaphors. I especially love the way God uses metaphors to explain things He wants us to learn.

That being said, some metaphors tend to rub me the wrong way. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them, just that I feel they are skewed in relation to my current perspective of my own life. For example, let’s look at faith.

Most images related to faith have to do with jumping off of things or over things. Here, we see a cute little cartoon depicting a classic iteration of this metaphor: the diving board. This little girl is presumably terrified to jump off this high dive. Which is completely fair––I’d be terrified of jumping from above the clouds, too.

Metaphor #1: The Diving Board “How did I get up here?”

This image makes sense. Faith is scary and takes a big step. But then we start to stretch the idea. To be honest, I don’t…

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