Friday, December 31, 2010

I like blogging because it's like writing in a journal with the intent of other people reading...

While being content if I'm the only one. -Kansas Heiskell, Stories are Like Time Machines

2010 was always the year that I looked forward to for graduation of high school and beginning college. Instead, 2010 has become so much more. In the last year, I have:

Packed up my life (first time).
Moved to Texas to begin YWAM.
Met people from Spain/Chile, Korea, the Netherlands, Canada, Peru, and all over the United States.
Spent 36 hours without heat or plumbing, thanks to Texas not knowing how to deal with snow.
Learned that men are like waffles, and women are like spaghetti.
Celebrated my 18th birthday.
Packed up my life (second time).
Traveled to the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Romania.
Lived with little bugs eating me alive for 5 weeks.
Packed up my life (third time).
Moved home, to Pennsylvania.
Graduated (officially).
Finally saw Toy Story 3, after waiting for it for over half of my life.
Watched my carefully laid plans fall to crap.
Got my first (of several, hopefully) tattoo.
Packed up my life (fourth time).
Moved to "hippyville"- I.e., Cullowhee, NC.
Ate my first Bojangles meal (the second one was much better.)
Met some of the best friends I've ever had.
Watched all 6 seasons of the Office in less than two weeks.
Became hannaHRose's personal hair colorist.
Fell in love with the mountains.
Learned to cook for one on a budget.
Used about 500 index cards on the vocab words I needed to learn for my psychology class.
Learned to contra dance.
Threw balloons full of paint at my roommates.
Watched my roommates morph from strangers into friends into something that more resembles sisters.
Helped clean hannaHRose's room- 6 days, 4 bags of trash, 5 bags of yard sale/giveaway...
Found a job after two months of looking.
Took waaay too many pictures of everything that happened to or around me.
Got a car.
About tripled the number of movies I've seen.
Traveled home for the holidays (worst trip ever, but so worth it to be with my family for Christmas).

You know, when you look at that list, it seems as though I've done very little of true consequence. Yeah, I traveled overseas and prayed for people, and maybe influenced a couple of their lives. But, outwardly, it doesn't really look like I've done anything to really change the world.

This year has been more of a year in which God has rocked my world, worked with me internally. This year, I really learned to love passionately instead of passively. I learned to accept love. I learned to listen to God. I learned that sometimes, listening to God means following your heart and allowing Him to work in the situation you choose. I learned that following God means obeying him, being his hands and feet, for every minute of every day. I learned to compromise. I learned what things matter, what things don't, what things are worth stressing over, and which things to let go. I learned that just because a budget looks good on paper doesn't mean it will work out in real life (and that sometimes it will). I learned that God always comes through. I learned to take criticism in a way that helps make me better, instead of a way that ruins me. I allowed some scars to be healed that I had never allowed to be touched. I learned that you give up a few things chasing a dream. I learned that my dreams might be a little different from God's. I began to understand what it means to be in a constant, loving romance with God. I learned to not only make friends, but to be a friend.

This year will not only be remembered as the year that I found God's arms and settled back into them; this year is the year that I stopped being a person, simply one who exists, and began to function as a human, one created by God.

Bring it on, 2011... I can't wait to see what you've got :)

Me and the baby brother in Houston, TX Dec. 31, 2009
Me and the roommates, fall 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Many have tried to write an account of the things that have happened among us...

Just as they were handed down to us by those who were first eyewitnesses and services of the world. -Luke 1:1-2

We all know the Christmas story. You know, Mary (a virgin!) and Joseph couldn't find a place to stay, and Mary was in labor. Baby Jesus ends up being born in a stable (a lowly way for the Savior of mankind to come into the world) where the 3 wise men come to visit him, bearing gifts- and the news that he and his family cannot return to their homeland, or else their safety will be in jeopardy. The new little family lives their early years under the radar, and eventually Jesus grows up to school the religious scholars, give the Pharisees a taste of their own medicine, and yes, save all mankind.

Please don't take the smidge of sarcasm that that paragraph was written with as disrespect or anything of the sort. The story of the birth of the Messiah is awesome, and I love that at least this bit of Biblical knowledge is wide spread in our society. But the thing is, Christians ignore the rest of the story- we make it all cutesy, and we forget about how all this really went down- especially for Mary.

See, according to the times, Mary was probably about 14. She was betrothed, but imagine being 14, having just "become a woman" (a weird enough time in a girl's life), and getting ready to marry a man that you hardly know. Not a fabulous place to be, even if it is "normal" for girls your age.

So, you're stressed and uncertain. You finally get to sleep one night- a sleep that is probably fitful and not very restful- and you're woken up by this angel who is telling you, "Hey, God thinks you're awesome." The Bible says that Mary was "greatly troubled" at his words (Luke 1:29). The angel tells her that she's going to have a baby, what to name him, and that he's going to inherit the throne of David.

Quick examination of what this means for Mary: She's going to have a baby. But wait- she's a virgin. Even if Mary knows she's going to be made pregnant by the Lord God, the rest of the world doesn't know that. So, here's this 14 year old girl, engaged to be married, and she's pregnant. According to the law, she should have been stoned, and her family would have been shamed.  So, on top of all the worries of being a teenage girl who is wondering what all is going to go down on her wedding night, which is steadily approaching, she now has to worry about what her family and fiance will think, what the town will think of them, and of her impending doom.

Let's say she accepts the challenge. She gets to have this baby- not really her choice, by the way... I mean, she didn't ASK to carry the son of God in her womb!- and doesn't even get to pick his name. "He will be called Jesus." Ok, thanks, creepy angel. You can leave my bedroom now.

Oh, and, by the way, he's going to take over the throne of David. Which means that people probably won't be a huge fan of him, including the king. Your son, the love of your life, flesh of your flesh, will be hated by his world.

Back to the story. Mary tells the angel, "I am the Lord's servant." I.e., "I will do this, because God is asking me to. It doesn't mean I'm not shaking in my boots, but I trust God on this one."

Cut to Joseph. He thinks he's engaged to a nice virgin girl who will stay with him through old age and give birth to many sons. Now, I'm not a theologian, so I have no idea how Mary would have gone about informing Joseph about the pregnancy- all I know is that he finds out. Now, Joseph is a good guy- he doesn't want to marry Mary anymore, but he's not going to be mean about it and cut off the engagement publicly, with everyone knowing. He's going to do it between them, which means Mary's family won't be as ashamed by the community, and Mary probably won't be murdered. How nice of him! Except for the fact that it means he's not trusting Mary, but I mean... How many of us would?

But then the angel appears to Joseph. He tells him to not worry about taking Mary as his wife, that this was a God thing. Joseph wakes up from this dream, and I can only imagine what's running through his brain- "Did I eat too much pizza last night?"

Either way, Joseph decides to take Mary as his wife, but doesn't consummate the marriage until after the birth of Jesus. That's a little rough! I think the conversation between the two of them probably went something like this:

Joseph: Hey, Mary, we're going to get married. Apparently God did do this thing... I'm sorry for not trusting you.
Mary: Well, thanks for believing me now, Joe.
Joseph: You're welcome. By the way, we're not going to have sex until after this baby is born. (muttered under his breath:) ...Which is the suckiest part of this whole ordeal...

Soon afterwards, everyone has to go into their hometown for the census. Mary is pretty far along in her pregnancy, but she has to travel with her husband. So she's pregnant, the wedding night is still to come, and she's about to give birth. She's also away from all of her friends and her mom. Oh, and Joe forgot to make the reservations, and all the inns are full, so they can't find anywhere to stay.

Joe finally finds a place to settle- a barn, where all the animals can look on while Mary gives birth. She delivers this baby, by herself, in a strange town, in front of a man who has never seen her nakedness or had sex with her before- his first glance at her body is as she's giving birth. Awesome. Great way to start out that aspect of their relationship!

She wraps Jesus in cloths, places him in the feed bin, and then all these strange, smelly men- shepherds, wise men, and bears, oh my!- parade past her newborn.

Ok. That's all I've got. I think the rest of the story is depicted pretty well from everyone's point of view in the Bible.

Remember- the reason for the season IS Jesus. But also remember that the Christmas season is about sacrifice- Mary and Joseph both sacrificed immensely for the birth of our Savior.

As I think about beautiful babies, presents, trees, snow, and everything else that "comes" with Christmas, there'll be one thought in the back of my mind- would I have the obedience and dedication to follow through with what God asks me to do in the way Mary did?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Combining those two things is like mixing ice cream with manure...

It may not do much to the manure, but it sure messes up the ice cream. Shane Claiborne, Jesus for President

I wrote this back in September, but I feel like it fits the "thankfulness for everything God has been doing" deal. So, here 'tis.

So there's been a lot of questions about how I ended up here, why I'm here, and what's been going on since I got here. I'd like to clear that up for myself, and for all of you. So.

Way back in February, my roommate at YWAM, hannaHRose (who is kind of a hippie and rocked my entire world to its core), jokingly said I could come live with her after DTS. At the time I was horrified at the idea and said something along the lines of "Dear God no."
In May, when I got home, all my big plans for my life started falling apart. I couldn't go to my dream school because it cost too much money... My back up cost too much money. My back up to my back up wasn't accepting into the program anymore. I started thinking about North Carolina. Was this something that could really happen? Something that, maybe, would be good for me? I looked into the college here. They didn't have an OT program, but could I take a couple Gen Eds to get out of the way? They weren't accepting anymore freshmen. But then the counselor wanted to work with me and get me into their school. So I was going to take one course. But wait- that cost too much money (if the government wants me to go to college so bad, why does it cost so much darn money??). But I had already saved all this money to pay rent and buy groceries... So it was decided that I would move down anyway. 2 days before their registration deadline, I signed up for a class at RACC. I packed up my things, sucked up the fact that life wasn't going the way I wanted it to, and came down to NC with my tail between my legs. Thrilled to see hannaHRose and be living in the same state as her again, looking forward to the adventure and being on my own, loving the idea of being out of Lancaster again... But terrified of what was going to happen.
Yeah, I had prayed about this- a LOT. And yes, I felt like it was God. But I had talked myself into things before. What if this was one of those things? What if this was me wanting this to be where God was putting me? But on the other hand, this was the only door that had stayed open. This was the only place I had to go, other than sitting at home and being dormant for 5 months. This was, it seemed, my only choice.
I got here and, almost instantly, all the memories came rushing back. The good ones, mostly- the ones that came out in stories that hannaHRose and I managed to get out between bits of laughter. The ones that, for our first 24 hours back together, came non-stop, no matter how much we tried to stop talking about YWAM. But behind those memories were all the harder ones. The ones of what God had done through me during DTS, the ones of what God had done FOR me during DTS. The ones that I had thrown away.
You see, while I was at home this summer, I forgot. I forgot what God had spoken to me, I forgot what I had learned, I forgot what it was like to be in a personal relationship with the one true living God. I threw away all the hard work, all the time and effort, all the blood, sweat, and tears, for a summer of emptiness. A summer of "Well, maybe this is how I'm supposed to live. Maybe I'm not supposed to be relevant. Maybe, I'm supposed to be the kind of Christian who goes to church on Sunday and Wednesday and doesn't think about it for the rest of the week. The kind who gets married and has 2 children, a girl and a boy, and volunteers in the nursery and bakes cookies for youth group." But then I got here.
Here, LIFE is church. You walk in this house and the Holy Spirit is like, WHAM. You forget that you're supposed to say you're a Christian because you're too busy being a follower of Jesus. Everything that was my life for those 5 months at YWAM was preperation for my life here... For self-reflection (which I do a lot of). For ministering into other people's lives (God has me in a place where a friend comes to me at 1 AM and says, this is what I'm dealing with. And it's exactly what I'm dealing with. It's weird, but it's awesome). For having my life ministered into. For being free, released, to have friends, to be friends, to make friends. To open myself up to someone within an hour of meeting them, to hug everyone who walks through our front door, to share whatever it is we have- sweet tea, pie, a movie. To realize that this is where I'm supposed to be, right now, for this time in my life. Maybe for longer.
As I said before, I've had a lot of time for self-reflection. For going back to my hurts and why they're still hurts and not history. Which, for me, means reading. (I'm blessed to be living in a house with people who love books as much as I do and always have a reccommendation.) I read "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller at hannaHRose's request... At first, it was to humor her. And then it became this obsessive thing... This guy came from where I was with God a year ago ("My life had become something to hide; there were secrets in it. My thoughts were private thoughts, my lies were barriers that protected my thoughts, my sharp tonge a weapon to protect the ugly me.") to having all of this book left, which meant God HAD to get better... And, while I'm not to this point yet, I rejoiced when Don says, "To be in a relationship with God is to be loved purely and furiously." I rejoiced in knowing that, apparently, God does get better! It's not the end of the story! God knows what He's doing! And, even more than that, I rejoiced in knowing that someone else had been through the same desert I was in! I was not alone!
Then, 3 days ago, hannaHRose handed me "Angry Conversations with God". I almost picked it up a few days ago, but I didn't want to be disappointed by her only being angry with God for the first 5 pages and then getting over it. I couldn't handle it.
I got hooked. And the more hooked I got, the more I couldn't make myself read it. This was way too much like my life. This was this woman saying to her counselor, "Either God isn't personal and I've wasted my time, or He is personal and He hates me." And her counselor telling her, just like so many people have tried to tell me, that there is another option. "God loves you, but crappy things still happen." Yeah whatever. I was halfway through the book. God doesn't get better in this one. But then I got to page 145. And on page 145, I discovered something. I discovered that God speaks into my life even when I want to shove Him off a cliff or slam the door in His face (this was one of those lessons I learned in DTS, but rejected). Susan E. Isaacs says, on her moving across the country, "Perhaps God tricked me into moving here. Maybe he lured me out here with a shiny object and then pulled a bait and switch. But maybe I needed a shiny object to get here, because the real gift might not be so shiny. And maybe I just need to be patient and discover what the real gift is. Besides, Jesus has never let me down..."

I realized... It's true. Jesus has never let me down. And if someone had told me I was coming here so God could get me to look inward and upward, I would have run as fast as I've ever run. The thing is... All the things I have seen in the last 3 weeks, all the things I wake up every morning clinging to and spend my last moments at night rehashing with God, are foundational truths that I would rather not know so that I could keep living my life (which I wasn't really living, anyway.... I was wasting it). This place- Cullowhee, NC- has become the place where I came out of the desert. The place where I found (again), and finally settled into, the arms of God.

To be continued, with where I am at now...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

You're never satisfied.

If you get all A's, you wonder where are the pluses. You start out just running away, and you end up wanting to know everything. Wanting to be Joan of Arc, Clara Barton, and Florence Nightingown all in one. E. L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

When I was writing about thankfulness yesterday, I forgot something. It's one thing to endure your situation and be thankful for it... To thank God for the lessons learned, even though it sucks. It's a whole other animal to be in your circumstance, be thanking God, and enjoying it. I know, enjoy it? My life sucks- that's why I'm in this whole thankfulness rut anyway. But here's the thing- someday, you'll turn around and laugh. So you might as well laugh now, and enjoy it while it's happening. Even if you're enjoying the revelation that life sucks, and there's nothing you can do about it, you can still laugh at the irony and move on, knowing that better days are coming.

I'm flying to my parents house this morning, to be home for Christmas. However, since the airport is a ways away from my house, I'm hanging out with an old friend from YWAM. I had heard that my favorite chocolate, Milka, was sold at Target. Since our closest Target is near Joel's house, and Milka is kind of a YWAM memory, I suggested we go to get some. We had a swell time, even talking to another friend from YWAM who happened to call while we were on this immensely important errand. However, as we started driving back home to settle in, watch a movie, and enjoy our expensive European chocolate, Joel's truck started doing a funny thing. Joel called it "chugging", which amuses me, because I always equated that with drinking a large amount of liquid way too fast. And the more stressed Joel got, the more amused I became. Yeah, I knew the truck was a big deal, but I'm in this spot where whatever happens is totally a God thing and He's handling everything- so I was willing to just move on.

Joel pulled the truck over, at which point I said, "Joel, are you out of gas?" "No, no no... I just filled up." I said "Ok..." right as the truck died.

We sat by the road for about 15 minutes waiting for Joel's brother-in-law to bring us some gas. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience- teasing Joel for not knowing how to fill up his gas tank and just having a grand old time in general.

(An aside: Joel is one of the friends I can rag on and not have any drama, as it goes both ways. The poor kid was stressed, but we both realized it was a dumb mistake. One that now, he'll never live down :D)

Eventually, the gas came and we drove away, no worse for wear and giggling- me at Joel's expense, and Joel out of sheer joy that there wasn't any big issue with his piece of crap truck.

And I realized- In walking in thankfulness, in all things, I've come to enjoy the things that aren't such a huge deal for what they are- small things that show me, on a daily basis, that God is taking care of me.

In a few hours, I'll get on a plane- hopefully after not having any issues with security or with the size of my bag as a carry-on. I might get stuck next to a creepy businessman who snores, or a woman with a mustache who likes to talk too much. But, at the end of it, I'll be in Pennsylvania, with my family, for the holidays.

It will be so totally worth any issues that arise- and I'll enjoy them, and try to take them thankfully, in stride, as they come.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I am wanted by God.

He is wanting to preserve me, to guide me through the darkness of the shadow of death, up into the highlands of His presence and afterlife. -Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

How many miracles have you seen in your life? I don't mean the "little" everyday ones that everyone calls miracles, like childbirth or a couple staying together for 50 years (no, I'm not dissing those as miracles, I'm just saying that sometimes bigger things happen). I mean, money coming through at the last second from someone you never thought it'd come from. Your car being sucked under a semi-truck and spit out the other side, without a scratch. The healing of an illness that you thought someone would never recover from. Someone being in exactly the right place, and just the right time, with the perfect word of encouragement.

Ok. Got one? Just one- I know that there's a list of them in your mind, but pick just one time that God came through.

Now think of your current situation. Is there somewhere where you'd like God to come through, but you're stressing about the situation yourself, unable to see a way out except the worst?

What happened to all those times when God came through? He did it time and time again- why don't you trust Him to do it this time?

This entire year has just been a long list of miracles in my life. And each time I see one, I celebrate the fact that it occurred. I tell people, I thank God, and I marvel at the awesomeness that is what just happened.

And then, almost immediately, a new situation arises. And quickly, I forget what miracle just occurred. I am again amazed when God comes through.

I've cycled through this pattern oh, maybe 20 times in the last year. About 15 in the last 6 months. In the last week, about 3.

This week was kind of horrible for the House O' Bricks, on a cosmetic level. Our pipes froze, except they weren't frozen, some thing in the basement was broken. After we filled every container we could find with water, the landlord fixed it. It ended up not being a big deal, a small miracle- huzzah! It was quickly forgotten, though, when we woke up Thursday and had no electricity in the half of the house where I exist, and the driveway was iced over so badly that my car couldn't get out of the driveway. I celebrated when I was able to get out (at 2 PM) and thanked God... And then, when I got home from work today, I forgot again. There was no hot water, and I didn't know how to fix it, and I was the only one home. I called Kanz in a frenzy, and all I had to do was flip a switch... Then I sat down, and thought about it.

God came through in each of those situations. Those things all could have been HUGE deals, costing me and my roommates or our landlords lots of money that we don't have, and instead, they ended up being minor issues that we were able to fix easily. And now we all have a better idea how to fix our own house when the time comes!

But how long will it be before I forget again? Before I get in a new situation where I don't see how I can come out of it, and I totally lose sight of what God has done for me?

I don't want to be forgetful of what God has for me, or distrusting of what He'll do and how He'll come through. But I do know that my God is bigger and better than all my issues. Even if I somehow manage to forget all the miracles and all the things He's done, that's the one I can rely on.

So, today, I choose to be grateful. :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sometimes, I think I would be fine if there were no cops...

But then I realize, I drive completely different when there's a cop behind me than when there isn't.- Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

After being snowed in the house for two days and going through a gamut of emotions- thrilled to have a day off work and to see the beauty of the mountains covered in snow, to being bored out of my skull, to being downright cranky- I decided I need to have an outlet. Facebook can only do so much. I feel like all 500 of my friends are reading every word I put on there, even if it's only "up" for two seconds. I can't handle the pressure. Here, I don't really know if you're reading or not- and I'm going to go ahead and assume that no one will read the writings of a disquited young adult trying to find a way to make it on her own in this big world.

See, here's the thing- my life isn't going exactly the way I planned. Yeah, it's God, and yeah, it's amazing and I'm ecstatic to be along for the ride... But honestly, I planned on sitting in a college classroom with my parents paying for my education right now, not worrying about if I'm going to get to work tomorrow so that I can pay my bills at the end of this month.

But... Life has become something that's not about me. Somehow, I've come to realize there's something bigger, something that makes more sense and yet makes no sense at all, and I've just got to deal with it- hang on and know that it's going to come out better.

So for now, I'm going to go to bed and pray that the roads are clear so that I can work tomorrow. I'm going to pick out a White Elephant gift to take to my Christmas party tomorrow night. I might read a little Donald Miller. I'll wake up in the morning and feed the cat, empty his litter box, put clothes in the washer, and make my bed, because no one else is going to do it for me.

Oh- and, I'll relish every second.