My dad told me once that having children is like eating a many-layered cake (and life is like a box of chocolates..)
Something I didn't know until recently was that Job is the oldest book in the Bible. I think it's interesting that our communication from God starts with suffering, so much suffering.
I've been listening to Strahan's Commoner's Communion podcasts. He talks about poetry, and God's character being so much like it, and how we are His "poema", "created in Him to do great works" through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:10)
Some real life:
It's been over two weeks since I've written on here, and since then Thanksgiving has happened, projects were due, papers were due, and now I'm in the midst of finals week. My house could be cleaner, my laundry could be put away, my sink could be empty, but it's not. I could've done better on that Spanish final I just took, I could've gotten to work a few minutes earlier, I could've been kinder to my friend. But I wasn't.
My life is made up of choices, and sometimes I go an a long streak of bad ones. And much of the time their not even bad, but I know they could've been better. I know I could've responded in love instead of simply withholding poor reactions and keeping my ugly thoughts to myself. I know I could've given instead of just not spending elsewhere. I know I could've written that last list of thank you's instead of giving into my own complaints.
But God's grace is sufficient for me.
I'm already uncomfortable writing this because of shame. There's a good friend sitting near me now who told me about some truth she found:
"The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom should I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1
"The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold." Psalm 46:7
The Greek word for stronghold is ochuroma, which means "a fortified, military stronghold, strong-walled fortress". The only place ochuroma is used in the New Testament is 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (Just read this whole chapter):
"For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds."
Not only do we find a fortress in the Lord, but through His power we can demolish the fortresses of sin in our lives. Just a couple of chapters later, Paul tells the Corinthians of a "thorn in the flesh" that "tormented" him.
"Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me ,"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Thank you Lord for using my weaknesses, It's hard to trust because I don't understand, but somehow God uses me in all my selfishness, disparity, and humanness. And I need Him so much. I can't even be punctual or keep up with a little blog let alone be righteous. But:
"I greatly rejoice in the Lord, I exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garment of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness..." Isaiah 61:9
Praise God, He is righteous for me! I hope this truth sinks in a little faster than it has for me. I encourage you to live in that righteousness because you have inherited it like you inherited salvation, as coheirs with Christ.
1. Extra shifts. They're unplanned and sometimes inconvenient, but who can complain about making a little extra money? And where I work in our campus' library, I'm able to do homework in during the quiet times so I get a lot done.
2. Disney Pandora station. I'm getting to take a ceramics course this semester, and we have our final project coming up which I'm taking way to long to finish. Well, we always have some kind of music during class, and lately the popular choice has been Pandora's Disney station. I've spent a lot of hours redoing this project, and listening to Trashin' the Camp from Tarzan has made throwing away blundered pieces of clay a little more fun.
3. Passion Worship Night. This is a pretty big one. Louie Giglio and a few other well-know Christian leaders have headed up Passion Conference for the last few years. It's geared toward college-aged men and women and focuses on the "bigness", the majesty, of God as our sovereign creator, They have a sort of mini tour version of the conference that is open to anyone, and it came to College Station. Our college minister found out about it, and we made the trip over this past weekend. Wow. I never really knew that much about Louie or Passion Worship or any of the people leading it, and I tend to be skeptical of mega churches and popular Christian culture anyway. But after hearing Louie speak in person, and seeing the band, and how they're really just a big family, I'm 100% behind them. Levi Lusko also spoke and I couldn't put down my pen. And I can't stop writing about it! Guess I'll have to make a full post.
4. False fire alarms. Every other week, the BSM leadership hosts a student-lead worship service. After the most recent service, I was standing outside the chapel talking with a few friends when we heard a fire alarm go off in the building next to us. One of the girls called campus police to make the report, and we sat down to wait for the firetrucks to arrive. As it turns out, there was no fire and hence no firetrucks, but we basically got to talk and hangout for an hour so it fun:)
5. Marco Polo. And other technologies I use to keep in touch with my people. This is an awesome video messaging app (that's so much safer than Snapchat) that I often use with my dad and siblings. There's lots of perks to it, but it's especially handy because it saves the videos just like a text message, so if I don't see one right away, I can watch it later. This week was my sister's birthday, and I sent her a little package. My dad videoed her opening it on Marco Polo so I could watch, and that was such a gift in itself.
6. Friends with cool jobs. And friends with normal jobs. And all my friends regardless of job title or status. But anyway, I have a good friend who happens to work at our rec center on campus, which means she works the rock wall. I just thinks that's so cool. On this particular evening, I finally decided to climb it for the first time and she climbed it alongside me:) It was thoroughly exhausting, a little scary, but so much fun. Thanks Rach:)
7. Paper-writing parties. At this point in the semester, pretty much every body has a paper due. I wouldn't really call it a party because no one wanted to be there and there wasn't much celebrating going on, but one night a few of us ended up in the same vicinity all working on our papers. While mine was only three pages (as compared to some poor souls I know with multiple 15-page papers), I'm really thankful for the friends I have that I can struggle alongside with and simply do life together:)
On the occasion of her 17th birthday:
If pretty is as pretty does
And Clara does the best,
Then all who know the inward glow
With heaven must attest.
The race she runs until she's done
Devotion in each breath.
She walks up tall, considers all,
Then loves them right and left.
But in her still, a heart of steel
Puts doctrine to the test,
And when in truth sees glory's views,
She twirls in righteous dress,
She sings all day and when dusk breaks,
Her voice, I fear, is strained,
Yet if she held ten thousand words,
She'd lift again in praise.
But Father, I worry for her,
Not for body's safety,
But my regard is for her heart
That lends from her plenty.
Her fault, though small, is giving all
Leaving her cup empty
From which she takes, tries to remake
A girl, a woman, shifting.
So, dear God, concerning Clara,
A girl worth fighting for,
I ask hold fast my sister in
Your everlasting arms.
I was half-gone and worn
A little flame in me
But less and less.
And more and more
I turned to nothing instead.
The windowed hall I walked
The door I saw ahead
Bells rang and rang,
A voice sang, sang.
I did not answer the knock.
Seated at last, I heard
What the windows were for.
Music begins not for
But to flourish in score.
The sun rises not for
But to give the earth life.
Mothers will carry not for
But to raise a child right.
Husbands will marry not for
But to love and protect.
Friendships give all not for
But to serve and respect.
So I will walk not to
See through the windows to
And here and now
For Him alone,
Will doors be opened again.
I must confess, clothes are my weakness. To me, fashion is fun, and I love to shop. However, shopping can be dangerous, especially for college students who are making their way through school.
I found a solution: thrift-shopping.
1. It saves money. Seriously, though. Right now I'm wearing a thrifted American Eagle sweater that would've been $30-$60 new. I was able to buy it for $4.50. That's $25-$55 that can be spent on gas, groceries, or other necessities. You can't beat that!
2. It makes money. A lot of consignment stores will buy any old clothes you have as long as they're in good condition. I've taken in about one trash bag worth of clothes to my favorite local shop, and I've made over $30. Every place is different, though. For the one I go to, I bring my clothes in, shop for a bit while they weed out the "unsellables", and come back to manage my account. Then over the next few weeks, I can come in any time and check my account. If I've sold anything, Iearn a percentage of the price. If the item isn't sold in the season, it's given away. The contract is to insure that I don't make any complaints about the price going down or an item being given away if it isn't sold. I think it's a simple way to make a little extra cash and keep a clean closet.
3. It makes sense. Nothing changes as constantly as fashion. And with each new fad, more new clothing is produced, and less "old" clothing gets used. I think this is a terrible waste, especially when I think about people around the world that go without basic clothing. I guess thrifting is my way of putting those resources to use. For many people, wearing second-hand, less-than-current clothing isn't appealing, and I get that. But so many times, I'm complimented on what I'm wearing, and I look down (yes, I often forget what I put on) and it's thrifted! What I've found is that it's really not about the biggest brand or the latest trend; it's about putting together something that I find beautiful and classy, whether it was originally from Walmart or Ralph Lauren.
4. It's fun. And you can almost always guarantee that you'll never see anyone else wearing what you buy. Especially if it's pre-2000s. My personal favorite finds are those high-waisted, 90's era jeans. They have real pockets, they're made with real denim and with a little seamstressing they make shorts. It's especially fun when you take a friend or two. I've found that I don't even like shopping in malls anymore because they're predictable In a thrift shop, you never know what you'll find. Even if you don't buy it, it's always fun to try on a feather boa or that leopard-print trench coat with the fur collar:)
5. It supports small businesses and local non-profits. When I can, I try to take my business to local shops because I believe in small business. A lot of consignment stores are like that. The woman who started my favorite store designed her whole resale system: the contract, accounts, commission, everything. I like getting great clothes for low prices and making some occasional money, too, but I'm also in it to support her business. Lots of places give any profit they make away to charities. You should probably check on the integrity of the organization first, but there are many companies such as Salvation Army that have good interests. And in most towns you can find local non-profits that benefit the surrounding community. Either way, there's always a way to give.
I hope this gave you a little insight into why I choose to thrift and some helpful information if you decide to try it.
We made it to November!
Which means school's almost out, Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is coming, and Christmas is not too far behind.
In light of the season, I'm going to be posting every week about things I'm thankful for. And to make this a little less predictable, I'm going to challenge myself to watch for the little things as well as the blessings in disguise - all of those not-very-convenient-but-helped-me-in-the-long-run things.
So, for this week:
1. Pit-stop. After morning classes, I had to make an extra trip home before work so I could finish painting some games for our church's Fall Festival. It meant extra gas, "wasted" time, and another dreary commute. It looked like an annoyance. However, I was able to stop by my house, make a BLT, and take a nap:) And my morning wasn't as rushed because I didn't need to pack a lunch. (That's two!)
2. One of my classes got cancelled. Nuff said.
3. Wise wisdom. My Old Testament professor (we'll just call him Chuck) starts every class with prayer. That in itself is awesome, but this week he talked a little about something he learned at a conference: grit. That word has helped this week in so many ways, from getting up in the morning dark, to walking into a classroom of second-graders.
4. Confusing light switches. This sounds obscure and probably seems like I'm trying too hard, but really. It's a small thing that made my morning at work a little brighter. I work in my school's library, and I open three mornings each week. Among other things, opening duties include turning all the lights on. Now, this library isn't exactly new, and has had many additions and renovations, leaving its electrical system a bit out of whack. Consequently, the light switches in this building make absolutely no sense, as I found out this morning. Usually, a staff member takes care of the lights, but for some reason the second and third floors were dark this morning, so I set out on a 20-minute adventure of finding all the switches. It was fun and funny, and I was able to laugh at myself and the situation:)
5. Traffic detour. On this particular morning, I was running almost early to work, when just before I got into town two police cars were blockading the highway and we ended up taking at least two miles of detour roads until we finally got back onto the main road. I ended up being almost ten minutes late to work, but those back roads were worth it. They were beautiful. The cold and drizzly weather and falling leaves all made that little country road a little harder to exit.
6. My mom. I had a particularly early morning this week and my mom made me coffee and breakfast to help it go a little smoother, I also had to pack up a bunch of bedding and tents for a college ministry trip this morning, and he helped me do that, too:) And we read some Bible together, all before 7 am. I love my mama.
7. Primary schoolers. I get to work at a local primary school helping a group of second graders with homework and teaching a few little classes to K-2nd graders. On one day, I teach ballet, and a little first grader came back from getting a drink crying because she had closed a door on her foot. Well, kindergartner was following close behind with a wet, wadded up paper towel. She refused to leave her friend's side and played nurse as they sat put the rest of the class. It was somewhat frustrating because I ended up with a group of kiddos (two more went to her aide) not participating in the class, but their cute concern melted my heart on the inside:)
Have you ever cried happy tears? Or laughed until you wept?
I've been thinking about this a lot lately. For our Fall Festival at church, I dressed up as "Sadness" from Inside Out along with two of my best friends who played "Joy" and "Disgust". In the movie, all of these characters (along with Fear and Anger) are emotions in a little girl's head. The girl, Riley, ends up running away from home after moving to a new school, not because there was too much Sadness, but because Sadness doubted her purpose in Riley's life. It's not Joy that brings Riley home in the end - it's a good memory tinted with Sadness.
I think there is a kind of goodness in grief.
In the movie, Joy was just an emotion. But here, I'm going to talk about joy, not an emotion, but the Biblical ever-present deep joy that comes from Jesus. To me, peace is joy mixed with grief. Grief was certainly not part of God's perfect design. But we live in a fallen world, a world that needed Jesus to become flesh and die for us. Sadness is now part of our world, and a significant part of the crucifixion. Where would the joy of the Resurrection be had we not first realized the immense loss, the undeserved brokenness of Jesus, the Father turning His back? How the inner circle must've mourned. Even those with the strongest hope that He would rise again - how they must've grieved with Jesus for the weight of the world on His beaten body. And on the third day? Utter joy.
But what was it that sustained them after? What pushed them to suffer and to eventually die for the Savior? During their last meal together, Jesus presented His body, broken for them, and His blood poured out for them, and commanded them to remember.
"And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me." Luke 22:19
I believe some level of grief is necessary to remember: to remember why we fight, why we love, Who first loved us, Who has conquered the world (John 16:33).
Even Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, experienced grief. He knew full well the cup He was taking, the anguish He would experience, the separation from the Father. But in leaving the garden, He was able to face the sorrow ahead, because He knew the Father's heart and even in His grief, He gave it all to God.
The song "Porcelain" by Tow'rs (check them out, they're all I listen to right now) touches on loss, especially on unexpected, premature loss. This song is colored in sorrow, but also has an underlying feeling of joy - like golden memories. It's about losing someone - losing part of your life that is not coming back - but it perseveres in the joy of the life that is lost.
In heaven there is no cause for sadness, as there is no cause for anger. Yet, in this world, just like anger, sadness can be just and appropriate, even righteous, in its season, time and place.
When I have experienced loss, I've tried to cover it up, pretend life is normal, to force life's continuance. But I've found the only way to fully heal is to first fully mourn. And that sadness is okay, for a time. A season of grieving is needed before a season of healing. And especially in losing a loved one, it can make it possible to truly celebrate the lost life and time in a way that is grateful and allows growth. It can make it possible to remember, not without feeling loss, but with peace and assurance for the future.
"There is an occasion for everything and a time for every activity under heaven: a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing; a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace." Ecclesiastes 3:1-8