Friday, December 30, 2016

"Even the sparrow..."

There are a lot of things in this life that make me anxious or nervous. Like going to math class the first time. Or performing or speaking in front of people. Or, most recently, going to a job interview. I am a generally anxious person. I'm always thinking about what could go wrong and what will happen if said thing goes wrong and can it ever be fixed or will my life be ruined forever.

A couple years ago I found a verse that has since been my favorite.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:5b-7

I'm not supposed to be anxious about anything. Anything at all. That covers everything from going to the dentist to my little sister going to live with someone else. Anything.

Since I found that verse, I'm still anxious a lot. But I repeat it over and over in my head. I thought it would take away all worry if I said it enough times. That I would eventually just never be anxious about anything at all. That's not quite how it's worked so far.

Recently, I had my first ever job interview. As you can probably guess, I was nervous - which also means talking a lot. I said this verse to myself and it certainly didn't take away the nervousness. But it did do something else. I realized that even though I was still anxious about this interview, I wasn't anxious deep down. That probably doesn't make much sense, so let me explain.

It used to be that I was nervous and scared all the way to my core when something new was coming up. But now, when I remember that God has control, I'm only nervous on the surface. Because it is scary to do something new and unknown. It's uncomfortable to step outside your comfort zone. But I'm not nervous on a deeper level. Now, I don't have to dwell on that worry for the weeks leading up to the big day. I can think about other things because I know that whatever happens, God's still going to be sovereign and the world's still going to be spinning at the end of the day. And if it's not, I know where I'll be. :)

Be still and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
-Psalm 46:10-11

I can be still because God will be exalted no matter what.

In Matthew 10, Jesus talks about how we compare to sparrows in the sight of God. If He keeps track of and takes care of them, how much more will He take care of us? Some of us on the mime team (for an explanation, see the "About Me" page) have been given the assignment of creating a mime for part of our testimony. The song I chose is, coincidentally, Sparrows by Jason Gray. You should definitely listen to it, but it starts with the words:

You can't add a single day,
by worrying.
You'll worry your life away.

And the chorus adds:

Oh, even the sparrow
knows He holds tomorrow.

If even a tiny little bird can trust God to take care of him, then I have no reason to doubt that He can take care of me.


Friday, December 23, 2016

"Then I will go to the altar of God..."

Have you ever stopped to think about how awesome (as in, awe-inspiring) prayer is? It is the way that we, as simple, ant-like human beings can speak directly to the Creator of the universe and Sustainer of all life. Any time we want.

I've been reading Psalm 43 lately in my devotions. I can't quite get past it. The verses that make me just stop and stare at my Bible over and over again are verses 3-4.

Send out your light and truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.

"Send out your light and truth." That reminds me of another verse. "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6) I read an essay for school that pointed out that there's no specific group of Pslams that are the "Messianic Psalms." All of the Psalms are Messianic. God sent out His light and truth in Jesus.

"Let them lead me." I love this part of the verse. Jesus will lead me. I can make my life His and He will take the lead.

But my favorite bit is in verse 4. "Then I will go to the altar of God." Because Jesus came and He leads me, I can pray freely to God. In the Old Testament, that wasn't okay. No regular old person could just go around talking to God all the time. But now, in the New Covenant, we're not only allowed to approach our Father, but encouraged and commanded to.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:5b-6)

That's what I've been thinking about lately. I just can't get over how blessed I am to be allowed to speak to God. Any time I want for whatever reason I want.

As I'm sure you know, the subject of prayer is a vast one that can be explored from many different angles, but I don't want to do that today. I just wanted to express and share my appreciation of the blessing we've been given in being allowed communication with our Maker.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Why You Should Drop What You're Doing And Go For A Run Right This Second

My old running shoes - apparently you're not supposed to wait
until they are ripped and the tread's coming off for new ones. :D

One of the best feelings ever is taking the last step of an extremely intense run and collapsing into a stumbling walk with a grin stretched across your panting face. At least in my opinion. ;)

And I want to share that feeling, so today I thought I'd compile a list of perfectly solid reasons why everyone should start running right now. (You could also call it a list of why I love running so much.)

  1. It's good for you. This one's a no brainer.
  2. The end of a run always leaves you with a sense of accomplishment, if you let it. This morning, I really struggled to get up out of bed. I knew it was snowing. I knew it was cold. I knew it was dark. And I did not. Want. To. Run. But I made myself get up anyway and at the end, I couldn't stop smiling because I made myself do it.
  3. You get to have all those cool running things. Shoes, shorts, socks, apps, you name it! Plus, they make great rewards for meeting goals...
  4. You can slow down and take things in. Before anyone else gets up in the morning, the world is quiet and beautiful. Last Saturday, I got to see hot pink clouds dye the world a lighter pink as the sun rose. And the snowflakes dancing down in the dark this morning. It's a great time to pray and clear your head.
  5. Quality time with your dog - or brother. Our dog is old and fat now so...
  6. Your head is clear for the rest of the day. This one is not a complete guarantee but I have noticed that when I run, the rest of my day goes so much better. It's now one of the things I say to myself when my bed is warm and the alarm's going off: "You know your whole day is better when you run. So get up!"
  7. Instant hobby. Really, this one's pretty self explainatory too. It's something to do that's good for you.
  8. Time alone. I know this contradicts number 5, but every run's different. Sometimes, I go for an extra if something's driving me crazy. When you come back tired, it tends to be a lot harder to be upset.
  9. Great ideas magically appear. I get all sorts of new ideas for writing, cooking, school, anything, when I run. And it's totally random most of the time. I'll be thinking about how I wish more people left their Christmas lights on early in the morning, and then I have a new way to do something.
  10. Time for podcasts! I have a few podcasts I love to listen to and I don't really have a lot of time to do that at home. But I can download them and listen to them while I run. Entertainment during painful stretches and finishing up those podcasts you wanted to hear.
  11. Food. After a long run, you can seriously eat all day and still be hungry. Which means you can make cookies and still want to eat some after licking the bowl. I mean, ahem, eat apples and carrots and protein all day...not. ;)
There you go. Eleven whole reasons why you should go pull on your shoes and get out the door. Convinced?


Friday, December 9, 2016


Are we happy plastic people?
Under shiny plastic steeples?
With walls around our weakness?
And smiles that hide our pain...

I've worn a smile that hides my pain more than I care to admit. And the walls around my weakness? Yep, been there. The mask of plastic? Worn it.

Casting Crowns' Stained Glass Masquerade does quite a good job of capturing just what it is to hide your true self behind a mask.

And I don't mean that stuff about who you really are in a Disney way. I mean it in a Christian way. Even though I had the head knowledge that I could exchange man's judgement for God's, I didn't believe it until this past summer.

"Yeah, okay, I'm being who God wants me to be. I don't worry about what other people think about me because I don't have to."

Right. That's what I told people. "It's all under control."

But that's part of the mask. It's not all under control. At any given point in time, something's not going to be perfect, but why does anyone else need to know that? I just kept it inside. As I smiled and said I was doing splendidly, my inside voice whisper-screamed, "No! I'm not okay! I can't do this any more!"

That's one I thought over and over again. "I can't do this any more!" Meaning school, friends, church, family. It's exhausting to be acting constantly. But guess who I told? No one. Because what if they judged me? What if they had it all together and I would just look bad if I told them I didn't?

It turns out, no one has it all together. And it also turns out that a lot of other people don't want to share their problems either. That's what I learned this summer. Written like that, it looks pretty depressing. But when you add the third thing I learned, it sounds a little more comforting.

Everything is better when you share your life with other people.

They can pray for you, they can hold you accountable, they can comfort you. The people around you are struggling too. And they want to help.

I refused to realize that completely until this summer. When I had to, I would give some small struggle that wasn't really the whole picture. I thought that would fool people. It didn't. When I finally opened up this summer, or, rather, took off the mask, I found out that you can't actually hide yourself from the people who love you and that it's not worth it to try.

I don't have some huge climax to this story, but I will tell you that it's made my life so much better to let other people see that I'm only human. I feel free - I'm not locked behind an image that I wanted the world to see. Now I can actually care what God thinks. And people still love me.

But if the invitation's open
to every heart that has been broken,
maybe then we close the curtain
on our stained glass masquerade.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Reasons and Excuses

If I were so inclined, I could produce a plethora of reasons (insert: "excuses") as to why I haven't written anything in the past few (ahem, five) months.

Fortunately for you, I am not so inclined.

I will, however, state one reason (do not insert "excuse" here): I haven't had anything to write about.

I'm completely serious. The author wannabe hasn't had a single thing to write about in nearly five months now. Not counting, of course, a few e-mails and texts and things of that nature. Though I will admit I am abominably slow at replying to such things. Oh, and homework. Who could forget a lovely thing like that?

But I haven't had anything to say on here, on this blog. As you likely know, I usually write things like fiction, anecdotes from my real life, and ways that God's been working on me.

Ah, ways that God's been working on me. Such a lovely thing to ponder... Wait a minute. If I haven't had anything to say on any of those topics for almost half a year, does that mean He's just stopped? I'm no longer growing? I've finally reached that point of perfection so long sought after?

I'm not going to insult your intelligence by trying to convince you of that. No one's perfect, believe it or not, and I'm pretty sure it's a safe bet to say you believe that.

So why the drought of words? If I haven't become the epitome of all that is beautiful and pure in the world, why have I had nothing to say on the subject of anything lately? Has God given up on me? Is that it? He threw up His hands in disgust and left to work on some holier project?

Um, no.

I can tell you with 100% certainty that God hasn't given up on me. If Jesus went all the way to the point of death on the cross for me while I was still as dead as a person can get in my sin, why would He stop molding me to His image now? The thing is, He wouldn't.

So that brings me back to my original question. What happened to all the thoughts that I normally transform so eagerly into sentences to push out into the wide wide world to be read by people who aren't me and my imaginary friends?

I'll tell you what happened. It wasn't that I didn't have anything to say. Nope. Just ask my sister, I've been talking probably more than ever since the July of my last post. And we've already determined that God hasn't stopped working on me. Quite the contrary actually - He's been growing me in ways that make me beyond grateful and that I didn't see coming.

So are you ready for the answer then? The reason behind the lack of typed verbiage? There are two of them actually and here they are:

1. I didn't think any of it was good enough to say.

2. I didn't think I could do justice to what I did want to say.

Can we just take one second to laugh really hard at reason number 1? Seriously, go ahead. I have.

I'll explain that moment of laughter. If I claim to be a Bible believing, born again Christian (and I do), shouldn't I be growing in my faith every single day and not taking five month breaks? Yes, I should and yes, I have been. So if, like I've said, God has been working in me this whole time, isn't that part of my testimony or witness or whatever word you want to use? Yes, of course it is. My testimony doesn't end with salvation. That's more like the beginning. Finally, if that growth is part of my testimony, how can it possibly not be good enough to say? Am I really criticizing God on how He's been using me and growing me and telling Him it's not good enough to post on the internet? Let's take another laughing break, only this one should be in disbelief and with lots of head shaking.

But that's what I've been thinking. "Wow, I love all this growth and learning new stuff, but I don't think anyone else would want to read about it. So I'll just go read some other blog written by some interesting person." Really? First off, who cares if anyone wants to read it? My popularity (or lack thereof) in this life has absolutely nothing to do with who I am. Nothing. At all. Second, if God loves me as His daughter and is taking the care to grow me in a way that is special to me, He deserves praise and glory for that. Right? I mean really, am I right? Yes! So how dare I think that I don't have anything good enough to say! If God's working in me and through me, I should never run out of things to say, regardless of who reads them.

On to reason/excuse number 2.

I didn't think I could do justice to what I did want to say. So, yes. there were a few things that I thought I'd like to write about and post, but I didn't think I could say them well enough. I mean, I'm a teenager, still working on my writing, growing my fancy-schmancy vocabulary and learning how to make things interesting and fit together. How could I possibly say what God wants me to say in the way He wants me to say it? It simply can't be done.

I am really hoping right now that you read that last paragraph in the most sarcastic voice your brain could supply. If you didn't, please go back and try again. I'll wait.

Am I ever going to be perfect? Nope. So am I ever going to be able to perfectly show what God's doing in my life? Nope again. Well, if I can't do it perfectly, then why bother?

Turns out, I'm supposed to bother because God told me to bother. If I don't praise the Lord, the stones will. And who wants to lose in praising God to a bunch of rocks? Um, not me.

No, I can't write everything perfectly, no matter how hard I try. And I probably can't do it justice. But the point is that I try. I give my absolute best for God and quit acting like I have to be any good by my own strength before He can use me. Guess what. He can use me now. He could use this imperfect post I'm typing viciously away at however He feels like it. And who am I to stop using the words He's given me because I don't think they're good enough? No one, that's who.

So there you have it. That's why I haven't been writing. Because I'm a sinner who doesn't want to praise God for what He does for me.

Well, that's going to change. In fact, it already has. Look at this, I'm writing about what God showed me recently right this very second! I love my God and I want other people to love Him too. I want to be used by Him to show other people how great and amazing He is. I'm not going to do it perfectly, but I still want to do it. What could possibly be better than to have a testimony and a witness used by God in someone else's life? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

So maybe now you could go back to where I said not to insert "excuse" and go ahead and put it in there. Because there is no reason good enough to not give glory to God.