Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The 22nd year: A Year of Choices

You know, it's funny, when you're growing up and you think you can plan out how your life is going to go.

When I'm 25 I'll get married and when I'm 28 I'll have kids and when I'm this age I'll do this and blah, blah, blah...

Today is my 22nd birthday and I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams what this year would hold for me. During this, my 22nd year of life, I will marry the man of my dreams, we will buy a house (Lord willing), and I will begin my career. Along with those things, like any other big milestones in life, come (and have already come) heartache and frustration. I know that.

But that's where the big decision comes in. No, 22 is not a "big" birthday, like your 16th, 21st or 40th. Twenty-two. It's just somewhere in the middle. But for me, it's a year of choices.

Yes, I have to make choices about what kind of cake to serve at my wedding and what kind of bridesmaids dresses I like, choices about houses and jobs and all the things that come with planning a wedding and starting this new chapter in life. But, this is also a year of another kind of choices.

This year I resolve to choose joy.

No matter the circumstance, no matter how I'm treated, no matter what disappointments stand in the way, I choose joy. I choose joy in the morning, in the evening, and everywhere in between. I choose joy when my character is being attacked, and I know the Lord is the only One who knows and understands the depths of my heart. I choose joy when I fail to love others the way I am called to. I choose joy when I begin to doubt my effectiveness or ability. I choose joy when serving the Lord, in Haiti, or wherever I may be. I choose joy going into my marriage, I choose joy when I don't understand the Lord's plan, when I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel, and as I wait for the restoration and healing that only our Father can bring.

Accept this challenge with me, friends. Lets choose the joy of the Lord together.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Oh, just Jesus teaching me a thing or two

To most people, this just looks like a journal. But to me, it's not. Its a handmade journal with handmade paper pages and I have written in it meticulously thoughts and prayers leading up to my mission trip to Haiti this summer. Last week, I tossed it in my bag with plans to write in it later along with a water bottle, which I later discovered did not have a lid that was screwed on quite tight enough. To my surprise, when I pulled this prized possession of mine out of my bag, it was not a little wet. Not damp. It was dripping. It had absorbed the entire leaked bottle of water and my thoughts and prayers and questions and dreams were the sad, smeared result of it all. I handled it like a mature adult cried like a baby (I'm ashamed to say) and watched as it sat, propped open, drying in front of a fan for almost a week. 

Then, Jesus put His hands on my shoulders and shook me and said, "Seriously? When did you become so materialistic? Isn't this for Haiti? You think they cry over spilled water there?" I heard Him loud and clear. What a wake up call. This is proof that Jesus allows things to happen to speak to us, to get a hold of our hearts, and to grow in us an even deeper desire for Him. I am so glad my journal got drenched. I am so glad that the Lord is working in my heart months before I return to the place I love. Americans think that life is so wonderful and luxurious here, but I've found myself praying more and more often for a heart like the Haitian people. They know what real joy means... and it doesn't come from things.

So, when I pull out this journal in the years to come, it will serve as a tangible reminder of the way Jesus speaks to me and when someone asks, "hey, what happened to your journal?" I'll get to reply, "oh, that's just Jesus teaching me a thing or two."

The Thirty-Something Syndrome and it's impact on girls like me

For a few years now, I've been deeply discouraged by the obviously unhappy thirty-something year old women in my life who have missed every opportunity to love and mentor me through the years I've needed them most. My emotions have ranged from discouragement to frustration to anger to just plain old feeling sorry for them, because their actions and attitude towards me have made their own unhappiness obvious.

It wasn't until I was surrounded by Godly, nurturing women of this same age group who proved my encompassing view of them wrong that I realized that not all thirty-something year old's have this bad attitude. What "bad attitude," you might ask? Well, I like to call it the thirty-something syndrome... you know, those girls who are miserable because they're really too old to dress like they're still 22, but too young to dress like a full-fledged middle aged woman... the girls who have so much regret from the mistakes they made in their twenties that they automatically hate (or resent) any girl in their twenties who is actually living for Christ and trying to do all the right things and stay in the center of His will... those girls who are so unhappy with where they are and the choices they've made that they would secretly rather watch you fall on your face than accomplish your dreams.... those girls. The girls with the thirty-something syndrome.

I'm not sure what the most common cause of this is, but I know that jealousy, insecurity, and unhappiness are all factors. The saddest part of it all is that most women falling into this trap are far more beautiful than they realize, creative and smart, and could have a huge, lasting impact on the lives of girls like me if they would just set aside their poor attitudes and embrace the opportunity to make a difference.

Well, my experience with women like this and then, later, the women who proved to me that they aren't all like that has taught me a few things:
1. Never miss an opportunity to mentor a younger girl. You've been there, you understand, so instead of resenting them for being successful and striving to live for the Lord, embrace them, nurture them, and show them what genuine love feels like.

2. Go deeper than surface level. If you don't give someone a chance and try to get to know their heart, you can't truly understand them.

3. Being surrounded by Godly women in their 30's is one of the best things a twenty-something year old girl can do.

As I prepare for and plan a wedding, apply for jobs, and prepare to be the Godly wife Jesus has called me to be, there is nothing sweeter than learning from these women who have been there and want the best for me. Watching the way they love their husbands, watching the things they've taught their children, watching the way they invest their time and energy... it's been one of the sweetest gifts. That's the kind of woman I want to become.

Thank you to the women who have loved me, encouraged me, and taught me what it means to be a woman of God!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Within the last 3 weeks, I graduated from college, started my job, one of my best friends got married, I watched my cousin graduate from dental hygiene school, and I adopted a dog... all the while visiting my grandma in the nursing home, participating in all my church's activities, helping my fiance look for a house and preparing for a huge yard sale. Not to mention making hundreds of bracelets in an effort to raise money for our upcoming mission trip to Haiti. Happy and stressed and busy and overwhelmed and blessed beyond measure... "Too blessed to be stressed," that's for sure. Wow. When did life become such a roller coaster? I can be emotional depending on the situation, but I swear these last few months I've been on top of the world one minute and crying the next. I guess that's what happens when you cram what should be about 5 years of excitement into a few months.

Isn't it funny how we get so stressed out about these kinds of things, though? I mean, when I leave for Haiti, I have full confidence that Jesus is going to wrap His arms around me, protect me, and use me just like He did last time. There's just not a sliver of doubt in my mind. But, when I think about Grayson and I finding a house in the short amount of time we have to do it, it scares me to death. Why is that? Jesus already has our little house picked out. He knows what kind of counter tops and curtains and floors it has, He knows what the backyard is like, and He even knows what flowers we'll plant in the front yard. So, in the midst of the stress of not knowing... I'd like to declare FREEDOM. Freedom in Christ to not know. Freedom in Christ to have faith in His goodness, in His unwavering faithfulness, in His perfect timing and plan for our lives. When you force yourself to take a step back, release the white-knuckled grip of control you [almost always unsuccessfully] have of your own life, and let the Lord lead you, you will experience a freedom like you have never had before. We serve a good God, a loving Father, and His plan is perfect (even when we don't understand it). Declare freedom in Him today, friends.