Dare You To Move

I’m almost two months through this year challenge.  I’ve greatly enjoyed focusing my time and attention on spending more time with God, my family and my friends.  But I think it’s time to stop focusing on the inward, and start turning my attention to others.

As I mentioned before, during this year, I’ve also decided to read the Bible through in a  year, which is something I have never done before.  Our entire church received a “Life Journal” at the end of the year last year as a way to keep track of our reading, journaling and prayers throughout the year.  So far, I’ve read through Genesis and Luke.  I’ve also gone through part of Exodus and Acts.  A lot of the stories are familiar to me, in both the Old and New Testaments, but I’m also finding a lot of passages and stories that are new.  It’s been so interesting to me, reading back over the verses that have stuck out to me.  So many of them that I’ve journaled about concern God’s faithfulness and his love for His people.

After my Valentine’s rant, post last week, I read two different passages about God fighting for us.

Exodus 14:14
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Acts 5:38-39

38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
 
Sometimes it is incredibly difficult to remember that God fights for us.  As humans we constantly try to do everything ourselves.  We don’t care enough to give our troubles to God, or we think “I’ll save him the trouble of this one.”
 
God’s will is greater than us.  He has a will for each and every one of our lives, and we like to ignore it or run from it or think we have a better plan in mind.  I spent so much time living like I had a plan that was better than God’s.  I spent years running from what I knew was right because I wanted something different.  And I’ve found that it is so much easier to live in the center of God’s will, rather than fighting against it.
 
God has proven time and time again that he has my best interests in mind.  I know that they say that hindsight is 20/20 and that is something that I have seen in my life over and over again.  I don’t always understand why something is happening at the time it happens, but sometime down the road, I’ll look back and see how God used that experience or trial to prepare me for something.  I feel like all of my experiences are culminating for something, and even though I’m not sure why, I know that it’s for God’s glory.
 
The last guy that I dated was kind of amazing.  And the relationship for me was kind of a big deal.  He was the first guy that I dated that I really felt was an amazing Christian and a man that feared God.  I don’t really want to do the whole name thing, so let’s call him Handy Man.  So, on our very first date, HM and I went to this sweet little restaurant and can I tell you I was nervous?  My goodness, I’ve never been so nervous in all my life.  And I don’t think it was because I was nervous about meeting him… I think I was nervous about the kind of guy he was.  Good, strong Christian.  And I was so new to it all.  Because even though I had grown up in the church and had always had the ‘right’ answers, I’m not sure I really let the faith be my own.  I was one of those kids that knew right from wrong and went to Church every Sunday.  I believed, but I didn’t have the life experience to back up my beliefs.
 
My three year hiatus from the church and the life that God set forth for me did a lot of damage.  On my life, my friends, my family.  It did a lot of damage on my head and my heart and I finally understood what it meant to be saved by grace.
 
Anyway- back to the story.  So HM and I are on our first date.  The conversation is kind of awkward and nervous at first, but then- somewhere between the coffee and root beer floats, it just felt right.  It felt natural.  It felt like I had known this guy my entire life and I couldn’t imagine how I could have ever not known him.  Our experiences with church and straying were so similar.  Our hearts longed for the same things.  (And I don’t just mean a meaningful relationship.)  We both had a heart for young adults and wanted to start new ministries to reach out to people in our age group who were like us- who strayed or who never knew the saving Grace that we can have.  We each had this picture in our mind of this ministry and it was so similar, so focused and exact- that I knew it was from God.
 
All the nervous energy I felt when HM and I first met wasn’t simply because I was meeting someone new.  It was because I was finally yeilding to God and what he wanted for my life.  HM was a good Christian.  Strong in faith.  He had a good heart and a strong family and I saw a future with him.  I saw a God centered future with him.  And that thought both thrilled and terrified me.
 
Anyway- I do have a point for explaining all of this.  You see- that very first conversation HM and I had, the one about the young adult ministry?  Well, that played a bigger role than I expected.  HM and I continued talking about it, and I had conversations with my dad about it, who was also beginning to feel that same yearning for this ministry.
 
The difference between HM and I and my dad was, my dad was in a position to do something about it.  And he began talking to young adults about what they were looking for.  Turns out- there are a lot of people out there searching.  There are so many young adults looking for a place to belong, a place to meet people, a place to make friends.
 
There’s a quote in this article by Chuck Swindoll that I think says a lot about church and community and what people are looking for.  From the article, I’m not sure if he wrote it or came across it.  But anyway, here’s the quote and where it’s from.

“The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit that there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality-but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets, and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers. With all my heart,” this writer concludes, “I believe that Christ wants his church to be unshockable, a fellowship where people can come in and say, ‘I’m sunk, I’m beat, I’ve had it.’ Alcoholics Anonymous has this quality-our churches too often miss it.”

 
Because where can you go to church and feel confident telling someone your deepest darkest secret and feel secure in them keeping it?  What church opens their doors, their seats and their lives to the broken-hearted, the beaten, the bruised, the unemployed, the addicts, the depressed?
 
 
Unfortunately, I noted some differences where I wished our churches were more like bars.
  • People went because they wanted to be there, not out of duty or obligation
  • The singing was celebratory and sometimes therapeutic
  • Greetings were heartfelt and welcoming
  • Everybody had a seat waiting for them, if there wasn’t room, someone gave up their seat
  • Everybody got a chance to play, but you didn’t have to play if you didn’t want to
  • People notice when you stop showing up
  • Nobody puts on “airs” and when they do, they get called on it
  • Thus, nobody expected anybody to be perfect, and nobody pretended otherwise
  • If you make a mistake, you get called on it
  • If you admit your mistake, you get forgiven
  • It was a great place to go when feeling lonely
  • It was a great place to go when feeling sociable
  • It was a great place to go when feeling down
  • It was a great place to go when feeling up

This young adult group that we’re starting, I’m PRAYING is more like a bar in these areas.  Is that a weird thing to pray?  It probably is.  But regardless- we’re designing it to be a place where people can gather and feel accepted, because we’ve known rejection.  A place where people can feel loved because they’ve known anger, hate, lonliness.  A place where people can be forgiven because they themselves have been wronged and done wrong.  A place where people don’t expect or pretend to be perfect, because we’ve all messed up.

God is still fighting for his people.  And it’s time we start joining in the fight for the lost.  It’s time we reach out to the broken hearted, the hurt, the bruised, the addicted, the wronged.  Because we’ve all been there, and pretending otherwise is just putting more fuel on the fire of those that call us liars and hyporcites and out of touch, holier-than-thou Christians who put salt in wounds instead of healing.

I’ve known those Christians, and truth be told, I’ve probably been those Christians.  But the trend stops here.  It stops now.  It stops with me.  I don’t want to be an out of touch Christian who does nothing in the fight to bring souls to Christ.  I want to be an instrument in the fight against evil.  I want to stop being the problem, and start being a part of the solution.

I know that this young adult group is what all of my past experiences are culminating for.  I know that God is going to give me opportunities to share my experiences with people in this new group.  I just hope that I rely on His strength to take the chances.

Be Brave,

Holding Out For A Hero

I’m not really sure why people put so much stock in the whole Valentine’s Day thing.  It’s just another day of the year.  A day to show appreciation to the person that we love most.  Is that really so terrible?

And yes, I can find mushy couples just as vomit-inducing as the next single girl, but I have to admit that when it comes to being in a relationship on Valentine’s Day, it’s not so bad.  Granted, it’s been years since I’ve actually been in a relationship on what some people call “Single Awareness Day”  but that doesn’t change the fact that being in love has a lot to do with people’s attitudes on this particular day.

That being said, you have to wonder how our society has built so much of an empire on days designed for individual people.  Shouldn’t the people that we care about always feel special and loved?  And I’m not just talking about our significant others.  Mothers Day, Father’s Day, Veteran’s Day.  Why is it that every other day of the year is a day that we can take these people completely for granted, and think we can make up for it with a bouquet of flowers or dinner?

Anyway- little rant over… this post is more about what I’m looking forward to in the future.  The kind of man that I want and the kind of woman I want to be.

Last Saturday we had a “Valentine’s” dinner at my church.  Every year we do a ladies appreciation dinner where the men cook and serve and the women can relax and enjoy each other’s company.  This year, instead of doing a ‘newly wed’ game or something similar, we watched a movie.  It was a movie that I saw with the last b/f in the theaters and cried my eyes out at.  It’s also an amazingly powerful movie and says so much about what Godly, God fearing men should be.

The movie is called Courageous.  Basically it’s a story about 5 men (4 of them cops) and their determination to become better husbands and fathers.  They each take a good long look at their lives, and they sign a resolution to make each day count.  It’s a touching story about hard choices and love.  About life and loss and how we handle each decision we make.  The final scene is a powerful portrayal of one of the men standing before his entire church.  Here is his speech:

   “There are some men who, regardless of the mistakes we’ve made in the past, regardless of what our fathers did not do for us, will give the strength of our arms and the rest of our days to loving God with all that we are and to teach our children to do the same—and whenever possible, to love and mentor others who have no father in their lives but who desperately need help and direction. And we are inviting any man whose heart is willing and courageous to join us in this resolution.

God’s Word shows us that God desires for every father to courageous step up and do whatever it takes to be involved in the lives of his children. More than just being there for them or providing for them, he is to walk with them through their young lives and be a visual representation of the character of God, their Father in heaven. Who will accept the responsibility of providing and protecting my family? Who will ask God to break the chain of destructive patterns in my family? Who will pray for, and bless my children to boldly pursue whatever God calls them to do? 

In my home, the decision has already been made. You don’t have to ask who will guide my family because, by God’s grace, I will. You don’t have to ask who will teach my son to follow Christ because I will.”

So where are you, men of courage? Where are you, fathers who fear the Lord?   It’s time to rise up and answer the call God has given you and say, I will! I will! I will!

I think that quote packs enough punch to knock anyone down a peg or two.  It was enough to cause me to take a look at my own life, and think about what choices I’m making now that could help me become the wife and mother that I want to be some day.

I also think that this movie is a great indication of why I’m waiting.  Of why I’m taking this year off of men.  I always thought that I knew exactly what I wanted in a guy.  How many times over the years have I daydreamed about Gilbert Blythe or Mr. Darcy or Danny Zuko?  Too many to count.

And even though I always thought I knew what I wanted in a guy… this movie made me doubletake with one major line.  During a conversation, Adam (one of the cops) explains that he wants to be a better father.  His partner looks at him and says “You’re being too hard on yourself.  You’re a good enough father.”  Adam’s reply is what really struck a cord with me.  He said “I don’t want to be good enough.”  There’s something very alluring about being ‘good enough’.  Not in the sense that we all want to be ‘good enough’ for something, but in the sense that sometimes we do as little as possible.  We do just enough to get by.  We settle for being ‘good enough’ when we should be specatcular.

I think so often in life, we let our schedules dictate our lives.  We focus on the most demanding, the most pressing matters above anything else.  And sometimes, that’s good.  We all have things that we need to do.  But those things aren’t the only things that matter.  Because work and school and hobbies don’t have souls.  But friends, family, kids- those do.  We need to remember to invest our time in people- because in the end, people are really the only thing that matter.

I just recently started re-reading through the book called Captivating: Unveiling the Mysteries of a Woman’s Soul.  It’s a book about women, why we have the needs and desires that we do, and understanding that having these desires is not wrong.  In fact, God made us to have three big desires in our souls.

1. To be romanced
2. To play an irreplaceable role in a grand adventure
3. To unveil beauty

There are a lot of things about this book that leave me wary.  It paraphrases Scripture more than it actually uses it.  But at the same time, I think it points to some major issues that women deal with, and things that tug at our heart strings over and over again.  It tries to explain the constant longing we feel for the three ‘big desires’ of our hearts and how God specifically made us that way.  It’s not another 12 step “How to be a better woman” book.  It’s more of an encouragement that we are fearfully and wonderfully made just the way we are.  It’s a book that acknowledges how hard women try to be perfect, to be everything.  It explores the feelings that we have of constantly being ‘not enough’ but at the same time feeling like we’re ‘too much’.  We’re not strong enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough.  But we’re too emotional, too careful, too caring.

I think every woman has felt this way before.  And I like that Captivating is a book designed to help us feel secure in the person that we are.  It’s not meant to be a fix-all.  It’s an attempt to identify the places in our hearts that God has made especially for Himself to be like Himself. 

Being single on Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be hard (despite the fact that I work across the street from a florist).  Sure, it may not be my favorite day of the year to be single on… but whose to say I can’t still get flowers and chocolate?  Spend an evening cooking myself a delicious meal and watching a sappy movie.  Maybe today is the perfect day to daydream about Gilbert Blythe and Mr Darcy and Danny Zuko.  So long as I don’t lose sight of what is really important.  Because all three of those guys have something in common.  They’re great stories, but as far as a Courageous, Godly man go… I’m not quite sure how they stack up.

On a better note, I’ve been adding more to my story.  What’s that you say?  You want a sneak peak?  Okay… I suppose I can do that.  But I’m only sharing two paragraphs.

Lia dragged the bag of clothes down the hall to the door at the very end.  She turned the handle and pulled; both the door and frame swollen from the heat refused to budge.  Dropping the bag and gripping the knob with both hands, Lia pulled again, harder until the door yielded to her demands and swung open.  She hadn’t expected it to actually open and the force of her pulling on the knob left her off balance when it finally gave in.

Flipping the light switch on just inside the door, Lia sighed when nothing happened.  She wasn’t all-together surprised.  Who knew when the last time was that anyone was up there?  Backtracking to the linen closet down the hallway, Lia found a flashlight in the emergency kit and clicked it on.  Shining it up the stairs into the attic, Lia began up the stairs, pulling the garbage bag full of her grandfather’s old clothes with her.

So what happens next?  Well… it’s a secret.  But you’re more than welcome to guess if you want.  I finally have momentum with this story again.  I’m really excited to see what happens.  I think it’s going to be good!

To all my single ladies out there…
Be brave,

 

Month One Recap

(Please forgive the spacing in this post…. it’s really not liking me today!)

I feel like not a lot really happened in January.  Other than I got older.  Well- let’s do a tally of things on the ‘bucket list’.

I managed to get through my 2 books.  I finished the second one a little late.  (the last 30 or so pages were read on Feb 1, but that’s alright).

So my book choices were:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  I’ve always wanted to read this book.  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every single adaptation multiple times but I’ve never actually read the book.  It took me a little bit to get into the style of the writing, but overall, everything I always loved about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy was just heightened by reading through the book.

Clockwork Price by Cassandra Clare.  Cassandra Clare is one of my absolute favorite authors.  I love the worlds she creates and the tortured characters that she always seems to make refreshing.  She does things that you don’t expect, and often times it means feeling like yelling and screaming at her for torturing the poor characters so much, but it’s so compelling you can’t stop reading.  Clockwork Prince is the second installment to her Steampunk series called The Infernal Devices.  She’s definitely one of the authors I look up to.  I had the pleasure of meeting her a couple of years ago, and she’s amazing in person.

Other than reading my two books, I’m not sure I accomplished much else on the list.  However, I did make some plans for some upcoming things.  My mom, sister and I are planning a road trip during a week in March.  I’m also excited to be getting my very first tattoo this month!  I already know exactly what and where- now it’s just a matter of finding the time (and the courage!).

February will bring with it plenty of surprises, I’m sure.  My books this month are The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and something by one of the Bronte sisters (I just haven’t decided what yet).  My plan is to read a ‘new’ book and a ‘classic’ a month.  Whew- it should be interesting!

Short entry tonight, but that’s my first month update.  Stay tuned!

Be brave,