Chapter 1-A

Since one of my ‘bucket list’ items is to finish this book that I’ve been working on writing, I’ve decided I want to start posting things here.  Maybe it will give me the motivation and accountability that I need to actually work on it.  I’m hoping to post a section a week.  Maybe more, if I’ve got it done.  So far, most of chapter one is finished.  I’m kind of working on quick editing as I go, so if something is a little off, I haven’t really completely edited yet.

The title of my book is called The Mapstone Chronicles: The Alliance of the First Oath

My dream cast is >>>> Right there.

Quick preview:  Lia and Averi move to their grandfather’s house when he passes away.  But who is the strange boy who seems to know more about their grandfather than they do?  When secrets are spilled and unnatural things begin to happen, they could have never imagined the reason behind it…. or why they’re so connected.

I’ll keep all of the chapters together here.

Okay… so here we go. (Constructive criticism is always welcomed and encouraged.)

Chapter 1-A

Aurelia Collins stepped out of the car, letting the door shut behind her and reached for her sister’s hand.  Averianna, her twin, had always grounded her- always been her rock.  Tightly clutching Averi’s sweaty palm was the first indication to Lia that her sister may not be as pulled together as she had thought.  Lia dared a look at the face that matched her own and instantly regretted it; she could feel the tears brimming just beneath the surface as she met her sister’s watery gaze. 

Despite Lia and Averi being twins, the only thing the same about them was their piercing green eyes.  Averi was outgoing and bubbly.  She fit into the cookie cutter cheerleader pyramid with ease- which wasn’t hard since their mother was the new coach of the squad in Sloane.  Averi had spiral-curl blonde hair that she dyed lighter- working under the assumption that if men prefer blondes, they must adore platinum blondes.  Averi had her pick of any guy at school and usually dated two or three at once.

Lia on the other hand was the shy bookworm of the two, seemingly taking after their father.  Her hair was a chestnut-brown and fell in loose curls halfway down her back.  Lia was the studious one of the two; caring more about her school grades than her popularity.  She took an interest in things outside of school; choosing live shows of underground bands over school dances.  Lia preferred things that she could do solo- reading, poetry, photography.

Turning her glance away as they made their way to the gravesite, Lia watched as the pallbearers gathered at the back of the hearse and lifted the casket.  She felt her stomach tighten into a deep knot and clenched her jaw to hold back the tears.  From one of the corners of the casket, her father met her eyes and gave her an almost imperceptible nod.  That small gesture gave Lia the courage to finish the trek to the grave site.  Lia stopped beside the open grave with her mother and her sister, each with a rose in their hand.  The sisters released each other’s hands and moved to put reassuring arms around their mother.

Lia didn’t hear most of what the minister said.  She expected it was a lot of “ashes to ashes” and crap about living their own lives, adding that’s how George would have wanted it.  Lia wanted to scream about how the minister would never know what her grandfather wanted, but she refrained.  Swiping at a stray tear as it rolled down her cheek- Lia glanced around.  It was a small gathering of people.  Lia wasn’t sure if she had expected more people to show up or not. 

It was then that a stray movement caught her eye.  Fifty yards from where the funeral was being held, a man dressed all in black.  He had his head down and his wild, dark, curly hair obscured his face from Lia’s view.  Lia squinted her eyes, his hair triggering some distant dream or memory long since forgotten.

“Lia,” her mother whispered in a voice that cracked and broke with sobs.  Lia glanced over, seeing her sister lay her rose on their grandfather’s grave.  Following Averi, she took two steps forward, leaned down and pressed the flower into the bouquet on the casket.  After a few moments, her father’s steady hand rested on her shoulder, but she couldn’t move.

“I’ll catch up,” she said quietly, and then his hand was gone.  Lia stood there for a long time- the memories of her childhood replaying themselves in her mind.  All the best ones seemed to have her grandfather in them.  Sitting in the comfortable quiet of his office at the bookstore.  She would always sit on his lap, him with one book, her with another.  All of the hours they spent in the woods.  He had always been such an interesting man, and Lia couldn’t imagine that big house or the cozy bookstore without him.

Glancing up again, she noticed that the man in the distance was gone.  In fact, everyone else was gone.  But Lia couldn’t bring herself to leave.  For the longest time, she wasn’t sure she could move her feet if she wanted to.  Because leaving this place, it made it real.  This was meant to be the final goodbye that Lia couldn’t bring herself to say.  She wanted a way to bring him back to her, to hug him one more time, to hear one more story.  But that was never going to happen.  And this realization made Lia’s tears fall even harder.

She heard footsteps in the scorched, rain deprived grass and knew someone was coming back for her.  Averi- if she had to guess.  Their mother was no doubt anxious to get home.  People would be stopping by throughout the remainder of the day to give their condolences, and the house needed some last-minute cleaning before guests could be received.

The goodbye that played itself over and over in her mind never seemed to reach her lips.  Instead, Lia allowed her sister to lead her from the open grave back to the car.  Her eyes were trained on the casket as they lowered it into the ground; the final image of her grandfather forever burned in her brain.

Sliding into the back seat of the car, Lia leaned her head back to rest on the warm leather and closed her eyes for the drive to the house.  Her grandfather’s house.  It didn’t seem right to call it home yet, even though all of their things were packed and ready to bury her grandfather’s possessions along with him.  She didn’t want this to change; to lose the haven that the house had become on their summer breaks from school. 

Lia wanted everything to stay the same in that house.  The personal library that had been accumulated in the back den.  The smell of laundry on the line the way their grandmother had perfected it over the years.  The worn leather chair in what would become her new room, with it’s identical twin in the office at the bookstore.  These were things that she knew had expiration dates, some of which had already passed.  It only made Lia’s yearning for one more day with her grandfather that much more unbearable.

The remainder of the day passed slowly, with too many people she didn’t know offering condolences that she didn’t want.  After a few hours, it became more than Lia could bear and she made her way to her new bedroom.  Currently there were boxes of books covering most of the floor and a large portion of the furniture as well.  Most of these boxes would end up at the bookstore where they belonged, but it made Lia wonder what they were doing in the house in the first place.  She knew that her grandfather loved books, but his collection was downstairs in the library.

Opening the first box, Lia was surprised to find leather-bound journals.  Some had her grandmother’s familiar scrawl, while others were written in a choppier short hand, which she assumed to be her grandfathers.  Opening the next box she found issue upon issue of Reader’s Digest from 1973.  The next box was full of National Geographic and Reader’s Digest from ’88.  Well, at least that explained what they were doing here and not at the book store.  She couldn’t imagine they were worth much, even as the whole set.

She stashed the box of journals in the back of the closet, which she had cleaned out the day before, and stacked the other boxes in the hall.  She could do a quick search to see if any of the periodicals were worth anything, but she doubted it.

The sound of voices no longer carried up from downstairs, and Lia wondered if the majority of the guests had gone.  She had never been the type to handle either large gatherings or depressing topics very well.  She much preferred to be doing something useful, and she was grateful for the time she had been able to spend in her new bedroom.  It helped her to keep her mind away from the more painful memories when she really couldn’t bear to think them.

Lia changed into her pajamas and readied herself for bed, feeling the emotional exhaustion finally taking it’s toll.  It wasn’t long after she had snuggled under the covers with one of her grandmother’s journals that she heard Averi come into the room.  Even though they would have separate rooms once they moved in, for now they shared the queen size bed in the guest room.  Both of their new rooms were going to need to be emptied, cleaned and painted before they could move in.

“Hey,” Lia said quietly, placing the book on her lap.  “How did everything go?”

Averi shrugged.  “I guess I can’t exactly say it went well, can I?”

Lia shook her head.  “No, I guess not.”  She sighed and moved over as Averi climbed into bed beside her.  “You holding up okay?”

“Yeah.  I’m doing alright,” Averi replied, sliding into the cool sheets.  “But I wasn’t as close with him as you were.  How are you?”

Lia was quiet for a moment before answering.  “It’s hard to really process it, you know?  I mean we didn’t see him that often, but the thought that we’ll never see him again hasn’t really sunk in yet, I don’t think.”

Averi covered Lia’s hand with her own.  “It will be okay,” she said quietly.  Her eyes shifted to the book on Lia’s lap and her brows pulled together.  “What’s that?”

Lia turned the small leather-bound book over in her hand, revealing the handwritten pages.  “I found a box of old journals in my new room.  This one, Grandma wrote when she first met Poppa.  She’s writing about how she thinks that he as a secret he won’t tell her about, but she’s determined to find out what it is.”

“Intriguing,” Averi said, her interest obviously piqued.

Lia smiled.  “Yeah- listen to this…”

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Blurring the Lines

Day Count- 79 down 287 to go.

So, I’m back from the road trip with my mom and sister.  And let me just say, there are some major stories to tell.  And I will get to those later.  But for some reason I feel like this takes precedence today.  I’m not sure why… just something that’s been weighing on my mind for a few days.

A couple of years ago, when I had just moved home and had pretty much given up on a ‘good guy’ ever being interested in me, I signed up for a Christian dating site.  I figured it would be a good way to get back out there without much room for major disappointment.  Boy was I wrong.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  So here goes-  I signed up for this dating site just to kind of see what was out there.  I was kind of leery about the whole thing to begin with.  I had been majorly burned by men in the past, most of them taking advantage of my vulnerability after my relationship with Voldemort (he-who-must-not-be-named… i.e. really bad ex).  The problem was, even the ‘Christian’ guys that I knew were playing on my emotions to get what they wanted.  I was in a pretty bad place, but I resolved to see what else was out there.  Living in a small town, it’s hard to meet good people that I didn’t know in high school and I thought that a dating site might be the answer.

This particular dating site had chat rooms for different age groups.  And despite the 20-somethings being filled with people that acted more like highschool cliques than anything else, I managed to make some friends.  And then Texas Boy came along.  He was a major flirt- especially with me- and we really hit it off.

And he lived in Texas.

That might not be so bad…. if I didn’t live in New York.

Despite the distance, we became fast friends.  We chatted most nights, we played games online together, we texted during the day.  To be honest, it was more than a friendship.  But it was also less than a relationship.

You see, Texas Boy made it very clear that he didn’t want a long distance relationship.  But that didn’t stop him from flirting with me, from spending most evenings chatting and having fun and growing into a deeper friendship.  This went on for a good eight or nine months.  We really got each other, in a way that I hadn’t felt a connection in a long time.  He was a ‘Southern Gentleman’ and an all around good guy.  I was convinced that somehow, some way, we could make things work.

He told me about how if we lived closer together he would ask me out on a date in a heartbeat.  I thought that maybe our circumstances would change.  After all, I had other friends that lived in Texas and surrounding areas.  Friends that had told me on numerous occasions that I should move down there.  I didn’t have much holding me in New York.  My family was there- but I had lived away from them before.

I visited my friend Courtney in July of that year.  Texas Boy and I had been texting and chatting online for about 6 months.  I was there, in Texas.  I was a mere 8 hours from where he lived.  My skin tingled as the airplane touched down on the runway in Houston.  “This is it,” I kept thinking to myself.  “He’s going to want to get together.”

And there were a few nights where we talked about it.  But when he told me that he had to work and couldn’t get out of it, I knew that it was never going to happen.  I tried to resolve myself to just be his friend.  To stop thinking of him as a potential boyfriend.  But it wasn’t easy.

You see, by the time I made that resolve, we had already blurred the lines.

I’m reminded now of a song by Jeff LeBlanc.  Ironically enough, the song is called “Can’t Love You“.

The bridge says:

 Ready to run, still holding on, we just blurred the lines.  Gave all we could, took all we need, we just wasted time.

Man, oh man, how I wish Texas Boy could have heard this song.  And before any of you yell at me that he told me he didn’t want a long distance relationship, trust me… I already know.  Because 2 months later when he stopped texting me, and then his relationship status on Facebook changed to ‘in a relationship’, the fact that he didn’t want a long distance relationship became abundantly clear.

And even though I knew that he was never mine, I still felt a pang of loss.  Because it was then that even the potential became null and void.

Throughout my life, there have been several other instances of blurring the lines.  Friendship, relationship, right and wrong, it doesn’t matter what it is.   Blurring the lines always seems like a good idea at the time.  But when you give all you can, and take all you need, Jeff LeBlanc is right that all you do is waste time.  Texas Boy and I both wasted our time.  I wasted my time with what I thought could be.  We both needed to feel special to someone.  We both took that emotional intimacy when we needed it most.  And the end result was a feeling of loss and a pang of regret.  It left me with the persistent and unanswered question of what could have been.

It’s so hard to think that for the better part of a year, he was one of my closest friends.  And then he got a girlfriend and dropped me from his life, further solidifying the fact that we blurred the lines to more than friends.

The sermon series in church over the last few weeks has been about guard rails.  What they are tangibly and how we can insert them into our own lives to protect us from dangerous situations.  I think I’m starting to realize more and more that doing what I’ve always done- especially in blurring the lines with friendships- does way more harm than good.

I think that’s another reason why this year means so much to me.  It’s a guard rail of sorts- keeping me away from potentially dangerous situations.  And while this ‘guard rail’ of no dating isn’t something that is especially Biblical, it IS something that I need in my own life to keep me on track.  I could live my life blurring the emotional lines between friendship and relationship.  But what good would it do?  Why would I want to continually put my heart through that?  It’s no better than jumping from one relationship to the next.  And if I’m blurring the lines that way, what’s to stop me from doing it in other areas?  Once you start saying yes to something, saying no to the next thing becomes that much harder.  It’s like a snowball on a downhill slope.  As the situation gets bigger, so does the consequence.

Ok.  So, that’s my story of Texas Boy.

I’ve still got lots of writing to do about my roadtrip. 

Stay tuned
and
Be Brave,

 

 

What is it, sweetheart? More boy trouble?

 
The ‘dating site’.  For some reason, it’s the one place that I feel drawn back to in order to explore potential mates.  And for some reason (probably NOT because another friend just got engaged or that I was kind of asked out by a guy who is completely wrong for me- but we’re not ruling those out yet) despite my pact, I have this itch to join back in.  To test the waters, to explore my options.
 
Terrible clichés aside, being content in being single is still a somewhat daunting task.  And I’ve realized that it’s not because I feel unloved.  I know that I have amazing family and friends that love me.  The lack of content comes more from the emotional response that being in love elicits.  It’s having someone you can count on.  Someone you can buy a second concert ticket for, because you know that if you are going then they wouldn’t be anywhere else.  It’s having someone to cook for, someone to tell you that everything is going to be alright.  It’s having that one person that you can always count on to answer the phone, no matter what time of day.  It’s feeling needed.
 
And those feelings aren’t easy to come by when you’re single.  But more importantly, those feelings rarely occur with friends of the same-sex.  I’m not saying that you should use your opposite sex friends to fill the dating void, I’m just saying sometimes it happens.  I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have a lot of guy friends.  And I know just how tempting it can be to become close to guy friends.  Sometimes friendships with the opposite sex are just as co-dependant as relationships.  They fill a ‘dating void’ that you never knew was there.  It’s having that constant companion, the person that will tell you how you look, someone to see a movie or go bowling with on a weekend.  I’ve been there- in the middle of it, and I know the absence you feel when it’s not there anymore.
 
I’m not exactly sure why dating sites are the one thing that I feel drawn back to.  Maybe it’s because I feel more comfortable behind a computer screen than face to face with someone new?  Maybe because on the whole I just don’t meet that many people my age.  Or maybe there is still that defiant part of me struggling with the idea that single now doesn’t necessarily mean lonely forever.
 
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I hate being single.  On the contrary, I like being able to visit friends on the weekends without having someone to check in with.  I like not being glued to my phone in case he calls, which I never had to do, but so often felt compelled to do anyway.  I like resting in the quiet assurance that God as a plan— but every once in a while it hits you.
 
You hear that song on the radio that makes you remember how happy you were with him.  Or you see a couple deliriously in love and you wonder if it will ever really be that way for you.  The doubt  enemy sneaks in little by little until it floods your mind and overwhelms your heart.  And you find yourself stuck in this limbo of singlehood and you suddenly feel the thought roll through your head…
 
“When is it my turn?”
 
Sometimes I get so caught up in hearing people tell me “It just wasn’t the right time,” that I can’t help but wonder if the right time exists.  And just when my ‘singleness limbo’ seemed to be creeping up again, the sermon this week was about physical relationships.  God always has a way of knowing exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it.  And it makes saying things like ‘no’ to a free trial on a dating site a little bit easier.
 
The sermon wasn’t necessarily about not dating- although one of the bullet points in our notes was that if ‘dating’ has become synonymous with ‘sex’ then you need to take a year off of relationships.  And while that is not my reasoning for taking a year off- it’s kind of interesting that the weekly sermons and I are kind of on the same page when it comes to things like that.
 
I can understand that a year seems like a long time for some people.  However, it kind of amazes me how quickly some people jump from relationship to relationship.  My boss, for example, whose wife just filed for divorce three weeks ago has already informed me that he’s on a dating site.
 
I’m sorry, but if you’re 50 with 2 kids and 2 ex wives (well, one ex and one soon to be)  then maybe you need to think about what you’re doing wrong in relationships before jumping into another one.
 
He actually said something to me a few days ago that really stuck with me.  He said, “I’m 51 and I need to find myself.”
 
I think sometimes I take for granted the fact that I’m still young.  Sometimes you see friends and family getting married and having kids and you think you’re losing time.  I know I feel that way a lot.
 
And I know that comparing yourself with someone else is silly to begin with- because everyone’s life is different.  We’ve all faced different things, struggled with different things and learned different things.  But in the grand scheme of things- I’m half my boss’s age, and I feel like we’re both facing the same thing.
 
I can’t help but think of how lucky I am that I figured out now at twenty-six, that I need to do something different in my life.  That I need a change.  I can’t help but think that I’m lucky I’m not 51 and having the same realization.
 
And now, for the big news.  I’m so excited for next week, when I will get to cross something BIG off the list.  I’ve been keeping up with my 2 books a month deal (in February I read all three of the Hunger Games books… more on that later).  I have concert tickets to see Snow Patrol (One of my all time favorites and I couldn’t be more excited about it!!) And I’ve been finding some awesome craft projects to keep me busy.  But none of those are the ‘big one’.  Next week, my mom, sister and I are going on a road trip to Florida.
 
So far, we’ve got our stops mapped out.  We leave in 3 days and we will be gone for a week.  My sister and I are hoping for a day at Universal Studios to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but we’ll have to see if it works out.  (I’ve also downloaded all the Hunger Games audio books so I can make my mom obsessed too. shhh don’t tell)
 
Be prepared for some pictures of the trip!  I’m hoping to have a ton of them by the time I get back.
 
As always friends,
Be Brave,

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,

Regrets

Do you have something you regret?  Big or little- minor or severe- most, if not all of us regret something in our lives.  For me, the one thing I always wish I could go back and ‘do over’ was walking away from my family, the church and most of my friends… for a guy.

Now, to be honest, he wasn’t a normal guy.  He was an extremely manipulative, controlling, abusive guy.  And there are times when I thought that no matter what, I wouldn’t have stood a chance.  But I can’t blame everything on him.  I made the decision to be with him.  I made the decision to let him have control over me.  And yes, he was a master manipulator, but the initial decision to be with him was mine and mine alone.

For as much as I desperately want to regret my decisions and all of the time I spent with him and everything I did, I can’t regret it.  Because as terrible and horrible as it was, it taught me so much.  First and foremost, I think I truly for the first time began to understand forgiveness, and unconditional love.

There was so much to forgive after everything that happened.  My parents forgave me more times than I can count.  I had to beg forgiveness from God, my family, my friends.  I had to learn to forgive myself.  And the big one that I’m still struggling with- I had to forgive the guy.

Going through traumatic experiences in life teach you a lot about the person that you are.  It amazes me to hear the stories of people that forgive the killers of their loved ones.  And while my experience may not have been that extreme, I still had a lot of healing and forgiving to do.  And I don’t think that the point of forgiveness is to fix everything and go back to what you had before.  It’s not about letting a situation define you.  It’s about letting it teach you.  Forgiveness is finding healing and strength in the face of things that tear you down and knock you out.  Forgiveness is learning that no matter what a person does to you; their offense is never as bad as the offenses that you’ve committed against God.

That last line, I can’t claim as my own.  Several months ago I went and heard Joyce Meyer speak.  She talked about the characteristics of a perfect heart and for some reason, that line is something that has stuck with me ever since.

Regrets are something we all deal with.  They’re something that we all have the option of.  But why worry about something that is in the past and can’t be changed?  Wouldn’t a better use of time be to figure out what you can learn from the experience and use it?

During this journey, I’ve decided to read through the Bible in a year.  It’s something that I’ve never actually done before and I’m really excited by it.  During just the last few days a culmination of things happened.  And I am convinced that God wants to use this to teach me something, and so I am going to share it with all of you.

The first thing that happened was I read through the story in Genesis of Joseph.  For anyone that doesn’t know- the story is about a boy who found favor in his father’s eye which caused all of his brothers to be jealous.  So jealous in fact- that they thought about killing him.  They didn’t actually go through with the plan however and instead sold Joseph in to slavery.  Crazy you say?  Yes, you read correctly.  They sold their own flesh and blood into slavery.  Talk about jealousy.

Anyway- what happens next, you ask?  Well, you see- Joseph pities himself and gives up.

I’m kidding.  The truth is MUCH more impressive.  Because years go by, and one thing leads to another until Joseph becomes the right hand man of Pharaoh.  As in- ruler of the land.  So here’s Joseph- the man who was sold into slavery and then thrown into jail for a woman accusing him of rape, he interprets the dreams of the ruler of the kingdom that no one else has been able to interpret, and Pharaoh makes him second in command.

Talk about impressive.

Okay- so I read through this story the other day, and it really got me thinking about regrets and circumstances and how God can use all of these things.

Onto the second thing that happened to me.  This morning, I went out to breakfast with a friend.  We were talking about reading the Bible and how sometimes the stories are hard to read, and I mentioned my thoughts on Joseph and how God uses the strangest things for his Glory.  Just like Joseph.  We talked a little bit about how it always seems to amaze us- the way God uses people.

The third thing that happened to me also happened this morning.  And here’s the kicker- and why I’m convinced I need to be writing about this right now.  Sitting in church this morning, my dad is talking about how God gives us all opportunities to shape us.  He mentioned David and Goliath.  How David had been faithful to God before Goliath.  In fact, the Bible says that David killed both a lion and a bear to protect the sheep that he was entrusted with.  He learned to stare danger and adversity in the face and attack it head on.  He had been faithful in those areas.  God knew that David would be faithful again.

And then, my dad mentioned Joseph.  Oh Joseph.  This guy is starting to seem like a real pal to me these last few days.  (And hey, as a sidenote- this is my year without a man…. I’m not supposed to be giving men this much thought… even ones that lived thousands of years ago).  Anyway- Pastor (it sounds more official than ‘dad’) talked about Joseph and all of the things that he faced in his life.  His own flesh and blood sold him, a woman accused him of rape, he was thrown in jail where the jailer gave him responsibility over everyone in there, and then once he had used the opportunity that God had given him, God gave him another one.

Life is all about opportunities.  Sometimes it’s hard to see them when we’re so focused on all of the things that we think are going wrong in our lives.  And yeah, I’m sure Joseph had some hard times.  I’m sure he had some days where he didn’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning.  But that doesn’t mean he didn’t make the most of the opportunities he was given.

For me, this year is an opportunity to focus on things outside of me.  It’s a time to take opportunities, no matter what shape they make take.  I’m not sure I’ll take it quite as far as Jim Carrey’s character in Yes Man, where he HAS to say YES to EVERY opportunity that comes before him, but we’ll see.  If the opportunities are from God, than who am I to say no?

Besides, if I’m faithful with the little ones, who knows what’s just around the bend.

Be brave,

P.S.  It’s my birthday today.  Leave me a little note? You’re all the best! ❤