When Alligators Attack, and some thoughts on The Hunger Games

There were some interesting things that happened on vacation last week.  We went to Daytona Beach during Bike week.  We were followed by some psycho driver in Savannah at night (I think he wanted to challenge my mom to a drag race in her HHR).  But probably the most crazy, insane, terrifying thing happened the day before we left Florida.  We were attacked by an alligator.

Okay… so the alligator didn’t really attack us.  Per se.  But let me tell you, this has been my major talking point of the vacation, because it was just so ridiculous.

Basically what happened was this:  On this vacation, my brother and his girlfriend also drove down to Florida and all 5 of us (them and my mom, sister and I) stayed at our grandparents house for the week.  Someone found this kayaking trip down a river where you could see wildlife… including alligators.  To be honest, I really wasn’t that worried.  Surely if someone collected money by sending unsuspecting victims down a river where alligators snacked on humans, Chris Hansen would have done a report about it by now.  But I digress…

So, the 5 of us decide to go on this kayaking trip.  My mom and sister were in a tandem kayak.  My brother was in a single, and his girlfriend and I were in the other tandem kayak.  We all took turns in the lead of the group.  And we did actually see a lot of alligators in the water, near the water, on the banks, on fallen trees.  It was a very meandering river and there were a ton of down trees in the water.

Anyway… at one point in the trip, my brother’s girlfriend and I are out front, making our way down the river.  We’re not really paying close attention to the banks anymore.  We’ve seen our fill of alligators.  And then…. BAM

Image

THIS guy shows up.  Terrified is not even the right word for what I felt.  And no, it wasn’t that guy in particular.  No one got a picture of the alligator that came after Jenna and I.  But let me tell you, we screamed our heads off and 15 minutes later I could still feel my heart pounding in my chest.

I’m 85% sure he didn’t really want to snack on us.  I’m guessing we probably just scared him and he went rushing into the water.  But he COVERED us in mud and water and scum and dirt.  It was kind of jarring.

Cross THAT off my list of things to ever do again.  I mean, I love kayaking and all…. but no more predator infested waters please.

The rest of the week was kind of tame by comparison.  No one managed to get sunburned too terribly badly.  I don’t think anyone got enough sleep.  And by the end of the week the drive home was filled with punchy jokes and lots of laughing for no reason.  Ah, to be in a car for 9 hours straight two days in a row.  On the plus side, we listened to all of Hunger Games, all of Catching Fire and the first part of Mockingjay.

And just as an aside… I read a blog yesterday about a woman who didn’t want her 17 year old daughter to go see the Hunger Games movie because it condoned violence.  And she claims to have read the book.  Ummm…. just because Romeo and Juliet ends the way it does doesn’t mean the entire story is about teen suicide.  I am kind of at a loss because the Hunger Games books are so amazing (insert mad Peeta love here) and so ANTI “sit by and cheer for anything including death matches” that I’m pretty sure this lady has no idea what she’s talking about.

Okay.  Rant over.

To all my friends out there in the blogosphere,
May the odds be EVER in your favor!
And also…

Be brave,

Advertisements

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,