Several Months Later

* Several Months Later *Several_Monthes_Later..._

I feel like I am living a Sponge Bob episode where time races forward and the next scene occurs months after the previous scene. AKA I have not written a blog post in several months and a lot has happened since my previous one.

A few months can change a lot of things. For example, my role as a student took its final bow and I received a college degree as proof. My role as job searcher ended, as well, and I accepted a post-grad job with great excitement. My role as Smurf-owner changed, because I bought a new {silver, not blue} car.

If you do not stop to take it all in, life goes by pretty fast. It feels like just yesterday I wrote a blog post about the anxiety I felt before entering college and here I am, * four years later * reflecting on the truth that I left it.

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 2.18.16 PM

Life goes on after college. That is one fact I had a hard time grasping throughout the last semester or two. It was difficult to imagine a world without homework, exams, group projects, and presentations. To be honest, it has been challenging to get out of the mindset that I start school in the fall. I’m relieved, of course, and very excited — still, it is bizarre to embrace the idea that I’m actually done. Eighteen years of school and *snap* – it’s over.

Life goes on — a truth, a revelation, a promise.

An adult. A real one. I am a full-fledged adult now, but I still feel {sometimes}
like I am 12. Maybe it is because I have not grown since my pre-teen years, or maybe it is because I do not feel “old” like I once thought adults should feel. Nevertheless, it’s official. I’m a college graduate and a new member of this much-talked-about place called, “the real world.” Ready or not, here I come.

In the beginning of the year, I chose three words to help guide me through the next 365 days: First, Risk, and Joy.

My oh my, how perfect those words have been to summarize the many joys, struggles, difficulties, and blessings I have experienced thus far this year. In just these seven months of 2015, I feel like I have been stretched in ways I did not anticipate. Stretched in patience, faith, love, and joy. Stretched in trust, work ethic, focus, and determination. Stretched, stretched, stretched — but stretched in ways that always pointed me towards focusing on the God who gives me strength.

Without firsts, without risks, and without joys, life is pretty dull. As a girl who usually loves routine and order, the idea of risking a comfort zone to try new things can be a true test of what I am made of.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 10.42.51 PMI have a lot of adjusting and stretching to do. Obviously, I am not nearly as stretched as God wants me to be. Every day of life stretches you a little more towards Him. I’ve been stretching my identity to be more then just a piece of resume paper. My identity is more then the tasks I perform, the activities I participate in, and the motions of everyday life. My identity is through Christ, in Christ, alone.

A professor said to my class two weeks before the semester ended this past spring. He said to me, to us, “Stop thinking about what you want to do after college. Who do you want to be?” It struck me. Not because of the question, but because I realized how often I think about the things that need to be accomplished that I often forget to stop and really enjoy the moment.

The ironic part of this sort-of epiphany is how often I have blogged over the years about learning to find the little joys in every day life. It is a constant, life-long battle, and one that requires me to be constantly stretched and tested.

All I know is that I’m excited… and ready.

Another chapter has opened, full of new firsts, risks, and joys.

Let’s do this. IMG_1385

2015: The Year Of Three Words

2015. It’s finally here.

Day 5 and I’ve already done this multiple times: 201415

In the past, I have begun each year with a list of resolutions. Doesn’t everyone? A list of tasks, goals, and dreams I believe would make me a better person. A more well-rounded individual.

Read more. Run more. Write more. Laugh more.

This year is different. 2015 crept up on me. No list was created.

The other day, I read this post by a blogger I follow, Jessica Lawlor. In it, she explains three words she wants to focus on for the new year: light, possibility and choice. She goes on to dig deeper into why she chose each word and that got me thinking.

Instead of writing a list of tasks, I, too, would choose three words.

Three themes of 2015.

I am excited to see what 2015 holds and will use these three words to help guide me through the journey:  Slide1

1. First. 2015 will be the year of firsts. The first time I graduate college. The first time I start a real-world job. The first time I don’t go back to school in the fall. But what else? Yes, I will approach several key milestones this year, but I think 2015 has more in store than that. I resolve to look for other firsts this year, to not be afraid of opportunity because it’s new. To experience life through the lens of adventure and transition. To look at 2015 as a year of awesomeness even if I don’t know how yet.

2. Risk. Similar to “first,” the second word I choose is “risk.” With a year of firsts also comes the risk of the unknown. A set of adventures waiting ahead with endless possibilities. A planner and organizer at heart, I am also an adventurer. (I said that here.) Adventurers take risks. Adventurers don’t back down from challenges. A few months ago, I wrote a post discussing a few tips for Type-A Adventures like myself. Risk is inevitable and can sometimes be confused with lack of thought. “Oh, that was risky.” “I took a risk and now I regret it.” In 2015, I want to take risks and step outside of my comfort zone, but don’t mistake that for stupidity. You can take risks and be smart at the same time. Risk is inevitable, but I’m ready for it.

3. Joy. Different than “happiness,” I choose “joy.” Happiness is temporary and circumstantial. Joy is a mindset. Through the little things, I yearn to discover the joy. I’ve discussed the idea of joy before, and I want to continue this through 2015. With a year of risks and firsts, it may sometimes be a challenge to find the good. Choose joy and keeping choosing it — that’s what I want to do. Instead of “I have to …”, replace it with “I get to…” Changes the perspective, doesn’t it? A mindset makes all the difference. Through every situation, good or bad, I aim to focus on the joy of it all.

So those are my three words for 2015.

2015 is another adventure, I can feel it. I’m excited for it. Ready.

A year of firsts, risks and joys.

A year of three words.

Let’s do this thing.

God used a whale to get my attention

Have you ever had a bad day?

Sure, we all have.

How about a bad week?

Yep, that, too.

 

Good, I’m not alone. In fact, none of us are. It happens. A part of life.

This week was one of those weeks where I struggled to stay optimistic.

For lack of a better way to phrase it– I felt spiritually under attack all week.

On Sunday, the sermon focused on how Satan attacks those who are spiritual leaders; those with a vision or those about to go through a spiritual victory. As I sat in the pew, I jotted down a few notes and Scripture verses, all the while thinking that the coming week would be like every other.

That night, a friend sent me a Bible verse. Joshua 1:9. It says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged; for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9 is one of my favorites so I found the “coincidence” an encouragement to start my week. I copied the verse onto a post-it note and stuck it to my mirror.

Sometimes, a spiritual attack comes all at once. A hard hit you didn’t see coming. Other times, it comes one punch at a time. A pinch, a hit, a punch. Little by little, it makes its presence known.

This week, it came little by little. One discouragement after another. One almost-right thing at a time. One “you’re not good enough” thought at a time. One “you don’t deserve this” thought at a time. One “How can you believe in Jesus when the world is so cruel sometimes?” thought at a time. One incontrollable situation at a time. By Monday night, I thought, Here it comes… it’s only Monday and I’m done with this week. 

By Thursday night, I collapsed at my desk, teary-eyed. The week had been fine– no dramatic situations had occurred– just little punches to the stomach. Little thoughts of negativity swam around my mind like fish in a sea. Little punches, however, add up to bruises, whether they come hard or not. By Thursday night, I felt spiritually, mentally, and emotionally bruised. Tattered.

Joshua 1:9 echoed through my mind as I awoke on Friday morning. I was drained. I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t have the energy to face whatever that day would bring. Quite frankly, I just didn’t have it in me to discover what that day had in store.

That’s when it hit me.

Satan wants me to feel like this.

He wants me to feel so utterly discouraged, weak, and lethargic that I won’t want to live for Jesus.

Be strong. The words echoed in my head as I got up.

And courageous. I brushed my teeth.

Do not be afraid. I packed my lunch.

Do not be discouraged. I packed my back pack.

For the LORD your God will be with you. I drove to school.

Wherever you go. I parked.

Feeling an urgent need to stay positive and reflect on the week and what God wanted to teach me, I listened to “Nothing But the Blood” and “In Christ Alone” on repeat. It was then, walking the college green, that I realized what today was.

Youth group.

As a youth group leader, I spend my Friday evenings with hundreds of junior and senior high school students. I help lead a small group for ninth grade girls. I love getting to know the kids who enter the doors. I look forward to it every week except this week, I realized that something big was going to happen.

Something was going to shake me. I felt like God was slowly preparing me for whatever He had in store for that night.

Fast forward to that evening. I hesitated walking through the doors. I didn’t know what was coming. I didn’t think I was ready for whatever it was.

Be strong… do not be discouraged. I entered.

I pushed the negativity away. I pushed the thoughts back so far that when the talk began an hour later, I felt okay.

“How do we know there’s a God?” the speaker began.

He continued. Verse after verse, example after example, the speaker listed the ways in which God is everywhere. “There is no random chance. Everything is strategic. Everything has a purpose.”

The words repeated in my head. Everything has a purpose. 

It’s when I saw this video that I lost it. THE HEAVENS DECLARE THE GLORY OF GOD.

The HEAVENS– the oceans, the whales, the fish, the stars, the planets, the sound waves.

Watch this (it’s worth EVERY minute):

The pure impact of this video collided into me. Like a punch in the stomach, I couldn’t breathe.

Everything has a purpose. I have a purpose. YOU have a purpose.

Sometimes, we will have bad weeks.

Sometimes, our weeks will be SO BAD that by the end of it, you don’t want to face the next day.

But, “Be strong and courageous. Do NOT be afraid. Do NOT be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you WHEREVER you go.”

What a great reminder, huh?! Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes, I need that reminder. I need to be shaken out of my comfort zone. Sometimes, I need to be punched in the stomach in order to wake up, look up, and turn my eyes back to worshipping my Savior.

This past week is behind me. A new week will begin. I know that no matter WHAT happens, God doesn’t do random. Everything has a purpose. Sometimes, that purpose is unknown to us. Sometimes, discouragement overwhelms us to the brink of exhaustion; but fear not, for God is with you.

Isn’t that the best news for a Saturday?

Get ready.

Sunday is coming.

The Moment Is Now

August 8.

It is quite possible that a fast-forward button was added to my life, because honestly, I don’t really remember July.

It is such a blur– but a good blur.

I learned a lot in July. I grew a lot in July (figuratively and mentally speaking, not actually). Desk

Today marked the close of a chapter: the last day of my internship. I wrote about the lessons I’d learned  back in the beginning of July and they still hold true. The rest of the month raced by, one social media campaign at a time. I underestimated how much I’d love visualizing an idea and watching it slowly form into a reality. It really was a rewarding summer.

With a great experience behind me, it is hard to grasp the fact that the next chapter opening is senior year. I began this blog five years ago as an expressive escape to journey through my high school adventures and lessons the only way I knew how: through word.

Now, I’m here. Maybe not as faithful in blogging as I should be… but I’m here. I’ve learned a lot, experienced a lot, poured my heart out and looking back at the blog posts of my past, realize that you have travelled with me through each and every minuscule and monumental moment of my life (well, all the ones that I blogged about, that is).

VerseAs I reflect on where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m heading, I realize that Psalm 33:18 speaks volumes of God’s grace and my lack of perfect understanding. It only seems appropriate that it was my “verse of the day” a few days ago.

Entering college, I worried about where I was headed. I knew God provided, but jumping in complete faith was never my forte. Continually, God has shown me grace and has answered my prayers in ways I couldn’t fathom. He sometimes shut doors that I had begged to open, but there was always something better awaiting. Or not…yet, anyways. And I learned to be okay with that, too.

The Lord really does watch over those who trust in Him. I’m not saying, by any means, that it’s easy. But man, God really is awesome if you stop and think about it.Agenda

Now granted, the control-freak tendencies sometime shine through. I do, and always will, love purchasing school supplies to help cope with the fact that another semester is beginning and another summer is ending. My agenda will always be my saving grace to save me from insanity. Isn’t it cute!? ———–>

CofeeBut, no one’s perfect!

I do have to admit that I really am thankful God created coffee. How else do you think I survive Mondays? Or Tuesdays? Or Wednesdays?

Yes, this summer has proved to be a great one. This summer, I learned more about myself. I developed and learned professional skills. I boosted my resume.

But, I also met genuine, down-to-earth encouraging people. I observed diverse personalities and made new friends. And all too soon, the weeks faded away. Today, as I left the building for the last time, it was bitter sweet. It was bitter because every closing chapter is, but it was sweet. Sweet because of the memories made, the skills learned, the people met. The next chapter opening, new adventures to be had, new experiences yet to be had.

As I inch closer and closer to that first day of senior year, I focus on the future. I do not know what is to come. A lot of unknowns, that is for sure. But, I’m ready for this next chapter. In whatever I am faced with, I am reminded of Esther 4:14.

Perhaps this is the moment I was created for.

Esther

finding consistency in the inconsistent

The thing about life is that you never know what a year can do to you.

This time next year, things could be completely different.

In fact, they will be.

Some people stay in your life for a moment, while others stay and never leave.

It’s a hard, sad truth that leaves me winded every once in a while.

Change.

I was never a fan of it growing up. It meant readjusting my plan to fit around something else.

I was a strong-willed child, or rather, possessed “strong leadership qualities.” Change was not my forte. Although over the years I have grown more used to the adapting process, chance is never easy.

In fact, I don’t think it ever will be.

Thinking back to this day five years ago, I would not have predicted this is where I would be. Who I would become; who I am now.

Five years ago, my life was planned out in the way that wanted. had a plan and it was perfect…according to my standards, that is.

In my mind, Plan A would work, so why even think about a Plan B or Plan C or Plan Q? Plan A was the only thing I thought about because that was the only thing that would work. It had to.

False.

Over the years, God has been teaching me that HIS plans are perfect, not mine.

Every obstacle I faced, I struggled with letting go. It was not in my Plan A, therefore, this was not supposed to happen.

Let me tell you something.

You can plan and plan and plan, but that won’t change God’s plan for your life. Begging doesn’t help and neither does complaining.

Faith doesn’t make things easy; it makes things possible.

That is a very hard thing to come to grips with. Through the past couple of years, I’ve struggled and struggled with this. I’m not afraid to admit that sometimes, I struggle with being completely okay with where God’s put me in life.

Change; it’s a hard thing to conform to.

As time goes on, so do friendships. Some people walk right out of your life without ever looking back. The hardest change of all is the change of where you stand.

A chapter closes and you don’t even realize it’s closing until it does. It’s over, done, finished. It’s like the end of a great book– you don’t realize you’re at the last chapter, at the last page, until you read that last sentence, flip to the next page, and realize it’s blank.

You’re not mentally or emotionally prepared for the ending, but it still happens.

Today, “What a friend we have in Jesus” began playing on my Spotify playlist. I couldn’t listen to it at first. In a way, it seemed to mock what’s been on my mind lately. Then, I listened closely to the lyrics.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus.

I listened to the words more intently then I ever have before.

People will leave your life.

They’ll leave and sometimes, you may never know why. They just do.

It’s a change in life, a chapter ending.

But guess what?

Friends will leave, but there’s one friend who never will.

Jesus.

He’s there, all the time. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” Hebrews 13:18 states. That means that He’s the SAME friend he was yesterday, last week, last month…5 years from now, 5 years ago.

This doesn’t really have a cool happy ending where I suddenly burst into a huge smile and shout from the roof tops that all of a sudden, I can deal with the change of chapters. That I am 1200000% cool when things are all of a sudden not what they used to be, what I think they should be.

It’s still a challenge. It’s still a process of daily walking and growing in who God wants me to be. I am not the same person I was yesterday and I’m not the same person I will be tomorrow, but I’m learning to be okay with that.

People will leave my life, but others will enter. Chapters will close, but others will begin. Just because it’s a change doesn’t mean it’s bad.

My Plan A might be long gone (at this point, I’m on Plan Q probably), but that’s okay! It really is.

Life is inconsistent, but daily, I’m learning that even “inconsistency” is planned from the One who is consistent.

8 Life Lessons We Learned Growing Up

Childhood teaches you a lot.

Whether you would like to agree or not, that’s up to you. However, after my last post, I started thinking about things that remind me of child hood.

With each thing that I thought of, I realized that it taught me a valuable skill or lesson. Seriously, call me crazy, but it’s true.

As an aspiring public relations professional, I thank my classes and PRSSA for my growth, yes, but I think the core of my knowledge comes from The 8 Nostalgic Lessons I Grew Up Learning.

finding nemo

1. Determination.

Marlin didn’t give up trying to find Nemo. Dory didn’t give up trying to remember P. Sherman Wallaby Way, Sydney. Nemo didn’t give up trying to escape the tank. With each sweet character, determination is evident. Whether or not I realized it as a child watching this movie (repeatedly), they taught me determination. Nothing comes easy and you have to work for it. It won’t be handed to you; you will have to work hard for it, but don’t give up. It’s worth it in the end.

 

 

green ketchup

 

2. Take a Risk. 

It’s actually disgusting, if you think about it. Green ketchup. It didn’t look good on my plate and yet, I thought it was cool that my fries looked like goop. I was a weird child, yes, but trying green ketchup challenged me to take a risk. Growing up, I’ve had to take a lot of risks– applying to colleges, standing up for what I believe, pushing myself to go outside of my comfort zone. Maybe tasting green ketchup didn’t lead up to every risk I’ve taken, but as kids, we don’t think about the consequences or what others might think. You just do it.
happy meal

3. Compromise.

I give a lot of credit to the McDonalds lady who would bend over backwards trying to find that last Hello Kitty watch so I could have the prize I wanted instead of the stupid Hulk action figure. But sometimes, it wouldn’t work out perfectly. I’d be stuck with the boy’s toy and although at first I would be horrified that a girl had to play with a boy toy, I learned how to accept compromise. Life isn’t going to work exactly the way you want it to– sometimes, you have to compromise what you want so others can be happy, too. It’s not your way or the high way and I think secretly, McDonalds tries to teach that to kids when they never have enough girl toys to go around… #NotBitterAtAll

 

dial up internet

4. Patience.

Slow internet. I remember the weird signs it would make while trying to connect to my e-mail. At age nine, I had my first e-mail account. I would e-mail my grand parents and my friends. Remember the strange forwards that were like “Forward these to ten people or you’ll die alone with in the next 5 years!” Yeah… I was a sucker for those. I remember the days of dial-up Internet connections and the moments of my fingers drumming on my leg waiting for it to work. Patience.
dragon tales

5. Lying isn’t okay. 

As a child, I was mad at Max and Emmy. Every episode, they lied to their mom and didn’t tell her they played with dragons on a regular basis. Yeah, it’s all make believe and they played with Zach and Weezy and the whole gang. As a kid, I never understood why they didn’t want their mom to know what they really did. Lying isn’t okay and it never will be.

 

lemonade stand

6. Entrepreneurship. 

I remember one summer day very clearly. I wanted to make money. I couldn’t wait for allowance day. It had to be that day. It was hot (very hot) and so, I pushed my little chair to the corner of the street. I brought a few cups and sat them on the ground. I mixed a pitcher of lemonade, sploshed it down the street as I walked, but made it to my destination with about half a pitcher full of iced lemonade…and I waited. My first customer, a very kind neighbor, paid 25 cents for it. My first job. Although it was only 25 cents, I had worked for it. Entrepreneurship. Work hard, get the 25 cents.

nancy drew

7. Critical Thinker. 

Being the nerd that I am, I loved Nancy Drew mysteries as a kid.  I couldn’t put them down– I wanted to solve the crime before Nancy did (never happened, though). Critical thinking. Think outside the box. This book in particular, The Secret of the Old Clock, was by far my favorite.

slip n slide

 

8. Adventure is fun. 

No matter what we did for fun as kids, we enjoyed it. Whether it was playing pirates in the play house or swinging so high you thought you could reach the clouds, every day was an adventure. Even if you didn’t succeed at first (like the kid above trying to go down the slip ‘n slide = #fail), you made memories doing it. Adventure is fun and putting yourself out there can be, too. Being serious is needed at times, but never create a life that adventure can’t sneak its way in. Adventure doesn’t equal stupidity. Adventure is a state of mind and I think kids, of all people, have learned this one the best. Adventure is out there; you just have to find it.

When weakness becomes strength.

“Never be so busy making a life that you forget to live one.”

This quote echoes through my mind several times a day. “You work too hard,” people comment. “You’re too hard on yourself. You deserve a break.”

The thing is, I can’t. I literally have tried to relax and I just couldn’t do it.

I feel like I’m wasting time when I shut the world out and try to focus on only breathing, on refocusing, on taking this “break” that everyone talks about.

Waste of time.

Is it, though?

I discovered the quote above earlier this year and wrote it down on a Post-It note. It now stays tacked on my wall right next to my desk, which is the place I go to escape from the world and focus on the homework, the blog posts, the writing, and all the work that “needs” to be done right this second.

Your biggest strength can become your biggest weakness, we all know this. But what about the reverse? What happens to your weakness?

Through time, I’ve realized that I struggle with letting go. Yes, it’s come as no surprise, but I still struggle with completely letting go, 100%.

Through work, through structure, through organization, through lists on lists on lists, through checking things off, through keeping a schedule… I may say I can completely let go, but when it comes down to it, I’m just a girl trying to keep it all together just like you.

I never could juggle, but I feel like I’m juggling a bunch of different tasks, things to do, and deadlines, struggling to keep them in the air when any second, they could come crashing down.

What if they did?

They would come crashing down and I’d be left standing there, my biggest weakness revealed… I can’t juggle to save my life.

With all the pressure I put on myself, I sometimes feel like I’m driving myself crazy. Has this happened to you?

I haven’t found a solution to this problem that seems to be one of the many themes of my life.

I just know that I can’t do it all and I’ve realized this time and time again. I try to be Superman, but juggling is my Kryptonite.

The expectations I put on myself are far greater than what they should be. That could be a great strength, but it’s also a great weakness.

The good thing, though, is that although I don’t come close to measuring up to my own expectations, and even though I could never in 10000 years measure up to the perfect standard that Jesus sets for believers, I am free.

I am free from the struggles.

I am free from the worries, the stress, the pressure, the expectations. The hurt, the anxiety, the need to control, the need for structure.

I am free because although I fail every day and I will never ever EVER have it all together, even though some days may be better than others, even though I will never measure up…

Jesus did. And He does. And He’ll always continue to, because on the same day that I found the quote I began this blog post with, I also read Hebrews 13:8.

Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Although on most days I’m so busy making a life that I forget to live one, Jesus is so busy giving grace to me, even though I don’t deserve it. He’s giving me life every day, grace every day, forgiveness every day. He’s the same forever and for that, my greatest weakness is my greatest strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”