Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Is your boat being rocked?

"I don't know how big of a storm I can take, Mechay", my dad says as we discuss being tossed by the storms of life. The past two weeks our family has been hit wave after wave by the hurricanes of sickness, death, and security. We struggle with the chance of losing family members and the definite loss of others. Strong souls being weakened and bruised by the frailty of this world. "If the Lord's trying to show me something, I wish I knew what it was. I must be doing something wrong", he would say as he poured out his burdens. His words remind me of the miracle in John 6 when Jesus calms the storm.

Lately at church we've been going through Christ's miracles and focusing on the fact that yes, they were to show God's power and glory but also to point out something different. Jesus never wasted a miracle, and the reason they are even in the Bible is because there is some special significance to them. For this miracle it is that Jesus is Lord over all of life's storms. Storms are inevitable (John 16:33), unpredictable, and impartial towards who they effect, so how do we handle them?

First we have to realize that Jesus might have led us straight into them. In Mark 6 the Word says that Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him across the lake. They weren't being punished for running from God like Jonah, nor were they dealing with doubt like James talks about. In fact, they got caught up in the storm because they OBEYED God. They were right in the middle of God's will and right in the middle of a storm. He had complete control over the storm, and complete control over their lives. This is comforting and frustrating at the same time.

So great, if we follow Christ will we still feel abandoned when He's all the way across the lake? Bend beyond measure when the winds are too strong to stand? Feel over our heads in tidal waves of tears that we're drowning in? Yes. We will feel as if we cannot afford to weather this storm. We might second guess ourselves, others, and God. We might forget every good thing we've been given, like the warm sun on our faces or every grain of food that fills our stomachs. It's possible that we will groan and fight every encouraging word spoken to lift our spirits, and reject reminders of His truth. But we can't give up, won't relent until he calms the seas.

Because Dad, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us! We follow His plan, remembering He knows the way. We trust His providence, because certainly there's more to our journey than just getting to the other side. We depend on His power, and being filled with hope, we rest in His presence thanking Him that we don't have to do it alone.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Wonder Years

Yesterday marked the end of one era for me and the beginning of another. Turning twenty was the end of my teenage years, and the beginning of my "adulthood". So, I decided to reflect a little on the past 7 years, and see just how much more "grown-up" I am today.

At age 13, I was in the 7th grade at Clay-Chalkville Middle School. I met my best friend, Katie Evans, after she moved from Cahaba Heights and her dad became pastor at my church. We were very close, and even remain close to this day. I honestly think her influence on my life is a huge factor into who I am now. I was head-over-heels for this boy who probably never gave me a second glance past our friendship. He was awkwardly skinny and funny, and I absolutely adored him. I dealt with girl drama-forcing me out of the "cool" crowd-but pointing me towards the girls that had the same beliefs and morals that I did. I am so thankful for the awful treatment I went through, because it built my character, humbled me, and made me appreciative of the friends I had. My faith didn't necessarily grow during this year, but my relationships with my youth group began to grow and developed into lifelong friendships.

Eighth grade-age 14-was a year of responsibility. I was very involved with school functions, as well as competitive studio dancing. I had to learn how to manage my time, a skill I still struggle with, and I think very often I lost track of what was truly important. However, those friends I made while dancing and working at school are still my very close friends today (FAB FIVE!), and for that I am thankful. This year was the first time I introduced my friends to the lake house, which took on a whole other realm of responsibility in itself, showing me that I was also responsible for there actions. That faded into the summer where I was grounded for an entire week (the worst grounding I've ever received) without a cell phone, internet, tv, or my friends. I learned a lot during that week. Thanks Mom! My church friends became my core, and I didn't think I could get through one day without them. I dealt with a love triangle that was so messed up, and dumb of me to even get intertwined, but I praised Him through the storm and He got me through. It really wasn't as big of a deal as I made it out to be. I began to have a deeper understanding of Christ's glory and renown, and how our passion for Him defines everything that we do. Thanks to our new Youth Pastor, Craig Newton, our youth group grew spiritually and mentally, developing a new perception of the Gospel. Now off to high school!

Age 15-got the permit! It was my first year of high school, and I was a nerd. My grades were super important and I loved school, but I couldn't wait to pursue my obvious love of dance. I made the dance line, and quickly entered the "real world". Sharing lots of time with girls who talked differently than I did, acted in manners I had never even heard of, and whose backgrounds were completely different than mine. Nevertheless, it was so much fun to be able to connect with these girls and weather high school with them. I began making my mark on Clay-Chalkville High School-a place that new my best and my worse.

At age 16, I was awkward and weird. I'm pretty sure everyone thought I was a little loony, because I hadn't learned social appropriance yet. I learned self-control that year, practicing how to hold my tongue. Let's just say my filter developed pretty quickly. I made my first B ever. Ughh...Physical Science with Mr. Holiday. I will never forget that dreadful class. One good thing that surfaced though was a friendship with someone I never thought I'd find so wonderful. He corrected me, rebuked me, insulted me, questioned me, and frustrated me. However, his honesty was exactly what I needed. His input was never wanted, but always correct. We developed a friendship that I wouldn't take back for anything, and I consider him one of my best friends from high school. My parents continued to support me even through my academic stress, and paid my way through Cougarette even though I know they didn't have the financial means to. I didn't get a car at 16, actually not until Senior year, but that made me grateful for when I finally did.

Junior Year! What a year...first love, two surgeries in a month, lots of traveling, first kiss, perfect summer, real heartbreak, real growth. Yep, that about sums it up!

Just kidding :)....Age 17 was amazing and awful all at the same time. I experienced mental, physical, and emotional changes that have effected me ever since. For example, I had jaw surgery, breaking both my jaws and putting them in the right place. Now I look different. I traveled to Chicago, which was the farthest I had ever gone away from Alabama, and that turned me into a very ambitious traveler who can thankfully say that there is life outside of Alabama. And finally, I spent almost every day of it with a special boy who I loved. Consequently, my relationships with my best friends suffered, and my relationship with the Lord lacked, to say the least. Christ remained faithful though, and amidst all the heartbreak he was my daily breath, and my best friends hung on, refusing to give up. Experiencing emotions that were so controlling and so real scared me just a bit, and has caused my heart to become a little more wiser every day. Although I was so torn then, and had no idea why I had to feel something so dreadful, I now realize that Christ's love is too powerful to let me out of his hand. I had run for a short time, but because of His grace He chased after me and swallowed me up in the belly of His sovereign whale. So in case you don't know, God is so good.

18! My Senior year was absolutely fantastic. I was captain of the Cougarettes, a job that I thoroughly enjoyed, because I had the most wonderful girls on the team. We hardly ever fought, and each dance was a collection of everyone's ideas. In my opinion, the dances we performed were some of the best I had ever seen-but I am just a tad bit biased. I was honored to be able to co-lead with Savannah Vaughn, and through that we became really good friends as well. I had the opportunity to participate in my first musical ever, which threw me into this theatre spiral that I'm in now. I never thought that musical would have such an impact on my life. Then came graduation, and I was off to a world of unknowns in college.

The summer before my Freshman year I stayed home and worked at a camp right down the road. I experienced a variety of things there from the workers, kids, and daily schedule-all of which prepared me for college. I began pursuing a Biology degree at the University of Montevallo, and boy did I love it. I didn't think life could get any better. When deciding to go through recruitment, I had denied sorority life all the way. Against my own understanding, however, the Lord wanted me to join-abruptly providing the money and flat out showing me which to choose. Phi Mu has been a roller coaster of joy, showing me my dependence on Christ. No way could I keep up with the craziness of my life without him. No way. I dove straight into the campus, getting a job in Admissions and becoming a tour guide. I think that telling prospective students about my love for Montevallo just makes me love it even more. Being able to serve on the leadership team of Ecclesia has been such a blessing in itself as well, keeping me connected with the body. The girls are so forgiving, encourage me daily in my walk with Christ, and are seriously some of the most inspirational ladies I know.
Turning 19 wasn't one of the most exciting birthdays-I mean, really, all I could do was buy cigarettes-but I did realize what a support system I had at Montevallo. Then for the summer, I realized what a support system I had in the body. I worked for Student Life Ministries, and Christ used it to totally flip my world. You can find the blog about it further on down. Nevertheless, Jesus has shown himself in so many different ways, and I never thought my walk would be this interactive I guess. He continues to be so faithful even when I am so unfaithful, and gives me courage to leap when I can't even take baby steps.

Sorry this was so long for those who are reading, but I just really wanted to reminisce and follow my steps back during those teenage years. I know I missed the little things that affected me growing up, and those are probably the most important, and the people who affected me the most were the ones that said the tiniest of words that will resonate until I die. Thankfully though, at the end of the day, I'm ready to embrace my twenties with Christ at my side and a new vision for life that I hope changes and changes with every passing moment.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Little Things

Today my family came visit me to celebrate my birthday. As my grandparents and I awaited their arrival, my grandfather and I decided it was too pretty of a day to be sitting inside. We originally had planned to walk only a short distance to a nearby bridge around the back of the house where we used to play as kids. We'd throw bread to the fish and sink our toes into the sandy water. By a pine tree we passed, there is the place where my first pet cat is buried. I remember spending hours crying by it even months after he had died. Grandaddy and I continued to walk over the bridge and into another pasture as he told me story after story about his childhood. "Over there is where daddy used to keep our white horse..." he would say, "I was shootin' squirrels in that tree right there when the game warden came through a lookin' for me." His southern charm always makes me laugh. We walked probably a mile through people's yards, around ponds, jumped over streams, and I could really tell towards the end that grandaddy was tired. He would have never told me that though. He would have never wasted one second of that time with his granddaughter to focus on himself and complain. At almost 80 years old, he's just thankful to be walking, and yet he took the time to take me on a mile journey through his past-literally and figuratively. That meant the world to me.

My grandmother had been cooking our afternoon lunch while we were gone, loving her family through the gifts the Lord has given her. I'm pretty sure she had planned to make banana pudding-my all time favorite dessert-for lunch. I saw the bananas and pudding mix, as well as the vanilla wafers in the pantry. After telling her that I was trying to cut sugar completely out of my diet for personal reasons, I'm sure she felt a little let down-although she never showed it. She just kept quiet and finished the rest of the meal. Her small gesture was enough to make me cry.

My family is under-appreciated far too often. Today I feel humbled and grateful for the little realizations in life that bring me to tears of joy and gladness for absolutely no reason.