Faith

Fall Update

Well hello, friends!

It’s been way too long since I have posted anything here, which seems a little crazy to me! Once upon a time I was a semi-regularly posting blogger and now I’m lucky if I find the time to even think about writing.

The first official day of Fall is this Friday and I could not be happier, even though my house has looked like Fall since the first week of September. Fall is truly my favorite season and I am just ecstatic to have football on TV, leaves falling down, and temperatures (slowly) beginning to drop.

Something I’m super excited about this Fall is the start of community groups at my church! Since I first started attending this particular church in January of this year, I really haven’t been able to devote a ton of time to cultivating a sense of community there. Each and every Sunday I just feel at home and so grateful that God brought me there so when they announced new groups were starting this Fall, I jumped right in! And guys, God has been everywhere in this group…and it was only the first official week!

Truth be told, I’m usually somewhat hesitant to be in a position where I might need to share some of my personal journey of faith. It’s not the neatest of stories and is filled with loss and grief but also grace upon grace upon grace poured out from Jesus. This past week, our first official meeting together, I found myself sharing a snapshot of my story – the two losses that I experienced two years ago this week. Soon after I spoke about it, I found myself sitting there in my chair overthinking all of what I had just shared and began criticizing myself for speaking up. I think I have the fear/worry that others might think I share my story to get pity or to have others feel sorry for me which couldn’t be further from the truth – but there I was thinking it.

A few minutes later towards the end of group, we were asked to reflect on what we thought God was saying to us and showing us through the week’s sermon and our reflection of it. One of the other women in the group spoke up and shared how she enjoyed hearing the stories of the other group members and how it was encouragement to her given that she and her husband were in the midst of a very difficult year. In this year alone they had lost three close relatives and I was just momentarily awe-struck by God’s work in that moment. It was then that I realized that it was things like this that make it so important for us to share our testimonies and our journeys with those around us, especially when they are so full of God’s grace and love.

There I was second guessing myself for sharing some of my story and experiences when what I shared was actually having an impact on someone else going through something very similar. She spoke of how encouraging it is to hear from someone on the “other side” of this when she clearly is still in the deep throes of grief. I nearly teared up right there and the entire time that we prayed together as a group to close out our time together I just found myself thinking, “Thank you God, thank you God, thank you God for bring all of us together in this group.”

And so today, on what is actually Gratitude Day (Sept. 21) I just felt like I needed to share that experience with you all. In Colossians 2:6-7 we read, “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” (CSB)

That couldn’t be more descriptive of me lately – “overflowing with gratitude.”

God is able to produce the most amazing stories and testimonies out of some of the messiest of circumstances and that is something always worth praising and rejoicing over. I can’t look back at the 2 years of losses and hardships any other way but through joy-filled eyes because I know exactly where Jesus was in every moment of those experiences.

Amazing grace, indeed.

Brave Surrender

Lately, it seems as though God has laid bravery on my heart. At nearly every turn, whether through messages at church or in books and blog posts, courage and bravery have been at the forefront for weeks.

For the longest time, I viewed bravery as doing something big. Something that no one would ever think of doing. I viewed courage and bravery as being fearless, but maybe that was just my young adult fiction obsession (oh hi, Divergent series) setting in at the time.

I think bravery and courage can look differently for different people, depending on a variety of things. For some, bravery may be taking that job in a new city or saying a resounding yes to a mission trip in another country. For others, bravery may just mean simply surviving and making it through the storm in their life at that moment. No matter the circumstance, I believe that God calls us into seasons of boldness. Seasons of putting our money where our mouths are, so to speak, and actually doing the things that scare us. Actually doing the things that God has ordained for us so deep in our hearts.

Truthfully, I just love the word bold. I love the sound of it and I love the imagery that it evokes in me. To speak it aloud just sounds brave and powerful, doesn’t it? Dictionary.com’s first definition of the word is: “not hesitating or fearful in the face of actual or possible danger or rebuff; courageous and daring.”

I just want to slap that on a Post-It and stick it in just about every area of my house.

But being bold requires faith. It requires trust that is placed in Jesus, not in something man-made or temporary. Sometimes one of the first bold acts we can do is place our hopes, our trust, and our fears in the arms of Jesus. The second is to then go and do. I’m currently in the midst of reading Shelly Miller’s book, The Rhythm of Rest, and in it there is a sentence that reads, “Faith is a brave surrender, an unwavering commitment to trust in a Savior who takes care of the details despite hurdles and hardships.”

I can admit to you that I know this is easier said than done. I believe that God has been bringing this theme and topic to my heart for a reason and not because I’ve mastered it.

I’m nearing the end of a long season of preparation and preparing to trade it for a season of action, a season of doing. Beyond that, a season that I already know will be one of the most bold and courageous things that I have done. I’ve written of it before, here and here. Beginning this summer and through the rest of 2017, I will be spending 1-2 evenings a week volunteering in a local pediatric emergency department with child life and wrapping up the rest of my online courses.

This Fall, I will begin completing and compiling everything I need for the application packets that I will be mailing to the 20+ hospitals across the midwest and eastern parts of the country in hopes to try secure an internship placement for the Fall 2018 semester. Should I receive an offer to intern somewhere, I would then enter into a season of unemployment and unpaid internship life for several months. It will be one of my boldest moves – trusting God with my future, with my finances, and with my security as a whole.

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly brave person, but even I have to admit that it takes some semblance of bravery to trust God with every aspect of what I am embarking on. This career path, this journey, is one that I felt God calling me to back in December of 2015, three months after losing my grandmother and my aunt less than 48 hours apart. That experience had grabbed ahold of my heart and shaken me awake. It was, and still is, the moment where I felt God’s peace and power the most profoundly and deeply. I remember like it was yesterday, the way it felt as though Jesus was actually physically there next to me, arms wrapped tight around me and whispering to me that He would use this pain for something bigger. Something more than I could even imagine in that moment.

This time of brave surrender to God’s plan for my life comes from three years of learning who God truly is and who I am in his sight. I know that He is good. He is faithful and loving and powerful. He is my heavenly Father who seeks the best for me just as my earthly father does. My dad used to tell me all the time when I was growing up, “You can be scared, but do it anyway.” I’m sure I laughed at the time, my dad has the tendency to sound a bit like a fortune cookie sometimes, but the words stuck with me into adulthood and have only been echoed by God.

He tells me to feel the fear and the worry that I have, but to give it to Him and go do it anyway.

What I know about God is that he will bring this season to completion and fulfill every promise made to me in the process. There will be hardships and fear and uncertainty but I have experienced far too much with God to start doubting Him now.

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” – Philippians 1:6, MSG

He Is Risen

This Easter comes at an interesting time for me this year.

I’ve just returned from a much-anticipated family vacation to Arizona and the Grand Canyon and truth be told, I’m still a wee bit jet lagged. But that’s not why this year is interesting.

For much of the past week, I have had a front row seat to some of the most awe-inspiring and beautiful God-breathed sights that this world possesses. North Carolina is plenty beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but it almost seems like child’s play when compared to the grandeur of the Grand Canyon.

Earlier this week, I posted a picture that I took of the sunset at the Grand Canyon on Instagram. The picture truly doesn’t do it justice, the sight of the moon rising over the canyon as the rocks were painted with a beautiful shade of red. I tried to capture as much of what I experienced as I could, but I truly had to learn to just simply live in that moment and use my eyes to truly see what was in front of me.

The thing that I was continually reminded of on this whole trip was how insignificant our time really is on this Earth. Not insignificant in terms of what we choose to do, but insignificant when compared to the vastness and enormity of God. I mean, think about it. The God who chose to create these rocks in Sedona with the most stunning shade of red is the same God who created me. Who created you.

Sedona, AZ

The God who can create some of the most magnificent sights on Earth is the same God who decided that the world also needed me in it. Who am I when compared to the splendors that God has formed? Who am I to walk on this blessed ground that God created when I am nothing more than a flawed, imperfect, and sinful human?

Who am I? Who are we?

We are God’s chosen sons and daughters. We are the ones who Jesus gave His life for, the ones whose debts He paid with His blood. We are the sons and daughters of a God who loves His children so deeply and so fiercely that He would give his own Son for us, despite our sinful ways.

To celebrate this Easter morning, in the wake of being so deeply humbled by our God is a unique and special place to be, friends.

“He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.”Matthew 28:6

Eight Years

Last Friday, The Vampire Diaries ended its eight year run on The CW. Why am I writing that here? Because the show’s ending is actually very bittersweet for me personally.

(Which does seem a little funny and almost embarrassing to admit, truthfully.)

The Vampire Diaries played an important role in my life. I came upon the show not long after discovering the Twilight series and both franchises helped to alter the course of my life, believe it or not.

Full disclosure, admitting my fangirling nerdiness to you in this moment feels very strange, but bear with me.

As I think back to the past eight years that I was a fan of this show, it’s truly incredible to think of the ways in which I have changed in that time. At the time, I was a freshman in my first year of college. I was naive about the world and thought that I had my future mapped out. I was a freshman education major who was obsessed with pop culture and yearned for a career in journalism – covering my favorite celebrities, books, and films. It wasn’t much after this that I stumbled on the world of fansite blogging and found the way that I could write articles on the things I loved while also keeping myself on the more realistic path of teaching.

It opened the door for me to learn and fall in love with writing and blogging. Through Twitter, I found other women who loved the same books, movies, and TV shows that I did and our friendship has lasted through marriages, pregnancies, and endures still today.

After joining a Twilight fansite as a contributor and learning as much as I could, I launched a site that centered around The Vampire Diaries. It was short-lived, but it was a stepping stone towards launching my second site for the Divergent series. From there, I found myself running headlong into a life that was glamorous, exciting, and wholly unexpected.

I visited film sets, attended Hollywood premieres with a press badge, and interviewed celebrities in the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. I became obsessed with social media notoriety, with the names of those that followed me on social media, and finding a way to make this life my reality for as long as possible.

Throughout all of it, I pushed God out to the wings and kept my distance. I didn’t want to ask Him what my future really looked like because all I saw were the bright lights and glamour that I thought could keep me satisfied. I decided to pursue a master’s degree in mass communication and I thought I was set. Until it all came crashing down when I entered a season that led me to lose six family members in two years.

I’m not the same person that I was eight years ago.

And I have God to thank for that.

I do feel incredibly honored that God would allow me the chance to live out my dream like He did over the past eight years. He didn’t have to. I wasn’t even in the practice of communicating with Him at the time back then, but He still knew my heart. He knows all of my hopes and dreams. Though a career in journalism or social media marketing never quite panned out, that time still represents a period of my life that I will never forget. God granted me the opportunity to live the live I had always wanted – and then led me to the life that would sustain me far better than the other ever would have.

Uncomfortable

In life, I think it’s safe to say that we like to be in a relative state of comfort, am I right?

Uncomfortable

We don’t particularly enjoy being pushed too far outside of our comfort zones and we don’t care for awkwardness. I totally get it. As someone who is super socially awkward (#homebody), I totally understand the appeal of living within my comfort zone and staying in my own little bubble. But every so often, I find that I am reminded that this isn’t necessarily the way in which God calls us to live. He calls us to both love and live life boldly for Him and for His kingdom.

All too often, I find that I can be quite stubborn and set in my introverted ways. Maybe some of you might feel this way as well. My current reality is that I am working full-time as a public school teacher while also taking classes online part-time. Soon, I’m going to be adding volunteer work on top of both of those things. So basically I’m an introvert and a workaholic. For most of my formative years in the church when I was younger, church was basically something I did on Sundays and really sort of just went through the motions. For far too long, I viewed community as something that needed me to be open and vulnerable around others and that just didn’t seem like something that would work for me. But then, just over two years ago, I felt the Lord whispering to me that He wanted me to take not just a step outside of my comfort zone, but a giant leap outside of it.

He told me that He wanted me to leave the comfort zone of the church in which I had attended since I was three years old. I wasn’t in the habit or practice of regularly praying or speaking with God at this point, so truth be told, that whisper was probably a bit more like a yell. I had been deaf to the voice of God for a long time, but I heard Him then. And I listened. I obeyed….

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