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What I’m Playing Thursday

So in my search to try and become more blog savvy, I discovered another fun link up that I thought I might try @ We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier. It’s called “What I’m Playing Thursday”. So here’s a list of what I’ve been listening too lately:

THE BAND PERRY – “HIP TO MY HEART”

TAKING BACK SUNDAY – “SINK INTO ME”

KE$HA – “YOUR LOVE IS MY DRUG”

JASON MRAZ – “LUCKY”

So what are you playing these days?

Amy Inspired by Bethany Pierce

After graduate school, Amy Gallagher is left to her own devices. She’s on the verge of turning 30 and with rejection letters piling up from publishers, she’s feeling out of control. The college she graduated from offered her an adjunct teaching job that has her teaching Freshman English. Not exactly her dream job.

Meanwhile, her roommate Zoe’s writing career is taking off with a publication in a nationally read magazine. If this doesn’t set Amy enough on edge about her future, Zoe also brings home an old friend who needs a place to stay for a while, Eli. Suddenly, Amy’s life is being turned upside down and she attempts to gain a little control only to have everything come crashing down around her again and again.

In the midst of everything, she learns a whole new aspect of her faith in God through a student of hers who recently lost her sister. Suddenly, Amy realizes her efforts to control everything might actually be stifling her ability to live life.

This book hit home for me. The control freak in me cringed as the author perfectly described my own issues through the life of Amy Gallagher. This insightful story is quite the page turner and I barely was capable of putting it down.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Chasing Elephants: Wrestling with Life’s Gray Areas by Brent Crowe

Ever wonder what the Bible says about homosexuality? Social drinking? The Internet? Entertainment? Helping those in need? Then author Brent Crowe had you in mind when he wrote this.

During the first half of the book he uses biblical support, he addresses these questions along with the question of freedom and what it really means to be free in Christ. He focuses mostly on the differences between Christians who are weak in their faith and those who are stronger in their faith; this dichotomy  requires each distinct set of Christians to behave differently when dealing with their opposite.

The second half of the book deals with the how you apply the biblical ideas he has been writing about to the major “elephants in the room” of Christianity. He attempts to answer all the questions that people have through a biblical lens.

Though he answered the questions well, the beginning seemed to drag on. He kept reiterating the same points over and over again. I appreciated the lesson and the second half was much better than the first. His concepts were excellent and it was definitely a topic that needed be covered by someone; I just could have used a little more in the beginning.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Really, Lostprophets, really?

Please bear with me as my mind attempts to move past the feelings of shock and betrayal. The entire event caught me so off-guard that I am having trouble formulating thoughts and even coherent sentences that normal people can understand. I comprehend the craziness going on, but I doubt you will. It is simply shocking. Unbelievable. Ideal shattering. Let me just set a scenario up for you…

Image a young, naive teenage girl. She is a junior in high school in April 2004 (rough timeframe). Her dear friend Hannah has just introduced her to a new band. She enjoys them so much that as soon as she gets a chance, she purchases their latest album. Amazing! In her adoration, the cd never leaves her car stereo except to go in the house so she can listen to it in her room. The words quickly form in her memory bank and she can hum the songs to herself during study hall. Some might call it infatuation. Others prefer the word “love”. Either way, she is hooked.

Fast forward two years. 2006. This same band releases a new album. This girl can barely contain herself! It’s like Christmas all over again! She once again purchases the album as quickly as she can and does the same routine as before. The cd is near her at all times. The lyrics find their way into her mind and settle. It’s love all over again. It has even inspired blogs years after its release.

Fast forward four years. 2010. This same band once again released a new album. Her emotions stay the same: excited, eagerness, giddiness even. She obtains the album the day she discovers its existence. This album is a little different. The music darker, heavier, and even a little creepier. She tells herself that it’s not terrible and keeps listening…wait a second. What did he just sing?

Let me quote him for you: “Religion needs a new employer. I’ve got the rope to hang your Jesus even higher”. WAIT! WHAT????? I feel like I need to go to confession just for retyping those words and I’m not even Catholic. I have always understood that Lostprophets were not a Christian band, and until now, that was never a problem. Now we have a problem. I feel betrayed by a band that I loved. What made them so anti-Christian? What happened to make them bash the Jesus I love so much? It all makes me sick to my stomach. It’s not supposed to be like this. If Christianity was all it should be, people wouldn’t want to sing such things. I still don’t have the words to express how much this kills my heart and how much I wish it wasn’t so.

At this point in time, I will only listen to their old music. Their new music doesn’t exist to me anymore. If I have to chose between them and my Jesus, the latter will win every time. I don’t mean to sound preachy or insanely Christian, but it’s the truth. Now, like any shocking breakup between a music lover and her favorite band, I’m going to drown the whole situation in some ice cream and be done with it.

“Let love explode……”

“Let heaven roar and fire fall come shake the ground with the sound of revival….My God’s not dead He’s surely alive He’s living on the inside roaring like a lion” -DCB

This song found its way into my heart and resonates with each beat. I will admit I didn’t care for it as much the first time I heard it, but that’s not abnormal with me. I like songs I can sing to without feeling like an idiot because I don’t know the words. The CDs that receive the most airtime in my car usually are the ones I know all the words too (yes, Lostprophets, I’m talking about you). That’s simply how I prefer to do things.

Now, the words of this song are stuck in my head…and my heart. I’m ready for a revival. I’m ready to hear the lion roaring in my heart that is the sound of my God who loves me more than I could even begin to dream about. Maybe this is a vain wish that will pass as soon I switch CDs. Maybe this yearning is coming from my deep desire to rejuvenate myself with my summer semester of school almost being done and knowing that in less than a year I will FINALLY graduate college, which is exciting and scary. Maybe this is just coming from my heart. Maybe it’s just that simple. My heart wants change. My heart wants to figure out what my spiritual gifts actually are so I can use them properly instead of just filling a hole in the church circuit to make sure it runs. My heart wants to do more than pretend. My heart wants more. I want more.

And so here I am – on the edge of a revival of my soul. Let’s see what happens. This time, I’m diving in. This time I’m going to do whatever it takes. This time I might have to make changes in my life that might upset some people, but I have to. So with this confession, “Let heaven roar and fire fall come shake the ground with the sound of revival….My God’s not dead He’s surely alive He’s living on the inside roaring like a lion”


ROAR!

This Upcoming Event-Filled Weekend…

So I’ll admit this post seems a bit trivial but I feel the desire to write it anyway, so here it goes.

My weekend is going to be full of excitement and hopefully I will fit a little “relaxation” time in there too.

Friday: Casey (our beautiful 6 month old bichon frise puppy) got his very first real grown-up dog haircut. I’m so proud! During those two hours Chris and I were able to go on a lunch date thanks to some free meals at Firehouse. (The perks of being married to the pizza delivery guy). Then we went to Lowe’s to look at paint for our apartment and finally, we made a pit stop at Walmart where my darling husband replaced my windshield wipers. Then we picked up Casey and came home. Chris is off at work but I am making dinner tonight that will consist of Sloppy Joe’s and baked beans. Woo hoo!

Saturday: We will wake up and play with Casey for a few hours before heading out with the droves of people that decide to do their grocery shopping at Walmart on a Saturday morning. We will then return home, feed Casey lunch (along with ourselves), and then head back out to search for a pair of hair clippers so I can cut Chris’ hair. The big event of tomorrow will be….drum roll….at 3:00 pm…..I will finally be getting my tattoo that I have been planning for about 2 years now! YAY! I’m nervous but excited all at the same time. This is the one I talked about in an earlier blog about the word “love” on my wrist. I’m nervous because it’ll be visible and I can’t ever take it off, but it will be a great visible reminder of God’s love for me and the love I need to have for myself. The day will end with me making all the food for our lunch on Sunday.

Sunday: MR. WADE GUNN’S BIRTHDAY! Since we can’t do a whole lot, I’ve opted to make him a lunch of his choice. He chose herb-encrusted pork loin, homemade mac n cheese, scalloped potatoes, and a homemade ice cream cake for dessert. Before we can eat though, we’re headed down to Sebring because Chris is preaching down there for three more weeks at his dad’s church as a fill-in speaker. He’s really been enjoying it so far! We’ll miss being at RPC but they’ll survive without us. Sunday night we’ll head over the Gawlowicz’s house for Sunday Suppers with all the cool college kids. We might just have to bring Casey along to show off his new haircut.

Somewhere in this jam-packed weekend, I will find time to do homework and relax. I don’t know where, but I’ll figure it out later. Thanks for reading! It was fun to be trivial and not so heavy for once.

Positive Thoughts

“…and she always faces tomorrow with a smile. When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.” Proverbs 31 – The Message

I have never been one to believe that when a person randomly thinks of a verse from the Bible that it is meant to truly inspire them. I’m a skeptic of sorts. I know that person truly believes it is a message from God, but I have a little more hesitancy. I might change my mind though.

I’ve spent most of this week in heavy debate over whether a decision I am trying to make has pass or fail consequences, or even right or wrong answers. It is a decision I have been wrestling with for about two years now and here I am, with a deadline in place, still wrestling. Stupid brain for not shutting off. Ugh. I just want to get past my fears of regrets and my fear of hurting others’ feelings, and make a decision that is right for me, in this exact moment in time. This decision affects me and only me. No one else. Then why, oh why, am I still wrestling with it? WHY?

I’ll tell you why. BECAUSE I AM A PERFECTIONIST. A stupid, stubborn perfectionist who does not want to disappoint anyone, does not want to be judged as someone with poor character, and does not want to disappoint God. My perfectionism is killing my joy. My joy has slowly been dying and I am just now realizing it. This is my last-ditch effort to save it. I have to save it. It can’t die. I can’t be that joyless person.

Which leads me to the verses from the beginning. A woman of God faces the future with a grin. She’s satisfied with her decisions and she’s ready to answer to God without shame or regret. She’s joyful. She’s so focused on God that everything falls into place. It’s a beautiful picture. Absolutely wonderful.

That’s what I want. That will save my joy. I can do that…I think. I just need to learn to accept my decisions and not assume I am making the wrong choice. Life is not so black and white. There’s a lot more gray in there than I thought there was. I just need to let myself off the hook and allow myself the opportunity to make some mistakes, because at the end of the day, isn’t that what life is all about?

The WAY

As I sat in solitude for my Spiritual Practices class (practicing the spiritual disciplines I am learning about), I began by deep breathing. As I relaxed, my mind wandered about from thought to thought. It paused after a few minutes in front on my biggest struggle at this point: my questions. My questions about my faith, the bible, church as a whole, my own spiritual walk, and then there is the biggest problem of all: where is God? I have trouble finding him these days. That is partially my own fault. Life is busy. Church is slowly burning me out. School has me questioning everything. I don’t make enough time for God. I know all this. So in honor of creativity, I wrote a poem. I am not a poet, but I guess Alexander Pope inspired me (Mrs. Mills would be proud). So here it is:

Where are you?
Where are you, God?
As I sit here, waiting, where are you?
As silence lingers, wondering, where are you?
The questions keep piling
The questions keep piling, God
No answers around, the questions keep piling
Where are you? The questions keep piling
My soul is empty & broken
My soul is empty & broken, God
Everywhere I look, my soul is empty & broken
Where are you? My soul is empty & broken

So as I sat there re-reading this interesting piece of work, irony hit me in full force. If you make the question “Where are you?” an acrostic, it spells “WAY”. Though that may not intrigue everyone, it intrigued me. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth & the light. No one come to the Father except through me.” Though the two ideas may have nothing to do with each other, I feel like they do. By asking the question, “Where are you?” I’m actively searching for Jesus. I’m looking for the “way”.

Ok, so it’s not the most profound thought in the universe, but it caught my attention so I thought I would share.

TWLOHA

So, first off, I have to apologize. I started this blog and for a while I kept up with it faithfully, but over the last few weeks I have slacked tremendously. For that, I am so very sorry.

On to my new topic, one of which is very close to my heart: To Write Love on Her Arms. It is an non-profit organization dedicated to spreading awareness about depression, cutting, suicide, and addiction and to provide support and help for those suffering from these issues. I love this part of their vision: “You were created to love and be loved.  You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you’re part of a bigger story.  You need to know that your life matters.”

Part of the reason I adore this organization so much is based on how tightly they hold onto that idea of loving each other through the pain. It’s unbelievable to me how this group of people can simply love complete strangers because they know those strangers are worth something and need to understand that.

TWLOHA reaches my heart on an even more personal level, though. For quite a while I have struggled with the concept of self-esteem and whether or not I deserve to be loved. It was never something people would have known. I work hard at being the ever-pleasing people person and encourager that I was made to be, but for some reason that encouragement I love to pour out on others doesn’t seem to touch my own heart. I have a tendency to set myself up for failure and let depression kick in when I succeed at failing. I have taken major steps toward being self-confident and a more positive person toward myself. I haven’t cut my wrist in 2 years and 6 months. That’s quite the accomplishment. I am working hard at never doing it again, but it can be quite the struggle when things get emotionally rough. So far, so good, I guess.

I am also working hard at understanding that people really do love me and want to be my friend. I have never truly had stable friends. Part of it is my fault because I either pick bad friends or become flaky to the ones who actually mean something to me, but I have never been able to hold onto a friend for very long. I just never really thought that people wanted to be around me for extended periods of time because I truly could not see anything good about myself. I am getting better at that. A solid support system has helped a lot.

My faith and relationship with God has helped tremendously with my recovery as well. Though I may forget it more often than I would like to, I keep reminding myself I was created for a purpose and that God loves me no matter what. I don’t always grasp those concepts very well, as my husband would quickly let you know, but he (my husband) helps me to remember how much God loves me as often as he can, and he tells me how much he loves me as well. Love keeps me together. Family, friends, God. Without their love, I wouldn’t make it day-to-day. Because of my constant need to be reminded of this love, I have decided to get the word “love” tattooed on my wrist for several reasons: 1) TWLOHA – the name is so very fitting; 2) the only reason I haven’t cut myself again in the last 2 1/2 years is because of love – God’s love, Chris’ love, my parents’ love (and in-laws’ love), and friends. I know where I could wind up again and I don’t want to go to that dark  place again, but I need their love to survive and push through; and 3) I will always be able to share my story when someone asks why I have “love” tattooed on my wrist. I have given this idea over a year of thought and consideration because I know having a visible tattoo might change how people view me. That is something I will just have to deal with. If that little piece of skin covered in ink will cause people to judge me, that is ok. I need to do this, if for no other reason, then for myself and to keep me on track.

So TWLOHA is a pretty personal thing to me. I understand the loneliness that is out there within people that suffer with these problems. I love that TWLOHA exists! I really do! There are generations of hurting kids around the world who just need to know how much they’re loved and how important they truly are. I hope I can help this movement to the best of my abilities. I know helping is by telling my story. As simple of a story as it may be, I need to share it, both for my sake and others. Each time I tell my story, I heal a little more inside and I let someone else know they aren’t alone. No matter how they may feel, they aren’t alone.

Here’s the link to the story that started it all:

http://www.twloha.com/vision/story/

Individuality…

means according to dictionary.com: “a person or thing of individual or distinct character”. It’s been strange lately how much this term has entered my life as of late.

First off, it is the monthly virtue/big idea for PowerUp – the Kindergarten through Fifth Grade children’s program at RPC. Secondly, it was part of a conversation with my husband this afternoon. Thirdly, which is the main inspiration for this blog, the term came to mind while analyzing a discussion with a friend of mine.

So the conversation started by his status on Facebook, which caught my eye: *he “thinks all tattoos are ugly”. Such a bold statement, I thought to myself. So I replied quite casually, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

*His next comment really got me thinking though.

*He replied, “not many people think poop is beauty. So, let me say – I think tattoos are as beautiful as poop”.

Interesting comparison. I cannot say I would have put those two things together. I will be honest, I am slightly biased when it comes to tattoos. I love mine and have considered getting another. I know several people that have them and most of their tattoos I like. Some of them, not so much, but I understand that is not my call. I would never call them “poop” though.

So I started to compare and contrast them as I have been taught to do in school oh so well:
Contrast: Poop smells, is messy, and just plain gross. Tattoos are art,  sometimes messy, and not always pretty.
Compare: They are both unique. Every poop is different for each person. Some smell, some are messy, some are simple, while others are a bit more complicated; some are often, while others are a little more infrequent. Some are colorful, while others are dark and dreary. You just never know. Tattoos mean completely different things to different people. Some are beautiful and intriguing, other are scary and threatening; some are drunken  or spontaneous decisions, others are well thought out and planned precisely; some are colorful, other are dark and dreary.

So my conclusion? Tattoos are more like poop than my dear friend thought. They are both individual, unique things that cannot be duplicated. Sure they may not all be pretty, but you cannot generalize and say you don’t like any of them. When you’ve seen every tattoo in existence, on every person that has one, then you can say they are all ugly if you still think so. But until then, if you still feel the need to compare them to poop, go for it. Just remember that the comparison might not be a bad one.


*The names have been hidden to protect the innocent.

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