Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Because People are People

     There are certain things that make me think about the children I met in Honduras even more than I usually would, and Christmas is one of them. As much as I love this season, it is very hard for me to know that children across the world, like the ones I met in Honduras, won't get to experience the kind of Christmas that I have been fortunate to have experienced for my whole life. I don't mean to be a Scrooge, but I am old enough to know that if parents or other caring adults aren't around, Santa is not going to show up and produce a perfect Christmas. That's just how it is, and it makes me sad.
      Thinking about this reminded me of a topic I already covered a while ago, but I want to revisit it now because I think I have a better answer. As a person who has been on a mission trip outside of this country, I know that many people are aware of the fact that there are people who need help right here in the United States, and wonder why some people like me choose to go outside of the country for a mission trip. I think I am ready to answer that question again, hopefully more clearly this time.
    People are people. Americans and Hondurans and all other nationalities are people, and I believe that God wants us to help people. We as humans like to put ourselves into all kinds of groups, diving ourselves up by nationality, age, and many other things, but I don't think God does that. He simply wants us to help each other, and we shouldn't put limitations on that. Yes, I went and tried to help children in Honduras for ten days, but that doesn't mean I'm done. I am trying to make it a habit to help the people around me in my everyday life, and I am eagerly awaiting the chance to go on another mission trip, no matter what country it ends up being in.
     In two days, I will experience another Christmas like I have every year of my life. I will open many gifts, and probably have moments where I focus on those gifts a little too much. But in the back of my mind I will keep the children who don't get to have a Christmas like mine, and remember how they taught me why it is so important to help whenever you can, no matter where you are or who you may encounter.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Attention Seeker

I guess it's no secret at this point that much of what I write about is centered around what I believe. I wish I could say that I planned it that way, but it really is just something that happened when I started to write about what was on my mind. However it may have started, I have tried to continue writing about what I think and feel about whatever is going on in my life in a way that relates to what I believe. In keeping with this strategy, I was unsure about how to begin writing about something that has been on my mind lately, and needed some inspiration to get me started. So when I began planning how to write this post by half seriously Googling the question "Is it okay for Christians to want attention?" I admit that I felt pretty guilty when the top search results included an article called "Seek Impact, Not Attention" and a reference to 1 Corinthians 10:24 "No one should seek his own good, but the good of others" Definitely not the validation I was secretly hoping for. But along with the guilt came a feeling of frustration. You see, lately I have at times felt a little selfish. I feel like I work hard to be a good friend to others, and I try to always be there when people need me. Unfortunately I have had to begin learning that you cannot buy the attention of others by giving them  your attention. No matter how good of a listener you are, and how many times you go out of your way to be supportive, you cannot guarantee that people will return the favor. Sometimes, instead of feeling the satisfaction of friendships that have an equal give and take, you might find yourself burnt out from to much giving and not enough taking.  So what can be done when this happens? Must we seek only the good of others at all times, even if it is damaging to our own well being?
     I had a surprising moment of clarity recently when I was talking to a two year old and realized it was the best conversation I had experienced in a while. Sure, we were talking about trains and favorite colors and other arbitrary things, but the content of the conversation isn't what made it a good one. You see, no matter how trivial it was, he was fully focused on our conversation. I think children that young are fun to talk to because they still know how to be in the moment. They don't promise to "talk to you soon" in some fictional time when they will no longer be busy. They're not thinking about someone else they'd rather be talking to, or plans they have later. They're not checking their phones or looking at the clock. They're focused on the
conversation they're having in the present, and I think there's something significant about that. I realized that a conversation like that, where the other person was fully focused and interactive, was just what I needed.
     After doing a lot of thinking, I have decided to try to let go of my guilt about needing attention. I can't exactly find any biblical backup for this decision, but I still feel at peace about it. I know that I should work for the good of others, and I believe that I do. But I also know that even Jesus had a group of 12 disciples  who were also his friends, and I don't think that's entirely coincidence. I think maybe that in the midst of all of the good He was doing, the fact that he was on earth as a human meant that he needed people to support him, and to be his friends so that he didn't become exhausted from all of that giving he was doing. So I guess it's okay to expect your friends to take on the listening and supporting role sometimes, so that you can be refreshed and better prepared to be supportive the next time someone needs you to be.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nothing Extraordinary

     This is my 100th post on this blog. I thought I would come up with something profound and memorable to acknowledge this personal milestone, but the truth is, my brain is not functioning at it's full potential. Finals were rough this semester, three in one day followed by the longest one the next day. Anyway, pity party aside, I'm just not full of writing inspiration at the moment due to my brain feeling overworked, and I'm having trouble thinking of anything extraordinary to say.
     I know that I'm proud that I've been able to think of 100 things to write about, and what I'm most proud of is that people seem to be reading because they actually want too, not just to be polite. When people tell me that they can relate to something I have written, I realize why I love to write.
      In the time it's taken me to write these 100 posts, I have not become a famous, well known writer. My posts have not gone viral and ended up all over the internet, and as far as I know no one is calling me America's new favorite blogger. From that perspective, there's nothing extraordinary about this blog. It's just an amateur endeavor, more practice than anything. But beyond that, it has enabled me to really connect with people, and it has made me grow confident in my own abilities, and that is significant to me.
     No, I really don't have any extraordinary wisdom to impart to commemorate this milestone. But as I think about my favorite books (I know this isn't a book but hear me out), it occurs to me that most of the best things I have read are the best because they inspire me and make me think, not because they are elaborate and complex. All I know is that although there may be no tangible evidence that this blog fits the definition of extraordinary, it has helped me realize my own potential, and I believe it has meant something to those who have read it, and it seems to me that perhaps those are the greatest goals any writer can hope to achieve.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What Could Go Wrong?

    I don't usually go back and read posts I wrote in the past, because it just makes me realize how I could have written things better and then I just end up wanting to go back and rewrite everything, which would almost defeat the purpose of having a blog. When I did dare to go back and look at some things I wrote this summer, I was slightly embarrassed at my relentless whining and lack of emotional filter. I didn't realize at the time that me losing a job after a whopping 4 days, and then not getting to do what I wanted to and have surgery instead, were not necessarily things that people would want to spend time reading about. But this is a learning experience, and now I know what not to do in the future. That being said, there is one reason I'm glad I decided to write about all of those struggles.
     When the worst case scenario actually happens and you survive, you learn something about yourself. You start to let go of the fear of things going wrong, simply because you don't need it once they do. There's something empowering about realizing just how much you can handle. Sitting in the doctor's office being told that traveling is basically out of the question even though this trip is something you've been anticipating for months is not fun. Being told that you are going to have a section of your growing out hair shaved and your
head cut open is not fun. Being told not to come back to your new job anymore because the boss suddenly questions your physical capabilities, and having to walk out in front of your co-workers and customers is not fun. None of it was fun, but you know what? It's all in the past now and I'm here in the present still living life. I didn't like it, but I survived it.
     Maybe, like me, you often find yourself worrying about what could go wrong, or what actually is going wrong. But whatever you are going through, whether it's a big problem or just a bunch of small problems happening simultaneously, as they often do, I believe that even if everything does go wrong, there's still hope. After all, once you've hit rock bottom, there's nowhere to go but up.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Legend of the Perfect Holiday

In a world where most people in this country have access to technology that allows us to constantly stay in contact with people and update them on what we are doing, there is an unspoken pressure to always be doing something exciting and making sure everyone knows just how happy we are. Our friendships, relationships, and family life better be filled with Hallmark moments, because it looks like everyone else's sure are. This pressure seems to intensify in the season that starts on Thanksgiving and lasts until New Years Eve. In addition to preparing an Instagram worthy meal for our perfectly dressed families to pose beside, arms thrown around each other in perfect familial bliss, we must respond to all of those Happy Thanksgiving texts and assure all of those people that we did indeed have the greatest day ever. That's a lot to get done in one day, especially when there's all of that food to eat!
This Thanksgiving was a little different for my family than most years. We stayed home and had a meal together, just the four of us. To an outsider, it may not have looked like anything special. But there was a fleeting moment as I was watching my family working together in the kitchen (hey,someone has to sit around and make insightful observations while everyone else works!) where I thought to myself "this is exactly what Thanksgiving is supposed to be." It wasn't the kind of family holiday you would see in those old movies they like to rerun every day this time of year, where everyone is filled with holiday cheer no matter what and everything comes together flawlessly right away, but there was something about it that just seemed right. It was imperfect, but ironically similar to what my childhood self thought the ideal family Thanksgiving must be like.
 As I get older, I am starting to realize that it's not the most important thing to have a life that looks good to the rest of the world. Nobody really has a perfect life, and it's a shame that we feel like we have to prove to everyone that we do. But when I let go of the need to have the kind of unrealistic perfect holiday that can only happen on a T.V. screen, I realized just how nice a heartfelt, slightly flawed holiday can be.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Guilt Free Fun

    When I was little, I used to write for fun. I would record journal entries about my day, and fictional stories that I made up. Looking at my old notebooks, I have found a detailed account of a visit to a friends house, in which I carefully listed and described each of her pets, an interesting rant about my “annoying 10 year old brother” (who is now 21 and actually not so annoying most of the time.) , and even a commendable attempt to rewrite The Sound of Music as a book. I really thought that one was going to take off and I probably thought I would be the world’s youngest bestselling author, until I realized that a 174 minute movie with frequent musical numbers makes for a really long book. By the time I had gotten Maria out of the abbey and introduced her to all 7 of those children I had lost interest.
    Those things I used to write about seem silly now, but there is something special about them to me. They represent a time when I was writing simply because I enjoyed it. I wasn't worried about what other people would think about what I wrote, or feeling guilty about not spending my time doing more productive things. I was writing because it was fun and it made me happy.
    Tonight a group that I am part of here had a game night, and I found myself looking forward to it all day. It was a block of fun built into my schedule, which is especially appreciated when finals are looming. Somewhere in my excitement it dawned on me that when you reach a certain age, fun becomes less spontaneous and more planned. Life gets busier as you get older, and fun becomes something that you make time for once everything else has been done. Now, I’m not advocating
being irresponsible, and I certainly am not suggesting that we should all skip work and school to play board games everyday, but maybe people like me could benefit from letting go of the guilty feeling that comes along when you do fun things while there are still productive things that you could be doing. Maybe as long as you’re still keeping up with your responsibilities, a little unscheduled fun isn't so bad in the end.
    This same idea applies to me writing this blog. Sometimes I feel silly writing things to put on the internet for people to read, when I could be doing some extra studying or catching u on chores. And sometimes, while trying to be wise, people pleasing, and interesting, I forget that I started this blog for fun. Sure, I wanted to improve my skills and get feedback, but I also wanted to give myself a chance to do something that I enjoy on a regular basis. Writing is fun for me, and I want it to stay that way. So, if you’re reading this, Jennie of the future, remember why you started writing when you were little. It’s fun and it makes you happy, and that’s perfectly okay.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Stop Talking About That!

Recently, it was announced that the two centers that we went to when I went to Honduras have closed down. I almost didn't write about it, because honestly I'm trying to train myself to write about things other than a 10 day trip that happened two years ago, and for once get through a story without saying the words "Honduras" and "mission trip". But when I was faced with the fact that I really won't ever get to see those children again, and possibly not have another experience like that, the way that I felt helped me realize why I still talk about that trip so much, and relieved some of the guilt I have about being so slow to move on.  I genuinely like mission trips. I'm drawn to the opportunity to do something that really feels meaningful, and feel the genuine emotions that
happen when you really start to care about something that isn't for your own personal benefit.
      I write about that experience not because I have something to prove, and not because I have nothing else to write about, but because it changed me. I was 18, fresh out of high school and not nearly as wise as I thought I was. I thought that because I have seen poverty on T.V., and heard about it in history
class, that I wouldn't really be too deeply affected by that experience. What I didn't realize is that everything changes when those faces you see on a T.V. screen become people with feelings and personalities, and stories that are often painful to hear. Those children and teens have a brand of wisdom that I could never have, because they have gone through things that I can't even begin to imagine relating to. That trip changed how I view the world, and made me more tolerant of people who are different than me. Now I know what it's like to be in a country where you don't speak the language and how confusing that is, and I no longer feel annoyed when I hear people speaking languages other than English. It helped me better understand just how much my parents love me, and made me realize that that kind of love is something that not everyone has been given by another human being. It even made me a better student. I have talked about that trip in many papers I have written, and now when I am learning about things and places outside of the United States, I feel like I can think of them in a different way because I have actually traveled outside the country and gotten to experience a small piece of what that's like. 
     I also write about it because I truly enjoyed it. There hasn't been a time since I got back from that first trip two years ago that I haven't wanted to go on another mission trip. It was my first time going out of the country, and even my first trip on an airplane, and it was really fun for me. I made new friends, and became much closer to some friends I already had.
     The fact that I went on one ten day mission trip two years ago doesn't make me better than anyone else. I don't write about it to my make myself look good, I just haven't figured out how to stop talking about it. I'm young and in college, and at times I'm going to do dumb things. But I'm certainly not going to write about those things on the internet, especially knowing that most of the people who read this are not my peers. I choose to only write about certain things because I am aware that once you put things on the internet, it's hard to completely remove them and I don't want something resurfacing twenty years from now that I will regret. That being said, I know that in the interest of good writing it's probably time to start talking about more recent and relevant things, which I have been trying to do. But the experiences I had in Honduras are something that I will always remember, and I'm sure I will still bring them up at times. Knowing that having that exact experience again isn't a possibility at all right now has made me realize just how much it meant to me, and I hope that there will be similar experiences in the near future. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Where are You Taking Me?

     One of my favorite memories from when I was in high school, around the ages of 17 and 18 when I was really trying to figure out who I wanted to become in life, is attending two bible studies with my mom. These two events stick out to me because I felt so proud to be welcomed into a group of grown up, Godly women at such a confusing age, and because I was so excited to experience this with my mom, who is the greatest example of a virtuous woman that I know. I learned a lot in these studies, both from the actual material of the studies and from the women who were in the groups. Around the same time, I was becoming more active in youth group and then becoming a part of the mission team, and just feeling confident about where my faith was leading me. This particular time period was one of spiritual growth and strong faith for me, and one I can look back on happily.
     The period of faith that I am in now is not quite as idyllic. For the purpose of telling a story, I start this period on July 7. The day when my plan to go back to Honduras was replaced by my doctors plan to fix what needed to be fixed, because no matter how my young eager mind tried to get around it, having enlarged ventricles in your brain and traveling to a country with very inferior hospitals is not a good combination. This personal disappointment made me question everything I had come to believe about God's plans for me. The things that I had so eagerly prepared for were not going to happen, and instead of reuniting with our wonderful friends in Honduras and having that eye-opening experience I had been awaiting, I found myself in the operating room, and eventually at home recovering. I don't know what comes to your mind when you picture someone recovering from surgery, but I'll tell you how it was for me. Because surgery always has unexpected side effects, I ended up having to take Benadryl, which made me feel like I constantly needed to take a nap. When I was not napping, I was in a tired, grumpy haze that when added to my already present anger over not being in Honduras, was probably quite hard for people to be around. Fortunately, I am recovered now, but although my emotions surrounding the whole situation have become less intense, I still struggle with trusting God when I don't understand where He is taking me. 
     Today on my way back from the grocery store, something made me want to listen to a CD of devotionals that my mom had let me keep in the car after she had finished listening to them, in particular one by Lisa Harper who also wrote one of the Bible studies we went too. She was talking about a husband and wife from the book of Malachi, whose names I can't remember even though that was only a few hours ago. But what I do remember is a verse she quoted near the end of the story, and how it opened my eyes to my own flawed way of thinking. The verse is Malachi 3:6, and it says quite simply, "I the Lord do not change."
     The shunt that was put in my body when I was a baby broke, as they often do, and that caused the ventricles in my brain to enlarge. This meant that I needed to stay home from the mission trip in Honduras and have surgery, which changed the way I felt about my faith. But throughout all of this, God never changed, because he never does. God is exactly the same as he was when everything seemed to make sense and my faith felt strong. The circumstances of my life, which God allows to happen for reasons that only He knows right now, are not a result of some changing mood that He is having. He is not mad at me, or trying to push me away. He is actually teaching me to trust in Him, because although life will constantly change, He has promised that He never will. No matter what season of life I am going through, He is always the same, and I think that is one of the most comforting things I have ever heard.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Not Just a Dog

 It seems ironic now that my last post involved an inspiring dog, because now I know that this one will too. Our dog Rufus was getting old and his health wasn't the best, and when I left home after fall break I knew that there was a possibility I wouldn't see him again, just as I knew that every time I left home since I started college last year. That being said, just because I knew it would happen eventually doesn't mean it wasn't a shock when it actually did, and the news was very hard to hear.
I know that some people think that dogs are "just pets" and there are certainly worse things in life than losing a pet. I know that there are many things that I could write about that would be considered more important, but I don't want to today.  This blog is about my life from my perspective, and right now my perspective is one of loss, so that is what I am choosing to write about.
     To the rest of the world, Rufus may have been just a dog, but he was much more than that to me. He was loyal, demanding, funny and unique and he taught me many lessons just by being himself. By greeting me with excitement most every time I came in the door, he taught me about love. When I was going through a time in high school where I was feeling pretty lonely and having lots of bad days, I knew I could count on his greetings to help cheer me up when I got home. Having someone that is excited to see you know matter what, even if that someone happens to be a dog, really feels like unconditional love.
     On my many walks with him, I learned about patience and enjoying life. I came to accept the fact that sometimes he would find it necessary to sniff the same blade of grass for ten minutes, and I would simply have to wait. With that carefree attitude that it seems only dogs can fully achieve, he helped me realize that sometimes it's okay to take your time and sniff the grass, or do whatever it is that makes your life enjoyable. He was a little dog, but I don't think he knew it. He did his best to be the guard dog of our family, and he would notify us with loud barking if anything he considered to be a threat, like a FedEx truck, squirrel, or perhaps a suspicious falling leaf showed up in the yard. By acting like a big dog even though he wasn't, he taught me about bravery and confidence.
      He was a quirky dog, and he made our family laugh countless times. He never seemed to understand that Christmas and birthdays weren't all about him, and it was hard to open a present without him sticking his nose in it. When I got a suitcase for my birthday this year, he climbed right into it as if it was a new bed for him. His unwavering excitement about things like that made life more fun.
     I'm so glad that Rufus was a part of my childhood. He made life more exciting, and he was simply a good dog. I'm thankful for all of the good times I had with him, and all that he taught me just by being himself.
I couldn't choose just one picture, so that's the reason for the video at the top. He was so photogenic!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

An Inspiring Piano Playing Dog

     When I decided to start this blog, I was intentionally challenging myself. I knew, or at least had been told and was trying to believe, that writing is something I am pretty decent at. I thought a blog would be a great platform to encourage me to write on a regular basis, and give other people a way to read my writing and tell me what they think of it. So far the experience has been a positive one, and I am finding ways to improve myself as I go. For instance, I have learned that honesty is important, but there are some feelings I have that it would benefit me not to share with the world in such an unfiltered way. Finding that balance between honesty and over sharing is, in my opinion, helping me become a more mature writer.
 I have also learned that the hardest thing for me about writing on a regular basis is finding something to write about. Staying inspired in the midst of everyday life can be a challenge for me, especially finding subjects in my day to day life that are worth writing and reading about. I also can be very self critical when it comes to my writing, and I feel unsettled when I know I have written something that is mediocre in an attempt to "just keep writing" even when no inspiration comes
While at an art museum recently (college students are such delinquents and up to no good, huh?), I rediscovered the child in me that secretly enjoyed field trips to places like this far past the age when it was cool to admit it. There's just something about seeing the actual, physical artwork that catches my interest beyond the level of looking at a textbook. To counter my unbridled sarcasm at the beginning of this paragraph,which I hope you realized was just a cheap attempt at humor, I will admit that it was not an entirely self-motivated venture. I had a paper to write for a class which required me to go there, but I enjoyed it anyway. The point is, while there, I found something that inspired me. Among the many pieces of artwork I saw, I found a painting that is currently my favorite one in existence. Even it's title makes me happy "Portrait of an Extraordinary Musical Dog." I just love that someone had the idea to paint a picture of a dog who appears to be playing a piano, and the fact that they chose this clever title really makes me happy.
Naturally, I wanted to talk about my museum trip on my blog to some degree, because anything that's not an everyday event is usually a source of writing inspiration for me, and this painting kept coming to mind when I was deciding what to write. At first I thought it would be silly to admit that in this entire museum of historical works of art, a picture of a dog sitting at a piano was my favorite, and even sillier to write a blog post about it, but then I realized something.
     Maybe I shouldn't be so critical of the things that inspire me, in my writing and in my life. Yes, I want to be taken seriously and I do my best to write about things that are meaningful and have substance, but maybe inspiration can also be found in much simpler things. I think somewhere in the process of becoming an adult and wanting to be treated like one, I forgot that even adults don't have to be serious about everything all the time. Yes, I am growing up and learning how to be mature, and  I want my writing to reflect that, but there is still a piece of me that gets really excited over a piano playing dog, and I hope that piece never goes away.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Build Your Own Ark

This weekend, I witnessed a performance that I still haven't figured out exactly how to describe. I'm not going to say what it was, because that would be in poor taste and if you're like me you would probably go look it up on YouTube and miss the point of this post. Anyway,what it was isn't as important as what I learned from it. I was reminded that the way I felt watching this performance that art and talent are subjective. As much as I tried to act grown up and search for the artistic meaning of what I was watching, it was all I could do to keep from laughing through the whole thing. It just wasn't my style, and simply didn't get it.
Through this experience, I was reminded of how this concept applies to me as a writer. I take a lot of pride in my writing, and it would make me very happy if everyone liked everything I ever wrote and really got what I was trying to say. But I have to learn that that will never happen. There will always be someone telling me how funny a particular post is when I'm really trying to explain a serious point, or a comment that makes me realize that someone completely misinterpreted what I was trying to say. There are probably even some people who read this blog one time and never returned because they didn't like it. Just as I didn't understand the point of the performance I watched, some people will not understand this blog.
So what do I do about this? Do I just not write at all because not everyone will like it? When asking myself this question, I thought about the story of Noah's ark. The people around him at the time probably thought it was pretty hilarious that this guy was building a giant boat because God told him that water was going to fall from the sky and flood the earth, not to mention the fact that he was going to fill this massive contraption with tons of animals. But that didn't stop him, and things turned out pretty well for him in the long run.
       I am learning to keep on going because it is something that I enjoy, something I do primarily for my own contentment but also because I feel like it's part of God's plan for me. I am beginning to understand that not everyone will like it, and that's okay.
      Like Noah, most of us will encounter people who won't understand the ark we are building, and maybe even laugh at the way we are building it. But we should keep building the personal ark that God has instructed each of us to build, because it is that very ark that will allow us to see the rainbow in the end.
This is Alex the pygmy goat, who I met this weekend. I'm glad Noah built that ark, because a world without animals like Alex just wouldn't be the same

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Through the Roof

Mark 2 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

     I just hit backspace. I tend to start off with a disclaimer about how I'm really not that wise and my faith isn't that strong right now and I pretty much have no idea what I'm talking about. But I'll try not to do that this time, because I want this to be read as if it is something worthwhile, because think it just might be.
These past few months have been a confusing time for me personally. Maybe it's just being 19, maybe I'm just too emotional, but there are some things that happen in my life that I just don't understand, and letting go of things that haven't been explained is not something that I do well.
     When I think back on the past few months, one particular thing really stands out that has been very significant to me, and that is friendship. There was a time in my life not that long ago when I did not feel that I had many friends, and it really troubled me. Thankfully, things are different now, and that is something I try not to take for granted. I was reminded a few days ago of the story (above) of a group of people who brought their friend to Jesus, and I realized what a great lesson in friendship it is. These men carried their friend to where Jesus was, and they did not give up when they saw the large crowd. They loved this friend so much that they were willing to do whatever it took to make sure he got to Jesus. They put aside their own needs for a time to ensure that this friend who so desperately needed access to Jesus would receive it, no matter what they had to do. Isn't that such a great display of what friendship should be? 
     I am thankful to have many friends like this. There have been many times over the past few months when I have felt that I just don't have any faith left, and what has kept me encouraged is experiencing the faith of my friends. (When I use the word "friends" in this post, I am referring not only to close friends that I talk to on a daily or weekly basis, but all of the people from my church and beyond who have been such an encouragement to me lately.) From the very day I realized that my plans for the summer were not God's plans, I had the support of friends, and there are countless people who have given me encouragement that strengthened my faith at it's weakest point. This experience has taught me a lot about friendship. I have experienced what it's like to be surrounded by people who love me so much that they want to make sure that I'm getting closer to Jesus even when my life is hard, and that's really an amazing thing to have. Through the example of friendship that so many people have given me, I have realized the kind of friend I should strive to be. True friends will do whatever it takes to make sure you are close to Jesus, even if they have to get you in through the roof. That's the kind of friend I'm blessed to have, and the kind of friend I want to become. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The C Song

     When I was younger, I took piano lessons. I remember the first lesson I had because it wasn't exactly what I expected. I had always loved watching my mom play the piano at home, and I wanted to play like her right away. As you all probably know, and I soon figured out, piano lessons don't start out with very
impressive tunes. No, the first week I learned what could easily be called the most annoying song ever, the C song. One note, middle C, hit repeatedly. That's it. It didn't seem very exciting at the time, but I eventually came to understand that you need to know where middle C is to know where all the other notes are so that you can play real songs. I did eventually improve, and to this day I can play the first few chords of Pomp and Circumstance from memory, which would be very helpful in the case of an unplanned graduation. So basically never, but there you go. I stopped taking those lessons after a few years because I felt that the teacher wasn't really my style and it was becoming more work than fun. I sometimes wish I had kept going with it, but maybe that's something I'll pursue again in the future. Either way, I feel like my experience with the C song is a metaphor for the impatience I still have today.
    Patience is not my strongest virtue, and I often get frustrated when things don't happen right away. I get so caught up in the end result that I completely overlook the process, wanting to skip right over the "C songs" of life and go straight to the recital worthy tunes. But I am learning that as much as it is in my nature to get bored and frustrated if great things don't happen right away, a lot of the lessons I have learned in life have been in the process of waiting for those great things. I have to remind myself that if I had it my way and was allowed to skip right to the fun stuff, I would miss the things God is trying to teach me along the way, and I would not be prepared to do the right thing in the end. I guess it's good that I'm not in charge, because I'd probably be sitting at a piano to this day trying to play Pomp and Circumstance without finding middle C. 
A picture of young Jennie with the piano in the background, so it seemed appropriate. Such a serious looking child!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What If

When I started a blog, I really had no idea that I would talk about my faith so much. I just wanted to write about what I felt like writing about on a regular basis, and that's what was on my mind most of the times I sat down to write. I think the main reason my faith comes up so much in my writing is because I constantly question it. I am envious of people who seem very strong in their faith and don't feel the need to question things often, because my very personality seems to be one of constant questioning. I had a teacher when I was younger who refused to answer questions that began with "What if", and if I remember correctly, I don't think I asked questions in that class very often. Questioning things and wondering about all of the possibilities and "what if's" is part of who I am, and I think that's part of what makes me a good writer (if I can call myself that for a brief second.)
I say all of that because I'm trying to lead up to what I've been questioning and over thinking lately; the accessibility of God. I know that God gives people free will to believe or not to, but I always wonder why he doesn't make Himself known in a more physical way so that everyone would believe in Him more easily. For instance, if God really wants us to believe in Him, why doesn't he come down here and visit us every now and then? It sounds silly, but wouldn't it be nice to sit down and have a conversation over lunch with Him? Or even just call him up or text him when we don't understand something? Call me juvenile, but I feel like that would make things so much easier.
     I can't say that I've completely figured out the answer to this one yet, in fact I know I haven't, but I do have some ideas. Maybe if God were more physically present, my faith wouldn't really mean that much. It's pretty easy to believe in something that's right in front of you, after all. But having to rely on prayer to talk to God, and faith because I can't actually see him, that's a little harder. Because I can't just pick up the phone and call God, the moments when I really feel a connection with him are something I often have to make an effort to achieve, and they're very significant. I'm a long way from fully understanding God, but I'm starting to realize that it's silly to try to completely define him by the earthly standards that my mind can grasp. I have to rely on my constantly wavering faith and remember that this life is a process, and only the beginning of what God has in store. I don't know all of the answers, and there's got to be a good reason for that.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Everything is Okay.

I wanted to start off with an apology. In my post a few days ago called "Allowing Imperfection" I said some things that should have gone unsaid. I was stressed over school and knowing there was a doctor's appointment in my future, and the best way I know how to deal with stress is through writing. Unfortunately my stress resulted in me saying some things that weren't very nice. I want you all to know that I appreciate the fact that you take the time to read this, and you're not intruding on my life by doing so. It's my choice to write, and I am thankful that it is your choice to read. You're not being nosy, you're just being supportive and I appreciate that. Also, it means so much to me when people compliment my writing, and if you find it wise or insightful then I really appreciate that, and I love reading your comments and hearing your take on my posts, it is probably my favorite part of blogging. The truth is, I'm just not very good at taking compliments, and I should work on that. So, I hope you will accept my apology, and that I haven't offended anyone permanently.
Now, let's get to the main point. I wanted to document this moment because right now, at this very second, everything is okay. That's a very rare thing, and I often don't take time to appreciate moments like this. Right now, my doctor is happy with my progress since my surgery and doesn't need to see me again soon, I have plans with friends later this week, and there are no major problems to worry about. This doesn't mean that I don't have little worries on my mind, or that I have completely accepted that the trip I missed this summer is something I will never get back. But right now, at this very second, I am happy, and I want to remember this moment.
In a few minutes I will go to my long night class, and judging from my past experience in that class, there is about a 99% chance that I will get annoyed at some point during those two to three hours (the time varies depending on the professors mood). Yes, very soon this moment of contentedness will probably be broken, but I wanted to remember it. I am learning very slowly that nobody is promised anything outside of this very second, and that nobody except God can completely control what happens next. I don't know what the future holds, and I'm still in the process of letting go of the past, but right here, in this very moment called now, everything is okay.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Sun's In My Eyes!

     Tonight after recklessly having a second cupcake at our campus ministry meeting (Why am I publicly admitting that?), I decided to remedy some of the damage by taking a bike ride around campus. This campus is pretty small (a little over a half a mile from the dorms to the very farthest point where there is still a sidewalk to ride on), so I had to make several loops to accomplish my goal distance for the night. Not very far into my ride, I realized that I had forgotten to bring my sunglasses, and I knew that was going to be a pain since the sun was starting to set. When I'm at home, my mom always reminds me to wear my sunglasses on
My first view of the sun, a painful light in my eyes
my bike rides, so I had to laugh at my failure to remember this simple thing on my own despite my perception of being an independent young adult. Sure enough, when I reached the end of the sidewalk and turned around, I was met with a blaring light in my eyes. For a few seconds, it was very unpleasant. I could hardly see where I was going and was having to squint and strain my eyes to stay focused. I was already heading
towards a grumpy mood because it's just been one of those days where nothing really goes how I want it to, and I was inwardly scolding myself for forgetting such a simple thing that would have avoided so much discomfort. But as I kept going, the sun slowly got lower in my line of vision, and a very beautiful sunset was eventually revealed.
     I think this situation is an example of what sometimes happens with circumstances in my life. It's hard to go through things that hurt us, especially when we can't understand in the moment what good could possibly ever come from a particularly painful time. I have struggled with this a lot lately, but my observation on my bike ride tonight reminded me of a lesson I've had to learn before. It often seems like you don't see the good in a situation until you are not in it anymore and your life is moving forward. When you get over the hill, the blaring light turns into a view that is really very nice to look at.
My second view, much easier to look at and enjoy.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Allowing Imperfection

     Well. I'm less than a month into the semester and already feeling stressed. The harsh truth has been realized once again ; college is hard. Tests and quizzes are starting to appear on the horizon, and the permanent weight they carry has settled it's looming presence into the back of my mind. The gravity of college has sunk in yet again. There's no second chance after this, you either succeed and get the career you want, or you don't and you have to figure something else out. Maybe that's slightly over-dramatic, but that's basically how I feel. Anyway, I know that this is a make or break time for me, and I just want to take it seriously and not miss this opportunity to accomplish my goals. So, the reason I'm saying all of this is that I have something to tell you.
     No, I'm not stopping the blog, I'm having too much fun to do that. I'm simply deciding not to let this hobby that I've created be detrimental to my education. For this reason, I am going to free myself from the guilt of not keeping up my every other day schedule. As much as I would love for this blog to be a viral sensation, that's simply not what it is and I need to put things of higher importance first. I sincerely hope that I will still have readers, but if I don't I have to be okay with it. Another reason I've decided to cut back is one I can't figure out how to express in a completely polite way, so please forgive me.
      I am 19 years old and enjoying the independence of being a college student, and I simply don't want to feel like half the population of my hometown is looking over my shoulder at every moment. Let's just say when I started this blog a while back and told my parents about it, they already knew, which shows me how little privacy I actually have when I share my thoughts openly. I am not mad that they knew, because
obviously it is something I want to share with them, I just didn't need anyone's help with the sharing. I am just shocked how quickly word gets around and that reminds me how little privacy I have. I am happy to share my insight with you, but I am just a confused young adult and this blog is how I express my feelings and work through the things that plague my overactive mind. It is not a complete representation of my entire life, just a little glimpse into some of my thoughts. In other words, there is more to me than just this blog. There are many thoughts that I do not share, because at my age it's good to have some privacy. I'm so very happy that you enjoy reading it and I hope that you will continue to read it. I just can't handle both the pressure of college and the pressure I put on myself to prove to all of the people that read this that God has some great big plan for me . Some people seem to be under the impression that this is "wise spiritual insight" , and although I really wish it were, I think it would be better described as angst and confusion. After all, I am a 19 year old college student, not a biblical prophet.
     All of this rambling doesn't really mean a whole lot for you as a reader. I've already been off of my every other day schedule for a while, and no one has complained. I'm simply allowing myself to be free from the pressure of trying to prove anything, and I think that will only make my writing better. I will return to writing freely about what I feel and think when I have the time, and try to accept that it will be imperfect. If you happen to gain some insight from it then that will make me happier than you know.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What's the Plan?

This time last year, I had fairly recently returned from Honduras, and had been attending youth group as the oldest member right up until I left for school. My faith was very strong, and I was very confident about it. I entered the campus ministry group excited to meet new people with similar beliefs and get to learn with them and from them. Campus ministry is starting up again soon, and this time around it's completely different. My faith is pretty vulnerable right now, and it will be harder to come into the group that way. I often wonder why I care so much about this whole mission trip fiasco and why it has affected my faith so much. It was just a 10 day event in my life that can probably be repeated in the future. So why does the pain of not going keep popping up whenever I think I'm finally over it? Why has it become such a barrier between me and the faith I used to have? I have been thinking a lot about that, and here's what I've concluded.
  I have been basing my faith on what God let me do, not what He does for me. I'm taking comparative religion this semester (basically because I needed a credit and that was the class that would get it) and If there's one thing I've learned so far it's that Christianity is far less complicated than some of the other world religions. We don't have to perform specific tasks before we die, or remember all sorts of rituals to keep God happy. All we have to do is believe. The reason I bring this up is because I have just now realized that it never really was my faith that grew stronger, it was just my confidence in my own worth. I was using the mission trip as a "step up" in being a better Christian, and that's not how it works in God's eyes. You see, according to what I have been taught and believe, good deeds alone won't get you into heaven. A person who has gone on hundreds of mission trips and a person who serves God from home will go to the same heaven as long as they believe.
      When God allowed me to go on a mission trip, I felt useful and important, and that made me more willing to trust him. But as soon as that opportunity was taken away, I realized how fragile my faith really is. It's harder to trust God when he says "No", and I'm not so great at it just yet. But slowly, very slowly, I am learning how to have faith that isn't based on actions. I am having to remind myself that there is only one way to get to heaven, and it's not to go on a certain amount of mission trips or attend a certain number of youth group or campus ministry meetings. As much as I want to return to Honduras because it is such a profound experience for me, I have to accept that maybe that's not God's plan. It hurts me to type those words, but they're true. I don't know what the future holds, but I'm slowly learning that I just have to trust. I know what my destination is in the end, and it's up to God to direct the journey.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Waiting on the Sidelines

     Through all of my attempts to make sense of the events of this summer, I feel like what I've really been searching for is someone to forgive. I've been trying to figure out who's fault it is that I couldn't go to Honduras so that I could forgive them, because I know that in other situations where I've felt hurt like this, I don't feel better until I forgive whoever caused the hurt. The problem in this case is that I couldn't figure out who that was. It doesn't make sense to blame the doctor, he found a problem and it's his job to fix it. I wanted to blame God, but I honestly felt silly asking God to help me forgive, well, God. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the only person to blame was myself.
What were you thinking, I asked myself, believing that you were capable of going on this mission trip again? You are a person with a physical disability, and you know that it knocks you down as soon as you let your guard down. It's happened so many times before, and you kept your guard up for so long this time. But you were so preoccupied with your excitement about the trip that you forgot to be scared about this appointment. God let you go on this trip last year, why couldn't you just be thankful for that and not expect it to happen again? Why didn't you realize that that was just sympathy playing time so you could really feel like part of a team for a moment before your return to life on the bench? I began to question everything, and was inwardly very angry with myself for what seemed to me like letting my faith blind me from the harsh reality of life.
    But finally, through all of my questioning, I have seen a little glimmer of light. I finally realized that even the sidelines have a purpose. Maybe God is coaching, like any good coach would, with the game as a whole in mind. Instead of only seeing this summer and all I missed, he sees all the way to the end of time. He must know something I don't that is causing him to put me on the bench right now. Maybe instead of complaining about not getting any playing time (in this case not going on a mission trip), I should be working on being prepared for that time when I am called into the game again. That means paying attention to what is happening in the game so that I know what to do when I am called back in. In this case that means keeping my faith strong even when it doesn't feel like it's being used. God as my coach wants me to stay alert and focused so that I can hear that call when it comes, and my biggest hope right now is that it will.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How to Be a Billionaire With an Organized Home, Well Behaved Children, and Perfectly Exfoliated Skin.

Okay so maybe that title is slightly over dramatic, but I have a plan. Lately I have been in a rut, because I've been thinking too hard about what to write. I've been trying to answer really big questions about why certain things happen the way they do, and I just need a break from all of that deep thinking. I know the title seems pretty far fetched, but I am really going to tell you how to do each of these things, so keep reading!

How to be a Billionaire  I have no idea, but I'll give you my best guess. Invent a really simple thing with a really fancy name and then advertise it on late night T.V. People who are up that late will probably be college students or mothers of young children who are to exhausted to realize that they don't need to buy your $49.95 Solar Foot Warmers because they could just put on socks. But a word of caution, being a billionaire probably isn't as great as it sounds. You'll have to pay a ton of taxes and probably spend much of your life talking to your accountant on the phone, and you'll miss out on some great things in life like talking to children  (because billionaires usually hire people for that) and knowing the joy of purchasing a snack from a vending machine with change you found under your bed.

How to Have an Organized Home Well you've come to the wrong place for that one, but I'll try. Organization isn't my most prominent talent, but you should ask my mother. I think it has something to do with remembering to put things away and owning lots of containers. Oh and de-cluttering. I've gotten to the
point where I can be pretty well organized if I remember to try, and it's nice to know where things are and not be wondering all the time. Just remember that in today's world,we're obsessed with labeling everyone so if you're organized you have OCD and if you're not you're a hoarder. And if you're somewhere in the middle you don't get to be on a T.V. show.

How to Have Well Behaved Children It always amuses me how adults tend to think this is some big mystery. Everyone is searching for the perfect method of discipline and training that will turn their children into polite little angels. The truth is, children are basically just little adults who haven't developed filters yet. They have many of the same thoughts we do, they just haven't realized that some of those thoughts shouldn't be said out loud. And wouldn't we all just like to throw a good tantrum sometimes? I'm a 19 year old college student
and you really should get your advice  on child raising from someone that has actually, well, raised a child, but I happen to like children so I'll give it a shot. All you really need is a little common sense and a lot of love.  Also, "no" is a very useful word. And please remember to hold their hands in parking lots. Thanks.

How to Have Perfectly Exfoliated Skin Well judging by the fact that the "makeup expert" at Ulta stared at me with a puzzled look for a good thirty seconds before declaring that I have "combination skin" and recommending some primer that I'm 99% sure is made of angel wings because it's so wonderful, I am not a good person to ask about this one. Maybe the best answer is to stop trying for perfect. Maybe we would all be happier if we could learn that we are never going to look like people in magazines because our faces don't come with built-in Photoshop. And besides, everyone else is probably too busy worrying about their imperfections to notice yours. Not everyone has perfect skin, but I bet you have a great smile, or pretty hair, or nice teeth. Just think of all of the people that love you the way you are and hopefully that will help you love yourself.

So there you have it, some good old fashioned unqualified advice. I hope it is as fun to read as it was to write, and I hope you will not hold me legally responsible for whatever happens if you choose to follow this advice.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

This Might Offend You!

One of the things I love about writing is that it gives me the chance to state my opinion without having to actually physically confront people. You see, I am the kind of person that tends to have strong opinions about things in my mind, but I honestly don't like controversy which means that these opinions never usually leave my mind. As a writer, I have the perfect outlet to share my thoughts in a comfortable way. But even while I have this perfect outlet, I am very conscious of who is reading what I write. I know that many of the people who read this are adults that I respect, and I have many times hit "backspace" for that very reason. I have avoided saying anything that people might disagree with, and I'm not so sure that's a good thing anymore. So tonight, I'm testing the waters. I'm sharing thoughts that not everyone will agree with. Are you excited? I am...I think! 
Anyone who has any sort of social media, or has recently talked to anyone who does, has probably heard of this "Ice Bucket Challenge" that is wildly popular right now. Now, this isn't a research paper and you're not a professor giving me a grade, so I'm not going to go into huge detail on the history and origins of it. You can use Google for that. The point is, I, quiet little non-controversial Jennie, have an opinion on it! In my opinion, the "Ice Bucket Challenge" is, for the most part....dumb. Okay, maybe "misguided and misused" are better words, but I really think it's dumb. Sure, it probably started out as a charitable thing, and I think raising
awareness for ALS  is a wonderful premise, but the majority of what I see now is "you have been nominated and you have  to do this, and if you don't you have to donate money to charity", and that irritates me. What does that say about our society, and more importantly what is that teaching the children that are undoubtedly seeing countless amounts of these videos? Isn't it maybe giving the impression that being charitable is some sort of punishment? Like "Do this, and if you don't, you have to give to charity." To me, that sounds very similar to bullying, and being charitable is not something that anyone should be bullied into. Now I know that some people do the challenge and still donate, and I think that's great.I also know that maybe I'm taking something that's supposed to be fun and over thinking it. I have been accused of that before with other things and I can handle it. But too me, something that probably started out as a fun way to raise awareness has taken a scary turn into mass amounts of people wanting to laugh and not realizing that they are going to extreme measures to avoid being charitable. I know that it's mostly harmless fun and there are certainly bigger problems to worry about,  I just think that seeing respectable adults literally dumping buckets of ice water on their heads to get out of donating money to a charity is honestly alarming. I just don't think that sets a good example, and I don't like it. If I am ever nominated for this challenge, I will not participate because I am wise enough to understand that just because someone tells me over the internet to do something doesn't mean I have to do it, even if everyone else is.
This has been my first voyage into "opinionated blogging", and I have enjoyed it. I still plan to keep talking about my faith and my feelings, that won't change. I'm just also ready to start learning how to express my opinions while still being respectful, and I hope that you will stick around as I figure it out.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Accepted and Loved

I thought I had moved on. I thought the whole issue of not going on that mission trip had been resolved and didn't affect me anymore. But when I walked into the bank to take care of some last minute things before going back to school and moving past this confusing summer, the lady at the desk remembered me. She remembered me because I had come in many times earlier in the summer to cash checks that had been donated to help with the cost of the trip. So when she innocently asked "How was your trip?" I was not prepared for the sadness I felt. I answered her question appropriately and told her what had happened, even though I felt like letting my anger show and responding with "What, my trip to the hospital?"
Earlier today, when I was trying to finalize the organization of my room, I came across two pictures and the sadness returned yet again. They were pictures of two girls I met at the center for teenage girls in Honduras last summer who I really connected with. Should I just put them back in the drawer, I wondered? They're not really relevant to my life right now so why even set them out? This thought spiraled into a complete mental battle with myself. Why even bother thinking about my faith and all of that right now? I've learned since I was little that all you have to do to get to Heaven is believe that Jesus died for your sins and ask for forgiveness, so why bother with all of this "extra" stuff. Mission trips, campus ministry meetings, and blog posts about my beliefs are not "requirements" so what's the point? Surely everyone would understand if I strayed away from my faith now, after all, I'm a college student! College is a time for rebellion and being crazy, so why not have fun with it and worry about all of that serious stuff later? (I'm impressed with myself that I had time for all of this deep thinking and writing and also doing my homework. Time management skills!) And then it hit me.
    I've been through this struggle in my mind before when I was in high school. I knew that youth group wasn't cool, but deep down I knew I liked it. It's where I felt accepted and not judged, and I enjoyed what I was learning, even if I didn't admit that to anyone. On the mission trip, I felt accepted by these children who have somehow overcome terrible circumstances in their short lives without losing their loving spirit.
     Whether we admit it or not, I think the desire to be accepted is something we all have within us. It has always been an especially strong desire for me, probably too strong sometimes. Fortunately for me, I have found the satisfaction of that desire within a good crowd.  I have never been good at being a rebel, and I think God designed me that way for a reason. I crave acceptance, and people in my life who profess to be Christians have done a great job of accepting me. For that reason, I always come back to my faith. There's a lot I still haven't figured out and I don't know what the future holds, but what I do know is that God has never abandoned me, and never rejects me, and for that reason I'll keep holding on to my faith.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hitting The Reset Button

     When you're trying to write about your life consistently, it really helps if your life is interesting. Lately I've let myself slide on the consistency for several reasons. One is that I've realized that no matter how many posts I write, my blog is not going to become a viral sensation anytime soon. It took me a while to accept that, but I'm glad I did. The second reason is that sometimes I just don't have anything new to say. While it's nice to be at a place right now where I'm finally not questioning anything in my mind, that means there's nothing on my mind that I need to work through by writing about (which is how I come up with many of my blog posts.) Add that to the fact that many of my summer days have seemed identical to each other, and you get a standard case of writer's block.
     Thankfully, a change of scenery was all I needed to get my ideas flowing again. Being in a different place, even for a short time somehow seemed to reset my mind and give me new ideas. I think there's a lesson I can learn from that. This summer did not turn out at all like I thought it would, and I was really trying to figure out what I was supposed to learn from that. I was focusing in on my life and my problems, and what was happening in the present. Being away from my normal daily routine helped me reconnect with the world that exists outside of my mind and the things that concern me, and it was refreshing. I realized that very soon this summer will be over, and I will be changing routines again as I switch back to college life. And when I look back on it, this summer wasn't all bad. Sure there were some major events that I wish I could change, but those events were surrounded by fun times with good people. Also, now I have more fun times to look forward to as I reconnect with friends from school that I haven't seen since May. This challenging summer is just a small piece of my life, and the disappointments I have faced will soon fade into memories. It's nice to realize that things really aren't all that bad, and there's a lot to look forward too. I'm glad that I am gaining some new perspective and realizing that everything really will be okay in the end.
A view like that provides plenty of inspiration!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Being Nice; It's Not Just For Kids

 I know sometimes my writing gets serious and heavy, and I don't always want it to be like that. I had a blog post planned out for tonight, and it was going to be a rather positive and comical one, I still plan to write that soon. But right now there's something I want to say. I want you to know that this post is not brought on by one particular event, it is a culmination of thoughts that have stayed buried in the back of my mind, and now feels like the right moment for me personally to express them, so here I go.
     When I was in elementary school, we had guidance. Our guidance counselor would come into our classroom every week and teach us lessons about good qualities we should strive to have, like kindness, honesty and perseverance. I personally loved it, because while I wasn't always great at understanding all of the academic subjects, I really got this. It just made sense to me and I knew that I was good at being "good". When I got to middle school, guidance changed, it was no longer about the good qualities people should have, instead it was personality/learning style assessments and career planning. While I understand that those things are important and I believe they benefited me, I secretly missed having someone come in every week and remind my classmates and I to be nice people, because middle school is a very awkward time and sometimes that is dealt with in mean ways, and high school is about the same. Morals like kindness start to take a backseat to getting ahead and being successful, and pretty soon they are not even a factor anymore.
    I think sometimes by the time we are adults we completely forget to be nice, because we get busy with life and no one stops by each week to teach us about being a kind person and then give us a piece of candy if we listen quietly. Adults don't get rewarded with those cute "Caught being kind" stickers that are popular in elementary schools. Nice is not praised in the real world, not nearly as much as wealth and power and being right and having an opinion on everyone and everything. We tend to forget those lessons we learned when we were children, and we start to pick each other apart. We have opinions on what everyone else should do and how they should act, and I know that I am guilty of forgetting that God never asked for my help with the judgement process.I also have to remind myself frequently that even in a world where we are all connected by social media and can see parts of each others lives, we don't know the whole story. I never know exactly what someone might be going through, unless they personally tell me, and because of that I have no right to make judgments. It is not my job to judge, but to love, and I need to remember that.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lessons From the Animals

     With all of the questioning I've been doing lately, everything I've been writing has been pretty heavy and serious. But now that all of those feelings are mostly behind me, it's nice to think about something lighter for a change, something ordinary.
     Today I found a bird's nest in our yard. It had fallen from a tree but I don't think any birds were to badly affected by the disappearance of their home because it was empty, no baby birds or eggs. When I looked at the nest, I was shocked by how intricate it was. It was woven together tightly into an almost perfect circle, no holes or uneven places. It's fascinating to me that a little bird is able to build itself such a sturdy and
beautiful home. God gives birds the ability to build nests to live in, and as far as I know, birds never doubt that ability. How much more would I accomplish if I believed in my abilities and didn't spend so much time questioning them?
     Not even an hour later when I was on a bike ride with Mama, we saw what I first thought was a cat. When we got closer, we realized it was a young fox. It quickly went into the woods, but it was so cool to get to see that for a few seconds. This sighting was especially exciting to me because of something that happened earlier this summer. One night when my parents were on a bike ride not far from our house, they saw some foxes in a field. I went back to that place with them several times after that to try and see them for myself, but they were never there. I eventually assumed they were not there any more, and stopped going to look for them. Then today when I wasn't looking for foxes or thinking about them at all. there one was right in front of me. This reminded me of how I am in my relationship with God sometimes. When I don't like how things are going and he's not clearly showing up and making things make sense to me, I let my faith grow weak and stop searching for Him. Then when I least expect it, He shows up as if to say "Here I am, I was never far away, you just couldn't see me."
     When God created the Earth, He made humans last. He made this world full of pretty things and then put people here to live in it. That seems like a really nice gift, and I'm glad I got to learn from His creation today

Monday, August 4, 2014

Letting it Go

     I think sometimes I think too much. For instance, right now I'm thinking about whether or not that was a grammatically correct sentence. I feel like maybe there should be a comma somewhere. Anyway, this habit of thinking to much causes me to become fixated on things sometimes, and I end up getting on my own nerves. As you have probably already figured out, my fixation lately has been trying to understand why I did not get to go to Honduras. I'm getting to the point where I'm annoying myself constantly talking it over and not really getting anywhere, and you're probably pretty tired of reading about it. I've been asking myself why I can't just brush it off and move on, because sometimes things like that happen in life and it could be worse. But moving on has never seemed to be my strong point, I tend to hold on to things and wonder about them for longer than is good for me.
     Since July 7, the day I found out I would not be going to Honduras, I have been wondering. Wondering why God did not want me to go on a trip that would be to serve Him, and why He would allow me to suffer through this situation without giving me answers. Eventually that wonder went even deeper. I had thoughts that I kept to myself because I did not want to admit them, and that's partly what caused my blogging schedule to fall apart. I have decided to share these thoughts now because I can't really get to the point of this post without them.
     I wondered why I was bothering to put my faith in trust in a God who seemed to be doing nothing good for me, and that wonder led to another. My thoughts were something like this. What makes Christianity so great anyway? Why am I bothering to believe all this stuff that I have no proof of and writing about it and thinking about it so much? Anyone can claim to be a prophet, how do I know that Jesus wasn't just some delusional guy falsely claiming to be the Son of God? What if this is all a lie and I'm wasting my time? I was really questioning the very core of my faith, and that takes a lot of mental energy. But throughout these days of wondering, something that really stuck with me was the fact that I really wanted to believe. No matter how angry I got, I was still asking God to help me figure it all out. Granted, not asking very politely, but still asking. I wanted to justify my faith so that I could keep it, and that was profound to me.
     Tonight, I got an answer to one of my questions. There's not really an exciting way to describe it, because it wasn't really a big event. I had come home from a fun evening out with a friend and I was brushing my teeth before bed. I was mentally working over these questions I already mentioned, trying to piece something together that I could put on my blog. Now I'm not some person that claims to have visions or some kind of supernatural face to face encounters with God, and there was certainly nothing fancy about this experience. No visit from an angel, no burning bush, just some words that popped into my head. If Jesus was lying about who he was, why did he allow himself to get nailed to a cross? As soon as I had that thought, I felt like a part of the restlessness and questioning that I have been experiencing since was gone. Because when you really think about it, getting crucified is really, really brutal. I guess that's obvious, but I had never really thought about it that way. To have nails driven through your hands and feet and then have to hang there while you die slowly is no small thing. If Jesus was making it all up, why would he have gone through all of that? Oh, and then there's the fact that He came back three days after He died. Yeah Jennie, that's probably a good indicator that He's the real deal.
     Then after all of that, now that I was feeling pretty peaceful, not to mention quite cured of writer's block, I had another phrase pop into my mind. Let it go. I just felt like this time of questioning, or to steal a phrase from our new pastor, "wrestling with God" is coming to an end. Not all in that moment, but slowly. I know myself, and I know that my process of letting go will be a slow one. I still don't understand what the plan is for me right now, but I feel like the big questions are answered. I'm still sad that my summer didn't turn out the way I wanted it too, and I'm sure I will still get mad about it sometimes, but I finally feel like there is hope that one day I will really be able to let it go.