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.