Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Year In Review

Oh boy, where to begin...More has happened in this calendar year than I ever thought was possible.  I got to live out so many of my dreams.  It almost brings me to my knees thinking on how God gave me so many huge blessings in such a short amount of time.

I spent eight weeks in DC.  I spent my 20th birthday touring one of the most beautiful cities in the country.

I held my first job.

I checked a huge thing off my bucket list when I got to tour the White House

I spent the 4th of July sitting by the Washington Monument.

I learned so much in those eight weeks, in my classes, at my job, at TFAS events, from strangers I met in the most random ways, I could never fully detail it all here.  It was just one major step in me working my way towards the dreams I've had since I was 15.

At Campbell, I found something I was passionate about in the College Democrats.

I got to spend time with local politicians.

I got to go to my first political convention and met people like Duke Mason

and Zach Wahls.

I worked the polls on Election Day and went to an election party that was a total blast.

And through all of that, along with the Comparative Foreign Government class I took in the fall, I became 100% certain that I was in the right field.

Outside of that club, I made new friendships and strengthened old ones.

Ryann and I became more like sisters than ever.  This year was so much more fun having her around to experience it with.  I can't imagine not being friends with this girl.  I've said it before, but for every way that we are different, there are 5 ways that we are alike.  We balance each other.  It just works.  It's such a blessing when neither of you has to try.

Alex.  Man, this kid became one of my best friends faster than just about anyone I've ever known.  We connected over politics, bonded over TFAS, and in between started sharing way more personal things with each other.  He's been here for me through everything and never once wavered.  I am so thankful for the heart he has for people, and that he knows that I would do absolutely anything for him in return.

Matt and I are better than ever.  We barely ever get to see each other anymore, but when we do, it's as "us" as ever.  We've found our place, and the dynamic of best friends and big brother/little sister is just right.  I honestly can't imagine him being anything else at this point.

One of the coolest things that happened to me this year on the friends front was finally getting to hug the neck of my sweet sister-friend, JD.  It's hard to imagine that after everything we've witnessed in each other's lives since we found each other online in April 2009, that this was the first time we met.  I thank God often for her presence in my life, and that He brought her to North Carolina so that I could hug her.

Also pretty high on the list of epic things that happened?  When Paddy came to visit.  Getting reunited with one of my favorite Brits after 4+ years was ridiculously awesome.

Hands down the best week of the year was the week I got to spend in Nashville with The Vespers.  They were already my dear friends by this time, but after those four days, I admired and appreciated them on a completely new level.  They made me feel special in a week that was (rightfully!) all about them.  They, along with their incredible crew of friends, made me feel right at home from the second I arrived.  I hope and pray I get to go back to that city one day.

This week was also incredibly special to me because of April 5th, the night at Sanctuary, the night I got baptized.  One night I will certainly never be forgetting.  It was a monumental step forward in my walk with Christ.

Despite everything, I'm still thankful for this kid.  He played a big role in that night and encouraged me in the weeks after even when I didn't want to hear him.  He made me promise I'd never forget how I felt that night, and that was one promise that wasn't difficult in the least for me to keep.  I remember everything about it.

And to have two of my best friends there to witness it and celebrate it with me made it even more special.  That night was the first night I looked at these two and realized they aren't just my friends, they're my brothers.

I'm still feeling the effects of that night, to be quite honest.  That night and the many talks we had after that night bonded Taylor and I together, and I am so thankful for how close we are now.  I can go to that guy with absolutely anything and know he'll help me as best as he knows how, and vice versa.  The best part of it, though, is that this doesn't end here.  He texted me on Thanksgiving that he "prays to stand by me in faith for many years to come," and I truly pray the same.


Also because of that night at Sanctuary (and Taylor), I got connected with this beautiful girl right here, Kyla.  I've never actually met her, but I feel like I've known her my entire life.  I am so honored to be her friend.  One of my top goals now is to find a way to meet her!  Preferably soon. :)  She, along with the other lovely girl below her, feels like my big sister.  She is such a blessing to me every single day.

Caitie.  Just like Kyla, this girl is my big sister.  I met her at the Vespers show in August, and everything just sort of fell into place from there.  I don't know what else to say that I haven't already said.  These two have helped me through more than I can explain.  I am continuously blown away by the fact that God chose to bless me with girls like this.  They taught me a love I didn't know I was missing - the love of reliable, open, honest, Christian girlfriends.  Like Caitie has told me, "it is such a blessing to like someone and have them like you back."  Yep. :)

The last highlight I'd like to mark of this year was how God finally convinced me to go home.  I found a church family for the first time in more than 6 years.  I felt like I was home from the second I walked in the doors.  Sanctuary was the first night I'd felt like I could maybe open myself up to a church family again, but I still struggled with the fear.  It took time, but through the encouragement of Taylor, Kyla, Caitie, and Brennan, and mostly the power of God never giving up on breaking down my walls, I went and am so glad I did.  The crowd at this church made me feel as at home as I did at Sanctuary from the very beginning.

Last year, I ended my 2011 Year in Review post with this: "Here's to the crazy, God-breathed roller coaster ride that awaits us in 2012."  Did that come true or what?  This year of my life has been full of harsh lows, but also the most exhilarating, breathtaking, joyous highs.  And I couldn't be more thankful for every bit of it because every tear shed both in joy and in pain has brought me to where I am now.  

A year ago, I never could've imagined or predicted I'd be so filled with joy.  If you had told me that I'd be this crazy about Jesus, that I'd go to Nashville to see friends and end up getting baptized, that I'd start reading my Bible again, that I'd become the girl who gets giddy with excitement about going to church, that I'd have as many Godly, beautiful, loving friends as I do now, I wouldn't have believed you.  But I think it just makes it that much more special.

God has become more real to me this year than ever before.  I have felt His presence in places that used to make me feel like I was drowning.  I have been shown glimpses of His love to me through the ever-present support of so many wonderful friends.  I have had my eyes opened to the grace that constantly surrounds me, even in my pain.  His unending grace and mercy has filled me with a passion to become more of a warrior for His kingdom every single day.

My biggest prayer going into 2013 is that He takes everything I have learned in my walk with Him this year and multiplies it.  I pray that He overwhelms me with the desire to shout His glory to everyone I meet, no matter what.  I pray that I may die to self again and again every single day so that I may shine the light and love of Jesus Christ to my loved ones and my enemies alike.  I pray that He takes the gifts He put in my character and directs me to use them to the fullest possible extent for His kingdom.  I love people, and I want to show the world how much more God loves them, because without Him, none of my dreams or passions or goals or loves mean anything.

Here's to the beauty that awaits us, my friends.  May we all have eyes that are always open to recognize His grace, hearts that are overflowing with His love, hands that are constantly working for His purpose, and spirits humble enough to boast in our weakness, because in our weakness, there we find His strength.

This is just the beginning.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

And repeat.

Take yesterday's migraine,

Add a dose of referred pain in my neck and shoulder from my pleurisy,

Subtract some of the sleeping,

And you have me today.

I'm thankful for a quiet Sunday where I could rest, a book that reaches my heart, mind, and soul, the knowledge that I get to see both my doctor and Matt tomorrow, and the power of the Holy Spirit that gives me the strength to move through pain.

I'm also looking forward to writing my "year in review" post tomorrow when I get home from the doctor.  It's always been enjoyable for me to write that post, but this year, I have a feeling, the post is going to be very special.  As it should be, right?  This year has been far more epic, beautiful, and intense than I ever could have imagined.  :)  Writing all of this out makes me want to start working on the post now...And I just remembered I usually write it on the night of the 30th and post it early on the 31st.  Hm...

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

I can't wait for Monday.

Something has to be done about these migraines.

I've literally been awake today only long enough to watch the Wolfpack play basketball (and win!).

This is not cool.

Jesus, help me.

Prayers for a productive appointment on Monday would be greatly appreciated.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

On appreciating the small things.

Sometimes I write my nightly blog post at close to 3 in the morning because the only really blog-worthy material happened late at night.

Okay, so Mom, Mommom and I went to see Les Misérables tonight.  It was really, really good.  Minutes before we were leaving, Taylor sent me a tweet with a link to a YouTube video and he said "This man's story reminds me somewhat of yours."  I clicked on the video and saw it was 50+ minutes, so I told him I'd watch it when I got back tonight and get up with him after.  Well, I had forgotten that Les Mis is very, very long, and with the movie starting at 8:10, we didn't get home until almost 11:45, and then I had some things to do, so it was after midnight when I finally sat down to watch the video.

Only the first 18 minutes or so were his speech, and the rest of it was him answering audience questions.  I only made it through the speech before I got up to call Taylor because it was kind of late and just that much of the video had already blown me away with all the parallels I saw between this man and his words and my life.  Well, he didn't answer (turns out, he and Kyla were seeing Les Mis, too), but I just had this feeling that he was going to call me back tonight.  So instead of watching more of the video, I sat down and read this People Magazine I promised my grandma I'd read tonight so she can take it with her to the beach tomorrow.  That way I wouldn't have my earphones in (by the way, new earphones = YAY. now I don't have to listen to music at half the volume I like to listen to it at in order to not bother/wake up the rest of the house) and miss his call.

And he did call me back, at about 1:35, which is by far the latest phone call I've ever had with him, but it was so good.  I got to tell him all the reasons why this video was so powerful for me and all of the parallels I saw to my story and journey.  I told him how it was like the icing on top of the whole Chris thing yesterday in really motivating me to do more to reach out and help people, how I want to be the one who really hears hurting people and ministers to them, something I never really got when I needed it and was instead surrounded by trite "Christianese" that did not help.  He told me why the video made him think of me and his own reaction to the things I was saying to him.  And of course, we talked about our friendship.  He is such an encouragement to me every time we talk.  As I told him, he knows the ugly parts of my life, my shortcomings, all the ways I screw up, so to know that he still sees so much good in me is incredibly humbling and makes me very grateful for him and to the Lord for blessing me with his friendship.

As I'm writing this post and figuring out how to say everything else that is going on in my head, there are two things I said during our conversation that are sticking out.

The first: When the guy in the video, Ed Dobson, talked about the point right after his diagnosis [with ALS] and thinking that that was probably going to be his last winter alive, and his reaction was to pick up the Bible, part of me wished that I had found my faith a lot sooner than I did because I know the really bad years wouldn't have been quite so difficult if I'd had that to hold on to, but part of me knows that the journey that this year has been wouldn't have been quite so epic and so beautiful if I hadn't fallen as far as I did.  And that's a very delicate balance because I know the past few years of my life have played out the way they have for a very specific, God-ordained purpose (because really, how else could you explain the awesomeness that has been 2012?), but that video brought me back to the state that I was in a few years ago, and I can't help but wish I had the peace and joy that I have now when I was going through all of that trauma.

The second: Ed spoke about how he spent a year at a predominantly African-American church, and he realized that they pray much differently than white people - they give thanks for the simple things like waking up in the morning and having the strength to make it to church, that really stuck out at me because I've had people make similar comments about me and my view on life.  And I know they were right in making those comments, because I do find myself feeling thankful for small details, things I know I took for granted before going through these trials and this very dark time.  Things like the ability to go to school, for starters, because during the fall of 2009, I had resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to go to college.  Things like having a day where my pain level is relatively low, because I've barely made it through some very exhausting weeks in severe pain.  Things like having friends who will call me at 1:30 in the morning to hear what I have to say, who genuinely celebrate my progress and the things I'm learning, because the Mal that I was in high school truly believed that the only friend I would ever have was Matt - I couldn't picture anyone else in the world caring about me the way that Taylor and several other people do now.

And listening to that bit of his speech put a question in my head:  Why don't more people see life like this?!  Why does it seem to be human nature (at least in the First World) to take things for granted?  I don't say this to sound like a lecture because, as I said, I used to be the exact same way.  I say this because it took going through several consecutive years of absolute mental, physical, and emotional hell for me to realize that there is such beauty in the pieces of life that we often overlook, and if I had it my way, no one else would ever have to go through anything tragic to get to the mentality that I have today.  Please, look around you today, and notice the small things.  Appreciate things that you don't normally pay attention to.  Do it now.  Do it whether things in your life are falling apart, because I believe this will give you the peace that passes all understanding in seeing God's grace and presence around you in the midst of darkness, or whether things in your life are really pretty good, because it will come in real handy when you come to face a trial.

Ed and I are both people who have beaten all medical standards simply by being alive (he was diagnosed with ALS in 2001, docs said he had 2-5 years to live, he's still alive 11 years later; to this day, I still have docs look me in the eye and tell me that I should've died from everything that's happened to me, specifically 2009-2010), but in all honesty, it is a miracle that any one of us is alive, even people like Matt and Ryann who have made it through life virtually without a single medical problem.  Tomorrow is not promised for anyone, no matter their health.  And I know that the gratitude that I have for life is what helps give me the peace that so many people have said they see shine in me.  It's changed my life; it's given me a sense of joy that teaches people things without my even realizing it.  I want this kind of joy for you.

But infinitely more importantly, God wants it for you.  He created you so you could know Him.  He loves you and wants to bless you in a million different ways, big and small.  So if you haven't before, please, start looking for the small ways.  Because they're there.  I promise.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Collision

Today was.....insane.  Absolutely insane.  But in a totally awesome way!

I'm warning you now that I have slept approximately one hour since 4:00 yesterday afternoon, so this may or may not be a very detailed and clear post.  Forgive me.  If something is confusing, ask me.

Okay, so last night around midnight, I was just messing around on YouTube, and I decided to look at the list of videos that I have "liked" (and in YouTube terms, that means I gave it a thumbs up).  It was a rather short list, and on it I noticed a video titled "I Am Second - Chris Plekenpol".  Now, obviously, I know what the I Am Second series is all about (but I hadn't yet opened the I Am Second book that JD sent me), but I couldn't remember why I had liked this particular video.

So I watched it.  And the story of how he found God in the middle of the Iraqi desert nearly brought me to tears.  Afterwards, I felt this urge to Google him and see what I could find out about him, and as it turns out, he has a website because he is the pastor at a major church in Texas, so I clicked on the site.  The very first thing that popped up was a box letting me know that if I needed someone to talk to or there was something I was struggling with, Chris would be happy to talk with me.  My mind immediately went to last night's blog post and how I've been struggling with forgiving myself for things I know that God has already forgiven me for, so I left that and my email.

From then until about 6:00, I stayed up watching close to three dozen other I Am Second videos.  Then I had to take a break until about 7:15 because of some breathing trouble, but once that was taken care of, I picked up the I Am Second book from JD...and proceeded to read all 238 pages in one sitting.

As soon as I put the book down around 10:15, I pulled up my email, and there was a response from Chris.  He left his phone number and said to text him so we could work out a time to talk.  Of course, I did right then, and he almost immediately replied, saying that I needed to give him 15 minutes and then he'd call me.

When he did call, he asked me to tell him my life story, so I did.  All the way from my dad's death to my baptism to where I am today.  This is the total God part of it all.  What Chris said in response pegged a lot of details about my personality that he figured out simply from listening to me:  how I love to take care of people, how I'm far too hard on myself, how I try too hard at everything, how I feel better when I have something to do.  And I know it was the Lord speaking to me throughout it all, specifically when Chris emphatically said, "JUST STOP TRYING SO HARD.  In fact, stop trying at all."  He confronted me with the truth that all of this trying is doing absolutely nothing for or against God's perception of me.  He recognized that when people tell you to just stop doing something, it's so much easier said than done.

My favorite part of the entire conversation was when he told me how to stop trying.  He spoke of what I had told him about my baptism, the unspeakable joy that radiated from within me, the certainty that I felt of God's presence in that church, the excitement I felt at the realization that I was being brought into a full life with and because of Christ.  Then, he gave me an assignment of sorts to think of ways that I can relive the joy, peace, and excitement that I felt that night by showing Christ's love to other people, and he told me to text him later

I spent basically all afternoon (aside from the one hour that I actually slept) thinking about it, and texted him a few things around dinner time.  The biggest thing was to take 1 Peter 3 and apply it to my relationships with my family.  There is a lot of  resentment that's built up between us, and even though my passion for my faith is a source of tension, I have to be intentional about letting my actions shine Christ's love because words have gotten me nowhere.  Several people have told me this many times before, including JD, and I heard them, but I was so angry that I didn't want to take the time to really try and do it.  Now I am.

Another is to use my faith to minister to people I see that are grieving, not being shy about sharing the love of Jesus with them whether they know him or not.  This reminds me of my One Word for 2012: warrior.  I want to be the kind of warrior for Christ that seeks to make disciples of Jesus everywhere that I go.

I also want to continue sending thoughtful messages to my friends when I think of them because they have told me what a help and encouragement it is.

And the last thing I've come up with so far is to intentionally seek out opportunities to share my testimony with people because even though it sometimes makes me nervous, I've seen firsthand the kind of effect it's had on other people and their personal relationships with Jesus.

I'm sure I'll be thinking and praying about this "assignment" quite a bit in the days to come, so I'm sure more will come to me when I'm not so sleep-deprived. ;)

Seriously, though, y'all.  This whole thing just blows my mind.  It was completely God-orchestrated.  Only God could take YouTube and a video to lead me to a conversation with a total stranger who would speak His Truth into my heart in a very real, compassionate, accessible way.  It felt like I was talking to an old friend.  And to be perfectly honest, my baptism is the only other night that I felt this certain of God's presence.  I know for sure that God was using Chris to get my attention.  (Another example of proof: Chris texted me later tonight and told me he'd been praying about me and feeling like it was really important that he tell me to exercise every day.  I had never once mentioned to him my issues with my weight.)

Only God could put together a string of small little events and choices and turn them into one big picture that's this beautiful and unexpected.  And it all happened in the span of like 11 hours!

Only God could orchestrate the collision of the lives of two complete strangers and use a conversation to reignite my burning, overwhelming passion to chase Jesus with everything I have.  I am more determined than ever to surrender and let God change my heart towards my family, so I can just stop trying and show them Jesus without a single word.  I am more determined than ever to make Him first in everything that I think, say, and do, so that He has the ultimate control He so rightly deserves.  I am more determined than ever to honor Him.

This won't be the last you hear of my interactions with Chris Plekenpol. That much I know for sure.

To human eyes and human ears, it would like nothing more than a phone call.  But the truth is that because of that phone call and that conversation, because of that God-directed collision, everything in my life has changed.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Profile of Me

In an email several weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned the Myers-Briggs Personality Tests and asked if I knew what my profile was.  I knew I hadn't taken it in quite some time, so I went and took it again so I could tell her.  She said hers was pretty accurate to who she is (and after reading the description of her profile, I wholeheartedly agreed), so I was curious to see if this test could read me correctly, as well.

I wrote her back as soon as the test was over and told her it said I am an ESFJ.  She replied with laughter, sent me a link to the description of an ESFJ, and said that absolutely sounded like me.  I clicked on the link and didn't get past the first line before I started shaking my head in disbelief at how well it had pegged me.  A few days ago, I was thinking about this, so I found the link again in my email archives, and I've spent a lot of time thinking about the characteristics of my personality it spoke of and the effect they have had on my life.  I'm not going to copy the entire profile, just some bits and pieces that have really jumped out at me.

First off, the subtitle for the ESFJ page?  The Caregiver.  I knew from right then that this page would be pretty darn good because anyone who knows me knows I love to take care of people.

Your primary mode of living is focused externally, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them.

Um yeah.  I don't even know how to elaborate on that.  It made me think of this post about Ryann, where I said she is a thinker who sees things very black and white, and I am a feeler who reacts to things based on my emotions.  I'm a feeler, plain and simple.

ESFJs are people persons - they love people.  They are warmly interested in others.  They want to like people and have a special skill at bringing out the best in others.  They are extremely good at reading people.  They have a strong desire to be liked and for everything to be pleasant which makes them highly supportive of others.  People like to be around ESFJs, because the ESFJ has a special gift of making people feel good about themselves.

I've received a lot of messages from various friends lately that have all attributed the same trait to me:  an encouragement.  And it makes me happy to know that the people I care about see this part of me because I've known and made known for a very long time that I love making other people feel good about themselves.  I LOVE sending someone a kind text out of the blue simply because I know it will put a smile on their face.  The Vespers and Caitie said that the letters I sent them held some of the nicest things they had ever been told.  I have a way with words, and I love using that to help people.

They have a strong need to be liked.  They are extremely good at reading others, and often change their own manner to be more pleasing to whoever they're with at the moment.

Yep.  Guilty as charged.

ESFJs usually have very well-formed ideas about the way things should be and are not shy about expressing these opinions.

Hahahahahahahaha.  Since when have I ever been shy about anything?  Everyone knows I'm vocal about my opinions.

All ESFJs have a natural tendency to want to control their environment.  Their dominant function demands structure and organization and seeks closure.

Um...yep.  I'm a control freak.  I hate seeing relationships end without getting closure.  I'm extremely punctual (in a family full of people who don't care if they're late).  I like to know what's going to happen and when it's going to happen.  I am rarely spontaneous.

An ESFJ who has developed in a less than ideal way may be prone to being quite insecure and focus all of their attention on pleasing others.

I have admitted many times that as a teenager, I was horribly insecure.  I like to think that that isn't as big of a problem as it once was because I've finally learned to put my self-worth in Jesus, but I know I still struggle a great deal with focusing all of my attention on pleasing others.  My closest friends have been patiently nudging me into the realization that my habit of always putting everyone else and what they want and need before my own wants and needs is often a large factor in my ending up hurt.  I don't know.  I guess it just feels easier not to think about myself.  I know that when I'm feeling down about something, I love being distracted by someone else's problem just so I can escape my own thoughts for a little while.

ESFJs need approval from others to feel good about themselves.  They are hurt by indifference and don't understand unkindness.  They are very giving people who get a lot of their personal satisfaction from the happiness of others.  They are very sensitive to others.  They are such caring individuals, that they sometimes have a hard time seeing or accepting a difficult truth about someone they care about.

This bit wasn't last on the website, but I saved it for last because it opened up a lot of old wounds that I had been pretending for a long time weren't a problem anymore.  Despite my growing faith in Jesus, I still catch myself sometimes placing my happiness on whether or not my friends are happy with me.  I worry that several consecutive days of silence means I've done something to make one of them mad at me.  I remember Michal, who is pretty much the polar opposite of me in this aspect, one day explaining to me that a certain person that I'd been having issues with probably saw things the way she did - they weren't intentionally ignoring me, and they don't understand why I get hurt when I get ignored repeatedly.  And when the people I care about are hurting, I can feel myself hurting with them.  The older I've gotten, the more this has become the case; it's no longer just my closest friends who can ignite the extremely empathetic part of me - more and more, I find my heart aching anytime anyone I care about in the least is struggling.

Honestly, it was the last sentence that hit me the hardest.  It feels like a recurring theme in my life has been that I have had an extremely difficult time believing that people, specifically people that I had trusted, weren't the good people I originally believed they were.  This is why I say that Matt was the only friend I had until I graduated high school; everyone before him, to varying degrees, lied about actually considering me a friend, and it almost always took me getting my heart stepped on in order for me to see it.  Mutual friends or acquaintances could tell me what these people were saying behind my back, and that person could give me a hug and that would be enough to convince me that everyone else was lying.  This has even happened in college; one of the biggest examples I can think of is how Louis and Chris spent months trying to convince me that the College Republicans were using me, instead of hearing them out I got mad at them, and in the end, they were right.

The first name that popped in my head when I read this, though, was Brennan.  I know, I haven't talked about him in a while.  In fact, the last this blog recorded on him was that we had spoken and things had been resolved between us.  Without getting into the details, mostly because I don't feel like rehashing every little ache of that saga, I'll just say this: that's done.  Most of me hopes it's for good, but there's still a small part of me that hopes I'm wrong.  Against my own better judgment, as well as the words of advice from several of my friends who have been privy to everything that's happened since I met him, I gave him a second chance and, for lack of a better word, I got screwed.  I held onto my determination to give him the benefit of the doubt for so long that I completely missed my wise friends standing in the background screaming for me to wake up.  I ignored every instance or piece of evidence that could have shown me the person that he really was because I wanted so badly to keep the picture of the guy who baptized me and taught me about Jesus in my head.  When I finally admitted to Ryann that she was right about him and that I wasn't sad, just angry, she immediately hit me straight in the heart with the truth: "You're not angry at him.  You're angry at yourself and embarrassed because you got played despite everyone, including yourself, telling you not to go back."  Yep.  After the fact, Matt even told me that he could tell I was hesitant about giving him a second chance.  I'm also embarrassed because I thought I was past the point in my life where I relied on some vague and broken boy's approval for my happiness, but maybe I'm not, because if I was, I don't think what he did would have hurt so badly.  I thought I was getting over it, because I really hadn't thought about him in a few weeks, but reading this piece of my profile brought back every ounce of pain and every tear I shed over what happened with him.  I don't know if it it's ironic or just pathetic that he's one of only 3 guys in my life whom I have felt close to but whose relationship has never involved romantic feelings.  All I ever wanted was to have a real friendship with him, and finally having to give up on that just sucks.  But like Maya Angelou said, "When people show you who they really are, believe them."

I don't know where all of this came from tonight, but writing has always been my release.  So there you go.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hope Springs

So the whole family is sitting around watching a movie called Hope Springs, which is...uh...not exactly what we expected for a Christmas treat.  I'm sort of half paying attention and half working on editing all the pictures from today because it's, well, it's just awkward.

But really, the phrase "Hope Springs" could not be more fitting for Christmas Day.

Hope sprang because God loved His creation so much that He chose to become flesh to save us all.

Hope sprang when a little baby was born in a manger.

Hope sprang when that little baby became a man who died on a cross to take the punishment of sinners.

Hope springs every time I hear Blake laugh and when I see him running in circles because he's just so excited.

Hope springs when a certain sister's boyfriend and I can finally tease each other without being mean.

Hope springs when my sister Holly announces she's finally going back to school.  For real, this time.

Hope springs when I sit back and realize that my family has made it through an entire day without fighting for the first time in so very long, when we can sit around the table laughing and joking and telling stories and everything just feels normal for a change.

Because of my faith in Christ, hope will always spring forth unabashed, and I am so incredibly thankful.

Merry Christmas, everyone.  I hope that your day was as beautiful as mine.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

Because I'm too tired to come up with a more creative title.

I woke up at 9:00, ate a quick breakfast, and then immediately got to work.  Mom goes into massive panic cleaning mode at every holiday, and this one was no different.  But Chelsea was at work (and thankfully Blake's daycare was open for part of the day), which meant I was the only one here to help.  I cleaned out her car, the bathrooms, did a ton of laundry, and basically did whatever miscellaneous things she needed me to do from then until just before 2:00 when Blake had to be picked up.  Then, Mommom and I went to get him, and I basically babysat him for two hours while Mom cooked.  Then, Mommom came back to get him and took him with her to get Chelsea from work and Ryan (Chelsea's boyfriend) from the Base (he's a Marine).  I was picking up and doing more laundry the entire time.

When Mommom, Blake, Chelsea, and Ryan got here, we sat down and had a delicious lasagna for dinner.  Mom kept talking about how she hoped it would turn out well because she hasn't made lasagna in a long time, and Chelsea and I kept telling her that of course it would turn out well because everything she cooks is amazing.  We were right.  It was incredible.

After dinner, we let Blake open his presents from the family so that he doesn't get too overwhelmed tomorrow.  He got more Hot Wheels, a helmet (which believe it or not, he's been asking for for weeks), this Etch-a-Sketch type thing, and a firetruck and police car.

Then we just hung out for the rest of the night, played with Blake until he went to bed, and watched Meet the Parents.  I know, great choice for Christmas Eve, but it never gets old. :)

And now I'm going to bed because it's been a very long day and it's going to be an even longer day tomorrow.

Holly and Michael will be getting here in the middle of the night, and yes, there will be pictures of all the family tomorrow.  Blake's just the cute one.  The rest of us don't look cute tonight. :p

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! When I wake up, I'm getting a CAT SCAN!!!

(No, not really.  In case you didn't get the reference, that's a quote from my favorite Christmas movie The Santa Clause.)

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Another day down.

Man oh man, babysitting is exhausting.  If I wasn't already sure of the fact that I don't want to have kids any time soon, Blake would be the perfect birth control.  He is a mess, and I love him to pieces, but he is exhausting!  Thankfully, when he took a nap, I got to take a nap, too.

Also thankfully, his daycare is open for part of the day tomorrow, so Mom and I can get some serious work done around the house while Chelsea is at work without him getting into trouble.

After dinner tonight, we had to go to Walmart because Chelsea needed to finish buying Blake's Christmas presents.  I know, I know, waiting until two days before Christmas wasn't exactly the brightest idea, but she planned on getting it done a couple days ago on her day off, but her friend who was supposed to take her got her license suspended so she couldn't.  Walmart two days before Christmas is insane.  I went shopping through the food section for stuff Mom had forgotten with Blake in one cart while they went to the toy department.  This way he couldn't see what they picked out for him.  I was done way before they were, so I basically walked in circles with him until my legs hurt so bad I was almost in tears because he would throw a fit anytime he stopped moving.

This is a picture I snapped while in the store.  Just so you can see how cute he is.  I'm amazed he stopped squealing long enough to pose for a picture.  He was talking (more like yelling) the entire time we were walking around.  He certainly loves to talk to people.  People love to talk to him, too.  Look at that face; how could you not? ;)

Then, we came home and things got really ugly between me and Chelsea.  I lost it.  There's good news, though.  Alex called me as I was sitting in my room crying, and that kid always knows what I need to hear.  I was smiling by the time we were done.  I also texted a friend who sent up some prayers on my behalf.  And after I got off the phone with Alex, I was sitting in my room reading my Bible and praying, and Chelsea actually apologized voluntarily and completely unprompted.  I don't even remember the last time she apologized for anything, let alone the last time she was the first one to apologize.  (Yes, I apologized, too.)

God is so awesome.

Good night.  Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.  Whoa.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Here's to you.

So. Um. Yeah.  Things are a particular brand of awful here, so instead, I'm going to blog about the touching, beautiful present I got from my sweet friend Kyla today.

See, I thought what she was sending me was an iTunes gift card, because that was the only thing I had told her I wanted.  Instead, what I got was way, way better and so heartwarming I seriously almost teared up.  It's a book full of inspirational quotes, and it could not be more perfect for a girl as in love with words as I am.  Kyla said when she saw it, she immediately thought of me. :)

The cover:  Here's to you!  There are certain people in our lives who just make the world a better place.  They give us hope and raise our spirits simply by being the kind of people they are.  Some people stand up and champion a cause, or provide the spark, or defy the odds, or do the right thing simply because it's right.  They don't really worry about fame or acclaim, they just think about being good friends, good neighbors, good people.  We don't say it often enough, but we are grateful to have these people in our midst.  Thank you for being you.

And these are just some of my favorites.  It was so hard to only pick a few, but I couldn't post them all!

Here's to your contribution.  "You have a gift that only you can give the world - that's the whole reason you're on the planet.  Use your precious energy to build a magnificent life...the miracle of your existence calls for celebration every day." - Oprah Winfrey

Here's to your passion.  "The key is to trust your heart to move where your unique talents can flourish.  This old world will really spin when work becomes a joyous expression of the soul." - Al Sacharov

Here's to your compassion.  "Love in action is the answer to every problem in our lives and in this world.  Love in action is the force that helped us make it to this place, and it's the truth that will set us free." - Susan Taylor

Here's to your goodness.  "The work of your heart, the work of taking time to listen, to help, is also your gift to the whole of the world." - Jack Kornfield

That's just a few of them.  It is seriously one of the sweetest gifts I have ever received.

It also made me think of this song.

In case no one else has told you in a while, you are special.  You are beautiful.  You are wanted.  And I am thankful for you.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, "Today, you are you.  That is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is youer than you."

Go be you.  You is enough.

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