Friday, November 30, 2012

Love

Happy happy happy.

And more happy.

The bad news is that I have been completely unproductive today and I have 3 papers due in the next six days.

The good news is that the reason I was so unproductive is that, outside of classes, my day was FILLED with unexpected chats with people I adore.

I am so loved.

God is good.

Today was good.

And now I'm going to bed.  Before midnight, on a Friday night, GASP!  But it's so I can get up early and get to serious work on these papers.

Don't you love when you get to go to bed with a smile on your face?  I certainly do. :)

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Special

There's something that's been developing as of late that I haven't talked about here.  Not because I didn't want to.  Trust me, I wanted to.  I think the past 3.5 years proves that I put just about everything, the good, the bad, and the ugly on these pages.

But for the first time, something good is happening, and I want to protect it.  The other person involved is so special to me that I don't want to put a record down of what might be only to later find out that what I thought was something wasn't actually anything at all.  Maybe it's to keep myself safe from judgment, to make sure I don't end up looking like the girl who makes the same mistake over and over again without learning any better, to stop you from thinking that I'm the girl who will fall for anyone.  That's not me, not anymore.  This has been building for months, I think, this is only just coming to me now because I didn't believe it could be true.

Just know that I don't think that I've ever wanted something as badly as I want this, but at the same time, I am ecstatic with the way things are because, like I said, this man is just special.  I am aware every second of every day just how much of a blessing this friendship is.

Since I am who I am and I have to let everything out somewhere and I can't (or won't) let it out here, I did the next best thing.  I turned to a few key people in my life whom I trust wholeheartedly, people I knew would understand where I'm coming from, be generous with their advice, and still be extremely encouraging at the same time.  And sooner or later, they all said variations of the same thing.  You deserve this.  He's the lucky one.

I want to believe them.  I want to believe these friends who know my heart so well.  I know how much heartache I've been through over the years on all levels, and they've been there to witness a lot of it.  So I can't really think of anyone who would know better than them if I deserve the chance to be happy with someone, someone who makes me feel more special than anyone I've ever met and still encourages me to rely on God, not him.

But I've never been good at believing I deserve good things, and no, this isn't just since I became a Christian and realized how much grace God gives me when I don't deserve it.  Even before then, I never could let myself think I could just accept something good was coming.  There was always that voice in the back of my head telling me that it was all going to get ugly really quickly if I stayed.  I started second guessing everything the other person did, believing they were just like all the others and were using me.  I rarely stayed long enough to find out if that voice was right.  Instead, I ran.  I sabotaged myself as fast as I could and bolted, thinking I'd rather be the one to hurt me than let someone else do it.  Not again.

This time is different, though.  He has not done a single thing the entire time we've known each other to make me think that his motives are anything but pure and genuine.  Every second we've spent talking to each other has tightened the bond of our friendship.  And finally, for the first time, there's hope that it could be something more, and I know him so well that I know that he wouldn't say what he said if he didn't mean it.  It's what I've wanted for a while now.

Matt's simple response?  Don't run.  Don't let yourself run.  He's seen me do it too many times before.  I don't want to run this time.  Not one piece of me is scared this time.  But still, the thought is in the back of my head: I don't deserve it.  I don't deserve a man as wonderful as this.  Because he is a real man.  I can't make myself understand why a guy like this is interested in a girl like me.  But he is.  And I know I'm not going to give up until I found out if all of this is worth it, if he is worth it.

I don't know what I'm going to do.  I don't know what's going to happen.  I don't know if he's going to turn out to be the person that I pray that he is.  What I do know is that at the end of the day, I have an incredible person in my life, and I don't want to let go.  It's people like him and the people who have advised me on this who slowly break down the last pieces of the girl who believed she only deserved to be hurt and used.

Trust me when I tell you that when there is something to tell, I will tell.  But for now, there are too many uncertainties and questions and too much time to wait, and I feel this nagging need to protect it and him until I know it doesn't need (or deserve?) my protection.  For now, though, he's just too special to me.  All of this feels too sacred to put it out in the open for judgment.

I am happy, I promise.  Just please, as my friends, pray for me, him, and us.  Pray that God gives me clarity on what I need to do and what needs to happen, so if I shouldn't be spending so much time building up hope over this, that I can let these feelings go.  Pray that God gives him the wisdom he needs to be a real man, and that we can both honor God with the decisions we make.  Pray that if one of us needs to change our view on all of this, God will make it explicitly clear to us.  Pray that I have patience, that I keep putting Jesus first, and him second, and the knowledge of how badly I want this to work out last.  And lastly, pray that I let myself believe I deserve the good that is already in this, and the greatness that could lay in my future.

"We accept the love we think we deserve."

That's a line from The Perks of Being a Wallflower (no, never seen or read it, but I want to do both!), and it's true.  If I don't believe I deserve him/this/happiness, I won't let it happen.  And I DO want it to happen, more than I can say.

Lord, guide me.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Glimpse

I could very easily sum up today in one word: happy.

But that's not exactly enough details for a quality blog post, is it?  Besides, I want to remember this feeling, what got me here, what it's made me think about.

The gift that I mentioned in this post finally got opened today, and the texts that I received as thank yous would be more than enough reason by themselves to be happy, although a lot more has added to it today.  All I did was write The Vespers, Kyla, and Caitie, six people whom I adore, some letters.  My words are the easiest way for me to express my gratitude, even as difficult as I found it to put into words the magnitude of change God has made in my life through them.  I pray that hearing that people learn from knowing me never stops making me drop to my knees in humility.

I truly do thrive on encouraging other people.  I'm definitely not shy when it comes to telling people how I feel about them, and I think I figured out why.  (I'm fairly sure I've said this on here before, so sorry if this feels like old news.)  I know what it's like to be the outcast, to be the one no one wants to hang out with, to really believe that no one would care if you just disappeared.  Now that I have so many people in my life who prove that is not the case to me every second of every day, I want to make sure no one I care about feels that way, either.  No one should ever feel that way, not even for a second.

Throughout the conversations I had with the band in reaction to their letters, and some other conversations I've had throughout the past few days, I noticed one thing coming back up again and again.  For the first time in my life, I am absolutely positive that I have a select group of friends (meaning other than just Matt) who know the real me 100% and have no expectations of me changing.  These people have taken me as I am, without judgment, without criticism, without manipulation and loved me for me.  And as I sit here writing this out, I think of something I said to Taylor this afternoon, something that was in a completely different context but still fits here:  This is just the beginning.

All of this, all of these people who love me, this knowledge that I am loved unconditionally by certain people that I have surrounded myself , all of it is nothing but a mere glimpse of the kind of love that God has for me, for each of us.  Think about it.  God wanted to protect us all from the ending we had in store that He sent His child to be humiliated and tortured and die on a cross in our place.  As amazing and wonderful as my friends are, I can't say for certain which of them, if any, would die to protect me.  God is the true epitome of unconditional love.  Humans are caught up in human emotions; your friends will probably get mad if you hurt them, but God loves you, anyway.  You are perfection in God's eyes because every time He looks at you, He sees Jesus Christ.  He sees your worth to be far higher than this world and the enemy will tell you it is.

Going back to my post yesterday, knowing that there is that kind of love waiting for you in the arms of a Heavenly Father, how can you know that and not want to give him all the glory He deserves?  How can you not want to live the life He asks you to when you know Jesus gave up everything for you?  For me, at least, I can't say no to a love like that.  I can't deny a love that died for me knowing that I, in all of my sinful wickedness, will avoid the painful end I deserve.  I want to be radical as a thank you.

Friendship often has to be earned; at least that's something I've experienced in my past, and something I'd never been successful in achieving.  This love, though, is there whether you want it or not.  No matter what you do, even if you don't believe it exists, even if you feel like you're not good enough or don't deserve it, it's there and it's waiting.  All you have to do is say yes.

"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8

There is a lot of love in this world to be found, no doubt.  After all, I am the prime example of a person who always instinctively tries to find the good in people.  But the danger lies in believing that the love of this world is enough.  No matter how beautiful the people you know are, even the phenomenal people I am so blessed to know, the love they give is not sufficient.  It never will be.  A hard lesson I've had to learn as of late is that even the people who seem to be gifts from God are, in the end, just as sinful and broken and weak as everyone else.  Putting them and their love up on a pedestal only lets them fall harder and farther.  As good as their love feels in the moment and in this life, it will all disappear.  Besides, you don't even know what's waiting for you.

"'No eyes has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him."  1 Corinthians 2:9

So my suggestion:  Surround yourself with people who love you as you are, yes, but make sure they're the people who will keep you focused on the perfect love that waits for you with God.

And always remember: no matter what, you are loved by the King.



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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Radical

I was up late last night, as I usually am on Monday and Wednesday nights since my first class on Tuesday and Thursday is at 12:30.  I was doing my usual thing of blogging, listening to music, and playing a ridiculous number of games of Solitaire (don't judge).  Not long before I went to bed, I saw Taylor had retweeted last night's blog post.


While Taylor tweeting a link to one of my blogs isn't exactly a surprise considering he's done it many times before, the comment he attached to it definitely caught my attention.  "Setting the Bible Belt on fire" is one of the highest compliments I have ever received.

This afternoon, I texted him asking him if that post is his new favorite.  He said "Yea...I get pretty excited when somebody preaches the word straight up like you do."  I asked him what he liked, and he said "that it was a salvation message.  The urgency of the fundamentals of salvation for all."  I told him that wasn't even what I was thinking about when I wrote it, and he quoted a piece of my own writing back to me.  (It's amazing how you can have your mind in one place when you say something, and then someone else hears/reads it and takes it in a completely different direction.)  A little bit later, a text from him really struck me.

You're encouraging.  It's rare one is as radical as you. You're still learning, too...You'll only get better at it from here.

Blame it on the sickness I've been fighting, but I had to make sure radical meant what I thought it meant/he meant by it.  Taylor wrote "Radical just means a Christian who lives by the scriptures."

Well, there's conviction if I've ever seen it.

The knowledge that someone sees me as radical, especially someone who knows some of my greatest struggles and shortcomings, gives me a greater "I'm-not-doing-enough" feeling than just about anything I've ever experienced.  Because the second I read that text, I had to sit back for a minute and absorb the fact that that is exactly what I want to be.  If you look back at my One Word post from the beginning of this year, I think that I wanted to be radical even then, I just didn't know the word.

See, up until....well, I guess up until now, the word "radical" had a negative connotation to me.  I knew it meant essentially "extreme," but I thought it was, like, crazy extreme, the kind of extreme that everyone else makes fun of.  Since everything in 2012 can be found on the internet and I don't actually have a book dictionary in my room, I wanted to see what the internet said radical meant, and dictionary.com lists this as one of its definitions for the word: "thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms".  Um, anyone else think that sounds a lot like what Jesus was doing?  He was treated like an insane man because he dared to question the traditional rules and customs that had been put in place.  He went around telling people that a God in Heaven wanted them to live a different way, pretty much the polar opposite from the life they and their ancestors for generations before them had been raised in.  It doesn't sound like extreme is always a bad thing to me...

What I didn't know is that according to thesaurus.com, the word radical also means fundamental or basic.  It goes on to list several synonyms (because, duh, it's a thesaurus) for radical, including: essential, foundational, inherent, innate, organic, and vital.  Vital.  One of the biggest things I've learned through the trials in my life is that God is vital to my survival.  I've gotten much better at correcting my friends every time one of them tells me I'm strong, stopping them to remind them that I am not strong - God is.  Face something that rocks your entire world, and sooner or later, you'll probably come to grips with the fact that God's grace, power, and mercy is vital to pulling through to the other side of tragedy.

But what about when you're not dealing with something huge and scary and heartbreaking?  Does the same still apply then?  Absolutely, 100%, without a doubt, yes.  To give as simple of an explanation for my reasoning as I can, I'll go with this - as a Christian, you've been told that while on this earth, you need to make it your constant mission to live more like Jesus (or something similar to this), right?  Well, I don't see how you can do that without God and His guidance.  And what is the closest tangible connection any of us has to God's guidance?  The Bible.  It's His words poured out through the hands of men.  Reading Scripture is the only real way that any of us can be even close to sure that we're doing right in our attempts to live like Jesus did.  I know this is one of those "cliché" Christian things to say, and I know I hated hearing it before I wasn't a Christian, but now I know it's true - no matter what is happening in your life, good or bad, you can find God's answer in how to deal with it in the Bible.  It's essential to living as a Christian in a broken, sinful world.

So yeah, now I look at the word "radical" in a completely new way.  And I'm more convicted than ever to live it out.

(And before anyone asks, no, I haven't read "Radical" by David Platt yet, but it's at the top of my once-I-get-my-Christmas-money shopping list.)

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Monday, November 26, 2012

When you realize God is talking to you.

Two really cool things happened today.  They were rather simple things, yes, but both occurrences made me pause in awe of the realization that God had completely orchestrated what had happened.

This afternoon, I thought about Alex.  I remembered he's got his LSAT on Saturday, so I decided to send him a text that would hopefully encourage him because I can only imagine how heavy the stress over something he's been working so hard for is.  It was nothing big, just saying I was praying for him and that I believe in him and that God has his back.  Within minutes, I received the response "Thank you so much! I needed that..."  And in that moment and throughout the conversation that followed, I realized that the idea popping into my head to text him was God speaking to me, giving me the idea so that Alex could feel His love outright.  It made me so happy to be able to help him in some small way today.  And when he texted me, "You are so very dear to me!" my heart pretty much melted.  I guess it's no secret my love language is words of affirmation, huh? :)

Second, tonight after dinner, I thought about a website that Taylor suggested to me during our chat on Friday.  I didn't have a lot of work to do tonight, and I just felt this urging to get on there.  When I did, I was immediately led to this sermon on dating and singleness.  Yeah, talk about a God-orchestrated moment.  Lately, I've really been struggling (more than usual) with feeling lonely because I've never had a boyfriend and all that...and then I find this sermon today.  It reminded me to keep my focus on what really matters - my eternity with God.  As much as I want to be a wife and a mother, those titles aren't permanent.  All that will last is my status as an eternal child of God.  I have to want whatever it is He has planned for me if I'm going to remain content in this life.  If His plan is for me to remain single, that far outweighs my desire for a husband and children.

It also really spoke to me about the status of my family.  I can't let them tie me down.  My worth does not lie with them.  People like Taylor, people who have been Christ to me, people who have loved me through good and bad and never wavered are just as much my family as Mom, Holly, and Chelsea are, and I am so blessed for that.

In that sermon linked above, John Piper says, "As long as you are single, this is your calling: to so live for Christ as to make it clearer to the world and to the church: 1) that the family of God grows not by propagation through sexual intercourse, but by regeneration through faith in Christ; 2) that relationships in Christ are more permanent, and more precious, than relationships in families (emphasis mine, because it reflects several of the relationships in my life and really hit me); 3) that marriage is temporary, and finally gives way to the relationship to which it was pointing all along - Christ and the church, the way a picture is no longer needed when you see it face to face; 4) and that faithfulness to Christ defines the value of life; all other relationships get their final significance from this. No family relationship is ultimate: relationship to Christ is."

This lingering jealousy I've been feeling over so many of my friends meeting the loves of their lives is not of God.  Just like I prayed over Alex tonight, I want to follow His plan for my life.  There is no guideline or mold for the way the life of a Christian is supposed to look;  my life and my friends' lives can look completely different and we can all still be following God's plan.  The purpose God had for my life when He created me and still has for me was never dependent upon earthly family, neither the one I have now nor the one that may or may not lay in my future.  my ultimate purpose is to bring Him the glory He so deserves, and that may perhaps be better fulfilled without me having a husband and kids, even as much as I feel that has been my heart's desire for as long as I can remember.

Anyway, I'm kind of rambling, so this is basically my point:  As Christians, our goal on this earth should not and cannot be to find a spouse and have children.  Our goal is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and, as a guest pastor at my church said one Sunday, "make it darn near impossible for anyone to go to hell."  You can do that with or without a spouse and kids, because the only family that really matters is the family you have as a child of God.  That's the family that isn't defined by blood, DNA, or marriage licenses.

If you're reading this and are single and a Christian, I urge you to read/watch/listen to that sermon (seriously, you can do any of the three!).  You won't regret it.  I promise.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Silence

I really wish I had not eaten all of my cough drops this weekend because I have no money to buy more and they would feel so good on my throat right now.  I have no voice, it's annoying.

The bad news is that I can't go to the doctor because I have no money to pay for an antibiotic and Mom doesn't get paid until Friday.

You wanna know how I know I'm sick?  I didn't get out of bed until 5:30 pm, and it's 10:00 pm and I'm ready to go back to bed.

Honestly, though, I'm kind of thankful for the silence.  I've used a lot of words the past few days, and I'm just tired.  Sometimes we all need a break.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Meeting Mr. Wuf & Caitie


This is just because I had to get an updated picture with Blake, a) for me and b) for all my friends who love to see how big he's gotten.  It's my new Facebook profile picture.  He's so adorable, seriously.  LOOK AT THAT FACE.

Ah, Wolfpack time.  There are few places on the planet that I love more than inside here:


There is something so exhilarating about being in a stadium with 50,000 other people screaming as loud as you can for a team you all adore.  Good thing we beat Boston College 27-10, because otherwise we'd have been 50,000 sad Wolfpack fans.  That win is probably entirely due to the two beautiful interceptions we got, Shadrach Thornton on the offense who seemed to be doing everything, and the defense shutting down BC's offense through the entire first half.  (At halftime, we were up 14-3).  

It was FREEZING cold, however, which stole a tad bit of the enjoyment.  Seriously, by the time the game was over and I stood up, it felt like my knees were even cold they were so stiff, and I had no feeling in my hands or nose.  During the game, they do this "Sizzle Fan Cam" thing, and one time I looked over at Mom and said, "I don't think I'd sizzle right now if you set me on fire."  It's funny to think that at the game the weekend after Thanksgiving last year, we were in short-sleeved shirts and jeans.  

Plus, Carter-Finley has always been special to me, even before I understood football, because it was one of my dad's most favorite places.  I always feel closer to him when I'm there, and considering I have next to no memories of him, I'll take whatever I can get when it comes to feeling a connection to him.  The fact that I actually like watching football is just a plus.

I'm not just thankful that I got to go to the game today, though.  I mean, yes, it was cool and I loved it and I'm so thankful Mom got me a ticket, but it's happened before.  What I'm super thankful for today is that I got to do something that I've wanted to do for a long, long time and never had the opportunity for until today.


I met Mr. Wuf, the NC State mascot.  (Sorry the picture is so blurry, the lighting was bad and I forgot to turn the flash off.)  I know it's silly, but that just made me so excited.  As fate would have it, the guy inside Mr. Wuf's family was sitting directly behind us, and he came up to visit them in the 4th quarter.  A whole slew of people were there for him because he's a senior and all the seniors on the football team, cheerleading squad, and dance team and him were being honored since it's the last game of the season.  After he had to get back down to the field, Mom and I talked to his mom, and she did something so sweet for us.  She agreed to send us some of the photos she had on her nice camera of him.


This is Mr. and Ms. Wuf.  This is being blown up to giant poster size to go on Blake's wall in his Wolfpack-themed room.


Here's a better picture of him so you can see him clearly.  GO WOLFPACK!  AHHOOOOO!


This one I just asked for because I thought it was hilarious.  It's my Facebook cover photo, hahaha.  Check this one off the bucket list.

I got back to Campbell just before 9:00, and I basically just unpacked and hung out for a while.  Then, Caitie called me.  Yes, I know we just talked yesterday, but she promised she'd call me and tell me her testimony since our first real conversation was me telling her mine.  When she was done, I couldn't figure out how to respond.  I was just that blown away by how good God has been to her throughout her life.  In that moment, I realized how other people must feel when they hear my story.  Hearing how God's worked miracles in somebody's life, especially someone you care about very much, is so humbling and just so, so cool.  We ended up talking about all of that and so much else.  It was just a blast.  I always enjoy learning about people, and I definitely learned a lot about her tonight.  We were on the phone for just shy of an hour and 40 minutes!  I think we both noticed a lot of similarities in our hearts and personalities, too, which is just awesome.

So yeah, today I am thankful for my beloved NC State Wolfpack and that I got to meet Mr. Wuf (finally!), and I am incredibly, inexplicably, wholeheartedly grateful for the beautiful friendship that I have found with Caitie.  :)

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Some nights, I always win, I always win.

So we didn't go shopping last night because Mom thought her claustrophobia wouldn't be able to handle that many crazy people fighting over shoes, especially in the middle of the night.  Probably a smart move.  We did, however, go about 6:00 tonight and there were, interestingly enough, very few people out.  Lesson learned: you can still go Black Friday shopping, find most of what you want, get pretty good sales, and not deal with six thousand people late at night.

The day was very low key until then.  Chelsea was at work most of the day, so Mom and I tag teamed Blake duty.

I had a very long talk with Taylor, too, which is always nice.  We do love to talk, that's for sure, and we haven't had the chance to have a good chat in a while because the band was out on the road for so long, so it was great.  Rather fitting, too, that it's the day after Thanksgiving, because we both talked about how much this year has changed everything.  People wanna know if a guy and a girl can be friends with no romantic feelings whatsoever?  The answer - yes.  Look at me and Taylor.  We've become so close this year, and not once have I ever looked at him as anything but my brother and one of my best friends.  I respect him so very much.

After that, Mom and I left, which was surprisingly fun.  Amazing how Belk, Chick-Fil-A for dinner, and Walmart can take two and a half hours when we didn't buy that much.

Tonight, I spent most of it hiding in my room watching this Glee video on repeat.



Glee has its faults, but when it does something right, it does it really, really right.

Then, sweet Caitie called and I spent 40 minutes standing outside in the freezing cold talking to her.  That did so much good for my heart, there aren't adequate words to explain it.  One thing Caitie said has really stuck out to me: "This is church.  Church isn't a building.  It's people, you and me, talking to each other, about crap, about people, about life."  Yep.  Love that girl.  No question about it.  I'm so thankful God has taught me the importance of having girlfriends.  I left that conversation with her feeling rejuvenated and uplifted and refocused.

My life has its issues, no doubt, but when it comes to friends, I definitely win.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hope in the midst of darkness.

Today was...typical for this family.  That's about as nicely as I can put it.

But today, I choose to focus on the bright spots, just like a friend of mine told me to do the night I got here.

My phone being blown up with texts.

In those texts, one of the sweetest things I think anyone has ever said to me.

Feeling slightly better than yesterday.

Holly calling.

Great food.

A cute movie.

But also, this face.  Because he's kind of the cutest thing ever.


This is a video I took to send to Holly since she couldn't be here.  I thought y'all would enjoy HEARING just how adorable this kid really is.  Because he so is.

video

Mom and I are going to get Holly's Christmas present at about 1 am.  This should be interesting.

In all seriousness, though, I have so much to be thankful for.  God has rocked my world this year, and I couldn't be happier that He did.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Random things.

So I'm home for less than 24 hours before I get sick.  I almost passed out in the middle of getting my haircut and I felt like I was going to pass out and throw up at the same time all afternoon.  It was fun.

Thus, it took me a minute to figure out what I'm thankful for.  All I can come up with is a lot of random unrelated things.

Phenergan.

A warm bed.

A quiet house so I could get some rest.

Relief.

Good food.

Surprises when I least expect it from boys who mean a lot to me.

Surprises from my mom.

Friends freaking out with excitement.

Laughing until I cry.

Late night Skype chats.

The Vespers getting home safe from 3 weeks touring all over the Western half of the country, and knowing my dear friends are finally being reunited with their loves.

And finally, more sleep.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My sweet Blake man

Ah, home.

Home......doesn't change.

That's why I'm thankful for my sweet little nephew Blake.

No matter how ugly this house gets, he is always a bright spot and never fails to make me laugh.  He is adorable, and so loving, and goofy, and crazy (in a good way!), and the greatest thing that's ever happened to this family.

I couldn't love that kid more if I tried.  If I feel this way about him and he's not even mine, I can't imagine what it's going to be like when I have my own kids.

Don't worry, pictures of him will be coming before I leave on Saturday.  I'd love to have some with this post, but he was SUPER overtired and you do not take an overtired two and a half year old and ask him to pose for pictures.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Opportunities to Bless People

It's currently almost 2 am, and I feel like I'm on top of the world.

About 8:30 tonight, I got an idea for a "gift" I could send to six very special people that I won't get to be with during this holiday season.  Gee, I wonder who that could be, right?  It's for the Vespers, Caitie, and Kyla.  And then I spent the next five hours putting the whole thing together.  And it's official, I love love love the feeling of knowing that I can bless the people that I love with very simple actions.  In fact, doing this project tonight was doing something I love to do anyway, so it was kind of perfect.

I know this is vague, but I'm not saying what the gift is because most of them know about this blog, and I can't ruin the surprise! :)  I'll tell you what it is after I know they've gotten it.

But yeah, tonight I'm thankful that God puts the ideas on my mind for ways that I can bless the people around me because I truly do love the feeling it gives me.  As cliché as it may be, giving really is better than receiving.  At least for me, anyway.  I guess I'm also thankful for God making me the kind of person who enjoys giving things to other people.

Also, just for the record, I sat through my first NFL game tonight.  Taylor's kind of obsessed with the San Francisco 49ers, so I randomly decided to watch their game tonight to see why he likes them so much.  The answer? Because they're RIDICULOUSLY GOOD.  I also figured out why so many guys like NFL football so much - it's like college football x 100.

Okay, bed time!  Last day of classes tomorrow before Thanksgiving Break!  I'm leaving right after classes (assuming that Mommom will get here earlier than I tell her to get here, like she always does).

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

His Pursuit

Ah, another Sunday at Theater Church.

Another Sunday for God to hit me.  And it felt awesome.

Several times throughout the service, mention came up of the story in the Bible from Luke 15:4-7 (also Matthew 18:12-14) that says a shepherd will leave 99 sheep in a pasture to go find his one sheep that wandered off.  And from the first time it was mentioned, my mind instantly went back to the night of my baptism and how it felt to realize that God was chasing me down there in that Nashville church.

I remember laying in Callie's bed that night thinking about everything that had happened.  As hard as I tried, I couldn't understand why God put so much effort into getting me to my breaking point, into pushing right to the edge where I was forced to come face-to-face with the fact that I needed to go back home to Him.

I mean, really?  I had spent the vast majority of my life hating God.  And I mean really HATING Him.  He could've just let me go.  After all, He's got so many followers who devoted their entire lives to His glory.  He didn't really need me - bitter, angry, broken, dirty, a-hundred-years-older-than-I-look me.  He could've spent His time lavishing blessings on the people who had recognized His goodness from the start, on the people who didn't turn on Him the second things got too hard for them to handle.  He could've so easily just let me keep falling, right?  Wouldn't that have been the easier thing to do?!

Ha.  No.  That's the thing about God.  He's the kind of God that says "There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (Luke 15:7)  He likes going after the "lost souls."  He likes redeeming the lives that the world can't be bothered with helping.  He likes taking people who had given up on Him and showing them just how badly they need a Savior.

I know that much because that's what He did with me.  Still tentative about diving fully back into the "whole being a Christian thing", He pulled off something completely ridiculous by human standards to get rid of the apprehension.  He got my mother, a single mom and a teacher, to afford to buy me a plane ticket to Nashville to go visit some of my Christian role models.  He stopped an infection on my arm from spreading the day before my plane left.  He got Callie and Phoebe to allow me to go to Sanctuary that night.  He led me to the side of the stage where Brennan and Joe were.  He gave me the courage to be vulnerable and tell them and the other two guys why I needed prayer.  He told me to go get baptized and gave me the strength to get up from my seat when I had no idea what was going on.  He led me back to the stage at the exact second that Brennan was walking in front of it, so I would have a familiar face to ask if I could get baptized.  I could go on and on.

If I had told my mom it was too much money to send me to Nashville for something fun, if the antibiotic hadn't worked that quickly on my arm, if Callie and Phoebe had said no, if I had changed my mind, so many things could have stood in the way of me and my baptism, things that would make any normal person say, "Well, it just didn't work out."  But no, He lined everything up perfectly so that I could experience the best night of my entire life.

He chased me down.

That night, and His pursuit of me that night, changed the course of the rest of this year.  Today's service was the perfect reminder of why I have no choice but to be completely and utterly grateful for His neverending pursuit of the hearts of every single one of His children, even the ones that the world deems worthless.

I was that 100th sheep.  And it's the knowledge of His pursuit of me and my heart and all the effects that that chase has had and continues to have on my life that gives me comfort when I start to worry about my mom's and my sisters' eternities.  They are now that 100th sheep, just like I was a short time ago.  He came after me, and He'll go after them, too.  There's no time limit for His work.  He rejoices when His lost sheep come back home.  He sees the worth in going after "the least of these" when no one else does.  That's why He is God and we are not.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Relief

I could not be more thankful for relief today if I tried.

Relief means I don't feel like I'm on the verge of tears every second that I'm awake.

Relief means I can handle being awake and keep my sleeping patterns on a normal schedule.

Relief means that the pain that remains can be managed with Ibuprofen.

Relief means I can make big strides in the to-do list that stands between me and Christmas Break.

It's been a peaceful Saturday.  I went to bed early last night, around 10:30 (yes, that's early for me, especially on a Friday night), not because my head hurt, but simply because I was tired.  And it felt AWESOME.  I slept late, too, so clearly my body needed the extra rest.

Starting mid-afternoon, I began watching NC State football like usual.  It was an intense game, and we lost to #11 Clemson 62-48; this was our first loss of the season in which we were not down at the end of the first quarter - we were up 14-13.  It was a bizarre game.  I'm excited to get back to Carter-Finley next Saturday for the final game of the season.  I just hope we win!

After the game, I turned to my usual mini-marathon of 48 Hours: Hard Evidence.  Meanwhile, I looked over French Lit stuff and read the last chapter of my Comparative Foreign Government textbook.  Then, I did my article review for Geography, which actually isn't due until the 26th because we don't have class this Monday, but I just wanted to get something that small out of the way.

Thankfully, all I plan to try and get done tomorrow afternoon/evening is my two Human Diversity mini-papers. One is a minimum of 3 pages, and the other is 3-5 pages, and the directions are pretty explicit so it shouldn't be too hard.  Heck, after that 25 page paper on Denmark, it seems like nothing!  But if I can get these two out of the way, I will only have 3 papers left, one for Municipal Government, and two for French (History and Lit). The MG paper is due the 3rd, the Lit paper is due the 5th, and the History paper is due the 6th.  I plan to get the MG paper and the notes for my presentation on the same subject on the 28th done over Thanksgiving break.

But I am thankful for relief today because it means I could stay on schedule with my to-do list.  After the craziness that was this past week, what I had to do this weekend seems minimal, but still, this prevents me from having to play catch-up again.

Hopefully this relief will last through tomorrow evening so that a) I can get these two papers done and b) I can get back to church.  Missing this past Sunday and Tuesday was not fun.

For now, my task is my laundry.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

My Mom

My mom, she's awesome.

She may annoy me to no end as only a mother can some days, but at the end of the day, she's an incredible woman, and if I grow to be half the mother she is, my kids will be lucky.

I may annoy her to no end some days, too, but she's still the kind of mom who loves surprising her kids.  She called me on Wednesday night and told me she wanted to buy me a class ring for my birthday in June.  I didn't get one in high school because I didn't want one since I never wear jewelry and I knew it'd just sit in my jewelry box, but college is different.  People actually wear these for many years, and I wanted one, but I didn't know that we'd ever have the money to do it because they are SO not cheap.  So the fact that my mom got the brochure in the mail and decided to figure out a way to get me one without even knowing I wanted one just goes to show you how awesome she is.

She is so strong.  It would seem weird to anyone for me to say that if they knew all the struggles my mom has faced, but she always gets up and keeps fighting for her kids, for Blake, for the chance at giving us a better life than the one she's had.  I think accepting her weaknesses is part of what makes her strong.  She's real about it.  She's not afraid to let me see her cry.  She doesn't pretend like she's got it all together, and as I get older, she confides in me more.  She's had to deal with all my health issues, all of Chelsea's issues, and her own health issues on top of a full-time job and Blake all on her own for 13+ years now, and I honestly don't know how she does it.  Maybe I'll understand when I have kids.

She is funny.  She can make me laugh harder than just about anyone else, the kind of laughing where it's so hard that you can't breathe and tears are rolling down your face.  When she's in the right mood, or she knows I'm having a hard day, she will do anything (and I mean ANYTHING) to get me to laugh.  As sarcastic and witty as people may find me, they have no clue where I got it from until they meet my mom.  In terms of humor, she is me times, like, ten.

She is loving.  The way she has taken in Matt and Ryann as if they were her own kids makes me admire her even more.  Matt still calls her Mom.  When I have kids, I want to be as good as she is at making my kids' friends feel like part of the family.  She offered Ryann a place to stay if she ever needed one the second time they met.  She's just that good at being motherly.

She is an amazing singer.  This is a woman who spent her early 20s in rock bands with a bunch of guys, much to the chagrin of my grandparents.  I grew up listening to her sing everything from lullabies to classic rock to Christmas song.  I cry every single time I hear her sing "Mary, Did You Know?" and it's because of her that I have the eclectic music tastes that I do.  I'd pick '70s and '80s rock over modern stuff any day of the week.  I don't think I'd have the passion for music that I do if it weren't for her.

I could go on and on about the wonderful woman that raised me, but instead, I'm going to leave you with a piece of a monologue from one of my all-time favorite TV shows, Gilmore Girls.  This is from the daughter, Rory's high school valedictorian speech, and it makes me cry to this day, almost ten years later.  It says everything I want to say about my mom.

"But my ultimate inspiration comes from my best friend, the dazzling woman from whom I received...my life's blood...My mother never gave me any idea that I couldn't do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be.  She filled our house with love and fun and books and music unflagging in her efforts to give me role models from Jane Austen to Eudora Welty to Patti Smith.  As she guided me through these incredible eighteen years, I don't know if she ever realized that the person I most wanted to be was her...Thank you, Mom.  You are my guidepost for everything."

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Escapes

Sometimes, my body just won't cooperate.

Pain goes from bad to worse and from keeping me up until 4 am to making me unable to handle being awake.

But when the pain is as bad as it was for most of today, sleep is a gift.  Sleep is a healer, the only feasible escape from pain that puts me in tears.

I forced myself to wake up before 5:00 because the Wolfpack were playing in a basketball tournament in Puerto Rico, and I do my best not to miss a game.  Plus, I needed to force myself up if I could take it because I need to sleep tonight.  I love Wolfpack basketball, and the game went so well that I was able to stop thinking about my headache at points.

Then, some well-timed texts and emails from friends made me laugh and smile and let me escape from all the stress and bad stuff that's right in front of me for just a little bit longer.

Then, two TV shows I love came on, and I got to leave this world entirely for a fictional world that doesn't involve me.  I always do better when I don't have to think about myself as much as I have the past few days.

All of these escapes today were just the refresher I needed.  Things are only going to get faster and more difficult and more complicated from now until December 10th, so I needed the break to recharge.  On to tomorrow.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Support of Friends

Alex, who called me back within 15 minutes of me calling him and let me cry on the phone to him for 10 minutes and didn't think it was weird and just comforted.

Ryann, who texted me while she's at her internship and went into protective / angry best friend mode.

Matt, who let me vent to him on Facebook and made me temporarily forget why I was upset by making me laugh like only he can.

Laura, who let me vent to her on Facebook and was just genuinely supportive.

Louis, who called to check on me after the meeting and let me rant and vent at him, letting me take my anger out on him even though none of this was his fault, thanking me for my devotion and reassuring me that at least he really wants me to stay in the club.

And Caitie, who listened to me when my phone accidentally called her (dang touch screen!) and reminded me of God's Truth - that there must just be something greater that He has in store for me.

I guess I should tell you why all of these friends showed up for me tonight, huh?  Well, uh, the College Democrats who showed up to the election meeting tonight to vote on next semester (and possibly next year)'s Executive Board decided to vote me out of being Secretary and replace me with someone else.  And I was the ONLY officer who didn't get re-elected to the board, save for a girl who didn't want to be re-elected.  Yeah, needless to say, I spent a good portion of the next 3 hours crying.  It made me feel like the old me, like the outcast that no one wanted.

I know, I know, it's not that big of a deal in perspective, and next year's not an election year so the club won't be nearly as exciting, anyway.  But I devoted 7 months of my life to this club; when I wasn't in class or doing homework, I was pretty much always doing something for this club.  And I know I did a good job.  So it's fresh, and it's stings and I'm more stressed out than usual because we're nearing the end of the semester, so I just lost it.

At the end of the day, it sucks, but I'll get over it.  And I know Caitie is right.  If I believe that God has a reason for everything else that has happened in my life, I have to believe that He has a reason for this.  I don't have the slightest clue yet what that reason is, but there has to be one, I don't have to know what it is.

So yeah, tonight, I'm grateful for the support of these six friends who showed up when I needed them and made me feel a little better, who showed me that I still do have friends and that I am still loved.

I'm also grateful for the comfort that comes in knowing God has a plan for me.

Jeremiah 29:11. Believe it.  Live it.  I'm trying to.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

God-Given Strength

I don't know how I did it, but I did.

I wrote a 7400+ word, 25 full pages, paper in two days with a killer migraine the entire time.

And I had a test today.

God-given strength works wonders because if I didn't have that, there's no way I would have been able to pull this off.

And I still get to go to bed at a semi-reasonable hour (I've been to bed this late on a night before I get up at 6:30 many times before, and I didn't have a gigantic paper to write then!) so I'm happy.

But my mind is kind of fried, so this is all you get for a thankful post today.

Oh, I'm also thankful for friends willing to help me out on incredibly short notice.

And my bed.  So, so thankful for my bed on nights like this.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to print this monster of a paper off and CRASH.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Distractions

I'm thankful for...

Having to write the first half of a ginormous paper so I can quit thinking about drama.

Music to play to distract me from the fact that while I write this ginormous paper, my head and eyes are throbbing.  (Adele and Taylor Swift, thank you very much.)

A friend who texts me after reading my Twitter to encourage me and distract me from how badly I don't want to be writing this paper right now (though I don't have a choice).  Surprisingly, I got more work done when I was talking to Kyla than when I wasn't.  Ha!  Go figure.

I'm hot and exhausted and still have a whole section (5-6 pages) to write before I can go to bed tonight, so that's all you get, blog.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

His Word

I didn't get to go to church this morning.  That's kind of a difficult feat to pull off when you can't open your eyes without flinching.  Yay migraines.  I'm doing slightly better now.

So since I didn't get to go to church today, and spent most of the day in bed, what I'm grateful for today are some of my favorite Bible verses.

Exodus 14:14 - "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."

Jeremiah 29:11-13 - "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Isaiah 41:10 - "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Ephesians 3:20-21 - "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory..."

Philippians 4:13 - "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

Romans 8:28 - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

John 16:33 - "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."

I'm thankful that even when I can't make it to church, I have words straight from the heart of God to help me through my struggles.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lots of intangible things.

My best friend making me feel better at 3 am like only he can.

A girlfriend letting me gush about the boy I'm crushing so badly on.

Butterflies and that giddy feeling that you wish would never leave.

NC State winning football for the first time in 3 weeks, thus securing their bowl eligibility.

Productivity, so I can chip away at my never-ending to-do list.

Focus, for the same reason.

The protection of our military. Happy 237th birthday, United States Marine Corps, from the granddaughter of a Marine Major Veteran.

TLC's 20/20 Dateline murder shows, for making me that much more grateful for my life.

Online personality tests that give me insight into who I am that I didn't realize I needed. (ESFJ, in case you were wondering. Look at the description. IT'S TOTALLY ME.)

The knowledge that tomorrow I get to go back to church.

Not having to leave my dorm room to eat.

The fact that laundry at Campbell is free.  ($3.00 a load, 3 loads a week, for 8 weeks at Georgetown was enough for me to be grateful for this.)

The knowledge that my self-worth lies with God and God alone.

The hope that God will bring me the perfect guy at exactly the right time, and the security that just because I think I'm ready for something, God might know that I'm not.

Those are just some of the things I'm thankful for today.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Friends that become family.

I know it was not too long ago that I wrote a post about the wonder that is Ryann, but after what happened this morning, I can't help but be so grateful for this girl.  See, the cool thing was that nothing major actually happened.  All it was was a conversation.  A conversation with the girl who knows me better than anyone else on the planet, save for Matt (and even now I'm beginning to think she's rivaling him).  I know her well enough to know that I cannot put details about what we talked about on this blog, but it doesn't matter what we talked about, anyway.  What matters is that I left that conversation with the biggest grin on my face simply because part of me can still hardly believe there's a girl that I've let so far into my life.  I never trusted girls.  Ever.  Mainly because every girl I knew was vindictive and mean, and when I first met Ryann, I thought she was just the vapid, popular, gorgeous athlete who was "above" me.  That's not a secret; she and I have talked about how far off our first impressions of each other were.  It was actually two years ago this fall that we ended up in the same French class, French 201, but I didn't talk to her at all that semester.  And it just makes me think that she's another reason I'm grateful for those brain surgeries, because if I hadn't had those surgeries I would've completed French 201 in the fall of 2009 and never met her.  So there you go.  Then, in the spring of 2011,  we ended up having 3 classes together, and March 27th was the first day we ever spent any time together outside of class (granted, it was to study, but still).  And from there, things just clicked.  By summer, we were texting each other almost every day, and by fall we were inseparable.  It's kind of ridiculous, when I write it out like that, but it's how it worked.  Now, I honestly can't imagine life without her in it.  We talk as if we just know we're going to be in each other's lives for the rest of our lives.  To know I have a sister like this heals so much in my heart that I didn't even know was still there.

And then there's Matt.  Do I really even need to say it?  Oh, well, I'll say it anyway.  It's SUCH A RELIEF to be able to look at him or talk to him and ONLY see him as my best friend/big brother.  Like, seriously, we were talking about his girl drama the other day, and in the middle of the conversation, I was sitting there thinking , "Oh my gosh, we NEVER would have worked. We would have driven each other insane!"  I am legitimately, 100% over him.  And because of that, I can look back on all the years I spent...not over him, and I realize that I am SO lucky to still have him in my life, especially to the extent that he is.  I was a messed up kid, and I gave him basically every excuse in the book to leave, and he never did.  He truly lived out what it means to love someone at their worst.  But like, during our conversation the other day, I (jokingly) said, "It is amazing we do not drive each other absolutely insane, you know?"  He replied, "LOL yeah, but I doubt we will.  Stuff comes up too much for that to last."  I said, "Exactly.  We need each other...at least, we need each other too much to let our own stupidity get in the way." (Because, really, we're always right about the other one's life, but never manage to figure things out about our own until after the fact.) And he said, "Yep, pretty much."  I am so thankful that we're now at the point where he can actually come to me for stuff, that it's not just me needing him all the time.  And then I think about the fact that he saved my life basically every day of my high school life, and he didn't know it.  I'm just so thankful, and so, so blessed.

There are some others, too.  Taylor and Bruno, for starters.  The other day, Taylor told me whatever guy I end up with in the end better have his approval.  Haha!  Great, I have two protective big brothers now. ;)  Those two have been there for me through a lot since we met.  They were there for the biggest night of my life and genuinely celebrated it with me, something I'll never forget and am honestly so grateful they were there for, because they'd played such a part in my spiritual life before that.  I look up to them more than they will ever know.  And through Taylor, I "met" Kyla.  I can go to that girl about anything, good, bad, or anything in between and know that I'm safe from judgment.  That is a gift, no matter where you find it.

Today's been a major day of learning for me, for sure.  But with people like this in my life, I never ever forget that when they're teaching me things and it hurts, it's because they truly love me.  The coolest part?  They're not the only ones I have.  They've just been the most prominent as of late.  I adore them.  They're a big part of the reason why I know that I am so blessed to live the life that I do because people like this?  They're gems.  And they're the kind of people you know are worth fighting for.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Blogs

blog post that puts me in tears.  Words like poetry on a page that speak straight to an ache I didn't even know was there.

A comment from a stranger that makes me feel slightly less alone.

Orange silicone bands that become an excuse to start a friendship with a woman who is one of my best friends.

Women from all over the country reaching to connect with me, to be my friends, to erase the remnants of the girl who believed the liars who told me I didn't deserve to be loved.

Words on a blog that make me laugh until I cry after a long, hard day.

A text from a girl who read my post the night before and just wanted to tell me my shortcoming doesn't make me a bad person and to remind me that God will take care of it.  Texts on my phone screen that make me smile when I'm stressed or scared.

This blog, it's changed my life.  It gave me an outlet when I was at my lowest and worst, a way to release every emotion I didn't know how else I could let out.

People who aren't a part of it tend to not really understand it.  They don't understand how you can be real friends with people you only know through words on a screen.  But you can.  I know I have friends when something good happens, and I want to go tell people I met through this blog because I know they'll care.  I know I have friends when the people I go to for advice are a 30-something woman in Canada and a college girl in Pennsylvania.  These friendships are just as real and just as valuable to me as my friendships with Matt or Ryann or Taylor.

This blog has a record of all of my greatest achievements.  My high school graduation.   The day I got my acceptance letter to TFAS.  My baptism.  Reminders of all of the good days help keep me fighting to get through the bad ones.  This blog IS the record of God transforming me a little bit every single day, every single post.

Blogs have been conviction, connection, friendship, full of lessons, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and everything in between.

That's a lot to be grateful for in my book.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Bed

Yes, that is a 100% sincere statement.

Today, I am thankful for my bed.

See, I didn't climb in bed until 3:25 last night.

I didn't fall asleep until somewhere around 4:00.

And then I got up at 6:30 to get ready for my 8:00 French  test.

In case you're as tired as me or just don't feel like doing the math, that's approximately two and a half hours of sleep.

Granted, I do not regret staying up to watch the election coverage AT ALL.  I will never forget yesterday.  (Yes, Vivielle, it is kind of like Christmas for me. :p)  But still.  Two and a half hours.  Not enough.  Really not enough considering how many medications I take.

So tonight, I am thankful for my bed.  I am thankful that after a very long day on little sleep, I have a big, warm, soft bed to sleep on in a safe, locked, concrete dorm room.  There are people around who don't have so much as a mattress to sleep on in a mud hut.  I take things like this for granted too much.

Good night.  I predict there's a very high chance of me sleeping from as soon as I get in bed straight through until 11:00 tomorrow when my alarm goes off.

I'll let you know the results. ;)

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

America

Election Day.  Something I've been working towards since I stepped foot back on this campus on August 19th.  It's over.  I can hardly believe it.

Obama won!  Yes, I am thrilled, but out of respect for my friends who don't like him, there will be no gloating because I will always, always, always like my friends more than I like politics.  So yay, he won, let's move on.

I say let's move on because for me, today is about so much more than who won and who lost.  Days like today make me so, so thankful to be an American and live in this country.

When the heat and intensity of this election dies down, we are still all Americans.  We are all part of the country that is the leader of the free world.  That is something to be celebrated.

Countless numbers of American soldiers put their lives on the line to protect our right to choose our leader.  Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton dedicated their lives to getting me a right that most people thought I didn't deserve because of my gender.  That is something to be celebrated.

When Romney lost, he didn't order his men to go out and assassinate every member of Obama's cabinet.  He did not stage a coup.  Civil war did not break out.  Those are all realities in many countries around the world.  Our peace is something to be celebrated.

It is illegal for anyone to prevent you from voting if you are over the age of 18.  It is illegal for anyone, including the government, to falsify votes or rig the election.  Those are also realities in many countries around the world.  The protection of our right, the view that is a fundamental right and not a privilege, is something to be celebrated.

It honestly pains me to have read everything from "Jesus needs to come, and He needs to come now" to "the Constitution is dead" to "I hope someone assassinates Obama" online tonight (and as for the last one, setting aside the fact that I like Obama, I know what it's like for a daughter to grow up without her dad, and to wish that on Malia and Sasha is just sick - I would never wish the indescribable pain that is losing a parent as a child on anyone, including Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's children).  The world will not end just because Obama won.  America will still be America when you wake up tomorrow.  You will still be living in the most free country in the world.

If you are reading this, and you are Christian and did not vote for Obama, I ask you to please join me in praying for him, anyway.  Pray for him and Vice President Biden to be safe and to lead this country to a better place over the next four years.  Pray for our Congress to quit focusing on partisan politics and come together to work for the people.  Pray for the people who lead this country because, at the end of the day, it's not about red and blue, Democrat and Republican.  It's about us, the American people.  We all want the same thing, to see this country succeed; we just have different ways of getting there.  The people who lead this amazing country deserve our prayers, no matter what letter is written next to their name.

(Also, it is 1:30 am.  I have a French test at 8:00, and I have not showered, studied or slept because I'm waiting on Obama's acceptance speech.  Tomorrow is going to be interesting.)

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Campbell

God? He's awesome.

I could tell you about six thousand different reasons why I love my school, starting with a Baptist-affiliated school is defying every law of reason by being run by a bunch of hardcore Liberal Democrats and ending with my professors know me so well I call one of them the grandfather I never had and another asks about my health every time I see her, but no.  I'm going to tell you about something that happened today.

So on Mondays and Wednesdays I have 8:00 French History and 9:00 French Lit.  I slept terribly last night, so my mind was extra worn down after the first hour, so in the ten minutes between the two classes, I went over to the Student Center to get some hot chocolate from the mini Starbucks in there.  (Because also? North Carolina seems to have skipped over fall and gone straight into winter.)  There were like four people in line ahead of me.  Two were this guy wearing a lumberjack hat and this girl buying a chocolate bagel who seemed to know each other.  No one was really saying anything except for the guy, who was basically jumping around like he was on speed.  He kept talking about how no one was saying anything and why weren't we more awake and COME ON IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY.  I told him I was in between two back-to-back French classes, then asked what he was on and could I have some.  He cringed, jokingly told the barista to get me a double shot of espresso stat, then asked me my name, told me good luck and bolted out the door before I could say anything out.  The girl told me he is pretty much always like that, and I laughed a little because it was actually kind of infectious, and then we both went on with our day.

Fast forward to about 2:55 this afternoon after I got out of Municipal Government.  I head out the back door of my classroom building after talking with Dr. Mero a minute about the election because I had to go to the post office.  What's the first thing I see as soon as I open the door?  That lumberjack hat.  I called out "hey!" and the kid is apparently SO ADD he didn't remember that he had just seen me six hours prior.  I jogged his memory a bit and then we just started talking about Campbell and stuff. (He's a freshman, and it's adorable.)

This is where God stepped in.

What started out as a friendly conversation about the headache that is having a foreign language as a major quickly turned into a 45 minute conversation about my testimony.  Like, seriously.  I told him about the brain surgeries, the foot surgeries, hitting rock bottom, The Vespers, the Nashville trip, my baptism, ALL of it.

And this is why I am so thankful that I go to this school.  Because I can stand on the sidewalk in the middle of the afternoon and tell what is basically a complete stranger about the effect God has had in my life. And it was frowned upon, or weird, or told to happen in private.  Instead, I got to share with yet another person just how amazing my God is like it was the most normal thing in the world.  Not everyone gets that.   And that feeling, that overwhelming, humbling, filled with awe feeling, never ceases to amaze me.  God is SO good, not only to give me opportunities to share my story, but to surprise me with them, and to have gotten me to the point where I am genuinely EXCITED to talk about my past.

So yeah, I'm thankful that I go to this school.  I'm thankful that I met Jacob.  I'm thankful I walked out of the building the second that I did and recognized that hat.  Because I want to tell the world about what God has done, and it happens one person at a time.

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Redemption

If you had told me nine months ago that today, I would be the girl who is so excited she's unable to sleep over the thought of getting to go back to church, I probably would've laughed.

Heck, if you had told me two years ago that I would go back to church this year at all, I know I would've laughed.

But yeah.  That's where I am.  That is just beyond cool, and that is why today my gratitude is for His redemption.

He's redeemed so much in my life.  This whole story of me finding my way back to church is just one example, but it's a big one and a good one.  Few places or times in my life have I felt this kind of comfort, this kind of knowing that I was just home.  For a big part of my life, I didn't think I'd ever get over what my hometown church did.  I think a part of me didn't want to get over it; part of me liked having a tangible outlet for all my anger at God.  If God were human, God would have a legitimate excuse to have a major grudge against me.

But He's not.

God is God.  And God redeems things I didn't even know I wanted redeemed.  He took all the years I spent  feeling furious and hurt and abandoned and betrayed and molded them into a story that's got me to right here, right now.  He led me straight to a church that became family the second I walked through the door.

And friends.  Never in my life would I ever have imagined that I would have the support system now that I do.  God took all of my fears about being loved and trusting people and sent me people who could love me through it.  He made me believe I am as worthy of being loved as anyone else, and showed me that the parts of me that annoy even me are parts that the people who know me best love.  It was when I found my security and self-worth in Him that I was able to find secure friendships, ones where I wasn't constantly paranoid about people leaving.

This is basically why I picked the new title and Scripture for my blog that I did.  My story, my entire life story, is a story of redemption.  The ugly parts of my past are clean.  My life was bought with a price.

My sins were paid for.

In the sermon today, Sean was talking about how Christians have this problem of thinking God's obligated into doing what we ask Him to do because we're good people and we think we deserve things to go well for us.

Wrong.

We don't deserve any of this.

We don't deserve God's grace, love, forgiveness, mercy, saving power, ANY OF IT.

What we deserve is what Jesus stepped forward and took for us.

I don't deserve to have God redeem all the pain that fills my past.  But He did, anyway.  And that's why I'm thankful for His redemption today.

I finally found my security in Him, and it's because of that security that I have the faith to live out whatever life He has planned for me.  I can do that because I know He'll take care of the details.  It doesn't have to make sense to me. Even when things don't make sense to me, they make sense to Him.



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Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Person He Made

Today, I'm thankful for the person that God made.

I know, saying I'm thankful for me sounds a wee bit self-centered, doesn't it?  Just hear me out.

I've mentioned a time or two (or six thousand) that I am way too hard on myself.  I think everyone is, though, probably women more so than men.  I'm nearly constantly mad at myself for doing something wrong, or knowing I should have done something differently, or feeling like I'm a bother to people or that I'm not going to be able to do everything that I want to do when I get out of college.  Well, today, I've been thinking about the fact that I have survived as much as I have survived and do so well because I have the personality that I do.

If I wasn't ridiculously stubborn and determined, I would've given up on college as soon as those brain surgeries happened.  That same stubbornness is what gets me to go to class in intense pain nearly every day when every part of me wants to not even get out of bed.  I used to not understand why people thought I was so amazing for staying in college through the surgeries - as I told them, I didn't have any other choice - but lately I've been realizing that doing what I did was not easy.  And in that, I see that it is only by the grace of God that my college career is thriving the way it is.  That determination is getting me to complete two majors in less time than a lot of college students complete one.  That determination got me my DC internship.  My life would look vastly different if I hadn't fought so hard to get to where I am.

I'm thankful for my intelligence.  That sounds horribly conceited writing it out, but honestly, I'm so thankful I'm not one of those people who is happy getting by knowing the absolute bare minimum in life.  I'm thankful that I love learning because it's allowed me to see that the world is so much bigger outside of the middle of nowhere, NC.  If I didn't have the desire to learn more about the world, my view never would've expanded.

If I wasn't passionate about everything I do, I would've lost a lot more than I have.  My passion compels me to stand up for what I know is right, even if it's not popular.  My passion compels me to fight for what I want and the people I don't want to give up on.  Yes, this intensity can come off wrong to people sometimes, but it is what makes me the friend that I am.  The people who know me know that it's next to impossible for them to get rid of of me because I care that much.  That passion is the reason why I love people and I love loving people as much as I do.  And that love, as much as it gets my heart broken sometimes, has brought me the best feelings I've ever felt from some of the kindest, most wonderful people I've ever known.  And all of that is magnified when I think of my God and how much He loves me.  That same passion that drives my relationships with other people is the passion that drives me to pursue my relationship with Christ on a whole new level.

So yeah, as self-deprecating as I can be sometimes, I really don't want to be anyone else.  I'm thankful that God made me the person that I am and that He continues to bring me opportunities to use my gifts to bless others.

I may screw up sometimes, but you can always be sure that I am so thankful for the love that I have and I will always do my best to love you right back.


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Friday, November 2, 2012

Perspective

I'm gonna try something a little different here on this old blog.

It's November, as you well know.  That means it's the month of Thanksgiving.  And while I firmly believe that we should all notice our blessings and admit what we're thankful for year round, I think there's something sweet in people really reflecting on their lives at this time of year.  Pardon me for sounding like a cliché, but one of my favorite things about the holidays is coming face-to-face with the multitude of blessings that surround me in all forms.

I spend too much of my time, especially on this blog, venting about all the ways in which this world frustrates me.  So for the next three weeks, I'm going to try to dedicate my writings here to just some of the many things I'm grateful for.  I mean, yesterday is already covered with music, so I might as well keep up the trend, right?   No, really, Luke 6:45 says "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." and I really am a happy person at heart, so my words should reflect that.

So today, what I'm thankful for is perspective.

The perspective I get when I see the response of some of my best friends after having something valuable stolen from them for the second time this year.  "Nothing good comes from ill-gotten goods.  I pity the folks that stole from us tonight because they clearly don't know that.  Here's the thing, though. God is still good, and we will not stumble over this tiny obstacle because He always provides what we need to keep going.  That fact is so exciting that even though it's 2:31 am and I gotta be up and riding by 8:00 am, I'm too jazzed to sleep.  Boom.  That's God."  My first reaction was anger and frustration, but his response was peace, hope, and faith that God will make up for it and take care of them.  Because He will, just like He'll take care of me.

The perspective I get when I watch Dateline and see an interview of 7 NYU nurses who saved the lives of NICU babies by carrying them and their plethora of equipment down 9 flights of stairs in absolute darkness during Hurricane Sandy.  They did so without panic, without fear, without causing harm or agitation to extremely fragile babies, protecting them at all costs and giving the families peace of mind that their little babies were safe.  With my medical history, I am and have always been extremely appreciative nurses, but watching that put me in tears instantly.  The job of a nurse is one of the hardest out there, in my opinion, and these women faced a real crisis with poise because they knew that lives quite literally depended on it.

The perspective I get when I hear about people across the nation donating to support victims of the disaster, when I hear of a blind woman who traveled to New York City to hand out supplies, when I hear about the cop who died saving his family in their flooding house.  In the heat of an intense, passion-filled, sometimes hateful, negative election season, it's a heartwarming reminder that this country is the greatest country in the world, and we ban together to take care of each other when it counts.

The perspective I get when that same Dateline that highlighted heroes from Hurricane Sandy interviews a group of soldiers who risked every one of their lives to save one of their own.  A soldier got hit with a rocket-propelled grenade that didn't detonate when it hit him.  He was a human time bomb, and the slightest mistake could have set off the bomb and killed anyone within 30 feet of him.  Protocol says in that situation, the man was supposed to be "set aside" so as to not risk harming the other members of his troop until they could figure out how to disarm the bomb.  But that meant he would almost certainly die, so instead of listening to protocol, the soldiers saved the guy's life, letting him return safe to his 6-months-pregnant wife and young daughter.  They stood face-to-face with a man on the verge of death, they knew full well that by attempting to save him they were risking their own lives, and they did it anyway.  It reminds me that while I am sitting in my cushy little dorm room in North Carolina, there are men and women on the other side of the world willing to die to protect my life.  Just writing that brings me an overwhelming sense of humility.  Even if I didn't have all of these medical problems, I don't think I'd be brave enough to join the military and put my life on the line like that.

So yeah.  Tonight I'm thankful for all the ways that God reminded me that all the petty stuff I thought mattered?  Well, it really doesn't make a difference in the end.  Love matters.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's been a really, really messed up week.

I don't know why "Tonight, Tonight" (by Hot Chelle Rae) is stuck in my head when thinking about today/this week, but it is, so there you go.

Today was a hard day.  I would love nothing more than to vent about why today was so hard and so frustrating, but I can't.  Or maybe it is that I just won't.  Mostly because a lot of why today was so hard had to deal with me figuring out that maybe I don't always make as good of an impression on people as I think I do.  And sometimes, I have to just keep my mouth shut.  I'm thankful that God's forgiveness for my messes never ends, and that He put people in my life who are willing to be brutally honest with me, because that's what I need.

It's November.  That's insane.  I typed out all of my due dates for my papers and projects and tests and finals, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to sleep between now and December 10th.  But I can do this.  I always do.  And I'm feeling better now that I'm off that steroid, so I'm hopeful that I can only get better from here.

I voted today.  Woo.  I'm glad that's done and over with.  I love politics, yes, but more than that, I love that I live in a country where my voice matters and elections are taken so seriously.  It's something to be thankful for, especially when you think of how many people in so many countries don't have this right.

You know what's one of the best feelings ever?  (Well, okay, maybe only if you're a music nerd like I am.)  That moment when you hear a song for the first time, and you get goosebumps.  I don't know why this song gives me goosebumps, but it does.

Yes, it's Taylor Swift.  Don't judge.  I think this is her best record yet.



Another thing I'm thankful for:  When I feel like a big bundle of nerves and emotion, I can always find music that helps me feel better.  Sometimes it's Christian music, sometimes it's cheesy Taylor Swift, sometimes it's 80's rock, depending on the day/mood/situation, but they all have the same effect on me at the end of the day.  It really is the universal language, and something that never fails me.  I'm thankful I found my escape.

The first day of November, and I wrote about a bunch of things I'm thankful for.  That's fitting, I guess.

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