Thursday, October 31, 2013

Top 10 Reads for October '13

So I haven't done this in a while but I always enjoy compiling lists of awesome stuff.  This month I just really ran into a bunch of neat posts and sites and things so I thought I would combine them all and share them with you all.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do, and feel free to post your own links in the comment section!

  1. Lyrical Life Lessons...from Hello Giggles  This is a post about the song "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons and how it applies to people in their 20's.  Since I am of that age group I not only found this post creative and intriguing, but it also inspired me to write my own post about this song..hopefully soon.  Great post though.
  2. This image from Pinterest
  3. 19 Reasons Why Being Single is Pretty Awesome: Buzzfeed - You gotta love BuzzFeed!  This is a hip and funny list of reasons to appreciate life as is.  Again, it goes along with #2 and my post from earlier this week.  I thought it was pretty true and funny!
  4. Seth Godin: On Owning It - Super short and too the point encouraging piece on making your dreams come true.  Love it!
  5. Single and Not Waiting by Converge- A friend of mine sent me this post and the next one (#3 on the list) the day after I posted "Single Ladies! It's October 2013!"   I thought she sent them to me as a follow up to my posts, but turns out she hadn't even seen mine!  I took that as one of those God threads where he ties things together without us realizing it.  :)  Gotta love him.  Anyhow this article has more great advice for single people and actually sounds like a rehash of mine, except maybe better. :)
  6. GirlTalk:  A Woman to Follow- This one is really one of my favorites.  I haven't read anything else quite like it yet, but it is a post about female mentorship and what to look for in a mentor.  I really liked it because it pointed out that age, even spiritual age, has nothing to do with it.  I especially liked the line about looking for someone with "love for family and church."  That puts it into perspective for me.  Thanks GirlTalk.
  7. Another Pin:
  8. Twenty-Two - I swear I'm not trying to be lame or overpromote myself, but you know the times when you go back and read an old prayer journal entry and it helps redirect your life and remind you what's important.  Well that has happened to me lately with this post.  I have reread it a dozen times lately, checking myself to see if I am getting what I want out of this year of my life.
  9. Following God and Farming: Storyline Blog- Exxcceellennt post on figuring out what to do vocationally with your life.  Donald Miller always gets it.
  10. One Drop, a song by Plumb:

Hope you all enjoyed my list!  Here's to making November another great month! :) 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Single Ladies! It's October 2013!

I've been thinking a lot about Divine Dating lately, so here's my "Advice for Single Girls" - October 2013 edition post.  There are many more in the archives..

I don't know if this is typical for everyone, or if it is just my Timeline, but nearly every time I get on Facebook lately all I see is wedding announcements, baby showers and engagements.  I am totally happy for my friends and family who are going through these seasons in their lives.  I can also say I am by no means jealous at this point in my journey--although the same cannot be said for my past.

Anyhow, so today I woke up full of patience, creativity and craving adventure.  I prayed and listened to God for a good 45 minutes..just basking in his wonderfulness.  I thanked him for his awesomeness and how he provides me with wonderful opportunities.  I thanked him because I have never gone without food or shelter or water.  He is my Jehovah-Jireh through and through.

This week particularly He has opened several new doors of opportunity for me, which gives me enthusiasm and excitement for my young life.  I mean, I have so many years of living and loving left to do!

So this was my mindset, and then I paused and decided to check Facebook for baby photos from a close friend.  As I scrolled down the page all I saw were weddings and babies.  I suddenly felt lonely and empty.  But then I stopped and caught myself.

Haley!  How can you say that?  You are graduating in December, you just spent two hours painting, before that you ran, sang, had an amazingly long and uninterrupted quiet time.  Your life is perfect for you right now!

Satan makes it so easy for us to focus on what we don't have, rather than focusing on what we do and turning that into thanksgiving back to the Lord.

So I stopped and counted my blessings.

I also reminded myself how I have stuff that these married and baby people don't.  I can travel.  I can move easily.  I can paint whenever I want.  I only have one schedule to keep up with.

We always think the grass is greener on the other side...

I've heard it said that comparison is the root of all evil.  That may very well be true.  No one is better or better off than you, they are just different.  Your story isn't supreme to someone else's, it's just different.  And yes, everyone has an incredibly amazing story to tell.  In fact, you're writing yours right now!  What's it saying?  What does it say about character and integrity?  Does it reflect God in worship?  Or is your story one of fear and insecurity?  Is that how you want it to end?  When does the climax take place, and why are you waiting around to write it?

I'm reading a book right now about a woman who was bored with her life, so she changed it.  Just like that.   Her story is about courage, living out old dreams, forgiveness and acceptance.  She is learning to accept herself, and that she must do that to find content with her life.

As a single, Christian woman (or male I guess) you have so much room for growth.  God has you in this place and time of your life for a reason.  Allow him complete freedom to do with you what he wants.  Remind him and yourself that that is what pre-marriage and family is for.  It is for building the integrity of the person who will one day be helping that prince with his business and finances.  You are shaping the type of woman who is going to raise wonderful godly children.  Allow God to be God and work on you.

And don't forget, it's not about doing and achieving as much as it is about just being.  Be.  God is more concerned with who you are than what you do.  This is very easy to forget, especially for me.

So get out there and enjoy these years, sister.  They are beautiful!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lessons from "Honey"

So part of me doing what I do is that I always try to find a positive lesson in everything. Today I slowed down enough to rest and so I watched one of my all-time favorite movies, Honey.  The film was released in 2003 and so it is a bit older, but the message is what makes it timeless.

 Starring Jessica Alba, (another favorite of mine) Honey is about a young girl following her passion and using it to make the world a better place.  She is a dancer in a rough neighborhood who spends her freetime teaching kids how to dance.  She is also trying to make it in the music video world.

Throughout her journey Honey makes friends with some kids who need her mentoring, learns some hard lessons and runs into several pitfalls.  In the end her dreams come true and her small project helps a neighborhood full of youngsters.

I admire the character Honey in this movie because she is so passionate.  She loves to dance and so she does just that, despite what all the antagonists say to remind her that the odds are against her.  I admire her even more because she takes her passion and finds a way to use it to bring good into the world.  That's what life is about right there.  Live your passion and use it to help others, no matter the odds.  

There are 4 lessons we can take away from watching Honey.

  1. There will always be haters.  Honey had a big heart and a big dream, and that naturally attracts negative people.  She has several people remind her of how silly her dream is as the story unfolds.  She also is told to give it up and to do something realistic with her time.  Fortunately, Honey is a smart girl and she tries her hardest to only surround herself with really positive people, like her boyfriend and best friend, both of which encourage her constantly. I know it is a movie and no one is 100% encouraging all the time, but there are people who are more positive and uplifting than others.  You know what they say, eagles can't soar if they run with the chickens!  Be careful who you let in your inner circle.
  2. There will always be dead-ends and obstacles.  Once Honey lands her dream job of being a choreographer, she experiences creative block.  When she finds her dream dance study for kids, she runs into financial trouble.  When her boss disrespects her she has to find a different way to make money.  Her road was not easy and I'm sure it didn't come easier after the movie ended.  Dreams are never easy.  If they were they wouldn't be worth having.  It's the fight that makes them valuable.  Every dead-end and obstacle brought Honey a new challenge to face and a new appreciation for her worth and desire to succeed.  This brings me to my next point...
  3. There will always be hard work.  But it's worth it!  A lot of time, effort and dedication is how Honey found a way to bring her dream of helping others to life.  When she couldn't afford a building for kids, she used her time and talents to organize a fundraiser that would raise the money she needed.  She thought outside the box.  She didn't take no for an answer.  In life, and especially in the Christian walk, you will always have to find a way to what is right.  Remember, Satan wants you to fail!
  4. There will always be morality tests.  There is an underlying theme of choosing morality over what is quick and easy.  Every time Honey is tests in ethics she overcomes.  If her boss is going to be a scumbag, she can find a way to work without him, and it is this mindset that left her with no debts to anyone, and a clear conscious that is invaluable.  Two wrongs don't make a right.
I am in a time in my life where I am trying to refine my dreams and passions and decide what I want to focus on.  Honey is a great visual teacher of how hard work, good faith and a lot of hope can get you where you want to be.  Plus, if you have God on your side you are even better. 

That would be my fifth and not-in-the-movie point.  Make sure it lines up with God's will.  Our sermon today was all about this.  If you are working to make your own plans succeed yet haven't stopped to ask God if it is what he wants for you, then you are working against yourself.  With God  all things are possible, not without him.  Check yourself before your wreck yourself.  Pray tremendously and continuously.

Take a second in the near future and right down your dream.
Pray over it and ask God to break it or shape it.
Listen to his answer.

Oh, and, one last closing thought...I noticed for the first time tonight that "Honey" the character was 22 in this film.  Also, Jessica Alba was actually 22 when the film was made.  :) 

And I didn't realize "Honey" and "American Honey" were like..ya know..the sameish...till after I wrote this.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

From A Grandson

What I learned: Legacy.

From the time I was a kid I had always heard about little things my Grandma had done for other people. Most of it included some kind of baking cakes; bread, all sorts of treats.  One thing I specifically remembered was my Grandma teaching adults how to read.  She taught reading as a second language to international folks, and later I learned she even taught adults that just needed help learning to read.

About a year or so ago Grandma was having an episode; it was one of those times we thought she was about to leave us. Our family had split up into shifts to stay with her overnight. Haley, Jodi and I gladly volunteered to stay and we treated it like a big sleepover with our Grandma. We laughed, joked and carried on like we do. There was a moment during that night Grandma was having a tough time and it took all 3 of us to keep her under control. It was one of the first times I remember seeing true fear on my Grandma’s face. 

 She was scared, she was hurting and there really wasn’t much we could do to stop the pain. We managed to get Grandma settled into her bed, still stricken with panic she reached over to her nightstand, picked up a bible and began reading. I looked on with amazement, she wasn’t reaching for a hug from us, or asking for medication, she was reaching for comfort and she knew the only true comfort would come from the words she had lived her entire live by.  After a few moments reading her bible she calmed down and began to rest. 

She had found her comfort.

When this past weekend came it was once again time for our family to divide up into shifts to stay with Mama, Grandma.  Haley, Jodi and I took the Sunday night shift. We decided this night we would treat it like a sleepover again, just like any night we ever stayed with Grandma. We pulled up chairs around her, shared some good memories, and talked about life. 

 I found Grandma’s Bible laying on her night stand and remember the last time we were all staying and Grandma’s.  I thought it would be good to read to Grandma from her Bible. When I picked it up it fell apart into several pieces--it had some miles on it. My thumb happened to grab a page that was entirely appropriate for the moment.  Psalms 6. The chapter talked about a person crying out to the Lord for relief from pain.  The author pleaded to God for rest for their tired bones.   I read it to myself in the moment… I felt the tears in my eyes and I knew I couldn’t read it aloud, I handed the book to Haley and she read it aloud while we all listened. We kissed Grandma Goodnight and she went to sleep.

Over the last year I have found myself at different times lost in my own life. I without thinking went straight to the shelf and grabbed the Bible and turned to a page and just read what I found.  It wasn’t till just a day or so ago I realized without even knowing it; Grandma had passed her legacy to me.  In addition to many others, she had also taught me “how to read”. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Best is Yet to Come

God has a way of giving us a handful of very specific events where we are required to put everything on hold and just enjoy and love on our families.  Weddings.  Births. and Deaths.  These are the three big ones.

If you don't count my favorite kitten, "Pudgy" who died when I was 8 years old, I have been blessed in that I spent 22 years and 4 months and 20 days on this earth before I had my first experience of losing a loved one.  For that I am thankful, but also inexperienced in what to think or feel.  I also count it a blessing that I had time to prepare for this, and was warned several years in advance that time was running out.  I also have a wonderful Mother and Father who always made it a point to teach my brother and I the importance of loving our grandparents.

Before I go on, I do wish to explain that I process and heal through writing, and so I do not wish to upset or offend anyone, only to encourage.  These are stories about life, hope and Jesus...not death.

I don't remember her much before the age of 12, although she was always there, in fact she was 70 years old the year I was born.  I guess it just takes a person a few years of living before they really get conscious about life and relationships.  About the time I hit that stage I remember helping my mom, aunt, uncle and cousins move her into assisted living.  She had 20% of her heart left and "only a few months to live." ...little did they know my Grandmother was born with 9 lives.

I spent the next 8 years loving my grandma as best I could.  (Special thanks to the Lord for giving me a mother with this same attitude.)  I was also blessed enough to live in the same town as her twice.  Both times I felt very strongly that God placed me there for a reason.  Those were my special years with Grandma.

After leaving class or work my sweet-tooth would really kick in and I would start craving my Chocolate Reese's Mix with whipped cream from Braum's--fortunately I knew that my sweet-tooth was inherited and a very special predecessor just happened to live down the road from Braum's and around the corner from me.

Those Mixes made for some really sweet times between the two of us.  I think ice cream can only make one other person happier than it does me--and that person was Grandma.  She really loved some chocolate!

It was one week ago today when my Grandma passed.  Over this last week I have come to realize that her love for ice cream wasn't the only thing she passed on to me.  In fact, I've noticed we are actually very similar in many ways.

  • First of all, we both drive like "bats out of hell."  I heard a story on her this week about how she never stopped for stop signs.  When my aunt confronted her on the bad habit she answered, "If I need to stop I will!"  I laughed so hard because I just told one of my friends the same thing two weeks ago.  I also get made fun of for driving with my seat really far up and close to the steering wheel...something she did too.
  • When I took my senior picture I hung it up next to Grandma's wedding picture in her bedroom.  That day I noticed for the first time how similar our face shape and features were.  I looked like her!
  • Most importantly, my Grandma was one of the most devout and sincere Christians I know.  Although I can't say the same about myself, I can say that Jesus is very important to me, and Grandma and I talked a lot about religious things.
She really had the faith of a giant and I admire that.  It wasn't something she donned as she was older.  It was a steady stream throughout her entire life, and this speaks volumes of her character.  I can only hope to be more like her with each passing day.

On the last night she was with us, my cousins Randy and Jodi and I stayed with her in her room at the assisted living home.  She had been unresponsive all day and so our main job was to watch her breathing and make sure she got her pain medication regularly.  We knew it was coming, we just didn't know how or when.

All the family had been called and everyone had said their peace gave their love.  While much of the family was willing her to stay, I was willing her to go.  I knew where she was going, I knew it was real to her, and I knew she had worked unyielding her entire life for this very moment.  She was about to die, she was about to live, and I really felt more like a cheerleader by her bedside instead of a mourner.  I just couldn't stand to see her in pain--especially when I thought of the joy that was on the other side.

Around 6 p.m. that evening I snuck away from the crowd and wrote out a prayer to our God.  

"Lord, I want you to take my Grandma.  She deserves the heaven she has worked so hard for.  You are her hope and you are her salvation.  She is so ready and so happy to see you.  Reunite her with the one's she loves.  Give her a peaceful going.  I know it is what she would want.

Everyone is upset with her going but father I want her to go--to be happier. 
 I'll be fine without her for a while.  I love her and trust you.  Do what needs to be done. 
 You are in control and I am not.  I accept that and I don't want to change that. 
 Let your will be done and not mine.  Amen and Amen."

Around 1 a.m. the next morning, Randy and Jodi and I sat around Grandma...talking and laughing; telling stories.  We opened her worn out Bible and read to her, then kissed her on the cheek and told her goodnight.  We all weren't asleep for more that 15 minutes before Grandpa came back and got her like he had promised 24 years earlier.  It was the most peaceful and perfect way she could have gone.

The death of a loved one is hard, no matter how they go.  But losing someone and knowing exactly where they are going, makes it a lot easier.  This is my story, about God's peace surrounding me on that day.

When the nurses came in for their 2:40 a.m. check-up, I immediately woke up watched them walk across the room.  Although they said nothing, I could feel the difference.  They had barely made it to her bed when one of them touched her foot and gently said, "She's gone."  I knew what I had felt, and I thought I had heard her, but I had to ask, "What?"  I was now sitting straight up and wide awake.  

"She's gone."

Again, I wasn't sure I heard right, and my cousins hadn't moved, so I asked one more time.  This time when the word "What" left my mouth, Randy sat straight up.

"She's gone."

The nurses looked at gently and probably hugged us as Randy and I woke up Jodi and fled to what had been Grandma's body.

I went into complete shock.  I thought I was going to puke.  My body began to quiver all over.  I couldn't understand what exactly had taken place in the short 30-40 minutes I had been asleep.

Randy and I made phone calls and then Jodi and I collapsed in the chairs by her bed.  I stared and I stared trying to understand.  Tears filled my eyes finally and I sobbed for a few minutes before the chaos really began.  Two aunts and one uncle rushed in and cried and hugged us, we all waited for my mother and Hospice to arrive.

Now I'm not sure when the next part happened exactly, but it was just like on the movies when something dramatic happens and everything around you is blurred with people doing whatever they are mindlessly doing, and the main character is hyper-focused on something specific.  That's what happened to me.  This was my moment, with God and with Grandma.

Somehow I found my way over to the couch I had napped on so many times before.  While the others were rushing around I zoned out completely.  I was half praying- half comprehending.  2 Corinthians 5:8 repeated itself over and over again in my head.  "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." The more I said it the more I believed it and tried to understand what was going on.  This was nothing short of the Holy Spirit guiding and comforting me like it so faithfully does.  I am also sure that it was that same spirit that propelled me to reach for the photograph we had looked at earlier in the evening.  

It was a picture of Grandma when she was very young, standing in front of a church.  It didn't mean much to me earlier, or even the years before when I had seen it, but that night--that moment, God was present with me, and he used the photograph to comfort me.

She was so pretty.  Petite.  Happy.  In love.  It was the prime of her life and she was either engaged or newly married to my Grandpa...the one she talked incessantly about all of my life.  (I haven't had the joy of meeting him yet.)  I gazed at this picture and thought how perfect she must have felt at the time.  No aching bones, no wrinkles or worries..just happy.

I don't know if it was purely Holy Spirit or a mix of that and some memories from reading the book "Heaven is for Real,"  but it was then that I felt a complete peace and apprehension wash all over my body.  That was the Grandma that was dancing now.  It wasn't lonely, worn out, aching and bent-over Grandma.  It was this beautiful, strong, happy, perfect Grandma..because it was her spirit and not her earthly body.  She got to be her best self again..only even better than that.  

I flipped the picture over and it read in her handwriting, "Fresno, Calif. 1943.  Thank you Lord for taking care of Earnest and me!"

FirstI was amazed.  This woman had flown across the country to visit the one she loves and she was so grateful that the Lord had taken care of them.  That was the caption she had chose for the photo.  The Lord had taken care of them.  She wasn't talking about the event, the building or herself.  She was talking about the Lord.  The Lord and her husband. Neither were in the picture but both meant the world to her.  She loved them both as much as she could, and everyone always knew that.

Second, I realized she was in California.  This was strange to me because both generations of both sides of my family had lived in Southwest Oklahoma for as long as I could remember.  However, my grandparents loved to travel, and I didn't fully realize this until the past week happened.  They went everywhere together. Even after Grandpa passed, Grandma was always on a mission trip somewhere.  I felt God confirming my new-found desire to travel.  There is no telling how many more Christians there are in the world simply because my Grandmother took time to travel to Africa and Egypt and who knows where.  She shared God's love with every new destination.  My mother always said Grandpa wanted us to be "cultured."  That is the phrase that has been constantly replaying in my mind all year.  Now I realized it was what Grandpa and Grandma were.  Cultured.

Finally, I somehow had enough logic rolling through my brain to think about the date. old would that have made Grandma?  I grabbed my phone, added it up, and to my astonishment it was 22.

Jesus was with me and my heart was at home.  This was the Grandma I would see again one day, and this is how I would see her.  Not only will she be beautiful, but she will be the same age I am now.  We were friends!

I had discovered that our spirits our ageless.  The next time I see Grandma, I picture us holding hands.  We are friends.  In a whole new way.  We share the same faith and hope for people.  We have like-minded goals and habits.  She loved fully and I want to grow into that too.  I feel like she will be with me wherever I go from now on.  Her and I can have chats, because thinking about Grandma at my age makes me think she understands a lot more than she did when she left.  I honestly believe that we would be great buddies, eating ice cream together and talking about Jesus--both as 22 year-olds!  What a pleasant thought.  

Our bodies are just temporary tents for us on this planet.  When we shed them our spirit goes to a new place.  A new home.  Christians go to heaven.  As soon as we leave this earth, we are in an undeniable presence with our Creator, the one who died for us and loves us unconditionally.

We will all be shiny and new then.  Dancing and singing his praises.  

Luke 23:43
"Jesus answered him, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."

In a completely spiritual way, it was a few moments after Grandma's passing when I felt closer to her than I ever had before.  I had connected with her in a wonderful way that only a believer can understand.  God was holding me in his arms, reminding me that the best is yet to come.  

I love you Grandma.  I miss you already, but in just a little while I will be with you again and it will be far better than the last.  I can't wait to dance with you.  To see you and Jesus together.  You will introduce me to my beloved Grandpa I've heard you talk so much about, and we will all be together for the first time.  I want to praise Jesus with you and worship in his presence.  While you are having a good time up there, don't worry about us.  We will be okay, just as you reminded us the other day, "You're gonna be alright." 

Revelation 21:4
"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither should there be mourning, or crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

For more verses about heaven:
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