Friday, November 29, 2013

Top Ten of November '13

Hey, hey, hey! It's that time again.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving I have compiled 10 links I am thankful for. This month was about being grateful, getting an early start on Christmas shopping and figuring out life!   Enjoy my list and feel free to add your own below.

  1. Living With Less: America's Quest for Simplicity.  This is a very interesting infograph on how we crave stuff and more stuff yet are never, ever happy.  The graphics give both the problem and the solution, which I think is a nice positive twist.  Well worth the scroll in my books!
  2. Country Sunshine Life: The Master is a great read about the parallels between a good farm dog and an obedient heart to the Lord!  Very creative.
  3. Another great post on being thankful is Allison Vesterfelt's Finding Gratitude Beyond My Circumstances.
  4. Jimmy Stewart is a favorite celebrity at our house, and this is a link my mother shared with me.  It is a poem he wrote about his dog and read to Johnny Carson.  Carson actually started crying after he read it.  Read and Watch.
  5. Calamity Janes OKC shop on Etsy!  I love this shirt and many more I found in this shop. They have tons of cute Oklahoma inspired shirts...these would make great gifts for loved ones!
  6. Though a little vulgar at parts, this video makes me laugh and completely describes life as a 20 something.  #20SomethingProblems
  7. 5 Tips for Marketing to Millenials from a Millenial.  Courtesy, Huff Post.  Great advice.
  8. Bike and Build 2014 applications went live!!
  9. I landed behind this license plate on a Monday.  Gave me a great laugh!
  10. Matt Papa in general is a wonderful, underecognized Christian musician.  Today I am felt with peace as I listen to "Open Hands" on repeat.  Such a great November-Thanksgiving song.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday.  Here's to a month of great finds!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Hotel California"

Last weekend I was working behind my favorite bar, having some wonderful conversations.  One conversation in particular has stuck in my mind.  There were about four of us sitting around enjoying some classic rock n' roll, when the Eagles' hit "Hotel California" came through the speakers.

Everyone sang along at first, but then question was posed, asking what the meaning of the song was all about.

One guy gave a speech about how songs have no meaning, they are all open interpretation for the listener.  That was obviously a good cover up for not having an intelligent guess, but whatever.

An older gentlemen said he was almost positive it was written about an insane asylum.  He referenced the lyrics, "we are all prisoners here of our own device," and "they just can't kill the beast."

I had never really thought about it.  I knew all the lyrics but just assumed the message made sense to everyone else but me...seeing as that is how it usually is.  I figured it was literally about a strange haunted hotel of some sort.  Although the insane asylum guess made good sense to me.

Much to all of our surprise, the song was actually written about the overly greedy culture of America and the dark side of the American Dream.  Don Henley said it was "our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles," and later explained how that related to all of America and the greed in the music industry in the 1970's.

The whole song is beautiful in how it really engages all five of the listener's senses.  You can smell the "warm smell of colitas" and feel the "cool wind" in your hair.  I think this is part of what makes this such a successful song.  It is a beautiful creation and it laid the framework for the rest of their album.  The album went on to be #37 on the Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all times.

The song talks about bringing your alibis, having mirrors on the ceiling and being a lovely place--all descriptions of materialism, greed and conceit in our culture.  I mean, it's no secret Americans are known for having too much and never being satisfied.

"And she said, 'We're all just prisoners here, of our own device.'
And in the master's chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can't kill the beast."

I think these are the most powerful lyrics in the song.  It shows the deep emptiness and longing that comes from craving earthly treasures.  One of the residents literally describes herself and company as prisoners of their own keeping.  There is a church saying that goes with this, "Sin will take you further than you wanted to go, and keep you longer than you wanted to stay."

Greed is one thing Jesus came to set us free from.  No matter how much you gain, you will never be able to "kill the beast."  That's what makes money, fame, and success addicting.  It is empty.

The Bible and The Eagles both teach us to invest in eternity rather than the earthly.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal."
--Matthew 6:19-21

Investing in the eternal is a hard concept for me to wrap my head around.  I believe in saving, tithing, and living debt-free.  All of these things require hard work and good, biblical financial skills.  At the same time, we need to be extremely open to giving away everything we have received.  I was recently challenged to come up with ideas of how to do this.  Here are a few:
  • Tip BIG when you go out to eat.  This means above and beyond 20%, which is today's standard.
  • Donate your money to a worthy cause such as a missions group, non-profit organization or charity.
  • Always, always, always tithe first and foremost--AT LEAST 10%.  If you take time to feed from a church, give money back.  These people have families too.  Also it is giving back to God...after all he did provide you the money in the first place.
  • Do not give out of abundance, give regardless because that's how God gave it to you.
I like how Jeremiah 6:13 puts it, "For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely."  

Instead of coveting, grasping and asking for more, try killing the beast with contentment.  I struggle with this daily but the Lord has shown me the way to kill many things is through thankfulness.  If you are thankful and grateful then you will realize you are content.
It is Thanksgiving, ya know.

Action-->"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  

Promise--> "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Keep the lyrics of Hotel California in mind as you walk through your day today. If not you may be searching for a "hotel" that doesn't really exist.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"It's Time"...for What?

The #1 pick from my post "Top 10 Reads for October '13" was a blog-post about the song "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons.  Hello Giggles is the name of the blog.  The post was awesome! I could never compete with that post, and I am not trying too.  Katie Patton (author) did the song justice by proclaiming it an anthem for twenty-somethings everywhere.  I agree.  Both her post and the song have inspired me for a few weeks now, so I have decided that it's time for me to sit down and write about it myself.

Of course, God always has a way of tieing meaningful songs to your heart, and then making you sit and wait for the masterpiece to unveil itself before you truly understand it.  This blog has a lot of that sort of thing goin' on in it, and this song brings another example of such.

"So this is what you meant when you said that you were spent? 

And now it's time to build from the bottom of the pit right to the top,
Don't hold back
Packing my bags and giving the academy a rain check."

Before I started this post I did a little bit of research, (like every good blogger).  I started by watching the music video.  I didn't understand it at all, but it was neat!  So I googled the meaning of the video and came up with a Huffington Post interview with the songwriter/singer of the song.  In the interview he explains that the bands name and the video are very meaningful to him and his band members, but he is not sharing the meaning with the public because it takes away from the mysterious beauty of art.  

I respect and admire that.

(Dan) also mentions in the interview that he wrote this song right after he had dropped out of college.

What a great time to build...and invest.

Afterall, that is our goal as 20-somethings--or at least it should be.  I deemed "Building and Investing" as the ultimate goal of my twenties after posting my ode to Taylor Swift's "22".  I think I got the idea from a website with financial advice for young adults, but it really applies to much more than just finances.  

After high school I feel like we all have numerous points in our lives where we realize "it's time to build from the bottom of the pit right to the top."  For instance, I'm sure high school seniors and college freshmen totally relate to this song!  In fact, I would be putting it on my playlist if I were that age!  It's the perfect moving-out and moving-on anthem for such a time in your life.

I guess newlyweds could claim it too, or anyone starting a new life in a new town.

My two closest friends right now love this song.  One is getting ready to study abroad for a semester and the other is trying to figure out what she wants to do next.

I guess for me it feels like an arrow confirming my direction after December.  December is when I will be graduating college and taking my first steps into the world with a degree in my hand.

I'm still not sure how that will look.  I've prayed and sought counsel from almost every angle.  While I have received some wonderful advice, I still don't have a direction.

Most people get jobs related to their majors.  I have applied for one that really interests me.  A big part of me wants to take 6 months to just build and invest through bartending and waitressing, while focusing my spare time on monetizing my blog and artwork.  Yet another part of me wants to go work on a ski-lift in Taos, New Mexico or ride my bike across America.  I could also go back to school and get my Master's degree in something cool like writing.

When I sit still I feel like God is telling me to be content and take some time to chill with him. I don't like this so I doubt it.  I think the doubt creeps in because that synopsis won't look shiny or pretty to the world.  In fact, it won't look like I'm doing much at all.  But when I sit still and listen to God, he reminds me of my callings and passions and tells me It's time to begin...

I finally have some time available to focus on being what I am called to be.  Part of me wants to run and hide under something pretty that the world will appreciate.  The other part of me wants to ignore the calling and go do something random.  The problem is, neither of these are what the Lord wants for me right now.  He wants me to begin building and investing, from the bottom up.  This is scary because it takes faith and courage.  Everyone knows a little bit about those fears, but at some point we must stand face to face with them and realize the overcomer within us.

"It's time to begin, isn't it?
I get a little bit bigger and then I'll admit
I'm just the same as I was
Now don't you understand
I'm never changing who I am."

That lesson hit hard a year ago when I was taking a break from school.  I proved to myself and others that I didn't need a degree or a shiny label to be worthy.  Just because I didn't look the way I always had, didn't mean my heart had changed any. 

The same thing comes with growing up.  It's just like the song get a little bit bigger--like you think you're growing and maturing as an adult--then you realize hey, you haven't changed all that much.  You're still the same person, just a little bit older, and regardless of where you are or what you are doing, your core character never changes.  

I feel like this is very important to remember as we are "coming of age."  So many times we stress out all the little details of these decisions--and with good reason!  Every decision we make is ultimately a "life changing decision." But we also must remember that these decisions--actions--choices--they don't change who we are.  They may change our path, but not our character.

Life is always the sum of our choices, but if you are making these choices with integrity and love then you can't go wrong.

23 days till graduation and then it will be Time to Begin...again....and then again later on...and again.

Maybe that is the point of it all.
We have to learn as adults how to adjust to the changing scenes and scenarios of life.  The whole thing is just one big crazy adventure!  Grab it by the horns.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Night Swimming: Book Review

A new joy of mine is wandering through used bookstores and picking up interesting fiction titles.  I guess I haven't really taken the time to read fiction since I was a little kid, mostly because I have always seen it as a waste of time.  However, my summer working at the bookstore really changed my view on this.

 For whatever reason I found a fiction book that interested me and I loved the escape it brought.  I loved going home in the evening and actually unwinding with a book for once, instead of the always-learning-always-growing reading approach I had always taken in the past.

A month or so ago I found a couple of good reads at a wonderful and hidden used bookstore in Norman called "The Book Stoll".  One of those good finds was a book titled "Night Swimming" by Robin Schwarz.  Talk about a wonderful escape from reality!  If it weren't for life getting in the way, I would have finished this book the first night I opened it.  This was truly one of those books that pains you to put it down.

Protege of best-selling author, James Patterson, Schwarz is a new author on the rise.  Originally from England, Schwarz truly is a writer through and through.  Her resume includes writing gospel and being the first ever writer hired at The Kaplan Thaler Group. I am impressed with the later because I know a little bit about that world.  (The Kaplan Thaler Group is owned by Publicis...that's a major advertising and public relations company!)

Schwarz does an awesome job of keeping the novel interesting and surprising.  I kept thinking to myself, "surely it will get boring at some point"  but to my pleasure, it never did.  In fact, the story got better and better as it went!  This is the best kind of book, but it is oh, so rare to find.

In Night Swimming,the reader is pulled into the life of a very ordinary (yet maybe not) woman in a small town in New Hampshire.  When she suddenly gets the news one day that she only has a year to live, she does the unthinkable and wrecks havoc on the mundane life in Gorham.

Her story is one of courage, living and accepting.  Charlotte, I guess I will call her (the main character), transforms from unhappy and overweight to a beautiful, happy go-lucky woman after her own dreams!  I feel like I learned so much from reading about Charlotte.  She is an inspiration to women (and men) everywhere.

Three things I took away from this book: 

  1. "Life is a tasting plate.  You have to try least once."  This is the advice Charlotte's mother gives her on her death bed.  I love this philosophy and it has instantly been adopted as my own.  I agree whole-heartedly.  Life is short and we ought to try everything we can before we matter how crazy the idea!
  2. When we crave things too much, even good things, they become an idol, and when they are an idol, God does not give them to us, because we want for wrong reasons.  After meeting the love of her life, we read this narration, "But because Blossom (Charlotte) craved love so badly, she couldn't seem to appreciate the gift he gave so freely.  The gift of friendship."  Charlotte had to learn to accept and appreciate herself outside of everyone else before she could truly appreciate and love another individual.  This theme is carried throughout the story as Charlotte learns lessons of forgiveness, acceptance and contentment.  She learns to love and laugh at the little things.  :)
  3. Fear is invisible.  In one particular scene Charlotte wants to sing karaoke but has a hard time mustering up the courage to do it.  Eventually, she breaks through, triumphantly and realizes that fear isn't anything.  "...she had broken through that invisible wall of terror that surrounded her, and lived to tell the tale."  We all have those invisible walls.  They give us anxiety, worry, stress, defeat.  But really, what is it other than an invisible wall we build around ourselves?  Bust through it and do what you desire!
If you are looking for an inspiring, brilliant and fictional read that journeys through self-discovery, spirituality and living your dreams--Night Swimming is definitely the book for you.  I highly recommend it and am passing it along to a friend as we speak!  5 out of 5 stars Robin Schwarz!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Taking Notes

I just got out of my capstone class for today.  Side-note: A capstone class is the last class within a student's major before graduation.  It is typically the hardest because it is supposed to be all-inclusive of what the student has learned in that major.  

Anyhow, today's class was different because we didn't actually do work or visit with our professor.  Instead we had a visit from the dean of our college and had a nice long talk with him.  He asked us the good and the bad from our program; what classes we liked, what classes we didn't and why.  And of course, a room full of Public Relations majors (which is 70% female and 93% outgoing and happy-go-lucky demeanor) gave him more than an earful of opinions, thoughts, experiences and questions.

As all seventeen of us talked and laughed about all the horrible and wonderful experiences from freshmen year to our last week in capstone class, a lot of emotion came a buzz.  It was the emotions of remembering things.  After our worst stories, it made you kinda feel good, ya know.  Like you'd survived something really hard and become a better person because of it.  Oddly enough, after the happy stories you felt sorta sad because it was coming to an end.

It all sunk in at the conclusion of the meeting when the dean asked who was graduating in December and about half of us raised our hands.  He congratulated us and said he hoped we enjoyed our time at the university and can look back at it with fondness and happy memories.  I almost cried!  

I guess each day it becomes a little more real to me.  Like when I got approved for graduation from my advisor I had a small reality check, like wow, this just might actually happen.

A few weeks later I got my cap and gown and really got a reality check.  Oh crap!  I'm graduating in a few months!! Graduating from college?  What am I doing with my life???  Oh, wow I have no idea what I'm doing past December.  I have to find a general direction at least.

And then today, hearing my dean say that was like hearing the words at a wedding but not being at a wedding.  You know that's what they say, you know it has meaning and importance and emotion, but since you are not there you didn't expect it and didn't really know what to feel.  It's not real yet.

I guess I do this with every big life event.  I'm fine till I walk down an aisle...then I lose it.  

High school graduation I cared less about until they told us to line up and start walking down the center of the gym.  Instantly I burst into tears and cried like a baby the entire time.  I was in such shock of emotion I didn't even realize they called me to the stage for an award at one point. classmates were really irritated.  Get it together chick..we're trying to get to these parties.

Then there was my best friend marrying one of my close friends.  It was all business, till I walked down the aisle in my bridesmaid dress.  Yup.  You guessed it.  Instant tears. Not just tears but sniffles the whole church could hear and no kleenex to dry my eyes or wipe my mascara.  It was intense.  I made everyone else cry and everyone afterwards commented on my hysteria.  

Anyways,  I guess we'll see what happens when I walk across the stage at the Catlett Music Center in December.  

...Bringing it back to our discussion with the dean: one girl bravely mentioned the fact that our college (Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication) is really big on 2-3 programs that feature a specific aspect of Public Relations/Advertising.  From the minute you walk in the door you see, hear, or think about these programs and are almost instantly pressured to join and do and be and succeed there.
This girl mentioned that those programs just simply weren't her and she didn't join and wasn't any worse off because of it.  However, she felt looked down upon by certain professors and students for "not drinking the Gaylord koolaid."

We all laughed at the phrase but then quickly all jumped in and agreed with her.  

I was shocked.  I knew I felt this way, but I had no idea so many others did too.  These weren't even girls I connected with that much, but they had encountered the same things I had at college.

I spoke up and shared my story.  I told the dean about how this "koolaid" was one of the main reasons I decided to take a year off from school.  I was right in the middle of the koolaid.  I was succeeding in the koolaid, leading in the koolaid and being praised for my koolaid--but I didn't feel satisfied.  It didn't feel right.  

I felt like a square peg in a round hole, and that was an awful feeling because I had fads and I hate trying to be main stream.   

I didn't cautiously try to be round.  I was just following the rules and doing what my teachers said would make me rich and successful...and it would have...if that were what I had wanted.

A year and some change later and I'm back in the same building, yet with a total different perspective on everything.  

I gained my confidence and now stand firm knowing that I can be happy and successful without being round, or, um, emerged in koolaid.  It took me a rough ride and a time out to realize that, hey, I'm okay being me.  You know, God gave me special passions and talents that he is going to use in a completely unconventional way to bring him glory, because that's what I asked for and that's what he does.

I'm not mad at the college and I'm not blaming them.  Everything happens for a reason, and I needed to learn these lessons in that way or I wouldn't have came to this conclusion.

God knows what he's doing.  Even down to choosing the right college.  

I almost ended up at Oklahoma Baptist University.  I loved it, I really did, but looking back now I know I couldn't have gone there.  I would have been incessantly wondering what the big shots were doing at the big university a couple towns over.  I had to see and experience everything for myself to understand what I did and did not want.  I still don't know entirely what I'm doing, but I do know a lot more about myself, about my calling, and how to reach the goals that line up with those things.

College won't teach you everything, but it is a stepping stone on a journey.

Another girl in our class said that our university recently came out with some research statistics about students' learning.  I could have mistaken her, but I believe she said they found only 20-30% of what students learn in college or high school is taught by a teacher.  The rest is outside the classroom.
I may be graduating with a degree in my hand and a pat on my back, but this was not all about knowledge.  It was about wisdom, and that is one thing I have definitely received with my $24,000 investment.  ....yeah there may have been cheaper ways, but, ya was worth it. ;)

Monday, November 4, 2013

How to Follow Your Arrow

Everything has a natural place. Stuff naturally falls into place under the laws of the universe and the hand of God, we just have to relax and let them fall into place.  Much like painting or styling hair, we can't force things to go where they don't belong.  Or pottery, for example, have you ever tried to force clay where it doesn't want to go?  It's natural form holds some truth to it, regardless.

In the same way, God created you for a specific purpose.  You are to reach a certain people group that no one else can, and your story is to be unique from everyone else's.  

So why do we worry so much about fitting in or not fitting in?  Why are we in constant fear of being judged?  
I've come to find out that you will be judged regardless of the path you choose.  

"If you save yourself for marriage you're a bore,
If you don't save yourself for marriage you're a whore-able person
If you won't have a drink then you're a prude
But they'll call you a drunk as soon as you down the first one"

Those words of wisdom come from a song sung by Kacey Musgraves.  I love her lyrics because they are always so honest.  Here, have a listen:

I think as Christians we are often pressured into doing stupid things that are deemed "cool."  We probably do these things for fear of being left-out of a social circle, joke or something else.  Maybe it's a work thing.  Interestingly enough, if you do something like that then you will go to church to find your church friends have shunned you.

I guess the point is that your conscious and God's judgement are what you have to live with it.  Those are the ones that matter...much more than other people's opinions.  That, is what I would call, your "arrow."  Stay true to your integrity--not only as a Christian--but as a human being too.

It is okay to say "no" and it is okay to stick out like a sore thumb at times.  That's life.  You're not always going to please everybody.  Especially if you're a Christian!

1 Peter 2:11
"Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul."

Did you catch that?  It is the sinful desires that wage war against your soul.  Not everyone else.

Ephesians 6:12
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

The inner arrow inside of you that tells you right from wrong is the Holy Spirit (assuming you are a Christian, if you are not then you do not have this gift.)  God gave you a tracking device to help you stay in His will!  It's there to help keep you from being miserable and making bad choices.  Isn't that sweet, yet incredibly annoying at times!  Jesus is a gentlemen.   Always.  He will not force you to listen to the arrow, but it's there in case you want too.  
Proverbs 10:17
"Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
 but whoever ignores correction leads others astray."

Follow that arrow ya'll!
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