Monday, November 21, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Thanksgiving

Dear Readers,
I had every intention to write a blog for Thanksgiving. To write about the gratitude I have in my life for all God has blessed me with. And I considered and thought about it for a good week. Then I ran out of time to consider and think. All I got out was an inspired introduction about how important a holiday it is and how it is overshadowed by the consumerism of Christmas. Nothing more came out of it. This is mostly due to the fact that I didn't take into account how busy I would be last week before I would go off to celebrate the holiday in North Carolina with my family. So for that I apologize.

My procrastination and lack of time may have been a blessing in disguise though. I am now feeling convicted to share my heart about gratitude. It is not Thanksgiving anymore. Is in any less necessary for me to have a heart of gratitude? Absolutely not. In fact, I think in this time of year when cases of depression sky rockets it becomes even more necessary. Consider for a moment what robs people of joy the most. Is it not the cloudy vision of negativity? A focus on bitterness, resentment, and hurt. I won't deny that these things exist in vastness in our world, but life would be more purposeful and more productive if we approach every circumstance with a grateful heart and a positive outlook. The cloud of sadness that blinds us stops movement and growth. It makes us afraid to go forward, and worst of all it makes us afraid to love.

This has been a huge lesson for me to learn. I used to suffer from a pretty significant depression. During the coldest of winter weeks or in the midst of constant struggle I still sometimes find myself sneaking back onto that path. And that's exactly what it is: sneaking. If I don't focus on gratitude, those pits of sadness just sneak up on me without warning. That's why Paul tells the Philippians to think on what is pure, noble, and lovely. Even when it seems as though none of those things exist, there is always something. Always. That in and of itself brings peace to my very being. I live in a corrupt and cruel world, but there is always something to think on that is pure, noble, and lovely. So I challenge you think on your gratitude and what you are grateful for on a daily basis if possible. Since I offer up that challenge to you I'll offer up my gratitude as well. Maybe it will spur on some ideas for you as well.

I am grateful for:
God being the direction in my life
Salvation in Christ Jesus along with His promises
Spiritual family that encourages, challenges, and spurs me on
Stephanie Hart, my discipleship partner who walks next to me in this life and catches me when I fall
My home and housemates who are family within a family
Deb Lang, my roommate with whom I share my room and my heart
Leigh Erickson, my best friend and constant supporter
All of my sisters in my spiritual family
Sarah Jones, my sister by our parent's blood and Christ's blood
Parents, I count myself so blessed because of the love that I came from and gave me a heart to serve the Lord
Jade and Matt (and Rachel), the same love that was poured into me was poured into them, and I count myself blessed to have them as well
Evan and Emily because anyone who has nephews and nieces know that joy
Rayne fellowship, my home on Sundays and my family everyday
Khanh Ngo, who is a great leader and my big brother in so many ways
Eric Steffan, who is teaching me what being loved by a man of God looks like and simply brings me joy and rest when I'm with him
Kelsey and Josh Monroe, Jake Harvey, Albert Warner and others (so many) who were there for me in some of the roughest moments of my life and will continue to be there for me from afar
Access to God's Word
God's will for my life
Music and singing
Lessons learned in struggle

There is so much more. I could go on forever. Just listing these made my heart of gratitude grow so much. Try sharing some of what you are grateful for. It's hard to be depressed when you do.
With Love,

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:8

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Small Town to City Girl

Dear Readers,
Something you must know about me. I'm a city girl. Not born and raised by any means. I grew up in two different small towns. When you grow up in a small town like Wayland or Mayville one of two things happens. Either because it's what you know you like it, if not love it. Small town living that is. There is something to simplicity and feeling safe. I give it that. Knowing your neighbors and every kid in your high school. But then there is the other side of it. There are those of us that itched to get out. I grew up with wonderful parents and great siblings. Really your classic 1950's scenario. A dog and a cat too. Who wouldn't love that? I really was very very blessed. But the small town got to me. I felt trapped. This was especially true as I got older.

When I got to college I had dreams of running off to New York City. I figured I'd find a tiny overpriced studio apartment in Greenwich Village. I'd work at a diner or cafe as a waitress. I'd struggle to get auditions for the chorus in off Broadway shows so I could work my way to the top. I wanted to be famous among the musical theatre crowd, but not famous enough to get mauled on the streets. It was a perfect dream. I would spend my weekends a jazz clubs and art museums and my days strolling through Central Park.

Now those dreams haven't exactly been realized. I have known some people that have had the opportunity to at least move to New York and love it even though I can't say I know any Broadways stars. However, my dreams have changed a bit. Sure I want to be on stage still. That doesn't go away. But I'd be perfectly happy in community theatre. My real heart's desire is do as the Lord intended for me. To bring His love to those who have an open heart for it.

The fact that I'm a city girl hasn't changed at all even in my desire to serve the Lord. So I'm in Rochester and it's exactly where I want to be. This is the city God has brought me to. And it's the little things about living in the city that I love. For instance, I'm sitting in Starbucks enjoying an egg nog latte and writing in my blog between classes. I love it. You can't do that in Mayville. I also love being in a place that has its own philharmonic orchestra, several Thai and Mediterranean restaurants, and something different to do every weekend. I think the thing I love most about it is the people. There are so many different people all from different walks of life. I'm a people watcher, a trait I proudly received from my mother. And people just make my everyday so interesting. Not to mention there are so many people to love. It's just so exciting for me. I can't say I don't completely love the way and the place I grew up, but I'm so glad to be in this very place now. Exactly where God intended for me to be.
With Love,

Godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.
I Timothy 6:6

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Saga of the Heart

Dear Readers,
When I was a little girl I had quite a vivid imagination as do many children. I dreamt myself out of this world and into a hundred others on an almost daily basis. I played of course the traditional house and school with my sister and friends, but my favorite adventures were the ones that took place far from this world. If when I was seven years old I had known the word mundane I probably would have used it all the time. That is the descriptive word that defined my perspective of the real world as a child. Don't get me wrong. As a child I was quite blessed. I had a mother and father that cared for me very much. But they couldn't help that real life wasn't set up like the stimulating environment of Walt Disney, Lewis Carroll, or C.S. Lewis.

You would have thought that I was quite a reader when I was little, but I wasn't. I hated reading for a long time. I blame that on the fact that books moved too slowly, and I couldn't live them out. I much more enjoyed playing Little House on the Prairie than reading it. And when I was alone I was the master of my own dream world. I remember pretending that I was a poor pauper girl picking flowers in a meadow when I princess came along and invited me to be her playmate and sister. I pretended that I was a magical nanny for children like Mary Poppins, but I improved upon the story in my thinking because I wasn't strict in anyway, and I didn't pretend that our adventures didn't happen. I pretended I was whisked away to Never Never Land by Peter Pan, and we had our own thrilling escapades. These were merely the exploits of my mind, not including the hours I would make believe with my Barbie dolls.

Sometimes I still long for the escapades of my playful imagination from my childhood. I do love to read now which allows for my imagination to be nurtured, but it is so rare a moment that I am able to. And I don't get to play. Not without some regression and others questioning my mental stability. Why does my head still think this way? Why is my hearts so intertwined in a fairytale? Almost a year ago I got my answer. My church family went over a book called Epic by John Eldridge. The book wasn't the answer. It just directed me. The answer is in scripture. It is in Ecclesiastes 3. God has set eternity in my heart. And because I have chosen to follow Him, I get to be a part of His grand adventure. His epic story. My heart which lives in a "fairytale" is made that way because there an epic story that is going on outside of this world. My heart has connected to this so strongly. The idea is so provocative, but it explains so much. Sometimes I wonder about the part that I play in this story. But all that matters is that I have been included, and my heart has been trying to tell me that all along.

Because I think this way I can't help but see God's epic story in every adventure story ever thought up by man. Harry Potter and Star Wars are two of my very favorites. And to think about it brings me complete joy. I've just started the last book in the Wicked series by Gregory Macguire. I am so excited for what I will be able to see in Oz's great conclusion. This perspective in my life has really made my everyday more thrilling.
With Love,

He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11