Monday, December 29, 2014

Monday | New Year's

Every year or so I have to buy a new journal. Presented with fresh, crisp new pages and promises of a new start, unfailingly I start out page one with a resolve – that within this new personal epistle, I will tell the story of sure-to-be-seen victories and spiritual triumphs in my life, a daily account of Christ's faithfulness. Months, sometimes years later, when that now-old and tattered journal is completed, rather than a daily account of my victory, it's all too often a sad portrayal of my failures. Long stretches of nothing between dates, then pages of confession and brokenness. Self-centered prayers and misplaced dreams held onto that should have been long left behind. The handwriting that started out so perfect becomes sloppy and at times, almost unreadable. At the end of it all, the only thing left of my good intentions is that Christ's faithfulness never slackened or failed me.

New Year's Resolutions are too much like my new journal expectations – well-meant, even beautiful, even right and perfect...but in fulfillment, speckled with ink blots and failures. And so, I don't make New Year's Resolutions. Because the truth is...I will fail. I will forget. I will choose not to. I will hold onto the things I shouldn't. I will eat that third bowl of ice cream. I will neglect my Bible. I will make that mistake. I will love that sin more than Christ.

And whereas it is never ok to excuse sin, I am born of trouble, as sparks fly upward. I am not perfect or sinless. I am not free from temptation nor have I achieved a level of spiritual perfection. Instead, as a new year begins, I embrace my humanity. I acknowledge that in this new year, I will have journal pages full of failure and sins that I regret. I cannot be perfect this year. To expect anything other than that for myself, is guaranteed to only reap failure and condemnation on myself.

In 2015, I will fail, of that I am certain. However I am also certain of this, that the forgiveness, grace and cleansing unto victory that I faithfully received from Christ all throughout 2014, is the same forgiveness, grace and cleansing unto victory that I will receive every day of this new year. I do not go into a new year defeated by my sure sin or by expectations that will only lead to failure. But instead, I embrace who I am and what I am...and hold even tighter to Christ who redeems me and indeed, who IS my perfection. I strive for Christ-likeness, not perfection. Because He IS my perfection.

Each day I pray that I will choose the right over wrong. But in the days, perhaps long days when I do not choose that, I won't look at my failure to meet perfect expectations but rather the promise of God's faithfulness even when I don't.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday | How I've Fallen in Love With Love

There's a young guy at work that I love to hang out with. JM and I have gotten to be good friends, we tease each other mercilessly to the entertainment of everyone else, we stop and have five minute conversations when we both end up doing stuff in the dairy cooler room at the same time. He's one of my favorite people at work and we've actually developed quite a good friendship. He's dynamic, outspoken, hilarious, silly and he's known for constantly saying outrageous things. But he works hard and everyone knows that if you need help with anything, JM will be right on it. He's the kind of guy that it's impossible not to know is in the room with you.

JM is also a homosexual and an outspoken one at that. He's a cross-dresser and frankly, it took me a couple weeks to determine whether “JM” was a she or a he. I wasn't the only one a little confused. The initials of “JM” wasn't much of an indicator either.

 I'll be honest and say that he and a couple other gays at work are the first gay people that I have actually personally been friends with. I'm a firm believer that homosexuality is wrong and it's an abomination in the sight of God. But I'll tell you what...I love my gay friends

But it's been my interaction with JM and Emilio, another gay guy I've spent a lot of time with at work, along with just the dozens of other unsaved people that I've grown to love like they're my own family, that have taught me one of the biggest spiritual lessons that I've ever learned in my entire life.

And that's love. The unconditional kind. Love without limit, without restriction, without judgment, without condemnation, without prejudice or pride, the I-love-you-just-the-way-you-are kind of love. Not a love that says I approve of what you do, but a love that says I will love you no matter what you do or who you are.

Because that's the way that Jesus loves. Jesus love unconditionally.

 It can be hard to hate the sin but love the sinner and I think that in this, the church (God's people) have miserably failed. We see sin and we grab our children and quickly hustle them out of the way. We cocoon ourselves in our safe churches and wait for the sinner to pass by. We're so preoccupied with keeping ourselves pure and undefiled, safe and secure in the arms of Jesus, that we place concrete-and-barbed-wire fences around ourselves, saved on one side, sinners on the other.

But how will they know we are Christians? By our love. They know we are Christians by our love. What is love? Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not boast (ie. does that think higher of oneself). Love does not hold record of wrong. Unconditional love gets down in the gutters of sin, wraps up the lost in a firm, never-letting-go embrace and holds on. Unconditional love holds on no matter how inappropriate, how weird, how disturbing and how dirty the subject is.

I have been given a whole new grace to love my gay friends. I talk to them, listen to them talk about relationship issues, ask them questions about their boyfriends, don't look disgusted when JM brags on his sex-transformation and just give them the same kind of love that every single person needs. And a little extra more. I never say I approve of what they do, I never encourage them their lifestyles in my words or in the things I say but they're in my life and so I'm going to be in their's.

When the moment comes that I get to fully share with them that I'm a Christian who believes the Bible and everything that it says, I want them to be able to look back on every single moment that I've been with them and never once see even a hint of me holding myself off in judgment. That may not mean that I don't lose a friend or have an uncomfortable confrontation, but at least they'll hear the name of Jesus from someone's who never failed to love and value them for exactly who they are.

Unconditional love.

Love truly is one of the greatest things on earth and I'm really learning that these days. In fact, love has changed my entire world. When you find yourself loving, truly loving, the people that the Lord died for, there is no way that you can stand unchanged. Love changes everything.

There is a reason that "the greatest of these is love."

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday | Why I Love the World & Why I Think That's Ok

I've never felt a huge personal burden for the lost. I've always been passionate about revival and further transformation of Christians and the church. To me, the unsaved were just a blank silhouette, like an empty facebook profile box where someone's not uploaded their photo yet. I figured that there were plenty of other people out pounding the pavement for Jesus, while my personal calling was for the church

Truth is, I didn't really know anybody who wasn't saved. My family is all saved, minus a few. All my friends were all second/third generation Christians. The only social settings or groups that I was involved with were either with church or various other Christian conservative influences. Everywhere I rubbed shoulders, I rubbed shoulders with a fellow believer in Christ.

Until seven months ago, when I accepted my job at Target. Every day since then, I have worked, sweated, talked, laughed, shared and just been friends with dozens of people who only know Jesus as a reason to swear. Suddenly that empty profile picture became the faces of my friends.

Of Yolanda. Of Miguel. Of Alex, Misty, Luis, Belen, Rose, Tom, Derek, Kayla, Stephen, Emilio, JM...the list of names go on. All of these people are my friends. My people. People I care about. People I've talked to, heard their stories, teased and joked with in the backroom at work. They have personalities, heartache, strengths, weaknesses and hurts. Some of them fall under the categories of best friends. Some I've even had small crushes on, haha. Some annoy me sometimes, some come to me with their grievances, some like to tease me because I'll tease back.

 I love my people. And the more I'm with them, the more I love each one and care so much about each one. And the more that happens, the more it cripples my heart that these precious friends aren't going where I'm going. That the way they're going is taking them to an eternity in hell. Suddenly, with the faces of my friends backdropped by the flames of eternal destruction, hell has become so much more real and eternity that much more forever.

And I cannot be silent about Jesus. Because my silence could cost them their lives. Oh no, I'm still terrible at it, it doesn't come naturally. Sometimes I just feel like the words that are coming out of my mouth don't make sense and I feel embarrassed because I must look so stupid. I still bypass those perfect opportunities because I talk myself out of it. But those opportunities, by God's grace, are becoming less. I'm just a tiny baby witness, who's big smile and constant positive attitude at work is more well-known than her faith. But that's changing. Because I can't let my friends, my work family, not know about Jesus any longer.

I'm so different than the girl who didn't care about the world overly much. Because I wasn't out in it. But now? I'm out in the world and I love the people in it.

The worst thing that we can do, as teens, as parents, as singles, as to stay in our church circles where it's safe, surrounded by the like-minded and protected from the world's temptations by the cushion of our fellow believers...because then we will never personally know the people who need Jesus.


It's when we know them personally that we love them. And when we love them, then there's no way we could ever be silent about Jesus.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday | Almond Blossoms

My favorite spring flower is back.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thursday | Back To The Same Place

I went back to my spot.

I've been struggling in my faith lately and somehow just getting out and away from everything that's normal and everyday brings me out above the daily struggle and into a place where it seems that miracles really can happen.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday | Castle Ruinous

Today I went on an adventure. All by myself. A mini road trip and an afternoon of photo taking, beauty soaking and river-side sitting. It was lovely. It's been a highly stressful week at work and I really just needed the time by myself to think, ponder, maybe cry a little and just detox all the issues that took me by surprise.

This place was perfect. I came away feeling braver and ready to embrace all the life has for me once again - the good, the bad and all the awkward moments in-between.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday | Three Random Photos

 My Target bag

My cat

Me and my newest nephew Toby

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sunday | Old Singles on Ice

Happy Sunday!

Last night found me and my group of "old singles" bundling up for an evening out on the ice rink. I feel like it's been so long since I've spent much time with these people, since I don't see them on Sunday mornings anymore, so I was beyond excited to get to hang out with all of them.

I spent most of the evening out on the ice, but Katheryn wielded the camera and got a few shots for the posting!

Incidentally, our "old singles" group is no longer just made up of singles. The above picture is a sample of the most recent cuteness to hit the news. :)

I'm so thankful for my friends, the ones I've known all my life and the ones I've gotten to know recently. Each one is so important to me and I'm so grateful that the Lord has given me this group of people to belong to. We're not fancy or formal, but we make awesome things out of our own variety"normal!"

Thanks, friends, for over a year of being together as a group!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Thursday | My Honest Thoughts on the New Year

Good morning and Happy New Year, friends!

How was your New Year's Eve celebrations this year? I went all out this year - two tubs of Moose Tracks ice cream instead of just one. Apparently I have no dieting goals for this next year. I spent the earlier part of the evening at some friends house but returned home to spend the last of the year with the people who mean the most to me. That, and I couldn't miss our ridiculous tradition of singing Auld Lang Synge in full harmony and not a little bit of mock seriousness as the clock changed from 2013 to 2014! Never without a tradition around our house! :)

I don't have any goals for this year, I gave up on those a long time ago. To be honest, the year's transition has been a bit of a tough one for me. As I've looked on the recent years past, I've realized that what's ahead of me looks very familiar. Working, making ends meet, watching everyone else find their dreams and have big adventures, having dreams of my own but no way of making them happen, just plugging on one cloned day after another. I'm basically in the same exact place I was in a year ago, two years ago, five years ago...and that, in my skeptic mind, next year at this time, I'll likely be in the exact same place again. That's hard for me.

I know the point of not knowing what's ahead means anything could happen...but when you hold your breath long enough, you do eventually run out of air.

But if I have to keep doing the same thing again this year...there's no one I'd rather do it with than the people I've been doing it with for so long! I have seven nieces and nephews to pour myself into, siblings who are my best friends, who are pursuing their own goals and need someone to catch their back and support them in their career endeavors, I live in a small town that will always be home no matter what and I've got two cats who keep my own heart purring.

 I'll make that enough for me, because all that is already more than I deserve.

What are your thoughts on the coming year? You excited about the unknown and anticipating big things? Or are you tucking your feet inside a pair of cozy slippers and settling in for another year of the familiar?

Because despite all of it, whether we face the familiar or the unknown, we've got Jesus and what I love about the new year, especially this year, is that it brings us that much closer to His coming back for us. And the older I get, that becomes the greatest dream of my heart and highest hope of what the year might hold. Maybe it'll be this year.

I'm so ready.

So, happy New Year, my friends!