Sunday, November 27, 2011

Procrastination (n): This post right here

Photo Credit: Unknown
Listening to: "Element" by Matthew Mayfield
This song is seriously beautiful. I love it. I also love Matthew Mayfield. Get his Now You're Free album--"Element" included--for free on NoiseTrade (of course--seriously, that site is the best)! Good stuff, all of it.

Hey, friends. Seeing that I have a 7-page research paper to write (I currently have a page and a half), two smaller papers, and 50 pages of Frankenstein to read (I've read about 5), all by tomorrow, that obviously means it's time for me to procrastinate even more by writing a blog post. Some things never change.*

Digging Deep, cont.
Remember how I was talking about digging deep and such in my last post? Well, last Sunday after I wrote it, guess what Scripture the sermon was based around? Oh, Psalm 139 (which I ended the post with). And guess what his one comment on the last two verses (the ones I used) was? Oh, just that "search me" in the original Hebrew essentially means to dig deep. Ha! I love it.

I started sponsoring a kid through Compassion International last week! His name is Prosenjit and he's 11 and from India. I'm super excited. It's something that I've wanted to do since I was like, 12, but was always afraid to commit to a monthly payment. Ever since the summer, though, I've kinda felt like it's something that God wanted me to do, but still, it took me a couple of months to finally decide that it's a faith thing: if He wants me to do it, He'll provide the money somehow. Besides, I have so much. Most of the world lives on less than a dollar a day. The average income for the area where Prosenjit lives? $15 a month. That's like 50 cents a day. I spend seven times that much--an entire week's worth of pay for them--multiple times a week on a cup of COFFEE. They'd have to save absolutely everything for nearly 4 months just to pay for a tank of gas. How's that for some perspective?

Not only that, but everything that Compassion stands for is exactly what I want to do with my life. For me, this is like taking the first step in actually fulfilling that. I like that they're all about changing lives at the individual level. I like that they recognize that the spiritual aspect is absolutely crucial, which is why they work through local churches. I just like what they do a lot. Their Holistic Child Development model makes perfect sense to me...hence the reason I'm planning to get my masters degree in just that! So even though I technically just started getting involved with them, what they stand for is something that I am really passionate about, so get ready: you're probably about to start hearing a lot more about it!

Thankfulness is such a common theme for this time of year, but it's something that's been a recurring theme for me over the past couple of months, and not something I plan to change! I've been keeping a daily list of little things that I'm thankful for, and it's amazing how it has changed my perspective for the better! 
  • The sound of rain
  • The 11(!) little kids I got to spend my Thanksgiving with (including 3 sweet girls who are convinced I'm a superstar)**
  • Good music
  • Christmas lights at Inman
  • Slowly understanding more & more about what God is up to...and even then, recognizing that I don't have a clue.

Things I Like

  • Everything about this room:
    1. Photo clothesline, complete with vintage frame and painted knobs
    2. Bird pillow (anything with bird silhouettes automatically means I love it)
    3. Collage painting--I love, love, love the idea of decorating with my own artwork
    4. Painted lampshade (and I like that teal lampshade, too!)
  • Tennessee print (love the lettering, love Tennessee):
    "Rocky Top, you'll always be home sweet home to me."

  • This "Choose Joy" print. Birds & a reminder I need constantly--perfect:
    "Choose joy. Because everything is relative."
*Well, by the time I'm actually posting this, my paper has been completed. Only 7 hours of work. You know, no big deal... I just spent a lot of time procrastinating in between.
**Yes, 11 kids. My two cousins, my friend's two little girls, and 7 of her little cousins. If I ever have self-esteem issues, I just need to go hang out with them. I'm pretty sure Lizzie (6), Emma (4), & Mackenzie (8) are convinced that I'm the greatest thing that ever happened to planet Earth. I'm not really sure why, but hey, I'm not complaining!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Digging deep

"Humble Gift" by Marie Elliot
Listening to: "How Firm a Foundation" by The Walla Recovery
(I have been on such a hymns kick lately. Kind of strange and random, I know, but this stuff is just so good! They just have so much substance to them, instead of being so focused on the emotional--not that emotional is bad--and I love that.) 

Favorite thing: unexpectedly coming across stuff that lines up perfectly with everything I've been pondering on my own.

Lately, I've been thinking so much about pain and how the way you handle it is so vital to who you are, about how it brings out things in you that you never realized were there and forces you to deal with them, about how incredibly important having a strong foundation is for anything else you encounter. One of the biggest things: As hard and painful as it's been, I am so thankful that God has used the past few months to get my attention and forced me to dig into the deepest parts of my heart to get rid of everything that's been buried there, things I had no idea even existed. Digging deep like that isn't easy--at all. It's so difficult to have to face yourself for who you really are…and even more so to actually deal with it. Still, it's so, so worth it.

As I was reading my Bible yesterday, this verse really stood out to me:
"As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built."
- Luke 6:47-48 (NIV)
Seriously? Down to the exact wording of what I've been thinking. I had no idea the "dug down deep" part even existed. This is exactly where I am right now: getting rid of everything inside that's in the way of building the foundation I need for everything that's coming next. I don't know what that will be, but it's exactly why God has been pushing me: "Seek Me first. Don't worry about what comes next--this step is most important." Without this, everything that comes next will be worthless because there's nothing to build on. Case in point:
"But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."
- Luke 6:49
So then, last night, I had to read another chapter in Sexy Christians by Ted & Diane Roberts, a book for my Human Sexuality class. (Ahem. Good book, exceptionally ridiculous title.) To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to it. While I do like the book, I've been making a point to avoid it because quite frankly, I've been avoiding anything having to do with relationships lately.* This chapter, though? Could not have been more perfect. It was completely focused on pain, finding purpose in it, dealing with it correctly, how it forces you to deal with who you really are. It also emphasized the importance of pain in coming to really know God. Like I said--perfect. Some favorite quotes:
"In Abraham's culture, fathers found their value and future in their heritage--particularly in their firstborn sons. In this environment, it seemed almost natural for Abraham to develop an unhealthy addiction to Isaac. But do you see what God did? He loved Abraham enough to bring him to the knifepoint of finding his value solely in his relationship with his heavenly Father."**
"What we do with our pain is one of life's determining factors…. What we do with our pain determines the depth of our character…"***
They go on to say that, when it comes to pain, you have two options:
Option 1: Pain + Purpose = Freedom
Option 2: Pain + Pleasure = Bondage****
Basically, you can use the pain to grow and come to know God in a way you never have before, or you can bury the pain by distracting yourself with other things, denying that perhaps there are things within you that need to change. God often uses pain to get our attention, but we have to be willing to acknowledge Him...and that requires us to dig. Deep. Painful? Very. But so very, very worth it in the end.
"Fairytale Tree" by Chinitsu
 "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
- Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

*Usually my favorite subject, but I need a break from it just now :)
**Sexy Christians, p. 201
***Sexy Christians, p. 202
****Sexy Christians, p. 202

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Waiting, always waiting.

Listening to: "The Ladder" by Andrew Belle
(Lyric love: "On a ladder from there to here, I'll climb / All these clatter between my ears I find / Does it matter if I can't clear my mind? / There's a right and a wrong time." -- I have been listening to his music waaay too much much lately. I can't help it! This song in particular is one of my favorites. So good. Check out the music video here!) 

Wait. That's the only thing I seem to hear lately. It's probably one of the most frustrating answers to get: a mix between hope for a yes and the reality that the answer may still be no.

I hate uncertainty.

It doesn't help things that I'm the kind of person who loves figuring things out. I love finding the connections between things (and, oh, the connections I find!). Basically, I tend to be a big picture kind of girl when it comes to stuff like this. I'll try to wrap my mind around the entire thing when God just wants me to focus on the detail work that it takes to actually get there. I see so many of these big connections, yet in the context of where God has me right now? Those things don't matter. Just because something is there doesn't mean it's relevant at the moment.*

Psalm 27 has come up so many times over the past month or so. Seriously, it's been everywhere! The verses that have stood out the most:
“My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, LORD, I will seek.” - Psalm 27:8 (NIV)
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” - Psalm 27:14 (NIV)
Both line up exactly with what I feel like God's telling me lately: “Wait. Be hopeful. Be content with now. Don't worry about what happens next; just focus on Me. Just wait.

That's hard for me. I struggle with being present. I'm great at looking back--I can analyze the past like nothing else (which I do...often). I'm also good at looking ahead--predicting the future seems to be a favorite pastime of mine (but one I'm really, really bad at). But focusing on right now? Not my thing. Yet I know that it's exactly what I have to do. There's a reason He hasn't answered yet. I have to go through the process of now to get to the end result...whatever that may be.

Ultimately, the wait is exactly what solidifies everything I've been learning up until now. All the lessons in faith, hope, trust, etc.--they're so important, and they're in my heart, but at the same time, if the process ended here? I'm pretty sure I'd lose it all within a month or two. Waiting can be really dull because the excitement of learning so many new things isn't there, but I'm starting to think that it's the most important part of all.
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. - James 1:4 (NIV)
"Pressing On" by Unknown

Some things I'm liking lately:
  • These birds-on-a-wire photo clips are wonderful. $10 for a set of 8 is a little on the pricey side for me, but I'm almost thinking it's worth it.
  • Pretty silver leaf necklace from Morgan Prather on Etsy. Simple, nature-y...of course I like it.
  • This ampersand print. (Actually, anything with an ampersand is probably something I like... That's probably kind of cliche. Oh well.)
  • Pallet art. This is one of my favorite hymns, and I absolutely love this particular lyric. So good.

*That being said, it's definitely relevant in the long run. Sometimes, though, it does more harm than good to focus on the end result. If I'm so caught up in where I'm ultimately supposed to be, I lose my focus on the task at hand, and right now is necessary in getting to where I need to be. It's all a process--it can't happen all at once.