Monday, May 30, 2011

A Long Day of Airplanes

It's been a long day.  As celebration for my graduation, we are leaving for a Caribbean cruise.  The cruise isn't until tomorrow, which is a good thing, because it's a fairly long distance from Texas to Florida.  Thankfully, we didn't have to drive anywhere.  All I've seen today are airports and airplanes.  It's been fun, but it's also been tiring.
We got up early this morning and finished the remainder of our packing before (almost tearfully) saying goodbye to our dogs.  It'll be eleven days before we get to see them again.
As we loaded everything into the back of our van, I was scared I would forget something important.  After all, if I'm on a ship in the middle of the ocean, it may be difficult to get what I need.  Dad reassured me, however, saying, "The ship will be like a small city.  It'll have everything we need."
We finally left our home and went to Nawnie's house.  I'm sure I've talked about Nawnie on my blog before, but she is my very cute, very sweet, seventy-eight-year-old grandmother.  Nawnie agreed to come with us on the cruise this summer.  We helped her load up all of her bags--and she had probably double the amount of all of us together, including a walker--and then stuffed ourselves into our very, very full mini-van.
The drive to the airport seemed to take forever, since we were crammed into such a small space.  But it was entertaining, so we laughed for most of the time.
The plane rides were quick, but the layovers seemed to take forever.  We went from my small Texas city to Dallas and then to San Antonio, where we stopped and ate lunch from a sandwich place called Blimpie.  I have no idea why any "health food" restaurant would call itself Blimpie, but oh well.  From San Antonio, we left for Orlando... but then had to stop halfway in New Orleans to fuel up.  According to our flight attendant, it was because: "This plane is packed full of people who decided to bring everything they owned with them."
We arrived in Orlando about two hours later than we were planning, but it was okay.  We didn't have anything planned for tonight anyways.  Tomorrow is when the fun will start.  Where I live, there is absolutely no humidity, so the second we stepped out of the airport, it was like we were dumped into a sauna.  I could literally taste the air, which is an unusual experience for me.  But I love it.  I absolutely love heat and humidity since I'm so cold-natured.
We finally arrived at our hotel--the Hawthorne--with our huge cart of bags.  We had eight suitcases, around ten carry-ons, and a walker.  The rack was nearly full to the top.  My eleven-year-old brother Luke decided to step up, be a manly man, and take control of the heavy cart.
lukie pookie jpg
I'm writing this from our hotel room now.  Honestly, I'm not all that impressed.  This hotel is located very close to the airport, which is why we chose this place, but it isn't very nice.  It makes me feel even more excited about our cruise.  I'm ready for some luxury! ;)  But believe me when I say that on each bed, there are literally dips in the sagging mattress.  Kind of scary.
Can you tell?
sagging bed jpg
Anyways, it's been a long day.  I'm exhausted.  It's funny how I've done nothing today but sit around in airports and airplanes and yet I'm still very tired.  Tomorrow will be an exciting day.  I'll be sure to keep you guys posted.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Being a high school senior is weird sometimes.

Shorter school days.
This isn't so much of a shock for those of you who are home schooled.  When I was home schooled, at times I'd be done with my school day at nine or ten in the morning.  But once I started school, I had to get used to eight hour days that seemed to drag on forever.  When I became a senior, I had finished most of my high school credits, meaning I had only four classes and got off at noon.  It was an absolutely wonderful feeling.

It was so strange to look around and realize that the underclassman had to stay in school for three and a half more hours than I did.  It was strange to see everyone else studying for classes I didn't have at all (like math and electives).  It was strange to see everyone hurrying to eat lunch in forty-five minutes, while I could take as long as I liked.

Believe me when I say that having a short day of school is wonderful.  It might feel weird at times, but it's absolutely wonderful.

Senioritis is REAL.
I used to always listen to the seniors above me talk about how they had senioritis "sooooooo bad" and I would chuckle to myself and think, "Come on... that's just an excuse."  But no.  Senioritis is real.

Right after Christmas, you start to get these feelings of: I don't belong here.  All of this is pointless.  I'm already accepted into college anyways.  Why learn any more of this nonsense?  Why come to school?  I NEED SUMMER!  It's not good.  It's apathetic.  But those are very real feelings.  It was a big struggle throughout my senior year to try to overcome that senioritis and continue to work hard at school.  But I'm happy to say that I graduated with straight As, even through my senior year.  Whew!

Teachers suddenly become much more lenient.
At my private school, all throughout high school, teachers were very personal in my life.  I'm someone who tries hard to make good grades, so if I started to slip, they would immediately pull me aside and talk to me about what was going wrong.  They'd push me when I struggled and try to give me harder and harder challenges.  Once I became a senior, I noticed that a lot of the teachers would say things like, "Here, you're graduating in a couple of months, so just write me a quick paper" or "You can talk during class today. You're seniors, after all.  Have fun."

I think this occurs for three reasons.

One, I think teachers start to feel like they can't teach a whole lot in a couple of months anyways... at least not much that will be remembered.  This happens especially towards the end of the year.  They've already gone through a lot of the books.  We all are suffering from severe cases of senioritis.  It can be difficult to think of things to teach.

Two, I think the teachers WANT us to have fun.  This was our last year of high school.  You're only a senior in high school once.  Ever.  I could tell that teachers would go out of their way at times to make sure we were making great memories.  I'm truly grateful for that.

Three, I think everyone expects seniors to be difficult.  "They're seniors" is a typical excuse I've heard.  Seniors tend to be restless, easily distracted, and full of laughter and jokes.  We're excited for the new year.  I'm afraid that sometimes, adults use the fact that it's our last year as an excuse to be more lenient.

Emotions change on a daily basis.
I know I've written about this before, but being a senior truly is an emotional roller coaster ride.  One day, I'm on a severe high of joy and excitement.  The next, I'm scared out of my mind.  And the day after that, I'm sad and tearful because I don't want to move away from everybody I love.  There is a lot of change and anticipation of change your senior year.  It can be difficult to understand and control everything you're feeling.

Perhaps my experience was a little different than others because I went through a few extra trials and changes this last year.  I honestly believe the Lord was testing me and helping me to grow and mature so I would better be able to face the challenges I know are ahead of me my freshman year of college.  I'm truly thankful for the trials I've had so far this year.

Suddenly everyone is friends.
Especially in early high school, everyone often splits into cliques.  You have the mean girls and your enemies who you can't stand.  There are arguments and cat fights and a little drama, depending on how you handle conflict.  Senior year, it's like most of those conflicts are forgotten, especially towards the spring months.

Everyone is "one class" and absolutely HAS to keep in touch next year and we all have the same fears in common.  I've noticed that towards the end of the year, everyone started going to lunch together and arranging pranks and nights of fun together and just making memories together as a class.

Even if you don't know someone very well, when graduation is looming near, it seems like everyone clings to each other, desperate to make friendships during these last few months.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I am so blessed.

This has been an amazing weekend.  Nearly all of my extended family came from all over to celebrate my graduation.  My actual graduation ceremony is on May 27th, but today was the Baccalaureate, which is like a ceremony for the families.  I don't THINK I have any photos from the actual ceremony, unless my mom ended up taking some.  If I find them later, I may share a few with you guys on another entry.  I do have a video of my prayer, however, which I'll possibly share on my YouTube channel soon.  I gave the opening prayer because I was National Honor Society president this year and I was VERY nervous.

Yesterday, all of my family met at a restaurant and ate a lunch/dinner together.  It was great to see so many loved ones all in the same room.  I had a blast.  Outside of my immediate family, two grandpas, four grandmas, an aunt, two uncles, and two cousins showed up.  We all took pictures together, which I'm so glad to have.

Here are my four grandmas.  Yes, I get four because my family is crazy and complicated and wonderful. :)

God has blessed me with such a big and wonderful family.

Today, we went to Baccalaureate.  At the end, the families of each senior come up to the front and pray over us.  My family gathered around me.  All the grandmas (and my mom) were crying.  It was so sweet.  My dad said a wonderful prayer that will stay in my heart forever.  And then it was over.  It was such a nice experience.  Honestly, I think I had the biggest number of family members out of anyone show up to Baccalaureate.  It was great.

Later today, we came to my house and had a party to celebrate my graduation.  So many amazing friends came.  The food was GREAT!  We had beef tenderloin, a huge fruit and veggie platter, chips, lemonade, tea, soft drinks, cupcakes, and a giant cake with the name of my school on the front.

Everyone decorated for the party, so the house looked super cute. :)

One of the funniest moments of the night was when my dad introduced one of my grandmas to our senior pastor (she actually goes to our church!) and she mistook him for a roof repairman, so when he greeted her, she responded, "It's so nice to meet you.  I'll be sure to give you a call the next time my roof starts leaking."  After a few moments of awkward silence, my dad said, "...what?  This is our pastor."  We all laughed and laughed and laughed.

So anyways, this is what has been going on in my life lately.  I don't know if any of you are interested in these things at all, but this is my blog and this is what is important in my life.  Starting in June, I'll get back to a more normal schedule.  I plan to begin my music artist reviews again, Jack pages, share a few more blogging tips, and I have a few devotion ideas in mind as well. :)  S if you don't like these journal-type posts, then I'm sorry.  I honestly am.  I just write about what's on my heart.  If you want me to continue with these kinds of posts, then please let me know and I might do more of these.

Oh, yes.  Look out during the next month or two for a blog giveaway that I have in the works right now.  I'll give you a hint.  Does anyone like Ted Dekker?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Assurance of Salvation (Islam vs. Christianity)

Many Muslims believe it is conceited to have assurance of salvation.  However, it is not conceit that gives me (as a Christian) assurance I will live in heaven for eternity.  It is my belief in the grace of God.  In fact, it could be considered conceited to believe you might make it to heaven by your own good works rather than by the grace of God.  As it says in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast."

Even Muhammad was unsure of his own salvation.  He said in Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith 5.266, "By Allah, though I am the cross picture old jpgApostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me."  If not even the great prophet Muhammad could not be sure of his own salvation, how could the average Muslim ever hope to reach Paradise?  Why would you want to follow a man who cannot even know where he'll be for eternity?  Isn't that a bit of a risk?

We cannot focus on our own works to earn salvation.  No matter how many good deeds we perform, we can never cover up the sins we have already committed without God's forgiveness.  The apostle James, brother of Jesus, said clearly in James 2:10, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."

Christ came into the world to give God's creation a peace and assurance of His salvation because of His vast mercy and grace.  In Luke 23:43, as Jesus was dying on the cross, He gave assurance of salvation to a thief who had certainly done many wrong things in his lifetime- enough to cause him to receive the death penalty from the Roman government.  After a lifetime of sin and mistakes, the thief was told by Jesus with confidence, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise."

Unlike the prophet Muhammad, Jesus gives assurance that one day you can spend eternity in heaven because of the grace of the almighty God, so long as you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior.


Feel free to share your opinion about this topic, so long as you are civil and respectful.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Why I Wear a Purity Ring

I've worn a purity ring since I was fourteen years old.  My dad gave me my first purity ring as a birthday gift.  It was the typical silver band with the words "True Love Waits" etched across the front.  You can get it here.  I loved the ring.  I loved its message and simplicity.  I loved what it stood for in my life.  I loved how blunt its words were.  "True Love Waits."  Nobody would ever question what that ring meant to me.

I lost my ring last summer, much to my dismay.  My new ring is also silver, although this one displays a pearl right in the center.  You can find it here.  It isn't as obvious that it's a purity ring as my first one, but I love it just as much.  It almost looks like a wedding ring, but with a pearl instead of a diamond.

I wear a purity ring as a symbol that I choose to remain pure before marriage.  When I say pure, I mean that I won't have sex before marriage, of course, but I will also try to keep all of my thoughts and actions pure as well.  I choose to stay pure so I can honor the Lord, my future husband, and myself.  I don't want to give away something that was meant for one person.  Hebrews 13:4 says, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure..."  I want to honor my marriage, even before I am married, as a gift to my husband.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 says, "Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.  Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your bodies."

My purity ring is a tangible reminder of my choice to remain pure.  I wear my purity ring on my left hand ring finger.  In a way, I see my purity ring as a pre-pre-wedding ring.  A wedding ring is a symbol of one's commitment to their spouse.  An engagement ring announces one's commitment to a soon-to-be spouse.  I wear my purity ring as a symbol of commitment to my future husband.

I wear my purity ring as a reminder of the commitment I've made to God, to myself, and to my future husband.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why I chose not to date.

Beware.  Today I'm writing about romance.

I decided at the beginning of my senior year that I would not begin a romantic relationship until I went to college.  This might seem extreme to some, but there are reasons behind my decision.  I thought I'd go ahead and share my logic.  Here are a few reasons why I decided not to date my senior year.

The older I get, the more serious my relationships can become.
Since I'm eighteen, I'm technically old enough to get married.  I'm nearly ready to date "for real."  Sometime within the next couple of years, I true love red jpgmight even meet the guy I'll end up marrying.  Even if I casually date a couple of the guys at my school or my church- because we're getting older and more mature- our fun and casual dates could turn into something more.  At this point in my life I'd like to branch out a little and meet my future spouse somewhere other than the place I've grown up.

I'm moving away soon.
Why would I even want to suffer the heartache of having to move several cities away from my boyfriend?  We're seniors.  Chances are, we'd probably attend different universities.  (And I most definitely do not want to feel pressured into attending the same university as my boyfriend just because I don't want to leave him.)  Starting college is going to be hard enough without having to try to keep up with a long distance relationship.  Plus, I'd like to enjoy being single on the college campus.  I'd like to go on dates and meet new guys.  I don't want to be held back by a guy I started dating in high school.

I want to focus on more important relationships in my life.
Right now, I don't want to keep up with the emotional roller coaster of a romantic relationship my senior year.  I'm about to move away from my family and friends.  Instead of worrying about going on dates and keeping a boyfriend happy, I'd much rather go on dates with my daddy or have a girls night out with my best friends.  I don't want to look back in a few years and think, "I wish I'd spent more time with my family instead of that guy who broke up with me three months after we started college."  There are more important relationships in my life right now and I'd like them to stay at the top of my priorities.

I need to spend more time working on my relationship with Jesus Christ.
I know my faith will be tested when I go to college, so I'd like to spend more time focusing on my relationship with the Lord.  If I'm busy with my senior year, spending time with my family and friends, and keeping up with a boyfriend, then I might lose focus on the One who matters most of all.

So that's why I've chosen not to date my senior year of high school.  Dating is fun, sure.  However, in my life right now, the emotional stress just isn't worth it.  I can wait.  You know, I don't think God has planned for me to find my future husband in my hometown.  I know I'll find him eventually, but I don't think it will be here.

The song "Wait" by Group 1 Crew just came into my head.

For now I patiently wait for you to come my way,
And I won't hesitate when you make your way right to my heart.
'Til then I'll patiently wait.

I found the photos I used in this entry here and here.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Little Things

Lately I've been trying to memorize my high school.  That might sound strange, but since I'm going to leave soon, I want to start memorizing the things I know will slip my mind later on.  There are little things- little details- that don't even cross my mind now, but they are so small I know I'll forget them later.

I don't want to forget.

The way the windows of the front office are blanketed in paintings from art class.  You can always tell which students are artistically gifted from those paintings.  There have been many groans of embarrassment, mine included, as we've walked through the lobby and caught a glimpse of a familiar- and ghastly- painting.  The way the library is full of old and musty books with titles like And the Angels Were Silent and Surprised by the Power of the Spirit.  The way the halls become almost painfully crowded when all of the classes are let out at once.  A hundred and fifty people aren't meant to squeeze together in a hallway that's less than five feet wide.

I don't want to look back in a few years and not be able to remember where I spent four years of my life.  My high school is where I've spent the vast majority of my time.  Sure, bad memories have taken place within these walls, but they've mostly been happy.  I've experienced joy here, amidst all of the typical high school boredom and stress.

I made some of my best friends in the entire world at my high school.  My teachers have shown that they honestly care whether or not I'm having a difficult time at home or if I don't do my best on a paper.  After Gatlin died, there were teachers who frequently checked up on me to make sure I was okay.  When we watched "Romeo and Juliet," I was actually sent to another classroom so I wouldn't have to watch the suicides.  My school has been great.  I have seen Christ through my teachers, principals, and friends.  I couldn't have asked for anything more out of my high school years.

You'd think some things I wouldn't mind forgetting, like the cheesy fake plants that decorate the shelves on the library walls (I'm looking at them right now) or the gaudy yellow tiles on the bathroom floor... or even the old locker room at the gym.  Ancient lockers, creaky toilets, awkward memories.  Yeah, those things don't always bring a grin to my face, but I don't want to forget them.  I never want to forget.

I'm sitting in my high school library as I write this, realizing with a touch of horror that I can easily count the number of days I have left to spend in this room.  At times, I feel like celebrating.  "No more school!  No more hours spent in this library, typing on these senile computers!  No more boredom!  No more waking up early!  No more!  No more!"  But it's sad.  A chapter of my life is closing forever.

So in a way, I will miss the fluorescent lights that are glaring down on me right now.  I'll miss the saggy, half-empty beanbags that have served as a bed when I come to school and nap for an hour (I have a free period every day).  I'll miss the old clock that has hung crooked on the wall for as long as I can remember.  I'll miss the out of place 4th of July decorations and the pumpkin-shaped pots of peppermints and jolly ranchers.  I'll miss the bright yellow trashcan.  I'll miss the stacks of musty, aging books.  I'll miss just being here.

On the last day of school, I'll probably feel sad.  I'll know that there will be no more time spent bantering with teachers, whispering in the bathroom with Ali to avoid having to go back to class, trying to write under the curious stares of my classmates (I hate writing when people watch me), and opening my familiar old locker every day.  Number 33, the one with the taped smiley face on the front.  I'm not the one who put the face there, but I've never had the heart to remove it.

I haven't said goodbye yet.  Not for good.  But I know the goodbyes are coming.  I can feel them already.

I know one day I'll miss these times, so I'm trying to memorize everything while I can.  Every corner, every quirky wall decoration, every scuff on the walls, every near-forgotten memory sparked by a crooked poster or a dented locker.  I want to remember every detail.

I will not forget.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

How Jesus's Sacrifice Can Make Sense to Muslims

Jesus became a sacrifice for the sins of the world by dying on a cross.  Muslims do not believe that a sacrifice can help them reach Paradise.  They believe in a works-based salvation.  The Qur'an says in surah 23:101-2, "Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy, they will attain salvation: but those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls, in Hell will they abide."  However, what kind of Paradise would this be if it was full of unchanged and unforgiven sinners?

If a murderer was taken into court and acquitted without reason, the judge would be unjust.  There must be a judgment for all sin.  If sins against God go unpunished, then God's character becomes flawed.  A pure and holy God cannot be near sin, but if one goes to heaven based on works, He is not being forgiven for the sins He has already committed.  Yet God cannot allow a sinful being in His presence.  Do you see how this is an impossible situation?  There must be a sacrifice to take the punishment for sin in order for the sinner to be forgiven.

Just as sin came into the earth through one man, God also made a way for eternal life to be gained through one man's death on a cross.  Jesus Christ lived on earth without sinning.  He was both a human being and God, and He brought moral perfection into the picture, allowing Himself to become a sacrifice for the world's sins.

As the Son of God and as the sacrifice for the world's sins, only Jesus Christ has the authority to forgive sin and grant assurance of salvation.  He has offered the gift of eternal life to the world, to anyone who believes in Him, according to Acts 16:31


Agree? Disagree? Feel free to share your opinions below.  Any uncivil or disrespectful comments will be deleted.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Testimony 2.0

Day 30: Share your testimony.

I grew up in a Christian home.  Some of my earliest memories are of Sunday School and AWANAS.  When I was younger, I thought the faith of my parents could get me to heaven.  I didn't bother to believe for myself when my family could believe for me.  I accepted my parents' faith without question.

When I was eight years old, the Twin Towers were attacked.  This tragedy shattered my young mind to pieces.  I was a little girl who did not understand why the same bad men who killed so many people in New York wouldn't come to my town in Texas and hurt me too.  I began to suffer from severe anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.  I wouldn't eat or drink without being forced.  I wouldn't go outside and play with my friends.  I couldn't bring myself to cross the street to get the mail in the good neighborhood where I lived.  I couldn't sleep at night.

My panic attacks would cause me to be nearly unable to breathe.  My heart would race in my chest, skipping like a rabbit.  One severe panic attack even sent me to the emergency room... at nine years old.  I was a little girl who suffered with big issues, and my parents were at a loss of what to do.  My mom began to get up thirty minutes earlier than the rest of the family to pray that God would save me from my fears.

The day before my tenth birthday, I was reading a book called "Left Behind" by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.  The book was about the rapture and everything involving that subject.  I began to think about what it would be like if Jesus came and took all of the Christians up to heaven and left everyone else behind.  I knew I would be the only one out of most of my family and friends who would be left.  I would be alone.  This frightened me to the core.  I finally realized that I could not rely on my parents to believe in Jesus for me anymore.  I had to believe in the Lord because I knew it was true.

I got on my knees right where I was and told Jesus that I was a sinner, I believed that He died on the cross for my sins, and I accepted Him as my Savior and my God.

I was around eleven or twelve years old when things began to change.  I've always felt a huge empathy for those lost in poverty.  I began to wonder, "If God really does love everyone, then why does He let so many kids starve to death every day?  He can't love us."  And I started to doubt.  Doubt, if not put in check, can spread like a wildfire.  I soon began to dismiss God completely.  I openly denied to my friends that He even existed... and if He did, I thought He surely must hate the world.

Depression and feelings of worthlessness hit me hard after I dismissed my faith.  I felt stupid, ugly, and unlovable.  I was more depressed than I had ever been before.  I began to cut myself... occasionally at first, but then it became a dangerous addiction and an outlet for me to release my anger and sadness and pent up emotions that I would never let anyone else see.  I wanted to hurt.  I felt like I deserved the pain I caused myself.  Soon, I was out of control, hurting myself frequently without telling a soul for a long time.  When I finally told a friend, he was too young to understand the true impact of what I was doing to myself.

My parents found out about my self injury and obviously panicked.  They were once again at a loss of what to do.  I was depressed, miserable, and I put a wall up against everyone around me.

The summer before my freshman year of high school, I made a 'deal' with God.  I basically said, "God, if You exist, then I want You to show me a sign.  Prove that You can work through me.  Prove You exist.  If You don't, I'm going to kill myself (and make sure it works this time) before school starts back in August.  If You give me reasonable proof that You can work in my life, then I'll give my life to You.  You can have it.  I don't want it anymore."  I thought my promise was an easy way out of my problems.  I could justify my suicide by blaming God's lack of presence in my life.  It seemed perfect.

That summer, my parents sent me to a nine day training program that teaches teens how to witness to kids.  I was mortified.  I didn't want to share my so-called faith in a God I hardly even believed in.  I wasn't allowed to quit the program, so I simply shut down.  On the fourth day, they took me and some of the other teens to a park to witness to random people.  I had to share my 'faith' with a nineteen-year-old girl.  I spoke in a fairly monotone voice, inwardly begging the girl to ignore my words.  The girl was quiet and shy, but she accepted Christ that day, explaining that she had just graduated from high school and received a Bible for graduation.  She hadn't known what to do with it until I came along and explained to her what it truly meant.

This crushed me.  I went home that night and cried because I realized that God had used me, even though I was fighting against Him with all of my might.  He still used me to further His kingdom.

I went to Mexico City on a mission trip soon after.  I was able to see poverty, serve the needy, and witness to the lost through an interpreter.  I went to Angel Tree Camp and shared a cabin with several young girls whose parents were incarcerated.  Most of these girls had been abused and neglected throughout their lives and a few of them accepted Christ that week.

By the end of the summer, I was able to lead more than thirty people to the Lord.  Me: a young, timid girl with wavering faith.  There was no denying that God had worked through me.  I had my end of the deal to keep.  My life was His.  Suicide was no longer an option.

The year after I made my 'deal' with God, a friend of mine named Gatlin committed suicide.  I'd talked to him the night before and had no idea about the decision he was going to make.  Gatlin's death was devastating.  For months, I battled with God.  "I gave You my life.  I thought You could take control and keep me safe... but look at what's happened.  I'm grieving harder than I've ever grieved before.  You're doing a terrible job of taking care of me!"  To be honest, I was furious with God.  I felt like He allowed Gatlin to die out of some sort of cruel vengeance for the things I had done.  I nearly relapsed into self injury and agnosticism, but somehow, I decided to wait.  I had so strongly felt God's presence over the previous summer.  I knew He had to be there somewhere.

The first time I felt God's presence after Gatlin's death was only a couple of weeks later when I opened my Bible for the first time.  I didn't know where to turn, so I let the Bible fall open.  Psalm 77:19 was what caught my eye.  It was an obscure verse.  I'd never paid much attention to its words before, but this time, they blazed through my mind.

Psalm 77:19
Your path led through the sea,
Your way through the mighty waters,
though Your footprints were not seen.

Psalm 77:19 helped me realize that even though I couldn't see God anywhere in the chaos after Gatlin's death, He was still there.  My grief and guilt had become as strong as an ocean, crashing over my head until I felt like I was nearly drowning.  However, God's footprints were silently moving through every moment in my life.  God was softly but surely healing my wounds and bringing my head above water.  I wasn't going to drown.  He was there, even if I couldn't see Him.

Although the thought of Gatlin's death still makes my heart ache, that tragedy in my life has helped me learn to hold onto the Lord when I'm breaking.  He's the only One who can hold the pieces of my broken heart in His hands and gently piece them back together.  He's always here for me.

I'm eighteen years old now and about to graduate from high school.  I have no doubt that God has worked in my life.  I'm still growing in Him every day.  There are still difficult times I have to struggle through, but Jesus has held my hand through each trial.  Hard situations that would have broken my faith a few years ago now strengthen my relationship with the Lord.  I haven't cut since May 12, 2007.  I'm not depressed.  I have a joy and a hope inside of me that is indescribable.  You can't know how that feels unless you have it for yourself.

I want to allow Jesus to control my life now because He is so much wiser than I am.  Believe me, I've tried to run my life on my own.  It never works.  I am so glad I made the decision to keep my life.  I've been able to do and experience so many things that I never would have imagined four years ago.  I've gone to Africa, mentored young girls who have problems with self injury and depression, wrote music, made many new friends, wrote a book, and gotten the experience of sharing my home with my amazing and beautiful best friend.

A big and exciting future is ahead of me.  I'm going to move out and go to college in a few months.  I can't wait to see what God has in store for me this time.  If He's gotten me through the sorrows in my life so far, I know He can get me through the transition into a university.  His footprints are still in my life, even on the days when I can't see Him.  I can already sense the adventures ahead, and you know... I can't wait.

I've never been happier.  And it's not just happiness that I feel.  It's joy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's time to surrender.

Day 29: At this time in your life, do you think you are fulfilling God's plans for you?

I want to say without a doubt, "Heck yeah, I am," but inside, I know I could always be doing more.  More for His kingdom, more for the hungry kids in the world, more for the young girls out there who are constantly living with depression and fear.  I could be doing so much more for Him.

I often live my life as if everything revolves around me.  I hole up in my room for a day or two, refusing to accomplish much of earth-2.jpganything, because I'm feeling tired.  I spend five dollars at Starbucks because I'm craving something sweet when five dollars is a week's paycheck for my sponsored child's family.  I don't share my faith with someone in my life, even though I feel led to do so, because I'm afraid of being rejected.  I don't make a big sacrifice because I might be made uncomfortable.

Have you ever done the same thing?

I must continue to remind myself that the world does not revolve around me.  Nothing should revolve around me.  Everything should revolve around Him, and that means I need to make more sacrifices than I do.  I need to give more, love more, seek Him more.  I need to spend more time with the Lord.  I need to share my faith more than I am now.  I need to give more to the needy.  I need to love on the lonely.  I need to share my feelings with my loved ones.  I need to be more like Him.

Now, I don't think that I'm doing the opposite from what the Lord wants me to do.  I think I am moving at a steady pace towards becoming the person God wants me to be.  But I still need to grow.  I have a long ways to go before I become everything He wants me to be.

I'm reminded of the song Surrender by Barlowgirl.

You say You have a plan for me
And that You want the best for my life.
Told me the world has yet to see
What You can do with one that's committed to Your calling.
I know of course what I should do,
That I can't hold these dreams forever,
But if I give them now to You,
Will You take them away forever
Or can I dream again?
"Surrender, surrender," You whisper gently.
You say I will be free.
I know, but can't You see?
My dreams are me. My dreams are me.

Look up the song.  It's amazing.

How would you answer this question?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Greater Things Than These

Day 28: If you could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would you do?

It depends on how big this one thing could be.  I wish I could end world hunger.  That's one thing, right?  But I know that's big.  That's huge.  Hunger and poverty are both issues that fill me with passion.  If I could do something huge to ensure that there Cute african kids jpgwould never be a starving child again, I would in a heartbeat.

If my one thing had to be smaller, I think I would write a book.  A very impacting book.  I've always wanted to be remembered through my writing, so writing a book that would touch many hearts would be something amazing for me.  Perhaps the "one" book would touch people's hearts and convince the world to turn around and provide hungry kids with food.  Perhaps the book would fill young girls struggling with depression and no self worth with hope.

We can do anything with Christ's help.  One day I will write a book that touches hearts... and I can do more than that because I'm not limited to only one thing to make the world a better place.  We've been made to glorify God.  We can perform amazing things for Him.

John 14:12
"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."

We are meant for greatness.

How would you answer this question?

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Little Crazy

During my first three years of high school, I always used to perceive the seniors above me as being crazy.  Not the clinically insane kind of crazy, but rather living the ideal high school life: partying all night long, never doing homework, and always, always having a good time kind of crazy.  At least, it sure seemed that way.  No matter what time it was, whenever I saw the seniors, they were all smiling and laughing about something.  In class, in the halls, at lunch, at Bible study... the seniors always seemed to be having a crazy good time.

What an unbelievably exciting thing to anticipate for my senior year.

Even towards the end of my junior year, my friends and I would discuss how eager we were to become seniors.  "Now we're just going to be able to relax and have fun," we'd tell each other.  "I can't wait to become a senior and just go crazy!"  Even a mere four months away from being actual seniors, my friends and I had no idea.

Our perception of seniors was correct... in a way.  Do we act crazy?  Yes.  Definitely in the partying together kind of way, but perhaps a little in the clinically insane kind of way too.

My senior year has probably been the biggest emotional roller coaster I've experienced since middle school (when everything was reason for drama) and most of my friends would probably agree with me.  Senior year has been crazy.  Sometimes in a good way and sometimes not.

I think everything I experience these days comes in extremes.  I'm either having a blast with friends while fighting shaving cream battles and prank wars and hosting movie nights... or I'm panicking about my future, wondering where on earth God wants me to go for college... or I'm terrified about leaving my family and friends and I feel both sad and scared at the same time.  Occasionally, I'll feel mellow, but even on those days, I seem to switch to the extreme.  "I don't care.  I just don't care.  Why do school work?  Why hang out?  Why do anything?  I think I'll just sleep for the rest of my life."  I think at times, there are so many confusing emotions and fears churning around in my head, it's hard to feel only one thing at once.

There is a peace that comes from the Lord, and when I'm as frantic as I so often am, it's very easily recognizable.  There is nothing more comforting than to be faced with a life-altering decision and then to feel a flood of peace fill my heart.  It helps me realize that God is there and taking care of me, even when I feel like I'm about to go insane.

I'm sure the seniors in my class seem just as crazy to all of the underclassmen as the previous seniors did to me.  You know, we are trying to make memories and leave a legacy behind us and enjoy the last few weeks we have with each other.  Imagine if you were told you had nine months left to live.  During those nine months, you'd try to enjoy yourself as much as possible, right?  On a lesser scale, we've been given nine months together as a class before we must go our separate ways... forever.  That leaves just a little bit of pressure.  If we want to have good memories, we've got to make them right now.

Honestly, I don't know one senior right now who isn't dealing with some tough issues.  Every single person in my close knit group of friends has struggled with something difficult this year.  Perhaps God is preparing us for our futures, which are sure to be filled with occasional trials.  Perhaps it's just a part of the stress that comes with entering a new chapter of our lives.

I've enjoyed my senior year of high school.  I truly have.  God has taught me so much during these stressful last months.  I know it has been good for me.  But I'm writing this to debunk the theory that all seniors are crazy.  ...Well, perhaps we are crazy, but it isn't always in the partying all day kind of way.  Half the time, we're crazy in the clinically insane kind of way.  It's tough to grow up.

But I wouldn't give up these moments for anything.

Crying Over Osama

Osama Bin Laden is dead.

When I first heard the news, I'll admit that my immediate reaction was a huge sigh of relief.  He's gone.  He's dead.  He can't hurt any more people.  I proceeded to run downstairs, saying excitedly, "Turn on the TV! He's dead! He's finally dead!"  I felt like one of the munchkins from the Wizard of Oz, singing, "Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead."  At first, I was so very excited.

Although I never personally knew anyone who died on 9/11, I was still hugely affected by that attack.  I was nearly nine years old at the time and I was old enough to understand that something very, very cruel and inhumane had just occurred, but I was too young to truly understand what was going on.  He killed all of those people, so why would he not kill me?  I was terrified that Bin Laden -the evil man on the television- would come after me and my family next.

Osama Bin Laden represented all of the fear I felt for two terror-filled years of my childhood.  I had panic attacks as a nine year old girl that sent me to the emergency room.  My insomnia began around that time.  I wouldn't go outside.  I wouldn't eat or drink for fear of anthrax poisoning.  Whenever I heard a plane fly overhead, tears would fill my eyes.  Of course Bin Laden wasn't the sole cause of the Twin Towers attack, but because he was such a leader, in my young mind, he represented everything horrible and frightening and inhuman about what was going on in the world.  Even for years after, an image of his face would send cold chills down my spine.

So why am I not glad he's dead?

After watching the news with my family, when I went back upstairs to my bedroom, I sat down and burst into tears because an image of my Savior flashed through my mind.  Jesus Christ, sitting in heaven with tears streaming down His scarred face.  After He suffered and died for every person on earth, yet another of His children will spend eternity in hell.  Despite how many people Osama Bin Laden murdered... despite how many lives were destroyed because of this man, Jesus still died for him.  Jesus gave His life for Osama Bin Laden.  And now Bin Laden's soul will burn in hell for eternity.

Did he deserve it?  He certainly did.  Do I deserve such a thing?  Yes.  Yes, I do.

A tear rolls down my cheek as I write these words. I never, never thought I would cry over the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Right now, nearly everyone I know is rejoicing over the death of Osama Bin Laden and for a little while, I was too.  In my mind, the last piece of that part my life is finally gone.  No more destruction at the hands of Bin Laden.  But I can't rejoice at the death of the man anymore.

Osama Bin Laden was created and cherished by God.  He turned away from God's plans, and I'm sure that must break the Lord's heart.

We may be rejoicing down here on earth, but surely, surely Jesus is mourning.  His child is lost for eternity.

After a long, rambling, and probably purposeless blog entry, I've come to a final thought.  I will rejoice that no more destruction will come at the hand of Osama Bin Laden.  I'm so glad he can do no more damage and will shatter no more lives.  But I ache for the lost soul of a fellow human being.  And I ache because surely the heart of Jesus Christ -the One who suffered and bled on a cross for those like Osama Bin Laden and me- is aching too.