Tuesday, January 31, 2012

30 Days of Music

Through February, I'll be participating in a blog challenge I found online.  This blog challenge won't be the only thing I write because the posts should be quite small, but it'll provide something on the days when my schedule is too crazy for me to write anything else.  Feel free to take the challenge on your own blog.

Day 01 - Your favorite song
Day 02 - Your favorite worship song
Day 03 - A song that makes you happy
Day 04 - A song that makes you sad
Day 05 - A song that reminds you of someone
Day 06 - A song that reminds of you of somewhere
Day 07 - A song that reminds you of a special memory
Day 08 - A song that you have memorized
Day 09 - A song that you can dance to
Day 10 - A song that makes you fall asleep
Day 11 - A song from your favorite band
Day 12 - A song from your favorite solo artist
Day 13 - A song that recently came out
Day 14 - A song that no one would expect you to love
Day 15 - A song that describes you
Day 16 - A song that you used to love but now dislike
Day 17 - A song that you have heard live
Day 18 - A song that you wish you heard on the radio
Day 19 - A song that used to be your favorite
Day 20 - A song that you listen to when you’re angry
Day 21 - A song that you listen to when you’re happy
Day 22 - A song that you listen to when you’re sad
Day 23 - A song that you want to play at your wedding
Day 24 - A song that you want to play at your funeral
Day 25 - A song that makes you laugh
Day 26 - A song that you can play on an instrument
Day 27 - A song that you wish you could play
Day 28 - A song that makes you think
Day 29 - A song from your childhood

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A little broken.

Today I'm going to get a little bit more personal than usual, and honestly, I'm a little uncomfortable about it.  I'm not even sure if I can form what I want to say into rational thought, but I'll try. 

I feel like the Lord has been rebuking me today.  I'm not sure how I know this exactly, but I do.

Since I've been back from college, my heart has been pulled in a direction it's never been taken before.  My thoughts and much of my conversation have been consumed by these emotions and I've rationalized it all in my head by saying, "It's okay.  It's normal."  Everyone who knows about this has chuckled and agreed that it is a normal thing, and you know, it probably is.

But I shouldn't be normal.

Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  I am not of the world.  I am a child of God... so just because it's a normal thing of the world to have one's heart taken and overwhelmed by thoughts of something else, I don't think this should be normal for me.

I should spend more time thinking, daydreaming, and talking about my precious, beautiful Savior than I do about anything else.

I rationalize it all to myself, thinking: "I go to church, life group, Breakaway, and I have small Bible studies with my friends.  I have a daily quiet time.  I spend so much time with the Lord.  Surely all that is good enough."  But it's not quantity that matters... it's quality.  Am I putting Him absolutely first in my thoughts each day?  No, not always.

Today I've been thinking about my heart and my emotions and how I could possibly have wedged something in my mind so deeply that it's overpowered my thoughts to the extent that it has.  Today, the Lord has asked me to repent of that and set my gaze fully upon Him.  It's not easy, but I am.  And I'm ready to let my mind be transformed again.

I know there will be a time when I'll be allowed to open my heart more than it is now, and that time could be quite soon, but it isn't today.  I feel like God placed a hand on my shoulder and He is whispering into my ear, "Wait, Emily.  Give it a little more time, and in the meanwhile, look to Me instead." 

I want to open my heart to grow in Him, not to fill my desires on my own terms.  I truly believe that if I seek the Lord whole-heartedly, He will fulfill every desire of my heart.  He knows what is best for me and I do believe He's working on this exact situation.

So yes, my heart feels a little sore today.  I'm having some conversation with my Father and not everything He has to say feels so good in the moment.  But then again, it does.  I trust Him.

It will be okay.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Best Friend Tag!

Today I'll be having a best friend tag!  This is something I kind of made up, but it's basically a blog post dedicated to your best friend (or a special friend, if you don't have a best friend) to make his or her day brighter.

Post a picture of your best friend and five things you love about her.

This is Ali.  She's my best friend.  I love...
  1. Her willingness (and eagerness) to participate in adventures with me, such as Facing Prejudice.
  2. Her heart for young girls.
  3. Her big hair (yes, I said it).
  4. How she'll always allow me to take pictures and videos wherever we go.
  5. Her servant's heart.
Describe the day you met.

Ali and I met when we were in the fifth grade... on Valentine's Day, to be exact.  I had just transferred to a new school.  Because I was shy, a former home-schooler, and a bit of a nerd, the other girls in our class who were supposed to show me around ignored me.  Ali reached right through my timidity and we became friends almost instantly.  I spent the rest of the school year eating lunch with Ali.

A picture of you and your best friend together. 

We had our senior pictures taken together. 
A song you both love. 

Our senior year and this year, we have become addicted to the Shane and Shane song "I Miss You."  It's a worship song, but we often sang the chorus whenever we were separated for any length of time (even an hour).  "Ohhhh, I miss you soooo!"

What was your biggest fight or argument?

In the seventh grade, Ali and I ended our friendship for about a month because I stopped being friends with another girl in our class (middle school dramaaa) and Ali said, "Be friends with her again or we can't be friends either!"  I'm stubborn and wouldn't, so we ignored each other for a few weeks.  I'm not even sure how the squabble ended.  But we're fine now, six years later. :)

A video of you and your best friend together. 

Five things you have in common with your best friend. 
  1. We both love Wentworth Miller from Prison Break and think he's very handsome.  Don't believe us?  Look him up.
  2. We both like the colors black and white put together.
  3. We both love Shane and Shane.
  4. We enjoy stalking people on Facebook together... for real, and I know that sounds creepy, but it's something we actually do.
  5. We both decided not to have boyfriends in high school.
 Five ways you are very different from your best friend.
  1. Ali loves chick flicks (in books and movies) and I love action, mysteries, and thrillers.
  2. Ali loves country music and I love rap.
  3. Ali can fall asleep at any moment... I am an insomniac.
  4. Ali likes arts and crafts, while I prefer music and writing.  All of these things are art, but still different. 
  5. Ali thinks about marriage all the time.  I think about... well, anything other than marriage. ;)
Describe the last thing you did with your best friend.

Although Ali and I have not seen each other since late December (wow, I can't believe it's already been a month), we Skype and text frequently.  Last night, we Skyped because Ali has been wanting to blog... however, she lost both her password and email address to log into Blogger.  (Read her blog here.)  So I had to show her step-by-step how to retrieve her password and etc. and etc. and etc...

In person, the last thing we did was eat lunch at a delicious Chinese restaurant with two other sweet sisters in Christ, Rebecca and Rebekah.  We were a little sad because we knew we had to say goodbye, but the day was still fun. 

Complete this: "My best friend is..."

A weirdo.

Okay, just kidding.  My best friend is my sweet sister and I wouldn't have it any other way. :)

Your turn!  Share a best friend tag on your blog... and then send it to your best friend and make her (or him) smile. :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Which is Home?

I know I haven't been posting much.  Believe me, I know it's been too long when I start getting texts from several different people saying, "Is everything okay?  Why haven't you been writing?  Is your blog messed up?"  No, no... it's just that I've been so busy.  The first couple of weeks of school and a packed social life has consumed a lot of my time.  But I need to set aside more of this time to write.

When I first came to college and moved into my dorm, I was adamant about not calling it "home."  If I got a ride from a friend and he said, "I'll take you home," I would feel a little offended.  I always called it "my dorm" or "I'm going back to relax now," but I never said "I'm going home to relax now."

Home was where my family lives, where my real bedroom is, my hometown.  Home certainly couldn't be this small and unfamiliar dorm in a college town where no family is in sight.  How could I ever call a place like this home

Lately, I've heard a few opinions on this subject that have really made me think.

At church on Sunday, the pastor took a moment to share why he believes we should call Aggieland home, even if we feel homesick for the places we came from.  He told us that if we refuse to call this place home, then we're putting ourselves into a place of transition and not living in the now.

If this isn't home, then it's harder to actually settle down and make a life for the Lord here, because we'll be pointing our thoughts in the direction of: "When I finish college, when I get this job, when I accomplish this thing, when I move away..." and not so much: "This is my home.  I am going to change it for the Lord with the abilities and resources I have right now."  I need to cherish this city and the people in it and decide to live in this moment and work for the Lord where I am right now

A week and a half ago, I was riding in a car with a friend.  She said, "I didn't always do this, but I call Aggieland home now.  Even if this is 'just' where I go to college, it's my home too.  The people here are special to me and I love it here.  My hometown will always be home to me, but this place is home too."

My dorm may feel uncomfortable and cramped at times.  It has more of an institutional feel and less of a "homey" feel.  I don't know if my dorm room will ever feel like a home, but perhaps the house in which I'll live next year will.  But this place, Aggieland, is homey.  It is familiar.  And I love the people here.

Although my hometown, the place where my family lives, will always be home to me, I'm going to allow this place to be my home too.

I don't want these four years to be a time of impatience, waiting, and transition.  I want them to be a time of transformation, but a time of joy... and being home.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why do you have hope?

I stumbled across a verse in 1 Peter tonight that I feel goes along with my post about praying for conversations. 

1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV)
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.   

I adore this verse.  In the five months I've been a college student, I've been mocked a few different times for what I believe, in my classes and in my dorm.  At times I've felt frustrated with the angry words thrown my way because of what I believe, but this verse explains what we are meant to do with such clarity.

I love the second sentence: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  For the hope that you have.  Hope.

One thing we have as followers of Christ that other religions do not is hopeOur faith is based on the Lord's grace, not on our own good works.  I've never heard of another religion that believes in salvation through grace rather than good deeds.  We understand how broken and sinful we are as human beings.  We certainly could never make it to heaven based on our works alone, yet we can feel confident of our salvation.  We are adopted and cherished children of God

Christ has given us hope.

People will see this hope you have--this unusual, beautiful, magnificent hope--and want to know why.  When you have a conversation with someone who is blowing you off or even laughing in your face, try your hardest to continue to speak with gentleness and respect.  Show them Christ's love through your words.

I was so encouraged by 1 Peter 3:15-16 tonight.  It brought me joy and comfort, and it reminded me of the hope Christ gives.  Let's continue to pray for the conversations we'll have this semester.  Through growing relationships, conversations, and the way we live our lives, we can show Christ to those around us.

You are a city on a hill.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Big School Experience

This afternoon, on the way to my only class of the day, I had to walk across campus.  It's about a twenty minute walk from my bus stop to my class.  During that time, I wandered between tall buildings and large crowds of students.  In a crowd, I don't stand out. 

As I watched the students walk by, I couldn't help but feel a little lost.  I was one out of fifty thousand students on campus.  I was about to attend a class with nearly four hundred other freshmen and sophomores.

I felt so small. 

I was lost in thought about all of these things when a voice caused me to stop in my tracks.


Out of everyone milling around me, somebody actually knew my name.  I whirled around to see who it could possibly be and I was hugged.  Hugged.  "Emily, I can't believe I just found you!"

One of my best friends, Rebecca, was standing in front of me, embracing me with a huge smile on her face.  Although we attend the same university, we never stumble across each other.  There are tens of thousands of people on campus at the same time and we don't have any classes together.  In fact, we've never seen each other on campus until today.

But there we were.

It was such a relief to see and hug my friend, even though we spoke for less than five minutes.  We both had class to attend.  It's funny... in that moment, I think we both felt the comfort of knowing that out of all of the students scurrying about us like a flock of birds, we had found each other.  We were familiar to someone.  We were recognized.

Even if I was the smallest, least important person in that entire crowd, I was significant to someone out there.  Although my smile had faded as I wandered through the college students, after I met with my friend, I found myself grinning again.  Knowing I was loved and known brought joy into my day and into my heart.

As I sat in class this afternoon, I couldn't help but be reminded of how the Lord feels about me.  He created an earth with billions of people.  If I feel insignificant surrounded by a few hundred, I can't imagine what I would feel like if I was sitting next to the seven billion others all around me.

Why was I created?  Why do I matter?

I keep notes from Breakaway each week on an iPhone app.  Looking back over this last Tuesday's notes, here is a little something I put down: Jesus changed the perspective of God from a disinterested deity to a Father.  

God is my Father.  He loves me because I am His child.  It doesn't matter how small I am or how many people don't know or care about my existence.  God does.  I was created for the Lord.  I am beloved by the Creator of all things.  And you know, that makes me feel pretty significant.  I am loved. 

You are too.

Psalm 17:8 
Keep me as the apple of your eye; 
hide me in the shadow of your wings

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Praying for Conversation

I caught a ride back to Aggieland with a friend of mine from high school.  During the several hour drive from my home to our university, we began to pray together for this upcoming semester.  While my friend was praying, she said something that has stuck in my mind ever since.

"Bless our conversations." 

The idea of praying for God to bless our conversations struck me.  In an average day, I may not approach many people with the sole intention of sharing my faith.  However, in an average day, I have multiple conversations with several different people.  Some of them are believers in God.  Some aren't.

Your conversations may be the biggest light you shine for Christ all day long.  Have you ever prayed over those conversations before? 

Almost immediately after my friend prayed for God to bless our conversations this semester, I was reminded of Colossians 4:6.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. 

This semester, I am going to challenge myself to bring up my faith somehow in every conversation I have, whether or not I'm talking to a fellow Christian.  I want to use the things I say to encourage others, not bring them down.  I want to choose what I say with wisdom and show Christ's love with every word that comes out of my mouth.

Each morning, I challenge you to take a moment and pray over your conversations.  Ask the Lord to bless them and to fill your words with His grace, love, and a joy that could only come from Him.  Ask Him to plant seeds in the hearts of unbelievers through you.  Ask God to fill you with a fire so passionate for Him that it cannot help but spill over into your day-to-day conversations.

I can be shy at times.  Talking to people I don't know is a little intimidating.  However, I challenge myself and you to make a true effort to start conversations (and relationships) with the people around you.  Start conversations with the students in your class, with the person sitting next to you on the bus, with your co-workers and dorm-mates and friends, new and old.

And when a conversation is started, whether you expect it or not, eagerly embrace the chance to share God's love with those around you.  Perhaps these conversations are being placed before you for a reason.  Don't let them fall to pieces without making an effort to share God's love.  Even when you're having a difficult day, even when you're busy or stressed or irritated, remember that your conversations are an opportunity to show Christ.  Don't take them for granted. 

Personally, I'm excited about the conversations I'll be having this semester.  Are you?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Breaking the law.

I'm afraid Ali is going to kill me, but I've got to share this story today.  It's pretty amusing.

I like to choose TV shows on Netflix and watch them from start to finish.  So far I've watched Monk, Lost, The Office, and over Christmas break I chose Prison Break.  Ali doesn't usually care to watch my shows with me; it's most often my little brother Luke who does.  This time, Ali and I both became absolutely hooked on Prison Break.  The main character (Wentworth Miller) is one of the most handsome men we've ever seen, the bad guy is perfectly horrific, the action is always intense, and some aspects of faith are even covered in this show.

There are eighty episodes of Prison Break in total, so Ali and I were only able to watch about twenty together over the break.  When Ali returned to school a little before I did, she would text me about how she was continuing to watch the show.  I figured she meant through Netflix.  That's what I use on my computer when I'm in college.

Last night, Ali and I were Skyping.  She asked me what I used to watch Prison Break and when I told her Netflix, she acted surprised that I could do so on my computer.  "Wait, what do you use?" I asked, suddenly confused.

"Well, I Googled around and found this website that has tons of free shows and movies.  It lets you watch all of the episodes of Prison Break... for free!"

"That doesn't sound legal," I said suspiciously.

Ali laughed.  "Of course it's legal, Emily.  It doesn't say anywhere on the website that it's illegal."  (Later, Ali told me that she thought if it was illegal, it would have a big red sign somewhere on the website that said: "View at your own risk.") 

"There's no way that site is legal.  Let me look it up."  I searched "Is _________.eu legal?"  No, it was certainly not.  

Ali and I laughed for several minutes.  We couldn't believe she'd been breaking the law for the last two weeks without even realizing it.  "Don't go to that website anymore, Ali," I warned her.  "It could give your computer a virus."

Ali's eyes got big.  "So that's what happened," she said in a shocked voice.

It turns out, Ali was watching Prison Break through that same illegal website while she was at work (she's allowed to watch shows in between phone calls, no worries) and she crashed her work computer with a virus... so badly that they had to replace it and get her another!  Oh, Ali...

It makes me laugh that Ali broke the law to watch a show about convicts.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

See you soon!

When I was a child, I lived next door to one of my best friends today, Rebekah.  We had so many adventures together.  We'd often spend hours in a day with each other, pretending like we were spies, writing stories, playing basketball, and jumping on Rebekah's trampoline.

I'm keeping this picture small because it's a little embarrassing, but this is of Rebekah and I when we were ten.
One ritual we always had was never to say "goodbye" at the end of the day.

I dealt with a lot of anxiety when I was a young child.  One day, I said worriedly, "I don't like it when we say goodbye, Rebekah.  I feel like goodbye is so final.  It means forever.  And even if one of us was going to die, we'd still see each other in heaven, right?  I don't like saying goodbye"

"You're right, but what would we say instead?" Rebekah asked.  She was used to my quirks and was nearly always ready to play along.

We thought for a while and finally came up with the idea of saying, "See you soon!"  After that, every time we were separated we would say "See you soon!" with huge smiles on our faces, which greatly amused our parents.

The tradition has carried on since we were seven or eight.  Now we're nineteen and we still don't like saying goodbye to each other.  In fact, it's an awkward and unhappy word when we try to make it come out of our mouths.  Goodbye?  It's too final.  It means forever.  We'll see each other again, alive or not.

I've spent the last few days reuniting with my friends, including Rebekah.  When it came time for us to finally leave each other, as she had to go back to college earlier than the rest of us, we embraced but never said goodbye.  We may not see each other for a few months, but this is certainly not goodbye.

"See you soon," Rebekah said, smiling as I walked out to the car.

I said "I love you" in sign language, another long-time tradition of ours.  "See you soon!"

And we will.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What it means to know the Lord.

All day today, Africa has been on my mind.  I've gotten five letters from my sponsored child in the last six months.  While I absolutely love receiving her letters and hearing from my precious "daughter", her words sure make me want to return to Kenya.

If you'd like to read my journal from when I went to Africa, it's in the archives of this blog in July, 2009.  There I share my emotions and experiences and pictures (the best part, right?).


If you've never sponsored a child, I recommend that you look into it.  When I went to Kenya with Christian Relief Fund, I was given the opportunity to photograph children for their sponsorship packets.  These children were beautiful, intelligent, and very joyful, but they lived in utter poverty.  

I was able to see how much of an impact sponsorship had on the lives of the children in Eldoret and Kisumu Kenya.  Sponsored children are given an education, medical care, enough food to help their entire families, clothing, and sturdy school shoes.  Most importantly, they are shown the love of Jesus Christ.  

Before a child is sponsored, a photograph is taken of him to place on his sponsorship packet.  The child's picture is often what draws someone to sponsor him.  I volunteer for Christian Relief Fund whenever I can and one thing that has drawn my eye is those photographs.  CRF keeps copies of the pictures taken of each child.  Within even a year's time, from the first photograph taken of a child to the most recent, there is an astronomical difference.  Huge smiles, school uniforms, healthy weights, no obvious signs of illness or distress.  

With Christian Relief Fund's (and your) help, children in third world countries are allowed to become children for the first time.  

Jeremiah 22:16
He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?"
declares the Lord.

 If you'd like to read the president of CRF's blog, check it out here.

Click here to find out how to enter my contest and book giveaway.  I'll be giving away a free copy of "Start Something That Matters" by the founder of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie.  You don't want to miss out on this.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It does matter.

Matthew 10:29-31
What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. 

Recently, a friend of mine lost her wallet.  It wasn't a huge deal, but it was enough to make life much more difficult for her than it would normally be... all of her identification was in the wallet: credit cards, student IDs, driver's license, social security number, and more.  Another friend and I helped her search, but it was no use.  The wallet was nowhere to be found.  The friend who was helping us search for the item said aloud, "Let's pray for God to help us find your wallet."  Frustrated from the search, our friend blew her off and said, "God doesn't care about whether or not I find my wallet." 

I don't think she realizes to this day how wrong she was.

God may not care about the wallet itself.  It's only an object.  On its own, it doesn't mean anything.  However, it meant something to its owner.  It was valuable to my friend, to a child of God.  Losing the wallet meant that she was going to have to struggle and spend hours at the DMV and the school offices trying to obtain new ID cards.  Losing that wallet hurt her and frustrated her.  God knew the emotions and struggles that were being caused by the loss of my friend's wallet.  And He cared.

The Lord cares about the little things in your life.  When a sparrow falls, He knows.  He cares.

If He has numbered the hairs on your head, if He cherishes you as His precious treasure, if you are the apple of His eye, then surely the things that happen in your life that bring tears to your eyes, that cause your heart to ache, that hurt you even a little, matter to God.

Don't be afraid to talk to Him about the little things.  Your heavenly Father cares about more than just the big picture.  He wants to be a part of your life.  Relationships are all about the little things. 

Never forget that you matter to Him.  The things in your life are important in His eyes because you are important to God. 

You matter.

My contest and book giveaway ends in only a few days, guys.  Click here to check it out.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

No more worrying.

Anxiety is probably the biggest struggle in my life.  It keeps me awake for all hours of the night.  It causes me to doubt myself and others.  I worry, even when I know there is no reason to worry.  And you know, that's wrong.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:27, "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"  If the Lord is watching over us, what point is there to worry? 

Below is a snippet of a poem I wrote when I was nine years old, over a decade ago.  It was during one of the harder points in my life, back when I struggled with severe anxiety problems, depression, and frequent panic attacks.  In other words, this poem is a little pathetic.

It seems I feel quite yucked.
It seems all my dreams have been sucked.
I wish life were happier for me.
My dreams have been ruined, don't you see?...
I cry a lot and that is true. 
I get sad just like you....
I don't feel good, 
Not like I should. 
That's why I can't sleep all night....
I need love really bad,
Because I'm really sad. 
This is from Emily. 
Please understand me.

Pitiful, isn't it?  If I remember correctly, I carefully wrote the poem out on a sheet of paper and slipped it onto one of my parents' desks.  Poor guys.  Although thankfully the Lord has brought me through depression and most of my anxiety, sleeping is still something that evades me quite often, especially after (or before) long and stressful days.  And while I'm in bed, allowing my mind to wander, I often begin to worry. 

I love what Frances Chan said in his book "Crazy Love."

"Worry implies that we don't quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what's happening in our lives." 

When I read that for the first time, I felt like I had been slapped.

Is God big enough?  Is He powerful enough?  Is He loving enough?  Am I underestimating everything that He has done and that He can do in my life? 

There is no purpose in worrying.  It doesn't fix any problems.  All it does is drain joy from my heart and cause me to doubt my heavenly Father. 

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 4:8.  I stumbled across the verse on a night when sleep was far away and anxiety about being exhausted the next day was piercing my thoughts.

Psalm 4:8
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety. 

How special.  How beautiful.  One day, I'd like to frame this verse and hang it over my bed.  

Isn't it a special thing to have a Father in heaven who cradles us in His arms and allows us to have such a sense of peace, comfort, and assurance?

Whatever struggles are going on in your life right now, I challenge you to focus on turning away from worry and instead on turning to God.  Let trusting the Lord be your focus this week instead of worry and stress. 

There is no need to worry.

Be sure to click here to check out my contest and book giveaway that ends on January 14.  You still have time to enter.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I want to be a candle.

(Warning, I'm writing this late at night and although I feel what I want to say, I'm not sure if this will amount to much more than a few rambling paragraphs.)

The other day, Ali and I were having a conversation about how our lives at college are vastly different.  After all, she goes to a tiny private Christian university and I go to a large secular university. 

Nearly everyone I knew as a child was a Christian.  But in college, I've met atheists, Mormons, Muslims, and Buddhists.  I've had conversations with communists, with racists, with sexists, with legalistic Christians, and with Christians who don't seem to follow any rules at all.  I've seen a tremendous spectrum of beliefs within a small college town, and I've learned a lot, especially new ways to be a witness for Christ while showing love to those around me.

At a secular university, I have to constantly remind myself that as a follower of Christ, everything I do is a witness for Him.  People are watching.  Christians are the minority at my school.  We're a city on a hill, and it's so, so important to act like it with our actions and words.

My friend Rebecca and I were talking about what it's like to go to a school like ours as Christians.  See, there's no reason to pretend to be a Christian at our university.  Being a Christian isn't cool.  The people who only believed in Jesus because their parents did tend to stop here.  There's no pressure to pretend at a secular school, not like there is in a Christian community back at home.  From what I've seen at my university, you can tell who's trying and who's not.

In a room full of hundreds of lit candles, it can be difficult to tell at first which candles are bright and which are dim.  In a room with only a few, it's much more obvious.

In a place filled with apathy like my Christian high school tended to become, I often found it easy to be sucked into being lukewarm and lazy with my faith for months at a time.  At my secular university, I find myself striving to know God more... in a place where Christians are hard to find, I'm more eager to be a bright light, if that makes sense.

I know I mess up.  There are days when I'm a very dim candle.  But I'm thankful for these experiences, even when they're difficult or frustrating.  I'm thankful for the mission field at my school.  And I'm thankful for the Christian fellowship the Lord has brought into my life.

And here I'm back to that word.  Thankful.

(Be sure to take a look at my contest and book giveaway.  The contest lasts until January 14, so you still have time to enter.)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The happiest I've ever been.

This is coming a little late, but here are my resolutions for the year 2012.  I don't have any big ones this year.  Although I can see how a new year can be a fresh start, I don't like to wait for a brand new year to set goals for myself.

However, I've decided on a few, so here they are.
  1. I don't want to feel pressure to write on my blog.  I think part of my problem over the last few months was that I felt like I had to write something every single day... and the quality of my writing went way, way down.  Instead of focusing on quantity of writing in 2012, I want to focus on the qualityOn busy weeks, especially when I'm in college, I may not blog something every single day, but when I do, it'll come from my heart.
  2. More Bible-reading.  Last year, I slacked off on my Bible-reading.  I was busy, I didn't have a lot of alone time, and I will be entirely honest with you guys: I put it off a lot.  There is no excuse for that.  Nothing should be more important than spending time in the Word and with the Lord.  I'm going to set aside more time for my daily devotions this year.  I won't set a definite schedule.  I won't be forcing myself to read a certain number of chapters per day or anything like that.  I don't want my quiet time to become a dull routine.  But I do want to spend time in the Word every day.
  3. Relationships.  Even when my schedule is insanely packed, even when I'm stressed, even when my heart is filled with shadows and doubt, I need to focus on strengthening the relationships in my life.  When I go back to school on January 15, I want to spend more time with the friends I made over the last five months.  I want to spend more time with my family and high school friends while I'm home.  I also want to keep my heart open for anyone God sends my way this year. 
Different words and emotions enter my heart depending on the season of my life.  Recently, the word that has been entering my heart is thankful.  I've been seeing struggles of families who are undergoing tremendous difficulties with the start of the new year and I'm so thankful that the Lord has brought me into the year 2012 surrounded by joys and friendships and beautiful memories.

As I step into these days, I can't help but smile.  I'm so thankful for my life today.  I'm thankful for the friends that I have, for the family I've been given, for my home, for my college experiences, for the people who surround me.  I'm blessed with the opportunities I've had to travel.  I'm blessed with the food I eat, the bed I sleep in, the music I can make.  I'm blessed with the ability to write what I feel, even if I don't always get it right.

I'm so incredibly thankful.

I know life won't always be as joyful as it is today.  I know there will be valleys and shadows that will cause my heart to break... but I will always be thankful for days like these, and I know the Lord will always be there to hold me tight and keep me from sinking. 

A few minutes after the ball dropped, Rebekah, Ali, Luke, Amy, and I clasped hands and gathered together in my living room to pray over the new year.  I began 2012 thanking God and I want to end it the same way. 

He will do great things this year.

I will try my hardest to remember that even when I reach the darkest valleys of 2012 and cannot find a reason to smile, all I need to do is look to the Lord.  He is my joy.

What are your resolutions for this year, if you have any?

Also, be sure to click here to check out my contest that ends on January 14.  I'm giving away a copy of a phenomenal book called "Start Something That Matters" by Blake Mycoskie.

Monday, January 2, 2012

You are significant. You are loved.

I hope you're having a fantastic day.  I sure am.  I've spent the last couple of weeks with family and friends, which has been such a refreshment to my soul.

I found the image below on a silly blog called I Waste So Much Time and I loved it.  It wasn't meant to be a Christian poster, but as I read the little image, I couldn't help but think about the Lord.  He is so great.  He made the magnificent universe... and yet He took the time to create each one of us with an endless amount of love and care. 

He made us with value and significance.

Out of 7 billion people in the world, the Lord takes time to listen to your prayers, to hold you when you're broken, and to love you unconditionally. 

He made you to be significant.  He made you to do great things.  He treasures you.

Deuteronomy 14:2
"...Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession."

Also, be sure to check out yesterday's post to learn about my contest and giveaway!