Friday, October 31, 2014

The Mail Box

When was the last time you had an amazing meal?
As a college student, most of my meals fall somewhere on the spectrum between fast food, canned soup, Kraft Mac'n'Cheese, and Lunchables. However, October has been a month of fellowship and celebration. I was able to go to Austin, Texas on a brief vacation with my parents and grandparents. We shared delicious food and quality time (my love language): all ingredients for an amazing meal.

Taken 5 minutes ago by my desk
What's the best gift you've ever received?
One that sticks out in my mind across the last several years was from my roommate my freshman year in college (her senior year). She and I did not know each other beforehand and we have not kept in touch often since then. We were each busy with our own lives and would shyly chat for a few minutes each day, but we did not talk in-depth very often. At this time, I was dealing with homesickness and loneliness, so sending and receiving mail was the highlight of my week.

For Christmas that year, this sweet roommate put so much time and effort into my gift, no matter how often we talked or spent quality time together. She gave me a box in my favorite colors (black and white with maroon trim sewed on). The box was meant to hold the letters I kept from my family. On one side, she had stitched "MAIL" and on the other side, she stitched "BARUA," which is mail in Swahili (because I absolutely love Kenya, Africa). Inside the box was an Elvis postcard (my favorite music artist) and a Yorkie postcard (my favorite dog).

To make a long story short, I was incredibly touched by the love that my roommate put into the gift and the fact that she worked so hard to get to know me, even when I often set aside deep friendship in all of my rushing around. I still keep the mailbox on display in my room and it holds all of my letters.

For my birthday a couple of weeks ago, I received some wonderful homemade gifts from my mom and roommates that touched my heart (and... I also got a life-sized cardboard cutout of Elvis Presley. Thanks, guys). I also got the new iPhone 6 and almost fainted with the joy of it all.

What do you miss most about your childhood?
I think I miss most the imagination. I have a huge box full of all of the stories I wrote when I was a young child. All I needed was a brand new notebook and a fresh set of mechanical pencils and I was entertained for hours on end. There was an endless supply of stories and words and creative ideas in my childish mind.

Now I still love to write and there are still ideas and words and people working their way into my imagination, but I have to work harder to find and create them. I miss the freedom of expression that I had when I was younger.

What is your first memory of being truly excited? 
This is a difficult question because it's complicated to gauge a timeline of my earliest memories. I remember always feeling so excited when my dad got home from a long day at work. When I heard him shut the back door, set down his things, and call out, "I'm home!", there was nothing that could thrill me more than my childish relief at knowing my family was secure and together and filled with love.

What was the first thing you bought with your own money?
I remember buying a tiny Polly Pocket kit. If you grew up in the nineties, you know what I'm talking about. I loved tiny things.
Taken from Power House Museum

What are your answers to these questions? 

Three years ago: 5 Organizational Tips for College
Four years ago: Make Up Your Own Kind Gesture

Friday, October 24, 2014

My Hour of Need

Last summer, some friends and I stood outside as we rehearsed for a wedding. The South Texas air was hot and muggy, the sun glared down on us, and after about an hour of standing outdoors, an uncomfortable feeling began to overwhelm me.


No one had thought to bring water, so each member of our group began to notice the effects of the hot sun, even the bride. I cleared my throat uncomfortably and envisioned a tall glass of cold, refreshing water. It wasn't long before the only thing I could think about was my thirst.

After the rehearsal was finished, we would need to travel for an hour before we arrived at the location of the dinner. Concern hit us, one by one. As pitiful as this may sound, we felt so thirsty that even the idea of sitting in a hot car for sixty minutes longer seemed unbearable.

To end my silly story, staff at a nearby building had mercy on this thirsty wedding party and we were all treated to cups of ice before the car ride to dinner. Overall, I was thirsty for only an hour or so.

I know nothing of what it is like to be truly thirsty.

I know nothing of what it is like to ache so badly for something to drink that I am forced to consume brown, contaminated water – to feed this water to my children and watch them become sick from it – because our thirst is so great.

One in six people do not have access to clean water. Every minute, three children die because of diseases brought on by unclean water.

We can't bottle up the water in our sink and mail it to the thirsty children around the world, but we can do something even bigger.

Christian Relief Fund is working hard to ensure that fewer people have to go thirsty. Wells are expensive to drill – an impossible goal for impoverished communities to reach on their own – but people who can achieve this goal standing up to help. In some places in the world, children must walk for miles and miles to get a drink of dirty water. With a well in their community, everything changes.

Perhaps the best part of drilling a well in a needy community is another kind of water that it brings. Where wells are created, churches are built. People gather around to have both their physical and spiritual thirsts quenched. And, sometimes for the very first time, they hear about Living Water: Jesus Christ.

I am blessed because I do not know what it feels like to be truly thirsty. My moments of thirst have been only minor and brief moments of discomfort. But so many people do understand this thirst. They are waiting for someone to bring water. They are waiting for someone to bring good news about Jesus.

Will you help to bring them both? Donate to CRF here.

"Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." –John 7:38

Three years ago: Be Jealous.
Four years ago: Write a letter to someone you admire.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Aggie Ring Day

A few weeks ago, I celebrated a day that I will remember for the rest of my life.

At Texas A&M University, receiving your class ring is one of the greatest moments of your college experience. It certainly was for me.

My dad's and my Aggie Rings
The Aggie Ring marks the hard work I've spent over the last three years (and year to come). If you know anything about Aggies, we are proud of our traditions. The ring is a tangible bond that connects former students to each other. It's difficult to explain or understand the significance of this achievement unless you are an Aggie, but the ring is a symbol of the school we love and cherish.

One of the most entertaining things about my university is the formality that surrounds Aggie Ring Day. The event basically consists of picking up your ring from a table at the alumni center, but everyone dresses up and invites their extended families and friends to join them in the excitement.

My parents and grandparents came to town for the occasion. We stood in line and filed into the alumni center just before rain fell from the sky in buckets. Since my dad is an alumni of Texas A&M, he placed the ring on my finger.

It meant so much to me for my family to be there, supporting me through a special and important moment in my life. The Aggie Ring is only a small piece of gold, but it carries its true value through its meaning. It is the mark of a goal I worked hard to achieve. 

At the end of the day, many Aggies participate in a tradition called Ring Dunk. Typically, one drops their ring in a large pitcher of beer and drinks until they reach the bottom and catch the ring between their teeth. My friends and I held a "dry" event, but our rings needed to be baptized nonetheless.

Quite often, people throw up after downing an entire pitcher of liquid, so I took the easy route and filled my pitcher with brightly-colored M&Ms. No, I didn't eat them all, but rather I dumped the entire pitcher over my head. (My roommates and I have been feasting on M&Ms for weeks now.)

One of the best moments of the night was that my dad chose to participate in the ring dunk. He had never dunked his ring before, so he filled his pitcher with ice water and merged the Aggie Ring Dunk with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

We stood in three inches of rain water with cheering friends gathered around us, accessorized with ponchos and pitchers and rain boots, and we proudly dunked our rings.

Overall, the day was one of the sweetest of my college experience. I felt unified with my school and my friends and my family. An accomplishment that meant so much to me was finally reached.

I will never forget the day I got my Aggie Ring. More than a month has passed, but I still find myself staring at this pretty symbol of my hard work and daydreaming when I should be listening in class (my bad, prof).

It's amazing how much my life has changed since coming to Texas A&M. When I was in high school, I never pictured myself at such a big university. The Lord brought me gently outside of what I ever hoped or dreamed for my future. Attending this school meant leaping far from my comfort zone, but every day here has been worth the hard work.

My senior year is here. I graduate in only a few months and I'm cherishing the little time I have left as a college student with all the freedom in the world. I'm so proud and thankful to be an Aggie. (And now I finally have my ring, whoop!)

Three years ago: Me? Pregnant?
Four years ago: Volunteer your time

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why I Don't Dress Modestly for Men

I'm a young Christian woman who seeks to dress modestly. However, when I get ready for the day, I do not choose modest clothing to "keep men from stumbling."

Let me clarify.

I agree that we should serve our brothers in Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:32 says, "Do not cause anyone to stumble." It's important to live like this. But our modesty should be an act of worship to God before it is any response to man.

Something I've found is that modesty frequently becomes more about our relationship with men than our relationship with God. We receive constant reminders like: "Do not cause your brothers in Christ to stumble by how you dress. It is your responsibility to do your part in keeping men from temptation by dressing modestly." However, in the Bible, women are called to dress modestly as worship to God (1 Timothy 2:8-10).

When the focus of anything is man, it quickly becomes entangled in legalism. In Galatians 1:10, Paul says, "Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant." 

When I was a teenage girl, I understood "modesty" as a collection of rules and what-not-to-do's that controlled how I dressed. These rules were stretched and blurred as I walked the line as closely as I could between what was modest and what was not. Modesty became an inner wrestling match between my will and my consciousness of the men around me. "If I dress this way, the lust is their fault. If I dress that way, then it is mine."

Asking the question, "Did how I dress today cause boys to stumble?" without the focus on worship brings about legalism because the standards of man are changing and broken by this world. How I dress can easily become shame-centered this way. "My jeans can only be this tight. My skirt may only be this short."

When the question becomes instead, "Did how I dress today bring glory to God?", every piece of clothing I wear becomes an act of love instead of a source of guilt.

My modesty is first and foremost an act of worship to the Lord and only then it is a way to respect and love the men around me.

It is a precious thing to love my brothers in Christ by how I dress, but it is a far greater treasure to clothe myself first and foremost in worship of God: ethically, modestly, and with righteous deeds.

"This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome." - 1 John 5:2-3

Three years ago: Bounce Houses are the BEST!
Four years ago: Take someone out for coffee.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Flame

I fell in love with Jesus a few months before I turned fifteen. My life radically changed.
Depression and anxiety had ravaged my heart and mind. These struggles did not automatically go away after I encountered Christ, but I did experience a new confidence and joy that changed me.

I eagerly wanted every part of my life to radiate my faith. My high school friends and I memorized chapters of the Bible and held weekly Bible studies and we were so desirous to learn more about the God who made us new. I felt a new and exciting fire.

At times, my zeal tipped over into legalism. For example, I remember studying 1 Thessalonians with a few friends and reading, "Pray without ceasing." We took this at face value and challenged each other to go an entire day without thinking about anything except Jesus. Determined, I took a black Sharpie and scrawled 1 Thessalonians 5:17 onto the back of my hand so that when I rested my arms upon my desk in class, I would remember to pray instead of listen to the teacher. No, this wasn't the healthiest expression of my faith. I was a child sipping milk as I tried to teach myself how to fly an airplane.

But the fire burned bright and I learned so much during those first months and years.

Things were not always easy. There were seasons of drought and desert, when all I felt was an aching thirst that I could not quench... or even worse, apathy where I began to stop thirsting at all. There were storms that caused me to rage and doubt. I strayed and returned; I became impatient and frustrated and stubborn. My emotional highs collapsed and I raged against my old self and even against God.

When the droughts passed away and the rains returned, I learned that my Father is faithful. When the storms stilled, I realized that Christ is more powerful than my worst days. When I stumbled back as a prodigal daughter time and time again, I glimpsed the depths of God's grace.

I'm in my early twenties now and I have very little experience with romantic love. I've never had a boyfriend or even seriously dated. However, I'm at the stage in my life where I am able to watch a few of my dearest friends fall in love and enter into marriage. As I learn from the true and passionate love that I see in my friends and my parents, I cannot help but be reminded about what it is like to have a relationship with Jesus.

My friends who are falling in love for the first time are standing on the heights of the tallest mountains. Their passion is beautiful.

My parents and grandparents have another kind of passionate love that is just as priceless. The longer they experience life together, the further their love is deepened by sacrifice and commitment. "I give my life to you" and "I commit to you even when things are hard" are just as precious as the exciting discovery of new love.

I will admit that there is a different kind of fire for the Lord in me than there was when I was fourteen. Where my faith was once marked by loud and zealous expressions of love, I have a somewhat changing passion now. This passion comes from walking through difficult times as well as happy ones. It comes from broken relationships, plateaus and lonely places, and the increasing knowledge of how vast God's grace actually is. It comes from experiencing valleys and not only mountains.

In some ways, my relationship with Christ is transforming from a new and blazing fire to that of a steady flame. This brings with it the necessity for me to work hard to keep from falling into apathy because I hope I will always seek to be a radical follower of Jesus, but I am thankful.

After all of my mistakes, God's compassion is greater. No matter how far I have run, he has been there. When I'm tired of seeking, still he sings. And now he is teaching me how to experience his love in an enduring, committed way that reaches beyond my changing emotions.

And this love is beautiful.

One year ago: Waging War
Two years ago: The Room
Three years ago: Plus-Sized Mannequins... or Not
Four years ago: Leave an encouraging note on the mirror