“Have Grace For Yourself, Kid”

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My week has been pretty good. I have made some decisions this week for whatever reasons that I deem as right. I’m not even acting upon the decisions I’ve made so far. They’re just in my mind. Others have disagreed with me, but I can’t do much about that. I’m young, and just trying to figure out what’s right or not (but yeah, I get it- what kind of excuse is that?).

Over the summer I’ve made worse decisions that seemed right to do in the moment, however, moments are fleeting. I’ve had to deal with a lot of both scorn & encouragement from people I care about. It’s been hard, because it’s like, “Am I supposed to feel bad about my decision, or do I feel content with how things worked out?”

I’ve been struggling with the concept of grace a lot lately, and it often happens after I do something wrong. I know I’m supposed to have grace for myself, but why should I? I did a bad thing. But I need to remember John 1:14, that says the following:

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus became human like me, so He could understand my struggles & my pain. He knows my heart better than anyone, and my intentions. So while it does hurt to have people against me, He’s still there. He says, “I have had grace for you since the very beginning. I am Truth itself, so believe Me when I say it’s time you start being graceful toward yourself.”

I fight Jesus on this- more often than I’d like to admit. “Why should I have grace for myself when I’ve done something wrong? That’s uncommon & not normal!”Β Then He sits me down, looks in my eyes, and makes me look at His face. “You should have grace for yourself because I had grace for you first.”

It’s so difficult, knowing that grace gives you freedom, but still feeling so guilty & shameful with what you’ve done. It holds you back & hinders your ability to move forward. I’m still struggling with forgiving myself. I have the choice to choose either guilt or freedom. I think it’s a process, though, and I think it’s brave to choose the latter.

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Just thinkin’

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4:40pm- I’m really excited to see my youth kids again tonight; it’s been way too long since I’ve seen them & I really missed connecting with them. I’ve learned a lot over the summer; when connecting with others, we have to let them speak. We have to learn when to hold our tongue & just be present. It allows us to get to know one another so much deeper. I can’t wait to hear what they’ve been up to & give them all hugs.

4:43pm- Hugs are so important. I’ve expressed it a lot over the last few weeks, but it’s so true. To me, they’re a safety zone. It’s a safe place where “I love you” is said without any words. Hugs provide warmth & security, and sometimes all we need is a short break from life so that we know that in the midst of this cold world, there is still warmth in it.

4:46pm- Friends are just as important. Sheesh, I love my friends. I’m pretty confident when I say I would die for my friends. They have so much life to offer the world & they brighten up mine, so they deserve to continue doing just that. We’ve learned so much from each other, and we’re so close as a family. We always express how important we are to each other. We’re always there for each other, and it’s the best thing. I can’t wait to see them again & give them all hugs too.

4:48pm- I’ve been struggling with my writing lately. Poetry doesn’t come easy for me like it used to. When I do write, it sounds like I’m whining. Maybe I need to spend some time reading the bible more to get inspired. Maybe I need to spend more time outside.

4:50pm- Here’s some of my favorite songs right now: Hey Cool Kid by Cloud Nothings, Shadow by Wild Nothing, She Owns The Streets by The Raveonettes, I Need My Girl by The National (a camp staff favorite), Trying To Be Cool by Phoenix, Out Of Time by Yuck, Hotline Bling by Drake (how could I forget a classic?), Day By Day by Citizens & Saints, Bang Bang by Green Day, and Thinkin’ Of U by Summer Heart.

4:54pm- I had a weird day. I was okay for half of it, then for the other half it’s been “blah” so far. I hope I feel better by the end of the day.

4:55pm- I’m a firm believer in reconciliation. I believe in starting anew. Blank pages. But I’ve done quite a lot of damage in a short amount of time, and I don’t know if I can fix it. We’ll see. Whatever ends up happening will be good for me.

4:57pm- I do a great deal of overthinking everything. I always think of the worst possible thing that can happen & it eats away at my brain. It’s the worst feeling because you feel like the worst is inevitable, whereas you have no idea if it’s actually going to happen.

5:06pm- I think it’s so important to say “I miss you”, and not being afraid to do so. People are so precious, and everyone needs to know they’re missed. It gives a feeling of “Oh, I actually matter to someone”. I’ve gotten into the habit of saying it more, and I love doing it. I like to make people feel cared for, because they are.

5:07pm- I’ve watched so much Criminal Minds lately.

5:08pm- You know when someone has the loveliest voice & you can listen to that person talk for a really long time? That.

5:11pm- I’m learning to be straight with people, no matter what. Honesty is embarrassing sometimes, and there’s no point in hiding. It’s hard to open up & say things like “Hey, you’re super cool & you make it easy for me to embarrass myself around you”, or “I think you’re inspiring & encouraging in the way you live your life”, but we need to be honest. Whomever is legit in your life won’t mind the awkwardness that follows.

5:15pm- All I really want in life is to see Twenty One Pilots live. They are so real in how they perform and they’ve taught me that messing up is okay. We shouldn’t strive for perfection, rather, we should strive for reality. The way they perform onstage is exactly how I want to carry myself onstage; not striving for perfection, but for something real.

5:20pm- I want so much to reach out to people, and lately it’s been frightening for me. I don’t want anyone to think of me as annoying. I don’t know the boundaries that the person has set since I met them. How many texts do I send before I’m seen as an annoyance? How many days do I wait before sending the next? Is it appropriate to ask how their day’s been? I genuinely care.

5:24pm- People have become such important things in my life. I care for them & love them so dearly. They have stories that deserve to be heard. They need to be sought after & told that they are loved. They all have this uniqueness about them. When I started considering people as intricacies , the more I started taking delight in the way they are in general. People are so precious & I can’t wait to know who they are. It’s funny how much I love connection, yet I’m shy & it keeps me from doing just that.

5:28pm- Laughter is one of my favorite things. It’s such a raw moment. It’s not staged like a “Say ‘cheese’ to the camera!” moment, rather, it just is. You see the crinkles in the corners of their eyes, you hear the loudest their voices can go, you see tears. Oh, the sounds we make when we’re joyful. I love that.

5:30pm- Being vulnerable means that you will be shut down, turned away, ignored. That’s the scariest part for me. I don’t want to be turned away, I want to be accepted. Loved. Told that I matter. I’m learning to be okay with it, because being a friend means to be vulnerable at all times. I have to let go of that fear.

5:34pm- Letter writing is one of my favorite things, even if I don’t do it often. The handwriting of a person is a physical view of their voice. The scribbles on the pages, and the words written is nothing short of vulnerable & real. I hope to do it more often.

5:40pm- I wanna dance silly with someone. I wanna scream Twenty One Pilots lyrics with someone. Someone take me to a forest.

The Wanderer Speaks

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Wonder (n.): The emotion awoken by something or someone awe-inspiring, astounding, or surprising.

I find nature to be completely enthralling. There’s so much detail in everything if we stop to look & admire it. I love to seek out the mundane and look at all the little things. Observing is something I enjoy doing; leave me in a field or forest, and I’ll spend hours photographing & wandering around. There’s something about being aware of the sound of wind & how it feels on my face. Or seeing the branches on the trees and looking at the tiniest details in the leaves. And watching a stream of water flowing & watching the ripples echo. I like how there’s more to nature than what the eye would see upon a mere glance.

I remember a time where I had plans to meet a friend at their house & I got lost. But the sun was setting & I was making the best out of the situation in which I was placed. I walked an empty back road. The sun was setting, and everything turned golden (yes, even me). I passed field after field & I stopped to roam it. The field grass was so tall I got lost in it. It was so soft. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it was incredible. I finally arrived at my friend’s house, where we lit a fire, sung songs, & just talked. The embers were fascinating. The air was cold, but there’s raw beauty in imperfect weather. Gosh, I sound so pretentious.

I’m obsessed with the way sunsets look. I’m incredibly into art, and I used to do a lot of painting in high school. Learning about the techniques & seeing how the colors can mix together completely shifted the way I look at life in general, because now, I can better appreciate the colors in the sky. The vibrant colors that fade into a gradient of dark purple and black is something I find to be absolutely insane.

The Glory of the Lord in Creation (Psalm 8:3-4)

“When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?”

My sense of wonder doesn’t end at marveling toward nature. A lot of the time I’m awestruck when I worship. It sounds a little silly, like, how can you be in awe when you’re singing, right? Well, as I sing to Jesus, I think about how amazing He is. He created everything & He gives detail & meaning to everything. He knows all of us individually, on the most personal level. He is so vast & insane. He is perfect in every way whereas I am not, but He still cares about me enough to meet me at whatever place I’m at in my life, and He takes the time to sit with me. Who would ever do that? I’m nothing compared to Him. Completely worthless. But He doesn’t care about that at all, and that’s wonderful.

Whenever I’m singing to Him, I feel like a kid. Like, a really happy kid. You know how a child is just so mind blown by everything around them? I feel like that in His company. I don’t ever want to let go of the wonder that He’s placed in my heart, because without it, life is bland & unexciting. Because of Him, life is an adventure.

Compassion For The Wretched Hypocrite

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When I begin a blog post with “real talk”, you know about it’s about to get legit. 0-100 so quick.

So, real talk: I came back from camp a little more than over a week ago. Since I came home, post-camp depression quickly settled in my bones & took over my body (anyone else?), and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Who could I talk to who had my same passion for children? What do I do with myself now? Who could I talk to who shared my desire to know God deeper? All the while, I didn’t open my bible once since I returned home. I swear, post-camp depression is very real, and it’s a monster.

I felt like a hypocrite, in fact, I still kinda feel like one. What kind of “devoted” disciple says she loves the Lord, yet doesn’t even open her bible in more than a week? In my guilt, I opened up my bible & flipped through it, hoping to find something to read. Sure enough, I did find something.

Whenever I open my bible again after a period of not reading, I always seem to go straight to the book of Hosea.Β The story of a man, Hosea, who is commanded to marry a prostitute named Gomer & love her just like God loves the world. Unconditionally. Compassionately. Truly. And too many times I find myself to be like Gomer. Now, I’m not someone who has sex with anybody. But in my relationship with Jesus, I often place Him second to other things I deem “worthy” of my time & efforts. I’m not supposed to do that.

A Call To Repentance (from Hosea 6:1-3)

“Come, and let us return to the Lord;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.

After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live in His sight.

Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
His going forth established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth.”

Each time I read this, I can’t think properly. The idea that Jesus is compassionate to me, even when I don’t want Him to be top priority, totally blows my mind. It’s crazy, because I know how unworthy I am of His love. I’m a hypocrite. I shouldn’t call myself a disciple, because a lot of the time, I don’t act like one. I say things I shouldn’t. I argue with God when I think something is right for me to do when it’s not. I do so many things that make me unworthy of His compassion.

Yet He still extends His love to me. He takes my guilt & replaces it with joy. He forgives me for forgetting about Him (why would He even do that?! Jesus is confusing sometimes). He restores my worth; I’m worthy because He says so. When Jesus says something, I should believe it. He can tell me how horrible I am, but He chooses to tell me how much He loves me instead.

I want you to know that coming to Jesus in the midst of your shame is okay. It’s okay to be like, “Jesus, it’s me. I’ve been a real butthole to You lately, and I’m sorry.” He’s forgiving & graceful. It’s insane that He knows how we act toward Him, yet He still wants us to be near Him. So just go.

I was listening to this song called Song Of The Redeemed by Ascend The Hill, and it reminded me of the grace that I had first received when I made the decision to follow Jesus. I’ll post it below & you should check it out because the lyrics are lovely; I can’t pick a favorite verse.

Following Up Intention With Action

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Last month, I was really into the whole being-intentional-with-people idea. I still am. I believe that in order to maintain & create community, we must reach out to others. Opportunities will remain opportunities if we just sit there without reaching. I think it’s one of my favorite things, reaching out to people. “If only they knew how cared for & loved they are,” I would say to myself. “I’m going to go over there to talk to them and spend time with them.” It’s in that moment that I can cherish & love a friend more dearly (It’s kinda funny; I used to think I didn’t have a lot of friends, because I thought friends were people I would talk very frequently with & see regularly. But now, I see that my friends are people who have come into close contact with me, even if it was for a short period of time. Maybe I talk to a small amount of people on the daily, but I hold each person dear who has come into my life, and I’ll consider them dearly for the rest of my life. Dang, I love them so much).

I think action following up intention is pretty important, because it clearly shows how serious someone is about something. You want to be friends? You’re gonna reach out often & show them how serious you are about it. You want to make a difference in someone’s life?Β  You’ll examine your life and say, “How can I act in a way that will impact this person?” You want something pretty badly? You’re gonna have to start reaching out & trying to obtain that thing (I’m actually learning this right now, and let me tell you how hard it is).

It’s hard to be serious about something sometimes, whether it’s a friendship, relationship, or even a job, because it’s a commitment. Acting upon the whole being-intentional thing implies that you’re committed. And once something else comes along, we want to move on to the next thing. Repeat. Repeat. At that point, the intention of developing community is long gone because we don’t want to try to cultivate life where we are. We become nomadic instead of sedentary- not that traveling all over the place is a bad thing- it’s not a bad thing at all. But your community will be scattered because there’s always gonna be the next best thing.

Sometimes the “next best thing” is what you have decided to cultivated & take time for.

I’m learning that reaching out is not a bad thing. Asking questions in order to get answers is not a bad thing. Reaching out & asking questions further proves that you’re being legit. I’m also [still] learning that putting yourself out there is embarrassing. Asking for forgiveness is embarrassing. But I’ll never know what could happen if I don’t ask questions, or if I don’t expose myself like that. A part of community that is so important yet overlooked is that we’re going to hurt people, accidentally or not. It’s life, but it still sucks. And the only way to fix it is by putting ourselves out on the line & saying “do you forgive me?”. That’s another post for another day.

Here’s to our month about putting our intentions into actions- what are you hoping August consists of for you?