End of Summer pt. 3

The last word I would choose for describing my summer is family. 

As far as I am aware, this was my last summer at home. This is not saying I’ll never be home over the summer months. It means that it will be a while before I am home for as long as three months. Next summer I am attending a wedding at the end of May, shortly after I will be going to China for five to six week. I might come home for a week or two, but then I will be heading back to college. Next year will be one event after another. 

I am very thankful for all the time I was able to spend with my family. In the beginning of the summer Little Sister and I watched a lot of TV together. We tried to finish Goblin (One of the best Korean Dramas) over the weekend I returned, but we didn’t have enough time. Little Sister and I went to the gym quite a bit the first month too. I was practically always in the car with Mom. I went to the gym with Uncle for three (four?) weeks every morning at five. It wasn’t long until mom started going to the gym with me. Dad took me to the movies, and he and I often stayed up late (sometimes until three in the morning) watching TV in the Man Cave. I didn’t hang out with my big brother much, but he did give me some hats. Aunt and I had small conversations here and there that I really enjoyed, and I was able to get her a bunch of new clothes for her birthday. I even went out to breakfast with Soon-to-be Sister-in-law. 

That’s a lot. And while I spent time with everyone, I spent the most time with Momma. She and I were always grocery shopping, always in the car, and always at the firework stand. It was something I really needed. I don’t know what is going to happen this semester. I don’t know what God has planned. I know it’s going to be good, and I know I’m going to be relying on all the time I spent with Momma. All of our conversations and all the times we went shopping together will be support beams that I can fall back on to fill me with energy and courage. 

Honor thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with a promise;) that it may be will with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.    ~ Ephesians 6:2-3

I don’t know about long life (I am still quite young), but I believe I reaped a harvest of favor and love this summer. Whether it was from honoring my parents or simply stepping into a blessing that God wanted me to have, this summer was full of family and what comes with it. While there were a lot of things that happened this summer that weren’t the best, I know I will never doubt the love my family has for me or the love that my God has for me.

End of Summer pt. 2

I’m not gonna lie. I began the summer stressed out expecting terrible things to happen. I had a very limited perspective and low expectations for a happy summer. Because of this, all I saw were negative things and was constantly snippy. I acted immature and irrational about a lot of things. Sometimes these emotions were outwardly expressed and sometimes I just wrote about them in my journal. My summer could have been twenty times better if I didn’t limit myself by my expectations. 

Limited expectations creates a limited experience. I am so thankful my God goes above and beyond all things I could think of, ask for, or imagine. He is a big God and has big things planned for my life. 

This summer had a strong focus on trust and joy. In my family, Little Sister is known as the optimistic one. I’m a bit more of a pessimist. That perspective of mine was challenged. Tulsa Best Friend encouraged me countless times and Michigan Best Friend tried her hardest to help me view things differently. I am incredibly grateful that I have them by my side both literally and figuratively. 

The joy aspect of my summer really isn’t as abscure as I’m making it sound. I spent three weeks selling fireworks. I was either working with Michigan Best Friend or Mother. While selling fireworks isn’t my preferred job, I did make a lot of money. With that money I bought myself an unnecessary amount of clothes. (My closet is overflowing, and I’ve run out of hangers.) I attended my Soon-to-be Sister’s-in-law bridal shower. I went out to breakfast with Soon-to-be Sister-in-law. I have talked to all of my friends from college this past week. I found out today that the way Roommate and I want to set up our room is going to work out perfectly (even if we do pinch our fingers every time we open the fridge door). Tomorrow, just about all said friends and I will be going to IHOP for dinner. The best part of this summer was the fact that I published a chapbook. Not to mention all of the things God has taught me and is still teaching me. There really is so much to be joyful about.

Being negative–depressed, angry, just down right pessimistic about everything–was so big the first half of this summer. When it hit me that I was participating in gossip, being mad at people, and just thinking things about myself and others that I shouldn’t have, I knew it had to stop. I had to teach myself to think about what I was thinking about and to think about what I was talking about. It was really hard, because I didn’t want to be disrespectful toward people, but I didn’t want to participate in some of the things they were talking about. The conversations seemed harmless, but it was a lot of talking about other people that didn’t lift me up or the person who (whom? I’m hopeless with that word.) was being talked about.

“Above all else, guard you heart, for out of it flow the issues of life.”    ~ Proverbs 4:23

The moment I read this, my perspective shifted and I knew it was more than just taking action and guarding my mind, I had to guard my heart. 

As I began to learn once again how to guard my heart, along with it came learning to honor God. It went from thinking about what I was thinking to, “Do the things I thinking honor the Lord? Do the things I am saying honor the Lord? Do the things I am doing honor the Lord?” 

It was a process, and surprisingly not a very painful one. It just took a lot of patience and close attention on my part.

Going into this semester I want to continue to carry this with me. I want to be happy all the time. I want to be overflowing with joy that it almost annoys people that I’m as happy as I am. (Because some people really do think it’s not possible to be SuPeR dUpEr HaPpY. Well, I’ve got news for them.) I want to continue to be placed in situations where I’m forced to trust God, and I want to be happy doing it. I want to be at a point this semester when I can’t worry. Not that I don’t have time to worry, I just legitamitaly do not know how because I am overflowing with the Joy of the Lord, and I trust that His ways are higher than my ways, and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts.

End of Summer pt. 1

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If I had to describe summer in one word, it would be trust.

Once again I find myself reminding myself to trust God. The skin on my hands are peeling from being stressed. All of my ‘stuff’ covers the rear window of Mother’s car. Some how we still have to fit three people into the car. There’s still some small stuff that didn’t go in the car. I’m excited and nervous all at once.

I’m excited. I’m going back to college. I get to see all of my best friends. I’ll be living by my rules and not my parents. I can put to the test everything I’ve learned this summer.

I’m nervous. Oh gosh, I’m going back to college. I have to socialize. I have rules? I’m not sure I even knew those existed outside of my parents. I have to put everything to the test that I learned this summer? School hasn’t even started and I’m testing? What if I didn’t learn anything? Oh… what if I forget something and leave it at home? What if I run out of money? What if all my electronics brake? What if….

“Okay, Elizabeth. Breathe. Are you okay?”

Oh sure. I’m fine. Or will be. If I don’t feel ready to leave now, I know when I wake up at four in the morning that God will have done something in my heart, and I’ll be more prepared and ready than I thought I was. I am reminded that I can’t do this by myself. I’ve said it in several previous posts, but where I am weak, God is made strong.

The thing I am most confident in (I really am not sure how much I’m repeating myself here) is the fact that I can’t, but God can. All things are possible with God.

But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.    ~ Matthew 19:26

How relieving is that! When I come to the honest conclusion that I can’t and God can, peace floods in like river and covers every thought.There hasn’t been a time this summer when God failed me. He has never left me. I am looking forward to starting and completing this semester with Him.

 

Habits Vs. Addictions

Habits are not Addictions. Like wise, Addictions are not habits. They can not be broken or overcome in the same way. I want this to be made very clear.

“Oh, I’m so addicted to coffee!” No, you are not addicted to coffee. You just have a habit of drinking it every morning. Besides, you wouldn’t be addicted to the coffee as much as you would be addicted to the caffeine. If you go a few days without drinking coffee and start experiencing withdrawals, it’s because of the lack of caffeine that your body got used to having.

To break a habit, just don’t do whatever the habit is for roughly 21 days. Habits are mindlessly done. A habit is making a cup of coffee at six in the morning while you’re still half asleep. It’s an action you’ve done and completed so often that you don’t even have to pay too much attention to what you’re doing.  Unless you accidentally pour orange juice instead of creamer into your coffee, then you better wait a few more minutes before you make your drink.

Breaking an addiction takes focus, will power, determination, and a whole lot of forgiveness and grace from God. Although, it should also be made clear that not every addiction is a sin. You could be addicted to caffeine. It doesn’t mean you have fallen from grace and lost any chance you had at forgiveness (Honestly, you could never fall from grace. You can always be forgiven.). It just means that too much of a good thing became a bad thing.

My addiction example will be pornography, because that’s what I know.

You can break the habit of looking at pornography everyday. Yay! Good job! That’s a win. However, two weeks later of breaking the habit, the desire to look hits you in the chest like a two ton mac truck, and in your head you’re telling yourself it’s a choice, and you know you’ll feel guilty afterward, and that you really shouldn’t. This is the breaking point of an addiction. It could be two weeks after breaking the habit, two months, six months, a year. The time in between gets longer the more you choose not to look. Each time you say no, is a win. Each time you say yes, doesn’t mean you lost, it just mean you have a set back and a bigger come back to make.

It’s hard. It’s disappointing. It’s rewarding. It’s jumping for joy and texting your best friend that you didn’t look. It’s breaking down in tears at three in the morning because you failed and you hate yourself.

It’s a journey, and it’s worth taking. I don’t know what you deal with, but keep going. I believe in you. I’m so proud of you for taking steps toward being better. Read Hebrews 12. Read Romans 7 and 8. Talk to me. Talk to God. Don’t quit.

Fighting! Good luck! 加油! 我爱你!再见!I love you! Good bye!

 

*** Shout out to my Aunt for putting down cigarettes. You’re a freaking goddess and I love you.

 

Selfishness or Selflessness

A friend of mine and I were talking recently. She said, “My goal this semester is to focus on myself. That sounds selfish, but I can’t worry about taking care of everyone else. I need to focus on me and take care of me.” (Maybe that’s not the exact wording, but it captures the general idea.) While she was very sure this is what she wants, she sounded anxious about the whole ‘selfish’ concept.

I was then reminded of a quote by Rick Warren in The Purpose-Driven Life and later reiterated by C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. 

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

I began to think about this idea of taking time to not focus on people but to focus on yourself. Is it selfish? Perhaps, but I also think it is a necessary step toward being selfless. In order to pour out into people we first need to be full. What do we do when we get empty? Take time alone. Meditate. Relax. Focus on our self.

Being selfless isn’t looking down on yourself. It’s not, “Oh, you look so much prettier than me.” “Wow, I wish I could do that like you.” It’s not declining a compliment because you don’t believe it. Being selfless is using your confidence in yourself, in the knowledge of who the Lord made you to be, to lift others up, and to bring them to a place of the same confidence.

Humility isn’t cutting yourself down. At the same time Humility isn’t puffing up your chest. Humility is being aware of who you are and living in the truth without gloating about. Humility is encouraging other people in the same truth.

Someone can say, “Wow! You’re really good at that!”

Humility, selflessness, replies back with a simple “Thank you.” Pride says, “I know,” and Low Self-Esteem says, “No I’m not. This is horrible.”

There is a difference.

It’s okay to take time to step back from the podium. Get away from the party and go fix your makeup. Take some time out at the gym. Relax by a warm fire and read a good book. Binge watch a t.v. show. If it means taking your phone to the bathroom so you can scroll through Facebook or watch a ton of Buzz-feed videos without being interrupted than you do it. Go to the movies alone. Take yourself out on the date that you deserve. Fill yourself back up. Reaffirm who you are in Christ. Remind yourself of the promises. Then get back out there and help others do the same.

Get a little selfish so you can become selfless.