I Choose Purpose (Part I)

What’s the difference between a dream and a purpose?

Dictionary.com defines the word dream as “An aspiration; goal; aim.” Also, “A wild or vain fancy.” It defines the word purpose as, “The reason for which something exists, or is done, made, used, etc.”

Dreams are centered around what we want out of life, while purpose seeks what humanity needs out of us. The thorn in the side of human existence has forever been that we are a tragically self-serving race. We get so consumed by our ambitions and dreams that rarely do we stop to consider whether our goals are in alignment with our purpose. It’s not in the genetic construction of our souls to contemplate whether what we want is actually what we were created to be. Our dreams are spun into gold from the ideals, desires, and innate passions that fuel our notion of what it means to be happy. Purpose however, exists outside of what we want; it lives in the space of who God created us to be.

Why choose your purpose over your dream?

Dreams are man-made and temporary. No matter how long they last, we eventually wake up. For example, a successful vocalist may one day realize that her voice can no longer carry notes—smooth and effortless— the way it once had. And if said singer had made this vocal career her entire world and depended upon herself to nurture it, what would remain of her life once she awakened from her dream? Dreams fashioned, pursued, and purposed by human intentions will always have a shorter life expectancy than a God given destiny. As Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 informs us, the entire human experience is fleeting when under self-direction.

10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.
I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure,
For my heart rejoiced in all my labor;
And this was my reward from all my labor.
11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun.

Another incentive for choosing God’s purpose over our dreams is that we have more freedom in His plan. When we hand over our raw materials to Christ, he can make us into anything in this whole wide world. After all, Moses tells us in Genesis 2:7, that “…The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” Could we have done more with that dust than God himself? Perhaps we would’ve fancied ourselves cooks and made mud pies or sculptors and created elaborate sand castles. Though, our most feeble nor our greatest hypothetical use of the sand can be acknowledged, because without the breath of life filling a heaping pile of dirt, we don’t exist.

Are our talents worthless?

Absolutely not. God gifts us with all manner of talent and skill and He certainly intends for us to use them. However, it is our choice to decide how we wield these gifts. God created all things to glorify Him: If you sing, sing unto the Lord. If you dance, dance unto the Lord. It took me a long time to admit that I was passionate about writing because I was afraid of loving something I wouldn’t be good at. And even when I finally mustered up the guts to create this blog, I was in it for my own benefit. I wanted to prove to myself that I was good at writing by being validated by others. My pride and need for approval made me overly critical of my writing. It became more of a burden than a joy or gift, and I’d go stretches of weeks, often months without writing a single word. I was misusing my gift by allowing it and not God to define me and eventually, it made me miserable.

I hadn’t realized how deeply I associated my self-worth to my writing until I wrote that last paragraph.

Only up until a few weeks ago did God deliver me from that mindset. He told me to stop thinking that I had to achieve man- made merits and putting undue stress on something He gave me to enjoy. Whatever His will is for my gift will be accomplished through Him, not me. So, I let go. I gave my gift to God and ever since that day, I feel more free than I’ve ever been in regards to my writing. I traded in a gift; a talent; a dream, for a purpose. No, I don’t know the details and my purpose may not bear any resemblance to the dream I thought I needed, but it will be everything I never knew was waiting for me. It may not be bright and shiny, with flashing lights like I had dreamed, but it will be eternally fulfilling, spiritually satisfying, and a life that was hand chosen for me before I ever thought to dream my own dream.

I choose God’s purpose for my life over my dream(s).

Are You Willing to Give up Your Dreams for God’s Purpose?

Stay tuned for part II... 🙂

Climbing out of the Cave

I slept for over twelve hours last night. I didn’t get up until noon today. I want to go back to sleep but I can’t. I’m awake and being plagued by all the bizarre dreams I had last night. The most frightening one: I got fired. Dreams sometimes feel like an extension of reality. Dream emotions don’t feel any different than those of reality. I woke up to my heart drumming the beat of fear. It took me a few minutes to realign myself back to the dim room in New Jersey. And even once I convinced myself that it was just a dream, I still couldn’t completely shake what had seemed real just a few moments before. The dream was a replay of the year 2014 for me. A new job, a new place, and a wrecking ball.

I want to go back to sleep, but I don’t want to dream. My friend thinks I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I only wish it was that simple. Go back to bed, wake up, feel better. No this is much more. Today my burdens have mounted to the apex of my soul, and have nowhere to go but out. That’s made obvious by my melodramatic writing and bitter attitude. Truth is, I don’t have any real burdens. None worth mentioning in light of real atrocities.

I am my burden. Stubborn and strong willed about things I never do. I read my Bible. I read spiritually enlightening books. I think. Sometimes I hear from God. I do…I do nothing. I told my best friend today, God himself could stand before me and point out the direction I’m to take and I would remain another throw pillow on this couch. Given clear and direct instructions and still doing nothing.

I am my burden. “90 Days of Reign,” is my burden. A book God gave me that I only talk about because I’m too afraid to write it. Everyday, blank pages haunt me. I fill those pages with sleep, useless conversations, and thinning oxygen. Where does confidence come from? How do people know they can do something? Why aren’t they afraid to go for their dreams and I am. Is there a secret store that sells confidence and self assurance? Did I miss something growing up? Was I not pushed hard enough? Or am I just a coward. I know that God says our confidence should be in him, not ourselves, but why doesn’t that feel like enough? I thought I trusted God, but now I don’t know. My actions don’t reflect that I do. It’s not my book, this is not my blog, the vlog I want to start will not be my vlog. It’s all in his name and to his glory, right? Then, why am I still afraid to do any of it?

This post is obviously more questions than answers and maybe I’m just having a bad day. I’ve been in an apartment by myself for a day and a half, plans unknown. I’ve run out of distractions. If I hadn’t chewed my nails off, maybe I would’ve painted them. I cooked last night. I washed last night. I just discovered, “Gilmore Girls,” maybe I could watch that. No, today calls for bigger distractions than nail painting and television shows. I guess it calls for poor grammar writing.

I’m also reading this book. “Driven by Eternity,” by John Bevere. It’s freaking me out. It’s not at all for the faint of heart, let me tell you. It’s all about purpose. Well heaven and hell…and purpose. I’m not concerned about heaven and hell, but I do worry about what my life will look like when I stand before God. I want to have fulfilled his plan for my life here on Earth. The thought of watching some holograph of me sleeping my life away or travelling, or getting married and buying a house, and never answering the call of God is such a dread filled and terrifying prospect. What’s the point of being in this beautiful revolving hell if we don’t douse it with heaven?

And still, why am I so petrified? God’s influence in my life is growing but my body is floating in quick sand. Maybe, I just have never been exposed to hard work and I’m afraid of getting my hands dirty. Maybe I really am a coward. But should it matter if I am? Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit says the Lord. I mean, right? What am I missing? I sense the key all around me, but never tactile. I don’t trust God or do I? For he has not given me a spirit of fear but…of power, love, and a sound mind. I had to look the last part up. What exactly is power?

According to Dictionary.com, power is: ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something.

Did I just grasp the truth that’s been surrounding me all along? He has given me the spirit of power…of action. I feel lifted, so much lighter. Better. I’m going to call my friend and apologize for being crabby earlier today.

If you’re reading, thanks for joining me in this nonsensical climb out of the enemy’s cave. I don’t know a lot. In truth, I don’t know most things. Though there are two things I’m quite certain of: God is perfect and everything makes sense in written form. Even if I’m bad at it, I’m accepting that writing is my super power. I know it’s an oxymoron, but it’s very befitting of my day so I’m sticking with it.

The End of Me

Six years ago, I was sitting eagerly beside my Dad in a Ford Dealership showroom. “I’m impressed that your credit score is this good at your age,” the car salesman inquired from the opposite side of the round table. Beneath his surprise, respect and confidence lingered in his voice. I was a fervid twenty-two-year-old desperate to kick down the doors of my adolescence and strut into adulthood.

It was my first major solo purchase and as pathetic as it sounds, I needed the validation of a well informed stranger to tell me, yes you’re doing it right. Though it was likely a part of the car salesman’s pitch, he’d made me feel like I was on the right track. My newfound surety soon ushered me into a season of skipping merrily down the road to my downfall.

Fast forward to 2014. I’d gone through three jobs, (one of which I was fired from) and was surviving off of what was left of my two credit cards, the aid of my parents, and meager unemployment funds. I had a car payment, an apartment and no income or savings. Adulthood had really taken me through the wringer. Eventually, my credit cards went into default and I stood idly by as my credit plummeted to a new low.

Here, in 2018, I’m still picking up the pieces from one hellish year. Working to improve my credit this year has been a constant reminder of my shortcomings in 2014. A few months ago, I set a goal to have my own apartment by the top of next year and purchase a home within the next few years. I knew my credit would be a major factor in reaching those goals, so time after time, I made plans to pay off the bills that had gone into collections. Every time I was close to saving the amount I needed, something else came up. It was difficult to save rainy day money, put away for retirement, pay current bills and save extra money for the debts that were ruining my credit.

I felt stuck. What’s worse, the more research I did, the more discouraged I became. From what I read, even if I paid my debt in full, the stains would remain on my credit for the next seven years, so why bother? Still, I was frustrated with the bill collector calls and constantly being reminded of past errors.

Eventually, I saved enough money to pay off my smaller debts. I then decided to take out a loan from my 401k to pay off the rest of my credit card bills that had gone into default. I didn’t expect to see any immediate changes to my credit score, I was just tired of that cloud of debt looming over my life. By this point, I’d reached the end of all of my resources and had done all I could to right my wrongs. I surrendered to patience and accepted the reality that I had to allow time to heal my credit score.

Much to my surprise, over the next couple of months, my credit score rocketed. It had gone from the red zone to the yellow zone, poor to fair. I was shocked, to say the least. To top it off, not only were my debts showing paid in full, they were removed entirely from my report! My past mishaps no longer had a place in my future!

What I find most interesting, is that out of all the worrying, researching, and effort, my breakthrough took place when I became still. It happened when I reached the end of myself. In doing so, I gave God the opportunity to work on my behalf in a way that only he could.

Sometimes, we don’t know when to stop. And by stop, I mean rest. And by rest, I mean turning over our situations to God completely. This is not an invitation to give up, but a call to recognize the power of the God we serve. We wait too long to come to God for the answer. Yes, be active in working toward whatever your goal is, but remember that we should be in tandem with the Lord, not passing off our problems to him like a baton at a relay race.

If we put God at the center of what we are trying to accomplish, we’ll get there a lot easier. I understand that there are times when it is beneficial for us to go through the storm but there are also times when God wants to bless us and we create unnecessary storms by trying to bless ourselves. 

We put too much effort into trying to fix our problems, rather than resting in the panacea that is Christ. God has already given us everything we need to succeed in fulfilling his glory in our lives, it’s simply a matter of activating those resources through him. Stop exhausting and worrying yourself over not having the answers and put that energy into prayer and faith in the one who does.

Call Me by My Name

When it comes to inconsequential matters like ordering food or making minor reservations, I never give my real name. Celestial just seems nine letters too troublesome for a box of pizza. Besides, why put people through the bother of fumbling around the spelling and pronunciation? So to avoid any unnecessary confusion, when asked for my name, I respond: “Sure. It’s Ashley.”

In the first place, Ashley is a far simpler name than Celestial. But beyond that, it’s familiarity gives people a sense of comfort, however wrong or right they may be. Still, no matter my reasons for providing an alias to passing strangers, my name isn’t Ashley: it’s Celestial. And were I to develop a real relationship with one of these strangers, they could no longer go on calling me Ashley. To do so would be an indication that they still don’t know me, regardless of how familiar I may seem.

Familiarity: the thief of intimacy. Indeed, I am familiar with quantum physics, but I couldn’t begin to tell you even the most major concept of that theory. (Although, I probably could now because I just looked it up.) Likewise, just because we hear about or see someone often doesn’t mean that we know them deeply. For example, you know that friend of a friend who you occasionally see at gatherings? You always mistake her name for Brenda, when really it’s Shannon. Yes, that girl: take a moment to consider why you always forget her name. Could it be because you have no real relationship or ties to her and therefore her name could be Kjgwqeoigesokgn and she would still just be a friend of a friend, better known as Brenda?

Yet, isn’t that what many of us have done to God? We’ve put him in the friend of a friend zone, and as a result, we often forget his name. So instead of God, we call him The Universe today, Good Vibes tomorrow, and Positive Energy the next day. I admit these names are easier to digest than the mystifying name of God, but they hold no true value. They’re simply titles we use to circumvent the name of God because we’ve decided that his is far too difficult a name for us to be concerned with. 

What’s interesting though, is that we still want the benefits of God’s nature. We send positive vibes to The Universe in hopes of receiving the grace, love, and hope that is solely God’s to give. We don’t want to submit to his ways that are in place purely for our benefit, yet we want to reap the rewards that come through obedience. In any other iteration of life, this line of thinking would be illogical.

It’d be like asking me to help you come up with a budget even though you know I’m imprudent with money. Tiffany, however, is an accountant and frugal, but you don’t like her. So instead, you choose me and my likeability to help you budget, while somehow expecting the money conscious rewards Tiffany has to offer.

Life doesn’t work that way. At all. We don’t get to cherry-pick the characteristics of God we like, and with them, create our own deity. 

It’s easy to call God anything but God when we don’t really know him. I’m not talking about being religious, I’m speaking of relationship and spirituality. For Christians, we shouldn’t be reading the Bible and praying strictly because it’s our “religious duty,” we should be doing these things to forge a deeper relationship with God. I’m not saying it happens overnight, and yes, sometimes we will have to force ourselves to pray and read our Bible. Discipline is required, but the reward of our faithfulness is being one with our creator and thirsting no more.

Running from God to false names may provide a temporary balm to our plight, but ultimately, it will lead to further confusion. I know that living in this world can make it hard to believe in an all-powerful God who is allegedly good. I won’t pretend to have all the answers.

If I may, however, offer my advice: call God by his name even in your uncertainty. Don’t be afraid to confront him with your questions. But be ready for the answers. God is not daunted by your inquiries. He wants to show you who he is, and the wonderful plans he has for you.

Step one to finding God: call him by his name.

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Traveling Light

 

In March, I spent two days at Newark Liberty International Airport completing recurrent training: a dreaded but necessary requalification course required annually by all flight attendants. Never a fan of school, I huffed and puffed all the way there on that first day, but by the time class was over I realized how light I felt— literally.

 A normal workday would find me weaving in and out of the ever-crowded Newark airport, my forty pound luggage dragging behind me like a fractious child. But because I wasn’t actually flying anywhere, all I’d brought to training was a backpack to house my wallet, a notebook, some snacks, and a blanket.

Eager to soak up the rest of the day away from work, I galloped down the escalator and hurried to meet my uber driver at arrivals. I shrugged my bookbag off as I slid into the car. Leaning back, I sunk into the worn seat as the driver eased on the gas and the airport faded out of view. Wow, that was seamless.

My temporary dismemberment from my suitcase had given me the freedom to walk and maneuver as I willed without having to factor in their extra weight. On the ride home, I couldn’t help wishing I had access to the science used in the movie, “Honey, I shrunk the Kids.” Of course in my case, the kids would be my annoying luggage. How much easier my life would be if my bags weighed less than a pound and fit in my pocket.

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Putting aside silly notions, I thought of more realistic ways to lighten my load. As I began taking a mental inventory of the items in my suitcase, I found my thoughts drifting off to the less obvious baggage I tote around daily: the unecessary bulk I carry in my spirit.

We spend so much of our lives internalizing weight that was never ours to carry. Our spirits weren’t created to support life’s burdens, yet we bathe ourselves in the worries and trials of this world expecting to be cleansed.

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Hard as it may be to grasp, we don’t possess the antidote to not even a single of life’s troubles. Blinded, we sometimes think we have a responsibility to carry the load on our own, but that couldn’t be farther from what the word of God says.

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Anger, unforgiveness, and abandonment are a few of the more recognizable poisons we hold onto, but it’s the worries we think are natural and harmless that mature into beasts over time. Constantly stressing over money and bills, the future, health, our kids, marriages, and employment— all these normal worries carry heft as well. With time they ossify our spirits and we begin to block the blessings God wants to bestow upon us. Philippians 4:8 instructs us on what our thoughts should be consumed by.

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Giving our lives to God means trusting him entirely. Not only with the big things, but with the minutia of our lives. We cleverly disguise our pain, making sure to evenly distribute it throughout ourselves so that no one will notice the extra weight. We can’t hide from God. He formed and knew each of us before the foundation of the earth. He has purposed each of our lives for his glory. God is not perplexed or intimidated by our pain. However, we must make the choice of whether we want our struggles to be barriers or breakthroughs.

I see so many Flight Attendants hobbling through the airport with their luggage. It’s usually the ones who have been lugging around three and four pieces of baggage for twenty-five years. The weight and strain catches up. The baggage, if we let it, will attach itself to us like barnacles. Thank God though, our pain doesn’t have to be irreparable. We can opt to surrender our excess weight to God and let him deal with it. Trust him to deal with it. Know that He is more than capable of giving us the peace that we need to released our baggage.

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Millennial.

Millennial is a label I’ve grown to hate. Unless it has to do with teaching the Baby Boomers how to work their smartphones, the title has become synonymous with spoiled, entitled, brats.

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I wish I could disagree, but unfortunately, that definition isn’t entirely inaccurate. Yet, what I find far more pertinent than defining us, is figuring out how in the heck we got like this in the first place. How did we become such self-absorbed, pretentious individuals? I’m no Social Psychologist, but being a millennial myself, I do have a few theories on how we wound up a bit of a hot mess, and what we can do to remedy it.

1. Reach for the stars…they said.

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We were sold a dream. When our teachers and parents told us we could do and be anything, we believed them. We were inadvertently brainwashed into believing that a sure and certain path would lead us to lasting happiness. So you can imagine our devastation now that real life has pied us in the face. We put all our eggs in one very promising basket and things aren’t panning out, so we’re busy falling apart. Maybe no one said it, but we were made to think that following our dreams would be easy: graduate high school, go to college, get a career, find a spouse, buy a home, have some children, and run off into the sunset. No one told us we’d be here- drowning in the waters of a reality we were shielded from. We didn’t know there’d be bumps in the road or mountains not ours to climb, or how painstakingly long we have to water our seeds of success before they sprout. We’ve been convinced that happiness only exists in the grandest parts of life. If we aren’t doctors, lawyers, or some glamorous person who makes more money than they can spend, we diminish ourselves to nothing. The ordinary life has no appeal to us. No worth. The quotidian office or factory job is devoid of the happiness we imagined for ourselves. We were bred to be more…they said.

2. Fear of being second best.

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As a result of our warped perception of happiness, us millennials are terrified of failure. Cat’s out of the bag that we aren’t all going to be Space Engineers and Pop Stars, but we’re not taking it all that well. In fact, we’ve resorted to a state of petrification. Unable to move because we fear that if we do, we’ll somehow end up in the same spot. If we don’t cross the line first, we’d rather not cross at all. Ridiculous, I know, but this runs deep. Us millennials don’t do second best. And many of us would prefer to remain stagnant than to finish last, or fourth, or fourteenth. Instead of finding contentment in gradual progression, we’re programming ourselves to find happiness in whatever is on the surface. Whatever is within arm’s reach.

3. Social Media

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Where to begin with this one? Social media is the most life-sucking activity millennials engage in. We’ve belittled our self-value to likes and embellished pictures. Everyone wants to be Instagram famous and many are even striving to make a career out of creating illusions of happiness. Social media has become a mask: a way to hide our real fears and deep pain. The approval of others is like a high for us. We lay our precious worth in the hands of individuals just as broken as we are. To us, the world we create on the internet is more valuable than the world we actually live in. Social media has become a way to escape reality, but what we escape into is even worse. Millennials couldn’t be more enthralled with superficiality if we tried. Having money, being pretty, having a nice body, going on vacation, and luxury have all become paramount to the real beauties of life: gratitude, kindness, and love.

How do we initiate change?

Honestly, change feels impossible most of the time. I pray for my generation, myself, and for our world. The Bible speaks explicitly about the current times. Our world was always going to get to this, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to shoulder one another in these trying times. We have to stop selling the dream that life is all glitter and gold. It’s messy and it’s hard and doesn’t always turn out the way we expect, but that doesn’t mean it’s empty of happiness. It’s not the world’s responsibility to create a happy place for us, it’s our decision to create a happy place in the world. If we expect only one part of our story to produce happiness for a lifetime, that one thing is what will kill us. Failure is just a part of life and it’s okay not to be first. That’s one of my biggest fears when it comes to my writing, What if I write a book that doesn’t make the New York Best Sellers list? It is a very real possibility that my book will not be on that list, but that won’t make it worthless. I’ve read and enjoyed so many books that never made it to the best sellers list. So what? I enjoyed reading them and they imparted new thoughts and ideas- that’s what matters. Millennials, let’s be brave and make an effort to stop hiding behind social media and deal with our real selves. So what, if we’re not doctors and lawyers- we’re people. Don’t trade the human experience for silver and gold. We have to find a way to be happy and grateful in the place God has us. Move forward when it’s time, but let’s not allow our now to dictate our forever.

After the Pain

From hurricanes to earthquakes, and now the threat of a volcanic eruption in Indonesia, the past few months have been rough. When I look at the obliteration of islands, the flooded and powerless cities, and the debris of buildings that once stood tall, I can’t help but think of humanity: we too are broken, without light, and flooded with confusion. The physical destruction surrounding us is a reflection of the festering wounds erupting within us. It’s as though everything has come to a head all at once.

The most pressing concern is figuring out how to move forward- physically and emotionally- after the pain. The obvious answer is for us to bind together and restore productivity to the affected areas. Donating food and supplies, sending money, and volunteering are just a few ways we can each help aid the restoration process.

Yet, I wonder if there isn’t a less apparent answer buried beneath the pain and rubble of these disasters. After hurricane Irma struck The Virgin Islands, I reached out to a close friend of mine from St. Thomas. My heart broke at her distress. I’ve never been good at having the right words for people’s pain, but this time was different. Although my heart ached for her suffering, I felt compelled to offer encouragement. Hope in the face of tragedy isn’t easy but it is necessary.

The irony was that the day I texted her happened to be September 7th. It marked three years since my brother had passed. As I wrote her, I thought back to that day. I’ve yet to feel as hopeless as I did in that moment of my life. Everything was falling apart before me and I felt powerless to stop it. Those days were dark, but in retrospect, I realize that it took a storm destroying my life for me to allow God to restore it. As I poured out my sincerest words of hope to my friend, one word rose above the rest.

Rebuild.

Though it may seem difficult to see it as such, these disasters have given us an opportunity to rebuild structurally, spiritually, and sociologically. God’s grace is bigger than any storm and if we make the choice to walk this arduous journey in it, we will come out on the other side better than we were before. There’s a song I love by Bri Babineaux called, My Everything. The main chorus of the song says,

If I lost everything and didn’t have anything, and you were the only thing, I’d still have everything.

It’s what I pray for myself and for our world. In my few years on this earth, I’ve yet to find anything or anyone as sustaining as God. He has kept me in the midst of it all, the same way I know he can keep those of us affected by these natural disasters.

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Matthew 7:24-27 says:

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

I’m not making light of the devastation that has taken place. I am in no way trying to dictate how people should feel. Quite frankly, I don’t know how I’d feel had a hurricane come and taken away my loved ones and security. I want to reassure us that though this may feel much like an end, it doesn’t have to be. It’s an opportunity for a new beginning. A chance to relocate our homes to God’s heart. If we lay a solid foundation of faith, love, and trust in God, our homes will never be destroyed again.

Even the thunder and the wind obey
At the command of my Father, Father
I set my feet upon Your mighty name
So let the rain fall harder, harder
So take my everything, my flesh and blood
I’ll lay me down on the altar, altar
I am forever covered in Your love
So let the rain fall hard

 

-I Am Yours by Lauren Daigle

In the same way that many are without lights and resources physically, we are without them spiritually. These disasters are a literal illustration of what plagues us spiritually and culturally. A wake-up call reminding us that we are not nearly as in control as we believe ourselves to be. We are in such a state of confusion and questioning, we don’t know what to believe. Our foundations are breaking under the pressure of worldly influence and we’re turning over all the wrong rocks to find happiness. So many things sound and feel right, look good and seem okay, but the problem is we have no foundation to test these beliefs.

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We’ve grown too accustomed to living in the dark. Now is our opportunity to plant ourselves on an unshakable foundation. Bad things will continue to happen, and there’s no guarantee that we can always prevent them. But if we put our faith in God, everything around us could crumble and we’d remain because we have been planted in the Lord.

 

 

 

Run Forrest, Run!

Before I had any business watching it, Forrest Gump became one of my favorite movies.  Although the content was too mature for my age, I always found Forrest easy to understand. He was simple. He made me feel better about my inability to comprehend why life was sometimes the way it was.

It came on television the other night, and even though I’ve seen it a hundred times, I couldn’t help watching it again. I came in at the scene where Jenny and Forrest had reunited in Greensboro. She stayed for a while, then- in true Jenny fashion- left unexpectedly. Heartbroken, Forrest did what Jenny had always taught him to do.

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Forrest ran for, “3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.”

As I watched the nationwide coverage and acclaim of his run, something struck me:

How ridiculous it was that a throng of people followed a man cross country on a run that had no clear intention or path. Reporters probed Forrest for answers as to what his run signified: world peace, women’s rights, the environment, animals, or nuclear arms?

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Though Forrest’s run lacked a profound why, people were inspired by his uninhibited and audacious spirit. Supporting someone with an unknown cause can be a wonderfully dangerous inspiration. Seeing individuals take extreme measures to better themselves gives others the courage to do the same. The problem arises when we rely too heavily on the journeys of others to fuel our own lives. When Forrest announced that his rove was over, his followers were distressed by the sudden decision. “Now what are we supposed to do?” one man called out.

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It’s beautiful to be motivated by the lives of others, but it’s not fair to invest everything we hope to be in the life of someone else. Yet, that’s exactly what those people did to Forrest, and it’s what we do to one another. We see what looks like happiness, wealth, or success in the lives of others and attempt to replicate their actions in hopes of biting off a piece for ourselves.

We follow blindly behind people and movements we know little about just to feel something that halfway resembles happy. The problem with this type of lifestyle is that it’s full of emptiness. Those people who followed Forrest on his run never came to know why he did it.

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Forrest’s journey was to run until his past was far enough behind him to move forward. It was for him to discover who he was in that iteration of himself.  What I love most about his passage was that it wasn’t until after Forrest returned home that he realized his why was indeed profound.

That’s exactly how life works at times. We don’t know why God allows us to go through certain hardships, but there’s always a reason. One that is exclusive to your journey, who you are and who you ultimately have the potential to be. Your why.  Yet, if we exhaust our lives trying to find ourselves on someone else’s path, it only leads to added unhappiness.

I know sometimes we just feel like running toward anything with a remote promise of happiness; anything that will take us away from where we are. I get it, but that’s when we have to be most vigilant because that’s when our spirits become clingy and susceptible to misplaced inspiration.

My goal isn’t to devalue the splendor of inspiration. On the contrary, my hope is to uphold it, to encourage us to apply it in a way that is beneficial to our lives.  It’s great to be heartened by someones actions and to even be encouraged to go a similar route. However, we shouldn’t base our decisions on what makes someone else happy.

You’re you and I’m me. What moves me may not drive you. What motivates you may not encourage me. We’re each on our own way, yet how wonderful it’d be for our journeys to cross paths. Maybe there’s something you can teach me. Perhaps there’s something I can give you. Maybe inspiration is a collision of two paths- or ten, or five million- meant to give hope, wisdom, and love so that another would be willing to war on against a world intent on their defeat.

The Secret to Staying Young

 

Let’s start this off with a confession:

I use anti aging cream. Don’t worry, it’s the cheap stuff- for now. But still, is that bad? I mean, I am just three years away from thirty. Besides, I’m improving my adulting skills by being more proactive. I spend most of my time on airplanes where the air is dry and the oxygen is thin. It’s my responsibility to protect my skin from shriveling up like a raisin, right?

Alright, that was about 40% true. The remaining 60% sadly, lies in complete vanity. I don’t want to get old. And if I must, I certainly don’t need the evidence of wrinkles to prove it.

Nowadays though, we see more people embracing and being proud of their age, which is the way it should be. Unfortunately, I’m not that wise.

I’m in line with everyone else trying to catch the first ship out to Never land. Botox, plastic surgery, hair plugs (do people still do that?), and younger partners are just a few of the extreme measures we take in an effort to retain our youth.

Let me make clear, I don’t personally engage in the aforementioned activities, but I can certainly understand how easy it would be to fall prey to these practices.

The truth is, we’re growing older with each setting sun and there’s no way to stop it. Our lack of crows feet and smooth skin can no more rescue us from what actually needs saving than a topical cream can kill cancer. The sickness is within.

Our exterior is just that: A shell that houses our most precious jewels. But if the treasure rots, what is there to protect? Our bodies become useless. Yet we choose to focus most of our upkeep on our physical selves. L’Oréal’s latest under eye night serum cannot treat a withered spirit.

Our spirits are as strong or tenuous as we make them. In order to build their strength, we must feed them that which will encourage growth and resilience. If fed junk, such as anger and guilt, they begin to eat away at themselves and become emaciated.

From the moment we enter this earth, life becomes a toilsome journey: loss, addiction, betrayal, and self-hate are only a few potential struggles we face. Under the pressure of such circumstances, weak spirits are likely to break.

Our physical age will inevitably increase, but there’s nothing more exquisite than a spirit unaffected by age. One who has seen its share of hardships yet remains unblemished in its faith.

I know it sounds impossible. It’s certainly not easy, but with conscious effort, a lot of practice, and of course God, it is achievable. I don’t have all the answers to maintaining a healthy, strong, and youthful spirit, however I do have a few tips to get you started.

Let it go.

Stop dwelling on people and circumstances you can’t change. It only stands to further frustrate you. If someone has wronged you and you’re still bitter about it, you’re punishing yourself for their error. I’m not suggesting that you excuse their behavior, instead I invite you to release them to God. Once you release them, you also free yourself from feeling like you have to exact penance on them.

Surround yourself with positive people.

The company you keep has a major influence on your outlook on life. Be intentional about the people you surround yourself with. Make sure your friends are adding positivity to your life and not encouraging negativity. The normal rigamarole of life is stressful enough, you need people to bring the joy out in you at all costs.

Don’t neglect the little things

It’s easy to overlook the simplest parts of life because other aspects are so overwhelmingly complex. But it’s important that we find a way to always recognize the little things in our lives that make us smile. Our sanity depends on it.

Keep the Faith

I could elaborate endlessly on the importance of remaining faithful, but instead I’ll leave you with a snippet of lyric from a song I love.

Hold on to hope if you got it
Don’t let it go for nobody
They say that dreaming is free
But I wouldn’t care what it cost me

Yellow means GO!

 

Now, be honest-

You’re driving and the light turns from green to yellow: what do you do?

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 Pedal to the metal baby!

When I have somewhere to be, I want to get there yesterday. You guys already know, I’m not taking home any awards for most patient person of the year. However, you’d be proud to know that I have improved. Somewhat. On the important stuff like marriage and solving the riddle that is my purpose in life, I’ve learned to ease off the gas and enjoy the pretty – and not so pretty – scenery. But as for waiting in long lines at the grocery store, continue to pray for me.

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What factors do you all think contribute to the constant haste of our culture?

For one, we are unremittedly fed the lie that we have to have it now. Whether it be a spouse, a child, a new car, or the latest iPhone, the idea of waiting has become unfathomable. We’ve been programmed to FOMO. For those of you not up with the times, FOMO is an acronym that means fear of missing out. It’s generally used when people are afraid of missing something at a social event or outing, but I think it’s also relevant in terms of stuff.  Either way, we’ve got it bad.

On the surface, this lie is simply a consumerism/marketing ploy by filthy rich companies trying to attain even more wealth by playing on the emotions of people in need. We’re being manipulated by a man made guarantee that more stuff will make us happy. Even though marketers fail on their promise again and again, we continue to buy the lies. When we look in the mirror, we see a version of ourselves plastered in all the things we thought we needed.

If you don’t remember anything else from this post, please remember this:

The only thing we need in this life has already been purchased. We just have to make the decision to accept Him. 

Okay, so we’ve dodged the yellow light, now what? We’re maybe two to three minutes ahead of those we left in our dust, but what have we actually gained in that time? It’s easy for us to feel like those few minutes make a huge difference, but in actuality they don’t.

“Your imaginary self is not your real self.”

My brother said this during a conversation we were having a few days ago and I literally had to write it down because, as simple a sentence as it is, it makes so much sense.

We create these euphorias in our minds that translate into reality as utter ridiculousness.

Like, Oh I gained two extra minutes to get to work by flying through the yellow light. Now I have time to get gas, drop that package off at the post office, and maybe get a blueberry donut from Dunkin’ (my favorite!). 

Okay, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. 

We all have this mental checklist of things we need to have accomplished by a certain time. As the days and years inch closer to that time frame, we set into panic mode, and quite frankly, start making some not-so-smart choices to fulfill those goals.

I’ll spare us the listing of those choices.

Now on the other side of those decisions, are we any happier? Is it the same euphoric dream we had cooked up in our fantasy driven heads?

I can answer from personal experience: not at all. I’m still digging myself out of the hole from a few bad decisions I rushed into because I thought I’d die waiting.

In retrospect, my life would be a lot easier now, had I slowed down at those yellow lights and allowed God to tell me when to go.

Timing is everything. And God, who is both the creator of time and us, surely knows when something is best for us and how to perfectly orchestrate it into our lives.  place it in our lives during the perfect season.

Impatience is human and I get it. Not knowing what will become of our lives is stressful and can cause us to make rash decisions just for the sake of feeling in control.

Fight that urge.

Pray and ask God for patience. Build your trust and faith in him by spending time getting to know him. When we truly come to know the character of God, we don’t have to doubt that his plan for our lives is the best version.