Monday, October 27, 2014

Fall's Beauty

Fall is my favorite season, and I could go on and on about how beautiful it is.  Instead, I have several pictures I took while at work at the Greenway today, because I feel like these photos say a lot more.

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I love looking at the beauty of the world, because it reminds me of just how great and amazing God is.  He has given us such an incredible world to live in, and I will never grow tired of praising Him for it.  I will forever be enthralled by nature.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What Is a Friend?

I spoke at my youth group on friendship tonight.  As much as I dislike public speaking, I readily accepted the opportunity to write a small piece and present it.  Here's what I chose to say :)


What is a friend? Webster's dictionary defines it simply as, “one you like and enjoy being with.” Usually, the dictionary can be fairly helpful, but I find a lack of depth in this answer. And honestly, I'm unsure if there’s an easy, yet better, way to answer this question.

Perhaps, then, it’s easier to start with what a friend is not. Friendship is not one-sided. It’s not about what you get from the other person, or what they get from you. A friend shouldn't be someone you idolize. True friends are equals. A friend should be your partner, not your leader nor your follower.

What is a friend, then?  

A friend is someone who you respect and who respects you, someone whom you trust with your whole heart, and who trusts you. A friend is someone who loves you, and would do anything for you. John 15:13, one of the greatest verses in the Bible about friendship, says that “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Friends are selfless.

It’s that person you can call in the middle of the night, and they’ll still pick up the phone. The one who you can do the most menial things with, and they won't care, because they just want to spend time with you. You can vent to them, and they won't judge you. They’ll support you through anything – but they’ll also tell you the truth when you need to hear it. And you’ll listen – because you value and respect them. More than anything, they should be the people who point you towards God, who push you towards pursuing him every day.

So, then, what is a friend? I'm not sure there’s any one definition. Because, more than anything, a friend is someone who is there. Through good times and bad, through fights and conflict. At the end of my life, I won't remember every friend I ever had a good time with. But I will remember the friends who stood by my side, even it was hard. 

Because, in my opinion, that’s what a true friend should be – loyal. We can't always expect our friends to be perfect. At one time or another, they will let us down, but a friendship can always be repaired. Forgiveness and friendship go hand in hand. We don't have to be the perfect friend, because it is impossible for any of us to ever be perfect. But we can be there for one another. And sometimes, that’s all we need.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

I Choose to Be an Optimist

For years, I've struggled with pessimism.  I call it realism, as many other pessimists do, but that's wrong.  Being pessimistic about everything is not being realistic.  Call it what you want, but pessimism is the absence of hope.  Most people doesn't seem to define it like that.  They say it's just "being prepared for the worst" or "not getting your hopes up" but it's much, much for than that.  It's much deeper than that.

The Webster dictionary has many different definitions for pessimism.  None of them are very positive, but one stuck out to me: "Pessimism: the doctrine that evil overbalances happiness in life."  In simpler terms, it the mindset that there is more bad in the world than good.  The idea that everything is going to be awful, and nothing is going to go your way.  Negativity.  Hopelessness.  It isn't Christ-like.  Not at all.  God has called us to be a light in the world, to shine despite the darkness around us.

I've lied to myself about it for years.  I've made pessimism out to be better than it actually is.  I've made so many excuses about it, saying that it's how I am, and that I can't change.  However, pessimism is a sin.  And sin is always a choice.  Certainly, it's easier to sin.  Likewise, it's easier to be pessimistic than optimistic.  But it is a choice.

I've let myself get away with it, even more so lately.  I'm not even talking about the way I'll be hard on myself, although, that is uncalled for as well.  No, I'm talking about the way I choose (yes, I said choose - it IS a choice) to see a situation.

God broke me today.  I've been holding on for a long time, but today was my breaking point.

It started with an eight mile run this morning with my mom.  After two miles, I said I couldn't do it.  I complained the rest of the way.  Said I was too sore, that I couldn't breathe.  And although, yes, I greatly struggle when running, it was my choice to see the negative.  And when my mom called me out on it, I made excuses about why I was like that. "I'm just a pessimist, it's how I am!" "I hate that I'm like this, but it's not my choice!" "I've tried to change, but I can't!"  Lie. Lie. Lie.  Thus, my run was miserable, because I ruined it with my pessimistic attitude.

Moving on to later.  I was talking with my boyfriend, possibly one of the greatest encouragers in the world, and as the conversation progressed, I realized that I had nothing positive to say.  I spoke negatively about a situation that's coming up that I'm dreading.  I spoke terribly of myself, and wouldn't listen to a word he said.  I fell into one of the darkest places I've ever been.

This resulted in a breakdown of sorts.  But it helped, in a way - I felt utterly broken.  Sometimes God has to bring us to that point to get through to us.  And well, it worked.  I pulled out my Bible and read for a while.  Talked to him for a while.  I realized that I have been so lost lately.  I haven't trusted.  I haven't had hope.

Even more so lately, I have fallen into the trap that is pessimism, and it needs to stop.

I realized why I'm like this, also.  Certainly, I don't enjoy being negative!  I hate it.  But I do it out of fear.  In my mind, if I prepare myself for the worst, when it happens, it makes it easier to swallow, because I was expecting it anyway.  Sure, it may save me from some hurt, but it's an awful way to live.  In preparing myself for the worst, it ended up that all I would ever see would be the worst.  I would walk into a situation, telling myself "this isn't going to go how you would like it go," so that I wouldn't be let down.

I am afraid of dashed hopes.  So I "protect" myself from them, by never hoping.  But that is not helping me at all.  It is robbing myself of one of the greatest gifts that God gave mankind - hope.  The ability to dream and wish and pray.  Not to always think of the worst, but to hope for better.  By being a pessimist, I have robbed myself of that joy.  And that ends now.

I suppose the verse that most stuck out to me today was Isaiah 41:10. (I would greatly recommend reading Isaiah 40-42, such words of encouragement that really pulled me out of a dark place today.)  And this verse in particular says. "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand."  I should not be afraid of the worst.  I should look to the future with hope, and trust that God will give me the strength to encounter whatever difficulties come my way.  There is no need to be a pessimist.

I am making the choice.  Today, I choose to be an optimist, and that is a choice I will continue to make for the rest of my life.  I am tired of how I am.  I am tired of the negativity.  I am tired of not knowing hope.  So I am making this commitment, between God and myself, to change.  Because I can change.

And it is a change I am more than willing to make.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Bittersweet End

Tonight was my Cross Country team's end of season banquet.  Another ending, another reminder that this is my last year at home.  There are a lot of "lasts" this year.  Sometimes I lost sight of that; that this is really my last year of high school.  It's easy to forget sometimes.  And then there are nights like tonight where it stares me in the face.  Where it's repeated over and over again how this is my "last year here" and everyone makes a big deal of me leaving.

It's exciting - I love being a senior.  I love being an example.  But at the same time, it's a bit strange.  Not to be cliche, but the only word that truly describes my senior year is "bittersweet."  For the past year, I have been ready to leave high school.  And as each day passes by, I become more and more ready to move on.  Ready to accept more responsibility.  Ready to meet new people and have new experiences.

And then there are times where I am reminded of how great of an experience high school can be, and I'm once again sad about leaving.  Even though I feel ready.

Senior year is hard.  It's hard because, in my mind, I feel like I've already moved on from all this.  I'm past the situations and the drama.  But at the same time, I'm constantly reminded that this is my last time to experience all these things.  My last gathering with my Cross Country team.  My last fall dance with my friends.  My last fall at home, even.  It is truly bittersweet.  Because I am so ready to leave - a sentiment I've repeated over and over again this past year - and then again, I am not ready to go.

I spent most of my evening tonight with these two incredible middle school girls.  After running with them for over three months, I have come to love both of them so much.  They have the sweetest, kindest hearts, and I am blessed to know them.  They bring me so much joy every time I'm around them, and we have the greatest times goofing off together.  Between singing "Let It Go" during practice at the top of our lungs and screaming those ridiculous inside jokes, even around strangers, we've shared so much laughter.  They have taught me what pure joy looks like.  They have showed me to be an encourager, and to smile even in the hardest circumstances. And I am truly thankful that they've been put in my life this year.

And somehow, they look up to me.  I guess it's because I'm a senior, the oldest on the team, and they look to me as an example.  It's partly flattering.  It's also extremely humbling.  I'm not perfect.  I never will be.  But I still have the opportunity to change lives, in spite of my imperfections and failures.

I spend so much time longing for more.  Longing to be free from high school and out of the house.  Longing to be living that college life; taking care of myself and studying the things I enjoy.  There's nothing wrong about being excited for tomorrow.  Yet, Biblically, we should be living in the present, and enjoying the situations that God has placed us in right now.  James 4:13-15 says "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'"

Hard to swallow sometimes, but it's the truth.  And it is God's will that I be at home right now.  I'm not "stuck" here.  I've been placed here, to do something great, while God readies me to do even greater things next year.  Sure, I'm not living it up at college yet.  I'm not meeting a hundred new people.  I haven't been able to have a huge impact on the world.  But, I have had an impact on two precious middle school girls.  And that is more than enough.

I truly am sad that my senior year is passing so quickly.  It is the very definition of bittersweet.  But I am so, so excited for what God has in store for me.

“There are no happy endings.
Endings are the saddest part,
So just give me a happy middle
And a very happy start.” 

- Shel Silverstein