Every Day

Being with and talking to people is one of my favorite things to do. I am in my element and at my happiest when I get to engage others. Not only that, but talking with people is one of the ways I process my thoughts and feelings. It is not unusual for me to walk away from a conversation with a better understanding of my own mind. Often God works through my conversations by speaking encouragement or conviction through people.

In the last 3.5 months I’ve had many of those energizing, perspective-shifting conversations. I am genuinely amazed at the number of people God chose to invest into my life and how much their investment made an impact on me.

A friend encouraged me to change how I approached life by focusing on the strength of the Holy Spirit and to remember that every day is an opportunity to become more like Christ.

Two of my mentors challenged me to accept my identity in Christ, and to trust that He is using me as long as I choose to trust him.

A cousin forced me to confront fears and worries that were causing me to doubt God’s ability to use me.

A couple encouraged me to have an open heart about going wherever it might be that God calls me, be it here in San Diego, or somewhere else in the world.

My coach reminded me to pursue my vision of encouraging and inspiring others to dig deep into their personal relationships with God.

Multiple couples advised me to continually and purposefully invest time into being in the Word of God, hiding it away in my heart.

After each of those conversations I tried for hours (literally) to write about it, to share what it was that God had done in my heart through those people. Every writing session ended with me frustrated and hitting “delete” a billion times. I didn’t get it.

Well, now I do.

Two weeks ago my parents and a friend convinced me to apply for a two month Marketing Content internship with my school. I was excited to give it a shot, but honestly, I did not expect anything to come from it, but I had an interview. Then I had a second interview. Tuesday afternoon, they offered me the position. I’ll be temporarily moving to Texas in a little over one week.

3.5 months ago I would not have been emotionally or spiritually ready to move out of state to write and study full time. Today I am ready, because God used the people in my life to reveal things about both Him and me that I needed to see, to understand, to act upon.

This opportunity showed me that while those seemingly random conversations with random friends and family did not have an obvious pattern, they did build on one another and served an even greater purpose of preparing me for the next step. The reason I couldn’t write about each of those individual conversations was because the story wasn’t ready to be told yet.

The really cool thing is that I only just realized this in the last two days. Imagine how this will all piece together when I get back to San Diego in November, or in two years from now when I have walked farther and grown more!?

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded. Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 

1 Peter 1:13-16

He has given us an adventure that we get to live…every day.

For the Days Are Evil

1239422_10152464075566564_404198548_nTuesday Morning, September 11th, 2001

As I came into the living room I saw Mom hugging Grandma, Dad buttoning up his LAPD uniform and strapping his gun to his hip, Grandpa just sitting in his arm chair—all crying and staring at footage of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers. I didn’t know whether to to be more scared by the smoke, fire and screams coming from the TV, or by the fact that the four main adults in my life were scared too.

Mom and Dad recognized my presence when I tearfully asked, “what’s happening?!” They gave me a hug and explained that there were “bad guys trying to hurt people.” Soon I was tucked away in another room watching Mary Poppins and drinking hot cocoa—safely guarded from seeing any more disturbing images.

The next few years of my life were spent semi-oblivious to things going on in the outside world. It wasn’t until my later grammar school years that I started to put the pieces of that history together—to understand and know.

Wednesday Morning, September 11th, 2013

I woke up to the sound of my obnoxious cellphone alarm. The old wood from my bunk bed gently creaked as I hopped to my bedroom floor. I turned off my alarm and began, along with millions of other Americans across this country, to remember…

…the terror, the pain, the death

…the heartbreak, the loss, the fear

…the instigators, the victims and the heroes of 9/11/01.

~~~

My heart aches as I bear the reality of evil—it is here and it is active. Acts of sheer terror like the events of 9/11 serve as a constant reminder of that undeniable fact.

I wish I could say that the world has changed for the better in the last 12 years. But it hasn’t. Innocent Syrians are being murdered in horrific ways through chemical warfare, millions of unborn children are being killed in the womb and human trafficking is continuing to spread across nations. Genocide, murder, rape, slavery—gut wrenchingly awful.

All of this causes me (as C.S. Lewis says in his essay Learning in War-Time) to“always answer the question, ““How can you be so frivolous and selfish to think about anything but the salvation of human souls? How is it right, or even psychologically possible, for creatures who are every moment advancing either to Heaven or to Hell to spend any fraction of the little time allowed them in this world on such comparative trivialities as literature or art, mathematics or biology.””

Life is frail and every second brings me a little closer to the end…and I spend most of my days studying, working so I can study, writing and reading every spare moment I get. It does not seem right. I should be on the street ministering every waking moment of my day, right?

Lewis, however, in the rest of his essay gives encouragement to Christians struggling with this question: All our merely natural activities will be accepted, if they are offered to God, even the humblest, and all of them, even the noblest, will be sinful if they are not. Christianity does not simply replace our natural life and substitute a new one; it is rather a new organization which exploits, to its own supernatural ends, these natural materials.”

When I read that little passage (and countless others in Lewis’ essay) I felt as if Jesus were reminding me that I am right where he wants me to be. I am studying, working and writing that I might grow and that I might better serve him. Along the way, I am ministering to the people within my sphere of influence. It is not useless.

As you observe the evil of this world, think on these things. My encouragement to you is from Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:15-17:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Sphere of Influence

My junior year in high school I sat at my computer kicking myself for picking such a difficult essay topic—the definition of love. I had many thoughts and ideas to try and fit into a short paper, but I couldn’t seem to get past my thesis.

All I could do was to keep typing out whatever came to mind and then hit backspace until the right words came out on the screen. The quote by Isaac Singer, “The waste basket is the writer’s best friend” never felt truer to me.

As I struggled to get over my writer’s block, my friend encouraged me with these seven words: All writing should come from the heart.” This friend was seeking to help unlock whatever it was that I really wanted to say, how I really wanted to say it and what I really thought—to make it personal.

Those words have stuck with me for the last 1 1/2 years of writing. Every time I write a blog post, a letter or a journal entry, that phrase pops to the front of my consciousness, reminding me to be honest about who I am and what I think. This is the internet—it would be easy to put up a screen in order to skew peoples’ view of who I really am. But that phrase has kept me transparent and real.

A month or two ago I mentioned all of this in a “matter-of-fact” way to the friend who had helped me with that essay and I got a “really?! I don’t think I even remember that!” He had no idea that his words had made that much of an impact on me…or that those words were even capable of having such an impact on me.

The fact that I chose to listen to my friend’s encouragement has led to some rather open posts about my own spiritual struggles and life-battles. As a result, I have had the blessing of giving back to the people who have invested in me, and who have spoken into my life by writing about how they’ve blessed me. I have touched a few friends, family members and random people on the internet who I will probably never meet. All by being open, by writing from my heart, by sharing my story.

You will never know the profound effect that your words can have on a person’s life. Your sphere of influence might be doubling without you even knowing it…

~~~

An quick endnote:

My last three posts (Me? An Artist?, Not Drowning, Girl at the Beach) make the list of my favorites, but they were spread out over a long period of time. It’s time for me to get focused and a little more regular with my writing.

As of now, September 2013, I am going to be doing a bi-weekly publication. It’s not as often as I’d like, but due to school, work and another writing project, it’s really all I can give. They’ll make a writer of me yet…

Girl on the Beach

Friday night I stood with my back to a fire pit, keeping warm in the cool breeze coming off of the ocean. The crackle of burning wood and the powerful waves hitting the shore provided a calming soundtrack. As the sun left the realm of sight people began to empty the beach. Light from the lampposts along the wooden pier reflected off the dark water.

That night, as I stared at all of the beauty around me, I had no intention but to think through the thoughts of my heart and try and get my worries “sorted.”

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a young woman standing alone on the wet sand, clutching a cup of coffee and letting the water wash over her feet. Almost instantly after noticing her presence I felt the Spirit give me the urge to go talk to her. contentment-praying-woman-ocean-465x300

Not now, Lord, please?! You know I’ve got so much on my heart right now. 

Exactly. Get over yourself and focus on someone else. Go. Now. 

My legs started moving away from the comfortable, warm fire and towards the ocean. Instead of approaching the girl directly, however, I ended up about 10-15 feet away from her––up to my calves in sea water trying to come up with a good conversation starter.

I tried about 20, but my personal favorite was, “Hey! I noticed You’re drinking coffee! Funny thing because I drink coffee too! So have you ever heard of Jesus?” Yeah, no.

Eventually I decided to wing it, and stepped towards with my hands shoved nervously in my hoodie pocket. “Hi! So, um, I know this a awkward [nervous smile], but I noticed you were standing by yourself and looked a little lonely. I just felt like I should come over and say, um…something. Are you okay?”

The girl laughed and replied with a, “Oh, do I really look lonely? No, I was just looking. It’s all so beautiful. I love to simply stare and pray.”

She prays, God…she prays! 

Yes, I know. 

The girl had a lovely smile and an even lovelier heart––full of praise and worship for our mutual Lord and Savior. Our conversation led us to share our (condensed) life stories, our dreams for the future and how the Lord was moving in our lives. We discovered that we were in the same relative period of life––discerning how God would use our gifts to bring him glory.

Not 5 minutes into our talk she pulled her well-worn Bible from her purse in order to share a passage of scripture to encourage me as I wait for the Lord. I could not stop smiling and I struggled to keep down tears of joy at what a blessing the whole meeting was becoming.

I believe that the two of us probably would have talked for hours, but it grew late and my family called me away to leave. The girl and I exchanged contact information and left each other with a hug and the promise of meeting again––if not in this life, then in the next.

I had expected it to be a short and awkward interaction where I would try and pass along a few words of truth to a lonely girl and then leave not knowing whether or not I had touched her. Instead, I received much more than I gave. I had the blessing of meeting a sister, the encouragement of her insight, and the knowledge that the Lord knew that I needed that meeting.

Earlier on that evening, around the fire pit, I prayed that God would reveal himself to me in multiple ways, that he would show me how much he loved me and give me something to smile about and hold on to.

He did just that, but first, I had to trust and obey.

Save The Storks

47 million children have been aborted—murdered—since 1973. 47 million. That is not just a number, it is representation of lives that were cut very short, while millions of people looked on in approval or indifference. 47 million.

I realize that the pro-life vs. pro-choice issue has become somewhat of a dead horse in the United States public arena, but that is the problem—it has become just another voting issue that Republicans use to prove they are conservative. Pro-life is a stance that we take and do not back with action. That is, aside from checking a little box on our ballot every two years. This discussion of abortion is something that is constantly philosophized about by Believers, who then focus their time and attention on making their views government legislation. Meanwhile, millions of women a year make the choice to abort their child, and no law is going to stop them from making that decision. This sounds rather dark. It is dark.

If Christians truly have the desire to lessen the statistical numbers of abortion, then we need to change our approach from legislative to relational and evangelistic. The only way clinics are going to shut down and stay down is if the “doctors” don’t have any customers. We need to address the women at a personal one-on-one level about their decision, and then pray that we can be God’s tool to leading them away from making that choice to abort their child.

Being realistic though, how do we go about this? Walk up to random women on the street and say, “Hi! Are you considering an abortion? If so, don’t do it! And by the way, Jesus loves you.”? Hardly. I really did not have an answer to the question of “how?” until I came across a ministry called Save The Storks. Save the Storks is “a  pro-life nonprofit dedicated to saving mothers and babies” that  “build[s] fleets of mobile ultrasound units (called Stork Buses) that pregnancy centers can park outside of abortion clinics.” These buses are equipped with an ultrasound machine, a comfortable, warm , welcoming set up with couches, tables a little kitchenette and a few loving people. Groups from churches and crisis pregnancy centers go and park this bus outside of abortion clinics and make the effort to reach out to girls and women before they can get to the door of a Planned Parenthood. They offer help and support by asking the woman if she would like to get an ultrasound free of charge. From there, they simply love on the woman by giving her help, answering questions and sharing the Gospel in a non-threatening environment.

That is what I love about Save the Storks—they head off the first step on the path to abortion by getting to the woman before she steps foot into the abortion clinic. Save the Storks seeks to reach the heart of a scared and needy woman who is desperately in need of someone to tell her of Salvation through Jesus Christ. In the end, that is what is going to stop the awful, gory reality of rampant abortion—more Jesus.

Christians, I am talking to you. We should know better than to go to the government to solve these sin problems in our culture. God has called us to bring justice to the fatherless (Isaiah 1:17) and to go into the world preaching the Gospel of Jesus (Matthew 18:18-20). I challenge you to take the time to educate yourselves on ministries like Save the Storks. Consider contributing to their ministry financially and/or volunteering. My personal dream is to eventually see one of these Stork Buses in my own city, in the parking lot of Planned Parenthood with people bringing life to children in need of an advocate, and women in need of a Savior.

 

Opinion

o·pin·ion – A view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

Everyone has an opinion on everything, even if the opinion is that they do not have an opinion. That means trillions of opinions are being made in each individual’s mind every day. Today alone I have made judgments (on my computer, my coffee, my family, God, the world, my friends, a text, an e-mail, my lunch, a song, why Captain America is the best (oops, sorry, that was a fact!)….and the list goes on. You, right now, are making a judgment on my thoughts and on my writing—good, bad, ugly, superb, meh. It is constant.

Does anyone else find that crazy? To me, the fact that we all have opinion proves that we were not created to be copies of each other. We were all born to be different; to like different kinds of food, to watch different kinds of movies, read other books, like “weird” music and dig random styles of clothing. There is something special about that. We are all individuals with our own thoughts and ideas. Yes, there are areas where truth is truth no matter what anyone thinks (a.k. The WORD), but there is much in this world that is open to discussion. 🙂

I did not really know where I was going with this when I started, which was probably not a good idea, but there it is!!

Thoughts?