Who feels exhilarated?

I do.  I feel exhilarated.  Life isn’t always this way.  In fact, the past week and a half have been an intense struggle for me.  [What seemed like] Everything went wrong.  Work was stressful like its never been before.  Every doubt you could imagine was running through my head.  My dreams seemed like a foolish waste of time.  Purpose and ambition were almost non-existent.  I was angry and tired and dejected and unhappy.

 

Thankfully, life has been this way before, so I knew exactly what I needed to do.

 

I believe that it is always crucial to life, true, free, real life, to abide in God’s Word daily.  It is imperative to pray often, in every situation, whether it be in thanksgiving or in the midst of darkness.  But especially in times of despondence, strength should be drawn from the Lord.  He loves us so much.  I don’t have a lot of experience with a good father figure on this earth, but I know that our heavenly Father loves perfectly and without an ulterior motive.  I have been reading in several parts of the Bible lately, but the one part that has been on my mind constantly is Genesis 39.  Poor Joseph.  He had a rough time for a while.  I don’t think he felt very exhilarated when he was being sold into slavery by his brothers.  He probably wasn’t stoked for the future when Potiphar tossed him in jail.  And when the cup-bearer waltzed out of prison, only to promptly forget Joseph and his plight, I bet Joseph wasn’t very encouraged.  But the common theme in his life was that he trusted God and obeyed Him.  In Genesis 39, it is emphasized FOUR times that “The Lord was with Joseph”.  There are more than six accounts of how God blessed Joseph and gave him success in the things he did.  What an encouragement!  I am not saying that we need to obey God so that we can receive blessings.  We obey and trust God because we love Him, and that should always be what drives us.  But how beautiful, that we have a Father who lavishes us with good things, merely because we are loved!

 

God has brought me out of some pretty rough situations in the past.  He has given me incredible gifts that enrich my life and give me opportunities to give what I have back to the Lord.  After the rough week I had, there isn’t much more to feel, except extremely happy.  It has been so easy to fall into the trap of worrying about my situation, and what is in my future.  It has been easy to mindlessly fall into a pattern of focusing on myself and problems that cause me stress.  Frequently, I have to remember that my purpose on earth isn’t to have a comfortable life.  My purpose is to serve God and work to further His Kingdom on earth.   My job is to be an ambassador for Christ so that others may come to know Him and be filled by His Spirit.  My fun job and my comfortable apartment, my car, my hobbies, my friends, my fitness, those things are all just bonuses.  They are things that not only I can enjoy, but also that I can use to serve God more often and more sincerely.  I am so blessed!!!  As usual, my life looks nothing like I anticipated a year ago.  But also as usual, letting go of the control that I crave results in God guiding me to something a thousand times better than I could ever imagine.  I am so thankful that God’s scope is so much clearer and can see so much further than mine!


A post with legitimate thought and feeling.

My sister in law once observed that I joke around alot to avoid sharing what I really thought or felt about important things in my life.  At the time, I agreed with her, but continued to build my wall because I was dealing with some pretty hurtful and negative things in my life, and who wants to be vulnerable and make more hurt possible?  Almost five years later, I still remember that conversation.  So many things have changed in my life since that day.  Things got worse, but then they got better.  Much, much better in a way that can only ever be attributed to God loving me even when I thought I was worthless.  I am still not completely open; I need to know you awhile before I can believe that you do not have an ulterior motive.  But I would like to think I am more honest about who I am.  If you asked me a personal question, I would not hesitate to answer.  Realizing that Jesus is the reason for every good thing in my life has made me want to share the miracles He has performed for me.  His love is limitless, perfect, and without a string attached.  He wants you to love Him, too.  He wants every person in this world to know Him, trust Him, and ultimately, spend eternity with Him.  It’s a tough choice;  it is so hard to believe in what you cant see.  But I guarantee you, once you choose to take that leap of faith, once you truly seek Him, He will give you the sight you need.  Your eyes will be opened to an incredible world you could never have imagined.  It’s just a shadow of what will be when this earth is gone, but it is the most beautiful thing here now.

The past few weeks have been incredibly crazy for me.  I have failed daily in loving my friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors.  Today was no exception, but in church this morning, I was reminded that God STILL loves me.  He hasnt given up on changing my life.  I am so grateful for another day to strive to honor Him in everything that I do.  I have another chance to share the love that Jesus has for me with other people.  He has given me so much, and I want nothing more than to give it all back.  I am truly blessed.

I want to be thankful every day, but this week especially, I want to remember how much I have.  Today, I am thankful for a younger brother who encourages me to call him often (“Literally, Stina, bug me every day in case I am free to talk!”)so that he wont forget to call me back, a second job so that I am able to meet financial goals I have set for myself, an awesome church that teaches the Word of God and truly seeks to honor Him, friends I love who call me to share exciting news, an incredible room mate who surprises me with an apartment decorated for Christmas (seriously, the best feeling in the world is opening the door after a long day, and seeing a lit Christmas tree in your living room), time spent catching up with an old friend who I normally only see every six months or so, a car that runs well in spite of me forgetting to change the oil when its needed, an opportunity to catch up with friends I have lost touch with, time to actually go to the grocery store to buy toothpaste after spending the past week squeezing the last vestiges out of the old tube, and finally, a relaxing dinner eaten at my dining room table for the first time in almost a month!  Yes, it was at 10:45 pm, and yes, I was practically asleep halfway through, but after four non-stop weeks, I’ll take it!


I do not love my neighbors.

I have a story for you.  A crazy, short, true story.

But first, you will need a little background:

I live on the third floor of an apartment building.  I love it, because I have no lousy neighbors stomping around upstairs.

Unfortunately, the neighbors on the first floor are lousy, and worse.  They absolutely suck.  For the past several weeks, they have been arguing so loudly, on their balcony.  And not at just any old time.  They are punctual, beginning and ending at 10 pm and 1 am, respectively.

Since we have had amazing fall weather, I have been trying to sleep with my windows open, but never can, because they are so loud.  Im talking shouting, here.  I hear all their stupid business.  I had to shut my windows, but I can still hear them clear as day.

Some nights, they arent as loud as others, but LAST night, I had enough….

Imagine, if you will, a very tired pastry chef.  She has been up since 6 am, and probably hasnt had the greatest day.  Maybe her tart crusts shrunk, and she had to toss them out.  Maybe the chocolate cream pie she made for a la carte mysteriously disappeared, and she had to rush to make another.  Who knows.  What is certain, though, is that she is tired, and a little cranky.  She is pms-ing like there’s no tomorrow.  She’s crampy, and her back hurts.   She makes it to bed at a decent 10 pm, but she cant sleep.  All she can think of is the cheesecakes she needs to bust out the next morning, on top of her long list of other things to do.

Well, folks, that was me.  After a long mental struggle, I was finally able to stop worrying about cheesecake, and started to drift off.  Then it sounded like a concert was playing in my apartment.  What the hell?  Ok, my room-mate was watching Nashville.  No big deal.  She turned it down, I started to fall asleep again.  I was roused again, by some lame-ass arguing from none other than my stupid first floor neighbors.  They werent as loud as usual, though, so whatever.  I pulled my blankets closer to my face, and finally, FINALLY fell to sleep.  I was halfway through a nightmare about chocolate cheesecake, when all of a sudden, I was jerked awake to the sound of:

“You NEVER CONSIDER MY FEELINGS!!!! BLAH BLAH BLAH!!!”

What the fuck???  Ugh, it was my worthless neighbors, bringing their arguing to the next level!!!  Well, my family can all attest to the fact that I do not take being woken unexpectedly well at all.  My sisters could tell you a story about a metal pot and a wooden spoon…  I digress.  I was LIVID!!!  I didnt stop to think.  I leapt out of bed, stomped to my balcony, flung open the door, leaned out, and shouted as loudly as possible: “HEY!!!! SHUT UP!!!!!” and slammed the door as violently as I could.  I went back to my warm bed, and enjoyed silence for ten minutes.  It took another thirty minutes, but they managed to get back to their original volume.  I seriously considered several attempts to make their lives as miserable as mine was in that moment, but I restrained myself, and eventually fell back into a fitful sleep, dreaming of cracked cheesecake and chocolate cream pies falling on the floor.

I proceeded to get up early this morning, and went on to have a very bad day.  My boss told me I work too hard, and forced me to cut my to-do list for tomorrow in half.

I hate my neighbors.  I wish they would just break up already.  They’ve both cheated on each other in the past three weeks, and clearly, nobody’s feelings are ever considered.

I am heading towards thirty faster than I’d like, but obviously, my problem-handling skills will need a lot more time to mature.


You will have trouble, but do not be afraid.

I know what its like.  The band tightening around your chest.  Your lungs struggling just to take a little breath, your heart beating wildly, out of control, almost too much to handle, trying to force blood into limbs that wont move.  Time standing still, all the noises blending together loudly, yet far in the distance, everything is a blur, all while your mind races to focus.  All while your mind searches for an escape, because no matter how safe you really are, you are still afraid.  You feel threatened, you don’t know anybody, you don’t know anything.  Even though you might be with friends who care, whom you have known for years, you are a stranger in a crowd, and you are a target, vulnerable, open to attack at any second.  You are standing in a dark tunnel, the edge of the tracks, and a train is roaring past, threatening to tumble you down, to run you over, and you cant run away, because your feet are lead.
This is what it feels like to have a panic attack, this is what it feels when you have extreme social anxiety.  You might love people, and you might have alot of great friends, but when you have to do anything unfamiliar, anything unknown, this uncontrollable terror sets in.  Maybe you are lucky, and you have someone who loves you, who knows what is happening, and he can talk you out of it, assure you everything is ok, they’re just people, not monsters, and you are going to be fine.  Maybe you don’t, so you reach the point where you never go out, you don’t have friends anymore, you can barely even go to the grocery store.
People in my life noticed, and tried to get me to change, but that would never have worked.   I had to do it myself.  Even I wasn’t strong enough, though.  The only reason I am free now is because God cares, and I have no reason to be afraid.  The demons preying on my thoughts weren’t as strong as Jesus is; He can defeat anything.  Satan wants us to be cloistered in our minds, living in fear.  Maybe we don’t even know what we are frightened of, but it still traps us, paralyzed, unable to go and live as God designed.  These demons keep us from forming relationships with people, keep us from interacting in ways that would let the light of Jesus shine through.
“My enemy has chased me.  He has knocked me to the ground, and forces me to live in darkness like those in the grave.  I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear.  I remember the days of old.  I ponder all your great works, and I think about what you have done.  I lift my hands to you in prayer.  I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain.  Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens.  Don’t turn away from me, or I will die.  Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you.  Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.”
-Psalm 143:3-8
I have been thinking about all of this in the past couple weeks, and I thank God for being faithful.  Im thankful that He fought a battle on my behalf, and massively kicked Satan’s ass in the process.  I can talk with strangers now, with no anxiety.  I have done so many unfamiliar things, and instead of being panicked, I am excited!  It is good to face new experiences and meet new people with anticipation and joy that comes only from Jesus in my life.
“Here on earth you will have trouble.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Bigger and Better

When I was younger, I was involved in a youth group at the church I grew up in.  (that was over ten years ago…yikes, I am getting old!)  We would always do fun group activities, and one of them was this really awesome game called ‘Bigger and Better’.  The teams began with a dollar each, and had to go around town to homes and businesses, trying to exchange that dollar for something bigger and better, and continually trading until the time limit had been reached.  The teams final items were judged, and the biggest and best item won.  That game was so much fun, and it is how I like to live my life.

I love doing new things, and creating new challenges for myself.  Once I reach a certain goal, I set a new one, pushing myself even farther, learning new, better ways to achieve what I want.  I have done this with the jobs I have held, starting with a highschool gig at Chick-fil-a.  My current status is working 2/3rds of the time for other people, 1/3rd of the time for myself.  Once I am working 100% for myself, I will transition into a blissful life of doing exactly what I love, and never spend a second with mundane toiling.

I am currently doing this with my health and fitness goals.  I took serious steps beginning in January, starting with just changing my diet.  I eradicated the last of the processed foods I still would purchase, cut out HF corn syrup, and began weaning myself off my sugar addiction. In late February, I began really working out hard, learning how to lift weights properly, and teaching myself to stay dedicated to my particular set of goals.  Now, I have maxed out the  limits I gave myself, so it is time to set the bar higher, and tap into more of my potential.  I just got a new nutrition plan written up, changing my schedule to six meals daily, with strict limits on my protein, carb, and fat intake.  I made the final plunge into clean eating, cutting out white sugar completely.  I am planning on participating in the Tough Mudder obstacle course race in October, and have begun their intermediate boot camp in preparation.

I am applying this method of living to my spiritual life, as well.  I started out small, committing to memorizing a Bible verse.  Once I knocked that out, I decided to memorize THREE verses.  Once I have those down pat, it is on to five.  A couple weeks ago, I went to a church for the first time in over a year.  I increased my prayer goals, from once a week (lame, I know) to daily, and next week?  Every hour, man.  Every hour.

 

Living life this way is incredibly rewarding.  I am never bored, because as soon as my interest starts to wane, I know it is time to get excited about a loftier goal.  I am never struggling in a social situation ( which I used to do, as I am incredibly shy and reserved) because I always have something new going on that I can talk about.  I am learning to always be proud of myself, because I just kicked ass on something yesterday, and I am about to blow it out of the water again next Tuesday when I reach another goal.  I am becoming better at encouraging others by practicing on myself, because who doesn’t need to hear “fucking awesome job, man, keep being badass!” when you have been sweating and struggling in the gym for an hour, and need a reason to finish that tough workout? Best of all, I have never felt better physically, and I am stoked to find out how I will feel in three more months, and three more after that.  I have never been better socially, as I am learning to be a better friend, not only to the solid group I have already, but also to the people that I dont even know yet.  I am taking all the old pressure off being a Christian, because I know it doesnt matter if I am not perfect, or I screw up every now and then, because even if I forgot to pray earlier, or I was a major bitch three minutes ago, I can pray now, and be nicer next time around.  Bigger and better is the best way, in my opinion, to live life.  I highly recommend it.  It might take you a few months to implement it, but what is a few months hard work, when you are rewarded with positive life change?  Excitement and achievement are priceless.


Love

I recently decided to start memorizing scripture.  Of course, it was about one of the things I struggle with the most.

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the Lord.”   -Leviticus 19:18

I have had to repeat this to myself countless times over the past two weeks, and quite frankly, I’m still not a better person for it.  I usually don’t even remember the verse until just after I’ve snapped at someone, or I have maliciously done the opposite of what I know someone wanted.

Verses like these remind me of how much I have failed to be like Christ, and how much grace I receive (that I do not deserve).

I am also reminded of how far I have to go when I give advice to others.  I had a   conversation with one of my sisters about loving people even when they continually make you feel like shit.  Halfway through my admonition to her to extend grace and express her feelings in love instead of anger and bitterness, I was reminded of how I hold on to that same anger and bitterness.  Every time I resolve to share my feelings lovingly, I fall short, and lash out instead.

Often I wonder if that person will ever change, but what I really need to focus on is changing myself.  Loving people is hard.  There really is no other way to succeed, except for maintaining my focus on Christ.  Without Him as the center of my life, nothing is possible.

I am trying to love better, but sometimes, love just sucks.


Brothers are the best.

I was extremely happy to be able to have a lengthy conversation with one of my brothers the other day.  It is rare that we are able to talk, but it is always a good time!

 

As the eldest sister, with only one brother who is older than me, I never thought I would get advice from my younger brother, but now that most of us siblings are adults, the relationships between us have become level.

I think my favorite advice from him is when he compared my dating life to a salad.

The other night, we talked about church, community, and scripture.  He emphasized the importance of memorizing scripture.

I brought it up in my Bible study last night, and my my girlfriends and I decided to commit to memorizing a different piece of scripture every week.  We are starting small this time, with Leviticus 19:18:

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the Lord.”

As someone who is a master at holding grudges, this is a perfect way for me to start.  I like the authoritative ending,  “I am the Lord.”.  It leaves no room for me to back out or make excuses to do anything less than love.

 

My brother left me with a few other reasons to memorize the Bible.  Most importantly, he reminded me that Jesus quoted scripture to Satan when he was being tempted.

 

Deuteronomy 6:6-9

And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.  Repeat them again and again to your children.  Talk about them when you are at home and on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.  Tie them to your hands and wear them on your foreheads as reminders.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 

Not only is this passage from Deuteronomy a great reminder to learn the Word, it is also a great set of verses to show your dad when he tells you getting a tattoo is wrong.  ;)

 

Colossians 3:16

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.  Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives.  Sing songs and spiritual hymns to God with thankful hearts.

 

Psalm 119:9, 10, 11

How can a young person stay pure?  By obeying your word.  I have tried hard to find you-don’t let me wander from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

 

 


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