Sunday, September 15, 2013

Not What I Will

Last week, I found myself struggling - struggling with being content in my new gap year life. I know, I know, just a couple weeks ago I made a post about how optimistic and excited I was about my decision. But, as many people know, happiness is fickle and optimism is often worked for.
My unhappiness began to set in when I talked to my best friends on the phone. Abbz called me from her bright new home in Pullman and had glorious tales to tell of promising new relationships and copious school spirit. Joyfully she described to me the incredible community she had found in her new home and the new friends that had blessed her life already. When I talked to our third musketeer, Autumn, the next day, she had similar tidings. Right away she had found a small group of very close friends and was living an adventure every day. She told me about the escapades they went on and the rubber band fights they had across the hallway. Now, don't get me wrong, I was overjoyed to hear about the success and happiness they were finding at college. As I listened to them, I felt the deep joy that you feel when you know that someone you love is thriving. But there was also a part of me that grew sad during these phone calls.
I began to feel lonely. Partly because these girls that I love so much are far away from me, but also partly because I knew that they were enjoying all these new friendships and I had none of that in my life. In addition, I contrasted their fun-filled new lives with my own. Not only are they living in close-knit communities, they are experiencing new things every day. They are entirely surrounded by places, people, and events just waiting to be explored. Fun knocks on their doors each morning and welcomes them to the new day. Whereas, I'm still at home, living in the world of status quo. I began to feel as if my life was turning into a monotonous routine of working and then sitting around my home in the evenings.
If that wasn't enough for me to try and get used to, my younger sister started high school at this same time. She's going to the same high school I went to and as a result is going to be spending time with lots of the same people (some of which are dear friends I left behind) and going to the same events that I did. I had the time of my life in high school. Those four years are literally the best of my life so far. Thus I am incredibly excited for her to start that same adventure, but again, I felt the pang of sadness knowing that I have no place there anymore. I can't go back to my home there.
All of this together began to race through my mind, planting seeds of discontent in my heart. Why did I have to be, in a sense, "left behind?" Why did I have to be stuck in one place, doing the same thing every day? Where were my adventures?
I'm so very lucky that I have a faithful God, because almost as quickly as I let myself fall into the trap of self-pity, he readjusted my focus.
At church on Sunday, my pastor preached about the time right before Jesus' death, where he went up on the mountain to pray. Jesus knew that he was about to be betrayed, beaten and crucified and he was afraid. Going up to the mountain, he threw himself on the ground before God and asked that, if it was possible, this trial would be taken away from him. But even as he made this request, he said to God,  "Yet not what I will, but what you will."
It was as if, with this sermon, God was throwing all of my ideas about my life back in my face and saying, "Who do you think you are?" And I was reminded: I am not my own. All of the discontent I had been feeling and the questioning that I'd been doing was irrelevant in the midst of this greater truth: I am HIS. Jesus had been placed in a situation where he had to endure pain and suffering. And yet he trusted in God's plan unfailingly. In fact, he rejoiced in his suffering because he knew that God was using it according to his perfect purposes.
And that purpose was my eternal salvation through Christ. Because of the trial Jesus had to endure, I am now living my life covered in his righteousness. Because of this fact, I know that God has a perfect plan for my life, just like he had for Jesus'. And if Jesus could rejoice in God's plan for him when it meant torture and death, I certainly should be able to find contentment in God's plan for me, even if it's not exactly what I think I want.
So what if I'm not living from thrill to thrill? So what if I'm not out experiencing new places and people? Even if I had to spend this whole year completely alone (which I'm not by the way; I'm still surrounded by lots of special people) and having to live with a boring schedule, I could rejoice because I would know that God was using my loneliness and boredom for a purpose.
Fortunately, I know I'm not going to have a bad year. Along with the fact that God has a great plan for me this year, I've been reminded that I have some responsibility to live my life to the fullest. Opportunities for adventure might not be lining themselves up before me, but that doesn't mean they're not out there. I can spend my time investing in the relationships that I have here at home and seeking chances to explore new things.And all the while, I can live with confidence, knowing that God can use me in a positive way in the life of every person I come in contact with, and every day that I'm living is an opportunity to reflect the grace that God has shown me to the world.
Contentment can be hard to maintain. Constantly, there are things in our lives that we wish were different or we let ourselves say, "if only it were this way, I would be happy." But herein lies the source of an unfailing contentment: trusting in God's plan for your life, no matter what. From this point on this year (and in the years to come) I am going to strive to seek God's plan for me before my own. For if I'm living my life for God, it's going to be a wonderful ride.

Romans 8:34-39: "Christ Jesus is the one who died - more than that, who was raised - who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

#Heisfaithful #contentment #Iusedthewordcopious #ThugLife

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Look What the Cat Dragged In!

Alright, time for a blast from the past. This little story took place over 2 years ago but it's definitely a keeper, so I've decided to grace you all with its telling.
Once upon a time, two girls walked home from school together every day. Spoiler alert! Those girls were Abbz and me. I know, didn't see that one coming, right? It was our sophomore year and as a result we had neither our licenses nor vehicles to call our own. Fortunately for us, we both lived 10 minutes (walking distance)  from school and as a result, we spent many happy hours walking home together over the course of that year. That was one of those special blessings of our friendship: the fact that we lived within walking distance of our school and, consequently, of each other. Before we were grown up enough to drive, the times we spent walking together created countless special little memories that continually deepened our friendship.
But back to our story. On this particular occasion, it was a cold February day. Very cold. In fact, temperatures had been freezing or below for that whole week. We were bundled to our noses, backpacks full of homework strapped to our backs, and doubtless chattering about our day and all the little dramas and hilarities that had taken place therein. We crossed the busy road and started down the long sidewalk that was so familiar to us.
One of the reasons that Abbz and I are so perfect for each other is that we both talk in exorbitant amounts. Individually we have the ability to talk almost endlessly. If you ask me, the reason is probably that we are very excited about our lives and the things that go on in them, and that excitement pours out of our mouths in a waterfall of words. But if you think we're bad on our own (and trust me, our fathers do), we are even worse together. After all, with two people, there's double the conversation to cover. We often have the same thoughts, so we feed off of each other and thus spur each other on in our verbal marathon. In fact, we've gotten so close over the years that many times, others have a hard time keeping up with our conversation because we know what the other one is saying before they say it, so we will leave a thought verbally unfinished and move on to a new one in a second. What can we say? It's a sister thing.
All this is to say that as we made our cold trek toward home, we were so caught up in conversation that it's a wonder that we noticed anything along the way. Thankfully though, while we are both excellent conversationalists, we are also both superb multi-taskers.
And so, after we had travelled about half way down the sidewalk, something caught our attention. It was something so out of the ordinary that, at first, we didn't believe our eyes. We stopped in our tracks, conversation halting mid-sentence. As we stared, we realized that what we were seeing was in fact, what we thought it was.
It was a cat. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, cats aren't extraordinary. I see cats all the time. Before you pass judgement on our discovery, though, let me give you a little more information about this cat. It was lying in the bushes beside the sidewalk, legs outstretched, eyes wide open, and frozen solid. That's right, frozen.
We couldn't figure out for the life of us why a cat would decide to lie down and let itself freeze to death. There were no other signs of injury - it was not smashed, cut open, or dismembered. It did not appear to be starved. It was simply frozen. It's awkwardly extended legs and glassy, glaring eyes actually made it look like the freezing had taken place in a second.
As we ogled at it, we grew more and more thrilled - not at the fact that the cat was dead (this was rather unfortunate), but at the singularity of our discovery. Who is just walking down the road and finds a full grown cat, frozen solid? No one, we told ourselves. But we did.
Remember what I said earlier about us being excitable girls? Well let this instance stand as exhibit A. We hovered over the body and chattered quickly about why the cat was there and how crazy it was that we had come across it. We debated on whether or not we should touch it, decided that was a germy idea, and eventually settled for poking it with the tips of our boots. I distinctly remember having Abbz hold my arm as I reached out gingerly with my boot, as if the cat might spring to life and swallow me from my toes up. When I prodded a little, the strange, hard, frozen feeling sent me into a bought of squeals highly fitting for a 15 year old girl.
After spending several more minutes examining our find and bouncing around on the sidewalk, we eventually tore ourselves away from poor little freezer-head and began our mad-dash home to inform our parents of what was surely the biggest event of the week. They were, of course, appropriately shocked, as were our friends and teachers at school the next day when we burst the information upon them.
Granted, we might have overreacted a little. Yet it was a marvel and I bet if that happened today, I'd be just as shocked as I was two years ago.
We went on to find several other things of note along that path including a Starbucks gift card with $10 on it. If you think we were excited about the cat, you should have seen us then.
Since that day, we've obviously had many other exciting adventures. But coming across that cat is, to this day, one of the strangest. Sometimes in life, it's really the small things that create the best memories. And I can honestly say that I will never ever forget that poor, dead, feline.

In lieu of a picture of the cat (which unfortunately, I don't have) I've chosen these pictures of our sophomore selves. Yeah, we were a little crazy.

#youngheartsgocrazy #weownedthenight #cookiesmakeushyper #ThugLife

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sprouting Wings and Staying Put

Hello there!!! It's true. Abbz and I slacked off a little with the blog there for a while. But hey, we were busy doing something kind of important. . . Graduating! That's right, as Abbz said in her last post, we are now women of the world. (Or at least women of somewhere bigger than our beloved CAM High School). This is a big step in our lives. So I'm gonna give you an update on where we've come since then.
As you may know from reading previous posts, Abbz and I were some of the first people in our class to pick our colleges. For her, the obvious choice was Washington State University in Pullman. She had so much waiting there for her already and she could practically hear God calling her name from the windy walks of the Cougar campus. And that call never waned. As she drew closer and closer to that life-changing day called "move-in," her excitement grew.
Several weeks before she moved to Pullman, she went for her orientation. Every day she was there only offered her more reasons to dive into her new life with joy and enthusiasm. As if she needed any more encouragement. Abbz is one of the most joyful people I have ever met. Embracing every new adventure with all she has, the kindness and sweet sincerity she has in her heart shine through her words and actions. Needless to say, this positivity served her well, even at her short orientation. She made friends right away and encouraged those she encountered. When she left her orientation and came home, the first thing she said to me was that she wanted to go back.
And so she did. She was one of the first of all of our friends to leave. It was hard for me to say goodbye to her. Obviously. She's my best friend. The thought of not being able to see her any time I needed/wanted to was hard for me to take. But as her mama said to me a few days later, "It's hard to be sad about someone when they're so over the moon." Since My Little Cougar has moved to Pullman, I've cherished seeing all of the pictures she's posted of her and her new friends and seeing how much joy she is finding in her new home. She is by far the most excited of our peers for this new phase in our lives. I couldn't be happier for her.
What about me, you ask? (Ok, you probably weren't asking that, but it's a classic transition!) Well. . . My journey didn't play out quite like Abbz's did, although I was fully expecting it to. When I last left you I was geared up to be a Bronco at Boise State University. It was the only college I applied to because I felt such an excitement for the school. After just a few weeks of thinking about it, I couldn't see myself anywhere else.
I too went to my orientation (on my second try, but my unfortunate car problems are a tale for a whole different time). Although I came out of it feeling great, it was actually a two-day roller coaster for me. There was a lot of information - some that I was comfortable with, and some that left me feeling very small in a very big place. Thankfully, I was able to be encouraged by the academic counselors I met and when I left, I felt the buzz of excitement that's supposed to turn up during this time. Oh yes, it was there.
The funny thing is, we as humans can be absolutely, 100% , without a doubt sure about something, and God can still smile down upon us and say, "Oh no you don't." Even at the last minute. And one month before my set departure date, God had this very message for me.
Sitting down with my dad one evening to examine some To-Do list items for college preparation, we decided to take a look at where my finances were. We went onto my Bronco account and added up all of my costs. Then we subtracted all of my financial aid, savings, and money I would make working while attending BSU. Quite to my surprise, I came up short. Almost $4000 short for the whole year. Up until this point, I had been living in that optimistic dream state I tend to occupy when planning for things. You see, I'm a cup-half-full kind of girl. And for the last four years, I'd had a plan of going to college. And because that was my plan, I was going to come up with the money. That was all there was to it.
Unfortunately, that last $4000 was money that I absolutely did not have. Throughout the year, I wouldn't be able to work any more than I was, and scholarship opportunities were just about closed. My only option left was to take out a loan. Decidedly, I was not going to take that option. Although I'm an optimist, I'm also practical, and I knew that there were ways to accomplish my undergrad without debt. So why would I strap myself with debt later in life just to have the experience that my culture tells me I should have in college. I know lots of people do it, and if that's what they are comfortable with, then I'm happy for them. I just couldn't justify it for myself.
At this point, I was left with a realization: I couldn't afford my plan. The path that I had set out for myself, probably before I even started high school, was now falling apart four weeks before my ship set sail. Naturally, it was a big slap in the face. My dad told me to think about what my options were, talk about it with people that are important in my life and give myself a week to make a decision.
I was lost. I didn't know what to do. But as I slowly worked through everything in my head, I turned to God for my solution. When I brought my problem to my beautiful best friend Abbz, she had words of wisdom for me. Reminding me that sometimes the path is not easy, she told me to seek God's will above my own preferences and considerations. Fitting to my situation, I thought of the lyrics from the song Help Me Find It by Sidewalk Prophets:

"I don’t know where to go from here
It all used to seem so clear
I’m finding I can’t do this on my own I
 don’t know where to go from here
As long as I know that You are near
I’m done fighting I’m finally letting go
I will trust in You
You’ve never failed before
 I will trust in You

If there’s a road I should walk Help me find it
If I need to be still
Give me peace for the moment
Whatever Your will
Whatever Your will
Can you help me find it
Can you help me find it."

Through His faithfulness to me, God helped me find my road. By the end of my set week, I felt very led in the direction of a gap year. Among the options that I had laid out for myself, it was the only one I felt total peace about.
A small piece of my heart - that little blue and orange piece that had been growing in there for months now - was broken. When I was so close to fulfilling the dream that I had become so excited about, I had to open my hand and let it all slip through my fingers.
But guess what? I believe that God does all things for a purpose, and even in this disappointment, He is fulfilling His perfect plan that He has for my life. Also, I'm the kind of person that likes to give 100% to what I'm doing. Since I decided to go with this new plan, I'm going to GO WITH IT. Planning for this gap year includes working, pursing my relationship with Christ, and even taking a trip out of the country! So fear not, dear readers. It's not sad. I get to follow this new path that God has set up for me and I am confident that He has great things waiting for me along the way. And Boise State University will still be there for me next fall.
 Psalm 117:1-2 "Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever."

 #growingup #ToLiveWillBeAnAwefullyBigAdventure #collegeswag #cookieswag #GreatisThyfaithfulness #ThugLife

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Swooning Mooners at Mcdonalds

Hello from graduation- land! This is the place where people go after they graduate and become unmotivated to do anything and its fabulous! I kid, I kid. But really, it has been 6 months since the last time Kenz and I have blogged and it is entirely my fault. I've been meaning to blog about one of the best and worse nights in Kenz and I's high school experience but this thing called "getting ready to graduate high school" happened and if it wasn't school or work, I wasn't doing it. Thankfully though, the craze has died down and until I move to college(9 days away people) I am free to write to my hearts content! 
  Before I begin our epic tale, I'll give you a little taste of what its like to live the crazy, wonderful life of Mckenzie and Abby on a October Friday night during our Senior year. It means football, fast food,and best friends. Living in the humble town we do, football games are a big deal and alot of the town shows up for it. Naturally, this puts us fun- natured girls into a little bit of a high. So obviously, after a big game- we HAVE to do something afterwards. And while our town doesn't offer much, it does offer a booming fast food industry. Taco bell, KFC, Burgerville, McDonald's, we got it all. Being the boy- crazy, I mean food- loving girls we are, we have to stop by every one after a game, just to.... check out the... scenery. 
   After one particularly awesome game, Kenz, myself, and our crazy pal Sarah were ready for a night of fast food hopin. For a while, it seemed like the scenery was going to be less than glorious until we lapped McDonalds for a second time. Low and behold, we found exactly what we thought we were looking for(obviously I'm talking about french fries.) Once we each had a time to "use the restroom"(because we are completely coy) we got some attention from what turned out to be, our towns finest boys. They less than dashingly made it outside to our car and apparently thought they turned up their charm to 100% but I'm convinced they were using the charm meter of puss for their guide(not to be harsh or anything.) After some degrading, insulting comments on their part (the kicker being when they said they would throw Kenz into the trunk) I slammed the door and told Sarah to drive away. She did and we didn't get 10 feet away before one of these geniuses decided the moon wasn't bright enough that night and proceeded to give us a full view of his. Being the innocent girls we are, we were shocked. I was shocked, Kenz was shocked, and Sarah was DEF shocked. It got to the point we had to steer our fearless driver to pull on the side of the road because she kept yelling "I JUST SAW A BOYS BUTT" followed by high pitched shrieks. Needless to say, our night was continued by spiels and spiels of laughter. Some of it was nervous laughter because we had just seen way to much of the male anatomy but mostly because with these girls, its hard not to always be laughing. They are the most wonderful, hilarious, fun oriented girls I know and being with them is always a time to be reckoned with. And even though we are all heading off to new adventure, I pray we still have a few left together. 

#youcantbethemoon #howdidigetsuchawesomefriends #thuglife 


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Physics and Philosophy. . . Our Own Special Flavor

     Here we are. March is upon us. How did this happen already? Who knows. Not us. We're just living our lives, trying to make the best of the time that goes by way (way, way, way, way) too fast. 
     Today's post is an insight into the minds of the Twisted Sisters. (For those of you who haven't heard this term before, it's a little something Abbz and I came up with sophomore year - a loving nickname we created for ourselves.) Before I dive into my little anecdote, it's important to note that we've been best friends for almost 4 years now. And it feels like even longer than that. At this point, we are able to almost read each other's minds. We find ourselves thinking the same thing at the same time, and even finishing each other's sentences. For example, the other day, we had a whole conversation at lunch without saying a word. All it took was a few seconds and a look. . . Yes. We are much like an old married couple. 
     Well today, our physics teacher made the mistake of letting us sit next to each other during the second half of class. As soon as we sat down, the comments began to roll. The best (or worst, however you want to look at it) part is that we totally feed off of each other. When the teacher informed us that we'd be receiving a time period to research for our project, Abbz quickly stated that she hoped we got the Inca period. . . "The only important thing during that time was corn. Piece of cake." 
     Meanwhile, I'm sitting next to here pickpocketing her jacket pocket without her realizing it. By the time she looked over, I had her ipod camera on ready to creep on people. . . 
     Later, our teacher announced that we would loose points on our project during class next week if we talked too much during work time. I looked over at Abbz and said, in quite an excellent professor-like voice, "You must work in SILENCE." This statement was followed immediately by both of us resuming rigid poses and stoic facial expressions. Looking back, I realize that it's a good thing that our classmates are like our family. Anyone else would probably attempt to get us committed to the local loony bin. 
     The real zinger came when our teacher was explaining the part of our project that involved Rube Goldberg. Our first response was to have a whole conversation on the name.
Abbz: "Ruby??"
Me: "Rube. Like tube."
Abbz: "What if it was RubE. Then you'd have to put an apostrophe above the 'e' so you know to pronounce it that way."
Me: "RubE. . . Rubeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee."
Abbz: ". . . . Wait. . . is this a person??" 
     Much to the frustration of our poor teacher, we both busted out laughing at this moment, unable to stay silent in the midst of the moment of genius that had just taken place. 
     The only means of communication we haven't mastered over the years is lip reading. But  I'll take the blame for that one. No matter how many times Abbz mouths something to me from across the room during class, I am simply left dumbfounded. I get nothing. Well, that's not true. I get "ooogdrfamabe fraggistibrurg." Go team. 
     What can we say? When you put together two quirky girls who are too prone to giggling, things can get interesting. It's just the natural order of things. 

God gave me you for the ups and downs <3 


#twopeasinapod #RubeGoldberg #Twistedsisters #giveuscookiesorgiveusdeath #ThugLife

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bright Lights and the Bronco City

So as Abbz has already informed you, both of us have chosen where we are going to college next fall. She filled you in on her journey to decision, but left mine up to me. Well, it's time. 
As of a week ago (when I applied for campus housing) I am officially set to attend Boise State University in the fall of 2013. I'm gonna be a Bronco and I'm super excited about it! Although I only recently sent in my housing request, the decision has been made since December, when I received my acceptance letter. But the story really goes back to September, when I decided to road-trip over to Boise to check it out for myself. 
Naturally, since I had gone with Abbz to tour Pullman almost a year earlier, I announced to her that this time, she was coming with me. So we left school early on a sunny Friday afternoon (smirking at all the "suckers" that still had to be in class for another 2 hours) and hit the road. My dad was the designated driver for the trip, so all Abbz and I had to do was occupy the back seat and relax. 
The six hour road trip was a breeze. It consisted of long talks about school, life and growing up; "who do you think would survive the Hunger Games" trivia questions; and, obviously, road trip snacks - because we all know those are a key ingredient to a successful drive. All in all, we made it to Boise in one piece, (although I think my dad's ears were burning from the incessant sound of our voices) and hit the city to check things out before we toured the campus the next day. 
It was pretty late when we arrived so we got to see the night lights and life of Idaho's capitol. I instantly loved it. We drove around the city for a while, then parked in the garage and tackled some blocks by foot. My favorite aspect of the city was that it had all the feel of a big city - the energy, the lights, the sights - without the sketchy feeling of a city like Portland. (Sorry to those of you who love P-land, but let's face it, it can get a little shady.) Also, everything felt clean and new and vibrant. Altogether, it felt like a place I would love to be. 
After we were done exploring the city, we dragged our tired selves back to the hotel and after a few shenanigans, we hit the sack.
The next day was the tour. I won't go into all the details because it was your standard college tour; lot's of talking, walking, and buildings. But for me it was an awesome experience. The day was beautiful and sunny (the dry climate is DEFINITELY a contributing factor in my decision to go there) and the campus had a great feeling to it. I had never been there before and usually when I'm in new, large places, I feel like I'm perpetually lost. But on the Boise campus I never felt overwhelmed. I loved seeing college students walk past us in their orange and blue and getting a feel for life as a Bronco. 
After the official tour was over, we went to the cafe and ate lunch at Chick-fil-A. (I know, right? That's enough to sell anyone.) Then we went to the swag store and I purchased some memorabilia. We finished the day by catching part of a rugby game. What better way to get a feel for college life than to pop a squat on the lawn with the other students and cheer for the boys? :) 
During that day, my dad and Abbz would ask me, "What do you think?" and "How do you like it?" and "Is this the one?" Honestly, at the time, I could already tell I loved it. But with so many options out there, I felt the pressure of, "How do I know if this is right? Is it wise to make the decision so soon?" Questions about finance and the presige of the school were kinda swirling in my head. I wanted to be excited, but I didn't know if I should be. In the end, though, I realized that if I loved the school, why stress out about other options? It works for me in so many ways and somehow, in considering all of the schools that were on my list, Boise was the only one that already felt like home. I was drawn to it way more than anywhere else and I think that might have been God leading me in the direction he wants me to go. And guess what? I am absolutely happy with that. 
So there you have it! My dad is talking about taking another trip down there to check it out again and maybe show the whole family. I really hope we do, because I want to visit again, this time knowing for sure that it's where I belong. 
It's a strange next step, and a big one, but I'm very excited for the future and can't wait to see what college life holds for me :) 

#BroncoNation #Collegelife #Bestbuddyroadtrip #ThugLife

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Joy That Surpasses That of Cookies

Hey everybody. This post is actually going to be a sister post to "From a lover of footy pajamas, grace, and all things confusing." One thing that Abbz and I have always shared is our faith. Over the years we have been on our faith journey together, encouraging each other as we have drawn closer to Christ. This in turn has drawn us closer to each other, and it is something that I am extremely thankful for. All that being said, I'd just like to add my own post to the encouragement that Abbz wrote previously.
With the recent events in gun violence and other social tragedies, there seems to almost be a dark cloud hanging over us right now. In the last week I've gotten some bad news of my own concerning family and friends. A couple of nights ago, after receiving what seemed like the 100th piece of bad news in a week, I went to my dad, feeling broken and at a loss for hope. I have always believed that our God is a sovereign, perfect God who has everything in His control. I also believe that all things work according to His perfect purposes. In fact, in Romans 8:28 it says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." But at that moment that night, I just couldn't understand why there had to be pain and suffering; Why God's plan, though perfect, has to hurt so much sometimes.
Unfortunately, I don't have a perfect answer. My dad didn't have a perfect answer either. When it comes to the mind of God, and the balance between his perfect goodness and the sin in the world, things get a little mysterious. But we do know that because we live in a fallen world, there are going to be trials and tragedies. When we face tough situations and when bad things happen to us, it's not because God does not love us. It's because we are sinful creatures in a broken world. If you drive a broken car, chances are, it's going to be a tough ride. You're going to break down and have countless problems along the way, but if you have a correct map, you're going to reach your destination eventually, despite the difficulties. As Christians, we do have the right map. As long as we keep our eyes on God, and trust Him completely with our lives, we will be going in the right direction.
This brings me to another point. In the last year, I've taken big steps in my faith. God has used things in my life to teach me important lessons. One of these is the true meaning of putting my focus on God. Granted, I don't have it all figured out. And I sure as heck don't do a perfect job of keeping my focus on God. But I did learn an important lesson. As I have encountered personal struggles in the past year, I have done my best to take them to God. I learned a long time ago (and am still learning) that despite my tendency to be a control freak, I am not strong enough to conquer my struggles on my own. So in the hardest times, when my mind was overwhelmed with the things that I was dealing with, I would pray. Usually my prayers looked something like this, "Lord, please rescue me from darkness. Take away my struggles and help me to overcome them for Your glory. Help me to put my focus on You instead of my problems." Over and over again, I would pray prayers like this - asking God to relieve me from my worries and hardships. Then one day, triggered by a sermon I had heard from my pastor and some MercyMe songs I'd been listening too, God revealed something to me. In all of my prayers, I prayed that God would turn my focus to Him and away from my difficulties. This is a good prayer to have, the only problem was my mindset. Although I was praying for a God centered focus, I wasn't working to achieve it. All of my prayers focused on what I wanted God to give me, instead of simply trusting in Him. In praying that God would take away my struggles, I was actually focusing on them too much. I realized that putting my focus on God does not mean praising Him for what he could give me, it means praising Him for who He is and what He has already given me. His son shed His blood for me, and as a result I am washed clean of my brokenness and sin in God's eyes. What more could I ever ask for?
So from then on, although I still ask God for strength, I've striven to focus on the grace that I have already been shown instead of the things that I'm struggling with. I try to ignore the desire for self-pity and put my trust where it belongs.
In telling this personal anecdote, my hope is that this can be an encouragement. Sometimes, we know these things, but it is very beneficial to be reminded. His love is enough, and those of us who live in grace can experience eternal joy and peace despite the darkness of our fallen world. Sometimes, that world is a hard place to live in. But there is always hope if we can remember this truth.
Ephesians 2:8 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."
Isaiah 12:2 "Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation."


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