My List

The other day I read an interesting blog written by Jeff Bethke (the guy behind the ‘Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus’) YouTube video. In it he suggested to keep a seasonal list of things that make you feel close to God and things that make you feel far away from Him. ANYTHING can go on the list, like lots of that middle ground type stuff. So here’s mine!

What Stirs My Affection for God
1. Cuddling up under a blanket while reading a devotional/book about God/my Bible

2. Thinking about Jeremy

3. Talking to Jeremy about anything and everything God-related

4. Pinterest

5. Silence and Solitude

6. Thinking about my future

7. Beautiful, sunny days / autumn days with crisp air and colorful leaves on the ground

8. Budgeting

9. Traveling

10. My amazing family

What Kills My Affection for God
1. Television

2. Idle time on Facebook

3. Laziness

4. Unhealthiness / not eating healthy / not working out

5. Hollywood / celebrities

6. Anxiety

7. Women who have no desire to get a job

8. “The club”

MY JOY!

My JOY is back—and it comes from one source and one source alone: the Lord. This year has been one of the most life-changing in my 23 years. I am so grateful for where I am and where I am going.

I am overwhelmed with what God is doing in my life and where He is taking me. Here are a few of the things that God has done in my life:

1. I SURVIVED STUDENT TEACHING!!!!!!!!!
2. I graduated….Magna Cum Laude!
3. I was offered a job 3 days after graduation. In Chattanooga!
4. Jeremy accepted Christ as his Savior and was saved!!!
5. I have received an abundance of help from family and friends with this moving process.

Until recently, I have felt dead inside (spiritually speaking). 4 years ago I began getting to know God better than before. I prayed, had quiet time, Bible studies, and frequent conversations about Him. Then—life happened. A relationship happened. I let everything get in my way of what’s most important in this lifetime—living my life for the One who actually matters. I cannot begin to describe the emptiness that I felt when I was living without Him. Ever been put on the back burner for someone else? I know I have and the feeling SUCKS. But, the reality is—that’s exactly what I did to God. I would occasionally wander back to Him, but would always backslide again and fall back into my old habits. The constant disappointment that I felt just left my heart feeling so heavy—I can’t even describe what I was feeling.

However, things began to look up a couple months ago. When I got back from Costa Rica in January I attended my church where I was a member, but didn’t feel the Spirit moving in me anymore. So I moved myself. I started attending an AMAZING church (Bethel Community Church) and had been moved like never before. Even though I worked until 3 in the morning the night before, I would get up and look forward going to church. There were so many things I loved about the church: the humility of the Pastors and their love for God, the DIVERSITY, the atmosphere, and how I felt like a member of the church from the time I walked in the doors. I cannot even begin to explain what God’s presence has done to me since attending the church.

I love You, God. Thank You for Your mercy, grace, and for drawing the circle wide enough to always include me in it. You are the father in the story of the Prodigal Son. When I was away from You and decided to come back, You met me as I was coming back with open arms. These past few days I have felt Your presence stronger than ever, and I NEVER want to stray away again. I cannot live this life without You.

I’m learning how to discern God’s voice from my own mental dialogues, and what the world says. I’ll save that for the next blog, though.

Thank You God for this joy—and for being the source of it.

PuraVida.

Convictions

Wow, today was my first day missing home. I didn’t have this breakdown or anything, but it just kinda hit me. Besides my family, I think I am missing my Christian atmosphere the most. Tonight confirmed what I already knew—that I AM NOT OF THIS WORLD, AND THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD ARE NOT FOR ME. Excessive drinking, smoking, cursing—I am completely disgusted by these things. People talking about “living it up”—it really perplexes me.

Tonight I went out. A bunch of the students from the program were going out, so I thought, “hey, why not?” yeah—I know why not. It’s just not my thing. I would much rather enjoy a quiet evening in than bar hopping, drinking, and being around more people that are drinking. It just makes me sooo uncomfortable. I’m not saying I have a problem with drinking, because I did have quite the atrocious pina colada tonight—but it’s just not my scene. The thing about it—is that I don’t want to fit in. I already know who I am, and why I am on this earth, and sitting around and drinking and cursing DO NOT fit into my agenda.

I miss my true Christian friends, the ones who let Christ shine through them. I’m not talking about the Christians who believe in God, go to church on Sundays, and occasionally pray, then proceed to live their lives however they want—and that is the extent of their Christianity. I mean the ones who inspire me, the ones who are truly on fire for God. My friend Ashley inspires me in this way. She gets excited about God and truly tries to live a life that is pleasing to Him. She encourages me to pray and really have a personal relationship with God. That is what I want—scratch that—NEED.

I really feel like the minority here, but I am more than okay with that. I don’t want to fit in if it means drinking a whole bunch and indulging in these other worldly activities. I am truly happy for my convictions—they let me know I am on the right path. I thank God that I am different. I don’t want to be like the rest.

Tonight I came to the realization that I am not understanding at all towards those who don’t believe in God and who want to “live it up.” I’m not the outrageous judgmental type, but I do feel some judging going on in my heart. Tonight I had a brief conversation with a guy in my study abroad program in the bar. I proceeded to tell him something like, “I don’t need to live it up in this life, that’s what I’ll be doing in the afterlife.” His response was “Well, for me there is no afterlife—there is just this life, so I’m gonna live it up.” I immediately felt my heart racing and was completely turned off. Then another girl tried to defend his response, but I was just not gonna hear it. But—that’s the complete opposite of how Jesus would react. How do I begin to turn my judgmental feelings into feelings of compassion and a yearning to spread God’s message? How do I even begin to spread God’s message? This has been on my heart, and I need these questions answered.

As I go on each day, I see more and more what God has planned for me. He has revealed so much to me, but I still have so much more to learn. I am so grateful for Him, though, because I can’t imagine a life without Him. I just want to be close to God. Forget the rest.

How do I do that though?

It’s so late, but I just had to post this because I feel so strongly about it and I don’t want to forget this feeling.

Until next time, I’ll be praying for change & revelation within myself. All I can say is THANK YOU GOD FOR THESE FEELINGS!

—Ashley

PURA VIDA!

Pura vida literally means Pura = pure and vida = life, but “Pure life” in Spanish would be “Vida pura” instead, so the real meaning is closer to “plenty of life”, “full of life”, “this is living!”, “going great”, “real living”,”Awesome!” or “cool!”[1] It can be used both as a greeting and a farewell, to express satisfaction, to politely express indifference when describing something [1] or even to say “thank you” or “you’re welcome”. The phrase has become universally known in Costa Rica and it has been used by many Costa Ricans (and expatriates) since 1956.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_Costa_Rica).

Yep—this is the good life! I have an amazing family here! I call my parents here my Mamatica and Papatico (since the Costa Rican people are unofficially called ‘Ticos’). They are SO kind!!! I can’t even put it into words! My Mamatica is a housewife and my Papatico owns his own show store in the center of town where there are a bunch of shops. They are so accommodating and have already made my experience here unforgettable! I also live with another student in my program named Meredith. She’s from Texas (my second roommate from Texas in a row!) and she’s a sweetheart!

So I’m pretty much spoiled here. I have my own room with a tv, a desk, a big comfy bed, a window, 2 lamps, a fan, and a wall dedicated to storage space. It’s very spacious and really comfy! The windows here are awesome because there’s no glass/plexiglass in them. It’s just bars  and the open air. It’s like that because there is no AC in the house…and with good reason. The weather here is awesome! It’s warmer in the mornings, then it gets cooler in the afternoons because it rains. (that’s right—I came during the rainy season. TRAGE!) But the house is incredibly nice!

Then there’s the food. Man….the food. That’s all I can say. MI MAMATICA ES UNA BUENISIMA COCINERA! I mean she throws down! I get 2-3 meals a day, and I have yet to taste something that she has cooked that I haven’t liked! We eat a great variety of food that is all homemade! Every meal includes at least 1 fruit and veggie! The food here tastes so much fresher than at home—because it is. Everything is bought at the markets in the center of town and cooked either that same day—or the next. Either way, I have tasted fresh food and I dread the day I have to go back to processed food :( I’m officially a sucker for arroz con frijoles, platano, pescado fresco, y las frutas de Costa Rica!! Also, my Mamatica makes fresh fruit juices with a lot of the meals. Have I mentioned I’m spoiled?

Yesterday was my first day of classes. I’m taking Karate, Costa Rican History, Latin American History and People, and Taekwondo. That’s right—I’m gonna be able to kick butt when I get back! Don’t mess with me! My classes are only 1 day a week, so they’re 3 hours long. I’m definitely not used to that! Out of my 4.5 years of school, I’ve only had one 3 hour class…and that was torture! Yesterday I had karate and my teacher literally talked for 2.5 hours without stopping. No break, nothing. That was painful, guys. I’m not gonna lie. But afterwards, I learned how to enter and leave the classroom—then class was over lol. Hopefully it gets better next week! Today I had Costa Rican History—and that was interesting! By far the most interesting history class I’ve ever had! I have it with 2 other girls in the program, so I definitely think it’ll be fun! The campus is small, but it’s really pretty! The food there is…………..interesting, but I think I can get used to it! :)

The city is so awesome. There’s SO much to do in such a small area! I feel like I’m home here! I love that it’s a pedestrian city! It gives it that big city feel even though it’s quite small. So many parks, shops, and places to eat—it’s wonderful!

Needless to say, I’m just so happy. It took me forever to plan this trip, but my oh my has it been worth it! I’m also going to Nicaragua because one of the girls in the program only got her passport stamped for 30 days—not 90 like the rest of us—so we have to leave the country for 48 hours in order to get her another stamp! Road trip anyone?!

PURA VIDA!

He Covered Me!

"What God ordained…He will maintain…I’m grateful he covered me!"

These lyrics pretty much describe my sentiment for the past few days. This is my third day in Costa Rica and I feel like a completely different person. I have never felt closer to God than I do now. He delivered me from myself, and from my fears. Let’s rewind a bit.

When I tell you that I HAD (notice the past tense) an immense, debilitating fear of flying—that’s an understatement lol. I can’t put into words how uncomfortable just the THOUGHT of flying made me feel. My heart would start to race and I would start to shake at just the thought of flying. Two days before I left, I lost my appetite. I knew I would have to face my fear very soon, and the idea made me disgustingly nervous. The day before I left, I ate very little because of my nerves. You should have seen me the night of. I was a mess. I felt really downtrodden and was experiencing a lot of anxiety. I was definitely excited about Costa Rica, but my fear of flying completely overshadowed any hint of excitement.

Then I got on the plane. And everything changed.

I noticed the guy sitting next to me was Latino. When the plane started moving, I desperately asked him (in Spanish), “Do you speak English?” (I didn’t want to be offensive and start talking to him in Spanish, ya know) He replied with a hand gesture that he spoke very little English. So, I said to him (in Spanish), “I’m very sorry, but I don’t like heights. May i close the window please?” Very kindly, he told me “Of course.”

My stomach was in knots then and I started praying harder than I have EVER prayed in my life. My sister sent me a text that said “John 14:27.” That verse reads, “I give you peace, the kind of peach that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give. So don’t be worried or afraid.”

All I can say is that that verse is the COMPLETE truth. That was the BEST flight I have EVER had! It was so smooth that I couldn’t even tell when we entered the air. Usually I feel like my head is going to explode, but I didn’t feel anything that time! NOTHING! This is why I say God covered me!

Another plus was that I got to practice my Spanish on the plane! After a while, the guy sitting next to me finally asked, “You speak Spanish?” and I told him, “Si, es mi especialidad!” (yes, it’s my major) and we chatted for a good portion of the plane ride after that. His name was Andres and he was on his way to visit his family in Guatemala, which is where he’s from. How cool is that?

I had a connecting flight in Miami, and I was not afraid AT ALL!

GOD, YOU ARE SO AWESOME! He is indeed a healer and a deliverer, and He saved me from myself! I now trust Him more than I ever have!!

THANK YOU FOR COVERING ME!

I’ve Got it All Figured Out….

…or so I think! The ‘it’ I’m referring to is my life. And—well—i’ve got it figured out for the next year or so.

1. Finish classes this semester.

2. Take 3 education classes this semester

3. GO TO COSTA RICA IN SEPTEMBER!!!

4. Come back & student teach in the spring

5. graduate May of 2012

Yeah…i’m graduating a year late but I couldn’t care less :) I’m going to study abroad & I can’t freaking wait!! So much to do until then—get visa stuff figured out, book flight, apply, get financial aid, etc. I think this process may be the death of me but it’ll definitely be worth it!!

Hasta luego :)

Another Test

Today I was tested. Remember in my last (and only) post when I made one of my resolutions to trust in the Lord [my] God with all [my] heart and lean not on [my] own understanding? Well, God has already tested me (ya know he’s really great at doing that when you ask for something or state that you want to make a change in your life).

Well anyways I received an email from my Area Coordinator today (she’s my boss at the dorm where I work) and she had the schedule for the semester attached. I was really excited to see how much I’d be working….yeah that excitement died when I opened the email. At MT the maximum number of hours anyone in housing can work is 20 (and they don’t even want you working that—so let’s say 19 for the sake of the blog). In the past I have worked 10, 12, even up to 15 & 16 hours and that has always been more than enough for me to live by. Well when I received my schedule my mouth dropped. I had only received 8 hours….EIGHT!!!

I immediately started freaking out when I realized how few hours I’d be working. I’ve been trying to become independent and not ask my parents for money and learning how to budget what I make—but how can I do that now? How will I have enough for groceries? How will I save enough for Costa Rica?

These were my immediate thoughts, and it is so sad. How come my first reaction is never to remain calm and rely on God? Why do I always get over worked up over things that I can’t control? This makes no sense whatsoever. I’m acting like I have little to no faith at all.

I’m happy I finally came to my sense, though. Although this seemed like an after thought, I finally just calmed down and told myself, “I’m not going to get upset. I’m just gonna trust in God.” When I said the words I felt my heart rate slow down and I immediately felt better. That was definitely God’s presence.

God has ALWAYS—let me repeat that—ALWAYS taken care of me. I’m more blessed than anyone I know. He has proven that he is ALWAYS faithful and will ALWAYS have my back, no matter what. All I have to do is have faith. Man, that sounds so easy but it is so hard to attain.

No worries though, friends. God isn’t through with me yet! This is a test that I WILL pass; a resolution that I will actually strive to achieve.

Thank You, God for letting me realize my faults and putting me through these tests so that I can become the best me EVER! I know I’ll be alright, and I give YOU all praise and thanks.

I am more than a conqueror!!

Signed,

A Child of God

Happy New Year!!

So I was supposed to start this blog like 2 weeks ago, but I got too busy—and lazy to even finish the first sentence I started! I feel like that’s foreshadowing my blogging future—but that’s another topic. I’ve thought of many topics I want to blog about—but as I stated before, laziness took over, so I failed miserably, so I figured January 1st is the perfect opportunity to start my blog…and what else to blog about except my New Year Resolutions?! This is something I have always done (in the past because my Mom forced my sister & me to do it, but recently because I have found its value). Okay, I think my intro is sufficient. Here goes nothing:

1. All As. Grades come first and this is a goal I have accomplished since my Sophomore year at MT—and I plan on continuing to do for the rest of my college career.

2. Go to Costa Rica. I’ve pushed studying abroad back so I can play catch up with my minor hours—but this fall is the time to put my money where my mouth is—it’s time to go to Costa Rica! I feel a whirlwind of emotions, but mostly excitement. I know this trip will open up so many possibilities for me, so needless to say—I can’t wait!

3. No Fear. A HUGE fear I have is flying…and like I just stated, I have to go to Costa Rica in the fall. Ya know, it’s not flying that freaks me out—it’s just take off. I don’t like how your head feels like it’s going to explode—or that feeling like you’re falling when you hit an air pocket. Another fear I have is road trips. It’s crazy the anxiety I experience when I’m on the roads—but I know it’s due to an experience I had when I was….carry the two….17 or so…anyways I almost got sick when I was in the car with my parents (due to a mixture of horrible foods I had eaten that day) and almost every trip on the interstate I had after that has resulted in me having panic attacks. It sucks—but I know it’s all in my head, as is the fear of flying. I am stronger than this and I can beat it! With God for me, who (or what) can be against me?! (Answer: NOTHINGGGGG!!!)

4. Take at least 1 road trip. This may not seem like a big deal, but like I said, I get anxiety on the roads. The condition for this goal is that I will be driving on this road trip. The furthest I have driven is from home to the Boro, or from home to Jackson—and both of those are short trips. I want to broaden my horizons and drive somewhere. Okay, this trip doesn’t have to be somewhere far—but I need to go somewhere further than the Boro & Jackson.

5. Trust in the Lord [MY GOD] with all [MY] heart and lean not on [my] own understanding. ‘nuff said.

6. TAKE IT TO THE LORD IN PRAYER. Everything. I want to pray all the time. My problem now is that I am SO lazy when it comes to praying. It’s embarrassing to admit this because how can I be so lax when it comes to God who has been SO good to me that I can’t even put it into words?! It’s a crying shame. Absolutely pathetic. I want to wake up early and spend time with God, like my friend Ashley does every morning. Jesus, YOU are the best thing that ever happened to me and YOU need to know it.

7. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I have the worst habit of doing this. You wouldn’t believe the trivial things that get me bent out of shape. People are gonna do things that suck and that’s the nature of the beast, so I need to get over it and keep it moving. Nothing that people do can define me and I have no intentions of letting them start defining me.

8. Read at least 12 books. This doesn’t include books related to school. This goal is for leisure reading, which I have neglected to do since last summer. I’m too intelligent to not read! My parents have always stressed reading, especially since it’s something I used to do A LOT when I was younger—and it’s something I need to pick up again.

9. More community service. The great part is is that I’m already in a National Community Service Sorority, so that’s half the battle! I just need to make myself more available to do more. Giving back is extremely important.

10. Maintain my budget. I’ve been budgeting since October or November and it’s fabulous! I do the envelope system—When I get paid, I take my paycheck and put some of it towards tithes, groceries, weekend money, overage charges at my apartment (ugh), etc. I only allow myself to spend what I’ve allotted for the month—nothing more. I encourage everyone to participate in the envelope system. It teaches financial discipline which A LOT of people lack.

11. Find happiness. It sounds so simple yet do you realize how complex it is?? It may be with someone, it may be by myself—but I’m going to find happiness.

12. Step up my fashion game. Last semester I noticed that I started looking raggedy a lot—and I was comfortable with it. I don’t wanna be that girl. I mean I wanna feel comfortable, don’t get me wrong, but I still need to take pride in myself and in how I look. I think I’m gonna put aside a little money each month so I can buy myself a little something to spruce up my wardrobe. Geez this sounds shallow, especially being placed right after my last goal. Oh well.

Thus far—that’s all for my 2011 New Year Resolutions. This year I’m going to do something different and allow myself to add more goals throughout the year if need be. I also plan to review my goals at least once a week to remind myself of the end prize; becoming who I am.

Saludos!

NIGHTNIGHT by DEDDY