Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thank You For the Lessons, 2009!!

2009 wasn't really my favorite year. Most people who know me understand why. I won't go into grave detail, but here are some keywords you might see if my life was a blog: death, cancer, chemo, murder, baby, marriage, travel, spiritual conversations, stress, anxiety, counseling... Well, as you can see, not all of those are bad things.

I certainly was not expecting my uncle to pass away from cancer. God told me everything was going to be alright. I actually was almost speechless when I got the text at 5 am that he passed the night before.

I didn't really know how to feel when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. God is a healer, yes, but the ugly thing called cancer is what killed my uncle. A lot of fear steps in when thinking about that. God is VERY patient with me when I need it!

When I heard that my friend's sister was murdered (Elisabeth - from what I know of her, she was AMAZING and so sweet), I was rocked. I had never met her, no. But what I know of her sister, she's incredible. My life was shaken; how can a person trust after knowing that someone so sweet was taken advantage of and conned? Life is not pretty.

And adjusting to the fact that so many of my friends got married this year...whew. It's totally an adjustment!! I am happy for all of them, but, wow.

This year is like a rainbow . . . I hope you're not too lost by that statement! In order to get a rainbow, a storm must pass through. One of the most beautiful things the human eye can see only comes through a rough period. It's a mixture of the remnants of the storm (the rain droplets, the mist) and the sun shining through. There is beauty when we get through the storms in our life; beauty that we can only see when we open our eyes. And boy, is there beauty in the storm that has been my life this year!

When I first thought about 2009, I hated my thoughts. Well, I hated the year. The first half was okay. The second half was jarring. But then I listened to a podcast that had only people's testimonies. Different people, for a half hour, shared stories of how God has been faithful to them. And that changed my perspective. I realized how much I have to be thankful for!

* Laura and Andy's wedding - watching how God brought them together was really an honor for me to watch and be a part of!

* Sara-Marie and Joshua's wedding - it was fantastic being with them. I really bonded with Stephanie Hupp (hey BFFL!)
* Liz and Mark's wedding - I'm proud of them for waiting until they could honor God appropriately. Liz is an amazing woman and Mark is a great man. Together they'll be an unstoppable husband and wife.
* Juice and Katie's wedding - I got to see a great man get married to a woman who I hear is as wonderful. I also got to hang out with my old youth group friends, which was AWESOME!
* Hanging out with my old friend Ben - I LOVED talking to him after Juice's wedding. It was encouraging to see how he has changed over the past 6 years that we haven't necessarily been in contact with one another.
* Steve and Ashley's wedding - I got to go to the reception and catch up with people there. Most of the people were older when I was a freshman, so I don't see them very often. It was worth driving two hours to be able to celebrate with them.
* Hanging out with Eric after Laura's wedding, on the 4th of July (with Jenny), and after Christmas in Midland
* Being up at the cabin for Independence Day - one morning, me and Jenny sat in front of the sun rising over the lake and sang songs to the Lord
* Getting closer to the girls in my graduate program and the CAC group generally
* Watching my roommate see value in herself and move on from a painful and hurtful relationship.
* Kim got to travel around the world. God was there. Though I missed her, I am so proud of how she has let the Lord really take care of her heart and change her perspective. I've seen so much growth!
* I have a job that pays for my tuition (all I have to pay is fees). That's great! It's nice to not have to completely stress out over finances in that least right now.
* I bought a car! Totally awesome! Little Stacey Elisabeth.
* I got to serve people in their weddings. I mean, not a lot of people can say that they've been in a wedding. But I was in two just this year. That rocks, completely. There's nothing like being in the wedding party! And the fact that I could fly up to go to so many weddings - I am blessed beyond belief!
* I got to be at Craig's graduation. That was pretty excellent. My geek crush, the inventor of Google, AKA "the Google Guy", was the speaker. Um...soul mate! hehe. Not really, but we all know how much I love Google. I was in geek heaven!
* I joined
Summit Waterford's multi-site. I am soooo pumped about it!
* I got to go to more shows than usual - RENT, the Color Purple, Chris Tomlin, Brandon Heath, Aaron Shust, Chris Sligh, Francesca Battistelli, a fashion show in Winter park, the Chocolate Nutcracker. It's been really exciting to be able to get back into those things.
*NiceSERVE with Summit was really amazing. Got to cut down some trees and do some physical labor. Very exciting. I really enjoyed it!
* I got a passport! Now I can go out of the country (legally, too!)!
* I got to observe school counselors in a high school. It was great to really jump back into high schools and see and understand the opportunities that kids have these days. Which are a lot...for sure.
* I spent some good time at the pool in Longboat Key in Sarasota. It gave me a different way to connect with God - laying on my back, floating in the pool. I pretty much loved my time there...even though taking care of little kids (even cousins) is not always the easiest thing.
* I have gone to counseling and been able to figure out where some of my views of God come from. With that, I've been able to replace them with Truth and know Him more.
* And the biggest thing I am thankful for?? The lessons learned. I have learned that I can make it. I will make it. Through heartache and strife. Through grief and pain. When things aren't pretty, God never leaves. And He cares more for me than I have imagined.

That lesson carries me into 2010 with hope. There may be more ugliness in the world (and the Bible says more is to come) but I can handle it. I can make it. So, goodbye to 2009 and hello 2010! I say hello, nervous and excited for what may come, but knowing that God will be with me and guide me through it.

Alright, I'm off to go and ring in the new year at church. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Testimonies of 2009

2009 is quickly coming to an end. If your year was anything like mine, it wasn't necessarily cosy or pretty. But even in the muck and the disorder, God has done great things! And that's what I want to hear about. I want to hear about what Christ has done this year. So, if you have any story of God's faithfulness, of how God used hardship to shape you, etc. please post it in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you!


Look out for my 2009 in review blog. It'll be posted in the next few days and I look forward to it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Another Wedding Done and a Beautiful Marriage Begun

I really enjoy weddings. I suppose that's a good thing because there are a ton this year! God said 2009 would be a year of celebrations and that's proving itself to be true. So many weddings and so many pregnancies. It's a great time.

This weekend, my friend Justin got married. When I was in youth group, he was a leader. One of my highlights was when my best friend's brother-in-law Ken said, "Juice?" (what we call Justin). Justin said, "What's up?" And Ken said, "Nothing, I just wanted to say it because I didn't know if it would be awkward to say that after you're married." I cracked up. But, the wedding was so beautiful. It was at Burgh Historical Park in Southfield. The weather was beautiful. The park was beautiful (there was even a garden) and God brought Justin and Katie together to become one. I met Katie for the first time and she seems like the sweetest person in the world. The love that she clearly has for Justin and for her cute daughter Katie was very evident throughout the night.

The reception was great. It was the first time that so many people from my youth group had been together in 3 years. We tried to plan a reunion but those fell through. I loved seeing Jonny, being with Walter and Andrew (Ken, hehe) and my best friend Leah and her hubby Mark. Holding Heather and Josh's new baby and seeing the Nelson babies, too! I got to catch up with everyone and me and Ben stayed out at Ram's Horn until like 3 in the morning...just like the good ol' days! I blogged a while back about how all of the different weddings have a special appeal. The appeal of this one was the fact that I've known a lot of the people I was with since high school. They're some of my oldest friends and knew me when I was ... strange and hormonal. haha. Some would argue that not much has changed, but who's not at least a little bit weird in high school? haha. It's amazing to see how everyone has changed and how some things will never change.

Oh yeah...It seems to be my new habit to have awesome spiritual conversations after amazing weddings where I break a sweat on the dance floor all night.

Congratulations to Juice and Katie Ellis. May your days together be filled with love and and deeper understanding of marriage God's way!

Healer, Heal Me

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in May. When I heard the news, I was frustrated. Cancer is an ugly thing that I always feared. It seemed like a juggernaut to me. Something unstoppable. And the fact that my mom lost her leg 10 years ago and might have to lose her breast to this ugly thing...I hated that.

I prayed about it and felt nothing but distance. God felt cold to me. Not like He was hiding Himself, but that He was just...far. I never felt like He didn't love me, but He just didn't seem close at all. I don't know if I didn't believe Him to really be a healer or if I was just angry that my mom was in a position like this.

BUT God, today, showed me that He truly is a healer and He cares deeply for me.

I woke up this morning and was trying to get the shirt I wanted to wear dry before me and mom headed out to church. I suddenly got the worst pain in my stomach. It hurt to sit, to stand, to breathe, to lay down. I went to the bathroom and that provided no relief. I let some gas go and that did nothing. I laid on my bed in agony and yelled for my mom who was in her room getting ready. I told her what was up and she started rubbing my stomach. She rubbed a part of my stomach that was very tender and I asked her to stop (or maybe yelled at her). She went away (I think to get oil) and then put her hands on my stomach and prayed for me.

As she called the sickness out and the pain away, I immediately felt the pain leave my stomach. A few seconds before, I cried because it was so terrible. And the Lord showed me that He is a Healer. God showed me that He cared deeply for my healing. And I have the chance to know God as my Healer. I have the chance to know God as THE Healer. He is the ultimate. Nothing I could do at that moment was helping me. But, calling on the name of the Lord and receiving the healing that Christ came to deliver was amazing.

I can speak not simply out of faith, but out of experience: You Are a God Who Heals!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Lord, I Give This To You"

Surrender is such an interesting thing. It is one of the most important things that a Christian can do - laying down our lives before Christ. When we do this, we can truly experience the freedom that comes from a relationship with the Lord. We can be open to receiving His blessings and to seeing His promises for us, that we find in the Word, fulfilled. It's great! I am all for it!

But, I think sometimes we miss the mark in our so-called "surrender." As I sat in church, God was dealing with my heart about an issue that I did not realize that I even had! And I prayed, "Lord, I give you my sin." That's not a bad prayer, asking the Lord to take our messy stuff. He tells us to when He asks us to cast our cares on Him, because He cares for us. It is something that He wants to do! And that is great! I sure know that I would LOVE it if Jesus could make something beautiful out of my crap, my sin.

Sometimes, I think that the "Lord, I give you my _____" prayer is not enough. We can ask God to take something from take it away, to take it out of our lives, and other prayers of this kind, and He will help us however we can. God is a redeemer. But, God is not a magician and God will not force us to stay away from our own sin. Giving it to God, while great, is not enough.

A lot of the time, we are so afraid of God knowing the details of our sin. When we mess up, we run and hide from Him like He doesn't already know. Like He wasn't there with us when we did it. But, we run...we feel like God won't love us or forgive us. We feel like we need to get as far away from Him as possible because He's holy and we have just done something bad. But, the Truth is that we cannot escape from His presence. Trying to would only prove futile.

Instead, we can ask God to meet us in our sin. Once we realize that we are fallen, we can ask God to come and rest with us. In those moments when we find ourselves lower and deeper than we hoped we could get because of bad decisions, we can either start digging more or we can ask God to come and give us perspective on this point in our lives. God came to provide the broken world salvation and beauty that had been lost with the fall of man. It is important to remember that God sent Christ for us.

When we unashamedly ask God to come to where we are first, then He can give us His perspective on whatever we're struggling with. He can also show us, without shame, what He believes of us. This way, when we give Christ our issues like He asks us to, we have His perspective on our sin. But, we also are a little more certain that we can overcome it because we know that He is there no matter what. We have the Lover of our souls there to empower us. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us. When we lay our burdens and our sin on the Lord, we will be much more prepared to actually deal with it. Our sin is not like a trash can that's full - you cannot just take it out when it gets stinky and that takes care of the issue. It takes constant work. And we don't have to do it alone. We can do it with God instead of apart from Him.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In This Recession, Who Can Afford to Be In Bad Shape?!

I felt my heart pump really hard the other day when I was doing nothing. It's really disturbing when that happens. I am completely comfortable with my body...until it does weird stuff like that. And then I realize that if I stay overweight, I have more of a chance of having so many health issues, it's not even funny. And in this recession, who can afford to pay for issues that could have been prevented by eating better and exercising?

I eat pretty well, so that is something I'm not going to focus on. So I've been quietly looking into 5Ks, when I proposed the idea to my friend Carolyn. I was being hush hush because I was a coward and didn't want any added pressure from my friends (in case I flaked out). Well...when I mentioned it to her she excitedly said, "I've been trying to do that, too! Why don't we keep each other accountable!?" And I said, "Sure!" So we're starting to run a 5K. I'm actually excited about it. My heart will get pumping for the right reasons!

It's great to know that I can take charge of my health. I can do something about this before it's out of control. I am very excited about it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Always a Bridesmaid . . . Someday a Bride

In the past month, I've been in two weddings: Sara-Marie Kuntz and Laura Marie Barkley. I didn't know that being in a wedding could be so much fun, for either of these celebrations. I knew that we would be celebrating God's providence in bringing these women, who were like sisters to me, with men who loved them so deeply. And I knew they would be fun . . . but I laughed harder and longer than I could have planned.

Sara-Marie's wedding party was very goofy. We all were sarcastic and had funny things to say. Basically we were silly and found jokes to make about every single thing that happened. We laughed at each other and ourselves. We tried to find a way to convince SaMa to let us go and buy white flip flops instead of the dresses because of the wet ground we'd have to go through in heels (which in the end, was hilarious and focusing on not slipping into the grass helped me not cry). We found joy in everything. Some of my favorite memories were:
  • When I sung one line from High School Musical and Jenn got really excited about it before she realized her zeal
  • Shane dumbbell curled his jelly beans
  • How amazingly laid back and happy it was
  • Me and Stephanie “stealing” mom and dad's truck to fill the balloons with helium (the ULTIMATE partner in crime)
  • Judy swinging the cake cutting knife in Sara-Marie's face (also, when she had a personal story to tell about almost EVERYTHING that was brought up)
  • Putting pots of jelly beans on the tables and dropping them (sorry, Sara-Marie and Joshua!)
  • Standing in the kitchen giggling about boys that were less than 5 feet away
  • Me stripping down to nakedness in front of the girls that morning when it was time to get ready...and dropping my pants to put lotion on my legs (I'm almost sure there's a blackmail picture of that).

That's only a few memories...but it was a very amazing time.

Laura's wedding party was a whole different kind of goofy. I walked down the aisle with Ryan, who came in on Friday with a mustache and is possibly one of the most ridiculous (in a great way) people in the world. He nearly pulled me down the aisle during the recessional. Hilarious! Travis was a schmoozer who charmed every single woman there. I believe every grandmother wanted to take him home. And the truth is: he has that something special, something you don't find every day. He has charm and makes every woman feel like a queen. I hope that he understands how amazing he is!

The Barkley family has been my 2nd family for the past six years – I've been invited into every area of their lives and I hope their hearts, for they have a spot in mine. I loved spending time with them and the post-wedding brunch was one of the most amazing ways to wrap out the wedding festivities. I loved just hanging with the family and relaxing.

When the sing-along started at the rehearsal, I knew that I was going to have an amazing time. :-) We bonded over the fun church wedding coordinator. I won't say what we called her, but will just say that she was “in charge” and did what she could to remind us of that fact. Haha. I'm just glad that she didn't yell at me when I laughed hysterically at the end of the ceremony when Laura and Andrew Ward walked down the aisle as one. hehe

After the big party, the groomsmen, me, some of Andy's friends, and Laura's cousins went to the bar. We stayed out and just chilled. It was nice to catch up and discuss what we loved about the wedding.

Every wedding party bonds over different things and makes memories to last a lifetime, and I love being able to support my friends, my sisters, and my brothers. After paying a lot of money to rent tuxes, buy dresses, get shoes, and travel – none of that matters when you actually get there and you are with the people that you love and the people that love them.

One day, I will request that my friends support me in this special way. I know that they will do it exceptionally. They will have strange stories about my idiosyncrasies and craziness (they already have a good number, so that shouldn't be too difficult). Until then, I love celebrating with the people who have my heart. Congratulations to Sara-Marie and Joshua. Congratulations to Laura and Andrew. I love you all so much. :-D

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Time is a very interesting thing to think about. Like Old Man River, it just keeps rolling along. I can't believe I have almost been in Orlando for a year. In some ways, it feels like I have been here forever and in others, it feels like I just got here. I can hardly believe it. In one month and one week, I will have been here 12 months. I'll have to do something special to celebrate. It's crazy to think that the memories of the last year that I spent in Ann Arbor are almost 2 years ago. I remember New Life's fall retreat like it was nothing. I bawled like a baby during the sermons and when Jon Shah announced that he would be leaving to go to OSU. God changed my heart in many ways and prepared me for where I'm at now. I am sincerely amazed by it.

So much has changed. I have moved. Kim's traveling around the world. Laura's engaged. Sara-Marie is married now. Good times. Only time will tell what will come in the rest of 2009. :-)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sara-Marie and Joshua's Wedding

I read a prophecy somewhere that said 2009 would be a year of celebrations. And, wow, knowing at least 16 couples who will be married by the end of the year, I can see how that is very true. I am very fortunate to be able to attend so many, even though many of them are in Michigan. Weddings are so special.

Last weekend, I flew up to Michigan to celebrate the marriage of Sara-Marie and Joshua, two people who I dearly love. They are both people who I can honestly say, my heart feels completely safe in their hands. I was honored to be chosen by Sara-Marie to be a bridesmaid. When she and Josh picked me up from the airport, I hugged Sara-Marie and just cried. I was so happy to see her, so happy to be a part of the union that it was obvious that God ordained.

Us girls (me, Sa-Ma, and Stephanie) had a fun time getting our nails done (and Stephanie's eyebrows waxed ;-). I can't think of the last time I laughed so much or so hard. And watching Sara-Marie was inspiring. In the midst of things needing to get done, she was one of the most adaptable people that I have ever seen. When something wasn't working out, she humbly made a decision. Instead of freaking out, if it wasn't imperative to have, it was out. I loved watching her. Though there was the rush of getting things done, there wasn't a lot of the stress that I've seen. It was mostly excitement. They were both excited to unite with one another, to share a deeper bond of physicality, and to serve the Lord better together than they did alone.

I had so much fun in Ann Arbor. I got to see friends from the church I attended for five years during undergrad. I felt like ME again. I am grateful to the Lord for the opportunity to celebrate an amazing thing. :-)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Inherently Evil?

I'm taking a graduate class about counseling theories right now. At the end of the class, all of the students present on their own personal theory. It's actually an amazing thing, being able to think of what we want our counseling to look like. I enjoyed the first week of presentations. A lot of the theories had to do with whether or not people were inherently good or evil. One of my friends took the position that people are inherently evil. Babies don't share unless they are taught to, etc.

I agree. Not because little kids don't share, but because the Bible talks about how we are born into sin, with a nature that tends toward sin. Our heart isn't good. But, I am grateful that is not the end!

Saying that people are inherently evil somehow sounds hopeless. What can we do if we are born evil? Any work that we do to become better will be squelched immediately by that fact. What hope is there if that's true?

What I don't mind about saying that people aren't inherently good is the fact that God redeems us. We are sinners, but not without hope. That is good news. We can let God in our hearts, changing our hearts. It's a good thing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The New Me!

I don't want this blog title to imply that I've changed a ton.  I still have a huge laugh. My dimples are still deep. I still don't tolerate foolishness.  I am still a person who you probably don't mad at you because when I get mad it's just never pretty.

But, I live in Florida.  When you move 1,000 miles from home, that means a lot more than location.  There is a different weather.  There is a different culture.  A different job and school.  No friends in this new place.  Basically everything changes.

There's no way that I could stay the same.  And that is not a bad thing.  I got super homesick first semester, yearning to see my family and my friends. I was sad half of the time and spent a good amount of that mourning the life that I lost when I came to Florida.  Even though I knew I was in the right place, I struggled. Even though I wanted to meet people, I didn't want new friends. I hated everything that was different about UCF.  I was a mess.

After I went home to Michigan for about three weeks, I came back refreshed.  I was ready to jump back into school, the job, the people.  I found a Bible study to join and was gung ho about getting to know them.  

That trip to Michigan, while great, reminded me that I did not belong there anymore.  I appreciated everyone's excitement to give me a place to stay and all of that, but nothing there was mine.  As time went by, I got so excited to come back to Florida just so I could sleep in my own bed again.

This year, my perspective changed.  I think that experience helped me realize that I am not who I was in Michigan. My first 6 months here, that was what I wanted.  But I was reaching for something that is simply not to be.

It reminds me of the parable in Luke 5:36-39 where it mentions how you cannot put new wine into old wineskins.  The new wine ends up busting the old wineskin and leaking out everywhere.

And I think that's where my problem was.  I was trying to view this new experience in Florida in the context of how things were in Michigan.  It just doesn't work.  Like the old wineskin, I become drained and ragged.  And that's not a good way to live.  So, I guess we all have to see the newness for what it is - a good thing, a change.  It's a beautiful thing.  I find myself really looking forward to the new thing that God is doing during my time here. I don't know what to expect and that's exhilarating.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sins and Old Friends

Today, I fell into a sin that I had been trying to give up for awhile, something that has affected my life for years and years (okay, yes, I'm only 23, but still...).

To be honest . . .It felt like an old friend. Like comfort food. Like sitting by a warm fire in the middle of winter after coming from a long day outdoors. In the past it has been there when nobody else was. Sure, I've felt bad about it . . . sometimes . . . but it's always been my secret, special friend. When I feel good and when I feel bad, comfort comes through this old friend.

But, there is one thing that I do know about friendships: Not all friendships are meant to last. Even the ones that feel the best. I know from experience that some friendships that feel amazing are devastating. While they make us feel amazing sometimes, the consequences of the bad overwhelms all of the other. When you are broken down, the things that you once called good no longer make a difference. You have to move on, forget those things and see them for what they are. Sometimes it's difficult to see the bad in something that feels so good, even when the truth is staring you straight in the face. When it is obvious to everyone else that this thing is destructive, we can be so caught up that we don't even see it.

But the time comes when it's over. It cannot go on any longer. We have to let it go. And we have to let it go forever. It's rarely easy - that friend tempts us, deceiving us of the benefits of pursing the relationship again. Sometimes we fall for it and other times, it's easy to say no. But most of us realize that this old "friend" will keep knocking, wanting to be a part of our lives. But, it's important to say no even when we're lonely.

In fact, we even have to hate it. I listened to a sermon and the preacher/teacher said something profound about the Romans 7 passage that says, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it." Most Christians understand this passage very well, but I got new insight. This preacher said that Paul doesn't struggle with sin because he tolerates it, but because he hates it.

We need to change our perspective on our sin. It can no longer be a friend that we let in and out through the back door so no one else knows; it can no longer be something we flaunt. We have to hate it. We have eradicate it from every part of ourselves - thoughts, our feelings toward it, our memories. We have to repent. I read once that the definition of repentance is adopting God's perspective on a certain situation. I like that definition. I know that I am tired of calling what is evil, good, and what is good, evil. There has to be an end to it. That end begins now.

Goodbye old friend. You are no longer welcome in my life!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Admitting you have a problem is the first step. . .

I think I'm addicted . . . to High School Musical.  Not just the first one but the entire trilogy.  Even though I haven't listened to any of the music for awhile, it is constantly in my head. I don't quite understand it.  I will randomly find myself playing the songs in my head, mouthing the words.  I liked the 1st one because it was every dream that I ever had about living my life as a musical.  The 2nd one, I didn't like at first. It has less songs that I found enjoyable, but the dancing was really fantastic.  High School Musical: Senior Year was definitely my favorite.  I refused to pay money for it until my roommate and I saw it with the movie gift cards we won.  I fell in love with it and we saw it again the next day.

I will admit, it's a bit like comfort food.  A guilty pleasure.  But, it's too much at this point. So, I'm giving it up for a little bit. I have asked my even more obsessed roommate to help me out.  She is being very nice about it!

I'm working on it!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Whose $$ Is it Anyway?

One of my favorite shows is "Whose Wedding is it Anyway?" It's a show about wedding planners and their journey through the process of dealing with brides, buying what needs to get bought, and avoiding wedding disaster generally. It's not a show like "Bridezilla," which chronicles women who are apparently normal when not planning a wedding, but are insane and overdemanding now that they are. "Whose Wedding is it Anyway" does a good job of showing what both the bride and the wedding planner go through in the process. I've always had penchant for wedding planning. The funniest thing that I see is the battle between mother (and sometimes mother-in-law to be) and the bride to be.  Sometimes the mother gets in the way so much that you would think it was their own wedding.

It can be funny to watch that interaction and it makes me wonder what God thinks about our lives - especially money.  If there was a show called, "Whose Money is it Anyway?" I am sure that it would bring in millions of viewers.  God would have given His people, His sons and daughters, an unlimited amount of money. He would tell His babies to give 10% to His work, his business. He would ask them to be cheerful givers and to take care of widows and orphans.

On this show, though, there would always be a struggle, though.  Things would rarely go smoothly.  Instead of following simple directions, they would rationalize all the reasons they couldn't give 10%.  They would forget that God gave them what they had.  They would rely on themselves for everything instead of simply trusting the Giver.  God would remind them of these facts and that He had more than they could ever imagine only if they could believe.

The people watching could see everything objectively.  They would yell and scream at the TV, encouraging the kids, young and old, to just trust their Father.  Some struggles would end well, some would simply end, leaving the audience frustrated.

The show would be a fairly accurate reflection of how we as Christians live our lives.  And this is simply an encouragement to everyone - take the perspective of God and lay your money down to Him. He has promised that those things we sow will be reaped. It is a principle that occurs in nature.  We never need to fear, even when sacrifice seems too great.  God is greater, still.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


"Go big or go home." I have no clue who said that first or, at all, where it came from. I do know that we used to say it about Michigan football all the time. Now I say it to people when they need encouragement to step outside of their comfort zones. Wherever it comes from, the lesson is the same. Mediocrity is not an option. If it is, don't start. It is pointless to do something half way. It is useless to do something without your whole heart, sans passion. I once read a quote by Martin Luther once, "Sin boldly, but love God more boldly still." Even that statement, by a great man of faith, implies that even sinning mediocrely isn't okay. Yet, we live out our lives lazy, complacent with the way things are - stuck.

When we do not live passionately, live out of all that we are, we are not truly living our lives in the fullness of who God created us to be. We must decide to never do anything half-way. It's all or nothing.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Out with the old, in with the new!

Welcome 2009.  We sure are happy that you're here!

2008 was certainly an interesting year.  I moved to Orlando, I had a friend who moved to NYC for a job and back to MI.  Two of my close friends started God-honoring romantic relationships.  There were engagements galore!  I got my first 4.0 since . . . well, it's been awhile.  My brother moved back to MI from D.C.  I am not sure I have lived to see this much change in a year.  As I grow older, I'm sure I will notice it more and more. Or, at least that is my assumption.  Who can tell what is to come?

But back to today. It is January 2, 2009.  The new year has been rung in all over the world.  Yet, this post isn't about 2009.  It's about 2008.  I am always one for constant reflection over the happenings of life, and I just haven't taken enough time to think about last year over the past few days.

One of my favorite shows is Starting Over. In case you haven't been fortunate enough to watch it, it is a show with women who have issues.  About six at a time come to a house and meet regularly with life coaches.  When I was watching it, I was able to take some ideas of things they did with the women and find some healing for the scars left from my past.  Rhonda Britten, one of the life coaches, has a e-newsletter that she sends out weekly.  She gave three assignments to do before we stepped into the new year.  I might be a few days late, but better late than never, I press on.

Assignment Number 1:
"Please list 100 gratitudes for 2008. I don't care that you can't recall one happy moment or that you think 20 will be it tops. One hundred it must be.
One hundred moments that someone or something was in your life that made you smile, made your life easier, put a spring in your step. Some moment that worked. Maybe the security line at the airport was much easier than you anticipated. Be grateful. Or perhaps the dinner with your mom's new boyfriend wasn't horrible. Be grateful. Or your best friend forgot your birthday but she made up for it days later. Be grateful."

1. I got my graduate assistant job in Orlando at UCF.
2. I got into three out of the four graduate school programs that I applied to.
3. I got to know Adrianne, Andy and Jenny some more.
4. I made it safely from and to Orlando.
5. I got a great birthday surprise from Andrew.
6. I had the chance to hang out with Kiana, Esohe, and Alicia for the first time in years.
7. We celebrated another year of life for Daniel Grimmer.
8. Got to know Liz better and pray for her.
9. I got to share a part of my life that not many people knew about.
10. I had the chance to pray with a good friend about something deeply personal.
11. We put up decorations for Christmas in the apartment.
12. There's a plan to pay off student loans faster.
13. Started the year off worshipping God (my favorite way to spend New Year's so far in life).
14. I didn't get sick once.
15. Learned more about charter schools.
16. Got a 4.0 in my first semester of graduate school.
17. The week at home for Christmas was pleasant.
18. Went natural and saved tons of money on my hair maintenance.
19. Gained a new look with my nose ring (which didn't get infected at all).
20. Found a new-old favorite snack that's healthy (ants on a log - celery, peanut butter, raisins).
21. When I went to the airport on my flight (moving to Orlando), and was bawling, the people who worked at the airport were so nice and caring.
22. In Orlando, I found a friend from my home state.
23. Kim came to Charley's on my birthday to surprise me.
24. The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Tough Novel helped me understand and appreciate a spiritual family and their role in warfare even more.
25. America elected its first Black President in history.
26. Though I had no car, I was still able to go to church.
27. I got the chance to know a family in Orlando.
28. Mom got to visit me in Orlando twice.
29. My old laptop survived until I got the new one.
30. I got a new laptop.
31. I got to go to Sarasota and spend a day on the beach, relaxing.
32. Orlando feels like my home.
33. Got to spend time at St. Mary's Fair with Leah and Kim on Memorial Day weekend.
34. Spent time with my god-mother and her family before I moved.
35. Went to a Robin Thicke concert at House of Blues.
36. Went to Anberlin concert at House of Blues.
37. Had fun at Rising Star Karaoke Bar.
38. Burlington Coat Factory has helped me build my shoe collection for pretty cheap.
39. Frosting cookies with Kevin and Sara-Marie is fun.
40. Tentatively planned out my program of study.
41. Bonded with my new roommate over musicals.
42. My mom has sent me stuff from Florida when I've needed it.
43. My going away party was amazing.
44. At my going away party, people said a lot of amazing, sweet things to me.
45. Top of the Park was a great way to connect with friends.
46. When mom's car got towed, Jess pulled some strings to help with the cost.
47. My pedicure Christmas gift was a great way to connect with AC and LB.
48. My trip with Eric and Craig to Chicago to visit Craig was a lot of fun.
49. My movie collection is growing.
50. I got to see my old Bible study leader randomly when I was visiting Ann Arbor over Christmas break.
51. G-chatting keeps my relationships with people a thousand miles away fresh.
52. High School Musicals 1, 2, and 3 helped me live out a little more my fantasy of life being a musical.
53. The Christmas GA party at our place was awesome.
54. Had some good bonding time at the movies this summer before I moved.
55. Spending time with little Cora and Jason.
56. Buffalo Wild Wings every other Thursday with Carla.
57. The roses I got for my birthday from Adrienne, Sarah, and Sarah.
58. The Dark Knight
59. The Advent Conspiracy
60. The timelessness of the the things dealt with on the Cosby Show
61. The Twilight Zone New Years Marathon
62. The pair of work shoes I got from Kelly
63. The opportunity to sing at the SDES Christmas party
64. Praise and worship and prayer with Kim and Leah in Borders and the car
65. I got to reconnect with an old friend, BJN.
66. I let go of the unhealthy aspects of my relationships.
67. None of my boxes got lost in the mail during my move.
68. Bought some clothes for my new job.
69. S-MK and JS chose to include me in their wedding.
70. My VISTA job ended on time instead of me having to find another placement.
71. God changed my perspective about a lot of things.
72. The weeks I got to spend with Blondie.
73. My laptop is an Energy Star.
74. The Love, Dating, Marriage, Sex Sermons
75. 40 Days of Prayer bringing unity
76. ULC being open and being a safe haven.
77. I am able to attend graduate school.
78. I can support Kimberly as she's away this next year.
79. Paula keeping me accountable
80. "Christmastime is Here" - Charlie Brown and "Wonderful Christmastime" - Jars of Clay [version] made me feel good
81. The art of the musical is coming back (Chicago, Sweeney Todd, Hairspray, High School Musical 3)
82. Visiting Michigan, I was more myself than I ever felt in Orlando.
83. Encouragement from the online weight-loss community SparkPeople
84. Became aware of the fact that I hold my tension in my upper back.
85. Peaceful Christmas
86. I won lotion at the NLC white elephant party.
87. God showed me that I was running to things besides Him for life.
88. TextTwist with Craig and Dan - "bias"
89. Feeling safe to be completely me
90. Supportive family.
91. The lunch Blondie and I wen to the day I left to move.
92. "Give Me Words to Speak," "The More," and "I Need You Now" helped me cry out to the Lord when I couldn't find the words.
93. The VHS player in our living room allows me to watch some of my favorite movies.
94. Celebration dinner with mom and Craig
95. Running into Alicia Slubo at the Border's in Novi one day when I was shopping.
96. Friends who aren't ashamed or scared that I'm super loud and crazy.
97. YouVersion on my phone when my Bible wasn't around.
98. Holding babies at church.
99. The difference repentance makes.
100. God holds my future in His hands.

It took me a few hours to come up with 100, not that I don't have more than enough to be thankful for, but just because I needed to process those things that were coming up in my quest for the hundred.  I am glad that I did.  2008 was a great year. I am looking forward to what 2009 has in store.  
God has done so much in 2008, bringing me to the point where I am now. 

Happy New Year!  If you are reading this, I encourage you go think of your own list.  And think of what a better world this could be if we just shared our gratitude more often.