December 19, 2012

Christmas - Wild and Sweet the Words Repeat

Christmas finds me in a very different state of mind this year. Thankful, to be sure. Blessed, most completely. Sobered? Very much so. 

I am finding my heart to be quiet as Christmas approaches. Seeing the world through the spectacles of reflection instead of anticipation. Yes, I rejoice with all Christendom as we sing, "Joy to the world! The Lord is come, Let earth receive her King!" Yet, my heart is quieter and softer as I sing those words. 

For years my favorite Christmas carol has been a lesser known song. Recently I asked a few of my friends if they knew the tune and very few of them did. The words are haunting, the melody enduring, and the story behind the original poem is lasting. Written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the American Civil War, he wrote, 

 "I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play. And wild and sweet the words repeat, of peace on earth, good will to men." 

But this year, in a spirit of quietness, I have begun to understand the emotions of the next lines. The raw agony of hope. The pain of grief. 

"And in despair- I bowed my head. 'There is no peace on earth!' I said, 'For hate is strong and mocks the song, of peace on earth, good will to men.' 

December has sobered sensitive hearts all across America. The world is watching as families mourn in Connecticut. As well as closer tears, familiar names that are now marked in stone. Only today I heard of a church family in Kansas that lost their young son. Friday found me crying as a stout prayer warrior in my life left this earth. Christmas comes quietly this year, and my heart has been tendered to the sadness that accompanies this December. 

I don't have answers. I don't have reasons why. But I have a peace that passes understanding. As grief is so blatantly displayed on the media and as I feel it so close to my heart, I am finding rest that only comes from God. This past semester has found me longing to seek solace in the arms of Christ. Longing for escape. Longing for my 40 days in the desert to pray. I am finding that desire to be answered in a different kind of quietness. A forced quietness. Situations that probe hard questions. Circumstances that have me on my knees praying. Communion with God that leaves no room for petty words or half hearted conversation. 

Emotions? To be sure.
Harsh reality? Yes.
Questions? Many. 
The assurance that God is faithful? Minute by minute it is there. 
I'll shout it, scream it, pray it...until I have no voice left to whisper the words...God is faithful.

This post may not offer any grand epiphany  It doesn't contribute to the debates about gun control. This post isn't laying out the 1-2-3 plan for how to get through the holidays or how to handle grief. Not at all. Not even close. But these are my words. My quiet, soft, words. 
If you don't believe in Jesus, this kind of faith doesn't make sense. 
It seems foolish. 
Emotional. 
A crutch. 
I know, I have heard so many of those arguments and debates before today. 
That's not why I am here to write. 
I'm here to simply say, God is faithful. 
Today, on this day, I choose to keep believing that He is good. 
As this December has come like a thief in the night, I cling to the hope that the shepherds in Bethlehem received. They had been waiting for a Savior. They were living in the darkness of the night, when they were given the word, "Today, in the town of Bethlehem, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." In the darkness of this world, as we anxiously await the coming of our Lord again, we remember the hope that He has brought. 


"Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 'God is not dead, nor doth he sleep! The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.'" 


December 9, 2012

Journal - Craving Jesus

Numb.
Shattered high expectations.
And nothing has changed.
I'm in a drought period right now, a frustrating spiritual drought period because I can see the water, and I am too caught in my own ruts to move closer to relief.
I feel numb to the highs and lows of life and I feel stuck in the mundane.
The grey zone.
The place where you go through the motions and come out on the other side unaware of really feeling anything at all.
This semester has been hard.
The past month has been doubly so.
Classes have been intense and free time has disappeared.
I think I've entered into a state of longing for quietness.
Longing for Jesus.
Because I know without a shadow of a doubt that he satisfies.
It's hard to have a hard semester when I want to be carefree.
It's selfish to want that carefree life as intensely as I do.
I am so happy with where I am geographically.
So satisfied with the quality of my education this semester.
So blessed by the people in my life.
So amazed by Blake's everyday love.
And yet, I am tired.
Desperate for a chance to be still and know God.
I want to run away into the desert for 40 days and listen.
Be hungry.
Thirst.
Forget all of the things that I "want" and rely on the only sustaining thing in this world.
I am tired of feeling numb.
Tired of going through the motions.
I know that I am tired.
This past week of school was really one of the hardest weeks I have ever encountered.
Physically and mentally I am exhausted as I prepare for finals week.
That exhaustion is playing with my emotions and I understand that that is what is going on in my heart.
To an extent.
I also understand that I need God.
I need a place to worship freely.
The craving of my soul is to love God wholly and completely...now. Right now. Today. This week. Every moment.
I am desperate for Jesus and growing numb to this world.
Only he satisfies.

November 20, 2012

Days of Disney - Life as a College Program Intern


Having a mouse for my first boss is a pretty crazy experience to claim...
  and there are a million reasons why I thank God every day for where I am and how I got here...
but it is a really strange thing to still feel so strongly like I left a piece of my heart in Florida. 
I only lived there 6 months, but those months and memories shaped me so tremendously. 


      Having the amazing opportunity to see my old roommates and then some other Disney friends over fall break stirred up a bunch of feelings inside of me. I would never do another CP internship again, I finished that race and that ship has sailed, but there are days when I miss the Disney perks so very much. Getting off work early because it rained and then running over to Epcot to watch the fireworks. Cream cheese filled pretzels from Tomorrowland. Non-stop opportunities for adventure. I was spoiled in Florida with a constant environment for an exciting life. Even when I went to my grandparents house to get away for a weekend, I was driving through orange groves to get to their house in the backwoods of Florida, complete with afternoons on the porch watching alligators and otters. I can honestly say I never see that combination outside of a zoo in Oklahoma!





But mostly, I miss pictures like the one above. Hanora, Alicia, me, and Brittany. Three girls that I might not ever see again...but we were representing Building 13. Lots of crazy memories. Sonic booms. Alliances against the VWAD. Late night dance parties and little mermaid costumes. 




     One of the hardest things for me to realize is that I was literally one of millions of college kids who have walked the same steps and taken the same pictures. Over 25,000 students have come and gone from Disney in the 14 months since my last day of work. Since I've been gone there have been approximately 12-24 other people who have lived in my apartment, 1,500 firework shows have occurred, 7.5 million bags of the popcorn I made have been sold, and a bazillion new memories have been made. 
I was one in a million when I worked for Disney, and yet, it defines a huge part of my life. My work ethic was drilled into me every time I crawled out of bed exhausted from a 12 hr day of parade vending and drove to work an hour early in time to go to costuming to start another 12 hour day. While taking a Business Ethics test on Friday one of the questions mentioned Disney and their Traditions training. I had to stop in the middle of my test and just smile, because for every other student in the room it was just another question, and yet for me, I can picture the room that Traditions took place in and the first moments when I walked into the building. Other people read the words and I remembered the experience. And yet, I'm one of millions. That's humbling. 


The lessons I learned from my Disney days have defined me. I learned how to treat people, how to have a good face even when you're exhausted and treated poorly, how to work harder than you think you can, how to accept situations you cannot change, and how to enjoy the smallest of moments...because they tend to be the most important ones. I'll never forget the very first night that I went to Magic Kingdom as a Cast Member, before my first day of work. I went with Kirsten, Christina, and Hanora, three girls I barely knew at the time. We rode the carousel and got pixie dusted. I made a wish when I got pixie dusted, because that's what you do when you go to Disney, and it came true. Memories were made, perseverance was discovered, and friendships to last a lifetime were established. 
I accepted that my Disney days were over a long time ago, no need to worry about that. But there are nights when I miss it more than normal, nights when I see pictures of friends visiting Disney and I recognize every single spot they're standing in because I worked in those locations. I get homesick for a life that I don't miss, but I loved. 


November 17, 2012

My Personal Scrooge

I'm not quite sure how I feel about those moments when the mirror gets turned on my heart and God lets me know, "Hey Mandy, still working on you. See that there? Yeah we need some TLC to start happening." 



Let it be known to the world, that my most perfect/kind/loving self...
hasn't figured it all out yet. 



It happened sneakily and unexpectedly. I left for work at 7:30 this morning, exhausted and apprehensive because race day is tomorrow and my routine is out of whack. This week has been full of early mornings and late nights due to lots of different events that I needed to be at in the early/late hours. Typically I am a very spontaneous and relaxed runner, but I also know the routines I need before a half marathon. I know that this distance is best covered when your body is rested, hydrated, and fueled with good food.  A lack of these three things takes a toll on your body race week...and I have been stressing out because this week has not provided ideal conditions to prepare for the 13.1. 

Needless to say, this morning found me tired and stressed at having to wake up early again with a crazy full day ahead of me. The first club member I encountered was incredibly friendly and nice, along with the second. Top notch "magical moments" as we called them at Disney. It's when a guest comes by and reminds you of all the reasons why you work where you work. Then there was a member who came in that acted in such a manner that I had to remember all of my Disney Traditions training and all of the Cast Member standards for how to respond to cranky people. Thank goodness for Disney World and an early exposure to the inconsiderate behavior of people who feel a strong sense of self-entitlement . For the record, never in my wildest dreams did I think that those words would come out my mouth.


I was mad. Probably the most upset that I've ever felt because of the way a member treated me. My tired state may have added to my frustrations, but I was so shocked at the rudeness of this member. He is a notoriously bad member that frustrates the entire staff, but I have never encountered him before this morning. I started reorganizing the perfectly organized clothes and trying to do anything to keep my hands busy because I was so frustrated. I came up with a hundred things I would say to him if I could say them without losing my job. I thought of all of the reasons why he must be a grumpy old man. I speculated and assumed all of the reasons why he must feel such a sense of superiority over everyone else. I was really livid. 


Here is where God got to me. 


Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year, everyone who knows me at all knows this fact about me. I've always taken it upon myself to be the Christmas spirit in our house, because I love this season so very much. As I was stuttering and mumbling under my breath about this rude member, the image of Scrooge popped into my head. The lonely, sad, bitter, and greedy miser from the Dickens's novel. I have always felt immense sympathy towards the old man in the book and rejoiced when his heart changes so late in his life. I see God in that story, plain and simple. It's familiar, it's over told  but every once in awhile, "A Christmas Carol" is a startling reminder of how God works in our lives. He takes Scrooges filled with sadness and bitterness, even when the world says, "It's too late for them to ever change", and transforms them into new creations. As I mumbled and huffed under my breath I could so clearly picture this member as a Mr. Scrooge, in need of the freedom from the bitterness and the anger that he must be holding onto, in need of joy in his life. 


God hinted and prodded me, "How are you going to respond to this man when he comes off of the courts and you have to speak to him again?" I wanted to be mad. I wanted to be curt and short with him. I couldn't do it though. I couldn't pray for this man who was playing tennis down on the courts, I couldn't say, "God, I do not want to be nice right now, but I want to please you. And if that means forgiving this man, then okay. Please help me to forgive him as you have forgiven me. I am yours and you have filled me with a joy that passes circumstances, and I pray that he will find this joy in You as well." It's hard to pray for someone and remain angry at them. 


He came upstairs, was a little nicer, closer to civil, with me, and walked out the door. He had a knee brace on and walked slowly down to the sidewalk to the parking lot. I don't know his home. I don't know his story. I don't know who his father was. I don't know how his children feel about their dad. But I know that just as I am a child of God, so is he. The same grace that has saved me has been offered to him. I know that I have done nothing to feel superior to him, to think that I am a better person than he is, to believe that I am more deserving of praise because I treat people differently than he does. God's forgiveness is an equalizer of men. 


I'm learning. Slowly, very slowly, through lessons in a tennis shop. Weird lessons. Strange convictions. But by God's grace, I am learning. 

November 13, 2012

William Memorial Route 66 Run

As the Williams Route 66 Marathon (www.route66marathon.com) sits just a few days away from me, my thoughts are swirling all over the place.
It's been two years since I ran this course.
Two years since my very first half marathon.
I was spoiled from that experience, it really doesn't get any better than Tulsa in November when it comes to street races.
The crowd is encouraging.
The scenery is beautiful.
And the bling? Well...let's just say that the Rt66Run has the best medals around.
Now that I am back in the area and currently injury free...I knew that it was time to run this half marathon again.
But as race day approaches...I'm asking myself a familiar question...

Why do I run?
I ask myself this question periodically. 
Sometimes I ask it on a short fast sprint when my lungs are gasping for oxygen and my muscles are longing for reprieve. 
Sometimes I ask myself the question towards the end of a long stretch of pavement, miles away from where I started and miles away from where I'll finish. 
Why do I run? 
The question has been asked in those moments when I'm looking for inspiration or motivation.
Moments when I am lacing up my shoes and have no desire to battle the elements. 
I ask myself that question as I push my body forward, fighting gravity, fighting my physical boundaries, fighting injuries, fighting wind...I ask myself that question as I fight for the run
I run because I need the fight. 
I need the struggle of the run.
I need to prove something to myself.
I run for sanity.
A long, hard day is best followed by a long, hard run.
I run because there is no feeling like comparing times from one year to the next and seeing how they have improved. 
I need to know that my body can be strong.
Knowing that I trained myself for a sport that I've never been naturally good at has taught me determination and perseverance. 
Running gave me the courage to know that I could do impossible things. 
I see so very literally how that has transferred onto the black and white pages of my life. 
Internships, college, jobs, even skydiving...I faced them with more courage because I already knew that I could do hard things.
When I run, there are so many things that I cannot control.
Wind.
Temperature.
Humidity.
I cannot control these factors, but I am learning how to work through them. 
And when I succeed?
When the sweat is dripping into my eyes and my muscles are burning?
When I have exhausted every fiber of my being?
I am satisfied. 
Satisfied in knowing that I have given it my all.
Satisfied in knowing that for today, it was enough.
Satisfied in knowing that I have faced the elements and adjusted my stride to match their force. 
Sometimes the elements win, but even then, I walk away desperate to learn how to persevere in the face of adversity. 
Why do I run?
I run because it is more than a physical activity and a quick way to burn calories. 
No, there is so much more to this sport than exercise. 

I run because I was created to run.


Follow my running journey through all of the challenges of injury and the encouragement of a team through these posts below...and stay tuned for my report of running the half at the Route 66 Marathon coming in just a few days!

http://thesebeautifulramblings.blogspot.com/2011/12/normal-0-false-false-false-en-us-ja-x.html

http://thesebeautifulramblings.blogspot.com/2011/02/payoff.html

http://thesebeautifulramblings.blogspot.com/2011/12/100-blog-posts-later-and-it-still-comes.html

http://thesebeautifulramblings.blogspot.com/2011/07/i-miss-running-outside-bring-me-autumn.html

http://thesebeautifulramblings.blogspot.com/2012/03/pounding-pavement.html

http://thesebeautifulramblings.blogspot.com/2011/11/raw-emotion.html

http://thesebeautifulramblings.blogspot.com/2011/11/xc-2011.html

http://thesebeautifulramblings.blogspot.com/2011/09/in-such-way.html



September 25, 2012

In A Moment

I wish I could tell you the moment that everything changed. 
The pivotal moment in my life when a million pieces fell into place and my world shifted.
Part of me thinks that it may have been the moment at Six Flags in 2010 when I accidentally enrolled myself into Southern Nazarene and the course of my college career changed.
Or maybe it was that moment in high school when I chose to graduate early, on that August afternoon I made a decision to work hard with vague dreams of doing an internship a year and a half later.
Maybe that pivotal moment was the day I came back from running, all sweaty and gross, and replied to a "Hey..." from a guy I didn't know, as I walked up my 2nd floor suite in Hills. I remember thinking after I said "hi" that, "I don't think I've ever talked to that guy before..."
Maybe I don't have just one pivotal moment. 
Maybe I have one hundred. 
Because somewhere in the course of the past 3 years especially, my life has taken so many unexpected directions.
I love looking back at them and seeing the surprises and the blessings of God's direction. 
If I had known that day at Six Flags that I was filling in an SNU application, I would have put it down and walked away...but God had a bigger picture. 
All I could see was the right then, right there. 
I didn't know that I would get an internship in Florida. 
I didn't know that my life would change dramatically and I would grow up in a hundred ways over the course of the next year. 
I didn't know just how much of a blessing coming to SNU would be for me. 
I didn't know that going to the library one ordinary night would completely change my life. 
I wish I could tell you the moment when everything changed...
but God has been changing my life in every moment of surrender, every moment of stubbornness, every moment of growth...
the "plans" that I have had have been replaced by things more tangible and more wonderful than any dreams that I have dreamed. 
Even in the struggles. 
Even in the fights. 
Even in the rough nights. 
There is a peace that passes all understanding when you are standing in the will of God. 
It's crazy. 
Absolutely crazy. 
But I am learning daily about the love. the patience, and the forgiveness of God. 
I wish I could tell you the exact moment when everything changed...
but it's so hard to limit God to one moment, when every moment in my life has been covered in the fingerprints of God.



September 18, 2012

Awakening To God's Voice

Four nights ago I was on the phone for an hour crying my eyes out.
Absolutely crying like I haven't cried in a long time. 
Wobbly voice, cannot breathe, heavy heart...crying.
I specifically said, "What am I even doing here?"

God answers, even when my questions aren't directed at Him.

God answers.

Friday afternoon I received an answer. Encouragement. Endurance.
And then tonight. Tonight, God showcased his faithfulness. 
There are circumstances, specific, hard, circumstances that shaped me into who I am today. 

So many words come to mind...so many images. 
Struggles.
Moving. 
Contentment.
Loneliness.
Finding a home and then having that home ripped out from under me. 
Specific moments in my life.
Detailed moments.
Moments when my faith was more solidified than any other moments in my life.

There are lessons that I have learned that have shaped me tremendously, but I never ever thought about the way that they could benefit other people. 
My circumstances were unique, my trials exclusive.

At least...that's what I thought.

And God is faithful.
Faithfully good at shaking up my perception. 
How selfish of me to believe that my trials were exclusive. 
They were given to me for a purpose, a purpose beyond myself.
My trials, even the old ones, the ones that are years old, are often placed in my life for reasons so much bigger than I can see. 
Like relating to someone whom without the situations I've been through, I wouldn't relate to at all. 
Having a heart to heart conversation with a girl who is living through what I've lived through.
The variables are a little different but the formula is the same. 
And God is faithful.

"What am I even doing here?"

This week, that was a much needed question for me.
It forced me to look myself in the mirror and be real. 
To search out the purpose of why I am where I am.
To listen closely to God.
He answered.
His faithfulness is continually on display.
There's a reason why my story is written the way that it is written, and there's a reason why my current chapter has me where it does. 
I will never see the end to all of the loose ends to my story.
We never do. 
But sometimes, God gives us glimpses of His purpose. 
In those moments, those life shaking moments...
everything makes sense. 

I cried out...

and my God answered. 




September 15, 2012

Twenty-Something Autumn Thoughts

Hands shaking, shivering, teeth chattering. 
Grey cloudy skies overhead. 
And pins and needles all up and down my leg from my foot falling asleep. 
The tennis club is cold this afternoon. So very chilly. Unless some unexpected people show up the club is mine today. If I were a good student I would begin to work on the pile of homework that needs finishing. 

But...if I were a bad student...

I would be blogging right now. 

Well lookee there, I appear to be a bad student. Oh well oh well. 
I'm cuddled up in an oversized jacket that I found in the back room of the office, contemplating 2012 and all of the things that have happened this year. 
Oh, and I'm switching between Jon McLaughlin's "Promises, Promises" album and Graham Colton's "Twentysomething". Want to know something cool? I know Graham Colton. He plays tennis here all the time. I only discovered last week that he's a bigger deal than I thought. And I like his music. A lot.
Anyway, point is: 2012. 
It's already September, which is such a crazy thought. 
One year ago I was saying "Last month at Disney World..." and "I don't think I'll ever get married..." 
Last September I was listening to Daughtry and reminiscing about walking through the Magic Kingdom.
Last September I was experiencing running injuries for the first time in my life, and for the first time in my life I discovered what it feels like to have a team supporting you every step of the way.
In the course of a year, there have been some God sized shake up's. 
I specifically remember thinking as I started college, "I just learned so much in Florida, I honestly can't even immagine what lessons I need to learn." 
I didn't mean that in a prideful way, but I really couldn't see how God was going to work in my life.
All I could see was my little portion of pie. 
In those moments at the beginning of last fall, I had climbed a mountain top and didn't know where the next peak or valley was. 
God takes those moments. 
Tenderly he takes them, if you let Him. 
He took my life and gave me friends and acquaintances that challenged me in my faith. Situations that encouraged growth. Challenges that demanded humility. Moments that needed patience. 
Right when I begin to reach those points when I say, "What else can you teach me, God?"
He sure shows up. 

Sidenote:
Something creepy just happened.
I started hearing noises likes someone tapping on a window and I didn't know where they were coming from. Let me stress this idea, it is totally empty in here.
So I just slid down behind the counter and began creeping around to see where the noises were coming from. 
It was, to my embarrassment, maintenance cleaning the windows outside. 
All in a day's work. 

This is one of those rambly blogs that I like to write every once in awhile. 
A mix of what God is doing in my life and what I'm doing at this current moment.
 Sometimes the two things line up, sometimes...not so much.

My thoughts today are almost anywhere but where I am. I keep jumping location to location in my head.
Thoughts of Hawaii are spurred on by the pictures my parents are sending me right now. Today's their last day on the Big Island for this trip. It's weird knowing that they're there right now without us. We have so many good memories from our Hawaii trips. But if I'm honest, I like having parents that have adventures, with or without their kids. I want to be like that.
Then I'm jumping in my thoughts to Joplin, where SNU XC raced this morning. Wishing with a hundred wishes that I could've cheered my team on this morning. 
But primarily, if I'm really going to be honest, I'm wishing I was curled up on my couch at home, next to a warm fire, sipping hot chocolate and reading a good book.
It's one of those days. 
One of those days that feels like fall is coming. 
Boot weather. 
Jacket weather. 
Writing weather.

Oh and hey, thanks for reading this blog, even when it's just thoughts. 
Because that's the best I can offer right now.
But I sincerely appreciate you.
Yes, you.
So thanks. 


this is where it all begins
i'm giving up on giving in now
i'm not afraid of where i've been
halfway between somewhere and nothing
woke up and i'm twenty something



August 31, 2012

Serve Somebody - But Who?

Who do you live for? 

I go to a Christian university. 
I live in the Bible belt. 
 I've lived outside of the Bible belt. 
I've lived as far from a Christian university as you can live, with 10,000 other college students.

Both worlds. 
Two very different college dynamics.
And the question keeps coming up...
"Who do you live for?"

Will you live for your family?
Your friends?
Will you live for your love?
The next paycheck?
Will you live for the responsibilities on your plate? 
Will you live for your dreams?
Will you live for you ambitions? 

In the past 2.5 years I have almost constantly been surrounded by college age students. 
This question infiltrates every group, every background, every major, every religion.
My peers are constantly answering it...and I'm watching.

I'm watching peers live for school work. 
Papers. 
Classes.
4.0 GPA's. 
I'm watching peers live for their sports. 
Seconds off a time. 
One more mile.
One more pass.
I'm watching peers live for their ambitions. 
Career goals. 
Money. 
Security.
I'm watching peers live for God. 
Reckless abandon to this world.
Service.
Forgiveness. 

Everyone, every heart beat on this planet, every lung filling up with air, every smile on every face...every piece of every person is here for a reason. 

So...
Who do you live for?
Why does your heart beat?
Why are your lungs filling with air?
Why do you smile or cry?
What is your passion?
What is your purpose?

I can't seem to find myself asking, "What do you live for?" Because regardless of your answer "money, fame, music, ect." all of those answers can be thrown into two categories. 

Yourself. 
or
God. 

So...who?

And it is so, so easy to live for yourself. 
"I need to do this..."
"I want this..."
"Me, my, I..." 
And it is so, so much harder to say,
"Not my will, but Thine."
"Your name be glorified."
"You are the author of my life."

I struggle.
I fight.
I want to write my own story. 
I have the best intentions. 
Service.
Availability. 
Compassion. 
But when left to my own designs, I fall short constantly. 
I stretch myself thin serving a million good causes and forgetting why I believe in them.
Because for me, it works like this: 

I love God, therefore, I want to serve people. 

Not:

I love people, therefore I want to serve God.

The first heart's desire will lead me down many paths of fulfillment in the will of God.
The second choice will ultimately turn people into my god and God into my excuse. 

I am weak. 
I am human. 
I am stretched thin.
But I love God.
And I want to serve Him.


This post may seem... staccato. 
Thoughts bouncing back and forth. 
But I have this pressing question on my mind, and these are my words. 
I am realizing every day how easy it is to live for yourself. 
Even when your intentions are good, if your actions do not follow, then your intentions are worthless.
I don't want to have worthless intentions.
I want to be intentional.
I want to live to serve God.

Deuteronomy 13:4

It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.



Malachi 3:18

18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.


Matthew 6:24

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.


1 Peter 4:11 

11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides,so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.



July 23, 2012

We Bought A Zoo

Never ever, ever ever ever, say never. Because there's just something about the word, "never" that invites all sorts of crazy things to happen. 

For instance, I've been known to say this: 

I'll never go to SNU. (Hey lookie there, I'm not just a student, I'm involved. Eek.)
I'll never like mushrooms. (They're starting to grow on me. Well, not literally grow on me, but I'm starting to like them.) 
I'll never be a business major. (International Studies/Business and a love for God's greater plan, anyone?)

Oh and then there are phrases closer to my heart...

I'll never get married during college. 
I don't even know if I'll get married. 
I want to travel the world. 
I want to have adventures. 

Sure, there are still some true statements there. 
I still want to travel the world. 
I'm still whole heartedly in the pursuit of adventures.

But...
never say never. 

Because sometimes, most often, there's something crazy that's going to happen. 
Like meeting a boy in a library. 
Introducing yourself with the phrase, "Hi, my name's Mandy. How do you want to die?"
Staying up till 2 am in the lobby talking. 
Thinking to yourself, "There's no way."
Telling your mom hours later, "Mom...I met a guy." And knowing that this was different. 

Never say never. 

Because sometimes that first initial meeting was just the tip of the iceberg. 
Sometimes a green light turns on and a friendship starts to happen. 
God gets involved, and actions speak louder than words. 
Smiles are suspended in the air as the question begins to spin around, "What if...?"
Then, before you know it, everything is confirmed and hearts are on the line. 

2-3 months. 6 weeks. Now: 3 months. 
I come from a family of short engagements and long marriages. 
I like that. 
I have examples of love. 
God blessed loves. 
57 years. 30 years. And the promise of however long we have together on this earth years. 

Engaged. 
During college. 
To a man who has snuck into my life and found a place in my heart. 
Sneaky. Sneaky. Sneaky. 
We're having adventures together. 
We're going to travel the world together. 
We're in the pursuit of God together. 
And I'm so very, incredibly, beyond stoked to tell you that I'm going to marry Blake. 

The news is out. 
I'm so thankful for all of the sweet and kind and exciting comments and phone calls that we've received. 
I said never, and I think God must've smiled a little. 
He knows His plans so much better than I have ever pretended to know them. 
And you know what I really like? 
God's plans are so good. 
So faithful. 

I am blessed beyond measure. 
Thankful.
Loved. 
Loving. 
Encouraged. 
Praising God. 
Smiling. 

Smiling a lot actually. I'm oh so very happy these days. 
So here's my quick update and a very sincere thank you to all of the kind comments we've received
We're so excited to see how God uses us together as a couple and to see what happens next.  :) 



1 John 3:18

Good News Translation (GNT)
18 My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.



July 13, 2012

Conviction - In the Pursuit of Jesus

Obsessed. 
Obsessed with so many things in life. 
It gets easy, doesn't it? 
Possessions easily take priority: shoes, clothes, cars, books...
Sometimes it's things we want, sometime they're things we need...but they catch our attention regardless.
Obsessed with relationships. 
He said/ she said. 
Heart breaks and heart triumphs. 
Sick kids, happy homecomings. 
Minute by minute updates. 
Mood swings. 
Obsessed with goals. 
Do enough, make enough, live enough, earn my keep. 
Obsessed with ambitions. 
There's always room for improvement. Always a better option. 

I'm caught in the stillness right now. 
The quiet moment where everything else fades away and God says, 
"Mandy, what if something crazy happened? How would it change your heart? 
"What now, God?"

Let's pause. 
Let me explain. 
Actually, I can't explain. 
But that's my response. 
"What now, God?"
Because I am learning so much this summer. 
There have already been so many quiet moments of trust. 
So many solid lessons. 
And yet, I need more? 
But I asked for God, and God is showing up. 
So yes, one more lesson. 
Always one more. 

Mandy, what if you were obsessed with Me? 

God, did I just hear you correctly? Would you like to run that by me again? 
Obsessed with You? Isn't that kind of...creepy? 

But in the stillness, in the quietness of this tennis club, on an empty Friday evening, the thought won't stop bouncing off of my head. Why shouldn't I be obsessed with God? 
Obsessed with the pursuit of Him. 

The word "obsessed" has bad associations that come along with it, at least for me. 
Old ladies with 80 cats in their houses. 
Men whose lives are spent working for a paper god that sits in an account without ever serving a selfless purpose. 
Teens who have completed every level of every new game. 
Athletes focused on shaving off seconds.
Academics in pursuit of a higher grade.
Obsessed reminds me of addictions, or collections, or time wasted in the pursuit of things that I either do not understand or do not relate to in my own life. 
But I have my own obsessions. 

Running. 
Travel. 
Adventures. 
Stories.
Education.
Impacting lives.
Music.
Relationships. 

I am as guilty as the next person for having my obsessions. 
And God is convicting me today. 
Because what if I were obsessed with my relationship with Him? 

That means every day, every hour, every minute, my heart and my mind were pursuing His? 
As I spend my time shooting off text messages and filling my heart with the words of friends and acquaintances, what if I spent an equal amount of time filling my heart with God's words? 
How would my life look different if I became obsessed with holiness? 
If I was not just passionate about Christ, but relentless about seeking His fingerprints all over my life? 
What if my faith were so desperate for Him that every minute, no matter who I was talking to or what I was doing, I thought, "Does this honor my pursuit for Christ?" 

And then, that leaves one more question. 
A simple one. 
What would your life look like if you were obsessed with God? 


July 7, 2012

Running Shoes - To The End of the World

The most enthusiastic parts of traveling are the anticipatory two weeks before and the story telling afterwards. 
But during the trip?
 Sometimes you forget that you're supposed to be enjoying every single breath...sometimes you just keep living your life so normally that you forget that you're supposed to be especially enjoying life's little moments on the road
Some of my readers may know what I mean by this...some of them may think that I've finally lost it and my ramblings really don't make sense anymore.
 It all depends on what type of traveler you are and how you react
But if you're like me, you like to live in the travel moments. You live for the stories afterwards. You live for the anticipation before hand. And you live for those out of the ordinary moments in the midst of your travels when you say, "That's why I'm here right now."
Moments like the sun setting behind the mountains
I love the limitlessness of the ocean horizon, I am a coastal girl to the core...that's where I taste and see the the Lord is good clearer than any other place in the world...but I can appreciate the mountains. 
The splendor of God. 
If the oceans seem untamed to me, if they showcase the wildness of the Creator of the universe, then the mountains always seem to display the fearlessness of God. 
The majesty.
 The splendor
When I am by the sea, I feel the rawness, the strength, the calmness, and the rolling tide of God's glory. When I stand beneath the shadow of a mountain, or stand on the top of its peak, I feel the insignificance of my life and I am amazed that the God who created such a world would love me so completely. That's why I love travel. I get to see God outside of my normal vision. 
I get to see Him clearer
Then there are moments when you travel and chipmunks are crawling over your empty hands, expecting food but being sorely disappointed. Little bitty creatures coated in cuteness. I want a chipmunk. Or a whistle pig. Those kind of moments make me happy too. 
Moments when you can't breathe because you're laughing so hard with your family. In my family, this happens frequently. 
We laugh a lot. 
We make jokes a lot (some of them we probably shouldn't...). 
We love a lot
We drive each other crazy, and even today my prayer was for a more patient heart, but when it all comes down to it, we forgive quickly too. 
Of course, I have my own moments when traveling that I share with God alone (and sometimes this blog) and those usually involve time spent on the road, with only rubber soles separating me from the earth. A hazy sun in the sky and sweat on my face. Muscles that feel the pull and stretch and pounding of movement. Lungs that are gasping for lower altitude air and struggling to be strengthened with less oxygen. The struggle of the run
 I leave the hotel door: run, pray, struggle, fight, pray, run: and then return to the hotel front door with the reminder that I am a runner.
 I am a fighter. 
I fight for each run. It doesn't come naturally. My body fights to move into a rhythm. My lungs fight for air. My soul fights for freedom. My best runs are runs that I fight for with my whole heart. My best runs are runs that leave me hungry for another run. When I run in someplace that I don't know, when I see God in someplace that I haven't seen him before....my heart soars. 
I am a hungry Christ follower. I long to dive deeper. To know God's heart, to do God's will. To love justice, walk humbly, and to do mercy. I am a "never quite content Christian". Never quite content with who I am, never quite okay if I find myself stagnate, never enough on my own but learning every day that Jesus is more than enough for me.
 That hunger in my heart is not misplaced.
 I was created with a hunger that pushes me beyond the lusts and desires of the world and forces me to grapple with the reality that this world is not enough
I was given a hunger for eternity, it was placed in my heart, and I will keep searching every coastal sunset and every view from the mountain top to catch the smallest glimpses of the eternity that awaits. 
Heaven is calling, but meanwhile, I travel...with purpose. 
With the purpose of Christ. 
With the calling of a Christ follower.
 My life is not my own. 
I've been feeling a renewed purpose this week. Old goals refreshed. Marathon dreams re-kindled. Other dreams forced to die. New priorities. New realities. A mix of good and bad. Bittersweet. But right
No doubts about it...right decisions are being made. Without regrets. I feel as though I am back on the right track. My heart is at peace. My shoes are laced tighter. And I am fighting for a race worth running. 
A calling bigger than me. 
I have been given an escape this week, which at times, feels very much just like normal living with a different view. But this escape to Colorado has also given me a chance to rekindle the fire in my soul. These moments of travel, moments of seeing God with new eyes, have refreshed my spirit. 
To the ends of the world, I will travel...
to my backdoor, I will go...
down the street...
across the globe...
running...
walking...
flying...
whatever it takes...
 to the ends of the world...
Here I am Lord, send me. 


July 3, 2012

Colorado Mini Vacay Awaits

Colorado bound. 
Hiking. 
Swimming. 
Running. 
Heat. 
Cool nights. 
A few days escape. 
Coming oh so quickly my way. 
This summer has been sweet over the past few days. 
Exploring submarines. 
Ice cream. 
Old stories. 
New memories. 
Planning. 
Loving. 
Colorado bound. 



June 19, 2012

Counting Blessings

Staying up late, past 2 am, to simply say...
I am blessed. 
Blessed by relationships. 
Blessed by promises. 
Blessed by actions. 

I am a sceptic of words. You can say a lot and never really mean anything and you can say very little and mean the world. 
But these days, I am being proved daily that sometimes words are followed up by actions. 
And in those crazy circumstances, when the words are the most powerful words you can say, the actions that follow have the power to change your life. 
Strong words. Good words. Actions that speak even louder. 

I am blessed by truthfulness. 
Trust. 
Love. 
Blessed by relationships that I do not deserve. 
Friends that forgive me daily. 
Parents that show me what love, holy and lasting love, looks like. 
A man that is leading me and changing my life in a hundred amazing ways. (And if you're reading this Blake..._ ____ ___!) 

Overwhelmed with blessings. 
Even when there are new decisions ahead of me.  
Surrounded by encouragement and support. 
Blessed by friends and family that go beyond the words and live out their love. 
They're worth staying up past 2am to write about. 
I am so very thankful tonight...so very blessed beyond anything I could have ever imagined.