December 9, 2013

Commitment - My Marriage Promise

I choose love.

Not emotions.
Not feel good vibes.
Not temporary.


I choose love.

I choose hard.
I choose doing something when I don't want to do it.
I choose committing to something beyond my imagination.
I choose choosing to stay with someone no matter what.

I choose love.

I choose abandoning the idea of abandonment.
I choose forever.
I choose good days.
I choose bad days.
I choose all the in between days.

I refuse to believe that love is temporary.
I whole heartedly agree that emotions are temporarily.
But I refuse to mix love and emotions into the same bag.

I choose to acknowledge that love is a choice.
It is a decision.
And I will honor my word.
I will honor my decision.

I like the emotions that come with affection.
But I will not confuse them for the choice of love.
Because I have chosen love.
And it may be difficult.
But I will continue to choose it every day, every moment, every second.

November 1, 2013

Finding Restoration

This blog tough for me. I decided months ago that this is something I would not write about. It was too...personal. 

Things have changed though. Rather, God is softening my heart. And the words come...rough and fragmented as they may be. 

The six months I lived in Orlando come up in my conversations often. I beat the subject to death at times simply because I love talking about that time in my life. I learned so much, I felt so many emotions, I made so many friends...but underneath all of that is one big faith was never so tested and never before had it felt so real. At times, often, I felt as though I stood completely alone in the midst of thousands of cast members who laughed at what I believed. Yet every time I reached out in desperateness, I have a matching story of the crazy visible ways that God provided in my life, and one of the biggest blessings in my life was my church.

The story of how I even walked into my church's doors is an incredible story in itself. From the very first moment within those doors, I felt like I was truly home. Whenever my parents visited me they always loved going to church, and when they were gone they would watch the sermons online. Somehow, in a crazy way, I became part of a church that was huge, but it engulfed me into the body of Christ. I was incredibly thirsty for spiritual depth, and it was there that I began to feel like my thirst was being quenched. They upheld me and encouraged me in the midst of extreme trials, tangibly displaying the love of Christ. It became home. 

For our honeymoon, I was incredibly excited to get to take Blake through those church doors. We had one Sunday in Orlando, and I would have rather forgone half a day at Disney then miss a chance to finally be home again. And yet, when our honeymoon came around, I did not walk in those doors. Blake didn't ask, because he knew, he knew I couldn't. Not yet.  

A few days before the wedding my dad came upstairs and asked if I subscribed to the church's newsletters. "Nope." He sat down on the bed, I was on the floor working on something. "It's about the pastor." "Oh yeah? What's he up to these days?" 

"It's not good Manda." 

Sometimes your heros let you down. A few days before our wedding, the church released a very well said letter, announcing the resignation of their lead pastor. A global shaker, a good man, a husband and a father...a pastor. An affair that he had had several year prior had been recently revealed to the church elders, and he was no longer the lead pastor. They seemed to be addressing the situation in an incredibly Christ-like manner, but the pain was evident in their written words.

It's funny really, how sin works. If you know me, I'm known to say that "sin is fluid". A man whom I had never actually talked to in person, but I considered a spiritual leader in my life, had failed in the utmost of ways. Sin, in all its evilness, does not alienate failure. Sin trickles down, painful to all that it touches, into the lives of people so distanced from the original sin that it seems impossible. Somehow, sin trickled down into the life of a girl in Oklahoma, who only lived in Florida for a few months, but a few days before her wedding, the fluidity of sin seeped in. 

I couldn't take Blake to church while we were in Orlando. I didn't know how to walk through the doors when I felt so hurt and betrayed. As we had just stood in front of God and man, vowing our commitments to a union that will last until death does us part, the word "affair" seemed especially harsh and cold. My emotions were rampart. My respect shattered. I kept asking myself, "Was it all a joke? Those six months? Do I even have the gall to say that God was at work then, because it seems like it was all a sham!" I was angry. 

Emotions are strange and it takes time to process them. Blake understood. He's been here before. He knows the stages of anger, grief, acceptance. But now, several months later, there is more to the story. There are some answers to my questions. You see, the actions of one man do not invalidate God's actions. God works through people, even in their sin, and He has used that church to change lives. I cannot ignore this fact. I cannot ignore my own knowledge that my life was changed because of that church. 

You see, if sin trickles into many lives, there is a bigger lesson to be seen, and it is this: grace overwhelms a multitude of lives. Where sin stings, grace overcomes. Where sin burdens, grace upholds. When we fail, and by golly we will fail, grace meets us at that desperate place. There are consequences to sin. There is often unspeakable pain associated with our failures, but our stories do not have to end there. 

I have been trying to find the words to write for several months now. And as I have watched my husband, an amazing man who is seeking God every day, I see how grace works. He's seen pain first hand, but he is not bitter. He's had sin rip apart his world because of the actions of other people, but he still loves and extends forgiveness. Blake has showed me, not through his words, but through his actions, that while sin is fluid, God doesn't let the story end there if you let Him work in your life. Because of Blake, I have wanted to see the bigger picture. 

God is not afraid to operate in the midst of brokenness. It's what he does, actually. He takes brokenness and restores it to something beautiful.

I don't know the answers to the "why" question, but I do know this: 

Grace abounds whereas sin limits. Infidelity is one of the things I hate the most in this world, because I have very few people in my life who have not been touched by it in one way or another. Friends. Family. My husband. Blessed by a godly family, I have struggled to understand the how's and the why's. And I give up. I will never understand them. 

All I know is this: the heart is deceitful and God redeems. 

While our sin is fluid, God makes beautiful things out of the messiness that we create. Our actions may touch a million people...but I am fully convinced that the story doesn't end there. As Christians, we must be vocal about the power of forgiveness. I sometimes feel as though it's easy to preach forgiveness when all we have to say is, "Please forgive me." But in my life, when things get messy, it becomes much harder to say, "I forgive you." 

I forgive you for the hurt that you have caused in my life. 
I forgive you for the pain that you have caused in the lives of countless others. 
I forgive you for the harm you have caused for people's faith. 
I forgive you for the damage you have done to the name of the church. 
I forgive you for failing to meet my expectations. 
I forgive you for not being the leader I needed. 
I forgive you for being...human. 

Those words are much harder for me to type then any other words I have ever written, because they are raw. This kind of forgiveness seems impossible to me, but God is at work in my life asking me, no, telling me, that I have to be able to extend complete forgiveness in order to be forgiven. 

I have to be able to say, "I forgive you for being a complete failure in my eyes." if I am ever to accept the forgiveness that God has given me for being a complete failure in His eyes. 

You see, we all failed Him. We all have sinned. And he redeemed our sin. He extended enough grace to cover us a million times over. 

So I will stutter. 

I will spit the words out. 

I will offer halted prayers. 

I will cry bitter tears. 

But by God, if it kills me, I will learn what it means to forgive. 

To the ends of the earth, I will fight for forgiveness. 

I will keep crying bitter tears until they turn sweet. 

I will keep offering halted prayers until they flow smoothly. 

I will spit the words out until they sound like honey. 

I will stutter until I can sing. 

Seek God while he’s here to be found,
    pray to him while he’s close at hand.
Let the wicked abandon their way of life

    and the evil their way of thinking.

Let them come back to God, who is merciful,
    come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.

Isaiah 55:6-7

September 8, 2013

A Sick Husband and A Grateful Wife

I have a sick husband this weekend. His flu turned into pneumonia and the medicine is taking far too long (in my humble opinion) to get to work. A few weeks ago, Blake took care of me for a week in the midst of a pretty bad cold, and now the tables have turned.

His fever has consistently been over 100 and the poor guy is trying to be a good sport, but he's just not feeling great. As I sit here on the couch, while he's asleep on the other end, I keep looking at his twitching nose and smiling. I didn't know that the flu/pneumonia makes your nose twitch, but if Blake is any sort of reference, then flu nose twitching must be a serious problem.

Every day that I get to hold the hand of this nose twitching husband of mine is such an amazing day in my life. I'm not mushy. I'm not sappy. I've never been a die hard romantic. But Blake, Blake is teaching me what love looks like.

Love sometimes looks like doing a lot of dishes.
Love is kind.
Love doesn't mind taking care of a sick spouse.

Blake is expanding my heart. My sleepy husband, running his 102 degree fever, apologizing for being an inconvenience...the same man who eats a lot of food and leaves little hairs all over the sink after he shaves...he's teaching me what love looks like a little more every day.

Twitchy nose or not, I am one lucky girl to get to hold his hand.

August 27, 2013

Life and Nostalgia As A 20-something

Christopher Robin and I walked along

Under branches lit up by the moon
Posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore
As our days disappeared all too soon

We all have our little things that make us feel nostalgic inside. My list includes the song "Little Miss Magic", worn out Disney t-shirts, the smell of cinnamon, and deep cleaning the house on Saturday mornings with the "Promise Keepers" soundtrack blasting out of the stereo. Except, the "stereo" is really Spotify on my computer because the last CD I bought was Hilary Duff's "Metamorphosis". 

Being newly married, setting up our sweet little apartment, and cooking homemade food all the time has stirred up a bunch of nostalgic feeling within me. Maybe it's because I can finally picture what my parent's must have been like when they were twenty-something year olds with a few pennies to their names. Or maybe it's because I know that someday I'll be telling our kids about our ramen noodle days when we complained about wanting jobs that actually made a difference in the world, the days when we came home late and then watched movies till the wee hours of the night. Someday I'll tell my kids about being so sick for the first time in a long time...and how every time I would wake Blake up because I was coughing he would just hug me instead of complain. Someday I'll make snickerdoodle cookies and smile because it reminds me of a rainy day in Ms. Lehman's second grade classroom when somebody's mom made them for a birthday. Funny the things you remember. 

I started my senior year of college last week. Two years ago I was walking in as a freshman straight off the Disney streets. Last Wednesday I walked in with a sore throat and a stuffy head. The allure of college is fleeting when you're sick. Yet, the allure of knowledge remains and my friends are encouraging. Just a few more steps and my quick sprint through this university will be over. 

Perhaps it's the smell of new pencils and unopened textbooks 
that makes me feel so nostalgic. Perhaps.

August 4, 2013

The Magic We Made - Life After Disney

I should stop writing about Disney. 
I bet half of my readers just shut the page groaning, "Not another Disney post." 
But if you're still with me, I promise I won't ramble on and on like I usually do. 
I simply want to say, as if it adds significance to the words by saying them out loud, 
"I left Florida two years ago today." 
Time flies when life moves forward. 
That's it, y'all. 

July 26, 2013

Finding God in Simple Prayers

God is really cool, you know? 
The past few weeks have felt so...desperately real. 
I have two (more like three) jobs this summer. 
The job I like the best gives me a thirty minute drive to think about life before I clock in and after I clock out. 
It also gives me a lot of time to talk to God on the golf course. As I drive around all day, I have a lot of time to enjoy the beautiful summer days, the green grass, and the vast expanse of sky. 
The only problem is that I like to pray out loud so sometimes I drive by golfers who think I'm crazy. 
C'est la vie. 
Last week, after a busy day at work where my thoughts had been nowhere near prayers...I finally clocked out.
 I was driving home through traffic and as I looked around at the cars zipping in and out of lanes, everyone going somewhere fast, I was completely caught off guard by a surprising thought. 
I imagined God observing all of us, knowing each of us in our little cars by our names, knowing our struggles, our joys, and every hair upon our heads. As I drove, I had the sweetest image of God looking down and watching us...just...waiting? Waiting for a hello. So with joy in my spirit, driving home by myself, I found myself saying, "Hi God!" And that was it. Just a "hi". I pray driving all the time, but this was different. Because I had this great image of God zooming in, saying "hi" back to me, just so happy that while he was loving on us, someone said hello to him. 
In that moment, the realness and the tangibleness of God's presence was so completely strong. I have found myself saying "hi" a lot this week. Instead of my prayers sounding like a lot of requests, I have felt them shift more towards conversations. Sweet, tender conversations. 
God is many things that I do not understand. He is deep. He is wide. He hold the oceans in the palm of his hand. And he says "hi" back in those quiet moments. 
Real and personable. Building a relationship. 
God is really cool, you know? 

June 16, 2013

Marriage Blends Worlds

“Perfect speed.”

Blake’s lips part, a wisp of a smile shows through. His eyes are distant, looking past me into the crowd of people standing around the hole. They are silent, waiting for his next move. Up and down, he scans the distance, the slope, and the putter in his hand.

“Perfect speed.”

Whispered words, quiet instructions, one last thought before the final moment. Standing, one glance at the target, he straightens his back. Focusing in on his breaths, in and out, one and two, strike. Gently, the ball rolls down the slope. A slight turn to the left, and then, the smallest, most beautiful noise, the quiet “clink” of a perfect shot.

Eagle. The crowd claps. And Blake grins.

For a good portion of my life, and by good, I mean, 80% of it, I never knew that an eagle was anything more then a majestic bird. Golf was a sport that old men played and Tiger Woods dominated. It is the irony of ironies that I now find myself daily starring into the eyes of a man who reminisces of glory shots and replays perfect putts in his head. It’s not unusual for me to walk into the living room and see him standing there, swinging a club (whether it be a real club or an invisible one) back and forth. When I go run at Lake Hefner I can usually talk Blake into practicing while I run. Of course, I usually end up sitting on the grass for a solid amount of time after my run waiting for him to finish going through his drills. And for the record, I can run for a pretty long time.

There is something to be said in not just finding your true passions in life, but in acting upon them. I know so many people who say, “I am passionate about XYZ…”  and yet, I never see them pursuing those things. It is so easy to get stuck in the rut of “getting by” that we forget to pursue. Seeing Blake’s eyes light on fire when he talks about all the golf things that I really don’t have any interest in is often compelling enough to make me want to know more. How that works, I have no idea. You don’t run across passion everyday. When that passion is mixed with talent and hard work, sometimes you get to see amazing things and you can’t even begin to say how proud you are for what has been accomplished.

My passions are less tangible. I can’t pick up a golf club and swing away. Even running, something that I love completely is not my passion.  My heart beats for travel and my passion is in knowing other cultures, other people, and connecting the dots of humanity. Words can’t begin to cover the amount of love I have for what happens inside of a person when they expand their horizons. This call on my life led me to an early high school graduation, an internship with a company that let me shake hands with the world every day, and the pursuit of an International Studies/Business degree. My love for travel and for people has pushed me to graduate college in three years instead of four with the hopes of continuing on with a master’s degree in International Business. My pursuit of travel will take me and Blake to a foreign country next spring, and the world thereafter. My eyes light up when I think about what is to come.

And yet, this summer finds me surrounded by golf courses. On Monday-Wednesdays I work at a public golf course, driving the cart around selling drinks all day long. Thursdays- Sundays I am back in the tennis shop, with its floor to ceiling windows overlooking the country club’s golf course. I am beginning to understand the love of the course. The greens. The perfect sound of a club hitting a ball. It’s quiet. It’s intense. It’s frustrating. It’s…passionate. And slowly but surely, I am watching Blake’s eyes light up as we make our travel plans and talk about the places that we will go and the things that we will do. Two worlds blending into one.

“Perfect speed.”

Quietly, we whisper these words. The shot is lined up. The target is before us. We’ve been working hard to get here. Our hearts are filled with fire for the pursuit; we are steady handed and yet still nervous.

“Perfect speed.”

Quietly, we are straightening our backs. Standing up. Focusing in on the target. The world awaits. In and out, one and two, our breaths are long and slow. Looking ahead, lining up the shot…we cannot help but grin. 

June 15, 2013

Thoughts From a Newly Wedded Wife

I laughed during our wedding kiss.

Is that a confession? Highly possible.

I laughed at the look on Blake’s face two seconds before he kissed me. There is a great picture of that moment.

It was his little tilt of the head and the “Finally!” expression on his face.

Full out Mandy giggle spree.

First kiss as husband and wife = mouth open laughter/trying to kiss/complete happiness. Blake says that the kiss was perfect, I say that I was laughing too much and I don’t even remember it too well.

There is a little bit of complete and utter amazement to be writing this as a one-month married woman. 4 weeks ago we said our vows and took an oath that is summed up in the words, “Until death do us part.”

If I could sum up the past month in any sort of way, all I can say is that it gets better every day. There are those moments when I think to myself (okay fine, and I tell Blake too), that I'm living with a messy boy and that there is toothpaste in the shower (gross) that I did not put there... but even in those icky moments, it's still really nice to not have to say goodnight and walk away from my best friend every night.

We're trying to develop habits to last a lifetime. Praying together. If you cook, then I clean. Not going to bed angry. Little things. Big things. 

I hardly have the experience or the right to say anything about marriage yet. After all, we are still supposedly in the honeymoon stage. And yet, I am so excited for the lessons to be learned and the things that we will work through in the future. We're in this for the long haul, obviously. We have words that aren't in our vocabulary. We have all the tools before us to create a thriving marriage. And we want that more then anything. 

So here's to a great first month of marriage. Tonight, we're testing out our new little George Foreman grill and making hamburgers. This might sound normal to you...but hey, we're excited! It's the little things guys, the little things. 

As soon as I close up the tennis shop (only 27 minutes until I can lock the door), I'm getting out of here and grabbing a movie to turn on later. A normal sort of night, happy and chill, celebrating one month down and a lifetime to go. 

April 15, 2013

Love and Equality

I believe in love.
I believe that I was given love that I never deserved and could never earn by any works of my own.
I believe in giving love.
It doesn't matter who you are, what you believe, or what you stand for...because I have been loved freely I am called to love. 
I also believe in heartbreak.
I know that the people whom I have loved more then anyone else in the world are often the people who are able to hurt my heart extensively.
The friends, the family, whom I love, the people that I would die for, often make choices that, in the heart of my hearts, I cannot support.
I live in a world that condemns me for standing up for what I believe in because it is not the popular thing to believe in.
I live in a world that shouts "freedom!" but only as long as my freedom of speech agrees with their opinions.
I live in a world that does not agree with me when I say that I believe in right and I believe in wrong.
I believe in love, but I am ostracized because I do not believe in the type of the love that is "politically correct".
Boldly, I say it, I do not believe in "politically correct" love.
I believe in a love that is unequaled to any emotion.
I believe in a love that people spit upon.
Love that was mocked.
Love that was unrequited.
I believe in love that was lonely.
I believe in love that was betrayed.
I believe in love that was born into the world different.
Love that always knew that it was set apart from everything else.
I believe in love that society did not understand.
I believe in love that associated with the outcasts, the lowlifes, the sinners.
I believe in love that was not afraid to identity people for who they are, not afraid to say, "She is a prostitute." Or "He is a greedy thief." And yet, the love the I believe in is gracious and generous and has never stopped pouring into the lives of the "lowly".
I believe in a love that hung on a cross for a world that did not, a world that does not, recognize love for what it is.
I believe in a selfless love.
A holy love.
I do not believe in manipulation.
I will not allow emotions to control my thoughts and let the rhetoric of "free speech" induce guilt and shake my resolve.
I am saddened by the ignorance of my generation. My beautiful, proud, adventurous generations.
My peers and my friends.
I am saddened to see thousands of people who do not know how to disagree.
Who cannot see that love and equality are not the same thing.
Love is unequal in every sense of the word.
When you love someone, you place your heart at their mercy. You sacrifice yourself for them. You give everything you have and expect nothing in return. Love is unequal.
Equality and freedom ring true. They are building blocks. They are patriotic. They are the core of the political system that this nation was founded on.
But I cannot begin a conversation with the words "love and equality" because that is an equation that will never add up.
For as long as I have been loved, I have been loved so wholly and so completely, and I have struggled to love the little portion that I do, that I cannot honestly say that the love I give is even near the amount of love that I have been given.
Love does not equal equality.
No, love humbles us to the lowest state that we know and asks us, "How will you love people as I have loved them?"
And I am reminded...
The love the I believe in was spat upon.
It was rejected.
It was believed to be foolish.
It was mocked.
The love that has changed my life, the love that I place my faith on...
It was crucified.

April 9, 2013

My Heart Just Isn't That Into Marathon Training

All week long I have been planning to blog. All week long, I have had some great ideas in my head for the words that I wanted to write.

And yet, in the realness of this moment, there is very little to be said.
In the raw emotion of new news, waiting, and frustration, I am silenced.
Last night I read a verse, or a portion of a verse, from Matthew 28:5,
"Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus..."
The passage continues, but I couldn't get past that first sentence.
My heart trembles at the power of those words.
I am looking for Jesus right now.

For those of you who know me pretty well, you know that I've been training for the full marathon for the past 5 months or so. My "short" runs have the tendency to be 10 miles long.
Hours upon hours of time spent pounding pavement.
Hundreds of miles covered by my feet.
I am 100% invested in this marathon.
When I have struggled to find motivation to keep on going...the one thing that has pushed me further was the thought,
"How do you want to feel when you stand at the starting line on April 28?"
My constant answer?
I want to feel prepared.

Two months ago, on the longest of my long runs, I began to feel a little bit of tightness in the left side of my chest.
I am the queen of thinking, "It's not a big deal."
Just ask me how long I went with torn hip flexor muscles before I was finally convinced that I needed to take a REAL break.
 6 months guys.
 Call me stubborn.
Over spring break I noticed that I couldn't even run 3 miles without some intense pain in my chest...but I chalked it up to a humid climate.
My dad encouraged me to go to the doctor before the marathon.
This past weekend, in the midst of a long run, I reached a point when I got really scared because it was worse then I had ever experienced.

Last summer I had to have some testing done because of a heart murmur that they found. 
Last summer, I remember throwing up my hands and saying, "God, you've got this. Whatever is going on in there, I gave my heart to you. So I guess I meant it physically too."
And it turned out to be nothing worrisome at all.
God is faithful in the midst of our fears.

I made an appointment with my doctor on Monday and they got me in today.
Next Wednesday I'll go to a cardiologist.
Meanwhile, while we figure out what is going on...I've been given pretty strict instructions,
"You can run, but as soon as you feel pain around your heart, you have to stop."
20 years old and they take you seriously, I guess.

19 days away from running my first full marathon and I was just told to stop.
I'm pretty dumb sometimes, I keep running when I shouldn't.
Joints and muscles,'s whatever.
But my heart?
I get it.
It's a little bit more serious.
I have to take these instructions more seriously.
I am ultimately bummed right now.
And most definitely, unprepared.
This week is crucial to my training.
While I am confident that my body could finish a marathon, I am not confident in the pain that my heart is feeling.
Despite whatever pre-race jitters I have had, I want to run this race with everything inside of me. 
And now...the real whiny Mandy comes out. 
High pitched voice, complaining, "But I WANT to." 
Complete with a perfectly pouting face. 

I won't be stupid with this. The fact that I feel like my heart is being squeezed tight is a reminder that this is real and this is an issue. 
But fear? 
Most definitely not. 
"Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus.." 
I've been looking for Jesus out on the marathon course. 
I've been learning a lot of lessons over the past few months about perseverance.
 Lessons about commitment.
  Lessons about being steadfast. 
I don't know what the point of this lesson is going to be and I'm still hoping that I'll get my chance to figure it out on the elusive 26.2 mile long course...
...but if not, it will be okay. 
I'm not afraid, I'm looking for Jesus right now. 

April 8, 2013

A Hawaiian Perspective - Thoughts From Kaua'i

You know your life has completely changed when you have a free moment to reflect and you realize that you see the world with different lenses then you have ever worn before.
I've been to Hawaii on a few occasions and I've stayed in Princeville for at least portions of three different trips. 15, 17, and now 20 years old. The first trip over to Kauai came right before a dramatic move and some major life changes in our family. The second trip came as I wrapped up my shortened senior year of high school and left home early to pursue my Disney internship. The third trip to the garden isle comes as one last "just us 4" family vacation before I have a permanent plus one. Three different trips and three very different lenses on life. Naive and excited turned to jaded and guarded...and now, jaded has turned into something new for me. The current lens that my eyes wear is softer in general, allowing people to make mistakes, allowing the healing grace of restoration, a lens that accepts imperfections and chooses to love regardless of the messiness of love.
As we drive around beautiful kauai, my thoughts are so clearly able to compare who I was with who I am now. Having someone in my life who has chosen to love me despite my imperfections, despite my impulsiveness, despite my silence when I am mad...having someone who is not family, not "required" to show grace, someone who has chosen to make a commitment to me for selfless reasons, it's changed my whole view on the world. Three or five years ago I had no idea that I would ever get to experience love like this. Young, yes, new, yes, lacking the experience of years upon years, well sure, but love nonetheless. A choice. A new perspective. A lens that I never thought that I would wear.
Where once I saw my future as a nomad lifestyle where the only thing I had to care about was myself, now I see that making selfless choices for someone else is so much more fulfilling.
Where I used to imagine a life with no strings to tie me down, now I understand my dad's statement to me years ago, "home is wherever your mom is." I didn't "get it" at the time. Only now, I understand. Home is where Blake is, wherever that may be. I used to drive around this island imagining all the adventures yet to I get to imagine all the adventures that I'll never have to experience alone.
Life is so much more fun with Blake on it... And life has always been pretty fun anyways!
My lens is so different then it ever had been before. I am beginning to understand how easy it is to be selfish when you are alone and how worthwhile it is to be selfless. I am beginning to see that there is so much more to life then pursuing what I want to do instead of pursing what God wants me to do. It's easy for me to draw back into myself, into my wants and my's so easy to be selfish. Yet, somehow, as I wear this new lens and look at the world a little differently, I am so desiring to be selfless. To love as selflessly as I have been loved. To give grace with abandon. To spread joy in every moment. In the tricky, sticky, icky moments of say without hesitation, "God is good." I am seeing it more and more every day. All it took was a little perspective, some inspiration, and a familiar drive through the Garden Isle.

February 18, 2013

Praying For Our Marriage

By all rights, we don't make sense.
Three months of dating and we were engaged.
Only a small time before that we were shaking hands and making introductions.
A junior, a freshman.
By all rights, engagement should have been a far off thought.

By all rights, we shouldn't be planning a wedding.
I have one year of school left.
He has to put his plans on hold because we'll only live in Oklahoma until next January.
By all rights, studying abroad should be a solo activity.
But no, we'll go together.
By all rights, we shouldn't be doing the things that we're doing.

By all rights, we should break up, get together again, break up, and repeat.
Instead of choosing the path of commitment that we have chosen.
We don't want to build the habit of believing that breaking up is ever a solution the way that so many couples do.
So we work through the challenges.
The daunting challenges of money and family dynamics.
By all rights, we should just give up.

It's a good thing that common sense is not always the right thing to do.
It's a good thing that love goes beyond emotions.
It's a good thing that we live by faith, and not by sight. 

I am getting so excited for this ceremony that will happen in 89 days.
So excited and filled with prayers for that special day.
Filled with prayers for the habits that we're establishing.
Prayers for our actions, our attitudes, and our ability to grow. 
What a responsibility. 
What a privilege to share my life with someone else.

So here's me taking a step of faith and asking you to take one with me.
Whoever you are, wherever you're reading this...
whether you're in a Starbucks or your room...
remember Blake and I in your prayers?
We covet them and feel them as our friends and family help us prepare for marriage.
Our faith is our priority, and we believe in the power of prayer.
I was given some solid advice recently by a married woman.
She told me, 
"Your marriage will encounter every pitfall that the devil can throw at you. So pray. Day and night. In the hard times and especially in the good times. Pray for protection over your marriage. Pray for integrity. Pray for humility. Pray for wisdom. Pray without ceasing. And ask people to pray for you, even when everything is going good."
So I ask you to join me in the power of prayer. 
That's my humble request, dear blog reader.
And if I am ever in a situation where I can return the favor to you, please let me know.
Because I firmly believe in the power of prayer. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The Message (MSG)
Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.

February 16, 2013

Lent - In The Quietness

40 days of quietness. 
40 days of prayer. 
40 days of commitment.
 God is ever so faithful.
 I claim that phrase over and over again and it never fails. God is so faithful. As the season of Lent begins I am convicted into quietness this season. A time to reflect. A time to seek. A time to be still and rediscover the He is God. That is where I am being found right now. Somewhere in between hearing the call, "Come and be still with me..." and running with abandon to a place of peace. I am in the place where I want to come away and be still, but I am still held onto by so many "noisy" things. This season of Lent is going to be my attempt to "come away", to be still, to know that he is God. 
And God is faithful. His promises are true. He does not abandon us. These promises give me a confidence in the peace of Christ that surpasses our understanding. The answers that you hear when you are silent. The joy of giving up having the "right answers" and allowing God to answer for you. 
I want to be reckless for Christ. I want to live a life of pursuit. I am daily being reminded that the road I am choosing will become difficult, but there is no other road I would rather take. There is no way that I could ever settle for serving God less than with all of my heart. 
God is ever so faithful.
Again and again, I claim that truth.