Monday, December 20, 2010

Friends

I am constantly reminded of just how thankful I am for the friends that I have. Those that you surround yourself with in many ways shape and at times define you. Are you surrounding yourself with people who share only similar values or who share no similar values with you whatsoever? I would argue that both are wrong.

As Christians, it is really important that we surround ourselves with a core of people who share similar values. Just as Proverbs 27:17 states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (NIV). We can challenge and encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11). We can share successes and failures. We can pray together (Acts 1:14). We can have accountability (Gal. 6:1-2) and fellowship (Acts 2:42). We can help one another up when we fall (Ecc. 4:9-12). We can work together to be even more effective in advancing the kingdom of God. You will spend a lot of time with these people, so choose wisely.

Of course, we also want to have friends that do not share the same values. These friends also help to challenge us in different ways. They help challenge Christians to be able to defend their faith and their stances on certain issues. They encourage believers in Christ to be able to support their beliefs (1 Peter 3:15). They also help to remind us that there are those who do not share the same faith. In our interactions, we can learn how to better share the gospel.

Looking back, I can see how both sets of friends have influenced me greatly. If it were not for strong Christian friends in middle and high school, however, I would no doubt have a completely different life now. Even to this day, there are times when I become discouraged or begin to take my relationship with Christ for granted. It is during these times that I often forget (or maybe I am just too prideful) to ask friends to help me carry this burden by praying that I can renew the joy of my salvation (Ps. 51:12). The JOY of my salvation. Take a minute to reflect on that statement. Joy is something that is provided to us by God. God’s salvation brings us an eternal joy that can never be taken away! When we are at our lowest, when everything else has seemingly been taken away, our joy can never be stripped from us unless we choose to give it up! Joy came in the form of a baby over 2000 years ago (Luke 2:10) and is made complete by our commitment to follow Christ (John 15:11).

We have such an exciting and relevant message to share! Why are we all too often comfortable sitting back in our chair at church once a week, listening and nodding along to a well-spoken sermon, and leaving feeling better about ourselves? When does the power of the gospel take hold of our lives and make radical changes that only leave others wondering how they can have a part of that? Do we take the time to encourage those around us to live in such a way? Do we, being our normal, prideful selves, simply refuse to admit that we have struggles and take the risk of asking for help from others when it comes to spiritual matters, excusing it by saying “Oh, I just don’t want to bother him or her with this. I can handle it on my own.”? We need each other. Most of all, we need God. But, we need each other as well.

Accountability is so crucial. I know that I have certain friends that I can go to who will without a doubt pray for any need that I share with them. I have friends that I know will give me wise advice when I am most in need of direction. I have friends that will encourage me in my walk with Christ when I feel the most down. I even have particular friends I go to when I want to rejoice over some way that the Lord has blessed me. I’m still searching for the one that will point out my faults in a gentle way and push me to grow in these areas (or perhaps I have found many and have just been too prideful to accept their admonishment). You will most likely fail to find every attribute in one person, but each person has a unique gift.

Encourage someone today. Take some time to reflect on the wonderful friends that God has blessed you with and the role(s) they play in your life. If you do not have someone to help hold you accountable in every area of your life, pray for and seek them out. They do not always just come to you. Remember, it’s ok if you cannot do everything on your own. God gives us every resource we need, including friends, to help us succeed in the things he has called us to do.

Jess

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Melting Snowmen

Last weekend I got to make homemade cookies to use as gifts for Christmas! I must say that they were the coolest cookies (or baked good for that matter) that I have ever made! The original idea was not mine, but after I baked them, Z and I had fun making the designs our own! We made “melted snowmen” cookies and snow globe cookies. Here are some examples of the ones we made:

Barely Hanging On

Mr. and Mrs. Melting Snowman
Donald Trump, perhaps?
Snow Globe (complete with edible glitter!)
My personal favorite: Tim Tebow!
Another shot of Tebow (thanks to Z!)
Snowball fight! You can tell who is losing this fight!
I can't figure out if they're singing or scared...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gifts and Giving

Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year! Of course, every day is God-given and should therefore not be taken for granted, but those few weeks before Christmas almost seem magical (and I’m not really one for fantasizing and daydreaming).

I do NOT enjoy the commercialization that comes along with Christmas, but that is not what this blog is about. This blog is about gifts.

I love walking through the stores and watching people as they search for that perfect gift. You have the man that walks in hurriedly from the cold and walks down an aisle on a mission. Once he gets to the section he is looking for, however, he stands and stares at the shelf, presumably at the many options available to him, and searches for that perfect option for his loved one. Unsatisfied with the twenty options available to him, he leaves. On to the next store. Then you have the woman who walks leisurely up and down each aisle. She may choose a couple options of one item and walk through the entire store trying to make up her mind. She may decide to purchase one over the other, or she may just purchase both with the intentions of returning the one she decides not to gift. Either way, they are looking for that perfect gift. And what makes that perfect gift? It’s not the item itself. It’s the thought behind it.

In my family, we make lists. Just prior to Thanksgiving, everyone sends each other a list of items they would like for Christmas. It is assumed that all other members of the family will collaborate in an effort to not buy the same gift. Many may think that this takes the fun out of receiving the gifts, but I am always surprised. I do not know whether it is because of my poor memory (concerning what I put on my list) or the fact that they still got to choose the specifics of the item.

I really get more excited over giving someone a gift that I have made or purchased for them than I do getting one in return. It takes all I have sometimes to not give someone a gift right after I purchase it. Just last night, I (along with several of her friends), gave my roommate Jess a musical keyboard. She had wanted one for so long! She was really suspicious when she arrived at the house and all of her friends were there. Holding on to that keyboard, however, was difficult to do! I had had it in hiding for several weeks and was growing very impatient. And still, there is one more that I am just overly anxious to hand out…

Jess

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Does anyone care anymore?

I wonder how often we spend 15 minutes, or even hours, with a person and do not ever realize that they are really hurting. Have we become so self-consumed that we do not realize that they are hurting? Or is it that we honestly just don’t want to take the time to sit down with them and ask them the hard questions? What if that is what they want? What if they want a friend to sincerely ask, “Hey, I notice you have not really been yourself lately. Is everything ok?” What if they need you to sit there with them and allow them to cry or just spill their hearts, even if it takes a couple of hours and even if neither of them can really make sense of the situation. That seems to rarely happen. And oftentimes when the question is finally asked and you begin opening your heart, one of two things happen:

1. They receive a text message or phone call that suddenly becomes more important. They may not walk away to answer, but they are distracted for the moment and respond to something you just said with a half-hearted “uh-huh, continue.” You are left there feeling vulnerable and automatically shut down, not wanting to risk opening up anymore in case you feel that rejection again.

2. You no longer get into the first few sentences and they jump in with “oh, I know exactly what you mean. One time…” and continue to tell their own story. Sure, they may think they are helping you by showing you that you are not alone in your feelings, but you still not end up getting to share what’s on your heart.

Some of you may argue that the person should approach you if they want to talk, but let me challenge you to place yourself in their shoes for a few minutes. Think about one of those times in your life where you were hurting, because several things were starting to accumulate and they all contributed to the stress you were experiencing. Your situation, however, cannot be easily expressed in words. You have spent hours and hours trying to make sense of it all in your mind and you still cannot explain it with words. You feel as though you want to try to express it verbally to make some sense of the madness, yet you don’t want to bother anyone with “nonsense.” If you cannot make sense of it, you know there is no chance that someone else will. Sometimes, though, we just need someone to listen. We need to know that someone cares. People can do all types of things to try to make you feel better, like buying you little gifts or doing some act of kindness, but there are times when just sitting with them would be the best thing you could ever give them.

Perhaps one of my favorite passages in Scripture, Phillippians 2:1-11 states:

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature
of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”

By this, we are reminded that the Savior of the world humbled himself to the point of death on a cross, the most humiliating way to die at the time. It was a form of punishment meant for only the worst of criminals. In the same way that Jesus considered our needs (our ultimate need for salvation in this instance), we should also consider the needs of those around us. Matthew 25 reminds us that helping others is the equivalent to serving God.

Perhaps you are the one hurting. As much as we may desire for someone to sincerely come and talk with you, you must keep in mind that it may not happen. What do you do then? Sink further into self-pity? Absolutely not! Why? Because we have one on our side who has much more to offer than anyone or anything else possibly can! Instead, take comfort in the following passage (and there are many other great ones):

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."

Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,

but it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-

then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;

they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,

I will deliver him and honor him.

With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation." (Psalm 91)

How long can we allow this selfish way of living prevail? We must step out and help those that are crying out for help. This does not only apply to those we consider friends. When you think of your worst enemy, think of him or her as a child of God, a brother or sister in Christ even. Does this change your perspective? Can you go to them in their time of need? Or do you make excuses because it is just too hard?

What are you doing to help those who are hurting?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My True Opinion of Running

Warning: This will start out sounding like I’m just complaining, but stick with me. I really just need to vent. J

I have chosen not to write (specifically about running) these past several weeks, primarily because I have been going through an “I hate running” phase. It’s not really that I hate running- I’m just tired of training. I am tired of having to plan my entire schedule around when I’m going to run. I’m tired of having to check The Weather Channel constantly to determine whether the storm is going to hit tomorrow (meaning I should run today instead). I’m tired of the term “long run,” meaning I have to be up before sunrise, gagging on another piece of toast with peanut butter (I used to love the stuff), and washing it down with coffee, all before hitting the pavement to run 11, 12, or 13 miles before noon! I’m really tired of this heat and humidity, running some days when it’s in the triple digits with over 50% humidity! Of course, there was the time that we also ran through a major hail storm, through a major downpour (we had to keep running even with the extra 50 pounds we gained in our clothing from the rain!), and the couple of times that we nearly stepped on snakes (once a black snake, the other time a copperhead!). I’m tired of posts every quarter mile that taunt me by the reminder that I still have 12.75 miles…12.50…12.25… miles to go. I am tired of having to calculate how many minutes on average each mile took and then feeling defeated if it took longer than the last run. I am tired of blisters on my feet and the occasional headache I get after running (though those have decreased majorly!). I never want to eat gel that has warmed up in my pocket again (imagine pouring a thick, gel-like substance down your throat, even when they try to mask the flavor by adding strawberry and banana flavoring, and then trying to wash it down with water, just for the added caffeine to get you through another 5 miles!). I’m tired of getting to the halfway point and not being able to think about anything else except getting the largest glass of ice water possible at the end. And I’m tired of trying to eat a granola bar while I’m running- my stomach and gag reflexes just cannot handle it!

Anyway, I realize this is a lot of “I am tired of’s,” but now that you all are up-to-date on exactly how I feel, let me tell you the positive sides of it!

I am in so much better shape! Of course, I can see the physical changes, but I can actually walk a flight of stairs and not be out of breath. I can run a mile and consider it a warm-up, whereas a couple years ago, I couldn’t even run a quarter of a mile! I have a new appreciation and LOVE for water! In fact, I may be on the verge of drinking too much (oops!). I can eat almost anything and not gain weight (not that I do, because I prefer to be healthy, but on those beloved “long run” days, I don’t even consider calories). I also have several friends that enjoy running, so it gives us things to do together and something to talk about. I have connected to several strangers through a discussion of running, people that I may have had nothing in common with previously. I can wear my race day t-shirts and people actually strike up a conversation if they ran in that race (I would not recommend wearing a t-shirt for a race you did not do, however, because then you just look like a poser!). The greatest satisfaction, however, will come on August 14th when I cross the finish line. I will definitely NOT be in the top finishers and I may not make my goal time, but I will finish. And one of my bestest friends, Jenny, will be there to support me (all the way from the Keys!) I don't know who else is planning to come or I would include them in this shout-out! Not to mention, when we’re through, I will go to an Italian restaurant and I will eat anything I want! J

Will I stop running after the race? Absolutely not! I will probably take a week or two off, but I will still run for fun. The great thing, however, will be that not long after the race, the weather will start cooling down. Fall is my favorite time of the year for running! And, I will get to mix other exercises (bike riding, walking, yoga, and some P90X are all likely candidates) in with my running routine. I can barely wait!

Thanks to everyone who has been and who continues to encourage me in this goal of completing this half marathon! It really means more than you can know! I'm almost there...

Jess

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Desire

I was driving home to Lynchburg this past weekend and at one point along 460 I was struck with the beauty of my surroundings. I almost pulled over to the side just to gaze at the sky and spend some time worshiping my Savior and looking back, I probably should have, because that moment was quickly replaced with this strange feeling of longing.

Longing for enough money to pay off school debt. Longing for a husband. Longing for a change in my normal routine. Longing for less heartache.

The funny thing is, as I imagined each of those things being fulfilled (you know, the way you do when YOU try to figure out how to solve life’s problems on your own), I was somewhat satisfied in knowing that even if those desires were filled, there would be others. I realized that my longings all pointed to one true longing: a longing for heaven. A longing to be reunited with my Lord. A longing for righteousness. Please don’t get me wrong- I don’t mean that I want to die. I just realize that as long as I am in this body, I will continue to have longings that cannot be filled. I will pay off my school debt one day. I do plan to get married one day. But even as I mark these items off one-by-one, more will be added. Desires are not necessarily bad, unless they are distracting us from our relationship with the Lord.

Now, some hold to this ridiculous notion that as Christians, we can ask God for whatever we want and it will be ours. I have heard Psalm 37:4 misinterpreted often. “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Does this mean that I simply need to claim I am a Christian, maybe even go to church and read my Bible, and then He is required to give me anything I ask? Not at all! For when you are truly delighting in the Lord, you realize that your longings change. They become more focused on the things of God.

In Psalm 74:25, the writer says “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire but you.” How often can we claim this same thing? Earth has NOTHING I desire but Christ. Then there is the well-known passage in Philippians that states:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead. (3:7-11).

Is our desire for God so strong that we consider everything else in life rubbish? Is knowing Christ Jesus the greatest joy in our lives? If so, are we spending time getting to know him personally by reading Scripture, not out of guilt, but out of a sincere longing for intimacy with Christ?

Do we grasp the magnitude of knowing that once Christ returns, we will also be revealed with him in glory (Colossians 3:4)? Do we set our minds on the things above, rather than the things of earth (Colossians 3:2)? We so often waste precious time worrying about things of no eternal importance, when we really need to become consumed with a desire for the kingdom of heaven.

C.S. Lewis penned one of my favorite quotes: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world” (Mere Christianity). If you find yourself longing for things that you have no control over, ask God to make your desires congruent with His. If you delight in Him, He will give you the desires of your heart.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Running Through Hail

Yesterday was our last chance to run only 3 miles.. until the two weeks before our race! Since we are constantly looking for new places to run in the area, we decided to run along Leesville Rd. initially. When we stepped out of the school, however, it started just barely drizzling. No longer had we gotten into the car, the skies opened up and began dropping these monster-sized rain drops. Perhaps the normal person would thank God and say something like, "well, we attempted to go run, but the weather just won't permit!" Or so you would think. Instead, we still drove to Leesville.

When we arrived, we decided that running along Leesville may not be a good idea, because it seemed as though the storm was moving in that direction. Instead, we modified our plans and ran in the opposite direction of Leesville and through a residential neighborhood. The rain was still coming down pretty steadily, but as we began running, it just stopped. It was a little eerie. All of the sudden, something hit me hard on the arm. Before I could react, something else hard hit me in the head. Then it kept coming. Hail. Lots and lots of hail shooting at us as though from a bb gun. Except in this case there would have been about 500 bb guns shooting at each of us at one time. It was quite painful. Fortunately, the gas station where we started was not far away, so we ran to the edge of the building and stood for a minute under the covering just laughing. It was so random, and cool, that we couldn't help but laugh. Then we sought shelter inside the gas station along with others. The parking lot of the gas station was literally covered in marble-sized hail in about a minute. It looked like winter again.

The hail storm only lasted for about 4 or 5 minutes, then it melted in about another minute, because it was so warm. So, we took off for our run finally! I only regret that I did not have my camera with me. Typically, I run with my phone so I can also listen to music, but because of the rain, I was afraid it would get too wet.

As for my running accomplishments recently, I have had some good runs and some bad runs. I prefer not to focus on the bad ones. There are days when running a mile is pure torture. On the other hand, there are days when I could keep running far beyond our goal for the day. One such example is Saturday. I talked David into going at 7:30 (my mom and sister were in and I wanted to get back early to spend the day with them... and attend the Reba concert, which was so much fun!!!). We ran out by his house. I had Kim Walker playing on my Iphone, the sun was setting just above the hills, it was cool outside, and we had some of the most spectacular views of the rolling green hills with grazing cattle. We finished 6 straight miles, without walking, and I truly felt as though I could have ran 20 more miles. I was just running along, actually singing aloud to my music, and praising the Lord! It was a beautiful way to start a Saturday morning! One more accomplishment, the Monday previous I was able to complete 3 miles in 29.5 minutes! To some of you, that may seem like a really slow pace. For me, this was the first time I have completed 3 miles in under 10 minutes each!

Only 20 more weeks until the half marathon!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Another Year Older

I am reminded this week of how many wonderful friends I have! I celebrated my birthday today and people really went all out this year!

Last night, David and I went running and then stopped for a smoothie at Smoothie King. I thought it was slightly odd that he was moving so slowly, that he sat down at the table in an empty smoothie shop, and then instead of talking he was busy texting. I was slightly thrown off, but still had no idea that anything was up. Then, in mid-conversation, he suddenly asks what Jess and I are doing that evening and if he can come over and eat. Now, usually he asks if we need to stop at the store, but that did not happen this time. So, I think for a second and mention making chicken parmesan since I have all of the ingredients. He was out the door practically before I got the words out. I thought he was just really excited about some chicken parm!

We pull in the driveway and there are two white cars parked there. I knew Kelsey was coming over to visit Jess, but I (with my lack of knowledge when it comes to cars), thought that Marissa's car was actually another one of Jess's friends (her friend Carmen also has a white car). I even told David this when he asked who drove the other car. I open the door, thinking it's awfully dark in the living room for two guests to be there, and even though I see streamers hanging up I'm still completely at a loss because of the following chain of events. I see Kelsey sprawled across the kitchen floor, unable to control her laughter. Jess is looking over her laughing. Marissa is standing to the side, I believe looking slightly confused, but also laughing. Kelsey vaguely says "SURPRISE!" between giggles, while Jess yells "HEY!!!". She thought she had yelled "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!", but they were apparantly caught off guard by whatever had happened. I'm not really sure what Gavin was doing. Well, if you've been to my house, you know that there is a front and a back door to my kitchen. It happens that they were hiding between the island in the kitchen, thinking I would be coming in the front door. When they heard me unlock the side door, they tried to move to the other side quickly, but Kelsey tripped and fell flat on her bum. I only wish I had seen it all happen! :) It was so nice, though, because they had a chocolate fountain, a fondue pot with cheese dip, bean dip, and salsa. Then, Jess pulled out the famous, original Dairy Queen ice cream cake! Yumm! We finished the evening off by watching The Proposal.

This morning, I arrived at work to find my cubicle covered in decorations: banners, streamers, balloons, a party hat and extra large button! Hope and Sara went all out! The office gave me a coffee and a muffin for breakfast. Then Donna shared her favorite "you take a toasted whole wheat bagel, spread some hummus on it, top it with onions, tomatoes, spinach, peppers, and add a dash of salt and pepper and OOOH BUDDY" sandwich! Well, she didn't share HER sandwich.. she let me make my own using her ingredients. I even had a student come in and sing to me just before we discussed his fall class schedule!

This evening, Marissa and Jess took me out to a restaurant I've really been wanting to try: Isabella's. I have heard wonderful things about this Italian restaurant! It definitely lived up to its reputation. We had a bruschetta platter... literally. Tomato bruschetta, artichoke bruschetta, olive bruschetta, roasted garlic cloves, goat cheese wrapped in parsley, and fresh mozzarella. It was delicious! Then, we ordered two meals and split them between the three of us so we can try more than one menu item! They were both really good, but I won't go into those details now! But point is, those girls are just so thoughtful! I love them both! :) Jen- when you asked what I wanted to do most for my birthday and I said "GO TO ITALY!", know that that was the closest I've been in that little restaurant! :-D

The downside is I am now home working on homework, but thank the Lord that I am healthy and able to continue my education. I know it's such a privilege! I do have another piece of my ice cream cake and a cup of decaf coffee, with Michael Buble playing in the background, to help pass the time. And since I cannot bring myself to end with the "downside," I should also say that the "upside" is that my dad sent my gift in the mail and I should be getting it tomorrow. That means my birthday is technically extended another day! I wonder how long I can get away with leaving my decorations up in my kitchen and at the office. ;)

Thanks to everyone who wished me a Happy Birthday! I really appreciate the special part each of you play in my lives!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Awkward Love

Before I receive any credit for the following blog, keep in mind that I did not write this. It was in the book Captivating by Stasi Eldredge. It follows so closely with what I had written about previously regarding friendships, that I could not help but post it here. I hope you find something that speaks to you. For me, the final quote about hell being the only place where you can be free from the "dangers" of love reminds me that although there is vulnerability in loving, not loving has far greater consequences. Here goes:

Honest communication in love is the only way to live and grow in friendships.

There are ebbs and flows. There may be real hurt and disappointment. But with the grace of God firmly holding us, it is possible to nurture and sustain deep friendships. We are designed to live in relationship and share in the lives of other women. We need one another. God knows that. We have only to ask and surrender, to wait, to hope, and, in faith, to love. We must also repent.

For a woman to enjoy relationship, she must repent of her need to control and her insistence that people fill her. Fallen Eve demands that people “come through” for her. Redeemed Eve is being met in the depths of her soul by Christ and is free to offer to others, free to desire, and willing to be disappointed. Fallen Eve has been wounded by others and withdraws in order to protect herself from further harm. Redeemed Eve knows that she has something of value to offer; that she is made for relationship. Therefore, being safe and secure in her relationship with her Lord, she can risk being vulnerable with others and offer her true self.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable . . . The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers . . . of love is Hell. (C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves)

(
Captivating , 181–82)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What am I getting myself into?

So, I have decided to run a half marathon. Crazy? Perhaps.


I have considered it for a while and even began training for a full marathon (26.2 miles) at one point, but I was never really committed to that particular race. It didn't help that the training for that marathon would take place during this past Alaskan-style winter we have experienced. Now, however, it is warming up and at about 70 degrees, it's just perfect! (Keep reminding me of why I'm doing this, however, when it's 80+ degrees and humid!) The most I have ever ran is 7 miles, so I practically just need to double this to 13.1 to complete a half-marathon. Sounds easy! I can handle this! The problem is that I ran those 7 miles back in November. A lot can change in a few months, and though I have been pretty faithful at the gym, it's not the same as running outdoors.


As I tossed around this idea and finally decided to pursue a half-marathon, my friend David asked me the one question that would demand a committment. "Do you want to train for a half-marathon with me?" The fact that I had already made a decision prompted me to say "yes!", rather than "uh, let me think about it." It would have been easy to "think about it" up until it was too late to begin training! Now, however, I'm committed. It's a good thing that I have a lot of determination, because that will be what gets me through to the end of this training! I look at our training schedule and while 3, 4, or even 5 miles seems attainable, I wonder how I will get to the point of running 10+ miles. Or even just 7 miles. Again.


We are using this week for pre-training runs (you know, to get in the habit and to build up to a comfortable 3 mile run), though training official begins next week. It's weird to see the numbers and realize that once we complete training, we will have ran a total of 448 miles in 21 weeks! And since you are technically supposed to replace running shoes after 500 miles, that will be a nice incentive to finish strong! Yesterday, David and I completed 3 miles (comfortably, in my opinion). David was hoping for 6 minutes/mile (only slightly unrealistic :) haha), but our final time of just under 11.3 min/mile is a good starting pace. It was only our second run, after all!


Anyway, there will be times when, undoubtedtly, I will want to give up. Keep encouraging me! I know I can do it! I've got to do it. I'm stubborn and I love the high I feel after a good run. I put on some upbeat music (Kim Walker and Classic Crime are two of my favorite options!) and hit the pavement. It does seem like the first mile is a struggle as I build up to my pace, but once I'm there, I usually feel like I could run 50 miles, easily. Of course, a second later I may want to stop and give up, because all of the sudden I feel that slight pain in my ankle or realize I still have 3 more miles to run! It's mostly a mental game. If I can fight off my anxious thoughts, it will be so much more enjoyable!

I'm sure I'll post more about my running adventures as they come...

Jess

Friday, March 12, 2010

Burdened and Broken

I have to share something that has been on my heart before I explode:

Sometimes our hearts get broken. Of course, this can happen as a result of something done to you, but there are times when it’s broken for those around you and you feel helpless. In the past few years, I have experienced several such situations. These situations involved people that I dearly love. Although they also affected me, more importantly, my heart broke for those directly involved. There were times when I felt so burdened that I barely knew how to function. My thoughts were consumed by these things and I was focused more on what I could do to “fix” things (because I am by very nature a “fixer) than what God could do to bring Himself glory. I felt the need to take on everyone’s burden, because that’s what we are called to do, right? Galatians 6:2 clearly says “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

If you ever think about that command alone, you quickly realize it’s impossible. Carry each other’s burdens? I don’t know about you, but, in my opinion, a simple “I know how ya feel” doesn’t seem to encompass all that this command requires. If a simple, “I know how ya feel” doesn’t cut it, what about taking on the burden so heavily that you are consumed by it all hours of the day? With two very opposing options, is there something in the middle that more adequately describes this command? I decided to look into it a little further. Wesley’s Commentary says that this verse means the following:

“Sympathize with, and assist, each other, in all your weaknesses, grievances, trials. And so fulfil the law of Christ - The law of Christ (an uncommon expression) is the law of love: this our Lord peculiarly recommends; this he makes the distinguishing mark of his disciples” (http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/wesleys-explanatory-notes/).

Sympathize and assist. Love. Walk alongside those that are hurting. Pray for them. Help them in any way possible. Feel sincere compassion. To me, none of that commands us to take on these burdens to the point that we are physically and emotionally sick. In fact, it does not even command that we have to do it alone.

This brings me to the next point: Even when we are burdened by others situations, we still do not have to carry those alone. First, I hope that you, as I have been, are blessed with God-fearing friends that care about you and your struggles and successes. If not, seek them out. Do not settle for superficial friends who only care about what you can offer them. Solomon shares in Ecclesiastes about a man who had gained great wealth, but finally realized that he had been depriving himself of the enjoyment that comes from true friendship and that his work was ultimately meaningless. He states, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:8-10). Friends can come along and help shoulder those heavy burdens by sympathizing, assisting, loving, and praying.

Even better than the first, however, Jesus promises to ease our burdens. In Matthew 11:28, he states “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” For those of you who don’t know what a yoke is, it is a wooden piece that goes around the neck of oxen for the purpose of pulling a plow. Sounds like rather hard work, huh? Think of how hard we have to work when we take on our own burdens and take responsibility for those. How physically and emotionally draining does it become to take on these burdens without any assistance? In light of how hard we have to work in order to do this alone, taking on Jesus’ yoke really is rest for the soul. He does not guarantee it will be easy, but I have no doubt that we can fully assume that it’s a whole heck of a lot easier than taking it on ourselves.

So even through all of these difficult situations, I can still stand and lift my hands and my voice to the Lord in praise, thanking Him for working out all things to His glory. I may not understand all of His ways. I may not fully understand why he allows these bad things to happen. But I can be assured that when I bring these situations to Him in earnest prayer, He hears me. He is working in each situation, even when I cannot see it. He knows my heart and what burdens me.

He knows your heart as well. Will you go to Him with your burdens or try to deal with them on your own? Even when you’re broken to the point of disrepair, will you not take a chance and give your burdens fully to the Lord? What do you have to lose?

To God be the ultimate glory!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shy or Selfish?

My hope in all of my blogs is to be truly transparent. It's a little scary, because you never know who may be reading it, but perhaps people will see that although I try to act like I have it all together, I really don't. Here goes...

Some of you may or may not know this about me, but I tend to be pretty shy. I’ve actually come a long way since grade school when I did not talk to a single teacher! I am only an extrovert when I force myself to be and I am trying to get better at this. I enjoy being outgoing and meeting new people, I just do not like the awkwardness you sometimes feel when you don’t know what to say or you are afraid of embarrassing yourself.

The more and more I thought about this, however, I realized that it really comes down to selfishness and pride. This is especially true in a church setting. When I see a visitor on a Sunday morning and refuse to go up and talk to them simply because I feel uncomfortable, it’s really selfish of me. I can say this because I have done this many times! I was once that visitor. I, at one time, felt uncomfortable, because I did not know anyone at the church except for one or two people that I worked with.

I spent so much time thinking about how uncomfortable it was for me to talk to people, that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. My mind was so concentrated on how uncomfortable I felt, that it would not tell my legs to walk over and say hi to the person. It’s funny how our minds control so much of what we do. At least this is my opinion. Many of you who know me know that as a counselor-in-training, I agree with many (not all!) aspects of the cognitive-behavioral theory, in which the counselor helps the client confront negative self-talk. Part of my theory stems from 2 Corinthians 10:5 in which Paul tells us to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. This approach guides a counselor into looking at the roots of problems such as anxiety to see what thought processes lead them to these behaviors. I could go into much more detail and explain what parts I agree with and what parts I don’t, in addition to how I believe sin plays a part, but this isn’t the right time for that. I simply came to realize that perhaps I thought TOO much about my comfort level. Maybe I needed to push it out of my mind (not an easy thing to do) and just reach out to those people that I would normally find it difficult to introduce myself to. I needed to put aside my selfishness and pride and humble myself (Proverbs 3:34). Perhaps then it would no longer be about me and how I felt. Instead, it would be about reaching out to others just as Jesus did. We are called to be like Christ, right? Besides, the very title "Christian" means to be Christ-like.

In addition to the mind games, I realized that my desire to meet and, more importantly, to CONNECT with others, should come from a deep rooted, unreserved loved for others. Isn’t this what Jesus taught? The greatest commandment is to love God and to love others (Matthew 22:37-39). Do I really live this or do I try to convince myself that I “feel” like I love others? In my opinion, it’s scarier when we are able to convince ourselves by mere feeling that we love others than it is when we simply confess that we don’t and work on the heart issue. For if we really love others from the heart (even when we don’t FEEL like loving them), then our actions will naturally display that love.

Please don’t think I have it down. Sure, the last couple of weeks God has really gotten hold of me and helped me push through my obstacles in order to reach out to people I would have been afraid to talk to in the past, but it was definitely not because of anything I did. I know I will probably still continue to struggle with this at times, but a few successes help me realize that it is possible to break out of my “uncomfortableness” and seek true fellowship with others. What a joy it is in knowing that I have other people around me that are seeking and following the Lord. Why wouldn’t I want to get to know these individuals? And what am I missing out on by not taking a chance and introducing myself?

Jessica

1 John 4: 7-12, 18

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. […] 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (emphasis mine)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How are you, really?

I just took a full dose of Nyquil to try to kick this cold that reared its ugly head today, so hopefully I will make sense and be able to complete my post without falling asleep. Here’s a shot…

Anyway, most people would agree that one of the questions we are most often asked is "how are you?" It's a great question, really. It's open-ended and invites a response; however, most of us still respond with only one word. Fine. Good. Alright. And before the person can ask you to expand on that question, you jump in quickly with "and how are you?" But you don't really mean it. You want to appear interested without actually investing the time required to truly to listen to a persons answer.

Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? I am no exception. As much as it annoys me when a friend or acquaintance passes by and asks the question over their shoulder without ever stopping to hear an answer, I find myself doing the same thing. It’s almost like it’s the standard. The norm. The thing to do. But that’s no excuse.

When we look at the example of Jesus, he took the time to build relationships and really find out how people were doing. He spent valuable time with his disciples, he was called a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19), and he showed the ultimate act of friendship by being nailed to a cross and taking on all the sins of the world (John 15:13). I have no doubt that when he asked “how are you doing?” that the person he was speaking with saw in his eyes and heard in his tone of voice that he did not want a lame answer. He wanted the truth. There is no greater love than one man laying down his life for another. Does this mean we can only carry out this command by dying for another? I don’t believe so. Each day we are presented with opportunities to lay down our lives by putting aside our selfish desires and helping out a friend. Serving others. Serving God.

Who’s to say that laying down our life for a moment does not involve setting aside our schedule in order to hear how someone is doing? And in the same way, perhaps its best to just keep our mouth shut if we’re really not going to listen. In fact, you may be the one who reaps the benefits from hearing about the person’s struggles and successes. Perhaps God uses this moment to remind you of his faithfulness through another’s testimony. Or perhaps he uses the moment to remind you that in light of other circumstances, the fact that you are having a difficult day at work is really not all that bad. No matter what he chooses to remind you, the opportunity for a true relationship with that person increases.

It’s time that we shed this fa├žade of relationship and learn to experience true relationships. We must learn to be real with others, or we risk fooling ourselves.

So the next time I see you and I ask, “how are you?” I encourage you to give me an honest answer. It may seem painful at first, but I believe with practice, we may all become better at showing a little vulnerability. And if I don’t seem truly interested, call me out. I can take it. I need it. We all do.

1 John 4:10-12 (NIV) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

My computer lives!!!





I love my computer. It's an HP with entertainment features and a 12.1" screen! So small and portable. I've had it for about 3 years and it's been dying what I thought was a slow death, until my friend Timi showed me how to run the recovery feature. Now she runs like she's brand new! I just want to stay up and repersonalize her now! :)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Vacation is Over...

Well, I'm back to the burg. After a wonderful, and in comparison a warm, trip to the Florida Keys to see Jenny, it's back to a schedule, a routine, and work. Not that I mind most of those. In fact, the only thing I really dreaded returning to was the cold! This winter is just continuing forever!And now they're calling for another possible BIG snowstorm this coming week? NOOO!! I'm one of those few crazy people who used to enjoy the winter. I am sure this is partly due to the fact that VA (and even WV) typically has rather short winters. We may get one good snow and a below-freezing January, but the rest of the winter was always bareable. I almost wish I could move to Hawaii- the only state that has not received snow this winter! And since Jenny lived there for 18 years of her life, she can come and show me around. Yea, that sounds like a great idea. Who's in with me?

Anyway, I'm about to step outside and brave the weather. The sun is out, so that makes me smile. But I will not let it deceive me... it's still really cold!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hello Fellow-Bloggers

Well, I am no beginner when it comes to blogging. I used to have a Xanga account that I wrote in for several years. Unfortunately, I decided to delete this account one day. Now I have lost all of those posts that I would actually find enjoyable to read now. I won't make that mistake this time... at least, I don't plan to.

I don't have much time to write or fool with the layout of my blog at this time, but I hope to keep my blog updated at least once a week with random information or "deep" thoughts. I hope you check back!

Jess