Thursday, March 31, 2011

Getting into College

Greetings!!! I've had college on the brain because I'm writing a book right now for high school seniors.

And today The New York Times has the college admission statistics up and it's a rather fascinating list. I remember when I was getting ready to head off to college and everyone made those lists: the dream schools, hopeful schools and the safety schools. My dream school was Vassar. It was close to New York City, had an amazing theater program and I spent a weekend there that made me think I could totally fit in with all those crazy people. But I didn't get in (which I'm guessing my parents were pretty happy about since the price ticket for Vassar was very steep.) I had excellent grades and strong SAT's so I was pretty bummed - why didn't I get in? It could have been any number of things but I know now that my life would have been drastically different had it been an acceptance letter rather than a rejection letter.

When I applied for college I was still a practicing witch. I didn't know I'd go away to college, end up with Christian roommates and be found by God. College changed much more than my academic resume. It changed my whole world. And after college I stayed in my same college town and met the guy who would become my husband.

Getting into college is one thing - but how do you choose? How do you know where it is you're supposed to go?

If we believe that God knows a lot more than we do, then we have to be willing to listen to His Spirit when making decisions. He knows the beginning from the end. He's got the whole plan. So He most definitely has the answers we need. It's great to make those lists - figure out the schools that you'd love to go to, and schools that you'd be okay going to. But God can lead us in amazing - and surprising - ways if we will just be willing to listen and believe.

~Sarah~

Cross-posted on "a naked faith"

Monday, March 28, 2011

My dusty brain


For awhile there, I was in a good groove with Bible study.

I'm doing Beth Moore's Esther:It's Tough Being a Woman study which is 9 weeks long with a weekly DVD session and 5 days of homework between. I did awesome for about three weeks, then we had someone crashing at our for a couple weeks, my routine was thrown off, and I just ... forgot.

It wasn't like, "I just can't find time for my study." Instead, it didn't cross my mind for like a week. And then one night I'm laying in bed when it dawns on me, "Oh, right ... Esther..."

That's how it was for about a week. Didn't enter my mind at all during the day, then I'm in bed about to doze off and poof! Oh, I forgot to do my study today. AGAIN.

I'm finally inching my way back on track, and while I do so, I'm taking great comfort in Psalms 103:13-14, which says, "As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust."

While it shouldn't be used as an excuse to be lazy, it's wonderful having that verse there as a reminder that God is mindful of my limitations and has compassion on me.

And now, while I'm thinking about it, I'm off the pages of Esther...

Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels a few years ago and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Plans

Camy here! Let me tell you what happened yesterday.

It should have been a great Saturday afternoon bowling. The youth group was planning a major tournament of staff versus kids and competition was going to be fierce. Trash talking abounded and we adult staff members had our reputations to defend.

But that day turned out to be very rainy and when we arrived at the bowling alley, not only was there a birthday party there, but other families had come to bowl since the weather was bad. There were no lanes available.

Instead, we recruited a few parents and some college students who'd shown up to be drivers, and everyone went to Nickel City, a video game arcade. It ended up being a fun outing.

I admit I got kind of frazzled with the last-minute organizing, and I remembered ruefully about how our plans are not always God’s plans. I always thought the verse referred to "big plans" like what career to go into or whether to buy a house. A foiled bowling trip seemed like something too trivial for God to want to bother himself with, and something I could handle by myself.

But I think the point of the verse wasn't about big plans or little plans. God wants us to realize that plans can and will always change, and that He is the one in charge. And sometimes we have to relinquish our sense of control and be flexible.
Jesus talked about the rich fool who built barns for his abundance of grain, making plans to eat, drink, and be merry, but he died the next day (Luke 12). His plans took a major U-turn. His plans weren’t God’s plans.

So how’s your flexibility? Does it need work? Pray for Jesus to help you relinquish control and be flexible.

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance novel, Single Sashimi, and her romantic suspense, Formula for Danger. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders dogs, knitting and spinning wool, running, Asiana, and other frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter for giveways!

Click here to find out how you can join my Street Team—it’s free and there’s lots of chances to win prizes!

Friday, March 25, 2011

What Would Jesus Say?


The force is strong in my family. My mother has it. My husband and I both have it. And, bless their hearts, it's pretty much epidemic in our children. The "force" to which I'm referring is, of course, the Doodling Gene.

If you have this gene you will immediately sympathize. Any margin or grocery list or -- in the case of my sons -- patch of exposed skin becomes an empty canvas waiting to be filled with lightning bolts, swirling designs, shooting stars, winding vines, and countless other doodles.

Psychiatrists and psychologists have long understood that traumatized people sometimes best express themselves through art, and Art Therapy is gaining popularity and respect as a legitimate form of treatment. I think this is great, but I confess I'd be a little concerned if a professional therapist were asked to diagnose my family based on some of our "art."

Of course, there are no professional therapists in our reading audience (as far as I know), so there's no danger in my letting you take a peek.

Let's start with my mother. I have a photocopy of a page torn from Mom's spiral notebook and sent home by her penmanship teacher in 1942. Mom was barely ten at the time. She'd titled the page "Earl & Betty" with a subtitle of "LOVE." Below that she drew two rectangles with cartoonish thumbtacks in their corners. The first contains a couple passionately kissing. Indeed, the woman is leaning forward toward the man -- obviously the aggressor in this moment of unbridled affection. Betty's hair flows down her back in cascading curls. Earl's eyes are open wide, a slight smile on his puckered lips beneath his dashing mustache. Below this drawing are the words, First Kiss. (By the way, the artwork is quite impressive for a ten year old. Mom went on to major in art. Even then she had the gift.) The second tacked up paper is a love letter. It reads: "Dear Love, Earl, How I love you! You will be mine, eh? I sure hope so!"

The teacher added this note (in cursive which I swear looks EXACTLY like the samples in penmanship books): "Mrs. Harper, Patsy spends part of her time in Writing Class doing this sort of thing. I would appreciate your suggestions."

Unfortunately we have no abiding record of the suggestions offered. But the fact that my grandmother dated this, saved it, and eventually gave it to my mom tells me she was more amused than upset.

Next let's consider a drawing my sister did at eleven. One can easily surmise the content of the conversation that prompted this bit of therapeutic release. In large, bold letters she wrote across the top: MOTHER DOES NOT WANT TO BE PUSHED. The drawing depicts two stick figures near the edge of a cliff. One, who is wearing a mischievous grin, is pushing the other toward the edge. The victim's eyes are wide with fright and she's screaming "NO NO." In the water at the base of the cliff a shark with jagged teeth awaits the arrival of the poor victim, who we can only assume is "mother."

We'll never know what nagging behavior on my sister's part prompted the "Don't push me!" parental reaction. What we do know is that Mom found the drawing, cracked up, and saved it in her treasures file.

Which brings me to March of 1998. I'm sitting in church next to my fourteen-year-old daughter, who is doodling on the Children's Worship Bulletin -- an insert aimed at 3-6 year olds. The bulletin's theme that Sunday was The Temptation of Jesus, and it contained a maze, a fill-in-the-missing-letters game, and two hidden picture activities.

If anyone needed art therapy at this point, we did. Almost two years had passed since Jacob's near drowning. Our hearts had been pulverized in the meat grinder of suffering, and we were just learning how to breathe again. I'd worried a lot and prayed even more for Grace and Luke, who were entering the turbulent adolescent years in the midst of a trial that had taxed our faith and much of our emotional, physical, and mental strength.

I glance at Grace bent over her drawing and wonder if I should nudge her and encourage her to listen. Shouldn't she be focused on the sermon? More than anything, doesn't she need to hear the Word of God? But I leave her alone.

After church I examine her work. And I laugh -- a deep, cleansing laugh like medicine for my tear-weary soul.

As you've probably guessed, I saved this bit of creativity in my treasure file, and it's sitting on the desk beside me now. I won't try to describe all the alterations she made to the bulletin, but here's a little taste. The fill-in-the-missing-letters page had a pre-printed drawing of Jesus at the top, smiling with his hands outstretched. The clue to the puzzle read, "Jesus was tempted with hunger. What did Jesus say?"

Grace drew a rectangular object in Jesus' outstretched hands and added a speech bubble to accommodate the answer to the puzzle's question. So . . . what did Jesus say?

"Watch me bust this board with my head."

(Did I mention that the Bizarre Sense of Humor Gene is also strong in our family? Or, better question, did I have to?)

About now you may be wondering what this post has to do with Girls, God, and the Good Life. Well, I'll tell you.

Christianity is serious business. Evil is real. We can't live in this world without at least brushing against it, and sometimes we find ourselves being sucked into its slimy pit. Add to this the promise of our Lord that we will suffer. (Not one of those promises we're fond of claiming, is it?) So, how do we cope? And how do we show a hardened, hurting world that there's a loving God who abides in the midst of all this chaos, lifting our heads above the flood, binding our wounds, giving us daily bread?

We do it by living real. By looking the whole big mess straight in the eye, seeing it for what it is, and then sketching a Jesus who can bust a board with His head. We give the world a picture of our God they'll want to save in their treasure file.

Was God offended that Grace doodled during the sermon? Was her drawing sacrilegious? You tell me. But if you want to know what I think (and I know her heart), when she stands in His presence someday, I imagine He'll say two things. "Well done, good and faithful servant."

"Now, watch me bust this board with my head."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

You are not alone in your struggles

Recently I received an email from a 14-year-old I'll call Sarah. She said she'd made some stupid decisions. She's fourteen and after fooling around with a guy she feels lousy and doesn't want to do it again ... but she usually does. She wanted some advice.

I immediately thought of the book Nobody Told Me by Pam Stenzel and Melissa Nesdahl. This book says everything I want to say about teen sex and purity and so much more! I asked Melissa to help me craft a note to Sarah and this is what she came up with:

Dear Sarah*,


I am so glad that you took the time to write. You are not alone in your struggles and so many will benefit from your honesty.


First of all, “fooling around” with guys has me concerned about your physical health. Dealing with the emotions and boundaries are critical, but first we MUST talk about your body.


Many teens do not realize that ANY genital contact – hand, mouth, or genital to genital contact – place you at risk for disease. Now, if you are like most teens you are thinking I look fine. I feel fine. And, I’ve noticed nothing down there. I’ve escaped that risk. 


NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.


One in four teens have at least one STD and, sadly, 80% of the people infected with sexually transmitted diseases HAVE NO SYMPTOMS. That is four out of five! STDs are spreading like wildfire because students do not realize they are infected and it is going from person to person to person.


Since you are a female, infection places you at higher risk for damage. Infertility in our country has gone through the roof largely because of internal damage to girls’ bodies resulting from STDs. This is not just about “the heat of the moment.” This is about your future marriage and ability to have a family. Please see your regular family physician or OB/GYN for complete bacterial and viral disease testing.


I am thankful that you want to set up boundaries. Because you CONTINUE to place yourself in dating situations you are going to struggle. Part of setting up healthy boundaries is going to mean STAYING OUT of dating relationships and all one-on-one situations with the opposite gender right now. I’d suggest waiting to date again until you are 16 and then group date through the rest of high school. It will keep you in much safer situations.


In the meantime, please do a few things- 1) read NOBODY TOLD ME for added encouragement from your peers going through the same situations and rising victorious in recycled virginity. 2) Write a letter to your future spouse. This forward thinking exercise will help you to see beyond today. 3) Also, think through the character qualities that you want in your future spouse. What top 10 things are a “must?” What won’t you tolerate? Thinking through these questions will help you be selective when you start dating again so that you only date people with marriage potential…rather than dating just to date. 4) PRAY!


Sarah, God made you. And, in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 He tells you this, “"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body." You are struggling emotionally because your actions are outside of your Maker’s will.


But, here is the amazing thing. If you truly repent and TURN FROM YOUR SIN, God places your sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). He forgives you. Now you need to forgive yourself. In doing so, you will feel new respect for yourself and love for your Savior.


Your past actions DO NOT have to be your future ones. You CAN choose recycled virginity from now until you marry. One day you will have to tell your future spouse about your past, but you will be able to say that you were tested and have remained pure ever since. That shows INCREDIBLE character that you can be proud of.


Today you get to decide. Will you choose character so that you attract a Godly man of character one day? Or, will you continue to be used, abused, and placed at risk. Your Creator says you are worth far more. Choose healthy boundaries so from this day forward you can live out His best.


I BELIEVE IN YOU! 


Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your heart and this great information. I highly recommend Nobody Told Me. Also, pick up a copy of Praying for Your Future Husband for a young woman you love. You can pre-order now!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Story, Pt. 3

This is a continuation of my story. You can click here to find Part One and Part Two.

Last time I left off, I was sitting in a mini-golf shack. In the rain. Having a pity party.

Oh, that's not what I would have called it at the time. I'd have said something about how life was difficult, and I was tired and stretched thin. I would have told you that my heart was broken, and hurting and didn't I have the right to sit in that little shack and be angry with the world?

The rain outside just kept coming, more and more steadily with every passing second. No kid, not even the bratty, woodland-creature decapitating sort would venture out under those conditions. I kept an eye out for them, of course, but for the first time in weeks...I was alone. No "she sprayed me with the air freshener" arguments to settle. No bedtimes to enforce. No silly girl drama over flip flops to handle. Just me. And the rain. And my notebook.

So I did what any stressed out writer with a notebook does. I started writing. Actually, I started praying. I grabbed the closest pen and started to scribble.

God, I don't know what you're doing here. It doesn't seem fair. I'm here at camp in the rain, by myself. I'm loving on these girls with everything I've got, but I don't feel at all loved myself. I'm trying to pour myself out here, and I have to admit, I'm running out of...everything. Of love, of compassion, of joy, and patience. I can't do this. 

I paused. What was I there for anyways? Why was I at camp again, for the third summer in a row? What was God thinking letting that guy break up with me and then sending me off for a summer to love people? Tears pooled in my eyes. I felt like someone was squeezing my heart like a tube of toothpaste. This whole thing just wasn't working for me. For crying out loud, where was the someone to love me?

I scribbled a few more words of pain and angst, letting the tears flow. After all, no kids were coming in this nasty weather. And then something clicked in me.

The rain. The abandoned mini-golf shack. The solitude. If I'd been meeting a guy there, it would have been incredibly swoon-worthy. But at that moment? My Father had chosen to meet me. No interruptions. (Which, FYI, is nearly an impossible thing to accomplish when you're a camp counselor!)

This was a love story of epic proportions. And I had been missing it the whole time. I started to look back over my whole life. I pieced together the different places God led me and taught me and worked for my heart. And then I turned my focus to the summer and everything that had happened.

I had GREAT, and I'm talking awesome, friends surrounding me. Two of my best girl friends, and a guy who worked extremely hard to protect my heart and be my friend. Awesome teachers who truly had hearts towards healing and helping me. Structure to help me get my breath back after a breathless spring. One of my closest friends and I shared a back porch, and we spent a lot of time having heart to hearts there in the early morning hours. There was a specified time for me to read my Bible.

All of these things "fell into place" without me even thinking about it. But in that moment I saw how the Lord had moved things around and put me in that place at that time, just to show me how incredibly loved I was.

I really did have a story.

And so do you. :-) God doesn't give some people a story, and others nothing. He's got a purpose for your life and things are happening now that will play a part in who you are in the future. Never doubt that He's got something great going on for you. Keep your eyes open and look around. Sometimes the ways God chooses to work in your life are surprising... :-)

Love always.

Ashley

Saturday, March 19, 2011

How Did I Do?

The audition was a blur.

“Very nice,” one of the judges said.

“That was wonderful,” a young woman who’d been listen in whispered as the next singer prepared to try out.

But was it?

After nudges from my husband, a couple from church, and several people who’d heard me sing the National Anthem at Little League Opening Day last year, I’d answered an open call to sing it for our local minor league baseball team.

Your audition has been scheduled for 1:30 PM, the e-mail said.

My ride dropped me off twenty minutes early. I didn’t mind at all. I figured it would give me time to relax and pray. I listened to two women try out, both of whom were great.

Fifteen more minutes.

“Are you here to audition?”

Were they talking to me?

“Oh, I’m scheduled for one-thirty. I’m a little early.”

“That’s okay. You can go now.”

I knew it would sound professional to say I wasn’t ready. “Okay,” I said.

Feeling my body (including my throat) tense up, I walked to the center of the room and picked up the microphone. I started to singing, knowing that I didn’t sound nearly as strong as the powerhouse that tried out before me. But I focused on doing my best with the voice that I had.

Next thing I knew, I was calling my ride to say I was finished already, those compliments ringing in my mind. Were they just being polite?

“How did your audition go?” A friend asked later.

“Okay, I guess.” I told her what happened.

I’d made up my mind to leave how well I did (or didn’t) up to the judges. It had happened too quickly for me to know. And maybe that’s better. I do know one thing: I don’t find myself obsessing about every possible mistake or weak note. I don’t feel like I’ll fall apart from disappointment and a sense of failure if I don’t get that desired phone call. I recognize that I did my best under not-so-perfect circumstances. I know that if I don’t make it, it wasn’t meant to be and I can try again next year. That is a huge step for me!

So in that, I guess the audition went well. It wasn’t perfect, but I responded to imperfection better than I would have in the past?

When has a disappointment, or a time when you didn’t perform as well as you would have liked to, revealed an area of growth? Ask God to help you see every opportunity, including those that don’t turn out perfectly, as a chance to glorify Him in your response.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Time To Enter a Writing Contest--If You're Under 25

http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com/2011/03/writing-prompt-when-he-heard-voice.html

Stephanie Morrill's listed a great writing prompt on her Go Teen Writers blog. If you're a writer and under age 25, check it out. Just write the next 100 words to a novel that would entice readers!

Deadline is Monday, March 21.

Love,
Julie

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

do you know your lines?

We have a Christian Youth Theater (CYT) in our town and I've had the great privilege of being able to direct several of their shows. I'm directing right now and this week is what we call "tech week". I love being able to do this and we have 80 kids in the cast ranging in age from 8 to 18 years old. (The last show we had a 100!!) I worked in theater much of my life, from high school to community to college theater but even with all that experience the opportunity to work with CYT kind of came as a surprise. We just never know when and where God will allow us to use what He has placed inside of us!

But because we open on Friday, tech week means that we have rehearsals every night this week. One of the things I talked to the kids about at our last rehearsal was "knowing their lines". Obviously, it's important to the show that they know these lines, but it's more than that. I talked to them about how they will be able to really become their character more on stage if they're not thinking constantly about their lines. The better they know them, the less they have to think about them, and the more of the character we end up seeing on stage. It's a simple but critical equation.

But I realized that it's true for us as Christians as well. The better we study, learn from and come to know God, the easier it is to live our lives in a way that's consistent with the Word of God. The more we know of how God feels about things, the quicker we are to recognize when something isn't right. The more deeply we understand and believe what the Lord tells us and shows us in His Word, the easier it is to tell when satan offers us a counterfeit of the real thing.

I'm a fan of the Word of God. It's utterly astonishing to me how much is in there that's truly critical for us to understand. And we can read it every day for the rest of our lives and we're still only getting a portion of who He is. That's why we have to engage with God as we're reading - asking Him to let us know what we need to see. What we need to understand. Our "daily bread".

Our "rehearsal" time is that time we spend in quiet communion with God, seeking to know Him, to love Him, and to follow Him with all of our hearts. That rehearsal time is critical for when we go out into the world and engage with it - that's when we're "on stage"! Because even if we don't realize it - people are watching us, measuring us, trying to decide if what we say is true - if we will live out what we say we believe.

Are you getting enough rehearsal time?

**Cross-posted at a naked faith**


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Where's my crown?



My daughter has officially entered a "princess" stage, despite being too young for any of the movies. We attempted Snow White a couple weeks ago, and made it about five minutes in before she burst into tears because she "didn't like the prince singing to Snow White" and wanted him to go away. Sigh.

Last week, she insisted on wearing her crown to my parents' house for dinner. As we left that night, she said, "Where's my crown?" in a semi-panicked voice. My dad said to her, "It's on your head, sweetie. Isn't it funny how after you wear a crown for a while, you can forget you have it on?"

That statement hit me in the heart.

The Lord's favor is all around me, and yet because He's so good to me all the time, I'm guilty of forgetting. I'm guilty of saying to God - not in these exact words, but this is the essence - "Hey, where's my blessings?"

My last time on here, I talked about how I'm trying to be more thankful, and this goes hand-in-hand with that. Being grateful for those things I've had for so long, the shine has worn off. Or maybe they're things that have never seemed all that shiny.

Like my hair. I have pretty neutral feelings about my hair. It's not something I praise God for, certainly. But in the last couple years, I've watched two close friends and my aunt, lose battles to cancer, and all of them lost their hair in the process. I've decided to praise God for my hair daily.

Or health insurance. We've always had health insurance. Until recently, my feelings have been neutral-bordering-on-cranky when it comes to stuff like picking a provider, dealing with what they'll cover/what they won't. But at a monthly meeting I attend, there are several who are without health insurance, and who have chronic illnesses that require medical care. I now regularly praise God for insurance.

I'm praising Him for providing clean water to drink. For being able to go to the grocery store and buy food on a weekly basis. For being able to turn on the heater. For living in a neighborhood where it's safe to play outside.

As I do this, I'm overwhelmed by everything God's given me. I'm his daughter - his princess - and the crown is heavy with blessings. So heavy, in fact, these days I find myself so busy praising Him for everything he's already given me, I barely have time to ask for anything else.


Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels a few years ago and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com.


Friday, March 11, 2011

One Size Fits All



She was probably in her mid-to-late fifties when we moved to town, but she already had snow white hair and emitted a distinct grandma vibe. She had a passel of biological grandkids she adored, but they all lived out of town. My kids had four devoted grandparents, but they lived out of town as well. It was a match made in heaven.

Nothing was ever officially said, but her actions communicated more than words. Smiles, hugs, cards, gifts. Every birthday. Every Christmas. She was one of those sweet, gentle, joy-full souls -- quick to laugh and quick to pray. As dependable as the sunrise. Every time you looked at her, you knew exactly what you’d see. That smile. That love sparkle in her eye.

People like her ooze sweetness and joy. You'd think her picture would be beside the word "Christian" in the dictionary.

Or would it? I’m not so sure any more.

Last fall I attended an organizational meeting for Arts Aftercare, a non-profit group that seeks to be a bridge between artists and rescued victims of human trafficking. An assortment of artists -- mostly musicians -- gathered that evening to hear more about the program and learn how they could become involved. The meeting wasn’t restricted to Christians.

One girl, probably in her early twenties, caught my attention. She wore a dark hoodie and tattered jeans, and tattoos adorned the visible patches of her skin. Two young men were with her, sporting an equally grungy style and a variety of piercings. The three were in a band together.

Each person present was given the opportunity to introduce themselves and share why they were interested in the program. When it was her turn, her face lit up. Every word out of her mouth radiated love and passion for Christ and a longing to help others in His name. To be honest, her candid zeal surprised me, and I was disappointed with myself that it did.

Later I bumped into her in the kitchen and got a chance to really look at her. The resemblance was unmistakable. That smile. That love sparkle in her eye. This young woman couldn’t be more different in outward appearance than my kids’ surrogate grandma, but the two obviously share the same Father.

Why am I such a slow learner? Christians come in every age, color, shape, occupation, and style. And that’s exciting. It’s a glorious reminder that the Holy Spirit is one size fits all who love God and are called according to His purpose.

These days I’m rethinking that dictionary picture beside “Christian.” I don’t want to put a face on her. I don’t need to. I’ll know her by the love sparkle in her eye.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Discovering My Story

So last time I talked about how I spent a good deal of my teen years thinking I didn't have a story. That God had given other people like friends of mine, or speakers at conferences these great stories of pursuit and rescue and redemption, but I'd somehow missed the boat. All I could muster in response when people asked me about my testimony, or my story, was, "Yeah, uh, I've been a Christian since I was four. That's about it." Don't get me wrong...I wasn't perfect then, and I'm not at all perfect now. I just somehow felt that being rescued from a life of "worse" sins than my own was a story more worth telling. Yes, I was wrong on so many levels.

I didn't realize that what I thought was nothing, was actually God working together a whole lot of somethings to make my life exactly what it was supposed to be.


Let's pick back up around my sophomore year of college. By that point in time, I'd sort of put the whole story obsession on the back burner. Everyone around me knew I was a Christian, but we'd all sort of moved past the campfire "how did you become a Christian" conversation. Those who cared knew the gist of it, and those who didn't care...well, didn't care.

Sophomore year was a pretty great one for me. I loved the classes I was taking. I was really enjoying my work study in the English department. My roommate was fun, and I had great friends who also lived on my hall. I had the boyfriend I'd always wanted. I was so loving life. And then summer came...

I wasn't living on the hall with my friends any more. Even though I didn't miss the homework, I did miss the classes I'd been taking. And then, suddenly, my super awesome dream boyfriend broke up with me. Over email. And I had to go to camp the next week to work as a counselor. Where I would tell kids that Jesus loved them even though I was really feeling less than loved. Throw all that together, and I was a mess. A total, complete, heart-in-a-puddle mess.

In the middle of finding lost pajamas, lost Bibles, and lost toothbrushes for eight middle school girls a week, I found out I'd been assigned to the mini-golf station during free time. I hated mini-golf. It's where all the bad kids went to see how many ceramic woodland creatures they could decapitated before the counselor noticed.


I won't lie--I was so angry with the situation, and I was so angry with God for everything that had happened. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why this was a good addition to my story. Where was my rescue? Where was my redemption? Why did I suddenly feel like last week's newspaper?

Certainly this was no great story. It was more like a tragedy. 

One day I found myself trudging through the woods in the middle of a thunderstorm, not at all in the mood to maintain order at my mini-golf post. I had a notebook with me. I plopped myself into the mini-golf shack. And started writing.

I'll tell you the rest of this part of my story next time I post...looks like this one's getting a little long. :-) In the meantime, check out my blog (http://www.ashleywritesagain.blogspot.com/) and see how my story's coming along these days. As always, I'd love to hear from you, and you can contact me here.

Love always.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Skipping to the End

I’m reading a book that is extremely difficult to get through, not because it’s boring, but because the main character endures such horrific things. Knowing it’s a true story makes it even harder. The friend that loaned it to me warned me that she almost put it down several times but forced herself to stick it out. In the end, she said, seeing this man healed and transformed was worth it. Since the story hit much closer to home for my friend, she became my inspiration to give it a shot. Then the brutality got too entense and I set the book aside.

Last week at a church get together, someone mentioned this same book. “I wept over his conversion.”

Suddenly I wanted to give the book another shot. If the ending was that powerful, maybe all the prison camp violence was worth it. I’d survived the frightening scenes where he and his fellow airmen were lost at sea, surrounded by hungry sharks. But again, it got to be too much and I announced to my family, “That’s it, I’ve had enough. Tomorrow, I’m skipping to the powerful, redemptive ending.”

This morning, however, I couldn’t do it. Somehow I knew that the ending would be less amazing without seeing all that this man lived through first. I had to skim some chapters but I at least read enough to get an idea of what happened. When I’d had enough I took a break. I’m thinking of it as an exercise in endurance. Sure, there are times when it is perfectly acceptable (and also wise) to fast forward a disturbing movie scene or pass on reading a book that is too upsetting. This time, like my friend, I sense that I need to read on.

Later, I thought of the many times when I wished I could skip past my current life chapter to the redeptive ending that I’d been assured was coming. Obviously I couldn’t. In the end, the rewards were greater because of all the scenes that I had to look back on when all seemed lost. If God had allowed me to skip those parts, He would also have allowed me to miss the depth of all He had done.

What are going through now that you would like to skip over? Ask God to give you the endurance and strength to hold on, knowing that a redemptive ending is coming.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Awkward Introduction


So this is the awkward part of the party where I reach out to shake your hand and realize… I forgot to put on my deodorant.

Introductions have never really been my thing. I prefer later – after I’ve learned your name, listened to you sing, and found out you’re a lousy dancer.

Unfortunately, I know if I never shake your hand I’ll never get to know you. As someone wise once said, “Vulnerability begets vulnerability”.

So here I am, reaching out, telling you…

• My name is B.J. I used to be very happy and very single. I lived by the motto, “My husband died at birth”. Then I met him and realized he was anything but a corpse. Now I am very happy and very married.
• I write a lot about waiting for the right guy. My agent is currently shopping a book I’m super-psyched about, called The Bare Naked Truth About Waiting. Now I’m the one doing the waiting… for the right publisher.
• In the meantime I’m excited about hanging out here (thanks for including me, ladies!) and on my site, realteenfaith.com.
• I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts, your ideas, your dreams – you know – the later part of the party where you realize… you are wearing deodorant.

In the meantime, tell me a little about yourself.

Let’s get this awkward stage out of the way!

See you on the 4th and 18th of each month.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

A Lesson From My Puppy



Saturday we got a new puppy--a six-week-old yellow Lab. We named him Clyde. I had a friend tell me, "You're going to learn a lot from Clyde."

What she said went straight to my heart. I knew it was the truth, but I couldn't imagine what Clyde would have to teach me.

Lesson One came today.

I clipped on his John Deere leash. "If you would just relax and trust me, we could have fun walking together."

I'm not going to fight with him, but I figured how how to take a few baby steps with the leash training process.I coax him with a taste of food and praise him big time. But sometimes, he refuses to move. So we stand there.

"Clyde, if you'll just chill out, we can have fun. See these woods around the house? You and I could go check everything out together."

But he's not ready to listen to me. He must think he knows best.

And so many times, I'm not ready to listen to God. I like to try and do so things in my own strength. I want to figure out life ahead of time--have answers for everything--the whys and hows and whens. Run ahead of God. Do things my way.

But God keeps bringing me back to the same place.

A place where I can't do it without Him.

"Clyde, buddy, relax. Trust me," I say. I bet God is saying the same thing. "Relax, Julie. You can trust me. I know the future. Stick close to me."

This morning, I was reading the Bible and a verse jumped off the page at me.

Isaiah 30:15. "....in quietness and confidence shall be your strength..."

A good verse for me. And for Clyde. I have a feeling my friend was right. Clyde has so much to teach me.

Love,
Julie

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Justin & Jesus


It's March 1st! I know that actual warm weather may still be a few weeks off but the fact that it's finally March means spring is getting closer!! This makes me deliriously happy.

And apparently it's Justin Bieber's birthday today. I only know this because of Twitter and Facebook. Now I'm no stranger to teen pop star mania (though when I was in high school it was a boy band named New Kids on the Block that girls in a frenzy - literally), but Justin Bieber is everywhere!

Justin turned 17 this year. An age where teens are usually finishing up their junior years, moving towards graduation, making plans and having fun with friends. Justin spends his time with millions of screaming fans, surrounded by an entourage and vacationing with his older girlfriend. It's such an alternate world. And I can't help but wonder about the different reception Justin Bieber would get vs. the reception that Jesus would get.

Jesus was followed around by crowds, too. I'm reading through the Gospel of Mark right now and it mentions on multiple occasions that the "crowds pressed in" on Him. Desperate, hurting people. Many of them sick, looking for a miracle. Jesus called them "sheep without a shepherd" and He had compassion on them. People seek out what they need, and the people in Jesus' day recognized that Jesus had something that they lacked. So they pursued Him. He healed many people, set them free from demons and taught them God's ways through stories. Jesus had words of life and he freely gave to those that sought the truth.

Justin Bieber does claim to be a Christian. I can only hope that he really means what he says. And that he stays the course. But I think I'm a bit more concerned about his legions of fans. All of the swooning. All of the ... idol worship. I realize that most of his fans are young...Beliebers. But no matter what our age, we are told:

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. (Proverbs 4;23)

There's nothing wrong with liking his music, even admiring him as an "artist" or an individual - but your heart? Your worship? That should belong to God alone. So next time you react to a Bieber sighting, think about it - do you react that way when you spend time with God?

And for those of you beyond the Bieber years:-) There are many other things that begin to vie for our worship - maybe a guy? Maybe a job? Maybe a dream?

To whom does your heart truly belong?

Thoughts?

Sarah Anne Sumpolec is a speaker, writes teen fiction, including the Becoming Beka series, blogs at her website: a naked faith and can be found on twitter as well.

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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