Foundations Of Our Faith

About the first week in June, Spencer came to me and asked me to give a girl’s devotional thought at church camp, which would happen in 2.5 weeks. I told him I would, and he gave me a question to answer: How do you know when you a more spiritually weaker than normal? What do you do when you are spiritually weak?

I didn’t quite know how to answer it, and I became frustrated with the question. Spencer couldn’t help me, and whenever I would ask him what he thought about my answer, he would just say “Hmm…” So every text I sent him with a thought, I would just ignore my thought because I didn’t think that’s what he wanted.

He eventually gave up on the question which was given to me, and he told me to just tell the girls what my faith is and how my faith has grown. He wanted the girls to see me outside of church camp. But I still had trouble. I wanted it to be perfect (that’s how I want everything to be), but I just couldn’t get it to work out.

So, I just left the devotional thought alone, and I focused on the youth group events and my summer class of Thermodynamics. I left the devotional alone, until the night before I left for camp. That’s not the typical Amy move, but it happened.

The Saturday night before camp, I went to Tana’s house, and she helped me. She gave me an activity to do, which fell PERFECTLY into my thought that I had written out 15 minutes before going to her house.

I left Tana’s house in an hour, and went to Walmart, then went back home, and started packing. I finished my devotional at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, and finished packing at 3 a.m. Then got some sleep, woke up really early to get all my things for camp together and to get ready for church, and then left for church. As soon as church let out, I left for camp.

Sundays at camp are all weird and such, but I still love it. It’s the first day, so you don’t really know what to do. No one knows the schedule, and the kids are all kinds of crazy.

I hadn’t even looked at my notes for my devotional the following night, and I sure didn’t want to. I’m not big on public speaking when it comes down to people I don’t necessarily know (classroom public speaking), but when I speak to my church family or the youth group or my group of friends, I am perfectly fine. But this was different. I was scared to get in front of the group of girls and give them my take on my faith and my life and what Jesus has done for me. I told some of the camp girls that it wasn’t going to be any good because I was a little nervous, but they didn’t really care.

Monday afternoon, it’s swim time. I let two of the girl counselors go watch the girls while they swim, and me and another counselor go down to the game room and the craft room to watch over the other kids. I told myself I was going to read over my notes, but if there’s crafts, ping-pong, and pool around me, that definitely isn’t going to happen. So I played pool. I played ping-pong, and then I made crafts. Didn’t look at my notes for even 5 minutes.

Monday night finally comes, and we all walk up to the bluff for singing time. We sing some songs, one in particularly, Firm Foundation, and then Spencer announces that I will be giving a devotional thought with the girls, and another male counselor will be taking off to the softball field for the boys devotional thought.

Yay. It’s go time, Amy. The boys leave, and I’m left alone with the girls. I unpack all of my things, and I sure did take my time. Then I started my devotional thought, and I will share that with you in this post…

I started off with the notes right in front of me, ready to read straight off of it. But instead, I left the podium, and just talked to them. Didn’t go by my notes whatsoever, and I still have no idea how I did that.

I told them that were were going to be playing a game. It wasn’t really a game game, but we’re gonna pretend like it’s a game. I passed out lego pieces to all the girls, and then I passed out Sharpies.

I held a brick in my hand, and told the girls to tell me some things that they struggle with as a Christian. My example for them was that you may struggle with being patient, or you may struggle with being positive during tough times.

The girls started to raise their hands, and I got many answers. Some of the answers were:

  1. Family issues
  2. Peer pressure
  3. Fear
  4. Patience
  5. Being nice to others

As they told me these struggles, I grabbed a Sharpie and started to write all of the things they told me down on the brick that I held.

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I then picked up my Lego piece, and told them to look at theirs. I told them that I wanted them to write one thing down on the Lego piece that they do to cope with the struggle that was written on the brick. My example to them was to pray for patience. Ask God to help you in this, and He will.

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The girls started to write down some things, and then I had two girls collect the Lego pieces. As this was going on, I talked to them about faith.

  1. Music
  2. Prayer
  3. Friends
  4. Think positively
  5. Think about happy thoughts

Faith isn’t something that happens overnight. Sometimes it may feel that your daily growth in faith seems as if it is nonexistent, meaning that faith takes a long time to grow, and like I said, it doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s very easy to become frustrated with slow progress, but sometimes slow progress can be a good thing. The slow progress gives us a chance to look back at everything and see how God has been working in our lives by growing and developing our faith.

I then started to talk a little about myself, telling them that I was a civil engineering student, and so buildings and bridges and things like that were my specialty (haha). I asked them if they had ever watched something being built, either a dresser, a bed, a house, etc.

I told them that no matter what is being built, it’s going to take time. Probably a lot of time, too. As a bricklayer places one brick upon the other to build a large tower, he may feel as if his progress is insignificant, yet the tower has to be built one brick at time. It’s impossible to just do black magic and throw something together, and boom, a building is before us! It doesn’t work like that. It’s one step at a time. Progress. The tower, being built one brick at a time, is the same as our Christian lives.

Our faith is growing one step at a time, just like the brick laying process. God doesn’t make changes in our lives at one time. He makes big changes thru a series of little changes. We have to learn to trust God for the little things. And just like any other growing experience, living by faith is taking one step at a time.

Around this time, I asked the two girls who collected the Lego’s if they would come build a house for me, but the house had specifications. The house, or the foundation, had to be able to fit an egg inside it.

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The girls began to build it, and then I had someone read Matthew 7:24-29.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practiceis like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

We talked about the wise man and the foolish man. I asked them what the wise man had that the foolish man didn’t, which made his house fall down. I waited for an answer, and finally a little girl came up with it. She said, “He had faith.” Yes, he did have faith, but he also had something else. I began to motion my hands to what the girls were building, and then someone else got it. “He had a foundation.” Yes, he did have a foundation, but he had a FIRM foundation. I told them that we sang the song just a few moments ago, and it was a powerful song (even though I hate that song because the SSYG sang it TOOOOOOO many times when I was young).

I let the girls watch the two girls build the house, or the foundation. I let them notice that as they were building it, they were working together, and that they were building it one lego at a time.

When the two girls finished the foundation, I grabbed the egg, and I held it in front of all the girls. I explained to them that the egg was our soul, and what was just built was our foundation. I placed the egg in the foundation, and let them notice what was happening.

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As I placed the egg into the foundation, I reminded them that the egg was our soul, and the legos were our foundation. I grabbed the brick, which had all of our struggles and challenges written on it, and I asked them what were to happen if I was to place the brick onto the foundation. I asked them if the foundation would fall or if it would hold. They weren’t too sure (neither was I because the girls built it super weird, haha), but I placed the brick on the foundation (very carefully, I did), and the foundation stood firm.

I stepped back for a second, and let the girls see what was happening. As the brick was placed on the legos, it stayed firm. The legos, which represented the foundation of our faith, and the brick, which represented our sins. I let them see that whenever we have a strong and firm foundation, nothing can keep us from having faith to God.

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I grabbed my other egg, and put it on the ground. I reminded them that the egg was still our soul, and I grabbed the brick off of the foundation. I asked them what would happen to the egg if I were to place the brick on the egg. All the little girls shouted “IT WILL CRACK!” I stepped back from the egg and was shocked. I asked them why the egg would crack, or why they thought the egg would crack. The little girls knew their stuff, and said “It’s going to crack because nothing is protecting it,” and another says, “there’s no foundation.”

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I placed the brick on the egg, and the egg was crushed. I stood up, and stood there, looking at the kids. I walked back to my podium, and got serious.

If we don’t have a firm foundation, our soul is going to be crushed. If we don’t have faith to God, our soul is going to be crushed. You saw it right before your eyes. If you have a firm foundation, you have faith in God. The foundation of our faith is found in Jesus and in all of the wonderful things that He has given us.

I then asked them about their legos. Not the ones they wrote on, but the legos in their life. I asked them what foundations they had in their life, and then I talked to them about what my legos were.

My Legos

  1. Youth Group
    1. When I was a kid, I did everything possible with the youth group at Slicer Street. It was one of the best experiences of my middle school and high school years.
    2. The main reason I am where I am today is because of what the youth group has done for me as a child, and even now. I’ve been able to work with the youth group as I’m in college, and it’s been a blast.
  2. Family and friends
    1. Most of my close ‘family’ and my friends all come from Slicer Street. If I didn’t have my Slicer St. background that I have, I wouldn’t know what to do.
    2. My parents and my brother are also an important part in my faith. From showing me what love is to showing me what determination and courage is, it’s always been them at home to show me what the Christian family and life should look and act like.
  3. Reading the Bible
    1. Before I got baptized, I talked to many friends about the Bible, and I started reading the Bible more. I wanted to actually know what God was saying to me and what He wanted from me.
  4.  Following the Bible
    1. After reading the Bible and becoming more familiar with what God wanted out of me and what His plan was for me, I started to realize that I needed Him in everyday life. I began to WANT to follow His Word more and more.
    2. If we don’t truly follow His Word, what is our faith then? Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Not putting our faith into action is the exact same as not having faith.
  5. Seeking Him
    1. As Christians, we should want to follow Him. By seeking Him, you are constantly wanting to be like Him, wanting to know more about Him, and wanting to have a relationship with Him.
  6. Confessing your sins
    1. When I started to understand more about the Bible from reading it, I wanted to become baptized. So I talked to my youth minister, and he helped me with becoming baptized.
    2. I chose someone to baptize me that had a big impact on my faith and who I was. I chose my adopted grandpa, Larry McDowell, to baptize me.
  7. Service projects
    1. One of the things that I remember most from the youth group is the service projects that we did during the summer and some throughout the school year.
    2. Service projects made a huge impact on my faith and they continue to do so. Service projects was always one of my favorite things to do with the youth group. It always makes other people happy, and it always made me happy to help others. We are called to serve!
  8. Nature
    1. This one is definitely my favorite. Nature, mountains, outdoorsy things didn’t really have an impact on me until my senior year of high school. My senior trip was a Smokey Mountain Discipleship Camp with the Slicer St. Youth Group, and that was when everything hit me. I loved climbing the mountains during spring break (in the snow), and it showed me more of God and what He has done for me and everyone around me.
  9. And finally, camp
    1. Okay, maybe #8 isn’t my favorite. Number eight and nine are a tie….
    2. My all time favorite part of the summer is church camp for many reasons.
    3. I really don’t have enough words to say how much camp means to me, and how much each and every one of the campers means to me for giving up a full week of their summer.
    4. There’s just something about camp that gives me peace and joy. Maybe it’s the full week of being away from the world (in a sense), but I’m not sure. I still don’t have the answer.
    5. Hearing the bull frogs at night to hearing cicadas, or watching little lizards fight each other on logs and seeing fireflies at night when you have a campfire – it’s all just breathtaking. Every little ting can bring about your faith – you just have to let it grow.

As I finished telling them about my legos in my life, I told them to think about their legos and to also think about how they are building their foundation and faith in Jesus.


After I was finished with my devotional thought, a little girl came up to me and put her hands on my shoulders and was very serious looking. She said, “Amy. That was the best sermon I have ever heard.” I started to laugh, and she walked off. After this was said, I went straight to Spencer and rubbed it in his face. “There’s competition among you,” I told him.


 

Special thanks to Tana Stewart for always helping me out and for just being awesome.

But there you have it. Amy Johnson’s first devotional thought. I left camp with a full heart, with a heart on fire for Him, and feeling blessed by every single person at camp. The drive home was something else. I had happy tears as the only thing I could say in my car was, “Thank you, God.” over and over and over again. I had no other words besides those three. I do realize that those three words shouldn’t just be said when leaving camp, but rather every single day that I am given by Him.

And now, here I am, at my apartment just now posting this about two months later, sitting on the couch in my room, thinking about all the lovely memories of church camp, and the list just goes on and on. So, here’s what I have left to say:

I love God, and I love church camp.

Thank you, God.

Difference Maker

I’ve known of the band NeedToBreathe for a long time, and I’ve had only two or three songs on my iPod from them, but I recently came across one of their songs, and it has definitely made me fall in love with them.

The official music video is embedded, so please listen to it.

 

Assuming that you have listened to it now, did you pay attention to the lyrics, or were you confused as to why there was a guy standing in an astronaut suit the entire music video?

I have about a ten minute drive to campus from my apartment, and this entire week I have had this song on repeat, and the lyrics are eating me up.

 Yeah, isn’t it amazing how a man can find himself alone
Call into the darkness for an answer that’s he’s never known
Yeah, isn’t it amazing how God can take a broken man
Yeah, let him find a fortune, let him ruin it with his own two hands

The first verse got me right off the bat. Oh boy, it did. From my understanding, it’s the fact that even a strong, powerful person can feel weak and alone and in need of help. And then this person “calls into the darkness” to a higher power asking for help. But “isn’t it amazing how God can take a broken man, let him find his fortune, let him ruin it with his own two hands,” is saying that He gives us the free will to make anything of which we can, yet He also gives us the free will to perfectly ruin what He gives us. God leads people to success, just like the verse says, but then it all comes crashing down when it is prioritized above God.

 And he climbs on up the hill on the rock on which he stands
He looks back at the crowd
He looks down at his hands and he says
I am a difference maker

The man is then believing that he has achieved everything by himself – with the work of his own two hands. He has done it all, without anyone. The man then looks down at his hands, putting all his faith and trust into himself.

Oh, I am the difference maker
Oh, I am the only one who speaks to him
And I am the friendliest of friends of God

The man then tells himself that he is the “difference maker.” He believes he can do everything by himself alone, and that he has control over everything. He tells himself he is the “difference maker” because that is what any man would say to himself to keep convincing himself that he is the powerful one.  He also calls himself the “friendliest of friends of God” because he thinks awfully high of himself. He believes that God loves him more than others.

Yeah, isn’t it amazing how a man can find himself alone
Call into the darkness for an answer that he’s never known
Yeah, isn’t it amazing how God can take a broken man
Yeah, let him find a fortune, let him ruin it with his own two hands

He walks on up the hill to the rock on which he stands
He looks back at the crowd
He looks down at his hands and he says
I am a difference maker

Oh, I am the difference maker
Oh, I am the only one that speaks to him
And I am the friendliest of friends of God

I am on the fence about nearly everything I’ve seen
And I have felt the fire be put out by too much gasoline
And we’re all strangers passing through a place and time afternoon
Life is but a vision in a window that we’re peeking through

Basically he’s saying that reality has no certainties whatsoever. And when the fire is “put out by too much gasoline,” he’s clearly saying that he’s seen people make mistakes, counter-productively attempting to fix their problems by igniting (yet again) more problems.

He then describes life as just a huge crowd of people who don’t know what they’re doing. We are all strangers, and we are all lost. “Life is but a vision in a window that we’re peeking through” means that people don’t have reality figured out. No one really has a monopoly on truth. Our time on earth is very short, like glimpsing into a window just for a moment to see what is going on inside, and then moving on.

We are not of this world. Our life on Earth is just a moment, an “afternoon” compared to eternity. This line echoes the sentiments of both the line right after it and the later phrase “we’re all astronauts.” People are strangers (lost) from a foreign world, only on Earth for a moment in time.

A helpless conversation with a man who says he cares a lot
It’s a passive confrontation about who might throw a punch or not
We are all transgressors, we’re all sinners, we’re all astronauts
So if you’re beating death then raise your hand but shut up if you’re not

And then a contradictory sentence about the characteristics of human beings and the inconsistency of human beings. He is talking about life – he compares it to a conversation with a person who says they care when they do not actually.

He then describes humanity as “transgressors, sinners, and astronauts,” meaning that human beings are all essentially wrongdoers in need of acknowledging their shortcomings. We are all the same – we are ALL sinners. We’re inclined to believe that we aren’t special and that we can’t make a difference, but God uses the worst of us to change the world. Don’t believe that? Take a look at Paul from the New Testament…

“Astronauts” specifically describes how lost human beings are, and that’s what the music video is all about. He’s in an astronaut suit because we are ‘lost in space without God.’

It is then sarcastically said that those who have power over death need to show themselves, but it is known that no human being is foolish enough to think he or she can cheat death. And therefore, all humans have fallen and are in desperate need of something greater than themselves, and this “something” is God.

‘Cause I am the difference maker
Oh, I am the only one that speaks to him
And I am the friendliest of friends of God

I am the difference maker
Oh, I am the only one that speaks to him
And I am the friendliest of friends of God

I am the difference maker
Oh, I am the only one that speaks to him
And I am the friendliest of friends of God

This song is a pretty spiritual song, and it can most definitely apply to everyone in everyday life. I think the main message of this song is that we all fall, and we all desperately need God. We cannot do everything alone – we are simply not powerful enough, but with God’s help we are.

Take a look at what the band has to say about this song:

I love the idea of Abraham’s righteousness, and what that really means. I always used to think that was right living, and doing a bunch of things right. Abraham’s righteousness came through faith, and believing in something he couldn’t see. It was not from believing in his talents. Everybody has the ability to be righteous, and believe. That’s a powerful thing. We are all given that opportunity. That’s such an equalizer.

The song is about our neediness and my realizing that over time. The whole band, really. It’s about struggling with who we are supposed to be and the process that God wants to be a part of. Creatively, where do we fit in? How valuable is our voice in all that?  How can we make a difference if we don’t feel it? The song says, “He walks on up that hill, to the rock on which he stands, he looks out at the crowd, he looks down at his hands, and he says I am a difference maker.”

I wanted people to see that in two ways. You could say he makes the statement out of arrogance, for looking at his hands and the crowd and what he achieved. Or, you could say he made the statement out of humility. When he realized that his hands could have never gotten him to where he is. The truth is the beauty of grace is that we do not and could not understand it. I take great comfort knowing that God’s plan is far greater than any success or failure of mine. That’s the gift I have. Not musicianship. Not singing, but faith.

I am a difference maker. The album to me is autobiographical. That’s what The Wasteland is all about. There’s a crack in the door filled with light, and that’s all we have to start. Our ambition got in the way and our priorities got in the wrong place, and being on the road and not knowing where we are. At the end of the album, the truth is there, and we’ve realigned our priorities. That really is the story of what happened to the band over that year. God had a plan for this album. We needed to put our identity into the things that matter in God, rather than in the band.

“Difference Maker” is a beautiful song in many ways. It’s about the beauty of grace and having faith. It’s about knowing that God’s plan is far greater than any success or failure. But it’s also about pride. The man in the song sees himself as great, but in reality, he really isn’t anything at all. The man sees himself as the only one who speaks to God, the friend of God, but he clearly isn’t. The man has done nothing great, and he is only speaking out of a false sense of pride and accomplishment.

Sometimes I often see myself as this man in the song. Something great happens to me, and my pride gets the best of me. I wish this wasn’t true, but it is. I don’t want to ‘climb the hill and look down at his hands’ and tell myself that I am the difference maker, because I most certainly am not.

We shouldn’t prioritize anything above God. 

God is good, all the time! 

 

Engineering + girls = ???

A couple of weeks ago I went to study at the library with some of my [guy] engineering friends for a test the following day. As we were “studying” (notice I put it in quotations because half the time we were talking about the professor’s teaching methods and also making jokes), one of my [guy] friend’s asked me, “So what’s it like being the only girl in engineering?” I paused. I knew what engineering was like, but it hadn’t really dawned on me that I was one of the five (or so) girls in engineering at Arkansas State. I didn’t really know how to answer the question, so I just laughed.

When I left the library, I thought about his question that he asked me. You don’t normally see a lot of girls that are into STEM (Science, Technology, Education, Mathematics). But here I am, an engineering major. Why is that?

I definitely did not start out at as engineering major, I can tell you that! I was an Exercise Science and Physical-Therapy major, wanting to be a Physical Therapist. My first year of college, I attended Harding University, a private Christian college, but I then transferred to Arkansas State, and this is my home. I am a RedWolf, and I am proud!

My first semester at Arkansas State, I was still an ES and PT major. My brother attended Arkansas State so I got to talk to him a lot about the classes and the buildings and pretty much everything else. He helped me out a bunch (woo, go brothers!).

I first chose ES because I love to learn about the body – bones, nerves, structures of the brain, etc. I wanted to be a physical therapist because while I was in high school, I injured just about everything possible (some things more than once), but it wasn’t until my junior year that I really got hurt and had to watch myself closely.

I asked my brother what classes I should take, and he told me to take an Introduction to PTA class, and so I did. I took the class, and by the end of the class, I did not want to be a physical therapist. Nope, no way. Not for Amy. But I still wanted to be an ES major. So then I set my mind on being a Personal Trainer, but that definitely did not last long. I mean, I have to make a living and make the dough, am I right???

I came home for Christmas Break, talked to my parents, and within one night, I was now a Civil Engineering major, with thanks to my brother. My first thoughts were, “Isn’t that hard?” “Can I do that?” “I’m not that smart!”

Classes started back in the spring, and here I was walking into an engineering class. My first engineering class was Concepts of Engineering, and guess what each student had to do on the first day of class? Oh, you know, the oh-so-lovely “state your name, your year, major, where you’re from, what you like to do, etc.” I walked to the front of the class… “I’m Amy. I’m a transfer student from Harding. I’m a Civil Engineering major, I’m from Kennett. I’m a sophomore, and I love sports and hiking.” My Concepts professor looks at me. “I’ve never seen you before, and you’re a sophomore?” I answer, “Yes. I was an ES major.” The whole class roars. Greaaaaattttt.

It’s been a whole year since I walked into my Concepts class, and it’s been a whole year that I have officially been an engineering major. I hate it, but I love it more than I hate it. Engineering isn’t easy, but engineering isn’t impossible. I haven’t regretted my decision once, but there have definitely been (A LOT) of lows and highs during this time (like wasting 50 staples on a lab report and then finally just using a paperclip, as seen below, OR like making a 98% on a 26-page lab report). There’s a ton of homework involved, and it is very stressful to get all of it done, but I am doing it, and I like what I’m doing.

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Death of the Staples by Arthur Miller

As I walk into my engineering classes now, I notice that I am the only girl  (or one of two) in my classes, and I guess I have gotten used to it. My only thoughts about why there aren’t any other girls (or close to the numbers of guys) in engineering would be that girls don’t think they can do it, but girls are most definitely up to the challenge. You just have to push yourself (and push yourself a lot).

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It might be a little weird to sit in all your classes with 30 other guys and hear the professor say, “don’t tell your girlfriend that…” and then look directly at you and say, “…or, boyfriend.” (ha, ha, nice one), but it’s worth it. It will be.

I like to think that God wanted me to be in engineering. I have a strong feeling that I am meant to be at Arkansas State University as a Civil Engineering major. I have gotten to know so many of the guys in my classes, and it’s great. I love my school (I definitely wouldn’t have said that my freshman year, but now I am saying it), and I love my major.

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Arkansas State chapter of American Society of Civil Engineers at the ASCE Deep South Conference 2016 in Lake Charles, LA

Engineering is pretty awesome, but then it also isn’t pretty nor awesome. You just have to give it a chance.So back to the original question: what is it like being a girl in engineering? Well, it’s definitely a lot of things, but at the end of the day, it’s always fun.

 

Cheers,
Your Civil girl

 

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The Day of Love

The best kinds of gifts are those that come from the heart. Am I right? But what about that $400 Apple Watch for Christmas? The $300 Wireless Beats for your birthday? Yeah, those are pretty sweet and everything, but we shouldn’t be obsessing over them.

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and for the past 21 years, I have been single (I’m perfectly fine with that – God has His perfect timing!). But I’ve never really done anything beyond special for a special someone on Valentine’s Day, so maybe this time it can be different.

One of my favorite tv shows is The Middle (Brick is my absolute favorite). I watch this whenever I can, and I’ve learned that at the end of every episode, there’s a lesson to be learned dealing with the Heck family. I just watched the Valentine’s Day episode, and it gave me an idea.

I remember when I was a little girl, and my dad picked me up from school on Valentine’s Day. I hopped into the Pathfinder, and he handed me a rose. I was confused, and asked him what it was for. He said, “because I love you.” I will never forget this moment. A simple gift, but it wasn’t the rose that made me smile. It was hearing those words come from him in that way.

So instead of giving flowers, a bear and/or chocolates, (or whatever you weird romance/in-love couples do) I’ve decided to write something for the ones I love the most.

 

To my mom, the one and only Kim

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I love you. A lot. You’ve taught me so much in the past 21 years.

I have learned that “if you haven’t got anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.” That it is so much better to remain silent than to say something that you will regret later on and cannot take back.

I’ve also learned that “good things come to those who wait.” That if it is meant to be, then it will happen. That if it is not meant to be, then there is a reason even though we do not know why, but He has a plan for us. He always does. And someday we will understand when the time is right.

I know why I “treat others as you would like to be treated.” I have learned to put myself in someone else’s shoes and to open my eyes to how he or she must feel. I get it now, with a huge thanks to you.

On a ‘bigger’ note, thank you so much for writing down how to do laundry. Without these two notecards taped to the bottom of the laundry basket, I wouldn’t know how to do anything. Thank you for that. 🙂

I think about you everyday, even though I don’t text you everyday.

I really do appreciate every single thing you have done for me. I know I don’t say it enough, but I will forever be grateful for all the things you have done for me, and all of the things you have given me, and have given up just for me. Even the small things don’t go unnoticed, and I never forget to say a little thank you in my head, even if I forget to say it to you.

You tell me so many times how proud you are of me, but I don’t think I’ve ever said how proud I am of you. You do so much for not only me, but for everyone you come in contact with. You’ve shown me how to overcome little obstacles with faith, grace, and a good attitude, even when I don’t want to. And then when I stop and realize that I am becoming more and more like you in every single action and in every single word that I say, my heart smiles, because I am beyond glad to be more and more like you.

I admire you, mom, with everything in my heart because of these things, and so much more. I will never forget them. Because of you, I have become a person who tries to be more like Christ in everything I do, loving, kind, patient, selfless, and compassionate. I only hope that I can pass these same characteristics down to my child (or children), so that he/she will be as proud of me as I am of you.

To my dad, 10612802_10153322853656900_297763585831937785_n

I love you, too. Forever and always. And even though I’m 21, I still love to be called your “Tweetybird.”

Thank you for showing me what a great leader of the household is. Now I only hope to find a man just like you (and a mix of Wilbur, too – that’d be spectacular).

You’ve taught me that hard work pays off. All you do is work hard, and I admire you for that.

You always know what to say, and what to do, in order to make me laugh (like a complete idiot when we are at Walmart).

You were always the guinea pig when it came to fun, adventurous things. From hiking below freezing, to riding crazy rollercoasters with me, you were the one, even when you didn’t exactly want to. But you did – for me.

I still remember the note you wrote to me the day you dropped me off at Harding. I read that a lot, and I will never forget that. I still read it. You couldn’t finish the letter, but you wanted to. So I think this is how I take after you.

You’ve taught me a lot alongside mom, and I admire you just as much as her. You helped me learn science and math (basically anything but grammar – haha). I know I am going to be a good engineer because of you and because of mom. You help me in so many ways, it is just unreal.

I am so much like you, and I am super glad to be saying that. I am a lucky girl to have you.

And just like mom, you tell me so many times how proud you are of me, but I don’t think I’ve ever said how proud I am of you. You’ve done so much, taught me so much. I could go on. And I can see you in myself every day, and I love it.

I admire you, dad, with everything in my heart because of these things, and so much more. I will never forget them, and I love you to infinity.

 

To my brother, my Wilbur

I love you, too. So many things to thank you for also.

You taught me how to play soccer, how to play ping-pong, how to do hurdles, basically any athletic ability that I have is because of you, and I can’t thank you enough. Every bruise that I’ve ever had is because of you, also.

You’ve taught me to be strong, to stand up for myself, to figure things out, to keep working at everything I do, and many many more things. You taught me how to play Rachet and Clank, Timesplitters, COD, Pokemon… man, those were the days.

I know that if I ever need something, I can come to you, just like I can with mom and dad. But if it’s something computer related, then it’s most definitely you.

Most importantly, thanks for being the older sibling and for being the one who got in trouble the most 😉

Who needs a bodyguard when you have a brother like you? You would do anything for me when it came down to this.

You tell me like it is. You’re not afraid to tell me my hair is messed up or anything, and I guess I like you for that too.

I want to be more like you, because you’re just good at everything you do. I admire you, big brother. A bunch. There’s so much stuff I could say to you, but just know that I love you for everything you do and have done. I see a lot of you in myself, and I am happy to say that.

 

 

To my church family,

So many things come to my mind to say to you all. But I think this can be summed up in a couple of sentences.

You’ve never failed me. You have always been there accepting me for who I am, praying for me as I go thru things, praying with me, teaching me, believe in me, supporting me, having faith in me, trusting with me, and every other thing imaginable. I would not be who I am without you. You always make me smile. I love you all.

 

 

To my friends,

I can’t thank you enough for always being there for me. For talking about boys, sports, fashion, or anything else, you always knew what to say. You all are my rock. So many things come to my mind with you all also, but just know that I love you all. So so much. And I thank you for being my friend thru the good and bad times (but mainly good times, because I’m pretty cool).

 

To my little Red (wolf), 

Woof woof, bark (don’t worry, he knows what I said). I love you, Red. ❤

 

To Frost,

You’re so fat and fluffy. Meow, meow. Purr. I love you too, Frosty (she will also know what I said).

 

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope you put aside the gifts, and celebrate this wonderful day full of love by telling others how much he or she means to you.

 

 

Complain, Complain, Complain

I recently started my spring semester of my junior year, and guess what the one thing is that has happened the most within the past 4 days? Complaints. Not weird at all, right? Right. I wanted to write about this word because it’s more than just complaining; it solely becomes a habit. So here goes the thoughts of a 21 year old about an eight letter word. Hold on tight…

Let’s ask one of the oh-so-obvious questions: Why do people complain? If you are like myself, I complain because I’m not perfect (nor is life), and that drives me crazy. I complain because maybe, just maybe, it will make things better, but in reality does it really make things better? Ha, nope! I sure wish it did because life would be so much simpler. Another reason is to avoid responsibility. I know there are tons of other reasons as to why other people complain, but I will just stick to the few that I have recently mentioned.

This is my third semester of being an engineering major, and boy have I learned a ton of things during that. Before I was an engineering major, I was an Exercise Science/Pre-Physical Therapy major. While I was an Exercise Science major, things were easy, and I was used to that, but when I switched to Engineering, things changed, and boy did I start complaining more and more.

We have all seen that life isn’t perfect; it never has, and it never will be. So if life isn’t perfect and never will be, why do we complain about its imperfections? This has been a question that I have struggled to answer for a while, and I am not quite sure if I know the answer now; if you’re expecting me to answer that question, please don’t hold me to it!

Dictionary.com defines the word ‘complain’ as, “to express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness,censure, resentment, or grief; find fault;” and “to grumble, growl, whine are terms for expressing dissatisfaction or discomfort.”

The word “grumble” really make sense in this way because I remember my first year of church camp and my senior year Spring Break. The camp director, Spencer Furby, made us all recite Philipians 2:14 every single day of camp, and the same guy also made us recite this verse as we were climbing the Smoky Mountains in March…in the snow.

Do everything without grumbling or complaining

All of our excuses as to when we got done hiking in the mountains and getting back to the warm cabin was, “that wasn’t a complaint; that was a statement.” Is there a difference? Yes, I think so, but we often fail to see the difference.

The main reason why I wanted to write something about this word was because of my new job. I work at Kroger, and I am a cashier (it is hard to type this with positive thoughts, but I will succeed!). At Kroger, there are baggers who bag the groceries. One of the things that cashiers tend to ask their customers are, “How are you today?” “Did you find everything okay?” Most customers will say how he or she is, and then ask the same question back to us. I recently heard one of the baggers that I was working with answer this question, and it stood out to me like a bag of bread in the middle of a snow/ice storm (specifically 2009 Ice Storm). The bagger answered with, “I could be worse. It could always be worse. It wouldn’t do me any good to complain.

BOOM. Mind blown!!! What college student do you know would actually say this? Because ha, I don’t think I would have ever thought to say that last sentence…but it goes way beyond the truth. Back to my original question, why do we complain of the imperfections of life when we know for sure that life cannot be perfect? I don’t think there is a valid answer for that, but I do know that it isn’t going to do me any good to complain.

As school starts back, or already has for must of us, be mindful of that sentence. It will go a long way, trust me. I’ll be sure to keep that in my mind at all times. So Facebook friends, I’m watching you…

 

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses. -Abraham Lincoln

 

Thankful For The Mess

Thanksgiving. The fourth Thursday in November when families gather together for a day of feasting, football, and each other.

Thanksgiving. A day where everyone is being thankful for what he or she has.

Thanksgiving. A lovely day to celebrate, but I think we, especially me, more than often forget what we should truly be thankful for…

I am a junior in college, and I have a ton of homework (after all, I am an engineering major – imagine that). What does every student say about homework? Yes, I know. Homework is horrible. It is terrible. Bad. No good. Rotten. I get it. But homework is given to us students as a reason, and for that reason is why I am thankful.

This past summer, I recently had my first job. I was the youth leader at my home church, and I loved it. The ideal job. I absolutely adored it. I did not think of it as a job, though. It was more of a passion, and for that, I am thankful.

In August, I started working at the college library. While it is not as loved as my past job, I am still thankful for it. I do not love working at the library like I loved working at my home church, but I am thankful, but let me tell you why.

As we continue our everyday lives, the one thing we hear most is probably someone complaining. I do this a lot. But outside of our complaints, shouldn’t we be thankful? “Ugh, I hate this homework,” but two weeks later here I am saying something totally different while taking a test, “I am so thankful I did that homework!”

Yes, that is exactly it. I was thankful for the homework two weeks after I was given the homework. Let me try to explain this more, so let’s take a step outside of being thankful, shall we?

I have two people that remind me of being thankful. Dr. Seuss and Paul:

Dr. Seuss wrote a book called “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?” This story is about an old man and a little boy. They are both sitting on cactus’ and the old man is telling the little boy stories, which all have terrible predicaments that could ensue a person, but of course the old man is wise, and tells the boy, ‘You’re really quite lucky.’

It’s a troublesome world. All the people who’re in it are troubled with troubles almost every minute. You ought to be thankful, a whole heaping lot, for the places and people you’re lucky you’re not.

Ha, we think we have it bad… Dr Seuss is deep, and I love it.

If you look at Paul’s ministry, one of his main themes and his main focus was giving thanks. There are many, and I mean many examples. He writes to the Colossians,

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

And again to the Thessalonians,

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Paul is the man, isn’t he? He also practices what he preaches, like in Romans 1:8,

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.

Paul is thankful! Just like in Malta, in Acts 27,

Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.  They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 6 of us on board.

Even though he is in a trial, he is thankful!! Shouldn’t we be more like Paul? We have all heard the saying, “Be thankful for the little things.” I understand that life is stressful, but can we still be thankful even in our mess? Even in our chaos?

Can we step back from our mess and say, “For this, I am thankful?” Take a step away from the complaining, and think about what you can be thankful for – really! Let us not forget to be thankful in every circumstance. And here is why:

I am thankful for…

  1. The hair the comes from my cat, Frosty, because that means she is always there (and normal).313165_10150394204796900_1599007861_n
  2. The slobber that comes from my dog, Red, when I come home to see him after a long day, because that means I have a happy dog, who loves me.Red
  3. The parking spot in the boonies because that means I am capable of walking and have been blessed with a car.
  4. The one lady who sings off key at church, because that means I can hear.
  5. The hard and tough times because that means I have strength to overcome them.
  6. The screaming babies in church because that means the church isn’t dying.
  7. The long and hard day at work because that means I am employed.
  8. The rotten smell in the upstairs part of church when the AC stops (only at Slicer Street) because that means I can smell.
  9. The tears that fall from my eyes when I am hurt, because that means I can express emotion and feel.
  10. The hot July weddings and sweating like crazy, because that means I gain a new family member – a sister-in-law. 11811291_10153400871581900_3537351538591070294_n
  11. The times I injured myself while playing a sport, because that means I was active and able to play a sport.
  12. The next door neighbor who lost his leg, because that means he loves his country, as well as you and me.
  13. The clothes that fit a little too snug, because that means I have plenty to eat.
  14. The 5:40 AM alarm, because that means I am alive.

We are told to be thankful in everything, so let’s be thankful in all that we do, even in our mess.

Trusting in Him

One of my favorite things at church camp is the days that the campers do high ropes. High ropes consists of three different ropes courses: Jacob’s Ladder (my love), Catwalk, and the Pamper Pole. These ropes courses can be tough,  but they can also be really easy, depending on who you are and how you view things.

Jacob’s Ladder is made of 4 long wooden blocks that you call the “ladder” that is about 50 feet in the air. To accomplish this ropes course, you need a partner to help you. The goal of this ropes course is to work together with your partner. It’s just you and your partner, that’s it. You need your partner, and your partner needs you. It is really dependent on other people, and that’s a great lesson to learn.1

The Catwalk is a  telephone pole standing straight up with stakes on it to climb up onto the telephone pole that is about 45 feet in the air. When you reach the top of the telephone pole, you will start to walk across the other telephone pole and reach the other side, and then make your way back to the middle to come back down to the ground.

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The Pamper Pole is also a telephone pole standing straight up with stakes put into the pole that you climb until you reach the top of the telephone pole. You then have to stand on top of the telephone pole, balance yourself, and then jump for the hanging swinging bar that is waiting for you, maybe 7 feet out in front of you.
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All of these ropes courses are possible. This is my favorite thing to watch campers do because you get to see a side of them that you probably normally would not see – and I love it. You see many campers who are afraid, who cry because they simply “cannot do it,” who get half way up the ladder/post and then back down from their mission, who smile while doing it, who laugh, and those who are just straight-forward with no facial expression whatsoever – concentration, focus, and determination.

All of those listed above are normal. It’s our emotions; it’s what we feel. It’s pain, joy, fear, and happiness all in one.

While you watch each camper slowly put on their harness (or you do it for them because they don’t know how), and then you watch them watch other campers do it, it’s impressive. You watch them watch someone else, and they will either get psyched out or become filled with joy and excitement, or maybe both.

It’s amazing to watch campers be afraid of something, and it’s amazing to watch campers be overly excited to do something, also. While you watch those campers who are afraid try to do one of these ropes courses, every single one of them freezes, and say, “I can’t do it.”

I absolutely hate the word “can’t,” “cannot.” It’s a lie. It’s hurtful. It’s plain and simple fear. But were does this fear come from?

While the campers go up there and freeze, we give them a second, and then we ask them, “Where does fear come from?” They usually don’t answer, so we tell them the answer. Fear is not caused by your circumstance. Fear is caused by the devil. Fear is from Satan. Satan is the one who is in charge of your fear. Satan will always take God’s gift and corrupt it. That’s his job, and it makes him happy while doing so.

2 Timothy 1:7 says: “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Ephesians 6:12 says “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 

The whole point of the ropes courses is for them to trust in God, conquer their fear, and to work together. In order to accomplish our mission when we are fearful, we need to trust in God. In order to accomplish our mission when the mission is hard and when we are fearful, we need to overcome that fear and conquer it.

There are many people in the Bible who were in hard, tough, and rough times, but they continued to put all of their trust in God. This is the main lesson to the campers when they are doing the ropes courses – trust in God, always. He has got your back, child, and I can promise you that.