Coming back.


I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking this morning.  I spent half an hour on a massage table, feeling more relaxed than I’ve felt in a while and so grateful for the woman who was making all the tension go away.

If you are a massage therapist, let me tell you, you are God’s hands to the world.  Really.

I came out of that massage room feeling like all my worries and cares were manageable, partly because I spent most of the half hour thanking God for that wonderful massage therapist and praying that He would be all over her life.  Like how I now have aromatherapy oil all over my arms.  I’ve been anointed, I guess you could say.

I don’t think people go into massage therapy just to make people feel good. I think they want you to feel renewed, to feel like you’ve been given a new lease on your day with which to pass along the gift you’ve been given.  I think they want you to have half an hour to refocus, to recharge.

Because, really, you only charge things so that you can use them.  You untangle knots in your jewelry so that you can wear it.  You untie your shoelaces so that you can put your foot back in the shoe at a later date.

I’m ready to be used again.  I’ve been recharged, renewed; my knots have been removed.

So, today, this is my song, “I Am New” – Jason Gray

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On burdens and ordinary people.


I’m meeting a friend and her son at one of the many cupcakes places in Chicago tonight.  (Really, there are a lot of cupcakes places.  It’s incredible.)  She’s one of the wonderful women from the group I went to India with, a little over a year ago.  My excitement for the reunion brings me back to the story of how God brought that particular ministry and passion into my life.

Some parts of the story aren’t something I can post online, but I’ll include what I can.

It’s funny how God takes a whole bunch of – seemingly – insignificant and unrelated happenings and brings them together into a beautiful story.  I may have posted about this before, but I think it’s incredible enough to re-tell.

I first learned about human trafficking while watching Sue Thomas F. B. Eye, when they caught a man who had shipped a group of people to America in a storage container and had been keeping them in there for weeks.  At the time, I was in 4th or 5th grade, I think, and it horrified me, the type of horror that leaves you speechless but not for lack of questions.  It just knocks the wind out of you.

Then, after 9th grade, during my last few months of having braces, we went to Connecticut on vacation.  On a rainy night, we rented Taken, experienced similar horror at the atrocity and truth of the storyline.  Then, promptly the next day, we walked into the small town on Long Island Sound where we were staying and saw a bake sale that was raising money for Love146.

God placed a burden for people who’ve been oppressed through human trafficking and slavery that day.  And He hasn’t lifted that burden ever since.  Instead, the need for action has been driven deeper and deeper into my soul.  God didn’t lift my burden, didn’t take away the drive I felt to do something.

No, instead, He gave me an outlet.  He put people in my life who saw that He’d given me creativity, gave me the skills I needed, and inspired the Kalos Splanchna jewelry line.  He gave me a way to make a difference by donating the proceeds I made to a program that gives women in India empowering skills and introduces them to Jesus.

The burden never left.  It got deeper, and when I got the opportunity to go to India, to see instead of simply hear, it weighed on me even more.  It’s still there.

Today is SHOUT OUT day for the End It Movement.  So, this is my shout out, my testimony about how God uses ordinary people, who may even be a little reluctant and feel unqualified, to bring His kingdom, the place where justice and right reigns, to earth.

This is the song of my heart today: “Whom Shall I Fear” – Chris Tomlin

Jesus at the center


Sometimes, it seems to me that people get more bogged down, more burdened, and more tired, the deeper they get into Christianity.  I’m fairly certain that isn’t the way Jesus wants it to be.

My mom sometimes makes “Honey Do” lists for my dad.  Sometimes they’re just verbal, which doesn’t really do him much good because then there’s the whole remembering thing.  And sometimes they sit on our kitchen counter for a few months, over on the corner by the phone, in my dad’s angular, slanted, but neat handwriting.  More things get added, in my mom’s flowery cursive and sometimes in my messy scrawl or Brooke’s perfect penmanship.  He’s crossed off one, now two.  Then, one weekend, he crosses off the rest of them in one fell swoop.  Finally, he has all the “Honey Do”s taken care of.

I don’t think Jesus is like that.  (Not to say that my mom isn’t like Jesus. She is.)  I don’t think that when you choose to follow Him you get a list of expectations, just belief at first, then slowly but surely, obligations and rituals and burdens are added to the list.

Not to say that following Him is easy and uninconveniencing, (totally not a word, but I’m going to use it anyways) but rather that it’s upfront.  And actually rather freeing, the more wholly you embrace the whole discipleship deal.

I’ve been set free.

Not from a life of addictions or anything like that, but rather from the legalistic, self-promoting view of Jesus that I used to have.

When you’re young, sometimes Jesus is used as a reason for you to follow the rules.  Sometimes well-meaning people start to develop a view of Jesus that makes Him seem like the ultimate rule-giver.  You thought your parents gave you a lot of rules?  Well, welcome to following Jesus.  Here’s our list.  It starts with being quiet while other people are talking and builds up to sharing with everyone.  And it’s not really their fault, because that’s an easy way to explain the most incredible, hard-to-believe-because-it’s-so-wonderful story ever.

Let me tell you, I’m being set free.  A good example of this is how I worship.  My first church experience was in a church where I don’t think worship was fully embraced.  I’m don’t think they did it wrong by any means, but there’s so much more.  Worship is a lifestyle of adoration.  So, for me, freedom means that I don’t sing about Jesus and His love.  I sing to Jesus.  Or maybe I don’t.  Maybe I just listen to the people around me because my heart needs to hear Him adored by other people.

It looks like putting Jesus at the center, not just while I sing at church, but everywhere.  I’m learning that it doesn’t really matter if that makes me seem strange or like I’m a one of those starry-eyed religious people.  I’m still a real person, and I still don’t have much tolerance for sappiness.  But love for Jesus isn’t sappy, it’s real.

“Jesus at the Center” – Israel Houghton is the song in my heart today.

Commencing “Testimony Week”


One of the best things about writing a blog is that I make the rules here.  I don’t have to operate off someone else’s prompts.  I write about whatever is on my heart or mind.  Or I can just write about what I’ve eaten in the past couple days. But I already documented that on Instagram.

So, because I can, I’ve decided to officially declare it TESTIMONY WEEK on Journey To Who I Want To Be.  

It’s holy week.  And I’ve recently been re-re-re-reminded (that wasn’t a stutter, I’ve just forgotten this a lot, thus the many reminders) that my life is all about Jesus.  And my writing is no exception.  A wise woman once told me that people can argue with your doctrine – and they likely will -, but they can’t argue with your experience.  Not that you wonderful people argue with me much (except Dawn, since she doesn’t agree with me about telemarketers:)), but stories are powerful.  That’s really the point.  True stories can change lives.  And it’s good for me to reflect on my story.  Maybe it’ll encourage you, too.

I bet a lot of you have heard the verse, “We all like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6).  I really hate being compared to sheep, mostly because I know they don’t smell very good and have a reputation for being extremely unintelligent.  Yet, I still see that pattern of sheep-like behavior in my life.

And I also see the Good Shepherd consistently pulling me back to Him, where I belong.  I don’t think that Jesus wants me close to Him because I’m such a nice, fluffy sheep with so much to offer Him.  I think it’s because of the deep love He has for me, a love that I did nothing to earn.  He knows that anywhere where I am without Him is a place where I can and likely will be hurt.

I once was lost but now am found.  

I can’t say that I remember a life without at least an infusion of Jesus.  My parents took me to church every Sunday with them and lived out a life of faith as an example for me at home and everywhere else.  They made sacrifices so that I could go to a private, Christian school, and that was where I truly met Jesus.

I’m pretty stubborn, so I learn slowly.  Years of hearing about Jesus as more than a religious figure took root and started to produce fruit in my life in middle and high school.  I’ve learned over the years that though Christianity seems foolish to those outside it, there is no relationship more fulfilling than the one I have with my Savior.

It seems silly, doesn’t it, that you can have a relationship with someone who is completely other than you, that you can communicate with someone who doesn’t often speak audibly, that your entire life can be determined by being that you’ve never even seen face-to-face, someone that words fail you to describe.  But I’m not crazy.  I’m whole.  Complete because I’ve encountered and walked with God.

I’m letting Love consume my life.

“Where Your Heart Belongs” – Mainstay — this is what I woke up with in my head this morning.

Defining nineteen.


I’ve been nineteen for about two and a half weeks now.  This in-between age needs defining, so I’m going to recount what it means to be nineteen from my time here thus far.

I filled out a couple forms and caught myself trying to say that I’m eighteen.  Silly girl.  You’re nineteen now, whatever that means.  I know this type of transition isn’t unique to me or my age – no one can remember how old they are when the time comes.  When they used to ask you for your date of birth at the airport security checkpoint, I always had a panic-filled, fleeting moment where my thoughts went something like: date of birth… DOB… do I even have one of those? Shoot, what’s mine? Is it..? Oh, nope that’s Brooke’s. WHAT’S MY BIRTHDAY? how old am I? six? eleven? Oh, right, sixteen. 

All of that in a span of about two seconds while I hope that the security guard doesn’t think I’m pausing because I have to remember the lie.  No, sir, I have to remember the truth.

But, anyways, back to what nineteen means.

So far, as a nineteen-year-old, I’ve had to balance being assertive and being gracious.  Sometimes, you have to go to bat for yourself but not actually hit anyone or anything with the bat.  So I suppose a better metaphor would be just stepping up to the plate, bat-less but with your uniform and cleats on.

Being nineteen has also meant that maybe I need to be extra prudent with my money, since there are opportunities ahead that cost a lot of money (and are totally worth it) that are much better than a cup of joe from Starbucks (especially since I make a great brew in my room… thanks for the good coffee grounds, Mom!) or using an actual clothes dryer to dry my clothes.  With the dry, hot environment of the dorm room, who needs those?  Save $.50 and $2.00 here and there, and maybe it’ll add up someday.

It’s also meant that when I say that I trust God, I need to consciously stop worrying.  This is the hardest one.  When curveballs come, (man, I’m really using the baseball metaphors this week… it must be that time of year) I need to remind myself that it might be the best thing that ever happened to me.  I have my plans, but when God intervenes and closes doors, He probably has an amazing window to open up.  It just might take a little extra effort to get my long legs through.

I’ve been listening to this song quite a bit lately, remembering that Jesus, in all His fullness, walks beside me, “firm and steady to lavish mercy at the ready despite my wandering, despite my weakness… unrelenting strength and goodness.”

Have a listen.  It’ll do you good.

(update: apparently since I’m not a premium user, wordpress denies me the privilege of embedding stuff. So, use this link!)

Labeling Wednesday


Today.  Today is a stressful day.  On second thought, I feel bad labeling poor, little Wednesday as stress-inducing.  Does the stress define the day?  Does the knot in my stomach constitute labeling an entire day badly?

I’m going to hazard a guess at “no.”

Or, at least, I shouldn’t let it.  I must defend Wednesday against the anxious circumstances and bitter winds outside that threaten to give it a bad rap.

After all, Wednesday did include some good things, too.  It might take me a minute to come up with them, though.  Can I put you on hold?  We have nice hold music.

ba-da-da-daa-ba-da-da-da-da-du-da-da-da (That’s “Singing in the Rain” in case you couldn’t tell…)

All right, I’m ready to talk about the positives now.

1.  I got to chat with my mom on the phone, even though it was about the frustration.  She helps me to put things in perspective and remember to take things one at a time.

2.  I had opportunities to practice mature, calm graciousness and work to redeem a situation.

3.  I found out that I have people who are willing to go to bat for me and who do it quite well.

4.  The sun shone for a while, which made the bitter spring wind a bit more bearable.

5.  Tonight asks for little from me.  This is a beautiful thing.

Tomorrow is another day.  I feel like Scarlett O’Hara said something like that.  Thank you, Google; she did: “Tara! Home. I’ll go home. And I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all… tomorrow is another day.”

Not exactly my scenario, not even close.  But she’s right.  There’s a solution.  And there’s tomorrow.

Rouge projectiles.


I didn’t play softball long enough to experience curveballs or to even know if that’s really a thing that happens in softball.  We had barely mastered underhand, 10 mph pitches when I quit.  I’ve been to Twins’ games, so I know it happens there.

I’m more familiar with the figurative curveballs.  The ones in life.  You aren’t even in the game.  You’re on the bench.  You haven’t even stepped up to the plate.  You don’t have a bat in your hands, but then a curveball comes and hits you right in the stomach.

The depth of my understanding of curveballs are pretty limited, so this metaphor might be botched.  Either way, I’m sure you understand what I’m saying since you’re all intelligent folks.

I’m not the biggest fan of getting hit in the stomach with anything.  And, since I’m extremely ticklish (do NOT use that against me), I actually react if anyone puts their hand within 6 inches from my midsection.  Don’t test that.

Back to the point, though.  Is there anything to be gained from getting the wind knocked out of you?  Do rouge projectiles serve any purpose?  Is it really good if they hurt you and send you to the hospital?

I’m hoping that when things surprise you by going badly, they turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to you.  And me.  I’m hoping that’s true for me, too.

Happy note: it’s sunny outside today.  So there is much hope for everything.

Goals.


It’s one of those sleety days where you thank God for string cheese and that sleet is outside.  Or, perhaps that’s just my response to the gloom.  It’s goal time, folks.  I’ve got 8 weeks left of my freshman year, and I need some goals.

Goal #1 – Stay connected to people who are far away in body but close in heart.  It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll be back home in two months.  We’ll catch up then.”  But you really can’t catch up on two months.

Goal #2 – Don’t get sick.  I’ve already had three colds (maybe four) and a sinus infection since September.  Operation: Stay Healthy is in effect.  My plan to eradicate illness includes eating more protein (since apparently that boosts your immune system), eating more spinach, and protecting my 10:30 bedtime with all that is within me.  If I start saying that coffee is a substitute for sleep, someone please slap me (cyber-ly).

Goal #3 – Use all my Groupons.  Particularly since they expire at the end of May.

Goal #4 – Appreciate every day, even when spring and summer seem far off and I have to take biology.

Goal #5 – To (as my pastor exhorted us yesterday) take up my cross everyday and rely on the God who daily bears my burdens.

Do you set goals?  Do you keep them?  I have a hard time remembering mine.  I need to have sticky notes all over the place to keep my mind fresh.  Remember that time where I said I wasn’t going to complain about the cold?  I’m pretty sure I haven’t kept that consistently, particularly as winter keeps dragging on.  (that wasn’t a complaint. that was a fact.)

Here’s to keeping goals and to finishing Monday with as much strength as I can muster on the Monday after spring break ends.

UFC and the good chef


It’s a sunny day in Chicago.  It’s a good send-off to spring break.  My parents just dropped me off with a piece of yellow birthday cake with strawberry white chocolate frosting, Janelle (Jonathan’s newer and nicer counterpart… aka the guitar I got for Christmas and finally get to have at school. You’ll meet her later), a big suitcase with clothes that beckon spring in it, a bag that my mom has said is my Easter basket, and some groceries to repopulate my fridge.

I'll be honest: most of my pictures on here are of food.  And I'm not planning on changing that trend any time soon.

I’ll be honest: most of my pictures on here are of food. And I’m not planning on changing that trend any time soon.

I was sad to see them drive off in the little, blue car, but I’ll see them again in 7 weeks.  If the first half of the semester was any example, that will fly by.

On another note, I watched a UFC fight last night.  Well, not really. I mean, it was on a big screen nearby the hot tub where I was soaking with my mom, so I saw part of it.  I can’t imagine why anyone would want to spend their life getting beaten to a pulp/beating other people to a pulp, but that’s what those guys do.

I bet you never thought we’d be talking about UFC on my blog.  Just keeping things interesting, folks.  Ready for an even bigger shocker?  Sometimes, I feel like I’m a sub-par UFC fighter.  The type that go out for a fight, gets a couple good punches in, and it all goes downhill from there.  Sometimes I feel like I battle Life, and Life beats me to a pulp.

Well, not quite to a pulp.  Life just gives us all some bruises sometimes.  I’m sure you get that.  (They make for good conversation)  My pastor mentioned this verse this morning: “ We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

I love thinking that God can be glorified in my successes, but it’s even more remarkable that He can be revealed to other people through the times when I’m pressed down or perplexed.  Naturally, I thought of all the great foods that you have to press in order to make them good.  You’ve got to knead bread dough, dig your knuckles in really deep.  You mash potatoes.  It’s a good thing that they’re inanimate.

You beat cookie dough.  You boil pasta.

Goodness, cooking is violent.  But the end product can be beautiful if the process is done by someone who knows what they’re doing.  And it can give real joy to people, both in the process and in the product.  (I’m not equating a good piece of cake with the joy of knowing Jesus.  That’s on a whole nuther level.)

Jesus is a good chef.  (chef, shepherd, just about the same thing)

That, dear friends, gives hope.

Snobby adult.


I’ve grown to dislike the word “grown-up,” not because of its implication but because the very word implies that you aren’t, in fact, grown up.

Do you follow?  There are adults, and there is the word for adults that we use when we talk to 5-year-olds.  See that woman over there?  She’s a grown-up.  She has power and authority because she’s old.  She’s independent and eats her vegetables.  Don’t you want to be a grown-up someday?  Then, for heaven’s sake, eat your broccoli!

I’m not a “grown-up” simply because I do not want to be.  I’m an adult (granted, I still am at least 75% dependent on my parents, but I did buy my own Tide, coffee mugs, and tomato and roasted red pepper soup today, alone, with my debit card).   I mean, really, at the core the words mean the same thing, but I’m sort of snobby about words.  Let’s use the one that actually sounds like we’ve outgrown our childhood: adult.

Then again, despite my desire to rise above childish terms and behaviors, I kind of like the implications of that word: grown-up.  It sounds like there was a process.  Adult is just an age.  Grown-up is a journey.  So, perhaps, I haven’t even reached “grown-up” status yet.  Perhaps I misjudged the term and am not so far above it than I thought.

Well, there we go.  Start a blog post with one opinion and end it with another.  It might be nothing short of a miracle that I can keep my opinions for more than a day.