A year to remember

2017 was not at all what I expected. Don’t get me wrong; it was a good year. But it was a year filled with some very unexpected things. Some things changed that I didn’t see coming, and others didn’t change though I thought they would. It was a year of preparation and transition, of growing and learning. It was a year to remember because it reminded me of God’s faithfulness.

At the beginning of the year, I really only had one goal: to finish writing my first book draft. Never would I have imagined that by the end of the year, I would have two finished drafts and another almost a third of the way completed. I wouldn’t have imagined the friendships that I’ve gained and the additional roommate in my house. I definitely wouldn’t have seen the changes that could happen in my very own heart.

I learned the truth about many things that I thought I knew. Sometimes I was wrong, but other times, I was right. Either way though, God was still faithful in the midst. I can see the where He didn’t get His way, but I can see how He turned things for good despite that. 2017 was a year to remember His goodness, His provision, and His healing.

I don’t know all that this new year will hold, but I do know that God is still the same He was in 2017. This year might be one filled with adventures, stories that I’ll look back on one day to reminisce. I expect to see even more of God, and I expect to see miracles beyond my imagination. I expect to grow closer to my friends and family, to see God move in my church. Last year was good; this year will be even better.

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Reason for the season?

Merry Christmas! I hope all of you are celebrating with friends and family. I know I am. You see, Christmas has evolved and changed for me over the years, but the core reason behind Christmas has always stayed the same. Unfortunately, many celebrate without really knowing the significance behind it.

While the world celebrates Santa Claus and the time of year for joy and presents, those who are Christians also know that it’s so much more than that. For us, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior. Year after year, children recite the story about the baby, born of a virgin, and how the shepherds and wise men traveled to see him. We sing carols and hymn giving glory to God.

Meanwhile, we rush to and fro to store after store in search of the perfect gift, and many go into debt in the process. It’s supposed to be a time of peace, but instead we have road rage and packages being stolen from people’s houses. In all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it can be easy to lose sight of why we even do all this to begin with.

God with us. If we really truly believed that, would we get as frustrated at the long check out lines? If we knew God was with us right in this moment, would we have the joy and peace that should surround us all the time, not just at Christmas. Jesus came so that we could have salvation and healing and peace all the time. His presence is daily, not seasonal. Even if it’s just a moment, let’s make time to remember that Jesus is the reason for this, not ourselves.

Comparison, the identity killer

Once upon a time there lived a teenage girl who always felt as if she were average. Day in and day out she would watch as other girls attracted the guys, and she often found herself comparing their looks to her own. That girl has better hair and that girl has a better body. That girl over there has prettier eyes. She was so consumed with how much better she thought others were that she failed to see the beauty of the girl in the mirror.

That girl is most teenage girls. All of us have felt it at some point in our lives, and maybe we still do. The media isn’t to blame for this epidemic, though it certainly doesn’t help any. Personally, it’s something I’ve had to battle for years. More times than not, comparison is rooted in something internal, the insecurities and fears we have. Comparison directly attacks our identities.

God created each of us uniquely with our own unique destiny and the unique gifts and talents to go along with it. No two human beings are created the same; we’re created uniquely with our own DNA and set of fingerprints. Even identical twins have their own quirks and personalities that set them apart from each other. Comparison takes away what makes us all special and tries to put everyone on the same playing field, which was never God’s intention.

I’m not you, and you’re not me. One of the most freeing things that I can do for myself is to realize that I’m not supposed to be like you. I’m supposed to me and everything God created me to be. Walking in that enables me to walk in my identity as a child of God and allows me to see you for the value that you have to Him as well. When we fully embrace our own unique identities, we can better see each other and work together, and that’s what can change the world.

Dream, (noun): an aspiration, goal, aim

This word has become common in my thoughts and conversations with others. While the idea of having a dream and chasing your dreams has been a phrase easily thrown around, it’s one of the ways that God often spoke to His people, guiding them in the direction they needed to go. The dream was a key aspect of what brought people from the start to the fulfillment of His promise. Dreaming is supposed to be more than just a fantasy.

One of my dreams, ever since I was about six or seven, has been to write. Books, novels, poems, songs, the whole she-bang. It’s something that has always come naturally to me, a talent that I’ve cultivated for years. Until about a year ago though, the prospect of having a fully finished novel seemed out of reach. Although none of my drafts have been published yet, the dream is even more alive to me now than it was before.

God always intended for our dreams to be acted on and cultivated. While some of it is subject to timing (my ten-year-old self wasn’t capable of writing a well-crafted novel and storyline), some dreams never become realities because they never make the shift from a mere idea to a goal. In order for me to actually finish a draft, I had to make writing something I’m aiming toward.

I’m a firm believer that dreams come true, but I’m also a firm believer in sowing and reaping. I think dreams are something we can and should sow into, whether it’s faith, time, energy, or finances. I believe that God has given people dreams on purpose with the intention that they pursue Him in the process. God is both the giver and fulfiller of dreams.

Confessions of a night owl

It’s not that I hate morning. I certainly don’t love them either. Morning and I have made an agreement that we’ll only spend time with one another when necessary. We don’t go out of the way to avoid each other, but we don’t go out of our way to make plans. We’ve learned to coexist when necessary, but we’d rather keep a healthy distance.

Midnight and I have long been good friends, ever since I was a child. We play together, laugh together, and we have a plethora of inside jokes. We see each other almost daily, so much so, that it’s rare for us to be apart. Midnight is my closest confidante, the one with whom I’m comfortable. She encourages me and helps me be more productive. Midnight is why I’ve embraced my existence as a night owl.

Don’t get me wrong; morning people are great. If you can wake up at the crack of dawn and focus enough to get things completed, good job. Personally for me, it’s when most others are asleep, when the activity has died down to rest, that I get things done. Neither is necessarily better than the other as long as you’re still responsible and dependable. Being a night owl doesn’t hinder me from being places on time if it’s important.

Whether morning or midnight is more your forte, we can all get along. As long as you’re not waking me up earlier than I need to be and I’m not keeping you up later than you should be, we can still be friends. We have the afternoons to spend time together. Unless you’re one of those strange night shift people. Either way, we live in a world where something is always happening, all around the clock. We can’t judge each other by the time we wake up, but by the productivity in our lives.

At the end of every night…

I’m not a morning person, never have been and have no desire to be. But on the rare occasion that I have to wake up early, I’ve been able to witness the darkness of night as it’s suddenly overcome with light. Colors streak across the sky in a way that only happens twice a day. When the night is over, dawn arrives.

With winter approaching, the hours of daylight shorten in this area of the earth, making some nights seem longer than others. The cycle of day and night was one of the first things established when God created the earth. It’s more than just a natural phenomenon of the earth’s rotation though; it’s symbolic of the seasons in our own lives.

Sometimes in life it seems like the night is never ending, and you’re waiting for the light to come make things better. Time after time in the Psalms, the writer(s) make references to salvation and rescue coming like the dawn. Even Lamentations describes God’s mercies as being new every morning. The sunrise is the very thing that many of us are waiting for. Dawn always comes.

I’m not a morning person, but I appreciate the coming of dawn and all it represents. I might be a night owl at heart, and that may never change. The dawn of salvation though can change everything. I know I can always count on God to come.

Target, (noun): a goal to be reached

Believe it or not, I’m a fan of archery. Though I’m fairly inexperienced at it, the little time I have spent with a bow and arrow, I’ve actually fared well. Target practice with a gun is a different story though. No matter how many times I shoot, I always miss the bullseye. At least with an arrow, I stand a better chance. Whatever your weapon of choice though, they would all be irrelevant without a target.

Most great accomplishments would have never been completed if there weren’t some sort of target or goal in mind. For me, setting a goal is often the motivation I need in order to make sure things happen. It’s part of the reason I took the leap and joined NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this month.

I’m going to be honest—I didn’t think I could actually make the insane 50,000 word goal. But just because the target is further away than I would have liked doesn’t mean I shouldn’t still shoot. And while the final goal seems ridiculously high, the fact that every day is broken up into smaller, more attainable goals make the grand target less formidable. I don’t hit the goal every day just like you won’t always hit the bullseye, but the times that I do make it are worth the effort.

Have a dream? Create goals and set targets. Your aim might be off at first, but if you never start practicing, you’ll never improve. Record that song, write that book, make those travel plans. Just don’t let the fear of failure keep you from trying. So what if you don’t hit the bullseye; at least you’re getting closer to the target.

(P.S. I’m actually on track to reach the 50,000 by the end of the month.)