Monday, September 30, 2013

Inspirational Quotes- St. Augustine

Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.
I read this while I was doing a health course for high school this year. It made me stop and think, just how often have I paused to wonder? Have I completely forgotten what it is like to feel wonder at something so beautiful, so unique, so pure?

When I think of wonder I think of a young child who is just discovering the world for the first time. They are entranced by everything, the movement, the colors, the sounds, and the way things feel. The smallest thing holds them entranced.

I think our culture has grown very dull, lethargic, and well, too grown up when it comes to wonder. We have anything, and everything as soon as we want it. It takes something pretty huge to elicit a response. We have almost ceased to experience wonder at the daily "small" miracles that take place around and inside of us.

Well I, for one, am ready to experience that sweet kind of childlike wonder again. I want to see myself, God's highest creation, in a new light. We as humans are such an incredible miracle.

Stop for a moment today to contemplate just how truly wonderful you are. Not only are you incredibly beautiful, intelligent, and complex. But YOU, you are made in the image of the Creator Himself! And if that doesn't make you wonder, then nothing will.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Becoming Grace Part 3- My 16th Year

Part 1 of Becoming Grace was about being shown that I was the not being the person God intended me to be. Part 2 was about my major panic attack that left me feeling completely raw and helpless. I want to wrap up this series by sharing about the most recent year of my life. My 16th year.

I can remember being six and thinking that in just ten years I would be sixteen. Sixteen was a magical age, or so I thought. I would be old enough to wear makeup, go to big girl parties, wear stylish clothes, be beautiful, smart, and ready for anything! It would all be so wonderful!

I had gotten a little more practical after during the ten years that followed. Life had kicked me around a bit more, I had had some dreams die a very painful death, I had felt scared, sad, lonely. But I think as I lay in bed the last night as a fifteen year-old I still had a remnant of that feeling, that sixteen would be magical!

Well, like so many bubbles of false ideas, I had mine burst by reality.

I started my sophomore year of high school just two days after my major panic attack. It was really hard. I to like be prepared for the school year, but instead it felt like I had fallen into my new school year. Later that year my dad started a new job that meant he had a two hour commute each day. While being a good thing in the long run, this put a lot of strain on our family. In early spring we started looking for a place to live that was closer to where he worked.

We found a house at the end of April and had closed on the deal by the end of May. The next few months felt like a blur while we tried to maintain two houses. We had to deal with plumbing issues at the old house and a brown recluse problem at our new place. We moved in June 30th under very primitive conditions. July was spent making a lot of trips back and forth between both dwelling places. Later in August we had to put our sweet girl dog, Sonora, down after she came into contact with what was a potentially rabid skunk. In the midst of all of these we've had a lot of strife, internal struggling, stress, and tears.

I didn't write that whole paragraph to make people feel sorry for me, and I am not writing to whine about it. I am just stating the fact that this last year has been anything but magical. It has been a lot of sweat, late nights, fights, tears, fear, and the drudgery of everyday life.

Despite the many difficulties of this last year, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

During this past year, starting last September, I have experienced a kind of fellowship with my Father that I never want to let go of. Through all of my circumstances, personal struggles, and tears, my Father has reached down and grabbed a hold of me in a way I have rarely ever felt before. I have found peace in moments when before I felt chaos. I have found promises in the Bible that before were just some inspirational words on a page, but now they are promises for me! I have experienced a grace pouring from Him that is like no other.

I have experienced a radical change in some of the ways I see the world. I see life, beauty, and people in a whole new way.

Life is precious and wonderful not because it is always fun, or perfect, but because it is a gift from God and our chance to give something back to Him.

Beauty is something that God created because He is beautiful, and values beautiful things. When I am enjoying beauty, I am living out of that part of me that is made in His image.

People are God's highest creation, His masterpieces, His beloved ones. How His heart must ache when He sees the horrible things people can do to each other. How He must weep when His children are crying out in pain. How He must laugh for joy when He sees them smile, and share His love with others.

What I used to want to be when I grew up and what I want to be now are two different people. I used to want to be a hero. I wanted to be famous, someone people would know and be excited about. Someone who could help save the world. Someone who reached the thousands, millions.

But when I look at Jesus, I see Someone who touched people; and not just crowds, but individuals. Single, insignificant, ordinary people with their own pain, sin, scars, joys, and dreams.  He loved each individual as much as He did the entire group. And when He touched those individuals in their humanity, He started a revolution that is still effecting millions today. Including me, He touched me.

My name has become a large focus of mine for the first time over the last year. What "Grace" really means is something I never thought deeply about until now. God told my Mom to name me Grace because I would be a child of grace, mercy, and peace. I finally paid enough attention to realize that was not who I was and I needed Jesus' help to make me that person.

I now know what I want to be when I become an adult. And I know who I want to be until then. I want to be someone who people remember because I touched them. And not just the multitudes, but the individuals as well. I want them to remember me because I reached out, and they got to experience the redeeming grace of God. His redeeming grace through me, His Grace.

This is the entry I put in my spiritual journal the night before I turned 17. One year from the day that I turned that "magical" number 16.

"Lord, I dedicate this next year of my life to You. I pray that You will teach me, and lead me. Help me to see with Your eyes, hear with Your ears, speak with Your voice, feel with Your heart, and touch with Your hands. Lord, it is my desire to be a person who people remember being touched by. I want them to remember and love being touched by Grace; and by grace I speak not just of me, but of Your everlasting grace. I am Your Grace dear God, I have been saved by grace, and I desire to extend that same grace to the world. So here I am Lord, I am Your Grace. I love you Oh Holy One. Alleluia. In Jesus' Name, Amen."

I have so far to go, so much to learn, and many more mistakes to make. There will be moments where I revert back to being the person my flesh wants to be. But in my spirit, in the truest part of myself, I desire to be Grace. I now rejoice because I am finally on the road to Becoming Grace.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

History Speaks: King Alfred

O God, our Maker, throned on high
The earth is Thine, and Thine the sky
Th' adoring sun obeys Thy will,
And countless stars Thy laws fulfill
The length'ning light of summer day
Nature proclaims Thy sovereign skill
Man, and man only, spurns Thy will
The wicked sit on earth's high seat
And tread holy 'neath their feet
Good goes so crookedly astray
Bright deeds lie hidden oft away
Great God! Who seest from above
Regard us with Thy pitying love
Perplexed by doubts with toil and strife
We ask more light- we long for life 
This is a lovely hymn I came across in my history curriculum this year. It stuck out to me mainly because the author was a king, not a monk or a martyr.

Often I am so disappointed when I read about real life kings. As a little girl my ideas about Medieval times were that they full of beautiful princesses being rescued by handsome knights, and there were good and mighty kings who fought to defend their people.

Reality check, a lot of kings were real creeps. It saddens me to think of all of the suffering that was caused just by one single, greedy individual.

Because of this I always spark up with I read about kings who were actually worthy of their title. Biblical kings like King David, Hezekiah, and Asa are among some of my favorite OT characters. In later times I love reading about Charlemagne, King Alfred, King Richard the Lionhearted, and Robert the Bruce.

King Alfred was a man ahead of his time. He lived on the island of Brittania after the fall of the Roman Empire had left most of the known world reeling. He was faced with many challenges as the king of the Saxon people; illiteracy, spiritual darkness, disunity, and the dreadful invasions of the fierce-some Danes.

But Alfred was up to the challenge. He was an eager learner, a loving husband and father, a gracious king, compassionate foe, and a steadfast follower of King Jesus. And much of this he accomplished before the age of 30.

Alfred was a beacon of light in a time of great fear and darkness. He established schools and churches to encourage learning. He repelled the invading Danes and eventually signed a peace treaty after the conversion of the Danish leader.

He stood up for what was right, he protected the innocent, and reached out to the uneducated and poor. He was an excellent example to all of his people. Even hundreds of years later the English people revere Alfred greatly.

Alfred was a normal human being who was placed by God in a position of power and influence. And unlike so many others who used that power merely for their own gain, Alfred allowed God to work through him and use him to form and lead a nation. What an incredible legacy this man left, thank God for King Alfred!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Inspirational Quotes- C.S. Lewis

Remember- He is the artist and you are only the picture. You can't see it. So quietly submit to be painted.
This blog is called "a live masterpiece" because that is what we are, that is what I am. I am a living masterpiece that is being painted to show the hand of the Artist.

Sometimes I think I have a better picture in mind, sometimes I think I know what colors He should use, or how heavily He should apply the paint.

But ultimately He is the only One who can see the whole picture, He is the only One who knows what the end result will look like.

I feel ridiculous when I think about how many times I have tried to grab the brush out of His hand and do it myself.

Being an artist, I understand how important my paintings are to me. I get a beautiful picture in my mind and I know just how I want to paint it. I can't imagine how upsetting it would be if someone was constantly trying to grab the brush out of my hand and paint my painting, the one that only I know the end result of...

...He's the artist, and I am the painting.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Around My Kitchen Table

Of all of the furniture in my home, I believe my kitchen table is near the top of my favorite's list...

My kitchen table has been used for many occasions and purposes. We've sat around it to celebrate birthdays, holiday dinners, and just normal everyday meals. We've sat around it to have a councils of war, play games, and talk for hours.

My kitchen table has been a place of gathering together, creating memories, learning about life, and just enjoying each other's company.

I have had heart to hearts with mom at the kitchen table where we have both cried. I have joked and laughed with my siblings around the kitchen table. I have listened to my dad explain everything from computer software to politics at the kitchen table. 

Today at lunch we (my siblings and I) were coming up with silly names for each other. My sister who hates pickles was, "The Pickle Persecutor". I was named "The Cereal Killer" since I dislike cereal. My brother named himself a "Pizza Protector". We laughed and talked loudly, just enjoying being silly and clever together...

I love the people that I see around my kitchen table. I look forward to seeing their faces everyday. I enjoy watching them grow up around the kitchen table. I love hearing about their ideas, triumphs, and lives. I look forward someday when I have a kitchen table of my own surrounded by a group of little faces that belong to me and the head of my kitchen table.

I thank God for the faces around my kitchen table, and for the faces in the future. I pray that I will never take any of them for granted, but always be aware of how truly blessed I am...

Thank God for those blessings today, and never take them for granted.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Becoming Grace Part 2- Completely Raw

"Mom, something's not right..."

These were the words I uttered on the night just one week after my 16th birthday. We were driving home late at night from a friends' house when I began to feel short of breath and my throat felt funny. Then my lips started to tingle, and I began to feel panic rise in my chest. From things I had heard, I was pretty sure I was having an allergic reaction, to what I couldn't say, but something was definitely wrong!

Breathing became much more difficult as the panic continued to rise and I felt like my throat was constricting. By now I had alerted Mom to the problem and we were racing back to the town where our friends lived in order to get the ER before my throat closed up and I stopped breathing altogether.

God be praised, I was not having an allergic reaction, it was actually a very intense panic attack. I honestly don't think anyone who hasn't experienced a panic attack can fully comprehend the terror, and massive reaction it invokes. Nor the long enduring after-affects of anxiety, fear, tension, raw emotions, and sleepless nights.

I have never felt more helpless, empty, or out as control as I did in that dark car at midnight when I was fighting for air. When you are wondering how much longer you are going to be able to keep breathing on your own, you have got nothing left and you just want to cry out, "somebody help me!"

The weeks following that large attack were very difficult. I was humbled to know that I was not as invincible as I thought. I was scared and didn't know how to handle it if I had more massive attacks. I remember several nights of jerking awake almost gasping for breath. I can remember days when my muscles just trembled because I had been tensing them all day. Certain thoughts could set me off all over again. Thoughts that before I had been able to just push out of my mind, but now they would stay there and torment me. I had dealt with scary things before, but now I was experiencing FEAR on a whole new level. I just wanted to stay home and never go anywhere again for fear of having a panic attack in public.

I almost see the couple of months after that panic attack as the time when I was just felt completely raw and vulnerable. My emotions were all out there for everyone to see. I cried a ton. For those who don't know me, I have never been a crier. I by nature am a stuffer, I don't like to have all of my emotions out there for the world to see. If something bothered me I would stuff it, tell myself to get over it, move on. Unfortunately studies have shown that "stuffers" are more prone to panic attacks. Go figure!

In some ways I almost felt embarrassed. Like people were going to look at me and say, "Oh, she's that girl with the major anxiety problems. I guess she doesn't understand that whole thing of "casting your cares". She's got some major problems."

Let me just say from some experience, I think that a great bit of Christians assume that just because we have Jesus inside of us we should be able to solve any problem, fear, issue, or situation just  like that! I know that until I turned 16 that had been my immature belief. Pray a quick prayer, speak a verse out loud, or actually believe in the Word of God for Heaven's sake! If it says, "perfect love casts out fear" then believe it!

Yes, we do have Jesus inside of us and He has given us all that we need to cope and combat all of life's trials. But will it happen overnight? More than likely not. Much of life is just spent being broken and allowing God to work on you. But that takes time, effort, prayer, and many tears.

Me, myself, and I had come crashing to the ground. Much of my remaining pride was in shambles, and I felt like a scared three year old who wanted to hide in the closet and never come out. I was so scared, so upset, and so humiliated

Now, more than ever, I felt at the end of myself. I felt powerless to stop the cascade of things that was coming down on top of me. And so finally, I gave a very sincere and earnest cry to Him. "Help me! Because I can't do this on my own. I am not enough, right now I feel like I am drowning, I feel totally raw and exposed, and I am so scared. Please come near to me, hold my hand, pick me up, carry me, I need You!"

Sometimes in order to have a clean fresh start to be who you were created to be, you have have a lot of the old crud stripped away, you have to become completely raw.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Kings and Queens by Audio Adrenaline

This song gives me chills every time. My heart bleeds for all of the children that this evil world has trampled upon. I listen to this song and hear a call to the church to step up to the plate and rescue God's precious little ones.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Becoming Grace Part 1- Me, Myself, and I

"I'm strong enough on my own..."

"I don't even want to have to depend on someone else, I want to be entirely self sufficient..."

"I don't want to be considered weak and emotional like some people, I want to be, no, I am that solid rock that other, weaker people can lean on when they stumble..."

"I'm exceptional, above average, and capable of anything I set my mind to..."

All four of those sentences are originals from my own soul. Yuck, it looks even worse in writing. I look back on those thoughts and shake my head at the pride, stupidity, and judgement those statements show.

A lot of those standards, and desires were stemming from my own insecurities and fears. If I have to depend on someone else, they could let me down. If I show my emotions, I'll be considered weak and silly. If I have to go to someone else for help, I will no longer be considered strong, by myself or anyone else. If I am not above others, I'll never be noticed, admired, or praised. (aka, my ego won't get fed).

Yes, those were my thoughts from about age 9-16. I carried so much false pride about myself, who I was, what I was capable of, and how I was better than others.

In all truth, I have had to be a stronger person sometimes. Starting at age 9-12, my family went through a pretty rough season. We'd had rough times before, but I was finally old enough to really be affected by it. When families are facing hard times or crisis, the older members have to step up to the plate. I am the second oldest, so I stepped up into the role of second mom. I did most of my crying at night, when no one could see me. I slapped a smile on my face when inside I felt like parts of me were dying. I kept telling myself I was fine, get over it, move on...

Strength is a great asset that is manifest in multiple ways, and admired by all. But strength is only a true asset when it is understood and used properly. I did, and still do have some real strength that has come into my life through some of my difficulties, but in many ways I despised the real and upheld the false. Being in control and self sufficient emotionally and physically made me feel okay.

It worked for a while. I built up my own Tower of Babel of pride in my mind and heart. I constructed a Wall of Jericho around my emotions so that they couldn't  be reached and dealt with. But that system of stuffing, and building myself up could only last for so long.

I recognized that I had problems with pride. I tried to fix them, work harder to have more humility. Can you see the vicious cycle? Trying to fix yourself is like being a hamster on a wheel, you get nowhere and just exhaust yourself in the process.

For some reason me, myself, and I were not enough. I cried over these things, aloud and in my heart. I saw that I was hurting the people I love by my inflated self image and extreme lack of grace. Can you believe that? My mother named me Grace because God gave her that name and told her that I would be a child of grace, mercy, and peace. That felt like a dagger to the heart when I looked at myself and realized that was the direct opposite of who I was. I wasn't strong, I was hard. I wasn't being a rock for people to lean on, I was being a rock for someone to get slapped against. I wasn't emotionally strong, I was holding onto things and hiding them rather than facing them and working it out. That hurt to realize.

I finally made the first real step towards helping myself. I cried (literally) out to God and begged Him for help. I had been trying to do everything on my own for 15 years. I had been a Christian since age 5, but it had taken me 10 years to really see that I need Him for every single part of my life, not just the parts I felt okay about sharing with Him.

The end of me, myself, and I had finally begun...

" man is an island..." John Donne, Meditation 17, stanza 9.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Inspirational Quote - Mother Theresa

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it
Life is beauty, admire it
Life is bliss, taste it
Life is a dream, realize it
Life is a challenge, meet it
Life is a duty, complete it
Life is a game, play it
Life is a promise, fulfill it
Life is sorrow, overcome it
Life is a song, sing it
Life is a struggle, accept it
Life is a tragedy, confront it
Life is an adventure, dare it
Life is luck, make it
Life is too precious, do not destroy it
Life is life, fight for it

Mother Theresa