Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Abundant Joy and Thanks!

I am so thankful for so many things. It would take a novel of pages to express the gratitude that my heart feels. I owe it to God's everlasting mercy to try to share a little bit of my heart and my appreciation in the form of words on a page.

I have grown up in a wonderful, loving home. With a father who provided for us above and beyond our needs; more than that, he constantly lets me know he is proud of me. He looks forward to coming home to his family at the end of each day and spending time with us. And he loves my mother and isn't afraid to say so. I am thankful for that. I have grown up in a taken-care-of, beautiful home. With a mother who worked hard to take care of us and be our number one cheerleader. She is always patient with us and has a positive attitude. She is a great example of a wife and mother. She was the contant party-planner and encourager. I am thankful for that. I have grown up in a crazy, fun home. With a brother who was like a best friend. Who was silly with me, understood me, and loved me. I am thankful for that.

I have a big, crazy, dysfunctional family. All of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents still live within 15 miles of each other. We spend holidays together. Have lunches together. And are the subject of many memories, joys, laughter, headaches, frustrations, and happy times in each other's lives. We are a crazy family. An old-fashion family. A supportive family. I am thankful for that.

I have a group of amazing, godly, encouraging friends who have been in my life, on average, a decade. It’s wonderful when you have a group of girls that you grew up with, dreamed with, laughed with, and made memories with…and now I get to witness them as they become who they always dreamed about being, embracing the future we often wondered about. What would our jobs be? Who would we marry? What did God have planned for our future? We’re there now. Living the future that, as 15 year olds, we stayed up late dreaming about.

Why were we the ones that stuck together? Why are these girls still so woven into my heart that I can't imagine my life (past, present, or future) without them? How does it work out that we only see each other 2-5 times a year, and yet our hearts stay connected as if we never left. Sure, we're growing up and, in a way, growing apart. We don't share every memory anymore. We aren't each other's primary source of laughter and comfort. Yet, we are such an amazing part of each other's lives. And over the past decade, we have made more memories and taught each other more than probably anyone else. Yay for lingerie shower # 3, # 4 is right around the corner :) I am thankful for that.
I have a wonderful, dream job that only God could have planned for. A year ago I was working at a wedding dress shop, struggling to have a positive attitude amidst the chaos. Then I planned to do Public Relations for a bakery in Apex, which would have me working chaotic hours and driving through traffic to get to a negative work atmosphere. I cried when I graduated from Campbell because I didn't want to leave. I thought the future seemed scary...When I heard, through a God-thing, about the job at Campbell, I couldn't get it off my mind. Maybe it was my answer. Maybe. I felt like if I applied then I would get it (not being vain, I just had a feeling). That was my fear. If I applied and got it then I would actually have to do the job. Was I old enough? Mature enough? Here I am. Working an amazing dream job at a place that I've always loved. Working with encouraging people who share my faith and passion. I have a wonderful boss and work family - and I am blessed with the freedom to be creative, innovative, and make a difference in the lives of students. God's plans are so much better than anything we could imagine or achieve on our own. I am thankful for that.
I have my dream guy who is constantly making me smile. Isn't it crazy to realize that Derrick was six miles away growing up? Ten miles down the road all during school. And in the next seat over the first two years of college. Yet, God worked it out so that Junior year of college I realized God had a better plan for me than the one I was currently choosing. God had a man who already made me laugh, challenged me, comforted me, made me roll my eyes, and made me smile...and God was going to allow him to become the hero in my love story. A last minute Christmas party that Derrick wasn't even supposed to be invited to changed everything. And I am so glad it did. Now I am blessed with a man I can be silly with, talk with, laugh with, have a future with. We're not perfect, but we're pretty perfect for each other. I am thankful for that.

What blessings beyond what I deserve! And to think that I have all of that in addition to a bed, air conditioning, a television, the gift of music, legs that walk and eyes that see, a car that has been faithful to get me where I'm going, food when I'm hungry, sweet tea, numerous copies of the bible, a history of godly and well-rounded education, a wonderful church that has accepted me, many families who have welcomed me into their lives, friends, coworkers and acquaintances who warm my heart, a computer to work on, a memory to smile at...and a relationship with a God and Savior who died so that I may live!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On my mind today...

Thankful and Blessed
                Selfish and Vain

Derrick and I were talking about what we wanted for Christmas the other night on the phone. I paused and forced myself to glance at the situation - which I often do to put my life in perspective. There I my bed. In my room. On my phone. With my boyfriend. With my television on. My computer to the left of me. A bottle of water and cup of sweet tea to the right of me. A closet full of clothes. How dare I desire anything more than what I already had? There are children out there who have never experienced any of those things I just mentioned. People who can't even imagine such blessings. How thankful and appreciative I must be that God has blessed me so abundantly. And I deserve none of it.
Yet, as thankful as I truly am, I still want things. I would like new boots and a new coat. New CDs, new books. Some jewelry. Work clothes. Gift cards. Art. I would like to be a wife, have a home, buy my own Christmas decorations.
There is the constant pull in my heart between complete awe and gratitude - and selfish desire. I never forget how blessed I truly am - but I don't think I ever really understand it either.

                                                                Kids Today

This is a random post, obviously. But they do tie together (in a very Renee way, I'm sure). My above thoughts caused me to realize how blessed and selfish we are as a society. And here we go...

Sometimes I think of the future, and I worry about my future children. Last night, radio surfing, I stopped on a song that would probably be classified as hip-hop. The song was full of suggestive lyrics. Maybe suggestive is putting it softly. Just plain crude. In addition, the writer of the song seemed to lack the ability to understand grammar altogether. In today's society it is evidently accepted to replace sounds and slang for words and explanations. I can't even stand the shorthand people use to text. I like to spell my words out. And use punctuation. (I will admit, as a side note, I do jam out to some hip-hop every once in a while. But I thank God I have discernment and understanding.)

Also, some kids today seem to think they have a right to expect all the "nicest" things. Why does it matter if it's brand name? And who in the world can honestly justify spending over $100 on a purse- when you can get one for $20 at Target? It makes NO sense to me. No wonder the majority of Americans are in debt. I'm a knock-off, not-name-brand, bought-it-on-sale kinda girl. And I'm doing just fine. Thank you, Mom.

I'm not blaming the youth of today. I'm saying that we need to be there for them. Encourage them. Stop setting a bad example. Stop letting them get away with things. And pray for them - the pressures of today are great. The insecurities and temptations are screaming from every direction. And the vowels seem to be dropping like flies.

Thank you for your patience with my rantings of today. Thank you for your place in my life. Honestly, thank you.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content. Philippians 4:11

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

i believe in God.

i believe in God. i believe He is the Creator. Author. Director. Sustainer. Provider. Father. Comforter. and Friend. i believe in Jesus Christ. i believe Jesus was a great man. but Jesus is also my Savior. He was sent from His seat in heaven to live on a sinful earth and to die for the same people who persecute Him, ignore Him, laugh at Him. He died for me. for you. i believe in a Holy Spirit that comforts me. guides me. and a heaven that awaits me - where Jesus will welcome me with a huge hug. the best hug ever.

"in the beginning God..."

On a recent road trip, the topic of religion came up. After an hour of bouncing around our beliefs and ideas - I was convicted to go home and break down why I believe what I believe. I narrowed it down to six things, but I wanted to write a hundred more (my blessings, my Derrick, music, my friendships, my story and how things came to be - all evidence of God). For today, here are six reason I believe in God. And I want to share them with you.

1. Logic and Faith - I'm going to be blunt: Evolution makes no sense to me. Okay, so we evolved from monkeys (or whatever)? Then why are there people walking the earth and monkeys walking the earth - but no in between? Shouldn't something be evolving? And how did we get here? A small little tadpole creature crawled out of the muck and began to become what we are today? Where did the little creature come from? Where did the universe come from? The earth? A big bang? How did something come from nothing? I have many of the same questions about your evolution that you have about my God. I'm not saying nothing ever evolves (within context). I'm just saying it's not how the world got here.

Yes, the fact that there is a Infinite Source who has always been here and will always be is a little overwhelming. Any belief takes faith - but I think it makes more sense that there was one Everlasting Being who created everything else. He took time to make everything how it should be (see point 2).

More than that, the Bible represents so much historical truth. The people, the lives, the stories, the places, and events in the Bible represent proven truth.

2. Creation - I look outside and see trees waving in the wind. Grass. Water. Sky. But, above all that, I see people. How can you look at the world and not have a small bit of belief in an Artist who did it all? My body is put together in the perfect way to help me function day to day. I look at the sameness of humans and it's evident that there is a Creator. I look at the uniqueness of humans and it's evident that there is a Creator. Each person has passions and talents and gifts. We like different foods and appreciate different music. God did that.

And, of course I must mention this, He writes and creates our love stories. How amazing is it that any two people find each other out of all of the other people in the world and find a future with each other? I've heard some awesome love stories - stories that I believe God enjoys penning.

3. Comfort and Peace -I know God, because I feel Him in my life. When I'm stressed, I can call out to Him and I feel His comfort. When I am burdened, I find rest in Him. More than that, I have an inner peace and joy that can't be shaken by circumstances or reason. It's a peace and joy that comes through being a child of the Father. I have comfort in knowing that whatever happens in my life happened for a reason. God has the master plan - and He holds and blesses my future. All things work together for good for those who trust in Him!

4. Purpose - So many people live their life wondering what their purpose is. It's so sad the way they search for meaning. I've found it. I'm hardly worthy on my own - and probably would struggle to find purpose too - if I didn't have a God who believes in me and gives me a purpose.

First of all, I am here to represent my God. To tell other's about Him and share His love. Secondly, He gives me purpose every day as an admissions coordinator.a girlfriend. a daughter. a friend. a granddaughter. an encourager. a listener. a writer. a campbell alumni. All of these facets of who I am create my purpose. Some people save others. Some teach others. Some heal others. Some protect others. Some provide music, art, entertainment for others. Some care for others. Some inform others. I (try to) encourage others.

5. Friendship - Jesus is my Best Friend. i love talking to Him. Crying to Him. Being selfish to Him. Confiding in Him. And getting to know Him. And He's always there! I can talk to Him in the middle of the night without worrying about waking Him up. I can talk to Him as I drive or take a bath or tan or in the silence of my room. It's a real friendship. It's a beautiful friendship.

6. Salvation - i am a sinner in need of a Savior. i can't save myself, but there is Someone who is perfect and strong...who was willing to die and live again to save me. I have salvation in my belief and my relationship. I have trust and faith. It's not a salvation earned through my works, but it's a free gift based on my belief.

So, what if I'm wrong (I have no doubts...but for all you skeptics...)? What if my faith has been misplaced all this time? Well, I lived my life with moral values (given by the bible) and loved others.

But what if I'm right...

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2: 8-11

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot favorite time of year!

I love people. Each person has fears. Dreams. Friends. Family. A Story. Desires. Wishes. Wants. They laugh at things, cry at things, feel things, regret things, and like getting things. They want to feel special, feel loved, feel supported. They want to be known, be heard, be understood.

I love studying people. Learning people. Watching people. Understanding people. Motivating people. Uplifting people. Encouraging people. And making them feel special.

I love cool weather. Scarves. Jackets. Boots. Jack Frost nipped noses. White Christmas lights and the smell of snow. Food and family. Iceskating (or the idea of it). Fire places. Hot Chocolate. Christmas movies. Christmas music. Christmas spirit.

I love buying Christmas presents! I love that there is a season where I can think of each person that has impacted my life and find a way to make them feel special. I love that you can make wishes come true, make laughter fill the room, bring back memories of childhood, fill hearts with music, and show someone how much you care - all in the bow-tied wrapping of a Christmas present.

I have already began the thought process that goes into each gift, each person. Trying to think of unique gifts that could only be appreciated by the individual receiving them. I wish that I could dedicate all of my time to this quest, but I am blessed to have a job where I can dedicate the majority of my time to encouraging and noticing people.

My mother and I always go to the beach the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving - and Christmas shop. We aren't the crazy shoppers that get out at 5 a.m. - but it's our time to laugh, talk, and enjoy the sights and sounds, the excitement and energy that goes along with Christmas shopping. These two days are hands down one of my favorite times of the year.

We get out around 7 a.m., SheDaisy's Christmas Cd blaring, lists in hand and money in the pocket, and begin looking for sales and picking out presents that would make someone smile. I always have a list. I always want to buy way more than is on the list. I see a movie for $2 that Derrick would like - get it. I see a shirt that would look good on him - get it. I see something my dad mentioned 6 months ago that he would want - get it. And, of course, I want to buy EVERYTHING from Bath and Body Works. We probably spend the most time being seduced by the smells and glitz of B&BW. (If I had a large budget - I could really go crazy ;).

Then, after a day full of shopping and delicious food (of course), we find warmth in the beach house. We spread all of our presents out on the large living room floor - put on Christmas music or a Christmas movie - and wrap presents. I love this. I love standing back surveying all the goods...picking the wrapping paper, making bows...The exciting, peaceful, perfect feeling that surrounds everything - as the music fills the air, mom and I laugh, and I foresee everyone opening each present I picked for them.
What a beautiful time of year. Celebrating Jesus' birth and His gift to us. Making other's feel special through gifts to them.

"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures,
they presented unto him gifts;
 gold, and frankincense, and myrrh."
Matthew 2:11

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Freedom and Joy!

I'm back. It's been a crazy week, and I've been struggling for inspiration and time.

This past weekend was full of wonderful events and some great moments of fellowship.Friday night we had our Costume Cookout; something that I had been excited about since it's conception at the beginning of the month. In preparation to this event, I had to drive the Ford truck for 3 days (pumpkin shopping). This may have resulted in my demise.
I realized Saturday morning - in the cold at 7:15 a.m. - that I can't find the keys to my RAV4. I am desperate to drive it again. I'm too little for the truck. No keys - so...Day 4 of driving the truck. At this point, the debris from the night before is resting chaotically in my vehicle, the truck, and my office. Plus, I have the supplies for 2 events that I was working on Saturday. Skip ahead to Monday morning. I get to work (driving my RAV4 with my parent's set of keys). No office key. Thank God for the maintenance staff. At this point, finally in my office, I realize that I had left my Visitation Day stuff in another building on Saturday. Seriously?

Now, I must state that I'm not complaining about these events. But I do, at this point, feel like I'm losing my mind. And I hate that. I pride myself in being organized, in control, on top of things. Two sets of keys and a bag of Visitation Day supplies in one weekend. How would you feel at this point?

It's annoying, yes. It's driving me a little crazy - feeling disorganized and not responsible. But I begin to laugh at the situation. There is no reason to be angry. No reason to let it ruin the day. I must reassess. Organize what I can. Grasp patience. And laugh.

Last week I found myself lost in a few of my favorite books of the Bible: Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians. What a blessing! And it is because of the inspiration of God - exemplified in these books - that I can laugh when I'm losing it.

I am free!

I don't answer to men, and I am not here for the primary purpose of pleasing others (Gal. 1:10). This is a big deal to me - because I am a people-pleaser. I must step back - in the moments when I want to be in control of every situation - and realize that God is in control. I live for Christ, because He died for me (Gal. 2:20).

We have freedom from the law. Freedom to live with a beautiful relationship with God. Freedom to be a child of God! (Gal. 3: 25-26). We are under the Spirit - not under the law. What a breath of fresh air!

The responsiblity is now to stay away from sin and lust of the flesh because we want to, we desire to - not because we have to. Who would want to hurt their Father, their Savior, their Best Friend?

Because of this freedom, I can have love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, and faith - even when I feel less than myself. As children of God, we can feel an unexplainable peace - even when things (bigger things that lost keys) seem to be falling apart around us.


Imagine being betrayed, lied to, cheated on...or even just ignored. Now, imagine forgiving that person - completely. Not easy is it? Now, flip the situation and imagine the feeling of being forgiven, though you don't deserve it. We get that redemption, forgiveness and grace (Eph. 1:7)! More than that, it is a gift. Nothing you can earn (Eph. 2:8-9). All you have to do is believe in Christ and desire a relationship with Him.

"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height; And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled with the fullness of God. Now unto Him that is able to do excedding abundantly above all that we ask or think...unto Him be the glory..."

Picture of Marriage - Ephesians also gives us great insight on relationships: husbands and wives in 5:22-33, children in 6: 1-4. I must pause for a minute to briefly say that God instructs women to respect their husband, submitting to them...BUT He also instructs men to love their wives, as Christ loved the church. What a beautiful relationship.

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you!

Paul is in jail. Not good conditions. Much worse than missing keys or sleepy mornings. Jail could easily become a place of negativity, no hope, no peace. But not for Paul. He realizes what God has done for him - and he wants to make it known. "At the name of Jesus every knee should bow...And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!" Paul is able to focus on what really matters (Phil. 3:8) and have joy inspite of his circumstances. This is not an easy thing. But it's an important one.

How many times do we focus on the little things that don't matter? We focus on what's behind us or what we can't change. Philippians encourages us to focus on that which is ahead, that which matters (Phil. 3:13-14)

Chapter 4 is one of my favorite chapters - as it is rich with inspiration and encouragement. Instead of giving you my thoughts, I'll give you God's Word. And leave you with some of my favorite verses:

"Be careful for nothing (don't worry about anything); but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ..." (4:6-7)

"...Finally,brethren, whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report; if there be any virtue and praise, think on these things." (4: 8)

"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." (4:11)

"I can do all things through Christ which strenghteneth me!" (4:13)

I'm not saying that I have it all figured out. The reason I rely so much on these scriptures to encourage me is because I don't have it figured out. My life is much easier than Paul's, and I still struggle to find strength and joy. But it's there for us. So I hope this blog gave you a little encouragement for today. It's been what God has been telling me recently, and I wanted to share it with you.