Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Year in Photos

November 2012-October 2013: A Photoblog
(Warning: Most of these pictures are unedited) 
 



 


















 




 Note to self: This site is not meant for organizing many photos...do not attempt a photo blog in this manner again!

Note to readers: I love taking pictures, especially of nature, and I took most of these throughout the past year. I hope you enjoyed this different expression of myself despite the spotty presentation of it.
 

Monday, September 30, 2013

How Do You Function?

            I forgot my phone one day when I went to work a couple weeks ago. Until then, I hadn’t realized how much it had become an extension of myself. My phone has become a part of my daily functionality. I was sitting in my car during my lunch break and decided to go straight into reading my book, since I couldn’t check email or Facebook. I came across a word I didn’t know and started to dig for my phone to look it up; wait, it’s not there. I got bored with reading and started wishing I could look up grocery ads for my shopping trip the following day. I thought of something I wanted to take note of and I had to dig through my glove compartment trying to find paper. I saw something interesting outside the window and wanted to text my brother about it, I even felt an urge to text him about how I didn’t know what to do with myself without my phone! Of course, I survived, but it was so strange how I felt like a part of me was missing.

            Can you imagine if we felt that way about God? What if we allowed Him to become such a huge part of our daily existence that we could hardly function without Him? God wants us to seek Him throughout the day; to hunger and thirst after His righteousness. I think of the words to a hymn I heard recently: “I need Thee, oh, I need Thee. Every hour I need Thee.” I find myself asking: Do I acknowledge God’s presence each and every hour of the day? God is always there, He is always with us, and yet there are moments when we disregard His presence and fall into worry or regret. If we would only seek after God each moment of the day, maybe some of the most stressful days would not be so bad. Maybe you can’t always get down on your knees and close your eyes in prayer, but you can say silent prayers as you go about the day. Maybe I should do that more often instead of allowing anxious thoughts to take over my mind. So, the next time you “need” your phone for something, think about the One we truly need to function in this life.

“My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up.” Psalm 5:3 (KJV)

“Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.” Psalm 25: 4-5 (NIV)

“On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night.” Psalm 63:6 (NIV)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons

           I can’t believe another month has passed. It’s amazing how quickly time can go even if you are not necessarily having fun. I’ll be honest, I have not had a good week. I had to work 6 days in a row, I have had allergy and congestion problems the entire time, and we were short-handed at work with two people gone on vacation. I guess it’s no wonder that I’ve stayed sick, since I have not had a chance to rest and recuperate. I try not to complain, because I know that God is always with me, but there were moments when I just wanted to give up. As Christians, we are not promised a life full of perfect days, in fact the Bible states the opposite:
“We sent Timothy…to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them.” (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3)
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
The sad thing is that my “trials” and the “trials” of many Christian Americans today are nowhere near as troubling as what the early Christians had to go through. Currently, we have it easy in comparison, although, I’m afraid a time will soon come when we too will suffer persecution for our faith. Regardless, there is no reason to grumble and complain about any circumstances. Paul and Silas sang praises when they were chained up in prison, Jesus slept through a storm at sea, Esther stood up to her fears, and there are so many other examples of how God’s people have overcome their situations and fully relied on faith in God. So, instead of focusing on your current surroundings, focus on finding God in the midst of it all. Some people find peace in the beauty of nature, some through hymns, and all of us should find it through the promises of God’s Word; just allow God into your mind and heart and let Him fill you with His joy. Even when I find myself surrounded by noise and people, I still pray silently for His strength and peace.
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1”2-4)
Remember that God works through your trials to help you learn and grow. Don’t focus on circumstances, look instead at what God is doing with your life and how you can use what you have learned to help others.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Little About Me

            A few years ago, a note was going around on facebook titled: “25 Random Things About Me.”  Many of my friends typed up 25 things that people may not know about them.  Just for fun, I decided to use that again, but I’ll change some of them this time.  I decided to include things some people don’t know, things God is working on in my life, and just a few random, quirky facts.  I hope you enjoy :)

1.      I was born in Mesa, Arizona and I spent my childhood there.

2.      My mom enrolled me in a private Christian school at age 5 and I didn’t pass the test to get into kindergarten, so they put me in Pre-K.

3.      After attending two different private schools for Pre-K and kindergarten, I was homeschooled for 1st through 3rd grade.

4.      The last time I posted the 25 things, I said I had never flown in a plane, and that is no longer true.

5.      I could easily name off at least 5 new ideas for blog posts, but the problem is that I never put in the time to truly go in depth on those ideas.

6.      In the 6th grade I was “seriously” considering a career as an actress.

7.      In kindergarten, when asked what I want to be when I grow up, I said “a mommy.”

8.      I have been to all of the southernmost states, except for Louisiana.

9.      I love to travel and see new places.

10.  I find many hobbies and occupations interesting and I have trouble committing myself to learning just one, or at least one at a time.

11.  Although I have taken breaks away from books, I still always love reading and will readily escape into any good book that comes my way.

12.  Speaking of books, I am seriously considering writing one. I even have a topic picked out with 5 pages of brainstorming.

13.  God has been teaching me the importance of finding contentment in my life. Many of my past blog posts would show how I’ve been challenged in that area.

14.  I like things to be neat and organized, although my desk and closet would prove otherwise.

15.  Ester and Ruth from the Bible are my role models.

16.  I want to live my life like the Proverbs 31 woman.

17.  At the age of 29, I still feel like I’m going through a quarter-life crisis, but I trust that God will show me where He wants to take my life.

18.  I may be quiet, but I do enjoy the company and fellowship of friends.

19.  According to Gary Chapman’s love languages book, my love language is quality time.

20.  My favorite radio station is Classical 88.7. I find classical music to be so beautiful and inspiring.

21.  I also like many Christian songs and hymns, and a few too many songs from musicals.

22.  If asked, I never can come up with my favorite movie, song, restaurant, book, etc., but I would be happy to list 10 of my favorites in no particular order.

23.  I can’t even narrow down to one favorite verse, although there are some that have stuck out the last few years: Prov. 3:5-6, Jer. 29:11, and Isa. 41:10.

24.  Even though I force myself to go to sleep a little earlier than I used to (some nights) and sometimes I actually fall asleep early out of pure exhaustion, I think I will still always be a night owl.

25.  The past couple of months, I have heard a lot of good, convicting preaching at camps and teaching from the retreat this past weekend. God has shown me that I must fully surrender my life to Him.  I am working on this one day at a time and striving to commit each day to Him.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It

            Recently, after sharing his own testimony, Pastor Clay encouraged those who are Christians to share their own. A few weeks later, at the camp in Missouri, the counselors and campers were encouraged to share their testimonies during the girls’ nightly devotion. I had never really told anyone the full story until that night. I guess it's because I compare myself to others too much. I don't remember the specific date. I wasn't saved from a life full of regrets. Many testimonies people give include factors like those and I guess I always found mine to be uninteresting in comparison. In retrospect, I now know that my viewpoint has been wrong. Jesus Christ saved me from my sins. It doesn't matter how great or small those sins are in the world's eyes "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). So, getting saved was the most important thing I've ever done, and I will share my personal testimony.

            For most of the first 9 years of my life, I attended Mesa Baptist Church. I remember some of my Sunday school and singing in the children's choir. My more vivid memories come from AWANA on Wednesday nights. I remember practicing verses and struggling with praying in front of my mom. I also remember one night when the leaders invited us to accept Jesus in our hearts and I raised my hand and was led to another room with some other kids. I was 6 and I really didn't understand what was happening. I knew who Jesus was, but I didn't have a grasp on what it meant to be saved. A few years later, my family moved and we had a hard time finding a new church. I still wanted to be involved in AWANA, so my dad took me to a new church on Wednesday nights, but the rest of my family didn't come. During those years, my family was struggling a lot. We would attend church together some Sundays, but it was always somewhere different. We tried my cousins' church for a while, we tried local churches, and we even went with a family friend, but his church was a little too far. Eventually, Sunday church seemed to fade out except when I visited my grandma, who was as devoted to her church family as she was to her ailing husband. Despite the spontaneity of my church attendance, it seemed that one message still rang through everywhere I went. God loves me, He has a plan for me, and He sent His Son to die on the cross to save me. I think understanding finally hit me after my cousins were baptized when I was 10 or 11. I remember asking questions about what they were doing and my mom explained that baptism was a visual representation of salvation. I don't know how much time passed after that, but I do remember reading my Bible one night in my bedroom, and I fully understood that I was lost and needed a Savior. I remember talking with my mom and I accepted Jesus into my heart that night and I was excited! I brought my Bible over to my neighbor's house the next day and tried to lead her and my brother in a salvation prayer. Only God knows if they really understood what I was so excited about or what the words they repeated meant, but I hope that I at least planted a seed. Since I was not a member of any particular church, I was not baptized until my family moved to Oklahoma. Although baptism is not necessary for salvation, it does symbolize the cleansing and new life God gives us when we are saved, and I was glad to finally feel like I was a part of the church body. That is the story of how God saved me. I wish I would have shared sooner, I felt so free after sharing with the girls in Missouri. I also wish I would have had a better grasp of time when it happened; I think it was part way because I was homeschooled for 3 years and I had no since of time or what day it was or even the month! It took me many years before I began keeping track of time. :)

            If you are reading this and you don't understand what I'm talking about, then I would be happy to show you some more verses from the Bible that explain our sinful nature and our need for salvation. We all are like lost sheep in need of a shepherd to save us. I don't really think there's a right or wrong way to pray, you just need to admit to God that you are a sinner and that you believe with all your heart that His Son, Jesus Christ, died on a cross for our sins and He rose from the grave on the third day. Salvation is a gift from God, and if you accept His sacrificial gift, you can be saved from an eternity in Hell. If you are a Christian, then I challenge you to share your salvation testimony with at least one other person. It truly feels great to let others know what God has done for us. Like one of my pastors likes to say: if God never blessed you after the moment of your salvation, you are still blessed and have a reason to be joyful! I have been blessed in so many ways beyond my salvation, and I know I’m not usually the brightest light to others, so this challenge goes to myself as well. We do have joy and hope and even if circumstances are tough, we know that one day we will all be Heaven. Let’s share this message that God has commissioned to us so that others may join us.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matthew 28:19-20

Friday, May 31, 2013

Reminiscing

          Ten years ago on May 23, I graduated from high school.  It is hard to believe.  This whole month has been full of reminders of my years in school.  It all started with one of my elementary school friends posting our 6th grade class picture.  Her picture received over 300 comments and someone created a group for those of us who attended Luke Elementary together.  Reading through some of the posts and reconnecting with those people I knew as a child has brought back so many great memories.  A couple weeks later, a group was created for Checotah High School’s class of 2003 reunion planning.  Seeing all these faces from the past has led to a lot of reflection on my life.  It is amazing how much I have experienced and learned over the years.  Memories are also incredible, like how we can recall events and people from just a picture or a few words.  I am grateful that God has given me good memories to cherish from my past.  I am also grateful that God has used the mistakes of people around me and my own failures to teach me and strengthen my faith.

            I know that I have been taught not to dwell too much on the past, and I will admit that I have been thinking of those “good ol’ days” a lot lately. I am sad to say that those carefree days of childhood are gone, but sitting here and wishing for them to come back will not get me anywhere.  Dwelling on regrets is another dead-end thought process.  It does not matter now what I did or did not say or do back then.  It is all in the past; it’s over; life must go on.  We have all heard these clich├ęs, and yet those 300 comments prove that many people are past-dwellers.  Let’s see what God has to say about this:
 “Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.” Ecc. 3:15
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am making a new thing!” Isa. 43:18-19a

          I think that what these and other verses are saying is that while there is nothing wrong with reminiscing, we should not let our pasts control us.  We should learn from mistakes and not repeat them.  Another thing I’ve learned over the years is that there are so many things that are out of our control.  There will be times when we feel extreme sadness or disappointment and there will be times of excitement and bliss.  But when one chapter ends and another begins, do we linger in that chapter or allow the story to move on as we enter the next one.  In other words, life will change; what is today may not be tomorrow.  I’m sure God does not mind if we look back and smile at past experiences, but He does not want us to stay there.  In times like these, Christians should be on high alert to what is currently going on.  We can’t all just long for days of old, or regret choices made in the past.  We also should not yearn too much for the future.  God has a plan for each of us right here and right now!


P.S. I hope that this post makes sense.  I feel as though I started going one direction, but then ended up going somewhere else. There was also a gap in time between when I started and finished writing. I didn’t have much time to edit, but I thought I’d share my thoughts anyway.  Feel free to ask for clarification on any points, and thanks for reading :)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Curiosity Can Kill a Cat

           My cat, Sawyer, gave me a scare the other night.  Ever since we lost 2 cats last year who were indoor/outdoor cats, I have been exceptionally over-protective of my 3 indoor cats.  We often let Sawyer have free range of our screened-in porch, and that night, he was out there.  I was checking to see if he wanted back in, when I noticed the back door was open!  So, I hate to admit it, but this cat lady-in-the-making panicked!  My brother came out because of all my woeful calls, and I poured out all my worries and fears for my darn cat.  He gave me this look of utter disdain and told me to calm down.  He immediately heard Sawyer’s meows and we found our cowardly lion hiding nearby.  When we first brought him in, Sawyer was so scared, but within about 10 minutes, he was meowing at the door wanting back out.

            Isn’t life a lot like that?  Our parents or pastors try so hard to protect us from the outside world, and we always wonder what’s out there.  Then, when some people give in to their curiosities, the temptation to go back out there is even harder to resist.  That is part of the reason why so many young adults turn away from God once they go out on their own.  King Solomon decided to explore all the world had to offer; he had access to all the riches and pleasures he desired, and here’s what he had to say:

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
    I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
    and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
    and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
    nothing was gained under the sun.”
(Ecc. 2:10-11)
 
So, instead of trying to get to the other side of the fence to see what the world has to offer, shouldn’t we be offering our lives to God?  It is not easy, the world likes to sugarcoat sins, and whether we have tasted them or not, the temptation never goes away.  But our God is stronger than temptation.  He gave us this promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

            When Sawyer went outside, the porch door was still open.  He had a chance to come back in to safety on his own instead of being reprimanded by his humans.  Don’t be like my cat, if God leaves a door open for you to get out of something, use it!  Remember that sin is only pleasurable for a season and it does reap consequences.  Obey God and seek His will for your life to avoid the pain of regret and discover His blessings instead!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Turn Your Eyes to the Cross


I thought I’d share a couple poems I wrote in the past couple years.  I wrote the first one not too long ago as just a reminder to put my hope in the Lord.  As for the second one, I started the first four lines last year and finally decided to finish it up for today. Hope you enjoy:

Do we live to dream or dream to live?
     That phrase just makes you wonder...
If I give my life to the dream will it
     come true or take me under?
Underground and out of mind,
     depression takes its toll.
Life becomes a dreadful thing
     that's relentless, grim, and dull.
But hope remains for those who turn
     their eyes upon the cross.
Without the love of Jesus Christ
     our efforts would all come to loss.
He gave His life to set us free
     from the awful curse of sin.
He rose again to life
     so those who follow Him can win.

 
It’s not about bunnies or baskets or candy,
It’s not about bonnets or dresses so dandy.
Egg hunts and parades become such trivial things,
If we sit back and listen when the true message rings.
Jesus died on the cross and then rose again,
He gave His all to save us from our sin.
So whether your Easter is full of rain or shine,
Make sure to give Jesus a moment of your time!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Letter of Resignation

Warning: The following blog is a personal soapbox.

                Recently, I watched what this country would consider to be a controversial documentary called IndoctriNation.  It was about the decline of the American public school system and what it has done to our children and the people overall.  I taught kindergarten for one year after I graduated from OBU and it was a very tough year, so tough that I decided that something needed to change in my career.  After taking a year off, I started the application process again.  I tried adding English as a second language to my certification, thinking that working with smaller groups was what I needed.  I tried applying at smaller, local schools thinking that the inner-city system was what made my first job so hard.  I did get a few interviews, but, for some reason, I was never offered a job over the last few years.   I will admit that I did not put a lot of effort into applying because I was not sure if I wanted to return.  I was on the fence, but I believe God has used this movie to push me over the edge, and this is why I will not be applying for a public elementary teaching position this year:

                When I was in elementary school in Arizona, I remember learning many things and never felt a lot of pressure from the teachers to do well on a test.  We learned through hands-on experiences and teamwork.  I understood math better than most of the other students, but I was not bored because my teachers offered me the chance to work independently.  There are many other examples of how the teachers I had would cater to the different needs of the students.  My experiences in Arizona planted the first idea of becoming a teacher. 

                Unfortunately, things changed a lot over the years since I was in elementary school.  No Child Left Behind was passed, and from what I’ve observed in the schools, it seems to do the opposite of its intent with many students.  Learning and teaching is not as fun anymore with all the push for testing.  At the school where I did my student teaching, I was told that I could only have 15 minutes each day to teach a science lesson to the second grade class.  Many principals whom I have worked and interviewed with have said things like: “Students will not need to learn science and social studies until 4th grade when they are tested over it,” “You can teach science and social studies to the kindergarteners through the literature you read,” and worst of all, “Those kindergarteners will not have time to play, you must focus solely on getting them to read by the end of the school year.” Now, I’m not saying that children should be running around wild in the classroom, but sometimes, learning can look like play.  Children learn best through interacting with their learning and by being given a chance to explore and discover things on their own.  Of course, the teacher is in charge of directing and guiding the children in their exploration and each child is unique in his or her pace.  I feel as though I have been told that type of learning is no longer acceptable and the teacher is expected to be standing in front of the class, holding a book.  It’s all about those dreaded tests held in April.
                I really could go on and on about that subject alone, but there are many other ways things have changed over the years for the school system.  The movie focuses on how God has been removed from the schools, and that is a far worse occurrence than NCLB.  Removing God and prayer from the schools has led to an overall disrespect for authority and a physically and morally unsafe environment.  IndoctriNation explains this and so much more and I would highly recommend it to anyone, especially teachers and parents with students in the public school system.

                At first, as I was watching the movie, I thought I should still try to teach to be a light for Jesus to my students, and I related my thoughts to one of the teachers they interviewed.  But, as they told her story, she mentioned that if she ever stood up for God in front of her students, she would be asked to resign immediately, and that is exactly what happened.  How can I be a light in a place controlled by a government that extinguishes all flames as quickly as possible?  Now I know that here in Oklahoma, things are not quite as bad as other areas, and I could talk about my beliefs in the classroom, but how much longer will it last?  Given the choice between my degree and God, I most definitely choose God.  I feel like a burden has been lifted from my shoulders.  I still may not know where God is leading me, but at least I know one thing He will not have me doing. 
P.S. Anyone know of any good private schools?  Can an elementary teaching degree be used for things other than teaching?  At least I know some tips for teaching my own children someday :)

www.IndoctriNationMovie.com

"But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Misplaced Time

            Pastor Clay preached a very convicting message this last Sunday.  It was about how we, as Christians spend our time.  He said it’s so easy for Christians to ignore the critical and focus all their attentions on the frivolous.  He read John 19:19-24, which talks about how the soldiers were casting lots for Jesus’ clothes as He was hanging on the cross, dying.  They got so caught up in their game, that they did not realize the significance of what was taking place behind them.  Clay spoke of misplaced passion and asked “What do you care the most about?”  Our passion is evidenced by how we spend our time.

            Of course, I have heard messages or read devotionals on the subject of time before.  But, at this point in my life, that message really hit home.  Lately, I have found myself highly interested in (aka: addicted to) an online game.  Those who introduced me to it will know what I’m talking about.  I found myself making all kinds of excuses for spending so much time playing: “My friends might be/get on,” “I had a hard day at work and need an escape,” “Just one more hour, I need to finish this mission,” etc.  In fact, let’s just focus on that work excuse, I tend to use it a lot to explain away wasted time on TV, gaming, reading, and music.  These things are not bad in and of themselves, but when they consume most or all of your free time, that’s when they become a problem.  Instead of trying to escape the stress, I should be turning to God at the end of each work day.  I should use that time to pray about the specific things, at work or elsewhere, that make me feel that need to escape. 
            As human beings, we have a tendency to be passionate.  Think of the sports fans cheering when their team wins or the readers who cry when a book character dies.  Christians should have that kind of passion for God.  We should desire to read the Bible and talk to God, to serve Him and bring honor to His name.  Once we are saved, that should be our passion and purpose, but how often do we find ourselves focusing on the things of this earth?  Col. 3:1-3 says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  Enjoying something, such as a movie, a football game, or a good book, is not bad; but just remember that these things hold no significance in light of eternity, so don’t let them consume you.  We should build our lives around God and doing His work.  Although, it may seem difficult at first, when you spend enough time with Him, you start to realize just how important your relationship with God is.

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:11-13 (KJV)
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