The Outlet

I got into the blogging world last summer because writing is an outlet for me. I find the right words to express my thoughts more easily when I write than when I speak. I’ve journaled since I was about six, but then I started to think that maybe other people think the same way. So I started blogging, and I really didn’t expect anyone to read what I published. But I have these awesome friends who enjoy reading my ramblings, which helps me feel validated.

Since I started this blog, several of my friends have joined the blogging world as well. And I’ve been thrilled to pieces when reading what they write, because I can tell it’s from the heart. I’ve learned more about them through the blog posts in the last few months than I have in the last few years of knowing them. Because blogging is an outlet.

What makes the difference? Frankly, it’s ever so much easier to admit the reality of your life from the anonymity of a blog post than it is in person, or even on Facebook. No one is looking at you or listening to your voice. You can’t see or really feel anyone passing judgment. So you feel freer, and I think that’s why so many of my posts and those of my blogging friends are so personal and heartfelt. That can be both good and bad, but I’m going to go with good for now. And I’m going to use my outlet.

Certain circumstances of today awakened some parts of my past that I prefer to forget about. I keep those things hidden, pushed deep down into the far corners of my mind. I tell myself that I’m not that girl anymore and keep living life in the present. But that doesn’t make that part of my past go away, and it’s never quite forgotten.

I didn’t kill anyone. I wasn’t a thief. I wasn’t running of to wild parties, smoking, drinking, shooting myself full of drugs, or sleeping around. I say those things to clarify that I wasn’t all that bad. Not by human standards. But it’s all the same to God, right? I mean, it only takes one sin to keep a person out of heaven, and God hates sin, so that puts all sin on a level plane, doesn’t it?

It’s all over now anyway. I confessed it. I repented. It’s under the blood, and by His grace I’ve changed. He has put it behind Him and doesn’t think of it anymore. But I am human, and one with the mixed blessing of a detailed memory. Satan LOVES to use that against me.

That’s one of the biggest reason I cling so hard to my time in the Word, because whenever I stop thinking about God’s mercy, His grace, or His will, I start thinking about myself. My ambitions. My failures. My sin and my ineffectiveness. And then I start trying to fix it. Me, me, me. Whenever I get my eyes off my Savior, my eyes turn to my reflection in the mirror.

This happens far too often– far more often than I want to think about. The ambitions come to mind first, usually unrealistic and overreaching, usually involving school and my future career. Next, the motivations. I have to get all these things done and done well to make up for all the failures in the past. To make it up to my parents. To make them proud of me. And to make it up to God.

My drive for success and high achievement is a good thing when I’m focused on glorifying God and using the talents He’s given me to the best of my ability. But as soon as my eyes turn from Him to myself, it becomes a form of legalism. If I do well enough, I will make myself better in God’s eyes. But the thing is, I can’t make myself better in God’s eyes. Yes, He is pleased when I use my gifts for His glory, but when I’m trying to win His favor, the goal has turned from being about Him. Instead it has become about me and what I can get from Him. That looks pretty horrible when it’s written in print.

Moreover, while my parents are also human and also remember those hated things from my past, I don’t truly believe that they are still holding those things against me. I was blessed with godly parents, and I think they know that I’ve changed. In fact, they’ll probably be a little bit shocked when they read this post and see the confession that my “drive” can be a form of penance for myself when I’m in a bad mood. And I’ll comfort them by saying again that this isn’t a constant thing. That out-of-sorts attitude only comes when the rest of me is spiritually out-of-sorts.

I don’t like to linger in an out-of-sorts place. It’s like being sick– it happens, but then it’s time to find a cure so that you’re better again. And I know that my cure is a hearty dose of Scripture. So I have two passages I immediately turn to when I feel this heart sickness coming on.
(Psalm 103: 8-14) The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
The Lord is merciful. Gracious. Slow to anger. He won’t stay angry. He’s too merciful to deal with us according to our sins. He’s removed our sins as far as east is from west. He deals with us like a father with children. HE REMEMBERS THAT WE ARE DUST– ONLY HUMAN.
(Proverbs 24:16a) For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.
Everyone fails. It’s whether we get up and start again that matters.

I’m sharing this because I know how easy it is to get caught up in the past. I know how easy it is to feel ineffective before God or feel as though you have to earn His favor to make up for a past mistake. But if you’ve confessed and repented, God really is done thinking about it. Because He’s merciful, loving, and aware of our humanity. So stop dwelling on the past– if you had stopped dwelling on it, you wouldn’t be trying to make up for it now. Get your eyes off yourself and back on your Savior. He hasn’t finished with you yet.

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Summer Productivity (the Lack Thereof)

I don’t know about you, but I always start out with terrific plans for how productive I’m going to be in summer. Seriously, I start planning my summer agenda in March. I give myself two weeks to recover from the rigors of the spring semester, during which time job-hunting will commence. After that, I am going to be productive. Very productive. That way transitioning back into the school year won’t be as hard. I might even be miles ahead of my peers.

Right. Ok. I don’t know why my train of thought still runs that way every spring, because that’s never how things end up. And so now, with just a week left before I head out, it’s time for a reality check. Here are some of my ambitions from this spring contrasted with reality.

1. I will run every day.
HAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!! I’ve gone out for a run all of five times this summer. And every time I started to think about running, it rained. How convenient. I have this thing where I just can’t stand wet socks and sneakers, so if it’s raining, I will not be running. Am I a wimp? Yes. But I’m not a serious runner, so I simply can’t bring myself to care.

2. I will sew ____ .
This is such a lie, I don’t know why I even bother. I never sew anything. Ever. So the shirt I was going to sew a modesty piece into is still sitting in my drawer. I never got further than safety pins. And the button I was going to sew back on to another shirt is sitting on a shelf while that shirt keeps the other company. In my drawer.

3. I will study German.
I actually had myself convinced on this one. I brought my books home so that not everything would fall out of my head. But I did not study. At all. Sure, I throw a phrase around now and then, and I even gave a couple that stayed at the inn directions in their native tongue. But my brain is going to explode when I walk into Intermediate German I and try to remember pronoun endings in the dative case versus nominative or accusative. You might as well forget the genitive case, because I just had to pull out a book and look up what the fourth case was called. Das ist nicht gut.

4. I will get my permit.
I did it, guys!

5. I will get enough driving hours in to get my license by Christmas break.
I got in about 1 and 1/2. Out of 70. I have nothing else to say.

6. I will deep clean my room and get rid of all the things I don’t need.
My room was clean exactly once this summer because we had family friends visit. I never even touched my closet (most of which is my sister’s mess anyhow, but still), and I went through exactly nothing of my old stuff. Except for some old photos, all of which I kept. And when I started thinking about donating books from my bookshelf, I then proceeded to tell my sister to start reading them so that I wouldn’t have to go through them. I have obviously reached ridiculous levels of laziness and procrastination.

There are other things, but I think you get the point. I’m not terribly good at following through on goals, at least not during the summer. But I did hold a job, and I did take voice lessons, so that’s something. Besides, the fact of the matter is, I’ll have to grow up in just two short years. There will be no “summer break” when that happens– only work. So I rationalize my lack of drive by telling myself that I’m just making the most of the summers I’ve got left.

All in all, it’s been a decent summer. Now it’s back to Greenville in 10 days.

Why I had the Best Childhood Ever

The ministry life in northern Maine is not for the faint-hearted. Maybe you think I’m stating the obvious when I say it’s hard. All ministry is hard, right? True, and I won’t belittle that. But sometimes, I talk to other pastors’ kids and all I can think is, “Wow. Yeah, your life was SOOO hard,” sarcastically, of course. I’ve never felt like they could empathize because their lives looked so much easier from where I stood.

Growing up, I had few friends. Our church was full of folks which had either reached or would soon reach retirement age. I had my brother and sister, and then there was one other boy who was my brother’s age. Other kids came and went, never staying for long. Why stay in a church full of old people when there were other churches with better children’s programs and more exciting worship services? So there were four-ish kids in our Sunday school. Junior church never seemed to stick. At its peak, there were twelve kids in our youth group, at least five of which actually went to other churches.

Then there’s the fact that– let’s face it– Maine is pretty isolated and sparsely populated. And honestly, we like it that way. But it really puts a cramp in your style if you’re thinking about music teachers, Christian school, or a homeschool co-op. They exist, they’re just small, quite a drive away, and less than spectacular. Kind of like malls, movie theaters, and cell phone reception. Pretty much everything is like that here. But I never realized that until I left.

In my head, I knew that there were bigger churches with bigger youth groups. I knew that people got better musical training elsewhere. I knew a lot of things were very different the further south one went. But I never realized how different. And people who haven’t lived here can’t possibly realize how differently I grew up. I spent some time trying to fit myself into a bigger, faster-paced, more competitive world that I didn’t understand, but I lost a good part of my personality in the process. The effort to be someone other than myself was exhausting, and I would come home on breaks just happy to be on familiar turf where I felt like I could act normal. But I’ve gotten tired of charades like that.

I’m not writing this post to complain. I’m writing this post because I had the best childhood ever. And some of the reasons it was so hard are some of the things I’m most grateful for now.

I may not have had a pile of friends, but the ones I had are true and life-long. I’m grateful for them and for all the things we went through together. And I know that my friendships with them will last because I’ve already spent the better part of four years living away from home, and even though we rarely have time to talk to each other during the school year, we always pick up right where we left off when we’re all home again.

I may not have had a pile of friends, but that meant I had to befriend my family. Frankly, we couldn’t have lived if we hadn’t learned to get along, because there weren’t many other options for whom to get along with. My siblings and I are close. Very close. Anyone who messes with either of them clearly has a death wish. Seriously though, both my brother and my sister are hilarious. We have some of the best inside jokes that any family has ever had, and no one else could possibly understand. Furthermore, despite some interesting times caused mostly by me when I was high school, my parents really are pretty cool. They’re in on a lot of those inside jokes, as a matter of fact. Yes, they’re still parents, but as parents go, they’re kind of awesome.

I may not have had a pile of friends, but that meant I had to make friends of books. I read my way through the American Girl books, Elsie Dinsmore, and Little House. Anne Shirley and Diana Berry were bosom friends of mine, and I still have a crush on Gilbert Blythe. I’m a fan of Austen and Dickens. I enjoy poetry and even write a little. I learned a lot from all the things I read, and when I found a concept that fascinated me in a fictional book, I would read non-fiction on the same concept, devouring facts like an unsupervised child devours candy. I can’t tell you how much those habits which I got into early in life have helped me academically.

I may not have had a pile of friends, but that meant I had to learn to interact with adults. Ok, this caused some problems too. I tried to grow up too fast. But I look at some people my age, and they don’t know how to have an intelligent conversation with someone older. If an older person wants to have a conversation with them, that person is going to have to get down to the young person’s level, because the young person can’t seem to meet them halfway. That’s sad. If I hadn’t learned to talk with adults, I would have missed out on some of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had and some of the best advice I’ve ever received.

I may not have had a pile of friends, but I had Maine. We have a camp on a lake, where I’ve spent many summer days swimming, hiking through the woods, or laying in a hammock with a book. I’ve been on ice skates since I was three. I can kayak and canoe. We can go out in the woods and pick blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. I’m not afraid of a little dirt. I’m not afraid of a few feet of snow. There are so many other things I could say about our way of life here, but it’s just hard to explain. And sometimes I do have a love/hate relationship with the way of life, but I’m grateful for it because it taught me to appreciate little things.

I may not have become the world’s greatest musician, but I had the best musical education that could be found. I may not be able to find or afford the most trendy clothing, but I know how to put together a professional wardrobe from resale shop finds. I’m never going to look like the most glamorous woman on earth, but I can play a decent game of soccer, mix bear bait, and cook up a good seafood chowder. I don’t regret a moment of my upbringing. I may never be the best at anything, but I had the best childhood ever.

Things I Miss when I’m Home

August is officially here! That means I will be returning to BJU for my junior year in less than a month. I’m not overly eager to leave home. After all, I’ve spent most of the past four years elsewhere. But there are certain things I do miss about “the Bob” and the Greenville area, and since I spend a lot of posts listing things I appreciate about home, it’s about time I dedicated a post to school. So, in no particular order of importance, here are things I look forward to getting back to in 22 days.
The Music
It’s glorious being in a place where there are so many talented musicians. My school has some first class instrumental ensembles and choirs which I get to listen to all the time. I also get to participate in a choir. I get to take voice lessons from a talented teacher. I get to hear the singing in chapel every day (the majority of the student body sings well). As a music minor, I’ve gotten to sit in some amazing and helpful music classes. And I try not to take a moment of it for granted, because that’s just not how I grew up. I think saying that I grew up in northern Maine is probably enough of an explanation as to why I find these things so incredibly special. I love Maine for many reasons, but the music is not one of them.
The Learning
That’s right. I actually enjoy getting an education (*gasp*). I sit down with my comm textbooks and have an awesome time reading about theories, research, or techniques. I enjoy doing the research and planning for my papers and presentations. I’m having a fantastic time learning German. What can I say? I’m a nerd, and I’m rather proud of it.
The People
BJU is not a perfect place (*gasp again*). It’s filled with imperfect people (hard to believe, right?). And there are certain people that drive me up the wall, but those are few and far between. For the most part, everyone is just… nice. I mean, we’re all family in Christ, we’re all there to get an education, and we’re all going through basically the same stuff, so why not just get along? I have made great friends, some of whom have become family, and I am grateful for them every single day. And right now, I miss them. A lot.
The Teachers
This is going to sound completely crazed to people who haven’t experienced it, but my teachers actually care about me. They care about how I’m doing in their classes. They’re always willing to do their best to make sure I understand whatever we’re learning. But more than that, they care about how I’m doing personally. Sometimes that can be annoying and/or embarrassing (Oh, you don’t have a date for artist series? I know this guy…), but it’s nice to have people looking out for me when my parents are so far away. Most importantly, they care about me spiritually. That’s incredibly encouraging. I know that these people pray for their students every day, many of them pray for us individually, and they are constantly asking how they can pray for us and giving us truths from Scripture. That’s unique, and it’s something I’ve really enjoyed.
Southern Food
You won’t find a more New England girl on the BJU campus, but you know what I love? Grits. Biscuits and gravy. Fried chicken. Fried everything. Like seriously, is there anything Southerners don’t fry? (Fried okra… that’s something we don’t even have in New England! I’m not even sure what it is, but I like it.) Pulled pork. I mean, I love my seafood, rhubarb, blueberries, potatoes, whoopie pies, you name it, but Southern food definitely has it’s place in the American diet.
Almost everything I need or want is within walking distance.
Chick-fil-A is on campus. Starbucks is just up the road. So is Bi-Lo. So is CVS. Family Dollar is just across the street. There is an authentic Mexican restaurant about a mile away. I mean, really. There is only one Chick-fil-A in New England, and it’s six hours from me. If I want Starbucks, it’s 50 miles away. I like living where everything’s right there, even if the city atmosphere gets on my nerves at times.
The Social Life
During the summer, everyone spreads out around the country, and even the world. Everyone’s working, or going on mission trips, or vacationing. It’s hard to talk. It’s pretty much impossible to see anyone, especially if you live in a remote part of the country like I do. (Wait, doesn’t so-and-so live in Maine too? Yeah, at the bottom of the state… that’s a four-hour drive…) But on campus, you shoot a text saying, “Lunch?” and boom. You are hanging out with friends. Same with dinner. Breakfast too, if you and your friends are morning people (I’m not, and neither are most of my friends, so this is rare for me). Same for concerts, recitals, and plays. And artist series, if you’re single. I miss doing mundane, everyday things with my people, and I can’t wait to get back.
So there you have it. A long, descriptive, disorganized list of stuff I’m looking forward to.