Permission to Study

As someone with a degree in English, I am familiar with analyzing texts and the practices and theories that go with that. As a Christian, I know what it’s like to have something sacred. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with reading practices for my sacred text of the Bible. I have read passages, felt like it spoke to me, looked at the footnotes, navigated to some related passages, and moved forward. I didn’t know how to go any deeper.

And that’s why I’m thankful for my favorite podcast: Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.

You might be asking, “how does a podcast about Harry Potter help you to read the Bible?” It may seem counterintuitive. But these two Harvard Divinity School graduates walk through each chapter of each book (so far, we are on Order of the Phoenix) in a specific theme and use sacred reading practices to analyze the text. In essence, this is what I did in college. And, since I did a few papers on the Harry Potter series, I’m familiar with analyzing the messages and symbols in the books. But for some reason, I never thought to apply those same practices to reading my Bible.

I always had this perception that using study methods on the Bible was wrong, but the more I’ve listened to the podcast and done Bible studies, I realized something: how can I begin to further understand something if I don’t study it. It may sound odd, but its almost like the podcast gave me permission to study what I love. Ya know what I mean? And it’s for that I’m grateful.

I may not always agree with everything in the podcast, but that’s the beauty of not only these types of endeavors, but also of textual analysis: each interpreter can see something different, the text can speak to them differently, and each person has their own opinions and ideas on what they encounter. It doesn’t mean anyone is wrong. What is important is that you are exposing yourself to new, and sometimes different, ideas and figuring out your thoughts through it all. What’s important is that you are learning.

I’m thankful that I learn things every day. I’m thankful that I can learn valuable lessons from something that could be seen as simply entertainment. And I am thankful that there are people who take the risk to analyze pop culture in unique ways and share that adventure with others.

 

A Day Off

I had my first-ever Black Friday shopping experience today.

One of the outlets near me opened at midnight, so, at 12 a.m., my mom and I embarked on our Black Friday excursion. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot, but I was surprised that the stores weren’t busier. I managed to get a few good finds of warm weather clothes, and I was home and back in bed by 4:30 a.m.

It’s the first day in a few months that I’ve had entirely off from either job. Between the full time writing and editing job (which I love) and teaching, I feel like I’m constantly in motion. I know that’s part of being an adult, but it’s something I’m still getting used to. And with only 3 weeks left of teaching, I know I’ll have to get used to a new routine.

Today was about fun and relaxing. So, today, I’m just thankful I had a day off.

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Have you done Black Friday before? Did you like it or hate it?

 

A Time to Give Thanks

Give thanks to the lord for he is good! His mercy endures forever. – Psalm 136:1

I like to view thanksgiving as an opportunity for me to really focus on the good. As I have been preparing my apartment for the Thanksgiving feast, I marveled at how far I’ve come in a year. This time last year, I didn’t want to see my family, and I certainly didn’t feel thankful for a darn thing.

But this year is different. I feel thankful for quite a few things. Some things I have written about here, some I have not yet. November isn’t over, though, so neither is the Thankfulness Challenge.

As you spend time with your family on this day, I pray you would find yourself in a space of gratitude at some point. Reflect on how God has blessed you. You may not be in exactly the place you want to be, but the Lord is right there with you and is blessing you along the way. And that, in itself, is something to be thankful for.

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There Are Still Good People

Simple acts of kindness can dramatically impact a person.

We had our first snow here yesterday, and I left work after only a few hours because I was afraid of what my (albeit short) drive home would be like. A drive that usually takes me 15 minutes ended up taking me about 45 minutes. I ended up gently sliding through a turn and getting the front end of my car stuck in a small ditch and scraping a small sign pole. All is fine, but it scared me, and I had some flashbacks to a previous almost-accident. I had a near incident in college when my husband and I came very close to hitting a telephone pole because we slid through a stop on ice. I’ve been terrified to drive in the snow since.

So when I came to a halt, I started crying. Not because I was hurt, but because I was afraid. And because it felt like a nudge that I can’t adult. Trying to maintain my composure through my unreasonable anger, I called AAA, but it turned out it would be at least a 10 minutes wait to even talk to someone. With the rear of my car sticking out on the road, I was terrified someone else would slide through the turn like I did and hit me. And this whole time I’m tearful, just muttering “please, God, let me get home.”

And then a truck stopped by me, and the driver got out and approached my car. He offered to pull me out of the ditch.

I thanked him over and over, telling him how sincerely thankful this act was. I think I may have embarrassed him, but he couldn’t possibly know how much that small act affected me. I got back in my car, cried for a second, and began driving (very slowly) home, thanking God the entire way.

This interaction reminded me how important small acts of kindness are, and it compels me to do more of my own. And it showed me there are still good people out there. So I am thankful for small acts of kindness.

An action that seems small to you may have a huge meaning to someone else, so never think that there isn’t anything you can do to help. Sometimes all someone needs is a little tug out of the ditch.

What small act of kindness will you do?

On Writing

I haven’t made quite the progress on my book that I hoped I would. Having a full-time job and writing is hard, ya’ll! But I am farther along on it than I was on the novel I attempted to start last November, and I count that as improvement.

I am not giving up, though. I will persevere. I will keep writing. Because I think it’s a message that other girls need to hear.

I have been publishing with an online publishing company, Coffee House Writers, for the past year, and I have learned so much. I quickly progressed from a writer to being an editor to being a COO of the team, and I love everything about the group. It has helped me become a better writer, and it has helped me plan out articles. If you’re interested in joining such a group, shoot me an email at digitalinkandparchment@gmail.com or comment here, and I would be happy to provide you with information.

Not only did it help me rediscover my passion for writing, it also led to a bit of healing. I was able to find my writers voice again, discover the things I want to write about, discover my passions, and say things I never thought I could. It has helped to shape me into who I am now.

That is why I am thankful for not only the abilities and passion God gave me for writing, but also that He led me to Coffee House Writers at the time I needed it most. I can honestly say that I would not be as sure and as motivated as I am today about making writing and blogging a career if it were not for this team.

Our passions and abilities were given to us for a reason, and God has a purpose in leading us to opportunities where those passions and abilities are used. I encourage you to think about and be thankful for those opportunities. Because there may come a time when those opportunities help you more than you thought they did.

A Career

Have you ever felt like you’d never move past the “job” phase? That you could never call what you do, or what you want to do, a career?

On Friday, I had my 90 day review for my job, and it was good. I came out of it feeling valued and proud of myself and with a desire to keep pushing and working hard. And I realized–I have a career.

After the struggle I faced post-graduation and last year, I never thought I would be able to say that. I always called what I did a “job,” and now I can transition that language. I am a writer, a blogger, an editor. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. My husband used to tell me “if you want to write, we can find a way to make it work.” I finally found a way.

I’m not anxious at this place. I don’t feel like if I don’t answer emails on my days off, the world will end or I’ll get yelled at. I don’t walk into work dreading the interactions I may have that day. I don’t dread the people or the work itself. That doesn’t mean I’m not tired after working all day, because I am. That’s part of working. But I’m proud that I’m tired by the end of the day. I feel like I’ve earned that exhaustion. And I really needed that feeling.

This job, actually beginning my career, has showed me the things I needed to see. I can see why my husband was always exhausted coming home from work. I can see why no one wants to go out after work, even if you are in an office all day. I can also see why it can be tiring to come home and make a meal, even if it’s just you and the animals. Having never experienced those things before, I didn’t know what they were like, so my reactions and my attitude were off. Now that I know, I feel better prepared.

So, today, I am thankful for my career. I am thankful I had the opportunity to truly begin it. I am thankful I found my calling. I am thankful I have a good work environment. I am thankful God granted me this opportunity. And I am thankful He used this opportunity to show me how to be better and to provide me the proverbial tools I need.

I want to encourage you to be thankful for your job. No matter what it is to you right now–whether it’s “just a job” or a career–God is using it in your life. If you don’t think He is, I challenge you to think about what your job has taught you. How has it changed you? What have you learned? Because every experience teaches us something.

Thankful for…Community

It’s been difficult for me to make friends, and that’s my own fault.

I used to be a social butterfly, but as I got older–and had some bad experiences–I took on the mentality of “I have 3 friends; I don’t need more.” Throughout my marriage, my husband and I have moved every 2 years. Not for the military, but because we changed universities. When I first started college, I had a desire to make friends. I wanted to have those late-night, candy-fueled study sessions in a dorm.  I wanted to giggle with girl friends and walk to class with people and go on adventures with others. And for the first year or two, I did that. I made friends. We studied together, we did projects, we had Bible study, we went on weekend trips.

But then my husband and I moved. And I was devastated. Not at the move, but at the loss of my friends. There were nights I cried. There were nights I begged to go back. There were nights I insisted we move back to our home state because I knew I had friends there.

The move was for the best. We weren’t happy at the first university, and we wanted a different environment. My learning style required small classes, and I was about to change my degree from biology to English, and the college we transferred to was a small liberal arts school. But after marriage and the move, I felt like making friends was hard. Not because of any fault of my husband’s, but because I struggled to find people who could relate. I was young and married, so I was a bit of an anomaly. I also knew we would be graduating in two years, and I would be headed to graduate school. I also wanted to keep my head down and study to get the best grades I could.

So, instead of pressing in and trying, I stepped back. My husband became my best friend, and the only time I talked to classmates was really while I was on campus.

When we moved for my graduate program, that mentality didn’t change. I knew I would be graduating in two years, so I thought it would be pointless to make friends. I didn’t want to be distracted from my studies, and I thought having friends would negatively impact my grades. I even recall telling my husband once, who wanted me to make friends, “What’s the point? We’ll be gone soon.”

I had grown close to a few girls my last year of high school, and we have stayed friends. I always thought I didn’t need anyone else. What the issue really was was fear. I was afraid to make friends that would make it difficult to leave. I didn’t want to fall in love with where we were or who we were surrounded by because if we left, I would be devastated and feel alone, just like I did when we left the first university. I was protecting myself.

So I never thought I would again see a time that I made friends and was happy about it, regardless of what my future may hold. But now is that time. Thanks to my church.

I have become friends with a few girls from church, and I find that, for once, I don’t feel entirely defeated after spending time with them. I don’t get my energy from being around people. Social situations, especially ones with more than 3 other people, take an emotional toll on me, and I tend to have to go home and decompress. While where I get my energy from hasn’t changed all that much, I don’t feel completely drained after spending time with these people.

They have welcomed me with open arms when I was beginning to think no one would. I am fearful, I have anxiety, I’m uncertain, I love my pets more than most people, I have a pseudo non-traditional job, I often feel broken and unprepared for life…and yet, they have accepted me. They encourage me to grow and think and be myself.

And it is for that I am thankful.

I am thankful for the community I have found. I am thankful I know people who make me look forward to going to a small group every week. I am thankful for people who allow and encourage me to be open. I am thankful for people who accept me. I am thankful for new friends.

If you’ve struggled, or are struggling, to make friends, no matter the reason, take your time. Allow yourself to come to a healthy place where you would be willing to accept friendships. Be thankful for even that one person you trust. And if you blog, you have a welcoming community here. Because we all need community of some kind.

So, to my girl friends–all of you–if you’re reading this, thank you. Thank you for knowing me and knowing my struggles and accepting and loving me anyway.

And to this wonderful blogging community, thank you for following me on my journey and for helping me to grow not only as a person but as a blogger.

Today, I am thankful for community.

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What community are you thankful for?