Seasons

Just as we experience seasons with the weather, we experience seasons in life. Just as with the weather, some seasons we enjoy more than others. But every season has a purpose.

As this winter and this holiday season set in, I can’t help but think back to where I was last year. Not physically, but mentally. I know I’m different now, and I know God has changed me.

All last year I felt I was in the middle of a hurricane or tornado or some other severe weather pattern. I was on shaky ground. My world had been turned upside down. I was being batted around by negative thoughts and crippling anxiety and depression. I prayed that I could just find shelter and stay huddled until it was all over. Maybe if I closed my eyes, plugged my ears, and screamed it would all go away.

God answered that prayer, but not in the way I anticipated. Nothing changed overnight, and nothing has happened in the way I had specifically asked God for it to happen. But I had prayed to find shelter in the storm, and I did: in Him.

At first, I started with prayers of desperation and heartache. Every prayer was a literal cry for help. In every prayer, I begged. I attempted to bargain with Him–“if You do it this way, I’ll never ask You for anything again.” But as time moved forward, those prayers transformed from “change this” to “change me.” And when I finally admitted–to myself and to Him–that I couldn’t do anything, I gave Him room to move.

And move He did. I have a better sense of identity now. I know more about not only who I am as a person, but also who I am in Christ. I have a better sense of my calling and my passions. I know what I can and can’t do in a variety of circumstances. Above all, I’ve realized I cannot expect another human to fulfill a hole or a longing they could never realistically fill anyway.

What felt like a long, cold, stormy winter has transitioned to what feels more like fall. Yes, I know that’s not the real order of seasons, but that’s the best way I can describe it. I still hope for things. There are good things that I can see, but there are still things I feel are missing. So, maybe then it’s more of a very early, dreary spring than fall.

Don’t be deceived. It took me a long time–about a year!–to get to this point. A year of introspection, of crying, of wanting to sleep it away, of reading, of therapy. And I’m not still not 100% okay, still not perfect, still not exactly where I want to be. I’m still a work in progress.

It’s the most difficult season I’ve had to navigate, but, while I would never wish it on anyone, I can see now that God will use it, and has used it, for a purpose. It’s really the first time I can say that I know God works things for good.

And that’s why today, on this last day of the thankful challenge, I’m going to risk being thankful for something that may be controversial: this season. But being thankful for a thing and being thankful for what it has taught you are different things. I’m not thankful that it happened. What I am thankful for is that God has used it to make me a better person and that He continues to use it to show me, and others, that brokenness doesn’t define you or scare Him.

. . . . . .

What is your favorite season?

Do you need to be thankful for a particular season in your life?

Have you ever been grateful for something out of the ordinary?

Is there a difficult circumstance you’re facing where you need to see God’s goodness? Or did you see His goodness on the other side of a difficult situation?

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.

 

Generosity

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. It is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and is a movement to encourage charitable giving. And I plan to make a contribution.

Last year, I wanted to, but felt I couldn’t afford it. Before that, it honestly–and I’m ashamed to admit this–never crossed my mind. But for some reason, this season of life has made me want to be more charitable. And I know that desire is from God; He is using this season to make me generous.

My church just finished our series on generosity. I have never identified with a financial sermon until this series, and I am so glad my heart was open. It gave me more of a sense of financial freedom than I’d felt in a year. I started tithing more at church, with full trust in God. And the minute I did that, incredible things happened. But two things really stuck out to me: (1) generous people are not just generous when it is convenient; and (2) work doesn’t give you purpose; you give purpose to your work.

I had always thought of myself as caring and generous, but I knew that when it came down to it, if I felt we were on the edge financially, we wouldn’t give. I chose our comfort,  my comfort, over the calling to give.

For years, I thought work would bring me a sense of purpose and would fulfill me. It’s only recently that I realized that I can love my job, but that God uses that job to do other things. I joke that I work so my pets can have a better life, and that’s entirely true. If worst came to worst, I would provide for them before I provided for myself. But He also blessed me with this job so I could give back. Thanks to this job, I can make those charitable contributions I’ve been longing to make.

And for that, I am thankful.

I am thankful that God blessed me with a job that I not only find meaning in, but that I give meaning to. I am thankful to have a job that allows me to make contributions I want to make. I am thankful for the opportunity to be generous. And that is what I strive to be.

So as Giving Tuesday rolls around, I want to encourage you to give to a cause that is near  to you. But don’t just do it on this one day. Make it consistent. I want to encourage you to be generous.

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.