Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Anxiously Awaiting

Well, as always, time has slipped away from me and here I am left wondering how I haven't written a blog in months. So much has happened, it's absolutely unreal.  And to also think that I am in the very last two weeks of my first semester of college...um, what? Finals are next week and I will be an 1/8 of the way done with my undergrad career (yes, call me a nerd all you want).

I'm not really sure that I have an exact topic for this blog.  To be honest, my mind is full of to-do lists, various information for classes, and tons of other things so I apologize ahead of time for the probable inconsistencies and ramblings.

So, freshman year, fall semester; holy moley.  I never knew I could experience so many emotions, situations, and people in one single place.  To reflect on the past couple months is absolutely exhausting for my brain.  I've had plenty of meltdowns combined with abundant feelings of accomplishment, achievement, and gratitude.  I am on a constant self-esteem roller coaster with plenty of twists.   Yeah, this has all been said before but I honestly was not prepared for any of it.

Growing up in my perfect little world back home, I pictured my transition to college to be absolutely smooth with an abundant amount of friends, usual A's in all my classes,  and a constant feeling of confidence. Uh, hold up.  I was immediately thrown into a HUGE pond unlike anything a little fish like myself had ever experienced before.

But, I am ultimately thankful for all of the eye-opening, life-changing experiences I have had so far.  I have seriously learned who I am, how I work with others, and just how challenging life is.  I'm still learning.  And I'm anxiously awaiting the next experience, mistake, or person that will build me up into an even stronger, more mature person.

The most important lesson I've learned? I'm not perfect, I never will be.  No one is perfect, no one will ever be.  People are going to get in your way and you're going to get in their way.  There are going to be struggles and life is going to suck at times.  But it's finding that steadfast peace in your life and holding tightly onto it; not letting it slip away.  Keeping it as your saving grace in both lonely and joyful times.

So I'm waiting, constantly.  For finals to be over.  For a new semester.  For a potential summer job.  For an exciting major to open.  For God's ultimate plan for my life.  For His everyday blessings. And in this season, for His Son.

Give yourself some time to really relax, to find that rare peace.  Whether you're a fellow college student facing the end of the semester or a parent trying to keep up with hustle of the holiday season, take time to give it all to God.  Place it in His hands and wait.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sudden Changes

Well it seems as though I've been caught up in the hectic spirit of life again.  This time I believe I have reason to justify my lack of blogging.  I successfully (and surprisingly smoothly!) moved into college at the University of Pittsburgh three weeks ago! As many people probably understand from prior experience, college is a huge time of change in every area imaginable and unimaginable.  A whole wave of emotions has flooded my life over the past weeks and I felt the need to pour everything out.  So here we go...

Firstly, before leaving the comforts of home I expected to not be homesick whatsoever.  I've been away from home plenty of times before and experienced being responsible of myself in many aspects.  However, almost instantly after my parents left, I felt completely empty.  I never knew the comfort of being able to just be in a normal place was so powerful.  As the week went on, I was still in the mindset that I was just away at "camp" and would be going home soon.  But I was strongly mistaken.  I was completely thrown into a whirlwind when I experienced my first weekend in college.  I realized this would be my new "home" and I would have to adapt.  Luckily, after three weeks I am now adapted to my new room, neighbors, and amenities.  Surprisingly, I'm headed home this weekend but am feeling as if I'll miss this beautiful city.  

First lesson learned:  You never realize how much you love your family until you can't be in their presence every day.  I am truly blessed with wonderful parents and fantastic siblings.

Second change; after a busy summer of life-changing experiences including two amazing mission trips, a week of worship at Creation, and reconnecting with amazing friends, I did a lot of thinking.  On my Brockton mission trip, I did a lot of thinking about who I am as a person.  During one of the programs, we were asked to carve our biggest flaws into a piece of wood.  We were then given a strip of sand paper and encouraged to smooth out all of our roughness.  I began by writing negative attitude on one side.  I quickly sanded the side away but then sat and thought about what God was trying to put on my heart.  After reflection, I wrote the word "myself" on the other side of the wood.  I was so frustrated with the person I was.  A person who gave up too easily, complained about everything, couldn't keep her ground, and didn't serve every person with complete compassion.  I broke down into tears and ended up not sanding away the word.  After talking with some inspirational people, I now realize that I can start over whenever I want to.  And I realized that now was the perfect time.  I was entering into an environment where no one knew who I was.  I could be the person that I wanted to be for so long.

So I worked at the goal when arriving here in August.  I was going to be a more compassionate, loving person to everyone I met.  However, I unfortunately got distracted by trying to impress people from home.  I wanted them to know that I 'm different - different in the fact that I'm more "fun", more "carefree".  After an eventful, emotional weekend, I realized that I'm really not that type of person.  I hurt others and personally hurt myself in the process.  

Second lesson learned: Changing yourself to win people over is never effective.  You end up losing to them and yourself.

So after all of my ramblings, I hope to provide a slight bit of inspiration or warning to always stay true to yourself.  Losing an identity that you have worked so hard to create is truly an unpleasant experience.  I'm glad I caught myself before I went off the deep-end.  But I plan on keeping the following quote close to me so that I don't fall under the pressures of college again.  I hope I can eventually sand off those rough words from my piece of wood and begin to be made new in Christ's spirit.

"Identity is the essential core of who we are as individuals, the conscious experience of the self inside." - Gershen Kaufman

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Week of Making New.

Wow! So I haven't blogged in FOREVER...but after my very hectic senior year, I finally have a little bit of time!
The main purpose of writing this blog is not because of my "free" time but rather because of my recent life-changing experience. I have just returned from my NINTH mission trip... and let me tell you, this has been the most impacting on my life. So let me tell you about it;

Workcamp 2012. To Bradenton, Florida.  Right on the Gulf of Mexico. Relaxing right? Far from it. Well we did have 2 beach afternoons which were absolutely beautiful.


It was amazing to see God's amazing creation displayed in such a simple way.

So, now to the work. This mission trip was the busiest one for me.  Not only was I a camper, I was also the worship leader for the week.  Even though I had planned my songs out before the trip, I still spent 2 hours practicing and perfecting my songs all with the worry of sounding good or impressing people...(more on that later).  

When we arrived on Sunday, we went through the normal routine of going over camp rules, activities, and meeting our crews.  However, this time it was different.  From the first 5 minutes of meeting my crew, I knew that this would be an amazing group of people to work with.  After we got to know each other and picked our various crew roles, we were given our project.  First thing we learned: our resident spoke Spanish - only Spanish.  God had a plan for crew 12 though; we were blessed to have Pedro who spoke Portuguese. He was a true God Sighting and Blessing! :) Our work description told us that we would be scraping and painting the exterior of the house with minor caulk repair.  It also gave us an extra job of tearing down a porch or overhang.  


So, Monday morning roles around and we head to our site.  On the way there, my crew leader Christina took note of how the neighborhoods in Florida were very odd... one house would be reflect a neat appearance with a neighbor house reflecting a decrepit appearance.  She reminded us that sometimes work projects can be like putting a band-aid on a broken leg.  Seconds after that comment, we approached the house.  And it was most definitely that band-aid.  

As we surveyed the house, we all felt extremely overwhelmed.  The painting project that was supposed to take 4.5 days needed to be replaced with a complete demolition.  As we began scraping, we were even more overwhelmed.  The lack of care for the house caused mold to leak out of the rotting boards.  And to add to that, the door was infested with termites.  Covered with goggles and masks, our crew pushed through 2 full days of scraping paint off of the house.  Before painting, we attempted to spray off the mold with a power washer but that only resulted in breaking off a board.  The house was literally falling apart underneath our tools. To add to the heartbreak of the condition of the house, our hearts were also broken at the resident's living conditions.  The couple had a hose coming from their propane tank into their house to cook their food. A garden house from the outside going into their house to wash their clothes.  And 5 gallon water containers full of rain water for their drinking water.  

Things began to change once we started painting.  More God Sightings appeared with each stroke of a paint brush.  By the end of our 4th day of work, 2nd day of painting, we were finally feeling good about the appearance of the house.  The simplistic combination of blue and brown brought life to the house.  The color change not only beautified the mold but encouraged the vibrant colors of the resident's garden to shine.  


Our last day of work approached us and we were busy finishing up the painting.  However, we still weren't able to work on the overhang of the house because 1. we didn't have time and 2. none of us had construction experience.  God was again looking out for us because he blessed us with another crew to focus on the extra project.  Crew 22 worked diligently to demolish the overhang which consisted of 2 support beams and scrap wood, PVC pipe, and linoleum strips and build a sturdy, beautiful structure.  As the final touches were being added to the porch, tears filled my crew's eyes.  We were completely amazed at the progress we had made and how beautiful the house actually looked.  

As some of you experienced Group Workcampers know, this week not only provides a physical transformation for the resident but also a spiritual transformation for the workers.  The theme for the week was Made with the accompanying verse of Revelation 21:5: "Look, I am making everything new!"  Each day we dissected the verse with the ultimate goal of realizing how God is making things new in our own lives.  

As common among many teenagers, my faith goes through a roller coaster during the school year.  In August, I am so hyped up on God from all of my summer activities.  However, come April/May, I begin to slip away and need my summer rejuvenation.  Unfortunately, this year I began to slip up in early March.  I took a complete drop-off from my faith.  Church and youth group became lower priorities with lower enthusiasm.  I never pictured myself to become that way.  I was completely wearing a mask.  I scared myself.

With all the talk about making things new, I realized that I needed to be a new person, especially with the upcoming change of college in my life.  From this short week, I am now committed to being strong and completely rooted in my faith.  Loving God and serving others will continue to be at the top of my list come fall.  From my worship leader experience, I hope to find a worship band to join.  However, I will not play to sound good or have people tell me how great I am; I will play to worship God and give Him all the glory. And ultimately from this week I am inspired to join Group Workcamps Summer Staff next year... can't wait! :)

I have a song that I would like to share that positively describes this new change in my life.  It's called Live Like That by Sidewalk Prophets... I strongly recommend that you listen to it.


It is hard to pick out the words that I best relate to because they all describe my new feelings.  Here are my favorites:

I want to live like that 
And give it all I have 
So that everything I say and do 
Points to You 

If love is who I am 
Then this is where I'll stand 
Recklessly abandoned 
Never holding back 

I never want my faith to be artificial again. I want my faith to be a constant reflection of God's goodness and grace.  I want EVERYTHING that I do always be for God's glory.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday Reflections

So, I have not blogged in months because of my crazy schedule. But as I sit here on my day off, my mind cannot seem to get off of the importance of this holy day.  There is so much on my heart that I hope I can pour it all out into this blog without writing a book.

Holy Week is a week full of mixed emotions.  Beginning with Palm Sunday, the mood is one of praise and exuberance. However, by the end of the service the mood has significantly changed with the anticipation of Christ's sacrifice.  Then comes Maundy Thursday: Jesus' Last Supper.  The moment where his disciples finally realize the pain and suffering that is going to happen.  After a long and restless night, Good Friday approaches. The day where Jesus is beaten, whipped, crushed, flogged, and murdered.  The suffering is overwhelming.  After a sorrowful three days, Jesus is raised from the dead.  His resurrection is a declaration of the power of Christ's unfailing love.

As I approached Holy Week this year, I wanted my eyes to opened to Christ's story in a new way.  In my reflection, I found myself focusing on the immense pain that Christ was faced with.  I began the week watching a video that talked about the medical view of the crucifixion by a medical doctor. I strongly suggest you watch it:


Then as the week continued, I came across a devotional by Steve Thomason titled "Saturday".  He talked a lot about how dark the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter must have been. The disciples were deep in grief over the loss of their master.  They expected that Jesus being the Messiah would bring great victory over their oppressors.  However, it seemed to have the done the reverse and caused much pain. All hope was lost for the disciples.

All of us go through Saturdays.  Dark times of pain and suffering where there seems to be no hope.  Loss of a family member, friendship troubles, financial worries, addictions, depression, and more.  During those times, it seems as if nothing will ever be able to pull us back out.  We want to cry out like Jesus, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

But there IS hope.  God is forever present with us during those times. He has never let go, is still holding on and will never let go. We have to remember what the disciples faced after their days of grief; Christ's resurrection.  In that moment, they experienced ultimate hope on Easter Sunday.   Just like the disciples, we need to remember that without Saturday, you can't get to Sunday.  Don't grieve with grief, grieve with hope.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Carpe Diem

Wow, in a matter of a week my life is already changed! Yesterday marked my last semester of high school, EVER! Holy canoli, I feel like I just started my freshman year yesterday! This brings about my topic for this blog post: Time. With the semester change, we received all new classes. One of my new classes is English. I absolutely LOVE English and despite all the negative comments from other students, I am excited to have Mr. Scofield as my teacher. The first day of class, I was so engaged in his explanation of the course and his enlightening stories. I picked up on his sarcasm and quirky jokes and thought they were absolutely hilarious. Little did I know that his topic today would make a huge impact on me...

So obviously, I am a senior in high school. Time is of a huge essence to me! I am one of the busiest people you will meet, but that's beside the point. The physical amount of time that I have left with the people I have known the past 12 years of my life is QUICKLY fading away. I'm already halfway through my senior year with only 88 days left! And what do I do with this limited amount of time? I spend every ounce of it trying to stay involved and create more memories before my time is cut short with my friends. In the beginning of this school year at our very first youth group meeting, my youth leader focused a lot on time and making the most of this year. He asked me to do a skit called "Time" by the Skit Guys. It talked about being extremely busy and not finding time to just focus on God. But the true meaning was to not just offer our little sliver of time to God, which is truly insignificant to him, but to offer him our lives. My best friend also participated in a skit in which she spoke about truly wanting to be a different person this year. She wanted to make the most of her senior year by truly diving into her faith. With this meeting, I felt the inspiration to make the most of this year. I wanted to enjoy every moment but also bask in the exciting opportunities of my future. My first semester was lived by constantly looking forward to how many days there were left until I am finally in the real world. And then I got to English class...

We were assigned to read a simple 16 line poem by Robert Herrick. I will share with you the first eight lines since they had the most impact on me:

Gather ye rosebuds, while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting. 

I will try my best to sum up the 30 minute conversation of this poem, (I should have taken notes!) Mr. Scofield has been a teacher at EYHS for over 20 years. In that time, he has seen 8 former students of his pass away; one of them being Michael Enochs who passed away a week ago from brain cancer. This poem is near and dear to his heart in regards to that situation. In the first stanza, Herrick talks about how quickly time passes by. A flower may be here today, but in a few days it will be gone. Mr. Scofield emphasized the value of time. To Mike Enochs, if you would have told him he could have 5 more days to spend with his loved ones, he would have snatched it up quickly. Mr. Scofield also talked about how living in the past is truly a waste of time. You cannot go back and change it; no matter what. And the more you spend looking on the past, the more time you waste in the present. On the opposite end of the spectrum, he also mentioned not focusing on the future. If you plan your whole future out, you'll miss entirely what's going on now. You'll always be focused on what's next and never on the beauty of the present. Of course that is a bizarre statement to tell a class full of seniors but it is most certainly true. If all I am focused on is how successful I will be as a lawyer with a happy family, I will miss out on the last semester of my high school career. This reminds me of the popular quote: "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift from God, that's why it's called the present."- Bill Keane. We should truly value each day is our last. And what is the popular word associated with this concept? Carpe diem: Seize the day. Make the most of every.single.moment that you are given. 

So, how does this relate to your walk with God? Well I know in my own life I have set a goal to make 1 person's day better each day. Whether it be a simple hello or picking up someone's books, random acts of kindness are truly God's glimmer of hope in a down day. To continue with my idea of using a song in each of my blog posts, here's this blog's song: Blink by Revive. The songs talks about making the most of each moment and using it according to God's glory. In the second verse the words describe how we should use our time on this Earth:

When it's all said and done, no one remembers
How far we have run.
The only thing that matters, is how we have loved.

I strongly suggest that you listen to this song to get the full inspiration of making use of your precious time. 

I challenge you to seize each and every day as if it's your last.
 Dedicate the day to God so you may accomplish His purpose for your life
 in order to advance his kingdom.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

God's Peaceful Creation

A Snowy Morning

At 8:30 A.M. this morning, I'm thinking, "Ahh, I wanna go back to sleep... this is too early..." But then as I looked at the window, my thoughts were completely changed. I knew there was going to be snow from all of the weather forecasts but I viewed this snow completely different than I thought I would. This beautiful landscape outside my window was God's fingerprints. Now, you're probably thinking, "Snow looks like this every year, Lauren." But that was not the case for me this morning. As I gazed outside my window, I saw the complete peace of God's creation. The trees were completely still covered with snow on their branches. And perched on those branches were birds. When I woke up this morning, there were 12 birds sitting on snow covered branches. And the amazing thing? They just sat there. In peace. No stress of having to go anywhere. No lists of thing to do. No worries about what would happen next. And as I gazed out onto this beautiful landscape, the song "Indescribable" came to mind. (I have an extreme passion for music so I plan on incorporating songs into my blog because that's how my mind works (: ) So here's a glimpse at the chorus which basically sums up the song:

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

Those few lines alone simply explain the true glory of God. There are truly no words to describe God's splendor. His majesty is so powerful that it brings us to our knees. But you know what the great thing is? He knows each and every creature by it's name. And he knows the inner depths of your heart. What else can be said from that? It's difficult for me to explain because there is no one on the face of the Earth capable of loving us that way. My absolute favorite part of the song is this last chorus:

Incomparable, unchangeable
You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same
You are amazing God
You are amazing God

God knows our inner thoughts, dreams, and faults. He sees everything we have ever thought or will think. And even though we have sinned in our past, are sinning now, and will continue to sin in the future, God will never take that word-taking love away.

So I thought I would incorporate something special into my blog. I'm taking this from my youth leader who is one of the greatest advice-givers I know. Every time I have a problem, she always challenges me with a new way to grow in my faith. So, I thought I would incorporate a challenge.

I challenge YOU to take the unconditional grace from God
 and use it as your everlasting source of peace.
Whenever another thing gets added to your to-do list, don't make it a list of stress.
Use it as a way to grow deeper in God's peace.