Confessions of a Perpetual Student

14 Nov

In a matter of a couple weeks (literally) .. my life just took change to a whole other level.

At twenty-eight, I am finally admitting to myself that I may just be a perpetual student.  January of next year (less than 2 months!) I will be moving to Harrisburg, technically, it’s a small town called Middletown, which is located a few miles from our state capital.  I’ll be attending Penn State as a full-time Public Administration graduate student, with a Government Administration focus.  I’m excited to take my background in Public Health and my love for justice and finally give it hands and feet.

Never in a million years did I ever think to enter into the world of politics.  I always dreamed of working at a Christian non-profit somehow saving orphans, changing lives, selling the Story and juggling that plate alongside domestic diva-hood at home.  Without even realizing it, I glamorized this scene and saw the Lord open my eyes to the ugliness of the reality.  You’re not a ‘super Christian’ by working in a Christian non-profit, ministry, or church and more often than not, these people need Jesus just as much as the world that they’re selling their message to.  You’re not closer to the heart of God because you choose to be a missionary overseas in some developing country.  There is absolutely nothing special or holy about the above apart from Jesus Christ himself.

The irony of intentionally avoiding the mess of red tape and politics within the secular setting and somehow finding myself smack dab in it within Christian settings began to grieve my heart even more for the brokenness in our society.  As a Christian, often times than not, you find yourself in these bubbles filled with Jesus-followers who speak Christianese and you unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally!) distance yourself from the world around you.  It now becomes “us” and “them”.  You build this wall of security around Christian people and communities thinking that they must be super heroes from God and you quickly watch God break down every wall to reveal to you the only safe refuge: Himself.

So, here I am.. looking at the nation I live in and absolutely loving the people of America and simultaneously hurting because depravity is all around.  Sin is so loud.  These days, mine more than any other’s, has been blaring at me.  Change is needed.  This country needs hope.  I’m not talking about the hope that politicians soapbox about during inaugural speeches.  I’m talking about hope that points us to the glory of Another.  I’m talking about change that reconciles rival communities, restores broken families, heals the guilty and pleads for the innocent.  To be honest, I’m sick of seeing it as “us” and “them”.  I’m tired of watching politicians disappoint and listening to opposing parties bicker on my newsfeed.

I only know one thing to be true in my nebulous thoughts: God has given me a heart for injustice and nothing wakes me up more than seeing it in front of me.  I don’t need to go to Africa to experience this (although I hope to one day!).  My own backyard screams for hope and a genesis to occur.  Just policies cannot be implemented in the United States without people who are relentlessly chasing after the heart of a just God.  Relentlessly.  As important as Christian settings are, the governmental scene is just as important.  These are the men and women leading our nation.  They are the voice.

I had so many thoughts to share with you all in this blog but they were too many for this specific post, so I will end here and continue the story soon.  I promise.  Thanks for all of your love and prayers, friends.  Let’s walk this together?

Here’s a couple photos from my visit to Harrisburg, Middletown, Hershey and Hummelstown this week.  These towns are all minutes from each other.  Some of these photos are professional and are not taken by me, but are glimpses of my home for the next couple years.

10417616_10154814512145514_365376684991785252_nGraduate School.. part 2. A part of me was tempted to have them re-take the photo, but I liked the volume in my hair and knew I couldn’t duplicate that.. haha, confessions of an honest female I tell ya!

Harrisburg-entrance-1024x437We are: Penn State

Harrisburg-Newark 009I’m all about beautiful architecture and cool bridges.. you pass this one when you’re driving into the city of Harrisburg

more-of-downtown-harrisburgDowntown Harrisburg.. I didn’t get to explore much here yet, but I look forward to soon!  Aren’t these cool buildings?

city-harrisburgI’m hoping to work here while doing ‘the student thing’ ..
this is where you can find all the movers & shakers trying to make changes in Pennsylvania

middletown-4jpg-e603c19d6afc5f17This cute town, Hummelstown, is one of my closest neighbors. It’s part of Dauphin County, old and very quaint.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetMy adventure buddy, Grace has been in every ‘new chapter’ of my life.. from undergrad to my first grad experience in NY.. and here we were walking around the chocolate-filled-aroma town of Hershey.  We saw some beautiful old stony buildings.  We liked this Methodist church.. yay for red doors that haven’t been painted over!

unnamedBundled up and trying to stay toasty during 40-something degree weather!  Hershey has got to be one of my favorite towns in the Harrisburg area.  We saw stars that night as we drove back home.  Coming from Philly, I can’t say I’ve seen much of that!  I’m definitely looking forward to starry nights.. it’ll help the studying process go smoother

photo (15)We grabbed dinner in this hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Miss Saigon. It’s family run and since the first time I went with my family, I’ve become friends with the girl whose family owns this place.. really sweet people.  I’m all about grubbing in non-chain, ethnic places where mom and dad are in the kitchen and brother and sister are greeting and serving. Small businesses!  If you’re looking for an authentic place in Hershey, this is your best bet for Vietnamese.

It’s All Politics!

5 Nov

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”

-President Woodrow Wilson

Growing up, my knowledge of politics was pretty bleak.  I was raised in a home where my folks came from a foreign country.  They spent most of my childhood years trying to raise us in what is considered the “American Dream” without venturing into the life of politics.  I look back and see how they both coincide.  American dreams and politics go hand-in-hand.  Politics is everywhere.  You cannot avoid it, even if you try.  Their political apathy came from factors that many immigrants still struggle with to this day: lack of awareness of current policies, how those policies impact people on an individual level, the impact of voting on day-to-day living, and the power that comes with a citizen’s right to vote.

In high school I took a college prep Government & Politics AP course and thoroughly enjoyed the class.  Shout out to Mr. Flamer for kicking my butt even when I whined about the workload. Every week.  Let’s be honest, every day. *grins* — he opened my eyes to a complex, multi-layer system that ran the show.  Education, employment, finances, programs and policies exist because of the political system.  Closing your eyes to politics because it’s often ‘messy’ and ‘broken’ and ‘shady’ creates an atmosphere where there is no hope.  People stop believing that there is good in the system.  They begin to close their hearts to genuine care in a complicated system.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a LOT about the thing I’m most passionate about in life — social justice.  I’m even more aware of the obvious need for politics to be a part of changing the way America looks at justice.  I can’t go around it.  A friend of mine asked me a couple weeks back what my dream job would be.. without a second thought I said: changing the way America looks at justice by bringing hope to a nation that’s without hope.  That really is the most ambiguous, yet precisely spoken response.

Yesterday’s election was very different for me compared to other elections I voted in.  I began researching and analyzing what the candidates are doing for issues pertaining to justice in America.  I think it’s so easy to be labelled in politics.  Christians have a reputation of being staunch Republicans who are rich and could care less about anyone beyond their class and everyone else gets labeled as liberal Democrats who have no morals.  Both are incorrect stereotypes.  Very wrong.  These massive gaps are formed through jumping on ignorant, uneducated bandwagons.  As a citizen of the U.S. you are given the gift to hold your leaders to a standard, to create a system of accountability, and to be a part of change.. not just general change — but change that brings hope to a hopeless people.

We can approach any of our leaders at any point in the year and request an explanation for why human trafficking is so rapidly increasing in the USA and why there is so much that is yet to be done to ‘help the issue’.  This election was more than ‘where do you stand on education’ .. ‘where do you stand on employment’ .. and ‘where do you stand on businesses’.  We must ask tougher questions.  As important as those previous questions are, continue to raise your standards.  Someone will meet them.  I’m not sure who or when, but I have to believe and hope that it will happen one day.  We need to not approach politics with an ignorant or intimidated mind.  In this day and age, there is no time for that.  There are too many lives at stake.  Domestically and internationally.

[stepping off soapbox for a moment...] 

*smiles*

As I look at my background in Public Health, education, research and advocacy – I am even more aware of how politics is interwoven into everything.  It’s actually a beautiful thing.  Power and status isn’t a bad thing when it’s used to provide hope to a broken nation.  People are hurting.  They’re looking for answers and apart from Christ, there is no good thing.  The best politician in the world cannot offer the hope that Jesus can.  There’s no way around that Truth — but the beauty is this.. God uses all things for His ultimate purposes.  Democrat or Republican.  The Bible at multiple times commands us to pursue these fundamental things: to seek justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly.  Ask the Lord to reveal to you what that looks like as you elect leaders in the future.  Don’t automatically go to a political party just for the heck of it.  Look for justice.  Look for where mercy is being displayed.  Look for a servant that has a heart of humility even in the midst of corruption.  Believe it or not, those individuals still exist as rare as it seems sometimes.

As I’m not generally a confrontational person, I’m learning that there are issues that need to be confronted.  Walking away isn’t always the best solution.  My prayer is that one day I will get opportunities to approach my political leaders and work alongside them to establish justice in a very unjust world.  Let’s change the climate of our current policies.  There’s so much that’s yet to be discussed and let’s be apart of those conversations.  I personally look forward to the day that every enabler of trafficking will be held responsible for his/her actions.. where basic human rights (literally) will be given to the people living in our country.  I hope to see a day when people don’t shutter at the thought of their specific leader running their nation or a political party sweeping the Hill.  At one point or another in our lives, regardless of political affiliation, we were without any hope at all.  We had no one fighting for our cause.  Christ changed that completely.  In the same way, let’s fight for a cause that brings hope to billions.

Get out of your comfort zone.  You won’t thrive there.  Your glass ceiling will come quickly.  Live life for others, always being a means of grace and hope in dark times.  Pray for your leaders — ALL of them .. they have an unreal amount of responsibility being placed on them.  Without humility, grace, and discernment .. that kind of power can crush an individual.  Be their advocate,yet hold them to a standard.  There are many without a voice that need you to platform their cause.  Do everything in your power to get their voice platformed.  Above all.. in everything, seek justice. love mercy. walk humbly.

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Outside of the Fairy Tales

20 Oct

sheraby:

Needing very much to hear this one again..

Originally posted on Sheryl's Musings:

One of my girlfriends and I were up to 2am just yapping about different things the Lord’s been teaching us, convicting us about, etc.  One thing we found to overlap in both of our seasons was the concept of love – God’s love being displayed through human vessels.  So, we shared about the weight of this in both of our lives and how He’s been exposing where we need more growth.

She brought up a scenario.. if you were married and your spouse cheated on you, would you make a strong effort to forgive & reconcile in order to give it another shotby displaying Christ’s love or would you take this as an opportunity to go your separate ways?

While she was talking, my heart couldn’t help but think of the life of Gomer, in the book of Hosea.  This lady found herself leaving her husband and cheating on…

View original 889 more words

Opposites Attract

30 Sep

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They say people flock to people who are similar in interests and personality when looking for friendships.

They could not have been more wrong with Anita and myself.

Anita and I are what I like to call a healthy dose of ‘opposites attract’.  These have always been the most special friendships to me because they require a very intentional pursuit.  It’s like a boy/girl relationship in that sense — there is work involved.. lots of it .. and loads of communication and tons of understanding .. but the rewards are beyond anything I’ve experienced.

Anita is every bit an extrovert.  I remember the first time we met.  She walked right up to me at church from the other side of the room (literally) and introduced herself.  I was content with that much.  She wasn’t. She went into a full conversation disregarding my comfort zone and nervous laugh.  If you know me well enough, you know meeting people unexpectedly is hard for me if I have not prepped myself for it in advance.  I hadn’t prepped myself for that moment.  She broke the ice quick.

She is one of the most disciplined people I know.  I like to call her ‘boss lady’ .. because she is in this mode .. all day, errrrrrr day.  Not to say I lack complete discipline.. but mine really pales to this woman’s.. she takes the cake.  When she has her mind set on something — it’s tunnel vision all the way till she accomplishes it.  She should be referred to as Colonel. I may get a mouthful for that one..   *grins*

She is ALL girl.  For the longest time I didn’t think she owned a pair of sweats.  I’d knock her for it every time.  Every time.  To prove her point to me she wore black “fashionable” sweatpants when I dropped by her casa on a snow day (typical!).  They didn’t look like sweats at all folks, but that’s between you and me.  More than half of my wardrobe is sweats.. haha.. the SAD truth!  I dress like a college student.  If it wasn’t for ‘professional Sheryl‘, I would be in a hoodie, shorts, and flip-flops all day.  That’s me in my element.  Being with this girl has really brought me out of my element on many occasions — wearing new colors and clothes that my eyes generally wouldn’t flock to at first and make-up shopping cannot be done without this partner in crime.  Outside of clothing shopping, make-up shopping is one of the things I dread the most.  She really has taught me the joy of dolling up every once in a while.  Yes world, you can send your gratitude to Anita Hurtado-Strok that you have not witnessed me in complete frump mode.  She’d probably scare the frump outta me with her stank eye.  *grins*

We also communicate very differently.  I always like to say she’s the man in the relationship.  A woman of not many words.  She is not descriptive.  I’m a storyteller.  I love to hear the full story because in my head it shapes the whole thing.  It allows me to better understand the person and the scenario.  I’m a question-asker abuser and she handles it like a boss.
Here’s a classic example:

“How was your day?”

Anita:  Good.  Busy.

[Silence]

Sheryl:  Why was it busy?  What did you do?

[Anita asking me about my day]

Sheryl:  That’s a loaded question!  Hmm.. I didn’t sleep as much as I wanted to and so the day started off wompy. But it began picking up as the day progressed.. I _____, and then ______ and after all that I spent some time ______.  Weird right?  I was just thinking maybe I should ______.  What do you think?

Anita:  Oh, good.  Yeah, that sounds good.

It’s funny how that works right?  Same question.  Different personalities.  Very different answers.  I paint the entire picture for the day.  She gives me the nuts and bolts.  One approach is not better than the other, they’re just different.  I love that this is the Gospel in its element — bringing together strangers and people with no similarities and stripping them of comfort zones.. and watching love evolve slowly for the sake of Another’s glory.

We deal with disagreements and arguments so differently.  She waits to talk things out.  I prefer to not have things linger and talk it out on the spot.  You can always catch me asking “what are your thoughts??” .. her response is almost always.. “I don’t know.. I don’t agree but I needa think about this..”  She is every bit confrontational.  If something bothers her, she is all over it.  If she has an opinion, you will know.  She doesn’t get nicknamed sassafrass for nothing!  I’ve always secretly wanted her boldness because I struggle with holding things in.  If you don’t ask me my thoughts, I don’t generally volunteer them.  Over the years, we’ve definitely had our fair share of disagreements since we both have strong personalities, but it’s been amazing to look back and see how much we have grown in extending love and mercy.  I think it’s safe to say that humility has been one of our most brutal teachers.  Very recently, I’ve noticed big changes in the way we approach topics we disagree on.  Our love for each other and solid commitment to the Lord bringing us together has really orchestrated this.  If it was up to either of us, I’m sure we’d say “I see it my way.. I care about you.. but I refuse to see your point.” — and I do think we used to be that way.. but doing life with each other and the Lord really pruning our messy hearts, this has been one of the biggest recent breakthroughs in our friendship: using our differences to build a stronger, well rooted friendship.  We choose to listen not to respond, but simply to hear the other person.  Then we speak in love.  That’s it.  No hidden agenda.  That really has done volumes for us.  It took us years to figure that simple Biblical concept: “walking in love” .

We think very differently.  For starters, I think.. ALWAYS.  Like, my brain never shuts off.  It drives my poor friend nuts.  I often lose sleep just thinking through things.  It’s such an issue of mine, but something I have been begging the Lord to help me maneuver more effectively.  I am every bit analytical.  As much as this is a blessing, it’s also a big fat curse because the mind can spiral to places it should never go.  This leads to bouts of anxiety.  She’s able to simply curb her thoughts.  Crazy.  I don’t even know how that works!  I call it grace.. needing lots of it.. in waves.. all day.. every day!

I think about our very different friendship and most people would look at it and may have chosen to part ways early on but I am so glad we both stuck it out because she is easily one of my closest, nearest, dearest friends.  She’s the first person I call when there’s bad news and she hears everything.. the full impact of it.. ugly tears.. and calmly handles the crazy-ness called Sheryl.  Outside of my own immediate family, she’s the first person I go to with good news.  She’s my second big sister.  I don’t expect anything less than the truth to be said from her and I absolutely love that about our friendship.  She sharpens me.. it hurts.. like iron sharpening iron.. but I come out feeling stretched.  She makes me a better friend.  I’m glad I didn’t take the easy way out with her.  It has taken time and humility and many, many conversations.. but we are both better for it.  We’ve allowed the Lord to do what only He can do in and through us.

-

Anita, thanks for showing me how to see people through a different lens.. for teaching me the importance of fighting for the things I believe in and for embracing me in all of its entirety.  You have seen the ugly and have stuck it out like a champ.  Thank you for showing me by living your life what it means to be loyal and to stop running.. to simply stay and rest.  Staying in our friendship has been one of my best decisions.  Thanks for loving on me.  Crying with me and laughing with me till you can’t see eye balls.. cause I’m Asian.  *smiles*   You have been one of my biggest cheerleaders and practical life coaches.. constantly keeping it real.  You have shown me what it means to embrace ‘different’ and to find it attractive and to cherish it.  You’ve filtered out every testosterone-filled dude in my life and have taught me the value of being truly beautiful, not in society’s way, but in the way Solomon describes virtue.  You’ve called me out on every (literally) insecurity and have brought it to the light in a way that I didn’t feel beat up and bruised and walked alongside me and tackled it with me in prayer even through my tantrums.  You make me brave!  You make me step out of every comfort zone.. I hate it at first.. but I see just how good it is for my soul and I’ll be forever grateful for that.  Thanks for making me a Titi to the sweetest little man in the world.  If he learns Spanish before me.. it’s over.
Today, my heart was really overwhelmed thinking about how God has used you ridiculously in my life over the past few years and these are just simple words that describe a very non-simple love and appreciation for you.  *smiles*  ..I love you to the moon and back girl!  Your friendship is a means of grace to me.  Ps – stop secretly praying that I will find and marry a man like you.. please and thanks.. God knows I can only handle one goober at a time..  ;)
Love you boo.

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“The best mirror is an old friend.”  -George Herbert

Memory Lane and Kindred Spirits

27 Sep

A couple of big milestones occurred today..

  • I wore heels (hated every moment of it.. but they were cute.. can I get a witness, ladies??)
  • I said no to cake (“no”) — Just. Like. That.
  • One of my dearest friends got married.

Maybe these things should not be on the same list together.

photo (12)

Let me tell you a little bit about my friend.  The lovely bride. Sally and I go back to our college years.  Our friendship was one of slow evolution.  If y’all know Sally, this makes complete sense!  *smiles*  She was the girl I saw at church and thought “gosh.. she’s cute.. love that outfit.. she seems uber sweet.. she always sits with her mom and dad.. hmm, she must be a ‘quiet type’.. she really seems genuine.. I want to know her!”

And so, barely above twenty at the time.. I did not have many girl friends (purposefully) but I knew in that moment that Sally and I would be kindred spirits no matter how long it took.. how awkward it could possibly be.. and how different we were.

Different is an understatement..

  • She looked like she stepped outta Ann Taylor all day errrr day.. as I’d be fully content with jeans, a hoodie, and flip-flops..
  • She worshiped with boots on.. really cute ones.. as I’d be barefoot by that time in the service..
  • She sat with her family near the front of church every Sunday.. I attended the church alone and preferred sitting near the back..
  • She was quiet.. if you know me, you may just agree that I’m not quiet.. an introvert who is intentional about pursuing people, but not quiet *smiles*  (in time, I realized Sally was not quiet at all!)

We were one of the few girls our age at church at the time and I loved that she was cultured and was constantly with her family.  It reminded me of my own Indian culture and my love and affection for my family.  So began the intentional process in my head of figuring out how would I ever get to know this girl if we never sat near each other and she left church almost immediately after service.. and what in the world is it about this girl that makes me even want to pursue a friendship? (To this day, Sally is one of my only close friends that never pursued my friendship.. I pursued her.. I’ve rarely been the one to initiate my close friendships.) – I began sitting near her family during Sunday mornings (completely freaking out because I left my comfort zone of the back rows) and hoped that I would somehow get the guts to simply say ‘hi’ one day.

This was the LONGEST process. Ever.  (Clearly, I’m not a fan of meeting new people that I’m thinking may reject my friendship.. haha)

I sat a few rows back from them.. and then slowly but surely I found myself sitting right behind them.. and one Sunday I somehow was able to sit on their row.. this probably took me a month.. but I wanted to meet Sally.. and so I continued to get outta my comfort zone and I knew the Lord specifically told me to pursue her as a friend and love on her till she got sick of me.  I started conversations like.. “Hi, I’m Sheryl.. oh by the way.. I love those boots!!”  She would smile and say “I’m Sally.. thanks.”  – WHAT!  That’s all you got?!  No questions for me??  No extension to this conversation??  Oh gosh. In my head I thought “this is going to be painful. She’s definitely not the wordy type. I wonder if she just doesn’t want to get to know me”.. haha — but every Sunday, I continuously made it a point to approach her and chat.  Eventually I mentioned meeting outside of church and we did.

Very soon I learned that this girl is the real deal.  She had real struggles.  We had very different personalities but we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company and continued doing life together over the years.  We talked about everything and anything most girlfriends chat about..

Family and friends.. dreams.. broken hearts.. the future.. random YouTube clips we heard.. (and this list can go on)

I think we both knew early on, that this friendship would be a safe place for us.. where anything could be on the table and there would be no judgment, but there would be Truth and tons of love and laughs.. and possibly a very scatter-brained Sheryl.  We cried a lot together.. and separately.. and we constantly questioned the plans of God in our hurts.. but when all was said and done.. we could never accept the fact that our God did not love us and that He was not for our good.  So, we kept asking tough questions and somehow the Lord continued to carry us through dark seasons.. and our friendship was a means of grace in every way..

As the years passed on, Joe entered into the picture and I knew in the very beginning (without a shadow of doubt) that this guy would cherish my girl’s heart like no one else.  Joe is the complete opposite of Sally.  He’s expressive and very affectionate.. a thinker.. loves to talk things out immediately and fully.. and takes patience to a completely different level.  Sally and I always joked that we would marry men that were the opposite of us and were similar to the other.  Joe and I are very similar.. minus the patience part.. haha.. God only knows how much I lack in this department!

This morning, as I saw my dear friend step out of the car in her white dress looking nothing short of a gorgeous princess, my heart swelled and my eyes began to fill up immediately.  I didn’t think it was going to be emotional for me to take in the day.  I had no idea that our friendship and all of the times we’ve had over the years would come rushing back into memory.. but it did.  I sat in my car before the ceremony and thanked the Lord for Sally’s friendship and for Joe and his relentless care and pursuit of Sally.  I don’t think any one could have done it with as much integrity and patience.  I knew in that moment that our dynamics would change.. not for the worse.. but change regardless (and change generally freaks me out).. here’s a new person to welcome into ‘our family’ today.

My soul found peace in that moment by myself in the car.  I could not give my girl to a better Godly man.  God answered years of our prayers and wiped those ugly tears by bringing Joe.. a quiet leader in his own way that loves Jesus more than anything and his love for Christ naturally trickles down to Sally.  In a way which serves her the best and reminds her daily of Jesus.

-

Sally, my sister from another mister.. I have seen you grow in so many ways during the past few years.. and God has been so gracious to use Joe recently in your life as a means of grace.  I’ve seen you be challenged and step out of so many comfort zones.  You’ve had conversations you’ve never wanted to have.  You’ve struggled with sin many times.. and the Lord used Joe to bring your heart back to God.. and eventually softened your heart back to his own love for you.  You’ve learned to serve and give just by watching Joe gently lead by example.  He never had to tell you what to do and how to do it.  It was always a quiet conviction of your own heart watching him live life every day.  He’s taught you the value of accepting and returning affection and confronting arguments instead of running.  This journey has only just begun.. don’t allow yourself to grow complacent or get too comfortable where you forget to serve one another.. constantly challenge your love for God and your affections for your husband (AHHH, ‘husband’!?!) – Daily, step out of your comfort zone for the sake of your marriage, even when it’s hard.  Remember, you both are on the same team.. don’t fight alone.. don’t run.. Stay.  Allow Joe to continue to cherish you as the woman God has made you to be.  Help him.  Love him.  Serve him.  Seek his good.  I can’t wait to see how your marriage and family unravel in time.  God only knows how MANY future trips I’m making to your place for advice and guidance from y’all.. I’ve got much to learn.  So much.  And now I have a new broder.  I’m so excited.  I love you both.  Go BIG or go home!  Actually, don’t go home.. yet.. enjoy the time away  :)
Joe, welcome to our family. We’re crazy and loud and quirky.  Sorry, not sorry.  *smiles*

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946392_10154635905435514_681331467127651190_nMr & Mrs Joseph Perrine 

10392367_10154635965245514_1191539307620419322_nThe way a man looks at his lady when she’s not looking..
I’ve never seen anything so pure and darling..
Don’t stop stealing glances, Joe!

545262_10154636281635514_1990406614557189725_nTheir first dance.. a lot of comfort zones were broken here too.. haha  *smiles*

10646697_10154636864715514_1893041100066886045_nAnita & I love you Sally.. let’s see what God does through our friendship over the years.. what say you?

10306481_10154636657065514_99743756074382378_nBest friends. Husband and wife. Boo and bae.
Enjoy what the Lord has done!  It’s so good.  Woot woot!

Lens through a Pure Heart

23 Sep

If there is one verse in the Bible that I constantly go back to in order to shape the way I think, live, and love .. it’s “blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”  If I ever had the guts to get a tattoo, it would be this verse. Seriously.  I love it that much.  It needs to be tattooed on my heart as a constant reminder in my daily living.

Over the years, I’ve seen this verse come alive in my heart, especially in cruddy situations.. being able to pursue every circumstance with a pure heart.. it always reaps its rewards of seeing God through it all.  I’ve blogged my fair share on this verse, I know, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about it again..

How much I lack in having a pure heart.

How much I’ve allowed myself to increase and watched Him decrease. Over and over.

How much I’m yearning for this purity of heart again.. so much more now than ever before.

How much people are looking for it in this jaded world.. and when you meet people that reflect purity (not the “I kissed dating good-bye” purity.. but the “in all that I do.. may my heart reflect the purity of God Himself.”) you find yourself drawn to it.  There’s something about being with people that have no hidden agendas or ulterior motives.  It’s attractive.  It’s refreshing.  It’s the very essence of God.

After coming from a ‘going Home celebration’ for a friend who lost her battle to cancer, this is the exact verse that came to my heart as I reflected on who she was as a person.  The strangest thing happened today during the service, this specific verse was brought up when discussing Joyce as a person.  I was dumbfounded.  Convicted.  Encouraged.  When someone pursues purity in their life and their heart is clean before God and man.. people see it.. they know it.. they are drawn to it.  It is one of the most rare attributes to find in an individual because we live in such a broken world.  I thought to myself in that moment, if there was one thing that I could be remembered for by loved ones and by strangers.. and the in-between.. it would be a heart that is pure before God and man.

It is so much more beautiful than a pretty face, hour glass shape, and flowing locks.  This is a character trait that surpasses wisdom and intelligence.. discipline and even passion.  A pure heart can see God in every struggle, every trial, and moments of joy.  A pure heart keeps you humble before the Lord and authentic before man.  When we strip off the layers of religion and legalism, and those nasty layers of license, and we choose to get to the heart of it all and pursue the purity of Scripture.. we will notice ridiculous transformation.  And by ridiculous, I mean RIDICULOUS.  Positive connotation for those not trekking with me.

Purity looks at cancer and says “This is not a punishment from God.. rather in God’s extreme love and mercy for me, He has chosen me to walk this path for His glory and my good.”

Purity looks at broken relationships and says “This is not their sin and problems.. rather ‘God reveal to my heart what I need to learn through this broken relationship.. show me how You are the only one who can redeem and restore that which has been torn down’ — Help me to always pursue reconciliation in my life.”

Purity looks at bankruptcy and financial struggles and says “God, You are still good through this.  ‘You have been faithful to provide and You won’t choose now to stop, or ever will.’” 

I want to be able to see the Lord in everything and that cannot be done with my cloudy vision and unclean heart.  I want to see people in my life the way that God does and that certainly cannot be done without a pure heart.  That has to be something supernatural in us allowing that revelation to occur.  In our own ability, we cannot make that happen.

So, here I am.. back to the drawing board,wondering why I ever stopped desiring this verse in my life.. and begging God to allow it to consume my DNA and to transform the way I love people and live life.  I pray for a heart that remains clean before the Lord without hidden motives.  I pray for a faith that is so pure that when Scripture tells me that the Lord loves me (in so many different ways) I would not question Him but fully believe that I am loved by Him perfectly and wholly.  I pray for a love that is pure in all of its going out and coming in with people.. that people would see the fruit of the Spirit and want to actually pick from the tree.

I pray that more Christians would desire this, radically changing the way people walk in love.  Can you even begin to imagine what this would look like?  Just something to think about it seems.

64377_318939051562083_486714167_nWhen I think about purity and innocence, I do think about my nieces and nephews.. 

Men, Women, and Awkward Dynamics

16 Sep

MenAndWomen

I wish someone wrote a book on the Christian approach to interacting with the opposite sex.  I would probably buy it.  Underline and high light it.. then throw it out due to frustration because of the ridiculousness of needing someone to explain something so basic.  Sometimes, I wish interacting with the opposite sex as a single wasn’t so complicated like we’ve made it today in the Church.

Can I get an amen singles?

Seriously.

The word that comes to mind is awkward.

Where are the healthy friendships these days?  We’re so busy analyzing our check lists in our heads and checking off if he/she has made the cut.  It’s ridiculous.  Frustrating.  No one will ever make the cut with that mentality.  It lacks in love, grace, mercy and compassion.  Everything is so rushed these days.  You say ‘hi.. my name is_____’ to a guy and all of a sudden you’re planning your wedding and he’s thinking about the wedding night.  As all of these things loom in the back of one’s mind, you miss out on the possibility of a solid friendship unraveling.

Unhealthy pressure screws up so many relationships and friendships these days.  Seriously.  How can you be yourself when you’re pressured into being who the other person dreams you up to be in 10 years?  I don’t understand how that even works.  How can I be Sheryl.. and all that even encompasses.. when ‘Average Joe’ is too busy analyzing every argument and conversation we have?  Can this be my wife in 10 years?  Will she be a great mom?  The guy doesn’t even know my favorite color or my favorite meal.. the things in my life that bring my heart joy and the things in my life that get me discouraged.  That is pressure that is bound to make a person crumble.

Those are expectations that will never, ever get met.  

Same thing with girls (guys are not the only ones with this issue!) — how can Average Joe simply be himself.. and still have room to grow when we as ladies spend so much time in our heads thinking: “umm.. he doesn’t know how to lead me perfectly now”  .. “he doesn’t make _____ dollars to help support our future kids”?  You don’t even know the basics of who he is .. what makes him laugh, what ticks him off, etc.  This guy will never, ever make the cut.

You’re looking to him to fulfill things in your life that only Jesus can and should.

I’m not saying men and women should not have standards or expectations when it comes to finding their spouses.  They absolutely should!  In fact, in my opinion, one of the ways you know that you’re settling is when a man/woman doesn’t have a humble heart to grow or learn.  When they think “my way is the only way” and “I am right” and “this is not worth the dialogue”.. those are all red flags in my head.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.  I have seen this in so many people over the years.  You can’t change people unless they desperately desire to change for the better.  Men and women need to show grace and mercy when getting to know other singles.  We’re all sinners being saved by grace.  The same compassion that the Lord has shown to us, we need to give to others.  Enjoy the journey of friendships as hard as it is sometimes.. it is through that journey that you will begin to see the true character of a person and how they deal with their struggles.  Friends tend to extend more grace to other friends because they have not resolved in their heads that in order for me to continue talking to this person, they have to put a ring on it by this deadline and they have to meet certain expectations.. otherwise, they get the boot.

I’ve talked to more than a handful of women and men who have struggled with this over the past couple months.  This is a serious problem in Christian circles today.  It’s almost reassuring to hear that I’m not the only one who finds the dynamics of Christian men/women interacting awkward and not natural these days.

If we never looked to the right or left and compared our lives with others, do you think we would rush our lives as much as we do?  Probably not.  Everywhere I go it’s the same tune playing.  I’m pretty sure I have written many tunes based off this and blogged many o’ stories about this crippling issue.  Every time it has left me exhausted and more frustrated then when I began.  Friends, trust the Lord with your hearts (I’m preaching to myself..and as soon as I click submit, I will probably read this blog out loud to reassure myself!) and don’t rush His timing in your lives.  Please don’t.  Take time to get to know the men and women He has placed in your lives.  There aren’t coincidences to why people are in your life.  Get to know them deeply.  Make friends.  Spread love.  Sometimes those friendships will eventually lead to more and other times they could be used as a means of grace in your life for the season you’re in.  Stop placing unattainable standards on others.. give people room to grow and learn.

Ultimately, none of this can be attained without a true and anchored satisfaction in Christ alone.

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