2012 Wrap-Up…

Virginia Beach at night

Every year I do a year end wrap up.. I tend to do each year differently for some reason… And, this year is no different… in that it will be different than the others haha 🙂

I have been blogging since I was 18… Basically since blogging began “back in the day” haha.. However, I switched from my Xanga (what?!) to this one in 2008 when I moved to Central VA. Here are the previous year’s in review posts:

2008 – Who Were YOU a Year Ago?
2009 – The Year I Was 24
2010 – 2010… Never Again…
2011 – Hello, Good-Bye 2011

DC

(This gives a great view of how much my writing and views have changes and grown due to experiences, trials, friends, etc..) What a crazy thing to look back and read the year end reviews.

In the early part of 2013 I will post my goals for the year and some of my thoughts on where I feel like God is or is not leading me.

Power of Propaganda – Holocaust Museum

I love these two posts more than any other I do because it helps me wrap up and finish a year, and then look forward. I love that I can look back and remember what God is and has been doing in my life for so many years, and have a physical representation of the journey He is taking my life on… Plus, it is just sorta fun to see how accurate or totally off I was!

Favorite Memorial

I went into 2012 feeling like God was asking me to just take things as He brought them to me.
I had a few goals or “resolutions” going into 2012:
I wanted to exercise more compassion, grace, mercy, and love than I have in years past.
I wanted to diligently complete the next year of my double masters program.
I want to work better at controlling my mouth.
I wanted  to draw closer to my sweet Jesus Christ,  I want to learn more about who He is, and subsequently who I am supposed to be…
I wanted to learn how to love people on behalf of him better this year…

And then, I ended with saying “Now to pray them into existence” … Boy did I have little idea at the time how much of this year would revolve around prayer…

New Years Eve

In January I started my own business.. which I dabble in still, but it is not my main focus.
A relationship I was “seeing where it goes” ended.. lamely, but it was definitely for the best, even if the reason given was over text message, and late came out to not actually be the real reason. I am thankful that even though it hurt, I learned so much about dating. — This also was the start to just being satisfied with my single path that God has me on currently.
My bff came to visit, along with my best friend from Lynchburg, and then we toodled around DC with my best friend from DC and celebrated my 27th birthday.

My first “work” friend in DC

In February I felt like I was on the cusp of something.. Like I was running towards a cliff, getting ready to throw myself off of it, but I was unable to see what was over the edge.. Little did I know it was the start of changing things to bring me back to MI.
I wrote the single most visited blog post that I have ever written: Gay, Lesbian, Laws, and Christ… — And, I am have gotten some really great feedback from people from all different backgrounds and viewpoints.. Including a dear friend who I have never seen face to face but is on my 3×5 cards 😉

Meg came!!

March really sunk home the year of prayer I felt like 2012 was turning into. I loved it, but it was definitely challenging, and at times almost physically painful.
March was a very humbling month
I also was faced with some very difficult relationship situations

Easter Weekend with best friends

In April it dawned on me how many prayers God is answering in my life!.. It also left me feeling mentally blank when I would try to blog… Which lead to a lot of randomness…
I realized how much I loved my church, how much I enjoyed being a part of it.. and even still how much I feel connected through it.
I was reminded that I will serve and praise the Lord during the good and the bad.
I realized I never meant to be a career woman, and my heart ached.. Ironically I vocalized my desire to be a catalyst…

Memorial Weekend on the Capital lawn..
Before we got stormed out

Unannounced to me May started months upon months of adjustments and pain that really is due to a chronic problem I have…
My mom and I talked multiple times a week on our drives home, and had lots of interesting conversations
I updated my life goals
I also decided to be bold over the summer.. Pretty funny considering all the changes summer brought me..
God and I continued our never ending learning curve about leadership and marriage.. One day maybe it’ll be put to good use!

Small group friends
Meeting Vera!

June. Was. Crazy. Seriously, I have no idea how I fit so much into it.
I met a longtime friend FINALLY.

4th of July
DC Fireworks

Then there was July… Oh the infamous July… In the beginning of the month I prepared to start a fast that would kick off in the middle of the month.
I had my fill of “single” comments.. and my need to share my sentiments spilled out into a mostly sarcastic and humor infused post..
I struggled with relationships, and conflicts.. Which is good…. and usually feel terrible.
And then.. I naively posted about despising parts of change. God and I did battle as I kicked off the 40 day freedom fast.

“The Pencil” – Washington Monument

Prayer and Change, that is what this year felt consumed with.

 

Bachata Congress!

August was C.R.A.Z.Y. – I interviewed for a new job.. danced.. seriously injured myself.. accepted a new job.. and prepared to move.

Ice Cream eating competition – with our Ref.

September was a blur of packing and painting, saying good-bye, crying for all sorts of reasons, and a hard to explain mix of emotions. I am not even kidding when I say, no matter how shallow it may seem, choosing to leave DC and move back to MI was one of the hardest things I have done. Not because it was actually hard, and not because I struggled with whether God was leading me, but because I loved my friends and church there, and it felt safe, like home.

The murals I painted in my office

Then, what felt like the culmination of the first 9 months of 2012 finally exploded into crystal clear depiction of what it was pointing to… And, as always, God took care of me.

Vormund!

Oh man did I begin to get overwhelmed and totally humbled by the task before me… I set to the task of doing my job, and doing it well… and then I never slept. Literally.

Change.. oh October was about change.. in every sense of the word.. Life, Work, Puppy.. change change everywhere..

Three of my siblings – They make me laugh a lot

Oh sweet November… I don’t really remember you because I was busy.
Busy raising a puppy and loving people for Jesus.. That is until I got sick, then I still had to raise a puppy and love people for Jesus, but felt like I was going to die.. or cough up a lung.. or never ever get enough sleep again. (dramatic much?)
After a much needed trip to DC to see people I love, I became consumed with work.. I loved every bit of it, despite the 80 hours a week I was putting in.
My great grandma passed away.

My first “for real I’m an adult” Christmas tree!

December brought with it crazy amount of hours of work, but I began seeing things happening and started seeing the work I was doing having an impact! But, in the midst of seeing the impact, I also began to see difficult things, and started realizing I have no “outlet” and will quickly burn out at the pace I was keeping.

Getting to be a fun aunt

I wrote my first guest post: Don’t Be Afraid to Date
And, my puppy is growing.. a lot.. and is sick..

Teaching munchkins how to make funny faces

What is crazy to me is that I tagged a LOT of the blog posts I wrote throughout this year.. but, I only chose a few from each month.. which means, this is merely a glossary overview of the year, the trials, the struggles, the joy, the friends, the trips, the meltdowns.. it amazes me at the sheer amount of things God has done and the prayers He has answered this year. Blows my mind. I am somewhere between totally overwhelmed and really stoked to see what He uses this building block of a year for in the future…

I have grown so much this year, and as difficult and at times painful as it was, I would never give it back nor change it. I am so beyond humbled at the task before me, but also at the friends and family that support me…

Who am I that God should use me?

2012 was a year unlike any other.
2012 was a year of prayer.
2012 was a year of change.

Pride Filled Oreos…

I have posted a couple times on the Gays/Lesbians and Christians topic, if you are interested on where I stand on the topic as a whole visit here, if you want to know where I stand on gay marriage laws, visit here. This blog post is not about either of those topics, and really is not about gays or lesbians at all, this post is from an entirely different perspective, so please let me explain…

I am beyond annoyed with Oreo’s “Pride” cookie. If you have not seen it, you can find out a bit more about it here.

Some of my biggest annoyances with it all are:

A. The cookie doesn’t actually exist (shocker right?), so essentially they are lying… Brilliantly lying from a marketing perspective, but lying none the less. I mean think about it, Oreo is showing a cookie rainbow that does not actually exist to do what? Sell. More. Cookies. They are a company that survives by making a profit, so that is exactly what they are doing, they are creating a buzz about something that does not exist and that will cause lots of people to go looking for this fake cookie, and settle for buying a peanut butter one, a mint on or a double stuffed one instead. It is brilliant from a marketing standpoint, but obnoxious from a relational standpoint. Which brings me to my second point.

B. I loathe ads like these for a few reasons, all of which are from a relational standpoint, but since I have spent the majority of the last 9 years of my life understanding marketing, communications, advertising etc.. I “get” what they were trying to do, they were trying to “reach out and show the love” to the gay and lesbian community. What I absolutely positively hate is that instead it actually divides us and drives wounds even deeper.

If for instance they released a “White Pride cookie” people would FREAK OUT (with good reason). They would claim they were not being tolerant of other groups of people, and they would be right. Can you imagine a white pride cookie? It would be insulting to other ethnicity’s such as the Black or Hispanic communities. And, let’s be honest, can a cookie really have pride anyway?

So, then the real question is why does this hit a sore spot with everyone?

Because, it does absolutely nothing but dig into a wound with a hot knife. The reality is the gay and lesbian community are a wounded group of people, they have been attacked, jeered at, bullied, and made fun of, so the natural human response is to band together and cling to that one thing that holds them together; their sexual orientation. So, by releasing a fake rainbow cookie, Oreo is ACTUALLY highlighting that pain, and creating a platform to divide us all once more and remind us of the wounds again, and then it causes insults to fly from both sides. We end up in each others faces once more yelling about how insulting and intolerant the other one is (did you catch that, both sides say the same thing).

For a moment, stop, put aside your pain, frustration, anger and think about why the “pride cookie” is insulting to those of us not gay or lesbian… Oreo is insulting those of us that are not “a part” of that community and rubbing it in our faces, and it is seen as ok because they are the minority after all, but in reality, it is just as insulting as if they released a white pride cookie. It is revolting and it does nothing but drive the wedge between us further.

Please understand, these types of things are NOT AT ALL the same as Black History Month or a Martin Luther King Jr. Day.. Literally, they are not even on the same playing field because those two things are celebrating, remembering or educating others about things that we can all learn from. They are meant to help us treasure, not force us further apart.

So, my annoyance with Oreo actually has little to nothing to do with gays or lesbians or anything of the sort, my annoyance is with the lies, the division, and the fact that it actually does the opposite of facilitate love between us.

Gay Marriage and Christians…

I spend a great deal of my day online, it is a part of my job, and I love it. I enjoy reading news articles, interest stories, blogs, twitter, facebook, youtube.. I mean you name it and I at least partially am aware of what it is (or will be tomorrow haha).

My favorite medium is blogs, I love them. I love getting a deeper insight into someone’s view of the world, cause let’s be honest, 140 characters while providing a wonderful platform for laughs just does not connect my heart to yours… So, I blog.

However, upon occasion I get fed up with the “trends,” I get tired of reading all the different perspectives on things going on in the world, I get frustrated at both sides of the argument attacking the other for their incompetence, their ignorance etc… etc.. Each side claiming the other is for one reason or another stupid, idiot, un-christian, christian, unloving, loving.. blah blah blah. I just get tired of reading the (thankfully) first amendment right to share opinions.

While I definitely have my own opinions of gay marriage, Obama, government official’s views on religion and gay marriage.. the thing I keep coming back to is:

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” – Colossians 4:5-6


Did you catch that? 

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders,  
making the most of the opportunity.  
Let your speech always be with grace.”
The thing that I am the most frustrated with is the lack of ACTUAL conversation about this (or any other hot topic) issues. What is NC saying by voting against gay marriage by such a resounding 20% (which is a huge margin)? Clearly there is reasoning there.. but no one is asking what it is, instead the people who think it is a mean or hateful decision are turning into bullies and name calling or accusing the people who voted against it of being (fill in the blank). Then, in response some Christians are not responding with grace. Instead, they are taking this opportunity to antagonize the situation… Yes, thank you for your sharp wit, but really shut up cause you are hurting the entire conversation at large…

Instead of taking this opportunity to reach out to a very hurt and broken community, and openly admit we are against the sin not the sinner, we are “fighting” back in a manner that causes our voice to get lost in the collective internet noise.

So, once again, as I have said before,
“You were made for so much more than these shadows of who you are clinging onto as your identity. 
You were made for more.”
And, once again, I always come back to caring more about the individual’s state of salvation and brokenness, and not really caring about the laws, the public policies or the media’s dogging of the issue… If I am going to say I believe in the Bible and its Truths (capital T), and then if they come into conflict with the government’s laws, I have to choose the Biblical laws over the government’s.

And, to be clear, I have yet to meet anyone who is not completely and totally sinful. Your sexual orientation does not make you better or worse, it makes you fallen and broken.. regardless of if you are “straight” or “gay”… You are broken and sinful. 
 
I am broken and sinful too.
 
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death…. 
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:1-2, 38-39

Gay, Lesbian, Laws, and Christ…

There are so many times a day that I hear, see or read something having to do with the gay and lesbian community’s situation, stances, legislative pushes, marketing campaigns, protests or the opposing positions from various “conservative communities” on all of the same topics. I have been thinking for quite a while about where my stance, my feelings, and my beliefs fall in line with these “issues.”
A few (ok probably several) thoughts I have specifically in regards to the gay and lesbian or transgender “community,” all the media, and issues regarding this topic…
First, it breaks my heart when anyone (gay or otherwise) attach their main identity to one random thing, be it sexual orientation, race or gender etc…
Hear me:  
You were made for so much more than these shadows of who you are clinging onto as your identity. 
You were made for more.
I, like everyone else, have personal views on the things that I read or hear about (regardless of the topic), such as legalizing marriage for all, don’t ask don’t tell, Hollywood’s portrayals of gays and lesbians etc.. However, after thinking about these things for a while, I always come back to caring more about the individual’s state of salvation and brokenness, and not really caring about the laws, the public policies or the media’s dogging of the issue… If I am going to say I believe in the Bible and its Truths (capital T), and then if they come into conflict with the government’s laws, I have to choose the Biblical laws over the government’s.
While I understand that politics can really accomplish some good things, ultimately we are charged to fight the corruption of our society with the gospel, not the ballot box. We want to change their hearts and expose them to Christ. Really, laws are primarily to protect the weak or innocent from those who would harm them (i.e. do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not lie, etc.), laws are NOT about changing hearts. We DO need moral laws, and while realistically, you can outlaw some particularly destructive behaviors (especially those that harm others), you simply cannot outlaw temptation… There are some places where God’s law can encroach on the heart, but human law has no place (do not lust, do not covet, etc.). The political and legal fight on homosexuality (from both sides) tends to cross over the boundary of what only God can forbid (because He can read the heart) and what man should stay far away from (because we cannot read the heart).
“We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers. And it is for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” (1 Timothy 1:9-11)

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

You are not to have sexual relations with a male as you would with a woman. It’s detestable.” (Leviticus 18:22)
Through all of this, above all else, I care about the individual’s salvation, and whether or not Christ’s love is being shown to them (and I am not referring to the all things are acceptable or permissible type of love, I mean the authentic I’ll walk through anything and die for you kind of love and dedication). I care so much more about whether the person (regardless of the issue or the sin) is being reached out to, exactly where they are in their brokenness, than I do about whether the government says something is or is not acceptable. That is where my heart lands in the end every time. 
I think we (myself definitely included) forget so often, and too quickly how prevalent sin is in our lives.. in my own life. Regardless of the sin, pride, lust, adultery, drunkenness, homosexuality, lying, cutting etc.. etc.. Are you “born this way”?.. Quite frankly I have no idea, maybe, probably. But, that is not an argument to STAY living in sin, it merely means that regardless of the sin or the struggle you were born with, we ALL have fallen short of the glory of God. Due to the nature of how fallen, broken, and sinful we are, it is literally born in us because literally no one even has the chance of being perfect (It is by the grace of God that we are saved).
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal human beings and birds and animals and reptiles. 
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:18-28)
The things I see regarding the issue of being gay or lesbian is this: it is not a new thing. It is not suddenly something we as humans are dealing with now, it is not more prevalent now than it was in years past, it is talked about numerous times throughout history (and in the Bible) as things humans have been dealing with for thousands of years.
Laws and policies are not going to help the situation or make it worse, laws are not where people’s salvation is won. I understand that everyone has their role to play in the body of Christ (head, foot, mouth, ear, hands etc..) and I am not saying anyone else should or should not pursue legislation or laws, all I am saying is that my personal place is firmly planted in the exclusive care about the person’s eternal salvation, not whether the government has deemed something appropriate or not. While I understand that this is a slippery slope, I am not actually making or explaining my position on any law or policy… What I am doing is explaining that when comparing someone’s heart, their soul, their salvation to a law or policy, I could careless about the law or policy. I only care about the individual’s salvation.
I talked with my dad about this topic, and he pointed out a few things that I think are worth mentioning, there is no evidence in scripture that becoming a believer “sets us free” from temptation. We find ZERO guarantees of being set free from ANY temptation in this natural life. It is very likely temptation of any kind will need to be resisted for the entirety of your life. What Jesus can do, is give them (us all) the wisdom to avoid the temptation (whether it be homosexuality, sexual temptations of any kind, alcohol, etc.. etc..), and the strength to resist that temptation (AND if they have been engaging in that sin and it has become a genuine spiritual bondage, Jesus CAN set them free from the bondage – temptation to sin, and bondage to that sin are NOT the same thing).
I also think it is SO important to point out, just because I am not tempted by the same sin as my neighbor does NOT make me more holy. It just makes me a different person. Different people have different weaknesses, but the fact is: we all have (and were probably born with) weaknesses to some kind of sin...
Also, please.. please hear me… A person who is a Christian and “living the normal life of a homosexual (i.e. regularly engaging in homosexual sin)” is just as problematic as a Christian who is constantly lying, constantly cheating on their spouse, constantly stealing or constantly doing any other sin… That is not to say they will lose their salvation, but the ramifications of their behavior WILL cause problems in their life, both naturally and spiritually (one of them being constantly separating us from real intimacy with God). Since Jesus calls us to holiness, continual, intentional sin of any kind is not OK, and can have serious consequences in our heart (including, I believe, that it could, not necessarily will, but could eventually hardening our hearts so that we just might abandon our faith). On the other hand, homosexual sin is no more or less wrong than any other sexual sin. All are wrong, and all have serious spiritual and natural consequences. 
Jesus calling us to a life of salvation in Him is a call to moral cleanliness, and the moral part is NOT optional. Responding to Jesus’ Lordship (meaning not just acknowledging He’s real and brings salvation, but that He is Lord) includes repentance of sin, all sin, including any and all sexual sin. Repentance means “to feel genuine remorse, and to turn away from.” However, the really neat part is that merely refraining from sin is NOT at all what makes us holy. Faith in Jesus alone makes us holy, and that holiness from Jesus then empowers us to resist temptation, and make moral decisions. 
In other words, real faith in Jesus cleanses our hearts, and makes us actually ABLE to resist temptation and lead genuinely moral lives. Praise the Lord it actually has little to nothing to do with us!

Offense vs. Love…

I was thinking a while ago about the idea of taking offense at something versus choosing to love anyway. Whether the offense is intentional or not, whether it is directed at me or someone I love.. I am not sure where offense is something that should be compelled out of justice, and where pride really ends up being the true root (said in my very northern accent) of the offense.

Once a long time ago one of my friends mentioned that as Christ followers we have no reason to get offended at anything (I cannot remember his exact wording, but the gist is the same). He went on to explain that Christ paid for it all, He created it all, and therefore it is our job to love, not be offended when people disagree or lob assaults our way. While on the other token, an individual that is going through life without knowing the freedom of Christ has only offense to take. They have no greater foundation, and no one who has literally created a wall of defense on our behalf. So, it makes sense for them to get offended, because really whatever is said can only be absorbed by them (again, this is a basic meaning re-telling of what my friend said).

So, I have been thinking about this idea of offense lately. Where do I stand on topics like this. For example, there are so many political moves going on right now, and really I think most everyone is in the wrong about the debt crisis, who’s to blame, who really has a plan to fix it, oh wait, do we really want THEM fixing our debt plan, I mean they are ok with or against gay marriage…. Wait what?! How are those two connected?

Seasame Street!!.. Used to enjoy that show as a kid.. now people are stating Bert and Ernie are really gay movement… Really?! Why do we have pre-determined agendas where our children just need entertainment?

What about all of the moral corruption, famine.. people are LITERALLY dying because they do not have water or food, and all some people are worried about is whether their particular agenda is getting moved forward. So, what does this do inside of me?… It breaks my heart. It shows me how totally and unequivocally we are broken and shattered forms of what we could be.

So, bringing this all back around to offense. I easily could get worked up and offended at the things said about Christians.. or BY Christians right now. There seems to be a never ending river of issues (sorta just comes with the fallen and broken territory I guess). But, while I certainly have my opinions about virtually every topic, I have not been called to be offended. I have been commanded to love. It is not my job on this earth to lobby on behalf of Christ and Christians everywhere.. If you believe that is your job or purpose, you are sadly mistaken.. And, if you are surrounded by “those” Christians, I am so sorry (it’s ok to get offended right now and say, think or feel however you want to.. but keep reading..). My job, your job, every other person on the planet’s job is to love. True, unconditional, unrelenting force of nature to be reckoned with love.

Now true, love can take many forms.. Sometimes it is in the form of a war to protect the innocent, sometimes it is in the form of not saying a word, and other times it is in the form of getting your hands messy and engaging in someones (or multiple people’s) life. I do not know why this is God’s plan, how it all works out, or why some go to hell. I do not know why some people’s names are in the lambs book of life, and why others are….. I have no concept of how that works.. None. At. All.

But, what I do know is, my job is not to take Christ’s offenses on my shoulders. He does not need me to, nor has He asked me to. However, He has commanded me to love. To reach out to every single person I ever meet and show them Him. I am really bad at this most days, but I try again always without ceasing. Yet, if I spend more time being offended at someone else’s stance or belief I have forgotten to see their heart for what it is. Broken, shattered, bleeding, and maybe dying…

How can I choose to be offended in this moment instead of put aside my own personal feelings to love them. It is never easy to love, it is not a weak choice to choose love/care/compassion.. in fact I think it is the harder, more courageous choice because it takes purposeful intent rather than a simple reaction.

My God has already taken the offense, He has already paid for the sin, and He does not need my two-cents on the matter. What He needs is for me to seek out the person He created me to be, and to rock this world with a counter-culture perspective of what type of response seems natural.

Do I have an opinion about politics, Bert and Ernie, gay marriage, the debt ceiling, the famine in Africa, etc..etc.. absolutely I do. But I am not God, it is not my place to fix these things.

Lastly, do not confuse your own emotions with the Holy Spirit’s calling in your life. That is a very crucial fine line to pay attention to.