Posts Tagged With: life

Re-Learning To Dream

I have always been creative. As a young child, my creations were fueled by my never-ending imagination and by the dreams that come along with an active imagination. When I painted something, there were no limits or rules to what could come out as my final product. Rules of reality did not necessarily apply. When I wrote a story, I was in charge of creating new worlds and new people and new stories for the people to live out. If I had a dream and it didn’t work out exactly as I had hoped it would, I was not fazed. Failure was just an opportunity to re-work the original idea and make it better than before.

Somehow, without realizing it, I have become a boring grown-up who has forgotten how to dream.

I recently made a list of dreams for my life–big dreams, small dreams, and everything in between. I tried as hard as possible to not hold anything back or edit myself as I wrote. I took time in crafting the list over the course of a few days. I knew that the list would not ever be finished, as dreaming without abandon leads to more dreams being thought up.

But even my well thought-out list was lacking.

I didn’t realize what it was until I was laying in bed a couple of nights ago. I was tired from work, but my mind was still wide awake. Sleep wasn’t going to come until my mind wore itself out. I had a thought of, “Since I know that I have my birthday weekend off this year, how should I spend my birthday?” It wasn’t long before ideas jumped out at me, eager to be seen. As the ideas came, I caught myself thinking, “Wait, I’m allowed to dream about this? It’s not selfish?!?” The same question came in my mind during a recent time of prayer at church. “Jesus, I’m allowed to dream like that?! Really?!?”

Somewhere along the line, I’ve come to believe that to allow myself to dream is a selfish action.

I could come up with many reasons as to why I’ve fallen into that thought pattern. But, perhaps, the real reasoning is one that I never thought of until I caught myself asking for permission to dream. My head is a fierce protector of my heart. It makes sense–responsibility balancing out a free spirit–but sometimes protection is the last thing my heart needs. I can’t help but wonder if dreaming has been pushed to the back burner as a way of protecting my heart because my head has seen dream after dream NOT come true, forgetting about the wonderful and amazing dreams that have come true in my life. It’s a battle between my head and my heart, between fear and freedom. Dreaming for other people–easy and thrilling. I love dreaming with other people about their lives. Dreaming about my life when I was a kid came as naturally to me as breathing. I had no fear in telling people about my dreams. As an adult, it is easy to dream the big dreams for my future. Dreaming the small, everyday dreams is the challenge for me–“Shouldn’t I be thinking about other people and how to help them and serve them and love them instead of dreaming about things that may never happen? I don’t want to be selfish, so I just won’t dream. Besides, what if that dream doesn’t come true? Then I would have wasted time and the opportunity/effort of helping someone else when they needed it.”

What I’m realizing now is that to not dream is the selfish option.

To not dream is to withhold a defining part of me from the people around me.
To not dream is to not give someone else the courage and inspiration to dream their own dreams.
To not dream is to not see opportunities to make the world a better place.
To not dream is to not grow as a human being.
To not dream is to underestimate and water-down my potential in life.
To not dream is to walk around in the muck and mire of life when I’m meant to soar through the air in freedom.

I know that not every single dream that I dream will come true. I can’t be afraid to dream because it might not come true. The crazy thing about dreams is that some of them do come true!

From today on, I will allow myself to dream the same way as when I was a child. Not only will I dream, but I will work towards turning the dreams into reality, even when it seems as if my efforts are in vain. I will allow Jesus to bring new dreams into my life, no matter how crazy they seem. I will dream for others. I will dream for myself. I will live life as a dreamer.


(Image credit: Disney’s Pinterest)

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A Lack of Time

Stockton College doesn’t have clocks in the classrooms. Maybe they decided to save money by assuming that the student body could always check the time on their laptop, cell phone, or even wristwatch. Maybe the administration omitted clocks in hopes that the students would get so lost in their learning that time would not matter. Maybe clocks use too much electricity, or maybe simply no one thought of it. Maybe no one realized that a student’s life would be changed because of a lack of time. I was that student.

Thursday, February 19, 2009 started like any other day. I dragged myself out of bed and got ready for the day. I went to work in the art gallery. I worked on homework. I laughed with friends.I hung out in the library, where I could read in peace. I got dinner and went to my evening writing class.

Every professor is different when it comes to cell phones. None want texting during class; some don’t care if you just check the time in the middle of a lecture or discussion. I was in an evening writing class. My mind had traveled away from writing and wanted to know how much longer was left in class. I reached down into the front section of my backpack and grabbed my cell phone. I put it in the section closest to me, on top of some books, but still out of sight. I flipped it open. Two missed calls. No one really calls me that much, but maybe it was a wrong number. I pressed a couple of buttons to see who the calls were from. One was from my sister, and one was from my mom. At first, I didn’t think much of it, until I saw that I had two voicemails. Getting a voicemail meant something was up, and getting two voicemails meant that something was really up. My interest in what time it was shifted to a curiosity as to why I had two voicemails. Class seemed to proceed even slower from that point on. I packed up as early as I could and made a beeline for a quiet area to make a phone call.

Pop-Pop had gone in for knee replacement surgery a couple of days earlier. The phone call wasn’t directly about his knee surgery. No one except for God knew that Pop-Pop had a rare intestinal problem that caused his intestines to just stop working.

My grandfather had just passed away.

* * *
Death has no hold on those whose faith is in Jesus. The experience of having a loved one die, even if they are a follower of Jesus, shakes a person to the core. Hearts are plagued with the inevitable questions of, “Why now? Why did this happen? God, why would You take them away from me?” God has set eternity in the hearts of men, but the shadows of death bring even the most faithful of believers back to this present time. Death has no power over Jesus’ followers, but that doesn’t mean that death is fully understood. Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.”

Two years ago, if I had read those verses, I would not have known how to interpret them in a practical sense. How could it be better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a feast? No one likes being sad; everyone loves going to a feast, especially if the feast is free.
The days after Pop-Pop died were a mix of a blur and time slowing down. The days turned into weeks. I didn’t know if or how my heart would ever be completely healed. A month to the day of Pop-Pop dying, God healed my heart in a perfect and complete way as I served on a spring break mission trip.

The weeks turned to months, and the months to years. I still miss Pop-Pop, and wish that he could have been alive to continue to see me grow. He heard about my first day of school; I wish he could have been here to celebrate my last day of school. I wish he could see who I have become during these past two years.

My heart is still healed, thanks to God. It has been two years, and I am just now realizing the true meaning of the verses in Ecclesiastes 7:2-4. Everyone is destined for death. Our lives can affect others still on earth after we are called home to Heaven, but in order for that legacy to exist, we have to make the most of our time today. How can anyone in the future see the light of God in our lives unless we shine it today? How will future generations know that “So-and-so served God with their whole heart” unless we do so now, with every moment that we are given?

Even though I can’t see Pop-Pop or give him a hug anymore, he is still part of my life. He is on my business card and in our family photos. His love shaped our family. I won’t see him at church anymore, but I can see him in the love of the Church. I wrote this for his funeral, and it still rings true: When someone is full of God’s love, that love naturally comes out in their everyday actions. Pop-Pop didn’t just love God—he loved his family in such a way that he left a legacy of love.

My heart now knows how important it is to always tell those close to you that you love them. My heart now knows to enjoy every moment together, even if it seems silly or unimportant. The moment won’t seem silly or unimportant when you can no longer spend moments with that person. No one on earth is guaranteed tomorrow, yet we live as if we will never die. Whether you know someone for twenty minutes or twenty years, do all that you possibly can to make sure they are loved as Jesus would love them. I don’t want to get so caught up with my life that I miss moments that God has given me for a specific purpose. I don’t want to get too busy with being busy that I have a lack of time to love others with my whole heart, as Jesus would. I don’t want a lack of time to keep me from being fully alive.

Carried you edit

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Exuma 2009

It has been a month since Exuma, and I am just now getting the chance to write this. SO much happened on the trip–this note can’t explain it all, the DVD of the trip can’t explain it all, photo albums can’t explain it all, and re-telling our experiences can’t explain it all. It truly is amazing how much can get done in a day, let alone a week, if God is at the beginning, center, and end of the day.

A lot of people have asked me which Exuma trip was better. I tell everyone the same answer–both. Both trips were good, but for entirely different reasons. Even though we worked in a different part of the island, the work that was done this year built on what was done last year. The work that was done last year built on the work from the previous year, and so on.

Follow-up letter sent to my sponsors

I’ve recently returned from serving God on the island of Exuma again. One verse that could be used to summarize our week in the Bahamas is 1 Thessalonians 5:24, which says, “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” God worked through the team, and as a result, we accomplished much more than we could with our own strength. Our work for the week consisted of landscaping and painting an apartment complex and outreaches to children of the island. The apartment complex is intended to be used for people in dire need of housing. Unlike America, there are no shelters to go to—this complex of six units and others like it are the closest representation of a shelter. Landscaping was done around the whole complex, and five of the six units were painted inside and out (one unit was finished prior to this trip).
This year’s outreach to the children consisted of a game and movie night and also a simple carnival. We focused on just the kids in the village of Rolleville because that was where our worksite was. Our first outreach started with basketball, baseball, balloon animals, balloon swords, soccer, a lot of running around, and many hugs. When it was close to getting dark, we walked to a nearby pavilion for some simple “Sunday School” worship songs. After the singing, the kids watched a short puppet show. Following the puppet show, we went to the other side of the pavilion for movie time. Two movies were shown to the kids—the first was a short, funny movie featuring characters from the movie Madagascar. The second movie that was shown to the kids was the Jesus Movie for Children. This movie explained the story of Christ to the kids and gave them the chance to accept Christ afterwards. I don’t know an exact number, but many of the children did accept Christ into their hearts.
Our second outreach was a simple carnival night. To burn off some of the kids’ energy, we played parachute games with them. Once the games were over, we separated them into smaller groups to share the story of Christ with them. The team accomplished this by using wordless bracelets—bracelets with a gold bead, a dark bead, a red bead, a white bead, a green bead, and a second gold bead. Each bead represented part of the story of Christ. These bracelets enforced what the kids learned from the movie. Once every kid had a bracelet, it was time for the carnival. The carnival consisted of eight stations; each station had a simple game and prizes. To make the carnival feel more real, the kids were given tickets to play the games. Every child who played was a winner and won prizes. By the end of the night, pockets and hands were overly full of prizes. One of the kids kept saying, “These games are very fun!” To these kids who don’t have a lot, bringing these simple games to them was like taking them to an amusement park. Their laughter, smiles, and excitement mean that they won’t be forgetting that carnival anytime soon.
God’s faithfulness was most easily visible on our last full day in Exuma. It was our day off, having completed the apartment complex. The team went to say our last goodbyes to the kids that we had met earlier in the week. Before we left, it rained. This might not sound like a big event to people living in America where it rains a lot, but Exuma hadn’t received rain for a few months prior to this rain. There were a couple of quick showers on the trip prior to this day, but they were quite brief—and one was a sun shower. As soon as the rain started to taper off, we loaded into the van and headed off to see the kids. We took a route slightly different than our normal route to see a part of the island that we hadn’t visited on this trip yet. As we were driving, we saw a rainbow in the sky. Cameras were whipped out as everyone in the van talked excitedly. We were able to pull over next to a landmark called the Three Sisters (three giant rock formations in the ocean). As we pulled over and rushed out of the van, we were able to see the whole arc of the rainbow over the ocean. It was a spectacular sight to see, one that will not be easily forgotten.
In addition to this wonderful display of God’s faithfulness, the team members each drew closer to God throughout the week by means of their personal devotional times, group times of worship, group times of debriefing, times of walking around the town to simply share Jesus, prayer, and living in community with each other. Friendships were both forged and strengthened. Going on a missions trip is an experience that changes one’s life forever. It isn’t always easy, but in the end, everything is worth it. Team member Marcelle Farhat knows this to be true. “When you let go and let God, He will do great things. He’ll give you the words to say and the heart to do.” Francisco Maldonado echoed this, saying, “I learned that if you put everything in God’s hands, good things will happen.” Megan Howarth remarked, “Going to Exuma, Bahamas for our SCF mission trip was unforgettable. I experienced God’s presence in ways that I cannot describe. I love that I am able to experience God’s adventure of traveling to unchartered territories, seeing the world, spending intimate time with Him and drawing nearing to Him, cherishing God’s beauty all around us, losing myself in God, and loving up on people.” I might be speaking for the group on this, but I can’t imagine a better spring break. Beach time is nice, but changing lives is even better.

Thank you again for your support, love, and encouragement.

As for what God did specifically in my heart, I know that I don’t even know a fraction of everything that God did that week. I am still overwhelmed and in awe of it, a month later. If I absolutely HAD to summarize it, I would say that God is faithful. I saw with my own eyes many prayers being answered. I saw change from last year. I’ll probably be writing about this trip for awhile in my journal.

I have SO many memories from this trip. There were CRAZY God times, times I was simply in awe of God, times we had to trust God, times God surprised me. Our team came together like family, accomplished what we set out to do, grew in our friendships, and grew in Christ. We were slaves of Christ. The best part of working for God is that it doesn’t feel like work.

Last year, we asked God for greater things to come to Exuma–it was the cry of our hearts.
This year, we asked God for greater things. It was only mentioned out loud once, during prayer the first night we got there, but mentioned in hearts quietly throughout the trip.
This year, we were able to see that greater things have started to come to Exuma.
This year, we sought the name of Jesus Christ.

The precious blood of Jesus Christ redeems
Forgiven I’m alive restored set free
Your majesty resides inside of me
Forever I believe
Forever I believe
Arrested by Your truth and righteousness
Your grace has overwhelmed my brokenness
Convicted by Your spirit led by Your word
Your love will never fail
Your love will never fail

I know You gave
The word Your only Son for us
To know Your name
To live within the Saviour’s love
He took my place
Knowing He’d be crucified
And You loved
You loved a people undeserving

“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow You, You’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed You most You would leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not grow tired or weary,
And His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
And young men stumble and fall.
But those that hope in the Lord
Will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”

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I’ll miss you, Pop-Pop

I’ve written briefly about death in here before, but it was never a close family member. I’ve always not been able to understand why people cry when a loved one dies, especially if the person who died accepted Christ into their hearts, which means they’re going to Heaven. Heaven is way better than here. They’re with JESUS. We shouldn’t cry about that.

That view of mine changed today.

Pop-Pop died unexpectedly today. He had had knee replacement surgery that went well, and was in the hospital recovering. We thought that with a little physical therapy, he would be better in no time.

I was in class today, and I wanted to know what time it was, so I grabbed my phone. I had two missed calls. I looked to see who they were from, since no one really ever calls me, especially during class. For a moment, I thought, maybe it was a wrong number or something. But one call was from my sister, and one was from my Mom. They also both left a voicemail. I knew that for both of them to leave a voicemail, SOMETHING had to be up. When I got out of class, I called Mom back, but she didn’t pick up right away (her phone was on silent). So I called my sister, and she said that Mom would call me back in a couple of minutes. I waited. While I was waiting, I had a feeling that it was something major, but I had peace about it. (Peace from God). Mom then called me and told me that he died. It had only happened a few minutes ago when we were talking.

As it turns out, he had a rare intestinal problem that caused his intestines to just stop working. It was described to me “as if his intestines had a heart attack.” I know that that is nowhere near correct, medically. So it was a shock but at the same time, part of me knew. I didn’t start crying until I hung up the phone and called my friend Caitie.

As I was crying, I was praying and also wrestling with the idea itself of crying. I knew for sure that Pop-Pop was in Heaven, and was happy for him. I knew that he was with Jesus because I remembered one Thanksgiving dinner. We were at their house, and were going around the table saying what we were thankful for. Pop-Pop said that he was thankful that everyone in the room was a Christian. Everyone includes him.
My flesh, my humanity, was what was sad. Sad because I won’t see him again until I get to Heaven. Sad because we weren’t expecting it. Sad because I’m not sure when the last time I saw him in person was. Sad because I let myself get caught up in family drama instead of looking past it in love and cherishing the time together.

I was able to stop crying for Bible study, and even laughed a few times (youtube videos + college kids=funny!). At the end, instead of taking prayer requests, Megan just prayed. After she was done, I said that I had a prayer request. I had come to the study, knowing there would be prayer, and I needed it. So I said it, and as soon as I did, the tears started to come again. Prayer and lots of hugs later, we left.

These emotions, this state of mind, etc. is something entirely new for me, and it is showing me how to trust God on a new level.

Heaven has one more person tonight.


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