Genesis 1:4

College is a whirl wind.

You either get there right after high school, or you transfer, or you take a few years to find yourself; your likes and dislikes, or you live your entire life and somewhere down the line you “decide to go back.”

But whichever path you decide to take, it all holds a beautiful story, parts of your life, fond memories, hard work, maybe some dark times as well, whatever it may be, so many people have a different experience, and stories to tell.

I always thought the hard part was “getting there”. With tumultuous thoughts running through my head like, “I’m not good enough,” “smart enough,” rich enough,” and so many other worthless uneasy thoughts that never got me anywhere. I simply just didnt think I had the money nor ability to afford this path nor did I have the time for it.

But in high school I somehow got in to my safety school. But the reality hit, I really couldn’t afford it, and with my parents unwilling to co-sign off on loans for me, I was stuck at a stand-still.

And so the community college train hit. And I, like many of my previous classmates, found themselves in 13th grade at our local community college. I was determined to make something out of myself, to not be a 6th year at a JC, or be a wife and mother while I was still in college, I don’t know why I thought that was so bad at the time but looking back now it probably has to do with the fact that it just makes the journey that more terrifying, difficult and painstaking, not the fact that I would make a promise to my spouse or brought a child into the world.

So, how did I do it? I made a plan. For hours I remember sitting in front of the computer I as giftedfresh out of high school specifically for the use of college, and I made a long-term plan with short-term goals.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what it all meant, I just knew I was going to get out of that “stupid freaking school” as soon as possible. So I sought guidance, and didn’t find it until mid June because I somehow had a a cousin that worked in the counseling office, and that was when we finalized my plan A.

It was nothing short of perfect, despite hitting a few road blocks, difficulties and heart breaks that turned out to be nothing in the grand scheme of things.

When I got to the end of my two years at SMC I found myself stuck (yet again), still not able to afford a university education but I knew I hadto figure it out.

It was time for a cheaper alternative, a CSU, if you will. And during this time I, like many other people on their own journey, took a year off and tried to “find myself.”

I did. I found my self-worth after walking away from a long-term unhealthy relationship that was sucking the life out of me, worked for an amazing family as their nanny, finally got the funding needed to pay for applications, sending transcripts from my JC, UCLA, and AP scores and the ability to breathe again.

When I got accepted, into all of my schools, I made a choice and decided to take a shot at my top school, Cal Poly Pomona. It was finally feeling like I had things somewhat together and it felt legitimatley awesome and luckily for me I had more willpower, strength and decided to make a concious effort to stop the self doubt. I truly had a new weapon in my artillery, Jesus. And boy did He PROVIDE!!

I remember, distinctly thanking Him over and over, and over again. I just felt so blessed man!

FAST-FORWARD

Then graduation came after two short years at Cal Poly and the accumulations of ZERO DEBT. Yes. You read that right. ZERO. I don’t mean to boast but I’m telling you GOD PROVIDED in the face of adversity. Despite constantly thinking, “I have no money for ths,” “I’m not smart enough,” etc etc in the years prior to that.

But what I didn’t expect next was the failure in my triumph. I lost sight. I lost sight of what God was leading me towards. I got so stuck on proving my worth, my intelligence, my worthiness, that I lost sight of it all.

And I grew a deep sadness and the notion of failure. College is weird man. You work so hard for so long. Filling your brain with all the things and then it’s over. And you realize how much self-worth you placed on achieving that goal and then it comes and goes and you’re left with this fancy little paper saying you are important, educated and prepared.

But then why do I feel everything but prepared, ready and satisfied?

It’s not because I “want more” than I can have. It’s the fact that I truly lost sight of God in all of this. I lost sight of the gifts he’d personally chosen for me and (I) decided to stamp my forehead with the word, failure and loser (queue Smash Mouth’s All Star).

I lost sight that I had been given the gift of empathy, and it was time to extend that empathy towards myself as a human, whose just trying to figure it out. I lost sight of the fact that I wanted to be a teacher and work with children, heck, maybe even adults with special needs or even students that didn’t show the signs of special needs, in order to help them grow into good human people. This was my calling and gift and goal God had personally permanently put on my heart, not the silly stamp with the word loser in temporary ink.

And how did this involve God? By doing His work, and helping people grow and change. And honestly I can do that in most any profession and any real life experiences, not just in a class room.

It’s funny how hard of a pill it is to swallow when were promised how easy it will be from here on out. I guess that’s just the beauty in life though, the not knowing, the journey, the heart ache is needed in order to find the the joy.

After all, you can’t have the light without the dark, and the dark helps us find and clinge to the light. The miraculousness of night and day is so evident and beautiful in their own ways and we must take them as shortlived and long-term seasons within our own lives. And while I may be in a darker season trying to find the light again while reaching out for God, I know it will all be worth the journey.

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Reasons to write.

I don’t write much lately.

“I’m busy,” is often the excuse, yet many times I find myself internally struggling with something and realize, almost always, the ways in which God has decided to answer my prayers and the multitude of questions I often make myself struggling with alone.

Recently I realized a struggle and answer to something I had been giving a lot of thought. This blog.

You see, I recently had to pay for my domain. Every year around the same time, on the same day, I am asked to make an extremely minimal fee for the beautiful title “GildedLettersAndSweetPeonies.com.”  

It’s a long one, but it speaks to me so much. It just fits in my opinion. At the time, I chose it because I believe that words on paper are like gold, they are magical in every sense of the word, and peonies, because I was and still am infatuated with peonies, despite my love for roses, thanks to my grandmother.

But I digress. I was sitting wondering why I even started this? When I started this blog I wasn’t even a christian, or I could hardly call myself a Catholic, seeing as I grew up in a Catholic household. Yet, this evolved into me telling stories about my life struggles and how I felt God was speaking to me.

It was beautiful. I even had a classmate/friend reach out to me after discovering my blog on my Instagram handle. She had forwarded my blog to a friend who was struggling through a season, herself. She told me that I spoke to her and helped her gain some type of perspective and I wept.

I couldn’t believe my words got to someone. Nonetheless someone I had never met, and still my words meant something to her.

But for some reason I stopped writing…again.

It’s the ever present internal battle I face after every post I create, how will I top the last? Who even cares about what I write about? Will one of my old high school peers repost my blog and rip it a new one (hence the reason I’m typically scared to post my blog on my Facebook and primarily only do it on my Instagram or twitter). Or my personal favorite, the notion that, “this isn’t even worth writing about.”

But it’s all lies and an excuse I let the enemy plant in my head. Go figure.

I recently finished a book that made me cry from start to finish. It’s entitled This Life I Live by Rory Feek. Rory is a singer, songwriter and native to Nashville, Tennessee, and I suppose he is also a talented writer and he even runs his own blog! (via This Life I Live).

Rory is a man after God’s heart. In his first book he wrote his and his wife Joey’s love story, but more than that he shared a story of hope after heartbreak and sadness. And you bet your pretty face, I cried my eyes out, I actually physically laid down one evening and cried next to my boyfriend as he read a long with me (and he’s not much of a reader) and he consoled me. I didn’t even know Joey nor do I know Rory but I wept my eyes out.

I didn’t know it then, but I realized God was speaking to me. I often feel God speaking to me through everyday things. Nothing super extravagant, but if I’m not paying attention I can often miss it and learn absolutely nothing, but it dawned on me this evening, I was called by God to share my life through this blog. I was called by name, by Him, to share the ordinary day-to-day, even when it may seem in-extravagant or dumb, or silly, because my words may matter to SOMEONE, and that’s all it takes.

Rory himself decided to share his life through music, then a show, then through a Hymns album he created with his wife while they were going through the most difficult chapter of their lives, a blog and eventually his first book. He didn’t necessarily share their story with a target audience in mind, but with the hope that his and Joey’s story would help someone, or speak to someone to see the good even when it hurts to.

And I’m not saying I’m no Rory Feek, but I am saying that my brokenness and struggles mean something because He loves me and I mean something to Him. But I’m only human, and if my gift is to write about my seasons of doubt, happiness, joy, brokenness, laughter, love and so on than I will OBEY His command and I will stop fighting and rebelling God. If there was one thing I learned from Deuteronomy is that I want to be more like Caleb and Joshua who believed in God’s provision and didn’t plant seeds of doubt like the rest of the twelve spies. I want to follow diligently and live purposefully, even if that means writing journal like entries about my day-to-day life. And that is beautiful, and if that’s all I amount to, it’s worth it.

Writing is my God given gift, and it’s beautiful.

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Unwanted.

Some time ago, I picked up a book entitled, Unwanted by Lysa TerKeurst.

It was a time where I truly and honestly felt un-needed, unwanted and unnecessary in the lives of my (then) friends. It’s as if this book became a guide to healing through all the trials I was beginning to face.

I felt like I was loosing sight of who I was, and I most definitely did. I placed my value on how they treated me and if they wanted me around, and lost sight of who made me, and who gave me value. I lost sight of the fact that no living person truly could make me happy in the same way God could.

It led me to a cycle of negativity, constant questioning and complete insecurity. The worst part is that it started to affect all of my relationships, not just the ones I had with “them.”

It’s as if these people had a hold of me and who I was and could be. These relationships even made it difficult for me to want to open up to other people, other friends and I began to have the mentality of, “what’s the point? They’re probably not even going to be my forever friends anyway.”

I felt complete heartache.

To be 100% honest, I honestly believed I was over it, but I wasn’t. I still held a lot of reservations and anxieties towards it, even now. I would even get scared and cynical to the point where it made me want to avoid these people at all costs, to avoid all people. So I disappeared and made myself scarce.

I even made myself scarce to myself. It’s as if I had lost myself, why I loved things about me and the person I was working towards being.

This season, I wish I could say is over and that I’m “healed,” but the way I felt then is a way I have felt all of my life. I didn’t pick up Lysa’s book because I needed a Christian self-help book through this season, I had just began to live through. I picked it up in a time were I was focussing purely and truly on my relationship with Jesus. I figured, why not? and in true Jesus form, he delivered what I didn’t think I needed. He was swift, loving and not only did I have the bible, I now had someone else’s testimony that I could truly relate to.

What’s even more heartbreaking, is that I have always believed I was the problem, even if I refused to admit it to myself until recently. But my best friend recently told me, “maybe you’re not truly the problem, maybe you’re just a bad judge of character?” And it honestly hit me like a ton of bricks.

Could I possibly be putting too much pressure on myself to be perfect that I ignore the “red flags?” the true signs of someones identity and character? Could it be that because I was working too hard to ignore someones faults that I would be a overachieving giver. That when I subsequently disagreed, and truly spoke my mind, people would all of a sudden want to “drop me” from their lives?

Or could this be a gift I have been given? A gift where I choose to see the good and the potential in others (but i’m even bad at this)?

To be clear, I don’t truly know the answer. I don’t know If I’m the problem, or not. And up until this moment I didn’t even think I would be posting this for the three followers I have. Even now, I fear that posting my feelings will cause those around me to disagree so very much that I’ll be left with nothing, empty-handed.

At the church I volunteer at, the High School pastor recently had all of us go through a series on mental health, but yesterday I found some more answers I needed. The scripture came from the Gospel and it’s one I’ve read time and time again, but it was until now that I truly let it “speak to me.”

Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[a] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[b] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Do Not Worry
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[c]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:19-34 (ESV)

It almost seems ironic, that while this series was meant more for the High Schoolers, I learned more than I even expected and walked away a little more hopeful, for he was answering my prayers where I didn’t expect it. Life is honestly so wild sometimes.

I’m unsure if you’ve ever felt remotely this way, but I leave you with this, hold tight my dear friend, you are not alone. You are not less than or unwanted and I write this as a reminder to myself as well. You are loved, special and you have a gift, even if you have yet to discover it.

Remember who’s you are, for you are incredibly special.

 

 

 

 

 

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Check out Lysa’s book!

 

What God told me to tell you.

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The Daniel Fast

As christians we are often called to press in, lean in and to fully surrender. But what happens when we find ourselves complaisant and honestly unaware of our complaisant-ness? What can we possibly do when reading our bibles, quiet time, bible study and serving isn’t enough?

As a new Christian I never gave it much thought until the momentum and excitement of following God subsided and I realized through my praying that I wasn’t doing enough to cultivate my relationship with Jesus. And just when I thought Christ couldn’t teach me a hard hitting lesson my home Church introduced the “Daniel Fast.”

The Daniel Fast is taken straight from the Bible in Daniel 1:8 where Daniel refuses to eat the King’s delicacies because they were sacrificed to false idols. Daniel “asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way”-Daniel 1:8. The chief official was scared of the King but ultimately had pitty. 

But this pitty didn’t stop him from asking, “Why should he (the King) see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you”-Daniel 1:10. So Daniel resolved in asking the guard to test not only him but also Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He asked to be tested for 10 days and then to compare them (Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah) to the other men who ate from the King’s table; which were really designated leftovers, talk about stingy.
At the end of the 10 days, the four men looked stikingly healthy, strong and pleasing to the eye (this last part is my assumption). So the guard then decides to take away the choice food and wine given to the other men; whom werent participating in the fast, and gave them vegetables and nothing else. 

Because of their steadfastness to refuse the King’s choice foods they not only remained loyal to our God but God revealed Himself in ways unimaginable. He gave them “knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning”-Daniel 1:17. And Daniel the ability to understand visions and dreams that surpassed human understanding.

When the time set by the King was over he asked the chief official to bring the men into his service but none compared to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah and asked them to enter the King’s service officially. 

Because of their love for God whom loved them first, God showed them favor. The King himself found them to be far more valuable and knowledgable that any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire Kingdom further acknowledging God’s power, love and favor to Daniel and nonbelievers such as the King.

Although, I found myself weak and wanting to cut my 21 day fast down I remained on it…for 7 days. I felt crushed for to not being strong enough to complete the 21 days due to unforeseen circumstances. I felt like a failure in the eyes of other christians around me and ultimately to our God. I felt unworthy, unloved, upset, weak and flat out crushed. Despite my worldly feelings, I was reminded that, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” -Ephesians 2:8-10 You, like I, were crafted by a great God and despite our shortcomings He solely and purposefully loves us. Not by works. 

Yeah, I wasn’t able to finish the 21 days I had set out to accomplish, but I wholeheartedly tried. God worked in me. I cried, was moody and I was revealed things I wanted to ignore and put on the back burner. God revealed Himself and heard my prayers (that I didn’t even know I was praying) when I was flat out running from His love, grace and mercy.

You see the purpose of a fast isn’t just getting to the end mark with friends and family cheering you on (even though that’s pretty awesome). It’s to grow closer to God, to press in, to rely on Jesus. To Go where He wants you to Go, Do what He wants you to Do, Say what He wants you to Say and Give what He wants you to Give.

I may have not gotten to the end mark of 21 days but God loves me for my simple attempt and He to will love you for your simple attempts to follow Him. As sinners we are not perfect yet He has unconditional love for YOU and for me. With that being said, fasts are hard, they ask a lot of you and reveal pretty scary and intense things. But if you’re willing and prepare yourself through prayer and proper planning (snacks on the go are a must) I have full faith that anyone could submit themselves into the Daniel fast, or any fast for that matter. 
God loved me through it and He’ll love you through any valley you may face too.

 

xoxo