In Which I Can’t See the Forest for the Trees

There are times in life where you will find that good advice becomes a hurdle. Many times. Lots. *in my Donald Trump voice*  I am finding that I have been in the midst of such a time for quite some time (niiiiiice) and was completely unaware. As a Christian, in my denominational as well as nondenominational background, I have heard that I should listen to God speak.  What is God saying about my future? What is God saying about the bible? What is God saying about the present? And you know, listening to God is great. In fact, two way conversation with God is phenomenal. When I hear of how people have heard God tell them what school to go, what job to apply for, or even what hair products to use, I bubble over with fascination. Like, I want to hear from God too! But I’m starting to see now that this advice can be a burden. How? Well pull up a chair while I pour you a glass of whine (spelling intended).

It’s possible to focus so much so on hearing from God that you can actually completely miss hearing from God. Sometimes it can just blow your whole relationship with God to smithereens. There are times where I feel like silence from God means I’m doing something wrong. Maybe I’m praying wrong or not enough. Maybe I haven’t asked for forgiveness for something. Maybe my spiritual maturity is that of a baby (which technically it is). This could be this case, but it could just as well not be the case at all.  There are times where God allows you to make choices on your own without him having to add his input. Some times you already know what you are supposed to do and say and God doesn’t need to say anything. Other times, we just have to be patient in the waiting game before we do hear from him. It’s not bad; it just…is. If you don’t hear from God the first prayer and your whole focus is on hearing from God you can put too much pressure on yourself when you are met with silence. Or worse, you can bank so much on hearing from God that you miss out on relishing in who God is in general.  No, this isn’t to say that you should never seek hearing from God. To never believe it’s possible is to cheat yourself out of a meaningful relationship. But shift your focus on talking to God as a means of getting into his presence. Yes, I know he’s always there so that’s not exactly the best way to word it, but what I mean is that we should talk to God to keep the communication lines open. If he answers today, AWESOME! If we don’t hear from him today, then that’s okay. Just know that you can and will hear from him.

I’ve heard it before that if you don’t hear from God you aren’t listening hard enough and that’s just not true. Maybe you truly are in a place in your journey where you don’t hear from God immediately. You could just be getting saved today or maybe you are just growing in your walk with God so it could take some time before you get to the place where you can hear God speaking to you. Don’t rush the process. And don’t feel bad that someone else go saved five minutes ago and heard God tell them what to do two seconds after they believed. Everyone’s journey is different. If you start feeling guilty about no immediate answers, you get into condemnation. And condemnation never helped anyone, but it hurts everyone.  Of course, silence could also mean a disconnection. Maybe you do need to repair your relationship with God. Or perhaps you need to initiate an actual relationship with God. In my case, it’s probably the latter (I’ll write on that at another time. Probably my next post). It’s perfectly fine to do a self check and assess if you’re in right standing. If you are and you still find yourself doing more talking than God is, then just stay patient. God’s not ignoring you. It can just be taking some time.

So that’s my little tidbit for today. If you find yourself pushing and pushing to hear God’s voice, you may be doing too much for your spiritual health. You could be missing enjoying God’s presence because you’re fighting to hear a word, any word, from God. Also, I heard something from somewhere (can’t exactly recall the source) that we are often misled into believing that the only way we can hear from God is by him talking to us verbally or in some clear magical voice. This isn’t true either. Have you ever felt led to give something, do something, say something but you’re unsure of the source of those little nudges? That could very well be God speaking to you or guiding you. When you sit down and read your bible, that’s God’s word. You are hearing from him while reading (though some parts are not God’s direct voice but that’s another adventure for another day). I’ve also learned that a great relationship can sometimes be enjoyed in mutual silence. I have friends/family that I can sit in a room with and enjoy their presence without either of us saying a word. What are you focusing on? Hearing from God or having a relationship with him? If you focus on the latter, the former will follow. What are your thoughts on the subject? If you feel I am wrong, then you could be very well right! Feel free to give thoughts, personal experiences, and what not. Just, ya know, be nice. I’m still learning!

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In Which it is Whatever it may be

Ya know, I never can remember what to capitalize in a title….ah well.

Happy New Year, wonderfully beautiful people. I know it’s been 2018 for almost 24 hours for some or maybe more than 24 hours for others. I also know that coming into a new year can be an interesting experience. In this brief period of time, right before, during, and after January 1st, we all see some posts bashing resolutions. If you’ve made one, liked one, or re-posted one…no offense. I respect the disdain some have towards waiting until the year’s opening to initiate a change. Ye ole saying, “why wait for tomorrow for what you can do today,” is a wise saying. And I probably wrote it wrong, but I don’t feel like googling the exact words. Such is life.  At the same time, I understand the joy people have for starting something new on the opening of a completely new chapter. Some times it truly is easier to give yourself time, or an exact time, to begin a new journey. Some of our journey destinations are specific: get your degree, lost fifteen pounds, gain fifteen pounds, finish that book, propose to that guy/gal. Others are pretty general: be happier, be healthier, be bolder. Different strokes for different folks. One thing I think we can all agree on is that if you miss the mark for your resolution, or blow it completely, guilt can eat away at you like an airborne disease. It sucks, in all the suckiness of suckulage suckage, to fail to complete a goal or live up to a standard you have set for yourself. Of course, life hits us where it hurts and can make any goal difficult to reach; yet and still, we don’t think of that in light of failure. If you slip up, that mysterious Facebook friend who you don’t remember adding is sure to make some post about futile attempts to complete a resolution.  Much like a pastor in the pulpit preaching a sermon straight from your diary, it can feel like a sign from the heavens. But ya know what? We’re all human. If you miss the mark. tough titulars. If you live to see another minute, you have time to start again. If you don’t live to see another minute…well…honestly at that point a resolution won’t be your primary concern, I’m sure. My hopes for this year and the next are that instead of measuring our success or our persons by what we achieve (goals, dreams, or material successes) we deem this year and the next the years of self-definition.

None of that first paragraph meshed together well, but I’m sure no one finished it so no harm done. But if you did, you poor soul. Anywho, time for a random backstory. I am currently back at my grandmothers for the holidays and will be travelling back home on Wednesday. Part of me is excited to return to my bed, my room, and sweet, sweet silence. The other part of me is torn. My hometown, where my grandmother resides, is quaint. My favorite Aunt and Uncle live here. And something about the atmosphere feels warm. I don’t quite know what I mean by warm, but I know that rural life is warmer than it’s cold cousin (twice removed), city life. At the center of this inner turmoil is the fact that I resume school next week (hopefully, I’m still in limbo with transferring from a community college to a four year. It’s a bit annoying to be in limbo), which I am looking forward to, but also dreading. It’s easy to get caught up in the fact that school is in the unknown right now and that part of me is dreading going home to the cold city. And more often than not, I find myself feeling gray, regardless of the fact that I know the necessity of finishing school and having the opportunities that come with holding a degree. It all boils down to not being in the place that I want to be; not being the person I want to be. More so than that, not knowing the person I want to be. In these moments I have to do some redefining. I can’t go back into the past and change actions I have previously taken. I can’t undo choices I have made, but I can do the best I can to make the best of the situation. And this begins with changing my mindset.

I’ll never be one who says, “it’s all in your mind!” or “you just have to think differently!” I think those two phrases are overused, abused, and misused cliches. For some, changing your mindset is simple. For others, like those with mental illness/disorders, changing a mindset is less than half the battle. And being told to do so is like being socked in the stomach when you’ve already got the stomach virus.  But I would encourage that as much as you can, try to think positively about yourself and your situation. Or at least neutrally. I’ve been self-conscious about my appearance since I became aware of the fact that others were mindful of how I looked. While I find it laborious to call myself beautiful, I can at least go half-way and view myself as average. Gotta start somewhere. Sure, I’m a twenty-five year old college student who is not employed, but I’m not the bum I thought I was/think I am. I’m just a person who could have been further ahead in life but at the same time, further behind in life. It isn’t easy to back down from my negative mindset about myself, but I can’t survive with that mindset alone. It’s the thought cycle that I know, that I’m accustomed to. Yet, it does nothing but tie anchors to my sinking feelings. At the same time, I acknowledge that many have circumstances that are overwhelming and impossible to add a positive spin on. I can’t and won’t tell you to redefine anything. Not with a clean conscious, at least. I can only say that you’re more than you think you are and better than you feel you are. Life is handing lemons to a diamond. Even if you can’t make lemonade, you’re still a diamond. Yea, I suck. I know.

So if you’re setting some goals this year, if you’re making some resolutions, if you’re hoping for a new beginning or praying for final closure. And none of that works out. I mean NONE OF IT. Everything that CAN backfire DOES backfire and burns slowly right before your beady little eyes. I, in the least, hope you’ll allow yourself to redefine it. Failure is practice. Mistakes are opportunities for growth. Hurt does heal. And your life cannot be compared to another’s, regardless of how glamorous their life may be. Perfection in humans is nonexistent. It’s okay to start again, to start slower, or to start lower. So again I say, Happy New Year. Let’s make it a great year by our own standards.

In Which Life Stopped but Didn’t

Somewhere, hidden deeply on this blog of rambles and rants is a wise quote. A quote so wise that I’m pretty sure I didn’t say it and that I just paraphrased it. And I’m going to paraphrase it again because I literally cannot remember what I originally wrote.

“when a person doth die, it feeleth as though thine world should cease. Alas, it doth not.”

Moral of that story is that I couldn’t hang with Shakespeare on my best day.  A greater moral is that life truly does move right along with someone dies, and this truth is disturbing to say the least.

After finals wrapped up and I finally conquered Chemistry with a passing grade this summer, I thought that life was on it’s way up hill. Things were looking better and brighter. I felt like I was a young David and my stone had just pierced the delicate flesh on Goliath’s forehead.  Yes, I was victorious that Friday. And then Saturday rolled around. It was hot, of course, and sunny. I mean, it’s Mississippi. It’s hotter than….hot things….My stepdad came in the house, smelling like wildlife and magnolia trees, and told me that he was taking the neighbors fishing.  He’d already been fishing that morning, but was really excited about finally going to this secret fishing spot way out in the woods that our young neighbor knew about. I love to fish, but in that heat I let him have it all to himself. I figured I’d catch a fishing trip with him in the brief weeks between that weekend and the start of the fall semester. So we shared a good laugh, and I joked about him having to drive back to the house to get his phone that he left on the charger. As I watched him through the peep hole of the door, to ensure that he would not be knocking at the door for anything else he had forgotten, I didn’t quite realize that our jovial exchange would be our last.

Earlier that week I’d been having an odd feeling. I kept asking myself what I would do if David (my stepdad) died out of the blue. It was sort of the feeling I got right before my Grandfather passed away, but he had been sick for over a year so death was looming over all of our heads like a storm cloud waiting to erupt. I chalked the feeling up me just being paranoid. When you have anxiety, you’ll ALWAYS think, “well, what if the worst thing that could happen actually happens.” Never fails. It’s the unfortunate part of anxiety.  Well, Ma and I were customizing a pizza order for dinner when the neighbor’s mom came knocking at our door, looking agitated and pained.  As her and ma conversed, I thought that perhaps she was just wondering when David would be delivering her son home, as it was getting dark and the rain, which suddenly began pouring down minutes before, was not letting up.  But my anxiety started escalating as I heard them talking, and I knew something was wrong. And when I heard Ma say the words, “heart attack,” my heart sank. I rushed into the living room to stand beside her as she talked on the phone with the neighbor who had gone fishing with David.  From what I could understand, something had happened and they were thinking it was a heart attack.  Of course, I’m mulling this over like, “A heart attack? Okay, we’re going to go to the hospital and he’s going to have emergency surgery and everything is going to be okay.” Wrong. What Ma failed to tell me is that the coroner was already on their way to the fishing pool. That the neighbor had done CPR for 20 straight minutes to no avail. And that David was already gone.

Driving that long ass forty-five minute drive to the middle of Edwards, MS was like an out-of-body experience. The whole time I just kept thinking this isn’t happening. This isn’t real. This isn’t really happening to us. When we finally made it to the scene, the police standing at the road immediately took off their hats and began with the apologies. But Ma was a woman on a mission. Through their explanation of what happened Ma stopped the sheriff and asked, “Okay, where is he?” They pointed us up a long, gravel drive way and allowed us to walk up to where David was laying. Even as we saw him on the porch of the pond owner’s home covered in a black tarp the reality of the situation did not set in. Ma was praying and went bent over David, moving his head so that he faced her. Saying his name and patting him, praying that he could be that Saturday’s Lazarus. But it was not to be. And when they had to move him to a body-bag to prevent the ants from attacking, I just knew deep down inside, where faith and denial intertwine, that he was going to move. That a miracle was going to happen and he was going to bust the zipper on the bag or cry that he couldn’t breath in there. But it didn’t happen. Ma walked around, dazed and calling David’s friend for the name of a funeral home. I was dazed as I saw them lay him on the back of the firetruck and drive him to the front of the driveway to await the funeral home. And we were eerily calm. I’m sure the police officers out there were puzzled as they asked us if we were okay, and we said in even tones, “Yes. We’re fine.” And the wait. THE WAIT. The funeral home did not arrive until 10:00 PM.  So we had to drive home in complete darkness. And if I thought the drive there was bad, the drive home was worse. First off, we got lost, SUPER lost. My phone battery had died and Ma’s was dying, but thank God, we arrived in a church parking lot that was clear enough for us to pick up an internet signal. After Ma’s phone directed us to our designated street which would lead us to the interstate, it died as well. On a night that can make you question the inner workings of God, it also affirms that God was looking out for us. But we silently drove home. No music. No talking. No prayer. Just silence. And this thick cloud of disbelief. He was just fifty-five. It was a beautiful day. He never showed any signs. He is no longer here.

Shock is the most powerful stage of grief I have ever experienced. When my grandfather died, I wasn’t at all shocked. I was expectant. And I was shamefully glad. He had been suffering for months with no relief. His kidneys were failing. He was in pain every second of the day that he was awake. He’d lost more than fifty pounds. I was happy that he no longer had to be in pain in an Earthly vessel which no longer functioned in a manner conducive to living. And when my biological father died I was only five years old. I understood that he was no longer coming back even though I didn’t understand death (and Ma didn’t tell me either), but with the support of our family who assisted us financially and emotionally I adapted to the loss. But when David died all I could think about was how he laughed on his way out of the door. How we were just planning to call him to see what he wanted for dinner right before the fateful knock at the door.  And to make matters oh so worse, we got up Sunday morning and the sun was shining. Cars were driving to wherever their destinations were. And life went right along. Monday came and we searched frantically for life insurance information and life moved on. Tuesday, my brother and Ma had to finalize a funeral home and life moved on. Wednesday, the stress took a toll on my brother and we had to take him to the emergency room. Shortly after getting him back home to rest, Ma and I rushed to a meeting at the cemetery. And life fucking moved on and in my mind I thought this is the most messed up thing. I felt like the whole world should have stopped. I wondered how we could live on, move on. What I needed to do about school. What ma needed to do about the house. Did we need to move back to our hometown? Did we need to sell everything? Panic consumed me and I just wanted everything to cease for just a minute so that I could catch up with the chaos that had unfolded. But it didn’t. It never does.

And then Friday, the day before the funeral, my sister gave birth to a six pound, nineteen inch healthy little girl and I realized that I needed to accept that life does not stop when a life stops. As the newborn baby squirmed in her bassinet, trying to warm up under the heater, the epitome of continuance sank in. Probably for Ma more so than me.  As crazy as it is, we have to move on, and it even sounds heartless to say. We have to move on. Our bodies are still functioning. Our lungs still filling up with air. Our hearts still beating. And we are still living even when we don’t know how.

Every time a person would ask me am I okay I smile and say yes. I joke. I laugh. Not because my stepdad meant nothing to me. Not because I’m made of stone. But because I can cry anytime alone. Anytime. All hours of the day and night. But I’d rather laugh and smile with others, enjoy that moment in life when I have it because once it’s gone it’s gone. Time will not pause for me to grieve. This isn’t to say that everyone should just stop crying and accept death. We each move at our own pace and mourn in our own ways. It’s perfectly healthy and normal to cry or to not cry. So don’t let anyone tell you how you should grieve. And I was fortunate and blessed enough to have enjoyed a moment of banter. To have seen his smile and heard his laugh. And when I think of him I see his happiness. His mischief. His annoying habit of busting into the room while I’m taking a quiz, talking on speakerphone with one of his fishing buddies. Or how he always ended a text or a phone call with, “10-4 good buddy.”  I’m glad I got experience having a dad, even if it was for a brief time. And I’m especially glad Ma got to spend a decade with someone who loved her and cared for her. To think that the day that would have been their 12th anniversary was the day she placed a rose on the casket before they lowered it into the ground is gut wrenching. But we’re still here. And we have each other. Plus, all of our family came to town and it was good for us all to be together again. It was like a signal that we needed to do it more often and on more joyous occasions. But we’ll have that chance because, once again, life remains. It hasn’t stopped at all.

I like to think that David is celebrating in Heaven. That he hates he left early and suddenly, but that he knows that where he is now is paradise. I’m still nervous about the future and what it holds for Ma and our family, but I plan to make the best of it. I’m still enrolled in school, and I know that David would want me to finish (he was more excited than me when I returned). And Ma has so many people looking out for her. Trust me, we got mobbed at church yesterday and our family has been texting nonstop.  So while life going on is pretty crazy, it’s also kinda beautiful in a way. But definitely more crazy.

 

In Which the Wave Ends

I knew the wave of mania would end at some point. It stuck around for a good while, which was fortunate. But I’ve been expecting it for days, and the end finally arrived today, riding in with a cloud of rain as opposed to the cloud of fire that accompanied Moses and the Israelites. During these times I tend to have a lot to say and absolutely no words to say them with.  It’s when you’re restless, but you’re struggling with idleness. Your hands search for anything and everything as a means of occupation. You clean the bathroom. You sweep the hall, the kitchen, the laundry-room. You wash the dishes three times. Four times. You wipe the stove top and the counter down. You open the window, close the window, open the window again.  You pick at the strings on your guitar, but your fingers and your mind are too disconnected at the moment. It’s not music. It’s noise. And you finally force yourself to sit down and accept that you don’t really know what to do anymore.  You’re itching for some sign of life. A roll of thunder. A burst of laughter. Something. Anything. But the weight of silence, which first came crashing down, seeps into your skin and you slowly accept that there’s nothing. Nothing but the sound of the fan whirring on medium and your shallow breathing to fill the void. It’s these times that I take a deep breath and tell myself, “all you’ve got to do is survive. Just keep surviving. It doesn’t matter if you don’t do anything productive at all. Eat cookies, drink water, watch television, read, don’t read, daydream, toss, turn, settle down or don’t.  Just don’t give in.”

In Which I Got a Second Chance

I’m trying to ride this wave of positivity as far as it’ll take me. So this post is another fairly optimistic one.

Yesterday, after I typed that post about forgiveness, restoration, and the like, I closed down my computer and told a lie.  Well, to be honest it was at least four hours later, but here’s the deal. What had happened was….My stepsister got a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze about two and a half years ago. Ever since she drove it off the lot, in all its silver and shiny chrome glory, it’s been giving her all sorts of trouble.  Not even six months after she became it’s official owner the engine light came on and stayed on no matter how many times she took it back to the dealership for them to fix. Last week my stepdad noticed a puddle in the driveway where she usually parked her car.  Upon investigation,he realized that her car was leaking something, but he couldn’t pinpoint the source. Assuming it was the antifreeze leaking, especially since later that week the car began running hot everyday, he took it to a mechanic that he knew personally to have it fixed.  Lo and behold,  the guy delivers worse news: the water pump needs to be completely replaced. In his opinion the car needs to be fixed as well as it can be and immediately traded, as he feels it’s going to end up being a money guzzler.  As a result, my stepsister has been bumming rides to work with her friend in the mornings, and I have been picking her up in the evenings.  Yesterday she messaged me asking could I take her to work this morning at 7:30 AM.  Well, my exams are at 8:00 so I honestly have time to take her to work and still be on time for the exam appointment. Except I like to be at least 35 minutes early since the parking lot fills up and traffic gets congested since a middle school is right down the road from the college. Guess what this girl did? *hangs head in shame* I lied and told her I had to be at school by 7:25 AM. She readily accepted my excuse and said she would try to find another ride. The reality is I could have easily said yes and dropped her off, but I was being selfish and going according to my personal comforts. I wanted to be at the school by 7:25 but I didn’t need to be. I wanted to be super early so I could sit in the car and cram, but I didn’t need to be.  So I told a useless, selfish lie.

Immediately after telling the lie I was convicted. I knew the Holy Spirit was jabbing me in the heart going, “You could have taken her to work. You’d want someone to give you a ride if you needed one!” And that’s true. If I were ever in a situation where I needed a ride to campus or somewhere and my car was on the putz, I’d want someone to be there to help me out. Yes yes, I know. THE SHAME!!!  While dropping her off at her apartment following her night class (I did let her use my car to go to school so don’t judge me too harshly) she told me that the friend who had been taking her lived across town and would probably have her an hour late today. And the Holy Spirit started jabbing me even harder. I think he upgraded from jabbing to stabbing at this point. Gawd, I was getting shanked by Jesus. “Tell her you’ll take her. TELL HER YOU’LL TAKE HER!” And yet I maintained my resistance, thinking to myself that I was justified to stick to my schedule without her interruptions.  But once I pulled into the driveway back home I knew I couldn’t keep up my selfish charade. I sent her a text letting her know that I could take her to work. I didn’t tell her I lied because….well….I don’t have a legitimate reason but you would have done it too!!! She messaged me back letting me know her coworker was going to pick her up and thanked me anyway. I sent a reply letting her know that if the ride didn’t work out to just hit me up. And that was the end of that conversation.

Later that night I asked the Lord to forgive me for lying and being self-serving.  Even though I knew he forgave me I still was disappointed in myself for not being a blessing to someone. Which is ironic because every morning when I say my prayer I ask God to let me be a blessing to someone. And when he gave me the chance I blew it. *shaking my head* The guilt ate me alive all night. I mean, ALL NIGHT. I got up to use the restroom at 2:00 AM and the guilt greeted me in the bathroom, along with the realization that there was no toilet paper on the roll.  WHY MUST YOU PUNISH ME, JESUS! I tried to soothe my remorse by reminding myself that while I didn’t admit to my lie, I did extend the invitation for a ride.  But it didn’t work. The whole situation didn’t sit well with me at all.

Well this morning, I get a message asking me to pick her up so that she could use our shower at the house since the one in her apartment always clogs.  Five minutes after I told her I could, I get another message telling me that her coworker’s tire went flat and she wouldn’t be able to pick her up. And that was funny….even though it wasn’t funny. Immediately I realized that God was giving me another chance to be the blessing I blew the chance of being yesterday.  I’m not going to say he put the poor girl’s tire on flat because if you have never been to Jackson….well, let me tell you. The roads down here are terrible. Pot holes everywhere you turn. I wouldn’t drive a brand new car down here if ever I got one. But he used the present circumstances to extend the invitation of redemption. Like, “Okay, you said you’re sorry and I forgave you. But now I’m giving you another chance to do the right thing.”  So I took her to work and guess what? My usual parking space at school was still empty (even though I missed my parking lot buddy this morning. I have no idea who he is but every morning he parks on the opposite side of me bumping Gucci Mane) and the school traffic completely cleared out. Of course, I did have to ride through some congested traffic on the interstate but it was hardly a hindrance to me being on time for my exam. And I also got there at 7:50, ten minutes before I actually needed to be.

So I was grateful that God allowed me to correct my mistake since many times we are unable to go back to fix a flub of ours. Am I going to tell her I lied? OF COURSE NOT! So she can kill me?!?! Well she probably wouldn’t kill me; she would have done that when I backed her car into a brick post two years ago. But instead of murdering me in the yard, she pitied me. Most likely because by then she already started hating the car.  Now she likely would curse me out or strangle me. But I’d live. And I’m still gonna live….with that lie cleverly hidden on this blog where she’ll never ever ever ever see it. That’s right, I’m taking it to the grave guys. Sue me! (please don’t. I’m a college student…..)

 

In Which I was Encouraged

I’ve been staring at my title trying to reconcile with the fact that “encouraged” is spelled correctly because I’m having one of those moments where words don’t look correct…Moving on….

Those who are currently in school, or know people in school, are aware that this time of the semester is riddled with mid-terms. You smell that? *inhales deeply* that’s the smell of coffee, stress sweat, and tears.  Other than finals week, this is the most stress inducing period of school. So far I have taken three exams and have two left before my trial finally comes to an end.  Now I’ll spill on my grades because it relates to what I’ll say later.  I took my Spanish Exam first, about two weeks ago.  I only missed one question on the exam, but I would have actually made a perfect score if the exam allowed us to go back to previous questions and change the answers (it was a computerized test). Unfortunately our teacher’s requirements did not permit this *side eye* Thus I missed a question even though I literally realized my mistake on the following question.  BUMMER. Such is life. Yesterday I took my Algebra exam and surprisingly came out with a 98. You’re talking about somebody being excited????  After borderline failing AP Calculus senior year of high-school ( I had a D every semester…except the semester I had an F) my confidence in my math skills shattered so this was definitely the boost my deflated ego needed. This morning I had my exam in Marriage and Family, which has proven to be my hardest class second to Algebra. The class is interesting and I honestly love the materials we study; at the same time, it’s reading heavy so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I’ve been managing to maintain an A in the class, but today….today I made a B on my exam. Now you may say, “Amber that’s still passing. Why are you whining?” BECAUSE I CAN! No but really, I don’t like to make below A’s in class because for one, I’m a full time student and have ample time to study. Therefore I should be able to study efficiently and diligently enough to make an A on an exam. Secondly, I’ve sucked at a lot of things in life. Basketball? Sucked. Dodge-ball? Sucked. Popularity? Sucked. But I’ve always done well in school. As a result, much of my identity is tied to my academic performance. Don’t be like that….it’s a slippery slope, my friend. Due to this my confidence took a hit when I didn’t perform as well on the test as I believed I should have. I know, I know. It’s such a shallow complaint.  But regardless of the shallow depths of my complaint, I was still upset with my grade. I’ve been messaging my aunt, since she was the relative most adamant about me returning to school, giving her updates on my grades.  I texted her today to let her know that I made a B on the exam, thinking she may say something about me needing to study more or something along the lines of what I would say to myself.  After an hour, she messaged me back saying she felt like cheering and telling me to keep up the good work. And that almost made me cry. Almost….I tend to be a bigger crybaby when I’ve consumed coffee which is unfortunate since I love me some coffee! But her message was truly touching because it’s the encouragement I needed in that moment.

There were a number of reasons that my aunt’s text encouraged me.  For one, it was nice to be reassured that my “under performance” was not as big a deal as I thought it was. And secondly it reminded me of my relationship with God. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it before but I watch Steven Furtick’s sermons online each week. I started this tradition last year because while I worked at the hotel I never had Sunday’s off so I couldn’t attend church. Even though I’ve quit the hotel (because I’m obviously a quitter) I still watch each week because I genuinely enjoy his teachings. At some point this week I heard either him or the campus minsters at the church speak about how even when you feel like you didn’t live up to your potential or you feel like you slipped, God is still cheering you on. Don’t ask me which sermon. My brain is brimming with facts about cohabitation, distance formulas, and libertarianism so I can’t remember. But to me, my aunt’s message was God reminding me that God still sees the best in me.

This reminder is not only in regards to my grades but in my life in general. I’m hard on myself about everything I do. If I mess up I don’t handle it like, “Ah, well it happens. Get em next time, tiger!” It’s like, “What is life? Why am I failure? Why is crustless bread higher than regular bread? Woe is me!” I hang on to failure like I’m breastfeeding it, nurturing it, raising it.  I have a hard time letting things go. Most times I have to take a deep breath and chant, “It’s not that deep. It’s not that deep. Yea but I coul-IT’S NOT THAT DEEP!”  Thus when I fall short I’m thinking God is responding the same way that I would. We get this thought in our minds that God is shaking his head at us and questioning how he could have created such a flawed creature. When really he’s waiting to pick us up, dust us off, smile on us, and tell us keep going. And he never stops rooting for us.  A couple of weeks ago Pastor Furtick had a guest pastor speak and at the end of the sermon the pastor admitted to losing his job because of his alcoholism. As a preacher you have to imagine that was hard on him. It would feel shameful and embarrassing because you’re supposed to lead your congregation, but you’re struggling with an addiction which has now become public.  He ended up going to rehab and the weight of his condemnation burdened him to the point where the ONLY thing he enjoyed was walking and watching the sunset.  It was during one of these walks that he said God spoke to him, telling him, “I’m not done with you yet.” And that’s such an uplifting message because when you’ve fallen, whether intentionally or unintentionally, if you allow God to work towards your renewal and restoration he will. But that’s if you allow him to. So I’m trying to learn to take my disappointments to God in prayer and say, “God I know I didn’t do the best I could have or should have done. But I can’t hang on to this any longer. I’ve allowed myself to cry about it, but now it’s time to get back on the move. You’ve still got good plans for me and still see the best in me so I know that this isn’t the end.” As Pastor Furtick said, “God is the God of our dead ends.”

Now I do plan to change up my study habits and try to study harder, but at the same time I know that this slip up is minor in the bigger scheme of things. Of course, someone may be saying, “well I did something really bad! I mean…REALLY BAD,” which may be the case.  But God always allows for correction and always extends forgiveness.  One of the campus ministers from Elevation Church said in his devotional yesterday that forgiveness is a gift. It’s not just a dreadful shot to help you get well. We shouldn’t look at forgiveness as burdensome because needing it means we screwed up. But we should instead look at it like, “Wow, God loves me this much that he’s giving me forgiveness. He’s giving me the opportunity to start over again.” I know this may seem contradictory to what I said a couple of posts ago when I spoke about the infamous pastor accused of sexual assault by a few young men. But there is an important difference that must be noted. While sin is equal in God’s eyes, no sin is greater than the other, it is not in society’s eyes. So we take certain blunders more seriously, such as rape, murder, assault, etc. It is also vital to make sure people are aware that these things do not go unnoticed nor should they be tolerated because they harm others. Was I harsh in the way I said it? Yes. I tend to have the terrible habit of typing a post in the height of my emotional distress and thus being very abrasive. I later considered the fact that I could have maintained a strong stance but with a more gentle approach. Yea yea, I’m working on it.  At the same time, I stand by what I said about those issues being prevalent and needing to be addressed. But we have this habit, in general, of equating the world’s punishment with God’s forgiveness. Truly, if you commit a crime you will suffer some sort of punishment because we are not immune from the laws of this world. But if you have committed a crime or done something that would be deemed serious and you wholeheartedly ask for God’s forgiveness he will give it. This may not block repercussions, but it does make you right with him which is ultimately the most important thing. I know that’s difficult for those who have suffered to hear because I, like many people, have a hard time with forgiveness when I know I’ve been wronged. So I know those who have been wronged are justifiably upset. But it is still the truth of the matter that forgiveness is always available.

So I’m going to go ahead and wrap this post up. I’ve got to finish my philosophy for the week because I sense that this man’s exam is going to be tough.  Hopefully I helped encourage someone today. If not then just forgive me for crying about my grades; I am, after all, a sensitive little muffin.

In Which I Cried

Why I feel the need to name all of my journal posts “in which….” I have no idea. But that’s beside the point.  After reading about Khaled Khateeb, the cinematographer for the documentary The White Helmets, being barred from entering the states for the Oscars I decided to watch the documentary.  As you know I love documentaries in the same way I love non-fictional literature. While I was on hiatus last year, I spent most of my days watching Holocaust Documentaries. I also was addicted to the show Evolution of Evil on AHC. Did I watch documentaries about civil rights or slavery? Well I tried, but it gave me such bad heartburn after hearing the word “nigger” repeatedly I had to literally stop before I killed over….or killed someone. You know I live in Mississippi. I would have been tempted to find the first house with a confederate flag…..Yes, I know. Sad *in my Trump voice* So I have to stick to reading books about those two topics. I handle those better. But I like to watch and read about these things, in order to learn more. A lot of the massacres, wars, etc are things we actually did not learn about in school. I guess our system is afraid that if we know about these things then we may be tempted to repeat them. So they stick to white-washed, watered down history. We end up with crap like this happening: https://petapixel.com/2017/01/21/artist-shames-disrespectful-holocaust-memorial-tourists-using-photoshop/ But we won’t get into that today.

ANYWHO, back to The White Helmets; let me just say that I cried the entire time. For one, I’m just a cry baby so you know….there’s that. But watching small children being pulled from rubble or hearing the volunteer men saying that every life has value….well, who wouldn’t have cried? You? You monster! Trying to detail the documentary wouldn’t do it proper justice so I encourage you to watch it for yourselves. It’s on Netflix (I’m not sure if it’s on any other outlet). It’s both heartbreaking and encouraging. The strength in which these men carry themselves, even in the midst of their own losses, is indescribable. And how many of us would do that? Of course we think of our own armed forces, whom we are thankful for because many of us wouldn’t dare sign up for service. Say what you want but I’m one of those people .Sue me. Rich people and the politicians who start wars are also those people but eh, that’s neither here or there.  Still, there is a staunch difference. Rarely are we attacked on American soil. When we think of our military men/women fighting, we think mostly of THEIR safety because they are the ones put in volatile and often unstable situations. Though they fight for the safety of the country, they generally don’t fear that while they are away something will happen to those of us back home.Because, frankly, over here in ye ole America, you’re more likely to be killed by your jealous boyfriend or in a crime of passion. In terms of Syria, they’re fighting on their own soil. They leave their homes to help put out fires and evacuate citizens knowing that a bomb might drop on their streets, killing their family and friends. And yet they don’t lose hope. And I’m not saying that to dampen the honor bestowed upon our military. But you do have to acknowledge the difference there is in the two situations.

So yes, the documentary is a must see. If you don’t like crying then suck it up and watch it anyway. Just make sure no one else is around. I hate that Mr. Khateeb was barred, and I think his work with the film was much needed. Not only were the men he filmed in danger, but he was as well.  The picture was eye opening and honest, without attempting to romanticize tragedy (you know, how fictional films do….it never fails). So yes; just yes.