Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thks Fr Th Mmrs

I love Fall Out Boy. Sorry, but it's true. Scratch that, I won't apologize for my loves. They've been one of my favorite bands since freshman year in high school. I'll never forget their concert at the Creepy Crawl. Waiting outside the venue in freezing January with Charlie, accompanied by blue fingers, frozen gummi-worms, and a plethora of Lunchables was so worth it. It was the best concert I've ever been to. The run-down, slightly decrepit, venue was packed with 600-700 die-hard fans, in a room with a capacity for 400. 300 played silently on the television behind the bar and my favorite band in the world was there on stage, dripping sweat and screaming melodies. It was epic.

But I digress.

Thanks, that's the important part of my title that just so happened to turn into the title from a Fall Out Boy song.

Giving thanks is such an important thing, across the board. It's important in interactions with others. A simple, but heartfelt, "thank you" can go quite a long way. It shows recognition of what someone did or said, acknowledging the time or effort they put in. Saying thanks to a server at a restaurant or in the dining hall shows appreciation for what that person does, even if it is their job. Thanking someone for a gift, kind word, or time given validates their sacrifice.

In my life, however, I need to focus on a different kind of thanks, Jesus-thanks. The Bible says to give thanks in all circumstances, this includes the good and the bad moments. I have always aspired to be more thankful, but never really succeeded in making thanks an integral aspect of my prayer-life. I'm ready to turn over a new leaf. Though I would have begun this practice without the "excuse" of Lent, this season of change and sacrifice and growing in God is the perfect time to begin what I hope will be a forever change in how I interact with Jesus.

I want to consciously give thanks daily. It sounds like such a simple thing, yet it is so easy to get tied up in myself. I pray for my own spiritual growth, help with exams, family members and their various health issues, friends, acquaintances, future plans, and so on and so forth. So often I forget the other important aspects of prayer: praise, repentance, listening, and thanksgiving. I won't go into the other three at the moment, because I could probably talk (uh...write...) forever and that would get boring fast (if you aren't bored already).

Okay. So I want to thank God more. Recognize the beautiful, wonderful, amazing blessings He has given me, the gifts He has provided, and the promises He has given or fulfilled. There are so many good things in my life, so many moments where I am awed by His majesty, grace, and goodness. Those are the moments when I need to stop, look, listen, and thank.

But let's be honest, it's easy to say "thank you" for the good things. That's natural, simple, straightforward, and commonsense. It's the hard things that seem illogical to give thanks for. Why should I be happy that my laptop broke? My camera is ancient and slowly dying? I am way in debt for school? My sister, brother, and mom are sick (in various ways)? Why should I be thankful for the painful parts of my life? Why should I be thankful when people, plans, and projects fail? These things don't seem good, these things don't make me happy, why should I give thanks?

Because God works all things together for our good. He doesn't like to see His children suffering. This doesn't mean God stops all bad things from happening, without struggles and pain there would be no growth. Without brokenness, no healing. Bad things have to happen, but despite it all, we are to thank God in everything. He has a plan. When we thank God in the midst of hard times we are thanking Him with the faith that He will bring something good out of the mess. If I look back on my life I see so many times of pain that I would never wish to repeat, but I wouldn't take them back either, I wouldn't wish them away, because I grew, and I am still growing, and because of those experiences I have gotten so much closer to God, have learned to rely upon Him and trust Him with my life and my future.

So I want to give thanks, for the obvious and the obscure, no matter the circumstance, I want to have a thankful heart.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Freakin Lent

So Lent is starting to really bother me. I may rant a little here, but don't worry, it's a decently well thought out rant. So everyone's been talking about it a lot at the various church/Jesus-related things I go to. We talked about it at me and Katherine's small group on Thursday, at small group this morning, and at YoungLife this evening. Every time it's a similar theme.

People discuss how shallow so many people make it, how instead of giving up something legitimate, with the purpose of stretching, strengthening, and furthering their relationship with God, they make it about getting healthier, losing weight, or breaking a bad habit.

Now I'm not saying I disagree. Not at all. In fact, I would venture to say I agree. Lent has tradition and meaning and shouldn't be taken lightly. Here's where I take offense.

Consistently every time this has been discussed, people have used the example of giving up sweets. At this point in time, Katherine and I give one another a short, slightly hesitant glance, as we have both committed to depriving ourselves of all desserts, candies, and various other sweets for the 40 days of Lent.

Our quick eye-locking is often noticed, and commented upon. An awkward, abrupt conversation ensues in which we are asked if that's what we're giving up and we reply, "yes." But we feel judged, so judged, for our decision. Without pausing to understand why the two of us have chosen to give up sweets, it is assumed we have no legitimate understanding of the tradition, that our Lent sacrifice is purely superficial and shallow, and that we haven't thought deeply or spiritually about what we are giving up.

However, these sweeping and seemingly judgmental (I don't want to make assumptions) reactions to our Lent "fast" are entirely false. Though it is true that many give up sweets for Lent with the intention of only bettering themselves, rather than their relationship with God, this is not the case for Katherine and me. Let me tell you why I am giving up sweets, and Katherine's reasons are similar to my own.

I used to almost never eat desserts or candy. I have slowly re-introduced these things into my diet, particularly increasing my intake of chocolate. I have noticed that after a particularly long or difficult day, I just want a nice big cup of hot chocolate or a chocolate bar (or Candy Corn, gotta love that stuff, as disgustingly pure corn-syrupy as it is). I've become dependent on them. Rather than going to tell Jesus about my difficult day, listening to a calming or worshipful song, or journaling my thoughts, I just want some chocolate to make it all better.

Now this might be a bit of an over-exaggeration. I don't eat bags upon bags of chocolate or other candy weekly, or crave it constantly. But on a small level, chocolate is comforting, tasty, and generally makes me happy. Realistically, I should be thinking, "I can't wait to get back to my dorm and have a quiet time with Jesus," rather than, "I can't wait to have some chocolate. That'll make me feel better."

So there's one reason that I want to give it up. Sugar, especially chocolate, which contains caffeine, is addictive, and I want to be addicted to Jesus and love, nothing else.

Here's the other thing. And yes, this has to do with self-image and being healthy, but hear me out. The more I allow myself to eat unhealthy things, the more I want them, because junk food is addicting, and the worse I feel. Feeling bad about myself both in my health and how I feel about my physical appearance can be detrimental. If I feel poorly about myself, I focus even more on myself and how negatively I view myself. This means I'm not respecting or taking care of the person He has made. I'm hating what He loves, and that isn't right. It also means that rather than thinking about God and others, I'm focusing on myself. Choosing to give up desserts and candy will make me healthier, but this goal is not just for me, but for God as well. My focus should be on Him, not worrying about whether I look good enough in a swimming suit or not.

My other Lent goal is not sacrificial, but rather additive. My desire is to push myself even more in my relationship with Christ and jumpstart a new tradition of thanking Him daily. His word says to give thanks in all things, and I often fail miserably in that regard. I want to focus on Him even more by giving Him the thanks He deserves for all the wonderful things I have been given, and for the seemingly bad things that I don't yet understand.

Some people's decisions about Lent may be shallow, but don't automatically make that assumption. You don't know a person's heart, so stop judging a book by its title or cover, and give it at least enough of a chance to read the summary in the front flap. You never know why a person has made or not made a decision, why they look a certain way, why they speak with a lisp, why they do or don't do something. Don't make assumptions without asking questions. And whether a person has given up something for Lent out of a true desire to grow spiritually or a more personal-betterment reason, it is still a great way to start a conversation. You can talk to someone about why it is important to them, what lead them to give that up. Go deep, ask questions, forge relationships, and stop making shallow assumptions about a person or their decisions based upon a few words or a quick sideways glance.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Discarded, left-behind, unimportant, and undefined. These are the objects of my fascination. Stopping to pick them up, my collection of fallen pennies, single earrings, and ticket stubs slowly grows. They were dropped and forgotten, their importance in someone's life stripped away. As I stoop to pick these objects up, I give them importance again, I give them meaning once more, redefining a forgotten object, I give them a significance they had lost.
This redefining of objects, offering significance to an unwanted thing, has a deeper side. The things are allegorical for the unwanted children in our world, the millions of orphans in the world. Since a young age I have felt deep calling and desire to adopt children, to show love to the unloved, to rescue the unwanted and abandoned.
My passion for adoption is mirrored in this project, taking things that have been forgotten or abandoned, that no one wants, and giving them meaning and importance again. Redefined, no longer lost, but found.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Come Again

I know, I know, I already wrote a blog on Valentine's Day. I'm sure there's some rule somewhere made by someone that I can't do it twice, but who cares? Call 'em up and report me, I can take it! 


It's not just Valentine's Day that bombards us with love constantly. I constantly see cute photographs and movies of love-stories and couples on the internet and in other media. There are pictures and quotes about romantic love and deep friendships, parental love, and the love from pets. Affection, love, and general happiness with other humans (and cute animals) is everywhere. They talk about love, but love that barely scratches the surface of the endless, beautiful, and perfect true love story. We all want love. We're all attracted to the idea of being cherished by someone. It's a wonderful feeling, being wanted. But you always have to do something in return. Love never seems to truly be free. Failures, mistakes, they can only happen so many times before you stop loving someone, or, worse, they stop loving you. Or maybe there's no failure, just change.

Either way, life happens. People change, people fail, people grow apart. It's life, this movement from one season of life to the next, but that makes it no less painful and no more desirable. This realization that people will, at some point or another, always fail in some way, big or small, is no happy thought. It's not optimistic or hopeful, it's actually quite saddening. I know, this isn't sounding super happy, cheerful, lovey, or Valentine's Day-ish. But hold on a few more moments, I'm almost to the happy parts! There's a caveat, a "but," an exception to the rule. It's like the Paramore song, Only Exception, people always fail, but...

And here we get to the greatest love story ever told. This story is so beautiful, so perfect, so beyond any human love, that sometimes I just cry when I think about it. Imagine a love that was so deep nothing could ever break it. That no matter how many times you messed up, cheated, argued with, spoke unkindly to, and hurt, they would never cease to care about you, never cease to love you, and never cease to want you. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't want that kind of love, but it sounds too good to be true. It's too great, too perfect, too good to be human. Here's the great thing, though: it's real love, it's true love, it's perfect love, it's beautiful love, and it's human love. But it's not just human love. Here is the greatest love story ever told: 

You have been loved as long as you have ever been alive, and before that. Before your parents had even met, you were loved. Before your grandparents had even met, you were loved. 2,000 years ago, someone gave you the greatest gift of love, a life, laid down for you, out of eternal love. Jesus. Son of God, mighty and powerful and righteous, He was in Heaven. He was in perfection, one with His Father, in a place of bliss and glory. He came to earth though, for you, for me. And He became a human and lived here, with the dirt, the sin, the hate, the despair. He came because those things exist, He came because we need Him, because we crave love. And then He died. But He didn't just die. 

Imagine the person you love more than anyone in the world. Now imagine that they are angry with you. Not only angry, though, that all of their wrath and retribution for a wrong committed is against you. Imagine that you've never been apart from this person, there is so much love that they are an integral part of you, and now they're gone. You are separated, you are utterly alone, with the weight of that person's wrath upon your shoulders. 

That's what Jesus went through. He and God had never been apart. Their bond of love and Fatherhood and one-ness is beyond anything we can ever imagine. And when Jesus took all of our sins on Him, He had to take on the punishment for those sins. He didn't just die, He was completely alone, in so much psychological pain that He begged God to let there be another way for Him to save us, this way was so painful. It was the only way. The only way to save us from the retribution of sin - death - was to take the punishment for our sins, be separated for God, and take His wrath. So Jesus did it. He went through more pain than any of us can ever imagine or understand...out of love. No greater love story ever told, than that of Jesus for you, for me, for everyone. Just believe it, just accept the love, because it's the most beautiful and perfect gift of love imaginable. 

And it's so perfect. See there's nothing we can ever do to make Him stop loving us! No matter how many times we mess up or leave Him, tell Him we don't care through our actions or words, He never leaves. Walking alongside, carrying and picking us up when we stumble and fall, He is always by our side, always loving us, always whispering in our ears, the greatest love story ever told. 

Just Go With It

It's the day. The one some dread and others anticipate with bated breath. Will true love finally make an appearance? Will the boy/girl of one's dreams finally say those anticipated words of, "I love you," or at the very least, "I like you"? But in all honesty...does it really matter? 

I've always loved this day, because I love love. For me, Valentine's Day isn't about flowers and kisses and mushy, romantic love notes. I've never been dating someone on Valentine's day, so it's never been a romantic holiday for me. My mom would always make us cute cards and treats (like giant rice-krispie treats shaped like Hershey's Kisses and wrapped up in aluminum foil). This tradition of familial love has been continued to college, when she sends me a package full of loving goodness (though this year's has not yet arrived, due to slow post). Valentine's day is about love, we just misinterpret that to mean romantic love. It's about friendship, family, and a significant other, whichever you have. It shouldn't be a miserable, "I'm all alone, life sucks, I'm gonna go be depressed and emo in my aloneness." It should be a celebration of love, whatever type of love you have. 

So here's some fun Valentine's Day info: 

 The Legend of St. Valentine

The history of Valentine's Day--and the story of its patron saint--is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?
The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first "valentine" greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl--possibly his jailor's daughter--who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed "From your Valentine," an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and--most importantly--romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

A Prisoner's Valentine
Charles, Duke of Orleans, who was taken prisoner at the battle of Agincourt in 1415, and detained in England twenty-five years, was the author of the earliest known written valentines. He left about sixty of them. They were written during his confinement in the Tower of London, and are still to be seen among the royal papers in the British Museum.

One of his valentines reads as follows:

Wilt thou be mine?
Dear Love, reply.
Sweetly consent or else deny.
Whisper softly,
none shall know,
Wilt thou be mine, Love?
Aye or no?

"Spite of Fortune,
we may be Happy by one word from thee.
Life flies swiftly
- ere it go
Wilt thou be mine, Love?
- aye or no?"

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Exceedingly Extravagant and Elaborately Enormous Expectations

I feel like that last post sounded a bit lost. 

Maybe I am lost. 

I never know. 

Sometimes it feels like there is just so much pressure. Pressure to be a good student, pressure to be a good friend, a good sister. Pressure to be a good Christian. Pressure to be a good artist. So much pressure to succeed. 

Sometimes that makes it scary. Like the expectations are so high that I'm afraid to even try, because what if I fail, then the image someone has in their mind of me is shattered, I'm reduced to splinters of Katy-ness on the floor of their imagination, nothing and no one again. 

I know these things are not true, but there is still that nagging fear in the back of the brain, that discreet terror of failure. It's like a monster sometimes, eating away at thoughts, nibbling on confidence, reducing one's own security to a chewed-up and less stable pile of somethingness that used to be something. But maybe was never really anything at all. 

 It's so complicated, so confusing. 

Reality is that people don't care that much. Those around aren't so closely observing that every minor (or major) failure is marked in a book, that each mess-up will count against you until suddenly you are a nothing. 

Reality is that we're all nothing, and we're all everything, and we're all complicated, and we're all way too focused on ourselves. 

We look in the mirror and find a million imperfections. Someone else looks straight at us and sees few of these faults. Blaring example are my many scars, which I see so clearly in the mirror everyday, and the reality that few people know they exist unless I have told them, or they see me in the right angle with the right lighting. 

We're always looking for the ways we fail, noticing our imperfections, analyzing our faults. So full of fear that everyone expects us to be perfect all the time, but they don't. 

Seemingly perfect people are scary. They're so unreal. They are hard to approach, there's a fear they will judge you because they are so much more perfect. But perfect people fail too, and they are the most scared of all. There's an expectation they feel pressure to constantly live up to, unrealistic expectations. In truth, everyone is human, and everyone fails from time to time, and no one is perfect. 

Being able to see those failures, face the fear of the pressure and expectation from others, and just admit to not looking, being, thinking, sounding, or feeling happy, perfect, beautiful, passionate, or good all the time is not only necessary, but utterly essential. 

There is a pressure to be perfect. The solution is not to try to live up to it, but to smash those high, unrealistic, and exceeding expectations and just live. 

Live, just live. And love, and laugh, and cry, and fail, and break things, and say sorry, and forgive, and be messy sometimes, and be random, be extreme, be passionate, be imperfect, be happy, be sad, be angry. Break things, fix things, sleep in, miss deadlines, be an over-achiever. Do everything, do nothing, be everything, be no one. Just live.
Does anyone even read this?

Not that it really matters...

I do this more for my own enjoyment and release anyways.