Wednesday, September 7, 2011

what i've learned this summer.

these past four months have been life changing.

life challenging.
life weakening.
life strengthening.
life bettering.

i am a different person from this summer.
and it definitely took a lot of tears and prayers and words of wisdom to get here.
and a whole lot of God moments. oh the God moments. they did not stop.

and as much as they hurt and were at times frustrating, they were some of the most incredible moments i have ever experienced. and i would trade them in for nothing.

everything about these past months has been intentional, from the big opportunities, down to some of the songs i heard. i know that God was using what seemed like insignificant moments and messages to really awaken and stretch me, and it worked because it has taught me to faithfully search for Him everyday. (some days i'm better at this than others.)

i don't want to be the same person i was last september, or the person i was in may.
in september i was walking into a new setting of life, not knowing what this year would hold for me at a new institution, back in an environment that i loved (emmanuel), and living again with the family. it all turned out amazingly and God answered many prayers bringing me back here.
in may i was weak. i was unsure, unsettled, and allowing myself to have low standards of myself and of important people in my life. i was knowingly being a follower, an often unfamiliar frontier for me, and i had an attitude problem that was preventing me from many opportunities and relationships. i wanted to be happy in my situation but knew many things about it weren't right, and also knew that many things were not in my power to fix but only to eliminate.

then in june, i made a decision (well, i didn't really make it -although i knew it was coming- but i executed it) and got out of a situation i knew was stagnant, and that i knew was not meeting basic expectations, nor living out God's commands. it was the best decision i have made this far in my life, no doubt about that. but for all the joy that that season did bring me, it has since left me with a much heavier burden of sadness and heartbreak than it ever deserved. the amount of tears that have been shed following this decision do not equal the amount of laughs and good times to make it worth it. no. it has been a painful, painful season since. let's just say "fertilizer hit the fan" on more than one occasion since the "breaking off" of things. and from this ongoing saga, most of my learning has come.

this summer i learned that i have absolutely no control. this isn't news, but it was obviously shown to me, when i understood God saying to end things and then attempting to fight Him on it, but resolving that would ultimately be unsuccessful. upon surrendering, the phone rang 5 minutes later and boom, it was over. "mortals make elaborate plans but God has the last word." [proverbs 16:1] this has also been reaffirmed on pretty much a daily basis. control is definitely one of my biggest challenges. i love "having" it. even though i know in life that i don't. i like to pretend i do. i like to feel like i do. i like to create situations where i'm in control. but repeatedly i've been shown that i don't. at all. and it's really too much effort for me to take on trying to have control when my plans will not work out when they are not first God's plans. "For God's Word is solid to the core; everything he makes is sound inside and out. He loves it when everything fits, when his world is in plumb-line true. Earth is drenched in God's affectionate satisfaction. God's plan for the world stands up, all his designs are made to last. We're depending on God; He's everything we need. What's more, our hearts brim with joy since we've taken for our own his holy name. Love us, God, with all you've got- that's what we're depending on." [psalm 33: 4-5,11,20-22 msg]

this summer i learned that i'm not really all that faithful. i listened to a podcast about faithfulness and was so encouraged by hebrews 11:1: "faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for." and thought, "hey, hey i trust God with my future" but i didn't really trust God with other people's futures. when faced with a difficult revelation about what someone close to me was doing in their life, i thought there was only one possible direction that they were taking and it was a path towards a trap of sin. the alternative route was completely out of the question as far as i could see. but when i was able to confront that person, and they shared that i was wrong, i knew that this was ultimately a faith lesson for me. even though i believed that that someone was too weak to choose the high road, what i failed to recognize was that God was also working in their life and has the power to direct this person away from the sinful path. i'm thankful everyday that i'm wrong. thankful everyday that God is merciful, acknowledging that i am sometimes completely faithless and short-sighted. but that He loves me anyways.

this summer i learned that i have amazing friends. again, this is not news. i have been abundantly blessed to be surrounded by tons of amazing people who love and care for me. but what i learned about friendship was really that, even when the people you think you really need to show interest in your life don't, there are other people who will step in and prove to be of even more significance than you once granted them. "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." [ecclessiastes 4:9-12] this summer, my guy friends have proved most impactful. not interested in gabbing about broken hearts and life nonsense, they made me laugh and think about nothing outside of being in that moment. and that was good for me. sometimes i talk about things too much and need to be hindered from doing that. but in saying this, they were also there to encourage me, and listen when i needed them to, and to occasionally take me out and treat me like a lady, which was really nice. and i thank them wholeheartedly for that. they have been my rocks. the day after i broke things off a friend came to my door and dropped off an incredible book - get and read "the pursuit of holiness" right now! if you haven't already - and a card. that meant the world to me. two of my best friends showed up to my work late, late at night with a treat and perspective that greatly helped to heal my heart and to encourage and empower me moving forward. they might not even understand how these gestures impacted me, but i count them as definitive for my growth this past season. i am so, so blessed. thank you, everyone and anyone, who has been there for me, directly or indirectly. it meant a lot.

this summer i learned that God can make a messenger out of the most unlikely people. "Hold tight to good advice; don't relax your grip. Guard it well—your life is at stake!"[proverbs 4:13] these past few months some of the best advice and wisdom ever has been shared with me by many of the most influential people in my life. at times i didn't recognize the weight of it until later, but i can honestly say that most of the conversations i've had with people this summer have been incredibly important to me, and have played some role in the healing of my heart. one of the most significant conversations this summer came from my favourite customer, michael. we were talking about his trip to the holy land (he is a proud and profound atheist... pray for him) and then he asked me what i had been doing all summer. i responded that i had been "breaking hearts". he was so proud of me and when i asked him why he was so happy about it, he told me "pain is important, it makes you stronger and helps you to determine what you want in life and love, it moves you forward and causes you to seek out better things". that in itself was good perspective for me. but during a time when i felt particularly small, i shared with him my sadness and feeling of frustration coming out of a relationship where i just felt so not worth it, so not loved. and then he said this: "allie, if he didn't want to put his arm around you, he never loved you. good thing you dumped his ass!" and with that, my feelings of being not worth it or not valued passed away. what he said was true. and that leads me to...

this summer i learned it is impossible for something to be "love" if it is selfish, proud, dishonest, self-seeking, unprotecting, or doubtful. this has plainly been countered in 1 corinthians 13 where it clearly outlines the characteristics of love. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." of course there are times when in love we may feel distrustful, may be selfish, may be prideful, but these are human errors. if it is "love", then these errors become the things that one desires to improve on in him- or herself in order to better "love" the other person, and ultimately to show that person that they're worth it. to work on these things shouldn't be such a big deal if you "love" that person and want to give them the very best you. maybe this sounds naive, but i truly believe that our human weaknesses should not cause the person we say we "love" to doubt that we love them but our willingness and desire to improve these things should strengthen their belief in the emotion, commitment and declaration of love.

this summer i learned that i majorly lack discipline. so that is my big project this year. discipline. "The road to life is a disciplined life; ignore correction and you're lost for good." [proverbs 10:17; read also proverbs 12:1] i need to wake up early and not be lazy - "A lazy life is an empty life, but "early to rise" gets the job done." [proverbs 12:27], make the Word of God a consistent priority in my daily life - "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope." [romans 15:4; read also hebrews 4:12, colossians 3:16, psalm 19], be much more intentional and responsible with my money- "Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine." [proverbs 3:9-10], stop placing worth in material things [luke 14:33-34] and to have a much better attitude towards those who i may struggle with but who have been put in leadership [2 timothy 2:16-17,20-26]. i need to do my homework, make time for and respect my family, and keep my room clean. these might sound menial or obvious, but i know that if i can maintain these things and keep them priorities that i will become much more disciplined and can move into working on more difficult areas of discipline.

this summer i learned a lot about myself. even though my mom seemed to be one person who just did not get my being upset, always telling me to cheer up and get over it, she was also the one that gave me the most perspective about myself. she told me to pick myself up because it's not like me to be a victim. and even though she didn't accuse me of acting like one, she pointed out that if i kept up my sadness it would probably turn into a "woe-is-me" pity party. not what i would want to happen. she encouraged me so much, to do everything with humility, passion, good intention, and consideration of others, affirming that she sees that i act this way, and by acknowledging my strengths and my talents. at what is such a transitional, stretching time of my life, to hear these things reaffirmed means so much. and it just helps to spark even more excitement about what God's plans for me include. who better to use than the woman who has been there since before the beginning? but it didn't stop there. through reading of the bible i started to get a better understanding of who i am in God's eyes - i am set-apart [1 corinthians 6:11], i am made blameless, above reproach [colossians 1:21-22], i am called [romans 8:28-30], i am a co-heir with Christ [romans 8:16-17], i have been predestined by God to obtain an inheritance [ephesians 1:11], i am made righteous, wise, redeemed and sanctified [1 corinthians 1:30], i am God’s workmanship, His handiwork, created to produce good works [ephesians 2:10], i have boldness and confident access to God [ephesians 3:12], and i am holy and beloved [colossians 3:12]. that right there is powerful stuff.

this summer i learned that i'm going to be ok. more than ok. but coming out of what was easily the most difficult season of my life thus far, i know i'm going to be ok. this will not destroy me - "Yet I am not destroyed by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face." [job 23:17]. this does not define who i am, it is merely what has helped bring me to where i am today. which is a good place. a strong place. an excited place. i know my future is grand and is in excellent hands.

"I give you all the credit, God— you got me out of that mess. God, my God, I yelled for help and you put me together. He gets angry once in a while, but across a lifetime there is only love. The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter. You did it: you changed wild lament into whirling dance. I'm about to burst with song; I can't keep quiet about you. God, my God, I can't thank you enough."[psalm 30:1-2,5,11-12]

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