Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Fantasticism of Focus

While perusing the internet for Domestic Violence updates and news (October is DV Awareness Month), I stumbled upon and diddled around on her site before finding something she calls a "Gratitude Journal". According to her, gratitude "turns what as have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude make sense of our past bring peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow". A little over a year ago, I was able to use my (favorite) gift to voice how important it is to be thankful for every single thing that happens in your life. See it here: Intrigued by such a prospect, I've decided to make a list of the things I am grateful for.

Faith and Fellowship
There is no explanation for the life I came from before I [truly] found God. It's true that I believed, but establishing a relationship with Him didn't come until much, much later. I had been swept up by drugs and alcohol, perverse behavior, and for a lack of a better phrase: perceived badassness. Today, I'm much more calm and reserved, but I still have my moments (those of which Justin hated...and attempted to eradicate without success). In addition to being so undeniably faithful, He has given me so many wonderful friends that have encouraged and molded my faith. While it's true most of the friends I have come to know are going along their own path--I rarely get to see them--it doesn't change the fact that the time that we did spend together was wonderful. My keenness for isolation doesn't help much either. But I'm working on it.

Food and Fitness
I think that everyone can attest to my love for food. I'm incredibly picky, and I know what I like. While there is much more in this world that I'd like to taste, there are flavors and combinations that I absolutely can't get enough of. And when it's good, it's good. I'm so glad God has given me the ability to enjoy food the way I do. That being said, I've been recently grateful for my newly acquired gym membership at the YMCA. Forty pounds heavier today than I was a year ago is not somewhere I'd like to be, but stress, stress eating, having friends with terrible eating habits, and lack of exercise has really taken it's toll on my body. So I'm doing what I can to eat smaller portions, RE-eliminate fast food from my diet, and gym it up at least three times a week. When it gets a little cooler, I'll be riding my bike more!

Friends and Family
There isn't much that needs to be said about friends and family that I don't talk about in nearly every blog. I have the BEST friends that have really been there through everything. I always talk about my "best friend" so and so, but it's really because I can't have just one. While it's good to have a few close friends, I have so many people in my life that have seen me at my very best and very worst, but have never let anything come between us. They will offer me a place to sleep, feed me when I'm hungry, and lend me clothes when I have nothing I want to wear in my own closet. Those are people you never want out of your life. For real. I love you guys.

Fun and Fall-Outs
The concept of "falling out" is relatively new to me. I couldn't find a suitable urban dictionary definition, but my understanding of it has been parallel to the idea of nearly passing out, or crying, because you're laughing so hard. I'm grateful for my strange sense of humor, and the ability to laugh at myself (and to join others who are laughing at me). I'm enjoying this new "not-taking-everything-too-seriously" attitude. Life is too short.

Film and Fantasy
It pains me to admit it, but recently I agreed to watch Star Wars Episode IV, V, and VI. It was....interesting. To my surprise, it wasn't as terrible as my preconceived notion made it out to be. Forget it being a riveting action/adventure movie; it was pretty comedic. Movies from the 70's are unintentionally hilarious! It reminds of Last House on the Left (the original). I'd always thought that I've seen a pretty good variety of films- both blockbuster and foreign- but it wasn't until moving in with Maggs that I've broadened that movie watching horizon. My reading list, however, is somewhat short. While it's true that I'm still in the process of reading a few different books at the moment, I've been reading a lot less than usual. I have about 10 books in my queue, but I feel like I'm not getting the most out of the books that are out there. I've just reread The Giver and Gathering Blue, but I'm starting to think that having a Kindle has decreased the amount I read in a given week. Dance with Dragons and The Five People You Meet in Heaven are among the current reads. But I need more! My desire for new words and new plots is fervent; I feel slightly desolate without it.

Flirting with Free Will
This one is a little more general than the other categories, but I knew I needed something to be generally thankful about. Free will is something that I've recently come to control and admonish. Previously, I had used the concept of free will to justify my actions and behaviors that weren't quite acceptable, or even normal. If I could do it, I would do it. These days, however, I rarely utilize that strategy, and base my decisions more often on the ends rather than the means. Today, I found myself making a pro and con list about a decision that needed to be made....and I made it! I never do that! I've been living a life based on illegitimate decision-making skills, and choosing paths based on how they would benefit me in my current situation. But I'm thankful for the ability to discern between what I can do and what I should do.

As an update for those who crave the nitty gritty in my life, you'll be tickled to know that I'm incredibly happy. There's no drama to share; no bullshit to explain. I'm just....perfect. And not the overly, obnoxious "perfect" where I'm head over feet in my idea of "love", or falsely inspired by something new. I've discovered that by letting go of my inhibitions, as well as my expectations, I can experience a content state of mind I don't believe I've felt in a while. I'm planning broadly for my future, and not around anyone else's. And for those who haven't heard, I'm starting on my master's degree this December. Every decision I've made up to this point has been for this very moment, and I'm utterly humbled to say that I'm thankful for my God who has led me to it. Be blessed, friends.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Wish Sandwich....

I'm apologizing in advance for the length of this post. Suggestion? Make sure you've got some free time before you commit.

Aside from simply confessing about my wonderfully nostalgic coffee date, I'd like to share some wisdom I've recently picked up from Ms. Angela Boone. The first is the term "moobies", or as I'm going to call them from now on: "moobs". I can honestly say that despite having come across this idea throughout the duration of my young-adult life, I have never heard either of these words spoken out loud. It's plain and simply "man-boobs". While the term "man-boobs" has a particularly negative connotation, and is generally not an appealing combination of words, the term "moobies" has a slightly more playful undertone. Plus, it's aesthetically pleasing to my ears. It definitely sounds like something I'd like to snuggle with on a rainy day, or something you'd see on Sesame Street (#notapedo). Who doesn't like the idea of cuddling up to your favorite "moobies"? Go ahead and try your tongue to it (let me just set that straight--to the word). It will provide endless personal enjoyment.

The second thing she revealed to me (though a little distant in the timeline at the moment) is her Valentine's Day ritual. Historically, this Hallmark holiday has been exploited to allow couples to "show" how much they love eachother by endorsing the excessive purchase of candy, cards, flowers, sex toys, and stuffed animals. Personally, I think this day is a joke, and showing your love and affection should be a 365 day/year thing. Every day should be full of love, even if it's only between you and God. I found out that Angela's yearly rituals definitely reflect how I feel about this. Every V-Day, she goes out and buys her own chocolate, flowers, and a cute teddy. She even goes as far as buying herself a card, writing a motivating message to herself, and signing her name. Then, she'll go out and treat herself to a day of complete relaxation: put on her favorite outfit, get her hair done, get a mani/pedi, and just enjoy being in love with herself. My honest, gut reaction to this was "wow, ridiculous". But the more she talked about it, the more sense it made to me. My man might not know what I want, but I sure as hell know how to please me. What an insane concept! Ladies! Forget expecting your man to live up to a cliche, disingenuous past time and start using this day to remind yourself how truly beautiful and wonderful you really are. While it sounds arrogant, how can you really love anyone else if you're unable to love yourself? Think about it.

Also, I made a mental note to relay Dennis Rainey's "Non-Negotiables". He and his wife are the co-authors of Moments with You, a couple's devotional. Dennis concedes that these "non-negotiables" are true simply because He is true, and I feel it blog-worthy enough to share with everyone.
  • Seek God, not sin. Seek good and not evil, so that you may live. Amos 5:14
    • Despite being genuine in our walk with God, our lives are filled with constant temptation to fall away and "live in the moment". We experience things on the daily that test our faith and appear to be a more attractive option--things that are usually down the wrong path. While it's true that there is a lot about being a faithful and loyal servant that gives you that warm feeling inside, there is also a lot that requires discipline, avoidance, and control--most of which you must fight yourself on to be in accordance with His will. In the end, you will either use temptation (by not falling into it) to push you closer to salvation, or let sin destroy you. It is not negotiable.
  • Fear God, not men. The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil. Proverbs 19:23
    • Human nature dictates the way we interpret social cues and the way we trend. I sometimes(though usually less than other people) care more about what everyone else will think of me rather than what God will think of me. True enough, my adolescence would have been a lot different had I gone by this non-negotiable. My carefree lifestyle, however, makes me just as guilty as the next person. I don't care what other people think of what I do, but I find myself in situations where I'm not thinking about His expectations of me either. It is not men who decide our fate, but our Father in Heaven.
  • Love God, not the world. Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. John 2:15-17
    • This is one of my very favorite non-negotiables. While things are nice, flashy, expensive, and tend to display your SES, I find useless new things to be a terrible waste. What I do want to address is the idea that love is among worldly affections/possessions. While it's true that some worldly emotions that are closely (and often mistakenly) related to love, to love someone with a righteous, God-inspired love is by far the most cogent gift you could give and share with another person. I don't feel that it's "of this world" to want to be preoccupied with someone you love; especially if it's being built on a Christian foundation.
  • Believe God, not the deceiver. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44
    • Often, there lies a personal controversy that your mind must use the Spirit to address: the difference between temptation and a blessing. I blog about this all the time, as does my favorite blogger, Cara-Marie ( It is so difficult to discern between good and evil, as evil knows exactly what you're looking for. Luckily for believers, we are given the gift of discernment when we accept the Spirit through baptism. However, like any gift, everything is subjective and vulnerable to worldly influence; especially if you're living on a sandy foundation. Generally, worldly people attack Christianity first and foremost by mentioning the inconsistancies in the Bible. While there is no doubting that those inconsistancies are there, God's words are supreme. Those of man (i.e. ideas left up to worldly interpretation) are not. No matter what the world, or evil, tries to dictate to you, know that His truths are absolute.
  • Obey God, not your appetites. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
    • This non-negotiable is by far the most difficult for me to abide by. From food to addiction to anger to lust- and everything in between- I've always had a difficult time quenching my appetite for satisfaction. I want to feel good all the time! I want to enjoy the greatest tastes and smells (those who know me know how true this is) and feelings. But what is most important is that we apply our love for Him by avoiding the desires of the flesh. Rainey says that obedience to God demands two things: courage and faithfulness. If we have faith that He will satisfy the things we need, it will be easier to have the courage to say no to the things we want.
  • Serve God, not self. Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here I am. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8
    • Slavery is a word that, when used in a negative connotation, can instill fear, sadness, anger, and countless detrimental emotions. Used to describe your relationship with Him, however, one will experience a completely different set of emotions. As Christians, we are slaves to our God, the Almighty master and ruler. Even that sounds somewhat negative to the skeptics and non-believers! But I'll have you know that I am a humbled, grateful servant to my Lord; as are my Brothers and Sisters in Christ. How else would you compare yourself to an All-Seeing, All-Knowing God? His wisdom goes way beyond that of which we can even fathom to be possible; there is no other way! If you can surrender everything into His hands, you will find that you never really had any control to begin with. Except then you'll have the discipline to follow His Will for you.
  • Worship God, not comfort. Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:17-18
    • I have experienced this concept again and again; be it on my own, or vicariously through other people. There is something to be said about suffering and those who go through it. Like most of these points, I'm completely guilty of seeking comfort before seeking God! There are few people who can honestly look suffering in the face and spit fearlessly. As a Christian, you hear "Give it to God" a lot. You also hear "Faith, not fear". What it comes down to is that the only thing you can do is praise God for everything you do have rather than what you don't. You should also keep in mind that His plan is not necessarily our plan, and go about your life faithfully. Easier said than done. I'm guilty of rebounding after a bad breakup (which always leads to a string of regret--Hurt people hurt people), overwhelming my friends and family with my pain (which always leads to awkward and depressing companionship), and physically numbing my pain (which always leads to....well....everything terrible). You (I) find yourself (myself) in a situation that has become irrational and spiraling out of control. Without seeking Him first, you (I) continuously make bad decisions in an attempt to rectify the initial situation. When your light appears to be going out, the first thing you do is think "Forget God, I need to find a flashlight", rather than praying for a resolution. Be steadfast, people! 
    This weekend felt almost surreal. Lauren, Tyler, David, and I all headed up to Morganton, GA to enjoy an incredible three-story cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I can't say I've been to a prettier destination at this point; though November in Tennessee is a close second. We didn't get outside Tallahassee city limits until after 6 and I was already exhausted. I suppose I can blame that on falling asleep around 1 on Friday morning and hearing my alarm go off at 5:45am, a few hours later. I was so busy getting ready for the trip that I didn't even get to nap on my lunch. Thankfully, Redline was there to save my life. There's something about Redline that always reminds me of Jenna. Maybe it's because we used to chase our addy with a Redline; drinking it like just another soda.

    I can attest to the jitters and the racing heart, but it was more important that we arrived alive. I made sure to save half for the drive home. :-P

    The ride up gave me a lot to think about. David and I talked about my decision to decline my grad school acceptance, to which he encouraged me to strive to do what it is I really want to do. I expressed my concerns about the possibility of becoming too wrapped up in my dreams as a clinical behavior specialist, and that I didn't want it to consume me. What I really meant to say was that while I want to have a job (for monetary gain and social stimulation), I want to have a life as well. I want to have a family, and a marriage full of love and vitality, fun and adventure. I didn't think it appropriate to have that conversation yet, though. It is, however, still on my mind (I may or may not be considering getting my MSW online). The thing I hated about the idea of being a student after graduation was the looming prospect of not being able to work and go to school. Really, having to go to work and school and not being able to have a social life/get any sleep. 

    Update: I have a habit of writing and editing posts over several days, and this issue with school has finally been resolved! This morning, I actually registered with Capella University out of Minnesota in their Masters program for Mental Health Counseling. I start in December! Pretty ridiculous!

    After getting lost (briefly), being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic in Atlanta (one mile in an hour!), and driving in circles up and down windy (and foggy!) roads with only the high beams as a source of light, we finally made it to the cabin. It was a sweet reunion with my best friend of 9 years. The 50 degree weather didn't hurt, either.

    For all those who think of country life as slow and "behind the times", I can definitely say that they've one-upped Publix, Winn-Dixie, and the Walmarts of Florida. This bumpkin town had few stores (and about as many people), but low and behold, their grocery store had a Barnes and Noble-like section to sit and enjoy the newspaper, a winery, a movie rental section, and a Starbucks! Their shopping carts even had a little holder for our coffee while we shopped.

    Though it was a struggle, we managed to get up, pick up our groceries, shower, make breakfast, AND be out of the house by 10 to head over to Blanche Manor. The view from our cabin, from the car, from the mountain atop trail horses; it was all simply breathtaking. Not to mention, enjoying the serenity of such a charming area with someone so wonderful was pretty whimsical.

    The most exciting (and subsequently depressing) news of the weekend came Saturday night after we had settled in from a (felt like) 2 hour commute to the saddest/wimpiest waterfall (if you can even call it that) that I've ever seen in my life. Ms. Lauren Elizabeth McLeod is now the soon-to-be Mrs. Lauren Elizabeth Camus. Ty made a wonderful storybook-scrapbook filled with five years of memories that ended with "Will You Marry Me?" and her ring. Luckily, I anticipated the moment, and got it all on camera; tears and all (you know it's real when the girl starts crying). The next morning, however, we realized that somehow, someway, it had gotten deleted.

    Not without Apples to Apples, an out-door fire, and midnight S'mores on our Harry Potter wands, we finished off our adventure on Sunday by sleeping in (I woke up at 9!!), packing the car, and heading out to downtown Blue Ridge to check out the antique shops and adorable boutiques. If you're into affordable ($5 per jar) homemade jams, let me know! We stumbled upon some irresistible jams and jellies. And they ship!

    Though I didn't want to leave, I was happy to finally get home and reunite with my puppy (who was happy to see everyone else BUT me), and get back to my (too-empty) tempurpedic mattress. I can honestly say that this weekend couldn't have been more perfect, or have come at a more perfect time.

    Things I've learned in the past week:
    • I love the country, even though I'm a city girl at heart. Good people, good food, and great pictures.
    • For some reason, there's only certain people I can eat and not get sick around lately. 
    • Caramel Apple jam is my new favorite dessert. However, I've eaten it all and don't want to pay $10 to ship another jar.   
    • I need-not want-more sleep.
    • I'm enjoying trying foods I usually wouldn't (except for cheese grits--terrible decision every time).
    • A wish sandwich is when you have two slices of bread and you WISH you had some meat.
    • I need to stop relying on my phone to get me where I need to go. A two hour 55 mph scenic byway is not what I asked for when I clicked on "Fastest Route". 
    • Sunday Night Karaoke at Tomahawk is my new favorite hangout. 
    • I love my life.
    • I desperately need new tires. But first I need more money.
    • I adore you, David Hindman.

      Wednesday, October 5, 2011

      Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.

      Why doesn't anyone want to Geocache with me? David Kossin is enjoying this scavenger game without me. Oh and before I forget, I've decided to start on Twitter (again); mostly due to the fact that my job is boring. (Let's get real, I get paid to tweet and blog and play free cell.) Find me at: GodStrongGirl. Also, if anyone was wondering, my mother has since decided to give me the car. That reminds me, I should probably go ahead and dismiss the case.

      I wasn't really planning on blogging until after I came back from Georgia. I didn't know where this weekend was going to take me, and I didn't really want to assume what things were going on if they weren't really going on. At this point though, I think it's safe to say that what I'm feeling is real, and I don't think I'm alone in it. It's really a matter of when. While it's true that this (though vague) may come as a surprise (or maybe not), I'm excited about where it's going, and hopeful about the prospects.

      If there's anything that I've learned this week, it's a) the power of prayer and b) the power of addressing a sensitive issue. As always, prayer has a way of both empowering and comforting you when you need someone to confide in. I found myself praying a lot more than usual this week. Praying for hope, strength, words, and patience. I'm not one of those who believe in keeping "patience" off the prayer list just because He will test your patience rather than grant it. I certainly needed it, and needed to know that the Spirit would calm me. And it did. I feel renewed in my whatever-it-is, and the tightening around my throat has relaxed, so to speak. It's refreshing, and I'm falling deeper into it every day. The most important part, though, is keeping my walls up. God is helping me guard my heart, just in case.

      As for addressing an issue, I can't stress enough the importance of communication in any relationship; whether intimate or platonic. I've both suffered the consequences of not doing so, as well as the pleasure of giving advice about communication just this week. While there may be a level of uncomfortability and dread when it comes to confronting a person or an issue, there are few greater victories than that of the relief that washes over you when the air is finally cleared. I'd like to especially thank McLeod, Kossin, Brown, and Clapso for reaching out to me this week. It was much much needed.

      In the past week, I've come to the conclusion that my spiritual life is lacking. Not in Scripture, or in Spirit, but in fellowship. It's weird to walk into a church and not seek the love and presence of a church family. While I do miss those at Meridian, I know that the change was much needed. I would have gone on the Girls' beach trip had it not been for the money I knew I'd be spending on this weekend's trip. In fact, tonight I'm going to be headed to the store to start on my grocery list.

      This weekend, he and I (if you know, then you know) are headed to Blue Ridge with Lauren and Tyler, and another couple, Skylar and Carlos. Having another couple join us was a last minute thing, but I figure that it can only add to the fun, as well as save me some money (always a fan). This vacation will be the relaxation and lightheartedness that I've desperately needed for months now. No expectations, no pressure, and probably (hopefully) no cell phone reception. I'm sure the girls (especially Ms. McLeod and her photography skills-- will be bringing their cameras. There's nothing more picturesque than being in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by lush woods in the country's most quintessential getaway. Look for an update in the early part of next week for pictures!

      Hope everyone is having a swell, stress-free week. Stay Blessed.