Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Life Lesson from a Flat Tire

Sometimes I just have to let go and laugh at my circumstances.  Just when I think that I've figured it out, something happens to mess up my perfect little plan.  Let me just give you an example.

I finally bought a car about three weeks ago.  Good old Spunkly, my 96 Saturn, is no more.  He has been replaced with a 2009 Honda Civic.  It's always a challenge for me to name my vehicles though.  There are so many characteristics to consider when creating just the right name.  (Feel free to judge my crazy theories here).  Knowing that this is a solid and reliable car I have to choose the name well because it will be around for a very long time.  I plan on driving that car until it falls into a thousand pieces, preferrably later rather than sooner. 

A week ago, after much frustration and creativity, I was able to create a name for this new car of mine.  D'on (dee-on).  Originally, there wasn't too much significance other than I wanted a black-esk name.  As I thought about it more, though, I was able to come up with a corny and somewhat cheesy explanation behind the name.  He is a car that I can "Depend" on...D'on.  In my excitement, I texted, messaged, and told everyone I saw that evening all about my car's new name.  We laughed a lot and created cheesy jokes.  It was a great name for my cool new car. 

A couple of days ago, as if to mock me, good old D'on decided to have a flat tire.  I took it in to see if it could be patched and hoped for the best.  Besides, he's D'on after all.  Dependable, right?  An inexplicable hole had found it's way into the side wall of D'on's tire which meant that before I have even paid my first bill on the car, I am replacing parts.  D'on has one new tire that doesn't match and has already made me a little upset. 

Through the whole process, I went through a series of emotions.  1. Laughter, 2. Frustration, 3. Laughter, 4. Anger, 5. Laughter, 6. Acceptance, 7. Laughter.

I have decided that I'm destined to always have issues with vehicles.  No matter how hard I try to take good care of my car, it will always let me down.  It is an object after all.  It wears and tears and slowly breaks down over time.  It can't be beautiful, shiny, or reliable all the time. 

The funniest part is that while creating the name D'on and the cheesy explanation, I knew that the only one I can truly "Depend" on is God.  Somehow, in the pit of myself, I knew that the name would come back to bite me.  Hehe! Oh did it! :)  No matter how awesome this new car of mine is, my God is ridiculously more awesome!  No matter how dependable anything or anyone else is, my God is ridiculously more! I put my trust in Him alone! 

God, you are a funny one and you use some interesting experiences to teach us and remind us how awesome you really are.  Thank you for your reminder to me that it is you alone that I desire.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Adventure Continues

A year ago today, I got in my overstuffed '96 Saturn and headed in the direction of Texas.  With one leap, I was on my own with not much of a plan.  I was searching for faith.  I was searching for growth.  I was searching for direction. 

I can't honestly say that I have accomplished it all, but I can say that I have definitely grown.  God has overwhelmed me in so many instances in this adventure.  He has proved His presence in my life over and over again.  He has provided for my needs and blessed me in abundance.  Even if I wanted to question His existence, I can not. 

This journey has not only expanded my faith, but my understanding of myself.  I have learned about my crazy quirks.  Although I may not always enjoy or accept them, its what makes me...me.  I have discovered a whole new world of responsibility and discipline.  It is not an easy life ahead, but through this phase, I have grown enough to take on the next. 

I don't know what God has in store for my future, but I do know that I will not stay in Austin, TX forever.  I have many more adventures, cultures, and experiences in my future.  I have to keep searching, to keep growing, and to keep stretching my faith. 

It truly is amazing to look back to myself a year ago.  Although I have a long way to go, I have also changed immensely and changed for the better.  This has been a wonderful experience thus far and I hope to finish out my time in Austin (however long that may be) in a God-honoring and powerful way. 

Thanks to all who have followed my journey...and thanks to all who will continue to follow it into the next stage!  God has great stories to tell through my life and yours! Let Him! :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What is Wrong With Me?

When you shut yourself off from deep emotion, things get messy.  For years I have been locking up my feelings.  Feelings about situations, experiences, people, and life.  I always felt more safe inside of myself, behind the walls.  Sure there was an occasional person who made it inside a layer or two, but I have become an expert at driving people away.

Here's the problem...I want to be a person that draws others in.  More so than that, I NEED to be a person that draws others in.  So why do I always find a way to mess up relationships and run away?  I'm sick of being afraid to get close.  The only thing is that I don't know how to fix the problem. 

It's interesting to see how so many tiny things connect to make one big thing.  Let me try to explain this better.  In order to draw people in, you have to love people.  In order to love people, you have to be ok with and love yourself.  In order to love yourself, you have to know yourself.  In order to know yourself, you have to face all the issues that make you, you.  Is this an easy process?  I'm gonna have to say...HELL NO!  As much as I want to love and draw people in, I also want to run away from who I am. 

Knowing myself terrifies me.  It means seeing all of the bad.  It means accepting my flaws.  It means experiencing pain, rejection, and failure.  Knowing me encompasses all of my fears.  My biggest obstacle right now is learning to be ok with who I am.  Not just who I am, but who God created me to be.  If I can't be ok with that person, then I can't be ok with the God who made me this way. If I can't be ok with God, then I can't be ok with anything.  I have nothing if I can't be ok with God. 

So...as a part of this healing experience, I am going to list some of the things that I have learned about myself this past year that I may or may not like.
  • Afraid of rejection
  • Afraid of commitment
  • Afraid of failure
  • Indecisive
  • Fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants (never a planner)
  • Over protective of my friends
  • Annoyed by routine
  • OCD tendencies
  • Strong willed (aka stubborn)
  • Poor vocal communicator (storytelling...not so good)
The list could surely be longer, but I think you get the idea.  I have a long road of learning, growth, and personal acceptance ahead of myself, but I want to travel that road if it means that I become a better person.  It's not going to be easy, but I know that, with God's help, I will come through this tunnel.  On the other side is going to be a life of love. 

So if you have ever felt this way, you are not alone.  It's not bad to find yourself in this place.  It just means that you need to work through some personal issues and strive to grow through them.  Self-loathing is not a healthy lifestyle.  Neither is pride and arrogance.  There is a healthy balance called acceptance (love). 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Glorious Tattoo

I recently went and added permanent art to my wrist...aka...a tattoo.  I have been dreaming about getting a tattoo for several years and had a pretty good concept of what I wanted.  Finally, the time was right for me to take the plunge and go for it.  I had my own design and with the support of several friends, I headed to the tattoo shop for my first voluntary pain experience. 
I am well aware of the controversy involved in getting a tattoo.  There are many Christians who think that it is wrong, and obviously I am not one that agrees.  Sure I think there are some things that you shouldn't tattoo on your body, but the art itself is not necessarily wrong.  Anyway, that argument is not my purpose of writing today. 



My tattoo says Glory with a treble clef as the 'G.'  Most of the inspiration for this comes from First Corinthians 10:31-33.

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

The previous verses discuss the freedom of choice.  "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial or constructive."  We can choose how to live our lives, yet God wants us to live in a way that benefits those around us.  As Christians, we should not cause another to stumble.  We should have a clear conscience as well as make sure that we do not cause someone else to have an unclear conscience.  We have the freedom to choose, but we are called to make choices that bring God glory. 

My tattoo is a reminder that I do not live for my fame or glory.  I live to bring praise to God's name alone.  Every day I can see that I need to give God the glory and live in a way that does so.  I am so very excited about this new stage of tattooed life. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Catching up

Let me begin with saying that I realize how long it has been since I have blogged.  I am utterly ashamed.  There is a great list of reasons, but they all fall under one category...ME! The past couple of months have been such a struggle for me.  I have been, like usual, a complete mess.  Emotional and spiritual mostly.  Surprise, surprise.  So let me get into the highlights. 

Summer officially hit and I decided to take a break from leading in the youth group.  I was feeling like a time bomb about to explode.  I got stuck in a rut and didn't know how to find my way out.  I needed some time of reflection to figure out the next step for myself.  Don't get me wrong...I love being with those crazy high schoolers.  They are still my favorites, but I'm not sure if I went about leadership the right way.  I still have a lot to learn about life and leadership.  I think I need to take a little time away though.  So that means, this summer has turned into lots of working and continued saving for a new vehicle. 

Let's just say that rain is still practically non-existent here and heat abounds!  This poor feeble Indiana girl is not used to sweating quite this much! Ok, so I'm tougher than I give myself credit for.  Many of my Texan friends can't believe how gracefully I have handled a car without A/C for so long!  Yet the hottest month of all is still ahead of me...August.  The funny thing about August is that I'm used to that being the month of beginning the cool down.  Not so in Texas.  I just have to keep telling myself that I can make it through this.  What doesn't kill you makes you stronger...right?  I mean, people lived in this heat before we invented A/C...how hard can it be?

The fourth of July...What a weekend!!  I was able to catch up with a good friend from camp last summer the weekend of July fourth.  I went to her house in Oklahoma for a day.  Her family had a big cookout and I made sure to take my djembe.  That was one of the best decisions of my life!  We sat around after eating and played music for a few hours and it was so relaxing, refreshing, and just an all around great time!  I had so much fun and it was great to get an opportunity to play my djembe again!  I have definitely missed it.  It reminded me of how much I want to play music on the streets sometime.  That would be so cool!

That leads me to the most recent development in my life.  This past weekend I moved into a new apartment with a roommate.  It will save me some money in rent and gets me more space.  My roommate doesn't spend much time, if any, at home so it's basically all mine but with half the bills. It's still in the early stages so time will show more, but for now it's a great arrangement.

Those are the raw details.  A step deeper, the emotional, is a little bit scarier and less clear.  I don't even know how to describe what all I have been through these past couple of months.  I stopped going to church for a time.  I had allowed myself to become angry and bitter with the organization of church.  The concept is great, but the execution sucks.  There is so much disfunction in church, in people, in life...and instead of seeing the big picture, I focused on the one thing that I expected to be perfect.  I have taken a step back into church and trying to work on that area of my life.  It's very difficult though.  I have all of these walls built up.  My first Sunday back was so hard.  I couldn't seem to relax or focus.  I have a long way to go, but there is progress.

Even though I have joined a small community group, I have managed to keep myself at a distance and slightly isolated.  That doesn't help the emotional turmoil that I have been experiencing.  I want to talk about it sometimes, but I can't even understand what the deal is.  I never seem to know why I'm such a mess...I just am.  One of my friends said something that I wasn't sure if I should take as a compliment or be offended at...yet it seemed so true.  "You wouldn't be Charissa if you weren't a mess."  I have so many emotions, good ones and bad ones that confuse me.  I guess that some day I will be able to understand more, but until then, I am just one confused, crazy, and emotional mess.  That is the Charissa you will encounter during this stage of life. 

At one point in time, I was so confident about where I was headed and what I wanted to do with my life.  That is no longer true for me.  I am back to the beginning of not knowing anything.  I am trying to just focus on one day at a time.  The rest will figure itself out.  I don't have to know all of the answers and as long as I continue to push through the tough times, then I will be alright.  I have God...that's all I need.  I will admit that I have been tempted to go back to Indiana, but there is nothing there for me.  There are no jobs and no opportunities there.  God has brought me to Austin, TX and I need to stay here until I see that purpose fulfilled, whatever it may be.  Here I am, here I will stay.  Emotional, confused, distraught, struggling, and challenged as I am...with God all things are possible.  There is hope...there is joy...there is love...there is God!

I hope y'all have been blessed these past couple of months. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Joplin Tornado

I don't know if it's just me, but it seems like the natural disasters are becoming more frequent and more intense as I get older.  For myself, it is very difficult to understand what people are going through without physical contact with the issue.  Pictures don't usually shake me to my core like standing in the middle of a devastated city.  I want to be compassionate and heartbroken, but somehow my brain doesn't make that connection.  Maybe that has to do with my tendency towards idealism.  Regardless, the earthquake in Japan and the tornado in Tuscaloosa just didn't quite make me soft. 



This time...it hit a little closer to home for me.  In a city that I once occupied for about six months of my life, a tornado ruined what I used to know.  Pictures of familiar places that I went to show buildings that I barely recognize.  A list of people that are dear to me who live in that very city sits by my side.  Fortunately...all safe for the moment.  My heart is finally broken and cares a little bit more about this one than the previous others.  I realize how terrible that sounds and if that makes me a horrible person, then I guess I'll have to work on that.  Regardless, that is how I feel. 

It's in moments like these that many, including myself, question the character of God.  The most common being, "How can a God of goodness and love allow/cause something so terrible to happen to His children?"  I don't even want to touch that question...but I do have an observation.  If something as simple as a cloud combined with the right amount of wind and whatever other variables (I'm no scientist) can produce such devastation, then how much GREATER and more POWERFUL is my God?  At one word He could call the winds to obedience.  He can command the earthquake to end...the wind to cease...the water to recede...the earth to be calm and still...yet how much harder is it for Him to refrain and watch His children hurting? 

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."  Who understands this verse best? Not me! I am not blessed in that sense, and I have no comprehension of what that would feel like.  Those of us who sit at home, safe, healthy, and owners of anything...we don't truly get it.  Even greater are the hearts of those who are hurting.  They literally have nothing left.  Do they still find hope?  With nothing left, the one place most will turn is to God.  They truly get it and get Him...not us!

In my struggle and heartache in response to this tornado, all I want is to be in Joplin with my friends.  I want to work hard, get sweaty, and join in cleaning up and rebuilding the city.  Where there is great chaos, there is potential for even greater restoration.  The best part of it all is that God is the one who can redeem and restore all.  It's a clean slate...a chance to start fresh.  What Satan intended for evil, God can use for good.  There is always hope and I am so thankful that those who truly have nothing can hold to that hope. 

Stay strong Joplin! You will recover and great things will come to your city!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Busy

It is utterly amazing how quickly time progresses.  I have allowed myself to get so busy that I hardly have time to just sit and write.  When I do have time to sit, my brain is shut off and I'm usually very close to crashing in bed.  Not too long ago I thought that I was lonely and boring.  I didn't know what to do with all of my spare time.  Now, I'm not acquainted with this concept of spare time. 

My body has literally forced me to stop this weekend.  Yesterday I woke up with a slight tension headache that progressed into a paralyzing migraine.  It made me sick to my stomach and I ended up vomiting, not only at work, but at home later in the afternoon.  Let's just say I spent a very beautiful Saturday crashed on my bed wishing that I could go hiking.  I had to embrace the solitude though, and quite honestly, I needed it.  I have kept myself so busy and I wasn't taking any time for myself and I realized that I needed to change that but didn't.  Well, nature has a way of slowing us down when we choose not to on our own. 

Since living in Austin, I have embraced the culture of no worries, chill out, it'll work out.  Every so often, though, I fall back into the uptight yankee ways of my upbringing.  Ok...so I guess I can't blame it all on that!  I have allowed the little stuff to build up, stress me out, and affect me in ways that I shouldn't.  There are too many more important things to think about and deal with.  I have been so driven by this urgency to save for a new car that I have forgotten about everything else, including my own health.  I can not keep pushing myself so hard! 

This weeks lesson:  Chill out, relax, and give it to God.  When the time is right, it'll happen!

In two weeks my mom will be in Austin, TX to visit me for the first time and I am super excited!  I am looking forward to showing her around MY city.  My only problem is deciding where to take her and what to do while she is here.  There are so many cool and unique things and places that I want to show her!  Most importantly though...I get to spend some quality time with my momma in a place that means so much to me.  Good stuff! 

If you're an Austinite, please give me suggestions for my mom's trip! :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Comparisons

Many from my Texas adventure have asked me about Indiana and what makes it so special, or not.  On my recent visit to my childhood state, I decided to make some comparisons.  This is my list to share with y'all.

1.  GRASS (now, Texas appears to have grass, but in IN it is soft like carpet and you don't have to wear shoes. I miss that)
2.  FEEDER/ACCESS ROADS (U-turn?  In IN, a U-turn is where you pull into a random driveway, back up, and go the other direction.  Texas just builds those in with their stop lights.  Not too shabby of an idea)
3.  TRAFFIC LIGHTS (TX = horizontal, IN = vertical...which is better?  idk)
4.  SEASONS (TX has two...kinda...IN has four...distinctly.  The one I miss the most is Fall)
5.  CURRENT WEATHER CONDITIONS (IN is flooding in places, TX is in drought)

When it comes to things that I miss about Indiana, I would have to go with...
*cooler weather, corn fields, non-threatening storms, grass, straight flat roads, autumn, and family

There really isn't anything that special about Indiana and I guess that's why I like it.  No tourists, no fuss, no hussle bussle of out-of-towners.  It was a peaceful and somewhat secluded life.  I felt protected from the outside world and the emerging culture of our time.  Life was simple.

I couldn't live in that protective bubble of the simple country life forever though.  I had to come into today's culture.  As much as it scares me sometimes, it's also pretty cool.  I often wonder where we, as people, are headed..  Have we discovered more about God, or have we not cared to seek Him?  I'm sure we all have days of both, but in the bigger picture of it all...what are we doing to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Contempt within the Church

First of all, I want to say that God definitely has a sense of humor.  This past month I have been struggling with the mentality and function of the church.  I have been frustrated with myself as well as the others who sit in the chairs every week and don't seem to be doing anything.  Not just on a small scale in my church, but the church all across the country.  This past week though, I have encountered some interesting perspectives and verses that have helped clarify some things for me.  This is where it gets funny.

The sermon last Sunday was focused around Romans 14 (at least the first half of the chapter was covered this week). 
 1As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
 5One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
 10Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11for it is written,

   "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
   and every tongue shall confess to God."

 12So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

This passage has really convicted me and hit home pretty hard as I look back on this past month and how I've handled conversations regarding my struggle and opinions of the church.  I have been judgmental of the way others worship and serve the Lord without knowing the heart behind what they are doing.  Some people hold firmly to the rules, regulations, and traditions just as the Jewish Christians who would not eat certain meat.  Whereas, the Gentile Christians experienced a freedom in Christ that allowed them to eat all meat.  It didn't mean that they weren't following, serving, and loving God.  It just meant that they were doing it in a way that seemed right for them.  Each individual feels the freedoms of Christ in different ways.  Who am I to judge whether those are right or wrong?

I just need to figure out what is right between God and myself.  When I discover that, then I should hold firm in those things.  My main purpose is not to judge, but to love ALL.  My attitude has been far from love, but I'm determined to fix that.  My goal is to be very intentional about loving those around me, in the church or outside of it.  I had been so focused on not judging those outside of the church that I forgot to not judge those inside the church.  I felt I had a right to call them out on their seemingly hypocrisy, when in fact it was myself who was the hypocrite.  Funny how that works out sometimes.  Quite a blow to my pride and ego.  Ouch...I was wrong! 

I still have so much to learn, discover, and experience.  This lesson has been a tough one and will probably continue to be something I struggle with for a long time, but at least I can recognize my fault and take the necessary steps to move forward from it.  LOVE LOVE LOVE...Lord teach me how to LOVE!

Friday, April 1, 2011

New Month, Pleasant Attitude, Good Stuff

I am currently sitting in my apartment waiting for my best friend and husband to show up.  I haven't seen them since Thanksgiving, so I'm very ready to have a nice visit with them.  We have been trying for a long time to get together and there has always been something to get in the way.  I am very excited to catch up with them. 

Thursday evening was also a very exciting time for me.  I have been struggling with finding a group of Christians my age, but not particularly college students, to have some community with.  I've known for a long time my need there, but never knew where to look or how to start.  Thursday I attended my first community group gathering and I am so excited about it.  The leaders are amazing, and the people are so welcoming.  I am thankful to have a safe place to be transparent, understood, and encouraged.  I just had to release a heavy sigh.  It's so refreshing and relieving.  I'm so blessed. 

In other news, I have tested the AC in my car and discovered that it doesn't really get cold.  This discovery is not very exciting now that I live in Texas.  Basically...I'm gonna die! I've been saving for a down payment on a car and now I'm feeling a little bit more urgency to get that process going.  I'm not particularly excited about adding to my debt, but I also know that if I'm buying a car, then it's not going to be a clunker!  I need something a little more reliable since I don't have anyone to take me to work if it dies.  It will be nice to have a little more peace of mind that my car will start when I turn the key.  It will also be nice to not melt in the summer. 

Life continues to fly by me.  It seems like not too long ago, I was sitting around bored in my apartment, not knowing what to do with myself.  Now, it seems like I am never here.  I was calculating my time in Austin the other day and it's amazing how much time flies.  My tentative timeline for living here is 22 months...and I've already completed almost 7 of those.  I have 16 more months to make an impact in Austin...and I have so much more to learn and experience.  As much as I claim to hate this city some days, it really is fascinating.  Austin is teaching me so much about myself and life.  It is teaching me to love, unconditionally...and that is the most important thing of all. 

My heart beats and breaks for this city.  I have lots of great ideas of how to impact this place, and now that I have a community of others who feel the same, I think I might actually get an opportunity to reach out more.  I can't do it on my own, but with others, we can make a difference.  I am so excited to see what the next few months hold for us.

There's so much more I could write about, but I think I've rambled enough for this evening!  Hope y'all didn't get fooled too much today! :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Inner Beauty

I'm a girl who lives in a world that still objectifies the female body and I am sick of it.  It's a beautiful and wonderful thing.  It's fascinating how God created us and the joy of attraction.  Unfortunately, the world always finds a way to twist and ruin something beautiful.  A gift uncherished becomes corrupt. A woman desires to be beautiful and loved, but not just on the surface.  I recently experienced the shallowness of the world and a pain that I can't even describe.  I was wanted for my body...and nothing more. 

I should be flattered that a man finds me attractive, but no matter how many times I think about it, it was not honoring or respectful.  I go so much deeper than the surface level and if you aren't interested in that, then the physical attraction means nothing.

I am a firm believer in the concept of inner beauty.  What's on the outside doesn't matter near as much as what's on the inside.  I could be the most beautiful woman in the world but if my heart is nasty, then what's the point?  If all you're after is my body, don't bother because there is much more to me that you can't handle!  The physical should be a bonus, not the main attraction!

My personal standard of purity is a little intense, but very important to me.  To attack and then disregard my wishes along those lines is a huge act of disrespect.  It's rude and whether you agree or not, that's how I am choosing to live my life.  I respect your choices whether I agree or not, but I'm not going to force you to live the same way as me. 

I have never had someone be so forward with me before and, as shocked as I was, deep down I was wounded.  This experience will also affect my trust level with every guy I meet.  Are they attracted to the real (inside) me or do they just see a pretty face? 

I sure hope that some day, one man will love the real me.  He will treasure and respect me.  He will be the one who gets the bonus.  Until that day, I will look to God to be the one.  He sees the depths of my heart and the deepest part of me and He loves me unconditionally.  Even if no earthly man will understand, I know that my God is all that I need.  His is the only love that I need and His is the only affirmation I seek!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Neighborly Kindness

First of all, I want to start out by saying that I went hiking this afternoon and LOVED it!  I found a park to go to in the evenings to walk off the stress or bottled up energy from the day.  I'm so excited to start going there on a regular basis!

When I got home this afternoon after my hiking, I decided that I had enough time to whip up a batch of cookies for my neighbors.  I've been wanting to do this since I moved into the apartment but never seemed to have the time or energy for it.  Today was the day...and I'm so glad I finally did it. 

I got out all of my ingredients that Rebekah, my friend from work, brought to me.  I got down my mixing bowl and my mom's famous chocolate chip cookie recipe.  The adventure began!  After measuring out the first few ingredients I realized that my recipe was for a double batch.  In theory, that was an awesome discovery, but for my mixing bowl that was quite a challenge.  When it was time to add the dry ingredients, things were getting very interesting.  The flour came up to the edge of the bowl and I was met with the challenge of how to stir without getting flour all over my kitchen.  Somehow I managed to keep it decently contained and successfully made my first batch of cookies in my apartment.  :) 

                            

I made little cards to go with the cookies and put them in little baggies.  The next challenge was to come up with a creative idea with my resources of how to hang them on doors and attach the cards to the bags.  I used safety pins and ribbon...and they looked pretty awesome if you ask me! I put them all in a plastic bag and faced the fear of knocking on doors.  I was pleasantly surprised by what I encountered.  I have really nice neighbors.  As awkward as it was to knock on the doors and quickly explain that I'm not a psycho, it turned out really good.  I sure hope that I can have some friends out of this.  If not, I hope the cookies were good and that I can at least be greeted with smiles when I run into my neighbors around.   


This evening, I am cooking honey mustard chicken with jasmine rice and some green beans.  It sounds yummy...and it smells yummy!  I'm sure it will taste yummy as well!  I think I'm getting the hang of this cooking thing.  It's not so bad after all!  Well...I think that is all I have to report for now! Glad to finally give some successful news!  :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Parents, Bugs, Food

As y'all have read from my past few posts, I have been struggling with friends (or lack of) and just feeling a little homesick.  On Thursday, my friend Taelor came over and it was so nice to catch up and just chill.  I needed it soooo bad!  She always knows how to cheer me up and encourage me to keep going strong!  I'm so thankful that God put her in my life! :)

Saturday, my dad was able to come to Austin to visit me for a little bit.  He brought my uncle and aunt with him as well.  It was a good time.  It was nice to see some familiarity from my past.  I'm definitely looking forward to my flight to Indiana in April.  I wanna hug my momma and see my big sis!  AND the new addition to the family, my niece!  I still have to wait another month though...and it seems like my little niece is quite content to stay in her momma's belly for a little while longer.  I'm ok with that! :) 

Saturday evening I came home from work and crawling down my hall was the largest bug I have ever come face to face with.  After much debate with my friends here in Texas, the general concensus says that it was a cockroach! EWWWWW!!  Anyway...this is how it went down!

"AAAAAHHHHH!!  WHAT THE HECK? YOU ARE NOT WELCOME IN MY HOME!"  Keep in mind that I do not have a vacuum at this point and I have never encountered something so large.  My first thought was to take a pic on my phone so that I could show the world my unwanted visitor, but I quickly discovered that my hand would have to get entirely too close to the bug and I decided it was not worth it for me.  I frantically looked around for an idea to remove the sucker from my apartment.  There was no way I was going to bed knowing that thing was inside.  I never would have slept. 

*light bulb* I went into the kitchen, grabbed a plastic cup and a piece of cardboard and prepared myself to get up close and personal to this nasty bug.  My first attempt was a fail.  Mr. Roach scurried very quickly under my entertainment shelf.  Insert Charissa screaming and throwing the plastic cup across the living room.  My heart was pounding.  My thoughts went something like this..."why can't there be a man here to save me? This bug is just too big!" 

I pulled myself together, took a few deep breaths, and shuffled some things under the shelf to get Mr. Roach into the kitchen.  I slammed the cup down, trapping him inside.  I could hear and even feel him running around the edges of the cup, frantically trying to escape and successfully giving me the creepy-crawlies.  It still makes me shiver thinking about it.  I slid the cardboard under the cup and took him outside and let him free.  That was not choice number one for me, but seeing as I was incapable of killing something so large that was my only option. 


I felt like a frightened little girl!  I HATE bugs...especially giant bugs...and even more so...giant roaches!! Gross!! The pic is pretty close to what was in my apartment!

In other news, I now have a vacuum.  FINALLY!  And I am very much looking forward to being able to use it! 

Also on a lighter note, I have successfully made two meals.  I redeemed myself in the area of pancakes!  I did so well on Sunday, that I even made chocolate chip pancakes!  Yea...I'm good! This evening I made tilapia with teryaki sauce and had yellow squash and zuccini.  That was probably the first well-balanced meal I've had since moving.  It was delicious and made enough for a few lunches this week as well.  I think I might just survive the single life!       

                                                   
              


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Step By Step

Let's just say that the past two weeks have had several ups and even more downs.  I have been an emotional mess.  For those of you who know me well, this comes as no surprise.  Between stress at work and the loneliness and failures of life on my own, I have been pretty discouraged.  This transition gets harder and harder every day.  The excitement has worn off and now reality has set in. 

If life didn't seem hard enough, I went and added some spiritual pains to the mix.  I didn't make God a priority and my attitude has suffered.  Discouragement, loneliness, doubt, and failure pulled me down and I allowed it to gain ground in my life.  But, I'm taking that ground back.  I am determined to make God a priority again.  I am making the conscious decision to spend my day with God each and every morning.  It's difficult to remember every day, but I'm working at it.  Each time I get into my car, the Christian radio is playing and that usually helps me remember. 

I think the hardest thing for me is not having a close friend who understands me.  I have many friends and I'm so thankful for them, but I am still lacking that best friend who will make spending time with me a priority.  I have those friends in other places, but I need one here in Austin.  It's still a hard transition and making friends is more difficult in "real life." 

I have to just keep trusting that God knows what He is doing with me.  Even though I feel like an alien, I know that God is with me no matter what happens.  The disciples were sent out and often felt rejected and lonely.  That is a little encouraging...but it doesn't make the rejection and loneliness feel better.  It's good to know that I'm not the only one feeling this way though.  I'm not the first and I won't be the last.

At this point in time, I don't really have anything else to write.  I realize that even what I did say was kinda blah and uninspiring.  Nevertheless, I felt the need to share.  I wish it could have been more insightful and jawdropping. I guess every post can't be dropped dead hilarious or profound.

I'm going to add some words that I wrote a year ago.  They are not how I'm feeling right now, but sometimes it's nice to look back.  Plus, if any of you are feeling this way, then I want you to know that there is hope and you're not alone.  I can remember the night that I typed these words and it was definitely a difficult one.  It was also a turning point in my life.  It's cool to look back when I questioned my future and see how clueless I really am about life.  I'm at a place where I don't even think about it that much because I'll never figure it out.  It will just happen and I have to take one day at a time.  Anyway...my writings from a year ago...

DISCOURAGEMENT

There comes a point in everyone’s life where uncertainty shadows your dreams with doubt and fear. What you desire more than anything, seems so unreachable. When you struggle through the day just to say you survived and nothing more. Emotions are high and sending you into unexpected tears. Loneliness, hurt, fear, doubt, pain…the list could go on. You ache from the deepest part of your being. It makes you sick to your stomach and it cuts deep into your heart. It is a pain that drains you physically and emotionally. Yet somehow, you are unsure as to what is causing all of this anxiety and stress. It just exists in your life daily.

Unfortunately, this is where I am right now. These feelings are a reality for me every day. Some days are worse than others, but that deep pain follows me everywhere. Will I ever achieve my goals? Can I make it through life fulfilling the deepest desires and passions of my heart? What does my future really look like?

There are so many things I do not know…but one thing I do know is that I cannot continue to live with this pain. It is draining the life right out of me. It is tearing me up from the inside out. I will not be able to function like this for too much longer. I also know that I am not the only person going through this struggle.

So for those of you who are in that place with me, let us work together to find hope. Let us rest in the arms of God. We need to lay our burdens at His feet and allow Him to take control. We must surrender our fears and trust that He will see us through. It is so easy to say those words…but not so easy to apply. Trust me…I know! I have tried for too long to make it through on my own…I need help! I can’t do it by myself! I know that it won’t be easy, but I must press on no matter what. The aching must stop and I choose to end it now…today! What will you do? I am looking to God for my security and comfort, not my own hands.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kitchen Adventure...FAIL!!

All I can say this morning as I sit in my smokey apartment is "Thank you God that I don't have a husband to feed!"  If I did, he would probably go hungry because I am a TERRIBLE cook!  This morning I felt adventurous and decided that pancakes and scrambled eggs would be a good idea.  Guess what?  It wasn't a good idea!

I mixed up the batter without any trouble.  Although I was a little low on milk.  I got out my stainless steel skillet (which I have no experience using) and put a little oil in it.  My past cooking experience has taught me that when you're working with anything other than teflon, you need to grease it.  I poured in some batter and realized that I poured too much oil in the skillet.  I decided that it would end up more like a fried funnel cake than a pancake.  So right before flipping it, I decided I would pour some of the oil into the sink.  Bad idea number 1! The pancake started to run out.  Then I decided I would use a plastic spoon to scoop some of the hot oil out.  Bad idea number 2! As soon as the spoon touched the oil, it started popping and sizzling and sending boiling drops of oil all across my kitchen.  Then I decided that I was ok with having an oily pancake.  Surely the next one will come out better.

Let's just say that none of my pancakes came out without one side burnt.  They all tasted like oil and no matter how much syrup I use, it will never quite make them edible.  And then there's the skillet.  I am not even looking forward to figuring out how to wash it.  It is soaking in hot, soapy water right now in hopes that cleaning it will be easier later.  After the pancakes, I didn't even want to think about making scrambled eggs. 

The Moral of the story is this...
Charissa desperately needs to purchase a teflon skillet!  And marriage is gonna have to wait because the poor guy, whoever he is, doesn't deserve this kind of punishment! :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Life Lessons

As I come to the end of week number 2 in my own apartment, I feel the need to share some wisdom with the world.  These are all things that I have learned in the past two weeks and I hope you enjoy!

10 Steps to a Successful Life

1.  Always remember to spray the pan before you put "whatever" in it to bake (clean-up is impossible if you forget)
2.  Take out the trash often (you never know what you threw away yesterday that might start smelling today)
3.  Have a place near the door where you put things that you can't forget to take when you leave the next morning (even that doesn't always work...but it's one step closer to remembering)
4.  LOCK the door when you come inside and know that you won't be leaving again until the next morning (two nights already have gone by with the door completely open...God is watching out for me)
5.  When you're done cooking, it's ok to turn the oven/burner off (actually it's preferrable and safer)
6.  Check your mail (yes, you do have a mailbox...don't forget about it)
7.  Wash dishes (you may think you are ahead, but don't worry you're drinking juice right now so you'll still have something to wash later...it never ends, accept it)
8.  Light candles or spray Febreze frequently (no matter how hard you try, something always smells funny..."something" usually being yourself)
9.  Place a small bowl with baking soda in the fridge (it's amazing how much better it smells)
10.  Be patient (everything can't be done right away...one small step at a time to get it all done)

I have had so many interesting things happen to me these past two weeks.  I am learning so much, not only about life, but about myself.  It will definitely be a miracle if I can survive on my own for two years.  I think the kitchen is the most dangerous and intimidating part of living on my own.  Not to mention that I'm so indecisive and impatient.  I want something to eat and I want it now!

This past Sunday, I woke up sick.  I think that was my least favorite day alone yet.  There was no one to comfort me when I threw up.  There was no one to bring me juice or make me soup.  I suffered through it all alone...and SURVIVED!!  As much as I hated it, I also enjoyed it.  There was no one to bug me.  There was no one forcing me to take meds.  I was able to make it through and move on and I didn't need anyone. 

I have felt very empowered by living alone.  Yes, it's very quiet.  Yes, it gets lonely.  But there is just something about paying my own bills that makes me feel good.  I am accomplished.  I can support myself and make this difficult transition into adulthood in spectacular fashion.  These trial and error lessons not only teach me good things, they make for pretty funny stories as well!

I would love it if y'all had any advice about life for me.  Remember, it's the little things that make a difference! You would not even believe how excited I was when I tested out the baking soda in the fridge idea!  :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I AM NOTHING!!

Apparently this is the season of my life where I question things and experience difficulty.  I am a slight mess this evening.  All this time alone in my apartment makes for lots of time to think, reflect, and ponder.  It all seems to center around the choices I've made in my life that define who I am.  I feel like God has called me to be set apart and to live my life in a way that counters the popular decisions of those around me.  My purpose seems to be to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. 

So let me just break some things down for you...
*First kiss on my wedding day (not exactly a popular choice, nor easy, and good luck trying to find a guy who is ok with that...HA!)
*Quit college (not even a choice I ever thought I would have to make, good luck finding a decent job and having a sound future)
*Moving cross country ALONE (single, 21, don't know anyone, just do it...WHY???)

Let's just say that these are the ones I'm dealing with the most right now.  I also want to say that these are not necessarily choices I wanted to make.  God has placed these things on my heart, though, and made them very important to me.  What would my life be without them?  ...probably normal...

My next question then is...would I be ok with just normal?  ...probably not...

So...why does it suck so bad when people judge me for my unpopular decisions? 

Living a life set apart is not an easy task.  If you want to live a comfortable life where nothing extraordinary happens, then don't choose the path I have chosen.  BUT...if you want to live a life of adventure and mystery, then by all means, travel the road that no one else walks on.  Branch out on your own.  Be willing to leave everything behind and trust in the only one who will always be there for you...GOD! 

Yes...people will judge you!  Yes...it will be hard!  Yes...you will have days where, like me, all you want is to be normal again!  BUT...will your life be about you or God in the end?

I want my life to be more about God than myself in the end because then I know I sacrificed myself for something more important.  I don't really matter in the grand scheme of things...and no offense, but neither do you!  God has called us to something greater...a life of worship and adoration!  To make His name great and who cares if anyone remembers your name or mine. 

So I guess my problem this evening is that I have let what others have to say get to me.  It really doesn't matter what they think or how they react to my choices.  No one HAS to respect my decisions.  I will continue to follow where my heart takes me...popular or not...and nothing else should matter.  Opinions, judgements, comments, or criticisms should not affect me.  The approval of my God is all that matters!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Does anyone understand me?

I am a Christian, trapped in a world that doesn't understand me.  This past week has been such a challenge on my spiritual health.  I am not as strong as I need to be or even have been in the past.  I am set apart for something...that something which I am still unsure of.  I can't make people understand and I can't explain enough to make sense. 

The light that shines so bright...it attracts and illuminates...that isn't me! It's God IN me! My choices and decisions often go against the flow of the majority, but that's ok with me.  I want to pursue the God that my life was created to worship and that often means rejecting the worldly standard.  But...why is it so hard to understand? 

I feel beaten from all sides.  Struck down, battered, and bruised.  Those that cut me down don't even realize how much they are hurting me.  I want everyone to know the joy I've found in God!  I want them to be attracted to the light and do something about it.  But why does it always stop there?  Why can't it go further? 

My heart is breaking for the searching around me.  All they want is to be good, have comfort, experience pleasure.  So many of the things they chase after leave them empty and confused.  There's the light, but it's so different.  It's not always comfort or fun.  It requires sacrifice and hardship. 

I know that I'm not perfect and I won't always make the best decisions. This past week in particular I have been very selfish.  It's so easy for me to forget what is really important in life.  It's so much harder to find people who believe the same  things as me here.  I'm so used to being surrounded by an intense community of people who have the same ideas about life and beliefs about God.  Now that I'm in the real world and on my own I am realizing how much I miss that community and how much I took it for granted when I had it. 

The solitude is not all bad though.  It is forcing me to be still and take the time to spend with God.  If I didn't use the time with Him, I would be pretty close to going crazy!  Although many of you who know me would probably say that I'm not too far from crazy anyway.  Regardless, I am in a new place of life that I have never experienced before and I'm just trying to figure out the best way to make it work.  Life is so complicated sometimes. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The End of One...The Beginning of Another

When people look at me, what do they see?

When I look in the mirror, what do I see?

There have been many times in my life that I have looked in the mirror and encountered questions and fears.  I have looked into eyes of anger and hurt, depression, suffering, sadness, compassion.  Other times I am confronted with joy and peace. 



Each phase of life brings in new emotions, always reflected in the eyes.  As I look in my eyes today, I see something new that I haven't seen before in myself.  I no longer see a young, single, twenty something who is searching for her place in life.  I see a growing woman, maturing beyond her expectations.  I see a boldness and peace in her eyes.  I see determination.

I surveyed my life in one quick and simple glance.  I made eye contact with myself and had to ask some hard questions.  What is my purpose?  Do I really know what I am doing?  Am I where I should be?  How does this shift from kid to adult affect who I am?  How do I find the balance?  What kind of job can I get to incorporate my personality and passions, and allow me to thrive?  If that job exists, will it pay the bills?  What else could happen to me?  Where is my life really headed?  ... ... ... the list could go on forever... and most will remain unanswered.  The encouragement comes in knowing that I don't have to know all the answers to continue being me and living my life with purpose. 

I know that my life was meant to bring glory to the one who created me.  I am one tiny speck among billions and where do I come off, at any point, in thinking that it's all about me?  Who am I that I might think I deserve a plethera of blessings and someone else does not?  No, I do not deserve them, but welcome them as a testimony to how my God provides.  One day may come when I no longer own anything and I can be encouraged, when I look back on my life, to see all the wonderful things that God did. 

I can not come close to expressing the gratitude that I feel towards all those who have helped me so far in my journey of life.  I would not even know what to say or how to pay it back.  And truly, it wasn't meant to be repaid.  So for those who have prayed, donated, assisted, or just loved...THANK YOU!!

There are so many questions that will always linger, but tonight I took a good long look and searched myself for the truth.  I needed to know on a deeper level, my motives and my purpose.  I am about to be on my own for the very first time and as much as it scares me, I'm ready!  This almost feels like the end of my story, but truly it is the beginning of another.  The journey to independence has turned it's last page and a new book is about to be opened.  Sorry, but I'm not sure what the title is yet! What I can say though, is that even if the stories aren't as outrageous and jawdropping as the previous ones, they are still important to share and worthy of praising God for. 

Saturday is moving day! Hello new phase in life! :)

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rough Week!

This past week has been full of good and bad situations that have required faith and mental processing.  I have been so overwhelmed and it is wonderful to have today to just relax and let it all go. 

On Sunday, my car decided not to start, leaving me stranded at home.  We finally got it to start back up so I took it to a mechanic for an opinion.  According to him, there is nothing seriously wrong with my car and until the scenario recreates itself there is nothing he can do to fix it.  So each time I get in my car I have to wonder if it will start or not.  I'm not particularly enthused about that, but at least it is working again for now. 

On Monday, I made the leap into adulthood and put down a deposit for an apartment.  Although the rent will take up at least 50% of my income, I have decided to trust God and allow Him to dictate my steps.  I have become comfortable with living off of others and it is time for me to really step out on my own.  It is a stretch, but I know that with God, I can do it!

Tuesday brought a little relief because I was asked to work full time at the bank.  I may only have it for a temporary time frame, but every little bit helps.  It was also cool to see how I took that financial step towards an apartment not knowing that the next day would hold some financial provision.  In addition, I have already accumulated many furniture donations.  This apartment is so exciting not as much for me to have my own place, but more so that I can have a place that will allow me to have an open door policy for my girls and my friends.  I want this space so I can help others.  I move in mid-February.

The rest of the week was chaotic at the bank and loaded with many decisions and lots of stress.  I am so thankful that I was able to survive this week and move past all of the barriers.  I have to admit...I did not handle this week well.  My spiritual health was sacrificed and it was difficult watching myself give less than my all.  Because of it though, I am determined to do better and to press on.  I am human and make mistakes, but I will learn from them and allow God to restore me.  I have definitely fallen short of the glory of God this week, but I choose to learn from this experience and try harder next week.  I want to love more and worry less this next week. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Well Hello There 2011!

I guess if I'm going to set a "New Year's Resolution" then it should be something like...
Update my blog more! hehe

So as I sit and ponder all the things that I could write today, I think that I will recap the last year and just see all the blessings and experiences that have shaped me. 

2010
  • My dad and now stepmom got married
  • I began spring semester of my sophomore year of college at Johnson Bible College
  • I survived that semester and headed back to Sky Ranch Cave Springs in Oklahoma to work for the summer
  • My big sister and husband announced that they were pregnant in July
  • They also decided to move from Kansas to Kentucky
  • I endured one of the most difficult and faith-challenging summers yet
  • When I returned to Indiana at the end of the summer, I felt called to something bigger
  • I withdrew from college and left behind many friends
  • I moved to Austin, TX on faith of God's provision, which has been displayed so wonderfully to me
  • I have been housed by two wonderful families
  • In September, I turned 21
  • I have two part-time jobs that will eventually turn into one full-time
It is amazing what can happen in a year.  When 2010 started, all I could think about was how difficult it would be to adjust to my dad's marriage.  What a trivial thing to worry about in light of all the other experiences that I had.  If you had asked me on January 1, 2010 to predict where I would be and what I would be doing in 2011, this is what I would have said...
  • Junior year at JBC
  • In a relationship
  • Planning a summer internship
  • Staying up late, worrying about homework, late-night Taco Bell runs, and loving the college life
I'm so glad that God has called me to this exciting and mysterious journey!  There are so many things to learn and experience!  Although I am overwhelmed by unknowns, I know that I will look back at this time next year and say how trivial those worries were compared to everything else.  I have been so blessed and I have no reason to worry about those unknowns. 

In the midst of all my worrying and impatience, there are a few verses from the Bible that I need to replay in my mind and focus on until I can really believe and trust. 

Matthew 6:25-30
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?
   28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

Ouch!  "you of little faith"  Is that you?  I'm gonna have to admit, I thought I had BIG faith by moving to Texas and doing all of those scary BIG things, but in the smallest things do I trust God to provide?  Not always...rarely...it definitely needs work!  I guess this should be my "New Year's Resolution" as well! I'm hoping and praying that God blesses you, stretches you, and reveals more of Himself to you in this new year 2011!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Power of LOVE!

This first section I wrote almost a year ago.  I was struggling and asking God to teach me about LOVE and in that time, I wrote a few questions hoping to discover some deep profound truth.  I ended up with more questions and I desperately needed some experiences that I could learn from.  So here is what I had to say a year ago.

LOVE…what is it really?

Is it a feeling? An action? Just something you say to those closest to you? Is there more to it than what we see on the surface?

I have never really fully grasped the concept of LOVE. We throw this four-lettered word around in every conversation and I guess I just don’t understand it. How do you know that someone LOVES you? Just because the words are said, it doesn’t make them true. So…what’s the trick? How do I crack the code?

When it comes to family, I am most confused. I LOVE my parents and my parents LOVE me…but what does that exactly mean? They provide for my needs and they raised me in a good home. They invested time in my life and sometimes bought me presents. They let me stick around for 18 years but now I’m out on my own. They still help me out when I need it and they give me words of wisdom when I desperately need them. But how do I know that it’s not all because they are fulfilling their parental duties? How do I know that it actually means something more to them?

What does LOVE feel like? Can I ever have this special feeling and just know that “I LOVE you?” Is LOVE a choice? Or can it just happen to you? Why does LOVING someone seem to be so painful? I feel like I will never understand…



But…God is LOVE…

I can’t even come close to understanding a simple term, LOVE…so how am I supposed to understand my God? How is He LOVE? How do I experience it? How do I feel it? I know it to be true but it is such a hard concept to grasp.

I am struggling with knowing the authenticity of the words we hear so often. We have become so desensitized to the depth of meaning behind four simple letters. We use those letters too much and the more we use them, the less they mean. Some use them to manipulate. Others use them to express themselves. There are so many levels to that one word. So the main question is…how do we distinguish between those levels? How do we know if that word is spoken with authentic motives?

So here I am in December 2010 still not knowing any answers, but also inspired by my past words.  Do you ever feel like your life has themes?  Well, I certainly do.  God teaches me lessons and typically puts a theme in my life for periods of time, some longer than others.  If I am wise enough to catch it right away, I'm lucky.  Sometimes I have to suffer and struggle before I recognize what God is up to and what He's trying to teach me.  Well, thankfully this time I was a little bit quicker to pick up on my life theme.  It's LOVE!  Unfortunately for me, this word carries a lot of weight and is way deeper than I will ever fully understand.  So in this themed time of my life, I'm just trying to figure out exactly what God wants me to learn about LOVE.

His LOVE, my LOVE, the outcome of LOVE...
The basis of our relationship with God is LOVE.  Yes our message is always about salvation and grace, but those wouldn't exist if it wasn't for LOVE.  It is because God LOVED that He gave us forgiveness and grace.  It is because we LOVE God, that we receive His grace and forgiveness as well as enter into a relationship with Him.  We serve Him for His LOVE.  He LOVES us regardless of what we do or don't do.  We LOVE Him because He created us and LOVED us first.  I could go on all day with this, but I think you might get the picture.  We are redeemed by LOVE and we can redeem through LOVE. 

It's not just about us!  Because we experience God's LOVE which saves us, He calls us to LOVE in order to save others.  There is no need for pushy debates about theology and Christianity.  All we are called to do is LOVE them.  LOVE brings about questions and LOVE draws people in.  If only we can learn how to LOVE, God will work the rest out.  LOVE changes your perspective and your heart.  LOVE focuses you on what is really a priority.  Change the world with LOVE!! True, pure, depths-of-your-heart LOVE!

I have always been pretty selfish about my time and my needs, but my focus is changing.  Suddenly, I have the urge to just LOVE on as many people as I can.  So many people need LOVED.  It's not about me anymore, it's about showing others that God LOVES them and be an example of that LOVE.  I want to LOVE like God LOVES...and that is so scary because I know that He LOVES a lot better than me!

 My drawing inspired by God and His LOVE

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Profound Thanksgiving Thoughts

Ok...so I may not have anything profound to share but a girl can dream, right? :) As the holidays approach like a charging bull, my plan is to dodge as much chaos as I can.  There's something about the holidays that irritates me and I just can't seem to put my finger on exactly what causes those feelings.  I don't particularly have many heart-warming memories of the holidays but I don't have any traumatic or terrible memories either.  Thanksgiving and Christmas...they are days in the year just like any other, except we've managed to turn them into consumer monsters.  I don't like how people go crazy and stress themselves out in order to impress others.  Or how it is "suddenly" the time to serve and share.  Why can't we think about others all the time?

Don't get me wrong...I like getting together with friends and family, eating a lot, and exchanging gifts but it's so easy to get caught up in the planning, cooking, and buying.  My hope is that this year the focus is not on doing and buying, but on living and loving...every single day! 

So...my Thanksgiving plans have got me really excited! Since I live so far from family now, I get to travel a few hours to spend this holiday with my best friend and her husband in Dallas.  I have not seen her since this summer and we have a lot to catch up on.  In addition, she has informed me that I will be helping cook which means she will be teaching me how to cook.  That will be an interesting adventure!

In other news, I will be picking up a second job for the holidays at least to help me save and get one step closer to an apartment.  I'm going to transfer with Old Navy so I hope my brain remembers how to do that job. 

Finally, if you read my last post I shared the story of Shaniqua the chicken.  Well, the family just got a new all black chicken and named it Bon Qui Qui.  It's the sweetest chicken and has made friends quickly. 

That's my update with all the emotion and randomness of my life.  Take it or leave it. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all! :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Work, Dinner Dates, and Chickens

This week has been a blast so far.  I have been working out of my own teller drawer and so far haven't messed up too badly.  I've also had to be the only closing teller for the first time this week...quite frightening if something goes wrong! They seem to have more confidence in me than I do in myself.  I need to work myself into the comfort level that I need to perform my job quickly and confidently.  It's still very new and awkward at times. 

Last Saturday, the high school leaders got together for a meeting.  We got to hang out, eat some Mexican food, and watch a challenging video.  The video incorporated every possible teenage struggle and it broke my heart for teens all over again.  It reminded me why I want to love on as many teens as possible.  From suicide to divorce, pregnancy to church hipocracy...it was all there.  I can't even imagine what each teen in our youth group is struggling with.  All I know is that I want to make a difference in their lives, whether it's now or affects them in the future. 

I have tried to squeeze hang out times into my schedule this week.  I got a chance to chill with another leader on Saturday and it was such a joy.  We had girl talk and dove deep into some difficult issues.  It was tough, but rewarding and heartwarming.  On Sunday evening, I got to eat dinner with the youth minister and his wife.  They are such wonderful people and I am so glad that God brought me here to serve along side of them.  I could not ask for a better/cuter couple to work with. 

Finally...the chickens part of the title! You're probably wondering what that has to do with my life here in Austin, but hold on.  The family I am living with has four chickens.  When they are not home, it is my responsibility to feed them.  I walked into the cage this morning to feed them and who would hold their ground but the black and white speckled chicken, Shaniqua.  I was a little nervous that she would attack, but thankfully she ate the food and allowed me to exit safely.  Chickens are so funny! :)

Not Shaniqua but looks like her! :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

God's Plan and Timing...WOW!!

For the past couple of weeks, I have felt an urgency to leave the Williams' house and move out into the world.  There were several reasons that I felt this way, but the most pressing was the upcoming surgery on Alan's foot, scheduled for Monday the 7th.  I wanted to give the family the space and freedom to deal with the surgery 100% worry free (outside of the surgery itself, of course).  Unfortunately, I just don't have the income that I need to rent an apartment.  Regardless, Alan got me connected with a buddy that has a garage apartment that he would be willing to rent out to me for a discounted price and a flexible lease schedule.  Although it doesn't have a kitchen, it would work as a temporary home until I am able to rent a better, more permanent place.  I made plans to meet with this guy and talk about renting for Sunday afternoon.  This is where it gets really interesting.

Sunday morning, I woke up after a wonderful slumber party with some high school girls.  We all ended up going to the first service, which is usually not my preference.  I waltzed in not really knowing anyone in the service and I picked a seat.  Right before the service started a lady sat down and we began talking.

"Good morning! My name is Jill.  Its so good to see you here this morning.  Are you new here?"

"Hi! I'm Charissa.  Well I actually moved here about a month and a half ago from Indiana."

"So do you have any family here?"

"No, I'm here by myself."

"Well, I want to give you something."  She pulled out a business card and excitedly began sharing her information. "When my son went off to college, there was a lady that gave him her information and told him to call her anytime he needed anything and she meant it.  No matter the situation, she wanted to help him out and I was so encouraged that a stranger would do that.  It was very encouraging to know that my son would be taken care of by a 'second mom.'  So I want to do the same for you.  Since you are so far away from family, I want you to know that if you need anything at all; hair salon, doctors, a second job, whatever; just give me a call and I will help you out."

"Wow, I don't know what to say.  Thank you, I really appreciate that."

"So darlin...what do you need?" (Jill smiled boldly)

I'm absolutely crazy, because the only thing I could think to ask this generous and kind lady was a reference for a dermatologist in the area.  "I have been struggling the past year with some suspicious moles that I just really need to get taken care of.  With skin cancer in my family history, I shouldn't be taking a chance.  Is there a good dermatologist that you could recommend?"

Jill proceeded to go on and on about her wonderful dermatologist.  She gave me all the information I needed and then church began.  While I was sitting there with my notes during the sermon about "Don't Worry," I began to make a short list to hand Jill afterwards.  Things like a second job, an affordable apartment, and some time to just hang out and get to know her better.  She seemed really awesome and I didn't want to pass up a chance on friendship and wisdom.  At the end of church, I handed her the list and we began talking again.  At that point in time, I really can't remember how the conversation went to where it did, but what I do know is that God was in it. 

"Girl, you need to save your money.  Move in with me!"

"Are you serious?" (I just met this lady an hour ago and I'm seriously considering moving into her home...what is happening here?)

"Yes, very serious! So when are you moving in?  We'll be home today if you're not busy."

"Oh my goodness! This is crazy!" (by this time, I was crying.  I just couldn't believe that at the exact moment I needed a new place, that God would provide in such a crazy way!) 

Several hugs and tears later we were parting ways at the door of the church.  I went home and packed up half of my things and headed to my new home.  It took me two loads to get all of my stuff transported but it was a smooth transition.  I left the Williams family to their family who were arriving that evening.  The surgery went well on Monday, but things are still complicated and I can see how important my move was.  They no longer have to worry about feeding me and keeping up with me.  All they have to deal with is the next steps in the surgery process.  This whole move was an answer to prayer for three parties; the Williams, Jill, and me. 

The funniest part to me was after Jill and I had made the decision about my move, she turned to her husband and introduced me and informed him that I would be moving in that afternoon.  There was no discussion.  It made me smile.  I'm still overwhelmed by the amazingness of the whole situation.  I never could have imagined anything this awesome.  God's timing was perfect and His plan was unique and filled His children with awe!  Who could ask for anything better?  I serve a great God who always provides for the needs of ALL of His children!! He has proven His power and love once again in an inspiring and bewildering way!! I love Him!! :D

The Sunset this evening at my new house! :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

More Impatience?...Unfortunately, Yes!

I have just finished my first full week of work at a bank.  I have been overwhelmed with information and the training process will continue throughout the next three weeks.  I am learning so much and excited about my job as a teller.  Things are going well.  The only unfortunate thing about all of this, is that I'm only working part time.  In order to get my own place to live, I will need to get another part time job after I go through training.  Regardless, I still consider myself to be very blessed.  I have quite an interesting team to work with and I know that they will always keep me on my toes. 

In other news, I have been struggling with some more impatience.  It's funny how things work out sometimes.  I wrote about my impatience with finding a job and immediately saw relief from that seconds after posting.  This time, it's a little more valid and indefinite.  My impatience is in wanting a place of my own.  I want to come home to MY groceries, MY small space, MY unfurnished apartment.  I just want my complete independence...BUT the real question is, what does GOD want for me?  I can't afford my own place for quite a while and I really just need to know what lesson God is teaching me (so I can learn it and move on).  Anyway, I guess I need to be content with where I am right now, praise God for His blessings, and continue to grow and learn until I feel led to move on. 

EXTRA EXTRA - EXCITING NEWS!! :)
I was able to pay off 1/4 of my student loans today!! It's always nice to be one step closer to zero debt! I am very ready to be done with loans. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Funny How Things Work!!

So I find it completely interesting that as soon as I posted about being impatient with searching for a job, I received a job offer! My day instantly went from emotional and unmotivated to AMAZING!! I am so blessed and all the praise goes right on back to God!! AWESOME!! :D

Impatience...*sigh*

First of all, I would like to apologize for taking so long to write again.  Life has not been very crazy, but I have been a little...ok maybe a lot...lazy the past couple of weeks.  My birthday was an awesome experience with friends!  I am very blessed to have their experience, wisdom, and generosity in my life.  I could not have asked for more. 



The job situation is interesting.  I am still unemployed, but I have had two interviews and I have one scheduled for next week.  Hopefully one of these three works out for me.  As the title of today's blog states, I am getting a little impatient.  I have been in Austin for three weeks now and I am more than ready to have a job.  I cannot sit around doing nothing like this for too much longer.  I did borrow some books to fill my time and that has been a huge blessing, but books keep me from socializing and I'm feeling more lazy by the minute.  I get so sucked in that I forget about everything else important until the book is finished.  Then I can move on with my life.  I just need something else to keep me busy.

I also experienced a little heartbreak this week as well.  In the past when I have moved, I never really tried to hang onto friends.  Well this time, I wanted it to be different so I have been attempting to keep in touch with as many people as I can.  Unfortunately, that is way more difficult than I ever expected.  Everyone is in a different stage of life...mostly college...than me and they keep busy schedules.  I, on the other hand, spend much of my time waiting for responses to texts and messages, feeling quite lonely at times.  Making new friends is also presenting itself as a big challenge for me.  I need to figure out some new strategies for that as well as sucking up my initial shyness and branching out into unfamiliar territory.  I've done it once, I can surely do it again! 

My focus the past week has not been where it needed to be.  I am working on that.  Every day is a struggle for me to surrender my plans and hopes to God and allow Him to take control.  I know that if I do surrender each thing to His control, the outcome will be beyond what I could have ever imagined for myself and much more satisfactory than what I could do on my own.  So why does it continue to be such a struggle?  Because of my human nature...I like to be in control and do my own thing and it is very hard to trust that someone else can do better than me! I am not God and I'm so thankful for that!  He has blessed me so much more and taken me where I never would have dreamed.  I don't deserve what I have, but nevertheless, I have been given it and I need to continue to seek His will for me as I search for a job and friendships...patiently!  Without Him, I have nothing!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Week One

I have officially been in Austin, Texas for a week.  In some ways I feel like I have been here for months and in other ways, I feel like I just got here.  I feel like I have known the Williams family for years.  They were so accepting of me right away.  On Saturday, they took me to my first ever college football game.  It was definitely an experience I'm glad to have had.  We had front row seats on the sideline and it was amazing! I even got to see the locker room...without the players in it of course! The whole thing was fun!

Sunday afternoon, they took me to their lake house.  That also was a fun experience! We went out on the boat and Alan made me drive for a little bit.  I was nervous but it wasn't too bad.  We are all still alive and the boat is in one piece.  Driving around the lake definitely got my mind thinking about some things.  First of all, the cost of living in Austin is higher than Indiana.  Plus there are just a lot of people out here that seem to have a large amount of money.  Everything is high tech and fancy.  Some of the lake houses we saw were outrageous and I may have gone into a slight culture shock.  Having so little for so long makes it hard for me to justify fancy things.  So much of it is unnecessary.  There is so much money and yet so much need!  It's definitely an adjustment for me. 

Anyway, I am still looking for a job and an apartment.  Tomorrow I'm planning on hitting the streets full force with my resume.  Also, I am excited for tomorrow because it's Wednesday which means high school meets at the church.  I will be working with junior girls and I'm super excited to jump in and get to know them! I could use some prayers for that!

In other news, the weather has cooled down for a little bit and we are getting a slight taste of fall.  Apparently, it doesn't usually happen like this so I'm thankful for the nice breeze.  It is by no means hoodie weather, but it's cool for Austin this time of year! I'm very blessed and looking forward to what my future may hold for me!