Monday, October 31, 2011

NaNoWriMo Is Calling My Name

Guys, I'm distraught. I want so badly to participate in NaNoWriMo this year but I don't think it is practical for me at this time. I'm doing so much school and work...

But, I'm going to do it anyway.

"Do what?" you ask.

NaNoWriMo. It's the National Novel Writing Month for all daring writers in the world. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Trust me, its harder than it sounds. I completed it last year, but it was SO hard.

Anyhow, I'm depressed because this time last year, I had a pretty detailed outline of my novel. But this year, I don't even know where I'm going to begin. So the challenge is going to be much greater. I'm going to keep up my blogging as much as possible, but during NaNo - everything kinda comes to a hault.

Now, I retreat into the dark, cold recesses of NaNo. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chick-fil-A Monotony: A Lesson Learned While Wiping Tables

I grumble. If I don't grumble verbally, then I have a unhappy heart.

I tend to be pessimistic about life and think, "Man, why do things have to be this way" instead of "Wow, I'm lucky things are this way."

Here is an example. A lot of times I murmur about going to work. Just so you all know, I'm not a big fan of working at Chick-fil-A. In fact, I don't like it very much at all. The only reason I think I like it is because of all the incredible people that work with me. They make it worth it. But, the fast food industry is the last thing I was to be involved in. So, before I head out for work, I inwardly groan. I don't want to ring up yet another #2 with provolone cheese. I allow myself wallow in this and wish for something else. 

Great things happen when God gets your attention. Great things! I was wiping down tables - a monotonous task - and I felt the Lord speak to me. I realized something that made me instantly grateful. It was about noon and I was tired. God spoke to me right as I began to feel restless. For no apparent reason, I began thinking about soup kitchens and all the hungry people lined up for a little to eat. That thought brought me to the sky-high unemployed percentage.

It was a very humbling thought.

Suddenly, I was very happy to wipe down the tables.

You know? My whole perspective changed. I didn't have a murmuring attitude any more. In fact, I can honestly say that I was happier to serve the customers than normal. I saw my job, my life, and where God has placed me in a whole new light. It's a blessing and an opportunity to be there and work. God forbid that I should look on these incredible blessings with disdain and believe that I have been ripped off. Too often I forget that children (young ones) in third world countries are hunched over in factories and punished if they have to go to the bathroom. I forget that some people have to steal to eat. I forget that many people in the USA have been laid off and can't find work.

How can I justify a spirit of ungratefulness?

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Man, I guess I can't.

Right then, I decided to embrace the monotony of Chick-fil-A. Embrace the fact that I work for raving fans, handle money, and make sweet tea. I decided that if I can't be happy and serve the Lord with thankfulness here at Chick-fil-A, then I will not be grateful anywhere else. See, true "happiness" and gratefulness must come out of heart of faith and satisfaction in Christ and a spirit of contentment with His plans for us.

So, is the problem Chick-fil-A or my heart?

My heart. Most definitely.

Whats the solution for that? Not 100% sure about that question, but I can make an educated guess. Probably total submersion in the scriptures for a while. Reading about our Daddy can sure make us appreciate Him and His all-knowing plans. 

Resolution: Serve Chick-fil-A customers with a happy heart and a cheerful attitude. Treat the job as a blessing and an opportunity. Not some sort of punishment. 

So, whatever you do, whether you eat, drink, sleep, wipe tables, do school, help out in your church, take out the trash or wash your ALL OF IT for the glory of our God in heaven. (1Corinthians 10:31 AJV) 

SIDE NOTE: God is humorous. I wrote this post in two sittings. Right before I wrote the second half, I checked my email and received my Chick-fil-A schedule. I work 34.5 hours (I normally work about 24). He is putting me to the test. I'll let you all know how it goes. Pray for me; most likely I'll be struggling to keep up with school.

*thumbs up*

Now, be gone! And wipeth tables while thou doth wear a grin as thy visage.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Intentional Relationships: Seeing Past the Smile

Superficial relationships have been on my mind for a long time now and I have discussed the problem with three people in the last week. So, I decided that it is time for a post!!

Two friends hug each other/high five/scream/do something manly.

"Hey! How are you doing?"

"Fine! How are you?"

"Eh, I'm doing okay."

Both stare at each other, nod and then part ways. Sometimes those are the only words said to one another.

I'm so sick of this. I can't even begin to explain how annoying this is getting. People are caring less and less about the emotional, physical, and spiritual state of their friends and peers. What has happened to intentional relationships? Where are the brothers and sisters in Christ that are supposed to weep when you weep and laugh when you laugh?

There have been times when I was asked "how I was" and I said, "Uhm, not doing real great" and the asker (who is supposed to care - since they did, in fact, ask) nodded and walked away. Like normal.

Are we petrified of personal relationships? I mean, really! What's the deal? Maybe people are scared to get to know someone because they don't want to have to be the proverbial, dreaded shoulder to cry on. Perhaps a friend is scared that he or she will be asked to pray - cause everyone knows we don't do that enough. Maybe people are just so wrapped up in what they are doing and what their lives are centered around that they plain. don't. care.

 The latter is what I believe to be the problem. I know it is a mixture of things, but I know this one to be true because I have felt that way. One day, a friend of mine was crying in a public restroom. She was very upset about something going on. She came to me for advice. All my other friends were outside having fun and there I was, stuck in the bathroom giving a counseling session. Needless to say, I was not very happy. I regret my attitude to this day. If I had stopped thinking about what I was "missing out on", how much more loving could I have been? Could I have more clearly directed her? Looking back, I can ask myself this question, "Was I the type of friend I would want?" If I answer honestly, I can only say no.

I am so guilty of superficial relationships.

You know what I was shocked to find? People that I personally know are suicidal. I couldn't believe it when I heard that. How could thus-and-so think about killing themselves? I know that I cannot be the one to blame because of someone's bad decisions - I'm not suggesting that - but, more people than we thought humanly possible are emotionally screaming for someone to love, encourage and LEGIT care about what is going on with their broken hearts. When are we going to start being the type of people that care, love, encourage, and stir up others toward good works and godliness?

I talked to a friend of mine, Davis, yesterday. He is naturally a very happy-go-lucky, love everyone type of guy. His attitude always makes my day. But, after we talked, I discovered that even people like Davis have bad days (whaddaya know?!). Why did this surprise me? Why did it catch me off guard that someone so happy can, in fact, be down? I talked to him about this and what he said inspired this idea: It is possible that we mistake happiness for joy. There is a difference, ya'll. Happiness revolves around our circumstances, and joy is based on our Savior, Christ. When I look at Davis, who is smiling, happy, and serving, I might be mistaking joy for happiness. Davis might be very unhappy - because of tough, earthly situations, but he can still smile and act "okay" because of the joy he has in Christ.

Now, why didn't I think of that before? Why haven't I realized that a smile doesn't mean that someone is emotionally happy, healthy and stable? (I'm not hinting that Davis is unstable. ;p) I've always griped about the fact that people never really see past my smile, but I haven't seen past anyone else's.
That makes me sad. How many opportunities have I missed to be a witness/example/encouragement to someone because I took their smile as an "I'm fine" signal.

I know from experience that it hurts when people simply don't care about what is going on in your heart, mind and soul. I was talking less than a week ago with two friends. I told them something very personal and hard to talk about. To my shock, they both just nodded and grunted politely when I was through baring my soul. And that was it!

Sadly, a girl at my school is terribly lonely. She told me that she realizes that she has no "real" friends. Folks, how many people can say this?! At one point in my life, I could. Is it possible that she can say that because people like me haven't taken the time to care?
Friends? Caring? Is this what the assumed "special relationship" has been reduced to? I value my friends, but this...this is not friendship. I'm sorry. But, how can it be?

God is the perfect friend. Christians all over will say, "I am trying to be like Jesus!" Readers, wouldn't a practical step in sanctification be becoming a Christ-like friend? If I went to Jesus and said, "Jesus, I've had a horrible day" for some reason, I don't think He would grunt and change the subject. I think He would hug me and say, "Let's walk. Tell me all about it." And then I would lay my cares on Him and He would encourage me. Don't take my word for it; listen to what the Bible says:

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

WHOA! Did you catch that? By bearing others' burdens, we are fulfilling the law of Christ! Now, I know we simply cannot have deep, deep relationships with every single person in our lives. Obviously. I wouldn't have time for ANYTHING if I had 100+ deep relationships to attend to. But, I have to become the type of person that really cares about people. It is the law of Christ. If people are smiling, crying, stoical, or being antisocial, it is my job as a Christian to love those people and care for their hearts. .

...And so fulfill the law of Christ.

I'm not going to lie. A bunch of friends have let me down. But, I am so thankful for the friend that never leaves me. He always cares and will always cheer me on my bad days. He is the perfect example. Praise Him!

I have made a resolution to be as intentional as humanly possible when it comes to relationships. No more of these conversational rituals that no one really cares about. You know what? Maybe I will just stop asking "how are you" altogether! It's just a formality that no one will take seriously. Perhaps, I should only ask the question if I am in the setting and ready and wanting to get the real answer.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Media Standards

What are good media standards?

This is a good question that I think every teenager should start answering for themselves. Because if teens keep following their parents' standards without any real convictions for themselves, what will happen? My guess: Once the parents let their children make their own decisions, they will flail. Suddenly, they might find themselves on a slippery slope with music and media. How could they not if they never really had any of their own convictions.

A verse sticks out in my mind about this.

Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you wither her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? (Proverbs 6:25-27)

Not all media challenges have to do with lust and sex. Sometimes, it could be compromise. Like glorifying things displeasing to God: disobedience to parents, homosexuality, profanity, or anything. So, we need to be developing - from Gods Word (key) - our opinions and standards. We cannot allow questionable media into our minds and not believe it won't affect us. Like the verse says, ONLY a fool would scoop coals into his lap and think he won't be burned. 

So, this begs a question: What is right?

Each of us must learn to make these BIBLICAL decisions on our own or one day we will find ourselves out there, constantly compromising and not sure of right and wrong.

I'm not going to offer a solution or a one-sized fits all answer. Because one size simply doesn't fit all. 
We all strive for perfection, but truthfully, that is going to look different to everyone. And that is really okay. And thats not the point I'm here to argue. 

What IS important is that we seek truth, believe it, and live accordingly.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dating: Wisdom From My Readers That I Had to Make a Post

This post has been generated by inspiring comments. I have some guys that leave really rich comments sometimes. Logan, Miguel and Daniel, thanks for commenting on my stuff and leaving me with great thoughts to chew on. These comments were left on my post, "What Exactly IS Dating?!" I'm going to elaborate on a little bit of what you each of these guys said. They all have great points.

I asked what dating - in the world's terms - is. I also wanted to know if that "dating" totally obliterated the friend stage. These are some of my responses.

Daniel said, "Ashley, yes unfortunately societal dating has pretty much eliminated the friend stage so as soon as you think you might like some one, you date them, and that is why so many people date so many people, and then never speek again, because they were never friends in the first place. Pluss a lot of dating relationships are based on physical interaction, which to a certain extent is ok, but should never be what you base a relationship on. One analogy I herd says that that is the icing on the cake, and relationships now days have no cake and are just icing, and that's why they fall apart. . .the societal norm doesn't have to be the standerd, and dating isn't bad if done right, but it's with a completely different purpose, instead of seeing if you really like the person as much as you think you might, you presue the relationship mutually seeking gods will in your lives individually and as a couple, and the point, although not totally, is to find out if it's God's will for that relationship to move towards mirage. I hope that kinda answers your question."  

I think Daniel has a really valid point. I LOVE the cake analogy. So many relationships are sought merely for the physical, momentary pleasure and this will not and cannot support a relationship. It's doomed to fail. The Bible talks about sex as the sealing of a holy covenant. When people abuse that covenant and fail to hold to Christ's standard, the results are never good. Hearts are broken, and people are left more lonely than before. And wondering why they feel that way. They thought they were going to get a cake, but only got icing because they rushed something that they should have waited for. Physical satisfaction is the manifestation of a healthy relationship it can't be the healthy relationship. (I might write a legit post on this.)  

Logan said, "And most of my friends are jumping straight to romance without first building solid friendships.This is so backward! Ugh! Friendship first, romance later. That's what I believe, and I believe that's the wisest path to Biblical romance."

Amen! Yes, Logan is right. And he is vehement, which is good. A problem with dating is that people are trying to get to know each other on dates, which is a horrible idea. It's the worst place you can get to know someone because of the high levels of temptations coupled with the fact that people are always "their best" on dates. I mean, who doesn't want to impress their date? Dating today has totally bi-passed friendship and it is unwise to enter a relationship with someone whom we have not gotten to know as a friend first. 

Miguel said, "This seems to the common trait of our generation--in not just dating, but all relationships; in not just relationships, but all of life. For some reason we tend to just try to speed things up and if something doesn't work, we ditch it--or him or her in this case. But if we're not taking the time to really get to know a person before we get to asking them out, then wouldn't that make just about everything appear to "not work" in our eyes? My dad compares dating to trying on shoes. You don't know anything about the person, but if s/he doesn't fit right, then s/he apparently isn't right at all. The world's such a fickle place >.< And it is very, very confused."  

Miguel's comment made me sad because it is very, very true. The world is confused. They have simply twisted and mishandled love. For many, it is about "trying on" and "fitting right" - to use Miguel's words. People are basing relationships on romantic feelings, but those wonderful, feel good feelings won't last forever. And once the mystery of those feelings is gone and faded away, the relationship will fade too. That's why there is no real commitment anymore. My heart hurts for the girls who have complained and mourn the loss of "true love". True love exists but I believe it can't be found until we understand the purpose and design God intended for love and commitment. 

The world IS a fickle place, Miguel, and very confused. You said it perfect. 

Be bold and pray. I'm encouraged to be even more outspoken about God's intention for love and relationships. Maybe we can touch some wounded hearts while we are waiting for our Prince or Princess. Trust me, if you do relationships differently, you WILL stand out and people WILL ask you questions. They are going to wonder why you trust that God will write your love story perfectly. What better opportunity can we get to share of the hope with in us? We serve a God who holds the world and our future in his hands.

Finally, thanks to you boys. I LOVE getting rich comments. You guys offer a lot of insight and I'm really excited to see how God will use each of you to change lives. Keep seeking the answers found in Christ - and then, keep sharing them with bloggers, like me. :)    

Saturday, October 8, 2011

So Terrified of Change

If you would rather skip reading this whole post, this song can pretty much sum it. This link:

I went to a wedding today. It was beautiful. An old friend got married. It was sweet and expected and her groom is a literal peach. I love him.

But, all day I felt...I don't know how to explain it. Something just wasn't right. Not with anyone else - with me. Everyone has changed including myself, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

Everywhere I looked and every person I talked to was changing. Old high school friends are in college and doing great. People are making college choices, falling in love, growing up, maturing, forgetting old friends...

It was more or less depressing. I figured out that I have a hard time with change. While I was talking to one of my best friends, the sun was shining, the breeze was perfect and we were happy. Sometimes, I just wish that moments like that could last forever. Wish that I didn't have to move on eventually. Wish that life didn't have it's complications, trials and heartaches. Wish that I didn't have to move away soon. Wish that my family situation wasn't so bad. Wish that people didn't forget about their old friends and get new ones. Wish that I could be the person I was and the person I am at the same time.

I reviewed some memories. I have a lot of them.

I remember sticking Big League chewing gum on my head with my best friend Carlee. Remember the rich moments of laughter with my 8th grade posse, Emily and Ellen. Remember Jesse Welch from 9th grade and all the times we bickered. Remember meeting my other best friend, Iain, on the soccer field when we were...what? Ten? Remember thinking Jessica and Carlee were "Mary Kate and Ashley" when I first met them. Remember camp moments with Onnolee, Candace and Courtney. Remember screaming at the Oakes from our huge hill - asking if they wanted to play. Remember sitting in the back seat of the van drawing pictures of every person in the Martin family with Iain...and Stuart actually.

Those days were simple. They were the days that seemed happy. No one was upset. No one tried to change me. I believed the best of everyone. I was innocent to what really happened in the world. I didn't have to look far for "real" friends. My family was happy-ish. School was the highlight of my week. I didn't have to navigate around feelings and emotions. Didn't have to talk about the hard things in life. Didn't have to face the painful truth. I was protected because of my innocence. Allowed to just live life in my own happy way.

Why do we have to change? Why can't those moments last forever? Why can't I avoid making decisions I don't want to make?

More importantly, why am I scared of the future?

I am. It's true. There are things that I want NOW but I have to wait to have them. But waiting might mean losing. That. Is. Terrifying. And certain decisions might mean losing. Or what if I make a decision, then it turns out that I have to back-track to fix the consequences?

At the wedding, I felt out of place. Like a sore thumb. Every one has changed, but it seems like everyone knows where they are going. Everyone but me. I did my best to be confident and seem cool and collected, but truthfully, everything on the inside of me is going 200mph. I don't know if it's hormone overdoses or what, but I hope it stops soon. It was uncomfortable and I can't really say why. Everything just felt...wrong. Or is it supposed to feel that way?

I feel a little like Peter Pan at the moment. Thank goodness no one is offering me a drink from the Fountain of Youth, because right now, I might be tempted to drink it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wild Times in the Bless All Mess Hall

 (This is my narrative essay that I wrote for English. It's about Camp Barnabas. :D )
         Staff holler, “Welcome to dinner. Please remember Quiet Doors!” A popular variation of the phrase is, “Welcome to Quiet Doors! Please remember the dinner.” They shout in vain attempt to keep the horde quiet. The deck creaks and I hear the soft ba-doom of wheelchairs rolling over deck planks. 400 people press onto the deck, waiting for the blessed words, “Dinner is ready!” Sweat trickles down my forehead, and I swipe it away with my thumb knuckle. Behind me, a camper tells his counselor a joke. In front of me, a little girl plays with her singing doll. Beside me, my own camper, Mark, clings to my arm, anxious for the anticipated feast. “Remember,” he slurs, “I predicted we would have macaroni and hot dogs.”
The moment of glory comes, the “Bless All Mess Hall” doors are propelled open. Mark pulls me forward, still holding my arm for balance. His unnatural gait jerks me down and then forward, down and forward. Feet shuffle, chairs roll, and campers bound for the doors. The Quiet Doors do their magic and the previously chaotic mob, settles down the moment it marches through them. Mark drags me inside and whispers, “Smells like macaroni.” Before I can reply, a wave of scent slaps me in the face, the over-head fan blasts and the drastic temperature change makes me shiver. The Mess Hall feels like a different dimension. Mark mutters something, but I press the tip of my finger against my sweaty, upper lip to remind him to respect the Quiet Doors.    
The waft from the kitchen penetrates and remaining silent gets harder by the second. A camper steps forward to bless the food. Everyone around me shifts in their seats. After a long day of swimming, canoes and archery, stomachs are on their hands and knees, begging to be feed. My head is bowed, but I hear stomachs complain. Finally, the awaited words are spoken, “Great job on Quiet Doors! Let’s eat!”
Steaming bowls of food are rushed to the table. Mashed potatoes, chicken, rolls and – Mark was right – macaroni are plopped onto our plates. Manners fall into the background; between passing plates, laughing, talking, and enjoying the scrumptious morsels, no one remembers to chew with their mouths closed. The macaroni tastes incredible. The roll melts in my mouth and butter drips on my chin. Crispy batter on the chicken crunches. Cold, sweet tea washes it down.
 Max sits across from me. He cannot walk or talk because he has cerebral palsy. I say, “Hey, Max, are you having fun?” Max giggles in response. Conner, his counselor, laughs at Max’s enthusiasm then lifts a water-filled straw up to the camper’s lips. Max sucks the water, but a little dribbles out on his shirt. Conner grabs a napkin and wipes up the water.
Like an African drum rhythm, a slow beat starts at one end of the room. Boom, clash, boom, clash, clash! Everyone snatches utensils and bangs them against the table. Counselors and campers join the “Jungle Rhythm” until every soul in the room is contributing. The noise is deafening, but as quickly as the noise begins, it stops. Applause explodes in the room.
The Bless All Mess Hall is the gathering place at Camp Barnabas – a summer camp for special needs children. It’s a regular camp with “normal” activities, adapted so that every child, no matter his or her disability, participates. The campers come from all over the country. Many are teased in school or neglected by their parents. Here, attention – the good kind – drenches them.
As I watch campers and counselors, like Max and Conner, I realize that this is what life is about; loving unconditionally. Counselors are having chug contests with their campers, kids are building airplanes with their napkins, and laughter is abundant. The counselors give themselves, unreservedly to their campers and the campers are forever grateful for that slice of selfless love.
Another chant is launched, “Blow the whistle! Blow, blow the whistle.” The cooks succumb to our demands and a shrill whistle pierces the thick voices. The whistle is the beloved dessert signal. Brownies are ushered to the table.
As the campers receive their tasty treats, dramatic moments of chocolate obsession take place. After Mark takes a bite, he stutters, “Ash-a-ley? You’re awesssome.” Tears spring into my eyes as another Jungle Rhythm begins. No, I’m not awesome. We’re awesome; all of us. “Yes,” I conclude to myself, “we are far more alike than different.” Thank you, Camp Barnabas.

Monday, October 3, 2011

What Exactly IS Dating?!

This post is my endeavor to figure out what exactly dating is by the "normal" standards.

When someone says, "Hey, lets go on a date." Does that mean, "hey, I like you. I think we could be something" or "hey, let's figure out if we like each other?"

I'm asking because a guy that I work with has asked me out several times. I keep saying "No" but then,  start wondering...what exactly IS dating? Is it seeing if you like people? I think that is how some people view it. And that is just downright confusing. WHY would you go on a date to "get to know someone"? Isn't that the wrong place to try to figure someone out? I think so. People are at their best on dates - I want to see there bad as well as good side. 

In my opinion, I want to date (if you can even call what I'll do dating) someone that I have known for a long time. I know their standards, their behaviors, their attitudes towards life, their goals, their feelings and stuff way before I even enter that stage. I want to know them as a really good friend before dating. I feel like the "dating" now, just completely skips that stage. I think that's sad.

Sorry, this was a little rant. I just don't get it. It's confusing. Any wise words?