Yellow Bird

Loyal, Constant, Steadfast

I decided to compile a list of acts emitted by those who are faithful. I’m asking you to respond with affirmation, comments, contradictions, and additions to these items below.

Being Faithful:

    • Show up on time

    • Share the amount agreed upon

    • Be agreeable

    • Cease judgement

    • Listen before speaking

    • Do not cancel plans except in the case of emergency

    • Pray for increased faithfulness

    • Meet reasonable expectations

    • Stay organized

    • Avoid arguments

    • Embrace healthy confrontation

    • Seek peace

    • Spend and save money generously

    • Form consistent habits

    • Ask genuine questions

    • Remember details

    • Finish tasks

    • Communicate opinions

    • Return borrowed items

    • Know people’s stories

    • Regard others’ needs more highly than your own

Out of Wedlock

My dad has been urging me to start writing again, so I will. The reasons for my absence are not fully clear, but the word that comes to mind is exhaustion. At some point, every aspect of life began to tire me; seeing friends, going to church, reading, going to work smiling. This cycle of self-doubt, cynicism, skepticism, and weakness erupted within myself. It was the weakness in particular that destroyed me for a period of months. Weakness of the heart paralyzed me to a point of inability to fight temptation of all kinds: laziness, depression, hopelessness, anger, anxiety, fear, shame, faithlessness, and sexual sin. All of these potentially have enduring effects, but some result in more obvious consequences than others. Thankfully, these consequences can be interpreted using a lens of God’s love instead of our own distorted view.

Now I sit with my twenty year old hands pressed upon my out-of-wedlock belly to feel my growing daughter wiggle and kick, daydreaming in anticipation of life past September 13th.

The consequence I spoke of is not the dear child, for she is the most extravagant blessing I have ever received.  The only “consequence” to speak of in a negative light is the reality that Maximos and I will not have the “normal” life of twenty-somethings. We will forever be the parents of Amalia Clarke who is created in the image and likeness of our Creator. This can hardly be considered a consequence. Yes, it will be a difficult, speedy transition from childhood to adulthood, but we are more than blessed. The list of thankfulness has grown to be much longer than any list of fears or troubles in the past six months.

I cannot honestly say that I’ve accepted this state of mind from the beginning, for there have certainly been tremendously dark times of uncertainty and hopelessness. Over the months, a multitude of people has chosen to love instead of judge, to stand with Max and myself and declare this a blessed child. The support from St. Philothea Greek Orthodox Church astounds me, which has in turn drawn me further into the depths of the Church, challenging me to seek truth and love in Christ. Maximos is the main person who has unceasingly given me hope by telling me that I must give glory to God and I must continually seek Him through prayer. There have been many more than a few times that I have been insane and helpless, but Maximos always chooses to love me in the bleakest times. I cannot imagine surviving this journey without such a loving partner, an experience that many unmarried women do face. They are much stronger than I.

No this is not “socially acceptable” for a “good” Christian girl, but it is our new life, which will overflow with joy and hope. I will continue searching for the fullness of life in Christ in the Church. Though some fears remain with me, I do not fear that God does not love me.

Christmas Musings

I recall an entry in my very first journal in which I expressed outrage at the controversy over what to call trees in December. Everyone was missing the whole point! Why can’t we all just get along and not react offensively to petty matters?

Never did I believe in Santa Claus as a child, but now working as a nanny I’ve realized that a lot of kids do. They believe wholeheartedly and without a doubt that a fat, red-coated man will shimmy down their flue on the Eve of Xmas (I’d hate to offend anyone) and give presents to the children who are not on the naughty list. People know there should be an emphasis on being “good.” Santa turns it into shallow moralism, but still, we know it’s bad to be bad. From where do these morals emerge? People want to believe in something.

The tree issue and Santa are two things pertaining to Christmas that have always disturbed me. As a twelve-year-old, I knew not everyone wanted to celebrate Christmas for Jesus’ sake but I also struggled to understand why people couldn’t just believe what they wanted and let their neighbors do the same. Each December, I realize more fully that these things that frustrate me are just the enemy’s attempt at deranging what is sacred and holy by turning it into something worldly and self-centered. This is the fallen angel’s goal. If I allow myself to be frustrated or downtrodden about the fleshy sin of the world, it is doubly satisfying for him.

The same concept applies to the materialism that festers in each of us at this time of year. The “season of giving” (a phrase I dislike) melts into a couple months of lusting after what is unattainable or unaffordable. This does not have to be so.

Even though what is precious can be tainted by sin, it can still be beautiful.

Restless Search

I like the short-term. I can focus for only a small amount of time before some new attraction must stimulate my senses.
It began in grade one when I decided to be homeschooled the following year. During that time, I decided school actually was okay and I should go back. I stayed a few years but in my first year of middle school, I moved back home again. Seventh through tenth I stayed at a tiny Christian school, but then bored of that and moved halfway through my sophomore year to the local public school. A year and a half there and I was back to Westminster Christian to graduate high school. Berry College lasted only a year because of an eleven-month mission program I had planned to do. Instead, family emergencies caused me to change my plans, which I am now thankful for. This left me school-less and unemployed so naturally with my love of children and a bad taste in my mouth from working so much in the food industry previously, I began frantically applying to nannying positions.  I moved to Atlanta and found a lovely family to work for; it is a superbly ideal situation. Now I plan to go to Georgia State University for one semester to catch up on a few classes. Shortly after the semester ends, I will hop on a plane bound for Istanbul, Turkey to work a year as an au pair for what seems like a wonderful family.
It turns out my whole life has been broken up into increments averaging less than two years (I actually did the math) apiece. What does this say about me as a person? Am I unstable? Immature? Searching? Maybe.
I had my ideas about what each of these seasons would look like and all that I would accomplish, but maybe rushing to the next best thing is not always the best thing. Maybe it’s okay. I’m still a kid, really, so my “discovering” phase of life is allowed to be in motion.
Is the reason I’m always searching because I’m ever moving or am I never still because I’m always searching?

The truth is what I seek. I have found it in various places and it will continue to show itself in every phase of life.

The truth is what doesn’t change, which is comforting to me as I somewhat restlessly search it. Why shouldn’t we be restless over this? It is what truly matters.

 

Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Made For Another World

Really, I just feel like writing a bunch of quotes from John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life because that is all that’s on my mind at the moment and I will not be as eloquent or succinct as he. Also, I feel like every blog I’ve written is about the same thing, but maybe that’s the point. We were made for a purpose, to glorify God. This becomes our joy once we surrender to Christ. I’m learning that it really is a joy to trust in the Lord. Now here come the quotes…

“…this Savior is himself the fullest and most beautiful manifestation of the glory of God.”

“When we embrace Christ, we embrace God.”

“The bloody face of Christ crucified (and triumphant!) is the countenance of the glory of God.”

-Piper

This is by no means something that I fully grasp or know how it looks in real life, but this is what we were created for…to glorify our creator. It only makes sense. Again, my words seem like rubbish compared to the wise preacher’s, but writing about these things helps me understand them more fully, and my aim is for you to feel the same way as you read.

“God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.”

-Piper

Every part of our lives has potential to glorify God or glorify ourselves. To love Christ and to love others as Christ did is to glorify God. God is love, so naturally when we love as Christ loved (sacrificially, unconditionally), we glorify God.

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
-C.S. Lewis

The kind of love that Christ displayed seems like it belongs to another world. This world we live in now feeds us lies that we need more, we aren’t good enough, we have to climb to the top before anyone else gets there. It puts all emphasis on self. This is why there is so much inner turmoil in people who have realized they were made for another world. People who have chosen to follow Christ have a battle to fight at each moment. Will I glorify my creator or let self rule? We were created for that other world, that world of glorifying God for who he is through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Bless the Lord

Sometimes I wonder why on earth I believe I have any control over anything that happens in this world. Why is it so easy to forget I am a tiny human, created and loved by God..loved so much that he doesn’t allow me to call the shots. If he did, I wouldn’t have survived this many years.

Surrender. It’s a hard word to comprehend, much less put into action. It’s weird I phrased it that way, too, because surrender seems like it should be a passive word. I’m learning it’s quite the opposite. This word is beginning to be the theme of the new things God is revealing to me. Slowly, he will continue to strip away what I think will sustain me to show that He is the true and sole sustainer.

My brother, Stephen, sent me this song a couple weeks ago and I have been obsessed with it ever since. It makes me cry, especially now… “You Know Me”

“You know when I rise and when I fall
When I come or go, You see it all
You hung the stars and You move the sea,
And still You know me”

-Bethel

I have nothing more except some of Psalm 34…

“I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul boasts in the Lord, let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name TOGETHER. I sought the Lord and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. The poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.”

Circles

How much time do we spend going in circles? In the small things, it’s rechecking the fridge to see what magically appeared after we shut the door the first three times. It’s that incessant “need” to check various forms of technology to see if someone important is trying to contact us…or even someone unimportant, someone we don’t care for. In real life, it’s going back to the same poisonous relationships that have never worked, but “this time is different.” It’s a teenaged girl yelling at her mother for the same thing she yelled about yesterday. It’s that nasty habit for which we hate ourselves, and yet we still go back to it for the fulfillment we’re looking for. We either want to be entertained or we want some sort of purpose. We need someone to tell us we are needed. Circles never end, so how do we break these cycles of self-loathing? How are we to imagine a life-style filled of peace when we have never experienced even a moment without worry?

We are people of progress; we like forward motion. Whatever we progress in, whether it be edifying or not, we like to keep moving. When do we get to a point where we know we are moving in the right direction? How are we supposed to be still and know He is Lord while in motion?

What satisfies our souls? Who is our master?

Day to Day

We have been given this one moment right now…and then the moment has already passed. Yesterday has passed as well. Why are we wasting our moments on this earth? We don’t know when they will cease to exist. I am the guiltiest of all in this regard; I often find myself daydreaming about what I could be doing with my time but never getting around to actually doing it. Part of it is about self-motivation. Another larger part, though, is about finding my satisfaction fully in Christ. If my satisfaction truly was in him, I would not have trouble motivating myself to do what’s right or good. I would not have a desire to be lazy, apathetic, or uninvolved. Honestly, I generally know what the best decisions are on a daily basis, but I do not always feel drawn to be my best. It’s easier to do what’s easy…so often that is what I choose. Even if I choose to do something challenging or not necessarily “fun,” many times it is a choice of diversion. I don’t want to face what’s really going on in my heart and soul so I clean or cook or read To Kill a Mockingbird. Of course those are not bad things, but they can make me forget to be still and know that He is God.

Psalm 96:1,2
Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth!

Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
    tell of his salvation from day to day.

 

I was told that “day to day” in this scripture actually means to constantly praise the Lord, every waking hour. What a beautiful picture of thankfulness and love. He has done great things for us. I’m ready to have that kind of joy and peace to be able to SING to Him even in the midst of hard times. I am not even having hard times right now and I am having trouble praising him. Like I said a week or two ago, the times really are too good. I should be praising him doubly for what he has done and what he continues to do. Let’s all be thankful.

Fat Tires

There is a difference between young and old. Though we are not the fittest people in the world, Laura and I were able to defeat the Silver Comet Trail on a mountain bicycle with no prior training just because we are at the peak of youth hood, or so they say. Laura brought this point up late in the ride. Our couchsurfing friend, Megan, picked us up 9.5 miles past the border of Alabama, exclaiming, “Yall rode 72 miles on FAT TIRES?” Another part of being young is making semi-ridiculous, maybe stupid, decisions. This debacle definitely falls into the semi-ridiculous/stupid category.

Another conclusion I came to on this journey is that people can do so much more than they believe is possible… not to sound cheesy, but it’s true. This does not only apply to physical feats, but intellectual, musical, social situations apply as well. The other day, I began learning Comptine d’un autre ete on the piano. I haven’t taken piano in years and was never very good when I did, but I forced myself to focus and enjoy what I was doing and it came to me much more easily than I would have thought. Most things in life are determined by the amount of motivation and what sort of attitude a person has.
After a nice night of sleep on couches, Laura and I awoke to the realization that it may be past the point of insanity to attempt a repeat of the day before. (Dad, you may want to stop reading now). Our first thought was hitch hiking, but we soon found out that there was only a slim chance that we could find a combination of someone going toward Atlanta plus being able to take our bikes. There was a moment when Laura looked across the breakfast table and asked, “So, how valuable are these bikes to you…?” Megan found that amusing. Our hope rose when Megan enlightened us about a train to Atlanta leaving at four o’clock. That glimmer of optimism was swiftly smashed when we called and they informed us that we would not be permitted to bring our bikes on the train. The thought of getting back on those bikes made our backsides ache, so we kept brainstorming. Finally we decided to ask some of my college friends in Rome if they would like to take a little road trip to rescue us. Some of the most genuine people I know, Ann Christian and David, dropped everything to see that we made it home safely. They showed us one of the greatest forms of love, which is sacrifice, and I am so blessed to count them as friends. 

Lesser of Two