Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Eclectic Thoughts

I have had so much on my mind lately that I'm having trouble putting thoughts into writing. I don't even know where to begin. This may turn into an eclectic blog post of my jumbled thoughts.You've been fairly warned.

The other morning at work, we had the blessing of hearing Naghmeh Abedini, wife of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini, share her story. It's hard to complain about your life here in the USA when you hear a story like hers. I'm thankful that I can't currently be put in jail for giving a friend a Bible or talking about my faith in Jesus. I've never been beaten or feared for my life as a result of my faith. I pray this will always be the case, but I wonder, if that WAS a real possibility, how would I live? Do I know what I believe and why I believe it with enough intensity and confidence that I could, for example, have a Christian wedding with 600 people in the middle of a Muslim country like Saeed and Naghmeh did? Do I have enough boldness to stand up for Christ when the time comes. Do I do this now in small ways? Something to think about. Eye opening at least. If you are reading my blog right now, people pause and say a prayer for Saeed; that he would be released from the Iranian prison and that his body would be able to heal from the internal wounds he has sustained and isn't being treated for as a result of being beaten in prison. Pray for Naghmeh and their two children.

Love and Change seem to be ongoing themes in my life and in my reading lately. I've read two books recently speaking to these themes. The first is called Who Moved My Cheese which is an excellent and easy to read book about embracing change and not being afraid to step into the unknown. There are so many great little insights that encourages the reader (me) to step beyond fear and get excited about stepping around the corners into the unknown to see what good may come. Often times we build up the change so much in our head and in reality, none of the things we fear actually exist. Oh the energy we (I) would save if I would embrace the unknown a little quicker. Personally, I believe I am MUCH better at this than I use to be...but I'm still working on shutting down the dialogue in my head that blows up situations and causes unneeded fear.

The other book is called A Loving Life by Paul Miller, and my notes on this book are way too long to type out here (at least 8 pages of notes). I would seriously recommend you read this book if you want to understand love a little better. It takes a look at the book of the Bible "Ruth" in order to explain the Hebrew word for love "hesed". Everyone in my department at work are currently reading this book and we have once a month lunch meetings to discuss what we are reading. I find it fascinating the different ways people interpret the same book. I very much follow the book from an emotional level; what does it mean for my life in the situation I am in right now (single, looking/praying for a future spouse). Others read it from a theological perspective (is it accurate to history and Bible). And still others read it from the perspective of being married and strengthening the relationship they have. Beyond the personal, we also read it in relation to our ministry and how we and our volunteers relate to those that we minister. This book covers all of these things and is a really good read. Listed below are just a few quotes that I pulled from the book:

"Vulnerability is part of the cost of hesed. Love carries risk."

"When you endure in love unnoticed, and someone notices, it can be overwhelming. You’ve held it in so long and gotten so used to the loneliness, it becomes your normal. So when love breaks through for you, when someone really cares, it bowls you over. Ruth’s resurrection has begun."

Ruth’s whole being is hidden in God. That is the essence of faith. In the storm of hesed love, you hide yourself in God. He is your only refuge when you are enduring alone, without help. Faith is not a feeling-it is a place where you hide, close to the heart of God.”

“You don’t find community; you create it through love. Look how this transforms the way you enter a room of strangers. Our instinctive thought is, “Who do I know? Who am I comfortable with?” There’s nothing wrong with those questions, but the Jesus questions that create communities are, “Who can I love? Who is left out?””
“Thinking, planning, and problem solving are completely intertwined with romance, love, and audacity. Life is like this. When we separate love from thinking, love just gets weird and floaty, and finally tragic as lives are destroyed, all under the banner of “falling in love.” It’s good to think in love even as you are falling in love.”
“This gives us a third way in which femininity is defined as humility joined with power, sensitivity with guts.”
I think I've resolved myself to the fact that I am really bad at online dating. I have moments where I think I should give it another try, but I'm not really sure why. I just don't trust enough to believe that people are who they say they are, and also, I don't make the best first impression. It takes a while for me to open up with people because I need to feel safe first. I don't know if it's the horror stories I've heard, the whole "don't talk to strangers concept" or simply my increasing knowledge of the online world, but I just don't trust people. Also, online dating it pretty much all about first impression. Does my profile say the right things, do I have the right pictures, do I have enough pictures, if I "smile" at someone is it the right "smile", if I email someone do I lead with the right thing? It's just way too complicated and so far, even when I've given it a fair shot, I have been extremely unsuccessful. My hope, is that God will direct someone to me in real life that chooses to take the time to get to know know, the old fashioned way.
I have the best friends. Thinking back a few years ago I remember feeling so lonely. I had (and still have) two friends that are amazing and we've been through a lot together. I love them both so much. About a year and a half ago I decided to join a small group, then last year I started attending a new church with awesome people, and then a few months ago I got involved more with a community group and now...I have more activities to do than I have days in the week AND I have several of the best friends I could ever have. While quantity of friends don't necessarily mean anything, I am thankful for the quality of the friends I have.
Okay, I got a lot out of my head. That's probably enough for tonight!
- The Real Me

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


**Note: Blog was written a couple weeks ago but I needed to wait in posting until today.

"Change comes with pain, but the pain of staying the same will eventually be worse."

So earlier in the week I wrote about a speaker I heard on Tuesday night talking about dreams and daring to make changes in your life to follow these dream. You can read this previous post to get a basis for my thoughts on this. Then, on Thursday I found out a coworker is making some changes in her life to follow her dreams. First I am going to say that I am so happy for her. I believe the choices she is making in her life will bring her to great things and the Lord is going to use her mightily in anything that he directs her too. She will be blessed and her family will be blessed. But I admit that this change for her is hard for me. In my selfishness I want her there, in my life, everyday. She is much more my friend and mentor than she is my coworker. She is like family to me. I would guess that she probably knows more about me than just about anyone else. Over the last 8 years she has been a steady presence in my life. We have gone through the trenches together and come out the other side. I honestly can't image what it will be like if she isn't there.

I know that change is necessary, and I'm usually much better with change than most people, but this particular change hurts my heart a little...okay right now it hurts alot. Many people have come in and out of my life and I know I have gone in and out of the lives of others. These types of changes are the hardest because of the difficulty most of us have with opening our hearts to let people in in the first place. When you open your heart you become vulnerable to pain. For some, this causes them to shut down and put up walls so they never have to feel hurt again. I can understand the desire to do this because my heart has been hurt several times in small ways and in big ways. But my desire is still to love and be loved and so I must deal with the pain.

Of course my hope is that I will remain friends with this beautiful lady forever, no matter where she goes and no matter where I go but I know this too is difficult as life changes. And so I will remember the impact she has had on my life and the lessons she has taught me. I will remember how I look through her eyes because she sees strength and courage in me even when I am feeling down about myself. I will remember the moments she has taken out of her busy day to help me think through the craziness in my head. I will remember the prayers she has prayed and continues to pray on my behalf about my future spouse. I will remember her smiles, encouragment, hugs and laughter. I will remember her beautiful voice and the fun we have singing and learning music together. And my prayer is that we will have many more memories to come.

But right now I am going to cry a little and I'm going to know that God is THE ONLY constant in my life and that even when I am selfish and when my head is telling me I am alone, I know that I know that God loves me and will never leave me and that he sees my future and the people He will place in my heart as I continue open myself up. And I will be thankful for the moments in time where friends place little pieces of joy in my heart.

Michael W Smith-Friends:

-The Real Me

Saturday, March 8, 2014

I Ran Away Today

"The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man."
I ran away from the world for a little while today. It was fantastic. Here are the highlights:
1) The sights and sounds of the woods and waterfalls are wonderfully soothing to the soul.
2) Even though it was 70 degrees today, there is still a bit of snow in the mountains so trail paths are a little challenging.
3) I jumped on the Blue Ridge Parkway thinking it was the fastest way (per GPS) to the next place I was going. And then I quickly realized this was a bad decision and turned around to jump back off of the Parkway. Clearly they do not plow the Blue Ridge Parkway!!
4) Tried to reroute since I couldn't take the Parkway but there was no more cell signal and I got a little lost. No biggy, I found my way out eventually!!
5) I wish it was safer to go further off the beaten path alone (but it's not) because all I wanted to do was sit by the waterfall and read for a while, but when there is a large puddle in the the middle of the lookout area, random strangers get annoyed with you when you are sitting and reading in front of the only area that doesn't cause you to get your feet wet.
6) Even 3 hours away from home I get asked about the strange name of my church (I have it on a sticker on the back of my car).
7) As a general rule, hikers are really friendly people.
8) On a fairly secluded road while driving back home, I passed a guy peeing on a rock on the side of the road. (Really? You couldn't walk a couple steps into the woods?)
9) I pulled over just as the sun was starting to set, still on the secluded road. I pulled in next to one car and didn't see anyone around but could hear someone every once in a while. Thought I might be going crazy and then looked up and saw that they were repelling down the side of a rock. (So, you can just do that anywhere?) It was kind of cool to watch.
10) My 2nd destination was supposed to be Mellow Mushroom and Kilwin's in Blowing Rock, however I missed the turn and was tired of turning around so I decided to head home (since I now knew where I was).
11) I passed the Canyon's restaurant just as the sun was going down and got some pretty good pictures of the sunset over the mountains.
12) I did get some reading done. And also some conversations with God that were needed.
It was a great day. I need to find a spot just like that one by a waterfall that isn't as populated because I think I would go there every weekend if I could.

-The Real Me

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


What would you do if you could wake up tomorrow and do anything you wanted to do?

This question was purposes to us tonight at our meeting of Charlotte One. If you didn't have to pay bills or impress people. If you didn't care what anyone else thought. If you had no insecurity holding you back. What are your dreams? What would you love to do? Can you answer that question?

I admit, tonight as the question was asked, I don't immediately have an answer. I love my job very much, but is it my life's passion? I don't know. I'm not even sure what my dreams are or if I've ever had the courage to dream a dream. It's something I will have to marinate on for a while.

Part of my reason for wanting to work towards my debt free goal is so that I have the freedom to do anything and to go anywhere. Sometimes I think about moving to another country to be a missionary, but that also terrifies me too. It so...unknown. Where would I go and what would I do there? Would I fit in? Do I want to fit in? Maybe I'd fit in better there than I do here?

Tonight, on a small scale, my dream would be to be able to communicate in a normal fashion in a group setting without being intimidated. That would be nice. I am always getting in my own way of getting to know people. I'm a great listener but I'm not so good at talking. I haven't figured out why this is. Someday maybe I can speak the words that are so much easier to write.

This post is slowly losing focus, but hey when it's you blog you can post anything that's on your mind!

To night I have a lot of questions and no answers. I'm also a bit annoyed at myself. I will have to work on the answers.

-The Real Me

Monday, March 3, 2014


Where do you go to escape life for a recharge your battery?

I don't know about you, but my world moves pretty quickly. I'm so often on the go; get up, run out the door to work, running all day long, after work is exercise, and then into another activity. I'm not married and I don't have a family, but my world stays pretty full all on my own. I pretty much love everything that I do, but I find there is a point where I run out of steam. It is usually identifiable by a change in my attitude (and not for the better). I tend to be pretty happy and upbeat more often than not, but when I go go go for too long I begin to get emotional and irritable. Can you relate? It's in those time that I begin looking for my escape (aka, my happy place). A place where I can slow down, pray, remember who I am, and remember my purpose.

Most of the time my escape is to the beach. There is something about the steady sound of the ocean waves that relaxes my soul and helps me to breathe again. Sometimes I get away with friends and something I go alone. But taking that time to sit and stare at the ocean just does wonders for me. Since I'm watching my budget closely these days so that I can reach my 2014 debt free goal, taking off to the coast as often as I would like is not all that practical so I've found a few other places of solace.

I recently began running again and though I'm not quite at the level where running is relaxing (one needs to be able to take in full breaths in order to relax), I have found that taking the trails through the greenways in my city can be quite peaceful. I've been trying to go to a different trail each Saturday. Whether I'm at the ocean, hiking in the woods, or running (or walking) on a trail, all of these things help me to see God's beautiful creation. It reminds me of who he is and how magnificent the world is that we live in. It reminds me that the stresses of my life are small and that my God is big. It brings me back to center.

There one other place I like to go to escape. This one may sound a bit silly, but I love to go to the movies by myself. Five years ago I would have never been brave enough to do this. I hated going anywhere alone that I thought was meant for at least two people to do together. But a couple of years ago I got brave and decided I wasn't going to let not having someone with me prevent me from doing something I love to do. And I discovered that I love going to the movie theater by myself. When I am alone I can get lost in the story and forget about the real world for a while. I can become part of this magical place. The atmosphere of the dark theater with the big screen and a good heartfelt movie is beautiful.

I'm posting the lyrics below to a song I first heard in December and have since fallen in love with it. The first two verses describe how you can see God in the beauty of the world around us; a sunrise, the colors of the morning, a moon lite night, and the stars. Oh how true this is if we take time to stop and really appreciate these things and just enjoy the beauty. The second two verses describe Jesus and his love for us by dieing on a cross, giving his life for ours, and what an eternity. We are (I am) the bride of Christ and one day we will be reunited with him in joyous celebration. Oh God, how beautiful you are.

"You're Beautiful" by Phil Wickham
I see Your face in every sunrise
The colors of the morning are inside Your eyes
The world awakens in the light of the day
I look up to the sky and say
You're beautiful

I see Your power in the moonlit night
Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright
We are amazed in the light of the stars
It's all proclaiming who You are
You're beautiful

I see You there hanging on a tree
You bled and then you died and then you rose again for me
Now You are sitting on Your heavenly throne
Soon we will be coming home
You're beautiful

When we arrive at eternity's shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We'll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we'll sing
You're beautiful

I see Your face, I see Your face
I see Your face, You're beautiful
You're beautiful
You're beautiful
-The Real Me