Pinterest A Grateful Life Lived: October 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Week: Running Progression, God's Kindness and

     As I've embarked on my latest journey to increase the presence of God in my daily life, I've been struck by the little blessings he places along the way.  If you need a refresher, or have no clue what I'm talking about, click HERE, HERE, and HERE to read about this awesome adventure!
     After a rocky start to last week-- after coming back from an awesome fall break--I slowly eased into things and have been doing better than ever.  I am progressing in my running still.  It is a seven week progression until I'm 100%, and I'm on week three I believe.  I run every other day and tomorrow I am doing 20 min. running, 2 min. walking, 10 min. running.  Basically, I started increasing the proportion of running a few weeks ago and now I'm backing off on the walking time in between.  It's a long process, but it's important I don't just throw my hip into a 60 min. distance run right away.  Mentally, it is helpful as well, being that I haven't run in so long.  It is giving me an awesome chance to start from the top and remember why I love running so much. Although it's not a walk in the park because I'm out of running shape, I've been cross training very hard and am confident that God has got a super plan for the future of my running ministry.  Yes, I believe that means awesome success.  But it is not limited to just that!  I have grown so close to him in this bittersweet time and I know I will be able to have a special ministry for those who are injured like I have been.
Bang Head Here
photo credit:
     Schoolwork, classes, working out/running, rehab and life in general have been keeping me pretty busy lately, but it's a good busy.  I am glad that I am feeling less homesick and more at home and God is opening my eyes to more and more every day.
     For instance, take what happened on Sunday night for example: God showed me kindness through the awesome employees at Butler!  The dining halls usually have great, nutritious food, but I noticed on Sunday night that they were still out of the gluten free cereal that they keep in a specially dedicated "Allergy section."  So, I asked an employee and he said he would go to the back and get some.  Sure enough, he came out with cereals and refilled the containers.  While doing so, he asked me which one I wanted to take.  "Take?" I asked, "what do you mean?"  Through a long and awkward conversation, I found out he was actually serious: he said it was totally fine if I took a box.  I told him which one I liked.  "Good choice," he answered, "I'll be right back."  He soon returned with a box of cereal and a box of gluten free cookies.  He told me to just ask if I needed anything else, and I was immediately amazed at God's love.  I had been asking all day for God to give me someone to bless, and here, in the simplest of ways: someone else had blessed me.  It wasn't about the yummy cereal that I can eat because it's gluten free.  Rather, it was how he went out of his way to not just help me, but to serve me.  Isn't that exactly what Christ did, and does, for us!?  Then I went downstairs where the cashier at the convenience store brought out the sushi chef because she knew that I liked the vegetable rolls, but they almost never had them.  Now, the sushi chef is going to make them twice a week so I have my veggie rolls when I want.  Again, not about the food, but about the servant's heart in these kind people.  I want to be like that!  I want to bring such joy to someone else's day that they can't help but think they are special and loved.  
These aren't in any particular order,
but as you can see: they're about to tumble!

Lord, please open the doors and open my eyes to all these opportunities.  I know they are there, but I get so inward focused that I so often miss them.  But I know you forgive and restore me, and you know my heart longs to love you and your children.

     Yesterday, it was so gorgeous and sunny out that I decided to walk to the athletic training room rather than ride my bike.  You know what I discovered?  That 15 min. walk was the most tranquil and blissful time of my day with God.  I was able to really talk to him rather than just ride my bike as the quicker option.  Then I realized: God had made that beautiful day because he knew it would cause me to walk and that would cause me to speak with him, and he desperately wanted to speak with me.  How awesome it that!?!?!?  He showed me that same love when my daddy took the time to call me yesterday even though he didn't have the time, and when my mom texted me goodnight because she knows I get the most homesick at night and in the early morning.  I have so much evidence of love around me, so many examples of how I can be a blessing as well.  Not in spite of, but because of the craziness I'm living in, there is a need to reach out and show God's love to others.  It pulls me out of self-centered land and brings me joy and perspective.  I might see some of these people only once in my life-- doubtful at Butler, but possible-- and I want that one memory to be one of joy that shows Christ's love.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What I'm Grateful for on October 27

     Life has been a whirlwind lately, and although I could probably start off any post by saying that, it is especially true lately.  My emotions have been going a million miles an hour, but I am slowly drawing closer to Jesus and further from the chaos that seeks my attention.  A while back, I posted on God's amazing grace (see: God's Grace, Not a Counterfeit), and it is something that is particularly striking me today as well.
     Ever since returning from Fall Break, I have been facing some pretty tough spiritual warfare and am constantly reminded that I can't do it on my own.  God is right here with me and his grace allows me, and all of us, to be free from condemnation.  Yet, this is only the case if we open the door up to your spirit and allow the grace to reign down on us.
     Along those lines, I am so grateful that I have had such a spirit filled month.  After reading Practicing His Presence (RELATED: Book Review of Practicing His Presence) I have been struck by how real and alive God is in everyday moments.  Despite all of this however, I've found myself getting bogged down by the monotony of life and the self-condemnation for falling into old sinful habits and thus losing sight of God.  That's when I get in the cycle of perfection, control, anger and discouragement.  But, I'm not here to tell you all my life's issues.  While I believe there is great spiritual value in writing and releasing emotions, the internet is probably not the place for it, AND we must be careful lest we go back "like a dog to its own vomit" (Proverbs 26:11).  For instance, if I've already prayed that God will release his spirit in me and forgive me for how I've failed lately, there's no sense in going back and pleading that same prayer over and over again.  He has already forgiven and he is with us.  What we really need to do is command our spirit to come into alignment with what He has already told us.
     So you might be asking where I'm going with all this...not exactly sure myself.  I think my point is that God's spirit must be released in us in order to experience this grace and peace and joy and all those other awesome fruits.  When we pray to the spirit, perhaps its time we actually expect what we are praying for to come about.  If we ask for forgiveness, we need to receive it and move on.  I've often heard it said that in the same way the Holy Spirit is like a dove, he will not force himself onto those whose hearts are not open; he will not land where there is turmoil and unrest.  Relax my friends.  Believe me, I'm saying it to you as much as I am to myself.  There is hope for the future.  There is a great plan that Christ has for us and nothing we can do can stop that.  You can't mess up God's plans-- you might delay them, but you cannot stop them!  There is such freedom in following Christ, that all else begins to fade away.  I don't know about you, but I'm sick of the control, the fear, the anxiety, the loneliness and the self-hatred that come when I board my heart up and try to make it on my own.  I'm tired of repeating the same prayers to God because I'm not really praying them at all, but rather, I'm trying to assure myself.  RELAX.....breathe....  Daddy is right here and he has great rest and relaxation for his children.  We don't need to have any fear over what might be.  All we do is cuddle up, be with him and allow his spirit to manifest in our lives.  It's not exactly easy, but it is worth it.
     Every day, we can make the decision whether to follow God in freedom or retreat back into bondage without his Holy Spirit.  Choose Christ today!  I've found, the more I release to Christ, the more I want of him and the less I desire the tempting sins and controlling desires of the flesh.  He reveals more and more and more.  It doesn't all happen in one day, but if your tired of a life lived in complacency, decide with me that you are going to release to Jesus' hands today.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Back to School I Go

     I haven't forgotten about the blog, I promise.  In reality, I am pressed for time in just about everything lately.  I had an amazing time at home during Fall Break.  I got to hang out with my mom, walk the the cutest chocolate lab ever-- Lily-- walk with my daddy, see my little brother run his first district cross country race, hang with my older brother, see my best friend, visit with my church family and plenty of other fun-filled stuff!  I was struck by how blessed I am to have such amazing people who love me.  I can't describe how excited I was to pull into the parking lot where my dad was picking me up, and waiting an agonizing two minutes to see him pull in.
     Now, I'm back at campus and slowly getting back into the groove of things.  It was a really rough first day, I'll admit.  I was a complete wreck, but desperate for God to show me whatever he had for me.  I've found that college has drawn me so much closer to God than ever, and this was the epitome of that.  I was discouraged by the monotony of everything, so I drew closer to him and saw that he has given us-- his children-- the authority to declare his joy in our lives.  I am getting closer to truly running (I was able to run 24 minutes today!), I am studying at an amazing college, I'm doing well in my classes and I have a family that loves me immensely.  Yet, even without all these things: I can choose joy because Christ is living inside of me.  When I thought about it like that, it helped put my life in perspective a little better.  So I'm taking it one day at a time, just looking at the next step so I don't get overwhelmed by how much time stands between me and another sweet embrace with my mom and dad.  I have so much more to tell, and will do so when I find more free time!  Possibly tomorrow…although I never know what the "dreaded Wednesday" will hold.  I declare that I will find the joy in even Wednesdays though!  God, I pray you will open my eyes to all the glory and adventure.  Be my secret place, draw me nearer to you so that nothing else satisfies!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

New Wanderlust Movie in the Makes

     Above is the video trailer for the new Wanderlust movie: "Holy Ghost."  If you're in the mood for some Holy Spirit filled, crazy intense movie watching: try viewing "The Finger of God" or "Furious Love" or "Father of Lights" (Click HERE for a review of "Father of Lights.")  All three Wanderlust films portray Darren Wilson and his crew going around the world to see what happens when God shows up.  Turns out, the answer is: pretty crazy stuff!
     The movie trilogy is a powerful reminder for believers and an awesome depiction for all-- regardless of spiritual belief-- of the true love God has for his people.  When I found out last week that the crew is in the midst of filming a fourth movie, I got super excited!  Each one has been even better than the last, and I can't wait to see the mask of who God is get peeled back even further to see his glory.  If you're pumped like me for the Fall 2014 premiere, check out the promo video!  While you're at it, click HERE to flashback to the introduction of the second film, "Furious Love."

RELATED: A Movie Review: "Father of Lights"

A Book Review: "Practicing His Presence"

Practicing His Presence, Edition 0003  -     
        Edited By: Gene Edwards
        By: Brother Lawrence, Frank C. Laubach

     For my graduation, I was blessed with a few gift cards to a local Christian bookstore, and I knew I wanted to pick up some good reading material before leaving for college.  I bought two books, one of which was: "Practicing His Presence."  I had read some of my dad's copy of "Practicing the Presence of God" but this book was different.  It includes writings of Brother Lawrence but also those of Frank Laubach that I found equally compelling.  A short read, "Practicing His Presence" is absolutely packed with spiritual insight on how to draw nearer to God through our everyday thinking.  It is one of the most helpful Christian books I have ever read, and I would recommend it to anyone seeking a deeper relationship with Christ.
     The driving theme of the book is just that, practicing God's presence in our daily lives.  The idea is that God can be in every thing we do, and we can train our minds to meditate on him constantly, bringing us further into full joy with Christ.
     Frank Laubach gives a practical application: "Select a favorable hour, and easy, uncomplicated hour.  See how many minutes of the hour you can remember, or touch, Christ at least once each minute; that is to say, bring Him to mind at least one second out of every sixty.  You will not do so well at first but keep trying, for it constantly becomes easier, and after a while is almost automatic (Laubach 32)."
     I tried this myself (read more about it HERE) and found that it is a delightful pursuit.  For much of my life, I have battled against the temptation to seek perfection and control, leading me to trying to "do" all I can to earn love.  That is not at all the idea behind practicing God's presence though.  It is a holy and deeply peaceful pursuit of more of God.  I found myself relaxing rather than striving in the experiment (as Laubach calls it).
     There is a clear goal in mind when practicing God's presence.  "You may not win all your minutes to Christ, or even half, but you do win a richer life...We develop what Thomas a Kempis calls a 'familiar friendship with Jesus.' Our unseen Friend becomes dearer, closer and more wonderful every day (35).
It's a quick 110 large print book- lack of time is no excuse :)
     It is the absolute truth.  As I have gone through this book, I've gained practical knowledge that has radically changed my walk with God.  It's plain Christian fact that God is with us wherever we go.  Yet, I dare to ask: how many of us live that way?  How many of us have pure joy in the midst of trials because we are so in tune with God's heart?  How many times do we forget our very purpose for the trivial things of this world?
     I stand among you when I ask those questions, realizing through this journey that I am very quick to ignore God when life comes my way.  I let my emotions take control, people take control, temptations take control.  So much of this frustration and trial can be avoided if we fix our mind on Christ.  The uncontrollable trials we do have can become dim in the light of Christ.
     "What shall you do in your present straits?  Constantly, incessantly offer your pains to the Lord...just adore Him..God seems to have endless ways of drawing us to Himself (92)."
     I encourage you to read "Practicing His Presence.  The wisdom in this book is poured forth in the form of letters and excerpts, which exude the remarkable joy that God's almost-constant presence has brought to Laubach and Brother Lawrence.   The joyful hope in "Practicing His Presence" is what first prompted me to buy the book after reading a few pages at Lifeway.  It is also what prompted me to try this "experiment" out for myself.  God's presence really is right there for the taking!  He wants us to seek more and more of him.  In response, he reveals more and more of himself.  He takes us on a wild adventure of faith that far exceeds any earthly pleasure and "Practicing His Presence" is a great example of that faith in action.

RELATED: What I'm Grateful for on Oct. 9

Saturday, October 12, 2013

My Week in Pictures!

     If there's one thing I know from my years of journalism, its that readers have short attention spans.  Don't be offended- its true of myself as well.  To shake things up a bit, I'll give this update through pictures, since I've taken a few this week.  Do I still have your attention?
The week started by me jamming my finger in a chair....ouch!
(I promise it gets more exciting than that)

 Then I took a picture of my roommate pretending to study.  We felt like real college students!

 It was homecoming week, so I also got to eat some awesome PURPLE cauliflower, courtesy of our "books to movies" theme (where the cauliflower was located was the Dr. Seuss area).

This morning, I went to the homecoming parade and got some candy chucked at me-- in all fairness, I've got bad aim as well.  There was a giant zipline, train rides for kids, food trucks, blowups and a blowout football game to top it off.  Tons of fun for a normally boring Saturday.

Then, life returned to normal and I worked on my speech that has to be outlined by Wednesday (and I have to be able to run through it)...

and I worked on my Irish Literature essay-- rough draft due Monday.  It's a pretty interesting class that I am surprisingly enjoying.  It deals with a lot of language issues, which fascinate me.  Yet, none of that really compels me to enjoying doing the homework... (that's me being grumpy in the background).

     I can't complain though.  Only 4 days til Fall Break and I am literally SO excited!  I cannot wait to be in my own home, my own bed, see my family, hug my puppy, catch up with friends and relax!  Tomorrow should be fun as well: I absolutely love the church I've been going to since I got to campus and afterwards, the team is going to a pumpkin farm!  Sorry..that was a paragraph without pictures.  Here's a pumpkin to make up for it:

Pinkberry Pumpkin

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What I'm Grateful for on Oct 9

     Welcome to Wednesday!  You've made it this far already, and that's no small feat.  Consider it this way: you are currently being more effective as one person than the 4.8 million (according to the Business Insider) people who make up the U.S. national government!  Sorry, couldn't resist.  And in all honesty, most of them are completely innocent in this unfortunate event.  However, it does make us feel a little more productive on the individual level.
JOY = God's presence     I've had a real blessing of a week so far.  I'm finding that God's presence really is enough to bring me joy when I'm dragged down by stress and chaos.  I'm still praying that I will experience more of his love in an emotional way, because I haven't really had that yet in my journey for more of God.  I'm not sure why, but I do know that there's a great reason for it.  This past Sunday, I went forward at church to be prayed for in regard to having more of God in my life.  I am amazed at the power of prayer, and so grateful that the Holy Spirit nudged me.  There's no huge moment, no giant miracle, that has since occurred.  Yet, I feel a greater sense of peace and belonging.  I think I might be beginning to truly comprehend that his constant state toward me is love, and not anger.  I am enjoying pleasing him and talking to him, and I am finding that my mind is more frequently on his presence.
     Like I mentioned though, I haven't experienced a lot of the emotional side.  Perhaps that is so I will draw closer and really listen.  Sometimes, I figure it should just be easy: God should give powerful dreams every night of his glory and I should see visual displays while I'm walking to class. Heck, it would be nice if I saw an angel or two sitting in the treetops while I'm biking to workout in the mornings.  Ya, it doesn't always work that way.  While I'm not saying we shouldn't seek that revolutionary power of God, I am saying that when we, as believers, look only to the marvelous wonders that force us to look at God, we miss the subtle miracles that bless us as we draw near to God in order to notice them.  That is a lesson I am still learning.  However, I am praying for all these things, because his word says to ask for more of him and he will give it.
Practicing His Presence
Book review HERE
     It's true: he really will give you more.  He will do so in such a way that you're tongue tied and not quite sure how to explain it-- like I am.  All I know is that I am desperate for more of God, hungry to be fed by only him.   It's a place that delivers boldness and peace, and reckless love.  That is where I want to be.  Always.  I am thankful that God keeps drawing closer to his children as we seek him.  Yet, I'm also grateful that we will never get to the point where we say, "Ok, I've already seen this. *Yawn*"  The nearer we walk with God, the more we see there is to him and the more we want that.  I pray that today, you will walk with him.  Take the least stressful hour in your day and see how often you can meditate on God (Click HERE to see how I started doing this).  It is talked about in Practicing the Presence (RELATED: God's Joy!), and it's something I've been finding great joy in (RELATED: "Practicing His Presence" book review).  The past two days, I've noticed it spills into other times in my day and that's exactly how faith should be: uncontainable and ever growing.  That is God's desire for each and every one of our lives.

  • Click HERE to read my review on "Practicing His Presence."
  • Do you struggle with resting in God's grace and love for you?  Me too!  That's why I wrote THIS post a few weeks ago on God's perfect peace.  Check it out!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Comical Clip Monday

I firmly believe that we all need some mindless entertainment once in a while.  That includes this busy blogger.  What day is better to feature my favorite funny videos than Monday?  I'll start you off with this one I just saw the other day.  Try not to crack a smile.  I dare you!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Chicago Girls' Weekend!

     Last month, my mom took the weekend off and came down to pick up her very grateful daughter and take her to Chicago for the weekend (RELATED: Chicago Girls' Weekend Preview).  It ended up being one of my favorite memories, and an absolutely amazing time!
     We went to Shedd Aquarium (Click HERE for pictures!), rode bikes around the city to the zoo and Navy Pier.  We even got to ride the swings, which I have a deep love for.  Ever since I first rode them when I was about six, they make me feel like I'm flying!  My favorite thing we did might have been our first night there, when we bought some Ciao Bella Sorbet, sprawled out on the bed and talked and did a crossword puzzle.  It was some of the best mother daughter bonding we've had since our expedition to Colorado in June (RELATED: A Hiker's Review- Ice Lakes, Ouray, Colorado).  That was the same trip I ran up my first 14er (RELATED: Unforgettable Runs: Handies Peak, Colorado).
     While we weren't climbing, we got some serious cycling in when we biked way past the zoo and had to turn around again to find it.  It was a great way to see the city though: Millennium Park, Buckingham fountain, Lake Michigan and countless other beautiful sights.  Rather than tell you about it, I'll share some more pictures of all the fun we had:
The Tribune building is quite fascinating, as it has bricks/stones  from places all over the world:
the Taj Mahal, the White House, Old Faithful- you name it.

This map is made entirely of money- millions and millions of dollars worth!
It seems like the newspaper industry might need some of that cash right about now...

City view from Navy Pier.  I love this shot!

On Navy Pier

Here are some photos from Shedd Aquarium (Click HERE to see more!)

I hadn't seen Buckingham Fountain before, and was very impressed!

I also hadn't been to Millennium Park and seen the big bean!

After our long day of biking, we decided to take the water taxi back to the hotel.  

Before we left on Sunday, we stopped at the Willis Tower and got a great-- although foggy--
view of Lake Michigan and Chicago.  It was an excellent cap to a (hopefully) annual mother-daughter
fall getaway!

First Visit to Downtown Indy

     While I've been in the city a couple of times, I haven't actually walked around and see Indianapolis much.  When my dad and I stayed there last year, we got to see a few blocks, but were too rushed for time to see more.  When my mom and I had some time before a visit to Butler last year, we planned on seeing the city as well, but decided on the NCAA Hall of Fame when inclement weather hit-- I'd definitely recommend the hall of fame though.
Sorry! It's super blurry, I know.
     Finally, I was able to see downtown.  Granted, it was raining, and we walked around the inside of the mall because of that.  It was still something new though.  It was cool to get out and see some of the city, even if it was from inside.  I enjoyed it and am looking forward to going back soon!
     Today, I saw the sports doctor again and-- barring any new soreness or problem-- I can start progressing back to running after this week.  That is a huge praise and I am so grateful (RELATED: What I'm Grateful for on Oct. 2)
     Speaking of prayer, I'm praying that the 100% chance of rain tomorrow morning breaks to sun.  I am not in the mood for another rainy bike ride to church!  At least I'll be more prepared this time and bring a change of clothes for the service.  Either way, I'm sure God has a blessing in it.

  • Click HERE to read about the fun I had at the Indianapolis Children's Museum this past week!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Indianapolis Children's Museum and Weekly Update

Toys from the 1970s
     Like I said a few days ago, things have been crazy (RELATED: What I'm Grateful for on Oct. 2).  I'm still amazed that I'm actually in college.  As I've been learning, there are some pretty awesome perks to being a college student.  For instance: free trips to the Indianapolis Children's Museum.  Not only is it  eight minutes from campus, but it's also the largest children's museum in the world.  While my mom says I visited when I was quite young, I don't remember it, so everything was brand new-- and amazingly cool.
     I adamantly stand by the belief that you never have to completely "grow up" in the way you go about life.  Maturing and gaining wisdom in many areas allows us to view the fun in life in a more thankful way, a more appreciate perspective.  I had a blast running around in the dinosaur exhibit, the science displays and the countless other eye-popping attractions.  It reminded me a lot of the wacky science center, COSI, that we have in Columbus.  It was perfectly built for children, with little tunnels, hands-on water toys-- everything that little kids and 18 year old college students love.
     I was already on weekend mode by the time we arrived at the museum last night.  Thankfully, I only have one class on Fridays, 9:00-9:50, so it basically is the weekend by the time I get to Thursday afternoon.  After an early workout and statistics class, I worked on homework and anxiously awaited my dad.  He texted me on Monday asking if I wanted to go to dinner on Friday.  Of course, I replied: "Yes!!! Really?!?!"  Turns out, he was able to swing through Indy while on business and I was blessed with an amazing hour and a half with him.
(photo credit:
     Here's something else about college, you grow so much more thankful for those you love.  It's weird, but the three times I've seen my mom or dad since school began, as soon as I saw their car pull up, I smiled so big I just couldn't help but laugh.  Every time I've seen my parents, I've been so happy that I'm about to cry.  Don't try to tell me that happens everyday when you're at home with them.  I can't imagine hearing your mother tell you to pick up your room elicits a mile-wide grin...
     With my new resolve to look at my purpose of being a light on this campus, I'm slowly moving forward and really seeing a more positive result in the everyday.  I really want to experience more of God in the everyday moments though, so that is something I continually would ask prayer for.  It seems that we are always too far from him!
     He has absolutely put me where he wants me to be.  Although I'm ecstatic to see my family and friends in 12 days for fall break, I also am finally getting into a groove here.  I am looking for God's blessings and, crazily, I'm finding them!  Enjoy your weekend, enjoy your time with your family and friends.  I encourage you to look for the blessings God has brought your way.  Find something so small that it lights up your heart or find something so big that you almost cry with joy.  Either way, there's a mountain of blessings there to bring you closer to Christ.  Start searching!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What I'm Grateful for on Oct. 2

     Would you believe it if I told you I've been so busy lately that I haven't even been able to sit down and write?  I'm finally starting to feel like a real college kid.  Between cross training (RELATED: My Stress Fracture, When Things Aren't So Easy), rehab, classes, homework, Bible studies, NCAA study table requirements and sleeping, life has been pretty crammed with activity.
     I was really struggling for two weeks or so with it all.  I didn't have a problem getting all the work done, but I was having trouble not being super depressed that my life seemed to have no fun in it.  I would get up, work out, go to class, study and get some sleep before doing it all over again.  After some much needed encouragement from others and some serious prayer, I decided: I was doing it all wrong.  My new focus is Jesus.  My reason for being where I am is to share my story that I was dead but now I am alive.  Even in the monotony and boredom, God will reveal his glory.  He has put me here for a purpose and I am loved by him.  Slowly, I am learning to just call "Jesus" when I am overwhelmed.  I am so grateful that I can do that!  I need not get caught up in the perfectionist cycle of trying to "fix" all that is wrong with me-- although that's what I frequently do.  I am free to just cry "Jesus" and relax in his arms.  Let me tell you: it takes some getting used to!
     Nothing else in life is like that.  In no other situation can we just surrender and rest in our mistakes and imperfections.  The closest we get is love with one another, and even that fails in comparison to his love for us.  So, long story short, I'm grateful that God is still hanging on to me and he adores me despite all my sin and all my failings.  He doesn't want us to dislike ourselves or beat ourselves up over sin.  He just wants us to look toward him, leave the confusion behind.
     I've been looking for God's joy and reaching out to others, and (no shocker): it works!  I've been experiencing quiet joy.  I've also found that the joy and peace Christ gives during the difficult things-- the times that don't bring earthly happiness-- is so radically different than his joy during even the good times.  There is a unique hold to this joy and peace.  They are comforting, almost like a special little hug  that is just for you.  Weird, but true!
     I am blessed beyond belief, and it's time to really look at it that way.  Aside from the chief blessing of saving me from pain and sin, God is healing my stress fracture so that I can get on the bike and elliptical now.  He is helping me to be diligent in my studies and excel in classes-- I finally understand and enjoy math for the first time in my life!  He is bringing friends alongside me and family that is the most amazing support I could ask for.  He is showing me that I don't have to get caught up in confusion of perfection, but that I can just relax in him.  He is growing me!
     Do you know how I know?  I know because if I were walking through all this with the faith level I had a year ago, I would not be able to stand were I am.  I would not have been able to have a stress fracture,be extremely homesick and face a completely new environment, and say I have true joy in this place.  Yes, it's not easy, but it is the best thrill in life to know that God is right alongside me.  I could go on for hours about all the things I can't stand about myself, but the fact is: God loves me, and I am growing closer to living in that reality.