To Fear Or Not To Fear…

Fear. That dratted emotion that can get us all wound up and in a messy pit.

See the source imageWouldn’t it be great, if we never experienced fear again, never had to worry over anything? Lived in a world where anxiety was non-existent? I think that would be pretty amazing. 

Unfortunately, we do live in a fallen world, and because of that, can feel fear. Something I have been off and on struggling with, in terms of that, has been fearing what God might ask of me.

It’s funny, because I do want to please God and be used by Him, but somehow, fear sneaks its way in and starts whispering all sorts of silly things. What if He asks you to do something that scares you? What if He tells you to do such and such thing that freaks you out?

This past week, I went to a Bible study, and then afterwards read a devotional. Once I finished reading it, I realized there was something similar in both what the devotion was saying, and a small part of what we had been discussing in the group (just a side note, often times, God will make those sorts of things align like that, because He wants you to pay attention to it or is trying to tell you something). In His Treasure, by Sheri Rose Shepherd, this specific day’s verse was from Ephesians.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” ~ Ephesians 2:10

Of course, my first thought was ok so God is wanting me to do something. OH. GOD IS WANTING ME TO DO SOMETHING. Cue my brain semi-panicking.

blog17Well, I turned to Ephesians, since I like to read the entire chapter of wherever the verse came from…and guess what the title of that section was?

By Grace Through Faith.

By Grace Through Faith. 

Crazy, huh? Here I am, panicking, and then God is like, “LANIE. GRACE.” It’s amazing how patient the Lord is with us, because I know for me, there are so many times that God has shown me grace, and yet, I’m still like grace??? WHAT. Does not compute.

I want y’all to see just how many times grace is mentioned in this passage.

“…by grace you have been saved…”

“…show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus…”

“…For by grace you have been saved through faith…”

Ok. Grace. Right. After noticing this, I went back to verse 10, now trying to remember that God bestows grace on us, as I read it. So, Jesus has created good works for us to do. What does that look like?

In Matthew, Jesus tells a parable, which, I believe, gives some insight into this.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master,” ~ Matthew 25:21

I know a lot of times, people focus on the beginning part – the “good and faithful servant.” And while that is definitely a part of this, I want to focus more on the second half of the verse. The last line says, “enter into the joy of your master.” 

Isn’t that beautiful? He has just given his servant a larger assignment, and right after that, says enter into the joy of your master. This is not an assignment to be a burden or cause him to panic – you don’t tell someone, “enter into the joy” if what you are having them do is something that will cause fear, stress, or grief. 

Another way to look at this, is like a job promotion. Imagine you work at a huge company. You’ve been bringing coffee, fetching papers, doing odds and ends. Then one day, you come into work and your boss is there.

~~~

He gives you a grin, takes the coffee out of your hands.

Naturally, you are surprised, a bit confused. Weren’t you supposed to deliver those?

Chuckling, he tells you that you have been such a faithful worker, that he wants to give you a promotion. He’s got a job with you specifically in mind.

His excitement is contagious, and despite your worries over whether or not you will actually be good enough to do this next assignment (you had only been delivering coffee and papers up until now!), you nod your head and follow him to the next floor.

~~~

I love analogies – they always help me to better understand concepts and visualize what that would look like in day-to-day life. How would our lives be different if we could come to God, with no fear of what he might do/what he might ask of us, and just be excited because He wants us to do something more?

Over the past couple of months, I’ve talked to several godly adults, and something that has been common in their responses is this: God has gifted each and every one of His children with specific skill sets. He wants to use those. He gave them to us for a reason.

Yes, He might ask us to do something outside of our comfort zone, but it will be within our skill set. For example, my mom loves God’s Word and she loves to encourage others, but speaking in front of others? No way! And yet, that is what Jesus has her doing. But, do you see my point? It is outside of her comfort zone, but it’s not so far out that it’s in another hemisphere.

It’s easy to say all that of course, and much harder to actually believe. Changing the way you think isn’t easy, but I hope to retrain my mind to stop thinking about God like a drill sergeant, and more as a loving Father, who is eagerly wanting to show me more of the “family business,” and let me have a larger role in it.

~ Southern Dreamer

Note: This does not mean that we won’t be challenged when God is asking us to do something, or that we won’t experience difficulties. However, as His children, Jesus is not trying to make us afraid.

 

Undercover Boss

The lights flash overhead – flash flash flash.

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The crimson curtains fall in perfect line across the stage – swish swish swish.

Center Stage Design Challenge

In the crowd, dozens upon dozens of angels stand transfixed – gaze adoringly focused on their Lord. No sound is made, and yet there is an uncanny sense of destiny and heroism about to be embarked upon. The foreboding aura of – wait. A breeze shifts through the auditorium, whispering to the congregation.

Watch. Listen. Believe. 

Another murmur.

See my Son, unblemished and without fault. He now goes to the world below. Our creation, that became riddled with sin and darkness. So lost and desperate for anything real, blinded by their own brokenness. He will become in likeness with them, transforming to be both God and man, trading the riches of His throne, for the dust of the Earth. 

Eyes were wide in the crowd, silence filling the room.

Through Him, the canyon of sin – the gap that separates our creation from us, will finally be bridged. By His sacrifice, they will have a way to come home. Now, let it begin.

Lightening scintillated in shards of electric light, and the clock of eternity ticked on.

Tick. Tick. Tick. 

~~~

The stage is set; the prologue has been written. What will happen?

In nervous anticipation, the heavenly audience watches from above. There is the birth – raw and painful, yet filled with so much beauty and relief. He’s here! God, in the flesh! The trembling hand of a father, strokes the babe’s cheek – held in his mother’s arm. How is this real?

Oh, but it is real. Very real.

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The child, Jesus, grows up. People do not know who he is, not really. They say that he is such a wise young boy, always obeying his parents. The years fast-forward and adulthood has come.

Miracles are performed and lives are saved.

The instrumental music’s tempo dramatically increases. Oh! Oh! Now-now there is pain and betrayal – blood seeps His skin, inch deep wounds scar His body, and agony covers the atmosphere in a dark display of thunder and rain.

The audience holds their breath, watching anxiously to see what will happen next.

There is a stone, a grave. Three days. Seventy-two hours. And, then!

Life.

He lives.

~~~

Jesus was the ultimate “Undercover Boss.” If you have never watched the show, the premise of Undercover Boss is the CEO of a business disguises themselves and works several different jobs that are part of their company. They meet different people, those who are struggling and need help. These individuals show them how to work their specific skill, and so the show goes on.

No one knows that this person is the boss. Not, that is, until the very end. During the last portion of the hour, the CEO – now looking like themselves, meets with each of his or her employees that they worked with.

The employees are naturally shocked, surprised! They had no idea!

But the best part is yet to come. Finally, the boss leans forward – grinning, he references their struggles in life, and what they had gone through. “I want to do something,” he says, “I’m giving you a check for $20,000 dollars.”

Instantly, the recipient is in tears – wondering if this is real. Could all of their anxieties really be over? Did someone actually notice them? All they can do is thank the CEO over and over again.

This is what the Holy Spirit revealed to me.

I was sitting in the bed one night, condemning myself for not reading my Bible enough or feeling like just worshipping God was “enough.” Dratted perfectionism y’all!

Anyway, Undercover Boss was on the TV and the Holy Spirit suddenly told me that’s me. I came to Earth and I am your undercover boss. This person offered financial help to these people, they did not expect it and yet, they accept it. Why then, do you continue to try to prove yourself to me, when I have canceled all of your debt. You are debt free. 

WHAT.

Basically my brain xD

So yeah, the CEO gave them thousands of dollars, sent them on vacations, helped them out of whatever problems life had thrown their way. And Jesus? Oh boy, here comes the surprise! Can you feel the tension? The big reveal is here!

~~~

A hush feels the room. Then…

I am offering you a clean slate. Freedom through me. You will have no more sin debt, I have already paid the price for it. I want you to become my heir – royalty. Everything I have is yours: my righteousness for your robe, my divinity for your soul, my love for your spirit. All I ask is that you trust me with your heart, and all this shall be gifted to you. 

There has to be something more, right? It-it can’t be that easy! That simple? Crazy! No one just offers everything to a stranger. No one could possibly want to give someone like me this!

Your flaws and failures do not frighten me away. I see your greatest potential, the best version of yourself. The natural state of your humanity is nothing compared to the magnitude of my love, with which even the darkest of souls can be saved if they only believe. 

But, me?

I have chosen you. You are my chosen one, my treasure.

The question is…

Will you trust me?

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~ Southern Dreamer

*Scripture references: 1 Peter 2:9, Romans 8:17, 2 Peter 1:4, John 15:16, 1 Corinthians 2:16, Isaiah 61:10, 1 John 4:19, Exodus 19:5

Confessions of a New College Student

I’ve now been at college for about two months, give or take a few days. With everything I have been learning, there are a couple of conclusions I have drawn about college students in general and obviously, myself.

1. You will live at coffee shops

Ok, well. Maybe not literally, but basically – yeah. You might as well consider coffee shops your own personal living room or office. The amount of time I have spent at coffee shops has pretty much tripled, compared to when I was home.

So far, I’ve tried Monarch, O’Henry’s, and Heritage House in Tuscaloosa. They’ve all been really good, and completely different, which is cool! (btw let me know in the comments below if y’all would be interested in hearing my review of various coffee shops, or if that’s a boring/terrible idea. Be honest! Seriously, I won’t be offended – I’m just trying to figure this whole blogg’in thing out haha).

2. Animal desperation reaches a new high

CONFESSION TIME. I am an avid animal lover…and by that, I mean sortofmaybereallyobssessed. Imagine me, who previously lived with two cats and a dog, going to college where the housing staff is all like NO ANIMALS. NONE. ZERO. ZIP. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures y’all.

Not going to lie, today I had a pathetic realization. I was walking to the library and I saw the cutest, tiniest chipmunk scamper over the sidewalk and into the bushes. Its little coppery body with stripes popped into the leaves with one small leap.

“So cute!” said I, having the urge to hold the adorable creature. This, then, transitioned to the natural thought of wanting to take one of these friendly animals back with me as a pet.

Hey, I have had some experience with squirrels and chipmunks: when my brother, next-door neighbors, and I rescued two baby squirrels. Seriously y’all, at least as babies, they are SUPER friendly and SO CUTE.

Anyway. Needless to say, the thought of smuggling a pet into my dorm room has crossed my mind…multiple times. Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone, ok? This is our little secret. blog3

3. Money disappears

Remember when you were little, and one hundred dollars sounded like a MASSIVE amount of cash?

If only that were the case! In my short time that I have been at college, I have quickly learned how fast money goes! Those $5 coffees add up y’all!

Besides that, I’ve just been doing school and trying to figure out this whole adult thing – which, by the way, IS SO WEIRD TO SAY. I remember when I was younger, and I would look at college students and think, “wow, they’re so grown-up and independent!”

….now I’M in college, and yeah, nope. All of us are basically running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off – I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DO THIS. WHAT AM I DOING. OHMYWORD I’VE SCREWED UP. I’M RUINED. I’M OFFICIALLY NOT CUT OUT TO BE AN ADULT.

So. There’s that.

Anywayyyyyyyyy, this past weekend I went to the Kentuck Festival of the Arts. Southern Living actually featured this festival in their magazine! I was pretty excited about that, being a good southern girl and all (since Southern Living’s word is law). This morning I took my psychology midterm/test/whatever-you-want-to-call-it – glad to be done with that! 😉

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now y’all!

~ Southern Dreamer

 

Faithful Butterflies

Yesterday, I was walking back to my dorm. My backpack filled with binders and school supplies bounced against my spine, straps secured over my shoulders. The summer heat and classic southern humidity filled the atmosphere, making me hurry towards the air-conditioned building: Ridgecrest South. It loomed in the near distance – students exiting and entering in the always moving throng of a college campus. As my feet transitioned from grass to pavement, a fluttering movement caught my eye. Flitting across the grounds, were tiny, adorable little butterflies. Their cheery neon-yellow color bestowed of their vibrancy for life, drawing a smile onto my face.

I hope the title of this post is beginning to make sense.

Today, it was like all of the things that have occurred – which I will go in more detail to – came together in a perfect masterpiece and a lightbulb hit me. Sometimes in life, changes happen, and you’re thrown into it wondering how am I supposed to do this? That’s sort of the season I’m in now. College is a huge difference, going from a homeschooled-Christian environment to a large, secular university; an introvert entering one of the largest colleges. Kind of crazy.

The past week or so, several events have happened. Little things, that you might not assume were connected if you weren’t looking for it. For me, even though I did not realize it at the time, the connection started one afternoon. I was walking and suddenly, one of my professor’s called my name – saying she wanted to speak with me. She assured me that I was not in trouble, before referencing a piece of work I had done.

“Have you found a church home yet?”

I shook my head. “No, I’m still sort of looking around.”

With my response, she told me about the church she and her husband have been attending for the past few years. “They have a great college program,” she said, suggesting I should come and visit. I thought it was amazing that she was a Christian: even though her class is my hardest, she’s my favorite teacher. After I learned all of this, I instantly knew why she has been my favorite.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God,” ~ 1 John 4:1

Even though I did not know it at the time, I believe subconsciously the Holy Spirit was telling me that the same spirit that was in me, was in her. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty AMAZING. SO. COOL.

After class, I headed to the Student Center so I could pick up a package. There were a couple of students in front of me, though not many. When my turn came, I handed them my Action Card and signed off on it, during which they went to get my package. They handed the cardboard box, and I walked past the glass doors to where a gray shelf/table jutted out from the wall. Placing the box on it, I grabbed my cellphone and checked Facebook (as every good millennial would do xD). That’s when I saw I had a notification.

Take a wild guess as to what the overall message was about…God’s faithfulness. My friend, Ane, was going to be sharing in my mom’s Bible Study about how God had been so faithful to her (side note: Ane, you seriously need to start a blog! Your story is amazing). Obviously, I’m not in my hometown right now, so I couldn’t be there. I was so glad she had sent what she was going to say to me! As I finished reading it, all the pieces clicked and I realized how faithful and loving God has been to me.

And when God does something like that, you have to tell. I mean, first of all, it’s SO COOL, and secondly, it can help encourage others! Or God can use it to prompt them as Ane did for me 🙂

“I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!” ~ Psalm 40:10-11

Where do I start?

This past weekend, I went home. On Sunday, I headed to church (albeit very late SORRY, thank goodness God can work through all of our faults!), and saw Mrs. Jane. I greeted her with a wave and hug, before heading into the sanctuary. When the service was over, she approached me and we started to talk. I told her about college, and some of the changes I was having to get used to. Honestly, I can’t really explain the friendship I have with her. I suppose the simplest way, would be that it is completely brought together by God. He has made us kindred spirits. She prayed with me, before I left.

One of my mom’s friends, Mrs. Elizabeth, has been so sweet to me. This past summer I had the opportunity to house-sit her home and watch her silly, cute pets while she and her family were away. I was really grateful for the chance, and as I’ve started college, she has been faithful in praying for me. Knowing the wisdom she has, I’m so grateful for that! She sent me two packages and a letter, which I was gratefully surprised by! The package I mentioned earlier, was from her and contained beautiful, delicious sugar cookies in the shape of Dogwood blossoms/flowers.

Then there’s the cards from my grandparents and aunt with Starbucks gift cards (I’m pretty sure I live off caffeine nowadays xD) – a wonderful surprise that brightened my day. On Tuesday, I met with my English teacher and she was so encouraging to me! She strongly encouraged me to consider majoring or minoring in creative writing. Yesterday, someone from BamaCru – a Christian organization – texted me, asking if I would like to get lunch or coffee.

Isn’t it amazing, how God orchestrated everything? I’m so humbled that He loves me like that!

If you’re experiencing a time of change or are in a place where you don’t know what you’re doing, I would encourage you to ask God to pray for Him to show His love to you, for you to experience kisses from the Prince of Peace. Sometimes we forget, but as believers, we are His children! He delights in giving us good gifts!

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” ~ Luke 11:11-13

~ Southern Dreamer

Good Guys V.S. Bad Guys

Alright y’all, so I’m not really sure where I’m going with this blog post 😉 I’ve had a couple of ideas and thoughts floating around in my head, and figured I might as well try to put them into a cohesive mix-up of words and phrases. Lord willing, this will come together as some sort of bloggie post that flows and doesn’t sound like a random jumble of mashed-up craziness!

I’ve had some experience babysitting, and there was something interesting I noticed. When I asked the boys, who their favorite characters were, they almost always referred to the “bad guys.” They had the good guys too, but normally, they seemed more drawn to pretend-play with the darker, powerful foes.

This surprised me. I have a brother, and I always remember him loving characters like Luke Skywalker, Spider-Man, and other heroic people/beings. When I came home, I told my mom and asked her what she thought about it. Why did they seem instinctually drawn towards the opposing side? What was it that caused them to be more enthusiastic in that?

Here’s what she said: little boys are often drawn to the darker characters because they are portrayed as powerful and strong. She told me that with Brayden, my younger brother, she always encouraged and pointed him towards the good characters. She would not buy him all of the Darth Vaders, Jokers, or overall villainous toys. She wanted him to strive to be like the heroes. Not perfect, because no one is, but trying their best to follow truth and do what is right.

I know some of y’all are probably thinking I’m going to the extreme end of things. But, I do not believe I am. Because I have a brother, I understand that boys love to play-fight – cowboys and Indians, the Dark Side and the Light Side. There is nothing wrong with that, and I am definitely not against it – nor am I against a child having both the good and bad characters. After all, without an antagonist, victory would not taste quite as sweet and neither would justice be as preciously guarded.

But I believe it is very important for parents to make this distinction: encourage them and point out the cool and awesome qualities in the good guys. Yeah, it might sound silly, but fictional characters – especially for children – are critical. They look to them for inspiration and hope.

Jesus used parables and stories to convey truths. If our Savior did, then does that not show the high value and impact that stories can have?

Children learn through play, and fictional characters are a huge part of that. Rather than consistently being drawn to the powerful yes, but also opposing what is true and good, characters, should we not encourage them to look at the ones seeking after righteousness and truth?

For boys to be brave like Luke Skywalker, loyal like Harry Potter, and compassionate like Aragorn.

For girls to be as loving as Padme Amidala, have faith like Lucy Pevensie, and hard-working like Mulan.

For teens to look at Darth Vader and know that redemption is possible, to remember Natasha Romanoff and how your past does not define you, and to look at Finn from Star Wars, Emma Swan from Once Upon A Time, and remind themselves that even heroes experience fear and doubt their abilities.

Maybe I’m way off the mark here, and this is all just a silly theory running around in my head. Who knows, this could all be mess concocted together late at night.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Whatever you read and watch is bound to have some affect on you. I am not saying that if you watch a TV show with a villain, or read a book with a dark wizard, that you are going to flip a switch and turn evil – FAR FROM IT! Without antagonists, any story would be quite boring and basic. There would be no challenge for our hero. With that said, as I stated earlier, children’s minds are still developing. I’m not a parent, but I have a pretty awesome mom and dad. And they always made sure to make the distinction between enjoying the story, and praising the villain. I can never remember hearing as a child, oh look how cool Palpatine looks with his Force lightning! Isn’t the White Witch’s outfit awesome?

As children grow and mature, then the conversations can obviously go deeper and you can tease, joke, or comment on scenarios that you would not have done when they were little. Like I said, I’m not a parent, but I think encouraging and pointing kids towards healthy, heroic role models whether in fiction or real life, is important.

~ Southern Dreamer

 

What I Learned My First Week of College

Ok. Not going to lie – writing the title of this post was weird.

Me? In college?

Yeah, it’s kind of crazy. Really insane in an odd way. Every freshman (yep, that happened) I’ve talked to agrees that this feels like summer camp. Almost as if we are all going to wake up one day and BAM! – be back home. I’m sure it’ll sink in at some point that this is permanent and real, but right now I’m still in that surreal phase.

For those of you who don’t know, I chose to attend the University of Alabama. I know, I know – what was I thinking? Me. An introverted, Christian, conservative girl attending one of the largest schools in the country…where I know basically nobody. Putting it down in words does make it seem illogical – what could I be thinking?

I don’t really have an answer for you, except that this seems like where God wants me.

For all that, I have survived my first week of college! Can I get a halleluiah? 😉

Alright y’all, I’m going to get real here. The first week of college is kinda insane. Here are some things I learned for those of you headed towards college, or who just want to hear about how I, who pride myself on keeping my iPhone in pristine condition, managed to crack it – cue the tears.

  1. Do not trust the time your app says it takes to get to class

My Alabama app stated it would take a six minute walk to class. Haha…readers, the app’s definition of “walk” and mine are clearly different. I was speed-walking through campus on a mission: get to my first Spanish class in ten minutes. I did have the thought of running, but y’all! I did not want to be that girl.

“Yeah, there she goes. Ran to class on her first day.” Cue shaking head.

Ok, maybe that was semi-dramatic. But the point remains that I refused to make my first impression on campus, in a full-out run to class. By the time I reached the building, I checked my phone and raced up the stairs. For those of you who know me, you will recall that I am not the most coordinated person…and this translated to me tripping on the stairs and dropping my phone.

Crack.

My beautiful iPhone that I had so valiantly tried to keep in perfect condition, now showed a diagonal crack.

2. Driving on campus is a nightmare

One of my classes is pretty far, so I decided to drive to it. I happen to be a bit *ahem* directionally challenged, and some of the people on the roads were not very forgiving to a poor, confused freshman. In answer to your unspoken question, yeah…I got honked at.

But hey, I did eventually make it!

3. Your dorm room will look better than your bedroom at home

This is probably different for guys, at least from what I’ve seen online. But I know from my own experience, that my dorm room is definitely nicer in decorations, interior design, etc than my bedroom. I went on Pinterest for inspiration initially – seriously, whoever created that website/app is AMAZING. I’m only slightly addicted 😉 Home Goods and TJ Maxx were mainly where I purchased most of my dorm room items.

4. Starbucks will save your life

Well, maybe not save your life, but it will certainly make it more bearable. Alabama has a huge Starbucks in the student center – thank heaven. So far, I’ve already been twice, though I’m sure once school picks up speed, I will live and breathe Starbucks.

5. I have more appreciation for the simple things in life

Like bathtubs for instance. I love taking a warm, bubbly bath! Alas, dorm bathrooms lack this vital feature *dramatic sigh* Others include fruits and veggies, eating meals with my family, and having a sweet, furry pet to cuddle with. As they say, you don’t realize what you have until you don’t have it.

Those are a few things I learned my first week of college, along with other random bits and pieces. Such as that my Human Development teacher apparently owns buffalo, cows, horses, and chickens??? (Someone please tell me what one does with a buffalo)? Free food almost always means pizza, and walking through a hallway lined with sitting and standing students will make you feel like you’re in the Hunger Games.

To my fellow freshman, what did y’all learn during your first week in college?

~ Southern Dreamer

When Being Drunk Is Good

From the song “Happy,” to the hundreds of advertisements promising true happiness, our world is on a constant search for something that will make us happy. Many times, we think it’s something superficial – like money or going on awesome trips. If that’s true, then why are celebrities often so miserable? Why do many famous individuals turn to drugs, alcohol, and other such devices? I believe this is because they are lacking fulfillment, purpose, and joy.

True joy.

Patheos.com defines joy as, “Joy isn’t like happiness which is based upon happenings or whether things are going well or not. No, joy remains even amidst the suffering. Joy is not happiness. Joy is an emotion that’s acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful. It could be described as exhilaration, delight, sheer gladness, and can result from a great success or a very beautiful or wonderful experience like a wedding or graduation but the definition of joy that the world holds is not nearly as amazing as biblical joy.”

Happiness is contingent on our circumstances, what is happening around us. Have you ever been having a really great day, and then something goes wrong? Your coffee spills, the fast-food restaurant gave you the wrong order, you suddenly realize you have a project due tomorrow. BAM. Your entire day seems like it just did a huge 180 and you are freaking out.

Does God want us to be happy? Certainly! He is our Father, and as his children, Jesus only wants the best for us. However, God is much smarter than we are, and he knew that there would be days when something goes wrong. He did give us free will, after all, and God doesn’t take back His Word. Even when it might not be our fault, or a person’s fault, as long as there is sin in the world, we will never have a perfect day.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” ~ John 16:33

Jesus tells us that we will have hard times. He never promised that our lives would be free from struggles, but he did not leave us empty-handed. The second part of the verse is important to remember: I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD. For those of us who are believers, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. The same power that OVERCAME the world lives in those of us who believe!

That is pretty awesome, however, I would like to bring the topic back around to joy. I promise it relates 😉

Like I said earlier, God wants us to be happy. There’s a problem with happiness…it’s contingent, subjective. Thankfully, we have an amazing Father and He offers us a solution to this…JOY.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law,” ~ Galatians 5:22-23

When we accept Jesus into our hearts, the Holy Spirit comes and dwells there. The Spirit, as part of the trinity, embodies all of the qualities of God. We have an opportunity to experience these emotions through the Holy Spirit.

There have been two times in my life that I can recall feeling the joy of the Holy Spirit. And y’all. It. Was. AMAZING. I felt so empowered and fearless! I was drunk on joy! That’s literally how it felt, and anyone who has experienced that, knows how absolutely riveting and exciting it is. You are just so joyful, happy, delighted. You’re like a child who trusts that everything is going to be ok. One instant, my mom and brother’s computer had crashed. Everyone else in my family was panicking, thinking that the computer was gone forever, along with all of their work on it.

Now, I do not take credit for this. All I can say, is that God in his mercy and love, perhaps saw me as a willing vessel and deposited His JOY and FAITH and TRUST in me. I was not worried! I knew God was going to fix the computer. I was drunk on the joy of the Holy Spirit, and you know what? The computer was saved. They’re still using it today.

Imagine what we could do in this world if we lived every day drunk on the joy of God. If we became like children and humbled ourselves in prayer. “Father, overwhelm me with faith and trust and joy that only You can give.” I think we would change this entire world, turn it on its axis.

I’m not pretending to know how to do this. Honestly, I am learning just as much as you. There’s not always a step-by-step manual on how to do this thing called faith, and that’s ok. All God asks is that we have a willing heart.

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long,” ~ Psalm 25:4-5

~ Southern Dreamer

Victory in Jesus

Yesterday, as I was sitting in the car, my mind began to wonder. Sometimes when that happens it’s a good thing, a creative idea will come to me or I’ll remember something I had forgotten. Other times, when my thoughts drift off, they’ll jump onboard the “Fear/Anxiety Train.” Unfortunately, I was on my way to the plush cushioned seats of Worry.

So that’s where I was mentally.

As my eyes glanced at the radio, I noticed what song had started to play…”No Longer Slaves” by Bethel. Just to give you a quick preview, the chorus of this song says:

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again into your family
Your blood flows through my veins

Yeah, pretty awesome. I started to sing the words and the Spirit reminded me of something really awesome. Are y’all ready?

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us! Like, WHAT. I think many times we gloss over this, or don’t understand the actual meaning. But y’all, the power that raised our Savior from the grave? That brought him back to life? LIVES IN US.

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you,” ~ Romans 8:11

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” ~ Acts 1:8

It made me feel so empowered! And I could feel my fear being washed away as I meditated on this thought. Life can be really hard, and once in a while it’s wise to remind ourselves of whose we are. Children of the Most High. Princes and princesses of the King of kings. Creations of the Bright and Morning Star. Co-heirs with Christ (aka God of the universe). Friend of God.

And because of that, we have the privilege of being the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). God’s Spirit, to those who believe, resides in us. We can live in the victory of Jesus’ death and resurrection! We are truly free! In the life of Jesus, we have complete confidence of triumph. When we go through trials, struggles, pain, and suffering, let us remember that at the end of the day, in God, we are victorious! As Paul said, “perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

Perhaps you fight battles that no one knows, save for yourself and our Lord. Maybe you’re struggling with something that you think no one can possibly understand. Or it could be that right now your life is going perfectly. Everything is coming together exactly as you thought it would, and you couldn’t be more excited! Whether or not you find yourself in a season of waiting or one of great joy, let us never forget that in our Savior, we are VICTORS. CONQUERS. OVERCOMERS. WARRIORS.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:57

As we celebrate this fourth of July, remember where the true freedom lies. Between biting into a juicy hamburger and dipping your glistening silver spoon into a bowl of cold, soft ice cream, do not forget the high price that Jesus paid. When you watch the fireworks explode in beautiful displays of red, blue, and white, thank God for saving us from a lifetime of misery and sin. He set us free, and His freedom is the most valuable kind. Because even if the world goes to hell, the government crumbles, and everyone is in a panic, as Christians, we can still stand tall and say with confidence that we are free.

We know the truth and we have been delivered. Let us never forget the priceless gift of being a Child of God. We are free.

~ Southern Dreamer

Resting In God When The World Is Going Crazy

This past year, my senior year, I duel-enrolled at a local college. During my second semester, I took Bio 2 and found it fascinating (minus one section *ahem* parasites/bacteria/etc).

Anyway.

We were learning how everything on Earth is connected and how global warming is affecting it. Here’s the short spill on it – I promise you’ll be able to understand it and I’ll try my best to not spend several paragraphs on it 😉

Because of Earth warming, the Indian Ocean has been steadily warming as well. You’re probably thinking, “ok. so the ocean is a little bit warmer, what’s the big deal?” I’m glad you asked! XD

The increasing temperature of the Indian Ocean has caused the North Atlantic oscillation (aka two air masses) to become stuck on its “intense” cycle. The North Atlantic oscillation has never been completely calm, but there are usually periods or breaks where the intensity lets down and it is more docile. However, with the increasing temperatures that has not been happening.

north atlantic

It’s amazing how the entire world is so intricately connected. In Africa, there is a body of water called Lake Chad. Wikipedia says, “The United Nations Environment Programme and the Lake Chad Basin Commission concur that at least half of the lake’s decrease is attributable to shifting climate patterns.” As Lake Chad has dried up, the dust and dirt that was beneath the water has been exposed.

You can imagine what sorts of algae, fungi, and other gross things lie at the bottom of the lake. With the dust being out in the open, the pathogenic soil fungus it contains has been swept into the air from the Saharan and blown towards the Caribbean.

Interestingly, this dust has caused an ironic increase in pediatric asthma cases and coral sea fan disease. Which is obviously not good.

Now, I’m going to be honest. I kind of started to worry, because wow, how the heck are we supposed to fix all of this. ITS SO MUCH.

God, knowing this, led me to this verse.

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near,” ~ Luke 21:25-28

WOW. Like, anyone else amazed??? I mean that’s literally what’s happening! And there it is, right in the Bible. It makes me feel so much better, to know that God knew this was going to happen. None of this is a surprise to him.

Thank you Jesus for that!

~ Southern Dreamer

Graduation

Wow. It happened.

What, you may be asking, happened? Well, my wonderful readers and dreamers, the author of this blog has officially graduated from high school (for the sake of my sanity, we’re going to ignore the fact that I still have a few weeks left of school).

Yep. Eighteen years in the making and here I am.

I don’t think the fact that I’m graduating really hit me until I was standing in the church, with my peers. We all looked at each as if to say right. this is really here. this isn’t some idea in our heads anymore. we’re graduating.

Not going to lie, when the entire notion of you being DONE with your childhood, officially considered an adult by the entire world hits you…it’s a bit terrifying.

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So, when Griffin suggested that we all skip our graduation and go and get milkshakes instead…It was a terribly tempting proposition. Especially considering the fact that we had to give speeches, and anyone who knows me, knows that I abhor speaking in front of people.

Then, we all had a mid-panic, because did we just miss the music cue. Are we supposed to go in now? Later? Has it started? And because I was first, if I missed the cue, everyone else would be off.

No pressure XD

Thankfully, someone told us when to go (bless her!), and off I went down the aisle. I wore my white graduation gown and cap, with gold tassels and fringes. Wearing my two inch white wedge heels – I’m not the most coordinated person anyway, and so I thought it would be wise to steer clear of too-high shoes, I walked up the steps and took my place.

Once all five of us were on the stage, Mrs. Kim came up to speak. For those of you who don’t know her, she is a wonderful and precious lady. She was so gracious in allowing me to be a part of CHAT (homeschool co-op), even though I was not able to make the third class because of previous school scheduling. Shoutout to her for that, and for creating an amazing and intimate ceremony for the seniors! You’re the best! 🙂

Both Chelsea and Haley’s dads prayed, with the later speaking. They both did an amazing job.

For the ceremony, a video with a song and pictures of the graduate had to be created. They played each video, and after one was done…the graduate had to speak.

Deep breath.

With my notecards in hand – let’s be real, there was no way I was going to speak from memory, I stood and went to the podium. It was not quite as terrifying as I had imagined, though I certainly was relieved to be done! 😉

Miyah, who looked fabulous, walked up the steps and took the microphone. She sang Cinderella by Steven Curtis Chapman. I love that song, and she did an incredible job!

Then came time for my parents to take the stage, speak, and hand me my diploma. My mom held the diploma, while my dad took the microphone. He gave a great speech, although I suppose I’m slightly biased since it was about me xD, and was about to close when my mom interjected. In a characteristic fashion, my mom spontaneously decided that she needed to say something too. So, she did.

It’s funny standing there and having someone say so many nice things about you, even if it is your family. Like, I’m not sure I deserve all of this.

But, ONWARDS! They handed me my diploma, and the ceremony continued.

Mrs. Kim gave each of us, as graduates, a new Bible. Thank you Mrs. Kim, I will treasure it always! This is also a good point to make an important note: THANK YOU LORD FOR BRINGING ME THIS FAR. Eighteen years!

We turned our tassels, pictures were taken, and then came the time for us to exit the stage…as the official CHAT graduating class of 2017!

Once the rain had paused, we all took advantage of the break in weather and rushed outside for the throwing of the caps. The first try was a…fail. We all threw ours up at different times. Time for take two! THIS TIME, we laughingly requested a countdown. There were about eight different cameras going on at once, so I’m pretty sure we must have gotten a good picture out of one of those! xD

I’m going to be honest y’all. High School Musical was my childhood, and there was a large part of me that totally wanted to break out in that graduation number. Who’s with me? 😉

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All in all, it was a wonderful ceremony. Thank you to Mrs Kim for putting it together, you did an incredible job! Thank you to everyone who came and helped me get this far, and congrats to all of my peers who graduated as well! WE DID IT Y’ALL!

~ newly graduated, Southern Dreamer