Saturday, July 27, 2013

the conclusion... To Our Summer Reading Challenge

Today is the final day of the summer reading challenge I started five weeks ago. So far I know of three people who completed the challenge, I am so proud of them! I managed 3 books, and I am okay with that. The only problem is I mayyy have to re-think my "50 books in a year" resolution and postpone it to next year. Who knows what I'll do?

Now you still have until midnight today to finish whatever book you are working on... but as soon as you can get it to me, I need your list of read books!

I have my debit card ready, who will be the summer reading challenge winner???

(Reminder: the winner will be chosen at random from the people who completed the challenge. If you exceeded the five books required to be entered, those just count as extra entries in the hat and more opportunity to win.)

I am hoping to just send out another e-mail to gather book lists and also to see if anyone would be interested in contributing to a blog post about what we read and how we did it! If you have any ideas for what the blog post should be about (reviews for the books we read, tips on how you made time for reading, why you like books, etc...) comment down below!

Would you like to be a part of the reading challenge wrap up post?
I want you to be!
What should we talk about?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Busy. Busy. Busy. Change.

About three weeks ago started what would be a pretty busy time for me. Not that life tells you these things in advance, usually it just happens and we're left wondering when we will finally be able to relax and catch our breath. My week has sort of been like that, but not in a bad way. It's usually a rare occasion for me to go to bed exhausted so many nights in a row only to wake up early again.

On a side note, I've liked getting up earlier... to some degree. I have been more productive. Or well, active is a better word because though I've written a couple thousand words of fiction: I haven't blogged, journaled, or read much for my challenge.

I read a ton of blog posts and articles a couple days ago, so at least I'm still reading to some degree? Right? Besides, I am working on getting caught back up with that stuff.

Part of all the busyness comes from the fact that I decided not to go to cosmetology school. But each day I become even more grateful that I changed my mind.

It was a hard decision to make, I was very unsure, but through a lot of prayer and conversations I was able to decide that wasn't the path for me. I had an interest in cosmetology, but it was not a growing interest and it did not compare to my passion for writing and literature.

So what am I doing now? I am still going to the same community college, but I am getting my 2 years of general education (Associate of Arts, or so they tell me) and I plan to really start writing. I know I am a writer. I believe I am a writer. 100%. Because I write.

But I want to be an author.
With completed works. And published ones.

Not only that, I want to share my passion for literature, books, stories. Help other aspiring authors if I can. I want to at least see where I can go with this and put my full effort into it.

This decision was a big deal, I was completely changing the course I had set up for myself. Everything had been ready for me to go to cosmetology, that's what I had told everyone I was going to do, and yet there was something in me that wasn't quite at ease. When I allowed myself to think about, I discovered where those echoes of uncertainty were coming from. I'm a writer, and when it all came down to it, I just couldn't bare to put that on the back burner.

Some people may not understand my decision, some are probably thinking, "Well, it took you long enough to figure that out." But either way, I know this is what I am supposed to be doing, and within a week nearly, everything seemed to just fall into place.

On the 13th, my boyfriend and I celebrated being together for 2 years. It was a lot of fun because we packed in a full day together going biking, eating out, seeing a movie, and just riding around and hanging out. With him leaving for school in a month, which will take him about an hour away, we'd like to squeeze out as much time together as we can get before then.

I am still in the process of figuring out what I am going to do for a source of income (a.k.a. a JOB ), and waiting to find out if I'll be able to purchase a vehicle (I have a possible option, but it is in the process of getting fixed, etc.).

And though it may seem like a bunch of excuses. . .

This is why I am still finishing my third book for the reading challenge!!!

I am going to try and at least get four books read by the end of this week, and surprisingly... I am okay with it. Sure, I definitely wanted to read five books (or more really), but I've been busy actually living my life. The books will still be there when I'm not so busy. And I wouldn't change how I've spent my time lately.

My summer reading challenge is ending this Saturday, and I am exciting to see how everyone else has done. Will there be a challenge winner?? I'll be back on Saturday with some final notes and I plan to be sending out an e-mail to everyone who joined so I can get a list of what they read.

Thank you to everyone who joined the challenge! It's been fun knowing other people are doing it with me.

Has your summer been busy?
How have you done on the reading challenge?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How to Know 100% What To Do

I was reading my Bible this morning after writing in my prayer journal (something I've done more of late; it helps me to focus and express what I'm trying to pray about), when I came across two verses that stuck out to me. What made them even more significant is that as I read them, little light bulbs were going off in my head because I had just prayed that the Lord would speak to me and guide me through reading Scripture, music, my parents, friends, just somehow.

"(18) Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
(19) See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not
perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland"
~ Isaiah 43: 18-19 (NIV).

In this chapter of the Bible, it was talking about Israel's only Savior, and God's mercy as well as Israel's unfaithfulness. No wonder I can relate to these verses... There are so many times when I have messed up, and I can truly say it is God's mercy and grace that keeps those sins and regrets at bay so they can not hurt me anymore.

(Unless, I open myself up to that and allow them to haunt me. Which God doesn't want me to do, because they're as far from Him as the east is from the west. Psalm 103: 11-12. And in case you wondered, the distance between the east and west just keeps going; they're directions not places.)

I've already shared those verses twice this morning, but I decided I wanted to write about them again even if I am the only one who reads this.

Soon after that I turned over to Proverbs and started reading chapter 9, since today is the 9th of July. That's something I had learned from a church message, and I believe Billy Graham does it (read a chapter of Proverbs everyday).

As I was flipping through trying to find the chapter, again I felt like I knew it was gonna say something else that applied to me right now. When I had written down my prayer for God to speak to me and teach me, I thanked Him for how much He has been guiding and working in my life lately, and thanked Him ahead of time because of what I knew He was going to continue doing and showing me. That's another thing I learned from a message at youth, to thank God ahead of time for what He was gonna do, not just ask for it.

Sure enough, I read this verse. . . It might be familiar to you.

"(6) Leave your simple ways and you will live;
walk in the way of understanding"
Proverbs 9: 6 (NIV).

This verse is highlighted in my Bible, I've probably heard and read it tons of times, but what really struck me this time was the last line.

. . .WALK in the way of understanding. . .

But this is how it translated in my head:
keep on praying that you will understand and seeking to do so. Walk.

What strikes me here is, first, the verse does not say to "understand" and neither does it say to "understand everything". Rather it says understanding, meaning it is present tense; we are in this moment understanding something, already on our way to trying to understand, but we haven't figured it out yet. Secondly, it says "walk in the way of ".

The way of again references to me that I am not guaranteed to understand everything, but that I should be in the process of trying to understand and heading in that direction. Does that verse strike you that way?

To me and from what I do understand, if wisdom was just being the person who understands, then I would be pretty stuck because I don't understand much. I'm the one who is still sitting here trying to understand things. But if this verse is saying- if God is saying- wisdom is "leaving your simple ways", not just twiddling my thumbs anymore, but pursuing understanding, then that I can do! I can get wisdom and answers!

Finally, the word that just *smacked* me in the face was WALK. Walking does not get you much of anywhere very fast, and I think the reason the word walk is used here is because that's the pace for gaining wisdom and understanding. It's not a run, not a mad dash, not all these leaps and jumps and staggering ahead. It is getting your legs moving in that direction. And I think when I try and demand knowledge out of God right now, when I want it, all I am doing is running in place.

Because God really is the only One who can give me wisdom and understanding. It's His stuff. But thankfully, He's willing to share and wants to.

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding"
Proverbs 9: 10 (NIV).

What I am hearing here is as if God is saying:

"[Insert your name here], if you really want to know My will and what you should do with your life, then here is where I told you how to find out. You are saying that you believe My way is the best way, good! Because it is, but you do not need to know how everything will work out. If you really believe My way is best, then trust Me and do it My way. You probably won't like it sometimes because you aren't going to know everything. Some of it may seem to make no sense at all or completely waste your time, but you will have Me and you will know Me even more if you do this, and that is all you need. 

I am already guiding your steps. Sometimes I may let you see that and sometimes you may not realize it. But I am completely capable and can handle this. I want you to keep walking, though it may not seem like you're getting much of anywhere. You are. So walk, because my way is going to be better than anything you ever expected."

It all seems great, right? We get on that spiritual high and we're like this is great, God, You're gonna do crazy awesome things with me! I got this! You're all I need! And then I go back out and continue on with my day, while seemingly having gotten NO CLOSER to the answers I wanted. And that bugs me. A lot sometimes.

I want to get frustrated and say things like, "Alright, I know You don't have to tell me now, I don't have to know everything, but please just tell me what You can when You can. You already know what I want and that I want answers now!" And then I feel a bit better until I realize I'm right back to where I started. Darn it!

That is what stinks about patience and what really stinks about praying for patience like I have been, you have to do stuff that requires patience! And it's not always easy! It's hardly ever easy for me. I wish God could just magically give me patience. But then again, I know He is, it's just not the way I wanted Him to.

But you know what has happened YET AGAIN?

God. Came. Through. For. Me.
Just like He tells us He will over and over again.

Suddenly I keep realizing how far I've come in my relationship with Christ over the last week just walking, writing in my prayer journal, reading my Bible, and seriously wanting to know Him and what I should do. I wasn't just doing it because I knew that's what I was supposed to do, though sometimes that is still the reason, but it was because I needed HIM and His guidance. 

And my confidence in Him soared more than it ever has.

I am beginning to wonder if I have gotten farther along in my relationship with Christ by walking for a week or two than I have for the past eighteen years! Do you see how that works? Exactly opposite the way we feel it should, but it's the way it works just the same.

So how can I remember this? Remember the moment when I understood what to do before I go back into the tunnel and have to follow after that light at the end once again? How do I remember that God keeps doing exactly what He says He will? And that I saw that, literally experienced it!

I keep walking.

And by walking I mean in both ways. Exercising is something that I need to do more of physically and spiritually. Through going out there in the fresh air and getting my legs moving, I know that this is the reflection in the mirror of what is going on inside. I am praying, allowing God to be something that is real in my life, I am reading my Bible so I can know who He is, and I am talking about what I am learning, asking questions and having conversations with my godly parents, my friends, etc.

Anyone else need to go on a walk today?

Here's what wisdom has to say,

"For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD

Proverbs 8: 35 (NIV; italicization is mine for emphasis).

Saturday, July 6, 2013

5 Books in 5 Weeks - How to Fail at This Challenge

Well, I thought I would give everyone some instructions on how to totally stink at this reading challenge. . .

1) Be an eighteen year old, blonde haired girl with glasses.

2) Only read one book in the last two weeks.

3) Start on your second book several days late.

4) Become very indecisive about what book to read next and change your mind at least twice, but only after you start reading those other books.

5) Try to finish reading a 307 page book in one evening,
preferably when you are only 64 pages into it.

And TA-DA!!!!!! You will successfully fail at this challenge like I am!

Alright, obviously I don't want you to fail at this challenge so do NOT do any of the things above. I started reading Along for the Ride, and decided it wasn't for me. I believe I didn't finish The Heiress of Winterwood until Sunday night, and then after not reading the previously mentioned book, I was really starting to get into my week. I tried Under the Tuscan Sun, and don't get me wrong, I think I will enjoy it. However, since I was running out of time to finish a book in a week and a different book I ordered came in the mail (Wings by E. D. Baker, it use to be one of my favorites when I was younger), I started that book again instead.

Thus. . . here I am again. Running late. Trying to squeeze a book in. And I am feeling the challenging part of this challenge. I gotta get my butt in gear!!

On a random note, I got the new Relient K CD on iTunes today! "Collapsible Lung" has been pretty good. I like it!!

How are you doing?
It's not too late to join the challenge if you haven't yet!