Thursday, October 17, 2013

I've Decided to Become a Photographer... Sorta

Okay, no, I am not really going to become a photographer. I like taking pictures and editing, and learning about that stuff, but it's not a.... I don't know, passion of mine? Being around so many friends (not just you, Jackson) who were in to photography, I tended to shy away from it. I either felt like I was being a copy-cat or I'm bad to compare my work with others. It was/is just too intimidating.

But of course... with a boyfriend who is totally into photography, I can only avoid it and stay within my nice comfort zone for so long. Because he knows I have an interest there... and that I really enjoy helping him... so it would make sense I knew what I was helping with...

Thus began my first real photoshoot! Real enough for me anyways. He bought my lunch, does that count as payment?

I had taken pictures and he's given me a few lessons before, but this time he really made me be the one behind the camera. These are a few of the pictures I took.
I know this shot may not follow typical "photography" rules, but Jackson and I both liked how it turned out. It wasn't fully planned, I was just snapping a few pictures before I walked closer. I liked how it was sorta different!

So, here was my little picture adventure. I took a lot more photos, but I could only edit a handful before he had to go back to school (*insert sad face here*). Next time he comes up, he'll probably "make" me edit more. It's not that I'm really doing much to the photos, mainly making them look more like they did in real life, I am just new to that.

Alrighty, who else is in to photography?
Do you like following blogs that use pictures in their posts?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I Don't Memorize Scripture

Now that I have your attention, let me rephrase that... I haven't been memorizing Scripture. Every Christian at some point in their life has probably heard or known about the importance of memorizing Scripture. My life has changed a lot lately, with college and relationships and just the way time works in general. But with that said, it has not changed enough. After several weeks that I had been considering extremely hard for me at the time, I have been learning how to turn my struggle into thanksgiving and praise. Yes, it was hard, but it was exactly what I had been asking so long for God to do in my life. Make me into the person He wants me to be.

Like most people I have good days. Great, wonderful days when I am so happy and confident and feeling blessed and like I am on my way to conquering a world of dreams... And then I have those bad days. Realllly bad days where I am just tired of how hard it is. I can't shake the discouragement, the defeat, or my own stubborn attitude, and it is days like these that I have to wake up and pray pray pray that God would change my perspective or change my circumstances.

A lot of times, I'll write in a prayer journal because it helps me focus and it's encouraging to see how my prayer will start to shift the focus off of me and on to what I should be thinking. I walk away going: Okay, God, we can do this. You can do this. Through You, I can do this. Or sometimes I walk away and since I have just cleared the air venting and talking to God, He can make His way into my head better and show me that things are headed in the right direction. I don't need to try and take control of any of it.

One thing these challenges have really helped me with is staying focused on God, it's a lot harder to forgot about Him when I am at the end of my rope everyday and I just can't get myself to change. I know it takes time; I know it takes every single time those thoughts come back into my mind, I have to work through surrendering them to God. After probably a week or so of seriously having to work on that, I woke up today much stronger than I have been before. It was gradually happened from the moments when I use to wake up and my day was already rotten, to it taking an hour after I got up before things caught up with me and I was overwhelmed again, to struggling with it during my quiet time and it occasionally coming at me throughout my day, until yesterday when I woke up, and had a rough time with it during the morning... But after walking away from my quiet time, morning after morning praying for God to help me change, I had a wonderful (though not totally easy) afternoon and evening.

Today, like the past few days, I woke up feeling okay. I was not completely hopeless, but I felt like I was waiting... Waiting for my thoughts and feelings to catch up with me. However, I got a text this morning from someone asking me how I was. It's not like that is unusual, yet I think it was all I needed to stop my pity-party right in its tracks. This was a new day, my day, and I have a lot of control on what kind of day I am going to have. Now I can't usually control the circumstances.... I can choose what attitude I am going to try to have though. (Not that I didn't do that the other days, it was just harder then to change how I felt when I was already neck deep from the moment I woke up.)

So I stopped holding my breath, and started thinking confidence.

Easier said than done, I know, but after treading water the past week or so all that new muscle started to do something for me. I knew God was working on me, I saw Him every morning and was reminded of His love through every challenge. Love hurt sometimes, but only because true love cares and it has to be totally real and authentic. Especially when it's coming from God, He can't do otherwise. I had one of those, Oh great, I should be happy and joyful because God is actually allowing me to go through this because I have been asking Him to do so for so long and trying to mean it. And now He's loving me enough once again to not allow me to just live comfortably any longer, but to face my issues. Yay.

Seriously though, it's so easy to look at the people who are praising God during their challenges and have this positive attitude, and then feel like dirt because I just can't pull it together. All I can do is try and keep asking God to do the work for me. But I think that's how it works, depending on God doesn't require me to be able to do anything on my own. It means coming to God for everything, begging Him just to change my heart already because I can't seem to let stuff go! He works on me, slowly giving me the strength to open my hand, my thoughts, my heart each day. And it's not something I've been able to do once and everything is all jolly again. I have to do it day after day. Sometimes I have to battle with it over and over in just one 24 hours period.

Then I wait, knowing that it takes time to get anywhere, and sure enough it came a lot sooner than I thought it would. A good day. An easier day. A day when I can wake up and finally have the strength to go, No, Marissa, you're not having another one of those days. Go have some God-time right now.

I knew it would take "prayer and Bible study" like my youth pastor says all the time. That's what I kept doing because I knew it would work. It didn't always feel like it was working, and a lot of times I had to come to grips with being willing to keep trusting God even if I did not get the days where I felt happy. Because happiness is not everything. And I knew I could learn how to live with God's joy, it would just takes more time getting there too. Because He did give me happy moments, they were not the majority though.

God has been working on me the more and more I put time into learning about Him. It's sometimes awkward because I don't really know what to look for. God has become a lot more personally in my life, so sometimes I just have to say, Okay, Lord, uhhh show me something today? Teach me something... new about you? You know, like, something that makes you more real and not just this untouchable God? I mean, I know I can never know everything about You and I am not saying You're that simple... But I mean, You do make Yourself easier for us to understand sometimes, right? I mean... You know what I mean...

That's when I was reminded again how I needed to work on memorizing Scripture.  I have not done that in so long it feels like. I have times where I am good at it, but then I get lazy or burnt out or tired of whatever I'm working on... I start choosing something, but then I never start working on it. Today is the day. This morning I thought, Okay I am going to pick out something to memorize. 

I figured I would find some verse about being a child of God or how fearfully and wonderfully I'm made. Something that I could say to myself and remind myself of when I feel less than, or when I struggling with being the person I know I should be. Why? Sometimes I feel like a very confident person, I am okay in my own skin, and I like myself the way God made me. On a good day. Then I have a lot of not so good days where I can't seem to truly realize my worth in Christ. It's something I have to work on to keep up with; I stop focusing on it, I start finding my worth in other places and eventually am let down again.  Funny though, as soon as I started to look... Something was up, those suddenly didn't feel like the verses I should be looking for.

Why? What's wrong with those verses?

Nothing! But they were not what I needed. I realized I needed to find verses that got the focus off of me. Because my life is not about how wonderful I can be, it's about how worthy God is and how I can bring glory and pleasure to Him. When I understand how amazing He is, I tend to see how blessed and loved I am. So I looked up the verse for today in the book I'm reading called 31 Days of Praise by Ruth Myers and Warren Myers, and that sent me to 2 Corinthians 3:18. It was a good verse. I thought, Maybe I should memorize this one.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (NIV; 2 Corinthians 3:18.)

See? Isn't that a great verse? I think I'll probably try and memorize this one too, but I kept reading around and back over stuff I have highlighted in the past. I ended up reading 2 Corinthians 4. That's when I think I found the verses I wanted to memorize. Verses that motivated me to keep going, and how even though I was facing challenges there were a lot more harder ones to come if I wanted to be real, authentic, and God's. It also motivated me to want to share what He has been doing in my life, because this is my favorite way to learn and grow. Spiritually and emotionally. Though yes, it's the hardest sometimes.

2 Corinthians 4: 4-12
     (4)The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (5)For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as servants for Jesus' sake. (6)For God, who said, "Let light shine out of the darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 
     (7)But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (8)We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; (9)persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (10)We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (11)For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (12)So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

How awesome is that? These verses apply so much to my life right now and in so many ways. I was able to connect with them through writing, through the difficult time I have been having, to how it is all about God, and how there are a lot harder things I could be going through and if I'm lucky, I'll get to go through.

When the verses talked about "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ... (beginning of verse 4)." I was immediately reminded of one reason why I like to write, especially fiction. I want to portray the world through the truth I know in Jesus Christ. There is big, though subtle, difference in Christian fiction that talks about the world and relationship, versus non-Christian fiction. It has a different focus, and pushes stronger morals. Even in a romance, it shouldn't be about finding the guy who makes you feel like you're walking on clouds, it's about finding the person you can respect, admire, and sacrifice your dreams for. God calls us to love everyone with that kind of sacrifice and abandon He loves us with, so it's excruciatingly important for me to portray the raw truths God has instilled in His word and in me into what I write. And I can't write stuff like that without Him.

As I read on through these verses that talked about the glory of God, it was like... The reason behind all the madness. The proof that yes, changing who I am and letting go of all that I want is worth it, because becoming a reflection of God means becoming more and more real. I knew that, but it this was another moment where I really experienced what it meant to know and believe that. I like the last few verses too.

Have you ever felt like you were just dying on the inside?

You're done. You just can't do it anymore and everyday it just keeps getting harder, and God keeps asking one more thing of you. You just can't do it anymore! That's what I saw in those verses. Death isn't this light fluffy bunny that you just want to squeeze so hard!!! Death is death. I gave my life to Christ so I could die now and live later. Yes, when I first gave my life to Christ it was more about giving my life over to Him so I could know Him and spend eternity with Him after I die. I know I died to my old self when I became a Christian, and now I am a new creation. And That work will be complete on that day when I can walk into heaven and say, "I found the golden ticket! Hey, God, do you remember me? I knew You! It may have taken a while, but we became really good friends and now You've finally brought me home, so I'm here now ready to be with You forever. You're the best friend I ever had. You saved me!" And I bet it will be amazing to go into heaven and have God recognize me. Little ol' me.

Going through these challenges builds character, and is making me into the person I want to be- the person God has planned for me to be. I want to go places in my life. Not just physically though, yeah, I would love to travel. But I want to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and experience that surrounds me, and open myself up to grow and become God's best for me now. Not twenty years from now when my way isn't working out. It's not easy, but I know it's worth it.

So... Blah, blah, blah... Another long blog post. I hope if anyone gets anything out of this, they'll know God is real. And he is very involved in our lives, especially when you let Him in and allow Him to work on you. It's been really hard, but I think my batteries have been recharged. (Finally, thank you for getting me through all of this, Lord!) I am improving in a lot of areas in my relationship with Christ, and today was another big pointer to work on memorizing Scripture. In order to be a strong, well-rounded person, I need to know all the good things God is saying to me and keep learning them. And learning stuff involves committing it to memory. I know it's going to be worth it, but maybe I can come back later and let you know personally to remind you... it works. God works.

What are we going to work on next, Lord?
What can I give up now so You give me something better instead?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

College, Why You So Hard?

When did my college classes start? I am not sure, my brain doesn't work very well right now. I began this semester a little unsure of where I was heading, but I am going to pursue getting my Associate of Arts (general education) out of the way at least. It would be good to have and then that gives me a chance to decide what I want to pursue after that. Obviously, it will be something focused around writing, I just don't know what exactly and if I want to go to college for it. Confusing? Tell me about it.

Most of my family and friends that read this will know my boyfriend left for college this semester as well. He's about two years older than me, so he is finishing up his last two years of schooling. I am just getting started. He's about an hour away, like I have probably said before. But we're both busy with school, and I only just got a vehicle. So this has been very different, when he used to only be ten minutes away. The "challenges" have been worth it though, and I have learned a lot already. I can thankfully count my blessings because I do see him on the weekends, or most weekends. And an hour is not that much compared to how far he could have gone to go to college.

The first "mistake" I made was scheduling too many courses for my first semester. Previously, I took dual-enrollment classes while in highschool, so I had a decent feel for college work. I also like to take minimesters, which is a whole semester's work done in half the time. Before that sounds really prideful, let me explain that these classes are meant to only be taken about two at a time. When I was in highschool, I only took one class at a time, just some were minimesters.

Well, I signed myself up for four minimesters over the course of the fall semester. Which means I would be taking two for the first half of the semester, and another two for the second half. I came into this with the mindset of getting as much of the general ed stuff out of the way as fast as possible, and then I could enjoy the electives I would take for my last year. So on top of those minimesters, I added one more class. A regular, normal semester of biology. It all seemed simple enough. I knew I would be swamped with work, but I was prepared for it, since I was going to be a full-time college student. Weren't most college students swamped with school anyways?

That's 17 credit hours of work for the semester.

I could only last for so long. My second mistake was taking a minimester of College Algebra. Algebra is not my strong point, and things were starting to go downhill when I got a D on my first test (but apparently everyone didn't do well on the first one), but I was determined and through many hours of working on stupid algebra homework, I pulled my grade back up. Which all sounds nice and lovely, but the work got more and more overwhelming, and I couldn't push aside my other two classes anymore or my grade there would really start to suffer.

Would I go back and change the courses I chose to take? No. I don't think so. I had come off my graduation/freedom high and pushed myself to work harder than I think I ever have when it came to school. And the responsibility was all on me. What made it more difficult was the doubts I was having about getting an education to begin with. It seemed the more I pursued the A.A., the further I pushed my passion for writing away. I had no time to write. No time to read. And no time to review books I had "promised" publishers to review. I was done. Seriously done with getting my A.A. I was ready to walk away and face the challenges of just pursuing writing for a while, even though I knew full well just getting my A.A. would be good to have.

Of course, I couldn't just drop everything. I had to pray about it, talk it out, and think. Because of financial aid and scholarships, I couldn't just quit (though really I didn't feel like it was 100% quitting because I was ready to change directions). So I withdrew from college algebra and biology. Which was hard because I had been doing so well, but it had gotten to the point where I literally could not keep up with it all and make a good grade. Considering I had gotten "A's" in all my other college classes, these low grades were challenging and discouraging to begin with. All I could do was focus on working harder and just passing the classes...

...Until, you know, when I finally reached the end of my rope and was done with college. I have always wanted to take a semester, a year, a season, something off and focus solely on writing. It's something that nags at me from the back of my mind all the time, and when my creative passions were completely shut down because of school... It just wasn't going to work.

So yes, in some ways, I did quit. I am only taking one minimester right now since I withdrew from two classes and am now "part time" with only 9 credit hours. And then when this class is done, I have two more minimesters starting the second half of the semester. But I've cried it all out now, gotten more of a grip on this minimester, and have actually had some free time at the end of the day. Like today. Well, tonight... because I can write a blog post.

I know I will most likely continue taking classes into the spring because of financial aid and scholarships. Slowly I have been able to accept again that I should get my A.A., and that it is okay if it takes me a bit longer or if I can't get it done as fast as other people would. The past couple of months have been exhausting, especially emotionally. I feel like I have been pushed and pulled and tested from nearly every direction, and not just with school. I am experiencing a taste of the "long distance relationship" too, and that's... different.

Still, this has all been something that turns me to God because I just can't do it without Him. I literally need Him so much and want to do what He has planned for me to do. Even if that means getting a stinkin' Associate of Arts. I still have no idea whether or not I am going to pursue college after that. And do I really want to get my A.A. right now? How am I going to pursue writing? These are questions that get churned around in my head every single day lately. But God's got this. Seriously, He just pulled me through a crazy beginning of the semester, allowed me to grow and see my own weaknesses like never before, and has given me peace about the decisions I have made. I don't know about you, but it seems I'm getting the better end of this deal.

Anyways... I hope to get back to blogging as well. And hopefully I will be able to fit in some reading time again so I can get back to finishing novels and reviewing them! Plus, I want to write some fiction. I am about ready for a good sit down with my laptop and a blank word document so I can let my creative juices flow for a little while. They've been cooped up in my head long enough, I might as well write before they start squirting out my nose or something.

Okay, that was nasty. Nevermind. Until next time! Happy fall, everyone! I love this season.

Are you in college? What for?
I know there are some other fall lovers out there. Where are ya??