Archive for ‘God’

May 18, 2012

H2O Project: Changing a Perspective

There’s nothing like a little suffering to put life into perspective.

At my church we decided to take on an initiative to help provide water wells in places where they do not have access to clean water. I talked about this a little bit in my last post. Now that I’m clear-headed and caffeinated once again, I feel as though I’m ready to talk about it some more.

The initiative is called the H2O Project. The idea is that you give up all beverages besides water for a certain amount of time. During that time you calculate what you would have spent on all other beverages. At the the end of that time you take the money you would have spent on other beverages and donate it to an organization of your choosing that will help provide water wells to developing countries who do not have clean water. My church decided to send our proceeds to Living Water International

There are two parts to this initiative, which is why I think it is so powerful. There is the practical money aspect. They need money to make this happen, so we donate our money to those who need it. But then there is the personal aspect. We make a conscious decision to go without something we want so others can get something they need. We don’t have give up something to donate the money. The donation is the easy part. The act of giving something up is the hard part because it involves a little bit of sacrifice and suffering on our end. If we didn’t give something up, though, it would no longer make it personal. Of course being a little caffeine deprived is nothing compared to the suffering the people go through when they have no clean water. We’re talking disease, suffering, and death in so many cases. One child dies every 15 seconds from a (preventable) water related disease.

For me, the lack of coffee hit the hardest. The first week was one big headache between caffeine deprivation and well-timed allergies. But it really did put life into perspective a little bit. I realized that my “sacrifice” was definitely a first-world problem — similar to when your iPod stops working, or when your computer crashes, or when a speech from the president interrupts your favorit show. Those are mild annoyances but not nearly as awful as when your sibling gets cholera from drinking dirty water or when your government deprives your village of a water well because they don’t like your tribe.

This entire experience made me come to two realizations. First, this water crisis is very real to a lot of people across the world (about 1 billion people). Something needs to be done. Second, it really helped me to appreciate what I have. Namely clean water and coffee. That first cup of coffee after two full weeks with out any was heavenly. The best part, probably, was that I got to enjoy it with my mom on Mother’s Day. Since then I have had quite a large amount of coffee, but I tend to appreciate that warm, nutty goodness a little more than I used to. Needless to say, my co-workers are also appreciative of my coffee 🙂

I guess the moral of the story would be take the time to really enjoy the things you have in life — even the small things — and, every once in a while, think about what life would be like without those things. As a first world nation, we are truly blessed — even our poor and homeless have more luxuries than those in developing nations who don’t even have access to clean water. Think about it.

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May 6, 2012

The Clarified Ramblings of a Woman Recently Stressed (and without coffee)

I’ve had one helluva week. As I go through the details of this week, please note that this is fairly unedited and my original draft.

After two weeks of training, this was the first week at my new job where I was taking on my regular job responsibilities. It also happened to be the same week we started an initiative at church to help provide funding for water wells in countries where they do not have access to clean water. The H20 project is an event where you drink nothing but water for a set amount of time while keeping track of what you would have spent on other beverages during that time. Then you take the money you would have spent and donate it to an organization that digs wells for areas without clean drinking water.

During all this, the combination of caffeine-deprivation (no coffee, only water) and sinus/allergy issues left me battling several headaches over the week. On Wednesday we had some terrible storms matched with flash-flooding which left 3-4 inches of water in our basement and a rogue sock in our floor drain did not help the situation. After the basement drained, laundry washing began promptly before the molding commenced, as there was quite a collection of laundry on my basement floor. Before the flooding, I was preparing for a last-minute weekend visit from my best friend from college. This included a kitchen full of dishes to be washed and a spare room that at some point had become a storage unit. After washing nearly all the clothes and dishes in my entire house, my dear friend regretted to inform me that she would be unable to visit this weekend due to various outside forces and responsibilities (bless her heart). I must admit I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to see my friend this weekend, but I really did understand. It was very short notice and spur-of-the-moment. It did, however, give us a chance to plan something more definite for Memorial Day Weekend, which will give me time to get the spare room in order.

Now I’m not writing about this chain of events to complain, though there was plenty of that at the time. There were some small blessings that came out of this past week. When I took on those job responsibilities, I was actually working a week ahead of where my boss expected me to be – brownie points 🙂 I was also forced to do all of my laundry (fold it and put it away due to our weekend guest). I washed all of the dishes in the house (no dishwasher) because of our potential guest. I also had to face the dreaded spare room that I have been hiding from relentlessly. I found myself with superhuman capabilities of efficiency and drive to get things accomplished. I haven’t felt that productive in a while. That’s the thing about those mini crises we encounter every so often. They tend to pull us out of a funk. They put us into survival mode – we need to do what needs to get done because no one else is going to do it for us.

I think when we have those times when life takes hold and won’t let go until we simply go limp in its grasp, we can sometimes throw our hands up in exasperation say, “Well life sucks. What can you do?” I know for myself, I can often just become defeated. That attitude can be so detrimental to our souls. It can drag us through the mud and leave us there. In those times, don’t forget that everything has a purpose. It may not be pretty at the time, but God takes those ugly things in life and eventually makes something beautiful out of them. We just have to take a moment to see that. Take a moment and breathe. As my mother always says; this too shall pass.

 

*After I originally posted this today, I checked my email and this was my daily scripture: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” – James 1:2-3

This is the lake in front of our house that was our street.

 

April 3, 2012

Overdressed

I recently found out that I got a new job (yay!). I currently love the job I have, except my manager is nearly impossible to work for, so I had to find something else. Luckily, though, I get to stay with the same company. I love the company I work for, so that is exciting. In this new adventure, here are a few perks: I’m still in customer service, but it’s a call center, so less face-to-face and it’s an internal line, so I’ll be working only with other employees (This can actually be a pro and a con as I will desperately miss several of my customers). The drive will be 5 minutes as opposed to 30 minutes (yay on saving gas!). I will be getting more pay, which is always beneficial. They believe in coaching and professional development, which is part of the reason I’m leaving my current position. Finally, I can wear jeans and flip-flops everyday! That benefit is really not super important. but it is very exciting.

When I was going over the various benefits with my husband, I was a little overly excited about that last point. He smiled and in his cute way he said, “Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.” At first I pondered this quote and thought for a moment that he totally burst my bubble. Then I laughed and replied, “Well since I want to be a professional musician, I need a few more colors in my hair, a tattoo or two, and more piercings. I’ve clearly been overdressing for years now!” He laughed at that statement because he knew I was right, as usual 😉

This thought got me thinking. Often times, we have these dreams and aspirations about our lives, but often times, we let those go for more “practical” things like higher paying jobs, stability, families, mortgages, etc. Then as we get older we look back with regret about the things we didn’t do. If you’ve ever felt like this, I suggest you read the book Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. This woman, with a combination of Godly interventions, has changed my life. She helped me to realize that there is no better time to reach for my dreams than right this second. If we do not pursue those dreams and gifts given to us, then we are wasting them.

I also recently started following the blog of a musician in Chicago. Her name is Ellen McSweeney.  She and I have a mutual friend who had posted her blog on Facebook several months ago. At the time, I didn’t actually read her blog, but I saved her in my favorites. I am certainly glad I did. She has beautiful insight to the world of being a working musician and can be quite inspirational. I look forward to learning more about her and her music. She is very talented.

Dressing for the job you want is a very important and true insight to living the life you want to live. If you are looking around right now and thinking, “I’m not where I want to be, but how do I get there?” then I have a few tips for you:

1. Stop making excuses and accept the fact that you want to be in a different place than where you currently are.

2. Think about the place where you want to be and look at the small changes you can make in your life to help you get there.

3. Start to make those small changes.

4. Do something creative everyday. (This tip is specifically from Shauna Niequist)

5. Don’t get overwhelmed. Remember: these are small changes. The best way to do this is implement one change per week and go from there. It takes several repetitions to make something a habit.

6. Finally, network and build a support system. Have a group of people who you can discuss progress, road blocks, and exchange encouragement. This helps to establish accountability and there is always strength in numbers. (This is also a tip from Shauna)

 

I really hope this helps to encourage those who are less than encouraged by their current positions. Please check out these two artists I mentioned. They are really encouraging. I also welcome any feedback on this entry. Is there anything you would add to my list or tweak? Please share! We’re all in this life together.

March 26, 2012

What do you say when an Atheist sneezes?

I have a very dear friend who is an Atheist. I am a Christian (I know. Scandalous.) My friend and I were having a very interesting conversation about Christianity and my personal beliefs. This conversation got me thinking about the dynamics a conversation like this often has.

We had always talked vaguely about our belief differences but I don’t think I was ever confident enough in my faith to get too in depth with him. He’s always been respectful of that, I think. Part of the reason I didn’t have the discussion with him, was because I held onto this false notion that my faith was personal and I didn’t have to talk about it to be a “good” Christian, etc. In the last few years, however, I realized we were put here to share the love of Jesus. I also didn’t think I was equipped to speak accurately about God in the context of the challenges and questions atheists often pose to Christians. Those tough, logical questions that often leave Christians feeling attacked and on the defensive. George and I met in college and I was in the in-between place with my faith. I still believed, I just didn’t make an effort to follow. In my opinion, that didn’t make me the best spokesperson for Christianity. I couldn’t possibly answer all the questions I knew he was going to ask. I just knew I believed.

It’s eight years later and I still don’t have all the answers, but we somehow stumbled upon this discussion. The conversation was civil and respectful. We both respected the other person’s views. We had a very intellectual conversation and not once did I feel attacked. I was able to convey my beliefs, thoughts, and opinions without sounding too preachy (I think). Either that or he politely put up with it.The conversation ended and we were still friends. That is always a bonus.

Several things had changed in those eight years before this conversation. I had since re-dedicated my life to the Lord and taken an active role in my faith. I believe Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, and I always have. What is different, though, is that I have thoughts and opinions on Christianity. I have discernment and don’t just believe it because I’m told to. I also speak out when I hear Christians inaccurately representing God. I understand everyone is on their own journey with God and it is not my job to condemn. It is my job to love.

This whole conversation worked for a few reasons. First, I went into this as a candid conversation between friends, because it was. We were having a normal conversation and (gasp) I didn’t try to convert him. That is not my job as a Christian. My job is to share about my relationship with God and answer questions the best I can. That is exactly what I did. I also respected his thoughts and opinions. He had some very valid arguments and questions. He asked some of the same and very difficult questions a lot of Christians ask. I answered him the best I knew how. Some questions I knew the answers to, others I had opinions on. That being said, I did not pretend I had all the answers. I don’t. There are reasons God does not reveal all the answers to us. We need to learn to be confident enough in our faith to be comfortable in admitting we don’t know all the answers.

In all honesty, George knows more about the histories and origins of several religions, including Christianity, than I do. He probably already knew most of what I told him, but he still respected and listened. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have open, honest conversations. Be understanding with others who have opinions different than yours. We all feel passionately about various things – religion, politics, how to raise families, the best recipe for chili. We will get nowhere if we can’t listen and partake in intelligent, two-sided conversations.

Did I convert my friend George? Hardly. That’s not the point anyway. All I can do is be a good friend and pray for him (Yep, that’s right, George 🙂 ).

*I would like to thank Dane Cook for giving me the idea for the title of this post, though he doesn’t know it.  And I would like to thank my friend, George, for letting me use our impromptu conversation as a little inspiration. You’re a gem 🙂