Thoughts on being single and dating.

This is a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for quite some time. This is something that is really important to me, and I feel a lot of people need to hear what I have to say.

I am not saying that to be important or anything, but I feel the concepts of being single and dating are becoming less and less powerful.  When I was single, I often found it to be incredibly empowering, but I also experienced some incredible pressure to be in a relationship.

And to be honest, I think I am on the brink of a wonderful, incredible, maybe my ultimate, relationship, and I see relationships as very serious thing.

I recorded my thoughts on this topic a bit ago, and wanted to write a corresponding blog post.  But as I was trying to figure how to say these things again, I realized I captured my thoughts the best in this recording.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this, especially if you are in one of these stages.

So here, my thoughts on dating and being single.

Ciao for now,

Julia

I do something rather unglamorous.

I do something unglamorous.

And honestly, I love every minute of it.

At my church, I am part of a program that works to provides aide and help for kids with disabilities, while also creating a safe and inclusive space for them to learn and grow.  I have been a part of this group for at least three years.  And for the duration of those years, I have been a one-on-one to a little girl with Down Syndrome.  (I will be calling her PG throughout this post, as PG stands for “pretty girl”, which is my nickname for her.)

When I started with her, I had little to no experience working with kids with special needs.  I had babysat a group of kids several times prior, with one of the children being on the Autism Spectrum, but that was it.  PG used mostly ASL, had poor use of words,  used braces on her feet, and was honestly a challenge for me when I started.  She will be in first grade this coming school year, and my goodness, how she was grown.  She uses little to no sign, her word usage is incredible, she can write her name and her hand writing is beautiful, and her manners are improving everyday.

Working with kids with special needs is a very unglamorous job.  My hands, arms, and sometimes my legs, have been covered in marker.  My clothes sometimes get covered in drool and bits of chewed food.  Most recently, I had a white shirt get covered in Oreo slobber.  I have had my hair pulled, my fingers bent back the wrong way, and I’ve been pinched and kicked.  I have even had things thrown at me, or I’ve had to block things that were thrown. I have been (very unintentionally) choked, and at times I become a human jungle gym.  There was a period of time where PG liked to bang her head against my chest, if she was sitting in my lap.  And more often than not, working with kids with special needs is a full contact sport.  There are a few kids at my church that don’t like touch, but the vast majority of kids in the program do.  And more often than not, physical touch is used help restrain.  PG is a runner, so I spend time running after her, restraining her, and physically bringing her back to the task at hand.

The past three days were VBS (Vacation Bible School) at my church.  On one of the evenings, PG had diarrhea very early on in the evening.  (It was due to something she ate, and her parents were fine that she stay for the rest of the evening.). However, she got a little in her underpants, and for the rest of the evening, she kept trying to put her hands in her pants.  And though I washed my hands many times with soap and water, by the end of the evening, I smelled like diarrhea.

And all of the parents of the kids in this program, and all of the volunteers who work with the kids, undoubtedly have similar stories to tell.

I want it to be noted, though, that a lot, if not all, of the unglamorous traits of helping kids with disabilities, are simply traits of working with kids.  Working with kids really, of any age group and in any capacity, is beautifully messy.  Working with kids with special needs simply adds another layer of messy beauty.  Kids with special needs are still kids, dealing with the normal issues and challenges of being a kid, but with additional (and oftentimes individualized) traits that come with their diagnosis.

Working with kids with special needs is so unglamorous and frustrating and exhausting and messy and challenging and at times, exceedingly overwhelming.  It is even often a thankless job.  But.  It is the most rewarding thing I have ever done, and could ever do.

I love my PG.  She may not quite know my name, but she knows she is safe with me.  She knows my face and my voice, and she knows I am here to help her.  She knows she can have fun with me.  In fact, one of my most favorite things is when I can get her to belly laugh.  I love when she hears what I ask her to do and she does it.  I love when she can say “sorry” or “thank you” or “please” without prompting.  She loves to sing and dance, and I love when she sings along, or does the accompanying motions.  I love when she grabs my hand or sits in my lap spontaneously.  She loves to read, and will often “read” me a story, which I simply love. She loves big, gives great hugs, and will walk up to complete strangers and say “hi”.  She knows Jesus, and that makes me so happy.

In the hallway in the lower level of our church, we have a painting of Jesus, surrounded by the kids from our congregation that have passed away.  It’s a beautiful painting, and last night at VBS, PG stopped to look at it.  She pointed to Jesus, and said, “That’s Jesus.  He died.”. I was a bit taken back, but I said “Yes, you’re right.  But He’s not dead anymore, right?  He’s in Heaven.”.  She continued to look at the painting, nodded her head, and said “Yes.  That’s Jesus.”.  Then she grabbed my hand, and walked away.  That moment made my heart all kinds of happy.

And my most favorite story to tell about PG happened when I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed and stressed.  It was before she was in Kindergarten, so she was part of a class that had kids ages 3 to 5.  On this particular Sunday, there were four kids with disabilities; PG, her younger brother with intellectual disabilities, and identical twins with Autism, but with complete opposite preferences in terms of physical touch.  I was the only trained volunteer (for kids with disabilities) in the room at the time, and was feeling a bit overwhelmed.  There was another helper, who is absolutely incredible.  In a moment when the twins got angry and upset, this amazing helper was right beside me, trying to figure out which twin needed physical touch to calm down, and which didn’t.  It was also in this moment that PG‘s younger brother was stepping on kids and taking toys.  I began to get worried that PG would have a issue, and thus causing this helper and I to put a child under each arm, and get out of the room.  But as I stood up to make sure there weren’t any more issues, PG caught my eye, smiled really big, and started to sing “Jesus Loves Me”.  My heart pretty much overflowed.

Working with kids with special needs is hard. There are times I find myself frustrated and exasperated.  There are times I look for help, and I am learning it is totally okay to say “I need help right now; I can’t do this by myself”.  I make mistakes sometimes, and sometimes I make them a lot.  But I learn something new about PG everyday, and I learn new ways of helping her.  I have loved watching her grow and learn and blossom into the beautiful soul she is.

I do something unglamorous.

But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

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Let go and embrace His plan.

Hey guys, sorry its been a it.  I promise I am working on several posts; most notably the results from my survey.  But right now, I’m feeling really happy, and I don’t want to work on those posts.

Some of the major details I’d like to keep secret for awhile longer.  I’m feeling incredible happy, and my soul is singing, and I don’t want to do anything that could potentially ruin this.  But I am learning some really important things, and like all things, I wanted to share it with you.

I am learning, that in order to fully embrace what God is going to do in your life, you have to let go of certain expectations and plans you may place on Him. 

Let me explain.  I’ve been single for three-wish years. (I did date someone at the beginning of the year for two-ish months.  And because of that short duration, I consider it simply a tiny blimp on my “single” timeline.). And I’m getting to the point in my life where I’m beginning to think about my future and getting married.  So it would seem natural that I would be looking for a relationship, right?

Last year, when I applied for a summer position at a Christian camp, I thought for sure that I would meet the man of my dreams at the camp, and the rest would be history.  I began to place that desire on God, and I expected Him to follow through with it.  However, when I wasn’t offered a position, I thought God wasn’t keeping His promise.  I think I was more hurt by the fact that I wasn’t going to meet Godly men, and the future I had built before me involving a Godly man from camp wasn’t going to happen, than I was with the actual rejection.

When this past fall semester started, I had the same mentality; The man I am supposed to meet will be in one of my classes.  He wasn’t.  Then spring semester started.  Same thing.  Then I started a new job.  Still, I had the same mentality.  And as of right now, the same result.  I was beginning to think this illusive man would be at this college I’m transferring to in the fall.

But, well, all I’ll say, is sometimes, maybe, God has a different plan.

What I’m learning, is if I continue to place that expectation of meeting my Prince Charming at a certain place at a certain time on God, I may be missing out on His true plan for me.  I need to stop trying to confine God to what I think He should do, and when I think He should do it.  “I am not skilled to understand, what God has willed, what God has planned”, so why should I try to think I do?

I am also learning that nothing I do could ever screw up God’s plan for me.  Ever.  I am not that powerful.

I used to be so worried that the right guy would come along while I was in a relationship.  That while I was with one guy, the “right” guy would catch my eye.  I used to be so worried I would get stuck in between my timing and God’s timing.  I used think I had the ability to royally screw up God’s plan for me.  And I used to think anything I did in one relationship could directly affect my chances of meeting Mr. Right.

But I’m learning I am not a god, and therefore, I do not have the power, nor ability, to screw anything up.  I do not have the power to override God’s plan for me.  Nothing I do could ever cause God to change His mind about what He’s planned for me.  Everything I have ever done, and every relationship I have ever been in, or will be in, fits perfectly into God’s design for my life.  There is something so freeing in realizing that.

I am truly very happy.  I woke upon this morning in a wonderful mood, and have pretty much been smiling ever since.  And, I feel closer to God than I have in a long time.

Let go of any and all expectations you have of God, regarding your future, and embrace His plan.  I promise you, it is beautiful and better than anything you could ever imagine.

Ciao for now,

Julia

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What happened to sin?

In church this morning, my pastor referenced a book titled Whatever became of sin? by Sean Fagan.  That title really caught my attention.  Coming hot off my Morality Problem post, with all that research still buzzing through my head, I was a tad caught off guard.  I wanted to say, “But Pastor Jerry, our culture is so sinful!”.  But then I listened to what he was truly saying.

He was saying that sin is more prevalent than ever, but it’s no longer called “sin”.  It’s reasoned away and labeled as something less negative.  Lying is evident on every stage and level, but hardly ever publicly punished.  Sexual immorality is now acceptable promiscuity (i.e. see modern music).  Lust is now Fifty Shades of Grey.  Adultery (i.e. cheating) is seen in popular movies, heard in popular songs, but not socially condemned.  Abortion, though never outright labeled as a sin, goes directly against God’s teachings, but many Christians continue to condone this practice.  And, because I am a Christian and believe the Bible is God’s living breathing Word, I believe homosexuality is a sin.  And, in modern culture, it is accepted and boldly broadcast.

What happened to sin? Modern culture’s desire not to offend anyone, or make anyone feel bad for their actions, that’s what.

Sin was big enough to turn the young world on it’s head, but today, we insist on minimizing it into a label for actions.  But the thing is, when we minimize sin, we minimize God and the incredible power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

And the sad thing is, people today seem so focused on themselves and other people.  This even includes Christians.  They want to seem like “good” people, and “good” Christians.  They want to fight for equality, justice, tolerance, love, and a whole host of other (wonderful) things.  But being a Christian isn’t about the world, or the world’s problems.  Yes, as Christians, we are called to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).  We are supposed to love our earthly brothers and sisters as our own flesh.  But in terms of the Great Commandments, this is only second.  The greatest and most important commandment of all is Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12:29-31)Being a Christian is about God. Plain and simple.  It’s about loving Him, praising Him, adoring Him, and desiring to please Him.  And the biggest thing that separates us from God is …. wait for it …. sin. 

How can we form a relationship with God, if we can’t acknowledge our sins, if we don’t know what they are?  As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m struggling to come up with examples of sins that non-Christians would understand, besides the obvious “Don’t kill”, Don’t steal”, etc.  Why is this?  Is it because sin truly isn’t talked about?  And if that’s the case, why doesn’t that shake us to our God-loving souls?

What happened to sin?  What happened to our world that sin became explainable?  What happened to us that we let sin get this way?

Sin, as ironic as it is, is so crucial to our relationship with God.  It is because of sin that we need God’s overwhelming grace.  And it’s because of sin that Jesus died for us.  Without sin, suddenly, Jesus’ sacrifice becomes nothing.  And as I’m typing that out, I suddenly feel like crying, because His sacrifice is everything.

In order for us know God and love Him, we need to admit we have sinned and “fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  As Christians, we need to admit we have sinned.  But that is so hard, and all but impossible, when sin is apart of mainstream culture.

And because we are called to “be fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-20), and bring our friends here on earth to God, we need to be able to point out sins.  We need to be able to tell someone (gently, of course) that what they’ve done is wrong.  It’s like guiding a child’s behavior; you have to point out their bad behavior so they can learn and grow.  If we reason away every type of behavior and not tell anyone that they’ve done anything wrong, how does anyone learn and grow?  And if we don’t equip anyone with the abilities to recognize that behavior in the future, what stops them from repeating it again?

The thing is, there is no salvation if there is no condemnation.  There is no good without bad.  There is no redemptive grace without sin.  So what happened to sin?

Churches, why don’t you talk about sin anymore?  Yes, I know it’s talk about it in Sunday School classes and you mention it in the services and sermons.  But can everyone that attends your church provide an explanation/example of sin?  Christians, why don’t we acknowledge sin anymore?  Why are we so quick to thank God and to praise Him, but less quick to admit our sins?  And Christians, why are we so hesitant to stand up against sins in our world?  Or rather, why are we so quick to explain it away?

And sometimes, Christians, standing against sin means standing against other people and telling them they are wrong.  Sometimes, fighting against sin means, maybe, being seen as intolerant or unfair or unloving.  But that’s when we have to weigh what is more important to us.  Because we can’t be Christians without sin, and we can’t fight for Christ if we aren’t willing to stand against sin.  Because Christianity isn’t “love-centered”, “people-centered”, or “world-centered”; Christianity is “God-centered”.

The existence of sin is a daily reminder of how much we need God.  We are a fallen people, fallen from the blameless, Garden of Eden existence, and fallen into a world of actions and desires that upset God.  It all makes full circle here, because being a Christian is about desiring to please God, and sin displeases God, so we should desire not to sin, right?  Obviously, yes.  But what is sin?  How does it apply to culture and society?  And now we’re back to the beginning with asking what happened to sin. 

I have several friends who are atheist/agnostic.  How am I to invite them to church and explain what sin is, if it’s become a part of modern culture, and modern Christian culture just brushes over it like it’s no big deal?

I think it’s time that Christians stop being afraid of coming across as “unfeeling”, “xenophobic”, “intolerant”, “unjust”, “hateful”, etc. I think it’s time to start talking about sin again.  I don’t want to whittle my God down anymore.  He is so incredibly big, and I think it’s time we re-acknowledge that sin is too.

What happened to sin? I don’t know, but I’m ready to see the conversation change.

Ciao for now,

Julia

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(P.S. For one of my classes this semester, I am required to conduct a research experiment/study.  My study is focused on the relationship between politics and religion.  I think it would be really cool to have you guys be a part of my research (but please do not feel obligated!).  If you are interested, the only stipulation is that you be an American citizen (sorry, but my topic is relevant to Americans).  So, if this is something you are interested in, you can find the survey here: Politics and Religion.  Thanks!! 🙂 )

 

 

Collection of Beautiful Things (IV)

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me.  An intensive semester of classes, issues at work, and a couple stressful relationships.  I’m in a bit of an emotional slump, and am having a hard time not curling up in my bed for the next few days, and ignoring all responsibilities.

The nasty thing, though, is life doesn’t stop just because I’m feeling a bit emotionally strained and unsettled.  And so, since I do have responsibilities and homework, I thought I’d remind myself of all the beauty left around me and be happy.  There’s an incredible kind of peace that comes when surrounded by soul-touching beautiful things.

 

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“She has autonomy. She has a strong will. But she can’t move. So in many ways her life is my life. It’s bigger than me, it controls me, and it makes me fight like never before. We spend so much time together that she’s a part of me. She knows how important she is to me. She had childhood cancer. Her heart failed three times. And I was by her side the entire time. I never realized that I could love someone as much as this. She could never hurt me. She could never hurt anyone. We always ask her: ‘Are you angry?’, ‘Are you mad?’ And she always says ‘no.’ She laughs when I laugh. And right now I’m trying not to cry. Because she’ll cry if I cry.” (São Paulo, Brazil) ~ from Humans of New York

 

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(My mom and I love Masterpiece shows.  I love Mercy Street, and my mom and I are currently in love with Victoria.)

What are some of your beautiful things, those things that heal your soul and heart?

Ciao for now,

Julia

Oh, the love.

I am a complete and utter hopeless romantic.  I always have been and always will be, regardless of whether I am in a relationship or not.  I love kisses on the hand, hand written letters, a single rose, walks at sunset, you name it. I love words from the heart and vulnerable emotion.  I love the idea of a wild, gentle, beautiful, passionate, never ending love.  I love the idea of a soul that touches the soul, instead of just the body.  I love the idea of a love that exists between equals and companions.

This Valentine’s Day, I’m filling my day with reminders of that pure, dreamy love.  And, like always, I thought I’d share them with you.  I think this world could use some more beautiful love.

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(^^This was one of my favorite movies growing up. And the songs are just simply wonderful.)

(^^Really, though, anything from Sinatra could be included.)

Hope.

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything.  It’s that point in the semester where I’m holding on for dear life.  Time is not something I have much of, and stress and I are best friends.  However, in this short bit of time before my next responsibility, I wanted to post something.

Regardless of who you voted for in this election, I think everyone is feeling a little hopeless.  Hopeless because of the labels being thrown around based on assumptions and stereotypes, or because of the outcome.  Hopeless because of fear, or because of change.  The protestors are angry, and violence is breaking out.  Bullying and discrimination seems to be spreading like a wildfire.  Sometimes, it feels like America is falling apart.

The past few days, I have been doing all I can to remind myself Who is in control.  There have been mornings were I feel overwhelmed by the hatred and anger on Facebook, and it clamps around my heart like an iron fist.  We as a nation are in The Storm.  But I know my God is at the helm of this ship, and He will guide us through.  My soul is comforted in that fact, as it never has been before.

So, with that being said, I want to share with some of the songs I have been clinging to this past week.  Each morning, I listen to them on my way to school and to work, letting them wash over me.  They center my heart and mind, helping me face anger and opposition and frustration and hopelessness with peace and kindness and love and hope.

My prayer for these songs isn’t that they’ll change minds.  Or that they’ll quell anger.  Or that they’ll stop hate or fear.  My prayer is simply that they’ll bring hope.

Everyone person, regardless of political party or religious affiliation, needs hope right now.  I hope, and pray, these songs provide some hope, even if it just the smallest glimmer.

It is Well by Kristene Dimarco and Bethel Music

Jesus, We Love You by Paul McClure and Bethel Music

No Longer Slaves by Jonathan David, Melissa Heller, and Bethel Music

Joy of the Lord by Rend Collective

How He Loves by David Crowder

Great are You Lord by All Sons and Daughters

Build Your Kingdom Here by Rend Collective

King of the World by Natalie Grant

Every Giant Will Fall by Rend Collective

More Than Conquerors by Rend Collective

Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace) by Hillsong

Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin

Holy Spirit by Francesca Battistelli

You Make Me Brave by Amanda Cook and Bethel Music

Sinking Deep by Hillsong Young and Free

Trust in You by Lauren Diangle

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