Friday, November 8, 2013

My Mission Statement needed a Heavenly Perspective

I've spent the last 6 years or so trying to nail down a "mission statement". I discovered Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and I knew that I needed to define my "mission" if I was ever going to have any clue of where I was going or what I was doing with my life. I mean, how could I prioritize my time if I had no idea what my priorities were?

Henry David Thoreau said, “In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.” I really have no idea who he is or what he did to merit that anyone record or remember his words, but those words stuck with me none the less. Never mind the altitude, how could I hit any target if I didn't have the slightest idea what I was aiming at?

So I put pen to paper and, following the directions given to me, I wrote down everything that came to mind. It was good -I usually thing everything I write is good- but it didn't sing; it didn't resonate with me. Instead, all the great words fell flat on the paper and I felt even less motivated than when I had begun.

Next, I tried the free wizard on Franklin Covey's website. I answered the probing questions then tweaked it on my own in Microsoft Word. It was better. I learned some things about myself and pointed out some rather obvious fluff about myself. (I mean, when I wrote "I am most effective when I am happy and positive", seriously who isn't? How does that help me stay positive? And what happens when I am inevitably not happy and positive?) It made me feel a little more energized about what I was doing, but it still missed the mark. I would look at that paper and think, "Is this all there is? People rave about their statements, and mine is just... meh. No singing."

I resigned myself to thinking that mission statements were just another crock of bull sold to insecure self-help junkies, and I certainly resembled that conclusion at the time. So, I filed my statement away and decided to do some soul searching, because maybe I just had no idea of who I was or what I wanted. And boy was I right!

Fast forward several years and I have a paradigm shift. Suddenly, I realize that there's more to my life than my selfish pursuit of liberty and pleasure above all else. I discovered that all the statements about material gain that had felt empty years before felt that way because they were empty pursuits. Sure, I wanted things and stuff, but they had lost priority when I fell head-over-heels in love with Jesus. Suddenly, like a light bulb had clicked on in my head cartoon-style, I knew who I was and I knew my purpose.

But the mission statement was the farthest thing from my mind at that time. Then one unassuming night during my private study time with God, I just felt His Spirit stirring in me. I had words in my heart that I needed to get out. So I grabbed some paper and wrote the following:

My life is a great gift from God. The blood of Christ has redeemed me and through His blood and sacrifice, I am born again and no longer dead. He is the Great Love of my life.

I will choose daily to remember that every new morning is a gift and an opportunity. Therefore, the following is the manner in which I will choose to live my life:

- I will celebrate every breath I take because each one is a blessing. I will seek to let go of petty things and transgressions. I will choose to remember that every good thing, big or small, is of and from God. And I will stand strong and courageous in the face of opposition because I know that, even in the midst of the storm, God is with me, cares for me, strengthens me, and blesses me.

- I will seek out God's Truth as I continuously purpose to be more like Him. By actively seeking Him and keeping His Word (Jesus) close to my heart daily, God will provide all that I need to triumph over the lies, temptations, and struggles of this world.

- I will remember that God alone gives me my value and dignity and that no one can take them from me. I am never alone: God goes with me everywhere. (Therefore, I will aim to not take Him into dark and sinful places.) I do not have to fear because He goes before me to clear my path, stands behind me, and walks beside me as I travel through this life. I am never left exposed, bare, or vulnerable to anyone because I am clothed in His strength and majesty.

- I will surrender and forfeit every aspect of my life and submit every thought in my head to Him, His Will, and His Word. I will work with diligence to uphold His Word in my every thought and action and I will bring before Him every darkness and transgression I create so that they may be rebuked, be healed, and be perfected.

- I will endeavour to fill my time with productive tasks and cast off the chains of idleness. I will remember that, in all things, I work for God and not for man.

- I will cultivate humility, compassion, and patience in my life because that is the example my Lord has given me.

- I will live a life of more than just planning. I will take action - because my God is an active God!

- I will remember that my marriage is the single most important relationship in my life, second only to my relationship with Christ. I will be ever conscious that it is the flesh-and-blood example of my Spiritual covenant with Christ. Therefore, I will purpose to love my husband as Christ and as Christ loves me - because the three of us are intertwined into one fiber, never to be broken by earthly hands. My husband is my own flesh and I will treat him with great care, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. I will also stand by him and support him in all seasons of life and work to renew our relationship daily.

It only took fifteen minutes, and when I was finished I realized what it was. It was the mission statement that I had agonized over for hours upon hours stretched over many years, that very statement that I had tried to force out so many times! And here it had flowed so easily as God's Word guided my hand! Once I had realigned my perspective, there it had poured out, as effortlessly as water from a glass! And, as I'm sure you have guessed, this one sings!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Experience with Morning Quiet Time with God, and Why it's Not Always the Best Plan...

Champagne Castle by Slack12.

I won't deny that Jesus gives us an excellent example (well He always does, but specific to this post) in Mark 1:35, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." I have read it over and over again suggested in many Bible studies and devotionals that a Christian should wake up early and spend time with God in His Word. I'm not going to say that's a bad idea, because it is excellent to get our thoughts on God first thing in the morning. But, I want to encourage Christians to take heart if morning quiet time is just not feasible at this season in their lives; God just might have other plans for you...

My experience with morning quiet time...

I really really wanted to wake up bright and early in the mornings and spend quiet time with God, but it wasn't working out for me. An obstacle was that I have a toddler who is an early riser and the moment anyone else is awake in the house, so it she. This meant that I would either have to wake up at 4 am or spend time with God in the evenings after she went to bed. Another obstacle was that I just couldn't seem to get myself out of bed before 8 am and couldn't seem to get to sleep before midnight - so waking up at 4 am was absolutely out of the question. And yet another obstacle was the difference in the state of my mind in the morning and at night - somehow, for some reason I couldn't fathom, I was having an easier time opening myself up to scripture and concentrating on studies at night than I was in the morning. 

I decided to go with the flow of my body and spend my study time with God at night after my family was asleep and the house was still and quiet. But, I have to admit, I felt guilty because I wasn't doing it "right". Sure, I was spending time with God and that's what is important (and was having a grand time doing it, too), but certainly there had to be a purpose to why everyone pushed for morning time. Was I missing out on some great blessing because I couldn't seem to get myself out of bed early enough?

At this same time, I was having horrible problems with feeling very vulnerable at night before bed. It was common for me to think very depressing and self-depreciating thoughts, hold arguments with my husband, generate storms of paranoia and worry, and pick apart my own self-esteem. The enemy of my soul seemed to be having a grand time taking advantage of me in my weakened state and it took all my energy every day to piece things back together after each terrible night. Of course, this had been rather commonplace for me since I was a teenager and was feeling the full force of my mother's emotional abuse, so I assumed it was the way life had to be and thought nothing of it.

I used the nights for my time with God for over ten weeks, and in that time I began to set up a habit. I got used to thinking about God before bed and holding a bit of an open prayer with Him as I feel asleep after my study time. The study time at night made it easier for me to keep Him in my thoughts because it was the last thing I did before bed. Some nights I still had a difficult time. But instead of giving in to the negative thoughts, I found myself either pleading for God's help, reciting scripture, or simply telling myself over and over in my head, "God loves me, no matter what!" The more I kept up with this habit, the easier my nights became, and the easier it was for me to wake up earlier in the morning!

When I looked back on events, I realized that having my quiet time at night was exactly what God wanted! He used that time to fortify my nights and helped me to greet the day easier. I realized that maybe there was a reason why I was facing so much resistance to waking early, and it solidified the idea that meeting God exactly where I am is the best plan.

I hope that anyone who reads this can take heart in knowing that you're not "wrong" or "bad" if waking in the morning and spending time with God just doesn't fit. Sure, it's a nice ideal to strive for, but maybe God has other plans for you right now. Maybe there is something in your life that can be healed through night, evening, or afternoon quiet time. Don't do like I did and feel guilty because you're not fitting some standard that other Christians have established. Follow God. ;)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

When you have a good heart...

I would like to take a minute to discuss this image. I saw it circulating on Facebook quite a while ago and I had to snag it up, which is something that I do from time to time when something in particular bothers me. (Which it is actually probably not a really good habit to go collecting things that bother you. But I do it so I can discuss it - if with no one else, then with my husband, poor guy.)

Anyway, what bothers me so much about this is that I don't think that these qualities are necessarily those of someone with a good heart. In fact, it sounds more like someone who is trying to make an excuse or make a reason for the fact that they think they are a good person doing good things, but somehow they always seem to feel hurt instead of having good emotions.

I see a lot of things crop up on Facebook where a person posts something with the intent to receive compliments, comfort, and consoling, and this, to me, just smacks as one of those things.

So, I ask you: what is a person who helps/gives/loves too much?  

In my experience, this is a person with low self-esteem and low self-worth. They want to help solve your problems or give you advice/items because they want to feel valuable. They love you "too much" because they want to feel loved and they don't know how to love themselves (or because they don't realize that God loves them).

Since these people have a low value of themselves and use the opinions and views of others to define who they are, they often do not know their own limits or boundaries. This causes them to overextend themselves, whether you have asked them for help or they have taken up the cause on their own. They don't know how to stop and say, "I love you, but I can't do that for you right now." And since they don't have a high value of themselves, they often don't know when to say no to things that compromise their values, morals, or beliefs.

These so-called heartfelt gestures, though, usually are not committed with the best interest of the recipient in mind. A person with low self-esteem can actually be an incredibly selfish person. They move from person to person, action to action, cause to cause in an effort to create value for themselves through the appreciation of other people and organizations. When their desperate and frenzied attempt to earn someone's love backfires and the recipient becomes angry or irritated, the person with with low self-esteem can't face the fact that maybe they behaved badly. Instead, they feel sorry for themselves and think, "Well, I guess I just help/love/give too much because I have a good heart. I should be appreciated more."

It certainly isn't the sign of a "bad" heart if you know your limitations and boundaries and can say "no" when appropriate! And we learn what times are appropriate by having an active relationship with God and regularly spending time with Him in His Word.

And, what about trusting "too much", you ask?

There is no such thing as trusting "too much", in my opinion. The person who is truly trusting might get hurt from someone who takes advantage of that trust, but it is the deceiver who is in the wrong. 

A person who believes in and trusts God can take heart knowing that God sees all things and remembers the times that His child is hurt or taken advantage of. We need to trust that God will choose the appropriate action to discipline those who have done wrong, and we also need to trust that He will choose the appropriate time to do it.

Additionally, when we have an active relationship with God and regularly spend time with Him in His Word, we will have a better idea of where our trust can be placed because God will direct us. We certainly can't expect humans to be as trustworthy as God, but that doesn't mean that humans are untrustworthy to a fault. We can trust that in where God leads us, our efforts will return fruit.

So, what if this image seems reasonably true?

I would suggest that you examine yourself and your motives. Are you truly helping, giving, and expressing love because you love the recipient, or are you doing it because you want them to love you and express love to you? Do you have an active relationship with God where you regularly talk to Him and spend time with Him in His Word? 

If you read this, and you find that you're facing feelings of anger and resentment, I would suggest having some prayer time with God and really digging deep into your heart and motivations. I am not trying to point any fingers or place any accusations, but an intense emotional reaction could indicate that you are in denial. It's best, in my opinion, to lay it all out bare before God and let Him help you sort it out. It could just be that you're having a really rotten day... or it could also be a sign that God wants to do some work in you. ;)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Blog Redesign!

I was thoroughly unhappy with my original blog design. It was finished hastily so that I could have some idea of how things were going to work with Blogger. It was decent, but it looked to me to be childish, pixelated, too busy, and kind of messy (there was just too much colour and too many shapes all going too many directions). Plus, while I think quite a bit of it suited me, there was something out of place that I couldn't put my finger on. Basically, I just wasn't satisfied with the overall look and feel of it, so I made a new one. :)

Back in January, I found a good portion of the comics that I had drawn while working at the riverboat casino (the ones that I thought I had lost for good). I was happy, but I knew those weren't all of them. Well, about a month ago, I found the rest of them and scanned them. Then, today, I snipped a few pictures of myself from the comics to make a new Facebook profile picture and cover image. I had so much fun and enjoyed it so much that I decided to redesign my whole blog theme!

Green has been my favourite colour since I can remember - since I was a little girl and I sat down with my Little Golden Treasury and read along as The Color Kittens mixed all the colours in their search for green. When I was younger I preferred a sea green, but as I got older, I came to appreciate olive, especially olive drab. This was convenient since, for a long time, I also have been very fond of military designs, insignia, and the wartime designs and imagery of World War II. (I credit Molly McIntire, the American Girl, with the earliest budding of my fascination, and well, if you know anything about the book series, you might draw a correlation between it and the name of my blog. ^___^)

Now, you might be inclined to think that this love for military-esque things came from the fact that I am a Marine Corps wife, but you'd be wrong. I was driving my Barbies around in an olive drab G.I. Joe Jeep as a kid instead of a pink convertible (because the Jeep was green, and Barbie fit better in it than the convertible .. and the Jeep was really more open and airy than the convertible any way...) and wearing boots that my Army uncle said resembled combat boots when I was still in high school. No, I think that my fascination with the styles of the military just made it easier for me to accept the transition into being a military wife. (That, and Girl Scouts. We sang cadences while we walked double-file -in pairs- everywhere we went. We also participated in morning and evening colours ceremonies, especially at camp. So hearing the Navy Corpsmen run past my house in the morning singing their cadences or hearing evening colours out my bedroom window are in some odd way comforting.)

Someone might look at the olive drab map bag that I use at a purse and just think that I am being "moto". Moto, in the Marine Corps, stands for "motivational" and would mean that I was being supportive. But, that's just being me. Just like I would rather wear camis and boots than business casual (especially the "woodlands" camis, which I still think should be called "forest" if they're gonna have "desert"), and I like to hang my necklace pendants on ball chains, and I think canvas is the most awesome fabric ever. No, moto for me are the USMC patches that I have glued (and need to someday actually have sewn) onto my purse, the key chain I have of my husband's boot camp photo, the USMC pin I sometimes wear, or the key chain I got while visiting my husband at MCT that says "Marine Corps Wife: Toughest Job in the Corps". (Lord, I had no idea at the time how true I would find that statement to be a few years later!)

My point is that the kind-of militaristic design of this blog is not some homage to the base we live on or the organization that signs my husband's pay checks. It's just a part of my own aesthetics. And it really doesn't reflect on whether I agree with the military or not - I like to keep a rather romanticized view of the military. It makes it easier to deal with the fact that I have lost a lot of respect for the military just from being a spouse.

Sooooooo.... all rabbit-trail ramblings aside, ta-da: there's a new blog design, and I like it! :D /throws confetti

Monday, April 1, 2013

My Confession of Pride

Since the beginning of this year, I have made it a habit to seek out time with God daily and immerse myself in His Word. He led me to read Beth Moore's So Long Insecurity and complete the devotional journal that goes along with the book, and it changed my life. There were many aspects of the book that shifted my paradigm, but the following passage probably caused the most shift. Beth quotes from the book Perfecting Ourselves to Death by psychiatrist and theologian Richard Winter (emphasis by me):
Although perfectionists seem very insecure, doubting their decisions and actions, fearing mistakes and rejection, and having low opinions of themselves, at the same time, they have excessively high personal standards and an exaggerated emphasis on precision, order and organization, which suggests an aspiration to be better than others. 

Most psychological explanations see the desire to be superior and in control as compensation for feelings of weakness, inferiority, and low self-esteem. But it could also be that the opposite is true; we feel bad about ourselves because we are not able to perform as well, or appear as good, as we really think we can. We believe we are better than others, but we keep discovering embarrassing flaws. Perfectionists' black-and-white thinking takes them on a roller coaster between feeling horribly inadequate and bad about themselves, and then, when things are going well, feeling proud to be so good. Low self-esteem and pride coexist in the same heart.

Beth says:
We will never feel better about ourselves by becoming more consumed with ourselves. Likewise, we will never feel better about ourselves by feeling worse about others. Superiority can't give birth to security. Neither, by the way, can the relentless pursuit of perfection.

This had the most profound effect on me. I always thought that I was a humble person - ask anyone who knows me, my husband even, and they will tell you that I am not a prideful person - but I was wrong, and they are wrong. Just yesterday, I surmounted the task of explaining to my husband how I could have such a deep-seeded duality that went so unnoticed for so many years, and he was thoroughly shocked to see how proud I have really been.

In Beth's So Long Insecurity devotional journal, she presents the question of how pride has presented itself in my life. This is what I wrote in response:
For many years now, unbeknownst to me - or perhaps more unrealized - I have been building myself up with self-sustained worth. I have trained myself to think that I have value and worth because of what I have done, accomplished, or overcome! I've put myself on a perfectionism roller coaster to build my pride, too. I've been so proud of myself for that trip that I took alone to see my husband in Twentynine Palms - it's been the crowning jewel for me. And I don't know if I have ever stopped to consider that I was never, truly alone in the situation and I didn't do it all by myself: God was there and He gave me the courage to do it. He watched over me the whole time!
I flew out to San Diego all by myself, rented a car, and drove three hours across California to see my husband while he was at Marine training in Twentynine Palms. Then, when our visiting time was up, I repeated the trip back to San Diego, in California rush-hour traffic. It was a big deal for me - less than six months prior, I wasn't sure if I would survive while my husband went to boot camp. I had transformed from being extremely dependent on my husband for most everything to being quite capable on my own. It was a phenomenal event in my life, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't something I achieved on my own.

I had quickly discovered that, despite how incredibly supportive my friends, family, and coworkers were, my only real source of comfort while my husband was away was spending time with God in His Word. I wrote my husband a letter every day that he was in boot camp and in each letter I transcribed a devotional. I also attended a Beth Moore Bible study with my husband's paternal grandmother once a week. God had my ear - He was talking to me that whole time, moving and changing me.

A few pages later, I free-wrote this:
For so many years, I have thought that I was being humble and modest - but I see so clearly now that I wasn't. How many other things have been a deceptive mask for pride?I have encouraged people to look at things from other perspectives and realize that we are all just people - equal in our sins and equal in the weight of our struggles - even if one struggle might seem bigger than another, we are all on our own paths fighting our own disadvantages. And yet, here I am, thinking that I am somehow better than other people. I was blessed to be what is considered "smart" in this world. I learn fast and have the capacity to achieve a lot. I was blessed to be able to put pen to paper and draw what I see in my head. Great, beautiful gifts each and every one of them - but they are no greater than the gifts of anyone else. I am no better a person because of them!I had all these gifts when I was a teenager and I still was sinful to the max; I was still as lost as could be. Everything good in me, every good that I do, every accomplishment that I have, every mountain that I climb are all because my Heavenly Father has helped me!I have done nothing noteworthy or good on my own - my plans tend to walk me right into trouble, heartache, self-loathing, and despair! I feel like pieces in a puzzle are starting to come together in my head. Whenever I used to say "I am nothing without You", it was with a heart of pride and self-loathing - not a heart of reverence. I was seeing myself as sinful scum, and yet I was still praising myself for all of "my great accomplishments". I say "I am nothing without You" now not because I sin and that sin in itself is disgusting, not because I can't seem to avoid sin, and not because I "sometimes manage to do things right" - I am nothing without my Heavenly Father because He has given me all that is beautiful in me! I am who I am because of God - not simply because He touched me, but because He made me and He continues to make me!

Even more pages later, Beth asks what genuine humility looks like. I replied with this:
I realized last week that I am very far from being humble. I am proud and I cover that pride with a veil, coloured to be something else, but made of insecurity.I have realized that nothing I do is my own accomplishment - God has given me the means to accomplish every task. He is the one who does it all; He is the one responsible. I think that true humility is giving God the recognition He deserves - which is all of it! I would like very much to be more like this!

I remember my mother telling me throughout my childhood and adolescent years about how "gifted" I had been as a child. She told me that she had the opportunity to place me into special accelerated learning programs when I was young, but she chose not to because she wanted me to have a "normal childhood". Aside from the fact that her parenting paradigm was ignoring my needs and forcing me to be someone I wasn't, she was also planting the seed in my head for the thought that I was more special than the other kids. And let me tell you, that seed grew and took full bloom by the time I hit high school. I jeopardized so many friendships because I felt threatened and did so many things to get attention - simply because I thought I was better and deserved the attention and acclaim. 

When things did not go according to my plan or when I received bad attention, I would blame other people. In my mind, surely they just were blind to how special I was. Or, maybe they were jealous - they knew in their hearts that I was better, but they just couldn't admit it. (Funny how my pride caused me to project pride on other people.)

When my parents started fighting and separated and my life got ever so much more complicated and painful, I told myself that no one else was experiencing the kind of pain and trouble that I experienced. I narrowed my focus on the things that were going right in the lives of other people so that I could feel vindicated in my hatred. The idea that they had the "perfect life" made them seem ungrateful and made their lives seem easy. This made me feel good about myself for persevering through the turbulence in my life; it made me feel like the better person.

Even my art skill grew out of a prideful need to feel special and win attention. That is probably why I have had such a hard time reintegrating it back into my life. It was born of an ugly place inside of me and I am having to relearn how to enjoy my gift without revisiting that ugly place.

After high school, even after I met my future husband and came to Christ, I still was full of seething, smirking pride. In the wake of her divorce, my mother had mentally and emotionally abused me. I was broken, devalued, confused and full of pain. My concept of self had been so battered and crushed that I clung to my pride like a life preserver - it was all that I thought I had left. Surely, I had value and could love myself again if I could pull myself up out of hell by my bootstraps. It's funny to me now how proud I was of all that I thought I was doing, when in reality Christ was dragging me, kicking and screaming in the direction that God wanted me to go!

I am not Catholic, so I have never experienced a confessional, but I imagine that this is somewhere along the line of what it feels like. I have bared myself to God before and I have bared myself to my husband, but never have I bared myself to anyone else like this. I feel like the life I have been living, the life that other people have seen me living, and the person that other people see me as is a sham. Mollie is a giant ruse, and now I feel like I am plucking my own feathers - I am not a peacock; I am just a chicken in a peacock suit!

And I want it to be clear that I am not doing this for attention. In all honesty, I cringe on the inside as I write this. I would much rather continuing living in my peacock-suit. But God has been doing more than tickling my ear lately - He has the most beautiful way of kindly taking our biggest sins and gently slamming us upside the head with the truth, His Truth! And while it is ultimately very cathartic to do things His way, it is often quite uncomfortable, awkward, and sometimes downright painful. (Though, doing things our way tends to be just as uncomfortable, awkward, and painful without the catharsis.)

The Bible talks about "death to self" many times, but I never really got it - not really. 

Luke 9:23 (NIV)
Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will save it."

I always thought that we were supposed to love ourselves. I understood that we were to give up our time to read God's Word and follow Jesus, but I never quite grasped denying myself or losing my life for Christ. Oh, I could probably have explained it to you, but it never penetrated my heart. Then I read Beth's book, and those puzzle pieces I mentioned earlier started coming together. 

The final piece was the following sermon from John MacArthur on 2 Timothy 3:
You say, "But, John, what about in the Bible it says we're to love ourselves?" It never says that in the Bible. There's no command in Scripture to love yourself. You say, "What about love your neighbor as yourself." That tells us to love our neighbor, not our self. Well what about husbands, love your wives even as your own bodies? That says love your wife. You say, "But it says as yourself." Yes, it doesn't command us to love ourselves, it assumes we do. Did you get the difference? It makes that assumption. Why? Because that is reflective of our fallenness. That's an assumption, not a command. And I daresay, if we weren't fallen, the Lord wouldn't have to make the command or the parallel. So self-love is a sin. The Bible constantly warns on the other hand against pride and self-love and calls self-love a sin. The Bible doesn't teach us to love ourselves, it assumes that that is a part of our fallenness and we need to give to others what we so readily give to ourselves by way of attention and concern. The pervasive deadly sin that grips the human soul is pride and self-love, and out of that sewer pipe flows all the rest of the things that he gives us here.
Self-love and pride certainly aren't cured in me. That flowering weed in my heart has not been eradicated simply by identifying it. But I know that the cure is my continued pursuit of Christ through my daily choice to deny my self and pick up my cross.

In the past few months, I have come to realize that God is the one true love of my heart (and that it is not some fairy-tale Prince Charming). And I find that when I accept His redeeming love, I don't need someone else to love me - not even myself. I don't hate me, but I try leave the loving of me up to God. If anyone beyond God loves me, then that is a gift, and certainly not the expectation that it used to be. This is because my sight and my purpose are fixed on God, not the world, not man, not my husband or my daughter or my mother or anyone else in this world - just God.

Matthew 10:34-39 (NIV)
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn“‘a man against his father,a daughter against her mother,a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it."

I started this post thinking that God's incessant pushing for me to create it might be so that I could benefit someone else, but now that I have come to the end of it... I think He had me write it for me, so I could come clean. Because now that all of this has poured out, I don't feel like such a sham. :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Forgotten Promises - Progression

One of my favourite part about the creation of art is getting to see the progression as a project is completed. It is probably why I love concept art so much - I get to see the progress as designers sketch up ideas and flesh them out, ending in complex art forms like animated movies or video games.

Here's a progression of a piece I did across the month of September in 2012. It's called Forgotten Promises and it is a revisit on a piece that I completed in 2003 (original here). I entered the revisit into a competition on DeviantART, but unfortunately it wasn't a winner. 

The line art sketch, completed September 10th:

The background, light effects, and cleanup of the line art, completed September 11th:

Blocked out the colour, added text, and began work on hair, completed September 13th:

Completed colour on the eyes and lips, continued to work on hair, and began shading of the facial skin, completed September 17th:

Completed colour on the hair, continued work on the skin, completed September 27th:

I decided that I didn't like the direction the skin tone was going, so I reworked it. Also, I was upset with the colour and shape of the lips, so I scrapped the originals and started over. The final version was completed on September 28th:

Honestly, there are still portions of the image that I am not happy with. Though her eyes are in proportion, I would have liked them to be a bit larger. I am not satisfied with her bangs or the shading of her skin. And I would have liked to have added a bit of a lens flare  to her necklace. But, I got really sick of looking at it, so I wrapped it up and submitted it to the contest instead of tweaking it.

I used a few resources for this image (fonts, tutorials, brushes, etc). Please check out the link to the DeviantART gallery page at the top of this post to see what resources I used. Thank you! :)

Asterodea WIP

So, my current colouring project is the image above: Asterodea by Cat Craig. To clarify: I am colouring her lineart. I love, love, love the lineart drawn by the fabulous Cat Craig (aka Catzilla). Her lines make me dream about all the scrumptious colours that could cover the canvas. So much possibility!

All of my progress thus far has been accomplished on my (old) laptop, and this is the first time I have viewed it on a different screen. I have to say that I am disappointed with some of the colours. Some of it is darker than I expected (like her skin) and other parts are way too bright (like her lips). Ugh. Frustrating.

Once my new laptop comes in and I get up and running again, I will be back to work on this. I actually just discovered the beauty of Photoshop layer masks while working on this piece. It opened up a lot of new possibilities and I am both dismayed that it has taken me so long to find this technique and also extremely excited. :D

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Civilians Don't Know

No civilian has any idea what it really means to be a soldier. And, no, Civilian, you don't know. So don't even begin to argue with me. 

This is something I have come to realize while on my journey as a Marine wife. I was once a generic civilian. The most that I knew about the military was what the media fed me and what I had learned in school. I also knew that I had family in the military - some of them were POWs, some of them were reservists, they were in all branches if service, some of them died, some of them were "career" (a term I learned in the military - it means that they stuck with it until retirement), and some of them hated it so much they couldn't wait to get out. I knew generic things: boot camp/basic training is hard - regardless of the branch you're in, they're trained to fight, they get deployed, they shoot guns and some pilot helicopters or jets or drive trucks or tanks. I also knew that a lot die, and many have been prisoners - to be tortured, sometimes to die, too. But I didn't really get it, not really.

Boot camp begins by breaking down these men and women, these soldier-hopefuls, so that they can be built back up and conditioned. A soldier isn't born; a soldier is created. And there is pain and struggle in this process. There is strength and triumph in the end for most, but in the interim, there is also loneliness and fear. Often, a soldier is on the high of being strong and triumphant, but there is also disappointment and disillusionment, too. I have never heard of a soldier who lived the rosy picture that their recruiter painted for them.

It's an endless sea of early mornings, late nights, and days that seem to go on for weeks. There is sleeping on the ground, in the dirt and the cold, or the heat. There's gunfire and danger - the excitement, but also the fear of never returning home. You get to "see the world", but often that is limited to the portholes in an airplane or from inside of a Humvee, and at the risk of your life. On top of that, there's still the mundane details of daily life: cleaning bills for intricately cared for uniforms, weekly hair cuts, the immaculate cleaning and care of the space you live - compound that with caring for a spouse and children. And did I mention the piles of bureaucratic paperwork, the career ladders to climb, the politics? That's there, too, and sometimes its cruelty runs a race with that of civilian corporations; sometimes the military wins that race.

Soldiers aren't faceless. They have hearts and souls - they have families and friends, hopes and dreams. Yet, many are expected to live as if they have no emotions at all. Often, they have to learn to cope with all their challenges alone. They also "get broken". It is a cruel way of saying that they've become injured or lived through trauma - basically, they cannot operate at "optimal levels" and their worth has been reduced to that of a misfit toy. Sometimes, they are altogether forgotten - until they are dumped back out into a world of civilians, most of whom have never faced the kinds of challenges and horrors that a soldier has faced. They expect sugared words and softened truths, not the harsh realities and blunt, in-your-face honesty they receive from a soldier.

It may sound like I understand, but I can tell you that I still don't. It's because I am still a civilian, despite being as close to a soldier as one can get without actually being one. 
Spouses probably come the closest of all civilians because they live and breathe a lot of the lifestyle, too. They know what it is like to live in military culture, being under the scrutiny of what seems like everyone. They know what it is like to laugh boldly in the face of some of the cruelest stereotypes. Spouses are the ones awake and alone at midnight, lighting candles in their windows or at their church. They are the ones raising children virtually alone for months (sometimes years) at a time, waiting for the return of a person that they love but may hardly recognize - physically or emotionally. They are the ones standing hand in hand in battle, if only in spirit, with their soldiers. No civilian has any idea what it really means to be a soldier's spouse either.

But, even then, despite our best efforts to try to understand, even we spouses really just don't get it. And heaven knows we try to understand - all the classes, all the counseling, all the support. Our men and women in uniform deserve so much credit, too, for their immense effort toward making it understandable, though I doubt it ever will be - not truly.

So to every generic civilian (and perhaps even spouse) who says "Oh, I get it", I'll tell you where to cram it - because you don't know it until you walk in those boots, fight in those boots, bleed in those boots, and sometimes die in those boots!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Current Preoccupations...

  • I posted about Proverbs 31 the other day, but I think I am going to have to put that on the back burner. I ordered some books from Barnes & Noble (I know, I know. I hate them, but I had a gift card so I took advantage of it) and these new books have a higher priority. I got So Long, Insecurity: You've Been a Bad Friend to Us by Beth Moore (and oh, heck yes, I am linking you to Amazon for that one) and the associated devotional book. Some people have a bit of issue with Beth Moore, but I absolutely love her. She's a woman after my own heart and I love how her ministry really gets into a woman's perspective. I've had so many problems understanding what it means to be a woman and so much trouble learning how to be a "good" woman - and even more confusion as to what a Christian woman is all about. I didn't really have a great role model in my mother, and though I love my husband, being a woman really isn't something that he can teach me. I've closely watched other women in my life: my paternal grandmother, my step-mother, my paternal aunts, my mother-in-law, etc. It has helped, but learning about women in the Bible and learning about God's plan for women has been phenomenal. And Beth Moore's books and studies have resonated the most with me and have taught me the most.

  • In all the confusion of all my moving around these last few years, I lost the comics I drew for my friend Lauren while we worked together at the casino. Today, I found a large portion of them, so I want to scan them and re-touch them. I might even expand some of them, but that really depends on how much time I have on my hands - time without the background music of a screaming, cranky toddler.

  • I have a digital art project that has been "in the works" for months now. I am colouring the Asterodea Lineart by the talented Cat Craig, aka "Catzilla". It is going to be shiny and gloriously gaudy, because I seriously only just discovered masks in Photoshop! lol. Though, completion might wait until after taxes - we're looking at new laptops and rearranging our current computer uses. And it might be easier to do that than make the desktop computer that I am working on now art-friendly. :/

  • I am working on uploading my recipes. I have a notebook template mocked up in Microsoft Publisher and I plan on offering a printable file for each recipe I post, plus a link back to wherever I found the recipe or was inspired to create it. Honestly, aside from the Beth Moore book above, this will probably be my priority until new laptops come in.

Aaaaaannnnnd, that's what I'm up to...

I've also been on a World of Warcraft break for about two months now, and I am not sure if I will be going back. Just getting that out there...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Proverbs 31 Obsession

I don't remember when I first discovered The Virtuous Wife, but I have been in love with it for quite some time now. She is really an amazing woman, and it is no wonder that a mother would wish for her son to find such a wife! It's no wonder that a man would search for a woman!
Proverbs 31:10-31 - The Virtuous Wife 
Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
And willingly works with her hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
She brings her food from afar.
She also rises while it is yet night,
And provides food for her household,
And a portion for her maidservants.
She considers a field and buys it;
From her profits she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength,
And strengthens her arms.
She perceives that her merchandise is good,
And her lamp does not go out by night.
She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hand holds the spindle.
She extends her hand to the poor,
Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,
For all her household is clothed with scarlet.
She makes tapestry for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies sashes for the merchants.
Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.

Recently, I have felt compelled to participate in a bible study or devotional about the Proverbs 31 wife. Most women, myself included, find the Virtuous Wife to be incredibly intimidating, so I am curious to read the suggestions that other women have for being more like this amazing woman!

So, I have scoured the internet for any decently formatted study or devotional. And I've found a few:

  • Liberty University's Online Ministries: Virtuous Fear (free download)
  • Pursuit of Proverbs 31 eBook (approx $3.99 at Amazon, old [possibly incomplete] version here)
  • Women Living Well's Proverbs 31 eBook (sign up for the email list to get the link for it)

I'm gonna work through them and see how they turn out... I promise to post about it. :D

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A day that changed my life... (a long post)

I don't think there has to be just one day that changes a life. There have been so many days that have made such profound changes in mine that I do not think I could single out just one. I suppose that if I had to choose, it would be the day I accepted Christ into my life - because it was really only then that I truly lived - but I am not talking about that day in this post. No, what I am going to talk about happened three years ago yesterday when my husband left for boot camp.

I remember curling up together the night before. We had silently promised that it would just be another normal night, nothing special. We hugged each other close as we nestled down into the soft sheets that my husband bought as a honeymoon present only four short months before. We watched the movie "Moon" and as it got closer to sleep time, I tried not to cry. I clung to my husband as if he were a lifeline; I was so very scared for the future.

We woke up early the next morning and my husband's parents took us on the hour drive to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) by the Kansas City International Airport. I don't remember a lot of it. I was numb and cold inside, terrified, and struggling so hard to not fall apart into a soggy, weepy mess. That wasn't how I wanted my husband to remember me. He needed to know I was strong; I would be ok... miserable and lonely, yes, but still ok.

It wasn't like I had ever seemed very strong in the past. One might say that I had overcome a lot, but I am not sure I could have done any of it if my husband hadn't come into my life. That day at MEPS, the future held a challenge that I wasn't sure I could overcome. But my husband was heading into a great challenge all his own and I knew that he did not need the burden of worrying for me to be on his shoulders. Whether I had success or failure, I was determined to see that he would only have success.

MEPS was a nice, simple building with tile floors and off-white walls. It reminded me of a hospital or a school. It was efficient and official but tried so very hard to be inviting and reassuring. Whatever it tried to be, though, the burden of its purpose seeped through the walls and permeated the building: decisions that changed lives were made here.

There was a lot of waiting around. I didn't get to see a lot of my husband because they had him all over the place filling out forms and getting processed. My husband's parents and I waited in a small waiting area off to the side but still part of the main room, our eyes scanning the various employees, searching for a sign of things to come. Every time my husband passed in and out of the main room, he made eye contact and gave me a nervous, reassuring smile. I had a death grip on a package of tissues. I felt like my life slipped away with every passing minute.

Seven years earlier, my husband had been my saving grace. I had just come tumbling out of a terrible and emotionally scarring escapade that could hardly be called a "relationship" with a notorious slut of a man. My mother had defended the man who had hurt me, only transforming insult to further injury. I had just graduated high school a few days prior to all of this and was set for a trip to Florida with a friend - a commitment that could not, would not be broken. I had no plans for the present, let alone the future, and I felt like a ship lost at sea. When I experienced that toe-curling, goose-bump inducing, electric-shocker of a first kiss with the man that would someday be my husband on the night before I left, I knew I had the reason that I had been searching for, a reason to come back home.

In the years that followed, that man that would be my husband led me back to Christ and saved my life. He liberated me from my mother's abuse and encouraged me to salvage the decaying relationship I had with my father. That man that would be my husband gave me strength and stability when I knew none. He gave me a home when I felt adrift and orphaned. He was a kindred soul. He wasn't perfect, but he loved me and he stuck by me through my darkest hours.

As I sat in those plastic chairs at MEPS, attempting to hold back each wave of sorrow with mere tissues, I wasn't sure I'd be ok. My husband had made sure I had everything I needed: passwords and numbers for bill pay, repairs on the house and car updated, etc. Surely if I were to make it through this, I was at an advantage with the preparation he put into it. But I wasn't convinced. I had never balanced a household. Until his departure, my husband had handled all the bills. I had never cooked for one. And I had never spent so much time alone - I had never done so much without my husband by my side.

I had a lot I wanted to prove. In all honesty, I wanted him to go as much as I wanted him to stay. I burned with a desire to show him exactly how strong and independent I could be. He had taught me so very much about being an adult and being in control of myself. I knew I had the capability to survive, but my heart was breaking, too. I would be so very alone again.

My in-laws tried to occupy my mind while we waited at MEPS. I could hardly imagine what kind of emotions they were going through, they were putting on a brave face. When my husband finally swore in, the significance of the ceremony was lost on me. I was spiraling into that dark place where panic resides. All the waiting was agony.

There were so many questions in my head, so many uncertainties. Would he miss me? Or would he realize that he didn't need me in his life after all? How much would this change him? Would he still love the "me" that I would become in all of this? Would I like the "him" that he would become? Was this a new beginning or the beginning of the end? Finally, I got to give a last hug and kiss goodbye. That was when my carefully and precariously constructed flood gates came down. The tears began and didn't abate until my in-laws and I were well on our way home. 

We ended up eating out for lunch, though I was too sick with grief to eat much, and we went to a movie. My in-laws were an incredible blessing for keeping my occupied that day. Honestly, I think they needed it as much as I did. We watched Avatar, and for the first time in the previous 24 hours, I was released from reality and swept away by a story of great courage about a Marine who gave up everything he knew for love. It was exactly what I needed, and I felt a surge of hope. I could do this! I HAD to do this!

That evening, I cried myself to sleep, a breath of hope alive in me amongst the fear and heartache that I feared might consume me.

In the next week, I mourned my husband's absence like a death. I barely ate, barely slept, and surrounded myself with work and family. Finally, I got a letter from my husband and I felt like I could breathe again!

With the weeks that followed, my strength grew. In these new-found hours of solitary quiet, I found myself. I also found that I needed God to have a more active role in my life. My in-laws visited me every weekend, and though I felt loved, I still felt like a large piece of me was missing. I wrote a letter to my husband every day and made the trip to the post box part of my daily routine. I poured my heart out to him with an honesty I had never known. And in return, I was gifted with heart-wrenching letters affirming his love and affection for me. He missed me! Sweet validation!

When he finally returned, I was so terrified. Would I recognize this man that is my husband, this man that was now also a Marine? Would he still like me? It seemed a silly question, but also a pertinent one. After all, it had been so very long since we had participated in a real conversation. And so very much had happened in the interim.

It took two days of Marine Corps fanfare and family-induced headaches before I got my husband all to myself. We curled up in bed in front of the television at the hotel and he ordered a pizza. There wasn't any wild, passionate sex, as one might imagine. No, we were just content to have the blessing and gift of simply holding each other in our arms. And I knew everything was going to be ok.

Even though we both knew that what challenges my husband had faced could probably have eaten my challenges (and still have been hungry), he was proud of me. The look in his eyes told me that he knew, perhaps for the first time, that he wasn't alone shouldering the burdens or this marriage. I was no longer a dependent; I had accomplished my goal!

In truth, though my strength and courage had grown and continued to grow, I never felt the full gratification of it until about three months later. I booked a flight to Sand Diego, California, and drove three hours across the state (some of it in California rush hour) to see my husband in Twentynine Palms. To this day, I figure that if I can do all that alone, then I can tackle anything!

I learned that though one day may be hard or life-altering, it is just one day in a cascade of days. And it is what we do over that cascade that builds up to great changes and great redemption. My husband joining the Marine Corps changed my life, and it showed me that God's plan is real and intricate. Three years later, I can attest that it hasn't been an easy journey, but it has been a good one. As I said before, I am not sure I would be the woman I am today if my husband had never come into my life - I also am not sure I would be the woman I am today if he hadn't joined the Corps.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Quit Complaining! (a long post)

My husband and I love Calvary Chapel, particularly Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale in Florida and their pastor Bob Coy. Now, we've never attended the church, but we have followed their media publications, The Active Word, for some time now. (We had the luck to be able to visit Horizon North County in Rancho Santa Fe, CA, after they ministered to my husband while he was in boot camp, and we wished we could have stayed.) We just have a deeper resonance with their messages - we agree with what we have encountered of their beliefs much more than we agree with the Southern Baptist ways that my husband was raised with and that I was later introduced to. (I, alas, was raised by two parents badly burned by a falling out with The Way International. My mom begrudges my dad for leaving and my dad considers it a cult - and they both have kinda messed up views on God because of it. My mom is mentally imbalanced, and my dad is, I dunno, a new-age Buddhist, I think. So my lessons about Christianity as I grew up were... odd.)

Anyway, when my husband left for Marine Corps boot camp, I started on Day 1 of their 365 Devotional (volume 1). I copied the short(-ish) devotionals into every daily letter I wrote to him and also wrote out a little bit about what I learned from the passage. I made it all the way to Day 80 before I got derailed from it. Boot camp is roughly 90 days, and as I got closer to the point in time where I would actually get to physically see and speak to my husband again (no, I never got a successful phone call with him the entire time), well, there was a point where letters stopped because they would arrive after he had already left, but mainly, I got distracted with all the preparation... and anticipation. There's a lot of trepidation involved in seeing the man you love for the first time in 90 days - and not just any 90 days, but 3 whole months of life-altering curriculum and conditioning - however, that is for a different post!

I tried to get back into the devotional. It had been such tremendous encouragement and support through, probably, the hardest 3 months of my life. But my makeshift, index-card bookmark remained on "Day 80: Quit Complaining", no matter what I tried. A whopping 3 years later, I am just now beginning to think that was a bit of Divine Intervention at work. This is the passage (bold lettering and underlining done by me):

"...nor [let us] complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer." (1 Corinthians 10:10 NKJV)
Paul wrote this passage nearly two thousand years ago. A lot has changed in the world since then, but one thing that definitely hasn't is man's preoccupation with complaining. Add this to the list of problems that plagued the Corinthians and add it to ours because we live in a world consumed with complaining. An Internet search on the work complain reveals countless sites dedicated to teaching us how to complain effectively in today's world. No longer seen as a sin, complaining has become an art form.
There are certainly those isolated moments in life when a complaint is appropriate. That's not what the Bible is referring to here. Instead, it is drawing our attention to a general attitude where everything is wrong and where our expectations are never being met. Let's tell it like it is - complaining is a form of idolatry. It sets "self" up as an idol to which everything in life must bow, including God. Whether we want to admit it, complaining is a matter of putting ourselves first in the universe. When we complain, we're basically declaring that our own opinions and expectations are more important than God's ordered will for our lives. My work, my wife, my world - none of it is what I deserve or want! God has given us these things (John 3:27), so when we complain about them, aren't we saying that we are wiser than Him and could do a better job of being God than Him?
Notice what the end result was for those who had complained in Israel's past: [they] were destroyed by the destroyer. This is referring to the incident in Numbers 16:41-49, where God sent a plague upon those who were complaining against Moses' leadership. Complaining destroyed 14,700 Israelites that day. What is our complaining destroying today? It destroys our Christian testimony. Nothing smacks of the world more than a heart that's constantly complaining. Let's allow God to be God in our lives and be thankful for what He decrees and determines for us.
" thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ..." (Ephesians 5:20 NKJV)
After 3 years of returning to the same passage, you would think that some of it would have sunk in. If you were to read my journals for these years, however, you would learn that anything I gleaned rushed right through me. It seems like all I have done is complain!!

In life, it seems like there is always something a person can think of to complain about, and at times, I sure have thought I've had it worse than most. Within the last three years I have moped and complained about: the 7 months spent apart from my husband while he went through all of his Marine Corps training, getting uprooted (leaving a great job, not to mention my entire support infrastructure of family and friends) to move to an incredibly boring area of the country, only getting 4 months with my husband before he deployed for another 7 months away from me, getting pregnant in those few months with my husband, being pregnant and delivering our baby (yes, at home with friends and family, but) alone and separated from the person I trust most in the whole world, returning to this boring area to tackle the joys of new parenting, homemaking, postpartum depression, military stereotypes (and just general bullshit), PTSD, and post deployment reintegration virtually on my own. And that's only the big stuff! Wah, wah, wah - woe is me!

In the meantime, aside from damaging my Christian testimony (yeah, the one that I wasn't sharing with anyone), I was damaging myself, my marriage, and my family. All my wallowing had me feeling like I was trash, incapable of being successful at anything. My bad mood and self-pity disgusted my husband and made it where he didn't want to spend time with me - he didn't need my self-inflated problems and self-loathing on top of all the stress he was dealing with from day-to-day work! His repulsion of my attitude led me to believe that he was repulsed by me as a whole, and all my inner insecurities fed on that as if it were Thanksgiving dinner! This led me to feel dried up and cranky and I had a short fuse that my daughter often exploited to make the day blow up in my face. I felt sedentary and lazy, burying myself in the escape of video games and novels while my house decayed around me. This further aggravated the bad situation with my husband. My life was falling apart!

This wasn't something that happened a long time ago. Four days ago I posted about being sick and depressed and I started complaining about the things that seem hard and unfair in my life. A day or so later, I bit my tongue, pulled the post, and read the devotional again; I needed to make a change.

God has given me so many countless blessings, beyond the greatest blessing of all given by Jesus Christ. It reminds me of the Chinese story of the Vinegar Tasters:
... three men are dipping their fingers in a vat of vinegarand tasting it; one man reacts with a sour expression, one reacts with a bitter expression, and one reacts with a sweet expression. The three men are ConfuciusBuddha, and Laozi, respectively. Each man's expression represents the predominant attitude of his religion: Confucianism saw life as sour, in need of rules to correct the degeneration of people; Buddhism saw life as bitter, dominated by pain and suffering; and Taoism saw life as fundamentally good in its natural state. Another interpretation of the painting is that, since the three men are gathered around one vat of vinegar, the "three teachings" are one. (Wikipedia)
 Now, I know that this is not a Christian lesson, but that does not mean that one cannot learn from it. What I take away from this story is this... It is true that these three reactions are one in the sense that we can see world to be "in need of rules to correct the degeneration of people", "dominated by pain and suffering", and "fundamentally good." And depending on how we look at the world, that is how we will react. Each piece is good to think of from time to time because it lends perspective, but if we focus on adhering to the rules (or the old Laws of the Bible, the Laws that mankind is unable to ever perfectly adhere to due to sin) or zero in on the pain and suffering of our lives, then we will be sour and bitter people. But if we let go of the control and the expectations and give it to God, we can be thankful in all things, big or small, and we can live a sweet life.

I am tired of being sour and bitter. The vinegar is sweet, and I need to quit complaining! I suppose that, if anything, this is my resolution for the new year.

~ Mollie