Friday, October 26, 2012

you suck it up and LIVE

Dear Dreamer,

What do you do when your hopes and dreams take a face plant into the concrete? When some one pulls the rug out from beneath you? When all you wanted with your whole heart (or at least 80% of it) laughs in your face and says "it won't happen to you"? This is what you do: you suck it up and LIVE.

You don't get angry. You don't hate. Because letting those nasty feelings overcome you won't do anyone any good. Instead, you show love. You have integrity. You smile and you mean it. You don't let this thing that has happened to you--this hurt that seems so unfair--you don't let it win. You fight with grace.

During tough times it's hard to remember the truth. Let me remind you.
You are brave.
You are strong.
You are beautiful.
You are loved.

There is goodness to be had, and it's coming your way. There is joy in this world, and you are fully capable of capturing as much of it as you want. Get your butterfly net out and go catch some.

Some of your plans will come true, but it will be the unexpected, outrageous, crazy goodness that you will remember the best. The never-could-think-of-it suprises are what will be your favorites.

Now go live.

Your someday is coming.


Monday, October 22, 2012

take my heart and seal it

Maybe you've heard this song called Come Thou Fount. We sing it at my church sometimes.

A part of the lyrics go

"take my heart, Lord
take and seal it
seal it for thy courts above."

I'll tell you what that means to a letter writer. If you know me, you might know that I am on the writing team for We write anonymous letters to people who need love and encouragement. It's important and it changes lives. Besides writing to complete strangers, I like writing letters to people I know in actual real-life. 

A few weeks ago I realized I've never written a love letter to God. Sure, I've written down whiny prayers in my journal, but I have never written the Lord of Creation a letter like I've written to a stranger or friend. It's something I labor over. It's choosing just the right kind of paper and the right kind of design for the envelope. It's thinking over the words I use and tasting them on my tongue. It's a carefully thought out process--one I've never done for the Man Who Saved My Life. 

This must be rectified.

Now when I sing 

take my heart lord
take and seal it
seal it for thy courts above”

This is the picture in my mind: I am writing a love letter to God. Professing how amazing he is. Describing all the ways he is good. Pouring out my heart to the One who matters the most. I'm using my best cursive, my fanciest paper, and my favorite pen. I'm putting my heart in that envelope. I'm handing the envelope to God and I say "Lord. Take my heart. All my love. All my passion. Take it. I want you to seal it. Seal it for when I'm with you. I want this to be saved for only you." 

Because how often do we give our hearts and our devotion to things that don't matter? I give devotion to so many worthless things. Pinterest. YouTube. Status updates. Hair. Cupcakes. Sleep. I have passion for watching episodes of Alias and Lost, for correcting spelling errors, for recycling, and for literacy. They're not necessarily bad things, but I'm not giving enough passion to the One who matters.  

Above anybody, He's the one who loves me the most. He adores me even more than my own mother. God's got baby books full of pictures. He knows the exact date I lost each of my baby teeth. He gave me the moon as a night light. 

The Lord of heaven and earth loves me so much, the least I could do is write him a proper love letter.

So take my heart, Lord.
Take and seal it.
Seal it for thy courts above.

Friday, October 12, 2012

We won't be settling down

If you choose to love me, there's something you need to know. We won't be settling down. There is fire in my soul and I am not willing to smother it. I refuse to let you compromise your dreams. I would never want you to say you gave something up for me. It's my hope that you would say "she added so much to me." Because, Darling, we may have a 9 to 5, we may live in the same house for years, but our lives will be an adventure. I have realized that when we are willing to say Yes to God for anything, that is when the adventure happens. God has miracles stored in his sleeve, and he's got things for me and you to see. We may live a life not knowing what might happen next. We may move every year, we may leave our family for months. But it doesn't matter. Because home is wherever I'm with you.

Some people fall in love, get married, and settle down. Not us. That won't be happening. We've got too much Truth to speak, and too much Love to share. We have Dreams to make happen and Hope to sing about. We won't be settling down. It wasn't Jesus' style. He went from place to place, upsetting the world. People followed him for miles to hear him speak, others plotted a way to put a cork in his mouth. He was a mover, a shaker, a world changer. No, there is not time to settle down. Not in this life.

There will be rest, I'm sure. Good meals with friends and lovely, lazy days. But there will be no settling down. The fire in our souls will not be extinguished. We won't ever say "Oh, let's just forget about it and pick something more secure." No, we will not. Because to be secure is to trust in Jesus. Our bank accounts may disappear, our bodies may fail, but God will hold us and take care of us.

No, if you choose to love me, your life will not be settled. I will shake up your life and I expect you to put mine in a head spin. And then we will both jump into the Bingo roller and let God turn us until something good comes out. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Comeback Kid

I'm teaching Bible Club again this year! During the summer many people asked me "Joelle, are you going to do Bible Club again this fall?" And I said I didn't know. Because I wasn't sure if I would have a job in the mornings that would conflict. Turns out I don't. After a flurry of interviews at the end of September, my over confidence became apparent. Nobody hired me.

I'm totally fine with this. If I've learned anything since quitting my reliable, salaried, health-insurance-providing full time job in June of 2011, it's that God will work everything out for the best. God will make a way for me to pay my bills. I basically took the lack of job offers as a sign to just get started with Bible Club.

We're meeting again at the elementary school where I used to teach. I'm starting out with just two days a week. I've got 17 kids right now, so I figure if I get up to 30 I will split and have a Monday/Wednesday session as well. I have some returners from last year, but a lot of fresh new faces. Lots of boys. This may get tricky, but I am pumped that so many boys want to learn about God.

I'm excited to see where God is going to lead me and this group of kiddos. Here are some stats from last year's group:

$25 per kid provided curriculum and supplies for 32 children to learn about God for 7 months.

29 Bibles given to children

16 verses memorized
11 worship songs learned

32 children reached

7 months of learning 
90 hours of instruction offered

1 God

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Lazy Vegetarian Cooks

Recipe for Mac and Cheese
Time to prepare: 15 minutes

Laziness factor: energetic enough to turn on the stove and find a pot
Tasty factor: Yummy
 Yields: 2 servings

Kraft Mac and Cheese. Don't trust any other brands. Seriously. Once I tried to save 57 cents by getting the generic kind, and it tasted awful.
1 tbs butter

Directions: Put some water in a pot. Don't bother measuring it. It doesn't matter. Put the pot on the stove and turn the heat on high.

Dump the macaroni into the pot. No need to wait for the water to boil first. My way saves time. After the noodles get fat and soft, drain the water from the pot and remove from heat.

You only need 1 tbs of butter. No need to indulge yourself. Skip the milk, because soupy mac and cheese is nasty.

Clean Up: Wash your one pot before things congeal and get hard to clean.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Escaping Midnight Haunts: my story

"The Lord will protect you from all evil. He will keep your soul." Psalm 121:7

I am about to talk about a bizarre-o topic, and you may seriously start to question my brain processes, but I want to share this with you, because surely there is someone like me out there who has suffered from the same sort of torment I have. You can be rescued.

Sometimes dreams can be funny or lovely. Other times they make you not want to fall asleep, for fear of what may come.

Of all people, my friend Natalie knows of my wacked out dreams the best. We're not talking I was being chased by a purple people eater while wearing a tutu on the beach. I'm talking people straight up trying to kill me in my dreams. People that I know. I have had dreams of being pursued my viscous animals, of haunting demonic beings seeking me out, of being hung naked from the limb of a tree to die. I have drowned in my dreams, I have died in my dreams, I have been in car crashes, been buried in icy avalanches, and watched people I love take their last breath in front of me. In my dreams wolves and dogs have chewed on my arm, men have molested me, and fear has paralyzed me so much that I cannot even yell for help. It's not exactly the REM cycle people look forward to.

I have had these wacked out dreams for as long as I can remember. I used to have a reoccurring dream that I cannot even describe as anything but terrible since age six. I lived with it for years and years. Just when I thought it was gone, it would come back to haunt me as a college student sleeping in my extra long dorm room bed.

You're probably like "Joelle, lay off the mushroom consumption." I never understood where these terrible nightmares came from, because it's not like anything in real life like that ever happened to me. But I dreamt it so often it started to feel like reality. My own brain was not a safe place at night.

In February of 2011, I started to take non-prescription sleep pills because my job was stressing me out so much that I would wake up at 3am from a frightful dream of battling children who were foaming at the mouth. The pills helped me stay asleep, and they eased some of the intense dreams, but I was still getting chased on a nightly basis.

It was then that I decided to do a bit of dream research to figure out how I could control my dreams. I did things like speak into a voice recorder as soon as I woke up, and I would tell myself as much as I could about the dreams I remembered in order to improve lucidity. I tried all sorts of tricks to be able to distinguish between reality and my dream state, kind of like how Leonardo DiCaprio had that spinning top in the movie Inception.

I would pray before bed, I would read my Bible before going to sleep, but nothing worked. Then I tried something else. I found a very short verse about being protected by God, and I would say it over and over and over in my head while waiting for slumber. My goal was to have it so ingrained in my memory that I would think to say it in my dreams when I was being chased or under attack.

I read another strategy on-line about how you should confront the thing that is after you and ask it why it is trying to hurt you. I had no idea how I would make that happen, because who could  subconsciously remember to confront the enemy in a dream, when my most natural instinct was to get away or hide?

Is this taking it too far? Am I getting too weird for you? Drawing by Kaless Aradan.
As I continued with the audio narratives of the dreams that I remembered, and as I committed to memory Psalm 121:7, I tried really hard to attempt a dream confrontation.

One night it finally happened. I won't get into all of the details, but I finally was able to not be paralyzed, to be able to speak, and I yelled "Why are you after me? What do you want from me?" The people trying to kill me had nothing to say. They turned and left.

I woke up and was like "WHOA, DID THAT REALLY HAPPEN?" My bad dreams had never resulted in an ending like that. Usually I died or drowned, or I woke up from the nightmare. Never ever had the pursuer left me alone.

I felt really good that day, like I had won a battle, even if it had been in my subconscious mind.

Then came the first time I was able to recite scripture during a bad dream. I was in a dark cavern, being pursued by a band of creepy men, when I realized that what I should do is say my verse. One of the men got close to me and I shouted in his face THE LORD WILL PROTECT ME FROM ALL EVIL. HE WILL KEEP MY SOUL! I shouted it over and over, and then I stepped into a beautiful place where there was no one but me. I was safe.

Since those first times of confronting my midnight haunts, I have said Psalm 121:7 many times in my dreams. A few months after my "breakthrough" the dreams that threatened my life stopped.

I think what was the most important was that I believed in my awake state that if I said a Bible verse in my sleep, that it would save me. And what was important while I was dreaming was that I remembered the words to the verse.

I have funny dreams now. Or happy dreams. I still have some really weird dreams, but no one has tried to kill me in them. I am not fleeing from the haunts of my hippocampus.

So if you are a person who has terrible dreams where you are in danger of death or physical pain, I highly recommend that you memorize Psalm 121:7 and say it over and over before you go to bed. It has been my battle weapon, and it has never failed to rescue me from danger.

We are under Satan's attack even when we are sleeping, but more importantly, God is with us and protecting us, even in our dreams.

The Lord will protect me from all evil. He will keep my soul.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bread Butts

Brittany: I have this thing about eating English muffins. I think it's awkward.

Me: English muffins are awkward?

Brittany: Yeah. Because it's like eating two butts of the bread, and I don't really like the butt of bread, so why would I want to eat two of them?

Me: Good point. But they taste different. I can see your reasoning, though.
What are your thoughts on this type of muffin?
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