Do Not Merely Exist BLESSED SINGLENESS + FORSAKING IT ALL SAIL THE HIGH SEAS + BIBLE MAN ARMOR

Natalie Steel [Chapter Two] Getting Real // Part 2

November 9, 2012


While the month August had been a peculiarly hot month, there seemed to be a change in the wind. Today, there was a difference in the temperature. Something was taking place. A storm was brewing off in the horizon. The sky grew mysterious as the ever pressing darkness of the clouds in the distance rolled nearer and nearer to the Steel’s small farm.
            Several feet away from the house, propped up against the northeast side of the barn, overlooking the pastures beyond, Natalie sat perched on a bench dwelling on her emotions. The tears streaming down her warm and rather flushed cheeks became chilled by a sudden gust of crisp, cold air. Natalie shivered. Wrapping her arms around her body, she tried her best to shake off the instant chill. In her time of grief, Natalie had been unconsciously slipping away. She was letting the guilt drag her down into a depression that threatened to suck her dry of any hope and happiness that she might have left. And that whole inspirational realization she had had a few days back was lost to the wind. Whether she intentionally ignored the tug at her heart strings, or just didn’t realize that God was trying to get her attention, Natalie fell farther and farther into the deep abyss of her inward self. She dared not to expose her raw emotions to the world. Throwing causation to the wind would only make her feel worse—so she thought. And Natalie would keep thinking that until someone forced her to come to the realization that this selfish impulse to be secluded and reclusive would only ruin her instead of “protect” her. That wasn’t what God wanted of her, and that was definitely something Gracie wouldn’t have wanted from Natalie, either.
            Natalie, too involved in her thoughts, did not notice her brother Ben approaching her. He was a tall, masculine teen with handsome Native American features. As Ben came closer to Natalie, he couldn’t help but smile. He knew she was hurting. Why, it was only natural to grief over a friend. But he thought it was pretty silly that his sister would take her grieving to such an extent that it would threaten her sanity. He sat down beside her and let out a sigh. The wind tossed a section of Ben’s long raven black hair into his eyes and with one finger, Ben tucked the locks of hair behind his right ear. He then scooted a bit closer to his sister and laid a hand on Natalie’s lap, giving it a tender pat.
            “Cheer up, Nat.” Ben’s voice was deep, and the adorable country accent of his made it almost impossible for Natalie not to look at him. She appeared to Ben as if she had aged. Her eyes were dark due to the lack of sleep. Her skin was pale. And her once beautiful black hair had lost its sheen.
            “I can’t.” Natalie said flatly. Her eyes were red and her nose appeared to be stopped up. She sniffled and wiped her eyes. Ben dug deep into his pants pocket and retrieved a hanky. He handed it to Natalie who took it eagerly. Attempting to wipe her dripping nose se was caught off guard by the sudden blast of frigid air that hit her from the left side. Ben braced Natalie to keep her from toppling onto the ground. He cared less about what happened to him, but Natalie was in a fragile state of being, that was first and foremost on his mind. Sitting Natalie back up, Ben tenderly wiped any hair from her face. He was startled to see that his sister looked like a ghostly picture of death.
            “The wind is blowing hard, Nat.” Ben said observing the weather that made its way for the family farm. “Better get inside, don’t you think?”
            Natalie shrugged. She didn’t care. Not even if a huge gust of wind swept her off her feet and carried her far away from home. The only thing that mattered to her at the moment was that Ben would leave her alone. She wasn’t in the mood to talk about—Gracie. And Natalie knew that that was exactly what he was pocking at. He was such a nosey brother, and Natalie hated that about him.
            “Go away.” Natalie said as she rubbed her arms. It was getting colder. The wind was picking up, and it was irritating Natalie’s eyes. Squinting to lessen the irritation, Natalie looked at Ben with a distasteful look about her countenance.
            Ben got the hint of Natalie’s displeasure. “What’s your problem, Nat? Why are you being like this?”
            “You won’t understand, Ben. Just leave me alone!” Natalie wiped her nose again. It was bright cherry red and very dry.
            “No. I want to know what your problem is, Natalie.” Ben’s voice was sincere and alarmed. He stood up and turned to face Natalie. His height was intimidating, even to Natalie who was 5’10. “Gracie is dead, Natalie. You need to stop blaming yourself and move on.”
            Natalie felt slighted. She wasn’t ready to move on. And how dare he tell her what to do! He was her younger brother, not her father. “Gracie wouldn’t be dead if I had been a better friend.” Natalie blurted out in a guttural tone. Her face was lined with anger. Natalie turned away from Ben who was staring at her. It was as if he was staring right into her sole. She just wanted to get away. But where else did she have to go? “If I had stood up for her, she’d still be alive!”
            “Natalie, God obviously had other plans for Gracie that you wouldn’t have been able to change, whether you wanted to or not. She’s not dead because of you!” Ben stated painfully. His heart was pumping; his brain was spinning with words and sentences, thoughts and ideas. He wanted to get his point across right that very moment. He wanted to be the one that made Natalie see the error of her ways. He wanted to be the hero. Ben also wanted to slap sense into his sister, and yet, he wanted to hold her at the same time.  
            Realizing that he was being selfish when wanting to be the “hero” and solve Natalie’s problems in one swift movement or pep-talk, Ben took Natalie by the shoulders and knelt down on one knee. Until this moment, Natalie had never realized just how black Ben’s eyes were. They were deep and mysterious, yet so calm and compassionate.
            “No, no, no, Ben! She wasn’t supposed to go like that—not by suicide.” Natalie clasped her face into her hands and began to sob. “She was too young to die!”
            “Yes, and some are. But it’s not for us to decide when a person dies, Natalie.”Ben looked at Natalie with tears in his eyes. Leaning in closer, Ben took Natalie into his arms and held her close.
            Pulling swiftly away from Ben, Natalie spat: “Yeah, tell that to those who kill people for a living.” Her face was grave. Her body stiff as cardboard. She was a picture of lifelessness, mournfulness and hopelessness.
            “Or to those who choose to die?” Ben asked in retaliation. “Look Natalie, no matter what you wish you could have done, it won’t change a thing now. Stop dwelling on what you should have done and start focusing on what you can do to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.”
            What was Ben to do?! He couldn’t deal with this. He was about to give up, when he felt a strong tug at his heart telling him to continue in his mission. God, I don’t know what to do. She’s like a rock—unmovable and jagged. She’s never going to listen to me. Help me! Ben pleaded. Yet again Ben pulled his sister into his arms, this time holding her tighter. Natalie grunted with displeasure and tried to jerk herself loose from Ben’s hold. He was too strong, and Natalie was too tired to attempt to escape. God! Why are you making me go through this?! Natalie thought to herself as Ben tried to regain his composer without losing his hold on Natalie, or his thoughts and feelings inside.
            “It’s not going to make a difference what I do now. I’ve screwed up my only chance to save my best friend.” Giving into the embrace of her brother, Natalie felt relieved, but she was still opposed to listening to any of his reasoning. Burying her head into her brother’s chest, Natalie continued to be confrontational and said, “And yet here you are telling me that it was all some sort of plan God has for me? Yeah, like God really has a plan for me! Are you blind? Or are you really that stupid?”
            “No.” Ben stated bluntly. His tone was a mix of aggravation, concern and exhaustion. “I believe that where one door closes another door opens. You may have failed to be the beacon Gracie needed, but that doesn’t mean you have failed your mission and purpose here on earth. Natalie, God doesn’t want you to blame yourself for not “saving” Gracie. It’s possible that she would have shot herself still, even if you did stand up for her. People are unpredictable. You can base everything in life on what others do.”
            “Leave me alone! Go away! You are wrong.” Natalie again tried to get away from Ben. This time she began to beat on his chest with her fists. “You don’t know what you are talking about! Gracie is dead because of me. It’s my fault she’s dead. It’s my fault—my own!” Natalie said in a sudden outburst. This wasn’t like her. She was never one to lash out irrationally. At that moment she realized that Ben was right. She needed to snap out of this emotional darkness that had consumed her. She was a captive in her own skin, and if she didn’t cry out to Jesus for help real soon, the chains of her emotional baggage would be the death of her.
            “If you don’t wake up and realize that Gracie’s death was not your fault, you could possibly end up heading down the same path. And I don’t want that for you, Nat. Neither does God. You have a purpose and God will reveal that to you in time. You just need to focus on the good in life and strive to be that change in the world, rather than dwelling on the evil and the what-ifs.”

Natalie Steel [Chapter Two] Getting Real // Part 1

November 2, 2012

       Dear God, Natalie said silently to herself. I cannot deal with this toiling of my emotions. There has to be some way to escape this feeling of guilt! Natalie wanted to scream, to cry, and to keep her emotions bottled up inside of her. Maybe, Natalie thought, it was better if she tried to disregard her feelings, to push them aside and ignore them as if they never existed—the less she had to think about, the more likely she wouldn’t have to deal with her emotional baggage.The next morning, after the somber first entry in her journal— that would later on become the very recollection of her life’s story—Natalie was still distraught over the death of Gracie. It was a great deal too much to bear and Natalie tried to tell herself that it wasn’t her fault that Gracie had committed suicide. But there was a powerful force that constantly plagued her and played with her emotions— telling her that she had everything to do with Gracie’s death.
            Natalie had awakened to a day rich with the assurance of promises and new beginnings. However, Natalie had no interest in stopping to admire the daily gifts that God presented her. She was distracted by a feeling. Where and when had this feeling developed? The feeling invaded the very center of her bosom; a cool sensation had overcome her. Was this what peace felt like?
            It felt less like peace, and more like an Icy-Hot patch that had been placed upon her heart, as if trying to calm down the very nerves that threatened to burst from her chest.  It was a feeling that she could not describe and barely understand. Something had taken place yesterday afternoon, something that had served to comfort her, encourage her, and yet at the same time, create a feeling of fear and resentment.
            In a hurry to escape the maddening structure that seemed more like a prison than a place of refuge and strength, Natalie pushed her way through the kitchen filled with all ten siblings clustered curiously close to the counter, eying Mrs. Steel’s first batch of Apple pies and freshly baked bread.
            While Natalie struggled to make her way through the crowd to the kitchen door, she felt her mom’s piercing stare upon the back of her bare neck. Stopping for a quick second to look back at her mom, Natalie’s stomach began to churn. This involuntary churning of the Natalie’s stomach was not because her mom was repulsive. On the contrary, Mrs. Steel was a pretty lady with smooth and intricate features: an oval face with high cheek bones, full lips, an angular chin and a captivating smile. This sensation of instant nausea was from the nerves that threatened to suck the very life out of Natalie.
            The suffocating strangulation of hopelessness and guilt had forcefully invaded and had become intertwined into every fiber of her being.  Natalie was about to lose her nerves; her mom’s glaring black eyes seemed to dig deep into her very soul. It was as if Mrs. Steel was reading her daughter like a book. It was as if she knew. Did she really know what was going on in Natalie’s life?
            Mrs. Steel, like all moms, did inquire after Natalie’s reason for being unexplainably hasty to leave the house. Mrs. Steel obviously had read what was on Natalie’s mind and therefore knew what she was up to. She had heard all about Gracie’s sudden death from the neighbor next door. In fact, only two days after Gracie’s death, the news had spread through the little town of White House, Tennessee faster than a wild fire. The gossip that went on behind doors about how and why Gracie had died was something Mrs. Steel cared little to know about. But what she did care about was her daughter. She wanted to somehow make it all better. But how could she? How could she, as a mom, mend the broken spirit of her tender and youthful child?
            Natalie began to shrink back and clutched tightly the back of the Windsor chair idly stationed at the kitchen table. Her mom’s stare became more intesified with each movement Natalie made in an attempt to alude her mom’s unaviodable dark and luminous eyes.  It wasn’t out of fear—in fact, it was out of an uncharacteristically and unfathomable introversion that Natalie had recently developed due to the death of her friend, Gracie.
            Natalie knew there was no other way to get out from under her mom’s heavy stare. It was evident that Mrs. Steel knew about Gracie. Was Natalie’s mom disappointed in her? Was she disappointed in the way Natalie had handled the situation at school? Natalie lowered her head in disgrace. She was afraid to look her mom in the eyes. She was afraid her mom would see right through her and rekindle the raw emotions that she had so desperately tried to suffocate.  
            “Steel children,” Mrs. Steel said in a firm and authoritative tone. She looked at her children who had stationed themselves in arms reach of the goodies on the counter, and said coolly, “…I need you to leave at once. Go outside and play. I do not want to see you in this kitchen again until lunch. Understood?”
            The Steel children understood clearly and they ran out of the kitchen. The Steel children knew all-to-well that when their mom told them to do something, it was best that they do it the first time. Procrastination or the inability to follow the rules resulted in punishment. And more often than not, the punishment fit the crime. Rarely was there a moment when they children were allowed to get away with anything. Mrs. Steel believed that discipline was a major ingredient to a child’s healthy development. However, she also believed that the showing of grace and mercy also played its own important role.
            “Without Grace and Mercy one cannot learn. God gives us these gifts, so that we can grow, mature and develop.” Mrs. Steel would often tell her husband after dinner. This long and drawn out debate of how to raise a child usually resulted after Mrs. Steel had disciplined one of the boys. Sometimes Mr. Steel would chime in, but he was usually left listening to his wife chatter endlessly about how parents taught to teach their young. “If we are constantly haggard by punishments and scolding, how will we ever learn was true love is? God uses different methods of teaching, and so must a mom and dad if their children are to amount to anything in this world.”
            As soon as the children left the kitchen, Mrs. Steel turned her attention more directly onto Natalie who was beginning to wish it was a school day.  Unfortunately, it was a Saturday, and she was trapped between a closed door that beckoned to her and her mom’s iron stare. Natalie prayed her mom wouldn’t say anything; she hoped that she would let the matter rest. Please, please, please! Don’t say anything, mom. Just let me go outside. Please! Natalie wanted to cry out aloud. She knew there would be no getting out of talking to her mom; and even if it was a brief moment of dialog, it was sure to seem like an eternity to Natalie.
            Nonchalantly, Mrs. Steel began making her second batch of bread; she carefully measured flour into the large mixing bowl in front of her and started pouring the measured flour into the bowl when she motioned for Natalie to sit on the stool at the counter. Reluctantly, Natalie complied. With her jaw set in an earnest manner, Natalie directed her eyes away from her mom and positioned them onto the cooling pies that were only inches away from her reach. As Natalie’s mom continued to pour more of the measured flour into the bowl, she couldn’t help herself but to ask: “What’s wrong, Hun?”
             “Nothing,” Natalie answered with an indifferent air that made her mom feel violated and unwanted. She did it! I knew she couldn’t keep from asking me a question! Natalie thought to herself, rebelliously rolling her eyes. Natalie was in an awkward position. Natalie wasn’t in the best mood—her friend Gracie had just died and she wasn’t up to talking about her feelings. Gracie was still fresh on Natalie’s mind and the fact that she had “let” her die (which was absurd) was still too much to process so soon after she had learned the news. Natalie knew that her mom knew about Gracie, and knew that that was the reason she was prodding into Natalie’s personal life. She just hoped her mom wouldn’t get to personal.      
            “Nothing…?” Mrs. Steel said softly. Her words were barely auditable to Natalie who had preoccupied herself with picking pieces of crust off the apple pies. Mrs. Steel grabbed a spatula that was sitting off to her right and smacked Natalie’s hand with it. Natalie reared back in surprise, rubbing her hand in pain.
            “Ouch!” Natalie said as she gave her mom a mean glance. “What was that for, mom?”
            “To get your attention,” Mrs. Steel said kneading the bread dough vigorously. Sweat beads began to appear on Mrs. Steel’s broad forehead as she worked hard to release all of the air bubbles that were trapped in the smooth and sticky balls of rubbery dough. Slapping the dough over and over again with her hands, Mrs. Steel proceeded to roll the dough into loafs, and put them into the greased pans over by the stove. “Natalie, how am I supposed to help you if you won’t tell me what’s wrong?” There was a raw determination that had sprouted within Mrs. Steel’s bosom that Natalie hadn’t seen for some time; it was usually seen when she wanted the truth and the facts. Today was no different—Mrs. Steel was going to find out what was bugging Natalie, even if she had to badger it out of the girl.
            As Mrs. Steel placed the white loafs of bread into the hot oven, Natalie answered her mom’s question with a defeated and semi-annoyed reply: “Mom, nothing is wrong.” Natalie said. Silence. At this point, the silence and tension between mom and daughter seemed to infiltrate the already stiff and uneasy feeling within the kitchen.           Trying to avoid a heated argument, Mrs. Steel busied herself in an attempt to appear as if she wasn’t snooping into her daughter’s problems. She often did this in order to let her daughter cool off before poking and prodding any further into the long and extensive investigation of her daughter’s troubles and feelings.
            Remaining silent, Mrs. Steel walked over to the stove and took out a knife and spoon from the silverware drawer, a plate out of the cabinet from above and whipped cream out of the fridge across from the stove. Placing all of items onto the counter by the Apple pies, Mrs. Steel took the knife and the plate and cut a large piece of Apple pie and placed it directly onto the plate. After fiddling with the whipped cream container lid, Mrs. spooned the whipped cream onto the top of her pie. She looked at the decadent desert and her mouth watered. The gooeyness of the pie filling was sticky and fuming with the scent of spicy cinnamon and nutmeg.  
            “Oops!” Mrs. Steel declared. “…I forgot a fork.” She looked to Natalie with a goofy smile and retrieved a fork from the silverware drawer. Returning from her spirited flight to the silverware drawer for the fork she had forgotten, Mrs. Steel picked up her piece of pie, cut into the thick crust and took a bite. “This is really good, Natalie.” Mrs. Steel offered Natalie a bite of the pie, but her daughter refused. Once she was finished with her pie, Mrs. Steel retuned her full attention back to Natalie who was slumped in her chair bored and annoyed.
            “Now, tell me what’s wrong, Nat.”
            “There’s nothing to tell you. You already know everything there is to know. So, stop asking me what’s wrong!” Natalie said in offense. She stood up quickly and headed for the back door. 
            Mrs. Steel didn’t try to stop her daughter from leaving. If there was one thing she knew about her daughter, it was that Natalie was an explosive ready to go off on a moment’s notice. It was in Mrs. Steel’s best interest to leave Natalie alone, giving her time to reflect and cool down before she perused the problematic issue any further.  

Blogspiration Saturday Wk 1: Cast Your Sails

October 27, 2012


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” 
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.P.S. I Love You

Natalie Steel: [Chapter One] The Scent of Christ

October 26, 2012


Dear Sadie:” Natalie started to write in her journal. She had titled her journal after her grandma who had died a few years back. Grandma Sadie had been one of those few selective people Natalie had trusted her life secrets to. To be the sole keeper of her granddaughter’s deepest desires and far-fetched dreams, darkest secrets, and heart-felt sorrows, had been Grandma Sadie’s pride and joy. Grandma Sadie was not just a grandma with wisdom that came only with age, but she was Natalie’s confidant—her kindred spirit. And now that she was gone, Natalie turned to the comfort of the blank pages that her journal provided, in an effort to somehow fill in the void that she felt inside—to somehow make up for the loss of her dearest friend: Grandma Sadie.
            I wish Grandma were here to help me. Natalie continued writing. I wish she were here to comfort me. Guide me. I am lost and alone. You understand, don’t you Sadie? Why did God have to take my Grandma away from me? What was his reason for leaving me alone? Grandma Sadie was my best friend. I told her everything and she gave me the advice I needed, and the strength I needed to face my struggles head-on. And now that she’s gone, I don’t know how live without her! Life seems so confusing now that I don’t have her to help me. Oh, Sadie what will I do without her? I still need her—does God not understand? I don’t know what to do….
            I need her right this very minute, because I am struggling to understand something serious. Ever since my mom and dad put me in Public School, it’s like they don’t know me anymore….They don’t know what I am going through! Why does life have to be so hard, Sadie? Why does it have to be filled with the mixed emotions that constantly plague those who are weak and powerless? Why does life have to contain so much pain and deat,h that it is almost impossible to live a life completely submersed in happiness? How can God expect me to be happy and take joy in my trials, when he keeps giving me more than I can handle? Does God not see that I am unable to handle my current situation? Or does he simply not care?
            It amazes me that in the blink of an eye, you can lose not only you’re your dearest friend, but a fellow team member. Sweet Sadie, I regret to inform you that my beloved team member Gracie committed suicide two nights ago. It’s a loss I must bear, and a heavy guilt that I find cumbersome to swallow. I am afraid I might drown under this mighty pressure of guilt, as it attempts to take over the very breath that I breathe. Gracie— dear, sweet, innocent Gracie—was the victim of bulling by the cheerleaders in our school. I am afraid that these cheerleaders— these cruel, insufferable teenaged bullies—are also my friends. Having no part in this cruel act of juvenile violence, I find myself wishing that I had been. I find myself wishing and beating myself up over the fact that while they bullied Gracie, I stood on the sidelines and watched as they stripped her of her pride, self-confidence and sense of worth.  I watched her walk to and from school every day—a lifeless being scared by the constant abuse she received daily.  She was a girl that barely existed, but a girl that endured the torture of those who wished her harm, carefully clinging to what was left of her battered dreams and hopes—her cries for help a silent whisper in the dark….
            Putting her pen down, Natalie slowly closed her book, unsure whether or not she was finished writing the first solemn chapter of her journal. She was a brave girl, confident and self-assured, but she felt an overwhelming emptiness in her heart that ached to be made whole again. Reaching over to Grandma Sadie’s Bible that sat cockeyed on her messy desk, Natalie flipped through the old and tattered pages. The fragrance of coffee and vanilla—a liquid mixture for one of her famous chocolate cakes—that her grandma had spilt on her Bible long ago, grew stronger with each page that Natalie flipped.
            It reminded Natalie of Grandma Sadie’s love for life, her desire to spread the love of God to those who were hurting and in need, the weak and the weary, the desperate and the lost. As she thought of Grandma Sadie’s joy for sharing God with others, Natalie thought of her grandma’s life verse—2 Corinthians 2:14-15: “But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ, and spreads through us in every place the SCENT of knowing Him.  For to God we are the fragrance of Christ."
            Grandma Sadie was the fragrance of Christ, Natalie knew. She had always been a lady on a mission. Time and again she had told Natalie of her desire to travel the world proclaiming Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. And every chance Grandma Sadie got, she used her time to further the Kingdom of God. Whether it was in a homeless shelter, pregnancy crisis center, or a Food Bank, Grandma Sadie had devoted her life to the Lord and allowed him to lead her and work in her. She was His vessel, His arrow, His clay. He was the Potter, the oil that filled her soul and the target that kept her following the straight and narrow path that lay before her. Her target, she always said was her guide, her comfort, and the very reason she woke up every morning and existed yet another day. It was the same target that she devoted her life to leading others to, Jesus Christ.
            Natalie stared at her grandma’s bible for a while contemplating on the verse that she had read, and the feelings that were overwhelming her— engulfing her in an endless love and a sense of desire and urgency. She knew what this all meant. Her life was not over simply because her grandma was gone. On the contrary, Natalie’s life had only just begun. Because she had been given the courage, the strength and the enduring promise her God, her beautiful Jesus Christ, Natalie knew that her mission was to further the Kingdom of God in her own unique way. As her grandma had done before her, Natalie would do as well… trusting in the mighty hand of God to lead her along the way.
            Taking up her pen once again, Natalie quickly opened her Journal and began to scratch out her frustrated statements of doubts and confusion. God had not forsaken her because he had called her grandma home…he had only enabled her to spread her wings and fly.  

good-bye

October 23, 2012

Lost. That is what I feel right now.  Lost as to what to post here on this here my blog. No longer to I have this nagging desire to post. I am not sure even what to post anymore, because nothing grabs my attention and urgency like it used to. Almost, maybe, it's like I have gone into a deep slumber with a period of time where nothing from within is meant to ooze forth any great meaning, other than to sit quietly and breathe in God's teachings and blessings. That has to be it, I suppose.It must be that I am at a time in my life where blogging doesn't give me that same rush of satisfaction, nor that same sense of hope and gratification. My bank is empty. There's no more inspiration to dig through. No more within my spirit to produce a meaningful post worthy of readers. And if this is so, then I cannot stand here and allow myself to continue to write bland, tasteless, and empty posts for those of you who are my faithful readers. I feel like I am broken and worthless. I need a rest, in hopes that the rest will rejuvenate my desire and love of blogging.But, until then. I bid you all a fair adieu. 

secular music...random musings

October 22, 2012

Normally I listen to Christian music. But lately I have branched out and have added some more questionably artists to my iPod collection. Not that the lyrics are icky or that the meaning is immoral; mainly the artists and the songs they're known for. 

Usher. The Script. OneRepublic. Tio Cruiz. Ke$ha. Lady Gaga. That's what's questionable. 

While I am not particularly into either of these names artists, I have found one or two songs of theirs that I either use when I workout or am writing and doing school. And before I ever add any songs to my iPod library I run them by my brother (who has an amazing gift as discerning music and the lyrics, as well as the meaning behind them) and discuss with him. 

Sometimes he catches words that I wouldn't normally (bad words) and he'll advise me against that: "You might not understand the words" he'd say, "but they will get into your head just the same. Words have a way of transforming you."

With that advice, how could I buy a song that has words that are filthy? Um...I am guilty. Sometimes I don't care about the lyrics because I like the beat. But I know that is, not exactly wrong, but very worshipful for me as a daughter of the King, because what you put into your body and spirit is what exudes from you. 

Searching for music has become harder and harder to do outside of the Christian realm. And it's disappointing. Especially for someone like me who loves a variety of music. Really....you should see me library. It's rather extensive! 

I have actually had to go back though my music library and delete many of the songs on there because I felt in my heart they were not at all what I should be listening to in order to obtain a heart like Christ. I have deleted my entire album of Lady Gaga and Ke$ha and Usher and Tio Cruiz. Even some rap, heavy metal and hard-core rock. Sad days, but I have since found Christian alternatives like Superchick, Plum, Luminate, always the amazing Newsboys, Toby Mac, Beckah Shae, and much more. 

My brother who likes rap and heavy metal as well has found superb alternatives. They are amazing singers and song writers that express their love for Christ a little differently, but are reflective of what God has done for us all. They embrace Him through music to reach others whose preference in music may only be drawn to rap or heavy metal. Which is so cool!

I am not against secular music, per se. But I don't agree with listening to every single song out there just because it's cool or new or because everyone else has it on their iPod. If its what you want to listen to, cool. I am not saying don't. I am saying to check your heart. Is the song you are listening to holy in the eyes of God and bring praise to his name? Or does it defile the very essence of what he stands for? Will it purify your heart or uplift it in a beautiful harmony meant to lift up His holy name?

Like I said...it's your choice. I made mine by getting rid of all the bad influences on my iPod and even on the radio. But while I have gotten rid of a lot, I still have a few that I feel are okay to keep. Just always bare in mind that God wants us to put into our hearts and minds with is pure and holy. What we listen to and see ultimately comes out in our words and our actions. 

(these girls below have a great video peppered with scripture to back up why we, as Christians, should not listen to unclean music. Take a look!)

Melody+Chris

October 18, 2012

Your beauty overwhelms me
As I wrap my arms around you
I press your softness tight
Great passion fills my inner being
I'm captured in your embrace
Your eyes control my very soul
The touch of your lips, heaven
Forever frozen in time
All else fades into nothing

-Author unknown



Ben+Stephanie

Together we share our love
Together we share our future

Together we hold hands

Together we make love

Together we confide in eachother 

Together we help eachother

Together we share our secrets

Together we cry

Together we feel eachothers pain

Together we smile and laugh 
-Nikki Addleton



ED's Devos: You LOVE Me Anyway

October 15, 2012

Broken. 
Imperfect. 
Unworthy. 
A Sinner.

We are all this and so much more. Negativeness pervades our lives like a plague. 
It's inescapable. Unfixable. 
We are hopelessly lost. Hopelessly flawed.
But through all of that negative aroma God loves us.
He loves us in spite of all the baggage we hold.

I have baggage. Tons of it. 
And in the time of my eating disorder there was barely any room for love or for God. 
And yet, I am confident-and there is evidence-that He LOVED me anyway.
I am imperfect. I have had my share of pain
I have committed my fair share of sin. Horrible sin.
I inflicted severe punishment on one of God's beautiful temples.
And I regret that.
And I am ashamed of my life. 

But that has never stopped Him from living me!

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is the verse that I am confident is the very essence of Christ.
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away."
It's amazing.
Gratifying. 
Humbling.
Praise Worthy.
To know that God still loves is regardless of our inability to be perfect and blameless.
I am blessed to know that 1 Corinthians not only speaks of how I should love, but it also tells us about how God loves.
That's incredible! 

We all have struggles, baggage. Whatever you want to name it.
But know that all of that junk doesn't stop God's love from surrounding you.
And it doesn't stop it from penitrating your heart.
Or stop it from filling your cup with a water that is always there.
Always perfect.
Always strong enough.

So if you have an eating disorder, do drugs or alcohol, or whatever it may be that disables you from experiencing the full blessings of Christ. 
It's not going to stop Him from trying.
 It's not going to stop Him from loving you anyway. 
Because you are special to Him. 
His temples. 
His children. 
And this father doesn't give up on his beloved children. 


Here's some good news: 
HE LOVES YOU ANYWAY!!!!!!!





Metamorphosis (Life of a Girl)

I. Cocoon

We struggle in the dark places.

Bones break.

Wings form underneath the skin,

rip through the back.

We transform in the warmth

of a folded leaf -

always in agony,

always quiet.

II. Transition

A tiny light grows.

The dark gives way to the sun

and the wings unfold -

still weak,

still unsure.

Then we move in a new way.

Once we crawled on our bellies,

now we fly above the flowers.

III. Weathered

Our wings are strong for a long time,

but the days are stronger.

We live and let go

and go back to that place of quiet darkness,

only this time,

not in agony.

The wings fold in -

a cocoon of color,

and that is where we say

goodbye.

[Prologue]: Natalie Steel

October 12, 2012

            Just by looking at it, you would never think that anything so spectacularly enormous could be a high school cafeteria.  Upon entering the seating area of the cafeteria, past the lunch line— which offered a vast array of foods for the students to choose from—students were caught off guard by the modernized elegance of this dining hall-like cafeteria.
            The size of the room was largely due to the high ceilings that gave the illusion that the cafeteria was actually bigger than it really was. With the impressive height of the ceilings, most students made an understatement when they walked unto the cafeteria gasping, “This place is huge!”
             Indeed it was. Even though the ceilings made it bigger than it actually was, simply stating that the cafeteria was huge, did not do justice to the enormity of the room that was engineered with exceptional craftsmanship and an elaborate flair for the dramatics.
            The cafeteria resembled more closely to a luxurious restaurant, than a dingy cafeteria that most people would associate with high schools. The cafeteria’s interior design was professionally done— from the color scheme of blue and white, to the furniture choice and placement—everything went together perfectly to create a modern looking cafeteria that would make any high school green with envy.   
            Due to the very big windows that were strategically placed wall-to-wall on the east, west and northern portions of the cafeteria, large amounts of natural sun light were allowed to illuminate the room— adding to the fresh, modern look.
            In the very middle of the eastern wall—which was the wall every student saw as they entered into the cafeteria— there were three floor-to-ceiling banners with the top athletes on the school’s sports teams. Showcased by the sun that came through the windows daily, the faces of the most popular and fearsome competitors were plastered on the walls as a symbol of pride and might, serving as a warning to all opposing sports teams that the school was a force to be reckoned with.
            In the center of the three banners was the full body of the schools most prolific athlete, a boy with good looks, the popularity and mad skills: Ashton Hemming. He was the number one football player in the school. The single best Quarterback in the county. Not only did he showcase his incredible skill on the field, but off the field as well. And flirting with the cheer squad was another one of his many “talents”.
            When entering the cafeteria, it was obvious to any student, which table was for the Cheerleaders. The circular table was placed— by specific instructions from Mrs. Rigby, the cheer coach— near three massive windows spanning the height of the eastern wall overlooking the school’s agricultural garden. The tables were stationed at left flank from the first of the three banners, as to not block the shrine that so many teens gather around daily to admire.
            The sign read "reserved". In order to sit at the table, you had to be one of them— the cheerleaders. And not just any cheerleader was permitted to sit at the table; the table was reserved only for the top cheerleaders on the squad. At the table, the most prestigious cheerleaders of the school’s elite cheer squad discussed important and personal business about the inner workings of the team.
            Many of the not-so-important cheerleaders gathered around the table to entertain themselves with the idle chatter and heated gossip that often occupied the queen-bees when cheer squad business was not the focus. Among the top cheerleaders presiding at the honorary table, sat a tall, solid framed girl known around the school as Allie— a girl with natural talent for cheerleading, and a stubborn and charismatic character — but to those who knew her best she was Natalie Steel, a calm, gentle-spirited small town girl.
            At first glance, no one would expect this robust, raven haired Native American to be a part of the cheer squad. Most people associate cheerleaders with platinum blond hair, light skin, blue eyes, the perfect body and a cute country accent. However, Natalie didn’t exactly fit into this category. She had the country accent; everyone in Tennessee had a southern twang to their voice, but she was the biggest girl on her team. Not really the type of girl you would visualize as the peppy pompom shaking, back flipper.
            Yet, she had somehow managed to make the team, and in the long run managed to make it to the top. How? She barely knew herself, but for a former homeschooler, being on the cheer squad was way better than being the victim of verbal abuse and non-stop teasing.
            In fact, Natalie enjoyed the perks that came along with being a cheerleader and took full advantage of her role on the cheer squad. She was the third most popular girl in school, next to Samantha and Shoshanna, had an amazing boyfriend, tons of friends, and had county-wide recognition for her talents. With her high ranking position on the squad, she was expected to come to all the school parties, allowed to skip classes for extra cheerleading practice before big games, and was considered to be the leading patriarch when it came to making consecutive decisions on school fundraisers and dances.
             Not only was she a cheerleader, but Natalie spent much of her free time studying to maintain her 4.0 grade average, was the captain of the school’s debate team, editor of the school’s paper, and the school’s yearbook “picture girl”. No one had the skills to organize and delegate like Natalie. However nice it was to live lavishly on a thrown of temporary power, Natalie never understood why cheerleaders had, what seemed to be, an in-bred desire to inflict cruel and unusual punishment upon unsuspecting victims.
            Even though she detested bullying, she did nothing about it—other than watch at a distance hoping not to get dragged into the conflict. She wondered, wished and hoped she could do something. She knew she could do something, but she was too afraid to go beyond her comfort zone to defend the people being plagued by the bitterness of her cheer squad.
            Sitting down at the “special” table, Natalie opened her small satchel lunch and took out a ripe Banana and a small sandwich. She was the only one there at the moment, which she relished considering that the table was usually was surrounded by chattering girls. As she took a bite of her sandwich, her moment of pleasurable solitude was short lived as the annoyingly high-pitched shrill of Shoshanna broke the silence:
            “You won’t believe it, Allie!” Shoshanna said using Natalie’s cheer squad name. She ran up to the table out of breath, her pale cheeks rosy red. She put a hand to her heart and the other on the table, stabling herself as she tried to catch her breath. “You’ll never guess what I just heard.”
            Natalie put down her sandwich and wiped her mouth. She stared blankly at Shoshanna as she chewed. She motioned with her hand for the girl to spill the beans. What was so urgent that it couldn’t wait for me to finish eating? Natalie wondered. In the meantime, while Shoshanna caught her breath, Ashton Hemming made his war over to the cheer table walking proudly; chin held high, chest puffed out, and his stride on the verge of being provocative. Natalie rolled her eyes as the conceited peacock, aka Ashton, “strutted” his stuff across the cafeteria.
             “Sup?” he asked as he stroked his dirty blond mane. He walked up behind Natalie, leaned in and, put his both hands on the table, trapping Natalie in the middle, her head resting on his rock solid chest. He kissed her on the cheek and then sat himself down beside her. Natalie smiled in embarrassment; she still wasn’t used to having a boyfriend, much less receiving a peck on the check.
            “Hey Ash,” Shoshanna said hurriedly. “Allie, are you ready to hear the big news?”
            Natalie shrugged her shoulders and said, “Okay—shoot.” Honestly, she wasn’t that interested in what Shoshanna had to say, but there was urgency in the girl’s voice that sparked her interest. “…stop, Ash.” Natalie said pulling away from Ashton. She fought to free herself from his grasp, but he held her tightly, lips puckered as he moved towards her attempting to steal a kiss. Natalie shoved him off of her, gave him a nasty look and said, “Keep your hand off of me.” She then turned her focus to Shoshanna who anxiously waited for Natalie’s unreserved attention.
            “Allie, I hate to ruin your day, because it appears to me that you’re enjoying your day. It would be a shame to ruin a perfect—”
            “Cut to the chase, Shosh.” Ashton said haughtily. “We don’t have all day.” He rolled his eyes in an agitated motion, leaned on one elbow as he played with Natalie’s hair with the other. Natalie swatted his hand away and turned to face Shoshanna.
            “Oh, yes, um, sorry about that. Anyway, I just got news that Gracie Lewis, a girl in the science—she’s also on the debate team—committed suicide last night. And guess what!”   Shoshanna chocked on her words. “There’s a rumor going around that we—I mean Samantha, Ashley, Fiona, and I—had something to do with it.”
            “Are you sure about this?” Natalie asked in alarm. Gracie Lewis had been the best debater on the team; she was a straight a student and was headed to Yale University on a full scholarship at the end of the school year. Something wasn’t adding up. Why would a girl, who had her whole life ahead of her, suddenly end it? “…and what is this about you having something to do with her suicide?”
            “Oh, Allie it’s all our fault!” Shoshanna said sitting down in a panic. 
            “Calm down, Shosh. How is this your guys’ fault? What did you do?”
            “We never meant it to go this far. We were just having a bit of fun—even Ash joined in from time to time—by picking on her.”
            Natalie was horrified. She knew that they were picking on Gracie, but never to that extent. This was why Natalie didn’t want to get involved in this type of stuff. She reasoned that it was better to be innocent, than to have any part in the situation, whether it was in defense of the victim or the attacker. But, she just didn’t understand why a strong, determined girl like Gracie would do such a thing. There had to be more than that to the story…something must have triggered this desperate desire to end her life. But what was the reason? Natalie further questioned Shoshanna about what they had done to Gracie. Turns out, the story didn’t get any better. The girls—Samantha, Ashley, Fiona and Shoshanna—had been sending Gracie hate mail, constantly stole her clothing after gym, and verbally abused her, all in the name of having a good time.
            “Okay, maybe we were relentlessly harassing her, but we didn’t mean anything buy it. We were just having fun. We can’t help it that she couldn’t take it.” Shoshanna twitched nervously, wringing her hands together. She was flushed and perspiring a great deal, no amount of deodorant would come close to stopping the flood of sweat that dripped from her blouse.
            “This is crazy! I cannot believe you guys would stoop to this level.”
            “Why do you care, Allie? You are the innocent one. Did you know that we could possibly go to jail if they find out, huh? Yeah, I am not looking forward to that, Allie.” Shoshanna gave Natalie a pleading look. But what was Natalie supposed to do? She had no control over the situation, and was barely able to wrap her mind around the whole ordeal.
            “I didn’t do a thing.”
            “Hey, don’t sweat it.” Ashton said trying to comfort Natalie. He touched her arm gently, running his had along the contours of her arm, starting from her hand up to her bare shoulder. He attempted to kiss her neck, but Natalie slapped him, “Stop, you pervert!”
            “Hey, Natalie, you didn’t do anything wrong. You don’t have the guts to, never did.” Ashton said still trying to schmooze his way into Natalie’s affection. “You just stood there and watched as they tore into Gracie. But you are not the one to blame. You’re reputation isn’t tarnished. You have nothing to worry about.”
            “Yes, it is my fault. I could have done something about it, Ash. I could have stood up for Gracie. I could have defended her like a real friend would have. Instead I watched her from the sidelines as she was shredded by the sly remarks and taken advantage of by Shoshanna and those other girls I am not ashamed to call my Cheer Squad sister. That’s the thing. I didn’t do anything.”
            Natalie shook her head and looked Ashton square in the eyes. He was taken aback by her feverish passion, as she accused herself for the death of one of her debate team members. She was torn. How could I have let this happen? She asked herself. Of only she had done something to help, stepped in and defended Gracie. Had Natalie shown Gracie the love that she so desperately needed then maybe she would still be alive. But because Natalie was so worried about what other may think of her going against the flow, she was never able to save Gracie, to show her hope and give her a friendly shoulder to cry on. From this day forward, I will not stand and watch why people get bullied. Lord, If you will give me the courage, I want to stand out and befriend those who so desperately need love and support. I want be the light, Lord and shine bright for you. Help me to do that, because I do not have the courage to do it on my own.
            The only way to save a life, is to whiteness to those in need, is to get out there, go against the flow, trust in God and let out light shine. Natalie was resolved to never let peer pressure distract her from her mission...to be the light in a world shadowed by darkness. Natalie was willing to taking a leap of faith, step out of her comfort zone, rise up and stand out, because that’s how the lost get found. I am ready when you are. I am ready to set the world on fire, Lord—for you.