Sunday, June 30, 2013

day 30: the end.

It's June 30th. Which means the end of Blog-a-Day in June. Which means the end of June. Which BLOWS MY MIND. Where is my summer going?! 

I kind of scrolled through my list of words still left, scratching my head & looking for one to do. I have five or six words still left that I could do, but to be honest most of them are incredibly thought provoking and I wanted to hang on to them so I could have some more time to think about it. So if you gave me a prompt, and I missed it, that's why :P. So, instead of picking a word to do in specific, I thought I might just go back over my month. So here we go! 

I started blogging at the beginning of June because I thought it would be a fun little thing to get me thinking...and surprise, surprise God has used it over & over again to get me thinking, remind me of His faithfulness, and start conversations with friends that I didn't think I would ever have. It was hard and wonderful and ridiculously fun all in one, and I'm actually really going to miss it! 

Highlight of the month: the sister friend turned 20. 
At first this was an exciting new development, but now that it's actually set in she's starting to freak out a baby bit. 

I include this picture because it is one of my favorite ones. Ever.
Because she is a precious little dumpling. 
And because when I think 'summer' this picture continually comes to mind! :) 

Father's day came & went & I just really love & appreciate my family a whole bunch. 
Even if Daniel is making a chipmunk face.

To finish, Daddy and I went sunset chasing tonight with Matti in tow. He tried to surf in the back of the truck the whole way, but once Daddy actually got out on open highway he panicked a little and sat back down ;)

Yeah. I think this might quickly have to become an actual summer tradition. Not only was it beautiful, but it was some wonderful time spent with my Daddy :)

To everyone who started reading and didn't stop, thanks for sticking around :) The conversations & thoughts I've had because of it made this whole thing worth it, and stuck a few memories alongside just to make it even better.

June, it's been fun and I will miss you.

But since July & August hold just as many if not MORE exciting things, it makes saying goodbye just a little bit easier!!! 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

day 28 & 29: come & forgive.

I'm sticking days 28 & 29 together today because last night I legitimately just ran out of time: come & forgive.

Somewhere in between the Mortal Instruments that I've been reading pretty continuously in preparation for the movie (I'm freaking out at the level of a teenage's kind of sad actually) I picked up Kisses from Katie at the suggestion of the roommate former, Paygirl :) Katie's blog can be found right here. I'm only a chapter in, and it's already one of those books that I'm not sure I want to finish. Not because it's bad, or I'm uninterested....but because a small part of me is a little bit wary of what actually listening to the self-sacrifice and love this book presents will do to me and the way I live. The way I love.

That sounds ridiculous, because learning to love people better SHOULD be a good thing, right? Hypothetically, yes. Watching other people do it, yes. But in my own life, in my own heart, in my safe bed & warm home? The word 'yes' becomes a little harder for my lips to form.

Much like Peter that night on the waters of Galilee, Christ beckons come and I step, hesitating, out of my boat, out of my comfort zone, IF I step out at all. Two steps in and I'm distracted by the world, the people I care about, my own insecurities, my future plans, everything and anything that happens to float by. Christ continues to call: come. I look back at the boat, only a few steps away, because all of a sudden Comfort looks safe and Christ looks too far away to be sure I can make it there all in one piece. And yet we keep moving forward because come is more inviting than the same way move is more desirable than stuck, growing is more exciting than staying where you are, and the future holds more promise than the present.

SCARIER....but promising :)

My second word was forgive, which I've talked a lot about in a blog post I wrote during the school year :)

Forgiveness for me is so much easier when it comes to my life & my heart....when I can gauge damage done, the worth of the person damaging, and myself. My disadvantages (and my hard, unforgiving heart) comes out when people hurt my friends. Because I don't view the people hurting my friends  through the same lenses...all I see are people walking over the people I care about. I forget that people hurt out of hurt hearts, that everyone is broken, and that Christ died for everyone, NOT just the people I'm friends with :P

Forgiveness & control are connected for me...and I know that might sound weird. But I'm so much more comfortable hanging on to the hurt feelings and bitter 'she won't ever be good enough for you' because I'm in control. It's the letting go & understanding that healing people can change that loosens angry fists. And that's scary because healing hearts embrace hurting & vulnerable people, and there's parts of me that don't want to forget that this is the person who HURT MY FRIEND long enough to love them like Christ would....or at least a small, broken impersonation of it :) And then I'm reminded that somewhere, in some situation, to someone, I'm probably the one that did the hurting, the one in need of the forgiving, because I've been the jerk before, and that throws everything into a wonderful and radically uncomfortable perspective :)

One more day of Blog-a-Day in June....I can't believe how fast this month has flown by!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

day 27: running with no feet.

The law commands us to run and work, but gives us neither hands nor feet
- John Bunyan- 

I love this quote. 

"But Bethany, haven't you said that about almost EVERY single quote/word you've posted?" 

Most likely, yes. Yes I have. I suppose I just have super creative friends that give me prompts about things I actually enjoy talking about! 

I love this quote because I think it hits [and then completely destroys] everything that the popular answer to the question "Well, why do you think you'll go to Heaven when you die?" 

"I mean...I'm a good person, right? I'll be okay." 
Translation: I've earned this dude. What are you talking about? 

The only problem with the idea that you can "earn" salvation, is that it's humanly impossible. It requires the completion of standard that we physically, emotionally, mentally & spiritually, CANNOT meet. 

The law demands perfection. 
We are innately, by nature, imperfect.

The law in the Old Testament demanded the completion of a system of rules and regulations....
and then put into place a system of sacrifice & atonement because people couldn't complete it. 

Essentially what we're saying here, is that the Law demands from human beings a result, and then gives us absolutely no means or ability to get to that result. It's individual based and requires that we draw from our own strength and abilities. There's no room for error or mistake, not without the accompanying immediate consequence. The Law demands from us what it cannot ever equip us to give. 

And (because you knew it was coming) that's what's so ridiculously fantastic about the Gospel to me. Not only does Christ fulfill the Law for us, He provides us with the motivation and heart change required to live out that fulfillment. So...we do nothing. 


Christ is the answer to the question....

and the process in which you get to that answer....

and the whole basis and standard for the question to begin with.

That blows my mind. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

day 26: seeing.

If you've been around me at all lately (especially in the last year or so) you've heard me reference the book One Thousand Gifts over and over again, probably to the point where you're almost tired of hearing about it without actually reading it for yourself. Here's my bit of a shameless plug for it: if you can read it, DO. I had someone ask me what it was the other day, and I realized it's a book that's harder to explain than I realized. "Is it a novel?" she asked. "Okay...a biography?" "Well than what is it?"

If I had to put it in a sentence, I'd say it's the shameless, broken, searching outpouring of a heart dry and desperately searching for God in a world sucked dry of grace and thanksgiving. It's a bit like a blog, a bit like a journal, and a lot like a heart. Her name is Ann Voskamp, and she has her own beautiful blog here. Hop on over if you're curious. But you're probably even MORE curious about why I'm including her as the highlight of today's blog-a-day.

I refer to people like Mrs. Ann as heartwriters. I've met a lot of writers growing up....heartwriters I've met only three. They have a unique ability to string average, everyday words together in ways that feel. They turn stories into memories, leave you lighter or heavier when you're done reading, and invite you to walk alongside them every step of the way, even when you're not there. I think they see the world a little bit differently than most people....which coincides wonderfully, because the word I was given today was see.

One of the things Mrs. Ann continually touches on in her book is this idea (and truth) that everything from the way the sunlight looks streaming through your windows in the morning to the way water feels sliding through your fingers while you do the dishes is a gift and something to be thankful for...and when you slow down to thank God for each of His gifts, your eyes are opened to how much you truly have to be thankful for. In the face of such an overpowering rush of thanksgiving, it is impossible to allow room for fear, doubt, anger, impatience, and the like. And I think that's what I mean when I say that "heartwriters" truly see.

Where we see trial, they see grace. Where we see pain, they see healing. Where we see mad, irritating children, they see young, growing image bearers, and opportunities for patience & grace because all is grace (...and sometimes they just see mad, irritating children ;) They don't see people, they see the soul beneath. They don't see actions, they see the heart behind. They see God, EVERYWHERE and in EVERYONE.

I've wondered sometimes how many people I walk past daily without truly seeing. I've wondered how many conversations I enter & exit flippantly because I can't slow down long enough to see how important they might be. I've wondered how many opportunities I miss because I've trained my eyes to see what I'm expecting, and forgotten that God doesn't always work in the ways that I expect.

Just some food for thought....or rather just some of my mind ramblings :)

"I want to see beauty. In the ugly, in the sink, in the suffering, in the daily, in all the days before I die, the moments before I sleep." 
-Ann Voskamp- 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

day 25: reaching my limits.

Somewhere between entering high school and entering college I forgot the basics of how to function as a human: talking, walking without running into things or hurting myself, how not to make myself look dumb in public....just the basics. Tried to run into my pool today. Ended up significantly jamming toes and now they are all swollen and chubby and hurting. I'll be here all week folks :D

Alrighty. Quote of the day! 

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
- T. S. Eliot - 

I've met, cherished and been fascinated by people who view limits as a challenge. Tell them they can't do something, and they'll set off to prove they can. This ranges from tales of glory on the football field, players motivated by immense scoring difference to come back faster and push themselves harder than they'd ever been able, to playing through pain, torn muscles, and dislocated limbs long after the coach said 'sit down'. They go as far as they can go, and believe they can go farther. They strive for the tenth of a second between silver and gold. Be it physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally, they believe they can always do better. This seeking, living heartbeat comes with risk. There comes a point where 'going farther' authentically does shift into 'too far'. But falling is temporary, and the ascent back sure. I love these people....and I love the daring life and heart they drive into everything they do. 

I've known people who view limits as a caution. Something to be stretched when necessary, but equally respected and recognized as there for a reason. They don't quite reach the reckless heights of the challengers, but they know their responsibilities and what they're called to do. In respecting the place of limits in their life, they thrive within the boundaries they have been created. In acknowledging that they cannot do all that they want, they freely choose to do all that they can. Limits are viewed as a protection, not a punishment. Many of these people have pushed their limits in the past, and it is that experience that provides them the platform and foundation on which they now continue to build. I respect these well as the wisdom, life experience, and clear minded thinking that they bring. 

Okay, so maybe I had some people in mind writing this....but I've found it mostly to be true :) My brain is fuzzy tonight, so here's hoping most of this made sense! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

day 24: juice.

This is gonna be a shoutout to the Petty 2 men. Aka, that sentence was a little disclaimer that if this blog post doesn't make much sense to everyone reading, it's because MOST of it's in direct reference to jokes, ridiculousness and overall hilariousness......but for most of it I guess you had to be there :P

The Core Five (minus Landon) 

I say Core 5 not because they're the 5 most important guys on the hall, OR because they're the 5 coolest guys on the hall, although I think they're all of those things but I have to because I'm related to most of them through the weird Petty2East family tree that formed halfway through the year. These 5 men (plus Landon) are the reason that the roommates caw when they enter rooms (or anywhere actually) talk in  weird accents (that sound Italian coming from Kayla) and get really, REALLY freaky looks from strangers because we forget that not EVERYONE knows that when you make a fist you've now made it possible for people to steal the fistbump from you. I'd say they're the reason we're weird, but honestly we were weird before we met them. They just kinda claimed us and made it a lil' more culturally acceptable :) 

On a MUCH more serious note, these 5 guys (plus Landon) are some of the most Christ-centered, Gospel driven men that I know...even more so because they somehow manage to be wise, funny, ridiculous, encouraging, including, and big brother-esque all in one. They set an example not only in the way the treat those around them, but specifically in the way they treat those closest to their heart....a couple of them are dating my best friends ;) I am thankful I have them in my life to listen to, look up to, respect, and occasionally, occasionally laugh at. 

Thank you roommate for the prompt for today. 


Sunday, June 23, 2013

day 23: stuck in a ditch.

Alright. It's late(ish) and I have a lot more energy than would be expected at 10:30 at night (but then again if you know me it's not all THAT unexpected) and the word today won't be TOO long of a blog post, so tonight will come with some life updates as well!

This week (and this coming week) have been significantly best friend/hang out partnerless. Between the ones I've lost to camp, the former roommate trekking across Zambia, and the Rachel friend running off to South Padre for Beach Retreat, the Stewart girls have had to get reaaaaaaally creative about what we're doing with all our free time. Momma is still recovering from surgery, which sadly means no driving for her. So all errands fall to me and Poptart. Friday found us trekking into Houston to pick up the Rachel friend from camp (complete with Chai Tea Frappachinos), dropping her off, then simultaneously getting lost trying to get to Barnes & Nobles where I bought this beautiful little leatherbound journal.

Ish my new best friend. 

I've been the wide eyed watcher of Man of Steel twice, once with the family & once with the Rachel friend & Abi. Both times were wonderful, though the freak-out, squealing, and fake flying out of the theater was definitely a lot more noticeable when I didn't have to worry about embarrassing my family ;) Smirk. I got a long & lovely phone call with beautiful Miriam on Tuesday waiting for Mommy to come home, and got to spend 2 days with Rachel friend tonight before she rushes off to do even more things for God's kingdom :) I wrote a letter every day this week, which are in the process of being sent out now! Many, many country songs were listened to with the windows rolled down, and I sported the 'my hair took on the wind & lost' look multiple times this week. All in all, it has been a WONDERFUL 7 days! 

Alright. Word of the day is : ditch. 

Ditches are for getting stuck in.....specifically with little, 2 door, blue Honda Civics that are REALLY only trying to get out of the driveway so Daddy can move his truck. I speak from experience^ obviously. Not only do I get stuck in ditches, but I'm also EXTREMELY conscious of them when I drive next to them on the road. I can be cruising down the highway, relaxed, jamming to my music, and then turn onto a country road and ALL OF A SUDDEN BOTH HANDS ARE ON THE WHEEL AND BOTH EYES ARE SUPER WIDE AND ON THE ROAD BECAUSE IF I SWERVE TO THE RIGHT TOO FAR MY CAR IS GOING STRAIGHT INTO THIS AWKWARD ALMOST-BUT-NOT-REALLY HOLE IN THE GROUND RIGHT OVER HERE. Caps instigated to demonstrate my extreme paranoia.'s not really THAT bad :D And I love country roads. And just because I should probably make this somewhat meaningful and not leave it at that....

Ditches make me nervous because I get stuck, and I hate getting stuck. It's a pretty accurate analogy for other areas of my life too. Be it spiritually, romantically, relationally, or just purely physically, I hate getting stuck. It's that "Ugh, we've BEEN here before" feeling in the pit of my stomach. 

I think this is probably why, for me, I struggle with keeping my mind in the present & simultaneously get so excited about the future. So often in the present I forget that where I am is where I'm supposed to be, because it's not where I want to be. This also ties back to the whole "waiting is my least favorite thing in the world to do" thing I mention so often. 

So, this is why actually saying the phrase "Lord, I'll wait here in this ditch (emphasis added) until You decide I'm ready to be back on the road" is so hard for me. Because saying Lord, I'll stay in this spot until You move me is hard. Saying I'll stay in this relationship stage until You think my heart is ready for his, and we'll glorify You more together than apart, is harder. But it's stretching, and refining, and good

So for all the temporary 'stay here for a lil' while' ditches this summer, this year, this season and this lifetime, I am both hesitatingly thankful, and a little wary. And we'll see when I get put back on the road again :) 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

day 22: adoption pictures.

My posts seem to be hitting the internet a little bit later & later each night. Tonight it's because the Rachel friend has been gone ALL WEEK and she'll be gone all of NEXT week to boot, so we had to cram 2 weeks (and one weekend) worth of fun into less than 24 hours. So, it's at the end of a long [but extremely worthwhile and filled with lots of fantastic movie watching and even more fantastic conversations] day that I'm finally sitting down to post about:


In so many ways I am so very unqualified to try & write about this topic. I take it crazy seriously, and am best friends with people who take it even more so...and rightly so. Because isn't adoption the very heartbeat of the Gospel? 

"But I thought it was love?" 

It is. Love through adoption. Pictured through the unconditional acceptance of a child not your own, to be cherished, loved, and accepted as if he or she was. 

It's always made me kind of tilt my head and wonder when people say they just "don't feel like they're called to adopt." I'm not questioning the statement....I'll also go ahead & publicly say I'm not sure adoption is in my future. I want my own husband, my own kids, my own family...selfishly so. But isn't the whole point that we can sit here and talk about Christ calling us TO adoption because God called us THROUGH adoption? 

"But when the set time had come God sent His son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are His sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out 'Abba, Father!' So you are no longer a slave, but God's child, and since you are His child, God has made you also an heir." 
-Galatians 4:4-7- 

"But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God." 
-John 1:12- 

In case you're missing this, this is CRAZY. First of, God doesn't owe anyone on Earth ANYTHING....but for those of us who are Gentiles (as in not the Jews, aka God's original chosen people) this is doubly true. But when we believe and accept Christ, we are given the right to be regarded as God's children. Not only are we called Children of God, but we are given EQUAL. STATUS. with Christ, God's Son, as heirs to the throne. 

Allow me to rephrase. 

The God that we have rejected since Eve reached out to take the apple, loved us enough to send His ONLY Son to Earth for us. That would have been enough. Not only that, but Christ died, was buried, and rose again, eternally breaking the chains of death and highlighting the glory of God FOREVER. That would have been enough. God goes further. He's not satisfied with "enough". Christ turns and reaches out with open hand to show us broken chains. He takes life eternal, purchased with His sweat, blood, heartbreak and pain, and offers it to us as a gift. No work necessary, no merit required. And He offers it to us, not as servants, slaves or beggars, but as sons and daughters, heirs to the throne of His Father. 

To say "we have done absolutely nothing and can do nothing to deserve this" seems a little bit redundant. 

Honestly, I think adoption is one of the most unique and clearest pictures of this aspect of the Gospel that we have...and I love watching it. It takes parents that God has endowed with special amounts and kinds of grace, brothers & sisters open hearted to change, and families willing to accept that not everyone will understand. And I think that's beautiful :) 

I'm not saying everyone should go rush off and reconsider their futures, or that people who don't feel like God is leading them to adopt should feel guilty. Like I said....I'm not sure either. What I AM saying is be open to it, because God opened it to you. Come at it with an open & willing heart...and understand that offering certain parts of your life & heart unconditionally to the Lord doesn't mean He'll definitely take just means you trust Him enough to give Him the reigns. 

You do that....and I'll try to do the same :) 

Friday, June 21, 2013

day 21: locked doors.

Saw Man of Steel with the family tonight! I was a little bit skeptical going into it...I know it's a shocker, but Superman has never really been high on my list of favorite superheros :P But the movie was FANTASTIC! Fantastic enough to possibly make me reconsider that position? I think so. Also the soundtrack. Amazing.

"Sometimes failure can be the key to a locked door." 
-Brent Crow- 

I think everyone has favorite inspirational quotes like this. Inspirational, motivating, and something along the lines of 'even failure can be a step in the right direction'. And I don't have very much else to add, other than to say that I think it's true :) 

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." 
-Romans 8:28- 

Now granted, this only applies to those whom love the Lord, so maybe this doesn't give out the same amount of encouragement to everyone. But nowhere in that verse does it say "and we know that in successful ventures..." or "when they actually manage to not mess something up, then God will work." Nope. All things. And that seems like basic follow the steps knowledge, and it IS. But at the same time, it's so easy to forget :) 

Your sin and failure doesn't cripple God. He's not in Heaven, crossing His fingers that you'll make the right choice because if you don't you unravel His perfectly formed plan that's existed before time [or us] ever did. God uses everything, all things, for your good and for His glory. The catch is, sometimes God's idea of good doesn't exactly line up with ours :) But even when that's the case, HIS version is always, always better. 

So that's my word for the day :) Pretty crazy basic, and probably not anything you haven't thought of! 

And go see Man of Steel. 

It's a good idea. 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

day 20: baby sister.

Here we are, ten days left of June, and I've come to a certain conclusion: I don't want to grow up. Which is hilarious if you've talked to me in the past year or so, because all that's basically come out of my mouth is "get me out of college!" and "husband come to me" and "I want to grow up" grumblegrumblegrumbleimpatientimpatientcomplain. And now I no longer want to. I like being not 20. I like coming home to my family every summer. I like family movie nights and family vacations and family being togetherness during the summer because we're still kids and life hasn't intruded yet. So it is under THAT particular idea that I'm choosing [that's right. I picked it] tonight's blog post topic.

Initially when I asked Patricia for a word, she jokingly rattled off "Oh, do a sister is a forever friend!" And I laughed because I thought she was joking, but when I stopped laughing and looked back at here she was just staring at me with her mouth open and this little 'yeah really!' look on her face. So that is my quote prompt. And since I can't really DO that quote without making it ridiculously's story time again!

I don't have any BABY baby pictures, so here is the youngest one I have.
Patricia is the cute little blonde in yellow. I'm the one in grey holding some...stuffed...thing. 

In August of 1996, 3 year old Bethany walked into a dimly lit hospital room and met little baby new born Patricia for the very first time. I was wearing my favorite rainbow dress [which I wore for days at a time, but I was 3 so that was cute] and as soon as I had introduced myself to the little blonde fuzzy haired baby Mommy was holding, Mamaw took me to Arby's and I got a little bendy knife that then became my favorite thing to eat with for the next 3 years. I don't know why those details are what stand out in my mind, but they are. I was uniquely invested in this baby because Mommy and Daddy had let me name her. They effectively dodged my first baby name suggestion (I don't remember what it was, only that it was at the level of ridiculousness that only a 3 year old can achieve) but when I suggested Patricia they actually kind of liked it. And so, 2 months later, Patricia Elizabeth Stewart entered my life :) 

I would love to say we were inseparable from the beginning, but we weren't. I held her until she started crying, whined when I thought she was stealing Mom and Dad's attention, and loved showing her off to my friends whenever we went out :) Childhood memories come in random snippets. I remember the night we tried to move her into the bottom bunk in my room. It was a fantastic idea in theory, until the lights went out and Mom and Daddy closed the doors. Back to the crib she went. When they found her 2 hours later, trying to put her back in the bunk resulted in hours of crying, hyperventilating, screaming, and general 2 year old 'NOOOOOOOOOOO!'ness. Then we went and left her on the carousel at Santa's Wonderland in Colorado Springs, CO. It was raining and I let myself off the ride, and forgot that she was only 5 or so and couldn't undo the complicated seat belt on her own. 

Okay. That one was my fault. 

We did the 'big sister, little sister, get out of my room, no these are MY friends' thing until we moved to Israel when I was 10. "Oh, it got better then?!" Nope. It got worse. Am I painting an AWFUL picture of our relationship as sisters? I am, because once again most of this is on me. I was, quite simply, a jerk. Somewhere in between the awkward middle school and rebellious high school stage I lost sight of what was important, and most of that included family. So I didn't like baby sister, she didn't know how to deal with me, and it just went PAOIWPIHPOIJETOIJAPIOHWE more often than not. That's the sound of argument, in case you were wondering. 

Enjoy this ridiculousness. please. 

Don't worry's about to turn around :) We moved back to the States the summer before my Junior year of High School, and I don't know whether I just finally grew up or God finally opened my eyes to see that the cutesy little blonde in front of me was actually a ridiculously hilarious & wonderful girl....but for whatever reason, we started spending time together. And not like..."family" time where you have to because parents say so, but legitimately spending time together :) Movies & rodeos & afternoons & dinners out & icecream. And somewhere along the way I was finally officially introduced to the beautiful woman that is my little sister. 

If you have never had a chance to meet this incredible young woman, you need to. She is, in many ways, my exact opposite. I'm relatively short....she's been lovingly dubbed our Amazon warrior. I'm your typical brown haired, hazel eyed brunette. She started off as a bleach blonde blue eyed beauty baby and somehow turned golden along the way. Me playing video games is laughable. She takes people out all of the time. I'm clumsy, she's graceful. I love people, she hates crowds. I'm unrealistic & fantasyish, she's reasonable and sensible. And yet, I continue to need her :) 

When I hang out with my best friend, it's expected that Tricia will come along. We are now a set of Stewart much so that Mama Bownds [my best friend's mom] sings the "Sisters" song from White Christmas every time we get on the phone :D 

Do we still fight? Obviously. Although I don't think we've had a legitimate, yelling, I'mma beat you up fight in a while. Mostly it consists of her being like "Bethany, calm down." and me with the maturity of a 12 year old responding "YOU CALM DOWN!" before walking off with flare. "Flare". 

Snips Gorky, you are beautiful :) You were a gift God gave me 20 years ago, that I am just now learning to appreciate. I am so thankful that you are only a door away for the summers, and a phone call for the rest of the year. To say I don't know what I'd do without you would be absolutely pointless. I don't know where I would even begin :) You are encouraging, supporting, loving, and absolutely wonderful, while simultaneously pushing me to be both grown up [boo you] and make the mature decision. You remind me when I doubt that God is in control, and no obstacle in my life or anyone else's is bigger than He is. You are ridiculously funny, and were you not around we both know I would have killed Yoffi years ago. 

You are more country than I could ever hope to be, wittier, cuter when you're angry, and an attractive crier ;) #putthatontheresume. Youalsotaughtmehowtotalklikethisandithinkitsfunforonlyusbecauseeveryoneelsehatesit. 
But hey, I think it's fun. And so does the occasional other person or 2. So I'm satisfied :) 

You are my absolute favorite PatruskiPattyrishaTurshyPoptartSnipsGorkySeastarrSnickers. And I am so very glad I know you :) Even IF everyone thinks you're older because you're taller and confuses you for my college roommate and not my little sister :) [AND EVEN WHEN YOU CLAIM THAT TITLE IN GROCERY STORES.] 

You will always be my baby sister, regardless of what life happens and what circumstances occur. I will always be here, and I will always love you. You are so much that I hope to be one day, and I admire SO MUCH the woman of God that continues to emerge (even amidst the rough spots) as you grow :) 

Love, BeeGorky. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

day 19: celebration.


I will confess that I'm posting this late [and a little bit fast] because I have Tobuscus YouTube date scheduled with my baby brother, and we both wanna get on that :) SO, without further ado. celebration

The word celebration brings back a host load of memories for me, the most memory full one being Celebration Retreat spent in the mountains a year and one month ago. But that's most definitely a story for another place, another heart emptying, and another time. 

There is so much in my life to celebrate, I'm not entirely sure where to start. 

-my family-
the one I was born to and the one I've been given in pieces throughout the last 20 years

-my placement-
I can honestly say I've been given the opportunity to live in three of the most beautiful states ... but then again I'm a little bit biased 
[texas, southcarolina, georgia]

-my memories-
good & bad, these are some of my most treasured possessions 

last year, I read 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp
She introduced the idea that every trial, joy, celebration, heartbreak and memory we encounter is a grace gift from a perfectly good God 
it's changed the way I look at people, opportunities, and hard circumstances
if you can read it, do

These were only 4 things, but they tap 4 major areas of my heart. To me celebration means rejoicing in the completion of a lengthy and arduous task set before you. It means graduations from childhood to adulthood, from selfishness to selflessness, from death to life, from tears to laughter, from hopelessness to joy, from youthful thinking to maturity. 
It is rejoicing in the shift from one section of life or one heart attitude to another. 
from finite to eternity 

"I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent" 
-Luke 15:7- 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

day 18: our monster.

An update on Momma: For those who don't know, Momma Stewart was scheduled to have back surgery this morning. I say it was 'not a big deal' kind of jokingly, because any sort of surgery is a pretty big deal when you're not the doctor or the patient, you're the one sitting in the waiting room on uncomfortable hospital chairs waiting for any sort of news. That was my Daddy today :) Momma's surgeon was called in on a trauma case that (for obvious reasons) took precedence over Momma, so her surgery got started 2-3 hours late. But at the end of the day, it is done, successful, and she is coming home we're praying pain free :) Thank you for your prayers and support. We appreciate it so much! 

I include the picture because...
(1) it's beautiful
(2) my mind has been screaming 'GO FOR OPEN WATER!!!' all day. so. 
.....but it has nothing to do with today's blog post. 

Today's blog prompt is a quote, and initially I was going to save it because I wanted to think really hard before I wrote about it. But in the light of phone conversations and the fact that I really just miss the lovely who gave it to me, I'm going to give it a shot :) And the quote it: 

"Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, as to be hated needs but to be seen. Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, we first endure, then pity, then embrace." 
- Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man - 

My first thought upon encountering this quote was 'huh?' My second was Shakespeare, books I read to enjoy...but not to understand. But as I read it, and read it, and then read it again, I realized with startling clarity that it's not just a quote that sounds good or's a 2 line glimpse at the creeping power of sin in the human heart. And that's scary. 

Humans are the most unsettled creatures on Earth. We claim stability and unshakable beliefs, with hearts that are uncertain and accommodating. Expose us to anything long enough, and eventually we will become hardened and desensitized to it. Remember when you saw a couple kiss in the movies for the first time? You blushed and stammered, eyes scanning the room for anything else to focus on. You were uncomfortable. Today we've seen it so many times that even people in bed barely merits a shift of the eyes or a knowing look at a friend. The sacred has become commonplace....the forbidden the norm. 

Sin is a monster we're forced to approach every day of our lives. Upon our first encounter with a 'vice', we're disgusted. "I'd never do something like that." or "I would never be one of those people." We fall into a trap of judgement, lined with a lack of understanding how anyone could ever do something quite that perverse. But when we're exposed to it daily, we lose some of that sensitivity. We shift slowly from "I would never" to "I wouldn't....but he can". We move from horror, to accommodation, to understanding, to sympathizing, to justifying. "I'm not going to live that kind of lifestyle...but I guess he can if he wants." Somewhere along the lines we take a wrong turn and find ourselves on a road paved with good intentions, instead of truth and life. And life stories start to reflect the former good intentions of four little words: but i never planned.... 

The teenager just experimenting with her friends never planned to become homosexual.

The man offering coffee to his beautiful coworker never planned to have an affair. 

The woman going out for a drink after a discouraging night at home never planned to become an alcoholic.

The highschooler learning the ins and outs of poker for the first time never planned to gamble the rest of his savings away. 

Sin is enticing, addicting and powerful. It flies in the face of a perfect, HOLY God, who deemed it serious enough to send His own son to die one of the most painful deaths on planet Earth, because it was the only sacrifice powerful enough to release us from sin's power and eternal consequences. And yet we reason it away and shut down our hearts to the hurt and brokenness because "if everyone's doing it, it must be okay". 

The wages of sin is death. The fact that it saturates the world we live in today doesn't lessen it's power, or soften the consequences. It simply means more and more people will face them. 

And I pray that in the face of a hurting and broken world, we Christians would have heart that reflects Christ's love and suffering. That we would see lost people for what they are: slaves crushed and emptied by a power far greater than their own. That we would remember that it is only by Christ's grace that our own chains have been broken and we have been set free, and because of this our lives are no longer our own to do whatever we wish with them. 

And that we would never have such a superficial view of sin that we would use "but it's her life and i tried" as an excuse to turn our backs on a hurting soul. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

day 17: walking backwards.

We've started a new tradition at the Stewart house! Monday lunch time has officially been dubbed Disney Movie Monday :) This happened because we told Matthew [the baby] to pick a Disney movie he had never seen so we could watch it, and his response was "ShiSha, there's lots of Disney movies I haven't seen." WHAT?! Your childhood is missing!!!! So we [Tricia and me] have made it our mission to introduce him to as many of our favorites as possible in the next couple of months :)

So that was the highlight of my Monday! Now. On to blog posting. Today is a quote!

"I walk slowly, but never backwards." 
- Abraham Lincoln - 

I think this is probably one of my biggest struggles....looking backwards while I'm trying to move forwards. I was JUST on Skype with one of my lovely heart piece friends, and we were talking about how she has the wonderful ability to 'be present wherever the Lord puts here'. To bloom where she's planted, so to speak. 

I do not have this trait. AT ALL. I miss people that I used to be with, places that I used to live, and memories when they hadn't quite become memories yet. More than that, sometimes I find myself missing the person I was then, who those people were to me, and the things I didn't yet know. 

That's dangerous. Beyond dangerous. Why? Because the past is the past for a reason. Going back means walking backwards, and it means moving farther from the Lord, rather than closer. As much as I miss the memories that Bethany from the past made 6 months, a year, 5 years ago, becoming her again would mean closing off my heart to so many of the lessons God has taught me....and the maturity that has been gained by His grace. 

I'm not saying I need to forget the's made me who I am, and every memory, trial, and joy filled moment is special to me. But there's a difference between remembering the past...and clinging to the past.  The Bible has so many verses about eternally, future based perspective....but I'll pick one of my favorites :) 

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 
- 2 Corinthians 4:18 -

Okay, so it doesn't specifically say 'keep moving forward and never look back' :P But it's my reminder not to live in the past. Besides, where's the fun in that? You've already lived've been there before! Letting go is hard for me, but it's something I'm starting to learn. And it makes the past something to be treasured, and the future something to anticipate with joy instead of anxiousness...and that's exciting too :) 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

day 16: relationships, the right & the wrong.

With this 2nd post of the day, we are officially back on track :) Father's Day was wonderful, and reminded me that I am blessed with an incredible father who seeks the Lord, demonstrates his love for his children daily through the love of their mother as well as them, and is a wonderful steward of what God has set before him. Daddy, you are such a gift :)

Yup. Daddy taught me how to shoot a gun. 

Alright. The word of the night is ........ 

I'll get the awkward out of the way RIGHT NOW and openly admit, I've never been in an actual relationship. I've never had a boyfriend or been seriously committed to anyone other than my family & best friends. So any advice or ideas I have are coming through THAT filter :P But that being said, I have watched my friends do relationships for years, watched breakups & marriages, and seen the good & the bad. So here are just some observations I have that apply to all kinds of relationships....boyfriend, girlfriend, family or friend :) 

#1: Any kind of successful relationship must have Christ at the center. 

A wise and respected Jules once told me that a mark of a good relationship is that the couple love those around them better, because of the relationship that grows between them. While she meant this in the context of a boyfriend, I've found it to be true almost everywhere. Everyone knows what it feels like to be the awkward third wheel, or just outside the loop of an inside joke. When I say "that awkward pair no one is comfortable around", everyone has a pair of people that come to mind. A Christ- centered relationship reflects the powerful love of the Gospel...and that never stops at 2 people. It spreads. So if you think you might BE that awkward pair of people [which I have been's okay]...just think about it :) 

#2: Any REAL kind of relationship requires vulnerability. 

We all have secrets, and we've all been hurt, and a lot of the time we keep that hurt as a secret because we're terrified it's going to happen again. Hearts get stepped on, walls go up, and people are kept at an arm's length distance. But no matter how good you think you are at playing the game & faking the smiles, I've got a secret. People can tell :) Though they might not be able to put their finger on it, they know something's just not right. Vulnerability is hard and it makes you feel blech and it is one of my LEAST favorite things in the world, but an open heart is one that grows within the community Christ has placed it in. Let people in. And sometimes, you might find that the people you choose to trust have the ability to speak Gospel truth right into the middle of your broken & searching heart. 

#3: Love like Christ loves....not like the world teaches.

This means hanging in there when the going gets tough. It means embracing forgiveness instead of resentment, and sacrifice instead of entitlement. It means learning to voice your frustration & emotions, and accepting the fact that she's not always going to say the right thing, have the perfect answer, or be able to read your mind. It means addressing conflict & being willing to admit that even though he made a mistake, you might possibly have been in the middle of making one as well. It's realizing that no matter how much they frustrate, annoy, anger, or hurt you, Christ's love covers your sins & it covers theirs too. It's realizing that walking out is sometimes the right thing to do & incredibly hard....and sometimes it's just the easy way out. 

It's realizing the person sitting across the table from you is created in the image of a perfect God, and He thought they were worth dying for. So value them like it. 

#4: Invest. And be patient. 

The person across the room from you is complicated. They have a past & stories to tell, all of which shaped them into the person that they are today. So take the time to get to know them....and be patient! Real, authentic, solid relationships take time. When you're building a house you take the time to make sure the foundation is firm and's what the stability of the entire building depends on. Relationships are the same way. Make sure that your foundation has time to form before you try to build on it. 

#5. Have fun! 

I know this sounds so simple, but friendship doesn't HAVE to be deep all the time :D Talks don't always have to be serious, and time together doesn't always have to mean something. Just enjoy the friendship! Have arguments about silly things. Watch Disney movies. Be silly together. Bonding is important....but sometimes simple memories are just as important :) Everyone has nights where they know they died laughing and couldn't stop...they just couldn't remember why. cling to those. They matter :) So ask silly questions to match the important ones....and have fun nights to match the emotional ones. 

The End! I could go on, but I won't :) I hope this made sense at least.....Relationships are important. They reflect the glory of a relational God....and we need them. This has been true in my life and the lives of my friends, and it has been an experience that I continue to realize has grown me more and more :) 

day 15: joy.

Much to my shame & embarassment, day 15 is actually happening the morning of the 16th. BUT that's only because my Saturday actually reflected almost exactly what I wanted this blog post to be about: simple, slow happiness. I was going to try & post last night, but between all the best friends and old friends I ended up talking to, I ran out of time. So here's to relationships and late blog posts and grace from blog readers :)

Okay! Word of the day is: joy. I've already kind of hit the deeper side of this word in a blog post you can read I'll try not to go to deep again! This post will be some sort of weird combination of the fact that I get really excited about really small things, and the ridiculously lovely feelings I experience when summer rolls around every year. So here we go!

Summer for me is a daily reminder in a world that moves entirely too fast that sometimes slowing down is just as necessary as checking of boxes on your to-do list. Summer days start late and end later. It's movie nights, Texas sunsets, sweaty faces, and little sweaty bodies of babies running after you because they've been cooped up in the house too long. It's basketball games in the driveway, sunlit afternoons in the swimming pool, and walking outside at night to greet the scent of night jasmine. It's working hard & playing harder, and learning to say 'no' so you can say 'yes' later.

It's the smiles on the little's faces when you say the words 'snowcone' and you remember when you were little and the world was easy and Awanas and Little League were the highlights of your week.

It's stopping long enough to take deep breathes and be incredible thankful that you are in THIS moment, with THESE people....because life will come later. You will round the corner & face a problem, or a trial, & it is these afternoons & late night phone calls that remind you why God is good, life worth living, and love worth doing.

All of these...summer and babies and kittens and phone calls and family and grillouts do more than make me happy....they bring me joy. Joy that makes problems seem smaller and God seem bigger. Problems that make obstacles overcomeable, days long, and the pace slow :)


Friday, June 14, 2013

day 14: kooky.

"Kooky! It's like cookie with an 'oo' instead of an 'uh'" 

The word of the day is 'kooky' which I love because (1) it's not actually a word I don't think, and if it is it's not used nearly often enough and (2) because this word can be used to describe me, my best friend, and most situations we get ourselves into. 

Kooky is appropriately used when something is a little off and a little strange....somewhere between 'i ate the glue in preschool' and 'sometimes I talk to myself.' I don't think it's a bad thing to be :D 

If you know me you know I'm a little bit...kooky. I have my quirks and my little ticks....I use sound effects when words aren't sufficient, make up my own when I feel the English language is too boring. I talk to myself, run laps in the rain, and imitate birds to get my friends attention. My laugh is loud and never sounds quite the same twice in a row. I'm awful at telling stories, get distracted in the middle, and write my thoughts better than I speak them. 

I've been blessed enough to find best friends that do all of these things with me....or at least think I'm funny when I do :) 

So I guess this is my plug to embrace the weird. Within reason of course. If your friend is STILL eating, you might wanna take a few steps back.  But everyone has their quirks, and while sometimes they might bug you, if you try and put people in the box of what the world says "popular" "cool" and "funny" looks might be missing out on a lot :) 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

day 13: define success.

[define success]

Well alrighty then. This is going to be another one of those "I'm wondering about this same as you are, so please don't take my word for it" blog posts :) So coming at it from THAT angle... 

I don't have a solid, concrete idea about what I think success is. I don't think it's what the world seems to define it to be: I don't think success is about the number of zeroes in your salary, the size of the tag on the pants your wife wears, the obedience of your kids, and I also don't think success is confined to one specific compartment of life. I know plenty of people who are "successful" in the work force, and awful at letting their spouse know they love them....and I know people who are wonderful at thriving within relationship, and awful at following through on deadlines :) So all that to say, if I had to sum up what success means to me personally (and you know God is going to be thrown in the middle there somewhere) I'd have to say: 

Success is accomplishing the goals set before you, remaining content with where you are called to be, and being willing to meet higher standards and rise to greater tasks if you are asked to do so. 

Someone once told me that the good news of the grace of God is that He accepts you where you are, but loves you far too much to leave you there. I think a certain measure of success can be found in this truth :) I believe a huge part of success if learning how to be content. The apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:11, "...I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." If the driving force behind your search for success is simply to climb the ladder as high as you can to the best of your ability until you beat out the rest in the rat race to the top, you are chasing an unfulfilling dream. No only is there almost always higher to climb, there is always someone who can do your job better than you can, chasing the same dream, two steps behind you. 

The world preaches that success is moving into the biggest office, making the most money, and having the family that best fits the world's definition of "perfect".

Offices are cold, lonely, and empty.

Money does not buy happiness.

Children who are taught that their actions and appearances are valued more than their hearts and souls will grow up cold, searching, and unbelievably broken.

If however, your dreams of success consist of fulfilling the calling to which you have been called by completing the tasks set before you in the strength you have been given, and relying on that same given strength to reach higher tasks and harder accomplishments as they are given, to the ultimate glorification of the Savior who gives you the strength to do it....I think that is success indeed :) 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

day 12: best friend pieces of my heart.

Today has been a blech day. I have spent most of today incredibly frustrated. To begin with, the part of my brain that goes "sleep" around midnight on my nights before work decided to delay that till about 2:00 in the morning last night. I am a night owl. I love nighttime. But when I have to get up and play with two beautiful twins for 9 hours for a week, I NEED MY SLEEP! My mind, instead of speeding up, decided to go about a thousand miles an hour faster than normal, and all of a sudden little things that shouldn't be issues become big things I can't seem to get off my mind. So it was with a racing mind, frustrated spirit, and heavy heart that I reached in to choose today's word. 

Which just REALLY makes me laugh, because today's word/phrase is: 

.best friends.

Which really just confirms for me that God does have a sense of humor, and also delights in bringing me back to reality and out of pity parties quite often...because the best way to do that is to get me talking about my best friends :) 

Contrary to popular belief, the term "best friend" is not one that I dub people easily. Just because I've been blessed with quite a few of them doesn't mean that it isn't an absolutely huge deal in my life. At this point, the women are more like sisters and the men are people that I want to follow around and be just like when I grow up, if that ever happens! If I call you my best friend, it means that I trust you. I love you. I see things in you that I admire. You've changed my life. When I am with you I am reminded of the Gospel, and an all-powerful God that gives me gifts I do not deserve: you. So here are my handful of people that blow my mind, love me well, and I am incredibly thankful for :) 

The Gibbers [Lissa & Stephie] - Melissa and Stephanie came into my life when I was in Israel. I was a snot-nosed little freshman who thought I was big stuff...Melissa was a senior who cared enough to look past the obnoxious and love me anyways :) With Lissa came Stephie, who consistently makes me laugh, brings out the Austrian within, and makes me miss her more every time I leave. Lissa and Stephie, God put you in my life for a reason, and I owe so many dodged bullets and unmade mistakes to your willingness to listen to His urging and look past the immature exterior ;) Thank you. 

The Rooms [JessJess, Kase, and Qualsies] - I put Jess and the Kaylas' together as one person because we basically are. These three girls are my CIU core. They uplift me, encourage me, challenge me, push me when I'm lazy, and remind me of the truth when I'm scared. They laugh when I trip over myself, accept me wholeheartedly, and love me more than I deserve. Roomsies, all three of you are gifts that I could not have asked for if I wanted to. I love you :) 

The Proverbs 31 Women [Mir, HannahGrace & Pamela Sue] - These women, whether they know it or not, are essentially my role models. Wise beyond their years, they continuously pour wisdom into me and point me closer to the Cross. Pam and Hannah I have been close to since Impact...due to a variety of circumstances (and some extreme ridiculousness on my part) Miriam has been a recent addition to my heart and one I am beyond thankful for. I trust these women with pieces of myself not many people get to see. They are my safe place. I am in awe of the work God has done & continues to do in them & through them. Ladies, you are a living example of a Gospel-driven, daughter of the King, and I respect you so much. 

SamSam - Samuel Cottle is the quiet one, and to be honest I have no idea why he sticks around or puts up with me, but I'm so thankful he does. I am hyper and off the wall and all over the place crazy, and he never fails to come back around :) He accepts me. Regardless of how ridiculous, overdramatic, or enthusiastic I get, he is always there. He is my drop by the house unannounced, random pool party, ghost adventure, movie night, packing buddy, go to guy. SamSam, I am thankful for you. 

The Dear Friend [StanMan] - Our friendship started over a cross country competition that I never, EVER won and continued through basketball, track, senior year, Sadie, late night conversations, Impact and finally his high school graduation :) Somewhere along the way, he became less of my friend and more of my little brother, even though of the two of us he's probably the more mature one and definitely the taller one ;) Stan is wise beyond his years, serious about his faith, and constantly seeking the Lord. He is someone I can not talk to for a while, then come back to have a huge catch-up session with and it's like nothing has changed. He laughs at me, thinks its funny that I'm clumsy, and encourages me always :) So, Stanley, this coming year I will miss you. I admire you so much :) 

Kartwright - Of all the people God has thrown into my life, I can honestly say this man has been used by the Lord the most. He has been the source of encouragement, challenges, lessons, unconditional love and acceptance, respect, admiration, and all over ridiculousness. All the people I've named have different tags and labels, but his is the simplest: best friend. He laughs at me, teases me, and in true big brother fashion beats up anyone else who tries to do so. Unless he thinks its funny ;) I admire this man, and respect so greatly the man of God I continue to see. know :) thank you. 

I've mentioned lots of people, but there are three [besides the ACTUAL sister who has an entire blog post coming later] that have moved so far past the "best friends" point that they are officially my unofficial twin & two baby sisters :) So, if you've read through this long, there's only 3 more. [sorry. I know it's long]. 

SistahFriend [Rachey Rach]- Rachel Bownds has been in my life since we walked through the door of the church nursery together at 4 years old. Come summer time, she lives with me. We somehow survived 5 years of living in 2 different countries, and now college is here and there's miles in between us, and she is still my same age as me sister. Rach, you are different from me, and funny, and beautiful, and all over the place, and parking lot jamtastic, and I literally do not know where I would be without you. I love you. Thank you. [ThunderThighsRadiantTurtleEthelMoobtha]. Your NickyB. 

The Little [Hanners] - Hannah Richards has moved from Facebook friend to Impact little to sister and loved one in a simple year. The rational, realistic, slightly pessimistic side of me, she is one of my favorite people in the world. I have watched as Christ has transformed her from a graduated and uncertain senior to a beautiful, trusting, feeling woman of His, and it has been beautiful and I have cried several times. Hannah, from your first visit to Impact amongst a hurried tour led by me and one lucky other person [winkwink] I knew you were special. I like you. A lot :) 

and FINALLY.....

The Southern Bell [Kels] - I say bell because I've always spelled it that way and this is my blog post and I can. Kelsey Ann and I have been in the same place, ONCE. We've spent two hours together. And we've sent thousands of text messages since then. If I had to claim one person I saw as my legitimate "do not hurt her or I kill you" little sister, it'd be her. She is ALREADY an incredible leader, worker, lover of people, and compassionate hearted beauty, and she JUST graduated High School :) Kels. 4 hours is nothing. I can't wait. 

There. That's it. It's done. These people have changed my life. 
I do not deserve them.....
but I am so thankful I have them :) 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

day 11: knock.

"Bethany, are you getting lazy? It's 11:00 at night, why are you just posting now?!" Because I have trekked all over Katy tonight in honor of my best friend and 20 years of living. And I will trade memories for on time blog posts anyday :) Happy Birthday Rach. I love you. [if you know Rachel Bownds, wish her a happy birthday!]

But on to more serious matters. It's a rather random word today...and the word is "knock"

There are random memories associated with this word from Brazil, where knocking on the physical door to a household is unheard of and "knocking" consists of clapping very loudly from the front gate. It reminds me of trekking around Bela Vista VBS with David Blanchard, trying to convince the Brazilians with David's very limited Portuguese that VBS was a good idea and their kids should come.

Knocking is kind of a cultural thing I I'll just come at it from how I've always been raised. Knocking indicates presence. It indicates an immediate desire to enter, paralleled by an unspoken respect that whoever is knocking will not force themselves in. It requires an equal desire from the person on the inside of the door, to want to be in the presence of the person outside the door. Entrance (especially to a home) indicates intimacy, a desire for deeper relationship, and a certain level of trust.

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me." 
- Revelation 3:20 - 

I think, for tonight, I will let you draw your own conclusions :) 

Monday, June 10, 2013

day 10: failures.

Well, here we are, and the word of the day is [failure].

If you can't read it, that says failure. It's tiny because I don't like it....I mean, who does really? No one likes thinking about the times in life that they didn't succeed, or the personality traits they have that might air on the less side of attractive. But it is what it is...we all have them :) And I've come to learn that sometimes it's in our biggest failures [or weaknesses] that God can receive the most glory. So, in the spirit of being vulnerable and honest, here are a few of my failures:

  • I'm messy. Ridiculously so. I can be clean if needed, or if I'm living with someone that declares cleanliness absolutely necessary, but comfortable for me means clothes thrown around and books laying open where I stopped reading. 
  • I'm impatient. SO VERY MUCH. I hate waiting. And I hate not knowing. I have dedicated handfuls of blog posts to this. I would say just the big things, but honestly it's waiting for anything. Movies, books, boyfriends, breaks, end of work days, phone calls, summer, etc, etc, etc the list never ends. 
  • I  forget, much to often, that the Lord is responsible for fixing people. Not me. I've learned that there IS such a thing as trying to hard to fix too much...especially when you don't have the right words, and the Lord is just really, REALLY trying to get through to someone. Sometimes, loving them the way you think they should be loved can get in the way. 
  • I'm 5. A failure you say? I don't think so....but it can, occasionally, get on people's nerves ;)
  • I'm stubborn. I know. You're shocked. And it's funny, because my personality actually isn't a stubborn one. But if I get it in my head that I believe something, and what I believe is right, it takes heaven and earth to sway me. Literally. We're talking God-administered heart and mind change. 
  • I over think things. Edit: that should read everything. I'm fearful, and insecure, and my mind never stops. I get myself worried about problems that don't even exist faster than you can hit me and say 'Bethany CALM DOWN.' My sisters can attest to this ;) 

There are so many more things that should be on this list, but I'd rather not scare you off too quickly ;) There are things that I can't decide whether or not they should be on this list, because I don't know if they qualify as failures or positives. I've been told that I trust people too easily, but I think I'd rather trust easily and learn caution than hide and never trust at all. I've been told I'm an open book, and that I'm easy to read and get to know, and I STILL can't decide whether that's a good thing or bad thing. But I guess I'll figure that one out :) 

I will say this. My failures, as I come face to face with them over and over again, continue to highlight the power of my sovereign and powerful God, and the power of His Gospel. If God can take the hundreds and hundreds of mistakes that I've made (and haven't even mentioned) and the flaws in my heart, and still change me slowly into something that somehow points to His glory....than He is great indeed. And it continues to blow my mind daily :D 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

day 9: hell on Earth.

I'm gonna go ahead and dive straight into this one, because it's probably going to end up being on the longer side. The word of the day is: .hell. And to just go ahead and be really, really clear, I don't have anything theological or ridiculously profound to say about this subject. I was raised in a Bible Church that taught us in elementary school Sunday School that going to hell meant we were going to burn alive for the rest of eternity, which was terrifying for me because growing up my biggest fear was that my house would spontaneously catch fire, and I would burn alive caught inside. When I got older and could actually grasp the concept, I was taught that what hell actually meant was "eternal separation from God", which I'll confess didn't mean much to me. I was saved young, and if you've heard my testimony you know that a huge struggle of mine early on was understanding the Gospel because I didn't understand what Jesus was saving me from. I was a "good" kid. So instead of trying to drudge up something meaningful to say about what hell is, I'm going to tell a story.

In January of 2012, my class of Impact 360-ers packed up and flew to Brazil for a month on a missions trip. If you've been on this blog for a little while and somehow missed my connection to Impact 360 & the people there, ask me about it. It's a different story for a different time, but one I would love to tell. But anyways. A week into the trip our team split in half, with half of us going to host camp at Porto Alegre, and the other half flying out to Florianopolis [a smaller town on the beach] to host VBS and do repair work for local churches. To make a longer story short, the trip was hard. It was emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually draining. HARD. 

Our third week there we drove out to the Cadi, a organization that took kids in from the surrounding pavelas (slums) and kept an eye on them, making sure they were fed, taken care of, and getting some sort of education. We got to host a VBS for these kids, as well as paint and restructure what would soon be one of their new classrooms. It was our last project in Florianopolis, and I can honestly say that starting the week I was ready to go home. 

The first night we worked in the Cadi we came back to our camp and had a team meeting. Going into the team meeting I was fine. And then suddenly, I wasn't. I don't know what happened or what snapped, but all of a sudden I felt unbelievably, ridiculously empty. At the time I tried to pass it off as exhaustion or sadness. I had had recent conversations, hard conversations with two very close friends of mine, neither of which had come to any sort of conclusion. However, as soon as I walked out of the main house I knew that wasn't it. I walked back down the hill with Payton, my roommate, and we sat down on some stairs outside of the rooms. She didn't ask me what was wrong, she just started to play guitar. Eventually a handful of our friends wandered over and we had an impromptu worship session, something that was somewhat of a habit for us. I stared off into space for what I thought was 5 or 10 minutes, and was later informed was more like an hour. Eventually it got late and since we had a full day of work tomorrow everyone headed off to bed. Kartwright walked over to me and tried to get me to talk for a few minutes, before finally taking a few steps back. He finally sighed, wished me goodnight, and walked off. As soon as he shut his door, I broke. 

I have cried before, but this was sobbing. I mean bent at the waist, doubled over, body shaking, hit the ground because you can't hold yourself up anymore sobbing. I was curled up in a ball at the foot of the stairs, gasping for air because I couldn't take breaths big enough to keep me oxygenated before I started crying again. The only 2 people up besides me were our leader and a girl he was talking to on the other side of the stairs....other than that, I was completely alone. 

Let me say this. I can't say for sure that I know what it feels like to have your soul ripped from the one who created it...forever. But that night, I'm pretty sure I got a piece. See, that entire trip I spent frustrated because I couldn't understand the Gospel. I couldn't understand why this one message made people cry and run forward and break in the middle of their lessons. I didn't understand the need, the unquenchable longing in your heart for something that only God could truly fulfill. I didn't understand what it was to be empty. But laying there that night on the stairs, too weak to pick myself up and walk to my room, I finally understood. I cried outside for half an hour, begging God to do something, anything to show me that He cared. I didn't care if that was a shooting star, a voice, a miracle, or just someone coming outside to hug me. I was begging for anything. Never in my LIFE have I felt so alone. I never doubted that God was there...I only doubted that He cared. I knew that He heard me...I couldn't understand why He wasn't reaching me out and putting the jagged edges of my heart back together. It was like I could see Him, feel Him, watching me across the darkness, completely unresponsive to my grief, pain and heartbreak. I have never felt so meaningless, worthless, hopeless, and unbelievably devoid of life. 

I don't know what Hell will look like, feel like, or entail. But if being separated from the Lord eternally feels anything like that night, I have never been more thankful for Christ OR the Gospel. The awareness of my need for a Savior, for hope and meaning and life has never been more apparent to me than in those 2 hours I spent listening to music and crying my eyes out. I went into Brazil begging that God would help me understand the Gospel, and He did. He just took me the painful, I promise after this you won't ever forget what I did for you, route. And just so this story doesn't end on what seems to be an absolutely awful note:

I finally got to bed and told myself that everything would look better in the morning, because that's what I've heard all my life. It didn't look better in the morning. I was an absolute wreck and I was barely holding it together. Pam walked up to me just to ask me how I was doing, and I broke down and told her the whole thing. She, at a complete loss for what to say, prayed for me, hugged me, and put me on the bus off to the Cadi for the day. That day was the last day of VBS, and I was responsible for sharing the salvation bracelets with the kids, which basically meant I would stand up and tell the Gospel story, before finally closing with inviting them to pray the salvation prayer along with me. Needless to say, The Lord and I weren't on the best terms after last night. I didn't understand WHAT He was doing and I didn't want to share the Gospel. I felt like I couldn't. How could I share something I didn't understand? But I did it because I had too, and after finally getting through the story and bowing my head I invited the kids to pray along with me and started the prayer. 

Of the 90+ kids in that room that day, almost every single one of them repeated after me.

I don't know how many of them fully understood, and how many of them genuinely received Christ. But it was the final point of realization for me. Hearing almost 100 clear, beautiful voices praying to Jesus Christ in Portuguese, asking for salvation shot straight through my heart, and I broke for the Gospel for the first time. 

Of all my experiences in Brazil, this is the clearest :) The phrase "I'm thankful I'm not going to Hell" doesn't seem sufficient. It blows my mind. My soul DESERVES to go my fallen, broken humanity, it's where I belong. But because I serve a God who loves to be glorified through His mercy, I will NEVER experience it. And for that, I am broken, undeserving, and indescribably thankful.