True Worship

This summer, the youth at my church decided that we wanted to do worship. So far, we’ve sung and played on two Sundays. We’ll have one more before I leave for college.

As we’ve been preparing and practicing, we’ve noticed a lot of repetition in modern worship music. So much so that we’ve felt the need to supplement additional melody or musical changes.

After all, repeating You make beautiful things with minor variation can only do so much. Now, I don’t mean to say that repetition can’t be beneficial in worship. In fact, among our group, I was one who didn’t always find that monotonous.

Regardless, this has brought up within me questions of true worship. Do I truly worship God when I sing to Him? I was recently at camp again, and I was surprised to feel…almost nothing. I had memorized the songs, and I sang them. I knew my voice sounded pretty. I knew that the combination of the voices I could hear sounded even more beautiful in my ears. But I felt…nothing.

Then I heard something. A shout. At first, I thought someone was injured, and I waited a moment for a counselor to escort a camper to the nurse. Instead, I heard another shout. A cry. A yell.

One of the senior high campers that week was struggling, though I don’t know whether it was a mental or physical handicap. Regardless, I listened to him shout out to the living God. No shame. Nothing holding him back.

I thought to myself, In God’s ears, those shouts are probably more beautiful than my singing.

To us mortals, the boy was disruptive. It’s hard to keep track of the beauty of our own voices and music when someone’s heartfelt cries are echoing.

I am in no position to judge hearts. But I do wonder, because I wonder it of myself…

How often are our arms raised out of a genuine inability to keep them down, because the living God must be praised? Or are we raising them because others are raising them? Because the bridge of this song sounds powerful? Out of habit?

For those who are comfortable in their own voices, do we sing well because we want to bring glory to our God? Or because we like the sound of our voices among the others?

For those who are uncomfortable, do we sing loudly with no one to impress? Or do we keep ourselves quiet?

True worship is not singing. It doesn’t require a guitar. Music is powerful, and true worship can be experienced through music. But I think true worship would be to mean everything you sing to your Father; and then living it out because of your love for Him.

That’s my new goal for myself: just like love isn’t about feelings, worship shouldn’t be about feelings. Even when I feel nothing, I need to remember what I’ve declared to my God and act on it.

Join me?

Published…Again.

I know, I can hardly believe it either. I published another book.

Wow.

Incredible.

Unbelievable.

What will I do next.

See, that’s the thing: I have no idea.

I’m off to college, guys. I have about eleven days until move-in and counting. I’m freaking out. My bedroom looks like a warzone of personal belongings. My heart is just about as cluttered. I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep up with the workload. I’m going to miss my parents. I’m wondering who’s going to give me hugs to remind me I’m loved, since I won’t have any family nearby and I tend to be (cough cough) intimidating.

…this post is supposed to be about my book, isn’t it.

Yeah. So.

It’s amazing.

It’s heart-wrenching.

It will punch you in the feels.

Repeatedly.

And you’ll cry.

Why should you put yourself through that? Because I gotta pay for college somehow (you know, the thing I’m freaking out about), and books aren’t a half-bad way of doing that.

Except for the fact that, um, I get less than three dollars per book, but that’s beside the point.

The point is, they’re good. (I’m not talking about those black-and-white ones, I’m talking about the yellow ones.) They’re funny and meaningful and insightful and worth your time. Because you’ll connect with the characters, just like my readers have.

Swoop is good. I cried. My editor teared up a little.

What was I saying?

Oh yeah, college.

I don’t know when I’ll write another book. I doubt I’ll have a few extra hours the month before finals to type up a New York Times Best Seller (ha, ha): not that I have any ideas for one right now.

So, what will you do in the mean time? If I’m not writing anymore? (Oh, I’ll be writing. Papers. Lots and lots…and lots of papers.)

You can go buy my books. The yellow ones. SoarSteadySwoop. In that order. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wonder at my obsession with titles starting with the letter ‘S’. It’ll be a great time.

…so that’s www.amazon.com/good-life-decision.

But wait! There’s more!

I’m the author of these books. So, if you don’t take my word for how good they are, I don’t blame you. I probably wouldn’t, in your shoes. But a dear reader has taken the time to give a review for each of those yellow books: so trust what that says.

In other news, it is midnight. I am half-asleep and think it in my best interest to head to bed before this can become anymore…fun.

cap

Just kidding! Now I’ve gone and thrown in a Captain America reference!

(Full Disclosure: I likely have not seen the film this GIF originates from and have no idea of the context. So be it.)

I’m Not a Superhero

“Captain Lexitronics!” the police chief’s voice warbled through the telephone. “We need you!”

I clutched the receiver. “Is it the giant monkeys again?”

“Worse,” the police chief choked out. “The flying pigs. We’re dropping like flies out here, and we’re all out of pearls, Captain. We need you to save us.”

In a flash, I donned my supersuit and threw a leg over my tricked-out, refurbished Garelli. The engine revved, and we sped through the tunnel into the outside world. I squinted at the sun, desperate to weave through the city blocks to the heart of town. The echos of oinkaw, oinkaw, rang in my ears.

There was little time.

My bike and I pulled over to a dramatic stop near a local vegetable cart. The owner had been cowering beneath his tomato crop, but his face brightened at the sight of my silvery suit.

“Captain Lexitronics is here!” he shouted. “We’re saved!”

A malicious flying pig snarled at the outburst, beginning to dive towards me. Desperate to salvage the produce stand, I dove across the street.

Oinkaw!” the flying pig shrieked at its miscalculation, and instead swatted my Garelli with a demolishing twitch of its curly pink tail.

Well, that’s just great. What’s another weekend in the shop with my boy, I grumbled to myself.

“Captain Lexitronics, please!” a voice clamoured from a distance down the lane. “Save us!”

I shook myself, rising from my crouch and staring down the sizable swine. It sniffed its slimy muzzle at me.

“Big mistake, you big pig,” I narrowed my eyes. “I hope you like bacon.”

The electricity shot through my fingers, zapping the flapping boar between the eyes. An eternity seemed to pass as all my energy drained, as the villain transformed into pork with a side of wings.

The victorious stench of bacon permeated the air, sending the other antagonists screeching to their mysterious nests with the fading cries of oinkaw.

“You saved us!” the people cried.

“How can we ever repay you?” the police chief asked.

I laughed weakly, leaning against a shop post for support. “Would a vacation be too much to ask?”

Captain Lexitronics did get her vacation. She took her Garelli motorcycle to her headquarters, and spent weeks reassembling it. In her down time, she experimented with her powers on her own terms, attempting to strike a balance between use and overuse. She also dabbled briefly into writing her own memoirs.

Midway through her manuscript, she received another call from the police chief. He assured her that she wasn’t being called back to work…exactly. They were honoring her retirement…mostly.

But would she mind so terribly, coming into town to educate some students on electricity, electronics, and the makings of being a hero?

Who was the Captain to turn down such a simple request? She was more than capable. Granted, she wasn’t really interested in the idea. But if she was capable of giving, why shouldn’t she?

So Captain Lexitronics left her headquarters, her shop, and her dear Garelli. There was no need to consider her personal comforts or preferences for such a short visit.

She taught class after class, explaining the wonders of electricity; the complexities of electronics; the importance of ethics; and for gifted students, the balance of power use. A few years flew by, and the classes remained the same. Meanwhile, her students grew. Citizens were well-informed, and new heroes were being born.

Within two decades of teaching, there had been a few attacks. Flying pigs, giant monkeys, grumpy hippopotamuses: all intercepted by her students. Captain Lexitronics could have burst with pride.

“Sir!” I called to the police chief.

“Hello, there!” the chief of police smiled. “What can I do for you, ma’am?”

I laughed. “It’s me, Captain Lexitronics.”

“I knew that, ma’am. You haven’t changed a bit,” he laughed, stroking his graying mustache. “Can I do something for you?”

“I was wondering how long I’m expected to be teaching here. It’s been twenty years. I’m ready to be back in the game. I miss my Garelli.”

The police chief knit his bushy gray brows together. “I’m afraid that’s quite impossible, ma’am.”

“Impossible? Impossible,” I scoffed.

“We’ve made a lot of advancements since you retired, ma’am. Our heroes now, well…they operate on a whole different playing field than you.”

“I trained those heroes,” I insisted.

“You certainly did a lot, yes ma’am,” he nodded. “But they learned other things from other teachers; things you just don’t know enough about. I’m sorry.”

“Then what am I supposed to do?” I asked. “I gave up a portion of my life for this school, to contribute what I’m capable of.”

The police chief nodded sagely. “We’re mighty appreciative of that, ma’am. It certainly was the right thing to do. Although, now, I’m sure we can manage without you. Go on home to your Garelli. Enjoy that vacation you were always hounding us for, back in the day.”

So Captain Lexitronics returned to headquarters to a dusty life. She painstakingly restored the wear on her motorcycle, taking it for short bouts inside. The Captain never thought to use her powers for anything. Instead, she spent her time on her twenty-year-old manuscript, trying to jumpstart off her ancient writing.

The tasks she was capable of proved repetitive, until Captain Lexitronics was nearly in tears, knowing that her skills had been left to rot while she felt obligated to help others to grow.

“I’m not even a superhero anymore.”

 

…some days, I feel like Captain Lexitronics. Like all the things I contribute to are just that: things I contribute to. Rarely can I identify ways that people or organizations are pouring into me. Partially, this results because I am a control freak. I can admit that. It’s hard to grow when you’re fixed in a certain area because you know if you do it, it’ll be done right. Still, my lack of growth isn’t entirely my fault. I am not a hermit. I am actively involved in many groups that could offer me varying, valuable skill sets.

Instead, it seems I’m offering my skill sets to others.

So often, I feel pressured to take on opportunities because I’m capable. But capability is one giant comfort zone. If I just hang around there to bring other people there with me, when will I ever get the chance to grow and expand?

Just because I’m capable doesn’t mean I should. Even in the opportunities for growth, I need to evaluate them. Is that something I desire to do?

Should everything be about me? No. I am an advocate to the benefits of serving. But when all you do is serve…when all you do is push yourself to reach insurmountable goals because you can…that just doesn’t seem right.

Don’t be like Captain Lexitronics. Find a healthy balance between pouring into others and being poured into. Otherwise, you’re gonna feel totally zapped: just like her.

My Own Mom-Friend

I thought I was ready for college. I’ve been packing away various items in a large green tub next to my bed. I’ve been planning purchases and ordering books and asking clarifying questions. I’m excited for the new experiences and challenges.

I just took a look at the Welcome Week schedule, and was hit with the sudden realization that I am not ready.

I have been undeniably sad for the past few weeks (months, even). I know I don’t like change and that the upcoming life changes were (and are) hard for me.

I’m not ready. I don’t want to leave my parents. I love my parents. I need my mom and my dad. I need hugs from people I can trust. I need talks with my daddy and reality checks from my momma.

I don’t want to leave my church. Sure, I don’t feel as if I’ve been growing there, but my church is where my mentor is. Some of my closest friends. Some friends I’m just beginning to get to know. Some wonderful adults that still have knowledge they could pass on to me.

I don’t want to leave my Robotics team. Yes, I’m tired of going to meetings and having responsibility there. But I have friendships there that are coming to a close, along with this time in my life. I don’t want them to.

I don’t want to leave my cousin. For goodness sake, any time I give that thought enough genuine time in my brain, I burst into tears.

I’ve already left my school and lost the majority of the shallow friendships I had there.

What kind of psychotic idea did I have to go to a college almost four hours from home? For crying out loud, I had never even put gas in my car on my own until a week ago. I think I’m ready to go off and be an adult, all by myself? Manage my money and my time?

It’s not even that Welcome Week sounds all that bad. It’s designed to acquaint new students with the campus, each other, and to build community. I just keep seeing drop-off day playing in my head. My dad helping to get everything set up in my room. My mom, triple-checking that I have everything I need. Getting in my last hugs, and watching them leave, just like they do every time they dropped me off at summer camp.

But this isn’t summer camp. This is my new life. A tiny room with no air movement. Classes I might not be able to handle. Decisions every day, all on my own. Routines and habits and being my own mom-friend.

Go to bed now, Lexi.

Don’t forget to set your alarm, Lexi.

Twenty more minutes of studying and you can take a walk, Lexi.

Don’t forget to eat, Lexi.

I know you hate communal bathrooms with a passion but you need to shower, Lexi.

And it’s scary.

Seasons

I’m really terrible with this whole “seasons of life” thing. My brain has trouble comprehending that better things are ahead. Instead, I see everything I’m leaving behind. Everything that I feel I’m losing.

I have evidence from my life that new seasons are good. When I look back on past friendships, I miss aspects of them. But I’ve come to value newer friendships even more.

However, it is now time to shed those “newer friendships”. I’ve moving into a new season. Part of me is thrilled and ready.

Another part of me is devastated. So many of my friends are moving to new places, whether with their families or through college. So many of my friends have already gone to college, have already left me.

know great things are ahead. I know it. But I don’t feel it in my heart.

It’s just like Quinn and Erin are experiencing in my newest book, Swoop.

Quinn’s tears broke into laugher. “No, Erin. I’m not questioning the move. No matter how much I don’t want to, I know it’s right.”

“But we’re going to lose so much,” Erin murmured. “All of our friends. Our house. Our family. Our church.”

Quinn’s lips quivered into a smile. “But we don’t know what we’re going to gain.”

“What?” Erin coughed.

“Think about it, Erin,” Quinn’s smile grew into a grin. “We aren’t totally losing our friends and family. We’ll see them again. But what’s going to happen to us when we get to Maryland? We’re going to be blessed in ways we can’t even imagine.”

“So it isn’t going to be hard?” Erin asked, doubt creeping into her voice.

“No, there will be hardships, of course,” Quinn choked. “But there will be favor, too. Blessings. That’s exciting, isn’t it?”

The Food Network Effect

may have a minor addiction to the Food Network. It isn’t bad. Just “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”. Oh, and that other show he does, “Guy’s Grocery Games”. But that’s totally it.

Except for “Cake Wars”. And the holiday competitions shows. And anything labeled “Kids _______ Championship”.

And “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen”.

“Beat Bobby Flay” might be on the list, too.

So few of my friends seem to share my affinity for the Food Network. Just the other day, I recounted the results of the latest “Food Network Star” episode to a friend, and he didn’t seem to get it. Others enjoy Food Network, but they don’t really like to cook. It’s sad to watch that channel all alone. It’s hard to have your mind blown by a mind-boggling four foot tall cake and have no one to share with.

Every once and a while, I am blessed with a friend who also watches the Food Network. Perhaps not in the same dosage as myself, but still, they watch it. When this rare miracle occurs, I sometimes am given the utmost pleasure in watching a show with my friend.

Sure, they’re actually two hours away and we aren’t technically “hanging out”, but sometimes, guessing who’s getting chopped or conversing about carrying a giant stuffed monkey is as close as you’re gonna get.

I accept this. Unfortunately, this “Let’s watch the Food Network together” doesn’t happen nearly as often as I hope. In my strategic mindset, I love to pick apart competitors successes and mistakes. I even enjoy analyzing the cuts the producers have chosen to feature.

However, I mainly keep these things bottled up inside of me, since no one seems to understand.

Seriously, though. It’s a “Beauty and the Beast” cake with an accurate, doll-sized Belle and it looks amazing, how are people not fascinated by this?

The Suitcase

“How long are you staying?” they laugh, openly gawking at my suitcase. “Aren’t you only leaving your house for one day?”

Every trip I take, I am faced with this nosy inquiry. What do people expect me to reply with? Is this simply a joke at my expense, or do they expect legitimate, intelligible responses to these questions? If it is the latter…these are the things I want to say.

“Wait–you mean you aren’t adopting me?”

“Shhh, I’m running away to join the circus.”

“This is where I keep my spare siblings / inflatable boyfriend.”

“Actually, I brought you a goat.”

“Suitcase? I don’t see a suitcase. Now, do you have a shovel? I’ll meet you in the backyard.”

“Watch this. It’s like a Russian nesting doll. I fit all of my belongings into a bag the size of a toaster oven. Guess how many layers there are. Just guess!”

“I never know how sanitary my potential sleeping quarters will be, so I just curl right up in here. No offense. I mean…you have a lovely home.”

“We aren’t going to that all-you-can-eat buffet? Drat.”

Somehow, these snappy retorts never slip off my tongue. Instead, I’m left floundering, trying to defend my luggage choices. The questions and the tone always seem to assume the worst of me. So, here and now, with my wits about me, I’d like to explain myself.

1. I am not lazy.

No, I didn’t choose this enormous bag because I was too lazy to transfer my toiletries out the last time I went on a two week trip. Actually, I like keeping and using this big bag for travel because I have become familiar with it. That doesn’t make me lazy, that makes me resourceful. If you’ve ever had to try to navigate your belongings in a dark hotel room, you should understand. Would you rather try to rely on your groggy brain, or the thorough memories of your standard baggage?

2. I am not stupid.

Yes, I understand that I will be back inside my house in twenty-four hours. Yes, I know that even in the worst case scenarios, I don’t need to bring my entire closet along for this trip. Yes, I have comprehended the volume of the suitcase. I may not display constant, flawless decision-making, but I don’t regularly act like a village idiot. If I do make a dumb mistake, it’s spur of the moment. Packing isn’t spur of the moment. I know what I’m doing.

3. I am not frivolous.

I’m not a girly girl. I didn’t decide to drag along this TARDIS of a luggage collection to house fifteen pairs of shoes. I didn’t pack ten shirts and four pairs of slacks so I could “make up my mind in the morning”. I didn’t fold up my entire bathroom to ensure a glamorous face. No, sometimes I don’t even bring full-sized toiletries. I pack just as much as I need, with allowance for one disaster. If it isn’t snowing, I’ll wear the same raggy pair of flipflops for every occasion.

At the end of the day, my giant gray plastic suitcase isn’t any of your business. Sure, you’re free to comment however much you’d like to. However, maybe the next time you go to whip out your incredibly insightful observations about my luggage, consider why you’re bothering to in the first place. Are you trying to make me feel stupid? Then it probably isn’t worth your time. Are you genuinely curious? Communicate that with your tone, and I’ll be happy to laugh with you. Do you want a legitimate answer to this question that is clearly burning within your heart and soul? Well, since you asked…

“Tell Franzisco zat I have ze goods. I vill be vaiting in ze limozene for ze payment. He muzt come alone: I vill not be crozzed again.”

The Reign

“Leave him,” Pog said. “We have little food as it is, and he is too weak.”

The heavy rain poured down around them, occasionally dripping inside of their hut to remind them that they were still a party to the outside world. Pog ignored the summoning of his conscience, which pricked at him with every gentle plop against his freckled skin.

The boy would die without his help; without a roof, dry clothes, and some sustenance. The rain continued to patter, rebuking him.

Pog ignored it all, turning from the open doorway.

Every member of their small band did the same, except for Eleanor.

“Bring her inside, quickly!” Pog had shouted. “She’ll die out in the cold!”

He and Olsen had dashed into the rainstorm, their feet splashing in the mud with every step. They had braced her between them, dragging her into the safety of their hut.

Siehara had spread a blanket over the newcomer, and Tabitha had handed her a crust of bread.

“You’re safe now,” Pog had said, crouching beside her. “What’s your name?”

Eleanor stared into the rainstorm, her heart shattering for the boy who was being left for dead. Slowly rising from her corner, she stepped outside of the hut. She approached the small boy lying in the mud and scooped him into her thin arms.

Eleanor walked back into the hut. She settled them into her corner, spreading her blanket over him and offering him her ration of bread.

“What’s your name?” she whispered.

The boy’s teeth chattered. “Jerick.”

“You’re safe now,” Eleanor smiled, squeezing his hand. “You’re safe, Jerick.”

The rest of the children tore their eyes from their laps and stole glances at Pog, who was slowly approaching the two.

“Welcome,” Pog said, looking over the muddy boy coldly.

Jerick shivered.

“He would have died out there,” Eleanor whispered. “You did the same for me.”

Pog’s eyes softened. “I know.”

Goodbye to an Era

Today, I said goodbye to my school. I’ve been there my whole life, and as of now, I am no longer a student there.

I said goodbye to some friendships. I know that even if I try to hold on and keep going, they will slip out of my grasp.

I said goodbye to wonderful teachers. I’m going to miss them and their classes dreadfully.

I said goodbye to an era. It was hard.

It’s harder to know that my school friends are all boys, and they don’t understand the emotions I’m moving through right now. They don’t understand their role in those emotions.

Today, I met so many people that I’ve only ever known as names on screens. I put faces to classmates. Some I hadn’t interacted with in years. Some I call my friends. However, none of my friends were particularly good to me. They have all let me down, one way or another. As a whole, they’ve each left me with the burden of maintaining our friendship.

Perhaps that was why the most striking moment of my day came from someone I never called friend. Someone I never saw eye to eye with.

I was walking back through the halls after the ceremony. I’d collected my diploma and was passing the line of students still awaiting theirs.

He stretched his hand out to me for a shake. “Congratulations, Lexi,” he said.

I’m sure my face reflected the surprise I felt, but I shook his hand. “Thanks, Matt, you too.”

How is it that those I called friend could feel like anything but friends on this day: our high school graduation? And yet, some people I never took the time to know blew me away.

I can’t help but be sad to wave goodbye to a precious time in my life. My sadness doubles when I realize I have no one to talk to about it. It triples when I remember those I should be able to talk to don’t actually care. I’m finally pushed to tears when I acknowledge those I call friend aren’t really friends after all.

It was a good day. Dear friends and family made the long drive to come watch me wobble across a stage in heels. The ceremony was shorter than I expected, and it was sweet. The speeches were humble and honorable. The video I contributed to was well received. I sat beside two wonderful people. However, the greatest part of my day was being called onto the stage with seven other students to receive specialized department awards; being wrapped up in a hug with my favorite teacher. Finally feeling…justified, in front of my peers.

I am ready for the new era. I’m ready for deep and meaningful friendships. I’m ready for college and trying to be a grown-up.

Deep inside, I will always miss my childhood and my school. But I think that it’s a good sign that I feel ready to fly away.

Christian? Check!

Some people have checklists that they use to evaluate their objects of affection. However, these checklists rarely exist to weed out prospective relationships; instead, they help us to justify our feelings.

A range of traits can appear on these lists, from “sense of humor” to “super cute” to “plays an instrument”. Whatever we feel our ideal mate would be, we put it into our list.

If you’re a believer, one term that makes it on the list at some point is “Christian”. We wouldn’t want to be unequally yoked! But how much weight does this item truly carry?

“He’s a Christian.”
“I think she believes in God.”
“He goes to church sometimes.”

All we need is for our sweeties-to-be to give some indication that they could classify as “Christian”. Then, we can check it off of our list and delve into relationship bliss.

However, I would argue that “Christian” shouldn’t appear on a Christian’s shopping list for a holy hottie to spend their life with.

Am I advocating for Christians and non-Christians to engage in dating relationships? No. I’m advocating for purpose and thought behind our expectations. I’m advocating for standards instead of justification.

Instead of finding a cute guy or girl who seems to have what we’re looking for, and clarifying later that they’ve been to church…

Expect the fruits of someone who puts God first in their life.

It comes down to priorities. Do you want someone to push you towards Christ? Someone who won’t only listen to you, but will appeal to a higher power with you? In your hopes of finding your life mate, do you hope that they will love the Lord their God and honor Him in all they do? Or do you hope that they go to church?

I not only hope that they are rooted in the church, but that they are rooted in Christ. That is what we need, even if we don’t understand why we should want it. It’s so much easier to just say, “Yes, they’re a Christian,” especially when we feel lonely. Despite that, I hope you’ll join me in making this conscious decision, even if it feels difficult. I promise you, you’ll appreciate it later.