Held Back By Money… or Not?

jane-palash-Nql2-Awyab0-unsplash

I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time. For two years now, I’ve pondered the words my older brother said to me when I was considering grad school, but concerned about the cost, he said, “Don’t ever let money be the reason to do, or not do something.”

It was a statement of freedom. Of empowerment. That money doesn’t have to dictate my choices. He followed the comment with, “There is so much money in the world, and if God really wants you to do something, He’ll provide the money to make it happen.”

I did end up going to grad school, and just five months out of student life, back at work, it seems I’ve settled back into a mindset of “well I don’t have money, so I can’t” and “I’m living a poor person life right now, sorry” and “I wish I could take trips like them.”

Money is important, and we need to live within our means. The repercussion of spending what we do not have could wind us up in a position of vulnerability, debt, and destitution.

That said, living like a “poor person” is a mentality and lifestyle that goes beyond mere frugality. It’s the opposite of empowering and is a self-inflicted state of being that gets rid of choices, and puts you at the disposal of others.

I feel the crunch of getting out of debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and wanting to save up in order to move on to a new market where I can make a decent wage for my degrees and experience. But, I’m not going to get there by living as a victim to my circumstances and with the mentality that I’m poor.

I’ve yet to see a paycheck for my work, yet I’ve published a book that a whole slew of people have bought. I’ve gotten engaged, and used mileage built up via credit, to make the flights possible on my most recent trip to see my fiancé in his country. I can buy groceries every week, put gas in my car, and pay all the car bills that make it possible for me to get to work each week.

I’m not poor.

Nothing about what I do in my daily life depends on other’s charity.

And after paying another round of payments off with my last piddly squat paycheck, I know that as long as I continue to dream big, and however slow or fast make moves of living my best life, money has no authority over what I can and cannot do with my life.

God knows the plans He has for me. And I will continue to prosper under His hand, knowing full well He has all authority to give me more or take it all away, like Job, the wealthiest man of his day from the Bible, who at God’s allowance, lost EVERYTHING including his children. Imagine losing your home, money, job, and children, and health all in the same week. Job lived through it and came out more blessed on the other side as he trusted God during the process.

God’s perspective is higher than mine, and He sees what I need and how he’ll provide, before I do. So far, He’s been gracious to give me a job to at least be making something during this transition period after grad school, but I know this is not the end. It can’t be. I need more and I ask him every day to show me the jobs I should be applying for that pay in a way that I can be a blessing to people, instead of a burden.

On the flipside, when a high paying job presents itself to me, I don’t want money to be the sole purpose of taking it. As my brother said, “Don’t ever let money be the reason to do, or not do something.” I want to be passionate about my work, not just take a higher paying one for the paychecks.

Money shouldn’t be the reason (a reason, yes, but not the ultimate reason) for making any life changing decisions. DO YOUR LIFE. Think about what you want, then go for it!

Live the life you want, now.

Be happy, now.

Be debt free, now.

Give generously, now.

Set goals, and then achieve them, now.

Money isn’t the mindset and lifestyle that will allow you or I to live your best life. It is a part of it, but money never needs to hold us back.

“Practically Perfect in Every Way” -Mary Poppins

BrookCagle

PC: Brook Cagle

NOT.

I’ve done some pretty ridiculous things over the years that some might call dumb. Or silly. Or crazy.

One time, when I was leaving Sevilla, Spain to travel on to Tel Aviv, Israel I HAD to get to the Spanish post office to ship a suitcase home to the USA the night before I left Europe. So with about 2 minutes till the post office closed, I ran through the city, brandishing a sword in front of me that I bought in Toledo, Spain, which I also had to ship and had no box for, dragging a 60lb suitcase behind me that didn’t even have wheels. Spaniards thought I was a crazy American, ducking and tripping out of my way as I yelled “!Perdoname!” through crowds with the sword in front, suitcase bumping along in tow praying there was a line at the post office and it would be open late.

Another time, when I lived in Southern California, I pulled off the freeway to the exit on my way home. Waiting for traffic to slow down, so I could merge and join them, I inched forward with my car. As I looked left to make sure it was safe to merge, a man who was homeless, dehydrated, and in need of hospital care stumbled across the intersection and collapsed on my car. A homeless man on my car in the middle of an intersection! I didn’t know what to do.

Another day more recently, I ran bra-less through town trying to find a present for a bridal shower that started in two hours. I didn’t have a bra because it had been about 5 weeks that I had done laundry. So I had to buy a new bra, and a present, and pretend like I didn’t have a hangover as I showed up a flustered mess wearing the previous nights makeup to this shower. Oh yeah, and I arrived an hour late to the party because I got lost on my way. Even though I had GPS and it was in my hometown.

I’ve crossed lines with people and relationships, started things that I can’t finish, and wondered what the heck am I doing with my life most of the time.

And while this has been going on, I’ve smiled and laughed, and even had fun, not realizing the problem till after the fact, only then asking God for help to deal with my heart as I’ve felt guilty to the world around me in my mistakes.

During one such prayer, it occurred to me that at least part of what I’ve been dealing with is why Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites” in Mathew 23:27. They were more concerned about their image than their own hearts and souls. And like them, I prayed that God would protect my image and reputation… that was my biggest worry in the moment.

So then I realized not only do I choose sin, let people walk all over me, but also the cherry on top, I’ve been a hypocrite too worried more about my image than anything else! Wow. Praise the Lord I have any friends at all after some of my ups and downs.

But the beauty is, I DO have friends. Some really great ones that sprinkle truth, encouragement, and understanding for the decisions I make. And through it all I’ve been learning about myself– that I’m not as strong as I think I am. That sometimes I’m a hot mess. And that I’ve been putting myself in a box with what I think I want in life.

Beyond that though, I’ve been learning about God– that He is faithful, doing WORK in me to answer some pretty major heart prayers. That He has me right where He wants me at this point in life. Mostly I’ve been learning alllll about His grace and mercy.

You see what is grace and mercy without sin? Grace and mercy mean everything because of sin, not in spite of it.

In years past when I’ve messed up, I’ve wallowed in it, living in guilt like a rat in a sewer afraid to come out to the light of day.

But not this time. I realize now that I live in a sinful world and it is inevitable that I will find myself messing up. And it isn’t tragic to the point of wallowing away like sewer rats. It’s human. I am human as you are, and that is why we need a Deity to come down to the crap that humanity has made the world, to rescue us, and to pull us out. We need a God. And the God who calls me His daughter was and is willing to do just that! With all of His grace and all of His mercy…

How AMAZING that my Best Friend since I was 5 years old when I asked Jesus to come save me, is even better than the friends I call up, text, or grab a drink with to talk about the latest life lessons! With Jesus, I don’t have to explain myself. I get to bring my depressing, crappy issues to His feet- that He immediately, no questions asked, begins to Build, Restore, Teach, Edify, Encourage, and the Laugh with me about.

I’m honored and humbled that He loves me that much. That He shows me my blind spots in real life situations. That this weekend, or last, or the one before that are not where my life ends, but are building blocks to the next season. And His heart is all about restoring me back to Himself for His own glory. I have the faith of a mustard seed to move on- chasing rainbows, dreams, and promises that He’ll fulfill saturated with grace and mercy flowing down.

“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

I don’t have all the answers, but that is the whole point in not being perfect. I’m not supposed to have all the answers. God tests us, He lets us choose paths, He lets us make decisions, He opens doors at the right times, and He redeems the messes we make, if we let Him.

Sometimes I spill coffee on myself in the car. Or bite my nails when I’m nervous. Or buy new bras because all of my current ones are dirty. And even as a 25 year old grown woman, I broke a vase of my mom’s and tried to hide it. But I realize when I let go of trying to be perfect, He can finally work and reveal to me the truth of who I really am– a forgiven daughter of the King. The bottom line is: I’m not perfect and I’m done trying to live some image of myself who tries to be. So in choosing not to be perfect by my standards, I am FINALLY allowing Him to move in me with all of His.

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me” (Philippians 3:12).

Growing Pains

GrowingPains.png

Sitting at a family dinner this past Holiday season I was struck by a conversation centered on growing pains. At the table was a 6 month old baby girl, and her mother mentioned to the group that her first teeth growing in and how she was teething and in pain. Then the conversation turned to a 60 year old having pain in her feet as she did simple things like cleaning and laundry. Then my cousin mentioned when he was 10 or 11 how much pain he was in for a couple of years, simply growing! Growth spurts do that to tall people.

I’m only 5’1″ and except for 1 or 2 achy nights in 5th grade, I didn’t have many growing pains as a young girl. At least not physically.

Emotionally and spiritually is another story.

This past New Year’s I got pretty, pretty happy. So happy that I don’t remember falling to my knees a couple of times throughout the night. Club and street- if I were sober I would have gawked at the drunken girl with a pink flower in her hair, unable to stand in her high heels or walk straight.

My soreness the next morning prompted my question to my friend, “Alison, did I fall last night??”

“Yeah. You did. A bunch of times,” was her simple reply.

Pain. Pain in my body, but mostly pain in my heart for being that reckless and careless to my limits with drinking and numbing out the other pain that got me to that point. Anesthetizing my heart with too many glasses of wine and mixed drinks, all the while dancing to loud music, and picking up random guys, points to more than just a cray cray New Years.

“What’s wrong with me?!” I’ve asked myself a few times this week as more bruises showed up on my knees, legs, and a distinct hand print from a man that left purple marks on my forearm as whoever he was picked me up.

Growing up isn’t easy. It’s painful. From little baby teeth, to achy joints just from growing, to aging bodies that we hear about from our elders.

But the pain that’s not so easy to see… that we hide away with a smile, or stare blankly at the wall depressed, that keeps us up at night in worry, that makes our hearts ache, that makes us cry silently in the shower so no one else will hear… it’s those pains that I’ve almost gotten used to throughout my middle school to post college years.

It’s those pains that I want the most freedom from.

It’s those pains that I want to escape.

And I KNOW, without a doubt… I’ve learned the lesson enough times… I can’t just numb those pains with a bottle, fake laugh, and kiss from a stranger in the night. It doesn’t work.

No, no. These pains need something, Someone much stronger and more powerful than too many drinks and stranger’s lips.

The reality is after a night like New Years, I realize how desperate I really am for an answer to my aches and pains. Heartache and growing pain. It’s not easy, but there is a way to heal…

I think like losing weight, or training for a triathlon, or working up in a career, all of which are slow, daily processes… the growing pains of the heart and spirit can be healed, but it looks like a slow process of turning to God, giving up the crap instead of just “dealing with it”, and being okay with good days and bad days. It’s a battle and a marathon, not a walk in the park.

Healing, freedom, and escape come through the Man who gave His life on a jagged cross, and then rose 3 days later for me and for you.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

That’s Jesus talking. That He came to give life ABUNDANTLY. I know the destruction substances can cause. I’ve experienced that from the thief. But I feel like it has been a while that I’ve experienced an abundant life through Him… almost like I don’t deserve it.

I have about six New Year Resolutions for 2017 (in 2016 I didn’t make any), but my main resolution is to let Jesus have more of my heart. To trust Him like I used to when I was a little girl. To let Him take the growing pains and make them something beautiful. To discover with Him this abundant life that He came to bring. That I’m worth it to Him.

And though like training for a triathlon or getting ahead in a career, the process of letting Jesus take control of my growing pains might seem slow some days… we will make it together. And that will be a beautiful thing.

To 2017.

To an abundant life in Him.

Time

Time

There is always something on my mind to write about, but lately, after a campfire and a death, I’ve been thinking mostly of time.

The passing of time. The ebb and flow as time brings us new experiences and change. How time makes everything seem the same.

I sat out by my campfire last weekend. My mom is moving to a new town, selling her home, and as I live with her I am moving too. Not with her, I’m getting my own place once more, but it is new change in my life as we move from summer to fall shortly.

As I sat by the campfire crackling on the warm summer night, I listened to the cicadas in the trees all around me, and night owls hooting here and there. I looked up to the sky that was black and full of glimmering stars. And I relished the heat of the rocks on my bare feet that surrounded the fire, keeping my toes warm as a breeze passed by.

I’ve been doing this since I can remember my first summer campout. The stars, black sky, cicadas, crickets and grasshoppers, lightning bugs… I’m older now, sure but there is timelessness to campfires that make me feel small, young like a child, and old like I’m 60 with the weight of the world on my shoulders all at the same time.

Time passes from person to person. Generation to generation. And in that time we only have so many days and hours to laugh, dream, plan, go on vacation, work, study, read, and make friendships and relationships with the people around us.

Time is short when you’re old. Time is long when you’re young. Time is lonely when you’re sad. Time is so full that your chest bubbles and tears come out of your eyes in laughter when you’re with those you love most…

The campfire was a weekend ago but the death was a day ago.

The death of a beloved friend and coworker at my office at WPSU Sports. He was an encourager, leader, and hard worker. He laughed easily and worked swiftly. He was patient with me “the new girl” for a year, until the department started bringing in more people. He was a rock. I went to him for many things throughout the day. Advice on work, a break if I needed it, and help for any little issue that I wasn’t sure how to handle.

It’s hard to believe I will be walking into that office tomorrow, the next day, the day after, and even going to these fall Penn State Football games without him.

He reached out to me and made me feel included when I first joined the team last fall. He made my ideas seem relevant. We laughed at some of my questions. And even when he was stressed, he would hop over to my station and computer to help if I ever needed it.

Time is funny because though we’ve only worked together for a year he became a solid work friend in that time.

And he doesn’t even know it.

I never really told him how much he meant. Yes, a sincere word here and there, but nothing weird because I didn’t know how real to get with my co-workers and friends. Even after months I still felt like the new girl, which I haven’t been for quite some time.

This past Friday when I left the office he wasn’t around. (He had already left for a weekend wedding, which he told me about last spring! I remember that convo too… We were on a break in the lunchroom in April, talking about the weddings we were in this summer and friends getting married at our age. He told me he hoped the wedding that he was the best man wouldn’t be over a football weekend.)

Anyways, this Friday I was leaving for a triathlon, which he asked me all kinds of questions about the day before as he left for a wedding. I was going to text him, “Hey have fun at your friends wedding this weekend and good luck on your best man’s speech.” I honestly was excited to hear how it went come Monday. But I didn’t text him. Because I thought, “naw, I’ll see him Monday, I don’t want to bother him today.”

Time is short. Time changes things quickly. Because who knew that that Friday, one minute he would be breathing and the next gone.

And when did sending a positive note, thought, or word to someone ever become bothersome??

People need that. We need each other…

Moving from summer video shoots to plans for Football and Basketball season, I pictured him there… Helping me with the interns, offering advice when unknowns come up, and even after-work drinks as a team, which we never did.

And like sitting by a campfire at 25 years old instead of being 6 years old, though everything is different in life and work, everything is the same.

The shows and video shoots will go on. The first PSU Football game on September 3 will start without him. He won’t be there to edit, direct, or step in with our already short-staffed office, yet all those things remain the same.

Working in video seems glamorous, but for as much as I take behind the scenes photos of the lights, cameras, audio equipment, and fun sets, I sometimes forget the people around me. That time moves quickly and those people who run the sets are more important than the show we produce.

Time is final. Fatal. But also doesn’t end. Time moves on. And as it does, I hope to remember John… He’s one of the main reasons why I liked going to work so much. I love the content, sure, but I love the team I get to work with. Each person special. Each person with gifts, talents, and capabilities. But especially John who at such a young age did so much for the people around him and the office we worked at.

With the ebb and flow of time, the next days and weeks won’t be easy because John’s story, his life, will be missed. Is already missed. A death too soon. A life too short. And a friend of mine swept away in the current of time.

But he still matters. His soul is in God’s hands, mercy, and grace. And though “time will tell” it doesn’t have the last say.

God does.

Shades of Green.

Danist SohPhoto Cred: Danist Soh

I live in a part of the USA overrun with a diversity in weather for lack of other diverse things that could mark this town and region.

Fall is colorful or grey; there is really no in between with bright skies and orange-red leaves one day that turn to a stark grey barrenness as soon as the wind shakes those leaves from the branches. Winter brings ice, snow, sleet, and a bitter cold that reaches its fingers all the way to my bones making it miserable to be outside, or like that one winter, it was in the 50’s for most of January; one just never knows. Spring is wet- colorful like fall with tulips, red clover, and other flowering plants- but it is a long time coming as often it can snow in April and rain through May; sun where are you?

But it is July now, so I want to focus on summer. Summer in my area is marked with rain and overcast skies most days. Sometimes the rain comes out of nowhere in a black-grey, thundering mass rolling through the sky, that pelts the earth with big, hard raindrops. The rain cools down the mugginess and humidity that makes the air heavy. Rain also takes care of the bugs, giving a brief respite to the buzzing around my ears; mosquitoes that just love my skin; bees that have a knack for picking me out to explore and chase around in circles, leaving my friends in peace; or, my favorite was yesterday, I was writing at a park and a daddy long-leg spider literally climbed 1/2 way up my calf before I felt him on me and I karate chopped him off my leg. Gross!

It is these humid, rainy, buggy days that put me in a state where the “grass is greener on the other side.” Moving to the northeast of the US from sunny, southern California, the grass is not literally greener as there is an intense water deficit in CA. But I yearn for the long, dry, sunshiney days that CA is known for. Picnics are never cancelled on account of the weather and the term “rain date” is a foreign concept. I long for heat where I don’t feel sticky, beaches, and palm trees reaching for the cloudless, blue sky above. And most of all, I miss orange and fuchsia sunsets showing off above the ocean.

classbbrainforest.comPhoto Cred: Pinterest- ClassBB.wordpress.com

The rain where I live keeps me inside and I worry about summer getting away from me. When I do go outside, there are the perils of before mentioned bugs and insects and the black garden snake with white stripes lining his back that I saw in my mother’s garden.

Then, in a brilliant moment, the rain disappears and I see a rainbow shimmering in a hazy arch- such a mysterious array of color that MUST have a leprechaun with a pot of gold at the end of it. The clouds part and a mist rises from the trees into the sunlight, radiating an ethereal beauty. The downpour subsides leaving a dripping from the wet leaves in it’s wake, sounding like faint music. And when I inhale, the earth smells mossy, sweet, clean, and refreshed.

Rick McEwanPhoto Cred: Rick McEwan

I realized after the last storm that the sun always shines again and when it does my favorite color green shimmers in various shades of hunter, jade, and sweet lime. Green is everywhere in this piece of the USA that I live during summer. And it’s beautiful, life-giving, fresh, and rich.

It takes the rain to bring out the full force of green in the gardens and woods around me.

Bringing this to a personal level, I can’t have that rich, beautiful, colorful life I imagine for myself with out the rain and storms of life to grow me. Like the earth and gorgeous summer green that marks the east coast, the hardships of growing up are necessary for me to reach my potential.

Whether it’s the job application and resume dance that seems to lead me further down an endless, dark tunnel and I just want to give up; the dysfunctional family drama that seems to pop up just as I am ready to forgive again and take down the walls I’ve built to protect myself; or the financial stress of not having a steady paycheck to pay for medical bills or the last visit to the mechanic for my car…

I have the hope from watching the world around me that these clouds of life will clear! The rain will stop. And in the storm’s place will be a rainbow, sunlight, mist, a unique beauty, a new song, and most of all a full, rich, thriving life in the shades of green that are unique to me. So let’s be real. I love the rain. The world needs it.