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Monday, May 12, 2014

Dear Benjamin....

Dear Benjamin,

This weekend was incredible! I went home from college to see your big sister graduate with her masters degree. She looked so gorgeous! You would be so proud of how far she's come in the past year! Sometimes I look at her and think of how lucky I am to have someone that loves me so much, no matter what happens. She drives me crazy sometimes, but then I realize that if I didn't have her here, it would drive me even crazier. She's going to be just like your mom and go into accounting. I don't understand why someone would want to be around numbers all day, but she seems to like it! God bless both of them for that! I think I might just have them deal with all my money because me and numbers don't mix!

Dad isn't an engineer anymore, but instead he's a wonderful race director! He is so busy all the time traveling more weekends than not. We moved to Arkansas when you turned two. Dad took one look at DeGray Lake and he knew that engineering wasn't for him anymore. I always tell him that I wish we had a normal life, but that wouldn't be near as interesting! I wouldn't trade what we do for the world!

A lot of people wonder if I'm going to be the next accountant like mom or the next race director like dad, but I really like helping people. I fell in love with ministry when I was in 7th grade and recently, with the experiences the I've had, it's just made sense to be a preacher. I love to talk and it makes so much sense to me to use my voice to help people see God in every part of their life. I worked in the church back home when I was in high school and now I'm helping at the church where I go to college. I just love youth ministry so much and I hope to teach teenage girls the lessons that I learned along the way the past few years. Plus, it will be my mission to distribute deodorant to all the middle school boys! It looks like I have five more years of school since I'm going to seminary after I graduate from Ozarks. I can't wait for that experience!

Your mother is an incredible person with an even more incredible heart. She loves you so much and lives everyday to the fullest, no holding back. I don't know how she does it, waking up at 5 in the morning and not going to bed until 11 at night. She works for your father and does all of his accounting as well registration stuff for all of the events. She works in the church and some insurance companies doing their accounting too. It's absolutely insane how much work she does and she still manages to volunteer places and put her whole heart into everything. 

I always imagined you as my brave big brother that would hold my hand to help me get through life and enjoy the times when things get so crazy that all we can do is laugh! You would pick on me and push me down and then lift me right back up. We would get in fights that don't mean anything and end up laughing about how stupid we were. We would go out to parties and you would pretend to be my boyfriend when a weird guy started hitting on me. You would kick any guy's butt that broke Abby's and I heart and make sure they regret anything they did. Abby, you and me would be best friends through everything no matter what. Abby and I would really love you because you would do all the hard labor for dad! If you can't tell, we really don't like cleaning out the coolers! 

One day, I'll meet you and we'll dance with each other at the feet of Jesus. Even though you never got to experience the world as my big brother, I know that you're out there somewhere looking out for me and Abby. I think about you all the time because I know the sacrifice that you made to bring me into the world. I know that I wouldn't be here if you were born into this world and that sacrifice is what makes me live every day to the fullest. Because of you I'm here on Earth living life and going into ministry. God might have taken your hugs, hands, and laughter away from us, but He didn't take away your spirit. You live inside of me and I will live every day with everything that I've got in memory of you. Your spirit brought me here and I won't water that down. 

I love you Benjamin. I can't wait for the day that I get to dance with you.

Your little sister,

Benjamin Phillips

"There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot, 
 a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build, 
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance, 
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 
a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away, 
a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak, 
a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8,11)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Your Little Secret....

There's a difference between having a bad day and having a BAD day.... Today was a BAD day. It might have to do with the fact that I only got two hours of sleep last night, but then again it might also have to do with all the things that are due for finals by next Monday. 

I know, you're thinking to yourself that I should just get to my work instead of writing this, but I've been going for hours and this brings me sanity so go with it...

I'm going to start off with a story and you might find it a little familiar.

Once upon a time there was a girl who had everything all figured out. She knew what she was going to do when she grew up and starting making the steps to get closer and closer to her future. This girl was indeed just a girl, not yet a woman. She was only 13 years old and the biggest problem that she had to deal with was getting laughed at in the hallway because of her lack of style. She got tired of this situation so she decided that she wasn't going to hide in the dark anymore. She started to explore the world that all of her peers had been introduced to for awhile now. She thought that this would make her popular, but it only gave those people more reasons to pick at her. She started to wish her life away wanting to grow up and start her life, but she felt as if the struggles were making the time go by slower and slower. She starting talking thinking that maybe someday the right person would listen and understand how much she was hurting on the inside, but no one ever did. No one took her problems seriously so she kept going back to them day after day trying to find hope through pain. One day she met a person that finally listened and she couldn't help but want to become the best person that she could be for him. She never considered it to be changing herself because she was just now trying to figure out who she was. Instead, she called him a friend. This made her happy and whenever she was with him, she felt safe and nothing could hurt her. She would do anything for this person no matter the cost. 
Fast forward a couple of years. This girl is now 15 years old. She continued this friendship while she also tried to find love. She found a boy who talked to her and shared common interests with. She stayed with this boy so she would have assurance of never being alone. Eventually they both realized that they weren't meant for each other and they separated themselves from any hope of a future together. This girl felt alone once again and turned her life over to the temporary highs that the world provided. 
She is now 18 years old. The past three years were spent at church building a relationship with the man that was always there for her. He listened to her and invited her into his family and treated her as one of his own. The girl left her family on the side of the road with no hope of recovering any of those relationships. She started to look for opportunities that would move her away from home. She knew that it was time for her to move on with her life and starting over was exactly that she needed. She changed her whole entire image and became what the world wanted her to be. She began to gain self-confidence in herself and liked what she saw in the mirror. After experiencing the change and attention that she got from her new body she decided that she would do anything to make sure that it would stay that way. 
It's one year later, she's in a new world with new people and she is no longer known as the goodie two shoes Christian. She could be anyone that she wanted to be so she did. It was different not knowing anyone and having to start all over so she did what she did best and hid. She hid behind a man and gave him everything. After while she began to fight the feelings that were making her the person that she never wanted to be. The struggle was too real and she gave up on God in a heartbeat. She didn't even try to recover from this pain instead she just kept living within the pain because that's all she felt like she knew. 
Present day. She's finally on the same page with God again. There's a different glow about her and she's not worried about finding a person to fill that void. Her decisions that she made in the past affect the things that happen in her life on a daily basis. She has days where she wishes that she could bury herself away and not have to deal with the world, and there are other days she feels like shes on top of the world. She wonders what people really thinks about her. She makes friends tells them her deepest darkest secrets hoping that it won't be published in the next newspaper. She started to notice that her life wasn't a secret anymore and people started to figure out who she really was. This astounded her because she didn't even know who she was yet. How could people know so much about who she was and she not even be able to make it through a day without falling to her knees begging for mercy. The definitions of herself  that the world provided began to tear her apart and she wondered when her next opportunity would come so she could start over again. She stopped asking herself who she was and she started to believe the lies that surrounded her. She lives her life through the expectations that people already have of her. She can't be better than what they think so she just stops and puts a band-aid on hoping it will deliver herself from breaking down.

Today I called one of my best friends with the expectation of talking to his voice mail. He answered and listened to me and helped me to realize that it's not always the world that brings me down, but it's me not taking the time to say "no" to the world's assumptions. It's me not believing that I can be God's original masterpiece once again. The thing that makes me crazy about this girls story is that every time she tried to move forward and get right with God again, another challenge would hit her in the face. Preachers always tell you that's how it's going to be and as you can see, they are right. Was it because she gave in to the more tangible thing? Was it because she didn't want to be the person that the world would hate? Or is it because she would rather live in the challenges and pain instead of having it thrown at her while she tried to live a holy life? 

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:6-7

Going back to square one in your Christian life doesn't mean that you have to run away and start over with new people. It simply means that you are ready to take the step to realized that God is always there and always willing to care for you in everything that you do. He's never going to leave you and even though there might be times when it feels like it, all it takes it one act of care and true love toward a person. In the scripture about The Walk to Emmaus, the people that were traveling were discussing the events of Christs death when Christ was right there. They were so caught up in the tragedy that they didn't even realize that He was there all along. Let me say that one more time. He was there all along. They wouldn't have recognized Him if they wouldn't have invited him in for dinner and cared about his well-being. It was one random act of kindness that showed themselves who Jesus was. It takes that sometimes. It's not selfish to look for God in everyday situations. It's selfish when we expect God to show up when we can't take it anymore. It's selfish when we put down God's power and believe that He is only good for the pain, but not good in our times of joy. 

This is the beginning of the beginning. It's your move now... Let's not keep it a secret from the world.