Hope and A Future

By Beth Winze

In pursuit of intentional transparency with people, I thought I would take a few moments to write about some intense life course changes that have happened over the past few weeks.  First off, God has shown up in ways I would have never imagined.  God’s hand has been guiding this exponential transition in my life to a purpose greater than my own plans.  If you have kept up with my blog recently, I have written about being rutted in a post-graduation ditch where jobs, emotions, and events were refusing to fit together in a neat little package.  I was forcing things where they should not have been forced and resting my hope and future in my own plans as a substitute for God’s. I will forever treasure the way God decidedly wiped my plans off the table and replaced them with His own blueprints.  I’m learning that within submission to God, there is so much grace and love.

To rewind a bit and get you on the same page you will need some back story information.  About three and a half weeks ago, I was called by a company (not within my major) regarding a job interview.  I went in, with a dreadful feeling in the pit of my stomach knowing that this job was not going to be fruitful and was only going to provide me with a paycheck.  I went anyway and was determined to show face and see what the company was about.  After a 15 minute interview, being told my resume was irrelevant and hearing about how hiring me would only get my supervisor bigger paychecks, I walked out feeling dejected.  I felt like my major had betrayed me, the hard work I had put in the past three years academically meant nothing, and that my future was not looking bright.  I cried the whole way home and was beyond frustrated.  I had cancelled a mission trip to London a week and a half prior because of uncertainty and overall fear for my future.  I felt that God had been calling me to London earlier this year, and felt in June that God was telling me “No more London” and I had absolutely no rational idea why.  But between my fear and acting out of obedience I cancelled my trip to London.  At this point, I was feeling absolutely low.  So here I am, bad interview, no future travel plans to look forward to, no job and no hints of any big waves on the horizon.

Long story short, That afternoon I called into a company nearby and inquired if they were hiring.  After they informed me they were indeed hiring for a part-time position I applied and prayed fervently that this was within God’s plan.  On the way home I stopped by a local police department and asked if they had any non-sworn officer positions open, they did not, but instead of turning me away discouragingly, the secretary told me that there was a local community college still enrolling students for their Basic Law Enforcement Training School (BLET).  Without hesitation, I applied, I told God that if this was what He wanted me to do to make it abundantly clear to me because I was tired of a foggy future.  Be careful for what you pray for dear Reader because when you move within God’s will, things happen – big things.  I was accepted into the school and received the job offer for the part time position all within 3 days.  I was completely overwhelmed and emotional.  For the first time, in three and a half months, I had a new goal to work towards.  But the story doesn’t stop here my friends.

I was determined to fund my way through BLET.  With under $900 in my savings account and about $1,500 worth of clothing, background checks, textbooks, doctor’s appointments I found myself petitioning God to yet again provide the means necessary.   If God was going to call me to wipe out my savings account to get through this school then I was going to do it, but oh did I long for another alternative.  A week ago I received a check.  Remember that London trip I begrudgingly gave up earlier this summer for unknown reasons?  I had been reimbursed a certain percentage of the flight tickets that I had not used.  Without monetary details, I will tell you that it completely covered the rest of the costs for BLET with minimal savings withdrawals!

I do want to delve into some valuable lessons learned in the past few weeks.

  1. God does not leave us in a desert without provision.  During the sermon this past Sunday from my church, the pastor said something that resonated deeply within my soul. “What if that desert of darkness is actually a valley of resources to equip you to break down your strongholds?”  Often times, when I have struggled in a season of life, I refuse to look at how the pain and frustration could benefit me.  I can’t see God in the tangle of it all.  But those moments, when we can’t see the forest for the trees anymore, are the moments God uses that strife to strengthen us – so we can learn to build resistance against those pressures.
  2. God will exponentially blow your mind when you move within His plan.  Nowhere in a million years would I have ever thought that God was going to orchestrate the entire process of both the job and BLET to work out perfectly.  My underestimation of Him proved to be the moment where He decided to not only prove me wrong, but to show up in ways I could only dream of.  I love these moments when within our relationship with Him we count it impossible.  I like to think that God is up there looking at us saying, “Oh you think that’s impossible?  You’re cute.  Now watch this.”  I like to think He takes these opportunities to blow our minds because of our reactions.  The dumbfounded state I have been existing in the last week I am sure has provided God with a little light “I told you so” moments.
  3. Show up to the fight, knowing you won’t have to.  This was another key highlight from the sermon this past Sunday.  It further solidified the fact that when one stays hemmed inside of God’s will, the hard work is done by God.  2 Chronicles 20:15 says: “…Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”  I think the beauty within this verse is not in the fact that God fights these battles in our stead, but that even though they aren’t ours, we still need to train and prepare for them as intensely as if we were on the frontline (refer back to point 1 about being equipped in the deserts)

Dear friends, I don’t know what season of life you are walking through right now.  But I do want to share how God has moved in mine.  I think more often than not we don’t share the astounding things God is doing and has done and we miss great opportunities to encourage others.  If you are struggling right now or finding yourself in a foggy season, I can assure you that my fog has lifted and that there is hope and a future on the other side of uncertainty and chaos.

 

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What Are You Chasing

By Jesse Burnett

All throughout life, we have been told to chase after our dreams and to constantly look forward to the next thing. We were told that growing up meant looking forward to graduating high school and moving onto college, to a marriage, purchasing your first house, landing a job, finding your dream job, and then getting to an age where you have acquired enough money to finally retire. Once you have achieved one of those major life goals, there might be a brief moment of pure bliss, but after you have reached that life goal, you automatically look towards the next and you do not enjoy that moment that you are in.

Sharie King taught me before at a summer camp that “Growing up isn’t about an age or a place, it is about becoming.” That does not mean that we have to stop striving to be someone, you have to continually work on yourself to become the person that God wants you to be. That is the thing that you should be chasing, not college, or your dream job, or a marriage, or retirement.

Your life is compiled of circumstances or situations that can either make you have really good days or really bad days, but if you are frustrated with the obstacles of your life, then you need to get down on your knees and ask God for help to start creating a house out of the things that you are frustrated with.

This is what I mean by building a house. Imagine that all the obstacles in your life that frustrate you are bricks that are all thrown in a single space and there is no room for movement or progress. Each brick can resemble something specific. For example, for me a brick would be that I do not agree that I look the way that God has intended for me to look, or that I feel alone because I no longer have friends within walking distance of me, or the jealousy I get from seeing someone who seems to have their Christian walk all figured out. Those are just a couple of bricks that I have to deal with, but there are also so much more. When I get down on my knees and I ask God to help me to take those bricks and make something beautiful out of them, then I can continue to strive to be the woman that God wants me to be. I can focus on serving others more than trying to put my life back in order.

There might be some obstacles in your life that you aren’t sure that just kneeling and asking God will be enough and you get frustrated that you are not hearing from Him, but in those moments, you have to ask yourself, are you looking in the right places to hear His voice? One of the easiest places to search is in the bible because all the words in that book, were spoken by God through people that were on earth.

You cannot find your own value through the things that are in your life, because if you do, then you will just be frustrated with yourself because you cannot give yourself grace, nor can others give you the grace that you need. Only God can give us the grace we need because God pours out new grace to us every day. So, take those moments where you get frustrated with the obstacles in your life and look to God to give you grace to work through it.

So, I challenge you to look into your life, at all the bricks in your life that are all messily piled in front of you, and see what you are chasing. If you are chasing the things of this world, then you will never feel satisfied with this life, but if you strive to become the person that God wants you to be then you will be see your true value.

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If you loved reading this, then make sure to not miss out on her personal blog by clicking here!

 

Not My Calling…

By Beth Winze

I received an email the other day from a legal department I wanted to work for so bad I thought my heart would rip apart.  This particular email only added to the growing list of rejection letters stating that “while the choices were difficult, we decided to go with another candidate”.  Nothing makes you feel lower than a “thanks, but no thanks” kind of email to kick off your Monday morning.

This job, sans explicit details, felt like the perfect path to start working towards my dream career.  I would have been working with the particular group of people I want to work with while gaining a deep level of understanding to help bring justice to people who had been victimized.  This is what God has called me to do.  This was right.  The interview had gone wonderfully.  I got along with the interviewers extremely well, we were synchronized and excited the whole time.  Even in my limited interviewing experience, it felt so, completely right.  I left the interview practically floating on cloud nine, thanking God the whole drive home for putting this job in my path and for helping me nail the interview (pride comes before the fall).  I was told to wait two weeks to hear back from them regarding their decisions, one way or the other.  For two weeks, I balanced on the tipping point of crazed excitement and impatient insanity.  I just knew God would not have put this opportunity in my path if it wasn’t mine for the taking.  I mean how many other people would have been called to this career path the way I had been?  (I really hope at this point in the post you are reading this with the heavy sarcasm I am trying to emphasize.  The irony and truth of it all still stings though.)

After two and a half weeks had passed, my hopes waned and my enthusiasm found itself barely living.  I went to the opposite of extreme excitement and found myself anxious, frustrated and somewhat angry.  I was supposed to do this…duh…so why would God be making me wait so long?

Three and a half weeks after the interview, I received “the email”.  The one that totally takes your breath out of your lungs, puts knots in your stomach, and causes your eyes to brim with tears you refuse to spill.  I didn’t get the position.  I was dumbfounded, I stormed around the house for about an hour getting mad at everything, finding myself wrapped up and overthinking every answer I gave them in the interview, wondering what I had done so horribly wrong to cause them to say no to me.  After the storming came the anger at the person who had received what I had wanted so badly.  God called ME to this, not them, ME!  I remember that deep stirring in my heart when God began to orchestrate things so powerfully that he redirected everything I thought I was supposed to do into what He wanted me to do.  At least I thought I had heard Him when He told me to follow this career path.  God is not a God of confusion or chaos, but here I was grasping at straws completely baffled.  After about a week of pure frustration, I gave up.  I was tired of being a brat to God.  I was just tired of not knowing why it had not worked out.

Scrolling through Facebook last night, I came across a video that literally had nothing to do with what I was going through, but God used it to speak right to the anger, frustration and hurt.  “I didn’t call you to that job, because I called them.”  In the midst of my pride and the fall that ensued, I had completely become wrapped up in myself and my wounded ego.  I had never, for one second, stopped to think that maybe God hadn’t put me in that position because I wasn’t the right fit.  I was qualified on paper, but God saw something I hadn’t.  Someone else in the picture besides myself.  After God dropped the mic on my selfish attitude, my perspective on the matter changed.  I was no longer offended.  I prayed for that person that had been offered that position, that they would do the job better than I could have ever imagined.  I prayed that they would see that group of people like God wants them to be seen. I prayed that their heart would not grow weary and they would fight everyday for justice.  And I prayed that if they didn’t know God, that they would find Him moving in their lives in unbelievable ways.

Every email I have received since then, denying me an offer of employment, I have humbled myself before God, setting aside the hurt and confusion and asked for the person who had been placed in that position to pursue it more passionately than I could have.  Because God calls each of us to things in our lives that will not only better ourselves but further His Kingdom as well.  I hope that you will see as well, that when God shuts a door on us, He isn’t shutting a door in His Kingdom.  He is using someone else to further it and grow it exponentially just as He will use us to grow His Kingdom in ways only we can.  Until then wait, pray and humble yourself.

Give me a W….Give me an E….Give me an A…Give me a K….What does that spell?!

By Erin Sands

It’s hard being a woman these days. We live in a generation of perfection. Pinterest helps with beautiful decor, delicious meals, and cute outfits. Side note…Do you know you can type in outfit for game night and it gives you ideas?!? Amazing. Facebook gives us an avenue to highlight the perfect things we did or how #blessed our lives are. Instagram allows us to receive praise for arranging our food pretty on a plate or showcasing how wonderful everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is. Now don’t get the wrong idea. I am a big fan of all 3 of those forms of social media! Pinterest has saved my life a time or three million. I love posting thoughts and ideas on Facebook and Instagram. So this isn’t a post where I am going to tell you how bad those are. But what I am going to tell you is how rotten the human heart is.

Your heart, like mine, is focused on self. We want people to think we have it all together. We convince ourselves that we have it all together or at least that we are doing the best we can. We make much of the little great while trying to bury the parts of us that are messy and ugly to the eye.

We want to make much of us. That is our first mistake. Our lives are not given to us to highlight the impressive feats we accomplish. We want people to praise us and honor us and find value in the things we say and do. We want people to like us. This life isn’t and never should be about us. Our lives were bought with a price and are given to us with the sole purpose of glorifying God and making Him famous. Everything we say and do should point to One. The One. The only One.

Once we start to recognize and submit to the fact that our lives are meant to glorify God then we can quit making mistake number 2…boasting in the things we do well and hiding those that aren’t.  We, as people with faulty hearts, think that we should only showcase the great things we do. However the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 11:30 that “if I must boast, I will boast in the things that show my weakness.” How often do we sit down to post the 32 ounces of cereal our 2 year old defiantly poured on the floor? Or the days, plural, that we don’t take a shower or fix ourselves because we are busy pouring ourselves into others? How about the moments where we are completely depleted needing the Lord to fill us to overflowing so we can continue with our marching orders? No friends. We never highlight those moments because we don’t want to be seen as weak, or dependent, or needy.

But sisters I am here to tell you that real women of the Lord are weak. They are dependent. They are needy. And not only do they recognize themselves to be this way…they spotlight it. We can say, because of our hope in the Lord and our belief that His word is true, that we boast and delight in the things that make us weak.

For me personally the Lord has been preaching this to my heart over and over again for the last 7 months. And when I read this verse again last week, He was sweetly reminding me of it again because y’all my life…let me just tell you a little about it. I am a full time working, pastor’s wife and a momma to 4 kids. So from the get go I am needy for some Jesus. A whole lot of Jesus actually. And I think sometimes people question our sanity with the decisions that we make. One decision we made that is about to come to fruition is hosting an international student. My husband Josh and I felt the Lord asking us to open our home to a 14 year old Chinese student who will be studying at our school the next 4 years. We said yes adding more CRAZY to our life that already causes eye rolling and staring. One day driving home from Charlotte I told Josh, you know people think that we are crazy for allowing Zoe to live in our home. They think we already have enough chaos why in the world would we want to add more. But I felt the Lord saying to me, Zoe will make you desperate for me. Having 5 kids will cause you to need me like never before and that is why I want you to say yes. So come August 8, I’ll be leaning into Jesus even more. I will be pressing in so close to Him you may not be able to see where He ends and I begin. And that’s ok because I was made to need Him. To be desperate for Him and who He is. And I’m not only going to lean into Him but I want to boast about how crazy things are to spotlight how only He can bring the peace to stay sane in the madness. How only Jesus can bring comfort to my anxious heart. To boast, I have to trust Him enough to show the world my messy, unorganized, weak, needy self completely reliant on Him.

Gals, I’m here to tell you this won’t be easy. Nothing of God’s kingdom is, but it does bring freedom and Life! The first couple of times you verbally tell someone I am a mess and I can’t do this, BUT with Jesus I know I can do all things, you might cry ugly tears. You will be broken and my friends that IS beautiful. In those moments Jesus is able to shine girl, like never before! You will become vulnerable yet relatable. You will become a safe place where others can experience freedom in not being enough, helping them see that with Jesus they have all they need. So to all of my Jesus loving sisters out there, let’s stop boasting in ourselves and our accomplishments. Let’s take a deep breath, grab our big girl panties, and ask the Lord to show us where we can boast in our weakness to make much of Him. And let’s watch how the Lord becomes more precious to us as we find His strength to always be enough.

Celebrating Freedom

By Beth Winze

Happy 4th of July!  I love the 4th because of all the hoop-la and excitement that it brings! For me, it also brings a time of reflection on the word freedom.  The more I grow and the wiser (at least my hopes of being wiser) I become, I find myself cherishing freedom more and more.  The definition of freedom has significantly changed for me over the years.  I appreciate the fluidity within the word and hearing how people define freedom for themselves.  While my personal definition of freedom takes on a multitude of characteristics depending on the context, I want to focus for a few minutes on freedom in Christ.

For the longest time growing up, I struggled to understand the use of “freedom” and “Christianity” in the same sentence.  For me, those seemed like polar opposite terms.  Christianity was a set of do’s and don’ts that you had to follow…or else.  The spiritual emphasis of freedom and it’s true meaning evaded me for years.

I mentor two young ladies, who graciously allow me to speak into their lives.  I could talk for hours about the impact they have made in my personal faith, more than I could ever hope to do in theirs’.  For sake of word count in this post, I will refrain from that discussion for now.  Currently in our group we are going through Rebekah Lyons book “You Are Free”.  When asking the ladies what topics they wanted to cover, I threw in this title having read previous works by the author, but really not thinking too much about the impact of discussing freedom in faith.  We are now five chapters in, and I cannot even begin to accurately explain the amount of clarity and revelations I’ve encountered thus far.

The first few chapters instigated insightful reflection into the personal burdens of our own life.  After reading, reflecting and discussing with the other two ladies, we all came to an easy conclusion that we have become accustomed to the weight of our struggles and burdens, resulting in our justification of the unnecessary baggage.  We willingly allow ourselves to continue to carry around things Christ never intended for us to carry around.  We permit these burdens to actively hold us back from living a truly free life in Christ.

The other key point that we have decided was too important not to actively discuss every time we meet, is living in the freedom Christ has already given us.  I think Christians work under the pretense that freedom has to be earned.  “I can’t do this until I do that.” It’s like God handing over a never ending chore list of things to complete before we head out with friends.  I strongly believe that freedom is a choice.  We have to daily wake up and decide to live in Christ’s freedom the cross rendered us.  When we choose not to accept the freedom already there and continue to carry our burdens, we devalue the cross as not enough for us.  John 8:36 so clearly tells us about the immediate access we have to freedom.  “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Christ has already broken the chains.  It is finished.  Slavery is our life sentence no more.  All that’s left to do is to live and celebrate daily in our freedom through Him.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. – Galatians 5:13, ESV

The Prenotion of Complexity in Prayers

By Beth Winze

I want to talk about prayer for a second, because I have this wildly, insane prenotion that I am severely under qualified for prayer.  The fact that I just declared it as a wildly, insane prenotion clarifies that I know how off kilter I am in my thinking.  So why, every time that I have started to pray, have I backed off suddenly feeling unworthy of conversations with my Father?   I allow my self-perceived smallness to keep a safeguard gap between me and God.  Before going further, after some heavy soul-searching and Bible reading, I believe that understanding the smallness of ourselves in comparison to the vastness of God is important, in fact it can keep us humbled and in consistent awe of His Kingdom.

Understanding our flawed, human smallness, in relation to Christ’s Kingship, keeps us in a mindset of willing servitude, instead of dwelling in a concept of god-like self-elevation.  

This week I’ve been wrestling with my historic travesty in approaching prayer.  I truly sought out answers and solutions to break down my barriers of conversations with God.  I don’t struggle in my earthly relationships to find conversation, so why am I not trying to improve my conversational skills with God.  After much wrestling and God sized break throughs, I wrote down five excuses I find myself making when I approach prayer.  After Socratic-ally discussing prayer with some friends, I found that some of my excuses were not burdens I was carrying alone.

What a comfort it is when we become real with each other and discover some of our burdens are shared – to know that others out there struggle the same way we do. That this journey called faith is not a perfect path.  

The first excuse I find myself making is: “If I pray, God will challenge me and I’m not ready for that.”  This is such an ironic discord in my personal makeup, because I desire for things, people and topics to challenge my thinking and actions.  I want to change and grow stronger, but I hesitate when I realize that prayer could and will most likely cause me to take pause to current events and change them.  I believe that this runs deeply personal because I have asked for God to challenge and strengthen me in areas I feel are weak, but when He starts to put the pressure on for change to happen, I buck.  I recently started attending a Martial Arts gym (I swear this relates).  In fact, right before my first weight-lifting class I was thoroughly excited and pumped (pun intended) to start down this new fitness journey.  The next day after the weight-lifting class, I cried the entire way home.  I knew in my head that I was severely lacking in areas of fitness, but when the trainer pushed me to my max and forced my body to recognize it’s inadequacies, everything become very real.  Only by the strength of God did I drag myself to the next day’s kickboxing class and here we are seven weeks later.  I still dread how sore my body is after the gym, but I am seeing physical results from the excruciating amounts of work I put in – it’s paying off and I feel stronger, healthier, and more excited about fitness than I have been in awhile.  This is how I imagine God views our requests to be tested and grown.  He already knows how inadequately weak we are.

Just like my trainer had to bring me to the critical point of absolute muscle exhaustion, God has to bring us to a point of spiritual exhaustion for us to recognize that the realization of our weakness needs to go beyond head knowledge.  Only from there can God add additional weights that will eventually produce spiritual results that will blow our minds.  

My second excuse sings the song of self-inflated ego informing myself that: “I’m benefitting God by talking to Him and giving Him my attention when I have the time.” I really scoffed at this attitude I bear and despise the realization that this is a hindrance in my prayer life.  I don’t think I could offer anything to God that He would not be able to provide Himself.  I think another realization came in that God doesn’t wait around.  He isn’t holding His breath waiting for me to spend time with Him.  He will move when He wants, where He wants whether or not I am on board.  And I hope for goodness sake that I stay within His movements, because when He moves, amazing things occur.

“I pray because I can’t help myself.  I pray because I’m helpless.  I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping.  It does not change God – it changes me.” – C.S. Lewis     

My third excuse wins an award for “lamest excuse ever”.  “But I can’t concentrate.”  I know two people in my life that when they talk you can’t separate what is prayer from what is conversation.  Their inclination for prayer is so commanding that their conversations are prayers to God.  Having conversations with these two people are probably the most intriguing and powerful feelings I have ever experienced.  They aren’t particularly concentrating on the fact that saying a prayer is a separate event, but rather leading the conversations into periods of prayer.

I believe that is what God desires prayer to be – nothing more than a conversation so natural there is no distinction in the transitions between conversing and prayer.

My fourth excuse smells of lacking trust and frustration in timing (another finger pointing at my control issues if you read the previous post).  “I’ve never heard Him answer.”  I allow my lack of trust in His movements to cancel my actions of patience to wait for Him to move.  My concept of conversation in earthly context versus conversation with God transfer over too much causing a disruptive ideal.  In a normal conversation a person is immediate in their response or acknowledges somehow they have heard you.  I’ve discovered time and time again that prayer isn’t always like that.  The longevity of my requests to God, to the time when they are answered causes me to doubt His abilities.  It made me cringe earlier this week when I wrote this excuse down, because it hurt me to think that my lack of trust runs so deep it quite possibly has cracked and uprooted my foundation in Christ.  I think this is probably one of the deepest and heaviest burdens I maintain everyday.  I allow my lack of trust to not only keep people at arm’s length, but also to keep God there too.  When talking to my friends, this echoed among the group.  We all had a lack of trust or peace that He does hear us and that He does acknowledge our requests, whether or not they are answered with immediacy.  I believe that God uses these faulty trusting faculties in our brains to exponentially prove to us that He is more than capable.  I think of things in very visual ways, and can only imagine it’s like asking a baby who can stand with support to run a 5k.  I hope you laughed because that would probably be the dumbest request ever.  The baby’s legs are most definitely unable to provide the strength and endurance needed to run a 5k.  So when I ask God for something and don’t get that thing right away, not only do I sound like a brat to Him when I whine, but I also probably look pretty ridiculous.  I probably look like an infant trying to run a 5k.

Just because He can do it immediately, doesn’t mean He will do it immediately.

The fifth excuse I waive around is a pity party I throw for myself.  “I don’t pray as beautifully as others.” I rolled my eyes as I typed that because how many more violins can I put in my pity orchestra?  Another human struck by the comparison game induced by a culture of unhealthy competition.  Another excuse that baffles me.  I’m going to peel back another layer of my psyche for a vulnerable minute and reveal that I think mistakes (for the most part) are endearing.  Especially when they come from people I strongly admire.  Watching someone who is seemingly perfect make a small mistake serves to be a beautiful little reminder that they are not so different than I am.  No, I don’t rejoice when people mess up, I just think it can be the nudge that keeps us human with one another.

“Our prayers may be awkward.  Our attempts may be feeble.  But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” – Max Lucado  

I’ve made prayer more complex than it was ever designed to be.  If I approached earthly conversations with the same hesitations as I approached conversations with God, I would be sitting at home with no friends and no hope for interactions.  So I can’t question why I struggle so hard in my relationship with Christ sometimes when I lack the conversational pieces to strive towards a deeper connection with Him.  After reflecting this week on these excuses, I humbly entered prayer with a totally different attitude.  I acknowledged my smallness in His presence and admitted the excuses I have been making to avoid prayer for weeks/months/years.  I hope this post serves to be a vulnerable revelation that from one human to another, I struggle everyday in my relationship with Christ.  It takes work, dedication and commitment that I hate to admit, often times I lack.  As stated above, I feel that the more real and vulnerable we become with each other, the more we can come up alongside each other and support and walk through this journey of faith together.          

Postgraduate Reflections

By Beth Winze

Let’s talk about postgraduate depression for a second because it’s a very real thing I have been fighting the last month and a half since I shook hands with the Chancellor and saw a beautiful chapter of my life closing so abruptly.  A chapter I still feel shouldn’t be over. I don’t want to set the pen down and move on. I’ve become attached to the characters that have woven their lives into mine and feel jealous they get another year to create in their collegiate chapters.

I’ve felt a deep sense of loss since leaving and have fought to take pride in my collegiate accomplishments when another job interview turns up without an offer. It’s a very real sense of panic when you realize the very career field you studied and felt so passionate about doesn’t necessarily feel passionate about you. It feels like betrayal.

It is funny how common this feeling actually has been among several of my other colleagues and friends who graduated with me.  We all feel like we are grasping for purchase on anything and everything we can even attempt to grip, but for some reason we feel weaker with every “no”, “went another direction”, and “not qualified” we receive.  It’s a blow to our work and passion we held in college, and bouncing back from rejection gets harder every time.

If anyone knows me past this blog screen, I very much enjoy leadership roles and being able to lead and give directions to others.  What my parents used to call bossy, has thankfully (by the grace of God alone) been refined into leadership characteristics.  Exercising control and maintaining standards is something I thrive off of.  When I am challenged to give up control and trust someone else to get the job done to standards I want to see, I struggle.  I can do it, but not without insomnia, anxiety, and frustration frequenting my thoughts and patterns.  This has been a hard struggle in my relationship with Christ.  I frequently find myself quickly humbled when my human hands screw up something God would have perfected if I had just relented control to Him.  It’s the same song I’m singing as I try my hardest to map out the future I envision for myself.  

But there is my problem.  The future envision for myself.  I keep praying for God’s will to be done with my future career, passions, and life but continually leave Him out of the equation in my blueprint formula.  It’s like asking a contractor to build a house, but demanding you make all the decisions.  The contractor is going to know best how to build a house so studs are not misplaced and cause walls to collapse and the roofing is done properly to prevent leaks.  But here I am, standing under a leaky roof watching walls cave in on a plan for my future, I so desperately insisted on building.

I am working to place my unbalanced, uncertain and panicked self into God’s hands and trust Him to take the pen out of my own hands and write my next chapter so much more beautifully then I ever could. Because if I have felt one sense of certainty in the last month it is that God doesn’t lead us through deserts without ensuring we are equipped for it.  Another hard truth in all this, is that being equipped in my understanding is not the same as being equipped in God’s definition.  But that’s where I need to (I’m about to say it, against every cliche cringing bone in my body) “Let go and let God” because at the end of the day, He went 40 days in the desert having everything thrown his direction and deciding that standing in strength was a beautiful depiction of the life we should be leading.

13 Reasons Why – A Pivotal Turning Point for Our Generation

By Beth Winze

I will shamelessly admit that when the release date for the Netflix Original show based on Jay Asher’s 2007 young adult novel “13 Reasons Why” was announced, I marked that date on all three planners and added it to my Netflix list.  Having read the book when I was in my mid-teens I was curious to see how they would make a book that contains so much hard-hitting, gritty, and dark material into a Netflix original and address all of those topics the way the book did.  I spent my entire weekend binging all 13 episodes and was upset when I finished the last episode.  For those of you who have not heard about this book/tv show or have and are unsure if this Netflix Original is for you, I do want to discuss this show in length and why this show could change the way we talk about suicide, rape, bullying, and complicated young adult emotions that are not being properly addressed.  If you do not mind SPOILERS keep reading.  I do think that if you are on the fence about watching this show, this post will hopefully help guide a decision on whether to invest your time into it.  So with this prequel being written, and my SPOILERS disclaimer addressed, let us get to the conversation.


To begin the conversation, I will add another disclaimer in regards to the rating that this show has.  It is rated TV-MA (mature audiences) for what I would consider a significant amount of language that includes: f***, g**d***, s***, b**** (and other derogatory female slang), d*** (and other derogatory male slang); brutal rape scenes, and a graphic suicide scene. I’m going to be also a little controversial in saying that I think the language and graphic scenes were necessary for this show to deliver the truth of it’s content.  I will explain this further later on.  I think the best way to discuss this show is to break it down in the overall themes that the show contains and to address them one by one.  I have included the book description in order to provide context for this post.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

13 Reasons Why

Suicide:

The most encapsulating topic this show revolves around is the suicide of Hannah Baker.  Her suicide is talked about every episode as Hannah narrates via cassette tapes, what lead to her decision to end her own life.  Throughout the beginning, Hannah almost seems to make a joke out of her death when she wrongfully uses a grammatical tense to address herself and back pedals reminding herself and the listener she is no longer alive.  Since the show is set two weeks after her suicide, the high school is still processing the loss of a fellow classmate.  Flowers are set in the hall, students memorialize her image, and provide condolences when Hannah’s parents come in to gather her things – but there is this sickening sense of normality that rings a little louder than the sound of a lost life.

In the very beginning, the viewer is aware of Hannah’s death, but the high school continues about business as usual – except for a group of people in which Hannah has incorporated their interactions with her into the reasons she committed suicide.  The idea of these pre-recorded tapes begins to weigh heavier on the viewer when you realize that she has given them to people who have inevitably pushed her so far, that she felt death was the only option – inevitably blaming them for her death.  The viewer watches each of these individual story’s unfold via Hannah’s interpretation as the episodes roll on.  The people Hannah has involved in the tapes begin to unravel as they realize that the next person to hear them, Clay, was not going to let her death go undiscussed any longer.

The hardest part to watch is how hard Hannah was struggling daily with everything and how unaware her parents were to her heartache.  Hannah’s parents loved her, which was clear throughout the entire season, but they kept missing the signs.  Their idea of their happy, bubbly daughter was so set, that they refused see the unhappy, heartbroken girl struggling just below the surface.  Since she was the new girl in town and her parents had just started a business, there were missed opportunities for her parents to check in with her and how she was doing at her new school.  What could have been a great opportunity for Hannah to start over, quickly became a beginning to an end that no one should resort to.  After her suicide, classmates seem to rave about what a wonderful person she was and how many friends she had, when the truth of it all pulls back to reveal a nasty mess of bullying, rape, sexual abuse and other serious forms of torment that Hannah’s peers put her and many others through.

Hannah, throughout the tapes, makes it obvious that she had tried several times to get help.  She went to fellow classmates she believe she could trust, who turned around and capitalized on her emotional vulnerability to them.  She even saw the school counselor after one of the most disturbing events happened and the school counselor lead her to believe it was her fault and that the only way to move past it was to ignore it.  This disturbing trend of Hannah reaching out and people dismissing her cries for “trivial”, “drama centered” or “selfish” resonates deeply with the viewer.  It pulls you, the viewer in, by getting you to question how many times someone may have been crying out for help, but you chose not to listen.  Or if you have ever dismissed someone’s traumatic events off as something that should not be as traumatic as they were.  The movie does this throughout the extent of it’s plot, causing the viewer to question what they might have missed in people’s lives and how that might have affected them.

One of the very last episodes shows Hannah’s suicide very explicitly, where she sits in a bathtub and slits her wrists until she bleeds out.  The filming of this scene creates a hard-hitting image of Hannah’s final struggle with what life has thrown at her, and how ending her life seems less painful then continuing on.  Besides the fact that this episode stirred up a very strong and very emotional response from myself, it does employ the viewer to challenge every interaction they may have ever had with someone – whether that was a good or bad experience.

The show ends with the announcement that another student has shot himself in the head and is in critical condition for his attempted suicide. This student had been in Hannah’s tape and the viewer is left questioning if Hannah’s tapes ended up doing more harm then good for the student body and if making the student’s aware of their impact on her death was worth the attempted suicide at the end.  Regardless if this was some sort of cliff hanger for a season 2, I think it brings a pivotal discussion that the things we do when interacting with people has a potentially lasting effect on their lives, emotions, and how they are treated by others.

Sexual Assault/Rape:

This part of the show is excruciatingly graphic and several scenes of unwanted groping and two intense rape scenes laid the groundwork for Hannah’s “reputation” at the school.  What began in the very first episode as an embarrassing picture of her underwear became an assumption of her sexuality and how easy she was.  Justin (an individual addressed in the tapes) inevitably lets his friend send the picture around the school and the rumors of Hannah’s “easiness” begin.  Hannah addresses the rumors of her first kiss with Justin right off the bat, when she challenges her listeners “if they heard that she had done more with Justin then just kissing”.

After this incident, things slide quickly down hill and a list is started by one of her “friends” who labels Hannah as having the best sophomore a**.  After this list goes public, guys walk up behind Hannah and follow her in groups making derogatory hand gestures and aggressive comments about her regarding the list.  Hannah puts on a strong face, ignoring the commentary, but the viewer watches her confidence slowly wane and flicker out.  The more Hannah goes throughout the school year, the more rumors that are started, and the more incidences occur in which guys try to take advantage of her.  She goes out with guys trusting that they have good intentions, but when they make physical passes at her, she realizes their intentions were only to see how far she would let them go.  This constant abuse cycle breaks Hannah down, especially after she witnesses a dear friend getting raped.  After watching her friend get brutally assaulted, Hannah could not process it.  She tried to tell someone multiple times, but found herself unable to share something so personal with people she did not know if she could trust.

Ultimately, the final straw to Hannah’s sexual abuse ends with her rape from a fellow classmate.  The classmate made comments regarding how she did not say “no” and how her sitting in the hot tub was her acceptance of his sexual advances.  After this scene is shown, she decides to give life one more try.  But when she tries to discuss her rape with her counselor, he dismisses  it because of her cautionary attitude towards providing him with detail.  Later that day, she takes her life.

Bullying:

All of these incidences tied together form a picture of brutal and unrelenting bullying inflicted on a girl, solely based on rumors and assumptions based on her character.  The sickening situations people put Hannah in, occur again and again and everyone refuses to take her seriously and assumes that she is just looking for drama.  No one tries to look past the surface of the lies and rumors except for Clay, but even he misses Hannah’s cries for help.

Conclusion:

I think there are a multitude of reasons, why this TV show could initiate a turning point in how our society approaches bullying, sexual assault, and suicide.  The show is heavy.  It’s dark.  It’s gritty.  There is excessive language. But I do believe it strongly plays out the reality of high school and how easy it is to overlook someone’s cries for help.  I think the reality of this weighs heavy on the viewers, and walking away from this show I can confirm that it doesn’t settle well.  It’s not easy to digest and it most definitely challenges your behaviors towards others.  I strongly believe that everyone should watch this but ESPECIALLY parents of high schoolers.  Not so far away from high school myself, I remember feeling as if adults never took me seriously, and that my feelings were not validated.  My own struggles with depression and anxiety in high school did lead me to suicidal thoughts.  I wish someone would have told me that the emotional rollercoaster was valid and I had every right to feel what I was feeling.  I learned to store away those feelings because I had been told I was dramatic or was wearing my heart on my sleeve too much. And this was not from one person, this was over a period of years by a multitude of people.

This show is needed by society.  Our culture craves change and this show can bring that.  This show brings a visual aspect to what people go through in high school, so I employ you with this: watch this show, allow it to challenge you, and be ready to emotionally carry weight away from it.  The emotional weight is necessary, I believe, to make an impact in how you are able to apply this moving forward.  Validate people’s feelings.  Whether it is because someone failed a test and looks at their life as a failure, or if someone gets sexually assaulted and can’t fully process the emotions.  Allow someone to feel what they feel and don’t dismiss it.  Just because it is not a reality for you, does not mean that it is not a very real emotion for someone else.  I encourage you, if you are a parent, to watch this with your kids and to talk through it, because you never know if they may be the victims of bullying or they very well could be the bullies themselves.  The conversation about these topics need to change.  And it starts with you.

“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life.” – Thirteen Reasons Why

 

“Soul Alone” by Hannah Baker

I meet your eyes
you don’t even see me
You hardly respond
when I whisper
hello
Could be my soul mate
two kindred spirits
Maybe we’re not
I guess we’ll never
know

My own mother
you carried me in you
Now you see nothing
but what I wear
People ask you
how I’m doing
You smile and nod
don’t let it end
there

Put me
underneath God’s sky and
know me
don’t just see me with your eyes
Take away
this mask of flesh and bone and
See me
for my soul

alone”

– Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Things They Don’t Tell You About Senior Year

By Beth Winze

There are plenty of articles going around right now encouraging and preparing rising college freshman on everything to expect out of college and how to get involved and make the most of every second you have as a freshman – basically a “College Starter Survival Pack”, a “College for Beginners” guide.  But what I have yet to read or see is a “College Ending Survival Guide”.  So I decided to comprise a list of things that every college senior should know or prepare for, because before you know it, you will be sitting here like me, 60 some odd days from graduation, FREAKING the heck out because you have a senior capstone project, “big girl” job applications, classes to pass and 18 million things you feel like you have yet to accomplish before you step off campus for the last time.

  • Fall semester will feel like most other semesters, a bit more nostalgic, but heck – you have a full 8 months before you need to worry,
  • Spring semester you’ll move back in after Christmas break (enough of that “Winter” break bull crap….it’s CHRISTMAS for Pete’s sake), get your books, write out your semester schedule and commence as usual,
  • After syllabus week it starts to sink in….that was the last syllabus week you ever have to suffer through,
  • Second week you drown looking at all the work this semester holds and keep telling yourself you will complete it…like you have every other semester…but somehow your sub-conscious tells you otherwise,
  • Third week you will start getting grades back and you start to realize that if you mess up this semester and do not pass, you will have to explain to your family why the cap and gown gets to wait another semester (*insert yoga breathing here — deep breath in — deep breath out),
  • Fourth week you are ready to go home and see your family again, but you start to dread spending time away from campus and friends because you know…last semester,
  • Fifth week you start listing off everything you have wanted to do since freshman year and have not done yet because you told yourself you had plenty of time and you create a crammed timeline of how to fit it all in before May,
  • Sixth week, senior class professors start forcing you to learn about mortgages, student loans, insurance, 401k plans, resumes, cover letters and job applications and tell you how they really feel about being an adult, because they know that with only 10 weeks left of your college career they can be honest with you without you dropping out.  You order your cap, gown and tassel and try it on to make sure it fits every 20 minutes,
  • Seventh week, you begin to look at your friends differently.  Every time you hang out you feel your chest grow tighter and tighter because you realize that 11pm trips to Waffle House and late night movies 45 minutes away are not in your future.  A part of you wants to pull away from those friendships because you know how much it is going to rip your heart out to saying good-bye, but the other part of you is so determined to raise hell and memories with those friends that you only find yourself calling them at ungodly hours to sneak in as much time with them as possible,
  • Eighth week….you are days out from Spring Break, excited for a week off but clambering desperately to fill in as much time on campus with friends as possible.  You know that Spring Break means that you are halfway done with this semester and the day you moved back into your dorm/apartment in January feels so far away and you know how much you’ve lied to yourself, telling yourself you had enough time
  • Spring Break starts tomorrow, you do not want it to.  You do not like what it brings.  It means you are on the downhill slide towards graduation.  Doubt and uncertainty are a constant state you live in, but you also have this fearless excitement that forces you to push on.  You have worked so hard for this diploma and you know that you have made this life your own and you have discovered passions and friendships you never thought you would.  So the stress and anxiety are overshadowed by the persistence and the excitement you hold in your heart.  So you just keep praying and hoping that God adds sand to your hour glass so that you can fit in everything.  But you also hope that at the end of this all, you will walk away with something you did not come to college with…a discovered sense of self

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Done Apologizing

By Beth Winze

I wish I could remember the last moment when my reflection in the mirror was no longer my friend, but my worst enemy.  If I could pinpoint that exact moment, freeze it and talk to the little girl I once was, I don’t know what I would tell her.  Because if we’re being honest, I still don’t know how to tell her to love herself – how to let God’s Word scream louder than the deafening roar of the World.  The truth of the matter is, I still feel my heart painfully twist inside my chest every time I walk by a reflective surface.  I am 21 years old and I somehow still manage to be my own worse enemy.  I go longer between moments when I feel undeniably beautiful and absolutely free.

I could blame my painful lack of self-esteem on the girls in middle school who verbally reminded me of how unworthy I was of popularity or good looks; I could blame the guys I so deeply desired but never had; I could blame the tabloids I read in line at the grocery store that inform me that there are better ways to be a human than I am currently being – “21 Things You are Doing Wrong in Your Love Life.”  But as C.S. Lewis said, “The patient continues to believe that the problem is ‘out there’ in the ‘broken system’ rather than recognizing there is a problem within himself.”

So the problem is within myself, sin nature.  Desiring something that others have, chasing worldly things over heavenly things, and abandoning the truth that I am good enough for Christ alone if no one else.  I think Jesus put a brick wall in my path in order for me to look up at Him just long enough to hear what He has to say to me.

“Here you are Beth, broken and falling apart, limping along.  I have offered you my help, love and healing touch, but you have convinced yourself that limping along in your brokenness is somehow better than walking whole and healed again.  So here I am offering you my hand, will you finally take it?”

So I tried.  I thought I was taking God’s helping hand.  I went makeup-less for days, ignoring the panic that rose every time someone made eye contact with me.  If I could just bring myself to make eye contact with a stranger and smile without having to be covered in Mary Kay then I could finally gain confidence. I bought Christian self-help books about building confidence and true beauty.  But those are only pretty bandages to help conceal the real injury.  The fact that I have a gaping hole in my soul that needs to be filled daily by Jesus alone.  No paraphrased Bible like Jesus Calling or self-help devotional on “10 ways to know you are beautiful” will help me exterminate the hatred towards to myself.  Because it begins with a broken Beth and a whole Cross.

But I have had to come to realize this.  I am tired of apologizing to people because I am not wearing makeup.  You apologize when you have made a mistake – and Christ didn’t make a mistake in giving me a skin complexion that houses more acne than some.  Why would I apologize for something My Creator has given me?  Is that not the highest offense I could offer Him?!  A mother doesn’t apologize to house guests for the out of line coloring page her three-year-old made her, because it doesn’t have to be announced that it was made with love, no matter the imperfections.

So if you, like me, apologize for how God made you, or shutter every time you think of your reflection, I urge you to deeply evaluate the way you treat yourself as an unfortunate effect of sin nature.  But also realize, that Christ died on the Cross so that we may live.  And living fully for Him doesn’t consist of living in shame of ourselves.  Living in Him is living in boldness and the knowledge that the world will never count us as enough, but we are enough for Him alone.