Thoughts, Topics

H A P P Y

Happy is a fun word.
It’s a state of mind, an ongoing feeling.
When I’m feeling happy and describing that as my mood, I can’t help but feel like “happy” is a giant smile that doesn’t go away, the kind that Buddy the Elf would be jealous of.
I admit, I’m very guilty of hiding my emotions. I’ve fallen victim, especially recently, of feeling down and not taking the time to enjoy life and others around me. That is going to change. It shouldn’t be a natural instinct for us as individuals to live in sadness. We have so much to look forward to in life and have so much around us that blesses us daily. So let’s talk about happy.
-Happy is being giddy for no reason
-Happy is not being able to stay still for five seconds because there’s so much you want to do with your energy
-Happy is having amazing friends and family around you
-Happy is being content in who you are, what you believe in, and what you’re doing with your life
-Happy is that one song that you could listen to a billion times
-Happy is that memory that you wish you could live over and over again
-Happy is a hug
-Happy is getting home after a long day and just relaxing and doing absolutely nothing
-Happy is not caring what song you’re dancing/singing to in the car/shower/karaoke stage
-Happy is having fun every waking minute of life
I’ve challenged myself to be happier from now on. Not that I wasn’t happy before or am not happy now, but to go through each moment striving to find the joy in life, to smile more, and to have fun. It’s not just a word, it’s a feeling, a transferrable mood, a fun time.

~ let’s all be happy 🙂 ~

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Thoughts, Topics

Belize 2014: A Portrait of Joy

What is joy? Some might say it’s happiness to the extreme, like opening a Christmas present or getting engaged. I think that definition is wrong. Sure, you can call those scenarios happy occasions, but I wouldn’t qualify them as joy. Here’s joy to me: witnessing God at work. Pure joy is found and attained at the pinnacle of a relationship through Christ, and I saw that joy happen in Belize.
Going to Belize was always a goal for me. My dad and sister both had visited the country twice before on mission trips before I got the chance to go, and I’d had several friends go on the trip as well and come back raving about the fun they’d had and the lives they’d seen changed. Finally I got the chance to go last year and I was scared.

One of my struggles in life has always been anxiety, especially before a trip like this. I’d never been out of the country before, let alone somewhere that hot for that long (one week) before. But the day before the trip I felt this overwhelming peace. No fear, no upset stomach, just peace. God taught me that trip to no longer be afraid of the unknown and to embrace new things as an opportunity for growth and strengthening of my faith. Leading into this years trip, I couldn’t be more excited to get back to the country and share the Gospel.

Here’s where the joy happens. Joy comes in children.
The minute you step off the bus in San Roman, one of the villages, you are instantly surrounded, no, swarmed, by kids. These kids are everything. They hug you, they tackle you, they beatbox with you, they give you stickers and friendship bracelets, they make you laugh, and they make you cry because you just want to never leave them because they’re so happy to have you visit and spend time with them. That is joy. They live in what we would call poverty but they don’t care. They’d rather spend whatever money they have to give you a small present than live in a cushy house with air-conditioning and hi-def TV’s. They listen to every word you say and treasure whatever you do with them. Last year, I befriended two sisters, Viviana and Denalia. I taught them a secret handshake at the end of the trip and told them that when I came back next year, they had to do it with me. I left that year thinking I’d be stunned if they would be able to remember that after a whole year. I ended up stunned. The first thing they asked me when I saw them this year was, “MISTER SCOTT!!! LET’S DO OUR HANDSHAKE!!!” The fact that you can make an impact even as small as a handshake brings you to tears because these kids are so special. They are God’s creation just like us. Having the chance to go and teach them praise songs and Bible stories leaves much more than a small impact on them, it has the power to change their lives. That is joy.

Viv and Den, 2013

Viv and Den, 2013

Viv and Den, 2014

Viv and Den, 2014

 

Joy comes in smaller, private moments.
During a prayer walking session the first day of the trip in the village of Silkgrass, my two partners (Shelby Ferguson and Caroline Jones) and I got invited into a high-rise house. Inside, two women sat on a couch doing something I can’t remember and 3-4 kids roamed the floor playing and screaming like kids do. Caroline started sharing the One-Verse Evangelism with one of the women and I sat back and watched. I then noticed another lady in the kitchen stripping chicken meat for a stew. I went in the kitchen to ask her about the stew and that led into another gospel conversation. With God’s words in my mouth, she heard what I had to say and was led to accept Jesus as her Savior. As we left the house I was super excited to tell the girls about what had happened when Shelby turned to me with a smile and said, “We just led that woman to Christ,” to which I replied, “No way same here!” It’s situations like that where God works flawlessly through us, His servants, to further the kingdom. Our prayer group experienced joy in that moment from how God used us to serve and share the Gospel. Moments like that only come when we give ourselves completely to Him and let His words speak through us. The joy came from seeing sinners become sisters in Christ. It’s the most fulfilling experience imaginable.

Shelby, myself, and Caroline

Joy comes in the unexpected moments
A different day of prayer walking with Madison Hari and Meghan Garrison took us to the village of Red Bank. It was there that I did something I don’t normally do: cry. In another small house, the two girls were speaking with a Catholic woman about her faith and how Jesus had blessed her with salvation, but was struggling to keep her daughter in church while also planning for her departure to a University for school. It was in that moment when we prayed with her “Belize-style,” where everyone prays out loud at once, creating beautiful noise for Christ. After the prayer though, she started thanking us for coming and sharing the Gospel in the village and how encouraging it was to see us sharing our faith with others in the country that needed it. She told us it was nice and thanked us for being bold and doing what she was scared to do herself. That was when I lost it. To hear those words after a devotion the night before from one of my oldest friends (not in age, just in friendship length) Amanda Vickers about the “why” of coming on this mission trip, solidified my faith and calling. Boiling it all down, it brought me to tears hearing thanks and encouragement from another believer about my “why” for going on the trip. To me, Belize was a chance to be bold in my faith, get out of my comfort zone, and share my faith with others that needed it. Hearing that encouragement reaffirmed how God was working in the country of Belize and in my own life. That brought me joy. Enough joy to the point where I cried.

Meghan, myself, and Madison

Joy comes in the shared experiences.
When you grow up with a sibling, you fight a lot. You tease each other, you butt heads, and you play ridiculous games that leave you with countless inside jokes. The relationship that forms is a best friendship, and Belize brought out the best in my relationship with my sister Paige. I’ve seen her do great things for God before, but Belize is an amplification of that. She is so calm yet so strong and bold in the way she walked in the village praying with people and sharing the Gospel. She loved on the adults and the kids of the villages and held nothing back when it came to sharing her faith. It’s incredibly precious as the older brother to watch someone that close to me make such a positive impact on so many lives and share those experiences together. Although I didn’t get to prayer walk with her directly, I know that she made an impact because of what other people in her groups would tell me. God shined through her this week and it’s why she has gone four years to Belize. She, like me, has grown to love the people and culture so much that it matters to her to come back and share God’s love with them over and over. Seeing that love brings joy not only to the people of Belize, but everyone in our group myself included.
Other shared experiences were the group interactions we all shared. Whether it was having jam sessions of worship songs in the vans, inside someones home, or at worship service, we all lifted our voices to God and it couldn’t have sounded more beautiful. Joy was experienced be each and every person involved.

Paige and I

Joy doesn’t have to be limited to just Belize. Joy can be found wherever God is present. Belize though will always hold a special place in my heart because of the joy I found there. The children, the prayer walks, the singing, the testimonies, the Bible stories, the evangelism, the meals, everything that happens is all a testimony to the Holy Spirit working through everyone in our group to bond in a common purpose: make the joy of Jesus Christ known to the country of Belize. This trip is one that I won’t ever forget and I hope I’m blessed to go on more in the future. Until the next time, my mission continues to be the same: spreading joy. And I found some of that joy in Belize.

 

 

 

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Thoughts, Topics

The Truth About Friendship

It’s been a while since I last wrote so let’s just get right to it.

I’m flawed. I’m flawed in my opinion. Everyone is in their own way. Opinions are what keep the world turning, and that starts with being true to your own voice.  I just wanna put that up front to begin because I believe in honesty. I hate sometimes that when people write, we try and go about writing in an unbiased way, yet personal opinion always bleeds through somewhere. That’s where I’m at right now in this post. I believe that honesty is the best way to express yourself, and by changing your style to fit someones “likes and dislikes” isn’t being true to yourself. So here is my mini-rant from a truthful heart.

I hate the term “friendship.” It’s too broad. A real “friend” has to meet a certain standard. Let’s call a “normal” friend an acquaintance for this demonstration. An acquaintance will talk to you, say hi, and maybe hang out with you once or twice a month, and not really communicate with you outside of “hanging out.” A friend, on the other hand is all about the relationship. We were all made for each other. Relationships are built into our DNA, that’s why we hate being lonely and get mad when people turn us down when we offer to hang out with them. That’s what separates my definition of “friendship” from a simple “acquaintance” in this example. A friend will have long conversations with you, take walks with you, listen to your problems. Friends will criticize or give constructive input when it’s needed, but otherwise will always support you and give you advice that can help in the long run. An acquaintance will get told a secret of yours and blab it to everyone you know. A friend will take that secret to heart, and guard that knowledge with integrity. Friends don’t go around bad mouthing other friends, immature kids do that. Friends understand when situations come up, and are always willing to be there and listen/ give support to each other. Too often today we get calls or texts or snaps from “friends” who just need to vent and say what’s on their mind, but too often we will play it off as a joke, or not give the matter our full attention and then share the conversation with everyone they know. And like I said at the beginning of the post, I’m guilty of this too. We all are. I’m at a point in my life where I’ve realized the full range of effects that a crappy relationship can have on a person. Too often these days I see my friends, yes friends getting hurt by careless, thoughtless “acquaintances” only posing as friends. It does way too much damage to someone when they are lied to, or cheated on, or talked about in an untrue manor. Have I painted an okay picture yet? I hate lecturing, rambling, whatever I seem to be doing right now… I really do, but as a recent college graduate, I though we’d be behind all this nonsense. It’s time we all grew up and learned to treat people the way we want to be treated. This all applies to dating too. Girls play guys, guys play girls; it’s all the same. Everything boils down to honesty. Where does your heart lie? A true friend sticks it out till the end (pardon the corny expression), and shows loyalty and love, not leaving any room for doubts. An acquaintance looks for the ulterior motive, never trying to really connect with a person.

All in all, I just want to say that we need to evaluate how we treat others. It’s hard to see one another struggle when someone puts us down, and it hurts us as the one who’s trying to help the situation when the acquaintance keeps hurting the friend over and over again. All we need is consistency, honesty, and love. Without those things, we are left with pain, anger, bitterness, depression, or rejection. No one likes being on the receiving end of that kind of behavior, but we also need to make sure we aren’t a source or distributor for hate either. This is what true friendship is: listening, loving, caring, trying. Don’t just do something for someone to be liked, for status, or for some ulterior motive. Do it because you mean it, do it to bring them happiness. If you value someone enough to call them a friend, then put effort into it and share life with them. We aren’t here on earth for that long, and God gave us each other for a reason. We aren’t here to sit around and criticize each other behind backs or half-ass relationships. We’re here to build long lasting relationships that succeed; ones that build us up, and keep us going. While we’re at it we should always appreciate one another and never let someone go a day without telling that friend they’re loved. Try this tomorrow, today, whenever you read this: go up to a friend you love/value/appreciate (a real friend, not just an acquaintance) and tell them thanks. Tell them thanks for listening, for being honest, for being understanding, and for loving. We all need to hear those words every now and again. Just make sure to be the same type of friend back to them because they deserve it.

John 15:12-15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

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