Inside 

Inside I’ve had some deep thoughts lately. They’ve been of wondering what is happening in my life and how I can respond to all of the comments and questions.

Inside I’ve been hurting but trying to keep a smile on the outside- trying to make things okay again, because it’s good when things are okay. 

Inside I’m trying to forgive the people who hit my dog with a car this morning, but drove off. They left the evidence though….my girl in a ditch and pieces of their bumper all over the side of the road. 

Was she coming back to the porch when it happened? Did she hear me calling to let her know that I love her? I even said “Lady Bug,” which is the only name she kinda sorta responded to. 

Sweeping her fur off the floor multiple times a day is annoying, but we love our Lady Bug. She didn’t know how to keep the water in her mouth when she wanted a drink, but we love our Lady Bug. Her trying to be a lap dog was a little weird, but we love our Lady Bug. 

Inside I’m really wondering why I can’t just stay in bed. But depression has that effect. 

I have to show people that it’s not that my life is problem free, but that my God is bigger than any of the problems I face on a daily basis. 

I have to show people that even though I’d rather be doing nothing, my God tells me I’m able to make a difference. 

I have to show people that I really do believe these things, even when the going gets [REALLY] tough. 

Inside I know that better things are coming. And for that, I give God glory. 

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One Step Closer

School started four days ago, and I was so excited because I accomplished a lot over the summer. Not that I checked most things off of the mental checklist I had, because I didn’t, but that I am an overcomer.

Last year, my freshman year, I had a hard time with a bunch of things- getting schoolwork completed, procrastination, depression, and well, the mixture of the three of them together. Honestly, my grades were not what they should have been, and yes, they were passing, but they didn’t reach the expectations from what they were in previous years. And it made me even more upset about it all when I didn’t make it on the high honor roll, and not just because I didn’t get a t-shirt. I kept asking myself, “What am I doing? Why am I letting this happen?” But I didn’t do anything about it.

Over the summer, I was busy. It started off by getting mastery on both of the Regents Exams I took- Latin and Earth Science. The next couple of weeks after that, I tried to better prepare myself for Quiz Finals. I had a goal of memorizing all 28 chapters of Matthew word for word, but didn’t quite make it. I did, though, have the first 12 chapters memorized word for word, all quotes perfectly, and chapters 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, and 28 roughly or mostly memorized. So even though I didn’t reach my goal, I am still very proud of how well I was able to do at nationals having put what effort I did into studying. About 6 days after coming home from nationals, I packed two suitcases and my guitar and went to live with my aunt in Pennsylvania for a month. Doing a lot of moving things, heavy lifting, housework, babysitting, camping, and visiting Cedar Point, I was off the internet quite a bit- even for a whole week one time, which is huge for me.

But the thing that I accomplished this summer is being completely okay with being away from the internet for a week at a time. Instead of being attached to my ipod, always trying to pick up some wifi, I had no problem being away and spending time with the fam. Before, I really struggled with self control, having a hard time staying away from social media, resulting in lower grades. Realizing what I accomplished over the summer, I had one of the biggest smiles ever on my face, and I gave myself a pat on the back. Yay me!

As summer ended and school started, I decided that I was going to become involved in different ways this year:

I entered into the realm of letter writing, pen-paling, and snail mail with a few friends, which is very very exciting. I know stamps are 48 cents, but sending and receiving mail brings a feeling of happiness and connection!

In a shorter amount of time than usual, I’m checking things off my reading list. A couple weeks ago I started a reading goal on Goodreads, wanting to have read 25 books between then and the end of 2014. I’m almost finished with my 5th book, and I’m excited to go from The Da Vinci Code to Divergent.

Sometime soon, I plan on auditioning for women’s select choir. Always singing around the house, and starting to post some covers of my own on YouTube, I feel that I am ready for my very first vocal audition.

I applied a couple of weeks ago for an admin position at Clarinet Players United on Facebook. After about a week of answering questions, I got the message saying that I was one of the two chosen! Becoming connected with the page last week, I made my first post, and am very excited to be working with my new friends at CPU.

During the first three days of school, I was having a little bit of trouble adjusting to the new schedule at home. But my eyes were opened through that, seeing that I need to spend more time with God- giving him more than just my mornings, and definitely putting him first in everything.

It’s a new year, and even more than I did last year, I want to become more like Christ everyday. I want to continue sharing my testimony with others, showing them just a tiny snippet of what God can do. Yes, God is working on me, but if He can do everything he’s already done, I can’t even imagine how much more He can do! I am continuously excited to see how God can use me, through the plans he has for me, and the love He shares that I can pass on to others. Everyday I want to be one step closer to being the person God wants me to be.

And for that, I give God glory.

 

 

A Beautiful Gift

I love God, and his gifts to me are beautiful.

For some time, I’ve been struggling with being the only Jesus follower in my home. But patience has been placed in my heart recently, knowing that God has a plan and I must follow it, even when the going gets tough. Bible Quizzing being a huge part of me, I shared my testimony at conference finals this year.

I knew that I wanted to share since the previous conference finals, because I knew that I had a story, and the campfire seemed to be a place where my friends were listening, and definitely not judging. So I shared. I am not a common public speaker, but Jesus gave me this special message to share. So when it felt right, and no one else was taking a turn, I stood up. I started, “My name is Calandra, for those of you who don’t already know…” even though I felt most of my audience was familiar with me. Once I started talking, I couldn’t stop. Even though I completely forgot everything I had mentally planned out in my head before I stood up, I kept talking, telling about my home life and how Facebook messaging my friends was a go-to for me because I didn’t have anyone at home to talk to, and how I love bible quizzing because it’s all just one big Jesus Party. And Jesus parties are the best.

When I sat down, Kaleigh hugged me. We were sitting on the same blanket, and it was cool for us to share our testimonies consecutively. Before I headed back to where I was staying, I received a few other hugs and some thank yous. It made me feel really good inside, experiencing the support of others in the Genesis conference. The next day, when I was saying my see-you-soons, Mary Honan hugged me.

Let me tell you about Mary. We haven’t known each other too long, but from the day I met her she has been such a sweet friend. When I first saw her at conference finals, I went to her door, and she came running out to me, and she was excited because she yelled “GOOD MORNING!!!” and then hugged me. And then it came to the end of the weekend and she was hugging me again! She said to me, “Hey, I think I know what I can do for you. You’ll just need to give me your address.”

It just so happened that I came to her house for her Bon Voyage Bonfire yesterday, and she hadn’t mailed it yet. So when I came in, she hugged me and said, “I have something for you upstairs.” So while I was chatting with Mrs. Honan, Mary came back and handed me a green journal. On the front it says Trust in the Lord with all your heart. I opened it up to see a note from Mary, in very beautiful handwriting, where she said that after I shared my testimony, she knew that my goodbye-for-now gift was going to be a journal- and not a journal left blank for me to write in, but a journal she already started, filled will some of my favorite bible verses, and encouraging notes and some quotes.

When she gave me the journal, I only read her first note before giving her a hug, planning on saving the rest for later. On the way home, I decided to read a little more.

When you start feeling as if you have no value remember these verses… When reading this, I realized that she knew. She knew that I have felt as if I had no value. And reading these verses from Zephaniah and Jeremiah and Proverbs, I started crying. The things people say to me do not determine my value. The world does not determine my value. But God- He created me and determined my value. I am not worthless.

For the days when everything is going well…. Coping is learning how to handle cycles. Sometimes things seem to be getting worse, and sometimes things improve- I like to talk about days that are fabulous. And even when things are not going too well, He is at work. So I praise Him.

On the days the tears won’t stop flowing, remember these verses…. Even on these days, my Lord is with me; he wipes the tears. I have a lot of these days, but they are becoming less frequent. On these days, I know that joy comes in the morning.

And so many more. As I was reading, I continued to let the tears fall. I felt so uplifted from the verses, the notes, the hugs and the I love you, Calandra on the way out. What a special gift to me, and not just because it made me tear up, but because it came from a special friend. Mary makes sure that I know that I’m loved, know that I matter, know that I am beautiful. She wrote that I have a unique opportunity because I am a missionary in my own home.

And it is so great to be reminded of that. Sometimes it seems like my family doesn’t respond in any way, but I know that I am a light, shining brightly. When I find myself slipping back, and starting to go back to the lies I’ve had trouble avoiding, I can replace them with these Truths in my gift.

I am so so thankful for the friends that have been placed on my path, and walk in the same direction- closer to a life that is overflowing with Jesus. Because you can never have too much Jesus, right? I just love the beautiful gifts and special happenings and the best brothers and sisters in Christ, that can only come to me through God’s perfect plan.

And for that, I give God glory.

Continuing On in Joy

I always find writing to be good for my coping, so that’s what I’m doing- Writing, and a blog post specifically to share my thoughts.

This morning started just like any other morning, me sort of not really trying to sleep in. Then my aunt Tina came to the doorway and said with a voice that was quiet, but sure to wake me up (I’m a light sleeper), “Cali…..Cali get up……and try to hurry.” So I put my glasses on and came to the kitchen.

She just had surgery, so I was expecting something like “Hey, I’m having some problems. I’m going to the doctor, so can you watch Wyatt?” or ” Hey, we have a surprise! We just found some tickets to a DCI (Drum Corps International) show, and we’re going to take you!” Okay, fine. I actually didn’t know what I was expecting, I couldn’t read her face.

We were just staring at each other for a few seconds, then she broke the silence, “Sit down. I can’t tell you when you’re standing up.” I’m still not sure if it was the news she was about to tell me, or the fact that I’m almost 7 inches taller than she is. But I sat down, and she told me. And it was like, woah. woah. wait. no. And then one tear came, followed by so many more, and she was hugging me saying “I know, Honey,” she herself crying. It was like a punch in the stomach, but different. I’ve never been punched in the stomach, so I wouldn’t really know.

So I went back to my bed, trying to wrap my head around it, even while my 4 year old cousin was in there watching some stupid show on Netflix. He doesn’t yet know the concept of death, nor does he know that what I was feeling, in four year old terms, was probably like someone breaking my favorite toy right in front of me, but different. No, I don’t have a favorite sibling. Yes, I wish I could see some of them more (That whole confusing biological- wait does sole custody count as adoption?- my bio mother gave birth to 8 children with six different guys- confusion that I have never clearly understood) than what I do- maybe once a year if I’m lucky, even besides the birthday phone call.

So, I didn’t actually pray right away. And that’s even surprising to me, because I’ve been getting better with prayer, it having been something I struggled with. But I just kind of sat there and cried for a while, put my earbuds in, and turned on my Praise and Worship Pandora station. And maybe I cried myself to sleep. A little bit later I got the breakfast call, and it was brought up briefly in conversation. But I ate, because there was food and food is good.

Then I went back to thinking about my big brother. How did it happen?Who killed him? Gosh, I don’t even have a picture of him and me. Did he know that I loved him? And this is when I prayed because I didn’t know what to think anymore besides, “I was looking forward to what was next, and I had just recently forgiven him for choosing the drug life. Lord, open my eyes and help me to make sense of what just happened. (I didn’t know whether to blame the confusion on my seemingly slow mind or on something else.)”

But I posted a status on Facebook, letting everyone know. And thankful I finally figured out the chords, I got my guitar out and sang (very quietly and mostly to myself) Oceans. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior. That became my prayer, that God would lead me into all these situations and that I would come out with a stronger faith. And I didn’t quite grasp that until now, even through some very dark days of depression.

And when I went back on Facebook occasionally through the day (most of the time not wanting to because I was constantly scrolling by pictures that he was being tagged in, and it just made me tear up and cry even more.), I was receiving messages from people I’d never really talked to, telling me that they are willing to be that shoulder to cry on, that friend’s house to go to when I needed to get away for a few hours, that added link on the very long chain of those who are praying for me. And one, told me that she lost her brother 4 years ago. And me, assuming that someone had gone through the same thing, but not really figuring it was someone I knew, I was so relieved in a way, to know I was not alone. And then the comments- the comments on my Facebook status. Again, people were commenting the most uplifting things- some people I’m not even friends with on Facebook! But the virtual hugs, and prayers, and open inboxes- they make me smile.

I called my friend Haven on the phone for a second time. And not wanting to bring it up really, but being curious, she asked about him. I explained briefly about his drug problems and how I didn’t get to see him much. I didn’t really know what to say about it though, so we went into a conversation about song writing and bible quizzing. I love talking to her because she never fails to make me smile, even though she does live like 750 miles away.

So I sit here, still praising God for all he is doing in my life. A lot of these hard times I’ve been through I don’t quite understand, but what I do understand is that there are so much better things yet to come. So, coping now, I continue to write, sing, pray, and praise because it is so much better than shutting myself out from the world, like I’ve done in the past. I’ve experienced the most amazing blessings and I am so so thankful for them- the greatest friends all over the country, the love, the support, and it’s all a very long list. So, while missing so many people today, I can still have the Joy of The Lord flowing through me, continuing to spread the love of Jesus to everyone around me, because I don’t need to let my Joy be stolen from me.

And for that, I give God glory.

Connecting Dots

I just got back from Greenville, Illinois for national bible quizzing finals.

Before I left I had a lot on my mind, waiting to see how things would work out this time. I was not wanting quiz finals to be like it was last year- the whole not wanting to talk to anyone, not wanting to participate in anything, and not wanting to be there attitude. Somehow, I just knew that God was going to make this Quiz Finals special for me.

If you’re a Facebook friend of mine, you could so totally tell I was ready for this, with my countdowns, my study updates, and definitely my common behavior of mentioning it so many times. And if you’ve talked to me in person in the last few months, I probably said something about meeting my friend from Illinois- Haven, the one I talked to on the phone, the one who wanted to sing with me, the one I’ve never actually met. So even though I was extremely excited for this, I still had some things to talk to God about- the things I was nervous for, the things I remember from last year.

On my way to Greenville, I was “napping” (no, just jamming out to my music with my eyes closed.) and trying to contain that inside screamy feel, all while getting texts from other quizzers asking how far I was, or how much longer until I got there. I was getting closer and closer to this Jesus party that I had been anticipating all year. And I just really wanted to meet Haven. We were running a little late because of frequent bathroom stops, and Haven was helping with worship, so I knew I would have to wait until the evening activities to see her.

But we arrived soon enough, sat down in a pew, and I received my first tap on the shoulder- a friend from Kentucky! When it was time to stand up for worship, they were introducing the worship team, and Haven’s name came up, and my whole team looked at me and smiled.

Later in the evening when it was time for activities in Scott’s Field (with inflatables!!!) I was walking around looking for people and my name was called. My friend from Kentucky with my friend from Illinois- woo! I hugged Haven and Grace, who is another friend from Greenville that I was looking forward to meeting. Then the whole group of us went over to some steps and sat on them and talked.

I ate breakfast with Haven the next morning, and gave her the gift I got for her- a music journal for her to write her own songs in! With the hug that came with her “I love it,” I smiled because I felt a part of something special.

On the first day of quizzing, my team was undefeated. And yes, I totally did pre-jump a three part question in individuals and get it right. I never pre-jump, and I was sort of expecting to not do well, considering I was quizzing against all guys (I made it to individual finals twice in my conference, but was never able to out- jump the five guys I was placed with). But I heard the words “3 part question…….subject to judgment” and had to jump because I knew it was from a chapter I memorized. And even though it was the only question I answered, and didn’t make it to finals, the way I felt to see my light up first and to get that pre-jump right was awesome, and I was literally shaky from it the whole day.

Wednesday night was the testimony service, and just like at conference finals, I was thinking about what I would say if I actually got up there and talked. I didn’t end up talking, but I really enjoyed listening to how God works- how he heals. And knowing from experience the Grace that comes from God in the healing process, I hugged someone at the end of the service, someone who maybe hasn’t experienced it all just yet, and told her that it gets better. I will remember the look that was on her face when I came up to her for a long time, because it reminds me of those who came up to me when I was in a similar situation, the feeling of relief, the feeling of knowing I’m not alone. And in that, I really saw that God can use me for things like that- giving big hugs to strangers, but getting the why right.

After the service, I went to find my friend Grace so that I could get a picture with her. Asking Haven to join in, and Haven asking Rebekah, we put our arms on each other’s shoulders and it made for an awesome picture. When Haven was talking to Rebekah, I introduced myself to Haven’s mom and said, “I’m Calandra, if you didn’t already know that. I’m sure Haven talks about me a lot though,” and I turned to see Grace nodding to agree, “YEAH!” (So it’s not just me. It’s mutual. I’ve mentioned Haven so many times that if she were to come to Albion, she’d most definitely be considered famous, I’m sure!) Haven and I then went to my dorm to get my guitar so that we could sing together. We ended up sitting on the steps outside of Armington Center and sang for each other. Something I was definitely looking forward to! She went first, singing “Awake” (I think), and I went second singing Worn, by Tenth Avenue North. Then she sang a few verses of another song she’d been working on. Even though our time singing together was short, it was great. I wasn’t nervous, I enjoyed singing for her, and I enjoyed spending some time with her because it was hard to find time throughout the week.

Thursday. The last day. My team was still in because we only lost once during double elimination. We were quizzing a team we didn’t have much trouble beating before, and ended up going into overtime to break the tie. We were still tied on question 17. So there it was- Win or lose- question 18. The other team answered correctly. I was happy for them, though, because I could see how they felt- they were so excited! Instead of saying “That could have been us,” I’m saying “Well done, team” because we did our very best. And we were a three-way connection. I was in a position of trying to cheer up two team mates that were upset- one feeling she didn’t contribute, and the other just wanting to have won. I’m not sure if I was much help or not, but I was so proud of how well we quizzed together, and how well we all gave God the glory throughout the week. No, we didn’t bring home a trophy, but we brought home a True prize- a stronger love for Jesus. And that’s definitely memory worthy.

It was the last day. The vans were packed, and I had to say goodbye to all of my friends- new and old and all those that I might not see for a long while. This week I felt connected with everything- my friends, the games of Frisbee, my improvement on jumping, being a part of a team, the non-stop hugs, God. Thinking about all that happened last year, looking forward to what was coming this year, and being very afraid of the transition between Jesus Party and home life, I know that I don’t need to worry because God has it all under control. I had so much fun at this Jesus party, and it was beyond awesome to see how God can connect the dots, how he can turn something broken into something absolutely beautiful. And that’s what I want to talk about- how God can change lives.

And for that, I give God glory.

A Different Path

As these last weeks of school drag on I find myself crying more- at least once a day. Sometimes over things I see as good, and sometimes over things that I’m struggling with. Much more the latter.

I’m trying not to make eye- contact with the “bad timing” thought. It can’t be bad timing, right? God’s timing is absolutely perfect. In my prayers, I constantly find myself saying, “Where am I going, Lord? Is this path I’m following yours?” I made the commitment that I would follow Him wherever he goes. But sometimes the way is unclear, and I can’t see it (Even though I just got glasses).

More often than not, people ask that conversation- starting question: What do you want to do after high school? And every time I give the same answer: I want to do something with music; I’ve considered Music Ed, but I don’t know. Performance maybe. Or English. Or Psychology. I’m not really sure. Wherever God leads me. Last year I thought I was set, that I had made my final decision. But I was in 8th grade- I just wanted to satisfy the questions, I guess.

But right now, the school year is coming to an end; my freshman year of high school is almost over. And when I look at it from an academic view, I say that it’s burnt toast. I messed up big time. No High Honor. And hey, I even failed a quarter of phys. ed. with a 46 average.

But you know what I can be proud of? I can be pleased with this: I am growing closer to Him everyday. Jesus is my rock.

I have been thinking about what God is calling me to do. I always thought music was my thing. My friends have always thought that music was my thing. In middle school, I earned the nickname “Crazy Kid,” mostly because I was the only one crazy enough to carry 3 or more instruments to school most days. I was in every single ensemble available to me. But this year is seeming to be different. Especially for marching band- I was excited that I would be able to try out for drum major this year because I’m a freshman, and I have a whole group of people cheering for me already, even though I haven’t said, “Mark time. Hit!” Marching season has been tough on me though. I’m having trouble guiding, covering down, playing and marching all at once. After reading the evaluation sheet for drum major try outs, I’ve decided that I’m not ready for that. If I can’t even cover down, how can I be drum major? And coming home just wanting to let it out, whatever it be- tears, anger, whatever, after every practice makes me think that maybe this isn’t where I’m supposed to be.

I came home, telling mom that I’m considering not marching next year. She is wondering why I’m “giving up on everything I love.” (I didn’t swim this year, I didn’t audition for jazz band, I don’t want to march anymore.) When I made the commitment to follow God wherever he leads me, I did mean through things like this, too. Yes, I love love love band, but maybe God has something different in mind. But He is in control and I trust Him with my life. I have not given up on everything I love because I love Him, and I’m still hanging on. I will be praying about these questions I have, and still praising Him for what He’s doing in my life!

And for that, I give God glory.

Jesus Calms the Storm

This year I’ve been starting to notice how hard it is for me to focus, understand things, and get them to make sense. In school it seems that I’m the last one in the class to finish something- of those who actually are trying to work- if it even gets to the point of being finished, which most of the time it doesn’t. I need to read things slowly, a few words at a time, and usually more than once or twice. And on top of that, little to no motivation is the exact opposite of helpful. And here am I, looking for a genie or something…..(what ever happened to my three wishes?)….wishing the world would stop for a few minutes.

Again, I find myself trying to find the top of this pile of owed work. Mom got a letter in the mail today from my Earth Science teacher saying that I owe four labs. She said, “I got a letter in the mail saying you owe four labs, and if you don’t finish them you won’t be able to take the regents. That’s not like you.”

And all I could think was: What does that even mean? Does ‘That’s not like you’ mean that me owing work is a new thing? Because that is definitely not true. Does she not see how I’ve been struggling with this for a while? Does ‘That’s not like you’ mean that I seem like I don’t care because my work isn’t getting done?

I know that people who see me most days have changed their views of me. I think I come off as “A girl that went from being really smart and getting all her work done to a girl that doesn’t even try in school and spends all her time watching Netflix and studying for bible quizzing.”

I’ve had to have the “getting some help” conversation with my parents. Which includes talk about going to a whole different school because it’s a possibility that block scheduling doesn’t work for me. And the talk about going to see a doctor that can tell me if I need medication. I pray, asking God if this is His plan.

Depression makes me want to show people that there is something way different going on, that I’ve got a lot of stuff going on in my head, but I don’t want people to be able to read my mind because I know that some people wouldn’t be able to handle it. “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.” (High five to John Green for that quote that is totes fab.) I’ve been told many times that I should quit quizzing, that I spend way too much time studying, that school work needs to be completed before I even think about opening my portion, etc. And honestly, it makes me upset and uncomfortable. As I go through one of the hardest times in my life- coping with depression- a lot of the time I feel that quizzing is one of the only things I have. The people: The people I consider my best friends are those I’ve met through quizzing. And I’m sure I’m not the only quizzer who has at least slight separation issues – I don’t like being separated from people I love for long periods of time, which I’ve had to deal with lately. My portion: I take it with me everywhere. Not that I always have it open, but with it I feel invincible. This way, I can always be reminded of what Jesus says, thinks, or does.

But the most amazing opportunities have come up this year, and I know they could only come from God. Praying with a friend on the school bus, going over to a friend’s house (In North Chili, of course because I’ve made a lot of friends from Pearce), singing for people I haven’t seen since I was a young tot, being a bridesmaid in my aunt’s wedding, being a prayer partner to a friend that went off to college, starting a blog, calling a friend that I’ve never met before who lives 744.2 miles away, being able to go into a bathroom and talk with I crying girl at school that I’ve never met, being an inspiration to people. And sometimes, I don’t know what they’re so inspired by. And now I know it’s my love for Christ.

I stopped going to counseling a few weeks ago. It seemed that it wasn’t helping, but since then, it seems like the weight of life is back on my shoulders. Coming home and crying seems to be more common again. I don’t know if it’s the nice weather or not, because since nationals last year I’ve been thinking about how this summer is going to go, not wanting it to be what it was last year. And then I wonder if it’s just the cycles and waves of it all. But you know what? I don’t like spending all of my time thinking about thoughts that shouldn’t be thought- My eyes are supposed to be on God. Sometimes, I think that thinking gets in the way of that, and it’s not supposed to be this way.

Last week (maybe) I had a mental breakdown. I don’t really remember what started the whole thing, but I just know that I was being put down for my faith in Him. But Jesus said, “If they condemn me, they will condemn you.” And since my goal is becoming more like Him, shouldn’t I be expecting hard times like this? I’m pretty sure that when people said mean things to Jesus, he didn’t go stomping off and slamming his bedroom door. But you know what he did? He prayed for those people and loved them.
So even though it is hard for me to live in a world of black and white, I want to keep God Number One- not these silly frustrations because Jesus makes my life colorful, you know? And even if this summer does get harder than the school year was and is continuing to be, I hope I learned my lesson last year- I know where my eyes need to be. They need to be on what is to come and not on what is happening right now. He has given me life because He is alive in me.

2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

And for that, I give God glory.

He’s Living on the Inside

Everything happens for a reason, even though sometimes we have no idea what that reason is. Right now, I’m feeling empty, but yet completely filled. I’m feeling empty because I’m missing a brother, Mr. Burlison, the man who led me to my current love of music by teaching me to make a sound other than a squeak on the clarinet 6 years ago; he went home to be with God. But still, I feel so filled because he is with God, and God takes good care of his children.

Sometimes it seems like the tears come with everything, and they did with this too. And these tears are the same ones that flowed for the last ten chapters of TFIOS, but so different and more real. Mostly because we all want a happy ending, and that book doesn’t end the way I wanted it to. But what is not happy about being in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal?

Mr. Burlison, you really showed me what it looks like to seek His kingdom and His righteousness first, and what a strong relationship with Christ should be like. I remember at summer lessons four years ago when you let me give the trumpet a try, and it was bundles of fun. That’s when I decided I would earn the nickname ‘Crazy Kid’ and learn to play some different instruments. I loved how supportive you were of me with that, always asking which instruments I’m carrying around and how I like them. “I’m guessing all three of these cases are yours. You brought three instruments today, huh?” “Yep. I wanted to play trumpet during lunch today, so I brought that. And today is Tuesday, so I brought my tenor for jazz band and clarinet for my lesson later.” I remember when I got a piece of tightly folded paper stuck in my trumpet last year, and it was a combined effort for you, Thaine, and Marty to get it out. I remember the last time I talked to you. It was at church, when I was in a “get the best score on Flappy Bird” phase- and I was all excited because I just made it to 199. You said you had never played it, so I let you have a turn. There were definitely nothing but special times when I was in the same room as you. I miss you. I didn’t know that was the last time I would talk to you for a long time. But I will see you again someday.  Maybe then we can play a tenor sax duet. Until then I will follow God’s plan for my life, just as you did.

I’ve seen literally hundreds of Facebook statuses saying how much Mr. Burlison means, all he’s done for them, and how much people miss him.

I wanted to end my life 9 months ago because I was believing lies that I should not have and letting Satan run my life. It was dark and I wanted it to be over with because trying to find a light that seemingly didn’t exist was exhausting. My friends that knew told me that if I ended my life, more people than I could imagine would miss me. And now I see that it’s true. I don’t think Mr. Burlison  realized how much of a positive impact he’s had on this many people, and I don’t think I would have either if I ended my life.

I’m not sure how much I can compare cancer and depression, but I know that both are momentary troubles, and so much smaller than God and his promises. Life with God is so much richer and brighter than life without, and I know both sides of that.

Wayne Litchfield (Wayne With A Cane), a man from church, pulled me aside a few weeks ago at church. He told me he had read my blog post “Quizzer Girl, I Guess” and said, “There’s a difference between what you’re going through and what I was going through when I was young. Do you know what it is? You have God. And guess what. I didn’t have God. That means you’re already on the right track. Keep doing what you’re doing and He will take care of the rest.” In my post I had mentioned my struggle with depression and in other posts, my struggle with an eating disorder. But when I look back and see how far I’ve come in this past year, it’s a long way.

Other students from school, some of which I’ve never talked to, have sent me messages or emails telling me how much of an inspiration I am to them with my love for Christ and how I proclaim it. They tell me I’m incredible. And then at senior teen girls group, my friends that I haven’t even known for three years wrote me things like:

“Calandra, I don’t know you that well, but I know that you are so sweet, caring, loving, understanding, and a Godly woman. Your decision to not swim this year because you felt God wanted you to take a break was truly inspiring. Thank you so much!….”

“Your walk with God has encouraged me and given me the faith I need. I know you’re always there and have never judged me. Your hugs brighten up my day and reassure me that someone actually cares. I’m so glad I’ve gotten the chance to meet you. You’re beautiful, so caring, and the true meaning of a friend. I love you <3…..”

“You are the most tender- hearted, forgiving person I know. God loves the way you care so deeply. I am inspired by your pursuit of excellence- in your walk with Jesus, in music, in school, in everything. Do it all for Him! He will honor you and guide your steps (which will certainly lead to greatness because the Lord knows you will humbly pass all the glory onto Him!) Thanks for sharing your life with me. My life is richer because of you! ….”

“Calandra, you are such a sweet and gentle- spirited young lady. You’re very smart and I love the way you talk or read aloud. You always make people feel important. I love when you hug me at church or just talk and I feel so blessed to know you! I look forward to knowing more about you. You’re a good listener and I love that about you! Your desire and passion for Christ is so awesome to see in a young lady. I love you! …..”

“You are absolutely fabulous, and probably spell better than I do. You help cheer me up and make me laugh when I’m down in any way. You go gurl! ….”

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I went to see God’s Not Dead last weekend, so I wrote this on my hand and took a picture.  Caption: This is the hand I will raise to praise! I’ve written these words on my hand everyday for this past week, where everyone can see them. And there was nothing more comforting when I was crying Thursday morning to wipe my tears and see these words written on my hand. Because, you know, I needed to read them.

God has worked in my life, and if this all doesn’t show it, then I don’t know what does. I definitely wouldn’t have wrote this on my hand a year ago, and probably wouldn’t have gone to see that movie either. But now, I definitely call myself a God Girl. God was at work in Mr. Burlison’s life too and I could tell because that’s how he lived.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. [Ephesians 6:14 NIV]

And for that, I give God glory.

 

 

 

 

 

Quizzer Girl, I Guess.

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Yesterday was the first day I have really cried for maybe about three weeks. And of all the days, it was the day of a quiz tournament.

When I really cry, I mostly can’t say that I’m crying for a specific reason- it’s usually a big jumble of all sorts of feelings and thoughts I can’t quite describe. That’s how it was yesterday, too. I walked into my house planning on going straight to my room like I usually do when I come home from the outside world, but mom wanted me to come tell her how my day went. For about two weeks now, I’ve seen a change come over my mom. She now hugs me every chance she gets and doesn’t let me get too far without hearing her say, “I love you.” She hasn’t done that for the longest time ever, but now she is and I like it.

So I came into the living room and sat next to her on the couch. I could already feel the tears coming. Not that I wanted to cry, but it was sort of forced, like, I just had to. I told her all about how I answered only less than ten questions the whole entire day. I told her how I woke up at 2:47 in the morning because I was so excited and decided I couldn’t sleep anymore. I told her how Miriam came out of nowhere to hug me just like she usually does and I hugged her back. I told her how Kaleigh and Rebekah got me my very own copy of The Fault in Our Stars for my birthday, when I was only expecting to borrow Kaleigh’s copy. I told her how Noah sat next to me during worship and lunch and wanted me to watch a video he thought I would enjoy immensely. I told her how we left before the awards ceremony and I didn’t get to say goodbye to a lot of people that I won’t see until conference finals. 90 days of separation. I mean, isn’t a month long enough?

After about a half hour I decided I was done talking, or crying, so I told mom I was going to go read. “Come on, Missi, let’s go to bed.” Missi is my Teacup Chihuahua Jack Russel best friend who has been with me ever since she was born on December 10th, 2008. She followed me and listened to me read the first 9 chapters of TFIOS- I like reading out loud because it makes me feel more confident in speaking, I guess.

I woke up this morning, not feeling so hot, and called the neighbors to say they didn’t need to pick me up for church this morning. But I looked at my quizzing ribbons and stuff and decided I wanted to go show my mom all of them, so I did. I had them all in my hand- “Mom, look at all of my ribbons.” She looked up and I started crying again. About yesterday, and about everything. I started telling her about quizzing and how I wondered a lot, “What if quizzing isn’t for me?”I told her about how I feel that God has put it on my heart for a few months now to get up in front of people and share my testimony at either conference finals or nationals. I told her about how much it scared me though because I have no idea what I would say if I got up in front of all those people- public speaking isn’t my thing. But I told her how I prayed about it everyday and how maybe something will happen between now and then that I could talk about-but what if something didn’t happen? What if I got up there anyway, but God gave me the words to speak, just like he did for Andy in God’s Smuggler. Andy didn’t know what to say, but God always gave him the words. I told her about how hurt I felt every time my light didn’t come on and my team members seemed sort of disappointed in me, even when they jumped instead. Only four lights can come on at a time, people. Sorry I’m one of the two that doesn’t make it. Most of the time when we take a time out, they all look to me and say something like, “You’ve got to jump faster.” I like being able to answer questions and feel happy when I do, but I don’t like it when people tell me things I already know. I’ve thought about it so many times- I mostly get excited for quiz meets to see everyone. What if quizzing isn’t for me? “Well, sure it is!” And even coaches from other teams can tell how much I like it- I mean, my profile picture is of me holding my portion. I went to Pennsylvania for a birthday party and someone there said he could describe my life in two words just by looking at my Facebook. 1. Bible 2. Quizzing. After I was done, I went back to my room and finished The Fault in Our Stars. I told Kaleigh about it and got a message from someone who saw the post that said “Did you not go to church just so you could finish that book?” No, I’m sick and I wanted to talk to God about all the stress I was having and all the thinking I was doing. Should I have went to church?

We had someone graduate last year who wasn’t good at jumping at first either, but she turned out to be a really good quizzer. Everyone tells me I’m her. Once we get you jumping, you’ll be a quizzing superstar. Sure, I study quite a bit- and when I say I don’t really study that much, as much as they all think I do, I get the look. But even though I don’t want to admit it, I really don’t study that much. Mostly, I just cram for a few hours and I know enough to answer questions. And with that, one of the other Albion quizzers said in response to nationals talk- who is able to go and who isn’t said, “That would be Calandra. She pretty much carries this team on her back. We all know she’s going to nationals.” And sure, I know that I am, but those words meant a lot. Do the rookies really look up to me that way? Sure, I have just about 3,000 quiz bucks, but do I stand out that much? I don’t think so, but maybe.

What if quizzing isn’t for me? Just like it wasn’t for my twin brother or younger sister. Man, it’s so filling to have my name called for some award and have more more than just my home team go crazy. And for another team to call me the quote master because they assume that since I just answered a quote right, I’ll answer the second one right, too- just like I do pretty much every time they see me.

There’s just something about quizzing that I wouldn’t be able to give up- the endless hugs, congrats, tight handshakes, holding cute babies, having someone tell me that the cheers are so much louder when I get called up for something because I’ve made so many friends, the support.

You see, I let depression control me for such a long time and quizzing was something I looked forward to. Even if I was having a bad week, I’d look forward to a quiz-tourney- Saturday because it’s always so bright there. All of my favorite memories are from quizzing- when Miriam hugged me after the awards ceremony at quiz finals last year and I barely knew her, when Kaleigh walked and talked and sat with me at the clock tower, when Mr. Distaffen tagged me in a picture when we were quizzing against the team he was coaching (I liked being tagged in pictures), when I sat in the hallway with some of my friends from Pearce and we all played the stupidest game on our own devices in a big group- Flappy Bird, and soooo many more.

But even though I do sort of emotionally beat myself up for not jumping fast enough, I can’t not  quiz. It’s not even really about winning at all. It’s about hiding God’s word in our hearts and living it out. Mama Thom, one of my coaches, asked me yesterday how I was doing and I said, “Terrible. I’m not even getting my light on.” “What is quizzing about?” “It’s about applying God’s word to my life.” “So how are you doing?” “Pretty good.”

Matthew 5:16 NIV In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

And there’s a start- People have already told me that I’m a light in their lives, an inspiration, something wonderful. They tell me I’m a true warrior for Christ. And for that, I give God glory.

Why I Am Choosing To Reject Valentine’s Day

A great post written by a good friend that I completely agree with!

Words Of Love

This year, I am choosing to reject Valentine’s Day and all its practices and social obligations (although if you want to buy me chocolate I wouldn’t complain.) I am choosing to do this not because I don’t have a “significant other” to spend it with, but because I find no reason for it, and believe it is a useless holiday. I mean, why is there a holiday devoted to telling those you love that you love them? Why is there a special day for that? If you truly love them, you won’t need a special day to tell them. You will continually showthem you love them, no special day needed. Also, those single people continually complain about being alone. Get over it, stop complaining. If you want a “significant other,” stop posting your complaints on Facbook, and go make something of yourself and show everyone your true, kind, beautiful…

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