Walking in the Cemetery

Walking in the Cemetery

The other day I was reading my devotional, Grace for the Moment by Max Lucado before going to work. Under a list of bullet points I was surprised to read “Make major decisions in a cemetery.”

I had to reread that line a couple times. It seemed so random and not flowing with the other ideas, but I pondered it nonetheless. I decided that my next morning walk would be at a cemetery not far from my house.

The morning was slightly cooler than it’s been the past blazing week. I pulled into the cemetery and instead of being surrounded by headstones, I was surrounded by bouquets of flowers. Most of the grave markers are set flush to the ground so you have to practically be standing over top them to read them.

If you ever need a reality check, the cemetery is a good place to go. Especially when you see the markers of children who didn’t even make it to 5 or 10 years old.

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Visiting Uncle Skipper (2014)

My Uncle “Skipper” died of leukemia when he was 9 years old. He was my first real understanding of death, which is odd because I never met him. Even now I feel a strange connection with him and the knowledge of his brief but precious life.

 

In a cemetery you are very aware of lives that have come to an end and no matter what age, they’re always gone too soon. So, here are some thoughts I had while sitting on a cold stone bench overlooking the resting memorials.

If we could check off everything on our bucket list, would we feel like it was a life well spent? If we landed that dream job, married the love of our life, had the perfect number of children, and could afford a lake house for retirement, is that a successful life?

I gotta be honest, sometimes I feel like if I don’t achieve any of those things, I’ll have wasted my life. But a passage keeps coming to my mind.

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”  ∼Mark 8:34-36 (ESV)

In life, we are constantly bombarded with planning our future and making goals for everything we want to do while we’re still on this earth. Whenever someone close to us passes away, we are reminded that life is short and we should always live as if it’s our last day. While all of that is true and blanketed with good intentions, it’s easy to fall into making each day about us.

As Christians, the fact of the matter is time is short.

Time is short to represent Jesus.

Time is short to do His will.

Time is short to celebrate His name in thankfulness.

I was listening to an online sermon by Todd White (worth looking up here) and he made it abundantly clear that we might be the only Jesus people see. We might be the only Bible people read. What are we doing about it? Are we really making good use of our time as servants of Christ? That’s what it means to be a Christian, isn’t it?

The Bible consistently reminds us of our selfish nature, but thankfully, it also gives us a better alternative to living. If we could just peel our selfishness away and focus on living for God and for others (Lk 10:27), there will be no greater achievement on earth as it is in heaven.

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This epitaph inspired me because I realized I would rather be remembered by walking out the fruits of the Spirit than how many books I publish or performances I give. The fruits of the Spirit are evidence of God in our life so you better believe I want people to see them. They’re found here in Galatians 5 if you want to know what they are.

Let me leave you with a few ideas on how you can reveal the love of Jesus in your daily life:

  • Generously tip all of your servers (not just the deserving ones)
  • Leave notes of encouragement
  • Don’t complain about work
  • Learn peoples’ names (everyone likes to hear their name)

If you have any other ideas on how you like to represent Jesus, leave a comment so we all can learn from each other!

The next time you find yourself in the cemetery, remember the advice from my devotional: “make a major decision” to walk in the light of Jesus, bearing His fruit so the world can pick it from your branches.

God bless!

-LJM

P.S. Daytime walks in the cemetery are far less scary than nighttime walks.

Heavy and Happy

Heavy and Happy

Being heavier than most of my friends has never been fun. The earliest I started paying attention to a scale was twelve years old, not that it did me much good as the numbers increased significantly over the years.

I feel like I’ve been trying to lose weight my whole life. Sometimes I’m successful and the other 99% of the time I hate myself.

The fact of the matter is, it’s just as miserable trying to lose weight as it is to gain weight. The only bright side is when you finally do see the pounds off but it’s only for as long as you can maintain a strict lifestyle.

Why am I saying all of this, sounding like such a Debbie Downer? It’s not out of self-pity (okay, maybe a little) and it’s not a cry for sympathy. The point is, you can’t be happy and heavy at the same time.

Before I lose you, let me clarify what you can be:

Heavy and content.

Heavy and joyful.

Heavy and thriving.

You see, being happy is an emotion only dependent on outside circumstances. If I have a good job, if I’m with the love of my life, if I look good, then I’ll be happy. As soon as our outside circumstances are negative or if they don’t go as planned, then it’s harder to be happy.

But being content is about being at peace in the moment. It means loving yourself if you’re 10 pounds overweight or 100. Losing 20, 30, 40 pounds will never be enough. Learn to celebrate your imperfections now, knowing that you will always have something you want to change. The reality is, a mess of even more flaws is heading our way. It’s called getting older.

Being joyful is a heart condition. You can change the outside all you want, but the real change in your life comes from a change of heart. Jesus warns those of us who are focused on cleaning the outside of the cup while the inside is still full of junk (Luke 11:39). Our relationship with God and with people defines us more than the numbers on the scale.

Finally, you can still thrive as a plus-sized individual. Don’t let the negative perspective on double chins, belly rolls, and love handles determine what you can and cannot do or what you can and cannot have. You can still find a significant other who thinks you’re sexy, you can still be successful in your pursuits, and you can still be used by God.

Am I saying you should give up on trying to obtain that beach body? Or reach your goal weight? No, because I’m not going to give up. We should always strive to be healthier because we’re God’s temple and we want to serve Him to the best of our ability.

Remember what’s important, don’t be ruled by the fat stigma or the scale digits, and don’t let the doubts about your value steal what’s true. God’s mirror reflects His perfect child. His love is the reason we have an identity in the first place, and we have enough of the world against us to turn on ourselves too.

Join me as I look in the mirror and step on the scale remembering:

To celebrate the parts of my body I wish were different.

To clean the nasty parts of my heart.

To never give up on my goals.

So go out, my friends, live life and let the weight just be something you carry along for the ride.

God bless!
-LJM

Post Grad Life: The Selfish Six

Post Grad Life: The Selfish Six

Six months. I’ve been out of school for six months. It’s hard to believe that life in school is now a memory and I can actually use the phrase “when I was in college.”

Anyway, my first six months have been successful in my book because I have 2 part-time jobs, a consistent writing schedule, and several exciting opportunities on the horizon.

So, why is it when someone asks me, “how’s post-grad life?” I roll my eyes and groan like it’s been torture?

I covered that feeling in my last ‘post-grad’ blog here, and it’s still a work in progress. Millennials call it ‘Adulting.’ The word itself shows just how difficult it is for our kind to cross over to the adult side of life.

I promise for those of you who are concerned, it has been a great six months! That being said, here is something that has been on my mind in regard to my life right now.

From the moment I graduated, I have become increasingly selfish. It’s not a strange concept, we all deal with it, but I have definitely noticed it more now. The world has trained us in the way we should go after college: apartment, marriage, grad school, job in your field, etc. Taking all these things into account, I’m justified to make life all about me.

Right?

When will I be able to move into an apartment? Am I putting enough money away for student loans? What can I do to enjoy my life while I’m single?

These are just some of the topics that go through my mind every day. I know that we have to make decisions in our life to help move it forward. But there comes a point when post-college life is wrapped up in everything I want and everything I need. As a result, do you know what falls through the cracks?

My relationship with God.

I say that God has a plan for me, that He will direct my steps, but once I graduated, I hit the ground running, scurrying around trying not to lose my mind in reality. Suddenly, the race started, and I must run like the wind to feel like I am doing something worth reporting to the world.

As much as I trust God with the path of my life, I am far too obsessed with trying to make it a good one for me. I should be more concerned with everything that God wants for me and everything God needs me to do while I’m here on this earth. That’s easier said than done, but I need to be reminded of that fact constantly or else I will never be satisfied with what I can get out of life.

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. ∼Ephesians 4:1

More than likely, God is going to completely change the direction of my path, which is scary. And He is going to make things happen according to His timing, which is frustrating.

What I would like to encourage is that you “post-gradders” keep God first. Jesus is the most important aspect of our lives and what’s great is that he covers all the other aspects.

What I love about Him is that He is my Chief Constant. No matter what changes in my life (school, job, relationship, home), Jesus is by my side.
Because He’s there, I need to treat Him like He is all those things to me.

Make Him first.

Keep Him first.

And the best is yet to come.

God Bless!

-LJM

 

Dear Special Guy…

Dear Special Guy…

Dear Special Guy,

Congratulations, you have caught my attention. I guess that’s not really difficult to do, but here we are. From the moment you smiled during our first conversation, I knew I wanted to be good friends with you and hopeful something more down the line. Well, we’re down the line now, and I’ve come to realize that you probably don’t feel the same way.

That’s okay, Guy, it’s not your fault. But I thought I’d get some things off my chest anyway.

First of all, you are amazing. Your kind heart shines about as much as your smile when you walk into a room. Your talent drops my jaw, your words make me laugh, and your presence brings warmth to my cheeks. I’m giddy when we get to spend time together or when I see your name pop up on my phone.

Guy, if you’ll let me be honest, I’ve thought about what my life would look like with you. I hope that’s not creepy, but I’m sorry, it’s what we girls do. It’s so easy for us to get attached to a relationship that doesn’t even exist. Which is what brings me to the point of this letter.

You see, Guy, you have become an idol in my life. That’s another thing we humans tend to let happen. A flower bloomed in the soil of my affection. It’s pretty and lovely, but it’s not healthy. Don’t worry, it’s not because of anything you did. My thoughts watered it and helped it grow. Now that I know you’ll probably never reciprocate, I’m having a tough time letting that flower die.

But that flower is just another reminder of what special guys like you do for me. You remind me of my need for an earthly love. You give me the possibility that one day I can have a future with a man by my side. You instill in me hope that there are good guys out there who can provide me with a friend, a spiritual leader, and one day a husband. It may not be with you, but it just means that we weren’t meant to be together.

Through this mess of feelings, you’ve taught me that love shouldn’t try to force two pieces together that don’t match. Love doesn’t mean being consumed with the idea of a potential relationship.

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Song of Solomon 3:4

Instead, love means waiting. Love drives my prayers for the man that will walk into my life in God’s timing. The sooner I learn this lesson, hopefully the less heartbreak I’ll feel the next time someone like you comes around.

 

Don’t get me wrong, you truly are a special guy. You deserve to have girls fawning over you like they do. And one day, you’re going to make a special girl really happy. So, thank you, Guy, for what you’ve taught me through this experience, even though you may never fully know it.

For now, my prayer is to be able to uproot this flower and plant it elsewhere to serve as a reminder not to let my dreams and affections take away from God’s real love and the true love He has waiting for me.

It’s not easy. In fact, it’s one of the most emotionally taxing things that I experience all too often. But it’s okay, don’t feel sorry for me. One day, I won’t have to uproot that flower, and I can let it grow into a garden.

One day.

With love,

LJM

 

 

 

Christians, Don’t be Afraid of Passover

Christians, Don’t be Afraid of Passover

Spiritually speaking, this week is pretty busy. For my family, it’s not really because of Palm Sunday, Good Friday, or even Easter, but because of three other holidays that are either glossed over or forgotten completely. I’m speaking of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits.

Just like with most holidays and not a lot of nearby family, we did what we do best. Invite a variety of friends, decorate a festive table, and cook like its Thanksgiving.

These feasts, along with several others in the autumn, make up what we call God’s Holy Days. If you wanna know more about them, just check out Leviticus 23. There, God commanded His people to observe special days, not simply for the fun of it, but also to set into motion prophecy of Jesus’ coming.

The Spring Feasts remember how God rescued the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt while also announcing the coming of the messiah.

Fun Fact: Jews came from the line of Judah, only one of the twelve tribes. The entire twelve tribes of Israel were called Hebrews. God gave His feasts for all His people.

While celebrating the Passover we remember that Jesus acted in the position of the Passover Lamb, covering our hearts with His blood and forever saving us from the Angel of Death. His sacrifice is a gift we don’t deserve and can never repay.

One of the main focuses in Passover is the act of getting sin out of our lives. Job 11:14 says, “If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your houses.” (ESV paraphrased). Egypt represents the sin so ingrained in our lives that it almost seems normal. This week is the perfect week to allow God to show us the sins that continue to rule over us and save us just as He did that first Passover.

pyramids-of-egypt
Check out a blog I wrote about The “Egypt” in Us

 

There are a lot of interesting traditions that come with celebrating Passover. If you’d like to know more about them, check them out here.

I was in high school when my family celebrated our first Passover. I’ll have to admit, I thought the Seder plate was weird and religious and I wondered if I really had to do these things in order to love God?

Six years later, I can finally say that the answer is no. We don’t eat horseradish and hide bread because we want to please God by celebrating Passover. But the traditions are there to help us remember. We are such a forgetful people, so quick to forget all that God has done for us. Not only in our lives, but in the lives leading up to ours.

Now that I’ve come to a better understanding of Passover, I have grown to love gathering a group of people together to share in the amazing power of Jesus. Him as the Passover Lamb was just the beginning. He was merely gearing up for battle against sin and death.

And in the end? He wins.

God always wins.

-LJM

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

More than a Writing Conference

More than a Writing Conference

Decked in a blazer with a briefcase hanging by my side, I passed a small sign that read “Write2Ignite.”

My first writer’s conference.

I hoped and prayed for opportunity, knowledge, and experience that waited behind the glass doors. By the end of the conference, I received all and more.

Anyone who hopes to hone their craft and bring their writing into the light is told to attend these conferences. The thought has always stirred up a level of anxiety for me. It means going to a new place, connecting with strangers, and even pitching my ideas to potential publishers. To some, that may be one of the most exciting aspects of the job, but for me it’s slightly nauseating.

Not every writer’s conference holds the same experience, but I’d like to share a little about what this conference did for me.

1. It forced me to be prepared

There is such a thing as being too chill. I signed up for the conference a little late and I was quickly overwhelmed. It’s best to research the presenters, editors, and publishing houses that will be attending so you don’t walk in there completely surprised with no direction. You also should be aware of certain things you should bring such as questions, a one-sheet of your idea or story, business cards, and a medium to take notes on. These things may have overwhelmed me at first, but they proved to be very helpful once I was there.

2. It gave me excellent resources

Conferences have beaucoup number of books, brochures, pamplets, and business cards of a wide variety of writing resources. You can learn about different organizations, publishing options, editing help, and more just by grabbing what they have available. I don’t know if I would’ve ever learned about some of these sources otherwise. Now they’re all stuffed in a folder for future reference.

3. It pushed me to make connections

The introvert in me has to constantly suppress the uncomfortable feeling of meeting new people. I was lucky to have had a few familiar faces at the conference to help guide me through the process. Regardless of who was there, I needed to get over myself and establish a connection with people, introduce myself, and ask questions. You’ll miss out on a lot if you decide to be the silent wanderer of the conference that no one knows. It’s not the best marketing tool either. Luckily, I stuck out my hand, asked for a few autographs, and joined in conversations, all without dying.

4. It surrounded me with like-minded people

Seminars that keep your attention are typically the ones that focus on your passion. Knowing that I was sitting with people who have similar goals and dreams made me feel submerged within my element. Plus, it’s not necessarily difficult to talk with these people because we all share something in common: The power of stories being or waiting to be told.

5. It gave me experience

Not only do I have one conference under my belt, I also have a couple of pitching sessions too. A pitching session is when you meet with a publisher, editor, or agent to discuss your story whether it’s fully written or not. Those sessions help you gain experience to better hone your pitch and open the door for possible publishing opportunities. You also can discover more about yourself as a writer and who you’re writing for during those sessions.

6. It gave me encouragement

This conference was filled with gracious speakers and presenters, saturated in the love of God and dripping with the faith that His hand will guide all of us. If I can steal what one of our keynote speakers, Lisa Albinus pointed out in the miracle feeding of the 5000, Jesus said to the disciples “You give them something to eat.”

God has given us a story. Many stories. Some of these come from the God-given gift of imagination, others comes from life experience. Either way, if we have felt His calling, we must equip ourselves to use these talents to give to the world. To limit ourselves by saying we’re not good enough or there’s no way we’ll be published is to limit God’s glory and to forsake what He’s equipped us to give.

“You give them something to eat.”

∼Mark 6:37∼

I left the conference fully charged, connected, and one step closer to having my own dream become a reality. Mainly, I was reminded that I write because God instilled a passion in me at a young age. He’s given me a talent and the least I can do is use it to encourage people closer to Him.

If you’re struggling about what God has called you to do or how you’ll ever make a living doing something you love, remember, He knows and He will get you where you need to be. He will always equip you, you simply have to give your all. No matter what stage in the process you are, God has outlined the steps if only you trust Him.

For my fellow writers, if you’re interested in checking out Write2Ignite go to their website here.

God bless you in the journey He’s called for you.

-LJM

Proverbs 16:9

 

 

 

Post Grad Life: 3 Months of Limbo

Post Grad Life: 3 Months of Limbo

I sat in a coffee shop with my friend Emily, a large white cup and saucer we both agreed came out of a Friends episode rested between my hands.

“It feels almost like you’re in limbo.” Those were my words to her while describing my life after college so far.

I say limbo because many refer to this time of life as a transitional phase. Transitioning from student to working adult. Education to career. College bubble to reality.

The main aspect of this phase is learning about real life. That’s what makes it intimidating, even hard. It’s learning to accept that you’ve left childhood behind with dependence nearing its way out the door as well.

Don’t get me wrong, being out of college has its perks, and I have been enjoying them. For instance, I truly relish the fact that I don’t have school projects hanging over my head and spending every spare moment hashing out A-quality assignments.

I’ve been able to work toward things that I’ve been putting off during my time in college, like my writing. It makes me feel productive to be working on something I love and believe in. As a result, I feel like I’m slowly making progress toward my career.

At the end of the day, I’m completely at ease with a cup of tea and a good book or script on my lap. Those moments of being satisfied with the work of the day and having no anxiety of the next day, remind me of the sweet taste of freedom.

But here are some things I’ve been learning.

It’s easy to lose yourself within routine. In fact, it’s really easy to lose yourself. Period. Sometimes, I find myself trying to pinpoint my identity by what I’m doing.

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Through all of those questions of ‘who’, I also face daily questions of insecurity. Am I being productive? Am I doing enough to pursue my career? Am I settling too easily?

I find reassuring myself by saying “Hey, you made money today,” helps with the inner nagging. Speaking of money, I’ve recently been welcomed to the full-time working world which is a learning experience in itself. With it comes less time and more sacrificing of things I would rather be doing. But it’s all a part of that real world I was talking about.

I’ll admit I’ve been dealing with the inward struggle of Post-Grad Syndrome, whatever that may be, but God has been extremely faithful nonetheless.

He’s given me two jobs with ample time to keep writing. He’s provided for my needs and has blessed me with things I’ve wanted. He’s given me a loving, supportive family who shows me the value of hard work. Not to mention a place to live.

Through it all, I’m reminded that my identity has always and will always be in Jesus. He is my priority and my Chief Navigator. I’m still His child, and He is merely taking me by the hand through this intimidating season of life.

So, if any of my fellow grads are feeling similarly, I urge you to hang on to your blessings, be alert to what The Chief is teaching you during this time, and look to Him for guidance. Always.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

∼Psalm 32:8∼

If you’d like to read my other post about Post-Grad life click here

And the journey continues…

God bless!

-LJM