Some Words on Positivity

positivity

Positivity is something that has been on my mind a lot recently.  It’s just so easy to be happy when it’s a beautiful outside and you don’t have to go to class.  But, I have found that embracing positivity consistently takes a lot of thought and effort.  I am going to try to not be too “preachy” with this.  I just have a lot of information that I genuinely want to share with you guys for the sake of everyone’s well-being!  Friend to friend.

It begins with gratitude

The journey to positivity begins with gratitude.  Just taking some time to remind yourself of all that you have to be grateful for can seriously change the outlook of your day.  Here’s a challenge: write a list of 100 things you are grateful for.  I am certain that this will help you look at your day to day life a little differently.  There is always someone that has it worse than you do and we all have so much to be grateful for.

Finding gratitude for some of the smallest and most obvious things in life is often incredibly impactful.  Summer weather, the sunshine, and good health are all things that I am incredibly grateful for.  It can be quite moving to just realize how lucky we are to be alive.

Positivity takes effort

I spent a lot of time and effort in high school training myself to think positively, and I am just now realizing how much it is paying off.  Choosing to look on the bright side is always the right choice.

You may not realize how much negativity is engraved into our culture.  It is statistically proven that bad news sells better than good news.  Negativity excites people, but it can also be very damaging in the long run.  Fighting this natural tendency takes some effort.  Ultimately, you have to choose what kind of impact you are going to have.  You can let other people’s negativity influence you, giving way to more negativity or you can choose to inspire positivity for other people in your life.

Know Yourself

You should make an effort to know how you respond to both positivity and negativity.  How do you set up defenses against negativity?  What makes you happy?  I happen to be an introvert, so having some alone time is not only necessary for me, I actually get really excited to spend time alone!  Just taking a walk by myself helps clear my head and refocus my energy.  If you’re an introvert like me then you can probably relate!  No matter what your personality is like, just make sure you take care of yourself.

positivity

 

Keep a Record

Sometimes it helps to keep a record of things that make you happy or things that you are trying to accomplish.  For a while in high school, I would write down all the goals I had for the day during breakfast.  My goals were usually small things like compliment 3 people today, smile at someone you don’t know, get my homework done early, etc…  (I lost the journal I kept these goals in, that’s why I stopped.  Oops. 🙂 )  Even if you never get around to your goals, it helps to focus your mindset on positivity at the start of your day.  You can also keep a Pinterest board with positive quotes or motivational inspiration just to stay in the right headspace.

Rely on God

If there is one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that the ultimate peace comes from our God.  I think keeping positive relies on emotional stability, and for me that 100% comes from God.  God didn’t create us to live in a sludge of negativity.  Through Him, we have so much to rejoice in.  He is the one to whom all our gratitude should be directed.  He wants us to be happy.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  -John 14:27

All in all, it sounds pretty simple to keep a positive outlook, but I’m sure it’s no surprise that many people fail daily at this simple concept.  The good thing about being positive is that you get points for trying!  So, from a friend to a friend, I hope these points were helpful.  Please leave any advice on positivity!  I’m sure we can all learn from eachother.

The God of Everywhere

god

I have this great opportunity that allows me to get paid for singing in church.

A member of the congregation at the First Presbyterian Church in my college town donated a grant to the choir program for college students to get paid for singing in the choir.  I love singing and I love church (and of course wouldn’t mind being paid!) so this is an ideal opportunity for me.  Every Sunday I go to the Presbyterian Church at 8:30am for choir practice.

I really enjoy singing in the choir.  It’s a small and informal practice every week.  Most of the other choir members are retirement aged members of the congregation, except for one or two other college students.  Everyone is extremely friendly and I think the typical conversation in the room is quaint and polite.  The music is lovely too.  I like to be kept on my toes by sight reading music once a week.

However, I didn’t grow up in a Presbyterian church.  I’ve found them to be a bit more traditional than I’m used to. At the same time, I am missing all three services at the church I prefer to attend.  When the service seems to drag on, I think to myself this:

The God of Hillside Church is the God of the First Presbyterian Church too.

In more applicable terms: God is present everywhere.  Where you are now, and wherever it is you want to be.

I would be will willing to bet that everyone has wanted to be somewhere else at some point in their life.  Maybe you have wished that God would have placed you in a more exciting line of work.  Or perhaps you wish you were in a slower pace of life.  Maybe you have been in a place where you don’t feel appreciated.  Human beings are pretty good at finding fault with what we have.

I have a lot of friends who are literally all over the world.  They are pursuing the desire that God has placed in their hearts to know Him and his people more.  It really seems like they are “out there” doing God’s work.  It often seems to me that going to college and getting a degree in theatre is a less glamorous option.   It seems like it doesn’t exactly align with the following verse.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:19-20

How often do we let that sink in?  God is always with us.  When you try something new, and when you fail.  When you do something scary or something bad, He is with you.  God is with you even when you wish He wasn’t there, and He is most certainly there when you need him most.

god

It’s hard to comprehend because there is nothing in this world that we can compare to the presence of God.  Recently God has been revealing to me some things that are simply head knowledge versus the things I truly believe in my heart.  I would say there is a difference between knowing that God is always with you and actually knowing.  This is something I am working on making more than just head knowledge- closer to wisdom of the heart.

What I’ve come to realize is that going to college and getting a degree in theatre is going out into the world.  God doesn’t make mistakes when He decides what direction your life is going to take.  Not everybody is called overseas to experience the vast world God has created, and you are no less of a servant because of the path you’re on.   The God of the world is the God of where you are right now.

Where Am I This Summer?

 

where am i this summer?

Here’s the warning: Laughs Without Fear is on hiatus for the summer.

I really hate it, but the fact of the matter is that I simply will not have a lot of time to work on the blog this summer.  This makes me pretty sad because blogging is a blast and I will miss so many things about it.  I love interacting with readers and sharing tips with other bloggers.  I LOVE finding new blogs to read.  I am particularly fond of the college blogging community that I have grown to be a part of.  Not to mention, I love seeing my traffic increase, which certainly isn’t going to happen while I’m away.

The good part is that I get to go back to camp!  (Insert happy-dance here!)  For my second summer at camp, I am pretty sure it’s going to be twice the fun!  Camp is amazing, but it is a full-time commitment.  The camp I work at is an overnight camp, so the staff lives on site and we always work on the weekends.  In fact, I may only have the chance to go home one or twice the whole summer.

But the thing is, being at camp is hands-down the most fun way to spend the summer.  Over the course of last summer, I became best friends with my coworkers.  I got to work outside and go to the beach every day.  Most importantly, I got to spend the whole summer talking about God and experiencing him touch the lives of hundreds of people.  Plus, the food is superb.  How could I not be excited to go back?

Living the camp life isn’t always easy, though.  For example, we work some pretty long hours.  When you live in a cabin with your campers, you are basically working 24/7.  There are always projects to work on and places to clean.  It can also be a very emotionally taxing job.  We strive to create an atmosphere where kids are not afraid to talk about their lives and their relationship with God.  Sometimes these kids have been through more than I could ever imagine.  Lack of sleep and emotional roller-coasters make for a pretty tough, but fulfilling job.  If you are thinking about working at camp, here are 10 Reasons Why You Should Be A Camp Counselor.

Here is what a typical day at camp looks like:

7:00am- Staff devotions.  I think it’s so important that we have this time together and with God to prepare for our day at camp.

8:00am- Breakfast with the campers.  Depending on the number of campers, meals can take a long time.

9:00am- Rotations.  The counselors and campers do some activities around camp like boating, hiking, low ropes, etc.  During this time, the kitchen crew cleans up breakfast and the lifeguards do work projects around camp.

10:30am- Chapel.  I love this part!  During morning chapel, we usually hear a staff member give their testimony and from someone about a mission trip that they’ve been on.

12:00pm- Lunchtime!

1:00pm- Afternoon game.  Usually involving face-paint and a lot of running.

2:00pm- Free time until dinner.  Campers can go to the beach, the craft cabin, rock wall, or any other activity around camp.  Staff is usually working at one of these activities or on their break.

6:00pm- Dinnertime.  Before dinner, anybody who has received mail has to embarrass themselves in order to get it.

7:30pm- Evening chapel.  For this chapel session, we get to hear from the amazing speaker that stays the week with us!

9:00pm- Night game! Again with the face-paint and running, except it’s always more exciting in the dark.

10:30pm- Cabin devos.  Counselors are with their campers in their cabins or somewhere around the camp.  Lifeguards, kitchen crew, and other staff usually have some adventure at this time.

11:00pm- Lights out.  Maybe.  Pranks are always a possibility.

So, in case you’re wondering what I’m doing this summer, this is the gist of it.  I couldn’t be more excited to return to camp, but I will miss working on the blog.  I may be posting every now and then, but I will really have to see how things work out.

What are you guys up to this summer?  If you are a blogger, what are you planning to work on?

Learning to Be Still With God

learning to be still with god

Recently I have been discovering what it means to be still with God.  And by “being still” I mean lack thereof.

My brain and my overall presence has been pretty frazzled recently.  I have basically been on auto-pilot for the last month in attempts to make it through this semester in one piece.  It’s taken all my energy not to throw in the towel on school and maintain a healthy attitude.

Flashback to winter break:

Break was great because I actually got to rest my brain for a while.  I spent a lot of time at home coloring and listening to music. 🙂  I also felt like I was in a place where I was available for God to speak to me- and He did.  My life was quiet, my brain was quiet, and I was still.

“Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.”  -Psalm 37:7

Well, I’ve been kind of failing at the “being still” part and the “presence of the Lord” part.  I didn’t even realize it until after weeks and weeks of a busy schedule that I haven’t been still at all.  That just goes to show you how effectively this world can sneak up on you.  It feels like driving a car and getting caught up in your thoughts until you realize that you’ve driven into the middle of nowhere.

I’d like to give you a little insight that I’ve picked up in the last couple days, so hopefully you can be aware of your own level of stillness.

Reasons why you aren’t being still

You may just be too busy.  I love to keep a busy schedule doing things that I love.  I get some cheap thrill when I make it through a season where I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but this is a surefire way to not keep your head in the game and your heart in touch with God.  In Brant Hansen’s book Unoffendable, he talked about a period of his life when he and his family spent a lot of time at home, together, doing basically nothing.  They started getting funny comments from their neighbors like “I’ve looked outside and seen your family.  I’ve watched you.  And when I see your family, I don’t even know why, but I think about God.”  Now, I don’t know if I could ever slow down my life to the point of doing “nothing” but I think there is something to be said for restfulness.  You can read more about Unoffendable in my review here.

Your lens may be too small.  As in you “lens of life.”  (It’s cheesy, sorry)  But honestly, if you are getting caught up in day-to-day drama then you may need to zoom out to get a bigger picture of things.  Or perhaps you are one of those people who is always counting down to the events in the future.  I am pretty guilty of this.  Of course it’s ok to have aspirations and things to look forward too, but learning to be content in the present is essential when it comes to learning to be still with God.  Learning to be happy in the present moment means learning to be happy all the time.

Learning to be still

There is a concept in meditation that your objective should be to reach a state of simply letting things be.  For example, you may have a thought enter your head, but you should try to simply let it go and not get caught up in the fixation.  You should be able to look at something and not form an opinion of it.  I do not practice meditation (although I would like to) but I can definitely see the benefit of this concept.  You don’t have to have an opinion on everything.  Likewise, relentlessly holding onto your own opinions and feelings about worldly issues won’t do you any good in the long run.  Learn to let things go.

You can always surrender it to God.  If you’ve found that your lifestyle is just too busy to make time for God in your thoughts, then pray about it.  Ask your friends to pray about it too.  Maybe you just need some strength to get through this busy season, which is pretty much every student ever.  Pray for peace of mind and a stillness of heart so you can better hear God despite your busy life.

Get in touch with creation.  It’s summer baby!  Go outside and appreciate this beautiful earth!  I believe that one of the reasons why I became so close to God when I worked at camp was because I was outside all the time.  It’s hard to ignore God when you are experiencing his creation.

How being still can help you

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.”  -Psalm 62:5-6

We all need God all the time.  Learning to be still with God is a practice that will constantly remind us to keep Him in our lives.  It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of school, work, family, friends, and whatever drama you are experiencing, but it’s worth the time and effort to learn to be still in Christ.

Even though I put Jesus on the back burner for a while, I don’t need to feel remorse or guilt for letting my guard down.  I don’t have to write a paper or stay after class.  I can pick up with God right where I left off, no strings attached, and that is what Amazing Grace is.  You can do that too!

There are several times in the Bible where stillness is expresses. Here’s a list of 25 Bible verses about being still. 🙂

Is quieting your mind and being still with God something you struggle with?  Leave a comment, I’d like to get a discussion going!

All Christians are Pretty Messed Up- Here’s Why

all christians are pretty messed up- here's why

Throughout the process of setting up and establishing this blog, I gave a lot of thought to the kind of content I wanted to post.  It’s taken a pretty different direction from what I first intended, but that’s ok.  I really want this blog to focus on living my life, but always incorporating my faith.  However, in the midst of organizing my brain and my thoughts, I’ve realized that I’m a pretty messed up person.

I remember my youth pastor was giving a lesson back when I was in high school.  I don’t remember what the lesson was about, but one point stuck out to me.  “Let’s face it, we’re all pretty messed up people, aren’t we?” he said.

Well, my first reaction was, “mmm… No, I’m not that messed up.”  Everyone probably thought so too.  Even today I don’t drink or swear.  I’ve never gotten into drugs, and I’m pretty nice to people.  I have good friends and I respect my parents.  It was hard for me to see in what way I was “messed up”.

Right now, I am at a point in my life where I am more confident, happy, and closer to God than ever before.  And right now, I am more aware than ever of just how messed up I am.

In this day in age, Christians have a pretty clear view of what a “good person” is like.  You can see it: they dress modestly, they smile a lot, they are involved in the church, they read their Bible every day, they are pursuing a future, they date other Christians and have Christian friends.  All these things tend to gain some brownie-points within the Christian community.  When someone doesn’t conform to these types of characteristics, they are sure to turn a few eyes here and there.  I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes it seems like Christians are scared they will catch sinner-cooties or something.  Ya feel?

But guess what? We’re all sinners.

And yet, I’ve talked to so many people who feel uncomfortable simply stepping foot inside a church because they know they don’t fit the “typical mold” of a “good person.”

It breaks my heart when I encounter people who feel unaccepted, or even remorseful of the Christian community.  As Christians, we are called to minister to all people.  The fact that we get caught up in being a “good person” is truly messed up.

Jesus was notorious for associating with sinners, and even He got a lot of heat from the churches of His day.  Take a look at this passage from Luke.

“After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth.  ‘Follow me,’ Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.  Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’   Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'”  -Luke 5:27-32

If this happened today, a sinner like Levi would be equivalent to a drug dealer, a murderer, or the Kardashians.  That’s how radical Jesus’s actions were.  If we are to be Christ-like, then we too must extend grace to our fellow sinners.

I don’t even realize it sometimes, but I try pretty hard to be a “good person.”  I try to be nice to people, but I realize that sometimes I’m nice simply because that’s what I’m supposed to do, not because I really care about them.  I’ve realized that sometimes my “acts of kindness” are really “acts of selfishness” because I do them for my image rather than to make other people feel welcome.

How about worry?  I am willing to bet that you and I both spend a lot more time worrying about things than we should.  It messes with our heads.  However, there is an all-powerful God that is watching out for us throughout it all, and yet we still devote so much energy to worrying about worldly things.  (Here are some helpful verses to help combat worry.)

Oooh!  How about this?  Have you ever wanted to fix someone or something?  I have.  Touching people’s hearts is not an easy thing to do, and for some reason we think we’re qualified to do such a thing.  I have definitely wished I could change some people just by telling them what they’re doing wrong.  Once again, there is an all-powerful God that cares about every one of us, why would we try to take matters into our own hands?

See?  Messed up.

All these things are simply human nature.  It’s just that human nature has majorly tripped us up.  That’s why we need God so much- we can’t even trust ourselves.  We are not messed up because we are Christians, we are messed up because we are human.

However, the greatest mistake we can make in this case is believing that we aren’t messed up.  Assuming that because we are Christians we have some sort of authority in our own lives (or anyone else’s life) is a surefire way of doing some real damage.

Now, these are just some observations that I have discovered in my own life, but I realize that everyone has their own “messed up” lives, with different versions of how we fall short as Christians.  Still, we are united because we all desperately need Jesus.  Just remember:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  -Romans 3:23-24